June 23, 2024
red heifer
One of the most notable examples cow-worship is the worship of Hathor, a goddess often depicted as a woman with the head of a cow or as a cow herself.

Ancient Egyptians used to worship cows, as there are archaeological records indicating that certain ancient Egyptians revered the cow or heifer as a sacred animal. One of the most notable examples cow-worship is the worship of Hathor, a goddess often depicted as a woman with the head of a cow or as a cow herself. Hathor was associated with motherhood, fertility, music, and joy, among other attributes.

Numerous temples dedicated to Hathor have been discovered throughout ancient Egypt, particularly in regions like Dendera and Deir el-Medina. These temples often featured depictions of cows and heifers, and they served as centers of worship where rituals and ceremonies honoring Hathor took place.

Additionally, archaeological findings such as statues, reliefs, and inscriptions further attest to the veneration of the cow in ancient Egyptian religion. The Apis bull, believed to be a manifestation of the god Ptah, was another sacred animal revered by the ancient Egyptians. The Apis bull was considered a symbol of strength and fertility, and it was worshipped in temples dedicated to its cult, particularly in the city of Memphis.

While the cow or heifer held significance in ancient Egyptian religious beliefs and practices, it’s important to note that the extent and nature of this cow-worship varied over time and across different regions of ancient Egypt. Additionally, the role of the cow in Egyptian religion was often intertwined with broader cosmological and religious beliefs, reflecting the complex and multifaceted nature of ancient Egyptian spirituality.

The Qur’anicn narrative affirms that Israelites had a deep love and reverence for cows:
And [recall] when We took your covenant and raised over you the mount, [saying], ‘Take what We have given you with determination and listen.’ They said [instead], ‘We hear and disobey.’ And their hearts absorbed [the worship of] the calf because of their disbelief. Say, ‘How wretched is that which your faith enjoins upon you if you should be believers.‘” [2″93
This verse recounts a moment in the history of the Israelites when they were given a covenant by God. The covenant was accompanied by significant signs and instructions, including the elevation of Mount Sinai above them, signaling the solemnity and importance of the covenant. Despite witnessing these signs, when the commandments were given, some of the Israelites disobeyed and rejected them. Instead of adhering to the commandments, they chose to worship the calf, a reference to the incident of the golden calf mentioned in the Old Testament, as well.

The phrase “And their hearts absorbed [the worship of] the calf” suggests that the calf, or heifer, became deeply ingrained in their hearts and minds as an object of reverence and worship. This happened due to their disbelief and deviation from the path set by God. The Quran condemns this act of idolatry and emphasizes the severity of deviating from faith and obedience to God’s commandments. It serves as a reminder of the consequences of straying from the right path and the importance of steadfastness in faith.

In the Quran, the story of the golden calf and the involvement of a figure named Samiri is mentioned in several verses. One of the primary references can be found in Surah Taha [Ayah 85, 87, 95]. Here’s an expansion based on these verses:

When Moses (peace be upon him) ascended Mount Sinai (Jabal al-Tur), he left his brother Aaron (Harun) in charge of the Israelites. During his absence, some among the Israelites, influenced by Samiri, began to deviate from the teachings of Moses and the worship of the one true God.

Samiri, who was knowledgeable in sorcery and deceit, took advantage of Moses’ absence and convinced a faction of the Israelites to gather their gold jewelry. He then melted down their gold and fashioned it into the shape of a calf, which he coated with a shiny veneer, giving it a golden appearance.

When the Israelites saw the golden calf, they were misled into believing it possessed divine qualities and began to worship it in defiance of Moses’ teachings. They turned away from the worship of Allah and instead devoted themselves to the idolatrous worship of the calf.

Upon his return from Mount Sinai, Moses was dismayed and angered by what he saw. He rebuked Aaron for not preventing the Israelites from succumbing to idolatry and destroying the calf. Aaron explained that he had tried to dissuade them, but they insisted on worshipping the calf.

Moses then turned to Samiri and questioned him about his role in this betrayal of faith. Samiri confessed to his actions and revealed that he had thrown a handful of dust into the molten gold, claiming it was from the footprint of the Messenger (angel) of Moses. This act imbued the calf with a mystical allure, further enticing the Israelites to worship it.

This story serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of idol worship, the consequences of straying from the path of faith, and the importance of remaining steadfast in belief in the one true God, as emphasized in Islamic teachings.

It’s important to clarify that modern Jews do not worship cows or heifers. However, there are certain rituals and beliefs surrounding the red heifer (parah adumah) in Judaism that have symbolic and religious significance. The red heifer is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) in the Book of Numbers, specifically in Numbers 19, where it is described as a sacrifice used in purification rituals.

In Jewish tradition, the red heifer holds a special status due to its role in the purification process for individuals who have come into contact with death or impurity. According to Jewish law, the ashes of a red heifer were mixed with water to create a solution known as the “water of purification” (mei niddah), which was used to cleanse individuals and objects of ritual impurity.

Despite the lack of a Temple in Jerusalem (where sacrifices including the red heifer were offered) since its destruction in 70 CE, some Jewish scholars and religious authorities maintain an interest in the red heifer and its potential significance for future Temple rituals. There are occasional reports of efforts to breed a red heifer that meets the biblical requirements for purity, although these efforts have not been universally accepted within the Jewish community.

While the red heifer and its associated rituals may seem mysterious or enigmatic to outsiders, within Jewish tradition, they are understood within the context of religious law and symbolism. The rituals surrounding the red heifer serve as a reminder of the importance of purity and spiritual cleansing within Judaism, even in the absence of the Temple and its sacrificial system. However, it is a modified form of cow-worship.

The Qur’anic narrative still resonates with contemporary Jewish traditions:
“And their hearts absorbed [the worship of] the calf”

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