Meaning of ‘Children of Adam’

Meaning of ‘Children of Adam_

 
Children of Adam, or Bani Adam (7:26, 7:27, 7:31, 7:35, 7:172, 17:70, 36:60), is the Quranic counterpart of the Biblical term Ben-‘Adam (בן–אדם, child of Adam).

Often translated as ‘son of man’, the Hebrew expression Ben-‘Adam appears 107 times in the Old Testament, the majority (93 times) in the Book of Ezekiel. As an indefinite form, it is used in three main ways: as a form of address (“O son of man”, Ezekiel); to contrast the lowly status of humans against the greatness of God (Num 23:19, Psalm 8:4); and as an eschatological figure due to come at the end of history (Daniel ch.7).

Now, Adam as a Quranic term essentially means a human, i.e., a potentially rational, loving man who should be able to live in harmony with others.

Obviously, as man (bashar, insan) doesn’t refer to a particular person but to man in general, so is Adam (human) in the Quran. Instead of implying any specific human, Adam is an emblematic character that symbolizes every human, both male and female. Put differently, human/Adam is interchangeable with humankind/Adamkind (all children of human/Adam), in the same way as man (bashar, insan) is interchangeable with mankind (all children of man). Note how ‘Adam’ in 3:33 is replaced by ‘the descendants of Adam’ in an analogous verse, 19:58.

If Adam is translated as human, then children of Adam (Bani1 Adam) can be best translated as CHILDREN OF HUMAN. Because all humans/Adams are at the same time children of human/Adam, the expression Bani Adam stands for Adams, the plural of Adam.

As a human, i.e., a man with potential human attributes like rationality and compassion, Adam is more than just a man (bashar) or a social man (insan). This explains why the Quran repeatedly uses the expression children of human (children of Adam), but never says children of man (children of bashar or insan). This is to remind us about our divinely gifted special status as humans and our responsibilities related to it (33:72)2. For example:

O children of human (Adam, singular), do not let the Devil (the evil force inside you) afflict you as he evicted your parents (your both male and female ancestors, dual) from the Garden (the spiritual, multi-coloured garden of One Humanity), stripping them of their garment (of awareness, 7:26), to expose their hidden makeup. He and his forces watch you from where you do not see them; We have made the evil ones as allies for those who do not acknowledge./ And when they commit an outrage, they say: “We found our parents (our ancestors, plural) doing such, and God ordered us to it.” … 7:27-28

It is important to understand that, like any story, the story of Adam is also narrated in the Quran in the past tense, apparently giving a first impression as if it is relating some events of the past. However, because it is an allegory with certain moral intent, it is not time-bound. Its events are meant to be occurring in all tenses – past, present and future – including present continuous.

In other words, as an ongoing account of humankind, the story of Adam is a narration about every generation of Adams (children of human/Adam). Hence the warning: “Do not let the Devil afflict you as he evicted your parents …” (7:27). This is the ultimate moral of the allegory as narrated in its preceding verses (7:11-25). Here ‘your parents’ (dual) neither implies our immediate father and mother, which a literal reading could otherwise suggest, nor does it refer to any specific pair of parents from the past. Rather this is a reference to our numerous male and female ancestors, symbolized by “human (Adam) and his/her spouse” mentioned earlier in 7:19, where man and woman are asked to dwell in the garden and to ‘eat’ therefrom. Here, at this point, we notice the sudden change of address from singular (Adam 7:11) to dual (7:19), apparently to signify the whole humanity represented by its male and female equals, both equally responsible for the moral ‘fall’ (7:19; cf. 2:35-39). Note how ‘your parents’ (dual) in 7:27 is explained in its next verse as numerous (‘our parents’, plural, 7:28).

Remarkably, the mention of Adam in the above description starts in SINGULAR (‘Adam’) which goes through a change to DUAL (‘… evicted your (both) parents’) which is then transformed into PLURAL (“We found our (multiple) parents”). Compare this with the story of Adam in the preceding verses (7:11-25) and observe a similar shift of address from singular (7:11-12) to dual (7:19-23) to plural (7:24-25). Also compare with the story of Adam in ch 2 and observe the same shift of address from singular (2:30-35) to dual (2:35-36) to plural (2:36-39). All these are consistent with instances where Adam (human) is totally replaced by bashar (man) along with a similar shift of address from singular (15:28-33, 38:71-76) to plural (15:39-42, 38:82-83). Thus the story eventually identifies Adam as plural, as standing for all humans of all times.

Final words

Adam as a Quranic term essentially means a human, i.e., a potentially rational, loving man who should be able to live in harmony with others. Children of Adam (Bani Adam), therefore, can be best translated as CHILDREN OF HUMAN, an expression that signifies humans/Adams (plural of Adam) and is used to remind or admonish people to “act like humans”, i.e., with human attributes like rationality and compassion.

 

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Note 1

Bani/banu in Arabic means “the sons/children/descendants/family/House of” and appears to identify a tribe or a people after the name of a progenitor, a legendary character, a region or a commonly shared attribute. For example: “Bani Kaab” literally means the sons of Kaab, or the Kaab tribe. “Mary, the daughter of Imran” (66:12) means “Mary, the Amramite”, i.e., a descendant of the House of ‘lmran. Parallel trends can be noticed in other languages. “Bene Israel”, the Hebrew counterpart of “Bani Israel”, means the children of Israel; the Dorian kings were called “Sons of Hercules”; and “maanav”, the Sanskrit word for man, derives from the concept that all people are descendants of Manu.

