Adam, peace be upon him

Muzaffar Iqbal and Naseer Ahmad

Ādam, the father of humanity (Abū al-bashar), is mentioned by name twenty-five times in nine suras, six of which are Makkan. 

Usage and Etymology

His name appears fourteen times in creation accounts heralding the beginning of the human race (Q 2:31, 33, 34, 35, 37; 7:11, 19; 17:61; 18:50; 20:115, 116, 117, 120, 121); once in relation to Prophet ʿĪsā, upon him peace, whose creation is likened to his in Q 3:59 (Indeed, in the sight of Allah, the similitude of ʿIsā is like that of Ādam, whom He created out of dust and then said: “Be!” and he was); and once in the list of Prophets whom Allah has favored (Q 3:33: Indeed, Allah chose Ādam and Nūḥ and the descendants of Ibrāhīm and the descendants of ʿImrān over all mankind).

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Creation and Merits

The most detailed narrative regarding Ādam’s creation is found in Sūrat al-Baqara:

And [recall] when your Sustainer said to the angels: “I am about to create a deputy (khalīfa) on earth,” they said, “Will You place on it one who will spread mischief and shed blood while we celebrate Your glory and extol Your holiness?” He said: “Surely I know what you do not know.”

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“Allah Created Ādam in His/his Image”

A Prophetic hadith states: “Allah created Ādam upon His/his image/form (ʿalā ṣūratih)” (Bukhārī, Aḥādīth al-anbiyāʾ, qawl Allāh taʿālā wa idh qāla Rabbuka lil-malāʾika Innī jāʿilun fī-l-arḍi khalīfatan; Muslim, Janna wa ṣifa naʿīmihā wa ahlihā).​

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Allah Grants His Mercy to Ādam

The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “When Allah created Ādam and breathed the spirit into him, he sneezed and said, ‘Praise be to Allah (al-Ḥamd li-Llāh)!’”

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Ādam is taught the greetings of the people of Paradise

The Prophet, upon him blessings and peace, said: “Allah created Ādam in His/his image, making him sixty cubits tall. When He had created him He told him, ‘Go and greet that group of angels, and listen to their reply, for it will be your greeting and that of your descendants.’

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Presentation to the Angels

Ādam, upon him peace, was presented to the angels (q.v.) as someone to be set on earth as vicegerent (khalīfa) (Q 2:30), and they were commanded to prostrate to him (Q 2:34; 7:11-12; 15:29, 33; 17:61; 18:50; 20:116; 38:72, 75). 

He taught Ādam the names, all of them

There is some divergence in the exegetical tradition regarding what exactly Ādam, upon him peace, was taught as is succinctly related in the Qurʾānic account: And He taught Ādam the names, all of them; then He presented them to the angels, and said: “Tell me the names of these, if you are truthful” (Q 2:31).

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Iblīs refuses to prostrate to Ādam, upon him peace

The refusal of Iblīs to prostrate to Ādam is mentioned in six passages (Q 2:34; 7:11-12; 15:29, 33; 17:61-65; 20:115-124; and 38:71-85).

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Creation of His Spouse

Unlike the detailed account of the creation of Ādam from dust, clay, and resounding clay, the creation of his spouse (zawj) (Eve, see Ḥawwāʾ) is not recounted at length: O Mankind, be conscious of your Sustainer Who has created you out of a single being, and from it He created its partner (zawj) (Q 4:1).

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Heavenly Life

Ādam and his wife were admitted to Paradise with permission to eat from wherever they wished except from a single tree (Q 2:35) which is not further specified in the Qurʾān or in the Prophetic traditions.

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Location of Paradise

The classical exegetical tradition discusses the following questions regarding the Garden (janna) where Ādam and his wife dwelt: Was it in the heavens or on earth? If in the heavens, then is it the same as the abode of eternity (dār al-khuld; see Abode) which the righteous will enter after Judgment, or is it another? If it was on earth, then where?

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“Am I not your Lord?”

The most fundamental relationship between the Creator and humanity is mentioned in Sūrat al-Aʿrāf: And recall when thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Ādam—from their loins—their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, [asking] “Am I not your Lord?” They said, “Indeed! We do testify.” [This] lest you should say on the Day of Judgment: “Of this we were never aware” (Q 7:172).

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Iblīs Tricks Ādam and his Wife

A Qurʾānic passage in dialogue form details how Iblīs refused to prostrate to Ādam, vowed to lie in wait for him and his progeny, and succeeded in tricking Ādam and his wife:

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The Promise of Paradise

Two descriptive passages (Q 7:22; 20:121) provide details of Ādam and his wife’s state after they ate from the forbidden tree: As soon as they tasted [the fruit] of the tree, they became aware of their nakedness; and they began to cover themselves with pieced-together leaves from the garden; and their Lord said to them: “Did I not forbid that tree unto you and tell you, ‘verily Satan is your declared foe?’” (Q 7:22).

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Hubūṭ (Descent)

The commands “Go down, all of you” in plural form (Q 2:36, 38; 7:24) and in dual form “Go down, both of you” (Q 20:123) have been understood by most exegetes to refer to Ādam, his wife, and Iblīs, while some also include the serpent by which Iblīs was said to have entered Paradise.

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Khalīfa (Vicegerent) on Earth

The various meanings of khalīfa (root kh-l-f; pl. khalāʾif, khulafāʾ) (see Caliph), include successor, heir, deputy, and representative (Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān; Rāghib, Mufradāt, sub kh-l-f). The exegetical tradition explains that the word is also used for someone who can deliberate in judgment, prevent oppression, and forbid sins and unlawful acts. 

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His Prophethood

Although there is no verse that categorically states that Ādam, upon him peace, was sent as a Prophet (nabī) or a Messenger (rasūl) (see Prophethood), as is the case for several other Prophets—such as Ibrāhīm (Q 19:41), Isḥāq and Yaʿqūb (Q 19:49), Idrīs (Q 19:56), Mūsā (Q 19:51), and Hārūn (Q 19:53), upon them all peace—he is included in the list of Prophets in Q 3:33;

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Ādam’s Death

It is said that when the progeny of Ādam were presented to him, the luminous forehead of one of them especially attracted him and he asked:

“Who is this, O my Lord?”

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Heterodox Views

The Qurʾānic accounts related to Ādam, upon him peace, and his spouse, were subjected to varying allegorical interpretations by nineteenth-century modernists to achieve a concordance with rationalistic or pseudo-scientific ideologies then in vogue in certain parts of the colonized Muslim world.

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See also

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