Answered by Shaykh Yusuf Weltch
If Prophet Adam (Allah grant him peace) did not commit a sin when eating of the forbidden tree, He would’ve remained in Paradise – in that case, how then do we understand the various verses of the Quran about the Human being carrying the trust and being vicegerents in the land?
In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful and Compassionate.
The knowledge of Allah Most High is all-encompassing, and everything He created is part of the ultimate test of life for Humans and the Jinn.
Allah Most High says, “(He is the One) Who created death and life in order to test which of you is best in deeds. And He is the Almighty, All-Forgiving.” [Quran, 67:2]
The Divine Decree
What Allah Most High knows will transpire in the world will transpire. Allah Most High speaks to us in the Quran whilst He knows exactly what will occur.
Allah Most High tells us that Humans were created for His worship, that they will be the vicegerent of the Earth, and that they will carry the trust of moral responsibility in following the Sacred law. [Razi, ‘Isma al-Anbiya]
At the same time, Allah Most High creates Adam (Upon him be peace) in Paradise, commanding him not to eat of the tree.
Adam’s eating from the tree is something Allah Most High was well aware would happen. However, it is from the Divine wisdom that Allah Most High created him in Paradise and tested him this way. There are many pearls of wisdom that this carries that would be lost to humans otherwise, such as:
- Knowledge of the susceptibility of the human to the whispers of Shaytan and that the Devil is a mortal enemy to humans [Ibid.]
- Knowledge that overindulgence in permitted things may lead to an inadvertent fall into sin. (Details later) [Ibid.]
- Knowledge that one is excused for accidental or unintentional disobedience but that there may still be worldly consequences, like falling from Paradise. [Ibid.]
- Knowledge of how to repent. (Many scholars explained that this was the message Adam was sent to teach). [Ibid.]
- Knowledge and understanding of the importance of keeping the limits of Allah etc… [Ibid.]
It Was Not a Sin
The scholars are in agreement that all Prophets and Messengers are Divinely protected from committing sins. Thus, the mistake of Adam in eating from the forbidden tree is not taken as a sin for many textual and rational reasons and proofs:
Amongst the textual proofs are that:
- Allah Most High mentions that Adam forgot and did not do so intentionally. [Ibid.]
- Allah Most High says, “And indeed, We once made a covenant with Adam, but he forgot, and (so) We did not find determination in him.” [Quran, 20:115]
- That Adam, in his innocence, did not believe someone would take an oath by Allah and be lying – thus, he was tricked—another sign of an unintentional action. [Razi, ‘Ismat al-Anbiya]
Allah Most High says, “Then Satan tempted them in order to expose what was hidden of their nakedness. He said, ‘Your Lord has forbidden this tree to you only to prevent you from becoming angels or immortals.’ And he swore to them, ‘I am truly your sincere advisor.’” [Quran, 7:20-21]
Small Mistakes and Higher Standards
Despite the mistake of Adam (upon him be peace) not being a sin, Allah Most High still rebukes him. [Razi, ‘Isma al-Anbiya]
This is because Adam, as a Prophet, is held to a higher standard above and beyond the minimums and limits of the Sacred law. So Allah Most High rebukes Adam as though he had sinned, even though his action is not considered an actual sin. [Ibid.]
This goes back to the principle: The good deeds of the righteous are sins for the elite. [Ibid.]
The same thing happened multiple times to the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and give him peace) as a lesson to us. Despite not committing any sin, any action that is less than the best is reproached to magnify the high status of the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) and for the Umma to learn valuable lessons. [Ibid.]
The Manifestation of the Divine Decree
By Adam eating from the forbidden tree, the Divine decree was set in motion. What Allah Most High ultimately destined for Adam came to fruition. Adam was sent to the Earth as its vicegerent and Prophet and taught that Shaytan is his enemy.
Thus Adam taught mankind two major lessons: how to repent and to take Shaytan as an enemy.
Allah Most High says, “They replied, ‘Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You do not forgive us and have mercy on us, we will certainly be losers.’ Allah said, ‘Descend as enemies to each other.1 You will find in the earth a residence and provision for your appointed stay.’ He added, ‘There you will live, there you will die, and from there you will be resurrected.’
O children of Adam! We have provided for you clothing to cover your nakedness and as an adornment. However, the best clothing is righteousness. This is one of Allah’s bounties, so perhaps you will be mindful. O children of Adam! Do not let Satan deceive you as he tempted your parents out of Paradise and caused their cover to be removed in order to expose their nakedness. Surely he and his soldiers watch you from where you cannot see them. We have made the devils allies of those who disbelieve.” [Quran, 7:23-27]
Hope this helps
Allah knows best
[Shaykh] Yusuf Weltch
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Shaykh Yusuf Weltch is a teacher of Arabic, Islamic law, and spirituality. After accepting Islam in 2008, he then completed four years at the Darul Uloom seminary in New York where he studied Arabic and the traditional sciences. He then traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he stayed for three years studying in Dar Al-Mustafa under some of the greatest scholars of our time, including Habib Umar Bin Hafiz, Habib Kadhim al-Saqqaf, and Shaykh Umar al-Khatib. In Tarim, Shaykh Yusuf completed the memorization of the Quran and studied beliefs, legal methodology, hadith methodology, Quranic exegesis, Islamic history, and a number of texts on spirituality. He joined the SeekersGuidance faculty in the summer of 2019.