A Response To Abdullah ibn Adam's:

Embryology in the Qur'an: Refutation of Christian Missionary Writings
(found at this page)

Some comments by the "Christian Missionary" author

I fully accept that not everybody who reads the research I have presented will agree with it, because it offers evidence that challenges the most fundamental tenet of their belief, namely that the Qur’an is God’s unchanged Word, completely free of error. If you hold that position, dear reader, it will inevitably come as a shock to be presented with evidence of errors within the Qur’an. To resolve the tension thus created inside you, you can do one of three things: change your view of the Qur’an, present evidence which disproves my research, or react to it without evidence to show where I have gone wrong. Unfortunately Abdullah ibn Adam’s reply falls into the third category. He reacts against my research but does not provide any evidence that refutes my suggestions or answers my questions. Allow me to explain in more detail.


Jochen Katz tries to say that the Qur'an could have described an embryo like a "thing which clings" because any human knew that all muscles and other things cling to each other.

Jochen actually said that the embryo is a "thing which clings" because it attaches itself to the inside of the womb, a fact well known since ancient times because it is so demonstrably true that the foetus is connected to the womb via the umbilical cord. There are obviously two possibilities — either the foetus clings, or it doesn’t. He makes no mention of muscles clinging.

Abdullah ibn Adam writes:

(a) An embryo clings

Yes, an embryo clings. The statement which you are looking for can be found in the Qur'an. For example, the following:

--sura 75, verse 37:
"Was (man) not a small quantity of sperm which has been poured out?"

The article at answering-islam.org/Science/clings.html is a very fruitless one.

There is no reason why Adam should have quoted this verse, since it makes no mention of clinging. Besides, even if you take alaqa to mean clinging, surely the embryo clings for the whole duration of pregnancy, rather than just the relatively brief period during which it is at the alaqa stage.

(b) The Qur'an copies ancient Greek literature?

Well, the truth is, no. As you will see in the following section, that the missionary who has written answering-islam.org/Science/embryo.html has made dozens of mistakes!

Part 1: Mistakes made by the missionary

The missionary conveyed to the readers the *wrong* meanings of the words, "Nut'fah, "'Alaq" and a wrong translation of a Qur'anic verse.

I have no right to call such mistakes "deception" because only Allah knows the missionary's intentions.

Point rejected. The meanings I have used are used in English translations of the Qur’an, make sense in the context and are accepted by Arabic dictionaries and Arabic-speaking people.

Part 2: Meaning of the word "'alaq"

According to the missionary, " 'alaq " means "a clot of blood." Well, this is the most common meaning of the word, of course there are four meanings for it:

(a) A leech like structure
(b) Something which clings
(c) A clot of blood
(d) Suspended thing

Well, it depends what dictionary you use. I found a dictionary with about 30 different meanings, although most have something to do with clinging or hanging. This comes as no surprise, given that Arabic words are derived from triliteral verb roots and thus many different meanings can come from the same root consonants. Alaqa is very often taken to mean a lump of blood; for example a doctor I know was asked by Muslim women to perform abortions for them. When he refused, they protested, "but it’s only a clot of blood inside us", referring to the foetus. The claim that the Qur’an is using highly precise scientific language collapses since the more meanings are attached to a word, the more ambiguous the word becomes.

Part 3: Meaning of the word "Nut'fah"

To find this word's meaning was the most difficult part. It is 99% wrongly translated as "sperm." According to the missionary, the Qur'an states that we are formed out of sperm whereas we are formed from sperm and the egg unite.

Well, the missionary was ok when saying this.

Credit where credit is due. In fact the description the Qur’an gives of nutfah, namely that it consists of drops of fluid, proves that it is not referring to a single sperm at all, but to semen, which is clearly an observable fluid which is released during sexual intercourse. It would be far more remarkable if the Qur’an had actually described an individual sperm, which was invisible to Muhammed; instead, the description the Qur’an gives to nutfah demonstrates that it is only thinking of a fluid, semen, which is observable to the naked eye.

A further point is that certain hadith suggest that Muhammed was familiar with the Hippocratic view, namely that men and women both produce semen and the child is formed from a mixture of the two secretions (Hippocrates had no knowledge about individual sperm or eggs). Adam’s discussion that follows concerning the merits of the Arabic word for sperm (i.e. a single, microscopic bundle of DNA with a long tail that fertilizes a female egg cell), haywan-manawee is an irrelevant distraction since both the Qur’an and hadith describe the nutfah in ways which exclude the possibility of it being what in the 21st century we mean when we use the word "sperm".

Ibn Adam then quotes some Osama Abdallah stating:

I looked very carefully at each Noble Verse, and I found out that all of them use the Arabic word "Nut'fah" which was wrongly translated as sperm. The Arabic word for sperm is is "Haywan-Manawee." The Arabic word "Nut'fah" means the actual combination of multiples of "Haywan-Manawee."

To reiterate, technically nutfah means "semen", which is observable to the unaided eye, not "an individual microscopic sperm".

Ibn Adam continues:

Part 4: Out of lions and ribs?

