Islamic Web Library

An Islamic Resource Center

The Garden of Eden: An Earthly or Heavenly Garden?

10 min read

The following excerpt is taken from “Islamic Theory of Evolution” by T.O. Shanavas pg. 161-168:

The Location of the Garden of the Forbidden Tree

Most contemporary Muslims across the world believe that in Paradise (Jennat-ul-Khuld) but were expelled for eating fruit from the forbidden tree in the garden. Early Muslims carried on great debates about the location of the garden. According to the foremost exegetes of the Quran, Ibn Kathir (died 1372) and ar-Razi (died 1209), four interpretations of the location of the garden prevailed: that the garden was Paradise itself, that it was a separate garden created especially for Adam and Eve, that it was located on Earth, and the view that it was best for the Muslims not to be concerned with the location of the garden.

Unorthodox as it seems for our time, more reasons lead us to believe that the garden was on Earth rather than in Paradise. Many Quranic verses suggest that Paradise is a place the eyes of believers have never seen:

32:17 No living soul knows what comfort of eyes has been kept hidden from them as a recompense for their deeds.

Abul A’ala Maududi, a twentieth-century commentator of the Quran from the Wahabi faction among Muslims, tells us that Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, and Imam Ahmad, all most respected scholars in the field of the Prophet’s traditions, cited Abu Hurayrah’s text (a contemporary of the Prophet) that the Holy Prophet said: “Allah says: I have prepared for my righteous servants that which has neither been seen by eyes, nor heard by ears, nor ever conceived by any man.” If no human eyes have seen it, then Adam could not have seen it, and therefore the Garden of the Forbidden Tree could not have been seen in Paradise.

The contextual analysis of the following verses also rules out the possibility of the garden being Paradise:

2:31-34 And he taught Adam the nature of all things; then He placed him before the Angels, and said: Tell me the nature of these if you are right… And behold! We said to the angels: bow down to Adam and they bowed down . No, said Iblis (Satan). He refused and was haughty. He was of those who rejected the Faith.

When Iblis refused to prostrate before Adam, God ordered him out of the garden. God said:

7:13 “Get thee down from this: it is not for thee to be arrogant here: get out, for thou art of the meanest (of creatures).”

Then in the presence of Adam and Eve before their expulsion from the Garden, Iblis requested and God replied:

7:14-15 “Give me respite till the Day they shall be raised up from the dead.” Allah replied, “You are granted respite.”

According to the above verses, Adam learned the nature and reality of all things and everything (2:31). Therefore, when God granted Iblis respite, Adam and Eve must’ve known that their lives in the garden with the forbidden tree were subject to immanent death and that they would be “raised up from death” on the Day of Judgment (7:14-15). For these reasons, the garden could not have been in Paradise and it must’ve been on earth. The promise of the Garden of Final Return would make no sense for Adam, as well as for his human contemporaries for their good deeds, if they were already there.

Iblis deceived Prophet Adam and his followers, telling them: “Your Sustainer has forbidden you this tree, lest you two become [as angels], or lest you live forever.” (7:20) He whispered to Adam: “O Adam! Shall I lead you to the tree of eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?” (20:120) Thus, by describing the Forbidden Tree as a secret recipe for eternal life, Iblis tempted Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree. When they consumed the Forbidden Fruit , they sought eternal life. The Quran states that the Garden of Final Return is eternal for the righteous and the Hell “for whoever of them follows you, indeed the hell shall be your requital, an ample reward.” (17:63).

If Adam and Eve were actually in it, then they too would be eternal. The desire to acquire a thing develops in the human mind only when the desired object or state is not available. Adam was in an environment where death and decay, not immortality, were the facts of life. Adam and his contemporaries would not have become victims of temptation if they had already been immortal beings in Paradise. So the Forbidden Tree as well as Adam, Eve, and their human contemporaries were not in the Garden of Final Return. The following verse adds more support to the falsity of the notion that the forbidden tree was in Paradise:

37:7-10 I have secured it (Heaven) against every rebel Satans. These Satans cannot hear the exalted ones; they are darted at and driven off from every side, for them there is a perpetual torment. However, if someone snatches away something, a flashing flame follows him.

