and then We brought it forth as another creation. So Blessed is Allāh, the Best of creators. "
(Surat Al-Mu'minūn (The Believers):14)
The miraculous ayah under discussion in this article is located in the beginnings of Surat al-Mu'minun (The Believers). It is a Makkan surah and has a total number of 118 ayahs following Basmalah. It is entitled al-Mu'minun since it praises Allah's believers assigned with designated missions on earth. It discusses a number of their noble qualities that represent the exemplar human with whom Allah (SWT) would be pleased.
Tenets of Faith in Surat Al-Mu'minun:
1. Faith in Allah (SWT), in His angels, books, and messengers, in the last day, and in immortality in the hereafter, whether to dwell forever in jannah (paradise) or in hellfire. The surah shows that people shall not inherit jannah (for eternity), except for the true believers, the description of whose good qualities the surah has included. Believers have faith that Allah (SWT) is the All-Knower of the unseen and the seen, and The Sustainer. He gives life and causes death. To Him belongs the alternation of night and day, and He is the Lord of the Mighty Throne.
2. Allah (SWT) is above all attributes found in His creations, and is above all imperfections that do not conform with His Majesty such as the false allegations that Allah (SWT) has a partner, peer, adversary, wife or son; all of which are attributes of creations when the Creator is surely clear of all the characteristics of His creatures.
3. The certitude that Allah (SWT) has created man out of an extract of clay, determined the way of his reproduction, and the phases of embryonic development one after another with extreme accuracy until he becomes a human being, ready for entrance to the outside world as a fully-developed baby. The child grows and lives for as long as he is destined to live and then dies after his life is spent. This is followed by resurrection, judgment, and reward, which will be living forever in either jannah or hellfire. Man is not created in vain, but rather to be tested through the afflictions he faces in his life and to be rewarded for his actions when he returns to his Creator.
4. The acknowledgment that Allah (SWT) is the Creator, the Lord, the Owner of all things, and the One who manages all of their affairs. Allah (SWT) created the seven heavens, the seven earths, and all that is in them. An extraordinary example of how Allah (SWT) manages all affairs of life on earth is the water cycle of this planet. After the evaporation of a determined quantity of water, it falls from the heaven in the form of rain; thus playing an important role in the flourishing of life on earth. The surplus of water goes to the seas and oceans, some of the water settles in the rocks of the earth's crust to become a source of life in areas that lack running water. It is Allah (SWT) Who reserves this amount of underground water with His Mercy and Wisdom, as He is capable of submerging the water deep in the ground or at the same time, of removing it completely, whenever or however He likes and at His own prerogative.
Allah (SWT) also created plants and all different kinds of vegetation. He created cattle with udders full of milk to drink. He made their flesh edible, and made them serve numerous purposes for the benefit for mankind. Allah (SWT) created everything and He is the All-Knower of everything.
Signs of Creation in Surat Al-Mu'minūn:
1. The surah indicates that man was created from an extract of clay. It describes the phases of embryonic development with total accuracy until it develops into another creation. The size of the embryo, in such stages, varies from fractions of a millimeter to only a few millimeters. This accurate description was revealed in the Qur'an at a time when there was a prevailing belief that the fetus was created as a whole miniature version of itself from the female's menstrual blood only or from the male's sperm. This size was described with such accuracy in the absence of all means of magnification, imaging or medical examination at that time.
2. The surah refers to the creation of the seven heavens, an unseen truth, which modern acquired knowledge and science cannot establish due to the vastness of the universe, and its seemingly infinite dimensions to which only Allah (SWT) knows its end.
3. Surat al-Mu'minun mentions how water falls from the heaven in a given amount and how, with Allah's absolute wisdom, a part of it settles in the rocks of the earth's crust in a precise quantity. Acquired sciences have discovered this fact in late nineteenth century only.
