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The Quran: The Test of Science and a Standing Challenge (Part II D)



By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam

August 13, 2013

In this article I will talk only about embryology, because after reading the Quranic verses and the Saheeh Hadiths regarding embryo, Professor Keith Moore, Professor of Embryology and Chairman of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Toronto, in Canada, admitted that the Quran has to be a revelation from Almighty God and Muhammad (pbuh) has to be a true prophet.

He also said that most of the information concerning embryology mentioned in the Qur’an and the Sahih Hadith is in perfect conformity with modern science, but there were also a few verses which he could not conclusively comment upon. Neither could he say that they were right, nor could he say that they were wrong; because he himself did not know about them. These verses were the first two verses of the Quran which were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

“Proclaim! (or Read!) In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created – Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood.” [Al-Qur’an 96:1-2]

Two of the major reasons why translating the Quran is very difficult are:  first that it is from God and God knows best; and second, the Quran was revealed in Arabic and one word in Arabic is filled with several meanings. It is very difficult to choose which one is the right meaning.

The Arabic word used in the above verse is ‘alaqah’, which besides meaning a congealed clot of blood, it also means something which clings and a leech-like substance. (Another miracle is that besides looking giving a leech-like substance appearance, it also acts like a leech- it acts as a blood sucker from the mother through the placenta. That is how it gets its nourishment.)1, 2

The following verse gives the stages in perfect accuracy.

“And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm-drop [nutfah] in a firm lodging [i.e., womb]. Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot [alaqah], and We made the clot [alaqah] into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is God, the best of creators.”  Qur’ān 23:12-14 

In the first line the Arabic word used is ‘nutfah’, which literally means ‘a singly drop’ of fluid. We know from advances in modern science that in one seminal emission there are about 200 to 300 million sperm cells, and out of these staggering numbers only one is sufficient to conceive. What we came to know recently in science, the Quran mentions this over 1400 years ago. 3

Allah says that the sperm drop is placed in a firm lodging. Today we come to know that the uterus is well protected from the posterior by the spinal column supported firmly by the back muscles. The embryo is further protected by the amniotic sac containing the amniotic fluid. Thus the foetus has a well protected dwelling place.4

The Quran says:

“Does man think that he will be left neglected? Had he not been a sperm [nutfah]  from semen [manii] emitted? Then he was a clinging clot [alaqah], and [God] created [his form] and proportioned [him]. And made of him two mates, the male and the female. Is not that [Creator] Able to give life to the dead?”  Qur’ān 75:36-40

“And that He creates the two mates - the male and female - From a sperm-drop [nutfah] when it is emitted.”  Qur’ān 53:45-46

Another scientific miracle is mentioned in these verses. We now know that the sex of the child is determined by the male. The female has XX sex-chromosome, while the male has XY sex-chromosome.  The Quran says very clearly that from the nutfah (a sperm drop) male and female sex is determined. If the sperm carries an X chromosome then the sex will be female (because the ovum always contains X chromosomes); however, if the sperm carries a Y chromosome then it will be a male. 5 (On a side note- if anyone is to be blamed for the sex of the child it should be the father, but in India still it is the mother who bears this burden of “guilt”)

A Jew came to the Prophet and asked, ‘O Muhammad. Tell me from what thing man is created.’ The Prophet said, ‘O Jew. From both Male and Female Nutfah man is created.’ [Musnad Ahmad]

Before 19th century this fact was unknown, that zygote, which is formed by the coming together of male and female cells i.e., sperm and ovum respectively.

Another important revelation is that of genes.

