Short Answer: The Quran says that Allah created Eve in the same way He created Adam, not from part of Adam. This is a common misunderstanding of an authentic hadith of Prophet Muhammad wherein he described women as “curved ribs” that should not be bent too far or they will break. He was describing their innate character, not the method of their creation.
Salam Dear Ali,
Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
As you mentioned in your question, the issue of Allah’s creation of Eve contains some points that are disputable among scholars.
So, let’s explore the whole issue.
Allah Describes Her Creation in the Quran
First of all, Allah in the Quran explained how He created Adam (peace be upon him). He states in different verses that he had created Adam from clay.
Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I am about to create man from clay” (Quran 38:71)
The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”. And he was. (Quran 3:59)
The Quran also clearly states that Allah also created Hawa (Eve) with His Hands from the same nature of Adam.
O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person,
created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women… (Quran 4:1)
Hence, the Quran does not state that Eve was created from Adam’s rib.
But…Prophet Muhammad Said, “Woman has been created from a rib…”
Yet, there is an authentic hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him) which uses the metaphor of the shape of a rib to describe women.
The authentic hadith says that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:
Treat women kindly. Woman has been created from a rib and the most bent part of the rib is the uppermost. If you try to turn it straight, you will break it. And if you leave it alone, it will remain bent as it is. So treat women kindly. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Another version adds ” ..if you wish to draw benefit from it, you can do so despite its shape.”
How To Reconcile These Two Points?
Some scholars perceived the hadiths in their literal meaning and accepted the idea that Eve was created from Adam’s rib.
Yet many scholars, on the other hand, totally rejected this interpretation.
They based their argument on the fact that in Arabic, the words “created from” do not necessarily refer to the substance of creation; they can also refer to the nature of something.
These scholars sustain their argument with an example from the Quran in which Allah says that “man has been created from hastiness.” (Quran 21:37)
Of course, this does not mean that man’s substance is hastiness; it only refers to man’s nature and behavior.
The True Message of This Hadith
The hadith, then, means that if a man wants to be happy with his wife, he should not attempt to re-shape her character.
Rather, he should accept her the way she is and try to be happy by understanding her habits and her personality.
It can be taken as a very soft and kind hadith recommending tenderness and implying how a wife and husband should complement each other.
Sadly, it was interpreted according to the cultural traditions and bias against women in some tribal societies.
Such misinterpretation gained wide circulation to foster the un-islamic ideas of women’s inferiority.
This also affected the way women were perceived in society: their image was directly linked to the shape and “crookedness” of the rib!
There are numerous verses that state the equality of women in the public space, and the life of the prophet teaches us about the relation between a man and a woman in the private sphere.
We might for example, note the poetic symbolism of the rib being the nearest bone to the heart, and that the ribs of the chest protect the organs of the chest.
In the same way, a woman should be nearest to her husband’s heart, and just as his heart protects her, she protects his heart.
It is a matter of how we read the text and contextualize it and search the merciful meanings in revelation, not grab the text to use it for our own purposes.
Allah knows the best!
I hope this helps answer your question.
Salam and please keep in touch.
(From AboutIslam’s archives)