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Why did God command the angels to bow to Adam?



In the Quran we read about how when God created Adam (pbuh), he ordered the angels to bow to Adam:

And when thy Lord said unto the angels: Lo! I am about to place a viceroy in the earth, they said: Wilt thou place therein one who will do harm therein and will shed blood, while we, we hymn Thy praise and sanctify Thee? He said: Surely I know that which ye know not. And He taught Adam all the names, then showed them to the angels, saying: Inform Me of the names of these, if ye are truthful. They said: Be glorified! We have no knowledge saving that which Thou hast taught us. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower, the Wise. He said: O Adam! Inform them of their names, and when he had informed them of their names, He said: Did I not tell you that I know the secret of the heavens and the earth? And I know that which ye disclose and which ye hide. And when We said unto the angels: Prostrate yourselves before Adam, they fell prostrate, all save Iblis. (2:30-34)

So God ordered the angels to bow down before Adam. Now some people have been confused by the incident, and adding to their confusion have been the arguments missionaries usually utilize with the following incident. Some missionaries try and assert that this incident goes against monotheism, because God ordered the angels to bow down to Adam, a created being.

Obviously this is false, as anyone reading the verses will note that God never commanded the angels to worship Adam, he simply commanded the angels to bow before Adam. Now sometimes bowing or prostrating can be done as an act of worship, so it’s important to understand the context of the situation, was the bowing down as an act of worship, or not? In the following incident, the context is quite clear that the prostration towards Adam was not done as an act of worship.

It’s quite simple in fact, if anyone reads the Quran, and understands what Islam is all about, they will know that it’s all about worshipping the one true God and no others. Therefore in light of this very real fact, it becomes very silly to all of a sudden assume or argue that in this instance God would order the angels to worship Adam, the larger context obviously refutes such an absurd notion.

So what was the point of God ordering the angels to prostrate to Adam? The significance of this prostration was to highlight man’s special status, that man was in a status above the angels, and had a special place and role in God’s plans. As we know, while bowing is sometimes down as an act of worship, it also has other meanings behind it, often times when a person bows before another, it’s to highlight the person’s superiority and rank.

So this is the context and meaning of the verses, which is even confirmed by Islamic scholarship, no Muslim took this act of prostration as meaning God ordered the angels to worship Adam, as we had said that would be an absurd proposition.

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