I was one day speaking with a group of orphan children whose parents were unknown. I spoke to them about Allah, for He is the Lord of all people. As he says to Prophet Muhammad: “Did I not find you as an orphan and give you shelter?” [Sūrah al-Duhā: 6]
Then it occurred to me that the topic of Adam and Eve was singularly suited for this audience. Neither of them had a father or mother. Their parents were dirt and water, and they were the origin of all human families to come after them throughout time.
They could not look back to an ancestral lineage. This is something that orphans can relate to. I told them not to look back and seek a lineage to provide them with identity and prestige. Look ahead and create your own legacy and start your family tree yourselves.
Adam is our first father. He did not fret about not having a father himself. He took pride in being the first man of the human race.
There are many people among us who do not know their parents or have never seen them. This should not be a point of shame for them.
Indeed, everyone is ignorant of their forefathers if they go back far enough. We might know some of our forefathers for a few generations and then know nothing more than that we are descendants of Adam. No one can trace their lineage back thousands of years.
Some Arabs claim they can trace their lineage all the way back to Adam. Many scholars of Islam, including Imam Mālik, dislikes such claims because they were invariably based on conjecture and speculation.
Therefore, for each and every one of us there are countless generations we know nothing about. People’s genealogies differ. Some people take pride in their genealogy while others turn a blind eye to their ancestors. However, everyone agrees that our first ancestor is the primordial mud from which Adam was created.
Whoever claims to trace an unbroken lineage back to Adam is deluded. There are thousands of years of human history which are unknown to anyone. This is why there is an old Arab saying that goes: Genealogists always lie, even if they are being honest.
Neither Adam nor Eve had parents, but they were both extremely beautiful, intelligent, and spiritual people. They were free from all of the deformities and deficiencies that children inherit from their parents.
Their not having parents permitted their minds a broad scope for possibilities, and ensured they were upon the natural human state without any deviance. As Prophet Muhammad said: “All children are born upon the natural path, then their parents turn them into Jews, Christians, or Zoroastrians.”
The Qur’an relates to us that some of those who rejected faith used to argue: “We found our forefathers upon a path.” [Sūrah al-Zukhruf: 22] It is very difficult for people to break away from what they have learned from their parents and grandparents and the culture of their people. Culture has an overwhelming influence on us.
Turning to Noah, after the Flood, his three sons Sam, Ham and Japheth founded the lineages for many nations. In the Qur’an we read about Noah’s other disobedient son who refused to board the ark and was drowned. Allah says about him: “O Noah! He is not of your family. [Sūrah Hūd: 46]
This verse of the Qur’an assets the principle that each human being is responsible for his or her own self and conduct. A parent can be estranged from a child, and a child from the parent.
Then we have Jesus, who had a mother but no father. Allah says: “The example of Jesus with Allah is that of Adam. He created him from dust and then said to him ‘Be!’ and he was.” [Sūrah Āl `Imrān: 59]
Jesus filled the world with Allah’s remembrance, love, and peace.
Regarding Adam’s children, some people speculate that Adam supervised the marriage of his children, and that Adam and Eve always had twins, a boy and a girl. They paired of the son from one set of twins with the daughter of another. This was out of necessity. Thereafter, Allah prohibited marriages between brothers and sisters. However, this is mere conjecture and Allah knows best what really happened.
Children whose parents are unknown need special care. Throughout the world, there are many programs and policies in place to assist children like this from their earliest years onwards. This is something critically needed, as is the training of professionals who are equipped with the skills needed to properly care for such innocent children.