The Two Sons of Adam
Allah the All- High said: “And recite to them the true story of the two son of Adam, when they offered a sacrifice. It was accepted from one of them and not accepted from the other. The latter said, ‘I will kill you.’ The former said, Allah accepts only from those who are pious. Yet, if you stretch out your hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand to kill you, for I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds. I prefer that you bear the burden of my sin and your sin and so you become the inhabitants of the Fire, that is the recompense of the transgressors.’ His soul then prompted him to kill his brother and he killed him, and became one of the losers. Then Allah sent a raven scratching into the earth to show him how to bury the corpse of his brother. He said, ‘Woe to me, I was not even able to do as this raven thus burying my brother?’ He became full of remorse.” (Qur’an 5:27-31)
Some Companions narrated that Adam married the son from one delivery to the daughter from another delivery. Hâbeel (Abel) wanted to marry the sister of Qâbeel (Cain). Cain was older than him and his twin sister was more beautiful. So Cain wanted to keep his twin sister for himself. Adam (May peace be upon him) ordered Cain to marry her with Abel, but he refused to do so. Then he order them both to offer sacrifice, and left for Makkah to perform Hajj.
After Adam had left, both offered their sacrifices. Abel, who was a shepherd, offered a fat lamb. Cain offered a bundle of the worst crops he had grown. A fire came down and destroyed the sacrifice of Cain, leaving the sacrifice of Abel untouched. Cain became angry and threatened Abel, “I will kill you so that you do not marry my sister.” Abel replied, “Allah accepts only from those who fear Him.”
In another version of the incident, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr (may Allah be pleased with him) said: “By God, the victim (Abel) was the stronger of the two, however, obedience restrained him from stretching his hand out to Cain to kill him.”
Abu Jâ’far al-Bâqir mentioned that Adam was present and saw each of them offer their sacrifices and also saw the acceptance from Abel. Cain said to Adam (peace be upon him), “Abel’s offering was accepted only because you prayed for him and did not pray for me.” Then he threatened his brother regarding the matter they had a dispute in. One night, Abel was late after tending his flock. So Adam (peace be upon him) sent Cain to see what happened to him. When Cain went looking for him, he found him and there he said, “Your offering was accepted, but mine was not.” Abel replied, “Allah accepts only from those who fear Him.” This made Cain angry and hit his brother with the iron he held in his hand thus killing him. There is another opinion that suggests that Cain killed Abel by throwing a rock on his head while he was sleeping. In a third version of the incident, it is said that he strangled him to death and bit him like a beast.
Hâbeel’s (Abel) response to Qâbeel (Cain) when the latter threatened him is a sign of his noble characters and piety. His response was,
“Yet, if you stretch out your hand against me to kill me, I shall not stretch out my hand to kill you, for I fear Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (Qur’an 5:28)
He refrained himself from responding with the same threat that his brother made towards him.
It is authentically reported by both, Bukhari and Muslim that the Prophet (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“When two Muslims confront each other with their swords, then the murderer and the murdered both are in Hell.” The Companions asked, “O’ Messenger of Allah, we understand the case of the murderer but what about the victim?” The Prophet said, “Because he was also keen to kill the other man.”
The verse: “I prefer that you bear the burden of my sin and your sin, and so become an inhabitant of the Fire, that is the recompense of the transgressors.” (Qur’an 5:29) -means that I do not want to kill you even though I am stronger than you. I want you to bear the sin of murdering me with the sins of whatever you have done previously. Mujâhid, as-Suddi, Ibn Jareer and others held this opinion.
This should not be misunderstood to mean that the sins of a murder victim transfer automatically to the murderer, as some people may understand it. Ibn Jareer has mentioned that there is consensus contrary to this erroneous understanding.
It should be noted here that there is a hadith attributed to the Prophet (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) that he said, “The murderer does not take any sin from the murdered.” This is not a hadith since it has no basis absolutely and no chain. No compiler of hadith recorded it. It is neither an authentic hadith, nor hasan nor even any weak one.
However, it may happen with some people on the Day of Judgement that when the good deeds of the murderer could not recompense for the crime of the murder he had committed, the murder victim may demand that his sin be transferred to the murderer. This will happen in all types of crime and injustices a person commits against other. Without doubt, murder is one of the greatest crimes. And Allah knows best. All praise is to Allah, we have mentioned this in detail in our book of Tafseer.
Imams Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Tirmidhi have reported the following on the authority of Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqâs (may Allah be pleased with him) who was present at the time of the fitnah which took place when the Caliph ‘Uthmân ibn ‘Affân (may Allah be pleased with him) was murdered. He said: “I bear witness that the Prophet (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said,
‘There will be Fitnah very soon. The one who sat down during it will be better than the one who is standing. Similarly, the one who is standing will be better than the one who was walking. And the one who is walking will be better than the one who is running.’ Sa’d (may Allah be pleased with him) said, ‘Tell me what I should do when if someone enters my home and wants to kill me?’ The Prophet replied, ‘Be like the son of Adam.’”
In another version of the same hadith, it says: “Be like the better of the two sons of Adam.” (Ahmad, vol 1, p 169; Abu Dawood, kitâb al-Fitan, Bâb an-Nahie an as-Sa’ee fi al-Fitna. Imam Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmidhi and Ibn Mâjah all reported this hadith on the authority of Abu Dharr)
Imam Ahmad reported on the authority of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood (may Allah be pleased with him) that the Prophet (may the Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) said:
“No person is killed unjustly except that the first son of Adam bears a part of that sin. This is because he was the first to kill.” (Ahmad, vol 1 p. 383)
The historians have mentioned that Adam (Peace be upon him) became very sad when his son Hâbeel (Abel) was killed. It is asserted that he expressed this in some poems. However, it cannot be conclusively said that Adam said these poems.
Mujâhid says that the punishment of Qâbeel (Cain) for murdering Abel was brought forward to the day he killed his brother. This was in the form of his shanks being joined against his thighs. Also, his face was turned towards the sun such that it moved wherever the sun moved. All this was as a punishment for his sin, his transgression and envy against his brother and parents.