THE ZABUR IN ISLAMIC THINKING

December 2020

The Quran recognises that David glorified and praised God. The mountains and the birds alternated with him in these praises (Al-Anbiya 21:79, Saba’ 34:10, Sa’d 38:18). Muhammad, it seems, took literally the passages where creatures and elements joined David in their praises so it seems that when David was fatigued Allah caused other parts of nature, both animate and inanimate to relieve him. David is presented as a model Muslim, praising Allah, fasting, prostrating, acting justly and fighting for the honour of Allah

The traditions tell us that David recited, rather than sang in worship: “Narrated Abu Huraira, The Prophet said, ‘The reciting of the Zabur was made easy for David. He used to order that his riding animals be saddled, and would finish reciting the Zabur before they were saddled.’” (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55 Number 628).

The term zabur was used by poets in pre-Islamic times to denote a body of writing. Muhammad used its plural form in order to mean earlier revealed books for example “Without doubt it is (announced) in the mystic books of former peoples.” (Al-Shuara’ 26:196) and “so were rejected messengers before thee, who came with clear signs, books of dark prophecies, and the book of enlightenment.” (Al-Imran 3:184).

The singular use in the Quran was exclusively connected with David “and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms.” (Al-Isra 17:55). Later, in Al-Anbiya 21:105, Psalm 37:29 is quoted in an almost verbal translation “Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): My servants the righteous, shall inherit the earth.”
Therefore, Zubur is the plural of a genuine Arabic word which means writing. It can be associated with the Ethiopian mazmur or the Hebrew mizmor, both of which mean psalm or melody.

A fragment of an Arabic translation of the Psalms dating from the second century A.H is the oldest known specimen of Christian-Arabic literature. Found in Damascus the text contains an Arabic translation of Psalm 78 verses 20-31 and 51-61.

David in the Quran and Tradition

According to the Quran David, Arabic Dawud, was a King of Israel and a Prophet, to whom God revealed the Zabur or Book of Psalms. He has no special title as all Muslims are agreed that he was not a law-giver or the founder of a dispensation. This kingly prophet is known in the Quran as the khalifa of Allah: “O David! We did indeed make thee a vicegerent on earth” (Sa’d 38:26) In the Traditions several episodes from various parts of the Bible relating to the wars of the Israelites with the Midianites and Philistines are connected with his name.

David as model Muslim worshipper

As well as his praises, David is known in Islam for his piety. Masudi believed that the building known as the Citadel or Tower of David in Jerusalem housed, at its highest point, the mihrab Duwud, the place where David prostrated and worshipped. The following hadith shows that Muslims believe David was a true Muslim when he prostrated in worshipped : “So David was one of those prophets whom Prophet (Muhammad) was ordered to follow. David prostrated, so Allah’s Apostle (Muhammad) performed this prostration too.” (Bukhari Volume 6 Book 60 Number 331)
According to this next hadith fasting was said to be the normal practice of David; “Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin Al-‘As: The Prophet said, “Then fast like the fasting of David who used to fast on alternate days and would never flee from the battle field, on meeting the enemy. (Bukhari Volume 3, Book 31, Number 200)

David and Goliath

Muhammad knew that David slew Goliath (Al-Baqarrah 2:251) but mistakenly places the setting in the context of the life of Gideon. Goliath is referred to as Talut; this may be something to do with Muhammad expressing himself as a poet for we have several couplets in the Quran; Jalut and Talut (Saul), Habil and Qabil (Abel and Cain) and Harut and Marut, the two spirits who taught sorcery.

David’s wisdom

David, shares with his son Solomon, the gift of wisdom (An-Naml 27:15), together they gave judgement over the damage caused by some sheep in a field (Al-Anbiya 21:78). In another passage David judged between two litigants who reached him by climbing over a wall while he was at prayer, even without hearing the full case (Sa’d 38:21-24). The reference to the ninety-nine sheep seems to indicate some confusion with the biblical text which relates Nathan’s parable to David (2 Samuel 12).

David, the inventor of coats of mail

According to the Quran David is thought to be the inventor of coats of mail (Al-Anbiya 21:80) and iron seems to have been pliable in his hands (Saba’ 34:10).

David curses the Sabbath-breakers

Al Baqarrah 2:65 states that Sabbath breakers were turned into monkeys and expositors link this with the curse of David (Al-Maidah 5:78) when they transgressed beyond proscribed bounds.

