Salam,

To make his criticism on the Quran Sam Shamoun quoted Surah 2:30-38 And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy (khaleefatan) in the earth, they said: Wilt thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not. And He taught Adam all the names, then showed them to the angels, saying: Inform Me of the names of these, if ye are truthful. They said: Be glorified! We have no knowledge saving that which Thou hast taught us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower, the Wise. He said: O Adam! Inform them of their names, and when he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I not tell you that I know the secret of the heavens and the earth? And I know that which ye disclose and which ye hide. And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. He demurred through pride, and so became a disbeliever. And We said: O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and eat ye freely (of the fruits) thereof where ye will; but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrong-doers. But Satan caused them to deflect therefrom and expelled them from the (happy) state in which they were; and We said: Fall down, one of you a foe unto the other! There shall be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a time. Then Adam received from his Lord words (of revelation), and He relented toward him. Lo! He is the relenting, the Merciful. We said: Go down, all of you, from hence; but verily there cometh unto you from Me a guidance; and whoso follow My guidance, there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. Translation by Pickthall.

Sam claimed that these passages bring up several questions.

FIRST, Sam Shamoun said how did the angels know what the condition of man would be prior to his creation? Where did they get the idea that man would be a violent creature? Who told them? The text doesn’t say anything about Allah giving them this piece of information. Are angels omniscient? SECONDLY, Allah secretly teaches Adam unspecified names in order to silence the angels for complaining against man. Was it not unfair for Allah to teach Adam these names and then proceed to challenge the angels to do likewise? Does Allah have to use deception and lies in order to vindicate himself against the charges brought against Adam by the angels (charges which turned out to be correct)? Is it not obvious that Adam would have been just as ignorant as the angels were regarding these things had it not been for Allah teaching him? What kind of vindication is this seeing that Adam only knew of these names because Allah taught him, whereas the angels were ignorant because Allah hadn’t taught them these things? And how does the naming of things justify the creation of man despite all the evil and violence he will commit? After all, if there is a superior value in humans that justifies their creation, despite their violent and sinful behavior, then it should be stated in a clear way instead of using deceptive tricks that hardly show the superiority of humans. Allah could have taught those names to anyone. This act of teaching man to name all things does not provide a sufficient reason at all why humans should be created despite the fact that they will shed blood. Allah could have simply taught those names to the angels, and then somebody would know them (if that was the objective), without there being bloodshed. So what is the point of the story, really? THIRDLY, after using deception to silence the angels Allah then proceeds to command the angels to worship the man. This command to worship was obviously the result of the man having bested them by naming the things which Allah had personally taught him. We therefore need to ask, why make angels worship Adam for being able to name things that they couldn’t when the man only knew these names as a result of Allah having taught them to him? And why is Allah commanding them to bow down to Adam, a creature, when it is absolutely forbidden to do so in Islam? If it is argued that the prostration signified respect and not worship then why are such acts of respect forbidden in Islam today? It is obvious that Allah, unlike the true God of the Holy Bible, is always changing his mind and commands as time goes by.

 

To answer the first question the angels did not know the condition of man prior to his creation but the situational happening on earth gave them the idea that man will do the same if he is being placed there. It is stated in the Quran at Surah 31:10 He created the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; He set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and He scattered through it beasts of all kinds. From the information given by this verse on the beast it is undeniable that all the beasts as we know it did not live in harmony they have to fight for their food and this is as a sign that the angels knew that man will do the same.

On the second issue Sam raised that Allah teaches Adam to the disadvantage of the angels it is absolutely justifiable as in the first place the angels with pride were saying “we celebrate thy praises and glorify thy holy name.” as if they will be in that confortable situation all the time. Thus from the situation of being self-esteemed of the angels it can be seen that the teaching of naming things served a purpose which is as a mean to establish who is the knower of all things, Allah or the angels who gave their reason by circumstantial evidences. There is therefore no deception when Allah teaches Adam the name of things it is part of His favor whom He wish to give knowledge more than the other where in this case He preferred to give to man. Nevertheless the main point of the story is that When Allah decides on a matter it is to be obeyed and not to be opposed or contested.

On the third comment it is a misunderstanding on the part of Sam Shamoun to say that Allah commanded the angel to worship Adam. In the Quran prostration also means to show respect or humility by the action of the lowering of the chin while still on the standing position as stated in Surah 17:107 Say: “Whether ye believe in it or not, it is true that those who were given knowledge beforehand, when it is recited to them, lower down for the chin (lilazkhani) in humble prostration. And in another example to show human humility and modesty is stated at Surah 2:58 And remember We said: “Enter this town, and eat of the plenty therein as ye wish; but enter the gate with humility, (sujudan) in posture and in words, and We shall forgive you your faults and increase (the portion of) those who do good.” The action is still lowering the chin while standing or walking but would not be that of prostration on the ground. Thus the command to the angels in prostration is to show their respect to Adam but most important it is for the angels to obey Allah’s command but not as misunderstood earlier by Sam Shamoun claiming prostration is to worship Adam.

The act of humility which is forbidden and reserved for Allah only in Islam is “prostration in submission” which is the humblest position by putting the forehead on the ground as described when Abraham put his son in a position of submission as stated in Surah 37:103 So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), This is the kind of prostration on the forehead is reserved for Allah thus there is clear demarcation of humility described in the Quran for fellow human and for Allah.

Asar