Islamic views on evolution

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Islamic views on evolution are diverse, ranging from theistic evolution to creationism. Most Muslims around the world believe "humans and other living things have evolved over time," yet others believe "always existed in present form."[1] Muslim thinkers have proposed and accepted elements of the theory of evolution, some holding the belief of the supremacy of God in the process. One modern scholar, 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.[2]

The creation of man in the Quran[edit]

The creation of mankind is mentioned several times in the Quran. For instance, it says, "It is He who has created you out of clay" (Surah 6:2), "It was He who brought you into being from the earth..." (11:61), "We first created you from dust, then from a sperm drop, then from a clinging clot, then a lump of flesh, both shaped and unshaped, so that We might manifest to you Our power" (22:5), "He originated the creation of man from clay, then He made his progeny from an extract of a humble fluid" (32:7-8) and, "We made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?"(21:30)


Muslims scholars do not believe in Young Earth creationism.[3] Islamic views of the Bible vary. In recent years, a movement has begun to emerge in some Muslim countries promoting themes that have been characteristic of Christian creationists. This stance has received some criticism, due to claims that the Quran and Bible are incompatible.[4][5][6]

The Sunni Muslim theologian Nursi stated, the earth were already inhabited by intelligent species before humankind. He considered, supported by the hadiths from Ibn Abbas and Tabari, the Jinn lived here before but were almost wiped out by fire.[7] Some interpretors of the Quran believed that even before Jinn, other creatures like Hinn lived on the earth.[8]

The influential historiographer and historian Ibn Khaldun wrote in his famous book the Muqaddimah or Prolegomena ("Introduction") of the "gradual process of creation":[9]

"One should then look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants. The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch. The word "connection" with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group. The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and to reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of the monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man after (the world of monkeys). This is as far as our (physical) observation extends."

Khalid Anees, of the Islamic Society of Britain, has discussed the relationship between Islam and evolution:[10]

"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'."[11]

A research paper published 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.[12]

The verse,"...and We made from water every living thing? Then will they not believe?" (21:30), is believed by evolutionary Muslims to refer to humans evolving in the oceans millions of years ago, as suggested by modern evolution.[13]

Institutional thought[edit]

Support for evolution[edit]

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;[14] 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".[15]

Islamic scholars Ghulam Ahmed Pervez,[16] Edip Yüksel,[17][18] and T.O. Shanavas in his book, Islamic Theory of Evolution: the Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species[19] 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.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Movement'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.[20]

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.[21]

The shi'i scholar Hussein al-Jisr stated there is no contrary between evolution and the islamic scriptures. He said:[22][23]

"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."

by quoting the Quran:

"We made every living thing from water. Will they not then believe?"[24]

Opposition to evolution[edit]

Adnan Oktar,[25] 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.[2][26] Most of Yahya's information is taken from the Institute for Creation Research and the Intelligent Design movement in the United States.[27] Oktar largely uses the Internet to promote his ideas.[28] 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.[4] 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 Koran and what is tangible and seen. There is no contradiction between what is revealed in the Koran and natural selection and survival of the fittest'."[10] 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.[27]

Contemporary Islamic scholar Yasir Qadhi believes that the idea that humans evolved is against the Quran, but says that Allah may have placed humanity perfectly into an evolutionary pattern to give the appearance of human evolution.[26] 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.[2] 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.[29]

Muslim society[edit]

Evolutionary biology is 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.[27]

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.[30]

A 2007 study of religious patterns found that only 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, 14% of Pakistanis, 16% of Indonesians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin's theory is probably or most certainly true, and a 2006 survey reported that about 25% of Turkish adults agreed that human beings evolved from earlier animal species.[citation needed]

According to a more recent Pew study these numbers appear to increase slowly but steadily. For instance, a relatively large fraction 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.[1]

