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Story of worshipping the Calf Print E-mail

Allah describes the misguidance of those who worshipped the calf that As-Samiri made for them from the ornaments they borrowed from the Copts. He made the shape of a calf with these ornaments and threw in it a handful of dust from the trace of the horse that the Angel Jibril was riding, and the calf seemed to moo. This occurred after Musa went for the appointed term with his Lord, where Allah told him about what happened when he was on Mount Tur. Allah said about His Honorable Self,

﴿قَالَ فَإِنَّا قَدْ فَتَنَّا قَوْمَكَ مِن بَعْدِكَ وَأَضَلَّهُمُ السَّامِرِىُّ ﴾

((Allah) said: "Verily, We have tried your people in your absence, and As-Samiri has led them astray'') ﴿20:85﴾. The scholars of Tafsir have different views over the calf, whether it actually became alive and mooing, or if it remained made of gold, but the air entering it made it appear to be mooing. These are two opinions. Allah knows best. It was reported that when the statue mooed, the Jews started dancing around it and fell into misguidance because they adored it. They said that this, the calf, is your god and the god of Musa, but Musa forgot it! Allah answered them,

﴿أَفَلاَ يَرَوْنَ أَلاَّ يَرْجِعُ إِلَيْهِمْ قَوْلاً وَلاَ يَمْلِكُ لَهُمْ ضَرّاً وَلاَ نَفْعاً ﴾

(Did they not see that it could not return them a word (for answer), and that it had neither power to harm them nor to do them good) ﴿20:89﴾. Allah said here,

﴿أَلَمْ يَرَوْاْ أَنَّهُ لاَ يُكَلِّمُهُمْ وَلاَ يَهْدِيهِمْ سَبِيلاً﴾

(Did they not see that it could neither speak to them nor guide them to the way) Allah condemned the Jews for falling into misguidance, worshipping the calf and ignoring the Creator of the heavens and earth, the Lord and King of all things. They worshipped besides Him a statue made in the shape of a calf, that seemed to moo, but it neither spoke to them nor brought them any benefit. Rather, their very sense of reason was blinded because of ignorance and misguidance. Allah's statement,

﴿وَلَمَّا سُقِطَ فَى أَيْدِيهِمْ﴾

(And when they regretted), and felt sorrow for their action,

﴿وَرَأَوْاْ أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ ضَلُّواْ قَالُواْ لَئِن لَّمْ يَرْحَمْنَا رَبُّنَا وَيَغْفِرْ لَنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَـسِرِينَ﴾

(and saw that they had gone astray, they said: "If our Lord have not mercy upon us and forgive us, we will certainly become among the losers.'') or among the destroyed ones. This was their recognition of their sin and their way of seeking salvation from Allah the Most Mighty and Majestic.

﴿وَلَمَّا رَجَعَ مُوسَى إِلَى قَوْمِهِ غَضْبَـنَ أَسِفًا قَالَ بِئْسَمَا خَلَفْتُمُونِى مِن بَعْدِى أَعَجِلْتُمْ أَمْرَ رَبِّكُمْ وَأَلْقَى الأَلْوَاحَ وَأَخَذَ بِرَأْسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ إِلَيْهِ قَالَ ابْنَ أُمَّ إِنَّ الْقَوْمَ اسْتَضْعَفُونِى وَكَادُواْ يَقْتُلُونَنِى فَلاَ تُشْمِتْ بِىَ الأَعْدَآءَ وَلاَ تَجْعَلْنِى مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّـلِمِينَ - قَالَ رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِى وَلأَخِى وَأَدْخِلْنَا فِي رَحْمَتِكَ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَحِمِينَ ﴾

(150. And when Musa returned to his people, angry and grieved, he said: "What an evil thing is that which you have done during my absence. Did you hasten in matter of your Lord'' And he threw down the Tablets and seized his brother by (the hair of) his head and dragged him towards him. He (Harun) said: "O son of my mother! Indeed the people judged me weak and were about to kill me, so make not the enemies rejoice over me, nor put me among the people who are wrongdoers.'') (151. He (Musa) said: "O my Lord! Forgive me and my brother, and admit us into Your mercy, for You are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy.'') Allah states that when Musa returned to his people after conversation with his Lord, he became angry and full of regret. Abu Ad-Darda' said that Asif, or regret, is the severest type of anger.

