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Sideeqi Naseer | OPINION Columnist

The word embryology can be broken down into its parts to create a clear definition
of the term. An embryo is the early form of a living thing after fertilization has
occurred during the development process but before birth. The suffix “ology” means
the study of something. Therefore, embryology means the study of early forms of
life before birth.
Many scientists came and they work in the field of embryology. Today as I have
titled this topic embryology in the shade of holy Quran that means I will mention
here all about the developmental stages of embryo mentioned in the holy book
Quran. But before sharing the topic I want to share my personal experience that why
I am writing this article. When I was doing my post-graduation in Jiwaji University
(Gwalior) I read many books about embryology and it’s related terms . I read
different theories like Semen theory , theory of epigenesis , theory of preformation (
which states that the sex cell contain pre formed embryo or contain complete
miniature of the adult called the homonuclus. But the fact that triggered me to write
this topic was that the discoveries or the research on the embryology was possible
because of the modern tools and the technologies but there were no tools and
equipments in past but after all of this the whole stages of the embryonic
development were mentioned in the holy book Quran which was revealed on the
messenger of Allah prophet Muhammad ( s.a.w) before 1445 years back. How could
Muhammad have possibly known all this 1400 years ago, when scientists have
only recently discovered this using advanced equipment and powerful microscopes
which did not exist at that time? Hamm and Leeuwenhoek were the first scientists
to observe human sperm cells (spermatozoa) using an improved microscope in 1677
(more than 1000 years after Muhammad ). They mistakenly thought that the
sperm cell contained a miniature preformed human being that grew when it was
deposited in the female genital tract. So it was an amazing experience that when
there were no technology nor the discovery of microscope and equipment , how it is
mentioned in the book. So many scientists came and they research on embryonic
development so the study of embryology, the science that deals with the formation
and development of the embryo and foetus, can be traced back to the ancient Greek
philosophers. Originally, embryology was part of the field known as “generation,” a
term that also encompassed studies of reproduction, development and
differentiation, regeneration of parts, and genetics. Generation described the means
by which new animals or plants came into existence. The ancients believed that new organisms could arise through sexual reproduction, asexual reproduction,
or spontaneous generation. As early as the sixth century B.C., Greek physicians
and philosophers suggested using the developing chick egg as a way of investigating
Aristotle (384–322 B.C.) described the two historically important models of
development known as preformation and epigenesis. According to preformationist
theories, an embryo or miniature individual pre-exists in either the mother’s egg or
the father’s semen and begins to grow when properly stimulated. Some
preformationists believed that all the embryos that would ever develop had been
formed by God at the Creation. Aristotle actually favored the theory of epigenesis,
which assumes that the embryo begins as an undifferentiated mass and that new
parts are added during development. When we move towards the present era or the
research based on embryonic development or fertilization, we got surprised because
everything is written in the holy Quran before 1445 years ago. So being a Muslim I
feel so proud that the everything either we discovered or research about is
mentioned in the holy book Quran. Many Islamic scholars also research on the
embryology, one of them was Professor Emeritus Keith L. Moore
one of the world’s
most prominent scientists in the fields of anatomy and embryology and is the author
of the book entitled The Developing Human, which has been translated into eight
language. In 1981, during the Seventh Medical Conference in Dammam, Saudi
Arabia, Professor Moore said: “It has been a great pleasure for me to help clarify
statements in the Quran about human development. It is clear to me that these
statements must have come to Muhammad from God, because almost all of this
knowledge was not discovered until many centuries later. This proves to me that
Muhammad must have been a messenger of God. If we talk about the fertilization
and the other stages of embryonic development mentioned in books we learn that
the baby goes through several stages of development, beginning as a fertilized egg.
The egg develops into a blastocyst, an embryo, then a foetus.
Human beings have always been intrigued by questions such as: Where they came
from? How they developed before birth? We know from the earliest records that
primitive peoples realized that the birth of a baby was the result of sexual union or
intercourse. However, for many centuries the idea of human prenatal development
was based on speculation and mysticism. Aristotle wrote the first embryology book
in the fourth century BC. In it he recorded some observations on comparative
embryology, especially on the general progress of the developing chick. He
promoted, however, the incorrect idea that the human embryo developed from a formless mass that resulted from the union of semen with menstrual blood.
Scientific knowledge of embryology did not progress significantly for nearly 2000
years. It was not until near the end of the 17th century, when the microscope was
invented, that the early stages of human development could be effectively studied.
After it was possible to examine cells under the microscope, it was reasoned in the
18th century that embryonic development resulted from the growth and
differentiation of embryonic cells.
The realization that the embryo develops in stages in the uterus was not discussed or
proven until the 15th century, although Galen mentioned the placenta and fetal
membranes in his book “On the Formation of the Fetus” written in the second
century AD. Galen must have known about the uterus. After the microscope was
developed in the 17th century, descriptions of the early stages of the developing
chick were made as observed with simple lenses. The staging of human embryos was
not proposed until the 1942 by Streeter and the stages as we know them now were
not adopted worldwide until a few decades ago. The Glorious Quran refers to the
embryonic stages and the uterus as follows:
“…He creates you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, in
three veils of darkness. Such is Allah, your Lord and Cherisher. To Him belongs
(all) dominion. There is no God but He: Then how are ye turned away (from your
true Lord)?.” (Surah 39, Ayah 6)
The “three veils of darkness” are:
(1) the anterior abdominal wall;
(2) the uterine wall and
(3) the amniochorionic membrane.
It is realistic to interpret the three veils of darkness in the above Ayah as follows:
1. The mother′s abdominal wall.
2. The uterus wall.
3. The surroundings of the fetus (placenta, embryonic membranes, amniotic fluid).
The above three anatomical layers protect the embryo from external injury. The
above Ayah refers to the stages of embryonic development without giving any details
about these stages.
Before proceeding in describing the embryonic stages as narrated in the Quran, it is
important to define the following Arabic words that are used in the Quran:
In the following Ayah, more details are given about the staging process:
“Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay), (Arabic, sulalah); Then We
placed him as (a drop of) sperm (Arabic, nutfah) in a place of rest, firmly fixed;
Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood (Arabic, alakah); then of
that clot We made a (fetus) lump (Arabic, mudgah); then we made out of that lump
bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another
creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!” (Surah 23, Ayah 12-14)
This Ayah states that God made human from a drop into a thing that clings in the
mother′s womb, then to a leech-like form that soon changed to a shape that looks
like a piece of chewed gum. The “mudgah” then took the shape of bone and was
clothed with flesh.
During the embryonic period, the embryo acquires distinctive human characteristics
as bones and muscles begin to form. By the end of the embryonic period, the
blossoming of all the main organ systems is established. The external appearance of
the embryo is greatly affected by the formation of the brain, heart, liver, bones,
limbs, ears, nose and eyes. As these structures develop, they affect the appearance of
the embryo as unquestionably human.

