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Evolution, Prayer-Mats & Telescopes

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What follows is a quick trek through the somewhat rugged terrain of Islam, Science and Evolution, taken from a forthcoming publication: Heartbeat of Faith: Two Essays on Tawhid.

1. Upsetting the Applecart

“What is happiness? Do humans beings have a purpose? What is the meaning of life? Such questions are truly perennial; they have been asked for perhaps as long as human beings have been able to ask anything, and no doubt they will continue to be asked for just as long again.”[1]

For some, the question about life’s meaning has itself lost all meaning. Most people, though, at one or another point in their lives, have had occasion to ask such questions; some to even reflect deeply over their implications. For Man, in the words of Jonathan Sacks, “is a meaning-seeking animal”[2] and “Our fundamental questions are Who am I? and To which narrative do I belong?”[3] No doubt, the instinctive urge to ask the ‘big questions’ may be dulled by hedonistic pursuits and material comforts, but nothing can entirely surpress it. For its echo continues to reverberate in the deepest recesses of the human soul. In fact, “The search for God,” says Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, “is a broadly shared attribute of all humankind, across geographic areas and throughout human history.”[4]

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The Qur’an tells us that life is essentially teleological: that is to say, it has purpose. Human beings are not mere products of random chance or selfish genes. Instead, our existence is intended. This is expressed in the conviction that God created creation with a purpose and has a plan for its future: We created not the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in vain, proclaims the Qur’an.[5]

Traditional notions of Man’s place in the cosmos have though, over the past four centuries or so, taken a considerable pounding from some of the revelations of science. The late sixteenth century witnessed science displace the earth from the centre of the universe and assign to it a less grandiose place orbiting around our Sun. Later we would learn that the earth itself – possibly five billion years old – is a tiny planet, close to the edge of a small galaxy, in a universe made-up of billions of other galaxies; each containing over a hundred billion stars and, presumably, planets. For those whose worldview committed them to a geocentric universe, where the earth was at the significant center and purpose of all things, these assertions came as a devastating shock. With the new scientific paradigm it was becoming a clear case of what Shakespeare’s Hamlet intuits: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

A more serious challenge to religion came at the end of the nineteenth century when Darwin published his Origin of Species. Its significance was not so much its proposal that species evolved and adapted (this notion had been around for a while), but for suggesting a mechanism by which this happened without there being a need for a Creator-God: Evolution via Natural Selection. Horatio’s philosophy would never be quite the same again!

2. The Darwinian Genesis

Darwin’s epic, with some modern tweaks and realignments, essentially goes something like this: Life on earth seems to have emerged about three billion years ago when a cocktail of simple chemicals combined to form more complex ones. This mixing took place in the seas of the early Earth, which are often referred to as the ‘primordial soup’. Some injection of energy was needed to spark-off a reaction between these molecules. This, it is suggested, may have come from lightning storms or from hot underwater springs. These molecules then joined together to form more complex ones, called ‘amino acids’, which, in turn, went on to form proteins – the building blocks of all living creatures. Another complex molecule formed in these reactions was DNA, which has two traits that make it essential for life to exist. It carries all the information to make a living creature, and it can also replicate itself. Over millions of years this cocktail of molecules evolved into bacteria; thought to be the earliest ancestors of all life on our planet today.

This is where Darwin’s natural selection comes into play. Through this mechanism living organisms, over long periods of time, evolve certain traits which allow them to better adapt to their environment. In other words, these traits are ‘selected’ by ‘nature,’ giving certain organisms a survival advantage over others. These traits are then passed on to the next generation, thus increasing their chances of survival. Those not having an advantage, or unable to pass it on, don’t survive. Sometimes, through nothing more than random chance, a genetic mutation occurs in an organism by which it acquires an advantage trait.

Through natural selection and gene mutation organisms can both adapt as a species and evolve into different species. Single-cell life in Earth’s ancient waters evolved into worms and jelly fish via this process about 700 million years ago; dinosaurs arrived around 225 million years ago; and their reign came to a sudden end about 65 million years ago. Fossil records suggest that our early human like ancestors only branched-off from chimpanzees a mere 5 million years in the past and that humans are a relatively recent appearance: anywhere from around 100,000 to 35,000 years ago. For many people today, evolution through natural selection and genetic transformation has dispensed with the belief that life on our planet – including human life – has a divine origin; let alone a divinely ordained purpose. “The universe we observe,” according to the ardent atheism of Richard Dawkins, “has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”[6]

3. Prayer-Mats and Telescopes

Darwin’s own belief seems somewhat ambiguous. At one time he says about himself: “Agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.” At another time he wrote of being greatly challenged by “the extreme difficulty, or rather the impossibility, of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as a result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.”[7] This, though, is somewhat beside the point. The theory of evolution has, for the past one hundred and fifty years, been a source of deep discomfort in faith communities and theistic discourses. Godless materialists see in evolution a decisive victory of science over religion; of microscopes over prayer beads; of empirical observations over illuminated hearts. Yet though there is a lot to learn from science and much to thank it for, the atheists’ jubilation is seen by the believer as being premature and their aggressive insistence that belief in God a delusion immature.[8]

Muslims are forever quick to point out that the Qur’an is remarkably free of the scientific inaccuracies encountered in other religious texts and scriptures. Many further point out that the Qur’an is astonishingly in harmony with modern science. It is true some of the faithful have thrown exegetical caution to the wind in their zeal to wed scripture to the scientific cause. Nevertheless, there are significant passages in the Qur’an which seem to so clearly speak to the scientific mind in modern man. Let me illustrate the point with a few such verses:

The Qur’an is silent about the age of the Earth as well as, for that matter, when life first appeared on it; though it does say: And We made from water every living creature.[9] A reference to the primordial soup in the Earth’s early waters perhaps? Another interesting verse has it: We built the heaven with might and it is We who are expanding it.[10] A highly probable pointer to cosmology’s modern tenet that galaxies are moving apart from each other as the universe expands. Lastly, as an example, is the vivid Quranic description of how a human embryo forms in the womb of its mother: We created man from a product of clay. Then We placed him as a drop in a safe lodging. Then We fashioned the drop into a clot of blood that clings, then We fashioned the clinging clot into a chewed-like lump, then We turned the lump into bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation. So blessed be God, the Best of Creators! [11] What is significant here, as in the other two examples, is that at the time of their revelation these Quranic assertions ran completely counter to the science of the day. In fact, science was only able to discover the truth of these claims within only the last century or so!

One must not be tempted by these verses into thinking that the Qur’an is a text-book on science or a catalogue of scientific facts. These verses are primarily asserting the i‘jaz; the miraculous and inimitable nature of the Qur’an, thereby demonstrating it truly is the Word of God and guidance from Him.

Turner, I think, captured the essence of the matter when he said,

“The Qur’an describes God, the principles of belief and the fate of man in the world to come, but it is no work on theology; it contains accounts of past prophets and faith communities of old, but it is no history book; it contains invocations and words of inspiration; but it is no book of prayer.

“Legal issues are discussed in it, but it is no book of law; it tells us how the Creator fashions the cosmos and makes the world turn, but it is no treatise on cosmology; it describes the alternation of day and night, and the development of the foetus in the womb, but it is no compendium of natural science.

“It examines the heart and mind of man, and the existential dilemma of being human but longing for the divine, yet it is no work on popular psychology.

“It is all of those things and it is none of those things: more than any other book can it truly be said of the enigmatic Qur’an that it is far more than simply the sum of its component parts.”12

4. On Fossils and Theology

This still leaves us with the question: what does Islam have to say about the Theory of Evolution? Any sober religious response to the question must, if it wants to remain true to the scriptural texts, be tethered to the following theological givens:

Firstly, that God’s attributes are beginning-less and endless (qadimatun azaliyyah, da’imatun abadiyyah). Imam al-Tahawi said in his famous creedal tract: “As God was, along with His attributes, in pre-existence, so shall He remain throughout all eternity.”[13] What this implies is that no time elapses except that God as the Creator (al-Khaliq) is creating; as the Bestower (al-Wahhab) is bestowing His gifts; as the All-Merciful (al-Rahman) is administering His mercy; etc. Muslims do not believe as Deists do that God initiated creation and fashioned its laws, but then just left it to pursue its own course. On the contrary, Islam teaches that God is actively involved in creation and is continuously creating. Say: “God is the creator of everything;” [14] even our actions and moments of stillness: God created you, and all that you do.[15]

Secondly, that nothing can happen independently of God’s will. About this, the Tahawiyyah states: “Everything happens by His decree and will, and His will is accomplished. …What He wills for them happens and what He does not will, does not happen.”[16] Nothing is random or fortuitous. Nothing occurs by ‘chance’. Nor do causes or effects have an autonomous independence from the divine will. This is not to say that Islamic theology denies causes and effects as such, rather it denies that causes have effects in and of themselves; for God is the creator of all things.[17] For someone to literally believe that ‘random’ mutation or ‘natural’ selection have a causal independence from the will of God, as most evolutionists do, would be clear disbelief (kufr). The shari‘ah does, though, grant a dispensation to use certain phrases figuratively; like when someone says, ‘the food filled me up’ or ‘the fire burnt me’, providing one does not believe such things to have causal autonomy from God’s will. Expressions such as ‘nature does such and such’ are also, in all probability, included in the above dispensation. To believe in the literalness of such expressions would be to set up a partner with God in terms of His Lordship and actions. In other words, it would be committing shirk in His rububiyyah. Now as for the rule in respect to worldly causes (asbab), it runs as follows: “To rely on worldly caused is shirk in tawhid; to deny their efficacy is deficiency in intellect; and to shun their use is mockery of the shari‘ah.”[18]

Thirdly, Evolution’s piece de resistance: that species are able to evolve into entirely new species over long periods of time, seems not to be at odds with any established tenet of the faith. Most books of theology have sections detailing what is necessary (wajib), possible (mumkin, ja’iz) and impossible (mustahil) with respect to God. The category of the possible refers to all those things that can possibly exist; i.e. whose existence is neither necessary nor impossible.[19] That living organisms can evolve or undergo genetic transformation, by the will of God, is subsumed under the catagory of the possible. Belief in it, provided one not include the creation of Man (dealt with next), nor believe in causal independance, is neither shirk nor kufr. Rather, its correctness depends entirely upon whether or not there is any credible scientific evidence to substantiate the claim.[20]

Fourthly, Darwin’s claim that human beings evolved from a common ancestor; the great apes, in an evolutionary chain which extends back to life in the primordial soup, is incompatible with the Quranic account of Man’s origin. The Qur’an is categorical about the common ancestor of humanity being the Prophet Adam, peace be upon him. When your Lord said to the angels, informs the Qur’an, “I am creating a human being from clay. So when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My spirit, then fall down before him prostrate.” The angels fell down prostrate, all of them. Except Satan; he was proud and became one of the disbelievers. He said: “O Iblis! What prevents you from prostrating before that which I created with My two hands? Are you too proud, or think you too exalted of yourself?” He said: “I am better than him, You created me of fire while him you created of clay.[21] What the above goes to show is that the creation of the first human being is special, unique and different than all other life forms; even if there are physical and biological similarities with other terrestrial life. For God not only fashioned him, but did so with His two hands, and breathed into him of His spirit. Those learned in Quranic exegesis explain the spirit (ruh) to mean – not that ‘a part of God’ was breathed into Adam – but to: “An incorporeal, life-giving substance coursing through man, which God ascribes to Himself as a mark of honour and distinction.”[22] Which is to say that Adam, the first human being (as well as all his descendents), is a sacred, exalted and noble creation. To claim man evolved from a non-human species contradicts the truth told to us in the Qur’an about Adam’s special creation, and is therefore disbelief.

