Parallelism: Satan and His Refusal to Prostrate
The Qur'anic story that Satan was expelled from Heaven for defying Allah’s command to prostrate to Adam seems to have antecedents in pre-Islamic Jewish tales. The Bible does not contain this tale.
He said: What hindered thee that thou didst not submit when I commanded thee? He said: I am better than he; thou hast created me of fire while him Thou didst create of dust. He said: Then get forth from this (state), for it is not for thee to behave proudly therein. Go forth; therefore, surely thou art of the abject ones.He said: Get out of it, despised, driven away. Whoever of them will follow thee; I will certainly fill hell with you all.
This story recurs several times in the Qur'an, for instance:
Apparently, the story of Satan refusing to prostate/worship (sajada) Adam is found in the apocryphal ‘Life of Adam and Eve’, a first to fourth century Jewish Hellenistic work. Some authorities date it to the first century CE based on the absence of the Christian concept of original sin and the influence of the story on the Ebionites.
Another version of this in Syriac, The Cave of Treasure, appeared in the sixth century. There were also other earlier versions in Arabic, Ethiopic, and Armenian, which indicate the early spread of the story regarding the worship of Adam by the angels.
“The devil replied, ‘Adam, what dost thou tell me? It is for thy sake that I have been hurled from that place. When thou wast formed, I was hurled out of the presence of God and banished from the company of angels. When God blew into thee the breath of life and thy face and likeness was made in the image of God, Michael also brought thee and made (us) worship thee in the sight of God; and God the Lord spake: “Here is Adam. I have made him in our image and likeness.”
“‘And Michael went out and called all the angels saying: “Worship the image of God as the Lord hath commanded.”
“‘And Michael himself worshipped first; then he called me and said: “Worship the image of God the Lord.” And I answered, “I have no (need) to worship Adam.” And since Michael kept urging me to worship, I said to him, “Why dost thou urge me? I will not worship an inferior and younger being (than I). I am his senior in the Creation, before he was made was I already made. It is his duty to worship me.”
“‘When the angels, who were under me, heard this, they refused to worship him. And Michael saith, “Worship the image of God, but if thou wilt not worship him, the Lord God will be wroth with thee.” And I said, “If He be wroth with me, I will set my seat above the stars of heaven and will be like the Highest.”
“‘And God the Lord was wroth with me and banished me and my angels from our glory; and on thy account were we expelled from our abodes into this world and hurled n the earth. And straightway we were overcome with grief, since we had been spoiled of so great glory. And we were grieved when we saw thee in such joy and luxury. And with guile I cheated thy wife and caused thee to be expelled through her (doing) from thy joy and luxury, as I have been driven out of my glory.’“When Adam heard the devil say this, he cried out and wept and spake: ‘O Lord my God, my life is in thy hands. Banish this Adversary far from me, who seeketh to destroy my soul, and give me his glory which he himself hath lost.’ And at that moment, the devil vanished before him. But Adam endured in his penance, standing for forty days (on end) in the water of Jordan.”
The story is also found in the Talmud, namely the Genesis Rabba (or Bereshith Rabba – compiled in the fourth or fifth century CE, some say sixth century CE) and the Pirke Rabbi De Eliezer. Also, in Die Schatzhöle, an anonymous work, which dates from the sixth century, we have the Christian legend of what took place after the creation of Adam:
The Qur'anic story of Satan refusing to worship or prostate before Adam seems to have distinct antecedents in pre-Islamic Jewish and Christian sources. It is possible that this is merely coincidence. For more than fifteen centuries after God revealed Genesis to Moses he was content to leave this story untold. Then around the first century CE Jewish story tellers, independent of divine revelation, invented this story. After another six hundred years or so, Allah decided it was high time this story was properly told to humanity, thus he chose to reveal it to Muhammad in a form almost identical to that told by the non-divine Jewish writers.
One begs the question why an omniscient deity would leave himself open to a charge of ‘parallelism’ when the simplest solution would merely be to include the story within the first chapter of the Torah. Instead, he chose to allow Jewish rabbis to receive the distinction of co-inventing this story, long before his revelation to any prophet.
- Encyclopædia Britannica - biblical literature britannica.com
- Samuel M. Zwemer - Studies in Popular Islam: The Worship of Adam by Angels answering-islam.org