In the Quran:

Allah taught Adam all the names of everything, then He showed them to the angels and said: "Tell Me the names of these if you are truthful." They (angels) said: "Glory be to You, we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Verily, it is You, the All-Knower, the All-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 unseen in the heavens and the earth, and I know what you reveal and what you have been hiding?"

The Angels say that they have no knowledge except what Allah has taught them. Are their names unknown to them as Allah has not told them - in which case why does Allah ask Adam to tell the Angels their names rather than Himself, or do they know their names but have hidden it from Allah?

11 Answers 11


The verse doesn't say that God asked Adam to teach them the names, the verse says that God asked Adam to inform them about the names. The verb used is «أنبِئهُم» not «عَلِّمهُم». Their usage is quite different is Quran.

The following is what I understand from Quran:

The reason God tells Adam to inform the Angels about the names seems to be that God wants to demonstrate to them that the creation of Adam is justified. If you look at the verses about the story, you see that the Angels are objecting to the creation of Adam and say that they already do worship God so why create Adam and put him as Caliph on Earth? By teaching the names to Adam and asking him to inform the Angels about the names God demonstrate to the Angels that Adam is capable of worshiping God in a way that the Angels are not capable of, that is Adam is capable of learning the names while the Angels are not capable of learning the names.

Note that although we humans are capable of learning the names, it seems that most of us do not learn or understand the names. Our situation is more like being informed about the names, e.g. we know some Arabic word like "الرّحیم" is one of the names of God, but we are far from understanding the name.

  • 2
    altafsir.com/… The scholars have different on what "the names" really meant. Many says that the names means all things (trees,animals, food and so on), some says the angels names. But I haven't heard that the names in this context is referring to Gods asma'o alhusna. Could you add reference to that?
    – Kilise
    Commented Sep 10, 2016 at 16:10
  • The early scholars had limited knowledge on reasoning then. Now we gained much knowledge that we can even create machines that can memorize objects (i.e. Artificial Intelligence). So referring names to labels of objects is too simple. Also it's not "al-Ghaib al samawat wal ard". But for example: patient, justice, humility, love are attributes that are invisible (al-Ghaib) but they exist and we know them. The Angels know only part of them, but Adam knows all of them. Ibliss was an example he didn't learn the names and showed the opposite: arrogance.
    – AndaluZ
    Commented Jun 23, 2020 at 8:44

When Allah said to the Angels that he will create Adam, there was a conversation that happened between Allah and them, there was also a conversation among the angels themselves, we all know the conversation between Allah and the angels, but not all of us know what was the conversation among the angels, I saw a video in YouTube for Tareq Al-sweedan who mentioned this story.. Here what he said about the conversation among them: the angels were wondering why would Allah create Adam, then they said Adam won't have as much knowledge as we (angels) have.

So that's why Allah taught Adam thing that the angels don't know.

I hope I answered your question as you wish

  • And hence He asked Adam to teach the angels in order to prove the point the Adam in fact knows more then them? Btw welcome to Islam. Commented Feb 15, 2014 at 18:14

Although I am not 100% sure, I think that the names that were taught to Adam are the names of God. This is so that Adam can glorify the names of God. It makes sense that the first thing man should learn are the names of the Creator. Names being the quality that describes the Creator. The names of the angels may also be taken from hte qualities of God as they can only do His bidding. The Angels object because they are already glorifying God and they see no need to have another creation who is given the "option" to gloryfiy God by free will. Glorification also means to live by or rule by the names of God. For example, one of the names of God is The Merciful. Adam had to inculcate this quality in order for him to be just among the creatures of the Earth. The wonderful point here is that man can glorify the names of his Creator, with a choice!

  • That's the right interpretation of the story. But what really made Adam distinguished other than his free will was that he was taught ALL the names!
    – infatuated
    Commented Feb 23, 2014 at 14:20


  1. First of all angels were being informed here by Allah (swt)of His plan of creating a "Khalifa" successor/viceergent, as angels will be playing an important role to support,help and serve humanity, in this verse.

  2. The angels were not questioning or criticizing God un auzobillah,they were wondering why God is creating a revised edition of a being (hence the name successor)as they are already doing a good job of worshipping Allah(s)in best possible way.

  3. This proves that angels are intelligent beings, they have to be,if they are going to serve a being with intellect but the angels not been given freewill to do things which they are only programmed for. They have only that amount of knowledge which Allah(s) has taught them.

  4. The names or terminology taught by Allah(s)to man, signify the potential capability of man to be able to learn things,extract deeper meaning behind things around him, through their intellect / Aqal. So if purpose of creation is to worship God and glorify Him, then the humanity was equipped with the tool of intellect,using this tool and not like other beings or things.The superiority of man, thus is in his capability of acquiring knowledge.

