وَ اِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّکَ لِلۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ اِنِّیۡ جَاعِلٌ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ خَلِیۡفَۃً ؕ قَالُوۡۤا اَتَجۡعَلُ فِیۡہَا مَنۡ یُّفۡسِدُ فِیۡہَا وَ یَسۡفِکُ الدِّمَآءَ ۚ وَ نَحۡنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِکَ وَ نُقَدِّسُ لَکَ ؕ قَالَ اِنِّیۡۤ اَعۡلَمُ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُوۡنَ ﴿۳۱﴾
وَإِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلۡمَلَـٰٓئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٞ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ خَلِيفَةٗۖ قَالُوٓاْ أَتَجۡعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفۡسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسۡفِكُ ٱلدِّمَآءَ وَنَحۡنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَۖ قَالَ إِنِّيٓ أَعۡلَمُ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ
57. Qala is a common Arabic word meaning, he said. Sometimes, however, it is used in a figurative sense when, instead of a verbal expression, a state or condition amounting to a verbal expression is meant. The expression Imtala’ul-Haudu wa Qala Qatni (the tank became full and said, 'that will suffice') does not mean that the tank actually said so; only its condition implied that it was full.
The conversation between God and angels need not be taken in a literal sense as actually to have taken place. As stated above the word Qala is sometimes used in a figurative sense to convey not actually a verbal expression, but simply a state or condition amounting to a verbal expression. The verse may thus simply mean that the angels by their state or condition implied a reply that has been here ascribed to them in words. (close)
57A. Mala’ikah which is the plural of Malak is derived from Malaka which means, he controlled, or from Alaka meaning, he sent. The angels are called Mala’ikah because they control the forces of nature or because they bring Divine revelations to Heavenly Messengers and Reformers. (close)
a. 7:130; 10:15; 15:29; 24:56; 38:27. (close)
58. The angels did not object to God’s purpose or claimed superiority over Adam. Their question was prompted by God’s announcement of His plan to appoint a vicegerent. A vicegerent is needed when order has to be maintained and laws enforced. The seeming objection of the angels meant that there would be people on earth who would create disorder and shed blood. Man having been endowed with great powers to do good and evil, the angels spoke of the darker side of his character but God knew that he could rise to such moral heights as to become the mirror of Divine attributes. To this bright side of his character the words "I know what you know not" refer. (close)
59. The question of the angels was not by way of finding fault with God’s work, but by way of seeking greater knowledge of the nature and wisdom of the appointment. For the meaning of Nusabbihu see 2981. (close)
60. Whereas Tasbih (glorifying) is used with regard to God’s attributes, Taqdis (extolling His holiness) is used concerning His actions. (close)
61. Adam, who lived about 6000 years ago, is popularly believed to be the first man created by God upon earth. This view, however, is not corroborated by the Qur’an. The world has passed through different cycles of creation and civilization, and Adam, the progenitor of the present human race, is only the first link in the present cycle, and not the very first man in God’s creation. Nations have risen and fallen, civilizations have appeared and disappeared. Other Adams may have gone before our Adam; other races may have lived and perished, and other cycles of civilization may have appeared and disappeared. Muhy-ud-Din Ibn-e-‘Arabi, the great Muslim mystic says that once he saw himself in a dream performing a circuit of the Ka‘bah. In the dream a man who claimed to be one of his ancestors appeared before him. "How long is it since you died," asked Ibn-e-‘Arabi. "More than forty thousand years," the man replied. "But this period is much more than what separates us from Adam," said Ibn-e-‘Arabi. The man replied, "Of which Adam are you speaking? About the Adam who is nearest to you or of some other?" "Then I recollected," says Ibn-e-‘Arabi, "a saying of the Holy Prophet to the effect that God had brought into being no less than a hundred thousand Adams, and I said to myself, "perhaps this man who claims to be an ancestor of mine was one of the previous Adams" (Futuhat, ii, p.607). (close)
37. Important Words:
قال (said) is a common Arabic word meaning, he said. Sometimes, however, it is used in a figurative sense when, instead of a verbal expression, a state or condition amounting to a verbal expression is meant. For example, the expression امتلأالحوض وقال قطنی i.e. the tank became full, and said, 'that will suffice', does not mean that the tank actually said so; it simply means that its condition implied that it was full. The word is also used in the sense of holding a view. We say فلان یقول بقول ابی حنیفة i.e. that man holds a view similar to that of Abu Hanifah. Again, the word is sometimes used to denote something not yet spoken but still in the mind. We say: فی نفسی قول لم اظھرہ i.e. there is something in my mind which I have not yet disclosed (Lisan & Mufradat).
الملائکة (the angels) is the plural of ملك (an angel). Authorities differ as to the derivation of the word. Some derive it from ملك but the more commonly accepted derivation is from الك which is used in the sense of conveying a message, the word الوکة meaning 'a message' (Mufradat & Lane). This explains the object of the creation of the angels. They are meant to convey God’s message to men and to execute His will in the universe.
خلیفة (vicegerent) is derived from خلف which means, he came after, or stood in place of. The word خلیفة is used in three different senses: (1) one who comes after and stands in the place of someone, (2) an امام (Imam) or supreme religious head and (3) a sovereign or king or ruler (Aqrab). The word is also used for one who precedes someone and is followed by him (Qadir).
نسبح (we glorify) is derived from سبح i.e. he went or travelled far away. سبح عن الامر means, he got freedom from the affair, having completed it. سبح فی الماء means, he swam in the water. سبح فی الفلك means, the planet, etc. glided in the firmament. سبحmeans, he prayed. سبح الله or سبح لله means, he declared God to be free from all defects and weaknesses; he glorified God (Aqrab). The word is used about God and conveys the sense of glorifying Him and declaring Him to be free from all defects—anything that may detract from, and adversely affect, His attributes of Oneness, Knowledge, Power, Purity, etc. (Taj & Mufradat).
نقدس (extol holiness) is derived from قدس i.e. he became pure and blessed. قدس الله فلانا means, God purified and blessed him. قدس الرجل الله means, the man declared God to be holy and free from defects (Aqrab). The word thus has a meaning similar to the preceding word, i.e. nusabbihu, but it conveys the further sense of ascribing to God the positive attributes of Holiness, Majesty, etc. (Lisan & Mufradat).
This verse is important, and commentators have differed about its meaning. Who was Adam, where was he placed, why did God speak to the angels about his being appointed as khalifah, why did the angels object to this appointment, are some of the questions which arise here at once.
But before dealing with them, it is necessary to explain what connection this verse has with the preceding one, and why the Quran refers to Adam, while discussing the ministry of the Holy Prophet of Islam. If the Holy Prophet was a true Messenger of God, was he the first to receive a message from heaven or did similar messages precede his? If he was the first Messenger, did God neglect those of His countless creatures who lived before him? These questions make the subject of Adam’s ministry at once relevant. The verse is intended to convey that the Holy Prophet is not the first Prophet; others have gone before him and Adam was the first link of the chain. Thus, by making a reference to the ministry of Adam, God removes the doubt agitating the minds of disbelievers about the mission of the Holy Prophet. It does not matter, if they do not understand his mission; even the angels did not understand the purpose of prophethood at its inception.
Adam, who lived about 6,000 years ago, is popularly believed to be the first man created by God upon this earth. This view is, however, not corroborated by a close study of the relevant facts. The truth is that the world has passed throughdifferent cycles of creation and civilization, and Adam, the progenitor of the present human race, is only the first link in the present cycle, and not the very first man in God’s creation. Nations have risen and fallen, civilizations have appeared and disappeared. Other Adams may have gone before our Adam; other races may have lived and perished, and other cycles of civilization appeared and disappeared. This view has also been held by certain eminent Muslim savants. Muhy-ud-Din Ibn ‘Arabi, the great mystic, says that once he saw himself in a dream performing a circuit of the Ka‘bah. In this dream a man appeared before him and claimed to be one of his ancestors. "How long is it since you died?" asked Ibn ‘Arabi. The man replied, "More than forty thousand years." "But this period is much more than what separates us from Adam," said Ibn ‘Arabi. The man replied, "Of which Adam are you speaking? About the Adam who is nearest to you or of some other?" "Then I recollected," says Ibn ‘Arabi, "the saying of the Holy Prophet to the effect that God had brought into being no less than a hundred thousand Adams, and I said to myself, 'Perhaps this man who claims to be an ancestor of mine was one of the previous Adams' " (Futuhat, iii. 607).
