If any do seek for glory and power, to God belong all glory and power.
A few months ago, I began a conversation with Shaykh Qays Arthur, toward understanding Islam and Muslims. In the last blog post, we continued with the segment on faith and guidance–through a conversation reflecting on the journey of Salman al Farisi. This journey emphasized the importance of being true in one's journey to God. As I mentioned in the last blog, I will explore another journey of one coming to faith from a position of power. Throughout his journey of faith, Salman al Farisi was under an authority figure.
In this blog, the conversation will reflect on a courageous meeting between two people, both given power and glory by God. One belongs to the world of faith, while the other born into a society of no faith. What happens when the world of faith and no faith collide? In this journey, we will explore the engagement of two powerful people who are both true to themselves, their values, and their people.
Wazwaz: The first question requires an introduction. Let me introduce from the world of faith: the beautiful Prophet Solomon, upon him peace. Given power and glory by God that no other human being will possess.
As mentioned in my previous articles, I follow and research works by counselors. In my research, I found a wonderful essay on narcissists and the little voices. Although the article deals with the domestic angle - my hypothesis is the bedrock of every oppression we face east and west is defined by this social reality. That is the underlying reality of the story of Moses, upon him peace, and Pharaoh. It is the spiritual reality of oppression of women in the East and in the West. To fight any oppression, - you need to have a thorough understanding of the psychological dimension of the narcissists and the little voices.
In addition, while I support the concept of service to others, the article on little voices is one of the reasons I worry about obligating the little voices to serve society or our nation. In reality, as we see in domestic situations or dysfunctional families, the call to serve becomes an emotionally abusive demand for the little voices to be slaves for the narcissists to be valued and accepted in society or in the family. How a person deals with ordinary little people or an unprotected and misunderstood people tells us a lot about them.
While reflecting on this article, in the Qur'an, we see a meeting point between Solomon (upon him peace) and ants in a low valley. Shaykh Qays, can you reflect on the inner reality of Prophet Solomon (upon him peace) and his response to the fear of the ants from his power?
At length, when they came to a (lowly) valley of ants, one of the ants said: "O ye ants, get into your habitations, lest Solomon and his hosts crush you (under foot) without knowing it." So he smiled, amused at her speech; and he said: "O my Lord! so order me that I may be grateful for Thy favours, which thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may work the righteousness that will please Thee: And admit me, by Thy Grace, to the ranks of Thy righteous Servants." (Qur'an 27:18-19)
What does this verse tells us about his inner reality despite the tremendous power given to him in comparison to Pharaoh?
Shaykh Qays: In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Peace and blessings upon Prophet Solomon. What we see from Prophet Solomon (upon him peace) is an unflinching focus on God. He is constantly directed to God, as opposed to being directed to the self (or ego) when one has blessings of worldly nature. Prophet Solomon (upon him peace) is given the ability to hear the animal kingdom - this is one of many different abilities given to him. Many forces were subjugated to Solomon as blessings from God. Such abilities and marvels were signs of high station, power, and reputation – all things that people aspire to. Even the ants are aware of him, and in awe of him. His response to all these blessings is to turn to God in gratitude and to seek refuge in God from losing the way and to seek the Divine pleasure. That is faith. The fact that he is directed to God in everything and not to others or his ego in every turn of his life is a sign of his true faith.
Wazwaz: And from the world of no faith: we have the Queen of Sheba, a woman who reigned over her people with wisdom.
Many times, people think that just because someone spoke against a tyrant that they are brave. But in reality - there are people who are psychologically oppositional and defiant by nature. As we discussed in the last blog, oppositional for the sake of being oppositional is a disease. It has a name: oppositional defiant disorder. One clear symptom of this disorder is a "hostility directed toward authority figures." In other words, a hatred of authority or people in power. The difference between brave people and oppositional people - the former hates oppression and seeks the betterment of society while the latter hates authority and seeks to be in power. As the link explains, there is a difference between being strong willed and being oppositional and defiant. I do not advocate people diagnosing others with this disorder, but for us to reflect on our own behavior when we oppose something.
In any case, I want to draw your attention to this verse by the Queen and her response to the letter from Prophet Solomon, upon him peace. Also her comment on Kings, when they enter a country or town, sheds light that she is not in denial. Sometimes, during conflict people say such things as "make love not war." In a sense, it shows a form of escapism from difficult and complex situations. The intelligent description shows her intellectual, political and emotional competence. She did not go fear mongering or hate mongering, even though under her power are men "endued with strength, and given to vehement war." Rather, she consults the chiefs. Her people respect her to make a decision – illustrating she is not a narcissist. Can you comment on these verses? What is the difference between her internal reality and Pharaoh’s internal reality.
(The queen) said: "Ye chiefs! here is delivered to me - a letter worthy of respect. "It is from Solomon, and is (as follows): 'In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: "'Be ye not arrogant against me, but come to me in willing surrender.'" She said: "Ye chiefs! advise me in (this) my affair: no affair have I decided except in your presence." They said: "We are endued with strength, and given to vehement war: but the command is with thee; so consider what thou wilt command." She said: "Kings, when they enter a country, despoil it, and make the noblest of its people its lowest thus do they behave. "But I am going to send him a present, and (wait) to see with what (answer) return (my) ambassadors." (Qur'an 27:29-35)
Shaykh Qays: Well it is certainly evident that she is not of this oppositional profile which isn't surprising given that she is herself a figure of authority. However, she is far from a typical authority figure. Much of what the verses mention show that she is a wise and fair leader who knows politics, knows how Kings are, and consults with her court. This shows political competence as well as lofty character. Like Solomon, she, may be contrasted with Egypt's Pharaoh who became deluded with his power. We see a woman who is aware of her circumstance, consults with her court, and seeks out wisdom. Wise people do not presume they are wise. They seek out wisdom as was said when we discussed Salman al Farisi.
She is also genuine and astute. She is neither a cowardly ruler nor a tyrant. It is expected that she is not oppositional because she has power and seeks wisdom sincerely. Because she was not arrogant, she was able to recognize Prophet Solomon. She deals with her own court in a way that makes her own people amicable to Prophet Solomon. Indeed her many virtues, despite her faith idols, are examples of God’s enabling grace.
She was not yet a believer but possessed a sincere heart. Everyone's destiny and final outcome is known to God. I have a ruling, you have a ruling, and the Christian lady next door and atheist down the street have a ruling with God in terms of our final outcome. God is not waiting to find out anything. So Queen Bilqis or Sheba is a believer in God's knowledge even if it was not yet manifest to anyone including herself. However, her heart was the place that was fertile for faith and faith grew because she was a person of sincerity, wisdom, and true virtue. That virtue is what stands out to me.
Due to the length of this piece, it will be continued in another blog which will be posted in a few days.