38:71 When thy Lord said to the angels, “I am creating a mortal of clay.”
From here to this surah’s end is the story of Adam and Iblis. A great deal has been said about the two, which I summarize here: In terms of outwardness, a slip appeared from Adam and an act of disobedience from Iblis. It was said to Adam, “Do not eat the wheat,” and he ate it. It was said to Iblis, “Prostrate yourself,” and he did not do so. The capital of rejection and of acceptance, however, did not arise from their acts. It arose from the flow of the Pen and the decrees of Eternity. The Pen wrote felicity for Adam as a consequence of the eternal will. Support was found for that in his makeup, and his sin was consigned to that by way of excuse: He forgot, and We found in him no resoluteness [20:115].
In the case of Iblis, the Pen had written rejection and expulsion by the decree of the eternal will, so an ambuscade was made from his own makeup and his sin was consigned to himself: He refused and claimed to be great; he was one of the unbelievers [2:34]. A collar was made for the sake of cursing and, by the decree of beginningless rejection, it was fastened to the neck of his days. Thus, whenever a gem appeared from the crucible of his deeds, it turned out to be a discard from the hand of the assayer of knowledge. His deeds were discards and his worship became the cause of the curse. His obedience became the motivation for being driven out, and concerning the reality of his work, this expression was given: “No one stands up to the decree and no one contends with the Beginningless.”
Wherever there are greetings and felicitations, they are turned toward Adam, and wherever there are cursing and expulsion, they are turned toward Iblis. The forelock of that cursed one is fastened to the hem of the resurrection, not because of any bestowal of eminence. Rather, the divine goal is that whenever a child’s fingers should pick up a stone, he should throw the stone of cursing at his head: “A curse upon Iblis.”
The pure ones of the empire and that given proximity to the Threshold were addressed by the All-Compelling Presence: “I have written the edict of dismissal and stamped the signet of rejection for one of you.” All of them turned into sorrow and burning.
Gabriel went before ʿAzāzīl, who today is called Iblis, and said, “If such a state appears, place your hand on my head.” He was saying, “Write this work for me.” He was giving assurance to all of them and saying, “Let your hearts be at ease, for I will stand up for you.” Then the permit came from the Exalted Threshold: “Prostrate yourselves before Adam!” [2:34]. That accursed one pulled back the reins of chieftainship, for he had the arrogance of I am better in his head:
38:76 I am better than he: Thou hast created me of fire and Thou hast created him of clay.
Iblis came forth with chieftainship and said that he was better than he. He reasoned but he went by the road of error in his reasoning. O accursed one! How do you say that fire is better than dust? Do you not know that fire is the cause of separation and dust the cause of union? Fire is the means of cutting off and dust is the means of joining. Adam was of dust, so he joined, such that it was said about him, “Then his Lord chose him” [20:122]. Iblis was of fire, so he cut off, such that it was said to him, “Upon thee shall be My curse until the Day of Doom” [38:78].
When dust becomes wet, it accepts imprints. When fire shoots up, it burns all the imprints. Thus the imprint of Iblis’s recognition was burnt away, and the imprint of recognition flamed up in the heart of Adam and the Adamites. Those—He wrote faith in their hearts [58:22].
A dervish, who was pain-stricken, disorderly, and having lost his head and feet, went to see Abū Yazīd Basṭāmī. He came like a traveler, and because of his ecstasy said, “O Bāyazīd, what would it matter if there was none of this impudent dust?” Abū Yazīd let go of himself and said to the dervish: “Were there no dust, the breast would have no burning! Were there no dust, the religion would have no sorrow and joy! Were there no dust, the fire of passion would not flame up! Were there no dust, who would smell the scent of beginningless love? Were there no dust, who would be the familiar of the Endless? O dervish, Iblis’s curse is a trace of the perfection of the majesty of dust. Seraphiel’s trumpet was prepared for the sake of the yearning of dust. The questioning by Nakīr and Munkar is passion’s deputy in the breast of dust. Riḍwān with all the servants is but dust under the feet of dust. Beginningless welcome is a gift and robe for dust. The lordly attributes are the hairdresser of the beauty of dust. The divine love is the food of the secret cores of dust. The attributes of Eternity are the supplies and provisions for the road of dust. The pure, incomparable Essence is witnessed by the hearts of dust.”