Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution – Part 3

Recap of Previous Posts

Welcome to Part 3 of this series. Usama and Yasir have already made their presentations and now it is time to come back for rebuttal.

Usama argued the following:

  1. Evolution Theory was actually developed by Muslims
  2. Qur’anic accounts of creation is not in conflict with Evolution Theory

Yasir argued counter to Usama using the following points:

  1. Scriptural evidences
  2. Role and Philosophy of Science
  3. Argument from history

I pointed that the two positions both argued well but they are not dealing with the same issues even though it is the same topic. Now they come back for the rebuttals. This post shall contain the first (10 min) rebuttals.

Usama

I am glad that Yasir believes Muslims can accept every aspect of Evolution, even though with the exception of Human evolution. To accept Evolution Theory may imply having more than one Adam. Here are examples of Islamic traditions showing that there may have been many Adams. The first is from the Qur’an Tafsir Ruh al Ma’ani (by Muhammad al Alusi). It is narrated that a great great grandson of the Prophet said “before the Adam who is our father, a million Adams have passed from existence”. Then Ja’afar as Sadik said “perhaps you think that God never created humans but yourself. neigh but God created a million Adams and you are the last of those Adams” (from a Prof Jalaluddeens book on Evolution). Again Ibn Arabi (The Famous Exegete or the Sufi Master) says “God created 100,000 Adams”, he also said “… at the Ka’bah, I met and spoke to man who was not from the descendants of Adam… “.

More recently, a well qualified Sheikh Dr Shahin, from Egypt wrote a book on the creation of humanity, where it analysed the 35 verses on the creation of man; using two nouns Al Bashar (a prominent creation) and Insan (humanity) in chronological order of revelation. One of the insights derived from this is that use of the noun Adam only occurs in the later (Madinan) verses whereas the earlier verses used Al Bashar and Insan. Therefore the earlier verses are more open to Evolution Theory. Dr Shahin even mentions that the process of creation took millions of years, and that it is not far fetched to believe that Adam an Eve were both born of two parents. The Council of Al Azhar (The world renown university of Islamic studies) disagreed with the conclusions of Sheikh Dr Shahin admittedly but they did not label him an apostate/disbeliever, because they agreed that he is entitled to his Exgesis/Interpretation since he is a qualified scholar of Exegesis. The point is there have been other interpretations that support Evolution Theory, unlike Yasir asserts. Actually this is because belief in Evolution is not a matter of Theology/Belief, it is a matter of difference of opinion about the Exgesis/Interpretations of Texts and of Science. Clearly, the Fatwa from the Council of Al Azhar also shows (and says) that it is not a matter of Theology or belief.

Al Azhar Committee Fatwa

Al Azhar Committee Fatwa

As for the quoting of Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Miskawayh, I agree with what Yasir said on Scala Naturae, however my point is that these were precursors to Darwin’s Evolution Theory.

Yasir provided three categories of responses in responding to apparent conflict between Science and Text, which I agree with. However Yasir placed evolution in the Category 3 (where text is not open to interpretation from outside the Text), but I believe Evolution belongs in Category 2 (where Science is definite, and Text is open to interpretation). Yasir has not given the basis of why he puts it in the Category 3 in stead of the Category 2. Another book “Islam, Science and the Challenge of History” by Ahmad Dallal captures the persistent conflict between “Scientists” and Scholars of Text. In this book it shows many of those issues that are actually placed in the Category 3 by the scholars of the Text, are placed in the Category 2 by scholars of Context (“Scientists”).

To say that there is only one possible interpretation for those verses on creation is simply not true. No one should impose their interpretations on others. For instance I know a great exegete who spends dozens of pages arguing that the earth was created before the heavens, which he considers as definite/clear/final, even though there are to be verses that say otherwise. Should we then believe that? Another great exegete maintains that the earth is flat based on his interpretation; should we accept that as well? There are other examples where Scientific questions have been answered wrongly for centuries by Textual interpretation. These are scientific questions so they ought to be informed by Science. And the Science will fall or stand on its own.

Concerning one of the reports of the Prophet on the detailed creation of man (by Yasir), a scholar has confirmed to me that the sources of these hadith is from Jewish and Christian sources, fabricated into Islamic corpus. So those details have not been specified in Muslim Texts.

Yasir pointed out that I quote authorities who are not experts in the fields of Theology and Science. The scholars I quoted are indeed authorities in their fields!

