By Sheikh (Dr.) Haitham al-Haddad
Praise be to Allah, the supreme Creator, Fashioner of mankind, Sustainer of the universe. All is His divine will, and his command is executed immediately. May peace and blessings be upon Muhammad, who came from the noble Adam, created and fashioned from clay, and preceded by none.
The theory of human evolution, namely that man descended from apes, is widely accepted amongst non-Muslims although there have been many non-Muslim scientists, atheists included, who argue that it is flawed. As an opinion, it was wholly rejected by all Muslims as it goes against their basic knowledge that Allah created Adam with his own hands, from clay, in the physical form of a human being, and then breathed life into it. Even so, there have been a few Muslims over the years that have endorsed the theory attempting to initiate a discussion on the topic, whilst there are non-Muslims who criticise us for being ‘simple-minded’ and ‘scientifically inconsistent’.
Due to such attacks, some Muslims felt inferior and thought that the problem could be rectified by an acceptance of the evolution theory, or at least accepting it as a valid alternative. However, the decisive verses of the Qur’an as well as the ahadith (Prophetic narrations) provide a problem for such an undertaking, and so we find that there are mistakes and random misinterpretations. Of course, those of truth will always oppose such heresy, to which these Muslim evolutionists, if there ever was such a term (!), respond that “we believe in the existence of Allah, the initial Creator, yet what is wrong in concluding that the way in which God created all human beings, including the first human, Adam, was by means of evolution, and namely, non-human parents who descended from apes?” Such people insist that this latest version of the theory is compatible with revelation given that there is no unequivocal scriptural text to deny it!
In order to deal with such unfounded claims, I would like to approach the issue in a scholastic and systematic manner so as to demonstrate how theological deviancy comes about through incompetence in systematically and rationally deriving meaning from the scriptural texts. It is due to this incompetence (that we should all be aware of so we save ourselves) that some attempt to legitimise the theory of human evolution and others unrecognised views that accompany it.
It is commonly believed that the Qur’an and the ahadith (Prophetic traditions) are the only sources of Islamic authority, yet we find that one of the primary causes of an individual’s theological (and legal) deviancy is the attempt to fully understand the divine texts by his/herself, with complete disregard for the profound understandings and well-substantiated views of hundreds of thousands of Muslim scholars from around the world who have contributed to the vast corpus of Islamic scholarship over the last 1400 years. The irony of such disregard is that Muslim proponents of the evolution process completely brush aside Islamic scholarly consensus yet are the first to advocate the (supposed) consensus of non-Muslim scientists!
It is clear that priorities are misplaced, for in glorifying western scientists the proponents of human evolution neglect the intellectual aptitude of Muslim scholars, particularly, the early scholars who were extremely astute and would, with all dedication, intensely scrutinise each and every aspect of the Islamic religion prior to any form of endorsement or inclination towards a given view – in fact, it is only very recently that scientists have adopted the same level of rigour. Given such a profound analysis, none of Islam’s scholars, let alone the greatest amongst them, ever articulated the view that Adam came into existence as a result of some evolutionary process. In fact, none of Islam’s early scholars ever even considered the possibility of Adam being created in stages of existence, or that he experienced childhood at some time of his life.
In adopting a religious opinion which is counter to a scholarly consensus made up of thousands of Muslim scholars over a long period of time, the proponents of human evolution expose their distorted outlook on Islamic knowledge and the Muslims scholars (as a collective) whom Allah has appointed as trustees of the faith. Such an attitude implies that Allah, may he be free from such an implication, has allowed the entire Muslim ummah, over a period spanning more than a millennium, to deviate from the truth whilst the correct view is uncovered by (theological) laymen in recent times!
Disregarding the binding legacy of scholastic consensus goes against plain old common sense and a number of verses and Prophetic traditions that state that scholars, not as individuals but as a collective, are the trustees of the faith. The explicit statements are numerous, such as Allah’s statement, “And We sent not before you but men to whom We inspired, so ask the people of the Reminder if you do not know”, and the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying, “the scholars are the inheritors of the Prophets.”
