Is evolution in stark contradiction to the teachings of the Qu'ran and thereafter Islam?
A very important question. The answer of which dictating whether or not one can be both a muslim and accept modern day science as we know it.
After all, it is exactly progress in science & education that has threatened the prominent religions of today and resulted in dwindling numbers of almost every religious faction. See: 6 Reasons Religion is Dying for more information.
Humans Made From Clay
It is undeniable that the Qu'ran makes many references to the idea that Allah made humans out of clay:
"I am going to create a human being out of clay." - (Qur'an, 38:71-72)
What this actually means is quite difficult to determine - surely we cannot take this literally and assume that a large portion of human matter is clay.
It should be noted that even if the Qu'ran stated that humans are 100% made out of clay, there is still room for the belief that these clay humans evolved from another organism.
That said, if that is indeed what the Qu'ran teaches it would have to be concluded that it has no place alongside modern day science.
Just a Metaphor
Perhaps being made from clay is a metaphor, for our softness and vulnerability, or even our malleability? You can get as poetic as you like with this view and conclude what you will, but if it is merely symbolism for inner human traits it has no bearing on the Qu'ran's teaching of science.
Denying every mistake in the Qu'ran on the grounds of it being poetry could be seen as weak by both sides of the argument, however.
1. Scientific Explanation - Representation
- Within the average human body, there are more than 26 elements
- One argument is that when the Qu'ran says humans were made out of clay, it means that humans are made from the same elements that are found in clay.
Science Says: this is a very weak argument, since although there are many types of clay, there are none that contain all 26 elements found in the human body. So, even if you break down clay into its different component elements you wouldn't have enough to assemble them into a human. In short, clay fails to be a representation of what humans are made of.
Logic Says: It would be more correct to say that "clay is made out of humans" since all the elements that make up clay (silicon, oxygen, hydrogen, iron, calcium) are found in the human body - of course, this would not be chronologically correct in respect to how the first clay was formed.
2. Scientific Explanation - Clay in Abiogenesis
- Strong evidence has been found for the idea that a particular type of clay: montmorillonite, played a key part in the formation of life from inorganic compounds.
- The researchers found that the clay caused a 100-fold acceleration in vesicle (cell-like sacs) formation as well as provide an excellent environment for RNA formation.
- Therefore, the Qu'ran has stated something profoundly true thousands of years before we realised the same thing in the 21st Century.
Logic Says: the Qu'ran specifically states that humans consist of clay (come from it) and so it is not enough to now find out that clay helped cells form together - life didn't come from clay, nor was it made made from clay but instead may have been helped by it during the earliest cells' formation.
Evolution and Adam & Eve
Another big problem with the Qu'ran and evolution is the Qu'ran's expressed dissent from the Garden of Eden:
"Then did Satan make them slip from the (garden), and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been. We said: "Get ye down, all (ye people), with enmity between yourselves. On earth will be your dwelling-place and your means of livelihood - for a time." - (002:036)
This flies directly into the face of modern day science because evidence shows humans evolved from early hominids on earth and were never originally in any heavenly garden.
Quite importantly, evidence also suggests that humans evolved in a group and not through one male and one female.
This debate has great significance in that if only two humans evolved at first and mated to produce all others there would have been almost no genetic variation in the offspring and future generations of humans would more than likely have died out very quickly.
In order for a species to survive, it is observed, vast amounts of genetic variation is necessary (to fend from disease and other selective pressures).
Notable Other Mentions
Below are a list of other statements the Qu'ran makes that contradict modern day science when applied to biology and zoology. The list is not exhaustive:
- Sperm comes from between the spine and ribs:
'He is created from a drop emitted- Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs' (Qur'an 86:6-7)
- Only Allah can know what sex a baby will be:
"Verily the knowledge of the Hour is with Allah (alone). It is He Who sends down rain, and He Who knows what is in the wombs." (Qur'an 31:34)
- Bees Eat Fruit
"And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills, on trees, and in (men's) habitations;Then to eat of all the fruits (of the earth)" (Qur'an 16:68-69)
It is clear that just like in the Bible, the Qu'ran features many statements made that have now been refuted.
The answer to the question "is Islam compatible with evolution" then, just like in the case of Christianity, is no.
This is not to say that many people will not counterclaim that they are both a "muslim and a believer in evolution" but this will almost certainly be due to the fact that they identify themselves with the culture.
