Accepting Evolution Entails Kufr ?: A Critical Appraisal of Nuh Ha Mim Keller’s Fatwa

Shoaib Ahmed Malik,1* Elvira Kulieva,2 Ayub Ayub3

   1 Zayed University, United Arab Emirates
   2 College of Islamic Studies, Hamad bin Khalifa University
   3 Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University
   * Corresponding Author



Muslim scholars who oppose the compatibility of Islam and evolution usually advance three kinds of arguments: scientific, metaphysic, and hermeneutic. This paper will examine the position of Nuh Ha Mim Keller, a prominent Sunni scholar who employ these three lines of arguments and proposes that believing in human evolution entails kufr. In this article we will critically analyze Keller’s understanding of the science of evolution in which he claims that the theory of evolution is not robust. We argue that through the consilience of induction, evolution is the best explanation for the biological origins and diversity. We also argue that a more nuanced understanding of the metaphysical and hermeneutical aspects of Islam and evolution debate would reveal that Keller’s anti-evolution claims are unwarranted, including his accusation of kufr against those who accept human evolution.


kufr, Evolution, Human evolution , Islam, Nuh Ha Mim Keller.

Full Text:



Abdul Mabud, Shaikh. Theory of Evolution: An Assessment from the Islamic Point of View. Cambridge: Islamic Academy, 1991.

Ahmad, Israr. The Process of Creation: A Qur’anic Perspective. Lahore: Shirkat Printing Press, 2013.

Azamī, M M. The History of the Qur’ānic Text: From Revelation to Compilation : A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments. UK Islamic Academy, 2003.

Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. The Marvels of the Heart, Book 21 of the Revival of the Religious Sciences. Edited by Walter James Skeille. Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 2010.

Al-Haddad, Haitham. “The Prophet Adam and Human Evolution,” 2011.

Al-Qadri, Muhammad Tahrir. Creation of Man: A Review of Quran and Modern Embryology. Lahore, Pakistan: Minhaj-ul-Quran Publications, 2001.

Altaie, M B. The Divine Word and The Grand Design: Interpreting the Qur’an in the Light of Modern Science. Beacon Books, 2018.

Arien, Muhammad Ramzan. “Contribution of Dr. Israr Ahmed in the Interpretation of Quran (As a Mudarris and Mufassir).” The Islamic Culture” As-Saqafat-Ul Islamia” Research Journal-Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre, University of Karachi, no. 41 (2019).

Bagir, Zainal Abidin. “Islam, Science, and ‘Islamic Science’: How to ‘Integrate’Science and Religion.” In Science and Religion in a Post-Colonial World. Interfaith Perspectives. Hindmarsh, Australia: ATF Press, 2005.

Berra, Tim M. Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: A Basic Guide to the Facts in the Evolution Debate. Stanford University Press, 1990.

Bilgili, Alper. “An Ottoman Response to Darwinism: Ismail Fenni on Islam and Evolution.” The British Journal for the History of Science, 2015, 565–82.

Bowler, Peter J. “Evolution: The History of an Idea . Berkeley and Los Angeles.” CA: University of California Press, 2009.

Brink, Gijsbert van den, Jeroen de Ridder, and René van Woudenberg. “The Epistemic Status of Evolutionary Theory.” Theology and Science 15, no. 4 (2017): 454–72.

Brown, Jonathan A C. Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. Simon and Schuster, 2017.

Chittick, William C. The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn Al-Arabi’s Metaphysics of Imagination. Suny Press, 2010.

Coppens, Pieter. Seeing God in Sufi Qur’an Commentaries: Crossings between This World and the Otherworld. Edinburgh University Press, 2018.

Corner, Mark. Signs of God: Miracles and Their Interpretation. Routledge, 2017.

Determann, Jörg Matthias. Researching Biology and Evolution in the Gulf States: Networks of Science in the Middle East. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.

Draper, Paul. “God, Science and Naturalism.” In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Religion, edited by William J. Wainwright. Oxford, 2005.

Elgin, Mehmet, and Elliott Sober. “Popper’s Shifting Appraisal of Evolutionary Theory.” HOPOS: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 7, no. 1 (2017): 31–55.

Elshakry, Marwa. Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950. University of Chicago Press, 2014.

Futuyma, D, and M Kirkpatrick. Evolution. Sunderland MA: Sinauer, 2017.

