Islamic Theological Views on Darwinian Evolution
By Nidhal Guessoum
The various positions that Muslim scholars have adopted vis-à-vis Darwin’s theory of evolution since its inception in 1859 are here reviewed with an eye on the theological arguments that are embraced, whether explicitly or implicitly. A large spectrum of views and arguments are thus found, ranging from total rejection to total acceptance, and including “human exceptionalism” (evolution is applicable to all organisms and animals but not to humans).
The two main theological arguments that are thus extracted from Muslim scholars’ discussions of evolution are: 1) Is God excluded by the evolutionary paradigm or does ‘the Creator’ acquire a new definition? 2) Does Adam still exist in the human evolution scenario?
A few more, less crucial issues are sometimes raised in Islamic discussions of evolution: a) does the extinction of innumerable species during the history of life on earth conflict with the traditional view of God’s creation? b) Does theodicy (“the problem of evil”) get exacerbated or explained by evolution? c) Are ‘species’ well-defined and important biological entities in the Islamic worldview? d) Can the randomness that seems inherent in the evolutionary process be reconciled with a divine creation plan?
These questions are here reviewed through the writings and arguments of Muslim scholars, and general conclusions are drawn about why rejectionists find it impossible to answer those questions in a manner that is consistent with their religious principles and methods, and why more progressive, less literalistic scholars are able to fold those issues within a less rigid conception of God and the world.
The compatibility between Islamic doctrine and the theory(ies) of biological and human evolution is one of the most challenging topics facing Islam today. Indeed, this issue relates to several important dimensions of today’s Islamic culture: a) the role and place of scientific evidence in Islamic thought and theology; b) the place and status of scientific knowledge and scriptural references in the general culture; c) the principles (and consequently the content) of the education that Muslims are receiving (or should receive) today. These multiple facets of the subject not only determine how a Muslim scholar considers the acceptability of evolution but also govern the debates that have become more vigorous and frequent around the topic in recent years.
Recent surveys of Muslims’ views on evolution have found significant variations among respondents, but overall the surveys show that roughly three quarters of Muslims either completely reject or have fundamental disagreements with the idea of species having evolved from one another, especially for humans.
Scholarly writings on Islam and evolution are still rather rare, and most of them, especially in the “native” languages of Muslims (Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia, Farsi, Turkish) betray either an utter lack of understanding of the scientific aspects of the question, by the traditionalists in particular, or a superficial view of Islamic dogmas and theology. Very few well-informed, insightful, and coherent articles can be found on the subject in those languages, and fewer books still. Moreover, a demagogic, populist tone can be read in most writings on the subject, authors considering it too controversial and touchy for any views to be expressed on it other than what the public has always heard, namely that evolution is an atheistic “theory” that is far from scientifically solid and clearly opposes well-known tenets of the Islamic creed and must thus simply be rejected and ignored. A few scholars, however, have tackled the issue seriously on theological grounds.
There are indeed obvious theological implications to Darwin’s theory of evolution and to the scientific evidence that has been collected on human evolution in the past several decades. The general theological implications were realized immediately as Darwin published his historic book (in 1859), and they became even more pressing when scientists understood the mechanisms of evolution (assuming they are more or less established, with random mutations playing a central role) and the evidence for biological and human evolution (thousands, perhaps millions, of species have gone extinct in the long history of life; close genetic resemblance between humans, apes, and other animals; etc.).
In this article, I will review the positions that have been expressed by Muslim scholars with regard to Darwin’s evolution, first the opposing ones then the agreeing ones. I will then highlight the theological issues that arise in the discussions, especially with the evidence for biological and human evolution having become too overwhelming to ignore or reject. And finally, I will summarize and conclude with a few thoughts on how the topic can best be addressed and taken on board by Muslim scholars and the general society, including some educational aspects.
Brief Overview of Opposing Views
In an article titled ‘The Muslim Responses to Evolution’, Abdul Majid1 divides scholars on the question into three categories: (1) the rejectionists who view evolution as totally contradictory and incompatible with a literal reading of the Islamic teachings; (2) the pro-evolutionists, who insist that evolution must be accepted totally; (3) the “moderates” who consider that some but not all aspects of the theory can be accommodated by Islam.
In the first group, Abdul Majid puts Shihab-ud-Din Nadvi2, Wahiduddin Khan3, and Harun Yahya, focusing on non-Arab scholars. To these one may add the perennial philosophers Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Martin Lings and Frithjof Shuon (who are more famous in the west), plus a long list of very influential contemporary Arab Muslim scholars who have staunchly opposed evolution, including Abdul Aziz bin Baz, Safar Al-Hawali, Abdul Majid al-Zindani, Muhammad Metwally El-Shaarawy, Mohammed S. R. Al-Bouti, and others.
Let us briefly review the positions and statements of some of these important scholars, in the aim of noting their theological objections.
Abdul Aziz bin Baz (1910 –1999) is one of the most famous and revered Salafi scholars; he served as Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia from 1993 until his death and was not known to shy away from issuing fatwas on a variety of issues, including modern ones. On evolution he has stated: “Darwin was wrong: humans did not evolve from other species; they were created in the form they currently have. Adam was perfectly human, but he was 60 cubits in height [27.4 meters], and humans got smaller later… Apes and other animals are distinct species (the Qur’an calls them “umam”, i.e. nations); they will be brought back to God on the Day of Judgment… Muslims who make this claim [of human evolution from ape-like species] while knowing what the Scriptures say are heretics!” (Bin Baz, 2004)
Safar Al-Hawali (b. 1955 in Saudi Arabia), an Islamic scholar in the Wahhabi tradition, stated: “For humans, we know everyone descends from Adam and Eve – no discussion! For other organisms, if people say ‘they descend from each other’, that may be fine with us, but if they say ‘they came from nothing’ or other myths, then we respond to them using our scriptures (and any doubting that is tantamount to heresy!) and using scientific proofs that anti-evolutionists in the west have presented…” (Al-Hawali, n.d.)
Abdul Majid al-Zindani (b. 1942, Yemen), the founder and head of Iman University and a founding member of the World Agency on Scientific Miraculous Content of the Qur’an and Sunnah, had earlier studied biology and chemistry in Egypt (in the 1950’s-60’s). In 2009, in the wake of the confusion around the meaning and implication of the discovery of the Ardi4 fossil skeleton, he claimed: “Darwin’s theory has become a myth… Ardi is the latest proof of the fall of Darwin’s theory and of the special creation of humans… There is no evidence of humans having evolved from apes… Evolution was not even a theory, only a hypothesis, and it was defended by materialists against the Church and disseminated by the colonial powers in the Muslim world in an effort to weaken the hold of Religion there…” (Al-Zindani 2009).
