“Some christians say that women are more prone to sin because Eve was tempted to eat the forbidden fruit first. Does Islam also say that women are more prone to sin? جَزَاكُمُ اللَّهُ خَيْرًا”
Based on the creation story found in the Bible, some Christians believe that Eve (Hawwa) encouraged Adam to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, which ultimately led to them being expelled from Paradise. This incident is referred to by Christians as the Fall of Man. Some, but not all, Christians believe that it was Eve who caused the original sin and who deceived Adam. And so, Eve and her female offspring (i.e. women) are the bearers of this sin. As a punishment, the Bible says that God told Eve:
“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” [Genesis 3:16]
Early Church figures, such as Paul (1 Timothy 2:12-14) and Tertullian (The Apparel of Women, Book I, Chapter 1) held the view that women are prone to disobedience and transgression on account of this story.
This is the Christian view on the story, not the Islamic one. However, it has been reported that Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) said something similar. He said, “When Adam ate from the tree which he was prohibited from, Allah, the Exalted said, ‘What made you disobey me’? He said, ‘My Lord, Hawwa beautified it for me’. He said, ‘Verily I will punish her by not allowing her to get pregnant except with difficulty, nor give birth except with difficulty, and to menstruate twice every month’. When Hawwa heard that she screamed. So He said to her, ‘Upon you is to scream and your daughters” [Reported by al-Hakim and others. Hafidh Ibn Hajar graded it Saheeh Mawqoof in al-Mataalib ul-‘Aliyyah (2/515)]
This narration, despite its authenticity to Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), is not proof because it is well-known that Ibn ‘Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) used to read and take from the Isra’eeliyyat (stories of the Children of Israel). Thus, he most likely took this story from them, especially considering that it is found in the Old Testament as seen above.
If we return to the Qur’an, then there is no indication that Hawwa ate from the tree first or that she encouraged Adam to do so. Rather, we see that Shaytan whispered to the both of them to eat from the tree, and they both did, and they both repented for it. Allah says:
“Then Shaitan (Satan) whispered suggestions to them both in order to uncover that which was hidden from them of their private parts (before); he said: “Your Lord did not forbid you this tree save you should become angels or become of the immortals.” And he [Shaitan (Satan)] swore by Allah to them both (saying): “Verily, I am one of the sincere well-wishers for you both.” So he misled them with deception. Then when they tasted of the tree, that which was hidden from them of their shame (private parts) became manifest to them and they began to stick together the leaves of Paradise over themselves (in order to cover their shame). And their Lord called out to them (saying): “Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you: Verily, Shaitan (Satan) is an open enemy unto you?” They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If You forgive us not, and bestow not upon us Your Mercy, we shall certainly be of the losers.” [7: 20-23]
Imam as-Sa’di (d. 1376 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, said in commentary, “That is: we both did the sin which we were prohibited from, and harmed ourselves by committing the sin, and we have done that which is a cause of failure if You do not forgive us by removing the effects of sins and its punishments, and have mercy upon us by accepting our repentance and pardon us from the likes of these sins. So Allah forgive them both”. End. [Tafseer as-Sa’di (pg. 285)]
In fact, some scholars mention that it was Adam who ate the fruit first and then Hawwa followed him in it. Ibn ‘Ashur (d. 1394 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, said in commentary of [20:122] of the Qur’an:
“So Adam acted upon the whispers of Shaytan to eat from the tree and Hawwa ate with him. Shaytaan restricted himself to deceive Adam, even though he wanted Adam and Hawwa to both eat from it, due to him knowing that a woman innately follows her husband … so Adam opposed the prohibition of Allah in eating from the tree and the disobedience was ascribed to Adam proving that Adam was the role model for his wife. When he ate from the tree, his wife followed him in it. In this is the meaning of the verse of Allah: “O you who believe! Ward off from yourselves and your families a Fire (Hell)” [66:6]”. End. [at-Tahreer wat-Tanweer (16/326-327)]
Despite the aforementioned evidence, many of our scholars hold the view that Hawwa ate from the tree first. For example, Hafidh Ibn Kathir (d. 774 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, said, “Hawwa ate from the tree before Adam and she was the one who encouraged him to eat it. And Allah Knows Best”. End. [Saheeh Qassas al-Anbiyaa (pg. 23)]
They use as evidence the following hadith:
“Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Prophet (ﷺ) said,
وَلَوْلاَ حَوَّاءُ لَمْ تَخُنْ أُنْثَى زَوْجَهَا
‘And if it were not for Eve, wives would never betray their husbands’ [al-Bukhari (no. 3330) and Muslim (no. 1470)]
They explain this Hadith to mean that Hawwa betrayed Adam by eating from the tree first and encouraged him to do so. Hafidh Ibn Hajar (d. 852 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, said:
“His (ﷺ) statement: “Wives would not betray their husbands” is an indication of what occurred from Hawwa in terms of her beautifying eating from the tree for Adam until he did so. So the meaning of betrayal is that she accepted what Iblis adorned for her until she adorned it for Adam. Since she is the mother of the daughters of Adam, they resemble her in terms of childbirth and menstruation. By extension, there is almost no woman who is free from betraying her husband in action or speech. However, the intent of betrayal here is not committing adultery, may Allah forbid. Rather when Hawwa inclined to her desire to eat from the tree and adorned this for Adam, that was considered betraying him. As for those who come after her from the women [i.e. females] then each of them has their own type of betrayal…that is from their nature. So there should not be extremism in criticizing what occurs from her without intent or occurs rarely. Thus, it is necessary for women to not allow this nature to dominate over her by expanding in it, rather they should regulate themselves and strive against their desires. And in Allah aid is sought”. End. [Fath ul-Baari (6/424)]
Something similar was said by Imam an-Nawawi (d. 676 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, in Sharh Saheeh Muslim (9/50) and by many other Scholars.
