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Faith

What We Can Learn From Adam and Eve’s Fall From Heaven

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Faith

What We Can Learn From Adam and Eve’s Fall From Heaven

We, the progenies of Adam and Eve, inherited this avarice or acquisitive urge, to put it in a lighter vein. It persisted with us, grew with our civilization, and became the backbone of much of our material advancement and socio-economic development. It will continue to persist with us and, as the Quran warns, will continue to ‘perish us till we visit the grave.’ But one day the futility of this pursuit will be unveiled to us.

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We, the progenies of Adam and Eve, inherited this avarice or acquisitive urge, to put it in a lighter vein. It persisted with us, grew with our civilization, and became the backbone of much of our material advancement and socio-economic development. It will continue to persist with us and, as the Quran warns, will continue to ‘perish us till we visit the grave.’ But one day the futility of this pursuit will be unveiled to us.

While settling down in paradise after their creation, Adam and Eve lived in the lap of luxury. They enjoyed a lavish lifestyle in an idyllic, pristine setting, feasting on an abundant variety of food. All their needs were taken care of. The only order of prohibition they received from God was to stay away from a tree. “O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and eat ye freely (of the fruits) thereof where ye will; but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrongdoers,” they were told.

One might think that it is not a big deal to abstain from eating the fruits of a solitary tree – just one among myriads of trees in a lush green garden while living in the midst of endless prosperity and affluence. But it turned out that the couple could not resist the temptation to try it, and they succumbed to the forbidden allure. But they had to pay a hefty price for that. They were asked to vacate their abode and leave paradise once and for all.

With hindsight and from the vantage point of the present, we can glean some insights from the narrative of the loss of paradise, a watershed incident that culminated in our species’ settling on earth. Why did Adam happen to eat the forbidden tree? What were its repercussions? How was it atoned for?

Test of greed

The action which led to this downfall was motivated by greed rather than a need. The fruits of the forbidden tree were something Adam and Eve could live without. They were not in need of them, either to sustain their life or even as a luxury. But they were deluded by a devilish whisper into thinking that the forbidden tree would bring them more luxuries than they had, lasting riches, and eternal prosperity.

The first trial God chose to put Adam and Eve through, and they failed in, was the test of greed. They were looking for more as if the whole luxury and opulence of the paradise they wallowed in were not enough to satisfy them. They were so overwhelmed by greed that they forgot to understand the greatness of what they already had and the gravity of the mistake they were going to commit.

Satan persuaded Adam to crave for and accomplish more than what they already had. He never asked them to do introspection, count their blessings, and to show gratitude to what they were blessed with. He persuaded Adam to be overambitious and tricked them into a scam. Like an investor who put in all his money in a fraud business, Adam and Eve were cheated and fell to the morass of bankruptcy.

We, the progenies of Adam and Eve, inherited this avarice or acquisitive urge, to put it in a lighter vein. It persisted with us, grew with our civilization, and became the backbone of much of our material advancement and socio-economic development. It will continue to persist with us and, as the Quran warns, will continue to ‘perish us till we visit the grave.’ But one day the futility of this pursuit will be unveiled to us.

Destiny versus freewill

The life in paradise was not something meant for us as God had already made it clear to the angels that He was going to appoint man as His vicegerent on the earth. But He allowed Adam and Eve to enjoy a short stint in heaven before entering the earth. However, their descent to the earth was precipitated by his own failure to abide by God’s commandment. Therefore, we started our earthly existence with a free fall from an exalted position, the true value of which we understood only after losing it.

Even though man’s loss of paradise and their settling in the earth were predestined decisions, the way the divine plans were played out shows us the tangled relation between God’s destiny and man’s free will. The reason that led to Adam and Eve’s fall from paradise was a mistake committed by them. While deciding to eat the forbidden fruit, they were exercising their God-given freedom, but they potentially also had the option to stay away from the fruit and thereby lengthen their stay in paradise, which obviously was not their choice. So, they made a decision and they were made to face the consequence of that decision.

Man was given the freewill and was held accountable for his or her action; and that action was made the very reason for his or her coming to the earth.

Created weak and vulnerable

Adam’s story gives the indication that a righteous man’s life is not going to be an easy cakewalk or a conflict-free tranquility, devoid of trials and tribulations, but right from the beginning it’s going to be a constant struggle to maturity. Humans are not born with a strong inner character and a deep soul. They are created weak and vulnerable, both physically and spiritually.

But with constant struggle and rigorous training, they will have to build their spiritual resilience and deepen their soul. They gradually build their spiritual immunity, just like they build their physical muscles over a period.

