Surah Baqarah >> Currently viewing Surah Baqarah Ayat 30 (2:30)

Surah Baqarah Ayah 30 in Arabic:

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً ۖ قَالُوا أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَنْ يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ ۖ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

Transliteration: Wa iz qaala rabbuka lil malaaa’ikati innee jaa’ilun fil ardi khaleefatan qaalooo ataj’alu feehaa mai yufsidu feehaa wa yasfikud dimaaa’a wa nahnu nusabbihu bihamdika wa nuqaddisu laka qaala inneee a’lamu maa laa ta’lamoon

 

English Translation:

DR. GHALI And (remember) as your Lord said to the Angels, “Surely I am making in the earth a successor.” They said, “Will You make therein one who will corrupt in it and shed blood (Literally: bloods) while we (are the ones who) extol (with) Your praise and call You Holy? Literally: hallow for you)” He said, “Surely I know whatever you do not know.”

MUHSIN KHAN And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth.” They said: “Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, – while we glorify You with praises and thanks (Exalted be You above all that they associate with You as partners) and sanctify You.” He (Allah) said: “I know that which you do not know.”

PICKTHALL And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Wilt thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not.

SAHIH INTERNATIONAL And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.”

YUSUF ALI Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood?- whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.”

MUFTI TAQI USMANI (Remember) when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to create a deputy on the earth!” They said, “Will You create there one who will spread disorder on the earth and cause bloodshed, while we proclaim Your purity, along with your praise, and sanctify Your name?” He said, “Certainly, I know what you know not.”

ABDUL HALEEM [Prophet], when your Lord told the angels, ‘I am putting a successor on earth,’ they said, ‘How can You put someone there who will cause damage and bloodshed, when we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your holiness?’ but He said, ‘I know things you do not.’

ABUL ALA MAUDUDI (2:30) Just think when your Lord said to the angels: “Lo! I am about to place a vicegerent on earth,” they said: “Will You place on it one who will spread mischief and shed blood while we celebrate Your glory and extol Your holiness?” He said: “Surely I know what you do not know.”

DR. MUSTAFA KHATTAB Remember, when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to place a successive human authority on earth.” They asked Allah, “Will You place in it someone who will spread corruption there and shed blood while we glorify Your praises and proclaim Your holiness?” Allah responded, “I know what you do not know.”

Surah Baqarah Ayat 30 Tafseer

Here you can expand your knowledge on ayah 30 of Surah Baqarah by reading the tafsir of Ibn Kathir and other various sources. Reading these will allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the various interpretations of Allah’s book.

It is said about those who are seekers of knowledge “God will exalt by (many) degrees those of you who have attained to faith…” (Surah 58: 11)

Reading the Tafsir of this ayah is a clear effort to try and expand your knowledge and your imaan (faith). May Allah reward you for taking such actions. 

Tafsir of Ibn Kathir Ayat 30 – Surah Baqarah

30. And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels: “Verily, I am going to place (mankind) generations after generations on earth.” They said: “Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, ـ while we glorify You with praises and thanks and sanctify You.” He (Allah) said: “I know that which you do not know.’


Adam and His Children inhabited the Earth, Generation after Generation

Allah reiterated His favor on the Children of Adam when He stated that He mentioned them in the highest of heights before He created them. Allah said,

﴿وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَـئِكَةِ﴾

(And (remember) when your Lord said to the angels.)

This Ayah means, “O Muhammad ! Mention to your people what Allah said to the angels,

﴿إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِى الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً﴾

(Verily, I am going to place a Khalifah on earth).

Meaning people reproducing generation after generation, century after century, just as Allah said,

﴿وَهُوَ الَّذِى جَعَلَكُمْ خَلَـئِفَ الاٌّرْضِ﴾

(And it is He Who has made you (Khala’if) generations coming after generations, replacing each other on the earth) (6:165),

﴿وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ حُلَفَآءَ الاٌّرْضِ﴾

(And makes you (Khulafa’) inheritors of the earth) (27:62),

﴿وَلَوْ نَشَآءُ لَجَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ مَّلَـئِكَةً فِى الاٌّرْضِ يَخْلُفُونَ ﴾

(And if it were Our will, We would have (destroyed you (mankind all, and) made angels to replace you (Yakhlufun) on the earth.) (43: 60) and,

﴿فَخَلَفَ مِن بَعْدِهِمْ خَلْفٌ﴾

(Then after them succeeded an (evil) generation (Khalf)) (7:169). It appears that Allah was not refering to Adam specifically as Khalifah, otherwise he would not have allowed the angels’ statement,

﴿أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَآءَ﴾

(Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood).

