The Fall of Adam and Eve in the Bible and the Quran: Analyzing the Epic Story That Started it All
“Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a vicegerent on earth.’ They said: ‘Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood, whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?’ He said: ‘I know what ye know not.’”
– The Holy Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:30
The story of the fall of Adam and Eve is found in both the Bible and the Quran. Like most other stories which are found in both holy books, the Biblical and Quranic versions share some similarities, but also differ greatly in key areas. Whether concerning the details of the actual creation of the first man and woman or their disobedience which led to their downfall, there are minor similarities and major differences in the two versions. In this article, we will summarize and analyze both stories and attempt to objectively conclude which of the two stories is more worthy of acceptance by the faithful multitudes of Jews, Christians and Muslims. Through the evidence presented, it is hoped that the reader will rationally conclude that the Biblical version suffers from obvious contradictions, inconsistencies and logical incongruities, which the Quranic version lacks.
The Fall in the Bible
The Biblical story of the fall of Adam and Eve is, not surprisingly, found in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible. Specifically, the fall itself is described in Genesis 3, but the events preceding it are also important to consider. Hence, for the purposes of this article, we will summarize the story from the very beginning: the creation of Adam.
According to the story, after creating the heavens and the earth as well as plants and animals, God created Adam in His own image and created Eve from Adam’s rib:
“So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.”
Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, enjoying the endless bliss and benefits therein. However, they were soon tempted by a wily adversary, the serpent. When questioned by the serpent as to what they were forbidden to eat in the Garden, Eve answered:
“…We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
At this point, the serpent reassured Eve that they would not die but would rather gain special knowledge of good and evil. Eve was persuaded by the promptings and ate of the forbidden fruit. More importantly, she also gave some to Adam who also ate. As an immediate result, they both realized that they were naked and began to cover themselves.
When confronted by God, Adam blamed Eve for giving him the fruit, and Eve blamed the serpent. The serpent was cursed to crawl on its belly for all time and to live in continuous conflict with mankind. Eve (and hence all women) was then cursed to suffer the pain of childbirth and to be ruled by her husband:
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
On the other hand, Adam (and hence all men) was blamed for listening to his wife and cursed to toil and work in the earth until death. Finally, to ensure that Adam and Eve and their progeny would not eat from the tree of life and hence become immortal, God banished them from the Garden of Eden and placed cherubim to guard it. Hence, Adam and Eve were banished from the safety and bliss of the Garden.
An Analysis of the Fall
In the summary above, we have seen that Adam and Eve were persuaded by a serpent to eat of the forbidden fruit, causing their banishment from the Garden of Eden. It must be pointed out from the start that the Garden of Eden was an earthly domain, and not a heavenly one (seen note #3). However, the exact location of this “Paradise on earth” is of course not known and no evidence of it has ever been found. Despite this fact, some Christians still insist that the Garden of Eden actually exists somewhere on the earth!
While enjoying the limitless benefits of the Garden, Adam and Eve eventually became the targets of the cunning serpent. Christians have assumed that the serpent was the Devil, yet Genesis clearly shows that the serpent was just one of the many wild animals that God had created before the creation of man:
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.”
This is further attested to by the Jewish historian Josephus:
“But while all the living creatures had one language, at that time the serpent, which then lived together with Adam and his wife, shewed an envious disposition, at his supposal of their living happily, and in obedience to the commands of God; […]
He [God] also deprived the serpent of speech, out of indignation at his malicious disposition towards Adam. Besides this, he inserted poison under his tongue, and made him an enemy to men.”
In fact, the concept of the Devil is not the same in the Tanakh as it is in the New Testament (or even the Quran). According to Jewish sources, Satan is actually a messenger/agent of God. As the Jewish Encyclopedia states:
“Yet it is also evident from the prologue that Satan has no power of independent action, but requires the permission of God, which he may not transgress. He cannot be regarded, therefore, as an opponent of the Deity…”
It must however be pointed out that the serpent in Genesis is still generally associated by some Jewish authorities with Satan, even though it is clear that it was just one of the many animals that God had created! Still, he is not regarded as an opponent of God but rather His agent, thereby contradicting the Christian concept.
Furthermore, there are also problems regarding the tree of knowledge and what it was capable of doing to humans. When answering the serpent as to what she could and could not eat in the Garden, Eve claimed that God had warned them not to eat from the tree or even touch it because it would cause them to die:
“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.””
Yet, the serpent assured her that eating from the tree would not cause death:
““You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.””
So, who had told the truth, God or the serpent? The answer is clear that it was the serpent, for after eating the fruit, Adam and Eve did not die and instead gained special knowledge of good and evil, as even God admitted later! If we assume, as Christians do, that the serpent was Satan (which is not necessarily true), then there is yet another clear contradiction between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. As C. Dennis McKinsey points out:
“In essence, in Gen. 3:22 God is saying the serpent told the truth when he said that man would learn good and evil, and Christians must reconcile this with John 8:44…which says that the Devil is incapable of telling the truth.”
