Islamic Theory of Evolution: The Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species
Publication date: February 2012
Digital Book format: ePub (Adobe DRM)
In this book, Dr. Shanavas defends the theory of evolution both scientifically and theologically and provides historical background that has been eradicated from public memory. Though a great majority of people, regardless of their religion, consider Darwin as the originator of the idea of evolution, Shanavas reminds us that Darwin (1809-1882) and his grandfather Erasmus Darwin were influenced by the work of Muslim scientists who lived centuries before them. For instance, Dr. Shanavas quotes from John William Draper (1812-1883), first president of American Chemical Society, a contemporary of Darwin, and a former president of New York University summarizes the deliberately induced academic amnesia in the West. Draper acknowledges the fact that Muslims described the theory of evolution in their schools centuries before the West did: "I have to deplore the systematic manner in which the literature of Europe has contrived to put out of sight our scientific obligations to the Muhammadans. Surely they cannot be much longer hidden. Injustice founded on religious rancor and national conceit cannot be perpetuated forever."(Draper, John William. The Intellectual Development of Europe, p. 42.) "[Christian] theological authorities were therefore constrained to look with disfavor on any attempt to carry back the origin of the earth to an epoch indefinitely remote, and on the Muhammadan theory of evolution which declared that human beings developed over a long period of time from lower forms of life to the present condition." "Sometimes, not without surprise, we meet the ideas with which we flatter ourselves with having originated our own times. Thus our modern doctrine of evolution and development were taught their [Muslim] schools. In fact they carried them much farther than we are disposed to do, extending them even inorganic and minerals." (The History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, John William Draper, pp. 118, 187-188.) Ironically, this Western amnesia regarding the scientific contribution of muslims coincided with the decline in Muslim world. By abandoning rational thinking and scientific methodology which is according to Quran is the necessary condition for being a muslim, they followed dogmas and story tellers. Will Durant, an American historian, reminds his readers that medical books authored by Ali Ibni Sina (980-1037) and Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi (844-926) were both used as textbooks in European universities for centuries, and that in 1395 Razi's book Kitab al-Hawi was among the nine textbooks used by the University of Paris. The same book informs the reader that Avicenna's Qanun fil Tibb, a science encyclopedia, was a main textbook at Montpelier and Louvain universities until the mid-17th century. We should mention two important Muslim scientists who had immense impact on scientific enterprise in Europe: Abu Bakr ibn Tufayl, known in the West as Abubacer (1107-1185) and philosopher Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Rushd who became famous in the West by the name Averroes (1126-1298). Muslim scientists and philosophers of the medieval period had no qualms in accepting evolution as a divine system for creation. For instance, the prominent Muslim polymath, philosopher and sociologist Ibni Khaldun (1332-1406), after a paragraph about the origin of human species, reminds the reader with a verse describing the deterministic nature of God's system: "You will never find a change in God's system." In his famous book Muqaddimah, Ibni Khaldun proposes a theory of evolution starting from minerals. In addition to these, Muhammad al-Haytham (965-1039), who is known in the West by the name Alhazen, defends human evolution starting from minerals, plants, and animals in Kitabal Manazer, his book on optical science. The Muslim Geologist al-Biruni (973-1048) in his book Kitab al-Jamahir also asserts that humans are created after long periods of evolution from simple organisms through natural selection.