[Very] Human Error

Bismillahir Rahmānir Raheem.

What if I slip up? What if I do something wrong? What does that say about me?

What if somebody’s currently-blurred, rose-tinted, lens changes somehow, and suddenly, they see me for what I ‘really’ am? What if I do not ‘deserve’ their friendship; their love?

Irrespective of what we see of things, from the outside; how our minds are known to take the ‘quick route’, and to simplify, become negligent of all the various complexities that are at play, and, for example, to decide that we might be somehow uniquely, terribly flawed, while others are… ‘normal’. ‘Okay’, and ‘acceptable’. You think you want to be like them: ‘secure’ and all the rest of [how] it [seems], while you, a lot of the time, know you are not.

But then again: nobody is, really. ‘Mistakes’ run through our blood. This is whom we are, as beings. Our father, Ādam, and the fruit. And the slip from grace. Something seemed, in that moment, desirable, though it had been forbidden.

Deeply remorseful, our ancestors Ādam and Eve (Hawaa) said, 

“Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.” — Qur’an, (7:23)

Iblīs, by contrast, had been instructed to do something, by Allah. Prostrate before Ādam: like the aforementioned tree, a test for him. Would he obey the commands of his Lord?

Iblīs wilfully rejected. And he behaved with Kibr, in both senses of the concept: he behaved arrogantly with Allah (denying a direct command) and behaved arrogantly with a human being, looking down upon him, claiming that he (Iblīs) is ‘better‘ than Ādam, on account of the material he is made from [i.e. based on something material. Sometimes, people behave arrogantly with other human beings on account of material factors including skin colour, wealth possession, academic/professional titles, and otherwise. Yet, in Islam, we know that, to paraphrase some sayings of Muhammad (SAW), no man is ‘better’ than another, except when it concerns piety and good action: the states of our hearts]. Iblīs did not feel remorse: instead, he sought to ‘logically’ justify his actions. He had full knowledge of the consequences of his actions, and made the conscious decision to choose his version of the forbidden tree’s fruit: pride, rejecting a direct directive from Allah, on account of his personal, emotionally-charged reluctance.

Ādam (upon him be peace) and Hawaa (upon her be peace) erred. Allah told them not to eat from the tree. Yet, they experienced a moment of heedlessness, forgetfulness. Shaytān’s whisperings made the prohibited action enticing and fair-seeming to them: he’d acted like a sincere friend to them, promising them angelic status, and immortality. They erred; they fell from grace. And then, realising the weight of their misdeeds, they made the aforementioned Du’a. They accepted that they had done wrong; they relied on the merciful forgiveness of Allah. They were remorseful; they felt guilt. And they had hope in Allah’s Mercy.

The Qur’an, and our Deen, is replete with metaphors: stories and images that convey meanings and ideas. This is how we humans understand things: we learn things best, perhaps, through stories. Metaphor (as well as manners) maketh man.

Shaytān’s misdeeds:

  • Insolently disregarding a direct command from Allah (SWT)
  • Arrogance. “I am better [greater, bigger] than him [and than the direct command of Allah]”.
  • Relied on his own emotionally-charged ‘logical’ conclusion: sought to ‘logically’ and proudly justify his disobedience. Acted ‘self-sufficient’, and not in submission to Allah

The first human beings, by contrast:

  • Shaytān whispered to them (gave them suggestions) that Allah had been preventing them from goodness, by forbidding them from eating from the tree. He (Iblīs) also lied to them in order to convince them that he is a sincere friend of theirs; tried to implant, in their minds, negative thoughts about God.
  • They were led to the tree by deceit.
  • They were disgraced. Allah had ennobled them, yet they ate from the tree, and their shame had been exposed: a symbol of their fall from human ennoblement, to animalistic debasement.
  • Allah reminded them of His command, and of how He had informed them that Shaytān is an enemy to them.
  • The human pair accepted that they had done wrong; they emotionally sought forgiveness from Allah, beseeching Him, relying on His Mercy and Forgiveness.
  • They were humble [accepted their humble status before Allah. For us, this is also shown in how we are towards fellow human beings].

As a descendant of Ādam and Hawaa, I know that I have done wrong, and that I will continue to do so, throughout my life. I care about behaving in goodness, and about improving. Also, I am deeply flawed. Shaytānic whisperings may convince me that certain actually-bad things are ‘good’ for me; perhaps I will idealise some things, and seek to have things through illegitimate avenues. I’ll get angry; I’ll wrong people; I’ll be inadequate in certain domains of life, on particular days; in particular roles and responsibilities, I’ll slip up and err from time to time. Sometimes I will not know that I am doing wrong. But, so long as I am not wilfully and arrogantly doing so, and disobeying Allah.

We’re ‘allowed’ to err: it’s an intrinsic, inextricable part of us. So long as, when we learn of our faults, we accept that we have done wrong; sincerely seek forgiveness (from people and from Allah) and learn to rely on Allah exclusively.

“But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you. And perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” — Qur’an, (2:216)

As Muslims, we seek to root ourselves, and our hopes and deeds, in Truths, and not in all of these things around us that function as contemporary versions of that fruit. Our eyes, and thoughts, can be quite deceptive. Allah is Perfect, and while we are far from. And our Rabb Knows, while we are limited and often [think we ‘know’, but] know not.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

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