God said to Adam, “Adam, live in this garden by yourself and with your wife, eat from its abundant fruits as you wish, and stay away from this tree; otherwise, you may become one of those who are prone to doing wrong.” But the Devil made them (both) forget the instruction from God and caused them to lose their status (in Heaven). God said, “Go out of this as adversaries of one another. On Earth you will have places to live and provisions assigned and allocated for a fixed time.” Then Adam received word (of forgiveness and guidance) from his Sustainer, and He (God) turned to him mercifully, for God is ever Forgiving and Merciful. God said, “Leave this place (state) (to dwell on Earth). From Me you will receive guidance in time, and if you follow My guidance, there will be no reason to fear or to grieve. But whoever refuses and rejects Our guidance, they will become inhabitants of the Fire, where they will suffer (the consequences of their actions).”
Three things are noted here: Adam and his wife, the garden, and the forbidden tree. Spousal bonding and interdependencies of males and females were established from the very beginning. Unfortunately, we now see an alarming breakdown of family union and a high incidence rate of divorce and spousal abuse. Some form of polygamy in Muslim societies and the widespread promiscuity in the Christian world are contrary to what God has indicated here with Adam and his one and only wife. The garden and the abundance of fruits symbolize God’s unlimited grace to humans as long as we stay within the guided limits prescribed by Him. The specific (forbidden) tree represents the trials and temptations that we will face and that will test our faith in God and our ability and determination to stay within the limits of our consciousness. See also 20:120.
Here, both Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan, which is different from the Bible’s description that Eve was the one who listened to the Devil and instigated Adam to disobey God. The Qur’an does not support the notion of original sin and it does not place blame on Eve (or women, by implication), concepts ingrained in Christian and Jewish teachings. The Qur’an instead declares that both Adam and Eve were forgiven, and, hence, no sin was left remaining.
Earth represents a place for the provisions and struggles of mankind for a fixed time until death comes for each one of us. If we follow the limits set by and guidance of God, then we will overpower Satan and have the freedom and bountiful things that were given to Adam and Eve in Heaven. If we do not listen to God, we will degrade further into anarchy, bloodshed, and lowliness, which are unfortunately evident all over the world, particularly among Muslims. God’s guidance through revelations and our own innate affinity to goodness, contempt for evil, and capacity for knowledge and an ever-present conscience are all that we need for success.
These verses (and other verses in various parts of the Qur’an regarding Adam and Eve) provide a detailed description of human origin and purpose. Here, we see much more clarity than in the Bible, negating concepts like original sin and women as sources of evil temptation, which have been propagated by the Christian and Jewish faiths. Unfortunately, many conservative and fundamentalist Muslims espouse similar notions, which is shameful and contrary to Islamic teaching and the Prophet’s examples.
Here is a framework for each human being to achieve success in this life. We are to form a partnership with our spouse, nurture our children, understand and follow the guidance of God, and stay within the limits set by Him. The Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Mohammad adequately provide us with all we need to know no matter where we live, what race we belong to, or what our professions are. What we lack are our willingness, adequate understanding, and commitment to act according to human consciousness and God’s teachings!
*Definitions can be found in the Glossary*