Adam (a)

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Prophet Ādam (a) (Arabic: النبي آدم (ع)), according to religious reports, has been the first man on earth and the father of all human beings. God breathed of His Spirit in Adam's body, then praised Himself for creating Adam (a). Then, angels were ordered to prostrate before Adam (a). Adam's wife was Eve (Arabic:حواء) and they were banished from paradise due to eating the Forbidden Tree. Prophet Adam (a) was the first vicegerent of God on earth and His first messenger.

The creation of Adam (a), breathing God's spirit in his body, prostration of angels before him, his infallibility and the falling to earth are from theological and traditional discussions among religious scholars.


The word "Adam" is not an Arabic term and has entered to this language from other languages. This word is used in the story of the creation of human in Torah, but its original root in Hebrew is unknown, too. Its feminine form is "Adama" which in Hebrew means "soil". Also the root ʾ d m in Hebrew, is related to "red" which might apply to the color of the soil from which human is created.[1]

Although the word "Adam" is not Arabic, some Muslim scholars have offered some explanations for naming the father of human beings as Adam on the basis of Arabic language. For example, it is said that derivation of the word is from "Adim al-ard" (the surface of the earth) since the human being is created from soil,[2] or al-Raghib al-Isfahani gives more details and mentions four reasons for it:

  • The body of Adam (a) is made of the surface of the earth.
  • His skin color is tan.
  • His body is made up of mixing different elements and forces ('Udma means, association and mixing).
  • He is fragrant with Divine breath (Idam: meaning what makes food fragrant).[3]

Adam (a) in Islam

Adam (a) and his creation are two very important issues in Islam. In Islamic view, Adam (a) is the first prophet and when Muslims want to mark the beginning or end of prophethood, they say "from Adam (a) to the Seal of prophethood". What is mentioned about Adam (a) in the exegeses of the Qur'an, historical and literary books are all based on Quranic verses. In the Qur'an, the name of Adam (a) has been mentioned 25 times, but the details of his creation have been mentioned in suras like: the Qur'an 2, Qur'an 7, the Qur'an 15, the Qur'an 17, the Qur'an 20, the Qur'an 38.

Exegetes have adopted many points from Quranic verses and have raised different questions. Some important issues in this regard are as follows:

Vicegerent of God

About the meaning of the word khalifa (vicegerent) in the verse where God says, "Indeed I am going to set a vicegerent on earth",[4] exegetes have different opinions, while most of them believe that Adam (a) was the vicegerent of God on earth. Different narrations are mentioned in this regard, but the final word of the exegetes would be the vicegerent of God.[5]

Dialogue between God and Angels about Adam (a)

In the dialogue between God and angels about creation of Adam (a), the following statement is quoted from angels towards God, "Will You set in it someone who will cause corruption in it, and shed blood…?"[6] How did angels know that human beings would be inflicted with these two vices? In this regard, exegetes have mentioned different narrations which cannot lead to more than one or two points.

Al-Tabari mentioned many traditions and classified them as below:

  • Some have said that before human beings, Jinns had been on earth and caused corruption in it. Therefore, angels deduced the fate of human beings from them.
  • Some have said that God told angels, "I am going to set a vicegerent on earth" (Qur'an 2:30) and then angels said, how would it be? He said that it will cause corruption and bloodshed in it. So, they said, "why do you create him?" He said, "In the nature of human beings, I have put many good things you do not know about."
  • Some have said that before creation of human being, God gave the angels some information about him and hid some other information and angels asked that question based on the information they had.[7]

In this regards, al-Tabrisi mentions three opinions:

  • Before humans, Jinns were on earth and they caused corruption in it, and caused bloodshed. Angels made a deduction based on their acts.
  • Angels just asked it, seeking to understand that, "O God, would human beings cause corruption and bloodshed or not?
  • God Himself had told them that human beings would do so, but concealed their advantages from angels so that they achieve a deeper certitude for the wisdom and knowledge of God.[8]

God's breathing of Spirit in the Body of Adam (a)

In Sura al-Hijr and Sād, God says, "…and breathed upon him of My spirit."[9] Also, elsewhere (about Adam (a) and Jesus (a)) the word "spirit" is attributed to God. Regarding the meaning of attribution of "spirit" to God, exegetes believe that "breathing" which is "to flow wind in something" here means "to give life to Adam (a) through giving him spirit." Attribution of spirit to God is for honoring human beings.[10] God, the Glorious, has attributed the spirit of man to Himself out of honoring and glorification[11] so the meaning of the verse is that God created the human spirit which belongs to the body, not blowing something like air into his body.[12]

Prostration of Angels to Adam (a)

According to the Quranic verses, angels prostrated to Adam (a). This prostration, knowing the fact that all Muslims agree that worshiping belongs to God and any bending or prostration for worshiping other than God is disbelief and an act of polytheism, has not been a prostration for worshiping but it has meant both honor and praise.