If the period covered by the progeny of each Adam be taken to be of seven thousand years, on an average, then, on the basis of the Holy Prophet’s saying referred to above, the age of the human race, as such, works out to be 700 million years; and this is the age of the progeny only of Adams, which does not include such races as may have passed before the creation of the first Adam. As against this, modern science gives one million years as the age of the human race (Enc. Br. 14th Edition, xiv, 767).
It is not claimed that the race which lived before Adam was entirely swept away before he was born. Most probably, there had remained a small degenerated remnant of the old race and Adam was one of them. God then selected him to be the progenitor of a new race and the precursor of a new civilization. Created, as it were, out of the dead, he represented the dawn of a new era of life. In this connection we may well quote from one of the speeches of the Promised Messiah, Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement:
"We do not follow the Bible in holding that the world began with the birth of Adam six or seven thousand years ago, and that before this there was nothing, and God was, as it were, idle and without work. Neither do we claim that all mankind, who are now found in different parts of the earth, are the progeny of the selfsame Adam. On the contrary, we hold that this Adam was not the first man. Mankind existed even before him, as is hinted by the Quran itself, when it says of Adam, 'I am about to place a Khalifah in the earth.' As khalifah means a successor, it is clear that men existed even before Adam. Hence, we cannot say whether the original inhabitants of America, Australia, etc. are the progeny of this last Adam, or of some other Adam gone before him" (Al-Hakam May 30th, 1908).
The word khalifah used about Adam in the verse has, as pointed out above, a reference to the fact that he was a remnant or successor of the old race and was selected by God to bring into being a new race; it also means a vicegerent of God—an Imam or leader appointed by God to fulfil a special mission.
The question here arises, why did the angels object to Adam’s appointment as Khalifah? In this connection, it must be borne in mind that the so-called objection is not really an objection; it is merely a presentation of facts placed before God, not by way of objection but to gain knowledge and obtain enlightenment. In fact, whenever a new Prophet is raised, God intends to bring about through him a revolution in the world, a change in the existing system, an ushering in of a new era. This process naturally entails the destruction of the old system and the construction of a new one. This was to be particularly the case with Adam’s ministry, as he was the first Messenger of a new order.
The people before Adam were without Law and lived almost like savages. Law was to be introduced through Adam and with the introduction of Law was to come sin, for sin is nothing but the breaking of Law. The angels, with their limited knowledge and little insight into the future, were naturally perturbed at the idea that with the ministry of Adam, sin and disobedience would come into being, and people would thenceforward begin to be condemned and punished for acts against which there had previously been no bar. In the view of the angels, Adam was nothing but a Lawgiver who was to prescribe limitations for the actions of man and mete out punishment to those who transgressed. The future Khalifah was thus going to shed blood and create disorder in the earth by shaking the foundations of society.
The angels saw the darker side of the picture only, but God saw the brighter side. Adam was, in the sight of God, a trumpet through which His clarion call was going to be sounded to the people. The dead were going to be quickened and the slumberers awakened from their sleep. Henceforward, there were to come into being men who would know their God and manifest His attributes and lead pious and righteous lives.
God could not leave mankind in a state of spiritual death, just because one section would have to be dubbed as disobedient. One obedient soul was better in the sight of God than a million disobedient ones. Scattered spots of light with patches of darkness, however large, were better than a universal veil of gloom covering the entire earth.
Moreover, Adam and his message could not be held responsible for the recalcitrant spirits who rejected him. He was only a harbinger of mercy, and those who rejected him and, thereby incurred the displeasure of God were themselves to blame for their doom. The sun is not to be condemned for the shadows that must result from its light.
This is the deep truth underlying the story which the verse under discussion narrates to the world, and the verse has been very fittingly placed in the beginning of the Quran to serve as a warning and an eye-opener for those to whom the message of the Holy Prophet of Islam was addressed. The Prophet was bringing light from God and in the wake of his message was to come a gigantic process of destruction and construction for which mankind was to be prepared. Some were to be awakened from sleep and saved from fire, and others to be shaken out of slumber to commit yet more acts of mischief and fan the fire that was blazing. But the believers, however small in number, were far weightier in the sight of God than hosts of disbelievers who had brought destruction on their own heads. Nay, the Prophet taken singly was weightier than the whole of mankind put together. According to a hadith God said to the Holy Prophet لولاك لماخلقت الافلاك"But for thee, O Muhammad, I would not have cared to bring into being the whole universe." This is not an idle boast but a statement full of truth and wisdom. For, is not a grain of truth better than a whole mountain of falsehood? And the Prophet was not a grain of truth, but a whole mountain of it. In the verse under discussion, and for that matter, in the verses that follow, the conversation between God and angels need not necessarily be taken in a literal sense, i.e. it is not necessary that the dialogue should have actually taken place in so many words. As explained under Important Words, the word قال is sometimes used in a figurative sense to convey not actually a verbal expression, but simply a state or condition amounting to a verbal expression. In this sense, it would not be necessary to hold that God actually spoke the words ascribed to Him or that the angels actually replied in so many words. It may simply mean that the angels by their state or condition implied a reply that has been here ascribed to them in words.
Much has been said about the place where Adam was born or where he was raised as a Reformer. The popular view is that he was placed in Paradise but was later expelled therefrom and put somewhere on the earth. But the words in the earth belie this view. These words definitely prove that Adam lived on the earth and it was on the earth that he was raised as a Reformer. As to the place of Adam’s residence, it may be noted that a study of the relevant facts, into a detailed discussion of which we need not go here, indicates that most probably Adam was first made to live in Iraq but was later directed to move down to a neighbouring land.
As we have not held Adam—God’s vicegerent spoken of in this verse—to be the first man created by God, we will not enter here into the discussion as to how and when the first man was created. The subject of the initial creation of man will be dealt with under relevant verses. As will be noted, the word khalifah has been used in the verse under comment in the sense of a Prophet; for truly speaking Prophets are also the khalifas of God, manifesting the divineattributes in accordance with the requirements of their age. In fact, the word khalifah has been used in three senses:
Firstly, it is used to denote a Prophet of God. Prophets are, as it were, the images of God. Adam was a khalifah in this sense. David has also been called a khalifah in this sense in the Quran. Says God: (We said), O David, We have made thee a khalifah or vicegerent in the earth' (38:27).
Secondly, the word khalifah is spoken of a people who come after and stand in place of another. Thus, when a people decline or are destroyed and another people take their place, the latter are called their khalifahs as in 7:70 and 7:75.
Thirdly, the successors of a Prophet are also called khalifahs because they follow in his footsteps and enforce his Law and maintain unity among his followers. Such a khalifah may either be elected by the people or appointed by the Prophet or raised directly by God as a Prophet serving the cause of the preceding one. Abu Bakr was a Khalifah of the Holy Prophet elected by the people after him. Moses appointed Aaron as his khalifah when he went up the Mount, saying to him, Act for me (lit. be my khalifah) among my people in my absence, and manage them well, and follow not the way of those who cause disorder (7:143). Though Aaron was a Prophet himself, yet he also acted as a khalifah in the absence of Moses. In the same way, God sometimes raises a Prophet to reform the followers of another Prophet. Such a Prophet does not bring a new Law but only enforces the existing Law. As he carries on the work of his predecessor, he is called his khalifah or successor. He is neither appointed by his predecessor nor elected by the people but is directly commissioned by God. There have been many such khalifahs among the Israelites. They were Prophets of God but brought no new Law, simply serving the Law of Moses (5:45). Jesus was the last of these khalifahs. He brought no new Law as he himself says: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17, 18).
