Adam is the first of God’s creations on Earth and an important figure in all Abrahamic religions. To learn Islam’s view in this regard, one can read about Adam in the Quran, which as the Divine Book, is the best source for learning Islam’s view on Adam. This article discusses the main topics regarding Adam in the Quran, like his creation, his being the divine vicegerent, his knowledge, the angels’ prostration, his story with eve and the forbidden fruit, and other events, as well as his children, Abel and Cain.
Facts about Prophet Adam in the Quran
|Prophet Adam’s wife||Hawwa (Eve) [حوا] Not mentioned by name in the Quran|
|No. of times Adam has been mentioned in the Quran||25|
|No. of Adam’s sons mentioned in the Quran||2 (not by name)|
|Adam’s sons referred to in the Quran||Habeel (Abel) [هابیل] Qabeel (Cain) [قابیل]|
|Burial place of Adam||Najaf, Iraq|
|Merits specific to Prophet Adam||The first human being on earth. The first for whom the doors of repentance were opened. The first for whom a religion was legislated.|
Who is Prophet Adam?
Prophet Adam (آدم) was the first human being to be created on this earth and is also the first divine prophet. He is important in all Abrahamic religions, including Islam; therefore, the Quran narrates his story in various verses. He possesses singular and particular merits, which will be addressed in the article. Some of the discussions addressed in the article regarding Adam (peace be upon him) are the following:
The Creation of Adam in the Quran
وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِّن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُونٍ ﴿28﴾
When your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed I am going to create a human out of a dry clay [drawn] from an aging mud.
فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ ﴿29﴾
So when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down in prostration before him.” 1
What was Prophet Adam made of?
According to the abovementioned verses, the creation of Adam consisted of two stages:
- First, the parts of the body of Adam were brought together and proportioned; his body was of clay.
- Then God breathed spirit into him.
Note: breathing here is not physical, but rather metaphorical.
The Reality of the Spirit/Soul
وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِن سُلَالَةٍ مِّن طِينٍ ﴿12﴾
Certainly We created man from an extract of clay.
ثُمَّ جَعَلْنَاهُ نُطْفَةً فِي قَرَارٍ مَّكِينٍ ﴿13﴾
Then We made him a drop of [seminal] fluid [lodged] in a secure abode.
ثُمَّ خَلَقْنَا النُّطْفَةَ عَلَقَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْعَلَقَةَ مُضْغَةً فَخَلَقْنَا الْمُضْغَةَ عِظَامًا فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظَامَ لَحْمًا ثُمَّ أَنشَأْنَاهُ خَلْقًا آخَرَ ۚ فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّـهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ ﴿14﴾
Then We created the drop of fluid as a clinging mass. Then We created the clinging mass as a fleshy tissue. Then We created the fleshy tissue as bones. Then We clothed the bones with flesh. Then We produced him as] yet [another creature. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators! 2
If we consider this verse, we understand that the soul or spirit is the very same body of a human being that has taken another form without anything being added to it. So when God says that He breathed into man of His spirit, it does not mean something was added to the body; rather, it is a metaphor for something immaterial being bestowed upon it.
The verse also indicates the respect and honor that God has bestowed upon it by attributing it to His self in the words: My spirit.
Connection between Body and Soul
The soul is an existential matter which in itself has a union with the body, which is that it is attached to it. At the same time, it is independent, such that when its connection to the body is cut off (i.e. at the time of death), it separates from it.
