November 20, 2010

News of Solomon's horses

The Prophet David was a passionate lover of horses. Never could he hear a horse praised for its pedigree or nobility, its beauty or its swiftness without commanding it be brought to him, until he had assembled 1,000 horses unmatched at that time by any others on the earth. When God took David to Himself, and Solomon had inherited his possessions and taken his father's seat, he said: "My father bequeathed nothing dearer to me than these horses," and saw to their care and feeding.

There are people of learning who say that God, be He exalted, produced 100 winged horses from the sea, and that these horses were called al-Khayr [his "Goods"], and that Solomon used to race them against each other, and that in his sight there was no greater marvel.

It is said that one day Solomon called for his horses, saying: "Show them to me, that I may know their markings, names and genealogies." The show commenced upon completion of his afternoon prayers. As the hour for evening prayers approached, a noble steed was in command of his attention, and horses kept him from his prayers until the sun was fully absent, having "disappeared behind the curtain" (38:32) - whereupon Solomon came to his senses. Reminded of his prayers, he begged God's pardon, saying: "There is no 'good' in wealth that distracts from prayer and remembrance of God!" Up to this point, 900 of his horses had been shown, with 100 still to go, but at Solomon's command the 900 were brought back and "he fell to striking their legs" (38:33) in atonement for letting the evening prayer slip past him. There remained 100 horses which had not been shown him, of which he said: "These hundred are dearer to me than the nine hundred that strayed me from remembrance of God." Thus does God say: "To David We gave Solomon, most excellent of worshipers. Staunch was he in his return [to Us]" (38:30). And Solomon's enthusiasm for horses did not cease until God took him to Himself.

[My father] Muhammad ibn al-Sa'ib al-Kalbi related on the authority of Abu Salih that Ibn 'Abbas said: "The Arabs first learned of these horses upon Solomon's marriage to Bilqis, Queen of Sheba, when a deputation of Azd came from Oman before the son of David. They questioned him about religious and mundane obligations until their curiosity was satisfied, and they were anxious to return home. 'O Prophet of God,' they said, 'our country is very far away, and we have exhausted our stock of provisions. Provision us with what will last us until we get there.' So Solomon gave them one of his horses, saying: 'This is your provision: when you set up camp, set a man on his back and give him a spear. You are to gather no wood and strike no fire unless he comes back with the spoils of the chase.' The Azdites did so, mounting a man on the horse and putting a spear in his hand every time they set up camp. But wood was always gathered and fire was struck, for it was never long before he came back with a gazelle or onager he had hunted. And for the whole length of their journey they had enough to sustain and satisfy them, and then some. The Azdites said: 'What shall we name our horse, if not Zad al-Rakib ["Provision of the Rider"]?' And that was the first that Solomon's horses were known to the Arabs."

From the Genealogies of Horses by Ibn al-Kalbi