Muslims have been promised all these three kinds of khalifahs. Says the Quran: Allah has promised, to those among you who believe and do good works, that He will surely make them khalifahs in the earth, as He made khalifahs those who were before them; and that He will surely establish for them their religion which He has chosen for them; and that He will surely change their condition, after their fear, into peace and security: They will worship Me, (and) they will not associate anything with Me. But whoso is ungrateful after that, they will be the rebellious (24:56). God made Muslims the inheritors of the earth in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet. Then after the Holy Prophet He established the Khilafat of Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman and ‘Ali. And finally now, according to the Ahmadiyya Movement, God has made Ahmad of Qadian a Khalifah of the Holy Prophet in the same sense in which He made Jesus a khalifah of Moses. Ahmad has attained to prophethood by following in the footsteps of the Holy Prophet and has brought no new Law. He has been raised to serve Islam and make it dominant in the world.
This is the first verse of the Quran which makes mention of angels, so a short note about them will not be out of place here.
As pointed out under Important Words, the word ملك has the literal meaning of a "message-bearer" or "agent". This explains the object of the creation of the angels. They bring messages of God and execute His will in the universe. This does not mean that God is not All-Powerful and All-Knowing and All-Encompassing and that He stands in need of any agents to execute His will or to carry His messages. But in His eternal wisdom He has decided to work with a system. Just as He has a system in the physical world, He has a system in the spiritual world also. The establishment of a system or a method of work is not due to any weakness in God but is, on the other hand, a sign of perfection. Thus angels are part of the system with which God executes His will in both the physical and the spiritual worlds. In the physical world they form the first link, with a number of physical links descending downwards but in the spiritual world they form a direct link between God and man. We may not quite understand the nature of their being, but we may well understand the object of their creation and the functions which they are meant to perform.
According to the teachings of Islam, there is quite a large number of angels, and they are divided into classes, each occupying a definite position and serving a definite purpose. They exercise their influence in their respective spheres and serve as agents for executing God’s will. In the physical world they remain, so to speak, behind the curtain and exercise their influence, through physical agencies working in the universe. It is only when we come to the final physical agency that the sphere of the angels begins. In the spiritual world, however, the influence of the angels is more evident. It is direct and works without any intervening agency. This is one of the reasons why Islam has included belief in angels among the fundamental articles of faith (2:286), because as matters stand, disbelief in angels would mean shutting off the whole avenue through which the light of God comes to man.
Angels are not visible to the physical eye. Yet they do sometimes appear to man in one form or another. This appearance, however, is not real but simply a sort of manifestation. This is why the appearance of the same angel at different times may assume different forms. The contact, however, is not imaginary but real, and exercises direct influence which is definitely felt and may even be tested through its results. There are several Ahadith to the effect that angels appeared to the Holy Prophet a number of times in one form or another. It must, however, be definitely understood that when we speak of an angel appearing to a human being, we do not mean his actual descending on the earth and leaving his fixed station in the heavens. We simply mean his manifestation by means of which he assumes a form which becomes visible to man. It must further be understood that an angel is not merely a force but a living being who executes the will of his Lord, wherever and in whatever manner demanded.
As for the functions of angels, the Quran enumerates a number of them, some of the more important being the following:
1. They are bearers of Divine Messages (22:76).
2. They inspire men to do righteous deeds, moving their hearts to virtue (91:9; also Tirmidhi, ch. on Tafsir).
3. They serve the Prophets and help their cause (15:30; 4:167); they also help believers (41:31, 32).
4. They bring punishment upon those who oppose the Prophets (6:159); and strike their enemies with fear and awe (3:125, 126).
5. They enforce the laws of nature and, as it were, bear the Throne of God on their shoulders (40:8).
The reason why angels have been mentioned in this verse in connection with the mission of Adam is that, as indicated above, one of the functions of the angels is to help the Messengers of God; so whenever a new Prophet is raised in the world, the angels are bidden to serve him by bringing into play the different forces of nature to help his cause. When, therefore, God decided to raise Adam as a Reformer, He informed the angels of His decision so that they should devote themselves to his service.
For a fuller discussion of the subject of angels the reader is referred to (1) Taudih and (2) A’inah by the Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement and (3) Mala’ikah by Hadrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmud Ahmad, the Second Khalifah of the Ahmadiyya Community. (close)
وَ عَلَّمَ اٰدَمَ الۡاَسۡمَآءَ کُلَّہَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَہُمۡ عَلَی الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ ۙ فَقَالَ اَنۡۢبِـُٔوۡنِیۡ بِاَسۡمَآءِ ہٰۤؤُلَآءِ اِنۡ کُنۡتُمۡ صٰدِقِیۡنَ ﴿۳۲﴾
وَعَلَّمَ ءَادَمَ ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمۡ عَلَى ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓئِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنۢبِـُٔونِي بِأَسۡمَآءِ هَـٰٓؤُلَآءِ إِن كُنتُمۡ صَٰدِقِينَ
62. The word "all" used here does not imply absolute totality. It simply means all that was necessary. The Qur’an uses this word in this sense elsewhere also (6:45; 27:17, 24; 28:58). (close)
a. 7:181; 17:111; 20:9; 59:24-25. (close)
62A. Asma’ is plural of Ism which means, name or attribute; a mark or a sign of a thing (Lane & Mufradat). Commentators differ as to what is here meant by the word Asma’ (names). Some think that God taught Adam the names of different things and objects, i.e. He taught him the principles of language. There is no doubt that man needed language in order to become civilized and God must have taught Adam its principles, but the Qur’an indicates that there are Asma’ (names or attributes) which man must learn for the perfection of his morals. They are referred to in 7:181. This shows that man cannot attain to Divine knowledge without a correct conception and comprehension of God’s attributes and that they can be taught only by God. So it was necessary that God should have, in the very beginning, given Adam (man) knowledge of His attributes so that he should know and recognize Him and attain His nearness and should not drift away from Him. According to the Qur’an, man differs from angels in that while the former can be an image or reflex of al-Asma’ul-Husna, i.e. all the perfect Divine attributes, the latter represent only a few of them. Angels have no will of their own, but only passively perform the functions allotted to them by Providence (66:7). On the other hand, man, endowed with volition and free choice, differs from angels in that he possesses capabilities which make him a perfect manifestation of all Divine attributes. Briefly, the verse signifies that God first implanted in Adam free will and the needful capacity for the comprehension of various Divine attributes, and then gave him the knowledge of those attributes. Asma’ may also mean the qualities of the different things in nature. As man was to make use of the forces of nature, God endowed him with the capacity and power to know their qualities and properties. (close)
62B. The pronoun hum (these) shows that the objects referred to here are not inanimate things; for in Arabic this form of pronoun is used only for rational beings. The meaning of the expression, therefore, would be that God granted to the angels a vision of the outstandingly righteous persons from among the progeny of Adam who were to become the manifestation of Divine attributes in the future, and were then asked whether they themselves could manifest the Divine attributes like them, to which they signified their inability. This is what is meant by the words, Tell Me the names of these, occurring in the present verse. (close)
a. 7:181; 17:111; 20:9; 59:24, 25. (close)
38. Important Words:
اسماء (names) is the plural of اسم for which see note on 1:1. اسم means, (1) the name of a thing, i.e. a word fixed for a thing or attribute for the purpose of distinction; (2) a mark or sign of a thing (Aqrab); (3) fame or reputation of a person or thing (Lane); (4) a word, its meanings and combinations (Mufradat).
صادقین (right) is the plural of صادق which is derived from صدق. They say صدق فی ظنه i.e. he was or is correct in his opinion (Lane). صدق فی الحدیث means, he spoke the truth. صدقه means, he was sincere to him or he was his well-wisher (Aqrab). صدقتmeans: (1) you are speaking the truth, not a lie (2) what you say is right, not wrong. It is in the latter sense that the word has been used in the present verse.
Commentators differ as to what is here meant by the word اسماء (names). Some think that God taught Adam the names of different things and objects, i.e. He taught him language. Others hold that God taught him the names of his offspring.
