14 Lessons from the Story of Adam’s Two Sons, Qabil and Habil

The following are 14 lessons that can be gleaned from the story of Adam’s two sons: Qabil (Cain) the wicked one and the murderer, and Habil (Abel) the righteous one and the victim.

The story is presented in the Quranic chapter al-Ma’idah (the Table Spread with Food), verses 27-31. The story is given in several contexts pertaining to the affairs of the Jews, Christians, and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his followers.

The lessons are as follows.

1. Islam is the only religion with Allah (Alu ‘Imran, 19)

No other alternative is acceptable (Alu ‘Imran 3:85). Therefore, every messenger or prophet of Allah, from Adam to Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them all), was asked to convey to his people that there is no god or deity except Allah, and that He alone must be worshiped (al-Anbiya’, 25).

All other religions represent either distorted versions of Islam, or man-concocted superstitious faiths and creeds. Polytheism, atheism, and agnosticism as the latter’s twin, are the greatest spiritual crimes committed by humanity against their Creator and Master.

Islam stands for ultimate truth which, in turn, transcends the variables of time and space dynamics. Obviously, sacrifice (qurban), both as an idea and ritual, was an aspect of Islamic worship during Adam’s time.

2. The story begins with the imperative “recite” (utlu)

That means that the story is part of the revealed knowledge given by Almighty Allah to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It is a piece of neither intuitive, nor acquired, knowledge. So, the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked to merely “recite” that which has been revealed to him by the Omniscient Creator.

3. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was instructed to recite the story “with truth” (bi al-haqq). That implies that the story is genuine and true. It is by no means a fairy-tale, or a myth.

Moreover, like everything else revealed by Allah, recorded in the Holy Quran and recited afterwards, this story, too, signifies a sign. As such, it contains a great deal of wisdom and a number of lessons which ought to be contemplated and applied in everyday life.

4. The story was to be recited “to them” (‘alayhim)

“Them” is primarily the Jews and Christians. However, it also entails Muslims and the whole of mankind. Adam, after all, was the father of humanity.

The message conveyed thereby is that no affiliation with prophets – direct or indirect, distant or immediate – or any other statuses and privileges, can avail anybody if truth and justice appear to be at stake.

Truth and justice are supreme and impartial. They are relationships-blind. In their respective transcendent realms, everyone carries his own weight and is the master of his own destiny.

“No bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden” (Fatir, 18), proclaims the Quran. If Qabil’s being Prophet Adam’s biological son could not absolve him of the crime of killing his brother, what hope can then other people, who are “less privileged”, harbor for intercession and help in relation to their wrongdoings? The Jews and Christians will be held accountable for their misdeeds concerning prophets and truth as much as anybody else.

5. Qabil killed Habil because of jealousy, which was coupled with haughtiness and self-deception (“So the soul of the other (Qabil) encouraged him and made fair-seeming to him the murder of his brother (Habil)”, al-Ma’idah, 30)

Through the story, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was implicitly notified – and warned, as well as prepared – that by virtue of being the final messenger of Allah to mankind, and so, the best and most accomplished one, he will always be the target of many people’s boundless jealousy and assaults, especially from the ranks of the malicious Jews and Christians.

The same holds true for the message of Islam, which was revealed to him, and for all those who followed him. Hence, the Prophet (peace be upon him) famously said that:

Everyone who is blessed with something is inescapably envied (Al-Tabarani).

Envy is commensurate with the blessings. Since the Prophet (peace be upon him) enjoyed more blessings – and Muslims more success – than anybody else, envy against him – and Muslims – will always be greatest and most intense.

With this in mind, one need not wonder much why this global hullabaloo about Islam, Muslims and their Prophet (peace be upon him). The root cause of Islamophobia is readily apparent, too, just as foretold by the message of Islam and its Quran. In most cases, Muslims’ only crime is that they are Muslims and that they follow and uphold heavenly truth.

Cutting-edge falsehood, lies, immorality, corruption, hypocrisy and idiocy, generally, reign supreme in the world today. As poisoned chalices, they do so in the name of freedom, democracy, modernity, progress, globalization and cultural refinement. Satan never sleeps, and truth, goodness and behavioral integrity are as good as defunct. They are least wanted. Yet, they often constitute biggest wrongdoings.

Regrettably, might (the spirit of Qabil) is universally right, and blight is the world’s truth as well as light.

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About Dr. Spahic Omer
Dr. Spahic Omer, an award-winning author, is an Associate Professor at the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM). He studied in Bosnia, Egypt and Malaysia. In the year 2000, he obtained his PhD from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur in the field of Islamic history and civilization. His research interests cover Islamic history, culture and civilization, as well as the history and theory of Islamic built environment. He can be reached at: [email protected].