History of the Prophets
by Maulana Muhammad Ali
Among the prophets of the Mosaic dispensation, besides Jesus Christ, David and Solomon are given the greatest prominence, and the glory to which the Israelite kingdom arose under these prophet-kings is referred to on more occasions than one. In fact, all this is history containing prophecy of the greatness of Islam. The chapters containing such references are those which were revealed at Makka when opposition to the Prophet was at its highest and his cause seemed to be quite hopeless. The narration of this history was a comfort to the Muslims that the time was coming when all opposition to the Prophet would be brought to naught and Islam would shine forth in all her glory. The prominence given to the history of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ on the one hand, and to that of David and Solomon on the other, of whom the former stood for the spiritual greatness of the Mosaic dispensation and the latter for material greatness, was in fact a clear indication that the Holy prophet was destined to occupy both the position of a spiritual-teacher and a king. This is made clear by expressly calling the Prophet Muhammad the like of Moses as already pointed out, and again by likening the Muhammadan dispensation to the Mosaic dispensation (The Holy Quran, 24:55).
The longest notice of David is that contained in 38:17–26, which begins with his conquests and his kingdom:
“Bear patiently what they say, and remember Our servant David, the possessor of power. He ever turned (to Allah).
Truly We made the mountains subject to him, glorifying (Allah) at nightfall and sunrise.
And the birds gathered together. All were obedient to him.
And We strengthened his kingdom and We gave him wisdom and a clear judgment.” (The Holy Quran, 38:17–20)
This account of the conquests and kingdom of David is preceded by an injunction to the Prophet to bear patiently what his opponents said and did, thus indicating that the state of helplessness and prosecution of Islam would come to an end and the Muslims would rise to similar greatness and glory. These verses while speaking of the physical conquests of David also allude to his spiritual conquests, because the mountains are spoken of as being subjected to declare Divine glory. The birds are mentioned as attendants of a victorious army. This is made clearer by what is said elsewhere:
“And certainly We gave David abundance from Us: O mountains, repeat praises with him, and the birds, and We made the iron pliant to him.
Make ample (coats of mail), and assign a time to the making of coats of mail and do ye good. Surely I am Seer of what you do.” (The Holy Quran, 34:10–11)
The mention of making iron pliant to him and of coats of mail shows clearly that on both occasions the reference is to battles with the enemy and the conquests following them.
Notwithstanding the vastness of his kingdom, David was told to bear up with his enemies and treat them leniently:
“And has the story of the adversaries come to thee? When they made an entry into the private chamber by ascending the walls—When they came upon David so he was afraid of them.” (The Holy Quran, 38:21–22)
Strangely enough, this account of his enemies’ planning against his life has been twisted by some less careful commentators under the influence of Jewish tradition and the Bible into the story that David committed adultery and that two angels came to remind him of the sin. The Quran plainly calls the two intruders to be khasm or enemies, and speaks of them as finding access to his private chamber by ascending over the walls, and to suppose them to be angels is the height of absurdity. Caliph Ali, when he heard the false story related about David, said:
“Whoever shall relate the story of David as the story-tellers relate it, I will give him 160 stripes, and this is the punishment of those who falsely charge the prophets.”
This incident is related by the great commentator, Razi, who also says:
“Most of the learned and those who have searched for the truth among them declare this charge to be false and condemn it as a lie and as a mischievous story.”
The Bible story that David committed adultery is thus rejected by Islam as a false charge against a prophet of God. On the other hand, the Holy Quran speaks of David in terms of highest praise:
“Surely he had a nearness to Us and an excellent resort.” (The Holy Quran, 38:25)
The only other important point related about David is his slaying of Goliath (The Holy Quran, 2:251), which occurs in a Madina revelation, and here, too, it is added that
“Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom.”
References mentioned above:
“Allah has promised to those of you who believe and do good that He will surely make them rulers in the earth as He made those before them rulers, and that He will surely establish for them their religion, which He has chosen for them, and that He will surely give them security in exchange after their fear. They will serve Me, not associated aught with Me. And whoever is ungrateful after this, they are the transgressors.” (The Holy Quran, 24:55)
“Bear patiently what they say, and remember Our servant David, the possessor power. He ever turned (to Allah).
Truly We made the mountains subject to him, glorifying (Allah) at nightfall and sunrise,
And the birds gathered together. All were obedient to him.
And We strengthened his kingdom and We gave him wisdom and a clear judgment.
And has the story of the adversaries come to thee? When they made an entry into the private chamber by climbing the wall —
When they came upon David so he was afraid of them. They said: Fear not; two litigants, of whom one has wronged the other, so decide between us with justice, and act not unjustly, and guide us to the right way.
This is my brother. He has ninety-nine ewes and I have a single ewe. Then he said, Make it over to me, and he has prevailed against me in dispute.
He said: Surely he has wronged thee in demanding thy ewe (to add) to his own ewes. And surely many partners wrong one another save those who believe and do good, and very few are they! And David knew that We had tried him, so he asked his Lord for protection, and he fell down bowing and turned (to God).
So We gave him this protection, and he had a nearness to Us and an excellent resort.
O David, surely We have made thee a ruler in the land; so judge between men justly and follow not desire, lest it lead thee astray from the path of Allah. Those who go astray from the path of Allah, for them is surely a severe chastisement because they forgot the day of Reckoning.” (The Holy Quran, 38:17–26)
“So We gave him this protection, and he had a nearness to Us and an excellent resort.” (The Holy Quran, 38:25)
“So they put them to flight by Allah’s permission. And David slew Goliath, and Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom, and taught him of what He pleased. And were it not for Allah’s repelling some men by others, the earth would certainly be in a state of disorder: but Allah is Full of grace to the worlds.” (The Holy Quran, 2:251)