There seems to be some issues with the Theory of Evolution. Let us use this opportunity to identify what they might be – if any… Please ensure you’ve at least read the Conclusion before you go. Thanks.
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
All praise is due to ALLAH and peace and blessing upon His Messenger
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of Allah, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
A) Yasir Qadhi and Evolution
This is Yasir Qadhi and he covers the basics of an approach.
- His point is: micro-evolution is fine. I recall an old lecture by Humza Yusuf, who said the same thing (see below, B).
- He identifies a difference between the Western paradigm and the Islamic paradigm. The Western paradigm focusses on the tension between Church and Science (and Education). This perspective posits that Civilisation will rise with less Church, more Science. (Note, Asadullah Ali Al-Andalusi, has thoughts that contradict this specific narrative about civilisation.) However, in the Muslim world, the flourish of Islam and science was under the khilafah, during the classical Islamic period. Conclusion: the Western paradigm does not explain the Islamic experience and vice-versa.
- The Western world has abandoned their Holy Book. The Muslim world still feel the Qur’an is the literal word of Allah, subhana wa ta’ala. But although there appears to be a similarity in the historical milestones of each tradition, in actual fact, the difference in paradigm means that actually, one does not necessarily lead to the other.
- ‘Science in the Qur’an’ is a genre that exists – because there was much (between Islam and science) that struck a chord. There is no ‘Bible and Science’ genre.
- However, the theory of Evolution [appears to] challenge the Qur’anic paradigm.
- The Word of Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) is true – this is the basis of the Islamic paradigm.
- Science says that Modern man has been around for about 30,000 years.
- Macro-evolution is lots of micro-evolution that [appears to] lead to new species. Controversial?
- Qur’an cannot be metaphorical with its explicit statements.
- The Darwinian theory of Evolution posits that life came from one ancestor and all creatures are connected. This might be true for all creatures in the world. BUT, Qadhi suggests that there was one exception: Banu Adam (The Children of Adam) were generated independently. We are a unique creation.
- The Domino example: Just as we may set up a chain of dominos, it appears that the last one in the chain was set up with the rest and when we tip over the first domino, it will knock over each till it finally knocks over the last. However, Qadhi’s contention is that it might just a well have been Allah subhana wa ta’ala’s Will to place the final piece of the set, independently. In this sense, the final piece still appears near the end of the chain and appears to fall down with the rest in sequential order. In this way, though all living things may demonstrate evolutionary origins, by being part of the sequentially dependent series of evolution, in actual fact, only humanity have all the appearance of being part of that sequence – but their genesis is distinctly different, which conincidentally (or not) explains why humanity is so different to the rest of the created beings (See 15, 16, 17, below).
- No randomness. This occurred on purpose.
- Rather, there is an appearance that mankind evolved from creation.
- The Christian Creationists’ claim that man is but 6,000 years old is NOT Islamic. (This is based on the Jewish calendar and is claimed by Christian Creationists – NOT Muslims)
- We are the only creature with (profound) language,
- No other creature has ‘aql (intellect) as us – i.e. meta-cognition.
- We have Free Will.
- We believe in the Story of Adam because we are Muslims. We are not Muslims because we believe in the story of Adam.
- Our version of Adam is radically different to the Christian version.
- We believe in the miracles because we are Muslims. We are not Muslim because we believe in the miracles.
- The Qur’an did not come with a historical time-line (as opposed to the Judeo-Christians – see point 14).
- The Children of Adam are a miracle.
This next lecture (below) covers similar points – but in brief:
- Macro-evolution is the issue as far as the advent of mankind is concerned. (But this is not necessarily a problem in terms of the evolution of species into different species…)
- The Qur’an and Sunnah is very explicit that purely Adam is a specific creation of Allah subhana wa ta’ala.
- Question of linkage
- ‘All creatures come from water.’ This maxim is in the Qur’an and confirmed by Science.
- Science cannot contradict Qur’an (and vice versa)
My Conjecture: What if macro-evolution still maintained 1) Adam’s status as prophet – peace be upon him – and 2) the Children of Adam’s status as special creation of Allah, Most High? See F and H
B) Humza Yusuf and Evolution
i) Humza Yusuf mentions the Theory in Changing Our Condition (circa 1998):
Excerpt from 0:53:15:
“The first thing they [the Europeans] did is they moved from… theism to deism… An immanent God that actually has miracles, impacts His creation, sends prophets… [they] replace Him with another god, a distant, deistic god… who’s a god of natural laws. And this is the Enlightenment period.. where there is no miracles. This is David Hume. He also borrowed heavily from the Muslims… [but] and again moving it away from its revelatory source… [He said:] You cannot know things – through human understanding. It’s limited. All you can know is the world. You can’t know anything metaphysical. Everything that we explain must be explained through material causes.
