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In the name of Allah, the most forgiving, most merciful

 

A Muslim Answer To Criticism Of:

 

Embryology in the Qur'an

By NADEEM ARIF NAJMI

 

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks and praise to be to Allah, Lord of the worlds. Peace and blessings be upon his Holy Prophet, Messenger and Slave Muhammad- the exalted, the mercy to the universe, the seal of the prophets -whenever his sacred name is mentioned. Peace be upon all the noble Prophets and Messengers of Allah who are referred to, and may all the Companions of the Prophet and his wives-the mothers of the believers-be blessed with the pleasure of Allah whenever they are referred to.

 

This article is dedicated to the memory of Mrs. Azra Arif, my late mother who was the embodiment of all that Allah loves – Mum, we will always love you --may God grant her eternal peace and bless her with paradise. I would like to thank my father Mr. Mohammed Arif for everything, and tell him how much I love him.

 

 

Hi to: Wasim, Sahima, Auzima, Salma, Naeem, Isaaq-faheem, Rukaya-miriam and all members of my family, and also to my dear friends: Sohail Ahmed, Azeem Tariq, QT and all the Washwood Heath TC crew!

 

I am indebted to the brilliant work of Dr. Maurice Bucaille, Prof. Keith Moore, Moiz Amjad, Dr. Omar Abdul Rehman, Ahmed A. Abd Allah, Abdullah Ibn Adam, Mohd.Elfie and everyone else who has contributed to this article in one form or another.

CONTENTS

Introduction

1.The origins of life according to the Qur’an

Muslim Response

2. The drop of fluid or semen

 

Muslim Response

3. Embryological development in the Qur’an

 

Muslim Response

4. Some possible explanations

 

Muslim Response

5. Stages of development-a modern idea?

 

Muslim Response

6. More examples of borrowing from ancient Greek writers

 

Muslim Response

7. But how could Mohammed have known these things?

 

Muslim Response

8.Conclusion

 

Muslim Response and Conclusion

Introduction

In this article we will analyse and refute the accusations made about the embryological descriptions of the Quran in the article Error! Bookmark not defined. by Dr.Lactantius. For reasons of intellectual integrity, the text of the original article has been included, with responses following it, section by section. The main aim of the article by Dr.Lactantius was to prove that the Quran contains scientific errors when it refers to embryological development, and furthermore that it copies the incorrect theories of ancient thinkers like Galen and Aristotle. As we shall soon see, the critic has been unable to prove anything of the sort, and has ended up without any objective evidence for his arguments whatsoever.

 

Will they not ponder over the Quran? Or are there locks on their hearts? (Quran 47:24)

 

1. The origins of life according to the Qur'an

Dr Lactantius writes:

 

There are at least 60 verses, which deal explicitly with human reproduction and development, but these are scattered throughout the Qur'an and many of the themes are repeated over and over again, as is common to much of the book. A useful place to begin would be the material out of which we are created. One would expect the Qur'an to be unambiguous about such an elementary matter, but the verses listed show just how much uncertainty there appears to be in our origins. Note that except where indicated the translation used is the translation of Yusuf Ali (Saudi Revised Edition).

Could it be from earth?

11:61 It is He Who hath produced you from the earth

Or dry clay (Arabic Salsaal)?

15:26,28,33 We created man from sounding clay
17:61 ... Thou didst create from clay
32:7 He began the creation of man from clay

Did we come from nothing?

19:67 We created him before out of nothing

No, we did not!

52:35 Were they created of nothing?

Did we come from mud?

23:12 We created man from a product of wet earth (loam) (Pickthall)
23:12 Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay)
38:71 I am about to create a mortal out of mire

Or water?

25:54 It is He Who has created man from water (see also 21:30, 24:45)

Could it be dust?

3:59 He created (Jesus) out of dust
30:20 He created you from dust
35:11 Allah did create you from dust ....

Perhaps we arose from the dead or from one person?

30:19 It is He who brings out the living from the dead
39:6 He created you from a single Person (see also 4:1)

To resolve the considerable ambiguity about what exactly we are made of, it has been suggested that all of the above are complimentary accounts, in the same way that a loaf of bread could be said to be made of dough, flour, carbohydrate or molecules. This evades the issue however. The metaphorical description of God making man out of the dust of the earth is ancient and predates the Qur'an by thousands of years; it is found in the Bible in Genesis 2:7. If this was literal it would be in direct scientific conflict with evolutionists who maintain that life was created out of the oceans, but Muslims maintain that we were created both from the oceans and from earth.

Muslim Response

There is absolutely no ambiguity in the above verses of the Quran. The correct explanation is referred to by the critic himself, and is without doubt the only sensible and objective interpretation of the verses. The Quran is very clear that we were created out of the earth-dust, and water-which together forms mud, mire, loam or wet earth. The mud became clay when it was dried. God created mankind out of nothing-that does not mean that ‘nothing’ was used to create people, rather it means that at one stage humans were ‘nothing’ i.e. did not exist, until God decided to create them. Verse 30:19 refers to resurrection of the dead in the afterlife and not to the creation of human beings, and verse 39:6 refers to the fact that all mankind is descended from Adam i.e. all of humanity has been created from the creation of a single person-Adam. Therefore it should be clearly obvious that there is absolutely no ambiguity, no confusion and no contradiction whatsoever in the Quranic description of the origin of human life.

 

The description in the Bible has absolutely no relevance to the issue at hand. As usual the missionaries have dragged in an utterly irrelevant point in order to escape the fact that their main argument (that the Quran has contradicted itself in these verses) has already been made redundant by the Muslim explanation of it. Modern science has not been able to disprove the Quranic statements that indicate that life originated from both aquatic and earthly origins, the musings of the evolutionists are yet to be accepted as scientific fact and as such the Quran can only be said to have contradicted one scientific theory and not science itself. Thus, it should be very clear to the objective reader that the Quran has not contradicted itself in the referred verses nor do they contain any scientific errors.

 

 

2. The drop of fluid or semen

The critic continues:

 

In a number of places we are informed that man is created from a drop of fluid (semen, seed or sperm):

16:4 He created man from a drop of fluid (Pickthall)
16:4 He has created man from a sperm-drop
32:8 He made his seed from a quintessence of despised fluid
35:11 ...then from a little fluid (Pickthall)

53:46 (he created) from a drop of seed when it is poured forth (Pickthall)
53:46 From a sperm-drop when lodged (in its place)
56:58 Have ye seen that which ye emit (Pickthall)
56:58 Do you then see? The (human Seed) that ye emit
75:37 Was he not a drop of fluid which gushed forth (Pickthall)
75:37 Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)?
76:2 We create man from a drop of thickened fluid (Pickthall)
76:2 We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm 80:19 From a sperm-drop He hath created him
86:6-7 He is created from a drop emitted - proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.

Could any of this have been known to sixth-century Muslims at the time of Muhammed? Surely that procreation involves the emission of a drop of fluid has been well known from the earliest days of civilization. In Genesis 38:9 the Bible tells us that Onan "spilled his semen on the ground to keep from producing offspring for his brother". The verses which describe the origin of life as a drop of emitted fluid are therefore no more than a direct observation as to what is released during the act of sexual intercourse. We hardly need to rely upon divine inspiration to inform us of this fact.

In the verses listed above nutfah is used when describing the fluid which gushes out during sexual intercourse and clearly this can only refer to semen. However, Prof. Moore is keen to translate nutfah in sura 76:2 as "mingled fluid" [3] and explains that this Arabic term refers to the male and female fluids which contain the gametes (male sperm and female egg). While it is true that the ancient Greeks would not have been able to see individual sperm or eggs, these only being visible through the microscope, the Qur'an emphatically does not mention sperm or eggs; it simply says nutfah. This can reasonably be translated semen, or at a push, germinal fluid - which was a term used as early as Hippocrates [4] who spoke of male and female reproductive fluids (but obviously could not have been aware of the cells contained in the fluids). If Moore wishes to translate nutfah as germinal fluid, he inadvertently reinforces that the Qur'an is borrowing this term from the Greeks.

Sura 86:6 is interesting since it claims that during the act of sexual intercourse before which a man is created, the "gushing fluid" or semen issues from between the loins and ribs. Semen is apparently coming out of the area around the kidneys and back, which is a real problem for we know that the testicles are the sites of sperm production (although the ancient Greeks were not so convinced. Aristotle for example amusingly believed that they functioned as weights to keep the seminal passages open during sexual intercourse [5]).

The explanation offered by Muslims [6] for the strange statement in this sura relates to the fact that the testicles originally develop from tissue in the area of the kidneys, when the man from whom sperm is gushing forth was himself an embryo. In other words, in a very convoluted fashion the sperm originates from the area between the loins and ribs because that is where the testicles which are producing the sperm originally form.

There is a rather less complicated explanation for this verse however. The Greek physician Hippocrates and his followers taught in the fifth century BC that semen comes from all the fluid in the body, diffusing from the brain into the spinal marrow, before passing through the kidneys and via the testicles into the penis [7]. Clearly according to this view sperm originates from the region of the kidneys, and although there is obviously no substance to this teaching today, it was well-known in Muhammed's day, and shows how the Qur'an could contain such an erroneous statement.

Of course it could be argued against all this that the reference to coming from the loins is merely a metaphorical figure of speech. We can find examples of this in sura 7:172 "when thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam - from their loins - their descendants" or 4:23 "prohibited to you (for marriage) are ... wives of your sons proceeding from your loins". But if so then it has to be accepted that this is a common usage for Middle Eastern cultures [8]; in the Torah God promises Jacob that "kings shall come out of your loins (chalatzecha)" (Gen 35:11). Later in the Bible a promise is made to David's "son that shall come forth out of your loins" (I Kings 8:19) and in the New Testament Peter refers to the same person as "one from the fruit of his loins" (Greek osphus). However, these are examples of a metaphorical use of the word "loins" (Arabic sulb). Sura 86:6 is clearly talking about the physical act of intercourse; gushing fluid and ribs (tar a'ib) are both very physical and in the context of this verse they clearly refer to the site of semen production as wrongly taught by Hippocrates. So we have found the first example of an incorrect ancient Greek idea re-emerging in the Qur'an.

