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Paleontologist Asks: Islamic Creationism or Evolution?

Questioner

Anonymous

Reply Date

Jul 20, 2017

Question

I am a paleontologist and I feel like Islam, as well as Christianity and Judaism, stands in stark opposition to things like paleontology. Isn’t the fact that Islam is Creationist a solid proof that it’s anti-science? Studying paleontology requires accepting at least some aspects of evolution, right?

Consultant

Answer


dinosaurs evolution Islam

Salaam alaykum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuh (Peace and blessings be upon you),

Contrary to popular belief, Islam greatly respects science and urges for scientific advancements; some of the greatest scientific minds of the past were Muslim scientists.

Ancient Muslim Scientists

Their religious beliefs did not hold them back; in fact, they spurred them on.

Some of the first writers of evolutionary theorycenturies before Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution—were Muslim.

It appears the first evolutionary scientists were Al-Jahiz and Ibn Miskawahy. The former wrote about animal adaption and the latter wrote about human evolution. Both researched and wrote their theories in the 9th century, approximately a thousand years before Darwin.

In fact, 14 Muslim-majority countries teach and promote evolution. Saudi Arabia is a notable exception, much to the disapproval of many other Muslim-majority countries.

There is plenty of Islamic evidence in support of evolution, enough to make some variation of evolutionary theory a common belief amongst Muslims.

Foundations Within Islam

To begin with, the Quran mentions the creation of “dabba”, or beasts, in the Quran before mentioning the creation of Adam. Allah established the Earth before creating humankind.

Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which God Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.   (The Noble Quran, 2:164)”

Elsewhere, Allah says:

He created the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; He set on the earth mountains standing firm, lest it should shake with you; and He scattered through it beasts of all kinds. We send down rain from the sky, and produce on the earth every kind of noble creature, in pairs.  (The Noble Quran, 31:10)”

As you can see in both of these Quranic verses, Allah created the Earth, the skies, the heavens, mountains, and beasts. The word used to describe beasts is “dabba”, which is a general term meaning a creature who walks on the earth.

This could be speaking of the dinosaurs, or of all creatures in general, including dinosaurs. The fact that there are fossils and evidences of dinosaurs proves to us as rational human beings that they once roamed the Earth and were created by Allah.

The Confusion

But, why is there some confusion, then? The fact is that there are scholars who do believe in evolution, and a few who don’t. This difference is often because of the translation of the word “youm” (typically meaning “day”) in Surah Al Araf (7:54).

Verily, your Sustainer is God, who has created the heavens and the earth in six aeons (youm), and is established on the throne of His almightiness. He covers the day with the night in swift pursuit, with the sun and the moon and the stars subservient to His command: oh, verily, His is all creation and all command. Hallowed is God, the Sustainer of all the worlds!

Many translate “youm” to mean “aeons” or time periods, and some translate it to mean days, following in the Biblical tradition that God created everything in 6 days (although Muslims do not believe in a day of rest as is written in the Bible).

The word “youm” is used again twice in the Quran, once meaning 50,000 years (“The angels and the Spirit will ascend to Him during a Day the extent of which is fifty thousand years.” Quran 70:4) and once meaning 1,000 years (“… indeed, a day with your Lord is like a thousand years of those which you count.” Quran 22:47).

This shows that the word “youm” means something akin to “a time period” and is flexible in its numerical value. In such a case, Allah could have taken 6 period of time lasting any length of measurable time to “perfect” his creation, and Allah knows best.

I hope this answers your question!


Satisfy your curiosity by checking out these other helpful links:

Big Bang from Islamic Perspective

 

Adam and Eve or Evolution?

 

Evolution Theory in Light of Islam




About Kaighla Um Dayo

Kaighla Um Dayo is one of the authors of "The New Muslim's Field Guide", expected to be published in Feb. 2018. She is also a former Ask About Islam editor. She is also a regular contributor at islamwich.com, where she ruminates on life as a Muslim American. Her favorite things are meditation, painting, drinking tea, and being outside in nature.

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