Lessons from Surah Taha Part 12 (Verses 115-121)

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This article is a summary of takeaways from Ustaz Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram’s Tafsir Lecture at Darul Makmur Mosque on 12th April 2020. Summaries of previous lectures on Surah Taha can be found here. This lecture is a continuation of last week’s lecture of  Surah Taha verses 115 to 121.

Introduction: The Story of Adam AS

We have heard of the story of Prophet Adam AS in other surahs of the Qur’an (for example in Surah Al-Baqarah and Surah Al-Kahfi). However, as previously mentioned, there is no redundancy for us to learn about the story of Prophet Adam again. As Insan – forgetful human beings – we are always in need of reminders and advice. We should never find ourselves too proud to learn and receive reminders from Allah SWT.

Although this story may sound familiar, there is one big difference between this narration of the story of Prophet Adam compared to those found in other chapters of the Qur’an. You will find that in the Surah Taha narration, not much notice is given to Iblis. This version of the narration focuses on Prophet Adam AS, his actions and responses.

More specifically, these verses highlight the weaknesses of Prophet Adam AS, as a creation known as Insan. Adam AS was a prophet, the first human being ever created. He had high status and honour in Allah’s Eyes. However, he was also human. Allah SWT uses these verses to demonstrate to us that no human being is free from flaws, mistakes and committing transgressions – not even the prophets.

وَلَقَدْ عَهِدْنَا إِلَىٰ آدَمَ مِن قَبْلُ فَنَسِيَ وَلَمْ نَجِدْ لَهُ عَزْمًا

And indeed, We once commanded Adam, but he forgot, and We did not find determination in him. [20:115]

As we know, the command had been given by Allah to warn Adam and Hawa AS not to come close to a certain tree. They were prohibited from coming near it, let alone from consuming the fruits of the tree. This verse begins with reminding us of that promise made by Adam AS to stay away from the tree.

Fa nasiya” can be loosely translated to ‘then he forgot’, while “wa lam najid lahu ‘azma” translates loosely to ‘and we did not find in him determination’. There are two main factors that led to Prophet Adam AS’ breakdown: (1) Forgetting and (2) Lacking Resolve.

On Lacking Determination

When it comes to lacking resolve, there are two interpretations of the word “’azma”. The first opinion, held by the majority of Tafsir scholars, can be loosely translated into “lacking the determination needed to avoid Allah’s prohibitions”. The second opinion, as explained in Professor Hamka’s Tafsir Al-Azhar, translates loosely to “lacking the determination to disobey Allah’s prohibitions”. As you can see, these two opinions are complete opposites of one another.

In the first opinion, Prophet Adam AS is said to not only have forgotten about the prohibition, he had also taken the prohibition lightly. As we will soon find out in the coming verses, Iblis had implied to Prophet Adam AS that eating from the tree was not such a big deal. Iblis had claimed that the key to immortality in heaven was to eat the fruit of the tree. This opinion claims that upon hearing Iblis’ arguments, Prophet Adam AS lost his resolve in avoiding what had been prohibited by Allah SWT.

In the second opinion, Prophet Adam AS had been misled by Iblis’ instigations, making him forget. He had eaten the fruits, but not out of his resolve to disobey Allah SWT. Rather than intentionally going against Allah’s prohibition by eating the fruit, Adam AS had unknowingly or accidentally disobeyed Allah’s command because he had forgotten.

On Forgetting

There are two types of forgetfulness that we need to know of. The first is completely innocent and non-intentional. This is the type of ‘forgetting’ that is mentioned in the following hadith which tells us that we are not held accountable for the sins we commit (1) because we do not know or we do it accidentally, (2) because we’ve forgotten, or (3) because we had no other choice but to do it.

“Allah has forgiven my nation for mistakes and forgetfulness, and what they are forced to do.” [Ibn Majah]

There is another type of forgetfulness – this one is intentional. This happens when someone does not put in effort to remember, takes things lightly or busies himself with things that bring him closer to sin. This kind of forgetting is avoidable. It stems from carelessness and negligence. It comes from ignorance that is chosen, when reminders and signs from Allah are blatantly ignored and avoided. People who choose to act this way will tend to forget a lot of things. They will succumb to their desires and Satan will find it easy to take control of their thoughts and actions.

