Saturday, 15 June 2019

Man's Creation and the Theory of Evolution

A republication of this article,  which is a translation from Imam Muhammad Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti's book Kubrā Al-Yaqīniyyāt Al-Kawniyyah (Damascus: Dār Al-Fikr, 1998), p.245-272, as the Naseem al-Sham English site is currently under reconstruction.

Al-Kahf 18:51

1.    Man

A Muslim must know the following facts about man and his reality.  Then he must be certain of them within himself and upon them establish his faith in Allah, Mighty and Majestic.

a.    Man is the best and noblest of Allah’s creations.
b.    Man is created, as a species, from the element of earth.  Procreation–as a source–begins with the first man, Adam, may peace and prayers be upon him.
c.     Man is created, from the first genesis, in the most perfect outward form and the best stature. He did not evolve as a species at any point in his history nor did he gradually move from one genus to another.

Let us now consider, in all clarity, these three facts separately.

A.   Man is the best and most noble of Allah’s creations.

This fact is established by two proofs, the first of which has been transmitted to us with truthful certainty while the second is rational proof.

As for the truthful transmission, it is His statement, Mighty and Majestic: “Verily we have honoured the Children of Adam and conveyed them on land and sea and have provided them with good things and favoured them greatly over many we have created” [al-Isrāʾ 17:70]. There is also His statement, Mighty and Majestic: “We said to the angels, ‘Prostrate yourselves before Adam’, and they prostrated, with the exception of Iblīs. He refused and was arrogant and was one of the disbelievers.” [al-Baqarah 2:34]

The proof in both of these verses is clear in proving what is sought, and there is no ambiguity in knowing that man is the best of creation with the exception of the angels. These two verses and many others clearly state this, but there has been some study and research into the generalization of this ruling, even with regards to the angels as well.

The reason for this incertitude and ambiguity is Allah the Exalted’s statement at the end of the first verse that we mentioned: “...and favoured them greatly over many we have created.”  It shows–for whoever takes the evidence of speech[1]–that there are some other creations that man is not superior to; and there is no doubt that this should be referring to the angels, based on what is affirmed in the Qurʾān and the authentic Sunnah clarifying their precedence and their immense rank.

As for those who do not stick to what the speech evidences and find what the text articulates to be sufficient, they have stated that the use of the word “many” (kathīr) is actually a substitute for the word “all” (kull). There is no indication that the opposite of “many” is “a few” and thus the verse, generally speaking, endorses the superiority of man over the rest of creation.

Those who state the absolute superiority of the angels over man include ʿAbdullah Ibn ʿAbbās, may Allah be pleased with him, and it is the opinion of al-Zujāj according to what al-Wāḥidī has narrated[2] and they used for a proof what we just mentioned from the end of the verse as well as His statement, Mighty and Majestic, about the angels: “but they are honoured slaves. They do not precede Him in speech and they act on His command.” [al-Anbiyāʾ 21:26-27] There is also The Exalted’s statement: “...who do not disobey Allah in respect of any order he gives them and do what they are commanded to do.” [al-Taḥrīm 66:6] and the ḥadīth in al-Bukhārī, may Allah be pleased with him: {Whoever remembers Me in a gathering, I remember him in a gathering that is better than His.} Al-Qurṭubī said that this text proves the superiority of the angels.[3]

The position of the majority of Ahl us-Sunnah wa Al-Jamāʿah is that the elite of mankind, from the prophets and the righteous, are superior to the elite of the angels. They are the ones whom Allah has specifically chosen to mention in His Noble Book. The masses of mankind, and they are the pious from amongst the Muslims, are better than the masses of the angels. Their evidence for this includes Allah the Exalted’s statement: “But those who believe and do good deeds are the best of created beings.” [al-Bayyinah 98:7] “Created beings” (al-bariyyah) comprises the angels. They also use the ḥadīth that has been narrated by Abū Dāwūd and others in which the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, said, {Indeed the angels lay down their wings out of pleasure for the seeker of knowledge.} Likewise, they also used as proof the fact that Allah has given man the essentials of legal responsibility from which he becomes deserving of reward and recompense for the obligatory acts that Allah has commanded him to do. It should also be noted that Allah has placed in man various passions and desires and if he fights them and overcomes them he deserves a reward that the angels do not deserve, and this is because their created constitution does not contain any of these passions or desires.[4]

Al-Qurṭubī said, ‘There is no way of decisively proving that the prophets are better than the angels, or a way to decisively prove that the angels are better than them, because the required way is what has been transmitted from Allah the Exalted and His Messenger (i.e. that which has been mass-transmitted and is irrefutable) or the consensus of the Muslim nation,[5] and there is nothing there.’

