5. Al-Isra’ (The Israelites, Children of Israel, Night Journey); 17:61-65
wa-idh qul’nā lil’malāikati us’judū liādama fasajadū illā ib’līsa qāla a-asjudu liman khalaqta ṭīna
AND LO! We said unto the angels, “Prostrate yourselves before Adam” - whereupon they all
prostrated themselves, save Iblis.75 Said he: “Shall I prostrate myself before one whom Thou hast created out of clay?”
75 For an explanation of the allegory of Adam and the angels, see 2:30-34, 7:11-18 and 15:26-41,
as well as the corresponding notes. In the present instance, as in Al-A’raf and Al-Hijr, the accent is on the contempt of Iblis for Adam (which is obviously a metonym for the whole human race): hence, this passage apparently connects with the end of verse 53 above - “verily, Satan is man’s open foe!” The stress on man’s dignity - expressed in God’s commandment to the angels to “prostrate themselves before Adam” - links this allegory with verses 70-72.
qāla ara-aytaka hādhā alladhī karramta ʿalayya la-in akhartani ilā yawmi l-qiyāmati la-aḥtanikanna dhurriyyatahu illā qalīla
[And] he added: "Tell me, is this [foolish being] the one whom Thou hast exalted above me? Indeed, if Thou wilt but allow me a respite till the Day of Resurrection, I shall most certainly cause his descendants - all but a few - to obey me blindly!"76
76 Cf. 7:16-17. The verb hanaka denotes, literally, “he put a rope around the lower jaw (hanak)
[of a horse]”, i.e., in order to lead it; hence, the form ihtanaka means “he made [another being] follow him submissively” or “obey him blindly”.
qāla idh’hab faman tabiʿaka min’hum fa-inna jahannama jazāukum jazāan mawfūra
[God] answered: "Go [the way thou hast chosen]! But as for such of them as shall follow thee -behold, hell will be the recompense of you (all], a recompense most ample!
wa-is’tafziz mani is’taṭaʿta min’hum biṣawtika wa-ajlib ʿalayhim bikhaylika warajilika washārik’hum fī l-amwāli wal-awlādi waʿid’hum wamā yaʿiduhumu l-shayṭānu illā ghurūra
Entice, then, with thy voice such of them as thou canst, and bear upon them with all thy horses and all thy men,77 and be their partner in [all sins relating to] worldly goods and children,78 and hold
out [all manner of] promises to them: and [they will not know that] whatever Satan promises them is but meant to delude the mind.79
77 This is an idiomatically established metaphor, signifying “with all thy might”.
78 An allusion to possessions acquired by sinful means or spent on sinful purposes, and to the
begetting of children through fornication or adultery. (It must, however, be pointed out that in the ethics and the canon law of Islam no moral stigma and no legal disability whatever attaches to the child thus begotten.)
79 Cf. 4:120 and the corresponding note 142
inna ʿibādī laysa laka ʿalayhim sul’ṭānun wakafā birabbika wakīla
“[And yet,] behold, thou shalt have no power over [such of] My servants [as place their trust in Me]: 80 for none is as worthy of trust as thy Sustainer.”
80 I.e., “thou shalt have no real power over them”, as brought out in 14:22 and 15:42.
6. Al-Kahf (The Cave);18:50
wa-idh qul’nā lil’malāikati us’judū liādama fasajadū illā ib’līsa kāna mina l-jini fafasaqa ʿan amri rabbihi afatattakhidhūnahu wadhurriyyatahu awliyāa min dūnī wahum lakum ʿaduwwun bi’sa lilẓẓālimīna badala
AND [remember that] when We told the angels, "Prostrate yourselves before Adam,"52 they all
prostrated themselves, save Iblis: he [too] was one of those invisible beings,53 but then he turned away from his Sustainer’s command. Will you, then, take him and his cohorts54 for (your], masters instead of Me, although they are your foe? How vile an exchange on the evildoers’ part!55
52 This short reference to the oft-repeated allegory of God’s command to the angels to “prostrate themselves before Adam” is meant, in the above context, to stress man’s inborn faculty of conceptual thinking (see 2:31-34 and the corresponding notes) and, thus, his ability and obligation to discern between right and wrong. Since man’s deliberate choice of a morally wrong course - of which the preceding passages speak - is almost invariably due to his exaggerated attachment to the allurements of worldly life, attention is drawn here to the fact that this attachment is the means by which Satan (or Iblis) induces man to forgo all moral considerations and thus brings about his spiritual ruin.
