The Quran

Commentaries for 2.54

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.54 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Allah then mentioned the story of Moses with his people, saying: (And when Moses said unto his people: O my people! Ye have wronged yourselves) harmed yourselves (by your choosing of the calf) by worshipping the calf; and when Moses was then asked what to do, he said to them: (so turn in penitence to your Creator), again they asked him how to turn in penitence to Allah, and he said: (and kill (the guilty) among yourselves) let those who did not worship the calf kill those who worshipped it. (That) penitence and killing (will be best for you with your Creator and He will relent towards you) He will forgive you. (Lo! He is the Relenting) towards the penitent, (the Merciful) towards any that die repentant.
2.54 Asrar - Kashf Al-Asrar
When Moses said to his people, “O my people, you have wronged your souls by taking up the calf, so kill your own souls! That is better for you with your Creator.”
Moses said to his people: “Take care not to suppose that your worship of the calf has harmed the majesty of the Self-Sufficient or that it is a defect for His kingship and lordhood. Rather, the harm and bad fortune belong to you. If something bad has happened, it has happened to you by your being held back from a Lord like Him. Otherwise, He has plenty of servants like you.
Sahl ʿAbdallāh Tustarī said, “God spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai, and the exaltedness of the Lord God's speech made that mountain like carnelian. Moses' turned his gaze to himself: 'Who is like me? For the God of the world and the world's folk is talking to me without intermediary, and my standing place has turned into carnelian!'
“God did not let that pass. He said, 'O Moses, look once right and left. What do you see?' “Moses looked around and saw a thousand mountains of carnelian like Mount Sinai, on each
mountain a man in the form of Moses, wearing a blanket like him, a hat on his head, a staff in hand, and talking to the Lord of the universe.” The tongue of Moses' state was saying,
“I fancied that you were one body with me.
How could I know that you're everyone's familiar?”
A poor man was seen whispering secretly with God and saying, “O God, approve of me as your lover. If You do not approve of me as a lover, approve of me as Your servant. If You do not approve of my as a servant, approve of me as Your dog.” He was saying, “O Lord, accept me for friendship. If I am not worthy of friendship, accept me for servanthood. If I am not worthy of servanthood, accept me for doghood, so that I may be the dog of Your threshold.”
O Friend, if you do not give me the forefront of respect, at least keep me outside the door like the dogs.
So kill your own souls! That is better for you with your Creator. By way of inwardness, this is addressed to the chevaliers of the Tariqah: “Cut off the heads of your souls with the sword of struggle so that you may reach Me.
Those who struggle in Us, We will guide them on Our paths [29:69].”
Be careful not to say that this killing of the soul by way of struggle is easier than the killing that happened among the Children of Israel. Their killing was only once, and after that, everything was ease and repose.6 But these chevaliers have a killing at every hour and every moment.
He who dies and reaches ease is not deadthe truly dead is dead among the living.
What is strange is that the more they see the blows of trial's sickle, the more their passion increases
day by day. Like a moth with the candle, every day they are more troubled by their trouble.
You are my heart's light, though You pair me with fire, my head's crown, though You keep me in dust,
As dear as the eye, though You keep me lowly-
You make me happy, though You keep me mourning.
It is as if every hour the postman of the Presence sends a message of inspiration from the Exalted Threshold to the spirit of these dear ones: “O chevaliers, the beginning of this work is killing and the end is joy. The outwardness of friendship is peril and its inwardness mystery. 'When someone loves Me, I kill him, and when I kill him, I am his wergild.'”
The wergild of him killed by hand is dinars,
the wergild of him killed by passion is seeing.
2.54 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
And when Moses said to his people, those who worshipped the calf, ‘My people, you have done wrong against yourselves by your taking the [golden] calf, for a god; now turn to your Creator, away from that worship [of the calf] and slay one another, that is, let the innocent of you slay the guilty; That, slaughter, will be better for you in your Creator’s sight’, who made it easier for you to accomplish this and sent down a dark cloud over you, so that none of you was able to see the other and show him mercy, such that almost seventy thousand of you were killed; and He will turn to you [relenting], before your [turning in] repentance; truly He is the Relenting, the Merciful.
2.54 Kashani - Kashani
[And when Moses said to his people, 'My people,] you have done wrong against yourselves, you have diminished its due and its share of the reward and the mentioned self-disclosures, [by your taking the [golden] calf]. Now turn to your Creator, by lifting the first veil, as evidenced by the mention of Him as al-BāriÌ, and slay one another's soul, by the sword of spiritual discipline (riyāḍa) and by denying it [your soul] its shares and the acts that are specifically its, for the purpose of freeing yourselves [from it] and suppressing its caprices, which are the very spirit by which it lives. [If taken] according to the second [sense], the heart inspired the faculties that you diminished what is your due by making the soul the object of your worship, so return to your Creator by the light of His guidance and by means of spiritual discipline prevent your souls from what you are voracious for, by severing them from the life that is temporally originated in them on account of their being overpowered by caprice, so that you might live again in your original life and your repentance be accepted. [That, will be better for you in your Creator's sight'; He will turn to you [relenting]; truly He is the Relenting, the Merciful.]