The Superiority of Adam over Other Creatures
إِنَّ اللَّهَ اصْطَفى آدَمَ وَ نُوحاً وَ آلَ إِبْراهيمَ وَ آلَ عِمْرانَ عَلَى الْعالَمين
Verily, Allah did choose Adam and Nuh and the descendants of Ibrahim and the descendants of Imran over all the people [of their times]. 3
Adam has superiority in the following instances over all other creatures:
- He is the first of the human beings to be created as indicated in: When your Lord said to the angels, ‘Indeed I am going to set a viceroy on the earth…’ 4
- He is the first person for whom the doors of repentance and forgiveness were opened: Then his Lord chose him, so He turned to him and guided (him). 5
- He was the first person for whom a religion was legislated: … but if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from Me, whosoever follows My Guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery. 6
Adam as the Vicegerent of God
وَ إِذْ قالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلائِكَةِ إِنِّي جاعِلٌ فِي الْأَرْضِ خَليفَةً قالُوا أَ تَجْعَلُ فيها مَنْ يُفْسِدُ فيها وَ يَسْفِكُ الدِّماءَ وَ نَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَ نُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ ما لا تَعْلَمُونَ
When your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed I am going to set a viceroy on the earth,” they said, “Will You set in it someone who will cause corruption in it, and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your sanctity?” He said, “Indeed I know what you do not know.” 7
The word Khilafah (خلافة) used in the verse means vicegerent and though commentators have provided different probabilities regarding who man is a vicegerent of, most of the commentators agree that it refers to the fact that he is the Divine vicegerent. 8
Honor for Humanity
This position that was bestowed upon Adam and which all human beings also have the potential to attain (though most do not), is not because of God’s need or weakness; rather, it is a an honor and virtue for human beings. 9
The system of creation is based on intermediaries, i.e., even though God is all-powerful and is able to perform anything, he has chosen intermediaries for the execution of some affairs; for example, even though He is the true manager of all creation: directing the command 10 , He has assigned this to the angels: By those [angels] who… by those who direct the affairs [of creatures]. 11
Similarly, man as God’s vicegerent, is also one of the Divine intermediaries.
The ‘Names’ and Knowledge of Adam in the Quran
وَ عَلَّمَ ءَادَمَ الْأَسمْاءَ كلُّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلىَ الْمَلَئكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنبِونىِ بِأَسْمَاءِ هَؤُلَاءِ إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِين
And He taught Adam the Names, all of them; then presented them to the angels and said, “Tell me the names of these, if you are truthful.” 12
According to the verse, God Himself taught Adam the ‘Names’. But what is the reality of these names? Certainly they were not merely names without meanings for this is no distinction; rather, what was taught was knowledge of creation and the secrets and different properties of existence and this was a great honor for Adam. God taught him this so that he could benefit from the material and spiritual benefits of this world in his path of evolution and perfection. 13
The Superiority of Adam and Man over Angels is through Knowledge
Satan and the angels both thought themselves to be superior to human beings; Satan through his creation: ‘I am better than him,’ he said. ‘You created me from fire and You created him from clay,’ 14 and the angels through their worship: they said, ‘Will You set in it someone who will cause corruption in it and shed blood, while we celebrate Your praise and proclaim Your sanctity?’ 15
However, the superiority of man over both is through knowledge. 16
Prostration of the Angels to Adam in the Quran
وَ إِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَئكَةِ اسْجُدُواْ لاَدَمَ فَسَجَدُواْ إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ أَبىَ وَ اسْتَكْبرَ وَ كاَنَ مِنَ الْكَافِرِين
And when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam,” they prostrated, but not Iblis: he refused and was haughty, and he was one of the faithless. 17
The verses of the Quran bear witness to the fact that Satan or Iblis (إبلیس) was from among the jinn and was worshipping among the angels for thousands of years. 18 When God gave the angels the command to prostrate to Adam, this action was considered an act of worship, since true worship is that which God wills and not what we desire.
However, Satan was ready to worship for thousands of years but not prostrate to Adam as he thought he was better, even though it was God’s command.
The Two Transgressions of Lucifer
By his opposition of God’s command, Satan had committed two crimes:
- A crime of belief: he refused, which resulted in his going astray. Disbelief in the command of God is more dangerous that the actual act of disobedience.
