Islam, Biological Evolution, and Adam

As a Muslim, I used to think evolution was a farce.  I never looked into it and believed Harun Yahya’s propaganda wholeheartedly that it was a materialistic conspiracy.  After leaving Islam I decided to take an honest look at it again, and the evidence is overwhelming and clear that evolution is real.  This post describes the evidence from Muslim scholars and scientists to prove without a shadow of a doubt that the theory of evolution is accurate and true.

Take a look at this short video on evolution to start.

How about this alternative text of the Quran? Couldn’t we say this is actually more accurate and clear than the current one?

“It is we who formed you as simple creatures, and then molded you into complex ones until you became self apparent and were aware of your own selves. Will you not give thanks?”
(Written by me)

Instead we are given a mythological story of “Adam and Eve” and “separating the heavens and earth” and “raised up the heavens” and “held up the sky” story that we have to retrofit evolution into and modern science against when the apparent meaning is so wrong and outdated.

And then we claim God sent this book? Didn’t he know about evolution and the formation of earth billions of years after the universe?

Is the idea that humans evolved from non-human ancestors scriptually valid position in light of Quran and Sunnah?

The Islamic Perspective

Yasir Qadhi recently tackled this topic here and this is what he said:

There is almost consensus in the scientific community that evolution is a fact. That its not just a theory but its actually a fact. All life as we know it originated from a common human ancestor and it’s only opposition is coming exclusively from religious circles who view their scriptures as providing an alternative explanation as to the origin of life.

The Quran and Sunnah present a position that is beyond dispute while science presents an interpretation of data that conflicts with that data.   We must resign ourselves to say “Allah knows best”

I firmly believe that Islamic texts are clear on the origin of man – both the Quran and Sunnah show that humankind descended from Adam and Eve, they were the first humans created directly by Allah, not born to parents or evolved from previous lifeforms.  Any attempt to contradict or modify this Islamic argument is scripturally indefensible, historically flawed and methodologically shallow.

The entire corpus of Quran and Sunnah paints such a vivid picture of the story of the Adamic creation, that to claim that man descended from other creations is to make a claim that contradicts explicit numerous statements from the Quran and dozens of authentic hadith from the Prophet.

Now, had the story of Adam been on a lone ambiguous text that allowed multiple linguistic interpretations and modern science informed us that a particular interpretation is more plausible we as rational Muslims would adopt that interpret.

Science can and should shape our understanding of Quran and Sunnah but only where this reinterpretation can be allowed by rules of language and exegesis

We have such an explicit narrative, one that is deeply rooted in countless passages of Quran and Sunnah but no choice other to accept that this is what Allah and his Prophet intended for us to believe. The sheer quantity and diversity of nouns, adjectives, and verbs used simply makes any linguistic reinterpretation or ta’weel so imaginative and so fanciful that renders such an endeavor mere mental gymnastics.

Frankly there is no logical way for a Muslim to contradict this entire account A-Z, verse by verse, hadith by hadith, except by claiming that the whole story is a fable, its allegorical, and not meant to be understood at face value.

Such a claim might actually make more sense logically, but its leads to disastrous and blasphemous implications about Allah and his truthfulness and the function of the Prophet and role of the Quran.

(Source: Theological debate on Evolution – Yasir Qadhi – Youtube from 12:50 to 13:29)

The evidence are too numerous to mention regarding this.  But here is a few.

The Quran states that all of us are children of Adam and Eve:

O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. And fear Allah , through whom you ask one another, and the wombs. Indeed Allah is ever, over you, an Observer. (Quran 4:1)

And the Quran describes Adam as being created with a single word:

Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created Him from dust; then He said to him, “Be,” and he was. (Quran 3:59)

The hadith literature talks about Adam being formed with Allah’s own hands.  (Bukhari and others)

There you have it.  So Adam did not evolve, he was created.  This creates a lot of problems for someone who is a believer now.