[Darwin takes this up.] How do we explain the origin of man if we remove God… because every peoples before that has a supernatural explanation – something outside of nature… this [creation] didn’t just appear out of nowhere… Darwin says how do I explain the origin of species without bringing God into it and he thinks deeply about this – and he comes up after reading Malthus with natural selection and goes into this whole idea of random chance… And I guarantee you: Evolution is complete kufr. And if you believe in evolution, you have been duped and fooled. Really… And if you understand it as the biologists do… really, it’s like a hukm of ridda… there is no chance in Allah’s creation… there ‘s no random chance happening, there’s not mistakes made over and over again until it suddenly gets it right. And then that gene is transmitted… Which does not mean there’s not micro-evolution. But the macro-evolution is a story. It’s a narrative. it is a narrative that explains the origin of man without any recourse to the divine. That’s all it is. And if you believe it you have to recognise the religious nature of the belief in that narrative. And again it’s taqlid, it’s just blind imitation. Because most people are not biologists… they’re just taking it for granted…
And read what’s going on in evolution… Read Darwin’s Black Box: the Collapse of Darwinism… [By Michael Behe]
Not from Christians. I don’t read that stuff. The Christian Creation Science. Spare me! You know, Earth was created 7,000 years ago on September 21st! … No thanks!
But don’t… just catch onto the latest fad. And it’s not ‘late’ anymore. There’s been neo-Darwinism. They’ve gone on. They’re not pure Darwinists anymore. They had to restructure the whole thing in the 1940s because there was so many holes in it. And then in the 1950s with the explosion of electron microscopy they had to – they haven’t dealt with the information they’ve got… [Behe’s] a micro biologists whose saying we’ve got some major holes here and Darwinism doesn’t answer them. ‘Cause a cell is not a simple organism – it is incredibly complex. There’s more information in a unicellular bacteria than there are in all the libraries in New York City. Darwin thought it was just empty protoplasmic nothingness…”
ii) Humza Yusuf on Archetypes
Excerpt from 0:8:50:
“…We have to look at the cause [of the spiritual illness affecting us in this world]… We have to understand the prognosis, which is what does this mean generally? The Qu’ran is filled with prognosis. How does it tell us the prognosis? By looking at the Ancients. By showing us the same signs and symptoms. Telling us what the cause was and then saying, “If you get the same disease that they had, then you have the same prognosis that they had.” And this is again and again in the Quranic narrative… We see the same afflictions… They come with nothing new. The same old game… We have our archetypes… Qur’anic archetypes. Allah doesn’t tell us about these people to tell us about some story that happened in the past.”
He explains that the narrative in the Qur’an about Adam (peace be upon him) and Iblis (Shaytaan) is an archetype. He also mentions that he uses the term ‘archetype’ idiosyncratically.
In another lecture (exact source to be located) Hamza Yusuf indicates, we (as Muslims) must believe in the archetypes of Adam and Iblis and the Creation narrative as expounded in the Qur’an – even if it didn’t literally happen in the way we might have imagined. He said this hypothetically, because it was clear from the lecture that, of course, he did believe in it entirely; he was merely making a point. Some might term this to mean that he was suggesting that the Creation narrative might be metaphorical, though these were not his words. When contemplating why he would say this, my conclusions (based on pooling answers from his lectures) is: because 1) Belief in Adam, peace be upon him, is a necessity to be a Muslim and 2) there is actually benefit in it for us too (as outlined, above, in the spiritual prognosis to our intrinsic Human Condition).
My Conjecture: Humza Yusuf’s concern with Evolution about two decades ago – as you can see here – is not with evolution itself – but rather the notion that Allah’s laws are subservient to random chance, which is a false position. When he discusses the meta-narrative that the Evolution Theory is said to imply – this is a reference to the Athestic premise, which the New Atheist movement would later (as in our time) come to subsume – and is not necessariy a criticism of the Evolution Theory itself. See F
C) The Hypothesis of Macro-Evolution?
Interestingly, this video, below, makes a point about the basic premise that there seems to be a fault with the evidences for macro-evolution – although, technically, it does not actually mention macro-evolution. This video seems to want to disprove the whole notion of what is termed Darwin Evolution. This, I believe, to be in origin a Christian Creationist production, so that would explain that! NOTE: Muslims do not endorse Christian Creationism. I supplied this video here for the point made. The point is, the narrative of macro-evolution (specifically) appears to be a belief rather than a science in the strictest sense (i.e. it doesn’t seem to quite follow the scientific method as stringently as it should – according to this video):
My Conjecture: If macro-evolution is later proved, somehow, to be wrong, then we – as Muslims – by believing in Adam (peace be upon him) will continue to hold a viable account of the creation of man whilst the non-believers’ version has collapsed; atheists will appear foolish. If macro-evolution is actually correct, which it appears to be, then we – as Muslims – by parroting Christian Creationists in their rejection in spite of the facts (see below), will be proven to be fools. See F and H
And Allah Knows Best.
D) Dr Mohamed Ghilan and Evolution 1: A Defensive Approach
Dr Mohamed Ghilan is a professor of science and deliberated over the question of the macro-evolution narrative. However, although he accepts there are problems with a literalist perspective of Evolution, he has come on board to the Evolution school (but not in the blind-following manner (taqlid) of others) – see Part 2 (below, section F).