Note 2

The Quran reminds us of our divinely gifted special status as humans and our responsibilities related to the trust of reason and volition involved with it:

We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains, but they shrank from bearing it, being afraid of it. And man undertook it. He has indeed been transgressing, ignorant. 33:72

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The story of Adam confirms evolutionary origin of humans

The story of Adam confirms evolutionary origin of humans

 
The so-called Islamic creationism, where Adam is the first man, is based on a literalist understanding of The allegory of Adam in the Quran. This misinterpretation has been consolidated with creationist hadith stories that were essentially borrowed from Judaeo-Christian sources during the earlier Islamic centuries.

But does the Quranic story of Adam really contradict evolution? The answer is simply NO.

First, it is important to understand that the story in the Quran is a parable where Adam is a mythical name for all humans.

Secondly, the story, in all its seven occurrences (2:29-37, 7:10-25, 15:26-44, 17:51-65, 18:37-51, 20:50-123, 38:69-85), unmistakeably refers to the biological evolution of the whole humankind, on each occasion with an accent on a different aspect of evolution.

Below we will observe how the story, in each of its SEVEN OCCURRENCES in the Quran, invariably supports the idea that humans have originated through the process of evolution.

 

1st occurrence

Evolution: The power of thinking transforms hominoids into humans

He it is who created for you all that is in the Earth, while He settled to the Heaven, and fashioned them with due proportion into seven Heavens; and He knows all things.

And when your Sustainer said to the Forces: Indeed I am establishing upon Earth an inheritor, they said: Do you establish therein one who spreads corruption therein and sheds blood, while we, we hymn Your praise and sanctify You? He said: Surely I know that which you know not.

And He taught Adam all the names, then presented them to the Forces; then He said: Tell Me the names of those if you are right….

He said: O Adam! inform them of their names…

And when We said to the Forces: Prostrate yourselves before Adam….  2:29-34

Starting with a reference to cosmic and terrestrial evolution, this passage alludes to the power of conceptual thinking as an evolutionary potential that transforms the mindless hominoids (humanlikes; cf. 76:28) into rational humans (Homo sapiens). It describes Adam, or the human, as a divinely authorized inheritor of the Earth (2:30, 6:165, 27:62, 33:72, 35:39) and a successor of his anthropoid ancestors (76:28; cf. 6:133, 70:39-41, 56:57-62), whose aggressive nature concerned the witnessing ‘natural Forces’ about the violences and atrocities humans are inclined to (‘Do You establish therein one who spreads corruption therein and sheds blood …’ 2:30).

2nd occurrence

Evolution: Humans evolve through stages

And We granted you dominion on Earth, and made for you in it a habitat; little do you give thanks!

And We have created you, then fashioned you, then told the Forces: Fall you prostrate before Adam! 7:10-11

The sequence of these two statements ‘We have created you’ (brought you into being as living organisms) and ‘then fashioned you’ (shaped you as humans) indicates a time lapse. Then, translated here as ‘fashioned’1, the verb sawwara implies making something by gradually changing it through successive stages and thus implies evolution (see note 4).

Here man’s creation, or initiation of his making, represents his earliest stage of origin in the simplest life form, identical with the first life form on Earth, the unicellular organism; and his fashioning suggests the process of gradually being shaped into more complex forms through evolutionary stages (71:13-18). This can be interpreted as referring to embryological evolution of every individual human as well as phylogenetic evolution of the human species as a related member of the whole living world. With the reminder of humans’ God-gifted ‘dominion on Earth’ as a ‘khalifah’ (inheritor of the Earth or successor of previous species, 2:30, 6:133), this reference to the evolution of all humankind before mentioning Adam makes it clear that Adam symbolizes here all humans (31:10, 15:29, 18:37 and 38:71-76).

3rd occurrence

Evolution: Humans evolve from ‘hydrocarbons’

Verily We created man out of potter’s clay of black mud transmuted. …

And when thy Sustainer said unto the Forces: Surely I am creating man out of potter’s clay of black mud transmuted;

Then when I have fashioned him with due proportion and have breathed into him of My Spirit, do you fall down, prostrating yourselves unto him. …

He said: I am not to prostrate to man whom You have created out of potter’s clay of black mud transmuted. 15:26, 28-29, 33

These verses – after mentioning the galaxies (15:14-18), geo-biological evolution of the primeval Earth (15:19), ecological balance and food chain (15:19-22) – narrate the origin and evolution of humankind who is a ‘khalifah’ (or successor of previous species, replacing them on top of the food chain, 2:30, 6:133). Again, like 7:10-11, the sequence of the two statements ‘Surely I am creating man …’ and ‘Then when I have fashioned him …’ indicates the period of a process. The observation that the word ‘man’ here, like 38:69-85, totally replaces ‘Adam’ in the same allegory depicted elsewhere, makes it obvious that Adam symbolizes all humans.

Please note the expression ‘potter’s clay of black mud transmuted’ (‘salsalin min hama-in masnoon’)2, appearing three times in the passage (15:26, 15:28, 15:33). Now, if interpreted in light of modern evolutionary biochemistry, we can appreciate that black mud (‘hama’) here probably means carbon and that the term transmuted (‘masnoon’, also meaning altered, moulded or aged, which shares same root with ‘sunnah’, ‘to follow a path’) alludes to the changes over lengthy time span of millions of years when ‘hydrocarbons’ were gradually organised into higher organic molecules – like amino acids (protein), nucleic acids (RNA and DNA) and so on – necessary for origin and evolution of life. All these molecules are ‘sounding’, i.e. tale-telling, as they encompass in themselves history of millions of years. Thus the Quran seems to have used the expression ‘black mud transmuted’ to depict the original matrix – carbon (‘black mud’)-based organic molecules like hydrocarbons and their derivatives – whereby started the evolution of human’s physical body.

