Wisdom of Adam and Eve’s Story in the Qur’an
The story of Adam and Eve in the Qur’an has been understood from various perspectives, as a historical account, a symbolic account and so on. Our goal is to realize the wisdom of the story in regards to how it relates to us as individuals.
As the Qur’an repeatedly states that it is a message addressing all humanity, it is pertinent to ask how it is related to us “here and now”. In other words,
What is the message that is given to me through the story of Adam and Eve?
Continuous Creation and Continuous Revelation
As Humans, we are limited with time and space but God is not limited. We are here in this world to get to know the infinite One with our limited capacity. How do we do that? Creation is the word of God in action; God speaks and creates along with it in creation. Continuous creation allows us to reflect on the artwork of the creator. We do witness the continuous creation here and now. The Holy Books, the Word of God is also continuous. We do not limit the word of God between the two covers of a book! Revelation/Wahy has come down slowly and gradually, one by one, there is a continuous coming down through various prophets, Adam and Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad and those in between and those we do not know the names, and people lived through the revelation. There is also a gradual coming down of revelation to a prophet and his people in time, it is true for us as well. Our realization of the revelation is also bound by time. We learn by experience, the knowledge/information needs to take us to transformation.
It was a transformative experience for the prophets/their people, and it is a transformative experience for us as well. It transforms our own understanding of everything, verse by verse, because it is not earthly knowledge, it is heavenly. It’s about God, I am given knowledge and I cannot be the same old me after I received the revelation. I cannot ignore as if it’s not happened. I respond to it, all humanity is the addressee of the revelation, various traditions, continuous message, one God, one creator.
What was the revelation to Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad and others in between? Who are they? And who am I in regards to revelation? How can I be transformed with the word of God, being open to it with by mind and heart?
Reading the word of God is what reflects on the mirror of my heart and life, however much I understood, I reflect on the book of creation; the continuous creation, and respond with worship. My interaction with the world, eating, observing, seeing, communicating etc. connects me to the creator in each moment and I reflect my feelings as a result in prayers and daily worship.
It’s a multi-layered text and it is not limited with me. It is being revealed to my heart, how? How is it revealed to the prophet? Through angel Gabriel, what is angel Gabriel in my world, do I have access to him?
Adam and Eve Story in the Qur’an in Chapter 2
2-30. When your Lord said to the angels: “I am about to establish upon earth one who shall inherit it.” They said: “Will you set therein one who will cause disorder and corruption on it and shed blood, while we glorify you with your praise and declare that You alone are All-Holy and to be worshipped as God and Lord? He said: “Surely I know what you do not know.” 31. (Having brought them into existence) God taught Adam the names, all of them. Then He presented them to the angels, and said: Now tell Me the names if you are truthful.
32. (In acknowledgement of their imperfection, and their perception of the truth of the matter) the angels said: “All-Glorified are you. We have no knowledge save what you have taught us. Surely You are the All-knowing, the All-Wise.”
33. (In order to demonstrate the superiority of humankind more clearly) God said: “O Adam, convey unto them the names of these. As soon as Adam had conveyed unto them the names, God said: “Did I not say unto you, “Verily, I alone know the hidden reality of the heavens and the earth, and know all that you bring into the open and all that you would conceal. And when He told the angels, “Prostrate yourselves before Adam!” they all prostrated themselves, save Iblis, who refused and glorified in his arrogance: and thus he became of those who deny the truth.
In verse 2:31, “Adam” is understood to refer to the whole human race since in the preceding verse 2:30, Adam is referred to as “one who shall inherit the earth” and as one “who will spread corruption on earth and will shed blood.” In the verses following 2:30, the Qur’an mentions how all the angels prostrated before Adam except Iblis (Satan). In 7:11, it recounts the same event but with definite reference to all mankind as the preceding verses clearly demonstrate,
O people We have given you a (bountiful) place on earth, and appointed thereon means of livelihood for you: (yet) how seldom are you grateful! (7:10). We have created you, and then formed you, and then we said unto the angels, “prostrate yourselves before Adam!”- Whereupon they prostrated themselves, except Iblis (7:11).