There is no doubt that man needed language in order to become civilized and God must have taught Adam a language, but the Quran indicates that there are اسماء (names or attributes) which man must learn for the perfection of his religion and morals. They are referred to in the verse: And to Allah alone belong all perfect attributes; so call on Him by these and leave alone those who deviate from the right way with respect to His attributes. They shall be requited with what they do (7:181). This verse shows that man cannot attain to divine knowledge without a correct conception of God’s اسماء or attributes and that this can be taught only by God. So it was necessary that God should have, in the very beginning, given Adam knowledge of His attributes so that man should know and recognize Him and attain His nearness, and should not drift away from Him.
The verse quoted above (7:181) shows that the word اسماء (names) is used to signify the attributes of God and that a Muslim must be familiar with those attributes, so that he may pray to Him, invoking attributes most suited to the nature of the prayer. For example, if one prays for forgiveness and mercy, one should invoke the attributes of forgiveness and mercy; and if the prayer be for the attainment of righteousness, God should be invoked by names which pertain to that quality. The above verse also indicates that man must not of himself devise the attributes of God, because it is only God who can describe His attributes; man, being himself the creation of God, cannot do so. In fact, those who try to devise God’s attributes have been threatened with divine punishment.
In short, we learn from this verse that a Muslim must know God’s اسماء (names) which can be taught by Him alone, and which man has no right to devise out of his own fancy. There is strong evidence that God gave Adam a knowledge of His attributes. The view gains further strength when we take into consideration the difference between man and angel. According to the Quran, man differs from angels in that, whereas the former can be an image or reflex of الاسماءالحسنی i.e. all the divine attributes, the latter represent only a few of them. The Quran says: They (the angels) do what they are bidden to do (66:7) which implies that the angels cannot act of their own free will. They have no will of their own, but passively perform the functions allotted to them by Providence. On the other hand, man, endowed with volition and free choice, differs from angels in that he has capabilities which make him a perfect manifestation of all divine attributes. A saying of the Holy Prophet—"the best morals in man are those which are in conformity with the great attributes of God" (‘Ummal, ii. 2)—also points to this. As God is Merciful, we should also show mercy to men; as He is Forgiving, so we must also be ready to forgive our fellow beings; as He connives at faults, so we must try to imitate Him in this particular; and as He protects the weak, so we must be ready to protect the weak, and so on. This injunction of the Holy Prophet justifies the inference that man has the capability to manifest in himself all the attributes of God. Thus, both the Quran and the Holy Prophet’s sayings are agreed that man and angel differ in the manifestation of divine attributes, and the "names" in the clause, He taught Adam all the names, refer to the attributes of God.
The verse means that God first implanted in Adam free will and the needful capacity for the comprehension of the various divineattributes, and then gave him the knowledge of those attributes, which was impossible without the power of assimilation. The verse that follows corroborates this meaning; for therein it is stated that the اسماء (attributes) were such as were not wholly known to the angels and it is evident that such اسماء are only the divine attributes. The word اسماء may also mean the qualities of different things in nature. As man was to make use of the forces of nature, God gave Adam the capacity of knowing their qualities and properties. The word كل (all) used here does not imply absolute totality. It simply means all that was necessary. The Quran uses this word in this sense elsewhere also (see 6:45; 27:7, 24; 28:58). The pronoun in the words عرضھم (He put the objects of these names) shows that the objects referred to here are not inanimate things; for in Arabic this form of pronoun is used only for rational beings. The meaning of the expression, therefore, would be that God showed Adam in a kashf (vision) certain human beings from among his progeny who were to be the manifestations of divineattributes in the future. Such beings were the Prophets or other holy persons who were to enjoy such nearness to God as to become His image and through whom God was to reform mankind. The angels were then asked whether they could manifest the divine attributes like them. This is what is meant by the words, Tell Me the names of these, occurring in the present verse. (close)
قَالُوۡا سُبۡحٰنَکَ لَا عِلۡمَ لَنَاۤ اِلَّا مَا عَلَّمۡتَنَا ؕ اِنَّکَ اَنۡتَ الۡعَلِیۡمُ الۡحَکِیۡمُ ﴿۳۳﴾
قَالُواْ سُبۡحَٰنَكَ لَا عِلۡمَ لَنَآ إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمۡتَنَآۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَلِيمُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ
63. As the angels were conscious of their natural limitations, they frankly confessed that they were unable to reflect all God’s attributes as man could do, i.e. they could reflect only such of His attributes as He, in His eternal wisdom, had granted them the power to reflect. (close)
39. Important Words:
سبحانك (Holy art Thou). The word سبحان is the infinitive of سبح for which see 2:31. The infinitive form is used to intensify the meaning.
As the angels were conscious of their nature and limitations, they frankly confessed that they were unable to reflect God’s attributes as man could do, i.e. they could reflect only such of His attributes as He, in His eternal wisdom, had given them the power of reflecting. Man was a fuller image of God than the angels, or, for that matter, any other created being. Says God: We have created man in the best of constitutions (95:5). (close)
قَالَ یٰۤاٰدَمُ اَنۡۢبِئۡہُمۡ بِاَسۡمَآئِہِمۡ ۚ فَلَمَّاۤ اَنۡۢبَاَہُمۡ بِاَسۡمَآئِہِمۡ ۙ قَالَ اَلَمۡ اَقُلۡ لَّکُمۡ اِنِّیۡۤ اَعۡلَمُ غَیۡبَ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ ۙ وَ اَعۡلَمُ مَا تُبۡدُوۡنَ وَ مَا کُنۡتُمۡ تَکۡتُمُوۡنَ ﴿۳۴﴾
قَالَ يَـٰٓـَٔادَمُ أَنۢبِئۡهُم بِأَسۡمَآئِهِمۡۖ فَلَمَّآ أَنۢبَأَهُم بِأَسۡمَآئِهِمۡ قَالَ أَلَمۡ أَقُل لَّكُمۡ إِنِّيٓ أَعۡلَمُ غَيۡبَ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَأَعۡلَمُ مَا تُبۡدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمۡ تَكۡتُمُونَ
64. When the angels confessed their inability to manifest in themselves all the Divine attributes that Adam could manifest, the latter, in obedience to the Divine Will, manifested the different natural capabilities ingrained in him and revealed to the angels their extensive character. Thus Adam proved the necessity of the creation of a being who might secure from God the faculty of volition or the power of will by means of which he might voluntarily choose the way of goodness (or, of evil) and might thereby reveal the glory and greatness of God. (close)
40. Important Words:
تکتمون (you conceal) is derived from کتم meaning, he concealed. They say کتم الشیء i.e. he concealed or suppressed the thing. The Arabs use the expression; کتم الربوة (he suppressed his breath) of a horse who, after running some distance, begins to pant, but having small nostrils, his breath remains, as it were, suppressed or concealed within him (Lane under کتم and عور). So کتمان (the act of concealing or suppressing) need not be deliberate or the result of a desire or attempt to conceal. It may merely be the result of circumstances or only the outcome of nature without an attempt or desire to that effect.
When the angels confessed their inability to manifest in themselves all the attributes that Adam could manifest, the latter, in obedience to the Divine will, manifested the different capabilities ingrained in him and showed to the angels the extensiveness of his natural capacities. Thus man proved the necessity of a being who might secure from God the faculty of volition or the power of will by means of which he might voluntarily take to righteousness, (or, for that matter, to sinning) and might thereby reveal to the world the glory and the greatness of God.
The words, and I know what you reveal and what you conceal, mean that God knew which divine attributes the angels manifested in themselves and which they were incapable of manifesting.
The words, what you conceal, do not mean that the angels had a desire for, or that they made an attempt at concealment; for, as explained under Important Words, the word کتمان (concealing) is also used to denote a state of affairs without there being any attempt or desire on one’s part to conceal or suppress anything. The words, what you conceal, therefore, refer to such attributes of God as the angels are unable to reflect in their own being on account of their natural inaptitude. It is a gross error to take the words, what you reveal and what you conceal, as signifying that the angels were not telling the whole truth before God.
