Here is something I wrote up but never had time to finish, 
feel free to send me your comments.  

-- Milind Saraph

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 [6] by 

>[1] 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]:

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:

[7]  Musallam, "Sex and Society in Islam", Cambridge Studies in Islamic
     Civilization, ISBN 0 521 24874 4.

>[2] 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 [1] with
annotations and commentary as it relates to the Quran.
>[3] 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.

>[4] 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 [4] in our library and did not.
>[5] 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:

[6] The Developing Human according to the Quran, the Hadith and Modern
    Embryology, 5 part pamphlet distributed by IPCI.

I will skip [2], [4] and [5].  I will focus on [1] and [6].  Together
these may cover all the details. 

My thoughts on passages from Moore's book [1]

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

   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 

   (See Chapter 3 from Musallam's book [7]).

B. "Several references are made to the creation of human being from a
    nufta (small drop)."

    From [7], 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 [3] 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 [6]:

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 

    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.  


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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