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Islamic views on evolution

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Islamic views on evolution are diverse, ranging from theistic evolution to Old Earth creationism.[1] Some Muslims around the world believe "humans and other living things have evolved over time," yet some others believe they have "always existed in present form."[2] Muslim thinkers have proposed and accepted elements of the theory of evolution, some holding the belief of the supremacy of God in the process. Usaama al-Azami suggested that both narratives of creation and of evolution, as understood by modern science, may be believed by modern Muslims as addressing two different kinds of truth, the revealed and the empirical.[3] Muneer Al-Ali argues that faith and science can be integrated and complement each other.[4]

Theology

Unlike the Bible, the story of creation in the Qur'an is not told in one chapter, but rather can be pieced together from verses all over the book.[5]

Creation of the universe

In the surah, Sūrat al-Anbiyāʼ, the Quran states that "the sky and the earth were fused together" before being parted.[6] God then created the landscape of the earth, placed the sky above it as a roof, and created the day and night cycles by appointing an orbit for both the sun and moon.[7] Some modern Muslims, including Abdullah Hatem of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, interpret the Quran's story of the creation of the world in the context of science, and believe that the scientific theory of an expanding universe is described in Sūrat adh-Dhāriyāt:[8][9][10]

We have built the heaven with might, and We it is Who expand it.

— Quran 51:47

Sūrat al-Aʻrāf states that the "heavens and the earth" were created in the equivalent of six yawm.[11] The Arabic word yawm means "day", and so some Muslims believe the universe was created in six days, akin to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis.[10] However, it is important to note that the "days" mentioned in Quran does not equals to the "24 hours day period".[12] According to Quranic verse 70:4, one day in Quran is equal to 50,000 years on Earth. whereas another verse states that "a day in the sight of your Lord is like 1,000 years of your reckoning" (22:47). The word "yawm" is thus understood, within the Qur'an, to be a long period of time -- an era or eon. Therefore, Muslims interpret the description of a "six days" creation as six distinct periods or eons. The length of these periods is not precisely defined, nor are the specific developments that took place during each period.[13]

The Fatimid thinker al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi rebukes the idea of the creation of the world in 6 cycles of either 24 hours, 1000 or 50,000 years. He questions both how creation can be measured in units of time when time was yet to be created, as well as how an infinitely powerful Creator can be limited by the constraints of time, as time itself is part of his own creation. The Isma’ili luminary Nasir Khusraw expands on his colleague’s work. He writes that that these days refer to cycles of creation demarcated by the arrival of God’s messengers (sahiban-i adwar), culminating in the arrival of the Lord of the Resurrection (Qa’im al-Qiyama), when the world will come out of darkness and ignorance and “into the light of her Lord” (Quran 39:69). His era, unlike that of the enunciators of divine revelation (natiqs) before him, is not one where God prescribes the people to work, rather it is an era of reward for those “who laboured in fulfilment of (the Prophets') command and with knowledge”.[14]

After completing the Creation, God "settled Himself upon the Throne".[15] The concept of a "day of rest" does not appear in the Quran, and in fact the concept that God needed rest after the creation from tiredness is explicitly denied "And We did certainly create the heavens and earth and what is between them in six days, and there touched Us no weariness" in Surat Qaf verse 38.[16][8][10]

This verse is interpreted by Nasir Khusraw as referring to the Lord of the Resurrection (Qa’im al-Qiyama), who is symbolized by God’s throne, which appears after six days, or cycles of creation.[14]

Creation of life

The only explicit reference to the creation of non-human life in the Quran appears in the aforementioned Sūrat al-Anbiyāʼ, in which God proclaims "We made out of water every living thing." According to Muhammad Asad, "only water has the peculiar properties necessary for the emergence and development of life."[17]

Sunni theologian Said Nursî stated the Earth was already inhabited by intelligent species before humankind. He considered that the Jinn lived here before but were almost wiped out by fire.[18] A few interpreters of the Quran believed that even before Jinn, other creatures like Hinn lived on the earth although they failed to provide any narration from Quran or authentic Hadith to support these claims.[19] However, such claims are not mentioned in the Quran nor Hadith but rather limited to the sayings of such individuals.[19]

Creation of man

The first beings, Âdam and his wife (in Islamic tradition called Ḥawwāh), appear in the Quran as the first man and woman. The Quran states that they were created from clay,[20] and were brought to life by the blowing of soul into their bodies.[21] While verses in the Quran and some hadith indicate that God created Adam first and that Eve was created from Adam,[22] a few scholars proposed that the verses could have multiple interpretations.[23]

The majority of Islamic scholars, including Yasir Qadhi, believe that Adam and Eve were supernaturally created through a miracle by God.[24] Mohamed Ghlian has at times instead asserted that the pair evolved naturally from a common ancestor,[25] but has more recently reached the opposite conclusion.[26]

