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Updated on September 8, 2016

By: Helmi Junaidi

Most muslims believe that Eve was created from Adam’s rib. Actually al-Quran never mention the word Eve and never once mention that she was created from Adam’s rib. Al-Quran verse which is used as the basis for such interpretation is An-Nisa’ verse 1.

ياأيها الناس اتقوا ربكم الذي خلقكم من نفس واحدة وخلق منها زوجها وبث منهما رجالا كثيرا ونساء *

“O mankind! Obey your Lord who created you from one self (essence of life) and from it created its mate. And from the two different types proliferated many men and women.“

This verse does not mention that women is created from men’s rib, and there is no single verse in the Quran that mention it. This verse actually states that all living things created from nafs wahidah, one self (essence of life), and from that essence of life God created its mate. It should be noted that the word nafs wahidah is muannats (feminine) and use haa (female pronoun) rather than hu (male pronoun), so nafs wahidah cannot be interpreted as Adam because it is male, not female. If this verse refers to Adam, it would use mudzakar (masculine) word and its pronoun is hu. So, nafs wahidah is not Adam but one self and both women and men created from it. And this verse do not tell the creation of Adam and Eve, but about the creation of all living things. (See Al-Munawwir dictionary, p. 1545 about nafs meaning. See also Kamus Kontemporer Arab –Indonesia, Yogyakarta, Yayasan Ali Maksum, 1996, p. 1932, 926 and 712).

The above verse use muannats perhaps because the essence has the ability to reproduce. In reproduction process, women has greater role. Therefore, although the essence cannot be determined its sexes, it is called by using muannats because it has the ability to reproduce, the characteristics we found in women. To make it easy, the essence might be interpreted as a single-celled creature that reproduce by divides itself. And human birth process itself seems like a binary fission in bacteria, in which one individual divides into two individuals. Not much different from reproduction process of the simplest bacteria. Really not much different! In fact, in reproduction process the male reproductive cells can be replaced by physical or chemical agents. Only the female element is important. With appropriate techniques, a new individual can be produced from egg cells that are not fertilized, without the intervention of male elements. This has been proved in experiments carried out by Bataillon and Jacques Loeb. (Alexis Carrel, Misteri Manusia, translated by Kania Roesli dkk., Bandung, Remadja Karya, 1987, p.85).

Further explanation about the origin of life according to modern biological sciences can be seen in the next chapter. According to modern biology, all living things originated from organic chemistry compounds which then formed the first essence of life. Their way to reproduce were very simple. After developing into more complex creatures then divided into two types, male and female. So, women were not created from men’s rib, but created from the same essence as men, and then developed and divided into two different sexes. And humaa pronoun in the verse does not mean Adam and Eve, but the two sexes. Thus, the interpretation which states that women were created from men’s rib had no basis at all, either viewed according to Arabic grammar or biological sciences. Such interpretation because the influences of Israiliyat story, and not the teachings of Islam.

Al-Maraghi also mentioned that the Egyptian Islamic reformer, Muhammad Abduh, disagreed with the interpretation that states Adam is the father of all mankind.

Al-Ustadz al-Imam (Muhammad Abduh) also stated that the meaning of the texts do not show that one self (nafs wahidah) is Adam because of two following reasons:

Scientific investigation and historical (archaeological) that contradict it.

The verse says rijalan katsiran wa nisaa’an (many men and women) and not ar-rijal wan-nisa’ (a man and a woman).

As for the verses address to mankind, namely children of Adam (yaa bani Adam) we cannot make it as a reason that all mankind descend from Adam. Therefore, this verse refers to the people to whom al-Quran revealed (ashrut tanzil), from the children of Adam. (Al-Maraghi, Juz 4, hlm. 317).

The interpretation that Adam is not father of all mankind had been stated by Muhammad ‘Abduh more than a hundred years ago. But most muslims do not notice it. Muhammad Abduh seemed to believe that Adam is only father of some human race, the people who live in the Middle East because Adam lived there some thousand years ago. Thus, it is highly probable that the people who live around the area are descendants of Adam, or at least many of them. Perhaps Adam was not a Semit, but his children married with Semitic peoples and other nations who lived nearby. And the Middle East is a place where many nations intermingle.

Yogyakarta-Central Java, 1997


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