I suppose a summary of Islam’s stance towards the theory of evolution can be distilled in the following points: (i) God alone causes all that is to be or to not be. The flora and fauna of the world is His work alone, without associate. (ii) Causes and effects are both created by God and have no autonomy from Him. To believe causes have efficacy in and of themselves is shirk – ascribing ‘associates’ to God. Causal autonomy is what is generally understood by terms like ‘natural selection’ and ‘random mutation’.(iii) To believe that man evolved out of lower life forms is disbelief, regardless of whether the process is ascribed to God or to ‘natural selection’. This denies what the Qur’an tells us of Adam’s special creation. If, as the fossil records show, fairly-intelligent tool-using bipeds existed in Earth’s past history, they are not the ancestors of humanity nor the predecessors of Adam.[23] Facts about human-like fossils are one thing, theories and wild speculation about their links to human beings are another thing altogether.

5. On the Knife-Edge of Improbability

Though rancorous debates continue to rage about evolution’s validity, there seems to be no real reason at all to dismiss the theory outright. In fact, insists Collins, very little makes sense in the field of molecular biology and genetics, except in the light of the theory’s predictions.[24] The sticking point for theists, though, above all else, concern the fossil records of humans which, despite some revealing discoveries over the past few decades, still remain woefully incomplete.

Science faces other nagging concerns about the bigger picture. Human consciousness, for instance, and what gives rise to it? Why there exists what some call ‘the moral law’: an intuitive knowledge about the basic rules of right and wrong shared by all people (our voice of conscience, as it were). Then there is the grandest conundrum of them all. Life on Earth aside, how did the universe come into existence so finely tuned in a form hospitable to life?

Most scientists do not hesitate to acknowledge this remarkable fact of how tailor-made to life our universe actually is. Cosmologists tell us, for instance, that had the force of gravity been a tiny fraction weaker than what it actually is, matter could not have lumped together to form stars or galaxies. The universe would have been a lifeless sea of drifting gas and interminable darkness. Had gravity been ever so slightly stronger, the universe would have collapsed back on itself; neither being able to expand nor allow life to evolve. A similar tale holds true for the force binding protons and neutrons together in an atom (the strong nuclear force). Had it been slighter weaker, only hydrogen atoms could have formed in the cosmos; nothing else. If, on the other hand, it had been slightly stronger the nuclear furnace within stars would not be able to produce heavy elements like carbon, which is critical for life. Actually, the nuclear force appears to be tuned just sufficiently for carbon atoms to form. That our universe seems uniquely tuned to give rise to life, more specifically; human life, is known as the Anthropic Principle. And it remains a source of intense wonder, debate and speculation among scientists, philosophers and theologians since it was fully appreciated a few decades ago.

All in all there are fifteen cosmological constants which, because they have the values and parameters they have, allows the emergence of a universe capable of supporting complex life. In his Just Six Numbers, Britain’s Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, states that these finely-tuned cosmological constants, “constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life.”[25]

“The chance,” says Collins, “that all these constants would take on the values necessary to result in a stable universe capable of sustaining complex life forms is almost infinitesimal. And yet those are exactly the parameters we observe.”[26]

6. Making Sense of the Mystery

Three possible responses have been put forth for this fine-tuning. The first response is a shrug of the shoulder one. Things are what they are, or else we wouldn’t be here; so there’s nothing to be surprised about. To this it’s just the way things are attitude, Rees says: “Many scientists take this line, but it certainly leaves me unsatisfied. I’m impressed by a metaphor given by the Canadian philosopher John Leslie. Suppose you are facing a firing squad. Fifty marksmen take aim, but they all miss. If they hadn’t missed, you wouldn’t have survived to ponder the matter. But you wouldn’t just leave it at that – you’d still be baffled, and would seek some further reason for your good fortune.”[27]

The second response, like the third, does offer an explanation. There are multiple universes parallel to our own; governed by different laws and defined by different values. Our universe is simply a result of trial and error in that it is one in which all the fundamental constants work together to permit life. A drawback with this ‘multiverse’ hypothesis is that, leaving alone its incredulity, it only re-jigs the ultimate question. Instead of asking how our universe arose, we now must ask how these multiple universes emerged.

Divine providence is the final response. This is the belief that a wise, omniscient, beneficent Creator formed the universe, endowing it with purpose, meaning and remarkable beauty; with the specific intention of producing man. Stephan Hawking, in his best-selling A Brief History of Time, wrote – in what seems to be a moment of epiphany: “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”[28] Indeed!

For believers, the moral law within us (which is part of our primordial nature, or fi†rah), and the anthropic fine-tuning of the starry heavens above us, both point, undoubtedly, to a purposeful cosmic designer. In this regard, the Creator has let it be known: We shall show them Our signs in the creation around them, as well as in their ownselves, till it becomes manifest to them that this [Revelation] is the Truth.[29]

SURKHEEL (ABU AALIYAH) SHARIF

Notes:

1. Jonathan Hill, The Big Questions (Oxford: Lion Hudson, 2007), 215.
2. The Persistence of Faith (New York: Continuum, 2005), 9.
3 Sacks, The Dignity of Difference (New York: Continuum, 2003), 41.
4. The Language of God (London: Pocket Books, 2007), 161.
5. Qur’an 38:27. Also cf. 3:191, 10:5, 29:44.
6. Dawkins, River Out of Eden (London: Phoenix, 2001), 155.
7. Cited in Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God (New York: HarperCollins, 1999), 287.
8. Dawkins’ recent best seller, The God Delusion – which contains a collage of overstated factoids, riducle of religion, shoddy theology, reductionist arguments, straw-man assertions, but skillful penmanship; along with a few other tenets in his dogma of atheism – has been robustly and elegantly critiqued in: Alister MacGrath, Dawkins’ God (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005); and The Dawkins Delusion (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2007); Cornwell, Darwin’s Angel (London: Profile Books, 2007); Latham, The Naked Emperor (London: Janus Publishing, 2007).
9. Qur’an 21:30.
10. Qur’an 51:47.
11. Qur’an 23:12-14.
12. Islam the Basics (Oxon: Routledge, 2007), 41. I have replaced Koran, used in the original passage, with Qur’an – so as to keep the spelling consistent with the rest of the essay.
13. Cf. Hamza Yusuf (trans.), The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi (USA: Zaytuna Institute, 2007), 50; pt.14.
14. Qur’an 13:16.
15. Qur’an 37:96. The orthodox doctrine regarding man’s deeds is that, “Human actions are God’s creation but humanity’s acquisition.” Cf. The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi, 74; pt.107.
16. Cf. The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi, 52; pt.24, 25
17. Qur’an, 39:62. Imam al-Safarini states that God is the Cause of causes (musabbab al-asbåb): “meaning, that He is the creator of all causes and conjoins them to their effects.” In other words, God alone creates causes, creates effects, and combines the two. Cf. Lawami‘ al-Anwar al-Bahiyyah (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1991), 1:39.
18. Ibn Abi’l-‘Izz, Sharh al-‘Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah (Beirut: Mu’assassah al-Risalah, 1999), 2:696. Also consult: Keller, Evolution Theory & Islam (Cambridge: The Muslim Academic Trust, 1999), 8-9.
19. Al-Safarini defines the possible as: “That whose existence and non-existence is equally acceptable, as per the sound intellect and rational inquiry.” Lawami‘ al-Anwar al-Bahiyyah, 1:58. As for what is necessary in respect of God, this would include: God’s existence and Him being pre-eternal. Under what is possible would be subsumed: sending of prophets, revealing of heavenly scripture, and legislating sacred laws. The impossible, as theologians state, include: God being non-existent, Him not being one or unique, and Him not being omnipotent or omniscient. Cf. Lawami‘ al-Anwar al-Bahiyyah, 1:58; al-Bayjuri, Tuhfat al-Murid ‘ala Jawharat al-Tawhid (Cairo: Dar al-Salam, 2006), 68-75.
Under this last catagory comes a favourite conundrum of many atheists: Can God create a stone He cannot lift? The paradox being that if God can create such a stone, then He is not omnipotent; all-powerful. If God cannot, again He is not omnipotent. This oxymoron, sometimes referred to as the ‘omnipotence paradox’, is a fallacious argument; a logical impossibility – as Ibn Abi’l-‘Izz explains: “Ahl al-Sunnah believe God has power over all things, and that whatever is possible falls under this omnipotence. As for what is intrinsically impossible – such as something existing and not existing at one and the same time – then this has no reality, nor is its existence conceivable, and nor is it termed a ‘thing’ by agreement of those with sound minds. Included in this catagory would be [the questions]: can God create the like of Himself; can He be non-existent; and other such absurdities.” Sharh al-‘Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah, 1:206. The above serves as a reply to the stone paradox, and whether or not God can create a four-sided-triangle, etc.
20. For a good discussion about humanoid fossil records, the non-specialist lay reader can consult: Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything (Great Britain: Black Swan, 2004), 522-62.
21. Qur’an 38:71-6. As for the mention of God’s hands, or His ascending, or any other quality which seems to smack of the sin of anthropomorphism (tashbih), Ibn Kathir explains: “People have, in this issue, taken many [conflicting] positions; but now is not the place to discuss them. Rather, in this regard, we traverse the path taken by the Pious Predecessors (salaf al-salih): Malik; al-Awzå‘i; al-Thawri; Layth b. Sa‘d; al-Shafi‘i; Ahmad; Ishaq b. Rahawayah; and other leading Muslim scholars, ancient and recent, which was to let the verse pass as it came – without inquiring how (takyif), committing resemblance (tashbih), or denying it (ta‘til): the apparent meaning that comes to the minds of the anthropomorphists is negated from God. For nothing created resembles Him in any way.” Tafsir Qur’an al-Azim (Beirut: Dar al-Ma’rifah, 1987), 2:30.
22. Ar. “jismun latifun yahya bihi’l-insan wa adafaha ila nafsihi tashrifan wa takriman.” Al-Sam‘ani, Tafsir al-Qur’an (Riyadh: Dar al-Watn, 1997), 3:138; al-Qurtubi, Jami‘ li Ahkam al-Qur’an (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1996), 10:17.
23. The Islamic stand is also untenable with Theistic Evolution which, Francis Collins tells us, “is the dominant position of serious biologists who are also serious believers … It is the view espoused by many Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians, including Pope John Paul II.” The main objection to it lies in its premise that once evolution got under way, no divine intervention was required, as well as believing that humans share a common ancestry with the great apes. This, along with their belief that it was God who created life on earth, choosing the elegant mechanism of evolution to bring about our planet’s biological diversity and complexity. Cf. The Language of God, 199-201.
For further readings on evolution from a Muslim perspective, one may consult: Shaikh Abdul Mabud, Theory of Evolution: Assessment from the Islamic Point of View (Cambridge: Islamic Academy, 1992); Ruqaiyyah Waris Maqsood, Thinking About God (Indiana: American Trust Publications, 1994); Nuh Ha Mim Keller, Evolution Theory & Islam (Cambridge: The Muslim Academic Trust, 1999).
24. The Language of God, 141.
25. Just Six Numbers (Great Britain: Phoenix Books, 1999), 4.
26. The Language of God, 74.
27. Just Six Numbers, 165-6.
28. Hawking, A Brief History of Time (New York: Bantam Press, 1998), 144.
29. Qur’an 41:53. Also cf. the discussion of the Anthropic Principle given by the eminent physicist and Christian theologian John Polkinghorne in Beyond Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 80-92.

