I am better than he

إِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِن طِينٍ

فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ

فَسَجَدَ الْمَلَائِكَةُ كُلُّهُمْ أَجْمَعُونَ

إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ اسْتَكْبَرَ وَكَانَ مِنْ الْكَافِرِينَ

قَالَ يَا إِبْلِيسُ مَا مَنَعَكَ أَن تَسْجُدَ لِمَا خَلَقْتُ بِيَدَيَّ أَسْتَكْبَرْتَ أَمْ كُنتَ مِنَ الْعَالِينَ

قَالَ أَنَا خَيْرٌ مِّنْهُ خَلَقْتَنِي مِن نَّارٍ وَخَلَقْتَهُ مِن طِينٍ

‘Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man from clay:

“When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.”

So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together:

Not so Iblis: he was haughty (egotistic, proud), and became one of those who reject Faith.

(Allah) said: “O Iblis! What prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with My hands? Art thou haughty? Or art thou one of the high (and mighty) ones?”

(Iblis) said: “I am better than he: thou createdst me from fire, and him thou createdst from clay.”’ [Saad:71-76]

A couple of important conclusions from the above verses:

1) The breathing into Adam of Allah’s (swt) spirit is an indication of the honour and status he has been entrusted with; and so is the metaphorical phrase ‘I have created him with My hands’. When you create something with your own hands, it gives the thing a special significance and meaning. It becomes an item that is close to your heart, deserving special attention.

2) The reasons why Iblis refused to obey God’s command can be explained as follows: firstly his pride (to proud to prostrate before Adam), egotism and self-love (‘I am better than he’); his contentment with the exterior material manifestations, and his ignorance of the inner hidden meanings of the world.

This violation of God’s direct command is the first of its kind (and not Adam’s approaching the forbidden tree as suggested in the Old Testament), which resulted in Iblis’ damnation to the end of days, and the deletion of all his effort of worship performed in the past. And all on account of a moment’s pride.

It’s these kinds of uncontrolled human traits that continue to be a cause of many a man’s downfall. Worship of the self and satisfying one’s carnal desires, are the root of all evil, whether one shows it overtly, or tries to hide it. In the end, actions speak for themselves.

In his sermon known as ‘al-Khutbah al-Qasi’ah’ (Sermon of Disparagement), Imam Ali (‘as) describes the above scene as eloquently as ever:

[رأس العصيان]

وَجَعَلَ اللَّعْنَةَ عَلَى مَنْ نَازَعَهُ فِيهِمَا مِنْ عِبَادِهِ، ثُمَّ اخْتَبَرَ بِذلِكَ مَلاَئِكَتَهُ الْمُقَرَّبِينَ، لَِيمِيزَ المُتَوَاضِعيِنَ مِنْهُمْ مِنَ الْمُسْتَكْبِرِينَ، فَقَالَ سُبْحَانَهُ وَهُوَ الْعَالِمُ بِمُضْمَرَاتِ القُلُوبِ، وَمَحْجُوبَاتِ الْغُيُوبِ: (إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَراً مِنْ طِين * فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِنْ رُوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ * فَسَجَدَ الْمَلاَئِكَةُ كُلُّهُمْ أَجْمَعُونَ * إِلاَّ إِبْلِيسَ)اعْتَرَضَتْهُ الْحَمِيَّةُ، فَافْتَخَرَ عَلَى آدَمَ بَخَلْقِهِ، وَتَعَصَّبَ عَلَيْهِ لاَِصْلِهِ

فَعَدُوُّ اللهِ إِمَامُ الْمُتَعَصِّبِينَ، وَسَلَفُ الْمُسْتَكْبِرِينَ، الَّذِي وَضَعَ أَسَاسَ الْعَصَبِيَّةِ، وَنازَعَ اللهَ رِدَاءَ الْجَبْرِيَّةِ، وَادَّرَعَ لِبَاسَ التَّعَزُّزِ، وَخَلَعَ قِنَاعَ التَّذَلُّلِ

أَلاَ تَرَوْنَ كَيْفَ صَغَّرَهُ اللهُ بِتَكَبُّرِهِ، وَوَضَعَهُ بِتَرَفُّعِهِ، فَجَعَلَهُ فِي الدُّنْيَا مَدْحُوراً، وَأَعَدَّ لَهُ فِي الاْخِرَةِ سَعِيراً؟

His (Iblis) vanity stood in his way. Consequently, he felt proud over Adam by virtue of his creation and boasted over him on account of his origin. Thus, this enemy of Allah is the leader of those who boast, and the fore-runner of the vain. It is he who laid the foundation of factionalism, quarrelled with Allah about the robe of greatness, put on the dress of haughtiness and took off the covering of humility. Do you not see how Allah made him low on account of his vanity and humiliated him for his feigning to be high? He discarded him in this world and provided for him burning fire in the next world.

This egotism can destroy everything, on a personal level, a group, a society or a country. This innate disposition within Man (love of the self), if not humbled and controlled, can reach the level of polytheism (shirk), which is the only sin that is not forgiven, and its’ ‘reward’ is eternal damnation. The source of all error, all evil and all dispute in this world, is this self worship and pride, and not (as many people claim and believe) religion.

أَفَلَا يَتَدَبَّرُونَ الْقُرْآنَ ۚ وَلَوْ كَانَ مِنْ عِنْدِ غَيْرِ اللَّهِ لَوَجَدُوا فِيهِ اخْتِلَافًا كَثِيرًا

‘Do they not consider the Qur’an (with care)? Had it been from other Than Allah, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy’ [An-Nissa’:82]

By using reason, objective observation and independent contemplation every intelligent person comes to the conclusion that the Qur’an is a book from Allah (swt), free from all human conjectures and discrepancies. And if you find any dispute anywhere in creation, then it is not from Him.

The above fact is also confirmed in that if all prophets and messengers gathered in one place, there would be no dispute amongst them on any matter. This is because none of them ever had ‘I’ in their mind, but all they thought about is ‘He’, and He is One and has no partner or like.

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