2.54 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Children of Israel kill each other in Repentance
This was the repentance required from the Children of Israel for worshipping the calf. Commenting on Allah's statement;
وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَى لِقَوْمِهِ يَـقَوْمِ إِنَّكُمْ ظَلَمْتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ بِاتِّخَاذِكُمُ الْعِجْلَ
(And (remember) when Musa said to his people: "O my people! Verily, you have wronged yourselves by worshipping the calf...), Al-Hasan Al-Basri said, "When their hearts thought of worshipping the calf,
وَلَمَّا سُقِطَ فَى أَيْدِيهِمْ وَرَأَوْاْ أَنَّهُمْ قَدْ ضَلُّواْ قَالُواْ لَئِن لَّمْ يَرْحَمْنَا رَبُّنَا وَيَغْفِرْ لَنَا
(And when they regretted and saw that they had gone astray, they (repented and) said: "If our Lord does not have mercy upon us and forgive us'') (7:149). This is when Musa said to them,
يَـقَوْمِ إِنَّكُمْ ظَلَمْتُمْ أَنفُسَكُمْ بِاتِّخَاذِكُمُ الْعِجْلَ
(O my people! Verily, you have wronged yourselves by worshipping the calf...).'' Abu `Al-`Aliyah, Sa`id bin Jubayr and Ar-Rabi` bin Anas commented on,
فَتُوبُواْ إِلَى بَارِئِكُمْ
(So turn in repentance to your Bari') that it means, "To your Creator.'' Allah's statement,
إِلَى بَارِئِكُمْ
(to your Bari' (Creator)) alerts the Children of Israel to the enormity of their error and means, "Repent to He Who created you after you associated others with Him in worship.''
An-Nasa'i, Ibn Jarir and Ibn Abi Hatim recorded Ibn `Abbas saying, "Allah told the Children of Israel that their repentance would be to slay by the sword every person they meet, be he father or son. They should not care whom they kill. Those were guilty whom Musa and Harun were not aware of their guilt, they admitted their sin and did as they were ordered. So Allah forgave both the killer and the one killed.'' This is part of the Hadith about the trials that we will mention in Surat Ta Ha, (20) Allah willing.
Ibn Jarir narrated that Ibn `Abbas said, "Musa said to his people,
فَتُوبُواْ إِلَى بَارِئِكُمْ فَاقْتُلُواْ أَنفُسَكُمْ ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ عِندَ بَارِئِكُمْ فَتَابَ عَلَيْكُمْ إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيمُ
("So turn in repentance to your Creator and kill each other (the innocent kill the wrongdoers among you), that will be better for you with your Creator.'' Then He accepted your repentance. Truly, He is the One Who accepts repentance, the Most Merciful.)
Allah ordered Musa to command his people to kill each other. He ordered those who worshipped the calf to sit down and those who did not worship the calf to stand holding knives in their hands. When they started killing them, a great darkness suddenly overcame them. After the darkness lifted, they had killed seventy thousand of them. Those who were killed among them were forgiven, and those who remained alive were also forgiven.'' p
2.54 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
That is, those who made the calf a deity and worshipped it.
2.54 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
And when Moses said to his people “My people you have done wrong against yourselves by your taking the [golden] calf; That is “you have not caused harm to anyone but yourselves with the sins you perpetrated.” As for the Real سبحانه He is exalted in description. None of the wrong of the wrongdoers can be referred back to His exaltedness. The calf of whoever acts in conformity with his whim and follows his objects of desire is whatever he is intent upon and whatever he singles out as his objective. now turn to your Creator The allusion is to the true sense of repentance in abandoning oneself entirely to khurūj ilā God. and slay one another; Repentance by slaying oneself has not been abrogated but the slaying [done] by the children of Israel was an outward act while this community's repentance consists of slaying themselves inwardly for the first step in seeking God is to abandon khurūj ʿan the lower self. Verily the people imagined that the repentance of the children of Israel was more difficult but it is not as they imagine for that was the suffering of slaying one time. As for the elect in this community there is a slaying in every moment. Because of this: One who has died and found rest is not really dead. The only real dead are those who are dead among the living. Slaying the soul in truth is declaring it free of strength and power or [to be free] of bearing witness to anything from it. It is rejecting its claim confusing its attempts at self-management submitting all of its affairs to the Real سبحانه stripping it of its free choice and will and obliterating the vestiges āthār of the human from it. As for the remaining traces rusūm and skeletal structures hayākil there is no danger or concern in them. That will be better for you in your Creator's sight; He will turn to you [relenting]; truly He is the Relenting the Merciful. His being for you against yourselves is more perfect than your being for yourselves.