By Malika Kahn
Adam (pbuh) is regarded as the first human being, as well as the first Prophet of Islam. The story of Adam and Eve varies slightly across the Abrahamic religions while maintaining some similarities. This article explores the story of Adam and Eve in the Quran.
Creation of Adam in the Quran
The story of Prophet Adam is found in several verses in the Quran. Not only do these verses describe the creation of the first human beings, but also imparts the purpose of life amongst other important values.
According to the Quran, well before the creation of Adam it had already been decided by Allah that mankind would be placed on the Earth.
“And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.’ They said, ‘Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?’ Allah said, ‘Indeed, I know that which you do not know.’” [2:30]
Allah informed the angels that he would create Adam, the first human being, who would assume the role as Allah’s vicegerent or deputy to prosper the earth. This indicates that long before the events in which Adam and Eve are tested, it was intended that Earth would be their destination.
The angels were curious about this choice. As perfect beings created to obediently fulfill their roles, their question to God was not meant to challenge, but to gain an understanding. God’s reply indicated that Adam would be given preference for a reason.
What was Adam created from?
“Indeed Allah Most High created Adam from a handful that He took from all of the earth. So the children of Adam come in according with the earth, some of them come red, and white and black, and between that, and the thin, the thick, the filthy, and the clean.” [at-Tirmidhi, 2955]
It is described that Adam was created from a handful of soil that the Angels were instructed to take from the earth. This soil varied in colours of red, brown, black, and white; ranging in textures of soft, gritty, silky, and hard; and varying in attributes such as fertility. This indicates that the progeny of Adam was destined to be diverse.
The Quran also describes that Adam was created from clay (Quran 38:71) or dust (Quran 3:59). This range of descriptions brings to light the history and fundamental attachment that humankind has with the earth.
“…He created Him from dust; then He said to him, ‘Be,’ and he was.” [3:59]
After being fashioned into shape, Adam’s soul, created by God, was placed in him. The Quran does not detail how this occurs, and therefore it is regarded as something not within the scope of human comprehension.
Adam is honoured as the First Human
“And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate to Adam’; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated.” [7:11]
After creating the first human, God commanded the angels to prostrate to Adam. Although prostrating is an act of worship reserved for God alone, this prostration by the Angels was a sign of respect. Furthermore, this gesture of honouring the first human also served as a test for Iblees or satan, who despite being present refused to participate.
“[So mention] when your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed, I am going to create a human being from clay. So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.’ So the angels prostrated – all of them entirely. Except Iblees; he was arrogant and became among the disbelievers.” [38:71-74]
Satan was of the creation called the jinn and was amongst the angels due to his deeds. As a being with freewill who was raised in ranks, he deemed himself far greater than Adam. His disobedience was rooted in pride and a sense of superiority. He could not accept Adam as a creation worthy of respect. However, as God had previously mentioned to the angels, there was wisdom in choosing to create Adam and therefore choosing mankind for the role as earth’s deputies.
“And He taught Adam the names – all of them. Then He showed them to the angels and said, ‘Inform Me of the names of these, if you are truthful.’ They said, ‘Exalted are You; we have no knowledge except what You have taught us. Indeed, it is You who is the Knowing, the Wise.’ He said, ‘O Adam, inform them of their names.’ And when he had informed them of their names, He said, ‘Did I not tell you that I know the unseen [aspects] of the heavens and the earth? And I know what you reveal and what you have concealed.’” [2:31-33]
Unlike the angels, Adam was created with freewill and had the ability to discern and make decisions. Furthermore, Adam was granted the gift of knowledge. This knowledge included knowing the names, features, and uses of all existing things whether animate or inanimate. This knowledge prepared Adam for his coming role on earth. When Adam was instructed to present his knowledge to the angels, it resembled that of a teacher to pupils, which further indicated his superiority. The angels came to know that purity and perfect obedience were not the sole qualities necessary to be vicegerents.
Adams’ suitability for the role of vicegerent was humbly acknowledged by the angels, but challenged by Satan, who was condemned and banished from heaven.
The Creation of Eve
Adam’s spouse, although commonly referred to as Eve or Hawa, is not mentioned by name in the Quran despite being referred to in many places. The details regarding how Eve was created is not mentioned in the Quran. However, it is made evident that Eve was created from Adam.
“O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women….” [4:1]
The hadith or traditions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) further reveal that Eve was created from Adam’s rib which was taken while he was asleep. The narrations that describe this story of the rib is often used to emphasize being gentle and kind to women.
