Review of International Open University’s (IOU) BAIS Program

After five years of studying, reviewing, memorizing, and stressing out, I am proud to say that I finally graduated from International Open University’s Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies (BAIS) program. It was quite a journey and I’ve learned so much. In this post, I want to give a review of my experience with the university for those who may be thinking of joining an online based Islamic university but haven’t really made up their minds yet.

I have divided my review into three sections.


I got what I wanted out of the program:

  1. Solid understanding of the fundamentals of the religion
  2. A deeper understanding and connection with the religion
  3. Enough basic Arabic down to be able to figure out the Qur’an and read basic Arabic texts
  4. Increase in taqwa

The program is not designed to produce scholars but just very well informed Muslims and beginner to intermediate level students of knowledge. The program gives you tools to be able to research religious concepts and figure things out for yourself but not at an advanced level.

I was very impressed by their consistency with sticking to the schedule and having full staff of teachers as well as teacher’s assistants (TAs). The assistants themselves are also highly qualified. Many of them are either graduates of an Islamic university or currently enrolled in a Masters program.

Everything is online based so it does require lots of discipline. I have heard of students dropping out because they do not have the discipline to do self-paced courses in a timely manner. One student who dropped out told me that he needs to be in the same classroom as the teacher and be able to interact, otherwise, he cannot remain attentive. Studying online successfully also means not being busy by opening other screens while the lecture is playing. You have to be focused.

In aqeeda, the university follows Athari (أثري) creed and in fiqh it is mainly Hanbali influenced. Dr. Bilal Phillips only teaches the aqeedah courses, first two semesters of Arabic, and the evolution of fiqh course, which discusses how the four schools of thought in jurisprudence came to be.

If you are looking to have a deeper connection with your faith and want an affordable program that will solidify fundamentals of the religion for you and give you the tools to be able to figure things out at a basic to intermediate level, then this is the course for you.

Next, I will discuss some pros and cons in the program insha’Allah:


Complete Syllabus – I was very impressed the way they had already planned out the curriculum for each class and as to what to expect throughout the course on a weekly basis. It felt much like a professional university and made it easy for me to mentally prepare and know what to expect. They’ve already marked out which pages to read in the assigned text and which lectures to listen to each week. They give you the syllabus immediately after you are enrolled. I have taken classes in some online universities where every week is a surprise as to what you will learn.

Video Lectures Pre-Recorded – All of the lectures are pre-recorded and you have the option to either watch it in video format or download as mp3. For some of the easier classes, I would often download the assigned lecture as mp3 and take it with me to listen to it in the car, gym, or even at work at times as background noise.

Live Sessions w/ TAs – This is a very helpful feature. Ever week you have a chance to attend a live session with a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) who can answer any of your questions or clarify lessons. He/she usually starts off by going over the weekly lesson and then afterwards takes questions. They used to require live attendance with the TA and it used to be about 5% of your final grade but I’m not sure if that is still the case. Additionally, they record all live sessions every week so you can view them later on if you miss it.

The TAs are not just fellow students but also qualified. Some of them are in masters programs at universities like Medina.

Books in PDFs – For me this was very helpful because I could download them on to my digital devices and read the weekly assignment while on the metro or on the go.

Courses are Thorough – The courses are very informative and detailed and you get a lot out of it on a fundamental level. It’s very well planned and starts off with basics and delves into more and more advanced topics.

Assignments (Reading and Essays) – Every week you are assigned a pre-recorded lecture and reading assignment from the text. You are also required to write one essay per class on a given topic. This essay requirement especially is very helpful because you learn writing and research skills. It also helps you delve deeper into the topic and be creative by sharing your own input and is a good indication whether you’ve understood the topic or not. The essays are graded by TAs and are about 10% of your final grade.

You are also required to take a research assignment course during your senior semester. The requirement is to write a 30 page paper on a given topic. So you get to further your research skills and delve deeper into the topic and learn how to formulate your arguments using evidences.

Quizzes – The lessons are called modules. Each course can have anywhere from 20-32 modules or lessons. After every module, there is a five question multiple choice quiz for which you are not allowed to use your notes or books. The questions are drawn out of the lecture as well as reading assignments. This helps you measure your comprehension and make sure that you pay attention and not skip anything. The quizzes are graded and about 10-15% of your final grade. So if a course has 30 modules, this means you will have 30 quizzes.