Abul A’ala Maududi, a scholar among the Wahabi faction of Muslims, explains the above verse as follows: “The satans have no access to Heaven and no power to hear the angels’ conversations… if by chance a little of its news enters the ear of a devil, and he tries to bring it down, he will be followed by a flashing flame.” Based on verses 20:120; 7:20; 37:7-10, and 7:22, we can conclude the following: First, Adam was allowed to stay in the Garden of the Forbidden Tree after Iblis’ expulsion from it. Second, although Iblis did not have access to the Garden of the Final Return, he succeeded in entering and deceiving Adam. Third, Adam and Eve fell for Satan’s persuasion and ate form the tree in the hope of becoming immortal. Thus, the Garden of the Forbidden Tree, was a place where all that existed had a transient , decaying nature into which Satan was able to enter. How could it be the Garden of Eternity?

Quranic verses repeatedly disprove the idea that the garden was in Paradise. One verse reads: “There [Paradise]they call for every kind of fruit in peace and security: Nor will they there taste death…” (44:55-56) Thus, the presence of a forbidden tree bearing the fruit of immortality and the commandment that Adam and Eve not eat of that fruit contradict the location of the Garden of Forbidden Tree in Paradise.

Throughout the Quran, Paradise is described as a place where peace prevails: “There they shall hear no idle talk, but only ‘Peace'” (19:62)., where sin, lies, and vanity do not exist (56:25-26; 78:35, and 88:11). If we accept the Quranic description of the Garden of Final Return, then we also have to conclude that the Garden of the Forbidden Tree could not be the place where Satan makes the false, vain claim that he is better than AdamL He (Iblis) said:

7:12 “I am better than he [Adam]; You have created me of fire and created him [Adam] of clay.”

If Iblis’ claim was true, God would not have asked the angels and the Jinn to prostrate before Adam- thus Iblis lied. In Paradise, Iblis would not have been able to tempt Adam to commit sin.

Such egoism, lying and deception could not have taken place in the Garden of Final Return- a place where fruits are not forbidden, where peace and justice prevail, and where sin, lies, and vanity are unknown.

Finally, Adam could not have been thrown out of Paradise because it is the place of (final) return.” (38:49) Thus, Adam, Eve, Iblis, and the Forbidden Tree could not have been in Paradise (Jennat-ul-Khuld), and the notion that the garden with the forbidden tree and Paradise were one and the same is false. The Garden of the Forbidden Tree is a place for human trial and error, while Paradise is a place for reward.

Since the Quran does not support the notion that the garden was Paradise, where was the garden instead? The following verses offer clue. After God presented Adam to the Angels, He said to Adam:

20:118-119 There is therein (enough provision) for thee not to go hungry nor to go naked, nor to suffer from thirst, nor from the sun’s heat.

God provided Adam and Eve with food, water, and shelter to protect them from the heat of the sun. From among the billions of stars in our universe, why would the Quran mention the sun’s heat if the garden on the Forbidden Tree was Paradise? Moreover, in every context(7:98, 20:59, 79:29 and 46, and 91:1), the word (daha) or its derivatives are used in the Quran only in situations related to sun. Thus, the Garden of the Forbidden Tree, must have been within the solar system in order for it to be affected by the heat of the sun, which could be felt only on planets close to it. The Garden of the Forbidden Tree could not have been on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto because their surface temperatures are so low that mention of the protection from the sun’s heat would be illogical. The surface temperatures of Mercury and Venus are extremely high, too high for plants and animals to exist as living creatures and as sources of food for Adam. The only place in the solar system where DNA-based life exists and where humans need protection from the sun is Earth. Based on our present-day knowledge of the solar system and on the above versesm we can conclude that Adam and Eve were in a garden that was located on Earth.

