Creation of man from a chewed up morsel
“…then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh,” (
Al-Mu'minûn (The Believers):14) Surat
This miraculous Qur’anic ayah under discussion in this article is located in the beginnings of
Al-Mu'minûn (The Believers). It is a Makkan surah and has a total number of 118 ayahs following the basmallah. The surah’s name is Al-Mu'minûn because it refers to and describes Allah's believers, assigned with designated missions on earth. It tackles a number of their noble qualities in order to embody the human example with whom Allah (SWT) would be satisfied. Surat
Tenets of Faith in
- Faith in Allah (SWT), the Only One, the Master, the Everlasting Sovereign (Who has no partner, no one resembles Him, and has no adversary, wife nor son). Faith in His angels, books, messengers, and the Last Day. The surah shows that no one shall inherit heaven (immortality without death), except for the believers whom the surah has included a number of their merits.
- The certitude that Allah (SWT) has created man out of an extract of clay. He designated the phases of fetal development one after another until it becomes a fully-grown creation. After this life, there is death then resurrection, judgment, and the punishment or reward whether to dwell forever in jannah(paradise) or in hellfire. Man was not created in vain. He will inevitably return to his Creator to be recompensed for what he has done in life.
- The verification that Allah (SWT) is the Creator of the seven heavens, the seven earths and all what is in them. Allah (SWT) sends down water from heaven in a determined quantity to dwell in the earth. He is capable of plunging the water deep in the soil and of removing it completely. Allah (SWT) created plants and different kinds of vegetation in addition to cattle. He is the Incomparable in creating everything. He is All-Knowing of everything.
- The admission of the oneness of the message from the heavens, and of the brotherhood among all Prophets whose mission was the same. Their mission is based on faith in Allah (SWT), in His angels, books, messengers, the Last Day and in predestination, whether good or evil. Their message was based as well on the fact that Allah (SWT) is far above any depiction; no one resembles Him; He has no partner, adversary, wife nor son. He is far above all attributes that characterize His creations and any other attribute that does not suit His Majesty because polytheism is disbelief in Allah (SWT). It is also the admission that the disbelievers shall never prosper.
- The certitude that Allah (SWT) is the Knower of the Unseen and the Witnessed. He is The Most Charitable of providers. He is The One Who gives life and makes to die, and to Him belongs the alternation of night and daytime. He is The Lord of the Honorable Throne.
- The sincere verification that there is no return to life after death except on the Day of Judgment because beyond the dead there is an isthmus (Barzakh) until the Day they are made to rise again. All creations are made to rise again after the two blows of the trumpet. After the first blow, all the living will be stunned (i.e., thunderstruck) and die. After the second one, all the dead shall be resurrected.
- The belief that those who prosper are the ones whose scales of good deeds weigh heavy and shall reside eternally in the Gardens of Bliss, whereas the ones whose scales of good deeds weigh light are those who lose their own selves in Hell eternally (abiding).
Signs of Creation in
1. The surah refers to the creation of man from an extract of clay.
2. It describes the phases of fetal development from the Nutfah (sperm-drop, a mingling) in an established residence to a clot then to a chewed up morsel. Then it turns into bones that are dressed in flesh until it develops into another creation.
This accurate description and precise arrangement was revealed in the Qur'an at a time when there was a prevailing belief that the fetus was created as a whole miniature version of itself from the female's menstrual blood only or from the male's sperm. The size of the fetus in such stages is extremely small; then it grows until it reaches its size on delivery.
The Qur'an described such consecutive phases where the size of the fetus varies from fractions of a millimeter to only a few millimeters in such an accurate way in the absence of all means of magnification, imaging or medical examination at that time. Thus, it stands as one of the clearest proofs of the scientific wonders of the Ever-Glorious Qur'an.
3. The surah refers to the creation of the seven heavens, an unseen truth, which modern acquired knowledge and science cannot establish due to the vastness of the universe, and its seemingly infinite dimensions to which only Allah (SWT) knows its end.
4. It also mentions how water falls from the heaven in a determined quantity, and how it dwells in the earth with utter wisdom. This is a fact that the acquired sciences have discovered only in the late nineteenth century.
5. The surah establishes a link between how rain falls from the heaven and how plants come out from the soil.
6. It describes the olive tree and how it produces oil and seasoning for those who eat from it. The surah focuses on the olive tree, which grows on
in particular. Mt. Sinai
7. The surah also refers to the lesson people can learn from the creation of cattle. Cattle have many benefits such as the milk coming out from their bellies, in addition to fats and meat of their bodies. Cattle can be used as a means of transportation and for carrying things on land just as ships are used as means of transport in the sea. These are beside other various benefits.
8. The surah mentions the sense of hearing before that of seeing or perception. Embryology hereby asserts that the hearing sense develops before the aforementioned senses. Therefore, the fetus can hear before it starts to see or perceive.
