Is Creation an Evolutionary Process?

Category: Americas, Featured, Nature & Science Topics: Creation, Evolution Channel: Opinion Views: 7502

In recent years, the debate over teaching the account of human creation provided by religious texts has intensified in the U.S. Some Christians insist that schools teach "creationism" side by side with the theory of evolution. Most recently this call has been echoed by several Muslim writers, most notably the prolific Turkish scholar Harun Yahya.

The call for embracing the theory of creationism should be treated with caution. Not only because it would undermine scientific research that aims at exploring metaphysical assertions through scientific methodology, which has for long been embraced and supported by Islamic scholarship, but also because it seems to contradict facts alluded to by the Qur'an itself.

Undoubtedly, no human being has ever had the opportunity to witness the beginning of human life. We are members of a species whose origin is counted by tens - if not hundreds - of thousands of years. The many narratives about the origins of human life can be ultimately subsumed under two grand narratives: creation and evolution. Evolution is widely embraced by natural scientists who attempt to reconstruct the beginning of human life by tracing prehistoric animal life, finding in the shared biological traits of all living creatures evidence of common ancestry and common evolution. Human life, they claim, evolved from the general animal life through a process of "natural selection".

The followers of monotheistic religions, however, share a grand narrative that places the beginning of human life with the creation of the first masculine human being, Adam, along with his feminine spouse. The Qur'an describes human creation by narrating an exchange between God and the angles:

"Behold, your Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create man from clay: When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My Spirit, fall down unto him." (38:71-2)

Another Qur'anic verse provides a similar but a more elaborate account. It describes that the clay from which the human body was shaped went through organic transformation that it turned into smelly and darkened clay:

"Behold! Your Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create man, from dark malodorous clay, from mud molded into shape; "When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of my spirit, fall you down [in prostration] unto him." (15: 28-29)

The human being, according to the Qur'an, is made of earthly matter mixed with water, and left for a while until it went through a process of transformation. This clay had already gone through a transformation to become a malodorous and dark substance, thereby suggesting an organic process. This transformed clay was then molded into the human shape, and into which the Divine breathed a spirit derived from His own.

The Qur'an is silent as to the nature of the process through which the human body took its final shape. Was the human body created instantaneously, or did it go through an evolutionary process? What is clear, though, is that the Qur'an places the question of the origin of life within the realm of natural observation rather than theoretical reflection. Thus, investigating human creation belongs to scientific observation and not to theology.

"Say: Travel through the earth and see how God did originate creation; so will God produce a later creation: for God has power over all things" (29:20)

Yet the Qur'an describes in so many different ways human creation as an elaborate and phased process, whereby the human being goes through various phases before it evolves into the human shape. The above verses of Chap. 15 refer to a process of "molding into shape" or taswiyah that culminates in the human creation. In Chapter  7, the Qur'an refers to the two phases of human creation: the act of creation and the process of shaping:

"It is We who created you then gave you shape; then We bade the angels bow down to Adam, and they bowed down; not so Iblis (Lucifer); he refused to be of those who bow down" (7:11).

Indeed, the Qur'an describes human life as an ever evolving through distinct stages, taking different forms, beginning with the most primordial stage of earthly matter, the dust, through various stages in the mother's womb, through the various stages of development from infancy, to full adulthood, to senility for those who reach the very advanced age, ending with death.

"O mankind! if you have a doubt about the Resurrection, (consider) that We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then out of a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may manifest (Our Power) to you; and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babies, then (foster you) that you may reach your age of full strength; and some of you are called to die, and some are sent back to the feeblest old age, so that they know nothing after having known (much). And (further), you see the earth barren and lifeless, but when We pour down rain on it, it is stirred (to life), it swells, and it puts forth every kind of beautiful growth in pairs" (22:5).

In this account, one sees a clear allusion to an evolutionary process of creation, in which life starts with dust, and then evolves into a single cell (sperm) that multiply to form a clot ('alaqah) that grows into bone and finally to flesh. While the process that referred to here mainly describes the growth of the fetus in the mother's womb, the Qur'an starts its description of the fetus's growth by referring to the earthly dust, thereby suggesting a comparable evolutionary process that was part of the act of creation of the first human being. This suggestion is further enforced by the conclusion of the verse, where the Qur'an invokes the ever observable process of rejuvenation of vegetation in the desert during the annual rain season. The return of life to an apparently lifeless desert after receiving heavy rain is gradual and relatively slow process associated with the growth of vegetation.

