The Quran

Commentaries for 2.31

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.31 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And He taught Adam all the names), the names of all his progeny, or the names of all the beasts and other things, including: a cooking pot, a plate and saucer, (then showed them) to prove that they were wrong (to the angels) who were commanded to prostrate, (saying: Inform Me of the names of these) created beings and descendents, (if ye are truthful) in your first claim.
2.31 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
And He taught Adam the names, that is, the names of things named, all of them, by placing knowledge of them into his heart; then He presented them, these names, the majority of which concerned intellectual beings, to the angels and said, to them in reproach, ‘Now tell Me, inform Me, the names of these, things named, if you speak truly’, in your claim that I would not create anything more knowledgeable than you, or that you are more deserving of this vicegerency; the response to the conditional sentence is intimated by what precedes it.
2.31 Kashani - Kashani
And He taught Adam the names, all of them, that is, He cast upon his heart the specific qualities of things, [the qualities] by which they, their benefits and their harmfulness, can be known. Then He presented them, that is, He presented those named things, to the angels, through their witnessing of the human structure and their accompaniment of Adam in the revelation. The meaning of His words: and He said, 'Now tell Me the names of these if you speak truly', [is] His will that they be revitalised by some of the objects of man's knowledge, as required by the human composition and the conveying of the objects of his senses and his diverse knowledge, temporally originated in him through the specificity of [his] composition and his social condition, to their essences after not having been [there], since their knowledge ensues from his knowledge and that is the sense in which they are dumbfounded [by God] and the connection between that and His will is reflected in the command given to Adam to 'tell', since all of the human faculties and the angels that are in His presence are revitalised by what in a different locus they would not be revitalised; that is the meaning of Adam's telling them [of the names].
2.31-33 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
The Virtue of Adam over the Angels
Allah stated the virtue of Adam above the angels, because He taught Adam, rather than them, the names of everything. This occurred after they prostrated to him. This discussion precedes that event here, only to show the importance of his position, and the absence of the angels' knowledge about creating the Khalifah when they asked about it. So Allah informed the angels that He knows what they do not know, and then He mentioned this to show them Adam's superiority over them in knowledge. Allah said,
وَعَلَّمَ ءَادَمَ الأَسْمَآءَ كُلَّهَا
(And He taught Adam all the names (of everything)).
Ad-Dahhak said that Ibn `Abbas commented on the Ayah;
وَعَلَّمَ ءَادَمَ الأَسْمَآءَ كُلَّهَا
(And He taught Adam all the names (of everything)) "Meaning, the names that people use, such as human, animal, sky, earth, land, sea, horse, donkey, and so forth, including the names of the other species.'' Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir reported that `Asim bin Kulayb narrated from Sa`id bin Ma`bad that Ibn `Abbas was questioned,
وَعَلَّمَ ءَادَمَ الأَسْمَآءَ كُلَّهَا
(And He taught Adam all the names (of everything)) "Did Allah teach him the names of the plate and the pot'' He said, "Yes, and even the terms for breaking wind!''
Allah taught Adam the names of everything, their proper names, the names of their characteristics, and what they do, just as Ibn `Abbas stated about the terms for passing gas.