I urge readers to remember that being raised a muslim or ingraining yourself into a muslim society does not constitute being a muslim - the requirement for that being believing in what the Qu'ran says without disregarding parts that you dislike.
Thank you for your time and patience,
© 2013 DK
Mona Sabalones Gonzalez from Philippines on June 10, 2014:
Very interesting. I have yet to read the Qu'ran, but maybe someday I will give it a try.
amer786 from Los Angeles on October 14, 2013:
Thought this might help in discussion of "Scientific Explanation 2 - Abiogensis"---- verse 32:7 of The Holy Quran states that the clay factor is in the initial phase of human biological evolution.
amer786 from Los Angeles on September 04, 2013:
Point taken Philathropy2012,
Would like to point out that taking the ‘clay’ factor in isolation may not valid. The Quran also states that every living thing is made out of water. So these are probably better understood as primary elements and not one defining element.
Also, in the Evolution/Adam&Eve section your reference to the events in Garden of Eden may be out of perspective. The Quran states in verses 13:35 and 18:54 that many of its statements are similes/examples. For example, it makes poor sense that some entity called ‘Satan’ is simultaneously seducing 6 billion souls by ‘whispering’ to them. I personally don’t get that sense. But something in our spiritual states does tend to quietly incite to sin. Or that Satan was evidently showing himself as a serpent when tempting Adam and Eve. The reference to a serpent is probably to his purpose of causing great harm to and poisoning Adam & Eve. The events of the Garden of Eden may well be in that context and perhaps should not be construed as explanation of physiological phenomenon
So taking some verses literally especially those that appear to be conveying messages may not be valid here. The essence of the verses is not in question, but the form can be different than a literal interpretation. Since this nature of language is declared in the Quran it should be taken into consideration.
DK (author) from London on September 04, 2013:
Please actually read a hub fully before you make a comment - I dedicated the scientific basis of clay in early cell development under "Scientific explanation 2 - abiogenesis".
Thank you all the same for taking the time to comment and reply with something interesting (albeit something already covered).
amer786 from Los Angeles on September 03, 2013:
The Quran often describes that creation occurred in ‘stages’. This is stated more directly in regards to human embryology in 71:14 and also creation of the cosmos. Evolution is very much a process where organisms move through stages as they evolve. The Quran appears to be agreeing with the process of evolution.
As for clay, it may not be fair to say that the terminology is mystical and metaphorical at best. There is, in fact, deeper academic and scientific context. In the corridors of science, discussion and debate has always been rife on how highly evolved organisms such as animals and humans made the journey from the ‘primordial soup’ to a more developed stage. The role of clay in development of organic molecular structure that may have played a critical part in the development of biological organisms requires a little background and explaining. So for anyone interested in the scientific thesis, below is a link to an essay that is brief and explains this in good detail. Who know? May be one day we will discover that we are created from clay in some meaningful way . . .
Farhat from Delhi on August 30, 2013:
Quran does not support Evolution becoz evolution is a theory not the truth. Biggest example is the existence of Monkeys till date inspite of all favours for them to evolute into human beings ..this is the proof for the denial of the theory of evolution.......Rest everything Mathew has clearly said in his answer...Thankyou Mathew James.
Theodore Pugh from Wilkes Barre Pa on August 30, 2013:
Truth has been told! Thanks Mathew.
Mathew James on August 30, 2013:
The concept of science is not to seek Truth, the concept of science is to speculate and make temporary conjectures about how the Almighty One created everthing. What one scientist says will be changed by the next scientist. Scientists are always changing their opinions about what reality is and how it works. There is no consistency in science!
The only Truth in this world is the Qur'an.
Theodore Pugh from Wilkes Barre Pa on August 30, 2013:
I don't think this was a good move to compare Islam with Science because science contradicts itself all the time that's why scientist perform different methods to reach what "They Believe" to be a correct legitimate discovery or finding. While they try to use these methods (inference, theory, classification, etc...) they don't always reach a conclusion and sometimes their findings can be refuted by others as well. So if you are Muslim as far as respecting the Omniscient knowledge that ALLAAH has which is beyond limited knowledge of science. We should not question His doings and words (Qur'an) this can bring us toward disbelief. So be careful.
Mel Carriere from San Diego California on August 30, 2013:
The Quran, just like the Bible, is intended to be a religious book, not a scientific or historical one. To that end they both use metaphors and anecdotes to teach lessons. This does not mean that they are not without truth that can guide us and a lack of scientific validity does not refute their teachings. Great hub!