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Hadith about height of Adam and later generations explained

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله وحده و الصلاة و السلام على من لا نبي بعده و على آله و أصحابه أجمعين
Here is a brief response to two objections on hadith for allegedly contradicting historical and related information; i.e. Adam's height of 60 cubits and about relation between the height of successive human generations.

Some have raised questions about hadith description of Adam’s height and statement about the height of his progeny. 

The hadith goes as:

عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه، عن النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم، قال: " خلق الله آدم وطوله ستون ذراعا، ثم قال: اذهب فسلم على أولئك من الملائكة، فاستمع ما يحيونك، تحيتك وتحية ذريتك، فقال السلام عليكم، فقالوا: السلام عليك ورحمة الله ، فزادوه: ورحمة الله، فكل من يدخل الجنة على صورة آدم، فلم يزل الخلق ينقص حتى الآن "

The Prophet said, "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. When He created him, He said to him, "Go and greet that group of angels, and listen to their reply, for it will be your greeting (salutation) and the greeting (salutations of your offspring." So, Adam said (to the angels), As-Salamu Alaikum (i.e. Peace be upon you). The angels said, "As-salamu Alaika wa Rahmatu-l-lahi" (i.e. Peace and Allah's Mercy be upon you). Thus the angels added to Adam's salutation the expression, 'Wa Rahmatu-l-lahi,' Any person who will enter Paradise will resemble Adam (in appearance and figure). People have been decreasing in stature since Adam's creation.(Sahih Bukhari, Book 55 Hadith 543)

Two points are important here:

1. Adam’s height

2. Relation between the heights of successive human generations

It is said that historic information contends against both these assertions. 

We deal the two briefly below;

1. Height of Adam:

The height of Adam was sixty cubits according to this hadith but other hadith reports clarify that it was so in the heavens. 

عن أبي هريرة رضي الله عنه، قال: قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: «إن أول زمرة يدخلون الجنة على صورة القمر ليلة البدر، ثم الذين يلونهم على أشد كوكب دري في السماء إضاءة، لا يبولون ولا يتغوطون، ولا يتفلون ولا يمتخطون، أمشاطهم الذهب، ورشحهم المسك، ومجامرهم الألوة الأنجوج، عود الطيب وأزواجهم الحور العين، على خلق رجل واحد، على صورة أبيهم آدم، ستون ذراعا في السماء

Allah's Apostle said, "The first group of people who will enter Paradise, will be glittering like the full moon and those who will follow them, will glitter like the most brilliant star in the sky. They will not urinate, relieve nature, spit, or have any nasal secretions. Their combs will be of gold, and their sweat will smell like musk. The aloes-wood will be used in their centers. Their wives will be houris. All of them will look alike and will resemble their father Adam (in statute), sixty cubits tall in the heavens."

(Sahih Bukhari, Book 55 Hadith 544) Commonly used translation misses the translation of the last two words in the original- highlighted in red in Arabic above. See Ustadha Aisha Bewley’s translation, Hadith 3149 HERE
Scholars like Imam Abu al-‘Abbas al-Qurtubi[1] and lately Shaykh Anwar Shah al-Kashmiri[2] have said that it means the inmates of Paradise will have the height of their father Adam who was sixty cubits in the heavens. 

This clarifies the first point that Adam’s height was 60 cubits in the Paradise according to this hadith and it does not say anything about his height after he landed on this planet. More on it follows under the next point.

2. Relation between the heights of successive human generations

The hadith also has the following statement towards its end;

فكل من يدخل الجنة على صورة آدم، فلم يزل الخلق ينقص حتى الآن
Normally it is translated as;

“Any person who will enter Paradise will resemble Adam (in appearance and figure). People have been decreasing in stature since Adam's creation.

It is said that “ancient records or the fossil beds” do not support any such assertion. While that may be true we need to see if the hadith has been understood the right way in the first place?

