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Lesson 22

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Lesson - 22


"And He taught Adam all the names, then presented them to the angels; He said : Tell Me the names of those if you are right.

They said : Glory be to Thee! We have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us. Surely Thou art the Knowing, the Wise.

He said : O Adam, inform them of their names. So when he informed them of their names, He said : Did I not say to you that I know what is unseen in the heavens and the earth? And I know what you manifest and what you hide.

And when We said to the angels, Be submissive to Adam, they submitted, but Iblis (did not). He refused and was proud, and he was one of the disbelievers.

And We said : O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in the garden, and eat from it a plenteous (food) wherever you wish, and approach not this tree, lest you be of the unjust.

But the devil made them slip from it, and caused them to depart from the state in which they were. And We said: Go forth, some of you are the enemies of others. And there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for time. Then Adam received (revealed) words from his Lord, and He turned to him (mercifully). Surely He is Oft- returning (to mercy), the Merciful. We said: Go forth from this state all Surely there will come to you a guidance from Me, then who-ever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.

And (as to) those who disbelieve in and reject Our messages, they are the companions of the Fire; in it they will abide." Ch. 2:31-39

How Divine Knowledge is given to mankind

For those who have not read my previous two lessons, it would be hard to understand the remaining discussion on this section. Due to time constraints, I have to avoid repetition, otherwise it will be difficult to complete this section. With this apology, I will now proceed further. As I have previously pointed out, this is not a direct conversation, but a description of events which occurred over a long period of time and have been described in a simple, and easily understood format. The incident of Prophet Adam inculcates within it the narrative of the whole human race. The first verse in this lesson discusses the manner in which Adam received knowledge from Allah. In the next verse we learn about the angels saying, they do not possess any knowledge except that which is taught to them by Allah. The teaching of Adam and angels was not in the manner of teaching children, because this is inconsistent with Divine Glory. Allah gives such knowledge through revelation, the Arabic word, wahy for which means a ‘hasty suggestion which is conveyed to the human mind.’ The reader should not be surprised by the meaning of the word wahy (revelation). There is a higher form of revelation which is given only to the prophets, and the revelation of a Divine Scripture is brought only by the exalted Angel Gabriel. There are, however, lower forms of revelation. For example it is said in the Holy Quran:

"And thy Lord revealed to the bee" (16:68).

The fascinating manner in which the bee carries out its tasks is called giving knowledge through revelation. Similarly the heavens and the earth are said to be given the Divine command through revelation, and mention is also made in the Holy Quran of individuals who were not prophets, such as the disciples of Jesus, and the mother of Moses receiving the Divine word. The first revelation of the Holy Quran states:

"Who taught by the pen, Taught man what he knew not" (96:4,5).

In this verse, Allah attributes to Himself the progress of knowledge that man has made through the pen i.e., calls it His own teaching. I can site many other examples from the Holy Quran itself. Similarly as mentioned in this section of the Holy Quran, Allah has imparted knowledge to Adam and his race through the lower form of Divine revelation (wahy) and words heard by a person spoken to as from behind a veil (ilhaam). This form of revelation (wahy) is called il-qa-un fi-l- rau’i (a hasty suggestion made directly to the heart of the inspired one), or inspiring an idea into the mind from outside. This truth which the Holy Quran revealed to us through the Holy Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago, is now being supported by scientists who are responsible for the progress of modern science. A scientist of such renown and fame, as Albert Einstien remarked: Ideas come from God i.e., the ideas responsible for the development of science which he was discussing were inspired by God.

Adam being taught all the names

The Holy Quran states:

"And He taught Adam all the names."

We can interpret this to mean the names of all the different things. This, however, is not a very elegant interpretation, because the knowledge of names is a very basic skill. As I have just mentioned, the angels are in charge over all of Allah’s creation and forces of nature. It is inconceivable that being given such an important duty, they were ignorant of the names of what constituted their field of responsibility. When Adam made the angels aware of those names, Allah asks the angels, that if they were correct in their doubt about Adam, why were they not able to tell the names? We already know that the doubt the angels had about Adam was that he would make mischief in the land and cause bloodshed. What relationship could this have with the name of things? By just gaining knowledge of the names of things, what was that supremacy that Adam achieved over the angels, for which they were asked to submit to him?

