Creation Versus Evolution
The Qur'anic account of Creation does not directly contradict modern scientific thought about the development of the universe and life on earth. Muslims acknowledge that life developed over a long period of time, but see Allah's hand behind it all. The diversity of life that has cropped up over time is a sign pointing toward God, not away from Him.
The Qur'an reminds: “What is the matter with you, that ye are not conscious of Allah's majesty, seeing that it is He that has created you in diverse stages? See you not how Allah has created the seven heavens one above another, and made the moon a light in their midst, and made the sun as a [Glorious] Lamp? And Allah has produced you from the earth, growing [gradually]” (Qur'an 71:13–17).
There is much debate in both religious and nonreligious circles about the validity of modern theories of evolution. Many Muslims flatly reject any notion of evolution, simply because of its association with those who deny God's existence. In general, they also reject that evolution is a random act, devoid of an All-Knowing Creator. However, many Muslims do recognize the possibility that evolution itself is part of Allah's plan and design.
Life Sprung from Water
The Qur'an describes that all particles that make up the universe were joined together in one celestial cloud before they were “cloven asunder” or exploded. In the same verse, the Qur'an says God “made from water every living thing” (Qur'an 21:30).
Another verse describes how “God has created every animal from water. Of them are some that creep on their bellies, some that walk on two legs, and some that walk on four. God creates what He wills, for truly God has power over all things” (Qur'an 24:45). These verses support the scientific theory that life began in the earth's oceans.
Adam or Apes?
Where do human beings fit into the development of life on Earth? Scientific theories currently hold that Homo sapiens evolved from earlier forms of hominoid primates approximately 3 million to 6 million years ago. However, the lines of descent between species are widely debated and not proven.
The Qur'an makes brief mention of a group of people who were punished by God for their disobedience and transgression. “When in their insolence they transgressed [all] prohibitions, We said to them: ‘Be ye apes, despised and rejected’” (Qur'an 7:166). Many Muslim scholars interpret this to mean that these human beings were literally turned into apes by God.
While Islam recognizes the general idea of the development of life over a period of time, human beings are considered different. Islam teaches that human beings are a unique life form that was created by God in a special way, with gifts and abilities that had not yet been seen on earth. In short, Muslims do not believe that human beings randomly evolved from apes.
Islam teaches that human beings are a special creation of God, given a special nature and an important role. The life of human beings began with the creation of two people, a male and a female named Adam and Hawwa (Eve).