- A moral crime: and was haughty, which made him worthy of Hell. 19
Satan’s Promise of Deviation
قَالَ رَبِّ بِمَا أَغْوَيْتَنِي لَأُزَيِّنَنَّ لَهُمْ فِي الْأَرْضِ وَلَأُغْوِيَنَّهُمْ أَجْمَعِينَ ﴿39﴾
He said, “My Lord! As You have consigned me to perversity, I will surely glamorize [evil] for them on the earth, and I will surely pervert them, all.
إِلَّا عِبَادَكَ مِنْهُمُ الْمُخْلَصِينَ ﴿40﴾
Except those worshippers who are Devoted and freed from worldly Temptations.” 20
Satan led Astray
What does Satan mean when he says God has led him astray?
He is referring to the punishment that God has given him for refusing to prostrate to Adam, when He said: … “Begone hence, for you are indeed an outcast, and indeed the curse shall lie on you until the Day of Retribution.” 21
The Consequences of Satan’s Actions
The point to note here is that God’s leading him astray was as a result of the devil’s own actions and was not initiated by Him. And because he is now far from God’s mercy (due to his own actions) and this is for eternity, whenever he infiltrates a person’s heart, tempts him/her and becomes close to that person, this closeness results in that heart too being separated from God’s mercy.
So when he says that I will lead them all astray, he means that he will cast the effects of his own distance from God’s mercy into the hearts of people. 22
Eve and Adam in the Quran
يَأَيهَُّا النَّاسُ اتَّقُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِى خَلَقَكمُ مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَ خَلَقَ مِنهَْا زَوْجَهَا وَ بَثَّ مِنهُْمَا رِجَالًا كَثِيرًا وَ نِسَاءً وَ اتَّقُواْ اللَّهَ الَّذِى تَسَاءَلُونَ بِهِ وَ الْأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللَّهَ كاَنَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا
O mankind! Be wary of your Lord who created you from a single soul, and created its mate from it, and, from the two of them, scattered numerous men and women. Be wary of Allah, in whose Name you adjure one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is watchful over you. 23
The Creation of Eve
The verse indicates that Adams’s wife, i.e. Eve or Hawwa (حوا) was from the same species as Adam and was a human being like him; all human beings that exist in this world too come from two people who are similar to each other.
That some commentators suggest that this verse indicates that Eve was created from a part of Adam’s body cannot, in fact, be understood or proved from the verse. 24
The Forbidden Tree, Eve and Adam in the Quran
وَ قُلْنَا يَادَمُ اسْكُنْ أَنتَ وَ زَوْجُكَ الجْنَّةَ وَ كلاُ مِنْهَا رَغَدًا حَيْثُ شِئْتُمَا وَ لَا تَقْرَبَا هَاذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ فَتَكُونَا مِنَ الظَّالِمِين
We said, “O Adam, dwell with your mate in paradise, and eat thereof freely whencesoever you wish; but do not approach this tree, lest you should be among the wrongdoers.” 25
Adam had always been created to come to the world as has indicated in previous verses where God spoke to the angels of His vicegerent on Earth. However, initially, he was placed in a garden full of blessings which was in this world and not the promised Heaven. In this garden he faced no problems or troubles. 26
The Promised Heaven
There are two reasons one can mention to prove that the Heaven he was in was not the promised Heaven of the Hereafter:
- The promised Heaven is eternal and ever-lasting and one who enters that Heaven will and can never leave it.
- The promised Heaven is not a place where Satan can enter or be, nor a place of disobedience to God or the whisperings of Satan. 27
Why was Adam placed in this Garden?
Perhaps the reason why he was initially placed in this garden was because Adam was not at all acquainted with worldly life and all its difficulties.
He needed some time to adjust and to learn that worldly life has responsibilities and programs which would lead to happiness if he followed them and would face pain and hardship if he turned away from.
