Let me start by stating that Original sin is a Christian doctrine, not a Muslim or Jewish belief. However the debate has existed whether it was Adam or Eve who disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and fell from grace. The Biblical narrative generally puts the blame on Eve, and the Qur’an clearly states it was Adam, as explained below.
The focus of my interfaith work has been on highlighting the commonalities between Abrahamic faiths and Scriptures, but the differences cannot be ignored, as long as we stay civil and non polemical. This post is a brief and an objective review of the Biblical and the Qur’anic accounts of the disobedience of our original ancestors.
Let me first share the commonalities as they relate to the story of Adam and Eve. Both the Qur’an and Bible state that Adam was the first man (human) created, and Eve was created next. Both enjoyed a “good” life in the paradise and they were free to enjoy the bounties of God but a commanded was given to not eat from the forbidden tree. Then they were deceived by Satan, disobeyed God’s order, and they both ate the fruit from the forbidden tree and fell from God’s grace.
As to who was deceived first and who disobeyed first, is where the narrative from the Qur’an the Bible deviate.
The Quran places the blame for disobeying God and listening to Satan on Adam, not Eve. The Bible, and specifically the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, puts the blame on ‘the woman’.
Adam’s story is mentioned throughout the Qur’an, rather than in one place. This is pretty typical for the Qur’an. Very few if any, stories are limited to one section- the story of Yusuf (Joseph) being one clear exception.
Here are a couple of accounts of the Qur’an’s narrative.
And when We said to the angels: Make obeisance to Adam they did obeisance, except Iblis (specific name of Satan in the Qur’an). He refused and he was proud, and he was one of the unbelievers.
And We said: O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in the garden and eat from it a plenteous (food) wherever you wish and do not approach this tree, for then you will be of the unjust.
But the Satan made them both fall from it, and caused them to depart from that (state) in which they were; and We said: Get forth, some of you being the enemies of others, and there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision for a time.
Then Adam received (some) words from his Lord, so He turned to him mercifully; surely He is Oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful. The Qur’an: 2:34-37
This sequence indicates (2:35) that the command was issued directly to Adam to avoid the forbidden tree, and then Satan made THEM both slip from the garden. Then it was Adam who repented and his repentance was accepted.
The following sequence is more direct.
And certainly We gave a commandment to Adam before, but he forgot; and We did not find in him any determination.
And when We said to the angels: Make obeisance to Adam, they made obeisance, except Ibli; he refused.
So We said: O Adam! This is an enemy to you and to your wife; therefore let him not drive you both forth from the garden so that you should be unhappy;
Surely it is (ordained) for you that you shall not be hungry therein nor bare of clothing;
And that you shall not be thirsty therein nor shall you feel the heat of the sun.
But the Satan made an evil suggestion to him; he said: O Adam! Shall I guide you to the tree of immortality and a kingdom which decays not?
Then they both ate of it, so their evil inclinations became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with leaves of the garden, and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so his life became evil (to him).
Then his Lord chose him, so He turned to him and guided (him). Quran 20: 115-122
- The covenant was taken from Adam.
- It was Adam, who “forgot and was found to have no firm resolve.
- The command to prostrate was to Adam, not Eve.
- Satan whispered and tempted Adam to go near the forbidden tree. Eve was at least aware of the command and followed Adam to the forbidden tree, and nonetheless, she also disobeyed. Therefore they were both expelled for disobeying God.
The biblical version puts the blame more directly on Eve. Even though the command was given to Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit, Eve had full knowledge of this, as per verse 2 of Genesis 3.
The serpent (Satan appearing as serpent) was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman (referring to Eve), “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied. “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’
“You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”
The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.
At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. Genesis 3:1-7
The following passage puts the blame squarely on the woman. And when God asks Adam as to what happened, he puts the blame on Eve, who then accepts the blame.
The man replied, “It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God asked the woman, “What have you done?”
“The serpent deceived me,” she replied. “That’s why I ate it.” Genesis 3:12-13
The New Testament:
The NT supports the view from the Book of Genesis.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 1 Timothy 2:13-14
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians 11-3
However the apocryphal books from the Christian Bible (as opposed to the canonized Bible) are more aligned with the narrative from the Qur’an. The original sin doctrine can be found in the fourth Book of Esdras.
O Adam, what have you done? For though it was you who sinned, the fall was not yours alone, but ours also who are your descendants. 4 Esdras 7:48
For the first Adam, burdened with an evil heart, transgressed and was overcome, as were also all who were descended from him. Thus the disease became permanent; the law was in the hearts of the people along with the evil root; but what was good departed, and the evil remained. 4 Esdras 3:21-22