Eve an Equal to Adam: Not Created by the Rib
By: Agha Shabbir Abbas
According to the United Nations nearly 35% of women worldwide are subjected to gender-based violence during their lifetime, this statistic is not only saddening but also quite shocking. How is it that every third female is a victim, yet we rarely hear of this issue being discussed? Such staggering numbers if related to any other subgroup, be it that of ethnicity, race, or religious background, would most definitely be the focus of societal interest, where the great thinkers and leaders would rush towards solving said issue [whether they find a resolution is irrelevant]. Yet, we find none of that here, and it is only now due to social media that the issue of gender-based violence has started to receive notice.
It is unfortunate to state that such violence is rampant throughout the world without exception, more so within Islamic countries wherein Muslims tend to claim moral superiority. The reasons and explanations given for the problem of violence against women are numerous, but one such reason is the assumption that women are somewhat less human than men. In the Abrahamic community, specifically those who follow Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, many believe that the first woman, Eve, was created from the rib of Adam. Therefore, it is postulated that since Eve was created from Adam, she must have been created to serve Adam and thus women are subjects of men, in importance just above livestock.
Both creation story and hierarchical concept are rejected vociferously by the school of Ahl al-Bayt. We find in Man lā yahduruhu al-Faqīh, one of the major Imāmi hadīth compilations, that the companion Zurārah asked Imām al-Sādiq (‘a) whether Eve was created from Adam’s rib or not? The Imām responded as such:
“سبحان الله وتعالى عن ذلك علواً كبيراً! يقول من يقول هذا : إن الله تبارك وتعالى لم يكن له من القدرة ما يخلق لآدم زوجة من غير ضلعه..”
(من لا يحضره الفقيه 3 : 379)
“Glory is to Allah! He is far above such statements! What, did Allah not have the power to create a spouse for Adam from anything other than his rib?”
Here the Imām, the inheritor of divine prophetic knowledge, not only rebukes said notion but also labels it as illogical and insulting to the position of the Almighty. Furthermore, his father, Imām al-Bāqir (‘a), answered in detail as to how Eve was created:
عن عمرو بن أبى المقدام عن أبيه قال: سألت أبا جعفر (عليه السلام) من أي شيء خلق الله حواء: فقال: أى شئ يقولون هذا الخلق؟ قلت: يقولون: ان الله خلقها من ضلع من اضلاع آدم، فقال: كذبوا أكان الله يعجزه أن يخلقها من غير ضلعه؟ فقلت: جعلت فداك يا بن رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله): من أى شئ خلقها؟ فقال أخبرنى أبى عن أبائه قال: قال رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وآله): ان الله تبارك وتعالى قبض قبضة من طين فخلطها بيمينه ـ وكلتا يديه يمين ـ فخلق منها آدم وفضلت فضلة من الطين فخلق منها حواء
(تفسير العياشي مخطوط ، عنه البحار : ج 11 ص 116)
On the authority of ‘Amr b. Abi Miqdām on the authority of his father, who said:
“I asked al-Bāqir from what material was Eve created?”
He responded: “And what do they (the people) say about this creation?”
I said: “they say from one of Adam’s ribs”
Then he responded: “they lied, was Allah unable to create her except out of Adam’s rib?”
Then I said: “May I be sacrificed for you O son of the prophet of Allah, from what did He create her?”
He said: “My father told me on the authority of his fathers that the prophet of Allah said: God, blessed and exalted be He, held some clay and mixed it with his right hand (metaphorical), and both of His hands are right, so He created out of it Adam and part of it which was left untouched He created Eve from it”
Thus, according to the school of Ahl al-Bayt, Eve was not created from the rib of Adam, but she was created from the very same substance that Adam was, which is clay. Hence, in creation she is not at all inferior to Adam but an equal. Therefore, other schools of thought may oppress women by maintaining the fallacy of subservience based on Adam’s rib, however the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt should be far from this error. Ergo the followers of the Ahl al-Bayt must be exemplary in their mannerisms towards women, they must lead the charge in combating gender-based violence, they must be on the forefront of defending the rights of women.
Lest we forget, there is also historical imperative for us to fight violence against women, to stand up for their rights. After his departure from this temporal world, Muslims who had yet to understand Islam, threatened the daughters of Muhammad (s) be it at their door or at the plains of Karbalā’. They wanted them silent, yet their voices live on through our remembrance; let us add this angle to their remembrance, that after Fātimah, after Sakinah and Ruqayyah, no man dare raise his hand to strike, for we will break that hand and much more.
Picture: (Folio from a Falnama (Book of omens) Angels bow before Adam and Eve in Paradise mid Safavid period Opaque watercolor and gold on paper H: W: cm Qazvin, Iran)
UN Facts and figures: Ending violence against women