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The Transformations of Man Over the Ages – The Animal (but non-ape) Ancestry of Man

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Quran 2:21:

O mankind, worship your Lord, who created you and those before you, that you may become righteous –

The following excerpt is taken from “Islamic Theory of Evolution” by T.O. Shanavas pg. 140-141:

“The Quran adresses mankind, proclaiming that God created both mankind and also “those who came before” mankind: ‘Oh! Mankind! Worship your Lord, Who hath created you and those before you, so that ye may ward off (evil).” (2:21) Hence, it tells us that there existed other people before the emergence of modern man (Homo Sapiens). We call them Homo erectus, Homo ergaster, Neandrathal man, Cro-Magnon man, etc. but six hundred years before Darwin, the great Muslim Sufi Ibn Arabi called them “the animal men.” Most Muslims interpret the above verse in a more limited fashion, believing that the term “mankind” means people living at the time of the Prophet, and that “the people before you: refers to the ancestors of the contemporaries of the Prophet.

However the best explanation of a verse in the Quran is by another verse. We have learned earlier the divine epithet al-Musawwir (sculptor) could also mean, in current scientific vernacular, someone who creates a distinct species. Therefore, al Musawwir created perfect human beings sculpted from a previously created hominid species. Verse 6:133 gives explicit evidence that modern humans were evolved from earlier hominids and explains the Quranic verse 2:21 the way as it is explained above.

“Thy Lord is All-Suffiecient, Merciful, if He will, He can put you away, and leave after you, to succeed you, what He will, as He produced you from the seed of another people.” (6:133) The context in verse 130 of the same chapter shows that it is addressed to mankind. Almost all translators of the Quran render the arabic word ‘ansha’ as “raised”. This is not a correct translation of the word, however. Lane translates it as follows: “originated it; brought it into being or existence; made it, or produced it for the first time, it not having been before.”

Initially, verse 6:133 states that God may replace modern humans with another species (“whomever he pleases to succeed you”). The process of the new species (khalifah) from human seed is similar to when God “produce humanity into existence for the first time (ansha).” The verse also suggests that the human species was originally created from “the seeds of another people,” i.e. that modern humans were evolved form earlier people. Therefore, verse 6:133 can be rephrased as: “Thy Lord is all Self-sufficient, Merciful. If He will, as He originally created you (ansha) [as a species] from the seed of another people.”

The following excerpt is taken from “What is the Origin of Man” by Maurice Bucaille pg. 175:

In contrast to the above, the commentary suggested by the verses of the Quran which I shall quote below bears mainly on material notions. We are indeed in the presence here of genuine morphological transformations which take place in a harmonious and balanced fashion due to an organization that is strictly planned, for the phenomena occur in successive phases. Thus the will of God, who rules eternally over the fate of human communities, is made manifest in all its power and splendour through these events.
The Quran first speaks of a ‘creation’, but it goes on to describe a second stage in which God gave form to man. There can be no doubt that the creation and morphological organization of man are seen as successive events.

  • Surah 7, verse 11, in which God is speaking to man:

“We created you and thereupon We gave you form; thereupon, We told the angels: Bow down to Adam.”

Hence it is possible to discern three successive events, the first two of which are important to our study : God created man and thereupon gave him a form (Sawwara in Arabic)

In the same book (pg. 179), Maurice Bucaille argues:

“It is futile to seek discrepancies between the Quran and the data of paleontology, or with the information allowing us to conceive of a creative evolution, for there are none.”


“Having said this however, we cannot rule out the possibility that, in one or several related but independent lineages of hominids, fully developed human groups may have appeared owing to certain genetic modifications arising from God’s creative genius. A creation of this kind cannot be proven, but it is perfectly logical and does not provoke any objections from the point of view of either paleontology or the natural sciences. The above hypothesis causes those who are aware of the latest discoveries in celluar functions -such as the control of those functions by the genetic code- to weigh the matter very seriously. The scientific point raised here is suggested by our knowledge of the role of genetic inheritance in living beings over the course of time, and by our discovery of the fantastic organizational complexity of the tiniest living forms, ranging from the most rudimentary to the most complex organisms.

