Some Muslims hold that Prophet Adam AS is free from sins, others do not, we examine both views.
The Story of Adam AS
For the full, detailed report of the events of Nabi Adam AS, please click here.
Essentially, Nabi Adam AS was made for the purpose of being Allah’s authority on Earth. To bring people to Allah’s religion and lift the moral standards of humanity. Allah taught him things and sent him to a garden. He warned him of Satan. In the garden there was everything they needed, but they must not go near a certain tree. Nabi Adam AS ended up being deceived by Satan and they eat from the tree. Allah then made Nabi Adam AS aware of his error and he asked for forgiveness. All parties were then removed from the garden and settled onto Earth, humans are the descendants of Nabi Adam AS and Lady Eve.
The issue being that some have said that Prophets do not sin and others have said Prophets can sin, and cite Nabi Adam AS as an example.
There are firstly a great number of interesting points that can be raised about the story of Adam AS. However the big issue is that, despite being made, shaped and chosen by God, he still made an error. Some have called this a sin. So firstly we need to define what is a sin and what is our understanding of “infallibility”. Ammar Naksawhani discusses the issue of infallibility in his lecture below :
There is a narration in Al Kafi whose chain is from Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Khalid from Ali ibn al-Hakam from Aban al-Ahmar from Hamza ibn al-Tayyar from abu ‘Abdallah (a.s.) who has said the following.
“The Imam (a.s.) said to me. ‘Write it down. He dictated to me the following. “It is of our Hadith that Allah will, justifiably, hold people accountable for what He has given and made known to them. Allah then sent His messengers to them and sent down books up on them in which He has commanded and prohibited them. He has commanded them to perform prayers and fast. The holy Prophet (s.a.) remained sleeping until the time for prayer expired and Allah said, “I make you sleep and wake you up. When you wake up then perform the prayer so that they would learn if such thing would happen to them what to do. It is not the way that they say, ‘If one remains asleep (at the time of prayer) one is destroyed.’ In the same way is fasting. I cause you to become ill and when I give you good health then you will make up for the fast that you missed during your illness.” Abu ‘Abdallah (a.s.) then said, “In the same way if you would look at all things you will find that Allah has caused no constrictions to anyone. You will not find anyone against whom Allah may not have enough justification to hold him accountable with His wish therein. I do not say that they can do whatever they wish.” The Imam (a.s.) then said, “Allah guides and misleads.” He further said, “People are not ordered in what they are not capable for. For every thing that people are ordered to do they have the capability for it and anything for which they are not capable is removed and lifted up from them but there is not much good in people.” He then recited from the Holy Quran: “People who are weak or sick and those who do not have the means to take part in the fighting are exempt from this duty . . .” (They are accountable for the duty) “Righteous people shall not be blamed. God is All-forgiving and All-merciful.” (9:91) as well as “Those who come to you, (Muhammad), asking to be taken to the battle . . .” (9:92) They are relieved of the duty because they do not have the means.”
What is a Sin?
The intention of an action is significant. The action done in ignorance is different to an action done with knowledge of the outcome. If this is the case, then we have defined sin and mistake.
A sin is when you intend to do the negative act knowing its negative consequences.
A mistake is when you do the negative act, but without intending the negative consequences.
Sheikh Safdar Razi explains what is meant by ma’sum and sin.
A sin is when you consciously go against the command of God. However, there are some terms and conditions. The person needs to be consciously aware of what they are doing and know that they are sinning. For example, a person who forgets or does not know its what is sinning, is not able to sin. They need to be consciously aware of the sin. There is also an important distinction to make regarding Prophets AS and Imams AS, when we say they are ma’sum, we do not mean they can not make mistakes, we mean they can not sin. So for example, Adam ate the fruit, Musa accidentally killed an Egyptian, and Dawud in the 99 cattle parable. These are mistakes, but not sins.
Sheikh Sadooq said,
“The Imam is born. He also has children. He gets ill and he gets cured. He eats and drinks. He urinates and defecates. He gets married. He sleeps. He forgets and he makes mistakes. He gets happy and sad. He laughs and cries. He lives and then dies. He is buried and the people go to visit his shrine. He is resurrected and questioned. … “
Ref: Uyun akhbar al-Reza, chapter 19. This does not mean that the Prophet SAW or Imams AS will make mistakes that contradict their mission, that is not possible, as Allah has given them the authority of that mission, so they must be able to do it perfectly.
There is also an issue that how we read and understand the Quran, which is at the heart of this issue. Some people are taking things literally and out of context. This is not acceptable, so how should we understand it? Sheikh Safdar Razi again explains this issue in detail in the video below :
What is the case of Nabi Adam AS?
The first thing to understand is that there are different types of instruction from Allah. When Allah commanded all those to bow to Adam AS, Satan did not, for that, he was cursed forever. When Allah advised Nabi Adam AS to not eat, it was then followed by further advice to refine Nabi Adam AS.
So There are two types of instruction :
- A Command (Amr al mawlawi)
- An Advice (Amr al Arshadi)
Al-amr al-mawlawi, a legislative command. Such orders must be implemented; and, if someone disobeys such a command, then he is committing a sin and is liable to be punished. For example, the command to “say the daily prayers” or “do not eat the pork” is of such nature. Neglecting the daily prayers or eating of the pork is a sin and Allah can rightly punish the sinner.
Al-amr al-irshadi, an advisory command. Such orders are of advisory nature; their purpose is to inform the people about its consequences. However, if someone disobeys such an order, then he is not committing a sin; of course, he will have to face the consequences of not following the advice. For example, the command to “say bismillah when you slaughter the chicken” is of advisory nature.
Now, if someone slaughters the chicken and neglects the saying of “bismillah,” then has he committed a sin? No, he has not committed a sin nor is he liable for a punishment for not saying the “bismillah”at that time. However, he will lose the right to eat that chicken; that chicken cannot be eaten by a Muslim.
Another example: a person comes to his doctor complaining of cough. The doctor advises his patient to drink a certain medicine, a cough syrup. Now if the patient ignores that advice, then he is not committing a sin or a crime; but he will surely suffer the consequence — his illness will be prolonged and his health might deteriorate.
This video from Dr. Sayed Khalil Tabatabai explains the difference very well.
The advice was ignored because he was deceived and lied to, this is not a sin. It’s like a mother saying “don’t eat the sweets i just baked, they’re for the guests”, then your evil step-sister comes a few hours later saying “oh mother said the guests aren’t coming any more, so we’re ok to eat from the sweets”. So you eat. Your mother’s angry because the guests are arriving soon. You’re cursing your sister, and you ask your mother to forgive you because you feel really bad about what happened.
We have to remember yet again that Allah had a plan for Nabi Adam AS, he already told everyone he was to be the Khalifa on Earth, so Nabi Adam AS time in this temporary garden was part of getting Nabi Adam AS ready for his position as Khalifa on Earth. There are two narrations that explain the process.
