The first theory of evolution is 600 years older than Darwin


A cartoon to suggest evolution in the apes. The Muslim Times has the best collection to support guided evolution both for our biophylic universe and life on our planet earth

Source: The Vintage News

Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī
Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī was a Persian polymath and prolific writer: An architect, astronomer, biologist, chemist, mathematician, philosopher, physician, physicist, scientist, theologian and Marja Taqleed. He was of the Ismaili, and subsequently Twelver Shī‘ah, Islamic belief. The Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) considered Tusi to be the greatest of the later Persian scholars.

Tusi has about 150 works, of which 25 are in Persian and the remaining are in Arabic, and there is one treatise in Persian, Arabic and Turkish.

During his stay in Nishapur, Tusi established a reputation as an exceptional scholar. Tusi’s prose writings represent one of the largest collections by a single Islamic author. Writing in both Arabic and Persian, Nasir al-Din Tusi dealt with both religious (“Islamic”) topics and non-religious or secular subjects (“the ancient sciences”). His works include the definitive Arabic versions of the works of Euclid, Archimedes, Ptolemy, Autolycus, and Theodosius of Bithynia.

A Treatise on Astrolabe by Tusi, Isfahan 1505. By Danieliness at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0,
A Treatise on Astrolabe by Tusi, Isfahan 1505. Source by Danieliness 

In his Akhlaq-i-Nasri, Tusi put forward a basic theory of the evolution of species almost 600 years before Charles Darwin was born. He begins his theory of evolution with the universe once consisting of equal and similar elements. According to Tusi, internal contradictions began appearing, and as a result, some substances began developing faster and differently from other substances. He then explains how the elements evolved into minerals, then plants, then animals, and then humans. Tusi then goes on to explain how hereditary variability was an important factor for biological evolution of living things:

The organisms that can gain the new features faster are more variable. As a result, they gain advantages over other creatures. […] The bodies are changing as a result of the internal and external interactions.

Tusi discusses how organisms are able to adapt to their environments:

Look at the world of animals and birds. They have all that is necessary for defense, protection and daily life, including strengths, courage and appropriate tools [organs] […] Some of these organs are real weapons, […] For example, horns-spear, teeth and claws-knife and needle, feet and hoofs-cudgel. The thorns and needles of some animals are similar to arrows. […] Animals that have no other means of defense (as the gazelle and fox) protect themselves with the help of flight and cunning. […] Some of them, for example, bees, ants and some bird species, have united in communities in order to protect themselves and help each other.


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Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians

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  1. Kitab al-Hayawan (Book of the Animals) by Al Jahiz, one of earliest mentions of evolution in the Islamic literature

    The al-Hayawan is an encyclopedia of seven volume of anecdotes, poetic descriptions and proverbs describing over 350 varieties of animals. The work was considered by the 11th-century Muslim scholar Al-Khatib al-Baghdadi to be “little more than a plagiarism” of Aristotle’s Kitāb al-Hayawān, a charge that was once levelled against Aristotle himself with regard to a certain “Asclepiades of Pergamum”.[5] Later scholars have noted that there was only a limited Aristotelian influence in al-Jāḥiẓ’s work, and that al-Baghdadi may have been unacquainted with Aristotle’s work.[6]

    Conway Zirkle, writing about the history of natural selection science in 1941, said that an excerpt from this work was the only relevant passage he had found from an Arabian scholar. He provided a quotation describing the struggle for existence, citing a Spanish translation of this work: “The rat goes out for its food, and is clever in getting it, for it eats all animals inferior to it in strength”, and in turn, it “has to avoid snakes and birds and serpents of prey, who look for it in order to devour it” and are stronger than the rat. Mosquitos “know instinctively that blood is the thing which makes them live” and when they see an animal, “they know that the skin has been fashioned to serve them as food”. In turn, flies hunt the mosquito “which is the food that they like best”, and predators eat the flies. “All animals, in short, can not exist without food, neither can the hunting animal escape being hunted in his turn. Every weak animal devours those weaker than itself. Strong animals cannot escape being devoured by other animals stronger than they. And in this respect, men do not differ from animals, some with respect to others, although they do not arrive at the same extremes. In short, God has disposed some human beings as a cause of life for others, and likewise, he has disposed the latter as a cause of the death of the former Evolution

