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Cain and Abel in Islam

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Cain and Abel in Islam

A depiction of Cain burying Abel from an illuminated manuscript version of Stories of the Prophets

Cain and Abel (Arabic: هابيل ,قابيل , Qabil and Habil) are believed by Muslims to have been the first two sons of Adam and Eve, although they are not mentioned by their names in the Quran. The story in the Qur'an[1] is virtually the same as the Hebrew Bible narrative, saying that both the brothers were asked to offer up individual sacrifices to God. God accepted Abel's sacrifice because of Abel's righteousness and Cain, out of jealousy, slew Abel. This was the first ever sin committed upon Earth but Abel was chronicled in history as one of the first believers and as the first ever martyr. Although Islam does not traditionally view Abel as a prophet, some scholars speak of him as a prophet like his father.[2]

In the Qur'an

Of Adam's first children, Cain was the elder son and Abel the younger. Each of them presented a sacrifice to God but it was accepted only from Abel, because of the latter's righteous attitude and his faith and firm belief in God. After the offering of their sacrifices, Cain, the wicked sibling, taunted Abel out of envy and told him that he would surely slay him. Abel justly warned Cain that God only accepted the sacrifice of those that are righteous in their doings. He further went on to tell Cain that if Cain did indeed try to slay him,[3] Abel would not retaliate and slay him because the God-fearing would never murder for the sake of envy. Abel then told Cain that in murdering him, he would carry the weight not only of his sin but also of the sins of his victim.[4] The victim, as a result, in suffering the injustice, would be forgiven his own sins and the murderer, while being warned, would consequently increase his own sin. Abel preached powerfully and reminded Cain that the punishment for murder would be that he would spend the afterlife in the fires of Hell.

The innocent pleading and preaching of Abel had no effect upon Cain, for he was full of arrogance, pride and jealousy. He subsequently slew[5] the righteous Abel, but in doing so, he ruined himself and became of those who remain lost. This would be the earliest example of the murder of a righteous man taking place upon the earth. In the future, many other evildoers would slay the wise and pious believers.

Right after the murder took place, Allah (God) sent a crow who scratched the ground to show Cain how to hide the dead body of his brother. Cain, in his shame, began to curse himself[6] and he became full of guilt. The thought of the crime at last came to the murderer, as he realized indeed how dreadful it was to slay anyone, the more so as the victim was an innocent and righteous man. Full of regrets, Cain was marked with deep sorrow. The Qur'an states, "Then he became one of those who regretted." 5:31 (Chapter 5, verse 31)

Message

The Qur'an states that the story of Cain and Abel was a message[7] for mankind, as it had told them about the consequences of murder and that the killing of one person would be as if he/she had slain the whole of mankind. But the Qur'an states that still people rejected the message of the story and continued to commit grave sins, slaying prophets, messengers as well as the righteous people. All the prophets who preached since the time of Adam were persecuted, insulted or reviled in one way or another. With some righteous men, however, the Qur'an states that people went one step further, in attempting to slay them or indeed slaying them. The Qur'an itself mentions the slaying of the righteous, saying "As to those who deny the Signs of God and in defiance of right, slay the prophets, and slay those who teach just dealing with mankind, announce to them a grievous penalty".[8]

References

  1. ^ Quran 5:27: "Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! they each presented a sacrifice (to Allah. It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter: 'Be sure I will slay thee.' 'Surely' said the former, '(God) doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.'
  2. ^ Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation, Commentary, Yusuf Ali, note. 57: "The slaying of the prophets begins with the murder of Abel, who was in the ancestry of Israel."
  3. ^ Quran 5:28: "'If thou dost stretch thy hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against thee to slay thee': for I do fear God, the cherisher of the worlds.'"
  4. ^ Quran 5:29: "'For me, I intend to let thee draw on thyself my sin as well as thine, for thou wilt be among the companions of the fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong.'"
  5. ^ Quran 5:30: "The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones."
  6. ^ Quran 5:31: "Then Allah sent a crow, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the dead body of his brother. 'Woe to me!' said he. 'Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?' Then he became full of regrets."
  7. ^ Quran 5:32: "On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land."
  8. ^ Quran 3:21
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