H 381, Ch. 26, h4 Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from al-Mukhtar ibn Muhammad al-Hamadani and Muhammad ibn al-Hassan from ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Hassan al-‘Alawi both from al-Fath ibn Yazid al-Jurjani from abu al-Hassan, recipient of divine supreme covenant, who said the following: “Allah has two kinds of will and wish. He has a definite will and an intended will. He prohibits but He wants it. He commands but He does not want it. Consider that He prohibited Adam and his spouse from eating of the tree but He wanted them to eat. Had He not wanted their wish would not have materialized against Allah’s wish. He commanded Ibrahim to slaughter Ishaq (Isaac) but He did not want it to happen. Had He wanted it the wish of Ibrahim would not have materialized against the wish of Allah, the Most High.”
H 380, Ch. 26, h3 Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from his father from Ali ibn Ma‘bad from Wasil ibn Sulayman from ‘Abd Allah ibn Sinan who said the following: “I heard (Imam) abu ‘Abd Allah, recipient of divine supreme covenant, saying, ‘Allah commanded but did not want. He wanted but did not command. He commanded Satan to prostrate but He did not want it (Satan to prostrate). If He wanted Satan would have prostrated. He prohibited Adam from eating of the tree and wanted him to eat. Had He not wanted he would not eat.’”
Sheikh Abdul Jalil also explains this concept in this video :
So now we know the instruction given to Nabi Adam AS was an advice.
The issue is similar to that of fiqh and aklhaq. The Fiqh are the rules, the shari’ah, the laws of the religion. If a law is broken, this is a sin, and there is consequences. Akhlaq is ethics, so in a perfect world, what should be done. Let us take the example of prayer. If a person does the prayer properly and with no mistakes, then from a fiqh perspective, its fine, it does not need to be repeated. However, lets imagine that person did the prayer properly, except they were not concentrating fully. They will not gain the benefits of the prayer. From a akhlaq perspective, the prayer should be repeated so they can get the benefits. So there can be consequences from not adhering to advice and commands, but not consciously following commands is a sin.
So what was the training of this special garden?
35وَقُلْنَا يَا آدَمُ اسْكُنْ أَنتَ وَزَوْجُكَ الْجَنَّةَ وَكُلَا مِنْهَا رَغَدًا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمَا وَلَا تَقْرَبَا هَٰذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
2|35|We said, “O Adam, inhabit the Garden, you and your spouse, and eat from it freely as you please, but do not approach this tree, lest you become wrongdoers.”
19وَيَا آدَمُ اسْكُنْ أَنتَ وَزَوْجُكَ الْجَنَّةَ فَكُلَا مِنْ حَيْثُ شِئْتُمَا وَلَا تَقْرَبَا هَٰذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ الظَّالِمِينَ
7|19|And you, Adam, inhabit the Garden, you and your wife, and eat whatever you wish; but do not approach this tree, lest you become wrongdoers.”
117فَقُلْنَا يَا آدَمُ إِنَّ هَٰذَا عَدُوٌّ لَّكَ وَلِزَوْجِكَ فَلَا يُخْرِجَنَّكُمَا مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ فَتَشْقَىٰ
20|117|We said, “O Adam, this is an enemy to you and to your wife. So do not let him make you leave the Garden, for then you will suffer.
118إِنَّ لَكَ أَلَّا تَجُوعَ فِيهَا وَلَا تَعْرَىٰ
20|118|In it you will never go hungry, nor be naked.
119وَأَنَّكَ لَا تَظْمَأُ فِيهَا وَلَا تَضْحَىٰ
20|119|Nor will you be thirsty in it, nor will you swelter.”
Clearly, this garden is not like the life we have here. The situation is that in this garden, there are only there beings, the Satan, and Nabi Adam As and his wife, Huwaa. Satan has been introduced as an enemy to the Prophet. The Prophet Adam AS knows that Satan is his enemy.
In the book Uyun Akhbar Al Reza – Chapter, Debate on the Prophets’ inerrancy – Vol 1, there is a narration that explains again that the situation of the garden was not like Earth.
….Then Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Al-Jahm stood up and asked, ” O Son of the Prophet of God (Imam Reza), Do you believe in the Immaculateness of the Prophets?”
“Yes”, replied the Imam.
He said, ” Then what do you have to say about the following verses? ‘…Thus did Adam disobey his Lord and allow himself to be seduced’…..
Imam replied, ” O Ali ! Woe be to you ! Fear God. Do not ascribe transgressions to the Prophets and do not interpret God’s book according to your own opinion. Indeed God said, ‘but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge…’. And regarding his words about Adam, it must be noted that God created Adam as His proof on Earth and as His successor in the towns. However, God had not created Adam for paradise and Adam’s act of disobedience occurred in Paradise, not on the earth. Adam’s being Immaculate was a must for Him to fully implement the Decrees of God. Once He was sent down to the Earth as God’s proof and Successor, he was immaculate according to what the Honorable God said, “God did chose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all People”
However he still did not heed this advice, and therefore he still made a mistake. How do we understand that? How can a Prophet do such a thing?
The first point to make in this regard, is that in this garden, Nabi Adam AS was not acting as a prophet, his role was not to spread Allah’s religion, or elevate the people to a higher moral level. There were no people, it was just Nabi Adam As and Huwwa. In this garden he had a different mission, to perfect himself.
Secondly its important to remember that the garden was just a phase, a practice run, a test chamber for Nabi Adam AS.
2|31|And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then he presented them to the angels, and said, “Tell Me the names of these, if you are sincere.”
2|33|He said, “O Adam, tell them their names.” And when he told them their names, He said, “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of the heavens and the earth, and that I know what you reveal and what you conceal?”
He was never meant to stay there, he was meant to learn something, then start his mission on the Earth. This was Nabi Adam AS training ground, Allah had planned for Nabi Adam AS to be the ruler on Earth, in the Quran we find :
2|30|When your Lord said to the angels, “I am placing a successor on earth.” They said, “Will You place in it someone who will cause corruption in it and shed blood, while we declare Your praises and sanctify You?” He said, “I know what you do not know.”
As for why Nabi Adam AS made the mistake, we can see in the Quran that “he forgot”.
20|115|And We covenanted with Adam before, but he forgot, and We found in him no resolve.
We also know that the Quran confirms we are not held accountable for what we forget, a sin is only when we consciously choose to do something wrong.
2|286|God does not burden any soul beyond its capacity. To its credit is what it earns, and against it is what it commits. “Our Lord, do not condemn us if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord, do not burden us as You have burdened those before us. Our Lord, do not burden us with more than we have strength to bear; and pardon us, and forgive us, and have mercy on us. You are our Lord and Master, so help us against the disbelieving people.”
We find a narration that explains this situation, in it Jafar Al Sadiq AS explains the how and why Nabi Adam AS made the mistake.
