Prophet Solomon was a king and the ruler of Syria and Palestine whose armies consisted of troops made of men, Jinn and birds. It is possible that the birds were employed for communicating the messages, hunting and for other suitable services.

In the Quran (27:20) we read that Prophet Solomon reviewed his birds and found the hoopoe (hud-hud) missing. His most mobile arm was the birds, which were light on the wing and flew and saw everything like efficient scouts. Prophet Solomon expressed his anger and his desire to punish the hoopoe severely if it did not present itself before him with a reasonable excuse. Within a short while the hoopoe returned saying,

“I have obtained knowledge of things which you have no knowledge. I have brought sure information about Saba (Sheba, a well-known rich people of southern Arabia, now the present day Yemen. Their capitol city was Ma’rib which lay about 55 miles to the north-east of Sana, the present capitol of Yemen). There I have seen a woman ruling over her people: she has been given all sorts of provisions, and she has a splendid throne. I saw that she and her people prostrate themselves before the sun, instead of Allah!”

Prophet Solomon said, “We shall just now see whether what you say is true, or that you are a liar. Take this letter of mine and cast it before them; then get aside and see what reaction they show.” Quran, 27: 27-28.

Here ends the role of the hoopoe. Some people have interpreted that hoopoe (hud-hud) was the name of a man and not a bird, because a bird could not possibly be endowed with such powers of observation, discrimination and expression as described above. The counter-argument is that in spite of great advances in science and technology, man cannot tell with absolute certainty what powers and abilities the different species of animals and their different individuals possess? Man has not so far been able to know through any certain means what different animals know and what they see and hear; what they feel, think and understand; or how the mind of each one of them works. Yet, whatever little observation has been made of the life of the different species of animals, it has revealed some of their wonderful abilities. Now, when Allah, Who is the Creator of these animals, tells us that He had taught the speech of the birds to one of His Prophets and blessed him with the ability to speak to them, and the Prophet’s taming and training had so enabled a hoopoe (hud-hud) that it could make certain observations about foreign lands and could report them to the Prophet, then the above said interpreters should be prepared to revise their little knowledge about the animals in the light of Allah’s statement. Books such as “When Elephants Weep” and other books on dogs, cats and ants throw light on animal intelligence, thinking and behaviour.