Responses to Bismikaallahuma

Misrepresenting Muhammad's Teachings on Adam

Or: Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right

Some Muslims seem to exert quite a bit of effort to cover up problematic and embarrassing teachings of their prophet. One of these is Muhammad's statement that Adam was 60 cubits tall — a scientific impossibility based on the data presented in my first article on this topic. The rebuttal article "Were Men Really 60 Cubits Tall?" by Shibli Zaman & Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi (MENJ) is one such exercise in the twisting of Muslim traditions. They begin their article with:

The Christian missionaries have recently turned their attention to a hadīth which states that the height of Adam(P) was 60 cubits (= 90 feet) tall and have charged this hadīth as a "scientific error". The hadīth in question is from Sahīh al-Bukhārī and is recorded as follows:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. When He created him, He said to him, "Go and greet that group of angels, and listen to their reply, for it will be your greeting (salutation) and the greeting (salutations of your offspring." So, Adam said (to the angels), As-Salamu Alaikum (i.e. Peace be upon you). The angels said, "As-salamu Alaika wa Rahmatu-l-lahi" (i.e. Peace and Allah's Mercy be upon you). Thus the angels added to Adam's salutation the expression, 'Wa Rahmatu-l-lahi,' Any person who will enter Paradise will resemble Adam (in appearance and figure). People have been decreasing in stature since Adam's creation.[1]

Now regarding the above hadīth, the matter is very simple even for people with diminutive mental competency. ...

It is quite sad that some Muslims feel the need to be abusive towards those who disagree with them. However, such personal insults reflect negatively only on those who use them.

Who are "the Christian missionaries" that the Muslim authors are talking about? It is completely silly to accuse a whole group of people of something that 99.99% of them are not even aware of. One person, Jochen Katz, wrote an article. That is all. Furthermore, I am not desparately trying to find something to malign Islam. I have no need to to twist and misinterpret anything that is clear and simple. The authors overlooked that I replied to a Muslim dawah article that has a specific purpose, even though it is not made totally explicit. It's clever psychological dynamic seeks to communicate: Since science has now proven true even those aspects of Islam that looked so wrong until recently, should you not finally give up on your unbelief and become a Muslim?

Are we not supposed to use our mental capacities and examine such claims critically? I simply researched the claims that were made, examined the evidence, and came to the conclusion that those grand claims were wrong on several levels. In my response article I reported those findings and stated that

  1. the alleged scientific proof is wrong,
  2. the whole story is actually a hoax, and
  3. there are a number of scientific reasons why Muhammad's claim of a 60 cubit tall Adam on earth is simply impossible.

I am glad to see that the Muslim authors of this present rebuttal are not contesting any of my above points. Instead, they declare that I have not understood what this hadith is actually saying. They argue the following:

Now regarding the above hadīth, the matter is very simple even for people with diminutive mental competency. The pertinent parts of this hadīth are:

"khalaq-Allāhū Aadam wa-tūluhū sittūna thirā`(an)..."

(Allāh created Adam and his height was 60 cubits...)

This is talking about the height of Adam(P) and all humans in Paradise and not in this world. This can be immediately adduced from the following portion of the hadīth:

"...fa kullu ma[n]-yadkhul al-jannatī `alā sūratī Aadama fa-lam yazal al-khalqū yanqusū hatta-l Aan."[2]

(So everyone who enters Paradise (will be) upon the likeness of Adam, for they have not ceased from being decreased in stature even until now)

When Adam(P) fell from grace, he was given a worldly decrease in stature which mankind is still upon to this day. Thus, this hadīth states that when humans enter Paradise again, they will return to that heavenly tall stature.

Shibli Zaman and MENJ are simply wrong. I referred not only to one, but to six hadiths in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim that speak about the issue of the size of Adam (read them carefully). Not one of them states that Adam was 60 cubits tall ONLY WHILE IN PARADISE, and that he was later reduced in size to something between 5 and 7 feet, or whatever the Muslim authors may have meant with their strange formulation that Adam "was given a worldly decrease in stature". There is not a shred of evidence in these hadiths for such a re-interpretation.

What is even more shocking than their invention of claims which have no foundation in the text is their mistranslation of the Arabic original. I had examined two issues in regard to these hadiths: (1) the claim that Adam was 60 cubits tall, and (2) that Adam's descendants were continuously decreasing in size until the time of Muhammad. The hadiths that I quoted, state:

... People have been decreasing in stature since Adam's creation. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543)

... So he who would get into Paradise would get in the form of Adam, his length being sixty cubits, then the people who followed him continued to diminish in size up to this day. (Sahih Muslim, Book 040, Number 6809; cf. Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 74, Number 246)

The problem is that these statements about a slowly decreasing humanity imply that there must have been a multitude of people who were 55, 50, 45, 40, etc. cubits tall. Apart from the scientific impossibility of people that are of such height, there is simply no archaeological evidence for this. What did the Muslim authors do to the above translation? Without blinking an eye, they replaced it by:

"...fa kullu ma[n]-yadkhul al-jannatī `alā sūratī Aadama fa-lam yazal al-khalqū yanqusū hatta-l Aan."[2]

(So everyone who enters Paradise (will be) upon the likeness of Adam, for they have not ceased from being decreased in stature even until now)

Even though this formulation is again atrocious English, and somewhat unclear, the authors probably meant to say that Adam's descendants "have not ceased from existing in this decreased stature even until now", i.e. Adam was reduced to a normal human size, and all his descendants were of a similar (reduced) size as well. But they will receive Adam's original heavenly size of 60 cubits when entering Paradise.

This is a deceptive translation. The above Arabic does not say "they have not ceased from being decreased in stature even until now". It simply means "they have not ceased decreasing until now". It does not mean that the people continued to BE SHORT, but that they continued to BECOME SHORTER (at least until the time of Muhammad).

These two tricks, i.e. claiming that

  1. Adam was reduced to a normal human size when coming down from Paradise to earth [this is the first misrepresentation of what the hadith actually says], and
  2. all his descendants were of a similar (reduced) size as well [this is a clear mistranslation of the Arabic text]

very elegantly avoid all the scientific problems discussed in my original article. The only ‘problem’ with this construction is that both statements are wrong.

If they want to argue that the official Muslim translations of Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are wrong in these passages, they will have to make a careful argument for it. Simply translating it differently and assuming that the readers will not ask any question about it is not good enough.

The Muslim authors added yet another misleading statement:

To avoid any further confusion, observe the very next hadīth which precedes the above:

Narrated Abu Hurayrah: The Messenger of Allāh said, "The first group of people who will enter Paradise will resemble the moon in the night of its fullness...All of them will be upon a single semblance, upon the resemblance of their father Adam, 60 cubits (tall) in the sky."[3]

So that there is no room for doubt, the Arabic for "...upon the resemblance of their father Adam, 60 cubits (tall) into the sky" is "`alā khalqi rajul wāhid,`alā sūratī abīhim aadama sittūna thirā`a fis-samā'".

Hence we have successfully refuted the 20+ pages of missionary's inconsequential diatribe, as we can all see now that the reference to "60 cubits tall" is in reference to all mankind when they are in Paradise.[4]

And only God knows best!

Furthermore, in their footnote section they claim:

[4] See also Ibn Hajar's exegesis to Sahīh al-Bukhārī to see how this is the way Muslims in the past have interpreted this hadīth, as he places this subject in the context of "Bāb Siffat al-Jannah" ("The Chapter of the Characteristics in Paradise").

It may well be true that the hadith is placed in this section. And the hadith is indeed talking about the future size of all humans who will enter Paradise. That was apparently the main point of interest for the person making the divisions of the hadith collection, and making the decision to place this particular hadith in this section. However, it is not true that therefore every statement in that hadith refers only to Paradise. The hadith states that Adam was created 60 cubits tall without giving any indication that Adam himself was ever reduced to a lesser size. In fact, the last statement of the hadith contradicts this assumption. It states that the people after Adam continued to get shorter. This makes no sense if Adam was already normal size. The translation provided by the Muslim apologists is simply wrong.

In fact, had the Muslims more carefully read my paper instead of thinking they can simply dismiss 20+ pages of careful reasoning by throwing a different translation at the audience, they would have seen that their explanation directly contradicts the narration found in al-Tabari:

According to al-Hasan b. Yahya - 'Abd al-Razzaq - Ma'mar - Qatadah: God founded the House together with Adam. Adam's head was in heaven, while his feet were upon the earth. The angels were in awe of him. So his size was reduced to sixty cubits (30 meters). ... {Franz Rosenthal (trans./ed.), The History of al-Tabari, [Albany: SUNY Press, 1985], pp. 292-293; bold emphasis mine}

This tradition actually contradicts the other hadiths found in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, according to which Adam was originally created in the size of 60 cubits and never reduced, but if the Muslims want to assume there was a reduction, then Tabari very clearly states that Adam was originally much larger and was reduced DOWN TO 60 CUBITS, i.e. he was sixty cubits AFTER THE REDUCTION.

Finally, the authors refer to Ibn Hajar's commentary on Sahih al-Bukhari. As already indicated, the second part of their footnote ([4]) regarding the chapter title is simply insubstantial. However, the first recommendation to "see also Ibn Hajar's exegesis to Sahīh al-Bukhārī to see how this is the way Muslims in the past have interpreted this hadīth" is excellent advice. I am not sure why they even recommended this, because Ibn Hajar agrees with my interpretation, and contradicts the one given by Shibli Zaman and MENJ. Maybe they thought I will not be able to access it myself, so that they can claim anything about it that they want? That was rather naive.