4th occurrence

Evolution: With humble origins, humans have gone on to dominate the world

Or a creation that is far remote in your minds. Thereupon they ask: Who will bring us back? Say: He who initiated you the first time. …

And when We said to the Forces: Fall down prostrate before Adam and they fell prostrate all save Iblis, he said: Shall I fall prostrate before that which You have created of clay? 17:51, 61

This passage, like 15:26-33 quoted above, briefly points to the same evolutionary setting with man’s humble origin from clay. There are many references in the Quran to man’s having been created from earthly material – from dust (18:37, 30:20, 35:11, 40:67), from clay (6:2, 17:61, 22:5, 32:7, 37:11, 55:14), from quintessence of clay (23:12), from sticky clay (37:11), from potter’s clay (55:14), from potter’s clay of ‘black mud transmuted’ (15:26, 15:28, 15:33), from Earth as a ‘growth/ growing plant’ evolving through stages (71:17, 71:14) and so on. All these signify man’s gradual development through a natural process as well as his lowly biological origins, with the fact that his body, like all his biological cousins and all living organisms, is composed of various organic and inorganic particles occurring in the Earth.

However, despite his humble origins, man emerged and has gone on to dominate the world as an agency authorized by the Divine (note: ‘Fall down prostrate before Adam …’).

5th occurrence

Evolution: Man was not allowed to witness the evolution of the Universe, nor the evolution of his own self

Do you reject Him who created you out of dust, then out of a drop, then in the end has fashioned you with due proportion into a human? …

Behold! We said to the Forces: Bow down to Adam. They bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the invisibles, and he broke his Sustainer’s Command. …

I did not make them witness the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, nor the creation of their own selves. Nor would I take as assistants the misleaders (e.g., some religious leaders). 18:37, 50-51

Here the story of Adam reappears once again in a context that refers to the lowly origin of man, by embryological development of individual human as well as by phylogenetic evolution of the whole human species, in both cases initially from earthly material, then from a single cell, and then evolving through numerous life forms (32:7-9, 71:17, 77:20-23, 96:1-5). This mention of human evolution as a preface to the story further clarifies that Adam in the Quran epitomizes all humans.

The story is then followed by the statement that the Divine did not allow man to witness the evolution of the Universe, nor the evolution of his own self, nor He needed anyone as assistant. With a reminder of man’s limitations to reconstruct his unwitnessed evolutionary past, and his ultimate dependency on his Maker who alone is independent of anything, this also dismisses the anthropocentric worldview which postulates man, instead of the Supreme Being, as the central entity and value in the Universe.

6th occurrence

Evolution: Unfolding of divine messages is like biological evolution

He said: Our Sustainer is He who has given to everything its creation (essence), and further guided it.

He said: And what then of all the previous generations?

He said: Knowledge thereof is with my Sustainer in a Record. My Sustainer does not err, nor does He forget.

He it is who has made the Earth a cradle for you, and has traced out for you ways therein, and sent down from the Heaven water, and thereby We brought forth pairs of various growths (cf. God has made you grow from the Earth as a growth. 71:17). …

From it have We created you, and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you out once again …

High above all is then God, the Sovereign, the Ultimate Truth! And, therefore, hasten not with the Quran before it has been revealed unto thee in full, but say: O my Sustainer, increase me in knowledge.

And certainly We made a covenant with Adam before, but he forgot, and We found in him no firm determination.

And when We said unto the Forces: Fall prostrate before Adam, they fell prostrate save Iblis; he refused. 20:50-55, 114-116 (the story continues, 20:117-123)

Above occurs four times the term Rabb (Sustainer), which is expounded throughout the Quran with the sequential divine acts of creation, evolution, determination and guidance (82:6-8, 87:1-3). That Adam in the Quran symbolizes man becomes further evident when we observe how the allegory of Adam reappears here once again in a context that refers to the creation and evolution of man along with the cosmic, terrestrial and biological evolution (note the similarity between 20:50-55 and 71:14-18).

Please observe how these references to evolution are followed by the interesting appearance of the statement ‘hasten not with the Quran before it has been revealed unto thee in full … but say: O my Sustainer, increase me in knowledge’. And observe how this advice to avoid haste aptly creates a prelude to the forthcoming story of Adam. As if the Quran is telling the reader not to stop at any literal understanding of this story in particular and the Quran in general (3:7; likewise, the story of Adam in 17:51-65 is also repeatedly linked with similar instructions to avoid hasty, superficial reading of the Quran; 17:9-12, 17:18-19, 17:45-46, 17:61, 17:106). This is in line with the Quranic claim that the meanings and messages3 of the Quran are unfolding in individual and collective human mind (3:7) as a process of gradual manifestation, like biological evolution (3:6).

Then the actual story starts at ‘And certainly We made a covenant with Adam before, but he forgot’. Since the faculty of conceptual thinking is man’s outstanding endowment, his forgetting the covenant with his Sustainer (i.e., the shahada of Oneness, 7:172-173, 2:35-38) shows the weakness and inconstancy of human nature in general (20:115, 7:172-175, 2:36, 4:28). Clearly, Adam serves here as a common noun that symbolizes all humans.

7th occurrence

Evolution: Human evolution follows a cosmic blueprint

When your Sustainer said to the Forces: I am creating man out of clay;

Then when I have fashioned him with due proportion and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down before him prostrate … (all prostrated except the Evil Force inside his mind) …

Said He: O Iblis! What prevented you from prostrating before what I have created with My two hands? …

Said he: I am better than he: Thou hast created me out of fire, whereas him Thou hast created out of clay. 38:71-76

The verb sawwa (fashioned with due proportion) appears here, and throughout the Quran, to define the divine attribute Rabb (the Sustainer) as the Evolver, who guides the evolutionary process by following a cosmic blueprint (87:1-3, 82:6-8, 20:50). Thus, to define Rabb as the Evolver of “All the Worlds”, sawwa functions as a multi-layered reference4 to various stages of evolution: from cosmic to biological to anthropic to spiritual (2:29, 15:29, 18:37, 32:9, 38:72, 75:4, 75:38, 79:28, 82:7, 87:2, 91:7).

