Shafaqna (International Shia News Agency)
Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:30; Part-2)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Angels’ Divine Trial
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الْأَسْمَاءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلَائِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاءِ هَـٰؤُلَاءِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ ﴿٣١﴾ قَالُوا سُبْحَانَكَ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ ﴿٣٢﴾قَالَ يَا آدَمُ أَنبِئْهُم بِأَسْمَائِهِمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا أَنبَأَهُم بِأَسْمَائِهِمْ قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ غَيْبَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ ﴿٣٣﴾
Translation: And He (Allah) taught Adam all the names, then presented them (the named ones) to the angels; then He (Allah) said: Tell me the names of those if you are truthful.
They (the angels) said: Glory be to You! We have no knowledge but that which You have taught us; surely You are the Knowing, the Wise.
He (Allah) said: O Adam! Inform them of their names. Then when he (Adam) had informed them of their names, He (Allah) said: Did I not say to you that I surely know what is unseen in the heavens and the earth and (that) I know what you manifest and what you hide?
Commentary: Allah (SWT) announced to the angels that He would create Adam (PBUH) and appoint him as His vicegerent (deputy) on Earth. The angels initially thought that they were more qualified than Adam for this prestigious position. Therefore, they were curious to learn as to what made Adam to be the divine choice. Allah (SWT), through a divine test, revealed that the essential merit of Adam was his knowledge. A narration of the divine trial is as following:
Allah taught Adam all names (of objects). Then, He presented these objects to the angels and asked them their names. Since the angels did not have knowledge of the names of these objects, they replied: “Glory be to You! we have no knowledge except what You have taught us.” The angels finished their speech by saying, “Surely You are the Knowing, the Wise.” The latter statement signifies that angels neither objected nor opposed the divine choice, as did Iblis. Rather, they only sought to learn the merits of Adam over themselves.
Then, Allah (SWT) turned to Adam, who was before the angels, and asked him to inform the angels of the objects’ names. Adam named them all correctly; hence, he proved his worthiness of the position.
At the end, Allah (SWT) told the angels, “Did I not say to you that I surely know what is unseen in the heavens and the earth and (that) I know what you manifest and what you hide?”
The clause “what you hide” references Iblis’ rejection of the divine decree1. Iblis used to be amongst the angels. When Allah (SWT) announced that He would appoint a vicegerent in the earth, Iblis, unlike the angels, truly opposed the divine appointment, but concealed it initially. He manifested his disbelief later when Allah ordered the angels, including Iblis, to prostrate before Adam [2:34]:
فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٣٤﴾
All of the angels prostrated except Iblis. He refused and he showed arrogance, and was thus deemed one of the disbelievers.
Another plausible interpretation is that the angels truly did believe, even before the divine trial, that they were worthy of being the vicegerents of Allah, but they refrained to state it explicitly.2
- Almizan, Vol.1, P.182, L.21
- Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol.1, P. 178, L.8