Creatio ex Nihilo and the Literal Qur’an
Keywords:Qur'an exegesis, evolution, Islam, science, religion
In the modern age, the conflict between science and religion manifests itself in the debate between evolution and creation. In this essay, it is argued that if we adopt a creationist reading of the Qur’ān, we discover an interesting anomaly: reading the Qur’ān literally does not necessarily provide the foundation of creationism. Creationists usually have in mind the concept of creatio ex nihilo, or ‘creation out of nothing’. However, in the Qur’ān, one of the words used for creation, the verb khalaqa (usually rendered ‘He created’, with God as subject), has the consonant root khlq, which means ‘to split’ or ‘to divide’. This root word can even be seen as applying to the biological process of cell division. Therefore, it is argued here that using the verb khalaqa to describe this physical process is not problematic from a scientific perspective. In addition, with close textual analysis of the Qur’ān, it appears that the second verb for creation, the imperative ‘be’ (kun), does not truly describe the moment of creation, but rather that of ‘being’. The Qur’ān separates the notion of creation from being, which poses the question as to what the text constitutes as the ontological nature of the human being and the universe. Therefore, it is concluded here that even if we do adopt a literal reading of the Qur’ān, it does not necessarily support a worldview that endorses creatio ex nihilo.
This paper is one of a collection that originated in the IAHR Special Conference “Religions, Science and Technology in Cultural Contexts: Dynamics of Change”, held at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology on March 1–2, 2012. For an overall introduction see the article by Ulrika Mårtensson, also published here.
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