The story for today is found in the Qur'an, surah An Naml (93:20-44). Allah gave Prophet Sulayman (a) power over the animals and jinn. The story of Bilqis starts when Prophet Sulayman was looking for the hoopoe.
He inspected the birds, and said: "What is the matter that I see not the hoopoe? Or is he among the absentees?
"I will surely punish him with a severe torment, or slaughter him, unless he brings me a clear reason."
But the hoopoe stayed not long: he (came up and) said: "I have grasped (the knowledge of a thing) which you have not grasped and I have come to you from Saba' (Sheba) with true news.
"I found a woman ruling over them: she has been given all things that could be possessed by any ruler of the earth, and she has a great throne.
"I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah, and Shaitan (Satan) has made their deeds fair-seeming to them, and has barred them from (Allah's) Way: so they have no guidance."
[As Shaitan (Satan) has barred them from Allah's Way] so they do not worship (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. [Tafsir At-Tabari]
Allah, La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Lord of the Supreme Throne!
[Sulaiman (Solomon)] said: "We shall see whether you speak the truth or you are (one) of the liars.
"Go you with this letter of mine, and deliver it to them, then draw back from them, and see what (answer) they return."
She said: "O chiefs! Verily! Here is delivered to me a noble letter,
"Verily it is from Sulaiman (Solomon), and verily, it (reads): In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful:
"Be you not exalted against me, but come to me as Muslims (true believers who submit to Allah with full submission).' "
She said: "O chiefs! Advise me in (this) case of mine. I decide no case till you are present with me (and give me your opinions)."
They said: "We have great strength, and great ability for war, but it is for you to command: so think over what you will command."
She said: "Verily kings, when they enter a town (country), they despoil it and make the most honourable amongst its people the lowest. And thus they do.
"But verily! I am going to send him a present, and see with what (answer) the messengers return."
So when (the messengers with the present) came to Sulaiman (Solomon), he said: "Will you help me in wealth? What Allah has given me is better than that which He has given you! Nay, you rejoice in your gift!"
[Then Sulaiman (Solomon) said to the chief of her messengers who brought the present]: "Go back to them. We verily shall come to them with hosts that they cannot resist, and we shall drive them out from there in disgrace, and they will be abased."
He said: "O chiefs! Which of you can bring me her throne before they come to me surrendering themselves in obedience?"
A 'Ifrit (strong one) from the jinn said: "I will bring it to you before you rise from your place (council). And verily, I am indeed strong, and trustworthy for such work."
One with whom was knowledge of the Scripture said: "I will bring it to you within the twinkling of an eye!" Then when he [Sulaiman (Solomon)] saw it placed before him, he said: "This is by the Grace of my Lord - to test me whether I am grateful or ungrateful! And whoever is grateful, truly, his gratitude is for (the good of) his ownself; and whoever is ungrateful, (he is ungrateful only for the loss of his ownself). Certainly my Lord is Rich (Free of all needs), Bountiful."
He said: "Disguise her throne for her that we may see whether she will be guided (to recognise her throne), or she will be one of those not guided."
So when she came, it was said (to her): "Is your throne like this?" She said: "(It is) as though it were the very same." And [Sulaiman (Solomon) said]: "Knowledge was bestowed on us before her, and we were submitted to Allah (in Islam as Muslims before her)."
And that which she used to worship besides Allah has prevented her (from Islam), for she was of a disbelieving people.
It was said to her: "Enter As-Sarh" (a glass surface with water underneath it or a palace): but when she saw it, she thought it was a pool, and she (tucked up her clothes) uncovering her legs. (Sulaiman (Solomon)) said: "Verily, it is a Sarh (a glass surface with water underneath it or a palace)." She said: "My Lord! Verily, I have wronged myself, and I submit [in Islam, together with Sulaiman (Solomon)] to Allah, the Lord of the 'Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists)."
You might like to read Ibn Kathir's commentary in Stories of the Qur'an.
Lessons and Activities
Bilqis was a wise leader. When someone questions your beliefs you tend to strike back but she sought advise from her counsellers. Even though she had a better idea, she wanted to hear if someone else had one better than hers. She didn't immediately went to war but sent a present to see how Prophet Sulayman would react to it.
The question for today is "What makes a great leader?". Find and list as many qualities as you can. Or find one and reserach it in-depth and find out how you can incorporate it into your behaviour.
This is just an idea for an activity focusing on leadership. If you have any others then feel free to do them and share.
There are so many other lessons to learn. Can you think of any others? I'd love to hear them. Please write in the comment below.
At the end of this Ramadan Reading Challenge, if you or your children have participated then you will get a prize (not sure what yet - will keep you updated). To be eligible, please leave a comment on what lesson you have learnt from the reading of the story and include any activities that you did to extend it. Just a line or two would be fine (so that I can contact you).