Responses to Osama Abdallah

Muhammad and the ‘90 feet tall’ Adam

Introduction

Some weeks after we had rebutted Osama Abdallah's article in which he claimed in regard to a saying of Muhammad that the human body has 360 joints had allegedly been proven by modern science, he posted the following on his message board:

While I appreciate the fact that the answering Islam team had trashed my carelessness in posting an article that lacked a great deal of scientific facts, but I do want the reader to know that this was the only article that the answering Islam team had responded to in my "Science in the Noble Quran section, at: www.answering-christianity.com/sci_quran.htm

This is no excuse, but my web site does contain almost 1,000 articles, ...

Some of my earlier articles did contain weak information in them, and I have updated them all and improved their quality. I am glad that the answering Islam team only found 1 lousy article! This proves that I am doing a great job, walhamdulillah! (Osama Abdallah, 22 January 2004 posting; underline emphasis mine)

Even though I am glad he admitted that his article on the 360 joints was lousy, there seems to exist a severe misunderstanding on Abdallah's part. Answering Islam had so far not responded to any of his ‘science’ articles. Although this is not the only bad article in his science section, we chose to respond to this one first because it contained the worst reasoning of all of them. That was hardly a compliment for the whole section. However, I will take up Abdallah's implicit challenge contained in the above statement, and discuss a few more of the many lousy science articles found on his site. In fact, had Abdallah paid more attention to Appendix 2 of the first rebuttal, he could have seen which of his other articles we were going to respond to next. Let me state this explicitly: this present response is the second rebuttal to one of Abdallah's science claims but it will not be the last one, lest he still wants to somehow interpret this as a compliment for his other articles that so far we only found two lousy ones among so many. There are more, and some of them will be responded to in time. However, good research takes time. Obviously, we cannot respond to all of them within a few days. Moreover, I have many duties, and many people demand my attention. Frankly, it is not my top priority to write responses to Abdallah's multitude of articles full of scientific nonsense.

More importantly, it is simply not true that we have not addressed any other of the science claims that are propagated by Abdallah. Our section on issues of Qur'an & Science has plenty of rebuttals to the most common Muslim claims about amazing modern scientific insights already being found in the Qur'an. For example, there exist several dozen Muslim websites claiming that recent discoveries of embryology are already taught in the Qur'an. We provide a very detailed evaluation of these Muslim claims as they are commonly presented. There is no need to write another rebuttal responding to Osama Abdallah personally and addressing the same claims yet again. The topic is already dealt with. In the same way, many of Osama's other claims are already rebutted. If he thinks it is necessary that we mention his name in our rebuttals in order for them to count, then he simply thinks too much of himself. Claims that are found in many Muslim sites will usually receive a generic response. Only when we discuss a claim that originates with Abdallah, or that is mainly or solely propagated by him, will we address such a rebuttal specifically to him.

Additionally, there are a number of responses to Abdallah's science claims on other websites, debate boards, etc. For example, the series "Does Science really prove the Quran? ([Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3]) by Quennel Gale. On the discussion forum of the website FaithFreedom one can also find a number of rebuttals to Abdallah's "Science proves Islam" articles. We are flattered that he seems to consider the number of our responses to him the final measure against which his own site is evaluated. However, it would be some rather strange logic to consider his or anybody's articles bad only in the case that Answering Islam exposes their weaknesses, but not if others rebut these claims.

Note that O. Abdallah states in the third paragraph quoted above that: "Some of my earlier articles did contain weak information in them, and I have updated them all and improved their quality." This statement obviously means that he has eliminated from his articles everything that he considered to be "weak information". He is now fully convinced of the statements found in the articles on his site as they are currently displayed; they are trustworthy and their content is correct. Thus, to be fair, we will not respond to versions of his articles published prior to the above date. All future rebuttals will be based on the articles as they are found on his website after 23 January 2004.

Muhammad's Teaching about the Size of Adam

After quoting some science journal regarding genetic research, Abdallah's article "The Jewish Scientists confirm Islam's claims about Adam was 90 feet tall", published on 28 November 2001, states:

... Note that 1400 years before these learned men came to this conclusion, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said something similar:

Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. [snip]"

Two cubits is a yard, so one cubit is a foot and a half. So for some reason, the Prophet (peace be upon him) thought that Adam was 90 feet tall when he was created. It is a belief of Islam that man got smaller as life went on. How did the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions (May Allah Almighty be pleased with them) know about the effect known as "bottleneck," where animals get weaker if they have genetic exchanges that are too closely related?

