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Adam in Islam

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Iranian Islamic painting, depicting ʾĀdam and Ḥawwāʾ in the Garden Eden, surrounded by angels.
Known forFirst human being
SpouseḤawwāʾ (حَوَّاء)
ChildrenHābīl Qābīl Šīṯ
(هابيل، قابيل، شِيث)

Adam (Arabic: آدم, romanizedʾĀdam), in Islamic theology, is believed to have been the first human being on Earth and the first prophet (Arabic: نبي, nabī) of Islam. Adam's role as the father of the human race is looked upon by Muslims with reverence. Muslims also refer to his wife, Ḥawwāʾ (Arabic: حَوَّاء, Eve), as the "mother of mankind".[1] Muslims see Adam as the first Muslim, as the Quran states that all the Prophets preached the same faith of Islam (Arabic: إسلام, Submission to God).[2]

According to Islamic belief, Adam was created from the material of the earth and brought to life by God. God placed Adam in a paradisical Garden. After Adam sinned by eating from the forbidden tree (Tree of Immortality), paradise was declined to him, but he may return if Adam repents from his sin. This story is seen as both literal as well as an allegory for human relationship towards God. Islam does not necessarily adhere to young Earth Creationism, and it is commonly held that life on Earth predates Adam.

Quranic narrative

Adam honoured by angels – Persian miniature (c. 1560)

The Quran describes Adam in two different scenarios.[3] In the first, Adam is created in heaven and the angels are commanded to prostrate themselves before him by God. In the second scenario, Adam dwells in a paradisical Garden with his wife identified as Ḥawwāʾ in Islamic tradition. While Adam and Eve are referred to in the Quran, the method of creation is not explained or specified.[4]

The story of Adam's creation evokes the idea of Adam as the "Primordial Man" to whom the angels need to prostrate themselves as a sign of respect. In a comment on Tafsir al-Baydawi, Gibril Haddad explains "he is also an archetype for the Attributes of Allah Most High such as His life, knowledge and power, although an incomplete one." From the angels, only Iblis (Satan) refuses and is cast down from heaven and becomes the enemy of the heavenly Adam.[5]

In the story of the Garden, God tells Adam and Ḥawwāʾ that they are not allowed to consume the fruit of the "tree of immortality" (which Islamic tradition identifies with wheat).[6] By promising immortality and "a kingdom that never decays", the Devil (shaiṭān) convinced them to taste it nonetheless:[7] "He said, "Your Lord has forbidden this tree to you only to prevent you from becoming angels or immortals."" (7:21) Whereupon Adam and his wife are sent to earth, condemned to "live and die", but God is willing to forgive them.[8]

When Adam was cast out of Garden Eden, Adam turned towards God and begged for forgiveness. Islamic exegesis regards Adam and Eve's expulsion from paradise not as punishment for disobedience or a result from abused free will on their part, but as part of God's wisdom (ḥikma) and plan for humanity to experience the full range of his attributes, his love, forgiveness, and his creative power.[9] Therefore, there is not a doctrine of original sin in Islamic theology (Kalām) and Adam's sin is not carried by all of his children.[10]

The Qiṣaṣ al-Anbiyāʾ (Tales of the Prophets) adds that Adam and Ḥawwāʾ, when cast out of paradise, they were cast down far apart, and eventually met each other at Mount Arafat.[4] Humankind would have inherent learning from Adam; such as planting, harvesting, baking, repenting, and properly burial.[4]

Theological significance

Adam features as an archetype of humans and their relationship to God in Muslim theology and philosophy. According to hadiths, Adam was created in God's own image, and according to the Quran, was "taught all the names", thus establishing the notion of Adam as a reflection of God's divine attributes. By that, Adam does not feature as a prophet or a male human being only, but also encapsulates the idea of an ideal human archetype.[11] Since God has forgiven Adam's transgression, humans are not viewed as inherently sinful or in need of redemption. Instead, Adam (or humanity) is viewed as being created from a relationship to God through learning and development.[12]

Suhrawardi (c. 1145 – 1234) discusses the nature of human's soul as a mixture between Adam and Hawwa; Adam referring to the heavenly attributes and Hawwa to earthly animalistic passion. Through a mixture of both, the human soul (nafs) is fashioned and becomes a personal animal soul. He based his anthropology on Quranic verses such as "He who has created you [all] out of one living entity, and out of it brought into being its mate, so that man might incline [with love] towards the woman" (7:189).

