Verily We created man of potter's clay of black mud altered,
And the jinn did We create aforetime of essential fire. S. 15:26-27 Pickthall; cf. 55:15; 7:12; 38:76
Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them,
and we made EVERY living thing of water? Will they not then believe? S. 21:30 Pickthall
This pair of verses results in two contradictions around the topic of creation. Regarding the creation of man, the Qur'an actually contains several more contradictory statements which are listed and discussed in the article, What was man created from?
Regarding the creation of jinn, we need to ask two questions:
Are jinn living things or not?
Are they created of water or of fire?
The tension between the claim of being created of water or of fire is obvious. In order to escape this contradiction many Muslims will likely claim that the jinn are not included in the statement found in S. 21:30. However, that verse deliberately makes a comprehensive statement since it specifically speaks of EVERY living thing. It does not say, we created some or most of the living things of water, it insists that everything that is alive was created from water.
However, the testimony of the Qur'an is clearly that the jinn are alive. They are not dead like stones, but they are hearing, talking, moving around, and forming communities. Just like mankind they received messengers from Allah, and they can choose to be obedient or disobedient to the will of Allah. The jinn can plan and plot and try to seduce mankind to be disobedient to Allah. It is even implied that they have sexual intercourse (some of the relevant verses are quoted in Appendix 1).
All of these statements could not legitimately be made about jinn if the jinn were not alive. Therefore, jinn are indeed "living things" and according to S. 21:30 "every living thing" is made of water, resulting in a contradiction to 15:27 (and 55:15).
The above discussion was presented on the basis of the modern standard interpretation of this verse. Appendix 3 will deal with another possible interpretation, resulting in a different kind of error in the Qur'an.
Appendix 1: Jinn are living beings
Just some of many verses that prove that jinn are alive according to the Qur'an:
In the day when He will gather them together (He will say): O ye assembly of the jinn! Many of humankind did ye seduce. ... S. 6:128 Pickthall
O you assembly of jinns and mankind! "Did not there come to you Messengers from amongst you, reciting unto you My Verses and warning you of the meeting of this Day of yours?" They will say: "We bear witness against ourselves." It was the life of this world that deceived them. And they will bear witness against themselves that they were disbelievers. S. 6:130 Al-Hilali & Khan
Say: Verily, though mankind and the jinn should assemble to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the like thereof though they were helpers one of another. S. 17:88 Pickthall
And there were gathered together unto Solomon his armies of the jinn and humankind, and of the birds, and they were set in battle order; S. 27:17 Pickthall
A stalwart of the jinn said: I will bring it thee before thou canst rise from thy place. Lo! I verily am strong and trusty for such work. S. 27:39 Pickthall
And to Solomon (We subjected) the wind, its morning (stride from sunrise till midnoon) was a month's (journey), and its afternoon (stride from the midday decline of the sun to sunset) was a month's (journey i.e. in one day he could travel two months' journey). And We caused a fount of (molten) brass to flow for him, and there were jinns that worked in front of him, by the Leave of his Lord, and whosoever of them turned aside from Our Command, We shall cause him to taste of the torment of the blazing Fire. S. 34:12 Al-Hilali & Khan
And We assigned them comrades (in the world), who made their present and their past fairseeming unto them. And the Word concerning nations of the jinn and humankind who passed away before them hath effect for them. Lo! they were ever losers. S. 41:25 Pickthall
Wherein both will be those (maidens) restraining their glances upon their husbands, whom no man or jinn yatmithhunna (has opened their hymens with sexual intercourse) before them. S. 55:56 Al-Hilali & Khan; cf. 55:74
Say (O Muhammad): It is revealed unto me that a company of the Jinn gave ear, and they said: Lo! we have heard a marvellous Qur'an, S. 72:1 Pickthall
Appendix 2: What about the angels?
Since the Qur'an nowhere specifically states what angels were made of there is no direct logical contradiction between two verses like it exists for the jinn. The Islamic teaching that angels were made of light is only found in the hadith.
And it was narrated in a saheeh hadeeth that ‘Aa’ishah said: the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The angels were created from light, the jinn were created from smokeless fire and Adam was created from that which has been described to you.” (Narrated by Muslim in his Saheeh, no. 2996; also narrated by Ahmad, no. 24668; by al-Bayhaqi in al-Sunan al-Kubra, no. 18207 and by Ibn Hibbaan, no. 6155). (Source; cf. the English edition of Sahih Muslim, Book 042, Number 7134, but in the latter version the verb is mistranslated as "born" instead of "created"; Arabic version)
However, just as for the jinn, it should be obvious that angels are alive and should therefore be included in S. 21:30 as being "living things", implying that they are made of water as well (contradicting Muhammad's words).
Moreover, being made of matter (water) implies that angels are also part of the physical world. But doesn't Islam teach that angels are transcendent beings and not part of the physical material universe? How can that be if they are made of the same stuff as the creatures in this world?
