Verses from Surah Al-Anbiya’ [78-82]

[78] And Da’ud, and Sulayman – when they were judging concerning the field, when the sheep of a people strayed there at night. And We were witnesses to their judgment.92

Commentary

92. Ibn Mas`ud said in explanation of the verse that a man’s sheep entered into another’s field (or vineyard) and damaged the crop. The matter was referred to Da’ud (asws). He judged that the sheep be given away to the owner of the field in compensation of his loss. Sulayman (asws) suggested instead that the shepherd should be asked to work on the farm until the damage was recovered. And, until the recovery, the flock of sheep be handed over to the owner of the orchard to look after and to make use of their milk, wool, or sell off the offspring. (In his good grace and wisdom, Da’ud accepted the suggestion even though, as Yusuf Ali put it, “it came from a little boy: Au.).

Accordingly, when Bara’ b. `Azib’s camel entered into an Ansari’s orchard by night and wrought some damage, the Prophet (saws) recited this verse and ordered that the damage be repaired. Then he added, “It is upon the owner of an orchard to see that stray cattle is kept out, and upon the owner of the cattle during the night to keep them away of orchards” (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).

Suhnun however has said, adds Qurtubi, that the Prophetic judgment varying for day and night is because the orchards in Madinah had boundary walls. Therefore, if there are no boundaries to orchards or fields, as in many parts of the world, the owner of the flock will be charged for damage whether it happens by day or by night. Imam Abu Hanifah however has ruled that if a shepherd is accompanying the flock, then the damages are payable, otherwise not. This is in view of the hadith in the Sahihayn that says, “Damage (caused) by animals do not entail compensation.” This is a much stronger report than that involving Bara’ (Alusi, Shafi`). For greater details one might profitably look into Qurtubi.

Further, it might be noticed that although Sulayman has been praised here, Da’ud was not censored (Ibn Jarir). It is possible, adds Zamakhshari, that the value of the flock was equal to the damage that was done to the crop and so Da’ud judged that they be given away in compensation. Thus, writes Thanwi, both the judgments were correct, hence Allah’s words, “and to each We gave Judgment and knowledge.”

In Asad’s words, “…the fact that Solomon’s judgment was more profound did not disprove the intrinsic justice of David’s original judgment or deprive it of its merit.”

In fact, even if one wished, he will find it hard to judge which judgment was better. Could the loss of the orchard owner be greater than the value of the sheep? Or, alternatively, when given charge of the sheep, could he have recovered all his losses by the time his orchard was restored to the original condition? And, when restored, would it have fetched the same price as last year’s crop? These are open questions and it is possible, as Mufti Shafi` has suggested, that Sulayman’s judgment was more of the nature of a “mutual agreement that also salvaged the relationship between the two parties, than an effort to render absolute justice” (Au.).

Report concerning Bara’ b. `Azib’s case is in Ahmad, Abu Da’ud and Ibn Majah, but may not be very strong (Ibn Kathir). Nevertheless, because of a few other supporting evidences, most jurists have accepted it as trustworthy and used it for legal purposes. As for Allah not censoring Da’ud, we also have a hadith in Bukhari which says that when a judge does his best and judges correctly, he gets double the reward. But when he does his best, yet commits an error, then he gets a single reward. And the essential point to be noted is, “when he (the judge) does his best, that is, to uncover the facts and dig out the truth” (Qurtubi).

Furthermore, close to the story of Sulayman above is another reported in Muslim (also in Musnad Ahmad – narrated by Abu Hurayrah: Ibn Kathir). The Prophet said, “Two women had an infant each. A wolf snatched away one. (Both claimed the remaining one). So they appealed to Da’ud. He judged in favor of the elder woman. Then they went to Sulayman. He said, ‘Get me a knife. I’ll divide the child between the two.’ At that one the younger woman cried out, ‘No. Don’t do that – may Allah show you mercy. Let the child be given to her.’ So, Sulayman judged in favor of the younger woman (Qurtubi).

The above is Bukhari’s version (Au.).

[79] We gave Sulayman the insight thereof93 and to each We gave Judgment and knowledge. And We subdued the mountains and birds to hymn praises along with Da’ud94 – We were the Doers.

Commentary

93. That is, Allah (swt) bestowed on Sulayman in that particular case an understanding that He did not bestow on Da’ud (Ibn Jarir, Qurtubi).

94. It is reported that when Da’ud recited Zabur, birds gathered around to listen. When our own Prophet Muhammad passed by Abu Musa al-Ash`ari reciting the Qur’an, he stood by listening to him. Then he remarked, “Surely, you have been given a melody from the melodies of Da’ud’s kinsfolk.”