 

 Muslim Response

 

I agree absolutely that, the Quranic description of procreation from a drop of fluid is something that is clearly observable to human beings and has been known to mankind throughout history. However that does not mean to say, that the Quran has not provided any new information on embryology or referred to any facts that would have been beyond human observation. As for the meaning of the word ‘nutfah’, the word simply means ‘drop’ or ‘small dribbling quantity of liquid’. In verses where ejaculation is clearly referred to i.e. ‘nutfah gushing forth’ it clearly does refer to sperm. However that does not exclude the possibility that it might have another meaning in verses where ejaculation is not discussed. In 76:2 the creation of man from a ‘mixed drop’ is referred to. This allows Muslims to interpret the word as ‘zygote’ in those other verses, since that would fit the description of a ‘mixed drop’ forming as it does, from the mixing of the male and female gamates. Nutfah does not have one meaning in the Quran; the correct meaning can only be reached after studying the other characteristics of any particular verse. ‘Germinal fluid’ is not the correct translation, nor the one proposed by Dr Moore, he states:

 

 

The zygote forms by the mixture of the sperm and the ovum (‘the mixed drop’)

 

The critic is correct in saying that the Quran does not refer to individual sperm, but he ignores a verse of great significance:

 

"And we created his progeny from the extract of a lowly fluid" (32:8)

 

The word ‘sulala’ translated here as ‘extract’ is used in Arabic to refer to ‘a part of something, the issue of something else’. That is to say, that the author of the Quran demonstrates knowledge that only a part of sperm (a lowly fluid due to it’s area of origin) is required for the creation of the human being. Also the word ‘nutfah’ itself indicates a very small quantity of liquid. This is not at all something that is observable to humans, nor is it mentioned in any ancient source (including Greek!) other than the Quran. Yet modern science has informed us that only one of the spermatozoa from the millions present in the ‘drop’ is required for fertilisation. I.e. only the ‘sulala’ of the sperm-drop is required for the creation of man, exactly as the Quran had stated over a fourteen centuries ago. This is one, among the many logically irrefutable facts of science in the Quran.

 

As for the verse 86:6, I would agree that anyone reading it casually would presume that it is indeed a scientific error. Yet, the Quran is a book of divine revelation and deserves more than just ‘casual’ perusal and analysis. The Quran describes the creation of man from a ‘drop emitted’ i.e. sperm and describes this as ‘proceeding min baini the sulb and the ta’raib’. The common translation of the words ‘min baini’ is ‘from between’ (although it can mean ‘coming from the conjunction of’ two elements), of ‘sulb’ is ‘backbone’ and ta’raib is ‘ribs’. If we accept this translation then there might be several explanations. The first has already been discussed by the critic i.e. the testicles originally form in this area, and in this sense the sperm does originally emanate or proceed from between the back and ribs.

 

Moiz Amjad offers the second explanation in his article ‘Does the sperm come from between the back and the ribs?’ He states that this verse, replies to the claims of the unbelievers at the time of revelation that denied the reality of resurrection. In this context the Quran has euphemistically referred to the male genital area as ‘between the backbone and the ribs’ since it does not want to refer to the organ by name for reasons of purity and also because it was effectively saying ‘you are denying God’s message when you are just a lowly mortal created from a place not even worth mentioning’. He has shown in his article how a straight external line from the backbone and ribs does cover the male sexual area including the testicles. So, the Quran has not made any scientific error but referred euphemistically to the male genital area, from which sperm is poured out. Please read his full article for clarification of any doubts about the use of euphemisms like this in the Quran.

 

However Dr. Maurice Bucaille has argued that the common translation is incorrect:

 

 

Two verses in the Qur'an deal with sexual relations themselves...When translations and
explanatory commentaries are consulted however; one is struck by the divergences between them. I have pondered for a long time on the translation of such verses and am indebted to Doctor A. K. Giraud, Former Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Beirut, for the following:

`Man was fashioned from a liquid poured out. It issued (as a result) of
the conjunction of the sexual area of the man and the sexual area of the
woman



The sexual area of the man is indicated in the text of the Qur'an by
the word sulb (singular). The sexual areas of the woman are designated in
the Qur'an by the word tara'ib (plural). This is the translation which appears to be most satisfactory

Let us evaluate this translation a little further. Ahmed A. Abd Allah writes:
 
My mother and I went through three different tafseers of this verse.  (See above for references).  Verdict: Bucaille appears to be right, and most translations are misleading at best.  It really requires a good understanding of Arabic to understand this verse.  Note that 'sulb' is *singular*.  In the dictionary by Wehr you cite below, you will see that its meaning of backbone is *only* when we take the *plural* word of sulb (aslaab).  In its singular form, it means hardening. Before we get to 'taraa'ib': In all three tafseers, 'sulb' is given to belong to the man.    The 'hardening of the man', an obvious metaphor which I don't think I need to explain. My mother, bless her, was a bit hesitant to tell me that one on the phone :-).   The 'taraaib' is also given in the tafseers to belong to the woman.   Several people commented on its meaning according to Ibn Katheer.  Ibn Abbas (ra) declared it to be the area of the woman where she places a necklace (i.e. breasts).   Ad-Dahhak said that it encompassed the woman's eyes, breasts, and legs. You will find much the same in Steingass's dictionary.  To the Arab, this verse can easily be understood to metaphorically (and actually in some sense, very directly) refer to the human being's erogenous zones
. Bucaille was right.  That he didn't provide enough references is well taken, but unlike most English translations, he got the *sense* of the verse correct, as opposed to a literal translation that turns out misleading.  In some English commentaries (e.g. Maududi), the mistake is even worse: it is assumed that 'sulb' and 'taraaib' both belong to the man!  This is *incorrect*, and Maududi even includes a letter from a medical doctor pointing out big problems with this interpretation. Also consider that the previous verse talks of the ejection of a man during climax.   It would not be unusual for the following verse to continue with the sexual context. 

 

 

It would seem therefore that Dr.Bucaille might well be correct in his translation, which of course is not subject to any scientific criticism whatsoever. Therefore as a Muslim, whether I accept Moiz Amjad’s interpretation or Dr.Bucaille’s interpretation or the first interpretation, it is clear to me that the Quran has not made any scientific mistake in the referred verses. As for the claim that the Quran copied Greek thinkers, well it rests on the favourite (and unproved!) assumption of missionaries that similarity implies borrowing. If we apply this yardstick to the Bible, we will have to admit it has ‘borrowed’ from other sources since it’s description of the flood of Noah is ‘similar’ to the Gilgamesh epic and flood epics from around the world that predate the Christian scripture. It’s seems too many Christians have forgotten what Jesus (pbuh) said about wood beams and splinters…

 

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

3. Embryological development in the Qur'an

Dr.Lactantius writes:

 

Sura 22:5 says "We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then out of a leech-like clot, then from a morsel of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed ... and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babes." Sura 23:13-14 repeats this idea by saying God "placed him as (a drop of) sperm (nutfah) in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood (alaqa); then out of that clot We made a (foetus) lump (mugdah), then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature." 75:38 also says man becomes an alaqa and 96:2 says we came from alaq.

Moore however goes further and incredibly he claims in a later edition of his textbook that the Qur'an "states that the resulting organism settles in the womb like a seed, 6 days after its beginning" [9]. This really would be amazing if it was true. Actually the Qur'an says nothing of the sort.

We have to ask what the precise meaning of these words is in order to know whether the verses contain important scientific statements that have only recently been discovered, as Moore and others claim. In comparison with the meaning of nutfah, it is rather more difficult to understand what alaqa means. Many different suggestions have been made: clot (Pickthall, Maulana Muhammed Ali, Muhammed Zafrulla Khan, Hamidullah), small lump of blood (Kasimirski), leech-like clot (Yusuf Ali), and "leech, suspended thing or blood clot" (Moore, op. cit.). Moore suggests that the appearance of an embryo of 24 days' gestation resembles a leech, though this is rather debatable. In side view the developing umbilicus (genetically part of the embryo) is almost as big as the "leech-shaped" part into which a human is formed and the developing placenta (which also consists of tissue that is genetically from the embryo) is much larger than the embryo. It is claimed that the ancient sages would not have been able to see an embryo about 3mm long and describe it as leech-like, but Aristotle correctly described the function of the umbilical cord, by which the embryo "clings" to the uterus wall in the fourth century B.C. [10]. It is impossible to believe the suggestion of Bachir Torki [11] that alaq in 96:2 means links, referring to the gene code of DNA, as this makes a nonsense out of other verses where the word is used, such as 22:5 ("we made you from a drop of sperm, then from that a gene code, then from that a little lump of flesh....").

A 24/25 day embryo at the alaqa stage, approx. 2 mm long

To establish a definition for alaqa we might take a look at the Qamus al-Muheet, one of the most important Arabic dictionaries ever compiled, by Muhammed Ibn-Yaqub al-Firuzabadi (AD 1329-1415) [12]. He says that alaqa has the same meaning as a clot of blood. In 96:2 the word alaq is used, which is both a collective plural and a verbal noun. The latter form conveys the sense of man being created from clinging material or possibly clay, which is consistent with the creation of Adam in the Bible from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and some of the other Qur'anic verses listed above. However, the translators of the Qur'an have all translated alaq as "clot" as opposed to "clinging" in 96:2 because the use of the singular alaqa elsewhere forces them to use "clot" here too, despite the attraction for the meaning "clinging" or leech-like which is perhaps more scientifically accurate.

Another source of information are the early Muslim commentators. Ibn Kathir wrote that when the drop of water (nutfah) settled in the womb it stayed there for forty days and then became a red clot (alaqa), staying there for another forty days before turning to mugdah, a piece of flesh without shape or form. Finally it began to take on a shape and form. Both ar-Razi and as-Suyuti [13] claimed that the dust referred both to Adam's creation and to the man's discharge; nutfah referred to the water from the male and alaqa was a solidified piece of blood clot. Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (died about AD 1350) wrote that "the foetus is a living or dead babe animal which is sometimes found in the womb of a slaughtered animal, and its blood is congested" [14]. Another great physician, Ibn al-Quff wrote some 13 out of 60 chapters from "On Health Preservation" about embryology and pregnancy. He included a further stage of development one week after conception, the foam stage or raghwah. Up to 16 days the embryo was alaqa (clot) and after 27 to 30 days the clot turns into a lump of meat, mugdah [15]. These dates must be regarded as very approximate but are nevertheless a major improvement on what one of the most reliable Hadiths says about foetal development, as we shall see later.

A 26/27 day embryo, said to resemble a mouthful of flesh, but only 3 mm long

Moving onto the next stage of development, Razi described the mugdah as being a little piece of meat the size of what a man can chew. The idea that mugdah means chewed flesh is a later, and less accurate translation of the word, but the idea has persisted because it is claimed that the somites from which the backbone and other trunk structures develop bear a passing resemblance to teeth marks implanted in plastercine. It must be said that not only is this an imaginative interpretation however, but besides, Moore cannot claim that the mugdah should occur at 26-27 days since at that point the embryo is a mere 4mm long. One would have to wait around 8 weeks before the embryo was the size of chewed flesh (if a mouthful is defined as being 20-30mm wide), which is what mugdah really means. And in the following Hadith, transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim, Muhammed claims that the mugdah stage occurs between days 80 and 120. Yet by this time the foetus is considerably larger than a lump of flesh the size of which a man can chew, and looks very human-like and totally unlike meat.

`Abdullah (b. Mas'ud) reported that Allah's Messenger ... said: "Verily your creation is on this wise. The constituents of one of you are collected for forty days in his mother's womb in the form of blood [sperm?], after which it becomes a clot of blood in another period of forty days. Then it becomes a lump of flesh and forty days later Allah sends his angel to it ..."

