The Prophet’s question is an argument for the power of the questioned
In the event related in the holy Qur’ān, Sulaymān had conveyed his wish to the courtiers to bring to him the throne of queen Balqīs, and qualified it by the condition “before they come to me in submission.” Queen Balqīs and a number of other people along with her had already set out to visit Sulaymān’s court with a view to embracing Islam, but he was insisting that the throne must be brought to him before their arrival.
If Sulaymān had not possessed the belief in the knowledge of distant things for not-Allāh and the requisite power to transform this knowledge into reality, he would never have asked such a quest ion. The courtiers would also have spoken out: ‘O Prophet! How is it possible for the creat ures to perform such an act? You turn to Allāh and beseech Him for help as He alone has the power over this supernatural matter.’ But none of the courtiers dared ask the question, but in response to the quest ion, one of the jinns stood up and said:
I can bring it to you before you rise from your place and indeed I am powerful (to bring) it (and) I am trustworthy.
(Qur’ān (an-Naml, the Ants) 27:39. )
It may also be noted here, how can something that is valid for the jinns, turn into an article of disbelief for the favourite people of Allāh who constantly bow before Him. Disbelief is actually predicated on those attributes and qualit ies specifically associated with Allāh and are not available to others. It will be disbelief only if they attribute to themselves these specific divine qualities which is obviously inconceivable for a true believer because it is equivalent to a negation of their faith.
Sulaymān did not accept the offer made by that jinn. Then one among the men stood up who possessed knowledge of the Book. He was among the knowledgeable and the spirit ualists. He said to Sulaymān while st anding:
I can bring it to you before your eye returns to you (this is, in the twinkling of an eye), then when (Sulaymān) found that (throne) placed before him, he said: ‘this is by the grace of my Lord.’
Qur’ān (an-Naml, the Ants) 27:40. )
The denigrators say that Sulaymān was the person who brought the throne. While the celebrated and well-known view is that it was his writer or minister who brought the throne to Sulaymān and his name was Āsif bin Barakhyā.
Imām Qurtubī writes:
Most exegetes agree upon it that surely the person who had the knowledge of the Book was Āsif bin Barakhyā, and he was truthful. He knew Allāh’s ism-ul-a‘zam (exalted name) that whenever he was asked for something he gave through it and whenever he was called he answered through it. And ‘Ā’ishah narrated: the Prophet said, “Ism-ul-a‘zam of
Almighty Allāh through which Āsif bin Barakhyā prayd is yā hayy (O, the Living!) yā qayyūm (O, the Self-Subsistent!).” (Qurtubī, al-Jāmi‘ li-ahkām-il-Qur’ān (13:204). )
Imām Ibn Kathīr, while commenting on the verse(27:40) writes:
Ibn ‘Abbās said, “And he was Āsif, the writer of Sulaymān .” And similarly Muhammad bin Ishāq narrated through Yazīd bin Rūmān, “Certainly he was Āsif bin Barakhyā, and he was truthful and knew ism-ul-a‘zam.” And Qatādah said, “He was a believer from human beings and his name was Āsif.” Similarly, Abū Sālih, Dahhāk, and Qatādah said that he was a human being. Qatādah added that he belonged to Banī Israel. Mujāhid said, “His name was Ustūm.” And Qatādah said in another tradition that his name was Balīkhā. And Zuhayr bin Muhammad said, “He was a man from human being and called Dhū an-Nūr.” And ‘Abdullāh bin Lahī‘ah supposes that he was Khadir but thi (assumption) is extremely unfamiliar.
Ibn Kathīr mentioned the topic in his al-Bidāyah wannihāyah (1:472) and said:
“The well-known fact is that he was Āsif bin Barakhyā and he was the cousin of Sulaymān . And it is also said that he was a jinn believer as it is said about him that he knew ism-ul-a‘zam. And it is said that he was a scholarly man from Banī Israel and it is also said that he was Sulaymān , but this is extremely unfamiliar. And Suhaylī weakened this statement because it is not according to the context.”