As already pointed out under 2:31, the conversation between God and angels and Adam, as mentioned in the verse, need not necessarily be taken in a literal sense. Sometimes the word قال (he said) is used to describe the practical upshot of events without there being any actual speech or dialogue, the purpose of such narration being only to show the existing condition of things in a vivid and graphic form and nothing more. A poet says: قالت له العینان سمعاً وطاعة i.e. "Both of his eyes said, 'We will listen and obey'," whereas the eyes have no speech. Thus, the conversation embodying the story of Adam may also be nothing more than a portrayal in words. (close)
وَ اِذۡ قُلۡنَا لِلۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ اسۡجُدُوۡا لِاٰدَمَ فَسَجَدُوۡۤا اِلَّاۤ اِبۡلِیۡسَ ؕ اَبٰی وَ اسۡتَکۡبَرَ ٭۫ وَ کَانَ مِنَ الۡکٰفِرِیۡنَ ﴿۳۵﴾
وَإِذۡ قُلۡنَا لِلۡمَلَـٰٓئِكَةِ ٱسۡجُدُواْ لِأٓدَمَ فَسَجَدُوٓاْ إِلَّآ إِبۡلِيسَ أَبَىٰ وَٱسۡتَكۡبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡكَٰفِرِينَ
a. 7:12-13; 15:29, 33; 17:62; 18:51; 20:117; 38:72-77. (close)
65. Adam having become an image of the attributes of God, and having attained the rank of a Prophet, God ordered the angels to serve him. The Arabic expression Usjudu does not mean—'fall prostrate before Adam,' because the Qur’an definitely prohibits prostrating before anything but God (41:38) and a command to that effect could not have been given to angels. The command means, 'prostrate yourselves before Me as a mark of thanksgiving for My having created Adam.' (close)
66. Illa (but) is used to signify 'exception.' In Arabic Istithna’ (exception) is of two kinds: (1) Istithna’ Muttasil, i.e. an exception in which the thing excepted belongs to the same class or species to which the things from which an exception is sought to be made belong, (2) Istithna’ Munqati’, i.e. an exception where the excepted thing belongs to a different class or species. In the verse under comment the word illa denotes the latter kind of exception, Iblis not being one of the angels. (close)
67. The word Iblis is derived from Ablasa which means, (1) his good or virtue decreased; (2) he gave up hope or despaired of the mercy of God; (3) became broken in spirit; (4) was perplexed and unable to see his way; and (5) he was prevented from attaining his wish. Based on the root meaning of the word, Iblis is a being which contains little of good and much of evil and which, on account of its having despaired of God’s mercy owing to its disobedience, is left perplexed and confounded and unable to see its way. Iblis is often considered identical with Satan, but is in some cases different from him. Iblis, it must be understood, was not one of the angels, because, whereas he has been here described as disobeying God, the angels have been described as ever 'submissive' and 'obedient' (66:7). God was angry with Iblis because he too was commanded to serve Adam but he disobeyed (7:13). Moreover, even if there were no separate commandment for Iblis, the one for angels must be taken to extend to all beings because angels being the custodians of the different parts of the universe, the commandment given to them automatically extends to all beings. As stated above, Iblis is really an attributive name given, on the basis of the root meaning of the word, to the Evil Spirit opposed to the angels. He has been so named because he possesses the attributes enumerated above, particularly the quality of being deprived of good and of being left bewildered in the way and of despairing of God’s mercy. That Iblis was not the Satan spoken of in 2:37 is apparent from the fact that the Qur’an mentions the two names side by side wherever the story of Adam is given, but everywhere a careful distinction is observed between the two. Wherever it speaks of the being who, unlike the angels, refused to serve Adam, it invariably mentions the name Iblis, and wherever it speaks of the being who beguiled Adam and became the means of his being turned out of "the garden" it mentions the name 'Satan.' This distinction, which is most significant and which has been maintained throughout the Qur’an, in at least ten places (2:35, 37; 7:12, 21; 15:32; 17:62; 18:51; 20:117, 121; 38:75) clearly shows that Iblis is different from the 'Satan' who beguiled Adam and who was one of Adam’s own people. Elsewhere, the Qur’an says that Iblis belonged to a secret creation of God and, unlike the angels, was capable of obeying or disobeying God (7:12, 13). (close)
a. 7:12, 13; 15:29-33; 17:62; 18:51; 20:117; 38:72-77. (close)
41. Important Words:
اسجدوا (submit) is derived from سجد which means (1) he humbled or submitted himself; (2) he bowed; (3) he prostrated himself. They say سجدت السفینة للریاح which means, the boat bowed before the wind, i.e. it followed the direction of the wind (Aqrab); (4) the word also means, he obeyed and worshipped (Mufradat).
الا (but) is used to signify the sense of exception. In Arabic استثناء (exception) is of two kinds: (1) استثناء متصل i.e. an exception in which the thing excepted belongs to the same class or species to which the things from which an exception is sought to be made, belong, as we say جاء القوم الازیدا i.e. all the people came except Zaid. Here Zaid belongs to the same class to which the people belong. (2) استثناء منقطع i.e. an exception in which the excepted thing belongs to a different class or species, as they say جاء القوم الاحمارا i.e. all the people came except the donkey. Here the donkey does not belong to the class or species from which exception is sought to be made. In the verse under comment the word الا denotes the latter kind of exception, Iblis not being one of the angels.
ابلیس (Iblis) is derived from ابلس which means: (1) his good or virtue became less or decreased; (2) he gave up hope or he despaired of the mercy of God; (3) he became broken in spirit and mournful; (4) he was perplexed and was unable to see his way; (5) he was or became silent on account of grief or despair; (6) he was cut short or silenced in argument; (7) he became unable to prosecute his journey; (8) he was prevented from attaining his wish. ابلیس (Iblis) is generally considered to be a name of Satan (Lane). Based on the root meaning of the word, ابلیس is a being who contains little of good and much of evil and who, on account of his having despaired of God’s mercy, owing to His disobedience, is left perplexed and confounded and unable to see his way. Iblis is often considered identical with Satan, but is in some cases different from him, as will appear from the following commentary.
کان (was) is a very common word of the Arabic language giving a vast variety of meanings some of which are: (1) he or it was; (2) he or it is; (3) he or it shall be; (4) he or it came into being; (5) he or it became; etc. The word is also used to express a permanent attribute or quality, as the Quran says: کان الله علیما حکیما i.e. Allah is All-Knowing, Wise. The expression ماکان لنبی ان یکون له اسری means, it does not behove a Prophet, or it does not become a Prophet, or it is not right or proper for a Prophet that captives be taken for him (8:68). The clause ماکان لنبی ان یغل means, it is impossible for a Prophet to act dishonestly, or a Prophet cannot act dishonestly (3:162) (Aqrab, Mufradat, Taj & Kashshaf).
When Adam became an image of the attributes of God, and attained the rank of a Prophet, God ordered the angels to serve him. The words اسجدوالآدم do not mean, "Fall prostrate before Adam." The Quran definitely says: Prostrate not yourselves before the sun, nor before the moon, but prostrate yourselves before Allah, Who created them (41:38). Thus prostration before Adam by way of worship is opposed to the teachings of the Quran, and a command to that effect could never proceed from God. The word سجدة has been used here in the sense of "obedience", and "submission". Thus the verse means that God bade the angels to serve Adam, that is, assist him in his mission. In this way, the angels are ordered to serve all the Prophets of God, their chief duty being to help the cause of a Prophet and to draw the hearts of men towards him.
ابلیس (Iblis), it must be clearly understood, was not one of the angels, because, whereas Iblis has been here described as disobeying God, the angels have been described as ever 'submissive' and 'obedient'. Says the Quran: They disobey not Allah in what He commands them, and do what they are commanded (66:7). Hence ابلیس could not be an angel. The objection, why was God angry with Iblis whereas the commandment stated in this verse was meant for the angels and not for him, is baseless, for elsewhere the Quran makes it clear that Iblis was also commanded to serve Adam. God says: What prevented thee (O Iblis,) from submitting (to Adam) when I commanded thee? (7:13). This shows that Iblis, though not an angel, was also ordered to make submission to Adam. Moreover, even if there were no separate commandment for Iblis, the one for angels must be taken to extend to all others, because angels being the custodians or guardians of different parts of the universe, the commandment given to them automatically extends to all.
