Hadith of the Cow in Sura Baqara

بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Al-Quran mentions an incident of the cow in sura Baqara (2:67-71). In this incident prophet Moosa (a.s) communicated an order of Allah to his people, to slaughter a cow. Apparently this should be a simple thing to do, as obviously it was not the first time they were slaughtering a cow. But instead they adopted an attitude of over inquisitiveness. They started asking a lot of questions about the cow, and even stated their frustration at some point that things are getting confusing for them and they need more and more details about the order, as according to them, Allah’s order was missing in details. In the end, when they finally did what they were asked to do, they ended up doing it in such a way which was very cumbersome for them.

Can we relate this incident in our lives as well. There are a number of things we do in our lives which are fairly normal e.g taking a bath, dining, sleeping and relieving our selves. Do we really need to ask a lot of questions about how to carry out these activities from religious point of view. The religious ‘masail’ books contain a lot of detailed instructions for simple activities. Seems like people who wrote these were watching the prophet (pbuh) even in their most private times to obtain these detailed instructions, while ayat 33:53 gives a clear message to companions not to indulge unnecessary in prophet’s private life. When we relate the incident mentioned in the hadith of Cow in Quran, we can understand that the religion does not put too much obligations on people in terms of everyday ordinary matters. It is when the people become over inquisitive and over zealous, they impose un-necessary hardships on themselves.

The messenger while communicating the spirit of the Book to people relieves them from these self imposed hardships (7:157) by governing them with the ayahs of Quran while cancelling the non Quranic orders and ideas.

2:67-71  وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يَأْمُرُكُمْ أَن تَذْبَحُوا بَقَرَةً ۖ قَالُوا أَتَتَّخِذُنَا هُزُوًا ۖ قَالَ أَعُوذُ بِاللَّهِ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِنَ الْجَاهِلِينَ -قَالُوا ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا هِيَ ۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٌ لَّا فَارِضٌ وَلَا بِكْرٌ عَوَانٌ بَيْنَ ذَٰلِكَ ۖ فَافْعَلُوا مَا تُؤْمَرُونَ -قَالُوا ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا لَوْنُهَا ۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٌ صَفْرَاءُ فَاقِعٌ لَّوْنُهَا تَسُرُّ النَّاظِرِينَ -قَالُوا ادْعُ لَنَا رَبَّكَ يُبَيِّن لَّنَا مَا هِيَ إِنَّ الْبَقَرَ تَشَابَهَ عَلَيْنَا وَإِنَّا إِن شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَمُهْتَدُونَ -قَالَ إِنَّهُ يَقُولُ إِنَّهَا بَقَرَةٌ لَّا ذَلُولٌ تُثِيرُ الْأَرْضَ وَلَا تَسْقِي الْحَرْثَ مُسَلَّمَةٌ لَّا شِيَةَ فِيهَا ۚ قَالُوا الْآنَ جِئْتَ بِالْحَقِّ ۚ فَذَبَحُوهَا وَمَا كَادُوا يَفْعَلُونَ

And when Moosa said to his people. “Verily, Allah commands you to sacrifice a cow.” They said. “Are you jesting with us?” He said. “Allah save me from becoming an ignorant one!”. They said. “Beseech on our behalf. your Lord to explain to us what  it is (like)!” He said; “He says. The cow should be neither too old nor too young, but of middle age. Now do what you are commanded!”  They said. “Beseech on our behalf your Lord to explain to us its color.” He said. “He says. A fawn-colored cow, pure and rich in tone, an admiration for the onlookers!”  They said. “Beseech on our behalf your Lord to explain to us what she is as to us all cows are alike. If Allah wills, we shall indeed be guided”  He said. “He says. A cow not trained to till the soil or water the fields; sound and without blemish.” They said. “Now you came with the truth.” Then they offered her in sacrifice, although they seemed unlikely to carry this out. 

The prophet (pbuh) actually removes these undue obligations which people have self imposed on themselves and they are over burdened against their weight.

7:157  الَّذِينَ يَتَّبِعُونَ الرَّسُولَ النَّبِيَّ الْأُمِّيَّ الَّذِي يَجِدُونَهُ مَكْتُوبًا عِندَهُمْ التَّوْرَاةِ وَالْإِنجِيلِ يَأْمُرُهُم بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَاهُمْ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَهُمُ الطَّيِّبَاتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيْهِمُ الْخَبَائِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنْهُمْ إِصْرَهُمْ وَالْأَغْلَالَ الَّتِي كَانَتْ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ فَالَّذِينَ آمَنُوا بِهِ وَعَزَّرُوهُ وَنَصَرُوهُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّورَ الَّذِي أُنزِلَ مَعَهُ ۙ أُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُونَ

“Those who follow the messenger, the ummi prophet, whom they find written in what is with them,- in the Taurat and the Injeel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honor him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper.”

2:106   مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا ۗ أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

What we abrogate/cancel or cause to be forgotten (orders other than Allah’s) from an ayat, We substitute something better or similar. Don’t you know that Allah Has power over all things?

The Non Quranic concepts are cancelled and replaced with Allah’s orders with Ayahs.