Thus according to Muhammed, the drop of sperm remains in the womb for 40 days, then becomes a clot for a further 40 days, then a lump of flesh for 40 days [16]. It has been shown that human sperm can only survive inside a woman's reproductive tract for a maximum of 7 days; at 80 days the embryo has very definitely acquired the shape of a human being and looks nothing like either a clot or a mouthful of flesh.

An eleven week foetus, real size 7.5 cm, but according to Muhammed still at the alaqa stage, a clot of blood

The final stage of human development which the Qur'an describes is the creation of bones, and the clothing of bones with flesh. However, according to modern embryologists including Prof. Moore, the tissue from which bone originates, known as mesoderm, is the same tissue as that from which muscle ("flesh") develops [17]. Thus bone and muscles begin to develop simultaneously, rather than sequentially. Whereas however most of the muscle tissue that we have is laid down before birth, bones continue to develop and calcify (strengthen with calcium) right into one's teenage years. So far from bones being clothed with flesh, it would be more accurate if the Qur'an had said that muscles started to develop at the same time as bones, but completed their development earlier. The idea that bones are clothed with flesh is not only scientifically completely false, but is directly copied from the ancient Greek doctor Galen, as we shall see shortly.

Muslim Response

Let us repeat what the missionary himself says:

 

To establish a definition for alaqa we might take a look at the Qamus al-Muheet, one of the most important Arabic dictionaries ever compiled, by Muhammed Ibn-Yaqub al-Firuzabadi (AD 1329-1415) [12]. He says that alaqa has the same meaning as a clot of blood

This is the clearest example of intellectual dishonesty on his part. The Qamus-al-Muheet does not just say that alaqa means a clot of blood and leave it at that! The full definition follows:

 

1.Blood in its normal state or blood which is extremely red or which has hardened or congealed, 2.a piece thereof 3. Every thing that sticks ;4. Clay that sticks to hands;5. Unchanging enmity or love; 6.Zu `alaq is the name of a hill of Banu Asad, where they defeated Rabi`ah ibn Maalik;7. An insect of water that sucks blood;8. That portion of a tree that is within the reach of animals.

As should be clear from the above that there are numerous meanings of the word, but they are all derived from the sense of ‘attachment or clinging’. For example love is alaqah because it clings to the heart and a leech is alaqah because it clings to the skin of the human who’s blood it sucks, and clay is alaqah because it clings to the hands. A faithful translation of the word in English would be ‘anything that clings or sticks’ i.e. ‘clinging thing’ because this would allow all the meanings of the word to be preserved. Moiz Amjad writes the following in his article ‘what was man created from’:

 

 

The word `alaq, does not "mean" blood but because of certain properties of blood, it was, besides other things also used to imply blood. The real meaning of the word, as would be obvious from an analysis of all the meanings stated above, is anything that sticks to or hangs with something else. The word was used for blood, because of the well known property of blood of being sticky, as soon as its starts to dry out.  The word was used for mud, because of its obvious property of sticking to the hands. The word was used for unending hatred or love, because such emotions stick to one's heart. The word was used for a small insect which sucks blood (leech), because it sticks to its prey. The word was also used for that part of the tree, which is in the reach of grazing animals, because the animals stick to that part of it.

Thus, the real meaning of the word "`alaq" is "anything that sticks or hangs". Now when the Qur'an said: "He created man of `alaq", it was interpreted by Muslim scholars to imply "a clot of blood". This was not because the word "`alaq" meant "a clot of blood" but because the Muslim scholars felt that in this verse it implied "a clot of blood". If, due to the widening of human knowledge, today we are in a position to know that a child is never "a clot of blood", all that has happened is that we can now safely say that the interpretation of the Muslim scholars was not accurate. If the Qur'an was not available in its original language, as is generally the case with the books, other than the Qur'an, believed to be revealed literature, the Muslims would have had no option but to submit that the Qur'an does have a "scientific error" in it. But the case of the Qur'an is quite different from those other books. It is still in its original language. And the word originally used by the Qur'an (`alaq) is not used only for a clot of blood. It actually refers to "something that sticks" (like semi dried blood, mud, unending hatred/love or a leech).

As for the translation of the word as ‘leech-like’ this also has a strong basis in Arabic, because ‘leech’ and ‘blood clot’ are the two meanings most commonly used by Arabs. So which one to use? Mohd Elfie has the answer:

 

 

By the way, the Critic's Arabic is no better than his Logic. The actual word "al-alaq" has a dual meaning in Arabic. Depending on the context it can either mean "a clump of blood" or "leech." This can be seen for example in the Arabic-English Dictionary "A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic" by J. Milton Cowan. On page 634, this word is translated into English as "medicinal leech; leech, blood, blood clot." To find a much more comprehensive and authoritative study of this word we need to go to the 18 volume encyclopedia of Arabic language, Lisan Al-Arab. In volume 10, pages 261-270 we can find a detailed treatment of this word, its root, its derivations, its usage, its various permutations, and their meanings. In these ten pages we are presented with roughly 160 different permutations of this word. Each differing only very slightly from the others in written or pronounced form, and with all of them being united by the common theme of different ways of "clinging or hanging" Let us have a look at a couple of examples:

The root word from which this word is derived is the word "Aa-la-qa." It has the general meaning of "to hang" or "to cling." By employing various grammatical manipulations on this word we come up with the aforementioned 160 derivations each of which is closely associated with the concept of "clinging or hanging." For example, one derivation has the general meaning of "devotion" (to cling to with love), another has the general meaning of "hanger" (to hang up clothes), a third conveys the meaning of "dowry" (the money paid to the woman in order to cause the couple to "cling together" in marriage), a fourth form of this word has the general meaning of "lust" (to cling to something with desire and lust), a fifth form has the general meaning of "to ensnare" (an animal gets hung up in a net), a sixth form has the general meaning of "to cling to by your nails," etc.

Now, when looking for the meaning of the precise form of the word at hand, "Aa-la-qu" (For those who speak Arabic "fatha-fatha-dhammah") we find the aforementioned two meanings; leech or clump of blood. So which one was the meaning intended by God in this verse? To better study this word and its dual meaning let us start with a similar example from the English language:

In English we find a number of words with two or more meanings, the correct one of which is chosen based upon the context of the text. For example, the word "right" can have one of more than ten different meanings depending on the employed context. Among these meanings are:

Conforming with or conformable to justice, law, or morality: do the right thing and confess.
In accordance with fact, reason, or truth; correct: the right answer.
Fitting, proper, or appropriate: It is not right to leave the party without saying goodbye.
Most favorable, desirable, or convenient: the right time to act.
In or into a satisfactory state or condition: put things right.
In good mental or physical health or order.
Intended to be worn or positioned facing outward or toward an observer: the right side of the dress; made sure that the right side of the fabric was visible.
a. Of, belonging to, located on, or being the side of the body to the south when the subject is facing east. b. Of, relating to, directed toward, or located on the right side. c. Located on the right side of a person facing downstream: the right bank of a river.
Often Right Of or belonging to the political or intellectual Right.
Mathematics a. Formed by or in reference to a line or plane that is perpendicular to another line or plane. b. Having the axis perpendicular to the base: right cone.
Straight; uncurved; direct: a right line.

So if the text says "I picked it up with my right hand" then the meaning of the word "right" will be quite different than when I use the same word in the sentence "you gave him the right answer." In these two cases the context very clearly leads us to the correct selection.

However, there are other cases when the selection of the correct meaning is not so clear cut. For example, if one were to say "I struck him by my right" then this could be interpreted either to mean that "it was my legal right to do so" or it could mean "my right hand, or right side." Now the meaning is not so clear. Indeed, one example of this in the noble Qur'an can be found in Al-Saffat(37):93, where based upon the nature of the Arabic word "bilyameen" the verse can be translated into English in one of two ways; either "So he (Abraham) attacked them (the idols), striking them with his right hand" or it could be translated into English as "So he (Abraham) attacked them (the idols) striking them in fulfillment of his oath (which he made in verse 21:57)." Since there is no way to translate this word into English without preferring one meaning over the other, therefore the first was chosen by many translators and the English translation thus becomes more restricted in meaning than the original Arabic.

Now, if we were to come to a high-school dropout who has no experience in computers, and we were to give him the operation manual for an IBM compatible Pentium computer, and this manual were to contain references to the computer having "bits" "bytes" and "nibbles" of memory, or having "bugs" in some programs, or "viruses" in its software, then what will this person think? If this person did not know the first thing about operating a computer, and he was asked to read the manual and to explain the operation of a computer without actually having been given access to a physical computer or the tools necessary to dissect it, then this lack of knowledge will indeed influence his "explanation" of what he read in the manual. Assume that this person were then to read that the computer has a "hard drive." Is it not then possible that he may come away thinking that the computer "is driven to do a good job"?

We begin to see that a person's background and understanding are central to how he "interprets" or "understands" a given text. His understanding in no way alters the intended meaning as found in the manual or conveyed by the language, however, that is the only meaning his mind can comprehend at that time based upon his current level of knowledge.

Now assume that this same person went back to school, got his high-school diploma and perhaps a bachelor's degree in Computer Engineering. Now he will begin to have doors of understanding opened up to him which he never before imagined. The meanings begin now to make much more sense and take on broader implications. He now understands that a computer "nibble" does not mean that it bites something, a computer "bug" is not a mosquito, and a computer "virus" is not influenza.

This is indeed what happened with the words of God in the noble Qur'an. Muslims were presented with a book from God which told them that "He (God) created humanity from an Alaq." Those who read this verse "interpreted" it based upon the meaning they felt most appropriate. Humans have blood in them so the verse must mean "blood clot." How could a person be created from worms, they reasoned? However, the verse remained in Arabic and the text retained its dual meaning despite how humanity had tried to understand the meaning. When some people chose to translate the meanings of the Qur'an into English they were faced with a situation where they had to chose one or the other. Unlike the original Arabic, the English language would not allow for a dual meaning. Thus, the translators looked at both meanings, "clump of blood," and "leech" and tried to reason, "Which one appears to my intellect to be the intended meaning, for humans to have been created from a blood clot or for them to have been created from leeches?" Obviously, just as humans would have a hard time imagining "bugs" flying around in their software, so too did they have a hard time imagining "leeches" transmuting into humans, so the verse was translated as "blood clot."

The critic has made another false allegation about the meaning of alaq when he says:

 

In 96:2 the word alaq is used, which is both a collective plural and a verbal noun. The latter form conveys the sense of man being created from clinging material or possibly clay, which is consistent with the creation of Adam in the Bible from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and some of the other Qur'anic verses listed above. However, the translators of the Qur'an have all translated alaq as "clot" as opposed to "clinging" in 96:2 because the use of the singular alaqa elsewhere forces them to use "clot" here too, despite the attraction for the meaning "clinging" or leech-like which is perhaps more scientifically accurate.

The basic gist of his argument is that ‘alaq’ can mean leech or clinging thing but ‘alaqah’ cannot. Dr.Omar Abdul Rehman has already replied to this claim:

 

However, this type of argument is completely erroneous, as even a little knowledge of classical Arabic will show that Alaqah and Alaq can have the same translation. There is no such thing as a "forced translation" in the Qur’an. In reality, different meanings can be derived from the same word in many instances in the Qur’an. However, the process of deriving new meanings is always carried out in accordance with the strict rules of Arabic grammar, so that it is impossible to assign any fanciful meaning to a word.