According to Tafsir al-Baydawi (d.1319), Adam might stand for an original pattern for all of the spiritual and the corporeal existence or serving as a way for angels to obtain their allotted perfections by submitting to God's command to prostrate before him.[13]: 508  Ibn Arabi explains that only Adam can comprehend all the names of God, thereby referring to the perfected heavenly Adam as a reflection of God's names.[14] When Iblis failed to submit to God's command, he attributed injustice to the reality (al-Haqq).[15]


Muslim scholars can be divided into two groups regarding Adam's impeccability (‘iṣmah): One argues that Adam only became a prophet after he was cast out of paradise. They adhere to the doctrine that ‘iṣmah only applies to prophets after they were sent to a mission. But since there was no population to whom Adam could have been sent, he could not have been a prophet and therefore ‘iṣmah did not apply until he left paradise.[16] These arguments are, however, rejected by those who argue that prophethood does not start with preaching God's word and thus ‘iṣmah begins before the prophetic mission. According to the second point of view, Adam was predestined by God to eat from the forbidden tree because God planned to set Adam and his progeny on earth from the beginning and thus installed Adam's fall.[16]: 194  By that Adam would not have truly disobeyed, but acted in accordance with God's will to his best ability. For that reason, many Muslim exegetes do not regard Adam and Eve's expulsion from paradise as punishment for disobedience or a result from abused free will on their part,[17]: 171  but as part of God's wisdom (ḥikma) and plan for humanity to experience the full range of his attributes, his love, forgiveness, and power to his creation.[17] By their former abode in paradise, they can hope for return during their life-time.

Some Muslim scholars view Adam as an image for his descendants: humans sin, become aware of it, repent (Tawba), and find their way back to God. Adam embodies humanity and his fall shows humans how to act when they sin.[16]: 194  Unlike Iblis (Satan), Adam asked for forgiveness for his transgression.[18]

Adam and the angels

The story of angels prostrating before Adam gave rise to various debates about whether humans or angels rank higher. Angels bowing down before Adam is mentioned as evidence for human superiority over the angels. Others hold that the prostration does not imply such a thing, but was merely a command or test for the angels.[19] A position, especially found among Mu'tazilites and some Asharites, holds that angels are superior due to their lack of urges and desires.[20] Maturidism generally does not think any of these creatures is superior to the other, and that angels' and prophets' obedience derive from their virtues and insights to God's action, but not as their original purity.[21]

In the Quranic version of Adam's fall, Satan tempted them with the promise to become immortal angels. Al-Qushayri comments on 7:20, that Adam's fall is for his wish to be like an angel, while angels' fall is because when they desired to be like human. Adam desired an angelic state of no passion and avoiding the fate of death, while Harut and Marut desired the freedom of choice and to rejoice in extravagance.[22]

Life before Adam

It is evident from the Quran that Adam was the father of contemporary humanity,[16]: 21  but if there was sentient life before him is debated. According to some views, God created an Adam thirty times, every 1000 years. After the downfall of each humanity, God left the world uninhabited for 50,000 years, then 50,000 inhabited, and then a new Adam was created.[16]: 195  The majority of scholars, however, reject this opinion, but they agree that the jinn and animals have lived on earth before. According to the Majallat Al Azhar, nowhere within Islamic texts is it prescribed how long humans existed and every Muslim is free to think that is right, and that the notion of a young earth derives from biblical reports (Israʼiliyyat).[16]: 196  Süleyman Ateş used Quranic verses to disprove the Creationistic interpretation of the Adam narrative.[23]

Creation of Adam

Ḥadīth material, incorporated in both tafsīr and qaṣaṣ ul-anbiyāʾ, offer detailed descriptions about the creation of Adam. Although they vary in detail, the following components are essential:[24]

  1. God orders the angels to collect dust from the earth to create Adam.
  2. Dust is taken from various places, influencing Adam's descendants.
  3. Mythological meaning behind the name of the first human
  4. Adam lies immobile for forty years and Adam hastily tries to rise up unable to do so.
  5. Adam sneezes and says al-hamdu li-allah.

