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Story of worshipping the Calf

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 قَدۡ فَتَنَّا قَوۡمَكَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِكَ وَأَضَلَّهُمُ ٱلسَّامِرِىُّ

((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,

﴿ أَفَلَا يَرَوۡنَ أَلَّا يَرۡجِعُ إِلَيۡهِمۡ قَوۡلاً۬ وَلَا يَمۡلِكُ لَهُمۡ ضَرًّ۬ا وَلَا نَفۡعً۬ا

(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,

﴿ أَلَمۡ يَرَوۡاْ أَنَّهُ ۥ لَا يُكَلِّمُهُمۡ وَلَا يَہۡدِيہِمۡ سَبِيلاً‌ۘ

(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 فِىٓ أَيۡدِيهِمۡ

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

﴿ وَرَأَوۡاْ أَنَّهُمۡ قَدۡ ضَلُّواْ قَالُواْ لَٮِٕن لَّمۡ يَرۡحَمۡنَا رَبُّنَا وَيَغۡفِرۡ لَنَا لَنَڪُونَنَّ مِنَ ٱلۡخَـٰسِرِينَ

(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 مُوسَىٰٓ إِلَىٰ قَوۡمِهِۦ غَضۡبَـٰنَ أَسِفً۬ا قَالَ بِئۡسَمَا خَلَفۡتُمُونِى مِنۢ بَعۡدِىٓ‌ۖ أَعَجِلۡتُمۡ أَمۡرَ رَبِّكُمۡ‌ۖ وَأَلۡقَى ٱلۡأَلۡوَاحَ وَأَخَذَ بِرَأۡسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ ۥۤ إِلَيۡهِ‌ۚ قَالَ ٱبۡنَ أُمَّ إِنَّ ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱسۡتَضۡعَفُونِى وَكَادُواْ يَقۡتُلُونَنِى فَلَا تُشۡمِتۡ بِىَ ٱلۡأَعۡدَآءَ وَلَا تَجۡعَلۡنِى مَعَ ٱلۡقَوۡمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ قَالَ رَبِّ ٱغۡفِرۡ لِى وَلِأَخِى وَأَدۡخِلۡنَا فِى رَحۡمَتِكَ‌ۖ وَأَنتَ أَرۡحَمُ ٱلرَّٲحِمِينَ

(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 بِئۡسَمَا خَلَفۡتُمُونِى مِنۢ بَعۡدِىٓ‌ۖ

(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,

﴿ أَعَجِلۡتُمۡ أَمۡرَ رَبِّكُمۡ‌ۖ

(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,

﴿ وَأَلۡقَى ٱلۡأَلۡوَاحَ وَأَخَذَ بِرَأۡسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ ۥۤ إِلَيۡهِ‌ۚ

(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 بِرَأۡسِ أَخِيهِ يَجُرُّهُ ۥۤ إِلَيۡهِ‌ۚ

(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 يَـٰهَـٰرُونُ مَا مَنَعَكَ إِذۡ رَأَيۡتَهُمۡ ضَلُّوٓاْ أَلَّا تَتَّبِعَنِ‌ۖ أَفَعَصَيۡتَ أَمۡرِى قَالَ يَبۡنَؤُمَّ لَا تَأۡخُذۡ بِلِحۡيَتِى وَلَا بِرَأۡسِىٓ‌ۖ إِنِّى خَشِيتُ أَن تَقُولَ فَرَّقۡتَ بَيۡنَ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ وَلَمۡ تَرۡقُبۡ قَوۡلِى

(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,

﴿ ٱبۡنَ أُمَّ إِنَّ ٱلۡقَوۡمَ ٱسۡتَضۡعَفُونِى وَكَادُواْ يَقۡتُلُونَنِى فَلَا تُشۡمِتۡ بِىَ ٱلۡأَعۡدَآءَ وَلَا تَجۡعَلۡنِى مَعَ ٱلۡقَوۡمِ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ

("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,

﴿ وَلَقَدۡ قَالَ لَهُمۡ هَـٰرُونُ مِن قَبۡلُ يَـٰقَوۡمِ إِنَّمَا فُتِنتُم بِهِۦ‌ۖ وَإِنَّ رَبَّكُمُ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنُ فَٱتَّبِعُونِى وَأَطِيعُوٓاْ أَمۡرِى

(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 ٱغۡفِرۡ لِى وَلِأَخِى وَأَدۡخِلۡنَا فِى رَحۡمَتِكَ‌ۖ وَأَنتَ أَرۡحَمُ ٱلرَّٲحِمِينَ

("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 ٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّخَذُواْ ٱلۡعِجۡلَ سَيَنَالُهُمۡ غَضَبٌ۬ مِّن رَّبِّهِمۡ وَذِلَّةٌ۬ فِى ٱلۡحَيَوٰةِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا‌ۚ وَكَذَٲلِكَ نَجۡزِى ٱلۡمُفۡتَرِينَ وَٱلَّذِينَ عَمِلُواْ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُواْ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهَا وَءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

