Is the theory of evolution, and specifically, theistic evolution, compatible with Islam? That is to say, is there any official doctrine in Islam (or if not agreed upon in Islam as a whole, in a specific sect or area of Islam) that teaches that evolution is expressly wrong?
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
In order to answer this question, we must have an agreement on what the Quranic term "خلق (to create (reads "khalk"))" means.
If the first one is true, then the evolution theory is not compatible to Islam. If the second one is true, then the evolution theory can be compatible (but we still cannot make sure if it is absolutely true) to Islam.
Let's read some ayats from Quran to see how Allah "creates" things:
(*)The word "soul" in this translation is a mistake. "Soul" means "ruh" in arabic, but the true word in the ayat is "nefs" which means physical body.
Let's see another ayat for understanding the meaning of "khalk":
The one who speaks in the ayat is (we understand from previous ayats) Zekaria (who is the father of Maryam, who is the mother of Isa (Christ)). Allah says him that once he was created (with the word "khalk") before he was nothing.
This ayat tell us that Allah is creating ("khalk" again) everything. By everything, it means actually everything. Everything you know, everything you see and imagine. There is nothing instantaneously coming out of nowhere in this Universe. This is a fact no one can deny. Everything comes to existence after a circulation in the Nature. Allah crated rain, clouds, mountains, human race, animals, plants and everything else. This is how Allah creates.
Allah wants us to travel on the Earth ("ارض" means "Earth", not "land")(*) and observe how he create things. Every one of us travel on Earth. We go to our jobs, holidays, picnic, walk in forest, walk in the streets, etc. Did any one of you see Allah creates anything in an instant from nothing? Everything is being created with a circulation of matter, nothing is created in an instant. And, Allah states that this is how he creates. This is the way of his creation.
In this ayat, it is said that when Allah wants something, He just says "be (كُنْ / kuun)", then it "becomes (فَيَكُونُ / feyekuun)". This and some other ayats like this make some people think and claim that Allah instantaneously creates things. However, the secret key point is the conjunction word "فَ (fe)" in the ayat. It is different from "وَ (ve)" which means "and". "Fe" means "after this", and implies "a forming of events afterwards". It doesn't necessarily or absolutely mean an instantaneous happening.
Summary of what I wrote is:
Then, why are Muslims this much against the Evolution Theory?
All of you know Darwin and what he researched for, and the following events. I will keep it as short as I can. Events occurred in this order:
Finally, as an answer to your question, Quran doesn't clarify how exactly (living) things are created. Quran is not a biology or science book; it is only for warning us and teaching us the true way. It just says that they are created. All we can understand is from the meaning of the word "creation". In my answer, I only tried to prove that we are not necessarily be instantaneously created on Earth. I didn't say that Evolution Theory is true or false for sure; but I said that it looks like to be very compatible. Allah knows the best. We shouldn't take part in the war between evolutionists and anti-evolutionist.
Islam is incompatible with theistic evolution for many reasons.
The first reason regarding Human Evolution is: Muslims believe that God created Adam and Eve in heaven. This is mentioned several times in Quran:
When Adam and Eve ate from that tree, God punished them by taking them out from heaven and sent them to Earth. We are the descendants of Adam and Eve.
Also, the theory is against the beliefs regarding other creatures (animals):
Therefore, believing in the evolution of humans or other creatures is totally against the basic beliefs of Islam. A Muslim cannot believe in God and theistic evolution simultaneously because believing in one nullifies the other.
If a theory is inconsistent with God's words (Quran) or Hadith, then it is not acceptable and is incompatible with Islam. If nothing in the theory contradicts the Quran or Hadith, then it is acceptable to believe in it or study it in depth as well. Theistic evolution is, however, incompatible with Islam.
There are various views regarding this among Muslim scholars. Some believe that it is incompatible while others believe it is compatible. The answer also depends on what is exactly meant by "evolution". One way of stating it is to claim that there has been no divine involvement in the creation of humans which would be contradictory to Islamic beliefs. On the other hand, if it is stated as species including humans are evolved from each other then the issue of compatibility is more complicated as I will explain below.
The evolution can be contradictory with the views that take the story of creation literally (God completed the creation of Adam not on the earth but in some other place and then sent him and his wife down as grown up humans afterwards).
One should be careful in taking the story of creation literally. The issue is not as straightforward as some other answers imply. For example, in verse 3:59 Quran says:
In this verse Quran says that the stories of their creations are similar. This combined with the fact that Jesus (PBUH) had a mother and was born like other humans suggests the possibility of a similar process for Adam.
Note that the use of symbolic stories to explain difficult to understand things is a common practice in Quran.
I think there are a number of possible answers to this question. It's not clear-cut. In Islam, the belief is that human beings and all creation are created for a purpose - they're not products of random aimless mutations. So in that aspect, there is a clear divergence. As for the mechanics of evolution, there is very little to contradict basic biology in the texts. Allah does say He "khalaqa" humans - and uses that word to refer to the different stages of growth of the fetus as well. So khalq may not always mean direct creation. I don't know of any text with the Qur'an or sunnah that disqualifies Microevolution or genetic changes and mutations (and it can't because we have solid evidence for Microevolution).
We do have specific information about the creation of Adam (as) though, and as Muslims we believe he wasn't the product of an evolutionary chain (due to clear ayaat in the Qur'an and clear ahadith). This doesn't mean that we have to deny fossil records for human-like creatures before Adam (as). It may just have been a different trajectory.
Finally, as a tangent, Dr. T. O. Shanavas of Toledo, Ohio has a non-traditional viewpoint on this matter. He brings up a number of interesting ideas in his book.
