The Children of Israel and the Worship of the Calf

 I take refuge with Allaah from the accursed devil.  

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَـنِ الرَّحِيمِ 

  Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Raheem: In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.  

 Welcome to my blog and praise the Magnificent Lord as you enter: Allahu Akbar: Allah is the Greatest .

  May the Peace and Blessing of Allah Azza wa Jal, our Lord Glorified and Praised be He, be upon our beloved Prophet, his Family, and Companions.

The Children of Israel and the Worship of the Calf.

يبَنِى إِسْرَءِيلَ قَدْ أَنجَيْنَـكُمْ مِّنْ عَدُوِّكُمْ وَوَاعَدْنَـكُمْ جَانِبَ الطُّورِ الاٌّيْمَنَ وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكُمُ الْمَنَّ وَالسَّلْوَى

(80. O Children of Israel! We delivered you from your enemy, and We made a covenant with you on the right side of the Mount, and We sent down to you manna and quail,)

كُلُواْ مِن طَيِّبَـتِ مَا رَزَقْنَـكُمْ وَلاَ تَطْغَوْاْ فِيهِ فَيَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبِى وَمَن يَحْلِلْ عَلَيْهِ غَضَبِى فَقَدْ هَوَى

(81. (Saying) eat of the Tayyibat wherewith We have provided you, and commit no transgression or oppression therein, lest My anger should justly descend on you. And he on whom My anger descends, he is indeed perished.)

 وَإِنِّى لَغَفَّارٌ لِّمَن تَابَ وَآمَنَ وَعَمِلَ صَـلِحَاً ثُمَّ اهْتَدَى

(82. And verily, I am indeed forgiving to him who repents, believes and does righteous deeds, and then Ihtada.)

Surah 20 Ta Ha Verse 80-82

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Allah’s Favors upon Them Allah reminds of His tremendous favors upon the Children of Israel and His numerous blessings. He saved them from their enemy, Fir`awn, and He relieved their eyes by drowning him and his hosts all at one time while they watched. Allah said,

(And We drowned Fir`awn people while you were looking.) [2:50] Al-Bukhari recorded that Ibn `Abbas said, “When the Messenger of Allah came to Al-Madinah, he found the Jews fasting the day of `Ashura’. Therefore he asked them about it and they said, `This is the day that Allah gave Musa victory over Fir`awn.’ Then, the Prophet said,

(We have more right to Musa (than them), so fast it.) Muslim also recorded this narration in his Sahih. Then, Allah made a covenant with Musa and the Children of Israel on the right side of the Mountain, after the destruction of Fir`awn. This is the Mountain upon which Allah spoke to Musa and He told Musa’s people to look at it when they requested to see Allah. It is also the same Mountain upon which Musa was given the Tawrah, while at the same time the Children of Israel began worshipping the (statue of a) calf, as Allah relates in the forth coming Ayat. The manna and quails have previously been discussed in Surah Al-Baqarah and other Surahs. Manna was a sweet substance that descended upon them from the sky and the quail [Salwa] was a type of bird that would fall down to them. They would fill every pot with them as ample provisions until the following day. This was a kindness and a mercy from Allah upon them. It was a manifestation of Allah’s good treatment of them. For this reason Allah says,

(Eat of the Tayyibat wherewith We have provided you, and commit no transgression or oppression therein, lest My anger should justly descend on you.) This means, “Eat from this sustenance which I have provided for you, and do not transgress against My sustenance by taking it without necessity or you will be opposing what I have commanded you.”

(lest My anger should justly descend on you.) This means, “I will become angry with you.”

