A Short Story about the Prophet Dawud (David)
A Short Story about the Prophet Dawud
After the death of Talut the Most High made Dawud (peace be upon him) a king and a prophet. When he reached 40 years of age, he set out for Bait al Muqaddas. During Dawud’s reign, the Israelites conquered Jordan, Sham, Palestine, Oman, Aleppo and Hamat. The Jabbars had been living in many lands. After running them out, the Children of Israel brought these lands to monotheism.
The Most High gifted the prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) such qualities as no one else has ever had. The Psalms were revealed to him in the language of ‘Ibran[i] in 150 surahs. Allah gave him such a beautiful voice, the like of which there had never been since the creation of the world. It is said that Dawud (peace be upon him) knew 70 different melodies, by which he would read the Zabur in a sing song style. When sick people heard his voice they were cured, and those who were suffering from fever got well. His amazing voice would bring those who had lost consciousness back to their senses, and would stop the wind and the flow of water. When Dawud read the Zabur, not only people, but jinns, birds, and beasts would listen to him. Until this day, when people want to rate a voice highly, it is common to compare it to the voice of Dawud (peace be upon him).
When Dawud would read the Zabur, all of nature would support him with tasbih. For that reason Iblis began to envy him, and to distract people, he invented musical instruments - percussion, wind, and stringed.
Dawud (peace be upon him) had the habit of asking people he didn’t know about himself without letting them know who he was so that he could figure out his own short comings and rectify them. Once, he met the archangel Jibril (peace be upon him) in the form of a stranger. Dawud asked him about himself. Jibril (peace be upon him) answered him saying: “If he didn’t eat from the common treasury, he would be a very good person”. Dawud understood what his short coming was and asked Allah to give him the ability to do some sort of craft so that he could earn his own bread. Allah gave him the knowledge of the work of blacksmiths and subjected iron to him. He kneaded metal with his own hand, as if it was dough, without a bellows, fire, hammer, or an anvil. Dawud crafted chainmail, sold it, and made a living that way, despite the fact that he was one of the most powerful kings.
Dawud was given a miraculous object to help him determine the just resolution of disputes between people: a chain consisting of round, bright red, gold plated rings which had the durability of iron. Touching the chain with one’s hands and moving it across one’s chest was a sign that someone had accepted the religion. If sick people touched the chain, they would always get better. The chain let Dawud know about everything that was happening in the heavens by the chiming noise that it made. The chain hanged in Dawud’s mihrab. Whenever there was a need to determine which party was right in a dispute, Dawud would have the two parties reach out to the chain. The hand of a guilty person would not be able to reach it and the innocent party would easily touch it. Based on that, Dawud (peace be upon him) would make decisions. In this way, the chain served him as long as people did not turn to cunning and trickery.
For those who don’t know the story, it is worth briefly repeating. Take note of how much the one who is ready to give away his honor and conscience for the riches of this world truly benefits.
There was once a person who owned a jewel. He gave it to another person for safe keeping. After some time had passed, the owner asked for his jewel back. The person began to insist that he had already returned the jewel, and from there a dispute arose between them. The jewel’s owner demanded that the two go together to Dawud (peace be upon him) in order to determine who was right and who was wrong. The crook knew that he would not be able to reach the chain and tried to see if he could trick Dawud by burrowing a small cavity into his staff and placing the jewel inside it. When they walked up to the chain, the scam artist asked the jewel’s owner to hold his staff while he reached for the chain, and as he extended his hand to the chain he said “O Allah, you know that I returned the jewel to him.” The chain easily drooped down so he could touch it, and after words he took his staff back from the jewel’s owner. The jewel’s owner didn’t understand how he had just been taken for a ride, and stood riveted in amazement. The next morning it turned out that by the will of Allah Almighty the chain had been taken up to the heavens. After it had been touched by the conniving swindler, the chain of Dawud (peace be upon him) never returned to the earth. From that day forward, people depended on different means to get the King’s ruling on their disputes. He demanded that people take an oath that they would be truthful and that they bring witnesses with them. The accuser would bring witnesses, and the accused would take an oath – that was the way their tribunals were run as it is written in the books.