Muhammad Metwally El-Shaarawy (1911–1998) was a popular Egyptian jurist, exegete, and preacher. On evolution, he said: “It is a theory, not a fact. Evolution has been refuted; we should not be ‘more royalist…’ Why did the ape evolve into a man? Why do we still have apes around? Why don’t we see any ape evolve today?” (El-Shaarawy, n.d.)
Mohammed S. R. Al-Bouti (1929-2013), was for decades and until his recent death one of the most famous and respected Muslim scholars of the Arab world. He was a conservative traditionalist, but he tried to adopt a systematic approach of logical argumentation and justification as much as he could. In particular, he tried to revive the Islamic theological tradition of argumentation for Islamic tenets and dogmas, most notably in his important book Kubra al-Yaqiniyyat al-Kawniyyah (The Greatest Cosmic Certainties). In it, he devotes a whole chapter to the question of evolution, and in some of its sections he launches into a “scientific” critique of “Darwinism”. Unsurprisingly, he focuses on ‘Man’. Here are the first lines of that chapter:
“The Muslim should be familiar with the following truths about Man and his reality; s/he must then make that a certainty and build upon it the meaning of his/her faith in Allah:
a. Man is the best and most noble of all creatures;
b. Man was created – in terms of his [physical] nature – from clay, and he has multiplied from the first man, Adam, peace be upon him;
c. Man was created from the very beginning in the best appearance and in perfect shape; he has not evolved during his history in a way that would have moved him gradually from one species to another.” (Al-Bouti, 1969/1982; p. 245)
A few pages later he warns the (Muslim) reader: “And be careful not to pay attention to what some Sufis say, that Adam (peace be upon him) whose creation is related in the Qur’an was preceded by many other Adams.” (Al-Bouti, 1969/1982; p. 250)
Seyyed H. Nasr (b. 1933)5 is undoubtedly the most famous and celebrated Muslim philosopher of today. However, he has always opposed the theory of evolution on philosophical and theological grounds, even though sometimes he tries to look at it from a scientific perspective. Mostly, however, he focuses on philosophical arguments (Nasr 2006): “[First,] the question of form and the finality of form. A triangle is a triangle, and nothing evolves into a triangle; until a triangle becomes a triangle, it is not a triangle. So if we have three loose lines that gradually meet, even if there is one micron of separation, that is not a triangle. Only a triangle is a triangle. And life forms also have a finality of their own”. Likewise, “the human being has been a human being since the first arrival of human beings in the world. They have not evolved from other beings whose bones bear similarities to theirs, [which] does not mean that the human body has evolved on the basis of purely material factors from the chimp. There is obviously a discontinuity that reveals the manifestation of a higher level of being.” (Nasr 2006)
He also brings up an argument he calls ‘logical criticism’: “How could something greater come out of something lesser?” Indeed, Nasr insists that only God, the Life-Giver (Al-Muhyi, which is one of His 99 attributes) can turn inanimate matter into something alive. He adds to it “the mathematical critique of evolution” that has been made by “these people who speak of intelligent design”, an argument he considers as “one of the most powerful scientific critiques of the biological theory of evolution.” (Nasr 2006)
And on the question of whether Adam (the first human) was created here on earth, he responds: “This is sheer blasphemy, one of the worst kinds of blasphemy, because it deprives Muslims of their eschatological hope. The [paradise] described by God in the Qur’an does not look like the earth as we know it even if originally the earth was a paradise (that is something else) and even if, when God first created the earth, it was called the terrestrial paradise in Christian theology.” He concludes: “Anyone who identifies paradise with some place in Africa where Adam gradually evolved is guilty of the worst kind of heresy theologically speaking. Such people are not serious Muslims anymore.” (Nasr 2006)
In fine, he accepts microevolution but strongly rejects macroevolution. He regards ‘theistic evolution’ as “worse than the Darwinian idea” because: “it is no longer scientific evolution”; “it … will not satisfy the agnostic or atheistic biologists”; and “it ties the Hands of God through a process that we believe we know, but we really do not know”. He warns Muslims not to “surrender” to the evolutionary paradigm, as “unfortunately many Western Christian theologians have.” And he calls on “Muslim theologians [to] criticize not only biological evolution but also the Christian, and by that I mean the modernistic Christian theological understanding of biological evolution.” (Nasr 2006)
Muzaffar Iqbal (b. 1954), a Pakistani-Canadian chemist by training and Islamic scholar by vocation, has lately been following in the footsteps of Seyyed H. Nasr. In a recent article on evolution, he wrote: “This idea has now spread throughout the world, even though at its root is a vague concept of species – a concept upon which there is no consensus even within the [evolutionary] scientific community… [The] logical implication [of Evolution] can be nothing but the destruction of the sanctity of species – something vouchsafed by the Glorious Book itself… The ant and the honeybee have always been the ant and the honeybee and will always remain so.” He adds: “Built into the basic meaning of the word Ummah6 (of which umam7 is the plural) is the concept of the sanctity of species. Not only does each species preserve its characteristics, but it also receives Divine command (wahy) and acts accordingly, the Qur’an tells us. The ant and the honeybee have always been the ant and the honeybee and will always remain so.” (Iqbal 2006)
Harun Yahya8 has published rather blunt books and articles on evolution, including: The Evolution Deceit: The Scientific Collapse of Darwinism and Its Ideological Background; The Disasters Darwinism Brought to Humanity; New Fossil Discovery Sinks Evolutionary Theories; Thermodynamics Falsifies Evolution; etc.
Yahya’s anti-evolutionary writings attack the theory on scientific rather than theological grounds, unlike the scholars I have cited above. His “scientific” arguments, include: a) “the information determining species already exists in the genes and it is impossible for natural selection to produce new species by altering genes” (Yahya 2000/2003, p. 101); b) “When terrestrial strata and the fossil record are examined, it is seen that living organisms appeared simultaneously…. [in a] miraculous event [that] is referred to as the ‘Cambrian Explosion’ in scientific literature” (Yahya 2000/2003, p. 105); c) “Not a single transitional form verifying the alleged evolutionary ‘progression’ of vertebrates – from fish to amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals – has ever been found. Every living species appears instantaneously and in its current form, perfect and complete, in the fossil record. In other words, living beings did not come into existence through evolution. They were created.” (Yahya 2000/2003, p. 108); d) “The mechanism offered by evolution totally contradicts the second law [of thermodynamics]” (Yahya, 2006/2008, p. 820); e) “The probability of an average protein molecule made up of 500 amino acids being arranged in the correct quantity and sequence in addition to the probability of all of the amino acids it contains being only lefthanded and being combined with only peptide bonds is ‘1’ over 10950” (Yahya, n.d., p. 142); and other arguments of the same kind.
