In approaching Adam’s AS story, it is important to keep in mind that his story begins in the spiritual world, in the timeless, spaceless realm of Allah and His angels. And While Adam AS is obviously the most important character in his own story, there is another character who is also of great importance, Iblees or Shaytan, the arch-villain. Adam’s AS story is a history of our species. He is both the first man and ancestor of the human race. At a deeper level, his story is also a subtle allegory concerning mankind and the human condition, both before and after the Fall. We hope this summary of his story serves to give us a deeper insight of our true origin, nature and identity, so that we can know who we truly are and where we belong in the divine scheme of things.
THE CREATION OF PROPHET ADAM
Before the creation of mortals, Almighty Allah directed all the angels to assemble. Thousands upon thousands of angels (created from light) and Jinns (created from fire) gathered in groups. They bowed respectfully in the presence of Almighty Allah. The Creator of the universe declared that he intended to create Man. And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” (Qur’an 2:30) [So mention] when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I am going to create a human being from clay. (Qur’an 38:71) The angels and Azazil or Iblees (Shaytan) reacted with surprise and concern. They quickly pointed out that human beings would cause disorder on the earth. They would make mischief and shed blood indiscriminately.
The Qur’an gives a description of this event in the following verses:
They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” (Qur’an 2:30)
Allah, the Subtle, the All-Aware, knew with perfect knowledge that the angels neither intended to contradict Him nor express enmity towards His new creation. Rather, out of their boundless love for Him and protectiveness of His sanctity and majesty, they were simply asking to be informed about what they did not understand. Hence, Allah Most High, was not angry, but merely said to them,
“Indeed, I know that which you do not know.” (Qur’an 2:30) In a hadith, Prophet Muhammad SAW said, Allah created Adam from a handful of clay which He took from the whole of the earth; so the children of Adam are in accordance with the earth, some red, some white some black, some a mixture, also smooth and rough, bad and good. (Mishkat) And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “I will create a human being out of clay from an altered black mud. (Qur’an 15:28)
The clay was brought to Allah at His command by the Angel of Death and from this clay Allah created the first human being, Adam. Adam AS, the first prophet, the father of all mankind. Several hadith mention the day on which Adam AS was created.
The best day on which the sun has risen is Friday. On it, Adam was created and on it he was made to enter Paradise on it he was cast out of it. And the Last Hour will not take place on any day other than Friday. (Muslim)
And what more blessed day for the most perfect and developed of Allah’s creations! Describing the creation of Adam AS, Prophet Muhammad SAW said,
Allah created Adam AS in his finished form and his height was sixty cubits (about 41 meters or 126 feet)…. Therefore, all who enter Paradise will be of the form of Adam, and the people have not stopped decreasing in stature up to the present. (Bukhari)
Prophet Muhammad SAW also said,
When Allah had fashioned Adam in Paradise, He left him as he willed to leave him. Then Iblees went around him to see what he was. And when he found him hollow, he recognised he has been created with an uncontrolled disposition. (Muslim)
Allah then breathed life into His creation. The breath came from the front of Adam’s head, narrated Ibn Abbas RA, and everything that flowed from it within his body became flesh and blood. [So mention] when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I am going to create a human being from clay. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.” (Qur’an 38:71-72)
Prophet Muhammad SAW informs us, as recorded in Mishkat, when the breath in Adam’s AS body was complete, he sneezed and by divine inspiration he said, “Alhamdu lil Lahi Rabbil Alamin (All praise is for Allah, Lord of the worlds), words which became the opening verses of the Holy Qur’an. Thus Adam AS praised Allah by His own permission. And Allah replied to him, “Yarhamak-Allah, Adam (may Allah have mercy on you).” The Prophet SAW further said that when Allah created Adam, He to him, “Go and greet that group of seated angels and then listen to what they will greet you with, for that will be your greeting and the greeting of your descendants.” So Adam said to the angels, “As-salamu ‘alaikum (peace be upon you all),” to which they replied, “As-salamu ‘alaika wa rahmat-Allah (peace be upon you, and Allah’s mercy).” (Bukhari)
ADAM IS TAUGHT THE NAMES
And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.” (Qur’an 2:31)
Allah taught Adam the names of all things and inculcated into his mind the knowledge of their properties. What were these names that Allah taught Adam AS? There are various interpretations of this by Qur’an commentators. Some affirm that Adam was taught the names of angels, others say that the names were names of his own descendants, and others say that the names were holy names of Allah Himself, by which Adam AS was granted knowledge of his Lord. Majority agree that the names taught to Adam were the names of all things living and non-living. Allah’s words, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful” according to most interpretations, refer to the truthfulness of the angels’ claim of possessing knowledge that their Lord’s new creation would cause corruption and shed blood on earth, and that they themselves, as the most obedient and worshipful among his creations, were the most deserving of filling the role of His khalifah. Allah was making clear to the angels that Adam AS possessed certain characteristics and knowledge which they themselves did not possess, and that because of this, he would have a very different role and destiny from theirs. Allah most High, informed the angels that He was aware of their reservations, at the same time reminding them of the limitations of their knowledge, while assuring them that, according to His infinite knowledge and wisdom, the creation of Adam was entirely good, right and proper.