And now, dear Muslim brothers, let’s speak a bit about one of the mistakes of the prophet Dawud (peace be upon him). Is it possible for prophets and messengers to make mistakes though they are created by Allah with a faith that is protected by Him? In as much as the Creator brings about His secret orders by means of apparent causes, we are not in a position to discern between good and evil, never having weighed them on the scales of the hidden and apparent. That is why we need not argue, we follow great scholars and we turn away from myths and legends which say unbefitting things about the prophets and messengers.
The commentators give different explanations for the reasons why Dawud (peace be upon him) fell into folly. I will recount here a few of them which are most appropriate and to which my heart is most inclined.
Once Dawud (peace be upon him) asked the Most High to send him tests like those He had sent to Ibrahim (peace be upon him), Ishaq (peace be upon him), and Yaqub (peace be upon him), so that he could reach their level of greatness. In response to his request, the Most High determined a day and commanded Dawud (peace be upon him) to prepare for it.
On that day, Dawud stayed in his mihrab worshipping God. Suddenly a beautiful bird flew in through the window and started to circle above his head. He thought the bird may have come from paradise and tried to catch it. The bird, however, did not let him touch it and flew out through the very same window into the garden and sat on a branch. That creation, which appeared to Dawud (peace be upon him) to be paradisical, was not a bird at all, but Iblis the accursed, that appeared with the evil intention of tricking Dawud (peace be upon him). The King, enchanted by the bird which had flown out, watched it as it left and his gaze fell upon a woman of exceptional beauty who was sitting on the bank of the sea. Dawud (peace be upon him) fell in love with her and started to inquire about her. He quickly found out, that she was married and that her husband Avria was out at battle. Dawud (peace be upon him) wrote a letter to the leader of the troops in which he ordered that Avriya be given the Tabut and sent to the front lines so he could be killed. As soon as the letter from Dawud (peace be upon him) was received Dawud’s order was carried out. The first time Avriya was sent to the front lines the Israelite army won, but in the second battle he was killed. After the ‘idda[ii] had passed Dawud (peace be upon him) took the woman as his wife. Before her, he already had 99 wives.
This version, according to which Dawud (peace be upon him) commanded the leader of the troops to send Avriya to the front to be killed so that he could take the woman as his wife thereafter, is not accepted by the scholars of innermost knowledge.
According to another version, the woman, Sabit, the future mother of Sulaiman (peace be upon him) had been betrothed to Avriya. Dawud (peace be upon him) fell in love with her and asked Avriya to relinquish his bride to him. Although this was hard for him, Avriya fulfilled Dawud’s (peace be upon him) request out of respect for the prophet.
According to yet another version, Avriya was already married to that woman and Dawud, who had fallen in love with her, asked him to divorce her, since it was allowed to divorce and ask another to divorce by the shariah of that time. However, Dawud (peace be upon him) made a mistake in one thing, although he did not violate the shariah – he caused Avriya to suffer. Actions, which are considered righteous for normal good people, are actually bad for those who have drawn very near to Allah. It as if they are asked: “Are you really going to do this, even if it is technically allowed?” If one thinks about it, it’s reasonable that the master would even accuse his slave without any reason at all, after all, there is no humiliation for one who is utterly dependent in being rebuked by his owner.
Whatever the case may have been, Sabit became the 100th wife of Dawud (peace be upon him), and Avriya, who only had one wife, wound up alone. Avriya endured the separation from his beloved very painfully. Even though, as has already been said, such a thing was allowed by the shariah, it was considered to be a mistake for Dawud (peace be upon him). So that as a result of this mistake Dawud’s (peace be upon him) station would be raised, the Most High commanded him to repent forever.
