Monthly Archives: April 2014

Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution – Part 4

Recap

So far so good. Arguments have been put forward and rebuttals have ensued. This is the final post of four on this issue. What follows are rebuttals and a bit of crossfire questions and answers. This rebuttal session is 5 minutes for each speaker so it may appear a bit rushed as if arguments are not defended properly; it is due to time limitation.

Usama

Yasir claims I make an argumentative fallacy by appeal to authority, but he does exactly the same by quoting Ibn Taymiyya and others. This actually illustrates my point which is that there are many scholars with varying oppinions on different matters over the history of Islam. Various examples have been given on how a once accepted interpretation was completely abandoned.

I am glad Yasir responded to the issue of Jannah in the Qur’an. I think Muslims ought to understand this interesting discussion. Yasir has already quoted the verses that are used typically to support the argument that Jannah of Adam is heavenly (refer to previous post on Yasir’s arguments). However there are opposing arguments to support the claim that Adam’s Jannah is on Earth. For instance: the fact that there was temptation in the Jannah which is supposed to be an earthly emotion, and that Shaitan was present in the Jannah etc. It is not acceptable for us to sit in a box of Theology and claim this is what I believe, ignoring what the scientists say.

It is a well accepted Muslim teaching that humans are partly animal and partly angelic. Evolution Theory explains that animal part of us, doesn’t it? We need to remind ourselves of our angelic qualities.

Yasir 

Due to the vividness of texts on the story of Adam, it is my humble opinion there CANNOT be more than one “Islamic” position on this matter. That is not to say that Muslims have not believed so in the past. However to believe in this Evolution Theory is academically weak, textually inaccurate, and Islamically sacrilegious to claim this is the Qur’an’s message. Muslims are free to believe as they wish but they should not speak on behalf of Islam without knowledge. Usama is not the first to propose that Qur’an preaches an evolution theory close to Darwinism, in history or in the modern era. In fact there are so many “scholars” these days with many varying opinions that it is possible to find a justification for any position one choses to take. When people cherrypick from these varying positions and piece them together, the result is to reach conclusions that have been unprecedented in Islam’s history. Concerning this Evolution Theory, we have to frankly ask ourselves if God really intended for us to understand this theory of Evolution from the Qur’an.

At the heart of this debate is a fundamental difference between my position and that of Usama, beyond the issue of Darwinism (Evolution). It is about defending orthodox Islam in the modern world without compromising Islam’s traditions while remaining faithful to the spirit and texts of Islam in all aspects of the religion not only Evolution. Usama has not explained why the texts portray the account of creation in such an incorrect manner, if the theory he claims is true, and why the interpretations of Science should be favoured over the clear texts. I agree that Muslims need to keep their religion modern and relevant, but this can be done without compromising Muslim values. As Muslims we cannot endorse creationism e.g. both Christian and Muslim (like Babuna), who deny Evolution. Muslims should accept Evolution Theory for what it is, a Scientific model not a Theological doctrine. As a scientific model it explains to us how the world came about and how it functions, in the physical realm. Theology on the other hand provides insight beyond the physical realm to the ultimate reality of the unseen. The attempt to alter/interprete fundamental Muslim texts to conform with Science and values which are constantly changing is logically fallacious because it fails to understand basic facts about Islam, and also about the philosophy (role) of Science and the humanities.

My Comments

At this point (fourth post) I have very little to say since the interlocutors have been replying. Yasir holds that there cannot be more than one Islamic positions on this matter. His reason is the vividness and clarity of the verses on creation. I think Yasir should be entitled to his conclusion but it seems to me a little weak to say it is only because of the clarity of the verse. Yasir could have added that it is also because he sees it as a Theological/Belief issue not an issue of Exegesis/Interpretations. It could have made Yasir’s argument stronger.

There was a crossfire session which I shall adjoin below:

Yasir to Usama > Do you believe in miracles; Virgin birth of Jesus, Moses parting the sea, and the Prophet splitting the moon? If you do, why is it problematic to believe that the creation of man is a miracle?
Usama to Yasir > I believe in miracles, the discussion we need to have is on the nature of miracles. However I contest the medieval interpretation of Miracle. The Qur’an never refers to miracles with the word “Mu’jizah” (literally miracles) instead it uses the word “Ayah” (literally signs). Also the Qur’an uses the word “Ayah” to refer to everyday things like sunrise and sunset. Everything in a sense is a Miracle.