The angels meant that this type of creature usually commits the atrocities they mentioned. The angels knew of this fact, according to their understanding of human nature, for Allah stated that He would create man from clay. Or, the angels understood this fact from the word Khalifah, which also means the person who judges disputes that occur between people, forbidding them from injustice and sin, as Al-Qurtubi said.

The statement the angels uttered was not a form of disputing with Allah’s, nor out of envy for the Children of Adam, as some mistakenly thought. Allah has described them as those who do not precede Him in speaking, meaning that they do not ask Allah anything without His permission. When Allah informed them that He was going to create a creation on the earth, and they had knowledge that this creation would commit mischief on it, as Qatadah mentioned, they said,

﴿أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَآءَ﴾

(Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood)

This is only a question for the sake of learning about the wisdom of that, as if they said, Our Lord! What is the wisdom of creating such creatures since they will cause trouble in the earth and spill blood “If the wisdom behind this action is that You be worshipped, we praise and glorify You (meaning we pray to You) we never indulge in mischief, so why create other creatures”

Allah said to the angels in answer to their inquiry,

﴿إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ﴾

(I know that which you do not know.) meaning, “I know that the benefit of creating this type of creature outweighs the harm that you mentioned, that which you have no knowledge of. I will create among them Prophets and send Messengers. I will also create among them truthful, martyrs, righteous believers, worshippers, the modest, the pious, the scholars who implement their knowledge, humble people and those who love Allah and follow His Messengers.”

The Sahih recorded that when the angels ascend to Allah with the records of the servant’s deeds, Allah asks them, while having better knowledge, “How did you leave My servants” They will say, “We came to them while they were praying and left them while they were praying.” This is because the angels work in shifts with mankind, and they change shifts during the Fajr and `Asr prayers. The angels who descended will remain with us, while the angels who have remained with us ascend with our deeds. The Messenger of Allah said,

«يُرْفَعُ إِلَيْهِ عَمَلُ اللَّيْلِ قَبْلَ النَّهَارِ وَعَمَلُ النَّهَارِ قَبْلَ اللَّيْل»

(The deeds of the night are elevated to Allah before the morning, and the deeds of the morning before the night falls. )

Hence, the angels’ statement, “We came to them while they were praying and left them while they were praying,” explains Allah’s statement,

﴿إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ﴾

(I know that which you do not know.)

It was said that the meaning of Allah’s statement,

﴿إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ﴾

(I know that which you do not know.) is, “I have a specific wisdom in creating them, which you do not have knowledge of.” It was also said that it is in answer to,

﴿وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ﴾

 

(While we glorify You with praises and thanks and sanctify You) after which Allah said,

﴿إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ﴾

(I know that which you do not know). Meaning, “I know that Iblis is not as you are, although he is among you.” Others said,

﴿أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَآءَ وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ﴾

“(Will You place therein those who will make mischief therein and shed blood, ـ while we glorify you with praises and thanks and sanctify You.) is their request that they should be allowed to inhabit the earth, instead of the Children of Adam. So Allah said to them,

﴿إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ﴾

(I know that which you do not know) if your inhabiting the heavens is better, or worse for you.” Ar-Razi as well as others said this. Allah knows best.

 

The Obligation of appointing a Khalifah and some related Issues

Al-Qurtubi, as well as other scholars, said that this Ayah (2:30) proves the obligation of appointing a Khalifah to pass judgements on matters of dispute between people, to aid the oppressed against the oppressor, to implement the Islamic penal code and to forbid evil. There are many other tasks that can only be fulfilled by appointing the Imam, and what is necessary in performing an obligation, is an obligation itself. We should state here that Imamah occurs by either naming a successor, as a group among Ahl As-Sunnah scholars said occurred – by the Prophet – in the case of Abu Bakr, or hinting to a successor. Or, the current Khalifah names a certain person as Khalifah after him, as Abu Bakr did with `Umar. Or, the Khalifah might leave the matter in the hands of the Muslim consultative council, or a group of righteous men, just as `Umar did. Or, the people of authority could gather around a certain person to whom they give the pledge of allegiance, or they could select one among them to choose the candidate, according to the majority of the scholars.

The Khalifah must be a responsible adult Muslim male, able to perform Ijtihad (independent legal judgments), bodily able, righteous, with knowledge of warfare, politics. He also must be from the tribe of Quraysh, according to the correct view, but it is not necessary that he be from the tribe of Bani Hashim, or that he be immune from error, as the Rafidah (Shiites) falsely claim.

