The Arabic word translated here by `stages’ or `phases’ is aTwar (singular Tawr). This is the only verse in the Qur’an in which the word occurs in the plural. It is not possible to search elsewhere in the text to ascertain whether these `phases’ or `stages’ which quite obviously refer to man concern man’s development in the uterus (which is what the earliest commentators thought, and what I myself supposed to be the case in my previous book), or whether they allude to the transformations that the human species has undergone in the course of time. It is a point worth pondering.
To arrive at an answer, it goes without saying that we must first take account of the subject as described in the Qur’an. Thus we note that sura 71, from which the above verse is taken, deals principally with signs of divine omnipotence and the power of God the Creator in general. The passage in the Qur’an which includes verse 14 (a passage that refers to Noah’s sermon to his people) essentially dwells on God’s mercy, His generosity in endowing man with His gifts, and His omnipotence in creating man, the heavens, the sun and the moon, and the earth. On the subject of the Creation, the Qur’an mentions the spiritual aspect of the creation of man from the earth.
At no point whatsoever in sura 71 is there mention of the development of the unborn infant, a feature which traditional commentators of long ago thought was suggested by the word `phases’. Although the word is not used anywhere else in the text, the Qur’an undoubtedly refers in detail in many other suras to these `phases’ of embryonic development (see next chapter); nevertheless, there is no reference in this particular sura. We cannot, however, rule out the possibility that the passage of the Qur’an here under discussion may indeed have added the development in `phases’ of the embryo in the uterus to the other subjects mentioned above: there is nothing to indicate that it should be excluded.
In fact, the development of the individual and that of the species to which it belongs conforms to the same determining factors over the course of time; those factors are the genes which play a decisive role in the grouping of the paternal and maternal inheritance at the initial stage of reproduction. Whether we choose to link these `phases’ with the development of the individual or that of the species, the concept they express remains in perfect harmony with modern scientific data on the subject.
Having said this, the verses state sufficiently clearly that the human form undergoes transformations, so that even if we removed, the general meaning would not be affected.
The following two verses refer to the replacement of one human community by another.
-Sura 76, verse 28 in which God is alluding to men:
” Verily, We created them and strengthened all of them. And when We willed, We replaced them completely by people who were of the same kind.”
It is highly likely that the `strengthening’ mentioned in the above verse refers to man’s physical constitution.
-Sura 6, verse 133:
” If [God] wills, He destroys you and in your place appoints whom He wills as successors, just as He brought you forth from the descendants of other peoples.”
These two verses emphasize the disappearance of certain human communities and .their replacement by others, according to God’s will, during the course of time.
Early commentators have above all seen in these verses a punishment inflicted by God on sinful communities. In general, it was the religious aspect that was primarily stressed. The material fact is there, however, and it is clearly expressed; it consists of the disappearance of various communities (whose size is not mentioned) and the replacement, at a certain period, of a particular human community by the descendants of other peoples.
To sum up, therefore, the human groups that have existed over the course of time may have varied in their morphology, but these modifications have proceeded according to an organizational plan ordained by God; communities disappeared and were replaced by other groups: That, in so many words, is what the Qur’an has to tell us on the subject. It is futile to seek discrepancies between the Qur’an and the data of palaeontology, or with the information allowing us to conceive of a creative evolution, for there are none.
Human Reproduction: Its effects upon Transformations in the Species
Having reached this stage in our examination of the answers provided by the Qur’an to the question `What is the Origin of Man?’ we may perhaps be inclined to think that the subject has been exhausted. After all that have learned from the verses quoted in the preceding two chapters, it would indeed seem so: But. let us remember that in the case of one of these verses, we noted how useful it would be to continue our analysis in the light of ‘the data in the Qur’an concerning human reproduction.
In actual fact, the Qur’anic statements dealing with this subject have a bearing on the question of the transformations that have taken place in human morphology over the ages. The latter are indeed governed by the genetic code, formed by the union of chromosomes received from the paternal and maternal reproductive cells. The genetic inheritance thus brought together determines, first in the embryo [Before the second month of Pregnancy] and then in the fetus [After the second month of Pregnancy], the possible appearance of morphological changes as compared with the father and mother. These modifications become definitive after the child is born and during its growth in childhood. At the very least, these modifications provide the child with a structural personality, which is unique.
Apart from identical twins formed from a single ovule, no one human being is exactly the same as another. At the very most it is a matter of constitutional differences, which affect the species itself. It is therefore, the combined total of changes that take place over successive generations, which ultimately determines the morphological transformations that palaeontologists have noted in various human groups from past ages.
Consequently, we must review the main points on reproduction contained in the Qur’an. I shall therefore briefly summarize the detailed study of this question that appears in The Bible the Qur’an and Science.
For us to grasp the significance of what is to follow (especially with regard to the comparison between statements contained in the Holy Scriptures and the’ data of science), we must bear in mind that the text was communicated to man in the seventh century A.D. Any human work composed at that period was bound to set forth inaccurate statements: Science had not yet developed, so it was inevitable that any reference to human reproduction would be riddled with notions culled from myth and superstition. How could it be otherwise, for in order to understand the complex mechanisms involved. in this process, man had to possess a knowledge of anatomy and the use of the microscope, and the basic sciences had to be born, paving the way for physiology, embryology and obstetrics?