Al-Quran Surah 38. Sad, Ayah 21

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۞ وَهَلْ أَتَاكَ نَبَأُ الْخَصْمِ إِذْ تَسَوَّرُوا الْمِحْرَابَ


Asad : AND YET, has the story of the litigants come within thy ken- [the story of the two] who surmounted the walls of the sanctuary [in which David prayed ?22
Khattab :

Has the story of the two plaintiffs, who scaled the ˹wall of David’s˺ sanctuary, reached you ˹O Prophet˺?

Malik : Have you heard the story of the two litigants who made an entry into his private chamber through climbing over the wall?
Pickthall : And hath the story of the litigants come unto thee? How they climbed the wall into the royal chamber;
Yusuf Ali : Has the Story of the Disputants reached thee? Behold they climbed over the wall of the private chamber; 4171
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Asad   
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Asad 22 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 elect, the prophets - all of whom were endowed, like David, with "wisdom and sagacity in judgment" - 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" (ma'sum). 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 very 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. On 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 Bath-Sheba (II 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-Musayyab): "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). According to most of the commentators, the two "litigants" who suddenly appeared before David were angels sent to bring home to him his sin. It is possible, however, to see in their appearance an allegory of David's own realization of having sinned: voices of his own conscience which at last "surmounted the walls" of the passion that had blinded him for a time.

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Yusuf Ali   
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Yusuf Ali 4171 This story or Parable is not found in the Bible, unless the vision here described be considered as equivalent to Nathan's parable in 11 Samuel, xi, and xii. Baidhawi would seem to favour that view, but other Commentators reject it. David was a pious man, and he had a well-guarded private chamber (mihrab) for Prayer and Praise.

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