When the Khalifah becomes an immoral person (Fasiq), should he be impeached There is disagreement over this matter, but the correct view is that he is not to be removed, because the Messenger of Allah said,

«إِلَّا أَنْ تَرَوْا كُفْرًا بَوَاحًا عِنْدَكُمْ مِنَ اللهِ فِيهِ بُرْهَان»

(Unless you witness a clear Kufr regarding which you have clear proof from Allah. )

Does the Khalifah have the right to resign from his post There is a difference on this issue. It is a fact that Al-Hasan bin `Ali removed himself from the position of Khalifah and surrendered it to Mu`awiyah. However, this occurred because of a necessity, and Al-Hasan was praised for this action.

It is not permissible to appoint two Imams for the world or more at the same time. This is not allowed because the Messenger of Allah said,

«مَنْ جَاءَكُمْ وَأَمْرُكُمْ جَمِيعٌ يُرِيدُ أَنْ يُفَرِّقَ بَيْنَكُمْ فَاقْتُلُوهُ كَائِنًا مَنْ كَان»

(Whoever came to you while you are united and tried to divide you, then execute him, no matter who he is.)

This is the view of the majority of scholars. Imam Al-Haramayn stated that Abu Ishaq allowed the appointment of two or more Imams when the various provinces are far away from each other. However, Imam Al-Haramayn himself was indecisive about this view.

Tafsir Ayat 30

Establishing Man’s Authority

The opening scene is an awesome one. We are in the presence of God Almighty and the Supreme Society of the angels: “Your Lord said to the angels, ‘I am appointing a vicegerent on earth.’ They said, ‘Will You appoint on it someone who would spread corruption and shed blood, whereas we celebrate Your praises and extol Your holiness?’ He said, ‘I surely know that of which you have no knowledge.’“ (Verse 30)

God, in His infinite wisdom, decided to hand over the earth’s affairs and destiny to man and give him a free hand to use, develop and transform all its energies and resources for the fulfilment of God’s will and purpose in creation, and to carry out the pre-eminent mission with which he was charged.

It may be assumed, then, that man has been given the capability to take on that responsibility, and the necessary latent skills and energies to fulfil God’s purpose on earth.

It may, therefore, be concluded that a perfect harmony exists between those laws that govern the earth and the universe, and those governing man’s powers and abilities. The aim of this harmony is to eliminate and avoid conflict and collision, and to save man’s energies from being overwhelmed by the formidable forces of nature.

This clearly indicates that man is held in high regard in God’s sight, and occupies a prominent position in the system of the universe, bestowed on him by God Himself. This is neatly encapsulated in the glorious statement: “I am appointing a vicegerent on earth.” (Verse 30) The impact of this statement becomes even more profound and impressive, as we reflect on man’s contribution and achievement on earth and beyond.

“They said: ‘Will You appoint on it someone who would spread corruption and shed blood, whereas we celebrate Your praises and extol Your holiness?’” (Verse 30) The angels’ reply suggests that they were aware of man’s nature and disposition, either through some past experience on earth or special inspiration or direct information. Thus, they were able to surmise that he would spread corruption and shed blood on earth. Furthermore, by nature, angels can think only of absolute goodness and complete peace. Hence, they perceive that total dedication to the praise of God should be the sole and ultimate purpose of existence. They were already carrying out this purpose, extolling God’s praises and glorifying Him at all times.

The angels were not privy to God’s will and His purpose in setting up the earth and creating the various forms of life on it. They were not aware of God’s plan to have the earth developed, cultivated and enriched at the hands of man, His vicegerent there. It is true that man would commit corruption and shed blood, but even this apparently evil aspect of his function turns out to be for the best. It is a necessary consequence of perpetual progress and development, and the changes brought about by a ceaseless endeavour in pursuit of better and higher things in this world.

And when your Lord said to the angels, “I am going to create a deputy on the earth!” They said, “Will You create there one who will spread disorder on the earth and cause bloodsheds while we, along with your praises, proclaim Your purity and sanctify Your name?” He said, “Certainly, I know what you do not know.” Verse 30


The preceding verses recounted the general and some of the particular blessings of Allah, and asked man to recognize them and not to be ungrateful and disobedient to his Benefactor. Now, ten verses, beginning with the 30th, tell the story of the father of mankind, Adam (AS) ، in continuation of this theme and also by way of illustration. For, blessings are of two kinds – tangible and intangible. Food, water, money, houses, or lands are some of the tangible blessings; while honour, happiness or knowledge are intangible ones. The earlier verses were concerned with blessings of the first kind; these verses speak of those of the second kind – that is to say, how Allah bestowed the gift of knowledge on Adam (AS) ، made the angels prostrate themselves before him to show their respect, and gave men the honour of being his sons.