It is interesting to note that B. Sproul translates “Nutfah” into “moist germ” in his
book “Primal Myths”! This distorted translation implicates that the Holy Quran
fades in its validity.
A human being develops from a single cell, the zygote, which forms when an ovum
(Latin for egg) is fertilized by a sperm (Greek for seed). The Quran refers to this
process as follows:
“And made his progeny from the quintessence of a despised liquid.” (Surah 32,
Ayah 8)
“Was he (Man) not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)?” (Surah 75, Ayah 37)
“Verily We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm.” (Surah 76, Ayah 2)
The above Ayat make it clear that the sperms are derived from a very small part of
the fluid or the semen that is ejaculated from the penis. They are expelled from the
urethra via the same route followed by the urine that is sometimes referred to as a
“despised fluid.” There are other references in the Quran to the origin of man from
a small quantity of “mingled fluids”, undoubtedly the male and female sexual
secretions. The resulting mixture (drop) composed of the ovum and the penetrating
sperm, becomes a zygote.
A popular idea in the 17th century among scientists was that sperm contained a
miniature human being that simply enlarged inside the sperm ( mentioned under the
theory of preformation). Another equally strong idea was that the ovum contained a
miniature human being that was stimulated to grow by the semen. It was not until the
18th century that Spallanzani experimentally demonstrated that the initiation of
development required sex products from male and female. From his experiments,
including artificial insemination in dogs, he concluded that sperm was the fertilizing
agent. The mixture of the male and female fluids was discovered recently though it
was known in the Quran for fourteen centuries. There are some theories that the
female fluid acts as an agent to prevent the rejection of the sperms, which are foreign
bodies in the uterus.
Explanation of the terms which have been used in Quran ,surah 23 , ayat no 12-14:-
“Indeed, We created man from a sperm-drop mixture that We may try him; and
We made him hearing and seeing.,surah -al-insan .76:2

