|The Absence of the Hoopoe|
Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr and others narrated from Ibn `Abbas and others that the hoopoe was an expert who used to show Sulayman where water was if he was out in open land and needed water. The hoopoe would look for water for him in the various strata of the earth, just as a man looks at things on the surface of the earth, and he would know just how far below the surface the water was. When the hoopoe showed him where the water was, Sulayman would command the Jinn to dig in that place until they brought water from the depths of the earth. One day Sulayman went to some open land and checked on the birds, but he could not see the hoopoe.
﴿فَقَالَ مَالِيَ لاَ أَرَى الْهُدْهُدَ أَمْ كَانَ مِنَ الْغَآئِبِينَ﴾
(and (Sulayman) said: "What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe Or is he among the absentees'') One day `Abdullah bin `Abbas told a similar story, and among the people was a man from the Khawarij whose name was Nafi` bin Al-Azraq, who often used to raise objections to Ibn `Abbas. He said to him, "Stop, O Ibn `Abbas; you will be defeated (in argument) today!'' Ibn `Abbas said: "Why'' Nafi` said: "You are telling us that the hoopoe can see water beneath the ground, but any boy can put seed in a trap and cover the trap with dirt, and the hoopoe will come and take the seed, so the boy can catch him in the trap.'' Ibn `Abbas said, "If it was not for the fact that this man would go and tell others that he had defeated Ibn `Abbas in argument, I would not even answer.'' Then he said to Nafi`: "Woe to you! When the decree strikes a person, his eyes become blind and he loses all caution.'' Nafi` said: "By Allah I will never dispute with you concerning anything in the Qur'an. ''
﴿لأُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَاباً شَدِيداً﴾
(I will surely punish him with a severe torment) Al-A`mash said, narrating from Al-Minhal bin `Amr from Sa`id that Ibn `Abbas said: "He meant, by plucking his feathers.'' `Abdullah bin Shaddad said: "By plucking his feathers and exposing him to the sun.'' This was also the view of more than one of the Salaf, that it means plucking his feathers and leaving him exposed to be eaten by ants.
(or slaughter him,) means, killing him.
﴿أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنِّى بِسُلْطَـنٍ مُّبِينٍ﴾
(unless he brings me a clear reason.) i.e., a valid excuse. Sufyan bin `Uyaynah and `Abdullah bin Shaddad said: "When the hoopoe came back, the other birds said to him: "What kept you Sulayman has vowed to shed your blood.'' The hoopoe said: "Did he make any exception ﴿did he say `unless'﴾'' They said, "Yes, he said:
﴿لأُعَذِّبَنَّهُ عَذَاباً شَدِيداً أَوْ لاّذْبَحَنَّهُ أَوْ لَيَأْتِيَنِّى بِسُلْطَـنٍ مُّبِينٍ ﴾
(I will surely punish him with a severe torment or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason.) The hoopoe said, "Then I am saved.''
﴿فَمَكَثَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ فَقَالَ أَحَطتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ وَجِئْتُكَ مِن سَبَإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ - إِنِّى وَجَدتُّ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ وَأُوتِيَتْ مِن كُلِّ شَىْءٍ وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ - وَجَدتُّهَا وَقَوْمَهَا يَسْجُدُونَ لِلشَّمْسِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَـنُ أَعْمَـلَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ فَهُمْ لاَ يَهْتَدُونَ - أَلاَّ يَسْجُدُواْ للَّهِ الَّذِى يُخْرِجُ الْخَبْءَ فِى السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُخْفُونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ - اللَّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ ﴾
(22. But (the hoopoe) stayed not long, he said: "I have grasped which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Saba' with true news.'') (23. "I found a woman ruling over them, she has been given all things, and she has a great throne.'') (24. "I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them to prevent them from the way, so they have no guidance.'') (25. So they do not prostrate themselves before Allah, Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what you conceal and what you reveal.) (26. Allah, La ilaha illa Huwa, the Lord of the Supreme Throne!'')
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