38:34 is a verse in the Quran that causes a lot of confusion for people. The context of the verse is regarding Solomon’s throne. The difficulty in understanding lies in the meaning of a single word jasadan / جَسَدًا. Before we get to trying to understand the meaning of this word let’s take a look at how various translators translated this verse.

(٣٤) وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا سُلَيْمَانَ وَأَلْقَيْنَا عَلَىٰ كُرْسِيِّهِ جَسَدًا ثُمَّ أَنَابَ

Yusuf Ali
And We did try Solomon: We placed on his throne a body (without life); but he did turn (to Us in true devotion):

Pickthal
And verily We tried Solomon, and set upon his throne a (mere) body. Then did he repent. Shakir And certainly We tried Sulaiman, and We put on his throne a (mere) body, so he turned (to Allah).

Sher Ali
Certainly, WE tried Solomon and WE placed on his throne a mere body. Then he turned to God, seeking his mercy.

Edip-Layth
38:34 We tested Solomon and placed a corpse on his throne, but he then repented.

The Monotheist Group
38:34 And We tested Solomon and placed a corpse upon his throne, but he then repented.

Muhammad Asad
38:34 But [ere this], indeed, We had tried Solomon by placing upon his throne a [lifeless] body; and thereupon he turned [towards Us; and]

Shabbir Ahmed
38:34 We passed Solomon through difficult times by granting him a very incompetent (son) to succeed him to his throne. Yet, he turned to Us as always.

Rashad Khalifa
38:34 We thus put Solomon to the test; we blessed him with vast material wealth, but he steadfastly submitted.

Word By Word Understanding

Below is the word-by-word translation of the verse.

This verse can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Solomon was tested
  2. He was granted jasadan upon his throne
  3. Then he steadfastly submitted

Despite even looking at the word-by-word translation there is still the question to what is the correct understanding of this verse, and particularly the meaning of jasadan.

Understanding The Root

As mentioned above, the root for the word جَسَدًا / jasadan is ج س د and occurs only four times in the Quran. Two of the occurrences are in reference to the statue of the calf that the Children of Israel created, while the other reference is to an effigy of a body that does not die or need nourishment to survive.

[7:148] During his absence, Moses’ people made from their jewelry the statue (jasadan) of a calf, complete with the sound of a calf. Did they not see that it could not speak to them, or guide them in any path? They worshiped it, and thus turned wicked.

 وَاتَّخَذَ قَوْمُ مُوسَىٰ مِنْ بَعْدِهِ مِنْ حُلِيِّهِمْ عِجْلًا جَسَدًا لَهُ خُوَارٌ أَلَمْ يَرَوْا أَنَّهُ لَا يُكَلِّمُهُمْ وَلَا يَهْدِيهِمْ سَبِيلًا اتَّخَذُوهُ وَكَانُوا ظَالِمِينَ

[20:88] He produced for them a calf statue (jasadan), complete with a calf’s sound.* They said, “This is your god, and the god of Moses.” Thus, he forgot.

 فَأَخْرَجَ لَهُمْ عِجْلًا جَسَدًا لَهُ خُوَارٌ فَقَالُوا هَٰذَا إِلَٰهُكُمْ وَإِلَٰهُ مُوسَىٰ فَنَسِيَ

[21:7] We did not send before you except men whom we inspired. Ask those who know the scripture, if you do not know. [21:8] We did not give them an effigy (jasadan) that did not eat, nor were they immortal.

(٧) وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا قَبْلَكَ إِلَّا رِجَالًا نُوحِي إِلَيْهِمْ فَاسْأَلُوا أَهْلَ الذِّكْرِ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ لَا تَعْلَمُونَ
(٨) وَمَا جَعَلْنَاهُمْ جَسَدًا لَا يَأْكُلُونَ الطَّعَامَ وَمَا كَانُوا خَالِدِينَ

Jasadan = Statue?

From the three other occurrences of this word in the Quran, we can conclude that the word refers to a sculpture of a body. A very literal reading of 38:34 is that Solomon was gifted a statue on top of his throne. Support for this understanding can be found in the following verse regarding Solomon’s vast wealth regarding what the jinns made for him during his reign.

[34:12] To Solomon we committed the wind at his disposal, traveling one month coming and one month going. And we caused a spring of oil to gush out for him. Also, the jinns worked for him, by his Lord’s leave. Any one of them who disregarded our commands, we subjected him to a severe retribution. [34:13] They made for him anything he wanted—niches, statues, deep pools, and heavy cooking pots. O family of David, work (righteousness) to show your appreciation. Only a few of My servants are appreciative.

(١٢) وَلِسُلَيْمَانَ الرِّيحَ غُدُوُّهَا شَهْرٌ وَرَوَاحُهَا شَهْرٌ وَأَسَلْنَا لَهُ عَيْنَ الْقِطْرِ وَمِنَ الْجِنِّ مَنْ يَعْمَلُ بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهِ وَمَنْ يَزِغْ مِنْهُمْ عَنْ أَمْرِنَا نُذِقْهُ مِنْ عَذَابِ السَّعِيرِ

 يَعْمَلُونَ لَهُ مَا يَشَاءُ مِنْ مَحَارِيبَ وَتَمَاثِيلَ وَجِفَانٍ كَالْجَوَابِ وَقُدُورٍ رَاسِيَاتٍ اعْمَلُوا آلَ دَاوُودَ شُكْرًا وَقَلِيلٌ مِنْ عِبَادِيَ الشَّكُورُ

The question is what would this understanding have to do with the first and third part of the verse when it states that he was tested and that afterwards he submitted / ثُمَّ أَنَابَ “? If we understand that the jasadan upon his throne was a sign of wealth and luxury, then that could certainly be considered the test, and that despite the luxury he still submitted (to God).

