islam sufism

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  Creation and Evolution Islam and Science as one Arrassi A. Zakaria (72427) 9, 2008 Abstract There is a heavy debates between believers and non-believers about the srcin of man. Science has dis-covered that man srcinated from water and graduallyevolved, through intermediary states, to the human be-ing that we know nowadays classified as  Homo sapienssapien . Believers, from different religions, argue thatmankind was created by God and placed on earth afterAdam and Eve ate from the fruits of the forbidden tree.They reject any scientific prove about evolution.This paper tries to show to the interested reader, that re-ligion, andinthiscaseIslam, isnotincontradictionwiththe theories emerging from scientific research. On thecontrary, it supports and reinforces the theories provingthat mankind is searching in the right direction concern-ing creation and evolution.As  Al-Ghazali , a famous Muslim philosopher said:“Two sides can only debate if they both agree to putaside their prejudices and discuss with an open mindsearching for the truth”. The main concern of believersis that accepting apes as their forefathers, is that theythink scientist want to depict Adam and Eve as apes.However, we will see in this paper, that Adam and Eveare the first kind of Homo sapiens sapiens, which arefully fledged humans, and not monkey-like.We will see what, prominent, Muslim scientists had tosay about evolution long before Darwin had describedhis theory. Most of this heritage, however, is lost andis slowly disappearing in books as, only a few people,even in the Muslim world, are aware of it.Another heritage that, in contrary to ordinary books,willnotvanishistheQur’an. WewillseewhatGod tellsus about His creation. We will analyze some verses re-garding the srcin of mankind and its evolution throughthe ages.In the end we will try to understand why, with all thisknowledge in accordance to modern science, most mus-lims still deny the theory of evolution. Contents 1 Introduction 12 Pre-Darwinism in the medieval Muslimworld 23 The origin of Man in the Qur’an 34 Adam and Eve in the Qur’an 65 The location of the garden of Eden 76 On the Forbidden Tree 87 On free-will, predestination and chanceevents 98 Summary and conclusion 10 1 Introduction This paper has a strange structure. We start by studyingwhat ancient Muslim savants had to say about evolutionof the humankind from other species. We will see thattheir opinions and ideas align with the modern theory of evolution and Darwinism.Next, we have a look at what the Qur’an has to sayabout the creation of humankind and evolution. Sincethe Qur’an has many different interpretation, we had tofilter and select only a few to show in this paper. Someverses of the Qur’an are points toward modern scien-tific facts while other are more symbolic. We will usethe symbolic verses as a transition to from science tophilosophy and the concepts of human knowledge andfree-will. From there we try to summarize the idea of the paper in a few sentences.In this clear that we only scratch the surface of the topic.The literature is broad and the ideas divergent. We tried,however, the condense, all this in a readable package forthe novice user.1  2 Pre-Darwinism in the medievalMuslim world It is generally agreed that Darwin’s  The Origin of Species (1859)  is the pivotal work in evolutionary bi-ology. The book introduced the theory that populationsevolve over the course of generations through a processof natural selection. This statement shocked the Judeo-Christian population in the West and is still today a con-troversial subject.Muslim scholars had long recognized that human be-ings had an ancestral link to apes. Ibn Khaldun, aMuslim historiographer and social scientist wrote in his  Muqaddimah 1 :One should then look at the world of cre-ation. Itstartedoutfromthemineralsandpro-gressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner toplants and animals. The last stage of miner-als is connected with the first stage of plants,such as herbs, and seedless plants. The laststage of plants such as palms and vines is con-nected with the first stage of animals, suchas snails and shellfish which have only thepower to touch. The word ’connection’ withregard to these created things means that thelast stage of group is fully prepared to be-come the first stage of the next group. Theanimal world then widens, its species becomenumerous, and, in a gradual process of cre-ation, it finally leads to man, who is able tothink and reflect. The higher stage of man isreached from the world of monkeys, in whichboth sagacity and perception are found, butwhich has not reached the stage of actual re-flection and thinking. At this point we cometo the first stage of man (after the world of monkeys). This is as far as our (physical) ob-servation extends.[Khaldun, 1967]Ibn Khaldun described in the above passage a hierarchyof species with links between them. It starts from thelowest form of life which are minerals and goes upto more complex life-form. In the above passage weread “the first stage of man” showing that Ibn Khaldunknew about other hominoid species more advancedthan monkeys but not equal to the modern man. Hethan stated that he arrived to this conclusion with hisown physical observation of the world.According to the  Muqaddimah , Ibn Khaldun, andother Muslim scholars, believed that a series of transmutations from one species into another resultedin evolution of life. This evolution from primitiveorganisms forms a bush with numerous branches. Ibn 1 An Introduction to History Khaldun concludes his view on the srcin of racesas follows:“[muq, a]Physical circumstances and theenvironment are subject to changes that affect later gen-erations; they do not necessarily remain