I looked at your explanatory notes to Surah Al-Baqarah and in particular with regard to the angels and Iblees’ prostration to Adam. The analogy to the situation between the Prophet and the Israelites in his community makes sense. However, one thing remains unanswered in my query. When Iblees disobeys God, God immediately banishes him to eternal damnation, the “meanest of states.” Clearly, it is because Iblees was given a simple command and he was rebellious, so his punishment was harsh. But Adam is also given a simple command with regard to the forbidden tree and he too disobeys, but God only brings Adam down to a lower state (on earth) and not to eternal damnation like Iblees. Why is that? If men and jinn both have free will and are created for no other purpose than to worship their Creator, why is God so much harsher in punishment toward Jinn (Iblees) and relatively lenient in punishment with man (Adam)?
The difference in the punishment is not due to any difference between the nature of men and Jinn, but is due to the nature of the crime committed by the two. The Qur’an has explained that the crime committed by Iblees was actually to ‘arrogantly refuse’ to submit to God’s commands. Whereas, Adam’s mistake was not one of arrogant refusal to submit to God’s directives, but to be so overcome by the devil’s seductions as to forget the Lord’s directive. Furthermore, Iblees did not show any guilt or repentance for his crime, whereas it is quite clear from the Qur’an that Adam was extremely sorry and remorseful for his mistake. These are the two major reasons for the difference in the punishment of the two.
This clearly shows that, according to the Qur’an, it is primarily the attitude with which a crime is committed, which decides the gravity of the consequences that would follow it. A person, who stubbornly, arrogantly and knowingly refuses to submit to the directives of God and then lacks all signs of remorse for his crime, is the one, who deserves the severe punishment. On the other hand, a person, who acts contrary to any of the directives of the Lord, due to his ignorance, forgetfulness or by being overcome by seductive circumstances and then, immediately after realizing his mistake, is remorseful and repentant for the wrong that his hands have wrought, is the person whom the Lord shall forgive, by His abounding grace, insha’Allah.
I hope this helps.
March 16, 2001