(And he on whom My anger descends, he is indeed perished.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah related that Ibn `Abbas said, “This means that he will indeed be made miserable.” Concerning Allah’s statement,

(And verily, I am indeed forgiving to him who repents, believes and does righteous good deeds,) meaning, “Whoever turns to Me in repentance, then I will accept his repentance regardless of whatever sin he did.” Allah, the Exalted, even accepts the repentance of the Children of Israel who worshipped the calf. Concerning Allah’s statement,

(who repents,) This means to turn away from what one was involved in of disbelief, associating partners with Allah, disobedience of Allah or hypocrisy. Concerning Allah’s statement,

(and believes) This means the person’s belief in his heart.

(and does righteous deeds,) his action with his bodily limbs. Concerning Allah’s statement,

(and then Ihtada.) `Ali bin Abi Talhah related that Ibn `Abbas said, “This means that he then does not doubt.” Qatadah said,

(and then Ihtada.) “This means he adheres to Islam until he dies.” We see here that there is a specific order in which these things are presented. This is similar to Allah’s saying,

(Then he became one of those who believed and recommended one another to perseverance and patience and recommended one another to pity and compassion.) [90:17]

وَمَآ أَعْجَلَكَ عَن قَومِكَ يمُوسَى

(83. “And what made you hasten from your people, O Musa)

قَالَ هُمْ أُوْلاءِ عَلَى أَثَرِى وَعَجِلْتُ إِلَيْكَ رَبِّ لِتَرْضَى

(84. He said: “They are close on my footsteps, and I hastened to You, O my Lord, that You might be pleased.”)

 قَالَ فَإِنَّا قَدْ فَتَنَّا قَوْمَكَ مِن بَعْدِكَ وَأَضَلَّهُمُ السَّامِرِىُّ

 (85. (Allah) said: “Verily, We have tried your people in your absence, and As-Samiri has led them astray.”)

 فَرَجَعَ مُوسَى إِلَى قَوْمِهِ غَضْبَـنَ أَسِفاً قَالَ يَقَوْمِ أَلَمْ يَعِدْكُمْ رَبُّكُمْ وَعْداً حَسَناً أَفَطَالَ عَلَيْكُمُ الْعَهْدُ أَمْ أَرَدتُّمْ أَن يَحِلَّ عَلَيْكُمْ غَضَبٌ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ فَأَخْلَفْتُمْ مَّوْعِدِى

(86. Then Musa returned to his people in a state of anger and sorrow [Asif]. He said: “O my people! Did not your Lord promise you a fair promise Did then the promise seem to you long in coming Or did you desire that wrath should descend from your Lord on you, that you broke your promise to me”)

قَالُواْ مَآ أَخْلَفْنَا مَوْعِدَكَ بِمَلْكِنَا وَلَـكِنَّا حُمِّلْنَآ أَوْزَاراً مِّن زِينَةِ الْقَوْمِ فَقَذَفْنَاهَا فَكَذَلِكَ أَلْقَى السَّامِرِىُّ

(87. They said: “We broke not the promise to you, of our own will, but we were made to carry the weight of the ornaments of the people, then we cast them, and that was what As-Samiri suggested.”)

فَأَخْرَجَ لَهُمْ عِجْلاً جَسَداً لَّهُ خُوَارٌ فَقَالُواْ هَـذَآ إِلَـهُكُمْ وَإِلَـهُ مُوسَى فَنَسِىَ

(88. Then he took out for them a calf which was mooing. They said: “This is your god, and the god of Musa,” but he had forgotten.)

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

(89. Did they not see that it could not return them a word (for answer), and that it had no power either to harm them or to do them good)

Surah 20 TaHa Verse 83-89

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Allah relates what happened when Musa traveled with the Children of Israel after Fir`awn’s destruction.

(And they came upon a people devoted to some of idols. They said: “O Musa! Make for us god as they have gods.” He said: “Verily, you are a people who know not. Verily, these people will be destroyed for that which they are engaged in. And all that they are doing is in vain.”) [7:138-139] Then, Allah made a covenant with Musa of thirty nights after which He added to them ten more nights. Thus, they were forty nights in all. The covenant was that he was to fast these number of days, during both the day and night. Thus, Musa made haste to go to the Mountain and he left his brother, Harun, in charge over the Children of Israel. This is why Allah says,

(And what made you hasten from your people, O Musa” He said: “They are close on my footsteps.”) These means that they have arrived and are settled near the Mountain.

