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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Ghayyur_Ayub
Full Name: Ghayyur Ayub
User since: 26/Jul/2007
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Quran and Evolution

By

Dr Ghayur Ayub

 

 According to science, earth came into existence about 4.6 billion years ago. In the beginning, it was like a ball of molten rocks with scorching temperature and atmosphere filled with turbulent dust. With passage of time the dust started to solidify due to gravitational pull making dry clay which continued to swirl with thundering noise.

In the following one billion years, with the drop of temperature, water condensed making clouds and initiating torrential rains, violent storms and lightning full of radiation. Continuous rains washed the atmospheric gasses and clay pouring them down into newly formed sea where they settled at the bottom and were converted into inorganic and organic compounds. As the earth gradually cooled and torrential storms slowed down, the water from sea started to evaporate leaving behind a viscous liquid of organic compounds at the bottom of the sea known as `Primordial Soup'

Constant floods of radiation of organic compounds for the next 3 billion years resulted in formation of chains of nucleic and amino acids which settled down on the thick, wet, sticky and muddy surface of the 'Primordial Soup'

One billion years later, the earth further cooled down to around 100 Celsius. Scientists tell us that as a result of constant radiation, the two adjacent mineralized fluids composed primarily of fat and sulphate formed a double layered membrane. This membrane folded on itself, making a cell. This was the creation of unicellular life on earth. Put it simply, had there been no membrane there would have been no life. That is how, life began on planet earth according to science.

What does Quran say about creation of life? Does it speak about such changes in chronological order? The answer is yes. Does it mean Quran is a book of science? The answer is no. It is not a book of science but a book of 'signs' which stimulates our intellect to understand science through 'signs'.

 

Let us start with a verse which in its unique Quranic style challenges our intellect about our existence in pre-life non-existence, “Do not man remember that We created him before, while he was naught?” This means three things. First, man was existing in a non-life form such as dust, clay or any other form of matter. Second, man existed in a life form other than human such as hominid. Third, man existed in both forms at different cosmic time-frame. We should remember that cosmic time is different from the time we perceive on earth.

Either way, Quran is hinting at evolution. To make it clearer, it goes step by step;

1. He created you of dust,” Here, Quran is pointing at the time when the earth atmosphere was filled with dust.

2. When the dust turned into dry clay, floating in air with thundering sound, Quran states, “We created man from sounding clay,”.

3. As evolution continued and the earth took a rocky shape covered with clay, Quran says, “Allah is He who has made everything He created better, and He began the creation of the human (being) out of clay” Remember at this stage Quran is using the word clay instead of sounding clay and using the word began meaning by it is pointing at the cosmic time when the clay settled down on the surface of earth. To link it with such time it further says, “He is Who has created you from clay, then he spent a term of time (away from you), and (it is) a specific term he determined. Yet, you doubt (his ability)!” The important point in this verse is that Quran uses the Arabic word 'bada'a' which means that human creation happened as part of a process that had a beginning and not just at once. The same meaning is found in another verse which says, “Were We then fatigued with the first creation? Yet are they in doubt with regard to a new creation”.

4. Then, Quran goes further in evolutionary steps when it talks about the wet, sticky clay which scientists link with the surface of Primordial Soup, “Indeed, We created men from sticky clay” Or when it says, “We created the human being from stinking, smooth, (and wet) clay.”

5. Science tells us that at this stage of evolution, fat and sulphate made a double layered impermeable membrane. Quran also talks of such impermeable membrane but calls it a 'Barrier' when it says, “He has let free the two bodies of flowing water meeting together between them is a Barrier, which they do not transgress”. In another verse, Quran goes one step further and becomes more specific when it says, “It is He who has let free the two bodies of flowing water, one palatable and sweet and other salty and bitter. Yet has He made a barrier between them. A partition that is forbidden to be passed”. In this verse Quran has symbolized the mineralized fluid composed of fat as sweet and palatable and the other composed of sulphate as salty and bitter. Also, it gives a classification to the passage across the barrier by calling it 'forbidden'.

