Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ramadan 2013 – Day 15, the Qur’an and the Prophet Dawud (David)

Looking at the Prophet David (Dawud in Arabic) in the Qur’an we see that, like my look at the other Prophets, much of the overall history is there but without all of the detail in the Bible. In some ways it appears that it is assumed that the reader of the Qur’an knows much of the history that is referred to in the verse.

The battle with Goliath is only mentioned once, and it covers only 3 verses in the overarching narrative of King Saul. David is only mentioned once:

2:251 So they routed them by Allah's Leave and Dawud (David) killed Jalut (Goliath), and Allah gave him (David) the kingdom and Al-Hikmah (Prophethood), and taught him of that which He willed. And if Allah did not check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief. But Allah is full of bounty to the 'Alamin (mankind, jinn and all that exists).

Otherwise the bulk of discussion on David comes from the 38th Surah. First it mentions his ability to either speak to birds or somehow charm birds (it’s unclear to me)

38:18 Verily, We made the mountains to glorify Our Praises with him (David) in the 'Ashi (i.e. after the mid-day till sunset) and Ishraq (i.e. after the sunrise till mid-day).

38:19 And (so did) the birds assembled: all obedient to him (David).

Followed by some verses about David passing judgment on a dispute between two men arguing over some sheep (I won't go into the details here) and concluding with:

38:26 O David! Verily! We have placed you as a successor on the earth; so judge you between men in truth and follow not your desire - for it will mislead you from the Path of Allah. Verily, those who wander astray from the Path of Allah (shall) have a severe torment, because they forgot the Day of Reckoning.

There’s not much more than that. The Qur’an does not contain much else about David and certain stories, such as David’s interactions with Bathsheba and Uriah, are not mentioned at all and generally discounted by Islam. As the Prophets of Islam would be exemplary in following the path of Allah, I'm guessing that Muslims are of the view that there is no way the Prophet David would commit the major sin of adultery as outlined in the tale of Bathsheba. In a similar vein Islam does not believe that the Prophet Isa (Jesus) would be drinking wine since alcohol is forbidden.

However there is something that the Prophet David is famous for in Islam – fasting (which is why I felt investigating the Prophet David was an appropriate thing for Ramadan). The Fast of David is not mentioned in the Qur’an but it is mentioned numerious times in the Al-Bukhari Hadiths, for example:

Book 21:231 Narrated Abdullah bin 'Amr bin Al-'As: Allah's Apostle told me, "The most beloved prayer to Allah is that of David and the most beloved fasts to Allah are those of David. He used to sleep for half of the night and then pray for one third of the night and again sleep for its sixth part and used to fast on alternate days.

Book 55:631 Narrated Abdullah bin Amr: Allah's Apostle said to me, "The most beloved fasting to Allah was the fasting of (the Prophet) David who used to fast on alternate days. And the most beloved prayer to Allah was the prayer of David who used to sleep for (the first) half of the night and pray for 1/3 of it and (again) sleep for a sixth of it."

The fact that David used to fast on alternate days is well-known in Islam and is seen as one of the best fasting regimes. You should not fast any more than that (except daily Ramadan fasting of course as that is mentioned in the Qur’an). Versions of this Hadith appear almost a dozen times in Al-Bukhari:

Book 31:197 Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr: Allah's Apostle was informed that I had taken an oath to fast daily and to pray (every night) all the night throughout my life (so Allah's Apostle came to me and asked whether it was correct): I replied, "Let my parents be sacrificed for you! I said so." The Prophet said, "You can not do that. So, fast for few days and give it up for few days, pray and sleep. Fast three days a month as the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times and that will be equal to one year of fasting." I replied, "I can do better than that." The Prophet said to me, "Fast one day and give up fasting for a day and that is the fasting of Prophet David and that is the best fasting." I said, "I have the power to fast better (more) than that." The Prophet said, "There is no better fasting than that."

Apparently the Prophet David also used to be frugal in his eating:

Book 34:286 Narrated Al-Miqdam: The Prophet said, "Nobody has ever eaten a better meal than that which one has earned by working with one's own hands. The Prophet of Allah, David used to eat from the earnings of his manual labor."

Book 34:287 Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The Prophet David used not to eat except from the earnings of his manual labor."

I can’t recall when it happened but I do remember meeting one Muslim (and I don't know how the conversation got onto this) who said he had tried the fast of the Prophet David for a month. He said it was extremely difficult given how it disrupted your eating and sleeping patterns. I don’t doubt it.

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