It is difficult to imagine that merely two parents gave birth to all the different races of human beings. And, despite what Sheikh Yasir says, it’s also difficult to wrap one’s head around the excessive incest this scenario entails – barring mental gymnastics. The theory of evolution presents a far more plausible explanation. Many people today possess Neanderthal genes and there’s good evidence that our species coexisted, fought and mated. So how could Adam and Eve be our only original parents? I’m probably missing something here about the miraculous nature of the rise of the current genetic variation that modern homo sapiens possess

Professor Ehab Abouheif, who is also a Muslim, gives overwhelming evidence for evolution.  I was blown away by his presentation.  He is Professor at Department of Biology, McGill University where he researches the evolutionary and developmental biology of ants, and made some major discoveries on how the environment can resurrect super soldier ants and to dial up and dial down the size of ants.  You can read his Reddit AMA he did on his research here

You could also hear Dr Fatimah Jackson talk about why she believes evolution is true.  As a believer she sees no contradiction between evolution and God.  Dr. Fatima Jackson was a professor of biological anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). She now teaches at Howard University in Washington, She became professor emerita of applied biological anthropology at the University of Maryland after teaching there for 20 years.

Dr. Mohamed Ghilan, a student in neuroscience says the following:

The theory of evolution is a model. When people ask “do you believe in the theory of evolution?” I tell them “belief is a theological term. I don’t believe in the model. I accept it. Because it works!”

Next, Dr. Rana Dajani, Ph.D. in molecular biology, University of Iowa, USA explains why it doesn’t make sense to take the story of Adam and Eve literally.

10min video

The Genetic bottleneck with Adam & Eve

Jerry Coyne of “Why Evolution is True” writes:

The scientific evidence shows that Adam and Eve could not have existed, at least in the way they’re portrayed in the Bible [or Quran]. Genetic data show no evidence of any human bottleneck as small as two people: there are simply too many different kinds of genes around for that to be true. There may have been a couple of “bottlenecks” (reduced population sizes) in the history of our species, but the smallest one not involving recent colonization is a bottleneck of roughly 10,000-15,000 individuals that occurred between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. That’s as small a population as our ancestors had, and—note—it’s not two individuals.

Further, looking at different genes, we find that they trace back to different times in our past. Mitochondrial DNA points to the genes in that organelle tracing back to a single female ancestor who lived about 140,000 years ago, but that genes on the Y chromosome trace back to one male who lived about 60,000-90,000 years ago. Further, the bulk of genes in the nucleus all trace back to different times—as far back as two million years. This shows not only that any “Adam” and “Eve” (in the sense of mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA alone) must have lived thousands of years apart, but also that there simply could not have been two individuals who provided the entire genetic ancestry of modern humans. Each of our genes “coalesces” back to a different ancestor, showing that, as expected, our genetic legacy comes from many different individuals. It does not go back to just two individuals, regardless of when they lived.

Check out this video on the fossil evidence for human evolution:

The evidence from archeology

Artist’s depiction of the hypothetical geologic column, with associated
ages and fossils.  Credit: Ray Troll

David Steele in “Atheism Explained” says

The fossil record, for example, completely bears out the Darwinian theory that all land vertebrates (animals with backbones) are descended from fish, and that mammals and birds are both descended from reptiles. In other words, we find fish in early strata where there are no land vertebrates. Then later we find land vertebrates as well as fish. In rocks of just the right age, we find animals transitional between fish and land vertebrates. And we find reptiles and amphibians before we find mammals or birds. Later we find both mammals and birds, alongside reptiles and amphibians.  

Dawkins in The Greatest Show On Earth writes:

If fossils of living things were found randomly in all ages of rocks, with rabbits, birds, and flowering plants in the earliest strata, evolution itself would have to be abandoned as an account of how the different kinds of living organisms came into existence.  It is a fact that literally nothing that you could remotely call a mammal has ever been found in Devonian rock or in any older stratum. They are not just statistically rarer in Devonian than in later rocks. They literally never occur in rocks older than a certain date.  Evolution, in other words, is a falsifiable, and therefore scientific, theory.  

Evolution could so easily be disproved if just a single fossil turned up in the wrong date order. Evolution has passed this test with flying colours. end quote

What do you think?


20 thoughts on “Islam, Biological Evolution, and Adam

    1. I was born Ismaili, which is a sect of Shia. But that was many many years ago. For most of my life I was sunni.

      1. Ismailis appear to be the most secularized sect of Islam due to western lifestyle of Agha Khan. The founder of Pakistan Jinnah was also born Ismaili but he later converted to mainstream sacred law-abiding sects like Twelvers and his funeral was held by a Hanafi scholar as per his will.

