It is the way God Almighty made human beings. And with what great fanfare was the appearance of the first human being – Adam – announced! That was when Almighty Allah said to the angels: Innee jaa’ilun fil ardi khaleefah. Paraphrase: I shall make on earth a “Khaleefah.” Mark the divine words: “Fil ardi” – in earth. You mean “on” earth? I can hear so many people remarking to me. My answer: I don’t know.
And that is a pretty good answer when you are dealing with Allah’s Kalaam or speech. Who among us can claim to be privy to what exactly Allah meant when He said what He said at a time, of which He is the sole master, in language which owes its existence to Him?
So, when He says “Fi” meaning “in,” to me it is “in.” But as a prisoner of time and space, and as Allah’s Khaleefah on earth, I am – we all are – still charged with the responsibility of making contemporary sense of those indecipherable eternal divine expressions.
So, to me “in” is “on” and we can proceed with the rest of our discussion. But don’t close your mind, for, trouble comes when people close their minds.
ANGELS DISPLAY CLOSED MIND WITH REGARD TO ADAM
The angels, however, seemed to display a somewhat closed mind in their reaction to the news of Adam’s arrival. They seem to have reacted reflexively to the announcement. Drawing on their knowledge base – talk about the perils of prior knowledge – they said: “What! Make someone who will create all kinds of trouble on earth and make rivers of blood flow?”
“Why do we need this new person Adam when we are already here singing your praises?” The angels wanted to know.
Tasbeeh and Taqdees! Praising and glorifying God!
What else is there in life that could be more exciting or rewarding than that? If you ask me, there is absolutely nothing. But life must go on. Life on earth, that is, whether angels got it or not.
Almighty Allah did not deny that Adam’s genes may show propensities to mischief and mayhem. But that was only part of the equation. In reality, the human being was going to be a lot more complex than that.
COMPLEXITY OF HUMAN NATURE
That is why it was important to understand that Adam was not being created as yet another angel – full of the same angelic qualities that all angels possessed. Among them the qualities of total submission and compliance. Adam was going to be different. He was going to be human. And he was going to be placed on earth.
And thus was Adam going to possess a bit of talent for the rough and tumble of planet earth, which would be his temporary home as well as his place of work. This he would combine with a bit of angel-ness from his context of birth in the noble society of angels.
And he will be endowed with the glorious qualities of inquiry and knowledge on the one hand and of choice and personal decision making on the other hand. Now this was a depth and complexity of character the angels neither possessed nor fathomed.
Now go and read the story of the creation of Adam in the Qur’an. See how, instead of answering the charge of the angels that humans will make mischief on earth, Allah confronts them with Adam’s limitless knowledge and superior understanding.
What logical next step could there have been but for the angels to bow their heads and throw themselves into Sajdah?
SAJDAH IS NOT PROSTRATION
I have no idea where Muslims got this idea about “prostration.” Is that what you do Muslims when you do your Namaz? I have never seen a Muslim do prostration, even though I have seen Hindus prostrate in temples – and sometimes even before people.
So, can we say Sajdah is Sajdah while we look around for a good word to stand for it in the English language?
Queen’s language, did you say? Sure thing; absolutely; why not? But that is for you. So far as I am concerned, English is my language; it is my wife’s language; and it is my children’s language. And it is also the language of many of my friends.
But more than all that, English is my Allah’s language. And English is Muslim language.
No, I am not saying it does not belong to non-Muslims any more. All I am saying is that there is room for a lot of passengers on this train – both Muslim and non-Muslim.
SHAITAN: HUMANITY’S TRUE ENEMY
While the angels did Sajdah, Iblees, a certain Jinn, a creature of fire, refused. As if that was not bad enough by itself, he began to argue with God.
“I am better than him,” Iblees said, referring to Adam. “He is from clay and I am from fire! So, how can fire humble itself before clay?”
What other outcome could there have been except to be told to get out? And he was.
But Iblees, who now became Shaitan the Rejected and the Accursed, did not go without uttering a defiant warning first. The essence of that warning was: “I shall make Adam’s and his children’s life as miserable as possible. And I shall use every means to do so.”
ADAM SHOWS HIS COLORS: AND SO DO HIS CHILDREN
Allah placed Adam and his mate that God created for him in the Garden. God then told them both to eat, drink and have a wonderful time, but, at the same time, not to go near a certain tree. And Allah warned Adam and his mate about Shaitan.
But Adam soon discovered another side to his personality – how gullible, how naïve, how forgetful and how short-sighted he could be. Adam and his mate became victims Shaitan’s persuasive appeals, ate of the forbidden tree and were thrown out of the Garden where God had placed them.
But God’s love, grace, mercy overtook both of them; they both repented; and they were both forgiven by God.
Mark the word “both.” It has profound implications. But I will talk more about it some other time.
Of course it helped that they received instructions on exactly what to say when they pleaded their case before Allah.
But soon two of Adam’s sons were out and about in their new hope on earth. And a disagreement and then a quarrel ensued.
One of them said: “I am going to kill you.”
The other said: “You can do what you want. But I am not going to fight you.”
So, the violent, aggressor son of Adam killed the nicer, more peaceful son. Ever since, the history of the world has been the story of the conflict between these two sides of Adam’s personality and character: aggression, violence and earthiness on the one hand and compassion, forgiveness and fairness on the other hand.
ZULM AND JAHL
Ever since, human beings never stopped making mischief on earth, just as the angels had said they would. Nor did they stop causing rivers of blood to flow on earth. We can give these diabolical doings of the human race what names we want. Domination, conquest, exploitation, aggression, imperialism, colonialism, genocide, racism are all fair descriptions and labels for the terrible things humans have done to humans.
The Qur’an calls their doings Zulm. The worst Zulm being turning your back on God Almighty himself and denying him and saying he has all kinds of associates and partners. And that, of course, is also the root from which all other forms of Zulm spring.
People use words like oppression, wrong doing and other similar expressions to translate the word Zulm. But sadly, the English language does not have a really close equivalent to that original Arabic expression of the Qur’an.
But that is what Allah calls us human beings: Zaloom. That is who we are: given to all kinds of Zulm.
And part of that Zulm in our character stems from our foolishness and stupidity and ignorance: Jahl.
Innahu kaana zalooman jahoola! That is us according to the Qur’an. That is part of our pen-portrait in the Qur’an. Our “profile,” if you will, as human beings.
As for motives, the Qur’an sums them all up in two words: “Mutual Aggression.”
Tell me that is not so. Tell me that is not what marks the mutual relations of peoples, societies, cultures and countries of this world throughout history.
The cure to this sad human predicament lies in divine guidance – Hudaa.
Divine guidance – that is what God promised humanity on their way out of their Garden-home. And that is what God’s messengers brought into this world.
While some human beings followed the prophets and messengers and accepted the divine message of love and mercy and forgiveness that they brought, others rejected them and their message. Some even killed their prophets.
And that is what humans do to this day. They seek to hide and suppress facts; they distort and corrupt truth by mixing it with falsehood; and they try to silence or kill those who stand for truth, justice, equality, forgiveness, cooperation, coexistence and peace.
The final embodiment of that divine guidance, and that comprehensive message of deliverance for humanity from its predicament, is the Qur’an.
And Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, spent his whole life teaching the world the way out of the bloody mess in which it found itself.
While Allah crowned his mission with success, human beings, bent on self-destruction, never gave him a single day’s rest.
Ever since that time, the world has been moving ever closer to his teachings and to his way of doing things. And often it does so without giving him or his work any credit.
But history shows that the world can find true and comprehensive peace only in the teachings of the Qur’an and in the model outlined and illustrated by Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam in his life.