Mr Katz, in one of his articles has stated that the Qur’an has given contradictory statements regarding the material from which man was created1. He states:
What was man created from? A blood clot [96:1-2], water [21:30, 24:45, 25:54], “sounding” (i.e. burned) clay [15:26], dust [3:59, 30:20, 35:11], nothing [19:67] and this is then denied in 52:35, earth [11:61], a drop of thickened fluid [16:4, 75:37]
Mr. Katz has also stated that the statement of the Qur’an regarding one of the stages in the development of the fetus is “scientifically wrong”. He writes:
The very first revelation starts out with providing an ingredient for contradiction:
In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, who created –
created man, out of a mere clot of congealed blood.
— Sura 96:1-2
Apart from the fact that “a mere blood clot” is scientifically wrong…
In the article that follows, I shall present my point of view regarding the meaning of the verses which seem contradictory to Mr. Katz. I shall be very glad to reconsider my point of view if someone would be kind enough to point out any linguistic or logical fallacy in my interpretation of these verses.
A Scientific Error?
Before we proceed with the main point of Mr. Katz’s objection (that is, “What was man created from?”), let us first examine the “scientific error” that Mr. Katz has pointed out.
The Arabic word used by the Qur’an which has generally been translated as “a clot of blood”, is “`alaq” علق. The meaning of this word is given by “Qaamoos al-Muheet” as:
الدم عامة أو الشديد الحمرة أو الغليظ أو الجامد، القطعة منه: بهاء وكل ما علق، والطين الذي يعلق باليد، والخصومة والمحبة اللازمتان. وذو علق: جبل لبني أسد لهم فيه يوم على ربيعة بن مالك ودويبة في الماء تمص الدم و ما تتبلغ به الماشية من اشجر (القموس المحيط، باب القاف، فصل العين)
Blood in its normal state or blood which is extremely red or which has hardened or congealed, a piece thereof; every thing that sticks; clay that sticks to hands; unchanging enmity or love; Zu `alaq is the name of a hill of Banu Asad, where they defeated Rabi`ah ibn Maalik; An insect of water that sucks blood; that portion of a tree that is within the reach of animals.
The word `alaq, does not “mean” blood but because of certain properties of blood, it was, besides other things also used to imply blood. The real meaning of the word, as would be obvious from an analysis of all the meanings stated above, is anything that sticks to or hangs with something else. The word was used for blood, because of the well known property of blood of being sticky, as soon as its starts to dry out. The word was used for mud, because of its obvious property of sticking to the hands. The word was used for unending hatred or love, because such emotions stick to one’s heart. The word was used for a small insect which sucks blood (leech), because it sticks to its prey. The word was also used for that part of the tree, which is in the reach of grazing animals, because the animals stick to that part of it.
Thus, the real meaning of the word “`alaq” is “anything that sticks or hangs”. Now when the Qur’an said: “He created man of `alaq“, it was interpreted by Muslim scholars to imply “a clot of blood”. This was not because the word “`alaq” meant “a clot of blood” but because the Muslim scholars felt that in this verse it implied “a clot of blood”. If, due to the widening of human knowledge, today we are in a position to know that a child is never “a clot of blood”, all that has happened is that we can now safely say that the interpretation of the Muslim scholars was not accurate. If the Qur’an was not available in its original language, as is generally the case with the books, other than the Qur’an, believed to be revealed literature, the Muslims would have had no option but to submit that the Qur’an does have a “scientific error” in it. But the case of the Qur’an is quite different from those other books. It is still in its original language. And the word originally used by the Qur’an (`alaq) is not used only for a clot of blood. It actually refers to “something that sticks” (like semi dried blood, mud, unending hatred/love or a leech).
From the above discussion, we not only see that what Mr. Katz is quite correctly objecting to is the interpretation of Muslim scholars, not the Qur’an, but we also understand the importance and significance of having a particular piece of literature in its original language. The analysis given above could not have been possible if the original word used by the Qur’an (`alaq) was not definitely known.
