Thursday, February 26, 2009

Qur’anic genesis of humankind

The Qur’anic genesis of humankind
T.O. Shanavas. MD

The Author of “Creation And/Or Evolution An Islamic Perspective.” [ISBN: 1-4134-6591-1]

Most Muslims, if asked about Adam and Eve (Hawwa), will state that they were the very first of humankind on the face of the earth and that every human being of the past and current age is a genetic descendant of this primordial couple. But this belief crumbles under scientific scrutiny.

Genetic bottleneck is the scientific term for a natural event that causes reduction in the genetic diversity of a living population. When a population is limited to a single sub-species it lacks diversity and a significant percentage of that population fails to thrive due to disease, environmental challenges and reproductive failures. Without a diverse gene pool, the viability of such a population is reduced by 50% or greater. Eventually, this continuing deterioration of species vigor leads to its extinction. Small and isolated species populations are known to suffer dire consequences when there is a lack of genetic diversity.

Detrimental genetic diseases are very common in small interbred populations. For example, among an isolated group of South African Muslims, the prevalence of a genetic disease cleidocranial dysostosis, an inherited disorder of bone development, is traced to a common ancestor; a religious and cultural leader of Chinese descent. A genetic vulnerability of this nature coupled with a lack of genetic diversity can lead to the extinction of such a population. The smaller the population, the greater the probability it would disappear.

The smallest possible population of human species is two people where naturally genetic variation is extremely limited. Therefore, the consideration that the proliferation of the human species could have resulted from only two ancestors, such as Adam and Eve, is not plausible by scientific criteria. The human species would have become extinct due to the extreme population bottleneck. So where then do Adam and Eve fit in the evolutionary history of our species? In order to determine where Adam and Eve are situated within the genesis of mankind, we need to apply proper Arabic grammar to the relevant Qur’anic verses 2:35-36.

In many languages, verbs are conjugated in relation to the number of individuals to which the action applies. In English, every noun is either singular or plural (two or more in number). Every verb is modified to comply with a singular or plural noun or pronoun. Unlike English, Arabic has singular, dual and plural forms of pronouns, nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. The singular form is used when referring to one person or thing, the dual refers to two people or two things and the plural form for more than two people or things.

Now let us look at the verse 2:35-36 that narrates the Divine command calling for the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the “Garden.”

And We said: وَقُلْنَا
O! Adam (singular) يَا آدَمُ
You dwell (singular) اسْكُنْ
You (singular) أَنتَ
and your mate (singular) وَزَوْجُكَ
in the garden الْجَنَّةَ
and you two eat (singular) وَكُلا
from it مِنْهَا

eat freely as رَغَداً حَيْثُ
you two wish (dual) شِئْتُمَا
and you two approach not (dual) وَلاَ تَقْرَبَا
this tree هَـذِهِ الشَّجَرَةَ
lest you two become (dual) فَتَكُونَا
transgressors. مِنَ الْظَّالِمِينَ
Then Satan made them to slip (dual) فَأَزَلَّهُمَا الشَّيْطَانُ
from it عَنْهَا
and send the two out (dual) فَأَخْرَجَهُمَا
from that (State) the two (dual) مِمَّا كَانَا
were in. (dual) فِيهِ
And We (God) said: وَقُلْنَا
‘Get you down.’ (more than two plural) اهْبِطُواْ
Some of you (more than two plural) بَعْضُكُمْ
are enemies to others; (more than two plural) لِبَعْضٍ عَدُوٌّ وَلَكُمْ
and you have (more than two) plural) وَلَكُمْ
in the earth a habitation فِي الأَرْضِ مُسْتَقَرٌّ وَمَتَاعٌ إِلَى حِينٍ
and sustenance for a while.

