Monday, February 24, 2014

Prophet Adam, Angels and Iblees - Some clarifications

Prophet Adam (peace be upon him), Angels and Iblees- clarifications of some doubts
By: Khurshid Imam

A. Introduction

Quran talks about creation of universe and creation of human beings at so many places. Prophet Adam (Peace be upon him) is the first member of mankind, the first human being and the first Prophet. He has been referred as swaym-bhu-manu (‘Manu’ who became himself without any parent) in Indian traditions. 

There are many events related to him for example Quran 2:30-34 talks about:
a) Almighty God tells angels that he is going to create a Khalifa on earth.
b) Angels pose question. God responds.
c) Adam (Peace be upon him) – the first man is created.

d) Allah asks angels and Jinn to prostrate to Adam (Peace be upon him). Except Iblees – a Jinn – everyone obeyed.

Some people get some doubts about these events. For example:
A. Is human being representative or vice-regent of Allah?
B. What doubts angels had?
C. Allah did not answer what angels had asked. Why was another answer given?
D. Why were angels and Jinn asked to prostrate?
E. Was Iblees also asked to prostrate?

F. What is this prostration or sajda?

Refer to the following Ayah for understanding the whole context:

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةًۖقَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَۖقَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ ﴿٣٠﴾
Behold, your Lord said to the angels: "I will make a Khalifa on earth." They said: "Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- while we do celebrate your  praises and glorify you?" He said: "I know what you know not."Quran 2:30

وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٣١﴾
And He taught Adam (Peace be upon him) the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: "Tell me the names of these if you are right."Quran 2:31
قَالُوا سُبْحَانَكَ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ ﴿٣٢﴾
They said: "Glory to you, of knowledge We have none, save what youhave taught us: In truth it is you Who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom."Quran 2:32
قَالَ يَا آدَمُ أَنبِئْهُم بِأَسْمَائِهِمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا أَنبَأَهُم بِأَسْمَائِهِمْ قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ غَيْبَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ ﴿٣٣﴾
He said: "O Adam (Peace be upon him)! Tell them their names." When he had told them, Allah said: "Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what ye reveal and what ye conceal?"Quran 2:33
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٣٤﴾
And behold, We said to the angels: "Bow down to Adam (Peace be upon him)" and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith. Quran 2:34

?B. How is mankind Khalifa

When ALLAH said that HE is going to placeKHALIFAH on the earth; does it meansthat man is representative of Allah? It is wrong to assume that word Khalifah means representative or vice-regent.

To say that mankind is representative of Almighty God is nothing short of demeaning the status of God. I will use the word representative for Mr. X when someone is not present or he is not available and Mr. X will represent him. When APJ Abdul Kalam has to participate in a conference and due to some reason he is not available, then he will send someone as his representative. How come God is not present anywhere – by his knowledge? Everything is within his perception. He can NOT use anyone as his representative. His knowledge, awareness is everywhere throughout the Universe so we cannot use this word vice-regent of Allah for anyone. 

In fact dua of Prophet Muhammad teaches the contrary. In dua we ask Allah to be Khalifa when we go away from home; when we are away then let Allah take care of our possession. So, here Allah is Khalifa of us; i.e. he is successor when we are away from our homes. He is there to take care of our belongings and dear ones.

C. Does Quran explain meaning of Khalifa?

The triliteral root khā lām fā (خ ل ف) occurs 127 times in the Quran. It is used in Quran in various forms in the meaning of ‘Successor’, ‘leave behind’, ‘differ’, ‘contradiction’ etc. Word Khalifa actually means SUCCESSOR.

Please note: Word khalifa is used in:
·         Quran 43:60 in context of ANGELS being khalifa on earth AND;
·         Quran 6:165 in context of human being Khalifa on earth
At both places khalifa is usually translated as SUCCESSOR which is correct.

However when the same word is used in:
# Quran 2:30 in context of Adam (Peace be upon him) being Khalifa on earth AND
# Quran38:26 in context of Prophet David (Peace be upon him) as Khalifa on earth

Then some publications MISTRANSLATE khalifa as vicegerent.
Analyzing all Ayah of Quran dealing with the word “khalifa one gets the idea that it has been used for: “One or more human being becoming successors”.

So, when ALLAH says that HE will make human being as khalifah on earth then it means that human beings will come as successor to other creation AND they will come into succession of each other. It clearly means that:
  1. There were some other creations before mankind on the earth. We will discuss this later in the article.
  2. Adam (Peace be upon him) - the first person of Mankind will be a khalifa i.e. successor. 
  3. Mankind will be such that it will come into succession; generation after generation.

D. Question of the Angels – which they asked

Angels said - "Will you create someone who will do fassad (= disturb the peace of land) on earth and will indulge in bloodshed?"
Why angels questioned thus? How did they guess that man will indulge in bloodshed and fasaad?

