Adam and Eve: The First of the Polytheists and Associators?

Sam Shamoun

In a previous article (Islam and the Sins of the Prophets) we set out to show that neither the Quran nor the earliest records of Islam support the commonly held Muslim belief that the Prophets were sinless.

It may be surprising to both Christians and Muslims to learn that the Quran goes so far as to accuse the first human parents, Adam and Eve, of committing the sin of association, which is the most reprehensible sin, the worst of all sins, in the teaching of Islam.

Speaking about man’s origin, the author of the Quran writes:

It is He who created you out of one living soul, and made of him his spouse that he might rest in her. Then, when he covered her, she bore a light burden and passed by with it; but when it became heavy THEY cried to God their Lord, ‘If Thou givest US a righteous son, WE indeed shall be of the thankful.’ Thereafter, when He gave THEM a righteous son, THEY assigned Him associates in that He had given THEM; but God is high exalted above that they associate. What, do they associate that which creates nothing and themselves are created, and that have no power to help them, neither they help themselves? S. 7:189-192 A.J. Arberry

Here is another version:

He it is who hath created you from a single person, and from him brought forth his wife that he might dwell with her: and when he had known her, she bore a light burden, and went about with it; and when it became heavy, THEY both cried to God THEIR Lord, "If thou give US a perfect child WE will surely be of the thankful." Yet when God had given THEM a perfect child, THEY joined partners with Him in return for what he had given THEM. But high is God above the partners they joined with Him! What! Will they join those with Him who cannot create anything, and are themselves created, and have no power to help them, or to help themselves? J.M. Rodwell

The context makes it quite clear that the man and woman spoken of here are Adam and Eve. Apparently, the author of the Quran assumed that the first parents, after receiving a child from God, fell into idolatry. The Quran fails to tell us just how exactly did the progenitors of the human race fall into idolatry, and what or whom did they associate with Allah. Thus the preceding passage is another example of just how incoherent and garbled the Quran truly is.

Some Muslims, apparently out of embarrassment, try to say that the passage is referring to some of Adam’s children committing idolatry. This is despite the fact that the text directs the charge of idolatry to the first man and woman after their first sexual experience that resulted in conception and child bearing.

Secondly, certain Muslims have understood the story to be referring to Adam and Eve. An example of this is the renowned and premiere Muslim historian Al-Tabari, who writes:

Let us now return (to our narrative) and provide further clarification concerning the error of those who said that the first to die on earth was Adam, and who denied that the two whose story is told by God in His word: "And recite to them the story of the two sons of Adam truthfully! They offered a sacrifice," came, as shown by this verse, from Adam’s loin.

According to Muhammad b. Bashshar - ‘Abd al-Samad b. ‘Abd al-Warith - ‘Umar b. Ibrahim - Qatadah - al-Hasan - Samurah b. Jundub – the Prophet: None of Eve’s children survived. Therefore, she vowed that if one of her children were to survive, she would call him ‘Abd al-Harith. When a child of hers survived, she called him ‘Abd al-Harith. That was due to Satan’s inspiration.

According to Ibn Humayd – Salamah – Ibn Ishaq – Dawud b. al-Husayn – ‘Ikrimah – Ibn ‘Abbas: Eve would give birth to Adam’s children and make them worship God, calling them ‘Abdallah, ‘Ubaydallah ("Servant, or little Servant of God"), and the like. But then they would die. Now, Iblis came to her and to Adam and said: Were you to give them other names, they would survive. So, when she gave birth to a male child for Adam, they called him ‘Abd al-Harith. IN THIS CONNECTION, God revealed His word: "It is He Who created you from a single soul" to "the two set up for Him associates in connection with what He had given them" to the end of the verse.

According to Ibn Waki‘ – Ibn Fudayl - Salim b. Abi Hafsah – Sa‘id b. Jubayr, commenting on (the same verse): "When she became heavy (with child), they called on God, their Lord" to "And God is above your associating (others with Him)," as follows: When Eve became heavy with her first pregnancy, Satan came to her before she gave birth, and said: Eve, what is that in your womb? She said: I do not know. He asked: Where will it come out, from your nose, your eye, or your ear? She again replied: I do not know. He said: Don’t you think, if it comes out healthy, you should obey me in whatever I command you? When she said: Yes, he said: Call him ‘Abd al-Harith! Iblis - May God curse him!- was called al-Harith. She agreed. Afterwards, she said to Adam: Someone came to me in my sleep and told me such-and-such. Adam said: That is Satan. Beware of him, for he is our enemy who drove us out of Paradise. Then Iblis - May God curse him! - came to her again and repeated what he had said before, and she agreed. When she gave birth to the child, God brought him out healthy. Yet, she called him ‘Abd al-Harith. This is (meant by) God’s word: "They set up for Him associates in connection with what he had given them" to "And God is above your associating (others with Him)."