Read his earlier work (here, below) before his ‘change of mind’. Observe how he quizzes the problems and holes of Science – this is a Philosophy of Science issue; he delves into the grey areas of Evolution; and he investigates the subtleties of the Arabic language account of Creation in the Qur’an that differs so radically with the Biblical narrative:
ii) Dr Ghilan’s Caution – Part 1: The Limitations of Science
- Scientilous (10 October 2011)
Excerpt: “Now that brings up a problem. What if the fundamental assumptions being used that are to be taken as true, but cannot be proved, happened to be wrong? What if what you thought were appropriate conclusions, happened to be built on a base of faulty assumptions? How can you for sure know that what you’re finding out with Science is the Truth? Is it by repeated observation of phenomena and then making conclusions based on that? Let’s examine a common observation then: does the sun rise in the east and set in the west? Countless observations since the first human being recorded it indicate it to be so…
You know what’s interesting? The sun doesn’t rise and set. The Earth rotates and that gives the impression that the sun is rising and setting, but...” MORE >
- Some Problems with Evolution (26 February 2012)
Excerpt: “The final issue I have with how Evolution is discussed is the fallacious comparison with Gravity. The assumption underlying the comparison, which seems to go unnoticed by those making the comparison, is that each theory deals with the same type of observation. That could not be further from the truth. In Gravity, we have an immediate effect. Take a book, raise it up, let go, and it immediately drops. Take a feather and a cannon ball, go up to the roof of a building, release them at the same time, they immediately drop, make some calculations, and you get the same downward acceleration for both. These are the immediate effects that are readily observed by the experimenter. Evolution on the hand is a different story. One of the major conditions for Evolution to make it possible for it to give rise to the diversity seen is the timescale that extends to the 4.5 billion year old age of the Earth. Conveniently, or inconveniently depending on your perspective, this is not in anyway a realistic time scale for anyone to carry out an experiment that directly proves Evolution in the same way Gravity can be proven. I am talking pure phenomenology here…” MORE >
- The Theory… I mean the Hypothesis of Evolution (2 March 2012)
Excerpt: “Where Evolution becomes a hypothesis rather than an actual theory, and philosophy rather than science, is at the point of induction into the unobservable realm of history, where dots are connected not because of directly testable evidence, but because of subjectively and unjustifiably imposed end goal of proving Evolution as a theory. This is the point where logical positivists insist that the observable “evidence” strongly proves Evolution as defined to be the gradual development from simple to complex, and as the process of speciation and diversification of organisms, to be the accurate description of how everything came to be, including our accidental gain of higher intelligence.” MORE >
- Do you believe in Evolution? Yes & No! (8 January 2013)
Excerpt: “…they’re presented with data, figures, graphs, observational accounts, all of which seemed to fit in perfectly with the evolutionary account that’s used to describe how we humans came about. On the opposite end they had the Muslim scholar saying we shouldn’t have a problem with that account except when it comes to Adam peace be upon him and we just have to believe because the Quran said so. To us, the creation of Adam peace be upon him was a miraculous event.
There is a small problem though. How would such an assertion about the miraculous creation of Adam peace be upon him be perceived by the listeners if the pro-evolution side presented no more than a couple of evolutionary theory-based predictions that were experimentally verified and fit in exactly with the narrative proposed by evolutionists?”
“Science, as a field, is being paraded around as the fact-finding activity that only deals with “objective reality”. As if people, who are subjective by nature, aren’t involved. While this is not an article about the philosophy of science and the various discussions about the scientific method, a little point needs to be made about evidence, because too many people, including the majority of these science-worshipping militant new atheists don’t differentiate between the various types of evidence in science. Two important categories of evidence are “material evidence” and “inferred evidence”.” MORE >
- The Story of Evolution (1 January 2014)
Excerpt: “The controversial nature of evolutionary theory is a great example of what happens when one has no clear conception of their theology, science, or both in terms of their epistemology and what what one can learn from them. This is a very well-written introductory book on the evolutionary theory. Lyons did a great job at explaining the theory to a lay audience and starts off the book with why it’s scientific as opposed to the Intelligent Design proponents. What I really appreciated the most was her pointing out to the reader when evolution is being validated as science, when it’s being used to propose hypothetical stories about our origin and underlying bases for our behaviour, and when it’s being heavily influenced by social, gender, and psychological factors to generate various propositions about humans.” MORE >
For Part 2, please go to F, below.
E) Dr Jonathan A. C. Brown and Science
Professor Jonathan A. C. Brown mentioned in a video recording (in a lecture – source to be identified – pending) that the Muslim Scientists (historically) always assumed whatever was proven via their (natural) sciences to be axiomatic to the (empirical) truth of the way the (material) world works. If there were any statements in the Qur’an (and as a boon – by way of its language’s nuances) that appeared to contradict the natural sciences, (which occurred exceedingly rarely indeed) – then the verse was understood to be meant metaphorically, by default.
My Conjecture: Yet, Qadhi in A, above, indicates that explicit statements in the Qur’an that have significance cannot be taken metaphorically. See F and I
F) Dr Mohamed Ghilan and Evolution 2: An Assertive Approach
iii) Dr Ghilan’s Caution – Part 2: Towards a Muslim Theory of Evolution
Dr Ghilan becomes more persuaded with the idea of an evolved creation of Adam (peace be upon him). He presents his alternative view, as below:
- On Muslims and Evolution (6 April 2014)
Excerpt: “It is peculiar that no other theory in science receives the type of public attention that the Theory of Evolution does. There is something about it that rubs people in some sort of way that is unsettling to say the least. Superficially, proponents of Evolutionary Theory claim that religious believers are in their primordial state of thinking too much of their place in the universe. Darwin took mankind from being the centre of Creation to being just another natural product of a process that has generated countless other life forms and continues to do so. There is nothing special about being human, and we must accept this fact and move forward.
