Adam Alayhis Salam is the first of mankind (al-Insan), the father of all human beings and the first of a line of prophets sent by Allah, culminating in the prophet Muhammad صَلَّى ٱللّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ
Many have stated that the word Adam comes from “Adim al-Ard” meaning “surface of the Earth” as it is recorded that an angel was sent to collect different soils from the ground of the Earth. It is from these different collected soils, that mankind received their different skin colors and different natures.
According to the Quranic narrative, Allah informed the angels that he would put a vicegerent (Khalifa) generation upon generation on the Earth. When the Angels heard this they asked if he would put those that shed blood on the Earth. Many scholars state that this is in reference to the Jinn who were the previous takleef beings on the Earth. Allah told the Angels that he knows what they do not. So he informed the Angels that he will make a Homo Sapiens (Basharun)* out of clay. When he formed this and breathed his soul into it, it became alive and thus our father Adam Alayhis Salam was formed as an adult.
He taught Adam the names and told him to tell the angels of these. The Angels then remarked at the supremacy of Allah’s divine knowledge and Allah commanded those them to bow down to Adam. They all bowed down apart from Iblis, a Jinn living among the Angels. Due to his arrogance and pride, Iblis remarked that never would he bow to this Homo Sapien created out of clay while he was created from fire. Thus he disobeyed Allah, but his punishment was delayed until the day of Judgement.
Allah then formed Hawa, the wife Adam Alayhis Salam, from his ribs, and they both dwelt together in paradise. They were informed of a tree and they were told not to approach and eat its fruits. Shaytan (Iblis) however convinced them to eat from this tree. When incurred Allah’s displeasure from this act, they were made naked, then banished from paradise, being sent down onto Earth. Adam then received from Allah words of inspiration, the first revelation. He seeked forgiveness from his lord and his lord turned to him in forgiveness.
On the Earth they had children and they had two in particular. Both of these children sacrificed something to Allah but Allah only accepted one sacrifice. The brother whose sacrifice had been rejected, turned to his brother in jealousy and threatened to kill him. His innocent brother replied to him that he would not kill him even though his brother was threatening to kill him and warned him of the punishment of hell. The jealous brother however killed him, committing the first murder. Not knowing how to bury his brother, a crow was sent down to teach him burial.
Numerous details not found in the Quran and Sunnah are found in the Isra’illiyat (which therefore cannot be taken as matters of belief). For instance, Adam Alayhis Salam being the first farmer, his sons being named Habil and Kabil with another son being Sheeth, who is reportedly a Prophet.
Notably in the Isra’illiyat, Hawwa is blamed for picking the fruit from the tree and is thus cursed with childbirth, whereas in the Quran they both commit the sin, or just Adam commits it according to one verse. When they come onto the Earth, they are separated with Adam landing in India. They meet in Makkah and it is here that Adam builds the Kaaba. It should be noted that the construction of the Kaaba before Ibrahim Alayhis Salam and his son Ishma’il Alayhis Salam is not found in authentic sources, as noted by Ibn Kathir Rahimullah.
Adam Alayhis Salam and Hawwa’s children were reportedly born in pairs and incest was permitted as long as the child from the first pair would marry the child from the second pair. Some of the Isra’illiyat contradict the Quran and thus state that it was due to Kabil desiring his birth sister that he killed his brother (who would have been married to her). Other Isra’illiyat narrations however state that the sacrifices did occur and more specifically the sacrifices were of a livestock (Habil) and grain (Kabil).
When Adam Alayhis Salam was nearing the end of his life he appointed Sheeth as his successor, although Adam Alayhis Salam had many children, some reports saying hundreds. Adam Alayhis Salam lived apparently 1000 to 2000 years, or maybe less, according to different reports.
Whilst scientific consensus is that man evolved from apes such as the Australopithecus, geneticists also affirm the existence of a common ancestor of all mankind, known as Y-chromosomal Adam, or Genetic Adam. Scientists are keen to point out that this cannot be biblical Adam as there were other Homo Sapiens alive at the time of this human, and scientists also assume that he must have had a natural birth, owing to no reason to entertain the contrary.
Y-Chromosomal Adam lived according to some around about 200,000 years ago, and would be in lifestyle and appearance most similar to the San or Khoikhoi bushmen. He was an African and had dark skin, with scientists positing that humans migrated out of the African continent, spreading throughout the continents of the Earth.
When Scientists look for how the earliest Homo Sapiens would have lived, they generally look at the San People. For instance, the San use egg shells to carry water – scientists posit that this was a practice of early Homo Sapiens. The name San or Saan comes from a Khoikhoi Haillom word referring to foragers – “Saa-” meaning “picking up from the ground” with the plural “-n” being added. It is interesting to note that the San bury their dead, suggesting it is an ancient practice.
The following is the San creation myth:
People did not always live on the surface of the earth. At one time people and animals lived underneath the earth with Kaang (Käng), the Great Master and Lord of All Life. In this place people and animals lived together peacefully. They understood each other. No one ever wanted for anything and it was always light even though there wasn’t any sun. During this time of bliss Kaang began to plan the wonders he would put in the world above.
