(30) وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُواْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ
(31) وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الأَسْمَاء كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلاَئِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاء هَؤُلاء إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ
(32) قَالُواْ سُبْحَانَكَ لاَ عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلاَّ مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ
(33) قَالَ يَا آدَمُ أَنبِئْهُم بِأَسْمَآئِهِمْ فَلَمَّا أَنبَأَهُمْ بِأَسْمَآئِهِمْ قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ غَيْبَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ
30. " When your lord said to the angels : ' I am appointing on the earth a deputy', they said: ' will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood, while we celebrate your praise and extol your holiness? ' he said: 'assuredly I know what you know not'.
31. "And he taught Adam all the names,then he presented them before the angels, and said: 'tell me the names of these if you are right'.
32. " They said: ' glory be to you! of knowledge we have naught save what you have taught us. surely, you (alone) are the all-knowing, the all-wise'."
33. " He said: ' o' Adam, tell them their names'. and when he had told them their names, he said: 'did I not say unto you that I surely know the unseen things of the heavens and the earth, and (that) I know what you reveal and what you were hiding ?' "
Man, Allah's deputy on earth !
Through the previous verses we have understood that Allah has created all the endowments on the earth for man, whereas in these verses the leadership and vicegerency of man is formally proclaimed. thus, here, man's spiritual rank and worthiness of all these merits, are exposed.
In these verses, which begin from verse no. 30 and end with verse 39, the creation of Adam (the first human) is referred to and the following three fundamental subjects are set forth:
1. Allah informs the angels about man's vicegerency on the earth and their questioning of him.
2. Angels are commanded to prostrate before the first human, Adam. this situation is referred to in numerous verses in the holy Qur'an concerning different circumstances.
3. The illustration of the situation of Adam and his life in heaven and the events causing him to be sent out from heaven, and then, his repentance and the order that he and his children were to live on the earth, are pointed out.
The verses under discussion speak about the first stage. it was his will, so he created a being on the earth to be his vicegerent. the attributes of this deputy would be a reflection from the rays of Allah's attributes, and his position somehow higher than that of the angels. it was his will that the earth and all its endowments, i.e. forces, treasures, mines, and all its potentials be subjected to the will of such a human being.
Such a being must have a vast share of wisdom, intelligence, conception and a special capacity so that he can undertake the leadership and mastership of the earthly beings.
Therefore, in the first verse, it says:
According to what the leading islamic scholars and learned men, and experts in commentary, have said, the objective meaning of
'khalifah' (deputy) is the divine vicegerent on the earth, because the question which the angels asked later, saying that the human race may make mischief and shed blood on the earth while they (the angels) celebrate his praise, reinforces this very meaning, that Allah's vicegerency on the earth is incompatible with these deeds.
Also, teaching the names to Adam, whose explanation you will read in the following verses, is good evidence supporting this claim. again, the angels' humility and veneration before Adam is another witness to this idea.
However, Allah was pleased to create a being above all the creatures of the universe, the best creation, appropriate for being a divine vicegerent, Allah's deputy on the Earth.
Commenting on these verses, imam sadiq (a.s.) in a tradition has referred to the same meaning and said that the angels, after recognizing the position of Adam, realized that he and his children were deserving to be the deputies of Allah on the earth and serve as his guidance among peoples. (1)
Then, in the current verse, the angels put forth a question, in order to understand the reality and not to protest, as it says :
"...They said: 'will you place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood, ..."
"...While we celebrate your praise and extol your holiness? '..."
But, here in this verse, Allah's answer to them is a complicated reply whose details will be given in later verses.
As it is realized from their words, the angels had comprehended that this human was not a docile one : he makes mischief, sheds blood, does wrong, etc. but how did they know it?
It is sometimes said that Allah had previously told the angels the future of man in brief, while some others have cited that maybe the angels had comprehended the idea themselves from the term /fil'ard/ (on the earth) . they knew that man would be created from soil; and, because of the complexity of 'matter' , naturally it is the center of conflict and difficulties. for, this limited world of matter cannot satiate
(1) Tafsir-i-almizan, vol. 1,p.121
the avaricious nature of human beings, even if the whole world were given to a single one, he would not be satisfied. this status can sometimes be the main cause of mischief and bloodshed particularly when there is not enough sense of responsibility.
Some of the other commentators believe that the predication of the angels resulted from the fact that Adam was not the first human creature on the earth, but, before him, there had also been some other humans who had lived on the earth and had committed corruption and shed blood. this bad record caused the angels' suspicion about Adam and his descendants.
These three commentaries are not so contradictory to one another; viz, they, comprehensively, may have caused the attention of the angels to be attracted towards this subject. and, incidentally, this fact that they expressed was never denied by their lord in his answer to them, but, besides this fact, he pointed out that there were some other more important facts about man and his capabilities that the angels did not know.
They thought that if the purpose were only for worshipping and servitude, they would be the best examples, because they were always praising him and were the most appropriate ones for being the vicegerents! they did not consider that when lusts, wrath and various desires have no chance to influence on their behaviours and selves, their worshipping is different from the servitude and worshipping of man whose lusts and desires have surrounded him and satan's temptations attack him from every side. what a long distance there is between the obedience of this feeble being and the adoration of those holy and pure angels!
