Friday, July 06, 2012

The people of Saba and Japan

The title may not make sense at all, or maybe it will. It’s just a thought that passed my mind while reading the Quran. I recently read a surah (chapter) in the Quran called surah An Naml / the ant. And in it, there is a story of the Prophet Suleiman’s (AS)* encounter with the Queen of the people of Saba, Queen Balqis.

The kingdom of Saba was a prosperous kingdom, and is among the most advanced civilizations that ever existed. It was rich and the people had advanced technology. They had sophisticated irrigation systems, built 18 meters-high dams that had lengths reaching to 1.6 kilometers (remember, this was 3000 years ago), advanced architecture, and were successful in commerce. Religiously, they were following a type of animism where they worshipped the elements of nature such as the sun (and the moon as well).

I couldn't help but notice that the people of the kingdom of Saba have resemblance with the people of Japan. Namely their religious belief: animism. They have deities derived from natural elements such as the sun god (or goddess) and the moon god (or goddess). In Japan, the worship of the sun goddess (amaterasu) is a part of the Shinto religion. Amaterasu is one of the main deities in Shinto. Of course nowadays, the average Japanese couldn’t care less about religion, as religion is more of a cultural phenomenon rather than belief. They use a mix of religious traditions for different occasions (Shinto for birth, Christian for marriage, Buddhism for death). However, many people still regard Shinto as the national religion.

The other resemblance that the people of Saba have with Japan is their command over advanced technology (in their respective times). As mentioned before, the kingdom of Saba had sophisticated irrigation systems, dams, buildings, and perhaps other technology that we will never know. Similar to Japan whom is (or was) one of the leading countries in the pursuit of advanced technology, according to

Interestingly, in the Quran, it is mentioned about how the Queen finally accepted Islam. She was of course struck in awe by the wisdom, kingdom and power of Prophet Suleiman (AS). But what finally made her submit was the technological marvel that the Prophet Suleiman (AS) displayed through the architectural design of his palace. Which perhaps gives us a glimpse of the future of how the same type of people will accept Islam.

God takes people into the fold of Islam through many doors. Some may come in through spirituality, some may come in through theology, some may come in through the akhlaq (good character) that Muslims (used to) have, some may come in through the scientific marvels that Muslims (used to) achieve, some may come in through the beautiful architecture that our architects (used to) make, some from inheritance (Muslim parents) and many other doors.

So perhaps in the case of Japan, looking at the similarities with the people of Saba, Islam will most likely be successfully introduced through the technological advances that Muslims will hopefully have in the future. I have the utmost respect and love for my Japanese brothers and sisters, and wish them the best of futures. Nevertheless, it’s just a thought that I had, and you can take it with a grain of salt. May guidance be made easy for us, and stay with us until our last breath.

*AS: 'Alaihissalam (Peace be unto him)

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