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Arrow The Start of Human Life on Earth - 11-10-2011, 12:30 PM

What we are about to learn is the story of human life with all its exciting events. It
begins with an announcement of the forthcoming birth of mankind. The
announcement is made in a majestic celebration attended by the Supreme Society, a
Qur’ānic term that refers to the angels. As a further evidence of honour, no one other
than God Almighty makes the announcement when the angels are gathered, and
Iblīs is present, though he is not one of the angels. The whole event is witnessed by
the heavens and the earth and all that God has created. It is indeed a great event in
the history of the universe:

We have indeed created you, and then formed you. We then said to the angels:
“Prostrate yourselves before Adam!” They all prostrated themselves, except for Iblīs:
he was not one of those who prostrated themselves. And [God] said: “What has
prevented you from prostrating yourself when I commanded you?” Answered [Iblīs]:
“I am nobler than he: You created me out of fire, while You created him out of clay.”
[God] said: “Off with you hence! It is not for you to show your arrogance here. Get
out, then; you will always be among the humiliated. “Said he: “Grant me a respite
until the Day when all will be raised [from the dead].” God replied: “You shall indeed
be among those granted respite.” [Iblīs] said: “Since you let me fall in error, I shall
indeed lurk in ambush for them all along Your straight path, and I shall most
certainly fall upon them from the front and from the rear, and from their right and
from their left; and You will find most of them ungrateful.” [God] said: “Get out of
here, despised, disgraced. As for those of them that follow you, I shall fill Hell with you
all. “(Verses 11-18)

This is the first scene, which is both exciting and very serious indeed. It is perhaps
more appropriate to look properly at the scenes in this story, making our comments
at the end when we can better try to understand its importance.
We have indeed created you, and then formed you. We then said to the angels:
“Prostrate yourselves before Adam!” They all prostrated themselves, except for Iblīs:
he was not one of those who prostrated themselves. (Verse 11)

‘Creation’ may mean initiation, while `formation’ may mean the assigning of a
particular form and special characteristic. These are grades not stages of existence.
The conjunction `then’ may signify giving a higher status without having any
element of a chronological order. To give something a form is more advanced than
its mere existence, for the latter may be limited to the raw material only. Formation,
in the sense of giving a special human form and characteristic, is certainly much
more significant than mere existence. Hence, the Qur’ānic statement should be
understood as not signifying mere existence but also giving that existence a number
of higher characteristics. This is akin to the Qur’ānic statement which refers to God
Himself as the One “who has given everything that exists its true form and then guided
them.” (20: 50).

Everything has been given its characteristics and tasks and was guided to its
fulfilment at the time of its creation. There was no time gap between the creation of
everything and the assigning of its characteristics and duties and then the guidance
to the fulfilment of those duties. The meaning remains the same if ‘guided’ in the
above Qur’ānic statement refers to their knowledge of their Lord. Again, that form of
guidance has been given to all creation at the time when it came into existence. Adam
was also formed and fashioned and given his human characteristics when he was
created. Hence, it is much more correct to say that in the Qur’ānic verse which states.
“We have indeed created you and then formed you,” the conjunction, ‘then’, signifies
enhancement of grade not allowing for a time gap.

And [God] said: “What has prevented you from prostrating yourself when I
commanded you?” Answered [Iblīs]: “I am nobler than he: You created me out of fire,
while You created him out of clay” (Verse 12)

Iblīs here claims for himself a private opinion and a right of discretion to consider
whether to comply with an order given by God or not. He wants to base his action on
what appears to him to be justifiable. Needless to say, when a clear order is given by
God no one has the right of discretion. The only thing that is left is complete
obedience and perfect compliance. However, fully aware that God is the Creator and
Sustainer of all creation and who controls the universe to the extent that nothing
takes place without His permission and consent, Iblīs refuses to comply, justifying
his disobedience by his own logic: “I am nobler than he: You created me out of fire, while
You created him out of clay.” (Verse 12) Immediately, he received the right answer to
his arrogance: “[God] said: Off with you hence! It is not for you to show your arrogance
here. Get out, then; you will always be among the humiliated.” (Verse 13)

Neither his knowledge of God nor his belief in God’s existence and attributes were
of any benefit to Iblīs. The same applies to anyone who receives a divine order and
claims for himself a degree of discretion about whether to accept or refuse that order,
or claims the right to refuse God’s ruling on any question whatsoever. For this entails
disbelief in spite of knowledge and certitude. Iblīs was not at all lacking in either his
knowledge of God or his certainty of His attributes. He was expelled from Heaven
and deprived of God’s grace. He incurred God’s displeasure and was condemned to
permanent humiliation.

