Here is something I wrote up but never had time to finish, feel free to send me your comments. -- Milind Saraph firstname.lastname@example.org I see that the embryology in the Quran has again appeared in SRI. Some time ago the I was involved in a discussion about whether the Quran contains details about Embryology which could not have been known at that time. Please note focus of this note: it is about details which "could not have been known" and not whether the details were (or not) known. I have not had time to tie up some loose ends and I would appreciate any comments and suggestions. To those who question my motives -- I have always been fascinated by claims of existence of knowledge acquired by non-traditional means such as through mysticism or direct communication from a supernatural entity (entities). I have tried to ensure that I dont insult anyone's beliefs, even inadvertently. If I have not succeeded in my attempt, let me know why you feel so. I was given the following references and sent some IPC pamphlets  by mail. > Moore, Keith, L.: The Developing Human. Clinically oriented >embryology. 3rd Ed., W.B. Saunders, 1982 I also looked at the more recent edition of this book; the material in the section on historical perspective has not changed. So I am using the new edition (pages 8-9). Here are some highlights from : 1. Ancient Views about Embryology Garbha Upanishada in Sanskrit, supposed to have beeen written in 1416 B.C, correct in sequence of appearance of structure, incorrect in dates. Hippocrates, considered the Father of Medicine made important contributions to Embryology in fifth century B.C. Aristotle, considered the Father of Embryology wrote a treatise on Embryology in fourth century B.C. His treatise contains the same erroneous idea that the embryo developed from a formless mass as that in Garbha Upanishad. Galen wrote a book entitled "On the Formation of the Foetus" in first century A.D. 2. Embryology in the Middle Ages "It is, however cited in the ... the Quran .., that human beings are produced from a mixture of secretions from the male and the female. Several references are made to the creation of human being from a nufta (small drop). It is also stated that the resulting organism settles in the womb like a seed, six days after the beginning. (The human blastocyte begins to implant in the uterus about six days after fertilization.) Reference is also made to leech-like appearance of the early embryo. (The four week embryo shown looks like a leech or a bloodsucker.) The embryo is also said to resemble a "chewed substance." (The somites of older embryos somewhat resemble teethmarks in a chewed substance.) For more information ... The references he cites are: his article in JIMA and "The Human Embryo in Arabic Scientific and Religious Thought", by B. Musallam. I could not find this book by Musallam in the library but I did find his other book:  Musallam, "Sex and Society in Islam", Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization, ISBN 0 521 24874 4. > Moore, Keith L. and Azzindani, Abdul Majeed A.: The Developing >Human. Clinically oriented embryology with Islamic Additions, 3rd >Ed., Dar Al-Qiblah and W.B. Saunders I could not find this one in our library, neither does it show up in Library of Congress catalog. Most probably it is same as  with annotations and commentary as it relates to the Quran. > Moore, Keith L.: "A scientist's interpretation of references to >embryology in the Qur'an." JIMA 18:15 (1986) (Journal of the Islamic >Medical Association of US and Canada) I have no access to this journal. If someone is willing to mail me a copy I will pay for the copying and mailing charges. > Albar, Muhammed Ali: Human Development as revealed in the Holy >Qur'an and Hadith. Illustrated with color photographs. Contact the >IPCI (USA), P.O. Box 218, Woodside, New York, 11377-0218 I did not expect to find  in our library and did not. > This is the Truth. (Video tape) Scientific Signs in the Qur'an >and Hadith, from the Creation of the Universe to Human Embryology. >Contact IPCI at address above. Although it may not help much, I am willing to look at the transcript of this tape if someone has it. I have a copy of the following which was sent to me by mail:  The Developing Human according to the Quran, the Hadith and Modern Embryology, 5 part pamphlet distributed by IPCI. I will skip ,  and . I will focus on  and . Together these may cover all the details. My thoughts on passages from Moore's book  --------------------------------------------- A. "human beings are produced from a mixture of secretions from the male and the female.." Aristotle believed that a male contributes the principle of organization whereas a female contributes only matter. He solved the problem of resemblance to the mother by positing that this is determined by the degree to which the material contribution from mother resists formation. Galen (first century A.D.) disagrees with Aristotle and argues that the female semen, just like the male semen, contributes both to the matter and the form of the foetus. This idea had been around at least for 600 years. (See Chapter 3 from Musallam's book ). B. "Several references are made to the creation of human being from a nufta (small drop)." From , page 54: "The stages of development which the Quran and hadith established for the believers agreed perfectly with Galen's scientific account. Galen spoke of