What are the viewpoints of Muslim scholars on evolution theory?
From time to time, Muslim scholars point of views on living organisms creation and development are evaluated incorrectly. That is certainly because of comprehending interpretations of some expressions and terms differently. Moreover, it is not the only reason for different evaluations; evolutionists are especially exploiting their comprehensions. We are going to explain the true meanings by pointing out some of the passages from scholars related works to prevent misinterpretations.
While dictionary meaning of evolution is process of growing or developing gradually, meaning of it as a term is transformation of one kind to another slowly and coincidently. In addition, the theory, which proposes that every living creature derived from the same origin of one species as line of descent gradually, is evolution. It is possible to categorize evolution philosophy into four principles. These are:
1-Gradual development: meaning evolving is a long period.
2-Transformation of one species into another.
3-Every being came into existence by differentiating of a single ancestor cell: meaning; transforming from one celled organism to invertebrate (not having a backbone or spinal column) multicelled; invertebrate multicelled to fishes; fishes to frogs; frogs to reptiles; reptiles to birds and mammals; and consequently apes to man.
4-Every incident occur coincidentally and by itself.
We should explicit that every scholar in a Muslim world could possibly have unique ideas, personal thoughts, and perceptions on subject, which should not be considered as Islamic doctrines. These scholars could be considered in two groups. First group of scholars studies decrees in Islamic sources, make interpretations and explanations. Second group is Islamic Philosophers. When it is said Muslim scholars, it should refer to the first group. Because, those philosophers could possibly be under the influence of other sources.
We should also clarify the creationist point of view. This is a conception, which tries to explain the existence and the functioning of the living creatures through scientific knowledge unlike evolutionist theory.
Actually, evolutionists are the ones who popularize the point of views of previous Muslims on the theory of evolution. Creationists on the other hand want this issue to be discussed on the scientific field. However, evolutionists sometimes ask for aid from religion itself. They need supporting ideas from Muslim scholars for their theory, and this shows us that their theories weakness and being without a scientific evidence.
Human logic is limited to observing the origins of the species and their development process. One should support his/her claim either with scientific experiment or with divine revelation. Since evolution (doctrines) theory brought forth, for 150 years, the experiments and researches have not proved any convincing fact. There is no religious decree instead of mans having created from earth. Therefore, it does not make any sense to expect from scholars to have knowledge on subject who had lived centuries from today, while it cannot be said anything about the origins of the species today although to the improvements were made in 21st century. In addition, how could philosophers perception without the support of revelation and experiment be a proof? In other words, we are in need of proofs rather than a proof. Evolutions existence cannot be proven with a philosophers dictum.
Surely, nobody can say anything about evolutionists searching proofs from the past for their arguments. Conditionally, if only there is a mutual understanding on the terms and their meanings. On the contrary, if fabricated terms would be given to define the subject matter and if the term evolution would be used for words such as istihale, taqamul, and tahavvul to define maturation, mutation, and transformation, it is impossible to reach a conclusion. Therefore, when evolutionists ideas, views are criticized, Arabic and Ottoman Turkish meanings of the terms, which have been used in the past, should be understood perfectly. Just as in every field, here too, there is confusion about concepts due to the lack of sensitiveness. Some are not using the terms relevant to the point, and causing confusions on the meaning of terms maybe unaware. Concept confusion should be prevented or at least can be minimized and necessity sensitiveness can be shown to the evolution terminology.
It is impossible to reach a conclusion rather than exchange of accusations if insist on using same terminology to refer different meanings on evolution.
These are the terms, which are used as an equivalent of evolution, however refer to different concepts and meanings;
Taqamul (Maturation): Maturation is the process by which organisms grow and develop in their own body and become mature. For example, apple seed maturates, and becomes apple tree; zygote which is one celled maturates, and becomes a human being by Gods permission.