Evil and obstinate as he is, Iblīs does not forget the cause of his expulsion and
God’s displeasure with him: namely, Adam. He does not want to accept his
miserable fate without trying to avenge himself. Furthermore, he wants to fulfil his
task in accordance with the evil nature which he has come to symbolize: “Said he:
‘Grant me a respite until the Day when all will be raised [from the dead].’ God replied: ‘You
shall indeed be among these granted respite.’ [Iblīs] said: ‘Since You let me fall in error, I shall
indeed lurk in ambush for them all along Your straight path, and I shall most certainly fall
upon them from the front and from the rear, and from their right and from their left; and You
will find most of them ungrateful.’” (Verses 14-17)

His attitude, then, is one of complete determination to follow the evil path, and
absolute insistence on trying to lead people astray. Here we see his nature revealing
its main characteristic of a deeply entrenched, deliberate evil, and not a passing or
temporary one.

We also see here a concrete outline of thoughts, concepts and reactions, all
portrayed with exceptional vividness. Iblīs requests his Lord to give him respite until
the Day of Resurrection, knowing that what he is asking can only be granted by
God’s will. God granted his request and gave him respite until the “Day of the
appointed time” as it is described in another sūrah. A number of reports explain that
this is a reference to the Day of the blowing of the Trumpet when everything that
exists in the heavens and the earth is stunned unconscious, with the exception of
whomever God wills. In other words, his respite does not extend to the Day of
Resurrection.

As he has been granted prolonged life, Iblīs announces with wicked arrogance that
he will concentrate his efforts in leading astray the very creature on whom God has
bestowed His honour and who was the cause of Iblīs’s own tragedy and rejection.
His endeavour to tempt human beings away from the right path is shown here by
drawing the practical import of what he declared: “I shall indeed lurk in ambush for
them all along Your straight path, and I shall most certainly fall upon them from the front
and from the rear, and from their right and from their left.” (Verses 16-17)
He wants always to be close to God’s straight path watching for Adam and his
offspring, trying to turn away any human being who tries to pass along. The way to
God cannot be a concrete one, because God is above being confined to a certain place.
It is, then, the road of faith and obedience which leads to God’s pleasure. Iblīs, then,
will have to come at human beings from every direction: “I shall most certainly fall
upon them from the front and from the rear, and from their right and from their left.” (Verse
17) His aim will always be to try to prevent them from believing in God and obeying
Him. This is a very lively portrait of Iblīs falling upon human beings in his neverending
endeavour to tempt them away from God’s path so that they cannot believe
in God or show their gratitude to Him, except for a small number of them who
manage to escape Iblīs’s efforts: “You will find most of them ungrateful”
Gratitude is mentioned here because it is in harmony with what was mentioned
earlier in this sūrah: “How seldom are you grateful.” (Verse 10)

We have here the reason
for this lack of gratitude on the part of human beings. Its real cause is Iblīs’s
endeavour and the fact that he lurks in ambush for human beings to prevent them
from believing in God. Human beings are then alerted to the designs of their enemy
who tries to stop them from following divine guidance. They should be on their
guard, since now they know the reason for their ingratitude.
Iblīs’s request has been granted because God has willed human beings to find
their own way since their nature is susceptible to good and evil. Furthermore, man
has been given a mind to think, reflect and choose, and he has been given reminders
and warnings through God’s messengers. Furthermore, he has been given the means
to control and correct himself. It is God’s will that he receives signals of right
guidance and error, and that goodness and evil should have their fight within him so
that his faith is determined in accordance with the law God has set in operation.
God’s will is thus accomplished by testing human beings. Whether they follow right
guidance or go astray, God’s law is thus accomplished.

The sūrah here does not state clearly that any permission has been given to Iblīs to
put his threat into effect. At least not in the same way as it clearly states that his
request to be given respite has been granted. Rather, we are not told the result of that
threat. But we are informed of Iblīs’s humiliating expulsion and that he had fallen
completely from grace. Furthermore, the sūrah tells us that God has warned that He
will fill hell with Iblīs’s offspring and all those human beings who follow him into
error: “[God] said: ‘Get out of here, despised, disgraced. As for those of them that follow you,
I shall fill Hell with you all.’” (Verse 18)

His followers among human beings may simply follow him in his knowledge of
God and his belief that God is the supreme deity and overall Lord, but they may,
nevertheless, reject God’s sovereignty and legislative authority. They may follow
Iblīs in claiming that they have discretion to look into God’s orders and to determine
whether to implement them or not. On the other hand, Iblīs’s human followers may
simply follow his footsteps and thus they are turned away from guidance altogether.
Both situations represent following Iblīs and both earn hell as a reward.
God has granted Iblīs and his offspring the chance to lead people away from the
right path. He has also given Adam and human beings in general the freedom of
choice so that He can put them to the test. It is this choice which makes man a special
type of creation: he belongs neither to the realm of angels who obey God in all
situations nor to the world of satans who disobey Him all the time. Man has a totally
different role to play.

Source: In the Shade of the Quran, by Shaheed Sayyid Qutb (Rahimahullah)!

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