In the past year[which?] there has been increased support for the idea that humans evolved. (Islamic scholar Adnan Ibrahim is one of them). Many Muslims base their belief of this idea on ayaah 133 of Alannam in the quran which says: (وَرَبُّكَ الْغَنِيُّ ذُو الرَّحْمَةِ ۚ إِن يَشَأْ يُذْهِبْكُمْ وَيَسْتَخْلِفْ مِن بَعْدِكُم مَّا يَشَاءُ كَمَا أَنشَأَكُم مِّن ذُرِّيَّةِ قَوْمٍ آخَرِينَ) this ayah is literally translated and interpreted into: (And your Lord is the Free of need, the possessor of mercy. If He wills, he can do away with you and give succession after you to whomever He wills, just as He produced you from the descendants of another people.)[27]

History

In Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of the Animals), the 9th-century scholar al-Jāḥiẓ references several facets of natural selection, such as animal embryology, adaptation, and animal psychology. One notable observation al-Jāḥiẓ makes is that stronger rats were able to compete better for resources than small birds, a reference to the modern day theory of the "struggle for existence."[28] In the 11th century, the scholar Sami S. Hawi argues that Persian scholar Ibn Miskawayh wrote about the evolution of man in his Fawz al-aṣghar.[29]

The 14th-century influential historiographer and historian Ibn Khaldun wrote the Muqaddimah or Prolegomena ("Introduction") on what he referred to as the "gradual process of creation." He stated that the Earth began with abiotic components such as "minerals." Slowly, primitive stages of plants such as "herbs and seedless plants" developed and eventually "palms and vines." Khaldun connects the later stages of plant development to the first stages of animal development. Finally, he claims that the greater thought capabilities of human beings was "reached from the world of the monkeys."[30]

In his 1874 book titled History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, John William Draper, a scientist and contemporary of Charles Darwin, criticized the Catholic Church for its disapproval of "the Mohammedan theory of the evolution of man from lower forms, or his gradual development to his present condition in the long lapse of time."[31]

In the 19th century, a scholar of Islamic revival, Jamal-al-Din al-Afghānī agreed with Darwin that life will compete with other life in order to succeed. He also believed that there was competition in the realm of ideas similar to that of nature. However, he believed explicitly that life was created by God;[32] Darwin did not discuss the origin of life, saying only "Probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some primordial form, into which life was first breathed".[33] A contemporary of Al-Afghani, Ottoman-Lebanese Sunni scholar Hussein al-Jisr, declared that there is no contradiction between evolution and the Islamic scriptures. He stated that "there is no evidence in the Quran to suggest whether all species, each of which exists by the grace of God, were created all at once or gradually," and referred to the aforementioned story of creation in Sūrat al-Anbiyā.[34][35][36][37]

In Turkey, important scholars strove to accommodate the theory of evolution in Islamic scripture during the first decades of the Turkish Republic; their approach to the theory defended Islamic belief in the face of scientific theories of their times.[38] The Saudi Arabian government, on the other hand, began funding and promoting denial of evolution in the 1970s in accordance to its Salafi-Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.[39] This stance garnered criticism from the governments and academics of mainline Muslim countries such as Turkey[40] Pakistan,[41] Lebanon,[42] and Iran,[39] where evolution is taught and promoted.

Contemporary developments

Khalid Anees, of the Islamic Society of Britain, discussed the relationship between Islam and evolution in 2004:[43]

Islam also has its own school of Evolutionary creationism/Theistic evolutionism, which holds that mainstream scientific analysis of the origin of the universe is supported by the Quran. Many Muslims believe in evolutionary creationism, especially among Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Liberal movements within Islam. Among scholars of Islam İbrahim Hakkı of Erzurum who lived in Erzurum then Ottoman Empire now Republic of Turkey in the 18th century is famous for stating that 'between plants and animals there is sponge, and, between animals and humans there is monkey'.[44]

Contemporary Islamic scholars Ghulam Ahmed Pervez,[45] Edip Yüksel,[46][47] and T.O. Shanavas in his book, Islamic Theory of Evolution: the Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species[48] say that there is no contradiction between the scientific theory of evolution and Quran's numerous references to the emergence of life in the universe.

While Muslims scholars reject Young Earth creationism,[49] and claim the story of creation in the Book of Genesis was corrupted,[50] a movement has begun to emerge recently in some Muslim countries promoting themes that have been characteristic of Christian creationists. This stance has received criticism, due to claims that the Quran and Bible are incompatible.[51][52][53] Adnan Oktar,[54] also known by his pen-name Harun Yahya, is a Muslim advocate against the theory of evolution. He is considered a charlatan by many Muslim scholars, and his representative at a conference on Islam and evolution in January 2013 was ridiculed during and after the conference.[3][55] Most of Yahya's information is taken from the Institute for Creation Research and the Intelligent Design movement in the United States.[56] Oktar largely uses the Internet to promote his ideas.[57] His BAV (Bilim Araştırma Vakfı/ Science Research Foundation) organizes conferences with leading American creationists.