If the reader has any doubts about ‘alaq’ and ‘alaqah’ both having the same meaning please consult ‘Al-Misbar online Arabic-English dictionary’ and do a word search for ‘leech’. The word ‘Alaqah’-in that very form will come up! Consult any dictionary of Arabic and the result will be the same. Alaq and alaqah both have precisely the same meaning, and ‘clinging thing’ and ‘leech’ are both well established as the meaning of both.

It is often claimed by missionaries that ‘Alaqah means whatever Muslims want it to mean’ and that it is ‘laughable to suggest that Alaqah has a precise scientific meaning’. However these arguments are in themselves laughable and absurd. The Quran uses the word Alaq/Alaqah in a specific physical context i.e. the creation of the human being. Therefore of the hundreds of translations of the word only those should be used that apply to a physical entity-‘love’ and ‘devotion’ and ‘dowry’ etc cannot be the true meaning. Leech, clinging object, blood clot and clay are the only meanings that can be derived from the Quran. Meanings like ‘links’ etc are fanciful interpretations on the part of some Muslims. The meaning cannot be ‘clay’ since there is no logical reason why the word for clay would have not been used in these verses, when in countless verses the creation of man from clay has already been described! This leaves three meanings:

1) Clinging thing

2) Leech

3) Blood clot

The human embryo is indeed a clinging thing-it clings to the inside of the womb via the umbilical cord. As for the meaning of leech or leech-like, Dr. Moore writes the following:

The word "alaqah" refers to a leech or bloodsucker. This is an appropriate description of the human embryo from days 7-24 when it clings to the endometrium of the uterus, in the same way that a leech clings to the skin. Just as the leech derives blood from the host, the human embryo derives blood from the decidua or pregnant endometrium. It is remarkable how much the embryo of 23-24 days resembles a leech (Fig. 2). As there were no microscopes or lenses available in the 7th century, doctors would not have known that the human embryo had this leech-like appearance. In the early part of the fourth week, the embryo is just visible to the unaided eye because it is smaller than a kernel of wheat.

 

Top, a drawing of a leech or bloodsucker.
Below, a drawing of a 24 day-old human embryo. Note the leech-like appearance of the human embryo at this stage.

Let us know turn to the critic’s comments about the above intepretation:

 

Moore suggests that the appearance of an embryo of 24 days' gestation resembles a leech, though this is rather debatable. In side view the developing umbilicus (genetically part of the embryo) is almost as big as the "leech-shaped" part into which a human is formed and the developing placenta (which also consists of tissue that is genetically from the embryo) is much larger than the embryo. It is claimed that the ancient sages would not have been able to see an embryo about 3mm long and describe it as leech-like, but Aristotle correctly described the function of the umbilical cord, by which the embryo "clings" to the uterus wall in the fourth century B.C.

The logic of the missionaries appears to be sadly lacking. The implication of his criticism is that if an embryo does not look like a leech from all angles, and the leech-like part is not the largest part of the embryo than the description ‘leech-like’ is incorrect. This is a view I simply do not share. For an embryo to be leech-like it can resemble a leech from any angle, and the leech-shaped part need not be the biggest part. As for being able to see the embryo’s leech-like shape, he has quoted Aristotle describing the embryo ‘clinging’ but has not found any evidence to suggest that any source other the Quran has referred to the embryo as leech-like! As such Dr.Moore’s contention that human beings could not have observed the leech-like shape of the embryo will stand until such time that the missionaries can prove that any pre-modern source other than the Quran has referred to this fact.

Muslims reject the third meaning ‘blood clot’ for the reasons already stated i.e. it is scientifically wrong. So, alaqah means either ‘leech-like’ or ‘clinging thing’ neither can be said to be wrong however since ‘leech’ is the most common use of the word ‘alaqah’ in Arabic other than ‘blood-clot’ the meaning ‘leech-like’ has to be given the benefit of the doubt. I am sure the reader will appreciate now that alaqah does have two precise scientific meanings neither of which is subject to any scientific or linguistic criticism whatsoever!

The critic tries to strengthen the case for ‘blood clot’ by quoting the commentaries of Ancient scholars. While Muslims gave the utmost respect for those individuals, we do not consider them to be free from error. They were human beings and did not have the scientific knowledge to understand the Quran correctly and so used whatever theories were around at that time to interpret the Quran. Now that we know they were wrong, we can safely reject their interpretations and use the scientific knowledge at our disposal to interpret the Quran. The Quran’s claim to being a perfect revelation is not in the least affected by imperfect interpretations of it by mortal human beings.

As for the Hadith referred to, I do not believe that they are correctly ascribed to the Prophet. In my opinion any hadith even if is classified as ‘Sahih’ by scholars should be rejected as false if it contradicts the Quran or the established knowledge of mankind. This is the case, because the Hadith were compiled over two centuries after the Prophet (pbuh) had passed away and no-one can guarantee that mistakes were not made in transmission over the immense amount of time between the Prophet (pbuh) saying something, and it being written down by the collectors of Hadith. I would request the critic to stick to the issue i.e. the Quran and embryology and not confuse matters by referring to the Hadith. The Quran is free of errors and the Hadith is not, this is something that many Muslims acknowledge and as such criticism of the Hadith do not prove anything about the Quran and embryology.

The next issue the critic raises is the meaning of the word ‘mugdah’ he writes:

 

Moving onto the next stage of development, Razi described the mugdah as being a little piece of meat the size of what a man can chew. The idea that mugdah means chewed flesh is a later, and less accurate translation of the word, but the idea has persisted because it is claimed that the somites from which the backbone and other trunk structures develop bear a passing resemblance to teeth marks implanted in plastercine. It must be said that not only is this an imaginative interpretation however, but besides, Moore cannot claim that the mugdah should occur at 26-27 days since at that point the embryo is a mere 4mm long. One would have to wait around 8 weeks before the embryo was the size of chewed flesh (if a mouthful is defined as being 20-30mm wide), which is what mugdah really means

So what does ‘mugdah’ really mean-chewed lump or a chewable-size lump? I consulted the translations of the Quran by Shakir, Yusuf Ali, Marmaduke Pickthall, Muhsin/Hillali and Sher Ali. All of them described the word as ‘lump of flesh’, ‘little lump of flesh’ or ‘shapeless flesh’. Indeed the critic himself has made references to the translation of the word as ‘flesh without shape or form’ by Ibn Kathir and ‘lump of meat’ by Ibn al-Quff It would appear therefore that the translation of the word as ‘chewed lump’ by some Muslims is not accurate, but the translation suggested by the critic and attributed (with questionable accuracy) to the commentator Razi is not a translation but one man’s interpretation. Razi was wondering how small or large the ‘lump’ was and suggested it was large enough to chew. The word itself does not mean ‘chew-sized lump’ but simply ‘small lump’. After the alaqah stage, the embryo does indeed become a ‘small lump of flesh’ without any distinctive human features or form, until the bones and muscles begin to develop. Below is a picture of the embryo at this stage:

 

Left: a plastercine model of the ‘mugdah stage’

Right: A drawing of the embryo at the ‘mugdah stage’

An important verse of the Quran (22:5) describes the mugdah stage as being one where the embryo ‘partly formed and partly unformed’, this is an accurate description of this stage of development where part of the human shape is visible (i.e. slits for eyes and ears and the beginnings of bone), but parts of it remain unformed (e.g. a tail is visible which later merges into the body). It is impossible that this knowledge could have been known by any source other than God in the seventh century, since microscopes had not been invented. So even if the Quran has not referred to the ‘chewed like’ appearance of the embryo at this stage of development, what it does tell is no less miraculous and no more humanly explicable!

The final claim the critic makes about the description of embryological development in the Quran relates to the appearance of muscle and bones, he writes:

 

The final stage of human development which the Qur'an describes is the creation of bones, and the clothing of bones with flesh. However, according to modern embryologists including Prof. Moore, the tissue from which bone originates, known as mesoderm, is the same tissue as that from which muscle ("flesh") develops [17]. Thus bone and muscles begin to develop simultaneously, rather than sequentially. Whereas however most of the muscle tissue that we have is laid down before birth, bones continue to develop and calcify (strengthen with calcium) right into one's teenage years. So far from bones being clothed with flesh, it would be more accurate if the Qur'an had said that muscles started to develop at the same time as bones, but completed their development earlier. The idea that bones are clothed with flesh is not only scientifically completely false, but is directly copied from the ancient Greek doctor Galen, as we shall see shortly.

Dr. Keith Moore is among the foremost authorities on embryological development in the world. He says the following about the development of bones and muscle:

The continuation of Surah 23:14 indicates that out of the chewed lump stage, bones and muscles form. This is in accordance with embryological development. First the bones form as cartilage models, and then muscles (flesh) develop around them from the somatic mesoderm...when the cartilage bones are differentiated, the embryonic conncetive tissue or mesenchyme around them is undifferentiaeted. It later develops into the muscles and ligaments attached to the bones’

Now, either Dr Moore is an unusually brave man for staking his tremendous respect in the scientific community for having authored the standard textbook on embryology in the world ‘The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology’ which has been published in eight languages and has recently seen the publication of it’s sixth edition, by lying through his teeth and deliberately distorting scientific knowledge to make it fit in with the Quran- or otherwise he is telling the truth, and the formation of bones before muscles does indeed occur. Interestingly, the critic has decided not to quote directly from ‘modern embryologists including Prof. Moore’ but rather referred to the book knowing most of his readers won’t have the time to check whether Dr Moore has really said what he is telling us he said, and whether it means what he would like it to mean! I would advise Dr.Lactantius to refer to relevant quotations when arguing his points, rather than to devoting his time and energy on the inclusion of pretty diagrams and busts of this and that Greek physician or this or that ancient hospital! Perhaps the good doctor was hoping we would be encapsulated by the textbook- like professionalism of the presentation of the article, and ignore the lacklustre and unscholarly nature if the points raised in it. Oh well, better luck next time!

On this point, Dr.Bucaille writes:

The embryo is initially a small mass. At a certain stage in its development, it appears to the naked eye like chewed flesh. The bone structure develops inside this mass in what is known as mesenchyma. The bones that are formed are covered with muscle, the word ‘lahm’ (intact flesh-bracket mine) applies to them

I cannot claim to be to be an expert on embryology, but it does appear very obvious to me that either the interpretation of the Quranic description that the critic is providing in incorrect or else the science behind his criticism is faulty. In either case, I do not believe that the Quran has made any scientific mistake whatsoever! Dr.Omar Abdul Rehman sheds some light on this issue:

 

 

The above Ayah explicitly states that the bones are formed first and that this is followed by the formation of flesh or muscles which take their position around the bones (clothing the bones). In fact the primordia or precursors of both the bone and muscle (in the form of myotomes and selertomes(are present together with those of bones and other tissues and organs in a collective primitive structure are formed during the first 40 days and is found in the Mudghah. However, in this stage the primordia of muscle have not yet differentiated into definitive bones and muscles. As they do not have the shapes or forms of bones or muscles, the whole embryo at this stage does not have a human appearance.

