اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ بِجَمِیعِ مَحَامِدِه کُلِّهَا عَلَی جَمِیعِ نِعَمِهِ کُلِّهَا… اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ مالِکِ الْمُلْکِ مُجْرِی الْفُلْکِ مُسَخِّرِ الرِّیاحِ فالِقِ الاْصْباحِ دَیّانِ الدّینِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمینَ اَلْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ عَلی حِلْمِهِ بَعْدَ عِلمِهِ وَالْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ عَلی عَفْوِهِ بَعْدَ قُدْرَتِهِ وَالْحَمْدُ لِلّهِ عَلی طُولِ اَناتِهِ فی غَضَبِهِ وَهُوَ قادِرٌ عَلی ما یُریدُ
All praise be to Allah with full gratitude for all His bounties. … All praise be to Allah: the master of the sovereignty, Who allows arks to flow [on seas], Who controls the winds, Who causes the day to break, Who administers the authority, and Who is the Lord of the worlds. All praise be to Allah for His forbearance despite His full knowledge. All praise be to Allah for His amnesty despite His full power. All praise be to Allah for the length of His respite during His wrath, while He is able to do whatever He wills.
و نشهد أن لا اله الا الله وحده لا شریک له، و أَنَّ محمداً عبده و رسوله ارسله بالهدی و دین الحق لیظهره علی الدین کله و لو کره المشرکون
We bear witness that there is no god but Allah. He is one and has no partners. We bear witness that Muhammad is His servant and messenger, whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He may make it prevail over all religions, though the polytheists should be averse.
اوصیکم عبادالله و نفسی بتقوی الله و اتباع امره و نهیه، و اخوفکم من عقابه
I enjoin you, servants of Allah and myself, to have fear of God and comply with His commands and forbiddances, and warn you against His retribution.
Teaching David about Just Adjudication: A Divine Test
The Quran relates a second instructive story about David’s time as a ruler, which involves his adjudication of a dispute between two conflicting parties:
وَهَلْ أَتَاكَ نَبَأُ الْخَصْمِ إِذْ تَسَوَّرُوا الْمِحْرَابَ؛ إِذْ دَخَلُوا عَلَى دَاوُودَ فَفَزِعَ مِنْهُمْ، قَالُوا: لَا تَخَفْ! خَصْمَانِ بَغَى بَعْضُنَا عَلَى بَعْضٍ، فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَنَا بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا تُشْطِطْ، وَاهْدِنَا إِلَى سَوَاءِ الصِّرَاطِ
Has there not come to you the account of the contenders, when they scaled the wall into the sanctuary? (21) When they entered into the presence of David, he was alarmed by them. They said, ‘Do not be afraid. [We are only] two contenders: one of us has bullied the other. So judge justly between us, and do not exceed [the bounds of justice], and show us the right path.’ (Sad, 21-22)
The story took place during David’s reign when he had a group of guards stationed around his governance residence. According to the Quran, the contenders or conflicting parties clandestinely infiltrated the premises, scaling the walls of David’s palace, and startlingly appearing before him without any prior permission or notice of their arrival. As a result, David was filled with terror upon their sight, fearing that they might have schemed his assassination.
According to certain Quranic exegetes, these individuals were actually angels taking on human form, sent by God to assess David’s ability as a judge and to impart wisdom on fair and equitable resolution of legal conflicts.
Upon their sudden and unconventional entrance into David’s abode, they presented him with the request to adjudicate their dispute. One among them proceeded to explain the situation in the following manner:
إِنَّ هَذَا أَخِي لَهُ تِسْعٌ وَتِسْعُونَ نَعْجَةً وَلِيَ نَعْجَةٌ وَاحِدَةٌ فَقَالَ أَكْفِلْنِيهَا وَعَزَّنِي فِي الْخِطَابِ
‘This brother of mine has ninety-nine ewes, while I have only a single ewe, and [yet] he says, ‘Commit it to my care,’ and he browbeats me in speech.’ (Sad, 23)
When he heard the plaintiff’s words, David issued his ruling as follows:
قَالَ: لَقَدْ ظَلَمَكَ بِسُؤَالِ نَعْجَتِكَ إِلَى نِعَاجِهِ، وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِنَ الْخُلَطَاءِ لَيَبْغِي بَعْضُهُمْ عَلَى بَعْضٍ إِلَّا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَعَمِلُوا الصَّالِحَاتِ، وَقَلِيلٌ مَا هُمْ
He said, ‘He has certainly wronged you by asking your ewe in addition to his own ewes, and indeed many partners bully one another, except such as have faith and do righteous deeds, and few are they.’ (Sad, 24)
According to the Quran, in that moment, David realized that the entire event was a test, and he recognized that he had failed that test. Overwhelmed, he humbled himself before God, prostrating and earnestly seeking His forgiveness.
وَظَنَّ دَاوُودُ أَنَّمَا فَتَنَّاهُ، فَاسْتَغْفَرَ رَبَّهُ وَخَرَّ رَاكِعًا وَأَنَابَ
Then David knew that We had tested him, whereat he pleaded with his Lord for forgiveness, and fell down in prostration and repented. (Sad, 24)
David’s Fault: Biblical and Quranic Accounts
What was the mistake David made in rendering his judgment? Why did he seek forgiveness from God, and why was he granted forgiveness? The Bible mentions one specific mistake, while Quranic scholars highlight an alternative perspective.
According to the Bible, David encountered a woman of great beauty and was infatuated by her. In his curiosity, he made inquiries and was informed about her identity: “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (2 Samuel 11:3). Compelled by his desire, David devised a plan and sent Uriah the Hittite to the front lines of battle against the Ammonites. He crafted a letter for Joab, the commander of the army, instructing Uriah to deliver it. The letter contained a cruel directive: “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is the most intense. Then withdraw from him, so he will be struck down and killed” (2 Samuel 11:15).
As a result of this scheme, Uriah the Hittite lost his life in the ensuing battle, and “When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord”
As per the Bible, the following is how God admonished David:
‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
However, Quranic exegetes highlight a different mistake in this scenario. They identify David’s error as him hastily judging the dispute based solely on one party’s account, without giving the other party an opportunity to present their side of the story. According to their interpretation, David should have first allowed the other disputant to explain their claim before making a judgment (Al-Tibyān, 8:553).
Which Account of David’s Mistake is Plausible?
While the Biblical account suggests that David had an inappropriate desire for a married woman and orchestrated her husband’s death, this portrayal is incompatible with the concept of prophetic infallibility. Therefore, the account provided by Quranic exegetes, which differs from the Biblical account, appears to be more plausible. Additionally, the Quranic text itself suggests:
يَا دَاوُودُ إِنَّا جَعَلْنَاكَ خَلِيفَةً فِي الْأَرْضِ، فَاحْكُمْ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ بِالْحَقِّ وَلَا تَتَّبِعِ الْهَوَى فَيُضِلَّكَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ، إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَضِلُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ لَهُمْ عَذَابٌ شَدِيدٌ بِمَا نَسُوا يَوْمَ الْحِسَابِ
‘O David! Indeed, We have made you a vicegerent on the earth. So judge between people with justice, and do not follow your desires, or they will lead you astray from the way of Allah. Indeed there is a severe punishment for those who stray from the way of Allah, because of their forgetting the Day of Reckoning.’ (Sad, 26)
This verse serves as additional evidence that David’s mistake indeed pertained to the administration of justice. As a consequence of his hasty and unjust judgment, God instructed David to exercise greater care and fairness in his role as a judge.