First Kaang created a wondrous tree, with branches stretching over the entire country. At the base of the tree he dug a hole that reached all the way down into the world where the people and animals lived. After he had finished furnishing the world as he pleased he led the first man up the hole. He sat down on the edge of the hole and soon the first woman came up out of it. Soon all the people were gathered at the foot of the tree, awed by the world they had just entered. Next, Kaang began helping the animals climb out of the hole. In their eagerness some of the animals found a way to climb up through the tree’s roots and come out of the branches. They continued racing out of the world beneath until all of the animals were out.
Kaang gathered all the people and animals about him. He instructed them to live together peacefully. Then he turned to the men and women and warned them not to build any fires or a great evil would befall them. They gave their word and Kaang left to where he could watch his world secretly.
As evening approached the sun began to sink beneath the horizon. The people and animals stood watching this phenomenon, but when the sun disappeared fear entered the hearts of the people. They could no longer see each other as they lacked the eyes of the animals which were capable of seeing in the dark. They lacked the warm fur of the animals also and soon grew cold. In desperation one man suggested that they build a fire to keep warm. Forgetting Kaang’s warning they disobeyed him. They soon grew warm and were once again able to see each other.
However the fire frightened the animals. They fled to the caves and mountains and ever since the people broke Kaang’s command people have not been able to communicate with animals. Now fear has replaced the seat friendship once held between the two groups.
Teachings from the Story of Adam
There is much to be learn from Adam Alayhis Salam’s story. For instance, that man has been given lineage to Adam, irrespective of who he is, and that Adam Alayhis Salam was preferred over much of creation, so all of mankind should take pride in their shared lineage from Adam Alayhis Salam. Moreover, Adam was created from the Earth and it is to the Earth that we return.
It is noted that in the oldest grave discovered, which is 100,000 years old, the skeletal remain is stained with red ochre – a clay earth pigment – perhaps showing that the people then wanted to symbolism the fact that man made of clay returns to clay, and more importantly returns to the Earth whence he came. The Earth thus tells a narrative of our lives: It is from it we come, on it we work and plough, making a livelihood, and to it we return in death. But on Yawm al-Qiyamah we shall be raised and there shall be a new Earth, signifying our new life after death.
As mankind is descendants of Adam, we should not boast in nobility of lineage, nor claim one tribe or ethnicity, language or skin-color is superior to another. In the Quran, Allah tells us that he created this variety as a sign for mankind. We should reflect on this sign and appreciate our diversity, without hating each other. Indeed Allah created us into tribes and nations so that we can recognize each other, not so that we despise each other.
In the story of Adam Alayhis Salam’s two sons, this message is again reinforced – we must not harm nor kill each other, and jealousy is such a thing that can lead to this. Rather we should be happy with what we have, looking at those who have less and realizing our blessings. If our brothers do come to kill us, we should not seek to kill them, rather our intention should be to simply stop them – this is the explanation of the hadith that both the killer and the killed are in Jahannam, hell.
And Shaytan (Iblis) is also in Jahannam, but we must ask ourselves what the difference is between Shaytan and Adam? Whilst they both sinned, one committed a sin of desire, “Shahwa”, (Adam) whilst the other committed a sin of arrogance, “Kibr”, (Iblis) and it is the sin of arrogance that is a far worse sin. Adam Alayhis Salam furthermore repented whilst Iblis simply seeked to spread evil further – but both their duas were answered.
The story of Adam Alayhis Salam and Iblis is also the first such story which teaches us an important principle: One can reject that which is obviously apparent even though it seems illogical. Iblis knew that Allah had commanded him, he should have had firm belief in Allah and his Angels, and perhaps he did, but he renounced that belief in an instant. He rejected that which is apparent (the command of Allah), and this is seen throughout history to modern day.
Many will ask for miracles saying they will believe, whilst the many peoples and generations in the Quran who were shown these miracles, saw them and rejected what their eyes saw. For example, Firaun rejected the miracle of Musa Alayhis Salam, the people of Thamud rejected the miraculous camel and the pagan Arabs rejected the splitting of the moon. When the will of Allah i.e. Islam is made apparent to them, they reject it, just as Shaytan rejected the command (Amr) of Allah. This shows that some people, no matter what they witness, shall never believe, rather they would reject Allah even when they are made known of him.
*Bashar is usually translated as “Human” but this gives the impression that it means the same as Insaan. In reality, the root of Bashar gives the meaning of skin – Bashar refers to the physical human being which scientists call Homo Sapien. So although this is an awkward translation, this seems to be the closest English analogue that refers to the animal/physical being that is the human.
- Sunnah (Sihah Sittah)
- Tarikh at-Tabari
- Qisas al-Anbiya (Ibn Kathir)
- Abdullah al-Andalusi’s article on Evolution
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