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Three Veils Of Darkness

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"He creates you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.” (TMQ Surat Az-Zumar 39:06)[1]




This miraculous Qur’anic ayah appears in the first eighth of Surat Az-Zumar. Surat Az-Zumar is a Makkan Surah, made up of 75 ayahs after the “Basmallah” (invocation of the name of Allah). The Surah is called Az-Zumar (meaning: The Groups) due to the appearance of reference to how people are separated, according to their deeds, into two groups on the Day of Judgment. One group makes up the residents of Paradise and the other group is comprised of the residents of Hell. Each of which will be led to his inevitable fate.




The main theme of the noble Surah is the Islamic creed, as is the case with all Makkan Surahs.




Signs of creation in Surat Az-Zumar:




(1) Description of the process of creation of the heavens and earth as having been accomplished in conformity with truth and in agreement with reality. That is to say, the creation process followed precise rules and laws, which proves that its Creator, Allah (SWT) (the glorified and exalted) is al-haqq (the Truth).


(2) The precise implied reference to the spherical shape of the earth; to its rotation around its own axis and to its travel or “running” in its orbit around the sun; and to the travel or “running” of the earth, moon and sun (and accordingly of all celestial bodies) in space until a predetermined point in time, which indicates the inevitability of the Hereafter.


(3) Affirmation that the creation of all human beings is from one person/one soul, which is that of our father Adam (AS) (peace be upon him), out of which his pair/mate/wife, our mother Hawaa’ “Eve” (AS), was created.


(4) Mention of the supply of man with eight pairs of cattle [sheep, goats, oxen and camel; a pair of each: male and female], which might be a reference to the creation of their genetic code, or to the Devine order for them to be created.


(5) Affirmation that the creation and development of the human embryo is in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.


(6) Emphasis on the fact that those who know cannot be equated to those who do not know. Moreover, the assertion that only men of hearts and minds (intellect, reason and understanding) are those who contemplate, understand and will remember (i.e. will learn a lesson from Allah’s (SWT) signs and ayahs).


(7) Reference to the fact that the origin of the water that exists underneath the earth’s surface is rainwater. Allah (SWT) directs its course through the earth to form springs and water channels. By its means, Allah (SWT) produces plants that are varied in color and kind. Then after the plants flourish, they lose their blossom, dry up after they had once flourished and lose their natural color turning yellow. Then they become brittle and crack into pieces. This contains reference to the cycle of life and death in every creature and in everything.


(8) Reference to the fact that the soul leaves the body in both states of sleep and death. At the moment of death the soul is taken from the body and kept from returning to it. While in the state of sleep, the soul is returned back to the sleeper the moment he wakes up.


(9) Affirmation that Allah (SWT) is the One who created everything and that He is the Trustee/Guardian of everything.




Each of the above points requires a separate analysis; therefore, I will focus the discussion in this article on point (5) of the above list, which appears in the sixth ayah of Surat Az-Zumar. Before presenting its scientific implication, I will review a number of interpretations from scholars of Qur’anic exegesis of this noble Qur’anic text.




The interpretation of the following ayah by scholars:




*“He creates you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.”* (TMQ 39:06).




The summary of Ibn Kathir’s interpretation (may Allah have mercy on him) of this ayah is as follows: It means, Allah (SWT) preordained you in your mother’s wombs (in stages, one after another); each of you is first a nutfa (gamete: reproductive cell, whether sperm or ovum), then it develops into a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then into a mudgha (the form of a chewed-up morsel) and then he is shaped and formed with the development of bones, flesh, nerves and veins. Afterwards, the soul is blown into him and he becomes a different creation (glorified be Allah and extolled be His glorious attributes; He is the Unique Creator).




The summary of the interpretation of the ayah in Dhilal Al Qur’an (may Allah have mercy on its author) is as follows: The development from a nutfa, into an ‘alaqa, into a mudgha, into bones. Then the embryo develops into a creation where the human element is clearly apparent. *“…in three veils of darkness”* means the darkness of the sack surrounding the embryo, the darkness of the womb in which this sack lays and the darkness of the abdomen in which the womb lies.