Before we turn to a detailed examination of the specific assertions published in this article, let us take a careful look at the Islamic sources themselves. The Muslim traditions do not contain merely one odd hadith where Muhammad talks about Adam having been 60 cubits tall (which we are told here is equal to 90 feet, i.e. 27.5 meters for those who think in metric measurements). This claim is found with some variations in many traditions. These narrations contain some more interesting details besides the height of Adam. The following are some of the hadiths that are found in the two most authoritative collections of Sunni Islam:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. When He created him, He said to him, "Go and greet that group of angels, and listen to their reply, for it will be your greeting (salutation) and the greeting (salutations of your offspring." So, Adam said (to the angels), As-Salamu Alaikum (i.e. Peace be upon you). The angels said, "As-salamu Alaika wa Rahmatu-l-lahi" (i.e. Peace and Allah's Mercy be upon you). Thus the angels added to Adam's salutation the expression, 'Wa Rahmatu-l-lahi,' Any person who will enter Paradise will resemble Adam (in appearance and figure). People have been decreasing in stature since Adam's creation. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543)

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "The first group of people who will enter Paradise, will be glittering like the full moon and those who will follow them, will glitter like the most brilliant star in the sky. They will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their centers. Their wives will be houris. All of them will look alike and will resemble their father Adam (in statute), sixty cubits tall." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 544)

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The first group of my Ummah to get into Paradise would be like a full moon in the night. Then those who would be next to them; they would be like the most significantly glittering stars in regard to brightness, then after them (others) in ranks. They would neither void excrement, nor pass water, nor suffer from catarrh, nor would they spit. And their combs would be made of gold, and the fuel of their braziers would be aloes and their sweat would be musk and their form would be the form of one single person according to the length of their father sixty cubits tall. This hadith has been transmitted on the authority of Ibn Abi Shaiba with a slight variation of wording. (Sahih Muslim, Book 040, Number 6796, cf. No. 6795)

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, created Adam in His own image with His length of sixty cubits, and as He created him He told him to greet that group, and that was a party of angels sitting there, and listen to the response that they give him, for it would form his greeting and that of his offspring. He then went away and said: Peace be upon you! They (the angels) said: May there be peace upon you and the Mercy of Allah, and they made an addition of" Mercy of Allah". So he who would get into Paradise would get in the form of Adam, his length being sixty cubits, then the people who followed him continued to diminish in size up to this day. (Sahih Muslim, Book 040, Number 6809; cf. Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 74, Number 246)

[ Note: The last of the above quoted hadiths has an added problem. Muhammad states that Adam was created in the image of Allah, and then the only feature mentioned of Adam is that he was sixty cubits tall. No further explanation is given in what sense Adam is like Allah. Taking the text as it is, one could get the impression that "height" is the point of comparison between the original (Allah) and the image (Adam). However, this is not an issue of science but theology, and we will not discuss this aspect any further in the present article. ]

Let us begin by pondering what a human being of 60 cubits / 90 feet / 27.5 meters really means. Is there any living being of comparable height? A large giraffe reaches the height of about 18 feet (reference), i.e. this ‘Muhammadan Adam’ was FIVE TIMES as high as the tallest animal currently living on earth (18 x 5 = 90). Expressed differently, Adam's height would have been that of a ten story building!

[ Note: For the first part of our discussion we will simply work on the basis of the equation "60 cubits = 90 feet" given by the Muslims, but see also our comments below on the meaning of the Arabic word rendered as "cubit" in the English translation of the hadith. ]

An immediate question that comes to mind is this: What was Adam supposed to do up there? The bodily shape of a giraffe enables it to reach the leaves of high trees and that is the food of giraffes. However, ninety feet is way above the height of most trees. What is Adam supposed to do with his head and his hands in empty air? He would even have a hard time to find tree trunks to build himself a chair of suitable size. Most of the action for humans is near the ground. Food grows on the ground, and cultivating it needs to be done on the ground. If he doesn't want to be only vegetarian, then apart from a few birds, all the other food in the form of animals also runs around on the ground and will be rather difficult to catch when you are so high above it. Gravity is the reason that creative activity like building things has to be done on the ground. It should be obvious that it would not have been an easy matter to get up or down for somebody of that size. We will shortly talk about weight and other biological handicaps as well.

The thrust of Abdallah's claims — as well as the claims of many other Muslims — is this: Islam is the ultimate truth because "Science confirms Islam". Therefore, we will focus on those elements in the Islamic traditions that can be tested against scientific knowledge. The above quoted sayings of Muhammad contain two statements that can be evaluated scientifically:

  1. Adam was 90 feet tall.
  2. The height of human beings has continuously diminished since then.

The first is an issue of biology and human anatomy. The veracity of the second claim can be tested against the findings of archaeology.

Regarding the alleged size of Adam, one of the largest problems is the weight such a person would have. There are some famous fictional stories that feature huge people. The most well-known allegory ever written is John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress" (1678). Very famous is also Jonathan Swift's satirical novel "Gulliver's Travels" (1726). Both books tell stories in which the main character encounters people that are 60 feet tall. Since these books and stories are so famous, it is natural that scientists have examined whether the existence of such people is even possible.

In 1989 Dr. George Barnes, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Nevada, wrote the article "Physics and Size in Biological Systems" which discusses among many other issues also the problems of the tiny Lilliputians and the gigantic Brobdingnagians in "Gulliver's Travels". Excerpts of this are quoted in the webpage "Physics and Size in Biological Systems":

The author was aware that scaling a 6-ft person linear dimensions down by a factor of 12 reduced his volume by 123 = 1728 (the Lilliputians) or up by a factor of 10 increased his volume by a factor of 103 = 1000 (the Brobdingnagians). He does not seem to be aware of some of the serious, perhaps even disastrous, consequences that would result from doing so. ... The problems of the Brobdingnagians are also very serious. As they were 10 times taller (and 10 times deeper and 10 times wider) than Gulliver, they would have 1000 times the mass, so a male would weigh 73000 kg or 80 tons! ... There are quite a number of other physical characteristics that can be discussed using scaling. For example, the cross sectional area of the leg bones obviously scales as the square of the characteristic length while the mass of the body supported by the legs scales as the cube. Since the bone has some ultimate tensile strength in N/m2, there would be some limit to the height of an animal, beyond which it would crumble under its own weight.

