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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Does the Quran refer to the story of David and "Bathsheba?"

Prophet David (Dawud) was also a king to whom God Almighty revealed the Zabur (Book of Psalms) as guidance for the Israelites. The Glorious Quran says "We gave to Dawud Zabur." (4: 163)

Verses 38:21-26 of Surah S'ad contain references to a historical incident in the life of David. Quoting the verses:

"And has the story of the litigants come unto you? How they climbed the wall into the royal chamber; 38:21

How they burst in upon David, and he was afraid of them! They said: Be not afraid! (We are) two litigants, one of whom has wronged the other, therefor judge aright between us; be not unjust; and show us the fair way. 38:22

Lo! this my brother has ninety and nine ewes while I had one ewe; and he said: Entrust it to me, and he conquered me in speech. 38:23

(David) said: He has wronged you in demanding your ewe in addition to his ewes, and lo! many partners oppress one another, save such as believe and do good works, and they are few. And David guessed that We had tried him, and he sought forgiveness of his Lord, and he bowed himself and fell down prostrate and repented. 38:24

So We forgave him that; and lo! he had access to Our presence and a happy journey's end. 38:25

(And it was said unto him): O David! Lo! We have set you as a viceroy in the earth; therefor judge aright between humankind, and follow not desire that it beguile you from the way of Allah. Lo! those who wander from the way of Allah have an awful doom, forasmuch as they forgot the Day of Reckoning. 38:26

One might wonder what the incident was.

Biblical version of the story of Prophet David -
The altered Old and New Testaments have given plenty of absurd spins and twisted a portion of David's biography. Before discussing the story of Prophet David in the light of the Quranic verses of Surah Sa'd, it might be useful to expose the earlier fabrications from the altered Scriptures.

According to the biblical account, one day while the men were at war, David spied a beautiful woman, "Bathsheba", from his rooftop while she was bathing in the courtyard of her home. He discovered that she was married to Uriah the Hittite (a soldier in David's army according to the Hebrew Bible) but this did not stop him from sending for her and getting her pregnant. He then called Uriah back from battle to pretend that he was the father of his wife's unborn child. Uriah refused to return home. David then sent Uriah to the front lines of battle where he was killed, and David married Bathsheba. When confronted by Nathan (a prophet in the Jewish scripture not mentioned in the Quran) David admitted his sin. Bathsheba’s child didn't survive and David was cursed with the promise of a rebellion from within his own house. After her marriage to David, Bathsheba conceived a second son, Solomon, also a Prophet as confirmed in the Glorious Quran.

Also, according to the Hebrew Scripture, Nathan narrated to David the story of 'a rich man and a poor man' while he rebuked him. The rich man had many sheep (ewes) while the poor man had only one ewe for which he cared much. When a hungry traveller approached the rich man for food, instead of taking a sheep from his own herd, the rich man took the poor man's sheep. This narration bears resemblance to the contents of the Quranic verses quoted above. But the backdrop of the story of the ewes carries a very different connotation in the Quran which will be discussed shortly.

In plain terms, the altered Hebrew Bible accuses Prophet David of committing adultery with the wife of Uriah the Hittite and then marrying her after having Uriah intentionally slain in a battle. It also alleges that this same woman who had surrendered herself to Prophet David while being another man's wife, was the mother of the Prophet Solomon. This story is found with all its details in 2 Samuel 11,12; Psalm 51,32.

Quranic reference to the incident in the life of Prophet David -
The actual event as one clearly understands from the aforesaid verses of Surah Sa'd was .. David had expressed his desire to Uriah (or whatever be the name of the man) that he should divorce his wife as David wanted her for himself. And because David was the king, his demand put Uriah in a helpless situation feeling compelled to yield. At this time, before Uriah could act as David had desired, two righteous men of the nation suddenly appeared in the presence of David and presented their story which (in terms of violation of justice) was similar to the story of David and Uriah. On hearing it, David gave his decision as king, asserting that the man with "99 ewes" had wronged the other man with one ewe. Soon after, David's conscience made him realize his violation. He became aware that this incident was a reminder to him of his own act of injustice. David immediately repented, fell down prostrate before God Almighty and reversed his decision. On the basis of his sincere repentence, David was granted forgivness by the Divine Power and his status remained unaffected. On accepting his repentence, Verse 38:26 of the Quran is also a warning to David from God Almighty along with giving him the good news of exalting his rank, being evidence of the fact that David never again stumbled into similar temptations / errors arising from personal desires.

What led to the forgery of this event? -
Nonetheless, people began to invent stories based on viz. political strifes, ambitions and power .. and that's never unusual. Later on, in the same era of history, the Israelites are reported to have turned against David. That led to a sharp escalation of gossips against him. Motivated stories based on hositility were fabricated against David involving his personal life and accusing him of adultery and murder. With the passage of time, these whispers and slanderous accusations were entered into the altered Scripture of the Israelites. Thus, the stories continued being passed from generation to generation, falsely defaming two men chosen by God Almighty - David and Solomon - who were the most illustrious successors of Prophet Moses.

Why is the Quranic reference to David's story concise? -
The Quran mentions this incident briefly and allegorically because it's the way of Allah Almighty not to mention the personal life of anyone (man or woman) with humiliating or disrespectful details in His Divine Book. And surely, there's no question of the Quran including untruthful stories based on scandalous gossips. Therefor, only tacit allusions have been made to the facts with references to what the actual event obviously was. This also makes it easier for the reader to gauge the extent of its distortion by the People of the Book.

Concerning Muslim interpreters -
Unfortunately, except for a very few well-read Muslim commentators of the Quran, the majority have reflected nothing on the above quoted Quranic references to this incident. Excluding the accusation of adultery, they have reproduced this story in much the same way as the Israelites.

A parable -
The two men engaged in litigation as mentioned in the quoted verses of Surah Sa'd was a parable with a definite purpose.

First, it confirms that David was at fault which bore resemblance with the case of the ewes. When he made a fair decision for the two litigants, he realized his own mistake. He knew he was being tested by the Will of God Almighty and turned in sincere repentence.

Secondly, the Quranic verses of Surah Sa'd apparently contain the information that David had more than one wife. But it carries no implications of David having precisely '99 wives.' It's an allegorical reference. The Quran never mentions how many wives David had. Such details come from Biblical sources which are similar to the Hadith sources. These biblical sources mention David having eight wives. Various segments of Jews and Christians also claim that while the Scriptures contain the names of eight wives of David, he had more which are not mentioned. Source of this information? Nothing in record.

Discussion on this topic with queries & answers at our forum thread HERE

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