FINDING SOLACE DURING my own sojourns in life, filled with countless mistakes, I frequently have felt, and feel like, the ramifications of my actions are insurmountable.
My first reaction when the swirl of thoughts clouding my soul begins to clear a little is to grasp for anything that will lift me up so I can gasp for breath in clean air. Drowning—which is what humans tend toward—in the muddied waters of our thoughts and actions is never comfortable.
Coping with Consequences
That pant and puff for fresh breath frequently comes in the form of remembering people before me who have made mistakes and overcome them. Desperation takes me to the highest form of good humanity: our prophets and those of the believers who rank just beneath them.
The first human being, Adam, was very, very human, complete with all the typical human issues. Lack of gratitude for all that is around, disregard of a simple order, inability to resist temptation, and, most importantly, forgetting that Satan is the enemy.
Learning from the Story of Adam and Iblîs
I have found much succor in the story of Adam, peace be upon him. When we feel like, “How can I ever get over this!?” When we have wronged ourselves, doing something we know we should not have, to remember our Prophet Adam is a balm. It is utterly apropos that his story teaches us the life-altering power of tawba.
The human is, as Allah tells us, very “amenable” to the whisperings of Iblîs (so named because of his despairing of goodness from Allah) and the baseness brought to him through his envy of Adam, and thereby all humans, and his complete ingratitude to Allah. He whispers to us those same feelings in whatever way suits each one of us, tailored for every personality.
His fit of jealousy and discontent with Adam started when he first saw him, and could not help but feel and see the beauty of the human form. Then to have Allah command him to bow to Adam, not in worship but in regard and acknowledgment, was too much for Satan. And he refused to listen to the order of his Lord, and promised to spite the life of all humans, to drag them down with him, again, a testament to his name. Iblîs means one who denies all goodness, whereas the beauty of the human being lies so much in his ability to accept “good” and blessings.
Adam’s first test from the whispers of the accursed Satan came directly, or so it seems when we read in the Quran, after two things:
(1) Satan’s unabashed refusal to bow to him, explicitly saying that he, Satan, was better than Adam, cursing him personally, and
(2) Allah’s specific forewarning to him against the whispers of Satan and his status as an avowed enemy and competitor to man.
Reading this in earlier years (maybe even not so much earlier), it was hard for me not to feel, “Allah just told you not to touch this tree, and to take Satan as an enemy! How hard can it be to listen to two simple orders?!” It is hard for me to admit thinking that. It is so arrogant of a thought! But later (not so much later either), it became so clear to me how much of an enemy Satan is. Maturity, and life and a bunch of mistakes varying in levels of “wrongness,” cleared my vision enough to understand how important it is for humanity to never forget Shayṭân as our primary enemy—and even our Prophet-father Adam, with direct experience, fell prey to the evil whispers of Iblis.
Our God-Sent Words for Asking Forgiveness
Allah knows best the series of events that led to Adam and Eve pleading with Him for forgiveness, whether Allah told them the words to say when asked how to gain forgiveness that we read in Sûrat Al-Baqarah, or if Adam asked Allah: “Does not Your forgiveness outweigh Your anger?” or: “Did You not create me with Your own Hands, and form me. Did You not breathe life into me? Can You not forgive me?” All of it is all beyond our realm of knowledge.
But what we do know without a doubt—for what is the Quran except free of all doubt—that Adam and Eve acknowledged their actions as wrong, asked for forgiveness with heaven-sent words, and were granted what they so sincerely asked for.
From Adam Down to Me
All this means is that there is a highly consistent pattern of human life: Allah tells us what to do and what not to do…Remember that Satan is all the while fulfilling his cursed promise to lead astray those whom he can…and we will fall at some points.
Yet we can turn to Allah, who always, always keeps His promise to come to us, at a walk, at a run, ever eager to forgive His would-be pleasing servants, when we are always turning, a renewed creation.
Originally posted 2015-06-26 03:00:20.