unchanged.”His point of view is that species are not fixed, but aresubject to change according to the environment. Hebelieved that the physical characteristics of organismare determined by their “essence”. He believed that theactive nature  2 “has the ability to  generate  and  changeessence ”[muq, b].If Ibn Khaldun lived in our time, he would replace theword essence by DNA. He also describes the transfor-mation of species into other species as a change in of the essence:The essences at the end of each particu-lar stage of the worlds are by nature preparedto be transformed into the essence adjacent tothem. This is the case with the simple ma-terial elements; it is the case with the palmsand vines (which constitute) the last stage of plants, in their relation to snails and shellfish,(which constitute) the (lowest) stage of ani-mals. It is also the case with monkeys, crea-tures combining in themselves cleverness andperception, in their relation to man, the be-ing who has the ability to think and to re-flect. The preparedness (for transformation)that exists on either side, at each stage of theworlds, is meant when (we speak about) theirconnection.[muq, c]According to Al-Biruni (973-1048), Islam’s greatest ge-ologist, man gradually evolved from other organismsthrough the struggle for survival of the fittest as we canread in his book,  Kitab al-Jamahir  3 Man reached his maximum degree of per-fection compared to other animals below him(in the evolutionary ladder). He ascended tothe present state from other kinds of beingssuch as dog-like, bear-like, ape-like etc. Thenfinally he became man.[Al-Biruni, 1934]Abu Bakr Ibn Tufail 4 (1095-1138), a poet and physi-cian born in Guuadix, Spain was known to have influ-enced Jewish and Christian thinkers and was the teacherof the great philosopher Ibn Rushd 5 [Shavanas, 2005].Ibn Tufail is remembered through his famous work, The Journey of the Soul (The Story of Hai binYaqzan). [Tufail, 1138]. The book is a fictional biogra-phy about a child born without parents and place the 2 kiyan - arabic 3 Book of the Reunion - translation is mine 4 Latin name: Abu Bazer 5 Latin name: Avveroes 2  wander world. The idea is that the child has no knowl-edge of the environment and no education. He mustlearn by observing nature and make his own conclusionwithout any bias or interference due to previous knowl-edge, 6 Simon Ockely undertook the translation of thebook in 1708 7 . Henry Fairfield Orborn 8 summarizes thestory as follows:There happens to be under the equator anisland, where Man comes into the world with-out father and mother; by spontaneous gener-ation he arises, directly in the form of boy,from the earth, while the spirit, which, likethe sunshine, emanated from God, unites withthe body, growing out of a soft, unformedmass. Without any intelligent surround-ings, and without education, this ’Nature-man’ through simple observation of the outerworld, and through the combination of vari-ousappearances, risestotheknowledgeoftheworld and of the Godhead. First he perceivesthe individuals, then he recognizes the vari-ous species as independent forms; but as hecompares the varieties and species with eachother, he comes to the conclusion that they allsprung from a single animal spirit, and at thesame time that the entire animal race forms asingle whole. He makes the same discoveryamong the plants; finally he sees the animaland plant forms in their unity, and discoversthat among all their differences they have sen-sitiveness and feeling in common; from thathe concludes that animals and plants are onand the same.”[Osborn, 1908]The boy, according to Osborn, concludes that plants andanimals all sprang from one common srcin.We have seen that Darwinism was already spread inthe Muslim world long before Darwin was born. Theproblem is that the actual Muslim world has lost muchof its scientific heritage, as the Europeans did whenthey abandoned the knowledge of Greeks and Romeduring the Middle Ages. Books are rarely re-read witha critical eye to build new theories from the one theancestors layed out for us. All Muslims are proud of their scientific heritage but only a few really knowwhat that heritage means 9 when it comes to content of biology, history, geology or medicine. 6 Each human has an education and an environment were he growsup. Because of that our knowledge is always biased and we aretrapped in our own perspective of the world. 7 A century before Darwin was born 8 1883-1890, professor of comparative anatomy at Princeton from1883to1890andjoinedColumbiaUniversityin1891werehebecameprofessor of biology and then professor of zoology in 1896. 9 Except maybe for the fields of mathematics were it remainedstrong because everyone still refers to numbers as Arabic numbers The West heavily used Arabic books in the late Mid-dle Ages and the Renaissance to rebuild the scienceit had lost during the Dark Ages. Many books thatwere used as school books, or canon, have Muslim au-thors. It is fair to think that Darwin, following RogerBacon’s advice to “learn Arabic and Arabic science forprogress”[Briffault, 1928], might have known the mus-lim theory of evolution. 3 The origin of Man in the Qur’an In contrast with the Bible, the Qur’an does not have achapter on the genesis of human life. However, thereare many verses in various  surah 10 that indicate howthe srcin of life srcinated. The Qur’an itself asks tomeditate and research the srcin of life as stated:Truly in the creation of heavens and theearth, and in the alternations of the night andday are signs for those have acumen, who ut-ter (the name of) God, standing, sitting, andon their sides, and ponder over the creationof the heavens and the earth, (saying), “OurLord, You have not created these in futility,Glory be to You:guard us then from the tor-ment of the fire.”