Muslim thought on evolution takes a step forward


A high-quality debate of a sensitive topic did not disappoint, as all panellists bar one accepted the scientific consensus

An imam of an east London mosque, Usama Hasan, received a death threat for arguing in support of human evolution two years ago. On Saturday, London played host to a riveting intrafaith dialogue on Islam’s stance on the theory of evolution. The east London imam was one of the speakers – but this time there were others who shared his viewpoint.

The event, organised by the Deen Institute, was titled Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution? The speakers included an evolutionary biologist, a biological anthropologist, two theologians and a bona fide creationist.

It lasted seven hours, yet almost everyone stayed till the end. There were more than 850 people in the audience and even though the topic was sensitive and controversial, there was no heckling or disruption. At least from my limited interactions, it seemed that the audience was comprised mostly of young professionals. Most had no strong opinion, but their interest was evident as they were willing to spend their entire Saturday hearing about Muslim positions on evolution.

They were not disappointed.

Conversations at events such as these are often derailed by the unscientific rhetoric and common misconceptions of creationists. The success of this event related to the fact that all panellists, with the exception of a creationist, more or less accepted the scientific consensus on evolution. This allowed the discussion to centre on the question: can Muslims reconcile human evolution with their faith?

I think it is important for Muslims (and non-Muslims) to know that there are Muslim scientists who not only understand evolution, but have also thought about its implications for their own personal religious beliefs. Ehab Abouheif is an evolutionary biologist who holds the Canada research chair at McGill University and works on ant evolution. He laid out the scientific case for biological evolution and spoke about the need for Muslims to understand this bedrock principle of modern biology. He used the example of his own personal faith to counter the misconception that one cannot reconcile evolution with Islam.

Written By: Salman Hameed
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  1. I’ll reserve judgement until I myself watch the video of this event (“Video Coming Soon”, according to the link provided in the OP.)

  2. These educated Muslims are taking a risk ; since ill educated Fundamentalist Musloids may attempt to kill them ( imaginary Allah’s will).

  3. Frustratingly, I can’t read the full article since it might cause my machine to run slowly or become unresponsive, so like at least one other, I reserve judgement on this and await the video with keen interest.

    I don’t want to sound patronizing, but I suppose these facts might be sinking in osmotically among educated Muslims, but the dissemination of them will be a much harder row to hoe I think, certainly according to one Evolutionary Biologist I know of.

    And to think that all this nonsense is occurring in the country of Darwin’s birth.

  4. Had this discussion been conducted in an Islamic country it would have more credibility; can’t see that happening any time soon. So ironic this happened immediately after- “Turkey’s science state council halts publication of evolution book”

    As was pointed out the majority of attendees were young educated Muslims, who are not the problem nor representative of mainstream Islam. For all that it was still a positive move towards sanity in Islam.

  5. Emotional evolution takes time to evolve and is not uniform,it is almost stagnant with muslim’s as they are told how to think like robots,stuck with what they have been programed with.perhapspeace.

  6. He used the example of his own personal faith to counter the misconception that one cannot reconcile evolution with Islam.

    I really am torn by this article?

    On the one hand I feel pleased that we have Muslims talking about evolution – this has to be a step in the right direction – and on the other we have comments such as the above which I instantly translate to:

    He used the example of his own personal faith to counter‘…the misconception that one cannot reconcile ‘Science’ with ‘Magic’.

    Surely understanding evolution leads to understanding geology and geological time and planet formation and stellar condensation and nucleosynthesis of elements in stars and observed increase in electromagnetic wavelength and background microwave radiation seen in an expanding universe leading back to an infinitely hot dense point at T=0?

    Where does this reconcile with Allah flying Mohammed up to heaven on a one-legged horse?

    Or that putting the pee pee thing in the poo poo thing is punishable by death?

    Or that women are the belongings of men?

    Then again, it’s a start, isn’t it?


  7. I can also say to these Muslims: allow not only your science, but also your faith to evolve. Let neither become stagnant and you will see that in the long run they merge.

  8. I’ve always wondered how people define “Muslim”. Sometimes, it’s enough to tell people that you’re from the Middle East for them to assume that you’re Muslim. Some Middle Easterners just call themselves muslims, but there is absolutely nothing indicative of muslimness about them. To what extent do you need to be muslim in order to be able to consider yourself Muslim? What’s the minimum degree of absorption and saturation? You can’t just throw these labels around like this… The same applies to Christians and people representing other faiths.

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