As to the question whether God created man and placed him perfectly to fit perfectly on earth… Apes have 48 chromosomes while Humans have 46. If we have the same ancestors then at some point apes and humans should have had the same chromosomes, and these chromosomes would change if some merge with each other; in the case of humans we would expect to see two sets of chromosomes merge thereby making 48 into the 46 for humans. Recent evidence using recent technology confirms this hypothesis that some chromosomes have merged to lead to the 46 found in humans. If we are to accept the hypothetical Evolution Theory by Yasir that God placed man to fit in perfectly into chain of Evolution such that Science would lead us to one conclusion whereas Text leads us to another, we must then ask: did God place man in the right place to confuse us, or is this what a miracle looks like?! There are more interesting questions. (See the book Finding Darwin’s God by Richard Miller, a Catholic)

Yasir

Usama has not answered the important questions I raised. In stead he committed two logical falasies: the first is appeal to authority; and the second is to show that there have been different interpretations (favouring Evolution Theory) in the past. The burden of the proof is upon Usama to provide an acceptable argument in light of the Revelation and Science. Like I said, I am willing to accept all the other interpretations with regards to heliocentricity and others mentioned but I cannot accept the Evolution Theory on the origin of man because the verses on creation cannot be reinterpreted due to its vividness and clarity. It is true that historically some of the scholars in the past misunderstood some verses such as heliocentricity and birth, moon-sighting etc. In light of modern science we can correct those interpretations but only based on that which is linguistically possible, and that which science of Exegesis (Tafsir) allows. I repeat that it is hermenutical gymnastics to accept Evolution Theory in light of the clarity and unity of verses talking about creation of Man. The bottom line is this: do you think God and His messenger intended for us to extract the meaning of Evolution Theory from these verses?!

Usama comes back saying that by quoting Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Miskawayh, he didn’t mean a causal relationship between the stages, only that these were the people who influenced Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Since we have confirmed that they were actually referring to the Greek Scala Naturae, and did not mean causation, then they couldn’t have been the influence on Darwin. Rather Darwin was himself influenced by the Greek Scala Naturae, not an idea based on Muslim tradition.

As to the interpretation that Jannah is on earth, it is true that there is a minority view on this. But let us be fair to the Text and not cherry-pick interpretations to fit our model of the world. Can anyone fairly say that the message of the Qur’an is in anyway trying to get us to believe that Jannah is on earth?! See Surah Taha (“There is therein (enough provision) for thee not to go hungry nor to go naked” [Q20:118] Yusuf Ali Translation) that has got to be up there. Surah Baqarah, when He instructed Adam and Iblis (… We said: “Get ye down all (ye people) with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling place and your means of livelihood for a time.” [Q2:36] Yusuf Ali Translation) earth meaning their destination. It is possible to be fanciful with interpretations of Text to make them fit a certain understanding but after getting the result of this “bending”, can we sincerely say this is what God intended for us to derive from the text? We cannot treat the textual account of creation, as we can do to other verses.

Usama believes that the progeny of man is from a SINGLE man, Adam. What about Eve? Surah Nisa (O mankind! Be dutiful to your Lord, Who created you from a single person (Adam), and from him (Adam) He created his wife [Hawwa (Eve)], and from them both He created many men and women… [Q4:1] Mohsin Khan Translation) emphasizes that Eve was created FROM Adam; not that she existed along side Adam. There is also a Sahih Hadith to support this. Even if we accept that Eve existed alongside Adam, then the Evolution Theory does not (correct me if incorrect) hold this as the most accepted view, instead it holds that groups of hominids interacted with one another until homo-sapiens were developed. My question is if Usama is able to challenge one of the most established component of Evolution Theory, which does not support a single Adam and Eve, by accepting there was a single Adam and Eve, then why not demonstrate the same level of critical skepticism for other areas of the theory?!

Therefore Usama’s theory of a single Adam neither conforms to the Qur’an, nor does it conform to the most accepted modern theory of Evolution!

As to the claim that Muslims are losing faith when confronted with clear Texts and Science, this has been the same excuse that every group through the history of Islam has claimed when they try to reform the Qur’an. Ibn Sina is known for trying to impose Greek cosmology on the Qur’an. When one reads Ibn Sina’s theology, one is amazed that this person is called a Muslim. In fact Al Ghazali and Ibn Taymiyya do not consider him a Muslim; but this is not my judgement of him, I only quote others.