What was Man Created From?
Now let us have a look at the verses which Mr. Katz has objected to, in his article. The verses upon which Mr. Katz has based his objection are reproduced for a closer study:
Al-`alaq 96:1-2 reads as:
اقْرَأْ بِاسْمِ رَبِّكَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ ﴿١﴾ خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِنْ عَلَقٍ ﴿٢﴾
Proclaim, in the name of thy Lord, Who created — created man from `alaq.
Al-Anbiaa 21:30 reads as:
وَجَعَلْنَا مِنَ الْمَاءِ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ حَيٍّ ۖ
We made all living things from water.
Al-Noor 24:45 reads as:
وَاللَّـهُ خَلَقَ كُلَّ دَابَّةٍ مِّن مَّاءٍ ۖ
And Allah created all living things from water
Al-Furqaan 25:54 reads as:
وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ مِنَ الْمَاءِ بَشَرًا
It is He, Who created man from water.
Al-Hijr 15:26 reads as:
وَلَقَدْ خَلَقْنَا الْإِنسَانَ مِن صَلْصَالٍ مِّنْ حَمَإٍ مَّسْنُونٍ
And We created man from sounding (extremely dry) clay of black stinking mud.
Aal Imraan 3:59 reads as:
إِنَّ مَثَلَ عِيسَىٰ عِندَ اللَّـهِ كَمَثَلِ آدَمَ ۖ خَلَقَهُ مِن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ قَالَ لَهُ كُن فَيَكُونُ
[The creation of] Jesus, in the sight of Allah, is like [that of] Adam. He created him from dust and then said to him ‘Be’ and he was.
Al-Room 30: 20 reads as:
وَمِنْ آيَاتِهِ أَنْ خَلَقَكُم مِّن تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ إِذَا أَنتُم بَشَرٌ تَنتَشِرُونَ
And among His signs is that He created you from dust
Faatir 35:11 reads as:
وَاللَّـهُ خَلَقَكُم مِّن تُرَابٍ
And Allah created you from dust
Maryam 19:67 reads as:
أَوَلَا يَذْكُرُ الْإِنسَانُ أَنَّا خَلَقْنَاهُ مِن قَبْلُ وَلَمْ يَكُ شَيْئًا
Does man not take heed [from the fact] that We created him [while] before that he was nothing?
Al-Toor 52: 35 reads as:
أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ
Were they created out of nothing? Or were they themselves their own creators?
Hu’d 11:61 reads as:
هُوَ أَنشَأَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ وَاسْتَعْمَرَكُمْ فِيهَا
It was He who raised you up from the earth and gave you means to dwell upon it
Al-Nahl 16:4 reads as:
خَلَقَ الْإِنسَانَ مِن نُّطْفَةٍ
He created man from a drop [of semen].
Al-Qiyamah 75: 37 reads as:
أَلَمْ يَكُ نُطْفَةً مِّن مَّنِيٍّ يُمْنَىٰ
Was he not a drop of ejaculated semen?
Before we go into any details regarding the meanings and implications of these verses, I would like to point out an error in Mr. Katz’s translation of one of these verses and also a judgmental error on his part regarding the interpretation a few of these verses.
The first error is in the translation of Maryam 19: 67. Mr. Katz has translated it as:
But does not man call to mind that We created him before out of nothing?
Whereas, the correct translation of the Arabic words of this verse should be:
Does not man call to mind that We created him [while] before that he was nothing?
Mr. Katz in all probability has depended on the translation of Abd Allah Yusuf Ali, which unfortunately in this case is not very accurate. Thus, one of the objections that Mr. Katz has raised, on Mr. Desmond’s response (posted at the end of Mr. Katz’s criticism) is:
I wonder how you would look if I said “I made a cake from nothing” since Sura 19:67 says:
But does not man call to mind that We created him before out of nothing?
— Sura 19: 67 [wrongly written as 3: 47]
which fits together with the above mentioned “be and it is” (3:47).
