Human Evolution: A Response to Yasir Qadhi

deafI have just finally got round to watching Yasir Qadhi’s views on human evolution as espoused at the Deen Institute’s conference a couple of weeks ago. I have been sent a number of emails over the past week linking to a video of his speech but they have always come up with a copyright violation message. However, yesterday ‘Uthman posted a link to a Youtube video that contained a watchable video (I don’t know if it will still be up by the time you read this though!).

Anyway, I found the video to be extremely disappointing for the following reasons:

1) Yasir Qadhi made no attempt whatsoever to address the scientific arguments that so strongly point to humans having a common ancestor with apes. At the outset he said he would limit himself to a theological discussion based on Islamic scriptures. Refusing to engage with the science is hardly an approach that is going to inspire much confidence.

2) It was clear that Qadhi is a scriptural literalist when it comes to the story of Adam in the Qur’an. He simply refused to countenance that the story of Adam could be a metaphor for the evolution of free will (and hence a sense of morality) in humankind and that a more symbolic interpretation was valid. That closed mindedness was very worrying. As I have noted previously, senior Muslim scholars such as Professor Muhammad Abdel Haleem and Muhammad Hamidullah have clearly stated that the story of Adam can indeed be interpreted symbolically.

3) Yasir Qadhi denied that the great 14th century Muslim jurist Ibn Khaldun entertained the possibility of evolution. However, as I quoted yesterday, Ibn Khaldun appeared to have done just that and was clearly even willing to support the idea of human evolution. Here is a quote from Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah:

It should be known that we – May God guide you and us – notice that this world with all the created things in it has a certain order and solid construction. It shows nexuses between causes and things caused, combinations of some parts of creation with others, and transformations of some existent things into others, in a pattern that is both remarkable and endless…The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and, in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and to reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of the monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking.

It is worth adding here that Darwin’s theory stands or falls on the evidence behind it. It does not require that any particular Muslim scholar accepts it in order to be true or not. The only reason for quoting Ibn Khaldun is not to show that evolution is true – that should be judged on the facts which really speak for themselves – but to show that Muslim scholars in the past often possessed greater vision and intelligence than those today.

4) Qadhi at the end of his talk appeared to allow for the acceptance of evolution of all beings except for human beings. That is a very unscientific approach. You cannot simply and arbitrarily rule out the evolution of human beings because of your interpretation of religious scriptures. Apart from contradicting fossil and DNA evidence which clearly show that humans have evolved just as all other living organisms, such a worldview would kill scientific research into human origins in Muslim countries. In short, Qadhi is a living example of the huge danger to scientific progress if religious bigots are able to influence the educational curriculum of countries.

To those who may be superficially attracted to Yasir Qadhi’s religious arguments I would simply ask them to compare Qadhi’s talk with the clear sighted and evidence based approach of a scientist like Professor Kenneth Miller. This clip is less than five minutes long:

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25 Responses to Human Evolution: A Response to Yasir Qadhi

  1. Muzaffar hussain says:

    Br inayat I watched big question last Sunday. I respect your views on human evolution although I do not agree with you but I was very disappointed with your remark that Muslims have not progressed in science and technology because they don’t believe in evolution. I find this very absurd. can you explain why do you believe this?

    • I stated on Big Questions that if we wanted to see Muslim countries making economic progress and creating jobs, then in my view they would have to embrace science and technology as there is no greater engine for economic growth today than innovations in science and technology.

      Evolution is the major overarching umbrella theory in biology. Understanding and embracing the theory of evolution is necessary for progress in medicines, drug making, combatting diseases etc.

  2. LibertyPhile says:

    @Muzaffar hussain

    Not to believe the Theory of Evolution on non-scientific grounds (i.e. the Qur’an says something different) suggests a person will not make the best use of science.

    Science requires an open mind. And that isn’t a notable characteristic of those who believe the Qur’an is the perfect unchanging truth for all time.

    What do you think accounts for the fact that Muslim countries have such a pathetic record of producing scientific papers?

  3. Chosen_To_Stay_Anonymous says:

    Kudos to you for trying Inayat, but this is a tough fight you’ve chosen. Muslim’s will never accept what is clearly fact and there are numerous obstacles in your way, primary amongst those are two.

