Abdu'i-Baha on Darwinism

various metaphors for expressing their ethical and mystical truth. Centuries later, however, religious traditionalists relied on the literal meanings of these metaphors and rejected the application of the scientific method in analysis of empirical and natural issues, deducing empirical propositions from religious and scriptural texts. It is for this reason that with the advent of a systematic scientific method and the rapid progress of empirical science in modern times, religion and science were perceived as mortal enemies of each other. Reducing science to religion, religious traditionalism undermines both science and religion. Its literal and ahistorical approach to scriptures rejects science and empirical knowledge, while its reduction of religion to the realm of astronomy, archeology, and biology distorts the truth of religion and turns religion into a set of superstitious beliefs, subject to disrespect and ridicule. As an example, a reference to the ideas of one of the famous Muslim thinkers, Jamal al-Din Al Afghani (Asad Abadi) on Darwinism can be useful. Afghani strongly opposes biological Darwinism. He speaks of the agreement of the Qur’an with rea son, while ignoring the obvious contradiction of reason with the literal story of Adam and Eve. Afghani, who calls Darwin “the master of all atheists”, perceives the biological theory of Darwinism as an extreme form of atheism whose goal is the promotion of moral permissiveness and normlessness (Ibahah), and the communal possession and enjoyment of property and women. According to Afghani, Darwinism is the same as the ancient religion of Mazdakism, Isma’ili Shi’ism, the French Enlightenment movement of the 18 th century, and the Babi movement in Iran. All these movements, he believes, have aimed to destroy the belief in God and religion, and to eliminate morality from society. In his imaginary history, he blames Mazdak for the fall of the Sassanid empire, def ines Isma’ili Shi’ism as the main cause of the decline of the world of Islam, and sees the French Enlightenment and the overthrow of the French monarchy as the cause of the decline of France and Europe. 5 In Afghani’s thought, the Enlightenment movement, socialism, women’s liberation, and colonialism are identical movements whose common aim is the victory of colonialism and destruction of the Islamic countries. According to Afghani, contrary to Darwinism which intends to destroy Islamic countries, all religions, especially Islam, call for “arrogance and zeal” , meaning the prejudice of the believers, and find the path of victory in three forms of prejudice: First is the species arrogance, seeing humans as the superior species in the universe. Second is the national and religious prejudice, namely, the believer must see his own religion and community as superior to all other religions and communities, certain that “his religious community is superior to all other religions, and that other than his own religion all other religions are false and wayward.” 6 Third is the otherworldly arrogance, namely, he believes in life after death and sees himself as destined for heavenly rewards. However, Afghani’s criticism of biological Darwinism is in fact an affirmation of social Darwinism, which encourages war, prejudice, inequality, and religious intolerance. 7 He denies any evolution and historicity in the realm of religion, and with his belief in the finality of Islam and Islamic laws, he opposes evolution and progress in the realm of culture and history. Although he opposes the British colonialism, he sees no 5 Asad Abadi (Al-Afghani), Jamal al-Din, Risaliyi Naychiriyyih: Haqiqati Madhhabi Naychiriyyih va Bayani Hali Naychirian . Najaf: Haydariyyiah, 1347 A.H., pp. 57-8. 6 Ibid, pp. 16-20. 7 Al-Afghani, Jamal al-Din, Al- A’mal al -Kamilah li-Jamal al-Din al-Afghani . Qahirah: Al- Mu’assassah al -Misriyyah al- ‘Ammah li-al- Ta’lif va al -Nashr, 1984, pp. 37-531.

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