In addition, there is also a 50-question multiple choice midterm and final exam. The midterm is about 30% of the final grade and the final is about 40%.

Price – One of the visions of IOU is to provide free Islamic education but obviously they have to cover their administrative costs. When I first began studying, it used to be $50/semester for U.S. students. Yes, you read that right. $50 per semester not per credit or class. They would allow you to take up to 9 courses with $50. That’s a great deal. But because they have grown a lot over the years, their administrative costs have gone up. During my last semester, I was paying close to $300 per semester. That’s still a great deal.

Another great thing they do is that they charge people based on which country they reside in. So if they live in a first world rich country, they charge more but if they live in a poor third world country, they charge less.

Access to Jstor – Jstor is a digital library of academic journals, primary sources, books and articles. Access to it is provided by universities and libraries around the world. It is used by students and researchers all over the world! They have some free material available to read as well, however, a far greater amount of reading material which is necessary for serious research into topics is only available via a university or a library. So being a student at IOU gives you access to Jstor for free (technically it’s covered under your semester fees)! I have used Jstor to do research for some of the essays at IOU because not sufficient resources were available online or my local library. In addition, you get to have access to tons of research in other topics not related to religion.


Nothing is perfect. Everything has some flaws that need to be worked on or improved. Following are what I consider some of the weak points in the IOU program.

Arabic Program – I did not take the reading course which was very basic since I could already read Arabic script so I cannot comment on that. If you are in the same situation, you can have it waived from your requirement and skip over it. As for the rest of the program, then I really enjoyed the first two semesters. They were phenomenal. I learned a lot on basic sentence structure and grammar! The second semester was amazing because the teacher only spoke Arabic and covered the entire text of the Al-Arabiya Bayna Yadayk volume 1. My basic comprehension was skyrocketing. I loved it.

After that semester, the program kind of falls apart, at least for me. For some reason, they don’t continue with the Bayna Yadayk books and instead delve right into Medina books 2 & 3 and the teacher is different too. I did not enjoy it very much. Also, I am not a fan of the Medina books. They’re not engaging as the Bayna Yadayk books and are mainly grammar focused. The whole lessons in the Medina books are structured around the teacher and student relationship, so it is very restrictive and can get boring after a while. Sure, I learned a few things but I had to do a lot of self-study, because the teacher wasn’t very engaging and just kind of gave monotone lectures. I was very disappointed by it all. It would have been a lot better to continue with the Bayna Yadayk books in Arabic or even in English with a gradual dominance of Arabic only.

The last 2-3 semesters of Arabic focus on Balagha (Arabic rhetoric) and is done mainly in English with reading of Arabic texts focusing on the Balagha of the Qur’an. This was fine as it gives you a different way of looking at the linguistic beauty of the Qur’an and helps you practice reading Arabic texts. However, if done properly, this would only be done in Arabic. You cannot learn or appreciate Balagha properly in English.

Cannot Interact Directly w/ the Professor – Unfortunately, you cannot interact with the lecturer at all. In many cases, the lectures were recorded maybe over a year or two ago so the professor probably has moved on to some other project. Your only way of removing some confusion over the lesson is to e-mail the TA or attend the weekly live session.

Customer Service – It’s kind of difficult to get in touch with the staff if you need something done related to cancellations, profile update, or other administrative functions. The main way to get in touch is via e-mail (I’ve never looked into or tried calling) and sometimes they can take up to a week or two to get back to you. Other times, you have to follow up to get a response. This can get frustrating especially if you urgently need something done. After I finished my courses, it took me many months to get my degree certificate. I kept getting passed around (and with me constantly requesting an update) until finally someone in Gambia responded and sent me the certificate.

Some Professors Just Read Things – I had at least one or two professors that just read directly from the text and didn’t add any value to the lesson. They literally read word for word. After a few modules, I just stopped listening to them and went directly to the text and just read it myself. I’m not going to waste time listening to something I can just do myself in less time.

