In recent times, the controversy has become more prominent in Islamic countries. In Egypt evolution is taught in schools but Saudi Arabia and Sudan have both banned its teaching. Creation science has also been heavily promoted in Turkey and in immigrant communities in Western Europe, primarily by Harun Yahya.
9.3.1 Qur’an and Science
The relation between Qur’an and science is strongly affirmed in Islamic thought. Almost all sources, classical and modern, agree that the Qur’an encourages the acquisition of science and scientific knowledge.
The belief that Qur’an had prophesied scientific theories and discoveries -known as Ijaz al-Qur’an- has become a strong and widespread belief in the contemporary Islamic world. Alleged prophecies are often provided to show a connection between the Qur’an and miracles, and to support the belief of divine origin for the Qur’an.
188.8.131.52 Science-related prophecies
According to Qur’an, natural phenomena comprise a large portion of the divine signs; nature itself praises God and God proclaims that He will show humankind His signs on the furthest horizons: “a time is fixed for every prophecy; you will come to know in time”.
Islamic scholar Zaghloul El-Naggar thinks that this verse refers to the scientific signs in the Qur’an that would be discovered by the world in modern time, centuries after the revelation. The scientific signs claimed to be in the Qur’an exist in different subjects, including creation, astronomy, the animal and vegetables kingdom, and human reproduction. Some of those claimed prophecies are:
- The Qur’an contains a number of verses pertaining to some biological specificities regarding human reproduction and development. According to Keith L. Moore (professor emeritus of anatomy at the University of Toronto, God revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad.
- The Qur’an referenced the heavens and earth as originally being an integrated mass before God split them. This has been interpreted by some as being “nothing short of a condensed version of the Big bang theory”.
- The Qur’an talked about cosmic orbital motion when the common belief was that earth was stationary.
The most famous proponent of this argument is perhaps Maurice Bucaille, a French physician and author of the popular book “The Bible, The Quran and Science”. Maurice Bucaille asserts in his book that “he could not find a single error in the Qur’an”, and that the Qur’an does “not contain a single statement which is assailable from a modern scientific point of view”, which led him to believe that no human author in the seventh century could have written “facts” which “today are shown to be keeping with modern scientific knowledge”.
According to some recent studies of the relationship between science education and religion, one of the ways in which science education in strongly Islamic societies is impacted by religiosity is when “acceptable” scientific discoveries can be found to have been anticipated or “identified” by the Qur’an, with consequent implications for what is taught and not taught.
184.108.40.206 Scientific exegesis of the Qur’an
Scientific exegesis of the Qur’an is the assumption that all sorts of findings of the modern natural sciences have been anticipated in the Qur’an and that many unambiguous references to them can be discovered in its verses. Many Islamic authors, classical and modern, believe that all the sciences were contained in the Qur’an.
Many classical Muslim commentators and scientists, notably al-Biruni, assigned to the Qur’an a separate and autonomous realm of its own and held that the Qur’an “does not interfere in the business of science nor does it infringes on the realm of science.”
In defence of their efforts the exegetes use two verses in the Qur’an: one that states “and We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things” and another which says “We have neglected nothing in the Book”. The classical objection to these verses being used as a basis for intensive tafsir ‘ilmi is that the “Book” mentioned in these verses is not the Qur’an itself, but a “well-preserved tablet” in heaven, of which the earthly Qur’an is a reflection
The Qur’an is insistent that Allah is the sole creator of all things: the universe and humans. Qur’an does not assert that God created the universe at some definable point in the past. As opposed to deism or to certain readings of Newtonian physics, God continues to sustain the creation during every moment of its existence.
God’s purpose in the creation of the universe was focused on humanity. This is manifest, for example, in the fact that the universe is admirably designed to provide for human needs and wants. The Qur’an offers its own version of cosmic entropic principle.
220.127.116.11 Universal creation
Qur’an contains many verses describing the universe creation; God created heavens and earth in six days, the heavens and earth were completed in two days and in four days God furnished the creation of the earth with mountains, rivers and fruit-gardens. Heavens and earth formed from an integrated disk-shaped mass which had to be split, the seven heavens were created from smoke, forming layers, one above the other.
God and angels inhabit the seventh heaven. The lowest heaven is adorned with lights, the sun and the moon, the stars and the constellations of the zodiac.
18.104.22.168 Human creation
According to Qur’an, Adam is the first human being and the father of humankind. First Adam was created from clay, God himself formed the material of which Adam is made and breathed his spirit into him, and then Eve was created from Adam but the Qur’an does not report when she was created. Subsequently all humankind was created from clay. Today, some modern Muslim commentators have decided that, since the Qur’an makes no mention of the evolution of one species to another kind of species, the Darwinian theory of evolution is contrary to the teachings of the Qur’an.
However, on multiple occasions, the Quran states that life and living creatures originated from water. (21:30, and 24:45) Furthermore, it also states on multiple occasions that mankind was “created”, then “fashioned.” This has been interpreted as a hint toward evolution, in that after creation of life, modifications can occur through natural selection. Verse 95:4 states: “We created Man in the finest state.” An alternative translation has been “We created man according to the best organizational plan.”
It is widely recognized that the Qur’an and hadith contain a number of verses pertaining to human reproduction and development. In his book “A History of Embryology”, Professor Joseph Needham describes some of the embryological passages in the Qur’an, verses. Dr. Keith L. Moore, who is most known for his textbooks on the subjects of anatomy and human embryology, had to say of the Qur’an and Muhammad, “It is clear to me that these statements of the Qur’an about human development must have come to Muhammad from God, because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God”.
9.3.3 Islam and evolutionary creationism
Some Muslims believe in evolutionary creationism. More literalist Muslims, including followers of Wahhabism, reject “origin of species from a common ancestor by evolution” as incompatible with the Qur’an. However, even amongst Muslims who accept evolution, many believe that humanity was a special creation by God.