He also needed to understand that though he was created free, this freedom was not unlimited and there were some things in the world he needed to turn away from. 28
Satan’s Enmity with Adam
فَقُلْنَا يَادَمُ إِنَّ هَاذَا عَدُوٌّ لَّكَ وَ لِزَوْجِكَ فَلَا يخُرِجَنَّكُمَا مِنَ الْجَنَّةِ فَتَشْقَى
We said, “O Adam! This is indeed an enemy of yours and your mate’s. So do not let him expel you from paradise, or you will be miserable.” 29
The following are some of the reasons why Satan was and is an enemy to Adam and all of humankind:
- Because he was expelled from God’s proximity and was forever cursed for refusing to prostrate to Adam. 30
- When God asked the angels and Satan to prostrate to Adam, He was asking them to bow to the human species and this superiority that was bestowed to humankind over him was one of the reasons he hated Adam. 31
Satan’s Whispering, Eve and Adam in the Quran
فَوَسْوَسَ لَهُمَا الشَّيْطَانُ لِيُبْدِيَ لَهُمَا مَا وُورِيَ عَنْهُمَا مِن سَوْآتِهِمَا وَقَالَ مَا نَهَاكُمَا رَبُّكُمَا عَنْ هَـٰذِهِ الشَّجَرَةِ إِلَّا أَن تَكُونَا مَلَكَيْنِ أَوْ تَكُونَا مِنَ الْخَالِدِينَ ﴿20﴾
Then Satan tempted them, to expose to them what was hidden from them of their nakedness, and he said, ‘Your Lord has only forbidden you from this tree lest you should become angels, or lest you become immortal.’
وَقَاسَمَهُمَا إِنِّي لَكُمَا لَمِنَ النَّاصِحِينَ ﴿21﴾
By the [angelic] emissaries sent successively,
فَدَلَّاهُمَا بِغُرُورٍ ۚ فَلَمَّا ذَاقَا الشَّجَرَةَ بَدَتْ لَهُمَا سَوْآتُهُمَا وَطَفِقَا يَخْصِفَانِ عَلَيْهِمَا مِن وَرَقِ الْجَنَّةِ ۖ وَنَادَاهُمَا رَبُّهُمَا أَلَمْ أَنْهَكُمَا عَن تِلْكُمَا الشَّجَرَةِ وَأَقُل لَّكُمَا إِنَّ الشَّيْطَانَ لَكُمَا عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ ﴿22﴾
Thus he brought about their fall by deception. So, when they tasted of the tree, their nakedness became exposed to them, and they began to stitch over themselves with the leaves of paradise. Their Lord called out to them, ‘Did I not forbid you from that tree, and tell you, ‘‘Satan is indeed your manifest enemy?’’ 32
Tark-e-Awla (ترک اولی) or Abandoning that which is Better
The commentators and scholars of Islam all agree that the command God gave to Adam was not a legislative command of a master, that would result in his punishment should he disobey; rather, it was guidance.
Adam and Eve, by disobeying God oppressed themselves and caused themselves to be deprived of Heaven, not that they committed a sin. 33
In such a case, what they committed was something known as Tark-e-Awla, i.e. abandoning what is better for something that is not as good.
The Repentance of Adam in the Quran
فَتَلَقَّى ءَادَمُ مِن رَّبِّهِ كلَمَاتٍ فَتَابَ عَلَيْهِ إِنَّهُ هُوَ التَّوَّابُ الرَّحِيم
Then Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned to him clemently. Indeed He is the All-clement, the All-merciful. 34
When he was asked to leave that garden of blessings and to come into the earth, Adam was extremely remorseful and wished to atone for his actions and therefore he turned to God in regret and repentance, using the Names he had been taught by God before.
It was then that God turned to him in mercy and accepted his repentance. 35
Types of Tawbah (توبه)
There are two types of tawbah or turning back:
- In the Quran it used to refer to a turning back from sinning, when it applies to a sinful person.