According to the Guardian newspaper, some British Muslim students have distributed leaflets on campus, advocating against Darwin's theory of evolution.[51] At a conference in the UK in January 2004, entitled Creationism: Science and Faith in Schools, "Dr Khalid Anees, of the Islamic Society of Britain stated that 'Muslims interpret the world through both the Quran and what is tangible and seen. There is no contradiction between what is revealed in the Quran and natural selection and survival of the fittest'."[43] Maurice Bucaille, famous in the Muslim world for his commentary on the Quran and science, attempted to reconcile evolution with the Quran by accepting animal evolution up to early hominid species, and then positing a separate hominid evolution leading to modern humans. However, these ideas differ from the theory of evolution as accepted by biologists.[56]

Contemporary Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi believes that the idea that humans evolved is against the Quran, but says that God may have placed humanity perfectly into an evolutionary pattern to give the appearance of human evolution.[55] Modern scholar Usaama al-Azami later argued that scriptural narratives of creation, and evolution as understood by modern science, may be believed by modern Muslims as addressing two different kinds of truth, the revealed and the empirical.[3] The late Ottoman intellectual Ismail Fennî, while personally rejecting Darwinism, insisted that it should be taught in schools as even false theories contributed to the improvement of science. He held that interpretations of the Quran might require amendment should Darwinism eventually be shown to be true.[58] However, some scholars argue that evolution are even compatible with a literal reading of the Qur'an.[59] Another scholar, Muneer Al-Ali, argues that faith and science can be integrated and complement each other in explaining the complexity and mysteries of existence.[4]

A research paper published in 2016 by the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research wrote that there is not a consensus among scholars on how to respond to the theory of evolution, and it is not clear whether the scholars are even qualified to give a response.[60]

Muslim society

As per a 2008 report, evolutionary biology was included in the high-school curricula of most Muslim countries. Science foundations of 14 Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, and Egypt, recently signed a statement by the Interacademy Panel (IAP, a global network of science academies), in support of the teaching of evolution, including human evolution.[56]

A 2009 survey conducted by the McGill researchers and their international collaborators found that 85% of Indonesian high school students and 86% of Pakistani high school students agreed with the statement, "Millions of fossils show that life has existed for billions of years and changed over time."[1]

According to a 2013 Pew study, these numbers appear to be increasing slowly but steadily. For instance, a large majority of people accept human evolution in Kazakhstan (79%) and Lebanon (78%), but relatively few in Afghanistan (26%) and Iraq (27%), with most of the other Islamic countries somewhere in between.[2]

In 2014, when the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant captured the Iraqi city of Mosul, the group issued a new set of rules for the schools there, which included a ban on the teaching of evolution.[61]

Rana Dajani, a university professor who teaches evolution in Jordan, wrote that almost all of her students are hostile to the idea of evolution, at the beginning of the class, but by the end of the class, the majority accept the idea of evolution (except when it comes to humans).[62]

In 2017, Turkey announced plans to end the teaching evolution before the university level, with education Alpaslan Durmuş claiming it is too complicated and "controversial" a topic to be understood by young minds.[63]

Regional and national views

Evolutionary concepts, including natural selection, are presented in the curricula in many muslim countries. However, explicit discussion of human evolution is often missing, e.g. in Egypt, Malaysia, Syria, Turkey, and Pakistan. With the exception of Pakistan, though, religious references are not common in evolutionary science curricula.[64]

India: Ahmadiyya views of evolution

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community's view of evolution is that of universal acceptance, albeit divinely designed. The movement actively promotes god-directed "evolution". Over the course of several decades the movement issued various publications in support of the scientific concepts behind evolution.[65]

Indonesia

Creationism is common in Indonesia, even among biology teachers and biology education professors.[66]

Teaching of evolution

According to Rana Dajani adopting new ways of thinking to persue the knowledge is a core tenet of Islam.[67] Dajani says interpretation of Quran being a fluid and ongoing process of human exercise can, always, be revisited to clear contradictions, if any arise during pursuits of scientific knowledge.[67] According to Dajani interaction with modernization and globalization has imported some problematical hostile attitudes towards science like rejection of the theory of evolution into Muslim societies. Dajani says the negative attitudes among Muslims towards evolution came post twentieth century associating Darwin with western colonialism materialism and racism, but actually rudimentary theories of evolution were proposed by Muslim scholars right from ninth century even up to 1880s.[67] Dajani says while some Muslim students think accepting theory of evolution means denying existence of God, but that need not be so rather after initiation of God, universe can evolve according to principles of science and logic.[67] Dajani says usually a detailed explanation of natural evolution of plants, artificial breeding, antibiotic resistance, development of modern medicines and vaccines, helps Muslim students accept evolution still some reservations remain in accepting human evolution; here Dajani says Muslims are warned against arrogance and need to understand humans are part of rest of the creation.[67] Dajani says, as a scientist, Charles Darwin contributed to human understanding of the emergence and diversification of life on the Earth and that evolution is right mechanism to explain diversity and the development of species.[67] Dajani says discussion of controversial topic of evolution helps Muslim students avoid blind acceptance of status quo and question even other aspects of their lives.[67]

See also

References

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