Perspectives on Islam and Evolution


22 Jun 2013


Salman Hameed

Ehab Abouheif

This video, copyrighted by Farrellmedia, Inc, is interesting in that it is different in how it approached the original material, a panel presentation at Boston University on 24 October 2012.  Rather than clipping out one speaker from the whole, the creator has gathered short selections from each of the four speakers, along with some of the responses at the end, which may or may not have been elicited through questions from the audience.  The result is a concise summary of the panel.

The four speakers were, in order of appearance:  Salman Halmeed of Hampshire College, Ehab Abouheif of McGill University, Rana Dajani of Hashemite University, and Omar Sultan Haque of Harvard University.

In first part, Hameed discusses the relationship of evolution and creationism in an American context, Abouheif discusses understanding the role of evidence in becoming producers rather than merely consumers of technology.  Haque discusses the general openness of Islam to knowledge.  Dajani points out the lack of access among Arabic-speaking Muslims to the text of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, which wasn’t translated into Arabic until 1960.

In the second part, which begins approximately 6:15, Abouheif is answering questions about why evolution is called a theory (because it’s one mechanism among many that can explain the unfolding of the tree of life), and then the evidence for transitions between forms (that some genetic defects reflect ancestral states because they’re in the genome).  Abouheif, Haque and Dajani address the relationship between the Qurʾān and science, mostly to affirm that they operate in mostly separate, although sometimes overlapping, spheres.  The speakers caution not to use the Qurʾān to attempt to “prove” science.  Dajani emphasizes that one needs to be free to ask questions, even when the questions are perceived as taboo.

The presentation was hosted by the American Islamic Congress and Project Nur with support from the John Templeton Foundation.


The material on Islam is within the bounds of what Muslims have historically understood as acceptable.

The scientific material presented here includes ideas that most evolutionary biologists would be comfortable with.

There is insufficient historical material on which to base an evaluation.

About Salman Hameed

Salman Hameed trained as an astronomer and teaches about the intersections between religion and science. He received his undergraduate degree in physics and astronomy from State University of New York, Stony Brook (1994) and a Ph.D. in Astronomy from New Mexico State University (2001). Hameed went on to become a fellow in the astronomy department at Smith College and University of Massachusetts Amherst before he settled at Hampshire College in 2005. As of 2015, Hameed is an Associate Professor of Integrated Science and Humanities and an endowed chair, in addition to being the Director of the Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies at Hampshire.

Hameed’s publications include articles in The Guardian newspaper, the Zygon Journal of Religion and Science, and Religion Dispatches. He also frequently writes on subjects concerning science and religion in his blog, Irtiqa (the Urdu word for evolution). A collection of some of Hameed’s work, including videos, may be found as part of his biography on the Eqbal Ahmed website. His academic profile can also be found through the Hampshire College website. Hameed is also active on Twitter and other social media as of 2015 and has a personal website.

Selected Bibliography:

About Salman Hameed.” Eqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education. EACPE, n.d. Accessed 13 June 2015.

Dr. Salman Hameed.” American Islamic Congress. American Islamic Congress, n.d. Accessed 13 June 2015.

Hameed, Salman. Irtiqa. N.p., n.d. Accessed 13 June 2015.

Hameed, Salman. “Salman Hameed Profile.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, n.d. Accessed 13 June 2015.

Hameed, Salman. Twitter. Twitter, n.d.

Salman Hameed.” Hampshire College. Hampshire College, n.d. Accessed 13 June 2015.

About Ehab Abouheif

Ehab Abouheif received his PhD from Duke University (North Carolina) in 2002.  He began teaching at McGill University in 2004, after post-docs at the University of Chicago and University of California, Berkeley. He is now an associate professor and Canada Research Chair at McGill University. His research focuses on evolutionary development, particularly in ants.  He was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim fellowship in 2017.  Abouheif is also a co-founder and co-director for the McGill Centre for Islam and Science. He discusses Islam and evolution widely.

Abouheif has many publications, including chapters in The Tree of Life (2014) and Islam and evolution education (in press), and articles in journals such as the International Journal of Developmental BiologyScience, and Evolution and Development.

Abouheif has a Facebook page.  Although he is frequently mentioned on Twitter, he does not himself seem to tweet.  He served as an advisor for the Science and Islam Video Portal project.

Select Bibliography:

The Abouheif Lab: Evolutionary & Developmental Biology.”  McGill University Biology Department. Accessed 31 January 2018.

Ehab Abouheif“, Wikipedia.  Accessed 31 January 2018.

Ehab Abouheif“, Canadian Arab Institute.  Accessed 31 January 2018.

Ehab Abouheif“, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Fellows.  Accessed 31 January 2018.