The Angels Prostrate to Adam (as)


How did the angels protest against prophet adam?

After creating Adam (as), breathing into him from His spirit and teaching him the names, Allah ordered the angels to prostrate to him. The Qur’an recounts:

“And when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I will create a human being out of clay from an altered black mud. And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down to him in prostration. So the angels prostrated – all of them entirely. Except Satan; he refused to be with those who prostrated. Allah said, ‘What is the matter with you that you are not with those who prostrate? He said, ‘Never would I prostrate to a human whom You created out of clay from an altered black mud.’” (Al-Hijr, 15: 28-33)

This event is so important that the Qur’an mentions it, in its different details, in exactly seven chapters. It contains a fine point. The devil ignores the command of Allah and follows his ego. He puts his logic and reason ahead of the divine command. The same goes for human beings. Any person who allows his own personal judgment to overrule Allah’s own, commits the same mistake as the devil. The Qur’an issues a warning against that:

“O you who have believed, do not put yourselves before Allah and His Messenger but fear Allah.” (Al-Hujurat, 76: 1)

Allah then asks the devil:

“What prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My two hands?” (Sad, 38: 75)

The ‘two hands’ mentioned in the verse represents Allah’s power, as well as the value He attaches to man. Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi also points to another meaning beyond:

“The two hands are manifestations of Allah’s beauty (jamal) and majesty (jalal). Man’s body and soul are the appearance of Allah’s majesty, while his spirit is the appearance of His beauty. Man combines both these divine attributes. However, in the devil, only majesty manifests and he is therefore deprived of beauty”.

The Prophet (saw) says:

Allah created Adam in His own image”. (Muslim, Birr, 115)

Allah transcends all images and imagination. Therefore, what this hadith speaks of is not the physical image but the inner image; not the body but the spirit.

If these divine names did not appear in Adam (as) and if he had not been given qualities superior to other created beings, he would then have been unable to fulfil his duty as Allah’s caliph on earth. Man has this ability by default. Nevertheless, he can truly execute this duty only if he reaches finesse to become an insan-i kamil, a perfect human being, by cleansing his ego, refining his morals and purifying himself.

This means that man has the potential to even surpass angels, given he develops his potential to believe and love and brings direction to his life. Nevertheless, if he gives sway to denial, trickery, jealousy and conceit, he can end up at a place lower than animals. The Qur’an states:

“And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, eyes with which they do not see, and ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is them who are the heedless.” (Al-Araf, 7: 179)

The devil did not prostrate to Adam (as) due to the conceit and vain he had kept hidden inside. He was well respected until then. He had enough knowledge to teach angels.

On that note, the incident further points to a couple more things: knowledge and rank have the danger of inciting the ego and that knowledge alone is not enough to ensure that one obeys Allah. The devil was from among the jinn, created from a bright, smokeless fire. So, he used his limited wisdom to assume that a bright, smokeless fire was superior to the mud that Adam (as) was created from. He supposed he had greater honor and worth based on that. He assumed it would be humiliating for someone made from a better substance to bow to a lesser being. However, it was a flawed analogy; and it only goes to show how insufficient reason can be in arriving at a judgment.

One must therefore never resort to analogy when faced with a Divine command. Analogy that defies the scripture is invalid and has no merit. Satan made that mistake. Besides, the devil’s assumption that ‘fire is superior to earth’ is only relative. Earth has many features that are superior to fire. Yet, in the end, what is important is not to compare them but to heed to the command of Allah. The real sin the devil commits here is his attempt to pass judgment outside of Allah’s own; so much so, that he even has the temerity to argue with Allah:

“Satan said, ‘I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay!’” (Al-Araf, 7: 12)[1]

The devil saw the mud of Adam (as) but not its value. He was fooled by appearances to see the spirituality behind it. What he did not know was that man was designated as the caliph of Allah on earth. He saw Adam (as) through the eye of his ego and therefore could not peer beyond its matter. He took his own reasoning as standard, not Allah. He was taken aback and acted with instinct. Until then, the devil had never been met with a situation that tested his feelings and had never been subjected to such a trial. He could not make sense of Divine wisdom. He let himself drown in the dark corridors of his ego and miserably, went up in arms against Allah.

