This chapter begins with theology and metaphysical claims concerning Muhammad which have nothing to do with science. The authors of this chapter attempt to extricate Muhammad from the fact that he, according to the Qur'an, did not perform any miracles. He also did not provide us with any prophecies (detailed predictions of future events), at least none that actually came true. The last hope that Muslims have, to convince non Muslims of the truth claims of Muhammad, is the "miracle" of the Qur'an. The literary "eloquence" of the Qur'an is considered, by many Muslims, to be miraculous. When many non Muslims (including myself) read translations of the Qur'an they are not usually impressed with its style or substance. Our Muslim friends then tell us that the Qur'an can only be read properly in the Arabic language. This raises two problems. First, there is no reason why foreign literature, when translated into other languages, cannot retain its eloquence, style, and substance if properly translated. Second, if the Qur'an is the message for all of mankind, as the authors claim in this chapter, the message of the Qur'an should have eloquence, as well as a spiritual impact, regardless of the language into which it is translated.
Therefore, proving the existence of the "scientific miracle" of the Qur'an is the last best hope of Muslims to prove the divine origins of the book. The favorite "scientific miracle" that Muslims most often cite is the Qur'an's discussion of embryology. That is why this topic covers five chapters in this book!
If we ask a Jew or Christian to show us the miracles of prophet Musa (Moses) or Isa (Jesus), may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon them all, they both would submit that it is not within human power to redemonstrate any of those miracles now. Moses' cane cannot be created nor can prophet Jesus be invoked to raise people from the dead. For us today, these miracles are nothing more than historical reports. But if a Muslim is asked about the greatest miracle of the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), he can readily show his book, the Qur'an.
In passing, one would like to give credit where credit is due. It is the daily experience of millions of Christians that God answers prayers and demonstrates His love to us in ways that can only be described as miraculous. Indeed, just as the Muslim might claim that the Qur'an is an ever-present miracle, so the Christian can point to the enduring love of God and the salvation which He offers us as being ever-present miracles too.
We present Professor Emeritus Keith Moore, one of the world's prominent scientists of anatomy and embryology. We asked Professor Moore to give us his scientific analysis of some specific Qur'anic verses and prophetic traditions [Ahadeeth] pertaining to his field of specialization.
Our first expert is Professor Moore, a retired professor of anatomy and the author of a number of medical textbooks... We will examine his claims in this chapter.
He has published many books on clinical anatomy and embryology, eight of them are used as reference works in medical schools and have been translated into six languages.
Professor Moore's book The Developing Human, 3rd edition, has two different editions: the standard edition which is used in the west, and the "Islamic" edition which is used in some Muslim colleges. Comparing the two editions, it seems that not even Prof. Moore is sufficiently convinced by the scientific "facts" in the Qu'ran to risk his reputation as a prominent academic in the Western world. The Islamic edition (also in the 3rd edition) of his textbook is not even available in the British Library, nor can it be found in the US Library of Congress, nor in medical libraries in Western countries, presumably because he is aware that not only do the Islamic contributions to it contradict known science, but they also contradict what he himself has written in the standard version of his textbook. Perhaps Prof. Moore's desire to sell his textbooks overseas was greater than his desire to seek the scientific truth?
When we asked Professor Moore to give us his analysis of the Qur'anic verses and prophetic statements, he was amazed. He wondered how the Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), fourteen centuries ago, could describe the embryo and its development phase in such detail and accuracy, which scientists have come to know only in the last thirty years. Very quickly, however, Professor Moore's amazement grew into admiration for this revelation and guidance. He introduced these views to intellectual and scientific circles. He even gave a lecture on the compatibility of modern embryology with the Qur'an and Sunnah where he stated:
It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify statements in the Qur'an about human development. It is clear to me that these statements must have come to Muhammad from Allah, or God, because almost all of this knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that Muhammad must have been a messenger of Allah.