Scientific implications of this noble Qur’anic text:




I. Scientific implications in the part of the ayah that says, *“He creates you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another…”* (TMQ 39:06):




At a time when it was widely believed that the human embryo was created only from the blood of the menstrual cycle, or only from the male’s emitted fluid, the Qur’an was revealed affirming that both the male and female reproductive cells (gametes) are involved in the formation of the embryo. This appears in many ayahs, of which we choose some of what Allah (SWT) says, which can be translated in the following:




(1)*“O mankind! If you have doubt about Resurrection, then verily We have created you from dust, then from a nutfa (gamete), then from a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then from a mudgha (chewed-up morsel), formed and unformed, in order that We may manifest (Our omnipotence) to you. And We cause whom We will to remain in the wombs for an appointed term, then we bring you out as infants


(2) (new born) baby…”* (TMQ 22:05).




(3)*“And indeed We created man (Adam) out of an extract of clay (water and earth). Thereafter, We made him(the offspring of Adam) as a nutfa (a gamete) (which we embedded) in a safe, secure lodging (the womb of the woman). Then We made the nutfa (develop) into a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then We made the ‘alaqa (develop) into a mudgha (chewed-up morsel), then We made the mudgha (develop) into bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh. And then we brought it forth as another creation. Glorified be Allah and extolled be His glorious attributes; He is the Unique Creator” *(TMQ 23:12-14).




(4)*“It is He (Allah), Who created you from dust, then He made you from a nutfa (gamete) then from a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot)…” *(TMQ 40:67).




(5)*“And that it is He (Allah) Who created pairs, male and female, from a nutfa (gamete) when it is emitted.”* (TMQ 53:45-46).




(6) *“Does man think he could do what he wills (and act without restriction or limitation and neglect his duties and obligations towards Allah) and get away with it? Was he not a nutfa (gamete) in a fluid that is emitted? Which developed into a ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then (Allah) molded and fashioned (him) in due proportions. And made of him the pair, male and female.”* (TMQ 75:36-39).




(7)*“We created man from a nutfa amshaj (zygote), in order to try him, so We endowed him with (the gifts of) hearing and sight.”*(TMQ 76:02).




(8)*“From a nutfa (gamete) He created him and then molds him in due proportions.”* (TMQ 80:07).




The noble Qur’an was revealed with this clear truth, with this accurate, complete and comprehensive description of the stages of the human embryonic development. These stages do not in most cases exceed one to a few millimeters in length. This was more than 1,400 years ago, at a time when there were no means of magnification, photography or internal medical examination available. This attests to the fact that the noble Qur’an cannot be a human fabrication, but that it is the words of Allah (SWT), the Creator.




The majority of mankind continued to believe in their incorrect ideas that the embryo is created from the blood of the menstrual cycle as a spontaneous self-creation. This self-creation was perceived to be pre-shaped in the form of a fully developed human being, which starts as a minute version that is almost inconspicuous to the naked eye. Furthermore, they believed that with time, it starts to grow in size until the fetus size is fully developed.




The above ideas, whose source was a very vivid imagination, continued to dominate the minds of most people on earth until the end of the 17th Century AD. In 1677, the Dutch scientist Anton van Leeuwenhoek was able, with the aid of his fellow scientist Louis Dominicus Hamm, to see spermatozoa (sperm cells) for the first time under a microscope. Two centuries later (at the end of the 19th Century AD), an ovum (egg cell) of a mammal was first seen. Almost at the same time, at around 1865-1869, the Austrian botanist Gregor Mendel formulated a preliminary idea of the mechanism of heredity of traits through a number of experiments and observations that he conducted on the common pea plant. From which he concluded, that the process of inheritance of traits, meaning the transmission of characteristics from one generation to the next, occurs through a number of hereditary units or factors that are infinitely small in size, which later came to be known as genes. Genes remained to be referred to simply in the form of symbols used in the clarification of the process of variety of creation until the second decade of the beginning of the 20th century. In 1912, the American biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan proved that genes are actual parts of a number of thread-like particles that are infinitely small in size and fineness and thinness, found inside the nucleus of a living cell, known as chromosomes. Chromosomes are so called due to their incredible ability to acquire the characteristic added to the cell in a much more apparent way than other parts of the cell.