9. It acknowledges the fact that earth is almost spherical in shape and that it rotates around its own axis before the sun. It indicates this in an implicit way by referring to the alternation of night and daytime.
10. It recites the stories of a number of Prophets and Messengers, how their peoples dealt with them and what happened to them precisely. These stories are confirmed by the archeological studies made in this respect.
Since each of the above issues require an individual study, I shall focus here on resuming the description of the phases of fetal creation, as it develops from a chewed up morsel then turns to bones to become dressed in flesh as referred to in the second point of the previous list
The Scientific Implications of the Qur'anic text:
Embryology proved that the phase of the "chewed up morsel" in the creation of man is distinguished by the completion of the creation of the somites. Moreover, during the period from the fifth to the eighth week, such somites transform gradually from membranous tissues into cartilages then into bones or directly from cartilages into bones. These bones eventually become covered with flesh (muscles followed by the skin). This process is accompanied by the appearance of primary limbs that grow until they become fully developed. This takes place in a number of consecutive phases that are summarized as follows:
First: Formation of the vertebral column
During the fifth week of fetal development, the first four somites located near the uppermost part of the fetus start to join together to form a part of the base of the skull. The rest of the somites (around 40 in number) start moving to form the forty vertebrae of the vertebral column. They are divided into eight cervical vertebrae, twelve thoracic vertebrae, five lumbar vertebrae, five sacral vertebrae and ten coccygeal vertebrae, which mostly perish to leave only three vertebrae that possess the secret of human life, termed by Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) [in authentic Ahadith narrated by Al-Bukhari and Muslim] as the "Coccyx bone of the tail" In addition, the somites form the ribs of the chest cage and bones of the limbs, then cover them with flesh (muscles and skin). Each somite has a ventromedial part, which Allah (SWT) designated to form the fetus’ skeleton, and is thus called the "sclerotome". A somite has also a dorsolateral part that Allah (SWT) designated to form the flesh covering of the skeleton (muscles and skin); and is thus called the “myo-dermatome”. The fetus’ skeleton starts to be formed as the sclerotome of each opposing pair of somites moves in the direction of the notochord and the surrounding neural groove in order to envelop it completely forming the vertebrae of the vertebral column. For each vertebra, two arches grow to form a pair of ribs, one on each side of the ribcage. The vertebrae of the vertebral column are then created from chondroblasts that calcify gradually by precipitating calcium tri-phosphate via blood until they are mostly transformed into osteoblasts leaving cartilaginous discs separating the vertebrae to enhance the flexibility of the vertebral column.
Formation of the vertebral column from the sclerotomes leads to a stimulation of the rest of the somites specified for building the flesh cover. The somites start to move in turn to cover the bones with flesh (muscles and skin). The Qur'an asserted this sequence of developments one thousand four hundred years ago where Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “…then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh,” (Surat Al-Mu'minûn (The Believers):14).
At that time man was totally ignorant about the phases of embryological development and the succession of creation in such phases. This proves that the Ever-Glorious Qur'an can never be man-made and that it is indeed the words of Allah (SWT), the Creator. The Qur'an moreover confirms the prophethood of Muhammad (SAWS) to whom the Qur'an was revealed and who delivered the message. It proves also that the Prophet (SAWS) was connected with the revelation. He was a teacher of humankind with a command from the Creator of the heavens, the earth, and all that is inside them.
The bones usually start to form through a membranous phase that is created in the fifth and sixth weeks of fetal development. These membranes transform into a cartilaginous phase by the end of the sixth week. The cartilages start to calcify gradually starting from the seventh week. This process takes place in certain centers known as the
Ossification Centers or the from which the osteocytes spread to gradually replace the chondrocytes. A neural branch then extends from the notochord to each vertebrae of the vertebral column so they are on the same plane. Scleritization Centers
The bones resulting from the calcification of cartilages are known as 'Bones of cartilaginous origin'. They include most of the fetus’ bones such as the vertebral column, the ribcage, the limbs, and the base of the skull. However, some parts of the skeleton such as most of the skull's bones are formed due to the direct calcification of the membranous tissues without undergoing the cartilaginous phase. Such are known as 'Bones of membranous origin'. They are formed by the precipitation of calcium tri-phosphate from the blood carried by the blood vessels to the vault of the skull gradually in the delicate membranous layer surrounding the brain thus causing its calcification.
