Bilqis, Queen of Sheba in Islam: Leadership lesson for Muslim women
Perhaps the most well-known woman in literary works is Queen Bilqis of Sheba. The story of Bilqis, Queen of Sheba is known to all Abrahamic religion: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The most reliable accounts indicate that Queen Bilqis was an Ethiopian queen whose vast dominion stretched over Ethiopia and contemporary Eritrea across the Red Sea and the western coast of Arabia, even though it is still unknown where she came from. Sheba’s populace was affluent and well-educated. They were mainly peaceful businessmen who traded frankincense, myrrh, ivory, gold, frankincense, spices, and other goods in extensive camel caravans. After her father’s passing, Queen Bilqis is supposed to have risen to the throne. Her account of her meeting with Prophet Solomon and acceptance of Islam is known well among all of us.
The account of Queen Bilqis in the Qur’an is unmistakable evidence that a woman can be a political figure/ leader and that being a woman would actually benefit her by bringing her closer to her people and their everyday struggles. In the case of Queen Bilqis, her use of logic was successful in running the government.
The Story of Queen Bilqis of Sheba in the Qur’an
Among the Jinns and animals, the Prophet Solomon had several messengers. He was able to speak their languages and command them. His emissaries included a bird known as the Hoopoe (Hud-Hud in Arabic). To complete tasks and deliver messages to his master, this bird would fly great distances.
During one of these missions, the Hoopoe flew to a far-off land and returned with news of a place called Sheba, where “a woman ruling over them and had been given the abundance and a mighty throne.” (27:23) However, the sun was worshipped by Queen Bilqis and her people. She resided in a palace with 360 windows, and every morning she knelt in front of them to receive the sunshine.
Prophet Solomon instructed the Hoopoe to fly back to Sheba with a letter delivering the religious message after learning about Queen Bilqis and her kingdom. This female character is described in the Quran as being intelligent and enlightened in addition to being a powerful queen.
Queen Bilqis convened a council meeting with the elders and the courtiers at this point, acting as the diplomatic leader. She explained the letter’s contents and requested counsel: “She said: O chiefs! give me advice respecting my affair: I never decide an affair until you are in my presence.” (27:31). Queen Bilqis was shrewd enough to reject the war recommendation made by her council. She was not a tyrannical ruler who would use force to seize control of rival countries. She opted for a diplomatic solution, opposed the use of force, and made the decision to send a sizable gift in an effort to find a peaceful resolution rather than engage in a pointless war that would eventually “renders the honoured of its people humbled.” (27:34) Her calm choice also demonstrates mercy and compassion, two qualities required for effective leadership. While these traits are typically associated with femininity and portrayed as signs of weakness, they are represented in the Quran as a sign of greatness, wisdom, and insight.
Queen Bilqis understood that Prophet Solomon’s message would be one of monetary ambition rather than warning and uprightness if he accepted the gift. But if he turned down the gift, Prophet Solomon’s message was sincere. Prophet Solomon was angry when the presents came in his realm and demanded, “Do you provide me with wealth? But what Allah has given me is better than what He has given you. Rather, it is you who rejoice in your gift” (27:36). This statement demonstrated that his only goal was to call Queen Bilqis to bow to the One God and that he had no other intentions.
In exchange for the gift, Prophet Solomon decided to extend an invitation to Queen Bilqis to his country. Prophet Solomon sent his fastest Jinn messenger to fetch the queen’s throne from her country in an instant and set it next to his as she neared his kingdom and was about to enter his palace. She needed to know that the God he served was all-powerful and capable of anything, “whether she follows the right way or chooses to be of those who do not go aright.” (27:41). and he did this by the will of God to demonstrate that to her.
Queen Bilqis was astounded by both the exact replica of her throne as well as Prophet Solomon’s humility and modesty when she saw her own throne in Prophet Solomon’s realm. She was stunned to witness the most exquisite building she had ever seen when she entered the castle. She lifted her shirt and exposed her shins to wade in, thinking it was a pool of water. She was reassured by Prophet Solomon, who said, “Indeed, it is a palace [whose floor is] made smooth with glass.”. (27:44)
Likewise astounded by Prophet Solomon’s modesty was Queen Bilqis. He had a particularly warm demeanour filled with sympathy, in contrast to previous male rulers. She submitted to “God, the Lord of Solomon and the Lord of the worlds” at the conclusion of the story. She understood how unfair it was for her to worship the sun, which was only God’s creation, and that Solomon was actually a true Prophet of God who sought to lead people in the right direction rather than a powerful ruler seeking to expand his realm in the name of monotheism.
The primacy of religion was at the centre of the Qur’anic account of Queen Bilqis of Sheba’s sovereignty and her interaction with Prophet Solomon, in contrast to the patriarchal reconstructions of medieval Muslim biographers. God wasn’t worried about her marital status or about arranging a marriage between the two of them. God did not care about the gender of Queen Bilqis because of her authority and power. However, historians had rewritten the story and highlighted gender politics. The patriarchal history-makers gave little thought to the Queen’s great diplomacy and peace-making endeavour that prevented a war from breaking out. Instead, the focus of their exegesis was on how marriage limited and controlled her sexuality and agency.
Whether she gave up her throne or not upon submitting to Allah is not known. Only Allah knows best. Her experience teaches us important lessons about women in politics, charismatic leadership, and true empathy. She serves as an example of the type of leadership the world needs today—leadership that prioritises discussion over dominance and values peace over conflict and devastation. She is a source of inspiration for every
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