The development of an organism from the fertilized egg (embryo) to its mature form is Ontogeny in biology. Maturation should be used for Ontogeny. On the other hand, Phylogeny is a hypothesis, which is to determine the ancestral relationships among the first species and the living ones. Evolution should refer to this one.
With this consideration, every living organism is amenable to the law of Maturation.
Istihala (Metamorphosis) (Mutation): When evolution theory was put forth into argument, Muslim scholars who dealt with the subject preferred to use the word istihala as to refer evolution. Previous scholars who used to use istihala before evolution theory became an argument did not refer any meaning, which is closer to evolution. Actually, evolution has no exact synonym in Arabic because of it is being so recent. Some scholars propose the word tatavvur as a synonym for evolution. Some authorities in this field claim that tatavvur can be used to refer evolution. Just as they do, Arabic Lexicon book Al-Mungid named this theory as Tatavvur Theory in its Darwin section.
Therefore, it could certainly be said that takamul (maturation), and istihala (metamorphosis) are far away from being synonymous with evolution.
Tahawwul: Tahawwul (Changing) is another word, which leads false evaluations. Its meaning is also given to meet evolution. However, it is not conformable to use tahawwul as to refer evolution either. Tahawwul is used to define the transition of a molecule and an atom from one state (level) to another. In the light of the above given explanations, let us see the views of most exploited Muslim scholars. Undoubtly, Ibrahim Hakki is a leading scholar whose ideas expounded differently at most.
Ibrahim Hakki in his famous work, Marifetname (Book of Gnosis) explains the problematic as:
With the command of God (swt) heavens and stars moves, four elements mix with each other, and merge. Before this merging, matters come into existence. From these plants, from plants and matters merging, animals come into existence and when animals find their best form humans come into existence.
Ibrahim Hakki mentions the transition of molecules and atoms and their levels of existence in the human body. In fact, couple of paragraphs later, he explains it clearly:
That transitional body while entering into the realm of plants such disease can harm it; thereby it cannot become a plant. Or while becoming plant, before it maturates it spoils. It becomes crappy and no more, good as a food for the animals. Or maturates, but perishes before it is eaten, so years pass. Sometimes animals perish before they are eaten so it cannot become to the level of humans. However, sometimes it keeps and it is carried to the level of human.
This expression is as clear as not to give rise to any comments. It has been tried to explain the transition of elements from one level to another. For instance, sodium atom which is taken by a plant from soil spanks in a flower, becomes more active in a sheep, when it comes into the human body attains its best form of level. Does it contradict with science? Are not all of the atoms and molecules functioning in our bodies the elements that we take from plants and animals? Just because we cannot take those directly from soil; plants and animals step in the process. Muslim scholars describe this process (transition).
Ibrahim Hakki calls our attention to the structural similarities of living organisms and points coral as an intermediate being between matters and plants; date as an intermediate between plants and animals; and finally ape as an intermediate between animals and humans.
As it is seen, it is a classification. Its called attention to the structural similarities of beings and their being created by wisdom and in stages. Darwins proposal as, All species have evolved from a simple organism coincidentally through natural selection and above cited explanations have no possibility of confusion.
Although to the explanations that he made, if there is still any misunderstanding with conceptions, it is still not his responsibility, because he conveys other scholars point of views in many parts of his work. In fact, in the beginning of this matter by saying, O, beloved wisdom holders said burdens responsibilities onto them. It is the inside of the matter, because explanations were not depicted from verses or Hadiths but from wisdom holders.
Ibrahim Hakki, about the creation of the first man, used the expression, After the creation of the jihns when God wanted to create Adam (pbuh) sent Angel Azrail to the earth, and made him collect seven different soils from seven different climates; made Angel Gabriel kneed it, let it wait for forty days. Later, God gave a beautiful form to it in the Numan Valley and gave His spirit to him and finally made Angels prostrate to him; made him prophet for his sons in the world.
Featuring Ibrahim Hakki as he was the defender of evolution theory is claiming on behalf of him and this has nothing to do with the unprejudiced ethics of science.