‘From what substance did He create him? From a sperm-drop [nutfah] He created him and destined [qadr] for him.’  Qur’ān 80:18-19

It is a very common fact that genes are responsible for almost every physical characteristic. In a single male nutfah, there are 23 chromosomes. They contain the genes which determine every type of characteristics the body has. 6

The other meaning of ‘alaqah’ is “suspended thing”. Modern embryology has confirmed this statement. The third meaning of ‘alaqah’ is blood clot. We find that the external appearance of the embryo and its sacs during the ‘alaqah’ stage is similar to that of a blood clot. This is due to the presence of relatively large amounts of blood present in the embryo during this stage.7 Also during this stage, the blood in the embryo does not circulate until the end of the third week. Thus, the embryo at this stage is like a clot of blood. So, all three meanings of the word ‘alaqah’ fit in perfectly to the established modern science. 8

The next stage mentioned in the Quran is the ‘mudgah’. The word literally means “chewed substance”. If one were to take a piece of gum and chew it in his or her mouth and then compare it with an embryo at the mudghah stage, we would conclude that the embryo at the mudghah stage acquires the appearance of a chewed substance. This is because of the somites at the back of the embryo that “somewhat resemble teeth-marks in a chewed substance.”9

This mudghah is transformed into bones (izâm). The bones are clothed with intact flesh or muscles (lahm). Then Allah makes it into another creature. All these are established facts. 10, 11

The Quran says:

“He makes you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.” [Al-Qur’an 39:6]

According to Prof Keith Moore, the three veils of darkness in the Qur’an refer to:

(i)      anterior abdominal wall of the mother; (ii) the uterine wall; (iii) the amnio-chorionic membrane.

The Quran says:

“And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (and understanding).” [Al-Qur’an 32:9]

“Verily We created man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him: so We gave him (the gifts), of Hearing and Sight.” [Al-Qur’an 76:2]

“It is He Who has created for you (the faculties of) hearing, sight, feeling and understanding: little thanks it is ye give!” [Al-Qur’an 23:78]

Now we know that the first sense to develop in a developing human embryo is hearing. The foetus can hear sounds after the 24th week. Subsequently, the sense of sight is developed and by the 28th week, the retina becomes sensitive to light.

The Quran says:

“Now let man but think from what he is created! He is created from a drop emitted – Proceeding from between the back bone and the ribs.” [Al-Qur’an 86:5-7]

Some may say that the Quran is wrong here because gonads are in the pelvic region. But this is not totally correct. In embryonic stages, the reproductive organs of the male and female, i.e. the testicles and the ovaries, begin their development near the kidney between the spinal column and the eleventh and twelfth ribs. 12 Later they descend; the female gonads (ovaries) stop in the pelvis while the male gonads (testicles) continue their descent before birth to reach the scrotum through the inguinal canal. 13 Even in adulthood after the descent of the reproductive organs, these organs receive their nerve supply and blood supply from the Abdominal Aorta, which is in the area between the backbone (spinal column) and the ribs. The lymphatic drainage and the venous return also go to the same area.14, 15,16

The basic question is how Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) could have known all of this. Hamm and Leeuwenhoek were the first scientists to observe human sperm cells (spermatozoa) using an improved micro-scope in 1677 (more than 1000 years after Prophet Muhammad).

In 1981, during the Seventh Medical Conference in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, Professor Moore said:

“It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Qur’ān about human development. It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammad from God, because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of God.”


2.       Hickman, Integrated Principles of Zoology.





7.       Moore, The Developing Human, Moore, 5th ed., p. 65

8.       Moore, The Developing Human, Moore, 3rd ed., p. 66, from Histology, Leeson and Leeson.

9.       Moore and Persaud, The Developing Human, 5th ed., p. 82 – from Professor Hideo Nishimura, Kyoto University, Japan.




13.     Werdelin L, Nilsonne A (January 1999). "The evolution of the scrotum and testicular descent in mammals: a phylogenetic view". J. Theor. Biol. 196 (1): 61–72. doi:10.1006/jtbi.1998.0821. PMID 9892556

14.     Descent of the testicles. P.Z. Myers. Pharyngula blog. 2004.


16.     Quran and Modern Science: Compatible or Incompatible

URL of Part (II C):,-new-age-islam/the-quran--the-test-of-science-and-a-standing-challenge-(part-ii-c)/d/12991