|Question: Allah says: "O mankind! If you have a doubt about the Resurrection, (consider) that We created you out of dust, then out of sperm (nutfah), then out of a leech-like clot (`alaqah), then out of a morsel of flesh (mudghah), partly formed and partly unformed, in order that We may manifest (our power) to you; and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term, then do We bring you out as babes."
The Qur'ân mentions three stages: nutfah, alaqah, and mudghah. This is confirmed by an authentic hadîth in Bukhârî and Muslim, narrated by Ibn Mas'ûd: "The Messenger of Allah, the true and truly inspired said, "(The matter of the Creation of) a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days, and then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period."
This means that by 120 days, the fetus still looks like a mudghah. The problem is that we are able to watch every second of the life of a fetus, from conception until birth, and in reality, it resembles a human shape with all its organs by the 56th day - right in the middle of the so-called 'alaqah period. How can I believe what the Qur'ân is saying and at the same time believe every doctor in the world as well as millions of photographs and videos of the fetus?
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.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.
2. The verse that is being construed as being in conflict with science is being misinterpreted, misapplied, or misunderstood.
With respect to the timeframe of embryological development, this is an observable fact. Therefore, we must look carefully at the verse to make sure we understand it correctly. We need to ascertain exactly what the Qur'ân is saying and - more importantly - what it is not saying.
You provide the Yusuf Ali translation of verse 5 of Sûrah al-Hajj. Your only contention with this verse seems to be the timeframe given by a hadîth for the developments that the verse describes. You quote the hadîth as follows:
The Messenger of Allah, the true and truly inspired said, "(The matter of the Creation of) a human being is put together in the womb of the mother in forty days, and then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period." [Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim]This translation of the hadîth is not the most accurate. Ironically, it seems to be based more on a misquotation of the hadîth that can be found in al-Nawawî's 40 Hadîth than on the correct text that is found in Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim. It also concurs with some weak narrations of the hadîth. Based on those weak and faulty narrations, many scholars have assumed that each stage described takes forty days, giving a total of 120 days, though this is not the only way the hadîth can be understood. It is not even the clearest understanding from the wording of the authentic hadîth as it appears in Sahîh Muslim and especially in Sahîh al-Bukhârî. The 120 day interpretation also contradicts other clear and authentic texts on the matter. In the translation quoted above, we have a classic example where the translators preconceived understanding of the hadîth has influenced his translation.
In his commentary on al-Nawawî's 40 Hadîth, Jamaal al-Din Zarabozo gives the following excellent discussion of al-Nawawî's misrendering of the text. (In al-Nawawî's book, the word "nutfah" incorrectly appears in the text, forcing it to convey a certain meaning.) He writes:
In this case, the oversight may substantially change the meaning of the hadith.This is the danger of relying upon translations. It is almost impossible even for an expert translator to convey the ambiguity and multiple possible meanings that usually exist within a text. A translator has to try to understand what is being intended and render that understanding into the new language. Consequently, he cannot avoid injecting his personal opinion into the translation.
With this word (nutfah) missing, the hadith can be understood in the following manner: "Surely, each of you is brought together in his mother's abdomen for forty days. It is then a clinging object during that same period. Then it is a lump looking like it has been chewed during the same period." Hence, all of these stages take place in the first forty days. This way of understanding the hadith is not only consistent with what is considered today "scientific fact" but, more importantly, it is exactly consistent with other narrations related to this topic.
(Note that there are some narrations that explicitly state that these three stages, as well as the next, do take forty days each. However, weak narrations cannot be used as evidence and are, therefore, irrelevant.)
The vast majority of scholars and commentators of hadith understand this hadith to mean that the three stages of the fetus take place over a period of one hundred and twenty days. This leads them to the conclusion that the soul is breathed into the womb after this period.
A problem with this interpretation is that one has to do some intricate reasoning to make it conform with other narrations on this topic... [Zarabozo, Commentary on the Forty Hadith of al-Nawawi (p. 390)]
The bottom line here is that this hadith does not at all stipulate a 120 day period of time for these events. Admittedly, the language of the hadith could be understood that way, but it most definitely does not have to be understood that way. Moreover, the first sentence strongly indicates that the whole process takes forty days, since it states "Surely, each of you is brought together in his mother's abdomen for forty days". This implies that the whole process takes forty days and no more.
Other authentic hadîth are clear on this point. Take the following three from Sahîh Muslim in the section entitled Kitâb al-Qadar:
Hudhayfah b. Usayd narrated: "After the drop (nutfah) is in the womb for forty or forty-five nights, the angel comes to it and says: 'O Lord, will it be fortunate or unfortunate?' And these matters shall be written. Then he says: 'O Lord, will it be male or female?" [Sahîh Muslim]
When the drop (nutfah) passes forty-two nights in the womb, God sends to it an angel who shapes it and creates its hearing, seeing, skin, flesh, and bones. Then he says: 'O Lord, is it a male or a female?' Then your Lord decrees whatever He wills." [Sahîh Muslim]
"The drop (nutfah) remains in the womb for forty nights. Then the angel appears to it." [Sahîh Muslim]
These hadith, as well as many others, all state that the angel comes to the womb after about forty days. In the hadîth that you refer to which is sometimes interpreted to give an indication of 120 days, it clearly states that the angel appears after the three stages are completed. This means that interpreting the hadîth to mean 120 days not only contradicts scientific fact, it also directly contradicts the clear meaning of many other authentic narrations on the matter. We can with reasonable confidence say that the 120 day interpretation is just plain wrong on all counts.
Please note that the use of the word "nutfah" in these three narrations is not problematic, since, as Zarabozo explains: "It may still be referred to as a nutfah, since it still keeps part of that characteristic, even though it has passed through other stages." This is quite a common convention in the Arabic language.
It is also interesting to note that organogenesis where various organs are differentiated takes place during the sixth week of pregnancy as well as the differentiation of the gonads (though admittedly, all of this is genetically predetermined, but we are talking here about development, not genetics). This is all consistent with the three hadith from Muslim quoted above, though we need not say that these hadith are making any definite scientific claims.
You ask: "How can I believe what the Qur'ân is saying and at the same time believe every doctor in the world as well as millions of photographs and videos of the fetus?"
To this we reply: You can easily believe wholeheartedly in both. The Qur'ân does not give a time frame at all, neither 40 days nor 120 days. The authentic hadith never state 120 days anywhere, though some people understood this from the hadith you refer to, even though that is merely an unlikely interpretation that contradicts other authentic hadith which clearly give a total time frame of around 40 days.
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