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Abu Aaliyah is the founder of The Jawziyyah Institute, a leading institute for Islamic moderation and contemporary thought in the United Kingdom. Sidi Abu Aaliyah has been in involved in Dawah and Islamic teachings since 1986. He has translated a number of books from the Arabic language into English such as "The Exquisite Pearls". Abu Aaliyah's written works and audio lectures can be found online.

74 Comments

74 Comments

  1. Dawud Israel

    December 16, 2009 at 1:26 AM

    Jazaka Allahu khayran!

    In ta’aadu nimatullah la tahsuha- if you tried to enumerate the blessings of Allah, you would find no end!
    Wa amma bini mati rabbika fahadis- And the blessings of your Lord, proclaim!

    There are plenty of conundrums in science. Its only on the outside, that it appears mighty with certainty, and thereby makes Muslims nervous with its confidence, but in reality its riddled with doubt throughout. Doubt and discovery go hand in hand. More than likely 100-200 years from now, evolution will be dead theory and there’ll be more new doubts. In the end, all that happens is more questions surface: From where did the concept of “order” come from? Who created “chance”? Where did “knowledge” arise from? If we could live forever how would we know it?

    One thing I suggest to Muslims, especially since many of us will end up in universities is to not get anxious over atheists and hedonists or people with other philosophies and ideologies. The Muslim world had its greatest progress when we stopped to think a little over these different ways of looking at the world. It forced us to grow. Fearing the sciences and making them “deviant” has led to the decline of the Muslim world. Today, I think there is greater reward from Allah in pursuing the sciences to better the ummah, in meaningful way- than in becoming just another pious mind-your-own-business brother. Ihsan and idhqan in all things!

    Its going to be REAL interesting to see how Muslim minds interact and develop in American universities in the future!

  2. kat

    December 16, 2009 at 2:10 AM

    Darwin’s evolution—-I agree that the theory need not be thrown out —but the idea that man evolved from apes does not fit with logic—and had Darwin thought about it some more he would have come to the same conclusion. —-Yes, the “survival of the fittest” sounds good. But when we look at man’s evolution—it is unique. If man evolved from apes, and we survived,–we would be the “fittest”—but Apes also survived—which brings me to the next point—if Apes and Man had the same common ancestor, and they have both survived today—how come Apes aren’t building cities and skyscrapers and inventing things?—-both had the same amount of time for their genes to mutate didn’t they?–the came from the same gene stock to begin with right?—so why the difference?——it can only be explained by the logical conclusion that we are not of the same “ancestor”—our ancestors are different—that is why our evolutionary path is different.

    • Hassan

      December 16, 2009 at 5:34 AM

      Also why not more apes evolving into humans?

      • iMuslim

        December 16, 2009 at 6:09 AM

        I’m not trying to play devil’s advocate here, but just to clarify the position of evolutionary biologists: species survive (by Allah’s will), as long as they successfully occupy their niche in the environment. So chimpanzees and gorillas remain as such, because they’re good at surviving in jungles and wherever else they live, in their present form.

        If the environment changed, for example, jungle habitats became more and more scarce, then that would supply the necessary ‘pressure’ for other traits to be selected for from the chimp and gorilla community. So the descendents of modern apes may look and act differently to their ancestors… perhaps more humanoid, perhaps less.

        That same principle applies to all species.

        Anyway, I’m just clarifying the position of modern Biology. I’m with Abu Aaliyah in that I don’t reject evolution, but I do accept the Qur’anic position on the creation of Adam ‘alayhis salam.

        • Provokatone

          December 16, 2009 at 8:29 PM

          If you are clarifying the position of evolutionary biologists, then how are you playing the devil’s advocate?

          The “theory” of evolution is no longer a theory, say what you will. There is evidence that proves Humans to be an off-shoot from apes, our ancestors.

          Personally, I find evolution more believable than the de-evolutionary idea that somehow God turned Jews into monkeys, which is backed by no scientific evidence whatsoever.

          • Sayf

            December 16, 2009 at 10:04 PM

            My friend, I think you should re-evaluate the idea that something being believable gives it more scientific merit. If you study higher level physics and chemistry, namely the quantum world, scientific results are completely absurd and unbelievable, but they keep happening again and again in the lab.

            i.e. Thomas Young’s double slit experiment with electrons :O :O

            To assume that science through our perception is the pinnacle of understanding the universe is a gross underestimation. We have labeled certain unbreakable LAWS of the universe (forget theories), and then we’ve shattered them. Our most brilliant minds have been proved wrong again and again.

            To name a few, Newton’s model of gravity was flawed, Einstein said nothing will ever travel pass the speed of light, and then stuff did, which also means the particles that went that fast made impossible math happen and maybe some sort of time-sonic-boom?

            Science is very uncertain and ever changing, hey it’s the best we can do, that’s what makes it so fun. But such a thing can never be the guideline for the ultimate reality.

  3. Yousuf

    December 16, 2009 at 5:05 AM

    Great Post!

  4. Hassan

    December 16, 2009 at 5:35 AM

    Awsome article.

  5. Talha

    December 16, 2009 at 6:38 AM

    Good post Mashallah.

    I too, have come to believe that there is nothing inherently wrong with evolution, natural selection etc when it comes to everything outside the origin of man (besides the explicit Ayahs in the Quran, there is the matter of Adam AS’s height which is impossible to reconcile with evolution).

    I hope a qualified scholar can look at the evidence (Islamic and scientific) and corroborate or reject the hypothesis that evolution (sans humans) is not un-Isamic.

    Also worth pointing out is the fact that Muslim do not have to deal with some of the things many Christians have to deal with, like that of the earth being 6000 years old, which forces them to come up with ideas like human and dinosaur co-existence (!!).

    PS. You should edit the part where you say that biologists claim that humans branched off from chimpanzees. That is not the claim at all. The theory claims that humans and chimps had a common ancestor, from which both the hominids and the great apes evolved.

  6. vindicated

    December 16, 2009 at 7:29 AM

    Good food for thought.

    I’ve always thought about the theory of evolution in this manner, in my personal capacity and woefully incomplete knowledge.

  7. Man

    December 16, 2009 at 8:35 AM

    We believe Allah created the sun and the moon, but we have no problem believing that they were balls of gas that slowly accreted to what they are today over billions of years. So in theory, why would we have a problem with an analogous “gradual” creation of species? It is the Sunnah of Allah that thinks change over time.

    However, what is not only kufr, but completely absurd, is that these things happened blindly, through mindless forces without any guiding intelligent principle. All it takes is one to ponder around him, and look at the amazing mind boggling designs of nature. To say this is all blind and mindless – ironically including our minds – is to live in denial. we shouldn’t relinquish territory to the atheists by retreating to the “moral law” and “fine tuning”. Life itself is proof, as cited in the Quran countless times, unless one blinds himself to it.

    The fact that man is a unique creation is also self evident. All animals basically have the same life pattern, grow, eat, mate, sleep, die. Only humans ponder on issues of meaning, purpose, only they have religion, think of life after death, only they speak, dress, and of course have superior intelligence far beyond animals.

  8. Man

    December 16, 2009 at 8:55 AM

    One notices that the Islamic discourse about modern philosophical matters has always been one of observing both sides, and then proclaiming “here’s what we agree with”. Even the arguments we use for the existence of God, you’ll notice come from Christian theologians (though many of them come from Islamic Theologians further still)

    The point is, when will the Muslim Ummah be advanced enough in its thought and its science to come up with its own original answers?

    salam

    • .

