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Summary of 10.18 "The Quran and Modern Science VI - Geology, Botany, Zoology"

Last week we continued to examine the natural phenomena which were discovered by science hundreds of years after the Quran was revealed.  More specifically we talked about the role of mountains in stabilizing the earth’s crust that they acted as steaks.  We talked about the movement of the shadow and how the Quran makes clear reference to the rotation of the earth.  We also talked about the waves under the sea which build with layers upon layers.  Some discussion took place about the vegetation kingdom with a focus on the ecological balance, fertilization of plants and the process of germination or splitting of the seed.  Then we discussed the animal kingdom and that the Quran frequently refers to animals living in communities as we find in Surah 6 in the Quran that there is no animal that walks the earth or bird that flies without being in communities like us.  We discussed bees and ants last time and how they have been observed by scientists.  Birds also move in groups.  There is something that is fascinating about birds and the Quran makes reference to it in Surah 16 and 76.  Both Surahs reference the divine order that the birds follow and that Allah has set the law that gives them the ability to fly and perform their functions.  In the light of modern science we can understand these passages more clearly.

We are told by scientists that many species of birds have a very high degree  of programing in their movements.  This has been particularly noted in migratory birds.  Scientists say that in the genetic codes of these birds which is found in their cells and which is particularly active in the nervous cells there is a complete and complex program which guides those birds during lengthy trips.  The thing that amazed scientists is the fact that many times small birds that never experienced flying long distance or for long time frames without any guide to show them the way go through very lengthy and complex trips.  Scientists wonder how they do this.  Pilots at times make mistakes in their navigation so how come these small birds have all these directives to follow their specific direct path?  Some scientists refer to the mutton bird which lives in the Pacific and they say that this bird makes a trip that sometimes extends to 15500 miles and it makes this trip in a specific shape.  Dr. Bucaille commented on this and said that it is obvious that there are detailed and complex instructions which are found in the nervous cells of the birds.  The Quran hinted to all of this long before scientists found this information.

The question of milk production of milk in mammals (which applies to humans too) in Surah (16:66) in the Quran Allah says “And verily in cattle (too) will ye find an instructive sign. From what is within their bodies between excretions and blood, We produce, for your drink, milk, pure and agreeable to those who drink it.”  The Quran says that the initial production of this milk comes from batn which means bellies or interior of the body (not necessarily the belly).  This is a mistake that some fall into by translating it as belly.  Second, it says that this comes from a conjunction of falth which means the content of the intestine and some translate it as excrements which is not accurate.  How does modern science help us understand the secret of this expression in the Quran that the milk comes from the conjunction of the intestine and blood?  When an animal or human eats the food goes through a series of chemical transformation which occurs along the entire digestive track.  When the food substance passes through its walls to the systemic circulation the passage of this food may take place through the portal of circulation which takes it through the liver and back or it can through the lymphatic vessels.  Every nutrient passes through the blood stream or the circulatory system.

The constituents of milk are secreted in mammals by mammary glands that produce milk are nourished by the product of digestion which comes from the content of the intestine and is carried through the blood stream to the glands.  In that sense the blood acts as the collector and conductor of these nutrients so that the milk can eventually be secreted.  Dr. Bucaille says that these discoveries are very recent and are only understood in the light of modern chemistry and the physiology of digestion.  It was totally unknown in the 7th era.  This is why he says that the notion of the circulatory system was discovered by Harvey 1000 years after the revelation of the Quran.  This is why he concludes in page 197 of his book “I consider that the existence in the Quran of the verse referring to these concepts (formation of milk) can have no human explanation on account of the period in which they were formulated.”


10.19  The Quran and Modern Sciences VII - Human Reproduction I

Host:  What is the extent of Quranic coverage on the concept of Human Reproduction?

Jamal Badawi:

There are quite a few passages in the Quran that deal with human reproduction.  A casual observer would not just open the Quran and look for the chapter on human reproduction.  The Quran is not a text book in medicine, chemistry or science but has its own style.  Like many other topics in the Quran we find the mention of any topic interspersed in different contexts and different presentation because the purpose of it is different from textbooks.  However we notice that in many of the translations of the Quran, or commentaries there were lack of accuracy in conveying the meaning that is really in the text.  While presenting the different concepts we try to stop and analyze the origin of words in order to make sure there is no problem with translation or commentary which were based on the level of understanding of the commentator but not the text.  It is amazing to notice that the Quran has dealt with a variety of subjects that were only understood in recent decades (late 17th century till present).

