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)
یٰبَنِیۡۤ اِسۡرَآءِیۡلَ اذۡکُرُوۡا نِعۡمَتِیَ الَّتِیۡۤ اَنۡعَمۡتُ عَلَیۡکُمۡ وَ اَوۡفُوۡا بِعَہۡدِیۡۤ اُوۡفِ بِعَہۡدِکُمۡ ۚ وَ اِیَّایَ فَارۡہَبُوۡنِ ﴿۴۱﴾
يَٰبَنِيٓ إِسۡرَـٰٓءِيلَ ٱذۡكُرُواْ نِعۡمَتِيَ ٱلَّتِيٓ أَنۡعَمۡتُ عَلَيۡكُمۡ وَأَوۡفُواْ بِعَهۡدِيٓ أُوفِ بِعَهۡدِكُمۡ وَإِيَّـٰيَ فَٱرۡهَبُونِ
75. "Israel" is another name of Jacob, son of Isaac. This name was bestowed on Jacob by God later in life (Gen. 32:28). The original Hebrew word is a compound one, made up of Yasara and Ail and means: God’s prince, warrior or soldier (Concordance by Cruden & Hebrew-English Lexicon by W. Gesenius). The word Israel is used to convey three different senses: (1) Jacob personally (Gen. 32:28); (2) progeny of Jacob (Deut. 6:3-4); (3) any righteous and God-fearing person or people (Hebrew-English Lexicon). (close)
e. 2:48, 123; 5:21; 14:7. (close)
76. After Abraham the "covenant" was renewed with the Israelites. This second "covenant" is mentioned at several places in the Bible (Exod. ch. 20; Deut. chaps. 5, 18, 26). When the "covenant" was being made and the glory of God was being manifested on Mount Sinai, the Israelites were so terrified to see "the thunderings and the lightnings and the noise of the trumpet and the mountain smoking" (Exod. 20:18) that accompanied this manifestation that they exclaimed to Moses, saying: "Speak thou with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Exod. 20:19). These impudent words sealed their fate; for thereupon God said to Moses that, in future no Law- giving Prophet, as he was, would appear from among them. Such a Prophet would in future appear from among the brethren of the Israelites, i.e. the Ishmaelites. Thus in this verse God reminds the Children of Israel that He had made a "covenant" with Isaac and his seed after him to the effect that if they fulfilled their "covenant" with Him and obeyed all His commandments, He would continue to bestow His favours on them; but if they did not fulfil it, they would be deprived of His favours. Now, as the Israelites utterly failed to keep the "covenant," God raised the Promised Prophet from among the Ishmaelites as He had already promised, and henceforth the "covenant" was transferred to the followers of the new Prophet. (close)
b. 2:48, 123; 5:21; 14:7. (close)
47. Important Words:
اسرائیل (Israel) is another name of Jacob, son of Isaac. This name was bestowed by God on Jacob later in life (Gen. 32:28). The original Hebrew word is a compound one made up of یسرا and ایل and means: (a) God’s prince; (b) God’s warrior; (c) God’s soldier (Concordance by Cruden and Hebrew-English Lexicon by W. Gesenius). The name Israel is used to convey three different senses: (1) Jacob personally (Gen. 32:28); (2) progeny of Jacob (Deut. 6:3, 4); (3) any righteous and God-fearing person or people (Hebrew-English Lexicon).
اذکروا (remember) is derived from ذکر meaning: (1) he spoke of (2) he remembered, i.e. called to mind; (3) he kept in memory. Thus ذکر (remembrance) may either be with the tongue or with the mind or heart (Aqrab & Mufradat).