    1. The fundamentally broken way in which Islam is taught to children in the UK (I can only speak for the UK but am sure patterns in other western countries exist – I have completely written off the east at least for the time being)

    2. Secondly the flawed way in which Evolution itself is taught to students having graduated in life sciences. Unbelievably I have met numerous Muslim graduates in Medicine, Pharmacy, Dentistry, Biology, from top red brick universities that have come out of the system not having fully understood evolution and worse still claiming it to be false.

    May Allah forgive our ignorance despite the light he has given us.

    • Yes, I agree: a poor education with respect to evolution is definitely part of the problem. That is why I always encourage people to read some good books by reputable scientists first before making up their minds. Still, I am confident! Light extinguishes darkness etc.

  4. Hameed says:

    Turkey and Malaysia has lowest acceptance of evolution and Pakistan has the highest level of evolution acceptance among academics..
    Now compare these countries in terms of Education,Progress and Modernity….

    Turkey is on the way to become a scientific giant see here…

    Inanyat- Every other day you mock Harun Yahya’s group of undermining evolution and retarding Muslim’s scientific progress…But the statistics says otherwise…

    Your answer please..

    • You have not presented the results of that poll in an honest manner. It was not Pakistan that had a high level of acceptance of evolution (personal experience would tell you otherwise immediately) but Pakistani doctors in the USA (more than 80%) that accepted the theory of evolution.

      The second link you posted says that Turkey increased its investment in science sixfold between 1996 and 2008. That is good news. Hopefully, it should lead to better literacy in terms of evolution in the coming years.Even the USA has a problem with scientifically illiterate creationists so Turkey is by no means alone.

  5. Umer says:

    I agree that Yasir Qadhi failing to address the science means he lacked in his approach. However, he is not a biologist and he was invited to talk about the theological side. My opinion is that someone with a similar view to his own but who approached it from a scientific angle may have filled this void somewhat.

    My own background is Biochemistry (from Usama’s alma mater Imperial College) and Medical Sciences. I agree that an understanding of natural selection is note entirely irrelevent to the practice of medicine (though it is somewhat overstated; I highly doubt creationists make any less competent doctors than evolutionists).

    Despite my double science background I concede to not knowing all the facts about evolution, and it amuses me that many people can be so arrogant as to appear absolutely confident in the strength of evolution as a theory (in scientific terms, it is a theory). From the angle that we trust scientific consensus on a multitude on issues, I agree that that is the case. However, it is fallacious to use that as an argument against creationists, since evolution – rightly or wrongly – has been used to sideline religion and continues to be used by the secular community today to disprove or downplay God. In the light of this one can reasonably cite a conflict of interests, especially since historically scientific thought has always been influenced to some degree by the prevailing philosophies, ideologies and cultural norms. To deny that this we in the contemporary age are immune from that seems quite irrational and arrogant.

    Personally I’m quite convinced that evolution through natural selection has occurred and does occur. Antibiotics is a prime example because it is quite simply one of the most easily demonstrable cases. It’s happening in front of our eyes. However, even if we were to accept that this is possible – and even that the evidence seems very strong in cases such as this – it is a major leap to confer the same level of confidence onto every single evolutionary tree that has been proposed by the collective body of evolutionary biologists.

    One thing I learned in Biochemistry was the concept of convergent evolution and divergent evolution. The latter is evolution as the lay person knows it; that a single species diverges into different ones based on random mutations that favour them in different environments. However, convergent evolution is an interesting concept. It basically refers to two species who have a very similar make-up of genetic material, but who are independent in terms of evolutionary trees. They have ended up with similar genes because their common environment favoured those same genetic variations, both of which mutated, coincidentally independent of one another. Herein we have a case accepted by biologists in which the congruency between two species’ DNA did NOT evolve from a common ancestor. How do we know what was divergent and was convergent? To compare this to another case I have some interest in: just as the level of evidence for the origins of hadith in the time of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), which is so unanimous that it cannot be denied by any reasonable person, cannot be an evidence for authenticating every individual hadiths, the acceptance of evolution in generality cannot possibly be convoluted to such a degree that every evolutionary tree postulated must be accepted at face value.

    For these reasons I do not find Yasir Qadhi’s reconciliation difficult to accept at a general level. He is basically arguing that you are free to accept or reject the concept of evolution in general – and whichever evolutionary trees you choose to believe based on the evidence on a case-by-case basis for those who possess some of the know-how – except that of human evolution from another species, due to what the lay person (and the Qur’an was revealed for all levels of intellect was it not?) sees as definitive texts in the Qur’an.

