[2:31] And He taught Adam the names, all of them; then He presented them to the angels and said, 'Now tell Me the names of these if you speak truly'.
The universality of His saying names necessarily implies the totality, and the connection of this word to all of them indicates comprehensiveness and verification. Just as He taught [Adam] the names of created things, all of them (according to what is articulated in the tafsīr of Ibn ʿAbbās and others), He also taught him the names of the Real (s). But He only disclosed to [the angels] the locus He chose for knowledge of the names of created things and by that [disclosure] the measure of [Adam's] superiority over them. As for his uniqueness in knowing His names (s), that was a secret which no angel who is nigh (malak muqarrab) was aware of. One who does not have a rank equal to Adam in knowing the names of created things, what hope could there be in his approaching the names of the Real and grasping the secrets of the Unseen? Since being selected for knowing the names of created things makes it proper for the angels to prostrate before him, what is one to think about being selected for knowing the names of the Real (s)? What is owed to the one who is honored with that?
It is said the special status of the angels is in [their] glorification and sanctification [of God]. These acts of obedience are appropriate for created beings, for surely obedience is the mark of servants, and servants alone. [On the other hand], knowledge, in general, is a kind of commendation (madḥ) that is absolutely necessary in describing the Real (s), one that is not appropriate for anything other than Him. Among the category of created beings, there is no one more perfect in honoring Him than the one who honors Him through His own explanation of His attributes.
It is said He honored [Adam] privately with what He taught him, and then explained His having selected him and having given him precedence on the day of the public revealing.
It is said [that in the words] then He presented them, the [word] 'then' (thumma) is a particle of extension or delay. [It might refer] to Adam, in which case it means He gave him time for that which had been established in his heart and for the recognizing of what became known to him by His truth. Then at the time [of the public revealing] He asked him about what he had recognized as true and knew with certainty. Or [the 'then' might refer] to the angels when He said to them, in order to frighten them, 'Now tell Me'. Because He had not presented the information to them, they were bewildered. Because He had presented it to Adam, he responded and gave information (ajāba wa akhbara), spoke and was successful (na?aqa wa aflaḥa), which was a manifestation of His prior solicitude in his affair.
His words 'if you speak truly' contain an allusion to the fact that [the angels] objected to the claim of special status, and the advantage and privilege conferred upon Adam, so He informed them that the preference (fa?l) is in the eternal (qadīm) selection of [Adam], not in the offering (taqdīm) of their glorification. The Real (s) knew that their types of knowledge did not include knowledge of the names of created things, but then He charged them with saying what they were. This became the clearest of proofs that the affair was His affair and the decree His decree. To Him belongs the imposition of obligation (taklīf) on the one who is asked to obey. [This] is a reply to those who imagine that the decrees of the Real (s) are dependent on what the heedless deem to be good in their claims based on rational determinations. No, rather it belongs to Him to charge what He wills on whom He wills. The beautiful is what He decrees to be beautiful and the ugly is what He decrees to be ugly.