Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Is Jesus Really Like Adam After All?

Revisiting the problem of the Quran’s likening Jesus to Adam

Sam Shamoun

The Quran seeks to deny the Deity of Christ by arguing that Jesus is like Adam in God’s sight:

To God, Jesus is like Adam, whom He created from dust, then He told him, "Be!" and he was. S. 3:59 Safi Kaskas

For God the likeness of Jesus is as that of Adam whom He fashioned out of dust and said "Be" and he was. Ahmed Ali

We have already shown elsewhere why this is a blatantly false comparison:

In this article we are going to show how this comparison between Adam and Jesus actually backfires against Islam. We will demonstrate that the Quran’s argument ends up proving that Jesus is a king who is worthy of divine worship.

To start off with, the Muslim scripture states that Allah created Adam to be his vicegerent or vice-regent who would rule the earth on behalf of Allah. It also says that Allah ordered all the angels to worship Adam due to the fact of his having been created by Allah’s own hands and made alive by Allah’s own spirit:

When thy Lord said to the angels, "Verily, I am about to place one in my stead on earth," they said, "Wilt thou place there one who will do ill therein and shed blood, when we celebrate thy praise and extol thy holiness?" God said, "Verily, I know what ye know not." And he taught Adam the names of all things, and then set them before the angels, and said, "Tell me the names of these, if ye are endued with wisdom." They said, "Praise be to Thee! We have no knowledge but what Thou hast given us to know. Thou! Thou art the Knowing, the Wise." He said, "O Adam, inform them of their names." And when he had informed them of their names, He said, "Did I not say to you that I know the hidden things of the Heavens and of the Earth, and that I know what ye bring to light, and what ye hide?" And when we said to the angels, "Bow down and worship Adam," then worshipped they all, save Eblis. He refused and swelled with pride, and became one of the unbelievers. S. 2:30-34 Rodwell

When thy Lord said unto the angels, verily I am about to create man of clay: When I shall have formed him, therefore, and shall have breathed my spirit into him, do ye fall down and worship him. And all the angels worshipped [him], in general; except Eblis, [who] was puffed up with pride, and became an unbeliever. [God] said [unto him], O Eblis, what hindreth thee from worshipping that which I have created with my hands? Art thou elated with vain pride? Or art thou [really] one of exalted merit? He answered, I am more excellent than he: Thou hast created me of fire, and hast created him of clay. S. 38:71-76 Sale

Moreover, the so-called authentic hadiths state that Adam was created in the very image and shape of Allah:

Likewise, we affirm that, Allah created Adam in His image.21 This hadith was collected by Ahmad bin Hanbal and others.

In another narration, […] in the image of ar-Rahman.22

As collected by ad-Daraqutni, Abu Bakr an-Najjad23, Abu ‘Abdullah bin Battah24, and others. (Kitab al-I’tiqad: By Imam Abu al-Husain Muhammad bin al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la al-Farra’ al-Hanbali, verification of the text and commentary by Shaikh Muhammad bin ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Khumaiyis (Associate Professor at Muhammad bin Sa’ud University), translated by Amr bin Jalal Abualrub [Madinah Publishers and Distributors, First edition 2012], pp. 21-22)

21 Collected by Ahmad in, Musnad Abu Hurairah, 14/45, hadith 8291, by al-Bukhari in, Kitab al-Isti’than, 4/135, hadith number 6227, Abdullah bin Ahmad said, “It was written in the books of my father (Ahmad bin Hanbal), And his height was 60 cubits, but I am not sure if he narrated it to us or not.” This addition is also found in al-Bukhari’s Sahih.

Shaikh al-Islam Ibn Tayimiyyah said, “There was no dispute among the Salaf in the first three generations that the pronoun is referenced to Allah as has been elaborated in many different ways from the Sahabah, and the context of all the ahadith point to that.” (Bayan Talbis al-Jahmiyyah, Ibn Taymiyyah, with verification by Dr. ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Yahya, 2/356) Ahl as-Sunnah affirm Allah’s attribute of having an Image and believe in it; they profess that it should be accepted as is, without denying, altering or describing it, and without likening it to His creation. Al-Aajurri said, after narrating the hadith of the image, “This is from the traditions that Muslims are obligated to believe in, without saying, how, or why. Rather, it is accepted with submission and belief that it is true, and by refraining from trying to explain it, as has been said by the Muslim Imams who passed.” (Ash-Shari’ah, by al-Aajurri, 2/106)

