He creates you in three veils of darkness
“He creates you in the wombs of your mothers: creation after creation in three veils of darkness.”
(Surat Az-Zumar (The Groups): 06)
By: Dr. / Zaghloul El-Naggar
This miraculous Qur’anic ayah appears in the first eighth of Surat Az-Zumar. Surat Az-Zumar is a Makkan Surah, made up of 75 ayahs after the “Basmallah” (invocation of the name of Allah). The Surah is called Az-Zumar (meaning: The Groups) due to the appearance in it of reference to how people are separated, according to their deeds, into two groups on the Day of Judgment. One group makes up the residents of Paradise and the other group is comprised of the residents of Hell. Each of which will be led to his inevitable fate.
The main theme of the noble Surah is the Islamic creed, as is the case with all Makkan Surahs.
Signs of creation in Surat Az-Zumar:
(1) Description of the process of creation of the heavens and earth as having been accomplished in conformity with truth and in agreement with reality. That is to say, the creation process followed precise rules and laws, which proves that its Creator, Allah (SWT) (the glorified and exalted) is al-haqq (the Truth).
(2) The precise implied reference to the spherical shape of the earth; to its rotation around its own axis and to its travel or “running” in its orbit around the sun; and to the travel or “running” of the earth, moon and sun (and accordingly of all celestial bodies) in space until a predetermined point in time, which indicates the inevitability of the Hereafter.
(3) Affirmation that the creation of all human beings is from one person/one soul, which is that of our father Adam (AS) (peace be upon him), out of which his pair/mate/wife, our mother Hawaa’ “Eve” (AS), was created.
(4) Mention of the supply of man with eight pairs of cattle [sheep, goats, oxen and camel; a pair of each: male and female], which might be a reference to the creation of their genetic code, or to the Devine order for them to be created.
(5) Affirmation that the creation and development of the human embryo is in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.
(6) Emphasis on the fact that those who know cannot be equated to those who do not know. Moreover, the assertion that only men of hearts and minds (intellect, reason and understanding) are those who contemplate, understand and will remember (i.e. will learn a lesson from Allah’s (SWT) signs and ayahs).
(7) Reference to the fact that the origin of the water that exists underneath the earth’s surface is rainwater. Allah (SWT) directs its course through the earth to form springs and water channels. By its means, Allah (SWT) produces plants that are varied in color and kind. Then after the plants flourish, they lose their blossom, dry up after they had once flourished and lose their natural color turning yellow. Then they become brittle and crack into pieces. This contains reference to the cycle of life and death in every creature and in everything.
(8) Reference to the fact that the soul leaves the body in both states of sleep and death. At the moment of death the soul is taken from the body and kept from returning to it. While in the state of sleep, the soul is returned back to the sleeper the moment he wakes up.
(9) Affirmation that Allah (SWT) is the One who created everything and that He is the Trustee/Guardian of everything.
Each of the above points requires a separate analysis; therefore, I will focus the discussion in this article on point (5) of the above list, which appears in the sixth ayah of Surat Az-Zumar. Before presenting its scientific implication, I will review a number of interpretations from scholars of Qur’anic exegesis of this noble Qur’anic text.
The interpretation of the following ayah by scholars:
“He creates you in the wombs of your mothers: creation after creation in three veils of darkness.”
(Surat Az-Zumar (The Groups): 06).
The summary of Ibn Kathir’s interpretation (may Allah have mercy on him) of this ayah is as follows: It means, Allah (SWT) preordained you in your mother’s wombs (in stages, one after another); each of you is first a nutfa (gamete: reproductive cell, whether sperm or ovum), then it develops into a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then into a mudgha (the form of a chewed-up morsel) and then he is shaped and formed with the development of bones, flesh, nerves and veins. Afterwards, the soul is blown into him and he becomes a different creation (glorified be Allah and extolled be His glorious attributes; He is the Unique Creator).
The summary of the interpretation of the ayah in Dhilal Al Qur’an (may Allah have mercy on its author) is as follows: The development from a nutfa, into an ‘alaqa, into a mudgha, into bones. Then the embryo develops into a creation where the human element is clearly apparent. “…in three veils of darkness” means the darkness of the sack surrounding the embryo, the darkness of the womb in which this sack lays and the darkness of the abdomen in which the womb lies.