On the theological front, the literalist standpoint has not subsided in recent years. In an article titled ‘The Prophet Adam and Human Evolution’, Shaikh Dr. Haitham Al-Haddad9 insists that the divine pronouncement ‘Be! And it is/was”10 must be understood as implying instantaneous creation; he writes: “the Arabs did not consider the phrase kun fa yakun (be! And it is/was) to be an indefinite period of time, for indeed, the phrase illustrates the power and might of God that His will is manifested immediately and decisively, without delay. Even the phrase “be! And it is/was” in English implies it (whatever it is) happens instantaneously…” (Al-Haddad, n.d.)
Al-Haddad goes further with his literalist approach: “The Qur’an clearly states that Adam was created by Allah, and with His own hands, ‘He said, ‘Iblis11, what prevented you prostrating to what I created with My own two hands?’ In addition, the famous Companion, Abdullah ibn Umar, said, ‘Allah created four things with His hand: the Throne, the Pen, the Garden of Eden and Adam. To the rest of His creation He said, “Be!” and it was.’ This narration clearly shows that the Companions believed that these four things, Adam included, were created in a way different to other animals and creatures.” (Al-Haddad, n.d.)
An interesting case is the book titled Abi Adam (“My Father, Adam”) that was published in 1998 by the Egyptian religious scholar Abdel-Sabour Chahine (1929-2010). His thesis was twofold: 1) there was a long development of humans over millions of years, though they did not evolve from any kind of animal species; 2) there has been no macro-evolution, and no species evolves from or produces another. He insists that he does not accept Darwin in any way. What is interesting, however, is that his intention, as he says, was to rid the Islamic culture of two “viruses”: 1) all the ‘Israelite’ stories that have been pushed into the Muslims’ understanding of various historical issues; 2) the literalist approach to the religious texts.
Chahine’s book is full of errors, essentially on every scientific point; for example, he gives geological ages in the tens of billions of years (the pre-Cambrian period alone is given at 71.125 billion years). He shows a very wrong understanding of the theory of evolution and quotes unreliable texts, the main one from 1956, that claim to falsify Darwin’s theory. He thus describes the theory of evolution as “a very weak claim”, with “no bearing on the question of Man’s origin, even though it may have contributed much in biology and anthropology.”
Still, the book made important theological and cultural progress on the issue of human origins and evolution: a) Chahine insisted that humans go back millions of years instead of the usual thousands or tens of thousands of years that traditional creationists claim; b) he accepted the existence of many “Adams” (humans) before the famous Adam of the religious story; c) he accepted that the paradise from which Adam was expelled was an earthly one (perhaps in east Africa); d) he claimed an important distinction in the Qur’anic vocabulary that describes humans, with bashar referring to pre-humans and insan referring to spiritual humans; e) he insisted that many parts of the creation story must be read with a metaphorical sense and a hermeneutical approach. One can thus understand why the book created a firestorm and landed its author in several courts…
This is therefore an interesting case of a Muslim theologian’s partially successful attempt to engage with modern knowledge; indeed, it seems obvious that his readings on human evolution led to an interest in reconsidering the traditional views on Adam and human history. What is most striking is that despite some willingness to engage and reconsider the simplistic and traditionalist human-origins story, a rigid position with regard to Darwin (a taboo name in the Muslim culture) made it impossible for the author to make the final jump, i.e. accepting that humans evolved from other species and share common ancestors with apes and other primates and animals.
Similarly interesting is David Solomon Jalajel12 who, in a recently published book titled Islam & Biological Evolution – Exploring classical sources and methodologies, aims “to investigate, within the framework of classical Islamic scholarship, what an Islamic opinion about evolution might be… The scope of this study encompasses the scholarly traditions recognized, at least by their respective adherents, to be part of Muslim orthodoxy… It covers the works of the scholars of the Ash`ari, Maturidi, and Salafi theological schools…” The author justifies this limiting of his study by arguing that “these traditions represent, for most of the world’s Muslims, the ‘mainstream’ of Islamic thinking, and therefore have a greater relevance for determining what a general Islamic perspective on evolution could be”. He leaves aside the views of any rationalist scholars, classical (e.g. Mu`tazila) or contemporary (what the author calls “Islamic Modernism”), deeming them all “heterodox” (Jalajel 2009, p. 6).
By limiting himself to traditional schools of Islamic theology, Jalajel is forced to reach anti-evolutionary conclusions, particularly with regard to humans. His first, general conclusion is rather positive: biological evolution does not have to be rejected (“Islam can accommodate the claim that God created the many species of animal and plant life on Earth though gradual stages…” p. 149), and “[w]hether evolution is scientifically true or false – and whether any theory about evolution turns out to be valid or invalid – has no implications for a Muslim’s beliefs one way or the other.” (p. 157). However, he insists that Adam be regarded as a miraculous creation. For him, this is consistent with the Ash`ari theology’s denial of strong causality; indeed, following that dominant theological school, he insists that we only observe general patterns in God’s action in the world, not any rigid laws of nature, hence God can break them or suspend them whenever He wishes, and “Science can never hope to be able to determine the manner in which a single human being, Adam… was specifically created… What the sacred texts say about the creation of Adam has led classical scholars to the conclusion that his creation was unique, even miraculous.” (p. 150) He adds: “there is no reason to assume that the creation of Adam had to follow the same pattern as the creation of other life forms.” Needless to say, this fully contradicts not only the whole scientific perspective on the subject, but tons of empirical evidence as well.
But what is most interesting about this work is the fact that the author engages, almost in unprecedented manner, in a discussion of various issues that Evolution purports to raise for Theology. Such issues include why there seems to have been a huge waste of animals and species (extinctions) in the evolutionary history of Earth, and why evil exists in the natural world. We will come back to these issues shortly, issues which are rarely – if ever – discussed in the Islamic literature, in connection with the evolutionary paradigm.