Some Muslim apologists find the coming of Muhammad prophesied in the Zabur as well as in the Tawrat but Ibn Hazm criticises several passages of the Psalms as being forgeries.

David and the Muslim commentators

Although they agree in the main points with the biblical record Tabari makes Goliath (Jalut) to be a descendent of the ‘Adites and the Thamudites. They attack Saul (Talut) and David after killing Goliath with a sling then he marries Talut’s daughter and shares his authority. Talut becomes jealous and tries to kill him so David flees, hides in a cave to which a spider weaves its web, thus protecting David from Saul. Tabari gives David‘s genealogy, tells the story of Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, David’s repentance and the plan to build the temple.

The Christian and the Book of Psalms

Christians worship the same God as the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, in their time of adversity they appealed to God for help; when they experienced abundant provision, they gave thanks. In the Book of Psalms we are united in worship with biblical characters such as Moses, David, Solomon, Asaph, Heman, and the sons of Korah but they are ascribed to David because he is the author of most of them.

Christianity is a religion with a song and follows the example of David “the sweet Psalmist of Israel”. He organised a choir of godly people to sing praises during worship (1 Chronicles 6:31, 16:4-8). Solomon continued this good practice in the first temple (2 Chronicles 5:12,13). When the second temple was built Ezra re-instated this worshipful practice (Ezra 3:10-11). The Jews sang these ‘songs of Zion’ (Psalm 137:3).

Christ approved the singing of the Psalms in worship (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26) and the Apostle Paul commanded it (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16). The practice has continued down to our present day, so that Christians are worshipping with the same words that Moses, David, Solomon and others used – words that are suitable for all.

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Individual Eschatology concerns the condition of the individual between his death and the general resurrection at the close of the age.

THE MAHDI
December 2020

The Mahdi literally means “the guided one”, and has come to mean in an individual way, the divinely guided one. While Allah himself is called al-Hadi in the Quran (Al-Hajj 22:54; Al-Furqan 25:31) the figure of al-mahdi or mahdi, and his mission is not mentioned at all. Islam uses the term of certain individuals in the past and of an eschatological individual in the future. The Mahdi is interpreted differently by Sunnis and Shi’a although both look for one who will arise to restore the purity of Islam and usher in a Golden Age in which Islamic revelation will reign in the ideal community, the umma.

There is a general belief amongst Muslims that the living Muhammad intercedes for them at the throne of God. The Wahhabi’s state that the intercession of their Prophet is only by the permission of Allah on the Last Day and that there will be no intercession for sins until the Day of Judgement. In principle the Quran denies that there is an intercessor with Allah. However, there are a few passages which suggest that under certain circumstances Allah does allow someone to intercede. It seems that Muhammad’s intercession is available for the Muslim as he/she invokes the blessings of Allah upon the Prophet.

The appearance of the Anti-Christ (ad-Dajjal)

Resurrection and the Last Judgement Al-Qiyama

THE SECOND COMING
December 2020

Questions and Answers about the Second Coming of Christ which are held by orthodox Muslims

Both the Quran and Tradition present their picture of ‘Isa. They give him a high place among the prophets; they affirm his sinless-ness; they affirm he had power to work miracles but all this does not distinguish Him in any way as to its nature from the other prophets who came before him.

The Quran recognises that David glorified and praised God. The mountains and the birds alternated with him in these praises (Al-Anbiya 21:79, Saba’ 34:10, Sa’d 38:18). Muhammad, it seems, took literally the passages where creatures and elements joined David in their praises so it seems that when David was fatigued Allah caused other parts of nature, both animate and inanimate to relieve him. David is presented as a model Muslim, praising Allah, fasting, prostrating, acting justly and fighting for the honour of Allah

The title Tawrat is given in the Quran and all Muslim works for the Book of Moses (in Hebrew Torah stands for ‘the Law’). The term tawrat is found in the Medina period. Muslim scholars accept that the Tawrat teaches the unity of God yet believe it falls short of the full revelation as it does not give an account of the stated method of prayers (Al-Fath 48:29), the fast, a detailed description of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem and alms-giving, nor is there anything regarding heaven and hell. For these reasons the Tawrat is said to have been altered by the Jews.