Final Exam Locations – The university requires that you take your final exam at a registered exam location. They send them the password to the final exam. You cannot take the final exam except at a registered institution. This might be a mosque, Muslim community center, etc. If you don’t have one in your area, you can contact the university and make some other arrangement. You can also reach out to your local mosque or Muslim community center and ask them to register with IOU as a registered exam location.

I find this to be a con because though I understand they want to be professional about it, it just doesn’t make sense why this is required for an online university. It’s kind of frustrating because sometimes you contact a place that is listed on the IOU student portal as a registered location, but they don’t get back to you. You’re kind of left hanging. It can get stressful if the final exam is close and the places you have contacted still haven’t returned your messages or worse, they don’t show up on the day of the scheduled exam. Remember, these pre-registered exam locations are not paid by IOU, the process is entirely voluntary. So they are under no obligation to keep their word or get back to you. Some of them may charge the student some small fees to take the exam at their location so I assume they would be a bit more punctual and professional about it.


I don’t regret studying at IOU and overall really enjoyed it. As I stated earlier, it fulfilled what I was looking for and wanted out of it. I would do it again because it did give me insight into my faith that I didn’t have before. I have more confidence in my faith because of it and I certainly enjoy my faith more. Having the ability to understand Qur’an and basic Arabic texts alone is a remarkable achievement for an online Islamic university program. So before enrolling in any type of online university program, you need to ask yourself, what are your goals? What do you want to achieve out of the university? What are your expectations?

I’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Is there an online Islamic studies program that you really liked or hated? If so, why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!

Islam and Evolution: Summary and Review of Dr. Shoaib Malik’s Book


I recently finished reading Dr. Shoaib Ahmad Malik’s book titled Islam and Evolution: Al-Ghazālī and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm. It is an interesting work in which Dr. Malik engages with various issues related to evolutionary biology, philosophy, theology, intelligent design, Christian responses to evolution, and much more. However, the main objective of the book is to highlight the main debates within the Muslim community over evolution and see if they are compatible with Imam Ghazali’s Ashari paradigm.

Dr. Malik uses Imam Ghazali’s writings to derive principles that can help determine whether something is theologically acceptable in the Ashari framework as outlined by Imam Ghazali. He’s clear about the fact that it is a hypothetical exercise on his part and that the principles are derived through his own understanding of Ghazli’s ideas based on his writings. He goes through the literature on evolution and the various discussions surrounding this topic in religious circles and then lays out four primary positions on evolution within the Muslim world: no exceptions (NE), creationism, human exceptionalism (HE), and Adamic exceptionalism (AE). He then measures whether each of these positions abides by Ghazali’s principles or not. If it does, only then, he concludes, it would be theologically acceptable according to the Ghazalian Ashari paradigm.

In this brief overview, I’ll review the book insha’Allah, however, I will mainly focus on Dr. Malik’s discussions related to evolution in the Muslim world and whether each is theologically acceptable or not according to his research. I will not be discussing a host of other topics which he delves deeply into his book, such as, critique of intelligent design, Christian responses to evolution, points related to philosophy of science, history of evolutionary theory, critique of the claim that some Muslims in the classical era hinted at evolution in their writings, metaphysics, etc. The interested reader can refer to his book for further elaboration on those topics.

Defining Evolution

It is important to understand what evolution is and isn’t. There are many misconceptions about evolution among the general public. We need to differentiate between popular conceptions of this theory and how it is actually viewed among scientists. Dr. Malik argues that evolution, as a scientific theory viewed by scientists, consists of three core concepts:

1 – Deep Time

This simply means that a long period (millions to billions of years) has occurred for evolution to take place and is not sudden. It’s a very slow and gradual process.

2 – Common Ancestry

This means that all living entities go back to a common ancestor (i.e. all living creatures are connected somewhere up the chain). Somewhere billions of years ago, all living creatures had a common ancestor. It should be noted here that the theory does not say that human beings came from apes or monkeys, rather, that we all have the same ancestor somewhere up the chain.

