The story of Dawud (David) AS started with the story of Talut and Jalut. After Dawud AS killed the tyrant Jalut in single combat, with his sling, the Israelites achieved victory and were freed from the oppression of Jalut’s rule. Dawud AS, previously an unknown young lad, became famous overnight.
Many of the stories of Dawud (David) AS and his son Sulaiman AS are recorded in the Israeli traditions. However, many of these narratives have been distorted and fabricated, creating vicious lies against both Prophets. The general rule of interpretation is that if these Israeli traditions conflict with Muslim reports, then the Muslim reports will take precedence. If the Israeli accounts are not contradictory to Muslim narratives, then we are neither to believe nor disbelieve in them, in that we should not confirm nor deny the accuracy of such reports. Also to bear in mind is that Prophets and Messengers are the chosen ones, and are protected against committing major sins such as adultery, murder and black magic (some of which the Israelite traditions accuse Prophets of doing). If any reports put the Prophets’ and Messengers’ characters in disrepute, such reports are to be rejected entirely. It is impossible that Allah would choose people of evil character to be Prophets and Messengers and be the spiritual and moral leader of their people.
After leading his people to victory in the short but decisive face to face combat, the Israelites loved Dawud AS. The lands of the Bani Israel, previously confiscated by the tyrant ruler, was restored to them, and their status of abject humiliation was lifted. Allah then chose Dawud (David) AS to be the king of his people to succeed Talut. This was the first time that prophethood and kinghood came together in one individual. Dawud AS was also unique in that he was one of the very few prophets to be granted wealth (the other two are Ayyoub AS and Dawud’s AS son and heir in kingship and prophethood, Sulaiman AS.
Allah SWT says:
So they defeated them by permission of Allah, and Dawud killed Jalut, and Allah gave him the kingship and prophethood and taught him from that which He willed. And if it were not for Allah checking [some] people by means of others, the earth would have been corrupted, but Allah is full of bounty to the worlds. (Al Qur’an 2:251)
THE UNIQUE STATUS OF DAWUD (DAVID) AS
Each Prophet and Messenger has his own unique attributes, and was gifted by Allah to perform miracles specific to them. Dawud (David) AS possessed plenty of magnificent characteristics.
As a ruler and a judge, he was extremely just to his subjects. Despite his mighty kingdom, he was always accessible to the general public who wanted him to preside and judge over their personal grievances. Allah SWT granted him the wisdom and intelligence to issue judgments which were fair and insightful. He was courageous, and Allah strengthened his kingdom, and bestowed upon him wisdom and sound judgment.
Dawud (David) (AS) was also granted the scriptures in the forms of the Zabur (the Psalms of David). Allah the Almighty tells us:
Indeed, We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], as We revealed to Nuh and the prophets after him. And we revealed to Ibrahim, Ismail, Ishaq, Yaqoub, the descendants, Isa, Ayyoub, Yunus, Harun, and Sulaiman, and to Dawud We gave the book [of Psalms]. (Al Qur’an 4:163)
By the power of Allah, iron became malleable in his hands, and he could shape this metal without the need for a kiln or a hammer. He was also the first to know the skills of making armour from iron – a knowledge that was taught to him by Allah.
Of these gifts and abilities, the most outstanding one which was unique to him was his golden voice. Whenever he sang from the Zabur or in glorification of Allah, his melodious voice resonated though the air and the birds would stop in the air to join his singing. Even mountains would join in praising and glorifying Allah every morning and evening. It is reported that his voice was so hypnotic that if he did not stop singing, birds would die of hunger because they were too enraptured in singing praises of Allah with him to eat.
Be patient over what they say and remember Our servant, Dawud (David), the possessor of strength; indeed, he was one who repeatedly turned back [to Allah]. Indeed, We subjected the mountains [to praise] with him, exalting [Allah] in the [late] afternoon and [after] sunrise. And the birds were assembled, all with him repeating [praises]. And We strengthened his kingdom and gave him wisdom and discernment in speech. (Al Qur’an 38:17-38:20)
THE DEVOTION OF DAWUD (DAVID) AS
Despite his kingship, Dawud (David) AS led a humble life. He only ate from what he earned with his own hands, in that he never helped himself to the state coffers for his personal benefit.
