“When your Lord said to the angels: ‘I am placing on the earth a caliph,’ they replied: ‘Will You put there who corrupts and sheds blood, when we exalt Your praises and sanctify You?’ He said: ‘I know what you do not know.’ (Surah Al-Baqarah, verse 30)
This verse is the first of ten consecutive verses in the Surah that discuss the status of man in the world, his characteristics, his faculties, and his capabilities. They also feature the truth and the outcomes of mankind’s being God’s caliph on earth and his Hobout (fall, descent).
At the end of this verse, God tells the angels: “‘I know what you do not know.”
What is it that God knew but the angels were unaware of? Many interpreters of the Quran believe what the angels thought about man was because there had been other beings on earth prior to the creation of mankind who had committed corruption.
In Majma al-Bayan Quran Exegesis, it has been narrated from Ibn Abbas and Ibn Masoud that the angels knew Adam (AS) would not commit sins and they asked God such a question because He had told them that some children of Adam (AS) would commit corruption on earth.
Allameh Tabatabaei believes that the angel’s question was rooted in their lack of knowledge about the earthly nature of man that is a mixture of wrath and lust.
But there is something more that the angels did not know about mankind. They did not know that man’s ultimate perfection is becoming God’s caliph and the path to that is on this earth. As the Holy Prophet (PBUH) said, “The world is the farm of the Hereafter.”