Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Chapter 2, Verse 36
But Satan made them slip, expelling them from the state they were in. We said, ‘Go down from here as enemies to each other! You will have residence on the earth and enjoyment for a time.’ (Chapter 2: Verse 36)
Allah gave Adam and his wife residence in paradise, and informed them of what is lawful and what is not. After which, Satan began his dreadful mission of hostility and enmity towards Adam and his descendants. He eventually succeeded in causing them to slip into a mistake. How could this have happened while God had previously warned them not to follow Satan? How could this have happened while God had declared Satan as their enemy? God says:
so We said, ‘Adam, this is your enemy, yours and your wife’s: do not let him drive you out of the garden and make you miserable. (20:117)
This verse emphasises that the enmity had already existed and was clearly declared. Let’s assume for a moment, however, that it was not declared. Even if that was the case, didn't Adam witness the incident where Satan disobeyed God’s order and did not bow before him? Wasn't Adam aware of how arrogant Satan was when he declared ‘I am better than him’? All of these instances should have served as warnings to Adam that Satan will never intend any good for him. On top of all that, God had clearly warned Adam and his wife about Satan.
The verse continues: ' expelling them from the state they were in'. Here you may ask: From which state and conditions were they expelled? It was from the state of luxury, peace, tranquillity and endless bounties that came to them without fatigue or effort. God had warned them in another verse ‘do not let him drive you out of the garden and make you miserable’. It is perhaps worth noting that, up to this point, the warnings and the conversations Allah addressed Adam and Eve with were all in the plural form, encompassing both Adam and Eve. However, when it came to the phrase 'make you miserable’, it was addressed only to Adam in the singular form. Why wasn't it addressed to Adam and Eve like the rest of the verses? This verse is actually meant to draw our attention to the unique and natural tasks of the husband and wife in this world. The woman’s task is to be a source of comfort for the man, relieving him from his fatigue and troubles when he gets home. The man, on the other hand, is responsible for providing food and shelter for his family. In paradise, food and shelter were readily available without any work. On earth, Adam had to put in hard work to provide adding misery to his day.
Nowadays, we see this natural system being changed. Women are being asked, and are expected to earn a living just like the man. This only adds to the stress of the household. How can the woman provide peace, tranquillity, and stability to the family when she is under the same stress as the man? In most instances, when the woman has a full time job, it happens at the expense of her children and husband. This misarrangement affects the society as a whole as the children lack stability, and may get lost. The husband and wife start to fight and may seek to fulfil the need for comfort and peace somewhere else. When the family unit suffers, so does the entire society.
Adam should have realized that Satan blamed him for being banished from God’s mercy. He should have been vigilant, and should not have listened to Satan, or accepted his advice. How did Satan cause Adam and his wife to commit this mistake? We find the answer in the following verse:
Satan whispered to them so as to expose their nakedness, which had been hidden from them: he said, ‘Your Lord only forbade you this tree to prevent you becoming angels or immortals,’ (7:20)
Satan started by lying and claiming that whoever eats from this tree will become a angel and be immortal. Satan's whispers are always wrapped in lies in order to dress up and beautify sin. Keep in mind that Satan does not care whichever sin you commit. He only wants you to be a sinner. If he finds that he cannot get you to lie, he will try to lure you into adultery or into not paying almsgiving (zakat). As long as you sin -any sin- he would have achieved his goal. This is in sharp contrast to the whisper of one's sinful self. Your own self has a specific desire that strives to be fulfilled. It entices you towards a specific sin, and insists on coming back to that sin. You may have weakness for the opposite sex, or for money, or for acting arrogantly. If you find yourself coming back to the same sin over and over, then know that it is not from Satan, rather it is from your own self.
Let's look at how Satan approached Adam. He started by saying ‘Shall I guide you to the tree of immortality and a kingdom which decays not?’ But when this effort did not succeed, he came from another angle by saying: ‘Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals’, and then again by appealing to their faith, 'and he swore to them, ‘I am giving you sincere advice’-. Adam missed the point that if Satan was honest about the tree, he would have eaten from it and became immortal rather than asking God to respite him until the last day. In fact, carelessness and forgetfulness is what led Adam to fall into sin. God says:
Assuredly We had made a covenant with Adam, but he acted forgetfully. We did not find resolve in him (20:115)
Is forgetfulness a sin? you may ask. We find the answer in the following verse:
and they both ate from it. They became conscious of their nakedness and began to cover themselves with leaves from the garden. Adam disobeyed his Lord and was led astray- (20:121)
Yes, forgetfulness was a sin in former nations. However, it was from the mercy of Allah and the love of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that this burden has been lifted in Islam. The Prophet said: “Forgiven for my nation are oversight, forgetfulness and what was forced upon them”
The verse continues: ' We said, ‘Go down from here as enemies to each other! You will have residence on the earth and enjoyment for a time.’
This was the beginning of human life on earth, and the start of our mission in the world. The phrase ‘You will have residence on the earth and enjoyment for a time.’ means that life on earth is temporary.
Some people claim that Adam's mistake is a burden on all of us necessitating the need for a saviour. Someone who can lift the burden of the original sin off our shoulders. However, this argument misses a central point. There is a difference between an original sin and a mistake. Adam's committed a mistake, and his mistake was rectified and forgiven. Once a mistake is rectified, there is no longer need for punishment. Adam received words from his Lord and his repentance was accepted. When Allah's forgives, there is no trace of that sin left for anyone to carry. Moreover, Adam's mistake was eating from a forbidden tree; and if such a sin requires a saviour, how about the grave sins of rape, murder and so on? Sins are not inherited as God clarifies in the following verse:
‘No one who carries a burden bears another's load; and even if the burdened soul cry out for help none will carry the least of its burden, however close a relative it may be. (35:18)