His expression, about the all creatures being created in their best form draws great attentions, God created everything in proper and in a beautiful environment. He gave the most fitting disposition and most fitting nature to every other creature. Moreover, He granted the most convenient and perfect one to humans.
Is it ever possible to claim someone who uses these kinds of expressions as evolutionist? It is actually a natural need for humankind to seek explanation for creation. Therefore, Muslim scholars commented on observation. Scientific improvements in the past might have caused to different interpretations from today. In this regard, there is no rational explanation of opposing to the new scientific improvements that attempt at explanations to the creation matter with that of past conceptions decrees.
A. Hamdi Akseki, one of the former Directors of Religious Affairs of Turkey evaluates evolution problematic, as, We believe that Adam (pbuh) was the first man, first prophet and he was created from earth and we know it by way of inference from Hadiths, previous Muslim scholars, and most of the Quranic verses.
Late Hamdi Yazir was another Muslim scholar whose ideas are exploited. His comments on the matter are actually quite clear. His below quoted statements clearly explain the matter:
When animals are classified perfectly, it is seen that there is a gradation from deficiency to perfection, from simple to compound. Nevertheless, we do not find any experience or any witness that every other species come into existence from another species. A human gives birth to a human, a lion gives birth to a lion, a horse gives birth to a horse, a monkey gives birth to a monkey, etc. Although to the fact, some by depending on origin and by depending on coming from the same earth uses some kind of logic. Some by giving the fact that animal species showing resemblance each other, relate it with metamorphosis and maturation, therefore claim as, Compound forms derived from simple forms. According to this claim, one day a monkey gives birth to a human and humans derive from those. We always follow the scientific way and proudly say that deriving from the same origin is a fact. However, in the first place the origins of animals are matter and simple elements. In other words, it is earth. It is only possible for a life to come into existence with an external reason that has wisdom, willpower, might, and such a power so that a living thing can derive from that simple element. Because perfection cannot be derived from a deficient by itself. For instance, less heavy cannot burden its double in weight. If it is assumed that it is true for once, we should also accept that a thing could come into existence without a cause. Then, we cannot talk about intelligence, or science.
It is neither natural nor necessity for a species to give birth a species, which is similar. For a claim such as, Frogs are delivered by fishes one must show an actual illustration. Otherwise, it is neither scientific decree nor a philosophical one. Logic does not help us to understand the reality. It is only comprehended by either observation or revelation. However, it is never seen such deliverance; a frog from a fish or a man from an ape! And it is completely contrary to the Pasteurs experienced theory. Revelation, on the other hand tells us that we are humans, and sons of the same father.
These below mentioned rhetorical words reflect Islamic perspective:
The strange arts you saw in the palace are the miracles of Divine power you see in this world
Fruits, whetting our appetites with their delicious tastes, scents, and forms, they invite us to themselves. They sacrifice themselves for their customers so that they may rise from the level of vegetable life to that of animal life.
As it is seen, Islamic scholars points of views rely on the transition of the elements from one level to another. In addition, it draws attentions to the elements, which are taken from earth by living beings and their level of existence in different forms of bodies.
We did not mention the ideas of some Islamic scholars and philosophers such as Al-Jahız, İhsan-us-Safa, İbn-i Miskavayh, Nizam-i Aruzi Samarkand, Nasır-ı Tusi, Mavlana Jalaladdin-i Rumi, Muhammad Kazvini, İbn-i Haldun, Kınalızade Ali Efendi, Abdü'l-Kadir-i Bidil, because of their similarities.
Actually, Islamic scholars do not have a problem as evolution. Because they are wise enough to understand that one who knows alphabet does not need to use the same all letters to write frog as to write fish. Therefore, they think about a powerful Creator Who can create frogs, fishes, monkeys etc. separately. They adopt the view of Species need a previous father humans and animals as separate species, as they have a separate father in the beginning, their end will be with a last son.