We have been accused of misrepresenting Yaqeen Institute in our critique of their many deviant, batil-filled papers. These accusations come from their director of research, Sh Tahir Wyatt, Dr. David Jalajel (author of the pro-human evolution paper), and several unpaid interns (i.e., “fellows”) at Yaqeen (Justin Parrot, Asadullah Ali, et al.).
The “lie” that they have emphasized the most is an alleged “misquotation” in our critique of their pro-human evolution article.
In this post and in this video, we respond to how this was NOT a misquotation and how, in fact, the quote perfectly represents the author’s position as expressed in his paper and how we did not conceal anything from his position.
Yaqeen has simply used this alleged lie to distract people from the shocking pro-human evolution garbage their website promotes as “Islamic” and “orthodox.”
This is Yaqeen’s strategy: To direct attention away from their deviance when they are called out on it and instead focus on calling their critics dishonest liars.
But to avoid even this excuse, we have gone back and updated the original review of their article “Tawaqquf and Acceptance of Human Evolution” (yes, that is actually the title of their paper). The updated paper includes the “if” as well as the other quotes that show how the removal of that word does not misrepresent the original paper. We include the following Update:
The earlier version of this article partially quoted one of several statements from Jalajel that Adam and Eve could be considered “mythical beings.” In the original version of the article, we quoted Jalajel as: “It could be argued that Adam and Eve are “mythical” in the sense that belief in them rests solely upon a person’s acceptance of the divine origins of the texts that speak about them.” Yaqeen Institute has protested that this partial quote was “academically dishonest” and misrepresented Jalajel because it didn’t include one word: “if” and presented the quote in the form of a complete sentence rather than as a dependent clause not ending in a period. We explain how this was NOT a lie or misrepresentation here. We have also updated the quote to include “if” as well as two other quotes from the article proving how no misrepresentation occurred and the partial quote was perfectly representative of Jalajel’s descriptions and designations of Adam and Eve being “mythical” or “mythical beings,” in the sense of “non-empirical.” We regret any genuine confusion we caused to any of our readers due to our original editorial decision. Our intention is to highlight and clarify the actual ideas we are critiquing, never to confuse. The ideas in this case are bad enough by themselves and don’t need our help to make them appear worse.
There. So our article includes the infamous “if.” Can Yaqeen now explain to us why they are promoting human evolution as Islamic?
Facebook Post from Rameez Abid
Yaqeen affiliates have shared a Facebook post that claims we have “highly exaggerated and misrepresented” Yaqeen’s paper.
Is this true?
The post only mentions one example of misrepresentation: Our omission of the word “if.” How is this a misrepresentation? The implication is that Jalajel is only posing a hypothetical that he does not truly believe himself, as indicated by the “if.” Hence, our omission of the word “if” takes away the hypothetical and thus portrays Jalajel as actually believing that Adam and Eve are mythical, when in fact, Jalajel does not claim this. Therefore, we have misrepresented him by omitting the “if.”
If any of this were true, we would plead guilty of misrepresentation. But it is not true at all because Jalajel DOES describe Adam and Eve as mythical throughout his paper! This idea of myth is CENTRAL to his whole argument. He defends the use of the word “myth” and “mythical” to describe Adam and Eve and simply says the word “myth” is not that bad, it just means without any empirical evidence. Not only does Jalajel defend the use of the idea that Adam and Eve are myths, he tries to claim his usage of the term is perfectly concordant with orthodox Sunni theology:
“The notion of Adam and Eve as ‘mythical’ beings, though maybe not an excellent choice of words due to some negative connotations, is literally reminiscent of the way Sunni theologians have always looked at them, as a matter of the Unseen which comes under the category of the samʿiyyat, something that is known to us exclusively through scriptural sources without any empirical evidence.”
As mentioned above, Jalajel provides zero evidence that Sunni scholars viewed Adam and Eve in the same distorted terms he is claiming. Where did any classical scholar say there is no empirical evidence for Adam, therefore he is a myth? All Jalajel has done is project the concept of myth onto Islam based on his sloppy understanding of traditional orthodox Islamic categories.