Some scholars actually contend that it does not even mean this in the first place. Commenting on the highlighted phrase, one of the greatest scholars of our day, Mufti Taqi Usmani states:

ليس معناه أن قامات الناس لم تزل تنقص في كل قرن، بل المراد أن الجسم الإنسان لم يزل ناقصاً بعده. ويؤخذ هذا مما قدمناه عن شيخ مشايخنا الكشميري رحمه الله أن ستين ذراعاً إنما كانت مقدار قامة آدم عليه السلام في الجنّة، فلما نزل عنها عاد إلى القصر، ولم يزل أبناؤه يولدون بقرب من هذه القامة إلى يومنا الآن، وإنما يرجعون إلى أصل قامتهم حينما يعودون إلى الجنّة. فقوله عليه السلام: "لم يزل ينقص": معناه: أنه لم يزل يولد ناقصاً، والله سبحانه وتعالى أعلم

 “It does not mean the height of people has not ceased decreasing with every generation, rather it means the human body has not ceased to be imperfect thereafter. This is taken from what has reached us from the teacher of our teachers (Anwar Shah) al-Kashmiri, may Allah have mercy on him, that sixty hands was the height of Adam in the Paradise and when he fell from it he became short and to this day of ours his children have not ceased to be on almost the same (short) height. And they will return to their original height when they go back to Paradise. So the saying of Prophet (May peace be upon him), "they have not stopped being short" means that have they not stopped being born imperfect i.e. on the same short height. Allah the Perfect and Almighty knows best!”[3]

Simply put in the Paradise Adam’s height was 60 cubits however on Earth it was reduced from its original perfect height and it continues that way to this day. However, when humans will eventually return to Paradise they will attain the same height.

This not only gives the plain and unproblematic interpretation of the last phrase it also tells us that Adam’s height seized to be 60 cubits after his landing on the Earth.

Indeed Allah knows the best!

-- by Waqar Akbar Cheema

[1] Al-Qurtubi, Abu al-Abbas, al-Mufhim lima Ashkala fi Talkhis Kitab Muslim, 23/45
[2] Al-Kashmiri, Anwar Shah, Fayd al-Bari, Vol.6 p.5
[3] Usmani, Muhammad Taqi, Takmila Fath al-Mulhim, Vol.6, p.158

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    1. Indeed Allah does know best. Maybe it could mean he was 60 cubits on earth also. Even the Jews have references to people in old testament who were much taller and i've read in some other jewish books that they believed Adam was also taller than todays humans, just like Muhammad was saying.
      Anyways your explanation could be so also.

    2. Amos
      God destroyed the Amorites who were a race of giants as tall as cedars and as strong as oaks. 2:9


      Deriving [H] from [H], one's stature. That is, the people will gain in stature to twice the height of Adam. According to tradition, Adam's height was one hundred cubits (Hag. 12a). chagigah 12a

    3. How about this narration?

      أن آدم لما أهبط كانت رجلاه في الأرض ورأسه في السماء، فحطه الله إلى ستين ذراعا

      1. it is not reported from the Prophet (saaw). It is a saying of Qatadah or 'Ata bin Rabah. Though Ibn Hajr writes in Fath al-Bari that Abdul Razzaq has narrated it in Marfu' form, in reality with Abdul Razzaq (in both Musannaf and his Tasfir) it goes back only to Qatadah.

        It is even against the authentic hadith quoted above in this article that Adam's height of 60 cubits was so even in the heavens.

        So both the chain and text makes it dubious. It is evidently from Israeliyat.

        Allah knows the best!

    4. Good explanation ! It makes logical sense...

    5. I can definitely see that Adams height on Earth may not have been 60 cubit

      Now as for the 2nd part I have a question. My question is that usual translation is "not stopped decreasING since then", whereas the translation offered by this article would translate it as "not stopped BEING decreased since then". I do not know enough Arabic to know if that is valid translation of that part of sentence in arabic language. Please could you clarify.

      Although I await your response, having asked this question to you, I kind of now see the first point backing up your translation..If Adam was no longer 60 cubits when he was on Earth, it would be near implausible that human height would be continuously shrinking since then otherwise we would all be 5 inches tall - i mean what point would shrinkage of just millimetres or centimetres be?! So your translation does make more sense in light of this too.

      1. To CLEAR on the two different translations of the last part of the hadith,the translation I've found better and comfortable with is this "People kept lacking so far."

        finally to reveal where I have got this translation-- to tell it simply and truly I have used google translate.

    6. I have to say, I learnt about this hadith in College and it was one of the things which confused me knowing what archeology teaches us in textbooks. So your clarification is extremely welcome and appreciated.

      You're doing a wonderful job.

    7. As salaam aleykum. Thank you so much for this very clear information, it makes a lot more sense to me and you kept it well within logical reasoning and makes Islam seem very rational. Jazakallah khair and may Allah grant you Jannatul Firdaus

    8. This is a very old article but I heard this opinion recently and was a bit confused especially by the last bit but this clarified it wonderfully Alhamdulillah