In fact these are the names of all the disciplines of knowledge that were taught to mankind. The knowledge of worldly sciences is very extensive. Hundreds and thousands of books are written on these sciences, but what man has learned about them barely scratches the surface. It is impossible to list all of the books even in one area of the sciences. To ease the task of the students the sciences have been divided up into disciplines like, arithmetic, geometry, algebra, physics, biology etc. Each one of these is an immense subject in its own right. In giving the knowledge of all the names to Adam, the Holy Quran, in fact, refers to all these sciences which Allah has taught mankind through His revelation (wahy), and words heard by a person spoken to as from behind a veil (ilhaam). An angel on the other hand is only given knowledge of that which is necessary for fulfilling his duties. For example the angel in charge of the force of electricity is only given the knowledge which is concerned with creating, or moving the electric force. What is, therefore, stated in this section is that Allah commanded Adam (signifying the human race) to inform the angels of these various branches of knowledge that Allah has taught him. In case of electricity, this would be the knowledge of all the wonderful things man has created in this age of electricity over the last hundred years.

Submission of the Angels to Man

The literal meaning of the Arabic word for prostration (sajda) is showing submission, and in the religious code (shariat), it is used for prostrating because it indicates submission, or humility. The prostration of the shariat (Islamic religious code) is prohibited before anyone, but Allah. Therefore, when the angels were commanded to prostrate before Adam , it was in the literal sense of the word that they were asked to show submission. In this modern age we have seen the success man has achieved in advancing the frontiers of knowledge, and harnessing the forces of nature, which is a manifestation of angels submitting to man. This is the reason why Allah states in this section:

"Did I not say to you that I know what is unseen in the heavens and the earth? And I know what you manifest and what you hide."

This verse indicates that the knowledge of what Allah had yet to manifest through man was known only to Him, and there are many other things in the heavens and on earth that are known only to Him and of which neither man, nor angel has any knowledge. Thus Allah knew of the thought which passed through the minds of the angels about man just as He was aware of their external praise and glorification, or other actions.

The Devil and his refusal to submit

In the context of submission of the angels it is mentioned, "But Iblis (did not). He refused and was proud, and he was one of the disbelievers." The mention of the devil is actually not in conjunction with the angels, but in fact is related to the act of submission. Those interpreters who have considered the word ill-la (but, except) as relative to the angels and have even said that the devil was a master angel, have committed an error. The origin of the angels is from heavenly light, and the creation of the devil is from the fire as the devil stated himself:

"Thou hast created me of fire" (7:12).

The Arabic word ill-la (but, except) in this case is a conclusive exception. For example, we say : All the passengers came from the railway station, but their luggage did not. This does not mean that the luggage is also to be included in the category of passengers. In fact in the description of the angels submitting to Adam, we are informed that all the forces of nature will show submission to Adam as also stated elsewhere in the Holy Quran:

"And He has made subservient to you whatsoever is in the heavens, and whatsoever is in the earth, all, from Himself" (45 :13).

There is one exception to this, and that is the devil. This warning has been conveyed to all of humanity, not only by Prophet Adam, but also through other prophets and revealed scriptures,. Man is not fully capable of understanding Divine wisdom, therefore, people frequently raise this objection, ‘Why did Allah create the devil?’ Without the possibility of the devil tempting man to commit evil, how could righteous action be distinguished from evil? For example, if a person elects to tell the truth, when given the opportunity to lie, then only can he be called a truthful person. If there was no opportunity to lie, how could the quality of truthfulness be acquired, or strengthened?

Concept of Paradise and the forbidden tree

Let us now take the next verse, which states:

"And We said: O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in the garden, and eat from it a plenteous (food) wherever you wish, and approach not this tree, lest you be of the unjust."

People have mistaken this paradise to be the one of the Hereafter which is promised to all believers, who perform righteous action. In the first place those who do so forget that Adam was created on earth as clearly indicated in the beginning of this section:

"I am going to place a ruler on the earth."
Adam did not as yet have the opportunity to believe or perform those acts of righteousness which are a reward for, and in fact, form the paradise of the Hereafter. It has also been clearly stated with regards to the paradise of the Hereafter:

"nor will they be ejected therefrom" (15:48).