Guessoum, Nidhal. Islam’s Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011.

———. “Islamic Theological Views on Darwinian Evolution.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion, 2016.

Hamid, Sadek. Sufis, Salafis and Islamists: The Contested Ground of British Islamic Activism. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2016.

Hanioglu, Sukru. “Blueprints for a Future Society: Late Ottoman Materialists on Science, Religion, and Art.” In Late Ottoman Society, 50–138. Routledge, 2013.

Hermansen, Marcia. “6 Beyond West Meets East: Space and Simultaneity in Post-Millennial Western Sufi Autobiographical Writings 149.” In Sufism East and West, 149–79. Brill, 2019.

———. “Global Sufism:‘Theirs and Ours.’” In Sufis in Western Society, 36–55. Routledge, 2009.

———. “The ‘Other’Shâdhilîs of the West.” Une Voie Soufie Dans Le Monde: La Shadhiliyya. Paris, P.: Maisonneuve et Larose, 2005, 479–97.

Ibnu Asyur, Muhammad al-Tahir. Al-Tahrır Wa Al-Tanwır. Tunis, Algeria: Al-dar al-Tunisiyah li an-Nasyr, 1984.

Ibnu Katsir, Imaduddin Abul Fida Ismail bin Umar Al-Quraisyi. Tafsir Al Quran Al-Az¯ım. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 2018.

Ibrahim, Abdul Halim, and Madiha Baharuddin. “Criticism of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Muslim Scholars.” Online Journal of Research in Islamic Studies 1, no. 1 (2014): 49–62.

Isaak, Mark. The Counter-Creationism Handbook. Univ of California Press, 2007.

Jackson, Sherman A. Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering. Oxford University Press, USA, 2009.

Jalajel, David Solomon. Islam and Biological Evolution: Exploring Classical Sources and Methodologies. University of the Western Cape Western Cape, South Africa, 2009.

———. “Tawaqquf and Acceptance of Human Evolution,” 2018.

Johnson, Curtis, and Curtis N Johnson. Darwin’s Dice: The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin. Oxford University Press, USA, 2015.

Kamali, Mohammad Hashim. Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 2016.

Kars, Aydogan. Unsaying God: Negative Theology in Medieval Islam. Oxford University Press, 2019.

Kaya, Veysel. “Can the Quran Support Darwin? An Evolutionist Approach by Two Turkish Scholars after the Foundation of the Turkish Republic.” The Muslim World 102, no. 2 (2012): 357–70.

Keller, Noah Ha Mim. Evolution Theory & Islam: Letter to Suleman Ali. Muslim Academic Trust, 1999.

———. Sea Without Shore: A Manual of the Sufi Path. Amana Publications, 2011.

Keller, Nuh Ha Mim. “Islam and Evolution: A Letter to Suleman Ali,” 1996.

———. Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law. Beltsville, MD: Amana Publications, 1991.

Khan, Nadia Inji. “Guide Us to the Straight Way”: A Look at the Makers of ‘Religiously Literate’ Young Muslim Americans.” In Educating the Muslims of America, edited by Yvonne Y Haddad, Farid Senzai, and Jane I Smith, 123–54. Oxford University Press New York, NY, 2009.

Laland, Kevin, Tobias Uller, Marc Feldman, Kim Sterelny, Gerd B Müller, Armin Moczek, Eva Jablonka, John Odling-Smee, Gregory A Wray, and Hopi E Hoekstra. “Does Evolutionary Theory Need a Rethink?” Nature News 514, no. 7521 (2014): 161.

Lee, K K. “Popper’s Falsifiability and Darwin’s Natural Selection.” Philosophy 44, no. 170 (1969): 291–302.

Malik, S A. Islam and Evolution: Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. Routledge Science and Religion Series. Taylor & Francis, 2021.

Malik, Shoaib. “Evolution and Islam - A Brief Review.” In The Muslim 500, 207–12, 2019.

———. “Evolution and Islam — a Brief Review” 4, no. 4 (2016): 365–68.

Malik, Shoaib Ahmed. “God, Information and the World: The Metaphysics of William Dembski and Al-Ghazālī.” Philosophy 94, no. 4 (2019): 547–76.

Mathiesen, Kasper. “Anglo-American ‘Traditional Islam’and Its Discourse of Orthodoxy.” Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies 13 (2013): 191–219.

