Cow is mentioned in the Quran. Does this not overshadow the universality of the Quran?

Details of the Question

Cow is mentioned in the Quran. Does this not overshadow the universality of the Quran?

(editor) on Mon, 15/01/2018 - 11:05

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Quran is the word of Allah. Both Allah Himself and His attributes are endless. Thus, the Quran, which He sent to the whole humanity and all centuries, will definitely address all humans with all chapters, verses and words. For, the ilm (knowledge) that states it is the ilm of Allah, who is the Absolute Knower (Alim al-Mutlaq), and who knows the needs of all human beings.

Let us explain the issue with examples. For instance, a state related to the wives of the Prophet (pbuh) is actually related to all women. Although it clearly seems that the wives of the Prophet are mentioned, all human beings are actually the addressees of the decree of the verse indirectly. When scholars make a decree about an issue, they make explanations by using those verses of the Quran as evidence.

For instance, people like Abu Lahab will exist up to Doomsday. The verse states that everybody who acts like Lahab will face the terrible ending mentioned by the verse.

We send you a question and answer about how Hz. Musa’s (Moses) slaughtering a cow gives us and all centuries a lesson:

Why does the Quran mention a cow?

What does the incident of “baqara (cow)” that took place during the time of Hz. Musa tell us? You know the cow. It is a blessed animal from which we get curative milk and protein through its flesh. It is also sacrificed, causing the one who slaughters it and has it slaughtered to gain thawabs.

However, “to slaughter the cow” sometimes becomes so difficult that it becomes necessary for a prophet to be sent in order to slaughter it. And that prophet slaughters the cow to set a model for those who cannot slaughter it. The incident of “slaughtering the cow” is so important that the divine word often mentions it. What is more, the longest chapter of the Quran is given its name.

Why is that cow and its being slaughtered so important? Is it mentioned only as an incident that took place in history in the Quran? What does it mean for us, who live today?

Let us remember the history now. In Egypt, the hot desert is transformed into fertile land thanks to the blessing brought by the River Nile. Soil is watered and cultivated; a lot of crops are harvested. Agriculture was based on the plough at that time; and the plough was based on cows and oxen; therefore, those animals were very valuable in the eye of people. If we imagine that we are the people whose living is based on soil and who cultivate soil with oxen, we can feel the value of “the technology of plough”, which has become part of history now, and hence cows and oxen.

Those people, in whose lives the cow has a central place, start to think as follows in the course of time: “What would happen to us if it were not for cows?” They draw the following conclusion: “If it were not for cows, we could not cultivate our land. If we did not cultivate our land, we would not harvest crops. If we did not harvest crops, we would have no food. If we had no food, we would die.” This chain of logic that starts with “if it were not for cows”, the cow virtually becomes “the sustainer of life”. That community, which thinks “we cannot live without sustenance”, starts to worship the cow since it sees the cow as the “source of sustenance”. They approach it as if it is a holy thing. They do not allow anybody to touch it. The cow that attains immunity becomes holy. It becomes a deity, to which stomachs and hearts are tied.

Is the cow really “sustainer” Is it a compassionate being that understands the state of human being and that says, “I will meet the deeds of those poor beings? Does it have the knowledge to see it and the power to do it? However, the people who worship the cow did not ask those questions and did not think about them.

In fact, the cow is a quiet and calm animal. It grazes on meadows eats and drinks. It also needs sustenance. It is not aware of the benefits of the milk it has. It is not aware of the value of its flesh and skin either. Its duty is only to carry, display and present them. It eats what is put before it, carries what is placed on it and presents what accumulates in its udders. It cannot know and think beyond. However, there were some people who thought, “If it were not for cows, we could not cultivate our land. If we did not cultivate our land, we would not harvest wheat.” Thus, they virtually deified the cow.

Then, let us place the formation of wheat on one scale and the cow on the other scale and weigh them. Wheat is sustenance for people. As they express it today, wheat is the main “staple food”. People need it as sustenance. Can the cow be a being that can meet this need of people? How can a being that needs sustenance be a sustainer?

Wheat is the mirror of the reality of compassion and help. A being that meets man’s needs is a being that shows compassion to him and helps him. The cow is not a being that can show compassion to man and help him. How can a being that needs compassion and help can show compassion to others and help them?

An art is seen in the formation of a single grain of wheat. Every sane person can see that let alone one cow, even if all cows come together, they cannot produce this work of art. It is very clear that the cow cannot be an artist. How can a being that is a work of art can be an artist?

The production of wheat necessitates knowledge and power. The formation of a single grain of wheat is interrelated with the whole universe with elements like soil, air, water and sun so much that the cow has neither knowledge that can know them nor power that can do them.

In short, the one that gives wheat as sustenance is neither the cow nor a being that needs sustenance. The one that gives wheat can only be a being that gives sustenance to all needy beings but that does not need any sustenance. Only a compassionate artist that helps beings and that encompasses the whole universe with His knowledge and power can produce wheat. He is the one that creates the cow, soil, water, in short, everything.

