This paper is based on a lecture given at the Belfast Mosque in March 1997 Science says Adam & Hawa existed…
Islam teaches people to treat one’s mother and father with honour and kindness in their capacity as parents. To this end, remembering one’s parents and imploring Allah’s peace and mercy upon them are acts of honour and great respect. Such a deference is more than due to humanity’s common ancestor. However, with so much emphasis in the educational institutions on trying to prove that humankind evolved from apes, people’s knowledge and awareness of the Almighty Originator, and His great and gracious act in creating Adam and Hawa, for whom there is little regard these days, has steadily dwindled. The question to be put is not so much, “What are the names of the first man and woman”? but, “Do we really have a common ancestor?” and “How much do I know about humanity’s common ancestors, Adam and Hawa?”.
The religious and scientific answer to the first question is simply yes! On 11th January 1988, the Newsweek Magazine carried an article which stated that studies by molecular biologists of an international assortment of genes had put them on the trail of the mitochondrial Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA).
The studies were carried out on both black and caucasian women “with ancestors from Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia”. Despite the fact that the women “were from widely different racial and geographical backgrounds”, the geneticists “found that all had identical stretches of the mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from mothers and therefore not a mixture of parental genes”. This has led them from a Qur’anic and Biblical perspective back to the idea of a common ancestor: “to a single woman from whom we are all descended”. The report went on to say, “most evidence so far indicates that Eve”…” was more likely a dark-haired, black skinned woman (who) lived in sub-Saharan Africa.” It is believed that our common ancestor African Eve – must has lived “between 100,000 and 200,000 years ago”, and this is consistent with the findings related to Adam. This finding adds weight to the Biblical and Qur’anic statements about the existence of a Hawa (Eve), the mother of all humanity, who was not a product of an accident or chance in nature but was created and fashioned by the Creator. Also, it is yet another piece of evidence for the authenticity of the Holy Qur’an, stating long before this discovery:
“The Revelation of this Book is from Allah, the Exalted in Power, Full of Wisdom… He created you (all) from a single Person: created, (out of it) of like nature his mate… and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women” (S. 39:1,6: S: 4:1).
This passage was also telling the men of science that to progress their understanding about humanity’s common ancestor they must seek to establish Hawa’s origin and indeed humanity’s from a single individual, named Adam.
It is therefore not surprising to learn from an article in The Times on 23rd November 1995 that following a scientific study of the Y-chromosomes in a mixed- race group, Dr. Michael Hammer, a geneticist from the University of Arizona, was able to establish that all men do have a common ancestor “of African origin”, who lived less than 200,000 years ago. The article went on to say “this opposed a theory that mankind evolved in different regions of the Old World from an earlier ancestor, Homo Erectus (apes)”. What is now missing is for scientists to find the evidence which links Hawa to Adam, perhaps they will find the answer among the DNA of the bones, in particular, the lower ribs.
As regards the second question, science has very little to offer human beings who again, must resort to the Divine revelations to acquire deeper knowledge of their common ancestor. Even the fact that Hawa (Eve) was dark-skinned was already known to scholars of Islam. E. W. Lane, in his Arabic-English Lexicon, (Book 1, Part 2, P.661), says that the name Hawa (the Arabic equivalent of Eve) signifies brown colour, redness inclining to blackness or a colour intermixed with the blackish red dust like the rust of iron”.
In short, she was black or, if you prefer, a dark-skinned woman.
The creation of Eve: a sign and a phenomenon
The story of Adam is of universal significance not only because of what is related about him but also for what we can learn about his “mate”. The name in the Torah to Adam’s mate is Eve, there is no explanation of how she acquired this name, whether from the Creator or Adam, it simply appeared at the beginning of Genesis, Chapter 4. According to Islamic Tradition, that same person is known by the Arabic name Hawa, and not Eve although again, this name does not appear anywhere in the Holy Qur’an. As regards the creation of Hawa, the information in the Torah can be summarised as follows: The LORD God said, “it is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a help meet” ….the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam… and He took one of his ribs… and made He a woman… and brought her unto the man… and… Adam said,… “she shall be called woman” (Gen. 2:18,21 3)
The Holy Qur’an confirms that Hawa was indeed created out of Adam but is silent on the specific process used in her creation. It states: “O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his zaowja (wife/mate), and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women” (S. 4:1).
Stephen Jay Gould, the Harvard palaeontologist and essayist, says, “.. it makes us realise that all human beings, despite differences in external appearances, are really members of a single entity that’s had a very recent origin in one place. There is a kind of biological brotherhood that’s much more profound than we ever realised”
This is the very point that Allah has related in the Holy Qur’an, which evidently Mr Gould was not aware of, or perhaps, like many others, did not want to accept until it was endorsed by science. Do they not see though, how far modern science lags behind the teachings of the Holy Qur’an?