عھد (covenant). The word عھد gives a number of meanings. عھدالیه means, he enjoined him; he put on him a responsibility; he made a covenant with him. عھدالحرمة means, he observed and protected the sanctity of a thing. عھد زیدا بمکان کذا means, he met Zaid at such and such a place. العھد means, an injunction; a commandment; a responsibility; a covenant; a promise; fulfilment of a promise; an oath; observance of the sanctity of a thing; protection; meeting with a person or thing; etc. (Lane & Aqrab). In the present verse عھدی does not mean, My part of the covenant, because the Israelites could not be asked to fulfil what God had promised. It means, the covenant you made with Me. Similarly عھدکم means, My covenant with you and not your covenant with Me.
فارھبون (Me should you fear) is really a combination of three words, i.e. ف (so) and ارھبوا (you should fear) and ن (Me), the last named being originally نی. Added to the preceding word إیای (Me) the clause receives a sort of triple emphasis.
In the preceding verse the Quran, by a reference to Adam, draws the reader’s attention to the fact that God has been sending down His revelation from the very beginning and that evil-minded people have always opposed such revelation and that thus the Quranic revelation and the hostility of some people towards it are not to be wondered at.
In the present verse God addresses the Israelites in order to point to the fact that the revelation has not been confined to the beginning of the world but has been sent down repeatedly, as and when required, and that a very good example of this repetition is to be met with in the history of the Israelites. Side by side with this reference to the Israelites, it is also pointed out that even the Israelites have now lost God’s favour by failing to fulfil His covenant and that God has, therefore, now decided to choose a new people for His favour. Another reason why the Israelites have been mentioned here is that, being the last people to receive the favours of God before Islam, they are more answerable to Him than any other people.
As to the question that naturally arises here, why God addresses the Jews in this verse as "the children of Israel" and not as "the children of Jacob" or simply as "the Jews", it may be stated that Israel, being the name given to Jacob by God Himself, has been preferred to the name Jacob which was apparently given him by his parents. Moreover, Israel, being an attributive name meaning "God’s warrior", has been chosen to remind the Jews that, being the children of a great soldier of God, they should also behave like brave men and, throwing aside all petty considerations, should come forward and accept the Prophet whom God has raised for their own good. The form یا بنی اسرائیل (O ye children of Israel), is similar to addressing a man as یا ابن الکریم (O you the son of a noble man), which expression we use when we wish to appeal to him to show nobility and generosity just as his noble father before him used to do.
As to the other name "Jews", it may be noted that both "Israel" and "Jews" are attributive names which have come to be used as proper names. Where the Quran desires to refer to the followers of Moses as a community descended from one common ancestor, it speaks of them as "children of Israel", and where it desires to refer to them as a religious unit it uses the name "Jews", the word ھود or یھود derived from ھاد meaning a people that turn to God or to the truth with repentance. Or, as some people have thought, یھود is derived from (Judah) who was one of the sons of Jacob. As Judah’s descendants together with those of his brother, Benjamin, constituted the kingdom of Judah at Jerusalem, as opposed to that of the remaining ten tribes of Israel, collectively known as Israel, and, as Jerusalem became the religious centre of the Jews, the Jewish religion came to be known as Judaism and the people professing that religion as یھود or Jews (Enc. Brit. under Jews).
The "favours" spoken of in the verse include both spiritual and temporal favours, of both of which the Israelites had their share. Says the Quran: And remember when Moses said to his people, 'O my people, call to mind Allah’s favour upon you when He appointed Prophets among you and made you kings' (5:21). This verse makes it clear that the highest spiritual favour is prophethood and the highest temporal favour is kingship and both these favours were bestowed on the Israelites. The facts of history bear out that assertion.
The words اوفوا بعھدی اوف بعھدکم have been rendered in the text as, fulfil your covenant with Me, I will fulfil My covenant with you, but perhaps a simpler rendering would be, "fulfil My commandments, 1 will fulfil the promise I made to you". As for the covenant spoken of in this verse, we read in the Quran that, when Abraham enquired of God whether the promise which He had made to him about making him an Imam or leader of the people applied to his posterity also, God said, My covenant does not embrace the transgressors (2:125) which implied that the covenant applied only to the righteous children of Abraham.
