By Dr Ghayur Ayub
May 31, 2017
SO far, we have looked at the Quranic knowledge about evolutionary path of life on earth which led to the creation of plants, animals and humans. Keeping that knowledge in mind, from here on, we will concentrate on human and talk about his embryological growth in uterus and anthropological development on earth. On embryological growth Quran says, “We placed it as a Nutfah (fertilized egg) in a safe (deep) lodging; Then, We created the Nutfah into an Alaqa. Then, We created the Alaqa into Muzgha. Then, We created the Muzghah into bones. Then, We clothed the bones with flesh. Then, We produced it (the human being) as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators! (23:12-14)
‘Nutfah’ is an Arabic word used for fertilized egg or zygote which is referred to as ‘Alaqa’ meaning by a leech that sticks to the womb wall and sucks nutrients like a leech. While, Muzgha means a tiny chewed lump imitating the earliest form of embryological development known only to the embryologists. This type of medical knowledge about developmental stages of a foetus in the uterus has only come to light in recent decades while it was written in the Quran about 1500 years ago. Does it mean the Quran is a book of science? No, it’s not, it is a book of signs for those who want to know and understand it. Now, let’s see what Quran says about the complex phases of human anthropological development. For example, it says: “It is He Who created (Khalaqa) you, then fashioned (Sawwaka) you perfectly, and then made you with the right proportions (Adalaka) in whatever form (such as straightened you up, to walk in an upright position) He willed, He put you together (Rakkaba) (assembled you)”(82:7-8
Quran has used four terms in relation to the anthropological stages of human development. They are; 1) ‘Khalaqa’ pointing at the stage of initial creation; 2) ‘Sawwaka’ pointing at the stage of fashioning from one form to another such as from unicellular to multi-cellular; 3) ‘Adalaka’ pointing at the right proportioning and balancing from one stage to another, such as hominid walking upright and straight; 4) Rakkaba pointing at the stage of putting together or assembling as human anthropological development carried on. These were the evolutionary stages human went through. The question is whether these changes occurred all at once, or at lengths of time? Quran answers this question by saying, “Allah is He Who perfected everything which He created and began (Bada’a) the creation of man from clay (32:7). Quran uses the word ‘began’ or ‘Bada’a’ which means that human creation happened as part of a process in time that had a beginning and not just at once. To make this point clearer Quran prefixes the anthropological stages mentioned in verses 82:7-8 with ‘Then’ (Fa) thus separating each stage in time scale.
Talking further about human creation in terms of time, Quran tells us; “He is, Who has created you (human) from clay, then he spent a term of time (away from you), and (it is) a specific term he determined. Yet, you doubt (his ability)!” (6:2) Thus, the word ‘Then’ (Fa) prefixed to each stage represents a period of time between the stages. The question is what were the durations of time-periods between those stages? Being a divine book, the Quran talks in cosmic time which is different from how we perceive time. That is why, in places, it uses the term Kun Fia Kun which in scientific terminology is a time-space Warf, where time and space and the physical laws which govern them lose their existence. While at other places, it says, “Every day with your Lord is as 1,000 years of what you reckon,” (22:47) or, “Every day with your Lord is 50,000 human years” (70:4). So, the time varies from position to position and place to place. Sometimes Quran talks about time in context of quantum physics and at other times in context of convention physics and that too in relation to space and earth. Thus, in cosmic scale, the time could extend to millennial years or a blink of an eye depending on whether it is talking in the language of convention physics or in quantum physics.
It is in this context the term ‘Then’ in between the anthological stages should be taken. In other words, we can say that millennial years passed for human to pass through the stages of fashioning, right proportioning, balancing, putting together and assembling at the end of which he stood upright, used his mental acumen and became a thinking man. Ibn Kathir explained this verse by saying that God created humans in the best image and right proportion and made them walk in a balanced way in an upright position, between the two cold places such as North and South Poles. He further explained the Arabic word ‘Rakkaba’ by saying that the fertilized egg carries all the genetic characteristics of humans all the way from the first creation. He was obviously referring to the Quranic verse which says:..“Were We then fatigued with the first creation? Yet are they in doubt with regard to a new creation” (50:15).
Dr Ghayur Ayub is senior columnist based in London.