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Surah Al Baqra Verses 51-60

51 And remember We appointed forty nights for Moses and in his absence you took the calf (for worship) and ye did grievous wrong. 66

52 Even then We did forgive you; there was a chance for you to be grateful. 67

53 And remember We gave Moses the Scripture and the criterion (between right and wrong) there was a chance for you to be guided aright. 68

54 And remember Moses said to his people: "O my people! Ye have indeed wronged yourselves by your worship of the calf so turn (in repentance) to your Maker and slay yourselves (the wrong-doers); that will be better for you in the sight of your Maker." Then He turned toward you (in forgiveness); for He is Oft-returning Most Merciful. 69

55 And remember ye said: "O Moses! we shall never believe in thee until we see Allah manifestly" but ye were dazed with thunder and lightning even as ye looked on. 70

56 Then We raised you up after your death; ye had the chance to be grateful.

57 And We gave You the shade of clouds and sent down to you manna and quails saying: "Eat of the good things We have provided for you"; (but they rebelled); to Us they did no harm but they harmed their own souls. 71

58 And remember We said: "Enter this town and eat of the plenty therein as ye wish; but enter the gate with humility in posture and in words and We shall forgive you your faults and increase (the portion of) those who do good." 72

59 But the transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them; so We sent on the transgressors a plague from heaven for that they infringed (our command) repeatedly.

60 And remember Moses prayed for water for his people; We said: "Strike the rock with thy staff." Then gushed forth therefrom twelve springs. Each group knew its own place for water. So eat and drink of the sustenance provided by Allah and do no evil nor mischief on the (face of the) earth. 73


Commentry:

66 This was after the Ten Commandments and the Laws and Ordinances had been given on Mount Sinai: Moses was asked up into the Mount, and he was there forty days and forty nights: Exod. xxiv. 18. But the people got impatient of the delay, made a calf of melted gold, and offered worship ande sacrifice to it: Exod. xxxii 1-8. (2.51)

67 Moses prayed for his people, and God forgave them. This is the language of the Qur-an. The Old Testament version is rougher: "The Lord reprented of the evil which He thought to do unto His people": Exod. xxxii. 14. The Muslim position has always been that the Jewish (and Christian) scriptures as they stand cannot be traced direct to Moses or Jesus, but are later compilations. Modern scholarship and Higher Criticism has left no doubt on the subject. But the stories in these traditional books may be used in an appeal to those who use them: only they should be spiritualized, as they are here, and especially in ii. 5 below. (2.52)

68 God's revelation, the expression of God's Will, is the true standard of right and wrong. It may be in a Book or in God's dealings in history. All these may be called His Signs or Miracles. In this passage some commentators take the Scripture and the Criterion (Furqan) to be identical. Others take them to be two distinct things: Scripture being the written Book and the Criterion being other Signs. I agree with the latter view. The word Furqan also occurs in xxi. 48 in connection with Moses and Aaron and in the first verse of Sura xxv, as well as in its title, in connection with Muhammad. As Aaron received no Book, Furqan must mean the other Signs. Mustafa had both the Book and the other Signs: perhaps here too we take the other Signs as supplementing the Book. Cf. Wordsworth's "Arbiter undisturbed of right and wrong." (Prelude, Book 4) (2.53)

69 Moses's speech may be construed literally, as translated, in which case it reproduces Exod. xxxii 27-28 but in a much softened form, for the Old Testament says: "Go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor... and there fell of the people that day 3,000 men." A more spiritualized version would be that the order for slaying was given by way of trial, but was withdrawn, for God turned to them in forgiveness. A still more spiritualized way of construing it would be to take "anfusakum" as meaning "souls" not "selves". Then the sense of Moses's speech (abbreviated) would be: "By the worship of the calf you have wronged your own souls; repent: mortify (=slay) your souls now: it will be better in the sight of God." (2.54)

70 We have hitherto had instances from the Jewish traditional Taurat (or Pentateuch). Now we have some instances from Jewish traditions in the Talmud, or body of exposition in the Jewish theological schools. They are based on the Jewish scriptures, but add many marvellous details and homilies. As to seeing God, we have in Exod. xxxiii 20: "And He said, Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me and live." The punishment for insisting on seeing God was therefore death; but those who rejected faith were forgiven, and yet they were ungrateful. (2.55)

71 Manna=Hebrew, Manhu: Arabic Mahuwa? - What is it? In Exod. xvi. 14 it is described as "a small round thing as small as the hoar frost on the ground." It usually rotted if left over till next day; it melted in the hot sun; the amount necessary for each man was about an Omer, a Hebrew measure of capacity equal to about 2
quarts. This is the Hebrew account, probably distorted by traditional exaggeration. The actual Manna found to this day in the Sinai region is a gummy saccharine secretion found on a species of Tamarisk. It is produced by the puncture of a species of insect like the cochineal, just as lac is produced by the puncture of the lac insect on certain trees in India. As to quails, large flights of them are driven by winds in the Eastern Mediterranean in certain seasons of the year, as was witnessed during the Great War of 1914-1918 by many Indian officers who campaigned between Egypt and Palestine. (2.57)

72 This probably refers to Shittim. It was the "town of acacias," just east of the Jordan, where the Israelites were guilty of debauchery and the worship of and sacrifice to false gods (Num. xxv. 1-2, also 8-9); a terrible punishment ensued, including the plague of which 24,000 died. The word which the transgressors changed may have been a pass-word. In the Arabic text it is "Hittatun" which implies humility and a prayer of forgiveness, a fitting emblem to distinguish them from their enemies. From this particular incident a more general lesson may be drawn; in the hour of triumph we are to behave humbly as in God's sight, and our conduct should be exemplary according to God's word; otherwise our arrogance will draw its own punishment. (2.58)

73 Here we have a reference to the tribal organization of the Jews, which played a great part in their forty years' march through the Arabian deserts (Num. i. and ii.) and their subsequent settlement in the land of Canaan (Josh. xxii. and xiv.). The twelve tribes were derived from the sons of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel (soldier of God) after he had wrestled, says Jewish tradition, with God (Genesis xxxii. 28). Israel had twelve sons (Gen. xxxv. 22-26), including Levi and Joseph. The descendants of these twelve sons were the "Children of Israel." Levi's family got the priesthood and the care of the Tabernacle; they were exempted from military duties for which the census was taken (Nu. i. 47-53), and therefore from the distribution of Land in Canaan (Josh. xiv. 3); they were distributed among all the Tribes, and were really a privileged caste and not numbered among the Tribes; Moses and Aaron belonged to the house of Levi. On the other hand Joseph, on account of the high position to which he rose in Egypt as the Pharoah's minister, was the progenitor of two tribes, one in the name of each of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Thus there were twelve Tribes in all, as Levi was cut out and Joseph represented two tribes. Their having fixed stations and watering places in camp and fixed territorial areas later in the Promised Land prevented confusion and mutual jealousies and is pointed to as an evidence of the Providence of God acting through His prophet Moses. Cf. also vii. 160. (2.60)

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