Peace, one and all…
In the Bible, 1 Kings to be exact, we read of beloved Solomon’s (as) initiatory dream:
‘Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor —so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” Then Solomon awoke —and he realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court’
(1 Kings 3:7-15)
Reading this passage I was struck by a number of things. To begin with, Solomon is a servant first and a king second. His service to God was more important than his kingship. God made Solomon a king, and he sought to faithfully discharge that duty. His prayer was for aid in fulfilling his responsibilities. In the Quran, beloved Christ (as) is described as Abd Allah, or ‘God’s Servant’. To be a true servant of God is an exalted spiritual rank, reached by very few people.
Secondly, given that this passage relates a dream of Solomon’s, we can see that his desire to serve was an expression of his innermost heart’s yearning. In some of our dreams our innermost desires are shown forth, that we might come to know ourselves more fully. And God answered! This divine response underlines Solomon’s sincerity. God answers all prayers made in sincerity, and thus His answer is testament to Solomon’s ikhlas.
Thirdly, Solomon’s first act on waking was to go the ark of the covenant, the central sacred space of his time, and offer sacrifice. He then fed others, thus giving honour to God and aid to his fellow human beings.
Solomon asks for ‘a discerning heart’, for an insight that will enable him to govern wisely and well. Discernment is thus greater than raw power. Solomon’s prayer is thus for subtlety in ruling.
Solomon makes an important remark: ‘Who is able to govern this great people of yours?’ Although he was given great power, Solomon remembered that God, alone, is the true ruler, the true source of every authority. Humility is an essential quality in a king, and an inner detachment from all but the One Source.
Another thing we learn from this passage is that the hearts of the prophets (as) are full of compassion for others. In the very core of their beings the prophets are all about helping others, about serving humanity. And, as Sufi tradition tells us, because the prophets are the living embodiments of spiritual truths, we can embody these ideals too.
‘Give what you have not asked for…’ Gratitude is an essential spiritual quality. The Quran reminds us of this: ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you…’ (Quran 14:7). Gratitude is a means of harmonising with the Divine, and a way of becoming authentically human. Merciful One! Help us to gratitude in all things.
God was pleased with Solomon’s prayer because his innermost desire was to serve others, and not himself. His inward intention was to rule wisely, and with justice, not to dominate others or seek their harm. His prayer for aid and discernment sprang from love, of his father (beloved David, as), of his people and of the Source of All, God. Justice arises in love, and when justice moves it marks love’s re-balancing, the drive towards equilibrium.
Wa akhiru da’wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.
Ask olsun! May love increase!