As to the identity of Iblis it may be briefly stated that, as described under Important Words, Iblis is really an attributive name given, on the basis of the root meaning of the word, to the Evil Spirit opposed to the angels. Iblis has been so named because he possesses the attributes enumerated under Important Words above, particularly the quality of being deprived of good and of being left bewildered in the way, and of despairing of God’s mercy.
That Iblis was not the satan spoken of in 2:37 below is apparent from the fact that the Quran mentions the two names side by side, wherever the story of Adam is given, but everywhere a careful distinction is observed between the two, i.e. wherever the Quran speaks of the being who, unlike the angels, refused to serve Adam, it invariably mentions the name Iblis, and wherever it speaks of the being who beguiled Adam and became the means of his being turned out of جنة(garden), it invariably mentions the name 'satan'. This distinction, which is most significant and has been maintained throughout the Quran, i.e. in at least ten places (see 2:35, 37; 7:12, 21; 15:32; 17:62; 18:51; 20:117, 121; 38:75), clearly proves that Iblis, who is mentioned side by side with the angels, is different from the 'satan' who beguiled Adam and was one of Adam’s own people to whom Adam was sent as a Reformer.
Thus, Iblis was not one of the angels. This is apparent from the fact that, whereas the angels have been described as being always obedient to God and incapable of disobedience (16:51; 66:7), Iblis has been spoken of as having arrogantly disobeyed a clear commandment of God (7:12, 13). Elsewhere, the Quran speaks of Iblis, saying: He (Iblis) was one of the jinn (a secret creation); then he chose to disobey God’s order (18:51). From the above it is clear that, though not one of the angels, Iblis belonged to a secret creation of God who, unlike the angels, was capable of obeying or disobeying the Lord, as he liked. The Quran further makes it clear that when Iblis insolently disobeyed God, He turned him away and cursed him for his rebellious attitude, whereupon Iblis took the vow that he would thenceforward take to misleading men and hindering them from following the right way (7:17, 18; 15:35, 36, 40; 17:63). Elsewhere the Quran says: "Then said We to the angels, 'Submit to Adam;' and they all submitted. But Iblis did not; he would not be of those who submit. God said, 'What prevented thee from submitting when I commanded thee'? He said, 'I am better than he. Thou hast created me of fire while him hast Thou created of clay.' God said, 'Then go down hence; it is not for thee to be arrogant here. Get out; thou art certainly of those who are abased.' He said, 'Grant me respite till the day when they will be raised up.' God said, 'Thou shalt be of those who are given respite.' He said. 'Now since Thou hast adjudged me as lost, I will assuredly lie in wait for them on Thy straight path. Then will I surely come upon them from before them and from behind them and from their right and from their left, and Thou wilt not find most of them to be grateful.' God said, 'Get out hence, despised and banished. Whosoever of them shall follow thee, I will surely fill Hell with you all." (7:12-19). Elsewhere God says to Iblis: Surely, thou shalt have no power over My servants except such of the erring ones as choose to follow thee (15:43). At yet another place, God says that Iblis was one of the jinn, i.e. a secret creation (18:51). And about the jinn God says: I have created the jinn and men only that they may serve Me. (51:57)
As to the presence of good and evil in the world, it may be said that out of His infinite wisdom God has made man a free agent, giving him the power either to take the right path or be led into the wrong one as he likes. This system in which angels and Iblis both take part is quite in the fitness of things and is for man’s own good; for without being a free agent man cannot deserve praise or be entitled to reward for his good actions; and if man is to become entitled to reward for good actions, he needs must also be responsible for his sins and shortcomings, because his being a free agent must function both ways.
God has done more. He gives every man a good start in life by giving him a good and virtuous nature, and it is man himself who afterwards spoils the goodness of his nature and takes an evil course. Says the Holy Prophet: "Every child is born with a good nature (i.e. the nature of Islam); it is his parents who later make him a Jew or a Christian or a Magian" (Bukhari). God further raises Prophets and sends down His revelation for the reformation of mankind so that, if through their own free choice or under the influence of some evil spirits or bad associates, men should go astray, they may thereby be called back to truth. See also note on 'Satan' under 2:37. (close)
وَ قُلۡنَا یٰۤاٰدَمُ اسۡکُنۡ اَنۡتَ وَ زَوۡجُکَ الۡجَنَّۃَ وَ کُلَا مِنۡہَا رَغَدًا حَیۡثُ شِئۡتُمَا ۪ وَ لَا تَقۡرَبَا ہٰذِہِ الشَّجَرَۃَ فَتَکُوۡنَا مِنَ الظّٰلِمِیۡنَ ﴿۳۶﴾
وَقُلۡنَا يَـٰٓـَٔادَمُ ٱسۡكُنۡ أَنتَ وَزَوۡجُكَ ٱلۡجَنَّةَ وَكُلَا مِنۡهَا رَغَدًا حَيۡثُ شِئۡتُمَا وَلَا تَقۡرَبَا هَٰذِهِ ٱلشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ ٱلظَّـٰلِمِينَ
a. 7:20, 23; 20:117-118. (close)
68. The word Jannah (garden) occurring in this verse does not refer to Heaven or Paradise but simply to the garden-like place where Adam was first made to live. It cannot refer to Heaven; first, because it was on the earth that Adam was made to live (2:37); secondly, Heaven is a place from which no one, who once enters it, is ever expelled (15:49), while Adam was made to quit the Jannah (garden) spoken of in this verse. This shows that the Jannah or garden in which Adam first dwelt was a place on this very earth which was given this name on account of the fertility of its soil and the abundance of its verdure. Recent researches go to show that the place was the Garden of Eden which lay near Babylon in Iraq or Assyria (Enc. Brit. under "Ur"). (close)
68A. The expression, eat therefrom plentifully wherever you will, indicates that the place where Adam lived had not yet come under anybody’s jurisdiction and was what may be termed "God’s land" which was given to Adam who was thus made, as it were, the lord of all he surveyed. (close)
69. According to the Bible, the forbidden Shajarah (tree) was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). But according to the Qur’an, after having eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve became naked which signifies that, unlike knowledge which is a source of goodness, the tree was a source of evil, which made Adam exhibit a weakness. The Quranic view is evidently correct, because to deprive man of knowledge was to defeat the very purpose for which he had been brought into being. The Qur’an and the Bible seem, however, to agree on the point that the tree was not a real one, but only a symbol, because no tree with either of the above characteristics, i.e. making a man naked or giving him knowledge of good or evil, is known to exist on the face of the earth. So the tree must represent something else. Shajarah also means a quarrel. Elsewhere, the Qur’an makes mention of two kinds of Shajarah: (1) Shajaratu Tayyibah (good tree) and (2) Shajaratu Khabithah (evil tree) for which see 14:25 & 27. Pure things and pure teachings are likened to the former, and impure things and impure thoughts to the latter. In view of these explanations, the verse would signify, (1) that Adam was enjoined to avoid quarrels; (2) that he was warned against evil things. (close)
a. 7:20, 23; 20:117, 118. (close)
42. Important Words:
شجرة (tree) is the singular of شجر (trees). It is derived from the verb شجر. The Arabs say شجرالامربینھم i.e. the affair or case became complicated and confused so as to be a subject of disagreement and difference between them. شجرة means, a tree, because of the intermixing or confusion of its branches. شجرة also signifies, the stock or origin of a man. They say, ھومن شجرة طیبة i.e. he is of a good stock or origin (Lane).
ظالمین (wrongdoers) is the plural of ظالم being derived from ظلم which means: (1) he put a thing in the wrong place or in a place not its own; (2) he made one suffer loss; (3) he transgressed or committed a wrong. A ظالم is thus one who does an inappropriate or improper thing; or one who commits a wrong; or one who makes someone suffer a loss (Aqrab & Lane).
The word جنة (garden) occurring in this verse does not refer to Heaven or Paradise but simply to the garden-like place where Adam was first made to live. It cannot refer to Heaven: firstly, because it was on the earth that Adam was made to live, as the words, I am about to place a vicegerent in the earth, occurring in 2:31 clearly indicate.