Some commentators try to reconcile evolutionism with creationism by arguing that, while other animals are created through evolution, Adam as a ‘special creation’ was not part of the same evolutionary process. They cite the phrase above ‘which I have created with My two hands’ in support of their argument. However, though the expression ‘My two hands’ may allude to human’s special status due to the duality in his make, e.g., an animal physique and a conscious self, it doesn’t place humans out of the evolutionary process. Likewise, elsewhere, other animals are also stated as created with God’s own hands (36:71).

Conclusion

The story of Adam, in each of its seven occurrences in the Quran, invariably supports the idea that humans have originated through the process of evolution.

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Note 1

Compare 7:10-11 with the following verses: He has created the Heavens and the Earth with truth, and He has fashioned you, then perfected your shapes: and to Him is the ultimate journeying. 64:3; cf. God it is who made for you the Earth a dwelling place and the sky an overhanging shelter, and fashioned you, then made your shapes excellent! 40:64

Note 2

The image ‘potter’s clay of black mud transmuted’, as the material for the creation of man, suggests that man was ‘modelled’, ‘moulded’ or ‘designed’ according to a divine plan or cosmic blueprint (cf. 7:11-12, 95:4). Often translated as ‘potter’s clay’, the term ‘salsal’ also denotes ‘dried clay that emits a sound’, and since it is used in the Quran exclusively with reference to the creation of man, it seems to allude to the power of articulate speech which distinguishes man from all other animal species, as well as to the brittleness of his existence and shallowness of his arrogance (cf. He has created man, / Taught him expression. … / He created man from a clay, like the potter’s (or, like pottery, i.e., like a pottery made of mud). 55:3-4, 14). See Asad’s notes on 15:26 and 15:29.

Note 3

As some of the divine messages in the unfolding Book of the Universe, which includes biological evolution, are relatively clear to man, while some others remain vague (e.g., many apparently ‘useless’ vestiges in human body, like appendix), so are the evolving meanings and messages of the Quran as an unfolding scripture (3:6-7; cf. 29:43).

Note 4

To define the divine attribute Rabb (the Sustainer) as the Evolver who guides the evolutionary process by following a cosmic blueprint (87:1-3, 82:6-8, 20:50) – and as the Evolver of “All the Worlds” – the verb sawwa (fashioned with due proportion) appears and functions throughout the Quran as a multi-layered reference to various stages of evolution: From cosmic to biological to anthropic to spiritual (2:29, 15:29, 18:37, 32:9, 38:72, 75:4, 75:38, 79:28, 82:7, 87:2, 91:7; cf. Yea indeed, We are able to fashion with due proportion even the very tips of his fingers! 75:4). The word has been consistently used to describe: General evolution of the whole cosmos, life and man (87:1-3); Cosmic evolution as a process of galactic and celestial development (2:29); Phylogenetic and ontogenetic evolution of life and man (32:7-9); Evolution of sex and sexual differentiation between males and females (75:36-40); Anthropic evolution of both individual human and human species (82:6-8); Evolution of the self with human’s individual and collective evolution (91:7-10); and Spiritual evolution prefaced by anthropic evolution (15:28-29 and 38:71-76).

Thus sawwa is a broader term for evolution, compared to sawwara, which is more specific as it is reserved in the Quran to describe the evolution of humans only (3:6, 7:11, 40:64, 64:3; cf. 2:260, 59:24, 82:8). In both occurrences where ‘man’ totally replaces ‘Adam’ (38:71-76 and 15:28-44), we find the word sawwa (fashioned with due proportion) instead of sawwara (fashioned; cf. 7:11). The latter shares the same root with the divine attribute al-Musawwir (The Fashioner, 59:24).

The meaning of the story of Adam

The meaning of the story of Adam

 
Like any story, the story of Adam is also narrated in the Quran in the past tense, apparently giving a first impression as if it is relating some events of the past. However, because it is an allegory with certain moral intent, it is not time-bound. Its events are meant to be occurring in all tenses – past, present and future – including present continuous.

In the article Understanding the allegory of Adam we have carefully read the story of Adam in 2:29-38 in an attempt to understand its best possible meaning. From our study we have the following findings:

• A literal reading of this story is anthropomorphic and idolatrous.

• The story unfolds after creation of the Universe and evolution of man (2:29-38; 2:21-30; cf. 7:11). This makes ‘Adam’ a symbol for man and explains why ‘man’ totally replaces ‘Adam’ in 15:28-44 and 38:69-85.

• As a mythical name for all humans, Adam belongs to past no more than s/he belongs to present and future. The story of Adam, therefore, is an ongoing story of all humans.

• The story takes place solely on Earth (2:29-30; cf. 15:48).

• Adam’s status as ‘Inheritor on Earth’ has a generic connotation as it is actually a designation for all humankind (2:30, 6:133, 6:165, 10:14, 27:62, 33:72, 35:39; cf. 15:26-38).

• Adam is a species that is instinctively violent (2:30-31; cf. 2:11, 12, 27).

• ‘All the names taught to Adam’ signify the total knowledge given to human through his ever-growing vocabulary (2:31-33).

• To human bow down all the ‘Forces’, except the ‘Evil Force’ inside his mind (2:34-36; cf. 2:14).

• Adam and his/her spouse symbolize mankind’s male and female equals (2:35-39).

• The Quran deliberately bypasses those components of this Genesis myth that discriminate against woman (2:35-39; 7:19-23; cf. 5:15).

• ‘Garden of Adam’ is the spiritual, multi-coloured garden of One Humanity (2:35; cf. 2:22-23, 2:25).

• ‘Eating’ from ‘the tree of discord and division’ causes ‘Fall’ from that ‘Garden’ (2:34-36; cf. 2:30, 2:72, 2:84-85, 2:178, 2:213; cf. 5:27-32; 7:19-27, 31, 35, 199-201; 10:19; 17:53).