Already in 1928 J. B. S. Haldane, a British geneticist, published a well-known essay titled "On Being the Right Size" (*, *). He wrote:

Let us take the most obvious of possible cases, and consider a giant man sixty feet high — about the height of Giant Pope and Giant Pagan in the illustrated Pilgrim’s Progress of my childhood. These monsters were not only ten times as high as Christian, but ten times as wide and ten times as thick, so that their total weight was a thousand times his, or about eighty to ninety tons. Unfortunately the cross sections of their bones were only a hundred times those of Christian, so that every square inch of giant bone had to support ten times the weight borne by a square inch of human bone. As the human thigh-bone breaks under about ten times the human weight, Pope and Pagan would have broken their thighs every time they took a step.

Seemingly Muhammad's imagination was even larger than that of John Bunyan or Jonathan Swift since he added yet another 30 feet when teaching his followers about Adam. Obviously, the problems outlined by Barnes and Haldane are not going to diminish if the size of the person is increased even further. If Adam were 90 feet high, he would be 15 times taller (instead of ten times) and would have 3375 times (15 x 15 x15) the mass of a normal male. His weight would be an astonishing 246,375 kg or 270 tons!

According to these scientists, the existence of a 90 feet tall human being is physiologically impossible. The following quotation adds another aspect:

According to SB 4.55.543 Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. This would be a height of 90 feet (27Ĺ metres). No animal body can function at this height. The highest that the heart could pump blood from the feet would be less than 32 feet (9.81 metres); any greater height than this would cause a vacuum lock to develop in the circulation system. In fact the height at which the circulation system breaks down would be considerably less than this due to friction between the blood and the walls of the blood vessels. (Source)

The above outlined issues are probably only the tip of the iceberg of problems that such a gigantic size would imply for a human being. Unless Muslims can present better arguments based on sound scientific reasoning, the conclusion can only be that Muhammad's claim regarding the size of Adam belongs to the realm of myths and fairy tales.

Abdallah claimed that science confirmed that Muhammad was right about Adam being 90 feet tall. This claim has certainly failed. Muslims could at most appeal to a miracle that God may have done for Adam so that somehow it worked for him despite all the scientific reasons speaking against it.

This appeal to a singular miracle fails, however, because of the second of the above highlighted aspects of Muhammad's teaching regarding the size of Adam. Let us repeat Muhammad's claim:

Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. ... People have been decreasing in stature since Adam's creation. (Sahih al-Bukhari, 4.543)

Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, created Adam in His own image with His length of sixty cubits, ... then the people who followed him continued to diminish in size up to this day. (Sahih Muslim, No. 6809)

Even if Muslims would want to question and reject the above arguments against Adam having been 90 feet tall because it was a singular miraculous event, or claim that it may have been possible in some unknown way since we do not know all the necessary parameters to make a final scientific judgment, Muhammad's second claim states that the height of human beings has been decreasing continuously. This means there must have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of gigantic people which lived and died on this earth. Although one cannot expect to find the skeleton of Adam (or any specific person of history), archaeology can tell us whether human beings in general have changed in size over time. Note carefully that Muhammad's claim does not merely say that there existed some exceptional people that happened to be very tall — the remains of which have sadly never been found. Muhammad's claim clearly means human beings in general or on average have continuously decreased since the time of Adam up to his own time.

If this were true, one would expect to find thousands of remains of gigantic people. These remains would first of all be skeletons, but also include tools they used, weapons, art work, remains of buildings, etc. And these findings should show a definite difference in size of people living 10,000 BC, 3,000 BC, and 500 AD. Since there were not only a few, but many such people, archaeologists should have no problem to present to us plenty of remains of people which were 60 feet, 50 feet, 40 feet, 30 feet and 20 feet tall. Where are they? Are there any such findings at all? Are they in decreasing sequence when ordered according to their age? I am not aware of ANY archaeological support for Muhammad's teaching about the size of human beings over history. To give a very generous bracket, humans have generally remained within the range of 3 to 10 feet. There is, to my knowledge, no evidence that their average was above 10 feet at any time of history.

Conclusion: Muhammad was wrong on both counts.

The obvious next question is this: Did Muhammad invent these claims himself, or did he simply repeat myths that were circulating at his time, perhaps embellishing them somewhat? This question will be discussed later near the end of this paper.


