38 - Saad

5 Tafsir(s) related to verse 38.26


‘O David! We have indeed made you a vicegerent on the earth, managing the affairs of people; so judge justly between people and do not follow desire, that is, the desires of the soul, that it then lead you astray from the way of God, that is to say, from the proofs that indicate [the truth of] His Oneness. Truly those who go astray from the way of God, in other words, from belief in God — for them there will be a severe chastisement because of their forgetting the Day of Reckoning’, as a result of their having neglected faith. For had they been certain of [the truth of] the Day of Reckoning, they would have [first] been believers in this world.


"and do not follow [your] desire, lest it then lead you astray from the way of God"He said:That is, the darkness of desire which obscures the lights of the intuition of the self (dhihn al-nafs), the spirit (rūḥ), the understanding of the intellect (fahm al-ʿaql), and the discernment of the heart (fiṭnat al-qalb). Similarly, the Prophet said: "Truly, [when followed], desire (hawā) and lust (shahwa) overwhelm the intellect, knowledge," and lucidity (bayān), due to the pre-eternal ordainment of God, Exalted is He. His words:

Ibn Al Kathir

Advice to Rulers and Leaders

This is advice from Allah, may He be exalted, to those who are in positions of authority. They should rule according to the truth and justice revealed from Him, they should not turn away from it and be led astray from the path of Allah. Allah has issued a stern warning of a severe punishment to those who go astray from His path and forget the Day of Resurrection. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibrahim Abu Zur`ah, who read the Scripture, reported that Al-Walid bin `Abd Al-Malik said to him: "Does anyone have the right to question the Khalifah You have read the first Scripture and the Qur'an, and you have understood them.'' He replied, "May I speak, O Commander of the faithful'' He said, "Speak, for you are under the protection of Allah.'' I said, "O Commander of the faithful, are you more dear to Allah, or Dawud, peace be upon him For Allah gave him both prophethood and rulership, then He warned him in His Book:

يدَاوُودُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَـكَ خَلِيفَةً فِى الاٌّرْضِ فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعِ الْهَوَى فَيُضِلَّكَ عَن سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ

(O Dawud ! Verily, We have placed you as a successor on the earth; so judge you between men in truth (and justice) and follow not your desire -- for it will mislead you from the path of Allah).'' `Ikrimah said:

لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدُ بِمَا نَسُواْ يَوْمَ الْحِسَابِ

((Those shall) have a severe torment, because they forgot the Day of Reckoning.) "They will have a severe punishment on the Day of Reckoning because of what they forgot. '' As-Suddi said, "They will have a severe punishment because of what they neglected to do for the sake of the Day of Reckoning.'' This interpretation is more in accordance with the apparent meaning of the Ayah. And Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, is the Guide to the Truth.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an

The allusion is to the absurd conversation of the disbelievers of Makkah, as narrated above, to the effect that the Holy Prophet was a sorcerer and a liar, and to their objection whether he was the only fit person in the sight of Allah to be appointed as a Messenger, and to their some accusation that he had vested interest in preaching the doctrine of Tauhid to the people and not any religious mission.

Another translation of this sentence can be: `Remember Our servant David." According to the first translation, it would mean: "There is a lesson in this story for these people," and according to the second: "The remembrance of this story will help you too, to have patience. " As the narrative is meant to serve both purposes, comprehensive words have been used as contain both meanings. (For the story of the prophet David, see AI-Baqarah :251, Bani Isra'il: 55, Al Anbiya': 78-81, An-Naml: 15 and the E.N.'s thereof; and E.N.'s 14 to 16 of Saba).

The words in the original are: dhal-ayd (possessor of the hands). The word "hand" is used metaphorically for strength and power not only in Arabic but in other languages also. When as an attribute of the Prophet David it is said that he was a "possessor of the hands", it will necessarily mean that he possessed great powers. These powers may mean the physical strength which he displayed during his combat against Goliath, military and political power by which he crushed the neighboring idolatrous nations and established a strong Islamic empire, moral strength by which he ruled like a poor king and always feared Allah and observed the bounds set by Him, and the power of worship by virtue of which, besides his occupations in connection with rule and government and fighting in the cause of Allah, he fasted every alternate day and spent a third of the night in worship according to a tradition of Bukhari. Imam Bukhari in his History has related, on the authority of Hadrat Abu ad-Darda', that whenever the Prophet David was mentioned, the Holy Prophet used to say: "He was the greatest worshiper of God. "

For explanation, see Surah Al-Anbiya' :79 and E.N. 71 thereof.