• ‘Fall of Adam’ symbolizes ‘Fall of mankind’ (note plural in 2:36 and 2:38; cf. 7:19-24, 7:10-11).

• The ‘word’ received by Adam is the ‘divine inspiration’ received by all mankind (2:37-39, 2:22-23; cf. 7:24, 35; 7:59-84; 38:5, 38:12-65).

• The story eventually identifies Adam as plural (2:36-39; cf. 7:24-25; cf. 15:28-42).

The above reflections elaborate our understanding of 2:29-38 into the following rendering. Please note that, though this allegorical narration in the original is in the past tense, this can as easily be meant, in the Quranic idiosyncrasy, to stress the continuous recurrence of the events mentioned: a continuity which is more clearly brought out in translation by the use of the present tense (cf. 3:59, 7:172, 22:63, 31:10, 35:27):

He it is who created for you all that is in the Earth, while He settled to the Heaven and fashioned them into seven Heavens; and He knows all things. 2:29

And when your Sustainer says to the Forces: Indeed I am establishing upon Earth an inheritor, they say: Do You establish therein one who spreads corruption therein and sheds blood, while we, we hymn Your praise and sanctify You? He says: Surely I know that which you know not. 2:30

And He teaches the human (Adam) all the names (the total knowledge given to human through his ever-growing vocabulary), then presents them to the Forces; then He says: Tell Me the names of those if you are right. 2:31

They say: Glory to You, we have no knowledge except that which You have taught us, You are the Knowledgeable, the Wise. 2:32

He says: O human (Adam)! inform them of their names. When he informs them of their names, He says: Did I not tell you that I know the unseen of the Heavens and the Earth, and that I know what you reveal and what you were hiding? 2:33

And when We say to the Forces: Bow down before the human (Adam), they all bow down except the ‘Evil Force’ inside his mind (Iblis); he refuses and becomes arrogant, and becomes of the rejecters. 2:34

And We say: O human (Adam)! Dwell you and your spouse in this garden (in this spiritual, multi-coloured garden of One Humanity) and eat freely thereof whatever you wish, but do not approach this one tree (this tree of discord and division), lest you become wrongdoers. 2:35

But the Evil Force (the Devil) causes them to slip therefrom, and expels them from what they were in (humans fall from the higher station of One Humanity). We say: Descend you all (you all humans), as enemies to one another (as split up into conflicting factions); and you have on Earth your abode and a provision for a time. 2:36

Then the human (Adam) receives words (the divine inspiration of Oneness) from his Sustainer, so He turns to him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning, the Merciful. 2:37

We say: Descend from it you all (you all humans); but most certainly there comes unto you from Me guidance, then whoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. 2:38

Why Adam’s mate in the Quran has no name

Why Adam_s mate in the Quran has no name

 
To describe man, the Quran uses three terms: BASHAR (man; as a biological creature), INSAN (social man) and ADAM (human; a rational, loving man, living in harmony with others).

Adam literally means ‘a human’. That is, a man with potential human attributes like rationality and compassion. As ‘a human’, Adam is more than just ‘a man’ (bashar) or ‘a social man’ (insan).

Obviously, as bashar or insan doesn’t refer to a person but to man in general, so is Adam in the Quran. Instead of referring to any specific human, Adam is a mythical name for all humans.

This becomes evident from a careful reading of the allegory of Adam. For example, the Adam (human) who is sometimes totally replaced by bashar (man; 15:28-44, 38:69-85), the Adam who is continuously being created out of dust in a constantly recurring event (3:59, 40:67), the Adam who is taught all the names that signify the ever-growing vocabulary of the evolving human (2:31), the Adam to whom bow down all the Forces, except the Evil Force inside the mind (2:34), the Adam who forgets the covenant, thereby showing the inconstancy of human nature in general (20:115, 7:172-175; cf. 2:35), the Adam who is forgiven and receives ‘inspired words’ following the fall of all humans (2:36-38) and the Adam who NEVER appears in the Quranic list of prophets, clearly represents the whole humankind and signifies both man and woman.

Yes, because Adam simply means ‘a human’, s/he can be either man or woman. Please read this traditionally misinterpreted verse:

And We said: O human (Adam)! Dwell you and your spouse (zauj; husband, wife, mate) in this garden and eat freely thereof whatever you wish, but do not approach this one tree, lest you become wrongdoers. 2:35

Here it is important to note that, while all Arabic nouns are either masculine or feminine, this grammatical gender doesn’t necessarily imply biological male or female. Thus, though the word ‘Adam’ (human) is grammatically masculine, it essentially refers to both man and woman. In the same way as ‘bashar’ (man) and insan (social man), which are grammatically masculine, comprise both man and woman. For a simple grammatical comparison, see 15:28-44 and 38:69-85, where Adam is totally replaced by bashar.

Moreover, rendered above as ‘spouse’ and often mistranslated as ‘wife’, the word ‘zauj’, a masculine noun, actually means a mate, a spouse, a partner, an opposite, or a pair of opposites. Thus, when used for Adam’s mate (2:35, 7:19; 7:189), it actually refers to either male or female (Adam’s husband or Adam’s wife; cf. 39:6, 2:230).

Compare ‘Adam’ with the word ‘nafs’, which is used to denote the one single source of humanity and which, though grammatically feminine, also includes both genders (cf. ‘zawjaha’, ‘HER mate’, in “and from HER He created HER mate …”.  4:1; cf. 7:189, 39:6).

In brief, because Adam means ‘a human’, of either sex, Adam’s mate refers to human’s either male or female partner (Adam’s husband or Adam’s wife).

This explains why the Biblical name Eve is consistently absent in the Quran and why Adam’s mate is never named.