During the seventh week- the skeleton begins to spread throughout the body and the bones take their familiar shapes. The embryo then starts to acquire the human appearance. At the end of the seventh week and during the eighth week the muscles take their positions around the bone forms, "definitive muscles of trunk, limbs and head are well represented and foetus is capable of some movement".

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

 

4.Some possible explanations

In the next section of his article, the critic carries on with his discussion of some of the points already raised:

 

Aristotle believed that humans originated from the action of male semen upon female menstrual blood [18] which leaves us with something of a dilemma. If we translate alaqa as "clot" it means that the Qur'an is completely wrong about human development, since there is absolutely no stage during which the embryo consists of a clot. The only situation in which an embryo might appear like a clot is during a miscarriage, in which case the clotted blood which is seen to emerge (much of which comes from the mother incidentally) is solidified and by definition no longer alive. So if ever an embryo appeared to look like a clot it would never develop any further into a human; it would be a dead mass of bloody miscarrying flesh. Since Muhammed had several wives it is entirely likely that he would be very familiar with miscarriages. Alternatively it could be hinting at Aristotle's incorrect belief that the embryo originated from the combination of male sperm and female menstrual blood.

Moore avoids this problem by translating alaqa as a leech, since he is well aware that there is no stage in development when the embryo is a clot. As we have seen however, this is only to justify his interpretation that an embryo of 24-25 days is a clinging leech-like alaqa and one at 26-27 days is a mugdah with teeth-marks. A further problem with this view is that if the alaqa is translated "leech" because it appears to be clinging to the uterus wall, does this mean that the foetus only clings to the uterus wall for a few days? Obviously it remains attached for the entire nine months of gestation.

There are other problems with Moore's interpretation too. Not least is the claim of Muhammed that the dates of the alaqa and mugdah were 40-80 days and 80-120 days of gestation respectively, rather than 24-25 days and 26-27 days. It also begs the question as to why, if the Qur'an really is giving us a highly precise scientific account of human development, it only mentions four stages, nutfah, alaqa, mugdah, plus the clothing of bones with flesh. Between fertilization and day 28 for example Moore lists no fewer than 13 stages in his textbook. Why does the Qur'an say nothing about any of these other stages? The reality is that the more ambiguous the meaning of the Arabic terms, and the more meanings that can be attached to certain words, the less convincingly can they be said to be highly precise scientific terms.

However, the most convincing explanation, and the most worrying for those who maintain that the Qur'an is God's eternal Word, untampered with and free from any human interference, is that the Qur'an is merely repeating the teaching of the enormously influential Greek physician Galen. If this is the case, not only is the Qur'an wrong, but it also plagiarises ancient Greek literature!

The account of the different stages in embryology as described by the Qur'an, ar-Razi and al-Quff is identical to that taught by Galen, writing in around AD 150 in Pergamum (Bergama in modern Turkey). Galen taught that the embryo developed in four stages as detailed below.

(See Greek text in original article)

English translation:

But let us take the account back again to the first conformation of the animal, and in order to make our account orderly and clear, let us divide the creation of the foetus overall into four periods of time. The first is that in which. as is seen both in abortions and in dissection, the form of the semen prevails (Arabic nutfah). At this time, Hippocrates too, the all-marvelous, does not yet call the conformation of the animal a foetus; as we heard just now in the case of semen voided in the sixth day, he still calls it semen. But when it has been filled with blood (Arabic alaqa), and heart, brain and liver are still unarticulated and unshaped yet have by now a certain solidarity and considerable size, this is the second period; the substance of the foetus has the form of flesh and no longer the form of semen. Accordingly you would find that Hippocrates too no longer calls such a form semen but, as was said, foetus. The third period follows on this, when, as was said, it is possible to see the three ruling parts clearly and a kind of outline, a silhouette, as it were, of all the other parts (Arabic mugdah). You will see the conformation of the three ruling parts more clearly, that of the parts of the stomach more dimly, and much more still, that of the limbs. Later on they form "twigs", as Hippocrates expressed it, indicating by the term their similarity to branches. The fourth and final period is at the stage when all the parts in the limbs have been differentiated; and at this part Hippocrates the marvelous no longer calls the foetus an embryo only, but already a child, too when he says that it jerks and moves as an animal now fully formed (Arabic `a new creation')....

....The time has come for nature to articulate the organs precisely and to bring all the parts to completion. Thus it caused flesh to grow on and around all the bones, and at the same time....it made at the ends of the bones ligaments that bind them to each other, and along their entire length it placed around them on all sides thin membranes, called periosteal, on which it caused flesh to grow [19].

 

Qur'an: Sura 23:13-14 in Arabic for comparison (see original article)

English translation:

Thereafter We made him (the offspring of Adam) as a Nutfah (mixed drops of the male and female sexual discharge and lodged it) in a safe lodging (womb of the woman). Then We made the Nutfah into a clot (Alaqa, a piece of thick coagulated blood), then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh (Mugdah), then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators!

The first stage, geniture, corresponds to [nutfah], the drop of semen; the second stage, a bloody vascularised foetus with unshaped brain, liver and heart ("when it has been filled with blood") corresponds to [alaqa], the blood clot; the third stage "has the form of flesh" and corresponds to [mugdah], the morsel of chewed flesh. The fourth and final stage, puer, was when all the organs were well formed, joints were freely moveable, and the foetus began to move [20]. If the reader is in any doubt about the clear link being described here between the Galenic and the Qur'anic stages, it may be pointed out that it was early Muslim doctors, including Ibn-Qayyim, who first spotted the similarity. Basim Musallam, Director of the Centre of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge concludes

"The stages of development which the Qur'an and Hadith established for believers agreed perfectly with Galen's scientific account....There is no doubt that medieval thought appreciated this agreement between the Qur'an and Galen, for Arabic science employed the same Qur'anic terms to describe the Galenic stages" [21].

 

 

Muslim Response  

Muslims do not accept the translation of alaqa as ‘clot,’ and why would we? - It is only one of three possible meanings, the other two raising no scientific objections whatsoever! Therefore the critic’s musings about Aristotle’s view on the formation of the embryo from menstrual blood as an explanation for the use of the word ‘alaqa’ has absolutely no effect on the Muslim arguments already presented. Please read the brilliant article by Dr.Omar Abdul Rehman, which responds to the claim of plagiarism and also to the claims of scientific error made by missionaries.

The critic raises the following point:

 

A further problem with this view is that if the alaqa is translated "leech" because it appears to be clinging to the uterus wall, does this mean that the foetus only clings to the uterus wall for a few days? Obviously it remains attached for the entire nine months of gestation.

First of all alaqa is translated as ‘leech’ not only because it clings to the uterus wall but also because it draws blood for the pregnant endometrium-like a leech from it’s host- and looks like a leech also. Simply because the Quran describes the first stage as ‘the clinging stage’ does not mean that it stops clinging after that, but since the embryo continues to change, these changes are described as the next stages of development. I.e. the alaqa stage is the not the only one where the embryo clings to the uterus wall, but is the first one and is described as the ‘clinging stage’ for this reason. The critic makes the basic assumption that because the Quran says the embryo is a clinging thing and then becomes a small lump of flesh, that it is implying that it ceases to cling when it becomes a lump of flesh. I do not agree with his assumption. Furthermore, even if we accept this argument it can only apply to the translation of the alaqa as ‘clinging thing’ and not ‘leech-like’, since it is possible to argue that the embryo is no longer ‘leech-like’ after days 23/24 of gestation because it no longer resembles a leech even if some of its behaviours (i.e. clinging, extracting blood) are still similar to that of a leech i.e. the description ‘leech-like’ might refer only to the physical appearance of the embryo, which does indeed disappear after the alaqa stage and not to it’s behaviour. As for the alleged words of the Prophet (pbuh), I have already responded to that point.

He adds a further criticism:

 

It also begs the question as to why, if the Qur'an really is giving us a highly precise scientific account of human development, it only mentions four stages, nutfah, alaqa, mugdah, plus the clothing of bones with flesh. Between fertilization and day 28 for example Moore lists no fewer than 13 stages in his textbook. Why does the Qur'an say nothing about any of these other stages? The reality is that the more ambiguous the meaning of the Arabic terms, and the more meanings that can be attached to certain words, the less convincingly can they be said to be highly precise scientific terms

The Quran is not an embryology textbook-it does not need to painstakingly detail everything that occurs during gestation from contraception until birth for it to be recognised as accurate! The Quran has only referred to the development of the child in the womb to remind people that he has created them and will resurrect them. In order to remind them of their creation the major changes that occur up until the embryo becomes fully human-like (in the eighth week) are described. As long as the Quran has described these changes accurately, there is no point questioning why other changes are not described. The purpose of the Quran is to describe the creation of the human in the womb, and if it does this accurately (and I believe that it does) then it cannot be subject to criticism, even if it does not mention everything that occurs at every stage in the womb-since the purpose of the Quran is not to give a textbook account of all development during pregnancy but remind people of who created them and how he did this. The other details are excluded because they are not relevant to the message of the Quran. I would have thought that this would have been commonsense, but obviously the missionaries see things differently! I have responded earlier to his ramblings about the ‘ambiguity’ of Arabic words and their ‘imprecise meanings’ I will not repeat myself again. Nutfah, alaqa, mugdah and lahm all have very clear and precise meanings in Arabic, and none of them contradict what has been established by science!

The critic then moves from trying to prove the Quran is scientifically inaccurate, to trying to establish that the Quranic account of embryological development is copied from Galen-the Greek Physician. After quoting the words of Galen and placing in brackets the Quranic terms he believes correlate with Galen’s stages, he quotes the Quran with his own tailor-made translation to suit his basic assumption that the Quran copies Galen, and draws the following conclusion:

 

The first stage, geniture, corresponds to [nutfah], the drop of semen; the second stage, a bloody vascularised foetus with unshaped brain, liver and heart ("when it has been filled with blood") corresponds to [alaqa], the blood clot; the third stage "has the form of flesh" and corresponds to [mugdah], the morsel of chewed flesh. The fourth and final stage, puer, was when all the organs were well formed, joints were freely moveable, and the foetus began to move [20]. If the reader is in any doubt about the clear link being described here between the Galenic and the Qur'anic stages, it may be pointed out that it was early Muslim doctors, including Ibn-Qayyim, who first spotted the similarity. Basim Musallam, Director of the Centre of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge concludes

"The stages of development which the Qur'an and Hadith established for believers agreed perfectly with Galen's scientific account....There is no doubt that medieval thought appreciated this agreement between the Qur'an and Galen, for Arabic science employed the same Qur'anic terms to describe the Galenic stages" [21].