      December 17, 2009 at 6:25 PM

      salam
      I’d highly recommend you listen to the ‘Light of Guidance’ cd’s to learn about this concept of ‘proofs of God’ In Islam, we actually don’t have the same arguments and don’t need to copy the Christians or philosophers. The Quranic style is very eloquent, simple and veracious. Jazakallahu khair

  9. Yaseen

    December 16, 2009 at 9:23 AM

    Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Allah created adam in his complete shape and form (directly), sixty cubits (about 30 meters) in height. When He created him, He said (to him), “Go and greet that group of angels sitting there, and listen what they will say in reply to you, for that will be your greeting and the greeting of your offspring.” adam (went and) said, ‘As-Salamu alaikum (Peace be upon you).’ They replied, ‘AsSalamu-‘Alaika wa Rahmatullah (Peace and Allah’s Mercy be on you) So they increased ‘Wa Rahmatullah’ The Prophet added ‘So whoever will enter Paradise, will be of the shape and form of adam. Since then the creation of adam’s (offspring) (i.e. stature of human beings is being diminished continuously) to the present time.” (Book #74, Hadith #246) [Bukhari]

    Prophet Adam a.s. was about 90 feet tall. Humans have been decreasing in height ever since. Wouldn’t that imply that a species as a whole (including humans) gradually changes/evolves over time? (but not evolving from lower life forms)

    • Jack

      December 21, 2009 at 9:46 PM

      How do you explain the fact that humans have become taller since the middle ages?

      • Sayf

        December 22, 2009 at 1:29 PM

        Ever seen one of those stock counters? The stock can be crashing through the floor but it doesn’t necessarily mean the stock is always decreasing and has a negative slope. You’re misunderstanding a basic concept of evolution, because the time frame you’re talking about is tiny.

  10. Farhan

    December 16, 2009 at 9:30 AM

    salaamz,
    i liked the post a lot. Jazak Allahu khayr. Its good to see the discourse raised from the…ignorance that I typically see when Christians take up the issue. I got two points out of this article:

    A) We can accept evolution in general, considering that Allah is the active cause of all events (and therefore, can modify them)
    B) We do not believe that specifically Adam and Hawwa (AS) evolved.

    I have no problems with Point A. The Incoherence of Philosophy FTW!! But, point B is troublesome for me, because they (the atheists) can respond by saying they have a clear fossil record of human evolution. I would not see the connection between fossils and and us as “theories and wild speculation”. The fossil record seems quite suggestive.

    Also, one could argue that Adam (AS) was so tall, because there was more oxygen in the air, which (from what I’ve been told) allows animals to grow larger.

    (btw, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf in his CD-set on the Names/Attributes of God translated ‘mustahil’ to mean “inconceivable” because he didn’t want to say “impossible” for Allah)

    • Yaseen

      December 16, 2009 at 10:16 AM

      wa a’alaikum assalaam,

      Yea, it is not uncommon for people to be thrown off by the fossil record. However, from what I have seen, the atheist/secularist/scientific analysis is quite subjective and not objective. The analysis slants it as a support for the hypothesis of all organisms having common ancestry.

      For instance, they show a picture/fossil of something that resembles a cross between an ape and a human – perhaps a monkey/ape that was more erect in its posture. These fossils could be real, and most likely are. But how is it possible for a person to take one/two/few isolated fossils and jump to the conclusion that “every single human being evolved from a monkey”? Can one believe that, simply because of some similarities, that they are necessarily related?

      – it is possible that this was a unique species that became extinct
      – it is possible that the ape/monkey species was at one point more erect, and simply the physical features evolved or went away, (and there are other possible explanations)

      In short, if someone brings up the fossil record as supposed evidence, I would say to them: “so what?”.
      And I take these fossils simply as a lesson that, Allah s.w.t. creates what He wills in whatever fashion.

      wallau a’a’alam

      • Farhan

        December 16, 2009 at 12:05 PM

        salaamz Yaseen,

        The “so what” is that it would pose a serious question to the belief that Allah SWT created Adam (AS) in a special sense. You are correct, affirming evolution as an observable fact does not automatically imply every single species, namely Humans, evolved from lower lifeforms. That would be a fallacy of composition. And while ultimately their idea of evolution does have a degree of ‘connect the dots’ to it, we can’t deny that those dots aren’t too far apart.

        Evolution, thus, atheism is a non-sequitur. I’ve read and listened to Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennett and Haris. To be honest, I get the impression that they’re just as ignorant about theology (especially Islam) as a person is who says “evolution states that we evolved from monkeys”. To anyone who has looked into theology at a deeper level, their arguments are…well…dumb.

        This leads me to one of three conclusions:
        A) Human evolution is false, our science is flawed and Allah created Adam in the literal sense.
        B) Human evolution is correct, but the original human being, Adam (AS), was created in a unique way.
        C) Human evolution is correct, and we have misunderstood the Qur’an and Prophetic traditions.

        Allahu ‘Alim.

  11. Jamal

    December 16, 2009 at 10:39 AM

    However some points of clarification:

    -Men are NOT descended from Apes-We share a common ancestor with Chimpanzees from which we split about 6 million years ago. How do we know this? Through our common genetic codes. Genes mutate at a certain rate (called a molecular clock). By measuring the rate of mutation we can determine approximately this split occured. Furthermore we share a common ancestry with Gorillas which split about 8-9 million years ago, a common ancestor with monkeys which split further back, a common ancestor with other primates further back, a common ancestor with other mammals etc.

    -We ARE related biologically with all other living beings on earth (plants, bacteria, etc)-How can we know this.. through our DNA which we essentially share. The science of Evolutionary Development (EVO DEVO) is now showing how the same basic genes used to build fly bodies are also present in dogs, humans, flys, cows, fish, turtles etc. This could only come about if we shared the same basic genetic tool kits which are modified through evolution to build different bodies.

    -I personally treat the story of adam and eve as metaphors. It cannot be taken literally. It could also be easily be proved through the same method listed above of using molecular clocks to determine if there was a first common human ancestor. What scientists have found is a mitocondrial “eve” who lived at a different time from an “adam”. But all this meant was that all humans share this eve and adam as an ancestor not that they were the only and first parents.

    -If we take religous texts literally we will be talking the same nonsense as the 6,000 year old earth creationists or those who say the universe was literally made in 6 days. When intelligent thinking people hear this they will naturally turn away from this type of faith.

    -We have so much evidence for evolution by common descent that the case is overwhelming

    • Talha

      December 16, 2009 at 10:56 AM

      I am not going to address your point about taking the miracle of Adam’s creation as a metaphor. That miracle is something you need to come to terms with on your own Inshallah.

      But I am going to address your point about mitochondrial eve and adam. They were just the most common traceable recent ancestors of all humans living today. There are other ancestors who are common to smaller subsets of humans, and are older. Just because the ‘eve’ and ‘adam’ lived in different times, that does not negate the possibility of all humans having one pair (the real Adam and Eve) as their ancestor.

    • Farhan

      December 16, 2009 at 11:45 AM

      Jamal,

      You are correct. Evolution does not argue that people evolved from Monkeys. But, you said that thinking people will believe that the world is 6000 years old. That is a Christian-specific belief. It stems from the alleged genealogy of ‘Esa bin Maryam (AS) with ages of each person. They added those up + 2000 years, and concluded that the world was 6000 years old. That’s a protestant Christian belief, not an Islamic one. Islamic history, philosophy, theology, etc is radically different from that of Christendom.

      • Jamal

        December 16, 2009 at 3:38 PM

        Yes you are correct that these ideas are specific to christian fundamentalist thinking. The point I was trying to make was that the same literalist readings of any scripture will lead to the same muddled conclusions that will only be laughed at. An example:

        Phillip Henry Gosse (died 1888) was a naturalist who was also a deeply religous Christian. Interested in geology he couldn’t square the apparant evidence that the earth was millions of years old based on the geologic activity to the fact that the bible stated god created it in 7 days.

        He wrote a book called Omphalos which laid the claim that the earth merely looked ancient but that was an illusion used by God to make the world look older than it is!! The result was that the believers rejected his idea as it made God seem like a deceiver and cruel jokester while the agnostics laughed at the illogic of it all.

        Turning to current biology, literalist christians and muslims use the same arguement: ignore the evidence from dna, proteins, homologus organs suggesting common descent, commonality of genes in all living organisms (bacteria to humans), and on an on. Why would a god put so much apparent evidence suggesting common descent and evolution and then say sorry I was just trying to fool you!!!

        That is why I am saying that the story of Adam and Eve are only to be taken as metaphors and not represent actual figures.

        • Regular Baba

          December 16, 2009 at 4:27 PM

          Salam

          Brother Jamal, if I may make a comment on what you said.

          “Turning to current biology, literalist christians and muslims use the same arguement: ignore the evidence from dna, proteins, homologus organs suggesting common descent, commonality of genes in all living organisms (bacteria to humans), and on an on.”

          I agree with you on this. But then (and please don’t take this in an offensive way), you do something similar when you say “That is why I am saying that the story of Adam and Eve are only to be taken as metaphors and not represent actual figures.”. Just as you have the scientific evidence you are talking about, there is a methodology to interpreting the Quran. No-one can ignore these steps when interpreting it: the interpretation of the Quran from the Quran, the interpretation of the Quran from the Prophet(SAW), the interpretation from the Companions, the interpretation from the scholars of tafseer. Before making the kind of statement you made, you need to see if it clashes with those interpretations. I am not saying you are wrong, but you would need to cite proof from those things in order to have a valid position.

          And Allah knows best.

          • Jamal

            December 16, 2009 at 6:11 PM

            I guess what I am saying is that I am having trouble reconciling ANY of the Qur’an with what we now know of the world. Every year religion retreats further from what all scriptures say. Call it a crisis of faith if you will but I cannot believe in good concience that large parts of the book are to be taken literally if at all.

            This did not come overnight but through readings of science, philosophy, biology, physics and other subjects. Perhaps someone can answer intelligently these questions:

            1. Why would God create a world with so much suffering ? It is not only suffering through human actions. Rather it is suffering on a vast scale through diseases of various types, killings of animals by other animals (involving huge amounts of pain)?

