The history of mankind began with the creation of Adam (sws). That is what everyone acknowledges. However, specifics concerning when, where and how, remain unanswered as yet. Where did Adam (sws) sustain himself and his wife? For how long did he survive? How much did he procreate?
One can speculate, but cannot offer any valid conclusions. Consider the case of evolutionary theorists. For decades, they have tried to impress upon mankind any information – be it devoid of authenticity – that conforms to their theory by any measure. But in the end, one has to submit that these are, at best, only theories – conjectures that are built on hypotheses, rather than on facts. Evidence fails them, as does commonsensical observation. Take the example of an animal. Training one in the most exquisite of ways would always prove to be a futile exercise. No matter what, it would never be able to emulate the individuality that a human being generally possesses. In fact, even the most dumb of humans could outwit the most skilled of animals. Quite obviously then, primatologists will – inevitably and always - fall short of providing a valid explanation for the genius of men, specifically, their superiority over animals.
The Religious Explanation
All divine religions give us a sense of how the first man came to be. This story of Adam (sws) is, however, much unlike the propositions of modern day thinkers and scholars. And it is the Qur’an that helps us experience, through the words of the Almighty, the most remarkable refutation of their theories. It goes about the subject very plausibly, knitting together all specifics to the point of clarity. Thus, narrates Allah.
Before man graced his own existence, He brought into existence this earth – equipped with expansive lands, nailed down by lofty mountains, plunging into rivers, seas and oceans; water droplets capable of being exquisitely manoeuvred, by the winds, up into the skies as clouds; the clouds raining down from the heavens and irrigating mother earth, enabling the eternal spring of plants, fruits, flowers, and the likes. All the amenities of life did He create for man to come and be ready to exploit.1
Next, He intimated the angels His plan: the creation of man as His vicegerent on earth. He would create the first man from soil and then, set him free in the world, capable of employing his faculties to all resources at his disposal - in control of making decisions and acting by his own freewill. The angels responded. If man was being created for worshipping and praising God, they were already devoted to do that. There seemed to be no such need. Alternatively, if man was being created for purposes of practicing freewill, he would inevitably contaminate the world with mischief, where animosity and bloodshed would reign supreme. Either way, the plan seemed incomprehensible; rather, unjustifiable! God assured them that their fears, though sincere, were not called for, since they were unaware of His scheme. He would prepare mankind for its challenge in a vital manner.
It was later expected of the angels to prostrate and display their reverence to the first man as soon as he would be moulded into shape and brought to life.
Care must be taken to understand, however, that such a prostration was not meant to defy the Unity of Allah; rather, the demand came from the One Himself, in order that the angels may comply and go through the trial set by Allah exhibiting complete submission to God’s plan. Appointed with the task of implementing God’s will, it was imperative for His steadfast creation to be at ease with the idea of the man, the representative of God on earth.
Of course, the rest of creation was asked to do the same. This, again so that no impediments be erected by any quarters. The jinn, for instance, were also required to submit and prostrate. Had their subservience not been attained, they could have considered mankind as a bitter challenge to their status, with catastrophic results.
Adam (sws) was created from soil, and spirit was blown into him. All angels and all creation bowed down, save one from among the jinn: Iblis. His disobedience lent itself to the fact that his was a body created from fire. What comparison had soil with fire! Arrogance and self-praise led him astray, where all praise should have been for God alone. Deserving of his reaction, God then deprived Iblis of His trust.
Meanwhile, His angels delved deeper into His trust. After Adam assumed a merger of body and soul, presented before him were souls of his entire progeny, who would be born into the world from then till the end of time. So, took the Creator, a covenant from them all. There was no deity save Allah. He was the One and Only. He was their Lord, their God. All bore witness to the fact that when brought into existence as human beings, they would come equipped with innate guidance of Allah’s unity. They promised to act in accordance with their status as vicegerents (caliphs) of Allah.
God then asked Adam (sws) to introduce to the angels, the most obedient slaves of Allah, from among his progeny. These would be the great men and women, who would do utter justice to God’s commands and who would refrain from His prescribed abstentions, despite all freedom to act. They would justify God’s plan. This, the angels immediately realised, and sought forgiveness from Allah, for their questioning. If only they knew! These men would surpass them as Allah’s slaves!
Respite given to Iblis
Disgraced was Iblis. His arrogance led him to demand respite from God. Asking leave of his services to entice men and women for all times to come, he pledged that mankind would find itself on a path that would lead them astray. Even the best of Adam’s progeny would stumble in the face of his alluring tactics. Evil would appear both attractive and fashionable to mankind, leading it further and further away from the responsibility entrusted. Instilling mischief into their hearts and minds, he would divert them from the straight path, and prove to God that his objection as well as rejection of this new creation was right. Not only would it be unjustified itself by disobeying its Creator, it would be the epitome of disbelief in succumbing to polytheism of the ugliest kinds.
Allah reprimanded. While Iblis would be busy earning the wrath of the Almighty, due to misguiding some, God’s near and dear would be earning His eternal pleasure.