Although you might mention different ingredients at different verses, but none of those goes together with “nothing”.
should stand resolved only by a correction in the translation.
As far as the judgmental error is concerned, Mr. Katz in his objection seems to have overlooked the fact that the Qur’an while talking about man’s creation, has referred to two distinct creations. One is the creation of Adam (the first man) and the other is the creation of the children of Adam. Adam, as shall be seen later, was created from water/dust/clay etc, while his progeny was created from “a drop of semen”. These two creations are actually two distinct stages in the creation of man. The first man was created from dust etc and later on, his progeny was created from “`alaqa“, which developed from “nutfah” (a drop of sperm). The Qur’an has itself referred to these two distinct stages of creation in Al-Sajadah 32: 7 – 8, where the Qur’an says:
الَّذِي أَحْسَنَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ خَلَقَهُ ۖ وَبَدَأَ خَلْقَ الْإِنسَانِ مِن طِينٍ ﴿٧﴾ ثُمَّ جَعَلَ نَسْلَهُ مِن سُلَالَةٍ مِّن مَّاءٍ مَّهِينٍ ﴿٨﴾
Who made excellent everything that He created. He began the creation of man from clay, then made his offspring from a drop of humble fluid.
Thus, all those verses which refer to “`alaq“, “nutfah” and the like are actually referring to the creation of the offspring of Adam, which according to the Qur’an itself was different from the creation of Adam. Therefore the subject matter of these verses, is not in contradiction with that of the others, as the two groups refer to two different things. Thus, Al-`alaq 96: 1 – 2, Al-Nahl 16: 4 and Al-Qiyamah 75: 37 will have to be removed from the contradicting verses list.
Now, after removing these verses, we are left with the following “contradictory” statements of the Qur’an:
- Man was made from water (21:30, 24:45, 25:54)
- Man was made from dust/soil (3:59, 30:20, 35:11)
- Man was made from sounding [extremely dry] clay from black stinking mud (15:26)
- Man was raised from the earth (11:61)
Besides these verses, Al-Saaffaat 37:11 gives an even different picture, as it says that man was created from such soil that sticks to one’s hands, or sticky soil. The verse reads as:
إِنَّا خَلَقْنَاهُم مِّن طِينٍ لَّازِبٍ
We created them from a sticky soil.
I really do not know what is the contradiction in these verses. Anyone with a literary sense can see that these verses are not contradictory.
If someone says that I made a cake from flour (soil) and then says I made a cake from water (water), and then says I made this cake from a solution of flour and water (mud, sticky soil), and then says that I made this cake from a dried out solution of flour and water (sounding clay from black stinking mud) and then says I brought the cake out from the oven (raised from the earth), a person may say that the statements are contradictory. But it is quite obvious that they are not. These statements inform us of not only the major ingredients of cake (man) but also give us some information regarding the stages from which these ingredients were made to go through for the ultimate production of the cake (man).
From the referred verses of the Qur’an, the result that Mr. Katz drew was that of raising an objection of contradiction and from these same verses I draw the following conclusions:
- Two major ingredients in man’s creation are soil and water;
- The soil and water took the shape of sticky mud;
- The sticky mud was left to dry out till it became hard (sounding clay);
- The total process beginning from the mixing of soil and water till man’s birth took place on this planet called “earth”.
At the end of his article Mr. Katz states:
But this is still not all in this confusion:
God createth what He willeth: When he hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, “Be,” and it is!
— Sura 3:47
He just says the word “be” and it is, there is no making a mess with water, clay, blood clots or dust, just a clean “there it is”. Right?
The answer to this objection has already been given in one of my earlier responses in which I have explained the correct meaning of the phrase “kun fayaku’n” (Be and it happens2 ).
Moreover, “Be and it happens” does not negate the fact that if God wants to create something from water and soil, through a process, He cannot do so. What it means is that if God wants to create something from water and soil, He would have no problems in procuring that water or that soil and nothing shall be able to stop the process that He has planned.
© Copyright December 1998. All Rights Reserved with the Author