Some components appear in both Jewish and Islamic traditions alike. The idea that God orders angels to collect dust from earth, is unique to Islam. It is only adapted in the later midrash Chronicles of Jerahmeel.[24] Islam usually has Azrael being successful, taking the earth despite earth's pleads not to do so. For his merciless withstanding, he earns his position as the angel of death. This further shows that life and death are intertwined.[24] Only in one brief reference by Tabari, it is Iblis, not Azrael who collects dust from earth, leading to his claim to be superior.[24]

Both Jewish and Muslim sources agree that dust for the creation of Adam's body was taken from the entire world, and often a specific sacred place. However, they differ in regards the identity of the sacred places and the meaning of the gathering of dust from the world.[24] While Jewish tradition identifies sacred places from Israel or the altar of the Temple, Muslim sources identify the place with Mecca or the Ka'ba.[24] According to the Muslim interpretation, dust collected from all around the earth explains the differences among humankind, such as skin-color, but insist that humanity as a whole is united in the ancestry of Adam.[24]

Genealogy of Adam

Adam and Eve with their thirteen twin children, miniature from Zubdat al-Tawarikh. As the text indicates, all of Adam's children were twins and each son had to marry the twin sister of a brother. Abel was asked by his father to wed Cane's twin sister, but Cane, whose twin happened to be the most beautiful wanted to keep her. This is how the dispute started between the two brothers. Islamic artists, when illustrating the story of Adam and Eve, usually showed the couple in paradise but never placed them with their children, nor represented this version of the dispute between Cane and Abel.

It has been said that Eve went through 120 pregnancies with Adam and each of these consisted of a set of twins: a boy and a girl.[25] In some other traditions, their first child was a girl, born alone, called ʿAnāq.[26] According to several sources, God took all of Adam's progeny from his back while they were still in heaven. He asked each of them "am I not your lord?" as read in verse 7:172 and they all replied yes.[25] For this reason, it is believed that all humans are born with an innate knowledge of God. The most famous of Adam's children are Cain and Abel. Both the brothers were asked to offer up individual sacrifices to God. God accepted Abel's sacrifice because of Abel's righteousness and Cain, out of jealousy, threw a rock at Abel, leading to the first murder in human history: the murder of Abel by Cain.[25] As Adam grieved his son, he would preach to his other children about God and faith in Him.[27] When Adam's death grew near, he appointed his son Seth as his successor.[27]

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari reported that Hawwa’ bore Adam one hundred and twenty sets of twins. The first of them were Qabil and his twin sister Qalima, and the last of them was ‘Abd al-Mughith and his twin sister Amat al-Mughith. Ibn Ishaq was quoted as saying that all the children that Hawwa’ bore Adam were forty children, male and female, from twenty twin pregnancies. And he said: The names of some of them have come down to us, and the names of others have not."[28]

Islamic scholar Sayyid Mumtaz Ali, while commenting on whether Adam was first or Eve, says that "the fact that Adam was created first is nothing but childish. To begin with, we are tempted to assert that this is so because it was not acceptable to God that a woman is left without a companion for even a second. Therefore, it is for her sake that he created Adam first. But as a matter of fact, the belief that Adam was created first and then came Eve is part of the Christian and Jewish faith. This is not at all part of the Islamic creed. There is no mention in the Quran about who was created first, Adam or Eve."[29]