So if we understand the throne and statue to be a representation of Solomon’s vast material wealth, then I believe this could be the understanding of how Dr. Rashad Khalifa translated this verse.

Rashad Khalifa
38:34 We thus put Solomon to the test; we blessed him with vast material wealth, but he steadfastly submitted.

Jasadan = Corpse?

Another popular understanding is that جَسَدًا / jasadan is a corpse as seen in the following translations:

Edip-Layth
38:34 We tested Solomon and placed a corpse on his throne, but he then repented.

The Monotheist Group
38:34 And We tested Solomon and placed a corpse upon his throne, but he then repented.

Muhammad Asad
38:34 But [ere this], indeed, We had tried Solomon by placing upon his throne a [lifeless] body; and thereupon he turned [towards Us; and]

Even though this understanding does not correspond with the other three occurrences of the word جَسَدًا / jasadan in the Quran, an argument for this understanding can be made based on the following verse regarding the death of Solomon.

[34:14] When the appointed time for his death came, they had no clue that he had died. Not until one of the animals tried to eat his staff, and he fell down, that the jinns realized that he was dead. They thus realized that if they really knew the unseen, they would have stopped working so hard as soon as he died.

 فَلَمَّا قَضَيْنَا عَلَيْهِ الْمَوْتَ مَا دَلَّهُمْ عَلَىٰ مَوْتِهِ إِلَّا دَابَّةُ الْأَرْضِ تَأْكُلُ مِنْسَأَتَهُ فَلَمَّا خَرَّ تَبَيَّنَتِ الْجِنُّ أَنْ لَوْ كَانُوا يَعْلَمُونَ الْغَيْبَ مَا لَبِثُوا فِي الْعَذَابِ الْمُهِينِ

The above verse clearly shows that Solomon died unexpectedly and that his subjects did not immediately notice and continued their duties even after his death. If we understand the word كُرْسِيِّهِ / kur’siyyihi used in 38:34 to mean Solomon’s literal throne, then it may be a stretch to assume that Solomon’s corpse was sitting on his literal throne and then fell over after the creature tried to eat his staff. Alternatively, if we understand كُرْسِيِّهِ / kur’siyyihi to mean “his dominion” then it could be understood that his corpse was running his domain for some time after his death until it was discovered that he had died.

The problem with this understanding is that it does not necessarily correspond with the first and third part of the verse. Firstly, how would a corpse being placed on his throne be a test for Solomon? If the test was for his soldiers of jinns then this would make more sense, but this is not what the verse states, but that this was a test for Solomon. Secondly, how would placing a corpse on his throne correspond with Solomon turning in repentance or fully submitting (based on how one translates the word أَنَابَ / anāba. In either case, it shows that after the jasadan was placed on his throne, Solomon must have still been alive to أَنَابَ / anāba.

Jasadan = Corps?

There is a third interpretation that I think holds merit which understands the word jasadan as a corps. The words corpse, corps, and corporation all come from the same Latin origin of corpus which means body. The connection between corps and the physical body is that just like a body that has various organs that all work together in unison for the survival and advancement of a body, corps and corporations operate in unison as a single entity for the survival and advancement of the organization. This corresponds with the other three occurrences of the word jasadan where it is in reference to a non-organic representation of a body.

As seen in the image above, the word corps is even how this word is used in English to describe the various branches of a military organization assigned to a particular kind of work. Similarly, we see from the following verse that Solomon had legions of jinns, humans, and birds at his disposal. All these various corps were all operating for the common objective that he set forth for his dominion.

[27:17] Mobilized in the service of Solomon were his obedient soldiers of jinns and humans, as well as the birds; all at his disposal.

(١٧) وَحُشِرَ لِسُلَيْمَانَ جُنُودُهُ مِنَ الْجِنِّ وَالْإِنْسِ وَالطَّيْرِ فَهُمْ يُوزَعُونَ

So based on this, jasadan can be understood that on top of his throne or dominion Solomon had corps (at his disposal).

But does this understanding match the first and last part of the verse? In regards to the first part, having legions of jinns, humans, and birds at one’s disposal is definitely a test, so this checks out. Secondly, we see that after Solomon was granted this, it states:  ثُمَّ أَنَابَ / thumma anāba? The word ثُمَّ / thumma signifies “then” or “afterward”. This means that God granted him upon his throne legions then he أَنَابَ / anāba. The word أَنَابَ / anāba does not have a direct English translation, but is understood as someone who is obedient to God, submits to God, and turns repeatedly to God in repentance and sincere deeds. This informs us that despite God blessing him with the former, Solomon still made God a priority. This again corresponds with the translation of jasadan as corps and ties well with the last part of the verse. So based on this understanding, one can translate the verse in the following way:

[38:34] And certainly, we tested Solomon, and we granted upon his throne corps, yet he fully submitted.

(٣٤) وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا سُلَيْمَانَ وَأَلْقَيْنَا عَلَىٰ كُرْسِيِّهِ جَسَدًا ثُمَّ أَنَابَ

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