Following on from my last post on the subject of Man’s viceregency on Earth, we need a definition for the word viceregent. In the Arabic language the word viceregent is Khalifah, and is derived from the word khalfah or khalafah, meaning ‘behind’ or ‘to come after’, so this context it refers to representing Allah on Earth, and exercise His authority in terms of ‘reacting’ to His will, as His viceregent. This point raises this question: When was God ever absent in order for Him to require a khalifah in His place? As I mentioned in my previous post regarding the responsibilities of the Angels, we can apply the same reasoning in this situation. Before I said that Angels are, as conscious beings, the intermediary agents in the process of development and administration of the physical world, operating under the laws of cause and effect. To clarify and to emphasize again, this does not mean that God is not Omni-present and Omni-potent or incapable, or anything else. Now that Adam has been created as the intermediary of God ON EARTH (after him being taught the Names), it is Adam who is ordered to inform (note: to inform, and not to teach) the Angels of this newly acquired knowledge, since they were incapable to name what has been revealed to Adam themselves.
By now it should be clear that Man possesses a special characteristic, other beings of creation are devoid of, which is the knowledge of the Names. He hence deserved the prostration of the Angels to him and his important position, and this brings us to the next part of this ‘story’:
وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِءَادَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَى وَاسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِينَ
‘And when We said to the angels: “Prostrate before Adam”, then all prostrated except Iblis. He refused and he showed arrogance and he was one of the unbelievers (34)’ (Al-Baqarah-34)
Thus, the Angels paid homage to Adam after they were satisfied with the proof of the absolute wisdom and mercy of God, and acknowledged the superiority of the khalifah. Whereas, Iblis, was overcome with grief and despair, under the burden of arrogance and pride, and refused to follow suit. (According to this verse, prostration (sajdah) by one created being, in order to pay homage and accept superiority of another created being, is permissible). The sajdah of total submission and unconditional surrender is for the creator only. It is at this point in the story, that the creation of an earthly vicergent caused the separation of all beings into the obedient and disobedient.
Now here is an important observation for those who are looking for meaning in the creation of the human being; and that is: without such a creation, the good would not be distinguished from the evil and all beings would have remained in the proximity of worshiping their Lord. Since even Iblis (being a creation of Jinn) was, up to this point, in the rank and level of worship of the Angels! But by refusing to prostrate before Adam, he distinguished himself, and revealed his true arrogant egotism before all.
Another couple of verses in the Qur’an complement the above, by shedding light onto the reason why Iblis refused to obey God’s orders:
وَلَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَـٰڪُمۡ ثُمَّ صَوَّرۡنَـٰكُمۡ ثُمَّ قُلۡنَا لِلۡمَلَـٰٓٮِٕكَةِ ٱسۡجُدُواْ لِأَدَمَ فَسَجَدُوٓاْ إِلَّآ إِبۡلِيسَ لَمۡ يَكُن مِّنَ ٱلسَّـٰجِدِينَ (١١) قَالَ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَلَّا تَسۡجُدَ إِذۡ أَمَرۡتُكَۖ قَالَ أَنَا۟ خَيۡرٌ۬ مِّنۡهُ خَلَقۡتَنِى مِن نَّارٍ۬ وَخَلَقۡتَهُ ۥ مِن طِينٍ۬ (١٢) قَالَ فَٱهۡبِطۡ مِنۡہَا فَمَا يَكُونُ لَكَ أَن تَتَكَبَّرَ فِيہَا فَٱخۡرُجۡ إِنَّكَ مِنَ ٱلصَّـٰغِرِينَ (١٣)
It is We who created you and gave you shape; then We bade the angels prostrate to Adam, and they prostrated, not so Iblis; he refused to be of those who bow down. (11) (Allah) said: “what prevented thee from bowing down when I commanded thee?” He said: “I am better than he: thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay.” (12) (Allah) said: “Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here: get out, for thou art of the meanest (of creatures).” (Al-‘Araaf:11-13)
In the words of Imam Ali (‘a), in reference to the above verse:
Self-importance withheld him and vice overcame him. So that he took pride in his own creation with fire and treated contemptuously the creation of clay. So Allah allowed him time in order to let him fully deserve His wrath, and to complete (man’s) test and to fulfil the promise (He had made to Satan). Thus, He said:
“Verily you have been allowed time till the known Day.” (Qur’an, 15:38; 38:81)
Thereafter, Allah inhabited Adam (p.b.u.h.) in a house where He made his life pleasant and his stay safe, and He cautioned him of Iblis and his enmity. Then his enemy (Iblis) envied his abiding in Paradise and his contacts with the virtuous. So he changed his conviction into wavering and determination into weakness. He thus converted his happiness into fear and his prestige into shame. Then Allah offered to Adam (p.b.u.h.) the chance to repent, taught him words of His Mercy, promised him return to His Paradise and sent him down to the place of trial and procreation of progeny. (Nahjul Balaghah, Sermon 1)