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21:80 David: The Garment of God Consiousness

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It was We Who taught him the making of coats of mail for your benefit, to guard you from each other’s violence: will ye then be grateful?

The noun labus is synonymous with libas or libs, signifying “a garment” or “garments”
Lisan al-‘Arab). But since this term has occasionally been used by pre-islamic Arabs in the sense
of “mail” or “coats of mail” (ibid.), the classical commentators assume that it has this meaning
in the above context as well; and in this they rely on the – otherwise unsupported – statement of
the tabi’i Qatadah to the effect that “David was the first to make chain mail” (Tabari).
they understand the term ba’s which occurs at the end of the sentence in its secondary sense of
“war” or “warlike violence”, and interpret the relevant part of the verse thus: “We taught him
how to make coats of mail for you, so that they might fortify you against your [mutual acts of]
violence”, or “against [the effects of] your warlike violence”. One should, however, bear in mind
that ba’s signifies also “harm”, “misfortune”, “distress”, etc., as well as “danger”; hence it
denotes, it its widest sense, anything that causes distress or fear (Taj al-‘Arus). If we adopt
this last meaning, the term labas may be understood in its primary significance of “garment” –
in this case, the metaphorical “garment of God-consciousness” (libas at-taqwa) of Which the
speaks in 7:26. Rendered in this sense, the above verse expresses the idea that the Almighty
David how to imbue his followers with that deep God-consciousness which frees men from all
distress and all fears, whether it be fear of one another or the subconscious fear of the Unknown.
The concluding rhetorical question, “but are you grateful [for this boon]?” implies that, as a rule,
man does not fully realize – and, hence, is not really grateful for – the spiritual bounty thus
offered him by God.


Asad, Muhammad (1980). The Message of the Quran.

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