The devil did not want to lose his perceived advantage over Adam (as) and abstained from falling to prostrate. However, by doing so, he found himself in a worse position than he could have ever conceived. Allah banished him from his privileged position. He was humiliated in front of the angels, who until then had greatly respected him, and was expelled in shame:

“Allah said, ‘Then get out of it, for indeed, you are expelled. And indeed, upon you is the curse until the Day of Recompense.’” (Al-Hijr, 15: 34-35)

Elsewhere in the Qur’an:

“Allah said, ‘Descend from Paradise, for it is not for you to be arrogant therein. So get out; indeed, you are of the debased.’” (Al-Araf, 7: 13)[2]

While trying to prove his superiority, the devil ended up losing favor. At that point, he feared for his life and pleaded:

“He said, ‘My Lord, then reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.’” (Al-Hijr, 15: 36)[3]

In His Eternal Wisdom, Allah granted his wish:

“Allah said, ‘So indeed, you are of those reprieved…until the Day of the time well-known.’” (Al-Hijr, 15: 37-38)[4]

As we have mentioned before, Adam (as) contains every single human being to come until the final hour in his selfhood. Thus, each person inherits a share of Adam’s (as) honor but also incurs the same hatred that the devil nurtured towards him. However, at the bottom of it all, man needed an obstacle that he could overcome to allow his full spiritual potential to flourish. For that, the devil was needed as an agent. The devil was necessary to fill that role, so were the events surrounding the ‘forbidden tree’, which ended up having man banished from paradise and begin his trial on earth. The devil is the obstacle that keeps human beings from developing their spirituality by seducing their desires. Man must therefore remain constantly alert. It is that alertness that leads to spiritual maturity.

It is those reasons that underlie Allah’s decision to allow the devil to roam until the final hour. To balance the ledger, Allah has also kept the gates of mercy open for man until his final breath. However, until then, man has to also wage a fierce battle with the devil, who sent out this warning:

“Satan said, ‘Do You see this one whom You have honored above me? If You delay me until the Day of Resurrection, I will surely destroy his descendants, except for a few. Allah said, ‘Go, for whoever of them follows you, indeed Hell will be the recompense of you – an ample recompense. And incite whoever you can among them with your voice and assault them with your horses and foot soldiers and become a partner in their wealth and their children and promise them.’ But Satan does not promise them anything except delusion.” (Al-Isra, 17: 62-64)

The above verse points to the most important tactics the devil employs to manipulate man:

– Above all, the devil can delude only those who he has power over.

– He tricks man using all sorts of instruments and songs that human beings take a natural liking to and can therefore be easily misled by. Scholars have interpreted the term ‘sawt’, translated as ‘voice’ in the above verse, as any sound that incites rebellion to God.

– The devil mobilizes the help of men and jinn in tasks it cannot undertake alone.

– He deceives human beings mostly through their children and wealth.

Following God’s permission, the devil felt a little more secure; and in brazen rudeness, tried to blame Allah for his rebellion:

“Satan said, ‘Because You have put me in error, I will surely sit and wait for them on Your straight path. Then I will come to them from before them and from behind them and on their right and on their left, and You will not find most of them grateful to You.’” (Al-Araf, 7: 16-17)

“Satan said, ‘My Lord, because You have put me in error, I will surely make disobedience attractive to them on earth, and I will mislead them all.” (Al-Hijr, 15: 39)

The renowned Sufi Yahya ibn Muadh (d. 872) describes the upper hand the devil has over man:

“The devil is idle; he has nothing to do. However, we, on the other, are always busy. He sees us but we do not see him. We forget our duty but he never forgets his. To make matters worse, our egos are in his service.”

The Qur’an warns:

“…do not follow the footsteps of Satan.” (Al-Baqarah, 2: 208)

“Indeed, Satan is an enemy to you; so take him as an enemy. He only invites his party to be among the companions of the blaze.” (Fatir, 35: 6)

Thus, the Qur’an singles out the devil as the clear enemy of man and advises us to seek refuge away from him in Allah. Just some of those verses are:

“And say, ‘My Lord, I seek refuge in You from the incitements of the devils. And I seek refuge in You, my Lord, lest they be present with me.’” (Al-Mu’minun, 23:  97-98)

“And if an evil suggestion comes to you from Satan, then seek refuge in Allah. Indeed, He is Hearing and Knowing. Those who fear Allah remember Him when they are touched by an impulse from Satan…and at once they have insight.” (Al-Araf, 7: 200-201)

To seek refuge means to rely on the protection of someone from a thing that is feared. In chapter an Nas, Allah commands us to seek exclusively His protection from the devil. It is the Almighty alone who can fend off the tricks of Satan, who leaves no stone unturned to deceive man.