The devil had been granted respite. But all beware, for in the end, he and his partners would burn in eternal fire, just as the God-fearing men and women would climb the podium of Paradise, for all to witness.
Allah then blessed Adam (sws) with Eve (sws), as his companion, as his soul mate. They were invited to dwell in paradise and reap benefits from all that had been placed at their disposal. Freedom was theirs to cherish. One constraint, however, was laid on them by Allah, in order that it may function as a test for them. This test was in the shape of tree. Adam and Eve could trek each and every inch of the abode granted, but the only carefulness was required in the vicinity of this tree. They were warned against treading even close to it, its fruit having been forbidden. They would do themselves great benefit by not letting their curiosity or material desires get the best of them. All else was worthy of their pursuits.
Iblis wanted Adam and Eve to act otherwise. He wanted to make them feel the urge to approach the forbidden truth. He saw this limitation as a unique opportunity. The fruit could be made so attractive and desirous, that Allah’s commandment be shunned - that mankind may begin its transgression with Adam (sws) himself. If the first of men – the one who caused Iblis the anguish - could be the first one to step outside the Divine bounds, the satanic mission would realise a perfect initiation.
So did Iblis conspire. He approached them, equipped with supposed blessings of “the fruit”. An attitude of connivance saw to it that both his addressees be convinced of its marvels. One bite, and they would be elevated to the status of Allah’s most devoted servants, the angels. For God-fearing mortals, this would be a dream come true. What better than to be in the company of the most pious and submitted of creations, ones that would never err. Adam felt buoyant at such prospects, and were it not for Allah’s warnings, he would have proceeded in good hope. He declined in reverence to His Creator’s desires.
But Iblis wasn’t one to back out either. His persistency saw to it that he persuaded both Adam and his wife of his well-wishing disposition. He was their friend. He was their benefactor, their ally. Taken in by his lies, thus, they erred. They failed their very first test. The forbidden fruit had been tasted. Following this, Adam and Eve were immediately punished.
Stripped of their raiment in paradise, their only refuge from shamelessness were tree leaves. It was this state of affairs – resulting from the seizure of all amenities and bounties – that they realised what had just transpired. Indeed, they had transgressed from the Almighty’s prescribed path as a result of Iblis’ deceptions. How could they ever make amends? Truly, they felt they had betrayed their Lord, and such a thought agonised them. The only thing that could now be done was to repent in front of Allah, in hope that the Ever Merciful would forgive. With a sincere and remorseful heart, they approached the Almighty, and with divine help did they supplicate:
O Lord! We have surely harmed our own selves by transgressing from your prescribed path. Should you not forgive us and take us to be repentful sinners, we will surely have incurred a great loss upon ourselves. (7:23)
Allah listened, as He listens to all who humbly admit their shortcomings and He showered Mercy, as he does on all who sheds tears in seeking forgiveness.
It is one of Allah’s special laws that he forgives those who repent immediately after they realise their sins. Such repentance must, of course, include the earnest desire to never repeat the given mistake. Adam and Eve fulfilled the criteria, and so, their prayers were accepted and their forgiveness sanctioned. However, they would now have to part with paradise and dwell on earth, as would their progeny.
This marked the initiation of Allah’s scheme. By allowing his weaknesses and shortcomings to be demonstrated, Adam had confirmed to Allah that the malicious tactics of Iblis, with his satanic mission, were a serious challenge to man.
For all times to come, Allah would keep revealing His messages to a people at a time, at frequent intervals, so that mankind be Divinely guided in times of turmoil and chaos. This so that men and women be assisted in following the straight path – one befitting of the caliphate, the vicegerency bestowed on them from their Lord. Allah wanted them all to succeed. But this success was to be earned. All were given the freedom to act. In allowing themselves to be inspired and enlightened by the messages of truth, they would earn for themselves eternal rewards. The sailing, however, would not be smooth. Every soul would be given a designated amount of time on earth, whereby there would be true help from Allah on the one hand, and deception from Satan on the other. Iblis’ mission would forever be to sabotage man’s mission on earth. Those allowing faith in Allah to dominate all of their actions and intentions, would inevitably succeed. In contrast, those in denial of His plan, in choosing the more attractive and more evil routes mapped by Iblis, would find themselves disqualified for all Mercy, ensnared in the blaze of eternal hell.
This transitory abode is but a distraction and a trial. Adam had been created to deny Iblis, a hand of friendship today, in order to attain eternal bounties in the tomorrow that would last forever. That was the purpose of his creation – the world was the stage, the trial its script, Iblis its antagonist, man its protagonist and Allah its author.2
Why was Adam in Paradise, to start with?
Why at all, the initial retreat in paradise? As always, beautiful sense abides by the Almighty, clad exquisitely in the execution of His plans. The heavenly dwellings of Adam and Eve and the resultant experiences, were, in fact, meant to serve as lessons for mankind – a lesson invaluable in its disposition on earth as the Almighty’s representative. Upon a little deliberation, one can grasp the abundance of the truth that oozes out.