And Abu `Uthman al-Nahdi said, “I have never heard any melody as sweet as that of Abu Musa al-Ash`ari. Yet and, despite that, the Prophet said about him, ‘Surely, he has been given a melody from the melodies of Da’ud’s kinsfolk”. (That is, one can imagine the power and beauty of Da’ud’s melodies if Abu Musa’s was of such order that the Prophet stood by to listen: Au.).

 [80] And We taught him the fashioning of the coats of mail for you to save you from each other’s violence.95
Will you then be grateful?

Commentary

95. The words, “for you” denote that when the intention is to serve the people then learning of a trade or skill has promises of rewards in the Hereafter, whatever the worldly advantages (Shafi`).

Qatadah has said that earlier to Da’ud’s manufacture, coats of mail used to be in one piece-sheet. He was the one who first molded the chain-mails.

Mawdudi comments: “This point is further elaborated upon in Surah Saba’: ‘We made the iron soft for him (David) and commanded him: make coats of mail, balancing well the rings of the chain armor’ (Saba’ 34: 10-11). Thus we learn that God granted David complete mastery over iron, especially for military purposes.

“In the light of the historical and archaeological information these verses can be explained as follows: The Iron Age began somewhere between 1200 B.C. and 1000 B.C. which was the time of the Prophet David. The Hittites, inhabitants of Syria and Asia Minor, who had their hey-day during the period 2000 B.C. to 1200 B.C., were the first to invent techniques for melting and manufacturing iron; an expertise which they kept a closely-guarded secret. The iron that was thus made was, however, extremely expensive – like gold and silver – and consequently the requisite techniques were not widely used. Later on, the Philistines also acquired this knowledge but they too kept it a closely-guarded secret. Before Saul’s ascension to the throne, the Hittites and Philistines had continually defeated the Israelites and had almost driven them out of Palestine. According to the Bible, one of the factors which had ensured their superiority was their use of chariots and other weapons manufactured from iron (Joshua 17: 16; Judges 1: 19 and 4: 2-3). When Saul, under God’s command became ruler in 1020 B.C., he crushed the Hittites and Philistines and recovered a major portion of Palestine. The Prophet David (1004 B.C.-965 B.C.) extended the Israelite domain to the rest of Palestine to Transjordan and a major part of Syria.

“It was during this period that smelting technique, thus far only known to the Hittites and Philistines, were disclosed. Within a short period of time, other techniques of iron-manufacturing produced inexpensive iron, as a result of which iron products were manufactured and commonly used. Edom, in the southern part of Palestine, is immensely rich in iron ore. Recent archaeological excavations show at several places remnants of furnaces obviously used for melting and moulding iron. Indeed a furnace excavated near Ezion-Geber, a port on the Gulf of Aqaba in the days of the Prophet Solomon, appears to have been built on the very same principles which are employed to this day in blast furnaces. Quite naturally, David would have used this discovery of iron for military purposes since it was armour manufactured from this metal which in the then recent past, had created such difficulties for the Israelites.”

[81] And for Sulayman (did We tame) the wind, blowing forcefully,96 flowing to his order unto the land in which We had placed Our blessings.97 And We were ever aware of all things. 

Commentary

96. It seems Sulayman had complete control over the winds so that when he desired they moved forcefully, or mildly as said in the verse (38: 36), “We subjected to him the wind, it blew gently by his order whithersoever he wished” (Razi). Another possibility is that they moved as fast as high winds do, but remained mild in their effects (Alusi).

97 Commentators report that Sulayman was a great warrior too. The winds helped him up the sea voyage to a month’s distance, and back in another month. Hence Allah’s words, ‘And We subjected the wind to Solomon: its morning stride was a month’s journey, and the evening stride a month’s journey’ (Qurtubi).

[82] And of the Shayatin (We had tamed those)98who dived for him and did works other than that.99 And We were of them guardians.100

Commentary

98. The use of the term Shayatin in place of Jinn, contains the hint that they were unbelieving Jinn (Razi).

99. That is, the Jinn dived for him into the sea for pearls, and help build buildings and monuments (Ibn Jarir). Mawdudi explains, “The furnace which Solomon had built at Ezion-Geber for melting and moulding iron ore was substantial – no other furnace of like size has been so far discovered anywhere in Eastern Asia or the Middle East. Archaeologists believe that the ore used in this furnace was brought from the iron and copper mines of ‘Araban in Edom. The iron and copper melted in this furnace was used for ship-building and for other purposes. This would thus explain the meaning of the Qur’anic verse: ‘And We caused molten copper to flow for Solomon’ (Saba’, 34: 12).”

He also writes, “The point is thus elaborated in Surah Saba’‘There were jinns that worked in front of him by the permission of his Lord and if any of them turned aside from God’s command, God made him taste the penalty of the Blazing Fire. They worked for him as he desired, making arches, images, basins as large as reservoirs, and cooking cauldrons fixed in their places.”

100. Lest the Devils got out of control (Qurtubi and others)

(To be continued)