The Quran and "Human Evolution"

How does the story of Adam and Eve (in Arabic “Hawa”) reconcile with archeological evidence that has been found depicting what can be described as different species of anatomically “pre-modern” humans? What makes the descendants of Adam and Eve different from intelligent chimps that communicate and use tools?

The Quran answers these questions in two parts:

The first part comes from properly understanding chapter 2 verses 30-34 of the Quran. Verse 30 states that God told the angels that He was going to put a “replacement” on Earth.(1) The angels respond wondering why God would put on earth a creature who would destroy and spill blood when they were available and they do nothing but glorify God.

The plain meaning of this verse is that some species existed on earth prior to humans, and God created humans to replace them. What kind of species was being replaced? The Quran does not say. Islamic scholars have speculated on this point, but there isn’t an authentic prophetic account on this matter. The archeological record is also too fragmented and subject to reinterpretation to offer a reliable answer at this point.

What the Quran does go on to explain is why humanity was selected over the angels to replace whatever was on Earth before us. Verse 31 goes on to say that God created Adam and taught Adam the name of everything. Then God challenged the angels to name some new things they had not seen before. They respond admitting that they only knew what God taught them. Adam is then able to successfully tell the angels what the names are. In so doing, God shows the angels why humanity is better suited to build and develop the Earth than them and whatever was on Earth that humanity was replacing.

Some scholars suggested that Adam was literally taught the names of everything, as if he memorized a dictionary of every word to ever exist. This interpretation is weak because it is not a valid challenge to the angels, if God simply taught Adam the names of some things which He did not teach them. The better interpretation is that God gave Adam the capacity to name and classify new things, and this capacity is the equivalent of teaching Adam the name of everything. This is like saying you gave a man all the fish he would ever eat, by teaching him how to fish.

It is this higher intellectual capacity to think and develop new abstract symbolism, or names, for things we encounter for the first time that separates humanity from everything else. It is this higher intellectual capacity that allows us to advance scientifically, and develop the resources of the Earth to a degree that no other species could. The angels, on the other hand, do not have this capacity. They can only name things which they have been directly taught by God. As a result, God gave the command to bow, and the angels bowed to Adam showing their respect for the higher intellectual capacity that he was given.

The second part of the answer is found in chapter 33 verse 72 of the Quran. It states that the divine trust was offered to the heavens and the earth, and the mountains. All declined, and were afraid of taking on this burden, but humanity took it on.

What is the divine trust? It is the responsibility of leading a temporary life on Earth where we have to sincerely believe in and follow the message God sends us through His messengers. The consequence of carrying this divine responsibility is the reward of an eternal life in Paradise. The consequence for failure is an eternal punishment in Hell.

All other animals, no matter how close they may be to humans, will not have access to an eternal life. Animals may kill and harm each other needlessly, and animals may be generous and kind, yet they do so without being bound by a divine responsibility. On the Day of Judgment, they will be resurrected, and an appropriate justice will be imposed for unnecessary harm done between them. Then it is said that they will be turned to dust. (2)

God’s justice between His creations is absolute on the Day of Judgment. Only Jinn and Humans face an accounting for the injustices we do towards the rights of our creator. From the animal kingdom, we are the only ones with the capacity to freely accept or reject God’s message, and so we are the only ones who will be given an eternal life in either Heaven or Hell. Angels, animals, and other creatures may exist in Heaven, but they do so to serve and take care of those of us who carried and fulfilled the divine responsibility.

In summary, God took raw organic and inorganic material from the earth to create Adam in Heaven. According to (7:172) of the Quran, God brought out all of the souls of Adams descendants, and we all freely took on the divine responsibility by acknowledging God as our Lord. This is why everyone is born naturally predisposed to believe and submit to God. Then God allowed Adam and his wife to experience Heaven, experience the Devil tempting them into disobedience, and through this experience, He taught us how to ask for forgiveness. According to (2:38) of the Quran, we were then sent to Earth with the command to follow the guidance God sends to us through His messengers.

We were sent to Earth to replace whatever was dominating the earth before us, except that we came with two unique attributes: We came carrying a divine responsibility, and we came blessed with a higher intellectual capacity which allows us to more effectively develop Earth’s resources. Yes, the Angels were right in that humanity will spread destruction and bloodshed on Earth. However, it is God’s wisdom to put this competitive drive between us. Earth is not Paradise. Earth is the temporary place for bringing out the best and exposing the worst in us so we can see what kind of people we truly are in the end.


(1) Fath Al-Qadeer by Imam Al-Shawkani:


(2) That justice will be imposed even on the animal kingdom is narrated in authentic accounts attributed to Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him in Sahih Muslim. Several companions interpreted verses (79:40) of the Quran to mean that the animals will then be turned to dust. This has also been attributed to the Prophet Muhammad through several weak chains of narration so God knows for sure. See:

Like our Plain English Quran Translation on Facebook to get the latest updates!
1- The Opening / Al-Fatihah

2-The Cow - Part 1
2-The Cow - Part 2
2-The Cow - Part 3
2-The Cow - Part 4
2-The Cow - Part 5
2-The Cow - Part 6
2-The Cow - Part 7
18-The Cave / Al-Kahf
19-Mary Mother of Jesus / Maryam
24-The Light 35-40
29-The Spider
67-God's Kingdom / Al-Mulk
68-The Pen / Al-Qalam

69-Day of Accountability / Al-Haqqah
70-The Levels / Al-Ma'arij:
71- Noah / Nuh
72- The Jinn / Al-Jinn
73-Wrapped with Responsibility / Al-Muzzammil

74-Get out of Bed / Al-Muddaththir

75-Day of Resurrection / Al-Qiyamah

76-Humanity / Al-Insan

77-What I send / Mursalat

78-The News / An-Naba

79-The Angels Who Pull Out Your Souls / An-Naziat

80-He Frowned / Abasa

81-When the Sun Collapses and Dies / At-Takwir

82-The Tearing / Al-Infitar

83-The Cheaters / Al-Mutaffifin

84-Ripped Open / Al-Inshiqaq
85-The Constellations / Al-Buruj

86-The Brilliant Stars / At-Tariq
87-The Most High / Al-A'la
88-The Overhelming Day / Al-Ghashiyah
89-The Dawn / Al-Fajr
90-The Sacred Land of Makkah / Al-Balad
91-The Sun / Ash-Shams
92-The Night / Al-Lail
93-Morning / Ad-Duha
94-Insight and Understanding / Ash-Sharh
95-The Fig / At-Teen
96-The Clot / Al-Alaq
97-The Night of Destiny / Al-Qadr
98-Clear Evidence / Al-Bayyinah

99-The Earthquake / Al-Zalzalah
100-Running Horses /Al-Adiyat
101-Terrifying / Al-Qariah
102-Collecting Things / Al-Takathur
103-Time / Asr
104-Backbiting / Al-Humazah
105-The Elephant / Al-Feel
106-The Tribe of Quraish / Quraish
107-Small Assistance / Al-Ma'un
108-A River in Paradise Called Kauthar / Al-Kauthar
109-Those Who Reject the Truth
110-My Support / Al-Nasr
111-Twisted Braided Rope / Al-Masad
112-Pure Intention / Al-Ikhlas
113-Daybreak / Al-Falaq
114-People / Al-Nas