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Hadith about food of Israelites and Eve’s betrayal

Many people have trouble understanding the following Hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Were it not for Bani Israel, meat would not decay; and were it not for Eve, no woman would ever betray her husband." (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 3083)

Infact the same Hadith is found in Sahih Muslim (Hadith, 2674) too. In his commentary to Sahih Muslim, Shaykh Muhammad Taqi Usmani explains this.

“Were it not for Bani Israel, meat would not decay”:

Explaining this phrase he writes;

“It means that People of Israel were the first to keep food and meat until it would go bad and get rotten and if it was not for the People of Israel who started this habit, people would not have kept food for so long till it goes bad. This is how al-Abi[1] and al-Hafiz[2] explained it in al-Fath[3]. However; it does not mean that for the people before the People of Israel food and meat never rotted even if they saved it. But the meaning in fact is that the habit of saving the food was not common before them. For the people used to eat and feed others and nothing decayed till the People of Israel came, and they kept saving it till it would get rotten.”

So the meaning actually is that these were the people of Israel who started the general practice of hoarding surplus food with them which used to rot and get wasted. Before them generally the people used to collect food only for their own selves. And when they had surplus they would share it with other people (either through charity or trade). So they were actually the people who started the general practice that lead to wasting of food.

And he then quotes the report telling us when it so happened;

“al-Aini[4] narrated from Qatadah: "the Mann and Salwa used to fall upon the People of Israel, from dawn to the sunrise, like the ice falls. So they would take from it just enough for the day except Friday, when they had to gather for it and the next day (Saturday). But if they exceeded (their need), it used to get spoiled. So their saving used to cause a food waste for them and others." (Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim, Darul Ahya al-Turath al-‘Arabi Beirut 2006 vol.1 p.140)

“Were it not for Eve, no woman would ever betray her husband”:

Shaykh Taqi Usmani writes:

“al-Hafiz (Ibn Hajr) said: It has a reference to what Eve did when she tried to seduce Adam to eat from the tree until he actually did. And since she was the mother of the daughters of Adam (all females), they in turn resembled her by birth and genes, that you can hardly find a woman that had not betrayed her husband in one shape or form. And here betrayal does not mean infidelity. Far be it! It rather refers here to the incident where Eve inclined to the desire of eating from the tree and she beautified that to Adam, it was counted as a kind of betrayal for him. But for all women who came after her, their kinds of betrayals varied in levels and forms. And what is similar to that Hadith is the Hadith that says "And Adam denied, so his descendants denied.[5]"

And in this Hadith a consolation for those men - who have been afflicted by some actions of their women - through the mention of what had happened from their great grandmother, affirming that this is one of their natural traits. So the man shouldn't excessively blame the woman who unintentionally or occasionally errs or wrongs him. And for the woman not to dwell in such a manner but to discipline herself and fight her desires. It is so in Fath al-Bari.” (Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim, vol.1 pp.139-140)

Here I must elucidate on certain points to avoid confusion.

Does this Hadith imply the blame rests on Eve alone?

Not really, because the sin was committed by both and Islam holds that both of them were basically seduced by the Devil. In fact, Islamic sources explicitly state that Devil seduced them both. In Qur’an 20: 120 it is mentioned that the Devil seduced Adam –may Allah bless him. This Hadith suggests Devil first spoke to Eve –may Allah bless her- and Qur’an (7:20) plainly says that Devil seduced them both. So, clearly the Islamic standpoint is that both of them made the mistake. The betrayal referred to in this particular Hadith is about Eve speaking to Adam –may Allah bless them both- about the forbidden tree. Eve having been deceived spoke to Adam but Devil himself also seduced Adam as clear from Qur’an 20: 120.

Why specifically mention of Eve here?

As clear from Qur’anic references cited above Devil seduced both Adam and Eve and as Qur’an says they both prayed to Allah for forgiveness after the whole thing took place. See Qur’an 7: 22-23.

However the stress about Eve here is to instruct the man not to over react when a woman makes a mistake for the same was done by his own great grandmother. This is just natural for her. See the explanation of Hafiz Ibn Hajr quoted above.

Is it about Original Sin?

Next question is if the Hadith supports the Christian doctrine of original sin?