Remarkably, the story of Adam in the Quran makes no gender discrimination.

 

Related reading: Adam is not a name of a person

How fall of Adam can be reversed

how-fall-of-adam-can-be-reversed

 
It is important to observe that throughout the Quran the issue of Fall of Adam from his garden of bliss (2:22-36, 7:10-25, 20:121-123, 38:69-85) is invariably accompanied by a reference to the divine guidance delivered through the messengers:

We said: Descend from it you all; but most certainly there will come unto you from Me guidance, then whoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. … / Surely those who acknowledge, and those who are Jews, and Christians, and who are from other religions, whoever acknowledges God and the Last Day and does right, surely their reward is with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. 2:38, 62

He said: Descend you all, as enemies to one another; and you have on Earth your abode and a provision for a time. … / O children of Adam! If there come to you messengers from among you narrating to you My messages, then whoever shall guard and act aright, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. 7:24, 35

Thus Adam disobeyed his Sustainer, so fell into error. / Thereafter his Sustainer recalled him and relented in mercy to him and guided him. / He said: Descend you all from this, as enemies to one another. Yet there shall most certainly come unto you guidance from Me: then, whoever follows My guidance shall not go astray, nor shall he suffer. 20:121-123

Please note how the multiplicity of addressees in the above verses indicates that Fall of Adam mentioned in the story in fact signifies Fall of all humankind.

Here, on one hand, by highlighting that Adam is ‘forgiven’ (20:122, 2:37), the Quran negates the doctrines of ‘original sin’ and ‘vicarious atonement’ (6:164, 17:15, 35:18, 39:7, 39:53, 53:38-39; cf. Deut 24:16, Ezekiel 18:20). On the other hand, the Quran does reassure that this ‘Fall’, which is our deviation from our true, divine essence (20:121), is not a permanent degradation and can be rectified by listening to the Divine.

Let us reflect on how Fall of Adam can be reversed by following the divine guidance!

Adam literally means a human, i.e. a loving man, living in harmony with others. While Adam thus symbolises humankind in general, the garden of Adam is the ideal abode of man (2:35). It is the spiritual garden of One Humanity (2:25) – our human Earth of infinitely diverse minds – which is constantly watered by one divine inspiration (2:22-23).

It is this great garden of pluralism and multifaceted Truth, where one heavenly rain is yielding through countless minds all sorts of fruits of all colours (2:22-87, 2:136-164, 16:2-69, 23:17-32, 30:9-24, 35:19-28, 39:18-69).

This garden of bliss, this perfect dwelling of humanity, is lost when humans fall from this higher station of One Humanity (10:19), because of ‘eating’ from the TREE OF DISCORD AND DIVISION under the influence of Devil (2:34-36), thereby getting split up into conflicting factions: Descend you all, as enemies to one another. 2:36 (cf. 2:30, 2:72, 2:84-85, 2:178, 2:213; also 5:27-32; 7:19-27, 31, 35, 199-201; 10:19; 17:53).

And this lost paradise can be regained by following the DIVINE MESSAGES OF ONENESS revealed through the messengers (2:37-39, 7:35, 7:59-84, 20:121-123, 38:12-65). Messages of oneness of humans, oneness of life, oneness of the universe, and, above all, oneness of the Divine (6:106; 6:1, 6:13, 6:14, 6:73-79; cf. 2:111-112, 21:92-94, 22:78, 57:25, 98:5).

Adam means a human

While Adam means ‘a human’, Adam in the Quran never appears as a name of any person. Also, as Adam (‘a human’) can be either male or female, Adam’s mate is never named:

Adam is not a name of a person

As Adam (human) belongs to past, present and future, so is the question posed by the ‘Forces’ about the possible violences Adam (human) is capable of:

How would the ‘Forces’ know about future violences?

Because the story of Adam is an allegory with certain moral intent, it is not time-bound. Its events are meant to be occurring in all tenses – past, present and future – including present continuous:

Understanding the allegory of Adam

As a mythical name for all humans, Adam belongs not only to past, but also to present and future. The story of Adam is an ongoing story of all humans:

The meaning of the story of Adam

Adam is not a forgotten hero of the remote past. As a symbol for the whole of humanity he belongs to past no more than he belongs to present and future:

Creation of Adam is a constantly recurring event

As Adam means ‘a human’, of either sex, Adam’s mate refers to human’s either male or female partner. This explains why the Biblical name Eve is consistently absent in the Quran and why Adam’s mate is never named:

Why Adam’s mate in the Quran has no name

The garden of Adam is the ideal abode of man, the diverse multi-coloured garden of One Humanity:

Where is the garden of Adam?

The lost paradise can be regained by following the divine messages of Oneness revealed through the messengers:

How fall of Adam can be reversed

The Quran lists names of many inspired prophets and these lists often include or start with Noah, but NEVER ADAM, not even in a single instance:

Is Adam a prophet?

The story of Adam, in each of its seven occurrences in the Quran, invariably supports the idea that humans have originated through the process of evolution:

The story of Adam confirms evolutionary origin of humans

‘Children of Adam’, best translated as CHILDREN OF HUMAN, signifies humans/Adams and is used to remind us to act like humans, i.e., with human attributes like rationality and compassion:

Meaning of ‘children of Adam’

Where is the garden of Adam?

Where is the garden of Adam

 
Adam literally means ‘a human’, i.e. ‘a potentially rational, loving man who should be able to live in harmony with others’.

In the Quran Adam is not an individual but an emblematic character that symbolizes modern man. So, as the whole humanity personified, Adam is a generic name rather than a proper noun.

Adam is you, s/he and me. S/he belongs to past no more than s/he belongs to present and future.

In this connection we come across many interesting discussions including the one below:

‘Where is the garden of Adam?’

