Salaam. We Shias believe that the all prophets are maasum [infallible], for Allah wouldn't send a prophet that is not perfect. Now using this logic, did prophet Adam (a.s) commit a sin by disobeying Allah's words?

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Salam Alaikum It is true that all divine Prophets have been infallible and free from sins. Also, there is no doubt in the infallibility of Prophet Adam (a.s). The surface of the story about eating from the forbidden tree by Adam is acting against the order of God, but in fact no error had occurred because at that time Prophet Adam (a.s.) had not entered the world of religious obligations (Takleef) yet, and was not appointed to the position of prophethood. Allah’s order (not to eat from the forbidden tree) in this case was a guiding commandment not an authoritative one. To be more precise, we should say that this story is an allegory to reveal the hidden nature and free will of man and to show that man is not like an angel. Human beings have two sides: one side is tendency towards good deeds; the other side is tendency towards bad deeds. Man can be tempted by Satan and thereby be tested in this world so that it is made clear whether he follows the right path or the wrong one; whether he ascends towards his Creator, or falls in the trap of Satan. To clarify the matter, we refer to the words of some of the great interpreters of the Holy Quran: A) First, the interpretation of Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi (Tafsir Nemooneh): The question is: "What was the sin of Adam?" Through the previous verses of the Holy Quran, which praise the status of Adam, it is clear that Adam was in an elevated position in terms of knowledge and piety. He was God's representative on the earth. He was the teacher of angels. Great angels had prostrated before him. With such great privileges, it is taken for granted that Adam would never commit any sin. Moreover, he was a prophet and all prophets are infallible. So the question arises: “What was the thing that Adam did?” Here are three interpretations that complement each other: 1. The act of Adam (in eating the forbidden tree) was a "lapse" (small mistake) or in other words a "comparative fault" rather than an "absolute sin". Absolute sins are those sins, which, if committed by any person, will be considered a sin; and the person shall be considered guilty and would deserve punishment (e.g. polytheism (Shirk), blasphemy (Kufr), oppression (Zulm), aggression, adultery, etc.); however, comparative sins include some deeds that may be permissible or even recommended for ordinary people but not expected from great personalities. Such great personalities are expected to avoid the said deeds and engage themselves in most important ones; otherwise, they have done a ‘lapse’. For example, we as ordinary people may have concentration (focus of attention or presence with our hearts) in our daily prayers in some parts but scatterbrained in other parts. This is normal for us. However, this condition does not befit a person like our Holy Prophet (s.a.) or Imam Ali (a.s.) because it would be below their dignity and status. They should be sunk in their prayers in the presence of Allah. If they are not so, they have not committed sin but it is considered a ‘lapse’. This is actually the case of Adam in Paradise. He was not expected to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree because it was ‘undesirable’ to do that. 2. The forbidden tree was a guiding prohibition not an authoritative (obligatory) prohibition. This is like the order of a physician who tells his patient: “Do not eat this certain food; otherwise, you will become ill”. Almighty God, too, told Adam: “If you eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, you shall go out of the paradise and will suffer a lot”. Thus, Adam did not disobey God, but went against the prohibition of this guiding ban. 3. Basically, paradise was not a place for religious obligations, but a place to test and prepare Adam for coming down onto the earth. Therefore, such a prohibition was purely for a testing purpose. (Source: Tafsir Nemooneh by Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi) B) Allamah Tabatabai in his Al-Mizan interprets Surah Baqarah (verses 35-39) as follows: Verse 30 of Surah Baqarah "I am going to place a vicegerent on the earth" plus verse 117 of Surah Taha "So we said: O Adam! This (Satan) is an enemy to you and to your wife; therefore, let him not drive you both forth from the garden so that you should be put in trouble..." and verse 19 of Surah Araaf "And (We said): O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden; so eat from where you desire, but do not get close to this tree, for then you will be of the unjust ones ...", all imply that Adam was actually created to live on the earth and die on the earth; and the reason for placing him (for a short period) in Paradise by Almighty God was predetermined so that Adam and Eve can