In his Sahih, Al-Bukhari explained this Ayah in the Book of Tafsir with a report from Anas bin Malik who said that the Messenger of Allah said,
«يَجْتَمِعُ الْمُؤمِنُونَ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَيَقُولُونَ: لَوِ اسْتَشْفَعْنَا إِلَى رَبِّنَا فَيَأْتُونَ آدَمَ فَيَقُولُونَ: أَنْتَ أَبُو النَّاسِ خَلَقَكَ اللهُ بِيَدِهِ وَأَسْجَدَ لَكَ مَلَائِكَتَهُ وَعَلَّمَكَ أَسْمَاءَ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ، فَاشْفَعْ لَنَا عِنْدَ رَبِّكَ حَتَّى يُريحَنَا مِنْ مَكَانِنَا هَذا، فَيَقُولُ: لَسْتُ هُنَاكُمْ وَيَذْكُرُ ذَنْبَهُ فَيَسْتَحْيِي ائْتُوا نُوحًا فإِنَّهُ أَوَّلُ رَسُولٍ بَعَثَهُ اللهُ إِلَى أَهْلِ الْأَرْضِ، فَيَأْتُونَه، فَيَقُولُ: لَسْتُ هُناكُمْ وَيَذْكُر سُؤَالَه رَبَّه مَا لَيْسَ لَهُ بِه عِلْم فَيَسْتَحْيِي فَيَقُولُ: ائْتُوا خَلِيلَ الرَّحْمن فَيَأْتُونَهُ فَيقُولُ: لَسْتُ هُنَاكُمْ فَيَقُولُ: ائْتُوا مُوسَى عَبْدًا كَلَّمَهُ اللهُ وَأعْطَاهُ التَّوْرَاةَ، فَيقُولُ: لَسْتُ هُنَاكُم فَيَذْكُرُ قَتْلَ النَّفْسِ بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ فَيَسْتَحْيِي مِنْ رَبِّهِ فَيَقُولُ: ائْتُوا عِيسى عَبْدَاللهِ وَرَسُولَهُ وَكَلِمَةَ اللهِ ورُوحَهُ، فَيَأْتُونَهُ فَيَقُولُ: لَسْتُ هُنَاكُمْ ائْتُوا مُحَمَّدًا عَبْدًا غُفِرَ لَهُ مَا تَقَدَّم مِنْ ذَنْبِهِ وَمَا تَأَخَّرَ، فَيَأْتُونِّي فأَنْطَلِقُ حَتَّى أَسْتأذِنَ عَلَى رَبِّي فيَأْذَنُ لِي، فإِذَا رأَيْتُ رَبِّي وَقَعْتُ سَاجِدًا فَيَدَعُنِي مَا شَاءَ اللهُ ثُمَّ يُقَالُ: ارْفَعْ رَأْسَكَ وَسَلْ تُعْطَهْ وَقُلْ يُسْمَعْ وَاشْفَعْ تُشَفَّعْ، فأَرْفَعُ رَأْسِي فأَحْمَدُهُ بِتَحْمِيدٍ يُعَلِّمُنِيهِ ثُمَّ أَشْفَعُ فَيُحَدُّ لِي حَدًّا فأُدْخِلُهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ ثُمَّ أَعُودُ إلَيْهِ فَإذَا رَأَيْتُ رَبِّي مِثْلَهُ ثُمَّ أَشْفَعُ فَيُحَدُّ لِي حدًّا فأُدْخِلُهُمُ الْجَنَّةَ ثُمَّ أَعُودُ الثَّالِثَةَ ثُمَّ أعُودُ الرَّابِعَةَ فَأَقُولُ:مَا بَقِيَ فِي النَّار إلَّا مَنْ حَبَسَهُ الْقُرْآنُ وَوَجَبَ عَلَيْهِ الْخُلُود»
(The believers will gather on the Day of Resurrection and will say, `We should seek a means of intercession with our Lord' They will go to Adam and say, `O Adam! You are the father of all mankind, Allah created you with His Own Hand, ordered the angels to prostrate for you and taught you the names of everything. Will you not intercede for us with your Lord, so that he relieve us from this gathering place' On that Adam will reply, `I cannot do what you have asked'. He will have remembered his error and will be embarrassed, saying, `Go to Nuh, for he is the first of Allah's Messengers whom Allah sent to the people of the earth.' They will go to Nuh and ask him. He will say, `I cannot do what you have asked.' He will recall asking Allah what he was not to know, and will also be embarrassed. He will say, `Go to Khalil Ar-Rahman.' They will go to Ibrahim and he will also say, `I cannot do what you have asked.' He will say, `Go to Musa, a servant to whom Allah spoke directly and gave the Tawrah.' Musa will say, `I cannot do what you have asked.' He will remember that he killed a person without justification and will be embarrassed before his Lord. He will say, `Go to `Isa, Allah's servant and Messenger and His Word and a spirit of His.' They will go to `Isa and he will say, `I will not do what you asked. Go to Muhammad, a servant whose previous and latter errors were forgiven.' They will come to me, and I will go to Allah and seek His permission and He will give me His permission. When I gaze at my Lord, I will prostrate myself and Allah will allow me to remain like that as much as He will. Then I will be addressed, `O Muhammad! Raise your head; ask, for you will be given what you ask, and intercede, for your intercession will be accepted.' I will raise my head and thank and praise Allah with such praise as He will inspire me. I will intercede and He will grant me a quantity of people that He will admit into Paradise. I will go back to Him, and when I see my Lord, I will intercede and He will allow me a quantity that He will admit into Paradise. I will do that for a third and then a fourth time. I will say, `There are no more people left in Hell except those whom the Qur'an has incarcerated and have thus acquired eternity in Hell.') This Hadith was collected by Muslim, An-Nasa'i and Ibn Majah. fThe reason why we mentioned this Hadith here is the Prophet's statement,
«فَيَأْتُونَ آدَمَ فَيَقُولُون: أنْتَ أَبُو النَّاسِ خَلَقَكَ اللهُ بِيَدِهِ وَأَسْجَدَ لَكَ مَلَائِكَتَهُ وَعَلَّمَكَ أَسْمَاءَ كُلِّ شَيْء»
(They will go to Adam and say, `O Adam! You are the father of all mankind, and Allah created you with His Own Hand, ordered the angels to prostrate for you, and taught you the names of everything). This part of the Hadith testifies to the fact that Allah taught Adam the names of all creatures.