- However, sometimes it applies to God and in this case it means to return to mercy; i.e., the mercy that was taken away from the person due to his sin is returned and this is why God is referred to as Tawwab (توّاب) [the one who is oft-returning to mercy]. 36
Consequences of Actions
Even though the repentance of Adam was accepted by God; however, the consequences of his actions which was to come down to the earth remained.
This is something we all need to note too; when we seek forgiveness and repent for our actions, although God will forgive us and we won’t face punishment in the Hereafter; however, we still need to face the consequences of our actions. 37
Sons of Adam in the Quran
Although the sons of Adam are not referred to by name in the Quran, there are a few verses which refer to two of his sons: Cain [Qabeel (قابیل)] and Abel [Habeel (هابیل)] and the enmity between them:
Cain and Abel in the Quran
وَ اتْلُ عَلَيهْمْ نَبَأَ ابْنىَْ ءَادَمَ بِالْحَقِّ إِذْ قَرَّبَا قُرْبَانًا فَتُقُبِّلَ مِنْ أَحَدِهِمَا وَ لَمْ يُتَقَبَّلْ مِنَ الاَخَرِ قَالَ لَأَقْتُلَنَّكَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللَّهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِين
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, “Allah doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.” 38
Both Abel and Cain wanted to present a sacrifice to God in order to get close to him. However, what their sacrifice actually was is not mentioned in the verses. According to narrations, Habeel (Abel), who was a cattleman, brought his best sheep for sacrifice; while Qabeel (Cain) who was a farmer, prepared grain and flour from the worst part of his cultivation. 39
As a result, Abel’s sacrifice was accepted while Cain’s was not.
How did they Know their Sacrifice was Accepted?
Again, how exactly the two brothers realized which of the sacrifices was accepted is not indicated in the verses. However, narrations relate that they took their sacrifices to the peak of a mountain and a flash of lightning burnt one of them while the other remained untouched.
The burning of the sacrifice was a sign that it was accepted.
However, others believe that it was revealed to Adam whose sacrifice was accepted and whose was not. 40
The verse and the following clearly indicate that it was jealousy that brought about the first differences and murder in humanity and this makes us realize what an important moral vice it is and how its extreme consequences show up in social events and happenings. 41
Abel’s Refusal to Kill Cain
لَئِن بَسَطتَ إِلَيَّ يَدَكَ لِتَقْتُلَنِي مَا أَنَا بِبَاسِطٍ يَدِيَ إِلَيْكَ لِأَقْتُلَكَ ۖ إِنِّي أَخَافُ اللَّـهَ رَبَّ الْعَالَمِينَ ﴿28﴾
Even if you extend your hand toward me to kill me, I will not extend my hand toward you to kill you. Indeed, I fear Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.
إِنِّي أُرِيدُ أَن تَبُوءَ بِإِثْمِي وَإِثْمِكَ فَتَكُونَ مِنْ أَصْحَابِ النَّارِ ۚ وَذَٰلِكَ جَزَاءُ الظَّالِمِينَ ﴿29﴾
I desire that you earn [the burden of] my sin and your sin, to become one of the inmates of the Fire, and such is the requital of the wrongdoers.’ 42
Even with Cain’s threat to kill him, Abel refused to do the same even to save his own life. The verse however, does not go into details of how this took place or whether or not Abel defended himself or not. For him there were only two ways this could end:
- Either he kill his brother and be among the oppressors and go to Hell
- Or let his brother kill him and he to go to Hell.
