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The Theory of Evolution in the Ottoman-Arab Lands

The Theory of Evolution in the Ottoman-Arab Lands

Before 1876, which was the year Abdul Hamid II ascended to the throne, no books or articles had ever been written in the Arabic world about Darwin or his theory of evolution. The first time something about Darwin was ever written was in 1882. It should be noted that when the British deep state invaded Egypt in 1881, Al-Azhar University became a haunt of the evolutionists.

Darwin’s theory was first mentioned in the Arab world in a series of three articles published in the monthly Arabic magazine al-Muqtataf. This magazine was founded by Yaqub Sarruf and Faris Nimr in Beirut in 1876. All three pieces were penned by Rizq-Allah al-Berbari and ascribed human origins to so-called evolutionary mechanisms. He referred to Lamarck and praised Darwin. Vol. 2 had three more articles written by Bishara Zalzal Efendi on anthropology.

Bishara Zalzal published a 368-page book in Alexandria, Egypt in 1879. This book, which was dedicated in both prose and poetry to Sultan Abdul Hamid II, was entitled Tanwir al-adhhan (The Enlightenment of Minds). In the book, Lord Cromer was praised as “a typical example of the Anglo-Saxon people”. Obviously, Zalzal was an evolutionist that had a deep admiration for Abdul Hamid II, British Lord Cromer and the whole Anglo-Saxon people in general.(SOURCE)

These supposedly ‘scientific‘ magazines quickly proliferated in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria between 1865 and 1929. The most popular three of the evolutionist magazines were as follows:

  1. Al-Muqtataf (Anthology, Harvest, or Selection) (1876-1952)
  2. Al-Hilal (The Crescent) (1892-1930)
  3. Al-Mashriq (The East) (1898-1930)
  Developments in North Africa

The so-called enlightenment movement in the Arabic world called ‘al-Nahda’ originated in Egypt and possessed largely evolutionist views. Unsurprisingly, its founder, Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, was an evolutionist who deeply admired Britain. Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh were among the leading figures of this movement.

Jamal al-Din al-Afghani was a social Darwinist. He claimed that the Islamic world could progress only if Islamic nations fought each other. Many violent radical organizations were built on this premise and the vicious cycle of violence that continues even today in the Islamic world was based on his Darwinist ideas.

In the meantime, evolutionist Christian Arabs began to spread social Darwinism, which quickly resulted in the popularity of a racist form of nationalism among Arabs. Young Turks were also embracing social Darwinism at the time, and began to pursue the Turkish version of the same racist understanding. These two clashing ideas drove a wedge between Muslims that had lived together peacefully for more than a thousand years, and civil unrest began erupting across the lands of the Empire. Over the next 20 years, the entire empire came crashing down. The social Darwinist indoctrination and propaganda under Abdul Hamid II’s administration had taken its toll and tore a vast Empire into pieces.


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