Evolution and Creationism in the Islamic world

In the Muslim world Islam and modern science are often seen as compatible. It is common for people to cite verses in the Qur’an or the achievements of medieval Muslim philosophers to support this view. Furthermore, there is widespread recognition that science (usually in its applied form) is essential for progress. In fact the dominant narrative in the Muslim world sees Islam as a rational religion in harmony with modern science. At the same time many Muslims see the theory of biological evolution as a challenge to the Islamic account of creation. Thus, when a well-established scientific idea, such as biological evolution, clashes with the religious beliefs of many Muslims, we find complex reactions, ranging from selectively rejecting the relevant science to ignoring the troublesome idea, without harming the outwardly harmonious framework.

It is quite possible, nonetheless, that the Muslim world will become the focal point of evolution–creation controversies in the coming years. Low educational standards in combination with widespread misinformation about evolutionary ideas make many countries in the Muslim world fertile ground for anti-evolutionary movements. In addition there already exists a growing and highly influential Islamic creationist movement, which made headlines in Europe in 2007 when French public schools received an unsolicited gift of an 850-page colour Atlas of creation, produced by a Muslim creationist from Turkey known by the name of Harun Yahya.

Biological evolution, however, is still a relatively new concept for the majority of Muslims, and a serious debate over its compatibility with religion has not yet taken place.

Hameed, S. 2010, Science & Religion: New Historical Perspectives, Edited by Thomas Dixon, Stephen Pumfrey, Geoffrey Cantor (Cambridge University Press)

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