Another type of forgetfulness is not the forgetfulness of the mind but that of action. What this means is that somebody does not necessarily forget whatever knowledge he holds, but he fails to put them into action. For example, we are told not to “forget the Qur’an”. This does not literally mean “do not lose the memorisation of the Qur’an”. Rather, it means “do not leave or abandon the Qur’an” and implies that we should not stop reading, studying, or practicing whatever is in it. We will revisit this in verse 125 later.

Two Main Sources of Disobedience

The big takeaway for us here is that there are two main sources of human beings disobeying Allah’s commands. The first is a lack of awareness (due to forgetfulness) and the second is a lack of determination. In some cases, people are very much aware and remember the rules of Allah SWT, nevertheless they do not take these laws seriously because of their lack of determination. For example, people who know the importance of prayer may still choose not to perform them by giving excuses, procrastinating, or ignoring the obligations.

In fact, when we take a look at life, even outside of the commands of Allah SWT, we can see that these two factors are essential even in matters of the world – Awareness (i.e. being careful and not negligent) and Determination (i.e. putting in whole-hearted effort). These two factors are the key for us to achieve whatever that we want in life.

Reflections on the Mosque Closures

Right now, many of us may be feeling upset over the impact of the Circuit Breaker and Social Distancing measures in our lives. For one thing, Ramadhan this year will definitely be different from the ones before. We will be unable to go to the mosques for Tarawih (night prayers) or to have Iftar together as a congregation. There is a reason behind everything that happens. Perhaps Allah SWT is giving us some reminders for us to take notice and take action.

Firstly, consider that there may have been a lack of awareness amongst us about our mosques. How many of us often forget the existence of the mosques, taking them for granted throughout the year and only visiting them during Ramadhan? Even then, how many of us rush to the mosque eagerly in the first week of Ramadhan, come occasionally in the second week and then completely disappear from the mosque in the weeks after? This is what is meant by “forgetting” or lacking awareness.

Secondly, perhaps we have been lacking determination when it comes to our mosques. Not only do we not eagerly frequent the mosques, we do not put in effort to take care of or contribute to the mosques, we do not pay attention to the rights of the mosques. This is what is meant by “lacking determination”.

Sometimes, we do not realise the Ni’mat or blessings available to us until they are taken away from us – only then will we become conscious. Other times, even though we are not unaware, our lack of resolve to value, protect, and hold onto what is important to us leads us to the loss of things that matter. Whenever you find yourselves in a difficult position, pause and have a look. Ask yourselves if you have been taking care of these two factors. Have you been forgetting what is important to you? And have you been whole-hearted in your determination for what is important? Ask yourselves if either of the two are lacking in whatever situation you encounter.

People Who Do Not Practice Social Distancing

In the recent events that have unfolded, we hear about the rising number of positive Covid-19 cases each passing day. Even though there have been countless reminders and announcements telling us to limit socialising and to stay at home unless absolutely required, there are still many people who are unaware. They think that the virus is not a big deal, that the chances of catching it are small and that they would not ever get infected. They do not see how going out to meet their friends could have anything to do with them catching the virus.

This lack of an awareness stops them from taking the necessary precautions needed to stay safe. The more people are unaware, the bigger of a concern it becomes to the community, because these people may end up becoming a reason for the further spread of the virus. So, if you know of anyone in your immediate social circle who are still unaware or who do not understand, make an effort to help them understand and gain awareness.

Next, there are some people who do know the severity of the current circumstances. They understand how contagious the virus is and the importance of social distancing. However, they do not have the determination to do what it takes to prevent it. After just a few days of the Circuit Breaker, they feel bored and restless being cooped up at home with the children and decide to take them out. They know what is important and yet they are unwilling to invest what is necessary.

These two factors are important in all that we do. In Salat, we need to be aware of why prayers are important, and we need to have the determination to want to do it regularly. In avoiding Allah SWT’s prohibitions, we need to be aware of why certain things are prohibited and we need to couple it with the determination to avoid doing these sins. These same factors are valid even in worldly affairs. For example, if we want our children to succeed academically, we need them to realise the importance of education and instil in them the discipline, commitment, and personal resolve to succeed.

