Thursday, August 4, 2011

iERA (Islamic Education and Research Association) and the Miracle of Embryology in the Qur'an

"Kevin" put (some of) my points to the iERA and received the following response. (You will note that iERA say that my translation of 86:5-7 is wrong. Hmm - interesting....I will post my answer to each of their responses tomorrow.)
>> How did Mohammad know to choose only the correct bits of the Greek theory, Muslims ask. He didn’t. Remember Qur’an talks of sperm produced from between ribs and backbone? Incorrect and taken directly from Aristotle which was taught at Gundishapur.  Why did Mohammad choose Galenic/Aristotelian theory over other, less accurate theories, Muslims ask. Because that was what was being taught at the very centre where his followers studied. Here is what the iERA siad in their reply:>> So, we have Galenic theory referring to the four stages of embryology as 1. Seminal matter 2. Bloody form 3. Formative foetus and 4. Perfected foetus, being taught in an institution that at least two of Mohammad’s followers are known to have attended  and we have EXACTLY THE SAME STAGES APPEARING IN THE SUPPOSED DIVINE REVELATION in surah 22 verse 5: 1.Nut’fa 2.‘Alaqat 3.Unformed mud’gha  4.Formed mud’gha. Here, once more, is the iERA's response:
The statement “sperm produced from between ribs and backbone?” is inaccurate. The most correct interpretation and translation (see Abdel Haleem’s translation of the Qur’an)  states that it is not the sperm that is produced from the ribs and the backbone but rather that the baby comes from there (in other words the womb). This is the view of the classical scholar al-Razi in his al-Tafsir al-Kabir. The pronoun refers back to man and not to the gushing fluid:
5) Man should reflect on what he was created from.
6) He is created from spurting fluid,
7) then he * emerges from between the backbone and breastbone **
*= The Pronoun here is taken to refer to the person rather than the fluid.
**=Of the mother, where she carries the baby.

The authenticity and uniqueness of the Qur’an has been questioned ...
by claiming that the Nutfah has been plagiarised from Galen’s geniture or unformed seminal stage. However, when we compare the two, the Qur’an does not mention Nutfah as unformed semen, but describes Nutfah in the following way: 1) To dribble, trickle; 2) Drop, semen; 3) A singular entity, which is a part of a bigger group of its kind; 4) A single Sperm from a collection of millions of sperms; 5) Can also refer to one female Egg (from a group of many other Eggs in the Ovaries). (Hans Wehr,  page 974 and  Lisan Al-Arab dictionary, Book 5, Pages 725.) The hadith (prophetic tradition) confirms the descriptions in bold above. The term nutfah was used by the Prophet in the following way, “…it is created from both; from a man’s nutfah and from a woman’s nutfah” (This hadith was narrated in Musnad Ahmad, volume 1, page 465). The nutfah is the part by which the man  shares in creation of a child and nutfah is also the part by which the woman shares in this creation. From this hadith it is clear that creation of a child  occurs from both male and female and that the term nutfah is applicable to both male and  female, not only male. This is in agreement with modern embryology, as John Allen and Beverley Kramer state “…one from the mother (oocyte) and one from the father (spermatozoon). These are called gametes. Together, these gametes form a single cell, the zygote, from which the entire embryo, including its surrounding membranes, grows.” (John Allen and Beverley Kramer. The Fundamentals of Human Embryology. 2010. 2nd Edition. Wits University Press. Page 1.)

Galen’s simple observation in no way compares to the depth and detail given in the Qur’an and hadith regarding the Nutfah. The attempt to compare the Qur’anic term mudghah with the following passage from Galen is similarly based on a superficial understanding of the term mudghah. Galen states, "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. 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 Qur’an mentions mudghah as a chewed like substance and a small piece of flesh. Whereas, Galen talks about the conformation of the three ruling parts, silhouettes and twigs/limbs. He also discusses seeing the three ruling parts more clearly than the stomach and the limbs. Galen makes no mention of a chewed like substance, nor uses equivalent terms, and  doesn’t indicate a quick sequence of events like the Qur’an does (the particles ‘fa’ and ‘thumma’ indicate quick succession of events and may be used to mean things happening in parallel). Even a basic analysis of the two texts shows that they are very obviously different.


  1. Amazing how creative Muslims are when it comes to inserting "science" into their book.