Here the temptation and “fall” of Adam is in the central position, making it a “narrative within a narrative.” But this internal narrative is also surrounded by Allah’s mercy. It shows us that the All-Merciful wants the best for us.
But Satan, a name/word that is more of a title than a name, means enemy, and has become the sole word used to refer to the embodiment of evil and harm in the form of an enemy. Although he was a being of the jinn, others who act as an enemy to our trust/faith are given the same name — “from the jinn and from people” as per Al-Nass 114:6. And this enemy is the source of our suffering, per aya 20:117 below.
Adam’s Mistake vs. Satan’s Evil
The first aya 20:115 in bluegreen above expresses Allah’s compassion and mercy. By saying Adam forgot his promise to Allah the Most High and lacked determination, He highlights Adam’s weakness not as malice or arrogance or even wrongdoing, despite disobeying Allah’s command, but rather as forgetfulness, a term which in Arabic is nasyan from which is derived the word for “human” in Arabic: Al-Insan. So although we think of this event, where Satan tempts Adam who then is expelled from “the garden” and sent “down” to earth, as The Fall is not a fall from grace, but actually the starting point of free will. In essence, free will begins by learning from one’s mistakes. So what Christians hype as “original sin” was — in a striking contrast — simply “the first mistake,” for which Allah the All-Knowing forgave Adam/Eve.
When it comes to free will, making mistakes comes with the territory. That’s how we learn. And notice here that for our forgetfulness, the Quran is the remedy: called the reminder or thikr. And what are we reminded of? Allah the Almighty, All-Merciful. Everything in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah (24:41), so we are essentially surrounded by thikr Allah.
But if we keep rejecting the signs all around us, we will drown in our own forgetfulness, becoming arrogant and oblivious without thikr Allah to remind us. And those are the people whom Allah refers to here:
Satan has overcome them and made them forget the remembrance of Allah. Those are the party of Satan. Unquestionably, the party of Satan – they will be the losers. (58:19)
Who then are the ones promised to return to Allah the Exalted in Paradise? These:
ٱلَّذِينَ يَذۡكُرُونَ ٱللَّهَ قِيَٰمًا وَقُعُودًا وَعَلَىٰ جُنُوبِهِمۡ وَيَتَفَكَّرُونَ فِى خَلۡقِ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقۡتَ هَٰذَا بَٰطِلًا سُبۡحَٰنَكَ فَقِنَا عَذَابَ ٱلنَّارِ
Who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing]; then protect us from the punishment of the Fire.Al-Imran 3:191
So this first aya 115 has two parts: first we are told that Allah took a solemn promise from Adam, and second we are told that he forgot and lacked strength of will. The Quran then is, for our time, the reminder and guidance sent from Allah to guide us in our return to Him, as were previous messages. So for us humans, there is a remedy for our errors — to learn! (Unlike Satan who has no remedy.) We have been given free will, and with that we can correct our mistakes. In fact, we learn by trial and error. So to help us with that, Allah the All-Merciful gives us guidance in the form of signs, revelations in words (oral and written), reminders, and also simply forgiveness. Allah teaches us how to strengthen our will over time.
The second aya 20:116 above speaks of how the angels prostrated to Adam as Allah commanded, but Iblees refused. This aya can also be seen as two parts: one where the angels obey, and the second where Iblees disobeys. So these two ayat form a pair, showing us how Adam and Iblees are ripe for a confrontation: Adam forgetful and weak-willed — remember he hasn’t yet exercised his free will — and Iblees strong-willed and arrogant, acting on his own, and motivated by jealousy of Adam whom he considers inferior.
Adam, however, did not willfully disobey, but rather forgot and later felt remorse, whereas Iblees willfully disobeyed and never felt remorse. This is the difference between a mistake, which one can correct, and evil or denial/sin, which one refuses to correct, although correction is still a possibility for humans until the heart is fully committed to/hardened by evil.