He constantly glorified Allah at all times, always remaining thankful and humble despite his high station amongst the people. He was not dazzled or enslaved by his material belongings nor his status as a ruler, and always realised that he was a slave to Allah. He often shed tears out of love and devotion to his Creator. He was in constant prayer and remembrance of Allah, and spent every alternate day fasting, such that Allah says that his was the best prayer:
Rasulullah (SAW) said: “The best prayer to Allah is the prayer of Dawud (David), and the best fasting to Allah is the fasting of Dawud; he slept for the first half, then woke up for one-third of the night and prayed, and then he slept for the rest of the one-sixth. He fasted with the gap of one day, and whenever he met his enemy, he never backed off.” (Bukhari & Muslim)
LESSONS TO BE LEARNT
Lessons for the wealthy
The stories of the Prophets and Messengers, when understood in their entirety, has a situation that matches everyone’s circumstances. Most of the Prophets and Messenger that we had talked about did not come from a high strata in society, nor were they wealthy. In fact, most of them were exceedingly poor. In this, the message to us is that the lack of money should not be an impediment to being a worshipper of Allah, and one cannot blame his lack of status or wealth as an excuse.
What if the person is wealthy? The story of Dawud (David) AS teaches us that even in wealth, we are to worship Allah and devote ourselves to Him. Dawud AS was extremely wealthy, but that did not prevent him from fasting every other day, or worshipping Allah devoutly every night. His heart was not clouded by materialism, and his actions were not motivated by greed and the love of accumulation. In fact, he remained humble, earned his own keep, and spent his assets on aiding the poor and the needy.
Wealth should not make us arrogant, nor neglect our worship – if anything, living in comfort should be a means of increasing our worship to Him, both because there are no obstacles in the form of hardship, and also as praise and thanks to Him for all His bounty upon us.
THE RULINGS OF DAWUD AS
Apart from kingship, Dawud (David) AS was a judge amongst his people, and discharged his duties with utmost justice.
[We said], “O Dawud, indeed We have made you a successor upon the earth, so judge between the people in truth and do not follow [your own] desire, as it will lead you astray from the way of Allah.” Indeed, those who go astray from the way of Allah will have a severe punishment for having forgotten the Day of Account. (Al Qur’an 38:26).
Dawud AS used to have a special and private sanctuary (mihrab) where he could be alone to perform his worship. This area was off limits to the public. One night, a strange incident happened. Two people entered the mihrab by climbing over the walls. Dawud AS was understandably alarmed when he saw them. The two men told him not to fear. They were claimants, and apparently one had wronged the other, so they wanted to seek Dawud’s AS judgment on the matter.
They said, “Fear not. [We are] two adversaries, one of whom has wronged the other, so judge between us with truth and do not exceed [it] and guide us to the sound path.
Indeed this, my brother, has ninety-nine ewes, and I have one ewe; so he said, ‘Entrust her to me,’ and he overpowered me in speech.”
[Dawud] said, “He has certainly wronged you in demanding your ewe [in addition] to his ewes. And indeed, many associates oppress one another, except for those who believe and do righteous deeds – and few are they.” (Al Qur’an 38:24).
Something was disturbing about the situation – the bizarre materialisation of these two men, and the strange nature of their dispute. It is reported that the two men then vanished into thin air. Dawud AS realized that the two men were in fact angels disguised as men, and that he had been tried. He was so afraid that he immediately repented and sought Allah’s forgiveness, falling down in prostration to his Lord.
We do not have any authentic reports on what his wrong was. According to some, Dawud AS had erred in giving judgment by listening to only one side of the story. According to Israelite narratives, Dawud (David) AS had 99 wives and wanted one more – however, there is no confirmation of this under Islamic traditions. If Allah SWT had wanted the nature of his wrongdoing to be known to us, He would have disclosed it, but in keeping such details concealed, it is clear that the details of his mistake are irrelevant to us. What is relevant is that he prostrated to Allah in repentance for his error, and that Allah forgave him for it. When the following verse was revealed, Muhammad (SAW) also prostrated:
And Dawud became certain that We had tried him, and he asked forgiveness of his Lord and fell down bowing [in prostration] and turned in repentance [to Allah]. So We forgave him that; and indeed, for him is nearness to Us and a good place of return. (Al Qur’an 38:21-38:25).
Dawud AS was granted a son, Sulaiman AS. Sulaiman AS was, like his father, endowed with extreme intelligence and justice. He used to observe the way his father rendered judgments, and over time, Allah SWT endowed Sulaiman AS with wisdom that was deeper and greater than his father’s.
In one incident, two people presented their dispute. The claimant asserted that his neighbour’s flock of sheep had entered his farmland and grazed all the crops, destroying that season’s harvest. This fact was confirmed by the owner of the sheep. Dawud (David) AS ruled that the owner of the sheep was to hand over all his sheep to the owner of the land as compensation for the lost harvest. However, Sulaiman AS had a better idea. Instead of depriving the owner of the sheep entirely, he suggested that the two claimants swapped their assets. The owner of the land was to take all the sheep, and benefit from its produce, including wool, milk and ewes. During this period, the owner of the sheep was to take care of the first claimant’s farmland, until the crops were rehabilitated and the farmland was restored back to its original condition. When the farmland was restored, then the two parties could take back his own assets. Such was the resoundingly sound judgment of Sulaiman AS, which his father agreed to.
