وَإِذۡ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ إِنِّى جَاعِلٌ۬ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ خَلِيفَةً۬ۖ قَالُوٓاْ أَتَجۡعَلُ فِيہَا مَن يُفۡسِدُ فِيہَا وَيَسۡفِكُ ٱلدِّمَآءَ وَنَحۡنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمۡدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَۖ قَالَ إِنِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ مَا لَا تَعۡلَمُونَ (٣٠) وَعَلَّمَ ءَادَمَ ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءَ كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَہُمۡ عَلَى ٱلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنۢبِـُٔونِى بِأَسۡمَآءِ هَـٰٓؤُلَآءِ إِن كُنتُمۡ صَـٰدِقِينَ (٣١) قَالُواْ سُبۡحَـٰنَكَ لَا عِلۡمَ لَنَآ إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمۡتَنَآۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَلِيمُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ (٣٢) قَالَ يَـٰٓـَٔادَمُ أَنۢبِئۡهُم بِأَسۡمَآٮِٕہِمۡۖ فَلَمَّآ أَنۢبَأَهُم بِأَسۡمَآٮِٕہِمۡ قَالَ أَلَمۡ أَقُل لَّكُمۡ إِنِّىٓ أَعۡلَمُ غَيۡبَ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَأَعۡلَمُ مَا تُبۡدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمۡ تَكۡتُمُونَ
And when your Lord said to the angels, “Verily I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent”; they said: “wilt thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood while we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?” He said: “Surely I know what you do not know” (30). And He taught Adam the names, all of them, then presented them to the angels and He said: “Tell Me the names of those if you are right” (31). They said: “Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us; surely Thou, Thou (alone), art the knowing, the Wise” (32). He said: “O Adam! inform them of their names. And when he had informed them of their names, He said: “Did I not say to you that I surely know the unseen (secrets) of the heavens and the earth and (that) I know what you manifest and what you were hiding?(33).
These verses explain how the will of God to send to Earth a viceregent, and what his characteristics are and his relationship with the Angels. It can be seen as a ‘story’ which is split into several ‘scenes’, part of a ‘bigger picture’.
First, a brief introduction to the role of Angels in our universe, and these verses:
وَٱلنَّـٰزِعَـٰتِ غَرۡقً۬ا (١) وَٱلنَّـٰشِطَـٰتِ نَشۡطً۬ا (٢) وَٱلسَّـٰبِحَـٰتِ سَبۡحً۬ا (٣) فَٱلسَّـٰبِقَـٰتِ سَبۡقً۬ا (٤) فَٱلۡمُدَبِّرَٲتِ أَمۡرً۬ا
‘By the (angels) who tear out (the souls of the wicked) with violence; (1) By those who gently draw out (the souls of the blessed); (2) And by those who glide along (on errands of mercy), (3) Then press forward as in a race, (4) Then arrange to do (the commands of their Lord)’ (Al-Nasi’at:1-5)
In short, the Angels play a role in everything that surrounds us, from dealing with the physical to the metaphysical events in this existence, going back to our pre-existence. We can say, that the Angels where also given a role of viceregency, even before God decided (or announced) to create Adam, so that they can arrange matters in the Universe on his command. Now this question arises: Is God’s making of a viceregent on Earth due to His lack of capability, or willingness, or not being able to bear the weight of the task? Not at all! And this is why:
هُوَ ٱللَّهُ ٱلۡخَـٰلِقُ ٱلۡبَارِئُ ٱلۡمُصَوِّرُۖ لَهُ ٱلۡأَسۡمَآءُ ٱلۡحُسۡنَىٰۚ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ ۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٲتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِۖ وَهُوَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ
“He is Allah, the Creator, the Originator, The Fashioner, to Him belong the most beautiful names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, do declare His praises and glory. And He is the Exalted in Might, The Wise.’’ (Al-Hashr:24)
تَبَـٰرَكَ ٱلَّذِى بِيَدِهِ ٱلۡمُلۡكُ وَهُوَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىۡءٍ۬ قَدِيرٌ
‘Blessed be He in Whose hands is Dominion: and He over all things Hath Power’ (Al-Mulk:1)
