Evolution Vs. Creation - An Islamic Perspective

When it comes to the origin of man, the Western world is divided into two crusading groups. Both of them have been arguing against each other’s point of view ever since the theory of evolution was presented. The discussions have been very emotional without either of the two sides being considerate of the other’s views. The two sides appear to be parallel lines never meant to meet. To a Muslim, however, it does not have to be that way. Let us examine the issue from an Islamic perspective and see where Islam stands on this issue.

The Belief in Evolution

Evolutionists believe that life came into being by chance and evolved to take the shape of human beings just through random mutations. This implies two things: Firstly, human beings evolved from other forms of life; and secondly, the whole process was random, i.e. it occurred without any involvement of intelligence, knowledge or planning. Although a case can be made for evolution, the second part of this view is an irrational belief. It is merely an unsubstantiated figment of imagination devoid of scientific evidence in its support. There is simply no evidence to prove the randomness of either the formation of life or its evolution.

On the contrary, when we look at the physical realities around us, we find that nothing is ever achieved with random occurrences. We know by experience that useful results are produced only by planned activities. Haphazard random activities are chaotic but never constructive. That is why when we find some work done whose creator or the means of creation is not known to us, we never even harbour the idea that it may have happened by chance or accident. For example, no one has ever theorized that billions of small random changes in the mass of earth by chance took the shape of the Pyramids at some places on earth. Neither has anyone ever proposed that the nice big chambers carved in the mountains in Petra are a result of random geological processes. The attitude we demonstrate in explaining these extraordinary creations should be applied consistently to explain the natural phenomena beyond human control or comprehension.

It may be said that we do not theorize about the Pyramids because we know that the Pharaohs got them built. How do we know? The presence of their mummies, writings and belongings in the Pyramids indicates that the Pharaohs used the Pyramids, but it does not necessarily prove that they built them because user of an object does not have to be its creator. For example, cavemen used to live in caves but we cannot positively conclude that they built those caves. The only reason for our conclusion that Pharaohs were the people who initiated the Pyramids is that we have been told so by reliable persons and we find it written in reliable books. By the same token, we should be able to conclude that the universe and life was created by a creator because so many reliable prophets such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad told us as such. They were the most intelligent, sober, trustworthy, and selfless people of their times. All of them consistently told us the same thing at various times of history and all of them claimed they had direct communication with that Creator. What ground do we have to doubt their claim?

It is usually ignorance which makes us think of a certain phenomenon in nature to be random. When our knowledge in that phenomenon grows, we find it to be the result of specific laws of nature. Take weather for example. People used to think that sudden rain, winds, and storms happened at random. We now understand that it is the laws of nature whose interactions causes all of the sudden changes in weather patterns. We may not yet be able to predict it with complete accuracy due to the complexities involved, but we have an idea of the underlying factors. Most important is the fact that we now realize it is not random. Rather far from it.

If there is one lesson that we learn from all our scientific knowledge and discoveries is that nothing in the universe happens randomly. From a tiny particle to the greatest galaxy and any events happening in between them are subject to, or a result of, very specific laws of nature. Our advancements in science and technology and our expeditions into space were possible only due to the consistent behaviour of the elements in accordance with the laws and order decreed upon them. The magnificent order we see in this universe and the laws which are maintaining that order unmistakably point to the fact that it is functioning under a plan, not by chance. This alludes to an Intelligent Authority behind the plan because planning is always a product of knowledge and intelligence; and, implementation of the plan is always a product of authority. We also know by experience that for evolution or improvement to happen, intelligence is needed to identify what is better and to cause the move towards betterment. Matter in itself lacks that intelligence.

If plan and order is what we see and experience all around in the universe and if intelligence is what is needed to plan and improve, why deny these realities of life when it comes to the origin and evolution of our life?

The sensible and logical observation is that our life and the universe we live in are the result of an intelligent plan based on knowledge, not an accident resulting for haphazard, random interactions of elements.

What Is Wrong With the Belief In Creation

Now, the Judeo-Christian beliefs about creation are not all sensible either. Their beliefs, as mentioned in Genesis, imply four things:
  1. God created man.
  2. Man is like God (being created in His image).
  3. God worked for six days of 24 hours each (an evening and a morning). On the seventh day, He rested from work.
  4. The act of creation involved making a model from dust and then breathing life into it.

The first one makes sense. The intelligent planner, the law-giver and the maintainer of the order in this universe can be called God. Muslims prefer to call Him Allaah. This Creator must possess absolute and infinite knowledge, wisdom and power. Otherwise, He could not have done what He did.

The remaining three propositions do not make much sense.

To think that God has a shape and form like we do is to limit an absolutely infinite being into a very limited form. We very finite beings cannot even imagine the shapes or forms God may take because our imagination is limited to the shapes and forms we have experienced in our life. We can never imagine what we have never seen, perceived or physically experienced.

If God is Almighty, His mere intention of having something done should put all the elements in motion to make happen whatever He wants to happen. This should not tire Him. He should also be free from the human weakness of needing to rest. Also, time as we know it is an earthly phenomenon. His creative actions would have occurred in totally different dimensions than our night and day.

Because God does not work with hands, as we are accustomed to, He must have created humans through his command over the elements of nature. The process through which God translated His intention into the human being He wanted to create might very well be the process of evolution. Rather, it could have only been an evolutionary process wherein the laws of Nature promulgated by the Creator and His angels worked with elements of nature to bring human being into existence as per His Will. Again, time is our limitation, not God’s. The process may have taken millions of years of our reckoning.

The Islamic Position

This brings us to the Islamic position. The Holy Qur-aan contends that the universe and everything in it, included human beings, are a planned creation of God. He is Almighty, All-Knowing and Wise. There is nothing in the universe like His Likeness. Not only that He created, but also that He is the sustainer of the universe. Creation or sustaining does not tire Him, nor does He ever need rest. When He intends to create, He just says ‘Be’ and it happens. He can replace any of His creations including man with something else or something better whenever He likes. The creation of man happened in some other part of the universe in three stages: Creation, improvement (some kind of evolution), and endowment of spirit. Spirit is what distinguishes man from animals. The first man with complete human faculties and spirit was Adam. Adam’s wife was created like him. Both Adam and his wife were brought down to the earth as God’s vicegerents and all other creatures on the earth were commanded to accept the dominion of man. Without exception, we all are descendants of that first couple. Adam was guided by God on how to live in this world.

To help human beings identify and differentiate each other, God made our reproductive laws in such a way that every human being has some unique physical characteristics. When the children of Adam spread in the distant parts of the world, their inbreeding and the process of like-marrying-the-like gave them distinct physical appearances different from the people of other areas. They also developed different languages and cultures. Deep inside, however, human beings remain the same and equal.

During this time, God sent various Prophets and Messengers (peace be upon all of them) to various people. When humanity was fully matured, God sent his final guidance (Islam) through Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Islamic society Prophet Muhammad established was the culmination of the evolution of humanity according to the Plan of God.

Now, the world is approaching its destruction fast. Soon, this universe will be destroyed. A new universe with a new set of physical laws will replace it. The destruction will bring the Day of Judgment, and the life that will come after it is the Life-Hereafter. That will complete the evolutionary cycle. The Life Hereafter will be an infinite constant.

The plan is in its last brief phase. The time is running out. The Messenger of Allaah, Muhammad (peace be upon him), explained the proximity of the Day of Judgment to his era 1,400 years ago by pointing out the proximity of two adjoining fingers. After all, what is the ratio of two or three thousand years to the age of this universe? If the age of the universe is considered to be 14 billion years, the ratio of 1400 to 14 billion is .0000001.

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