The Statue of the Calf
While Musa (AS) had been gone, the people of the Banu Israel had grown disobedient. Musa (AS) had told them he was going to go for 30 days, but this had been extended to 40 which made them impatient. A man named Samiri began telling the people that they should create a new god to worship as Musa (AS) wasn’t coming back. He took all the gold that they had with them and melted it down in a huge fire. Then he shaped a calf out of the gold, which was not completely solid but hollow instead. Because of this, the wind went through the idol and made a noise, which some people began to believe meant that it was alive. Some of the Banu Israel began to worship the calf instead of Allah.
Haroon (AS) tried to stop the idol-worshippers, but they were a disobedient people. He tried to remind them to worship only Allah and not the calf, but they said that they would only stop worshipping the calf when Musa (AS) returned.
When Musa (AS) returned and saw the idol-worshippers, he became so enraged that he grabbed Haroon (AS) by his beard and hair and asked him why he didn’t stop this evil act. Haroon (AS) defended himself, saying that he could do nothing as he was worried that he would cause a division between the members of the Banu Israel if he was too harsh.
Musa (AS) then confronted Samiri, who Allah had already pointed out to Musa (AS) as the mischief maker. Samiri claimed that he saw the angel Jibrael (AS) on a horse, and he took the dust from the hoof print of the horse and mixed it with the gold.
Musa (AS) heard this lie and became furious with Samiri. He declared a punishment on him, with the permission of Allah, which was that the only thing that he would be able to say from then on would be ‘Don’t touch me,’ and so he would have to live alone for the rest of his life. Musa (AS) then ordered that the calf be destroyed and its remains be scattered over the sea. He turned to the people who had worshipped the calf instead of Allah in fury and lectured them about what they had done. He told them to seek forgiveness and, to emphasise how serious their crime was, he even told them that taking their lives would be better for what they had done.
But the Banu Israel’s stubbornness and arrogance did not end there. Once, Musa (AS) chose 70 of the wisest and pious men from the Banu Israel to listen in when he was speaking to Allah. He hoped that letting them see this miracle take place would strengthen their faith. Instead, they demanded that they actually be allowed to see Allah as well, and said that they would never believe unless they did.
Immediately, the punishment of Allah came down upon the men. The earth began to shake violently, and lightning struck the ground. All 70 of the men were killed for their arrogance.
Another incident in life of Musa (AS) the shows how disobedient the Banu Israel were was the story of the cow. One day, a wealthy man from the Banu Israel passed away and all of his wealth was left to his only son. The son’s cousins became jealous of him, and so secretly killed him so that they could get their hands on the money themselves.
The relatives of the man who was killed came to Musa (AS) and explained what had happened and asked for help finding the murderers. Allah told Musa (AS) to tell them to slaughter a cow and to hit the corpse of the dead man with a piece of meat from the cow.
But the people did not want to listen to Allah’s command and decided to make excuses and create problems to make this harder. They asked Musa (AS) to tell them specifically what type of cow they should slaughter.
Musa (AS) replied, ‘One that is not too old or not too young.’
But they were not satisfied, ‘Ask your Lord what colour it should be.’
‘A yellow cow, bright in its colour and pleasing to look at.’
Even then, they still asked more questions, ‘Ask your Lord exactly which one it should be. Indeed, all cows look the same.’
So Musa (AS) gave a very difficult and specific condition, ‘It is a cow that has neither been trained to work the soil or to water the fields, it is healthy and it is no colour other than bright yellow.’
Now they could not argue, and so instead went off to search for this very specific cow. After much searching, they did eventually find it and slaughter it, even though they really didn’t want to, and then took a piece of its meat and hit the corpse of the dead man with it.
Immediately the man came back to life and said the names of the people who had murdered him, before dying again. This was another sign from Allah to prove the truth, but still the hearts of the people were hard and did not turn towards the straight path.