We have already established that nutfah does not mean ‘drop of semen’ but ‘drop of fluid’ and refers to both sperm and the zygote, interestingly Galen does not speak of a ‘drop of semen’ anywhere in the extract referred to by the critic-he only speaks of semen-which the Bible also speaks of! Alaqa does not mean ‘clot’ but ‘leech-like’ as we have already seen and so does not correspond with Galen’s account of the ‘blood filled foetus’. Wait a minute! The critic himself is describing mugdah as ‘the morsel of chewed flesh’ when just a moment ago he was saying that this was inaccurate translation of the word. Knives are long, and memories short! Back to the point ‘having the form of flesh’ as described by Galen is totally distinct from ‘chewed flesh’, ‘chewable flesh’ or ‘small lump of flesh’-whatever translation one uses to describe mugdah-one wonders where ‘Muhammed’ decided to add the size and precise details to Galen’s account of the flesh?!. The fourth stage is similar only in describing the flesh covering the bones, but having one stage the same as the Quran simply does not prove what the critic is trying so very hard to prove. The Quran describes the creation of man from a drop of sperm (nutfah), then a zygote (nutfah amshajjin), then as a leech-like thing (alaq), then as small lump of partly formed flesh (mugdah), then the formations of bones and muscles covering them. The Quran’s account is totally different from that of Galen! The critic’s entire argument collapses unless we accept that alaq means ‘blood clot’, nutfah means ‘semen’ and mugdah means ‘flesh-like’. It is only if we accept these translations that any link can possibly be made between Galen’s non-scientific account and the one found in the Quran. Since we have already demonstrated how each of these terms has other more appropriate meanings, I think that flaws of his arguments are obvious for all to see. The Quran does not copy Galen at all-the critic has failed miserably in trying to prove otherwise. As for the statement by a Muslim, all I can say is that he is badly mistaken-just like some Christians who deny that the Bible is wholly the word of God but still call themselves Christian!

 

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5. Stages of development - a modern idea?

The critic writes:

It has been said that the idea of the embryo developing through stages is a modern one, and that the Qur'an is anticipating modern embryology by depicting differing stages. However many ancient writers besides Galen taught that humans developed in different stages. For example in the Jewish Talmud we learn that the embryo has six stages of development. Samuel ha-Yehudi was a 2nd century Jewish physician, and one of many with an interest in embryology [22]. The embryo was called peri habbetten (fruit of the body) and develops as

i. golem (formless, rolled-up thing);

ii. shefir meruqqam (embroidered foetus - shefir means amniotic sac);

iii. 'ubbar (something carried);

iv. v'alad (child);

v. v'alad shel qayama (noble or viable child) and

vi. ben she-kallu chadashav (child whose months have been completed).

Yet with the benefit of modern science we now know that the formation of a human being is a seamless continuation from conception to birth, hence the reason why there is so much contemporary confusion about abortion and embryo research. For if we develop as a continuous process it is impossible to draw hard-and-fast boundaries about when life starts. This makes a nonsense of the Qur'anic verse which says (71:14) "When He created you by (divers) stages".

Muslim Response

The Quran has not included the words ‘divers’ in the verse-that is once more the critic’s helpful (!) interpretation. The Quran has simply said that human beings develop in stages-nobody can question that! The Quran is very clear that life begins after the development of bones and muscles occurs-i.e. At the beginning of the foetal stage of development, this knowledge might not yet be known to all humans, but it was known to God who included it in the divine scripture fourteen centuries ago. The verse has not been ‘made a nonsense of’ but rather the critic has made nonsense of himself by raising such a petty and absurd point.

 

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6. More examples of borrowing from ancient Greek writers

Dr.Lactantius writes:

 

If we look at what the ancient Greeks taught we can clearly see that all the other references to embryology in the Qur'an and Hadith can also be traced directly back to them. For example there is a Hadith in which Muhammed is questioned about why a group of red camels have a grey camel among them, and it is due to a hidden trait. But Aristotle noticed that babies who were born that looked unlike either of their parents would often take on the appearance of their grandparents [23], so that the characteristic skipped a generation, being what we now know as recessive. He also tells us of a woman from Elis who took a black husband and although their daughter was not black, their daughter's daughter was black, demonstrating a gene which skipped a generation in exactly the same way as Muhammed described [24].

Another Hadith says "If a male's fluid prevails upon the female's substance, the child will be a male by Allah's decree, and when the substance of the female prevails upon the substance contributed by the male, a female child is formed"[25]. Surely this is not referring to dominant and recessive genes at all, as certain Muslims have claimed [26], but is simply repeating the incorrect belief of Hippocrates that both men and women produce both male and female sperm. The sex of the resulting child is determined by which sperm overwhelms the other in strength or quantity:

"... both partners alike contain both male and female sperm (the male being stronger than the female must originate from a stronger sperm). Here is a further point: if (a) both partners produce a stronger sperm then a male is the result, whereas if (b) they produce a weak form, then a female is the result. But if (c) one partner produces one kind of sperm, and the other another then the resultant sex is determined by whichever sperm prevails in quantity. For suppose that the weak sperm is much greater in quantity than the stronger sperm: then the stronger sperm is overwhelmed and, being mixed with weak, results in a female. If on the contrary the strong sperm is greater in quantity than the weak, and the weak is overwhelmed, it results in a male" [27].

Earlier in the Hadith, Muhammed says that the reproductive substance of men is white and that of women is yellow. This sounds very much like the content, white and yellow, that is found inside developing chick-eggs, and which Aristotle was known to dissect [28].

Later in the same Hadith an angel is apparently sent by Allah to shape the embryo and ask what sex it is going to be. Notwithstanding that sex is actually determined at the moment of conception according to whether the fertilised egg has two X chromosomes (female) or an X and Y chromosome (male), and that there is some ambiguity about the age of the embryo when the angel appears (Hudhaifa b. Usaid reported that Muhammed said 40 or perhaps 50 days, not 42, and Abu Tufail maintains that Muhammed said to Hudhaifa b. Usaid that sperm resided in the womb for 40 days), Hippocrates taught that it took 30 days for the male genitals to form and 42 for the female embryo [29]. No wonder the angel has to wait for forty-two days before it learns the child's sex. In reality, prior to 7 weeks of gestation the ovaries and testes appear identical and the external genitalia only start to diverge around 9 weeks.

Sura 39:6 says that God made us in stages in threefold darkness. There have been many interpretations of this verse, including that of as-Suyuti who said that there were three membranes surrounding the foetus, one to carry nutrients to it, another to absorb its urine, and the third to absorb other waste products. Elsewhere it has been suggested that they are the abdominal wall, the uterine wall and the amniotic sac in which the foetus sits. This is entirely observable to the naked eye, as Hippocrates described dissecting pregnant dogs to find puppies sitting in the amniotic sac inside the uterus [30]. A rather macabre practice of Queen Cleopatra was to rip open the wombs of her pregnant slave-girls in order to see their foetuses, according both to Rabbinic traditions and Plinius [31]. Furthermore, the Romans introduced the custom of opening the womb of a pregnant woman if she died before she had delivered her baby; the woman and her baby would be buried side-by-side, thus giving rise to the term "Caesarean section".

It is said by Muslims that sura 80:20 describes how easy Allah has made it for delivery of the infant, but this contradicts sura 46:15 ("his mother beareth him with reluctance and bringeth him forth with reluctance"). In fact 80:19 is talking about man's origins from a drop of sperm, and 80:21 about his death and burial, so it is entirely logical that 80:20 refers not to the process of parturition (giving birth) but to the whole of man's life being made easy for him by God. In the context this makes a lot more sense, does not contradict 46:15 and does not go against the weight of obstetrical evidence that makes giving birth one of the most dangerous things a woman can do in her life. (In Mozambique, childbirth is the seventh most common cause of death in women, and worldwide a woman dies in labour every 53 seconds.) The Biblical teaching that women give birth with much pain (Genesis 3:16) is far more realistic.

Sura 46:15 also says, "The duration of pregnancy and separation [weaning] is thirty months" and sura 31:14 informs us that "his separation is at the end of two years". This implies that the duration of a normal pregnancy is six months. Nowadays with advanced neonatal facilities it is just possible for a small proportion of babies born at 24 weeks' gestation to survive, albeit with severe disabilities in many cases. In Muhammed's day no babies could have survived at so premature an age, and the Qur'an is wildly inaccurate about the duration of a normal pregnancy.

Sura 33:4 says that Allah has not put two hearts into any man. Yet duplication of the heart has been admitted, albeit with reluctance by Geoffrey-Saint-Hilaire and celebrated anatomists including Littre, Meckel, Colomb, Panum, Behr, Paullini, Rhodius, Winslow and Zacutus Lusitanus [32].

In other places the Qur'an contains commands which have been claimed to be fantastically advanced and sensible, when in fact they were known and followed by far more ancient civilizations. In sura 2:222, Allah tells Muhammed that menstruation is an illness and men must not have sexual intercourse with their wives until they are cleansed from their periods. Yet 2000 years earlier Moses received the command not to have sexual intercourse during a woman's period (Torah: Leviticus 18:19) but this was very definitely not for health reasons, but for religious, ceremonial reasons. Having sex during one's period is hardly likely to cause male infertility, endometriosis and fallopian tube damage, as has been claimed by some Muslims with no scientific evidence, even if it might be unpleasant for the couple. But perhaps more importantly menstruation is not an illness; indeed the shedding of the endometrial layer of the uterus helps to prevent uterine cancer. Progesterone has to be included in hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) in post-menopausal women to induce an artificial menstruation every month to prevent a build-up of endometrium which could become cancerous!

Muslim Response

I regret very much that in an article entitled Error! Bookmark not defined., the critic has wasted so much of his time in discussing other sources, such as the Hadith, which are totally distinct from the Quran with regards to questions of authenticity. I have already made my views about the Hadith literature clear and do not see it necessary to bore the reader by repeating my assertions again.

As for the verse of the Quran referring to the creation of humans in threefold darkness (39:6), it might have been possible for a human to have observed the abdominal wall, the uterine wall and the amniotic sac before the invention of the microscope-I am not in a position to refute this argument since full references have not been provided by the critic, for me to make an objective judgement. However, even if this is accepted there are hundreds of other Quranic verses that speak about phenomena that would not have been observable to any human being in the seventh century. The Islamic view that the Quran contains knowledge in advance of the time of its revelation does not at all hinge on the interpretation of this one verse!

The critic’s musings with regards to Surah 80:20 are actually rather amusing. He himself defends it against the false interpretation of it by ‘some’ (mysteriously unnamed!) Muslims that it refers to the delivery of the infant and correctly asserts that it refers to the whole of man’s life. I would agree with him that this is the only ‘entirely logical’ interpretation of the verse, but what is not logical is how the critic ‘jumps ship’ towards the end of the paragraph and appears to re-adopt the mistaken interpretation which he himself has just refuted! Why else would make the absolutely laughable statement that follows?

 

The Biblical teaching that women give birth with much pain (Genesis 3:16) is far more realistic

Realistic than what? He himself has said the Quran does not say that childbirth is easy but hard!