One argument is that before mankind jinn used to live on earth. They indulged in bloodshed and fought amongst each other. So, angels were afraid that the new creation will do more bloodshed. This explanation does not have any proof from Quran and it fails on several accounts.

# There is no proof of disobedience of jinn prior to this event.

# Angels said that new creation will indulge in bloodshed. Jinn are distinct creatures and there is absolutely no proof that blood applies to them. In the next explanation importance and relevance of blood in context of human beings and preceding generation will be explored.

There is another argument which sounds logical. We know as per scientific facts that millions of years before human beings came into existence animals and plants lived on the face of earth. First, there was plant kingdom and laterafter millions of years animals started inheriting earth as successor of plant kingdom.
With new creation came more freedom of action, more choice, more free-will, improved instinct and BLOODSHED and FASAAD. How?

Imagine the scenario millions of years ago:
·         Gigantic animals like dinosaurs eating other animals;
·         Animals strangling - killing their prey;
·         Animals fatally hitting/goring each other;
·         Bigger fishes eating smaller fishes.

There was “anarchy” like situation if one compares with the situation when only plants existed.
Possible beginning era of various species is:
  • 475 million years, land plants;
  • 400 million years, insects and seeds;
  • 360 million years, amphibians;
  • 300 million years, reptiles;
  • 200 million years, mammals;
  • 60-200 million years, dinosaurs
Also, it is to be noted that several huge and deadly animals that existed on earth became extinct as they could not survive the extreme competitive environment.

Angels were aware of the fact that new race on earth was bringing more choice, more free-will, more freedom, more bloodshed, more anarchy, more disturbance of peace (fasaad) hence they thought that another new race will indulge in bloodshed and fasaad. They thought that the new khalifa will display more ruthless use of its capabilities.

E. Question of the angels – which they did not ask.

Now, there arises one more question which is important to consider and that is when the angels questioned about the reason to create someone who will do fasaad and bloodshed then Allah did not reply “human beings will NOT do fasaad and bloodshed” OR “YES, I know that he will do fasaad and bloodshed”. Instead of these; reply was “I KNOW WHAT YOU DO NOT KNOW”.Reflecting on this reply of Allah, it seems that the angels were concealing the real question.Were angels concealing their real question? The answer is -YES.

1. What was the concealed question of the angels?

Angels are creation of Allah that do not have free will to the extent of human beings and Jinns. They are programmed creatures unlike to human beings and jinns. They are submissive to ALLAH all the time, engaged in obedience and worship for Allah. Refer 16:49-50; 21:19-20; 66:6

They thought that when they were already there to worship Allah then why Allah wanted to create a new creation? If the new creation is for the purpose of worship then why so; when we are already doing that? It was a sort of positive jealousy. But they did NOT ask this question; they concealed it.

“…They (Angels) said: "Will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?-while we do celebrate your praises and glorify you……" Quran 2:30

They are programmed to do this only. They don’t have the capacity to disobey Allah.

2. How Allah responded to the concealed question?

To show the difference between angels and human beings Allah taught names OR gave knowledge of everything to Adam (Peace be upon him). Angels were also present there. Then Allah asked angels to tell the names of everything that He had taught to Adam (Peace be upon him).

And He taught Adam (Peace be upon him) the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: "Tell me the names of these if you are right." Quran 2:31

Angels expressed their inability to do so because they were NOT made / programmed for this purpose. Angels admitted that they had knowledge of only those things which was already instilled in them by Allah.

They said: "Glory to you, of knowledge; We have none, save what you Had taught us: In truth it is you Who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom."Quran 2:32

In other words angels admitted that that they are programmed to do only pre-determined things; they are programmed with limited knowledge; nothing can add to it.

3. Concealed question of angels answered

He said: "O Adam (Peace be upon him)! Tell them their names." When he had told them, Allah said: "Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of heaven and earth, and I know what you reveal and what you CONCEAL?" Quran 2:33

When Allah asked Adam (Peace be upon him) to tell the names then he told them name correctly. This is the difference between angles and Adam (Peace be upon him). Angels are programmed creatures with almost no free will, whereas, human beings are NOT programmed creatures. There is no limit to knowledge and capabilities of human beings. The angels were unaware of these capabilities of the human beings – that’s why Allah said in the first place itself,“..I know what you do not know” (Quran 2:30) – to convey to the angles that human beings would be different from angels.

In the last, Allah makes clear that He knew the question which the angels had concealed and had NOT asked. The question was – “When we angels are already there to worship Allah then why Allah wants to create a new creation?”

Allah gave the answer to their concealed question in the form of practically showing the difference between human beings and angels. This event of telling names of everything proved to the angels that they did not know about capabilities and qualities of the new creation.

F. What was Prostration to Adam (Peace be upon him) all about?

Another question that requires to be addressed is that why Allah asked angel and jinn to prostrate before his another creation? This question arises because of our restricted understanding of the meaning of the word sajda. By Arabic word sajda we usually mean ‘to put down head on ground like we do in namaz’. In Salah or Namaz we do sajda. Of course, this is sajda but surely this is not the only form of sajda.