It is evident from the above stated Qur’anic verse and Torah that Hawa’s creation is a phenomenon – she is the only woman that was created from a man, but clearly not by the natural process that women would give birth. Her creation is significant, a sign and the second part of the three – part phenomenon of human creation. First was the creation of Adam, a human being who was made out of nothing, using only water and earth; second, the creation of a woman (Hawa) as explained above, and third, the creation of a man – Jesus (pbuh) – out of a woman without the participation of a man. All three creations are on the same footing in being unique, evident reasons for faith in Allah, and were all made possible by only the commanding word “Be’ from the Almighty, attesting His power and knowledge of the secrets of the heaven and the earth, and of what is revealed and concealed (S. 3:59; 76:1-3).
In terms of religion and as a phenomenon of human creation, it is easy to understand the rank held by Hawa’s creation. An unmarried woman who conceives is open to all kinds of questions about the circumstances under which she became pregnant. In contrast, there is little that can be said where a woman is formed out of the sole male human being in existence – that creation is undoubtedly a great feat at which humans should marvel.
In contrast to the Torah, the Holy Qur’an does not say that Hawa was created from Adam’s rib, but says that she was made “of like nature” to him, and this fact is confirmed by reality and what is known about the human body. The biblical statement “God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam… and He took one of his ribs… and made He a woman” (Gen. 2:18, 21-3), can be interpreted literally or as an allegory, the result however, in my view, is the same whichever interpretation is applied. This biblical notion, though not authenticated by the Holy Qur’an, is supported by the following hadith. In the absence of any Qur’anic foundation one might argue that their authenticity is thus subject to a measure of doubt. Nevertheless, these historical sources state: Abu Hurairah (ra) relates that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) said: Treat women kindly. Woman has been created from a rib and the most crooked part of the rib is the uppermost. If you try to straighten it, you will break it and if you leave it, alone, it will remain crooked. So, treat women kindly. (Bukhari and Muslim)
Another version is: A woman is like a rib; if you try and straighten it, you will break it and if you wish to draw benefit from it, you can do so despite its crookedness.
Another version is: Woman has been created from a rib and you cannot straighten her. If you wish to draw benefit from her, do so despite its crookedness. If you try to straighten her, you will break her and breaking her means divorcing her.
In Islam, women are not viewed biologically warped nor generally speaking of a criminal mentality (crooked), they are human beings of a similar nature (S. 4:1) to men and were also created “in the best of moulds” (S. 95:4). As already stated, it may well be that an actual rib was taken from Adam and then clothed with flesh in the formation of Hawa. This idea is somewhat acceptable in light of the following verse from the Holy Qur’an: Men we did create from quintessence (of clay), then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of the clot We made a (foetus) lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed with flesh;then we developed out if it another creature. So Blessed be Allah, the best to create. (S. 23:12-14)
This very detailed passage on human evolution is over one thousand four hundred years old, predating modern science. This passage identifies the power of the Creator in first creating Adam “from quintessence (of clay)” and then setting up the human reproductive process “in a place of rest, firmly fixed”. Looking at this process one can see three primary stages:
from the sperm to the formation of bone.
clothing the bones with flesh. and
perfecting the process to create “another creature”.
The reproductive process could not logically apply in every respect to Adam because, as a man, it is he who would have emitted the sperm and, judging by what is accepted to be the general nature of man’s biological structure, he did not have a womb and there was no woman – no womb (a place of rest) to receive it. The purpose of the first stage of the reproductive process is he forming of the bones “in a place of rest”, so if there is no womb but bones are already in existence and available, that first stage is unnecessary and, therefore, can be ignored (it is biologically inappropriate). However, the second and third stages could apply to the formation of Hawa. The ribs formed part of Adam’s bone structure so by taking a rib the All-Powerful Creator could then, “clothed [it] with flesh; then… developed out of it another creature”. There is further biblical evidence in support of the proposition that Allah has the power and does indeed create from mere bones in the following verse: The hand of the Lord was upon me (Prophet Ezekiel), and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of a valley which was full of bones,… lo, they were very dry. And He said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest. Again, He said unto me, Prophesy unto these bones… So, I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And I beheld, lo, the sinew and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them… So, I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezek. 37:1-10)
One can quite clearly see in the above passages the final two stages in the reproduction process, the clothing of the bones at which stage they were still without life and then finally, their completion with the spirit being breathed into them so that they became living creatures, standing “upon their feet”. This notion and possibly this story is confirmed in the following Qur’anic passage: (Take) the similitude of one who passed by a Hamlet, all in ruins to its roots. He said: “Oh! How shall Allah bring it (ever) to life, after (this) its death?” But Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said, “How long didst thou tarry (thus)?” He said: “(Perhaps) a day or part of a day”.