Looking at this issue from a Muslim perspective, however, this superficial claim seems to be more relevant to those who believe in a literal reading of the Book of Genesis than to Muslims. At least that is who it should be relevant to. Unfortunately, given the ubiquitousness of Muslim reliance on Christian apologetic texts to defend belief in God against atheism, we have in turn imbibed the Christian narrative. Many Muslims take it simply for granted that a belief in a unique creation of Adam and Eve peace be upon them is part of Islamic theology, and acceptance of an evolutionary account for their existence is tantamount to rejecting the Quran.”
“…But after having gone through both the Quran, Hadith, and a number of commentaries, I find the claim that we have to believe in an original creation of Adam PBUH as a matter of belief that can lead to Hell if rejected unfounded. Moreover, the various lines of empirical evidence for an evolutionary origin of humans are too solid and numerous to pretend this conclusion is a product of over-extrapolation by atheists to reject God. Is the possibility for an original creation still open? Sure. No one was there to make an absolute assertion about it. We are only speaking in probabilities here. But based on the empirical evidence, and the nuances of Arabic in the Quran, evolution is far more likely than original creation. However, this is not a matter of belief or disbelief in Islam for it to be an issue of contention anyways.”
“For Muslims, the problem is not in the Theory of Evolution. The problem is the philosophical position of naturalism adopted by atheists, who use the Theory of Evolution as part of atheist ideology. Attempts to refute the science of Evolutionary Theory with appeals from philosophy of science to weaken the veracity of the theory are a misguided focusing of energies that will ultimately fail.” MORE >
- On Muslims and Evolution II (8 April 2014)
Excerpt: “For me the problem is not evolution vs. original creation of Adam. The problem is in how we as Muslims conceptualize science, approach it, understand it, and appreciate the power it has in giving us an understanding of the natural world. The problem is in how we see the role of Scripture in the context of science, and what naturalistic accounts in the Quran are meant to serve… The actual practice of science is about investigating natural causes in the world, and this does not require one to consciously identify as a believer in God or not. Faith [in Islam] is about belief in the Unseen, not belief against the evidence. The issue of contention for us, as far as I can tell, should be more about how the findings are eventually packaged and presented as a worldview.” MORE >
- Doubt arises from external sources (wider society) and internally (i.e. Muslim community).
- External: anecdote: Dr Ghilan wants to write a paper in a secular univerity. He was classically trained in Islam. His professor said, the classical training was not rigorous enough. But classically speaking, the contemporary approach isn’t rigorous enough either. The fundamental assumption in a secular university, here, is you have to disregard the notion that the qur’an is the perfect word of God. Dr Ghilan’s objection: What has the qur’an (belief in it or not) got to do with the scientific research proposed? (So assuming the qur’an is a piece of data, I have to account for it. This data has interpretive limitations: Araic language, the Sunnah). The professor still couldn’t get it.
- This scenario is informative in how it explains other parallel sitautions. I.e. someone saying hijab is not necessary, that it is a social construct etc. When you view Qur’an as not revelation, you have to disregard the notion that people could genuinely be following commandments from Allah subhana wa ta’ala. Rather, you enter into a deconstructive narrative and methodology to explain why would people do certain things.
- ie the prophet, peace be upon him, is claimed to be no more than a product of his environment; every scholar that wrote about Islam are claimed to be merely social and political constructs. Now we have an ‘explanantion’! Even Muslims studyiing (Islamic Studies), they behave as though the Qur’an is no longer revelation (ie God has nothing really to say).
- In every other field of study, you have the manifest study. It is quantifiable. There is another field too: the qualitative. This qualitative aspect, not many people are aware of. In it is the assumption that God does not actually exist. There is no revelation. you must restrict yourself to the empirical realm.
- In his articles on revelation, Dr Ghilan asks: Is there a contradiction between what we believe, what Quran says about Adam, peace be upon him, and the theory of Evolution? Many Muslims who have not read sceince will base their thoughts on popular science. Most Science-based academics know popular science books present one model. (See point 13.)
- So the Theory of Evolution has been hijacked by New Atheists.
- A theory in science is a model. No model is completely full proof. But you don’t reject a model if one or two pieces of data go against the model. But only when too many pieces of data go against the model, you have a scientific revolution and the model changes. The theory of evolution has been going for over 150 years because it’s the ‘best fit’ model – it ‘works’. No one has been able to produce a better model.
- The universe is not random. Two types of revelation: 1) The Speech of Allah and 2) the Creation of Allah. Anyone can study the material world (i.e. no. 2) and without even having to believe in Him you can come up with material impovements of your own. This is because Allah has given us the freedom to believe or disbelieve in Him. If He had constructed Creation in a way that compelled us to believe in Him, then, where’s the freedom upon which we will be judged? He left an element where we have to have faith (the Ghaib, the Unseen). It is the non-rational. Not the Irrational! There’s a difference.