four periods in the formation of the embryo: (1) seminal matter; (2) as a bloody form (...) (3) the foetus acquires flesh and solidity (...) and .. (4) all the organs attain their full perfection.. ... Arabic science employed the same Quranic terms to describe the Galenic stages ....." C "leech-like appearance of the early embryo. ... resemble a "chewed substance." Factual observation. D. "It is also stated that the resulting organism settles in the womb like a seed, six days after the beginning." This is the only specific fact which Moore implies could be found in the Quran. Musallam provides a translation of the relevant verses on pages 53-54. I looked at "History of Embryology" by Joseph Needham where he provides translated verses (translated by his colleague). I searched the online translation by Shakir. I could not find any verse which could be considered to imply this. I need to look at  to understand how Moore comes to this conclusion. Needham characterizes the Quranic description as "seventh century echo of Aristotle and Ayurveda." (Ayurveda is the Indian Medical system). Needham credits Galen for consolidating biogical knowledge of antiquity and transmitting it to Middle ages. My thoughts on IPCI pamphlets : --------------------------------- I will focus only on the Quranic verses, which all the Muslims believe to have been divinely guaranteed to remain free of error. Pamphlet 1: 1.A "The Hadiths have also been recorded and preserved by the will of God by men who used the strictest of methods for recording the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upong him)." This is not really relevant to the discussion. But does this mean that the Hadith are protected against error by the divine will? 2.B "Before Islam and a long time afterwards, it was predominantly believed that the embryo originated from the mestrual blood." This is simply untrue, as far as "before Islam" is concerned. See Galen's ideas which were predominant then. Pamphlet 2: 2.A "He created you in the wombs of your mothers from one stage to another and all along three veils of darkness surround you." (39.6) The pamphlet says: "This probably refers to (i) the maternal anterior abdominal wall, (ii) the uterine wall, (iii) the amniochoric membrane." I will withold my comment until I read more on development of human embryo and also find out if the number three has any significance in a metaphorical sense. Also I need to find out whether there are indeed only 3 layers and if there are, whether they are observable as 3 layers. 2.B "It is an established fact that the fertilized ovum is implanted in the uterine mucosa about six days after fertilization, and anatomically speaking, the egg is indeed something which clings." Here again is a reference to six days but I could not find any verse which implies this. 2.C "Then out of the chewed-like substance partly formed and partly unformed.." (22.5) The pamphlets interpretes this to mean all the organs are formed but their functions are yet to appear. To me, this seems more like an observation of the nature of chewed-like substance. 2.D "Then out of the leech-like structure We made a chewed-like substance, then we made out of that chewed-like substance a skeleton (bones)." This stage occurs at 40 days and again is just an observation. 2.E "... Then We clothed the bones with flesh (LAHM) then We developed out of him another creation (NASHAH). .... " (23:14) This stage occurs at the seventh week. This again is an observation. Pamphlet 3: There are no references to the Quranic verses. Pamphlet 4: 4.A "They ask about (intercourse during) mestruation. Say: 'It is a harm, so keep away from women during mestruation and do not approach them until they are clean.'" I dont know what the prevailing view was in various cultures during that time. There is no reference to other verses. Pamphlet 5: This refers to some verses from the Quran regarding punishment for those who reject God's signs. I am skipping these because these are not relevant. This pamphlet provides testimony from 5 individuals. Prof Moore has no hesitation in accepting the statement "The Quran is the Word of God." Tejasen embraced Islam. E. Marshal Johnson believes that Divine Intervention was involved. Simpson believes that "the knowledge in the Quran is derived from God." Persaud agrees with Moore. Implicitly this an "argument from authority." It is true that we have to rely on experts in several day to day endeavours, it is humanly impossible to acquire knowledge and expertise, and verify everything for yourself. However, the authority of these individuals stops at an accurate description of the development process of a human embryo. Conclusion: ---------- The Quranic view of development of a human embryo agrees very well with the Galenic view. Galen wrote his book in the first century A.D. and 600 years is more than adequate for this dominant view to diffuse to the middle east. Whether it did or not is not the issue and I doubt whether it is possible to assert one way or other. The point is simply this: are there any details in the Quran regarding human development which could not have been known at that time? My tentative answer is no. There are two things which need further investigation: one factoid "about 6 days" which Moore and the pamphlets refer to and a comment about "three veils of darkness." -- Milind Saraph
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