3 – Causal Mechanics

This part describes how common ancestors evolved into different species over deep time. Neo-Darwinism, which is the dominant accepted version of the theory at this time, says that random mutations and natural selection are the driving forces of this process. We need to define these two terms to get a better understanding. However, it should be noted that there is some debate in scientific circles over how evolution occurred but not whether it occurred or not. Dr. Malik states, “Despite the success of Neo-Darwinian evolution, there are several scientific debates over the causal mechanics, i.e. the third principle. The critics have aptly referred to this potential revision of Neo-Darwinian evolution or Modern Synthesis as the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis” (p. 56). This is important to understand because there are many on the opposition side that cherry pick critiques from biologists who disagree with the mechanics of new-darwinsim but do not reject evolution as a whole.

Natural Selection

This mechanism states that environmental factors play a part in deciding what types of animals remain and what types die out. As an example, “Giraffes with relatively shorter necks will not survive if they cannot reach the tall trees as their food source. By contrast, the giraffes with longer necks will have a higher chance to survive because they have the necessary trait to endure in that specific context” (pgs. 26-27). Over time, the longer neck giraffes will pass on their genes to their children and we will no longer see giraffes with shorter necks in that environment. This is why the phrase ‘survival of the fittest‘ is often used to describe this process.

Random Mutations

This refers to mutations in the gene which cause the variations in the species. The theory states that when genes mutate over billions of years after being passed down generation after generation, it leads to variation in species. There are various reasons discussed in scientific literature over why mutations occur and include things like exposure to radiation or chemicals, copying errors from one generation to the next, etc. and they can be small or big changes. Dr. Malik states, “Depending on the frequency of mutations, when they occur, how they occur, where (on the genome) they occur, and what they result in can lead to various possible evolutionary pathways” (p. 28).

Dr. Malik also presents evidence used by scientists to prove evolution, the responses to the evidence by those who reject evolution, and the counter arguments to the opposition’s criticisms. Those interested in the evidence may refer to the book for further details.

What Exactly is a Scientific Theory?

It is also important here to clear a misconception about what scientists mean by scientific theory. The meaning of the term as used in the disciplines of science is significantly different from the common vernacular usage of theory. In everyday speech, theory can imply an explanation that represents an unsubstantiated and speculative guess, whereas in science it describes an explanation that has been tested and is widely accepted as valid.

Dr. Malik states, “Science needs facts or data to make claims. Without data, scientists cannot guess what’s going on with the phenomena they are interested in. So once data is acquired, scientists start creating hypotheses. After a hypothesis is further reified through experimentation, scientists begin to develop laws in mathematical form to encapsulate an equation. Once those laws are understood, can be explained, and have been substantially tested, only then does it becomes a scientific theory…A scientific theory is a model that best explains the facts and makes testable predictions. If it continues to align with newly discovered facts and continues to make predictions that come true, it remains a valid theory. In other words, a valid theory is the highest level of substantiation you can get in science” (p. 48).

Creation of Adam and Eve in Islamic Scripture

This would be a good place to bring up relevant verses from the Qur’an and hadiths about origin of mankind. It will help navigate remaining of the discussion insha’Allah.


  • “I created him [i.e. Ādam] with My two hands.” (38:75)
  • “I proportioned him [i.e. Ādam] and blew into him from My spirit.” (15:29)
  • “And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “Indeed, I will make upon the earth a successive authority.” They said, “Will You place upon it one who causes corruption therein and sheds blood, while we declare Your praise and sanctify You?” Allah said, “Indeed, I know that which you do not know.” (2:30)
  • “And [mention] when We said to the angels, “Prostrate before Adam”; so they prostrated, except for Iblees. He refused and was arrogant and became of the disbelievers.” (2:34)
  • “O mankind! Be vigilant of your Lord Who created you from one soul, and created from it its mate (i.e. Hawwa).” (4:1)
  • “O mankind! We created you from a single male and female, and made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another.” (49:13)
  • “Verily, the likeness of ʿĪsā with Allāh is as the likeness of Ādam. He created him [i.e. Ādam] from dust and said to him, Be, and he came to be.” (3:59)
  • “So, We said: ‘O Ādam, this is an enemy to you and to your wife. So let him not expel you from Jannah, lest you should get into trouble. Here you have the privilege that you will not be hungry nor will you be unclad, and you will not be thirsty, nor will you be exposed to the sun.’” (20:117-19)
  • “He said, ‘Go down, some of you enemies of some; and for you on the earth there will be a dwelling place and enjoyment for a time.’” (7:24)