The description is very sober and free from any of the myths and mistakes that were common at the time of the revelation of the Quran or afterwards.  This includes a variety of things such as the formation of the sex organs, the function of the uterus and how it is protected, the process of fertilization, the fact that both male and female contribute to the process, the embryological stages and many other things that were not known scientifically till much later.  There are a couple of useful references on this.  One is the book by Dr. Maurice Bucaille The Bible, Quran and Science.  The other is equally interesting and goes into greater depth regarding the scientific side of human reproduction as it is related to the Quran by Doctor Muhammad Albar which is only available in Arabic which is titled The Creation of the Human Between Medicine and the Quran.  We will use both of these references in the discussion of this topic.


Host:  What was believed about embryology before recent discoveries?

Jamal Badawi:

Aristotle had the idea that embryo is formed from the menstrual blood an that the human sperm only acts as the enzyme acts on the cheese as a catalyst.  We won’t go back that far but many of the myths about human reproduction which existed and persisted hundreds of years after the Quran while the Quran made corrections to them.  An example as Bucaille mentions in the year 1651 did Harvey discovered new things in the scientific study of embryology that all life comes from an egg.  Dr. Albar gives details on that subject where he says that it was not till 1670 that it was discovered that there was an ovum and human sperm.  But even then scientists were not quite clear as to what role they played in the process of human reproduction.  In fact they did not realize that the sperm and egg are both cells just like other cells in the body.  The notion of cells being the biological base of the human body was not known till 1839.

It was only towards the end of the 17th century in 1694 the theory which was very common was that the embryo exist in a miniature form inside the sperm.  The illustration would be that there was a miniature human being in the head of the sperm.  In 1745, another theory which existed before Wegener which that the sperm had no role in the formation of the embryo and they believed that inside the egg there was a miniature fetus.  During the 18th century another equally strange myth, the Quran was revealed in the 7th century, it says the ovaries of Eve had in her ovaries the seed of all human beings one inside the other.  It was only towards the end of the 19th century that it was possible to actually observe how the sperm fertilizes the human egg.  If we review what the Quran says hundreds of years before these discoveries one would not be able to help being really astonished.  Specialists would perhaps be even more astonished.


Host:  What did the Quran have to say about Human Reproduction?

Jamal Badawi:

First let us look at the issue that appears in (86:5-7) “Now let man but think from what he is created!  He is created from a drop emitted-Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.”  Before we explain this I need to point out some pointers regarding the wording.  The last part says that the liquid comes from between the backbone and the ribs.  There are two key words that appear in this situation: one is sulb which is properly translated as the spine.  The word taraib in Arabic as Dr. Albar refers to is used in some old Arabic poetry doesn’t only refer to women as some people understood but refers to the ribs.  Some people misunderstood that and mistranslated the Aya and translated the citation to mean that the human is fashioned from something that issues from the backs of men and the chests of women.

This is erroneous on the basis of the structure of the sentence because the text of the passage in the Quran doesn’t say that it comes from the spine and the ribs but it says that it comes from between and that is why Dr. Albar refers to some of the old commentators like Al Hassan Al Basri who did not misunderstood it but said from in between which means that there is something that comes from in-between the spinal cord the rib of the man and the spinal cord and the rib of a woman.  According to modern science the area between the spinal column and the rib is the area which is very crucial in the formation and nourishment of the sex organs of both males and females.


Host:  Can you elaborate on what happens in this area between the spine and the ribs?

Jamal Badawi:

There are two explanations for that and in Dr. Albar’s book we find a number of interesting illustrations.  One photograph we see a comparison between the initial formation of the male testicle and the female ovaries.  It can be easily seen that the photograph it shows the initial stages of the male testicle and one of the ovaries of a female and both are 6 weeks old.  Both look almost identical and it is difficult to make a distinction between them (except by a specialist).  In the second photograph which shows the development of the male testicle of an embryo which is 4 months old and another picture after it has developed at the age of 7 months in the embryological stage where it shows clearly how the testicle moves to the lower abdomen.  In the third set of pictures we se the ovaries of a female with the first one is in the second month in the embryological stage and the other one is in the 7th month and again the basic outline and features of the reproductive function with the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.

The crucial reproductive organs of both males and females begin their development in the kidney region which is between the middle of the spinal cored and the lower ribs.  This shows the accuracy of the Quranic description of the lower ribs and the spinal cord.  This is one explanation of the initial formation of the testicles and the ovaries.  Another equally important explanation of why the passage in the Quran ties this area with the reproductive function is that even after the baby is born and the baby grows the nourishment received by the ovaries as well as the testicles comes from the same region which is called the aorta.  In addition, the nerves that supply both the testicles and the ovaries come from the same area (between the 11th and 12th rib).  Again this is the same area that the Quran refers to as being between the spinal column and the ribs.  Today we can easily understand that what is meant when it says from between the spinal cord and rib is most astonishing as it was made over a thousand years before it was even discovered.


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