The creation of Adam

The present three verses relate how Allah, having decided to create Adam and to make him His deputy on the earth, spoke of it to the angels – seemingly by way of a trial, suggesting that they should express their opinions in this matter. The angels submitted that they could not understand why men were being chosen to be-the deputies, for some of them would shed blood and spread disorder on this earth. They thought that they themselves were more suited to perform this function, as the nature of angels is wholly good, no evil deed can possibly come out of them, they are totally obedient to Allah, and should hence be more capable of managing the affairs of the world. In replying to them, Allah first adopted the mode of authority, and told the angels that they knew nothing about the nature and the needs of deputation on the earth, and that Allah alone was the one to know it fully. The second answer was in the mode of wisdom – Adam had been given preference over the angels on account of his superiority in the station of knowledge, because in order to function properly as a deputy on the earth one must know the names, the properties and the characteristics of the things to be found there, and the angels had no aptitude for this kind of knowledge.

(1) A question arises here as to why Allah chose to speak of His decision to the angels. Was it merely to inform them? Was it to seek their advice? Or, was it to make them express their opinion on the subject?

Why Allah discussed Adam’s creation with angels?
As for seeking advice, it is obvious enough that one turns for advice to wise and trustworthy people only when one cannot see all the aspects of a problem clearly, and does not want to depend on one’s own knowledge and understanding alone, or when the rights of others are equal to one’s own, and they too have to be consulted, as happens in the counsels of the world. Evidently, neither of the two situations obtain in the present case. Allah is the creator of the universe, and knows everything about the smallest particle of dust; He sees and hears everything, apparent or hidden. How can He stand in need of anyone’s advice? Similarly, He does not run the universe under the parliamentary system, in which all have equal rights and everyone has to be consulted directly or indirectly. He is the Lord and Master, and all His creatures, be they men or angels, are His slaves – no one has the right to question Him about His actions, and to ask Him why He did this or why He did not do that: لَا يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُونَ : “He cannot be questioned as to what He does, while they are to be questioned.” (21:23)

In fact, Allah did not mean to seek the advice of the angels, nor was there any need for it, but He, in His wisdom, gave a mere statement the form of a consultation in order to teach men the advisability of mutual consultation. After all, the Holy Prophet (saw) was a messenger of Allah, and all the information he needed in dealing with the affairs of the world could have been conveyed to him by means of revelation, and yet the Holy Qur’an asks him to seek the advice of his Companions, so that the Islamic community should learn this lesson from him and the way of mutual consultation should be established through him. In short, this is the first raison d’etre of the mode of expression adopted by Allah. (Ruh al-Bayan)

The other has been suggested by the Holy Qur’an itself. Before the appearance of man, the angels had taken it for granted that Allah would not create a being who should be superior to them and greater in knowledge – as has been reported in a narration coming down from the blessed Companion Ibn ` Abbas (رض) and cited by Ibn Jarir (رض) in his commentary. But Allah knew that He would create a being who would be superior to all other creatures and greater than them in knowledge, and who would receive the gift of divine vice regency. So, Allah mentioned this in the assembly of the angels so that they may disclose what they had been thinking. Speaking according to their own lights, they very humbly submitted that a creature like man who carried within himself a tendency towards evil and disorder and who would not balk even at blood-shed, could not be expected to maintain peace and order on the earth, while they themselves, being free of all evil, and perfect in their obedience and devotion, could perform the function more satisfactorily. They did not mean to raise an objection to the choice which Allah had made, for angels are innocent of such sentiments; they were only being curious, and wanted to know the raison d’etre of such a choice.

To begin with, Allah gave them a very brief reply إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ “I know what you do not know”, implying that they are not aware of the nature and the requirements of divine vice regency, which had led them to suppose that only pure and innocent beings could fulfill the conditions necessary for such a responsible position.

Then, Allah demonstrated the truth to them in a vivid form. He gave to Adam (AS) kind of knowledge for which he alone had been endowed with the proper aptitude, and not the angels. That is to say, He taught him the names, the properties and qualities of all the existents, animate or inanimate. Angelic nature is not capable of such awareness – for example, an angel cannot really experience the pain of hunger and thirst, the tumult of passions, and the torment from the bite of a scorpion or a snake, or the exhilaration from an intoxicant. Only Adam (AS) had the capacity to learn such things, and he was taught to know them. Then, there is no indication in the Holy Qur’an to show that he was taught in privacy, apart from the angels. It may well be that the teaching in itself was open to the angels as well as to him; his nature allowed him to receive it, and he learnt the lesson, while, they were impeded by their own proper nature, and could not. Or, it may be that the teaching did not take an external form at all, but that the Adamic nature was made to carry this particular kind of knowledge within itself without the need of a formal education, just as an infant does not have to be taught how to suck the mother’s milk, or a duckling how to swim. As to the question why Allah, being omnipotent, did not change the nature of the angels and make them learn these things, we shall say that the question, in fact, boils down to this: Why did not Allah change the angels into men? For, if their nature had been altered, they would no longer have remained angels, but become men.

