1

In Suratu Saad (38), ayat 75 Allah is reprimanding Iblees for his refusal to bow down prostrate to Father Adaam (alaihi salaam). Allah says:

“O Iblees! What prevents you from prostrating yourself to one whom I created with My hands? Are you arrogant? Or are you one of the ‘Aaleen (High and Mighty Ones)?”

Who are the ‘Aaleen mentioned in this ayat?

1

As for the verses mentioning the word al-'Aaleen عَالِينَ you may also find:

  • (23:46) mentioning Pharaoh:

    To Pharaoh and his establishment, but they were arrogant and were a haughty people.

  • (44:31) also referring to Pharaoh:

    From Pharaoh. Indeed, he was a haughty one among the transgressors.

So basically one could conclude that al-'Aaleen is referring to arrogance, to people or creation who consider themselves as better or superior to those who are around them. Pharaoh even went so far to consider himself a deity.

As for the verses that mention the story of Iblees and his disobedience to prostrate you may either find Allah asking why he refused and indicating that it is due to arrogance like in the verse you posted or in:

  • And [mention] when We said to the angels, "Prostrate before Adam"; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers. (2:34)

Or you may find Iblees answering and showing the arrogance like in:

  • [ Allah ] said, "What prevented you from prostrating when I commanded you?" [Satan] said, "I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay." (7:12)

  • He said, "Never would I prostrate to a human whom You created out of clay from an altered black mud." (15:33)

Ibn Kathir in his tafsir didn't see a reason to explain this at this verse nor in earlier verses. While imam al-Qurtobi gave a short explanation in his tafsir -see here in Arabic-:
In the following I will translate from Arabic, these translations are of my own take them carefully!

أم كنت من العالين أي المتكبرين على ربك
(or were you [already] among the haughty?") means among those who are arrogant towards their Lord.

Imam al-Bagahwi elaborated a bit more in his tafsir -see here in Arabic-:

أم كنت من العالين ) المتكبرين . استفهام توبيخ وإنكار ، يقول : أستكبرت بنفسك حتى أبيت السجود ؟ أم كنت من القوم الذين يتكبرون فتكبرت عن السجود لكونك منهم ؟
(or were you [already] among the haughty?") the arrogant, this is a question to show castigation and denial. As if he asked: Have your arrogance reached the level that you refused to prostrate? Or have you been among the arrogant -from the beginning- and refused to prostrate out of arrogance because you are among them?

The andalusian linguists and mufassirs ibn 'Atiyyah in his tafsir -see here in Arabic-and ibn Hiyyan in his al-Bahr al-Moheet -see here in Arabic- emphasized on the use of the preposition "أم" (here equal to "or") and said that linguists or scholars of grammar in such cases say that "أم" is used to show that both words are not equal in the meaning: so while "أستكبرت" (have you gotten arrogant) refers to an arrogance that just started (now) after Allah gave the order for prostration or have you (always or already before this) been among those who are worthy to be glorified or get high esteem or set in a high position (here used as a castigation as this is not appropriate for one of Allah's creation).

The answer of Iblees actually confirmed this so he was among those who have been arrogant from the beginning.

On the difference, roots and branches of both synonyms of arrogance used here

In this verse arrogance once was referred to in form of the verb استكبر istakbara and once as the noun عال *'aali(n)**(which is the singular of العالين or العالون).

استكبر istakbara literally means made himself bigger or greater than somebody (arrogance here is referred to in a figurative manner). This verb is derived from the verb كَبُرَ kabura which means grow, become big or great (this verb actually can be find in the Qur'an see for example in verse 6:35) among the nouns that can be derived from it you may find الكبير al-Kabeer the great (or big) which is one of Allah's attributes and names see for example 22:62. There are also الكِبْر al-Kibr (See in Sahih Muslim) and الكِبْرِيَاء al-Kinbriyaa' (See in 10:78 and in the qudsi hadith)which are synonyms for arrogance and as arrogance needs a person or group on which it might be applied the corresponding verb is اسْتَكْبَرَ which actually includes the "prefix اسْتَـ" which usually means "asks for something" or "wants to be something" so the verb literally means he wants to be great or better wants to be regarded (by others) as a great person. While the verb تَكَبَّرَ takabbara is used referring to an arrogance which is imposed, for this verb the releatd noun is used in the Qur'an المُتَكَبِّرٍ al-Muatakabir see in 40:35.
Note that istakbara can be used generally while takabara can only used for two creatures that actually are comparable. So using in the context of Allah speaking to Iblees would suggest that Iblees has a high esteem, which isn't the case and therefore it is inappropriate.

عال or عالي 'Aaaly means high or very high and in the context of arrogance we find verbs such as استعلى ista'ala (see in 20:64) again a highness which is wanted and تعالى ta'alaa (see in 20:114) a highness or might which is imposed. Note that highness is also an attribute of Allah and it appears referring to Allah together with greatness in verses such as 4:34 and 17:43.

One may ask why both refer o arrogance, first as both are related to attributes of Allah and anybody who wants or sets himself equal to Allah must be arrogant secondly because they create a distinction and a big person or a high person is always due to some respect so the more this respect is not earned the more it looks like arrogance. And Allah knows best!

  • @UmH referenced 23:46 yesterday for me and got me to wondering what, then, distinguishes the mutakab‘bireen from the ‘aaleen? Is there a difference (say, in connotation) or are the two words synonymous? – Ibraheem Muhammad Oct 5 '18 at 15:35
  • @IbraheemMuhammad if you may wait I might add a few words on the linguistic difference basically mutakabbir comes from kabir big/great while aalin means high. – Medi1Saif Oct 5 '18 at 16:31
  • I will be waiting, brother. – Ibraheem Muhammad Oct 5 '18 at 17:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.