Question: Who is Balkis?
Having performed the major pilgrimage, Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm went to Sana’a. A hoopoe bird here gave a description of the palace of Balkis to the hoopoe of Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm. Being curious to see it, his hoopoe toured the palace of Balkis and came back. It recounted what it had seen.
Hadrat Sulaiman wrote to Balkis a letter starting with the Basmala and reading, “Become a Muslim and come to me in submission.” As everywhere was closed, the hoopoe entered through the window and put the letter on the bed of Balkis. Balkis was frightened of the sealed letter when she woke up and saw it. So she called her chiefs and took counsel. She wanted to learn whether Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm was a prophet and stated, “If he is a prophet, we cannot stage a war against him; we will give in. If the contrary is true, we will fight a war.”
In order to test him, she sent 500 young males clad in womanlike clothes, 500 females clad in manlike clothes, a pearl with an awry hole, a glass, a stone, and as a gift a ruby crown and two gold adobes, adding:
“If this man is a prophet, let him distinguish males from females; let him have a creature other than the human and the genie make a hole in the stone; let him fill the glass with water that does not exist on earth and in the heavens; let him thread this pearl.”
The hoopoe came and informed Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm about these. Thereupon, he had a large area paved with gold adobes the size of the ones being sent by Balkis and let animals loose on it.
When the envoys of Balkis saw that everywhere was paved with gold adobes, that the animals were defecating on them, and gold was of no value there, they were ashamed to give as a gift the two gold adobes they brought because two adobes would mean nothing at a place paved with gold. Saying, “They may accuse us of stealing these two adobes from here,” they put them in a gap existing there and came to his presence.
Balkis had said, “If this man receives you gruffly, he is not a prophet.” However, Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm received them with a smiling face and sweet words. He asked, “Where is your pearl? Bring it so that I will thread it.” He handed the pearl to a woodworm. The woodworm took hold of the thread with his mouth; it went into the pearl from one end of it and came out from the other end. Then Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm commanded, “Bring the stone that will be made a hole in.” A woodpecker bored through it. He told males and females to wash their faces. He could distinguish males from females because females held the ewer with their left hands whereas males, with their right hands. He had the glass filled with the sweat of horses that were galloped very fast. As for the gifts, he did not accept them.
When her envoys returned and informed Balkis about what had happened, Balkis said, “This person is a prophet. We have no choice but to surrender.” She set off with her chiefs to surrender.
Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm got Asaf bin Barkhiya, who knew the prayer Ism’i a’zam (the Greatest Name), to bring the throne of Balkis before she came. The father of Balkis was a genie, and her mother was a human. The genies that got wind of the arrival of Balkis began to worry, remarking, “If Balkis comes and marries Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm and if they have a male child, we will not be able to stay out of trouble. Let us prevent this.” They casted aspersions on her by saying that she was mentally handicapped and her feet were like the feet of a donkey. Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm, in order to check up on these statements, had a pool whose surface was paved with crystal constructed. Balkis, thinking she would walk into water, took off her shoes because she had never seen crystal before. Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm thus saw that her feet had no defect. And in order to test her mental state, he showed her throne to her after he had had some changes made to it. She said, “It is just like my throne.” Thereupon, Sulaiman ‘alaihis-salâm invited her to the religion. She accepted his invitation, and they married.
Allahu ta’âlâ bestows various blessings upon His pious slaves, who are obedient to Him, in both this world and the world to come. (Anwâr-ul Âshiqîn, Gunya)