Appendix 3: Modern Muslim interpreters got it all wrong?
There are literally hundreds of Muslim webpages (and also print publications) that speak about the scientific miracle of the Qur'an. S. 21:30, 24:45 and 25:54 are used as proof texts for two different miracles of the Qur'an. The first claim is that these verses are allegedly teaching that all life originated in water, and that this is confirmed by modern science (e.g. this page). The second claim, based on these same verses, is that "All living things consist mostly of water; for example, the human body is about two-thirds water ..." (e.g. this page).
Ibn Abbas, on the other hand, has the following to say about S. 21:30.
(Have not those who disbelieve) in Muhammad (pbuh) and the Qur'an (known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece) We did not send down to it a drop of rain or grow vegetation on the earth which were aligned with each other (then We parted them) and then separated them and singled them out from each other through rain and plants, (and We made every living thing of water) We made of water from the male and female everything that requires water? (Will they) i.e. the people of Mecca (not then believe) in Muhammad (pbuh) and in the Qur'an? (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs; source; bold emphasis mine)
In other words, this verse does neither teach that life originated in water, nor that living beings were created from water, nor that the bodies of animals and humans consist mostly of water. These dozens of modern Muslim propagandists for the scientific miracles of the Qur'an are wrong. They are ignorant of what the Qur'an means by that formulation, or they are dishonest and deliberately distorting its meaning in order to fabricate alleged scientific miracles. According to Ibn Abbas, it merely means that every living being received its life by a sexual act that mixes the fluids of the male and the female. But such a statement is not a scientific miracle by any stretch, it is merely a statement of common sense and common knowledge, even at the time of Muhammad. This verse does not talk at all about original creation (at the beginning), or a chemical analysis of our bodies, but about the ongoing creation of life through sexual reproduction.
However, even though this interpretation of the expression "made of water" implies that S. 12:30 would then be true for the vast majority of animals, it still spells trouble since it explicitly says that "EVERY living thing" propagates by way of the emission of water (sperm). Statements using the words "all" or "every" are nearly always wrong since one can usually find exceptions.
In fact, there are plenty of problems caused by this interpretation of S. 21:30.
Since it can hardly be argued that jinn or angels are not living things, does the Qur'an therefore imply that jinn and angels are all the result of sexual reproduction? Would not most Muslims be horrified about this implication at least in regard to angels? Sexually reproducing jinn, on the other hand, seem to be acceptable:
Ibn Taymiyah said that Iblis is the father of all jinn, citing Surat-Al Kahf as proof of this.
... Will you, then, take him and his progeny as your guardians rather than Me although they are your open enemies? What an evil substitute are these wrong-doers taking!- (Surat Al-Kahf) 18:50
Ibn Taymiyah believed that the term “progeny” implied that the jinn are Shaytan’s children. (Iblis, source, accessed 31 March 2009)
However, here is the problem: Are jinn dying? Isn't, in particular, Iblis taught to still be alive? If so, then he is a living thing who cannot have been made from water (by sexual reproduction) since he is the father of all jinn and has therefore to be a direct creation by Allah (like Adam, the father of mankind). Therefore, Iblis is a living thing not "made of water" and thus contradicting S. 21:30.
What about plants? Plants grow and die, so they are living things. But if "water" represents the sperm-drop of the male (a fluid in the case of humans and many animals), we have a problem with the plants. The pollen of plants is more like dust and can hardly be called "water". Even if we equate "dusting" with "watering", there still is a huge problem with plenty of species of living things that reproduce in an asexual way as do various plants, fungi, amoebae and most single-cell organism like bacteria (simply consult Wikipedia on Asexual Reproduction). But even if we restrict ourselves to animals, there are annelid worms and sea stars which can and often do reproduce by fragmentation, implying that many individual worms and sea stars came into being without being "made of water". Moreover, see the related contradiction article, Everything in Pairs?
Either way, whether we want to follow the modern interpretation or the classical interpretation of Ibn Abbas, we are left with contradictions. If we decide to follow the modern interpretation that all living things were made of water in the sense of original creation we have the logical contradiction between S. 15:27 and 21:30 outlined in the first part of this article. But if we accept the interpretation of Ibn Abbas then this verse of the Qur'an contradicts scientific fact since there are quite a few living things that do not reproduce in a sexual way.
1. In regard to Adam, Muslims could argue that even though Adam was not made from water in the sense of Ibn Abbas' interpretation of S. 21:30, he does not pose a problem for this verse, since Adam died and is therefore no longer a living thing, i.e. he is naturally not included in S. 21:30. The same argument would apply to Eve. But what about the Jesus of the Qur'an? Jesus never died since he was raised to heaven alive (S. 4:158) and is believed to still be alive with Allah (and to come back at the end of time and die only after he has established the supremacy of Islam over the whole earth). But Jesus was not conceived (made) of the water of male sperm. Would he not therefore be another instance of contradiction to S. 21:30?
Contradictions in the Qur'an
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