Adam or Eve: Who Sinned First?

15 August, 2017
Q As-Salamu Alaykum wa RahmatuAllah. I have read many answers here and on "Ask the Scholar" suggesting that Eve wasn't the first to be deceived by Satan and that both Adam and Eve sinned together. It is quite true that I haven't seen a Quranic verse suggesting the opposite of this. However, I came across an authentic Bukhari hadith that day which states what something is like: "Were it not for Bani Israel, meat would not have gone bad. And were it not for Eve, no woman would have betrayed her husband." Three questions here: 1) Doesn't this suggest that Eve was the first to be deceived by Satan and that she betrayed Adam? 2) How do women betray their husbands? Don't men do it too? 3) Though this is not important, did meat not go bad before the existence of Bani Israel? Right now I don't have access to my PC so I don't have the hadith number but I am sure it exists and can send you the number of the hadith if you would like. Jazakum Allahu Khayran.


Salam Dear Rawa,

Thank you very much for this question which reflects your deep research and great desire to know and understand things.

In fact, it took me some time to review all the literature available on this hadith you referred to, which is mentioned in both Al-Bukhari and Muslim.

Some Muslim scholars have tried to clarify this hadith. Let’s see what they say first before we check with the other group which does not accept the hadith.

Adam Sinned First

It is a well-known Quranic fact that it was not Eve who was first deceived by Satan; rather, it was Adam who was deceived first.

The narrations that suggest that it was Eve who was first deceived by Satan are based on the previous scriptures: Judeo-Christian sources.

Muslims usually don’t rely on these sources, especially when they contradict authentic Islamic sources.

Now, coming to the people who accept the hadith, we will find that they focus on the wording of the hadith which is:

…and were it not for Eve, no woman would have betrayed her husband.

There is an error here in linking this sentence with this wording with any fabricated story about Eve being deceived first. I simply cannot see this connection at all.

I would understand the sentence rather to mean: “had it not been for the softness of Eve (i.e. as reference to women), no woman would have betrayed (i.e. annoyed or harmed or offended or get upset with) her husband.”

Meaning of “Betrayal”

The understanding of the word ‘takhun’ in Arabic is not confined to sexual betrayal.

Rather, it is such a generic term that can cover anything from words that annoy others, backbiting, lack of patience, or similar things.

When we understand the term in this way, we can realize that the hadith then refers to the softness or emotional nature of women.

Because of this softness, they may get angry and impatient. Therefore, they may say something or do something that annoys their husband.

Then, the second part of the message is to the husbands. God is saying: since women are like this, you should stick to patience and kindness in dealing with them.

He reminds men that women are soft or emotional, and it is something natural.

Thus, it can be said that the hadith solves problems that may happen in families if such a fact is not remembered.

The True Message of Banu Israel’s Meat: Philanthropy

Even the first part of the hadith that speaks about Banu Israel (Children of Israel) can still be viewed as a general message when we know the story behind it.

This hadith speaks about the Children of Israel who, when they were in Sinai, received food from Allah Almighty and saved the meat instead of sharing it.

Because of the stinginess of some people and their lack of dependence on Allah, they saved the meat until it decayed.

The hadith does not say that we cannot save meat or that we have to consume it right away. Rather, the hadith sends a message of showing philanthropy and helping the poor by giving them of what we have.

Obviously, saving food does not always make it go bad. Banu Israel were neither the first nor the last people to save food.

The ancient Egyptians are historically known for their ability to keep the mummies of the dead without decay for long periods, so I think it was an easy job for them to do so with the food.

So, the hadith speaks about an experience and a message rather than establishing a fact.

Rather than saying that it is because of Banu Israel that the meat started to go bad, the hadith highlights the fact that although Banu Israel were given abundant food by Allah and were in no position to have access to proper storage, they stored the meat.

They knew full well that it was going to decay and that they did not need to do so, as Allah was catering for them, but they saved it anyway.

I think if we understand the hadith in this way, avoiding the literal meaning, we can still find a way other than rejecting it altogether and trying to speak about its violation of certain criteria.

Some Scholars Reject This Hadith

This second view is actually the view of some highly respected scholars including two great scholars of our time: Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and Sheikh Muhammad Al-Ghazali.

Sheikh Al-Qaradawi’s view is that for a hadith to be purely authentic and acceptable, it has to be narrated by just, accurate, and precise narrators.

From the beginning of the chain till its end, this has to be the case with all narrators.

In addition, the hadith has to be free from shudhudh (irregularity or unevenness in terms of the chain, meaning that one narrator fails to meet the criteria) and `illa (defect, meaning a problem with the text of the hadith itself).

Qaradawi sees that this hadith has got a defect in terms of its text, as the first half of it—the one speaking about Banu Israel—violates universal laws.

Furthermore, its second half violates the Quran which clearly states that it was Adam, not Eve, who was deceived by Satan.

Because of these two defects in the text, Sheikh Al-Qaradawi does not accept the hadith.

These are the two views and the two approaches to the hadith.

At the end of the day, I think a non-literal reading of the hadith will be enough and can solve the problem. The essence of the hadith and its message can easily be understood in light of such a non-literal reading.

I hope this answers your question. Please remain in touch.


(This is from AboutIslam’s archives and was originally published in July 2016)

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