(and I hastened to You, O my Lord, that You might be pleased.) meaning, “So You will be more pleased with me.”

((Allah) said: “Verily, We have tried your people in your absence, and As-Samiri has led them astray.”) Allah informs His Prophet, Musa, of what happened to the Children of Israel after he left them, and their deification of the calf that As-Samiri had made for them. During this time period, Allah wrote for Musa the Tablets, which contained the Tawrah. Allah said,

(And We wrote for him on the Tablets the lesson to be drawn from all things and the explanation for all things (and said): “Hold unto these with firmness, and enjoin your people to take the better therein. I shall show you the home of evildoers.”) [7:145] This means, “I will show you the final outcome of what will happen to those who abandon My obedience and oppose My command.” Concerning Allah’s statement,

(Then Musa returned to his people in a state of anger and sorrow [Asif].) This means that after Allah informed him of what they were doing, he became extremely angry and upset with them. He was very worried for them. During this time he received the Tawrah, which contained their Shari`ah (Law), this was a great honor for them. For they were a people who used to worship other than Allah. Every person with sound reason and good sense could see that what they were doing was false and foolish. This is why Allah said that he (Musa) returned to them in a state of anger and sorrow. The word for sorrow used here is Asif, which is used to emphasize to the severity of his anger. Mujahid said, “In a state of anger and sorrow means worried.” Qatadah and As-Suddi said, “Asif here means in a state of sadness because of what his people had done after him.”

(He (Musa) said: “O my people! Did not your Lord promise you a fair promise…”) This means, “Did He not promise you in that which I have spoken to you, every good in this life and in the Hereafter, and the good end in the final outcome of things You have already witnessed how He helped you defeat your enemy (Fir`awn) and He made you victorious over him and He blessed you with other bounties as well through His help.”

(Did then the promise seem to you long in coming) meaning, `in waiting for what Allah had promised you and forgetting His previous favors and the covenant that He made with you before.’

(Or did you desire that wrath should descend from your Lord on you, ) The word `Or’ here means `Nay, but.’ It is used here to separate between a previous item and a coming item. It is as if it is saying, “Nay, but you want to make permissible the anger of your Lord upon you by what you have done. Therefore, you have broken your promise to me.” The Children of Israel said in reply to Musa’s blame and rebuke,

(We broke not our promise to you of our own will,) Meaning by our power and our choice. Then, they began making lame excuses and they told him how they got rid of that which they were carrying of Coptic jewelry that they had borrowed from them (the Egyptian Copts) when they left Egypt. Therefore they cast it, meaning that they threw it away. Thus, it became a calf that made a moaning sound that would gradually rise in pitch. This calf was an ordeal, a hindrance and test. This is why Allah said,

(“…that was what As-Samiri suggested.” Then he took out (of the fire) for them (a statue of) a calf which was mooing.) Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas said,

(This is your god, and the god of Musa.) “So they became religiously devoted to it (the calf) and they loved it with a love that they had never loved anything else with before. ” Allah then says,

(but he had forgotten.) This means that he abandoned what he was following of the religion of Islam. This is referring to As-Samiri. Allah says in refuting them and rebuking them, and also explaining to them their folly and foolishness in that which they had done,

(Did they not see that it could not return them a word (for answer), and that it had no power either to harm them or to do them good) This is about the calf. `Do they not see that it does not respond to them when they ask it and when they speak to it’