As for the rational proof, it includes the following points:

The first point is that the human soul is distinguished from all other souls and other existent beings by that amazing and astonishing power, and that power is indeed the intellectual power to comprehend the realities of things and thus it is the key to subjecting many of the universe’s phenomena to man and bringing them under his control.

The peculiarities of this intellectual power include the fact that it is the power that manifests within itself the light of knowing Allah the Exalted and with it the light of Allah’s magnificence is made radiant. The one who possesses this power is prepared to be a worshipful slave of his sublime Creator, manifest is His Majesty. As a result man becomes the first manifestation of Allah’s divinity, Mighty and Majestic.

If this is the case then it is clearly necessary for the human soul to be the most noble of souls that exist in the universe (if we make an exception for the angels due to exceptional considerations concerning them).

The second point is the proofs of the veracity of Allah the Exalted’s statement: “And He has made everything in the heavens and everything on earth subservient to you. It is all from Him.” [al-Jāthiyah 45:13] that we see by way of experience and observation, as you can see that everything from the movements of the celestial bodies to the ordered system of the universe and the various functions of all created things: they are all commensurate with man’s needs and serving him. Thus, in relation to this existence that surrounds him man is like the axis of a circle, in that he draws towards himself various other creations that strive in perpetual and constant revolution in order to weave together for him the best essentials of life and to cater to his various requirements and needs.

One of the necessities of this, as you can see, is that this being, who has this position with regards to all other created beings and they have their position with regards to him, becomes the best of them and  most noble of them without exception.

The third point is the attributes that Allah the Exalted has placed inside man, which, on the whole, are remnants from the attributes of Lordship, such as knowledge, power, arrogance,[6] the desire for authority and domination, and so forth.

When you think deeply, you know that man only believes in Allah, Glorious and Majestic, and fills his heart by exalting Him and revering Him by means of these attributes that have been placed within him, because with his partial, limited knowledge he has an idea of Allah’s vast, unlimited knowledge. With his partial, limited power, he can have an idea of Allah’s power, which holds sway over everything. With the little property that he has, he can have an idea of Allah’s vast dominion, which includes everything that is and everything that ever was. If Allah had not placed within him these samples from His attributes, man would not be prepared to realise the sublimity of Allah the Exalted and the glory of His authority.

If man, in reality, is a repository for shades or remnants of the attributes of the Lord of Might, Glorious and Majestic, then it is preferable for him to be the most noble and honourable of created beings.

In summary, man’s preference over all other created beings (with the exception of the angels), is a decisive and established fact which is proven by mass-transmitted, authentic narrations as well as sound, rational proof. Thus, it is obligatory for a Muslim to believe it.

As for his preference over the angels, this is something that is possible. The proofs are inconclusive and this is why there has been a difference of opinion. Perhaps the safest thing to do would be for us to refer the truth of the matter to Allah’s knowledge, Glorious and Majestic is He.


B.   Man is created (in terms of being a species) from earth and multiplied (in terms of a source) from the first man, Adam, peace be upon him.

Know that the proof for this fact is restricted to relying on mass-transmitted, authentic narrations. They are not from matters that are connected to sensations such that they can be subject to empirical or observed proof. Rather, they originate from a transmission that is connected to ancient history, so there is no hope in verifying it beyond verifying the transmission itself.

As for man being created (in terms of being a species) from the element of earth, this has been proven by several clear verses in Allah’s Book, Glorious and Majestic is He.

These include His statement, Mighty and Majestic is He: “From it We created you and to it and we shall return you. Then We shall extract you from it once again.” [Ṭaha 20:55] and His statement, Mighty and Majestic is He: “Indeed we created man from ṣalṣāl which comes from ḥamaʾ masnūn.” [Al-Ḥijr 15:26] and His statement, Exalted is He: “He created man out of dry clay from pottery.” [al-Raḥmān 55:14]

Ṣalṣāl is dry clay and it clatters, i.e. it makes a sound as if it is pottery, i.e. burned clay. The ḥamaʾ is black, altered clay and masnūn means that it is formed in the form of a man.

Thus, ṣalṣāl is what kind of earth it is, and hamaʾ masnūn is what kind of ṣalṣāl it is, similar to you saying: ‘I took this from a man from the Arabs from the Levant.’[7]    

As for him being multiplied from Adam, peace and blessings be upon him, and him being the first man, there are also several, clear verses that prove this in Allah the Exalted’s Book. You can read these verses in the story of Adam’s creation, which is repeated several times in The Clear Book.

