Allen S. Maller

Is Adam’s mate in Qur’an and Torah nameless or archetypical?

Why is Adam’s mate in the Torah nameless until she gives birth; and totally nameless in the Qur’an?

To describe mankind, the Quran uses three terms. BASHAR (Basar v’dam in Hebrew) both meaning a biological animal), INSAN (a social animal) and ADAM (a rational, religious, creative story telling creature). As ‘a human’, Adam is more than just ‘a species of primate’ (bashar) or ‘a herd like species’ (insan).

Obviously, as bashar or insan doesn’t refer to a person but to mankind in general, so is Adam in the Quran. Instead of referring to any specific human, Adam is an archetypical name for all humans.

This becomes evident from a careful reading of the allegory of Adam in the Qur’an and in the Torah.

In the Qur’an Adam/human (sometimes totally replaced by bashar/man in 15:28-44, and 38:69-85), is the Adam who is continuously being created out of dust in a constantly recurring event (3:59, 40:67).

This Adam is the only creature given the ability to name all other creatures (Qur’an 2:31, Genesis 2:19), and is the only creature with the free moral will of human nature (Qur’an 20:115, 7:172-175; cf. 2:35).

This Adam, who is forgiven by God and receives ‘inspired words’ following repentance so that all humans will be born with a pure soul and original virtue (2:36-38) clearly represents the whole of humanity and signifies both male and female, as the Torah states:

“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”(Genesis 1:27-8)

Since all Arabic and Hebrew nouns are either masculine or feminine, this linguistic, grammatical gender doesn’t necessarily imply biological gender of male or female.

Thus, though the word ‘Adam’ (human) is grammatically masculine, it essentially refers to both man and woman. In the same way as ‘bashar’ (man) and insan (social man), which are grammatically masculine, include man and woman.

Take for example this verse, “And We said: O human (Adam)! Dwell you and your spouse (zauj; husband, wife, mate) in this garden and eat freely thereof whatever you wish, but do not approach this one tree, lest you become wrongdoers. (Qur’an 2:35)

The word ‘zauj’ (Hebrew zoog) translated above as ‘spouse’ and often mistranslated as ‘wife’, is a masculine noun, and actually means a mate, a spouse, a partner, or a pair of opposites. Thus, when used for Adam’s mate (2:35, 7:19; 7:189), it actually refers to either a male or a female (Adam’s male or Adam’s female; cf. 39:6, 2:230).

Compare ‘Adam’ with the word ‘nafs’, (Hebrew ‘nefesh’) which is used to denote the one single source of humanity and which, though grammatically feminine, also includes both genders (cf. ‘zawjaha’, ‘HER mate’, in “and from HER He created HER mate …”. 4:1; cf. 7:189, 39:6).

In brief, because Adam means ‘a human’, of either gender, Adam’s mate refers to a human’s male or female partner (Adam’s husband or Adam’s wife). This explains why the Biblical name Eve is absent from the Quran; and why Adam’s mate’s name of Eve, meaning ‘life giver’ is archetypical and comes to her only after she gives birth: “Adam named his female Eve, because she would become the mother of all the (Humans) living.” (Genesis 3:20)

Most of the above scriptural commentary does not come from me, a male Reform rabbi. It comes from a Muslim man named Siraj Islam in his blog ‘lampofislam’ 9/11/17

Correctly understood the Qur’an and the Torah are not in conflict; although they both often give different views of similar issues. As David’s Zabur states: One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God.” (Psalm 62:11)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 850 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
Related Topics
Related Posts