It was Alama Iqbal who explained Rumi’s theory of evolution in his ‘The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam’. However, it must not lead us to the conclusion that Rumi’s theory of evolution is similar to Darwin’s theory.
You know about the world-famous theory of evolution put forth by Darwin. It is liked and disliked, supported and criticised for many different reasons, but there is no doubt that it is a well-known theory. But do you know anything about Mawlana Rumi,s theory of evolution he put forth through his verses in his world-famous Masnavi?
It was Alama Iqbal who for the first time explained Rumi’s theory of evolution to the whole world in his world-renowned work “The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.” In that book, Iqbal says that even before Rumi Jahiz had put forth similar thoughts about the evolution of human beings on this earth. It is surprising that Rumi’s theory seems no less than a guiding word for the so-called modern Western theory of evolution put forth by Darwin.
However, it must not lead us to the conclusion that Rumi’s theory of evolution is similar to Darwin’s theory. There may be a few similarities but there are a lot of differences too. Darwin’s work is more comprehensive on the subject and is based on the matter only while Rumi’s theory seems to ascend from the natural to the supernatural angle. Rumi’s whole theory is confined to a few verses only. Iqbal has translated and explained the verses by completely supporting the view they put forth.
Rumi according to Iqbal says:
“First man appeared in the class of inorganic things,
Next he passed therefrom into that plants.
For years he lived as one of the plants,
Remembering naught of his inorganic state so indifferent;
And when he passed from the vegetative to the animal state.
He had no remembrance of his state as a plant,
Except the inclination he felt to the world of plants,
Especially at the time of spring and sweet flowers.
Like the inclination of infants towards their mothers,
Which know not the cause of their inclination to the breast…
Again the creator, as you know,
Drew man out of the animal into the human state.
Thus man passed from one order of nature to another,
Till he became wise and knowing and strong as he is now.
Of his first souls he has now no remembrance.
And he will be again changed from this present soul.”
Although Darwin’s theory of evolution is more comprehensive and technical, we can trace the imprints of “natural selection”, and ” survival of the fittest”, etc. here in Rumi’s theory too. But as stated earlier too, Rumi’s theory is spiritual in nature. Rumi does not consider the present state of the human being as his or her last state as Darwin and our natural scientists consider. Rumi believes that even after this state humans are going to enter a newer state. This means that after our death we are going to have a better life in terms of our evolution. This makes Rumi’s theory much different and more appealing to certain great minds like Alama Iqbal himself.
It does not end here. Iqbal says that Ibn i Maskwaih; who is another great scholar of the Muslim world, has elaborated a similar theory of evolution which seems more technical in its nature. Maskwaih also begins with the plant life, which he believes does not need seed for its birth at its lowest stage of evolution. Then he gives the example of those plants which in his words are “on the threshold of animal life”. He further names the animals which are on the threshold of human life too. Surprisingly, he believes that apes are just a degree below the man on the scale of evolution.
However, it might also not lead us to the conclusion that man has evolved from apes. One thing is clear from these theories, the theory of evolution is not necessarily a conspiracy theory created by Western secular and anti-religious thinkers. Its roots could be found in our own Muslim thought too. Another important point to bear in our mind is that these theories of evolution whether put forth by Western or Eastern thinkers can hardly be blamed for being anti-religious. Does not the holy Quran guide us that life has its origin in the water which is also a basic principle of these theories of evolution? We may criticise the views which we consider attacking our beliefs that may be our right. But we should not suppress the scientific approach and creative thinking by accusing every idea that we can not understand, labeling it anti-religious.
Hilal Bukhari is a teacher at GHS Kralweth. Feedback at [email protected]