According to the missionary, the Qur'an describes humans formed out of lions and ribs. Yes, there are a few statements like this. But they are wrongly translated. I took the following from Dr. Bucaille's book, "The Bible The Qur'an And Science":

"(Man) was fashioned from a liquid poured out. It issued (as a result) of the conjunction of the sexual area of the man and the sexual area of the woman." The sexual area of the man is indicated in the text of the Qur'an by the world sulb (singular). The sexual areas of the woman are designated in the Qur'an by the word tara'ib (plural).

This is the translation which appears to be most satisfactory. It is different from the one that is often given by English and French translators, i.e. "(Man) has been created by a liquid poured out which issues from between the vertebral column and the bones of the breast." This would seem more to be an interpretation than a translation. It is hardly comprehensible.

I presume we are talking about loins, not lions! Bucaille’s translation is even less intelligible however - what does he mean by the "sexual area of the man" and the "sexual area of the woman"? Those could be taken to mean almost anything. If the Qur’an is merely informing us that during sexual intercourse semen is transferred via the man’s penis into the woman’s vagina the claim that the embryological verses are imparting scientific claims only discovered in the last few decades collapses. Bucaille’s comment that the idea of semen issuing from between the vertebral column and the ribs is only "hardly comprehensible" to him because he has the advantage of modern science informing him that this view is not consistent with what we know about the generation of semen and he cannot bring himself to admit that there is an error in the Qur’an. However, the view that semen originated from between the loins and the ribs would have been completely familiar to the authors of the Qur’an assuming they were familiar with Hippocrates’ teachings and the idea would not have sounded nearly so daft. Indeed it would have been accepted medical wisdom at the time.

Part 5: The Prophet made scientific errors?

The missionary quotes narrations (hadith) from the Prophet regarding embryology. Well, he quotes them to disprove the Divine Origin of the Qur'an.

One thing completely ignored by the missionary is that he doesn't look into other statements of the Prophet. I took the following from Dr. Bucaille's book, "The Bible The Qur'an and Science," it was present in the books end notes:

The truth of the hadiths, from a religious point of view, is beyond question. When they deal, however, with earthly affairs there is no difference between the Prophet and other humans. One hadith gives an account of an utterance of the Prophet: "Whenever I command you to do something related to Religion do obey, and if I command you something according to my own opinion (do remember this) I am a human being".

Al Saraksi in his 'Principles' (Al Usul) transmitted this statement as follows: "If I bring something to you on your religion, do act according to it, and if I bring you something related to this world, then you have a better knowledge of your own earthly affairs".

This strikes me as being very convenient for Muhammed - if I want you to obey something, I make out that it’s a religious matter; if something I tell you is not religious it’s not necessarily from God so obeying it is less important. Adams appears to be saying that if Muhammed says something that is scientifically incorrect, it will be in the context of something that is not a religious subject therefore it doesn’t matter that he was wrong. Since the Qur’an discusses embryology, clearly it is a religious subject however and therefore when Muhammed is discussing it, he is discussing a subject which is in the Qur’an, is therefore religious and therefore must be infallible. Adams cannot get away by trying so make out that the scientific errors in the hadiths do not matter.

Part 6: Final Comparisons

Galen states (I copied and pasted the following text from the Christian Missionaries' own article):

Galen’s account is considerably longer than the account in sura 23:13-14 so I have edited it below to show that which agrees with the Qur’an.

let us divide the creation of the foetus overall into four periods of time. The first is ...the form of the semen...(Arabic nut'fah)...when it has been filled with blood (Arabic alaq). ... 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....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). 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... [nature] caused flesh to grow on and around all the bones...

Then the missionary compares Galen's text with Sura 23, verse 14 with the *wrong meanings*.

However with the true meanings of the verse, the Qur'an states:

-sura 23, verse 14

"We fashioned the thing which clings into a chewed lump of flesh and We fashioned the chewed lump of flesh into bones and We clothed the bones with intact flesh."

(This translation has been taken from The Bible, The Qur'an and Science by Dr. Maurice Bucaille)

A more detailed translation of the verse can be (by me):

Man we did create from a quintessence (of clay); Then we placed as nut'fah (sperm and then the sperm+egg) in a place firmly fixed; Then we made the Nut'fah into ‘Alaq (leech like structure, suspended thing, something which clings); Then of that 'alaq we made a (fetus) lump (mugdah, chewed like substance); then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature.

Early Muslim commentators, including Ibn-Qayyim and at-Tabari noticed the close similarity between Galen’s account and the Qur’an. The first stage, semen is identical, the second describes a blood-filled embryo, which is one of the meanings of alaqa. In the fourth stage bones are covered with flesh, and only the third stage differs - Galen describes it as a silhouette with brain, heart and liver, whilst the Qur’an describes it as a morsel of flesh (which is still pretty close to Galen).

Part 7: Conclusions

The missionary has brought up childish points.

This does not follow; Adam’s rebuttal makes no attempt to explain how the Qur’an could contain traces of ancient Greek science and the original author is accused of making childish points when a close reading of Adam shows that no new issues are raised. In fact it is childish to "conclude" that the original article brings up childish points when far from offering a rebuttal, we get nothing more than a reaction against the article.

Sincere regards,


Qur'an and Science
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