53 Denoting, in this instance, the angels (see Appendix III).
54 Lit., “his offspring” - a metonym for all who follow him.
55 Lit., “for the evildoers”. As regards Satan’s symbolic “rebellion” against God, see note 26 on
2:34 and note 31 on 15:41.
4. Al-Hijr (The Rock, Stoneland, Rock City); 15:28-44
wa-idh qāla rabbuka lil’malāikati innī khāliqun basharan min ṣalṣālin min ḥama-in masnūni
And lo! Thy Sustainer said unto the angels: "Behold, I am about to create mortal man out of sounding clay, out of dark slime transmuted;
fa-idhā sawwaytuhu wanafakhtu fīhi min rūḥī faqaʿū lahu sājidīn
and when I have formed him fully and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down before him in prostration!"26
26 Cf. 2 : 30-34 and the corresponding notes, as well as 7:11-18. The allegorical character of all the passages bearing on the creation of man and on God’s command to the angels to prostrate themselves before him is brought out clearly in God’s saying, “I am about to create mortal man… ; and when I have formed him fully…”, etc.: for it is obvious that, in reality, no lapse of time is required for God’s completing His creation - since, “when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, ‘Be’- and it is” (cf. 2:117, 3:47 and 59, 6:73, 16:40, 19: 35, 36:82 and 40: 68). God’s “breathing of His spirit” into man is obviously a metaphor for His endowing him with life and consciousness: that
is, with a soul.
fasajada l-malāikatu kulluhum ajmaʿūn
Thereupon the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together
illā ib’līsa abā an yakūna maʿa l-sājidīn
save Iblis: he refused to be among those who prostrated themselves.27
27 See note 10 on 7:11. For the deeper meaning of this “rebellion”, see note 31 below.
qāla yāib’līsu mā laka allā takūna maʿa l-sājidīn
Said He: “O Iblis! What is thy reason for not being among those who have prostrated
qāla lam akun li-asjuda libasharin khalaqtahu min ṣalṣālin min ḥama-in masnūni
[Iblis] replied: “It is not for me to prostrate myself before mortal man whom Thou hast created out of sounding clay, out of dark slime transmuted!”
qāla fa-ukh’ruj min’hā fa-innaka rajīmu
Said He: "Go forth, then, from this [angelic state]: for, behold, thou art [henceforth] accursed
wa-inna ʿalayka l-laʿnata ilā yawmi l-dīn
and [My] rejection shall be thy due28 until the Day of Judgment!"
28 Lit., “is upon thee”
qāla rabbi fa-anẓir’nī ilā yawmi yub’ʿathūn
Said [Iblis]: “Then, O my Sustainer, grant me a respite till the Day when all shall be raised
from the dead!”
qāla fa-innaka mina l-munẓarīn
Answered He: "Verily, so be it: thou shalt be among those who are granted respite
ilā yawmi l-waqti l-maʿlūm
till the Day the time whereof is known [to Me alone]."
qāla rabbi bimā aghwaytanī la-uzayyinanna lahum fī l-arḍi wala-ugh’wiyannahum ajmaʿīn
[Whereupon Iblis] said: "O my Sustainer! Since Thou hast thwarted me,29 I shall indeed make [all that is evil] on earth seem goodly to them, and shall most certainly beguile them - into grievous error -
29 See surah 7, note 11
illā ʿibādaka min’humu l-mukh’laṣīn
(all save such of them as are truly Thy servants!"30)
30 Lit., “Thy sincere servants”: i.e., those who are so deeply conscious of God that no “blandishment of Satan” can lead them astray. (See also note 32 below.)
qāla hādhā ṣirāṭun ʿalayya mus’taqīmu
Said He: "This is, with Me a straight way: 31
31 I.e., “this is what I have willed” - namely, that Iblis (or Satan) should tempt man, but should have no power to seduce those who are truly conscious of God. Thus, the Qur’an makes it clear that despite his ostensible “rebellion” against his Creator. Satan fulfils a definite function in God’s plan: he is the eternal tempter who enables man to exercise his God-given freedom of choice between good and evil and, thus, to become a being endowed with moral free will. (See in this connection 19:83, as well as note 26 on 2:34 and note 16 on 7:24.)