In the story of Adam (a), the name of his wife, Eve, has been mentioned several times. Three times in the Qur'an, men have been addressed that "you have been created from one soul and Adam's wife is created from it".[13]

Forbidden Tree

In the story of Adam (a), it has been said that God allowed him to eat all edible things in Heaven but forbade him from eating of or approaching a specific tree. Al-Tabari has narrated many hadiths from Ibn Abbas, Abu Malik, Abu 'Atiyya, Qatada and others that it was wheat. In another hadith, it is mentioned that it was grapevine or fig tree. In addition to wheat, grapes and fig, al-Tusi has mentioned a hadith from Imam Ali (a) that this tree was camphor.


After eating the Forbidden Tree, Adam (a) and Eve were ousterd from Heaven of Adam (a) to Earth. Some exegetes of the Qur'an interpreted the "Fall" not in physical or spatial terms as going out of the Heaven down to Earth, rather in spiritual terms, that is, God has degraded the spiritual positions of Adam (a) and Eve, which is referred to as the "Fall".[14] Other people believe that the Fall was not a punishment for Adam (a) and Eve, rather it was in their interest to fall to Earth and undergo obligations and sufferings in order to achieve true happiness.

Infallibility of Prophet Adam (a)

The story of creation of Adam (a) has to do with the issue of infallibility of prophets. Based on Muslims' beliefs, since prophets are deliverers of the message of God to people and deal with all religious and worldly affairs of people, they have to be infallible from any sins.

However, in the story of creation of Adam (a) and his wife, there are verses that need to be studied with regards to infallibility, verses such as,

  • "Satan caused them to stumble from it"[15]
  • "Thus he brought about their fall by deception.", "They said: Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. Lord, we did injustice to ourselves"[16]
  • "Satan tempted him.", "Adam disobeyed his Lord, and went amiss."[17]

The short and simple answer which the exegetes have given about the agreement of these verses with infallibility of prophets is that upon committing this mistake, Adam (a) was not in "Dar al-Taklif" (abode of responsibility)[18] or he was not in the position of a prophet yet, or that whatever he did was abandoning the better (Tark al-'Awla) rather than committing sins.[19]


  1. Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 2, p. 235.
  2. Azharī, Tahdhīb al-Lugha, vol. 14, p. 151.
  3. Rāghib al-Iṣfahānī, Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān, p. 70.
  4. Qur'an, 2:30.
  5. Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān, vol. 2, p. 165.
  6. Qur'an, 2:30.
  7. Ṭabarī, Jāmīʿ al-bayān, vol. 1, p. 158-166.
  8. Ṭabrisī, Majmaʿ al-bayān, vol. 1, p. 74.
  9. Qur'an, 38:72.
  10. Ṭūsī, al-Tibyān, vol. 6, p. 323.
  11. Fakhr al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb, vol. 19, p. 182.
  12. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 12, p. 154.
  13. Qur'an, 4:1; 7:189; 39:6.
  14. Qarashī, Tafsīr aḥsan al-ḥadīth, vol. 1, p. 99.
  15. Qur'an, 2:36.
  16. Qur'an, 7:22-23.
  17. Qur'an 20:120-121.
  18. Makārim Shīrāzī, Tafsīr-i nimūna, vol. 13, p. 318.
  19. Ṭabāṭabāyī, al-Mīzān, vol. 14, p. 222.


  • Azharī, Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-. Tahdhīb al-Lugha. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1421 AH.
  • Encyclopedia Judaica. Jerusalem: 1996.
  • Fakhr al-Rāzī, Muḥammad b. ʿUmar al-. Mafātīḥ al-ghayb. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1420 AH.
  • Makārim Shīrāzī, Nāṣir. Tafsīr-i nimūna. Tehran: Dār al-Kutub al-Islāmīyya, 1374 Sh.
  • Qarashī, ʿAlī Akbar. Tafsīr aḥsan al-ḥadīth. Tehran: Nashr-i Biʾthat, 1377 Sh.
  • Rāghib al-Iṣfahānī, Ḥusayn b. Muḥammad al-. Mufradāt alfāẓ al-Qurʾān. Beirut: Dār al-Shāmīyya, 1421 AH.
  • Ṭabarī, Muḥammad b. Jarīr al-. Jāmīʿ al-bayān. Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifa, 1412 AH.
  • Ṭabāṭabāyī, Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn al-. Al-Mīzān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Beirut: Muʾassisat al-Aʿlamī, 1973.
  • Ṭabrisī, Faḍl b. al-Ḥasan al-. Majmaʿ al-bayān. Qom: Kitābkhāna-yi Āyatollāh Marʿashī, 1403 AH.
  • Ṭūsī, Muḥammad b. al-Ḥasan al-. Al-Tibyān fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, [n.d].