Islam and the Sins of the Prophets

Sam Shamoun

Muslims often attack the Holy Bible due to its negative portrayal of the prophets. Muslims claim that stories of Noah getting drunk, Lot sleeping with his daughters, or David committing adultery etc., are outright degrading and shameful since God’s true prophets are free from such wickedness. This is taken as evidence that the Holy Bible has been tampered with.

Many of these issues have already been dealt with. See for example the following articles:

We wish to show here that both the Quran and Islamic traditions also present prophets in a less than positive light. It may surprise some of our readers to read that early Muslim sources confirm such stories as David’s act of adultery etc.

For instance, both the Quran and the Traditions acknowledge that Abraham lied:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Abraham did not tell a lie except on three occasions. Twice for the Sake of Allah when he said, "I am sick," and he said, "(I have not done this but) the big idol has done it." The (third was) that while Abraham and Sarah (his wife) were going (on a journey) they passed by (the territory of) a tyrant. Someone said to the tyrant, "This man (i.e. Abraham) is accompanied by a very charming lady." So, he sent for Abraham and asked him about Sarah saying, "Who is this lady?" Abraham said, "She is my sister." Abraham went to Sarah and said, "O Sarah! There are no believers on the surface of the earth except you and I. This man asked me about you and I have told him that you are my sister, so don't contradict my statement." The tyrant then called Sarah and when she went to him, he tried to take hold of her with his hand, but (his hand got stiff and) he was confounded. He asked Sarah. "Pray to Allah for me, and I shall not harm you." So Sarah asked Allah to cure him and he got cured. He tried to take hold of her for the second time, but (his hand got as stiff as or stiffer than before and) was more confounded. He again requested Sarah, "Pray to Allah for me, and I will not harm you." Sarah asked Allah again and he became all right. He then called one of his guards (who had brought her) and said, "You have not brought me a human being but have brought me a devil." The tyrant then gave Hajar as a girl-servant to Sarah. Sarah came back (to Abraham) while he was praying. Abraham, gesturing with his hand, asked, "What has happened?" She replied, "Allah has spoiled the evil plot of the infidel (or immoral person) and gave me Hajar for service." (Abu Huraira then addressed his listeners saying, "That (Hajar) was your mother, O Bani Ma-is-Sama (i.e. the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, Hajar's son)." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 578)

The Ahadith also state that Abraham doubted God:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "We are more liable to be in doubt than Abraham when he said, ‘My Lord! Show me how You give life to the dead.’ He (i.e. Allah) said: ‘Don't you believe then?’ He (i.e. Abraham) said: ‘Yes, but (I ask) in order to be stronger in Faith.’ (2.260) And may Allah send His Mercy on Lot! He wished to have a powerful support. If I were to stay in prison for such a long time as Joseph did I would have accepted the offer (of freedom without insisting on having my guiltlessness declared)." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 591)

Another character that is presented in a not so favorable light is Joseph:

And she, in whose house he was, asked of him an evil act. She bolted the doors and said: Come! He said: I seek refuge in Allah! Lo! he is my lord, who hath treated me honourably. Lo! wrong-doers never prosper. She verily desired him, and he would have desired her if it had not been that he saw the argument of his Lord. Thus it was, that We might ward off from him evil and lewdness. Lo! he was of Our chosen slaves. S. 12:23-24 Pickthall

The Quran says that Joseph would have desired Potiphar’s wife and as such would have been guilty of adulterous inclinations. The Holy Bible disagrees with the Quran and exonerates Joseph from such slander:

"Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he refused. ‘With me in charge,’ he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her." Genesis 39:6b-10

The Quran, in agreement with the Holy Bible, states that Lot tried to protect his guests by telling the people to take his daughters and have their way with them:

And when Our messengers came unto Lot, he was distressed and knew not how to protect them. He said: This is a distressful day. And his people came unto him, running towards him - and before then they used to commit abominations - He said: O my people! Here are my daughters! They are purer for you. Beware of Allah, and degrade me not in (the person of) my guests. Is there not among you any upright man? They said: Well thou knowest that we have no right to thy daughters, and well thou knowest what we want. S. 11:77-79 Pickthall

And the people of the city came, rejoicing at the news (of new arrivals). He said: Lo! they are my guests. Affront me not! And keep your duty to Allah, and shame me not! They said; Have we not forbidden you from (entertaining) anyone? He said: Here are my daughters, if ye must be doing (so). S. 15:67-71 Pickthall

Is it not the duty of a father to protect the health, life and honor of his children — if necessary with his own life? Yet here we see Lot offering his virgin daughters to be raped by evil men. Interestingly the Holy Bible also reports this story (cf. Genesis 19:1-9). Yet, amazingly, Muslims say nothing of it. It is obvious why they would not, since this same story also appears in their book! This demonstrates that the Muslim criticism against the Holy Bible is nothing more than a smokescreen in all of these instances, since if the same stories appeared in the Quran they would have never brought up the issue. It exposes the hypocrisy of these Muslim attacks on the Holy Bible since the same Muslims would never accept that this particular story disqualifies the Quran as being from God.