However, when people tend to poor cows instead of loving and thanking Him, He still shows compassion and sends help to them. He sent Hz. Musa to those people. And, Hz. Musa slaughtered the cow as a sacrifice. Thus, he showed those who thought the sustainer was the cow that it was not the sustainer and that not the cow but the real Sustainer deserves thanking. The being that is killed here is not the cow itself. It does not have to be. For, the cow is a creature that fulfills the duties given to it due to its creation completely and that lives in accordance with what its artist projected for it.

What is killed is worshipping the cow; that is, the understanding that sees our living as a grace of the cow by saying, “if it were not for the cow, we would not be full up and we would not exist.” This mentality, which is based on determinism and worshipping causes, stopped. However, those who were not satisfied fully made a golden calf instead of the cow after Hz. Musa left that place. This shows that the struggle between people like Hz. Musa and those who worship causes still goes on.

Hz. Musa’s slaughtering the cow is a symbol. It is the symbol of breaking the tendency that the people living in that age had in their hearts to attribute the effect to the cause, that is, to the cow and hence to love it, to thank it and to worship it. It is the declaration that this understanding is wrong and that it is necessary to be eliminated because the cow is not the sustainer.

Hz. Musa managed to slaughter the cow because he knew the real nature of the cow. He was aware that the cow was a gift that was sent by a being who loves people, meets their needs and shows compassion to them. Therefore, he loved the cow on behalf of the being that sent it, not as a “source of sustenance”. Besides, he slaughtered the cow on behalf of Him. He slaughtered it upon the order and permission of his Lord, who presented it to people.

As it is known, technology has changed. Oxen and cows in agriculture were replaced by machines. The number of people engaged in agriculture decreased. Many people earn their living outside agriculture. Some people earn their living by working on a computer, in a factory or a government office. Some people use their knowledge while others use their other talents. What can this incident tell us, who are living like that? Those people attributed their sustenance to “the cow” To whom do we attribute our sustenance? Whom or what do we thank as source of sustenance? Do we thank “causes”, which is represented by the cow in the incident above or the being that creates all cows and causes, that has knowledge, power, compassion and assistance? A being that has real effects?

In that point, everybody still has a cow. Cows (tools/means) change based on ages and people but the meaning of the cow and its being slaughtered do not change. One of them always gives sustenance and the question who gives sustenance does not change. To worship a cow, that is, to worship tools/means, which is contrary to the mentality of even a child, to thank the cow as if it created effects and to beg it all the time is nonsense; to thank Lord, who is the creator of all cows and all causes, who is the real owner of effects, who really loves man and who sends his sustenance from unexpected places and to lead a life that is away from the servility of being a slave of the cow is what fits man.

Does it fit man to thank “cows” or Lord, who makes cows serve man? Which one is more honorable; to be a slave of another slave, or to worship our Lord, who creates those slaves for our needs?

In environments where sustenance is attributed to causes, slaughtering can be difficult. Some excuses like “the environment”, social pressure, etc. can be found. However, the most difficult aspect of slaughtering is to get rid of regarding ourselves as owners of effects as a “cause”. That is, the real “cows” are not outside, they are inside us. As a matter of fact, if we slaughter the cow due to outside pressure, we make a golden cow. It is more difficult to break it. However, the Quran, which addresses all times and all people, asks us to thank and worship the being that gives sustenance to everything, not “cows”.  How happy is he who sacrifices his own “cow” in the way of his Lord!

Since the Quran addresses people of all levels, what is the way of benefitting from it in the best way?

Badiuzzaman Said Nursi states that the Quran “scatters its radiance and spreads its light to the thousands of levels of those it addresses, by passing through seventy thousand veils” in his book called Sözler.

Like this book of the universe, the Quran is wrapped in meanings of veils and full of so many secrets and wisdoms one within another. It is not possible to move on to the second veil before watching the first one. Man has numerous veils in front of him before becoming the real addressee of the attribute of speech, which is the source of divine order.

If it is thought that the same Quran educates the Companions, mujtahids, mujaddids, saints, pure people and all believers, it is clearly seen that there are seventy thousand veils between the divine speech and us. All plants turn toward the same sun but each benefits from it based on its own talent and structure. Every tree in an orchard is planted in the same soil and is watered with the same water but different fruits appear on them.

The book of the universe and the Quran. Both have seventy thousand veils. As man covers distances in the field of heart, spirit and mind, he will experience different manifestations and proceed in the valley of knowing his Lord.

Passing through those veils is primarily based on eliminating the barriers in the soul. The more we overcome our laziness, the more we will proceed in the valley of effort. The more we overcome our ignorance, the more we will improve ourselves in knowledge. As we move away from heedlessness, we will approach peace. That God Almighty is behind seventy thousand veils teaches us the following lesson:

The weakness, poorness, mistakes, ignorance, in short, all of man’s incomplete attributes also consist of seventy thousand veils.

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