Q. I am curious about what your stance is on evolution, and by evolution I mean human evolution, i.e., evolution from lower life forms such as ancient primates into humans. I have heard from others that scientifically, the evidence for evolution is so strong that there is no point in doubting it. But I have had a hard time reconciling certain verses in the Qur'an with it, for example, "O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate."(Q4:1) This verse seems to imply that maybe Eve was created from Adam. If we evolved from lower life forms, then it would seem that it wouldn't make sense to say that. Is there another meaning to this verse? Another verse that seems to conflict with human evolution is: "Indeed, the example of Jesus in the eyes of Allah is like that of Adam. He created him from dust; then He said to him, "Be," and he was." Q3:59 seems to imply that Jesus was created without a father like Adam who was created without a father, is there another meaning to this verse? If you believe in human evolution, what do you think about these verses as well as the verse that says that Adam was in jannah (paradise) before he was sent down to earth?
A. As you may already know, when it comes to Qur'anic translations, they vary so we will sometimes provide our own explanation of certain verses if we do not agree with some of the translators. Given that the Qur'an is subject to several different interpretations, we do support whatever is intellectually defensible, and do not in any way seek to force readers into any one "correct" reading except when the text indubitably supports a particular extrapolation. I see no verses that tell me Adam was in some heavenly jannah before coming down to earth. From the beginning, Adam was on earth, and his fall was from GRACE and not from some physical locus. The Qur'an is not a science document and as such, we don't look into it to prove evolution. But even if we were to, there is nothing to say that the transubstantiation from dust to human form (ha Adom) was immediate. It could have been billions of years, which is why, since the Qur'an is not designed to answer those questions, we separate between science and morality. Those who try to read science in the Qur'an, a 7th century document with its Plotinian cosmology and navigation, will always get themselves into trouble, as science is continuously advancing and Qur'anic interpretations are always changing based on new knowledge. For this reason, most of the ulema (scholars) decry "tafsir ilmi" – scientific tafsir. Incidentally, we do not buy into the idea of a soul; this is a concept from Greek philosophy that worked its way into Christianity and then Islam. Similarly, the image Muslims have of Adam’s creation and then Eve is a Biblical one that is found in the hadith collections. There is another viewpoint that the female was created first, which is more in harmony with scientific findings, which show that the earliest human remains discovered to date belonged to a female.
Posted May 19, 2013