Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Differences Between the Biblical and Quranic Account
Of the Story of Adam

A Response to Shabir Ally Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

In this paper I am going to be responding to Shabir Ally’s reply to a question concerning the differences between the biblical and quranic accounts of the story of Adam and Eve.



The Qur’an speaks to a situation where the Biblical creation story is already known. Hence the Qur’an feels no need to retell the story. Instead, the Qur’an mentions some aspects of the known story and alludes to others in order to bring out its own unique moral lessons. In so doing, the Qur’an accepts some aspects of the story and corrects some others. 



The Quran claims to be a confirmation of the previous Scriptures, which God had sent down, in the Arabic language so that the Arabs could have access to the message which God had given through his prophets:

It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it (mussadiqan lima bayna yadayhi – lit. “confirming what is between its/his hands”); and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) Before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). Then those who reject Faith in the Signs of God will suffer the severest penalty, and God is Exalted in Might, Lord of Retribution. S. 3:3-4 Y. Ali

This Qur'an is not such as can be produced by other than God; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it (tasdeeqa allathee bayna yadayhi – lit. “a confirmation of that which is between its/his hands”), and a fuller explanation of the Book - wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds. S. 10:37 Y. Ali

And before this, was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy: And this Book confirms (it) in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as Glad Tidings to those who do right... They said, "O our people! We have heard a Book revealed after Moses, confirming what came before it (mussadiqan lima bayna yadayhi – “confirming what is between its/his hands”): it guides (men) to the Truth and to a Straight Path.” S. 46:12, 30 Y. Ali

The problem, however, is that the Quran is anything but a confirmation of the inspired Scriptures since it often contradicts and garbles up the biblical narratives. This in itself is sufficient proof that Muhammad was a false prophet and that the Quran is not a revelation from the same God who revealed the books of the Holy Bible.



The Qur’an accepts that Adam and his wife were the progenitors of the human race. They were placed in a garden and permitted to eat from any tree but one, lest they become wrongdoers. Nevertheless, Satan seduced them to eat from the forbidden tree and hence to be expelled. 

The Qur’an makes several correctives: 

First, the couple, i.e. both of them, are told, not that they would die if they eat the fruit but that they would be wrongdoers. 



Here is a prime example of the Quran butchering the previous Scriptures instead of confirming them. The Quran is unaware that God had planted the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and erroneously assumes that the tree which God had forbidden Adam and Even to eat from was actually the tree of life:

"O Adam! dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and enjoy (its good things) as ye wish: but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression." Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them, bringing openly before their minds all their shame that was hidden from them (before): he said: "Your Lord only forbade you this tree, lest ye should become angels or such beings as live for ever." S. 7:19-20 Y. Ali

But Satan whispered evil to him: he said, "O Adam! shall I lead thee to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?" In the result, they both ate of the tree, and so their nakedness appeared to them: they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the Garden: thus did Adam disobey his Lord, and allow himself to be seduced. S. 20:120-121 Y. Ali

This not only presupposes that the forbidden tree that Adam and Eve ate from was the tree of life, it also supposes that God didn’t create the first human couple for the purpose of living in God’s presence forever. This means that the Quran basically denies that the reason why human death entered into the picture is because of Adam’s sin, just as the Holy Bible teaches:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’” Genesis 2:15-17

“And to Adam he said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’ The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’—therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:17-24

“Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned—sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:12-17

Rather, the Quranic narrative mistakenly assumes that Allah actually created man to die from the get-go, as opposed to creating him for the purpose of living forever.

This seems to be confirmed by Q. 67:2, where death is mentioned before life, that Allah created first death and then life:

He Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deed: and He is the Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving; – Y. Ali

This strongly suggests that death was something that Allah willed and pre-ordained and not a mere consequence of disobedience and sin.



Second, the devil whispered to them both and caused them both to slip:

"Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: 'Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood - for a time." 

Surah 2 Verse 36

There is even a passage, which singles out Adam for blame:

But Satan whispered evil to him: he said, "O Adam! shall I lead thee to the Tree of Eternity and to a kingdom that never decays?" 