- Conversely, those things we have material proofs for (in this case, the theory of Evolution) should not be dismissed either. I.e. fossils of dinasaurs (things we have evidence for) weren’t created to test your faith in God (which is the Christian Creationist point of view).
- You had Pharoahs, Aztecs, Greeks, Romans, the Muslims and now the Europeans. Different civilisations have run scientific advancements. They can come up with such advancements despite different beliefs. The Scientifc method is not restricted by belief. Rather, it affirms freedom to believe.
- But note, we cannot accept things wholesale without critical thinking. There are some parts of the theory we cannot accept. Random Chance, for example.
- When you read popular science books, you’re not reading the actual science (journals, methodology), but the mythology (constructed from the science).
- Muslims currently aren’t engaged in this process. We have theologians engaged only in popular science. Or we have Muslim scientists who haven’t sat with Islamic scholars, so they are pressurised to go along with the Atheistic hegemony. You need grounding in your aqeedah.
- Having doubt is part of faith. The Companions complained to the Prophet (peace be upon him) for having doubts. Muslims need to take charge. Study. Ensure you ask your question to the right person (knowledgable in the field). Muslims need to get connected with scholarship.
- We need teachers to teach the methodology. Thinking capacity. How did they come up with this conclusion? Is it coherent? “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer. Wherever they find it they have more right to it,” said the Prophet (peace be upon him). Judge ideas based on its merit, not on its source.
- Don’t rely on artists’ drawings
- To go from the evidence about a general species to making specific declarations about individuals from that species and asking did they or did they not exist, from a scientific perspective is quite problematic.
- The scientific method, when you engage with it – it is a very hard thing to follow through… it is very difficult to make a definitive statement.
- Either you have faith in the artist and in the scientist that will induce or make unsupportive claims because the evidence does not allow you to make grandiose statements unless you have faith in the qur’an. You can actually make a rational case for God, despite what militant atheists say about this; there is a rational case.
- Adam and Eve were in paradise. Qur’an says they were in ‘the Garden’… In Tafsir, the scholars say, the language used to refer to Adam and Eve, ‘go down’ is i’bidu (from hubut). But you can also say ‘anzalna’ (from nuzul). hubut (is used exclusively to Adam or Children of Israel) and it refers to going from a place of higher elevation to one lower (on earth).
- When the Prophet speaks of paradise, he’d said: “No eye has ever seen, nothing occurred to the hearts of man”.
- The real question: the specific mechanism of the creation of Adam: is there a way for us to compromise or reconcile. Dr Ghilan’s position: The premise of the question is a problem. We’re saying the Islamic traditon (which includes Quran, tafsir (interpretation by fallible scholars with temporal knowledge, about natural phenomena, using their understanding of Arabic language based on their knowledge of natural phenomena, including hadith (some authentic, some weak), including Israeliyat (Israelite narrations – came from rabbis that embraced Islam).
- The Qur’an is not missing anything that is pertinent. (i.e The Cave surah example)
- So mechanism of how Adam was created is irrelevant (based on God’s command)
- ‘Is, ought’ fallacy: Describing how something is, entails how it ought to be. Many people fall into this. Just because I’ve described how Adam is created (assuming Evolution), we assume this means, automatically, this leads to Atheism, materialism etc. This is a fallacy.
- Adam was taller… Must we reconcile? What is science doing? What is religion doing? Hadith (Bukhari): Adam was 60 arm spans tall. People have become smaller. Asqalani (scholar) lived before time of Darwin. He objected to this hadith. His hypothesis: even though chain of transmission is fine. the content (matn) of hadith is problematic. Ad and Thamud should be taller than us, as they were closer to Adam’s time. But if we go to their dwellings, theirs is the same. Therefore, there is confusion. He takes a scientific perspective. (A similar example is noted about Ibn Hajar, which is referenced in Dr Brown’s ‘Misquoting Muhammad’ book, 2015 ed, pg 71.)
- Physiological perspective: law: when you’re double height, your volume triples. If you calculate Adam if he was 30 handspans tall, his weight would be so much, his bones would collapse. He will no longer look like a human being.
- Evolution perspective: No one’s located skeletons that tall.
- Safest position: I don’t know.
- Hadith is not at the same level of authentcity as qur’an. And these points are not a part of aqeedah. So no worries.
- Adam, peace be upon him, is not a metaphor. The metaphor angle with clear-cut verses is a narrative. How is it a metaphor linguistically? You must demonstrate this.
- Question, the question of reconciling.
- ‘Scientific miracles’ of qur’an is a tricky discipline. Scholars were warning against this. This phenomenon took off in the mid nineteenth century, when Muslims were losing power. i.e. it was a new phenomenon. Conflict between science and religion for Muslims derives from here. Quran as a science textbook is a bid’ah (a religious innovation and hence, false).
