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The Bible and Qur’an both give narratives on the fall of man. They explain how man came to leave the home God had first placed him in. In the Bible, this story is summarized in the third chapter of Genesis. In the Qur’an, the story is repeated in the chapters 2, 7, 15, 20 and 38. These two narratives have similarities and differences. Reading the two narrations has led to the thesis that states, that both the Qur’an and the Bible agree on the fundamental truth that God tells man how to act and that man’s actions always have consequences.
The similarities in the Bible and the Qur’an are many. Both books also mention a tree whose fruit man was forbidden to eat (Genesis 3:3 & Q2:35). This shows that God has set rules which are meant to guide man’s actions. These rules are found in the holy books; the Bible for Christians and the Qur’an for Muslims. Another similarity is the fact that Adam and Eve covered themselves with leaves after eating the fruit and realizing that they were naked (Genesis 3:7 & Q7:22). Today, the act of covering themselves with leaves has a symbolic meaning. It may symbolize one’s conscience which makes them realize that they have erred against God. Like Adam and Eve, those who are religious try to hide their sin from God.
Eating of the forbidden fruit in both books resulted in banishment from their home (Genesis 3:23 & Q2:36). The narrations support the theory that the man’s actions had consequences. This is significant because it shows how man’s actions can make him lose favor with God. Adam and Eve lost their home as a result of eating the forbidden fruit. Their act also led to the enmity between man and Satan. In the Bible, God declares that he will create enmity between Satan and the woman (Genesis 3:15). In the Qur’an, God tells Satan that the people will be unappreciative of him (Q7:17). This is why Christians and Muslims today regard the devil as an enemy. During the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, they perform a ritual where they stone the devil. This ritual is there way of openly declaring their enmity with the devil. In the Bible, God tells the woman that her seed would bruise the serpents head (Genesis 3:15). The Christians believe that Jesus is a fulfillment of this word. To them Christ is able to deliver them from the yoke of sin Adam and Eve’s sin (1 Corinthians 15:22).
In both narrations God asks question to Adam and Eve. In the questions, He mentions the fact that he had forbidden them to eat of that tree (Genesis 3:11 & Q7:22). This is to reiterate the fact that God does indeed instruct man on how he should act. He mentions the warning to remind Adam and Eve of what they were not to do. It is also a way of showing them why they will be punished. In both accounts, Adam and Eve are told that they will have to eat off the earth (Genesis 3:19 & Q7:24). In the Bible, Adam is told that he will have to sweat to get food from the earth (Genesis 3:18-19). The consequence of the sin is man has to work to get what he needs. In both cases God gives them garments to wear before they leave (Genesis 3:21& Q7:26). This may be a sign that God still cares for all even when they fall out of his will.
There are differences in the two narrations. According to Genesis 3:3, God instructed Adam and Eve not to eat from the forbidden tree lest they die. Satan lies to Eve that she will not die if she eats of the forbidden tree. Instead she will become as gods (Genesis 3:4-5).In the Qur’an Adam is warned he will fall into sin if he eats of the forbidden tree (Q7:19). Satan lies to them that eating the fruit will make them become angels and help them attain eternal existence (Q7:20). The lies used in both cases appeal to man’s inner being. Most people are afraid to die. They also try to live sinless lives so as not to fall out of favor with a higher being. Christians maintain that sin is a form of spiritual death that separates man from God. For them, they are made alive again through their faith in Jesus (1Corinthians 15:22). Again, man is given the choice to have this faith in Jesus and receive the life He provides. The lies also appeal to the human desire for greatness. They fell for the lies because they wanted to be like gods (Bible) and angels (Qur’an).
The Qur’an does not specifically say that Eve is the one who was lied to. In Surah 7:22, it says that Satan duped them with lies. It is significant that the Qur’an says that both were lied to. This is because it shows that both men and women are culpable of the separation from God. Some would prefer to lay blame solely on Eve for ‘making’ Adam fall. God punished them both. This shows that each one will be responsible for their actions, whether they were coerced into them or not. In both narrations, God questioned Adam and Eve on their actions. This was to get a reaction from them. Adam and Eve asked for forgiveness and mercy in the Qur’an (Q7:23). In the Bible they both gave excuses with Adam blaming Eve for his actions and Eve blaming the serpent for hers (Genesis 3:12-13). Like Adam and eve, people react the same way when confronted with sin. They either blame the devil for their sin or turn and repent it. Irrespective of the reactions, our acts have repercussions.
The most significant difference is the reaction to the question that God posed to Adam and Eve. According to the Bible, Adam and Eve blamed someone else for their sin. This is the same reaction people today will give when they commit a wrong. They would rather blame someone else rather than own up to their mistakes. The fact that God had not warned them about Satan could also be another excuse. Many today will use the ‘I did not know ’excuse to explain their wrongdoing. As the saying goes, ignorance is no excuse. In the Qur’an, Adam and Eve begged for God’s forgiveness and mercy. They owned up to their sin. They asked for a way of redeeming themselves. Very few people today would react in the same way. The Bible reaction is more common than the Qur’an reaction.
Man’s actions had consequences. God punished Adam and Eve. The severity of the punishment varied. In the Bible, the land is cursed. Man is told that in sorrow, he shall eat of the land all his life and that by the sweat of his face shall the land bring forth bread (Genesis 3:17-19). The woman is condemned to pain in childbirth. She is also made subject to her husband (Genesis 3:16). It seems that the excuses given may have led God to give out such harsh punishment to Adam and Eve. In the Qur’an Surah 7:25, God just sends man to earth where he shall live, eat and eventually die. In both cases God chose to redeem man after his fall. Surah 20:122 says “Subsequently, his Lord chose him, redeemed him, and guided him.” In the Bible, I Corinthians 15:22 states “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” The Bible belief is that we are redeemed through faith in Christ.
For those who believe in the truth of these two books, they offer the guidelines set by God by which we must live in. all that we do has consequences before God. We must therefore learn to think before we act. Always remember that for every action there is a reaction.
Abdullah Yusuf Ali. The Holy Qur’an. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Edition, 2000.
The Holy Bible: King James Version. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.