However, this explanation is rooted in the idea that Hawwa ate from the tree first and as explained above, we do not have a clear authentic proof from the Qur’an and Sunnah to prove that. For those reasons, we have other Scholars who interpreted the Hadith otherwise. These Scholars interpreted the Hadith to mean that Hawwa betrayed Adam by not offering him advice to not eat from the tree.
Imam Ibn Hubayrah (d. 560 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, said: “It was said that her betrayal was that when she saw Adam determined to eat from the tree, she left off advising him about the prohibition for it. This is because leaving off advice to him is betrayal. So based on this, anyone who sees his fellow Muslim upon a path like that [i.e. sin] and leaves off advising him of the prohibiition, then he has betrayed him. This person is not removed from the name traitor/betrayer about whom Allah said with certainty:
“Certainly Allah likes not the treacherous” [8:58]”
End. [al-Ifsaah ‘an Ma’aani as-Sihaah (7/230)]
Hafidh Ibn ul-Jawzi (d. 597 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, said, “As for Hawwa’s betrayal of her husband, then it was leaving off advice in relation to the affair of the tree and not in anything else”. End. [Kashaf ul-Mushkil (4/504)]
Imam Ibn ul-Atheer (d. 606 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, said, “Hawwa betrayed Adam by leaving off advising him in regards to the tree and not in anything else”. End.[Jami’ al-Usool (no. 7830)]
Shaikh Sideeq Hasan Khan (d.1307 H.), may Allah have mercy upon him, said, “Hawwa’s betrayal of Adam was leaving off advising him in regards to eating from the tree and not in anything else”. End. [Husn ul-Uswah bi ma Thabata minallahi wa Rasulihi fin-Niswa (pg. 454)]
So this latter interpretation, and Allah knows best, is more in line with the apparent texts of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Thus, what is intended by the narration is that since Hawwa betrayed Adam by not advising him to avoid the prohibition of Allah, then wives will too betray their husbands in this regard. Even if we understand the Hadith how the majority of our Scholars did, then it does not mean women are prone to sin more than men, but rather that this aforementioned quality/nature of our mother Hawwa has been passed down to her daughters too.
Someone may ask: why is this quality passed down to women and no quality was passed down to men from Adam despite him eating from the tree as well? The answer is that there is a quality that is passed down from Adam to his sons just as Hawwa passed down a quality to her daughters based on this story. It comes in Sunan at-Tirmidhi:
فَجَحَدَ آدَمُ فَجَحَدَتْ ذُرِّيَّتُهُ
Adam denied, so his offspring denied [Saheeh at-Tirmidhi (no. 3076)]
This is part of a longer Hadith. The meaning of this Hadith is when Adam denied the notion that he gave forty years of his lifespan to Prophet Dawood, this quality of denial was inherited by his children [See: Tuhfatul-Ahwadhi (8/363) and Mirqaah al-Mafaateeh (1/300)]
It is for those reason that Hafidh Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy upon him) said in the commentary of the Hadith, “And if it was not for Eve, wives would never betray their husbands”: “And close to this Hadith [in meaning] is the Hadith, ‘Adam denied, so his offspring denied'”. End. [Fath ul-Baari (6/424)]
In summary, unlike what some of the Christians believe, Muslims do not believe that women are the source of evil, or disobedience, or that she is prone to sin more than men. Rather, our sources teach us that Adam and Hawwa (may peace be upon them both) both ate from the tree, both repented to Allah for it, and Allah accepted both of their repentance.
And Allah Knows best
Faisal Ibn Abdul Qaadir Ibn Hassan