Note: this article is an extension of a series “Concept of Good Governance in Islam” (click for the first part), and is the fourth article of the series, previous part was “Governance of Prophet Musa.”
Surah Al-Baqarah, being the largest Surah of Quran, encompasses many lessons in it. One of them lies in the story of Talut and Jalut. For an ordinary person, the story of Talut and Jalut might be a typical story where a heroic personality descends from heavens to stand up against the evil monarch of that time and eventually freeze people from the injustice of monarch. But as ALLAH promises, that Quran has signed for those who seek wisdom, this story is also not an ordinary one!
Talut and Jalut in Quran
This story of Talut and Jalut is explained in Surah Al Baqara from verse 246-252. As its legacy of Quran, verses grouped contextually. These verses are as follows:
أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى ٱلْمَلَإِ مِنۢ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ مِنۢ بَعْدِ مُوسَىٰٓ إِذْ قَالُوا۟ لِنَبِىٍّ لَّهُمُ ٱبْعَثْ لَنَا مَلِكًا نُّقَٰتِلْ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ هَلْ عَسَيْتُمْ إِن كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ ٱلْقِتَالُ أَلَّا تُقَٰتِلُوا۟ ۖ قَالُوا۟ وَمَا لَنَآ أَلَّا نُقَٰتِلَ فِى سَبِيلِ ٱللَّهِ وَقَدْ أُخْرِجْنَا مِن دِيَٰرِنَا وَأَبْنَآئِنَا ۖ فَلَمَّا كُتِبَ عَلَيْهِمُ ٱلْقِتَالُ تَوَلَّوْا۟ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّنْهُمْ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ عَلِيمٌۢ بِٱلظَّٰلِمِينَ (٢٤٦)
Have you not considered the assembly of the Children of Israel after [the time of] Moses when they said to a prophet of theirs, “Send us a king, and we will fight in the way of Allah “? He said, “Would you perhaps refrain from fighting if fighting was prescribed for you?” They said, “And why should we not fight in the cause of Allah when we have been driven out from our homes and our children?” But when fighting was prescribed for them, they turned away, except for a few of them. And Allah knows of the wrongdoers.
وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نَبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ قَدْ بَعَثَ لَكُمْ طَالُوتَ مَلِكًا ۚ قَالُوٓا۟ أَنَّىٰ يَكُونُ لَهُ ٱلْمُلْكُ عَلَيْنَا وَنَحْنُ أَحَقُّ بِٱلْمُلْكِ مِنْهُ وَلَمْ يُؤْتَ سَعَةً مِّنَ ٱلْمَالِ ۚ قَالَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ٱصْطَفَىٰهُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَزَادَهُۥ بَسْطَةً فِى ٱلْعِلْمِ وَٱلْجِسْمِ ۖ وَٱللَّهُ يُؤْتِى مُلْكَهُۥ مَن يَشَآءُ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ وَٰسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ (٢٤٧)
And their prophet said to them, “Indeed, Allah has sent to you Saul (Talut) like a king.” They said, “How can he have kingship over us while we are more worthy of kingship than him and he has not been given any measure of wealth?” He said, “Indeed, Allah has chosen him over you and has increased him abundantly in knowledge and stature. And Allah gives His sovereignty to whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing [in favor] and Knowing.”
وَقَالَ لَهُمْ نَبِيُّهُمْ إِنَّ ءَايَةَ مُلْكِهِۦٓ أَن يَأْتِيَكُمُ ٱلتَّابُوتُ فِيهِ سَكِينَةٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَبَقِيَّةٌ مِّمَّا تَرَكَ ءَالُ مُوسَىٰ وَءَالُ هَٰرُونَ تَحْمِلُهُ ٱلْمَلَٰٓئِكَةُ ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ لَءَايَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ (٢٤٨)
And their prophet said to them, “Indeed, a sign of his kingship is that the chest will come to you in which is an assurance from your Lord and a remnant of what the family of Moses and the family of Aaron had left, carried by the angels. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.”