McGrath, Alister E. Darwinism and the Divine: Evolutionary Thought and Natural Theology. John Wiley & Sons, 2011.

Nadvī, Muḥammad Shahābuddīn. Evolution Or Creation? Bangalore: Furqania Academy Trust, 1998.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein. “On the Question of Biological Origins.” Islam & Science 4, no. 2 (2006): 181–98.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, and Muzaffar Iqbal. Islam, Science, Muslims, and Technology. Kuala Lumpur: Islamic Book Trust, 2007.

Nasr, Seyyed Hossein, and Ramin Jahanbegloo. In Search of the Sacred: A Conversation with Seyyed Hossein Nasr on His Life and Thought. ABC-CLIO, 2010.

Padian, Kevin, and Kenneth D Angielczyk. “Transitional” Forms versus Transitional Features.” Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism, 2007, 197–230.

Pigliucci, Massimo. Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science. Sinauer Associates Sunderland, MA, 2002.

Plantinga, Alvin. Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism. New York: OUP USA, 2011.

Polkinghorne, John. “Physical Process, Quantum Events, and Divine Agency.” Quantum Mechanics: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, 2001, 181–90.

———. “The Metaphysics of Divine Action.” In Philosophy, Science and Divine Action, edited by and Robert John Russell F. LeRon Shults, Nancey C. Murphy. Brill, 2009.

Popper, Karl. Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge. routledge, 2014.

———. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Routledge, 2005.

Qadhi, Yasir. An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’aan. Al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution, 1999.

Riexinger, Martin. “Responses of South Asian Muslims to the Theory of Evolution.” Die Welt Des Islams, 2009, 212–47.

Rogers, A R. The Evidence for Evolution. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2011.

Ross Solberg, Anne. “The Mahdi Wears Armani: An Analysis of the Harun Yahya Enterprise.” Södertörns högskola, 2013.

Ruse, Michael. Darwinism and Its Discontents. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Salman, Younas. “What Does Islam Say about Evolution and the Big Bang?,” 2016.

Schleifer, Abdallah. “The World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims.” Jordan National Library, no. 10 (2019): 44.

Scott, Eugenie C. Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2009.

Shah, Zulfiqar Ali. Anthropomorphic Depictions of God: The Concept of God in Judaic, Christian and Islamic Traditions: Representing the Unrepresentable. International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), 2012.

Shavit, Uriya. Scientific and Political Freedom in Islam: A Critical Reading of the Modernist-Apologetic School. Taylor & Francis, 2017.

Siddiqui, M Z. Ḥadīth Literature: Its Origin, Development and Special Features. Islamic Texts Society. Cambridge: Islamic Texts Society, 1993.

Sober, Elliott. Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology. Cambridge, MA: Mit Press, 2006.

Sweetman, Brendan. Evolution, Chance, and God: Understanding the Relationship between Evolution and Religion. Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2015.

Usmani, Muhammad Taqi. An Approach to the Qur’anic Sciences. Adam Publishers & Distributors, 2010.

Wray, Gregory A, Hopi E Hoekstra, Douglas J Futuyma, Richard E Lenski, Trudy F C Mackay, Dolph Schluter, and Joan E Strassmann. “Does Evolutionary Theory Need a Rethink?-COUNTERPOINT No, All Is Well.” Nature 514 (2014): 161–64.

Yahya, Harun. The Evolution Deceit: The Scientific Collapse of Darwinism and Its Ideological Background. Global Yayincilik, 2001.

———. Why Darwinism Is Incompatible with the Qur’an. Global Yayincilik, 2003.

Ziadat, Adel A, and Baba G Jallow. Western Science in the Arab World: The Impact of Darwinism 1860–1930. Springer, 1986.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Shoaib Ahmed Malik, Elvira Kulieva, Ayub Ayub

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Faculty of Ushuluddin and Islamic Thought UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta
Jl. Laksda Adisucipto, Papringan, Caturtunggal, Kec. Depok, Kabupaten Sleman, Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta 55281

Prof. Dr. H. Abdul Mustaqim, S.Ag., M.Ag.
Faculty of Ushuluddin and Islamic Thought UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Creative Commons License

Jurnal Studi Ilmu-ilmu al-Qur'an Hadis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.