English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 38: Sad — Sad (Revealed at Makkah: 5 sections, 88 verses)

Section 2 (Verses 38:15–38:26): David’s Enemies

Translation:

38:15 And these wait but for one cry, in which there is no delay.
38:16 And they say: Our Lord, hasten on for us our portion (of punishment) before the day of Reckoning.1
38:17 Bear patiently what they say, and remember Our servant David, the possessor of power. He ever turned (to Allah).
38:18 Truly We made the mountains subject to him, glorifying (Allah) at nightfall and sunrise,2
38:19 and the birds gathered together. All were obedient to him.
38:20 And We strengthened his kingdom and We gave him wisdom and a clear judgment.
38:21 And has the story of the adversaries come to you? When they made an entry into the private chamber by climbing the wall —
38:22 when they came upon David so he was afraid of them. They said: Do not fear; (we are) two litigants, one of whom has wronged the other, so decide between us with justice, and do not act unjustly, and guide us to the right way.
38:23 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.
38:24 He said: Surely he has wronged you in demanding your ewe (to add) to his own ewes. And surely many partners wrong one another except 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).3   Prostration
38:25 So We gave him this protection, and surely he had a nearness to Us and an excellent destination.
38:26 O David, surely We have made you a ruler in the land; so judge between people justly, and do not follow desire that it should lead you astray from the path of Allah. Those who go astray from the path of Allah, for them is surely a severe punishment because they forgot the day of Reckoning.

Commentary:

  1. It is clearly a demand on the part of disbelievers for punishment in this life; they were again and again told that their doom was coming, and they wanted it to come immediately.
  2. See 34:10 footnote 1.
  3. The men who thus attacked David by climbing over the wall were his enemies, as the Quran plainly states. They had thought of taking David unawares and putting him to death. But David, though terrified, was ready to meet them, and the two men, finding their plan thus frustrated, made an excuse for coming to him in such an unusual manner. The story of David committing adultery and two angels having come to him thus to remind him of the sin is a puerile falsehood, wherever it may be found. The word “protection” in this verse and the next by no means indicates that David had committed a sin, as the original word (istighfār, ghafr) really signifies the seeking of protection from sin. David sought Divine protection when he saw that his enemies had grown so bold against him. (Editor’s Note: This dispute is also illustrative of the desire of large and powerful organi­za­tions to bring small ones under their sway. The Quran here supports the judg­ment given in favour of the rights of ownership of the weak against the strong.)

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