WE ARE SEEKING THE DIRECTION FOR THE ‘GARDEN OF ADAM’

The Quran, in seven instances, describes our human Earth as a diverse, multi-coloured fruit garden vivified by heavenly rain (35:19-28, 30:9-24, 16:2-69, 39:18-69, 2:22-87, 2:136164, 23:17-32).

Remarkably, all these references to human garden ALWAYS appear within a description of colours and messengers.

Also, this is in line with our observation that the words ‘colours’ (16:13, 16:69, 30:22, 35:27, 35:27, 35:28, 39:21), ‘colour’ (2:69, 2:69), ‘colouring’ (2:138, 2:138) and ‘colourant’ (23:20), in all their twelve occurrences in the Quran, ALWAYS relate to diverse fruit garden vivified by heavenly rain; and that they ALWAYS appear within a description of messengers.

This is obviously to denote the persistent Quranic emphasis on the acceptance of pluralism and multifacetedness of the Truth, where messengers, i.e. sages and visionaries, of all times and places have been reflecting throughout the ages the light of ‘one universal Truth’ (‘heavenly rain’; 35:19-20, 6:103-104), while splitting it, through the prisms of their own space-times, into a broad spectrum of diverse colours of philosophical and socio-cultural-religious concepts and spiritual experiences (2:136-139, 30:9-24, 35:19-28, 39:18-22), thus endlessly widening the range of human’s perceptions of the Truth:

https://lampofislam.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/meaning-of-colours-in-the-quran/

This infinite diversity of ‘colours’ of this great garden of human minds (Garden of Adam) – being expressed throughout the times and places as various religions, cultures, concepts, views and visions – is, from a standpoint of the Quran, not only something natural as divinely intended but also profoundly beautiful.

NOW WE ARE HEADING TOWARDS THE GARDEN OF ADAM

So the Quran describes our human Earth as a multi-coloured garden, which is made of countless minds and numerous messengers, and which is watered by one divine rain.

We are highlighting this association between human garden, colours and messengers as it seems to provide us with an important clue to find out the location of the GARDEN OF ADAM.

Here we will take, as a case for study, the passage 2:22-36 scanned from chapter 2 (sura Baqarah). We will note how the ideal abode of ‘a human’ (Adam), described as a garden in 2:35, is ‘located’ and clarified by its preceding verses 2:22-25 as well as by the context throughout the sura:

He who has made for you the Earth a couch, and the Heaven a canopy and Sent down water from the Heaven whereby brought forth fruits for your sustenance. 2:22

And if you are in doubt as to what We have been sending down to Our servant, then bring a chapter like this. 2:23

And give good news to those who acknowledge and do good that for them are gardens with rivers flowing beneath. Every time they are fed with fruits therefrom, they say: This is what we have been fed with before; and they are given its likeness/ allegories; and they have pure spouses therein, and therein they abide. 2:25

And We said: O Adam! Dwell you and your spouse in this garden and eat freely thereof whatever you wish, but do not approach this one tree, lest you become wrongdoers. 2:35

But the Devil caused them to slip therefrom, and expelled them from what they were in. We said: Descend you all, as enemies to one another. 2:36

It is interesting to observe how ‘water from the Heaven’ nourishing the Earth’s fruit garden in 2:22 is specified in 2:23 as ‘divine inspiration’ (cf. 2:4, 41, 59, 90, 91, 99, 105).

Here the Quran is portraying our human Earth as a fruit garden of diverse minds.

In other words, it is our spiritual garden of One Humanity, inhabited by minds with diverse fruits, which is continuously watered by divine inspiration (‘Sent down water from the Heaven whereby brought forth fruits for your sustenance./ … what We have been sending down to Our servant, 2:22-23’).

Dear reader, do you notice that this beautiful garden of our human earth, made of countless minds and producing all sorts of fruits (2:22-23), is actually the SAME garden of Adam and his spouse – an allegorical orchard, where men and women are being asked by the Divine to dwell therein and to eat freely fruits thereof (‘Dwell you and your spouse in this garden and eat freely thereof … 2:35’; cf. 2:61)?

And that, this is the same garden as in the prelude 2:25, which is meant for righteous people to be fed therefrom and to dwell with their spouses therein?

This is the original garden of Adam, the ideal and the ‘ought-to-be’ abode of humanity.

Now, the verses above start with a mention of human Earth’s ‘fruit GARDEN’ (2:22-23), which is followed by a mention of ‘allegorical GARDENs with fruits and rivers’ meant for decent men and their spouses (2:25), which is then followed by a mention of ‘fruit GARDEN’ meant for Adam and his spouse (2:35).

Then these references to the ‘GARDEN OF ADAM’ chiastically come back towards the end of the sura as a parable of ‘a fruitful, watered GARDEN on a height’ (2:265) and also as a parable of ‘a GARDEN with rivers and all kinds of fruits’ (2:266-267).

Curiously, direct and indirect references to the ‘GARDEN OF ADAM’ and its fruits continuously recur throughout the whole sura (e.g. 2:3, 2:5, 2:11, 2:22, 2:23, 2:25, 2:28, 2:29, 2:35, 2:57, 2:58, 2:60, 2:61, 2:71, 2:73, 2:74, 2:82, 2:126, 2:155, 2:164, 2:172, 2:189, 2:212, 2:233, 2:254, 2:259, 2:260, 2:261, 2:265, 2:266, 2:267).

But what is really important to observe in the further reading of the sura is that the garden of Adam (the ideal abode of humanity) in 2:29-38 is directly followed by a context that refers to spiritual colours (colour, 2:69, 2:69; colouring, 2:138, 2:138, alluding to the ‘garden of Adam’) and messengers (2:51-72, 2:87, 2:98, 2:101, 2:108, 2:129, 2:136, 2:143, 2:151, 2:214, 2:252, 2:253, 2:279, 2:285) and a persistent emphasis on the acceptance of PLURALISM (2:38, 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:113-115, 2:121, 2:135-136, 2:138-141, 2:142-143, 2:148, 2:213, 2:224, 2:253, 2:256, 2:285-286).

