Can a muslim believe that man evolved from another living thing?
Prof. Dr. Âdem TATLI
There may be some differences in the interpretation of some verses of the Quran. The most important cause of it is the fact that there are some similes and metaphors in some verses. The similes in the verses are handled with their literal meanings by some people and with their non-literal meanings by others; thus, sometimes differences of interpretation contrary to each other arise. Hence, the approaches of those who adopt those different interpretations turn out to be different.
After this short introduction, let us ask the question like this:
—Are there any verse(s) stating, or implying that man evolved from other beings or that can be interpreted like that?
In the verses that are related to the creation of man, the creation of the first man, Hazrat Adam, is pointed out; there is no statement implying that man evolved from other beings. On the contrary, it is stated and explained that the first man was created out of the earth, that the first woman was created out of him, and that the humankind reproduced from them.
The Quran mentions about various stages of the creation. It is possible to divide it into three parts in general. The first one is the creation Hazrat Adam; the second one is the creation of Hazrat Hawwa (Eve), his wife, and the creation of other human beings. Those different creations are sometimes referred to in separate verses and sometimes in the same verse.
It is stated in the chapter al-Hijr that Hazrat Adam was created out of clay as follows:
"We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape..."[1>.
We understand from the chapter az-Zumar that Eve was created out of Adam. The meaning of the verse is as follows:
“He created you (all) from a single person: then created, of like nature, his mate…”[2>.
In the chapter an-Nisa, the creation of Adam, the creation of Eve from him and the creation of other people from them are pointed out:
“O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord Who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women…”[3>.
In the verses above, it is not clearly stated how Eve was created out of Adam. However, a hadith regarding the issue clarifies the issue. The hadith is as follows:
“Treat women nicely, for the woman was created from a rib, and the most curved portion of the rib is its upper portion, so, if you should try to straighten it, it will break, but if you leave it as it is, it will remain crooked. So, treat women nicely”[4>.
In the chapter al-Muminun, the creation of Adam from clay, and stages of the creation of his descendants in the uterus are pointed out as follows:
"Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest firmly fixed; Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (fetus) lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature..."[5>.
As it is seen, the stages of man beginning from the first creation are stated one by one. Besides, each person undergoes through those stages in the uterus. Therefore, it is not possible to interpret those stages as man was created in the form of other beings and underwent different stages.
In the chapter at-Tin, it is stated that man was created in the best form:
“We have indeed created man in the best of moulds”[6>.
In the chapter Fatir, it is pointed out that the first man was created out of the earth and that his descendants were created out of a sperm drop:
“And Allah did create you from dust; then from a sperm-drop; then He made you in pairs…”[7>.
If man had undergone the stages of other beings, Iblis would have mentioned those stages.
We understand that man was created directly out of the earth and that he did not undergo intermediate stages that represented other living things from the reason why Iblis did not prostrate before Adam, too. The following is stated in the verse:
"(Iblis) said: "I am not one to prostrate myself to man, whom, thou didst create from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape"[8>.
If man had undergone the stages of other living things, Iblis would probably have mentioned those stages, too, because he was in a position to prove his superiority to man. If man had undergone the stages of being a fish, frog, mouse and monkey in the past, Iblis would definitely have stated it because he was listing the aspects that he was superior to man, who was his greatest enemy, at that time.
The discussions about the past of man are related to the period before Adam. Written history sheds light on the period of time after Hazrat Adam to B.C. 400. There is not any difference in the structure of man in that period.
In the Quran, the creation of man out of the earth is likened to the creation of the plant out of the earth as follows:
“And Allah has produced you from the earth, growing (gradually)” [9>.
It is possible to deduce the following meanings from here:
a) It is pointed out that man’s ancestor, Hazrat Adam, was created out of the earth.
b) The growth and development of man is likened to the growth of the plant from the ground because some of the elements in the body of man, who is always in a state of developing and growing, are received from the earth through food either directly or indirectly[10>.
The verses related to the creation of man in the Quran do not consist of those that we have mentioned above. However, those verses are similar in meaning. In a verse that is different from the ones above, it is stated that a group of people who did not obey the order of Allah was turned into monkeys:
“And well ye knew those amongst you who transgressed in the matter of the Sabbath; We said to them: "Be ye apes despised and rejected."[11>.
God Almighty prohibited sons of Israel from working on Saturday. This incident took place in the town of Ayla when they did not obey that prohibition. There are two views about this change. The first one is that they were turned into monkeys in terms of ethics. The other one is that they were turned into the shape of monkeys. Besides, those people did not live long after this incident and died three days later. That is, the incident took place in a town (Ayla) and the people that were turned into monkeys died three days later[12>.
In conclusion, in the Quran, there is no statement showing or meaning that man was created from lower organisms. On the contrary, it is stated that man was created in the perfect form, that the first man, Adam, was created out of the earth, that his spouse, Eve, was created from Adam and that their descendants were created and developed in the uterus.
Today’s science and philosophy have some evaluations related to the past of man. Those philosophical evaluations and views are presented as if they are scientific facts and it is pointed out that the Quran supposedly contradicts science. The information put forward regarding the ancestor of man is not scientific knowledge but philosophical views and evaluations, theories and hypotheses. No one has the opportunity to test and to show the creation of the first man or the emergence of his wife in the laboratory. Therefore, all of the thoughts and views that have been or will be put forward about the past of man can be no better than theories or hypotheses.
As it is stated by the rule, “He who does knows; he who knows talks”, the only being that can have the right to speak about the past of man is definitely God Almighty and His book, the Quran. He states that the first man (Adam) was created out of the earth, that his wife was created from him and that their descendants were created and developed in the uterus.
To sum up, it does not comply with the Quran to believe that man evolved from lower organisms. A Muslim cannot and must not have a view like that.
May God Almighty make us think properly and understand Him and the truth. May Allah not drown us in the swamp of denying divinity. Amin.
[1> al-Hijr, 26.
[2> az-Zumar, 39: 6.
[3> an-Nisa, 1.
[4> Bukhari, Nikah 80; Ibn Majah, Taharah 77.
[5> al-Mu'minun, 12–14.
[6> at-Tin, 4.
[7> Fatir, 11.
[8> al-Hijr, 33.
[9> Nuh, 17.
[10> Ibn Ashur, Muhammad at-Tahir, at-tahrir wa’t-tanwir. Tunis, 1984.
[11> al-Baqara, 65.
[12> Çantay, B. H. Meâlî Kerim. V.1. p.25.