To believe that Adam had monkey-like parents (despite the fact that overwhelming evidences go against it) and to completely abandon the consensus of Muslims is indicative of deep-rooted arrogance, a rejection of the clear evidences, or ignoring the correct methodology in understanding the divine texts. For example, the first step of a sound methodology would be to analyse whether the conclusion is consistent with the Arabic language, since Arabic is the primary tool used in interpreting divine revelation, and so, any interpretation that fails to fall within the framework of the Arabic language is one that is redundant. For example, the Arabs did not consider the phrase kun fa yakun (be! And it is/was) to be an indefinite period of time, for indeed, the phrase illustrates the power and might of God that His will is manifested immediately and decisively, without delay. Even the phrase “be! And it is/was” in English implies it (whatever it is) happens instantaneously, and to argue otherwise would be a distortion of the English language!
Another key principle that must be established when dealing with scripture is the inter-contextualisation of the entire divine text – in order to correctly interpret the Qur’an and ahadith we must approach them, not as solitary verses, but as one coherent and homogeneous unit that affords a holistic interpretation, and not an interpretation based on preconceived ideas that singles out isolated verses so as to misconstrue them. Indeed, to approach the divine scriptures having already decided the matter is an insincere attempt to justify one’s belief, and to approach them enquiring into what Allah has ordained, in an open an unbiased way, is to demonstrate the sincere intention to receive guidance.
Another irony is the fact that the evolutionists try to place a theory (evolution) over fact (the Qur’an and ahadith). Do we not ponder why it is still considered a theory despite the fact that the idea has been around, in some popular form, since Darwin and is promoted so fanatically by its protagonists? It is truly unfortunate to see those who ascribe to Islam promote the theory of human evolution, and then do so by relying on mutashabih (ambiguous) verses of the Qur’an, some of which are clear kinaya (metonyms), and leave off muhkam (explicit) verses. This is precisely what Allah warns us against, saying,
“Those with deviation in their hearts follow what is undefined in it, desiring conflict, seeking its (false) interpretation.”
Evolution, in relating to man, is such an unfounded concept that to engage with it on par with academic and intellectual standards is to afford it credence, it being deserving of nothing but aversion. I could perhaps list all of the scientific inaccuracies of claiming that Adam came from apes, but as a Muslim it is more than sufficient to adopt the understanding of the scholars rather than derive a misconstrued meaning from a lone verse or hadith. This should be the case with any Muslim who believes that Allah has ordained certain measures to guard Islam against innovation, and hence, I shall, very limitedly, mention a small number of proofs which, for the benefit of the Muslim masses, simply expose the foolishness of this supposition.
The Qur’an clearly states that Adam was created by Allah, and with His own hands, “He said, ‘Iblis, what prevented you prostrating to what I created with My own two hands?” In addition, the famous Companion, Abdullah ibn Umar, said, “Allah created four things with His hand: the Throne, the Pen, the Garden of Eden and Adam. To the rest of His creation He said, ‘Be!’ and it was.”This narration clearly shows that the Companions believed that these four things, Adam included, were created in a way different to other animals and creatures. The authenticated ahadith furnish us with further examples that leave no doubt whatsoever that this was an actual act performed by Allah. For example, the Messenger of Allah said that on the Last Day, mankind would go from Prophet to Prophet requesting intercession; they would go to Adam and say, “You are the father of mankind, Allah created you with His hands, had the angels prostrate to you, and taught you the names of all things.” If Adam was created from a ‘despised drop’ and like all other human beings, then what is the point of singling him out as being created by Allah’s hands?
“The likeness of Jesus, to Allah, is the same as Adam. He created him from earth and then He said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was.”
This verse is often quoted in isolation from the reasons for which it was revealed, thus, some evolutionists claim that the verse asserts that Jesus and Adam were born in the same way – through the womb of a female. Such an interpretation is deceptive as a brief look into the sabab al-nuzul (causes for revelation) quickly makes clear that the verse was revealed to repudiate the Christian argument that proof of Jesus’ divinity is his having no earthly father. The verse states that Adam had no parents whatsoever, being created instead from earth, yet this did not make him divine; the comparison then was between the single parent of Jesus and the absence of parents in regards to Adam.
