148 In his absence, Moses’ people took to worshipping a mere shape that made sounds like a cow– a calf made from their jewelry. Could they not see that it did not speak to them or guide them in any way? Yet they took it for worship: they were evildoers. 149 When, with much wringing of hands, they perceived that they were doing wrong, they said, ‘If our Lord does not have mercy and forgive us, we shall be the losers.’ 150 On his return to his people, angry and aggrieved, Moses said, ‘How foul and evil is what you have done in my absence! Were you so keen to bring your Lord’s judgement forward?’ He threw the tablets down and seized his brother by the hair, pulling him towards him. Aaron said, ‘Son of my mother, these people overpowered me! They almost killed me! Do not give my enemies reason to rejoice! Do not include me with these evildoers!’ 151 Moses said, ‘My Lord, forgive me and my brother; accept us into Your mercy: You are the Most Merciful of all who show mercy. 152 Those who took to worshipping the calf will be afflicted by their Lord’s wrath, and by disgrace in this life.’ This is the way We repay those who invent such falsehoods, 153 but your Lord is most forgiving and most merciful towards those who do wrong, then repent afterwards and truly believe.
154 When Moses’ anger abated, he picked up the Tablets, on which were inscribed guidance and mercy for those who stood in awe of their Lord. 155 Moses chose from his people seventy men for Our appointment, and when they were seized by trembling, he prayed, ‘My Lord, if You had chosen to do so, You could have destroyed them long before this, and me too, so will You now destroy us for what the foolish among us have done? This is only a trial from You– through it, You cause whoever You will to stray and guide whoever You will– and You are our Protector, so forgive us and have mercy on us. You are the best of those who forgive. 156 Grant us good things in this world and in the life to come. We turn to You.’ God said, ‘I bring My punishment on whoever I will, but My mercy encompasses all things.
Mohammad in the Torah and Gospel
‘I shall ordain My mercy for those who are conscious of God and pay the prescribed alms; who believe in Our Revelations; 157 who follow the Messenger– the unlettered [a] prophet they find described in the Torah that is with them, and in the Gospel– who commands them to do right and forbids them to do wrong, who makes good things lawful to them and bad things unlawful, and relieves them of their burdens, and the iron collars [b] that were on them. So it is those who believe him, honor and help him, and who follow the light which has been sent down with him, who will succeed.’ 158 Say [Muhammad], ‘People, I am the Messenger of God to you all, from Him who has control over the heavens and the earth. There is no God but Him; He gives life and death, so believe in God and His Messenger, the unlettered prophet who believes in God and His words, and follow him so that you may find guidance.’
The Children of Israel are Tested
159 There is a group among the people of Moses who guide with truth, and who act justly according to it. 160 We divided them into twelve tribes [as distinct] communities, and, when his people asked him for water, inspired Moses to strike the rock with his staff [so that] twelve springs gushed out. Each tribe knew its own drinking place; We gave them the shade of clouds and sent down to them manna and quails [saying], ‘Eat the good things We have provided for you.’ They did not wrong Us; it was themselves they wronged. 161 When they were told, ‘Enter this town and eat freely there as you will, but say, “Relieve us!” and enter its gate humbly: then We shall forgive you your sins, and increase the reward of those who do good,’ 162 the wrongdoers among them substituted another saying for that which had been given them, so We sent them a punishment from heaven for their wrongdoing.
163 [Prophet], ask them about the town by the sea; how its people broke the Sabbath when their fish surfaced for them only on that day, never on weekdays– We tested them in this way: because of their disobedience– 164 how, when some of them asked [their preachers], ‘Why do you bother preaching to people God will destroy, or at least punish severely?’ [the preachers] answered, ‘In order to be free from your Lord’s blame, and so that they may perhaps take heed.’ 165 When they ignored [the warning] they were given, We saved those who forbade evil, and punished the wrongdoers severely because of their disobedience. 166 When, in their arrogance, they persisted in doing what they had been forbidden to do, We said to them, ‘Be like apes! [c] Be outcasts!’ 167 And then your Lord declared that, until the Day of Resurrection, He would send people against them to inflict terrible suffering on them. Your Lord is swift in punishment but He is most forgiving and merciful.