Reminders from Allah

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبَىٰ

And (remember) when We said to the angels: “Prostrate yourselves to Adam.” They prostrated (all) except Iblis (Satan), who refused. [20:116]

This verse addresses Prophet Muhammad SAW, telling him to remember that as difficult as things may get in carrying out his prophetic duties, he is not alone. Many prophets have gone before him and had trials just as he had. In fact, Prophet Adam AS, the first of the prophets was given trials even while he was still in Paradise.

The angels were asked by Allah SWT to bow down to Adam AS, not as a form of worship to Adam, but as a show of respect to him. The angels prostrated without hesitation, but Iblis refused. In Surah Taha, we do not hear much about what Iblis has to say. The focus of the narration is on Adam AS.

فَقُلْنَا يَا آدَمُ إِنَّ هَٰذَا عَدُوٌّ لَّكَ وَلِزَوْجِكَ فَلَا يُخْرِجَنَّكُمَا مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ فَتَشْقَىٰ

So We cautioned, “O Adam! This is surely an enemy to you and to your wife. So do not let him drive you both out of Paradise, for you (O Adam) would then suffer misery. [20:117]

In this verse, Allah SWT addresses Prophet Adam AS, telling him that Iblis is an enemy to both him and Sayidatina Hawa AS and that Iblis’ intention is to drive them both out of Paradise. However, Allah SWT says that the consequence of them being driven out of Paradise is that Prophet Adam alone would suffer.

The Head of the Household

Tafsir scholars have discussed this. What we can learn is that in life, whether as a couple or as a family, there is always someone who leads and someone who follows. Each person plays their own part and has their own responsibilities. However, whenever something happens, the person who will bear the brunt of the burden, who will feel the most pain, the one who will be held the most accountable is the leader. Prophet Adam AS is the leader between the two of them. He was the one with the responsibility of guiding and advising his wife. As such, he would be the one who suffers the brunt of the consequences of their mistakes.

On this note, seeing that Ramadhan is just around the corner, I would like to mention something. When we learn about the rulings of Fasting, we know that there are certain deeds that are prohibited for a fasting person. These include eating, drinking, and having sexual intercourse. Performing any of these acts will lead to the person’s fast being annulled. If a husband and wife commit sexual intercourse during daytime while they are fasting in Ramadhan, they will be penalised with a “Kaffarah ‘Uzhma”, or major expiation, this sin is not to be taken lightly and its expiation is not easily paid off.

The first option is to free a slave – an option that is no longer applicable to us. The next, is to fast for daily for two consecutive months. Even though both the husband and wife were involved in the act that nullified the fast, only the husband is asked to fast for two months. The fasts of the wife are not considered as expiation. One might claim that this is unfair. However, the truth is that the husband bears the responsibility as the head of the family and the leader of the two. It is he who should be the one who is firm in advising and reminding the wife.

إِنَّ لَكَ أَلَّا تَجُوعَ فِيهَا وَلَا تَعْرَىٰ

Here it is guaranteed that you will never go hungry or unclothed, [20:118]

وَأَنَّكَ لَا تَظْمَأُ فِيهَا وَلَا تَضْحَىٰ

And indeed, you will not be thirsty therein or be hot from the sun.” [20:119]

Prophet Adam AS was guaranteed sufficient sustenance in terms of food, clothing, drink and shelter in Paradise. He did not have to worry about working to fill his and his wife’s stomachs in Paradise. However, the moment they were driven out of Paradise, they would find themselves in the complete opposite situation. On this Earth, you need to find food to feed the family, find shelter to protect the family and find clothing to clothe the family.

Whose job is it to find the sustenance to do all of these? It is the role of the head of the household. In Islam, a wife is automatically guaranteed honour, protection, and security by Allah SWT. In return, her default role is to be of service to her husband at home. The role of providing for the family, of providing nafkah (i.e. food and drink, shelter, and clothing), is one that is originally given to the husband.

Therefore, in verse 117, Allah SWT informs Prophet Adam AS that if they were to leave Paradise, Prophet Adam AS would be the one who suffers. He would be the one who does the work to provide the nafkah. I am speaking to the men of the community; Do not embarrass your fellow men, do your part. The role of providing for the family is given to the husband because they are naturally given the upper hand physically so that they may put in the effort to earn a living. If you must pay the Kaffarah for a sin you committed together, then take it in your stride. Do not try to lessen your own load by claiming to share it with your wife.

