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Responses of South Asian Muslims to the Theory of Evolution

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Of all scientific theories the theory of evolution arguably poses the greatest challenge to theistic religions because it threatens to undermine teleology and the central position of mankind in nature. Nevertheless, modernist thinkers among South Asian Muslims like Sayyid Aḥmad Khān and Abū l-Kalām Āzād strove to demonstrate its compatibility with the Qur’ān. Their efforts were rejected by Islamists like Mawdūdī and more traditional scholars writing on the subject. They defended the concept of a consciously designed universe instead. That the defence of this idea is the main motivation for resentment against the theory of evolution among Muslims is underscored by the fact the even a thinker like Ghulām Aḥmad Parwez, who readily dismissed central concepts of traditional theology, accepted the concept of evolution only without the principle of natural selection. Although negative assessments prevail, the theory of evolution did not foment a campaign among South Asian Muslims as it did in Turkey. This is most likely due to the lack of awareness among many ‘ulamā’ and the fact that the theory of evolution was not ideologically appropriated by adversaries of Islamic groups.


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