The Bible also refers to this covenant in Gen. 17:4-14 where God says to Abraham, "As for me, behold my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations...And I will make thee exceeding fruitful and I will make nations of thee and kings shall come out of thee…This is my covenant which ye shall keep between me and you and thy seed after thee; every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you…And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." The circumcision here spoken of is treated as a symbol of spiritual purification in the Scriptures (Lev. 26:41 & Jer. 4:3, 4; 9:25). The Jews retained the outward form of the rite of circumcision but neglected the inner spirit, while Christians neglected both.
After Abraham the covenant was renewed with the Israelites. This second covenant is mentioned in the Bible in several places (Exod. 20; Deut. Chaps. 5, 18, 26). God gave Moses on Mount Sinai (or Horeb as it is called in Deut.) the Ten Commandments and made a covenant with the Israelites (Deut. 5:2, 3). They were commanded to keep this covenant thus: "Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you and that ye may prolong your days in the land ye shall possess" (Deut. 5:33). And again "Thou (O Israel!) hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes, and His commandments, and His judgements, and to hearken unto His voice: and the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people as He has promised thee, and that thou shouldst keep all His commandments" (Deut. 26:17, 18).
When the covenant was being made and the glory of God was manifesting itself on Mount Sinai, the Israelites were so terrified to see "the thunderings and the lightnings and the noise of the trumpet and the mountain smoking" (Exod. 20:18) that accompanied this manifestation that they exclaimed to Moses, saying: "Speak thou with us and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die" (Exod. 20:19). These words sealed the fate of the Israelites; for thereupon God said to Moses that, though the Israelites would be blessed as long as they acted upon the commandments revealed through him, in future no Law-giving Prophet, just as he was, would appear among them. Such a Prophet—a Law-giving Prophet like unto him—would in future appear from among the brethren of the Israelites, i.e. the Ishmaelites. Says Moses: "And the Lord said unto me, they have well-spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him (Deut. 18:18, 19).
In the foregoing verses, the Israelites are told that as they themselves refused to listen to the word of God, the next Law-giving Prophet will be raised not from among them, but from among their brethren. Prophets were indeed raised among the Israelites even after Moses as the Quran itself testifies (2:88), but the Prophet that was to be "like Moses", i.e. a Law-giving Prophet, was not raised from among them in accordance with the prophecy quoted above.
The prophecy clearly stated that the next Law-giving Prophet was to be from among the "brethren" of the Israelites. Now as the Ishmaelites are the "brethren" of the Israelites, it was from among them that the Holy Prophet of Islam appeared. This is quite in conformity with the promise which was first made to Abraham himself (2:130).
It is wrong to say that the words "of thy brethren" may refer to the Israelites themselves; for at the time of Moses all the tribes of Israel were living together, and if the Promised Prophet was to appear from among them, it could in no sense be right to say that the Lord would raise up a Prophet from among the "brethren" of the Israelites. Neither can the prophecy apply to Jesus who, besides not being a Law-giving Prophet (Matt. 5:17, 18), was an Israelite and not an Ishmaelite. The prophecy was clearly fulfilled in the Holy Prophet of Arabia, who was an Ishmaelite and, like Moses, a Law-giving Prophet.
It has been objected that elsewhere the Bible speaking of this prophecy, uses the words "from the midst of thee, of thy brethren," which shows that the words apply to the Israelites themselves. But this inference is clearly wrong; for, firstlythe words "from the midst of thee" are not God’s words but only those of Moses (Deut. 18:15), whereas the words "from among thy brethren" are God’s own words (Deut. 18:18); and as the prophecy is based on God’s revelation and not on Moses’ interpretation, the former must be assumed to be more correct. Secondly, even if we take the words "from the midst of thee, of thy brethren," to be correctly based on God’s revelation, then also these words may be taken to apply to the Holy Prophet of Islam, for he, having been sent to all nations, may truly be looked upon as having been raised amidst each and every people of the world. In this case the words "from the midst of thee, of thy brethren" would be interpreted to give a twofold meaning: (1) that the Promised Prophet would be raised for all the nations of the world, including the Israelites; and (2) that personally he would belong to the Ishmaelites.
