Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 91 & 92
Verses 91 and 92
And when they are told: "Believe in that which He has sent down," they retort: "We believe in only what was sent down on us," and they disbelieve in what is beyond that, though it is the truth, confirming what they already possess. Say: "Why then did you kill the Prophets of God before, if indeed you are believers?" (Chapter 2: Verse 91)
This verse illustrates the hostilities prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) faced when he invited the Jewish residents of Arabia to faith. They refused to believe in him although they were given good tidings of his arrival in the Torah. Their answer was: "We believe in only what was sent down on us." Take note that they did not say that Muhammad's teachings contradicted the Torah, nor did they claim that Islam came to destroy or abolish their religion. In fact, they did not oppose the teachings of the Quran, rather, their true opposition was that it was not revealed to one of them.
The evidence against their claim that they only want to uphold the Torah is strong. As we discussed earlier, the history of the Israelites is rich in events where they denied or even killed their prophets. To murder a prophet is tantamount to infidelity according to all divine books. More importantly, the Prophets whom the Israelites killed were themselves Israelites, and their teachings were based on the Torah. Hence, Allah taught His messenger Muhammad to answer them with this question: Say: "Why then did you kill the Prophets of God before, if indeed you are believers?"
Here we should pause and look into the meaning of the word ‘before.’ Allah wanted to reassure Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that the killing of Prophets has come to an end. The phrase ' Why then did you kill the Prophets of God before ' gives comfort to the believers that this will not happen again. In fact, the events following the revelation of this verse supported God's word. There were several plots to kill Muhammad....from throwing large rocks on him, to serving him poisoned meat......none of them succeeded.
Let's continue to the next verse in 'The Cow.' God says:
And Moses had certainly brought you clear proofs. Then you took the calf for worship after that, while you were wrongdoers. (Chapter 2: Verse 92)
Allah continues to refute the Israelite's claim that they rejected Muhammad's message because they only believe in that which was sent to them.
This verse clarifies that disbelief has been in their nature since the time of prophet Moses. God says addressing the children of Israel: ‘And Moses had certainly brought you clear proofs'. Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was blessed with numerous miracles which were sufficient for your hearts to have unshakable faith in Allah. He split the sea to save you from pharaoh's torment. He gave you springs of water and fed you the best of foods in the barren dessert. You witnessed the resurrection of a murdered man when he was hit with a part of a slaughtered cow. Despite all that, as soon as Moses left for a few days, you rushed to worship a golden calf. Doesn't all that go against your claim that you only believe in what was revealed to you? All evidence suggests otherwise, which makes your argument unacceptable. All scriptures prohibit the killing of Prophets, and prohibit the worship of anything, or anyone, but God.
The fact is: many of the children of Israel showed little belief in what was revealed to them, and even less in what was revealed after that. Thus, came God's answer in the previous verse: " and they disbelieve in what is beyond that, though it is the truth, confirming what they already possess.'
The verse ends with ‘Then you took the calf for worship after that, while you were wrongdoers.' A calf is one of God's bounties. It is a subservient animal that can be utilized to help in cultivation, used for milk, or slaughtered for food and leather. But when it is idolized or worshipped it becomes a sin. In fact, it is such a great wrongdoing and transgression, that when God reprimands the children of Israel about rejecting the message of Islam, he reminds them of the terrible sin their forefather committed against their faith.