(and that it had no power either to harm them or to do them good) Meaning in their worldly affairs and matters of the Hereafter. Ibn `Abbas said, “Nay, by Allah, the moaning sound of the calf was nothing but wind that would enter into its behind and come out of its mouth, thus causing it to make a sound.” In a Hadith of Al-Fitun recorded from Al-Hasan Al-Basri, it is mentioned that this calf’s name was Bahmut. In reference to the excuse of these ignorant people, they claimed that they were merely ridding themselves of the jewelry of the Copts. In the process of doing so, they cast the jewelry (into the pit of fire) and ended up worshipping the calf. Thus, they were seeking to rid themselves of something detestable, but wound up doing something even worse. This is similar to an authentic narration reported from `Abdullah bin `Umar. A man from `Iraq asked him about the ruling of mosquitoes’ blood if it get on one’s garment. The man wanted to know if it is permissible to pray in such a garment or not. Ibn `Umar replied by saying, “Look at the people of `Iraq. They killed the grandson of the Messenger of Allah , Al-Husayn, and yet they’re asking about the blood of the mosquito.”

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

 (90. 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.”)

قَالُواْ لَن نَّبْرَحَ عَلَيْهِ عَـكِفِينَ حَتَّى يَرْجِعَ إِلَيْنَا مُوسَى

(91. They said: “We will not stop worshipping it, until Musa returns to us.”)

Surah 20 Ta Ha Verse 90-91

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Allah, the Exalted, informs of Harun’s attempt to prohibit them from worshipping the calf and his telling them that this was only a test for them. He told them that their Lord was the Most Beneficent, Who created everything and decreed for everything its just measure. He is the Owner of the Mighty Throne, the One Who does whatever He wants.

(so follow me and obey my order.) Meaning, “Follow me in that which I am commanding you with and leave that which I forbid you from.”

(They said: “We will not stop worshipping it, until Musa returns to us.”) meaning, “We will not cease in our worship of this calf until we hear what Musa has to say about it.” So they opposed Harun in this matter and they fought against him, nearly killing him.

قَالَ يهَـرُونُ مَا مَنَعَكَ إِذْ رَأَيْتَهُمْ ضَلُّواْ

(92. (Musa) said: “O Harun! What prevented you when you saw them going astray;”)

أَلاَّ تَتَّبِعَنِ أَفَعَصَيْتَ أَمْرِى

(93. “That you followed me not (according to my advice to you) Have you then disobeyed my order”)

 قَالَ يَبْنَؤُمَّ لاَ تَأْخُذْ بِلِحْيَتِى وَلاَ بِرَأْسِى إِنِّى خَشِيتُ أَن تَقُولَ فَرَّقْتَ بَيْنَ بَنِى إِسْرءِيلَ وَلَمْ تَرْقُبْ قَوْلِى

(94. 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 my word!”’)

Surah 20 Ta Ha Verse 92-94

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Allah informs of what happened when Musa returned to his people and saw the great matter that had taken place among them. With this he became filled with anger and he threw down the Divine Tablets that he had in his hand. Then, he grabbed his brother Harun by his head and pulled him towards himself. We expounded upon this previously in Surat Al-A`raf, where we mentioned the Hadith,

(Information is not the same as observation.) Then, he began to blame his brother, Harun, by saying,

(What prevented you when you saw them going astray; that you followed me not) meaning, “You should have informed me of this matter as soon as it happened.”

(Have you then disobeyed my order) “In that which I entrusted to you,” referring to Musa’s statement,

(Replace me among my people, act in the right way and follow not the way of the mischief-makers.)[7:142]

(He (Harun) said: “O son of my mother!”) This mentioning of the mother was Harun’s attempt to soften Musa’s anger, because he was Musa’s biological brother and they had the same parents. The mentioning of the mother here is more delicate and profound in bringing about gentleness and mildness. This is why he said,

(O son of my mother! Seize (me) not by my beard, nor by my head!) This was Harun’s excuse to Musa for being delayed from coming to him and informing him of the great mishap that took place. He said,

(Verily, I feared) meaning, “I was afraid to come after you and inform you of this, because I thought you might accuse me of leaving them alone and causing division between them.”

