THE CREATION OF MAN
In the Qur’an the subject of human reproduction leads to a multitude of statements which constitute a challenge to the embryologist seeking a human explanation to them. It was only after the birth of the basic sciences which were to contribute to our knowledge of biology, and especially after the invention of the microscope, that man was able to understand such statements. It was impossible for a man living in the early seventh century to have expressed such ideas. There is nothing to indicate that, at this time, men in the Middle East and Arabia knew anything more about this subject than men living in Europe or anywhere else. Today, there are many Muslims with a thorough knowledge of the Qur’an and natural sciences who have clearly recognised the comparisons to ber made between verses of the Qur’an dealing with reproduction and human knowledge. I shall always remember a comment of an eighteen year old Muslim, brought up in Saudi Arabia, replying to a reference to the question of reproduction as described in the Qur’an. Pointing to it, he said, ‘But this book provides us with all the essential information on the subject. When I was at school they used the Qur’an to explain to me how children were born; your books on sex-education are a bit late on the scene!’
It is on this point in particular, that a comparison between the beliefs current at the time of the Qur’an, that were full of superstitions and myths, and the contents of the Qur’an and modern data, leaves us amazed at the degree of concordance between the latter and the absence of any reference in the Qur’an to the mistaken ideas that were prevalent at the time.
Let us now isolate, from all these verses, precise ideas concerning the complexity of the fertilizing liquid and the fact that an infinitely small quantity is required to ensure fertilization, its ‘quintessence’ – if I may so translate the Arabic word ‘sulalah’
The implantation of the egg in the female genital organ is perfectly described in several verses by the word `Alaq, which is also the title of the surah in which it appears:
God fashioned man from something which clings (96:2)
I do not think there is any reasonable translation of the word `Alaq other than to use its original sense.
The evolution of the embryo inside the maternal uterus is only briefly described, but the description is accurate, because the simple words referring to it correspond exactly to fundamental stages in its growth. This is what we read in a verse from the surah Al-Mu’minun (23:14).
‘We fashioned the thing which clings into a chewed lump of flesh and We fashioned the chewed flesh into bones and We clothed the bones with intact flesh. Then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the Perfect Creator.
The term ‘chewed flesh’ (mudghah) corresponds exactly to the appearance of the embryo at a certain stage in its development.
It is known that the bones develop inside this mass and that they are then covered with muscle. This is the meaning of the term ‘intact flesh’ (lahm).
The embryo passes through a stage where some parts are in proportion and others out of proportion with what is later to become the individual. Maybe this is the meaning of a verse in the surah Al-Hajj (22:5) which reads as follows:
We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then We fashioned him into something which clings into a little lump of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed.
Next, we have a reference to the appearance of the senses and viscerae in the surah As-Sajdah (32:9).
[God] appointed for you the senses of hearing, sight and the viscerae.
Nothing here contradicts today’s data and, furthermore, none of the mistaken ideas of the time has crept into the Qur’an.