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Ibn Khaldun on ‘Evolution’

It should be known that we – May God guide you and us – notice that this world with all the created things in it has a certain order and solid construction. It shows nexuses between causes and things caused, combinations of some parts of creation with others, and transformations of some existent things into others, in a pattern that is both remarkable and endless.

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 of 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 to reflect. The higher stage of man is reached from the world of the 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.

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7 Responses

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  1. Muhammed Ahmed says

    SO in the understanding of Ibn Khaldun, does eveolution stand in the way of believing in the creation and genesis in the aqeedah of a muslim. So if I believe evolution to have been the cause of mans creation (and ofcourse with the will of Allah) will it nullify my iman or even make me doubtable?

    Would kindly appreciate your response

    Wassalam

  2. admin says

    You must understand that there are many different thoughts that look superficially like each other, each of which has been called ‘evolutionary’ which upon deeper examination have different foundations and different consequences.

    I am certainly not saying that a thinker like Ibn Khaldun endorses what we call ‘Darwinian evolution’.

    What I am saying is that Muslims have mistakenly taken up Christian creationists’ arguments against Darwin. Although we do not stand with Darwin, neither can we stand with Christian creationists since their tawhid is seriously flawed.

    In other words, there is a need for some real thought on this issue by those Muslims who have the requisite grounding both in Ash’ari kalam and scientific thought.

  3. Lochlanach says

    I believe it to be of importance not to consider the Qadi’s writings a taboo and thus meet it with silence and closed ears. So can you then please sum up in points your own perspective on what we are to extract from this passage? We have some already things given, Allah created Adam and we are from him. But we also know domesticated animals like dogs, cows and horses have phycically changed dramatically. In the case with the dog this is most obvious as we now have multiple races with huge differences, all new to the scene, 200 years or so.

  4. Saif Alvi says

    @ ADMIN, There is no question of Ibn Khaldun endorsing Darwin, in fact it could be the other way round, Muqqadimah was written circa 1377, the Origin of Species was written circa 1850, Darwin on the other hand could have read Ibn Khaldun and started to investigate further.

  5. admin says

    Of course you are right. The point in posting this was to show that Ibn Khaldun could calmly consider such a process in Allah’s creation without feeling threatened.

  6. Luis Vivanco Saavedra says

    Have a look that, what Ibn Khaldun says as “progress” does not mean a process of evolutionary cause and effect. It does not mean that from some beings, in time, other beings evolved: were produced and changed starting from the previous beings. For example, if in a goods store I organize the items from the most simple (nuts and bolts) to the most complex (machines and appliances) passing through pliers and screwdivers, certainly there is a “progress”: a constitutionary ascent from the most simple to the most complex. On the other hand, that particular order does not mean that screwdivers “came” from nuts and bolts, and that machines are the result of the transformation of pliers and lesser items.

    Also, Darwin didn’t read the Muqaddima in the translated version, for it was known in Europe after he was well deep in his research. And certainly he lacked the knowledge of Arabic enough to read it in its original text, even if it would have been available to general public before the 1860s (when the Standard Quatremere edition was published, the editon in French by Baron de Slane was in the late 1860s).

    Many writers, even in ancient Greece or in China (cfr. Chuang-Tzu) were “evolutionary” before Darwin, stating the evident fact of how men proceeded from monkeys and other animals, but this is “evolution” only if we consider it in a very lax and innacurate meaning. To understand correctly evolution means to understand an interpretation of the conditions in which things happen in nature through time. It is not so simple.

  7. Jurassicperk says

    @luis Vivanco Saavedra: the theory of evolution did not start with darwin, nor with Ibn Khaldoun, it started very early with the greeks and went to the Islamic scientists at a very early age read this link: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encyclopedia_of_the_Brethren_of_Purity#Evolution)
    as for the part where Ibn Khaldoun talked about progress, not evolution that comes to the facts that, first; the text is translated, second; there was no unified scientific terminology at the time, which is why he explained it in many other words, “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.” (quote from the text above).
    but that does not take anything from the importance of the Charles Darwin, as he was one of the first who took it from merely a hypothesis based simply on observation, to being a whole theory supported scientific evidence!



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