1. Quran uses the word sajda in context of stars and plants (Quran 55:6). It says that stars and trees do sajda to Allah. Do they really bow down like we human beings do? NO. Do stars and trees fall down on their faces on the ground? NO. 
2. Quran says in 13:15; 16:49; 22:18– “whoever is within the heavens and the earth – they do sajda to Allah. How they do sajda? Certainly not the way how we human beings do. 
3. Similarly in Surah Yusuf the event is described (Quran 12:4) wherein Prophet Yusuf saw dream in which stars, sun and moon were doing sajda to him. Here again, sajda doesn’t mean what human beings do in namaz.
It is evident from the above referred Ayaah that the meaning of Sajda is to acknowledge the greatness or accept the superiority of the one to whom sajda is being made. Like, stars, trees and whole of the creation acknowledges and accepts the superiority of Allah and remains subservient to Allah. When Allah asked the Angels and Iblees to do sajda to Adam (peace be upon him), it was in order to make them acknowledge the greatness/supremacy of human beings on account of their intellectual capacity as Allah taught the names of the things to Adam (peace be upon him) i.e. Allah gave Adam (peace be upon him) knowledge or intellectual capacity. This new creation, human being was created who will be the successor on earth. The one who would evolve, progress, grow using his intellectual capacity and the resources available around him on the earth. Angels are assigned the task of various departments of nature e.g. rains, mountains, sky. Angels should not become a hindrance in the progress and growth of mankind. This is what it means by doing sajda to human being. Through Sajda Allah instructed jinns and angels that they shouldn’t become hindrance in the evolution of human beings. Not for any instance we should assume that this sajda was in any way connected to the worship of Adam (Peace be upon him) by angels and jinns.

G. Was Iblees also commanded to do sajda?

Was the command of ALLAH to do sajda to Adam (Peace be upon him) only for angels or for both angels and Iblees? It is to be noted that Iblees was the representative of jinns. Jinns were creations who were created prior to human beings. Iblees, a jinn was present during this event.
Quran makes clear in 2:34 and 7:11 that Iblees disobeyed Allah by not doing sajda to Adam (Peace be upon him). Still, some people have doubts regarding whether iblees was commanded to do so. This objection gets cleared when we refer to the following Ayah:

(Allah) said: "What prevented you (O iblis) that you did not prostrate yourself, when I commanded you?"Iblees said: "I am better than him (Adam (Peace be upon him), You created me from fire, and him You created from clay." Quran 7:12

When Allah asked Iblees why he did not do sajda to Adam (Peace be upon him) then Iblees did not say that he was not commanded to do so; rather he said that he was better than Adam (Peace be upon him). 

So, Iblees accepts that he was commanded by Allah but he refused to do sajda. He refused to acknowledge the greatness of Adam (peace be upon him) over himself. He also gave his reason. He said that he was better than Adam (Peace be upon him) because Adam (Peace be upon him) was made from clay while he was made from fire, thereby considering himself superior to Adam (peace be upon him) and not ready to give way to the overall development and spiritual growth of human beings to which they were capable of. So, this Ayah clears all possible misunderstanding regarding the question “Was Iblees also commanded to do sajda to Adam (Peace be upon him)?”

In 18:50 also Quran clears that iblees departed from the command of God. In 38:73 Quran says that ALL angels prostrated and in next ayah 74 - Quran clears that iblees did not prostrate.

Ibless refused to acknowledge the superiority of Adam (peace be upon him) or human beings over himself and therefore causes hindrance to the development of human beings by challenging their intellectual capacity in order that they may not grow closer to Allah i.e. if human beings are superior due to their knowledge they should be able to distinguish right from wrong, truth from falsehood, good from evil. Therefore, he keeps throwing hindrances in the form of temptations in the path of human beings to mislead them from the straight path. He mislead Adam (peace be upon him) by temptation into disobeying Allah. And since then Iblees has been causing hindrance to the growth of human beings.

H. Conclusion

1. Allah has made Prophet Adam (Peace be upon him) as beginning of a new race on earth. This new race - human being - is Khalifa. Khalifa means successor. Man is NOT vice-regent or representative of Allah.

2. Angels are programmed creatures. They are always involved in worship and obedience of Allah. They do not disobey because they are not made to do so.

3. Allah has asked Angels and Jinn to acknowledge greatness of human beings; not to become hindrance in the way of human beings.

4. Representative of the Jinns, Iblees refused to do sajda because he thought that human being was made from clay hence inferior to him. Iblees did takabbaur (rejecting truth and to boast over it). 

Note: * If you don't agree with the article then instead of giving fatwa of deviation / kufr / shirk / biddat - have faith in Allah and leave it to him to judge.

* For any criticism / feedback / suggestion feel free to mail –

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