            2. We are told this is a test. Why would a creator put any human being through such hideous tests. Have you seen human beings with birth defects of various types. They are not pretty sights. As far as I can see these are due to mistakes made by nature that happen all the time and not through any divine providence. What happens if you fail this test. Do you go to Hell for eternity?

            3. It actually makes more sense for God to create everything in a few days than to sit around for eternity and then approximately 14 billion years ago initiate the inflation of the existing universe. Then wait another 10 billion years to begin the creation of this world, wait a billion years to create the first life, wait another 2 billion years for the first multicellular life and then another billion years to create humans. Why not all at once?

            4. Hell in the Quran does not make sense. Is it physical and eternal? Then it is insanly cruel and I don’t believe any creator would send anyone there for any reason at all. Even for rejecting the truth. I would not send someone to eternal punishment for rejecting something true. How about if they just don’t believe?

            5. Punishment for apostacy-same reason as above. If this is not part of Islam why have the vast majority of ‘Ulema stated this to be so? Did they not have ‘ijazas, know perfect Arabic, memorize the hadith and Quran? If this is not the case wouldn’t it have been made perfectly clear in the Quran and Hadith?

            I have other issues. Please see the links below. Perhaps someone can clear these up.

    • Siraaj

      December 16, 2009 at 9:52 PM

      “We have so much evidence for evolution by common descent that the case is overwhelming”

      Yeah, I think I heard the same about global warming until hacked emails by top climatologists showed they were hiding evidence of opposing opinions to push an agenda. Thanks, but I’ll stick with what is obvious from a simple application of logic.

      Siraaj

  12. Talha

    December 16, 2009 at 10:44 AM

    Another problem is that Muslim (and Christian) critique of evolution is woefully amateurish and often times flat out wrong. We all know and believe Adam AS did not evolve, but in our defence of our position does not mean we should use (pseudo)scientific argument which would earn derision and ridicule from the scientific community.

    If we can’t disprove evolution scientifically using current scientific techniques – which IMO we can’t – better to just say we believe what Allah has revealed in that Adam did not evolve, and that is sufficient for us.

    • Sayf

      December 16, 2009 at 9:43 PM

      I couldn’t agree more. I always tell people that trying to scientifically explain the creation of Adam through biology is like trying to explain the mechanisms behind Jesus (Isa) a.s. being born without a father, you’re not going to make any scientific sense, and you’re not supposed to since it is of course a miracle, and the likeness of their creation is the same!

      It is a function of faith, but it’s not blind faith. It’s indirectly proven with something that can be thoroughly tested in every way. If X = Y, and Y = Z, then X = Z. Similarily, if you can prove the Qur’an is the word of Allah, and the Qur’an explains the creation of the universe, that’s the proof for our faith in our creation.

  13. Ibrahim

    December 16, 2009 at 11:12 AM

    Asalamu Alaikum WR WB,

    Interesting Post. Another interesting point to mention is that, as we all know, we are made up of two parts: the body and the soul. So to nourish our body, we need to sustain it from where it came from (its origin); the earth. The water we drink flows on this earth, and the food we eat grows on this earth. Similarly, to nourish our soul or Ruh, we need to sustain it from where it came from (its origin) and as we Muslims know, it is something from Allah Subhanahu wa ta’ala. The funny thing about atheists is that although they disregard the concept of a God, they still have that “emptiness” feeling inside from neglecting their Soul. So instead of believing in Allah, they believe in a theory or ideology or natural phenomenon.

    Point being: for human life to be complete, two parts must be nourished by the individual; the body and the soul.

    Ask the athiest, where did the soul come from?

    As Allah ‘Azza wa jal says in the Quran: “Wa yasalunaka ‘anniRuh, Qul iruhu min amri Rabbi wa maa uteetum min al ‘ilmi illa qaleela”. (Al-Israa, Ayah 85)

    “And they ask you O Muhammad (PBUH) about the Ruh, Say it is from the commands of my Lord and of Knowledge you mankind have been given very little.”

    Just consider:
    *When you wake up during the last third of the night and no one know’s your awake, and you pray 2 Rik’a’s in full humility and submission to Allah Subhanahu Wa ta’ala. When you make sincere Du’aa to Allah Subhanahu Wa ta’ala and you know He is listening and you feel comfort, rest assurance, and serenity because He will never betray or neglect you. The feeling that overcomes you is one that fills your heart with happiness, joy and energy. Your face becomes bright with Eman and you feel like smiling to the world. This feeling of energy you could never get by eating a healthy meal or drinking a red bull. This is because your soul is fulfilled, you’ve sustained it with nourishment from where it originated from-Allah Subhanahu Wa ta’ala.

    May Allah give us faith in Him that’s unbreakable and may Allah Subhanahu Wa ta’ala grant our families His Protection and Mercy-Ameen

  14. coolred38

    December 16, 2009 at 11:14 AM

    Just “throw out” fossil records….hmmm? On one hand we do NOT have ANY fossils of 90 ft human beings (evolved or not) but we do have a multitude of fossils showing mans evolution from an ape like creature….but we’ll just throw all that out cause it doesnt mesh with our religious teachings..? Nice.

    “Only humans ponder on issues of meaning, purpose, only they have religion, think of life after death, only they speak, dress, and of course have superior intelligence far beyond animals….”

    and kill without reason (and so often using that very same religion that teaches them their superiority over animals etc as an excuse)…such evolved and superior creatures we are

  15. Regular Baba

    December 16, 2009 at 11:44 AM

    Salam

    Just had a glance at the article, it looks good will Inshallah read through all of it when I get the time. One thing:

    “To believe that man evolved out of lower life forms is disbelief, regardless of whether the process is ascribed to God or to ‘natural selection’.”

    This seems a little harsh, considering that a few scholars, including very orthodox and high calibre ones such as Dr. Israr Ahmed, have tried to reconcile what the Quran says about the creation of Adam with the ‘scientific’ version of the evolution of man. That would imply that Dr. Israr was uttering a statement of disbelief.

  16. Abû Mûsâ Al-Ḥabashî

    December 16, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    JazakAllah khayr. As I student of biology I really believe that Muslims (especially in the West) need to know Islam’s position on evolution from qualified Muslim Scholarship who know what they are talking about when it comes to evolution. Atheists use evolution to bash religious people over the head with (even though it really does nothing to support Atheism over Theism) all the time and I think because of that, Muslims instinctively react by rejecting the whole theory. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to hear famous speakers say some very ignorant things when talking about the theory of evolution and, when laymen study the theory and see that it is not as it is portrayed by some Muslim speakers, it’s hard to blame them when they start to doubt Islam itself as a result. I think the fact that Adnan Oktur (sp?), better known as Harun Yahya, is considered the most influential Muslim in the World according to the recent polling is extremely unsettling (although that’s not to say all of his criticisms are unwarranted). To those Muslim speakers who have no training in evolution, I appeal you to restrict yourself to what you’re qualified to speak about; you could very well be doing more harm then good.

    I’d also like to echo what a previous commentator mentioned about how sporadic science is, even when it comes to evolution, despite how authoritative and certain it appears to the general public. For example, I was taught in high school that Lamarck’s theory was almost ridiculously wrong whereas Darwin had it right. But then in University, I learned that in fact, Lamarck was more correct then he was given credit for. Actually my professor, Jan Sapp, said he was more of a Lamarckian than a Darwinian.

    • Joyhamza

      December 16, 2009 at 1:08 PM

      Bro. Abu Musa, would you please briefly outline whats the mistake with the ideas brought forth by the likes of Harun Yahya? He has written books which, for the laymen, are very impressive and informative to support his take on the issue. How do you as a student of Biology look at the issue?

      • UmmeAmmaarah

        December 18, 2009 at 12:13 AM

        yes, someone please let me know what exactly is wrong with his books. I used to love reading his books until i started hearing that i shouldn’t and never knew the reason why. I hear people say that he is wrong, but I don’t know what he is supposed to be wrong about and how.

  17. TheAlexandrian

    December 16, 2009 at 12:40 PM

    Salam,

    First, kudos for taking up an issue that, at best, is quite thorny.

    Second, I remember coming across explanations of human evolution from Muslim theologians wherein they suggested that perhaps “human” ancestors were around and that Adam (AS) was the first with a soul (or, as you noted, “An incorporeal, life-giving substance”). Any notes on the validity of this position?

    Last, as some have already alluded to, it’s nice to see Muslims moving beyond simplistic refutations and really analyzing this issue. No joke, an uncle in a masjid once told my little cousin “Dinosaurs are haram!” :S

    • Farhan

      December 16, 2009 at 3:37 PM

      The rejection of Dinosaurs being an animal from 65 million years ago is a Christian idea, not an Islamic one.

      • TheAlexandrian

        December 16, 2009 at 3:53 PM

        My point exactly. There are too many Muslims defaulting to a wholesale rejection of anything tangentially related to evolution – be it biological or archeological – without truly examining the matter.

        • Regular Baba

          December 16, 2009 at 4:08 PM

          Salam

          Agreed. But at the same time, we shouldn’t go to the other extreme, and try and rationalize what the Quran says with science by trying to interpret the Quran metaphorically. There’s a whole methodology to interpreting the Quran, and discarding that methodology is akin to discarding the scientific facts (and I mean real facts, not theories) which support evolution.

          • TheAlexandrian

            December 16, 2009 at 4:21 PM

            Couldn’t agree with you more. That’s why an article like this one is so valuable – it’s an accessible, nuanced take on evolutionary theory from an Islamic perspective. On the one hand, you don’t water down belief to suit what the scientific community deems proper, but on the other hand you don’t indiscriminately judge all aspects of evolution to be invalid.

            One note though. The word “theory” in modern day scientific parlance essentially holds the weight of “law,” despite the oft-utilized charge of “It’s only a theory.” Essentially, after Einstein showed that Newton’s so-called “laws” were anything but, it seemed a bit arrogant to say any phenomenon was forever and always binding (scientifically speaking, that is :) ).

