Surah an-Naml (The Ant ) 27 : 17
1. Lessons/Guidance/Reflections/Gems[ edit ]
“Before Solomon were marshalled his troops of jinn, humans and birds; and they were all lined in orderly ranks.” (Verse 17)
This is a big procession in which are marshalled all troops, jinn, human and bird. Naturally, men are well known to us, but the jinn are creatures about whom we know nothing more than what God has said in the Qur’ān. They were created from flames, and can see us while we cannot see them: “Surely, he and his tribe watch you from where you cannot perceive them.” (7: 27) [The reference in this verse is to Iblīs, or Satan, who belongs to the jinn.] They are able to prompt people and tempt them to take evil and sinful actions. We do not know how this takes place. We also know that a group of them believed in God’s Messenger (peace be upon him). He did not meet or see them, but God informed him of what happened: “Say: ‘It has been revealed to me that a group of the jinn listened [to the Qur’ān]’, and said: ‘We have listened to a wonderful discourse that guides to what is right, and so we have come to believe in it. We shall never associate any partners with our Lord.’” (72: 1-2) We also know that God made some of them serve Solomon, making for him whatever he wished of sanctuaries, statues, and large cauldrons for cooking. They also dived into the sea for him, and did his bidding. Some were in his procession side by side with humans and birds.
We say that God placed under Solomon’s command only a section of the jinn, birds, and humans. Thus it is clear that not all people on earth were his subjects, because his kingdom stretched over an area that includes today’s Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, up to the Euphrates. Similarly, not all the jinn or birds were under his command; rather it was a section of each type.
In support of this view about the jinn we cite the fact that Iblīs, or Satan, and his offspring belong to the jinn as the Qur’ān states:
When We said to the angels: ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam,’ they all prostrated themselves. Not so Iblīs, who belonged to the jinn and he disobeyed his Lord’s command.” (18: 50) God also says about Iblīs: “who whispers in the hearts of mankind, from among jinn and mankind. (114: 5-6)
Thus Iblīs and his offspring who all belonged to the jinn continued to whisper in people’s hearts tempting them to sin during Solomon’s reign. Had they been placed under his command, they would not have been able to do so since he was a prophet advocating what is right. Hence, it is clear that only a section of them were loyal to Solomon.
In support of our view concerning the birds, we say that Solomon learnt of the hoopoe’s absence when he inspected the birds. Had all birds, including all hoopoes, been placed under him, they would have been marshalled in his procession, and he would never have been able to discover the absence of one hoopoe among millions of hoopoes, and many millions of birds. He would not have wondered: “Why is it that I do not see the hoopoe?” (Verse 20) Indeed, this question suggests that it was a particular hoopoe which he identified. It might be that it was the only hoopoe under Solomon’s command, or that it was the one in a group of hoopoes whose duty was to take part in that particular procession. What supports this view is that we soon realize that the hoopoe in question was gifted with an understanding that transcends what hoopoes and all birds normally possess. Such gifts must have been granted to those placed under Solomon’s command, and not to hoopoes and birds in general. Indeed, the hoopoe in the story appears to have a gift of understanding matched only by intelligent and God- fearing humans.
So, this great procession was ready before Solomon, “and they were all lined in orderly ranks,” so that there would be no chance of disorder. They are described as ‘troops’ in the verse to indicate the orderly nature of the procession.