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Lesson 21

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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.

  1. 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.’

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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.
[End of note from Maulana Muhammad Ali's Commentary]

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 wisdom.

  1. Man is the vicegerent of God on this earth.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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 man.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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 to Allah.

  9. 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.

  10. 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 heavens."
    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 Man

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 on earth.

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" (78:37,38).
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.

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