  1. The nominal (the so called moderate and lazy) muslims should have access to these kind of videos.

  2. It would be nice if you could link the video to YQ’s video on evolution. He clearly believes we come from Adam and Eve when he firmly states this from [6:30] of the video.

  3. Very interesting, just don’t see how those scientists can justify being Muslim while clearly understanding evolution at an advanced academic level. I mean , I agree with Qadhi, Islam makes it clear how man was made. If you start taking it as allegorical then the whole book can be considered allegorical, Adam and Eve myth no more real than Navajo or Australian Aboriginal creation myth.

  4. Evolution might be truth or might theory in any one the case ,it wont prevent us to believe in Quran -which sole and whole message is -There is no worthy to worship except ALLAH.

    Weather Present HUMAN result of evolution or direct decedent of Adam AS ,in this both cases creator is ALLAH .The important fact to be consider in in FAITH is Who is the real CREATOR of creation rather focusing whole observation how CREATION is came in to existence ( I meas Cause and effects).

    Example : Allah says in Quran In one place” Is he send the rain”

    In other place ” He explained how the rain cycle works in detail by explaining all natural phenomenon” but in both texts : The main fact is RAIN Cause by ALLAH ,but logical or practical scientific cause and effects can understand by different way by different person in different time.

  5. I don’t know enough about evolution to make an in depth analysis of it, BUT, it is firstly just a theory with archeological evidences supporting this theory, actually, I would say it is more a hypothesis than a theory since a theory technically is a hypothesis that can be reproduced. Up until now, scientists have not been able to recreate evolution in the lab so in is in effect nothing more than a religion for scientists.

    There are many holes in this religion that the athiest/scientific adhere so strongly to. I don’t have time to point them out in this forum, but you can find a lot of sources on the web.

    1. You should check out Dawkins book “The Greatest Show on Earth” he gave lots of good examples. Yes its a theory but a well founded theory that matches the observable evidence.

      Actually yes we have reproduced evolution in the lab, and even outside the lab. In the lab, there is the Lenski experiment and outside the lab you can look at the simple example of dog breeding. Check my post here for evidence for evolution

    2. Qasim: You are misunderstanding what a theory constitutes in science. A theory in the context of evolution is not an hypothesis, and the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. This is why, in the US, there is almost unanimous agreement on the veracity of evolutionary theory among scientists. (Likewise, and I encourage you to research this, there actually have been experiments completed that support evolution in a lab setting).

      A theory in the context of evolution is akin to the theory of gravity. Everyone knows gravity exists, but it still holds the title of ‘theory.’ Scientific theories describe phenomena that possess incredible evidence. So, when evolution is described as a theory, you should take that to mean there is enough credible evidence, including irrefutable fact, to support evolution being much more than a hypothesis. It is, rather, an established scientific theory that is extremely well-supported.

  6. This notion of evolution is unislamic and goes against the Quran. The Quran states that the human race evolved out of the earth over a long period of time. The Qur’an teaches that man was created from the earth through a gradual evolutionary process in the following verses:

    And He [Allah/God] has created you in different stages and different forms … And Allah has caused you to develop as a good growth from the earth.
    — Qur’an 71:14,17

    These verses illustrate that the creation of the human race was the culmination of a gradual evolutionary process and that it would be incorrect to say (as Creationism/Intelligent design suggests) that God formed the human being in an instant. Thus Islam promotes the concept of evolution in principle, but do not accept Darwinian evolution in all its details.

    The Quran also reject the creationist doctrine that Adam was the first human being on Earth, he was actually appointed as the first Prophet of God. This is supported by the verse of the Qur’an which refers to the appointment of a Representative of God on earth, rather than the creation of a new species:

    [2:30] And when thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I am about to appoint a Vicegerent in the earth,’ they said: ‘Wilt Thou place therein such as will cause disorder in it, and shed blood? — and we glorify Thee with Thy praise and extol Thy holiness.’ He answered: ‘I know what you know not.’

    The angels could only have questioned the appointment of a human being as a Prophet because they had already witnessed disorder and bloodshed amongst the already existing humans.

    The story of Adam and Eve as given in the Bible is viewed as being more of an account of religious history than a history of the entire human race. When the stage of the full development of the mental faculties of man was reached, God sent His revelation to the most perfect man of that generation, namely, Hadhrat Adam (as).