H 14372, Ch. 13, h 2 Muhammad ibn Yahya has narrated from Ahmad ibn Muhammad and Ali ibn Ibrahim has narrated from his father all from ibn Mahbub from abu Ja‘far al-Ahwal from Salam ibn al-Mustanir who has narrated the following: “This is about the meaning of the words of Allah, most Majestic, most Glorious. ‘. . . We made a covenant with Adam, ‘Alayhi al-Salam, before but he forgot and We did not find in him firm determination.’ (20:115) Abu Ja‘far, ‘Alayhi al-Salam, has said, ‘When Allah, most Majestic, most Glorious, said to Adam, ‘Alayhi al-Salam, to enter in the garden (paradises) He said, “O Adam, you must not go near this tree.”’ He (the Imam) said that He showed it to him and Adam said to his Lord, “How will I go near the tree when You have prohibited me and my wife?” He (the Imam) said that Allah said to them not to go near the tree meaning do not eat thereof. Adam and his wife said, “Yes, Lord we will not go near the tree and will not eat”, but they did not make an exception (did not say, ‘if Allah wills’) when saying, “yes” Allah, in that matter left them on their own and to their memories.’ He (the Imam) said, ‘Allah, most Majestic, most Glorious, spoke to His Holy Prophet, O Allah, grant compensation to Muhammad and his family worthy of their services to Your cause, about a fact in the book. “. . . You must never say about anything, ‘I will do it tomorrow without saying, ‘unless Allah wills’ otherwise,” (18:23) and Allah decides that I must not do then I will not be able to do.’ He (the Imam) said that for this reason Allah, most Majestic, most Glorious, has said, ‘. . . you must speak of your Lord when you forget’, meaning make the act and the will of Allah an exception in your act.’”
It seems at that point Nabi Adam AS was confused that if he had been prohibited something, and he is not a normal person, he is a great man, someone whom Allah taught and he has certainty of Allah’s existence in him, how could he disobey? The answer was that he did not understand or know that he may forget, he did not acknowledge that he needs Allah’s help and guidance. The lesson seems to be that part of being human is to acknowledge our weakness and reliance on God.
Nabi Adam AS is a great prophet AS and sinless. He did make a mistake, how did this happen? because he forgot what Allah told him about Satan, why did he forget? because satan tricked him and he did not rely completely on Allah.
Summary of Events :
- Allah creates Adam AS.
- Announces he will be a ruler on Earth.
- Teaches him the names of things.
- Sends him to a special garden with Satan.
- Satan tricks him.
- Nabi Adam AS learns to rely on Allah and that Satan is a liar.
- Nabi Adam AS and his wife and Satan are sent to Earth.
- Nabi Adam AS starts his prophethood on Earth now fully prepared and able to complete his mission.
The advice given to Nabi Adam AS and Hawwa was not of the legislative nature. It was not that that particular tree and its fruit themselves were forbidden. The prohibition of going near that tree and eating its fruit was al-amr al-irshadi. And going against such an order is not a sin; at most, the doer will have to face the consequences of ignoring that advice. In case of Nabi Adam As and his wife, the consequence they faced was cancellation of their tenure as guests of Allah in the Paradise and its comforts. Remember that they were not supposed to stay in the Paradise forever; they were created for the earth, and their stay in the Paradise was meant to be temporary.
The Garden/Paradise is not the place for test and trial. It is this earth on which human beings have been destined to go through test and trial by obeying the commands of Allah. The concept of sinning in case of human beings is connected to the worldly life.
In the story of Nabi Adam AS itself, Allah makes this point clear when He orders Nabi Adam AS to go to the earth—He said,
“You both get down from this [Garden], some of you being the enemies of the other. [On the earth], a guidance will certainly come to you from Me, and then whosoever follows My guidance, he shall not go astray nor will he be unhappy. But whosoever turns away from My reminder, then he shall surely have a wretched life and we shall resurrect him blind.” (20:126)
The order given to Nabi Adam AS in Heaven is not same as the orders given to human beings in this world—it is disobedience of the orders given on this earth that constitutes sin.
Finally, the Satan himself knows that he does not have the power to mislead the prophets, the messengers, and those who are graced with purity by Almighty Himself. When he was given respite by Allah, he declared the following:
“So I swear by Your Might (O Lord) that I will surely mislead them all together except the devoted servants of Yours from among them.” (38:82-3; 15:39-40)
And Allah responds to him by saying,
“…As for my servants, you have no power over them except those who follow you from among the misled people…” (15:41)
The Satan himself knew the limitation of his influence upon the chosen servants of Allah in this world.
Those who believe that Adam committed a sin, describe the eating of the forbidden fruit as the “sin” and Adam’s expulsion from the heaven as the “punishment”. However, this relationship between the sin and its punishment is not valid because of two reasons:
Firstly, Adam was destined to come to the earth anyway. Allah had declared even before creating Adam that “I want to place a vicegerent on the earth.” So coming of Adam to the earth is not a punishment; whether or not he ate the forbidden fruit, Adam would have come to the earth anyway. So that was not a punishment.
Secondly, if coming of Adam to the earth was a “punishment” of eating the forbidden fruit, then he should have been returned to the paradise after Allah “forgave” him. Forgiveness means “canceling the punishment”—Adam should have been taken back to the paradise. This did not happen, which proves that Adam’s coming to the earth was not a “punishment”; and eating was not a “sin”.
What about the words in the story Adam that imply that he committed sin?
After studying the issue of ‘ismah from the Qur’anic point of view, if we come across such words we have to interpret them in a way that they are in harmony with the other verses of the Qur’an.
Now let us look at three such words that have occurred in the story of Adam.
First: the word ”¨Thalimeen الظالمين” is from ¨ulm ظلم. This word has four meanings: (a) to put something in a wrong place; (b) to oppress; (c) to make haste; and (d) to come to harm.
We see that the last two meanings of the word are in harmony with what we explained about ‘ismah. For example, verse 2:35 would read like this:
We said, “O Adam, Dwell you and your wife in the Garden and eat from it [freely] as many [things] as you wish; but do not approach this tree, otherwise you will be one of those who put themselves into harm.”
Here, “harm” would mean facing the difficulties of the earthly life and losing the comforts of the heaven. Or “…otherwise, you will be one of those who make haste.”
Here, “making haste” would mean that they were eventually to go to the earth but by eating from the forbidden tree they hastened their departure to a place where they will lose the comforts of the Garden.
This meaning of the word ¨Thalimeen الظالمين is supported by the next verse that says that the Shaytan “got them out from the state [of comfort] in which they had been.” Also the verse 20:117 supports this interpretation: “O Adam! this [Shaytan] is an enemy to you and your wife. So do not let him expel you from the Garden, otherwise you will be uncomfortable: in it [i.e., the Garden] you shall neither be hungry nor naked, and you shall neither be thirsty therein nor struck by the sun’s rays.”