Creative evolution may thus be said to have caused the appearance of a human lineage which was subsequently to undergo its own specific transformations. The latter took place within an organizational pattern that manifested itself at various levels over the course of time. The growing complexity of structures, as mentioned above, came from the gradual accumulation of new information concerning the development of anatomical formation and functions, above all regarding the brain.” (What is the origin of man pg. 200)

He further comments:

“We now possess incontrovertible evidence indicating that present day man is not quite the same as the human forms that lived long ago, whose remains we have recently discovered; the existence of transformations within the human species over the course of time is therefore undeniable, and is as obvious as the fact that the earth is round.” (What is the Origin of Man, pg. 205)

“Studies of mutations which may perhaps grant certain very minor advantages to particular human groups indicate that man does not at present display any tendency toward a new type of organization: For man, evolution has come to a halt.” (What is the Origin of Man, pg. 94)

Ghayur Ayub writes:

“Homo Sapiens Sapiens first appeared about 120,000 years ago and evolved into a form almost indistinguishable from modern man around 40,000 years ago. There has been no change in his appearance ever since.”

The following excerpt is taken from “What is the Origin of Man?” by Maurice Bucaille pg. 122-123:

Today, we know that the first wave of humans appeared on earth some five million years ago (six million years ago for certain researchers, and less for others). The waves that were to follow have also been more or less precisely located in time. What gaps still remain, however, in our knowledge due to the rarity of fossils! What large quantities of statements have appeared concerning the supposed relationship between human groups and the lineage that produced the apes (which is placed next to tge human lineage on the genealogical table), none of which is supported by any valid argument! What else are they but simple hypotheses designed to square with certain researchers’ preconceived ideas?

The very small quantity of paleontological specimens documenting the origins of mankind should make us proceed with extreme caution. There can be no doubt that  many fossils exist which have not yet been discovered; some of them never will be. Chronological data bearing on apes and humans alike may one day be modified by future discoveries. Whatever happens, however, there are solid arguments to reject the theory that man is descended from the apes.

Even if it becomes possible to trace the human lineage much further back in time than the oldest human forms at present thought to be known, we shall never arrive at the idea that man was born of simian forms, whose descendants are today’s great apes.

While discoveries made over the last few decades have gradually pushed back the appearance of the first human forms to more and more distant periods (from hundreds of thousands to millions of years), the basic problem remains the same. Whatever the answer, the discoveries do not indicate that man is descended from a fully developed lineage of apes.

For a detailed study on hominin evolution and comparison of the human lineage with the apes, please see the following post:

The Four Waves of Hominds

Maurice Bucaille ultimately concludes:

“There is absolutely no scientific proof to suggest that man was born of the evolved forms of present-day apes. On the contrary, everything suggests against this outmoded theory. What science has shown is that, at a certain point in time, human species appeared which gradually transformed itself into today’s man. From a scientific point of view, the crux of the problem is that we do not know what man evolved from: Was it from an autonomous lineage or from one that could be connected with another animal lineage? Whatever the answer, recent studies in genetics indicate that the process could not have taken place by any other method than the addition of new information governing the appearance of structures and functions specific to man. These phenomena fit perfectly into the pattern of an expanding genetic code, as suggested by the theory of creative evolution

(What is the Origin of Man, pg. 212)

It is not possible therefore to accept as the one and only feasible hypothesis the theory that there is a common lineage between the present-day great apes and man. There is nothing to suggest that evolution occurred in exactly the same way for man as for the rest of the animal kingdom. Nevertheless, although the famous ‘missing link’ has yet to be found, transformations have undeniably  taken place in the hominids through additions to the genetic code. These transformations are in harmony with the theory of creative evolution outlined at the end of Part One. Thus humanity may have begun at a very distant period not yet located by science, a period that is at least as old as the most ancient authentic human vestiges so far brought to light.” (What is the Origin of Man, pg. 98)

P.P. Grasse writes,

“Toward the end of the Cretaceous or the beginning of the Paleocene, Insectivores, Chiroptera, and primates were evolved from the same stock as primitive mammals. Later, tarsiers, lemurs, simians, and probably hominids came to be separated from a common stock. Direct phyletic links are unlikely between the first three suborders. Further, I believe—but this is a personal opinion—that the direct derivation of hominids from the common stock of all primates is more probable than derivation from the simian line.”