(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,

﴿ فَتُوبُوٓاْ إِلَىٰ بَارِٮِٕكُمۡ فَٱقۡتُلُوٓاْ أَنفُسَكُمۡ ذَٲلِكُمۡ خَيۡرٌ۬ لَّكُمۡ عِندَ بَارِٮِٕكُمۡ فَتَابَ عَلَيۡكُمۡ‌ۚ إِنَّهُ ۥ هُوَ ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ

(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,

﴿ وَكَذَٲلِكَ نَجۡزِى ٱلۡمُفۡتَرِينَ

(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,

﴿ وَكَذَٲلِكَ نَجۡزِى ٱلۡمُفۡتَرِينَ

(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:

﴿ وَٱلَّذِينَ عَمِلُواْ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُواْ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهَا وَءَامَنُوٓاْ 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,

﴿ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهَا

(after that) after committing that evil action,

﴿ لَغَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

(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,

﴿ وَٱلَّذِينَ عَمِلُواْ ٱلسَّيِّـَٔاتِ ثُمَّ تَابُواْ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهَا وَءَامَنُوٓاْ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ مِنۢ بَعۡدِهَا لَغَفُورٌ۬ رَّحِيمٌ۬

(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 ٱلۡغَضَبُ أَخَذَ ٱلۡأَلۡوَاحَ‌ۖ وَفِى نُسۡخَتِہَا هُدً۬ى وَرَحۡمَةٌ۬ لِّلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِرَبِّہِمۡ يَرۡهَبُونَ

(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.)

Musa picked up the Tablets when His Anger subsided

Allah said next,

﴿ وَلَمَّا سَكَتَ

(And when calmed) and subsided,

﴿ عَن مُّوسَى ٱلۡغَضَبُ

(the anger of Musa) with his people,

﴿ أَخَذَ ٱلۡأَلۡوَاحَ‌ۖ

(he took up the Tablets), which he had thrown out of jealousy for Allah and anger for His sake, because of his people worshipping the calf,

﴿ وَفِى نُسۡخَتِہَا هُدً۬ى وَرَحۡمَةٌ۬ لِّلَّذِينَ هُمۡ لِرَبِّہِمۡ يَرۡهَبُونَ

(and in their inscription was guidance and mercy for those who fear their Lord.) Several scholars of Tafsir said that when Musa threw the Tablets on the ground they were shattered and he collected the pieces afterwards. Musa found in its inscription guidance and mercy, but the specific details of the Law was lost, so they said. They also claimed that the shattered pieces of the Tablets still remained in the treasury safes of some Israelite kings until the Islamic State came into existence. Only Allah knows if these statements are true.

﴿ وَٱخۡتَارَ مُوسَىٰ قَوۡمَهُ ۥ سَبۡعِينَ رَجُلاً۬ لِّمِيقَـٰتِنَا‌ۖ فَلَمَّآ أَخَذَتۡہُمُ ٱلرَّجۡفَةُ قَالَ رَبِّ لَوۡ شِئۡتَ أَهۡلَكۡتَهُم مِّن قَبۡلُ وَإِيَّـٰىَ‌ۖ أَتُہۡلِكُنَا بِمَا فَعَلَ ٱلسُّفَهَآءُ مِنَّآ‌ۖ إِنۡ هِىَ إِلَّا فِتۡنَتُكَ تُضِلُّ بِہَا مَن تَشَآءُ وَتَہۡدِى مَن تَشَآءُ‌ۖ أَنتَ وَلِيُّنَا فَٱغۡفِرۡ لَنَا وَٱرۡحَمۡنَا‌ۖ وَأَنتَ خَيۡرُ ٱلۡغَـٰفِرِينَ وَٱڪۡتُبۡ لَنَا فِى هَـٰذِهِ ٱلدُّنۡيَا حَسَنَةً۬ وَفِى ٱلۡأَخِرَةِ إِنَّا هُدۡنَآ إِلَيۡكَ‌ۚ قَالَ عَذَابِىٓ أُصِيبُ بِهِۦ مَنۡ أَشَآءُ‌ۖ وَرَحۡمَتِى وَسِعَتۡ كُلَّ شَىۡءٍ۬‌ۚ فَسَأَكۡتُبُہَا لِلَّذِينَ يَتَّقُونَ وَيُؤۡتُونَ ٱلزَّڪَوٰةَ وَٱلَّذِينَ هُم بِـَٔايَـٰتِنَا يُؤۡمِنُونَ

(155. And Musa chose out of his people seventy (of the best) men for Our appointed time and place of meeting, and when they were seized with a violent earthquake, he said: "O my Lord, if it had been Your Will, You could have destroyed them and me before; would You destroy us for the deeds of the foolish among us It is only Your trial by which You lead astray whom You will, and keep guided whom You will. You are our protector, so forgive us and have mercy on us: for You are the best of those who forgive.) (156. "And ordain for us good in this world, and in the Hereafter. Certainly we have Hudna unto You.'' He said: (As to) My punishment I afflict therewith whom I will and My mercy embraces all things. That (mercy) I shall ordain for those who have Taqwa, and give Zakah; and those who believe in Our Ayat.)