In other words, here food,clothing and shelter are readily provided for you; you will lose these comforts on the earth. Here everything is provided but there you will have to work for yourselves.
Second: the word عَصَى means “disobeyed”. This does not necessarily imply sin because disobedience can be attributed to two types of commands: al- amr al-mawlawi (a legislative command) or al-amr al-irshadi (an advisory command). If a person goes against the advisory command, then he has “disobeyed” but not “sinned”. We have already explained that commands of Allah do not always have the force of obligation or prohibition. And, by keeping in mind those verses which prove the ‘ismah, we have no choice but to interpret this word as “disobeyed the advisory command”.
Third: Similarly, the word غَوَى means “he erred”. But this does not necessarily mean sin. It can easily be applied to at-tarku ‘l-awla, which is possible for a prophet to do. At-tarku ‘l-awla (ترك الأولى) means “leaving the more appropriate behaviour”. “Adam erred” would mean that even if the command of Allah did not carry the force of legislative prohibition, still Adam should have obeyed it. In disregarding the advisory command of Allah, Adam is guilty not of a sin but of not living up to the appropriate behaviour which is expected from a prophet or messenger of God.
If Adam did not commit a sin, then why does Allah talk about repentance for Adam and forgiveness from Himself, and uses so strong words as الظالمين and عصى etc?
Firstly, When a prophet like Adam commits at-tarku ‘l-awla, it is quite appropriate for him to ask Allah for pardon—not necessarily for a sin but for an inappropriate behaviour. So “repenting” does not necessarily mean that Adam must have committed a sin; it is quite appropriate rather advisable even after committing at-tarku ‘l-awla.
Secondly, the use of harsh words by Allah in describing the story of Adam is acceptable by keeping in mind the status of Adam. Although Adam did not commit a sin, it was improper for him to adopt an inappropriate behaviour. The people with high ranks are expected to live by the standard that is higher than that of the normal human beings. As the saying goes: the virtuous deeds of the pious are considered ‘sins’ by those who are nearest to God — hasanâtu ‘l-abrâr sayyi’âtu ‘l-muqarrabin.
The word “ghawa” does mean astray, from وعصى آدم ربه فغوى (wa asa adama rabbahu fa ghawa), the verse is in Ta-Ha verse 121. Any disobedience to the command of Allah (swt) leads to going astray, whether you mean to do it or not. It was not the intention of Nabi Adam (as) to disobey. The key here is intent. Judgement of an act is mostly based on intent. You ate your mother’s sweets. You did not intend to disobey her. You went astray (ghawa) by eating it because you listened to your evil step-sister. If on the other hand you knew you were being lied to, but you still ate, then your intent was to sin, and the punishment for that differs.
So the question is, why was Adam (as) ‘punished’ by being sent to earth? The real question though should be, is it really a punishment? You were born in this earth, does that mean you were born into punishment? Or as a test? It was made clear that Allah (swt) sent humanity to the earth, as the earth is the arena where their conscience will be tested, so that they know the worth of Jannah, not as a punishment.
And verily We made a covenant of old with Adam, but he forgot, and We found no constancy in him. (20:115)
In my understanding, when one commits a wrong action unintentionally and accidentally, it is usually not a “sin”. At least, it is not the same as one who committed a wrong action intentionally. When Musa (as) killed the Copt, it was an unintentional action that resulted from a push. He did not mean to kill the man, and therefore his action was not the same as a murderer. He is still considered infallible despite this, even if his accidental action resulted in a negative outcome. Likewise, Dawud (as) made a misjudgment in the parable that begins at 38:22. This was not an intentional error, but an error that was made when he only knew a part of the story – and he is still infallible. And so Adam’s eating of the fruit was not an intentional action, but rather, an action that was the result of his forgetting Allah’s covenant.
QUR’AN And We said: -O Adam! dwell you and your wife. . . “:
Although the story of the angels’ prostration before Adam has been repeated several times in the Qur’ân, that of his placement in the Garden has been given in three places only:
First: The verses given above, from Chapter 2 (the Cow).
Second: In Chapter 7 (the Elevated Places): And (We said): “O Adam! dwell you and your wife in the Garden; so eat from where you desire, but do not go near this tree, for then you will be of the unjust- (19). But the Satan whispered an evil suggestion to them that he might make manifest to them what was hidden from them of their nakedness, and he said: —Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not both become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals” (20). And he swore to them both: “Most surely I am a sincere adviser to you- (21). Then he caused them to fall by deceit; so when they tasted of the tree, their nakedness became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with the leaves of the Garden; and their Lord called out to them: “Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Satan is your open enemy?” (22). They said: “Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers ” (23). He said: Get down, some of you being the enemies of others, and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time (24). He (also) said: —Therein shall you ‘live, and therein ‘shall you die, and from it shall you be raised” (25).
Third: In Chapter 20 (Tâ-Hâ): And certainly We had covenanted unto Adam before, but he forgot; and We did not find in him any determination (115). And when We said to the angels: “Prostrate before Adam -, they did prostrate, but Iblis (did it not); he refused (116). So we said. -0 Adam! Surely this is an enemy to you and to your wife; therefore let him not drive you both forth from the Garden so that you should be put to toil (117); Surely it is (ordained) for you that you shall not be hungry therein nor bare of clothing (118); and that you shall not be thirsty therein nor shall you feel the heat of the sun- (119). But the Satan whispered an evil suggestion to him; he said: “0 Adam! Shall I guide you to the tree of immortality and a kingdom which decays not?” (120). Then they both ate of it, so their nakedness appeared unto them, and they both began to cover themselves with leaves of the Garden, and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so he got astray (121). Then his Lord chose him, so He turned to him and guided (him) (122). He said: “Get down you two there from, all (of you), one of you (is) enemy to another. So if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, he shall not go astray nor be unhappy (123). And whoever turns away from My remembrance, his shall surely be a straitened life, and We will raise him, on the Day of Resurrection, blind- (124). He shall say: “My Lord! why hast Thou raised me blind, and I was a seeing one indeed?” (125) He will say: “Even so: Our signs came to you, but you forgot them; even thus shall you be forsaken this day- (126). And thus do We recompense him who is extravagant and does not believe in the signs of his Lord; and certainly the chastisement of the hereafter is severer and more lasting” (127).