Before I review the writings of Muslim scholars who have accepted evolution and found it compatible with Islam, I should mention the group of thinkers whom we may describe as “human exceptionists”, i.e. those who accept biological evolution for all species except humans. Their main argument is that humans have a special mind/spirit, which could not be explained by any evolutionary process. Abdul Majid cites: Muhammad Rafiuddin, who adopted that position in his book Quran and Ilm-I-Jadeed; Israr Ahmed, who agreed with Rafiuddin in Eejad-o-Abda-I-Alam; and Ahmed Afzal, a student of Israr Ahmed who followed up on his teacher’s views with a cogent and sharp article titled ‘Qur’an and Human Evolution’. To these one may add Hussein Al-Jisr, an important figure in this subject, and Abu al-Majid Al-Isfahani, both of whom I shall discuss below at some length.
Brief Overview of Agreeing Views
The early Arab/Muslim reactions to the publication of Darwin’s book and theory were, perhaps surprisingly, far from antagonistic. Indeed, in his study of Arab reactions to Darwinian ideas from 1860 to 1930, Adel A. Ziadat first notes that “Arab thinkers of the Middle Ages, who took the idea of evolution from the ancient Greeks, gave great consideration to the ideas of organic evolution and transformationism in the plant and animal kingdom […] Arab writings in some ways approached those of Charles Darwin” (Ziadat, 1986, p. 25). That is a greatly exaggerated point, but for Ziadat it explains the generally positive (or at least non-negative) reception of Darwin’s theory; in fact, he writes: “A number of influential Arab thinkers of modern times […] denied the fact that the theory of evolution was a discovery of Darwin and Wallace. Others indicated that what Darwin explained was a part of Arab elaborations on the whole notion of transmutation”. (Ziadat, 1986, p. 25)
Hence, one may not be surprised to learn that a very open-minded discussion took place among Arab intellectuals around the theory of evolution beginning from the 1870’s onward. The exchanges focused more on philosophical, religious, and social implications than on the scientific aspects of the theory. Still, it is important to stress the fact that the positions covered a wide spectrum, ranging from simplistic rejection to acceptance in toto. Indeed, some of the Arab secularists saw in Darwinism the embodiment of the modern, scientific spirit of the times and the way to pull the Arab world from its backward and irrational mindset (as they perceived it).
The first response to Darwinism came from a non-Arab Muslim, Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (1838/1839 – 1897), the famous leader of the reformist pan-Islamic movement. In 1881, while in India, Al-Afghani published his Refutation of the Materialists in Persian; it was soon translated into Arabic, and from that to other languages. The book was mainly a reaction to the modernist Islamic movement of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, whose school of thought had stressed the importance of naturalism, i.e. that explanations of the world must rely solely on natural assumptions (hence rejecting all miracles, large or small). Several authors have remarked that it appears from his book that Al-Afghani had not actually read Darwin’s works; his description of the theory of evolution was often mistaken and confused. In later years, however, Al-Afghani moderated his views, remarking that Darwin’s ideas had been proposed by “Arab scientists” of the golden age of Islam.
The most important and full-fledged Islamic reaction to Darwin’s theory was the book published by Hussein Al-Jisr (1845-1909), a revered and influential Sunni Lebanese scholar. His book, titled Al-Risala al-Hamidiyya fi Haqiqat al-Diana al-Islamiyya wa Haqiqat al-Shari`a al-Muhamadiyya (“A Hamidian Essay on the Veracity of the Islamic Religion and the Veracity of the Islamic Canon Law”)and published in 1887, presented a rigorous and clear discussion of evolution from a positive, confident Islamic standpoint. Al-Jisr strongly believed that Islam has always supported truths in all matters and encouraged progressive thought, including naturalism as long as it did not deny the central principle of a creator; this then led him to – in principle – accept all evolutionary processes and even what we would today call ‘methodological materialism’.
However, Al-Jisr insisted that Darwin’s theory remained, in his time, unproven, but he calmed his Muslim readers and assured them that if the theory came to be strongly ascertained, Islam would not suffer from it; on the contrary, it could rather easily accommodate it, as long as the theistic worldview is preserved in the evolutionary paradigm.
Indeed, Al-Jisr cited several Qur’an verses to show their concordance (in principle) with evolution and even remarked that the Qur’an pointed to the creation of life from inanimate matter. He further stressed that God being omnipotent and outside of time, it makes no difference to Him whether the world and everything in it was created at once or in stages (Elshakry 2011).
He did, however, voice serious doubts about whether humans would fall under this evolutionary paradigm. In his view, the Qur’an speaks quite clearly about a special creation for Adam; furthermore, science is unlikely to ever be able to describe the spiritual nature of man, especially not in an evolutionary scheme from earlier, primitive species (one must recall the Qur’anic verse “And they ask you about the soul. Say: The soul is one of the commands of my Lord, and you are not given of knowledge but little.” 17:85). Still, he admitted that should science be able to produce irrefutable evidence about human evolution, then Muslims will be obliged to accept and subscribe to the evolutionary paradigm. In any case, one’s faith in God would not be jeopardized.
On the Shiite side, Abu al-Majid M. R. Al-Isfahani (1870-1943) wrote Naqd Falsafat Darwin (Critique of Darwin’s Philosophy) in 1914, a book which title suggests a rejection of Darwinism. The Iraqi scholar, however, did not actually contradict the theory of evolution itself, but was rather mainly concerned with the status of man. He realized and stressed that the religious texts only provided metaphorical creation stories, but he still insisted that the origin of man from an animal form cannot and must not be accepted. His fundamental principle was that materialists could only conjecture on questions of creation and origin, while religious people could rely on the absolute truths that could be found in their texts.
