Did Adam & Eve’s Children Commit Incest?

24 March, 2017
Q Did Adam and Eve's children commit incest?


Asalamu Alaikum,

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question.

Dr. Shabir Ally addresses this question in the video below:


Aisha Khaja: So, Dr. Shabir, the question today is about the morality of God and the viewer’s asking: there’s some notions that we inherently agree are unjust, are evil like unjustified murder, incestuous relationships.

The viewer’s asking specifically about in incestuous relationships if we can argue that this is objectively morally wrong, then how do we reconcile this intuition with that of the sons of Adams where there’s a teaching that the children of Adam [who were born] outside of the same pregnancy were allowed to marry.

Dr. Shabir Ally: OK, so let me address two aspects here. One is the question of the children of Adam, and how that relates to incestuous relationships.

And the bigger question of the moral argument for the existence of God. So, as for the situation with Adam this is probably more complicated than the simple representation that we find in the tafsir literature.

Commentaries on the Quran typically say that the children of Eve were born in pairs: a boy and a girl, a boy and a girl. And the boy from one pair was eligible to marry a girl from the other pair that were born on separate occasions.

They’re still brother and sister in a way. But not as directly brother and sister as if they were born together at the same time. And this is how they get over the idea that the children of Eve must have intermarried with each other and therefore they committed what we would call incest.

Of course, we can fall back on the idea of the divine command theory. And say that, well, a thing is only wrong when God commands it to be wrong. And God did not command them, saying that this is wrong and that was obviously something they could do.

And God would not have commanded them to refrain from this as we are commanded today. And one might even say that perhaps it is forbidden for us today because there is a harm coming out of such relationships.

As for example, genetic complications. And those complications may not have been the case in the earlier generations. Especially if God was preserving the generations to come out right. And so, there are many different complications in this way.

But more complicated than this and that, those who are studying evolutionary theory and finding ways of bridging the theory with religious belief might be inclined to think that the use of the term “Adam” is not necessarily a mention of a particular person named Adam.

But the term “Adam” could mean human. And in which case it is referring to a pool of people, not just one individual. and likewise bani Adam, children of Adam, could mean not just simply children of a specific individual, but simply …

Aisha Khaja: as a collective.

Dr. Shabir Ally: But leaving those details aside now, let me turn to the moral argument for the existence of God. Now when we present this argument, we don’t have to present a specific example of what is an objective moral standard.

We just need to argue that such an objective standard exists. And people can agree that when we think that something is wrong, if we agree that something is wrong, then we believe that that is objectively true—that this thing is wrong.

Whatever it is. Let’s say to rape or torture of a child just for fun. So, we use an example like that. If we believe that such a thing is wrong, truly wrong, then that means that God must exist. Because only in His existence can such a belief be true and grounded.

I hope this helps answer your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

From Heaven to Earth – Where did Adam First Land?


About Dr. Shabir Ally
Dr. Shabir Ally holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, with a specialization in Biblical Literature. He also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Quranic Exegesis.
He is the president of the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International in Toronto where he functions as Imam. He travels internationally to represent Islam in public lectures and interfaith dialogues. He explains Islam on a weekly television program called "Let the Quran Speak". Past episodes of this show can be seen online at: www.quranspeaks.com.