According to Ibn Waki‘ –Jarir and Ibn Fudayl - ‘Abd al-Malik – Sa‘id b. Jubayr: When (Sa‘id) was asked whether Adam associated (others with God), he replied: God forbid that I should assume that Adam did that! However, when Eve was heavy with child, Iblis came and said to her: Where will this one come out, from your nose, your eye, or your mouth? He thereby caused her to despair (because she did not know and was afraid of what was going to happen). Then he said: Don’t you think that, when it comes out perfectly formed – Ibn Waki‘ said that Ibn Fudayl added: without harming or killing you - you should obey me? When she agreed, he said: Call him ‘Abd al-Harith, and she did. Jarir added: So Adam’s associating (others with God) was only in the name.

According to Musa b. Harun - ‘Amr b. Hammad –Asbat – al-Suddi: So she - meaning Eve - gave birth to a boy. Iblis came to her and said: Call (pl.) him my servant (‘abdi)! If you don’t, I shall kill him. Adam said to him: I obeyed you (once before), and you caused me to be driven out of Paradise. So he refused to obey him and called the child ‘Abd al-Rahman "Servant of the Merciful One." Satan - May God curse him!- gained power over the boy and killed him. Eve bore another child, and when she gave birth to it, Satan said: Call him my servant! If you don’t, I shall kill him. Adam said to him (again): I obeyed you (once before), and you caused me to be driven out of Paradise. So he refused and called the boy Salih, and Satan killed him. The third time around, Iblis said to Adam and Eve: If you (pl. want to) overcome me, call him ‘Abd al-Harith! Iblis’ name was al-Harith. He was called Iblis when he was bedeviled (ublisa) - became confused. This (is meant by God’s word) where He says: "They set up for him associates in connection with what He had given them" - meaning in connection with the names.

Those who, as I have mentioned, have transmitted (reports) that some children of Adam and Eve died before them, and the even more numerous transmitters and statements not mentioned by us, contradict the statement of al-Hasan transmitted on his authority that the first person to die was Adam. (The History of al-Tabari, Volume 1 - General Introduction and from the Creation to the Flood, trans. Franz Rosenthal [State University of New York Press, Albany 1989], pp. 320-322; capital and underlined emphasis ours)

In regard to the name Al-Harith, the translator writes:

916. Al-Harith, as explained in these traditions, was the original name of Iblis. By naming the child "Servant of al-Harith (Iblis)," instead of "Servant of God," Adam and Eve associated Satan with God; they were thus exposed to the accusation of having introduced polytheism. Satan’s opportunity came because during her first pregnancy, Eve was totally ignorant of the process of human reproduction and feared that she might produce a nonhuman animal. It was God’s doing that the child was born without any defects, even if Satan tried to claim credit for it. (p. 320)

The translator also explains why, according to the tradition of al-Suddi, Adam named his second son Salih:

924. The choice of the name results from the use of the adjective salihan in Qur. 7:190. (p. 322)

The word salihan refers to the Quranic statement that Allah gave Adam and Eve a good child:

But when He gives them a good one (salihan), they set up with Him associates in what He has given them; but high is Allah above what they associate (with Him). Shakir

Ibn Sa'd reports something similar to al-Tabari:

Subsequently Eve conceived and bore Shith and his twin sister 'Azura. He was named Hibat Allah (the gift of Allah); this name was derived from Habil, so Gabriel said to her when she gave birth to him: This is the gift of Allah in exchange for Habil and it is in Arabic Shith, in Syriac Shath and in Hebrew Sheth. Adam made his will for him. The day when Shith was born Adam was one hundred and thirty years old. "And when he covered her she bore a light burden, and she passed (unnoticed) with it". Then he said: She stood and sat. Then Satan came to her in disguise and said to her: O Eve! What is this inside of you. She replied: I know not. Then he said: May be one of the beasts like these. Then she said: I know not. Then he drew away from her till she felt some heaviness in her. Thereupon he appeared again before her and said: O Eve! How do you feel? She said: I am afraid it may be deformed like one with which you have frightened me, I can't remain standing when I stand. Then he suggested: If I pray to Allah I hope He will form him a human being like you and Adam, only if you name him after me. She said: Yes. The he turned away from her and she said to Adam: An informer came to me and said to me that in my womb was a beast, and I also feel some burden and fear it may be as he has informed me. There was no worry to Adam and Eve save this, till she delivered it. About this Allah says: "They cried unto Allah, their Lord, saying: If Thou givest unto us aright we shall be thankful". This was their prayer before the delivery. When a perfect boy was born to them, he (Satan) came to her and said: Will you not name him after me as you have promised? She asked him: What is your name? His name was 'Azazil. If he had mentioned this name she would have recognized him, so he said: My name is Harith. Thereupon she gave him the name of 'Abd al-Harith who died, and Allah said: "But when He gave them aright, they ascribed unto Him Partners in respect of that which He had given them. High is He. Exalted above all that they associate (with Him)". (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, Volume I, Parts I & II, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. (Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi- 110 002 India], pp. 24-25)

