The Gift of the One to Man
In this enchanting piece of writing, taken from his slim anthology of miscellaneous spiritual benefits, Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyyah discusses the preeminence of Adam, peace be upon him, over the rest of creation.
At the centre of this Adamic distinction are the twin gifts of: Then God fashioned him, and breathed into him of His spirit. [32:9] And secondly: We taught Adam the names of all things. [2:32] So it is with these two gifts – one of being infused with a spirit or ruh, the other of being taught knowledge unattainable by even Angels – that Adam’s merit and preeminence over even that of the Angels came to be. In what follows, Ibn al-Qayyim unveils to us ten reasons or wisdoms behind Heaven’s plan for deferring the creation of this marvel and enigma called Man:
‘The first thing created was the Pen, so as to write down all that would be before it actually came to be. Adam was the last of creation to be fashioned, for which certain wisdoms abound:1
Firstly, preparing the home before [the arrival of] the dweller.
Secondly, that he is the purpose for which all else was created: be it the heavens, earth, sun, moon, land or sea.
Thirdly, the Most Proficient Maker completed His handiwork with His most splendid and most intended creation, just as He began it with His most elementary work.
Fourthly, that souls always anticipate endings and finales, which is why Moses initially says to the magicians: “Cast whatever you wish to cast.” [10:80] Once people saw what the magicians had to offer, they were in eager anticipation of what was to come next.
Fifthly, that God deferred the best heavenly scripture, prophet and community for the end age; made the Afterlife better than the present life; and made the final stage more perfect than the initial stage. What a difference there is between the Angel [Gabriel] saying to the Prophet: “Read!” and him replying: “I cannot read!”,2 and between God’s saying: This day have I perfected your religion for you. [5:3]
Sixthly, that God gathered together in Adam all that He had scattered and diffused in the various other types of creation in the cosmos. Hence man is a microcosm, but he contains the macrocosm!
Seventhly, that Adam was the quintessence and climax of creation. Thus it was fitting that his creation should come after that of other created entities.
Eighthly, because of his preeminence over the rest of creation, God prepared for Adam all his needs, benefits, instruments of living and means of subsistence. In fact, he had barely raised his head, save to find all of this ready and waiting [for him].
Ninethly, that God wanted to manifest Adam’s nobility and excellence over the rest of creation, so He preceded it with the creation of others. The Angels assumed: “Even if our Lord does create that which He wishes, no creature will be as honourable to Him than us.”3 Yet when He did create Adam and told them to prostrate themselves before him, his merit and excellence over them – due to his knowledge and gnosis – became clear. When he lapsed into “sin”, the Angels thought his merit would be annulled: they never anticipated Adam’s latent potential for servitude and repentance. So when he did repent to his Lord in utter submission, the Angels then realised God’s secret in creating Adam that was hitherto known only to Himself.
Tenthly, that since God began creation with the Pen, it was only fitting He conclude it with Man. For the Pen is an instrument of knowledge; but Man is the actual knower. This is how God manifested Adam’s virtue over the Angels, by gifting him knowledge not privileged to others.’4
1. That is, last in terms of genus or species; not in terms of actual acts of creation.
2. Part of Islam’s founding story, as per al-Bukhari, no.3; Muslim, no.160.
3. As per Abu’l-Shaykh, al-‘Azamah, 5:1561.
4. Al-Fawa’id (Makkah: Dar ‘Alam al-Fawa’id, 2008), 89-90.