This is why Allah said,
ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَـئِكَةِ
(Then He showed them to the angels) meaning, the objects or creations. `Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Ma`mar said that Qatadah said, "Allah paraded the objects before the angels,
فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِى بِأَسْمَآءِ هَـؤُلاَءِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَـدِقِينَ
(And said, "Tell Me the names of these if you are truthful'').''
Allah's statement means, "Tell Me the names of what I paraded before you, O angels who said,
أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَآءَ
(Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood).
You asked, `Are You appointing a Khalifah from us or from other creations We praise and glorify You.
Therefore, Allah said, "If you say the truth, that if I appoint a non-angel Khalifah on the earth, he and his offspring will disobey Me, commit mischief and shed blood, but if I designate you the Khalifahs you will obey Me, follow My command and honor and glorify Me. However, since you do not know the names of the objects I paraded before you, then you have even less knowledge of what will occur on the earth that does not exist yet.''
قَالُواْ سُبْحَـنَكَ لاَ عِلْمَ لَنَآ إِلاَّ مَا عَلَّمْتَنَآ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ
(They (angels) said: "Glory is to You, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Verily, it is You, the Knower, the Wise.'').
Here the angels are praising Allah's holiness, and perfection above every kind of deficiency, affirming that no creature could ever acquire any part of Allah's knowledge, except by His permission, nor could anyone know anything except what Allah teaches them. This is why they said,
سُبْحَـنَكَ لاَ عِلْمَ لَنَآ إِلاَّ مَا عَلَّمْتَنَآ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ
("Glory is to You, we have no knowledge except what you have taught us. Verily You are the Knower, the Wise) meaning, Allah is knowledgeable of everything, Most Wise about His creation, and He makes the wisest decisions, and He teaches and deprives whom He wills from knowledge. Verily, Allah's wisdom and justice in all matters is perfect.
Adam's Virtue of Knowledge is demonstrated
Allah said,
قَالَ يَـاءَادَمُ أَنبِئْهُم بِأَسْمَآئِهِمْ فَلَمَّآ أَنبَأَهُم بِأَسْمَآئِهِم قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ غَيْبَ السَّمَـوَاتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ
(He said: "O Adam! Inform them of their names,'' and when he had informed them of their names, He said: "Did I not tell you that I know the Ghayb (unseen) in the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you have been concealing'')
Zayd bin Aslam said, "You are Jibril, you are Mika'il, you are Israfil, until he mentioned the name of the crow.'' Mujahid said that Allah's statement,
قَالَ يَـاءَادَمُ أَنبِئْهُم بِأَسْمَآئِهِمْ
(He said: "O Adam! Inform them of their names,'') "The name of the pigeon, the crow and everything.'' Statements of a similar meaning were reported from Sa`id bin Jubayr, Al-Hasan, and Qatadah. When Adam's virtue over the angels became apparent, as he mentioned the names that Allah taught him, Allah said to the angels,
أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ غَيْبَ السَّمَـوَاتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ
(Did I not tell you that I know the Ghayb (unseen) in the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you have been concealing)
This means, "Did I not state that I know the seen and unseen matters. '' Similarly, Allah said,
وَإِن تَجْهَرْ بِالْقَوْلِ فَإِنَّهُ يَعْلَمُ السِّرَّ وَأَخْفَى
(And if you (O Muhammad ) speak (the invocation) aloud, then verily, He knows the secret and that which is yet more hidden) (20:7).