The context, and particularly the opening words of the story, “Verily 1 am going to make in the earth a vicegerent”, clearly show that it was for the earth that Adam was created; it was the original plan that he should live and die in the earth. Allâh had temporarily placed the couple in the Garden to test them in order that their nakedness might be uncovered to them. Also the context in all three places shows that the order to the angels to prostrate before Adam, and then to Adam to stay in the Garden is a single, continuous, story. It all shows that Adam (a.s.) was created specifically for the earth, and the way to send him down was through the Garden as mentioned in the Qur’ân: It was shown that he was superior to the angels and, therefore, more qualified for the vicegerency of Allàh; then they were told to prostrate before him, in acknowledgement of his superiority; then he was placed in the Garden but forbidden to go near a particular tree; so that on eating from it they should become aware of their nakedness and then be sent down to the earth. It means that the last link in this chain was their becoming aware of their private parts – it was this factor which irrevocably showed that they were fit for this earth, ready for this life. “As-Saw’ah”, (literally means shame, disgrace, private part of the body. In this story it has been used in the last meaning, as may be seen from the words, “and they both began to cover themselves with leaves of the Garden”. That is why we have translated it as “nakedness”.) However, their awareness of their pudenda proved that in addition to their spiritual qualities, they had also animal instincts and desires ingrained in them. It naturally made them dependent on nutrition and growth. Iblis wanted them to become aware of their nakedness. Adam and his wife were given earthly, human existence and were at once placed in the Garden without any delay; they were not given time to perceive and understand their nakedness or its concomitants; they had not yet comprehended the life of this earth and its necessities. When they were sent to the Garden their connection with the spiritual world, including the angels, was strong; their link with it was not weakened. It should be noted that Allàh has said, “what was hidden from them”; He has not said, “what had been hidden from them”; it may be inferred from the expression used that their nakedness could not remain hidden for ever in this life; it was hidden for only a short period when they were placed in the Garden. The uncovering of their nakedness with all its concomitants was a predetermined fact and it depended upon their eating from that tree. That is why Allàh had told them: “therefore let him not drive you both forth from the Garden so that you should be put to toil”; thereafter, the Satan “drove them out of what they were in”.
It should not be overlooked that even when Allàh pardoned them after their repentance, He did not return them to the Garden – they were sent down to the earth to live therein. If their eating of the tree, the uncovering of their private parts and the life of this world- were not a confirmed divine plan, an irrevocable predetermined decree, they would have been returned to their place in the Garden as soon as they were forgiven their mistake. In short, it was the divine plan that they should spend sometime in the Garden to get them prepared for the life in this world; and their removal from the Garden, according to the causal relation decreed by Allàh, depended on their eating from the tree and becoming aware of their nakedness, and it happened because they listened to the whispering of the Satan.
Allàh says: “And certainly We had covenanted unto Adam before, but he forgot”. Which covenant does this verse allude to? Does it refer to the admonition, “and do not approach (you two) this tree, for then you (two) will be of the unjust”? Or to the warning, “surely this (i.e., the Satan) is an enemy to you and to your wife”? Or does it refer to the general covenant made with all human beings in general and with the prophets in particular?
The first possibility is out of question altogether. Allàh says: “But the Satan whispered an evil suggestion to them . . . and he said: ‘Your Lord has not forbidden you from this tree except that you may not become two angels or that you may (not) become of the immortals…’” Obviously, when Adam and his wife committed the error and tasted of the tree they were aware of the prohibition – even the evil suggestion of the Satan had begun with a reference to it. And Allàh says in this verse that “We had covenanted unto Adam before, but he forgot; and We did not find in him any determination.” It, therefore, could not refer to that prohibition, because Adam had not forgotten it at all.
The second suggestion – that the covenant might refer to the warning against the Satan – is not so wide of mark; still it is not supported by apparent meaning of the verses. The said warning was given to both Adam and his wife, while this verse refers to a covenant made especially with Adam.
It leaves us with the last alternative that the covenant means the general covenant which was made with the whole mankind and more particularly with the prophets. This verse (about the covenant with Adam and his forgetting it) occurs at the beginning of the story in the chapter of Tà-Hà, and the story concludes with the words, “So if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, he shall not go astray nor be unhappy. And whoever turns away from My remembrance, his shall surely be a straitened life, and We will raise him, on the Day of Resurrection, blind. He shall say: ‘My Lord! why hast Thou raised me blind, and I was a seeing one indeed?’ He will say: ‘Even so: Our signs came to you, but you forgot them; even thus shall you be forsaken (literally: forgotten) today.’”
These concluding verses perfectly fit that opening one. To turn away from the remembrance of Allàh is not different from forgetting the covenant of Allàh. Add to it the use of the same verb (you forgot them) in the next verse. All these references arc perfectly compatible with the covenant made with the souls of the human beings about the Mastership of Allàh and their own servitude. That covenant obliged the man that lie should never forget that Allàh is his Lord, the Ruler and Master of his affairs; nor should he lose sight of the fact that he is a wholly owned slave of Allàh; that he has no authority whatsoever over his benefit or harm; nor does he has any control over his life, death or resurrection; in short he owns neither his person, his characteristics nor his actions.
The error that stands opposite to this remembrance is forgetfulness — man forgets his Lord and His All-encompassing Mastership; he becomes engrossed in his own self, getting bogged down more and more in the mire of this world’s attractions.
Look at this world’s life, with all its diversity; and see how it spreads its tentacles in all directions. Note how it is shared by the believer and the unbeliever both. And then find out how the two groups respond to its joy and sorrow. How different is their respective attitude towards this life’s success and failure, happiness and unhappiness, content and discontent, relief and suffering. These factors affect the two groups – the believers and the unbelievers – in entirely different ways. The believer has the knowledge of Allàh and the unbeliever lacks this knowledge. And it causes all the differences in their respective behavior. Every man looks at this world; a world that is submerged in all types of misfortunes and disasters: a life followed by death, a health ruined by disease, a prosperity eaten away by poverty, a comfort destroyed by discomfort, a gain nullified by loss – this is, in a nutshell, the life of this world. The believer knows that everything and every affair belongs to Allàh; nothing is independent of God, the Lord. Every thing and every affair emanates from Him; and all that originates from Him is good and beautiful, nothing but beauty and splendor, goodness and excellence, can come from Him. And because all things and all affairs issue forth from his Lord and Master, he thinks that all is elegant and fine; he dislikes nothing and fears nothing; everything in his eyes is likeable, except that which his Master tells him to dislike. He subjugates his likes and dislikes to those of his Master. In short, all his attention is fixed to the pleasure of his Master. He knows that everything is the sole property of God; none else has any share in anything. That being the case, why should he worry how the Master manages His own property? He does not think that he is competent to meddle in the affairs of his Lord. This submission to Allàh creates a perfect tranquility, a truly happy life, untarnished by unhappiness; a light without darkness, a joy without sorrow, a benefit without harm, and a riches without want. It all happens because he believes in Allàh and in His mastership.
