The basic theory of evolution of species was proposed by a Muslim Scientist, Al-Tusi, about 600 year before Charles Darwin was born.
The science history is full of unknown heroes to whom we owe several things. . Some of them are popular due of Western culture, but Muslim scientists especially are rarely if ever considered. One among them is Nasir al-Din al-Tusi who was a Persian scientist, architect, astronomer, biologist, mathematician, philosopher, physician, chemist, physicist, and theologian. He was well versed in numerous fields and made noteworthy advances in his lifetime.
These days, the reason of fame of Al-Tusi is his theory of evolution which legendarily belongs to Charles Darwin. However, in reality, Darwin was not the first person to apprehend evolution.
Al-Tusi, born in the year 1201 in medieval Khorasan or north-eastern Iran, started his studies at a very early age. The basic theory of evolution of species was put forward by Tusi, in his work known as Akhlaq-i-Nasri, almost 600 years before Charles Darwin was born.
Al-Tusi started his theory of evolution with the universe once comprising of equal and similar elements, as per his books. According to Tusi, as a result of the internal contradictions that started emerging, some substances started developing faster and differently as compared to others.
Later on, he also illuminates how the elements evolved into minerals, then plants, then animals, and then humans. After this, Tusi also describes how hereditary variability was an important factor for biological evolution of living things:
“The organisms that can gain the new features faster are more variable. As a result, they gain advantages over other creatures. […] The bodies are changing as a result of the internal and external interactions.”
It has also been explained by Tusi how organisms can adapt to their environments:
“Look at the world of animals and birds. They have all that is necessary for defense, protection and daily life, including strengths, courage and appropriate tools [organs] […] some of these organs are real weapons, […] For example, horns-spear, teeth and claws-knife and needle, feet and hoofs-cudgel. The thorns and needles of some animals are similar to arrows. […] Animals that have no other means of defense (as the gazelle and fox) protect themselves with the help of flight and cunning. […] Some of them, for example, bees, ants and some bird species, have united in communities in order to protect themselves and help each other.”
Three types of living things were identified by Tusi namely plants, animals and humans:
“Animals are higher than plants, because they are able to move consciously, go after food, find and eat useful things. […] There are many differences between the animal and plant species, […] First of all, the animal kingdom is more complicated. Besides, reason is the most beneficial feature of animals. Owing to reason, they can learn new things and adopt new, non-inherent abilities. For example, the trained horse or hunting falcon is at a higher point of development in the animal world. The first steps of human perfection begin from here.”
Humans evolving from advanced animals was also explained by Tusi:
“Such humans [probably anthropoid apes] live in the Western Sudan and other distant corners of the world. They are close to animals by their habits, deeds and behavior. […] The human has features that distinguish him from other creatures, but he has other features that unite him with the animal world, vegetable kingdom or even with the inanimate bodies. […] Before [the creation of humans], all differences between organisms were of the natural origin. The next step will be associated with spiritual perfection, will, observation and knowledge. […] All these facts prove that the human being is placed on the middle step of the evolutionary stairway. According to his inherent nature, the human is related to the lower beings, and only with the help of his will can he reach the higher development level.”
In order to get more information, you can watch the mini-documentary about him with English subtitles here: