Is it possible for Muslims to believe in the Theory of Evolution? The answer is both Yes and No. It’s possible that God has programmed His creatures to change with environmental and climatic shifts but not evolve into different species. Science has been able to show these transformations but has yet to establish the missing links, which would make it possible for all people to be fully convinced that mankind evolved from apes. Thus, Muslims would readily accept the idea of evolutionary changes within one species, but not linear progression of one species evolving from the previous one. Muslims can also accept the idea of “Survival of the Fittest,” as long as it allows the elements of chance and divine intervention.
It is not hard to imagine within the framework of Islamic theology that before God created Adam and Eve, He created other humanoids on earth who, like dinosaurs, eventually died out. This would also be consistent with modern scientific research which now says that Homo habilis and Homo erectus lived side by side in eastern Africa for nearly half a million years, and at least in this case there was perhaps no linear evolution.
Few years ago, Nature magazine, a well-respected Science journal reported these findings of Meave and Louise Leakey: “Their co-existence makes it unlikely that Homo erectus evolved from Homo habilis”, explained Meave Leakey. “The fact that they stayed separate as individual species for a long time suggests that they had their own ecological niche, thus avoiding direct competition.” This means that both were two different species and perhaps none evolved from the other. Similarly, researchers have also found that hobbits, Homo floresiensis, lived in Indonesia until recently. Yet, many scientists, who also happen to be atheists, continue to assert the validity of linear evolution by opinion rather than clear scientific facts.
Nevertheless, there is another way to look at evolution, the idea that it’s the spiritual essence of man that has its origins in other species and would continue to evolve. Rumi, the Persian Sufi poet, said it beautifully in this poem:
Low in the earth
I lived in realms of ore and stone;
And then I smiled in many-tinted flowers;
Then roving with the wild and wandering hours,
Over earth and air and ocean zone,
In a new birth,
I dived and flew,
And crept and ran,
And all the secret of my essence drew
Within a form that brought them all to view_
And lo, a Man!
And then my goal.
Beyond the clouds, beyond the sky,
In realms where none may change or die_
In angel form; and then away
Beyond the bounds of night and day,
And life and Death, unseen or seen,
Where all that is hath ever been,
As One and Whole.
Rumi (Thadani’s Translation)