We are living in an era of information explosion in which data, news and knowledge of all kinds stream into our lives 24/7 via multiple media inlets, so much so that now it has become a challenge to pick and choose that input which we want to receive; which we deem relevant.
Pregnancy, childbirth, infant care and parenting topics are no exception.
From detailed pregnancy books to 3D-animated videos; subscriptions that facilitate personalized, week-by-week email pregnancy updates, to extensive online obstetric resources and pediatric websites, an expectant mother nowadays is amply aware of every change that is going on inside her body, as it happens or even beforehand.
The Qur’an Before Modern Science
The Qur’an revealed the process of the creation of man long before science gave every part of his anatomy, down to the inner contents of his individual cells, a unique name and pictorial description.
In fact, in the Qur’an, God described the chronological phases of fetal growth and development 14 centuries ago, long before any ultrasound machine existed:
“Verily We created man from a product of wet earth; then placed him as a drop (of seed) in a safe lodging; then We fashioned the drop into a clot, then We fashioned the clot into a little lump, then We fashioned the little lump into bones, then clothed the bones with flesh, and then produced it another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of Creators!” (Al-Mu’minun 23: 12-4)
“It is He Who has created you from dust then from a sperm-drop, then from a leech-like clot; then does he get you out (into the light) as a child: then lets you (grow and) reach your age of full strength; then lets you become old- though of you there are some who die before;- and lets you reach a term appointed; in order that you may learn wisdom.” (Ghafir 40: 67)
According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, this reference to man’s creation from dust, implies the origin of mankind the creation of the first human being, Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) from dust:
“And Allah did create you from dust, then from Nutfah,” means, He initiated the creation of your father Adam from dust, then He created his offspring from semen of worthless water.
Modern science has, by now, explained the entire process of the creation of a human being, down to those minute, microscopic intricacies that were invisible to the human eye centuries ago.
Many times in the Qur’an, God draws our attention to the way we were created. It is interesting to remember though, that at the time when these verses were revealed, human beings had limited knowledge about the process of human birth, unlike now.
Why would God then invite us to ponder on the origin of our creation? The contexts in which He mentions our origins lead to some interesting observations. But first, lets analyze the word most oft-repeated in the Qur’an when God mentions man’s creation:
The root of this word is: natafa yantifu: “To flow gently, trickle, ooze, drop.”
The dictionary meaning of the word “nutfah” is – “Drop of fluid; semen“.
“It is clear liquid, a little or a lot. From this it is used for the semen of a man.”
Man Is a Disputer
God says in the Qur’an:
“He (Allah) has created man from a sperm-drop; and behold this same (man) becomes an open disputer!” (An-Nahl 16: 4)
“Does not man see that it is We Who created him from a sperm-drop? Yet behold! He (stands forth) as an open disputer!” (Ya-Sin 36: 77)
The word “khasim” is derived from “khasama” which means he contended with in an altercation, and the word “khisam” means the statements that a listener is made to hear, which may cause him to desist or refrain from his assertion, plea or claim.
In another place in the Qur’an, God says about man: “And he is the most rigid of opponents.” (Al-Baqarah 2: 204)
The question is, why does God mention the origin of man (the nutfah) along with the fact that man is an open disputer?
Man disputes about God; about religion; about being right. Sometimes, man goes on arguing even if he possesses little knowledge of what he is arguing about, just to prove himself to be right, or to be better, than his “opponent”.
This type of arguing and disputing is, usually, less about establishing the truth and abolishing falsehood, and more about one-upping the adversary to come out looking better, or on the right path, as the definition of the word “khisam” implies; also, to attempt to make the adversary clam up and desist from putting forth their claims or opinions.
God mentions how man was created from nothing but a microscopic sperm, which is not even visible, and yet he grows into a creature who argues about the very being that created Him from this miniscule little drop of fluid – he disputes about God, His attributes, or any other aspect of Islam, to avoid submitting to Him – the Creator who not just created him, but also gave him provision since day one to make him grow, acquire a physical form, then be blessed with sight, hearing, and intellect:
“Verily We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him. So We gave him Hearing and Sight.” (Al-Insan 76: 2)
Man Falls into Disbelief and Ingratitude
Another context in which God mentions the origin of man as being from the nutfah, is the fact that man falls into disbelief, i.e. when he grows up, he starts to deny God’s blessings, or to belie His Prophets and their monotheistic message, or reject God’s commands, refusing obstinately to obey them. Disbelief also constitutes the denial of the establishment of the Last Day.
