Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: “I will create a vicegerent on Earth.” (Al-Baqarah:30)
When we read this verse, many of us automatically think about the creation of Prophet Adam (AS), the dominance of humankind on our planet, and even the formal position of Khalifah of the Islamic State. Yet how many of us think about this verse and how it applies to Hawwa’ (AS) or all of womankind?
Allah (SWT) describes the creation of humankind in Surah An-Nisa as being ‘min nafsin waahidah’ (from a single soul) – and from each soul, its zawj, its partner, its mate, its equal. Whenever Hawwa’ (AS) is mentioned in the Qur’an, it is in partnership with her perfect mate, Adam (AS). It is also interesting to note that the word ‘nafs’ in Arabic is linguistically feminine, and the fact that every human foetus originates as a female before growing and ‘becoming’ male.
Hawwa’ was the first woman in all of existence, just as Adam was the first man. They were both created for a specific purpose, and both endowed with a unique intelligence, which is one of the reasons why Shaytan resents all of humankind and is dedicated to misleading both men and women.
From the very beginning, even while they were still living in Jannah, Adam and Hawwa’ were given the same set of instructions:
And We said, “O Adam, dwell, you and your wife, in Paradise and eat therefrom in [ease and] abundance from wherever you will. But do not approach this tree, lest you be among the wrongdoers.” (Al-Baqarah:35)
When, inevitably, they both succumbed to Iblis’s whispers, they did so not because Hawwa’ lured Adam into it, nor because Adam commanded Hawwa’ to follow his lead. Rather, they both had free will and the agency to make their own decisions. Adam and Hawwa’ made an independent choice to eat from the forbidden tree – and they were both held individually accountable for their actions. As soon as they realised what they had done, both Adam and Hawwa’ turned to Allah (SWT) in repentance:
They said, “Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and if You do not forgive us and have mercy upon us, we will surely be among the losers.” (Al-A’raf:23)
Allah (SWT) accepted their repentance, but He (SWT) also decreed that they would still experience a consequence.
We said, “Go down from it (Paradise), all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance – there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve. (Al-Baqarah:38)
Thus did the first humans descend upon Earth, thereupon to establish themselves as guardians and caretakers of this planet.
Hawwa’ was never considered to merely be Adam’s meek, subservient shadow, but rather, a human being who was spiritually equal to her male counterpart. As we can see from the verses, Hawwa’ was also given a specific command that she chose to disobey; she also recognised her mistake and repented sincerely. She did not go through her husband to turn to her Lord, but rather took responsibility for her own actions and made her own effort to beg Allah (SWT) for His Forgiveness. Furthermore, Hawwa’ was also made to experience the consequences of her actions, by being sent down to Earth along with Adam.
From all of this, it is clear that Hawwa’ was never a silent bystander, but rather, was created to be an active participant – a human being with intelligence, agency and responsibilities. Hawwa’ is symbolic of all women: Allah (SWT) did not create us to stand aside and observe or to simply float and be moved by the currents of our male partners; we are individuals who are capable of making our own choices in life, and to be held accountable for our actions.
In short, women were created to be vicegerents on the Earth – a vital, necessary part of a global Ummah of believers dedicated to worshipping Allah (SWT) alone, obeying His commands, seeking His pleasure and establishing justice wherever we may be. Like Hawwa’, we have been given duties and responsibilities as a khalifah (ambassador) – and it is up to us to carry them out in a fitting manner. We must fulfill our role as vicegerents of the Earth in a way that will guarantee our entrance into Jannah, where we will meet Hawwa’ (AS), making her proud of the generations of heroines who maintained her legacy.
Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young woman who finds constant inspiration in the lives of the Sahabiyaat and other great women in Islamic history. She hopes that every Muslimah is able to identify with the struggles of these inspirational women and follow in their footsteps to become a part of a new generation of powerful Muslim women. She blogs at http://www.thesalafifeminist.blogspot.com