Consistency between the Quran and modern science -II

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Embryology

The Quran is the last revelation, and a proof not only to the pagan Arabs one thousand four hundred years ago, but also to the scientists of today. Perhaps one of the most remarkable qualities of the Quran for those living nowadays is the complete consistency between it and many of the discoveries of modern science.

One of the first Western scientists to make a serious study of this subject was Maurice Bucaille, who wrote a book called 'The Bible, the Koran and Science'. In this book, he compared the statements concerning natural and scientific data in the Bible and the Quran. He concluded:

"The Quran is not only free from contradictions in its narrations, the sign of the various human manipulations to be found in the gospels, but provides a quality all of its own for those who examine it objectively and in the light of science, i.e. its complete agreement with modern scientific data."

Embryology, the issue to be discussed in this part, is one of the most remarkable areas of description in the Noble Quran. The development of the foetus is mentioned in the Quran in some detail. The early stages of which could not have been known at the time of Prophet Muhammad  sallallaahu  `alayhi  wa  sallam ( may  Allah exalt his mention ) (may Allah exalt his mention) because the size of the foetus at these stages is too small to see with the naked eye, rather a microscope is needed.

The Quran states (what means): "What is [the matter] with you that you do not attribute to Allah [due] grandeur. While He has created you in stages?" [Quran 71:13-14] And also (what means): "And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm-drop (Nutfah) in a firm lodging [i.e., in the womb]. Then We made the sperm drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators." [Quran 23:12-14]

The use of the phrase (which means): "…Extract of clay…" means, in other words, that we are made from the earth.

The word: "…Nutfah…" literally means a 'small drop'.

The description of the next stage as a "…Clinging clot…" accurately represents the stage where the fertilised cell attaches itself to the innermost layer of the uterus by hair-like projections. Another meaning for the Arabic word 'Alaqah' which is used in the Quran, (other than 'clinging clot'), is 'leech like'. This describes the process of implantation in the first few days entirely correctly and is so concise as to use just one word.

The word 'Alaqah' has been also translated as ‘something that clings’.

This only identifies part of the descriptive accuracy of this word. The word has a number of meanings: its root meaning is from the Arabic verb 'Aliqa' which means: "To hang, be suspended, dangle; to stick, cling, cleave adhere to; to catch, get caught or stuck; to be attached, affixed, subjoined." Other forms of the verb have related meanings, such as to be affectionately attached to someone. (Dictionary definitions from Hans- Wehr)

The meanings apply ideally to the process through which the fertilised ovum becomes lodged in the womb.

The noun 'Alaqah' carries the meaning of 'medical leech' and 'blood clot'. The leech is an interesting little creature. The creature is a parasite, which lives on blood, which it sucks out of the body of its host. Not only is this a similar process to what happens to an embryo in the earliest stages, but also in the earliest stages of the embryo it looks remarkably like a leech.

The meaning of a clinging thing can easily be seen in this use of the verbal noun. As for blood clot, it is first necessary to point out that it is the process of clotting or coagulating which brings the idea of clinging to this word and not blood. When blood coagulates, the material is primarily known to be sticky which explains the use of 'Alaqah' for this material. What we have is also a living fluid half way to becoming a soft solid, which is an accurate description of the embryo as the cells which have multiplied until they form a fluid now begin to form tissue structures.

The description of the: "…lump [of flesh]…" 'Mudhghah' is the Arabic word, which also means (chewed flesh) implies something like teeth marks.

This accurately describes the Somite development. The Somites, as Hamilton, Boyd and Mossman say, "Are conspicuous features of embryos in the period under consideration and are readily seen in the surface contour. They are bases from which the greater part of the axial skeleton and musculature are developed".

The age of the embryo is referred to by the number of these Somites since "They form one of its characteristic external features". These features, along with the pharyngeal arches which also appear at this period (four weeks), give the embryo the clear appearance of a chewed lump in which the indentations of teeth are present.

The structure of the embryo, as it develops and gains its form, is primarily skeletal at and before five weeks. That is, what you see in pictures of embryos this age is the bones and a number of semi-translucent organs.

The bones at this stage have structure and form and are easily the most marked and visible feature of the embryo, but they are, of course, not fully calcified (many bones are still in the final calcifying stage into adulthood).

Over the next couple of weeks, a quite definite change takes place in the appearance of an embryo. Instead of bones and organs, all that can be seen now is (the flesh of) a naked body. The embryo begins to look much more human. It is a reference to this, which seems most fitting with the general tone and meaning of (this part of) the verse mentioned above (which means): "…And We covered the bones with flesh…" 

Consistency between the Quran and modern science –I

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