4. The surah makes a connection between how rain falls from the heaven and how plants rise from the soil. It moreover describes the olive tree and how it produces olive oil and seasoning, which gives pleasure to diners when used as dip. The surah focuses here on the olive tree that grows in Mt. Sinai in particular.
5. The surah points out the great blessings in the creation of cattle when it refers to their numerous benefits such as their milk, fat and meat. It also reveals the importance of using cattle as means of transportation and in carrying things on land in the same way ships are used in the sea.
6. The surah mentions the sense of hearing before that of seeing or perception. Embryology hereby asserts that the sense of hearing develops before the aforementioned senses. Therefore, the fetus can hear before it starts to see or perceive.
7. It acknowledges the fact that earth is almost spherical in shape and that it rotates around its own axis before the sun. It indicates this in an implicit way by referring to the alternation of night and daytime.
Since each of the above issues require individual explanation, I shall focus here on how the embryo develops into another creation after the chewed up morsel is transformed into bones that are later covered with flesh (muscles and skin) as referred to in number 1 above.
The Scientific Implications of the Qura'nic text:
Although the face starts to take its shape at a very early stage of the embryo's development, it does not establish the human facial features except after the creation of the bones which are dressed with flesh later. Accordingly, Allah (SWT) says, "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).13. 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 Allāh, the Best of creators. 14." (Surat Al-Mu'minūn: 12-14)
Due to the long time intervals and the immensity of the kind of transitional changes in development from an extract of clay to a sperm-drop in an established residence, and from a zygote (fertilized ovum) into other phases of embryo development, the Ever-Glorious Qur'an uses the conjunction "thumma" that means "thereafter". This conjunction is used in the Arabic language to imply the slow movement from one state to another while retaining a specific order. As for the interconnection found between the following phases from a clot structure to a chewed up morsel until it is transformed into bones that are to be clothed with flesh (muscles and skin), the Qura'nic text uses the conjunction "fa" that means "then". However, "then" in this context conveys the Arabic meaning which implies quick and interconnected movement from one phase to another while maintaining order at the same time. Once again, and due to the extensive transition in the development and the long time the embryo needs to move to another stage, the Qura'nic text uses the first conjunction "thumma " to connect the phase of "clothing the bones with flesh" and that where the embryo becomes another form altogether.
At the very late stages of the clot phase, the first somites are created. Somites distinguish the chewed up morsel phase, in which they fully develop, to give the embryo the shape of a lump of flesh that looks as if chewed by teeth with their prints on it. Allah (SWT) gave this chewed up morsel the ability to transform only half of itself to form the axial skeleton (vertebral column and ribs) of the embryo (sclerotome). The other half starts to cover the bones with flesh (skin and muscle component). This explains why it is called the dermo-myotome.
Due to the enormous transition from these phases to the ones that followed, the Ever-Glorious Qur'an related these phases to each other by saying, "... and then We brought it forth as another creation." (Surat Al-Mu'minūn: 12-14). The conjunction "thumma" (thereafter) was used to imply the slow movement from one phase to another while retaining a specific order.
Accordingly, the Qur'an divides the process of the creation of the human embryo into five phases as follows:
First: The Nutfah (Sperm-drop or Zygote) Phase:
It is the Fertilized Ovum stage, or the sperm-drop phase, in which it grows by division to form what could be termed as 'morula' or 'blastula'. This phase lasts for almost one week from the date of fertilization.
Second: The Clot (Leech-Like Structure) Phase:
The beginning of this phase is marked by the blastula adhering to the wall of the uterus on the sixth day after fertilization. This phase continues until the end of the 25th day. Thus, it lasts for a period of two to three weeks in which it looks like a leech parasite clinging to its host, especially in the way it feeds on the host's blood.
Third: The Chewed up Morsel Phase:
This phase starts approximately on the 26th day after fertilization when the somites are fully developed, thus giving the embryo the shape of a little lump of flesh chewed by teeth that left their prints on it.