Sura al Baqara: The Three Cow Narratives of Verses 51–95 and Their Relationship to the Hebrew Bible and Jewish Exegesis

As the longest Sura in the Qur’an, Sura al Baqara has received considerable attention from an academic standpoint. It has often been used in order to argue for ideas of structure, ring formations and the like. However, the actual contents have undergone less study. In Sura al Baqara, Sura of the cow, it is unsurprising to find just that, cows. However, what is more interesting is the nature of these cows. There are in fact three distinct cows that feature in Sura al-Baqara, all of which can be linked to cows that appear in parts of the Torah. The first in the Golden Calf (Exodus 32), whose presence in clear in the sura, ayas 51-54 and 92-95. The second is the Red Heifer (Numbers 19), present in this sura as the ‘Yellow Cow’, ayas 67-71. The final Biblical cow apparent in this sura is the Beheaded cow from Deuteronomy 21, in ayas 72-74. However, these narratives have been interlinked so well that they need to be untangled to be related to their Biblical counterparts. This paper will seek to prove the identification of these Qur’anic cows as the same cows as their Biblical counterparts, as well as examining differences in language and structure. It will also bring in Rabbinic exegetical arguments to further understand the exegetical environment in which these texts are operating. Finally, it will analyse how these cow narratives relate to the wider purpose and structure of Sura al Baqara.