There is a lot of discussion on how to reconcile the creation of Adam (AS) as mentioned in the Quran and the theory of evolution that scientific observation (supposedly) leads to.
The scientific observation that proves evolution can be summarized into four major categories of proofs:
- Fossil record
- Similarity in:
- Physical attributes
- Vestigial features in:
- Physical attributes
- Viral remnants in DNA
A solution proposed is the following: Animals evolved and humanoid creatures evolved. Then, at some point of time, Allah directly created Adam (AS) in the heavens without parents but made him similar to how he would look if he had evolved from the previous humanoid creatures. Then, Allah sent Adam (AS) to earth and caused the other humanoid creatures to go extinct. So, we are descendants of Adam (AS) alone.
This solution explains the four major categories of scientific observation as follows:
- Humanoid creatures appear in the fossil record because they actually existed because Allah decided to create them.
- Humans today are similar in physical attributes and DNA to other animals because Allah created them similar.
- Vestigial features exist because Allah decided to create them.
- Also possible to say any supposedly vestigial feature has real function which we simply do not know, so vestigial features don’t exist.
- Viral remnants exist in humans because Allah decided to create them.
- May also be possible to say there are functions we do not know, but this requires more research.
The solution depends on stating “Allah decided to create it” to all the observational proofs of evolution. The main problem people have with this solution is that it seems arbitrary that Allah would decide to do all this and make it seem humans evolved.
To deal with this problem, this article explores possible reasons why Allah may have decided to do these things if we adopted this solution.
There are essentially two decisions we need to explain:
- Why did Allah decide to create Adam (AS) in Paradise instead of through the natural process?
- Why did He decide to make observations 1, 2, 3, and 4 if they lead to a conclusion that is contrary to what actually happened?
Wisdom of Decision 1
As for the first decision, the wisdom behind it seems obvious from the Quran. Allah wished to honor Adam (AS).
[So mention] when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I am going to create a human being from clay.
So 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 was arrogant and became among the disbelievers.
[Allah] said, “O Iblees, what prevented you from prostrating to that which I created with My hands? Were you arrogant [then], or were you [already] among the haughty?”Quran 38:71-75
It is narrated from Ibn Umar (RA) that he said:
Allah created (only) four things with His Hand: the throne, Eden, the pen, and Adam, and He said to everything (else) “Be” and it became.Ibn Umar in Tafsir Tabari 38:75
Being created in heaven, being created by Allah’s Hand, and being prostrated to by the angels immediately after being created all seem to be sources of honor for Adam (AS) and, by extension, for his descendants.
Wisdom of Decision 2
Many possible wisdoms have been proposed for the second decision, and they are not all mutually exclusive.
Proposal 1: Remind of Connection to Earth
This proposal argues that the creation of Adam (AS) similar to other animals exactly as if he evolved from earth serves the purpose of reminding humans that we come from earth and we will return to earth.
Allah informing us through revelation that humans were made from clay or dust served this purpose in premodern times before the discovery of evolution.
From it (the earth) We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time.Quran 20:55
So, Adam (AS) was created from earth both physically and aesthetically, physically from dust and aesthetically from the same design as all other creatures of earth.
This proposal deals with proofs 1, 2, 3, and 4 of evolution by stating God wished to make Adam (AS) similar to other humanoids to make it seem he evolved to remind humans that they came from the earth.
This proposal contrasts, if not clashes, with the wisdom that was proposed for the first decision of creating Adam (AS) in the heavens. Adam (AS) being created in the heavens gives him high honors and him being created like the animals on earth brings him down to earth.
One may argue this is an intended contrast in the Quran. Allah says:
We have certainly created man in the best of stature;
Then We return him to the lowest of the low,Quran 95:4-5
Due to this, the disbelievers act like animals (as compared in Quran 7:179 and 25:44) and the believers act like angels, each following one of the aspects of human creation.
Question: How can the purpose be to remind them of their return to earth when most people do not derive that lesson from it and instead disbelieve in God because of it?
Answer: It is not necessary for everyone to derive the lesson for it to be a real wisdom behind Allah’s decision. It is enough that some sincere people derive that lesson. Also see proposal 5.
Proposal 2: Default
This proposal argues that Adam (AS) looks as if he evolved because that’s how all creatures on earth look. If Adam (AS) had been created naturally, he would have evolved like all other creatures.
So, just because God chose to create him in a special way to honor him does not entail he should be any different.
Take the staff of Moses as an example. The staff of Moses (AS) turned into a snake. The snake it turned into would by default have the same biology as other snakes in physical features and DNA (if one had tested it) to the point that it would appear as if it were the child of another snake. Snakes look that way by default, so there is no reason a miraculous snake would be any different.
In the same way, these physical features, DNA, and even the concept of being evolved apply to all animals. A miraculously created animal has no reason to be different, and in fact, a perfect designer would wish to create it matching the design of everything else.
Adam (AS) is also described as the khalifah or caretaker of earth. Perhaps it is perfection of design to design the caretaker of earth to fit with the pattern of the rest of the creatures of earth.
So, one should imagine evolution as the “original” method of human creation and the story of Adam (AS) only as divine intervention for honor.
This proposal deals with proof 2 of evolution directly by arguing that the similarities are simply the default way animals look.
As for proof 1, 3, and 4, this proposal has a more difficult time explaining them. But, it is possible to say “appearing evolved” itself is the default state of animals on earth which a perfect designer would wish to include in Adam (AS).