Usama to Yasir > Do you not think your attitude is responsible for keeping the Muslims behind in modernity?
Yasir to Usama > You have given me way to much power! I don’t think my attitude is responsible for keeping the Muslims behind technologically, there are many factors that lead to that. However I don’t think the Muslims are theologically or morally behind; I am happy about this. And I don’t think my attitude is affecting it adversely and God willing, orthodoxy can flourish in modernity; we don’t need to compromise our core values to flourish.

I like Usama’s response with regards to miracles. It encourages us to seek the miracles in everyday things, which by paying close attention and study, we can’t help but say MaShaAllah! This is the contemplation the Qur’an challenges us to engage in. Unfortunately, after a beautiful response like that, Yasir somehow felt his question was not answered. I feel contrary.

I think it was a little unfair (cheap shot) for Usama to ask Yasir if his views are responsible to keeping the Muslims backward. Keep in mind, I have censored some other cheap shots from my report. I actually find Yasir’s view on this matter very liberal and accommodating, perhaps because I was expecting much worse (something like creationist Babuna). I also think Yasir’s view is one many Muslims will find easier to adopt without risking too much.

On the whole I think both Usama and Yasir had excellent closing remarks and ended really well. God bless them and the organizers for their efforts.

Conclusion

I am glad to have watched this conference. It started out with one of the interlocutors preaching the ettiquettes of good debate. Etiquettes were adequately observed but there were some slight violations which one only sees in the video. Perhaps I am over reacting. But it should be expected since debates can get even the best of us fired up. My ideal debate is one where one of the interlocutors admits their opponent has a better point than them when it happens. Although this conference has not lived up to my ideal expectations, it came close to it. I wonder if any of the interlocutors left with a slightly different view? Certainly the crowd must have.

This is what I said in the first post:

The video lasts more than four hours (longer than a Hindi movie!), therefore mind focus is required to sustain that concentration. While watching I found the information exciting and I wanted to make comments. At the same time I couldn’t stop thinking that their interesting points are sometimes not conveyed as clearly as possible. And I want to recommend it to people, but would people pay it mind or even have the bandwidth to watch it online? Eventually I thought it is worthwhile to present the entire conference in a series of posts, not as a transcript, but capturing the arguments clearly, filtering the unnecessary, and even commenting at some point. At the end of each post, the reader should have some interesting points to take away, probably to the next post in the series.

To avoid a dreary report of the event, the arguments shall be presented in first person of the interlocutors, according to my understanding, with a minimal literary embellishments that do not alter their core positions. In a sense it is me explaining their arguments through them… hope that makes sense. I shall also try to use the same examples used by the interlocutors as much as possible. Then I shall comment. I also noticed that the conference was a little fast paced and so we might need a slower “for dummies” version. Sometimes I make additions, other times omissions, but (I hope) the arguments are not misrepresented.

I must admit that writing and presenting the conference as these posts helped me understand the arguments better as well; especially with regards to Usama and Yasir. Yasir was more eloquent, with clearer (American) accent, and easier to follow. He seemed to have planned his arguments better as well. Usama was not as clear but paying attention, one realizes that he had some really good points even though it is difficult to see how it supports his argument simply by listening. However by writing them down as posts, I think they are equally clear now.

Did I treat the two fairly? I hope I did. I tried to be objective when presenting their arguments, then I give my opinion in the comment section. For me watching this conference and then writing about it has been a journey. About 8 years ago, I had similar views with the creationist Babuna. 5 years ago I started thinking like Yasir. Three years ago I was thinking like Usama. Then after watching this conference some days ago I was more inclined towards the views of Yasir. In fact one of the main reasons I wanted to write it down was to defend the position of Yasir in a way because I feared he may have been misunderstood. On paying closer attention I realized I am back to being more with Usama than with Yasir; but I have no problem at all with the position of Yasir. I was probably more drawn to Yasir because his arguments were clearer when spoken. But paying more attention aligned me more with Usama. This may show in my comments which are meant to be about what I think.

Yasir’s position is easier to present to people who don’t want to take a big leap, but want to embrace Evolutionary Science. Its the safest anyway. It would be very gladening if majority of Muslims would think like Yasir, rather than how many believe like the creationist Babuna. Contrary to Usama’s views, Yasir’s views are probably what we need in the world right now. Usama’s views, although makes more sense to me, may challenge too many beliefs of Muslims that it would be rejected immediately. Regardless of which position is taken I maintain that this issue of Evolution is a difference in Exegesis/Interpretation, not a difference in Theology/Belief.

I hope you the reader has broaden your perspective on Evolution and Islam reading these four posts. Peace Out!

 

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