Who was Adam, a prophet or the first human being?
Adam lived about 6000 years ago. He is popularly believed to be the first man created by God on Earth. However, this view is wrong. The world has passed through different cycles of creation, and civilization, and Adam (peace be upon him), the progenitor of the present human race, is only the first link in the present cycle, and not the very first man in God’s creation.
It does not, however, mean that the race, which lived before Adam (peace be upon him), was entirely swept away before he was born. Most likely, there had remained a small degenerated remnant of the old race and Adam (peace be upon him) was one of them. God then selected him to be the progenitor of a new race and the precursor of a new civilization. Created, as it were, out of the dead, he represented the dawn of a new era of life.
Allah has said, “And when thy Lord said to the angels, I am about to place a vicegerent in the earth, they said, Wilt Thou place therein such as will cause disorder in it, and shed blood? We glorify Thee with Thy praise and extol Thy holiness. He answered, I know what you know not.” (2:31)
In this verse, God has used the word khalifah for Adam (peace be upon him). Khalifah in Arabic means a successor. It is, therefore, clear that men had existed and lived on earth before Adam (peace be upon him) whom he succeeded.
In short, the Holy Qur’an speaks of that Adam (peace be upon him) who was appointed as Khalifah and the first Prophet of God, and who was raised for the guidance of mankind. God appointed him a prophet and taught him the knowledge and made him the leader of men. It is worthwhile to mention that in Islam there is not concept of Instant creation. God was the guiding force behind all his creation in all stages of development.