(and you have not respected my word!) This means, “And you did not take care of what I commanded you to do when I left you in charge of them.” Ibn `Abbas said, “Harun was respectful and obedient to Musa.”

[قَالَ فَمَا خَطْبُكَ يسَـمِرِيُّ

(95. (Musa) said: “And what is the matter with you. O Samiri”)

قَالَ بَصُرْتُ بِمَا لَمْ يَبْصُرُواْ بِهِ فَقَبَضْتُ قَبْضَةً مِّنْ أَثَرِ الرَّسُولِ فَنَبَذْتُهَا وَكَذلِكَ سَوَّلَتْ لِى نَفْسِى

(96. (Samiri) said: “I saw what they saw not, so I took a (Qabdah) handful (of dust) from the (hoof) print of the messenger and threw it. Thus my inner self suggested to me.”)

 قَالَ فَاذْهَبْ فَإِنَّ لَكَ فِى الْحَيَوةِ أَن تَقُولَ لاَ مِسَاسَ وَإِنَّ لَكَ مَوْعِداً لَّن تُخْلَفَهُ وَانظُرْ إِلَى إِلَـهِكَ الَّذِى ظَلْتَ عَلَيْهِ عَاكِفاً لَّنُحَرِّقَنَّهُ ثُمَّ لَنَنسِفَنَّهُ فِى الْيَمِّ نَسْفاً

(97. Musa said: “Then go away! And verily, your (punishment) in this life will be that you will say: `Touch me not;’ and verily, you have a promise that will not fail. And look at your god to which you have been devoted. We will certainly burn it, and scatter its particles in the sea.”)

 إِنَّمَآ إِلَـهُكُمُ اللَّهُ الَّذِى لا إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ وَسِعَ كُلَّ شَىْءٍ عِلْماً

(98. Your God is only Allah, there is no God but Him. He has full knowledge of all things.)

Surah 20 Ta Ha Verse 95-98

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Musa said to As-Samiri, “What caused you to do what you did What presented such an idea to you causing you to do this” Muhammad bin Ishaq reported from Ibn `Abbas that he said, “As-Samiri was a man from the people of Bajarma, a people who worshipped cows. He still had the love of cow worshipping in his soul. However, he acted as though he had accepted Islam with the Children of Israel. His name was Musa bin Zafar.” Qatadah said, “He was from the village of Samarra.”

(Samiri) said: “I saw what they saw not.”) This means, “I saw Jibril when he came to destroy Fir`awn.”

(so I took a handful (Qabdah) from the print of the messenger) This means from the hoof print of his (Jibril’s) horse. This is what is well-known with many of the scholars of Tafsir, rather most of them. Mujahid said,

(so I took a handful (Qabdah) from the print of the messenger) “From under the hoof of Jibril’s horse.” He also said, “The word Qabdah means a palmful, and it is also that which is grasped by the tips of the fingers.” Mujahid said, “As-Samiri threw what was in his hand onto the jewelry of the Children of Israel and it became molded into the body of a calf, which made a light moaning sound. The wind that blew into it was the cause of its sound.” Thus, he said,

(and I threw it.) This means, “I threw it along with those who were throwing (jewelry).”

(Thus my inner self suggested to me.) This means that his soul considered it something good and it was pleasing to his self.

((Musa) said: “Then go away! And verily, your (punishment) in this life will be that you will say: `Touch me not.”’) This means, “Just as you took and touched what was not your right to take and touch of the messenger’s foot print, such is your punishment in this life, that you will say, `Do not touch (me).”’ This means, “You will not touch the people and they will not touch you.”

(and verily, you have a promise) This means on the Day of Resurrection.

