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"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: Ghayyur_Ayub
Full Name: Ghayyur Ayub
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Science and Quran on creation of life (Part I)

by

Dr Ghayur Ayub

 

Living in a modern world of science, how could one balance Islam with science as the two seemingly run on a collision course. At least that's what our traditionalist religious custodians tell us. For example, take the creation of life on earth. The traditionalists give a completely different picture of its origin than what the scientists tell us.

The scientists say that earth came into existence about 4.6 billion years ago, as part of the evolution of the universe. They tell us, in the beginning, it was like a ball of molten rocks with sizzling temperature and an atmosphere filled with turbulent dust. With the passage of time, the dust turned into clay due to gravitational pull and clay continued to swirl in the air with thundering sound.

In the following one billion years, with the drop of temperature, water condensed making clouds and initiating: 1) Torrential rains, 2) Violent storms 3) and lightning full of radiation. Continuous rains washed the clay making it heavy and pouring it down to settle in the newly formed sea, where it converted into sticky and wet clay composed of organic and non-organic compounds. With further cooling of the earth and slowing down of the torrential rains, the water from sea started to evaporate leaving behind a viscous and gluey clayish substance known to the scientists as `Primordial Soup'

Constant floods of radiation of organic and non-organic compounds for the next 3 billion years resulted in the formation of chains of nucleic and amino acids on the thick, wet, sticky and muddy surface of the 'Primordial Soup'. One billion years later, when the earth cooled down to around 100 Celsius and the radiation continued, two adjacent fluids composed of fat on one side and sulphate on the other, formed a double layered membrane. This membrane folded on itself becoming impermeable and making a cell. This was the beginning of life. It was the non-permeability of the membrane which became essential point in initiating and maintaining cellular life. To put it simply, had there been no impermeable membrane there would have been no life.

It is scientifically proven that the life of a cell depends on non-permeability of its wall for certain ionic substances. It is called ‘Sodium pump’ which is governed by physical laws of nature. Destruction of this pump kills the cell. To give an example, the antibiotics kill bacteria by destroying the ‘sodium pump’ of their cell walls. When an antibiotic loses this destructive capability, we are told the bacteria has developed resistance. Such is the importance of non-permeability of the cell wall. 

A well-known British naturalist Sir David Attenborough gives an interesting narration of life on earth. He says that if we consider the duration of the earth as one year, the life appeared in the middle of August in the sea. Towards the end of November, the first animal left the water and colonized the land. The backbone animals invaded the land by the beginning of December. On December 25th dinosaurs disappeared and were replaced by mammals. In early morning of December 31st, apes and ape-like man called hominids appeared. And human or homo sapiens appeared about a minute or two before the end of December.

Now let us see what the Quran say about creation of life on earth and find out if there are any similarities or dissimilarities between the two narrations. To start with, it challenges our intelligence about our existence in pre-life form when it says, “Do not man remember that We created him before, while he was naught (nothing, non-existent)?” (19:67). This verse clearly points at existence in non-life form. What was that non-life form? Quran puts it in chronological order by saying: 

1. He created you of dust,” (30:20) corresponding to the initial phase of earth when its atmosphere was filled only with dust.

2. We created man from sounding (noisy) clay,” (15:26). It corresponds to the phase when the dust turned into dry clay, floating in the air with thundering sound.

3. In the next phase, when the torrential rains poured down the clay, settling it on the surface of earth Quran says, “Allah is He who perfected everything and began the creation of man out of clay(32:7). This verse points to two things:

•    First, it is using the word clay instead of sounding clay, meaning by, it is not floating but static at a different stage of evolution;

•    Second, to confirm its point, Quran uses the word ‘began’ or ‘Bada’a’ for creation of man after God perfected everything else. It means that human creation happened as part of a continuous process in time, that had a beginning and not just at once.

