Debate: Is it time for all religions to accept evolution?

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD

First something about the big picture, Christian apologists want to make a case for Christianity based on laws of nature and science, by showing that there ought to be a Transcendent Creator of our universe.  They make this case, in one breath, and in the very next, deny all of science, by insisting on Eucharist, man-God of Jesus, who is not Transcendent, resurrection and miracles that violate laws of nature.

Atheists are right in exposing the irrationality of the Christian dogma. However, the Christians are right in as far as their claim that there needs to be a Creator of this universe, Who employed natural means to do His work. However, both parties in their self-conceit are not listening to how Islam resolves their conflict; Islam as understood by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.

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Darwinian Evolution: Islam or Christianity?

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Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.[1]

Life on Earth originated and then evolved from a universal common ancestor approximately 3.8 billion years ago. Repeated speciation and the divergence of life can be inferred from shared sets of biochemical and morphological traits, or by shared DNA sequences.[2] These homologous traits and sequences are more similar among species that share a more recent common ancestor, and can be used to reconstruct evolutionary histories, using both existing species and the fossil record. Existing patterns of biodiversity have been shaped both by speciation and by extinction.[3]

Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace were the first to formulate a scientific argument for the theory of evolution by means of natural selection. Evolution by natural selection is a process that is inferred from three facts about populations: 1) more offspring are produced than can possibly survive, 2) traits vary among individuals, leading to different rates of survival and reproduction, and 3) trait differences are heritable.[4] Thus, when members of a population die they are replaced by the progeny of parents that were better adapted to survive and reproduce in the environment in which natural selection took place. This process creates and preserves traits that are seemingly fitted for the functional roles they perform.[5] Natural selection is the only known cause of adaptation, but not the only known cause of evolution. Other, nonadaptive causes of evolution include mutation and genetic drift.[6]

In the early 20th century, genetics was integrated with Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection through the discipline of population genetics. The importance of natural selection as a cause of evolution was accepted into other branches of biology. Moreover, previously held notions about evolution, such as orthogenesis and “progress” became obsolete.[7] Scientists continue to study various aspects of evolution by forming and testing hypotheses, constructing scientific theories, using observational data, and performing experiments in both the field and the laboratory. Biologists agree that descent with modification is one of the most reliably established facts in science.[8] Discoveries in evolutionary biology have made a significant impact not just within the traditional branches of biology, but also in other academic disciplines (e.g., anthropology and psychology) and on society at large.[9][10]

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    But alas, the Islamic scholars and logicians completely lost sight of unity of action. They rendered explanations of this unique book in whatever way was possible for them with their scanty temporary and localized knowledge. By a matter of religious faith, their individual commentaries as definite and conclusive they lined up people behind them, and by becoming sectarian through mutual conflict and bigotry they pushed away from the eyes the reality of the Divine Message. They have not, till today, evolved any common scientific principles for commentary on the Word of God; they have not established any common basis for its discussion; they have not determined any correct and evolving spectrum In the immense wonderland of the Divine Word; no harmony or consistency, no conclusive argument and basis have been put forth. It is for this reason that Quran’s true knowledge and its supreme wisdom have mostly remained hidden from the eyes; the message originally given by it has been forgotten; it has itself been rendered a totally meaningless thing worth no attention. Its words no longer inspire people; they experience no incitement from its commandments, they are not moved by its wisdom. The hidden truth, whose concealment and attractiveness itself were enough to invoke till eternity a whole world to embark on its continuous research, has today become stale and ineffectual. The Divine verses, the quest for whose meanings in itself constituted a continuing inducement for the organ of peace and pleasure of this world of action to play louder, have today become a nucleus of stagnation and oblivion, sectarianism and imbecility through man’s arrogance and ignorance, inattention and indifference. The rust of false convictions and distortions is eating into whatever power is left with the Ummah. The commentators and religious scholars have bequeathed to posterity structures of their own separate and petty convictions. Everybody is thus clinging to his own ‘idol’ and idling away his time, and quivering like the dying flame of morning candle is providing superficial evidence of his existence.