This is in line with our observation that all the Quranic descriptions about the Earth’s human garden are invariably associated with references to colours and messengers.

This association should help us to locate the GARDEN OF ADAM.

WE RECONFIRM OUR PATH TOWARDS THE GARDEN OF ADAM

After reading the narration about the garden of Adam in 2:29-38, we continue reading its following verses to understand the further context within the sura.

Interestingly, 2:69 is the only verse in the Quran where the word ‘colour’ (lawn) appears in singular form. This is probably because it refers to one specific messenger (Moses) relating to one specific colour (Judaism, symbolised here by ‘golden colour’). By involving ‘deep observers’, instead of ‘general viewers’, it indicates the spiritual connotation of the word ‘colour’ (cf. 7:108) and the allegorical nature of the description (the heifer is an image for worship inside the mind, 2:93). Please note its association with the garden of Adam:

And We said: O Adam! Dwell you and your spouse in this GARDEN and eat freely thereof whatever you wish, but do not approach this one tree, lest you become wrongdoers. 2:35 …

Surely those who acknowledge, and those who are Jews, and Christians, and who are from other religions, whoever acknowledges God and the Last Day and does right, surely their reward is with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. 2:62 …

And Moses said to his people: “God bids you to sacrifice a heifer.” 2:67

They said: Call on your Sustainer for us to clarify to us what COLOUR it is. He said: He says it is a yellow heifer with a bright COLOUR, pleasing to the deep observers. 2:69

And to Moses We gave the Book and followed him up with MESSENGERS. 2:87

Say: We acknowledge God, and that which is revealed unto us, and … to all the other prophets from their Sustainer. We make no difference between one and another of them: And unto Him alone we are submitters. 2:136…

Such is God’s COLOURING. And who is better than God in COLOURING? And Him alone we worship. 2:138

Say: Do you debate with us regarding God? He is our Sustainer and your Sustainer, and we have our work and you have your work, and to Him we are devoted. 2:139

The passage, re-narrating a Jewish story about Moses, deals with the trend how limited human minds subconsciously invent ‘religions’ (many local ‘colours’ or ‘partial truth’s’) out of ‘deen’ (one universal ‘Light’ or ‘the Truth’) by seeking unnecessary details in God’s simple instructions.

Thus the parable appears to define Judaism as a local religion, i.e. a ‘COLOUR’ (2:69, 2:69, 23:20, 13:4) among the ASSORTED COLOURS OF WORLD’S RELIGIONS (2:22-87, 2:136164, 35:19-28, 30:9-24, 16:2-69, 39:18-69, 23:17-32).

This depiction of Judaism as a COLOUR out of many colours is further clarified in the verses below. While describing the collective human mind as a vast, diverse Universe (‘seven (infinite) paths’; cf. 51:7-8), they portray humankind’s spiritual garden as an orchard that grows various trees, including a ‘tree from Mount Sinai’ that produces light-giving oil (cf. ‘olive’ of universal light, 24:35) and a ‘colourant’ (cf. Judaism; 2:69, 2:69, 23:20, 13:4):

And We have created above you seven (infinite) paths and We are never unmindful of creation.

And We sent down water from the Heaven according to a measure, then We gave it lodging in the Earth, and most surely We are able to carry it away.

Then We cause to grow thereby GARDENS of palm trees and grapes for you; you have in them many fruits and from them do you eat:

Including a tree that emerges from Mount Sinai, yielding oil and a COLOURANT (food colour/dressing) for the eaters. …

So We sent a MESSENGER to them from amongst them: “Serve God, you have no other god besides Him.” 23:17-20, 32

Then we find the GARDEN OF ADAM right here: It is the garden of One Humanity, which, enlightened by one divine Light, has been yielding throughout the times and places a rainbow of infinite colours and a spectrum of numerous messengers. And this is how One Light (‘the Truth’) has been splitting into many colours (‘a truth’s’) to make the world an interesting place.

WE FINALLY ARRIVED AT THE GARDEN OF ADAM

Adam literally means ‘a human’, i.e. ‘a potentially rational, loving man who should be able to live in harmony with others’.

While Adam thus symbolises humankind in general, the garden of Adam is the ideal abode of man (2:35). It is the spiritual garden of One Humanity (2:25) – our human Earth of infinitely diverse minds – which is constantly watered by one divine inspiration (2:22-23).

It is this great garden of pluralism and multifaceted Truth, where one heavenly rain is yielding through countless minds all sorts of fruits of all colours (2:22-87, 2:136-164, 16:2-69, 23:17-32, 30:9-24, 35:19-28, 39:18-69).

This garden of bliss, this perfect dwelling of humanity, is lost when humans fall from this higher station of One Humanity (10:19), because of ‘eating’ from ‘the tree of discord and division’ under the influence of Devil, thereby getting divided into conflicting factions (‘Descend you all, as enemies to one another. 2:36’; cf. 2:34-36; 2:30, 2:72, 2:84-85, 2:178, 2:213; cf. 5:27-32; 7:19-27, 31, 35, 199-201; 10:19; 17:53).

And this lost paradise can be regained back by following the divine message – the message of unity – revealed through the messengers (2:38, 7:35, 38:5).

This explains why in the Quran the issue of Fall of Adam from his garden of bliss (2:22-36, 7:10-25, 38:69-85) is invariably accompanied by a reference to the divine guidance of unity, delivered by the messengers (2:37-39, 7:35, 7:59-84, 38:12-65).

Related reading:

Meaning of ‘colours’ in the Quran

Understanding the allegory of Adam