Islamic Web Library

An Islamic Resource Center

The Prophethood of Historical Adam (peace be upon him) according to the Quran and Sunnah

16 min read

The Quran:

Indeed, Allah chose Adam and Noah and the family of Abraham and the family of ‘Imran over the worlds – (Quran 3:33)

Those were the ones upon whom Allah bestowed favor from among the prophets of the descendants of Adam and of those We carried [in the ship] with Noah, and of the descendants of Abraham and Israel, and of those whom We guided and chose. When the verses of the Most Merciful were recited to them, they fell in prostration and weeping. (Quran 19:58)

According to Ghulam Ahmad Pervez:

‘It is believed that Adam, supposedly the first man created by Allah, (whose story is narrated in the Quran regarding his exit from Jannah) was the first Rasool. This is not supported by any verse of the Holy Quran, neither is the name of Eve (Hawwa) mentioned in the Quran. The story is narrated in a symbolic form and does not pertain to a particular person or a couple; in fact this is the story of mankind and Adam is its representative. The word Adam occurs 25 times in the Quran and only in one place (3:32) it appears that Adam was also the name of a chosen person.’ (Exposition of the Quran, p. 1141.)

“In the Qur’an, “Adam” is stated seventeen times. The word of Adam has a connotation of proper noun in the Ayat where it is mentioned alone. We prefer that the word of “Adam” comes from the word of “edim” in Arabic, meaning “interior, inner surface, inner layer,” and we think accordingly that a person has an internal, spiritual, feature in addition to his dimension of being a bashar or insan.

That is to say:

Surah Al-Hajj 75, 76:

Allah chooses messengers from among the harbinger Ayat and from among the mankind. Indeed, Allah is the One Who hears best, sees best, He knows that which is between their hands and behind them. And all matters will be returned only to Allah.

Surah Ali Imran 33, 34:

Indeed, Allah favored Adam, Noah, family of Abraham and family of Imran -being from each other’s lineage- over the people of the time. And Allah is the One Who hears best, knows best.

Adam is a prophet: He was chosen from among humans.” (Creation of the Universe and Man according to the Quran, p. 31-32)

“In the Qur’an, there is also the expression of “Benî Adam” (Sons of Adam). This expression takes place seven times. What are meant here are not the sons of Adam but lineage of Adam. This expression, while warning people, states that they are not ordinary persons but the lineage of a knowledgeable and conscious ancestor with spiritual aspect subjected to Wahy (revelation) and that they must be the persons that deserve their ancestors. That is to say, an art of Reference is exhibited through these expressions and first Prophet Adam is reminded.” (Ibid, p, 33)

El Najjar writes,

Who Was Adam?
The following seven verses from the Holy Quran tell us that
Adam, peace be upon him, was the best of God’s human creation.
Allah, praise to Him, CHOSE him to represent humanity in the
contest with the angels, because of his ability to learn, build, and
choose, as explained in Chapter 5.

First, Verse 7: 11 clearly states that Allah, praise to Him, created
humans (khalaqnakum, in plural), then fashioned them in the image
He wanted (sawarnakum, also in plural form). These two verbs refer
to the first and fourth stages of the first creation, as mentioned in
Chapter 4 of this Book. The use of the word “then” indicates the
passage of a long period between the two stages.

And We created you (humans, in plural form), then fashioned you
(made you in the image you are, also addressing humans in plural
form), then said to the angels: Prostrate to Adam! And they
prostrated, all except Iblis (another name for Satan), who was not of
those who made prostration (Al-A’araf, 7: 11)

When Allah, praise to Him, decided that humans have reached
the level of being trustworthy of the mandate to be His caliphs on
Earth, He chose Adam to represent them in front of the skeptical
angels. When he won the contest, the angels were ordered to
prostrate to him, as an acknowledgement of his winning and his
worth to receive God’s mandate

Second, Verse 3: 59 states that both of ‘Eissa (Jesus) and Adam,
peace be upon them, were alike in that they were created of the
Earth soil. We know for sure that Jesus was created in his mother’s
womb, which means that the verse is referring to the first creation of
life on Earth, out of clay (which is water and soil together). The verse
tells us that this also applies to the creation of Adam, which is
another reference to Adam as one of the humans, not the first of

The example of ‘Eissa (Jesus) for Allah is as that of Adam. He
created him from the earth soil. Then, He said to him: “Be”. And he
was (Al-‘Imran, 3: 69).