The Prophet (saw) also has the following advice:

If you say the basmalah when entering your home or while eating, the devil tells his soldiers, ‘…you may neither spend the night or have dinner here’. Nevertheless, if one you do not say the basmalah when you enter your home, then the devil tells them, ‘…you have got a place to spend the night’. And if you do not say the basmalah while eating, the devil says ‘…you have got a place to stay and some food to eat’”. (Muslim, Ashribah, 103)

Another way of protecting oneself from the devil is ikhlas, that is to say, to be sincere in one’s faith to Allah. The Qur’an quotes the devil as declaring he will trick all human beings except for:

“…Your chosen servants.” (Al-Hijr, 15: 40)

The Almighty affirms:

“Indeed you will have no authority over My servants, except those deviators who follow you.” (Al-Hijr, 15: 42)

Ikhlas is to keep hypocrisy out of all action, to avoid showing off in deeds of worship and to protect the heart from blemishes that taint its purity. It is to think of the pleasure and love of Allah (jj) alone and regulate all behavior accordingly. In that sense, ikhlas serves as an armor against all the evil by which the devil hopes to delude man. It allows man to see them for what they are beyond their fancy appearance. However, to obtain ikhlas, the heart needs to reach a certain blend; and it obtains that while striving towards marifatullah, knowledge of Allah.

Another powerful force against the evils of the devil is to remember Allah both verbally and in the heart. Abandoning the remembrance of Allah leads to devil becoming one’s constant company. All sins are committed the moment one forgets Allah. It is impossible for one to genuinely say the basmalah and sin; say Allah and do an injustice or break a person’s heart. Allah says it Himself:

“And whoever is blinded from remembrance of the Most Merciful – We appoint for him a devil, and he is to him a companion.” (Al-Zukhruf, 43: 36)

We can also be safe from the devil through a dedication to Allah and His Messenger that comes deep from the heart, by exerting our every effort in the way of Islam and elevating Allah’s name on earth. In return, Allah (jj) guarantees His help:

“O you who have believed…if you support Allah, He will support you and plant your feet firmly on the ground.” (Muhammad, 47: 7)

However, those, on the other hand, who turn their backs on Allah’s commands and follow the devil, can only end up in one place:

“I will surely fill Hell with you and those of them that follow you all together.” (Sad, 38: 85)

“Whoever follows you among them – I will surely fill Hell with you, all together.” (Al-Araf, 7: 18)

It is therefore vital that we recognize the devil for who he is: our archenemy who will resort to every trick he knows to send us to the pits of hell.

It is narrated that the angels then lifted their heads from off the ground and saw that the jinn they had previously known as Azazil and who had gained fame for spending a lot of his time worshipping the Lord, had morphed into an evil creature. So, they prostrated again, to thank Allah for protecting them from a similar fate.

It was after he refrained from prostrating that Azazil became Satan and the embodiment of evil. He was no angel; he was created from fire. He was a jinn among the angels of paradise but, therefore, unique. Thus, he felt superior to Adam (as) and could not get his head around the fact that Adam (as) carried a spirit and had been appointed the caliph of Allah. He blocked his ears to divine command and let his ego take hold. He was ignorant of the fact that his knowledge was nothing compared to Allah’s own:

“I did not make them witness to the creation of the heavens and the earth or to the creation of themselves, and I would not have taken the misguiders as assistants.” (Al-Kahf, 18: 51)

And in the verse before that, the Almighty cautions his servants against forgetting their reason of existence and befriending Satan and his cohorts:

“He was of the jinn and departed from the command of his Lord. Then will you take him and his descendants as allies other than Me while they are enemies to you? What a bad exchange for the wrongdoers.”  (Al-Kahf, 18: 50)

It must be borne in mind that Allah did not command the angels to worship Adam (as) by telling them to prostrate. It was simply to let the angels know that Adam (as) was superior to them through his inner potential and the attributes he had been given. Allah had breathed into Adam (as) from His own spirit and favored him over other beings.

It was also to get the angels to observe the divine command without question. The fact is that even though Adam (as) may have been the object in front them, it was really Allah that they prostrated to and worshipped. Adam (as) was nothing more than what the Ka’bah is during ritual prayer. Prostrating towards the Ka’bah is not to worship it. It is to worship Allah (jj). The Ka’bah is simply a hub that absorbs Divine mercy and regulates the prayer to ensure that believers are united in the act by facing the same direction.

[1].      Also see, al-Hijr, 15: 33; Sad, 38: 76

[2].      Also see, Sad, 38: 77-78

[3].      Also see, al-A’raf, 7: 14

[4].      Also see, al-Araf, 7: 15.

Source: The History of Prophets in Light of The Qur’an, THE CHAIN OF PROPHETS, Osman Nuri TOPBAŞ, Erkam Publications

Hz. Adam