Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Embryology in the Quran: Much Ado About Nothing - Hamza Tzortzis Refuted

Captain Disguise and associates have made a video of a detailed refutation of Hamza Tzortzis' claims regarding the "miracle" of embryology in the Qur'an.
They have also created a website concerned with the same topic. I have just visited. It is a very impressive piece of work. Please do take a look. Herewith a taster:

 The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the claims made by Hamza Tzortzis in his purported “lexical analysis” of the terms in the Qur’an. The Qur’anic verses in question are 12-14 from chapter 23 which states the following,

(Yusuf Ali translation): “Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay) (sulalatin min tin); (12) Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm (nutfah) in a place of rest firmly fixed (qararin makeen); (13) Then We made the sperm (nutfah) into a clot of congealed blood (alaqah); then of that clot (alaqah) We made a (foetus) lump (mudghahh) ; then We made out of that lump (mudghahhbones (idhaamen) and clothed the bones with flesh (Fakasawna Idhaama Lahman); then We developed out of it another creature: so blessed be Allah, the Best to create! (14)”

Note: The relevant Arabic terms have been transliterated and can be found in red inside the parenthesis. The English terms in parenthesis are usually the interpretations of the translator and are not explicitly stated in the original language.
            Regarding these verses, Hamza states the following on page 5 of version v2.1b,[iv]

            One might wonder if in reality, the Qur’anic verse is “uninvolved” and “simplistic” in the original Arabic as well. It is rather intriguing how the same verse which was described as “uninvolved” and “simplistic” by Hamza himself, mutates into the following monstrosity after Hamza’s supposedly legitimate method of lexical analysis;

“Man We did create from “the essential elements required for human life and functioning, found in clay” (sulalatin min tin)[v]; (12) Then We placed him as “the formation of the zygote, via the mingling of two fluids from the mother and the father, which contains two small cell structures (the oocyte and the spermatozoon)" (nutfah)[vi] in “the blastocyst sinking in the endometrium, being completely encased i.e. the process of implantation”  (qararin makeen)[vii]; (13) Then We made the “zygote” (nutfah) into “the embryo...connected to the cytotrophoblast via a connecting stalk, as if it were hanging or suspended...upon the culmination of two processes - neurulation and the folding of the embryo” where “the embryo appears worm or leech-like” and “obtains its nutrients via contact with the maternal blood vessels” and “the external features of the embryo resembles a blood-clot...due to the formation of the primary cardiovascular system and the lack of blood circulation until the end of the third week.” (alaqah)[viii]; then of that “hanging leech-like blood suckling clot-like embryo” (alaqah) We made “The development of somites giving the embryo the appearance of a chewed substance” during “the organogenetic period (the development of organs, not yet fully formed)“ (mudghahh)[ix] ; then We made out of that “chewed fleshy  substance with developed somites undergoing organogenesis” (mudghahh) “the formation of the axial, limb and appendicular skeleton”(idhaamen)[x] and clothed “the formation of the axial, limb and appendicular skeleton” with “the migration and aggregation of the muscles cells around the developing limb and axial skeleton, to form muscles, tendons and connective tissue” (Fakasawna Idhaama Lahman)[xi]; then We developed out of it another creature: so blessed be Allah, the Best to create! (14)”

            A single word such as “alaqah” (i.e blood clot) has a meaning that is now four sentences long. Words such as “qararin makeen or “place of rest” (i.e womb) now refer to various technical stages of developmental biology involving discrete terms like blastocyst and implantation. Even the least curious person in the world should have raised a red flag when presented with such a flamboyant display of the apologetic tactic of putting ‘lipstick on a pig.’ 

Regular readers of Rational Islam? will know that this is a major bugbear of mine so I am delighted to pass on any information which may help to dispel the myth that the Qur'an contains details concerning embryology which it would have been impossible for a 7th century desert dweller to have known.
All power to your elbow, fellas...
And may I leave you with the same question I always pose about this time: If the Qur'an really is the uncreated word of God, why does it require such suspiciously UNscientific loons as Hamza and Sheik Azzindani and Yusuf Estes to draw our attention to it?


  1. My pleasure - it's a great piece of work and deserves the widest audience possible.

  2. On Hamza Tzortzis' facebook today:

    Sajid Hussain: Hamza, have you seen this?