The Quran tells us also that God created Adam and Eve on the earth with earthly material and granted a fixed term of life there: “Behold, thy Lord said to the Angels: I will create a vicegerent (khalifah) on earth”(2:30) and “It is He who created you from clay, and then decreed a stated term [of life] for you…” (6:2) Moreover, we have seen in Chapter 8 that human species were settled down on the earth before the presentation of the Prophet Adam to Angels and Jinns and subsequent deception of Adam by Iblis, confirming that the Forbidden Tree was on the earth:

7:10-11 And We have given you (mankind) power in the earth, and appointed for you therein livelihoods. Little give ye thanks! And we created you, then fashioned you, then told the angels: Fall ye prostrate before Adam! And they fell prostrate, all save Iblis, who was not of those who make prostration.

Finally, the name bestowed by the Quran on the first perfect human being is highly significant. The name “Adam” is derived from two Aeabic root words, adim and udama. Adim means surface of the earth, and udama means dark-complexioned. The literal meaning od Adam, therefore, is a dark-skinned person who lives on the surface of the earth. This, too, supports the idea that Adam was created on earth and not in Paradise, and was of African origin.

As previously emphasized, the Quran asks human beings to observe and discover the mysteries of life on Earth as well as in the universe:

51:20-21 On the earth are signs for those who have faith (in the meaningfulness of all things), as also (there are signs) in your own selves: Will you not, then, observe?

What are those mysteries, and what should we observe? The Quran urges us to trace and explore the human evolutionary journey of our primordial parents, Adam and Eve. Thus, we must remain aware of important scientific facts. First, protoplasm is much the same in all organisms, suggesting a unity among all of them. Similar physiological pathways catalyzed by similar enzymes occur throughout all life.

At the molecular level of all life forms, we find homologous series of chemical molecules and compounds. The degree of differentiation in the sequence of molecules in the homologous compounds is roughly proportional to the degree of taxonomic separation (i.e., classification of animals or plants according to their natural relationship) of the species in which the compounds occur. We also need to to realize that fossil record document the progression of life though time, and that we can change the shape and function of life forms by changing the genes. We observe that the hemoglobin in the red blood cells has two chains of amino acids- alpha and beta chains. Closely related organisms differ less in the amino acid sequences of their hemoglobin alpha chains than do distantly related organisms. The same is true when beta chains are compared with each other. There are many other human observations in nature that I could list here as well.

The above observations and many more suggest that all living forms are related to each other. The grass and the grasshopper and the monkey and human kind can be sisters, brothers, cousins, grandparents and grandchildren. They developed from a single seed called DNA, through genetic modification.

Many Muslims who believe that Adam and Eve were created in Paradise promote their view by quoting verse 2:38. According to the verse, when Adam disobeyed God’s command and ate the Forbidden Fruit, God ordered him out of the Garden, saying: “Get ye down all from here.” (2:38)j They claim that the verse suggests that Adam went from a higher place to a lower place. They believe that Paradise is located above the earth. Such belief is problematic and unacceptable; we know that the Earth rotates on its axis and that it is an integral part of the Milky Way Galaxy which also rotates rotates on its axis. Therefore, if Paradise were visible from Earth, we would see it beneath us at one point in time, above us at another, and at various time on either side. How, then, can we explain the above verse? Many early Muslim commentators believed that, before their expulsion, Adam and Eve experienced a mental state filled with ease, happiness and innocence and that the phrase “get ye down” shows they were driven out of a blissful mental state. Muhammad Rashid Rida records that explanation in Tafsir-ul-Manar. Regardless of one’s concepts regarding the location of Paradise, based on the above study of the literal reading of the Quranic verses, one can reasonably conclude that Adam, Evem and the forbidden tree were located on the earth and not in the Garden of Eternity.


Shanavas, T.O. (2005). Islamic Theory of Evolution: The Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species. (p. 161-168).

About Post Author