فَلَمَّا فَصَلَ طَالُوتُ بِٱلْجُنُودِ قَالَ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ مُبْتَلِيكُم بِنَهَرٍ فَمَن شَرِبَ مِنْهُ فَلَيْسَ مِنِّى وَمَن لَّمْ يَطْعَمْهُ فَإِنَّهُۥ مِنِّىٓ إِلَّا مَنِ ٱغْتَرَفَ غُرْفَةًۢ بِيَدِهِۦ ۚ فَشَرِبُوا۟ مِنْهُ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِّنْهُمْ ۚ فَلَمَّا جَاوَزَهُۥ هُوَ وَٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُوا۟ مَعَهُۥ قَالُوا۟ لَا طَاقَةَ لَنَا ٱلْيَوْمَ بِجَالُوتَ وَجُنُودِهِۦ ۚ قَالَ ٱلَّذِينَ يَظُنُّونَ أَنَّهُم مُّلَٰقُوا۟ ٱللَّهِ كَم مِّن فِئَةٍ قَلِيلَةٍ غَلَبَتْ فِئَةً كَثِيرَةًۢ بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ ۗ وَٱللَّهُ مَعَ ٱلصَّٰبِرِينَ (٢٤٩)
And when Saul (Talut) went forth with the soldiers, he said, “Indeed, Allah will be testing you with a river. So whoever drinks from it is not of me, and whoever does not taste it is indeed of me, excepting one who takes [from it] in the hollow of his hand.” But they drank from it, except a [very] few of them. Then when he had crossed it along with those who believed with him, they said, “There is no power for us today against Goliath (Talut) and his soldiers.” But those who were confident that they would meet Allah said, “How many a small company has overcome a large corporation by permission of Allah. And Allah is with the patient.”
وَلَمَّا بَرَزُوا۟ لِجَالُوتَ وَجُنُودِهِۦ قَالُوا۟ رَبَّنَآ أَفْرِغْ عَلَيْنَا صَبْرًا وَثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَنَا وَٱنصُرْنَا عَلَى ٱلْقَوْمِ ٱلْكَٰفِرِينَ (٢٥٠)
And when they went forth to [face] Goliath and his soldiers, they said, “Our Lord, pour upon us patience and plant firmly our feet and give us victory over the disbelieving people.”
فَهَزَمُوهُم بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ وَقَتَلَ دَاوُۥدُ جَالُوتَ وَءَاتَىٰهُ ٱللَّهُ ٱلْمُلْكَ وَٱلْحِكْمَةَ وَعَلَّمَهُۥ مِمَّا يَشَآءُ ۗ وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ ٱللَّهِ ٱلنَّاسَ بَعْضَهُم بِبَعْضٍ لَّفَسَدَتِ ٱلْأَرْضُ وَلَٰكِنَّ ٱللَّهَ ذُو فَضْلٍ عَلَى ٱلْعَٰلَمِينَ (٢٥١)
So they defeated them by permission of Allah, and David killed Goliath, and Allah gave him the kingship and prophethood and taught him from that which He willed. And if it were not for Allah checking [some] people using others, the earth would have been corrupted, but Allah is full of bounty to the worlds.
تِلْكَ ءَايَٰتُ ٱللَّهِ نَتْلُوهَا عَلَيْكَ بِٱلْحَقِّ ۚ وَإِنَّكَ لَمِنَ ٱلْمُرْسَلِينَ (٢٥٢)
These are the verses of Allah which We recite to you, [O Muhammad], in truth. And indeed, you are from among the messengers.
Lessons from Story of Talut and Jalut
Jalut was a cruel king of people of Israel. Bani Israel prayed for a just king who could save them from the cruelty of the unjust Jalut. ALLAH selected Talut on request of masses. An ordinary farmer of young age, with no political background, was chosen for the purpose of leading people. But he was strong and sharp of mind, which gave him importance over others. As told in above verses, even people doubted him of his poverty, but ALLAH had his plans indeed! And we see at the end; this ordinary man won over the mighty cruel king Jalut.
Since Jalut’s army was massive, Talut tested his command before initiating the war against Jalut. This step was critical since Jalut had a massive army and only those could fight him which were strong in their faith and commitment. It depicts a wise practice of good governance, and command and control. Only those, who passed the test, went on in the battle. However, Talut like a responsible leader informed his men in advance and guided them about passing the test. Still many of them failed.
Let’s focus on the second last verse, where ALLAH beautifully explains the paradox of worldly life, where everything is kept in check and balance using another thing, and the cycle goes on. Certainly, the brutality of Jalut was put to an end by Talbot. That is the way of ALLAH, and he extends something, and upon reaching limits, He retreats!