The Origin of Man and Transformations of the Human form over the Ages
Some of the verses of the Qur’an, which are to follow, do not contain anything but a deeply spiritual meaning. Others, it would seem to me, refer to transformations that appear to indicate changes in human morphology. The latter describe phenomena of a totally material kind, which occurred in different phases but always in the proper order. The supreme intervention of divine will is mentioned several times in these verses. It is seen to direct the transformations, which occur during a process that can only be described as an `evolution’. Here, the word is used to mean a series of modifications whose purpose is to arrive at a definitive form. Furthermore,. the accent is laid on the idea that God’s omnipotence is manifest in the fact that He annihilated human populations to make way for new ones: These seem to me to constitute the main themes that arise from the collection of Qur’anic verses brought together in this chapter.
There can be no doubt that ancient commentators could not possibly have conceived of the idea that the human form might be transformed. They were willing, however, to admit that changes could indeed take place, and they acknowledged the existence of stages in the course of embryonic development a phenomenon commonly observed in all periods of history. It is only in our, own day, however, that modern knowledge allows us fully to understand the meaning of the verses in the Qur’an which refer to the successive phases of embryonic development within the uterus.
Indeed, we may today wonder whether the references in the Qur’an to the successive stages of human development may not, in some verses at least, go beyond mere embryonic growth to include the transformations of human morphology which took place over the ages: The existence of such changes has been formally proven by palaeontology, and the evidence is so overwhelming that it is pointless to question it.
The earliest commentators of the Qur’an could have no inkling of the discoveries that would be made centuries later. They could only view these particular verses in the context of the development of the embryo. There was no alternative at the time.
Then came the Darwinian `bombshell’ which through the overt twisting of Darwin’s theory by his early followers extrapolated the notion of an evolution that might be applied to man; even though the amplitude of the evolution had not yet been demonstrated in the animals. In; Darwin’s day, the theory was pushed to extremes, with researchers claiming to have proof that man was descended from the apes an idea that, even today, no respectable palaeontologist is able to demonstrate. There is obviously a very wide gap, however, between the concept of man’s descent from the apes (a theory that is totally untenable), and the idea of transformations of the human form in the course of time (which has been fully proven). The confusion between the two reaches its height when they are merged together with very flimsy arguments under the banner of the word EVOLUTION. This unfortunate confusion has caused certain people wrongly to imagine that since the word is used in reference to man, it must mean that, ipso facto, man’s origin may be traced to the apes.
It is crucial to be quite clear about the distinction between the two, otherwise there is a risk of misunderstanding the meaning to be ascribed to certain verses of the Qur’an that I am about to quote. There is not the slightest hint, in these verses, of evidence to support a materialistic theory of the origin of man that justifiably shocks Muslims, Jews and Christians alike.
The Profound Spiritual Meaning of the Creation of Man from the Earth
As the following two verses indicate, man is presented in the Qur’an as a being that is intimately linked with the earth:
-Sura 71, verses 17 and 18 :
“God has caused you to grow as a growth from the earth, and afterwards, He will make you return there, He will bring you forth again, a [new] forth bringing.”
-Sura 20, verse 55:
The preceding verse mentioned the earth:
“From [the earth] We [‘We’ refers to God] fashioned you and into it We shall make you return and from it We shall bring you forth another time.”
The spiritual aspect of man’s provenance from the earth is emphasized by the fact that we shall return to the earth after death and also by the idea that God will bring us forth again on the Day of Judgement. As we have already seen, the Bible stresses this same spiritual meaning.
With regard to the above translation of Reference no 2, I should like to point out to my Arabic speaking and Arabist readers that in the West, the Arabic word khalaqa is usually translated by the verb `to create’. It is important to realize, however, that, as indicated in the excellent dictionary compiled by Kasimirski, the original meaning of the word was `to give a proportion to a thing, or to make it of a certain proportion or quantity’. For God (alone), the translation has been simplified by the use of the word `to create’, i.e. to bring, into existence a thing, which did not formerly exist. In so doing, those who exclusively use the term `to create’ refer only to the action; they fail to translate the idea of `proportion?, which accompanies it. A more accurate rendering would perhaps be the verb `to fashion’ or `to form in due proportion’. This would bring us nearer to the original meaning of the Arabic word. That is why I have opted to use the verb `to fashion’ in most of my translations; with the implied sense of the primitive Arabic meaning.