    • Umer: You said the following:

      “However, convergent evolution is an interesting concept. It basically refers to two species who have a very similar make-up of genetic material, but who are independent in terms of evolutionary trees. They have ended up with similar genes because their common environment favoured those same genetic variations, both of which mutated, coincidentally independent of one another. Herein we have a case accepted by biologists in which the congruency between two species’ DNA did NOT evolve from a common ancestor. How do we know what was divergent and was convergent?”

      I have heard scientists talk of ‘convergent evolution’ where phenotype traits (bodily expressions) are similar but the genetic history is very different eg the evolution of wings in birds compared with bats (which are mammals). Similar environments will select for similar traits. But this is very different from what you say above eg “Herein we have a case accepted by biologists in which the congruency between two species’ DNA did NOT evolve from a common ancestor.”

      Could you give an example of two species which are similar in genetic make up/DNA but which scientists believe do not share a common ancestor? I would be very interested to know because I have never read this before in the scientific literature.

      • Junaid says:

        I agree with Umer. As a medical biologist, I was quite happy that Yasir Qadhi’s viewpoint allowed us to use SCIENCE to determine which evolutionary hypotheses are accurate, NOT theology! It was actually quite refreshing to see a Muslim scholar who knew his limits and focused on his area of expertise – outlining what the theology of Islam is explicit on and what it is silent on.

        Reading-in modern scientific understandings into ancient texts and ancient authors is extremely unacademic. Moreover, you are forced to declare the entire story as a metaphor. And then what? If ‘Prophet Adam’ did not *really* exist, then maybe neither did Noah, or Abraham or Moses or Jesus. Maybe prayers is a metaphor for just being nice. And the Hajj was just meant to be symbolic too, not a literal journey! That’s when you’ve turned your Holy Books into chewing gum, chomping down on them with your human inferences from empirical observations, moulding the verses to the contours of your naturalistic molars, without any care as to what Omnipotent Creator was actually communicating to humanity.

        People need to realize that evolution is not confined to one simple issue but includes experimentation, observation, interpretation and theorization of thousands of different issues. Different fields within evolutionary science even use different forms of evidence, experimental methods, and philosophical assumptions. It’s not an “accept all or nothing” kind of thing. The mechanisms that we have developed to explain certain gross biological features are far far more sophisticated and well-grounded than the rudimentary speculative mechanisms we must resort to in describing the evolutionary origin of certain distinctively human traits. Just because a particular model is very successful in describing some aspects of reality does not mean the same is true for all of its extrapolations. Why be simple-minded and throw everything into one big bag that everyone must accept because it has the magical ability to answer everything? Let’s be nuanced in our approach.

        Evolution is not a magic bag. And Holy Books are not chewing gum.

        • Junaid: Umer made a very odd claim ie he claimed that convergent evolution means that two species can have very similar DNA/genetic make up but come from very different evolutionary pathways. Now this is just scientifically nonsense as I pointed out when I invited Umer to give an actual example of this. Convergent evolution actually refers to how similar traits can evolve in very different species eg wings in birds and bats due to them occupying similar ecological niches.

          Yasir Qadhi’s entire analysis seemed to revolve around theology ie with no engagement whatsoever with what science has revealed to us about human origins. And even his theology was very blinkered ie refusing to allow for alternative inerpretations of the story of Adam. Going forward, I think increasing numbers of Muslims will find this to be a very unsatisfactory approach.

  6. Roger says:

    “Could you give an example of two species which are similar in genetic make up/DNA but which scientists believe do not share a common ancestor? ”

    It’s worth remembering that according to evolutionary theory all life shares a common ancestor. According to legend, humans and carrots share 40% of their genes. However, as well as convergent evolution- in your sense, Inayat- even populations that do not appear to alter in form still evolve. Over time separated populations diverge genetically. Some animals which are outwardly identical but have been separated for a long time- by a river, for example- are genetically separate species.

    The basic arguments for atheism deriving from evolution are that evolution explains the diversity of life without the need for an interventionist creator and- in Darwin’s own words: “I own that I cannot see as plainly as others do, and as I should wish to do, evidence of design and beneficence on all sides of us. There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of Caterpillars, or that a cat should play with mice.”

    • Roger: It is true that many scientists are atheists. However, there are many who are believers in God. Science has nothing whatsoever to say about whether there is a God or not. Science is agnostic on the God question because science can only deal with natural phenomena, not the supernatural. Questions about the existence of God or life after death are outside the remit of science.