Scientific implications of this noble Qur’anic text:
I. Scientific implications in the part of the ayah that can be translated as, “He creates you in the wombs of your mothers: creation after creation…” (Surat Az-Zumar (The Grops): 06):
At a time when it was widely believed that the human embryo was created only from the blood of the menstrual cycle, or only from the male’s emitted fluid, the Qur’an was revealed affirming that both the male and female reproductive cells (gametes) are involved in the formation of the embryo. This appears in many ayahs, of which we choose some of what Allah (SWT) says, which can be translated in the following:
(1)“O mankind! If you have doubt about Resurrection, (consider that) We have created you from dust, then from a nutfa (gamete), then from a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then from a mudgha (chewed-up morsel), formed and unformed, in order that We may manifest (Our omnipotence) to you. And We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for a determined term, then we disburden the wombs of you as a (new born) baby…”
(Surat Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage): 05).
(2)“And indeed We brought man into being from an extract of clay (water and soft earthy matter). Thereafter, We created him from a nutfa (a gamete) (which we embedded) in a safe, secure lodging (the womb). Then We made the nutfa (develop) into a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then We made the ‘alaqa (develop) into a mudgha (chewed-up morsel), then We made the mudgha (develop) into bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh. Out of this We developed a different creation. Glorified be Allah and extolled be His glorious attributes; He is the Unique Creator”
(Surat Al-Mu'minun (The Believers):12-14).
(3)“It is He (Allah), Who created you from dust, then He made you from a nutfa (gamete) then from a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot)…”
(Surat Ghafir (The Forgiver):67).
(4)“And that it is He (Allah) Who created pairs, male and female, from a nutfa (gamete) when it is emitted.”
(Surat An-Najm (The Star): 45-46).
(5) “Does man think he could do what he wills (and act without restriction or limitation and neglect his duties and obligations towards Allah) and get away with it? Was he not a nutfa (gamete) in a fluid that is emitted? Which developed into a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then (Allah) molded and fashioned (him) in due proportions. And made of him the pair, male and female.”
(Surat Al-Qiyamah (The Resurrection): 36-39).
(6)“We created man from a nutfa amshaj (zygote), in order to try him, so We endowed him with (the gifts of) hearing and sight.”
(Surat Al-Insan (Man): 02).
(7)“From a nutfa (gamete) He created him and then molds him in due proportions.”
(Surat Abasa (He Frowned): 07).
The Glorious Qur’an was revealed with this clear truth, with this accurate, complete and comprehensive description of the stages of the human embryonic development. These stages do not in most cases exceed one to a few millimeters in length. This was more than 1,400 years ago, at a time when there were no means of magnification, photography or internal medical examination available. This attests to the fact that the Glorious Qur’an cannot be a human fabrication, but that it is the words of Allah (SWT), the Creator.
The majority of mankind continued to believe in their incorrect ideas that the embryo is created from the blood of the menstrual cycle as a spontaneous self-creation. This self-creation was perceived to be pre-shaped in the form of a fully developed human being, which starts as a minute version that is almost inconspicuous to the naked eye. Furthermore, they believed that with time, it starts to grow in size until the fetus size is fully developed.
The above ideas, whose source was a very vivid imagination, continued to dominate the minds of most people on earth until the end of the 17th Century AD. In 1677, the Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek was able, with the aid of his fellow scientist Louis Dominicus Hamm, to see spermatozoa (sperm cells) for the first time under a microscope. Two centuries later (at the end of the 19th Century AD), an ovum (egg cell) of a mammal was first seen. Almost at the same time, at around 1865-1869, the Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel formulated a preliminary idea of the mechanism of heredity of traits through a number of experiments and observations that he conducted on the common pea plant. From which he concluded, that the process of inheritance of traits, meaning the transmission of characteristics from one generation to the next, occurs through a number of hereditary units or factors that are infinitely small in size, which later came to be known as genes. Genes remained to be referred to simply in the form of symbols used in the clarification of the process of variety of creation until the second decade of the beginning of the 20th century. In 1912, the American biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan proved that genes are actual parts of a number of thread-like particles that are infinitely small in size and fineness and thinness, found inside the nucleus of a living cell, known as chromosomes. Chromosomes are so called due to their incredible ability to acquire the characteristic added to the cell in a much more apparent way than other parts of the cell.
Through Morgan’s study of chromosomes in human cells, he was able to identify the reproductive chromosome and suggested the idea of genetic mapping for living organisms (i.e. drawing detailed genetic maps for chromosomes) considering that chromosomes are responsible for the transmission of characteristics from parents to child.
In 1955, the American scientist James Watson and the British scientist Francis Crick were able to identify the chemical composition of chromosomes and proved that it is a molecule made of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), which determines the genetic code of each living organism.