The Evolution Series: Understanding the Theory
23 Jan 2018
This segment presents host Aisha Khaja and Shabir Ally trying to unpack what makes biological evolution controversial.
Ally suggests that there’s no particular reason for Muslims to find the theory controversial unless they accept ideas about evolution from evangelical Christians. He characterizes these Christians as those who in their literal reading of Biblical passages, find elements of biological evolution, such as the differentiation of species, at odds with their understanding of the Biblical text.
He contrasts statements about macroevolution (evolution of species), Noah’s (Nūḥ) flood, and Adam and Eve as examples of how the differences between the Biblical and Qurʾānic material allows for different engagement with the scientific theory. He does this generally without quoting from either the Bible or the Qurʾān. The only verse mentioned specifically is Q30.21, about creating mates, as part of his discussion of the Arabic word, nafs, which he translates as “species”.
Ally in this episode defines science as things that are testable in a lab, and he contrasts this with religion, which he says speak to values and beauty. In making this distinction, he notes that science and religion are complementary, rather than in conflict or needing to be reconciled.
This is a segment from the Canadian TV show, Let the Quran Speak. The original air date is not known. It is part 3 of the series; the first and second episodes may be found on the Portal as well. The segment concludes suggesting there will be subsequent installments, but we have not found any as of mid-March 2018. The organization which sponsors the show is Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International, in Toronto.
Islam: The discussion here about Islam is limited, and seems to assume that Muslims do not read the Qurʾān literally. “Christian evangelicals” are used as a foil here for those who read the Bible in English as the literal truth.
Science: The presentation of evolution here is overly linear — evolutionary biologists do not currently hue to such linear models, but more complex ones. The presentation of “science” as only including what occurs in a lab is also wrong; watch any video by Brian Greene (in particular his NOVA series for PBS) to dispel this misunderstanding.
On the other hand, Ally avoids some of the large errors about evolution seen by other religious speakers, and many scientists today would agree with his concept of complementary spheres.
History: There is insufficient historical material on which to base an evaluation.
About Shabir Ally
Shabir Ally is a Muslim scholar who specializes in religious debates, specifically on Islam v. Christianity. He received an undergraduate degree from Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada in religious studies and also holds a M.A. and Ph.D. in Qurʾānic exegesis from the University of Toronto; the Muslim Debate Initiative notes his dissertation’s completion in 2012. As of 2018, Ally is the president and Imam of the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International in Toronto, Canada in addition to appearing on the TV show Let the Quran Speak. The organization also runs a Facebook page.
For more information, and a collection of Ally’s work, see his site on Islamio. He also updates a Facebook page regularly. Some videos of his lectures may also be found on Let the Quran Speak’s YouTube page.
“Dr. Shabir Ally.” Islamio. Islamio, n.d. Accessed 13 June 2015.
“Shabir Ally.” Facebook. Facebook, n.d. Accessed 13 June 2015.
“Meet Dr. Shabir Ally!” The Muslim Debate Initiative Blog. N.p., 15 Nov. 2012. Accessed 13 June 2015.
“Shabir Ally.” Veritas. W3 Creatives, n.d. Accessed 13 June 2015.