(Qur’an 3:190-191)in another surah:On the earth are signs for those whohave sure faith (in the meaningfulness of allthings), as also (there are signs) in your ownself: will ye not, then, observer? (Qur’an51:20-21)The two verses above God urges mankind to search forsigns of His existence in physicals events, like the  alter-nation of the night and day  or our own self.In another verse God is even more focused by sayingthat mankind  should   find signs of His existence in thecreation and srcin of man:Say: “Go all over the earth and beholdhow [wondrously] He has created [man] inthe first instance: and thus, too, will Godbring into being your second life - for, verily.God has the power to will anything! (Qur’an29:20)AnalyzingthefirstpartoftheverseweseethatGodasksmen to travel the earth and search how man was cre-ated. This indicates that the srcin of man happened onearth and not in the Heaven as many scholars indicate. 10 A group of verses form a surah. It corresponds a chapter in abook  3  Also, if God ask men to search for signs of creationthose signs must understandable by human. Hence, thesrcin of man is something divine, but that can be ex-plained by science.Muhammad Asad’s comments in his translation of theQur’an, are the following:...whichalludestoman’scomingintoex-istence out of most primitive elements, andgradually evolving into a highly complex be-ing endowed not only with a physical bodybut also with a mind, with feelings, and in-stinctsThe following is another verse where God explains thecreation of man:Now, indeed, We create man out of theessence of clay, and then we cause him to re-main as drop of sperm in [the womb’s] firmkeeping, and then We create out of the dropof sperm a germ-cell, and then We createout of the germ-cell an embryonic lump, andthen We create within the embryonic lump,bones, and the We clothe the bones with flesh- and then We bring [all] this into being as anew creation: hallowed, therefore, is God, theGod, the best of artisans!(Qur’an 23:12-14)This verse specifies the srcin of man and also, de-scribes, with much detail, the evolution of an embryoin the woman’s womb 11 .Interesting for us is the first part:  We create man out of the essence of clay . According to Lane, the verb create, khalaqa , apartformtheclassicalmeaning create , means“proportioning a thing into another thing” and “to bringa thing into existence according to a certain measure,or proportion, and so as to make it equal to (anotherthing).” In “proportion a thing into”” an srcinal andpreviously non-existing thing, it also signifies “the src-inating, or to bring a thing into existence from a state of non-existence.”[Edward William, 1993]For [Shavanas, 2005] the meaning of   khalaqa  accordingto [Edward William, 1993] is threefold:[...], there are three components to themeaning of the word  khalaqa : (a) shap-ing an srcinal substance or entity into an-other object (“proportioning a thing to an-other thing”); (b) the newly formed objector creature must have its own peculiar char-acteristics so that it can be identified sepa-rately from its srcinal source-not like fatherand son, but like a tree to a canoe or an ape 11 Remember, the Qur’an was revealed around 622 J.C to an illiter-ate person, Muhammad, in the middle of the desert. to a human; and (c) the newly formed ob- ject or creature with its characteristic featurewere nonexistent before its srcinal birth (“tobring a thing into existence from a state of non-existence”). In this process the new crea-turebecomesaprototype. Therefore, theclas-sical 12 meaning of the Arabic word  khalaqa ca be summarized as;  “To bring a thing intoexistence according to a certain measure or  proportion, so as to make it equal to another thing that is not pre-existing.” Now, indeed, We create man out of theessence of clay, and then we cause him to re-main as drop of sperm in [the womb’s] firmkeeping, and then We create out of the dropof sperm a germ-cell, and then We createout of the germ-cell an embryonic lump, andthen We create within the embryonic lump,bones, and the We clothe the bones with flesh- and then We bring [all] this into being as anew creation: hallowed, therefore, is God, theGod, the best of artisans!(Qur’an 23:12-14)Going back to verse 23:12-14 about the evolution of theembryo in the womb. The verse uses many times theword create. If we use the classical meaning of the wordas in  making something ex nihilo , the verse would nothave any sense. It would say that each step in the pro-cess is not depended of the previous phase. Using theanother meaning the sense is clear by saying that eachhas a link with the previous step.In the book; L’Homme d’ou vient-il? 13 written by Dr.Maurice Bucaille, he stresses the classical meaning of  khalaqa :A l’intention de mes lecteurs arabophoneset arabisant, je souligne `a propos de la tra-duction donn´ee ici de la r´ef´erence n* 2 que l’usage voudrait que le mot arabe  khalaqa soit traduit par ”cr´eer”. Mais il faut savoirque le sens primitif du verbe est comme ilest pr´ecis´e dans l’excellent dictionnaire deKazimirski, ”donner une mesure `a une choseou la faire d’une certaine mesure ou quan-tit´e”. Pour Dieu (seul), on a simplifi´e entraduisant en utilisant le mot ”cr´eer”, c’est-`a-dire donner l’existence a ce qui n’etais pas.Cefaisant, onevoqueletermdel’action, maissans pr´eciser la notion de mesure qui s’y at-tache. Il serait peut-ˆetre plus exact d’utiliserune expression comme ”faonner” ou ”former 12 Befitting with the overall reading of the Qur’an because it isbased on the true language that was prevalent among the natives of the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the Prophet Muhammed and notupon modern Arabic 13 Where does Man come from? - translation is mine 4
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