In aya 117 in orange, Allah warns Adam and his wife that “this is an enemy” to both of them. He warns them not to “let him remove you from Paradise so you will suffer.” The Merciful gives this warning out of mercy, as He also gives warnings in His books, the last of which is the Quran. This warning refers to the “promise” Adam gave to Allah mentioned in aya 115 above.
We are all familiar with how easily promises can be broken by simply forgetting. The warnings and promises always seem different when given than when the actual test comes in a situation we were not expecting. How much more then would Adam have been unprepared for what actually took place? So of course the All-Merciful and Just forgave him. This was Adam’s starting point to build in himself a strong will and courage.
The next two ayat, 118 and 119, refer to the same primordial paradise/garden wherein Adam was to reside after creation, and from which he was warned that Satan wants to remove him. They are a pair of promises from Allah relating to Al-Janna, “the garden,” the same word used for paradise. Each promises two different things: 118 promises Adam/Eve they will not be hungry or naked; 119 promises that they will not be thirsty or hot from the sun. These only refer to physical comfort, however. Because at this moment in the narrative, it is a place for them prior to Satan’s interference, which forms a spiritual threat.
These 2 ayat also show a balance by their numbers associated with paradise. Within a previous creation-of-Adam narrative referenced in aya 15:40, Satan admits he has no power over Allah’s “chosen servants,” a phrase mentioned 8 times in the Quran. Each of the ayat 118 & 119 has 8 words (counting waw as a word per Dr. Kaheel), and even their letter count equals out if the verse numbers are added to that count, where 118 has 22 letters and 119 has 21, but the deficit in 119’s letters is made up for by its verse number being one higher than 118, making the 2nd count also 22 – and adding the resulting four 2’s gives us another 8. Add to this the number 8 from the phrase “chosen servants” mentioned above, and we have 2 “pairs of 8’s” (2•16), which is 32, whose surah number is Al-Sajda “the prostration”. Which is how one enters the gate of paradise, analagous to how the children of Israel were commanded to enter the gate prostrating (2:58, 4:154, 7:161) of the “promised land,” itself a metaphor for Al-Jannah or paradise, also “flowing with milk and honey.”
أَمَّا ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَعَمِلُواْ ٱلصَّٰلِحَٰتِ فَلَهُمۡ جَنَّٰتُ ٱلۡمَأۡوَىٰ نُزُلًۢا بِمَا كَانُواْ يَعۡمَلُونَ
As for those who believed and did righteous deeds, for them will be the Gardens of Refuge as accommodation for what they used to do.As-Sajdah 32:19
The word Satan first appears here in this narrative, in verse 20:120. Notice that his name is in bold and italicized. That’s because this surah is named TaHa, two letters of the Arabic alphabet that do not spell a word, but rather are used as part of a “key” of Quranic Initials that appear at the beginning of certain surahs, so I am thus emphasizing three words containing the Arabic letter Ta ط of which the title Al-Shaytan (the Satan) is the first. The other Quranic initial heh (often also transliterated Ha) ه is used more frequently in general as well as in this narrative. I point it out because each of the 3 words containing Ta, in order, summarize the sequence of this narrative. (More on this later below.)
What the satan does is to deceive, taking advantage of Adam’s trusting nature to promise him something unexpected of which Adam has no knowledge so taking him off-guard, in this case regarding the nature of a specific tree Allah told Adam not to approach. It is Satan who made up an attractive and intriguing story about said tree; in the Quran, no angels with flaming swords or interpretive suggestions are given for the tree. Deception involves distraction from the core issue — Allah’s command and Adam’s promise in this case. Upholding truth and faith, on the other hand, requires maintaining focus on the connection with Allah, in this case, Adam’s promise. I call this deception Satan’s promise as Allah describes in the Quranic aya below.
Satan promises them and arouses desire in them. But Satan does not promise them except delusion.Al-Nisa’ 4:120
Satan never keeps his promises. Of course not; he is an avowed enemy whose goal is to destroy humany’s connection and relationship to God/Allah.
Adam/Eve’s First Trial and Error
Although it may appear the deck is stacked against Adam/Eve here, bumbling into a ready-made disaster, in reality arrogance is a greater disadvantage because its power is in lack of receptivity and therefore creates the inability to learn beyond one’s arrogance, which is ultimately an incurable stupidity.