Excursus on the meaning of "cubit" in the Muslim traditions

So far we simply worked with the author's definition that "one cubit is a foot and a half", i.e. 18 inches (0.4572 meters). The following quotation indicates that there may be a problem with doing so:

cubit ... The word comes from the Latin cubitum, "elbow," because the unit represents the length of a man's forearm from his elbow to the tip of his outstretched middle finger. This distance tends to be about 18 inches or roughly 45 centimeters. In ancient times, the cubit was usually defined to equal 24 digits or 6 palms. The Egyptian royal or "long" cubit, however, was equal to 28 digits or 7 palms. In the English system, the digit is conventionally identified as 3/4 inch; this makes the ordinary cubit exactly 18 inches (45.72 centimeters). The Roman cubit was shorter, about 44.4 centimeters (17.5 inches). The ordinary Egyptian cubit was just under 45 centimeters, and most authorities estimate the royal cubit at about 52.35 centimeters (20.61 inches). (Source: Russ Rowlett's How Many? A Dictionary of Units of Measurement; bold emphasis mine)

Apparently, the Muslims ("Cyber Mujahid" and/or Osama Abdallah) took the modern English measurement definition to derive "60 cubits = 90 feet". It is one of the most basic anachronistic blunders to simply assume that words from an ancient text have the same meaning or definition today. Let's have a closer look. What does the Arabic say? The word used in the above quoted ahadith is ذراع (dhiraa'). What length does this word denote? The Arabic-English Dictionary, The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, 4th edition by J. Milton Cowan, pp. 356-357 provides the following information:

In Syria: ذراع     dhiraa' =   0.68 m

In Egypt:     ذراع بلدى     dhiraa' baladee =   0.58 m
ذراع استانبولى     dhiraa' instanboolee     =   0.665 m
ذراع هندازة     dhiraa' hindaazah =   0.656 m
ذراع معمارى     dhiraa mi'maaree' =   0.75 m

In Iraq: ذراع حلبى     dhiraa' Halabee =   0.68 m
ذراع بغدادى     dhiraa' baghdaadee =   0.80 m

Apparently there were/are several different measures in use that bear the name dhiraa'. However, all of them are considerably larger than the English cubit. The smallest given length in the above table, 1 dhiraa' = 0.58 m, results in 60 dhiraa' = 34.8 meters = 114 feet. [According to the above calculations, the weight of Adam would then be 550 tons.] The largest possible length for the dhiraa', i.e. 1 dhiraa' = 0.80 m, would result in a height of 48 meters = 157.5 feet, and a monstrous weight of 1455 tons!

The most likely candidate is 1 dhiraa' = 0.68 m, 60 dhiraa' = 41 meters = 134 feet [resulting in a weight of 894 tons]. Currently, I consider this the most likely candidate based on the personal communication with Arab friends. However, a final decision which specific dhiraa' was actually in use in Arabia during the life time of Muhammad awaits further clarification. [If you, the esteemed reader, have access to the necessary information to decide this question, please contact me.]

To render dhiraa' as "cubit" as the translators of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim apparently do (without explanatory footnotes), is definitely misleading. As such, the translators bear part of the guilt for this misunderstanding.


What about O. Abdallah's claims regarding scientific proof for Muhammad's statements?

Having examined the statements of Muhammad and finding them to be utterly wrong, even ridiculous when looking at them from a scientific point of view, we now turn with some astonishment to the claims made in Osama Abdallah's article:

The Jewish Scientists confirm Islam's claims about Adam was 90 feet tall:

The following article was sent to me by Cyber Mujahid; may Allah Almighty always be pleased with him.

Note:  Prophet Muhammad's Saying is found at the end of this article.

Read the following excerpt from the English section of the September 2001 issue of the Hebrew-English Israeli popular science journal "Ha-Mada Ha-Yisraeli B'Angleet V'Ivreet."  Then read the comments below.

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - At the recent Israeli colloquium on science and religion, Dr. Shlomi Lesser of Hebrew University, and the Chairman of the Hofesh V'Mada Society (a stalwart for deeply skeptical Israeli scientists), led a heated debate between biologists and ultra-orthodox Rabbis on the origins of life.  Many of the spectators, including those of a deeply religious stance, came away with the feeling that the Rabbis had not done very well against their "Epicurean" counterparts.

The hi-light of the evening came when Dr. Lesser engaged in a one-on-one question exchange with Rabbi Dovid Brown of Yeshiva University.  At one point Dr.  Lesser asked R. Brown how tall the first man was, to which the esteemed Rabbi replied "he was roughly the size of an average man according to chazal [Jewish sages]."   From there Dr. Lesser revealed that genetic research has revealed that the human race coming from a single pair of parents is impossible in light of the biological bottle-neck [a term for the strain put on successive generations by inbreeding] they would have to travel through.

"Our research, in conjunction with the research of other respected institutions around the world, has demonstrated that the entire human population descending from a single pair of human ancestors is highly unlikely." stated Dr. Lesser.  "It would seem that the traditional view of groups, not individuals, evolving has been corroborated; the only way man could descend from a single pair (rather than from an entire group of transitional hominids) is if the original pair were literally giants in the pre-nutrition age."

As Dr. Lesser pointed out, prior to the breakthroughs in nutrition that took place in the 17th and 18th centuries, genetic evidence revealed that man would have been shrinking if he came from a single human ancestor.  His calculations revealed that in order for the human race to reach the state it was in during the 17th century, the "Adam and Eve" story would only be plausible if the first man was 90 feet tall (which is fantastic to say the least).  "There is no other way man could traverse the genetic bottleneck" Dr. Lesser again said.  "If Adam was the size of any other man according to the learned Rabbis of the Jewish religion, this demonstrates an obvious absurdity to this myth."

