Tafsir Naml


An Enlightening Commentary into the Light of the Holy

Qur’an vol. 13


Features of the Surah


In The Name of Allah, The Beneficent, The Merciful

This Surah contains 93 verses, and because verse No. 18,  is about ants and Solomon (as), it is called An-Naml (The Ant); but it is also called Sulayman, and Ta, Seen.

The entire Surah was revealed in connection with various assorted events and occasions, and the holy phrase: /bismillah-ir-rahman-ir-rahim/ is repeated twice in it, once  at the beginning of the Surah and the other  in verse No. 30 at the beginning  of Solomon’s letter to the Queen of Sheba.

The conflicts of four Divine prophets (Moses, Solomon, Salih, Lut[Lot]) against different tribes of their times have been referred to in this Surah, the most detailed of which is that of Solomon which resulted in Sheba’s faith in Monotheism.

Another portion of the verses of this holy Surah is about Solomon’s speaking with the birds, such as hoopoe and some insects like ants, and the attendance of some jinns in the army and court of Solomon, and, finally, transporting the throne of Sheba from Yemen to Syria in an instant.

“The Virtue of the Surah

In Shia Tafsir there is always Virtue attributed to each Surah

A tradition stated by Imam Sadiq (as) announces:

“Whoever recites the triple suras which begin with Ta Seen (Surah Ash-Shu‘ara, An-Naml, and Qasas) in the night before Friday, he will be one of the friends of Allah and he will be nigh to Him and he will be involved in His Grace and support.””

Our particular section forms part of section 2 of the Surah

Section 2:

Solomon Inherits From David

Tafsir Nemunah

18. “Until when they came to the Valley of Ants, an ant said: ‘O you ants! Get into your habitations, so that Solomon and his hosts may not crush you, being unaware’.”

The Arabic word /naml/ philologically means ‘creeping with small feet’. The Qur’anic word /namlatun/, because of its Arabic nunnation, can be meant ‘a big ant which is a commander’. In this case, there is commandership and administrationship in the life of ants.

This nunnation can be meant as the sign of uncertainty of the ant. In this case, the message of the verse is that if an undefined one gives a sympathetic warning that warning must be attended to.

However, Solomon with this great army started and went until they reached the valley of ants. Here, an ant, addressing other ants, said that they should go into their dwellings, so that Solomon and his army might not crush them while they are unaware.

The verse says:

“Until when they came to the Valley of Ants, an ant said: ‘O you ants! Get into your habitations, so that Solomon and his hosts may not crush you, being unaware’.”

There are some explanations to say that how this ant became aware of the presence of Solomon and his hosts in that land, and how it announced this happening to other ants, which will be referred to later.

By the way, it is understood from this sentence that the justice of Solomon was made manifest to even the ants because the sentence implicitly means if the hosts are aware of the existence of the ants they will not tread that weak animal, then if they tread the ants it is because they do not know it.

Surah An-Naml – Verse 19

فَتَبَسَّمَ ضَاحِكاً مِن قَوْلِهَا وَقَالَ رَبّ‌ِ أَوْزِعْنِي أَنْ أَشْكُرَ نِعْمَتَكَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيَّ وَعَلَي وَالِدَيَّ وَأَنْ أَعْمَلَ صَالِحاً تَرْضَاهُ وَأَدْخِلْنِي بِرَحْمَتِكَ فِي عِبَادِكَ الصَّالِحِينَ

19. “Then he smiled, laughing at its words, and said: ‘My Lord! Dispose me that I may be thankful for Your bounty, which You have bestowed on me and my parents, and that I may do righteousness such as You are pleased with, and admit me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants’.”

One of the principles and conditions of leadership and administration is tolerance. Solomon (as) heard that the ant said about him and his troops that they were unaware, but he (as) did not show it and he only smiled.

Criticism and a right speech must be heard from any one and it must be received, because accepting criticism is a value. Solomon admired the word of the ant and smiled. Commentators are divided as for what was the cause of Solomon’s smile.

It appears that the self of this event was a wonderful matter that an ant called other ants to beware of the great army of Solomon and that it attributed that army of being unaware.

This amazing affair caused Solomon’s laugh, as the verse says:

“Then he smiled, laughing at its words…”

Some of commentators have said that this smile was a smile of joy, because Solomon understood that even ants confessed to the justice of Solomon and his troops and accepted their piety.

Some others have said that his joy was for the reason that Allah had given him such a power that at the time of the great anxiety and excitement of the army he was not neglectful of the sound of an ant either.

However, here Solomon turned to the presence of Allah and asked a few things as follows:

“…and said: ‘My Lord! Dispose me that I may be thankful for Your bounty, which You have bestowed on me and my parents…”

Solomon asked Allah to teach him how he could thank for the great bounties that He had granted him and his parents to be able to use them in the way that He had commanded and was the cause of His pleasure so that he would not deviate from the right path, since being thankful for those abundant favours is not possible save with His succour and aid.

The next thing he asked for was as follows:

“…and that I may do righteousness such as You are pleased with…”

This statement points to this matter that what was important for Solomon was not the remaining of that great army and his government with those vast organizations, it was important for him to do such righteous deeds that caused His pleasure.

And in view of the fact that the Arabic word /’a‘mala/ is a verb in present tense, which is used in that language for the continuation of the action, it is an evidence that he asked Allah for the continuation of this succour.

Finally, the third thing he asked was that he said:

“…and admit me, by Your mercy, among Your righteous servants’.”1


My comment is that while this is an acceptable Shia Commentary it is too shrouded in uncertainties of Origin for me to want to use it too often. I will provide a Sunni edition for you next.


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