On the other hand, Adam’s receptivity causes him to feel shame and remorse upon realizing his mistake. This is a form of humility and receptivity to admitting mistakes so thus Adam can learn.
It is because of this receptivity that Allah forgave Adam/Eve.
And here is the second word containing the letter Ta ط in bold above: طَفِقَا – Tafaqa, which means “started,” so here Adam/Eve started to cover themselves with the leaves of Paradise, out of shame. Notice that the first promise of Allah, that Adam/Eve would not be naked/unclothed in Paradise, had been breached by their mistake and disobedience, and it was the first thing they noticed. The word for “private parts” is actually the word meaning “shame,” a feeling they did not previously have. The “knowledge of good and evil” mentioned in the Bible is here exemplified by their very sense of shame and guilt, at having been deceived and then erred. So this is not merely a physical state but rather a whole state of being. Allah the Exalted did not break his promise, but Adam broke his. And so brought suffering upon himself, first in the form of shame.
Allah’s Guidance and Mercy
This aya links directly to the pair of ayat for Allah’s promise in ayat 118 and 119 regarding paradise. This aya then is the fulfillment of that promise even after Adam’s descent to earth. Noting that Adam was already created from earth in the first place, from “an altered black mud.” For although their disobeying Allah’s command resulted in being expelled from the garden, In this single aya, Allah “chose him” (and every mention of Adam includes Eve which is why she’s never named), thus Adam/Eve became “God’s chosen servants” whom He both forgave and guided, which thus guarantees them the true paradise mentioned in ayat 118-9.
This aya 122 where Allah both forgoves and chooses Adam/Eve significantly contains 7 words and 23 letters; the number 7 being a key number in the Quran, as the number of ayat in the first surah, Al-Fatiha “The Opening” – 7 heavens – 7 seas – and more, making it a significant number; after the number one, it is the most frequently-mentioned in the Quran. And we find the number of verses in which “seven” is mentioned to be 23 (noting that in some verses it is mentioned more than once), showing a correspondence between 7 and 23.
The number 23 has dual-significance: 1) the number of years for the Quran to be fully revealed to Prophet Mohammad; and 2) the number of chromosomes in human DNA. The latter could only have been known recently. Both these meanings show us that this mercy, already shown to Adam/Eve as the original humans, can also be our inheritance as their descendants and as Allah’s servants, but only if we do not refuse or deny Allah’s guidance and mercy. If we do not even attempt to pray or acknowledge Allah as the only Creator to be served/worshiped — and to serve Him always means to be compassionate and to fight for justice — that’s considered a refusal.
Descent, and a Way Back to Allah
Although other creation-of-Adam narratives emphasize the possibility of hell, this narrative emphasizes mercy. The third and final word in this narrative that contains the letter Ta ط is in bold (in the Arabic as ah’batta and English) and means “descend.” This is the final action that occurred to Adam/Eve: their descent to earth. The original pair were forgiven and granted paradise. But their descendants are given the responsibility to go through a similar test of wills between humans and satanic influence. To help us succeed, Allah gives us His own Omniscient and Wise guidance so we can return to our complete fulfillment in His Presence in Jannah, the Garden, the same meaning as Paradise.
So the three words containing the letter Ta ط are in English Al-Shaytan (Satan), started, and descend. The first refers to our being tested by an enemy who cannot speak to us except in a whisper, whom we cannot see, and whose promises are always delusion/deception. The second refers to the starting point of free will being realizing our mistakes, then developing that gift of choice by working on strengthening our will-power. Because of our nature to be weak and fall into conceit and selfishness, we must descend literally down-to-earth, humble ourselves and avoid arrogance, and call upon Allah for help and guidance to return to Him. And the word descend is the only word in this narrative that includes both letters TaHa, emphasizing the significance of purification or purity (root طهر also containing initials TaHa) by going “down-to-earth” and helping those in need from what Allah has given us. The word zakat refers to the obligatory payment of charity in Islam, but also means purification. Thus helping others and spending from our income to uplift those who are deprived is a form of purification.