(that will not fail.) you will have no way to escape it. Qatadah said,

(that you will say: `Touch me not.’) “This is referring to a punishment for them and their remnants (i.e. those who have their disease) today still say `Do not touch.”’ Concerning Allah’s statement,

(and verily, you have a promise that will not fail.) Al-Hasan, Qatadah and Abu Nahik said, “You will not be absent from it.”

(And look at your god) that which you worshipped,

(to which you have been devoted.) that which you established worship of, which was the calf.

(Your God is only Allah, there is no God but Him. He has full knowledge of all things.) Musa was saying to them, “This is not your god. Your God is only Allah, the One Whom there is no true God except Him. Worship is not befitting to anyone except Him. For everything is in need of Him and everything is His servant. Concerning the statement,

(He has full knowledge of all things.) The word `Ilm (knowledge) is in the accusative case for distinction. It means that He is the All-Knower of everything.

((Allah) surrounds all things in (His) knowledge. ) [65:12] And He says,

(And (He) keeps count of all things.) [72:28] Therefore,

(Not even the weight of a speck of dust escapes His knowledge.) [34:3] He also says,

(Not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a Clear Record.) [6:59] And He says,

(And no moving creature is there on earth but its provision is due from Allah. And He knows its dwelling place and its deposit. All is in a Clear Book.) [11:6] The Ayat that mention this are numerous.

كَذلِكَ نَقُصُّ عَلَيْكَ مِنْ أَنْبَآءِ مَا قَدْ سَبَقَ وَقَدْ آتَيْنَـكَ مِن لَّدُنَّا ذِكْراً

(99. Thus We relate to you some information of what happened before. And indeed We have given you from Us a Reminder.)

 مَّنْ أَعْرَضَ عَنْهُ فَإِنَّهُ يَحْمِلُ يَوْمَ الْقِيَـمَةِ وِزْراً

(100. Whoever turns away from it, verily, they will bear a heavy burden on the Day of Resurrection.)

خَـلِدِينَ فِيهِ وَسَآءَ لَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَـمَةِ حِمْلاً

(101. They will abide in that — and evil indeed will it be that load for them on the Day of Resurrection.)

Surah 20 Ta Ha Verse 99-101

Tafsir Ibn Kathir

Allah, the Exalted, is saying to Prophet Muhammad , `We have told you (O Muhammad) the story of Musa and what happened with him, Fir`awn and his armies, just as it actually happened. Likewise, We relate to you the information of the past just as it happened, without any increase or decrease. We also gave you a remembrance from Us, the Mighty Qur’an, no falsehood comes to it from before it or behind it.’ It is a revelation from One Most Wise, Most Praiseworthy. No Prophet was given any Book like it or more complete than it, since the time of the previous Prophets who were sent, until their being sealed off with the coming of Muhammad . No Prophet was given any Book containing as much information than the Qur’an about what has past and what would be. The judgement concerning the distinction between mankind is taken from it. Therefore, Allah says about it,

(Whoever turns away from it,) This means whoever denies it and turns away from following its commands and instructions, while seeking guidance from other than it, then Allah will mislead him and send him on the path to Hell. This is why Allah says,

(Whoever turns away from it, verily, they will bear a heavy burden on the Day of Resurrection.) .Burden here means sin. This is as Allah says,

(But those of the sects that reject it , the Fire will be their promised meeting place.) [11:17] This applies generally to whoever the Qur’an reaches of the Arabs, the non-Arabs, the People of the Book and others. This is as Allah says,

(That I may therewith warn you and whomsoever it may reach.) [6:19] The Qur’an is a final warning for everyone it reaches. Whoever follows it, then he is rightly guided and whoever opposes it and turns away from it, then he is misguided. He will be wretched in this life, and he is promised that on the Day of Resurrection his abode will be the Hellfire. For this reason Allah says,

(Whoever turns away from it, verily, they will bear a heavy burden on the Day of Resurrection. They will abide in that.) [20:100-101] They will not be able to avoid this or escape it.

(And evil indeed will it be that load for them on the Day of Resurrection.)

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