Understanding the Theory of Evolution
The theory of evolution states that organisms change characteristics over millions of years as they go through thousands of generations.
The mechanism of how they change characteristics over time is commonly theorized to be natural selection. Natural selection, also known as “survival of the fittest,” is the idea that organisms with characteristics more conducive to survival or prosperity are more likely to pass on their genes to the next generation. Thus, organisms change characteristics over time to become more specialized in survival.
The mechanism of how descendants develop characteristics different from their ancestors in the first place is commonly theorized to be random mutations in their genes.
Evidence for Evolution
The evidence for evolution, not being insignificant, can be divided into six categories:
- Fossil record showing gradual change of creatures over time
- Similarity between different species in their physical attributes, indicating common ancestry
- Similarity between different species in their genes and DNA
- Vestigial (leftover useless) physical features, indicating an ancestor who used those features
- Vestigial parts of genes and DNA
- Viral remnants in DNA 
It is important to understand the evidence for evolution is strong and it is not just a guess without evidence despite the existence of weakness.
So, one should not be quick to reject evolution for anything except very strong reason.
Weak Points in the Evidence
The first weakness in this list of evidence is the underlying assumption of naturalism that all these categories of evidence have. The assumption of naturalism is the assumption that the world progresses according to consistent natural laws with no unnatural interference. So, the natural processes at play in the present were always at play and will always be at play.
For example, physical similarity between different species is only evidence if one assumes that the rule that physical similarity indicates common ancestry (as we see even in humans today) always held true and there was no divine intervention that made species arbitrarily similar.
The assumption of naturalism is not inherently bad and is often useful. However, the assumption should be discarded if one is provided enough evidence there was divine intervention.
The second weakness, particularly in the fossil record, is the ubiquity of gaps.
This is not a problem only due to current lack of discovery which will be fixed in the future but rather a problem endemic to the concept of fossils. Not all animals will be preserved as fossils. Many, if not most, will simply decompose and disappear.
So, there are bound to be some gaps in the record regardless of how good human collection of fossils becomes. This means there will always be a place on the timeline of the fossil record where someone can point and say, “This is where a switch happened!”
That does not mean this objection is always convincing. One needs good reason to posit such a switch. If someone provides convincing evidence he spoke on behalf of God and provides testimony from God that a certain animal did not evolve and was placed there supernaturally, the weakness in the evidence allows for this possibility.
Islam is Strongly Proven
Islam is not a religion believed based on a feeling in the heart or blind faith. Islam is a rational religion which claims to prove its truth by appealing to logical evidence.
Among the evidence Islam utilizes is the fact that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) performed supernatural acts that would only be possible for someone who was supported by God.
Those acts include prophecies and miracles.
The fact that he did perform those acts is proven through extensively recorded testimony from eye-witnesses both in hadith sources and the Quran itself.
The Quran is considered a reliable source of testimony for miracles because it would be impossible for the Prophet to write the Quran with a claim about what people saw that is obviously false without being outright rejected by everyone.
Imagine someone who claims to be a prophet in Paris and he loudly proclaims, “Yesterday, I showed the people of Paris the moon splitting.” If the people of Paris never saw such a thing, the man would rightly become a laughingstock no one accepts, certainly not the leader of France in a few years.
The Prophet (SAW) did exactly that but for the people of Makkah, and his not becoming a laughingstock but a leader is vindication of his proclamation (through the Quran) that the moon did in fact split.
Islam is also proven by the challenge and miracle of the Quran and other proofs, which are all explained in many places.
An atheist or other religionist may deny that Islam is strongly proven, but the true issue then is to discuss the proof of Islam because, as mentioned, the weakness of the theory of evolution allows for exceptions if something is strongly proven to be from God.
Islam contradicting evolution in some cases is not proof against Islam. Rather, if Islam is proven true, the theory can accommodate that exception due to the limitation of its evidence. So, what an atheist needs to discuss is whether Islam is proven, not evolution.
Islam on Animal Evolution
Although Islam itself may be strongly proven, whether Islam’s denial of evolution is strongly proven will be discussed in this section and the next.
Starting with animal evolution, one can see that the Quran makes no strong assertions about it.
Allah says ⟪And He dispersed on earth every [kind of] creature⟫ (2:164) and ⟪He created for you all of that which is on the earth.⟫ (2:29)
However, these verses all allow for indirect creation.
Allah says ⟪Allah has created every [living] creature from water⟫ (24:45) and ⟪And we made from water every living thing.⟫ (21:30)
Creation from water can mean two things: 1) living things are mostly composed of water, or 2) living things were created originally from water. Both of these allow for indirect creation.
Allah says ⟪And He sent down for you from cattle, eight mates⟫ (39:6)
Allah says ⟪sent down⟫ possibly because His command descends from the sky and His command caused the creation of cattle or because cattle only exist due to plants and plants only exist because of the rain that comes from the sky.
The latter is similar to when Allah says ⟪We have sent down upon you clothing to conceal your private parts⟫ (7:26)
Although one can posit it means cattle was created in the sky by Allah then sent to earth, that is not the best let alone only interpretation.
So, there is no clear evidence in the Quran that animals were directly created by God rather than indirectly through evolution.