On the other hand is the unbeliever who does not know Allàh. By cutting himself off from the one and only Master, he has to bow his head before every creature. He believes that everything is independent in its actions – that it has a power of its own to benefit or to harm, to do good or evil. Consequently, he remains in constant fear of everything; he is ever apprehensive of every real or imagined danger. He is always grieving for want has befallen him, longing for the opportunities he has missed. He feels nostalgia for the prestige or wealth that is gone; breaks his heart for the children, relatives or friends who have left him. He is inextricably trapped by the attractions of the world; he relies on them and has trust in them; and when any thing goes wrong, he sinks into despair. Then as soon as he makes a virtue of necessity and is resigned to that misfortune, a new calamity overwhelms him. In this way, He always driven from pillar to post, with a heavy heart and a gloomy countenance; “thus does Allàh lay uncleanliness on those who do not believe”.
It can be seen, in the light of the above discourse, that forgetting the covenant and unhappiness of this world’s life, both are interrelated – the later springs from the former. This tact becomes clearer if we compare the wordings of the verse 20:123-124 with those used in the verse under discussion. The former says: So if there comes to you guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, he shall not go astray nor be unhappy. And whoever turns away from My remembrance, his shah surely be a straitened life, and We will raise him, on the Day of Resurrection, blind. And the same idea has been expressed in this verse in the following words: . . . then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve.
It may be inferred from these verses that the forbidden tree was of such a nature that if one ate from it he would certainly be entangled in the troubles and misfortunes of this life he would spend his life in this world, heedless of his own place, forgetting his Lord. Probably Adam (a.s.) wanted to combine the fruit of that tree with the covenant that he had entered into with his Lord. But he could not succeed, the fruit had its effect, he forgot the covenant and fell into the troubles and toils of this world. Then he was saved when he repented before Allàh and Allàh turned to him with mercy.
QUR’AN: and eat (you two) from it (freely) a plenteous (food):
“ar-Raghad” literally means happiness, well-being, good life and affluence arghada ’l-qawmu mawàshiyahum means, “the people left their cattle to graze wherever it liked. “Qawmun raghad” and “nisà’un raghad” means people (or women) having a life of plenty and opulence.
QUR’AN: and do not approach (you two) this tree;
The context shows that actual prohibition was of eating from it; but they were told not even to approach it; the prohibition was couched in these terms for emphasis. What was really forbidden is seen from the : so when they tasted of the tree, their nakedness became manifest to them (7:22), and . . . they both ate of it, so their nakedness appeared unto them (20:121).
QUR’AN: for then you (two) will be of the unjust:
az-Zàlimin is the nomen agentis of az-zulm (= injustice, to do wrong). It is not from az-zulmah (= darkness), as has been suggested by someone. Adam and his wife acknowledged their wrong-doing, and the Qur’an quotes them as saying: “Our Lord! we have been unjust to ourselves, and if you forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers” (7:23).
This clause has been changed in Chapter 20 to “so that you should be put to toil”; and the toil has further been explained in these words: Surely it is (ordained) for you that you shall not be hungry therein (i.e. in the Garden) nor bare of clothing; and that you shall not be thirsty therein nor shall you feel the heat of the sun (20:118-119). Clearly, the injustice and wrong-doing, mentioned in the verse 2:25, was to bring in its wake the toil of this world – hunger, thirst, nakedness and other discomforts. The injustice or wrong that they had done was against their own selves; it was neither a sin (as this term is used in the shari‘ah) nor an injustice against Allàh. It shows that the prohibition was in the nature of an advice pointing out to them what was good for their own comfort; it did not have the force of an ordained law. Adam and his wife did wrong to themselves, because their disregard to that divine advice caused their removal from the Garden.
When a man commits a sin (i.e. an offence, from the shari’ah point of view), he is given a punishment. Then if he repents and his repentance is accepted, the punishment is completely waived off, and he is returned to his previous position as though he had not committed the sin at all. If Adam and his wife were guilty of such a sin, they should have been returned to their place in the Garden soon after their repentance was accepted. But it was not done. It clearly shows that the prohibition did not have the force of an ordained law; it was only an advice. Even so, neglecting it had its natural effect on both of them and they had to come out of the Garden. But this removal, from the Garden was not a punishment for any sin or crime; it was the natural consequence of the wrong they had done against their own selves. (We shall write again on this subject, God willing.)
QUR’AN: But the Satan made them both slip from it:
The Satan could have misled them by creating evil thoughts in their hearts, in the same way as he misleads other human beings. But many verses, in the three narratives quoted at the beginning of this commentary, show that the Satan had appeared before Adam and his wife, and had talked to them face to face:
So We said: “O Adam! surely this is an enemy to you and to your wife” (20:117). Allàh had pointed out the Satan to Adam, not by any verbal description but by showing to him the person of the said enemy. (Note the demonstrative pronoun, “this is”.)
(The Satan) said: “O Adam! shall I guide you to the tree of immortality . . .” (20:120). The speaker, that is, the Satan, must have talked to Adam face to face.
And he (i.e. the Satan) swore to them both: “Most surely I am a sincere adviser to you” (7:21). Obviously, he was visible to Adam and his wife and swore during his talk with them.
. . . and their Lord called out to them: “Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Satan is your open enemy?” (7:22) It indicates that the Satan was visible to Adam and his wife. If the Satan had misled them by creating evil thoughts into their minds without appearing before them, they could have said to Allàh that they were not aware that that thought was put into their minds by the Satan; that they mistook it to be their own thought because the Satan had not appeared before them.
They used to see and recognize the Satan. Likewise, other prophets – all of them covered by Allàh’s protection – used to see and recognize him if and when he came to them. Many traditions mention such encounters in the stories of Nùh, Ibrâhim, Musa, ‘Isa, Yahya, Ayyùb, Ismà‘il and Muhammad (may Allàh bless him and his as well as the prophets).
The above-quoted verses as well as the verse 7:20 (and he said: “Your Lord has not forbidden from this tree except that…”) also show that the Satan had visited then near that tree in the Garden. He entered the Garden, talked to them and put evil suggestion before them. He was able to do so because the Garden was not the Garden of eternal abode. The Qur’àn also says that Adam, his wife and the Satan all were removed from the Garden together. (Of course, Allàh had said to the Satan: “Then get down from this, for it does not befit you to behave proudly therein” (7:131). But the pronouns “this” and “therein” may refer to the angels or to the heaven. It may mean: Get down from the company of the angels; or, get down from the heaven as it is a place of honor.)
QUR’AN: and We said: “Get down, some of you being the enemies of others…”:
The second person pronouns, used in this verse, are plural, which denote at least three persons. Clearly, it was addressed to Adam, his wife and the Satan. The Satan was turned out of the heaven and/or the company of the angels before (as described above). This verse combines in itself that previous order too; and manifests the firm decree of Allàh establishing enmity between Iblis on one side and Adam and his wife and their descendants on the other. It also promulgates another decree that they shall live in the earth, die therein, and be raised again from it.
