1st Edition

Islam and Evolution Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm

By Shoaib Ahmed Malik Copyright 2021
    362 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    362 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book attempts to equip the reader with a holistic and accessible account of Islam and evolution. It guides the reader through the different variables that have played a part in the ongoing dialogue between Muslim creationists and evolutionists.

    This work views the discussion through the lens of al-Ghazālī (1058-1111), a widely-known and well-respected Islamic intellectual from the medieval period. By understanding al-Ghazālī as an Ash’arite theologian, a particular strand of Sunni theology, his metaphysical and hermeneutic ideas are taken to explore if and how much Neo-Darwinian evolution can be accepted. It is shown that his ideas can be used to reach an alignment between Islam and Neo-Darwinian evolution.

    This book offers a detailed examination that seeks to offer clarity if not agreement in the midst of an intense intellectual conflict and polarity amongst Muslims. As such, it will be of great interest to scholars of Science and Religion, Theology, Philosophy of Religion, Islamic Studies, and Religious Studies more generally.

    *Winner of the International Society for Science & Religion (ISSR) book prize 2022 (academic category)*


    Part 1Setting the Context

    1 What Evolution Is and Isn’t

    2 Christian Responses to Evolution

    Part 2Islamic Perspectives on Evolution

    3 Islamic Scripture and Evolution

    4 Muslim Opinions on Evolution

    5 Old Texts, New Masks: Misreading Evolution onto Historical Islamic Texts

    Part 3 – Metaphysical Considerations

    6 Naturalism, Chance, and Inefficiency

    7 Intelligent Design

    8 Morality and Evolution

    Part 4 – Hermeneutic Considerations

    9 Al-Ghazālī’s Hermeneutics

    10 Creationism or Evolution in Islamic Scripture?



    Shoaib Ahmed Malik is an Assistant Professor of the Natural Sciences at Zayed University, Dubai. He researches exclusively on the topics of science and religion, atheism, and Islamic theology. He is the author of Atheism and Islam: A Contemporary Discourse (2018), and has book chapters and articles with various publishers and journals.

    The topic of evolution and its potential clash with the mainstream teachings of Islam is one of the most contentious and charged issues of our times. How does a person of faith who also respects science reconcile between what science has almost definitively concluded as a fact with the claims of truth made by the Quran? In this comprehensive and highly readable monograph, Shoaib Ahmed Malik has done a commendable job of summarizing the various approaches taken by modern Muslim thinkers. The text is accessible to even non-specialists and has enough in-depth analysis to be of interest to specialists in science and religion, theology, and philosophy. I believe this work is essential reading for anyone interested in the topic of Islam and evolution.

    Dr. Yasir Qadhi, The Islamic Seminary of America, USA


    Evolution has presented a serious challenge to traditional Abrahamic faiths. The responses have too often fallen short of the rigours exhibited by modern science and the resulting assertions of evolutionists. Here is a serious Muslim response by Shoaib Ahmed Malik who understands the science of evolution and the faith of Islam and has no difficulty straddling both worlds without losing his faith in either.

    Dr. Hamza Yusuf, Zaytuna College, USA


    Shoaib Ahmed Malik’s work is timely, thought-provoking and stimulating. He marries the classical, theological framework of Ash’arism and modern evolution. The book’s focus on the metaphysical and hermeneutic approaches of al-Ghazālī, a globally-known Muslim figure, will fill a huge gap in the literature and answer the many questions in the public’s mind and academia on the status of evolutionary thought in Islam. Malik’s book is a well-written, exemplary work for scholars from a wide range of disciplines who wish to explore evolution in other Sunni, Shi’i and Ismaili theological schools, among others.


    Dr. Majid Daneshgar, University of Freiburg, Germany


    Evolution is one of the most discussed and misrepresented theories among Muslims today. The discussions are usually motivated by emotional reactions, which only obscures the debate’s multi-faceted nature and prevents us from seeing what the problem really is. To analyze the link between evolution and Islam carefully, one must differentiate the scientific foundation of evolution from its various philosophical glosses and have a consistent methodology for interpreting religious texts. Only with such sensitivity can one discuss to what extent evolution and Islam are compatible. Shoaib Ahmed Malik’s book is an outstanding contribution to this debate/question while exemplifying the required sensitivity. He takes one of the giants of Islamic intellectual history, al-Ghazālī, and analyses the issue in terms of his commitments in metaphysics and hermeneutics. Thus, he gives life to a medieval thinker’s ideas and brings him into dialogue with a contemporary problem. The result is a text that is a rare example of multi-faceted, critical, and innovative thinking.


    Dr. Nazif Muhtaroğlu, Bahcesehir University, Turkey

    This fascinating book is a pivotal source for anyone interested in Islam and evolution debate. Shoaib Ahmed Malik, first, provides careful, nuanced, and comprehensive examination of contemporary landscape of ideas on this important debate. Then, he presents his own fresh and thought-provoking perspective on whether a reconciliation between Islam and evolution can be reached by starting from the general principles of Ash’arite school al-Ghazālī’s thought. Tracing the implications of medieval Islamic thought for a contemporary discussion is difficult and complex. Malik’s book masterfully navigates the challenges and demands of this task.

    Dr. Özgür Koca, Claremont School of Theology, USA


    Shoaib Ahmed Malik’s book is one of the very rare works that takes an accurate understanding of evolutionary biology and engages with is it according to the terms of the Islamic tradition (in this case, the Ash’arite theology of al-Ghazālī) to determine what a viable faith-based stance could be. Rigorously researched, it explores with sensitivity the genuine theological issues that are confronted when biological evolution is considered in a religious light. It is indispensable reading on the subject.


    Dr. David Solomon Jalajel, Prince Sultan Research Institute, Saudi Arabia


    Evolution has been dynamite in the science-and-religion debate since the time of Darwin, in spite of many serious and intelligent proposals to resolve the problems. Here is one of the most serious and intelligent yet. Shoaib Ahmed Malik makes a highly original case for peace by examining the foundational Muslim thinker, al-Ghazālī, and showing how his thought can shed light where so far there has been much heat. This is a book which all theists who are worried about the evolution wars need to read.

    Prof. Mark Harris, University of Edinburgh, UK


    Sometimes a book is a total revelation. You realize just how very much you did not know. Those of us who work on the science-religion discourse too often assume that all of the Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – present the same challenges and opportunities. Shoaib Ahmed Malik’s remarkable book, Islam and Evolution: Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm, shows how very wrong we have been. In clear, careful, non-condescending language, Malik teaches us about Islam and its varieties, and the challenges posed by modern evolutionary science. He writes in a constructive and confident manner, not avoiding problems, but showing how there is much for all of us to learn, and leads us from the narrow, Eurocentric vision that restricts so much of our thinking.

    Prof. Michael Ruse, Florida State University, USA


    For many writers on Islam and science, the medieval scholar and theologian al-Ghazālī is associated with a theory of causality inimical to the requirements of modern science. In exploring the scope for compatibility between Islam and the science of evolution, Shoaib Ahmed Malik takes a very different view, contending that the metaphysics and hermeneutics of al-Ghazālī permit the acceptance of much of the modern evolutionary narrative – with the critical exception of wholly naturalistic accounts of the origins of a unique and parentless Adam. I gladly recommend his book because it also paves the way for serious comparative studies of the receptivity of Islamic and Christian cultures to scientific innovation.

    Prof. John Hedley Brooke, University of Oxford, UK