Moving on, as we saw, God was greatly angered at Adam and Eve’s disobedience. When questioned as to why he had disobeyed God, Adam blamed Eve, who then blamed the serpent. It is clear from the text that God also blamed Eve for the whole fiasco and only rebuked Adam for listening to her. This attitude is clearly evident in the New Testament, as seen in the epistle to Timothy:
“And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
Noting the unfairness of this one-sided condemnation of Eve, McKinsey observes:
“…Paul not only assigns women a subordinate role but blames all of them for Eve’s transgression, as if Adam were a poor misguided male led by the wiles of an evil female.”
It is at this point in the story of the fall, Jewish and Christian theologies go their separate ways. Christians have maintained that the banishment of Adam and Eve was a catastrophe for mankind, as through their rebelliousness, sin and death entered into the world. According to Paul:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…”
This is the Christian concept of original sin and the basis for the idea of redemption through the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him). Perhaps no notion in Christendom has faced more criticism than original sin, and for good reason. First and foremost, only the New Testament teaches the concept of “original sin”. The Tanakh does not. In fact, according to well-known verses from the Hebrew Bible, children cannot be punished for the sins of their fathers:
“Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.”
This is one of the clearest contradictions between the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, yet Christians regard both as scripture! As McKinsey has rightfully observed:
“If every man is to be put to death for his own sin, then how can Paul justifiably say all must die for what Adam did and Jesus died for what all do?”
Second, would it not be fair to say that the idea that we are “born” sinful because of something we did not even do is the epitome of unfairness? Is not each person responsible for his/her own actions? The actions of one person do not and should not have any bearing on others. Yet, this is exactly what the notion of “original sin” maintains.
Moreover, the concept of original sin seems to suggest that sin is a genetic trait, which is of course, absurd. Sin is just an abstract concept. It cannot be “passed down” from one generation to another. Some Christian commentators have even theorized that the deaths of infants due to illness or disease are actually evidence of original sin! For example, in his commentary on the death of David’s son (who was the result of David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba), the Christian commentator Matthew Henry made the following claim:
“The diseases and death of infants that have not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, especially as they are sometimes sadly circumstanced, are sensible proofs of the original sin in which they are conceived.”
Given these logical complications, it should not be difficult to reject the concept of original sin. The injustice associated with such a belief should be clearly evident for all who are willing to see.
To continue, as we saw in the summary, after God had banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, the Bible states that to ensure that mankind would never eat from the tree of life (and thus achieve immortality), God placed cherubim to guard the Garden and the tree of life, which was different from the tree of knowledge. This should raise an obvious question. Did not God already decree that Adam and his progeny would live mortal lives on earth, as a punishment for disobeying Him (Genesis 3:19)? If that was the case, then why was God so concerned about Adam or his progeny having access to the tree of life that He saw fit to place powerful guards to deter any would-be trespassers? If God’s will was that Adam and his progeny would live on earth and die, who or what could change that? Surely, even if mankind could infiltrate the Garden of Eden (assuming it even exists on earth), it could not alter what God has already decreed, even if the fruit of the tree of life was ripe for the taking. God’s will is absolute and none may transgress it.
In closing, our analysis has shown indisputable proof of the internal and external contradictions and inconsistencies found in the Biblical story of Adam and Eve’s fall from the Garden of Eden. Let us now consider the Quranic version of this story.
The Quranic Story of the Fall
The story of the fall is found in many places in the Quran and there are major differences between it and the Biblical account, as previously noted. According to the Quran, after having created the world, Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) informed His angels of His intention to create Adam (peace be upon him):
“Behold! Thy Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man, from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape;”
Among the angels was also a jinn named Iblis (Satan) who had been a devoted servant of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) up to that point. However, when Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) commanded the angels (as well as Iblis) to prostrate to Adam (peace be upon him) as a sign of his superiority to them, all except Iblis obeyed His command:
“‘When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.’ So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together: Not so Iblis: he refused to be among those who prostrated themselves.”
When questioned as to why he had disobeyed Allah’s command, Iblis’ excuse was one of pride:
“(Iblis) said: ‘I am not one to prostrate myself to man, whom Thou didst create from sounding clay, from mud moulded into shape.’”
It was this arrogance that led to Iblis’ banishment from Allah’s presence as well as his eternal doom. However, Iblis was allowed to go free until the Day of Judgment, and to tempt mankind until then. Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) also declared that all who would follow Iblis would join him in Hell:
“(Allah) said: ‘Then it is just and fitting- and I say what is just and fitting- That I will certainly fill Hell with thee and those that follow thee, everyone.’”
