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Lesson - 21
"And when thy Lord said to the angels, I am going to
place a ruler in the earth, they said: Wilt Thou place in it such
as make mischief in it and shed blood? And we celebrate Thy praise
and extol Thy holiness. He said: Surely I know what you know not.
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." Ch. 2:30-32
Summary of previous discussion
The summary of the discussion I had given as an introduction to
this section in the previous lesson is as follows.
- The Arabic word qaa-la which is frequently used in this
section means not only ‘saying something with the tongue,’ but
also ‘expressing something with one’s condition,’ ‘action,’ or
for ‘expressing an action itself.’ The word qaa-la is also
used for ‘a thought that comes to one’s the mind.’
- The incidents narrated in the Holy Quran have not necessarily
occurred at the same time, or in sequence. There can be a long
period of time between them.
- In the incident of Adam and Eve, is the spiritual narrative
of all mankind. Unless we fully comprehend this issue, it is unlikely
that we would understand this section, or obtain spiritual benefit,
and guidance from it.
- This section tells us about the temporal and spiritual inheritance
of man i.e., about his getting a share of God’s power and understanding
of His physical Creation, and at the same time being apportioned
from His knowledge of moral and spiritual matters. In this manner,
by relating a simple and easily understandable incident, the Holy
Quran has elegantly explained the complicated subject of mans
temporal and spiritual welfare and guidance. A common man can
thus benefit from it, and also a scholar by digging deep into
it, can discover many spiritual secrets and truths.
Divine Knowledge given through Revelation
The previous section was concluded with the Divine word that Allah
had created all that was in the earth for the benefit of mankind.
He created the heavens, where man is to be in the life Hereafter
and made it into seven excellent portions. Allah being the Creator
of whatever is in the earth, is the only One possessing complete
knowledge of it. He is the only One Who can give man a portion of
His knowledge. As far as the Hereafter is concerned, its knowledge
is certainly with Allah Who is its Creator, and of this knowledge
also, He gives man what He considers essential. The way all this
knowledge is given to mankind is through Divine revelation (wahy)
and words heard by a person spoken to as from behind a veil (ilhaam)
[see note below*]. The relationship between
man’s temporal and heavenly life is that his life on earth is the
foundation on which the structure of his life Hereafter is built
as indicated in the beginning of the previous section.
[End of note from Maulana Muhammad Ali's Commentary]
Note from Maulana Muhammad Ali's Commentary:
To further clarify the various modes of Divine communication,
the relevant verse with commentary from Maulana Muhammad Ali’s
translation is added. (Editor)
"And it is not vouchsafed to a mortal that Allah
should speak to him, except by revelation or from behind a veil,
or by sending a messenger and revealing by His permission what
He pleases. Surely He is High, Wise". (42:51).
The verse shows how Allah speaks to a person or makes known His
will to him. Three modes of this are stated: Firstly, by wahy,
which word is generally translated as meaning revelation.
The primary significance of the word wahy is, however, a
hasty suggestion, and since the different kinds of revelation
are spoken of here, the meaning intended must be the primary significance
of the word. Hence the inspired word which enters the hearts of
prophets and of the righteous, is called wahy or revelation,
because it is like a hasty suggestion made directly to the heart
of the inspired one, ilqa-un fi-l- rau‘i. It is in this sense
that a revelation is spoken of as being granted to the mother of
Moses. (28:7), and to the apostles of Jesus who were not prophets
(5:111 ). The second mode of Allah’s speaking to His servants is
that He speaks from behind a veil a scene is shown as in
a vision [kashf - Editor] carrying a deeper significance,
or words are heard by the person spoken to as from behind a veil
[ilhaam - Editor]. The third form of revelation is
that in which a messenger an angel is chosen by the
Almighty to deliver His message to the person to whom He wishes
to speak. This is the highest form of revelation, and such is the
revelation of the Quran as granted to the Holy Prophet, being recited
by Gabriel. This is called wahy matluww or revelation
that is recited. This revelation is granted only to prophets,
while the other two may also be granted to the righteous who are
raised to the dignity of prophethood. It should, however, be borne
in mind that all these cases the recipient of the revelation is
granted certain other senses. He sees what others do not see and
he hears words which h others do not hear. It is, therefore, with
what may be called the spiritual senses that he hears and sees and
feels things which others do not her, see, or feel.