In short, through this demonstration Allah made the angels realize how wrong they were in supposing that He would not create any being superior to them in any way, and that they themselves were more suitable for being the vice regents of Allah than Adam (AS) . Since they failed to name the things which Adam (AS) could, they came to see that purity and innocence is not the criterion in choosing a deputy or vice regent but the knowledge of the things which are to be found on the earth, of the ways of using them, and of the consequences which would follow from such a use.

We can also infer a general principle from the episode – it is necessary for a ruler to know fully the nature, the temperament and the peculiarities of the people over whom he is to rule, without which he cannot enforce justice and order. If one does not know the pain of being hungry, how can one deal justice to the man who has unjustly been kept hungry?

We may also point out that in expressing their opinion, the angels were neither raising an objection, nor being vain and proud, nor asserting their right; it was, on their part, only a humble submission, and an offer of their services. When they found that there was another being who was, with his special kind of knowledge, more suitable for the function, they as humbly acknowledged the fact and withdrew their earlier opinion in saying: سُبْحَانَكَ لَا عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلَّا مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيم : “To You belongs all purity! We have no knowledge except what You have given us. Surely, You alone are the all-knowing, the all-wise.” In the present context, the phrase, “To You belongs all purity” also has the implication that Allah is free from the charge of having withheld from the angels the knowledge which He gave to Adam (AS). for, being the all-knowing and the all-wise, He gives to each creature the kind and the degree of knowledge and understanding which He, and He alone, knows to be in consonance with the specific nature of that creature.

Another question which may arise out of this episode is: How did the angels come to know that man would shed blood? Did they possess the knowledge of hidden things and of divine secrets? Or, was it a mere conjecture on their part? Most of the authoritative scholars believe, on the basis of certain , آثار : Athar ‘ or reports available about the blessed Companions, that it was Allah Himself who had informed the angels on this occasion as to how man would behave on the earth. (See Ruh a1-Ma` ani’ ). It is only then that they became curious about the raison d’etre of man being chosen as the vice regent in spite of his propensity to evil.

Besides demonstrating the superiority of Adam in knowledge, Allah dispelled the misgivings of the angels with regard to the evil propensities in man by the short and simple answer, إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ ,: “Certainly, I know what you do not know.” There is a subtle suggestion here – what makes man fit for viceregency is just the peculiarity which, in the eyes of the angels, made him unfit for this function. For, a deputy or vice regent is needed on the earth just for the purpose of preventing blood-shed and disorder; if there is no possibility of disorder in a place, where is the need for sending there an administrator? Thus, it was the Divine Will and Wisdom that, just as Allah had created beings as innocent and sinless as the angels, or beings as totally evil as Satan and his progeny, or beings like the jinns in whom evil dominated over good, He would also create beings in whom good and evil should be equally mixed, who should try to conquer the evil in themselves and to grow in goodness so as to seek and attain the pleasure of their Creator.

Man is the vice regent of Allah on the earth
(2) These verses tell us that a vice regent was appointed to keep order on the earth and to promulgate divine laws. From here we learn the basic principles for the governance of men on the earth.
The ultimate sovereignty in the universe belongs to Allah Himself, as is explicitly stated in many verses of the Holy Qur’an: إِنِ الْحُكْمُ إِلَّا لِلَّـهِ “Judgment belongs to Allah alone” (6:57); لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ “The sovereignty of the skies and the earth belongs to Him alone” (9:116); لَهُ الْخَلْقُ وَالْأَمْرُ‌ “Verily, His is the Creation and the Command.” (7:54)

But He has, in His wisdom, chosen to send His vice regents to the earth for maintaining spiritual and temporal order. Their function is to announce and promulgate divine commandments, to teach men how to abide by these laws, and sometimes even to exercise temporal power as well as spiritual authority under divine guidance. The appointment is made directly by Allah Himself, and is in no sense a reward for the good deeds or the spiritual effort of the individual concerned. There is a total consensus of all the authentic scholars of the Islamic Ummah on the doctrine that prophethood is not a thing which one can attain through one’s personal effort or on the merit of one’s good deeds, but that Allah Himself, in His supreme knowledge and wisdom, chooses certain individuals for acting as His messengers, prophets and vice-regents. The Holy Qur’an has explicitly declared it in several verses: اللَّـهُ يَصْطَفِي مِنَ الْمَلَائِكَةِ رُ‌سُلًا وَمِنَ النَّاسِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّـهَ سَمِيعٌ بَصِيرٌ‌: “Allah chooses His messengers from among the angels and from among men; surely Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing” (22:75); اللَّـهُ أَعْلَمُ حَيْثُ يَجْعَلُ رِ‌سَالَتَهُ : “Allah knows best whom to entrust with His message” (6:124).