Surah 20 Verse 120

But there is no passage, which singles out Eve! 



It would have been more honest of Ally to admit that the Quran actually doesn’t mention a single woman by her name with the sole exception of Mary, the blessed mother of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So it is not surprising that the Quran doesn’t single out Eve since it doesn’t even bother referring to her by name!

In fact, the Quran not only fails to mention Eve by her name it doesn’t even bother to state who was the one that first reached out and ate of the forbidden fruit. After all, someone must have eaten it first!

Therefore, Ally’s point will come back to haunt him since, unlike the Holy Bible which claims to be a sufficient record of everything necessary for a person’s salvation and sanctification, the Quran is an incoherent and unintelligible mishmash of fables and instructions.

One uncomfortable fact is that the Muslim scripture leaves out important details even though it repeatedly states that it is a perspicuous book that provides a detailed explanation for all of its verses:

O followers of the Book! indeed Our Apostle has come to you making clear to you much of what you concealed of the Book and passing over much; indeed, there has come to you light and a CLEAR Book from Allah; S. 5:15 Sher Ali

And the day We shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst them, and We shall bring thee as a witness against those. And We have sent down on thee the Book making clear EVERYTHING, and as a guidance and a mercy, and as good tidings to those who surrender. S. 16:89 Arberry

And indeed We know that they (polytheists and pagans) say: "It is only a human being who teaches him (Muhammad)." The tongue of the man they refer to is foreign, while this (the Qur'an) is a clear Arabic tongue. S. 16:103 Hilali-Khan

He sets forth for you a parable from your ownselves, - Do you have partners among those whom your right hands possess (i.e. your slaves) to share as equals in the wealth We have bestowed on you? Whom you fear as you fear each other? Thus do We explain the signs IN DETAIL to a people who have sense. S. 30:28 Hilali-Khan

A Book, whereof the verses are explained IN DETAIL; - a Qur'an in Arabic, for people who understand; - S. 41:3 Y. Ali

This again demonstrates that the Holy Bible is far more coherent and vastly superior since it is explicitly clear on matters where the Quran is either silent or vague.

In fact, Muslims were forced to consult the Holy Bible in order to make sense out of their own respective scripture due primarily to its incoherence and incompleteness. These scholars realized that the Quran didn’t provide them with sufficient information to properly understand its injunctions and stories, a point that Muslim scholars such as Mahmoud M. Ayoub candidly admit.

Ayoub acknowledges that Muslims were forced to consult the Holy Bible and/or Jews and Christians in order to gain a better and proper understanding of the story of Adam and Eve. Here is what he writes in regards to the story of Adam and Eve as found in Q. 2:30-38:

“The story of Adam (30-38) is told in earlier surahs belonging to the later Meccan period. His creation, the obeisance of the angels to him, his dwelling in the garden and subsequent expulsion are all told in some detail. These verses may be seen as a commentary on an already well-known story, because they raise new issues and because they are placed before other and more explicit verses. These nine verses have raised many questions and controversies: Why did God tell the angels of His plan to establish a representative for Himself on the earth? How did the angels know that Adam's progeny would act wickedly? How could they question the will and wisdom of God? How was this vicegerent of God created and why did he soon disobey God's command against eating the forbidden fruit? What sort of fruit did the forbidden tree bear? Who was Satan and how was he able to enter the garden in order to lead the innocent Adam and his spouse astray? Adam's stay in Paradise, the creation of a mate for him, and their sin and expulsion are but briefly mentioned in the Qur'an. The Qur'an leaves many other questions UNANSWERED. It does not, for example, MENTION EVE BY NAME, or the manner in which she was created. For the answers to these and other questions, commentators HAD TO RESORT TO THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK…” (Ayoub, The Qur'an and Its Interpreters - Volume 1 [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, NY 1984], p. 73; bold and capital emphasis ours)

