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Creation of man from "Nutfah"

 

"Be cursed (the disbelieving) man!  How ungrateful he is! From what thing did He create him?  From Nutfah (male and female semen drops) He created him and then set him in due proportion."

(Surat 'Abasa (He Frowned):17-19)

 

 

These three ayahs come at the end of the first half of Surat Abasa (He Frowned), which is a Makkan Surah.  The Surah is forty-two ayahs after the invocation of the Basmalah and was so named because the Prophet (SAWS) had turned away from a companion who was blind.  Abdullah Amr Ibn-Kais, known as Ibnum-Maktoum (RA), had come to ask about a religious matter while the Prophet (SAWS) was busy calling a group of Qurayshi leaders to Islam.  He persisted in asking his question so much that the Prophet (SAWS), who is the most patient man, frowned.  The noble companion did not see the frowning, yet Allah (SWT) revealed this magnanimous Surah reproaching the cherished Seal of the Prophets for his frown. 

 

This was to stress a supreme Islamic value that Allah wants humans to follow, which is that favoring people should be based on their piety to Allah.  Their fear of His greatness, observing His commands and prohibitions and their certainty of meeting Him, thus awaiting His judgment is the true measure.  Their ancestry, origin, glory, power, race, color or any other perished norms of this world are false, as Allah (SWT) says in what can be translated as: " …Verily, the most honorable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwâ (i.e. he is one of the Muttaqűn (the pious)). Verily, Allah is All-Knowing, All-Aware."  (Surat Al-Hujurât (The Dwelling):13).

 

Signs of Creation in Surat Abasa

 

  1. Affirming that humans are created from a nutfah (male and female semen drops) that carries all the characteristics and all what is predestined for them.
  2. Pointing out that the womb incubation period ends as soon as the fetus is born and stresses the facilitation of the baby’s passage from the mother's abdomen to the surrounding life.
  3. Asserting the inevitability of death and of being put in a grave, and the inevitability of resurrection, judgment and punishment.
  4. Pointing out that many people live without knowing the purpose of their existence nor accomplishing any of their duties, so they die with no good deeds, overburdened with sins.  For this reason Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, "Nay, but (man) has not done what He commanded him."  (Surat 'Abasa (He Frowned):23).
  5. Drawing attention to the miracle of supplying food for all living beings, first and foremost mankind and his livestock.
  6. Relating the water cycle around the earth by describing the way it is sent down from the heaven. 
  7. Describing the way the earth cracks by rain or when it is watered for planting or when plants grow out of it. 
  8. Highlighting the creation of various kinds of plants, stating their major kinds which constitute main nutrition for man and his livestock, such as cereals, grapes, beans, vegetables and animals’ wet fodder such as clover (kadb), in addition to olives, date-palms, interlaced-tree gardens, fruit trees, grass and herbage (abb).
  9. Likening the revival of bodies after disintegration and turning into earth, to the revival of plants out of dead earth after sending water down to it, and describing how people will be horrified on the Day of Judgment as one will escape from his closest kin.

 

Each point of these needs special treatment.  For this reason, I will confine my article here to the first point of the previous list, namely, man’s creation from a sperm and ovum, predestined by Allah (SWT) through His knowledge, wisdom and power as He says in the ayahs 17 – 19 of Surat 'Abasa (He Frowned).  Before going into this point, we should review the interpretations provided by many past and contemporary scholars in explaining the implications of these blessed ayahs.

 

The scholars’ interpretation of the Ayahs:

 

According to Ibn-Kathir, Allah (SWT) dispraises the one who denies the resurrection of mankind; "Be cursed (the disbelieving) man!”  Ibn Abbas said man is cursed, for his consistent lying and accusations of lying to others, "How ungrateful he is ", or how great his disbelieving.  Besides, in Ibn Jareer’s view, the meaning is may be what made him a disbeliever, or what makes him disbelieve in resurrection?  Katada thinks that, "How ungrateful he is " means how cursed he is; then Allah explains how He created him of a worthless thing, and how He is able to return him to his beginning where He says what can be translated as, “from what thing did He create him?  From Nutfah (male and female semen drops) He created him and then set him in due proportion.”  (Surat 'Abasa (He Frowned):18-19).  This means that He predestined his death, living, deeds, and whether he will be miserable or happy.