  5. Equipped with freewill as well (being Khalifa) Knowledge acquired could be used in a bad or good way in creating "Fasad" as angels predicted rightly so.Most importantly the names taught by Allah(swt)would be true most authentic and beneficial knowledge as Allah(s) being the ultimate source of knowledge. I think the names taught To man signify knowledge given both about faith and science/world showing the unity of learning both as one, originating from same one God.


As I see it, Angels have intelligence but no free-will but Humans have both intelligence and free-will. Therefore, in the verses previous to these, when the Angels ask God why Humanity was created, God demonstrates the answer---through this exercise of names. A "Name" differentiates and defines. In order to do this, creativity is required. For example, if one is naming two different furniture, one a chair and the other a sofa---one has to be able to see and understand the construction, the use and purpose of these items. Thus, without free-will....the angels lack creativity---that is they are able to do as God commands but not go beyond that. Humanity on the other hand, has the potential to understand the spirit behind the commands and go beyond the literalism of the command. In other words, to interpret what it means to be a Khalifa, the purpose behind why this command was issued and to fulfill it to its highest potential.........


I believe the meaning is very simple ,it means God gave adam and the whole mankind free access to knowledge of everything ,this is why scientist are able to research and find the unknown in many areas.

This is the closest logical explanation I can think of ,The problem is most Muslims take everything mentioned in the Quran too literally .

I also believe when God made adam display his God given free will of knowledge which the angels do not possess & after he did so , what it means he asked the The angels to prostrate ,I believe is not physically going down on hands and knees to prostrate Adam ,keeping in mind Angels are forms of energy( Light) and do not have physical bodies like us human, same with the jins who are another form of energy (smokeless fire) while the quran tells us The angels obeyed god and prostrated and iblis who is a jin refused realy means , that The angels agreed to serve adam willingly,while Iblis the Jinn refused through envy and is always out to sabotage man .This is why Muslims must never deal with jinns (irrespective if the Jin is a Muslim or not) , best example is the story of Solomon, God permitted the wind to the control of Solman to blow on each direction for a fixed period of a month and else where we read in the Quran that God mentions there are angels who drive the winds which we must understand that the angels served Suliman with the winds,the other example is when Sulaiman wanted to bring Bilqis thrown , and he dismissed the help of the Jinn who offered to bring it before he gets up from his seat ,while one blessed with the knowledge of the book (obviously a highly intelligent and intellectual human being is referred here)brings the thrown before the twinkling of his eyes and later God warns about how The jins defamed and blasphemed sulaiman by spreading lies after his death that he was a sorcerer and God sternly defends his prophet a loyal servant of God. Quran further talks of human beings of the past who have been far more intelligent and skilled than us , and were destroyed due to the transgression, we may never know what intelligence some of our ancestors may have possessed and were destroyed, and as one can see with the advancement of technology and science ,man is becoming more and more arrogant and there is no doubt man will in the end destroy himself and everything he gained through his arrogance and loss of faith.

The story of Adam , the angels ,Iblis , Sulaiman and other references, should be understood as , God not story telling Adam about some names ,instead he is permitting him complete access to knowledge ,and the Angels willing to prostrate is a symbolic gesture of honoring adam of the high position god has given and it really means they will assist him in seeking knowledge and serving God on earth , while iblis will always be whispering to mankind to distract and sabotage and defame him , the The one who was blessed with the Knowledge of the book in sulaiman story shows how much of freedom adam and his progeny is given where knowledge is concerned.


After much deliberation on this story of Allah teaching names to Adam and then asking him to recount the names in front of Angels which has always baffled me as to what is the lesson from this story? after all Koran is a book of stories not to inform us of what Allah did or how He did it as the main purpose for He does not need that! The main purpose of the Koranic stories is for us to get some meaning from it t understand, improve, commit, worship, pray, be good and fulfill the reasons for our creation.

Here is what I think of the message in this Aya where Allah is telling Aadam to recite the names Adam has learned infront of the angels.

All Knowledge is made up of names, take any subject, any topic, any discipline. Names are nouns common or proper,but nouns. If we can learn the names of the objects, items, processes, molecules, atoms, theories, ideas etc 80%-90% of the knowledge is acquired. All the rest is just to understand how these names are connected to each other, the order of their appearance on the scene, chronology, timing and connections etc.


In the Arabic, none of the explanations above are valid. The pronouns used refer to Adam being taught the 'Names' of things which possess intelligence. He wasn't introduced to objects, he was introduced to PEOPLE - his offspring.

Allah (Swt) frames the discussion with the Angels querying his decision of introducing Adam to the Earth. The correct response to their fears is not to show Adam is capable of learning the name of things, it's to introduce Adam to his offspring who will be the positive force on the Earth, Nuh, Dawud, Muhammad etc. Allah(Swt) is saying, so you think my creations will all cause bloodshed - LOOK, here are the offspring of Adam, the brightest and the best Look at what they will achieve - Now what say you?.

It's clear that Adam, and then subsequently the Angels are all introduced to each one of us, every single human being of creation. The father is introduced to all his children - Even the Bad. However when this process is complete, the Good outweigh the Bad to such an extent the Angels Immediately understand and see it's going to be worth it.

