Tubba' was name given to king of Yemen
Fatwa No: 324442

Question

You have not answered the question yet! Who was Tubba'? That name is mentioned in the Quran but I do not know where the name is mentioned! Could you give me the reference as to where his name is in the Quran? Who was he? What did he do?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah and that Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allaah exalt his mention ) is His slave and Messenger.

Tubba' was a name given to the king of Yemen. At-Tahreer wat-Tanweer reads, “Tubba' was a name given to the king of all Yemen: Himyar, Saba’ (Sheba), and Hadhramout; the title of Tubba' was not given to a king unless he ruled these three places.

Ibn Katheer said, “Himyar, who were Saba’, whenever a man ruled them, they named him Tubba', like Kisra was a title for the king of the Persians, Caesar was a title for the king of the Romans, Pharaoh was the title given to any king of Egypt who was a disbeliever, and An-Najaashi (Negus) was the title given to the king of Abyssinia, and (there are) other proper names of races.

As regards the reason for this name, At-Tahreer wat-Tanweer reads:

It was said that he was named Tubba' (which is derived in Arabic from the verb 'to follow') because he follows the sun in the same way that the shade follows the sun, and the meaning of it is that he sets out in wars anywhere the sun rises upon, as Allaah says about Thul-Qarnayn (what means): {So he followed a way. Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, he found it [as if] setting in a spring of dark mud, and he found near it a people. Allaah said: O Dhul-Qarnayn, either you punish [them] or else adopt among them [a way of] goodness. He said: As for one who wrongs, we will punish him. Then he will be returned to his Lord, and He will punish him with a terrible punishment. But as for one who believes and does righteousness, he will have a reward of Paradise, and we will speak to him from our command with ease. Then he followed a way. Until, when he came to the rising of the sun, he found it rising on a people for whom We had not made against it any shield.} [Quran 18:85-90] It was also said that he was called Tubbaa' because all the rulers of the Yemeni kingdoms followed him.

One of those Tubba's was mentioned in the verse: {Are they better or the people of Tubba' and those before them? We destroyed them, [for] indeed, they were criminals.} [Quran 44:37]

And in the verse: {And the companions of the thicket and the people of Tubba'. All denied the messengers, so My threat was justly fulfilled.} [Quran 50:14]

There was a difference of opinion regarding the mentioned Tubba' and whether he was a Prophet or a king. Imaam al-Qurtubi said:

Ibn ‘Abbaas said that Tubba' was a Prophet. Ka’b said, 'Tubba' was a king and his people were soothsayers, and some people from the People of the Book were with them, so he ordered the two groups to offer a sacrifice to Allaah, and they did so. The sacrifice of the People of the Book was accepted; so he became a Muslim.'

‘Aa’ishah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  her said, 'Do not insult Tubba' as he was a righteous man.' Besides, Qataadah reported that Tubba' was a man from Himyar who set out with his soldiers until he crossed Heerah (ancient city located south of al-Koofah in south-central Iraq) and came to Samarkand and destroyed it; this was narrated by al-Maawardi. Also, Ath-Tha’labi narrated from Qataadah that he was Tubba' from Himyar and that he marched with his soldiers until he traversed Heerah, and he built Samarkand and he killed and destroyed the country. Al-Kalbi said, 'Tubba' was Abu Karb As’ad ibn Malik Yakrib, and he was named Tubba' because he followed those before him.' Sa’eed ibn Jubayr said, 'He was the one who draped the House (Ka'bah) in Yemeni fabric (Hibaraat).' Ka’b said, 'Allaah condemned his people but He did not condemn him.'

Allaah knows best.

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