The name Adam symbolizes the whole human race as commentators on the Qur’an have unanimously agreed. So when the Qur’an says that He taught Adam the Names (al-asma’), all of them, it is actually saying that all human beings have been taught all the Names. What are these names? The Arabic for ‘names’ is asma’, and its singular form is ism. The term ism primarily denotes the intrinsic attributes of a thing under consideration. In other verses (7:180; 17:110; 20:8 and 59:24), the term asma’ has been combined with the term al-husna which is the plural form of al-ahsan (that which is best or most goodly). The combination al-asma’ al-husna, a term reserved in the Qur’an for God alone, is often rendered as “the attributes of perfection,” e.g.
And God’s (alone) are the attributes of perfection (al-asma’ al-husna); invoke Him, then, by these, and stand aloof from those who distort the meaning of His attributes (asma’) (7:180).
The fall is not some catastrophic tragedy in some absolute ontological sense!
The fall with its possibility of freedom makes goodness and faith possible.
Two conditions are required for the fall to be transformed into goodness.
1) one has to be aware of the state of fall (but this is not sufficient)
2) it is essential that the individual be penitent, that he repents and asks for forgiveness.
The Qur’an relates that after they had disobeyed (Qur’an gives the responsibility to both Adam and Eve, does not favor one over the other!) and tasted the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve could not sense their fall and thus could not find the way out of it until God brought this to their attention, inspiring them with the prayer of tawbah (repentance);
The two replied, “Our sustainer! We have sinned against ourselves and unless you grant us forgiveness and bestow your mercy upon us, we shall most certainly be lost!” (7:23)
Prior to their repentance, the Qur’an narrates how God revealed to Adam his ‘predicament’, his powerlessness vis-à-vis this predicament, and inspired some words of prayer to say to that effect. Even the awareness of the fall is divinely inspired!
The Qur’an says that after the fall,
Adam learned from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. We said: “Get down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire; they shall abide therein. (2:37-39)
Adam and Eve were forgiven because as soon as they were prompted to realize their fall they repented!
In the Qur’an, the story of Adam and Eve subtly reveals the journey of mankind. The temptation of the ego, (represented as Satan), is indicated in the following verse:
“And thus he led them on by delusion; and when they tasted fruit of the tree, their private parts were revealed to them, both began to cover themselves with leaves from the garden. And their Lord called out to them: “ Did I not prohibit you from that tree, and did I not say to you that Satan is a manifest enemy to you?” (7:22)
The moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit from the tree, they became conscious of their nakedness. In other words they become self-conscious, as opposed to their previous state of God-consciousness. Then, God the All-Knowing, with full knowledge of what will happen, sends Adam and Eve down to earth to stay for a while (the duration of each person’s life), and gives them (us) this “key;”
7:23 They said: Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves, and if you do not forgive us and do not have mercy on us, we will surely be among those who have lost!”
O children of Adam, indeed We have bestowed upon you from high, garments to cover your nakedness, and as a thing of beauty, but the garment of God-consciousness is the best of all. (7:26)
So the fall is planned. Adam is destined to live on earth. The fall symbolizes forgetting the Names, but it is also what enables Adam to remember the Names and gain knowledge of the Divine thus surpassing the angels in station.
Vulnerability, nakedness of Adam, our vulnerability connects us to God, when Adam forget what he has been told by God, he followed his own understanding and thought that the way to the eternity goes through eating the worldly fruit, this was his own interpretation following the temptation of satan/ego, then they felt themself naked. Our worldly understandings does not bring us eternal happiness, eternity, it only makes us feel more naked and vulnerable, and then he started covering his nakedness with leaves, this is also his own interpretation, it was not a guidance from God, he thought he could cover the nakedness with worldly stuff, we think we can be happy with worldly stuff, but it is not revelation and it does not satisfy the spirit.
The spirit, Adam feels covered, gets rid of that feeling only when he comes before God.
He clearly confesses his fault, mistake, when he accepts his truth, when he is true to his own truth and reality in front of God.
Only with revelation we can feel our spirit is covered, satisfied, and it fulfilled its own reality).