Voices: An old Earth for all Muslims but how does evolution fit in? (2024)

by Salman Hameed Friday, January 20, 2012

It’s no secret that many of the protests and rebellions in North Africaand the Middle East this year have been dominated by globally connected,young, educated Muslims. One of the stated goals of many of these youngpeople is improving the science and technology programs in theircountries. They understand that to compete in the global marketplace,strong science and technology programs are necessary. That bodes wellfor these countries' futures. But there are still threats to thescientific futures of these nations — including the quiet but growingpopulation of people who reject the principles of evolution.

When we talk about “evolution” in the Muslim world, it’s important tofirst separate out biological evolution from young-Earth creationism.Young-Earth creationism — the idea that the world and the universe areless than 10,000 years old — is completely absent in the Muslim world.The Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, does contain the six-day creationaccount, just like the Bible’s Book of Genesis. But the length of eachday is explicitly ambiguous in the Qur’an: In one passage, for example,the length of each day is suggested to be 1,000 Earth days, but inanother, it is said to be 50,000.

Most contemporary Muslims (including scholars) have concluded that theanswer to the age of the Earth does not lie in the Qur’an, and they havecome to accept the scientifically accepted age of 4.5 billion years.That’s the good news: At least there won’t be a battle like there is inthe United States and Europe to a somewhat lesser extent about whenEarth was created.

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Although the acceptance of an old Earth allows for the possibility ofbiological changes in species over long periods, the not-so-good news isthat many in the Muslim world don’t accept that biological evolutionoccurs. It may in fact be the vast majority of Muslims who reject humanevolution outright. Only a few studies have addressed this question, butthe results suggest that the rejection of human evolution in the Muslimworld is much higher than in the U.S.

Contrary to what we in the U.S. might think, though, there is no singleMuslim position regarding biological evolution. In fact, high schoolbiology textbooks in several Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Iranand Turkey, include evolution as a fact of science. Furthermore, in2007, the science foundations from 14 Muslim majority countries endorseda statement in support of common descent and biological evolution ofspecies, including humans. Of course, as we have seen in the U.S.,endorsem*nt from national science foundations does not necessarilytranslate into widespread acceptance of evolution.

At issue in the Muslim world are the many misconceptions aboutevolution. For some, the word “evolution” and the name “Darwin” are bothassociated with atheism — a notion that Muslims reject vociferously.For others, evolutionary theory accounts for the origin of life — anidea that many reserve for the domain of God. And of course, one of themost common misconceptions is the view that “monkeys directly evolvedinto humans.” None of these misconceptions are specific to Muslims;indeed, most are common among creationists all over the world.

But as the topic of evolution is just beginning to be discussed broadlyin the Muslim world, scientists have a chance to get the rightinformation out there and to resolve the misconceptions before theybecome increasingly ingrained. There already exists high interest inmedicine, as well as fields such as biotechnology and biomedicine inmuch of the Muslim world. Principles of evolution are relevant to all ofthese areas, and educators and scientists can integrate the teaching ofbiological evolution (extending all the way to humans) with thesepractical applications and potential economic benefits. Because religionplays a central role in most Muslim societies, there also needs to be anexplicit emphasis on the fact that an acceptance of evolution does notnecessarily imply atheism.

The next decade will be crucial. The rising educated middle class of theMuslim world will be shaping the discussion of modern science and itsrelation to Islam. If biological developments of the last decade are anyindication, we expect the topic of evolution to be at the center ofscientific and ethical debates in the next century.

Looking at the faces of protests in Egypt and Tunisia, I cannot help butbe optimistic that this generation will not reject one

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Voices: An old Earth for all Muslims but how does evolution fit in? (2024)


What do Muslims believe about evolution? ›

Islamic views on evolution are diverse, ranging from theistic evolution to Old Earth creationism. Some Muslims around the world believe "humans and other living things have evolved over time", yet some others believe they have "always existed in present form".

What do Muslims believe about the age of the Earth? ›

Most contemporary Muslims (including scholars) have concluded that the answer to the age of the Earth does not lie in the Qur'an, and they have come to accept the scientifically accepted age of 4.5 billion years.

What is the evolution of life in Islam? ›

The Qur'an. teaches that humans have a special, supervisory role in creation. Other Muslims view evolution as simply Allah's way of creating life. They believe that Allah created the environment, which drives evolution and oversees the natural processes whereby species evolve.

How was the Earth created according to Islam? ›

The Qur'an states that "Allah created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six days" (7:54). While on the surface this might seem similar to the account related in the Bible, there are some important distinctions. The verses that mention "six days" use the Arabic word "youm" (day).

Can Christians believe in evolution? ›

According to this view, God is the ultimate cause behind the evolutionary process, guiding and sustaining it to bring about His purposes. ECs see no conflict between their faith and the scientific understanding of evolution.

What does the Quran say about DNA? ›

Therefore, according to the holy Qur'an, the following conclusions can be drawn from the following information: 1. Man is born of male and female gametes "God made man from a mixed material" 2. Sperm and ovule activate genes, "Then He Created man easily From Jumper water" 3.

Do Muslims believe in creation or evolution? ›

In Oman, the Grand Mufti of the Sultanate is known for his strong opposition to the theory of evolution, and in 2018 he publicly restated this view. In Saudi Arabia, fatwa 2872 states that the theory of evolution contradicts the creation story in the Quran and the consensus of Muslim scholars.

Does Islam believe in human evolution? ›

The Quran, clearly considered, offers no verses that contradict the theory of evolution. Therefore, a Muslim can believe in evolution.

What does the Quran say about human evolution? ›

The Quran states that God created Adam and Eve as the first humans on earth, while evolution suggests that humans evolved from apes.

Which is older, Islam or Christianity? ›

Christianity developed out of Second Temple Judaism in the 1st century CE. It is founded on the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and those who follow it are called Christians. Islam developed in the 7th century CE.

Is evolution proven or a theory? ›

Evolution is both a fact and a theory. Evolution is widely observable in laboratory and natural populations as they change over time. The fact that we need annual flu vaccines is one example of observable evolution.

Who was the first animal on earth in Islam? ›

Islam says that Adam and Eve were the first creatures on Earth.

How old is earth according to the Bible? ›

Concerning the age of the Earth, the Bible's genealogical records combined with the Genesis 1 account of creation are used to estimate an age for the Earth and universe of about 6000 years, with a bit of uncertainty on the completeness of the genealogical records, allowing for a few thousand years more.

How old is Adam in Islam? ›

Adam proceeded to live for about 960 years, though this has been a topic of debate. Humankind would have learned everything from Adam. He was the first to learn to plant, harvest, and bake as well as the first to be told how to repent and how to properly bury someone.

How long ago were Adam and Eve? ›

In biology, the most recent common ancestors of humans, when traced back using the Y chromosome for the male lineage and mitochondrial DNA for the female lineage, are commonly called the Y-chromosomal Adam and Mitochondrial Eve, respectively. Anatomically modern humans emerged in Africa approximately 300,000 years ago.

Is evolution supported by Islam? ›

The Quran, clearly considered, offers no verses that contradict the theory of evolution. Therefore, a Muslim can believe in evolution.

What does religion have to say about evolution? ›

Today, many religious denominations accept that biological evolution has produced the diversity of living things over billions of years of Earth's history. Many have issued statements observing that evolution and the tenets of their faiths are compatible.

What religion is it when you believe in evolution? ›

The Catholic Church generally accepts evolutionary theory as the scientific explanation for the development of all life.


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