Third, Verse 3: 33 states that Allah, praise to Him, CHOSE (Istafa
in Arabic) Adam, Noah, the family of Ibrahim (Abraham), and the
family of ‘Imran above people of all the worlds (throughout the
centuries). This means that Adam was chosen as the best human of
his time, just like the others were in their times. If he were the first
and only human being, then there would be no choice. Thus, the use
of the verb “chose” in this verse is a piece of evidence that Adam
was the best human, not the first one.

Allah chose Adam, Noah, the family of Ibrahim (Abraham), and
the family of ‘Imran, above the worlds (Al-‘Imran, 3: 33).
The same Arabic verb (Istafa), used in Verse 3: 33 is also used in
Verse 3: 42, in reference to Maryam, the mother of ‘Eissa (Jesus),
peace be upon both of them. Allah, praise to Him, mentions that He
CHOSE her from among the women of all the worlds. For sure, there
were many women in the world for Allah, praise to Him, to choose
from, to be a mother for ‘Eissa (Jesus). This further explains the use
of the same verb in Verse 3: 33, which confirms that Allah, praise to
Him, CHOSE Adam, to represent humanity in the majestic contest
with the angels.

And (mention) when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has
chosen you, purified you, and chosen you above the women of the
worlds (Al-‘Imran, 3: 42).

Fourth, the reference to immortality, in Verses 20: 120 and 7: 20,
gives more support for the interpretation that Adam was not the first
human. The verses show that he knew that humans were mortals.
He could not know that if he never saw other humans dying at his

Then, the Shaytan (Satan) whispered to him, saying: O Adam!
Shall I lead you to the tree of eternity and a dominion that does not
decay? (Ta Ha, 20: 120)

Then, the Shaytan (Satan) whispered to both of them, in order to
manifest to them that which was hidden to them of their shame
(nakedness), and he said: Your Lord forbade you from this tree to
prevent you from becoming angels or becoming of the immortals (Al A’araf, 7: 20).

Finally, Verse 38: 75 mentions God’s direct intervention in the
creation of Adam (and humanity in general, in the stages of the first
creation), with His Own Hands. This was mentioned in an
exclamatory rebuking style, to emphasize the Iblis (Satan)
disobedience abomination.

(Allah) said: O Iblees (Satan), what prevented you from
prostrating to that which I created with My Hands? Were you
arrogant, or were you among the haughty? (Saad, 38: 75).

(The above excerpt has been taken from “Islam: A Scientific View of God” by Hassan el Najjar under chapter 6)

See also:

The meaning of “that which I Created with my Own Hands” – Islamic Web Library

Verily, in the sight of God, the nature of Jesus is as the nature of Adam, whom He created out of dust and then said unto him, “Be” – and he is (Quran 3:59)

Muhammad Asad, explaining this verse, writes:

Lit., “The parable of Jesus is as the parable of Adam…”, etc. The expression mathal (rendered above as “nature”) is often metaphorically employed to denote the state or condition (of a person or a thing), and is in this sense – as the commentators have pointed out –
synonymous with sifah (the “quality” or “nature” of a thing). As is evident from the sequence, the above passage is part of an argument against the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Jesus. The Qur’an stresses here, as in many other places, the fact that Jesus, like Adam – by which name, in this context, the whole human race is meant – was only a mortal “created
out of dust”, i.e., out of substances, both organic and inorganic, which are found in their elementary forms on and in the earth. Cf. also 18:37, 22:5, 30:20, 35:11, 40:67, where the Qur’an speaks of all human beings as “created out of dust”. That “Adam” stands here for the human race is clearly implied in the use of the present tense in the last word of this sentence.