The two Jalals agree that these verses refer to Adam and Eve:

He, that is, God, it is Who created you from a single soul, namely, Adam, and made, created, from him his spouse, Eve, that he might take rest in her, and become intimate with her. Then, when he covered her, when he had sexual intercourse with her, she bore a light burden, namely, the sperm-drop, and moved to and fro with it, that is, she came and went [easily] on account of its lightness; but when she became heavy, because of the child growing inside her, and they became anxious that it should be a dumb child, they cried to God their Lord, 'If You give us one - a child - that is sound, unimpaired, we indeed shall be of the thankful', to You for it. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)

But when He gave them a sound one, [a sound] child, they ascribed to Him associates (shurakā'a: a variant reading has shirkan, meaning sharīkan, 'an associate') in that which He had given them, by naming it 'Abd al-Hārith, 'servant of al-Hārith', when it is not right to be a 'servant' ('abd) of any one but 'God' [sc. 'Abd Allāh], but this [namesake 'Abd] is not an association [of another with God] in terms of servitude, for Adam was immune [from a sin such as associating others in worship with God]. Samura [b. Jundub] reported that the Prophet (s) said, 'On one occasion when Eve gave birth - all the children she bore had failed to survive - Satan visited her and said [to her], "Name it [the child] 'Abd al-Hārith, and it will live." She named it so and it lived. This [affair] was the result of Satan's inspiration and his doings': reported by al-Hākim, who deemed it [the report] 'sound' (sahīh), and [also reported] by al-Tirmidhī, who considered it 'fair-uncommon' (hasan gharīb); but exalted is God above what they, the people of Mecca, associate, in the way of idols (this sentence is consequent, a supplement to [the one beginning with] khalaqakum, 'He created you', so that what comes between the two is a parenthetical statement). (source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

As does the Tafsir attributed to Ibn Abbas:

(He it is who did create you from a single soul) the soul of Adam alone, (and therefrom did make his mate) and from the soul of Adam he created his wife Eve (that he might take rest in her) with her. (And when he covered her) and when he made love to her (she bore a light burden, and she passed (unnoticed) with it) she stood up and sat down because of pain, (but when it became heavy) when the child became heavy in her womb, they thought, because of Satan's whispering, that it was a beast (they cried unto Allah, their Lord, saying: If thou givest unto us aright) if you give us a sound human being (we shall be of the thankful) for it. (Tanwr al-Miqbs min Tafsr Ibn 'Abbs; source)

(But when He gave unto them aright) a sound human being, (they ascribed unto Him partners) they made Iblis A PARTNER (about that which He had given them) in naming that which he had given them of offspring: they called him 'Abdullah and 'Abd al-Harth. (High is He exalted above) Allah absolves Himself from (all that they associate (with Him)) of idols. (source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

These men are followed by al-Wahidi who wrote:

(He it is Who did create you from a single soul...) [7:189] up to (... but are themselves created) [7:191].
Said Mujahid: "Initially, all the children of Adam and Eve died in their infancy. And so, Satan whispered to them: 'If a boy is born to you, call him 'Abd al-Harith [the slave of al-Harith]'. The name of Satan was, prior to that, al-Harith. Adam and Eve did as he asked them to do, hence the words of Allah, exalted is He: (But when He gave unto them aright, they ascribed to Him partners in respect of that which He had given them...)". ('Ali ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi, Asbab al-Nuzul; source)

In light of the foregoing we can safely conclude that the Quran accuses the first human parents of being the first to commit idolatry and the sin of association. What is even more interesting is that certain Muslims, as narrated by al-Tabari, place the bulk of the blame on Eve (whether realizing it or not) since she supposedly ignored her husband’s warnings not to listen to Satan and named her son after the Devil anyway.

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