He chose the second; albeit it was also his brother’s choice to go through with it. 43
He also mentions that he doesn’t wish to carry the burden of his brother’s sins. This is because if a person does kill another person, he would have to carry the burdens of his past sins on his shoulders too since he cut short the other’s life. 44
The Crow and Abel’s Burial
فَبَعَثَ اللَّهُ غُرَابًا يَبْحَثُ فىِ الْأَرْضِ لِيرُيَهُ كَيْفَ يُوَارِى سَوْءَةَ أَخِيهِ قَالَ يَاوَيْلَتىَ أَ عَجَزْتُ أَنْ أَكُونَ مِثْلَ هَذَا الْغُرَابِ فَأُوَارِىَ سَوْءَةَ أَخِى فَأَصْبَحَ مِنَ النَّدِمِين
Then Allah sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother.” Woe is me!” said he;” Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?” then he became full of regrets. 45
Cain’s jealousy finally drove him to murder Abel; however, once he had done so he did not know what to do with his body. Not long after, predators started circling the body and to save the body from being attacked by them, Cain carried the body on his shoulders for a while.
Still, the predators waited for him to put the body down when God sent a raven which started scratching the earth and made a hole in it, where it buried another dead raven. Seeing this, Cain realized this is what he must do to bury his brother’s body. 46
The following are the possible reasons for Cain’s feeling of regret:
- Because he had committed a wrong and shameful act which his parents and family would learn about, and severely admonish him for.
- Because he had carried his brother’s body and had not buried him.
- Because it is natural for a person to feel regret and remorse in their heart after performing an evil act.
However, it is clear that whichever of these probabilities I may be, his regret was not a sign of his repentance and turning to God. Repentance is what compels a person to abstain from performing similar acts in the future out of fear of God and the evilness of the act. However, not only is such repentance indicated to in the verses of the Quran on Cain’s part; the next verse shows that it was quite the opposite. 47
- [15: 28-29]. Qarai translation
- [24: 12-14]. Qarai translation
- [3: 33]. Safarzade translation
- [2: 30]. Qarai translation
- [20: 122]. Shakir translation
- [20: 123]. Yusufali translation
- [2: 30]. Qarai translation
- Makarem Shirazi, N. (1374 AP).Tafsir-i Namuneh. Tehran: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyyah. Vol. 1, p. 172.
- Qarai, M. (1383 AP). Tafsir-i Nur. Tehran: Dars-ha-i az Quran. Vol. 1, p. 87.
- [10: 3]. Qarai translation
- [79: 5]. Qarai translation. Qarai, M. Ibid. pp. 87-88.
- [2: 31]. Qarai translation.
- Makarem Shirazi, N. Ibid. p. 176.
- [7: 12]. Qarai translation
- [2: 30]. Qarai translation
- Qarai, M. Ibid. pp. 90 & 91.
- [2: 34]. Qarai and Yusufali translation
- See: [18: 50].
- Qarati, M. Ibid. p. 93.
- [15: 39-40]. Qarai and Safarzade translation
- [15: 35-36]. Qarai translation. Tabatabai. M. H. (1374 AP). Tafisr al-Mizan. (Transl. by Muhammad Baqer Musawi Hamedani). Qom: Jamiat al-Modarresin. Vol. 12, p. 238.
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid.
- [4: 1]. Qarai translation
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. vol. 4, pp. 215-216.
- [2: 35] Qarai translation
- Makarem Shirazi, N. Ibid. vol. 1, p. 184.
- Ibid. p. 187.
- Ibid. p. 184.
- [20: 117]. Qarai translation
- See: [15: 34-35].
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. vol. 14, p. 308.
- [7: 20-22]. Qarai translation
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. vol. 1, p. 201.
- [2: 37]. Qarai translation
- Makarem Shirazi, N. Ibid. vol. 1, pp. 195-196.
- Ibid. p. 196
- Ibid. p. 197
- [5: 27]. Yusufali translation
- Makarem Shirazi, N. Ibid. vol. 4, p. 348
- Ibid. pp. 348-349
- Ibid. p. 349
- [5: 28-29]. Qarai translation
- Tabatabai, M. H. Ibid. vol. 5, pp. 491 & 495
- Makarem Shirazi, N. Ibid. p. 347
- [5: 31]. Qarai translation
- Makarem Shirazi, N. p. 351
- Ibid. pp. 352-353
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