“O Muslims! I advise you to be gentle with women, for they are created from a rib, and the most crooked portion of the rib is its upper part. If you try to straighten it, it will break, and if you leave it, it will remain crooked; so I urge you to take care of the women.” [Sahih al-Bukhari 5185; Sahih Muslim 8:3468]
After Eve was created, the couple was given a place in heaven.
“And We said, ‘O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in [ease and] abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers.’” [2:35]
Eve was created to accompany Adam as his companion and life partner, and they were instructed to live together in tranquility. In heaven, Adam and Eve were free to eat and enjoy everything with the exception of one tree.
The Quran does not describe what kind of tree it was, however, this prohibition set the stage for the test that was to come.
Adam and Eve’s Test in Paradise
In the Quran, the forbidden tree served as a test for Adam and Eve. Furthermore, God warned Adam and Eve that the devil was an enemy and that they should be on their guard.
“So We said, ‘O Adam, indeed this is an enemy to you and to your wife. Then let him not remove you from Paradise so you would suffer.’” [20:117]
Satan, eagerly targeting the weakness of mankind, tempted Adam and Eve by whispering into their hearts. Claiming to be a sincere advisor, he planted in their minds ideas that would make the forbidden tree appealing. Thoughts of the tree preoccupied both Adam and Eve. Forgetting the warning, they gave in and erred.
“But Satan whispered to them to make apparent to them that which was concealed from them of their private parts. He said, ‘Your Lord did not forbid you this tree except that you become angels or become of the immortal.’ And he swore [by Allah ] to them, ‘Indeed, I am to you from among the sincere advisors.’ So he made them fall, through deception. And when they tasted of the tree, their private parts became apparent to them, and they began to fasten together over themselves from the leaves of Paradise. And their Lord called to them, ‘Did I not forbid you from that tree and tell you that Satan is to you a clear enemy?’” [7:20-22]
By forgetting God’s command, Adam and Eve bore equal responsibility for their error. This too was a test for Satan, who in fact, furthered his disobedience by exploiting mankind through their desires.
The Virtue of Repentance and Supplication
Through this test, God prepared Adam for his role on earth, as a caretaker and a Prophet. This experience taught Adam firsthand that Satan was a deceptive enemy to mankind.
After eating from the tree, Adam and Eve became ashamed and deeply regretted their actions. They acknowledged their errors and sought mercy, repenting sincerely [7:23].
The story of Adam and Eve in the Quran teaches the virtue of repentance and supplication. Adam and Eve recognized their errors and prayed for forgiveness. This, in turn, earned them Allah’s forgiveness and guidance.
“Then his Lord chose him and turned to him in forgiveness and guided [him].” [20:122]
Adam and Eve are sent to Earth
In the Quran, God consoles Adam. Since the sin of Adam stemmed from desire, and not from arrogance, his repentance was accepted.
“Then Adam received from his Lord [some] words, and He accepted his repentance. Indeed, it is He who is the Accepting of repentance, the Merciful.” [2:37]
Despite being forgiven, Adam and Eve were no longer granted the comforts of paradise and would be sent to Earth. It is important to note that since Allah had mentioned Adam’s mission on Earth long before his test, Adam and Eve’s appointment to earth is not viewed as punishment, instead, it aligns with God’s Plan. The Quran describes the Earth to Adam and Eve as a place in which to reside and enjoy for a period of time, until the day they die and are resurrected (Quran 7:24-25).
“We said, ‘Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. And those who disbelieve and deny Our signs – those will be companions of the Fire; they will abide therein eternally.’” [2:38-39]
Furthermore, Adam is informed by God that he and his progeny will be sent guidance during their time on Earth. In contrast, Satan, unlike Adam, had not begged for forgiveness and had instead requested respite: a chance to mislead and reveal the inadequacy of mankind. God facilitated this request, but warned that Satan would be powerless over the believers.
Therefore, in the Quran, Adam, Eve, and Satan are all sent down to Earth. On Earth, Adam (pbuh) assumes the role as the first Prophet and the father of mankind.
Lessons from the Story of Adam and Eve
There are many valuable lessons to be extracted from the experiences of the people in the Quran. From the story of Adam and Eve one learns that pride and arrogance is the key to loss and destruction. Further lessons include the value of acknowledging errors, the virtue of repenting, and the power of supplication. The test in paradise was an essential lesson that demonstrated freewill. To be able to live on earth, Adam and Eve learned about the devil’s deception, the consequences of sin, and the Mercy of the Creator.
Adam’s life on Earth as a Prophet contains many more lessons which will be explored in a future article.
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