﴿قَالَ بِئْسَمَا خَلَفْتُمُونِى مِن بَعْدِى﴾

(He (Musa) said: "What an evil thing is that which you have done during my absence.'') evil it is that which you committed after I departed and left you, by worshiping the calf,

﴿أَعَجِلْتُمْ أَمْرَ رَبِّكُمْ﴾

(Did you hasten in the matter of your Lord) Musa said, `You wanted me to rush back to you, even though ﴿being there﴾ this was Allah's decision' Allah said next,

﴿وَأَلْقَى الأَلْوَاحَ وَأَخَذَ بِرَأْسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ إِلَيْهِ﴾

(And he threw down the Tablets and seized his brother by his head and dragged him towards him.) This Ayah demonstrates the meaning of the Hadith,

«لَيْسَ الْخَبَرُ كَالْمُعَايَنَة»

(Information is not the same as observation.) It indicates that Musa threw down the Tablets because he was angry at his people, according to the majority of scholars of early and latter times. Allah said,

﴿وَأَخَذَ بِرَأْسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ إِلَيْهِ﴾

(and seized his brother by (the hair of) his head and dragged him towards him.) for Musa feared that Harun might have not tried hard enough to forbid them from their evil action. In another Ayah, Allah said,

﴿قَالَ يهَـرُونُ مَا مَنَعَكَ إِذْ رَأَيْتَهُمْ ضَلُّواْ - أَلاَّ تَتَّبِعَنِ أَفَعَصَيْتَ أَمْرِى - قَالَ يَبْنَؤُمَّ لاَ تَأْخُذْ بِلِحْيَتِى وَلاَ بِرَأْسِى إِنِّى خَشِيتُ أَن تَقُولَ فَرَّقْتَ بَيْنَ بَنِى إِسْرءِيلَ وَلَمْ تَرْقُبْ قَوْلِى ﴾

.(He ﴿Musa﴾ said: "O Harun ! What prevented you when you saw them going astray. That you followed me not (according to my advice to you) Have you then disobeyed my order'' He ﴿Harun﴾ said: "O son of my mother! Seize (me) not by my beard, nor by my head! Verily, I feared lest you should say: `You have caused a division among the Children of Israel, and you have not respected (waited or observed) my word!''') ﴿20:92-94﴾. Here, Allah said that Harun said,

﴿ابْنَ أُمَّ إِنَّ الْقَوْمَ اسْتَضْعَفُونِى وَكَادُواْ يَقْتُلُونَنِى فَلاَ تُشْمِتْ بِىَ الأَعْدَآءَ وَلاَ تَجْعَلْنِى مَعَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّـلِمِينَ﴾

("O son of my mother! Indeed the people judged me weak and were about to kill me, so make not the enemies rejoice over me, nor put me among the people who are wrongdoers.'') Harun said, `Do not place me on the same level as they are, as if I was one of them.' Further, Harun said, `O son of my mother', so that Musa would feel more mercy and leniency towards him, even though Harun was also the son of Musa's father. When Musa was satisfied that his brother was innocent,

﴿وَلَقَدْ قَالَ لَهُمْ هَـرُونُ مِن قَبْلُ يقَوْمِ إِنَّمَا فُتِنتُمْ بِهِ وَإِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ الرَّحْمَـنُ فَاتَّبِعُونِى وَأَطِيعُواْ أَمْرِى ﴾

(And Harun indeed had said to them beforehand: "O my people! You are being tried in this, and verily, your Lord is (Allah) the Most Gracious, so follow me and obey my order.'') ﴿20:90﴾, this is when,

﴿قَالَ﴾

(he said) Musa,

﴿رَبِّ اغْفِرْ لِى وَلأَخِى وَأَدْخِلْنَا فِي رَحْمَتِكَ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَحِمِينَ﴾

("O my Lord! Forgive me and my brother, and admit us into Your mercy, for you are the Most Merciful of those who show mercy.'') Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ibn `Abbas said that the Messenger of Allah said,

«يَرْحَمُ اللهُ مُوسَى لَيْسَ الْمُعَايِنُ كَالْمُخْبِرِ أَخْبَرَهُ رَبُّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ أَنَّ قَوْمَهُ فُتِنُوا بَعْدَهُ فَلَمْ يَلْقَ الْأَلْوَاحَ فَلَمَّا رَآهُمْ وَعَايَنَهُمْ أَلْقَى الْأَلْوَاح»

(May Allah grant His mercy to Musa! Surely, he who observes ﴿something﴾ is nothing like he who is informed about it. His Lord, the Exalted and Most Honored, told him that his people were tested after him, but he did not throw the Tablets. When he saw them with his eyes, then he threw the Tablets.)

