Friday, November 2, 2012

Embryology in the Qur'an -"mudghah" or "chewed flesh"?

Here's the frontispiece of Hamza Tzortzis' (chief miracle seeker of the iERA, Islamic Education and research Academy) turgid study of embryology in the Qur'an. Notice the picture chosen to illustrate the study. Seem familiar? Of course it does...
...because it comes from the infamous illustration in Moore and Sheik al Zindani's text book, The Developing Human (3rd edition with Islamic Additions). The illustration appears in countless Islamic websites (and was copied in the first mail my convert friend sent to me to "explain" how miraculous the Qur'an was.) The picture is supposed to convince Muslims and putative converts that the verse 23:14 (“...Then of that leech-like structure, We made a chewed lump.”) predicts microscopic knowledge impossible for anyone in the 7th century Arabia to know. Notice how the somites (the segmental mass of mesoderm which look like the vertebrae) are particularly noticeable in the clinical illustration and which are equated with the chew marks on the picture of the piece of gum.

Now study the following photographs of three actual 28 day embryos. 

One is the embryo of a cat, one of a pig and one of a human. 
Spot the difference? It's tricky because at this stage there really is none. (The zygotes and early embryos of mammals are virtually indistinguishable from each other until the organogenesis process begins and the embryo begins to assume its future characteristics. This is an awkward fact for those who believe that humans were specially created by God and that we don't share common ancestors.) 

But where are the somites, those structures so evident in the clinical illustration beloved of the miracle seekers? Well they're there, of course, but they hardly look like the tooth marks in the piece of gum added by al-Zindani for the Islamic edition of Moore's text book, because they are internal structures.
In fact, the embryos look nothing like the chewed gum picture. 
The phrase "chewed lump" is not miraculous; it is not even particularly apt; it is inaccurate. How ironic that the miracle seekers should have drawn our attention to a translation of a verse that suggests that the author of the Qur'an was a fallible human being.

Of course, the further irony is that, as the guys at embryologyinthequran.blogspot have so clearly and tellingly pointed out, the arabic word mudghah doesn't mean chewed flesh anyway.
The actual definition is that it is a noun for something that is intended or suitable for chewing (such as a small “piece of meat”).
Here's the definition from The Hans Wehr Dictionary:

Thus we have a lunatic (al-Zindani) - renowned for his bizarre pronouncements (cure for AIDS etc.) and for his dubious and desperate attempts to con/buy western scientific respectability for his weird ideas - spotting Moore's clinical illustration of a 28 day embryo and thinking that the somites looked vaguely like teeth marks.
He adds a picture of a piece of chewing gum and hey-presto! - A MIRACLE!

What he forgot/didn't realise is: 
1. the embryo is approximately the same size as a grain of rice (4.5 mm!! - hardly a lump of flesh!)
2. the somites aren't nearly as visible as in the clinical illustration
3. that if they were visible at all, they'd be convex if anything, not concave like actual bite marks!
4. and that the word mudgah doesn't mean chewed lump anyway, but rather a lump/piece of meat of a size suitable for chewing

Those who choose to base their belief in God upon such dubious descriptions and inaccurate translations are fooling themselves, and their self-deception is aided and encouraged by idiots like Tzortzis and his acolytes at iERA who continue to spout this nonsense about tooth marks on the embryo.

PS I thoroughly recommend this site if you want to see further wonderful pictures of embryonic development.


  1. The intellectual bankruptcy of the Bucailleists do show that humans do have something in common with lower animals!

  2. I love the fact that the illustration chosen by Hamza et al actually shows a rudimentary tail (and is labeled as such as well).
    How do the creationists explain that one I wonder!

    1. God gave embryos tails to test our faith, stupid!
      I'm afraid I failed the test ;-)

  3. A very good point. Also the arabic word (mudgha) that has been defined as "chewed flesh" can be seen used by Muhammad in the following three hadiths,

    Muhammad uses the word "mudghah" to refer to the heart as well as the penis.

    So much for "a chewed piece of flesh with teeth marks that look like somites and what not"

    1. Ouch! I've the ol' fella referred to as many things - but "a piece of chewed flesh" would be a first

      I shall refer my friend to these ahadith as well - (one can't help wondering whether Hamza is aware of these uses of mudghah - I suspect not!)

    2. I stopped wondering what Hamza maybe aware of as now I know that he isn't aware of much...

      PS - The last link has been changed. The hadith I was referring to can be found here

  4. You should compare many translation, because arabic language is unique. One word can have many meanings. Not like english.

    Sahih International
    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.

    Muhsin Khan
    Then We made the Nutfah into a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood), then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh, then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators.

    Then fashioned We the drop a clot, then fashioned We the clot a little lump, then fashioned We the little lump bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators!

    Yusuf Ali
    Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) 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!

    Then We made the seed a clot, then We made the clot a lump of flesh, then We made (in) the lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We caused it to grow into another creation, so blessed be Allah, the best of the creators.

    Dr. Ghali
    Thereafter We created the sperm-drop into a clot, (Or: embryo) then We created the clot into a chewed up morsel, then We created the chewed up morsel into bones, then We dressed the bones (in) flesh; thereafter We brought him into being as another creation. So Supremely Blessed be Allah, The Fairest of creators.

    Thats the many version of the translation. If you do not satisfy with that, learn Arabic language by yourself. You cant fully understand something, or making judgement without knowing it as a whole. Or your argument would be just another argument with weak evidence and fact to back up. Open up your mind, read many point of view, not just one. Or try to be like Maurice Bucaille that genuinely learn Arabic for 10 years in order to understand the translation of the Quran by himself.

    1. I would need to spend 10 years studying that language just so I can verify that. Muslims often try to convince me that the Quran comes from God by pointing to a so called scientific miracle. But when I try to show them a scientific mistake they simply use the excuse of mistranslations. Or even: "Only God knows what this verse is supposed to mean". This is 'shifting the goalposts'. A discussion is pointless when the excuses can always apply and not be tested themselves.
      In debating, a claim that can not be disproven is no claim at all. If a scientist dismisses any counter-evidende to his theory with an unfalsifiable explanation, like 'magic fairies', the theory is discarded.
      I can tell you there's a leprechaun in my bathroom. You'd probably want proof for that. Then I'll say: "The leprechaun is invisible, but you have no excuse if you don't believe: when you weigh 600 pounds, you can see it." In theory, my claims can be disproven. In practice, they are clearly cop outs. If you go out of your way and reach 600 pounds, a new excuse can be presented: "The leprechaun can only be seen by those with good intention."

      A Hindu might tell us to study Sanskrit to see the miracle of Hinduism and a Christian may tell us to study Ancient Greek to properly understand the Bible. Untill I do this, I have to accept any God on faith. But Muslims say proudly that they don't need faith! Ironically 99,9% of Muslims can't read Classic Arabic either, so they have to accept the claim that Classic Quran contains the untranslatable miracles on faith as well.