The Quran

Commentaries for 2.34

Al Baqara (The cow) - البقرة

2.34 Abbas - Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs
(And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam), a prostration of salutation, (they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. He demurred through pride) to follow his Lord's command. (And so became a disbeliever) after this because he refused to comply with Allah's command. It is also said that it was in Allah's foreknowledge that Satan was to become a disbeliever; as it is said that he was the first unbeliever ever.
2.34 Asrar - Kashf Al-Asrar
And when We said to the angels, “Prostrate yourselves before Adam!”
Majestic and all-compelling is the God of the world and the world's folk, the Enactor, the renowned knower of the hidden, the eternal in beautiful doing and tremendous in rank, never ignorant of what He knows, never regretful for what He bestows, never at a loss over what He has done. He is a Lord who adorns what He disapproves for some and makes ugly what He approves for others. He created the despairing Iblis from fire, gave him a place in the Lote Tree of the Final End, and sent the proximate angels of the Presence to seek knowledge from him. Despite such distinction and level, He wrote out the inscription of wretchedness for him and bound his waist with the sash of the curse. He pulled Adam up from dark dust, made the Higher Plenum the bearers of his throne, clothed him in the cape of exaltedness, placed the crown of generosity on his head, and said to the proximate angels of the Presence, “Prostrate yourselves before Adam!”
It has come in the traditions that Adam was placed on a throne that had seven hundred legs, the distance of one leg to another a seven-hundred year journey. The command came: “O Gabriel, O Michael, you chiefs of the angels! Lift up Adam's throne and carry it around the heavens so that his eminence and rank may be known to those who said, 'What, wilt Thou set therein one who will work corruption therein, and shed blood?'” [2:30].
Then they placed that throne before the Majestic Throne. The command came to the angels, “All of you go to Adam's throne and prostrate yourself before Adam.” The angels came and gazed upon Adam, and they all became drunk with his beauty.
A face adorned by the God of heaven
has no need for a hairdresser's touch.
They saw a beauty without end, the crown of “He created Adam in His form” on his head, the garb
of “I have blown into him of My spirit” [15:29] on his body, the embroidery of the solicitude of “He loves them, and they love Him” [5:54] on the sleeve of his sinlessness.
Though we're strangers and our hearts are upset, we're serving-boys of that world-adorning face.
Concerning the description of Adam, Wahab ibn Munabbih said, “When God created Adam, He created him in the most beautiful form and dressed him in the ornaments of the Garden. He put rings on ten fingers, anklets on his legs, and dressed him with bracelets on his arms. He attended to the crown and diadem on his head and forehead and gave him as title the most beloved of names to Him. He said to him, 'O Abū MuḤammad! Go around the Garden and look to see if anyone is similar to you or if I created any creature more beautiful than you.'
“So Adam wandered around in the Garden and became conceited. He strode proudly in the Garden. God deemed that beautiful in him, so He called to him from beyond the Throne: 'Be conceited, Adam, for the likes of you are conceited. I loved something, so I created it solitary for the Solitary.' Then God conveyed that conceit to his offspring. It is arrogance in the ignorant, pridefulness in kings, and ecstasy in the friends.”
Good fortune in the spirit and the world is not a game, and felicity is not to be bought. Iblis saw the suffering of the passing days and the toil of the work, but Adam went to paradise. Iblis had obedience without cease, but Adam received this address:
2.34 Jalal - Al-Jalalayn
And, mention, when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves to Adam’, a prostration that is a bow of salutation; so they prostrated themselves, except Iblīs, the father of the jinn, who was among the angels, he refused, to prostrate, and disdained, became proud and said, I am better than he [Q. 7:12]; and so he became one of the disbelievers, according to God’s knowledge.
2.34 Kashani - Kashani
And when We said to the angels, 'Prostrate yourselves to Adam: their prostrating to Adam represents their pliancy and their submissiveness to him and their being rendered obedient to him and at his disposal; so they prostrated themselves, except Iblīs, he refused and disdained: Iblīs is the illusory power because it does not belong to the [class of] purely earthly angels that are veiled from the ability to perceive meanings by perceiving forms so that it would [like these angels] yield to the overwhelming power of God out of obedience to His command; nor does it belong to the [class of] heavenly rational [angels] so that it would [like these] become aware of the noble status of Adam and in harmony with his intellect and thus yield out of love seeking divine approval. He [Iblīs] was of the jinn, that is, from among those of the lower angelic realm and the earthly power. He was reared and raised behind the backs of the heavenly angels because of his capacity to perceive meanings of particulars and his ascension to the horizon of reason; that is why compared to the intellect in man, he [Iblīs] was like the animals that are incapable of speech. His refusal is his non-submission to reason and his refraining from accepting its wisdoms; his disdain is his attempt to be superior to that which was created from clay and to the heavenly and earthly angels by not adhering to the limits of his ability to perceive those meanings of particulars that are attached to the impressions of the senses; [his disdain is also] his transgressing his condition by delving into rational meanings and universal rules; and so he became one of the disbelievers, who are pre-eternally veiled from the lights of the intellect and the coupled [lights] in addition to the light of unity.