These vice regents receive divine commandments directly from Allah, and then promulgate them in the world. The chain of vice regents began with Adam (AS) and continued in the same way upto the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) .

The Holy Prophet (saw) was the last Caliph of Allah on earth
(5) The Holy Prophet (saw) came to the earth as the last vice regent (Khalifa خلیفہ ), the last Messenger (Rasul رسول) and the last prophet (Nabiyy نبِّیِ ) of Allah, endowed with certain special qualities peculiar to him which he does not share with any other prophet. We may mention some of these characteristics:

(a) Each of the earlier prophets was sent for the guidance of a particular country or people, and his authority was limited to his jurisdiction alone, – for example, Musa (AS) and ` Isa (AS) – (Moses and Jesus Christ (علیہم السلام) were sent to Bani’ Isra’il (the Israelites). But the Holy Prophet (saw) has been sent for the guidance of all the men and all the jinns, and his authority extends to all the members of the two species. The Holy Qur’an has declared the universality of his prophethood in these words: قُلْ يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ إِنِّي رَ‌سُولُ اللَّـهِ إِلَيْكُمْ جَمِيعًا الَّذِي لَهُ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْ‌ضِ “Say: 0 mankind, I am the messenger of Allah to you all, of Him to whom belongs the sovereignty of the skies and of the earth” (7:158). A hadith of the Sahih of Muslim reports the Holy Prophet (saw) as having said that he had been made superior to all other prophets in six things. The first of these is, of course, the universality of his prophethood.
(b) Just as the viceregency and prophethood of all the earlier prophets was limited to particular peoples and countries, in the same way it was also limited to specific periods; when the age of one prophet was over, another prophet would come to take his place as the new vice regent. On the contrary, the Holy Prophet Muhammad $ has been sent by Allah as the last of all prophets; his prophethood is not circumscribed within a specific period, but shall last till the end of time.
(c) It has so happened that the teachings and the Shari` ah of each of the earlier prophets would remain intact for a time, but then gradually people would start deviating from them and distorting them till they became unrecognizable; at this stage Allah would send a new prophet with a new Shari’ah. But the Sharl’ah of the Holy Prophet (saw) is to remain alive in its integral form upto the end of the universe. Allah has taken upto Himself the responsibility of protecting the words and the meanings of the Holy Qur’an:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ‌ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
“It is We who have sent down the Remembrance (i.e. the Holy Qur’an) and We are its Protector” (15:9).

Similarly, He has made a special provision for the preservation of the Hadith which contains the teachings of the Holy Prophet (saw) that is to say, in spite of all the vicissitudes of time there shall remain till the Doomsday a group of people who will preserve these teachings and transmit them accurately to others, and who will receive help and protection from Allah Himself. Since Allah has ordained the survival of the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith, there is obviously no need for a new prophet or messenger or vice regent and no room for a new Shari` ah.
(d) Contrary to the case of all the earlier prophets, the prophethood and viceregency of the last of them, Muhammad صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم , is not limited to a particular period, but is to continue upto the end of time, and those who succeed him for the preservation of spiritual and temporal order in the world, are to be, not the vice regents of Allah, but the vice regents of the Holy Prophet (saw) and his deputies. A hadith reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim both says:

کانت بنو اسرائیل تسوسہم الانبیاء، کلما ھلک نبی خلف نبی و انہ، لا نبی بعدی و سیکون خلفاء فیکثرون
“The Israelites were governed by their prophets. When a prophet died, another would come to take his place. And beware خلفاء ، no prophet is to come after me. Of course, there will be my deputies (Khulafa’ ), and there will be many of them.’

The issue of Caliphate after the Holy Prophet (saw)
(e) Allah has ordained that after the Holy Prophet (saw) his Ummah, or the Islamic community, shall as a body enjoy the privilege which has been that of the prophets (علیہم السلام) . That is to say, the Ummah as a collective body has been declared to be innocent and under the special protection of Allah Himself, so that it will never unanimously agree upon a doctrinal error or a deviation, and hence any decision which has been arrived at in religious matters through the consensus of the Ummah is to be regarded as manifestation of Divine Commandment. That is why the consensus of the Ummah has been accepted as the third source of the Shari’ah, the first two being the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith. For the Holy Prophet (saw) has himself said, لن تجتمع امتی علی الضلالہ :”My Ummah shall never collectively agree upon error.” And we have already referred to another hadth which tells us that no matter how much the world has changed or how indifferent people have grown to the Truth, there shall always remain in the Islamic Ummah a group of people who will defend and preserve the Truth, and who will finally win.

