Eve and Adam (Hawwa and Atom)

In Islam, the story of the first woman and man is detailed very differently from the way it is in Christianity. Unfortunately, though, the story is considered so basic that young Muslim children are rarely formally taught about creation and consequently adopt the culturally dominant Christian version, believing it to be the same in Islam.

So, what I will be doing is emphasizing the differences. What I will not be doing is attacking Christianity, or any religion for that matter, so if you are reading this as a Christian you can rest easy. While I understand why it comes up, I get pretty ticked off when other Muslims attack Christianity to “prove” that Islam is the “better” religion. Or when anyone attacks members of another religion to “prove” xirs is the better religion. The only thing that actually proves is that you’re an ass, and that you’re so insecure you can’t defend your religion without passing judgment on everyone else. Also, interpretation of events can be turned against anyone, you fool!

That being said, one difference is that in Islam, God does not send Eve and Adam to Earth as punishment or purgatory. The two were actually forgiven after they were expelled from Paradise. Rather, God had created them to reside on Earth in the first place, as messengers:

“Behold! I am about to place a creature on the earth who will inherit it.” (Qur’an 2:30)

This is God speaking to the angels, who are all at once alarmed at Adam’s free will.

They [the angels] exclaimed, “What, wilt Thou set therein such a creature who will do corruption there, and shed blood, while we proclaim Thy praise and call Thee Holy?” God said, “Assuredly I know that you know not.” (Qur’an 2:31)

As you can see, it is obvious that Adam was created to live on Earth. God knew, because God knows everything, that Adam would sin. And when God introduces him to the angels, it is clear in the angel’s astonishment that Adam was to be placed on Earth, as the angels feared he would destroy it. (God’s response to this was that Adam had the capacity to learn, and that the angels did not know what God knew [what is destined to occur and with what reason].)

Sending Eve and Adam to Earth was not punishment, but a fulfillment of where they had been destined to live and teach their children for some time before returning to Paradise. And so, Islam does not have the concept of Original Sin. Everyone is born innocent, and no one “inherits” xis parent’s sins.

Also, it is not only Eve who bites into the forbidden fruit, it is not Eve who bites into the forbidden fruit first, nor is it Eve who led Adam astray after she had fallen herself. Adam and Eve clearly approach the tree together after Satan persuades them both:

Then Satan deceived them in order to reveal their imperfections and fallibility to them. He said “Your Lord forbade this tree lest you become angels or become immortals.” And Satan swore to both, man and woman, “I am a sincere adviser to you.” (Quran 7:20–21)

Here is another difference. What persuaded Adam and Eve to eat from the tree was not knowledge or sexuality, but the promise of immortality:

But Satan whispered to him, “O Adam! Shall I lead you to the tree of eternal life and ownership that is ever-lasting?” (Qur’an 20:120)

and, also interesting, ownership.

Backing up for a minute, we can see Eve and Adam needed not to desire Knowledge, for God had given it to them already along with the Law of Free Will when they had first been created:

Then God endowed humankind with the capacity to attain knowledge (that the angels would never have.) Then God showed the angels certain things and said to them, “Tell Me if you have the capacity to learn about things in the Universe, in case what you say is true.*” (Qur’an 2:31)

*Remember, the angels were of the opinion this new creation was not only destructive but useless, as angels already have the ability to do everything they are commanded. ([…] While we proclaim Thy praise and call Thee Holy?” 2:31) They were referring to not only verbal worship but faithfully striving to carry out commands. They could not, however, obtain knowledge unless they were commanded. In the next verse God commands Adam to share some of the information with the angels.

Knowledge and the ability to attain it was already a characteristic of humans. The tree itself was the tree of discord,

We told the early humans, “Reside in this land which is Paradise. Eat the fruit thereof as you please. But go not near this Tree of Discord. If you branch off into parties, sects, or groups, you shall replace your Paradise with Hell.” (Qur’an 2:35)

So by deceit Satan brought about their downfall. They tasted of the tree of discord and started to divide into branches. (Qur’an 7:22)***

As in, the moment they indulged in the tree, their own personal interests and desires of ownership rather than the well-being of all humanity conquered their minds. Accordingly, because they had made this choice, all of humankind would now be separated into insignificant races and sects and groups, amongst which they would pettily quarrel and battle over land and objects they wish to own, so occupied with the separate branches that they cannot see the unifying trunk, so overcome with greed that they forget that all of humankind is one:

All humankind were but one community and are meant to be so; then they differed. Had not your Lord decreed the Law of Free Will for humans, your Lord would have judged their disputes immediately. (Qur’an 10:19)

And it is because of our free will that we carry on this way, and it is because of our free will that we have the ability to change.

In addition to these differences, there is an interesting obscurity. Although it is very likely Eve was created after Adam, this is inferred (as opposed to directly stated) from the fact that Adam converses with God and meets other creatures who are commanded to bow to him in what appears to be Eve’s absence:

Recall when We said to the angels, “Bow before Adam,” they bowed except* Iblis, he refused.” And thereupon We said, “O Adam! Verily this is an enemy to you and your wife[…] (Qur’an 20:116–117)

*Another difference: Iblis–the future devil–was a jinn, made of fire, not an angel made of light, though he was so pious he stayed with the angels. The English translation (“all the angels bowed except him”) gives us the impression that he was an angel, but in Arabic grammar, the greatest plural in quantity takes over the other nouns; as there were more angels than other creatures, only the angels are mentioned by name, and the minority is included in addressing the majority. This is one of the many examples of why it is so important preserve the original language–anyone who believes that Iblis was an angel would naturally believe the Qur’an contradicts itself here, as angels do not have free will and therefore would not be able to refuse to bow.