The Qur’an mentions a man who owned two luscious gardens was conversing with his pious companion and bragging about possessing more wealth and a larger family than him. He went on to say that:
“I do not think that this (wealth) will perish – ever. And I do not think the Hour will occur. And even if I should be brought back to my Lord, I will surely find better than this as a return.” (Al-Kahf 18: 34-6)
His pious companion, who was a believer, responds by making him recall how God created him, saying:
“His companion said to him, in the course of the argument with him: “Do you deny Him Who created you out of dust, then out of a sperm-drop, then fashioned you into a man?” (Al-Kahf 18: 37)
In this context, God warns us through these verses of the Qur’an, not to fall into the same trap – that if we have been blessed with abundant wealth and a large family, we should not be fooled by this superfluous worldly benefits into denying the absolute reality of the imminence of the Last Day.
Heedlessness about the Hereafter makes one slowly slip down the slope of adherence to the commands of faith, and disbelief starts to creep into our hearts like rust, chipping away our faith in God and in the Hereafter.
One of the ways suggested, in the above verse of the Qur’an, to keep ourselves humble before God and firmly grounded in the correct belief, is to remember our origin – our creation. How, once, we were nothing more than a tiny embryo, a single ovum fertilized by a single sperm, from which God fashioned us into a complete, symmetrical, fair-looking human being in our mothers’ wombs, having a body that contains innumerable anatomical systems (respiratory, nervous, digestive, cardio-, reproductive etc.) functioning together in perfect unison:
“From a sperm-drop He had created him, and then molds him in due proportions.” (Abasa 80: 19)
“That He did create in pairs,- male and female, from a seed when lodged (in its place);” (An-Najm 53:45-6)
The “miracle” of our creation enables us to recognize and remain in total awe of God’s limitless powers. That in turn allows us to submit to Him and to His message conveyed to us through His Prophets.
For surely, the magnificent Creator who fashioned a complete living being out of a mere sperm drop, can resurrect that same human being hundreds of years after his death; after his total decomposition into nothingness.
Because for the one for whom the first, original creation was so easy, the resurrection will be even easier:
“…Even as We produced the first creation, so shall We produce a new one; a promise We have undertaken. Truly shall We fulfill it.” (Al-Anbiya’ 21: 104)
The “Despicable” Water
Another context in which God mentions the creation of man, is how he originates from a “lowly” water (human semen). Whilst the first human being was created and fashioned from dust, his progeny continued on earth via this water:
“Have We not created you from a fluid (held) despicable?” (Al-Mursalat 77: 20)
The place in the human anatomy from where this “despicable” water originates is also mentioned by God:
“Now let man but think from what he is created. He is created from a drop emitted. Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.” (Al-Buruj 86: 5-7)
God then goes on to exhort how, if He could create a human progeny from such a water that gushes forth from man’s own body, He is utterly and completely able to recreate man in the Hereafter, after his death and decomposition in this world:
“Surely He (Allah) is able to bring him back (to life)!” (Al-Buruj 86: 8)
God mentions 3 other words in another place in the Qur’an where He mentions the “despicable” water:
“Who made all things good which He created, and He began the creation of man from clay; And made his progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised.” (As-Sajdah 32: 7-8)
The point that comes across is how God brought every one of us into this world from a mere drop of fluid – a fluid that is considered dirty, lowly and worthy of being washed off and discarded; which emanates from a part of the body that is also kept hidden and considered shameful; a part that excretes the filth (urine) from our bodies.
Furthermore, when a human baby comes into this world, it again does so through the same anatomical part of his mother’s body.
God reminds man again and again of his lowly and inferior origins, of his first and subsequent creation, in order to cull his arrogance and reinforce his belief in God’s absolute power of creation and resurrection.
Because as long as we keep reminding ourselves of how we were created, how we were born, and how we came into existence from nothing, to ultimately grow bigger and take the shape of a functioning human being from the merger of two tiny cells, we will perhaps be able to stop doubting how God will put us back together in the Hereafter when the Hour is established.
Taken with slight editorial modifications from www.muslimmatters.org.
Sadaf Farooqi is a freelance writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She has a postgraduate masters degree in computer science and a diploma in Islamic education. She has seven years of experience as a teacher of Islamic education courses for women and girls. She writes for Hiba Magazine, SISTERS Magazine, and Saudi Gazette. She also blogs at MuslimMatters.org.