Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verse 35........Part 2
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)
Let's examine the first phrase of this verse. God says: ‘We said to Adam.’ Why did Allah address Adam with the plural pronoun ‘We’ while God is only one? The verse should logically have said: 'I said to Adam.' The pronoun 'we' in this verse is used to indicate grandeur and majesty, not plurality. Thus, when any event is being attributed to God the pronoun ‘we’ is used to denote magnificence and majesty, because every act requires many attributes for its completion and perfection. For example, when you intend to do something such as driving a car, it requires your physical effort to turn the wheel, your knowledge to operate the car, wisdom to navigate traffic and so on. Hence, there are many factors that are required to perform a single task. Likewise, when an act is attributed to Allah, it requires many of his attributes of perfection, and the pronoun 'we' is used.
On the other hand, when God refers to His oneness He says: ‘certainly I am the God’ and does not say ‘certainly we are the God’ because in this context God Almighty oneness is intended. Thus, when verses refer to God in worship and oneness, the singular pronoun is used. When the verses refer to events and actions relating to God, the pronoun 'We' reflecting His majesty and grandeur is used. God says:
In another example, when Allah praised prophet Abraham by saying: “surely, Abraham was a nation' despite the fact that the word nation (ummah in Arabic) is only used for a large group of people. However, God wanted to shows us that the person of Abraham embodies the excellent attributes of an entire community. He possessed qualities that cannot be found collectively in an individual, but require a nation. A person in a nation may be known as truthful, another maybe supremely brave, while another may have great wisdom or be a great leader and so on. But prophet Abraham had such a great character; that he embodied all the virtuous qualities of an entire nation.
Let's continue with the verse. God says ' Both you and your spouse live in the Garden‘ For the word 'Live', Allah used for the Arabic word ‘uskun.’ In order to use this word, two factors must be satisfied: peace and tranquillity. ‘Uskun’ refers to the abundance of peace and tranquillity, and derived from it is the word ‘sakan’ which means 'home'. If the place where you live lacks peace and tranquillity, then it is simply referred to as a house or a dwelling, not a home. The same Arabic word 'sakan' is also used for wife. God says:
Another of His signs is that He created spouses from among yourselves for you to live with in tranquillity: He ordained love and kindness between you. There truly are signs in this for those who re?ect. (30:21)
The elements: peace, compassion and love are all available in a righteous spouse, thus the word 'tuskun' is used. And in another verse:
Accept the offerings they make from their wealth in order to cleanse and purify them for progress, and invoke blessings upon them. Your blessings will surely bring them peace, for God hears all and knows everything. (9:103)
Here again, the word 'sakan' is used to describe the prophets prayers and supplication for his companions.
Another point to note is that God's commands and rewards are equal towards the male and female alike. God said: ‘both you and your spouse live in the Garden.'
and in another verse:
Whoever does evil will be repaid with its equivalent; whoever does good and believes, be it a man or a woman, will enter Paradise and be provided for without measure. (40:40)
When it comes to faith, Men and women are equal as far as their relationship with God is concerned.
Now let’s talk about the paradise where Adam and Eve lived. God says:
In the garden you will never go hungry, feel naked, be thirsty, or suffer the heat of the sun.’ (20:118-119)
These were the elements that God provided Adam and his wife in paradise as they were preparing for their mission on earth. As we discussed earlier, this was not the promised paradise of the hereafter, rather it was a place to apply God's curriculum. The garden was abundant in its gifts and bounties. Thus, when God told Adam and Eve to eat whatever they wished to their fill, it indicated that the place was blessed in quantity and variety.
Then came the single prohibition: ‘Do not go near this tree’ in other words: do not even go near it. The natural question to ask is: Why didn't God simply say ‘do not eat from this tree?’ Eating from the tree, after all, was the true sin, not going near it. The answer lies in God’s infinite mercy and knowledge of His creation. Not only did Allah want to keep Adam and his spouse away from sin, but He also wanted to protect them from the lure of sin. If God had said: ‘do not eat from this tree,’ then going close to it would have been permissible, and could have easily resulted in being pulled-in by its beauty, its color, or sweet aroma. Under those circumstances, temptation is a much harder force to fight, and the possibility of falling into sin becomes much greater.
Allah is most aware of His creation; He knows that when something is made unlawful, your soul becomes curious about it. And as long as you do not hover around it, it is easy for you to move on and not fall into sin. Take for example when God prohibited the drinking of alcohol. God did not say ‘prohibited for you is alcohol’ Instead He said:
O you who believe! Intoxicants, games of chance, sacrifices to idols, and divination by arrows are a loathsome evil of Satan’s doing; so turn wholly away from it so that you may prosper (5:90)
Allah wants you to avoid gatherings where alcohol is consumed and avoid places where it is traded. In short, He wants you to stay away from all paths that may lead towards the temptation of drinking alcohol. This Quranic verse commands you to completely distance yourself from alcohol. Allah wants to protect you even from the possibility of lure towards sin. Therefore, we see God using phrases such as ‘do not approach,’ ‘avoid,’ ‘do not hover about' unlawful matters. As the wise often say: 'out of sight, out of mind.'
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:
"Verily, what is permissible is clear, and what is prohibited is clear, but between them there are dubious matters which many people do not know. So, whoever stays away from these uncertain matters has protected his faith and his family, and whoever falls into these matters, falls into sin. It is like the shepherd who grazes his herd near guarded grounds: he greatly risks accidentally grazing inside them. Indeed! Every king possesses guarded grounds. God's guarded grounds are His prohibitions”.
Some, who are ignorant about their faith, drink alcohol and claim that the Quran does not clearly prohibit it. The verse does not contain the words ‘alcohol is prohibited,’ it does not say 'do not drink alcohol.' We answer that the words used in the Quran such as ‘avoid' and 'stay away from' and 'do not come near' are much more emphatic in prohibiting alcohol. Such phrases warn against being in the vicinity of Alcohol, against even letting your eyes gaze or look at it.
There has been some disagreement regarding the type of tree that was forbidden in paradise. Was it an apple tree, a fig tree, or something else? This type of detail holds no significance because the true objective is that it was banned; what God has made lawful and what He made unlawful.
The verse ends with the phrase ‘Or you will become transgressors’. Transgression is a term that encompasses oppression, and exploitation by depriving others of their rights. An unjust person takes more than what he or she has earned. Whoever violates a right of another –whether physical or emotional – has certainly transgressed. Keep in mind that a person at times may do injustice against him or herself. God says:
those who, when they act indecently or wrong themselves, remember Allah and ask forgiveness for their bad actions -and who can forgive bad actions except Allah?- and do not knowingly persist in what they were doing. (3:135)
How can you do injustice to yourself? You may treat others unfairly, but when it comes to yourself, you usually look out for your best interest...right? Keep in mind that when you try to fulfil every whim and desire that you have, when you run after the immediate lust in the world, you are in fact, depriving yourself from the eternal pleasure of the hereafter. Isn't it unjust to earn the eternal torment of the hereafter in exchange for the fleeting pleasure of life? Even worse, there are some who exchange their faith and integrity for the benefit of someone else. Take for example a person who gives false testimony in a murder case in order to please or protect his or her guilty boss. At the end of the day, this person does not earn any benefit, rather he or she has committed great self-injustice for the benefit of someone else. In the verse ‘or you will become transgressor’ God is referring to those who wrong themselves, and rob themselves from great long lasting benefit in exchange for temporary gain.