Again,

And thereupon We said, “O Adam! Verily this is an enemy to you and your wife[…] (Qur’an 20:117)

As you can tell from the verse, God mentions Eve as though Adam is already familiar with her. Eve existed before the two were placed in the Gardens of Paradise, but probably not before the other creatures were commanded to bow. The closest we come to the Qur’an revealing directly who came first is the following verse:

Humankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women; and fear God by whom you demand one of another, and the wombs; surely God ever watches over you. (Qur’an 4:1)

which confirms that one was created from the other, but doesn’t directly specify who from whom. We can only guess from the fact that Adam dialogued with God earlier that he was created first. The exclusion of this information suggests, at least to me, that it is not important.

Somehow the story of creation always captivated me. On top of how I was always fascinated with angels and jinn and “supernatural” beings and unique qualities unknown to us in this world, there are so many things at play: jealousy, promise, self-control, doubt, tragedy, sacrifice, choice, love, forgiveness, selflessness, and desire. This choppy entry doesn’t do it justice–this is the analysis without the art, since the purpose of this post I’ve broken it down without telling the story.

***Not a translation. Explanation–Shabbir Ahmed

21 thoughts on “Eve and Adam (Hawwa and Atom)

  1. Is there any chance that the classical Arabic pronunciation of the first being closer to "atom" than "adam" is related to the basic unit of matter from which all things are created?

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  2. Kels, I thought of that a while ago and kept telling myself to investigate but unfortunately I still haven't. =Poscar, it is the royal "we" which we sometimes still use in English but was used a lot in previous centuries, usually amongst royalty. The plural is used even though the noun is singular, to emphasize the power or significance of the noun.

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  3. I have always found it problematic that God would create humans and set them free knowing full well that they will "shed blood" and "destroy". This is the scenario of every mad scientist movie out there. He creates something for purely selfish reasons despite all the signs pointing to that creation being dangerous of some kind…then eventually the creation ends up causing a lot of damange, death, destruction…and in most cases, ends up destroying the creator. Anything sound familiar?

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  4. I don't know why God created us, I was planning to ask when I died. =P So I can't say I know the nature of the motivation. Somehow I can't believe it was selfish.I'm very cynical about us–humans–but I do believe we can be strong enough to keep ourselves from destroying everything, and perhaps even do some good. A friend of mine asked me once why I thought God would put us here when God knows where each of us would end up in the afterlife based on our deeds. All I can guess is that you wouldn't punish a criminal before he/she even commits the crime. I think God is giving us a chance.

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    1. mohamedm1

      Allah informs us in His book that He created jinn and mankind in order to worship Him. Allah (Glorified be He) says, Surah Adh-Dhaariyaat, 51: v56 And I (Allâh) created not the jinn and mankind except that they should worship Me (Alone).

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  5. According to Sufis, God created us by virtue of being a creator. Meaning, we are his manifestation, the only difference between us being that God has no individuality, whereas we do.This falls in line with a mirror analogy. Except that we are the reflection, and God is the source.I find the potentials of this to be very interesting.But, in any case, why God created us "knowing full well that we will shed blood and destroy", is none of our goddamn business. Because he knows, and we don't. Simple as that.Nahida, on an off-topic note, I find it troubling that I couldn't find a post on your blog about the Houris :-/

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  6. yay :Dand, Adam in arabic is Adam not Atom (unless you're referring to a different language in the parenthesized part of your headline)AND, how the hell do you get notifications on blogger!? :(

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  7. Oh, I know I was just using an old spelling I saw once.It's in settings–I'm notified whenever anyone leaves a comment because the comments are on modification, but you can also set it so you get an email.

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  8. When I looked up 7:22, it said "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."Rather than "They tasted of the tree of discord and started to divide into branches."I'm really interested by the idea of dividing into branches and sects as being part of the fallout of eating from the tree, but I can't seem to find that interpretation elsewhere. What translation are you using?

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  9. I was going to comment on that too! It's a really interesting interpretation of that verse. "Gathering leaves" could have been "divide into branches" the roots of the original Arabic words spring into really vague possibilities. Like branches. LOL!

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  10. Sister, I am unable to see the translation of 7:22 as anything but follows:7:22So 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?" [Sahih International]Other translations:YUSUFALI: So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: "Did I not forbid you that tree, and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?"PICKTHAL: Thus did he lead them on with guile. And when they tasted of the tree their shame was manifest to them and they began to hide (by heaping) on themselves some of the leaves of the Garden. And their Lord called them, (saying): Did I not forbid you from that tree and tell you: Lo! Satan is an open enemy to you?SHAKIR: Then he caused them to fall by deceit; so when they tasted of the tree, their evil inclinations became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with the leaves of the garden; and their Lord called out to them: Did I not forbid you both from that tree and say to you that the Shaitan is your open enemy? I don't think the translation you are using (and the explanation that you then gave from that translation) is correct.Salaams.

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  11. melinda

    I find the parts about destruction and inheriting the earth really interesting, from a perspective of ecology and sustainability. Thanks for writing this!

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    1. melinda

      Also, I don’t know why this just suddenly showed up in my RSS reader, which is why I am commenting on it now. I wasn’t following your blog back in August, so it’s all new to me.

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      1. Yikes! Sorry. When I edit a post (I was fixing the format on this one) it shows up on the RSS feed as “new.” =X My apologies, didn’t mean to spam you with an old one =)

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  12. Coolred38

    “it’s none of our goddam business”? Wow. Didn’t see that reply way back when. Anything that has to do with me is my business. If “god” saw fit to create me..I sure as hell would like to know why even knowing that I would sin and he would punish me even though he made me capable of sinning and knew that I would and it’s all a vicious circle. Yes…it is my goddam business.

    If it’s not yours then that’s your choice.

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