Verse 2:35 begins with a singular noun and pronoun, indicating Adam; then changes to a dual pronoun, referring to both Adam and Eve. The Arabic verb used in the Divine command “to get out” of the “Garden” in verse 36 after the violation of the Divine guidance is conjugated however not with the dual form but with the extended plural indicating more than two subjects. Such grammatical construction of the verse indicates that the order to “get down” was made not to Adam and Eve alone but to a group of people. Muslim scholars have interpreted this in two different ways. One is that the command in plural, “get you down” (اهْبِطُواْ), is directed to a group consisting of Adam, Eve, and Satan. The second proposes that the command is given to a group consisting of Adam, Eve, and their future descendants. Both of these interpretations invariably lead us to a genetically unviable bottleneck that would have predisposed early humanity to extinction.

As the interpretations of the early Muslim scholars do not find credence within a realistic biological model, I offer a third interpretation. This interpretation is compatible with the scientific demands.

As Adam and Eve are addressed while in the Garden as “you” in the dual grammatical format, the primordial pair may be perceived as residing still within the realm of the spiritual Celestial Garden. In this un-manifest state, the Adam and Eve of spirit are not the DNA based biological parents of the human species, but the archetypal spiritual predecessors of mankind. The creation of the human from a “single soul” (unity) and “from it … its mate (duality)” refers to the creation of the primordial human soul and its progression into a dyad in the generation of the Adam and Eve of spirit, not yet clothed in the garment of biological flesh. Yet, upon noting that in Qur’anic verse 2:31, Adam is given knowledge, we conclude that he is nevertheless deemed a Prophet to the first generation of mankind, in accordance with the Qur’an. “Then He gave Adam knowledge of the nature and reality of all things and everything...” [Qur’an 2:31]. For every people there is a messenger… [Qur’an 10:47]. Adam, being a Prophet, must have contemporary human beings to whom he was supposed to convey the Divine message. I propose that the reason for the use of the two or more plural form (اهْبِطُواْ) in verse 2:36 is that there were other human beings along with Adam and Eve when they were expelled from their paradisiacal abode. And as these beings took on the garment of flesh in the earthly realm, the world was peopled with the rich genetic diversity we have today.

Was Prophet Adam (pbuh) created on the earth or heaven? The following verse guide us to answer the question. After God presented Adam to the Angels, He said to Adam: “There is therein (enough provision) for thee not to go hungry nor to go naked, nor to suffer from thirst, nor from the sun’s heat (ﻲﺣﻀ).” (Qur’an 20:118-119). God provided Adam and Eve with food, water, and shelter to protect them from the heat of the sun. From among the billions of stars in our universe, why would the Qur’an mention the sun’s heat if the garden was Paradise? Moreover, in every context, the word ﻲﺣﻀ (daha) or its derivatives are used in the Qur’an only in situations related to the sun. Thus, the Garden of the Forbidden Tree must have been within the solar system in order for it to be affected by the heat of the sun, which could be felt only on planets close to it. All other planets in the solar system are either too cold or hot for humans to live on. Therefore, Adam was raised among the early people of the earth to deliver Divine message.
The following verse describes the evolutionary creation of human species. “He created (khalaqa) you in successive stages” (Qur’an: 71:14).
Four hundred years before Charles Darwin, Ibn Khaldun, the most famous Muslim historiographer and social scientist, summarized the divine creation of human species by evolution in his Muqaddimah [An Introduction to History].
He states:
“One should then look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs, and seedless plants. The last stage of plants such as palms and vines is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power to touch.
The word ‘connection’ with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group is fully prepared to become the first stage of the next group. 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 reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of monkeys, in which both sagacity and perception are found, but which has not reached the stage of actual reflection and thinking. At this point we come to the first stage of man (after the world of monkeys). This is as far as our (physical) observation extends.”
[Khaldun, Ibn. The Muqaddimah, trans. by Franz Rosenthal, Vol. 1, p. 195.]
Note - there are not many articles on evolution from a Muslim perspective. Dr. Shanavas has written the above and I have written - and Imam Zia Shaikh is about to write one.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.