The angels then understood Allah’s wisdom and voiced their submission to His Glory:
“Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise.” (Qur’an 2:32) Allah then addressed His new creation. He said, “O Adam, inform them of their names.” And when he had informed them of their names, (Qur’an 2:33)
And then Adam AS did so. From the special knowledge Allah had granted him, he told the angels the names of the things that Allah had presented to them, names which the angels themselves did not know. And when Adam AS had finished, Allah Almighty again addressed the angels,
“Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed.” (Qur’an 2:33)
In a broader sense, this may refer to Allah’s perfect knowledge, which the angels were not privy to, of the final destiny of His creation, in which Adam and his descendants would play a major role.
THE COMMAND TO HONOUR ADAM
Allah asked all the angels to bow as a mark of respect to Adam who was created so miraculously. The order to prostrate was obviously not so that the angels would worship Adam AS, for no one may be worshipped except Allah, the Creator of all things. Rather, the prostration was a mark of respect to the one whom their Lord in His infinite wisdom had created in a special manner who as a result would have a special destiny, as the father of mankind who carried within himself the seeds of all his descendants to come.
And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated. (Qur’an 7:11)
And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.” So the angels prostrated – all of them entirely, Except Iblees, he refused to be with those who prostrated. (Qur’an 15:29-31)
When Allah Most High, the All-Powerful, the Glorious, the Majestic, had given this order, all those who heard it, obeyed without question except one among them – Iblees. When this occurred, the previously unsuspecting angels became aware of had been concealed in Iblees’ heart. The arrogant, stubborn, proud Iblees who thought his being as Jinn made of fire was far superior to Allah’s creation from clay. Allah in his divine Mercy, gave Iblees a hearing for his blatant rebellion. Instead of showing remorse, the wretched Iblees attempted to justify his disobedience and shamelessly said,
“Never would I prostrate to a human whom You created out of clay from an altered black mud.” (15:33) “Should I prostrate to one You created from clay?” (Qur’an 17:62)
“Do You see this one whom You have honoured above me? If You delay me until the Day of Resurrection, I will surely destroy his descendants, except for a few.” (Qur’an 17:63)
Allah then condemned Iblees and banished him from Paradise.
Allah said, “Then get out of it, for indeed, you are expelled. And indeed, upon you is the curse until the Day of Recompense.” (Qur’an 15:34-35)
“Get out of Paradise, reproached and expelled. Whoever follows you among them – I will surely fill Hell with you, all together.” (Qur’an 7:18)
The arrogant Iblees, not to be outdone, goes on unabashedly, challenging Allah that as he had been let to fall into error, he would make evil and disobedience attractive for those on earth and mislead all mankind.
“Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit in wait for them on Your straight path. (Qur’an 7:16)
“By your might, I will surely mislead them all, Except, among them, Your chosen servants.” (Qur’an 38:82-83) A
llah in all His powerful grace, declares, This is a path [of return] to Me [that is] straight. Indeed, My servants – no authority will you have over them, except those who follow you of the deviators. And indeed, Hell is the promised place for them all. (Qur’an 15:41-43)
But Iblees being Iblees, is not moved at all by the prospects of Hell, inflamed and determined to destroy the race of the one on whose account he had gone astray. The transition from a devoted worshipper and teacher of the angels, excelling in divine knowledge and the praise of his Lord, to the abased, accursed Tempter of mankind was now complete. Stripped of all the high honours, Iblees stands accursed, outlawed, and now known as Shaytan, leader of the forces of evil whose sole purpose is to entice and incite Allah’s slaves to wrong-doing and disobedience to Him.
With that, Iblees was cast out of Paradise, an abode filled with blessings and favours beyond imagination. Our forefather Adam AS was settled in Paradise, with everything he could desire, every kind of pure pleasure and wholesome satisfaction was his. No hunger or thirst, fatigue or boredom, cold or heat, just comfort and pleasure. No burdens or responsibilities, no sufferings, pain or sadness. In Ibn Abbas’ narrations, Adam AS fell asleep in Paradise. And when he woke, he found a woman, whom Allah had created from his rib, sitting beside his head.
It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might dwell in security with her. (Qur’an 7:189)
To test the extent of Adam’s AS knowledge, the angels asked him, “What is her name, O Adam?” “Hawwa,” he replied “Why is she called Hawwa?” the angels asked “Because she was created from something living (hayy),” Adam AS replied, meaning that she been created from his own living self. And thus Adam and Hawwa began their life together in the blessed Garden, like innocent new‑borns, they knew nothing of evil or sin. They hadn’t the slightest idea of what lay ahead, that their Lord would soon be testing them and that their lives would change dramatically.
In Part II of Adam’s AS story, we will follow them into Paradise, where they will fall prey to Shaytan’s evil connivery in tasting from the Forbidden Tree, their subsequent banishment from Paradise to Earth, their lives together on Earth, their first descendants, their sons Qabil (Cane) and Habil (Abel) and the first bloodshed, concluding this amazing journey with Adam’s AS death.
Acknowledgement: Most of the information for this work has been obtained from:
“A History of the Prophets of Islam”, Volume I, by Suzanne Haneef
“Stories of the Prophets”, by Ibn Kathir (Translation by Rashad Ahmad Azami)