It does not because in Islam the issue of falling from heavens was a specific incident related to two individuals and their progeny is not to bear the brunt for it. The idea is simply that capacity to err and sin is in the genes of humankind. Man and woman have the innate weakness and characteristics as such which were made evident in the lives of the first humans. Qur’an refers to this fact often;

“And man is created weak.” (4: 28)

“Surely man is created of a hasty temperament.” (70: 19)

“Truly man is, to his Lord, ungrateful; And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds);” (100: 6-7)

And a Hadith substantiates it and kills the notion of Original Sin and deliverance from it through vicarious atonement;

The Prophet –may Allah bless him- said, “Every son of Adam commits sin but the best of those who sin are those who repent.” (Jami’ Tirmidhi, Hadith 2499. Classified as Hasan by Albani)

Certainly the idea of mankind as being sinful in nature, and that of a person being held responsible for the sins of his ancestors, are not even remotely related. Also the fact that it is mentioned along with the issue about the People of Israel, leads us to maintain that it is not a concept related to Christian dogma of original sin.

LET ME TURN THE TABLES

Usually some missionary haters of Islam use this narration to attack Islam, so let’s show them the mirror.

Bible asserts that only Eve was deceived and she herself gave the forbidden fruit to Adam.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3: 5-7)

This is certainly different from Qur’an which says that both of them were deceived and Qur’an makes a special reference to Devil seducing Adam. Even the Hadith is not saying what the Bible says because taking it along the Qur’anic references to the story it becomes apparent that while she did speak to Adam about eating the forbidden fruit after being deceived, Adam was seduced by Devil himself.

According to Qur’an they both erred and then together sought Allah’s forgiveness whereas Bible is too dogmatic to assert to the contrary when it says;

“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1-Timothy 2: 14)

As to the specific reference to Eve’s fault in the Hadith under consideration, let me reiterate that it was for a special reason to instruct men in their behavior towards women and we find that another Hadith specifically mentioning Adam to have erred.

And Bible even says that pain during child birth and man ruling over her was a punishment for Eve for what she did. (See Genesis 3:16)

All this highlights the difference between Islamic and Christian approach.

To summarize: In Islam both Adam and Eve erred and were equally responsible (Qur’an 7: 20) Adam was personally seduced by the Devil (Qur’an 20:120) whereas Bible maintains only Eve was deceived by the Devil and she made Adam to eat the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:6) While Qur’an hold both of them responsible Bible categorically vindicates Adam and puts the blame on Eve (1-Timothy 2:14) Islam highlights their mistakes to show that it is only natural for humans to err Bible goes on to hold the subsequent generations responsible for the sin actually committed by their great grandparents (1-Corinthians 15:22)

Note: Translation of Hadith’s commentary  from Takmilah Fath al-Mulhim by sister Rabbaniya from Cairo, Egypt

Indeed Allah knows the best!


[1] Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Washtani al-Abi al-Maliki (d. 828 A.H.) For the referred passage see his work Ikmal Ikmal al-Muallim 4/101

[2] Ahmad bin ‘Ali Ibn Hajr al-Asqalanai al-Shafi’ (d. 852 A.H.)

[3] Fath al-Bari 10/110

[4] Abu Muhammad Mahmud bin Ahmad Badruddin al-‘Ayni al-Hanafi (d. 855 A.H.). For the quote given see his ‘Umdatul Qari 15/211

[5] Abu Huraira reported that Allah’s Messenger- may Allah bless him- said: "When Allah created Adam, He wiped his back and every soul of his offspring He was to create up to the Day of Resurrection dropped from his back. He made between the eyes of everyone of them a flash of light and presented them to Adam who asked, “O Lord, who are they?” He said, “These are your offspring.” He observed a man among them and was impressed by the light between his eyes and asked, “O Lord, who is he?” He said, “He is a man among the last of the communities of your offspring who is called Dawud.” He asked, “Lord, how long a life have You given him.” He said, “Sixty years.” Adam said, ‘O Lord, add to it forty years from my life.” When Adam’s span of life came to an end, the angel of death came to him, and he asked, “Do not another forty years still remain in my life span?” He replied, “Have you not given them to your son, Dawud?” But, Adam denied and his offspring denied (like him), and Adam forgot and likewise his offspring forgot, and Adam erred, so his offspring also erred." (Jami’ Tirmidhi, Hadith 3076. Classified as Hasan by Albani)

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2 comments :

    1. You could also bring up this verse against the Catholics:

      "From a woman sin had its beginning, and because of her we all die." (Ecclesiasticus 25:24).

      ReplyDelete
    2. awesommmeee blog! maashaAllah. Jazakallahu khaiyr. please keep it going!

      ReplyDelete