 

In the interpretation of Al-Jalalein (May Allah have mercy upon its two writers), we read: "Be cursed (the disbelieving) man!” the disbeliever is cursed, "How ungrateful he is" a blaming question, meaning what makes him a disbeliever? (Or how disbelieving he is) “From what thing did He create him?” a determinative question which He explains it saying, " From Nutfah (male and female semen drops) He created him and then set him in due proportion.” a clot, then an embryo, until the end of his creation. The same ideas came in the other available interpretations, so there is no need to repeat them.

 

The scientific implications of the Noble Ayahs:

 

Man was created of Nutfah Amshaj [a union of (or mixed) sperm and ovum]. Nutfah in the Arabic language means a little water that ranges from one drop to a few drops.  It is said: man natafa and yantuf natfan and natfatan, the meaning of which is water dripped from him after his ablution or wash.  It is also said: The bucket natafat, meaning water dripped drop by drop.  Nutfah is also a little pure water as much as the little water that remains in the bucket.  It is also known as nutafa, its plural is nutaf which means also bucket.  It is said also a natoof night, which means rainy; rained until morning.

 

Small pearls are called nutaf to liken them to water drops.  Nutaf is used metaphorically to express generosity and good deeds.  It is said: so and so is bountiful muntef i.e. he always does favors and yantufu with good deeds means that he does them continuously.  Qur'an used the word nutfa to express the gamete being either a female ovum or a male sperm in twelve ayahs that can be translated as follows:

 

1.     “He has created man from Nutfah (mixed drops of male and female sexual discharge), then behold, this same (man) becomes an open opponent."  (Surat An-Nahl (The Bees):4).

 

2.     “His companion said to him during the talk with him: “Do you disbelieve in Him Who created you out of dust (i.e. your father Adam), then out of Nutfah (mixed semen drops of male and female discharge), then fashioned you into a man?”  (Surat Al-Kahf (The Cave):37).

 

3.     “O mankind! If you are in doubt about the Resurrection, then verily We have created you (i.e. Adam) from dust, then from a Nutfah (mixed drops of male and female sexual discharge i.e. the offspring of Adam), then from a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood) then from a little lump of flesh – some formed and some unformed (as in the case of miscarriage)"    (Surat Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage):5).

 

4.     “And indeed We created man (Adam) out of an extract of clay (water and earth).12.  Thereafter We made him (the offspring of Adam) as a Nutfah (mixed drops of the male and female sexual discharge and lodged it) in a safe lodging (womb of the woman). 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 is Allâh, the Best of creators.”  (Surat Al-Mu'minűn (The Believers):12-14).

 

5.     “And Allâh did create you (Adam) from dust, then from Nutfah (male and female discharge semen drops i.e. Adam's offspring), then He made you pairs (male and female).” (Surat Fâtir (The Originator of Creation):11).

 

6.     “Does not man see that We have created him from Nutfah (mixed male and female sexual discharge - semen drops). Yet behold he (stands forth) as an open opponent.”  (Surat Yâ-Sîn):77).

 

7.     “It is He, Who has created you (Adam) from dust, then from a Nutfah [mixed semen drops of male and female sexual discharge (i.e. Adam’s offspring)] then from a clot (a piece of coagulated blood),” (Surat Ghâfir (The Forgiver):67).

 

8.     “And that He (Allâh) creates the pairs, male and female, 45.  From Nutfah (drops of semen - male and female discharges) when it is emitted.46.” (Surat An-Najam (The Star):45-46).

