Shafaqna (International Shia News Agency)
Commentary of the Quran (Chapter 2:34)
By: Mohammad Sobhanie
Angels’ Prostration before Adam
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ ﴿٣٤﴾
Translation: And when We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate before Adam,’ they prostrated, but not Iblis: he refused and acted arrogantly, and he was one of the faithless.
Commentary: Allah (SWT) announced to the angels that He would create Adam (AS) and appoint him as His vicegerent (deputy) on Earth. The angels viewed themselves as more qualified than Adam for this noble position. Hence, they were curious to learn what deemed Adam as the divine choice. Allah (SWT), through a divine test, revealed that the essential merit of Adam was his knowledge of all names.
The knowledge of names is the faculty of naming objects and things (regardless of whether they are physical or metaphysical), along with understanding their attributes and characters, and discovering underlying laws which govern their nature.
Amongst the angels worshipping Allah (SWT) was a Jinn, by the name of Iblis, who truly opposed the appointment of Adam to the position of divine vicegerency, but concealed it. He manifested his opposition later when Allah (SWT) ordered the angels, including Iblis, to prostrate before Adam.
When Allah (SWT) asked Iblis1:“What prevented you from prostrating, when I commanded you?” Iblis replied “I am better than him (Adam), You created me out of fire and him out of clay.”
The verses of (2:30-34) narrated three events in sequence: creation of Adam, revelation to the angels of the merit of Adam for possessing the position of divine vicegerency, and prostration of the angels before Adam. The sequence of narration in here does not necessarily imply the order of occurrence of the events. The Quran asserts that the angels’ prostration occurred right after Adam’s creation2-3, followed by the revelation of the merit of Adam to the angels.
Prostration before other than Allah (SWT): Prostration is a symbol of the utmost reverence and respect. Since it has a connotation of worshipping and submission to a superior being, Islam therefore forbids prostration before others except Allah (SWT).
However, in this instance, the angels’ prostration was not an act of worshipping Adam; rather, it was an act of obeisance and respect to him. For the latter reason, Iblis refused to bow down since he claimed that he was better than Adam1, not because he was asked to worship him.
Imam Ali-ibn-Musa-r-Rida (AS), regarding the prostration of the angels, said4:
کانَ سُجُودُهُمْ لِلّهِ عَزَّوَجَلَّ عُبُودِیَّةً, وَ لِآدَمَ إِکْراماً وَ طاعَةً لِکَوْنِنا فِی صُلْبِه!
“The angels’ prostration was for worshipping Almighty Allah, and for the obeisance and respect of Adam, since we (Ahlul-Bait) were in his loin.”
- The Quran Al-Araf 7:12
- Tafseer-e-Namoona, Vol.1, P. 181, L.13 & Almizan, Vol.1, P.188, L.2
- The Quran, Al-Hijr15:29, Sad 38:72
- Tafseer-e-Namoona, , Vol.1, P. 183