As our final example we discuss the story of David and Bathsheba. We find allusions to this event in the Quran:

Has the Story of the Disputants reached thee? Behold, they climbed over the wall of the private chamber; When they entered the presence of David, and he was terrified of them, they said: "Fear not: we are two disputants, one of whom has wronged the other: Decide now between us with truth, and treat us not with injustice, but guide us to the even Path. This man is my brother: He has nine and ninety ewes, and I have (but) one: Yet he says, 'commit her to my care,' and is (moreover) harsh to me in speech." (David) said: "He has undoubtedly wronged thee in demanding thy (single) ewe to be added to his (flock of) ewes: truly many are the partners (in business) who wrong each other: Not so do those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and how few are they?"… and David gathered that We had tried him: he asked forgiveness of his Lord, fell down, bowing (in prostration), and turned (to Allah in repentance) ... To David We gave Solomon (for a son),- How excellent in Our service! Ever did he turn (to Us)! S. 38:21-24, 30

This story is reminiscent of 2 Samuel 12:1-14 where Nathan exposes David by telling him a parable of a rich man’s unjust act in taking his neighbor’s only ewe, yet with one MAJOR difference. The Quran turns Nathan’s parable into an actual historical event! This is just one more piece of evidence showing how the author of the Quran doesn’t really have a sense of what is historical:

Obviously, two people would think twice before breaking into the chamber of the king to resolve an issue, especially when they are two disputants! It is hard to imagine that the poor one could ever get the rich one to go to the king with him in the first place, even in a regular audience before the king, let alone breaking in illegally. In the real world, the one who suffered the loss/damage may go to the king, present his case, and then the police or palace guards of the king may get the offender and drag him before the court. But it certainly doesn’t happen the way described in the Quran. Hence, a healthy dose of common sense would show that the biblical account is much more credible and realistic. Further aspects of this Quranic story are discussed in the article "I am ALL the Prophets".

Returning to our original point, it may surprise our readers to know that the early Muslim expositors had no problem admitting that this Quranic story refers to David and Bathsheba. The following is taken from Al-Tabari:

It is mentioned that one day, he [Sam- David] wanted from his Lord the same status as his forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and he asked his Lord to test him somewhat as He had tested them and to grant him favor like He had granted them.

Muhammad b. al-Husayn- Ahmad b. al-Mufaddal- Asbat who said: al-Suddi said that David divided his time into three days: one day he would spend with people; one day he would devote to the worship of his Lord; one day he would devote to his wives, of whom he had ninety-nine. In what he read in the books, he found the excellence of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When he found this in the books he read, he said: "O Lord! It seems to me that my forefathers have taken all goodness. Grant me the same as you have granted them."

Then God inspired him: "Your forefathers were tried with the misfortunes with which you have not been tried. Abraham was tested with the sacrifice of his son, Isaac with the loss of his sight, and Jacob with grief over his son Joseph. You have not been tried with any of that." David said, "O Lord! Test me as you have tested them, and grant me what you have given them."

God inspired him: "You are going to be tested, so be on your guard!" He waited as long as God wished him to wait, whereupon Satan came to him, taking on the shape of a golden dove. It alighted at his feet while he was standing and praying. The narrator continued: He reached out his hand to take hold of it, but it flew away. He followed it, but it distanced itself until it alighted in an aperture. He watched to see where it would alight, so he could go after it.

He saw a woman bathing herself on her roof, one of the most beautiful women in form. She happened to turn around, and she saw him. She let down her hair, covering herself with it. That only increased his desire for her.

He asked about her and was told that she had a husband who was absent at such-and-such a garrison. He sent to the garrison commander an order to send Uriah [Sam- Arabic, Ahriya/Awriya] against such-and-such an enemy. He therefore sent him, and [the enemy] was conquered by him. The commander wrote back to David about the victory, and David wrote to him again, saying, "Send him against such-and-such an enemy, who is even stronger than they." So he sent him, and they again were conquered by him, and he wrote to David about the second victory. David wrote to him, "Send him to such-and-such an enemy." So he sent him, and on the third time, Uriah was slain.