[------ END EXCERPT ------]

This is interesting to me because while the biologists think they crushed Judaism, they actually confirmed Islam!  The scientists came up with genetic research that led them to calculate the size a first man would have to be if the story was true.  They came up with 90 feet.  Note that 1400 years before these learned men came to this conclusion, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said something similar:

Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543:

Narrated Abu Huraira:  The Prophet said, "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. [snip]"

Two cubits is a yard, so one cubit is a foot and a half. So for some reason, the Prophet (peace be upon him) thought that Adam was 90 feet tall when he was created.  It is a belief of Islam that man got smaller as life went on.  How did the Prophet (peace be upon him) and his companions (May Allah Almighty be pleased with them) know about the effect known as "bottleneck," where animals get weaker if they have genetic exchanges that are too closely related?

(Cf. the newsgroup posting on soc.religion.islam by "Cybermujahid" on 2 December 2001.)

Some Muslims must be really desparate to propagate such nonsense. I will discuss several aspects of the above article. First some comments on the "Islamic conclusions" drawn by the Muslim(s) from the alleged science journal excerpt.

Let me begin with the last sentence above: Nowhere did Muhammad or his companions speak about a "genetic bottleneck". Muhammad believed (for whatever reason) that people have diminished in size, but he gave no reason or explanation for this. The above conclusion is completely unfounded. Furthermore, they have not even understood the article correctly. They wrote:

... The scientists came up with genetic research that led them to calculate the size a first man would have to be if the story was true. They came up with 90 feet. Note that 1400 years before these learned men came to this conclusion, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said something similar: ...

The Prophet said, "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. [snip]"

Compare this with the argument of Dr. Lesser:

As Dr. Lesser pointed out, prior to the breakthroughs in nutrition that took place in the 17th and 18th centuries, genetic evidence revealed that man would have been shrinking if he came from a single human ancestor.  His calculations revealed that in order for the human race to reach the state it was in during the 17th century, the "Adam and Eve" story would only be plausible if the first man was 90 feet tall (which is fantastic to say the least).  "There is no other way man could traverse the genetic bottleneck" Dr. Lesser again said.  "If Adam was the size of any other man according to the learned Rabbis of the Jewish religion, this demonstrates an obvious absurdity to this myth."

Dr. Lesser argues against the belief that all human beings descended from one human couple, Adam and Eve. He wants to show that this is an absurd myth. In order to do so, he claims to have made calculations which prove that if there existed one human couple from which all human beings descended, then Adam must have been 90 feet tall. This is followed up with the remark "which is fantastic to say the least". In other words, the conclusion that Adam was 90 feet tall is so absurd, that it in turn proves wrong the belief that humanity descended from one couple. This can hardly be taken as support for the teachings of Muhammad. (Technically this kind of argument is called "Reductio ad Absurdum" or "proof by contradiction"; one assumes the opposite of what one wants to prove and deduces a contradiction from it.)

Muhammad did not speak hypothetically; he did not say that IF all people descended from Adam, THEN Allah must have created him 90 feet tall (but obviously, he did not). On the contrary, Muhammad taught clearly that Allah DID create Adam 90 feet tall. Dr. Lesser considers such an idea (which happens to coincide with Islamic teaching) to be absolutely ridiculous. Interpreting the above article as supporting Islam testifies of a rather low reading comprehension.

Besides this error of interpretation there is a substantial scientific error in this second part. "Cyber Mujahid" and/or Osama Abdallah tell us that "one cubit is a foot and a half", i.e. 18 inches (0.4572 meters). As already discussed in the above excursus on the meaning of "cubit", the Muslims took the modern English measurement definition to derive "60 cubits = 90 feet". This is either an indication of ignorance and carelessness on the part of "Cyber Mujahid" and Osama Abdallah, or even of deliberate deception trying to make the size given in the hadith match the statement by Dr. Lesser. Whether this last part of the article was written by "Cyber Mujahid" or Osama Abdallah, the latter is responsible for publishing it without even checking that the numbers are correct.

I could now go on to question a number of the ‘scientific details’ in this alleged science journal article. For example, there seems to be an implicit assumption in the argument of Dr. Lesser as well as in the Muslim interpretation of it which may be outlined like this:

  1. Humankind passed through a genetic bottleneck in that they descended from only two people (Adam and Eve).
  2. The only way humans could have successfully traversed this bottleneck is if Adam had been 90 feet high and humans have gotten progressively shorter.