The Qur’an informs us that Allah “taught Adam the names of all things” and so, we resolutely know that Allah engaged Adam directly. Allah also says,
“O mankind! Be mindful of your Lord who created you from a single soul and created its mate from it and then disseminated many men and women from the two of them.”
“It is He who created you from a single soul and made from him his spouse so that he might find repose in her.”
“O mankind! We created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you might come to know each other.”
If we were to ignorantly suppose that Adam was born of evolved apes, we would then be positing, according to the verses above, that the creation of Hawwa’ was ever so more significant than that of Adam as she was not born but actually fashioned, by God, from Adam. Thus, in negating the instantaneous creation of Adam, the evolutionist is still left having to affirm the instantaneous creation of Hawwa’! And it is this fact, from amongst the many, that exposes the nonsense spewed by evolutionists, for in striving to negate a miracle of God (the creation of Adam), they resort to having to affirm it elsewhere (the creation of Hawwa’), that is, if they can resist the urge to deny the book of God outrightly.
The story of the Sabbath-breakers is well known whereby Allah cursed the disobedient and turned them into monkeys and pigs. How then, can the honoured sons of Adam actually come from that which is considered a curse? Of course, in being honoured, it is only logical to conclude that either humans haven’t come from apes, or that we negate the maskh itself and claim that the Sabbath-breakers did not turn into apes and pigs. Even if we were to state, for the sake of argument, that the transformation was metaphorical, the essential point still remains that they were cursed by taking on qualities of monkeys and apes. Correspondingly, there are various contradictions that arise in relation to Adam and Hawwa’ when attempting to scripturally justify human evolution. There are various mutawatir texts that confirm that Adam and Hawwa’ lived as spouses and that mankind came from the two, indeed the textual evidences regarding this point are particularly decisive. Furthermore, it seems quite an irrational interpretation that Allah mentions Hawwa’ as being brought into existence through Allah’s direct involvement, yet Adam, the first human being receives no such honour! It is extremely clear that the evolutionists and their deviant ideas refuse to acknowledge the entire textual discourse surrounding the creation of Adam, instead using solitary verses as a justification for evolutionist beliefs. Thus, in order to attempt some form of reconciliation between the two accounts, the evolutionist must adapt the Qur’an to fit the theory, or the theory to fit the Qur’an, or transform both equally, and in every case, each possibility is as preposterous as the others, all serving as evil paths to heresy.
In going beyond the Qur’an, we find that the ahadith are full with authentic narrations concerning the creation of Adam, and in keeping with deceitful intent we find that many liberals and evolutionists completely ignore the existence of such ahadith. Indeed they have to, for the shari’ah of Allah is preserved through the Prophetic narrations and so the evolutionists will do anything to maintain their secular outlook on the Islamic faith. In fact, the notion of evolution is deeply secular as it divorces the involvement of God in creation and attempts to posit Nietzsche’s opinion that if there is a god, then he merely initiated creation (which grew on its own) and that god is now non-existent or dead – we seek protection from Allah from such profanity.
We find that Anas ibn Malik relates from the Prophet,
“When Allah fashioned Adam in Paradise, He left him as He willed. Iblis then wandered around him examining him. Upon seeing him as hollow from within, he recognised that Adam had been created with a disposition that he would not have control over himself.”
There are countless texts that can be analysed, but to do so would make this article voluminous. However, even light analysis of the Qur’an and Sunnah makes it exceedingly evident that such heretical beliefs have no place within Islamic thought – the Companions and early Muslims all understood the manner in which Adam was created by Allah and it is preposterous to claim that Allah revealed scripture that was misunderstood by all of the aforementioned, yet the Most High did not rectify their misreading!
Is the creation of Adam a scientific or religious matter?