Proposal 3: Carving Earth
This proposal argues that God created animals through evolution and also created humanoid creatures before Adam (AS) to carve the ecosystem of earth with His perfect design to be ready for Adam (AS) and his descendants.
This proposal explains both proofs 1 and 2 directly by attributing the existence of previous similar humanoid species to the process of God molding earth’s environment for humans.
The effectiveness of the proposal depends on exactly what time Adam (AS) was sent down to earth and how widespread humanoid creatures were at the time.
If Adam (AS) was sent before humanoid creatures even left Africa, the proposal does not seem convincing since it would mean only Africa was molded for humans.
If humanoid creatures were all over earth when Adam (AS) was sent, then this proposal may be convincing. It would require investigation of how humanoid creatures affected their environment and whether that helped the descendants of Adam (AS).
Finally, this proposal has a difficult time explaining proofs 3 and 4 short of denying they exist.
Proposal 4: Alternative Being a Giveaway
This proposal argues that creating Adam (AS) to look as if he evolved was necessary to avoid a complete giveaway of God’s existence.
If humans were completely different from the rest of earth’s creatures and showed zero signs of evolution, the scientific observation would at some point essentially be forced to conclude the existence of divine intervention that placed humans on earth.
This proposal argues God does not wish to completely force acceptance of either religion or His existence. He usually wishes to give evidence that requires contemplation and sincerity to accept and not evidence that forces acceptance.
It is also possible to argue that when God does give evidence that is a giveaway, rejection of that evidence leads to divine punishment in the world.
The non-evolution of Adam (AS) paired with the evolution of every other creature on earth would be such clear evidence of God and religion that the people who inevitably reject it would need to be punished according to God’s practice.
However, God did not wish to punish people in the community of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW). So, He proactively created Adam (AS) to seem evolved knowing that evolution in general would be discovered in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s community.
This would also conveniently explain why God created other animals through evolution (and in fact everything in the universe through natural processes) rather than a direct divine act.
This proposal explains all the proofs directly.
Question: Isn’t God intentionally acting to obscure the proof of His existence deception?
Answer: Glory is to Allah who is far above that. True deception should be understood as someone who hides evidence so people cannot access the truth.
This act is not deception since the purpose is not to hide evidence to hide the truth. The purpose is to hide an exceptionally powerful or strong evidence because God intends for people to find the truth through evidence which is also effective but requires more sincerity and contemplation.
This choice of God would not be unique either. He does something similar all the time when He hides angels from our view even though they are all around us.
This world is a test to separate the sincere from the insincere. A test, by definition, requires some lack of access to the answer key, and the exact extent is decided by God in His complete wisdom.
Question: If allowing people to believe humans were especially created is bad, why did God allow that before the discovery of evolution?
Answer: The absence of proof is not the same as proof of absence. In premodern times before the discovery of evolution, people simply lacked proof of any natural cause for humans and animals. That does not force acceptance of a divine cause.
On the other hand, if there were no evidence of human evolution today while there is extensive evidence for the evolution of other animals, that would be all but direct proof of the absence of human evolution and the existence of a divine cause.
Proposal 5: Test
This proposal argues that God made evolution appear true and informed us Adam (AS) was not created through it to test people.
In essence, from the observational evidence, it is possible for Adam (AS) to have been created divinely but simply not the obvious conclusion, so whether or not people accept the story of Adam (AS) shows how much certainty and faith they truly have in Islam.
Islam is a religion proven by highly certain evidence that trumps any assumptive evidence for evolution, so a believer is expected to accept revelation even if it seems to go against the scientific conclusion.
Allah testing people through the Quran is not new. It is mentioned in several verses.
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,
Who break the covenant of Allah after contracting it and sever that which Allah has ordered to be joined and cause corruption on earth. It is those who are the losers.Quran 2:26-27
And Allah says:
Over it (Hell) are nineteen [angels].
And We have not made the keepers of the Fire except angels. And We have not made their number except as a trial for those who disbelieve – that those who were given the Scripture will be convinced and those who have believed will increase in faith and those who were given the Scripture and the believers will not doubt and that those in whose hearts is hypocrisy and the disbelievers will say, “What does Allah intend by this as an example?” Thus does Allah leave astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And none knows the soldiers of your Lord except Him. And mention of the Fire is not but a reminder to humanity.Quran 74:30-31
This proposal argues the question of “Why would God make evolution seem like if it happened?” is reminiscent of questions the people of the past asked like “Why would Allah have nineteen angels?” or “Why would Allah mention mosquitos?”
All of these are futile attempts to understand the intention and wisdom of God, and they resort to our lack of understanding as a justification to dismiss revelation altogether. This is despite the ample evidence available for us to unconditionally embrace revelation.
Allah uses this to guide some people, namely the sincere believers, and misguide other people, namely those who have a disease in their hearts.
This proposal explains all the proofs directly.
Question: Isn’t this an unjustly difficult test considering how strong the evidence for evolution is?
Answer: The fossil record has real constraints, and ultimately cannot fill every gap in history if only due to practical reasons. As for proofs 2, 3, and 4, they are simply God’s choice in creating Adam (AS). None of these lead to enough evidence that justifies rejecting revelation except for those who have a disease in their hearts.
Perhaps it can be compared to how the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was taken from Makkah to Jerusalem in one night. When the disbelievers heard of this, they made fun of it. Some of them came to Abu Bakr and asked him if he really believed in such a preposterous claim by the Prophet (SAW). Abu Bakr (RA) responded: “By Allah, he told me that revelation comes to him from the sky to earth in an hour of the night or day, and I believed in him. That is more astonishing than what you are surprised by.”