Imam Ahmad spoke on this topic and said about the hadith of the image, “We accept the hadith as is [without explaining its essence].” Because of that, Imam Ahmad used to rebuke those who interpret the hadith of the Image and who ascribe the pronoun to other than Allah. He said in the narration of Abu Talib, “Whoever says that Allah created Adam in Adam’s shape is a Jahmi, because what shape did Adam have before he was created?” (Ibtal at-Ta’wilat, 1/75). This is a warning from Imam Ahmad, that whoever interprets the pronoun to be other than referring to Allah will have followed the path of the Jahmiyyah. Ibn Qutaibah said, “As I see it, and Allah knows best, is that to have an image is not stranger than having two hands, fingers and eyes, but these attributes are familiar because they were mentioned in the Qur’an, unlike the image which is unfamiliar because it was not mentioned in the Qur’an [but only mentioned in the ahadith]. However, we believe in both [types of report], we do not ascribe any specific essence or resemblance to these attribute[sic].” (Ta’wil Mukhtalif al-Hadith, pg. 261)

22 Also collected by Ibn Abi ‘Asim in, as-Sunnah, 2/229, al-Baihaqi in, al-Asma’ wa as-Sifat, pg. 371, Ibn Khuzaimah, at-Tawhid, hadith number 41, 1/85, al-Ajurri in, ash-Shari’ah, pg. 315.

Ibn Hajar said in, al-Fat-h, 5/183, “Al-Maziri and those who followed him have rejected the authenticity of this addition, meaning, On the image of ar-Rahman; since what has been established in most of the hadith‘s chains of transmission is, Allah created Adam in His shape., Then he said, ‘If it is authentic, then it is taken in a way that befits Allah’s majesty.”

[Ibn Hajar continued by saying], “I say: the addition was collected by Ibn Abi ‘Asim in, as-Sunnah, as well as at-Tabarani, with a chain of narration leading through Ibn ‘Umar, and the narrators are all trustworthy. Ibn Abi ‘Asim also collected it using the chain of narration passing through Abu Yunus from Abu Hurairah, with a wording which refutes al-Maziri’s opinion [that the word, ‘Ar-Rahman’ is not established in the hadith]. It says, Whoever fights should avoid [hitting] the face, because man’s image in ar-Rahman’s image. Is-haq al-Kawsaj said, “I heard Ahmad say, ‘This hadith is authentic.’ [My father said], ‘Such a person has lied, and this is the exact statement that the Jahmiyyah said.’” (al-Fat-h, 5/183)

23 He is the Imam, the hadith scholar, the jurist, the Mufti, the Shaikh of ‘Iraq, Abu Bakr, Ahmad bin Salman bin alHasan bin Isra’il al-Baghdadi al-Hanbali an-Najjad. He was born in 253 Hijri and died in the year 348 Hijri. Refer to, as-Siyar, 15/502, and Mukhtasar as-Siyar, 2/125, number 3158.

24 He is the Imam, the role model, the worshipper of Allah, the hadith scholar, the Shaikh of ‘Iraq, Abu Abdullah, ‘Ubaidullah bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Muhammad bin Hamdan al-‘Akbari al-Hanbali, also known as, Ibn Battah. He died the year 387 Hijri. Refer to, Siyaru A’lam an-Nubalaa, 16/529, number 389. (Ibid., pp. 21-23)

It is apparent that this story of Allah commanding his angelic creatures to worship Adam, with Satan refusing to do so, is taken from non-canonical, uninspired Jewish and Christian sources, such as the apocryphal work known as The Life of Adam and Eve:

And with a heavy sigh, the devil spake: ‘O Adam! all my hostility, envy, and sorrow is for thee, since it is for thee that I have been expelled from my glory, which I possessed in the heavens in the midst of the angels and for thee was I cast out in the earth.’ Adam answered, ‘What dost thou tell me? What have I done to thee or what is my fault against thee? Seeing that thou hast received no harm or injury from us, why dost thou pursue us?’ The devil replied, ‘Adam, what dost thou tell me? It is for thy sake that I have been hurled from that place. When thou wast formed. I was hurled out of the presence of God and banished from the company of the angels. When God blew into thee the breath of life and thy face and likeness was made in the image of God, Michael also brought thee and made (us) worship thee in the sight of God; and God the Lord spake: Here is Adam. I have made thee in our image and likeness.’ And Michael went out and called all the angels saying: ‘Worship the image of God as the Lord God hath commanded.’ And Michael himself worshipped first; then he called me and said: ‘Worship the image of God the Lord.’ And I answered, ‘I have no (need) to worship Adam.’ And since Michael kept urging me to worship, I said to him, ‘Why dost thou urge me? I will not worship an inferior and younger being (than I). I am his senior in the Creation, before he was made was I already made. It is his duty to worship me.’ When the angels, who were under me, heard this, they refused to worship him. And Michael saith, ‘Worship the image of God, but if thou wilt not worship him, the Lord God will be wrath with thee.’ And I said, ‘If He be wrath with me, I will set my seat above the stars of heaven and will be like the Highest.’ And God the Lord was wrath with me and banished me and my angels from our glory; and on thy account were we expelled from our abodes into this world and hurled on the earth. And straightway we were overcome with grief, since we had been spoiled of so great glory. And we were grieved when we saw thee in such joy and luxury. And with guile I cheated thy wife and caused thee to be expelled through her (doing) from thy joy and luxury, as I have been driven out of my glory. (The Life of Adam and Eve, Latin Version; bold and italicized emphasis ours)

Note the reason given here for God demanding all of the angels to worship the first man: Adam is the image of God in whom God breathed his breath of life, which is quite similar to what the Islamic sources teach.   