    In short, the Quran teaches that man’s physical creation and development are the result of a process of evolution and in the same way his intellectual development is also the result of a process of evolution. Hadhrat Adam (as) was not the first human being, but was the first human being whose intellect was capable of accepting and bearing the responsibility of revelation.

    Furthermore, several verses in the Quran mentions of “Six periods of creation” and these verses try 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 one day to billions of years.

    And, verily, We created the heavens

    and the Earth and all that is between
    them in six periods and no weariness

    touched Us.
    — Qur’an 50:38

    The universe passed from stage to stage till the Earth assumed a shape and developed properties which could sustain human life. I also have several more verses which advocates this claim.

    1. Darwin corresponded with a translator of Quran JM Rodwell and was aware of evolutionary ideas of Muslim philosophers. In his 1874 book titled History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, John William Draper, a scientist and contemporary of Charles Darwin, criticized the Catholic Church for its disapproval of “the Mohammedan theory of the evolution of man from lower forms, or his gradual development to his present condition in the long lapse of time. Andby the way Darwin married his cousin like many Muslims. If we carefully read Quran 2:30 it does NOT use the words creation of Adam peace be upon him but appointment of a Successor on earth which implies that homo sapiens are in a chain of biological succession after other beings like Neanderthals. There is a theory among anthropologists that early humans killed Neanderthals into extinction as feared by the angels. Or it can refer to hunting done by Neanderthals. Another important verse is Quran 4:1 which does NOT refer to Adam peace be upon him explicitly as the source of human life, but nafs wahidah. Nafs Wahidah is the first breathe of life on earth after abiogenesis which is the first cell which underwent mitotic division to produce a pair, and the word dispersion can refer to human migration from Africa. The word soul means breath and cells undergo respiration too. Another important verse is Quran 7:69 which refers to continuous biological improvement in over human history. Some simplistic translators say it is an improvement in height but Quran 7:69 uses the word improvement in khalq or overall creation.

      1. Another important verse is Quran 4:1 which does NOT refer to Adam peace be upon him explicitly as the source of human life, but nafs wahidah. Nafs Wahidah is the first breathe of life on earth after abiogenesis which is the first cell which underwent mitotic division to produce a pair, and the word dispersion can refer to human migration from Africa. The word soul means breath and cells undergo respiration too..

        –the most desperate mental gymnastics I have ever seen

  7. Being an atheist in a muslim family(yet to reveal the atheism) – You cannot read books on Evolution in front of others as it conflicts with religion – Muslims beleive that mountains have roots, act as pegs – I had to read science material on mountain formation in secret – It was pleasure to learn in depth knowledge of formation of Alps, grand canyon, andes, himalayas, etc…. Muslims beleive that solomon prophet’s story as true – they beleive that Ants talk within themselves as mentioned in the story – I had to read in secret how ants communicate through smell and how other insects communicate between them, how bees communicate. Muslims are proud that how Allah gave Solomon to control the wind – SO I had to do research in secret to understand how wind forms – To control wind, Allah should have given permission to solomon to control temperature, pressure and more importantly rotation of the earth so that he could make air flow as per his wish, but those things were not mentioned. I had to understand and secretly read in depth how we are formed from star dust, the rocks that contain minerals and not just plain clay. Battle of badr – Prophet needed Allah’s help to defeat the opponents – made to read wars in depth and could appreciate how Hannibal, Genghis khan, Sun Tzu, Alexander defated armies five times larger than their men without the help of any divine intervention. So could not understand why our prophet needed God’s intervention.

  8. Truthseeker, you fail to consider Quran 38:75, in which Muhammad’s imaginary allah indicates that he created the first human directly from clay using his own two hands. Evolution, on the other hand, posits that the first humans had nonhuman parents.

  9. What about how actually in The Quran it’s said also “And (remember) as your Lord said to the Angels, “Surely I am making in the earth a successor.” They said, “Will You make therein one who will corrupt in it and shed blood (Literally: bloods) while we (are the ones who) extol (with) Your praise and call You Holy? Literally: hallow for you)” He said, “Surely I know whatever you do not know.” So the angels said and asked about the blood shed because thats what happened before us and and as allah said we are the Successors to those who the angels talked about that before on earth those who had shed blood and corrupted earth.

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