That is, "He was never ambiguous in speech but clear and forthright. Whatever problem he talked about he would lay bare its basic points, and would clearly and precisely determine the real issue under question, and would pass a decisive judgment. " This quality is not attained by a person unless he is granted wisdom, understanding and mastery of language of the highest degree.

The object why the Prophet David has been mentioned here is to relate the story that begins from here; the object of mentioning his sterling qualities in the introduction was only to point out the high caliber of the Prophet David with whom this incident took place.

He was alarmed because the two men had appeared in the private quarters of the ruler of the land suddenly, by climbing over the wall, instead of going before him by the proper entrance.

"Brother" does not mean a real brother but a brother-in-faith and a member of one's own clan.

To understand what follows one should note that the complainant did not say that the other person had taken away his only ewe and added it to his own ewes, but said that he was asking for it, and since he was a powerful person he had prevailed over him in the matter and he could not reject his demand, being a weak and poor man.

Here, one should not doubt that the Prophet David gave his decision after hearing only what one party had to say. The fact of the matter, is that when the respondent kept quiet at the complaint of the complainant and said nothing in defense it by itself amounted to a confession by him. That is why the Prophet David came to the conclusion that the facts of the case were the same as the complainant had stated.

There is a difference of opinion as to whether it is obligatory to perform a sajdah (prostration) on this occasion or not. Imam Shafe'i says that it is not obligatory, for this is only a Prophet' tepentance; but Imam Abu Hanifah has opined that prostration here is obligatory. The traditionalists have related three traditions from lbn- 'Abbas in this regard. According to 'Ikrimah, Ibn 'Abbas said: "this is not one of those verses on the recitation of which prostration is obligatory, but I have seen the Holy Prophet prostrating himself on this occasion. "(Bukhari, Abu Da'ud, Tirmidhi, NASa'I, Musnad Ahmad). The second tradition which Said bin Jubair has related froth Ibn 'Abbas is to the effect: 'The Holy Prophet prostrated himself in Surah Suad and said: 'The Prophet David (on whom be peace) had prostrated himself in order to express his repentance and we prostrate ourselves as a token of gratitude, because his repentance was accepted. (Nasa'i) In the third tradition that Mujahid has related from him, he says: "Allah has commanded the Holy Prophet, in the Qur'an: "These were the ones whom Allah had shown the Right Way: therefore, you should follow their way'." (AI-An'am: 90). Now, since David was a Prophet and he had prostrated himself on this occasion, the Holy Prophet also prostrated himself here only to follow his way. (Bukhari). These three arc the statements of Hadrat Ibn 'Abbas: and Hadrat Abu Sa' id Khudri says: "The Holy Prophet once recited Surah Suad in his address, and when he came to this verse, he descended from the pulpit and performed a prostration and the audience also did the same along with him. Then, on another occasion, he recited this same Surah and when the people heard this verse, they were ready to perform the prostration. The Holy Prophet said 'This is the repentance of a Prophet, but I see that you have got ready to perform the prostration' --Saying this he descended from the pulpit and prostrated himself and the people also did the same." (Abu Da'ud). Although these traditions do not provide any absolute argument to prove that it is obligatory to perform the prostration here, yet they prove at least that because the Holy Prophet generally performed a prostration on this occasion, it is in any case commendable to prostrate here.

Another thing that one notices in this verse is that Allah has used the words kharra raki'an (fell in ruku') here, but All the commentators arc agreed that this implies kharra sajid-an (fell in sajdah: prostration). On this very basis, Imam Abu Hanifah and his companions have expressed the opinion that one may perform only a ruku' instead of a sajdah, when one recites or hears being recited a verse requiring a sajdah in the Prayer or outside it. For when Allah has used the word ruku' to imply sajdah, it becomes obvious that ruku' can represent sajdah. Imam Khattabi, a Shafe'ite jurist, also holds the same opinion, Though this opinion in itself is sound and reasonable, we do not find any precedent in the practices of the Holy Prophet and his Companions that they might have been content with performing a ruku' only instead of a sajdah on a verse requiring a sajdah. Therefore, one should act upon the view only when there is an obstruction in performing the sajdah; it would be wrong to make it a practice, Imam Abu Hanifah and his companions themselves also did not intend that it should be made a practice; they only ruled that it was permissible.

This shows that the Prophet David had certainly committed an error, and it was an error which bore some resemblance with the case of the ewes. Therefore, when he gave a decision on it, he at once realized that he was being put to the test. But the nature of the error was not such as could be forgiven, or if forgiven, it would have deposed him from his high rank. Allah Himself says: "When he fell down prostrate and repented, he was not only forgiven but his high rank in the world and the Hereafter also remained unaffected.