With Iblis removed from Allah’s presence, Adam and Huwwa (who had been created from his rib) were allowed to live in Paradise (the Garden), but were told not to eat from one specific tree:
“We said: ‘O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden; and eat of the bountiful things therein as (where and when) ye will; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.’”
It was at this point that Iblis saw his first opportunity to exact vengeance against those whom he blamed for his fall. Whispering to them, Iblis gave them false information about the fruit of the tree and enticed them to disobey their Lord:
“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 forever. And he swore to them both, that he was their sincere adviser.”
Having eaten the fruit, they immediately realized their nakedness and clothed themselves. Angered by their disobedience, Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) declared to Adam and Huwwa that they would henceforth be banished from Paradise and would instead be sent to earth to live out their lives for an appointed term:
“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.’ (Allah) said: ‘Get ye down. With enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood, for a time.’ He said: ‘Therein shall ye live, and therein shall ye die; but from it shall ye be taken out (at last).’”
Overcome with remorse for having disobeyed their Lord, Adam and Huwwa sought forgiveness. The Quran reveals that in His mercy, Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) indeed forgave them for their sins and promised to send His guidance upon them and their progeny as they lived out their lives on earth:
“Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration, and his Lord turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful. We said: ‘Get ye down all from here; and if, as is sure, there comes to you Guidance from me, whosoever follows My guidance, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, they shall be companions of the Fire; they shall abide therein.”
Such was Adam and Huwwa’s fall from Paradise, according to the Quran. Let us now compare this version with that of the Bible.
Comparing the Biblical and Quranic Versions
Upon comparing the Quranic version to the Biblical one, we can clearly see several major differences. We can also see that the Quranic version does not suffer from the difficulties of the Biblical story.
First, while the Bible claims that the Garden of Eden was on earth, the Quran states that it was actually Paradise itself (the “Garden”). If the former were true, then we must ask why the Garden of Eden has never been found. No evidence of its existence has ever been documented.
Second, while the Bible claims that a serpent, one of the animals which also lived in the Garden of Eden, was the one responsible for causing Adam and Eve’s fall, the Quran states unequivocally that it was Iblis (Satan) who was responsible. In addition, while the Quran shows that Iblis lied to Adam and Huwwa about the forbidden tree, the Bible claims that the serpent actually spoke the truth and that God was the one who gave false information to Adam and Eve!
Third, while the Bible puts the blame for the fall squarely on the shoulders of Eve (for being the one that was tempted and tempting Adam in turn), the Quran puts the blame on both Adam and Huwwa. They both listened to Iblis and they both ate of their own free will from the tree. As for which of them was the first to eat of the fruit, the ahadith show that it was Huwwa:
“Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Had it not been for Bani Isra’il, food would not have become stale, and meal would not have gone bad; and had it not been for Eve, a woman would never have acted unfaithfully toward her husband.”
Commenting on this hadith, Abdul Hamid Siddiqi states:
“Satan in fact offered temptation to both Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and both fell victim to the snare laid down by him. Adam was somewhat reluctant, but when Eve, due to her temperament, showed inclination to eat that fruit, Adam too could not resist the temptation, and he also yielded to it like Eve.”
So, the hadith is referring to Eve’s influence on Adam, which was a type of betrayal because he was initially reluctant. Even so, she did not suggest it to him but was merely the first to show an interest. As a result, Adam too took Satan’s bait and thus both sinned. Hence, they were both to blame individually.
Fourth, while the Bible (or at least the New Testament) regards the fall as the moment that sin and death entered into the world (thereby requiring the blood sacrifice of Jesus), the Quran rejects such a concept. Like the Tanakh, the Quran does not acknowledge or teach the concept of original sin. Instead, the Quran teaches that each individual is responsible for his/her own sins, as shown in the following verses (and many others):
“On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. […]”
“If any one does evil or wrongs his own soul but afterwards seeks Allah’s forgiveness, he will find Allah Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”
In relation to this subject, some people may make the following counter-argument:
If it is true that each individual is responsible for his/her own sins, then why were Adam and Eve’s descendants born on earth and not in Paradise? Was it not because of Adam and Eve’s sin that humanity does not live in Paradise, but on the earth? Is that not an example of punishing the descendants for something their parents did?
In other words, the argument is that the descendants of Adam and Huwwa (all human beings) are unfairly and unjustly forced to suffer for the sins of our ancestors. We are forced to live and die on earth, instead of enjoying the good life in Paradise all because of our famous ancestors. Yet, this argument is very easily refuted. The answer to these questions is simple: God had willed from the start that mankind was to live on earth, after which every person would be judged according to his/her faith and deeds. According to a well-known hadith, Adam and Musa (Moses) had an argument with each other:
“Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: There was [an] argument between Adam and Moses, and Adam came the better of Moses. Moses said to him: You are the same Adam who misled people, and caused them to get out of Paradise. Adam said: You are the same (Moses) whom Allah endowed the knowledge of everything and selected him amongst the people as His Messenger. He said: Yes. Adam then again said: Even then you blame me for an affair which had been ordained for me before I was created.”