As to the verse quoted by Usama comparing Jesus to Adam (This similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam: He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be” and he was. [Q3:59] Yusuf Ali Translation), demonstrating that Adam evolved like Jesus, we must understand the circumstance of revelation (Asbab an Nuzul) of that verse in order to understand it correctly. It was at a time when Christians claimed that Jesus is divine because he had no father, then this verse is challenging them that if you say that about Jesus, what about Adam who had no father nor mother; Adam should then be equally or more divine. Also, the mention of clay/dust (turab) and the command “Be” (kun fa ya kun) shows that there is something similar and different between Adam and Jesus. The similarity is that they both came to existence after God issued the command “Be”, and the difference is that while Adam was made from clay, Jesus was not.

Now imagine (it may sound sacrilegious) an ultrasound machine was used to scan Mary when pregnant with Jesus. It would have appeared for all practical purposes that the baby would appear natural and the DNA might even point to a hypothetical father. Keep this in mind. Note that I am not a biologist. The maximum theology can accept in this matter is that Man was created and inserted unto earth to fit in so perfectly with existing creatures such that an observing scientist would conclude that man evolved like all the other creatures; with all the 46 chromosomes etc. This is because there is no flaw in the creation of God. Another analogy. Imagine a domino that falls in your eyes, and behind it is a series of dominos which you cannot see from your perspective. The logical (Scientific) conclusion is that other dominos caused it to fall. It is Theology that tells us that the domino was caused to fall by God, not by other dominos. The result is that those who believe in God know this truth whereas those who don’t believe would have to believe in the causal explanation that other dominos caused it to fall.

My Comments

Usama accused Yasir of not justifying why Yaisr put Evolution Theory in Category 3 (where Text must be accepted and Science rejected in humility) not any other category. Yasir did not answer this but I think it comes down to the fact that Yasir sees Evolution Theory as a Theological issue, and Theology needs to be based on Text not Science.

On the issue of 48 chromosomes of apes turning into 46 of humans, Usama actually showed a picture of the evidence at the conference’s projector but it wasn’t captured on the video recording. Those from Genetics background have probably seen it anyway.

Usama raised an interesting question which Yasir did not answer completely. If God placed Adam to fit in perfectly among creatures such that Science would point us to even claim that man descended from other creatures, then we must ask: does God wish to confuse us by placing Man in that position especially since we all accept that Science should not contradict Text? It is an interesting question.

Yasir claims that it is false to say there have been different interpretations on the creation of man in the past, but Usama actually provided evidences, so the claim of Yasir seems misplaced. It is one thing to claim that there SHOULD NOT be varying interpretations on certain topics, and it is another to claim that there WERE NO varying interpretations in the past.

Yasir points out accurately that Usama retracted his claim of showing causal relationship between the different stages of the Scala Naturae, saying that he meant it as a source of idea for Darwin. In my understanding, Usama really may have changed his mind at that moment because he actually implied causal relationship. And as I mentioned in my earlier comment, I think the figures (especially Ibn Khaldun) may have really meant a form of transformation between the stages owing to Sufi ideas even though it may have been influenced by the Greek Scala Naturae. So Usama could have maintained his ground.

The verse in Surah Nisa’ that Yasir quoted to deduce that Eve was created from Adam is actually a controversial verse. The translation I included was one from The Noble Qur’an by Dr. Mohsin Khan which supports Yasir’s point. But when we look at other translations e.g. Yusuf Ali we find that Eve is meant to have been created from the SAME SOUL as Adam, not from Adam. This is the interpretation I espouse. “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” [Q4:1] Pickthal Translation. So Yasir’s argument is not a strong argument.

Usama was accused of holding a Theory of Evolution that was neither supported by the Qur’an nor by modern science since his version includes a single Adam. As far as I can recall, I think this to be a misunderstanding from Yasir because Usama actually took time to quote scholars who have claimed that there were many Adams. See Usama’s arguments above.

Let us look at the counter argument by Yasir on the interpretation of the verse comparing creation of Adam to creation of Jesus; (This similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam: He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be” and he was. [Q3:59] Yusuf Ali Translation). Yasir shed light on the circumstance of revelation (Asbab an Nuzul) for the verse being a response to a challenge by Christians. Yasir further extrapolates concerning Adam and Jesus that “The similarity is that they both come to existence after God issued the command “Be”, and the difference is that while Adam is made from clay, Jesus is not.” Although I can’t disagree with the circumstance of revelation, I can easily disagree with Yasir’s extrapolation and instead put forward a more plausible extrapolation: The similarity is that they are both made from clay, and the difference is the way the command “Be” was effected. Or I could say the verse doesn’t indicate any difference actually. The extrapolation is a bad argument from Yasir.

This is the end of the first round of their rebuttal. Next is the final part of this series which will begin with the second round of rebuttals. See you there InShaAllah.

 

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