Also, Allah said about the hoopoe, that it said to Sulayman;
أَلاَّ يَسْجُدُواْ للَّهِ الَّذِى يُخْرِجُ الْخَبْءَ فِى السَّمَـوَتِ وَالاٌّرْضِ وَيَعْلَمُ مَا تُخْفُونَ وَمَا تُعْلِنُونَ - اللَّهُ لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ رَبُّ الْعَرْشِ الْعَظِيمِ
(As Shaytan (Satan) has barred them from Allah's way so they do not prostrate before Allah, Who brings to light what is hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knows what you conceal and what you reveal. Allah, La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Lord of the Supreme Throne!) (27:25-26).
They also have comments other than what we have said about the meaning of Allah's statement,
وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ
(And I know what you reveal and what you have been concealing).
It is reported from Ad-Dahhak that Ibn `Abbas said that,
وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ
(And I know what you reveal and what you have been concealing) means, "`I know the secrets, just as I know the apparent things, such as, what Iblis concealed in his heart of arrogance and pride.'' Abu Ja`far Ar-Razi narrated that Ar-Rabi` bin Anas said that,
وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ
(And I know what you reveal and what you have been concealing) means, "The apparent part of what they said was: `Do you create in it that which would commit mischief and shed blood' The hidden meaning was: `We have more knowledge and honor than any creation our Lord would create.' But they came to know that Allah favored Adam above them regarding knowledge and honor.''
2.30-33 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
In the foregoing verses, Man has been asked to submit to Allah because He is his Creator and Sustainer and has power over his life and death, and because He is the Master and Ruler of the Universe in which he lives. In these verses, he has been exhorted to submit to Him because he is His vicegerent on the earth. As such, he is not only bound to serve Him but also to obey and act according to the Guidance sent down by Him. For if he did not do so and yielded to the temptations of Satan, his eternal enemy, he would be guilty of the worst crime of rebellion against Allah and meet with evil consequences. In the foregoing verses, Man has been asked to submit to Allah because He is his Creator and Sustainer and has power over his life and death, and because He is the Master and Ruler of the Universe in which he lives. In these verses, he has been exhorted to submit to Him because he is His vicegerent on the earth. As such, he is not only bound to serve Him but also to obey and act according to the Guidance sent down by Him. For if he did not do so and yielded to the temptations of Satan, his eternal enemy, he would be guilty of the worst crime of rebellion against Allah and meet with evil consequences. Incidentally, the Qur'an here throws light on the truth about man and his correct position in the Universe and presents the chapter of human history, which man could not have ascertained in any other way. The important results that this chapter yields, are far more precious than the results which man tries to obtain by excavating miscellaneous bones from the earth and joining them together by speculation and conjecture.
"Malak'' literally means a "messenger", which is translated farishta (angel). Angels are not mere abstract powers without personality; they are beings with personalities and are so to speak the agents of Allah, Who employs them for the administration of His Kingdom. Ignorant people mistook them for associates in Godhead; others thought they were related to God and started to worship them as deities.
Khalifah: one who exercises the delegated powers on behalf o: another as his vicegerent. Khalifah thus is not the master, but deputy of the Master; his powers are not his own but delegated to him by the real Master. He has, therefore. no right to have his own will but he is there to fulfil the will of the delegating Authority. It would be dishonesty and treason, if he assumed sovereign powers, or used them according to his own whim, or if he acknowledged another as his sovereign and submitted to his will.
This was not an objection but a query raised by the angels, for the angels dare not object to any scheme of Allah. From the word Khalifah they had understood that the one, who was about to be created, was going to be entrusted with some powers, but they could not understand how an autonomous creature could fit in this totalitarian system of the universe. They also could not understand how that part of the universe, in which someone was entrusted with autonomy, could be free from disorder.
By this, the angels did not mean to say that they should be entrusted with the vicegerency because they deserved it. They simply meant to say, "We are carrying out orders obediently, faithfully and earnestly and are keeping the whole universe clean and in order, and sing hymns of Your praise and sanctify You as Your humble servants. Therefore, we are unable to understand what need then is there for a vicegerent." The word tasbih has a double meaning: it means "to sanctify" as well as "to work earnestly and do one's utmost." Similarly taqdis also means both to sanctify and to purify.