When it comes to the women, Allah SWT has gifted you with the upper hand when it comes to concern, compassion, and love. Many women cannot bear to see their husbands having to bear the burden of making a living alone. Often, they voluntarily choose to work in order to support the husband. Even though this responsibility is his alone to bear, a wife may choose to contribute to the household as a gift to her husband. Dear husbands, it is compulsory for you to appreciate the compassion that Allah SWT has placed as an integral part of a woman’s heart.

I apologise to any men who may find my reminder offensive. I am only relaying to you what has been taught to us by Allah SWT in our religion and in the Qur’an.

Satan’s Promises and Adam’s Disobedience

فَوَسْوَسَ إِلَيْهِ الشَّيْطَانُ قَالَ يَا آدَمُ هَلْ أَدُلُّكَ عَلَىٰ شَجَرَةِ الْخُلْدِ وَمُلْكٍ لَّا يَبْلَىٰ

Then Satan whispered to him; he said, “O Adam, shall I direct you to the Tree of Eternity and possession that will not deteriorate?” [20:120]

The word “waswas” used here refers to whispers that come from an invisible speaker. They are whispers that are not audible to the ears but have an impact in the heart.

The word “khuld” used can be translated into “permanent”. Satan had promised Adam that the tree would be a source of immortality forever. Additionally, he had enticed Adam AS with wealth and power that would never get depleted or lost. He made it seem to Prophet Adam AS that turning down the fruit of the tree would be a huge loss for him.

This was done at a moment where Prophet Adam AS’ awareness and determination was lacking. This is the human condition. At times, we are strong and able to push aside any waswas without hesitation. At other times, we may find ourselves weak and our determination waning. This is when Satan will come to take advantage of our weak state. In a moment of weakness, Prophet Adam AS fell prey to Iblis’ enticing words.

فَأَكَلَا مِنْهَا فَبَدَتْ لَهُمَا سَوْآتُهُمَا وَطَفِقَا يَخْصِفَانِ عَلَيْهِمَا مِن وَرَقِ الْجَنَّةِ ۚ وَعَصَىٰ آدَمُ رَبَّهُ فَغَوَىٰ

Then they both ate from the tree and then their nakedness was exposed to them, prompting them to cover themselves with leaves from Paradise. And Adam disobeyed his Lord, so he lost his way. [20:121]

There are some people who explain this verse as Prophet Adam turning into a state of drunkenness as a result of having eaten the fruit. This resulted in him removing his clothes in his state of reduced self-awareness. I do not know where these unsupported claims come from.

What is evident in this verse is that the word “badat” was used, implying that their honour which was by default covered, was exposed by itself – passively. This is by Allah SWT’s power. The clothes we speak of in this verse are the clothing of Paradise, not the clothing of this world. Just as the food of Paradise do not hold the same characteristics as the food of this world, we do not know the nature of the clothing of Paradise. Only after that clothing was shed, did Adam AS and Hawa start looking for leaves to cover themselves up.

Did Prophet Adam Commit Ma’siyah and Go Astray?

The final part of this verse says that Adam disobeyed His Lord and lost his way. The word “‘Asa” used means ‘to disobey’ or ‘ to oppose’. This is the root word of “Ma’siyah”, meaning ‘sin’ or ‘disobedience’. When Prophet Adam AS ate the fruit, he was performing an act of disobedience – he was doing something that had been forbidden by Allah SWT. So, it is appropriate to say that Prophet Adam AS did commit an act of disobedience. We need to be aware that the word ‘Maksiat’ in the Malay language brings about a different connotation than that of the Arabic language. What we mean by Maksiat in Malay is a heinous act of immorality. This is not something that a Prophet would do, and not something that Prophet Adam AS did.

Linguistically, the word “ghawa” used in this verse translates to ‘being lost’. There are different kinds of being “lost”. The worst kind is that of the disbelievers, who are so lost that they cannot be brought back to Allah SWT. This was not the kind of ‘lost’ that Prophet Adam AS experienced. There are believers who get lost too. For example, someone who attempts to perform Hajj in Pulau Besar, Malacca instead of heading to Mecca, Saudi Arabia is lost as well.

