What Does “Allah Created Adam in His Image” Mean?

The Jews and Christians understood this anthropomorphically from the Old Testament. They may refer to God as a “perfect man in the sky” or a “big man” and other man-like characteristics.

Muslims almost never understood it this way, aside from a tiny few of sectarians.

Hadith

This hadith has been transmitted on the authority of Abu Huraira and in the hadith transmitted on the authority of Ibn Hatim Allah’s Apostle (ﷺ) is reported to have said: When any one of you fights with his brother, he should avoid his face for Allah created Adam in His own image (surah).

حَدَّثَنَا نَصْرُ بْنُ عَلِيٍّ الْجَهْضَمِيُّ، حَدَّثَنِي أَبِي، حَدَّثَنَا الْمُثَنَّى، ح وَحَدَّثَنِي مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ، حَاتِمٍ حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّحْمَنِ بْنُ مَهْدِيٍّ، عَنِ الْمُثَنَّى بْنِ سَعِيدٍ، عَنْ قَتَادَةَ، عَنْ أَبِي أَيُّوبَ، عَنْ أَبِي هُرَيْرَةَ، قَالَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَفِي حَدِيثِ ابْنِ حَاتِمٍ عَنِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ ‏ “‏ إِذَا قَاتَلَ أَحَدُكُمْ أَخَاهُ فَلْيَجْتَنِبِ الْوَجْهَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ خَلَقَ آدَمَ عَلَى صُورَتِهِ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Sahih Muslim 2612 e

Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) as saying: Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, created Adam in his image with his length of sixty cubits, and as He created him He told him to greet that group, and that was a party of angels sitting there, and listen to the response that they give him, for it would form his greeting and that of his offspring. He then went away and said: Peace be upon you! They (the angels) said: May there be peace upon you and the Mercy of Allah, and they made an addition of” Mercy of Allah”. So he who would get into Paradise would get in the form of Adam, his length being sixty cubits, then the people who followed him continued to diminish in size up to this day.

حَدَّثَنَا مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ رَافِعٍ، حَدَّثَنَا عَبْدُ الرَّزَّاقِ، أَخْبَرَنَا مَعْمَرٌ، عَنْ هَمَّامِ بْنِ مُنَبِّهٍ، قَالَ هَذَا مَا حَدَّثَنَا بِهِ أَبُو هُرَيْرَةَ، عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏.‏ فَذَكَرَ أَحَادِيثَ مِنْهَا وَقَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ خَلَقَ اللَّهُ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ آدَمَ عَلَى صُورَتِهِ طُولُهُ سِتُّونَ ذِرَاعًا فَلَمَّا خَلَقَهُ قَالَ اذْهَبْ فَسَلِّمْ عَلَى أُولَئِكَ النَّفَرِ وَهُمْ نَفَرٌ مِنَ الْمَلاَئِكَةِ جُلُوسٌ فَاسْتَمِعْ مَا يُجِيبُونَكَ فَإِنَّهَا تَحِيَّتُكَ وَتَحِيَّةُ ذُرِّيَّتِكَ قَالَ فَذَهَبَ فَقَالَ السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكُمْ فَقَالُوا السَّلاَمُ عَلَيْكَ وَرَحْمَةُ اللَّهِ – قَالَ – فَزَادُوهُ وَرَحْمَةُ اللَّهِ – قَالَ – فَكُلُّ مَنْ يَدْخُلُ الْجَنَّةَ عَلَى صُورَةِ آدَمَ وَطُولُهُ سِتُّونَ ذِرَاعًا فَلَمْ يَزَلِ الْخَلْقُ يَنْقُصُ بَعْدَهُ حَتَّى الآنَ ‏”‏ ‏.‏

Sahih Muslim 2841

Interpretations

There are over a half-dozen interpretations as to what this means. One is that the pronoun refers to prophet Adam ﷺ. The above hadith seems to indicate that, since it then talks about his height. Adam ﷺ did not go through the stages of the womb and growth, rather he was created at once.

Another interpretation is that ar-Rahman created Adam ﷺ in the surah/image of Ar-Rahman. But Ar-Rahman does not have a body, head, ears, and eyes like we have. He is Self-Sufficient and incomparable, nothing is like Him. Rather it means He created Adam ﷺ with these attributes of life, knowledge, speech, willpower, hearing, and seeing, and then you add to that generosity, courage, forgiveness, clemency, etc. The names of Allah ﷻ which reflect His Essence and His Qualities and His Acts, these also then have a special reference to the human being which are in a way shared, but not in the way an idolater would understand. They are utterly different. They are names which are the same names. But nevertheless because God created us with a disposition that is perfectly attuned, like a gyroscope that always comes back straight, that these names and realities they bespeak, the kinds of deeds we’re able to do (even evil), these enable us to understand the world and understand the world’s Lord. Of the wisdoms of evil that human beings do is to know the nature of creation, of good of punishment and reward, etc. The names of God are intensely manifested in the human being. The human being is the vicegerent and receptacle of that knowledge. There is a hadith:

‘Imam Tabarani (rahimahullah) has recorded a Hadith on the authority of Sayyiduna Abu ‘Inabah Al-Khawlani (radiyallahu’anhu) that Rasulullah (sallallahu’alayhi wasallam) said:

‘Indeed Allah Ta’ala has reserved certain individuals among the inhabitants of earth as his containers. The containers of your Rabb are the hearts of his pious slaves, and the most beloved of hearts to Allah are the softest and most tender’

(Al-Maqasidul Hasanah, hadith: 990)

This not doesn’t mean in a physical way, but the human being is the perfect receptacle of Allah’s light and of understanding Him. Therefore also to know yourself is to know your Lord. To know your Lord is to know yourself. They both go together. Socrates said “know yourself.” But anyone who takes that task upon themselves, then they will also discover their Lord because of the fact that the very nature of our being are cosmologically related to God.

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