In reality, there is no disparity between religious creed and science, and if there seems to be so, it inevitably implies that there has been some form of misunderstanding, either in terms of our religious or scientific knowledge. However, a decisive part of being Muslim is to acknowledge that the information related by way of the Qur’an and Sunnah entails certainty, whereas any other knowledge that we acquire is prone to human error. Thus, if the scriptures posit anything related to science and the overwhelming majority of scholars affirm its meaning, then we have to believe in it accordingly as such knowledge is fact-based and not merely human perception. The Qur’an and Sunnah address various disciplines such as science, history, geography, anthropology, politics and others. Whatever is mentioned there should be adopted as an aspect of our faith, “they say: we believe in it, all of it is from our Lord.” Failing to do so suggests either one’s negation of more than half of the Qur’an, or accepting a text which is essentially devoid of meaning as it ends up meaning anything we desire it to, and this is how many of the obdurate fall into disbelief. For example, it has been repeatedly argued that the Qur’an is not a book of history, and so, the heretics argue that we are not obligated to believe historical details which Allah has revealed. Of course, the Qur’an is not a book of many things, but that is not to suggest that various topics are touched upon. Indeed, Allah says,
“There is not a moving (living) creature on earth, nor a bird that flies with its two wings, but are communities like you. We have neglected nothing in the Book, and then to their Lord they (all) shall be gathered.”
The ruling concerning the belief in Adam’s primate descendents.
Restricting the discussion merely to a ruling may be counterproductive as anyone who mistakenly concludes that it is not kufr (disbelief) will assume such profanation is to be tolerated, and so therefore, the main issue is not the ruling of such an immoral belief and whether it is kufr, but instead the gravity of this belief and what it signifies – it is the negation of what the ummah has endorsed as well as being in violation of countless proofs that state otherwise. Endorsing the presumption that humans evolved necessitates accepting reprehensible beliefs about the noble Prophet, Adam, may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, and that his parents were either apes or ape-like beings! It is to insult the station of prophethood by claiming that Adam was taken care of by human-like baboons. Were Adam’s parents able to speak or did they merely grunt? Were they obliged to worship Allah or not? What was the extent of Adam’s cognitive faculties? Do human beings now have more advanced faculties than he did – have they evolved since his time on earth? How is it that the Qur’an disregards a significant aspect of Adam’s life although he discusses, in detail, what was before it and what came after.
If we believe that Allah is the Creator and can create anything, then what is wrong in accepting that he created Adam directly from clay, fashioned him, and brought him to life instantaneously? What is it that they negate? Why do we need to distort the meanings of countless Qur’anic verses in favour of a theory that continually changes? Must we negate the numerous and authentic ahadith that clearly establish a non-evolutionist narrative?
In conclusion, to use the theory of Darwin or any other theory that stems from it in order to justify the wicked belief that Adam was born of non-human parents is, in essence, to deny the existence of Allah as supreme creator who creates from nothing by mere command. It is this method of creating (although there are other ways as well) that establishes Allah’s rububiyyah (lordship), for in affirming unjustified theories of human evolution we make chance the creator, since anything that is created exists merely because chance decided so. But Allah says, “Or do they assign to Allah partners who created the like of His creation, so that (both) creations seemed alike to them?’ Say: ‘Allah is the Creator of all things; He is the One, the Irresistible.’”
I call upon those who believe and adhere to Islam to affirm the clear and decisive Qur’anic revelations and lucid ahadith, all of which negate the notion of human evolution, let alone Adam having non-human parents. I also call upon them to make the Islamic texts the primary source of authority in all of their affairs, since (Allah) the One who reveals revelation is most knowledgeable about the affairs of the universe. Let us not allow those of no faith to dictate our readings of scripture, our implementation of the Islamic faith, or our notions of what is to be deemed as being most superior, both in terms of creed and actions.
For those Muslims who endorse the theory of human evolution, contemplate the scripture with a believing and unbiased heart whilst keeping in mind the Sunnah of Allah’s noble Messenger. Strive against egotism and haughtiness and do not fear the criticisms of the disbelievers. Allah says,
“Therefore flee unto Allah; I am a plain warner to you from Him. And set not any other god along with Allah; I am a plain warner to you from Him.”
Allah knows best.
May peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, his family, his Companions,
and all those who follow them in righteousness and the correct creed.