G) The Mohammadan Theory of Evolution (Pre-Modern)
- Dr Muhammad Sultan Shah has documented the Muslim Theory of Evolution in his article
- T.O. Shanavas has written a post on this, here
Dr Shah: “Charles Darwin is believed to be the first proponent of the evolutionary theory. This paper theorizes another point of view in this regard. Many a Muslim philosopher had already discussed the concept of evolution in their writings prior to Darwin. The pre-Darwinian Muslim scholars provided sufficient materials to Darwin for his theory of evolution who gave it scientific language. John William Draper, a contemporary of Darwin, called it the “Mohammadan Theory of Evolution”. Darwin himself knew Arabic and had the direct access to Arabic literature. He was initiated into Islamic Culture in the Faculty of Religion at the University of Cambridge. Thus, it can be said that he derived the raw material of his theory from oriental literature…” READ MORE of Dr Shah’s article, HERE >
When you type ‘Muhammadan theory of Evolution’ in Google, you get access to the student room and the debate.org and International skeptics and Quora. What becomes evident is the pre-existence of a long history of Muslim involvement in the Science of what we might term, broadly, ‘The Muslim Theories of Evolution’. The term, ‘Mohammadan Theory of Evolution’ is now known to be coined by Sir William Draper – a contemporary of Charles Darwin, when discussing Darwin’s works and Darwin’s indebtedness to the said Muslim works. Read Shah or Shanavas’s account (above) for a summarised, but thorough account of the Pre-modern, Muslim theories.
My Conjecture: The fact is, we have nuance in the possible positions in this debate:
- The Christian Creationists (which, frankly, is not a science)
- The Scientific Evolutionists, which might be said to be of two types:
- a) Reductio ad Secularum (Reduction-to-the World) or a Closed Secular perspective: They make no reference to God, and imply His non-existence, whilst focussing purely on material causes. This is the position of the New Atheists. And
- b) a Positive Secular perspective or an Open Secular perspective, where study also focusses on material causes (but they make no attempt to deny God, knowing that God cannot be measured or contained by finite (man-made) Sciences. The latter lends itself naturally to the Muslim Theories of Evolution.
H) The Muslim Theories of Evolution
See Dr Fatimah Jackson (Muslim Human Biologist):
- Muslims do not fear controversy. We only fear Allah (subhana wa ta’ala)
- There is a unity in the genetic message written, that points to a single Creator
- Evolutionary Science tells us ‘how’ things change. Not ‘why’. ‘Why’ comes from Islam.
- Evolution is changes in inherited chracteristics over generations. The only thing that doesn’t change is Allah.
- We are a single species (Homo Sapien Sapien)
- Human evolution is part of a larger biological system. Humans are very recent. We cannot be egocentric. This process will continue.
- Genus ‘Homo’, Species ‘Sapien’, Sub-species (Race) ‘Sapien’
- Evolution is the outcome of adaptation to changing environment. Biology makes no sense outside of evolution. It is an organising principle to make sense of all the diversity in life. Without biology it is impossible to understand medicine etc.
- Are humans part or separate from the rest of creaton? Ego versus Nature. (We’re not talking about people’s souls. We’re talking about people’s materiality). These natural explanations are not antithetical to Islam. They are looking at how things work. Be humble in exploration. Believe firmly in the logic of Allah’s creation. Feel the presence of Allah via his signs in the natural world.
- Problem with fossils. DNA only from sub-fossils.
- Epigenetics does not change the gene. It only changes gene expression. It expands Evolution: environment is very important in expression of gene
- microevolution can accumulate so we see a macroevolutionary event.
- Humans fit into the order of primates. 84 million years ago. They are preceded by another sub species – a proto-primate. They have their own lineage. i.e. The notion that we came from monkeys is false. They have their own trajectory. We have our own. The notion is there was a common ancestor, that diversified… ONLY in terms of our anatomy, we most favour the Great Ape. The common ancestor is NOT any modern ape.
- We are subject to the same changes as other mammels. Everything changes. Only Allah remains unchanged. How does change occur? What changed? How?
- 7 million years ago, there have been different humans found in the fossil record. But for the first time, in the last 2 million years, we only have one species of humans left, our own. Our DNA has remnants from these extinct human species. We can attempt to calculate when Genetic Adam (Y chromosone) and Genetic Hawa (mitochondrial DNA) existed. And we can see we are not identicle to Genetic Adam and Hawa.
- Modern humans migrated from Africa. 65 – 70 thousand years ago. Several routes proposed. The preferred way is the one via Arabia (Yemen)! – i.e. the first modern humans settled in Arabia… and then into 1) India, Australia, 2) into Central Asia, 3) into Europe, East Asia, 4) into Americas.
- Epigenome: totality of chemical changes around DNA.
- Skulls of hominids: frontal lobe has becomes bigger, rounder, over time – so we now have a vertcal frontal bone. Behind it sits the frontal lobe. This is involved with executive cognitive processes, the emotional control centre, personality, motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, langauge, judgement, impulse control, social, sexaual behaviour… In Qur’an, it is mentioned, “Allah will grab the disbelievers by their lying, sinful forelocks…” Meaning? A reference to our ability to make choices. We are responsible. Will…
- “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” Qur’an 49:13. This is a test. The heart, spirit, soul is from Allah. We cannot measure this.
