(Remember) when your Sustainer (God) said to the angels, “I am going to establish a representative on Earth,” they said, “Why would You place such beings who will bring chaos and corruption on it and shed blood among themselves, whereas we celebrate Your praise and exalt Your divinity?” God replied, “I am aware of things that you have no knowledge of.”
Then God taught Adam the names (knowledge) of all things and inquired of them from the angels. He said, “Tell Me the names of these if you are truthful (and knowledgeable).” The angels replied, “All glory is to You! We have no knowledge beyond what You have taught us. Truly, You are the One Who Knows (all) and Who is (truly) Wise.” God then turned to Adam and said, “Adam, inform them of the names,” and he did so. Then God said to the angels, “Did I not tell you that I know the secrets of the heavens and the earth? I know equally well what you hide and what you expose.” And when God said to the angels, “Prostrate yourselves before Adam,” they all did except for Iblis, who refused because he was proud, lacking faith.
This is a very important verse of the Qur’an and also a telling aspect of the human race. God’s announcement to the angels that He is about to establish a representative (ruler, successor, inheritor, etc.) on Earth points to several key attributes of the human being: (1) Its creation is an important event that God wanted the angels to know about since They will have roles to play in human lives and human progress, (2) Positioning mankind as His representatives on Earth implies a huge privilege and a responsibility not given to any other creatures on Earth, and (3) In the face of the angels’ honest misgivings (and rightfully so, as we can see from our own life experiences of the anarchy and bloodshed in the world today), He responded that human beings will possess a higher purpose of consciousness, knowledge, and wisdom. Here, Adam represents the entire human race or the symbol for the human family. In the Bible, Adam is considered to be the first human being. The Qur’an does not make nor deny that statement, but it does portray Adam as the symbol of the human race that will be endowed with superior knowledge and intellect and will be established on Earth to inherit it. This does not negate the possibility that there could have been human-like creatures on Earth prior to Adam’s arrival. He along with his mate Eve could have been the ones to whom God chose to endow His knowledge, wisdom, and attributes, thereby initiating the process of human development and the pursuit of God consciousness. The presence of Iblis (Devil), symbolizing the interconnectedness of free will and trials, is an essential prerequisite for one who has been given knowledge and free will with possibilities of good and evil.
These verses comprise the most detailed description of the origin of human consciousness and purpose. Here, we see much more clarity than in the Old Testament, and it also negates some of the concepts that have been propagated in Christianity, Judaism, and other polytheistic religions like Hinduism about the relationships among human beings and the Devil.
It is important to see the attitude of God toward human beings and the apprehension that the angels had about the human race. Both sets of view are evident in today’s world, and we have to continuously choose how to conduct ourselves. Do we use our conscience and knowledge to better the world or do we fall victim to anarchy and bloodshed? Our success on this earth and in the Afterlife will depend on these critical choices. Our primary assets are our knowledge and God consciousness, and I see both being seriously neglected by Muslims and Muslim communities.
*Definitions can be found in the Glossary*