2.34 Kathir - Ibn Al Kathir
Honoring Adam when the Angels prostrated before Him
This Ayah mentions the great honor that Allah granted Adam, and Allah reminded Adam's offspring of this fact. Allah commanded the angels to prostrate before Adam, as this Ayah and many Hadiths testify, such as the Hadith about the intercession that we discussed. There is a Hadith about the supplication of Musa, "O my Lord! Show me Adam who caused us and himself to be thrown out of Paradise.'' When Musa met Adam, he said to him, "Are you Adam whom Allah created with His Own Hands, blew life into and commanded the angels to prostrate before'' Iblis was among Those ordered to prostrate before Adam, although He was not an Angel
When Allah commanded the angels to prostrate before Adam, Iblis was included in this command. Although Iblis was not an angel, he was trying - and pretending - to imitate the angels' behavior and deeds, and this is why he was also included in the command to the angels to prostrate before Adam. Satan was criticized for defying that command, as we will explain with detail, Allah willing, when we mention the Tafsir of Allah's statement,
إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ كَانَ مِنَ الْجِنِّ فَفَسَقَ عَنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّهِ
(Except Iblis (Satan). He was one of the Jinn; he disobeyed the command of his Lord.) (18:50)
Similarly, Muhammad bin Ishaq reported that Ibn `Abbas said, "Before he undertook the path of sin, Iblis was with the angels and was called `Azazil.' He was among the residents of the earth and was one of the most active worshippers and knowledgeable persons among the angels. This fact caused him to be arrogant. Iblis was from a genus called Jinn.''
The Prostration was before Adam but the Obedience was to Allah
Qatadah commented on Allah's statement,
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَـئِكَةِ اسْجُدُواْ لاًّدَمَ
(And (remember) when We said to the angels: "Prostrate yourselves before Adam.'')
"The obedience was for Allah and the prostration was before Adam. Allah honored Adam and commanded the angels to prostrate before him.'' Some people said that this prostration was just a prostration of greeting, peace and honor, hence Allah's statement,
وَرَفَعَ أَبَوَيْهِ عَلَى الْعَرْشِ وَخَرُّواْ لَهُ سُجَّدَا وَقَالَ يأَبَتِ هَـذَا تَأْوِيلُ رُؤْيَـى مِن قَبْلُ قَدْ جَعَلَهَا رَبِّى حَقًّا
(And he (Prophet Yusuf) raised his parents to the throne and they fell down before him prostrate. And he said: "O my father! This is the interpretation of my dream aforetime! My Lord has made it come true!'') (12:100)
The practice of prostrating was allowed for previous nations, but was repealed for ours. Mu`adh said to the Prophet, "I visited Ash-Sham and found that they used to prostate before their priests and scholars. You, O Messenger of Allah, are more deserving of prostration.'' The Prophet said,
«لَا لَوْ كُنْتُ آمِرًا بَشَرًا أنْ يَسْجُدَ لِبَشَرٍ لَأَمَرْتُ الْمَرْأةَ أنْ تَسْجُدَ لِزَوجِهَا مِنْ عِظَمِ حَقِّهِ عَلَيْهَا»
(No. If I was to command any human to prostrate before another human, I would command the wife to prostrate before her husband because of the enormity of his right on her.)
Ar-Razi agreed with this view. Also, Qatadah said about Allah's statement,
فَسَجَدُواْ إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ أَبَى وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَـفِرِينَ
(And they prostrated except Iblis (Shaytan), he refused and was proud and was one of the disbelievers (disobedient to Allah).)
"Iblis, the enemy of Allah, envied Adam because Allah honored Adam. He said, `I was created from fire, and he was created from clay.' Therefore, the first error ever committed was arrogance, for the enemy of Allah was too arrogant to prostrate before Adam.'' I - Ibn Kathir - say, the following is recorded in the Sahih,
«لَا يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ مَنْ كَانَ فِي قَلْبِهِ مِثْقَالُ حَبَّةٍ مِنْ خَرْدَلٍ مِنْ كِبْر»
(No person who has the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance in his heart shall enter Paradise.)
Iblis had disbelief, arrogance, and rebellion, all of which caused him to be expelled from the holy presence of Allah, and His mercy.
