Did Adam and His Wife Procreate Humankind?

A popular biblical belief is that humankind has been created from one man and one woman. That Bible, both old and new testament, describes Adam and his spouse. In other words, the entire humankind of all different races owed their origin to one pair of humans that God created.

A similar belief system has entered in Islamic scholarship notwithstanding the fact that the Quran presents a different view, which is the topic of this article. An overwhelming majority of "but not all" Islamic scholarship seems to endorse the view that Adam and his spouse are the originator/procreator of the entire humankind.

Suppose humankind has been created from one man and one woman. In that case, it immediately creates contradictions with the knowledge of modern genomics and, more importantly, with the Quran itself.

Contradictions: Firstly, we see a variation in the human race. For example, African, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, these racial variations may not have existed if humans were born from one male and one female. Years of genetic studies have revealed that in-bred species lose variation. Secondly, children born from Adam and his spouse must have interbred, which means siblings, e.g., brothers and sisters must have reproduced sexually, which is in clear contradiction with Quran and biblical teachings.

The Quran prohibits siblings e.g., brother and sister, and other close relatives from establishing sexual/marital relationships.

حُرِّمَتْ عَلَيْكُمْ أُمَّهَاتُكُمْ وَبَنَاتُكُمْ وَأَخَوَاتُكُمْ وَعَمَّاتُكُمْ وَخَالاَتُكُمْ وَبَنَاتُ الأَخِ وَبَنَاتُ الأُخْتِ وَأُمَّهَاتُكُمُ اللاَّتِي أَرْضَعْنَكُمْ وَأَخَوَاتُكُم مِّنَ الرَّضَاعَةِ وَأُمَّهَاتُ نِسَآئِكُمْ وَرَبَائِبُكُمُ اللاَّتِي فِي حُجُورِكُم مِّن نِّسَآئِكُمُ اللاَّتِي دَخَلْتُم بِهِنَّ فَإِن لَّمْ تَكُونُواْ دَخَلْتُم بِهِنَّ فَلاَ جُنَاحَ عَلَيْكُمْ وَحَلاَئِلُ أَبْنَائِكُمُ الَّذِينَ مِنْ أَصْلاَبِكُمْ وَأَن تَجْمَعُواْ بَيْنَ الأُخْتَيْنِ إَلاَّ مَا قَدْ سَلَفَ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ غَفُورًا رَّحِيمًا

(4:23). Prohibited to you (for marriage) are: your mother, daughter's sisters, father's sister's, mother's sisters; brother's daughter's, sister's daughter's, foster-mothers (who gave you suck) foster-sisters; your wives' mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship born of your wives to whom ye have gone in no prohibition if ye have not gone in; (those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time except for what is past; for God is All-Forgiving Most Merciful. 

Furthermore, Quran itself provides clarification that the children of Adam must not have resorted to interbreeding because Adam had two sons as described in the Quran, (Chapter 5:Verse 27).

وَاتْلُ عَلَيْهِمْ نَبَأَ ابْنَيْ آدَمَ بِالْحَقِّ إِذْ قَرَّبَا قُرْبَانًا فَتُقُبِّلَ مِن أَحَدِهِمَا وَلَمْ يُتَقَبَّلْ مِنَ الآخَرِ قَالَ لَأَقْتُلَنَّكَ قَالَ إِنَّمَا يَتَقَبَّلُ اللّهُ مِنَ الْمُتَّقِينَ

Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! They each presented a sacrifice (to Allah): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: "Be sure I will slay you". "Surely," Said the former. "Allah accepts of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.

(Chapter 5:Verse 30)

فَطَوَّعَتْ لَهُ نَفْسُهُ قَتْلَ أَخِيهِ فَقَتَلَهُ فَأَصْبَحَ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِين

The (selfish) soul led him to the murder of his brother; he murdered him and became (himself) one of the lost ones. These verses clarify that Adam had two sons and no mention of daughters, so the question of the sexual relationship between siblings does not even arise as there is mention of only two sons. Secondly, because one of the sons was killed, leaving only the other son to carry forward the process of procreation. Thus, it becomes evident from these verses that entire humankind is not established due to marital relationships within the family of Adam.