Through Morgan’s study of chromosomes in human cells, he was able to identify the reproductive chromosome and suggested the idea of genetic mapping for living organisms (i.e. drawing detailed genetic maps for chromosomes) considering that chromosomes are responsible for the transmission of characteristics from parents to child.




In 1955, the American scientist James Watson and the British scientist Francis Crick were able to identify the chemical composition of chromosomes and proved that it is a molecule made of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA), which determines the genetic code of each living organism.




With the development of scientific equipment during the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, embryology was immensely developed. With every step forward that embryology took, it proved the truth of what appears in Allah’s (SWT) book (the Qur’an) and in the Sunnah of the Seal of His Prophets (BPUH). That is, that the human embryo is created from the union and fusion of the male and female nutfas (gametes), to form together the nutfa amshaj (mixed gamete i.e. zygote), in which Allah (SWT) preordains the creation of the embryo. Furthermore, that from the nutfa amshaj, embryos develop in the wombs of their mothers over several consecutive stages of development, which modern science, despite its unprecedented advancement, was not able to name appropriately. Modern science only expresses the developmental stages through the gestational age of the embryo (the number of days that the embryo has been in the womb). The Qur’an however, named the developmental stages as follows: a nutfa (gamete), then an ‘alaqa (leech-like clot), then a mudgha (chewed-up morsel), then bones, then the bones are clothed with flesh, then the development of the embryo into a different creation (glorified be Allah and extolled be His glorious attributes; He is the Unique Creator).




II. Scientific implications in the part of the ayah that says, *“He creates you …in stages, one after another…”* (TMQ 39:06):




While most people on earth held the incorrect belief that a human being is spontaneously self-created in a pre-shaped form that corresponds to a fully developed human being, however is a minute version of it that is almost inconspicuous to the naked eye. Further believing that with time it grows in size until the size of fetus is fully developed. At a time when such beliefs were widespread, the Qur’an came and affirmed that creation occurs over consecutive stages. The expression referring to the embryonic developmental stages in the ayah is *“…in stages, one after another…”* (TMQ 39:06). The Qur’an details and divides the embryonic developmental stages into seven consecutive stages, which embryological studies in the recent few decades have proven and confirmed. The Qur’an named the stages with certain specific names as follows:




(1) The nutfa stage:


The expression “nutfa”, which Allah (SWT) uses in the Qur’an to denote a reproductive cell (gamete), linguistically (in the Arabic language), means a little water that ranges from one drop to a few drops. The Qur’an uses it to indicate a gamete, whether male (sperm) or female (ovum).




(2) The nutfa amshaj stage:


The expression “nutfa amshaj”, which Allah (SWT) uses in the Qur’an to denote the zygote, linguistically (in the Arabic language) means a mixed nutfa or mixed gamete. The noun nutfa appears in the singular form, while the adjective amshaj (mixed) appears in the plural form. The plural form is used to indicate that the mixing is of more than two things [note: number in Arabic grammar has three forms: singular, dual and plural]. As such, the word amshaj appears in the plural form due to the fact that the things that mix are not only the male and female gametes, but also the contents of each of them. The most important content of the cell is the genetic information or the genetic code [which is contained in the cell’s DNA, found in chromosomes in the cell’s nucleus]. One normal human cell contains 18.6 billion chemical molecules of DNA subunits, which are nitrogenous bases, sugars and phosphates. Each reproductive cell has half that number of DNA subunits.




The total number of chromosomes and the chemical molecules they contain, which determine the genetic code of the embryo, are completed by means of Allah’s (SWT) preordainment. Modern science refers to it as genetic programming. Hours after the fertilization of the ovum (which contains 23 chromosomes) by the sperm (which contains the same number of chromosomes) the total number of chromosomes, characteristic of a human being, is complete (46 chromosomes in 23 pairs). During this merging process (between the ovum and sperm), the characters (traits) which the embryo will inherit from his parents and which will appear on him after he is fully developed, known as the dominant characters, are determined. Other characters become recessive and might appear in future generations; these are known as recessive characters. This occurs because each character is inherited twice, once from the father and the ancestors from his side and another time from the mother and the ancestors from her side; therefore, one character becomes dominant and the other becomes recessive as per Allah’s (SWT) preordainment. As such, the characters of the embryo are preordained in the zygote stage. That is why, Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as, *“Woe be to (disbelieving) man, how ungrateful he is ! From what thing did He (Allah) create him? From a nutfa (gamete) He created him and then sit him in due proportions.”* (TMQ 80:17-19).