  • “Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, created Adam in His image with His length of sixty cubits, and as He created him He told him to greet that group, and that was a party of angels sitting there, and listen to the response that they give him, for it would form his greeting and that of his offspring. He then went away and said: Peace be upon you! They (the angels) said: May there be peace upon you and the Mercy of Allah, and they made an addition of” Mercy of Allah”. So he who would get into Paradise would get in the form of Adam, his length being sixty cubits, then the people who followed him continued to diminish in size up to this day.” (Muslim)
  • “Angels were created from light, Jinns were created from a smokeless flame of fire, and Adam was created from that which you have been told.” (Muslim)
  • “Moses argued with Adam and said to him, ‘You are the one who got the people out of Paradise by your sin, and thus made them miserable.’” (Bukhari)
  • “Allah created Adam from a handful which he took from the whole of the earth; so the children of Adam are in accordance with the earth: some red, some white, some black, some a mixture, also smooth and rough, bad and good.” (Abu Dawud)
  • “The best day on which the sun has risen is Friday; on it Adam was created, on it he was made to enter Paradise, on it he was expelled from it.” (Muslim)
  • “When Allah created Adam He wiped his back and every person that He created among his offspring until the Day of Resurrection fell out of his back. He placed a ray of light between the eyes of every person. Then He showed them to Adam and he said: ‘O Lord! Who are these people?’ He said: ‘These are your offspring.’ He saw one of them whose ray between his eyes amazed him, so he said: ‘O Lord! Who is this?’ He said: ‘This is a man from the latter nations of your offspring called Dawud.’ He said: ‘Lord! How long did You make his lifespan?’ He said: ‘Sixty years.’ He said: ‘O Lord! Add forty years from my life to his.’ So at the end of Adam’s life, the Angel of death came to him, and he said: ‘Do I not have forty years remaining?’ He said: ‘Did you not give them to your son Dawud?’” He (Prophet (pbuh)) said: “Adam denied, so his offspring denied, and Adam forgot and his offspring forgot, and Adam sinned, so his offspring sinned.” (Tirmidhi)
  • “People should stop boasting about their fathers who have died, while they are but coals of Hell, or they will be more humiliated with Allah than the dung beetle who rolls dung with his nose. Indeed Allah has removed the pride of Jahiliyyah from you, and its boasting about lineage. [Indeed a person is either] a pious believer, or a miserable sinner. And people are all the children of Adam, and Adam was [created] from dust.” (Tirmidhi)
  • “The believers will be assembled on the Day of Resurrection and they will say, ‘Let us look for someone to intercede for us with our Lord so that He may relieve us from this place of ours.’ So they will go to Adam and say, ‘You are Adam, the father of mankind, and Allah created you with His Own Hands and ordered the Angels to prostrate before you, and He taught you the names of all things; so please intercede for us with our Lord so that He may relieve us.’ Adam will say, to them, ‘I am not fit for that,’ and then he will mention to them his mistake which he has committed.’” (Bukhari)
  • “When Allah fashioned Adam in Paradise, He left him as He liked him to leave. Then Iblis roamed round him to see what actually that was and when he found him hollow from within, he recognized that he had been created with a disposition that he would not have control over himself.” (Muslim)

Ghazali’s Principles for Heterodoxy and Valid Figurative Interpretation

Dr. Malik compiles a list of criteria which Ghazali used to determine what is theologically valid and to differentiate between valid and invalid interpretations. The four positions on evolution in the Muslim world are then evaluated based on this criteria.

According to Dr. Malik, Imam Ghazali, “maintains that belief in the three primary principles – God, the Prophet, and the eschaton – have to be held on to alongside any text that is mutawātir, which is not open to figurative interpretation. Otherwise, they may face the charge of unbelief. Apart from this, there are other grey areas that need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis” (p. 280).

