The Story of David (Dawud)
Imam Ibn Kathir Ad-Dimashqi
eBook: Stories of the Prophets
When the two armies faced each other, Goliath challenged any soldier from King Saul's army to single combat, as was the custom of battle in those days. Goliath also wanted to show off his strength. The men were terrorized, and no one had enough courage to volunteer. The king offered the hand of his pretty daughter in marriage to the man who would fight Goliath, but even this tempting offer did not change the deadly silence among his soldiers.
Then, to everyone's surprise, a youth stepped forward. A roar of laughter echoed from the enemy's side, and even Saul's men shook their heads.
The young man was David (Dawud), from the city of Bethlehem. His elderly father had chosen three of his sons to join Saul's army. He had instructed the youngest one, David, not to take part in the fighting but to help the army in other ways and to report to his father daily on what was happening on the war front.
Although Saul was very impressed by the youth's courage, he said: "I admire your courage, but you are no match for that mighty warrior. Let the strong men come forward." David, however, had already decided and was willing to meet the challenge. Proudly, he told the king that only the day before he had killed a lion which had threatened his father's sheep, and on another occasion he had killed a bear. He asked Saul not to judge him by his appearance, for he feared no man or wild beast. Saul, surprised by young David's brave stance, agreed: "My brave soldier, if you are willing, then may Allah guard you and grant you strength!"
The king dressed David in battle armor and handed him a sword, but David was not used to wearing battle dress. He felt uncomfortable in it, and it obstructed his movements. He removed the armor, then collected a few pebbles and filled his leather pouch with them. He slung it over his shoulder next to his sling. With his wooden staff in hand, he began to walk towards the enemy. Saul was worried and asked him how on earth, with a sling and a couple of stones was he going to defend himself against the giant? David replied: "Allah Who protected me from the claws of the bear and the fangs of the lion will certainly protect me from this brute!"
When Goliath set eyes on the lean young man who looked like a boy, he laughed loudly and roared: "Are you out to play war with one of your playmates, or are you tired of your life? I will simply cut off your head with one swipe of my sword!"
David shouted back: "You may have armor, shield, and sword, but I face you in the name of Allah, the Lord of the Israelites, Whose laws you have mocked. Today you will see that it is not the sword that kills but the will and power of Allah!"
So saying, he took his sling and placed in it a pebble from his pouch. He swung and aimed it at Goliath. The pebble shot from the whirling sling with the speed of an arrow and hit Goliath's head with great force. Blood gushed out, and Goliath thumped to the ground, lifeless, before he had a chance to draw his sword. When the rest of his men saw their mighty hero slain, they took to their heels. The Israelites followed in hot pursuit, taking revenge for their years of suffering at the hands of their enemy, killing every soldier they could lay hands on. In this battle the Israelites regained the glory and honor that had been lost for a long time.
David became a hero overnight. Saul kept his word and married his daughter Michal (Miqel) to the young warrior and took him under his wing as one of his chief advisors.
Almighty Allah declared: So they routed them by Allah's Leave and David killed Goliath, and Allah gave him (David) the kingdom (after the death of Saul and Samuel) and wisdom, 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, jinns and all that exist). [Ch 2:251 Quran].
David became the most famous man among the Israelites. However, he was not inveigled by this; he was not a prisoner of fame or leadership but a prisoner of Allah's love.
Therefore, after killing Goliath he went out into the desert in the company of nature, glorifying Almighty Allah and contemplating His favors. Verily, We made the mountains to glorify Our Praises with him (David) in the Ashi (after the mid-day till sunset) and Ishraq (after the sunrise till mid-day). And (so did) the birds assembled: all with him (David) did turn (to Allah, glorified His Praises). We made his kingdom strong and gave him wisdom and sound judgment in speech and decision. [Ch 38:18-20 Quran]
Creatures such as the plants, birds, beasts, and even the mountains responded to his voice glorifying Allah. Allah had chosen David to be a prophet and revealed the Psalms to him. As He the Almighty said: And to David We gave the Psalms. [Ch 17:55 Quran].
David recited his scripture and glorified Allah while the mountains joined him praise and the birds rallied around him. Almighty Allah directed: Be patient (O Muhammad) of what they say, and remember Our slave David, endured with power. Verily, he was ever oft-returning in all matters and in repentance toward Allah. [Ch 38:17 Quran].
David's sincerity was not the only factor responsible for the birds and beasts joining with him in glorifying Allah, nor was the sweetness of his voice. It was a miracle from Allah. This was not his only miracle, for Allah also endowed him with the faculty of understanding the languages of birds and animals.
David (pbuh) fasted every other day. Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-As narrated: Allah's Apostle (pbuh) said to me: "The most beloved fasting to Allah was the fasting of the Prophet David, who used to fast alternate days. And the most beloved prayer to Allah was the prayer of David, who used to sleep the first half of the night, and pray for one third of it and again sleep for a sixth of it.'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari).
Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-As also narrated: "The Prophet (pbuh) said to me: 'I have been informed that you pray all the nights and observe fast all the days; is this true?' I replied: 'Yes.' He said: 'If you do so, your eyes will be weak and you will get bored. So fast three days a month, for this will be the fasting of a whole year. (Or equal to the fasting of a whole year).' I said: 'I find myself able to fast more.' He said: 'Then fast like the fasting of (the Prophet) David (pbuh) who used to fast on alternate days and would not flee on facing the enemy.'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari)
Allah granted David great influence. His people had a great number of wars in their time, but they had a problem in that the iron armor was too heavy for the fighter to move and fight as he wished. It is said that David was sitting one day, contemplating this problem while toying with a piece of iron. Suddenly, he found his hand sinking in the iron. Almighty Allah had made it flexible for him: And We made the iron soft for him. [Ch 34:10 Quran]
The people praised and loved David. However, the hearts of men are fickle and their memories short. Even great men can feel insecure and become petty-minded. One day David found Saul in a worried state. He sensed something strange in Saul's attitude towards him. That night, when he shared his feeling with his wife, she started to weep bitterly and said: "O David, I will never keep any secrets from you." She told him that her father had become jealous of his popularity and feared that he would lose his kingdom to him. She advised him to be on his guard.
This information shocked David very much. He prayed and hoped that Saul's good nature would overcome the darker side of his character. The following day, Saul summoned David to inform him that Canaan had gathered its forces and would march on the kingdom. He ordered David to advance on them with the army and not to return unless victory was gained.
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