4. In the next phase, as some of the clay settled in the sea and became sticky in nature in the primordial soup, Quran says, “Indeed, We created man from sticky clay. (37:11), or “We created the human being from stinking, smooth, (and wet) clay.” (15:26)

5. In the next phase, as fat-which is sweet and palatable, and sulphate-which is salty and bitter, made an impermeable membrane, Quran says, “It is He who has let free the two bodies of flowing water, one palatable and sweet and other salty and bitter. Yet He has made a barrier between them. A partition (membrane) that is forbidden to be crossed”.(25:53)Here, Quran uses the term ‘non-transgressing barrier’ for impermeable membrane.

6. In the next phase, Quran talks of appearance of life in general, ..with water did We create every living thing…(21:30).  Then it becomes specific, linking the impermeable membrane or ‘non-transgressing barrier’ with corals. He has let free the two bodies of flowing water meeting together between them is a Barrier, which they do not transgress. In the same verse it further says....Pearls and corals come forth out of the twain.” Scientists, in recent decades, have discovered that coral belongs to the animal kingdom and is intimately linked to algae which is a plant. In this verse, Quran has created a close link between plant and animal life. 

7. Then, in a progressive continuity, it talks about animals by saying, Allah has created every animal out of water.” (24:45). Later, it categorises them and takes them out of the sea and puts them on land by saying, “ Of them (is a category which) walks upon its belly, (another which) walks upon two legs, and ( a third which) walks upon four. Allah creates what He wills. Allah is Able to do everything (He wants)”

8. Going further, it talks about human life by saying He it is Who has created man of water.”(25:54). Then, ingeniously it links human life with plant life as earlier it linked plant life with animal life by saying, “And Allah has caused you to grow out of the earth like plants” (32:7).  In this way, it created a chronological mosaic of three basic forms of life-plant, animal, human-1500 years ago, discovered by science in the last few decades.

Thus far, we have seen Quran has talked about pre-life existence in mineral form such as dust, dry clay, wet clay ect. Then, it cited creation of non-transgressing barrier or membrane linking it with the beginning of life. Going further, it linked life in a mosaic of plants, animals and humans. Who says Islam, which gets nourishment from Quran, is on collision course with science?

Let’s go further.   

To be continued

 

 

 

 

Science and Quran on creation of life (Part II)

by

Dr Ghayur Ayub

 

So far, we have looked at the Quranic knowledge about evolutionary path of life on earth which led to the creation of plants, animals and humans. Keeping that knowledge in mind, from here on, we will concentrate on human and talk about his embryological growth in uterus and anthropological development on earth. 

On embryological growth Quran says, “We placed it as a Nutfah (fertilized egg) in a safe (deep) lodging; Then, We created the Nutfah into an Alaqa. Then, We created the Alaqa into Muzgha. Then, We created the Muzghah into bones. Then, We clothed the bones with flesh. Then, We produced it (the human being) as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators! (23:12-14)

'Nutfah' is an Arabic word used for fertilized egg or zygote which is referred to as 'Alaqa' meaning by a leech that sticks to the womb wall and sucks nutrients like a leech. While, Muzgha means a tiny chewed lump imitating the earliest form of embryological development known only to the embryologists. This type of medical knowledge about developmental stages of a foetus in the uterus has only come to light in recent decades while it was written in the Quran about 1500 years ago. Does it mean the Quran is a book of science? No, it’s not, it is a book of signs for those who want to know and understand it.

Now, let’s see what Quran says about the complex phases of human anthropological development. For example, it says: It is He Who created (Khalaqa) you, then fashioned (Sawwaka) you perfectly, and then made you with the right proportions (Adalaka) in whatever form (such as straightened you up, to walk in an upright position) He willed, He put you together (Rakkaba) (assembled you)(82:7-8 

Quran has used four terms in relation to the anthropological stages of human development. They are; 1) ‘Khalaqa’ pointing at the stage of initial creation; 2) 'Sawwaka' pointing at the stage of fashioning from one form to another such as from unicellular to multi-cellular; 3) 'Adalaka' pointing at the right proportioning and balancing from one stage to another, such as hominid walking upright and straight; 4) Rakkaba pointing at the stage of putting together or assembling as human anthropological development carried on.  