Also see the post:

No, Humans and Apes do NOT share a common ancestry! – Islamic Web Library

According to A Study of Quran,

“The first man created by God – according to the Scriptures – is Adam. God also created a wife for Adam, and the whole of humanity is supposed to have descended from them. Adam is also regarded as the first prophet as he received guidance in the form of revelation from God after he and his wife were evicted from Paradise for disobedience to His command. This traditional interpretation, that humanity, as we see today, descended from Adam and his wife, is untenable for biological and other reasons. Therefore, we have to look for an allegorical interpretation.

According to Ghulam Ahmad Pervez:

‘It is believed that Adam, supposedly the first man created by Allah, (whose story is narrated in the Quran regarding his exit from Jannah) was the first Rasool. This is not supported by any verse of the Holy Quran, neither is the name of Eve (Hawwa) mentioned in the Quran. The story is narrated in a symbolic form and does not pertain to a particular person or a couple; in fact this is the story of mankind and Adam is its representative. The word Adam occurs 25 times in the Quran and only in one place (3:32) it appears that Adam was also the name of a chosen person.’ (Exposition of the Quran, p. 1141.)

According to T.O. Shanavas,

“As the interpretations of the early Muslim scholars do not find credence within a realistic biological model, I offer a third interpretation. This interpretation is compatible with the modern scientific understanding. Returning to the verses 2:35-36, initially Adam and Eve are addressed while in the Garden as “you” in the dual grammatical form when God offered to enjoy the “Garden”. Adam was nevertheless deemed a Prophet.
Adam must have had contemporary human beings by whom he was ordained to convey the Divine message. God ordered them to “get you down” from their paradisiacal mental state of perfect ease and happiness when the Prophet Adam and his congregation, the trustees of God on the earth, violated the divine guidance. The use of the plural form (“get you down”), in the divine command suggests the presence of a generation of human beings along with Adam and Eve. Then, the Quran states, “Some
of you are enemies to others.” The use of the plural form, (some of you), referring to a group of human beings is another reason to suppose that there were other human beings with Adam and Eve. So, based on Quranic verses 2:35-36 and 7:10-11, God peopled the world of Adam and Eve with rich genetic diversity so that His vicegerents would not go extinct due to the population bottleneck until the end of the world.” (Islamic Theory of Evolution, p. 160)

P.P. Grasse comments,

“For the last 100,000 years, Homo sapiens (including praesapiens) has remained physically stable. Ruler of the earth and of his own evolution, because among all living beings he is the only one capable of assigning an end to his fate, he progresses or regresses at will, hesitating between further “hominization” and reversal to animalism.” (Evolution of Living Organisms, pg. 65)

Also, see the following posts:

The Prophethood of Adam (peace be upon him) according to the Quran and Sunnah – Islamic Web Library

Adam and Eve: The Spiritual, not Biological Parents of Humankind


Ayub, Ghayur. Knowing the Unknown: Through Science and Sufism (p. 112). AuthorHouse UK. Kindle Edition.

Bucaille, Maurice (1983). What is the Origin of Man? The Answers of Science and the Holy Scriptures. (p. 98, 122-23, 199-201, 212).

Bucaille, Maurice (1983). What is the Origin of Man? The Answers of Science and the Holy Scriptures. p. 94, 175, p. 179, 200, 205).

Bucaille, Maurice (1983). What is the Origin of Man? The Answers of Science and the Holy Scriptures. p. 94, 175, p. 179, 200, 205).

Grassé, Pierre-P.. Evolution of Living Organisms (p. 65). Elsevier Science. Kindle Edition.

Grassé, Pierre-P.. Evolution of Living Organisms (p. 75). Elsevier Science. Kindle Edition.

 Pervez, Ahmad (2010). Exposition of the Quran. (p. 1141).

Shanavas, T.O. (2005). Islamic Theory of Evolution: The Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species. (p. 140-141, 160-161).

WordPress. (2021). Adam. A Study of Quran.

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