In another part of the essay, Jalajel writes:
“Since belief in the existence of two specific people called Adam and Eve, for traditionally-minded Muslims, rests squarely upon the revealed texts, some scientifically-minded critics of this belief describe it as “mythology.” They often use the term pejoratively, and no doubt the word itself offends the sensibilities of some believers. We should bear in mind, however, that the term “myth” merely refers to the idea that some person or event is known to us only by way of a passed-down narrative and not by way empirical evidence.”
Here again, Jalajel is assuring his readers, “Yeah, I know the word ‘myth’ sounds bad, but it’s actually perfectly legitimate!” Also notice his false claim that belief in the existence of Adam and Eve “rests squarely upon the revealed texts.” This is not true. Revelation is not the only source for knowing about Adam and his spouse. The existence of humanity itself is overwhelming evidence of our beloved father and mother. But for an evolutionist like Jalajel, who has already accepted the evolutionary narrative hook, line, and sinker, this reasoning makes little sense, which is why he has to characterize the entire history of humanity’s origins described in the Quran and Sunna as a “myth.”
In sum, our exclusion of the word “if” was not a deceptive tactic to attribute deviant views to an otherwise innocent author. The author is not innocent of what we attributed to him; his heretical views are right there in full black and white for all to see.
So, it is not at all clear how we have “exaggerated” or “misrepresented” this Yaqeen paper. If anything, perhaps we have undersold the level of deviancy found within it.
The facebook post critic clearly did not understand Jalajel, but we cannot blame him for that because the paper is highly convoluted. This is because of the sheer level of mental gymnastics Jalajel goes through to reconcile the irreconcilable.
The facebook post critic also says,
Please note that Dr. Jalajel is using the word ‘human’ in a very broad sense and not just in particular to the children of Adam and Eve. One can disagree with this approach but he’s not proposing or advocating for the rejection of the traditional view.
What? Saying that human beings (insan) are not the children of Adam is not a rejection of the traditional view? What traditional scholar has ever said such a ludicrous thing like some humans (insan) are not Bani Adam? Where in the Islamic tradition do we find anything like this?
The facebook critic, Rameez Abid, seems to not understand what the Islamic tradition has to say about human origins. In addition to the quotes from major scholars above, here is a refresher:
- Adam was the first human being specially created by Allah.
- All of humanity descended from Adam.
Just because Jalejel acknowledges the special creation of Adam does not mean he is in line with orthodoxy. He is denying #2, that all humans are descended from Adam and denying #2 makes his view just as heterodox as denying the special creation of Adam. Playing a semantic game and creatively defining “human” does not remove the heterodox nature of his claims.
The fact that Abid does not understand this speaks to either an ignorance of Islamic theology or utter befuddlement caused by reading the sophistry of the Yaqeen paper.
Yaqeen Normalizes Heresy as “Islamic”
Heretical views like this that would otherwise be considered beyond the pale are now disseminated far and wide by an “Islamic” institute that has respected Muslim scholarly authorities on its advisory board. The view that Muslims can accept human evolution typically has only been advocated by the most hardened modernist deviants, rejectors of hadith, etc., individuals like the infamous Adnan Ibrahim or Pervez Hoodbhoy, et al. And whenever such deviance reared its ugly head, Islamic scholars were quick to make the Islamic stance clear: Accepting human evolution is an act of disbelief.
But now, anyone who wants to advocate the compatibility of human evolution and Islam can point to an “Islamic” institute with a staff that includes several scholars and claim that their position is within the bounds of acceptable disagreement.
The example of this facebook critic should be a wake up call. Arguably, if it weren’t for this Yaqeen paper, this average Muslim would not be defending nonsense, iman-threatening ideas like a “very broad definition of human” that does not include Bani Adam. But he is. How many others have been misguided?
When will Yaqeen and its leaders Omar Suleiman, et al., be held accountable?
Update: Facebook Critic Tries Again
The facebook critic mentioned above wrote a follow up to respond to the above evaluation of his first criticism. Unfortunately his confusion persists.
As you can see, the critic abandons his earlier point about the omission of “if,” presumably because he realized his error.