In Turkey, as Darwin’s theory was viewed and presented by pro-western thinkers as strongly supporting the materialistic ideology they were propounding in the early decades of the 20th century, Islamic scholars had to react. Thus Ahmet Hamdi Akseki (1887-1951) and Süleyman Ateş(b. 1933) published articles that presented the Adamic human origin story as a parable that aims at teaching people about the central aspects of the human, namely his spirit, not at relating historical facts (Kaya 2012). Indeed, Akseki noted that one cannot find in the Qur’an any information on when Adam was “created” and that the Islamic literature on the subject is essentially an import from Israelite traditions that circulated among the early Muslim community. Moreover, he quoted several early Muslim commentators who stated that there had probably been pre-Adamic humanlike creatures on earth. Finally, Akseki found support for his views in the Qur’an, particularly the verse 71:17 which speaks of God “growing you (humans) from the earth”13, nabata (literally, like plants), and 3:33 where Adam is said to have been “selected” (istafa) above the rest of creatures. (Kaya 2012)
Ateş, a highly respected contemporary Islamic scholar, wrote an article on evolution in the Turkish Encyclopedia of Islam in 1973. He stressed that the Qur’an speaks of God having “begun” the creation of man from clay (32:7), implying some extended period of development. Indeed, he sees the evolution of humans as an ongoing and unending process, as the entire goal given in the Qur’an for the creation of humans is for them to seek (worship) God (51:56), thus the spirit/soul gradually rises toward its creator. (Kaya 2012)
Finally, Ismail Mazhar (1891-1962), an Egyptian Muslim writer, was the first to translate Darwin’s Origins of Species; he did that in stages: the first five chapters appeared in 1918, four more were published in 1928, but the complete work appeared in Arabic only in 1964. Stressing Islam’s quest for knowledge, the rationalist Mazhar saw a total compatibility between evolution and religion and wrote numerous pages in that regard for the rest of his life.
There was indeed a wide spectrum of positions vis-à-vis Darwin among Muslim intellectuals in the decades that followed the publication of the theory of evolution, but Ziadat considers those reactions to be by and large an acceptance of the theory, which was interpreted as “the wisdom and will of God”; in his view, “Muslim writers … provided a religious sanction to Darwin’s science.” (Ziadat, 1986, p. 121). He concludes: “If one uses the phrases ‘evolution occurred by God’s control’, ‘[the] universe was created for a purpose’ and ‘materialism [i.e. naturalism] is a neutral thought’, one finds total support among Arab religious thinkers, Muslim and Christian.” (Ziadat, 1986, p. 127). He further comments: “Were there any differences between Muslim and Christian Arab religious thinkers, concerning Darwin’s theory of evolution? The answer is not difficult to find. While both were open to Darwinism, this study suggests that Muslims were more ready to accept Darwin’s evolution than were the Christian Arabs.” (Ziadat, 1986, p. 127-128).
Indeed, in a recent article, Muzaffar Iqbal (an anti-evolutionist) mentions a number of famous and/or highly respected Muslim scholars from the 1880’s to the 1970’s who were theistic evolutionists: Muhammad Abduh, Seyyed Ahmad Khan, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Fazlur Rahman, Ayatollah Murtaza Mutahhari, Ayatollah Behishti, Javad Bahonar, Maurice Bucaille, Muhammad Hamidullah, Muhammad Iqbal, and others (Iqbal, 2006)…
By contrast, the late twentieth and early twenty-first-century period in the Muslim world is characterized by the strong fundamentalist, literalist brand of religion that has taken hold. And that is why a large majority of Muslims today, including elites, whether educated in modern universities or religious ones, by and large reject evolution, at least with regard to humans. It has become rare to come across pro-evolutionary views expressed by Arab/Muslim intellectuals, including scientists.
One of the rare exceptions, however, is the Syrian intellectual Muhammad Shahrour, who has undertaken a very interesting Qur’anic approach to the question of human evolution. He starts by distinguishing between the terms bashar and insan, both of which are usually understood as ‘human being’, a distinction that Chahine later made (as we have seen), apparently without being aware of Shahrour’s ideas (Shahrour, 1990, pp. 281-285). In this optic, the two terms refer to two very different stages of human evolution. Indeed, in reviewing the story of Adam in the Qur’an, he shows that each time the word insan (‘man’) is used, there is a clear connotation of “comprehension” (mental capacity), “abstract conception” (of metaphysical entities, in particular) and “intelligence”. By contrast, the word bashar is used only in the context of the creation of the species, well before it has evolved to insan and become mentally capable. One could simply say that Shahrour wants to identify the bashar stage with hominid (or even Homo) and insan with modern man. He finds support for this idea in the fact that the Qur’an refers to the ‘breathing of God’s Spirit’ into the hominid/homo (see verses below). Shahrour also finds a significant hint in the usage of the word ja`il (making) instead of khaliq (creating) in one of the key verses. He then constructs a story of human evolution from the Qur’anic verses that read in total accordance with the modern theory.
Another noteworthy exception is Rana Dajani14, a Jordanian molecular biologist who has lately come out strongly defending the compatibility of Islam with modern science, and biological evolution in particular.
Recently, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, perhaps the most influential Sunni Islamic scholar of the past decade echoed the views that Al-Jisr had formulated more than a century ago. Al-Qaradawi said: “Even research into the beginning of creation [is allowed in Islam], as long as one keeps in mind that we are looking into creation, meaning that there is a Creator… Even if we assume that species evolved from [other] species, this is only by the will of the Creator, according to the laws of the Creator… If Darwin’s theory is proven, we can find Qur’anic verses that will fit with it…” (Al-Qaradawi, 2009).
Indeed, a number of scholars have found in the Qur’an possibilities for accommodation with the theory of evolution, both the biological part and the human part; for instance: ‘And We made every living thing of water? (21:30); ‘‘Allah hath created every animal out of water. Of them is (a kind) that goeth upon its belly and (a kind) that goeth upon two legs and (a kind) that goeth upon four. Allah createth what He wills. Lo! Allah is Able to do all things’ (24:45)’; ‘And He created you in stages…’ (71:14); ‘He it is Who created you from clay, then He decreed a term/era…’ (6:2).
From the above review of the positions that Muslim scholars have taken with regard to Darwin’s theory of evolution, one could see a number of theological issues being addressed, whether explicitly or implicitly. The following two are by far the most important issues for Muslim thinkers:
Is there a place for God, the Creator, in the evolutionary paradigm? Does ‘evolution’ not carry a materialist worldview? Relatedly, what does it mean that God “created” things?
Is there a place for Adam in the human evolution scenario? Isn’t the Qur’an explicit and clear in stating that Adam was a full-fledged human being who was created without parents or ancestors and in a metaphysical ‘paradise’?
Additional, but much less crucial, issues occasionally appear in the Islamic discussions around evolution:
If the history of life on Earth indicates the extinction of thousands or even millions of species, can that be considered a massive waste (on the part of the Creator), or can it be (consistently) understood in the Islamic worldview?
Does theodicy (“the problem of evil”) get exacerbated or explained by evolution?
Are ‘species’ well-defined biological entities? Are they fixed and somehow important as such in the Islamic worldview? Would evolution then disturb that understanding?