He said: “Nay, thou hast tarried thus hundred years: But… look at thy donkey: and that we make of thee a sign unto the people, look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh.. he said: “I know that Allah hath power over all things” (S. 2:259)
The above passages from the Old Testament and the Holy Qur’an “(shows) clearly… that Allah hath power over all things” and could, on the basis of these demonstrations of His power, most probably have created Hawa out of the rib (bone) of Adam.
Whether the rib is real or allegorical, the fact remains that in the final analysis, “another creature”, generally termed “woman”, whose creation process differed from Adam and was unique, was formed of the same essence as he for a specific Divine purpose. Thus, Hawa’s biology also composed water and clay that was moulded, “in the best of moulds” (S. 95:4), into a shape “of like nature” to Adam. Consequently, if viewed as an allegory, this notion of a “rib-created woman” should be interpreted positively using Divine purpose behind Hawa’s creation as the basis. The Torah says, “God said, ‘it is not good that man should be alone; I will make for him a help meet’ and the Holy Qur’an speaks of humanity’s “Guardian-Lord… (creating) from a single person, …of like nature, his zaowja (wife/mate)”. It is clear from both statements that the Creator’s intention was to create a person who would be a zaowja (wife) “of like nature”, not surprisingly Adam, according to the Torah, named his “help meet” “woman” because he saw in her a person who was similar in her biological essence, spiritual make-up (with her own “breath of life” – soul – from the creator) and how she functioned psychologically – having much the same ability as he to acquire knowledge, reason, articulate and exercise free will to discriminate morally. On that basis an explanation could be that the rib is symbolic of the husband’s duty to his wife and of the wife’s relationship to her husband and the dominant aspect of her character. The notion that Hawa was in reality created from a rib taken from Adam’s side also implies acceptance of the level of duty that is put upon husbands: namely to provide, maintain and protect their wives as part of their own selves (S. 4:34). For Hawa and all women, their position in marriage is also clarified by the fact that the rib was taken from Adam’s side. The natural position of women, as wives, is to be at their husbands’ side, to fit in with them while associating with them, and just as a man’s rib, as part of his body, is subjected to and obedient to the man’s will, so too must all “righteous women [be] devoutly (to their husbands), and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard” (S. 4:34).
To be a wife and a mother is no easy task and so Hawa and all women had to be especially equipped. Women have been given a greater intensity of emotions thus enabling them to be constant as a helper: always giving, caring to a fault – with her husband and children she sometimes shows them undeserved kindness, daring to pass through the doors of pain again and again – suffering great discomfort during pregnancy and the pangs at childbirth – to present as a gift to husbands their ultimate treasures of pleasure in the guise of sexual intercourse and children. Without the presence of this emotional quality in women it would be more difficult for men “to draw (the above or any other) benefit from them”, while making women more intuitive, having this capacity for greater intensity of emotions also carries with it a corresponding greater intensity of desires. Therefore, of far reaching importance to women (indeed it is relevant to all humankind) is the Qur’anic injunction to “stand out firmly for justice, as witness to Allah.. follow not the lusts (of your heart), lest ye swerve, and… ye distort (justice or decline to do justice)” (S. 4:135). Since the presence of a greater intensity of emotions and desires is necessary for the proper discharge of the women’s duty as wives and mothers, this ability has been Divinely fixed as part of their natural make-up, thus making them “crooked” – more vulnerable and therefore prone to distort or not do justice. To straighten women involves trying to force them to go against their Divine given nature, “breaking” their nature by removing from it that which is the source of “benefit” to men, and which makes women good wives and mothers – ceasing to be such can only mean divorce will follow as a direct consequence. Men who require this are evil and unjust and are themselves trying to avoid their Islamic duty to “forgive and overlook and cover up their (women’s) faults)” (S. 64:14) and not “treat them with harshness… on the contrary, live with them on the footing of kindness and equity” (S. 4:19). Nevertheless, these Qur’anic injunctions are not to be abused by women who use their emotional nature as an excuse for wrong doings. Like men, women are also capable of being disciplined, knowledgeable and just, so it is perfectly just and proper that husbands, while keeping in mind their wives’ emotional make-up, should encourage them to strive for their own level of excellence.
I therefore have no difficulty in accepting that the idea of a “rib-created woman” has both a physical and spiritual signification. Physical because Hawa could most probably have been created from a bone taken from Adam, and spiritual because despite her emotional make up, like him, she and every other women are also capable of being disciplined and submissive to Allah (SWT).