English Translation and Commentary of the Holy Quran (2010)

by Maulana Muhammad Ali

Chapter 20: Ta Ha — Ta Ha (Revealed at Makkah: 8 sections, 135 verses)

Section 4 (Verses 20:77–20:89): The Israelites Worship the Calf


وَ لَقَدۡ اَوۡحَیۡنَاۤ اِلٰی مُوۡسٰۤی ۬ۙ اَنۡ اَسۡرِ بِعِبَادِیۡ فَاضۡرِبۡ لَہُمۡ طَرِیۡقًا فِی الۡبَحۡرِ یَبَسًا ۙ لَّا تَخٰفُ دَرَکًا وَّ لَا تَخۡشٰی ﴿۷۷﴾

20:77 And certainly We revealed to Moses: Travel by night with My servants, then strike for them a dry path in the sea, not fearing to be caught, nor being afraid.1

فَاَتۡبَعَہُمۡ فِرۡعَوۡنُ بِجُنُوۡدِہٖ فَغَشِیَہُمۡ مِّنَ الۡیَمِّ مَا غَشِیَہُمۡ ﴿ؕ۷۸﴾

20:78 So Pharaoh followed them with his armies, then the sea covered them that would cover them.

وَ اَضَلَّ فِرۡعَوۡنُ قَوۡمَہٗ وَ مَا ہَدٰی ﴿۷۹﴾

20:79 And Pharaoh led his people astray and he did not guide aright.

یٰبَنِیۡۤ اِسۡرَآءِیۡلَ قَدۡ اَنۡجَیۡنٰکُمۡ مِّنۡ عَدُوِّکُمۡ وَ وٰعَدۡنٰکُمۡ جَانِبَ الطُّوۡرِ الۡاَیۡمَنَ وَ نَزَّلۡنَا عَلَیۡکُمُ الۡمَنَّ وَ السَّلۡوٰی ﴿۸۰﴾

20:80 O Children of Israel, We truly delivered you from your enemy, and made a covenant with you on the blessed side of the mountain, and sent to you the manna and the quails.

کُلُوۡا مِنۡ طَیِّبٰتِ مَا رَزَقۡنٰکُمۡ وَ لَا تَطۡغَوۡا فِیۡہِ فَیَحِلَّ عَلَیۡکُمۡ غَضَبِیۡ ۚ وَ مَنۡ یَّحۡلِلۡ عَلَیۡہِ غَضَبِیۡ فَقَدۡ ہَوٰی ﴿۸۱﴾

20:81 Eat of the good things We have provided for you, and do not exceed the limits in that respect, so that My wrath comes upon you; and he on whom My wrath comes, he perishes indeed.

وَ اِنِّیۡ لَغَفَّارٌ لِّمَنۡ تَابَ وَ اٰمَنَ وَ عَمِلَ صَالِحًا ثُمَّ اہۡتَدٰی ﴿۸۲﴾

20:82 And surely I am Forgiving toward him who repents and believes and does good, then walks aright.

وَ مَاۤ اَعۡجَلَکَ عَنۡ قَوۡمِکَ یٰمُوۡسٰی ﴿۸۳﴾

20:83 And what made you hasten from your people, O Moses?

قَالَ ہُمۡ اُولَآءِ عَلٰۤی اَثَرِیۡ وَ عَجِلۡتُ اِلَیۡکَ رَبِّ لِتَرۡضٰی ﴿۸۴﴾

20:84 He said: They are here on my track, and I hastened on to You, my Lord, that You might be pleased.

قَالَ فَاِنَّا قَدۡ فَتَنَّا قَوۡمَکَ مِنۡۢ بَعۡدِکَ وَ اَضَلَّہُمُ السَّامِرِیُّ ﴿۸۵﴾

20:85 He said: Surely We have tried your people in your absence, and the Sāmirī2 has led them astray.

فَرَجَعَ مُوۡسٰۤی اِلٰی قَوۡمِہٖ غَضۡبَانَ اَسِفًا ۬ۚ قَالَ یٰقَوۡمِ اَلَمۡ یَعِدۡکُمۡ رَبُّکُمۡ وَعۡدًا حَسَنًا ۬ؕ اَفَطَالَ عَلَیۡکُمُ الۡعَہۡدُ اَمۡ اَرَدۡتُّمۡ اَنۡ یَّحِلَّ عَلَیۡکُمۡ غَضَبٌ مِّنۡ رَّبِّکُمۡ فَاَخۡلَفۡتُمۡ مَّوۡعِدِیۡ ﴿۸۶﴾

20:86 So Moses returned to his people angry, sorrowing. He said: My people, did not your Lord promise you a goodly promise? Did the promised time, then, seem long to you, or did you wish that displeasure from your Lord should come upon you, so that you broke (your) promise to me?

قَالُوۡا مَاۤ اَخۡلَفۡنَا مَوۡعِدَکَ بِمَلۡکِنَا وَ لٰکِنَّا حُمِّلۡنَاۤ اَوۡزَارًا مِّنۡ زِیۡنَۃِ الۡقَوۡمِ فَقَذَفۡنٰہَا فَکَذٰلِکَ اَلۡقَی السَّامِرِیُّ ﴿ۙ۸۷﴾

20:87 They said: We did not break the promise to you of our own accord, but we were made to bear the burdens of the ornaments of the people, then we cast them away, and thus did the Sāmirī suggest.3

فَاَخۡرَجَ لَہُمۡ عِجۡلًا جَسَدًا لَّہٗ خُوَارٌ فَقَالُوۡا ہٰذَاۤ اِلٰـہُکُمۡ وَ اِلٰہُ مُوۡسٰی ۬ فَنَسِیَ ﴿ؕ۸۸﴾

20:88 Then he brought forth for them a calf, a (lifeless) body, having a lowing sound,4 so they said: This is your god and the god of Moses; but he forgot.

اَفَلَا یَرَوۡنَ اَلَّا یَرۡجِعُ اِلَیۡہِمۡ قَوۡلًا ۬ۙ وَّ لَا یَمۡلِکُ لَہُمۡ ضَرًّا وَّ لَا نَفۡعًا ﴿٪۸۹﴾

20:89 Could they not see that it returned no reply to them,5 nor controlled any harm or benefit for them?


  1. This shows that there was at that time a dry path in the sea; see 2:50.
  2. The verse shows that some person other than Aaron was responsible for making the calf. From Rabbinical literature it appears that the Egyptians who had come with the Israelites were foremost in demanding the making of the calf.
  3. The Israelites may have borrowed ornaments from the Egyptians as stated in Exodus 12:35, and the reference may here be to those ornaments, or the significance may simply be that the nomadic tribes of Israel, who were unaccustomed to these things, had imbibed these habits from the Egyptians, and now gave up those ornaments at the suggestion of the Sāmirī. The reply of the people states clearly they had not done the thing of their own accord, and hence the reference in the concluding words is to the suggestions cast into the minds of the people by the Sāmirī.
  4. It had neither a voice nor a soul, but it was only a sound produced by the air passing through the hollow metal of which it was made.
  5. The argument in this verse shows that God not only listens to prayers but also gives a reply to His true worshippers when they pray to Him.