And recall (O Prophet) when your Lord brought forth descendants from the loins of the sons of Adam, and made them witnesses against their own selves, asking them: ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said: ‘Yes, we do testify.’ We did so lest you claim on the Day of Resurrection: ‘We were unaware of this.‘ (Qur’an, 7:172)
Allah made the Israelites enter into a covenant with their Lord. A covenant with God is not the exclusive privilege of Children of Israel. In fact all human beings are bound in a covenant with Allah and a Day will come when they will be made to answer how well they were able to observe that covenant.
This event, according to several traditions, took place at the time of the creation of Adam. Apart from the prostration of the angels before Adam and the proclamation that man would be Allah’s vicegerent on earth, all the future progeny of Adam were gathered, and were endowed with both existence and consciousness in order to bear witness to Allah’s lordship.
The best interpretation of this event is found in a statement by Ubayy Bin Ka’b, who has probably given the substance of what he had heard from the Prophet (peace be upon him):
Allah gathered all human beings, divided them into different groups, granted them human form and the faculty of speech, made them enter into a covenant, and then making them witnesses against themselves He asked them: ‘Am I not you Lord?’ They replied: ‘Assuredly you are our Lord.’ Then Allah told them: ‘I call upon the sky and the earth and your own progenitor, Adam, to be witness against you lest you should say on the Day of Judgment that you were ignorant of this. Know well that no one other than Me deserves to be worshipped and no other than Me is your Lord. So do not ascribe any partner to Me.
I shall send to you My Messengers who will remind you of this covenant which you made with Me. I shall send down to you My Books.’ In reply all said: ‘We witness that You are Our Lord and our Deity. We have no lord or deity other than You.’