Then, the question arises if Adam had two sons who would have been their spouses and how the human race with the racial variations have come into existence. I wanted to revisit the topic of Adam and examine what Quran says about the creation of Adam and humans. Remember, the theory of the creation of entire mankind from one man and woman is not possible due to variations that we see in human races and also because Adam had two sons and reproduction within Adam's family was prohibited and not possible. Quran is the only book that allows itself to put to test: Quran says in Chapter 16 titled A-Nahal (The Bee), verse 89:

وَيَوْمَ نَبْعَثُ فِي كُلِّ أُمَّةٍ شَهِيدًا عَلَيْهِم مِّنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَجِئْنَا بِكَ شَهِيدًا عَلَى هَـؤُلاء وَنَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ تِبْيَانًا لِّكُلِّ شَيْءٍ وَهُدًى وَرَحْمَةً وَبُشْرَى لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ

"……We have sent down to you (O Muhammad) the book (Quran) explaining all things, a guide……...". In the following sections, I will address the question if Adam and his spouse procreated entire humankind or not taking guidance from the Quran.

Humankind and Adam 

Adam and the creation of humankind are mentioned in several verses of the Quran as follows: Chapter 2, verse 30.

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُواْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ

Your Lord said to angels: "I will create a vicegerent on earth". They said: "Will You place therein one who will make mischief and shed blood? While we do celebrate Your praises and glorify Your holy (Name)"? He said: "I know what you do not know".

In this verse, Allah talks about creating a vicegerent on earth. Vicegerent in this verse means making a "successive human authority" on earth. Quran clears the meaning of Vicegerent in chapter 7, verse 10.

وَلَقَدْ مَكَّنَّاكُمْ فِي الأَرْضِ وَجَعَلْنَا لَكُمْ فِيهَا مَعَايِشَ قَلِيلاً مَّا تَشْكُرُونَ

It is We Who have placed you (humankind) with authority on earth and provided you therein with means for the fulfillment of your life: small are the thanks that you give! Taking together, these above verses make it clear that Allah is talking about creating and establishing humans as an authority on earth. It is not talking specifically about Adam but the entire humankind.

Furthermore, a curious conversation takes place between angels and Allah in verse above, Chapter 2, verse 30:

وَإِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلاَئِكَةِ إِنِّي جَاعِلٌ فِي الأَرْضِ خَلِيفَةً قَالُواْ أَتَجْعَلُ فِيهَا مَن يُفْسِدُ فِيهَا وَيَسْفِكُ الدِّمَاء وَنَحْنُ نُسَبِّحُ بِحَمْدِكَ وَنُقَدِّسُ لَكَ قَالَ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ مَا لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ

They (angels) said: "Will You place therein (on earth) one who (referring to humankind) will make mischief and shed blood? In this conversation, angels question Allah about placing humans as the authority on earth as humans by their nature shed blood? The conversation implies that angels had prior knowledge that humans can create mischief and bloodshed. If Allah were about to create an Adam, how would angles know that Adam, when established on earth, will shed blood? The answer is that angels clearly are not referring to Adam but to human nature and humans in general who must have already existed on earth and would have been similar to Adam. This point becomes clear when we read further verses from chapter 2, i.e., verse 31.  

وَعَلَّمَ آدَمَ الأَسْمَاء كُلَّهَا ثُمَّ عَرَضَهُمْ عَلَى الْمَلاَئِكَةِ فَقَالَ أَنبِئُونِي بِأَسْمَاء هَـؤُلاء إِن كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

And, He taught Adam the nature of all things: Then He placed them before the angels and said: "Tell Me the nature of these if you are right ". chapter 2, verse 32.

قَالُواْ سُبْحَانَكَ لاَ عِلْمَ لَنَا إِلاَّ مَا عَلَّمْتَنَا إِنَّكَ أَنتَ الْعَلِيمُ الْحَكِيمُ

They said: "Glory to You; of knowledge we have none, save what You have taught us; in truth, it is You Who are perfect in knowledge and wisdom. From Verse 31, it becomes clear that angels had thought of Adam to be the same as other humans. Still, the difference was that Adam, unlike other humans that existed at that time, had been given faith from Allah. In Islam, Adam is the first prophet of Allah. So, Allah had bestowed Adam the consciousness, i.e., faith, a free will to reject or follow Allah's ordained directions and resist temptations. This point becomes confirmed in the next verse that follows: Chapter 2, verse 33.