Then he makes the most pathetic of all the false claims laid by the missionaries against the scientific inerrancy of the Holy Quran:

 

Sura 46:15 also says, "The duration of pregnancy and separation [weaning] is thirty months" and sura 31:14 informs us that "his separation is at the end of two years". This implies that the duration of a normal pregnancy is six months. Nowadays with advanced neonatal facilities it is just possible for a small proportion of babies born at 24 weeks' gestation to survive, albeit with severe disabilities in many cases. In Muhammed's day no babies could have survived at so premature an age, and the Qur'an is wildly inaccurate about the duration of a normal pregnancy

A person would only accept this as an error in two circumstances (a) they lack even basic human intelligence and suffer from severe mental retardation, (b) they are motivated by a desperate desire to disprove the divine revealed status of the Quran and will use anything at all-even if it lacks any logic at all-to attack the Quran. However if a person has even a little commonsense, and is not biased to the point of intellectual blindness he will be able to see that the Quran has used the figure of ‘thirty months’ as a rounded figure and not as a precise calculation. Had could have been otherwise, even if the prophet (pbuh) had been the author of the Quran? Are we really to believe that a man who married nine times and had many children would have not noticed that it took nine and not six months for a child to be born? The Arabs of the Hejaz at the time of the Quran’s descent were used to having families of nine, ten or even more children. How is possible, therefore for them not have objected to this ‘error’ when it would have been staring them so blindly in the face? Is it not possible that they understood that the Quran was only describing pregnancy, weaning and separation to remind people of how much difficulty their mothers have undergone for them and also all the favours that God has done for them, and in such a context (and given the fact even the most inobservant imbecile would have not thought that pregnancy was six months in duration!) it was not necessary for the Quran to use the oddly sounding mathematical figure of ‘thirty-three’ but instead round this figure to the nearest ten?. The reader can judge for themselves…

The critic makes another allegation about Sura 33:4, he writes:

 

Sura 33:4 says that Allah has not put two hearts into any man. Yet duplication of the heart has been admitted, albeit with reluctance by Geoffrey-Saint-Hilaire and celebrated anatomists including Littre, Meckel, Colomb, Panum, Behr, Paullini, Rhodius, Winslow and Zacutus Lusitanus

I do think that when the good doctor brings up an issue as crucial as this, he could have helped us by providing us with full references from even one of the numerous individuals referred to above. However since he has failed to do so, I am not in a position to either confirm of deny that people can have two hearts and/or ‘duplication’ of the heart is a scientific fact, but it is very clear to me that he has misunderstood the verse of the Quran. Unfortunately some translators have translated the verse incorrectly, such as Pickthall ‘Allah hath not assigned unto any man two hearts within his body’, the correct translation is the one provided by Yusuf Ali and Shakir among others:

 

God has not made for any man two hearts in his (one) body.. -Yusuf Ali

 

Allah has not made for any man two hearts within him..- Shakir

As should be obvious from the above translations, the above verse is actually saying that God has not ‘made for’ any human being two hearts in their body. There can be no doubt that a person cannot possibly survive with two hearts, even if he is born with them due to some abnormality. The words ‘made for..’ indicate that no human being is suited to having two hearts, and this is a fact that nobody at all can question or deny. The Quran says that no human being is ‘made for having two hearts’ not because this might not ever occur, but because a human being could not survive if it did. Therefore even if the critic is right (and I have my doubts…) and humans can have two hearts due to abnormalities, the Quran has not made a mistake in the referred verse.

The critic proceeds thus:

 

In other places the Qur'an contains commands which have been claimed to be fantastically advanced and sensible, when in fact they were known and followed by far more ancient civilizations. In sura 2:222, Allah tells Muhammed that menstruation is an illness and men must not have sexual intercourse with their wives until they are cleansed from their periods. Yet 2000 years earlier Moses received the command not to have sexual intercourse during a woman's period (Torah: Leviticus 18:19) but this was very definitely not for health reasons, but for religious, ceremonial reasons. Having sex during one's period is hardly likely to cause male infertility, endometriosis and fallopian tube damage, as has been claimed by some Muslims with no scientific evidence, even if it might be unpleasant for the couple. But perhaps more importantly menstruation is not an illness; indeed the shedding of the endometrial layer of the uterus helps to prevent uterine cancer. Progesterone has to be included in hormone-replacement therapy (HRT) in post-menopausal women to induce an artificial menstruation every month to prevent a build-up of endometrium which could become cancerous!

First of all the Quran’s translators do not all agree that the word ‘illness’ has been described to describe menstruation. It has been variously translated as ‘harm’, ‘hurt and pollution’ and even ‘discomfort’. In any case the words ‘they ask you concerning menstruation..’ does not mean the Arabs were asking what menstruation was but rather they were asking about the permissibility of having sex during menstruation. In context the Quran has not described having periods as ‘harmful’ but rather having sex during menstruation is described as such. Modern scientists agree that avoiding sex during periods leads to a lesser chance of contracting HIV an other sexually transmitted diseases, even if the claims of ‘Some (yet again unnamed) Muslims’ are exaggerated it is clear that the Quran is right in telling men to stay away from women during such times. Therefore it should be clear that the Quran has not made any mistake whatsoever in Sura 2:222.

 

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7. But how could Muhammed have known these things?

The critic then moves on to the next section:

 

It is one thing to find the Qur'an repeating the same embryological ideas as those described originally by the ancient Greeks, but is there any way in which we can be sure that the material was familiar to the Arabs of Muhammed's day? Given that so much of what the Qur'an says is based upon Galen's beliefs, it is particularly significant that some 26 books of his work were translated into Syriac as early as the sixth century AD by Sergius of Resh' Aina (Ra's al-Ain). Sergius was a Christian priest who studied medicine in Alexandria and worked in Mesopotania, dying in Constantinople in about AD 532 [33]. He was one of a number of Nestorian (Syriac) Christians who translated the Greek medical corpus into Syriac; others included Bishop Gregorius, al-Rahawy, al-Taybuti, the Patriarch Theodorus and al-Sabakti [34].

The Nestorians experienced persecution from the mainstream church and fled to Persia, where they brought their completed translations of the Greek doctors' works and founded many schools of learning. The most famous of these by far was the great medical school of Jundishapur in what is now south-east Iran, founded in AD 555 by the Persian King Chosroes the Great (also known as Anusharwan or Nushirvan), whose long reign lasted from AD 531 to around 579.

The major link between Islamic and Greek medicine must be sought in late Sasanian medicine, especially in the School of Jundishapur rather than that of Alexandria. At the time of the rise of Islam Jundishapur was at its prime. It was the most important medical centre of its time, combining the Greek, Indian and Iranian medical traditions in a cosmopolitan atmosphere which prepared the ground for Islamic medicine. The combining of different schools of medicine foreshadowed the synthesis that was to be achieved in later Islamic medicine [35].

Arab medicine, to deal with only one side of this question, borrowed from many sources. The biggest debt was to the Greeks ... The medicine of Jundi Shapur was also mainly Greek. There must have been Syriac translations in the library of the hospital there long before the Arabs came to Persia ... According to Ibn Abi Usaybi'a the first to translate Greek works into Syriac was Sergius of Ra's-al-`Ayn [sic], who translated both medical and philosophical works. It was probably he who worked for Chosroes the Great and it was his translations in all probability which were used in Jundi Shapur [36].

According to Muslim historians, especially Ibn Abi Usaybia and al-Qifti [37], the most celebrated early graduate of Jundishapur was a doctor named al Harith Ibn Kalada, who was an older contemporary of Muhammed. "He was born probably about the middle of the sixth century, at Ta'if, in the tribe of Banu Thaqif. He traveled through Yemen and then Persia where he received his education in the medical sciences at the great medical school of Jundi-Shapur and thus was intimately acquainted with the medical teachings of Aristotle, Hippocrates and Galen." [38]

He became famous partly as a result of a consultation with King Chosroes [39]. Later he became a companion of the Prophet Muhammed himself, and according to the Muslim medical traditions Muhammed actually sought medical advice from him [40]. He may even have been a relative of the Prophet and his "teachings undoubtedly influenced the latter" [i.e., Muhammed] [41]. "Such medical knowledge as Muhammed possessed, he may well have acquired from Haris bin Kalda [sic], an Arab, who is said to have left the desert for a while and gone to Jundi Shapur to study medicine...On his return Haris settled in Mecca and became the foremost physician of the Arabs of the desert. Whether he ever embraced Islam is uncertain, but this did not prevent the Prophet from sending his sick friends to consult him." [42]

Harith Ibn Kalada was unable to father any children, and it is said that he adopted Harith al-Nasar (Nadr), who was apparently a cousin of Muhammed, and also a doctor by profession [43]. Interestingly Nadr mocked Muhammed, saying that the stories in the Qur'an were far less entertaining and instructive than the old Persian legends he had grown up with. Perhaps he recognised that the Qur'an had human sources for some of its stories? As a result of this Muhammed became his sworn enemy, and the Prophet put him to death following his capture in the Battle of Badr in 624 [39].

So we have just the link we need to show how "The translations (into Syriac) of Sergius Ras el Ain, penetrated to Jandi-Shapur. During the first years of the 7th century [more likely the end of the sixth century], Harith ben Kalada studied medicine there and Muhammad owed to Harith a part of his medical knowledge. Thus, with the one as well as the other, we easily recognize the traces of Greek (medicine)." [44] To summarise: Sergius died about the time that Chosroes the Great began his reign, and may even have been employed by Chosroes to translate Galen from Greek into Syriac. Halfway through his reign Chosroes founded Jundishapur, where Galen's manuscripts must surely have been kept in translation. Towards the end of his reign he had an audience with Harith Ibn Kalada, who later became associated with Muhammed.

We also know that according to Muslim traditions part of at least one verse in the Qur'an that relates to the developing human came originally from human lips. While Muhammed was dictating verse 23:14 to `Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh, the latter got carried away by the beauty of what he heard about the creation of man, and when Muhammed reached the words "another creature" his companion uttered the exclamation "Blessed be God, the best of creators!" Muhammed accepted these words as though they were the continuation of his revelation and told Ibn Abi Sarh to write them down, even though they were quite clearly his companion's words, not Muhammed's or Allah's words [45].

This really does beg the question: since we know that at least one verse of the Qur'an contains the added words of a mere human being, how can we possibly be sure that this did not happen anywhere else in the Qur'an?

After the fall of Alexandria in AD 642 knowledge of Greek medicine spread even more rapidly throughout the Arab world. In the 9th century Hunain Ibn Ishaq (AD 809-873) made perhaps the definitive Arabic translation of Hippocrates and Galen [46], [47], [48] and al-Kindi wrote over twenty medical treatises, including one specifically on Hippocrates.