David married Uriah’s wife. When she came to him, she had been with him only a short time when God sent two angels, in human form, who requested admission to his presence. But they found that this was his day of worship, and the guards prevented them from entering. So the two scaled the wall of his private apartment to reach him. He was not aware of [their arrival] while he was praying, but suddenly the two were sitting in front of him. He was startled, but they said, "Do not be afraid. We are two litigants, one of whom has wronged the other, therefore judge aright between us; be not unjust"- meaning, do not act wrongfully- "and show us the fair way, to just judgment." David said, "Tell me your story." One of them said: "Lo! This brother of mine has ninety-nine ewes while I have one ewe. He wants to take my ewe to round out his to one hundred."

David then said to the other one, "What do you have to say?" The other replied, "I have ninety-nine ewes, and this brother of mine has one ewe, and I want to take it from him to complete my ewes to one hundred." David said, "Even though he is unwilling?" He replied, "Even though he is unwilling!" David said, "Then we cannot let you do that!" He replied, "But you are unable to [prevent] that." David said, "If you try that, then we will hit you on this and that" which Asbat interprets as "the tip of the nose and the forehead." Then he said, "O David! You deserve more to be hit on this and this, since you have ninety-nine wives while Uriah had only one wife. But you did not stop exposing him to slaughter until he was slain, and you married his wife."

[David] looked and saw no one. Then he understood what had happened, and how he was being tested, and he fell prostrating himself, and wept. He remained prostrate and weeping for forty days, not raising his head except for some absolute need, after which he would again fall down prostrate and weeping. He prayed until grass began to sprout from his tears.

Then after forty days passed, God inspired him, "O David! Lift up your head, for I have forgiven you." He said, "O Lord! How will I know that You have forgiven me, when You are a just judge Who shows no favor in judgment? When Uriah comes on the Day of Resurrection, holding his head in his right or left hand, his neck veins gushing blood before Your Throne, he will say, ‘O Lord! Ask this one why he slew me.’" God inspired him: "If that happens, I will call Uriah and ask for you as a gift from him. He will give you to Me, and I will repay him with Paradise." David said, "O Lord! Now I know that You have forgiven me." He could not raise his eyes to the heavens, because of his shame before his Lord, until he died.

‘Ali b. Sahl related to me- al-Walid b. Muslim- ‘Abd al-Rahman b. Yazid b. Jabir- ‘Ata al-Khurasani: David engraved his sin on the palm of his hand, lest he should forget it. Whenever he saw it, his hand would tremble and throb. (The History of Al-Tabari, Volume III, The Children of Israel, trans. William M. Brunner [State University of New York Press, Alban 1991], pp. 144-146; bold emphasis ours - see the below Addendum for more of Al-Tabari)

Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Kisa’i narrates a similar version:

David gazed upon the beauty of this bird and saw the ineffable. He said to himself, "This surely is one of the birds of Paradise, attracted to my voice." He stretched out his hand to seize it, but it flew away. He followed it until it had flown to a tree next to a pool behind his Tower, where it disappeared from sight. While he was searching for it, he saw the bird perched on a tree beside a pool where the Israelite women used to bathe. As David came out, he heard the women splashing water about; and, seeing a woman bathing in the pool, he averted his gaze. But she was one of the most beautiful of women and her name was Bath-Sheba. Wife of Uriah son of Hannan, and daughter of Jeshua, she had married that very year but had not yet conceived. Her husband was away with the army under David’s nephew Nabal son of Zeruiah, and he was killed there. (It was said that David sent a message to his nephew Nabal to advance Uriah to the front lines, which he did. When he was killed, David married his wife, Bath-Sheba.)

God then commanded Gabriel and Michael to descend to the earth in beautiful shapes, to inform David of his transgression. As David was saying, "Lord, forgive not the trespasses, and defend the oppressed against the oppressors," the two angels descended through the roof of the Tower in human form - in the guise of two litigants, one strong and the other weak - and stood before him. David was so startled by them that he dropped the book of Psalms and grew pale with fright.

"Fear not, O you who are harsh on transgressors," they said, "and hear what we have to say, as we have come to you from a far-distant place," as He hath said: Hath the story of the two adversaries come to thy knowledge when they ascended over the wall into the upper apartment, when they went in unto David, and he was afraid of them? (38:22f) David returned to his judgment-seat and said, "Tell me what has happened to you."

