Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
Allah then mentions the story of the cow, saying: (And when Moses said unto his people: Lo! Allah commandeth you that ye sacrifice a cow) any cow, (they said: Dost thou make game of us?) are you really mocking us? (He) Moses (answered: Allah forbid that I should be among the foolish!) God forbid that I ever mock the believers.
And When Moses said to his people, “God commands you to sacrifice a cow.”
This story of the cow of the Children of Israel in these verses and the mention of its attributes is one of the subtle points of wisdom and exalted pearls of the Qur'an. The Qur'an itself is the all-encompassing ocean. Many are the kingly pearls and night-brightening gems found in the ocean's depths.
You should read everything that the Exalted Lord said about the cow of the Children of Israel as an allusion to your own attributes. Then you will reach the station of worthiness to dive into this ocean and He will give you access to its deposited wonders and unseen pearls.
Altogether the attributes that He clarified in these verses are three: first, neither old nor virgin [2:68]; second, golden, bright her color [2:69]; third, not abased to plow the earth [2:71].
First, neither old nor virgin. He says it should not be broken down and old, nor newly born and immature. In other words, the feet of these chevaliers will go straight in the circle of the Tariqah when the intoxication and greediness of youth no longer veil them, and when the weakness of old age does not hinder them. Do you not see that revelation reached MuṣṬafā when he was not
a newly born youngster, nor had his days reached the worst state of life [16:70]? If there had been a state more complete, revelation would have reached him at its time.
Whenever desire for God pairs itself with the intoxication of youth, there is fear of the highwaymen. It is rare that a youngster in his new desire remains secure from the highwaymen. If it does happen in the empire, it seldom does. This is why MuṣṬafā said, “Your Lord marvels at a young man who has no youthful fervor.”
The second attribute is golden, bright her color, gladdening the gazers. When the chevaliers step into the field of the Tariqah in the state of the perfection of mortal nature and stand straight in it, the Unity will bring them into the color of love, and the color of love is colorlessness. It will wash them of anything mixed with colors-We shall strip away all the rancor that is in their breasts [7:43].
They will become pure spirit. Their makeup and their meanings will all take on one attribute. Any eye that gazes on them will be brightened, and any heart that ponders their work will feel familiarity.
Sufyān Thawrī became ill and was taken to a Christian physician. The Christian examined him and meditated. Then he said, “This is a wondrous state I see. This man's liver is bleeding because of his fear of God, and the blood is coming out with his water. The religion that he has can only be true. I bear witness that there is no god but God, and I bear witness that MuḤammad is His Messenger.”
When that Christian physician looked at the evidence, he felt familiarity. When someone looks at the faces of the Real's friends with pure belief and meditates on their conduct, what will happen to the love in his heart? This is why He says, “bright her color, gladdening the gazers.” The color that makes lookers happy is the color of familiarity and friendship. Today He brings them forth in the color of familiarity and friendship, and what color is more beautiful than that? Who is more beautiful in color than God? [2:138]. Tomorrow He will color them with His own color. The Prophet said, “They will be colored with the light of the All-Merciful.”
The third attribute is what He says: “not abased to plow the earth or to water the tillage, secure with no blemish on her.” They are pure, virtuous, fortunate, beautiful in conduct, increasing day by day. They have not been tainted by the defects of the mimickers, nor have they fallen to the station of low in aspiration, nor have they been inscribed by friendship for the others or branded by the secondary causes. The sultan of mortal nature does not hold them in its hand, nor does the judge of appetites issue its rulings to them. They do not incline to figures and likenesses, nor do they lean on their own choice and contrivance. Just as they recognize that He who is worshiped is one, so also they know that the Intended is one, the Witnessed one, the Found one.
Everyone's busy with his own affairs and I aspire to the helping Friend.
