The Theory of Evolution is a bit of a misnoma. There are in fact many aspects and many different theories that try to piece together which creatures preceded which creatures and how one type could have evolved from their various ancestor types. The definition of one type or another of creature, separating creatures according to species is not a precise matter. The point at which one species separates from another has to do with when they cannot interbreed and have fertile offspring.
Many creatures have lived and died out all together. This evolution of creatures is not really at all controvertial to Muslims. We have no need to assert that the world is 5000 years old. Quite the opposite. Although the Qur’an speaks about the creation of the world in 6 ‘days’ it also in the same section talks about ‘days’ the length of which would be thousands of years in our calculations.
The Qur’an also mentions that before mankind there was a huge length of time when there is no mention of mankind.
76:1 Has there not been over Man a long period of Time, when he was nothing – (not even) mentioned?
So Muslims in general have no objection to the theory of evolution. The only question that comes up is whether Adam had a father or was created miraculously by a command of Allah.
It seems to me an odd place to draw the line. Adam, symbolic of all humanity was different. His title is “Khilafatul Ard” : the inheritor of the earth. Itself it implies that Adam follows on from other creatures and this is not questioned. So the question in my mind is, what is the point in having some kind of special exceptional process for creating Adam? If Allah’s way of doing things is to introduce new creatures by evolution, then why break that practice for Adam? I can find no reason.
The first humans as we would recognise them now were distinct from other previous creatures. The primary difference would be in the lingustic and conceptual abilities. Adam may have been as different to his ancestors as a man with Asperger’s Syndrom is from his parents. Some critical mass was reached which meant the first human could do things others around him couldn’t.
It should be noted that the Qur’an continually uses the verb translated as “create” much more like the way “make” is used. In English we would rearely talk about creating things out of other materials. Instead we say things are made from other materials. Adam was “made” just as every human being is made, from materials that come out of the earth.
We are just like him and Jesus was just like him: Humans are made from dust which Allah commanded into existence.