As the Jews repeatedly broke God’s covenant, it was transferred to the Holy Prophet and his followers. Says God in the Quran: (Moses prayed to God, saying,) Ordain for us good in this world, as well as in the next; we have turned to Thee with repentance. God replied, I will inflict My punishment on whom I will; but My mercy encompasses all things; so I will ordain it for those who act righteously, and pay the Zakah and those who believe in Our Signs—those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet, the immaculate one, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel which are with them (7:157, 158).
The mention of the Holy Prophet in the Bible is to be found in Deut. 18 wherein the Israelites are exhorted to accept the Promised Prophet so that they may receive mercy.
Again, the Quran says: And remember the time when Allah took a covenant from the people through the Prophets: Saying, whatever I give you of the Book and Wisdom and then there comes to you a Messenger fulfilling what is with you, you shall believe in him and help him, and He said, Do you agree and do you accept the responsibility which I lay upon you in this matter? They said, We agree; He said, Then bear witness and I am with you among the witnesses(3:82).
From what has been said above it is clear that in the words, and fulfil your covenant with Me, I will fulfil My covenant with you, God reminds the children of Israel that He had made a covenant with Isaac and his seed after him to the effect that if they fulfilled their covenant with Him and obeyed all His behests, He would continue to bestow His favours on them; but if they did not fulfil their covenant, they would be deprived of His favours. Now as the Israelites utterly failed to keep the covenant, God raised the Promised Prophet from among the Ishmaelites as He had already promised, and henceforth the covenant was transferred to the followers of the new Prophet. He who obeyed the new Prophet would prosper; he who rejected him would be cut off.
The words, fulfil your covenant with Me, I will fulfil My covenant with you, also lead to an important inference. The greatest favour bestowed by God upon the Israelites in fulfilment of His covenant with them was the gift of prophecy. They were given a Law in the form of the Torah, but this did not put an end to the appearance of Prophets among them who continued to come even after Moses. These Prophets brought no new Law but they received divine revelation and breathed a new life into their people. The Quran also refers to this favour of God upon the Israelites (5:21). Now in the verse under comment, God holds out the promise to the Israelites that if they fulfilled their part of the covenant and believed in the Holy Prophet of Islam, He would fulfil His part, i.e. continue to bestow the gift of prophecy on them as He had done in the past. This could be done only by raising from among them such Prophets as brought no new Law but simply came to serve the Law of Islam. From this it clearly follows that even in the new Dispensation inaugurated by the Holy Prophet, the gift of prophethood is still open; if it were not open, the promise of God that if the Israelites believed in the new Dispensation, the same favours which were bestowed on them in the past would be bestowed on them in the future could not hold true.
From the above it is also clear that the prophethood promised in Islam is to be like that of the Prophets who came after Moses. The latter were not Law-bearing Prophets, but simply came to serve the Law of Moses. Similarly, the prophethood promised in Islam is not to be a Law-bearing prophethood but simply a prophethood meant for the service of the Quran (See also under 1:7).
The concluding words, and Me alone should you fear, are at once a warning and an appeal to the Jews. As explained under Important Words, this clause contains triple emphasis and means somewhat like this, "Fear Me alone; beware, and fear Me alone." The Israelites had already incurred God’s anger by repeatedly breaking their covenant with Him. Now was a last chance for them, so let them fear the Lord even now and accept the new Prophet whose acceptance can yet turn the scales in their favour. It was a case of now or never.
In this connection it may also be noted that the above expression, i.e. and Me alone should you fear, has not been used to signify that God is something to be feared. The emphasis is rather on the fact that nothing except God should be feared. Islam roots out all fears except that of God. Indeed, he who fears anybody or anything except God is not a true believer. (close)