If randomness plays a major role in the theory of evolution, is it possible to reconcile it with a divine creation plan, by God the Knower of all things?
The first major theological theme in the Islamic discourse regarding evolution is the place of the Creator in this new paradigm.
Indeed, Nasr insists that “the creative power belongs to God alone and not to matter, as the Qur’an also makes clear.” As we have seen, he rejects any “theistic” conception of evolution as “even worse than the purely biological theory of evolution, because that leaves the Hands of God out of His creation in a theological sense while claiming to believe in God…”
However, the concept of “creation” is itself an ambiguous and contentious one. Indeed, what does it mean that God “created” things? Does it necessarily imply the appearance of objects or organisms ex nihilo and all of a sudden? A number of commentators have referred to the Qur’anic verse 29:20 where “creation” is clearly described as a process with a “beginning”: ‘Say: travel through the land and observe how He originated creation. Then Allah will bring forth the later growth/creation. Indeed Allah has power over all things.’ Moreover, in 39:6, Allah describes the development of the human fetus in the following terms: ‘He creates you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages’, or if one translates the Arabic words literally (as Marmaduke Picktall does), ‘He created you in the wombs of your mothers, creation after creation…’ Furthermore, other thinkers have remarked that nowhere in nature do we ever see Allah creating something instantaneously, though Muslims believe that God never ceases to create.
The second major theological issue for Muslims is the place of Adam. Indeed, as we have noted, most contemporary religious scholars understand the creation story of Adam as indicating a special and separate creation of a first full-fledged human being, and many insist that this occurred in a metaphysical ‘paradise’ location. Thus, most scholars find it impossible to conceive of a pre-Adam species or even a possible multiplicity of Adams and lineages, many of which ended up disappearing (e.g. Neanderthals, Java men etc.). Consequently, the overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars reject the theory of evolution at least as far as humans are concerned.
This conflict of narratives is due to a literalistic interpretation of the scriptures. Jalajel writes: “The principle in operation here is that a text should always be understood on its apparent meaning as long as it is possible to do so” (Jalajel, 2009, p. 31). He concludes firmly: “The following is apparent from the textual evidence: Adam was created by God directly from earth. Both Adam and his wife were created by God without the agency of parents”, and adds: “These are the conclusions that have been reached by all orthodox commentators…” (Jalajel, 2009, pp. 49-50). Likewise, Sheikh Bin Baz (the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia) further insisted on the literal truth of the famous hadith that described Adam as having being sixty cubits tall.
In opposition to this standpoint, the highly respected contemporary Qur’an translator and commentator Muhammad Abdel Haleem underscores the “declared figurative language of the Qur’an” and adds: “In the Qur’anic version, even such details as God forming Adam with His own hands and the number of days in which He created Heaven and Earth have to be understood, on the instructions of the Qur’an itself, symbolically because elsewhere in the Qur’an we are told that there is ‘nothing like God’ (42:11; 5:103; and 112:3), and that ‘the angels and the Spirit ascend to [God], on a Day that lasts fifty thousand years’ (70:4). (Abdel Haleem, 1999, p.131).
In another line of argumentation, Shaikh Al-Haddad rejects human evolution on grounds that Adam was a noble prophet. He writes: “Endorsing the presumption that humans evolved necessitates accepting reprehensible beliefs about the noble Prophet, Adam, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and that his parents were either apes or ape-like beings! It is to insult the station of prophethood by claiming that Adam was taken care of by human-like baboons. Were Adam’s parents able to speak or did they merely grunt?” (Al-Haddad, n.d.).
Indeed, many Muslim scholars find the spiritual nature of Adam and of humans difficult to reconcile with an evolution from apes. A related argument is the “Islamic Imago Dei”, i.e. Prophet Muhammad’s statement that “Allah created Adam in his own image”, which is always understood as referring to man’s spiritual capacities. That, of course, begs the question of the nature of the soul, which Muslims (following the Qur’an) refrain from attempting to define but consider as a purely human (non-animalistic) characteristic. Thus, many Muslims conclude, at least some aspect of man was created in special, non-evolutionary manner.
An acceptance of the evolutionary paradigm of humans with other species indeed entails a new conception of Adam and the creation story of humanity. A minority of Muslim scholars have, during the golden age of the Islamic civilization as well as during modern times, insisted that creation stories in the Qur’an, including that of Adam, be regarded as metaphorical, that the ‘paradise’ mentioned in that context is a ‘garden’ on Earth (indeed the Arabic-Qur’anic word ‘jenna’ simply means ‘garden’, sometimes an earthly one, in other stories of the Qur’an), that there have been peoples before Adam15, the first God-conscious, i.e. spiritual, creature to walk on Earth. In fact, Shahrour has reconstructed the different episodes in the story of Adam and his children as told in the Qur’an to correspond with different stages of evolution of humanity (Shahrour, 1990, pp. 290-300):
Hominids standing up (the bipedal posture): Qur’an 82: 6-8.
Development of language: Qur’an 55:3-4.
Learning of burial: Qur’an 5:31;
Sacrifice/offering: Qur’an 5:27;
Spiritual development: Qur’an 5: 27;
Clothing/covering oneself: Qur’an 7: 26;
Finally, Revelation, Man being made God’s vice-regent on Earth, and the “fall” of Adam and Eve from “paradise”.
The third major issue that evolution raises for Islamic theology is the question of theodicy (suffering, killing, evil, extinction).
W. Montgomery Watt (1909-2006), the renowned scholar of Islam, starts an article titled ‘Suffering in Sunnite Islam’ with: “It has been noted by various writers that Islam, in contrast to Judaism and Christianity, has paid little attention to the problem of theodicy…” A few pages later, he adds: “Certainly the main stream of Sunnite Islam completely avoided this topic of theodicy.” To stress the theological importance of the issue, he highlights the perplexing suffering of children and of animals and mentions some of the answers that have been given for it, including the unsatisfactory ones: in particular, if children’s suffering is “compensated” for by granting them free entry to Paradise, what compensates for the extensive killing and extinction of animals and species? (Watt, 1979). Watt reminds us that the Qur’an had related stories that were clearly meant to teach Muslims that apparent explanations for acts that take place in the world can often be quite wrong, for instance the story of Moses with the wise man often identified as Al-Khidr (18:65-82). In other words, people should not let any apparent suffering disturb them too unnecessarily.
By contrast, we know that Darwin lost his faith not because he could not see God the Creator in the evolutionary paradigm or he could not reconcile human evolution from primates with Adam, but because he could not accept that an omnipotent and beneficent deity would create such a cruel world, full of suffering and killing, for humans and animals.