    After a long study of animals, Al-Jahiz was the first to put forward his view of biological evolution in his Book ofAnimals, which contains the germs of many later evolutionary theories (animal embryology, evolution, adaptation, animal psychology and sociology) “3.1”. First of all, al-Jahiz’s attempts were made in a truly scientific spirit to classifV animals in a linear series, beginning with the simplest and continuing to the most complex; and at the same time, he arranged them into groups having marked similarities; and these groups were divided into sub-groups to trace the ultimate unit in the species “3.2” An early exponent of the zoological and anthropological sciences, al- Jahiz discovered and recognized the effect of environmental factors on animal life; and he also observed the transformation of animal species under different factors. And in many remarkable passages of his book, he also described for us the struggle of existences for survival, its aim and mechanisms and value in a scientific way, as well as in a folkloric way. As to know the mechanistiis of evolution, al-Jahiz described three mechanisms. These are Struggle for Existence, Transformation of species into each other, and Environmental Factors. Let us now see the mechanisms, as briefly as possible. Struggle for Existence: al-Jahiz placed the greatest weight on evolution by the struggle for existence, or, in a larger sense, by natural selection. It operates in conjunction with the innate desire for conservation and permanence of the ego. According to al-Jahiz, between every individual existence, there is a natural war for life. The existence are in struggle with each other. Al-Jahiz’s theory of struggle for existence may accordingly be defined as a differential death rate between two variant class of existence, the lesser death rate characterizing the better adapted and stronger class. And for al-Jahiz, the struggle for existence is a divine law; God makes food for some bodies out of some other bodies’ death. He says, “The rat goes out for collecting his food, and it searches and seizes them. It eats some other inferior animals, like small animals and small birds. . . it hides its babies in disguised underground tunnels for protecting them and himself against the attack of the snakes and of the birds. Snakes like eating rats very much. As for the snakes, they defend themselves from the danger of the beavers and hyenas; which are more powerful than themselves. The hyena can frighten the fox, and the latter frightens all the animals which are inferior to it. …