    In my view the commentator of a law is duty-bound to demonstrate that all its clauses collectively converge to one objective, one supreme purpose; he should, with the system of administration In view, explain the real motives of the clauses; by determining correct meaning of each clause he should try to explain the system itself. The purpose of each directive and each prohibitive order should be shown as aiming at the collective and individual security of the people; the consequences of disregard should be clear; the reward of obedience should be obvious; the administration’s power should be fully evident; retribution and punishment should be seen as actually happening. In fact, it should be demonstrated by the commentator of the law that underneath the basic policy of do’s and don’ts lie a living justice and equity, a faith inspiring logic, an irrefutable reason, a dominant cause and an Invigorating know/edge which inevitably cause among its followers the birth of a world-wide stir and a longing for action. They should witness in that logical and stable, powerful and just administration an abiding link between reason and retribution, cause and effect, basis and outcome, and adopt willingly or unwillingly this cause and effect relationship as their course of conduct. I believe that the Prophets manifested the Law of Nature to their people exactly in this manner; this is why their performance was unparalleled and this really is the first and the last stage of Faith. A commentary which fails to project the Ouran in this form is a body without soul whose existence or non-existence makes no difference. And the Faith which is not raised to the level of a visual belief is a lifeless structure whose futility in the world is obvious. The highest authority in the tiny administration of human body is held by brain; the information of what other organs do or feel reaches it first. This authoritative organ analyses them, declares them right or wrong, and sends them reinforcements of hopes or frustrations. It is this SUPREME ADMINISTRATOR on whose directive move and operate all other organs. Unless a thing is approved by the brain, it is impossible for the other organs to struggle for it, or form it the basis of their action. Therefore, any explanation of the Ouran which fails to enlist the support of brain, or to Invoke the backing of the understanding heart, cannot generate in any person an upsurge of action and effort, or a world-wide glow of faith. This Is why in spite of consistent efforts to explain and’ elucidate the Ouran, ever since the advent of Islam, no commentary has been able to generate even a millionth part of the faith, the mass agitating belief, and the breath-taking action which were created by the Last Prophet (PBUH) through 23 years of his face-to-face Interpretation, and regeneration of which, from practical point of view, Is today considered among the impossibilities. Nay, this is manifest that none of the thousands of commentary writers could convince even a single individual’s brain in such a way as to Impel! that chief of the organs to straightway put the other organs into action for at least one generation. The question posed by every great scholar, after reading all that It contained, was’ like the famous story of Zulekhan and Yusef –whether Zulekhan was a male or a female. What Is the end product of the Quranlc teachings? What Is recorded therein? What directive has God Almighty given In a few words? What is It which in a few years’ time had released such a torrent of velour and action in the entire Arab people? Where Is that thing which had ignited such a fire in the hearts of the small and the big, the Ignorant and the wise, the leader and the led, the poor and the rich, which for ages remained extinguished and for centuries sustained in the .actions and activities, habits and character, conduct and relationship of a whole Ummah such a volcanic upsurge as every eye longs to see again? If today anybody in quest of truth diverts his attention to any commentary with the hope of rekindling his flame, on the very first page he finds such a shamefaced collection of human falsifications and misstatements, fictional narrations and concealment of reality, irrelevances and disjointedness, that the very soul trembles at the sight of that slaughterhouse of intelligence and wisdom Somewhere are found complete articles on grammar and syntax somewhere are detailed discussions where to put and where not to put vowels; at places are found lengthy comments on forms of expressions; somewhere are darkening debates of conjecture and speculation; somewhere is the disjointed song of haddasnaand qat, somewhere are clustered supposed and unauthorised tales; somewhere Is stretched disharmony for miles on. Every verse has been rendered out of context, disconnected from the theme, split internally, and made meaningless and inconclusive externally. Where harmony is quite obvious, there exists a childish display; where exist the wide gulf of irrelevance and the .need for reflection and knowledge, all that is found is silence of stupidity. Neither, Is there any concern with the principle of meaning, nor is an eye on the conclusions; neither is quest of knowledge, nor search for wisdom. It appears that in spite of the .sky-reaching highway of Divine Logic, the commentator has lost the way on account of entanglements and intricacies of his own side lanes: he fails to see the forest because of overgrowth, as does the bee. He drags himself Into thorny bushes, and while disentangling at every step his garments from the thorns, he loses the covered way also, and when at last by looking back he finds no opening he moves on aimlessly, and keeps on pushing himself in wilderness. No commentator has realized that a person who reads a commentary has his main aim to understand the reality of the Divine Message; this alone is the purpose of his engagement in reading such a voluminous book; for this reason has he left a ‘brief’ and ‘profound’ document, and diverted his attention to what he thinks to be an easy and detailed book. And precisely for this reason, and in spite of all the explanations which the commentator has piled up in praise of the Divine Word, the reader’s aim is the same–what is the substance of the Ouran; what, in a few words, is recorded in it; what, in a few sentences, are the principles which are to be acted upon; what Divine Wisdom is contained in them; where is their constitutional certification; why is it zlkarullila/ameen, why hudamwarahma. These are precisely the things which are non-existent in every commentary and translation. People read commentaries only with this purpose in view, and then are overwhelmed by frustration. They do not discover in the existing commentaries any firm principle, any formula, any worthwhile conclusion. In short, the study of commentaries or translations of the Quran has for long been such a useless and discordant exercise that Instead of raising the flame of faith sky high, It extinguishes even the small spark which every Muslim possesses as a necessity or as part of his nature. And it has often happened that a man of sense and understanding has become totally averse to Islam after seeing these commentaries and translations, and whatever little longing was pulsating in his mind has been silenced and eventually made extinct.

