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7:12 Iblis’ refusal to prostrate to Adam

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(Allah) said: “What prevented thee from prostrating when I commanded thee?” He said: “I am better than he: Thou didst create me from fire, and him from clay.”

According to the “Study Quran”, under the commentary of the above verse,
“Iblīs explains his refusal to prostrate before Adam by asserting his superiority over Adam on the basis of the argument that he was created from fire, which he perceives as a more powerful and nobler substance than clay, from which Adam was created. This argument also appears explicitly in 38:76 and is implicit in Iblīs’s dismissive remarks about Adam being made of clay in 15:33. Iblīs’s claim to have been created from fire lends some support to the view that Iblīs was a jinn, since God created jinn from smokeless fire (55:15). Iblīs’s argument, however, is self-serving and partial, in both senses of the term. Although fire may be luminous, subtle, and characterized by levity and lightness (Q,R, Ṭ), it is also associated with fickleness, recklessness, restlessness, and destructiveness—with grandeur, but also haughtiness, qualities consistent with the arrogance (see v. 13) that ultimately leads to Iblīs’s perdition (Q, Ṭ). By contrast, clay or earth is base, heavy, dark, and lowlying (R), but also has the properties of gravity, forbearance, humility, and stability. It is these latter qualities in Adam that
lead him to seek and receive God’s forgiveness after his disobedience (Q, Ṭ; see v. 23). Clay or earth can also serve as a place of prayer. Moreover, in the Islamic context it is the constituent elements of clay—
namely, water and earth—that serve as a means of ritual purification (see 4:43; 5:6), not fire (unlike in Zoroastrianism, for example); and it is fire rather than clay that is a means of Divine punishment in
the Hereafter (Q).”


Nasr, Hossein (2015). Study Quran.

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