As for Ghazali’s interpretive strategy, then Dr. Malik lists them as five levels. One must begin with the first level, “the most apparent reading (ẓāhir) until there are convincing reasons to go down to lower levels” (p. 281). The levels are as follows (pgs. 281-282):

  1. Ontological (al-wujūd al-dhātī) – In this level, Islamic scripture is understood according to the terms’ apparent meaning, and devoid of any figurative interpretation. For these entities exist in their own right regardless of whether the senses or the imagination apprehends them or not. In other words, these are understood noumenally. One example that al-Ghazālī uses is the mention of seven heavens in the Qurʾān (20:25). It may not be clear what they may be, but they can be accepted at face value since there is nothing inherently contradictory in them.
  2. Sensory/phenomenological (al-wujūd al-hissī) – In this layer, things are conceived as empirical sense impressions. For instance, an image formed of a man in our minds by actually seeing a man in front of us. In contrast to the ontological layer, this second level treats scriptural references phenomenally. As an example of this kind, al-Ghazālī quotes a ḥadīth in which the Prophet claimed that paradise was presented to him in a wall he was looking at (Bukhārī). Al-Ghazālī argues that such a statement cannot be taken at face value, i.e. the first level, because the size of paradise cannot be fitted into a limited wall. Accordingly, what the Prophet may have seen was an image of paradise in the wall.
  3. Conceptual (al-wujūd al-khayālī) – This layer refers to the images of the things that can normally be perceived through the senses but do not have an immediate physical correlation. An example would include imagining an elephant in your mind which you can’t actually see in front of you. Al-Ghazālī gives the example of a ḥadīth in which the Prophet Muhammed sees Prophet Jonah enact something (Muslim). Since the ḥadīth mentions “as if …,” it indicates that the Prophet Muhammed didn’t actually see Prophet Jonah, but rather it was an event that was being played out in his mind. He further argues for this interpretation’s sensibility given the fact that Prophet Jonah didn’t exist in Prophet Muhammed’s time.
  4. Noetic (al-wujūd al-ʿaqlī) – This level signifies mental extractions of the essence of objects which can be understood beyond their physical forms. For example, a pen has a specific physical form, but its essence can be understood as being the recorder or holder of knowledge. As a scriptural example, al-Ghazālī discusses a ḥadīth which goes to the effect of relaying that anyone who exits Hellfire (after being punished and cleansed for their sins) will be given a portion of paradise that is equivalent to ten times the size of the world (Bukhārī 806). This isn’t meant to be a literal understanding in terms of height, breadth, and width, but rather a value judgement. Since paradise is the most sought thing by Muslims, its value essentially supersedes anything. Hence the reference to ten times the size of the world, which implies that whatever portion an individual gets of paradise will be worth a lot.
  5. Analogical (al-wujūd al-shabāhī al-majāzī) – This final level refers to instances wherein a thing itself does not strictly exist ontologically and neither as an image as such. Rather, it has an analogous structure that possesses some quality or attribute that can be related between two things by the mind. In other words, this isn’t an analogy based on the essences of what is being compared like the fourth level, but rather one based on accidents or properties that two things might possess. An example of this type of analogy would include calling a person a lion in connection with his braveness. Since braveness is not essential to a lion nor a person, i.e. you can have cowardice in both, it is a quality or attribute that they could possess but don’t necessarily have to. Al-Ghazālī uses the example of God’s anger (e.g. Qurʾān 20:81) to make this point. Anger, at least how al-Ghazālī defines it, represents a boiling of the blood to seek out vengeance. This is impossible for God since He isn’t equivalent to a human being, and hence cannot have emotions like human beings. It is why the previous levels are inapplicable to such ideas. But we can understand it to imply that God’s anger may have connotations like punishing. Hence there is an analogical crossover from what we can understand of God in human terms without committing to complete isomorphism.

The Four Positions on Evolution in the Muslim World

After laying the framework of Ghazali’s principles for interpretation, Dr. Malik presents the four views on evolution found among Muslims and then analyzes whether each one fits with the Ghazlian framework mentioned above or not. If it does, then it would be considered theologically valid in the Ashari framework, otherwise, it would not.

First Position: No Exceptions (NE)

This is the group that wholeheartedly accepts evolution as a matter of fact for all living organisms including human beings. They interpret all the verses in the Qur’an speaking about the creation of Adam and Hawwa as metaphorical and not literal. They also read in evolution through sophisticated hermaneutic and linguistic twists and turns. Dr. Malik concludes that one of their main reasons for rejecting the account of Adam and Hawwa as a special separate creation is their rejection of miracles in general. They do not believe that Allah intervenes in His creation to disrupt the laws of nature, thus, they also reject the virgin birth of Mary, the splitting of the sea by Moses, and other miracles mentioned in the texts.