He also thinks that our complaint about Jalajel’s usage of the word “myth” to describe Adam and Eve is because we think Jalajel is claiming that Adam and Eve are mythical in the sense of not being real. The critic makes a point of this by putting in parentheticals “meaning not real.”
But this is more proof of how sloppily the critic has read our original review. No where have we said, “Jalajel thinks Adam and Eve did not exist.”
Our critique was explicit in criticizing Jalajel for introducing concepts and terminology that are highly problematic and completely unjustified Islamically and indeed unbecoming of addressing anbiya, let alone our blessed father. Those who have no adab and no sense perhaps see no problem with using the terms of the kuffar to address the anbiya. For the rest of us, this is shocking. Our review expressed precisely this shock and many shared our reaction.
Yet, the facebook critic argues that Jalajel is justified to use the word “myth” because he means it in a special way, namely “without empirical evidence.” Note that our original review and the response both point out Jalajel’s definition of myth as “without empirical evidence.” We did not conceal this.
But putting the issue of adab with the prophets aside, this new definition of myth is ALSO completely wrong and unjustified when applied to prophets and Adam especially.
We have already pointed out twice how this is wrong and how NO scholar has said that Adam was part of the Unseen (ghayb) as Jalajel claims repeatedly. We have already pointed out, as well, that there IS empirical evidence for the existence of Adam, namely the HUMAN RACE. The human race, procreation, genealogical descent, etc., are ALL evidence that we are descendants of a first father and mother! Furthermore, a great deal of genetic data and other evidence brought forth by scientists today point to human origins from a single human pair.
Why does Jalajel and this facebook critic not acknowledge any of this empirical evidence? They do not even acknowledge the possibility of its existence and seem highly confused how anyone could suggest it. Is their confusion due to the fact that they have simply assumed the lies of evolutionists and materialists and blindly accepted the atheistic assertion that there is no such empirical evidence?
The rest of the facebook post is premised on this basic confusion.
Another sentence that stands out in the post:
“A traditional Muslim can disagree with Dr. Jalajel’s approach here, but Jalajel is not proposing anything heterodoxical here. Why should we care if someone believes if certain biological beings existed before Adam and Eve that may have resembled our biological traits in some way or form? What if we don’t call them “insaan” but something else?”
Weren’t we told by Jalajel and this critic that the paper completely aligns with Orthodox Sunni belief? Then in what sense would a “traditional Muslim” disagree with Jalajel’s approach? Could it be because what Jalajel is advocating is completely alien to the Islamic tradition?
Furthermore, why does this author think the Arabic word “insan” can be applied or not applied to whatever one chooses? This is a word that has a set definition in the Arabic language and in the Islamic tradition. It is not something that we can apply or not apply as we see fit. This kind of postmodernist relativism about the meaning of words is another gift from Yaqeen to the unsuspecting Muslim community.
It might come as a surprise to the fans of Jalejel, but insan has a defined meaning and reference. When scholars use the word, they were not referring to unknown organisms that preceded Adam. Nor did they ever speculate of non-insan organisms that “biologically resemble” our traits.
The entire significance of the creation of Adam as a physical being was that he was special and unique, not only in his spirit but also his physical form. Allah affirms this in the Quran:
“We have created man [al-insan] in the best composition [taqwim].” [95:4]
Numerous tafasir of this ayah explain that taqwim means the physical look, shape, size, symmetry, positioning of organs, etc., of the human body. Allah created al-insan in the best form.
How sad that some supposedly “traditional” Muslims are so willing to trade the clear meaning of the Quran for the wild, heretical speculations of an academic bent on accommodating the nonsense theory of blind, deaf, dumb atheists. Allahu-l-musta`an.
Update: Jalajel Responds
In an essay published on another site, Jalajel responds to our critique of his paper, saying that Yaqeen affiliates encouraged him to respond to our review of his paper. But rather than clarify, he further entrenches himself in the same problems.
Like the facebook critic, Rameez Abid, he makes a big deal about the omission of the word “if.” Again, this omission did not misrepresent Jalajel’s position because he defends calling Adam and Eve mythological despite the “pejorative” connotation.