From a sperm-drop He created him and destined for him;surah _80.ayat no 19
Nutfa amshaj:
Nutfa means a drop and amshaj means mixtures. This term describes the mixture
and convergence of male and female fluids in the uterine or the Fallopian tubes to
form zygote. It has the form of a drop of fluid and consists of a mixture of male and
female secretions. The nutfa amshaj can be subdivided into:-
when the male and female secretions meet they may or may not form a coceptus or
a a zygote. If a zygote is formed with 46 chromosomes, a new being will be
produced. This process of formation of a single individual by fusion of two
secretions has been aptly termed Khalak.
The human creation begins with formation of a zygote but what are its
characteristics, what it will inherit from father and what from mother? This process
takes place a few hours after Khalak phase. The Holy Quran called it Taqdir phase
and modern scientists call it genetic programming. The Taqdeer in Arabic
means planning, determining or programming. Very similar indeed! The Quran
indicates that these processes occur in immediate succession and we know that these
processes are completed less than 30 hrs after fertilization. The process of sex
determination takes place in this stage. The Quran states in sura An-Najam that:
“And He did create the two sexes, the male and the female from Nutfah
when emitted or planned”Quran: (surah An- Najam,53:Ayat45–46). We
know that if sperm with a “y” chromosome fertilizes ovum, it is a male child
and if sperm bearing “X” chromosome fertilizes ovum it is a female child.
When the phases of Khalk and Taqdir are completed, the zygote migrates
from from fallopian tube to the uterus where it implants itself similar to a
seed planting in soil. It gets embedded in endometrium and receives its
nourishment and develops a different shape and structure. It is mentioned
in Quran that endometrial lining of the uterus is similar to the soil in which a
seed is embedded. During this stage the real settlement begins, and is
described In Prophet’s Hadith as:
“The Angel enters upon the conceptus (nutfah) after it rests in the uterus for
forty or forty-five nights….(Narrated by Muslim).

Creation (Takhliq):-
During the second main stage, the Takhliq, cell differentiation takes place to
form systems and organs. It starts at the beginning of the third week upto
eighth week and is a process of rapid cell growth and intense activity with
regard to organogenesis.(3) The embryo goes through the following stages:
2.1 Alaqah
The period begins on day 15 and is completed on day23 or 24,when the
embryo gradually acquires the shape of a leech, the Arabic word “alaqah”
has three meanings — (i) Leech (ii) a suspended thing (iii) a blood clot.
There is a great similarity between a fresh water leech to early embryo. The
second meaning is a suspended thing and that is what we can see the way
embryo is attached to the placenta in this stage. Both these meanings
describe and reflect accurately the external appearance of embryo at this
stage. The third meaning –“the blood clot” describes the most important
internal structure that affects the external appearance, for in alaqah stage
blood is formed in the blood vessels in the form of isolated islands and the
embryo resembles a blood clot descriptions are given miraculously by a
single word—-“Alaqah”.
2.2 Mudgah
The second stage is Mudghah which means a chewed substance. The
embryo changes from Alaqah to Mudgaha stage at 24 to 26 days.The word
Mudghahah means:
– Something that has been chewed by teeth
– A piece of a meat of a chewable size
– Small substance
In this phase the embryo resembles a chewed substance but still bears the
teeth marks. The embryo shows the distinct somites which resemble teeth
marks in the embryo’s body. The second and the third meaning of
Mudghah apply to the embryo in relation to its size for it is approximately 1
centimeter in length, the size of a chewable object. Outside surface in Alaqah stage is smooth and in Mudghah. It acquires furrows, swellings
corrugated surface which gives the embryo the chewed appearance.
The next stage is:
2.3:The izam…
which means (bones in Arabic). The embryo stays in Mudgaha stage upto 6
weeks.In the beginning of seventh week, cartiligenous skeleton begins to
form and eventually the embryo takes the human shape with formation of
skeleton. Bone formation is sequential, pry. Ossification centres appear in
femur in seventh week and in sternum and the maxilla in weeks8–9.With
this stage the embryo takes the human shape and this fact has been verily
described in the following Hadeeth:
“When 42 nights have passed from the time of Nutfah (time of conception),
Allah sends an angel to it, who shapes it and makes its hearing, sight, skin,
muscles and bones…..(Narrated by Huzaifa…in Sahih Muslim, Kitab Al￾Qadar). Before 42 days embryo cannot be distinguished from embryo of
other animals, but at this stage it becomes clearly distinguishable.
2.4: Laham…Al-Kisa’ bil-Laham (clothing the bones with
We have already seen that skeleton is formed in seventh week and the
differenciation of muscles starts in the eighth week, in other words
myogenesis takes place during this stage. Development of definitive muscles
starts in the trunk and the foetus starts moving, and muscles take their
position around the bones. The sequence of events is very fast as is
mentioned in the Quran.(use of fa…an Arabic conjunction which means
rapid sequence of events). The Quran states the fact as,
“Then (fa) We clothed the bones with lahm, muscle, flesh)….”The passage
also indicates that lahm stage represents the end of embryonic (takhlik)stage,
which is followed by Nashah stage. The conjunction thumma (then)
indicates a slow sequence with a time lag between the two stages. (3)
The Growth (Al-Nashaa)
The word Nasha’a in Arabic means: to initiate, grow and develop, to rise
and increase This phase begins from ninth week to term and is further
divided in two stages:
1. Attaining the definite human form (the first stage is An-Nashaa al
This stage begins from 9 weeks until 26 weeks and during this stage there is
rapid growth and development. Up to 12 wks the growth is slow but after 12
weeks the growth is very rapid and the overall size of the foetus increases
rapidly. The proportional size of head, body and limbs is more balanced
and lanugo hair appears on the body. The sex differentiation is possible
amid movements are very well appreciated. By the end of this stage the
various organs are fully functioning, e.g: kidneys are forming urine, blood
cells are formed in bone marrow and hair follicles appear.
2. The second stage is Al-Hadanah ar –rahamiya (uterine
This stage begins from 26 weeks to full term (40 weeks by dates). It is a
known fact that a baby can survive outside without placental or uterine
support after 24 to 26 weeks that is viability; so minimum required period to
survive is up to 26, last 3 months can be considered a time for the
uterus to provide additional support and a place for normal growth.
The Holy Quran has explained with precise definition and elegance this
stage of intra uterine development and the meaning of Nashah applies
clearly. The meaning to “initiate, describes the initial functioning of various
organs and systems. The second meaning “to grow” indicates the rapid
growth and the development of various organs. The third meaning “to rise
and increase” describes the very rapid and obvious increase in foetal size
and weight.
Therefore, the term “nash’ah” clearly and accurately describes the foetal
The last stage of prenatal development is the Foetal Stage, which lasts from
two months after conception until birth. About one month into this stage,
the sex organs of the foetus begin to form. The foetus quickly grows as
bones and muscles form, and it begins to move inside the uterus. Organ
systems develop further and start to function. During the last three months, the brain increases rapidly in size, an insulating layer of fat forms under the
skin, and the respiratory and digestive systems start to work independently.
Now as it is mentioned in the Quran that the soul is breathed into the foetus.