"O prophet of God," began Gabriel, "this my brother had ninety and nine sheep, all white and fat and having given birth several times; and I had only one ewe: and he said, ‘Give her me to keep’; and he prevailed against me in the discourse (38:24). I complained of this to my Lord, who sent me to you because you are His viceroy on earth."

David grew angry and said, " Verily he hath wronged thee in demanding thine ewe as an addition to his own sheep: and many of them who are concerned together in business wrong one another, as your brother has wronged you" (38:25).

"O prophet of God," said Michael, "you have not given a just decision, for he may do wrong who is in no partnership."

David grew furious at these words and, taking a rod in his hand, said, "I shall lash you with this rod."

But the rod cried out from David’s hand, saying, "If this be your sentence upon a transgressor, then you are a transgressor, O David!"

Michael smiled and said, "You deserve the rod more than I do, O David, for you decide for the plaintiff before you hear the defendant." So saying, the two of them lept up, and crashing through the roof, departed as they had entered. And David perceived that we had tried him by this parable, and he asked pardon of his Lord: and he fell down and bowed himself, and repented (38:25). He remained prostrate, agitated and humiliated for forty days, until the flesh on his face sagged, and greenery grew from his tears. The angels set up clamor and said, "Our God, this thy prophet and thy viceroy on earth has caused our eyes to weep: overlook his transgression and pardon his backsliding as thou has pardoned his father Adam."

"Keep silent!" said God. "I am the most merciful of the merciful; my gate is open to those who worship me and I accept the repentance of the penitent." (Tales of the Prophets (Qisas al-anbiya), translated by Wheeler M. Thacktson Jr. [Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., 1997; Distributed by Kazi Publications, Chicago Il.], pp. 282-284)

A commentary which has been ascribed to Ibn Abbas states in reference to Sura 38:23-24 and 26:

(one ewe) i.e. one wife; (and he said: Entrust it to me, and he conquered me in speech) this is a similitude which they struck for David in order for him to understand what he did to Uriah. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn 'Abbs; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

((David) said: He hath wronged thee in demanding thine ewe) in taking your ewe (in addition to his ewes) even though he has many ewes, (and lo! many partners) and brothers (oppress one another) transgress against one another, (save such as believe) in Allah (and do good works) between them and their Lord, (and they are few) those who do not transgress. And the two went out from whence they came. (And David guessed) he knew and was certain (that We had tried him) because of the sin he committed, (and he sought forgiveness of his Lord) from his sin, (and he bowed himself and fell down prostrate and repented) feeling remorse for what he did. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

((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. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

And this same source says regarding Sura 33:38:

(There is no reproach) there is no sin or offence (for the Prophet in that which Allah maketh his due) in the dispensation Allah makes for him, by making him marry. (That was Allah's way) thus was Allah's decree (with those who passed away of old) before Muhammad (pbuh); the reference here is to David and his marriage to the wife of Uriya; and it is also said that this refers to the marriage of Solomon with Balqis (and the commandment of Allah is certain destiny) the decree of Allah must necessarily take place. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

The two Jalals wrote regarding Sura 38:22 and 24:

When they entered upon David, and he was frightened by them. And they said, 'Do not fear; we are, two disputants (some say that this means 'two groups', in order to agree with the plural person [of the verb dakhalū, 'they entered']; others say, 'two individuals' with the plural person actually denoting these two; al-khasm may refer to a one or more individuals. These two were angels who had come in the form of two disputants, between whom there [was supposed to have] occurred the situation mentioned - [but] only hypothetically - in order to alert David, peace be upon him, to what he had done: he had ninety nine women but desired the woman of a man who had only her and no other. He [David] had married her and consummated the marriage. One of us has infringed upon the [rights of the] other, so judge justly between us and do not transgress, [do not] be unjust, and guide us, direct us, to the right path', the correct way. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

He said, 'He has certainly wronged you by asking for your ewe that he may add it to his sheep. And indeed many associates infringe upon [the rights of] one other, except such as believe and perform righteous deeds, but few are they!' (mā emphasises the 'fewness'). As the two angels were ascending to the heaven one said to the other, 'He has certainly passed judgement on himself!' David was thus alerted [to his deed]. God, exalted be He, says: And David thought, in other words, he became certain, that We had indeed tried him, that We had caused him to fall into a trial, that is, a test, through his love for that woman. So he sought forgiveness of his Lord and fell down bowing, in other words, prostrate, and repented. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Here are Muhammad Asad’s comments on David and the two disputants:

"The story which, according to the oldest sources at our disposal, is alluded to in verses 21-26 affects the question as to whether God's elects, the prophets - all of whom were endowed, like David, with wisdom and sagacity in judgement - could or could not ever commit a sin. In other words, whether they, too, were originally subject to the weaknesses inherent in human nature as such or were a priori endowed with an essential purity of character which rendered each of them ‘incapable of sinning’ (masum). "In the form in which it has been handed down from the earliest authorities (including, according to Tabari and Baghawi, companions like Abd Allah ibn Abbas and Anas ibn Malik, as well as several of the most prominent of their immediate successors), the story contradicts the doctrine - somewhat arbitrarily developed by Muslim theologians in the course of the centuries - that prophets cannot sin by virtue of their nature, and tends to show that their purity and subsequent sinlessness is a result of inner struggles and trials, and thus , represents in each case a moral achievement rather than an inborn quality."

"As narrated in some detail by Tabari and other early commentators, David fell in love with a beautiful woman whom he accidentally observed from his roof terrace. Upon inquiring, he was told that she was the wife of one of his officers, named Uriah. Impelled by his passion, David ordered his field-commander to place Uriah in a particularly exposed battle position, where he would be certain to be killed; and as soon as his order was fulfilled and Uriah died, David married the widow (who subsequently became the mother of Solomon). This story agrees more or less with the Old Testament, which gives the woman's name as Bathsheba (2 Samuel xi), barring the biblical allegation that David committed adultery with her before Uriah's death (ibid. xi. 4-5) - an allegation which has always been rejected by Muslims as highly offensive and slanderous: cf. the saying of the fourth Caliph, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (quoted by Zamakhshari on the authority of Sa‘id ibn al-Mussayyab): ‘If anyone should narrate the story of David IN THE MANNER in which the story-tellers narrate it, I will have him flogged with one hundred and sixty stripes - for this is a [suitable] punishment for slandering prophets’ (thus indirectly recalling the Qur‘anic ordinance, in 24:4, which stipulates flogging, with eighty stripes for accusing ordinary persons of adultery without legal proof)." (Asad, Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar rpt. 1993], pp. 696-697, fn. 22)

What is most interesting about these accounts is that David is said to have killed Uriah before sleeping with Bathsheba. This means that David went so far as to purposefully plan the murder of Uriah in order to take the latter’s wife. The Holy Bible, on the other hand, states that David had already slept with Bathsheba and impregnated her before killing Uriah. The Holy Scriptures also state that David’s killing of Uriah was the last resort, since the king first tried to get Uriah drunk enough to sleep with his wife in order to cover up the fact that David had actually impregnated her (the details about this story is found in 2 Samuel 11-12).

The Holy Bible obviously gives the correct version since not only was it written closer to the time these events happened, it is actually the inspired revelation of God, unlike the Quran and ahadith. Aside from that fact, both versions of the story reflect negatively on the integrity of David. Regardless of whether David killed Uriah before or after, he was already guilty of committing adultery in the eyes of God for having lusted after a married woman. (Cf. Matthew 5:27-28,31-32)

Hence, we fail to see how the Muslim theory exonerates David in any way. Premeditated murder with the intention to take the wife of another man is clearly a major sin.

Now a Muslim may claim that according to Asad, Ali swore to flog anyone who passed this story on, which indicates that the first Muslims rejected such stories. On the contrary, Asad doesn’t say that Ali rejected the story wholesale, but simply rejected the story as narrated by the story-tellers.

Someone else may want to reject these traditions completely. If so, we pose the following two questions:

  1. What was the reason for David repenting after his encounter with two disputants? How does their story affect David’s moral standing before God?
  2. Since the Quran agrees that Solomon is David’s son, who then is Solomon’s mother?

The Holy Bible tells us:

"Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah." 2 Samuel 12:24-25

By acknowledging that Solomon is David’s son, the Quran has no choice but to agree with the biblical account that Bathsheba was his mother. That is unless, of course, Muslims want to claim that Solomon had no mother! Either that or the Muslims must claim that Bathsheba wasn’t Solomon’s mother, or that Bathsheba and David were legitimately married without having committed adultery. But to opt for the latter view, one must still answer question 1.

These factors prove that the Quran is an incomplete and imperfect record.

In light of the foregoing, this one fact remains. The earliest Quranic expositors believed that David did sleep with Bathsheba and that Uriah was murdered at the orders of David.

