How the Hoopoe came before Sulayman and told Him about Saba'

Allah says:

﴿فَمَكَثَ غَيْرَ بَعِيدٍ﴾

(But (the hoopoe) stayed not long,) meaning, he was absent for only a short time. Then he came and said to Sulayman:

﴿أَحَطتُ بِمَا لَمْ تُحِطْ بِهِ﴾

(I have grasped which you have not grasped) meaning, `I have come to know something that you and your troops do not know.'

﴿وَجِئْتُكَ مِن سَبَإٍ بِنَبَإٍ يَقِينٍ﴾

(and I have come to you from Saba' with true news.) meaning, with true and certain news. Saba' (Sheba) refers to Himyar, they were a dynasty in Yemen. Then the hoopoe said:

﴿إِنِّى وَجَدتُّ امْرَأَةً تَمْلِكُهُمْ﴾

(I found a woman ruling over them,) Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "This is Bilqis bint Sharahil, the queen of Saba'.'' Allah's saying:

﴿وَأُوتِيَتْ مِن كُلِّ شَىْءٍ﴾

(she has been given all things,) means, all the conveniences of this world that a powerful monarch could need.

﴿وَلَهَا عَرْشٌ عَظِيمٌ﴾

(and she has a great throne.) meaning, a tremendous chair adorned with gold and different kinds of jewels and pearls. The historians said, "This throne was in a great, strong palace which was high and firmly constructed. In it there were three hundred and sixty windows on the east side, and a similar number on the west, and it was constructed in such a way that each day when the sun rose it would shine through one window, and when it set it would shine through the opposite window. And the people used to prostrate to the sun morning and evening. This is why the hoopoe said:

﴿وَجَدتُّهَا وَقَوْمَهَا يَسْجُدُونَ لِلشَّمْسِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَـنُ أَعْمَـلَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ﴾

(I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them, and has prevented them from the way,) meaning, from the way of truth,

﴿فَهُمْ لاَ يَهْتَدُونَ﴾

(so they have no guidance.) Allah's saying:

﴿وَزَيَّنَ لَهُمُ الشَّيْطَـنُ أَعْمَـلَهُمْ فَصَدَّهُمْ عَنِ السَّبِيلِ فَهُمْ لاَ يَهْتَدُونَأَلاَّ يَسْجُدُواْ للَّهِ﴾

(and Shaytan has made their deeds fair seeming to them, and has prevented them from the way, so they have no guidance, so they do not prostrate themselves before Allah.) They do not know the way of truth, prostrating only before Allah alone and not before anything that He has created, whether heavenly bodies or anything else. This is like the Ayah:

﴿وَمِنْ ءَايَـتِهِ الَّيْلُ وَالنَّهَارُ وَالشَّمْسُ وَالْقَمَرُ لاَ تَسْجُدُواْ لِلشَّمْسِ وَلاَ لِلْقَمَرِ وَاسْجُدُواْ لِلَّهِ الَّذِى خَلَقَهُنَّ إِن كُنتُمْ إِيَّاهُ تَعْبُدُونَ ﴾

(And from among His signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. Prostrate yourselves not to the sun nor to the moon, but prostrate yourselves to Allah Who created them, if you indeed worship Him.) (41:37)

﴿الَّذِى يُخْرِجُ الْخَبْءَ فِى السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ﴾

(Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth,) `Ali bin Abi Talhah reported that Ibn `Abbas said: "He knows everything that is hidden in the heavens and on earth.'' This was also the view of `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Sa`id bin Jubayr, Qatadah and others. His saying:

﴿وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُخْفُونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ﴾

(and knows what you conceal and what you reveal.) means, He knows what His servants say and do in secret, and what they say and do openly. This is like the Ayah:

﴿سَوَآءٌ مِّنْكُمْ مَّنْ أَسَرَّ الْقَوْلَ وَمَنْ جَهَرَ بِهِ وَمَنْ هُوَ مُسْتَخْفٍ بِالَّيْلِ وَسَارِبٌ بِالنَّهَارِ ﴾

(It is the same whether any of you conceals his speech or declares it openly, whether he be hid by night or goes forth freely by day) (13:10). His saying:

﴿اللَّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ ﴾

(Allah, La ilaha illa Huwa, the Lord of the Supreme Throne!) means, He is the One to be called upon, Allah, He is the One other than Whom there is no god, the Lord of the Supreme Throne, and there is none greater than Him in all of creation. Since the hoopoe was calling to what is good, and for people to worship and prostrate to Allah alone, it would have been forbidden to kill him. Imam Ahmad, Abu Dawud and Ibn Majah recorded that Abu Hurayrah, may Allah be pleased with him, said that the Prophet forbade killing four kinds of animals: ants, bees, hoopoes and the sparrow hawks. Its chain of narration is Sahih.

﴿قَالَ سَنَنظُرُ أَصَدَقْتَ أَمْ كُنتَ مِنَ الْكَـذِبِينَ - اذْهَب بِّكِتَابِى هَـذَا فَأَلْقِهْ إِلَيْهِمْ ثُمَّ تَوَلَّ عَنْهُمْ فَانْظُرْ مَاذَا يَرْجِعُونَ - قَالَتْ يأَيُّهَا الْمَلأُ إِنَّى أُلْقِىَ إِلَىَّ كِتَابٌ كَرِيمٌ - إِنَّهُ مِن سُلَيْمَانَ وَإِنَّهُ بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ - أَلاَّ تَعْلُواْ عَلَىَّ وَأْتُونِى مُسْلِمِينَ ﴾

(27. (Sulayman) said: "We shall see whether you speak the truth or you are (one) of the liars.'') (28. "Go you with this letter of mine and deliver it to them, then draw back from them and see what they return.'') (29. She said: "O chiefs! Verily, here is delivered to me a noble letter, '') (30. "Verily, it is from Sulayman, and it (reads): `In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful;') (31. `Be you not exalted against me, but come to me submitting (as Muslims).' '')