Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 35
And We said to Adam: "Both you and your spouse live in the Garden, eat freely to your fill wherever you like, but do not go near this tree, or you will become transgressors. (Chapter 2: Verse 35)
Allah intended to give Adam the opportunity to practice his task and get ready for his mission on earth. He exposed Adam and his wife to a practical experience similar to what they will face in life. This experience included following God's path and being exposed to distractions and the whispers of Satan. It is truly through the mercy of Allah that He did not want Adam to begin his mission on earth solely based on theoretical arguments. There is a big difference, after all, between theory and practice, between talking the talk, and walking the walk. You may agree to a statement in the theoretical sense, for example, but when the time to act comes, you may change your mind. Think about the many times you decided to exercise at the gym, or to read a novel, yet, when the time came for action, your attitude and commitment changed.
Thus, the period Adam lived in paradise was for the sake of the practical application of God’s worship. It was meant to better prepare Adam and Eve to begin their task on earth. This practical exercise exposed them to the experience of having to follow the ‘dos’ and ‘do nots’, the lawful, and the unlawful; all while having to deal with the deviation and whispers of Satan. Perhaps more importantly, a very valuable benefit of this exercise was learning how to repent and return to God. Always remember this point: Allah does not abandon the disobedient, rather He opens wide the doors of repentance for him or her.
You have probably heard the following argument from many people around you: If only Adam did not disobey God, then we would all be in paradise today. We answer with a simple: No! Paradise in the hereafter is specifically for the hereafter, and man will not reside in it temporarily, nor is there any chance to be expelled from it. It is, as God informed us, eternal and everlasting. Whoever enters it he will live in perpetual bliss.
The paradise gardens referred to in this verse, where Adam and Eve resided, are different. They lived in a paradise that was meant for the experience of learning and applying God's curriculum. If you take time to recite the Noble Quran, you will find that God generalized the word paradise and used to describe gardens of this world and the next. The Arabic word for paradise ‘jannah’ is derived from the verb ‘jann’ which means to hide or to conceal something. It refers to dense trees and foliage that hide those who live in them so others cannot see them. It means that the fruits it bears are more than sufficient so the inhabitants never need to leave it for sustenance. Let's look at a few examples from the Quran. God says:
Indeed we have tested them just as We tested the People of the Garden when they vowed they would gather its fruit at dawn, and they added not the saving words (68:17-18)
This verse tells the story of the brothers who owned a huge productive orchard (referred to as Jannah), yet they deprived the poor, needy and orphans from their rights. Thus, God destroyed the fruits of the garden and burned its tress. Here is another example:
Tell them the parable of two men: for one of them We made two gardens of grape vines, surrounded them with date palms, and put corn fields in between; (18:32)
This is a narration of a man whom God had blessed with two gardens, but rather than having gratitude for this blessing, he disbelieved and rejected resurrection and accountability in the hereafter. And lastly, these verses:
There was a sign for the people of Sheba, too, in their dwelling place: two gardens, one on the right, one on the left: ‘Eat from what your Lord has provided for you and give Him thanks, for your land is good, and your Lord most forgiving.’ But they paid no heed, so We let loose on them a ?ood from the dam and replaced their two gardens with others that yielded bitter fruit, tamarisk bushes, and a few lote trees. In this way We punished them for their ingratitude- would We punish anyone but the ungrateful? (34:15-17)
In all the previous verses, we see that Allah used the Arabic word ‘jannah’ 'paradise' for gardens in this world, and did not limit the word to the heaven of the hereafter. Thus, we conclude that it was not the promised eternal paradise in which Adam and Eve lived, rather, it was the paradise of preparation, the paradise of practicing the application of God’s laws before descending to earth.
This also answers the allegation that Iblis (Satan) was able to enter paradise even after he disobeyed and disbelieved in God. Here again, Satan did not enter the eternal paradise of the hereafter. So now, when you hear someone claim that Adam's sin is what threw us out of paradise, you have the information to disprove this false claim. Moreover, remember that Allah identified Adam’s mission before creating him. He says:
when your Lord told the angels, ‘I am putting a successor on earth,’ (2:30)
So Adam was created for the specific task of being God's successor on earth in this life. In the hereafter, whoever is righteous from his descendants will enter the ever-lasting paradise and live in eternal pleasure.
God Almighty continued: ‘eat freely to your fill wherever you like’. In paradise, God provided Adam and Eve with everything that guarantees life and pleasure. Likewise, He created all that is required to support life on earth before Adam's life began. All these blessings are form God's grants of Lordship. He is the One who created, brought you and I into existence, and He is the one who guarantees that all His creations' needs are met. Grants such as water, oxygen, food and countless others are provided regardless of one's faith or actions.
Let's take a moment to examine the word 'live.' God said: " Both you and your spouse live in the Garden.” The word 'live' is translated from the Arabic origin 'uskun.' In Arabic ‘as-sakan’ refers to the place where one finds comfort, a place to which he longs to return after a long trip. You may travel for some time, but regardless of the luxury of the hotels, there is nothing like the comfort and peace of your own home. It is the place that you are meant to be.
The command ‘but do not go near this tree’ completes God's curriculum that Adam and Eve were asked to adhere to. God’s religion revolves around commands and prohibitions. All heavenly scriptures, and all God’s curriculums on earth revolve around 'dos' and 'do nots.' In the verse under discussion: ‘Both you and your spouse live in the Garden’ is a command, ‘eat freely to your fill,’ is also a command, while ‘do not go near this tree’ is a prohibition. These were the first laws set to teach man God's obedience.
If you look at the commands above, you will note that Allah granted Adam countless things and prohibited one single item. This model applies to our faith today. The prohibitions are few and far between, while the permissible are abundant. In fact this applies to all the heavenly messages on earth. Allah has showered you with countless bounties, while making a very small number of actions prohibited.