          • Sayf

            December 16, 2009 at 10:18 PM

            Thumbs Up (Y)

  18. abdulhaq

    December 16, 2009 at 12:42 PM

    assalaamu `alaykum abu aliyah

    we met a while back in Stourhead

    JZK, I found your article interesting and look forward to reading the finished publication. Some time ago I posted some relevant thoughts related to this issue here: evolutionary psychology and islam

    wassalaam
    abdulhaq

  19. Man

    December 16, 2009 at 1:45 PM

    Here is an interesting website that attacks evolution from a nonreligious perspective by what looks like a Deist. But mostly he argues that “intelligence” is required – which is just obvious, evolution or not
    http://evillusion.wordpress.com/

    AbdurRaheem Green Has a lecture on the matter. He is not a specialist, but has done a great deal of reading both for and against it, and gives his views.
    http://tv.muslim1st.com/?p=321

    The “metaphorical” interpretation of a literal story in the Quran seems like an easy way out, a cop out from the cognitive dissonance. This is a complex issue and requires much study.

    salam

  20. Uthman

    December 16, 2009 at 5:16 PM

    Assalam o alaykum JazakAllah khair for the article.

    Just recently, I watched Dawkins documentary (Root of all evil). In this documentary, he says things which are inherent to the fitrah. For example in one scene he says that children are pre-programmed to listen and go along with what they are told. If every child started questioning and debating with the authority the child would inevitably die. So he admits that humans are pre-programmed(have a natural inclination) and must submit to an authority.

    So in essence, we as humans have a natural inclination to recognize a higher being and we therefore like to submit to His authority. We cannot escape this natural inclination. How can someone be at peace knowing that their existence has no meaning? I refuse to accept that I have no purpose and am just here because of some perfectly executed random events. If I were to imagine what life would be like without a Creator I would have nothing to live for. I mean seriously whats the point in living. Even if I were to live then, what would stop me from doing almost anything I wished? Why should I be moral? Why should I even worry about whats right or wrong? Why? I digress.

    What Allah(SWT) has revealed to us regarding the creation of man is enough. It is the unseen and that is the challenge. When I look at apes and chimps, I see that design is nearly the same i.e. all organisms share the power of sight, hearing,commnicating, digestive systems etc. This shows the Creator is One. Why is it that the design is like this and not something else? I am baffled by the Creation. It has to have a Creator! The theory does not make sense because it goes against what I just mentioned.

  21. Ibn Qudamah

    December 16, 2009 at 6:01 PM

    Salamalaikum

    Excellent piece Shaykh Abu Aaliyah. Where may I get more audio so that we may benefit from your knowledge? I have found a beatiful talk on http://www.jimas.org/mp3/conf0809.mp3 – JazakAllah Khayran.

    Ma’Salam

  22. Holly Garza

    December 17, 2009 at 7:55 AM

    Assalam u Alaykum wa ramatulahi wa barakatu JazakAllah khayer for the very interesting article!

  23. Abu Aaliyah

    December 17, 2009 at 8:19 AM

    Salams one and all. Thank you all for your comments and thoughts.

    I agree that we do tend to be stuck in the ‘throwing out the baby with the bath water’ attitude in a number of crucial issues; although things do seem to be steadily improving mashallah.

    Talha: Jz.k for that correction. I’ll amend it in the actual book inshallah.

    Man: Indeed, when will Muslims contribute their own original thoughts and ideas to contemporary civilisation and science. We seem to be content with reminiscing in past glories and civilisational achievements. I would suggest, however, that civilisational accomplishments tend to be accumulative: one civilisation building upon the hard work and advances of others. In this sense, to come up with something totally new and unprecedented and unrelated to what has come before, is nigh on impossible (or so it seems to me). In fact, even religiously, Islam sees itself as a “middle path” between the extremes of those who cling only to the letter of the law, and those who are happy to abandon it for what is perceived to be its spirit. It isn’t surprising, then, that in certain philosophical and religious outlooks, Islam posits a middle ground. Finally, are you suggesting we shouldn’t take recourse to fine tuning or the moral law to speak about Allah, His existence and His purpose for humanity?

    Farhan: The fossil records for human evolution are certainly not factually conclusive (the DNA argument is much more rooted in hard ‘facts’ than fossil records). So it is this sense it is still ‘speculative’. Perhaps “wild” speculation was over-eagerness on my part. Since, many eminent paleontologists assert that the humanoid-human fossil records are very patchy – with scientists often having to make assumptions based on other objects found nearby – it is safe to say that many of there assumptions may be little more than valiant guesses.

    Jamal: Though I agree not everything in scripture should be taken literally (‘ala zahir, haqiqi – to use religious terms), literal reading of scripture is a fundamental interpretative tool. Of course, there is metaphor, context, allusion, idiom and other hermeneutics, but literalism is a fundamental one. To suggest the Adamic narrative is merely a metaphor would be to run into serious scriptural problems. For instance, if Adam/Eve is just a metaphor for the first couple to be endowed with a soul from Allah, but both being birthed from their respective humanoid parents in an evolutionary chain extending back to the Great Apes, what should we make of the following Quranic verse [3:59]: The likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then He said to him: “Be!” and he was. The emphasis being that Adam, like Jesus (peace be upon them both), had no father or male intervention in their birth. Are we to believe that Adam was part of the evolutionary chain, but that he wasn’t born of a male/female union? Where’s the science in that? And what about being created from dust, what is the metaphor there? And are these metaphorical readings rooted in the clear Arabic language that the Quran insists in so many places it was revealed in? Then there are the hadith narratives to contend with about Adam’s specific and unique creation. As for DNA similarities, I do find that much more difficult. But then again, we share much DNA similarities with bananas. I suppose the commonality here is that you can make shaikhs out of both ;-)

    Abdulhaq. salams to you. Nice hearing from you, and nice thoughts too.

    Regular Baba. Kufr (not a word I use lightly). However, it is because of the clear-cut textual indications (dalalat al-nass) which the account of Adam’s creation is based on, peace be upon him, that lead scholars to this conclusion. Just to clarify, the ruling of kufr in no way implies that specific individuals are being called apostates or unbelievers. As for Dr Israr, I’m not familiar with what he said, so I cannot comment further. As for harshness or appropriateness, I am open to suggestions inshallah.

    Ibn Qudamah: There isn’t much audio content, mainly because I’ve tended over these last twenty years not to allow my talks to be recorded. There is enough audio content out there without me having to stick my neck out and put it on the chopping block of accountability. :(

    Finally, the various comments about the sporadic nature of science and its theories cannot be underestimated. But it cannot be an excuse for shoddy research or argumentation. Jzk.k.

    Salams.

  24. Abu Aaliyah

    December 17, 2009 at 8:39 AM

    I forgot one more vital comment:

    Farhan: Thank yo so much for pointing out that Sh Hamza translates the word “mustahil” as inconceivable (as opposed to “impossible” which I translated it as). I fully agree we must have the fullest adab when speaking about our gracious Lord – even in translation. And though I’ve not had time to consider the matter sufficiently (with deference to the Shaykh’s shari’ah learning and his greater command of English), the point of adab still remains. I ask Allah to forgive me my shortcomings in speaking about Him or His din.

  25. Farhan

    December 17, 2009 at 5:11 PM

    salaamz Br Jamal,

    Great questions! I used to have similar questions. When we are not grounded in our theology (ie, more than just “Allah is one, go do namaz”), and start to experience issues that seem troubling. They creates “knots in the soul”. You are not the first person to ask these exact same questions. They’ve been dealt with by the scholars for generations. A lot of these questions are not based in reason/logic, but in emotional objection based on an unwillingness to accept what one knows is correct.

    1. A Muslim who enters Jahannum (may he save us from that) for a short period goes there to purify himself of his past sins. Likewise, suffering in this world (with patience!!) removes sins. A person who goes through suffering in this life is purified.

    But, ask yourself a more philosophical question. What makes you think suffering is inherently bad? Is it bad because you dislike it? A person could dislike what you like, and like what you dislike. So, what’s the objective standard? The point is, what you perceive as bad could infact be quite good, but you just don’t realize it. The best lessons in life I learned after much suffering and frustration. It FORCES you to deal with the situation and develop as a person. But, most people are blind to that reality.

    2. This is the same as Q #1

    3. What do you mean “it makes more sense”? Based on what? How do you know there were not wisdoms that you are not familiar with? I work in IT Security, and most of the time, what I do does not make sense to anyone around me (even other Security Folks). In simple, your lack of understanding on “Why” does not mean anything either way.

    (To me, it seems to show the Awesome power of Allah, that to him Time itself has no value.)

    4. This is based on two things:
    a. Subjective emotion, ie “Based on my upbringing, culture and experience, I see that as wrong.”
    b. Lack of understanding of just how terrible Shirk and Kufr truly are. To help understand this, imagine if you heard someone was killed in a terrible manner. You would say that it is wrong. Now imagine if you saw it. You would become angry, upset, perhaps violent or sick. Why a different reaction when its the same knowledge? Because one is internalized and the “veils” of it are removed from you. Likewise, when you ask such a question, you say so completely veiled to how evil and horrible Shirk and Kufr are.

    5. I don’t know. I’m not a Fiqhi.

    Jamal, based on the way you phrased it, I don’t believe these questions will appeal to you. But, I don’t think your questions are based in reason or logic, thats only the guise of it. Its based on an emotional or pyshlogical issue with Allah is backed up with what seems to be (genuinely no disrespect intended!!! meaning is lost over the internet!!!) a lack of knowledge of the religion, beyond simple basics that everyone is taught as a child. If I am wrong, please correct me. But, I would advise you to read the responses to these questions! Imam al-Ghazali did a lot of work in this arena. Every question you asked is not a new question that people have only wondered in the last 100 years. These are OLD questions that have already been discussed. The questions have already been answered. Its now a matter of reading, understanding and accepting.

    I’m confused about Evolution and the creation of Adam (AS) too, but I must also confess that my knowledge is radically limited, but my soul does “experience” (best I could think of) Allah and his reality.

    Allahu ‘Alim

  26. Man

    December 18, 2009 at 10:37 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum

    Jamal, it is good to be honest with ourselves about how we feel, and not deny the questions we have. But we should also be honest with ourselves, and humbly acknowledge that just because we don’t accept the answer to some issues here and there right now – does not necessarily mean it is legitimately a problem. “Crisis of faith”, when handled slowly and with study of different points of view, actually leads to a stronger position and more beautiful Iman.