These were the evolutionary stages human went through. The question is whether these changes occurred all at once, or at lengths of time? Quran answers this question by saying, “Allah is He Who perfected everything which He created and began (Bada’a) the creation of man from clay (32:7). Quran uses the word ‘began’ or 'Bada'a' which means that human creation happened as part of a process in time that had a beginning and not just at once. To make this point clearer Quran prefixes the anthropological stages mentioned in verses 82:7-8 with ‘Then’ (Fa) thus separating each stage in time scale.

Talking further about human creation in terms of time, Quran tells us; “He is, Who has created you (human) from clay, then he spent a term of time (away from you), and (it is) a specific term he determined. Yet, you doubt (his ability)!” (6:2) Thus, the word ‘Then(Fa) prefixed to each stage represents a period of time between the stages. The question is, what were the durations of time-periods between those stages? Being a divine book, the Quran talks in cosmic time which is different from how we perceive time. That is why, in places, it uses the term Kun Fia Kun which in scientific terminology is a time-space Warf, where time and space and the physical laws which govern them lose their existence. While at other places, it says, Every day with your Lord is as 1,000 years of what you reckon," (22:47) or, "Every day with your Lord is 50,000 human years” (70:4). So, the time varies from position to position and place to place. Sometimes Quran talks about time in context of quantum physics and at other times in context of convention physics and that too in relation to space and earth. Thus, in cosmic scale, the time could extend to millennial years or a blink of an eye depending on whether it is talking in the language of convention physics or in quantum physics.    

It is in this context the term ‘Then’ in between the anthological stages should be taken. In other words, we can say that millennial years passed for human to pass through the stages of fashioning, right proportioning, balancing, putting together and assembling at the end of which he stood upright, used his mental acumen and became a thinking man.

Ibn Kathir explained this verse by saying that God created humans in the best image and right proportion and made them walk in a balanced way in an upright position, between the two cold places such as North and South Poles. He further explained the Arabic word 'Rakkaba' by saying that the fertilized egg carries all the genetic characteristics of humans all the way from the first creation. He was obviously referring to the Quranic verse which says:..“Were We then fatigued with the first creation? Yet are they in doubt with regard to a new creation” (50:15).

Other Muslim scholars see a link, between hominid such as Homo Erectus and modern man which is Homo Sapiens. They compare the 'assembling' by God, to the scientists using genetic engineering and introducing changes in existing organisms. Thinking on identical lines, some Muslim scholars argue that the Arabic verb, 'Rakkaba', may refer to ‘assembling’ human beings by using genetic materials from other organisms, in order for humans to be better from their closest primates. Talking about the subject, scholars such as, Ekremah, Abu Saleh, and Quotaida added that some people may even have features of primates as their faces may look like monkeys pointing to the fact that human being is the product of a long line of genetic traits.

To strengthen their argument, these scholars argue that Quran gives clear message about evolutionary diversity in human creation by giving examples of Quranic verses which say;

"I have indeed created you before, when you were nothing". Or when it says, “Has there not been a long period of time, when man was nothing, (not even) mentioned?” (19:67). Or when it says, "Say: travel in the earth and see how He originated the first creation, then God creates the latter creation; surely God has power over all things"Or when it says, "What is the matter with you that you attribute not the greatness of God, when you see that it is He that has created you in diverse stages?" (71:13-14) Or when it says, “He is Allah , the Creator, the Inventor, The Evolver (Al bari)” (59:24)Bâri' signifies the way one works with substances, creating from existing matter or making and evolving that which is free and clear of imperfections. Bari also means the one who shapes and fashions creation and who perfects his creation. According to the Quran, God does it in cosmic time leaving the field open for the thinking man to look at it through the laws of convention physics or quantum physics.  

All we know for sure, that the Quran tells us that God created human in anthropologically diverse stages in cosmic time scale. It was in this context, Maulana Rumi explained his existence when he said:

I died from minerality and became vegetable;

And from vegetativeness I died and became animal.

I died from animality and became man.

Then why fear disappearance through death?

Next time I shall die

Bringing forth wings and feathers like angels;

Still later After that, soaring higher than angels –

What you cannot imagine, I shall be that” 

Rumi’s literature is filled with knowledge taken from the Quran and the Quran is the foundation of Islam. 

The end

 

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