Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Allah has advised us to read the Quran on a daily basis. (Al Quran 17:78/79) This is not merely a ritual to define sacred in our lives, but, also to give us new ideas and epiphanies as we go through the text with our ever changing state of mind.
This is what indeed happened for me today. I have read the following verse before, several times, but, today it dawned on me with much greater significance and clarity.
وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنشَأَكُم مِّن نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ فَمُسْتَقَرٌّ وَمُسْتَوْدَعٌ ۗ قَدْ فَصَّلْنَا الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَفْقَهُونَ
The translation here is from translation by Muhammad Abdel Haleem, whose translation has been published by Oxford University press:
It is He who first produced you from a single soul, then gave you a place to stay [in life] and a resting place [after death]. We have made Our revelations clear to those who understand. (Al Quran 6:98/99)
I have confirmed the most relevant part of this translation, ‘a single soul,’ in 54 different English translations of this verse, 53 of these in the following site, IslamAwakened. The 54th translation is by Sir Muhammad Zafrulla, which I use most often, but, is not listed in the site, with the 53 different translations.
نَّفْسٍ وَاحِدَةٍ or one living soul can be interpreted in only two possible ways. Either as prophet Adam as the creationists will have or the very first unicellular organism some 3.5 billion years ago, as the evolutionists will have it.
If one believes that it means the prophet Adam as the first man, it not only implies that God created him from a statue of mud, but also that He created grandmother Eve from Adam’s rib, making her a twin sister for Adam. All these are irrationalities not only in terms of science and biology, but also theology and whatever we hold sacred in human relations and marriage.
I will go with the evolution story any day of the week with full confidence, what would you do?
No where does the Quran say that Allah created mankind from Adam and Eve. In fact the name Eve is not mentioned in the Quran. But, there are at least three other occasions where the Quran highlights that Allah created us from a single soul. See 31:28/29 and the article: Biology of Our Human Family: Who are We Related To?
The holy Quran does however say:
O mankind, We have created you from a male and a female; and We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes that you may recognize one another. Indeed, the most honorable among you, in the sight of Allah, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, Allah is All-knowing, All-Aware. (49:13/14)
This, however could mean a stage in evolution, when reproduction changed from asexual to sexual, for Allah could choose to say Adam and Eve, but didn’t.
The verse under discussion in this article is from Surah An’am and this surah does not mention the prophet Adam at all even though 18 other prophets are mentioned by names and even different categories of cattle are mentioned in this surah. Additionally, the context of this verse is the creation of our solar system and plant kingdom, perhaps a subtle reference to the stages of creation through gradual evolution:
Surely, it is Allah Who causes the grain and the date-stones to sprout. He brings forth the living from the dead and it is He Who brings forth the dead from the living. That is your Allah; wherefore, then are you turned back? He causes the break of day, and has made the night for rest and the sun and the moon the means for reckoning time. That is the measure determined by the Mighty, the All-Knowing. He it is Who has made for you the stars, that you may follow the right direction in the darknesses of the land and sea. We have expounded the Signs in detail for a people who possess knowledge. It is He who first produced you from a single soul, then gave you a place to stay [in life] and a resting place [after death]. We have made Our revelations clear to those who understand. (6:95/96-98/99)
Please pick up your copy of the Quran and also read the verses that follow and then the whole of the surah to confirm that there is no mention of the prophet Adam by name in this surah, even though he is mentioned several times in other parts of the Quran. Therefore, ‘the single soul,’ in the verse under discussion means the very first unicellular organism.
Best wishes to my readers until we meet again regarding some other aspect of biological evolution.
Suggested reading and viewing
TheQuran.Love: Surah Baqara (The Cow): Section 4: Adam and Eve