Rana Dajani, a university professor who teaches evolution in Jordan, wrote that almost all of her students are hostile to the idea at the beginning of the class, but by the end of the class the majority accept the idea.[31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The World's Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society" (PDF). Pew Research Center. April 30, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c al-Azami, Usaama. "Muslims and Evolution in the 21st Century: A Galileo Moment?". Huffington Post Religion Blog. Retrieved 19 February 2013. 
  3. ^ "The Origin of Life: An Islamic perspective". Islam for Today. Archived from the original on 17 July 2012. Retrieved 2007-03-14. 
  4. ^ a b Campbell, Duncan (2006-02-21). "Academics fight rise of creationism at universities". Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-19. 
  5. ^ Sayin, Ümit; Kence, Aykut (1999). "Islamic Scientific Creationism: A New Challenge in Turkey". National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2009-11-12. 
  6. ^ Koning, Danielle (2006). "Anti-evolutionism amongst Muslim students" (PDF). ISIM Review. 18: 48. Retrieved 2007-03-14. 
  7. ^ Tubanur Yesilhark Ozkan A Muslim Response to Evil: Said Nursi on the TheodicyRoutledge ISBN 978-1-317-18754-7 page 141
  8. ^
  9. ^ Rosenthal, Franz. Ibn Khaldun: The Muqaddimah. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0691017549. 
  10. ^ a b Papineau, David (2004-01-07). "Creationism: Science and Faith in Schools". Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-18. 
  11. ^ Erzurumi, İ. H. (1257). Marifetname
  12. ^ Youssef Chouhoud (2016). "Modern Pathways to Doubt in Islam". Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. Retrieved October 26, 2016. What these varied responses point to is a lack of consensus around not just the best way to tackle this issue, but whether the leaders charged with addressing it are qualified to do so. 
  13. ^ The Quran, translated by Maulana Wahiiduddin Khan, edited by Farida Khanam. Goodword Books, New Delhi, India and Thomson Press
  14. ^ "al-Afghani, Jamal al-Din (1838-97)". 
  15. ^ Charles Darwin and Evolution Archived August 29, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Quran and the Theory of Evolution
  17. ^ Are evolution and religion compatible?,, accessed April 12, 2013
  18. ^ Edip Yuksel, Blind Watch-Watchers or Smell the Cheese,, accessed February 17, 2013
  19. ^ David Yonke, Adrian doctor to lecture on evolution, The Blade, accessed March 7, 2013.
  20. ^ Jesus and the Indian Messiah – 13. Every Wind of Doctrine
  21. ^ Kaya, Veysel (April 2012). "Can the Quran Support Darwin? An Evolutionist Approach by Two Turkish Scholars after the Foundation of the Turkish Republic". The Muslim World. 102 (2): 357. doi:10.1111/j.1478-1913.2011.01362.x. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ Muẓaffar Iqbāl Science and IslamGreenwood Publishing Group 2007 ISBN 978-0-313-33576-1 page 157
  24. ^ Quran 21:30
  25. ^ "Seeing the light -- of science". Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  26. ^ a b Hameed, Salman (11 January 2013). "Muslim thought on evolution takes a step forward". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 January 2013. 
  27. ^ a b c Hameed S (2008). "Bracing for Islamic creationism". Science. 322 (5908): 1637–8. doi:10.1126/science.1163672. PMID 19074331. 
  28. ^ Darwinism's Contradiction with Religion, Why Darwinism is Incompatible With the Qur'an, Harun Yahya
  29. ^ "The British Journal for the History of Science V48:4". Cambridge University Press. 
  30. ^ Salaheddin, Sinan; Salama, Vivian (September 15, 2014), ISIS Bans Teaching Evolution In Schools, Talking Points Memo, retrieved 2015-02-23 
  31. ^ Dajani, Rana (April 22, 2015). "Why I teach evolution to Muslim students". Nature. 520 (7548): 409. doi:10.1038/520409a. PMID 25903591. Retrieved October 27, 2016. 

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