    this is the law that some existences are the food for others. . . . All small animals eat smaller ones; and all big animals cannot eat bigger ones. Men with each other are like animals. . . God makes cause of some bodies life, “ “3.3” from some bodies death and vice versa. And according to al-Jahiz, the struggle does not exist only between the members of different species, but also between the members of the same species “3.4”. From what al-Jahiz has said, we can make an assertion that God has created Nature in a prodigal reproductive character and He has also established a law, which is the biological struggle for existence in order to keep it within a limited ratio. Otherwise, the disorder could appear in Nature and it could lose some of its riches and species. We can see the germs of Darwin’s and the Neo-Darwinian’s theory of Natural Selection in this remarkable passage which we have mentioned above. Transformation of Species: Al-Jahiz, as later Lamarck and Darwin, for example, believes that the transformation of species and mutation is possible. The transformation operates in conjunction with the effect of environmental factors. And he asserted that the original forms branched out into new forms of species by gradually developing new characteristics which helped them to survive environmental conditions. He says, “People said different things about the existence of al-miskh (the original form of quadrupeds) “3.5”. Some accepted its evolution and said that it gave existence to dog, wolf, fox and their similars. The members of this family came from this form (al-miskk).” “3.6” And, he adds that God’s will and power is the main causal factor in the transformation, and God can transform any species into another at any time He wants. So al-Jahiz defends the transformation of species and mutation, due to different factors, including God’s will’7, as we have said above. Here al-Jahiz got some of his material from the sayings of different learned men. As for the effect of environmental factors on species, al-Jahiz believes that the food, climate, shelter and other factors have some biological and psychological effects on species. And for him, these factors also lead the species to a hard struggle for survival. In a changed environment, there is also a change in some characters having survival value. The process of changing characters in succeeding generations makes the organisms better adapted to their environment. They thus survive and get a chance to breed and transmit their characteristics to their offspring. So, al-Jahiz based his theory upon the notion of the use and disuse of organs in the adaptation of animals to their environment. Al-Jahiz says, “Without doubt, we have seen that some Nabatheen navigators resembled the ape in some geographical environment, likely we have also seen some people from Morocco and have found them as like as al-maskh “3.8”, except for a little difference…. And it is possible that the polluted air and water, and dust made this change in the character of these Moroccans. . . . If this effect goes on more and more in them, those changes in their bristles, ears, colours, and form (similar to the ape) increase more…. “ “3.9” Such are the main mechanisms of al-Jahiz’s biological evolution. Now, I will speak about al-Jahiz’s great influence upon Muslim and European scientists. Al-Jahiz’s zoology and theory of biological evolution have profoundly affected the development of zoology and biology. As we have said before, al-Jahiz’s biological evolution had some direct influences upon Ikhwan al-Safa, and other illustrious philosophers, such as Ibn Miskawayh, al-Biruni, Ibn Tufayl, with whom al-Jahiz’s theory acquired a new sense, in that they made of it two new doctrines: a cosmological one, because it was applied to the phenomena of the whole universe; and a sociological one, because it was applied to social phenomena. Moreover, Ibn Miskawayh and Ibn Khaldun explain the true meaning of Prophecy and prove it by such a theory. Thus, Jahiz’s pure biological evolution became the source of different doctrines in later Islamic thought, such as sociological, metaphysical and cosmological evolutionisms. On the other hand, al-Jahiz’s theory has been repeated by Muslim zoologists and naturalists, especially by al-Zakariyya’ al-Qazwini, in his ‘Aja’ ib al-Makhluqat, Mustawfi al-Qazwini in his Nuzhat al-Qulub, and al- Damiri in his Hayat al-Hayawan, without mentioning other literary persons, such as al-Masudi and Ibn Qutayba. As for the influence of al-Jahiz on European thinkers, it has become the subject of two main studies: “Der Darwinismus im X und XIX Jahrhundert” of Fr. Dieterici (Leipzig, 1878) and “Darwinistisches bei Gahiz” of E. Wiedemann (sitzungsbericht der physikalisch-medizinischen Sozietaet in Erlangen, 47, 1915). Previous to me, they found a great similarity between al-Jahiz and Darwin. Indeed, Darwin and his precursors took up the theory of al-Jahiz as the base for the essentiality of their evolutionary theories, and they formulated it in a more scientific way in the context of eighteenth and nineteenth centuries development of science. Perhaps the only main difference b~etween al-Jahiz’s theory and modern theory is in ideology: al-Jahiz’s theory is theologic and more transcendental in this sense that he accepts that the first cause of evolution in living organisms is God and that the other factors are secondary; while Lamarck, Darwin and others’ evolution is more immanent and materialistic. Although the mechanistic explanations of the theories are more or less the same, Darwin and other modern scientists differ from al-Jahiz and other Muslim writers in ideological interpretation of the theory. How has Jahiz’s idea been transmitted to the Europeans? Al-Jahiz and other evolutionist Muslim thinkers influenced Darwin and his predecessors in several ways. Before the flourishing of C. Linnaeus (1707-1778), Buffon (1707-1788), E. Darwin (1731-1802),J. B. Lamarck (1744-1829), and Ch. Darwin (1809-1882), and long before the rise of the school of Natural Philosophy in Germany, al-Jahiz and others were known to Europeans through the translation of their own works and studies on them by Europeans. For example, al-Damiri’s book Hayat al-Hayawan was partially translated into Latin by a Jew, called Abraham Echellensis (d. Italy 1664) and published in Paris in 1617. This book contains many passages taken from al-Jahiz’s Kitab al-Hayawan. Al-Nuwayri’s JVihaya was studied by D’Herbelot (1625—1695) in his Bibliotheca Orientalis, and later byJ. Heyman (?—1737). Ibn Tufayl’s Hay Ibn raqzan, which contains the philosophy of evolution, was first published by Edward Pocockes, Sr. (1604-1690), together with a Latin translation published by Edward ~Pococke, Jr. (1648-1727) in Oxford in 1671 (second edition, Oxford, 1700) “3.10”. Zakariyya’ al-Qazwini’s cosmography, ‘Aja’ ib al-Makhluqat was published by F. Wustenfeld in 2 volumes in Gottingen in 1848-49; and Kitab Talkhis al-A thar of Bakuwi, a summary of al-Qazwini’s book was translated into French and published by De Guignes in Paris, in 1789 “3.11”. In fact, his book also contains many ideas from al-Jahiz. And A. L. de Chezy translated al-Qazwini’ s ‘Aja’ib, and his translation was published in 1806 (first publication) by S. de Sacy, in his Chresiomathie A rabe. There is no doubt that the great evolutionist sufi, Mawlana, had already influenced Goethe, who called him “a Darwinian before Darwin” “3.12” his theory of metamorphosis has profbundly affected the development of biology. In any case, Islamic zoology penetrated the West as early as the seventeenth century “3.13”. Some Europeans knew Arabic and they could read directly from the Muslim scientists’ books; for example, Darwin was himself initiated into Islamic culture in Cambridge under ajewish orientalist called Samuel Lee “3.14”. We think that what we have said can show Muslim influence upon Europeans. Some further comparative study can be undertaken in this subject, in order to bring to light the influence of Muslim evolutionist thinkers upon the Europeans and the transmission of their ideas to the West. Al-Jahiz’s theory of evolution was something very new in the history of science, and there was nothing written previous to it. Although Greek philosophers like Empedocles and Aristotle spoke of the change in Nature, in plants and animals, they never made the first steps on the field of the future theory of evolution of the Muslims. Their concept of change was only a concept of simple change and motion, nothing more than that. And by the concept of change, they never designed explicitly or implicitly a concept of evolution: “The World of Nature is thus for Aristotle, a world of self-moving thing, as it is for the Ionians and for Plato. . .. Nature as such is process, growth, change. This process is a development, i.e. the changing takes successive forms, a, b, y, . . . in which each is the potentiality of its successor, but it is not what we call ‘evolution’, because for Aristotle, the kinds of change and of structure exhibited in the world of nature form an eternal repertory, and the items in the repertory are related logically, not temporally, among themselves”3.15″”. .”[7]

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