Second: Formation of the skull
Most of the bones of the skull, known as neurocranium, are formed of bones of membranous origin, whereas the cranial basal plate is formed of bones of cartilaginous origin. These bones are made from the highest opposite pair of somites located near the uppermost part of the fetus when the somites responsible for building the skeleton move towards the notochord. The three remaining somites join together to form the cranial base forming a foramen magnum which allows passage of the spinal cord that is connected to the brain by the Medulla Oblongata. The bones of the cranial base are connected to the bones responsible for sensory functions that include hearing, seeing, and smell. They are of cartilaginous origin. They are also connected to the facial bones, which are formed mainly from the first two branchial arches. The maxillary and mandibular processes of the first arch form the upper and lower jaws respectively. Cheekbones and a part of the temporal bones are formed in the same way. The dorsal end of the first branchial arch cartilage, also termed meckel cartilage, ossifies to form the malleus and incus of the middle ear. The dorsal end of the second branchial arch cartilage, also termed Reichert cartilage, ossifies to form the stapes of the middle ear. They are the first to be formed in the skull's bones. At the beginning, the face is considerably small in comparison with the neurocranium as the nasal sinuses are not formed yet. However, after their formation, the face begins to look human.
A few spaces remain between the relatively delicate skull bones to render the head easily shaped during labor. Such spaces are known as fontanelles. They remain with the newborn child for a period that might reach up to one year and a half after delivery before they close completely.
Third: Formation of the Ribcage
The ribs of the ribcage are formed from the growth of the transverse processes that appear on the twelve thoracic vertebrae of the vertebral column, thus forming 24 ribs for the fetus; twelve on each side of the ribcage. First, the ribs grow in a cartilaginous model on which calcification centers start to appear in order to transform them gradually into bones. Accordingly, in the sixth week of fetal development, three pairs of cartilaginous centers appear on the sclerotome of each of the twelve thoracic somites to form a cartilaginous vertebra. These centers are distributed as follows:
1. Two centers for the Vertebral Arch.
2. Two centers for the Transverse Process.
3. Two centers for the body of the Vertebra.
In the seventh week, these cartilaginous vertebrae start to ossify with the appearance of a number of ossification centers on the body of each vertebra. In the eighth week the ossification centers appear on each vertebral arch, and from the transverse processes, the ribs of the ribcage grow, twelve on each side.
Fourth: Formation of the Limbs
The upper extremity is first discretely visible as a bulge or limb bud that develops on day 26 i.e. during week 4. First, buds start to appear for the upper limbs (arms) followed by the lower limbs (legs) a few days later. In each bud of these membranous limbs, the membranous tissues start to transform into cartilages. These cartilages start then to calcify and ossify in order to turn gradually into bones by precipitation of calcium tri-phosphate that is sent to them through the blood available in all the spaces separating the chondrocytes and by replacing them. This takes place due to the extension of the blood vessels and the nerves of each limb in addition to having it covered with flesh (muscles and skin).
During the sixth week of the fetal development, when fetal height does not exceed 12 mm, two tight areas appear on each of the upper limbs. One of them determines the location of the elbow whereas the other determines the location of the wrist. In each hand, grooves appear that help locate the fingers thus designating the place of each of the brachium, forearm, hand, and fingers in each arm.
In the seventh week, the locations of knees and ankles are fixed, thus determining the place of the thigh, leg and foot in each of the two lower limbs. These developments take place when the length of the fetus has not yet reached 15 mm. After the skeleton of the limbs forms, it becomes dressed with flesh (muscles followed by skin). All of this is connected through the extension of the nerves and blood vessels.
The upper limbs (arms) of the fetus are formed from the somites (4-8) located in the cervical area, together with the first thoracic somite, and sometimes the second somite on each side. The lower limbs (legs), on the other hand, are formed from the five lumber somites on each side in addition to the coccygeal (1-4).
In accordance with the above, it is clear that during the sixth week of fetal development, the somites, which distinguish the ‘chewed up morsel’ phase, are transformed gradually into cartilages. Primary limbs also appear and transform into cartilages. In the seventh and eighth weeks, these cartilages start to calcify in order to transform gradually into bones. The ossification centers begin to appear on the limbs in the seventh week followed by the formation of the muscles of those limbs. This proves that the formation of the bones comes before the formation of the flesh (muscles and skin). The Qur'an has thus preceded all kinds of acquired human knowledge in confirming this fact. In this context, Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, “…then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh,” (
Al-Mu'minûn (The Believers):14). Surat
During the transformation of the cartilaginous skeleton into bone skeleton through ossification centers, calcium tri-phosphate precipitates in the spaces separating the chondrocytes. Later, chondroclasts are created to ‘feed’ on the chondrocytes replacing it with osteoblasts or osteocytes that develop gradually to form the skeleton of the fetus.
Such facts were only discovered during the 20th century, in the late decades to be more specific, and being mentioned in a book that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) 14 centuries ago, where the sweeping majority of the people were ignorant, proves that this book contains the words of Allah (SWT). It also asserts the prophethood of the Seal of the Prophets (SAWS). He was always connected with the revelation. He was also the teacher of humanity sent by the Creator of the earth and heavens. May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon His Messenger, His Messenger’s family and companions, and those who follow his guidance. Our last dua’a (supplication) is praise to Allah (SWT), Lord of the Worlds.