Samiri (Islamic figure)

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Samiri or the Samiri (Arabic: السامري‎, translit. as-Sāmirī) is a phrase used by the Quran to refer to a rebellious follower of Moses who created the golden calf and attempted to lead the Hebrews into idolatry. According to the twentieth chapter of the Quran, Samiri created the calf while Moses was away for 40 days on Mount Sinai, receiving the Ten Commandments.[1] In contrast to account given in the Hebrew Bible, the Quran does not blame Aaron for the calf’s creation and instead praises him for trying to stop the worship of it.[2]

In the Quran[edit]

In Ta-Ha, the Quran’s twentieth surah, Moses is informed that Samiri has led his people astray in Moses’ absence. He returns to his people to berate them, and is informed of what Samiri has done.

They said, ‘We did not fail our tryst with you of our own accord, but we were laden with the weight of the people’s ornaments, and we cast them [into the fire] and so did the Samiri throw.’ Then he produced for them a calf —a [lifeless] body with a low— and they said, This is your god and the god of Musa (Moses), so he forgot! Did they not see that it did not answer them, nor could it bring them any benefit or harm? Haroun (Aaron) had certainly told them earlier, ‘O my people! You are only being tested by it. Indeed your Lord is the All-beneficent. So follow me and obey my command!’
[Moses] said, “And what is your case, O Samiri?” He said, “I saw what they did not see, so I took a handful [of dust] from the track of the messenger and threw it, thus did my soul entice me.” [Moses] said, “Then go. And indeed, it is [decreed] for you in [this] life to say, 'No contact.’ And indeed, you have an appointment [in the Hereafter] you will not fail to keep. And look at your 'god’ to which you remained devoted. We will surely burn it and blow it [i.e., its ashes] into the sea with a blast. [Quran 20:95]

In Islamic tradition[edit]

The Quran’s statement that Samiri’s calf made a "lowing" sound has resulted in much speculation. A number of Islamic traditions say that the calf was made with dust trodden upon by the horse of the angel Gabriel, which had mystical properties. Some traditions say that the calf could also move, a property granted to it by the dust of the “horse of life”.[3] Other traditions suggest that Samiri made the sound himself, or that it was only the wind.[4] Still others say that the calf was formed by Allah himself, as a test for the Hebrew people.[5]

Later traditions expand upon the fate of those who worshiped the calf. Works by al-Tabari include a story in which Moses orders his people to drink from the water into which the calf had been flung; those guilty of worshiping it were revealed when they turned a golden hue. Moses ordered his people to kill them, resulting in thousands of casualties, but the carnage stopped after Moses begged Allah to stop the violence.[6]

Samiri's punishment has been interpreted as total social isolation by most scholars.[7]

Identity[edit]

Scholars of Islam have linked Samiri to various individuals mentioned in the Bible. Due to the fact that as-Samiri can mean the Samaritan,[8] some believe that his character is a reference to the worship of the golden calves built by Jeroboam of Samaria, conflating the two idol-worshiping incidents into one. However, recent research reveal that the Samaritans are the direct descendants of the Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh and that until the 17th century C.E., they possessed a high priesthood descending directly from Aaron through Eleazar and Phinehas.[9]

Samiri has also been linked to the rebel Hebrew leader Zimri on the basis of their similar names and a shared theme of rebellion against Moses’ authority.[10] Others link him to the Mesopotamian city of Samarra and suggest that he came from a cow-worshiping people, giving his name as Musa bin Zafar.[11] There is no consensus among Islamic scholars on which, if any, of these identifications is correct.

In the Baha'i Faith[edit]

The Bahá'í Faith portrays Samiri as a magician who led people away from the “knowledge and justice” of Moses to ignorance. He is mentioned in the “Kitáb-i-Íqán”, the primary theological work of the Baha'i religion.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Qur'an, Surah Ta Ha, Ayah 85
  2. ^ The Qur'an, Surah Ta Ha, Ayah 92-98
  3. ^ al-Tabari, Abu Jafar (1991). The History of al-Tabari, Volume III: The Children of Israel. Translated by Brinner, William M. p. 72.
  4. ^ Rubin, Uri. "Tradition in Transformation: the Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Calf in Biblical and Islamic Historiography," Oriens (Volume 36, 2001): 202.
  5. ^ Albayrak, I. (2002). Isra’iliyyat and Classical Exegetes’ Comments on the Calf with a Hollow Sound Q.20: 83-98/ 7: 147-155 with Special Reference to Ibn ’Atiyya. Journal of Semitic Studies, 47(1), 39–65. doi:10.1093/jss/47.1.39
  6. ^ al-Tabari, Abu Jafar (1991). The History of al-Tabari, Volume III: The Children of Israel. Translated by Brinner, William M. p. 74.
  7. ^ Albayrak, I. (2002). Isra’iliyyat and Classical Exegetes’ Comments on the Calf with a Hollow Sound Q.20: 83-98/ 7: 147-155 with Special Reference to Ibn ’Atiyya. Journal of Semitic Studies, 47(1), 39–65. doi:10.1093/jss/47.1.39
  8. ^ Rubin, Uri. "Tradition in Transformation: the Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Calf in Biblical and Islamic Historiography," Oriens (Volume 36, 2001): 202.
  9. ^ Islamic Awareness, "The "Samaritan" Error In The Qur'an?". islamic-awareness.org. 24 February 2013.
  10. ^ Rubin, Uri. "Tradition in Transformation: the Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Calf in Biblical and Islamic Historiography," Oriens (Volume 36, 2001): 202.
  11. ^ Ibn Kathir (2000). Quran Tafsir Ibn Kathir. Dar-us-Salam Publications.