Yet here is where the dilemma lies for the Muslims. Since the Quran likens Jesus to Adam, and since the Islamic sources attest that Jesus is God’s Word and Spirit who became flesh,

O ye people of the Book! do not exceed in your religion, nor say against God aught save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, is but the apostle of God and His Word, which He cast into Mary and a spirit from Him; believe then in God and His apostles, and say not 'Three.' Have done! it were better for you. God is only one God, celebrated be His praise that He should beget a Son! His is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth; and God sufficeth for a guardian. S. 4:171 Palmer

Whose physical body and pure human nature was created by the Spirit of Allah in the blessed womb of Jesus’ virgin mother,

And Mary, daughter of Imran, who guarded her private parts, and we breathed therein of our spirit and she verified the words of her Lord and His books, and was of the devout. S. 66:12 Palmer

And who shall physically descend from heaven to rule the world as a righteous judge,

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Apostle said, "The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43, Number 656)

(And he shall be a sign for (the coming of) the Hour.) means, sign and "One of the signs of the Hour will be the appearance of `Isa son of Maryam before the Day of Resurrection. '' Something similar was also narrated from Abu Hurayrah, Ibn `Abbas, `Abu Al-`Aliyah, Abu Malik, `Ikrimah, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ad-Dahhak and others. Many Mutawatir Hadiths report that the Messenger of Allah said that `Isa will descend before the Day of Resurrection as a just ruler and fair judge. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 43:61; bold and underline emphasis ours)

This means that he is even more deserving of being worshiped and not just by the angels, but by all creation. After all, if a finite, imperfect creature who fell from grace and whose sin brought great pain and misery to all humanity,

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "Adam and Moses met, and Moses said to Adam "You are the one who made people MISERABLE and turned them out of Paradise." Adam said to him, "You are the one whom Allah selected for His message and whom He selected for Himself and upon whom He revealed the Torah." Moses said, 'Yes.' Adam said, "Did you find that written in my fate before my creation?' Moses said, 'Yes.' So Adam overcame Moses with this argument." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 260)

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, “Moses argued with Adam and said to him (Adam), ‘You are the one who got the people out of Paradise by your sin, AND THUS MADE THEM MISERABLE.’ Adam replied, ‘O Moses! You are the one whom Allah selected for His Message and for His direct talk. Yet you blame me for a thing which Allah had ordained for me before He created me?’” Allah's Apostle further said, “So Adam overcame Moses by this Argument.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 262)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abu'z-Zinad from al-Araj from Abu Hurayra that the Messenger of Allah said, "Adam and Musa argued and Adam got the better of Musa. Musa rebuked Adam, 'You are Adam WHO LED PEOPLE ASTRAY and brought them out of the Garden.' Adam said to him, 'You are Musa to whom Allah gave knowledge of everything and whom he chose above people with His message.' He said, 'Yes.' He said, 'Do you then censure me for a matter WHICH WAS DECREED FOR ME BEFORE I WAS CREATED?'" (Malik's Muwatta, Book 46, Number 46.1.1)

Could be worthy of the worship of angels then how much more is Jesus Christ worthy of being worshiped when even the Islamic sources describe him as the sinless virgin born Son of Mary, and the eternal Word and Spirit of God that became flesh?

In fact, the inspired Christian Scriptures teach that Jesus is the true image of God and divine Son by and for whom all things were created, being the One who reigns over all creation, and whom all creatures are expected (in fact, commanded) to worship:

“The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

“Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and has transferred us into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn of every creature. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they are thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Colossians 1:13-18

God, who at various times and in diverse ways spoke long ago to the fathers through the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the world. He is the brightness of His glory, the express image of Himself, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. He was made so much better than the angels as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. For to which of the angels did He at any time say: ‘You are My Son; today I have become Your Father’?  Or again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me’? And again, when He brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’ Of the angels He says: ‘He makes His angels spirits, and His servants a flame of fire.’ But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, lasts forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.’ And, ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; and they all will wear out like a garment; as a cloak You will fold them up, and they will be changed. But You are the same, and Your years will not end.’ But to which of the angels did He at any time say: ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool’?” Hebrews 1:1-13

“and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

“When He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of saints. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests unto our God; and we shall reign on the earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voices of many angels, numbering ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!’ Then I heard EVERY CREATURE which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, AND ALL THAT ARE IN THEM, saying: ‘To Him who sits on the throne AND TO THE LAMB be blessing and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen.’ And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever.”

Thus, by claiming that Jesus is like Adam the Quran ends up confirming (albeit inadvertently and unintentionally) that Christians are right in worshiping the risen Christ since he is the Last Adam who undoes all the damage and misery which the first man brought into the world (cf. Romans 5:15-21; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23, 45-49).