Consider what this well-known and respected scientist of embryology declared upon studying the Qur'anic verse related to his discipline, and his conclusion that Muhammad (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), must have been a Messenger from Allah.
That is very interesting. In the bibliography for the first chapter, "A History of Embryology" (in both the standard and Islamic versions), Professor Moore refers to J. Needham's definitive work: The History of Embryology. Dr. Needham, who has been recognized by most of the scientific community as a leading expert on the history of human embryology, was unimpressed with the Arabic claims of embryology. After writing over 60 pages about ancient Greek, Indian and Egyptian embryology he dismissed the entire Arabic tradition in less than one page, concluding that:
"Arabic science, so justly famed for its successes in certain fields such as optics and astronomy, was not of great help to embryology." (J. Needham (Cambridge, 2nd edition), A History of Embryology, p. 77)
After listing some of the verses in the Qur'an about embryology he dismissed them as merely:
in other words a mixture of Greek and ancient Indian teachings.
Another expert is the medical historian Arthur Meyer. In his book The Rise of Embryology, which is also listed in the Bibliography section of Prof. Moore's 1983 edition of "The Developing Human" he summed up the whole of the Arabic embryological tradition when he said that it:
Allah says in the Qur'an about the stages of the creation of man: Man we did create from a quintessence (of clay); Then we placed as (a drop of) sperm (nutfah) in a place firmly fixed; Then we made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood (`alaqah); Then of that clot we made a (fetus) lump (mudghah); then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. (Qur'an 23:12-14).
The Arabic word `alaqah has three meanings. The first meaning is "leech". The second is "a suspended thing". The third meaning is "a blood clot".
Comments: Firstly, there are many different meanings given for the word alaqa, from blood clot to the pully hanging over a well! The claim that this word has a highly precise scientific meaning is laughable. There are many other problems with Prof. Moore's interpretation of the Qur'an. For example: if the Qur'an is giving us a highly detailed scientific account of human development, why does it only mention two of the stages, alaqa and mudghah? Dr. Moore lists 13 stages in the inside front cover of his book between fertilization and day 28, by which time the alaqa and mudghah are supposed to have taken place. Why does the Qur'an say nothing about these stages? The essence of this dilemma is that the more ambiguous the meanings of the Arabic terms, the more they lose their precision as scientific terms.
The Arabic word `alaqah has three meanings. The first meaning is "leech". The second is "a suspended thing". The third meaning is "a blood clot".
Apparently, it means whatever we want it to mean! In fact, Dr Torki goes so far as to say that alaqa is "a chain-like structure" - and then interprets this to mean a DNA double helix (B. Torki (1979), L'Islam Religion de la Science, p. 178)! If we apply Torki's meaning to the whole of sura 23:14 we find that God "... made you from a drop of sperm, then from that a gene code, then from that a little lump of flesh...." How ridiculous!
In comparing the fresh-water leech to the embryo at the `alaqah stage, Professor Moore found a great similarity between the two. He concluded that the embryo during the `alaqah stage acquires an appearance very similar to that of leech. Professor Moore placed a picture of the embryo side by side with the picture of a leech. He presented these pictures to scientists at several conferences.
Well, that is debatable. If you consider the side view, the developing umbilicus (which is genetically a part of the embryo), it is almost as big as the "leech-shaped" part. Also, the placenta is much larger than the fetus! Dr. Moore claims that ancient peoples could not have been able to see an embryo about 3mm long and describe it as leech-like. However, Aristotle correctly described the function of the umbilical cord, by which the embryo "clings" to the uterus wall in the fourth century B.C.! (Aristotle (English trans. A. L. Peck, Heinemann, 1953), Generation of Animals, 740a)
Did Aristotle receive divine revelations also?
The second meaning of the word `alaqah is "a suspended thing", and this is what we can see in the attachment of the embryo during the `alaqah stage to the uterus (womb) of the mother.