‘From this it may be surmised- and this is my personal opinion- that in comparing Prophet Jesus (pbuh) to Prophet Adam (pbuh), the Quran has made a subtle point that Adam was not the first man. He was supposed or mistook as a mythical first man throughout the ages; while in reality he was a mortal creature just like the rest of the human beings as per the meaning of his name, Adam (man, or human being). The nature of Jesus is compared to a mere mortal creature and not the First Man whom people mistook Adam to be. The comparison is also in regards to the specific nature of Prophet Adam; in other words, Adam and Jesus belonged to the same species and were both chosen as mighty prophets. The reason why Adam (upon whom be peace) is mentioned is because Prophethood began with him and so Jesus (upon him be peace) was also chosen as a Prophet in the long chain of prophets beginning with Adam (peace be upon him) and ending with Muhammad (peace be upon him).’

T.O. Shanavas writes,

“Ordinary humans become prophets only when God reveals His wisdom to them. So, God elevated Adam to become the first of His long chain of prophets by teaching him “knowledge of the nature and reality of all things and everything.” (Qur’an 2:31)

Then God blessed them to live in a spiritual “Garden” of ease, happiness, and innocence. Muslims believe that Islam is the religion of all of the prophets. This belief is based
upon the following verses:

The Religion before God is Islam. (Qur’an 3:19)

Say: We believe in God, and what has been sent down to us, and what has been revealed to Abraham, Ismael, Isaac, Jacob, and their progeny, and that which was given to Moses and Christ, and to all other prophets by the Lord: We make no distinction among them, we submit to Him (Qur’an 2:136)

No; Abraham in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian but he was a Muslim. (Qur’an 3:67)

According to these verses, all prophets preached Islam and so they are all Muslims. Adam being the first prophet of God preaching Islam, he and his mate became the original spiritual parents of all humans. If Adam was the first prophet, he must have had a human community to whom to preach the divine message.”

The following excerpt is taken from “The Study Quran” under the commentary of the following verse:

Mankind was one community; then God sent the prophets as bearers of glad tidings and as warners. And with them He sent down the Book in truth, to judge among mankind concerning that wherein they differed. And only they who were given it differed concerning it, after clear proofs came to them, out of envy among themselves. Then God guided those who believe to the truth of that wherein they differed, by His Leave. And God guides whomsoever He will unto a straight path. (Quran 2:213)

The authors of the “Study Quran” write:

“Another interpretation is that the initial history of humanity was one without the need for the commands and prohibitions of religion, and the sending of prophets mentioned in this verse refers to a later time when prophecy became necessary (Th). Al-Rāzī disapprovingly relates an opinion he attributes to Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ (d.544/1149), a prominent Mālikī jurist and theologian, that the first period was one in which human beings acted according to the intellect (both theoretical and practical); that is, they knew that there was a Creator, that one should be good to others, that lying and oppression are bad, that one should be just, and so forth. Pride, envy, and other vices eventually crept in and led to division, which then necessitated the sending of prophets. But such a view would have to take into account that Adam was the first prophet according to Islamic belief, and the clear proofs would have begun with him and continued throughout history. It is useful to recall here that in discussing 3:19 (Those who were given the Book differed not until after knowledge had come to them), many commentators point out that after several generations the Jews and Christians came to differ each within their own group, and an analogy can be made with Adam and the initial one community, whose members began as one, but then came to differ among themselves over the truth.”

The following excerpt is taken from “And God Said: Let There Be Evolution” under the section by T.O. Shanavas pg. 147:

Then verses 7:10–11 describe the creation and the settlement of the initial human community on the earth before the creation of the Prophet Adam. The verses state: “Certainly We have established you [humankind] in the earth and made in it means of livelihood for you; little it is that you give thanks. We who created you, and fashioned you, then told the Angels: fall ye prostrate before Adam! And they fell prostrate, all save Iblis (Satan), who was not of those who make prostration.” (Qur’an 7:10–11)

Regarding these two verses (7:10-11), T.O. Shanavas comments:

“The grammatical construction of the verses with the plural in (established you), (made in it), (created you), and (fashioned you) is the confirmation that the initial part of the verse does not speak of the creation and the settlement of Adam on the earth, but of the creation and settlement of the initial human community. God blessed the original community of human species with the Prophet Adam as their guide and only “then ” God asked angels and jinn to prostrate themselves before Adam.”

