Quranic Reflection No 610 Āyat 21:79 – Glorification of the mountains and birds

وَسَخَّرْنَا مَعَ دَاوُودَ الْجِبَالَ يُسَبِّحْنَ وَالطَّيْرَ

We made the mountains and the birds to glorify with Dāwūd.

(Surat al-Anbiyā, No.21, Āyat 79)

All creation glorifies Allah ‘azza wajall. Glorification or ‘tasbīh’ is an innate admission of submission and insignificance, of accepting the Lordship and Magnificence of the creator, and acknowledging that He is far above anything the human being can comprehend. The Quran says that every single creation in the Heavens and the Earth glorifies God:

وَإِن مِّن شَيْءٍ إِلَّا يُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِهِ وَلَٰكِن لَّا تَفْقَهُونَ تَسْبِيحَهُمْ ۗ

And there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorification (Q 17:44).

The verse above talks about a special form of glorification granted to Prophet Dāwūd ‘alayhis-salām. The mountains and the birds glorified Allah with him. Whenever he glorified Allah subhānahu wata‘ālā , they also joined him in this holy act. This unique gift given to him is also mentioned in other verses of the Quran. Allah says:

(١٨)إِنَّا سَخَّرْنَا الْجِبَالَ مَعَهُ يُسَبِّحْنَ بِالْعَشِيِّ وَالْإِشْرَاقِ

(وَالطَّيْرَ مَحْشُورَةً ۖ كُلٌّ لَّهُ أَوَّابٌ (١٩

Surely, We made the mountains to sing the glory of Allah along with him at the evening and dawn. And the birds in flocks all joined in singing with him (Q 38:18-19)

How exactly did the mountains and birds join Prophet Dāwūd (a) in glorifying Allah. Glorification is usually understood to be verbal, so how does a mountain glorify Allah? Tafsīr Namūneh has the following understandings of this verse:

1) The voice of Prophet Dāwūd (a) was so beautiful and loud, it would echo in the mountains and the birds would be drawn to it.

2) All of creation has an inner sense of awareness and communicate in ways which humans cannot always comprehend. When Prophet Dāwūd (a) glorified Allah, its appeal was such that the mountains and birds were attracted to it, and glorified Allah along with him in their own way.

 3) Glorification of Allah is of two types. One is the verbal glorification, where each sound that is created, audible to the human being or inaudible, is a hymn of glorification. The other form of glorification is the existential glorification, where the very existence of a created being and how it is innately guided to play its role on earth, is a proof of the glory of God. The wonders present within each created being are testimony to the greatness and perfection of God. Although this second form of glorification always exists, not everyone is cognizant of it. Prophet Dāwūd (a) was given that special blessing of being aware of the existential glorification of the mountains and birds and was in harmony with them.

Although these are three different interpretations it is possible that all three were true in some way. Imam al-Sādiq (a) says: Whenever Prophet Dāwūd (a) would recite the Zabūr, every mountain, and stone, and bird, would answer him. (Hadith quoted in Tafsīr-e Namūneh).

‘Allāmah Majlisī narrates a story about the glorification of Prophet Dāwūd (a).  Imam al-Sadiq narrates that once Dāwūd (a) said, ‘Today I will worship my Lord and recite Zabūr in an unprecedented manner.’ Then he went into his niche and did as he had planned. When he concluded his prayers, a frog appeared suddenly and spoke to him by the command of Allah, “O Dāwūd! Are you pleased with this worship and recitation made by you now?” Dāwūd replied in the affirmative. The frog then told him ‘O Prophet of God, do not be too pleased with your glorification of God. Each night I and my kind glorify God a thousand times and each glorification is followed by three praises. We do this from our home in the water’.

This verse teaches us that all creation in this universe glorify Allah, but only some people are aware of it. Prophet Dāwūd (a) was one who received this special gift.

Sources: Āyatullāh Nāsir Makārim Shirāzī (ed), Tafsīr-e Namūneh.