Jalajel seems to think we attribute to him the belief that, “Adam and Eve are mythical in the sense that they did not exist.” This is NOT our problem with his use of the term “myth,” as discussed above and nowhere did we attribute this belief to him. But the use of the word “myth” is horrendous and erroneous for all the reasons we have explained in the original review and the above updates.
Now, Jalajel says that his use of the word myth is nothing more than turning the tables on atheists like Richard Dawkins:
“Why do I say that their accusation, in spite of being mean-hearted and a bad choice of words, is “reminiscent of the way Sunni theologians have always looked at them”? Why am I making this statement? It is because I am throwing their accusation back at them. In more colloquial terms, I am saying to them: You are telling us that Adam is a “myth” only because we believe in him because of the Qur’an. Well, to that we say: “Guilty as charged! We believe Adam is real, because the Qur’an tells us he is.”“
This is nonsensical for two reasons. First, when atheists like Richard Dawkins say that Adam is a myth, they do not mean “because he is only believed in on the basis of the Qur’an.” When atheists call Adam and our entire religion “mythology,” they mean it is false, i.e., not real, no basis in reality, pure fiction.
Secondly, why would we say “Guilty as charged!” to the accusation that “Adam is a myth only because we believe in him because of the Qur’an”? Why would we say that? That is NOT the only reason we believe in him.
Jalajel said in his original paper:
“We should bear in mind, however, that the term “myth” merely refers to the idea that some person or event is known to us only by way of a passed-down narrative and not by way of empirical evidence.”
And in the response, he reiterates this:
“We admit that we have no other proof for Adam than the Qur’an and Sunnah.”
But again, there is overwhelming empirical evidence that we are descendants of Adam and Eve.
To repeat the same point for the third time now: The human race, procreation, genealogical descent, etc., are ALL evidence that we are descendants of a first father and mother! Furthermore, a great deal of genetic data and other evidence brought forth by scientists today point to human origins from a single human pair.
Jalajel apparently cannot fathom this, which is why he would assume that as Muslims, we would say, “Guilty!” to the attacks against our religion from atheists.
The deeper point here is that Jalajel and his defenders don’t seem to understand that, yes, the Quran is the unimpeachable source of knowledge upon which our epistemology is predicated. But, at the same time, Allah in the Quran is often telling us to look for His signs (ayat) and to ponder on His verses, to look around in the Creation and see the Truth of what He says in the Book. This is all empirical, evidentiary observations! Just because atheist, materialist scientists do not accept this does not make it any less true. Why should Muslims concede such a crucial point — arguably the entire crux of the evolution debate — to the atheists, as Jalajel is so willing to do?
Jalajel reveals his confusion in this telling paragraph:
“Ever since I wrote my book, Islam & Biological Evolution back in 2009, my severest critics have been a number of scientifically-minded Muslims who are harsh on traditional Islam and who reject the possibility that God can work miracles. They have accused me of “Creationism” and of contradicting scientific fact.
“I wrote this paragraph to refute them. I am arguing that they can have no scientific evidence about Adam and Eve and their creation, because scientific evidence is limited to empirical evidence. They can never produce that evidence one way or the other. They need to keep quiet. However, they accuse me of contradicting science.“
First of all, it would be kufr to “reject the possibility that God can work miracles” and, thus, Jalajel should not call such people Muslims. How is Yaqeen not accountable for promoting authors with such egregiously wrong understandings of basic Islamic aqida?
The more conceptual problem here is that Jalajel thinks of himself as shielding Adam from the criticism of “scientifically minded Muslims” who “reject the possibility that God can work miracles.” What he does to accomplish this is to concede to the evolutionists that there is no empirical evidence for Adam, i.e., Adam is a myth.
This move is the entire basis for his paper, but he doesn’t realize that he is doing Islam no favors. This is because he is telling the world that there is no empirical evidence for Adam and that the only way to believe in him is through blind faith in the Quran. This is shooting ourselves in the foot because:
- There IS empirical evidence for Adam and Eve, as mentioned above.
- It undermines the applicability of the Quran to the empirical world.
To understand this second point, consider how Christians defend against accusations of the Trinity being logically self-contradictory by saying that the Trinity is not bound by logic. These Christians might think that they have successfully defended their theology, but in reality, they conceded that their theology is, in at least some sense, irrational.