Now we understand, the Angels are saying. Now we see your wisdom, now we see the Adam will produce the kind of people who will even super-cede us.

Hope this helps.

None of this is my own work, I am conveying information which you can find on youtube from Nouman Ali Khan and Sheikh Akram Nadwi whose Tafsirs of Surat Al-Baqarah you can find on Youtube.


Selamin Aleikum

I am thinking on this for some time and happy to see all those comments and interactions.

My interpretation is close to the Yusuf Asma.

I think Adam's learning is self learning (Ultimately Allah teaches) similar to AI Machine Learning. (Ai is another Evidence of Allah nowadays to let us understand Adam's intellectual level. As Intellectual Khalifa we also try to create our own Ai on earth of course within our constraints and whatever Allah allows us).

What makes me think of that, at the end Angels can learn. But from this verse we can sense that learning ways are different between Angels and Adam.

Just as information as non Arabic speaker, I hear from another brother that he thinks in Adam Verses names are referring to human, djinn, or angel beings. Based on "Asmaa" word's form (masulin plural) May be Any Arabic Language Expert can comment on this as well. Why he thinks so is quoted below. :


2:30 And when your Lord said to the Angels/Al-Mala’ekah: "Indeed, I am Making/Placing on Earth a Caliph/Successor/Khalifah." They said: "Will You make/place therein one who corrupts therein and sheds blood,
While/and we glorify with Your Praise and we sanctify to You?" He said: "Indeed, I - I know what you do not know."

6:165 And it is He who has made you Khalifas/Successors on Earth and He has raised some of you above others in degrees [of rank] that He may try you through what He has given you. Indeed, your Lord is swift in penalty; but indeed, He is Forgiving and Merciful.

2:31 And He Taught Adam The Names – all of them* (kulla-ha / *fem.s.) - Then, He displayed/presented them (masc.pl. / humans) onto the Angels, He then said: "Inform Me (predict/prophesize) with The Names of these (masc.pl. /humans/Prophets), - If you (The Angels) were honest/truthful/right/sincere (right)."

2:32 They said, "Glory be to You, we have no knowledge, except what You have taught us. Indeed You, You are The Omniscient, The Wise.

2:33 He said, "O Adam, inform **them **of their names." Then when he informed them (anba-a-hum) their names, He said, "Did I not tell you, “Indeed, I know the Unseen of The Heavens and The Earth and I know what you reveal, and what you conceal?

there's more to this

"Major Arabic Grammar Rule (fem. ha/hiya / it or she or them):

All Plural Nouns which do not refer to human (+ djinn or angel) beings are to be grammatically feminine singular in modern standard Arabic (MSA).

This rule does not just apply to adjectives but anything that has to agree in some way with a non-human plural will always be feminine singular. Thus pronouns, demonstratives, and verbs will always be put in the feminine singular whenever they must agree with a non-human plural. —--------------------------------------------------------------------

Ex1: 7:145 Al-Alwāḥ/Tablets (pl. masc.) referred to as fa-khudh'-hā = so take it (s. fem.)/them. Ex2: 10:1 Alif, Lam, Ra. Those (til'ka s. fem. that) are the verses (āyāt fem. pl.) of the Wise Book. Ex3: 74:31 And it/they/hiya (fem. sing. Number= 19, tablets) is/are not except a Reminder/Remembrance (dhik’ra fem.) for the Mortals/Humans. Ex4: 6:90 It (masc. sing. Guidance) is not except a Remembrance/Reminder (dhik'rā fem.) for the worlds (lil'ālamīn).""

Allah knows best. I pray Allah to forgive me if my understanding not correct. This is just input to your thinking process.


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Since Adam and his offspring were given free will, Angels deduced that they will do "fasad" once they are put to earth as "khalifa". Angels argued that they are best fit for this position. What Allah told Adam to tell the Angels were the names of the successful and pious people who will submit their will completely to Allah.

  • Do you have any supporting reference for this answer?
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Dec 12, 2015 at 7:03

Now i know why Islam is in such trouble Omission and interpolation is the order of the day if Adam had been taught the names and nature of all things, remembering that the names given by Allah are the correct names that describe the nature of that thing he would have known about Iblis and the history of the Jinn one with such supreme knowledge would not have dis-obeyed his creator, so context of the taught knowledge has to be based on Adam was going to be a khalifa of earth so earth knowledge is the most pertinent requirement earth/plants/animals/moon/sun interaction and names and operations and behaviour etc, these are things that were not know by Angels or Iblis as he was part of that group even though he was a jinn the lesson here is, Malaika did not offer names to things that they could clearly observe understanding that true names are named by the creator. ( we like to interpolate in islam that why we are messed up)

  • Can we edit this to make it less about Islam being "messed up" and more about the question: Why did Allah ask Adam to teach the Angels their names? Commented May 21, 2017 at 4:12

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