 

9.     “Does man think that he will be left neglected (without being punished or rewarded for the obligatory duties enjoined by his Lord Allâh on him)?.36.  Was he not a Nutfah (mixed male and female sexual discharge) of semen emitted (poured forth)? .37.  Then he became an ‘Alaqah (a clot); then (Allâh) shaped and fashioned (him) in due proportion. 38. And made of him two sexes, male and female. 39. Is not He (Allâh Who does that) Able to give life to the dead? (Yes! He is Able to do all things). 40.” (Surat Al-Qiyâmah (The Resurrection):36-40).

 

10.            “Verily, We have created man from Nutfah (drops) of mixed semen (sexual discharge of man and woman), in order to try him: so We made him hearer and seer.”  (Surat Al-Insân (Man):2).

11.            “Be cursed (the disbelieving) man! How ungrateful he is! 17. From what thing did He create him?. 18. From Nutfah (male and female semen drops) He created him and then set him in due proportion.19."  (Surat 'Abasa (He Frowned):17-19).

 

In the second ayah of Surat Al-Insan (Man), the Qur'an calls the union of ovum and sperm "Nutfah (drops) of mixed semen (sexual discharge of man and woman)" (Surat Al-Insân (Man):2). Which is known as a zygote indicating the completion of the fertilization process.  This phrase of reference, occurring also in Surat An-Najm (The Star) (ayahs 45-46), is considered the first accurate scientific expression related to the creation of an embryo through the union of the ovum and the sperm.  This fact was not achieved by acquired science until the end of the 12th century of the Hijra, i.e. the 18th century A.D (1186 A.H / 1775 A.D).

 

In fact, since the time of Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C) until the end of the 18th century A.D, a belief prevailed all over Europe that the human embryo was created out of man's ejaculate only and that the woman's womb was just an incubator for it, or that it was created only from the blood of the menstrual cycle, and that man's ejaculate was just a co-agent for it.

 

When the microscope was manufactured in the 17th century, in 1677 AD (Hook&Hamm), the sperm was discovered.  Then it was believed that the fetus is created complete in a miniscule size at the sperm's head, and simply grows throughout pregnancy (Hartsoeker, 1694).  Although the Graafian follicle was discovered at the end of the 17th century A.D. (by Regnier de Graaf, 1672), the ovum was discovered late in the 19th century A.D.  It was not determined that the ovum and the sperm are cells until 1859 A.D.  At the end of the 19th century A.D. the fertilization of the ovum by the sperm was observed (Hertwig, 1875, Van Beneden, 1883).  This fact had been determined by Allah's Messenger (SAWS) twelve centuries earlier.

 

A Jewish man passed by the Prophet (SAWS) while he was talking to his companions and Quraish said, ‘O thou Jew, this man alleges he is a Prophet.’ The Jew said, ‘I will ask him about a thing nobody knows unless he is a Prophet.  O Mohammad! Of what is man created?’ The Prophet (SAWS) said, ‘O Jewish man, he is created of all, of a man's nutfa and of a woman's nutfa.’  (Narrated by Imam Ahmad in his Masnad). 

 

Therefore, the nutfa mentioned in ayahs 17-19 of Surat Abasa, is nutfa amshaj, i.e. the mixed nutfa, which results from the union of the sperm and the ovum, known scientifically as the zygote.  The intended nutfa amshaj may be the ovum of the woman only, from which Allah (SWT) created his Prophet Isa Ibn Maryam (AS) “Jesus son of Mary” from a mother only without a father, which is a Divine miracle.  Although man tried over half a century ago to clone frogs, mice and monkeys, in 1998 A.D, the Scottish embryologist Ian Wilmut and his team cloned the ewe Dolly asexually after 280 abortive attempts over many years.  This indicated that the basis of reproduction is the ovum and that the sperm can be replaced by any complete body cell with chromosomes and can fertilize an ovum from which the nucleus has been removed by putting them both (the cell and the ovum) in a strong electromagnetic field to stimulate their fusion.  This was done to produce the ewe Dolly. Nevertheless, it did not take long before the signs of old age appeared on Dolly, then it died.

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