Allah’s (SWT) preordainment extends over generations to reach the early ancestors until it reaches our father Adam (AS) and our mother Hawaa’ (AS). It is quite miraculous how the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) referred to this fact more than 12 centuries before anything was ever known about the laws of genetics. As narrated by Ibn Jarir and Ibn Abu-Hatem, the Prophet (PBUH) asked a man, “What is the gender of your new born baby?” The man replied, “O Messenger of Allah, what could it possibly be? It could only be a boy or a girl!” The Prophet (PBUH) asked, “So who does he resemble?” The man replied, “O Messenger of Allah, who could he possibly resemble? He can only resemble either his father or his mother!” The Prophet (PBUH) said, “Oh, don’t say such things. When the nutfa (gamete) settles in the womb, Allah (SWT) supplies it with every lineage between it and Adam. Have you not read the following ayah in Allah’s book (the Qur’an),* “In whatever form He wills, He puts you together”* (TMQ 82:8). Then the Prophet further clarified, “Meaning: He shapes you.”




The expression “nutfa amshaj” is the first scientifically accurate expression referring to the creation of the embryo through the union of the male and female nutfas. This truth has not been realized by modern science except in the late 18th century (in 1775 A.D- 1186 A.H). The preordainment that occurs in the fertilization process also determines the gender of the baby. In this concern Allah (SWT) says what can be translated as,* “And that it is He (Allah) Who created pairs, male and female, from a nutfa (gamete) when it is emitted.”* (TMQ 53:45-46).




After the preordainment process, the zygote starts to quickly divide into smaller cells until it becomes a spherical mass of cells known as morula. Then the morula differentiates into surface cells called the trophectoderm (which would become the placenta) and inner cells, called the inner cell mass (which would become the embryo), forming what is known as the blastocyst. The blastocyst starts implanting itself in the lining of the uterus (womb) on the sixth day after fertilization. This stage is known as the implantation stage. It takes a full week to 14 days for the blastocyst to become implanted in the lining of the uterus. After the implantation process is complete, the embryo transforms from a nutfa amshaj into an ‘alaqa.




(3) The ‘alaqa stage:


Just as the blastocyst successfully implants itself and clings to the lining of the uterus through the primitive placenta which later becomes the umbilical cord, the ‘alaqa stage starts (from day 15 to day 25). The ‘alaqa stage is characterized by fast growth, multiplicity of cells, the beginning of the formation of organs and the elongation of the embryo to take the form of a leech [A leech is a bloodsucking aquatic or terrestrial worm]. The embryo resembles the leech in its shape, as well as in the way that it “leeches on to” or clings to the lining of the uterus (just as a leech clings to the body of the host that it preys on). It also resembles the leech in its feeding on the mother’s blood (just as a leech feeds on the blood of the host animal that it clings to). Accordingly, the term “‘alaqa” that the Qur’an uses to express this embryonic stage is a miraculous scientific precedence at an age where no means of magnification or photography or examination was available, especially not of an embryonic stage that ranges from 0.7 to 3.5 millimeters in length.




(4) The mudgha stage:


The mudgha stage starts with the appearance of several somites (one of the longitudinal parts to which a body is divided) on the body of the ‘alaqa. Somites begin with a single somite that appears in the middle of the 4th week of gestation and reach around 40 to 45 somites. By the beginning of the fifth week, the ‘alaqa is transformed into the mudgha stage because the embryo appears in the latter stage like a chewed-up morsel of flesh, on which the imprints of the teeth of the chewer remain, just as teeth imprints remain on a piece of chewed gum. As such, the precedence of the Qur’an in describing this stage, which does not exceed (by the end of it) 1 centimeter in length, using the expression “mudgha” is as miraculous as can be. It is miraculous because at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, no human being could have ever possibly known or have come to realize this fact; and not for another 12 centuries!




