Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), the Creator of the heavens and the earth, called mankind His khalifah, placing him on earth to administer His rules and to inherit it. He sent guidance as well as teachers to teach and preach His guidance. He entrusted mankind with His trust, the Amanah of Tawhîd. He gifted everyone with countless blessings, raising one above another in order to test them in their belief and obedience:
“It is He Who hath made you (His) agents [Arabic, plural: khalââ’ifa], inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’âm, 6: 165]
The spiritual history of mankind is intimately related to the creation of the heavens and the earth. In the scientific world, the age of the universe is reckoned at about 15 billion years, while that of our solar system is about 8.5 billion, and that of our earth is about 4.5 billion. The Holy Qur’an, however, gives a different kind of account: it does not refer to the age of various stages of creation, but it refers to the state of existence at different stages of development of the universe.
What was Created and Molded and Formed in Preparation for Man?
The Quranic account refers to the primordial existence of the universe, when the heavens and the earth were joined together and then split asunder (21: 30); then, the heavens existed in the form of ‘smoke’ (41:11). This smoke was made into seven firmaments. The earth was prepared and enriched for sustaining life. This spanned a total of six Eons.
“Say: Is it that ye deny Him Who created the earth in two Days? And do ye join equals with Him? He is the Lord of (all) the Worlds. He set on the (earth), mountains standing firm, high above it, and bestowed blessings on the earth, and measure therein all things to give them nourishment in due proportion, in four Days, in accordance with (the needs of) those who seek (Sustenance)” [Surah Fussilat, 41: 9-10]
From the following verse, also, it appears that the creation of the earth and its preparation was designed primarily to support its future human life:
“It is He Who hath created for you all things that are on earth; Moreover His design comprehended the heavens, for He gave order and perfection to the seven firmaments; and of all things He hath perfect knowledge.” [Surah Al-Baqara, 2:29]
Definitive human knowledge regarding the overall framework of creation is limited to that which has been prophetically revealed by Allah. The Holy Qur’an refers to this knowledge as largely within the realm of “knowledge unknown.” It is only the Creator, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala), who holds the keys to that knowledge:
“And with Him are the keys of the ghaib (all that is hidden); none knows them except Him. And he knows whatever there is in the land and in the sea; not a leaf falls, but He knows it. There is not a grain in the darkness of the earth nor anything fresh or dry, but is written in a clear Record.” [Surah Al-An’âm, 6: 59]
In addition to the important relationship between the creation of mankind and the creation of the universe, likewise, human spiritual history is related to the creation of unseen entities, like angels and jinns, which have significant impacts on the spiritual development of human beings:
The angels are the protectors of human beings in this life as well as in the Hereafter; they maintain the records of human actions and accompany us before the Court of Justice. The jinn are of two kinds; the believing jinn and the non-believing jinn. The non-believing jinn like Iblis and his group are enemies of human beings and a source of misguidance. Angels and jinn were created before the creation of human beings: the angels from light (Hadith), and the jinn from smokeless fire:
“We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape; And the Jinn race, We had created beforehand, from the fire of a scorching wind.” [Surah Al-Hijr, 15:26-27]
In the visible world, matter came into existence with the divine command “Be!” (2:117). Everything else in the biological world, both moving and non-moving, was then created from the dust of the earth. The moving creatures are called dââbbah:
“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the living creatures (dââbbah) that He has scattered through them and He has Power to gather them together when He wills.” [Surah Al-Shura, 42:29]
“And Allah has created every animal (dââbbah) from water: of them there are some that creep on their bellies; some that walk on two legs; and some that walk on four. Allah creates what He wills…” [Surah An-Nur, 24: 45]
The common spiritual purpose that threads through all of His creations is their worship of the Creator, and that message is ingrained in the nature of all His creations. Every creation instinctively follows that rule except for the jinns and men: The pebbles make ‘tasbih,’ the trees make ‘prostrations’ (through their inclining shadows), and the angels devoutly obey and glorify Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala).
The jinns and men, on the other hand, have been allowed a will, called the “Prescriptive Will,” which allows them to choose between belief and disbelief, obedience and rebellion. They are fully informed about the consequence of any choice they make. They have an inborn instinct to worship, but they are not forced to believe or to disbelieve, to obey or to disobey (2: 256). This freedom to choose measured against the backdrop of divine guidance forms the basis of the trial of life (67:2).
Allah Created and Shaped Mankind according to His Design and Purpose
After the creation of the Universe, preparation of the earth, and creation of all visible (dââbbah) and non-visible (angels and jinn) creatures, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) decided to send His khalifah to the earth. It was a long period of time before mankind appeared in the realm of creation:
“Has it ever occurred to man that there was a long period of time when he was nothing even to be mentioned?” [Surah Al-Insân, 76:1]
The creation of the khalifah and his advent on earth was heralded by a proclamation to the angels in the following verse:
“Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood? – whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.” [Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:30]
As the angels were created before the creation of human beings, they had knowledge that previous creations (including jinn) had caused mischief and bloodshed on earth. As a result, they were wondering whether the new creation (the khalifah) would do the same thing on earth, and whether their own worship and glorification of Allah had not been sufficient! So, Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) admonished them saying that He knows about the future of the new creation (the khalifah) which they do not. (See the comment by Al-Qurtubi below).
Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) created the first human being (bashar) from clay (38:71) and addressed him as ‘Adam’ (2: 31). He fashioned Adam’s physical mold with His own Two Hands and gave him a spiritual mold comprising of Rûh (spirit), Nafs (soul), a spiritual heart (Qalb), Nasiyyah (forebrain), knowledge and A’qal:
“We have indeed created man in the best of molds” [Surah Al-Tin, 95: 4]
Adam was a prophet and according to most commentators, he was also a messenger, as he received revelation (2: 37-38), and he was chosen by Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) like other messengers (3:33) for his mission:
His responsibility as Allah’s khalifah was to be the trustee of amanah (moral responsibility), to believe in Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) and in His intrinsic Unity, to practice and preach the principles of Tawhîd, to restore law and order on earth per Divine Guidance, to be the judge in disputes between people, to forbid injustice, and to be the father of mankind (Al-Qurtubi).
“We did indeed offer the Trust (amânah) to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it; He was indeed unjust and foolish.” [Surah Al-Ahzâb, 33:72]
“O mankind! Revere your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created of like nature His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women…” [Surah Al-Nisâ’, 4:1]
Our parents, Adam and Hawwa, lived a long life. They had multitudes of children. According to some narrations (Stories of the Prophets) Adam was able to see forty thousands of his descendants before his death. After Adam’s death, his children inherited responsibility for the earth and continued the preaching of Tawhîd:
“It is He Who hath made you (His) agents [khalââ’ifa], inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Surah Al-An’âm, 6:165]