- “The Qur’an and Sunnah neither confirm nor deny the theory of biological Evolution…” IslamToday.Net (Sheikh Abd Al-Wahab al-Turayri.) So why shouldn’t we study and investigate to understand Allah’s creation?
See Dr Rana Dajani (Muslim Molecular Biologist):
- Different perspectives are worth listening to.
- Role of humans on earth
- Qur’an is a book of moral guidelines
- Qur’an tells us to seek knowledge: the scientific method is implied. Use intellect.
- Liberating Islamic spirit in how to seek truth
- Dispelling miconceptions about evolution
- Many layman (Muslim) students don’t really know what evolution is about
- Examples of artificial selection: crop farming; vaccines
- How did the public respond to Darwin. A context issue. Some Christians supported, and some didn’t (Christian Creationists).
- Creationists who claim Special Creation via Bible, defined as i) species do not change, ii) species are separately created, iii) Earth/ Life is very young.
- Islamic civilisation dealt with this: a) from 8th Century (when Muslims understood their religion): Muslim scientists had already come up rudimentary evolution (see G). There was no blasphemy charged. b) In the time of Darwin, no problem either. c) However, in recent times, when most Muslims do not know their own religion (data from 1996 onwards) many Muslims nowadays do have a problem with Evolution. Where did the negativity come from?
- Dr Dajani’s conclusions: i) lack of natural scientists in Muslim world in its demise, ii) education restricted to [new, secularised] elite, iii) controversy within Christianity itself regarding Evolution. This impacted the Muslim world. iv) Colonialism, social Darwinism, imperialism, materialism, atheism, which became associated with Darwinism for the Muslim public (who were’nt knowledgable). v) Muslim scholars who adopted negative view (during this period/ process) had support from Christian Creationists [Harun Yahya?]. vi) politics involved too, during 2oth century.
- With colonialisms’ end, how did this negativity continue? i) Language and terminology issue with term ‘Creationism’. It means two different things to Christians/ Europeans versus Muslims. So surveys may not be reflective. ii) Religious texts are misunderstood, misintrepreted in a reactive sense, given the lack of understanding. Qur’an is used to support Creationism. (Verses can equally be re-interpreted to the alternative position.) iii) Dictatorships after colonialism didn’t help; they maintained the taking away of freedom. It stops us from asking questions. It maintained a lack of understanding of Islam.
- Solutions: i) Quran is not a book of science. ii) in light of new scientific discovery, new interpretation requires effort (Ijtihad): re-look at terminology etc (e.g. most-fit, creation, time). iii) Evolution does not discuss God (His Existence or not). But, to explain the diversity of Creation, simplicity proves God, Islamically, Evolution is more a proof of God than it isn’t. iv) A warning against Human arrogance: Humans are part of the natural order (of Evolution) – not separate from it. [Conservationism is therefore directly linked to Children of Adam’s role as Khalifa – i.e Guardians of Earth.] v) Qur’an may even mention the idea of evolving humans.
- Story of Adam (peace be upon him)? Dr Dajani’s personal opinion is it may be metaphorical (See A and K for a warning on this position). However, she concedes she’s not sure and suggests we ought to have an open door for us to think about this. We have to put effort and time to explore this question and find out the answer. See Dr Ibrahim, below for an answer to this.
- How to deal with an apparent contradiction with Science and Islam: i) Check the science (changeable, limitations, tools) – See D, above. ii) Interpretation of Qur’an: create a committee made of stakeholders (experts) from multiple fields, i.e. scientists, including Islamic scholars and Qur’anic language experts. Should meet regularly for scientific advances. [This notion of a committee of Secular Muslim scientists and Islamic scholars was indicated by Dr Fazlur Rahman in his book ‘Islam and Education’, 1984]. iii) Consider there may be multiple meaning. iv) Muslim students need to study Philosophy of Science and the Humanities.
- The real tension between Science and Religion in Muslim societies is something that is at heart, a problem that was imported from outside (via Western globalisation).
See Dr Adnan Ibrahim
- Darwin didn’t actually say that our ancestors were apes, apparently. Such a statement is misleading.
- God is certainly the Creator.
- But man was not made instantaneously – or as an independent entity – unrelated in every way to other creatures in Creation.
- In fact, this is confirmed in Allah’s book. Allah’s method is evolutionary. Natural selection is determined by Allah. It is not a blind force. Allah says in the Qur’an He makes us in stages.
- Even the similitude given in the Qur’an where Adam is compared to Jesus – Jesus was completed in stages (i.e. via preganancy). That is, in the time specified by Allah, Most High. The earth and heavens were created in six days – but elsewhere Allah, Most HIgh, says a day is like fifty thousand years – i.e., a long time.
- For Allah, Most High, to say, ‘Be!” doesn’t necessarily mean it has to happen instantaneously.
- A verse from the qur’an about how Allah sends rainfall from the skies and with it He produces vegetation of all kind… NOT ‘from it’. But ‘with it’…
- A verse from the qur’an mentions how Allah made from water, every living thing…
- A study in 2009: ‘What Makes Us Human’: Man differs from chimpanzees by 1% of their DNA.
- That difference is due to Allah’s breath that separates man from the monkeys [“And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul.” Qur’an 15:29]: this is where the theory of evolution differs from the divine evolutionising of man.