Commenting on this hadith, Abdul Hamid Siddiqi has stated:
“This means that Adam was sent from heaven to the earth according to a preconceived Plan of Allah and it was not something accidental.”
Further proof is shown in the Quran itself, which mentions when Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) informed the angels of the imminent creation of Adam and intended to place him on earth:
“Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on earth.” They said: “Wilt Thou place therein one who will make mischief therein and shed blood, whilst we do celebrate Thy praises and glorify Thy holy (name)?” He said: “I know what ye know not.””
So, no matter what would have happened, we were destined to be on earth. Even if Adam and Huwwa had not sinned, they would still have been placed on earth eventually. The important point is that we are not blamed for their sins and are not held responsible for them. Everyone is born with a clean slate. Adam and Huwwa were responsible for their own sins and we are responsible for ours.
In this article, we have studied the Biblical and Quranic versions of the fall of Adam and Eve. Upon comparison of the two versions, major differences can be readily observed. More importantly, while the Biblical version suffers from indisputable contradictions and irrationalities, the Quranic version lacks any such difficulties. Having considered the evidence, faithful Jews and Christians should ask the obvious question: which version makes more sense and is more worthy of acceptance? The answer should also be obvious, as the details mentioned above clearly demonstrate.
And Allah knows best!
 Eve is known as “Huwwa” in Arabic.
 Genesis 2:21-22 (New International Version). On a related note, the creation story as found in the Bible has been the subject of fierce debates between believers and skeptics. It will be the topic of a future article, inshaAllah, but is outside the scope of the present article.
 Genesis 2:8 states that God had planted a garden in Eden. This garden was on earth and had four rivers flowing out of it: Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates. Josephus associates the Pishon with the Ganges river in India and the Gihon with the Nile (Antiquities of the Jews, 1:1).
 Genesis 3:2-3.
 Genesis 3:16.
 The “tree of life” is different from the “tree of knowledge” as Genesis 2:9 states: “In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
 As we will see later, the Biblical claim that the Garden of Eden was on earth is contradicted by the Quran, and for good reason.
 Genesis 3:1.
 Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 1:1. As we will see, the Quran clearly identifies Satan as the one who tempted Adam and Eve, and not an animal like the serpent.
 Genesis 3:2-3.
 Genesis 3:4-5.
 Genesis 3:22 states:
“And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.’”
 C. Dennis McKinsey, The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy (New York: Prometheus Books, 1995), p. 358.
John 8:44 is well-known for making the statement that Satan is the “father of lies”:
“…He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
 1 Timothy 2:14-15. As we will see later, this is in stark contrast to the Quran, which is more balanced in the blame put on Adam and Eve.
 McKinsey, op. cit., p. 205.
 Romans 5:12.
 Deuteronomy 24:16. Also, see Ezekiel 18.
 McKinsey, op. cit., p. 386.
 This is the Quranic position regarding sin, as we will see.
 In the opinion of the author, it is one of the most unjust theological ideas ever suggested by the mind of man.
 Surah Al-Hijr, 15:28 (Yusuf Ali Translation).
 The jinn are a separate creation from angels and humans and had been created before humans. See Surah Al-Hijr, 15:27.
 Surah Al-Hijr, 15:29-31.
 Surah Al-Hijr, 15:33.
 Surah Al-Hijr, 15:34-43.
 Surah Sad, 38:85.
 Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Number 3467.
 Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:35. Also see Surah Al-Araf, 7:19. Notice that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) simply warned them that eating from the tree would lead to some “harm”. This is a far cry from the false threat of death, as found in the Genesis account.
 Surah Al-Araf, 7:20-21. Note the clear statement that Iblis tempted both Adam and Huwwa, as opposed to the Genesis account, which claims that Eve was the one who was tempted and in turn tempted Adam herself.
 Surah Al-Araf, 7:22-25. This verse illustrates clearly that the “Garden” was not on earth. Instead, it was literally Paradise.
 Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:37-39. Contrast this with Paul’s claim that through their actions, sin entered into the world. Hence all have sinned even before they are born.
 Sahih Muslim, Book 8, Number 3472.
 Sahih Muslim, Volume 2, fn. 1928, p. 753.
 For an excellent discussion on this topic, see Suzanne Haneef, The History of the Prophets of Islam: Derived from the Quran, Ahadith and Commentaries (Chicago: Kazi Publications, Inc., 2002), Volume 1, pp. 45-47.
 Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:286.
 Surah An-Nisa, 4:110.
 Sahih Muslim, Book 33, Number 6410.
 Sahih Muslim, Volume 4, fn. 2897, p. 1396.
 Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:30.