Adam/Eve in the Middle: 2nd Creation of Adam Story in Surah 7

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In this surah, Adam’s first test, Allah’s command not to “approach” a specific tree, is presented in the center, placing Adam in the central focus of this narrative, ”surrounded” in the ring composition, by Satan’s rebellion and expulsion from paradise in the upper section, and his successful deception of Adam/Eve leading to their awareness of shame/ nakedness and their private parts, and expulsion from Paradise in the lower section. But Satan failed in his ultimate goal, to make Adam/Eve ungrateful,” associated with kufr or denial, thus they repented and were forgiven whereas Satan was not.

Iblees’ Arrogance Leads to Adam’s Test

Commentary:

Here we find the two “framing” yellow ayat 11 and 27 at the beginning and end showing Adam’s creation/ Iblees’ pride and enmity leading to a situation where “our parents” Adam/Eve were humiliated/ shamed by Satan, and our being put to the test before we can return to Allah. The first aya 11 is a short summation of the first 5 ayat in Al-Baqara, simply stating that Allah created Adam and gave him form — no mention yet of earth or what he was made of — then told the angels to prostrate to Adam, which they did, except Iblees. With fewer details, this is paired with a warning to beware of Satan at the end of the narrative in aya 27, not to let him tempt us like he tempted Adam/Eve, also telling us he sees us but we do not see him, and that he is an ally of disbelievers/ deniers.

Why are these two ayat paired? They establish a  connection between Iblees disobeying Allah’s command to prostrate to Adam and the subsequent enmity of Satan whose goal is to destroy and debase humans. Allah reassures us that He created us and formed us for a purpose, and that the angels support us in that purpose, whereas Satan wants to divert us from it, and “prove” to Allah that humanity is indeed unworthy and mistakenly given a high status, and in so doing, deluded himself to think this way he will show Allah that he is better than humankind. So we are now enemies of Satan, in a battle with him/ his minions (among humans and jinn) to prove ourselves worthy of the exaltation/ high status for which we were originally created by Allah. Like it or not now, we were given the choice to have free will and bear responsibility — or not, and we chose the greater reward and risk of free will.

Satan Gets Reprieve + Hell – Adam/Eve Get Clothes + Forgiveness

The bluegreen sections pair ayat 12 and 13 — where Allah asks Iblees why he didn’t prostrate and in response he shows his arrogance, saying “I am better than him; You created me from fire and created him from clay” whereupon Allah the Exalted expels him from paradise and condemns him, so he is debased/ disgraced/ humiliatedwith ayat 25 and 26 — where Adam/Eve too are expelled from paradise, but their expulsion is quite different, insofar as it is a chance for redemption and guidance back to Allah the All-Merciful, whereas for Satan there is no redemption but only this “reprieve” followed by eternal punishment in hell. (However, although not mentioned here, those jinn of Satan’s descendants who do not follow him are exempted from punishment and also can be guided by the Quran. Even among jinn, no one is punished for the sins of another nor is there any form of “original sin” to be inherited.) In addition, Allah Al-Kareem gives Adam/Eve clothing — thus removing the humiliation caused by Satan the debased — and we are reminded that righteousness and being aware of Allah are also “clothing” and prevent us from the debasement of immorality. In this way Allah raised the status of humanity (a word that has come to mean “compassion” and moral behavior), while leaving Satan debased, giving us at the outset an advantage over Satan, provided we maintain it and do not debase/ disgrace ourselves. 

The two paired sections in orange, ayat 14-15 and 23-24, describe two different kinds of mercy from Allah — the granting of Iblees’ du’a (request) for a temporary reprieve from inevitable punishment in 14-5, contrasted with Adam/Eve’s admission of guilt and du’a for forgiveness, a qualitatively different and superior du’a, after which they are placed on earth as a place of  “settlement and enjoyment for a time.” Note that Adam/Eve’s placement on earth is not described as “punishment,” but rather a “proving ground,” a place to prove ourselves worthy of Allah’s acceptance in the eternal Hereafter. Both Satan and Adam/Eve are given here a provisional, temporary situation in these ayat. With the caveat that they will be enemies to one another. Scholars differ as to whether the “enemies” are human to jinn/ Satan or humans to each other, but in fact it is clear that the “enemies” are defined by party/ affiliation rather than race/ type of creation. Therefore, the “enemies” are those who follow/ obey Satan and his minions versus those who follow Allah’s guidance among both humans and jinn. 

Satan Lying in Wait, Executes Plan

In ayat 16 and 22, in purple, Satan immediately declares to Allah he will “sit in wait” for Adam/Eve there on Allah’s “straight path,” no less (16), and he wastes no time getting down to business, lying to Adam/Eve, causing them to “fall,” becoming aware of their “private parts,” regarding which they immediately felt shame and began covering themselves with leaves from Paradise (22). The narrative itself, of course, also moves chronologically from beginning to end, so aya 22 tells us the conclusion of the actual deception that occurred in the ayat preceding this. Nonetheless what “matches” these ayat is the intentional plan of Satan in aya 16 finding successful execution in aya 22 when Adam is also expelled from Paradise to earth, where the long struggle begins. 

Adam In the Middle, Surrounded

The next two sections (ayat 17-8 & 20-1) in pink frame the green central aya 19, where Allah gives Adam his test in the prohibition of the tree, where it is not merely a prohibition to eat from the tree, but to even approach it. The pink ayat, filled with Satan’s venom against Adam and Allah’s condemnation of him (17-8) and the deception itself described giving us Satan’s words/ lies (20-1), essentially surround Adam/Eve in a single aya at the center

This gives a visual sense of what was happening to Adam, the original human: the center of attention in a celestial war between good and evil where he is caught in the middle fighting for his life, his status, his future, his descendants, and the right to return at last to his Lord as the human being he was created to be. Can you think of a more accurate depiction of “the human condition,” the situation we find ourselves in and trying somehow to rise above? 

So on the bright side, we were never debased by Allah the Merciful but only by Satan, who was debased by Allah and condemned to hell as well as those who follow him among people and jinn. Then being sent to earth was not punishment but to test our free will as we must learn by trial and error over time. Adam was essentially “of the earth” to begin with, as stated in Al-Baqara 2:30 “I will make upon the earth a successive authority,” and here in Al-A’araf 7:25, “therein you will live, therein you will die, and from it you will be brought forth.” 

The surah containing this narrative, Al-A’raf (“the heights”), focuses as a surah overall on humankind, with frequent mentions of  “O children of Adam” (5 out of 7 mentions of this phrase in the Quran), making this narrative an important element of the surah as a whole. 

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