The theory of evolution is unanimously attributed to British scientist Charles Darwin. It is even commonly referred to as ‘Darwinism’.
While Darwin is greatly credited for putting forth the theory of evolution in the mid-19th century, Muslim scholars had suggested similar theories centuries before Darwin was even born.
Evolution discusses the process through which new species arise and are perpetuated by natural selection. Originally, the theory is said to date back to ancient cultures, as it was discussed by Greek philosophers, who are believed to have borrowed their evolutionary ideas from the Hindus.
Here is a list of Muslim scholars who wrote about evolution hundreds of years before Darwin:
Abu ‘Uthman Amr bin Bahr al-Fukaymi al- Basri, better known as Al-Jahiz, was a renowned Baghdad-based East African prose writer and theologian.
In his writings, Al-Jahiz described three mechanisms of evolution: Struggle for Existence, Transformation of Species into Each Other, and Environmental Factors.
According to The Guardian, Al-Jahiz once wrote: “Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming them into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to their offspring.”
Nasir ad-Din Tusi (1201-1274)
The Muslim polymath, architect, philosopher, physician, scientist, theologian and Islamic source of reference (marjaa taqleed) put forth a basic theory explaining the evolution of species.
According to The Vintage News, Muslim scholar Ibn Khaldun considered Tusi to be the greatest of the later Persian scholars. His writings, which dealt with both religious and non-religious topics, are said to constitute one of the largest collections by a single Islamic author.
In his book Akhlaq-i-Nasri (Nasirean Ethics), Tusi suggests that the universe originally consisted of equal and similar elements, but internal contradictions developed later on, leading some substances to evolve at a different pace and different manner from other substances.
Tusi also explains how elements evolved to minerals, then plants, then animals, and finally, to humans.
Muhammad al-Nakhshabi (10th century)
The 10th century scholar from central Asia believed that celestial bodies evolved to elements, which became plants, which in turn developed to become animals, which yielded human beings.
He wrote: “While man has sprung from sentient creatures [animals], these have sprung from vegetal beings [plants], and these in turn from combined substances; these from elementary qualities, and these [in turn] from celestial bodies.”