The Story of the Golden Calf

Heidi Mahmoud

16 May 2018

When Allah saved Moses (PBUH) and his followers from the tyrant Pharaoh, they travelled to another land. On their way, the people of Israel found people who were worshiping an idol, and they asked Moses (PBUH) to make an idol for them to worship similar to the one of the people they saw. Allah says: “And We took the Children of Israel across the sea; then they came upon a people intent in devotion to [some] idols of theirs. They said, "O Moses, make for us a god just as they have gods." He said, "Indeed, you are a people behaving ignorantly.” [Al-A’raf, 138]

The Prophet Moses (PBUH) scolded them as it is written in the Holy Quran: “Indeed, those [worshippers] - destroyed is that in which they are [engaged], and worthless is whatever they were doing."”, “He said, "Is it other than Allah I should desire for you as a god while He has preferred you over the worlds?"” [Al-A’raf, 139, 140]

Afterwards Moses (PBUH) and his followers stayed in a land and the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) had to leave his followers for 40 days. As it is mentioned in the Holy Quran, Allah promised to give Moses (PBUH) the Torah for 40 days after the doom of the people of the Pharaoh and the survival of the people of Israel, “And [recall O sons of Israel] when We made an appointment with Moses for forty nights. Then you took [for worship] the calf after him, while you were wrongdoers.” [Al-Baqarah, 51]

The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) went to his appointment and left his brother Harun (PBUH) in charge.

The story started with a man called the Samiri (the Samaritan). This man incited the people of Israel to give him the gold jewelry - which they had taken with them in their exodus from Egypt- to build them an idol, that they could worship. Unfortunately, they obeyed him and he built them a golden calf that made mooing sound. Allah says in the Holy Quran: “And the people of Moses made, after [his departure], from their ornaments a calf - an image having a lowing sound. Did they not see that it could neither speak to them nor guide them to a way [of righteousness]? They took it [for worship], and they were wrongdoers.” [Al-A’raf, 148]

Moses (PBUH) returned to his followers, after the 40-day absence to find his followers praying to a Golden Calf idol. Allah says: “They [the people of Israel] said, "We did not break our promise to you by our will, but we were made to carry burdens from the ornaments of the people [of Pharaoh], so we threw them [into the fire], and thus did the Samiri throw.", “And he extracted for them [the statue of] a calf which had a lowing sound, and they said, "This is your god and the god of Moses, but he [Moses] forgot."”[Taha, 87, 88]

Afterwards, Moses (PBUH) rebuked his brother Harun for not preventing the people of Israel from deviating from their religion according to the verse of the Holy Quran: “And when Moses returned to his people, angry and grieved, he said, "How wretched is that which you have done after [my departure]. Were you impatient over the matter of your Lord?" And he threw down the tablets and seized his brother by [the hair of] his head, pulling him toward him. [Aaron] said, "O son of my mother, indeed the people oppressed me and were about to kill me, so let not the enemies rejoice over me and do not place me among the wrongdoing people."” [Al-A’raf, 150]

He then asked the Samiri about what he had done, and the Samiri said that he took a handful of dust from the track of the angel Jibril's horse to build the Calf. In the Name of Allah as described in the Quran: “[Moses] said, "And what is your case, O Samiri?"”, “He said, "I saw what they did not see, so I took a handful [of dust] from the track of the messenger [Jibrel] and threw it, and thus did my soul entice me."” [Taha, 95, 96]

As a consequence of his sin, Moses (PBUH) told the Samiri that he would have no contact with anyone for the rest of his life and the Golden Calf would be thrown in the sea in accordance with Allah’s words: “[Moses] said, "Then go. And indeed, it is [decreed] for you in [this] life to say, 'No contact.' And indeed, you have an appointment [in the Hereafter] you will not fail to keep. And look at your 'god' to which you remained devoted. We will surely burn it and blow it into the sea with a blast.” [Taha, 97]

Subsequently, the people of Israel regretted their actions and they asked Allah for forgiveness. However, they had to repent to receive Allah’s forgiveness. Allah says: “And [recall] when Moses said to his people, "O my people, indeed you have wronged yourselves by your taking of the calf [for worship]. So repent to your Creator and kill yourselves. That is best for [all of] you in the sight of your Creator." Then He accepted your repentance; indeed, He is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.” [Al-Baqarah, 54]. Allah ordered them to kill themselves as this was their only way to repent the sin of being devoted to other than Allah according to the religion of Moses.

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