And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, “Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.”
According to Mufti Taqi Usmani,
“The word ‘Ism’ has many lexical and intellectual nuances of meaning, the knowledge of which would not be essential for the average reader. It is sufficient to know that this word is translated in English as ‘Name’. ” (Maariful Quran, Vol. 1 pg. 57)
According to Ibn Kathir, citing Ibn Abbas, the ‘Names’ refers to:
‘Meaning, the names that people use, such as human, animal, sky, earth, land, sea, horse, donkey, and so forth, including the names of the other species.’ (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, surah al Baqarah pg. 115)
According to Abdullah Yusuf Ali,
“The names of things”: according to
commentators means the inner nature and qualities of
things, and things here would include feelings.
The particular qualities or feelings which were outside
the nature of angels were put by Allah into the nature of
man. Man was thus able to love and understand love,
and thus plan and initiate, as becomes the office of
The angels acknowledged this. These things they could
only know from the outside, but they had faith, or belief
in the Unseen. And they knew that Allah saw all – what
others see, what others do not see, what others may
even wish to conceal.
Man has many qualities which are latent or which he
may wish to suppress or conceal, to his own detriment. (The Holy Quran: Text, Translation and Commentary, surah 2 verse 31.
Finally, regarding the ‘names’ taught to Prophet Adam specifically:
According to Islam QA,
Imaam Ibn Katheer (may Allaah have mercy on him) said in his Tafseer (1/256, ed. by Abu Ishaaq al-Huwayni), commenting on the aayah (interpretation of the meaning):
“And He taught Adam all the names (of everything)…” [al-Baqarah 2:31]
“The correct view is that He taught him the names of all things, what they are, and their qualities, right down to the noiseless fart, i.e., the names and qualities of all things, great and small. Thus al-Bukhaari said in his commentary on this aayah in Kitaab al-Tafseer in his Saheeh, and Ibn Katheer mentioned al-Bukhaari’s isnaad from Anas, that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: ‘The believers will assemble on the Day of Resurrection and will say, ‘Let us ask somebody to intercede for us with our Lord.’ So they will go to Adam and say, ‘You are the father of
all the people. Allaah created you with His own Hands, and ordered the angels to prostrate to you, and taught you the names of all things…’” This indicates that Allaah taught him the names of all created things, which is why He then said (interpretation of the meaning): “… then He showed them to the angels” [al-Baqarah 2:31] – i.e., the objects whose names He had taught to Adam.”
Al-Haafiz ibn Hajar listed various opinions on this topic in al-Fath (8/10), where he said, “There was some dispute as to the meaning of the ‘names.’ It was suggested that this referred to the names of his offspring, or the names of the angels, or the names of the different species – without going into details, or the names of everything on earth, or the names of all things, even a platter.”
Imaam al-Shawkaani said in Fath al-Qadeer (1/64): “The ‘names’ are phrases or expressions, and what is meant is the names of the objects whose names Allaah taught him. This is the opinion of the majority of scholars, and this is the true meaning of the word ism (name). This is confirmed by the word all (all the names), which indicates that He taught him all the names and did not omit anything, no matter what it was.”
And Allaah knows best.
Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .1 pg. 57) http://www.islamicweblibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/maarif-volum1-english.pdf
Kathir, Ibn. Tafsir Ibn Kathir. (vo. 1 p. 115). https://ia803208.us.archive.org/22/items/TafseerIbnKathirenglish114SurahsComplete/002BaqarahI.pdf
Saalih al-Munnajjid (2000). Islam Question and Answer. https://islamqa.info/en/answers/4622/what-are-the-things-that-allaah-taught-to-adam
Yusuf Ali, Abdullah. Translation and Commentary of the Quran. (p. 24). http://www.quran4u.com/Tafsiraya/002%20Baqarah.pdf