They did not know that in the seed of Adam there would come such great prophets as mohammad (p.b.u.h.) , abraham (a.s.) , noah (a.s.) , moses (a.s.) , jesus (a.s.) , and some imams as the twelve sinless imams (ahlul-bait) (a.s.) in addition to many pious believers, martyrs, and a great many men and women who lovingly donated the whole of their properties in the way of Allah. there would be some offsprings of Adam whose one hour of contemplation is equal to years of worshipping of the angels.
It is noteworthy that the angels emphasized on three aspects
about their characteristics: /tasbih/ (glorification) , /hamd/ (praise, eulogy) and /taqdis/ (sanctification) . undoubtedly, both the first and the second mean : celebrating his praises and knowing him and his glory absolutely pure and perfect, free from any impurity or imperfection or from anything derogatory. but what is the main objective meaning of /taqdis/ 'sanctification'? some have considered it as the purification of Allah from any imperfection which is, in fact, an emphasis again on the very meaning of /tasbih/ 'glorification'.
Some others believe that the term /taqdis/ is derived from the root /quds/ which means: ' to purify the earth from the wicked and corruptors', or ' to purify oneself from anything bad, evil and immoral in order to clarify the soul and body for the sake of Allah '. they have considered the term /laka/ (for you) in the phrase /nuqaddisu-laka/, ' we extol your holiness (for you) ', as its witness. the angels did not say: 'we extol you', but they meant to say: 'we purify ourselves and assist those who obey you, for you, or towards you'.
In fact, they wanted to say: if the purpose is obedience and servitude, they are obedient; and if it is worship, they are always busy doing it; and if the purpose is the purification of themselves or throughout the expanse of the earth, they are doing that too. but this matter-made human is both immoral, himself, and makes mischief on the earth.
To clarify the facts completely for the angels. he set them on trial in order that they themselves might confess that there was a great difference between them and Adam.
Angels on trial
Adam, being given effective faculties by divine favour, had an extraordinary receptive potential for the facts of the world of being, and as the Qur'an says:
The commentators, from the point of view of their various styles of commentary, have delivered different ideas on the phrase 'teaching names', but it is certain that its aim is not that of teaching some insignificant words or meaningless 'names', because this could not be
counted an honour for Adam. the aim is teaching the nature of these names and the concepts and the things that they refer to.
Of course, this acknowlegement of the nature and the facts of the world of creation and the secrets of the world of being with its different properties in different creatures, was a great honour for Adam.
It is narrated in a tradition that imam sadiq (a.s.) was asked about the meaning of this verse and he (a.s.) said: " the purpose (of names) is: lands, mountains, valleys, riverbeds (and on the whole, all things) . then he looked at the rug under him and said that even that rug was among the things he taught Adam." (1)
Therefore 'teaching names' has not been something like teaching words but it refers to the philosophy and secrets of the properties and qualities of things. he taught Adam this knowledge in order that he could use the merits and advantages of this world alongside the path of his development towards perfection.
He (s.w.t.) also taught him the capacity of language learning and the skill of writing with its proper application to be able to nominate objects and whenever he needs them, instead of showing them, he merely calls their names. this is a very great bounty of the lord bestowed on man. we can comprehend the importance of this subject when we observe that what modern science and human beings have is under the shade of the existence of language and writing. all the scientific and cultural, historical ancient records have been kept and preserved as treasures in man's written collections generation after generation. if he could not use language and pen, it would be impossible for him to convey the knowledge and experimental data from old generations to the recent nations and the coming ones.
"...Then he presented them before the angels, and said: 'tell me the names of these if you are right'."
* * * *
But the angels, who were in lack of such knowledge, failed in that trial and could not pass the divine examination successfully. so, their response to him was such:
(1) Majma'ul-bayan, vol.1,p.76
" They said: ' glory be to you ! of knowledge we have naught save what you have taught us. ..."
"...Surely, you (alone) are the all-knowing, the all-wise".
They said that they did not know anything regarding this matter and their question was simply because of their lack of knowledge. they were unaware of the capacity and wonderful power of Adam (a.s.) , his god-given endowment. it was a great privilege to him above the angels. they accepted that Adam (a.s.) really deserved to be the vicegerent of Allah on the earth and in the world of all beings, where without him, the whole creation would remain incomplete.
* * * *
Then, it was Adam's turn, by the command of Allah and in the presence of angels to speak and explain the names and secrets of beings in his creation along with the insight to the knowledge of the realities or the latent properties or the hidden native endowments in each of them.
" He said: ' o Adam, tell them their names '. ..."
"...And when he had told them their names, he said: 'did I not say unto you that I surely know the unseen things of heavens and the earth, and (that) I know what you reveal and what you were hiding ?' "
Allah, having the knowledge of all the hidden things of the heavens and the earth, knew also what the angels did hide in their imaginations, which was that they deemed themselves more deserving of the high office of being the deputy of Allah among his creation. this belief of the angels made them inquire into the divine will about Adam's being the vicegerent.
But when Adam (a.s.) spoke and the angels observed that surprising glory in him, they respected Adam for the vast knowledge and immense information and worthiness that radiated from him. thus, it was made clear for them that it was only Adam (a.s.) who was apt enough to be His Deputy on the Earth.