… amongst many other verses. So the Angels can be the ‘Middle Men’, if put simply, working on the command of Allah (‘awj). They are the causes of the effects we see in the natural world, and of the ones we don’t see in the supranatural/metaphysical world. Therefore, we can conclude that they were created as major role players in this world, and not just to ‘celebrate His praise and extol His holiness’. It is important to note here the nature of the Angels in terms of their compulsion. They lack the faculties which distinguish man as a volitional being from the rest of creation. Angels cannot disobey God or commit acts of evil and sin, yet they still have free will. This might sound like a contradiction, but the innate nature of the Angels is that they have a mind of their own, yet they don’t posses the desires and lusts that humans do, and hence by nature cannot commit any sins. Another characteristic is that there are different levels of Angels, where the Angels closer to God in rank and importance and responsibility, give orders to others (like Jibra’il, Mika’il, Izra’il, etc). Yet another distinguishing characteristic of Angels, is that they remain on that level or rank for eternity and hence cannot attain the perfections that Man is able to. It is Man who is capable to reach the furthest of heights, but at the same time, it is he who can also reach the lowest of points. As stated in the Qur’an:
وَٱلنَّجۡمِ إِذَا هَوَىٰ (١) مَا ضَلَّ صَاحِبُكُمۡ وَمَا غَوَىٰ (٢) وَمَا يَنطِقُ عَنِ ٱلۡهَوَىٰٓ (٣) إِنۡ هُوَ إِلَّا وَحۡىٌ۬ يُوحَىٰ (٤) عَلَّمَهُ ۥ شَدِيدُ ٱلۡقُوَىٰ (٥) ذُو مِرَّةٍ۬ فَٱسۡتَوَىٰ (٦) وَهُوَ بِٱلۡأُفُقِ ٱلۡأَعۡلَىٰ (٧) ثُمَّ دَنَا فَتَدَلَّىٰ (٨) فَكَانَ قَابَ قَوۡسَيۡنِ أَوۡ أَدۡنَىٰ (٩) فَأَوۡحَىٰٓ إِلَىٰ عَبۡدِهِۦ مَآ أَوۡحَىٰ
By the Star when it goes down― (1) Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled, (2) Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. (3) It is no less than inspiration sent down to him: (4) He was taught by one mighty in Power, (5) Endued with Wisdom: For he appeared (in stately form) (6) While he was in the highest part of the horizon: (7) Then he approached and came closer, ( 8 ) And was at a distance of but two bow-lengths or (even) nearer; (9) So did (Allah) convey the inspiration to His Servant (conveyed) what He (meant) to convey. (10)
…and on the other extreme:
لَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا ٱلۡإِنسَـٰنَ فِىٓ أَحۡسَنِ تَقۡوِيمٍ۬ (٤) ثُمَّ رَدَدۡنَـٰهُ أَسۡفَلَ سَـٰفِلِينَ (٥) إِلَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّـٰلِحَـٰتِ فَلَهُمۡ أَجۡرٌ غَيۡرُ مَمۡنُونٍ۬
We have indeed created man in the best of moulds, (4) Then do We abase him (to be) the lowest of the low― (5) Except such as believe and do righteous deeds: for they shall have a reward unfailing. (6)
When God decided to create Adam, He announced to the angels: “Verily I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent”. The angels protested: “wilt thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood while we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness?” And notice, that God did not deny this claim by the Angels, but explained that He knows a matter unknown to them, which then leads to the next verse and God’s teaching Adam all the names (the beautiful names – explained; and here), which may be regarded as the first act of divine revelation to man in history. God then challenged the angels to name the things whose identities He revealed to His viceregent, but they admitted their ignorance: “Glory be to Thee! we have no knowledge but that which Thou hast taught us;’ Their focus was on Adam’s actions and not the knowledge that he was given, which distinguished him from them and gave him his special station amongst all beings of creation.
I hope I was able to clarify up to this point the reason why God, when He decided to place a viceregent on Earth, addressed the Angels and announced to them His intentions. It is because they are the ones responsible in the management of all things on Earth and the Heavens, including the service of Man in his path to perfection.
But why does Allah (‘awj) require a viceregent on Earth? This, I will clarify in my next post, God willing.