6. The science tells us that the life of a cell depends on non-permeability of its wall for certain ionic substances which is governed by strict laws of Nature. According to Quran, the Divine power does the same thing. The science links the membrane with creation of unicellular life in water which led to the other forms of life such as plant, animal and human. The Quran also links this phenomenon with plant, animal and human life.

 Let us see how;

7.  Quran says all forms of life started in the sea, “...and We made every living thing out of water? Will they not then believe?”. As one can see, here Quran is talking about creation of life in general. Then, it becomes specific about plants, animals and human respectively in chronological order.

8. About the plants it says, “He has let free the two bodies of flowing water meeting together between them is a Barrier, which they do not transgress.....Pearls and corals come forth out of the twain.” Scientists recently discovered that corals are animals and precursors of algae which are plants. It is important to note that Quran has linked the 'barrier' which is the precursor of life to corrals and thus to plants and animals 1400 years ago.

10. Then, Quran talks about the animals by saying, “Allah has created every animal out of water.” Then, it categorises them and takes them out of the sea and puts them on land by saying, “ Of them (is a category which) walks upon its belly, (another which) walks upon two legs, and ( a third which) walks upon four. Allah creates what He wills. Allah is Able to do everything (he wants)”

11. We have just seen, how life was created in water and evolved into plants and animals. But what about man?

12. Keeping the chronological sequence, Quran links man's creation with water after talking about his creation from dust, sounding clay, clay and wet clay by saying, He it is Who has created man of water.” From there, it goes further and links his life with plant pointing at the process of evolution, “And Allah has caused you to grow out of the earth like plants”

13.       Then, it talks about step-wise evolutionary make-up of man by saying; It is He Who created you, fashioned you perfectly, and made you with the right proportions (straightened you up, to walk in an upright position)” In this verse Quran uses three verbs; first 'khalaqa for creation; second 'sawwa' for fashioning man perfectly; and third 'adala' for putting man in right proportion like making him walk in upright position. The first is linked with the first cell; the second is pointing at change from unicellular to multi-cellular such as plants, animals and hominids; the third is linked to refining the man by separating it from other hominids. Ibn Kathir explains this verse using a Hadith from Prophet Muhammad which says that God created humans in the right proportion and made them walk in a balanced and upright position, which allowed them to walk between the two cold places such as North and South Poles.

14.       In another verses Quran says, “O mankind, what has deceived you concerning your Lord, the Generous, Who created you, proportioned you, and balanced you? In whatever form (image) He willed, He put you together (assembled you)” Some Muslim scholars see a link in this verses between hominid (Homo erectus) and modern man (Homo sapiens sapiens). They argue that the Arabic verb, 'rakkaba', used in this verse can be translated into 'putting together' or 'assembling'. Thus, the word may refer to assembling human beings by using genetic materials from other organisms, in order for humans to be better than their closest primates. They compare such 'assembling' by God, to the scientists using genetic engineering and introducing changes in existing organisms. Ibn Kathir explains the Arabic word 'rakkaba' by saying that the fertilized egg carries all the genetic characteristics of humans all the way from the first creation. Talking about it further, scholars such as, Ekremah, Abu Saleh, and Quotada added that some people may even have a feature of primates as their faces may look like monkeys pointing to the fact that human being is the product of a long line of genetic traits.

15.       Quran also gives messages on evolutionary diversity in creation when it says, "I have indeed created you before, when you were nothing". Then it says, “Has there not been a long period of time, when man was nothing, (not even) mentioned?”. Then it says, "Say: travel in the earth and see how He originated the first creation, then God creates the latter creation; surely God has power over all things". It further says, "What is the matter with you that you fear not the greatness of God, when you see that it is He that has created you in diverse stages?"

16.       It was verses like these which made the great Sufi Mavlana Rumi uttered;

“I died from minerality and became vegetable;

And from vegetativeness I died and became animal.

I died from animality and became man.

Then why fear disappearance through death?

Next time I shall die

Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;

After that, soaring higher than angels –

What you cannot imagine, I shall be that”

 

Here, Rumi goes beyond the present human form and is talking about an

evolutionary continuity in some other unimaginable form.

The End

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