When one does consult the Muslim authorities in relation to the story of Adam and Eve, we find them largely agreeing with the Biblical account:

(35) Tabari preserves a wealth of tafsir tradition going back to the earliest authorities on this science. He relates on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas, Ibn Mas'ud, and others of the Prophet's Companions that "Adam was lonely in Paradise, having no mate to keep him company. He went to sleep and when he awoke he found a woman beside him whom God created from his rib. He addressed her, saying, 'Who are you?' 'I am a woman,' she replied. 'Why were you created?' Adam asked. 'So that you may have companionship,' she said (Tabari, I, p. 513). There are traditions going back to the early authorities of tafsir such as Ibn 'Abbas asserting that God created Eve from Adam's rib, which he took from his left side. This information they claimed to have transmitted from the People of the Book, and more specifically the Jews. They differed, however, as to whether she was created before or after Adam was made to dwell in Paradise. Tabari also relates, concerning the name of Adam's spouse, "The angels, wishing to test Adam's knowledge, asked, 'What is her name, O Adam?' He answered, 'It is Hawa' [Eve]. They said, 'Why did you call her Hawa?' and he answered, 'Because she was created of a living thing'" (Tabari, I, p. 518). (Ayoub, p. 82; bold emphasis ours)

Notice the marked difference between the origin of Eve's name given here with that stated in the Holy Bible. Here she is named Eve because she is created of a living thing (Adam putting himself above her, he is the source, she is only the recipient or result, deriving her life from his). Yet the Holy Bible states that her name was given as a result of her being the mother of all living:

“The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” Genesis 3:20

In fact, women are said to be created in the image of God along with the men, and have also been given dominion to rule over God’s physical creation. Moreover, the Scriptures teach that men and women are interdependent and must therefore love and cherish one another:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let THEM have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:26-27

“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Romans 8:14-17

“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote. It is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. I say this by way of concession, not of command.” 1 Corinthians 7:1-6

“(Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.)” 1 Corinthians 11:11-12

“for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” Galatians 3:26-29

“I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no better than a slave, though he is the owner of all the estate; but he is under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; when we were children, we were slaves to the elemental spirits of the universe. But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.” Galatians 4:17

“Likewise you husbands, live considerately with your wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are JOINT HEIRS of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7

Clearly, the degree of honor given to Eve and her daughters in the Holy Bible is vastly superior to that shown by Muhammad. More on this point later.



Third, the Qur’an shows the story culminating in an original lesson. The couple seeks forgiveness and it is granted:

"So by deceit he brought about their fall: when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them, and they began to sew together the leaves of the garden over their bodies. And their Lord called unto them: 'Did I not forbid you that tree, and tell you that Satan was an avowed enemy unto you?' 

They said: 'Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.' 

(God) said: 'Get ye down. With enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood,- for a time.'"

Surah 7 Verses 22 - 24

"In the result, they both ate of the tree, and so their nakedness appeared to them: they began to sew together, for their covering, leaves from the Garden: thus did Adam disobey his Lord, and allow himself to be seduced. 

But his Lord chose him (for His Grace): He turned to him, and gave him Guidance. 

He said: 'Get ye down, both of you,- all together, from the Garden, with enmity one to another: but if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from Me, whosoever follows My Guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery.'"

Surah 20 Verses 121 - 123



Contrary to Ally’s claims, the forgiveness that he thinks was offered to Adam simply didn’t take place. After all, the Quran is quite clear that Adam’s punishment was to be banished from the garden and cast down to the earth. Note carefully the following passage that Ally quoted:

He said: "Get ye down, both of you, - all together, from the Garden, with enmity one to another: but if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from Me, whosoever follows My Guidance, will not lose his way, nor fall into misery.” S. 20:123

Now if Allah had truly forgiven Adam why didn’t he bring him back to the garden or allow him to remain there? What kind of forgiveness is this when the punishment was still administered to Adam since both he and Eve were thrown out of paradise?

The problems are far from over for Ally as we shall see in the next part of our discussion.