This concludes our examination of the Muslim arguments. In the service of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, our risen Lord of eternal glory, forever and ever. Amen. Come Lord Jesus, come. We love you risen Savior.


Here, we present the remaining part of Al-Tabari’s account regarding the story of the two disputants and its relation to David’s sin:

It is said that the reason for the trial with which he was tested was that his innermost feelings told him that he could spend a day of the trial took place on the day he thought he could spend without committing evil deed.

Mention of who said that.

Bishr related to us- Yazid- Sa‘id- Matar- al-Hasan, saying that David divided his time into four parts: one day for his wives; one day for his worship; one day for judging the Israelites; and one day during which he would exhort the Children of Israel and they him, he would bring them to tears and they him. When it was the day of the Children of Israel, he said, "Exhort me!" They said, "Is there a day in which a man does not commit a sin?" David imagined to himself that he could accomplish that, so when the day of worship came, he locked his doors, giving orders that no one was to be admitted. He devoted himself to the Torah, but while he was reading it, lo! A golden dove full of every beautiful color alighted in front of him. He reached out to seize it, but it flew off and alighted not far away, still giving him hope of reaching it. He continued following it until he looked out and saw a woman washing herself, her form and beauty pleased him. When she noticed his shadow on the ground, she covered herself with her hair, which only pleased him more. He had sent her husband to command one of his armies, and now he wrote to him to journey to such-and-such a place, a place from which he would not return.

Uriah journeyed there and was killed, so David proposed to his wife and married her. Qatadah has told us that we have heard she was Solomon’s mother. When he was in his private apartment, lo! Two angels climbed the wall to him. When two litigants came to him, they usually came by way of the door of the private chamber, so he was startled by them when they climbed the wall of the private chamber. But they said: "Be not afraid! We are two litigants, one of whom has wronged the other" ... until where he reached - "be not unjust" - meaning, do not show favor - "and how us the fair way" - that is, the more just and better one. "This brother of mine has ninety-nine ewes" - and David had ninety-nine wives - "while I have one ewe" - and Uriah had only one wife. "And he said: ‘Entrust it to me,’ and he conquered me in speech" - that is, he wronged me and overcame me. [David] said: "He has wronged you in demanding your ewe in addition to his ewes [and lo! Many partners oppress one another, save those who believe and do good works, and they are a few.]"And David guessed - knowing that it was secretly directed at him, that is, it was he who was meant by that - and he fell down prostrate and he repented.

Ya‘qub b. Ibrahim related to me- Ibn Idris: I heard Layth mention- Mujahid: When David was overcome by this sin, he fell down, bowing to God for forty days, until herbs sprouted from his tears, covering his head. Then he called out, "O Lord! My forehead is covered with ulcers, and my eyes have dried up, but no answer has been given to David about his sin." It was proclaimed: "If [you are] hungry, you will be fed; if ill, you will be healed; or if oppressed, assistance be sought for you." He sobbed so that everything that had grown withered, and at that he was forgiven. His sin was written on his hand, so he could read it. When he was brought a vessel from which to drink, he would drink only a third or half, then he would remember his sin, and he would sob so much that his joints would be dislocated, and he would not finish drinking, until the vessel was filled with his tears. It was said one of David’s tears equaled a tear of all creatures; that one of Adam’s tears equaled one of David’s tears and of all creatures’.

[David] will come on Resurrection Day with his sin written on his hand and will say: "Lord, My sin! Make me go ahead!" He will be sent ahead, but he will not feel secure, so he will say, " Lord! Make me stay behind!" He will then be held back, but continue feel insecure.

Yunus b. ‘Abd al-A‘la related to me- Ibn Wahb- Ibn Lahi‘ah- Abu Sakhr- Yazid al-Raqashi- Anas b. Malik, saying: I heard the Messenger of God say that when David the prophet looked at the woman and became disquieted, he levied an army of the Children of Israel and gave orders to its leader, saying: "When the enemy appears, make so-and-so draw near and advance in front of the Ark." At that time, the Ark was taken assistance: whoever advanced in front of it, would not return until he was slain or the army fled before him. Then the husband of the woman was slain, and the two angels descended and related his story to David. He understood, and bowed down, remaining so for forty nights, until plants grew up around his head from his tears, and the earth consumed part of his forehead. While he was prostrate he said- and I understood from what al-Raqashi said only these words- "Lord! David has committed a sin beyond what is between East and West. Lord! If You do not have mercy on David’s weakness and forgive his sin, You will make his sin a subject of conversation among successive generations after him." (Tabari, pp. 146-149; underlined emphasis ours)

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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