Know that at this point it does not concern us to look into how Adam came down from Paradise, and to verify the place on earth that he landed in, or how the progeny of Adam and Eve multiplied afterwards. None of that has anything to with the creed, which is based on established and decisive stipulations.

Rather, discussing these things would merely be for the sake of curiosity as none of these matters are decisively proven in the Book or the Sunnah. This is why, in our worship of Allah, Mighty and Majestic, we are not required to believe in anything specific regarding them.

Beware of paying attention to what some of the Sufis say, those who claim that Adam, peace be upon him, the story of whose creation is mentioned in the Qurʾān,  was preceded by many other ‘Adams’. They then go into detail about the matter and everything they say is based on pure fantasy.

These claims are based on nothing but conjecture. They are not supported by any proof that has come to us by way of authentic, decisive transmission, or any certain evidence that has come to us by way of scientific examination. It is part of etiquette with the Book of Allah the Exalted and the Sunnah of His Messenger that we assign knowledge of what Allah, Mighty and Majestic has not clarified, nor His Messenger, to the knowledge of Allah alone, unless it is subject to the means of research, experience and witnessing, for indeed Allah’s speech has invited us to research the truth and seek certainty therein.

  1. Man is created, ever since his first formation, in the most perfect outward form and in the most beautiful stature.
The discussion about the first formation of man is another thing that is not subject to empirical proofs or that which is observed and tangible. On the whole, it is a historical discussion in which one cannot use thought or investigation beyond the two proofs of anticipation and retrieval, and they are two delusive proofs, as we have previously clarified. It is impossible for a decisive creed to be based on something from their results.

If Allah, Mighty and Majestic, had not spoken to us about anything decisive in this regard we would not have clung to any ruling and believed in it decisively.

However, when it comes to that which is authentic and mass-transmitted, in which there is no room for any doubt or conjecture whatsoever, we have His statement, Exalted is He: “Indeed we have created man in the best of stature.” [al-Tīn 95:4] The fact that al is added to al-insān (man) means that it includes all of mankind; every individual human being.

An example of this is His statement, Exalted is He: “O Man! What has deluded you in respect of your Noble Lord? He Who created you and formed you and proportioned you…” i.e. made you symmetrical, straight and standing upright in the most beautiful of shapes and forms.

One of the things that confirms what the Qurʾān has established is what has been narrated in the two Ṣaḥīḥ collections from Abū Hurayra, may Allah be pleased with him, who said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon him, said, {Allah created Adam in his form}, i.e. since his creation he has had this essential form, which he continues to have and which he is known by, i.e. he did not emerge by transferring from one form to another. The pronoun ‘his’ in ‘his form’ goes back to Adam.

There is another opinion which says that the pronoun goes back to the essence of Allah the Exalted, and what is meant by form is the attribute, i.e. He created him to have knowledge, will, wisdom, hearing, seeing and so forth, and these are attributes of Allah the Exalted. (See page 137[8] of this book).

Whether the attribute goes back to Adam, as is the majority opinion and is what is understood outwardly from the ḥadīth, or whether it goes back to the essence of Allah the Exalted, the ḥadīth confirms the decisive proofs found in the Qurʾān, which show that Allah honoured Adam from the very beginning of his creation.

And, if that is the case, we must know that man has never transitioned, throughout his entire history, from one species to another in any evolutionary fashion, as it is said that he developed from one genus to another, or gradually evolved from the outward form of one species to have the outward form of another species.

This ruling is the decisive conclusion to the three matters that we have mentioned about man, which are:

He is the best and noblest of Allah’s creations.
He is created from earth and he multiplied from the first man, Adam, peace be upon him.
He is created, ever since his first formation, in the most perfect outward form and in the most beautiful stature.


The Development of the Theory of Evolution When Faced With this Fact
As you can see, this decisive fact that every Muslim must believe in completely contradicts what is called the theory of evolution, which adopted another historical assumption about man, which is that he comes from a series of links in a chain of differing species, gradually developing from the simple to the complex, from the primitive to the advanced, in both form and thought. What is the Muslim’s position regarding this contradiction and difference of opinion?

The answer is that his position should be the position that is adopted by any intelligent person when faced with a contradiction between a scientific fact and a theoretical matter. Therefore, there is no doubt that the scientific fact is that which should be destined to remain, and it is inevitable that the theory will be abrogated as long as it contradicts this fact. The theory cannot go together with the fact.