Dr. Iqbal received his Ph.D. in chemistry (University of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1983), but left the field of experimental science to fully devote himself to study Islam, its spiritual, intellectual and scientific traditions. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, he has lived in Canada since 1979. He has held academic and research positions at University of Saskatchewan (1979-1984), University of Wisconsin-Madison (1984-85), and McGill University (1986). During 1990-1999, he was the Director of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation (COMSTECH). He is the editor of Islamic Sciences, a semi-annual journal of Islamic perspectives on science and civilization and the general editor of the seven-volume Integrated Encyclopedia of the Qur’ân. Dr. Iqbal has written, translated, and edited twenty-three books and published nearly one hundred papers on various aspects of Islamic spiritual and intellectual traditions, the relationship between Islam and science, Islam and the West and the history of Islamic science.
His publications include God, Life and the Cosmos : Christian and Islamic Perspectives (co-ed., Ashgate, 2002), Science and Islam (Greenwood Press, 2007) and The Making of Islamic Science (IBT, 2009). Several of his works have been translated into Chinese, Turkish, Urdu, and Persian. He is also the Series Editor for Islam and Science : Historic and Contemporary Perspectives (Ashgate, 2012), a four-volume work on Islam and science. He co-translated volume VII of Tafhîm al-Qur’ân, an influential twentieth century tafsîr (Islamic Foundation, 2001). Dr. Iqbal is the founder-president of Center for Islamic Sciences (Canada) and co-founder of the Muslim Education Foundation in Canada.
Speech Title (Islam and Science panel)
Islam, Muslims and the challenge of Evolutionism
It is a truism that all scientific theories have inherent ideological content ; the scientific version of the theory of evolution is no exception to this general rule. Theory of Evolution – in both the theistic and atheistic varieties – has an irreducible meta-scientific content that is directly linked to religious beliefs about the origin of cosmos and life, as well as to religious understanding of the varieties of life forms. Where did they come from ? How ? What are the mechanisms through which various life forms survive or perish ? These questions have been the focus of human thought since the beginning of known history, but their anchorage in modern science in the nineteenth century led to eventual shedding of most of the inherent metaphysical content and the reduction of discourse to a material plane, while simultaneously elevating the “scientific answers” to the centuries-old questions to a level of wide acceptability.
The Muslim world encountered modern evolutionism at a time when almost all regions of the traditional Muslim lands were under colonial rule and there was hardly any scientific activity anywhere. Darwin’s initial formulation of evolutionary theory was thus brought into a scientifically vacuous culture, a colonized polity, and a social milieu suffering from low self-esteem and ruled by Western or west- ernized local minority. Reading Darwin in Arabic, Urdu, Persian, or any of the languages spoken in the Muslim world in the nineteenth century was, therefore, not a simple act of reception of pure scientific content ; rather, it was a complex process involving – among other things – translation, missionaries, channels of information which were inherently not free, and a firmly established mental submission to Western science.
Since those early days of Muslim encounter with evolutionism, there have been three kinds of response : rejection, acceptance, and acceptance with the addition of fundamental Islamic beliefs within the framework of evolutionism. All three have been heavily borrowed, the last response is often a caricature of Christian responses. This paper outlines fundamental challenges the theory of evolution poses to Islam and Muslims, surveys the variety of Muslim responses, expounds on the question of origins on the basis of primary religious texts in order to pinpoint areas of major conflict arising out of the evolutionary and Qur’anic views of life and its origins. It also presents a brief outline of the Qur’anic cosmology in order to anchor discussion on origin and propagation of life forms within a sacred cosmology, which helps to clarify and explore the nature of challenges posed by evolutionism to Muslim beliefs.
(Original English Voice, starting 5 min, 30 sec)