168 We dispersed them over the earth in separate communities– some are righteous and some less so: We tested them with blessings and misfortunes, so that they might all return [to righteousness]– 169 and they were succeeded by generations who, although they inherited the Scripture, took the fleeting gains of this lower world, saying, ‘We shall be forgiven,’ and indeed taking them again if other such gains came their way. Was a pledge not taken from them, written in the Scripture, to say nothing but the truth about God? And they have studied its contents well. For those who are mindful of God, the Hereafter is better. ‘Why do you not use your reason?’
Covenant with the Descendants of Adam
170 But as for those who hold fast to the Scripture and keep up the prayer, We do not deny righteous people their rewards. 171 When We made the mountain loom high above them like a shadow, and they thought it would fall on them, We said, ‘Hold fast to what We have given you, and remember what it contains, so that you may remain conscious of God.’
172 [Prophet], when your Lord took out the offspring from the loins of the Children of Adam and made them bear witness about themselves, He said, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ and they replied, ‘Yes, we bear witness.’ So you cannot say on the Day of Resurrection, ‘We were not aware of this,’ 173 or, ‘It was our forefathers who, before us, ascribed partners to God, and we are only the descendants who came after them: will you destroy us because of falsehoods they invented?’ 174 In this way We explain the messages, so that they may turn [to the right path].
175 [Prophet], tell them the story of the man to whom We gave Our messages: he sloughed them off, so Satan took him as his follower and he went astray– 176 if it had been Our will, We could have used these signs to raise him high, but instead he clung to the earth and followed his own desires– he was like a dog that pants with a lolling tongue whether you drive it away or leave it alone. Such is the image of those who reject Our signs. Tell them the story so that they may reflect. 177 How foul is the image of those who reject Our signs! It is themselves they wrong: 178 whoever God guides is truly guided, and whoever God allows to stray is a loser. 179 We have created many jinn and people who are destined for Hell, with hearts they do not use for comprehension, eyes they do not use for sight, ears they do not use for hearing. They are like cattle, no, even further astray: these are the ones who are entirely heedless.
180 The Most Excellent Names belong to God: use them to call on Him, and keep away from those who abuse them– they will be requited for what they do. 181 Among those We created are a group of people who guide with truth and act justly according to it. 182 But We lead on those who reject Our messages, step by step, without them realizing it: 183 I will give them respite, but My plan is sure. 184 Has it not occurred to them that their companion [d] is not mad but is giving clear warning? 185 Have they not contemplated the realm of the heavens and earth and all that God created, and that the end of their time might be near? What [other revelation] will they believe in if they do not believe in this? 186 No one can guide those God allows to stray: He leaves them blundering about in their insolence.
187 They ask you [Prophet] about the Hour, ‘When will it happen?’ Say, ‘My Lord alone has knowledge of it: He alone will reveal when its time will come, a time that is momentous [e] in both the heavens and earth. All too suddenly it will come upon you.’ They ask you about it as if you were eager [to find out]. Say, ‘God alone has knowledge of [when it will come], though most people do not realize it.’ 188 Say [Prophet], ‘I have no control over benefit or harm, [even] to myself, except as God may please: if I had knowledge of what is hidden, I would have abundant good things and no harm could touch me. I am no more than a bearer of warning, and good news to those who believe.’
a. Ummi can mean ‘unlettered’ or ‘gentile’.
b. Cf. 6: 146. This reference is said by interpreters to refer to the difficult obligations imposed on the Children of Israel.
c. Cf. note to 2: 65.
d. This refers to Prophet Muhammad.
e. Alternatively Suddi gives ‘hidden from’ as the interpretation of thaqulat (Razi), literally ‘weighs heavy’.
The Qur'an (Oxford World's Classics)
The Qur'an / a new translation by M. A. S. Abdel Haleem, copyright © 2004 Oxford World's Classics (Oxford University Press). Used by permission. All rights reserved.