The reality is, the Quran and Sunna make many empirical claims that contradict modern scientific consensus, and the modernist knee jerk to categorize whatever contradicts that consensus as “Unseen” or “sam’iyyat” or “beyond empirical evidence” simply makes our religion subordinate to a naturalist, atheistic ontology. More on this problem is discussed in this lecture.
“Again, is [Nidhal Guessoum] claiming that he has tons of empirical evidence relating to Adam’s parents or lack thereof? I would love to see it. I wrote my paragraph to tell people of this persuasion that they do not have such evidence, they can never have such evidence, and they cannot tell believers in Adam’s miraculous creation that they are opposed to science. Science has nothing to say about it one way or the other.”
Again, Jalajel emphasizes that in principle science has nothing to say about the creation of Adam and Eve, but, again, on this point he is wrong. Jalajel challenges the materialist to show him evidence, but is Jalajel simply unaware of the massive amount of literature from both atheists and proponents of miraculous creation who have debated for decades on the empirical evidence for their claims? Is he not aware of Jerry Coyne’s infamous website featuring arguments for how science and empirical data categorically disprove Adam via genetic analysis? Is he not aware of the rebuttals to these points by scientists like Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, et al.?
Contrary to Jalajel’s baseless assertions, many people do think that empirical evidence weighs in on the question of Adam and Eve.
Rather than fight the good fight in the battle of these ideas, Jalajel prefers to take shelter in a flimsy sanctuary of “myth” he has constructed for himself.
“I hope it is clear now that I never said Adam is a “myth”. I never said he was “allegorical”. In my article, I repeatedly emphasise that the story of Adam and Eve is to be understood as true and on its face value, that they are two real people created directly without parents and that all human beings on the Earth today are their descendants. I never even insinuated anything else.”
But he DOES say that Adam is a “myth”! He just spent the whole essay explaining how he used the word myth appropriately as a response to the likes of Dawkins.
Yes, Jalajel never said Adam was allegorical and WE NEVER accused him of saying he is.
As for the point about human descendants, however, Jalajel DID suggest in the original Yaqeen paper the following:
“What matters is that a belief in the Adam’s [sic] direct creation does not prevent Muslims who hold that belief from accepting the possibility that beings who were biologically human could have evolved on Earth from other species, beings identical in every way to the descendants of Adam.”
We have already explained the deviance of this belief in “beings” that are “identical in every way” to Bani Adam but are not Bani Adam. Jalajel does not address this point in his response. This is presumably because this deviance is the lynch-pin of his whole Islam-evolution reconciliation.
Finally, Jalajel says:
“However, to make matters clearer, I have made a few minor adjustments to the paragraph. It still says the same thing, but hopefully with a wording that is easier to understand, and more difficult to doctor. This will be how it will appear henceforth on the Yaqeen website. (The new version will be distinguished in print and PDF by having a 2018 as well as 2020 copyright date)”
So Jalajel and Yaqeen will quietly edit the paper. This is consistent with Yaqeen’s method. When they make major mistakes and get called out for it, they quietly make massive edits without a shred of academic integrity to explicitly acknowledge the error and why changes were made in the paper itself.
What is the edit? Screenshot below:
He has removed his overt descriptions of Adam and Eve as myth. He calls these major edits just “minor adjustments”??
Regardless, it is an improvement. But he has still maintained the substance behind his previous use of the word myth: He continues to describe belief in Adam and Eve as inherently lacking empirical evidence and therefore being of the “Unseen.” He also, again, claims that Sunni theologians categorized Adam and Eve as Unseen with no evidence, citation, or reference.
Ultimately, this edit does nothing to change the deviant position within the article, speculating about “beings” identical to the descendants of Adam in every way, as well as the utterly confused ontology we described in our original review.
He also did not address the glaring error of saying a Muslim can reject the belief of Adam without parents.
Unfortunately, it is possible Jalajel, Yaqeen, and their defenders still do not realize how incredibly subversive and contrary to the Islamic tradition this essay on evolution really is.
We pray they realize their egregious mistakes and take this paper down before it confuses even more Muslims into thinking the evil theory of human evolution is somehow Islamically acceptable.