Secondly, Heaven is a place from which no one who once enters it will ever be expelled (15:49), whereas Adam was made to quit the جنة (garden) spoken of in this verse. This shows that the جنة or garden in which Adam first dwelt was a place on this very earth which was given this name on account of the fertility of its soil and the abundance of its verdure. Recent researches go to show that the place where Adam was made to dwell was the garden of Eden which lay near Babylon in Iraq or Assyria.
According to the Bible, the forbidden شجرة (tree) was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). But we learn from the Quran that after having eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve became naked which means that, unlike knowledge which is a source of goodness, the tree was a source of evil, making Adam exhibit a weakness. The Quranic view is evidently correct, because to deprive man of knowledge was to defeat the very purpose for which he had been brought into being. The Quran and the Bible seem, however, to agree on the point that the tree was not a real one, but only a symbol, because no tree with either of the above characteristics, i.e. making a man naked or giving him knowledge of good or evil, exists on the face of the globe. So the tree must represent something else.
As explained above, the word شجرة also means a quarrel. Says the Quran: But no, by thy Lord, they are not believers until they make thee judge in all that is in dispute between them (4:66).
Elsewhere, the Quran makes mention of two kinds of شجرة (1) شجرة طیبة (good tree) and (2) شجرة خبیثة (evil tree) for which see 14:25 & 27. Pure things and pure teachings are likened to the former, and impure things and impure thoughts are likened to the latter. In the light of these explanations, the verse would mean: (1) that Adam was enjoined to avoid quarrels; (2) that he was warned against evil things, because although the verse does not specify evil or good, yet the prohibition cannot but refer to impure and evil things.
The expression, eat therefrom plentifully wherever you will, indicates that the place where Adam lived had not yet come under the jurisdiction of anybody and was what may be termed "God’s land" which was given to Adam who was thus made lord of all he surveyed.
The concluding clause, lest you be of ظالمین or wrongdoers, means that the result of approaching the prohibited شجرة would be that Adam would become one of those who do not observe propriety in their actions for, as explained under Important Words, ظلم means, putting a thing at a wrong place. (close)
فَاَزَلَّہُمَا الشَّیۡطٰنُ عَنۡہَا فَاَخۡرَجَہُمَا مِمَّا کَانَا فِیۡہِ ۪ وَ قُلۡنَا اہۡبِطُوۡا بَعۡضُکُمۡ لِبَعۡضٍ عَدُوٌّ ۚ وَ لَکُمۡ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ مُسۡتَقَرٌّ وَّ مَتَاعٌ اِلٰی حِیۡنٍ ﴿۳۷﴾
فَأَزَلَّهُمَا ٱلشَّيۡطَٰنُ عَنۡهَا فَأَخۡرَجَهُمَا مِمَّا كَانَا فِيهِۖ وَقُلۡنَا ٱهۡبِطُواْ بَعۡضُكُمۡ لِبَعۡضٍ عَدُوّٞۖ وَلَكُمۡ فِي ٱلۡأَرۡضِ مُسۡتَقَرّٞ وَمَتَٰعٌ إِلَىٰ حِينٖ
70. The first two clauses of the verse mean that a satanic being enticed Adam and his spouse from the place in which they were placed and thereby deprived them of the comfort they enjoyed. As explained in 2:35 the being who beguiled and brought trouble on Adam was Shaitan and not Iblis, who is spoken of as refusing to serve Adam. So Shaitan does not here refer to Iblis, but to someone else from among the people of Adam’s time who was his enemy. The inference is further supported by 17:66 according to which Iblis could have no power over Adam. The word Shaitan is of much wider significance than Iblis, for whereas Iblis is the name given to the Evil Spirit who belonged to the jinn and refused to serve Adam, thereafter becoming the leader and representative of the forces of evil in the universe, Shaitan is any evil or harmful being or thing, whether a spirit or a human being or an animal or a disease or any other thing. Thus Iblis is a 'satan,' his comrades and associates are 'satans,' enemies of truth are 'satans,' mischievous men are 'satans,' injurious animals are 'satans' and harmful diseases are 'satans.' The Qur’an, the Hadith and Arabic literature are full of instances in which the word 'satans' has been freely used about one or all of these things. (close)
a. 7:21, 28; 20:121. (close)
b. 7:25; 20:124. (close)
c. 7:25-26; 20:56; 77:26-27. (close)
71. The Qur’an lends no support to the idea of anybody ascending to the heavens alive, for the verse clearly fixes the earth as the life-long abode of man and rejects the idea that Jesus or, for that matter, anybody else ever went up to the heavens alive. (close)
a. 7:21, 28; 20:121. (close)
b. 2:62; 7:25; 20:124. (close)
c. 7:25, 26; 20:56; 77:26, 27. (close)
43. Important Words:
ازلھما (caused them both to slip). ازل derived from زل i.e. he slipped. ازل means: (1) he caused him to slip; (2) he turned him from the truth or from the right path (Aqrab). The word زل is sometimes used of slipping without intention (Mufradat).
اھبطوا (go forth) is derived from ھبط meaning, he descended or alighted or went down. But when the word is followed by the preposition من it generally means, he went forth or he departed. Thus ھبط من الوادی means, he went forth from the valley (Baqa). Arabic grammar, however, permits of the preposition being omitted. Thus the word اھبطوا in the present verse would mean, go forth or depart. Further on (in 2:39) we read اھبطوامنھا which means, go out of it or go forth from it.
مستقر (abode) is derived from استقر which again is derived from قر. They say قر فی المکان or استقر بالمکان i.e. he stayed or became established in the place; he adopted the place as his residence. So مستقر means, a place where one resides or abides for some length of time (Aqrab).
متاع (provision) is derived from متع. They say متعه الله بکذا. i.e. God made him profit by it for some length of time. So متاعmeans: (1) any of the necessaries of life like food, clothes and furniture; (2) goods of the world; (3) any short-lived profit that does not last for long (Aqrab). The word also means, deriving benefit from a thing for some length of time (Mufradat).
The pronoun "it" in, caused them both to slip by means of it, evidently refers to the شجرة or tree. The first two clauses of the verse mean that a satanic being enticed Adam and his spouse from the place where they were and thereby deprived them of the comforts they enjoyed. As explained in 2:35 above, it will be noted that he who beguiled and brought trouble on Adam was Shaitan and not Iblis who is spoken of as refusing to serve Adam. This distinction is to be found not only in the verse under comment but throughout the Quran which invariably speaks of Iblis while mentioning the incident of refusal to bow down through pride, and of Shaitan wherever mention is made of Adam being instigated to eat of the prohibited شجرة (tree). The distinction points to the conclusion that the word Shaitan does not here refer to Iblis, but to someone from among the fellow beings of Adam who was hostile to him. The inference is further supported by the verse: As to My servants, thou (O Iblis) shalt certainly have no power over them (17:66). As Adam was a vicegerent of God, Iblis could have no power over him, and the being who beguiled him was someone else. Hence, in order to bring out this fact, the word Shaitan, which has a much wider significance than Iblis, has been used here.
The concluding words of the verse, i.e. for you there is an abode in the earth, also prove that the Quran lends no support to the idea of anybody ascending to the heavens alive, for the verse clearly fixes the earth as the lifelong abode of man. Thus the Quran rejects the idea that Jesus or, for that matter, anybody else ever went up to the heavens alive.
A short note here on the word 'satan' will not be out of place. As will be readily seen, the word 'satan' is of much wider significance than Iblis, for whereas Iblis is the name given to the Evil Spirit who belonged to the jinn and refused to serve Adam, thereafter becoming the leader of the forces of evil in the universe, the word 'satan' is used about any evil or harmful being or thing, whether a spirit or a human being or an animal or a disease or any other thing. Thus Iblis is a 'satan'; his comrades and associates are 'satans'; enemies of truth are 'satans'; mischievous men are 'satans', injurious animals are 'satans' and harmful diseases are 'satans'. The Quran, the Hadith and the Arabic literature are full of instances in which the word 'satan' has been freely used about one or all of these things. Thus the Quran says that there are 'satans' both among men and the jinn (6:113). Again, mischievous enemies of truth are also called 'satans' in the Quran (2:15). The Holy Prophet once used the name 'satan' about a thief who had repeatedly robbed Abu Hurairah (Bukhari). Similarly the Holy Prophet once said that a black street dog was a 'satan' (Majah). Again he once ordered his Companions to cover up their utensils containing food and drink lest 'satan' should find its way into them, evidently meaning harmful insects and germs (Majah). At another place the Holy Prophet exhorts his followers to clean their nostrils when they rise from sleep in the morning as 'satan' rests in them, hinting that harmful matter accumulates in the nostrils which, if not removed, may injure health (Muslim).
