And I will mislead them, and I will arouse in them [sinful] desires, and I will command them so they will slit the ears of cattle, and I will command them so they will change the creation of Allah." And whoever takes Satan as an ally instead of Allah has certainly sustained a clear loss. -- Qur'an 4:119

This makes me wonder why slitting the ears of cattle has any importance. It's certainly not something I could envisage being tempted to do, no matter how persuasive Satan is.

Question: What is the significance of slitting the ears of cattle in Qur'an 4:119?

Tafsir write:

...surely I will command them and they will cut up the cattle’s ears and this was done to the she-camels they called bahā’ir. -- Tafsir al-Jalalayn

...and surely I will command them and they will cut the cattle's ears, what is known as the Bahirah. -- Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs

So perhaps this is an historical thing. (It doesn't seem related to Bahira.)


Bahirah was a practice of the pagan arabs of dedicating camels to their gods and marking them by slitting their ears. These were then left alone and neither ridden, nor milked, nor slaughtered, nor sheared for wool etc.

Quran 5:103 Allah has not appointed [such innovations as] bahirah or sa'ibah or wasilah or ham. But those who disbelieve invent falsehood about Allah, and most of them do not reason.

From Tafsir Ibn Kathir:

As for the Bahirah, Ali bin Abi Talhah said that Ibn Abbas said, "It is the female camel that has given delivery five times. After that, they looked at the fifth delivery, if it were a male, they would slaughter it and give it to the men only and not the women. If it were a female, they would cut off its ears and proclaim, `This is a Bahirah
(Or a Wasilah) "It is the female camel that gives delivery to a female and then another female at its second delivery. They would call such a camel a Wasilah, proclaiming that she has Wasalat (connected) between two females without giving birth to a male between them. So they used to cut off the ears of the Wasilah and let it roam free to pasture for their idols.

This practice was a deviation from the religion of Abraham and Ishmael, a deviation from the fitrah.


people cut ears of cattle with their sign to sign them as their property.

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