    Miracles
    The human being is like a sponge. Immerse him in a “School of thought” long enough, and he begins to think like it – no matter how strange or foreign it may have seemed before. This includes the logical positivism of western thought, that basically denies the possibility of any “miracles” and reduces reality to “natural laws” – which will raise problems in interpreting any scripture. But really when one thinks about it, we are talking about the maker of the laws of nature, and it follows that He can suspend them in certain cases.

    This makes far more sense than the main conclusion of that school, which says the laws of nature are blind, purposeless, mindless, with no “planner” behind them, yet they somehow gave rise to the beauty, coherence, and harmony around us and in us, and ironically – our own minds. That ultimately all human ideas are delusions without objective existence, and only formed for their value in passing on our genes.

    Granted we have never “seen” miracles, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. It simply means we have no reason to believe or disbelieve them … unless a trusted authority tells us of them – the same way we accept the vast majority of our day to day beliefs about the world. If one explained the concept of bacteria, billions of invisible organisms all over the place, to someone living 1000 years ago, one would be thought insane or credulous – but simply because people didn’t see something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Really the only difference between a miracle and an everyday occurrence is we are used to the latter, but both are amazing. The odd paradox is that the more of the miracle we see, the less miraculous it is! Strange indeed.

    At the end the issue becomes whether or not we trust this authority that tells us of many unseen entities and events, i.e. the Quran, based on its concept of purpose of life, the world, theology, and many other factors

    Evil
    I personally find it amazing that nowhere in the world is the problem of evil a bigger deal in people’s minds than the West, where people live materially comfortable lives. They look at the tsunami, and ask “what God would allow this”, yet the people who actually suffered from it, of all religions, by and large turn to God in such times. To me this shows it is a psychological issue, caused by materialism.

    As the Prophet peace be upon him said: “How amazing is the affair of the believer. If good afflicts him, he is thankful, and so it is good for him. And evil afflicts him, he is patient, and so it is good for him”.

    So yes bro, of course it is a test. That is the whole point. An easy test without any challenge or difficulty is worthless. If we wanted an easy life with no hardship whatsoever, then what is the point? What is the point of a university where everyone passes without effort? What is the point of an exam that has no challenge? We know from our everyday life, that such a test has no value to anyone.

    As for Hellfire, as far as I know, a respected minority of scholars believe it is not eternal, and will come to an end, based on some Quranic verses, including Ibn Taymiyya and some Sahaba – check with scholars on this. At the end of the day, God is infinitely merciful and just. And nobody will be get a ounce beyond what they deserve. And without Hell, there would be no justice. People like Hitler would just “check out”, and it’s done.

    I recommend any book by Jeffery Lang, he discusses these same issues at length and how he came to terms with them, available on amazon. He also has a nice (but long) youtube lecture on this

    Finally, and most importantly, never forget that guidance at the end of the day comes from Allah Subhanahu wa Taala. We must exert effort, search, ask, think, to find the truth but also we must sincerely ask our creator and pray for it – And if we are humble and sincere, it impossible that Allah leaves us misguided. It is this humility that the atheists completely detest and mock.

    Truth is found by using both intellect and soul, it is by going to extremes in denying one or the other that people are misguided.

  27. atheistdebater

    December 19, 2009 at 1:10 AM

    There are many intelligent comments here, but, of all the commentators here, Jamal is the most knowledgeable, courageous and honest. I agree, Adam is, at most, a metaphor. I commend you, Jamal.

    Question: Why does the Quran say the Sun revolves around the Earth?

    “It is not permitted to the Sun to catch up the Moon, nor can the night
    outstrip the day, each just swims along in its own orbit.” (36:40 Ali translation)

    The Sun does not orbit around the Earth. Comparing the Sun to the Moon shows a geocentric bias, something that a primative Earthling would have. Use as many intellectual contortions as you want, the person who wrote that sentence was not divine, rather a sixth or seventh century human. Also, the Sun does “catch up” to the Moon. Ever seen an eclipse?

    • Man

      December 19, 2009 at 7:01 AM

      Answer:
      I think any honest person without a bias who isn’t trying to force meaning and context onto the text will see that this verse uses quite general language, and is compatible with both geo and heliocentric, and just about any other model you can think of. It simply says the Sun and the moon both have orbits, never says around what, and they never interfere or “catch up”, which they don’t. Eclipses are obvious even to a “primitive sixth century earthling”, and his listeners, so obviously nobody thought eclipses qualified as “catching up”.

      Here’s an interesting verse: 39:5, “He yukawwir the night upon the day and yukawwir the day upon the night”. The Arabic word yukawwir literally means “make into a ball”, from root word kura = ball. Sometimes it is rendered into English as rolls, wraps, coils. So one could argue the author knew the earth was spherical, and that at any given time there is both night and day being “rolled” onto each other.

      Though this might be reading a little too much into the text, with a bias for it rather than against it. The clear point though, is that there is nothing in the Quran that is clearly in conflict with modern science if you simply take it at face value without forcing an interpretation on it – with the exception of the story of Adam.

      If you honestly examine any such criticism, you will invariably find it forces an interpretation on a text that could just as well be interpreted in an accurate, even prescient way, or that it is translation issue that disappears when you go to the dictionary for the Arabic word in question and how it was used. And I am not playing the interpretation game here, I am saying simply take the text at face value, without adding your own context.

      You will find it is far cry from the metaphysical speculation that is well known to have plagued virtually all known ancient civilizations and scriptures. You should find it interesting that no statement made in the Quran can be proven to contradict science, and that a few are in strange agreement when you would have every reason to expect a primitive earthling to speak of all sorts of crazy things and prevalent beliefs in clear uncompromising terms to impress his simple audience.

      E.g. never does it say “the sun revolves around the earth”. Or the prevalent ideas of the four or five elements that constitute matter like the Greeks, Indians, and Chinese thought 1000 years earlier. that the sun is the glowing helmet of an angel, the earth is on the back of a giant animal – like Arabs thought a giant fish Bahamut did, the baby is nourished by menstrual blood (common belief among the Arabs), mountains hold up the sky, the sea has a fire breathing serpent Leviathan, the earth has an edge or corners, 4 legged insects, …

      At the end of the day, the signs of God are clearly around you, and in you. The wonders around you and your own mind are obviously not the product of blind, mindless, purposeless forces. Reflect on the fact that you were once a tiny invisible cell, and now a fully thinking human. Put aside the mental gymnastics, and ask yourself, how can there be no planner behind all this? How can a chaotic explosion eventually bring about you and me, blindly without purpose? How can our only objective purpose be replication of selfish genes?

      But once again, belief is not a purely intellectual exercise. Your heart has to be in the right place too, and you must sincerely want guidance to the truth.

      peace … may you find it … God willing

    • Sayf

      December 19, 2009 at 6:17 PM

      “Also, the Sun does “catch up” to the Moon. Ever seen an eclipse?”

      It’s ironic that you mentioned this during your attack of a primitive geocentric orbit because the analysis of the observation you are mentioning is in fact a highly geocentric stance. The geocentric orbit is simply taking our planet as the main plane of reference and the sky as the other reference with everything moving around it. To put it simply, it’s the idea that our point of view down here is the correct one for describing celestial kinetics. Thus from a geocentric point of view, it is commonplace to analyze the sun and the moon catching up during an eclipse.

      In a heliocentric view of the solar system, you zoom out and take a look at the big picture of the orbits of the celestial bodies. Thus for the heliocentric orbit, the sun and the moon come nowhere remotely close to each other ever.

      I would really have to agree with Man in that there’s bias affecting your objectivity, it seems like you don’t want it to be correct, because you’re jumping around from heliocentric to geocentric whenever it fits best with your analysis of this verse.

      • Sayf

        December 19, 2009 at 6:22 PM

        Editing time limit argh! I said simply twice :(.

    • Jamal

      December 19, 2009 at 10:06 PM

      Thank you debater. I was just asking some questions that came about through my readings. I don’t think I am particularily intelligent or certainly not knowledgable. It just seems that the natural world can be explained through naturalistic causes and that the explanations given in scriptures are poetic means of conveying that reality.

      FYI I was a convert to Islam about 11 years ago and was involved in various organizations. My reading of science books was initially purely for self interest. But over time the information they provided led me to question what I was being told. I am still in a transitional phase no longer quite certain of the traditional explanations given by people. It appears every year that traditional religion is retreating as our knowledge of the natural world expands.

      BTW the word “Big Bang” doesn’t represent what actually happened, i.e. an explosion. This was a term used by Fred Hoyle as a way of making fun of the theory. He actually believed that the universe was eternal and in a steady state and used the expression in a mocking manner. The reality is that there was no “Bang” but merely an instant expansion of space/time 13-15 billion years ago.

      Thank you for all of the comments. I don’t think they answered my questions but I appreciate your manners all the same. Ultimately after further thinking here is what I have concluded:

      -Evolution is true-All of life is related and shares a common ancestor from a bacteria to birds to fish to us. The process through which we have diverged is through natural selection working. A bit complex but observable. BTY many different types of microevolution leads to macro evolution. I would recommend books by Carl Zimmer and Donald Prothero on evolution. You can find them on Amazon.

      • Hassan

        March 28, 2010 at 10:29 AM

        Salaam Jamal,

        Does gene commonality necessarily entail common ancestory? The engine of a Ford has the same basic mechanisms as an engine for a VW; both are created from the same knowledge source, namely, man. Expanding this analogy, is it not possible that the similarities between Man and Primate exist because they, too, were both created by a singular, Transcendent source?

        —-

        The belief that life could arise, fortuitously, from a primordial soup and, through the accumulation of trillions of fortuitous mutations, result in the rich bio-diversity this planet has to offer is a quite staggering one. The theory of evolution, from abiogenisis through to consciousness requires a huge leap of faith.

  28. Amin

    December 20, 2009 at 12:26 PM

    Brilliant article. Keep up the good work.

  29. Saad

    December 20, 2009 at 2:12 PM

    Salam all,

    I like the article a lot but I didn’t really understand the last point where the author concluded that humans could not have evolved from apes because God created Adam from his own two hands and because he breathed the spirit into him. I can understand how this creation is one that is very elevated and special. However, I don’t really understand how one can conclude that this means that Adam could not have been crated through a physical process like evolution. That conclusion has to be based on the idea that being created through such a process could never be elevated.