Indeed, Ian Barbour, the late great philosopher of science and religion, saw some important theological implications in this general theodicy in nature: “There seems to be too many blind alleys and extinct species and too much suffering and waste to attribute every event to God’s specification.” (Barbour, 2000, p. 112.)
On the Muslim side, Jalajel has addressed the issues of suffering, extinction, and waste from an “orthodox” Islamic theological viewpoint; it can be summarized in the following two points: 1) Muslims, or humans in general, cannot imagine and hence question God’s creation and plan; and 2) species of animals are nations like humans, and God replaces nations by others as He wills.
On the question of theodicy, he restates the Ash`ari theory of human acquisition of actions: “although God creates actions that can be described as evil with respect to the people who carry them out, evil cannot be attributed to God. It is attributed to the one who acquires it.” (Jalajel, 2009, p. 144). He applies this to the problem of evil by citing, among others, Abi al-`Izz: “God wills sin to exist by His ordinance, but [H]e does not love it nor is He pleased with it, not does [H]e command it.” (Jalajel, 2009, p. 146)
Ash`ari theology has always considered “evil” as merely a limited human view of things; simply put, “evil” is in the eye of the beholder, and indeed many acts around us that might shock us may in fact, when looked at from a wider angle and a longer timeframe, turn out to be very purposive and beneficial. One must always remember that God’s ways and goals are often inscrutable. Moreover, Ash`ari theology stresses that God is not bound by any rules (of morality or other), and He is completely free to do as He wills, including acts in the world that may seem cruel or even evil to us. Indeed, the error lies in our attempt to judge everything by human reason and standards. In contrast, Mu`tazilite theology held that everything in the world (creature, object, action) has some “raison d’être … ultimately beneficial for human beings.” (Ormsby, 1984, 225).
Finally, the issue of randomness is raised by several Muslim theologians.
In its “fatwa” against Darwin’s evolution, the (official) Egyptian Institution of Fatwas counters the “randomness” that seems intrinsic to the theory of evolution by referring to the Qur’anic verse 54:49: ‘Verily, all things have We created in proportion and measure.’
The contemporary Muslim scholar Nuh Ha Mim Keller rejects evolution on several grounds, including the issue of “randomness”; he writes: “From the point of view of tawhid, Islamic theism, nothing happens ‘at random,’ there is no ‘autonomous nature,’ and anyone who believes in either of these is necessarily beyond the pale of Islam.” Moreover, he decrees that “it is unbelief (kufr) no matter if we ascribe the process to Allah or to ‘nature,’ because it negates the truth of Adam’s special creation that Allah has revealed in the Qur’an.”
Shaikh Al-Haddad brings up the argument of “randomness” (or “chance”) as one that precludes any possible acceptance of evolution: “in affirming unjustified theories of human evolution we make chance the creator, since anything that is created exists merely because chance decided so. But Allah says, ‘Or do they assign to Allah partners who created the like of His creation, so that (both) creations seemed alike to them?’ Say: ‘Allah is the Creator of all things; He is the One, the Irresistible.’”
Jalajel’s discussion of randomness, or “chance and determinism” as he refers to it, is one of the rarest serious Islamic discussions of the issue in the context of evolution. He first points out that chance occurrences, such as in the flipping of coins, do follow a defined and prescribed law-like pattern. He then insists that it is the pattern that matters, not the individual case occurrences. He writes: “Since patterns of chance exist in the world, it follows that God can make such patterns evident in natural processes whenever and however He wishes to do so. Therefore, there should be no objection, from a theological perspective, to the idea of observing chance as playing a vital role in biological evolution.” (Jalajel 2009, p. 135)
Jalajel, however, fails to bring in quantum physics and its intrinsically probabilistic processes, as he leaves open the question of whether the physical world is deterministic or not. Indeed, he is most concerned about keeping the possibility of miracles unaffected by any position he may take, and more generally keeping God free to act as He wishes, without even the necessity of our comprehension thereof. He writes: “This does not rule out the possibility that the universe is deterministic on an empirical level, aside from miracles of course. … It is equally plausible that in some matters, God wills to act in ways that would defy any human attempt at prediction. In short, God does as He pleases.” (Jalajel 2009, p. 136)
As I have previously expressed, once one commits to a conservative Ash`ari theology, it becomes extremely difficult to make any pronouncements about the physical or biological world that take science fully into account and draw reasonable theological inferences from them…
Summary and Conclusion
Muslim scholars and thinkers have been addressing various issues related to Darwin’s theory of evolution. In some cases, they addressed issues from a well thought out theological perspective and reached a spectrum of positions, but in some cases they objected to the theory, or at least the human part of it, in rather reactive, dismissive fashion.
The main leitmotivs that one encounters in the positions expressed by Muslim rejectionists of evolution can be summarized as follows:
Evolution is at best a “theory” and at worst a dogma; indeed it is (seen as) a materialistic philosophy, not a science; it should not be regarded as an established fact of nature;
Darwin’s theory does not refer to God as the source of the evolutionary process, and any phenomena in nature (e.g. transformations) must be looked at as actions caused and effected by God, not as naturalistic or random occurrences.
The theory does not fit the human creation story of the Qur’an. Man is special, he is God’s vice-regent on Earth, and in no way should Muslims accept the idea that Man evolved from a non-human ancestor;
Issues of creation and origins are a matter unknowable by reason (the following Qur’anic verse is often cited in this regard: ‘I did not make them witnesses of the creation of the heavens and the earth, nor of the creation of their own souls; nor could I take those who lead (others) astray for helpers.’ 18:51).
But behind these main, explicit arguments there lies one crucial issue, namely whether science, or rational knowledge, could hold sway over theological arguments and beliefs. Does science hold greater authority than the scripture? For the traditionalists, and especially the literalists, certainly not; in fact, it should be the other way around: sacred texts can and must be used to rule out “theories”, no matter what evidence these may claim in their favor.
For Muslim scholars who take science and rational knowledge seriously and accept that definite evidence can sometimes be obtained for one fact or another, in case of conclusive evidence one has no choice but to take it fully on board and to adjust/re-interpret the texts accordingly. Al-Jisr falls within that category of Islamic scholars, and his self-prescribed methodology could be summarized as follows:
Scientific theories and developments normally fall under the “permissible” category or Islam, unless they clearly conflict with an explicit religious text.