See also


  1. ^ Historical Dictionary of Prophets in Islam and Judaism, Wheeler, Adam and Eve
  2. ^ Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse, Aadam = Adam = Man = Mankind = Early humans. His wife = Woman = Allegorically, early women. Udma = Ability to live together as a community. Aadam from Udma thus, indicates humankind. The word 'Eve' or 'Hawwa' is not mentioned in the Quran. She is described with dignity as Mer’a-til-Aadam = Wife of Adam = Mrs. Adam.
  3. ^ Eichler, Paul Arno. "Die Dschinn, Teufel und Engel im Koran." (1928).
  4. ^ a b c Wheeler, Brannon M. (2001). Introduction to the Quran: stories of the prophets. New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-4957-3.
  5. ^ Baeq, Daniel Shinjong. "Intertextuality of Adamic Narratives in the Qur’ān and the Bible." Prophets in the Qur'ān and the Bible (2022): 40.
  6. ^ Moreen, Vera B. "The Legend of Adam in the Judeo-Persian Epic" Bereshit [Nāmah]"(14th Century)." Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research. American Academy of Jewish Research, 1990.
  7. ^ Baeq, Daniel Shinjong. "Intertextuality of Adamic Narratives in the Qur’ān and the Bible." Prophets in the Qur'ān and the Bible (2022): 39.
  8. ^ Stieglecker, H. (1962). Die Glaubenslehren des Islam. Deutschland: F. Schöningh.
  9. ^ Lange, Christian (2016). Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions. Cambridge United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-50637-3. p. 171
  10. ^ Phipps, William (1996). Muhammad and Jesus. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company. pp. 122–3. ISBN 0-8264-0914-8.
  11. ^ The Shari'a: History, Ethics and Law. London: Bloomsbury Publishing. 2018. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-78831-316-2.
  12. ^ Khodayarifard, Mohammad; et al. (2016). "Positive psychology from Islamic perspective". International Journal of Behavioral Sciences. 10 (1): 29–34.
  13. ^ ʿAbd Allah ibn ʿUmar al-Baydawi (2016). The Lights Of Revelation And The Secrets Of Interpretation. Translated by Haddad, Gibril Fouad. Beacon Books and Media Limited. ISBN 978-0-992-63357-8.
  14. ^ Dobie, R. J. (2010). Logos and Revelation: Ibn 'Arabi, Meister Eckhart, and Mystical Hermeneutics. Catholic University of America Press. ISBN 978-0-8132-1677-5.
  15. ^ Sharpe, Elizabeth Marie (1992). Into the realm of smokeless fire: (Qur'an 55:14): A critical translation of al-Damiri's article on the jinn from "Hayat al-Hayawan al-Kubra" (Master's thesis). University of Arizona. hdl:10150/291386.
  16. ^ a b c d e f : 194  Stieglecker, H. (1962). Die Glaubenslehren des Islam. Deutschland: F. Schöningh. p. 194 (German)
  17. ^ a b Lange, Christian (2016). Paradise and Hell in Islamic Traditions. Cambridge United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-50637-3.
  18. ^ Latif, Amer. Quranic narrative and Sufi hermeneutics: Rūmī's interpretations of Pharaoh's character. State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2009.
  19. ^ Chipman, Leigh (2002). "Adam and the Angels: An examination of mythic elements in Islamic sources". Arabica. 49 (4): 429–455. doi:10.1163/15700580260375407.
  20. ^ Houtsma, M. Th. (1993). E.J. Brill's First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936. Vol. 5. Brill. p. 191. ISBN 978-9-004-09791-9.
  21. ^ Rudolph, Ulrich (1997). Al-Māturīdī und Die Sunnitische Theologie in Samarkand (in German). Brill. pp. 54–56. ISBN 90-04-10023-7.
  22. ^ Gallorini, Louise (2021). The Symbolic Function of Angels in the Qurʾān and Sufi Literature (PhD thesis). American University of Beirut. hdl:10938/22446.
  23. ^ Kaya, Veysel. "Can the Quran support Darwin? an evolutionist approach by two Turkish scholars after the foundation of the Turkish Republic." The Muslim World 102.2 (2012): 357-370.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g Chipman, Leigh NB. "Mythic Aspects of the Process of Adam's Creation in Judaism and Islam." Studia Islamica (2001): 5-25.
  25. ^ a b c al-Tabari (1989). The History of al-Tabari. New York: State University of New York Press. p. 259. ISBN 0-88706-562-7.
  26. ^ Tottoli, Roberto (2009). "ʿAnāq". In Fleet, Kate; et al. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam (Third ed.). doi:10.1163/1573-3912_ei3_COM_22679.
  27. ^ a b Kathir, Al-Imam ibn (2013). Stories of the Prophets. Fortress iPublications. ISBN 978-1-4848-4091-7.
  28. ^ al-Tabari, Muhammad. Tarikh at-Tabari: Tarikh al-Umam wa’l-Muluk. pp. 1/98.
  29. ^ Deobandi, Sayyid Mumtaz Ali (1898). "The Supremacy Myth". Huquq-e-Niswan (in Urdu) (1898 ed.). Lahore: Rifah-e-Aam Press. pp. 21–22. Retrieved 22 August 2020. Adapted from Javed Anand's translation to the piece


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