    Hamza Andreas Tzortzis: Sajid Hussain Yes I have. I don't have time to response immediately but I will do in due course insha'Allah. They are quite rude, and obviously rely on ridicule and mockery to present their case. However, they have raised good points which will improve our perspective. The main issue I believe is that they forgot that the whole point of the paper was to look at most of the possible meanings and see if they can correlate to modern realities. Even in the paper I discuss that some commentators and scholars got it wrong due to referring to the science of the time. The funniest part is about "nutfah". I got this translation from an Arabic student of knowledge and even asked him if he was 100%, I stand corrected, but to call people liars is wrong and bad manners. Anyway, it is going to take time, but we will respond insha'Allah. We have never been shy of updating our work in light of corrections, and whatever good they have presented we will amend, and whatever needs to be responded to, will be responded to.

    If he follows through there could be a substantial result from that work! I hope he doesn't introduce yet more misinformation in the process.

  3. Does the Quran tell us everything we need to know is a ridiculous question because of course it doesn't. Get 2 babies, and leave them on a desert island with nothing but the Quran and you'll see how much the Quran can teach.

    The fact is, everything the Quran tells us or doesn't tell us largely depends on how much knowledge and information we have from outside of it in the first place.

    As time goes on, religious thinkers revisit the Quran and add modern information to it and make it make sense, and make it mean it is holy, and make it mean that the Quran is the ultimate encyclopedia in the whole entire world: they make it miraculous.

    The truth is, at the time the Quran was written a blood clot was a blood clot and a donkey was a donkey. Probably, some woman had an early miscarriage and some stage and a big blot clot fell out of her and they were like "eureka! we start as a blood clot!" - either that or a pregnant creature died and was opened up so they could see what was inside. Thats all they knew, and thats all they needed to know: what did desert arabs give a shit about embryo's? What would knowledge of embryo's add to their morals?


    If you want animalistic, wild people who live in a desert and kill each other to survive to get moral - you don't sit down and explain embryology: you give moral motivation, and moral teachings.

    Arguing over what an effing blod clot 'really' is is just another embarrassing demonstration of how religious people are totally and completely missing the whole point.

    Rather than sit on two sides of a table and debate about the meaning of "blood clot": go out, be good, do charitable works, treat your women and children with respect, stop burning down embassies and stoning people to death, stop crying over bacon and satire and act as a good example of a human being: and people will get off your back and leave you in peace - and they will stop giving a crap about what a blod clot is.

    Even if the Quran said 100% accurate things in an unbelievable fashion and used terms like "DNA" and "spaceship" in such a miraculous fashion that there is no doubt something magical is going on: if reading it still makes you a violent, abusive and dangerous nation - then you will still be hated.

    Other religious doctrines are full of as much crap as any other: talking elephants with 8 arms and heads, and bloody Gods that shoot lighting from their bums for crying out loud- but whilst the people following it live peacefully and in kindess, no one feels a need to go through it with a fine tooth comb and point how fucking stupid it is.

    The reason Islam is under so much heat is because Muslims just will not stop hurting people. When they one will give a shit what a blod clot is.

  4. Great stuff, Jasmine. I might also add that when Muslims like the fellas at iERA stop basing their dawah initiatives on outrageous claims that insult the intelligence of any sensible person ...

  5. Embryology seems to be the Bucailleists' flagship 'miracle'... I too get irritated when I see people claiming those verses to be miraculous.

  6. If you guys want to easily spread the word to a priority target audience - the most active supporters in iERA dawah (or dawah generally), there's a simply method:

    Those of you with twitter accounts (especially those of you with some followers so you might appear under the 'top' category) should tweet the website along with some of the hash tags currently being used by @ierauk, @hatzortzis @quranprojectorg and their crew.

    e.g. #dawah

    other current tags they use include #wmdawah #muhammad but #dawah is one they all use quite a lot.

  7. You don't need to go far in depth.
    It's enough to simply show such vague statement about human embryology were already in discussion long before Islam.

    Aristotle, the Greeks, Babylonians... all had theories on embryology, a lot of it when written vaguely enough matches our current understanding.

    The idea that 'something' is formed when the sperm of a man enters a woman and mixes with her and forms this thing that attaches to the mother and grows and eventually comes out as a baby... is not exactly complicated.

    Whatever 'science' is in the Koran is simply as correct and as incorrect as the common science available during the time.

  8. so was Dr Keith more wrong?

    1. No - he is a scientist. The madman who did the "Islamic additions" to his book is the one who was wrong...