This was the reply to the second doubt of the angels: "You can not understand the need and wisdom of the appointment of a vicegerent as I do. Your services do not suffice for the purpose that I have in view. I want something more than the services you have mentioned. That is why I am going to create a being on the Earth and endow him with some powers."
Nomenclature is the means by which human mind grasps the knowledge of things. Hence, the whole information of man, in fact, consists of assigning names. for things. Thus, teaching Adam the names of all things was meant to impart their knowledge to him.
It appears that the knowledge of each angel and of each species of angels is confined only to his or its own special sphere. For example, the angels who deal with the air, know everything about the air but nothing about water. The same is true about the angels who are responsible for other spheres. In contrast to them, man has been granted comprehensive knowledge. He may not know as much about these things as the angels in charge of a special sphere do but the comprehensiveness of knowledge that man has been granted has not been granted to the angels.
This demonstration was the answer to the first doubt of the angels. Thus, Allah, so to say, informed them: "I am not giving Adam only authority but also knowledge. The chaos that you apprehended from his appointment is only one aspect of the matter. It has its good aspect also, which is more weighty and valuable than the evil aspect, and a wise man does not give up a greater good because of a lesser evil."
2.31 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
And He taught Adam the names all of them; then He presented them to the angels and said “Now tell Me the names of these if you speak truly.” The general expression ʿumūm in His saying names necessarily implies comprehensiveness while the connection of this word to all of them indicates all-inclusiveness and verification [of the meaning of each]. Just as He taught [Adam] the names of created things-all of them according to what is articulated in the tafsīr of Ibn ʿAbbās and others-He also taught him the names of the Real سبحانه. But He only disclosed to [the angels] the locus He chose for knowledge of the names of created things and by that [disclosure] the measure of [Adam's] superiority over them. As for [Adam's] uniqueness in knowing His names سبحانه that was a secret of which no angel who is near malak muqarrab was aware. One who does not have a rank equal to Adam in knowing the names of created things-what hope could there be in his approaching the names of the Real and grasping the secrets of the unseenḍ Since being selected to know the names of created things makes it proper for the angels to prostrate before him what is one to think about being selected to know the names of the Real سبحانهḍ What is owed to one who is honored with thatḍ It is said that the special status of the angels is in [their] glorification and sanctification [of God]. These acts of obedience are appropriate for created beings for surely obedience is the mark of servants and servants alone. [On the other hand] knowledge in general is a kind of commendation madḥ that is absolutely necessary in describing the Real سبحانه one that is not appropriate for anything other than Him. Among the category of created beings there is no one more perfect in honoring Him than the one who honors Him through His own explanation of His attributes. It is said that He honored [Adam] privately with what He taught him and then explained His selection of him and His giving him precedence on the day of the public revealing [of Adam to the angels]. It is said [that in the words] then He presented them the [word] “then” thumma is a particle of extension or delay.
[It might refer] to Adam in which case it means He gave him time for that which had been established in his heart to recognize what became known to him by His truth. Then at the time [of the public revealing] He asked him about what he had recognized as true and [what he] knew with certainty. Or [the “then” might refer] to the angels when He said to them in order to frighten them Now tell Me. Because He had not presented the information to them they were bewildered. Because He had presented it to Adam he responded and gave information ajāba wa-akhbara spoke and was successful naṬaqa wa-aflaḥa and this was a manifestation of His prior solicitude in his affair. His words “if you speak truly” contain an allusion to the fact that [the angels] objected to the claim of special status and the advantage and privilege conferred upon Adam so He informed them that the preference faḌl is in the eternal qadīm selection of [Adam] not in the offering taqdīm of their glorification. The Real سبحانه knew that their types of knowledge did not include knowledge of the names of created things but then He charged them with saying what [the created things] were. This became the clearest of proofs that the affair was His affair and the decree His decree. To Him belongs the imposition of obligation taklīf on the one who is asked to obey. [This] is a reply to those who imagine that the decrees of the Real سبحانه are dependent on what the heedless deem to be good in their claims based on rational determinations. No rather it belongs to Him to charge what He wills on whom He wills. The beautiful is what He decrees to be beautiful and the ugly is what He decrees to be ugly.