قَالَ يَا آدَمُ أَنبِئْهُم بِأَسْمَآئِهِمْ فَلَمَّا أَنبَأَهُمْ بِأَسْمَآئِهِمْ قَالَ أَلَمْ أَقُل لَّكُمْ إِنِّي أَعْلَمُ غَيْبَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَأَعْلَمُ مَا تُبْدُونَ وَمَا كُنتُمْ تَكْتُمُونَ

He (Allah) said, "O Adam! Tell them their natures." When he told them, Allah said: "Did I not tell you that I Know the secrets of heaven and I know what you reveal and what you conceal?"

Summary of the above verses and what these imply: These verses imply Humans had already existed at the time of Adam. Allah chose Adam among the humans and bestowed him with faith, a free will to live life according to Allah's ordained directions. Perhaps that became a precursor for human development and civilization. 

The above discussion raises the question about humans that existed before or at the time of Adam; who were they? Once again Quran provides the answer: Chapter 38, verse 71.

إِذْ قَالَ رَبُّكَ لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ إِنِّي خَالِقٌ بَشَرًا مِن طِينٍ

Behold, your Lord said to angels: "I am about to create man (humankind) from clay: In this verse, Allah is referring to the creation of humankind, not Adam, making it clear that humans were His Creation. The word "clay" and "soil" that has been used in Quran in reference to creation has been interpreted by some Islamic scholars as symbolic of different human races. Then, who was Adam? This is clarified in the verses that follow: Chapter 38, verse 72.

فَإِذَا سَوَّيْتُهُ وَنَفَخْتُ فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِي فَقَعُوا لَهُ سَاجِدِينَ

"When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him My spirit, you fall down in obeisance to him". Who Allah is asking angels to bow down? Is it all mankind that Allah created and that existed at the time of Adam? The answer is no! This explanation is confirmed in Chapter 18 verse 50 of the Quran.

وَإِذْ قُلْنَا لِلْمَلَائِكَةِ اسْجُدُوا لِآدَمَ فَسَجَدُوا إِلَّا إِبْلِيسَ كَانَ مِنَ الْجِنِّ فَفَسَقَ عَنْ أَمْرِ رَبِّهِ أَفَتَتَّخِذُونَهُ وَذُرِّيَّتَهُ أَوْلِيَاء مِن دُونِي وَهُمْ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ بِئْسَ لِلظَّالِمِينَ بَدَلًا

Behold! We said to the angels, "Bow down to Adam." They bowed down except Iblis. He was one of the Jinn's, and he broke the command of his Lord…". This confirms that it was Adam who was chosen by Allah among the humans that existed at that time and bestowed him with faith, and it was because of his faith that Allah ordained angels to bow down to Adam. 

Suppose I am to summarize the above discussion. In that case, it implies Creation of humankind is a separate event, and bestowing faith to Adam is a separate event. Adam was one of the human beings who was given faith from Allah, thus, subjected to temptation and tests. 

Final Summary

I am not the only or first person who holds the view that Adam was chosen among the humans that existed at the time of Adam to live according to Allah's way of life. I heard late Dr. Israr Ahmad of Pakistan, a renowned Islamic scholar talking about Adam being chosen among the Homo sapiens. https://youtu.be/6gxUPKrSkWI

The mention of one man and his mate as the creator of larger families and tribes is mentioned in several other verses of the Quran. One example is Chapter 4, verse 1.

يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ اتَّقُواْ رَبَّكُمُ الَّذِي خَلَقَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ وَخَلَقَ مِنْهَا زَوْجَهَا وَبَثَّ مِنْهُمَا رِجَالاً كَثِيرًا وَنِسَاء وَاتَّقُواْ اللّهَ الَّذِي تَسَاءلُونَ بِهِ وَالأَرْحَامَ إِنَّ اللّهَ كَانَ عَلَيْكُمْ رَقِيبًا

O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, Who created you from a single person, created of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered countless men and women;-reverence Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for Allah ever watches over you.    

This verse is in the context of large human families/ tribes that initially owe origin to one man and woman and then expand, which is common knowledge. This verse further confirms this point by giving reference to wombs. 

Acknowledgments. The English translation of Quranic verses in this article is obtained from Abdullah Yusuf Ali's English translation of the Quran. 

Disclaimer. Views expressed in the article do not represent that of the institution where the author works. The author writes routinely on scientific, religious, political, and environmental issues.       


Dr. Mumtaz Y. Balkhi is an academic researcher who has authored several high-profile publications. His most recent book, Basics of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) Immunotherapy presents the latest on how T cell adoptive immunotherapy has progressed in its ultimate goal of curing metastatic malignant cancers.

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