Quran on Embryology Historical background
Alalaqa (Leech - like-clot)
AlMudgha (Chewed- like lump of flesh)
The stage of bones
The stage of Muscles
The stage of Nash'ah
The stage of Labour
By: Dr. Sharif Al-Ghazal
The stage of Nash’ah (developing) and viability
By the end of the 8th week, a new stage starts where important processes occur. The rate of developing accelerates compared with the previous one. The embryo transforms into another creature, as the sizes of head, body and limbs start to be balanced and regular between the 9th and 12th week. At the 10th week, external genital organs appear, and the skeleton develops structure from soft cartilaginous to hard calcic bones at the 12th week (Figure 1-a). Limbs and fingers are distinguished at the same week. The gender of the embryo is manifest with the clear appearance of genitalia.
The weight of the embryo increases noticeably. Voluntary and involuntary muscles develop, and voluntary movements start in this stage. In the 16th week (112 days) the foetus can grasp with his hands, kick, or even somersault (Figure 2-b).
(Fig. 1 -a) The 12th week ( around 84 days) the embryonic shape appears with sizes of head, body and limbs well formed, and fingers distinguished. (Nash’ah ‘formation of another creature’ )
(Fig. 1 -b) The 16th week ( 112 days) : 13 cm tall embryo. eyebrows, eyelashes and fine hair appear. The foetus can grasp with his hands, kick, or even somersault. here the unborn baby is sucking his thumb !
In this stage the organs and the systems become well prepared to function. The foetus is ready for life outside the womb starting from the 22nd week to the 26th week (i.e., after the completion of the 6th month of gestation), when the respiratory system is ready to function and the nervous system is able to adjust the temperature of foetus body.
The first sense to develop in a developing human embryo is hearing. The foetus can hear sounds after the 24th week. Subsequently, the sense of sight is developed and by the 28th week, the retina becomes sensitive to light.
In this stage, no new system or organs are formed, and the uterus provides food and suitable environment for the foetus to thrive until the stage of labour.
Reflections on Quranic verses:
This stage starts after the stage of clothing the bones with lahm (muscles and flesh), i.e., at the beginning of the 9th week, taking a period of almost 3 weeks. This is indicated with the use of conjunctive article (thumma) then, which denotes a time break between clothing with lahm and developing into another creature: He the Almighty says;
(فَكَسَوْنَا الْعِظَامَ لَحْمًا ثُمَّ أَنشَأْنَاهُ خَلْقًا آخَر فَتَبَارَكَ اللَّهُ أَحْسَنُ الْخَالِقِينَ ) (المؤمنون: 14)
“And clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create ” (23: 14).
After the development of the cartilaginous skeleton, clothing it with muscles, and the head and the limbs are distinguished, the embryo changes into a human creature well differentiated from other creatures.
During this stage, some important processes occur in the development of the embryo, which are clearly described in the Holy Quran and can be summarized as follows:
1- Nash’ah (developing) which is clearly noticed in the accelerated rate of growth at the 9th week compared with the previous stages.
2- Khalqan Akhar (another creature): this description coincides with the first one and indicates that the embryo has changed in the nash’ah stage into another creature, i.e., the foetus. Limbs and external organs begin to appear, and fingers and external genitalia are distinguished. Allah the Almighty says;
( هوَ الَّذِي يُصَوِّرُكُمْ فِي الأَرْحَامِ كَيْفَ يَشَاء لاَ إِلَـهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْحَكِيمُ) (آل عمران 6)
“He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no god but He, the Exalted in Might, the Wise.” (3:6)
Here is an exquisite remark. Allah says in Surat Al Zumar;
( يَخْلُقُكُمْ فِي بُطُونِ أُمَّهَاتِكُمْ خَلْقًا مِن بَعْدِ خَلْقٍ فِي ظُلُمَاتٍ ثَلَاثٍ) (الزمر6 )
“He creates you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.” (Quran 39:6), thus indicating the continuation of the embryonic development and the change from one stage into another, as explained earlier. Embryologists have confirmed that the foetus is surrounded, during the stages of development, with three membranes:
1- The amnion membrane which contains a fluid encompassing the foetus to make it in a state of swimming, thus protecting it from trauma that the uterus encounters, and facilitates the foetus movements for re-position smoothly during labour. (Figure 2)
2- The chorion membrane.
3- The decidua membrane.
Some scholars interpreted the three veils of darkness with the amniotic membrane surrounding the uterus, wall of uterus, and abdomen wall (Figure 3). Yet, Allah knows best.
Fig. 2 : Membranes surrounding the foetus Fig. 3 : Three layers protect the foetus
As we have mentioned before, the foetus becomes ready for life outside the womb after completion of the 6th month. It is noticed that the Quranic statement indicates in Surat Ahqaf that the stage of conception and incubation takes 30 months;
( وَحَمْلُهُ وَفِصَالُهُ ثَلاثُونَ شَهْرًا ) (الأحقاف: 15)
“The bearing of him (the child) and the weaning of him is thirty months ” (Quran 46: 15),
whereas in Surat Luqman, it is indicated that the period of incubation is 24 months;
( وَفِصَالُهُ فِي عَامَيْنِ) (لقمان: 14)
“And in two years was his weaning.” (Quran 31:14).
With a simple calculation, we deduce that the quranic statement decides that the least period of conception is 6 months as mentioned earlier, being a scientific fact, and before the 22nd week, in which this stage starts, the foetus is delivered abortus (not able to survive) in most cases. Praise be to Allah is the Omniscient.
It is very interesting to mention that the first sense to develop in a developing human embryo is hearing. The foetus can hear sounds after the 24th week. Subsequently, the sense of sight is developed and by the 28th week, the retina becomes sensitive to light. Consider the following three Quranic verses related to the development of the senses in the embryo
" وَجَعَلَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَة " (السجدة 9)
َ"And HE gave You (the faculties of) hearing and sight and feeling (And understanding)" (Quran 32:9)
" إِنَّا خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِن نُّطْفَةٍ أَمْشَاجٍ نَّبْتَلِيهِ فَجَعَلْنَاهُ سَمِيعًا بَصِيرًا " (الإنسان 2)
"Verily We created man from a drop of a mingled fluid-drop (nutfa amshaj), in order to try him: so We gave him (the gifts), of hearing and sight" (Quran 76:2)
" وَهُوَ الَّذِي أَنْشَأَ لَكُمُ السَّمْعَ وَالْأَبْصَارَ وَالْأَفْئِدَةَ قَلِيلًا مَا تَشْكُرُونَ " (المؤمنون 78)
"It is HE WHO has created For you (the faculties of) Hearing, sight, feeling And understanding: little thanks It is ye give!" (Quran 23:78)
In all these three verses the sense of hearing is mentioned before the sense of sight. Thus the Quranic description matches with the discoveries in modern embryology that the sense of hearing is develops before the sense of sight.
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