First Murder in the Earth: Qaabeel (Cain) and Haabeel (Abel)—Two Sons of Hazrat Adam and Moral Danger of Spiritual Envy
By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age Islam
5 August 2021
Jealousy and Murder: Two Major Crimes in the story of Cain and Abel
1. The Quran mentions this story to warn of the moral danger of spiritual envy and gravity of the sin of murder
2. The story encourages the early Muslims to deal leniently and forgivingly with those who had plotted to kill the Prophet and some of his companions
3. Jealousy made Qaabeel the first murderer in the history of human beings
4. Jealousy takes people away from the path of God Almighty and makes them blind to differentiate between belief and disbelief or right and wrong
5. Murder is prohibited in all the Shariahs including the past and the present, the Torah, the Gospel and the Quran, but the human beings have long ignored the divine prohibition
Qaabeel (Cain) killed Haabeel (Abel). The words of the Quran ‘Ibnay Adam’ in verse (5:27) indicate that Qaabeel and Haabeel were the real biological sons of Hazrat Adam. This was the first murder on earth. The Quran mentions this incident to warn mankind of the moral danger of spiritual envy and gravity of the sin of murder.
“And recount [O Prophet] to them the true tale of the two sons of Adam [Ibnay Adam]; when they each offered a sacrifice – hence the sacrifice of one was accepted and not accepted from the other. One said, “I swear I will kill you”. He [the other] said, “Allah accepts only from the pious.” “Indeed, if you do extend your hand against me to kill me, I will not extend my hand against you to kill you; I fear Allah, the Lord of the Creation.” “I only desire that you alone should bear my sin and your own sin – hence you become of the people of hell; and that is the proper punishment of the unjust.” So his soul [nafs] incited him to kill his brother – he, therefore, killed him and was therefore ruined. So Allah sent a crow scratching the ground, to show him how to hide his brother’s corpse; he said, “Woe to me! I was not even capable enough to be like this crow, so I would hide my brother’s corpse”; and he turned remorseful. For this reason; We decreed for the Descendants of Israel that whoever kills a human being except in lieu of killing or causing turmoil in the earth, so it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whoever saves the life of one person, is as if he had saved the life of all mankind; and undoubtedly Our Noble Messengers came to them with clear proofs – then after this indeed many of them are oppressors in the earth.” (5:27-32)
In these verses, Allah Almighty asks His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to recount the story of two sons of Hazrat Adam to the Jews and/or the Mushrikin of Arab who, according to the interpretation of verse 5:11, had plotted to kill the Prophet and some of his companions: “O you who have believed, remember the favour of Allah upon you when a people determined to extend their hands [in aggression] against you, but He withheld their hands from you; and fear Allah. And upon Allah let the believers rely.” (5:11). Some reports indicate that this verse was revealed when the Prophet and some of his companions went to the Banu Nadir, a Jewish clan of Madinah, seeking assistance in paying the wergild (diyah) for two Aamiri Muslims whom his men had killed. The leader of the clan namely Hayy b. Akhtab invited them in and feigned hospitality while secretly planning to kill the unarmed Prophet, following hostility towards his message out of their spiritual envy. However, the angel Jibril (Gabriel) came to inform the Prophet of the danger, and he left before they would carry out their plot.
Imam Tabari states that the reason for telling this account of Hazrat Adam’s two sons was to encourage the Muslims to deal leniently and forgivingly with those Jews who had been plotting to kill the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and some of his companions, and hence to follow the example of Haabeel, who did not raise his hand against his brother Qaabeel despite his brother’s threat to kill him. He cites a hadith, “Verily Allah gives you the example of the two sons of Adam; so take the path of the better of the two, and leave the path of the worse” (Tafsir-e-Tabari)
In verses 5:27-32, Allah Almighty commands his Prophet [peace be upon him] to describe the evil consequence of envy, transgression, and injustice in the story of Haabeel and Qaabeel. The Quran briefly mentions the story; however, the scholars of history recount the story in some detail. They report that Allah allowed Hazrat Adam to marry his daughters to his sons because of the necessity of such action at that time. They say that Hazrat Adam used to father twins, a boy, and a girl each time. Since there was the need to increase the human population, there was no alternative except that the offspring from every pair marry the opposite gender of another pair. The only restriction was that an individual of a twin could not marry the other twin from the same birth. They had to marry a partner from another birth.
According to Islamic and rabbinic tradition, Hazrat Adam wanted to marry Haabeel to Luluwa (also Aclima), the twin sister of Qaabeel, and Qaabeel to Layudha, the twin sister of Haabeel. Qaabeel protested because Haabeel’s twin sister was aesthetically less attractive than his twin sister. So he wanted his twin sister for himself stating that he was more entitled to his twin sister and refused to accept Hazrat Adam’s proposal. It was resolved that the matter be determined by either of them presenting a sacrifice to Allah. In those days, the sacrifice that was consumed by a fire from the heavens was considered to be accepted, and the one who had offered it would marry the more beautiful of the sisters. Eventually, Haabeel’s sacrifice was accepted. Qaabeel was now infuriated to the extent that he threatened to murder Haabeel, saying, “I will surely murder you”. Haabeel replied, “Allah accepts only from the pious.” In this way, he neither praised himself nor did he tell his brother that he was insincere in his sacrifice. To prolong the conversation, Haabeel added, “Indeed, if you do extend your hand against me to kill me, I will not extend my hand against you to kill you; I fear Allah, the Lord of the Creation.”
The commentators of the Quran mention that Haabeel was stronger than Qaabeel but chose not to defend himself (though it was permissible, according to some traditions) because he felt it was better to die as an oppressed person than to kill another. Eventually, Qaabeel killed Haabeel and this was the first murder among human beings.
The account of Haabeel and Qaabeel is apparently focused on the moral danger of spiritual envy and the gravity of the sin of murder. This is the jealousy that takes people away from the path of God Almighty and makes them blind to differentiate between belief and disbelief, right and wrong. This was the jealousy that made Qaabeel the first murderer in the history of human beings and led to his moral and spiritual destruction in the world. After Qaabeel murdered his brother Haabeel, Allah Almighty decreed as part of the Shariah of the Children of Israel that “whoever kills another for a reason other than [the murder of] of a soul or anarchy on the earth, then it is as if he had killed the entire mankind”. Murder is prohibited in all the Shariahs including the past and the present, the Torah, the Gospel, and the Quran. The gravity of the sin of murder can be sensed from the aforementioned verse that killing one man is equal to killing the entire humanity. However, human beings have long ignored the divine command and our planet is now filled with unjust happenings and stories of murder, let alone talking about the growing jealousy among human beings. Time to think, meditate and reform!
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