81. As regards Samiri’s identification, although the opinion of Ibn `Abbas was that he was not an Israeli, but rather an outsider whose tribe used to worship the cow, and who somehow attached himself to them. The opinion of others was that he was in fact an Israelite of a tribe called Samirah (Razi). Alusi adds that there is a tribe in Syria even until his time which is called as the Samiri tribe. But Asad rules out that the Samiri belonged to the Samiri tribe. He prefers the opinion of Ibn `Abbas who held that he was one of the Egyptians who believed in Musa and joined the Israelites in their exodus from Egypt. “In which case,” writes Asad, “the designation samiri might be connected with the ancient Egyptian shemer, ‘a foreigner’ or ‘stranger.’ This surmise is strengthened by his introduction of the worship of the golden calf, undoubtedly an echo of the Egyptian cult of Apis.”
Mawdudi attends to the problem of Orientalists’ scholarship: “Al-Samiri was not the proper name of that person. The last letter ya of the word clearly indicates an affiliation, either to a race, a tribe, or to a place. Moreover, the prefix al here indicates that the person referred to was one particular Samiri, implying that there were many other people bearing that appellation because of their particular tribal, racial or habital affiliation – and that it was only he from among the Israelites who was responsible for the spread of calf-worship.
“In order to explain what the Qur’an says here no further information seems to be required. However, this particular matter has been deemed to be of great significance by Christian missionaries and especially by some Orientalists who have gone to great lengths to cast aspersions on the Qur’an. According to them, what is said here betrays – God forbid – the grievous ignorance of the Qur’an’s author.
“They contend that Samaria, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Israel, was built in 925 B.C., several centuries after this event, [implying, thereby, that the world al-Samiri is an anachronism]. Moreover, several centuries after this a hybrid people – a cross breed of Israelites and non-Israelites – appeared on the scene and were named Samaritans. The critics point out that along with other polytheistic innovations, worship of the golden calf was in vogue among the Samaritans. They claim that the Prophet (peace be on him) got wind of it from the Jews, and linked it with the time of the Prophet Moses (peace be on him), but invented the story that the worship of the golden calf was introduced by a Samaritan.
“They level similar charges against Haman whom the Qur’an mentions as one of Pharaoh’s ministers. Both Christian missionaries and Orientalists identify Haman as a courtier of the Persian King, Cyrus, who did indeed share the same name. Using this assumption, they argue that the current Qur’anic statement is further proof of the ignorance of the Qur’an’s author. Such a contention can only be sustained if one were to believe that in olden times there existed only one person, tribe or place, with a particular name; if that were indeed the case, the possibility of there being two or more people, tribes or places bearing the same name, is altogether excluded.
“The fact, however, is that the Samaritans were a well-known ancient nation who held sway over Iraq and the areas surrounding it during the time of Abraham (peace on him). It seems quite likely then for people belonging to this nation, or to any branch of it, to have been known as Samiris in Egypt during the time of Moses (peace be on him).”
82. In Islamic literature the Jews are sometimes referred to as the “enemies of the Prophets.” This is one instance of their enmity. The Bible attributes the calf-making to Harun (asws). Exodus, ch. 32, verses 1-5 say,
“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Up, make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ And Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the rings of gold which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the rings of gold which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made a molten calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamations and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.’ (Au.).
(To be continued)