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Alleged contradiction between Qur’ân [23:14] and embryology

Published: 27/08/2011 11:30:00 AM GMT
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Allah says: “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 be Allah, the Best of creators.” [23:14]

There seems to be a scientific error in this verse. According to modern embryologists including Professor Moore, the tissue from which bone originates - known as mesoderm - is the same tissue as that from which muscle (flesh) develops. Thus bone and muscle begin to develop simultaneously, rather than sequentially (as the Qur’an seems to be telling us).

The idea that bones are clothed with flesh is not only scientifically completely wrong, but seems to be directly copied from the ancient Greek doctor Galen’s hypothesis.

Please clarify this matter for me.


Answered by

the Scientific Research Committee - IslamToday.net

It is inconceivable that the true word of Allah could ever contradict scientific fact, since the universe is Allah's creation, and Allah fully knows what He created. A Muslim, when faced with what appears to be a contradiction between the Qur’ân and a scientific fact knows there can only be two possibilities:

1. That which is being construed as a scientific “fact” is not in actuality a fact.

2. The verse that is being construed as being in conflict with science is being misinterpreted, misapplied, or misunderstood.

Any claim being made that there is a contradiction between science and the Qur’ân has to be evaluated individually. The factuality of the scientific claim needs to be assessed as well as the true meaning of the verse that is supposedly at variance with it.

With respect to the issue of the concurrent development of bone and muscle tissue, this is a directly observable fact. Therefore, we must look carefully at the verse to ascertain exactly what the Qur’ân is saying and – more importantly – what it is not saying.

You provide this translation for the following verse:

“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 be God, the Best of creators.” [Sûrah al-Mu’minûn: 14]

You further contend that this verse contradicts what we know in embryology that the bone and muscle develop simultaneously from the mesoderm.

When we read the verse, it says that the bones are created from the “little lump of flesh” (mudghah). This in no way implies that bones are created before flesh and then this little naked skeleton is given flesh. It actually more clearly implies a concurrent development, since some sort of flesh is always there from the start. Nowhere in the verse does it say that the bones have finished forming. Nowhere does it even imply that muscle tissue is not developing concurrently. The wording of the verse is quite vague on this point and what it says is quite compatible with what we know of embryology. All that the verse is stating is that flesh – we might venture to assume differentiated muscle tissue, since the Arabic word lahm (meat, flesh) is generally used exclusively for muscle tissue – is attached to bones as the bones begin to form. Allah says: “…then We clothed the bones with flesh.” Allah does not say: “Then we created flesh and clothed the bones with it.”

Therefore, the problem that you cite stems from assumptions being made about the verse’s meaning and not from what the verse is actually saying.

Source: Islam Today




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