While the Qur'an describes a purposive act of creation of human beings, it does not exclude an evolutionary biological process leading to the completion and physical maturation of the human being. What sets human and animal lives apart, according to the Qur'an, is not primarily the biological development of the human body, but the moral, intellectual, and spiritual capacity of the human spirit. Human life enjoys dignity that is unique to human being, dignity that is rooted in human spirituality, not biology.

The debate over creation and evolution is lively one. While Muslims may question an account of evolution that is used to propagate a purposeless process of creation, it should not close the mind to scientific methods that look at natural evidence to figure out the natural dimension of human existence.

Dr. Louay Safi is executive director with the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). He writes and lectures on issues relating to Islam and the West, democracy, human rights, leadership, and world peace. 


Related posts from similar topics:


Related posts from similar channels:


Disclaimer

  13 Comments   Comment

  1. beyondEinstein

    Big Bang:
    “Beginning of the creation a part of the power of the nature/God/Allah became divisible as a result of the big bang”.
    At the time of the beginning of the creation or from the absolute zero of time or from the God, part of the power of the God became divisible as a result of the big bang. The part of energy had been divided in the beginning of creation from the large field of energy, which is below 50% of total energy. In the most of natural power reserved in God or big black hole from which, the world of gravitation become influenced.
    Evolution:
    “Everything of the world of matter including the present visible unit is the result of evolution from the big bang”. Again, “Everything of the present universe is the result of evolution of single energy of Power” i.e. revolving of the sole level picture and evolution of picture or advent of multilateral matter as a result of change. The changing function of everything in the universe is going on always. The present scenery was not similar with past and also will not resemble with the future, the present and past space-time energy absolute zero of absolute time. As per formula of evolution;

  2. mahtaab from india

    When reading the article of Dr Safi one should keep in mind that when we define something according to Islamic terminology it is not the same as the western definition. when he is talking about evolution we should not understand it to be that of Darwin's theory of evolution but rather how Prophet Adam was created and how we are today. None of us are like Prophet Adam. We should analyze the reports of the Messenger of God like Prophet Adam was created 30 metres high, he was full with hair like a date palm.

  3. Imraan from South Africa

    This is my opinion, If you give a man to build

    houses, each and every house will have a similar

    trait to the previous house, so the houses will

    change in time but have one builder. So to all of

    creation from the big bang to the day of

    judgement, there is one creater (builder), so

    common sense will tell you that God (Allah) has

    created everything. Something to think about.

  4. mahbubul abedin from bangladesh

    Prophet Adam was 90 feet tall 1st man.Then gradually over the many trillions year it was reduced 90-80-70-60-50-40-30-20-12 to present size.This is Islamic evaluation as per Quran and Hadit.Skelitons found all over the world proves that.Enimal also were bigger during that time.Thanks.

  5. Daoud Ali from US

    Natural selection accounts for variety is a species, but does not lead to one species "evolving" into another. Proponents of human evolution claim it is a combination of natural selection and "favorable" mutations, though the latter is an oxymoron and scarse if not a complete myth. Allah created us as human beings, period. The author seems to be at pains to reconcile his own attachment to the claims of atheist biologists with his religious faith. The fact of the matter is many scientists, Muslim and non-Muslim, reject the prevailing theory of evolution. It has many, many holes and is largely propaganda, if not outright indoctrination. I would recommend close reading of Harun Yahya's excellent articles of the subject. After going through secular education in the US, culminating in a Harvard engineering degree, I was finally educated on the subject of evolution by visiting Harun Yahya's free website. Go figure.

  6. Ahmad from -

    The Quran clearly justifies Jesus' miraculous birth by comparing his birth to Adam having no mother or father. To assume that Adam had ape-ish parents is against the overwhelming consensus of the former and latter generation of Muslim scholars. Macroevolution is something that microbiologists have found non-existent at the molecular level, and the gaps that creationists point out to evolutionary theory are very much plausible. But do not deviate from where there is consensus in Islam, as there is much proof in the Quran and Sunnah that prove Islam's stance against darwinian macroevolution theory

  7. Ahmed from USA

    A confused article, I read it as:

    1. Adam had Non human Parents? (Adam being the first Human)

    2. Hawua (Eve) must have same or different Parents. again Non Human, but parent nonetheless.

    or

    2. Hauwa (Eve) came from Adam (As Quran states).

    2.a Evolutionarily, this would call for Asexual Male Reproduction.

    or

    2.b Allah (SWT) created Hauwa from Adam as he willed.