Finally he quotes another verse of the Quran describing an identical concept (Ibid, pg. 154):

“Mankind was but one community; then they differed; and had it not been for a word that had already gone forth from thy Lord it had been judged between them in respect of that wherein they differ.” (Qur’an 10:19)

Within the context of the Qur’an, the very first known organized nation or human community was under the guidance of the Prophet Adam. Islam was the guiding principle for the community. Later, they “differed” and formed “nations and tribes.”

For details, see the following post:

Mankind was once one community – Islamic Web Library

According to T.O. Shanavas,

“As the interpretations of the early Muslim scholars do not find credence within a realistic biological model, I offer a third interpretation. This interpretation is compatible with the modern scientific understanding. Returning to the verses 2:35-36, initially Adam and Eve are addressed while in the Garden as “you” in the dual grammatical form when God offered to enjoy the “Garden”. Adam was nevertheless deemed a Prophet.
Adam must have had contemporary human beings by whom he was ordained to convey the Divine message. God ordered them to “get you down” from their paradisiacal mental state of perfect ease and happiness when the Prophet Adam and his congregation, the trustees of God on the earth, violated the divine guidance. The use of the plural form (“get you down”), in the divine command suggests the presence of a generation of human beings along with Adam and Eve. Then, the Quran states, “Some
of you are enemies to others.” The use of the plural form, (some of you), referring to a group of human beings is another reason to suppose that there were other human beings with Adam and Eve. So, based on Quranic verses 2:35-36 and 7:10-11, God peopled the world of Adam and Eve with rich genetic diversity so that His vicegerents would not go extinct due to the population bottleneck until the end of the world.” (Islamic Theory of Evolution, p. 160)

The Sunnah:

T.O. Shanavas explains,

Islam’s greatest historiographer, Abd-ar-Rahman Muhammed ibn-Khaldun, believed that the creation of mankind was gradual and that it evolved from the world of apes. In an earlier section of this work, we have seen many other pre-Darwin Muslims echoing the same belief. How, then, did the Judeo-Christian belief that God created Eve from Adam’s rib become a part of the Muslim faith? The Muqaddimah supports the argument that the story was not based on the Qur’an, but was incorporated into Muslim belief through Jewish and Christian converts to Islam. Ibn-Khaldun maintains that the sources for this story can be traced back to early Muslims, contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad and to men who belonged to the generation that succeeded him. Records preserved by these men involved both reliable and unreliable materials. The reason for that, according to Ibn-Khaldun, is that the early Arabs “had no books or scholarship [and] desert attitude and illiteracy prevailed among them. When they wanted to learn certain things that human beings are usually curious to know, such as the reasons for existing things, the beginning of creation, and secrets of existence, they consulted earlier People of the Book (Jews and Christians).”

Ibn-Khaldun maintains that when these men converted to Islam, they clung to some of their Judeo-Christian beliefs, such as the beginning of creation. He asserts that converts such as Ka’b ul-ahbar, Wahb ibn Munabbiah, Abdullah Ibn Slam, and others “filled the Qur’anic commentaries with such materials, which originated . . . with the people of the Torah,” and therefore such information was neither sound nor verifiable. In Ibn-Khaldun’s view, their interpretations were accepted because they were “people of rank in [their] religion and religious community.”

In the light of the testimony of Ibn-Khaldun, one of Islam’s greatest historiographers and a devout Muslim, we can see that Muslims incorporated the story of the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib not through the authority of the Qur’an, but through information they acquired from Jewish and Christian converts. There is no Qur’anic, historical, or scientific basis to accept the contemporary Muslim belief that Adam and Eve were created ex nihilo.