This is the warning that Allah gave the Prophet David on accepting his repentance along with giving him the good news of exalting his rank. This by itself shows that the error that he had committed contained an clement of the desires of the flesh; it also pertained to the abuse of power and authority; and it was an act which was unworthy of a just and fair-minded ruler.

We are confronted with three questions here:

(1) What was the error that the Prophet David committed?

(2) Why has Allah made only tacit allusions to it instead of mentioning it openly and directly?

(3) What is its relevance to the present context?

The people who have studied the Bible (the Holy Book of the Jews and Christians) are not unaware that in this Book the Prophet David has been accused clearly of committing adultery with the wife of Uriah the Hittite and then marrying her after having Uriah intentionally slain in a battle. It has also been alleged that this same woman, who had surrendered herself to the Prophet David, while being another man's wife, was the mother of the Prophet Solomon. This story is found with all its details in chapters 11 and 12 of the Second Book of Samuel in the Old Testament. It had been included in it centuries before the revelation of the Qur'an. Any Jew or Christian who read his Holy Book anywhere in the world, or heard it read, was not only aware of this story but also believed in it as true. It spread through them, and even in the present time no book is written in the West on the history of the Israelites and the Hebrew religion, in which this charge against the Prophet David is not repeated. This well known story also contains the following:

And the Lord sent Nathan onto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe Iamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there Came a traveler Unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man' Iamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gavc thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon." (2 Samuel, ch 12: 1-9).

When this story was so well known among the people there was no need that a detailed account of it should have been given in the Qur'an, nor is it the way of Allah to mention such things openly in His Holy Book. That is why only tacit allusions have been made to it here as well as pointed out what the actual event was and what the people of the Book have turned it into. The actual event as one clearly understands from the aforesaid statement of the Qur'an was:

The Prophet David peace be upon him) had only expressed this desire before Uriah (or whatever be the name of the man) that he should divorce his wife; as this desire had been expressed not by a common man but by an illustrious king and a great Prophet before a member of the public, the man was finding himself constrained to yield to it even in the absence of any compulsion. On this occasion, before the man could act as the Prophet David had desired, two righteous men of the nation suddenly made their appearance before David and presented before him this matter in the form of an imaginary case. At first, the Prophet David thought it was a real case, and so gave his decision after hearing it. But as soon as he uttered the words of the decision, his conscience gave the warning that the parable precisely applied to the case between him and the person, and that the act which he was describing as an injustice had issued forth from his own person. As soon as he realized this, he fell down prostrate, repented and reversed his decision. "

The question, as to how this event took the ugly shape as related in the Bible, also becomes obvious after a little consideration. It appears that the Prophet David had come to know of the unique qualities of the woman through some means and had started thinking that she should be the queen of the country instead of being the wife of an ordinary officer, Overwhelmed by the thought he expressed the desire before her husband that he should divorce her. He did not see any harm in it because it was not looked upon as anything improper among the Israelites. It was an ordinary thing among them that if a person happened to like the wife of another, he would freely request him to give her up for him. Nobody minded such a request, and often it so happened that friends would divorce their wives for each other's sake of their own accord, so that the other may marry her. However, when the Prophet David expressed this desire, he did not realize that the expression of such a desire could be without compulsion and coercion when expressed by a common Man, but it could never be so when expressed by a king. When his attention was drawn to this aspect of the matter through a parable, he gave up his desire immediately, and the thing was forgotten. But afterwards when, without any desire or planning on his part, the woman's husband fell martyr on the battlefield, and he married her, the evil genius of the Jews started concocting stories and this mischievous mentality became even more acute after a section of the Israelites turned hostile to the Prophet. Solomon. (Please see E. N. 56 of An-Naml). Under these motives the story was invented that the Prophet David, God forbid, had seen Uriah's wife washing herself from the roof of his palace. He had her called to his house and committed adultery with her and she had conceived. Then he had sent Uriah on the battle-front to fight the children of Ammon, and had commanded Joab, the army commander, to appoint him in the forefront of the battle where he should be killed. And when he was killed, he married his widow, and from the same woman the Prophet Solomon (peace be upon him) was born. The wicked people described all these false accusations in their "Holy Book", so that they should go on reading it generation after generation and slandering the two most illustrious men of their community, who were their greatest benefactors after the Prophet Moses.

