By Al-Imam ibn Kathir
The First Four Children
The pinnacle of earthly bliss was reached when Adam and Eve witnessed the birth of their first children, a set of twins. Adam was a devoted father and Eve a contented mother. The twins were Cain (Qabil) and his sister. Later Eve gave birth to a second set of twins, Abel (Habil) and his sister. The family enjoyed the bounties and fruits of the earth provided by their Lord. The children grew up to be strong and healthy young adults. Cain tilled the land while Abel raised cattle.
The time arrived when the two young men desired life partners. This was part of Allah’s plan for mankind, to multiply and form nations with different cultures and colors. Allah revealed to Adam that he should marry each son to the twin sister of the other. Adam instructed his children according to Allah's command, but Cain was displeased with the partner chosen for him, for Abel's twin sister was not as beautiful as his own.
Commentary: Cain's Disobedience
It appears that since the beginning of time, physical beauty has been a factor in the attraction between man and women. This attraction caused Cain to envy his brother Abel. He rebelled against Allah's command by refusing to accept his father's advice.
At first glance Cain's rebellion might appear strange, but we should remember that although man has a pure nature, the potential for dichotomy exists. In other words, he had both good and bad qualities. He can become greedy, covetous, possessive, selfish and even destructive. Man is therefore capable of seeking self satisfaction even if it leads to failure in this life and in the hereafter. The path to goodness lies in harnessing the enemy within him, his baser self by controlling evil thoughts and deeds and practicing moderation in his desires and actions. His reward then will be the delights of this world and the hereafter. Thus Allah tests us through our divided nature.
Cain's Jealousy of Abel
Adam was in a dilemma. He wanted peace and harmony in his family, so he invoked Allah for help. Allah commanded that each son offer a sacrifice, and he whose offering was accepted would have right on his side. Abel offered his best camel while Cain offered his worst grain. His sacrifice was not accepted by Allah because of his disobedience to his father and the insincerity in his offering. This enraged Cain even further. Realizing that his hopes marrying his own beautiful sister were fading, he threatened his brother. "I will kill you! I refuse to see you happy while I remain unhappy!" Abel feeling sorry for his brother, replied, "It would be more proper for you, my brother to search for the cause of your unhappiness and then walk in the way of peace. Allah accepts the deeds only from those who serve and fear Him, not from those who reject His Commands."
The First Death
Abel was intelligent, obedient, and always ready to obey the will of Allah. This contrasted sharply with his brother who was arrogant, selfish and disobedient to his Lord. Abel did not fear his brother's threats, but neither did he want his brother to be hurt, Allah had blessed Abel with purity and compassion. Hoping to allay the hatred seething in his brother Abel said, “My brother, you are deviating from the right path and are sinful in your decisions. It is better that you repent to Allah and forget about your foolish threat. But if you do not then I will leave the matter in the hands of Allah. You alone will bear the consequence of your sin, for the Fire is the reward of the wrong-doers." This brotherly plea did nothing to lessen the hatred in Cain's heart, nor did he show fear of Allah's punishment. Even familial considerations were cast aside. Cain struck his brother with a stone killing him instantly. This was the first death and the first criminal act committed by man on earth. When Abel had not appeared for some time, Adam began to search for him but found no trace of his beloved son. He asked Cain about Abel's whereabouts. Cain insolently replied that he was neither his brother’s keeper nor his protector. From these words his father understood that Abel was dead and Adam was filled with grief.
The First Burial
Meanwhile Cain did not know what to do with his brother's corpse. He carried it on his back wandering from place to place trying to hide it. His anger had now subsided and his conscience was saddled with guilt. He was tiring under the burden of the corpse which had started to have a stench. As a mercy, and to show that dignity could be retained even in death, Allah sent two ravens that began fighting, causing the death of one. The victorious bird used its beak and claws to dig a hole in the ground, rolled its victim into it and covered it with sand. Witnessing this, Cain was overcome with shame and remorse. "Woe unto me!" he exclaimed. "I was unable to do what this raven has done, that is to hide my brother's corpse." Cain then buried his brother. This was also the first burial of man.
Allah the Almighty revealed:
" And (O Muhammad) recite to them (the Jews) the story of the two sons of Adam (Abel and Cain) in truth; when each offered a sacrifice to Allah, it was accepted from the one but not from the other. The latter said to the former; "I will surely kill you."
The former said: "Verily Allah accepts only from those who are Al Muttaqeen (the pious). If you do stretch your hand against me to kill me I shall never stretch my hand against you to kill you, for I fear Allah; the Lord of the Alameen (mankind, jinn, and all that exists). Verily I intend to let you draw my sin on yourself as well as yours then you will be one of the dwellers of the Fire, and that is the recompense of the Zalimeen (polytheists, and wrongdoers)." So the self of the other (latter one) encouraged him and made fair seeming to him the murder of his brother; he murdered him and became one of the losers. Allah sent a crow who scratched the ground to show him to hide the dead body of his brother. He (the murderer) said: "Woe to me! Am I not even able to be as this crow and to hide the dead body of my brother?" Then he became one of those who regretted. (Ch 5:27-31).
The First Murder - from Various Hadith
Ibn Abbas, Ibn Masud and a group of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) related that inter-marriage of the male of one pregnancy with the female of another had been in practice among Adam's children. Abel wanted to marry Cain's sister, but Cain wanted her for himself because she was very beautiful. Adam ordered him to give her in marriage to his brother but he refused. So Adam ordered both of them to offer a sacrifice, then went to Mecca to perform the pilgrimage. After Adam had left, they offered their sacrifices; Abel offered a fat lamb, he was a shepherd, while Cain offered a bundle of worst grain. Fire descended and devoured Abel's sacrifice, leaving that of Cain so he became angry and said: "I will surely kill you so that you will not marry my sister." Abel replied, "Allah accepts from those who fear Him." According to Abu Ja'afar al Baqer, Adam was watching their offering and was sure that Abel's sacrifice would be accepted. Cain complained to Adam that the acceptance was due to his supplication for Abel and that he had not done the same for him, so he promised his father to settle the matter between himself and his brother. One night, Abel was late returning from tending his flock. Adam sent Cain to see what happened to him. When he found him, he glared at him saying: "Yours was accepted, and mine was not." Abel replied, "Allah only accepts from the Allah-fearing." Cain became angry on hearing this and hit him with a piece of iron that was with him and thus killing him. In another version it was said that he killed him with a rock to the head while he was sleeping.
Adam Preaches to His Children
Adam was utterly grief stricken by the loss of his two sons. One was dead, the other was won over by the devil. Adam prayed for his son and turned to mundane matters for he had to toil for
his sustenance. At the same time he was a prophet advising his children and grandchildren, telling them about Allah and calling them to believe in Him. He told them about Iblis and warned them by recounting his own experience with the devil and of how the devil had tempted Cain to kill his brother.
Adam's Successor, Seth
Years and years passed, Adam grew old and his children spread all over the earth. Muhammad Ibn Ishaq related that when Adam's death drew near, he appointed his son Seth to be his successor and taught him the hours of the day and night along with their appropriate acts of worship. He also foretold to him the floor that would come. Abu Dhar narrated that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "Allah sent down 104 psalms, of which 50 were sent down to Seth."