Samiri (Islamic figure)

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Samiri or the Samiri (Arabic: الْسَّامِريّ) 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 the account given in the Hebrew Bible, the Quran does not blame Aaron for the calf’s creation.

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 argued, “We did not break our promise to you of our own free will, but we were made to carry the burden of the people’s ˹golden˺ jewellery, then we threw it ˹into the fire˺, and so did the Sâmiri.” Then he moulded for them an idol of a calf that made a lowing sound. They said, “This is your god and the god of Moses, but Moses forgot ˹where it was˺!” Did they not see that it did not respond to them, nor could it protect or benefit them? Aaron had already warned them beforehand, “O my people! You are only being tested by this, for indeed your ˹one true˺ Lord is the Most Compassionate. So follow me and obey my orders.” They replied, “We will not cease to worship it until Moses returns to us.” Moses scolded ˹his brother˺, “O Aaron! What prevented you, when you saw them going astray, from following after me? How could you disobey my orders?” Aaron pleaded, “O son of my mother! Do not seize me by my beard or ˹the hair of˺ my head. I really feared that you would say, ‘You have caused division among the Children of Israel, and did not observe my word.’”

Moses then asked, “What did you think you were doing, O Sâmiri?” He said, “I saw what they did not see, so I took a handful ˹of dust˺ from the hoof-prints of ˹the horse of˺ the messenger-angel ˹Gabriel˺ then cast it ˹on the moulded calf˺. This is what my lower-self tempted me into.” Moses said, “Go away then! And for ˹the rest of your˺ life you will surely be crying, ‘Do not touch ˹me˺!’ Then you will certainly have a fate that you cannot escape. Now look at your god to which you have been devoted: we will burn it up, then scatter it in the sea completely.”
—  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”.[2] Other traditions suggest that Samiri made the sound himself, or that it was only the wind.[3] Still others say that the calf was formed by God himself, as a test for the Hebrew people.[4]

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.[5]

Samiri's punishment has been interpreted as total social isolation by most scholars.[6]

Identity[edit]

Scholars of Islam have linked Samiri to various individuals mentioned in the Bible. As-Samiri is typically translated as "the Samaritan", with the episode being seen as an explanation for the separation between Samaritans and non-Samaritans. The story parallels the Biblical narrative of the golden calves built by Jeroboam of Samaria.[7] Samiri has been linked to the rebel Hebrew leader Zimri on the basis of their similar names and a shared theme of rebellion against Moses’ authority.[7] 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.[8] Abraham Geiger proposed the idea that Samiri is a corruption of Samael, the name of an angel with similar functions to Satan in Jewish lore.[9] There is no consensus among Islamic scholars on which, if any, of these identifications is correct.

In the Baháʼí Faith[edit]

The Baháʼí 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 Baháʼí religion.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Qur'an, Surah Ta Ha, Ayah 85
  2. ^ al-Tabari, Abu Jafar (1991). The History of al-Tabari, Volume III: The Children of Israel. Translated by Brinner, William M. p. 72.
  3. ^ Rubin, Uri. "Tradition in Transformation: the Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Calf in Biblical and Islamic Historiography," Oriens (Volume 36, 2001): 202.
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ al-Tabari, Abu Jafar (1991). The History of al-Tabari, Volume III: The Children of Israel. Translated by Brinner, William M. p. 74.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ a b Rubin, Uri. "Tradition in Transformation: the Ark of the Covenant and the Golden Calf in Biblical and Islamic Historiography," Oriens (Volume 36, 2001): 202-203.
  8. ^ Ibn Kathir (2000). Quran Tafsir Ibn Kathir. Dar-us-Salam Publications.
  9. ^ TY - BOOK T1 - Dictionary of Islam A1 - Hughes, P. A1 - Hughes, T.P. SN - 9788120606722 UR - https://books.google.de/books?id=O84eYLVHvB0C Y1 - 1995 PB - Asian Educational Services ER -