The below ayat is presented in order to stress the point regarding desirable behavior near prophet’s house and family. Obviously if any one is invited to prophet’s house, he will naturally be interested to know about prophet’s behavior. With this opportunity, people will not definitely be indulging in vain talk, but would be interested to know as much information as possible about the prophet (pbuh).  This is all but natural.  However, the below ayat warns people to refrain from showing too much eagerness about (prophet’s) hadiths i.e petty talks about him, and discussions about his private life. We can reasonably believe that when the companions saw this order, they naturally would have refrained from such behavior. However, we find a lot of narrations about prophet’s private life in history books attributed to prophet’s companions, which should therefore be taken with a grain of salt.

33:53  يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا لَا تَدْخُلُوا بُيُوتَ النَّبِيِّ إِلَّا أَن يُؤْذَنَ لَكُمْ إِلَىٰ طَعَامٍ غَيْرَ نَاظِرِينَ إِنَاهُ وَلَٰكِنْ إِذَا دُعِيتُمْ فَادْخُلُوا فَإِذَا طَعِمْتُمْ فَانتَشِرُوا وَلَا مُسْتَأْنِسِينَ لِحَدِيثٍ ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ يُؤْذِي النَّبِيَّ فَيَسْتَحْيِي مِنكُمْ ۖ وَاللَّهُ لَا يَسْتَحْيِي مِنَ الْحَقِّ ۚ وَإِذَا سَأَلْتُمُوهُنَّ مَتَاعًا فَاسْأَلُوهُنَّ مِن وَرَاءِ حِجَابٍ ۚ ذَٰلِكُمْ أَطْهَرُ لِقُلُوبِكُمْ وَقُلُوبِهِنَّ ۚ وَمَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَن تُؤْذُوا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَلَا أَن تَنكِحُوا أَزْوَاجَهُ مِن بَعْدِهِ أَبَدًا ۚ إِنَّ ذَٰلِكُمْ كَانَ عِندَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمًا

O you who believe! Do not enter the Prophet’s houses,- until leave is granted to you,- for a meal, (and then) not (so early as) to wait for its preparation. but when ye are invited, enter; and when ye have taken your meal, disperse, without showing fondness for hadith/ narration. Such (behavior) persecutes the prophet. He is ashamed to dismiss you, but Allah is not ashamed (to tell you) the truth. And when you ask (his ladies) for anything of value (prophet’s hadith), ask them from behind a screen. that makes for greater purity for your hearts and for theirs. Nor is it right for you that you should persecute Allah’s messenger, or that you should marry his spouses after him at any time. Truly such a thing is in Allah’s sight an enormity (sin).

People usually come with the mind set that following the religion is pure hardship and its instructions are difficult to comprehend. This mind set prevents them from delving deeper and making efforts to get clarity on its commands.  While Allah’s system is actually designed with the intention to reduce hardships and make life better for the followers. A parable could be drawn from the action of Queen of Saba when she was asked to enter a Palace. She thought it was water and she will have to brace through water. As she had made up her mind to follow the order, she prepared herself for entering the water. But later, it turned out that it was not water she had to brace though, instead it was a crystal clear, palace.

27:44   قِيلَ لَهَا ادْخُلِي الصَّرْحَ ۖ فَلَمَّا رَأَتْهُ حَسِبَتْهُ لُجَّةً وَكَشَفَتْ عَن سَاقَيْهَا ۚ قَالَ إِنَّهُ صَرْحٌ مُّمَرَّدٌ مِّن قَوَارِيرَ ۗ قَالَتْ رَبِّ إِنِّي ظَلَمْتُ نَفْسِي وَأَسْلَمْتُ مَعَ سُلَيْمَانَ لِلَّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِينَ

She was asked to enter the Palace; but when she saw it, she thought it was a lake of water, and she tucked up her skirts (in preparation to enter the water), . He said. “This is but a palace paved with glass crystals.” She said. “O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul. I do (now) submit (in Islam), with Solieman, to the Lord of the Worlds.

2:72-73  وَإِذْ قَتَلْتُمْ نَفْسًا فَادَّارَأْتُمْ فِيهَا ۖ وَاللَّهُ مُخْرِجٌ مَّا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ  فَقُلْنَا اضْرِبُوهُ بِبَعْضِهَا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ يُحْيِي اللَّهُ الْمَوْتَىٰ وَيُرِيكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَعْقِلُونَ

And when you killed a self/nafs and then you differed in this, but Allah was to bring forth what you were hiding. So We said. “Strike it (the body) with a piece of it (nafs/psyche).” In this way Allah brings the dead to life and shows you His ayahs/signs. So that you may understand.

Coming back to the hadith of cow, one who is devoid of Allah’s remembrance is considered dead in the eyes of the Lord (6:122). A person has to strike his Nafs/Psyche in order to bring it out from state of death. ‘Some part of it’ (nafs) in above ayat, would mean here the good part of the Nafs/Psyche. The body should be stricken with the good part of the Nafs/psyche to make the whole self/nafs alive. For example, in fasting/saum the body is deprived or stricken with the nafs to control desires and nurture in oneself the consciousness of Allah.

6:122  أَوَمَن كَانَ مَيْتًا فَأَحْيَيْنَاهُ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ كَمَن مَّثَلُهُ فِي الظُّلُمَاتِ لَيْسَ بِخَارِجٍ مِّنْهَا ۚ كَذَٰلِكَ زُيِّنَ لِلْكَافِرِينَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

And the one who was dead, thus We gave him life, and made for him a light, whereby he walks amongst people; can he be like the one who is in the depths of darkness, from which he can never come out? Similiarly it is made alluring for the kafireen/rejecters what they do

link to a lecture explaining killing of Nafs/psychology :   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM3qXyNBoZQ

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