      There are some wonderful books about evolution written by believers including Finding Darwin’s God (Kenneth R. Miller) and Evolution and Belief (Robert Asher). They have no problem reconciling their belief in God with evolution.

      • Roger says:

        “Science is agnostic on the God question because science can only deal with natural phenomena, not the supernatural.”

        True, but the effect of science on religion has been to make god steadily more distant from the world. Newton’s theories meant that the old idea that god was personally- or impersonally, depending on the kind of god- making sure that the natural laws were followed and that the earth went round the sun correctly. Darwin’s theory meant that god need only set life going and let it happen- indeed, a god that intervened to deliberately produce some of the nastier parasites cannot be called beneficent by any human standards.

  7. LibertyPhile says:

    It seems the upshot of Umer’s comment is that the Theory of Evolution is a good theory. It works. (Though a better one could come along). But Homo sapiens is/could be an exception. He is the work of God/the intelligent designer.

    Where I wonder do Homo neanderthalensis fit in this creationist view? They seem to have been quite human, burying their dead for example, and possibly interbreeding with Homo sapiens. Did God/the intelligent designer get it wrong in their case or are they the result of Darwinian evolution?

  8. 'Uthmān says:

    In light of recent events, Hamza Andreas Tzortzis from iERA has published an essay entitled “Has Evolution Been Misunderstood?: Revelation, Science and Certainty”

    It can be accessed here:

    I know some on this thread may have ideological differences with Hamza Tzortzis and other members of iERA. However, to rebut this essay on that basis would constitute an ad hominen argument and so would be logically fallacious.

    • I received an email from IERA a couple of days ago linking to that article. What a poor piece it is! It is unlikely to fool anyone who has actually read some decent science books about evolution. I will post a more detailed response next weekend once I get some time, God willing.

  9. Khalid says:

    People quote scientific evidence to promote homosexuality , stating that people are born homosexual rather than adopting that particular lifestyle. That stance clearly contradicts islamic teachings which forbids such behaviour. How do you reconcile your islamic faith with science in this regard? Would you oppose those who take islamic teaching literally and advise them to accept scientific findings? Please explain. Thanks


  10. Saad Ben Zafar Ben Saadiq says:

    May Allaah Subhaan Wa Ta’alaa Guide you, and give you the opportunity to read and learn the books of Salaf, regarding the evolution, the ahadiths, and the quotes of Saahabah instead of these books, or may He break your back, humiliate you and inflict on you the chastiment you deserve best in sha Allaah. May Allaah destroy those, who support these atheistic believes.

  11. Muslim X says:

    The full video of the conference can now be viewed here:

    Apparently there is an official post conference discussion forum on their website where people can go more into the theology and science in more depth. I attended the conference and thought it was absolutely amazing. I hope the Deen Institute continue to hold such conferences.

  12. dellis says:

    The Quran itself says that it contains verses with clear meaning that form the basis of The Book and other verses that are allegorical or metaphorical. “But those who have twisted minds look for verses metaphorical, seeking deviation and giving to them interpretations of their own.” 3:7

    Whenever the Quran mentions an allegory, it says that this is a metaphor or allegorical verse..
    But, the verses that are basic to the Quran get repeated often in different places.

    In many places in the Quran, God tells us that He Himself:
    Created Adam (as) from Clay
    Breathed into Adam, his Soul then ordered those present (Angels & Jinn) to bow to Adam.
    Created Adams wife, from a piece of Adam.
    Expelled Adam and his Wife from Heaven to this Earth.

    Inayat wants to disbelieve that the above really happened.
    Inayat prefers Reason over Revelation.
    Inayats Gods are Darwin, Cox & Dawkins etc.

    The Quran never mentions Adam having parents of any type. Neither Human nor Ape. It only mentions, over & over again, in many places that God created Adam Himself and that afterwards, Adams children were created via seminal fluids.

    The Quran has told us that Inayats mind is twisted.

    The word ‘Evolution’ means different things to different people.
    The Peppered Moth example – This is just common sense.
    Various forms of humans today – again common sense.
    But we can never accept that the first human (Adam) ‘evolved’ from a previous species as this is opposed to the basic verses of the Quran.

  13. Robert says:

    Evolution pseudoscience using science to legitimise this nonsense fairytale

  14. nh says:

    It’s called the THEORY of evolution for a reason.

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