You can see Dr. Shabir Ally defending this view here.

Dr. Malik spends a good amount of time analyzing their main arguments and showing inconsistencies and contradictions with the principles he outlined. He concludes at the end that this camp is not theologically valid according to Ghazali’s principles.

It should also be noted that this camp often points to statements from some Muslim scholars of the past which seem to hint at evolution as we understand it today. However, Dr. Malik refutes their arguments in detail with evidence that they were not speaking about evolution when we read their statements in whole with its proper context. Rather, they were speaking about a concept known as The Great Chain of Being, which was popular in their times. Sadly, these quotes are used by some non-Muslims who support evolution as well to suggest that Muslims predated the idea. Evolution is a modern idea that was not known to them concludes Dr. Malik.

Second Position: Creationism

This is the group that rejects evolution as a theory in its totality and believes Allah created all things as they are without the process of evolution. To be clear, they acknowledge micro-evolution but not macro-evolution. Microevolution, as the name suggests, is evolutionary change on a small scale, such as evolution or selection occurring on a single gene or a few genes in a single population over a short period of time. Macroevolution, in contrast, is evolutionary change on a large scale that happens over a longer period of time. Examples include a species diverging into one or more different species, or the formation of brand new groups of organisms. You can read more about the two types here.

You can read Mufti Zameelur Rahman defending this position here.

Dr. Malik concludes that this position is theologically valid according to Ghazali’s principles.

Third Position: Human Exceptionalism (HE)

This group, as the name suggests, believes that evolution may be accepted as it stands, however, with the exception of all human beings. They believe that the verses in the Qur’an and hadiths on the origin of mankind are too explicit and clear to suggest any other alternative. Adam and Hawwa are considered a special miraculous creation independent of the evolutionary process. All mankind today trace their lineage back to these two beings.

You can see Dr. Yasir Qadhi defending this position here and here.

Dr. Malik concludes that this position is theologically valid according to Ghazali’s principles.

Fourth Position: Adamic Exceptionalism (AE)

This is a recently formed new theory proposed by Dr. David Solomon Jalajel. It is similar to Human Exceptionalism (HE) in the following ways:

  • It is willing to accept evolution for all non-human beings
  • It acknowledges that Adam and Hawwa were a special miraculous creation independent of the evolutionary process, thus, they did not have parents
  • It believes all human beings that exist today genetically go back to Adam and Hawwa

The difference is that it leaves open the possibility of there being pre/co-Adamic humans existing on Earth before the arrival of Adam and that these pre/co-Adamic humans could have come as a result of the evolutionary process just like any other non-human being. In addition, they also leave open the possibility that some of Adam’s descendants could have mated and reproduced with these other human-like beings. Thus, in one aspect our lineage goes back to Adam and Hawwa and from another aspect it could go back to these other pre/co-Adamic human beings as well. To be clear, this group neither confirms these two possibilities nor rejects them. Instead, it takes the position of tawaqquf (non-commitment). It’s a type of agnostic position on the matter. They opine that the possibility is open but we don’t really know for certain so they remain silent on the matter. As for the numerous verses and hadiths, they say that they do not rule out the possibility of these two things and that the scripture is silent specifically about them. Some of the defenders of this theory say this view better aligns with modern science especially the recent findings suggesting that modern humans may have interbred with other types of ancient humans in the past based on DNA evidence.

You can read Dr. Jalajel defending this position here.

Dr. Malik concludes that this position is theologically valid according to Ghazali’s principles.

Out of my own curiosity, I reached out to multiple Ashari students of knowledge whether this particular theory with all its nuance would be compatible with the Ashari paradigm or not, however, as of yet they either have not reviewed the theory or say they don’t know. Dr. Malik in the podcasts usually gives references to Dr. Yasir Qadhi and Dr. David Jalajel as the main people who have publicly stated that it is indeed theologically valid. However, I think it would be more suitable if the theory is presented to multiple Ashari