What does he have to say about biological evolution?
While not his main concern, he addresses the topic of evolution in his magnum opus, Tafhim al Qur'an, a six-volume translation and commentary on the Qur'an that took him thirty years to write. He references "Darwinism" multiple times in his commentary. Unlike his disciples, Dr. Israr Ahmad and Javed Ahmad Ghamidi (though they both split from Jamaat-e-Islami), he does not confuse biological evolution with evolution of the universe, nor does he use development and evolution interchangeably. The bad news is that he believes in complete creationism and places biological evolution in opposition to the Qur'an - as so both Dr. Israr Ahmad and Javed Ghamidi. After trashing "Darwinism", quite intriguingly, he leaves open the door for evolution - saying that if it turns out to be correct - then God must have used evolution for the diversity of species (see at the bottom of this post). At first glance, this looks like having it both ways. However, I take it as a positive thing that may provide an opening for conservative Muslims to accept a well-established scientific idea.
But before we get to this opening, lets look at Maududi's views on evolution. It is quite clear that he believes in a separate creation. In commenting on verse (32:13), "He began the creation of man from clay; then spread his progeny by an extract the nature of a despicable water", Maududi brings up the issue of the origin life and extrapolates creationism from there:
This is one of those verses of the Qur'an, which points to the direct creation of the first man. The scientists since the time of Darwin have felt greatly critical of this concept and have rejected it with contempt as unscientific. But the fact is that they cannot get rid of the concept of the direct creation of the first germ, if not of the first man, or of the first species of animals. If creationism is not accepted, then one will have to accept the utterly absurd idea that life originated merely accidentally; whereas even the simplest form of life as found in the single cell organism is so full of complexities and subtleties that regarding it as the result of an accident would be a million times more unscientific an idea than what the evolutionists think of creationism. And if once it is accepted that the first germ came into being by an act of direct creation, it would be no longer difficult to accept that the first member of every species of animal life was created by the Creator's own act of creation, and then its race started through different forms of procreation. If accepted this concept would explain away all those riddles and complexities which have remained unsolved in their theory of evolution in spite of all the scientific theorizing by the upholders of Darwinism.Of course, this leaves one wondering that if scientists do solve the issue of the origin of life - and many are getting close - will the same reasoning automatically lead to atheism? This is why religious scholars should not hinge their ideas on specific unresolved issues in science. By the way, I'm listening to fascinating Teaching Company lectures on the Origins of Life by Robert Hazen. In contrast to "we don't know - hence God must have created life", it is so refreshing to see scientists grapple with this challenge (and it is indeed a big challenge), and devise ways to solve this mystery. If nothing else, just look at the description of the course and it will give you a flavor of the scientific approach. If you have a driving commute, I highly recommend these lectures - Hazen is really good (though only buy them when they are on sale - otherwise this will be waaay too expensive).
Ahh..now let me drag myself back to Maududi's version of the creation. In response to (7:11), "Indeed We planned your creation, then We shaped you, and there We said to the angels, "Bow yourselves before Adam", Maududi takes a literalistic interpretation of the creation of man:
As regards the creation of mankind, first of all, Allah made a plan for it; then He got ready the necessary material for this purpose; then He gave it the human shape, and when Adam came into being in the shape of a living man, then the angels were commanded to bow before him, who was the representative of the whole human race.Now, of course, one can argue a metaphorical interpretation here - or one can bring in theistic evolution. While expressing ambiguity in the language, Maududi places Darwin's idea in direct opposition to the Qur'an:
It is very difficult for us to understand the exact nature of the creation of the first man, for we cannot comprehend fully how man was made from the material of the earth, how he was shaped and perfected and how the Spirit was blown into him. However, it is quite clear that the story of man's creation as stated in the Qur'an is quite different from Darwinism. According to this doctrine, the evolution of man has taken place from a non-human and semi-human state by a continuous process of elimination, selection and adaptation, and in this there is no line of demarcation to denote the end of the non-human state and the beginning of the species of `man' as such. On the contrary, the Qur'an says that man started his life as man; that in the entire history he has absolutely no connection whatsoever with any non-human state. Allah created him as man from the very first day of his life on the earth and endowed him with wisdom and enlightenment from the very start of iris life.Ok - so the objection to evolution has moved from the origin of life to the notion that humans have a link with other animals (sorry to break it to Maududi - but we are all primates). Now comes the interesting twist. First, Maududi brings up one of the standard misconceptions - that evolution is only theory:
Now let us consider an objection to the Divine conception of man howsoever high sounding this may be from the moral and psychological points of view: how can we reject the scientific Darwinian conception merely on this account? In answer to this, we put a counter question: has the Darwinian theory of the `Origin of Species' been scientifically proved? Only those people who have a cursory knowledge of science may be suffering from this misunderstanding that the theory of evolution has been scientifically proved to be true, but the majority of the scientists know that it is merely a theory in spite of its high-sounding technical terms, and that the arguments in favor of this are not conclusive, but merely hypothetical.But after saying all that, he leaves open the possibility of accepting evolution:
The most that can be said in this connection is that both the theories of the creation of the species may be equally possible. Their creation might have taken place according to the Darwinian theory of evolution, or each of the species might have been brought into existence individually.Hold on. After all of the above, Maududi's conclusion is: "Most that can be said...is that both the theories...may be equally possible". This is quite an open statement. In fact, Maududi here seems to be displaying fewer misconceptions than the more modern sounding Ghamidi (or with the ranting Zakir Naik). It is also important to realize that the possible accommodation of evolution is included in Maududi's Tafsir of the Qur'an - widely read in the conservative circles. Who knows? The odds are low, but may be Jamaat-e-Islami may turn out to be relatively reasonable on the issue of evolution.
Ghamidi on Islam and evolution
The evolution of Harun Yahya's "Atlas of Creation"
Zakir Naik's rant against evolution
Yusuf Estes' ignorance and hilarity combo about evolution