(6) Since it has been ordained that the Islamic Ummah as a body shall never go wrong, the responsibility of choosing a deputy to the Holy Prophet (saw) has also been entrusted to it. Now, for the governance of the earth the legitimate way is that the Ummah should select a Khalifah who, once chosen, would solely be responsible for the maintenance of spiritual and temporal order. And it is also possible that there should be a single Khalifah for the whole world.

The first to succeed the Holy Prophet (saw) as his deputies were the First Four Great Khulafa خلفاء ، known as al-Khulafa’ al-Rashideen (or the rightly-guided ones, commonly translated as the ‘Orthodox Caliphs’ ), and the Khilafat خلافت order functioned according to the proper principles upto the end of their time. So, their decisions are not merely temporary judgments, but have a permanent legislative value, and carry an authority in their own degree, for the Holy Prophet (saw) has said, علیکم بسنتی و سنۃ الخفاء الراشدین :’Follow my way steadfastly, and the way of the rightly-guided Khalifahs.’

After the age of the rightly-guided Khalifahs, different rulers appeared in different regions, but none of them can be described as a Khalifah of the whole Islamic community in the proper sense of the term, though they may be called the Amirs اُمراء of particular regions. When it became practically impossible for all the Muslims of the world to agree upon one man as their Khalifah, and it became customary to have a separate Amir امیر for each region, people accepted the principle that the man who had been chosen or acknowledged by the majority of the Muslims in a country, should be called the Amir of that country. The basis for this procedure has been provided by the Holy Qur’an itself: وَأَمْرُ‌هُمْ شُورَ‌ىٰ بَيْنَهُمْ :”And they conduct their affairs by mutual consultation” (42:38).

The modern legislative assemblies are a form of mutual consultation, with the difference that they are quite free to make whatever laws they like according to their own opinion, while an Islamic legislative assembly, its members and their Amir all shall be bound by the law which Allah has sent us through the Holy Prophet (saw) . There are certain specific conditions for the membership of an Islamic assembly as well as for the choice of an Amir امیر . And, most important of all, laws must be made within the bounds of the basic principles laid down by the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah, the authority of which the assembly cannot have the right to question.

Let me give a brief summary of the whole discussion. The verses which tell us of how Allah informed the angels about his intention to send a vice regent to the earth, provide us with some of the fundamental principles of the governance of man:

(a) The sovereignty of the skies and of the earth belongs to Allah Himself.

(b) The function of promulgating the Commandments of Allah on the earth is performed by a vice regent who is at the same time a messenger of Allah and His Prophet (saw)
(c) The chain of such vice regents ends with the Holy Prophet (saw) for he is the last Messenger and Prophet (saw) .
(d) Now the function of viceregency is performed by the deputies of the Holy Prophet (saw) .
(e) Such a deputy (Khalifah) is to be chosen by the Ummah or Islamic community.14

14. (1) Some Modernists have zealously taken to the habit of interpreting these verses as implying that man as a vice regent of Allah is required to make a ‘progress’ in ‘Science’ – that is, in the empirical study of physical phenomena; a so-called ‘Muslim’ translator of the Holy Qur’an has even had the temerity to translate the name ‘Adam (AS) ‘ by the English word ‘Man’, thus denying the existence and prophethood of Adam (AS). In order to dispel such grave errors and distortions of word and meaning, let us point out that the ‘names’ which Allah taught to Adam (AS) not refer merely to the chemical or biological or psychological properties of things and men, but to their essential qualities and aptitudes – we are using the word ‘essential’ in the technical and metaphysical sense of the word in which it was originally used in the West too. Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanavi (رح) adds in his ‘Bayan al-Qur’an’ that the knowledge of the ‘names’ even includes a knowledge of the injunctions of the Shari` ah as to the distinction between the lawful and the unlawful. Then, there are many great Sufis who maintain that Adam (AS) was given the knowledge of ‘the names of Allah’ – not of all the divine names in detail, of course, for it is not possible for a created being to comprehend the Infinite, but of divine names in a summary form. This interpretation has been advanced by as authentic a commentator as Qadi Thanaullah of Panipat in his ‘Tafsir al-Mazhari’. In the explanation of this subtle point we may say that everything that exists reflects some divine attribute, which in its turn is a manifestation of a divine name; thus, divine names are the essential principles or roots of all things, and one who knows divine names does also know things in their inner natures.