inna ʿibādī laysa laka ʿalayhim sul’ṭānun illā mani ittabaʿaka mina l-ghāwīn
verily, thou shalt have no power over My
creatures - unless it be such as are [already] lost in grievous error and follow thee [of their own will]:32
32 Lit., “except him who shall follow thee from among those who are lost in grievous error”. (Cf.14:22, according to which Satan will thus address his erstwhile followers on Judgment Day: “I had no power at all over you: I but called you - and you responded unto me.”) This phrase constitutes the essential difference between the above passage and the similar one in 7:l1-18.
wa-inna jahannama lamawʿiduhum ajmaʿīn
and for all such, behold, hell is the promised goal.
lahā sabʿatu abwābin likulli bābin min’hum juz’on maqsūmu
with seven gates leading into it, each gate receiving its allotted share of sinners."33
33 Lit., “it has seven gates, [with) an allotted share of them for each gate”. This probably means “seven degrees” of hell, i.e., of the suffering which, in the life to come, awaits the “followers of Satan” in accordance with the gravity of their sins (Razi; a similar explanation is given by
Qatadah, as quoted by Tabari). It should also be remembered that the concept of “hell” as such is referred to in the Qur’an under seven different names, all of them metaphorical (necessarily so, because they relate to what the Qur’an describes as al-ghayb, “something that is beyond the reach
of human perception”): namely nar ("fire, which is the general term), jahannam (“hell”), jahim (“blazing fire”), sa’ir (“blazing flame”), saqar (“hell-fire”). laza (“raging flame”), and hutamah (“crushing torment”). Since. as I have mentioned, these designations of other-worldly suffering are obviously allegorical, we may also assume that the “seven gates of hell” have the same
character, and signify “seven approaches [or “ways”] to hell”. Furthermore. it is well known that in the Semitic languages - and most particularly in classical Arabic - the number “seven” is often used in the sense
of “several” or “various” (cf. Lisan al-'Arab, Taj al-'Arus, etc.): and so the above Qur’anic phrase may well have the meaning of “various ways leading to hell” - in other words, many ways of sinning.
9. An-Nisa (Woman); 4:1
yāayyuhā l-nāsu ittaqū rabbakumu alladhī khalaqakum min nafsin wāḥidatin wakhalaqa min’hā zawjahā wabatha min’humā rijālan kathīran wanisāan wa-ittaqū l-laha alladhī tasāalūna bihi wal-arḥāma inna l-laha kāna ʿalaykum raqība
O MANKIND! Be conscious of your Sustainer, who has created you out of one living entity, and out of it created its mate, and out of the two spread abroad a multitude of men and women.1 And remain conscious of God, in whose name you demand [your rights] from one another, and of these ties of kinship. Verily, God is ever watchful over you!
1 Out of the many meanings attributable to the term nafs - soul, spirit, mind, animate being, living entity, human being, person, self (in the sense of a personal identity), humankind, life-essence, vital principle, and so forth - most of the classical commentators choose “human being”, and assume that it refers here to Adam. Muhammad 'Abduh, however, rejects this interpretation (Manar IV, 323 ff.) and gives, instead, his preference to “humankind” inasmuch as this term stresses the common origin and brotherhood of the human race (which, undoubtedly, is the purport of the above verse), without, at the same time, unwarrantably tying it to the Biblical account of the creation of Adam and Eve. My rendering of nafs, in this context, as “living entity” follows the same reasoning - As regards the expression zawjaha (“its mate”), it is to be noted that, with reference to animate beings, the term
zawj (“a pair”, “one of a pair” or “a mate”) applies to the male as well as to the female
component of a pair or couple; hence, with reference to human beings, it signifies a woman’s mate (husband) as well as a man’s mate (wife). Abu Muslim - as quoted by Razi - interprets the phrase “He created out of it (minha) its mate” as meaning “He created its mate [i.e.,its sexual counterpart] out of its own kind (min jinsiha)”, thus supporting the view of Muhammad 'Abduh referred to above. The literal translation of minha as “out of it” clearly alludes, in conformity with the text, to the biological fact that both sexes have originated from “one living entity”