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 Biological Evolution – An Islamic Perspective

Many people wonder about the theory of biological evolution – the theory that living species on Earth today are descended from others in the past, and that the present diversity of living species we see is a result of descent with modification over the course of numerous generations.

Muslims also wonder about one of the main processes that evolutionary theory proposes to explain how evolution takes place – the process of natural selection. This is the idea that the individuals within a populations of living organism vary in their individual traits – they are not exactly alike – and that the organisms which are most successful at leaving descendants will pass on their unique traits to the next generation at the expense of the traits possessed by less successful organisms in the population, thereby contributing to a long-term gradual change in the suite of traits found within the population.

To start with, it is not our intention in this article to discuss the scientific implications of evolutionary theory. We wish to explore the issue from the perspective of Islamic teachings.

We must ask:

Does the theory of evolution – and likewise the theory of natural selection as a mechanism of evolution – conform to Islamic teachings or conflict with them?

Is a Muslim allowed to believe in evolution as a scientific theory as long as he or she accepts that God is behind it?

Is a Muslim allowed to believe in human evolution? If not, how can we explain the fossils of upright, bipedal, tool-using apes with large brains that have been discovered?

We wish to re-emphasize that our concern here is not with examining the scientific merits of the theory of evolution. What we want to know is what Islamic teachings have to say about the idea. Whether evolution is true or false scientifically is another matter altogether.

When we look at the sources of Islam – the Quran and Sunnah – we see that, with respect to human beings living on the Earth today, they are all descendants of Adam and Eve.

God also says:

{O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with God is the one who is the most God-fearing.} [Quran 49:13]

Transliteration: Ya `Ayyuha An-Nasu `Inna Khalaqnakum Min Dhakarin Wa `Unth aacute; Wa Ja`alnakum Shu`ubaan Wa Qaba`ila Lita`arafu `Inna `Akramakum `Inda Allahi `Atqakum


The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, identified the "male" mentioned in this verse as being Adam. He said:

Human beings are the children of Adam and Adam was created from Earth. God says: ‘O» mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you with God is the one who is the most God-fearing’.« [Al-Tirmidhî]

We also see that God created Adam directly without the agency of parents.

God says:

{The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be’ and he was.} [Quran 3:59]

Transliteration: `Inna Mathala `Is aacute; `Inda Allahi Kamathali `Adama Khalaqahu Min Turabin Thumma Qala Lahu Kun Fayakunu

We also know that Eve was created from Adam without the agency of parents.

In the Quran, God states clearly:

{O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women.} [Quran 4:1]

Transliteration: Ya `Ayyuha An-Nasu Attaqu Rabbakumu Al-Ladhi Khalaqakum Min Nafsin Wahidatin Wa Khalaqa Minha Zawjaha Wa Baththa Minhuma Rijalaan Kathiraan Wa Nisa`an


Therefore, the Quran tells us that Adam and his wife were the father and mother of all human beings living on the Earth today. We know about this by way of direct revelation from God.

The direct creation of Adam (peace be upon him) can neither be confirmed nor denied by science in any way. This is because the creation of Adam (peace be upon him) was a unique and singular historical event. It is a matter of the Unseen and something that science does not have the power to confirm or deny. As a matter of the Unseen, we believe it because God informs us about it. We say the same for the miracles mentioned in the Quran. Miraculous events, by their very nature, do not conform to scientific laws and their occurrence can neither be confirmed nor denied by science.

What about other living things, besides the human beings living on the Earth today? What about plants, animals, fungi, and the like?

When we turn our attention to this question, we find that the Quran and Sunnah do not tell us much about the flora and fauna that was present on the Earth before or at the time of Adam and Eve’s arrived upon it. The sacred texts also do not tell us how long ago Adam and Eve arrived upon the Earth. Therefore, these are things we cannot ascertain from the sacred texts.

The only thing that the Quran and Sunnah require us to believe about the living things on Earth today is that God created them in whatever manner He decided to create them.

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