    Allah Knows Best.

  8. AQuereshi from USA

    Assalaamu alaikum. Dr. Safi could have even more forcefully made his case by citing Qur'an 21:30, 24:45, 25:54 and 37:11, which in interpretation by Muhammad Asad read:

    21:30 ARE, THEN, they who are bent on denying the truth not aware that the heavens and the earth were [once] one single entity, which We then parted asunder? - and [that] We made out of water every living thing? Will they not, then, [begin to] believe?

    24:45 And it is God who has created all animals out of water; and [He has willed that] among them are such as crawl on their bellies, and such as walk on two legs, and such as walk on four. God creates what He will: for, verily, God has the power to will anything.

    25:54 And He it is who out of this [very] water has created man, and has endowed him with [the consciousness of] descent and marriage-tie: for thy Sustainer is ever infinite in His power.

    37:11 AND NOW ask those [who deny the truth] to enlighten thee: Were they more difficult to create than all those [untold marvels] that We have created? - for, behold, them have We created out of [mere] clay commingled with water!

    The character limitation on postings prevent my posting all of Asad's commentary on these verses, but they can be viewed on this website by going to the Qur'an search and selecting the Asad interpretation and searching the verses.

    I think that it is clear that, while there is no conclusive interpretation that description of an evolutionary progression of life forms coming from the seas or a description that water is part of the make-up of every living thing is meant, both possibilities are present in the verses, including the one that would apparently support the presence of evolution as it is currently understood - a point which has been recorgnized by other modern tafseers.

  9. Riaz Sheikh from Canada

    Although I believe that Allah has all the powers to create things instanteously, but we see in everyday life that nothing happens in no time. Look at the creation of animal life, agricultur, human life, etc etc, there is a process that takes place in the creation. Adam, or the human beings are made of cells. First cells must have been created to form the body. How they were joined together is unknown. Evolution of Adam must have occured. This has nothing to do with the animal life. They are different species. But once that specie was evolved, then the production of that specie was a simple matter, mating of the male and female. I do not believe that man was evolved from monkeys. But the evolution was evolved separately.(Allah knows best)

  10. abu ibrahim from kuwait

    In the name of Allah

    I believe one has to be very careful about the theory of evolution. We, muslims, believe in micro- evolution where Allah (SWT) - as explained in the Quran - created man from one phase to another phase in the womb. But Macro-evolution where over long period of time, an animal (eg ape)changed to a man or a reptile changed to a bird is totally against islam. It implies imperfection in the creation of Allah SWT) as a lot of trial and errors are required to attain to the final species through the process of natunal selection and mutation. Allah (SWT) created each species in a specific way in a particular habitat to communicate to us His power and hence to take heed and submit to Him. And Allah knows well.

  11. Zuber Bunglawala from United Kingdom

    This artical seems a little confused to me.

    For example is seems to intermingle the concept of growth, i.e. development in the womb, growth into adulthood etc. with Evolution. Two totally different concepts.

    Unless the implication is that Prior to Adam(PBUH) Allah created Apes etc. as part of an experimental process leading to Man, I struggle to see what the author is trying to say.

    I was of the impression that Allah simply had to 'say' BE and it would come to pass and that the Allahs knowledge was Infinate. So he has no need to develop, fine tune and evolve an idea to the point of creating something with which he was satisfied and so give it the title of Man.

    If Allah created other creatures many of which have many things in common, it is simply because it was his wish to do so. Not because of the need to evolve something.

    Perhaps a clear alternative interpretation to what Evolutionists suggest could be offered by the Author to help clarify what was meant.

    Allah knows best.

    Zuber

  12. Reef from uk

    This is amongst the worst rubbish I have read in

    recent years about the qur'an supporting

    evolution.it is laughable to think that God

    created the human being and after a while

    (necessarily on earth) gave him his final shape

    and then took him up to Himself so that the angels

    bow down to him. We expect far better from

    islamicity.

    Regards

  13. Haroon from USA

    This is actually representing my own view point by point and I'm

    glad that someone has finally stated it in clear language. I see

    nothing contradictory about accepting some parts of

    evolutionary theory but analyzing it under an Islamic lens.

    Muslims are falling for a harebrained idea propagated by right-

    wing Christians with a political agenda and nothing else. What's

    worse is that books like Harun Yahya's on evolution are copied

    directly from non-Muslim, evangelical sources. Allah reward

    him for his intentions though because I know some Muslims

    have become enthusiastic because of him.