This fallaciously assumes that a bigger Adam would have carried MORE genetic information and that this has gotten lost as he got smaller. This appears to be the whole point of the taller/genetic citation from these ‘Jewish scientists’. However, it is grossly in error. Why would a taller Adam require a larger genome? A six feet tall man does not have more genetic information in his DNA than a four feet one. Either something is a human (i.e. their DNA = ‘human’) or they are not (e.g. their DNA = ‘cat’). The Muslim writer seems to think DNA is something like water, bricks, or hadith -- the larger the space, the more you can fit in. This is nonsense. The same DNA information is encoded into every cell. So unless the 90 feet tall also had a totally different cell structure and a different genome, the argument fails. On the other hand, if he did have different DNA, then he was not human. Furthermore, I am not aware that inbreeding would cause the continuous shrinking of height in a population. Illnesses, deformities, mental disabilities are reported, but a continuous shrinking over centuries does not sound right. However, I will not continue discussing the scientific aspects of this argument. It would ultimately be waste of time because there is another foundational problem with this article. To put it simply: The article is a hoax. Proving this is very easy:

  1. Dr. Shlomi Lesser is allegedly (1) employed by the Hebrew University, (2) the Chairman of the Hofesh V'Mada Society, (3) working in genetic research "in conjunction with the research of other respected institutions around the world". Despite using various search engines (Google, Yahoo, Metacrawler). I could find no record of the existence of an individual by the name of Shlomi Lesser. The only webpages that contain his name are copies of this above quoted article that is propagated on a number of Islamic websites. Most likely: A person of this name does not even exist, let alone being a public person holding the above noted positions.
  2. Similarly, a search for the alleged Hebrew-English Israeli popular science journal "Ha-Mada Ha-Yisraeli B'Angleet V'Ivreet" results in the same observation. It is completely unknown on the internet, except in the above article. A journal of this name cannot be found anywhere else. It is certainly not a POPULAR journal as is claimed in the article. The conclusion of non-existence is even more likely for a publication than for a person.
  3. It will hardly elicit any surprise: The alleged "Hofesh V'Mada Society" has not left any trace of its existence either.
  4. No professional journal would write "hi-light" instead of highlight, use different spellings of the same term within a few sentences (bottle-neck, bottleneck), allow such repetitive formulations like "From there Dr. Lesser revealed that genetic research has revealed that ...", etc.

There is no such professor, no such journal, and no such society. In my opinion, there is no other conclusion possible than that the whole article is a hoax from beginning to end. Additionally, the article is even wrong on essential details. The most important problem — besides the above mentioned linking of the size of a human being with amount of information in his genome — is the false information about Jewish beliefs regarding Adam. Contrary to the claim put into the mouth of Rabbi Dovid Brown by this spurious article, Jewish tradition does not hold that Adam "was roughly the size of an average man". Just a couple of quotations will make that very obvious:

Like all creatures formed on the six days of creation, Adam came from the hands of the Creator fully and completely developed. He was not like a child, but like a man of twenty years of age. The dimensions of his body were gigantic, reaching from heaven to earth, or, what amounts to the same, from east to west. Among later generations of men, there were but few who in a measure resembled Adam in his extraordinary size and physical perfections. ... The celestial light was but one of the seven precious gifts enjoyed by Adam before the fall and to be granted to man again only in the Messianic time. The others are the resplendence of his countenance; life eternal; his tall stature; the fruits of the soil; the fruits of the tree; and the luminaries of the sky, the sun and the moon, for in the world to come the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold. {Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, 1909, Chapter II: Adam; bold emphasis mine}

Rab Judah said in Rab's name: The first man reached from one end of the world to the other, as it is written, Since the day that God created man upon the earth, even from the one end of Heaven unto the other. But when he sinned, the Holy One, blessed be He, laid His hand upon him and diminished him, as it is written, Thou hast hemmed me in behind and before, and laid Thy hands upon me. R. Eleazer said: The first man reached from earth to heaven, as it is written, Since the day that God created man upon the earth, and from the one end of Heaven [the other]. But when he sinned, the Holy One, blessed be He, laid His hand upon him and diminished him, for it is written, Thou hast hemmed me in behind and before etc. {Sanhedrin 38b; Rabbi Dr. I. Epstein (ed.), "The Babylonian Talmud: Sanhedrin," (London: Soncino Press, 1935), p. 243; bold emphasis mine}

The repeated parts in the second quotation show that this tradition was even reported multiple times in the Jewish literature. The passages cited are from Deuteronomy 4:32 and Psalms 139:5, respectively. The next quotation is from B'reshit Rabbah 12:6, also known as Genesis Rabbah or Midrash Rabbah to Genesis. The square brackets ("[...]") are in the original text:

Every reference in Scripture to the word "generations" is written defectively [so that the first vav is omitted, thus, TLDWT rather than TWLDWT]. There are two exceptions: "These are the generations of Peretz (Ruth 4:18), and "These are the generations of heaven..." (Gen 2:4). And why are these two written defectively? R. Yudan in the name of R. Abun: "The [missing] six [that is, the numerical value of the vav] correspond to six things that were taken away from the first man, and these are they: his splendor, his immortal life, his stature, the fruit of the earth, the fruit of the tree, and the primordial lights. How do we know that this is the case for his splendor? ‘You change his countenance and send him away’ (Job 14:20). His immortal life? ‘For dust you are and to dust you shall return’ (Gen. 3:19) His stature? ‘And the man and his wife hid themselves’ (Gen. 3:8)." Said R. Aibu, "He was cut down in height and reduced to one hundred cubits." {Jacob Neusner, "Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis," (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985), Vol. I, p. 124; bold emphasis mine}