Islam on Human Evolution
In contrast to the creation of animals, there is much evidence that humans were created directly, specifically Adam (AS).
Allah says ⟪He created man from clay like [that of] pottery⟫ (55:14)
⟪Your Lord said to the angels, “I will create a human being out of clay from an altered black mud. And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.” So the angels prostrated – all of them entirely, Except Iblees, he refused to be with those who prostrated.⟫ (15:28-29)
To prove that the human being made from clay here refers to Adam (AS), note that Allah says ⟪And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.⟫
To prove that Adam (AS) is the ancestor of humans today, note that Allah says ⟪O children of Adam, let not Satan tempt you as he removed your parents from Paradise⟫ (7:27) and ⟪And We have certainly created you, [O Mankind], and given you [human] form. Then We said to the angels, “Prostrate to Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He was not of those who prostrated.⟫ (7:11) Allah constantly calls humans ⟪children of Adam⟫ in the Quran.
To prove that this was direct creation without doubt, note that Allah says ⟪O Iblees, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands?⟫ about Adam (AS). He described him as being created with “His Hands” which indubitably indicates direct creation.
In addition, the fact that Adam (AS) was initially in Paradise before being sent to earth indicates this was direct creation.
To prove that Adam (AS) was created without parents, the previous verses are sufficient. Another evidence is Allah saying ⟪Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created Him from dust; then He said to him, “Be,” and he was⟫ where the point of the verse is that Adam (AS)’s creation without parents proves the possibility of Jesus (AS)’s creation without a father.
All this and more is sufficient evidence that Adam (AS) was created directly by God from clay without parents and that he is the ancestor of humans today. This goes against the theory of evolution as applied to humans.
The reconciliation is to posit exceptionalism for Adam (AS). Other animals evolved and even humanoid species evolved, but Adam (AS) was especially placed there by God in a way that matches about how he would have been through evolution.
There are different theories of exceptionalism, some positing an early Adam (AS) who is the ancestor of several humanoid species, some positing an intermediate Adam who is the ancestor of homosapiens, and some positing a late Adam who is only an ancestor of a subgroup among homosapiens.
In any case, exceptionalism would posit that Adam (AS) was sent while other species at the time were wiped out to make way for him. This is allowed by the fossil record because of the gaps problem. There will always be room in the timeline for this. However, this theory becomes more difficult the later Adam (AS) is placed because gaps lessen in size and frequency closer to the modern day.
As for the other observational evidence like physical similarity, God simply created Adam (AS) to appear similar.
This would match the observational evidence of evolution, but still leaves the question of why God would do this and make Adam (AS) seem almost as if he had evolved.
Wisdom of the Appearance of Human Evolution
There are two decisions by God that wisdom needs to be provided for: 1) creating Adam (AS) in a special way instead of ‘normally’, and 2) creating him as if he had evolved when he had not.
As for the first, God created Adam (AS) directly because He wished to honor him and put him through the test of the tree in Paradise.
As for the second, there are a few possible wisdoms.
Firstly, humans appearing evolved from animals of the earth reminds them of their connection to earth and their return to earth. Allah says ⟪From it (the earth) We created you, into it we will return you, and from it we will extract you another time.⟫ (20:55) Before evolution was discovered, this purpose was fulfilled by the information that Adam (AS) was created from clay (which is earth).
Secondly, Allah likes to follow patterns and designs, so humans appear evolved because Allah followed, when creating them, the same pattern He followed when indirectly creating other animals. This is the same reason why the world usually follows a common natural law and why the snake from Musa (AS)’s staff would have had the biology of an actual snake. Allah does not do things halfway.
Thirdly, Allah wished to carve the world for humans, and humanoid species living before may have helped the ecosystem evolve to be more accommodating for Adam (AS) and his children.
Fourthly, having humans appear completely non-evolved would be a dead giveaway of the fact that humans were placed on earth through divine intervention, and Allah did not want this. Allah gives enough evidence for the sincere to accept Islam but not overwhelming evidence that forces even the insincere to believe.
Fifthly, Allah uses evolution seemingly but not really contradicting with Islam as a test to see who is simply looking for excuses to reject and who is truly sincere similar to how he used other things in the past.
Allah says ⟪Indeed, Allah is not timid to present an example – that of a mosquito or what is smaller than it. And those who have believed know that it is the truth from their Lord. But as for those who disbelieve, they say, “What did Allah intend by this as an example?” He misleads many thereby and guides many thereby. And He misleads not except the defiantly disobedient,⟫ (2:26)
Those who reject Islam due to evolution only reject an action of Allah because they cannot understand its wisdom like they rejected Allah giving the example of a mosquito. This is a sign of defiant disobedience and insincerity.
Those are some possible wisdoms for why Allah caused Adam (AS) and his descendants to look as if they were evolved even though they were not.
And Allah knows best.
- Sometimes, a virus attacks a cell and adds itself to its DNA accidentally without killing the cell. Then, the cell passes on that viral part of the DNA when it reproduces. So, when different creatures have the same viral remnants in their DNA, that indicates they had a common ancestor that was attacked by that virus and passed down this viral remnant to the different creatures.