A section of the commentators of the Qur'an has almost entirely accepted these tales that have reached them through the Israelites. They have dropped only that pan of these traditions in which mention has been made of the accusation of adultery against the Prophet David and the woman's having conceived. The rest of the story. as found in the traditions reproduced by them is the same as it was well known among the Israelites. Another group of the commentators has altogether denied that any such act was ever committed by the Prophet David, which bore any resemblance with the case of the ewes. Instead of this, they have put forward such interpretations of this story as are wholly baseless, unauthentic and without relevance to the context of the Qur'an itself. But among the Muslim commentators themselves there are some who have accepted the truth and the facts of the story through the clear references made to it in the Qur'an. Here are, for instance, some of their views:

Both Masruq and Said bin Jubair have related this saying of Hadrat 'Abdullah bin 'abbas. "The only thing that the Prophet David did was that he expressed his desire before the woman' husband that he should give up his wife for him. " lbn Jarir).

'Allama Zamakhshari writes in his commentary Al-Kashshaf. 'The way Allah has narrated the story of the Prophet David indicates that he had only expressed his desire before the man that he should leave his wife for him. "

'Allama Abu Bakr al-Jassas has expressed the opinion that the woman was not the other man's wedded wife but was only his betrothed. The Prophet David had also asked for the same woman's hand in marriage. This earned him Allah's displeasure, for he had asked for her hand in spite of the fact that another Muslim had already asked for her hand, and the Prophet David had several wives already with him in his house. (Ahkam al-Qur an). Some other commentators also have expressed the same opinion, but this does not entirely conform to what the Qur'an has said. The words of the suitor as related in the Qur'an are to the effect: "I have only one ewe; he says: Give this ewe also in my charge." The Prophet David also said the same thing in his decision: "This person has certainly wronged you in demanding your ewe to be added to his ewes." This parable could apply to the case between the Prophet David and Uriah only in case the woman was the latter's wife. Had it been the cast of asking for the woman's hand when another Muslim had already asked for her hand, the parable would have been like this: "I desired to have an ewe, ard this man said: Icave this also for me."

Qadi Abu Bakr Ibn al-'Arabi has discussed this question in detail in his Ahkam al-Qur an and concluded: "What actually happened was just that the Prophet David asked one of his men to leave his wife for him and made this demand seriously...The Qur'an does not say that the man gave up his wife on this demand and the Prophet David then married her and the Prophet Solomon was born of her womb... W hat displeased Allah was that he asked the woman's husband to leave her for him. This act, even if otherwise lawful, was unworthy of the office of Prophethood; that is why he earned Allah's displeasure and was admonished. "

This commentary fits in well with the context in which this story has been told. A little consideration of the context shows that it has been related in the Qur'an on this occasion for two objects. The first object is to exhort the Holy Prophet to patience, and for this purpose he has been addressed and told: ¦Have patience on what these people say against you, and remember Our servant David." That is, 'You are being accused only of sorcery and lying, but Our servant David was even accused of adultery and having a person killed willfully, by the wicked people: therefore, bear up against what you may have to hear from these people." The other object is to warn the disbelievers to the effect: ¦You are committing all sorts of excesses in the world with impunity, but the God in Whose Godhead you are committing these misdeeds does not spare anyone from being called to account. Even if a favorite and beloved servant of His happens to commit but a minor error, He calls him to strict accountability. For this very object the Holy Prophet has been asked: 'Tell them the story of Our servant David, who was a man of high character, but when he happened to commit sin, We did not even spare him but condemned him severely'. "

In this regard, there is another misunderstanding which mast also be removed. The suitor in his parable said that his brother had 99 ewes and he had only one ewe, which he was demanding from him. From this one gets the idea that perhaps the Prophet David had 99 wives, and by having another he wanted to make their number 100. But, in fact, it is not necessary that every minor part of the parable should be literally applicable to the case between the Prophet David and Uriah the Hittite. In common idiom the numbers ten, twenty, fifty, etc. are mentioned to express plurality and not to indicate the exact number of something. When a man tells another that he has told him something ten times over, he only means to stress that he has been told that thing over and over again. The same is also true here. By means of the parable the suitor wanted the Prophet David to realize that he already had several wives with him, and even then he desired to have the only wife of the other man. This same thing has been cited by the commentator Nisaburi from Hadrat Hasan Basri: `The Prophet David did not have 99 wives: this is only a parable." (For a detailed and well-reasoned discussion of this story, see our book Tafhimat, vol. II, pp. 29.44).

Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

((And it was said unto him): O David! Lo! We have set thee as a vicegerent in the earth) We appointed you a prophet king for the Children of Israel; (therefore judge aright between mankind) judge justly between people, (and follow not desire) that as you did regarding Bathseba, the wife of Uriah, who was also David's cousin (that it beguile thee from the way of Allah) from the obedience of Allah. (Lo! those who wander from the way of Allah) from the obedience of Allah (have an awful doom, forasmuch as they forgot the Day of Reckoning) because they forsake working for the Day of Reckoning.