Someone who makes a mistake and slips is also said to have been lost. This is what was meant by the word “ghawa” in this verse. Prophet Adam AS remained a firm believer, it was only that he made a mistake out of being unaware and negligent.

Shaikh Abdullah Basmeih, in his translation of the Qur’an in Malay, translates “ghawa” as meaning “losing one’s way such that one is unable to reach what is desired”. Prophet Adam AS had eaten the fruits in hopes of living eternally and getting ease and comfort in Paradise. However, what he got instead was being expelled from Paradise and having to strive hard on Earth.

Prophets are Insan

As a summary of this verse, Prophet Adam AS is a prophet honoured by Allah SWT. However, he is still an Insan, a human being. Prophet Adam AS made a mistake, but with the mistakes come lessons for us to learn from. Even Prophet Muhammad SAW had been described by Allah SWT as being lost before. In verse 7 of Surah Ad-Dhuha, Allah SWT says, “And He found you lost and guided [you]”. This did not mean that Prophet Muhammad had gone astray. Rather, he found himself confused and at a loss of what to do when it came to his people’s actions. He SAW had many unanswered questions and these were answered by Allah SWT through the revelation.

Prophet Muhammad SAW, the best of mankind, was still a human being. Even in his marriage, he encountered problems and crises. These are lessons for us. He taught us, through his own dealing with problems, how to deal with the crises in our lives in a way that a good Muslim would. He was a human being; He too fell sick. Allah SWT chose a human being to be our Prophet and Messenger. He SWT did not choose an angel to deliver His Revelation to us. This was so that we may learn from a fellow human being. We learn from Rasulullah SAW how to act and live as a Muslim human being should. He taught us how to eat, how to act during sickness and even how to relieve yourself. These are human needs that do not make his honour any less than it is. Getting misled by Satan, making mistakes, forgetting, and losing your way is part of the human condition as well. It is something that no Insan is spared from. Learn from the Prophets and how they react after making mistakes.

Ramadhan: Our Awareness and Determination Bootcamp

In a span of a few days, we will be meeting with the blessed month of Ramadhan in syaa Allah. If you have a look at the month of Ramadhan, you will realise that there are two things that are being trained during this month. The first is our awareness, and the second is our determination.

When we fast, we will face hunger and thirst. This gives us an awareness that we are doing worship throughout the day. When someone performs Salat or recites the Qur’an, he is aware of his worship only during the period of that act being committed. Once his prayer ends or he closes the Qur’an, he is no longer aware of his worship. However, someone who fasts becomes aware of their state of hunger, their state of being in obedience to Allah SWT, throughout the day. This trains us to become aware of our actions and heightens our consciousness of Allah’s Presence at every moment of the day.

Secondly, fasting trains us on our determination. As someone who fasts, we do not use that as an opportunity to rest and relax all day. On the contrary, we strive even more in increasing our worship during Ramadhan when compared to the rest of the year. We fight all temptations that exist in order to remain in our state of fasting. Ramadhan is the training grounds for Muslims all over the world to intensify their willpower and determination to do good and to serve Allah SWT to the best of their ability.

This Ramadhan, fight against the temptations and the waswas of Satan. Of course, this will not be easy. Prophet Adam AS was in Paradise, where he had neither work nor distractions to steer him away. Yet, he too had times when he found his own determination and awareness lacking. As human beings, it is normal and inevitable that we make mistakes and lose our way at times. What is important is for us to mend what has been broken and return to Allah SWT. This is what we will cover in the coming lecture in sya Allah.

May Allah grant us the wisdom to learn from this story of Prophet Adam AS and work on improving both our awareness and determination in our lives.




Summary by: Arina Adom

Arina Adom is a lover of learning who takes on the world with an open mind. Resourceful and adaptable, always ready to take on new challenges. Comfortable working with diverse groups of people, yet able to work independently. Thrives under pressure. Currently seeking a meaningful career that enables her to impact lives directly and bring about positive changes in the lives of others in the community.

Arina graduated with a degree in Science ( Hons ), Life Science from NUS. She is currently taking a diploma in Quran and Sunnah Studies from Al Zuhri.

Arina Adom – Linkedin Profile

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