﴿إِنَّ الَّذِينَ اتَّخَذُواْ الْعِجْلَ سَيَنَالُهُمْ غَضَبٌ مِّن رَّبِّهِمْ وَذِلَّةٌ فِى الْحَيوةِ الدُّنْيَا وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِى الْمُفْتَرِينَ - وَالَّذِينَ عَمِلُواْ السَّيِّئَاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُواْ مِن بَعْدِهَا وَءَامَنُواْ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِن بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴾

(152. Certainly, those who took the calf (for worship), wrath from their Lord and humiliation will come upon them in the life of this world. Thus do We recompense those who invent lies.) (153. But those who committed evil deeds and then repented afterwards and believed, verily, your Lord after (all) that is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) The `wrath' mentioned here that struck the Children of Israel because of their worshipping the calf, means, Allah did not accept their repentance until some of them ﴿who did not worship the calf﴾ killed others ﴿who worshipped the calf﴾. We mentioned this story in Surat Al-Baqarah,

﴿فَتُوبُواْ إِلَى بَارِئِكُمْ فَاقْتُلُواْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ عِندَ بَارِئِكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ﴾

(So turn in repentance to your Creator and kill yourselves (the guilty), that will be better for you before your Creator.'' Then He accepted your repentance. Truly, He is the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.) ﴿2:54﴾ As for the humiliation mentioned in the Ayah, it pertains to the disgrace and humiliation that the Jews suffered in the life of this world. Allah's statement,

﴿وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِى الْمُفْتَرِينَ﴾

(Thus do We recompense those who invent lies) is for all those who invent an innovation (in religion). Surely, the disgrace resulting from inventing an innovation (in religion) and defying Allah's Message, will be placed in the heart and from there on to the shoulders. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said; "The disgrace of innovation will weigh on their shoulders even if they were to gallop on their mules or trot on their work horses.'' Ayyub As-Sakhtiyani narrated from Abu Qilabah Al-Jarmi that he commented on this Ayah,

﴿وَكَذَلِكَ نَجْزِى الْمُفْتَرِينَ﴾

(Thus do We recompense those who invent lies.) "By Allah! This Ayah is for all those who invent a lie, until the Day of Resurrection.'' Also, Sufyan bin `Uyaynah said, "Every person who invents a Bid`ah (innovation in the religion) will taste disgrace.''Allah tells His servants that He accepts repentance from His servants for any sin, even Shirk, Kufr, hypocrisy and disobedience. Allah said:

﴿وَالَّذِينَ عَمِلُواْ السَّيِّئَاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُواْ مِن بَعْدِهَا وَءَامَنُواْ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ﴾

(But those who committed evil deeds and then repented afterwards and believed, verily, your Lord) O Muhammad, Messenger of Repentance and Prophet of Mercy,

﴿مِن بَعْدِهَا﴾

(after that) after committing that evil action,

﴿لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ﴾

(is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) Ibn Abi Hatim reported that `Abdullah bin Mas`ud was asked about a man committing fornication with a woman and then marrying her, and Ibn Mas`ud recited this Ayah,

﴿وَالَّذِينَ عَمِلُواْ السَّيِّئَاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُواْ مِن بَعْدِهَا وَءَامَنُواْ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِن بَعْدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ رَّحِيمٌ ﴾

(But those who committed evil deeds and then repented afterwards and believed, verily, your Lord after (all) that is indeed Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.) `Abdullah recited this Ayah ten times, neither allowing nor disallowing it.

﴿وَلَمَّا سَكَتَ عَن مُّوسَى الْغَضَبُ أَخَذَ الاٌّلْوَاحَ وَفِى نُسْخَتِهَا هُدًى وَرَحْمَةٌ لِّلَّذِينَ هُمْ لِرَبِّهِمْ يَرْهَبُونَ ﴾

(154. And when the anger of Musa calmed, he took up the Tablets; and in their inscription was guidance and mercy for those who fear their Lord.)

 
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