To bring Dawud’s (peace be upon him) attention to the mistake he had made, Allah sent him two angels in the form of people. They say it was Michael (peace be upon him) and Jibraeel (peace be upon him). Both of them went into Dawud’s (peace be upon him) mihrab. When the king discovered them next to him he lost his bearings from surprise, not understanding how they got there. The guests calmed Dawud (peace be upon him), saying, that they came to the prophet so that he would arbitrate their case. Dawud (peace be upon him) permitted them to say what their case was about. The messengers of Allah asked him the question that they supposedly disagreed about. One of them said: “This is my brother in the faith. He is asking me for my only sheep, and he has ninety nine sheep. Decide who is right.” Dawud (peace be upon him) answered: “For him to ask for your sheep in addition to his own is unjust”. The guests looked at one another, laughed and flew away, and Dawud was left there on his own. He then realized that he had just made a ruling deciding his own case and understood his mistake. He cried for forty days while prostrating, and grass grew from the tears he had cried. After 40 days he stood, changed into some coarse clothing and again prostrated. Feeling ashamed before the Most High, having repented for his mistake, he never stopped asking the Most High “O Merciful, have pity on me”. The Most High Allah accepted this tauba, and Jibrail (peace be upon him) gave him the good news of its acceptance. The prophet went to the grave of Avriya, asked him for forgiveness, and Allah told Dawud (peace be upon him) that on the day of judgment Avriya will be satisfied with what Allah will give him and Avriya will forgive Dawud.
Even though the Most High forgave Dawud (peace be upon him) for this mistake, he could no longer lift up his head and look into the heavens. He didn’t swallow food or water unless he did so crying. He would place hard pieces of barley bread into a plate, made them wet with his tears and ate them, saying that such should be the food of those who have commited grave mistakes. In order to not forget about what he had done, Dawud (peace be upon him) wrote about it on his palms. Every time he would see that note, he would remember what had happened and would cry, and because of that the tears on his eyes never dried up, night or day.
The prophets who Almighty Allah has chosen from amongst people, and upon whom He bestowed prophethood and messengership and whom He made mediums between Himself and the people, cannot disobey Him. In the book “Khazin” it says that Ali threatened to hit a person with a stick 160 times for blaspheming Dawud (peace be upon him) saying that prophet Dawud (peace be upon him) sinned. Qadi `Iyad said that it is forbidden to consider legends that are not befitting of the prophets’ status and change the essence of the stories which come from the people of the book.
The Qur’an praises Dawud (peace be upon him) before and after this incident. It would not be wise for a slave to disagree with Almighty Allah. This story will increase an intelligent person in wisdom. The one whom the Most High will help will find use in it. Worship without repentance is like a plowed but unsown field which has been ruined by the weeds of complacency. It is clear that one’s level of piety is directly dependent on one’s level of having come to know the greatness of the Creator. It’s no secret the kind of difference that exists between one who has heard, and one who has come to know, having seen with their own eyes. That which one has seen with their own eyes is called ‘ain-ul-yaqeen[iii], and the piety of one who has not reached ‘ain-ul-yaqeen will never be complete. Fear depends on knowledge, for how can one fear that which he does not know? What will stop one who has not come to know Allah? Seeing that knowledge of Allah is a condition of refusing sin, seeking perfection in coming to know Allah is a must. What is to be done if we become such that we have lost the criterion of right and wrong? If in our coming to know God, we take after animals, and in following lusts we even surpass them. With our tongues we speak about Islam, but our hearts reject it because of desire for worldly things. We say that there is Allah, but we totally forget about coming to know Him, and we see how people’s children are killed because of love for worldly things. I would not be so saddened by their death, if they had not passed onto the next life having died in vain[iv]. Wallowing in debt to Allah and people, they leave this world without even leaving a will.
Perhaps to some this may all seem like a lie, but I request those brothers who haven’t gotten tired of listening to make du’a. May you all wind up in the list of those whose du’a is accepted. My lips will never move to harm you.
[i] ‘Ibran – the ancient Hebrew language
[ii] ‘Idda – a period during which it is forbidden for a widowed or divorced woman to remarry
[iii] ‘ain-ul-yaqeen – complete surety
[iv] Not for the sake of Islam nor while on the true path
From the book of the honorable Shaykh Said Afandi Al-Chirkawi “History of the Prophets”Makhachkala, 2010, vol 1.