By Mohammad Yousuf Naviwala (4th Year ʿĀlim Student, DarusSalam Seminary)
The following is a synopsis of the explanations that Muftī Raḍā al-Ḥaqq mentions in his commentary on Buṣayri’s Qaṣīdat al-Burdah for Ādam’s eating from the Tree and sin. We know that the Prophets are infallible. And Ādam did not sin when he ate from the tree. There are four things to consider regarding this. They are:
(1) Nahī Ishfāqī
Ādam thought that the prohibition was specific to the early part of his life. This is similar to an infant only eating soft food during his early life, then, as he gets older and attains strength, he eats foods that he did not eat before. Ādam believed that as he became older the prohibition no longer remained. Thus, the prohibition was conditional, and not due to that item being intrinsically unlawful.
Furthermore, it could not be a legislative prohibition as it occurred in Paradise. And Paradise is not the place of legislation; thus, Sacred Law is not applied there. And going against a prohibition of ishfāq or an advisory prohibition is not considered to be sin.
(2) Nahī Tanzīhī
Meaning the action is nonpreferable (ar. khilāf al-awlā) but not unlawful. Just like how eating unripe fruit is not unlawful but also not preferred. It cannot be deemed unlawful because in Paradise there is a differentiation between the preferred (ar. awlā) and the nonpreferred (ar. ghayr awlā), but there cannot be a differentiation between ḥarām and ḥalāl.
(3) Khaṭaʾ Ijtihādī
Ādam may have erred in an interpretation. He may have thought that the prohibition applied to a specific tree, but not to every tree of the same type. When Allāh prohibited Ādam, one specific tree was indicated.
ولا تقربا هذه الشجرة
“Do not go near this tree.”
However, the intended meaning was not that specific tree but rather all trees of its type. Once, the Prophet (upon him be peace) took a silk cloth and a piece of gold. He said that these two are prohibited (ar. ḥarām) for the men of his ummah. The prohibition is not limited to what was in his blessed hands. Rather, all silk and gold share the same ruling.
Still, one who saw the Prophet may have thought that the prohibition only applied to them at that place and time, and that it did not apply to all things of the same type. Similarly, Ādam thought that the tree that was indicated was the only prohibited tree and not every tree. This was the same doubt that the Devil suggested to him. Thereafter, Ādam did not eat from the tree that was indicated, rather, he ate from a different tree of the same type.
(4) Nisyān Insānī
The Devil informed Ādam of the benefits of eating from the tree. He mentioned to Ādam that by eating from it, he would dwell perpetually content in the gardens of Paradise. And at that moment, Ādam did not recall the prohibition. Thereby the Devil whispered to him, then forgetfulness overtook him. For example, in hot climates one may become very thirsty. Then, out of forgetfulness, one who is fasting drinks out of habit. Whereas in cold climates that craving is not present, so it is rare for one to drink forgetfully.
In the Qurʾān, Allāh says:
فنسي ولم نجد له عزما
“He forgot, and We did not find him to be intentional.”
Meaning, Ādam forgot and what he did was not intentional. The verse substantiated this interpretation. It is one of the strongest.
There are other possible reasons for which Ādam’s action was not an act of disobedience. It may have slipped his mind, or he may have made an interpretive error, and while that is not sin due to his status as a Prophet and his closeness to Allāh, the mistake was grave. Therefore, it is referred to in the Qurʾān in the words:
وعصى آدم ربه فغوى
“Ādam disobeyed his Lord and erred.”
After this event, Ādam repented and asked for forgiveness. As it is said:
حسنات الأبرار سيئات المقربين
“The good works of the pious are the misdeeds of the saints.”
 Q, 2:35.
 Q, 20:115.
 Q, 20:121.
 Tafsīr al-Rāzī, 26:380.