What a big difference it was! What an amazing difference between the error of one person and the error of another person. The two persons I am talking about are, of course, Adam, alayh as salaam, and Iblees (the devil).
What had happened was this: Allah had created Adam, alayh as salaam, out of clay, to be Allah’s representative (khaleefah) on earth, and had ordered the angels to bow down to Adam, alayh as-salaam, to show their respect to him. Angels, being obedient to Allah by nature, had obeyed and fallen down in prostration to Adam, alayh as-salaam. Iblees, however, was a Jinn, not an angel, and he felt too proud to make sajdah to Adam, alayh as-salaam. (Being a Jinn, Iblees was capable of both obeying Allah or disobeying Allah, just as we humans are). He refused to obey Allah’s direct command, saying that he was superior to Adam, alayh as-salaam, because Adam was made from clay and he from fire. Iblees was rejected by Allah for this disobedience and arrogance, and was banished from Allah’s nearness. To this day, Iblees has never repented of his arrogance and he continues to rebel against Allah, encouraging people to join him in disobedience.
As for Adam, alayh as-salaam, he and his wife Hawwa were placed by Allah in the Garden of Paradise. At this time, Iblees nurtured a deep hatred and jealousy against Adam, alayh as-salaam, because of the great honor and rank that Allah had given him—a rank that Iblees felt he should have had. So Iblees came to Adam and Hawwa, alayhima as-salaam, and succeeded in tricking them into eating from the forbidden tree, which Allah had commanded them not to go near. Allah was angry with Adam and Hawwa, alayhima as-salaam, for disobeying his command.
However, Adam, alayh as-salaam, immediately felt deep remorse and deep sorrow in his heart for having done something that Allah had told him not to do—quite unlike Iblees, who had erred and then arrogantly insisted on his error, not showing any remorse. Adam, alayh as-salaam, was not arrogant, he knew that disobeying Allah was a terrible thing to do, and he felt very bad about it in his heart.
His remorse was so appreciated by Allah that Allah taught him the words, the du’a, with which to make repentance (tauba) to Allah for this mistake. This shows Allah’s kindness and mercy: Even though Adam, alayh as-salaam, had disobeyed Allah, it was Allah Himself who showed Adam, alayh as-salaam, the way to forgiveness. This in itself is a wonderful thing, if you think about it.
The lesson we should learn from this story is that whenever one of us human beings, who are all from the family of Adam and Hawwa, alayhima as-salaam, makes a mistake and does something wrong, he or she should feel sorrow and remorse for that sin, and should rush to ask Allah for forgiveness, as Allah is more than happy to forgive sins, no matter how big they may be. We should try to be like our grandfather Adam, alayh as-salaam, not like Iblees, who knew that he was wrong but never repented to Allah, and was rejected and cast away.
Allah loves to forgive our sins when we turn towards Him.