    A Western critic has given a significant example of these destructive distortions of a mere laudatory approach with reference to numerous extent commentaries on the works of a reputed English poet. He refers to the practice of Roman Catholics how out of devotion they would hang the pictures of their saints in the churches, and then according to their faith in the saints, ignite candles under these pictures to illuminate their faces and make the saints look more glorified. As n”!.lch as the people are devoted to a saint, to the same extent are lighted candles under his picture, and in the same proportion is he considered esteemed. Each devotee lights candles as he is capable of; someone brings a polished lantern of candles, while another carries to the church an old fashioned oil-filled clay lamp, and places it under the picture with extreme reverence. The cumulative effect of this display of devotion is, however, different. The swerving oily soot of the candles blackens the face of the saint; his features are eventually distorted and the oil-blotted soot-laden picture makes the saint look like a frightful ghost. The critic says that thousands of commentaries written by Shakespeare’s admirers to illumine his works, in fact, blacken the real ,Jicture of what he meant. The devotional type of commentators have coined such baseless stories about the meaning of each of his sentences as probably were never thought of by the author. This laudatory speculation about the useless and harmless works of a poet by his devotees may not have had any adverse impression on a single individual; even a handful of his readers may not have been misled by all this falsification by the commentators. But the centuries-long disjointed comments of the Islamic commentators about the Quran, their wild opinion-mongering and conjectures, have caused in the profit-and-Ioss history of a world community such an irreparable loss, such an unparalleled mischief in its attitudes, such death-invoking diseases in its character, and such shameful inadequacies in its efforts and actions, that this soul-killing story and the injurious and stagnating narration of human statements send shivers in one’s body. The enchanting figure of the Quranic objectives has been entirely blackened and not a single feature is visible of its original life-nourishing beauty. The meaning of each verse, sentence, phrase, in fact, at times, also of words and signs has been perverted. The objectives of the message have been distorted; nay, intentions have become perverse, resolutions have changed, hearts and livers have also changed. The dark clouds of wrong conclusions and reckless deviations have covered the meanings with thick layers of black smoke. On those layers has become so old and thick the oil of habit and prejudice after collecting over long periods, that none accepts even the existence of the original picture. Instead ot the life-nourishing, inspiring and captivating figure the world of Islam is trying to put its faith in an oil-blackened frame, and in the absence of awe-inspiring longing for beauty and stagnated by supposition and conjecture, is slowly and slowly being dragged towards defeat and death.

    (17:41) We have explained (things) in various (ways) in the Qur’an, in order that they may receive admonition, but it only increases their flight from the truth.

    Hope the explanations and the thought provoking articles are enough to support Quranic Evolution which is inevitable and refute your premature statements.

    Those who reject and disbelieve say why is not the Quran” revealed to him all at once? Thus (is it revealed), that We may strengthen thy heart thereby, and We have rehearsed it to thee in slow, well arranged stages, gradually. “(25:32)
    [Translated from Urdu, Preface, Tazkirah,by Allama Mashriqi pages 16-61, published in 1924]

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