Each has a prayer-niche in some direction,
but SanāÌī's prayer-niche is Your street. [DS 1004]
And, mention, when Moses said to his people, when one among them was killed and the killer was not known, and so they asked Moses to pray to God to reveal the killer, which he did; ‘God commands you to sacrifice a cow’. They said, ‘Do you take us in mockery?’, that is, making fun of us when you answer us like this? He said, ‘I take refuge with, I seek defence with, God lest I should be one of the ignorant’, one of those who indulge in mockery.
And when Moses said to his people, 'God commands you to sacrifice a cow', that is the animal soul, the sacrifice of which constitutes the suppression of its capricious nature, which is its lifeblood, and its being prevented from acts specific to her, by means of the knife blade of spiritual discipline; they said, 'Do you take us in mockeryḍ', scorning us and thinking little of us so that we might obey you and become disposed to you, as was the case with Pharaoh: Thus did he persuade his people and they obeyed him [Q. 43:54]. He said, 'I take refuge with God lest I should be one of the ignorant': to scorn, to mock and to seek hegemony over [people] is are the acts of the ignorant.
Allah said, `O Children of Israel! Remember how I blessed you with miracle of the cow that was the means for discovering the identity of the murderer, when the murdered man was brought back to life.'
Ibn Abi Hatim recorded `Ubaydah As-Salmani saying, "There was a man from among the Children of Israel who was impotent. He had substantial wealth, and only a nephew who would inherit from him. So his nephew killed him and moved his body at night, placing it at the doorstep of a certain man. The next morning, the nephew cried out for revenge, and the people took up their weapons and almost fought each other. The wise men among them said, `Why would you kill each other, while the Messenger of Allah is still among you' So they went to Musa and mentioned the matter to him and Musa said,
("Verily, Allah commands you that you slaughter a cow.'' They said, "Do you make fun of us'' He said, "I take Allah's refuge from being among Al-Jahilin (the ignorant or the foolish)).'' "Had they not disputed, it would have been sufficient for them to slaughter any cow. However, they disputed, and the matter was made more difficult for them, until they ended up looking for the specific cow that they were later ordered to slaughter. They found the designated cow with a man, only who owned that cow. He said, `By Allah! I will only sell it for its skin's fill of gold.' So they paid the cow's fill of its skin in gold, slaughtered it and touched the dead man with a part of it. He stood up, and they asked him, `Who killed you' He said, `That man,' and pointed to his nephew. He died again, and his nephew was not allowed to inherit him. Thereafter, whoever committed murder for the purpose of gaining inheritance was not allowed to inherit.'' Ibn Jarir reported something similar to that. Allah knows best.
Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
The Israelites were commanded to sacrifice a cow in order to rid them of the sanctity and worship of cow which they had adopted from the pagan nations around them. It was a test of their faith: if they really believed in Allah as their only Deity and did not make anyone or anything else the object of their worship, they should break the idol of their former worship with their own hands. But this proved to be a very hard test. They tried to evade and avoid the sacrifice because their belief in One God had not become firm as yet. They went on asking one detail after the other in order to put it off, but the more questions they asked the more they were driven into a tight corner. So much so that at last they were specifically told to sacrifice that very golden-coloured cow, which was being specially chosen for worship at that time. The Bible also mentions this incident, but does not tell how the Israelites tried to put it off by asking a number of unnecessary questions. (Please refer to Numbers, 19: 1-10).
And when Moses said to his people “God commands you to sacrifice a cow.” It was obligatory for them to execute the command directly but they wasted time with external appearances imagining that they had the leisure to linger in their digression from the obligation of the covenant. So their misery was doubled and the ignominy they had been warned about overtook them. When He said: “She is a cow neither old nor virgin middling between the two... ” [2:68] it meant she would be neither young nor aged but somewhere between the two. The allusion is to the fact that one who is suited for this path Ṭarīqa is one who is neither attracted by the impetuosity of youth and its drunkenness nor paralyzed by the weakness and frailty of old age. Rather he is alert; he has regained consciousness from his drunkenness yet retains some of the vigor of his youth.