Islamic views on evolution


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,"[2][3] yet some others believe they have "always existed in present form."[4] Muslim thinkers have proposed and accepted elements of the theory of evolution, some holding the belief of the supremacy of God in the process. Some scholars 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.[5] Others argue that faith and science can be integrated and complement each other.[6]


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.[7]

Creation of the universeEdit

In the Quran Sūrat al-Anbiyāʼ, the Quran states that "the sky and the earth were a single body" before being parted.[8]

Do the disbelievers not realize that the heavens and earth were ˹once˺ one mass then We split them apart? And We created from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?

Then one of the lower heaven (our universe surrounding the Earth and its atmosphere) is said to have been adorned with stars[10] and orbits of heavenly bodies[11] God then created the landscape of the earth, then united the sky/atmosphere with the earth (which was initially a lump of gases)[12] above it, and stretching it around the Earth as a canopy. The time period described is 6 days/periods for this whole creation,[13] most Muslims hold the view that, these 6 days are not solar days rather a different relative time, which starts from the beginning of universe. Many Muslims interpret the Quran's story of the creation of the world in the context of science, and believe that the scientific theory of the expansion of the universe is described in Sūrat adh-Dhāriyāt:[14][15][16]

I constructed the universe with might, and I am expanding it.

A Quranic verse states that "a day in the sight of your Lord is like 1,000 years of your reckoning":

...A day with your Lord is like one thousand of the years you count.

The word yawm is 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.[19]

The Fatimid Muslim thinker al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi rebukes the idea of the creation of the world in 6 solar days 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 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 in a verse:[20][21][22]

I have created the heavens and the earth, and everything between them in six stages, and no fatigue touched me.

The evolutionist scholars argue with science which states that the creation of the universe took billions of years, however Muslims scholars do not claim this statement as it contradicts the Qur'an. When science shows that after the universe was created, human life and all other creatures took millions of years to evolve, Muslim scholars object. This is in part because of the misinterpretation of the term خلق (khalaq), meaning "creation" in the Qur'an to mean an instantaneous creation. In most interpretations, "Khalaq has no temporal context" in that time does not exist for God.[24] Therefore, if it is believed that the universe took time to evolve, life has to have taken time to evolve along with it, and that God exists outside of dimensions and is not limited by time.

Creation of lifeEdit

The emergence of life is mostly mentioned in Quran during discussion of creation of man. According to Quran the life has its origins from a single being (Q6:98)[25] many considering it as the LUCA. And the process of life started from the Extract of organic soil (Q23:12, 15:26 & 37:11).[26][27][28] The only explicit reference to the creation of non-human life in the Quran appears in Sūrat al-Anbiyāʼ, (21:30) in which God proclaims "We made out of water every living thing". These swamp and hot spring like conditions perfectly match the environment for RNA and the Primordial soup. According to Muhammad Asad, "only water has the peculiar properties necessary for the emergence and development of life."[29]

Pre-Darwinian era biologists in Islamic world are believed to have some glimpse of evolution (adaptations and natural selection), mainly biologists like the famous Al-Jahiz and Allama Rumi. 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.[30]

Creation of humanityEdit

The first beings, Âdam and his wife (in Islamic tradition called Ḥawwāh: the Arabic for Eve), appear in the Quran as the first man and woman. The Quran states that they were created from fluid and extract of altered clay (Q25:54 & 15:28).[31][32] This mixture is said to have been given time for it to develop[33] and was brought to life by the blowing of soul into their bodies (Q15:29)[34] followed by the event of mass prostration to Adam and castration of prominent Jinns like Iblis. Some Islamic scholars proposed that the verses could have multiple interpretations metaphorically, as the Quran supports the idea that some verses have multiple meanings.[35]

He sent down to you this scripture, containing straightforward verses, which constitute the essence of the scripture, as well as multiple-meaning or allegorical verses. Those who harbor doubts in their hearts will pursue the multiple-meaning verses to create confusion, and to extricate a certain meaning...

The majority of Islamic scholars, including Yasir Qadhi, believe that Adam and Eve were naturally created through a miracle by God.[37] Caner Taslaman,[38][39] Mohamed Ghlian,[40] Yaşar Nuri Öztürk,[41] Adnan Ibrahim,[42] Ghulam Ahmed Pervez,[43] Edip Yüksel,[44][45][46] and other modern and classical Islamic scholars[47] have at times instead argued that the pair evolved naturally from a common ancestor. Some scholars stated that they believe in evolution, but they also argued that Adam and Eve were the only two exceptions that were created without an evolutionary process.[citation needed]

In modern times, there has been increased support for the idea that humans evolved. Many Muslims base their belief of this idea on a chapter in the Quran, which says:

And your Lord is the Rich, possessor of Mercy. If He wished, He could remove all of you and bring after you whom He pleases, just as He established you from the seed of another people.

