Zabur (Arabic: زبور) is, according to Islam, the holy book of Dawud (David), one of the holy books revealed by God before the Quran, alongside others such as the Tawrat (Torah) of Musa (Moses) and the Injil (Gospel) of Jesus (Jesus).

Some scholars equate the Zabur with the biblical book of Psalms. The term zabur is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew zimrah (Hebrew: זִמְרָה), meaning: "song, music." It, along with zamir (Hebrew: זָמִיר) meaning: "song" and "nightingale"-the song bird), mizmor (Hebrew: מִזְמֹר) meaning: "psalm" and zamar/zameret (Hebrew: זַמָּר/זַמֶּרֶת), meaning: a singer (masculine and feminine, respectively)ת derivatives of the Hebrew infinitive verb: (Hebrew: לְזַמֵּר), meaning: "sing, sing praise, make music."[1]

However, unavoidably, the word also bears uncanny sound (pronunciation) resemblance to the Hebrew word of story (Hebrew: סִפּוּר) sipur (with the known linguistic phenomenon of letter interchanging between the various Semitic languages, such as Hebrew and Arabic – i.e. interchange of letters s-z, a-i such as in zapur-sipur) which is most plausible – as, this particular song or psalm necessarily also conveyed a story within it – sung or not.

Among many Christians in the Middle East and in South Asia, the word Zabur (Hindustani: زبُور (Nastaleeq), ज़बूर (Devanagari)) is used for Psalms in the Bible.[2]


The Qur'an refers to the Zabur of Dawud (David) as one of God's books revealed to four selected messengers. The Zabur is preceded by the Taurat (Torah), and followed by the Injil (Gospel) given to Jesus and finally by the Qur'an given to the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.

Mention of Zabur in the Qur'an

In the Qur'an, the Zabur is mentioned by name only three times. The Qur'an itself says nothing about the Zabur specifically, except that it was revealed to David, king of Israel and that in Zabur is written "My servants the righteous, shall inherit the earth".[3][4]

We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him: we sent inspiration to Abraham, Isma'il, Ishaq, Yaqub and the Tribes, to Isa, Ayyub, Yunus, Aaron, and Sulayman, and to Dawood We gave the Psalms.
Qur'an, Sura 4 (An-Nisa), ayah 163[5][6]
And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms.
Qur'an, Sura 17 (Al-Isra), ayah 55[7]
Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): My servants the righteous, shall inherit the earth."
Qur'an, sura 21 (Al-Anbiya), ayah 105[4]

Parallel of ayah 21:105 with Psalms

The last reference is of interest because of the quotation from Psalm 37 verse 29 which says, "The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein for ever," (as translated in the King James Version of the Bible).[3]

According to Ahrens (1930) the last reference is quoted from Psalms.[8] He says that the verse in the Qur'an reads "We have written in the Zabur after the reminder that My righteous servants shall inherit the earth." His conclusion is that this verse represents a close and rare linguistic parallel with the Hebrew Bible and more pointedly, with Psalm 37 ascribed specifically to David (see verses 9, 11, 29 which refer to the meek, the righteous or “those who wait upon the Lord” as they who shall inherit the earth).[3][9][10]

Many Muslim scholars think that it also has reference to Exodus 32:13, which reads "Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swearest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever."[11]

Zabur in Sunni Hadith

One hadith, considered valid by Muhammad al-Bukhari, says:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "The reciting of the Zabur (i.e. Psalms) 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. And he would never eat except from the earnings of his manual work."

Zabur and Ketuvim

Christian apologist Karl Gottlieb Pfander suggested that the Qur'an's reference to Zabur actually refers to the third division of the Hebrew Scriptures, known as the Writings or Ketuvim, a broader grouping of Jewish holy books encompassing the Psalms and other collections of Hebrew literature and poetry. [12]

Zabur Writings

Zabur was a writing system in ancient Yemen along with Musnad. The difference between the two is that Musnad documented historical events, meanwhile Zabur Writings were used for religious scripts or to record daily transactions among ancient Yemenis. Zabur Writings could be found on palimpsest form written on papyri or palm-leaf stalks.[13][14]

See also


  1. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, pg. 245.
  2. Shahîd, Irfan (1 January 1989). Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fifth Century. Dumbarton Oaks. p. 520. ISBN 9780884021520.
  3. 1 2 3 Psalms 37:29
  4. 1 2 Quran 21:105 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)
  5. Quran 4:163 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)
  6. See also Ibrāhīm, Ismā'īl, Ishaq, Jakub, Ayyub, Yunus, Harun and Sulayman
  7. Quran 17:55 (Translated by Yusuf Ali)
  8. K. Ahrens, Christliches im Qoran, in ZDMG , lxxxiv (1930), 29
  9. Psalms 37:9
  10. Psalms 37:11
  11. Exodus 32:13
  12. C. G. Pfander, The Balance of Truth, pg. 51
  13. Inscribed old south Arabian Sticks and palm-leaf stalks: An introduction and a paleographical approach Jacques Ryckmans p.127
  14. S. Horovitz, Koranische Untersuchungen, p. 70
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