Distinctive features of man’s creation in
light of the Quran
In the section under discussion, the following magnificent truths
were revealed, none of which were known to man 1400 years ago, at
the time of the revelation. Even today people are unaware of these
truths except those who can perceive them with the light of Quranic
- Man is the vicegerent of God on this earth.
- He is the only Creation whom God has given the freedom of will.
Animals and plants, in fact, all living things are constrained
by Divine Law. Even the angels (according to the Holy Quran),
"Do as they are commanded." Only God is the One, "Who
does as He wills." Out of this attribute of His, he has blessed
man with the freedom of will.
- The proper use of this benefit makes man the vicegerent of Allah
on earth. On the other hand by misusing it, he can create mischief,
and spill blood in the land.
- In order for man to fully comply with the duties of this office,
Allah, Who is the Creator of all wealth and goodly provisions,
and possesses complete knowledge of all His creation, apportioned
him a part of this knowledge. It was through Divine revelation
(wahy), and words heard by a person spoken to as from behind
a veil (ilhaam), that man received this knowledge. The
Arabic word for Divine revelation wahy means, ‘A hasty
suggestion,’ to the mind of the recipient. This is how all the
scientific knowledge has been given to mankind.
- As a result of being given such knowledge man was able to control
the forces of nature, and in this day and age we are a witness
to this wonderful phenomenon. Angels are the agencies who have
been given charge over all forces, and all of His creation, by
Allah. Their prostrating before, or submitting to mankind indicates
the gradual submission of the forces of nature to the will of
- Out of all the creation, there is only one who is not submissive
to man, and that of course is the devil or the shaitan.
- Man has been placed in a state of heavenly bliss or paradise
in this world, and forewarned not to become insubordinate to Allah,
like the devil. Insubordination would result in his own loss.
- Like Adam and Eve, however, most men and women fall prey to
the devil’s instigation.
In this modern age, the western nations, after they acquired
a portion of Allah’s worldly knowledge of sciences, and gained
dominance over the forces of nature, chose disobedience like
the devil, "He refused and was proud" (2:34). They
denied the existence of the Divine Being and manifested rebellion.
The reason for this was the pride which took hold of them, as
a consequence of their progress in scientific knowledge and
control over the forces of nature. A major portion of the human
race today, by following their example, is no longer submissive
- As a result of this, man deprives himself of that external paradise,
and even more so the internal state of heavenly bliss in which
he is created in this world.
- This lost paradise can only be regained by submission to the
Divine revelation which has been bestowed periodically in the
form of Divinely revealed scriptures to save mankind. These scriptures
were either lost or underwent interpolation. The Holy Quran under
Divine guardianship from such adulteration was, therefore, sent
as a book of complete guidance for mankind. The Holy Quran is
that light which illuminates all internal spiritual matters for
mankind. It clarifies the role of the devil, informs us on what
is good or evil, and the right or wrong way. It tells man how
he can bring into his own and Allah’s subordination the one who
leads him astray. In this way he can regain his lost paradise,
be it the heavenly bliss of heart or mind in this world, or the
everlasting external and internal paradise of the Hereafter. The
Holy Quran, by describing in an interesting format the incident
of Prophet Adam and Mother Eve, has made these great truths accessible
for the common man. I have already shown with Quranic references
in my previous lesson that this incident is applicable to all
of mankind. The section prior to this one closes with the following
points which I will repeat:
"How can you deny the existence of the Divine
Being? You were dead without any life. Not only did He bring
you from a state of nothingness to that of existence, but also
gave you life and after causing you to die, will bless you with
life which is everlasting. He created for you whatever is in
the earth and divided your life in the Hereafter into seven
This is in order for you to continue your spiritual and moral
progress in the life Hereafter. The knowledge of the One Who created
all that is in this earth is certainly complete. This is true
not only in these matters, but also on how you should spend your
life on earth, so that the right foundation is laid for your heavenly
life, of which also He is fully informed.