And Allah, who always fulfills His promises in a way that is far better than and beyond our expectations, will respond to our du’a or prayer (as supplication), and in the Quran we will find the best guidance. Thus this final aya connects with the first — we, who by nature are gullible and lack determination, become the people of strong free will who make thikr Allah — remembering and mentioning Allah — an indelible part of our lives, and demonstrate our gratitude by helping others, thus improving on Adam’s example and proving ourselves worthy Allah’s acceptance, and consequently of the angels’ respect.
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Notes on the final aya 123 above, which has some amazing number connections:
- Total words: 19
- Total letters: 57 (3•19)
- Total words plus letters: 76 (4•19)
- Even the factors 3,4 match the 3,4 pairing mentioned below.
The significant factor here is the number 19, also a significant number in the Quran, so to have this many connections to that number makes this specific aya itself significant and worthy of further study.
Interestingly, the orange section of aya 123 has 7 words as does aya 122 – again a balance, where the promise of aya 122 must go through the test indicated in the orange section of 123. It also has 17 letters (a number exactly half of 34, another 3,4 pairing).
The bluegreen section has 12 words (3•4) and 40 letters – numbers significantly related to the children of Israel (12 tribes, 40 days/nights flood, 40 years old to be prophet, 40 years wandering), indicating this guidance — in the Quran, no less — contains the key to fulfilling that promise as well, although in modern times most of the descendants of Israel/Jacob refuse to acknowledge the Quran as God’s message. (Although during the time of prophet Mohammad, many Jews did become Muslim.) Now, however, this promise is made to all humans, regardless to ancestry or culture.
For Further Study
One can also notice that the name Allah in Arabic consists of 3 unique letters in a 4-letter word, and 3+4=7. Similarly, the Bismalah (1:1) contains 3 names for Allah in a 4-word phrase. Dividing it in half, we have the first two words, Bism Allah, consist of 7 Arabic letters; the next two words, AlRahman AlRaheem, consist of 12 Arabic letters, so the total letter count in the Bismalah is 7+12=19. These are foundational numbers for the most significant phrase in the Quran.
Instead of the usual arithmetic, we can analyze these numbers chiastically, where a number c is the center of the second number n arranged as a “ring composition” or chiasmus. Only odd numbers can have a chiastic center in this way, where c=[(n-1)/2] + 1. So analyzing 19, we find its chiastic center to be 10, because the two surrounding numbers 9+9=18+1 (central number) =19. The chiastic center of 7 is 4, and we find in the Quran many connections between 7 and 4. Then if we add 10+4=14, we get the number 14 or “seven pairs” mentioned significantly in Surat Al-Hijr 15:87: “And we have given you seven that are dual, and the great Quran.” The phrase “seven that are dual” has also been translated “seven pairs” as well as “seven oft-repeated,” although the latter does not take into account the word mathani expresses the number two. But what of the number 12? It has been mentioned in the Quran 5 times, twice in the same verse (7:160, digits that add to 14 fwiw). So could this be a foundational number as with 3,4 as a word mentioned 5 times in 6 verses? If you multiply 5×6=30, the result equals 7+23=30. But chiastically, 12 is the center of none other than the number 23: two surrounding 11’s add to 22 + 1 (the 12, the number after 11) =23!
What does this have to do with the creation of Adam? It shows that the last two ayat of this narrative are of great importance. First, that Allah’s mercy is greater for human beings than we can imagine, with the very number of our chromosomes (haploid form) is 23, and embedded in these verses, directly emphasizing their message to us is really to all of us human beings. Second, among the multiple meanings of seven is that it represents a trial or test, in this case the test of this very life we are living in. Many miracles of the number seven can be found in this book. So although this life is a test, verses 20:122 and 20:123 express that none other than The Almighty All-Merciful Creator of All that exists is on our side, responding to our prayers for help, and the only sin that ultimately denies us that unimaginable help and power is refusal, denial of His encompassing and irrefutable Reality, Truth, and Presence.