    I guess the case would be closed if there was some sort of hadeeth that said that Adam indeed was not born of a mother. If such a hadeeth exists, could the sheikhs on this forum please post it.

    I recall that there is an ayah in the Quran in Surah Baqarah which a lot of scholars interpret to mean that Adam was created in heaven. However, I recall that there are other orthodox interpretations who say that Adam was created on Earth.

    If he was created on Earth, can someone explain to me what how the other mufasirs thought how he was created? And if we don’t know how he was created, why should we care about it so much. Shouldn’t we say that Islam really doesn’t say how Adam was created although we know he was created with purpose and dignity? I thought we were not supposed to say that we knew the kayfiyah of how Alla creates. Thus shouldn’t we not interpret how created Adam with his hands.

    Please respond. As of right now, I don’t really care that much about human evolution but I need to know how our sources clearly say that it is wrong.

    Salam

  30. Sayf

    December 20, 2009 at 2:22 PM

    The author posted something that answers your question, so I’m just going to quote him.

    “For instance, if Adam/Eve is just a metaphor for the first couple to be endowed with a soul from Allah, but both being birthed from their respective humanoid parents in an evolutionary chain extending back to the Great Apes, what should we make of the following Quranic verse [3:59]: The likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then He said to him: “Be!” and he was. The emphasis being that Adam, like Jesus (peace be upon them both), had no father or male intervention in their birth”

  31. Saad

    December 20, 2009 at 11:02 PM

    Salam Sayf,
    I like the part that you just quoted. I don’t see how this ayah clearly negates the evolutionary process. We know that Allah did not create Jesus literally in the womb of Mary from dust but that he was created through a miraculous process. If Adam’s creation was just as Jesus’c creation, i.e. a very extraordinary birth, I would find that that does not contradict evolutionary theory.
    Your assumption is that the likeness of the two births negates evolution. That is only if we assume that Adam’s creation was completely unnatural. There could be a likeness that does not negate evolution and be consistent with punctuated equilibrium.
    I guess I do see that if there is unanimous consensus of the mufasirs on this issue that this ayah basically says that Adam was created without a father, I would agree that this negates evolution. However, I don’t understand how just quoting this ayah can be used for evidence.
    P.S. Not here for jidal just to learn my stuff.
    Salam

    • Sayf

      December 21, 2009 at 12:16 AM

      Walaikum salaam,
      I appreciate the comments Saad! I think both of us need to look at the tafsir behind the ayat, and also the etymology of the Arabic word translated as dust for more information on that ayat. But there are more proofs as to why Islam is incompatible with human evolution. This is from brother Yaseen’s comment (ah schools got me brainwashed to cite everything):

      Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Allah created adam in his complete shape and form (directly), sixty cubits (about 30 meters) in height. When He created him, He said (to him), “Go and greet that group of angels sitting there, and listen what they will say in reply to you, for that will be your greeting and the greeting of your offspring.” adam (went and) said, ‘As-Salamu alaikum (Peace be upon you).’ They replied, ‘AsSalamu-’Alaika wa Rahmatullah (Peace and Allah’s Mercy be on you) So they increased ‘Wa Rahmatullah’ The Prophet added ‘So whoever will enter Paradise, will be of the shape and form of adam. Since then the creation of adam’s (offspring) (i.e. stature of human beings is being diminished continuously) to the present time.” (Book #74, Hadith #246) [Bukhari]

      Prophet Adam a.s. was about 90 feet tall. Humans have been decreasing in height ever since. Wouldn’t that imply that a species as a whole (including humans) gradually changes/evolves over time? (but not evolving from lower life forms)

      There are numerous hadith on the topic of the height of Adam (as). Also, the idea that Eve was created specifically out of Adam (as) ‘s rib after him. So not only do we have the creation of Adam without sexual reproduction, but also of Eve. I think this is about as incompatible as it gets with humans sharing common ancestry with pre-existing species.

      • Sayf

        December 21, 2009 at 12:37 AM

        Oh one more quote, this one is from you :P :

        And if we don’t know how he was created, why should we care about it so much. Shouldn’t we say that Islam really doesn’t say how Adam was created although we know he was created with purpose and dignity?

        I agree in that we aren’t given all of the information of everything that’s going on, and thus it’s really not important and futile for someone to try to fill in the gaps that don’t need filling with weak science. However we are given the bottom-line about how Adam (as) was created. Just like how the Qur’an gave the bottom line and refuted the idea of the Arabs that the sky was held up by pillars/mountains at the end of the Earth. The physics behind the gravity of a spherical planet in space was not explained, but it still was the truth.

        Similarly, we don’t know everything about the biology of how 90ft went to 6ft, how aging changed over time (maybe something about our telomeres?). It’s something one takes on faith, but like I said in one of my previous comments, it’s not blind faith, it’s proof by induction. Sooner or later we have to realize that we don’t know everything about everything, and it’s just not a good idea to smash in an intermediate piece of the puzzle where it doesn’t belong when we have all the final answers already given to us.

  32. Saad

    December 21, 2009 at 6:03 PM

    Salam Sayf,
    Thank you. That definitively does say something against evolution. I guess that clears my mind.
    Salam

  33. Saad

    December 21, 2009 at 6:12 PM

    Salam
    I guess I’m wondering if the Quran specifically says something against evolution. Whether we like it or not, you have a lot of modernists who would say that Bukhari in not infallible.
    Any ideas?
    Salam

    • Yaseen

      December 22, 2009 at 7:45 AM

      hmm, well let’s see….

      — we know from both Quran/hadith that Adam was in paradise first before descending to Earth. Allah commanded the angels to prostrate to Adam IN JANNAH, Iblis refusted to prostrate and was kicked out OF JANNAH. Adam and Hawa’ (Eve) made the mistake of eating from the tree, and thus were made to LEAVE JANNAH and descend to Earth. (see surat al-‘araaf 11-27). From what I understand, until Adam left jannah, ALL of these events happened in jannah (angels refusing to prostrate to adam, iblis refusing to prostrate, Adam/eve eating from the tree, etc.)

      — Pure evolutionists assert that humans developed gradually ON EARTH, descending from a long line of other organisms. Chemicals developed into bacteria, into multicellular organisms, into algae, into simple animals, into monkeys/apes, into ignorant cavemen, and into humans, ALL ON EARTH.

      I hope this evolutionary contradiction with Quran is more clear.

      The entire development of human beings, according to evolutionists, is on earth, because they do not believe in the unseen. However, as Muslims, we believe that Adam was created and put in jannah, lived in jannah for a while, and then came to earth in his full, final form.

      Is it not enough that the people who concoct these theories do not believe in Allah nor in the last day? Do you see how their rejection of iman is reflected in their theories? A purely secular biologist will never acknolwedge jannah in their scientific theory, because it goes against basic scientific principles to use something “unseen” – e.g. something you cannot see, hear, smell, touch, or taste.

      wallahu a’alam,

      • Saad

        December 27, 2009 at 5:10 AM

        Salam,
        Sorry but I believe that there are two opinions on the issue of whether Adam was made in heaven or not. One of the opinions is that he was made in heaven. The other opinion is that he was made on earth and the jannah referred in the passages is a garden on earth. Both these opinions are orthodox. Therefore, your conclusion is opinion-dependent.
        Salam

  34. Zalah

    December 25, 2009 at 12:41 AM

    I know some Jewish people also believe in the 6000 year old Earth, or at least this present one or something. The interpretation of the time of creation in 6 days varies as well as other things.

    I agree coolred38, it is true, humans are the ONLY creatures who go to such extremes of pointless violence, lust and greed. Interesting. Personally I think we are meant to better ourselves continuously (away from these feelings to a point – but not so far that we aren’t human…we need some passions in our lives or we would be dull and unmotivated) and religion (when used correctly) can be a tool for that, as can many other things that produce positive outcomes. That’s a sort of social evolution if you will…. As we need to have a purpose, a goal as humanity to attain, evolution or not.

  35. Al-Nayjeree

    December 28, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    Asalaamu Alaikum!

    Mashallah, this is a great article–and the comments have been interesting as well. I especially like the responses some of the brothers have given to the common questions above (about science, miracles, evil, etc.)–these questions are quite typical and I’m very impressed with some of the answers (from Man and Furhaan, to mention just a couple!!). Thanks for showing the importance of knowledge and critical thinking, coupled with faith and taking the Qur’an for what it is

  36. shehmir

    December 28, 2009 at 4:34 PM

    Salamu alaykum,

    Brother Jamal, here is a lecture [by brother Gary Miller] which answers your questions of problem of evil.

    Nature of Belief:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxCTAzvDWfQ

    I’ll also recommend other lectures by Brother Miller which include, Basis of Muslim Belief, Reason and Revelation, Amazing Quran and History of Religion.

    http://nadeem.lightuponlight.com/indexaudios3.html#Gary_Miller

    As to atheistdebator, see the problems with critics [like you] is that you are too quick to quite an interpretation to any verse and than deny the book. Quran Verse 3:7 states that there are two kinds of verses in it, verses that a clear [Explicit] and verses that are Implicit [i.e. they could mean this or they could mean that]. To get an understanding of these verses we should place them next to verses that are explicit, than we wont go astray.

    As to your question;

    Verses 39:5 uses a most interesting verb in describing the succession of the day and the night, the verb يكور (“yukawwir”) which means that their succession is the result of a rotation of a ball.

    Using the method of elimination we can conclude whatever that ball is [though there are interesting verses on this subject i.e. on the coiling of the day with night and vice versa], it’s not sun because verses 91:3 states that it’s the day that unveils the sun [and the night conceals the sun]. Had sun been orbiting round the a stationary earh that it would be the sun that would display the day and not the other way round.

    And [by] the day when it displays it i.e. the sun.

  37. I aint no bandar

    March 17, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    If u think man was evolved from an ape then you might aswell believe in bugs bunny.

  38. Pingback: বিবর্তন, জায়নামাজ এবং টেলিস্কোপ – পর্ব-২ | ibana

  39. Pingback: বিবর্তন, জায়নামাজ এবং টেলিস্কোপ – পর্ব-২ | ibana

  40. Melbourne Prayer Times

    June 10, 2019 at 2:44 PM

    Assalam u Alaykum wa ramatulahi wa barakatu JazakAllah khayer for the very interesting post!

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