But the embryo and foetus "clings", via the placenta, to the wall of the uterus for the entire 9 months of gestation! The existence of the placenta and amniotic fluid were well known facts long before Muhammad was born. Mankind, at this point in history, did not need divine revelations to tell us the observable and obvious!
The third meaning of the word `alaqah is "a blood clot". It is significant to note, as Professor Moore stated, that the embryo during the `alaqah stage goes through well known internal events, such as the formation of blood in closed vessels, until the metabolic cycle is completed through placenta. During the `alaqah stage, the blood is caught within closed vessels and that is why the embryo acquires the appearance of a blood clot, in addition to the leech-like appearance. Both descriptions are miraculously given by a single Qur'anic word `alaqah.
Interestingly this is contradicted by Prof. Moore himself in "The Developing Human, with Islamic Additions". He defines the alaqa stage as being days 24 and 25. Yet he also says that the primitive heart and blood vessels have already begun to form by the end of the third week (before day 21). Blood cells do not start forming in the embryo until the fifth week (the prototype blood cells form initially in the embryo's "yolk sac") so how can the embryo take on the appearance of a blood clot? And after day 26, when the alaqa stage is over but the cirulatory system is becoming ever more developed, why is the embryo no longer called a blood clot? If we translate alaqa as "clot" it means that the Qur'an is completely wrong about human development, since there is absolutely no stage during which the embryo consists of a clot. The only situation in which an embryo might appear like a clot is during a miscarriage, in which case the clotted blood which is seen to emerge (mostly maternal in origin) is solidified and by definition no longer alive. So if ever an embryo appeared like a clot it would never develop any further into a human; it would be a dead mass of bloody miscarried flesh.
How could Muhammad (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) have possibly known that by himself? Professor Moore also studied the embryo at the mudghah (chewed-like substance) stage. He took a piece of raw clay and chewed it in his mouth, then compared it with a picture of the embryo at the mudghah stage. Professor Moore concluded that the embryo at the mudghah stage acquires the exact appearance of a chewed-like substance.
Muhammad could easily have known these things because this was common knowledge long before Muhammad was born - and it is wrong. The Greek physician Galen (150 AD) believed that the embryo developed in four stages which are almost identical to those of the Qur'an.
Let us divide the creation of the foetus overall into four periods of time. The first is that in which, as is seen both in abortions and in dissection, the form of the semen prevails (Arabic nutfah) ... But when it has been filled with blood (Arabic alaqa), and heart, brain and liver are still unarticulated and unshaped yet have by now a certain solidarity and considerable size, this is the second period; the substance of the foetus has the form of flesh and no longer the form of semen. The third period follows on this, when, as was said, it is possible to see the three ruling parts clearly and a kind of outline, a silhouette, as it were, of all the other parts (Arabic mudghah). You will see the conformation of the three ruling parts more clearly, that of the parts of the stomach more dimly, and much more still, that of the limbs. Later on they form "twigs", as Hippocrates expressed it, indicating by the term their similarity to branches. The fourth and final period is at the stage when all the parts in the limbs have been differentiated; and at this part Hippocrates the marvelous no longer calls the foetus an embryo only, but already a child, too when he says that it jerks and moves as an animal now fully formed" (Arabic "a new creation"). [Corpus Medicorum Graecorum: Galeni de Semine (Galen: On Semen) (Greek text with English trans. Phillip de Lacy, Akademic Verlag, 1992) section I:9:1-10 pp. 92-95]
Lest the reader be in any doubt about the clear link described here between the Galenic and the Qur'anic stages, it may be pointed out that it was early Muslim doctors, including Ibn-Qayyim, who first spotted the similarity. Basim Musallam concludes
"The stages of development which the Qur'an and Hadith established for believers agreed perfectly with Galen's scientific account... There is no doubt that medieval thought appreciated this agreement between the Qur'an and Galen, for Arabic science employed the same Qur'anic terms to describe the Galenic stages". (B. Musallam (Cambridge, 1983) Sex and Society in Islam, p. 54)
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