From the above instances it is clear that 'satan' is a very general term and is freely used about all evil or harmful beings or things. For the meaning of the word 'satan' see note on 2:15. (close)
فَتَلَقّٰۤی اٰدَمُ مِنۡ رَّبِّہٖ کَلِمٰتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَیۡہِ ؕ اِنَّہٗ ہُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِیۡمُ ﴿۳۸﴾
فَتَلَقَّىٰٓ ءَادَمُ مِن رَّبِّهِۦ كَلِمَٰتٖ فَتَابَ عَلَيۡهِۚ إِنَّهُۥ هُوَ ٱلتَّوَّابُ ٱلرَّحِيمُ
a. 7:24. (close)
b. 20:123. (close)
a. 7:24. (close)
44. Important Words:
تلقی (learnt) is derived from لقی. They say لقی فلانا i.e. he came face to face with him; he met him or he saw him; he found him. لقی الشیء means, he threw or pushed the thing towards him; he made him meet it or he made him experience it. القاهmeans, he threw it or put it or let it fall. القا الیه القول means, he told or communicated to him the word. القا علیه رحمته means, he bestowed his mercy on him. تلقی الشیء means, he came face to face with it; or he met it or saw it. تلقی منه الشیء means, he received the thing from him; or he learnt it from him (Aqrab).
کلمات (words) is, like کلم, the plural of کلمة which is derived from the verb کلم. They say کلمه meaning, he wounded him; کلمه (Kallamahu) means, he wounded him; he spoke to him. کالمه means, he spoke to him; the latter expression being generally used of two or more persons speaking to one another. تکلم means, he spoke, he uttered words. کلام means, saying or speech having some meaning; idea occurring in the mind even if it is not expressed; a writing. کلمة means, word; anything uttered; speech (Aqrab). کلمة also means, a decree; a commandment (Mufradat).
تاب (he turned) and تواب (Oft-Returning) are both derived from the same root. تاب means, he repented. تاب الی الله means, he returned to God with repentance after being disobedient or sinful. تاب الله علیه means, God turned to him with forgiveness and mercy. تائب means, one who repents or turns towards God after being disobedient or sinful. توبة means, repentance; turning towards God for forgiveness with the resolve to be obedient and righteous in future. تواب is intensive adjective from تاب. When applied to man it means, one who is always ready to repent, one who turns to God much for forgiveness and with promise to reform. When applied to God, it means, He Who is ready to accept repentance; He Who turns (much and often) with forgiveness and mercy towards His servants (Aqrab & Lane).
This verse tells us that when 'Satan' deceived Adam, and God informed him of his mistake, he prayed to God for forgiveness in words which he learnt from God Himself. These words have been mentioned by the Quran elsewhere and they run thus: Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves; and if Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, we shall surely be of the lost (7:24).
This was the prayer that Adam learnt from God. The prayer was heard and Adam was forgiven. The fact that God Himself taught Adam the words of this prayer shows that he was a chosen one of God and was a recipient of divine revelation. The verse also tells us that on special occasions, God Himself teaches His servants the words in which they should pray to Him, and it is evident that the words of prayer chosen by God are sure to find ready acceptance with Him. It is in fact a way of honouring holy men and expediting their reconciliation with Him that God sometimes teaches them the words in which they should pray to Him. It is, in other words, saying to them, "Come to Me with a request and I will grant it." Strange indeed are the ways of the Lord Whose mercy and forgiveness are, as it were, always eager to descend on man, if he only cares to turn towards Him with repentance. Says the Holy Prophet, "God has spoken to me saying: Whoso does a good deed will have a tenfold reward and even more, and whoso does an evil deed will have a punishment only equal to it or will have his sin forgiven altogether. And whoso approaches Me by half a cubit, I will go to him by one cubit and whoso approaches Me by one cubit, I will go to him by four cubits; and whoso comes to Me walking, I will go to him running" (Muslim). (close)
قُلۡنَا اہۡبِطُوۡا مِنۡہَا جَمِیۡعًا ۚ فَاِمَّا یَاۡتِیَنَّکُمۡ مِّنِّیۡ ہُدًی فَمَنۡ تَبِعَ ہُدَایَ فَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَیۡہِمۡ وَ لَا ہُمۡ یَحۡزَنُوۡنَ ﴿۳۹﴾
قُلۡنَا ٱهۡبِطُواْ مِنۡهَا جَمِيعٗاۖ فَإِمَّا يَأۡتِيَنَّكُم مِّنِّي هُدٗى فَمَن تَبِعَ هُدَايَ فَلَا خَوۡفٌ عَلَيۡهِمۡ وَلَا هُمۡ يَحۡزَنُونَ
c. 7:36; 20:124. (close)
72. Khauf denotes fear about the future. (close)
73. Huzn generally relates to the fear about what is past. (close)
a. 7:36; 20:124. (close)
45. Important Words:
خوف (fear) is derived from خاف i.e. he feared. خوف denotes fear about the future. یحزنون (shall grieve) is derived from حزنwhich means, he felt regret, grief, and sorrow. حزنه means, he made him sorrowful. حزن (grief) generally, though not always, relates to what is past.
As Adam was to become the progenitor of a great race and the harbinger of a new era, a timely announcement was made to mankind through him that they should be prepared to receive guidance from their God from time to time. Thus the verse holds out the promise that among the descendants of Adam there would continue to appear great souls who would invite people to truth and guidance, and that those who followed such holy persons would attain salvation. Their hearts would be so filled with the true faith that they would enjoy peace and tranquillity of mind in all circumstances. No fear about the future or regret about the past would trouble them, as they would attain nearness to God and their hearts would be to them a paradise. (close)
وَ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا وَ کَذَّبُوۡا بِاٰیٰتِنَاۤ اُولٰٓئِکَ اَصۡحٰبُ النَّارِ ۚ ہُمۡ فِیۡہَا خٰلِدُوۡنَ ﴿٪۴۰﴾
وَٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ وَكَذَّبُواْ بِـَٔايَٰتِنَآ أُوْلَـٰٓئِكَ أَصۡحَٰبُ ٱلنَّارِۖ هُمۡ فِيهَا خَٰلِدُونَ
d. 7:37. (close)
74. Islam does not believe in the eternity of Hell, but regards it as a sort of penitentiary where sinners will be made to live for a limited period for spiritual treatment and cure. See 1351. (close)
a. 7:37. (close)
46. Important Words:
خالدون (shall abide). For the meaning of خلود see under 2:26.
Along with the glad tidings given in the preceding verse, a warning is issued in the present verse for such people as might reject God’s guidance. They will fall into a fire and will never enjoy inner happiness and satisfaction of mind, however rich and wealthy they may happen to be. In the next world too, both those who follow the guidance and those who reject it will have the reward and retribution of their deeds.
The last clause of the verse, viz. ھم فیھا خالدون i.e. therein they shall abide, does not mean that they will remain in Hell forever. Islam does not believe in the eternity of Hell, but looks upon it as a sort of hospital where men will be sent for treatment and cure. The God of Islam is most merciful and not vindictive, and does not delight in inflicting punishment on His creatures. On the other hand, His punishment comes only when it becomes absolutely essential and even then, it is intended only for the reformation of His creatures. The punishment, whether of this world or of the next, is not based on the motive of revenge, but both here and hereafter, its underlying purpose is to inflict pain with the ultimate object of healing and curing, so that when this purpose has been fulfilled, it will become unnecessary and will be stopped. Accordingly, Islam teaches that there will come a time when the dwellers of Hell, after having been cured of their spiritual diseases, will leave it for Heaven (see under 11:108, 109). In contrast to this, the reward of Heaven is truly everlasting (11:109). (close)