The Qur’an tells us that all races, tribes, and nations are the children of Adam and Eve. God addresses us as such: “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other. (Qur’an: 49:13) 20 He also tells us: “Mankind was one single nation.” (Qur’an: 2:213)

Modern scientific research has come to the same conclusion. (Creation And/Or Evolution chapter 8)

Usaama al-Azami writes:
“My own suggestion to Muslims grappling with such an issue is to recognize that when it comes to what we believe, science and religion address two kinds of truth: empirical and revealed. Empirical (observation-based) truth is the stuff of science. It’s contingent on our sense perception, and humanity’s current state of knowledge. It’s truth with a lower-case t. It’s relative to what the human senses can access at a given point in time,
and makes no claims to being absolute. This is not to belittle it, as most empirical truths are what we consider facts, like the fact that the spherical earth goes around the sun.
Revealed truth, by contrast, is based upon revelation which, if you believe it, is Truth with a capital T. For the believer, it is absolute, not relative. Our knowledge of empirical truth can and has improved over time; just as the once held ‘fact’ that the sun goes around the earth has been corrected with the passage of time. No reasonable person believes this ‘fact’ today; though the ancients may have been justified in thinking it was genuinely scientific. Revealed truth, on the other hand, claims to be constant, absolute,
and unchangeable. Problems of this kind are nothing new for Muslim theologians. An example is the statement of the Prophet that: after the sun sets, it goes to the Throne of God and prostrates, before rising again from the East. This statement is recorded in multiple collections of Prophetic statements including the respected Sunni collections of Bukhari and Muslim. Muslims additionally believe that such statements from the Prophet constitute revealed truth. The reality is that virtually no Muslim theologian has ever taken such revealed truths to be statements of empirical truth. In such an instance, a Muslim will believe in the revealed truth, but not think this means that the empirical truth is wrong. Rather, the two kinds of truth address different domains, the moral and the empirical (what is observable through the senses). The first addresses what Muslims should believe as a matter of faith, and how they should behave; and the other is whatever a reasonable person believes about the observable world based on the current state of human knowledge.”

See also:

The Hadith of the Crooked Rib Explained – Jonathan Brown – Islamic Web Library

Adam’s 60 Cubit Tall Height is Metaphorical – Islamic Web Library

Compare the present discussion with Adam in the Hadith Literature as follows:

Adam in the Hadith Literature

Historical Adam mentioned in the Hadith literature:

Ibn Kathir quotes the following hadith in favor of the view of historical Adam [pbuh] (Tafsir Ibn Kathir surah 2 pg. 116):

“The believers will gather on the Day of
Resurrection and will say, `We should seek a
means of intercession with our Lord.

They will go to Adam and say, `O Adam! You are
the father of all mankind, Allah created you with
His Own Hand, ordered the angels to prostrate for
you and taught you the names of everything. Will
you not intercede for us with your Lord, so that
he relieve us from this gathering place.’ “

There is a consensus among all Muslim scholars that the believers will make this request to all the prophets (peace be upon them) mentioned in the Quran until they finally reach Muhammad (peace be upon him).

See also the following two videos:


Al-Azami, Usaama (2013). Muslims and Evolution in the 21st Century: A Galileo Moment?.

Brown, Jonathan. (2016).

Kathir, Ibn. Tafsir Ibn Kathir. (vo. 1 p. 116).

Nasr, Hossein (2015). Study Quran.

Pervez, Ahmad (2010). Exposition of the Quran. (p. 1141).

Shanavas, T.O.. Creation And/Or Evolution: an Islamic Perspective: An Islamic View of Creation . Xlibris US. Kindle Edition.

Shanavas, T.O. (2005). Islamic Theory of Evolution: The Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species. (p. 160-161).

Wynn Sr., Charles M.. And God said, “Let there be evolution!” (p. 154). All Things That Matter Press. Kindle Edition.

Yılmaz, Hakkı. CREATION OF THE UNIVERSE AND MAN ACCORDING TO THE QUR’AN (pp. 31-35). Kindle Edition.

About Post Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.