It may safely be said that the whole human race (Adam together with his descendants) is covered by the last mentioned decree: Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die, and from it shall you be raised (7:25). This verse comes at the end of the story (in Chapter 7) which begins with the following words: And certainly We created you, then We fashioned you, then We said to the angels: “Prostrate before Adam”… (7:11). In both verses plural pronouns have been used; and it is an indication that the creation and the decree to live and die in the earth includes more than two, that is, other human beings too besides Adam and his wife.
The story of Adam may have been used by Allàh to represent the rise, fall and rise again of the whole mankind. Adam was the first representatives of humanity, and his life was a symbol, a miniature, of the human beings life-span in this world.
The angels were told to prostrate before Adam, because he was the vicegerent of Allàh in the earth. It has been mentioned earlier that this vicegerency was bestowed on the whole mankind. The angels prostrated before Adam, as he was the symbol of humanity, the representative of his race.
Adam and his wife were placed in the Garden and then were sent down from there because they had eaten of the forbidden tree. Every man may see his own face in this mirror. His soul, before coming to this world, enjoyed the sublime and lofty existence; his abode was spiritually near to his Lord – a place of joy and happiness, of splendor and light; in the company of purified companions and spiritual friends, near to Allàh, the Lord of the worlds. Then he opted for this transient life, and was at once entangled in the troubles and toils of this world; leaving that purified existence, he was attracted to this tedious and odious life.
Adam at once repented and prayed for the mercy of Allàh. In the same way, man may return to Allàh and consequently to the eternal abode of honor and bliss. But if he took the wrong turning, did not try to return to Allàh, and, in short, followed his base desires, he would change the, bounty of Allàh into disbelief and ungratefulness, would direct himself to the place of disgrace – to the hell; and how evil that resting place is!
QUR’AN: Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord so He returned to him mercifully:
“at-Talaqqi” (= to receive) signifies “to learn”. It was this learning of the words that paved the way for the repentance of Adam.
“At-Tawbah” literally means to return; generally it is used for repentance, because when a man repents, he returns to his Lord. This verb is at times ascribed to Allàh (as in this verse), and signifies that Allàh returns or restores the servant to His grace and mercy. In other words, He accepts the plea of the servant and forgives his sins. At other times it is attributed to the servant; then it signifies the servant’s return to Allàh, that is, his repentance from his sins.
At-Tawbah (repentance) of man is flanked on both sides by two tawbahs (mercies) of Allàh. Man can never do without the mercy of Allàh. He needs mercy and help of Allàh to turn away from sins; only then he may return to Allàh, may repent from his sins; then again the mercy of Allàh comes forward, and his repentance is accepted. Therefore, an accepted repentance of man issues forth from the mercy of Allàh, and also ends on His mercy. The verse 9:118 clearly mentions this fact: then He returned to them (mercifully) so that they might return (i.e. might repent).
What were the words which Adam received from his Lord? Some people think that it refers to their invocation reported in Chapter 7: They said: “Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers” (7:23). But this view is not supported by the sequence of the events. Adam and his wife had addressed that invocation before they were told to get down from the Garden (7:24); and it was after getting that order that he “received some words” from Allàh, as is clear from the verse 2:36-37. Therefore, “some words” cannot refer to that previously uttered invocation.
There may, however, be another explanation: When Allàh announced to the angels that He was going to make a vicegerent in the earth, they said: “Wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, while we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?” Allàh did not say that their accusation against the would-be vicegerent was wrong; His only answer was that He taught Adam all the names. There must have been something deep, meaningful and relevant in this teaching of the names; otherwise, the angels could not be satisfied, their objection could not be answered. The names taught to Adam must have contained some such thing that would come to the rescue of man if he sinned, would save him from disgrace if he erred. Probably, the words received at the time of repentance were related to the names taught to him in the beginning.
It cannot be denied that Adam (a.s.) did wrong to himself by placing himself in this world – a crossroads of happiness and unhappiness; had he been ensnared by it he would have perished; but he chose to return to his original place of spiritual bliss and was saved; he had to undergo, in this process, untold miseries and unbearable hardships. In any case, he put himself in so much trouble that he became “unjust” to himself. The question arises as to why Allàh selected this hard way to send him from the Garden to the earth. The fact, however, remains that in this process he attained to such heights of eternal bliss and spiritual perfection as would have been impossible to reach without coming down to the earth – and that too with a stigma of mistake.
The events leading to his removal from the Garden and, later, to the acceptance of his repentance showed to him his true reality – how humble, dependent, deficient and servile he was; and at the same time he came to realize that every difficulty of this world leads to manifold case in the next life; every unpleasantness here results in enhanced pleasantness there; every trouble in the obedience to Allàh brings in its wake the pleasure of Allàh and His unlimited reward; the process continues until the servant reaches the sublime presence of his Lord. Adam knew, through his own experience, taste of many of the beautiful attributes of Allàh: His forgiveness, turning mercifully to the servants, covering their mistakes, bestowing mercy on them, putting them in the shadow of His compassion and grace – these are some of the divine attributes which He has especially reserved for the sinners. Adam could not know and understand them without passing through the stages which Allah had decreed for him.
This, however, was his repentance; it made ordination of a shari‘ah essential. It was necessary for Adam and his descendants to know which path they should take so as to reach their destination, the abode of bliss and happiness. His repentance brought him to the stage where promulgation of religion and ordination of the shari‘ah was inevitable.
That is why Allàh frequently mentions the repentance before the belief: Stand fast then (in the right path) as you are commanded, as also he who has turned (to Allàh) with you… (11:112); And most surely I am most forgiving to him who repents and believes and does good . . . (20:82). There are many such verses in the Qur’àn.
QUR’AN: We said: “Get down you therefore all together; and if there comes to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. And (as to) those who disbelieve in, and belie, Our signs, they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide “.
This is the essence of religion ordained, for the first time, for Adam (a.s.) and his descendants. Allàh has condensed the whole religion in these two sentences; nothing has been added, nor can be added to it up to the Day of Resurrection.
Ponder on this story and particularly the narrative of Chapter 20. You will see that Allàh had issued two decrees in respect of Adam and his descendants. When he ate from the tree, it was decreed that he should get down to the earth and spend his life therein – a life of trouble and toil. And when he repented, it was ordained that he and his descendants should be honored with divine guidance. The first decree initiated the earthly life for him; the second, issued after his repentance, bestowed dignity and grace to that life, by providing it with divine guidance. From then on, man’s life is composed of two lives: A material, earthly life and a spiritual, heavenly one. It may be inferred from repetition of the order to “get down “ in this narrative: “Get down, some of you being the enemies of others; and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time” (2:36). “Get down you therefrom all together- and if there comes to you a guidance from Me…” (2:38).
