I need help regarding a supposed historical “error”. It is claimed that chain mail armor was produced and utilised by Prophet Dawud AS. The Prophet AS is said to have lived in the 10th century BCE while chain-mail armor was not invented until the 5th century BCE by the Celts. You can read the tafsir of the verse by ibn Kathir along with others here.

The word in question is ٱلسَّرْدِ (al-sard) which commentators including ibn Abbas RA had interpreted to mean coats made of rings. It is here where the confusion arises. Is this interpretation attributed to the Prophet SAW? If that's the case would it prove the critics' point?

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    Please note that ibn 'Abbas is a knowledgeable Sahabi but he was very young when the prophet died many of his interpretations are ijtihad.
    – Medi1Saif
    Oct 15 '20 at 20:41
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    It is theorized that celts were the ones to invent it, it is not certain. It is quite possible that it was used before in certain other parts of the world but its knowledge had been lost later.
    – UmH
    Oct 16 '20 at 6:52

There are two verses that are relevant:

And We taught him (Dawud) the fashioning of coats of armor to protect you from your [enemy in] battle. So will you then be grateful? (21:80)

[Commanding him], "Make full coats of mail and calculate [precisely] the links, and work [all of you] righteousness. Indeed I, of what you do, am Seeing." (34:11)

The claim that Dawud (AS) was the first to make this type of armor is attributed to Qatadah. This claim appears to be supported by the verse as Allah first says "we taught him" then he ends with "will you then be grateful?" implying that this teaching to him is how we came to know as well.

Another thing to note is that many commentators have said that Dawud (AS) was given the ability to bend iron without needing fire and to make the armor very easily.

The issue is now two-fold: 1) when was Dawud (AS) and 2) when was this armor first invented according to history?

As for the first, any guesses are based on the Bible. That is not the most reliable source. But, it is not difficult to be sure that Dawud (AS) was long before the 5th century.

As for the second, it is definitely hard to know. The issue is of course that trying to know the non-existence of something historically is rather difficult. It is much easier to prove the existence of something rather than the non-existence.

To prove that something was invented at a certain point, one needs to prove that it existed after that point and did not exist before it. We certainly know that the Celts had this type of armor. But, do we know that it did not exist before them?

This is the point of doubt. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is a theory that it was invented by them but not proven fact.

It is not hard to imagine that Dawud (AS) was the first to make them and he was given ability to mold them easily, but they did not spread to widespread use other than Dawud (AS) because it was hard for others to manufacture them, then they resurfaced when people figured out how to manufacture them well.

And Allah knows best.


It was probably a scale armour, bond together with lacing made out of leather thongs. However, David refused it:

1 Samuel 17:34-39

And David said, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." And Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you!" Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a helmet of bronze on his head, and clothed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword over his armor, and he tried in vain to go, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul, "I cannot go with these; for I am not used to them." And David put them off.

By the way, the era of the King David was the beginning of the iron-age; maybe «We made the iron soft for him» refers to this?

  • It may as well be lamellar armor. Wikipedia states that this armor was first used by ancient Egyptians but was spearheaded and popularised by the Persians/Sassanids in 10th/9th century BCE. That's contemporaneous to Dawud AS and Sulayman AS. Either it was the former who popularised the armor and the Sassanids adapted it for their own use or it's the other way around. Wallahualam
    – Afiq
    Oct 16 '20 at 5:02

If the Qur'an is accepted as accurate, the only logical conclusion is that "coats of mail" made from "rings of chain armour" existed at the time of David and, as UmH has intimated in their comment, it was therefore not invented by the Celts.

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