Purpose of creation of Angels
In this section, life on earth is discussed as follows:
"And when thy Lord said to the angels, I am going
to place a ruler in the earth."
It was essential to inform the angels, because Allah has given them
charge over all the creation, and the forces of nature. The Arabic
word for angels Ma-lai-ka is derived from Ma-lak which
means taking control over, or taking charge of something. One of
the essential duties of the angels, therefore, is to be in charge
of every creation, or force of nature. Another meaning of the word
ma-lai-ka derived from its infinitive noun la-ka is
that of sending, which means that they are also sent as message
bearers of Allah. For example, Angel Gabriel was sent with the Divine
scriptures. However, only a few selected angels are messengers of
the Divine word. Most angels are just given charge of a specific
aspect of creation and the laws governing it, by Allah Almighty,
so that it should function according to His Will and Command.
Angels informed of Divine Intent to Create
Now that it was the Divine intent to create man, and to appoint
him as His vicegerent, it was essential to inform the angels of
this decision, for man was being empowered over them. Later on I
will elaborate this further with the relevant verses of this section.
How great a Benefactor of man is Allah! Not only did He bring man
from a state of non existence to life, but also made him as His
vicegerent on earth in order to give him a share of His knowledge
and power. No other creation has been given the freedom of will.
It is only the attribute of Allah that, He does what He wills. This
freedom of will was now being given to man as vicegerent of God
The Angels' Response
On being made aware of this Divine intent, a thought passed through
the mind of the angels, which is described in the Quran as:
"they said (qaa-lu): Wilt Thou place in
it such as make mischief in it and shed blood?"
They pointed out that there was this risk that man may not use his
powers wisely and thereby cause mischief in the land and bloodshed.
Although in this verse, the Arabic word qaa-lu has been used
for the angels, which is ordinarily translated to mean, ‘they said.’
I will not, however, adopt this meaning. From the Holy Quran itself
it is quite evident that no one can dare to speak before the Lord
without His permission, or say something which is incorrect and
that also in the form of an objection, which is inherently disrespectful.
In this respect the Holy Quran states:
"The Lord of the heavens and the earth, and what
is between them, the Beneficent, they are not able to address Him.
The day when the spirit and the angels stand in rank; none shall
speak except he whom the Beneficent permits and he speaks aright"
In light of this I have translated the word qaa-lu (where used
for the angels) as meaning-- a thought passed through their mind.
As I have discussed in my previous lesson this meaning is permissible.
The angels very well knew that Allah was aware of what was within
their hearts, they therefore said, "And we celebrate Thy praise
and extol Thy holiness." They immediately apologized for the
thought that had passed through their mind, and affirmed that the
Divine decision was free of fault and all praise was due to Him.
Divine purpose of giving man Freedom of Will
Allah then said, "Surely I know what you know not," indicating
that it is essential for the moral and spiritual development of
man, that he be given the freedom of will. Any action carried out
under duress cannot be called a good or a bad quality. A good quality
is created when man has the opportunity to do evil, but he abstains
and follows the righteous course. As far as mischief and bloodshed
is concerned, the responsibility for it lies on mankind. He will
be chastised for it, if not in this world, then certainly in the
Hereafter, and the chastisement will lead to his reformation. Those
who are oppressed will be given goodly reward for it. For example,
illness though itself undesirable, creates patience and tolerance
in man, and he will be rewarded for showing diligence, and perseverance
in facing it. The Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be
upon him) has said in this matter that whosoever suffers severe
illnesses, Allah grants them the status of a martyr.