Quranic Miracles: Embryology in the Quran

20 Jul

Quranic Miracles: Embryology in the Quran

— Human beings have always been intrigued by questions such as where they came from and how they developed before birth.

It is known from the earliest records that primitive peoples realized that the birth of a baby was the result of sexual union or intercourse. However, for many centuries, the idea of human pre-natal development was based on speculation and mysticism.

Early scientific knowledge of embryology

Aristotle wrote the first embryology book in the fourth century BC, in which he recorded some observations on comparative embryology, especially on the general progress of the developing chick. However, he promoted the incorrect idea that the human embryo developed from a formless mass that resulted from the union of semen with menstrual blood.

The scientific knowledge of embryology did not progress significantly for nearly 2000 years. It was not until near the end of the 17th century, when the microscope was invented, that the early stages of the development of the human embryo could be effectively studied.

After it was possible to examine cells under the microscope, it was reasoned, in the 18th century, that embryonic development resulted from the growth and differentiation of embryonic cells.

Realizing that the embryo develops in stages in the uterus was not discussed or proved until the 15th century, although Galen mentioned the placenta and fetal membranes in his book On the Formation of the Fetus, which was written in the second century AD.

After developing the microscope in the 17th century, it was possible to describe the early stages of the developing chick as observed with simple lenses. The staging of human embryos was not proposed until the year 1942 by Streeter, and the stages as we know them now were not adopted worldwide until a few decades ago.

Referring to the embryonic stages and the uterus, Allah, the Almighty, says in the Glorious Quran, “He has created you from a single being, then made its mate of the same (kind), and He has made for you eight of the cattle in pairs. He creates you in the wombs of your mothers — a creation after a creation — in triple darkness; that is Allah your Lord.” (Az-Zumar 39:6)

The (triple darkness ) in this verse can be logically interpreted as follows: (1) The mother’s abdominal wall; (2) The uterus wall, and (3) The surroundings of the fetus (placenta, embryonic membranes, and amniotic fluid)

It was not until the 18th century that Spallanzani experimentally demonstrated that the initiation of development required sex products from male and female.

These three anatomical layers protect the embryo from external injury. The above verse refers to the stages of embryonic development, without giving any details about these stages.

Before proceeding in describing the embryonic stages as narrated in the Quran, it is important to define the following Arabic words that are used in the Quran:

• Nutfah: a drop of sperm; zygote

• `Alaqah: something that clings; leech-like structure; blood clot

• Mudghah: a piece of flesh; bead-like segmental mass of flesh; something like chewed gum with teeth marks

The human being develops from a single cell, the zygote, which forms when an ovum (Latin for egg) is fertilised by a sperm (Greek for seed). Allah, the Exalted, refers to this process in the Quran saying, “And (Allah) made his (i.e., the human’s) progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised.” (As-Sajdah 32:8)

“Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)?” (Al-Qiyamah 75:37)

“Surely We have created man from a small life-germ uniting (itself).” (Al-Insan 76:2)

These verses make it clear that the sperms are derived from a very small part of the fluid or the semen ejaculated from the penis. They are expelled from the urethra via the same route, followed by the urine that is sometimes referred to as a (despised fluid).

The Quran, in other verses, refers to the origin of man as a small quantity of (mingled fluids ), undoubtedly the sexual secretions of the male and female. The resulting mixture (drop), composed of the ovum and the penetrating sperm, becomes a zygote.

The idea that development results from a genetic plan contained in the chromosomes of the zygote was not discovered until the end of the 19th century.

It was not until the 18th century that Spallanzani experimentally demonstrated that the initiation of development required sex products from male and female. From his experiments, including artificial insemination in dogs, he concluded that sperm was the fertilising agent. The mixture of the male and female fluids was discovered recently, though it was known in the Quran since 14 centuries.

Some theories state that the female fluid acts as an agent to prevent the rejection of the sperms, which are foreign bodies in the uterus.

In the following verse, more details are given about the staging process: “Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (fetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the Best to Create!” (Al-Mu’minun 23:12-14)

This verse states that Allah makes the human from a drop into a thing that clings in the mother’s womb, then into a leech-like form that soon changes into a shape that looks like a piece of chewed gum, mudghah, that takes the shape of bones and gets clothed with flesh.

During the embryonic period, the embryo acquires distinctive human characteristics as bones and muscles begin to form.

By the end of the embryonic period, the blossoming of all the main organ systems is established. The external appearance of the embryo is greatly affected by the formation of the brain, heart, liver, bones, limbs, ears, nose, and eyes. As these structures develop, they affect the appearance of the embryo as a human.

The Fetus stage

The second major stage of pre-natal development is the fetus stage. This is a period of rapid growth and differentiation. At that time, the fetus is capable of survival if born prematurely.

The idea that development results from a genetic plan contained in the chromosomes of the zygote was not discovered until the end of the 19th century.

Allah says in the Quran, “From a sperm drop He has created him, and then moulded him in due proportions.” (`Abasa 80:19)

This verse implies clearly that the nutfah contains the blueprint for the future characteristics and features of the developing human being. This (drop), nutfah in Arabic, can reasonably be referred to as the small sample of sperms extracted from the ejaculated semen, as it is well known that only a few hundreds of the several millions of sperms in the semen are able to pass through the uterus and surround the ovum in the uterine tube.

The blastocyst, or the early embryo implant, subsides in the uterus about 10 days after fertilisation. The embryo assumes human appearance during the eighth week, i.e., 40 to 50 nights after its implantation in the uterus. Before that, there is no difference between human and animal embryos.

Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “The angel will come to the nutfah 40 to 50 nights after it settles in the uterus. ”

The Prophet did not study embryology, as he was unlettered! Neither did he have a microscope to examine the embryo or conduct experiments on chicks or animals of other sorts. Yet, he said the above hadith.

The similarity of the leech and the human embryo at 24 days is astounding. A human embryo at 28 days shows pairs of bead-like segmental masses that make the appearance of the embryo similar to chewed gum with teeth marks!

Written by Adel Elsaie

Source: Nigerian Tribune


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