There is a view that Tawalla i.e. love for Aal-e-Muhammad (a.s.) is sufficient for one’s salvation. Tabarra i.e. enmity with enemies of Aal-e-Muhammad (a.s.) must be avoided to avoid conflicts with other Muslims.

However, the reality is not that simple. Muslims do not have an option to pick and choose what they like. Like it or not, Tabarra has a critical place in Islamic belief. ‘It may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you.’

And going by the Noble Quran, by running away from Tabarra, even the lovers of Tauheed, Prophethood and Imamat can face serious consequences.

Incident of calf-worship and consequent punishment

In the aftermath of the incident of the calf-worship, Allah ordered those from Bani Israel who did not worship the calf to kill those who worshipped the calf, as punishment for the latter’s apostasy and disobedience.

So the faithful began killing the apostates. However, they spared their friends and relatives and killed only the unknown apostates.

Then an announcer from Allah announced that the faithful were accursed should they target only the unknown apostates and avoid killing their friends and near and dear ones i.e. the faithful were duty bound to kill their friends and relatives.

The faithful ones began complaining to Prophet Moosa (a.s.):

Even though we did not worship the calf, we suffer a greater calamity than the apostates since we are ordered to kill with our hands our very fathers (and mothers), our sons, our brothers, our relatives. Then there is no difference between them and us in calamity.

Then Allah revealed to Prophet Moosa (a.s.):

O Moosa! Surely I wish to examine them through that (killing of fathers, relatives, etc). This is because when others were worshipping the calf, these ones left them alone, and they did not expel them from their midst and they did not bear enmity with them (Tabarra).

  • Tafseer of Imam Hasan Askari p 255 under exegesis of Surah Baqarah (2): 54
  • Tafseer al-Safi v 1 p 133 under exegesis of Surah Baqarah (2): 54
  • Tafseer al-Burhan v 1 p 218 under exegesis of Surah Baqarah (2): 54
  • Behaar al-Anwaar v 13 p 235

Two points are notable from this incident:

  1. Allah wants the faithful from Bani Israel to practice Tabarra from the followers and worshippers of the calf. Of course, the faithful were disgusted from the calf itself and its creator Samiri. But Allah has not considered this sufficient. He wants the faithful to show enmity even with the worshippers of the calf.
  1. Allah is not referring to mere prohibition from calf worship (Nahy anil Munkar). Allah clearly demands that strong action be taken against the deviant like expelling them and showing enmity and hostility against them.

Calf-worship in the Islamic nation

Calf worship is not the exclusive domain of Bani Israel. Even Muslims are guilty of it and have been guilty of it since the time the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a.) was martyred.

On entering into a peace treaty with Muawiyah, Imam Hasan al-Mujtaba (a.s.) addressed the Muslims warning them of the consequences of taking a person like Muawiyah as their leader:

When people hand over their affairs to such a person (who is less knowledgeable) whereas more knowledgeable people are present among them, their affairs will certainly proceed towards failure. So much so that they will go out of the religion and enter the custom of calf worship.

  • Behaar al-Anwaar, vol. 44, p. 19, Chapter 18 narrating from Al-Ehtejaaj, vol. 2, p. 289

Those who abandoned the pure Imams (a.s.) in favour of inferior individuals, are in fact guilty of calf-worship.

Then going by the calf-worship incident of Bani Israel, the duty of those who are with the Imams (a.s.) i.e. the Shias is to show hostility (Tabarra) towards those who are with the rivals of the Imams (a.s.).

If the Shias of Imams (a.s.) act like the Shias of Prophets Moosa (a.s.) and Haroon (a.s.) and refuse to show hostility towards the deviant then they also risk inviting the displeasure of Allah, who may involve them in a similar chastisement as he did the Shias of Prophets Moosa (a.s.) and Haroon (a.s.).