The Evolution of the Embryo inside the Uterus
Once it has evolved beyond the stage characterized in the Qur’an by the simple word `something which clings’, the embryo, so the Qur’an tells us, goes through a phase in which it literally looks like flesh (chewed flesh). As we know, it preserves this appearance until roughly the twentieth, day, when it then begins gradually to take on a human form. Osseous tissue and the bones appear in the embryo, which are subsequently, enveloped by the muscles. The idea is expressed in the Qur’an as follows:
-Sura 23, verse 14, in which God is speaking:
“We fashioned the thing which clings into a lump of chewed flesh and We fashioned the chewed flesh into bones and We clothed the bones with intact flesh.”
The two types of flesh are given different names in the Qur’an:
The first “chewed flesh” is called muDghat, while the second – ‘intact flesh’ is designated by the word laHm which indeed describes very accurately what muscle actually looks like.
The Qur’an also mentions the emergence of the senses and the viscera:
-Sura 32, verse 9:
“[God] appointed for you the sense of hearing, sight and the viscera.”
The allusion in the Qur’an to the sexual organs must also be recalled, for the reference is particularly: precise, as the following verses show:
-Sura 53, verses 45 and 46 :
“[God] fashioned the two of a pair, the male and the female, from a small quantity [of sperm] when it is poured out.”
As we have seen above, the Qur’an stresses the fact that only a very small quantity of spermatic liquid is required for fertilization.
The male fertilizing agent, the spermatozoon, contains the hemichromosome that is to determine the sex of the future individual: The decisive moment occurs when the spermatozoon penetrates the ovule, and thereafter the sex does not change. The verses quoted above state that the sex of the individual is determined by the small quantity of fertilizing liquid. It is this liquid which carries the spermatozoon containing the hemichromosome that determines the sexual features of the new human being. In this context, the text of the Qur’an and the data of modern embryology are strikingly similar.
All these statements agree with today’s firmly established facts. But how could the men living at the time of Muhammad have known so many details of embryology? For these data were not discovered until a thousand years after the Qur’anic Revelation had taken place. The history of science leads us to conclude that there can be no human explanation for the existence of these verses in the Qur’an.
The Transformations of the Human Form Over the Ages and Embryonic Development
For those who are unfamiliar with embryology and genetics, it is not immediately obvious that each and every modification, which takes place within the individual, proceeds from changes that occur in the genes given to the new individual by the chromosomes inherited from its father and mother. As stated earlier, a division takes place in each genetic inheritance, which is followed by a unification of elements taken from each half. This quickly results in the beginnings of morphological changes during pregnancy, and hence of functional modifications which appear later on; thus transformations are continued after the birth of the infant, lasting through childhood growth, until the individual reaches adulthood and the transformations are fully completed.
Unless these concepts are properly understood, errors may occur in the ideas of those who are accustomed to thinking that the verses from the Qur’an quoted in this chapter concern only the development of the infant in the uterus, to the exclusion of the individual’s subsequent morphological development. That is why it is crucial to include all the verses that refer to human reproduction in our study of the parts of the Qur’anic text, which as far as I can see deal with the transformations of the human form over the ages.
To clarify the issue, I shall give an example concerning a pathological transformation consisting of a congenital deficiency that is particularly common among human malformations: The case in question is mongolism. Discoveries have shown that the trebling of a chromosome that has been given the number 21, from which the deficiency derives the name `trisomy 21’. It is today known that the cause lies in genes contained in this chromosome, and that the deficiency occurs with maximum frequency when the mother of the infant is over forty years old.
The disease is characterized by an infantile physical development and intelligence and certain specific morphological features which may not be very pronounced at birth, but later become very obvious. Thus the condition is recognized more or less early according to its degree of seriousness. Whatever the case, however, its basic characteristics are acquired during the first few weeks of life.
Morphological modifications of a different kind in humans follow the same pattern. The process begins during pregnancy and gradually becomes more and more pronounced until the individual reaches adulthood. Thus, over the successive generations separating the Australopithecus from modern man (which fall into units of 10,000), it is reasonable to suppose that slight modifications took place in each generation, which gradually accumulated until they produced transformations that gave birth to man as we know him today.
It is therefore impossible, as far as the final result is concerned, to separate the slight, concordant modifications that took place with each generation in the uterus from the overall transformations that occurred over a large number of generations. This explanation is necessary to an understanding of the way in which the concept is expressed in the Qur’an, in reference to the evolution of the embryo in the uterus, according to God’s will, as stated quite clearly in the Qur’an.
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