No true Rabbi would make a statement of such ignorance about the Jewish traditions. In fact, the real Rabbi Dovid Brown is the author of the book "Mysteries of the Creation: a cosmology derived from Torah, Nevi'im, C'suvim, Mishna, G'morroh, and Midrash", Targum/Feldheim, 1997, which is quite popular among Orthodox Jews. Dovid Brown is an expert regarding the Jewish traditions regarding Creation, and the person who created this hoax simply chose the most unlikely character for this statement. In fact, he states in this book:

Even though God created everything in a perfect state, when Odom hoRishon sinned the creation was damaged. It will not be returned to its perfect condition until the coming of Moshiach, a descendant of Peretz, the son of Yehuda. These are the things that were damaged and which will be repaired at that time: man's looks, his longevity, his height, the fruit of the earth, the fruit of the trees, and the heavenly lights. {Rabbi Dovid Brown, Mysteries of the Creation, (Southfield: Targum Press, 1997), p. 184; bold emphasis mine}

[ Note: Rabbi Brown uses the Ashkenazic transliteration of the Hebrew, i.e. "Odom hoRishon" instead of the usual transliteration "adam ha-rishon" (meaning: Adam, the first), and "Moshiach" instead of "Mashiach" (Messiah). ]

Abdallah's article is not only a hoax, but it is also wrong on science and wrong on Jewish beliefs.

Even other Muslims who engage in this sort of reasoning have recognized and publically expressed that this particular story is unconvincing:

I read the link from "Answering-Christianity" and then researched its references a bit and came up empty handed. Based upon the complete absence of any supporting material to back this up, my personal conclusion is that it is nonsense. In all my reading I have never read about a "Pre-nutrition Age" in the history of human evolution. Is there such a thing even? (Shibli Zaman, soc.religion.islam newsgroup posting on 10 May 2003; bold emphasis mine)

Note that Shibli Zaman himself is actively propagating the "scientific miracle of the Qur'an" (cf. our section of Rebuttals to Shibli Zaman). This article by Abdallah, however, could not even convince somebody who believes and wants to believe that the Qur'an and Muhammad predicted modern scientific knowledge.

As much as this article with its "proof of Islam" may have thrilled him, it would have been the duty of Osama Abdallah to exercise some caution and perform a couple of background checks to determine whether this message of "Cyber Mujahid" is credible, before publishing it on his website. Even somebody who knows nothing about genetics or the teachings of Jewish religion, and therefore cannot easily evaluate the truth of the content of such an article, could at least have done the above three searches for the mentioned names. This would have been a minimum check that everyone can do to make sure he is not propagating false rumors and absolute nonsense.

As it is, Osama Abdallah spreads forged articles of unsubstantiated content as proof for the truth of Islam. Whether intentionally or merely gullibly, he uses clear lies in order to tell the world that Islam is the truth. The irony of Abdallah's article is the following: Despite the fact that this statement of Muhammad is absolute nonsense in several categories of science (physiology and archaeology), it is presented as a scientific miracle with the intention to convince his readership of the truth of Islam.

Because of Abdallah's carelessness and gullibility, this article has now achieved the exact opposite result of its intention. Instead of supporting the credibility and truth of Islam, the end result of this discussion is that Muhammad made several scientific statements which are plain wrong, not to say ridiculous. Moreover, the fact that Muslims use hoaxes (yes, Hoaxes in the plural) and false statements to make Islam look authentic and even superior to other religions further damages the credibility of Islam.

The Source of Muhammad's teaching regarding the gigantic size of Adam

Comparing the Sayings of Muhammad (listed at the beginning of this article) with the just quoted Jewish Traditions we note a good number of similarities:

  1. Adam was created as a giant.
  2. His descendents were and are no longer of the size of Adam.
  3. At the end of time people will have the size of Adam again when they enter Paradise (according to Muhammad) or the Messianic age (according to Jewish traditions).

In fact, there are further Muslim traditions which make the similarities even more striking, because they also state that Adam was even larger originally. The famous Muslim historian al-Tabari states this:

It has been mentioned that the summit of the mountain upon which Adam was cast down is one of those closest to heaven among the mountains of the earth and that, when Adam was cast down upon it, his feet were upon it while his head was in heaven and he heard the prayer and praise-giving of the angels. Adam became (too) familiar with that, and the angels were in awe of him. Therefore, Adam's size was reduced.

Those who said this

According to al-Hasan b. Yahya - 'Abd al-Razzaq - Hisham b. Hassan - Sawwar, the son in law (khatan) of 'Ata' - 'Ata' b. Abi Rabah: When God cast Adam down from Paradise, Adam's feet were upon earth, while his head was in heaven and he heard the speech and prayers of the inhabitants of heaven. He became (too) familiar with them, and the angels were in awe of him so much so that they eventually complained to God in their various prayers (du'a' and salah). God, therefore, lowered Adam down to earth. Adam missed what he used to hear from the angels and felt lonely so much so that he eventually complained about it to God in his various prayers. He was therefore sent to Mecca. (On the way, every) place where he set foot became a village, and (the interval between) his steps became a desert, until he reached Mecca. God sent down a jewel (yaqut ["ruby"]) of Paradise where the house is located today. (Adam) continued to circumambulate it, until God sent down the Flood. That jewel was lifted up, until God sent His friend Abraham to (re)build the House (in its later form). This is (meant by) God's word: "And We established for Abraham the place of the House of residence."