Repentance of Adam (2:37) occurred between these two orders. The sequence shows that Adam had repented before their departing from the Garden, although lie had slipped from his earlier position of honor. It may also be inferred from the change in the styles of the following verses: Allàh said to Adam, when placing him in the Garden, “do not go near this tree” (7:19); but when they ate from it, their Lord called out to them: “Did I not forbid you both from that tree…” (7:22). Note the demonstrative pronoun, “this”, (for a nearer object) in the former speech, and “that” (for a farther one) in the latter. Also contrast the verb, “said”, (showing proximity) of the former with “called out” (showing distance) of the latter. All this together supports the above-given explanation that at the time of the second order Adam was still in the Garden but not in his earlier honored place.
“Get down, some of you being the enemies of others; and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time” (2:36; 7:24). “Therein shall you live, and therein shall you die, and from it shall you be raised” (7:25). The verses indicate that the life on the earth was very different from that in the Garden. This life is firmly connected with the earth, full of difficulties and hardships. Man, in this life, is created from the earth, then after death is returned into it, and will, on the Day of Resurrection, be raised from it, This life is different from that of the Garden. It follows that Adam had lived a heavenly – and not earthly life in the Garden.
This observation gives us a certainty that the Garden of Adam was in the heaven, although it was not the Garden of eternal abode from which one is never turned out.
What is meant by “the heaven”? We shall, God willing explain it somewhere else.
Now, we come to the mistake of Adam. The explanation given under various verses throws sufficient light on this subject. But the importance of the topic justifies its recapitulation in a systematic way:
The verses obviously say that he had committed a mistake and disobeyed the divine command: “ . . . for then you (two) will be of the unjust”; “and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so he got astray”, and they too acknowledged their error: “Our Lord! We have been unjust to ourselves, and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers.” But on meditating on the verses, and particularly on the admonition not to eat of the tree, we come to a definite conclusion that the said prohibition was not in the nature of an authoritative command; it was rather like an advice to guide Adam to his good and comfort. The following proof irresistibly lead us to this conclusion:
First: Allàh said in this, as well as in Chapter 7, that eating of the tree would be an injustice, a wrong-doing (for then you will be of the unjust). The same result has been described two as “toil” (so that you should be put to toil); and the “toil” has been explained in the terms of worldly needs and troubles, because it was ordained “for you that you shall not be hungry therein (i.e., as long as you remained in the Garden) nor bare of clothing; and that you shall not be thirsty therein nor shall you feel the heat of the sun”. It seems clear that it was to protect them from these worldly troubles and toils that they were told not to go near that tree, The prohibition, therefore, was not more than an advice; certainly it was not an authoritative command. Going against an advice does not entail a sin, does not involve rebellion against the adviser. The injustice, mentioned in this story, therefore, means their doing wrong against their own selves, putting themselves in this world’s hardship and toil; but it cannot mean the sin committed by a servant against his master.
Second: When a servant repents, that is, returns to Allàh, his Lord, and the Lord accepts that repentance, all the effects of the sin are erased, as though he had not committed any sin at all. If the prohibition against eating from the tree had the force of an authoritative command, an ordained law, Adam and his wife should have been returned to their place in the Garden as soon as their repentance was accepted. But they were not. It decisively proves that the prohibition was of advisory nature like telling someone not to put his hand in a fire; if he does not listen to the advice, his hand would certainly burn, and the subsequent apology would not unburn it, even if the apology was accepted. Likewise, Adam and his wife disregarded the advice, and as a result of eating from the tree, had to go out of the Garden and live in the earth a life of trial and hardship. Their repentance could not take them back to the Garden as their coming to the earth was the natural and inevitable result of that action.
The prohibition, in short, was not a law ordained by the Master – like the announcement that the shari’ah would be punished. if it were like such a command, the repentance would have rubbed out the effect of disobedience and they would have been sent back to the Garden straight away.
Third: We said: “Get down you therefrom all together; and if there comes to you a guidance from Me, then whoever follows My guidance, no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. And (as to) those who disbelieve in, and belie, Our signs, they are the inmates of the fire, in it they shall abide.” These verses have put in a nutshell all the detailed laws, rules, and regulations sent by Allah for the mankind, through His angels, books and apostles. And it was the first shari’ah which Allâh ordained for the world, the world of Adam and his descendants. It was ordained after the second order to “get down” – and the order to “get down” was not a legislative, but a creative, command, resulting from his eating of the tree.
It means that at the time when Adam partook of the tree, no shari’ah was ordained yet, and no law was promulgated. Therefore, whatever Adam did was not a transgression against any law of the shari’ah, nor was there any sin or crime involved in acting against that advice.
Question: The order to the angels and Iblis to prostrate before Adam was an authoritative command, and it was given before the order to Adam not to go near that tree. Therefore, it is difficult to believe that at that time there was no obligatory law.
Reply: We are talking about Adam and his descendants, and not about the angels and Iblis. It is irrelevant whether the angels and Iblis were given a compulsory order before Adam was placed in the Garden.
Question: If the prohibition were of an advisory nature, Allah would not have described its disregard in the terms of “injustice”, “disobedience”, and “going astray”.
Reply: We have already explained that the “injustice” done by Adam and his wife was against their own selves; it was not a sin against Allâh.
“al-Isyan ” (disobedience) literally means to resist, or to yield with difficulty. The Arabs say: I broke it and it was broken; I broke it fa-‘asa but it resisted, or yielded to my pressure with difficulty. Not heeding an order is called al-‘isyân, because one does not yield to that enjoinment or prohibition. This resistance may occur against an advice as much as against a compulsory order. The word in itself does not imply sinning; it all depends on the nature of the order that was disregarded.
Of course, nowadays we, the Muslims, use this word as synonymous to sinning. And now it has become a terminology of the shari’ah (or of the Muslims), used for disobedience to an authoritative command. But this later transformance cannot effect its original or literal meaning for which it was used in the Qur’ân.
“al-Ghawâyah” (= to go astray) literally means inability of a man to look after his interests; not managing one’s affairs properly. This word by itself does not indicate committing a sin or crime. It is the context that determines its value. Its emphasis changes depending on whether the neglected order was an advice or an authoritative command.
Question: Then why did they repent? Why did they say, “and if Thou forgive us not, and have (not) mercy on us, we shall certainly be of the losers?”
Reply: at-Tawbah (repentance) means to turn to. And the word can be used in various meanings, depending on context.
A servant rebels against his master, and thereafter returns to him and asks for his forgiveness; the master, if he so wishes, pardons him, and gives him his previous rank and position.
A doctor tells a patient not to eat certain fruits, lest his illness be prolonged or the disease be complicated. The patient disregards the prohibition and, as a result, puts his life in danger. Now he feels embarrassed and repents before the doctor, asking for his forgiveness, begging him to prescribe for him a medicine to enable him to regain his health and vigor. The doctor may tell him that now it will be necessary for him to undergo a long and difficult treatment, adding that if he persevered in the prescribed regimen his health would be much better than before.
The significance of the other words used in the narrative, like forgiveness, mercy and loss, may likewise change with the context.