Islamic creationism is the belief that the universe (including humanity) was directly created by God as explained in the Qur’an or Genesis. While contemporary Islam tends to take religious texts literally, it usually views Genesis as a corrupted version of God’s message. The creation accounts in the Qur’an are vaguer and allow for a wider range of interpretations similar to those in other Abrahamic religions. Several liberal movements within Islam generally accept the scientific positions on the age of the earth, the age of the universe and evolution.
9.3.4 Prevalence of view
Little is known about general views of evolution in Muslim countries. A 2007 study of religious patterns found that only 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, 14% of Pakistanis, 16% of Indonesians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin’s theory is probably or most certainly true. A following 2006 survey reported that about a quarter of Turkish adults agreed that human beings evolved from earlier animal species. In contrast, the 2007 study found that only 28% of Kazakhs thought that evolution is false; this fraction is much lower than the roughly 40% of U.S. adults with the same opinion.
In Turkey, polemics against the theory of evolution have been waged by the Nurculuk movement of Said Nursi since the late 1970s. Another leading Turkish advocate of Islamic creationism is Fethullah Gülen. The theory of evolution is typically held to be responsible for a materialistic and atheistic world-view. Due to the lack of a detailed account of creation in the Qur’an, other aspects than the literal truth of the scripture are emphasized in the Islamic debate. The most important concept is that everything happens according to God’s will. Hence the ideas of Islamic creationists are closer to Intelligent design than to Young Earth Creationism.
In Britain some British Muslim students quote the Qu’ran in scientific exams and fail as a result. Dr Khalid Anees, president of the Islamic Society of Britain stated that “Muslims interpret the world through both the Koran 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.”
The Qur’an lacks a complete set of time markers in its references to creation. It declares that creation took six days, but “days” have been interpreted not just as literal twenty-four hour periods but as stages or other periods of time.
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 Qur’an. Many Muslims believe in evolutionary creationism, especially among Sunni and Shia Muslims and the Liberal movements within Islam. However, even amongst Muslims who accept evolution, many believe that humanity was a special creation by God.
22.214.171.124 Universal creation
There are several verses in the Qur’an which some modern writers have interpreted as being compatible with the expansion of the universe, Big Bang and Big Crunch theories.
9.3.5 Individual views
The Ahmadiyya Movement is perhaps the only denomination in Islam that actively promotes the theory of evolution. Ahmadis reject both the Creationism and Intelligent Design models. In support of the concepts of macroevolution, Ahmadis believe that mankind had gradually evolved from different species (i.e. apes). Furthermore, Ahmadis regard Adam as the first Prophet of God -as opposed to being the first man on Earth. Rather than adopting the Darwinist’s approach of natural selection, Ahmadis promote the idea of “guided evolution” viewing that each stage of the evolutionary process has been selectively woven to an intricate level by one monotheistic deity.
126.96.36.199 Rejection of Creationism and Intelligent Design
Ahmadi’s reject both the Creationist, and Intelligent Design models, and also reject certain aspects of Islamic creationism. They accept that Evolution is based upon factual scientific evidence and favour the perspective of macroevolution, that mankind had evolved from different species.
The Qur’an teaches that man was created through a gradual process in the following verse: “And He (God) has created you in different stages and different forms.” [Qur’an 71:14] This verse illustrates that the creation of man was the culmination of a gradual evolutionary process and that it would be incorrect to say that God formed man in an instant.
9.3.5 3 Adam and Eve
Ahmadis reject the creationist doctrine that Adam was the first man on Earth; they believe that he was the first Prophet of God.
188.8.131.52 Guided evolution
Rather than adopting the Darwinist theory however, Ahmadis promote the idea of “guided evolution”. They deny that natural selection occurred purely by chance or merely by survival of the fittest. They view each stage of the evolutionary process as having been selectively and contiguously organised by one monotheistic creator. Ahmadis contend that the process of life on Earth began from one single point of species (bacteria) with a mixture of water and a viscous clay-like substance. From the source of that one single organism, to the point of the first Prophet Adam was a slow gradual evolutionary process that occurred over an indeterminate timescale, perhaps over billions of years.
Proponents of Ahmadiyya say that the ‘natural selection’ theory does not adequately explain how the various species that have progressed from the lowest to the highest forms. As is observed in nature, this dependence on random mutations makes such advancement a mathematical impossibility. In his book “Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth” (published 1998), Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the late leader of the Ahmadiyya movement, elaborated the complex mechanism of evolution was more like strategic game of Chess than a game of Dice and subsequently could only have been arranged by a vastly higher intelligence (God).
184.108.40.206 Creation of the Universe
Similar to Theistic realism and the views of some modern Islamic writers, Ahmadis adopt a scientific and cosmological approach to explaining how the formation of universe was initiated by the Big Bang and highlight how these theories relate with Quranic scripture.
Ahmadis also expound that these verses written over 1400 years ago, that is long before mankind had reached any level of scientific insight. Since modern science has recently uncovered facts about the universe which contend with these verses, that it indicates that the verses were revealed from the God that created the universe.
220.127.116.11 Six individual phases of creation
Furthermore, Ahmadis highlight several verses in the Quran where it mentions of “Six periods of creation” and use these verses to explain the theory that the universe began roughly 13 billion years ago. A single period has no definitive timescale and could mean anywhere from 1 day to billions of years.
According to the Ahmadiyya view the universe passed from stage to stage till the Earth assumed a shape and developed properties which could sustain human life.
18.104.22.168 Extraterrestrial life
Ahmadis further propose that the possibility of life existing on other planets is clearly established in the first chapter of the Qur’an where the verse speaks of the plurality of worlds.