In another incident, there were two women – one older and one younger, both of whom had infants. A wolf or a fox kidnapped one of the babies and carried it off, never to be seen again. Now the two women claimed that the remaining infant was hers. Dawud AS judged in favour of the older woman. Sulaiman AS was not completely convinced, so he suggested to both women to saw the baby in half, and give each woman half of the infant. The younger woman was horrified to hear this, and she screamed that she would rather give up her claim to the baby instead of seeing it hurt. The older woman was silent. It was clear that the one who jumped at the defence of the baby, and displayed her maternal protective instinct was the real mother of the infant, and thus Dawud’s AS original ruling was rescinded and the baby was reunited with its real mother, the younger woman.
Sulaiman AS may have been the younger one, but Allah bestowed upon him a deeper understanding of the circumstances, and therefore a higher level of wisdom than his father. Here, we understand that people can be presented with the same facts, same education and even the same circumstances, but the individual comprehension and understanding of a matter still varies according to the knowledge that Allah SWT chooses to grant a person.
DEATH OF DAWUD AS
Dawud AS was a possessive man and took great care of his family. When he went out he would lock the door and no man could enter the house until he returned. One day, he went out and locked the door as usual. Suddenly his wife came to see a man in the middle of the house and worried about Dawud’s AS reaction when he came back to find the stranger there.
When Dawud AS came home and saw the man standing in his house, he asked the man who he was. He replied: “I am the one who does not fear any king, neither could be barred by any hurdle.” Dawud AS realised that he could only be the angel of death who had come to claim his soul.
Even though Dawud AS was in possession of so much riches of the world, he did not cling on to this dunia the way rich people who normally do. He did not resist as the angel plucked to soul from his body, and thus he passed away.
Dawud (David) AS was so loved by the people that thousands flocked to pay their last respects to him. It was a hot day, so Sulaiman AS instructed the birds to provide shade. The birds formed a canopy with their wings to block the strong sun. Consistent with the ungrateful nature of Bani Israel, they then complained it was too hot, so Sulaiman (AS) commanded the birds to contract one wing, to allow some breeze through.
Usually Prophets and Messengers do not leave behind any wealth to be inherited by their children, but in the case of Dawud AS, his son Sulaiman AS(who by the time of his father’s death, already demonstrated signs of prophethood) inherited both his kingdom and his prophethood.
LESSONS TO BE LEARNT
Giving fair judgments
Allah SWT has commanded us to judge between the people in truth (i.e. based on the facts and circumstances of the matter, which should be assessed objectively, without fear or favour) rather than through our own desire. Islam is so beautiful – we are warned that when a judge passes a sentence based on his own desire (including judging others while under the influence of anger, fatigue, hunger, irritation or when immersed in personal problems), such unfair judgments would lead one astray from the way of Allah. This is why under Shariah, judges are subject to strict rules and not allowed to issue any judgment when they are in this state.
If we follow the majority of how people judge each other, it will definitely lead us to destruction. Look at the corruption amongst judges today, where the innocent are sentenced to jail or even to the gallows, and the oppressors are allowed to walk free. If only everyone realised that we will be judged of what we do, and the heavy penalties for issuing judgments based on our desires instead of the facts, we will refrain from 99% of what we do.
A Rightful Successor
Sulaiman (AS) constantly observed his father’s wisdom, and Dawud (David) AS trained him from a young age to observe when disputes were presented before him. This is the ideal quality of a parent, who leads by example rather than just words.
Most of us dream of leaving our legacy on earth, and for our children to inherit what we had accumulated. However, inheritance is usually in the form of wealth alone, and not in the form of goodness or wisdom. The story of Dawud (David) AS shows the importance of passing on the mission to propagate the message of Allah to the next generation, as well as to spread justice throughout the people. With Allah’s will, Sulaiman AS eventually exceeded his father both in kingdom and ability, but more importantly, in justice and wisdom.
Love of the Hereafter
Majority of the rich people, at the time of death, do not want to let go of this world and their possessions. Their spiritually hearts are too attached to their wealth to let go, even when the Angel of Death has arrived. Dawud (David) AS was different, despite his wealth, he calmly let the Angel of Death take his soul, because he was prepared for a better and more enduring hereafter.
Original Source: Muslim Footsteps