Cain and Abel in Islam

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Qābīl and Hābīl written in Islamic calligraphy

Qabýl and Habýl (Arabic: قَابِيْل وَهَابِيْل‎, Cain and Abel) are believed by Muslims to have been the first two sons of Adam and Hawaʾ (Eve) mentioned in the Qurʾan.

The events of the story in the Qur'an[1] are virtually the same as the Hebrew Bible narrative: Both the brothers were asked to offer up individual sacrifices to God; God accepted Habil's (Abel) sacrifice and rejected Qabil's (Cain); out of jealousy, Qabil slew Hābīl which was the first ever case of murder committed upon the Earth.

The great majority of the world's more than 1.5 billion Muslim population agree upon the Sunni Islamic version, which narrates that Allah promises (permits) Adam to marry one of the twin pairs (which their chromosomical makeup were distinguishly genetically specified by god) with one of the pairs of Qabil with the beautiful-looking Iqlimiya, while the twin pairs of his sister named Qabil and Layudha are less attractive. When Adam was about to marry them (Abel with Iqlimiya and Qabil with Layudha, respectively) Qabil protested and disobeyed because Habil's sister is less attractive and his own sister is beautiful. So he wants his twin sister for himself because he feels he is more entitled to his twin sister. Based on the revelations from Allah, Adam ordered both to sacrifice, who received the kurbanya then he was entitled to virtue (marrying the twin sister of Qabil).

While according to a Shia version, from reports of their Shia Imams, it has been the tradition from the Prophets Adam to Muhammad that it is a sin for a brother to marry a sister and the protest and jealousy of Qabil was due to the acceptance of Habil's sacrifice and Habil being chosen as Adam's successor on Earth and Allah sent down houri from heaven to marry the sons of Adam. As such, according to a report from the 6th Imam Jafar al-Sadiq, he narrated, "Two thousand years before the creation of Adam, Allah ordered the Pen (al-Qalam) to inscribe on The Preserved Tablet (al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) all that was going to occur until the Day of Judgment. It included all the divine books. And in the books, Allah has made unlawful the sisters for their brothers. And at present all the four books. We see in Torah, Zabur, Injeel and Qur’an that were revealed by Allah to His Prophets through The Preserved Tablet that nowhere has Allah made the sister lawful for her brother." The Imam continued to narrate that, "When Qabil killed Habil, Adam was very shocked that he cried for five hundred years and did not touch his wife. When he overcame his sorrow he cohabited and Allah gave him a son, Shith (Seth) who was born a single child. Shith was named Hibtullah (Gift of Allah). He was the first successor to whom a will was made. After Shith, Yafith was also born singly. When both grew up and Allah wanted to multiply human beings and as the Qalam had made the sisters unlawful for their brothers, Allah on a Thursday after Asr (afternoon time) sent a houri, Nazala and ordered Adam to marry Shith to her. Next day another houri, Mauzela was sent and Allah ordered that Yafith be married to her. Adam did as was told. Shith got a son and Yafith a daughter. When both attained maturity Allah ordered Adam to marry them and Adam obeyed. Thus, the lineage of Prophets and Messengers of Allah began." In another narration, when asked for Qabil's reason of killing Habil, the 6th Imam replied, "Because Adam had appointed Habil as his successor. Allah revealed to Adam to hand over the successorship and the Grand Name to Habil while Qabil was the elder. When he knew this, he was angered and said that he was the rightful heir to the successorship and bounties. Under divine instructions, Adam asked both of them to present a sacrifice to Allah. Allah accepted Habil's sacrifice and rejected Qabil's, so he envied Habil and killed him."

In the Qur'an[edit]

A depiction of Cain burying Abel from an illuminated manuscript version of Stories of the Prophets

Of Adam's first children, Cain was the elder son while Abel the younger. Each of them presented a sacrifice to God but it was accepted only from Abel, because of the latter's righteous attitude and his faith and firm belief in God. After the offering of their sacrifices, Cain, the wicked sibling, taunted Abel out of envy and told him that he would surely slay him. Abel justly warned Cain that God only accepted the sacrifice of those that are righteous in their doings. He further went on to tell Cain that if Cain did indeed try to slay him,[2] Abel would not retaliate and slay him because the God-fearing would never murder for the sake of envy. Abel then told Cain that in murdering him, he would carry the weight not only of his sin but also of the sins of his victim.[3] The victim, as a result, in suffering the injustice, would be forgiven his own sins and the murderer, while being warned, would consequently increase his own sin. Abel preached powerfully and reminded Cain that the punishment for murder would be that he would spend the afterlife in the fires of Hell.

The innocent pleading and preaching of Abel had no effect upon Cain, for he was full of arrogance, pride and jealousy. He subsequently slew[4] the righteous Abel, but in doing so, he ruined himself and became of those who remain lost. This would be the earliest example of the murder of a righteous man taking place upon the earth. In the future, many other evildoers would slay the wise and pious believers.

After the murder, Allah sent a crow searching in the ground to show Cain how to hide the disgrace of his brother. Cain, in his shame, began to curse himself[5] and he became full of guilt. The thought of the crime at last came to the murderer, as he realized indeed how dreadful it was to slay anyone, the more so as the victim was an innocent and righteous man. Full of regrets, Cain was marked with deep sorrow. The Qur'an states, "And he became of the regretful." 5:31 (Chapter 5, verse 31)


The Qur'an states that the story of Cain and Abel was a message[6] for mankind, as it had told them about the consequences of murder and that the killing of a soul would be as if he/she had slain the whole of mankind. But the Qur'an states that still people rejected the message of the story, and continued to commit grave sins, such as slaying prophets and other righteous people. All the prophets who preached since the time of Adam were persecuted, insulted or reviled in one way or another. With some righteous men, however, the Qur'an states that people went one step further, in attempting to slay them or indeed slaying them. As for the slaying of the righteous, it says "As to those who deny the Signs of God and in defiance of right, slay the prophets, and slay those who teach just dealing with mankind, announce to them a grievous penalty".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Quran 5:27: "Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to Allah. It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: 'Be sure I will slay thee.' 'Surely' said the former, 'He (God) doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.'
  2. ^ Quran 5:28: "'If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee': for I do fear God, the cherisher of the worlds.'"
  3. ^ Quran 5:29: "'For me, I intend to let thee draw on thyself my sin as well as thine, for thou wilt be among the companions of the fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong.'"
  4. ^ Quran 5:30: "The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones."
  5. ^ Quran 5:31: "Then Allah sent a crow searching in the ground to show him how to hide the disgrace of his brother. 'O Woe to me!' said he. 'Have I failed to be like this crow and hide the body of my brother?' Then he became full of regrets."
  6. ^ Quran 5:32: "On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land."
  7. ^ Quran 3:21