Adam and Eve’s minds were the stage where the high moral drama was played out. The story shows us the deeply divided selves that we humans are: We are so splendidly endowed that God asked angels to bow down before us, but at times we have certain weaknesses that make us vulnerable to the whisperings of Satan. Joseph referred to this weakness when he talked about the self which would prompt to do evil.

But Adam had the last laugh

Adam walked into the trap set by Satan, their avowed enemy who swore that he would lead the entire human race astray. But even though Satan succeeded in making Adam eat the forbidden fruit and getting them out of the paradise, the couple had the last laugh.

He failed in pushing Adam further down evil’s path, because Adam and Eve turned their fall into a victory.

Once they came to their senses, Adam and Eve were aware of their mistakes and they repented unconditionally. They never justified their fault, nor did they put the blame on God, like Satan did. Therefore, Satan’s triumph over Adam was short-lived, as is the case with all righteous people who, as God said, Satan cannot prevail over.

Moreover, the fall made Adam stand in good stead when it comes to their overall spiritual immunity. The fall must have served as an antibody against further attack. It also made them keep a vigil and take all necessary precautions against the enemy. They no longer took the enemy lightly and ceased to be so overconfident about themselves. This all helped them strengthen their resolve, fortify their defense mechanism, and prepare them for their role as the vicegerents of God on earth.

Emerging stronger and resilient

All the prophets had their own fair share of trials and tribulations. They faced challenges of varying types – be it political or spiritual. They all had their own crucible years when they went through a moral crisis, confrontation, and recovery. They had to go down to go up. Or they descended into humility before climbing to the height of redemption.

The confrontation with evil within and without is a part of human destiny. We have to wage a life-long struggle against the weakness in ourselves by magnifying the virtues within us. Adam and all the prophets and role models the Quran introduced to us were willing to engage this moral struggle which reshaped their inner core giving it solidity and weight.

The realization that they have a formidable opponent, or rather a treacherous villain, to deal with made Adam stronger and resilient. Their enemy was not a visible, scary figure, armed to the teeth. On the contrary, it was a soft enemy who whispered in their ears. This soft enemy is more dangerous than hard enemies and this soft battle is more strategic than many physical encounters we have to undertake.

We have to devise innovative strategies and tactics to win this life-long struggle as the enemy is bound to appear in different guises and multiple manifestations.

The full power and potential of humans will come out only when their resolve is tested by opponents worthy of them. Man was endowed with a lot of potentials which would have rusted away if he were stranded in the comfort zone of paradise. He has to leave behind the silver spoon with which he was born and build his success with efforts and artistry.

By entering the realm of earth, Adam set on the journey to constructing a human civilization. But the kernel focus of that construction was not building external facilities and infrastructure, but to cultivate character – a set of disciplined habits and the disposition to do good. Character building does not happen in a vacuum; our character is getting built through our struggle against sin.

The path of repentance

In their relationship with God, Adam and Eve opted for the gracious path of repentance and self-effacement while Satan was irretrievably hubristic and self-congratulatory.

Repentance offered Adam and Eve the courage to get out of the delusion they temporarily slipped into and start off their earthly mission on a humble note, without any trace of pride and self-glorification. They started living on the earth without any hangovers of their paradisiacal past. But they became more mature as repentance boosted their confidence level and deepened their soul.

They were humble enough to admit their mistake resisting the urge to prove they were right, while Satan succumbed to the ravenous hunger of pride and egotism. The door of repentance was closed off due to his arrogance and self-importance.

Adam and Eve were acutely aware of their ignorance and of their flaws while Satan failed in handling his ignorance. Adam and Eve’s intellectual humility imparted to them a wider perspective to see their strength and weakness and their connections and dependencies.

Satan ignored the wisdom that there was a lot he did not know and that a lot of what he thought he knew was wrong or distorted. He failed to enter the spiritual path because he failed to vanquish the pride simmering within him.

As evidenced in the case of Satan, arrogance or the hardness of heart is one of the sins from which many other sins branch out. Satan’s notion of self-respect was based on being better than others that is why he tried to convince God that he is superior to Adam. And his sole benchmark of greatness was purely materialistic that is why he argued that his being created with fire confirmed his superiority over Adam who was created from clay.

On the contrary, Adam and Eve earned self-respect neither by comparing themselves with anyone nor by trying to prove better than someone but by being better than they used to be. Recognizing one’s own flaws and correcting them is the way to be better than oneself.

But unlike Satan, they learned from their mistake and did the course correction. They realized that their job was not about pursuing happiness, fulfilling their desires and wants, or avoiding struggle and pains.

Thus Adam and Eve’s mission on the earth started not with the pursuit of self-aggrandizement which Satan tried to teach them, but with renunciation. They lost the entire paradise which they inherited and came to the earth accepting an arduous calling, in order to repay for the gift of life. They have to be unflinching in the face of any challenge life could throw at them.

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