(5) The stage of bones:


During the 7th week of gestation, the skeleton starts to spread in the body of the embryo through the gradual ossification of the cartilaginous structures, which are formed during the mudgha stage around several organ/limb buds. With the formation of bones, the trunk of the embryo starts to straighten (the embryo’s length now ranges between 14 and 20 millimeters), the tips of fingers are protruding and the tips of toes start to protrude [in the form of ridges in the hand and feet plates called digital rays]. Furthermore, cerebral vesicles are prominent [these are swellings in the neural tube to form the brain]. The indication of the Qur’an that bones are developed in a stage th


at follows the stage of the mudgha is again a miraculous scientific precedence, as no one could have possibly realized this true fact before the 20th century.




(6) The stage of clothing the bones with muscles and flesh:


During the 8th week of gestation, the process of clothing of bones with muscles and flesh begins. In this stage, the length of the embryo is between 22 and 31 millimeters. Most muscle cells are created from the mesoderm layer developed in the mudgha stage. The mesoderm is the middle layer of the three germ layers [the germ layers are the layers into which the cells of the mudgha, which will eventually give rise to all structures of the body, differentiate]. The muscle cells develop from the grooves between somites in the mudgha, therefore muscles are created in divisions. The divisions move away from the area of the somite groove, then grow and connect together forming several muscle threads, fibers and tubes. Muscles gradually organize in certain bundles, clothing and encircling the bones and connecting to the bone membrane forming what is known as the dorsal, ventral and limb muscle tissue. Each section of muscle tissue is supplied with a branch from the spinal cord. Again, the Qur’an’s precedence in mentioning this fact (that bones are clothed with muscles and flesh in this stage) is quite miraculous!




(7) The stage of development and growth [into a different creation]:


This stage starts from the 9th week of gestation and extends until the end of the pregnancy term. In this stage, the bodily characteristics of the fetus (what the embryo transforms into) start to become more distinguishable. This is due to the development of all organs and systems to completion; which start to actively function in coordination with one another in a remarkable way.




In this stage, the fetus starts to grow slowly until the beginning of the 12th week, after which growth in size accelerates. Moreover, changes in appearance take place at high rates; the eyes move to the front of the face, the ears move from the neck to the head, legs elongate in a noticeable way and the length of the fetus ranges between 33 and 500 millimeters.




The above seven consecutive stages of embryogenesis are confirmed through modern embryological studies which themselves only distinguish between the different stages using the gestational age of the embryo or fetus due to their inability to provide accurate nomenclature for the specific stages. In that regard, however, the Qur’an pioneered in naming, describing and ordering the stages in a highly accurate fashion. This happened 14 centuries ago and in the absence of any means of magnification, photography or internal medical examination. This proves, without any doubt, that the noble Qur’an is indeed the words of Allah (SWT), the Creator, Who revealed it with His knowledge to the Seal of His Prophets and protected it, as He promised, in the same language of its revelation (the Arabic language), over a period of 12 centuries past and until the Day of Judgment. Furthermore, this also attests to the Prophethood of the Seal of Prophets and Messengers to whom the Qur’an was revealed.




III. Scientific implications in the part of the ayah that says, *“He creates you …in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.”*(TMQ 39:06):




The fetus is surrounded inside the uterus by several membranes. From the inner to the outer membrane, these are: The amion membrane, the chorion membrane and the decidua membrane. These three membranes completely enclose the fetus and therefore keep it in complete darkness; this is the first darkness. The three membranes of the fetus are themselves surrounded by the walls of the uterus, which is a thick wall made up of three layers; forming the second complete darkness surround the fetus and its membranes. The uterus, which contains the fetus and its membranes and surrounds it in two consecutive darkness’s, is itself found in the middle of the pelvis. The uterus is in turn fully surrounded by the body that is composed of the abdomen and the back. Both of the abdomen and back provide the third darkness in which the fetus lies. This is in agreement with what Allah (SWT) says; which can be translated as, *“He creates you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.”* (TMQ 39:06).




At the time of the revelation of the Qur’an and for many long centuries after, no one knew of these three veils of darkness. The precedence of the noble Qur’an in referring to them proves, without a shadow of a doubt, that the noble Qur’an is indeed the words of Allah (SWT), the Creator, Who revealed it with His knowledge to the Seal of His Prophets and protected it, as He promised, in the same language of its revelation (the Arabic language). In order to remain as evidence against people until the Day of Judgment, however most people do not know or do not comprehend

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