2.34 Maududi - Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi - Tafhim al-Qur'an
This was symbolic of the submission and subjugation to Man of all the angels appointed to manage the Earth and that part of the Universe which is connected with it in any way. As Man was being appointed vicegerent in this part by Allah's command, it was ordained that all the angels, who worked in it must, as tar and as long as Allah willed, cooperate with him in their respective spheres whether he wanted to use the powers given to him rightly or wrongly. This implied: "You must help him in whatever he wants to do, irrespective of whether it is right or wrong. If he wants to commit theft or offer the Prayer, or intends to do another good or evil, you must cooperate with him in both cases as long as We allow him to act according to his will and choice." This may be illustrated by the example of a government officer. He is obeyed within his jurisdiction by every official but no sooner is he deposed by the government than those very officials, who carried out his orders promptly cease to obey him. They even handcuff him and take him to prison, if the government so orders. The command given to the angels to bow down before Adam was in the same nature. Possibly the word sajdah (bowing down) here is symbolic of only submission, but this also is possible that the angels were ordered to perform some such act actually to signify their subordination, and this seems to be more correct.
Iblis dejected and desperate. As a term it is the name of the Jinn who disobeyed Allah and refused to bow down to Adam as a symbol of subordination to him and his offspring and asked Allah to grant him the opportunity of tempting mankind up to the Last Day. He is also called "ash-Shaitan" (Satan). He is not merely an abstract power of evil but is a being with his own personality like that of man. He was not an angel as is commonly understood but was one of the jinn who form a distinct species of their own separate from the angels. (Refer to Al-Kahf, XVIII: 50).
From the words of the Text it so appears that probably Iblis was not alone in refusing to bow down before Adam, but a group of the jinn also was bent upon disobedience. Iblis has been particularly mentioned because he was their chief who led the rebellion. But this verse can also be translated as: "He was of the disbelievers." In this case, it would mean that there already existed a group of rebellious and disobedient jinn and Iblis belonged to it. The word "shayatin" in the Qur'an has generally been used for these jinn and their species, and wherever there is no basis for taking shayatin to imply men, this same jinn satans are implied.
2.34 Qushairi - Al-Qushairi
And when We said to the angels “Prostrate yourselves to Adam; so they prostrated themselves except Iblīs who refused and disdained; and so he became one of the disbelievers.” The prostration was not a form of worship ʿibāda to [Adam] in and of himself but rather a way of conforming muwāfaqa to [God's] سبحانه command. It was as if their prostration to Adam was worship of God because it was by His command. It was a way of showing respect to Adam because He commanded them to in order to honor his affair. So it is as if that was a kind of submission khuḌūʿ to [Adam] but one that should not be called worship because the true meaning of worship is the utmost submission nihāyat al-khuḌūʿ and that is not appropriate toward anything but [God] سبحانه. It is said that He explained that His سبحانه sanctity is through His own majesty bi-jalālihi not through their acts lā bi-af ʿālihi even though the adoption of the beautifying [acts] of their sanctification and glorification is credited to them. He who is exalted yajillu is the One who has exalted Himself ajallahu by His own exaltation ijlālihi not by their acts lā bi-af ʿālihi and the One who is mighty yaʿizzu is the One whose power has been made mighty aʿazzahu by His own might iʿzāzihi. His power is exalted beyond the exaltation of created beings jalla ʿan ijlāl al-khalq qudruhu and His mention is magnified beyond the magnification of created beings ʿazza ʿan iʿzāz al-khalq dhikruhu. His words So they prostrated themselves except Iblīs [means Iblīs] refused in his heart qalb and disdained to prostrate with his self nafs. He was among [those who] disbelieved in [God's] prior determination ḥukm and knowledge ʿilm. In the time period in which Iblīs was emboldened by his obedience he used to strut about in the vest of his conformity [to God's command and decree]. [The angels] acknowledged his superior rank and believed in the worthiness of his distinction. His affair became as [the poet] said: The lamp of communion was shining between us. A wind of separation blew on it and it was extinguished. [Iblīs] used to consider himself deserving of the claim to superiority istījāb al-khayriyya and worthy of nearness and special status istiḥqāq al-takhṣīṣ wa-l-khuṣūṣiyya.
He passed the night well and the world was peaceful. He woke up one day and times had changed. No prior obedience benefited him no previous reply freed him no intercession of any intercessor reached him and no prior solicitude held him fast. When fate prevails over someone toil does not benefit wa-man ghalabahu al-qaḌāÌ lā yanfaʿahu al-ʿanāÌ. What originated from Adam was a human error hafwatun bashariyya so he experienced a singular mercy raḥmatun aḥadiyya. But Iblīs experienced eternal misery shaqwatun azaliyya and succumbed to fate and destiny qismatun wa-qaḌiyya. His hope was lost and his toil was in vain khāba rajāÌuhu wa-Ḍalla ʿanāÌuhu.