disclose their true nature towards divine tests, see their own defects and faults, understand their carnal desires, and fall (descend) onto the earth. Therefore, the original goal for creation of man was living on the earth ... and this was a determined target; otherwise, Adam and Eve must have been returned to the Paradise after their repentance and being forgiven. (Source: Tafsir Al-Mizan by Allamah Tabatabai) C) Also Shahid Ayatollah Motahari has emphasized: “Among the beliefs of Shiah is the fact that Shiites consider all divine Prophets and Holy Imams (peace be upon them) as ‘infallible’ and free from both minor and major sins. Conclusion: We emphasize that the story of Adam and Eve in eating from the forbidden tree does not spoil or harm the infallibility and purity of Adam (peace be upon him). This story is actually an allegory to describe the nature and characteristics of man and his free will and to show how his relationship with God and the devil should be on this earth on the occasions of divine tests. Adam was infallible and did not commit any sin. Hope we have been able to give a convincing answer to your question. Good luck; and God bless you P.S. Extracted text from Almizan for your kind attention (Interpretation of verses 35-39 of Surah Baqarah): The context, and particularly the opening words of the story, "Verily I am going to make in the earth a vicegerent", clearly show that it was for the earth that Adam was created; it was the original plan that he should live and die in the earth. Allah had temporarily placed the couple in the Garden to test them in order that their nakedness might be uncovered to them. Also the context in all three places shows that the order to the angels to prostrate before Adam, and then to Adam to stay in the Garden is a single, continuous, story. It all shows that Adam (a.s.) was created specifically for the earth, and the way to send him down was through the Garden as mentioned in the Qur'an: It was shown that he was superior to the angels and, therefore, more qualified for the vicegerency of Allah; then they were told to prostrate before him, in acknowledgement of his superiority; then he was placed in the Garden but forbidden to go near a particular tree; so that on eating from it they should become aware of their nakedness and then be sent down to the earth. It means that the last link in this chain was their becoming aware of their private parts - it was this factor which irrevocably showed that they were fit for this earth, ready for this life. "As-Saw'ah", (literally means shame, disgrace, private part of the body. In this story it has been used in the last meaning, as may be seen from the words, "and they both began to cover themselves with leaves of the Garden." That is why we have translated it as "nakedness.") However, their awareness of their pudenda proved that in addition to their spiritual qualities, they had also animal instincts and desires ingrained in them. It naturally made them dependent on nutrition and growth. Iblis wanted them to become aware of their nakedness. Adam and his wife were given earthly, human existence and were at once placed in the Garden without any delay; they were not given time to perceive and understand their nakedness or its concomitants; they had not yet comprehended the life of this earth and its necessities. When they were sent to the Garden their connection with the spiritual world, including the angels, was strong; their link with it was not weakened. It should be noted that Allah has said, "what was hidden from them"; He has not said, "what had been hidden from them"; it may be inferred from the expression used that their nakedness could not remain hidden for ever in this life; it was hidden for only a short period when they were placed in the Garden. The uncovering of their nakedness with all its concomitants was a predetermined fact and it depended upon their eating from that tree. That is why Allah had told them: "therefore let him not drive you both forth from the Garden so that you should be put to toil"; thereafter, the Satan "drove them out of what they were in." It should not be overlooked that even when Allah pardoned them after their repentance, He did not return them to the Garden - they were sent down to the earth to live therein. If their eating of the tree, the uncovering of their private parts and the life of this world- were not a confirmed divine plan, an irrevocable predetermined decree, they would have been returned to their place in the Garden as soon as they were forgiven their mistake. In short, it was the divine plan that they should spend sometime in the Garden to get them prepared for the life in this world; and their removal from the Garden, according to the causal relation decreed by Allah, depended on their eating from the tree and becoming aware of their nakedness, and it happened because they listened to the whispering of the Satan.


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