- Richard Dawkins is confused with his binary: either it’s God or it’s natural laws… Muslims do not [ought not] make this mistake. Allah created the natural laws!
I) Conjectural Conclusion
What can we say conclusively?
The West and the Atheistic Perspective:
There were tensions historically between Church and Science in Europe. Darwin’s theory was difficult for Christians because it seemed to prove that man was not derived via God. The Christian Creation narrative did not fit with Science. Since Christianity was a religion, other religions are assumed to be equally inadept with the Truth of Science. The New Atheists nominate themselves to be the inheritors of Science… NOTE: Not all Atheists are New Atheists.
The West and a Christian Response:
Some Christians were perplexed and disavowed the Darwin’s theory. The Christian Creationist movement began. They upheld the idea that: Evolution was wrong; God made everything; Dinasaurs are a test of faith, just like the Evolution Theory; the Bible was Truth and its account of Creation was gospel; Evolutionary science is satanic (and wrong). NOTE: Not all Christians are Creationists.
- Western scientists seem to have made progress with the evolutionary sciences. This is correct.
- New Atheists have hijacked the Theory of Evolution and Science. This movement, which is about atheism, use Evolution and Science to support their ‘belief in unbelief’. This seems to work when pitted against the Christian Creationists as this reinforces the notion that there are only two sides: Science (assumed to mean ‘New Atheism’) versus Religion (or, actually ‘versus Christian Creationists’). This dichotomy falls apart against the Islamic Assertion… End of story. See B, below.
- Christian Creationists have devised a reactionary movement against the scientifc data that seems to show signs of truth and value to the Evolutionary notions. They have devised a pseudo-science – which is embarassingly problematic – as it tries to scientise biblical postulates, which are in fact unscientific and incorrect. Theirs reinforces that split between Church and Science, as mentionied above. This dichotomy falls apart against the Islamic Assertion… End of story. See B, below.
The Islamic Assertion:
Historically Muslim scientists (based on the Qur’anic injunction to explore the world and seek Truth – obviously to witness proofs of God’s power) were not shy of data from foreign sources. They embraced what was of legitimate value from the Ancients – Greeks, Persians, Indians (because, “Wisdom is the lost property of the believer,” – a saying (or hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him).
Moreover, they refined scientifc practice and in fact devised the Scientific Method! (See here and go to point C.) Muslim scientists were already making headway into a proto-evolutionary science before their demise as a world power for other reasons.
When Darwin came out with his theory, the Muslims’ immediate reaction was NOT to lose their minds.
It was only in the latter end of the twentieth century that Muslims began to have a difficult time with evolutionary science on the popular front because of a lack of knowledge of 1) their own religion, 2) their own cultural and scientific history and 3) evolutionary science – and in that order. And for Islamic scholars the problem was reversed: a lack of knowledge of 1) evolutionary science and 2) their own cultural and scientific history. This was all exaccerbated with the effects of Western Colonialisation and Despotic-Governments-Supported-by-the-West after the so-called ‘Independence’ movements.
Fortunately, there are presently Muslim scientists who are willing to work alongside Islamic scholars and vice-versa. The idea of partnerships and symposia is crucial. Together, there seems, now, to be a third way: a legitimate and robust position out of this simplistic binary, presented above, of the polar opposition between Science versus Religion – this suggestion of an intrinsic opposition being a necessairily false designation.
Islam asserts that there is only the One God (that Ever Was) and Creation did happen in the way presented in the Qur’an but NOT the Bible. The way it occurs in the Qur’an has so much more scope and nuance, which provides another reason as to why the Qur’an has been called a miracle! It emphasises how Creation occurred in stages. But it does not proclaim to be a science book so the notion that it must be arbritraily positioned as representing Religion AND opposing Science is utterly dubious. It encourages scientists to go and seek knowledge. This enables the religion to allow scientists to have their own space to enquire. And Muslim scientists have seen evidences of evolutionary science in our world. So the third way concludes: Science is encouraged to do Science; Evolution and natural selection appears to make sense of biological data; these natural laws obey the laws of Allah, alone – and are NOT random; the order in the natural world (and the cosmos) which has been demonstrated (whereby such laws are able to be deciphered) is yet another sign of Allah’s Order…
(Qur’an 40: 81)
The apparent sticking point seems to be about the prophet Adam, peace be upon him. But this isn’t actually a sticking point. The conclusion for this is as follows:
- We weren’t there.
- Prophet Adam existed as outlined generally via Qur’an and Sunnah. (No specific timeline is given as essential for belief in Islam, unlike the Biblical tradition. But belief in him is important for the faith.)
- Evolution of man from some proto-humanoid group (whose line from different branches lead also to the family of apes) seems to have occurred.
- At some point modern man (the Children of Adam) came to be distinguished from the rest (Islamically, we do not require a date to validate our faith – and scientifically, it is fine for scientists to figure this out).
And Allah Knows Best.
سبحان ربك رب العزة عما يصفون وسلام على المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وعلى اله وصحبه أجمعين
Exalted be your Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they attribute to Him, and peace be upon the Messengers, and all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. And the peace and blessing upon prophet Mohammed and his relatives and all his companions.