I will shortly present extensive quotations from this commentary, as well as from some other classical Muslim commentaries. For the time being, consider these two snippets by Ibn Hajar:

As for his saying, ‘Humanity has been decreasing in stature until now’ means that in every century, people’s height is shorter than the people in the previous century. The decreasing stature (phenomenon) has ceased with this nation and the issue has stabilized to the way it is now.

Contradictory to this is what is found of ancient cultures such as the ruins of Thamud. Their dwellings indicate that their stature was not excessively tall as would be necessary by the previously mentioned succession (of dimensioning heights). The age they reigned in was long ago and the time span between them and Adam is shorter than it is between them and the people of this community. I have not yet seen anything that explains this difficulty.

These quotations show that Ibn Hajar does not only refute the above argument by our modern Muslim apologists, and instead agrees with my original interpretation, but he also saw that there is a problem in that the archaeological evidence contradicts Muhammad's statement.

Jochen Katz

The major Islamic "Questions & Answers" site ( agrees with the above evaluation. Their authorities write in answer to Question 20612:

20612: He is amazed by the height of Adam (peace be upon him)


In saheeh al bukhari hadith No246, rasulullah states Adam was created 30m in height. i cannot understand and imagine this can you please expain?.


Praise be to Allaah.


This hadeeth was narrated by Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) from the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) who said:

"Allaah created Adam and he was sixty cubits tall. Then He said, `Go and greet those angels and listen to how they greet you, for that will be your greeting and the greeting of your progeny.' He said, `Al-salaamu `alaykum (Peace be upon you).' They said, `Al-salaamu `alaykum wa rahmat-Allaah (Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allaah).' So they added the words `wa rahmat Allaah.' And everyone who enters Paradise will be in the form of Adam. People kept on growing smaller until now."

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 3336; Muslim, 7092

According to a version narrated by Muslim: "Everyone who enters Paradise will be in the form of Adam who was sixty cubits tall. People kept growing smaller until now."

With regard to the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), "People kept growing smaller until now," al-Haafiz ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Baari (6/367):

"This means that in every generation people grew shorter than the previous generation, and continued to grow shorter until the time of this ummah, then they stayed like that."

The Muslim is obliged to believe in every idea for which there is evidence in the Qur'aan or saheeh Sunnah from the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). Imam al-Shaafa'i (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: "I believe in Allaah and in that which came from Allaah in the sense meant by Allaah. I believe in the Messenger of Allaah and in what came from the Messenger of Allaah in the sense meant by the Messenger of Allaah."

See al-Irshaad Sharh Lam'at al-I'tiqaad, p. 89.

So the believer is required to believe with firm faith in everything that we are told by Allaah and by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), if it is proven to be soundly reported from him (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). He must believe in it with firm faith that leaves no room for the slightest doubt. He must accept it in general and specific terms, whether he understands it or not and whether he finds it strange or not, because not understanding something that is proven in a sound report does not mean that it did not happen. All that means is that he cannot comprehend this particular issue. Allaah has commanded us to believe in everything that He tells us and everything that His Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) tells us. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): "Only those are the believers who have believed in Allaah and His Messenger, and afterward doubt not but strive with their wealth and their lives for the Cause of Allaah. Those! They are the truthful" [al-Hujuraat 49:15]

Part of faith is belief in the unseen (al-ghayb). The hadeeth we are discussing here comes under this heading. Allaah praises those who believe in the unseen, as He says (interpretation of the meaning):

"Alif-Laam-Meem. [These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur'aan and none but Allaah (Alone) knows their meanings.]

This is the Book (the Qur'aan), whereof there is no doubt, a guidance to those who are Al-Muttaqoon [the pious believers of Islamic Monotheism who fear Allaah much (abstain from all kinds of sins and evil deeds which He has forbidden) and love Allaah much (perform all kinds of good deeds which He has ordained)].

Who believe in the Ghayb[the unseen]" [al-Baqarah 2:1-3]

You should note that Allaah is Able to do all things. Just as He is able to create man in the form that he appears in now, He is also Able to create man in a larger or smaller form.

If this is difficult for you to understand, then think of the dwarves that we see, who are child-sized men. If this can happen, then why could the opposite not happen, namely a man being sixty cubits tall? In the history of mankind there have been giants as the archaeologists tell us.

The basic principle here is to accept the absolute power of Allaah and to accept what He tells us and what His Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) tell us, and to say what those who are well versed in knowledge say:

"We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord"

[Aal `Imraan 3:7 _ interpretation of the meaning].

We ask Allaah to show us the truth as true and help us to follow it, and to show us falsehood as false and help us to avoid it.

And Allaah knows best.

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Basic Tenets of Faith (Belief) ... Part 1
by Muhammad Saed Abdul-Rahman (online edition)

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