“And verily We created mankind from a quintessence (of clay).
Then We placed him in a place of rest (the womb), firmly fixed
(into the uterine lining). Then We made the sperm/egg into a clot
of congealed blood. Then of that clot We made a (embryo) lump.
Then We made out of that embryo/lump bones and clothed the
bones with flesh. Then (finally) We developed out of it another
creature (by breathing a human soul into it). So blessed be Allah,
the most marvelous Creator” (23:12-14)….
Here another creature means that the soul is breathed in foetus now.
There is also a Hadith that says: “Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud
narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: “Each one of you is
constituted in the womb of the mother for forty days, and then he
becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a
piece of flesh for a similar period. Then Allah sends an angel who
is ordered to write four things. He is ordered to write down his
(each person’s) deeds, his livelihood, his (date of) death, and
whether he will be blessed or wretched (in religion). Then the soul
is breathed into him…” (Sahih al-Bukhari no: 3036.
There are many other Ayat and sayings in the Hadith about embryology.
Some Ayat we understand now and others we may understand in the future,
God′s willing. The meaning, of some of the Ayat that we understand,
became clear to us only few decades ago. These Ayat are an overwhelming
challenge from God to those who do not believe in Him and to the non￾Muslims. There is no other holy book that has such information about
embryology. There is no other explanation except that the Quran is a
revelation from God to the Prophet. All the abovementioned Ayat are stated
not as stand-alone scientific facts, but rather in context of encouraging
mankind to think and to believe in The Creator.

Holy Quran contains comprehensive description of human development;
no such distinct and complete record of human development, such as
classification, terminology and description existed before. This knowledge
came to us in an era when there was no microscope, no slides, no fixatives
or any other gadgets and above all this description is narrated by a person
who was illiterate! Who would reveal this information to him except the
CREATOR Himself!
In fact Allah verily says:
“Soon we will show them our signs in the (furthest) regions (of the
earth), and in their own selves, until it becomes manifest to them that
this is the truth. Is it not enough that your Lord does witness all things”.
Quran (41:53).

Author’s current qualification