Be Like Adam's Son: Adam's son and the Problem of Doing Mischief

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Even before Adam was created, the angels suspected, as the Qur'an reports, that he would be doing mischief, "Your Lord said to the angels: 'I will create a vicegerent on earth.' They said: 'Will You place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? while we do celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy name?' He said: 'I know what you do not know.'" (2:30) You may note here that they did not say that a human might prove to be a disbeliever in God and the Last Day; that they suspected him of spilling blood and doing mischief proves that this is the mother of all evil. And my guess is that men will someday in the future cast back their memory and say, "How strange people were, when they sacrificed human life. Thank God we got rid of this atrocious ritual!"

It may be that Islam will be rediscovered at that time in the future. The events of history never cease to give their lessons, the more you read and reread about the past as the events of life accumulate.

Now when the angels asked that question of theirs, God replied most laconically, "I know what you do not know." Immediately next to that, as the Qur'an tells us, "And He taught Adam the nature of [and naming of] all things." (2:31) We need people to write about this verse, about the relationship between learning about and giving names to things and getting over evil. We need first to have those who appreciate the importance of this knowledge that Adam was taught. Clearly, it was the thing that explained raising Adam above all other creatures. It is so because it is through knowledge, the ability to learn with signs and symbols, that Adam would be able to get rid of doing mischief and shedding blood.

This major topic should be the preliminary science for understanding the condition of humankind, and a human's abilities.

I believe we can go some steps in the direction of comprehending this situation by examining how humankind ascended, how they plodded along the long and arduous way of their ascent, how many men and women died, and how many suffered in the progress from where humankind was until it got to be what it is at present. This will give us a glimpse of how humans will develop towards a more decent condition in the future. We will also be in a position to determine what is required of us in that respect.

We need to know what drives a human to adopt a particular attitude, for people do not look for sound arguments; they rather receive their direction from their culture. And so, we need to know what arguments will work in the particular cultural atmosphere we wish to change.

The Qur'an does stress the importance of refreshing a human's memory, that a human is inclined to dismiss from memory the most vital facts. It reminds us that humans will come to a state when they no longer respond to admonition, and do not seem to comprehend at all. All these insights about humankind we urgently need, and we need to perceive how a human comes to a state when his/her deluded behavior seems good in his/her consideration, as the Qur'an states: "to whom the evil of his conduct is made alluring, so that he looks at it as good." (35:8) It is necessary that we understand what comes over man to make him willing to offer himself and others as sacrifices in order to preserve what is in his mind without change. Must not some young men and young women devote themselves to exploring this problem? Let them take note first of what the Qur'an says in that respect. Theses and dissertations need to focus on the various aspects of this topic: how common some features are, what conditions bring them on, and what conditions change them, what blurs vision in that respect, and so on.

It would be often helpful that a young man/ young woman should study societies other than their own. We are more likely to see what is good and what is bad when we are dealing with other societies.

It will be noted that there is a major difference between ailments of the body and mental troubles. It has been said that when we hear about a physical disease, we may wonder if we have it, but when we read or hear about a psychological problem, we seem to be sure that we do not suffer that trouble. Men are quick to notice shortcomings in others' characters, but not in their own. At best, they may be prepared to believe that they do have a certain shortcoming, but they would judge it to be quite insignificant.

Some mystic sufis were more adept in this sacred area of divining the drawbacks of character; and of course some historians, cultural scientists, and psychologists can make some admirable insights in that respect. Comparing societies and cultures will lift some of the fogginess from people's vision, to help them see attitudes and conduct for what they are. As long as one is isolated, he/she will take his/her own culture to be superior, and perhaps as being favored by God; but one begins to see where his/her culture stands when he/she studies other cultures, and other religions, than his/she own. If he/she widens his/her horizon even further, probing several cultures and groups, he/she will see how really small the differences between communities are. It will be great after all the exploration to return to the Qur'an and restudy it with the new insights. One will then see how deluded any people are who claim to have a privileged place in heaven or on earth; he/she will come to appreciate Qur'anic verses like, "Both the Jews and Christians say: 'We are sons of God, and His beloved;'" (5:18) a Muslim will then come to see that if he/she takes himself/herself to have a special relation to God, then he/she is no better than the Christians or Jews.