The Quran tells us how, when man was first put on earth, Iblis (Satan) along with the Angels, was commanded to bow before Adam, the first man. He refused to do so, claiming that he was better than Adam. Why should he bow before an inferior creature? The Angels, on the other hand, obeyed God’s command immediately. They had no hesitation in bowing before Adam.(The Quran, 2: 34)
Adam’s encounter with Iblis and the Angels took place at the very outset of man’s time on earth. Thus, God gave notice to all future generations of mankind that they too would have to face a similar encounter. The test which Iblis and the Angels were put to was one which human beings, in every day and age, would have to face. Not only Iblis and the Angels, but the whole human race, would be required to bow before an “Adam”. Herein would lie their test in life. Would they be willing to bow before “Adam” when confronted with him? Would they be resigned to a downgrading of their own position? Would they be willing to take a back seat, setting others to the fore? Would they have regard for truth at all times, laying aside all thoughts of personal superiority? Would they accept anything in the path of God, even if it meant bowing before another human being, one who might seem inferior to themselves?
Time and time again in life, man is put to the test in this way. He is made to give precedence to another, in the process burying the notion: “I am better than he is.” There are two ways of reacting to this test. Either we can be humble, as the angels were, and downgrade ourselves, or we can follow in the footsteps of Satan, who refused in his pride to bow before one whom God had raised over him. In whosoever’s tracks we tread, we shall follow to their respective destinations.
The struggle that is life entails nothing less than dying before one dies, for that is what “bowing before Adam” entails.