While the evolutionist scholars argue this may refer to proto-human ancestors humans evolved from,[42] the creationist scholars argue that that the "predecessors" refer to those civilizations who have lived before, and people who say otherwise therefore are "infidels, polytheists and hypocrites".[49]


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."[50]

In 10th century Basra, the Encyclopedia of the Brethren of Purity introduced the earliest attested evolutionary framework.[51] The Encyclopedia expanded on the Platonic and Aristotelian concept of the great chain of being by proposing a causal relationship advancing up the chain as the mechanism of creation, beginning with the creation of matter and its investment with energy, thereby forming water vapour, which in turn became minerals and "mineral life". Coral, with its branch-like structure, was the highest mineral life which gave rise to lower plants. The date palm was considered the highest plant, giving rise to lower animals, and then through apes came barbarian man, followed by superior man, including the saints and the prophets. Thereafter the chain continues in the traditional form using less causal clarity, with the angels being above man, and above the angels being God as both the originator and the pinnacle. Muhammad Hamidullah summarises this concept found in the work: "Everything begins from Him and everything returns to Him."

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.[52]

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."[53]

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."[54]

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;[55] 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".[56] 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.[57][58][59][60]

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.[61] 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.[62] This stance garnered criticism from the governments and academics of mainline Muslim countries such as Turkey[63] Pakistan,[64] Lebanon,[65] and Iran,[62] where evolution is taught and promoted.

Contemporary developmentsEdit

Khalid Anees, of the Islamic Society of Britain, discussed the relationship between Islam and evolution in 2004:[66]

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'.[67]

Contemporary Islamic scholars Ghulam Ahmed Pervez,[43] Edip Yüksel,[45][46] and T.O. Shanavas in his book, Islamic Theory of Evolution: the Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species[68] 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 Muslim scholars reject Young Earth creationism,[69] and claim the story of creation in the Book of Genesis was corrupted,[70] 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.[71][72][73] Adnan Oktar,[74] 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.[5][75] Most of Yahya's information is taken from the Institute for Creation Research and the Intelligent Design movement in the United States.[76] Oktar largely uses the Internet to promote his ideas.[77] 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.[71] 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'."[66] 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.[76]

Zakir Naik, a contemporary preacher of Islam and advocate of creationism rejects evolution on the basis that it is only a theory and not a proven fact.[78] Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a prominent Iranian religious scholar, is also a supporter of creationism and refuses evolution for the "chance-like mechanism embedded in the process", the inconsistencies present within, and for the emendations that the theory had undergone since its inception; this view is similarly held by a former pupil of Nasr's, Osman Bakar.[78]

Nuh Ha Mem Keller, a scholar of Islam, is a proponent of the human exceptionalism view of evolution; he believes that evolution is possible only for non-human species, and that humans cannot be viewed through the lens of evolution due to man having been created by Allah with such creation being afforded a special consideration and thus separates man from the evolutional path other living beings go through.[79]

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.[75] 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.[5] 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.[80] However, some scholars argue that evolution are even compatible with a literal reading of the Qur'an.[81] 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.[6]

David Solomon Jalajel, an Islamic author, proclaims an Adamic exceptionalism view of evolution which encourages the theological use of tawaqquf; a tawaqquf is to make no argument for or against a matter to which scripture possesses no declarations for.[82] With tawaqquf, Jalajel believes that Adam's creation does not necessarily signal the beginning of humanity as the Quran makes no declaration as to whether or not human beings were on Earth before Adam had descended.[83] As a result, Jalajel invokes tawaqquf which insinuates that it is possible for humans to exist or not exist before the appearance of Adam on earth with either belief being possible due to the Quran, and that it is possible that an intermingling of Adam's descendants and other humans may or may not have occurred.[83] Thus, the existence of Adam is a miracle since the Quran directly states it to be, but it does not assert there being no humans who could have existed at the time of Adam's appearance on earth and who could have came about as a result of evolution.[83] This viewpoint stands in contrast to creationism and human exceptionalism, ultimately declaring that evolution could be viewed without conflict with Islam and that Muslims could either accept or reject "human evolution on its scientific merits without reference to the story of Adam".[83]

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.[84]

Muslim societyEdit

A 2000 study conducted by a researcher of the University of Oklahoma found that 19% of participants believed that Islam's tenets were not at odds with Darwin's theory of evolution while 81% believed there to be some form of conflict between Islam and Darwinism.[85] One of the participants who had rejected the notion of evolution posited that evolution is a theory and has yet to be proven, another declared that DNA analysis has made it clear the difference between humans and primates, and another participant in the study, an Islamic teacher, stood in opposition to the theory of evolution although was willing to accept certain aspects that were proposed by it.[86] The participants who believed there to be no conflict between Islam and Darwin's theory of evolution were split as it pertained to the possible relationship between primates and humans with only 6% of participants seeing no issue with the assertion.[87]

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.[76]

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.[4]

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.[88]

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).[89]

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.[90]

Regional and national viewsEdit

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.[91]

India: Ahmadiyya views of evolutionEdit

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.[92]


Creationism is common in Indonesia, even among biology teachers and biology education professors.[93]

Teaching of evolutionEdit

According to Rana Dajani adopting new ways of thinking to pursue the knowledge is a core tenet of Islam.[94] 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.[94] 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.[94] 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.[94] 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.[94] 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.[94] 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.[94]

See alsoEdit


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External linksEdit

  • Science in the Quran, by Ashraf Salmawi
  • The Muslim Responses to Evolution by Abdul Majid
  • Quran Evolution and Intelligent Design, by S. Nemmers
  • In the Muslim world, creationism is on the rise