Indeed, the writers of the Arabic medical literature acknowledge as their sources the major Greek and Indian medical traditions. For example, one of the earliest Arabic compendiums of medicine is Ali at-Tabari's "Paradise of Wisdom" [49], [50], written by a Christian convert to Islam in about 850 at Samarra in Mesopotamia. In it he said that he was following the rules set down by Hippocrates and Aristotle regarding how to write his treatise. It contains 360 chapters, and the fourth Discourse, beginning at chapter 325 is entitled "From the Summaries of Indian Books". Chapter 330, from Sushrata, "The Genesis of the Embryo and of the Members" claims that the embryo results from mixing of sperm and menstrual blood (vis-a-vis Aristotle!) and describes various constituents of the embryo. The medical historian Arthur Meyer summed up the whole of the Arabic embryological tradition when he said that at-Tabari "depended largely upon Greek sources, which would seem to imply that he could obtain little from the Arabs. Moreover, since Aristotelian and Galenical teaching survived side by side for over a thousand years without a known Arabic counterpart, it is doubtful if the latter existed" [51].

An extraordinary passage from the writings of the medieval philosopher Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya shows how heavily the later Arabic writers depended upon the Greek doctors; in one continuous discourse [52] the words of Hippocrates explain the Qur'an and Hadith, and the latter are used to explain Hippocrates. For example:

"Hippocrates said ... 'some membranes are formed at the beginning, others after the second month, and others in the third month ...' That is why God says, 'He creates you in the wombs of your mothers, by one formation after another in three darknesses'. Since each of these membranes has its own darkness, when God mentioned the stages of creation and transformation from one state to another, He also mentioned the darknesses of the membranes. Most commentators explain: 'it is the darkness of the belly, and the darkness of the womb, and the darkness of the placenta' ... Hippocrates said, 'The ears are opened, and the eyes, which are filled with a clear liquid.' The Prophet used to say, 'I worship Him Who made my face and formed it, and opened my hearing and eyesight' etc. etc" [53].

Here is someone writing a medical account who includes Hippocrates (bold type), the Qur'an and Hadith (bold italics), commentaries on them (italics) and his own thoughts (normal type) in one and the same paragraph. Of course the intelligentsia of Muhammed's time would have been familiar with both Greek and Indian medicine.

Other embryologists were known but added nothing new to Galen, for example Abu Ali al-Hasan Ibn 'Abdallah Ibn Sina (AD 980-1037) who wrote a Canon Medicinae. Clement of Alexandria included familiar information and believed that the embryo was formed through the combination of semen and menstrual blood. Lactantius of Nicomedia in AD 325 opened eggs at varying stages of development

Muslim Response

For much of this section, the critic uses a wide variety of sources to flog a nonexistent horse! He is trying to convince readers that the Prophet (pbuh) could have come into contact with the views of Galen and so copied him in the Quran, yet because we have already established that the Quranic description of embryological development is markedly and profoundly different to that of Galen, his musings are of now consequence. The Quran is not copied from Greek sources since it’s ideas are totally distinct from those found in these sources, the critic playing ‘Dr Watson’ and using any report he can to try to prove that the Prophet (pbuh) was in contact with people who could have supplied him with material from these sources is therefore absolutely and utterly pointless, irrelevant and unconvincing. In his ramblings the critic also misrepresents aspects of the Prophet’s life, but since this is not the point of the present article I will restrict myself to correcting one of the critics interpretations of one such event. He says:

 

While Muhammed was dictating verse 23:14 to `Abdullah Ibn Abi Sarh, the latter got carried away by the beauty of what he heard about the creation of man, and when Muhammed reached the words "another creature" his companion uttered the exclamation "Blessed be God, the best of creators!" Muhammed accepted these words as though they were the continuation of his revelation and told Ibn Abi Sarh to write them down, even though they were quite clearly his companion's words, not Muhammed's or Allah's words

If the above historical narration is accurate (and I have no reason to think otherwise), then there is a very simple response to this point. When Ibn Abi Sarh (ra) completed his compliment the Prophet replied ‘This is just as Allah almighty in the seven heavens has revealed it!’ So the reason was not because Ibn Sarh said it, but because it had been revealed to the Prophet as such. Therefore these words are the word of God and not of Sarh or of any human being, and the Quran does not contain any words that are not revealed by God.

 

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8. Conclusion

Dr.Lactantius concludes thus:

 

It seems that not even Prof. Moore is sufficiently convinced by the scientific "facts" in the Qur'an to risk his reputation as a highly respected professor of anatomy in the medical establishment. The Islamic edition of his textbook is not available even in the British Library or the US Library of Congress, let alone other medical libraries in Western countries [54], presumably because he is aware that not only do the Islamic contributions in it contradict known science, but they also contradict what he has written in the standard version of his textbook. And ironically in the bibliography for the first chapter, "A history of embryology", in both the standard and Islamic versions he refers to Needham's important work on the history of embryology [55]. Needham however is unimpressed with the Arabic claims of embryology and after writing almost 60 pages about ancient Greek, Indian and Egyptian embryology he dismisses the entire Arabic tradition in less than one page, concluding that "Arabic science, so justly famed for its successes in certain fields such as optics and astronomy, was not of great help to embryology". After listing some of the verses in the Qur'an about embryology he dismisses them as merely "a seventh-century echo of Aristotle and the Ayer-veda" [56], in other words a mixture of Greek and ancient Indian teachings. In the most recent (1998) edition of The Developing Human, Moore also directs his readers to a book which contains another essay by Basim Musallam, which again points out how similar the Qur'anic science of embryology was to that of Galen, and how this close association was never questioned by the ancient Muslim scholars [57].

In conclusion then there is not a single statement contained in the Qur'an relating to modern embryology that was not well known through direct observation by the ancient Greek and Indian physicians many centuries before the Qur'an was written. Morever, much of what the Qur'an actually does say about embryology is scientifically inaccurate. The ancient physicians' works were translated into Syriac in the century preceeding Muhammed, and were therefore accessible to non-Greek speakers. We know that one of the Companions of the Prophet was a doctor who trained at the very same medical school that the Greek translations were kept and taught at. We even know that at least one of the verses which describes embryology, sura 23:14 contains the words of another of Muhammed's companions. We are forced to conclude that, far from proving the alleged divine credentials of the Qur'an, its embryological statements actually provide further convincing evidence for its human origins.

Muslim Response and Conclusion

Cheap and vulgar personal attacks on Prof. Moore do nothing at all do nothing at all to enhance, and rather a lot to detract the intellectual quality of the critic’s points. If Dr Moore was really so unconvinced about the scientific facts described by the Quran he would have never agreed for these texts to be available in the referred libraries-even after November 1996! In any case even if Dr Moore has been hesitant to share his views with the scientific establishment it’s not hard to understand why, since he knows full well that he is very likely to be treated with contempt for even referring to religion in a scientific context in that community. This would have been the case if Dr Moore were trying to prove the scientific accuracy of the Bible or any other text, and just the same as that of the Quran. Also, simply because Dr Moore has ‘directed’ readers to works that disagree with his views does not mean he supports everything those sources say! The critic has taken a huge leap of logic in making the assumption that referring to something means you agree with everything that it says. As such Moore’s references to the work of Needham etc do not prove anything at all. In conclusion, the Quran contains numerous statements relating to modern embryology that do not in any way resemble the observations of Greek and Indian physicians, not does it contain any statements that are scientifically inaccurate. The miraculous descriptions of the embryo at a time before microscopes were invented still remain an inexplicable miracle, which can only be explained if we accept the ultimate reality of existence- that the Quran is the word of God. The critic has made many logical errors in his research and has failed in disproving the scientific accuracy of the Holy Quran and in linking it to human sources. The main flaws in his article can be summarised as follows:

His entire argument rests on his personal interpretations on of the meanings of key words such as alaqa, nutfah etc. If one uses alternative translations that are equally valid in the Arabic language his entire critique falls apart completely.

If there is similarity between sources it does not always indicate that borrowing has occurred. The critic makes this flawed assumption. This is not relevant to the Quran; in any case since there is little similarity -if there is any at all- between its embryological descriptions and those of others.

He does not provide full references, and uses his half-baked references to give an incorrect or incomplete idea of the sources he is using.

Most of his criticisms lack logic, integrity and even sincerity.

Thus, it is clear that the critic’s attempt has fallen flat on its face. Despite a very elaborate effort, his article has proven to be lacking substance in numerous instances. The Quran has once again emerged victorious and its enemies have once again been proven wrong:

 

And Say: Truth has come and falsehood vanished, indeed falsehood is ever bound to vanish (Quran 17:81)

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

SOURCES:

1. ‘The Bible, The Quran and Science’ (Seglers 1976) by Dr. Maurice Bucaille.

2. ‘A Scientists Interpretation of References to Embryology In The Quran’ by Prof.Keith Moore, available at Error! Bookmark not defined..

3. ‘Does the Qur’an Plagiarise Ancient Greek Embryology’ by Dr. Omar Abdul Rehman available Error! Bookmark not defined..

4. ‘What was man created from?’ and ‘Does semen emanate from between the back and the ribs?’ by Moiz Amjad, available at Error! Bookmark not defined.

5. Responses to Error! Bookmark not defined. by Abdullah Ibn Adam and Mohd.Elfie at Error! Bookmark not defined.

6. ‘Alleged Scientific errors in the Quran’ by Ahmed A.Abdullah at Error! Bookmark not defined.

  

  

  

  

Back to Science in the Noble Quran and Islam.

 

From www.answering-christianity.com/blog/index.php/topic,2245.msg9932.html#msg9932:

  

The Male Sperm determines the Sex of the Fetus:

The Glorious Quran says that the male-sperm:

1.  Is a piercing one.  
2.  It also determines the gender.

[053:045]  And that HE creates the pairs, male and female,
[053:046]  From a sperm drop when it that is emitted and is penetrating
 تمنى;


‏53:45 وانه خلق الزوجين الذكر والانثى 
‏53:46 من نطفة اذا تمنى

AND

[075:037]  Was he not a drop of fluid, emitted forth (and is penetrating) يمنى ?
[075:038  The he became a clot, then ALLAH gave him shape and perfected him.
[075:039]  Then HE made of him a pair;
 the male and female
.

‏75:37 الم يك نطفة من مني يمنى 
‏75:38 ثم كان علقة فخلق فسوى 
‏75:39 فجعل منه الزوجين الذكر والانثى


Pay attention to the definitions of تمنى and يمنى.  Both are the same word.  And notice how Allah Almighty said He created THE MALE AND THE FEMALE.  He could've just said Mankind.  But no, here Allah Almighty specified both genders.  And تمنى and يمنى is used for:

1-  Penetration.
2-  Cutting through.
3-  Piercing.


They even use the word for farmers when they insert their arms inside the cows' anus and vagina to help them with constipation and to check on fertilization.  They also use it for stabbing and cutting with a blade!  We know that the male sperm is a piercing one.  I even provided the pictures in the article.



STUNNING MIRACLE!

This is why I find it STUNNINGLY amazing that Allah Almighty said in the same Noble Verses that He created THE MALE AND THE FEMALE.  He didn't just say He created man as He did in many other Noble Verses.  Here He specified the genders.

Also pay attention regarding Allah Almighty's uses of خلقنا and جعلنا .

Please visit: www.answering-christianity.com/detailed_meanings_of_scientific_words_in_verses.htm#embryology

  


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