Tuesday, 25 August 2015


Published online in The Guardian Newspaper of July 31, 2015

Yet, it was in 1677 that Hamm and Leeuwenhoek became the first scientists to observe human sperm cells (spermatozoa) using a microscope. They thought that a sperm cell contained a miniature human being that grew in the uterus to form a newborn. This was known as the perforation theory. When scientists discovered that the ovum was bigger than the sperm, it was thought by De Graf and others that the foetus existed in a miniature form in the ovum. Later in the 18th century, Maupertuis propagated the theory of biparental inheritance.

Recently, Prof. Marshall Johnson of Dept. of Anatomy, Thomas Jefferson University would have this to say about embryological stages of human development “I see nothing here (in Quran) in conflict with the concept that divine intervention was involved in scientific description of embryo when Muhammed (PBUH) recited the Quran”. Again, Dr Keith Moore, a non-Muslim professor of Embryology and a world expert on the subject at the University of Toronto was once asked ‘How do you explain this information in the Quran?’ Dr Moore’s response was, ‘It could only have been divinely revealed!’

Moreover, who guides the embryo in his journey to life? He is Allah, the Supreme Being, who says “Our Lord is He who gave to each thing its form and nature, then guided it aright” (Q20:50). The Glorious Quran also asserts authoritatively that “He it is who shapes you in the wombs as He pleases. There is no god but He (Allah), the Exalted in Might, the Wise” (Q3:6).

In order to make it convincingly clear, here is an exquisite remark: Allah says “He creates you in the wombs of your mothers in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness.” (Q39:6), thus indicating the continuation of the embryonic development and the change from one stage into another, as explained earlier. Embryologists have confirmed that the foetus is surrounded, during the stages of development, with three membranes: The amnion membrane which contains a fluid encompassing the foetus to make it in a state of swimming, thus protecting it from trauma that the uterus encounters, and facilitates the foetus movements for re-position smoothly during labour; the chorion membrane and; the decidua membrane. Some scholars interpreted the three veils of darkness with the amniotic membrane surrounding the uterus, wall of uterus, and abdomen wall. Yet, Allah knows best.

The embryonic stages are in accordance with the Prophet Muhammed’s (PBUH) saying in one of his narration in Sahih Muslim: “When 42 nights have passed over the conception, Allah sends an angel to it, who shapes it (into human form) and makes its ears, eyes, skin, muscles and bones. Then he says: ` O Lord is it male or female? `, and your Lord decides what He wishes and the angel records it.” After 42 nights (6 weeks), the embryo begins to take the human image with the appearance of cartilaginous skeleton, then the external genitals begin to appear later on (the 10th week). In the 7th week the human image gets clearer with the start of the spread of skeleton. This week represents (between 40 and 45 days) the demarcation line between ‘mudgha’ (lump of flesh) and human image.

After the completion of embryonic stages and the passing of nine lunar months, the foetus completes growth in the uterus. Why nine lunar months is the benchmark for delivery while before this time is considered pre-mature and after is post-datum? Who instructs the foetus to prepare for another stage of coming to this world? Almighty Allah says “And We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term” (Q22:5). So the term is divinely ordained as appointed and determined. The Supreme Being also asserts that “The foetus We placed in a place of rest, firmly fixed, for a period (of gestation) determined. For We do determine, for We are the best to determine things” (Q77:21-23).

The Glorious Quran elaborates the stages of labour as a “divine plan” of the Almighty Allah while making reference to women in labour, in which the status of Mary, who is a pious believer in monotheism and the mother of Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ, peace be upon him) as described in the following verse when she was in labour of delivering Jesus Christ: “And the birth pains surprised her by the trunk of the palm tree: she said; ‘Ah! Would I have died before this! And become a thing forgotten.’ But (a voice) cried to her from beneath: ‘Grieve not! Your Lord has set below you a rivulet. Shake to you the palm-trunk, and there shall come falling upon you dates fresh and ripe. So eat, and drink, and be comforted...…” (Q19: 23-26). She made this confession after delivering Prophet Isa (Jesus Christ, pbuh) and recounted her experience of labour pain. As a pious woman who submitted to the will of her Lord, a voice came upon her (from Angel Gabriel) who directed her to eat dates to comfort her.

It has been scientifically proved that dates have several benefits for woman in labour which includes: Dates are rich in fibers which help avoid constipation, as it is a natural laxative, and helps a smooth delivery. Dates contain more than 70% glucose which is easily absorbed and assimilated, thus ensuring the provision of necessary energy during labour. Dates is rich in minerals, particularly magnesium which is necessary for cells physiology, potassium which is necessary for the muscles and irons which is necessary to treat anaemia; Dates contain a substance that helps alert the muscles of uterus to contract and increase contraction during delivery among others.

· To be continued.

· Engr. Dauda Ayanda (MNSE), wrote from Ibadan.

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