According to al-Hasan b. Yahya - 'Abd al-Razzaq - Ma'mar - Qatadah: God founded the House together with Adam. Adam's head was in heaven, while his feet were upon the earth. The angels were in awe of him. So his size was reduced to sixty cubits (30 meters). Adam was sad because he missed the voices and praise-givings of the angels. He complained about it to God, and God said: Adam, I have cast down a house for you to circumambulate, as one circumambulates My Throne, and to pray at it as one prays at My Throne. Adam left and went off. His steps were lengthened, and the interval between each (two) step(s) became a desert. Adam came to the House, and he and the prophets after him circumambulated it. {Franz Rosenthal (trans./ed.), The History of al-Tabari, [Albany: SUNY Press, 1985], pp. 292-293; bold emphasis mine}

... In another tradition related on the same authority, we are told that "when God made Adam come down from the Garden [he was so tall that] his feet were on the earth and his head touched the heaven. He thus could hear the conversations of the denizens of heaven and their prayers. Adam, in his loneliness, found in them pleasant fellowship. The angels, however, were FRIGHTENED by him and complained to God in their prayers and invocations. God therefore reduced Adam's size, bringing him down close to earth. When Adam could no longer hear the angels, he became lonely and complained to God in his prayers. He was directed to go to Mecca. When he reached Mecca, God sent down one of the sapphires of Paradise onto the present spot of the House. Thus God said, ‘And remember when we prepared for Abraham a place for the House’" (see Q. 22:26. Tabari, III, pp. 58-59). ... {Mahmoud M. Ayoub, The Qur'an and Its Interpreters - Volume 1 [State of University of New York Press, Albany 1984], pp. 158-159; bold and capital emphasis mine}

Therefore, we can add two more points to the list of similarities between Jewish and Muslim traditions:

  1. Adam was originally so tall that he reached from earth to heaven.
  2. God later reduced his size (either to 100 or to 60 cubits).

These traditions are not identical in every detail but clearly very similar. Muhammad must have heard the Jews tell these stories about Adam, incorporated most details into his own belief system, but also made some adjustments (whether he did so deliberately or accidentally because he didn't correctly remember all the details, is of minor importance), and he taught them to his followers. Essentially he simply repeated Jewish legends. [This is not only the case with his teachings about Adam. Many of Muhammad's beliefs are adapted from Jewish myths (see the section on the Sources of the Qur'an).] There is one crucial difference, however. These myths are not found in the Bible. They are part of Jewish LEGENDS or ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATIONS of scripture. They are not to be taken literally. Muhammad, on the other hand, misunderstood them as being literal truth and taught them to his followers as if they were historical reality. The consequence is that today Osama Abdallah and other Muslims need to defend these myths as being historically and scientifically true, simply because Muhammad did not know better.

Does this increase your confidence in Muhammad as a prophet of God?

Jochen Katz


Further discussion of the above is found on Answering Christianity message board: [1], [2], [3]. Moreover, Shibli Zaman and Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi wrote a response to the above article which can be accessed together with my answer in Misrepresenting Muhammad's Teachings on Adam. Make sure to read also a commentary on the issue by "Cyber Mujahid" himself: Profiles in Quackery II: The Case of Osama Abdallah. Other Muslims also like to ‘invent evidence’ for a huge Adam, one story being exposed in Lying for a good cause.

Postscript on intellectual integrity

The article "The Jewish Scientists confirm Islam's claims about Adam was 90 feet tall", was published by Osama Abdallah on 1 December 2001. Since the claims in this article are so obviously absurd and wrong, I need to ask a similar question as I did in my last response to Abdallah's article on Muhammad's claim that there are 360 joints in the human body.

Could it be true that nobody among Abdallah's Muslim readership discovered these problems (in this substantial time span of two years and three months) and cared enough about the truth to take action and inform him? Are ALL Muslims really so gullible? Or was Abdallah indeed informed about these problems, but it was him who did not care enough about truth to remove these false claims? This question is all the more relevant since several of the above listed scientific facts were published in this thread on the FaithFreedom Discussion Forum on October 4 and 5, 2003, i.e. more than five months ago. Why has Abdallah not withdrawn his article or at least responded to these arguments?

Similarly, on 12 December 2003 we exposed that Abdallah's arguments in his article "Islam's claim about the 360 joints in the human body was proven to be true!" are completely silly and false. As already quoted at the beginning of this present article, Abdallah himself admitted on 22 January 2004 that this article was lousy, and his arguments wrong. And again, on 14 February 2004, we can read on his discussion board: "Yes, I admit that I messed up on the 360 joints article". Still, the article remained on his site unchanged to this day (12 March 2004) despite the fact that already on 27 January 2004, Abdallah promised to one of his readers:

I did admit before that I made a mistake. For you, I will insha'Allah post that on my article. It will be done either tonight or tomorrow insha'Allah (if Allah Almighty is Willing).

Six weeks later, nothing has happened to alert the readers of this article. Why is this so? Was "Allah not willing", or was it rather Osama Abdallah who is not willing?


Update (18 May 2004): This issue of intellectual integrity in Abdallah's publications is pursued further in the article "Spreading Hoaxes for the Advancement of Islam" which discusses further hoaxes found on his website.

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