I don't necessarily agree with a lot of his ideas but they are food for thought.
In Short: No, neither with the original evolution theory nor with theistic version.
In length: First I strongly recommend you watch the documentary movie named "Expelled" that is about the war between two major theories: evolution vs intelligent design. The movie is somewhat highly criticized but you must see the movie before judging the two sides. Once you watch the movie you would probably find the answer to your question to be trivially no! If God or His creation is ignored then would Islam approve it anyway? Simply no!
According to Wikipedia there are Muslims who have approved theistic evolution, but ... let me grab your attention to the fact that life yet has no precise definition in science. For example see this Wikipedia entry when it says:
even there is a debate if viruses can be considered as an alive species or not! ref. here for example. Also note that a virus may remain inactive for thousands of years until conditions for it becoming activated is fulfilled and then we may be able to call it alive but what about when it was inactive? Was it alive or dead?
Islam identifies soul to address the issue of life at least for humans and animals, and of course you would agree on that evolution cannot explain soul being formed through chemical reactions and etc. Soul is something that needs an influence from a non-material being to be formed if you accept it is not material itself, at least for humans and animals that we know have soul according to Quran, when Jesus the Christ --peace be upon him-- said:
Therefore, evolution theory (roughly saying: origin of species being from a common ancestor) itself cannot be approved in Islam and shouldn't be approved by any other heavenly religion as well, specifically when one can ask himself questions of the form that follows:
And there are many other reasons why the evolution theory, as is expressed, is not acceptable by Islam. Aside from the movie "Expelled" cited above I also strongly recommend you read the fantastic book of Imam Sadiq --peace be upon him-- that contains four days of his teaching to one of his greatest companions, Mufazzal, so the book is now known as "Towhid (unitarianism) of Mufazzal" (see here for some extracts from the book, or here to download the first part of the book in English). Within this book you will read lots of Wisdom's behind several creations of Allah and you will find out how kind is Allah toward His creatures. Also within this book Imam talks about the Naturalists as follows:
I should add here that according to Islam Allah is the Wise and nothing does He creates or does unless there is a (number of) Wisdom(s) behind it, although remain hidden from the eyes of an observer like the human being. Many of such Wisdoms are introduced and discussed in the cited book, so much that the reader would hardly be able to deny the existence of a preplan for anything that exists in the form that it exists. Also as the book is written around 13 centuries ago it is addressing the issue as was put forward by the naturalists of those times, that may differ slightly from their position at the present era. By the way, in the movie "expelled" you see how Richard Dawkins, a famous atheist evolutionary biologist, starts from an atheism perspective and reaches a point to confess the existence of a supernatural being that he guesses it can be an alien!
And last but by no means least, there are (Shia) Ahadeeth that seemingly demonstrate every species have their own parents, in contrary to having a same origin. This is my generalization based on a few Ahadeeth that I have seen in this regard, each counting some species having independent parents created diectly by Allah as Adam and Eve --peace be upon them-- being created independently of the other species by Allah. Examples that I have seen explicitly in Ahadeeth are:
and I will not say anything about angels as you can judge the issue about them easily and that will not need any further evidence that shows they do not go well with the evolution theory. However, note that the above evidences show how even the theistic version of evolution theory is not compatible with Islam, or at least with Shia Islam.
PS.1. And animals are introduced in Quran to have life similar to our life, speaking to each other (note David and Solomon --peace be upon them-- could speak with animals, as there are Ahadeeth about the prophet Muhammad --peace be upon him and his household-- talking with animals) and being resurrected after death like we will be resurrected:
And this is far beyond what the present scientists --especially those entrapped in the evolution theory-- know about the animals or any other living species.
ps.2. The mind of the humans naturally extend each observation linearly to generalize a rule, this will include both interpolation and extrapolations. For example evolution theory for simple structured species is not rejected but almost clear and acceptable, but then some people in the lack of rigorous evidences generalize the concept linearly to every species and define an origin of life, then try to justify it even though with stories which are very much like science fictions. This is not totally wrong if by every new observation that is observed one can locally curve the original linear generalization to obtain a more realistic picture of the reality, but seemingly the evolution theory is far from being scientific at all, but more probably political or merely against the religion, at least as far as I have understood. Now mention this quotation from Wikipedia:
that is, theistic evolution is only a modification of the original evolution theory for it to go well also with theology. So that if the original evolution theory loses its scientific position no extra attempt would be required for the theistic evolution also to be destroyed, that would be automatic.
I think it is(evolution in general) because of this verse: Noble Quran 71:14
According to Quran creation is a gradual process:
Look at some examples of using word creation in Quran:
So it is compatible with Quran to say in view of Quran evolution is creation in fact.
Also in the Theistic evolutionn view evolution is a tool God used for creation.
But one verse of Quran saying Adam was created from mud is clearly in conflict Quran. but according to some hadith from Imam Sadiq a.s. and Imam Ali a.s. some humans existed before Adam and some of them extincted and only two group of them survived that are called Yajooj and Majooj in Quran. Also creation of Adam from mud does not mean no human existed before Adam. Adam s.a. and Jesus s.a. can be created at once out of evolution process while other humans were in evolution process.
Also some scholars say the verse
Proves that some humans existed at earth before creation of Adam unless angels did not ask such question.
According to my knowledge, main point incompatible between Islam and evolution is-
This is the second link I got from googling "Islam and evolution"-
Quoting the conclusion from the article-
Hope it will help to understand the islamic way of thinking from a philosophical point of view about evolution and other things. The author is a graduate in philosophy.