Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, verse 51
And we appointed forty nights for Moses and then, while he was away, you took to worshipping the calf- while you were wrongdoers. (Chapter 2: Verse 51)
In the previous session we explained why most religious obligations are assigned nights and lunar months. Now, we continue with the verse:
‘while he was away, you took to worshipping the calf- a terrible wrong.'
God put the Israelites to a test right after they experienced a great miracle and blessing from Him. He says:
We took the Children of Israel across the sea, but when they came upon a people who worshipped idols, they said, ‘Moses, make a god for us like theirs.’ ‘You are ignorant people' he replied (07:138)
This incident took place soon after the deliverance of the children of Israel from the tyrannies of Pharaoh and his men. Moses went for his appointed time with God, leaving Aaron as his deputy.
Here we should stop and ponder a very important point. When the Israelites worked for and served Egyptian women, they used to steel some jewelry and gold from them. Even though the Egyptians were very abusive, and transgressed greatly against God, this does not justify stealing their possessions. We, as believers, should never pay back those who disobeyed God and wronged us, by disobeying God and wronging them. If we did so, then we all would be equal in sin and transgression. Take the example of the person who insulted Abu ad-Darda, a great companion of the Prophet. Upon finding out, Abu ad-Darda wrote to him and said: my brother, do not exaggerate in cursing and insulting me, and leave space for reconciliation; as I do not reward the one who disobeys God in my regard, except by obeying God in regards to him. The Israelites stole jewelry from Egyptian women, thus God made this same jewelry a mean of testing them.
Satan had tempted the Israelites to forsake the worship of God. And a person named Samiri melted their gold and jewelry and turned it into a hollow golden calf which made a peculiar sound when the wind passed through it. Samiri convinced them that the calf is their god and the god of Moses. The gold from which the calf was made came from theft and unlawful means as the following verse illustrates:
They said: "We did not break our promise to you of our own accord (with intent), but we were loaded with sinful loads of ornaments of the people, and we threw them in the same way as the Samiri threw"(20:87)
You and I should learn a very important lesson from this historical event: things attained unlawfully always prove to be evil for their owner and bring on bad consequences. Nowadays, people often refer to this as karma.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “God is Good and Pure and He only accepts that which is good and pure. Allah has commanded the believers with what He commanded His Messengers, He said, “O Messengers! eat things good and pure,and do righteous deeds'. and He said “You who believe, eat the good things We have provided for you and be grateful to God, if it is Him that you worship'. Then the Prophet (peace be upon him) gave the example of a man, so tired from long travel, that his hair became messed up and his clothes tattered and covered with dust. He raised his hand towards the heavens and prayed, ‘O my Lord. O my Lord help me,’ while his food is from unlawful means, his drink is from unlawful means, his clothes are from unlawful means and he lives from unlawful means. How can his prayers and pleas ever be accepted?”
This is what happened to the Israelites. They stole from the Egyptians and earned harm for themselves. God said describing them: ‘you took to worshipping the calf- while you were wrongdoers.