In fact, the paradise mentioned in this verse, is the paradise of this earthly existence. ). This is the paradise mentioned in the verse:

"And for him who fears to stand before his Lord are two Gardens" (55:46).

All commentators of the Quran agree that one of the two Gardens promised to the dutiful in this verse is the one on earth. Outwardly we do not observe this in the lives of the dutiful i.e., we seldom find earthly gardens with streams and palaces in their possession. Therefore, the garden or paradise of this earth is the garden of peace and tranquillity which exists in the heart, or mind of the faithful. Do not consider this as something inferior, for even in adversity such persons have a tranquil mind. All the worldly pleasures, such as gardens with streams, palaces, varieties of food and drink are of no avail if one’s heart is in hell i.e., he is consumed with the fire of his low desires and is without serenity of mind. Such a person is really in a living hell.

The question that now remains to be answered is, what was that forbidden tree? Some conjecture this to be the wheat plant, or the date palm, while still others believe it was a fig tree. These are, however the very foods consumed by the righteous servants of Allah and His prophets. The Arabic word haazi-hish-shajarata for ‘this tree’ signifies something in close proximity, or something which has just been mentioned, this being the devil’s disbelief in God due to pride (see preceding verse, "he refused, and was proud). In another text the Holy Quran has compared an evil word with an evil tree as in this verse:

"And the parable of an evil word is an evil tree" (14:26).

Therefore, the tree from which man has been prohibited is the tree of evil, and Divine disobedience, for evil, like a tree becomes firmly rooted, and brings forth deadly fruit.

The Bible states that the devil first lured Eve, who in turn was responsible for leading Adam astray, thus holding woman responsible for the moral decline of the human race. The Holy Quran has absolved her of such a serious accusation by stating, that the devil led both man and woman astray. They were both warned not to depart from the serenity of mind, in which Allah had created them, by following the devil. By doing so they would be going forth, or falling down from a higher condition to one of inferiority. This is the sense in which the Arabic word, ha-boot na-bi-tu has been used. Allah has then consoled all members of the human race, that if they loose the serenity (paradise of heart or mind) in which they have been created by following the devil, they can repent like their forefathers Adam and Eve by following the Divine revelation, and thus benefit from the mercy of Allah. The Holy Quran has mentioned their repentance, and spiritual healing in the Quranic prayer:

"They said : Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves; and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers" (7:23).

Salvation of mankind in following the Quran

In summary, knowledge of worldly sciences, and material progress is not enough to save mankind from the devil’s instigation. A clear example of this in the modern context is that of the western civilization. By means of the worldly knowledge given to them by Allah, these nations were able to bring into their submission the forces of nature which are under the charge of the angels. This amazing progress was, however, not enough to save them from the incitement of the devil, and they got involved in evil and obscene behavior, the like of which is not found in the history of mankind. Their salvation now lies in the Holy Quran. This is the only Book in which the revelation which saved Adam and Eve has reached its perfection, and is safeguarded in its original form. Spiritual knowledge and guidance given only by Divine revelation can save mankind from relinquishing the paradise of this world, and the Hereafter that is why the Holy Quran says:

"Surely there will come to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve."

The fear and sadness that is created by evil action can only be removed by following the guidance given through Divine revelation. Fear is generated before the commission of an act, sadness follows it. For example, when somebody tells a lie, fear is generated in his heart that it may be discovered, and when it is, sadness follows. Freedom from fear and sorrow is the serenity of mind, or the paradise of the heart. When the soul of a believer carries with him to the life Hereafter, this spiritual or inner paradise, he is rewarded therein the external paradise of the Hereafter. This is the message of complete satisfaction and happiness of internal and external paradise that the Holy Quran gives mankind as the purpose of its revelation. Without inner serenity, the external gardens and means of comfort become a thorn in one’s side. If along with the inner peace and tranquillity, of mind one is also granted the external means of comfort, then only can he achieve complete happiness and satisfaction. The Holy Quran expresses this in the words:

"O soul thou that art at rest, return to thy Lord, well pleased, well pleasing, so enter among my servants and enter My Garden" (89:27-30).
May Allah bless us all with this good fortune. Ameen (be it so).
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