The explicit and clear-cut Islamic texts that relate to dogmas do not – and cannot –contradict solid rational arguments, as well-known Islamic principles state.
Muslims must start with a literal understanding of their sacred texts, and only if the literal understanding of a text contradicts an established and certain rational argument, does one resort to hermeneutical interpretation (ta’wil) of the text (through well-established hermeneutical methods), for sound reason cannot be ignored, or else the way by which faith was ascertained comes into question too.
In the absence of a text on a given issue, one must review its ultimate goal and end result, and this requires a double competency and effort, scientific and religious.
This sound, flexible, dialectical process and the reliance on both immutable principles and malleable understanding of many issues is what gives Islam its strength, durability, and relevance to every era and issue.
On the question of human evolution, one must recall that some Muslim scholars had noted that Adam’s paradise is not necessarily the eschatological Paradise, and that as long as people accept that God created everything, including humans, the process itself is not crucial. Indeed, evolution for Muslims must be viewed quite differently than the materialists see it.
Al-Jisr also subscribed to the Averroesian double principle of (1) harmony between philosophy/science and revelation, and (2) the necessity to conduct ta’wil (hermeneutics) on religious texts (the Qur’an) when their literal reading leads to a clash with well-established truths of the world. He further insisted that some aspects of nature could not (in his view) be explained by materialism, for example, the characteristics inherent in some physical laws or phenomena.
The debates around evolution have not subsided among Muslim scholars, intellectuals, and educated people. The fast growth and advancement of education in the Muslim world over the last half century, coupled with the spread of a globalized culture through the internet and satellite TV channels, in particular, has brought the issue of evolution (and to a lesser extent other topics at the interface of science and religion) to the center of the discussions. More and more Muslims now express their conviction that evolution is a true fact of nature and the current theory is largely correct, and most of them find it totally compatible with their Islamic beliefs. However, a large majority of Muslims, from both the general public and the elite, including the religious scholarly community, still reject the theory, either partially (for humans) or totally; in fact, in many instances (as we have seen) harsh fatwas are issued against the acceptance of evolution.
More education is needed to bridge this divide. First, it is important to dispel myths and misconceptions about evolution, particularly the widespread idea of “humans descended from monkey”. Secondly, it is important to explain to any audience (school pupils, university students, educated readers, Muslim scholars) that evolution is not necessarily a materialistic theory; it is not an ideological proposition; it is indeed a fully scientific hypothesis/theory, and tons of work have been and continue to be performed around its various aspects, including the experimental/observational evidence. Most importantly, while the facts of evolution must not be disputed, the theory that explains them must continue to be improved, and the philosophical and theological interpretation of evolution can easily be theistic (for belivers). Thirdly, it is often useful to provide names and quotes of great Muslim scholars and thinkers who discussed the idea of evolution in the natural world and/or for humans, both in the classical age of Islam and in modern times. Finally, theological arguments must be addressed to alleviate the serious concerns that many Muslims have on the issues I have outlined above.
By Nidhal Guessoum, American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
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2Shihab-ud-Din Nadvi (d. 2002) was an Indian Muslim scholar. He wrote dozens of books on topics relating Islam with science and modern issues and became very popular in the Indian subcontinent. On the subject of evolution, he wrote: The Creation of Adam and the Evolutionary Theory.
3Khan, Wahiduddin (b. 1925) is an Indian Muslim scholar who focused his writings on modern issues, including the sciences, aiming to show the relevance and importance of Islam for the modern age. On evolution, he wrote God Arising: Evidence of God in Nature and in Science, where he says: ‘For a hundred years this theory held sway over human thought. But then further investigations revealed that it had loopholes. It did not fully fit in the framework of creation. In certain fundamental ways, it clashed with the order of the universe as a whole’. (Cited by Abdul Majid.)
4Ardi is the “nickname” of the Ardipithecus ramidus species (partial) skeleton that dates back to 4.4 million years ago and shows some extraordinary characteristics (particularly the divergent large toe and the particular pelvis) that were interpreted by the discoverers and other experts as consistent with an ape-human ancestor, with properties that relate to one or the other. It was discovered in 1994 and the full results were published and carried by the media worldwide in 2009.
5Seyyed H. Nasr has published dozens of books and hundreds of articles; he was the first Muslim (of only two so far) to have been invited to deliver the prestigious Gifford Lectures, and was listed and presented in the Library of Living Philosophers.
8Harun Yahya is the pen name of Adnan Oktar, the head of the Turkish group Bilim Arastirma Vakfi (BAV), i.e. Foundation for Research and Science, which was created in 1991. Hundreds of books have been published under his name in over a dozen languages, including the now world-(in)famous Atlas of Creation. The group also conducts a very strong campaign among Muslims and non-Muslims, with well-produced and cheaply sold magazines, a TV station, numerous DVDs, and other materials that are often distributed for free.
9In a short biographical note that accompanies the article, Shaikh Dr. Haitham Al-Haddad presents himself as: “a jurist [who] serves as a judge for the Islamic Sharia Council (UK & Eire)… [He] also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.”
12A brief biographical note in his book’s jacket presents him as follows: “David Solomon Jalajel is a consultant with King Saud University’s Prince Sultan Research Center for Environment, Water and Desert in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Previously, he was a lecturer in Islamic theology and legal theory at the Dar al-Uloom in Cape Town, South Africa.”
13In his translation of and commentary on the Qur’an (The Message of the Qur’an), Muhammad Asad, the renowned Islamic convert, scholar and thinker, commented on that verse as follows: “This phrase has a twofold meaning. In the first instance, it alludes to the evolution of the individual human body out of the same substances – both organic and inorganic – as are found in and on the earth as well: and in this sense it enlarges upon the creation of the human individual “in successive stages” referred to in verse 14 above. Secondly, it alludes to the evolution of the human species, which, starting from the most primitive organisms living on earth, has gradually ascended to ever higher stages of development until it has finally reached that complexity of body, mind and soul evident in the human being.” (Asad, 2002, p. 1024, n. 10.)
14Dajani was recently as chosen as one of the 20 most influential women of science in the Islamic world and ranked 13th in a list of the 100 most powerful women in the Arab world: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/the-world-s-100-most-powerful-arab-women-541034.html
15Many commentators have insisted that the verse ‘Thy Lord said unto the angels: I am to create a bashar (human/humanlike creature) out of clay. And when I fashioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then do prostrate before him…’ (38: 71–72) clearly implies the existence of “pre-Adams”.