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Adam, Eve and Quran

As we had seen in the previous article that Adam and Eve have not been disproven by science, and those who claim otherwise are misrepresenting the scientific evidence. Now let us analyse what God has informed us about them in His final Revelation.

[002:030]  Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.”

 [002:031]  And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: “Tell me the names of these if ye are right.”

 [002:032]  They said: “Glory to Thee, of knowledge We have none, save what Thou Hast taught us: In truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom.”

 [002:033]  He said: “O Adam! Tell them their names.” When he had told them, God 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?”

 [002:034]  And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith.

 [002:035]  We said: “O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.”

 [002:036]  Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: “Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood – for a time.”

 [002:037]  Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord Turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.

 [002:038]  We said: “Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.

 [002:039]  “But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire; they shall abide therein.”

[Quran 30-39]

 

This is the first time in the Quran, where God describes the story of Adam and Eve. Although the story as presented in the Quran shares many details with the Biblical one, there is something very peculiar about it. Dr. Jeffrey Lang reflecting on these verses, writes in the book, Losing my Religion: A call for help, the wisdom and purpose of life that can derived from them. Let us analyse them, verse by verse.

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.”  [Quran 2:30]

The setting of the verse is in Heaven, with God making an announcement to the angels that He is going to place man on earth, as ‘a vicegerent on earth’. This is in complete contrast with the Bible, where humanity is not placed on earth to perform some positive function, but rather as a punishment for Adam’s sin. Yet there is no hint here in God’s announcement of any wrongdoing on Adam’s and Eve’s part.

The angels raise the natural objection “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?”

On the above quoted verse, Dr. Lang says

In essence they ask, why create this most sinful and violent creature? Why pun on earth one who will wreak havoc there? Why create this defective being at all, when you can create us, the angels?

He continues

Their question is given even greater force when we consider that it is being asked in Heaven. For in top of creating this imperfect creature, God is about to place it in an environment where it could act out its worst criminal impulses, operating under the illusion of being distant from God.

Yet God simply replies to the angels, “I know what ye know not.”  As if to say, I know exactly what I am doing. It soon becomes apparent to the reader, that the Quran has an entirely different vision and message than the Bible. It begins to answer the angel’s question that first focuses on human intellect (2:31-34), then on moral choice (2:35-36), and finally on divine guidance (2:37-39)

And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: “Tell me the names of these if ye are right.” [Quran 2:031]

Dr. Lang points out that in the Biblical version, Adam names the creatures around him,  but it was not highlighted as part of a justification for the making of humanity. The Quran, however, begins to answer the angel’s query by drawing attention to this point. Note that Adam does not merely names the things around him, instead God teaches him, which emphasizes his ability to learn, his intellect. Infact it is also to be noted as to what Adam is learning. He is acquiring the ability to name “all things,” to assign verbal symbols to everything that he becomes aware of, to all of his thoughts, experiences, and feelings. The Quran emphasizes the gift of the Language, for it separates humans from other earthly creatures, as it is through it that grow, progress, and learn, individually and collectively.

In reply to angel’s question, the Quran seems to be saying, in this verse and others that follow, that there are other qualities, human intelligence among them, that make mankind, atleast potentially, greater than angels in God’s views.

They said: “Glory to Thee, of knowledge We have none, save what Thou Hast taught us: In truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom.” [Quran 2:32]

The angels admit their inability to meet the challenge. They lack the intellectual aptitude to create symbols and concepts for what they experience. They explain that to do so would require intelligence – knowledge and wisdom – far beyond their reach. They acknowledge that for God such a task would be easy, because He is “all knowing, all wise.”

He said: “O Adam! Tell them their names.” When he had told them, God 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]

Adam succeeds where angels fail. Although Adam does not have the wisdom and knowledge of God, he is endowed with more of these than the angels.

Also, God reminds angels that their objection revealed only one side of man – his ability to do violence and wrong, while concealed the other side – the ability to do good.

And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down. Not so Iblis: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith. [Quran 2:34]

Again the Quran emphasizes its position, that that human character is potentially greater than the angelic one. The Quran also seems to suggest that the angels will serve mankind in its development on earth.

This verse also starts the story of temptation. In addition to intelligence, God has made us moral beings, that understand right and wrong. He has provided us with angelic inspiration and satanic temptation to heighten our moral awareness. We have been given the ability to make moral choices.

We said: “O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.” [Quran 2:35]

Unlike the Bible, where God is threatened by the prospects of man eating from tree of knowledge and immortality; in the Quranic verse, God seems to be calm and in complete control. There is no suggestion that the fruit of the tree will have any great effect on Adam and Eve. It almost seems that the tree is picked at random. The Quran later explains that Satan tempted the couple by saying that if they ate from the tree, then they would obtain eternal life, and “a kingdom that never decays” [20:120], but this is a complete fabrication on his part.

We do not know if this was the first command that God gave to the couple. We know that this was the first one they disobeyed. This might be its significance. This was their first independent choice, where they chose to do other than what God told them, thus showing that humans are moral beings, subject to temptation.

 Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: “Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood – for a time.” [Quran 2:36]

Notice Quran calls this sin a “slip” and not a sin as grave as to punish all humanity for it.

 Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord Turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. [Quran 2:37]

The tone of the passage is far from condemnatory with its emphasis on God’s forgiveness and compassion.

 We said: “Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. [Quran 2:38]

The couple is then sent down to begin their earthly journey. They must have been filled with remorse for what they have done and apprehension about life in an unfamiliar environment. God assures them that they will have guidance from Him, and they have nothing to fear as long as they follow it.

Adam and Eve have been shown their intellectual, and moral capacity and their capacity to make choices and weigh it consequences and have been put in conditions of adversity. They have been told that they will receive guidance from God. They are in perfect position to start their earthly life, where they would be required to grow spiritually, out of their own choice; for virtue, if programmed, is not true virtue; it is always something less. You can program a computer never to make an incorrect statement but it does not thereby become a truthful computer, nor does any medicine possess compassion, although they are made to help the sick. It is by trial and error, and by realizing and rising above our mistakes, that we learn and progress to a higher level of goodness.

 “But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire; they shall abide therein.” [Quran 2:39]

In the end God warns them of the consequences of disobedience and choosing the wrong path. God, ultimately, wants us to grow in goodness, so that we can recieve His mercy and so He threatens us with grave consequences of disobedience.

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About Kashif Zuberi

Student of Knowledge

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