Firstly, it was a confirmation of man’s freewill in his temporary abode on earth. He would be allowed to act of his own accord. Allah would guide him towards the better way. Injunctions, limitations, restrictions and obligations would be there for him to pay heed to. Certainly, perfection lies with the Almighty only, and His special guidance is to be comprehended as an invaluable help extended. The aim, thus, should be to make all-out efforts to tread the true and prescribed path of the Almighty.
Secondly, it served as a warning. Iblis would always remain the Iblis who became the epitome of rebellion in opposition to the very existence of man. He could never be man’s well-wisher. He could never be his friend. The only reason why he demanded respite on earth was to “dethrone” Adam and his progeny. To meet his ends, he would do anything. He would wear the garb of friendship and lure mankind into the devil’s empire. It would be man’s own responsibility to discern the true hand of friendship from this hand of hypocrisy.
Thirdly, it was substantiated that Iblis would never tire of his antics. In every era, he would be progressive in embellishing his struggles. Greed, selfishness, jealousy, and the likes would always be of his making. Moreover, he would conjure up false promises and propagandas, etching in the hearts of men, feelings of fear and dejection towards the true path. Mankind would itself have to watch its steps from falling into these traps.
Fourthly, it had been made obvious. As Adam (sws) fell, so would others fall. However, that will be a non-issue so long as man agrees upon his short-comings, aiming to nullify them, by taking every step closer to Allah. As the saying goes, “the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. The thing of greatest import would be to immediately repent upon realisation; this coupled with sincerity of purpose.
Fifthly, and significantly thus, those who will seek to act in accordance with the Almighty’s pleasure would succeed, Adam (sws) was told. On the other hand, transgressors would be transgressors of their own free will. Failure to do justice to the representatively granted would be punished. By God, freedom entails a purpose!
The Essentials for Caliphate
In order to do justice to the caliphate or vicegerency accorded to man, it is imperative that he be familiar with what his Creator requires of him – of His injunctions, and at large, of His likes and dislikes. And it is for that very purpose that Allah blessed man with innate guidance. By his very nature, he can discern good from evil, right from wrong, and virtue from sin. Upon transgressing the limits that morality and intuition place in him, he is automatically reprimanded. This has always been demonstrated by the very fact that no matter who we are or what we do, we all feel a sense of relief and comfort in doing good; contrarily, the commitment of evil never rests at ease with us, for we always seek to keep our darker acts and darker sides hidden from others. Had we no internal system of guidance, life would have been amoral.
Furthermore, man has been blessed with the most superior of intellects to meet all ends. He has in him, the capacity to analyse circumstances, to learn from experiences, to reflect upon nature – his own and of what abounds in him. If taken to task with an upright demeanour, he can easily discover the synthesis of all reality. Everything will begin to make sense. His purpose in this world will make sense. Allah’s laws and all-encompassing principles would create a perfect blend in explaining the world. Guidance will follow him as he would attempt to follow guidance. Yet, being only human, he would still err as Adam (sws) erred. At times, his emotions and his biases would inevitably take over.
Prone to such mistakes, it is required that man’s limitations be accorded an external guidance – an unerring divine guidance. So did Allah arrange for him, the medium of revelation. This being devoid of all short-comings and abundant with all guidance, led to the realisation of the essentials for man’s mission on earth.
Thereafter, should he be treading the true path, his intuition and intellect would inevitably come in conformity with Allah’s revelations. This was the climax of Allah’s plan for the vicegerency of man, as was suggested to the angels at the very outset. All failing to appreciate this, would indeed have succumbed to Satan’s deceptions.
Logic and justice demand that there should be accountability at the end of it all. Where man has been left to dwell on earth, blessed with freewill on the one end and restrictions on the other, and allowed to be flexible as per his innate guidance and intellect, it stands to reason that all be awarded or punished as per their respective performances. Thus, a day of judgement appears as inevitable as an examination day to a student.
Man’s passing on that day would be subject to adherence to divine guidance in the world; those would be the successful ones, earning for themselves an eternal dwelling in paradise – of happiness and bounties, endless and pleasing. On the other end, would be the failures having brought upon themselves the eternal wrath, for ignoring all restrictions and fouling all rules, in leading a life of arrogance and complete independence of the self from its Creator.
It stands established, therefore, that life on earth is a life of trials and tribulations. While divine guidance will always be there to help us succeed in the Hereafter, so will satanic luring and trickeries ceaselessly exist in order to beguile us into denial – denial of anything beyond the frivolities of this world. Each time that we will take a step in the prescribed way, Satan will pull us harder towards itself. It will do so through all imaginable and unimaginable disguises – through making us feel helpless and disappointed, through persuading us of the endless offerings of this world alone, and indeed, through convincing us of the falsity of truth itself. Life will always be a challenge, till death transfers us to the Afterlife.
(Translated from Khalid Masud’s Hayat-i Rasul-i Ummi by Saadia Malik)
1.. See the Qur’an, 41:9-12.
2.The following passages of the Qur’an will prove useful in comprehending the instance of Adam’s creation and its rationale: 2:30-39; 7:11-27; 15:26-48; 17:61-65.
With thanks to Monthly Renaissance
Written/Published: March 2006