(2) With regard to the question of the vice regency of Allah, we cannot pass over a very serious distortion of the authentic doctrine which has been introduced by the Modernists and seems to be growing in currency. Under the influence of Western Humanism, and specially in their indifference to doctrinal matters, the Modernists have come to identify the prophet and the father of mankind, Adam (AS) totally with the biological species called ‘man’, and have made out as if every individual member of this species, unconditionally and without any qualifications, is born to be a vice regent of Allah. The error has been promoted by a thoughtless misreading of Sufi metaphysical texts and Sufi poetry. What our Modernists have never cared to learn is the concept of degrees and their distinctions. The Sufis, no doubt, often speak of ‘man’ as being the vice regent of Allah, but what they are actually referring to is not a biological organism or species, but Al-Insan Al-Kamil’, ‘the Universal Man’ – a term which the orientalists have wrongly rendered as ‘the perfect man’, thus introducing ethical implications in the sphere of pure metaphysics. In the writings of the Sufis, prose and poetry both, ‘Man’ also stands for ‘the Total and Essential Reality of man’ (Al-Hagigah al-Jdmi’ah al-Insaniyyah). Now, the Universal Man par excellence is the Holy Prophet $ this is the first degree of “manhood” to which belong the Aulia’ (Men of Allah or the great saints) and those rulers who dealt justice according to the Shari’ah.

Then, there are lower degrees pertaining to the pious and the virtuous Muslims down to the lowest degree where stand people who are sinful, yet, being Muslims, can hope for salvation. Allah alone knows best as to who belongs to which degree; below the degree of the blessed Companions one can never speak with certitude. If we allow ourselves to associate vice regency with an ordinary Muslim, it would only be viceregency, so to say, by reflection, just as the ‘Iman of every Muslim is only a reflection of the ‘Iman of the Holy Prophet (saw) . Anyway, the necessary condition of receiving even a faint reflection of viceregency and “Manhood” is that one should be a Muslim, for, as the Holy Qur’an has explicitly declared, ‘Allah shall not now accept any faith except Islam.’ As for attributing viceregency of “Manhood” to common man as such is concerned, it can at best only be viceregency, to use Aristotelean terms, in potency and not in act – it cannot be effective unless it is actualized through a total submission to the Shari’ah and a strenuous spiritual effort and waiting upon the grace of Allah. In fact, the highest excellence open to man now is to be in word and deed and thought a perfect follower of the Sunnah, the way of the Holy Prophet (saw) .

(2:30) Just think [36] when your Lord said to the angels: [37] “Lo! I am about to place a vicegerent [38] on earth,” they said: “Will You place on it one who will spread mischief and shed blood [39] while we celebrate Your glory and extol Your holiness?” [40] He said: “Surely I know what you do not know.” [41]


[36] Thus far man has been summoned to serve and obey God on the grounds that God is his creator and sustainer, that in His grasp lies man’s life and death, that He alone is the Lord Who rules over the entire universe in which he lives. In view of this, the only attitude which can be deemed appropriate for man is one of service and subjection to God.

The same idea is presented in the following section, but supported on slightly different grounds

In this connection the Qur’an defines precisely the true nature of man and his correct position in the universe. It also enlightens us to a period of man’s past which is otherwise inaccessible. What the Qur’an tells us here, with its practical consequences, is of far greater value than knowledge derived by unearthing bones and pottery, and piecing together scattered fragments of information with the help of conjecture.

[37] The word malak in Arabic means ‘message’

[38] ‘Khalifah’ or vicegerent is one who exercises the authority delegated to him by his principal, and does so in the capacity of his deputy and agent. Hence, whatever authority he possesses is not inherently his own, but is derived from, and circumscribed by, the limits set by his principal. A vicegerent is not entitled to do what he pleases, but is obliged to carry out the will of his master. If the vicegerent were either to begin thinking himself the real owner and to use the authority delegated to him in whatever manner he pleased, or if he were to acknowledge someone other than the real owner as his lord and master and to follow his directions, these would be deemed acts of infidelity and rebellion.

[39] This was not said by way of objection or protest. It was said rather by way of inquiry and in order to satisfy their curiosity; it is inconceivable that the angels could object to any of God’s decisions. The word ‘vicegerent’ suggested to them that the proposed species of creation would be placed on earth with some authority. It was incomprehensible to them how a species of being which had been invested with discretionary power and authority could conform with the overall order of the universe, which is based on absolute and involuntary subservience to the Will of God. They thought that investing anyone with authority in any part of the universe would lead to mischief and disorder. It is this aspect which the angels were curious about.

[40] This does not mean that the angels considered themselves suitable for ‘vicegerency’. They merely wanted to point out that God’s orders were already being carried out fully, that they – the angels – were engaged in doing His will and that according to His Divine will the entire universe was kept in a state of absolute purity; moreover, God’s glory was constantly being extolled and His holiness celebrated. Since all these things were being done, they wanted to ask what gap was still considered to exist that called for the creation of a new species of being to fill it.The word tasbih has two meanings: (i) to proclaim glory and (ii) to exert oneself earnestly and energetically. In the same way taqdis has two meanings: (i) to celebrate or proclaim holiness and (ii) to purify.

Ayat 29
Ayat 31