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Select Translation What is This? Selections include: The Koran Interpreted, a translation by A.J. Arberry, first published 1955; The Qur'an, translated by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem, published 2004; or side-by-side comparison view
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The Qurʾan What is This? A current English-language version of the Qur'an, published in 2004
Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem

2. The Cow (62 – 82)

62The [Muslim] believers, the Jews, the Christians, and the Sabiansa The Sabians were a monotheistic religious community. See M. Asad, The Message of the Qurʾan (Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus, 1997), 40 n. 49.—all those who believe in God and the Last Day and do good—will have their rewards with their Lord. No fear for them, nor will they grieve. 63Remember when We took your pledge, and made the mountain tower high above you, and said, ‘Hold fast to what We have given you and bear its contents in mind, so that you may be conscious of God.’ 64Even after that you turned away. Had it not been for God's favour and mercy on you, you would certainly have been lost. 65You know about those of you who broke the Sabbath, and so We said to them, ‘Be like apes!b This is understood by some as ‘physically turn into apes’ but in fact it is a figure of speech—the structure ‘be apes’ is like ‘be stones/iron’ in 17: 50. Just as the Qurʾan describes the disbelievers as blind, deaf, and dumb, here the transgressors are apes. Be outcasts!’ 66We made this an example to those people who were there at the time and to those who came after them, and a lesson to all who are mindful of God.

67Remember when Moses said to his people, ‘God commands you to sacrifice a cow.’ They said, ‘Are you making fun of us?’ He answered, ‘God forbid that I should be so ignorant.’ 68They said, ‘Call on your Lord for us, to show us what sort of cow it should be.’ He answered, ‘God says it should be neither too old nor too young, but in between, so do as you are commanded.’ 69They said, ‘Call on your Lord for us, to show us what colour it should be.’ He answered, ‘God says it should be a bright yellow cow, pleasing to the eye.’ 70They said, ‘Call on your Lord for us, to show us [exactly] what it is: all cows are more or less alike to us. With God's will, we shall be guided.’ 71He replied, ‘It is a perfect and unblemished cow, not trained to till the earth or water the fields.’ They said, ‘Now you have brought the truth,’ and so they slaughtered it, though they almost failed to do so. 72Then, when you [Israelites] killed someone and started to blame one another—although God was to bring what you had concealed to light—73We said, ‘Strike the [body] with a part of [the cow]’: thus God brings the dead to life and shows His signs so that you may understand. 74Even after that, your hearts became as hard as rocks, or even harder, for there are rocks from which streams spring out, and some from which water comes when they split open, and others which fall down in awe of God: He is not unaware of what you do.

75So can you [believers] hope that such people will believe you, when some of them used to hear the words of God and then deliberately twist them, even when they understood them? 76When they meet the believers, they say, ‘We too believe.’ But when they are alone with each other they say, ‘How could you tell them about God's revelation [to us]? They will be able to use it to argue against you before your Lord! Have you no sense?’ 77Do they not know that God is well aware of what they conceal and what they reveal? 78Some of them are uneducated, and know the Scripture only through wishful thinking. They rely on guesswork. 79So woe to those who write something down with their own hands and then claim, ‘This is from God,’ in order to make some small gain. Woe to them for what their hands have written! Woe to them for all that they have earned! 80They say, ‘The Fire will only touch us for a few days.’ Say to them, ‘Have you received a promise from God—for God never breaks His promise—or are you saying things about Him of which you have no real knowledge?’ 81Truly those who do evil and are surrounded by their sins will be the inhabitants of the Fire, there to remain,82while those who believe and do good deeds will be the inhabitants of the Garden, there to remain.

Notes:

a The Sabians were a monotheistic religious community. See M. Asad, The Message of the Qurʾan (Gibraltar: Dar al-Andalus, 1997), 40 n. 49.

b This is understood by some as ‘physically turn into apes’ but in fact it is a figure of speech—the structure ‘be apes’ is like ‘be stones/iron’ in 17: 50. Just as the Qurʾan describes the disbelievers as blind, deaf, and dumb, here the transgressors are apes.

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