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Thread: A Muslim journey through Creationism and Evolution

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    Default A Muslim journey through Creationism and Evolution

    Related Threads: * Introduction to Islam * Muslim call to Christians * Redirected Arguments

    The following is an account of my own journey through creationism and the Theory of Evolution (ToE)

    My journey starts back in my primary school days, when, during a lesson, the teacher commented about a certain junior science book, "Look how stupid these people are! Perhaps their parents were monkeys, but mine certainly were not!" That was how I was inducted into that debate. And that was a phrase I was to repeat time and time again, through most of high school, to any peer who dared to give the ToE even the slightest consideration.

    This phrase was also my "redeeming" remark at a high school extra-mural activity. When I was in grade 11, ours was one of the first non-white schools to ever join a white debating league. Other than that "honour", it was not a very affirming venture, as the whites out-dressed us (with their blazers and all), out-vocabbed us, out-accented us, and ultimately, out-competed us. There I was, engaging in informal chit-chat with a white chick (who was officially declared "best debater of the night") after I had been pronounced "most promising debater". I felt somewhat shy and intimidated by this blue-eyed, blonde-haired girl, averting my gaze and instead casting it down on to the dog-eared pages on which my "promising" rebuttal was written, when she remarked, "Is it not amazing that while we stand here as strangers, we all come from common ancestors that were not even the same species as us." To which I triumphantly replied, "Perhaps your parents were monkeys, but mine certainly were not!" The eloquent "debater of the night" was at a loss for words, and after a stuttering frenzy, all she could say was, "I don't know." I am not sure exactly what her thoughts were, but in retrospect, I do not think that she was particularly impressed.

    Anyway, some further high school reading on evolution, as well as the discovery that so many (professional/academic) people supported the ToE, led me to a slightly more compromising position: I was still a pretty hardcore creationist, but evolution might just be the method by which God created humans.

    I later did some very basic university studies in biology (and physics), and it appeared that the ToE was a neat way to explain the development of life and diversity from the onset of life to the present. I also spent some years teaching Life Sciences at a faith based Islamic high school. I periodically screened biology video clips in class which showed how various aspects of (and phenomenon within) nature demonstrated the Greatness and Mercy of God (also being consistent with the Quranic narrative on this topic). These clips were produced by Harun Yahya's foundation (Adnan Oktar), and strongly advocated creationism. However, while I was probably still a creationist, I felt too uncomfortable to play any clips that completely condemned the ToE. The ToE eventually became an essential part of the grade 11 syllabus. Biology teachers at faith-based schools were in opposition to this. Some conspired to teach creationism instead, while others would teach it as a "false theory of those who rejected God". This really troubled me, and I redoubled my efforts at learning about the ToE, as well as what veteran classical and contemporary Islamic scholars had to say about this matter (which was not very much). I also immersed myself in science and philosophy literature that deconstructed and criticised the ToE.

    My research led me to a 1995 "academic letter" by a contemporary Islamic scholar/philosopher, who is well respected in the Muslim world. He explained, from a philosophical and Islamic theological perspective, that the ToE may have some applicability, but that because of the way in which God created Adam, the ToE was not likely to be applicable to human beings. Quranic verses suggest that God took very special care in Adam's creation, and it did not seem befitting that millenia of random mutations and natural selections would fashion Adam. As a result, he opined that Muslims could either reject the ToE or accept it on the condition that it excludes Adam. I decided to play it safe. When teaching my students the grade 11 level of the ToE, I put it to them that they could either adopt it as their prefered understanding of the origin of life (excluding humanity from the process), or reject it entirely in favour of creationism (which was still fairly popular with the parents of learners). Personalities such as Richard Dawkins did the ToE no favours either in terms of selling it to religious communities. He promotes himself as an evolutionary biologist, but is publicly more actively anti-God than he is pro-evolution. As a result, many lay religious people are inclined to, without much thought, reject this "anti-God" theory. The biggest creationism influence on Islam, no doubt, comes from organised creationism within Christianity. The Christian Institute for Creation Research was formally approached by the Turkish government in the 1980s for guidance on this topic, which gave the Turk, Harun Yahya, exactly what he was looking for.

    By then, I had personally come to adopt the "all life evolved, other than humans" theory. I set about trying to understand the nature of this exception, and to grapple with a possible logical and scientifically sound explanation for having both of these methods co-exist, i.e. ToE for non-humans, and creationism for Adam. After leaving the teaching profession, I started working on my own "small hypothesis", which I refined post by post, right here on MBB! I also posted some of my later, more refined, explanations on various Islamic forums internationally. I was wholly surprised when small numbers of Islamic scholars and also Muslim scientists made contact with me regarding this "small hypothesis". Some were very supportive and even excited, while others were quite scathing in their criticism (though none were directly confrontational), but this afforded me the opportunity to further refine the mini-theory, and repost it to the forums.

    All the while, I had been engaging in dialogue about this hypothesis with a devout Muslim friend who lectures in microbiology at a local university. "Why exclude humans?" my friend asked, and "What is you? (what is your essence?)" These types of questions led me to do further research into classical Islamic philosophical explanations on the nature of the human. The "why exclude humans" question had also earlier been posed to me on MBB. As to the "what is you" question, Islamic scholars would answer, "The soul." The body is nothing but a vehicle, an earthly, mammalian, primate vehicle. Its honour is contingent on its relationship with the soul. This explains the dual nature of the human being: part earth (animal, material, carnal) and part divine spirit (the soul, purest essence).

    Although there are some who say otherwise, the dominant Islamic view is that Adam was created from Earth's clay brought to Paradise, and then the soul entered him. Is it then unthinkable that God raised Homo Sapien Sapien (evolved from the soil of the Earth) to Paradise to receive his precisionly crafted soul (and conscience)? Remember that mainstream Muslims are by no means scriptural literalists; we accept that allegory exists within the Quran. Is this a reasonable metaphor? My body is an animalian mechanism. It is of this earth, and will return to it. It is composed of Carbon-based compounds just like all other life on Earth. It is a vehicle for my soul. I had gone 180 degrees. God likely created the human vehicle through the process of evolution. God effected and selected mutations according to His Will, through (seemingly) "natural" processes and systems created by Him.

    I am not a scientist, and I do not understand these things on the level of scholars. I do not have absolute certainty in this matter, but I am inclined to accept that evolution produced the diversity of life on earth, including the vehicle of Homo Sapien Sapien. This view does not contradict what is in the Islamic texts, but does contradict the padding that some scholars have given to what is stated in Islamic texts.

    (Note that trying to reconcile scripture with the science of the day is not a requirement for the believer, especially if it is not something that is easily observable and which unambiguously and manifestly stares you in the face, proclaiming its absolute reality. For most ordinary people, the ToE falls outside the realm of what is obviously true, or a manifest reality. There are Islamic scholars, from the classical period to the present day, who painstakingly attempted to demonstrate to critics that the Quran (or Islam) was consistent with contemporary science, only for science to update itself, modifying the original understanding. What then becomes of the linked "Islamic" interpretation? Religion presents essential realities, while science seeks to discern manifest realities)
    Last edited by wayfarer; 27-02-2016 at 12:20 PM.

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