It Was The Qur'an That First Revealed The Fact Of Blood Circulation In Human Body
By Mohammad Shafi J. Aga
In Sura 96, Verse 2 (Q: 96.2), the Qur'an says, "Khuliqal insaana min alaq" which means, "(Allah) created a human being from `alaq'". The accepted meaning of `alaq' is that initial embryonic stage, when it is in the form of a leech-like clot of blood clinging to or suspended from the wall of the uterus. At this stage, although there is a rudimentary formation of the human cardiovascular (blood circulatory) system, the heart has not started beating and the embryo has not yet acquired distinct human characteristics.
2. In a later-revealed Sura (Sura #86), however, the Qur'an speaks of another ingredient or raw material, other than `alaq', which has gone into the making of `insaan'. Verses 5 to 8 of this Sura run as follows: "Falyanzuril insaanu minma khuliq. Khuliqa minmaain daafiq. Yakhruju minbainis sulbi wattaraaib. Innahu alaa raj'eihi laqadir." [`Insaan' should then consider by what (means) he/she has been created. He/she has been created by (means of) gushing fluid. Which (fluid) comes out from between the spine and the ribs. Verily it is indeed capable of being returned.]
3. I am aware that the translation I have given in the above paragraph is not the orthodox one. But then, as anybody can see, the orthodox translation has deviated from the plain meaning of the words used in the Qur'an to suit the translators' own ideas about the message, the verses are conveying.
4. The preconceived idea of the translators is that the gushing fluid, referred to in the above-quoted verses of Sura #86, is semen that spurts out of the male organ, penis, during the sexual act. But with this preconceived idea, the translators had a problem. Semen, obviously, does not gush out from between the backbone and the ribs; nor, for that matter, is it produced there. Then, is the Word of Allah, na'auzubilLah, wrong? NO, explain the translators, the semen-producing organs are originally embedded, in the fetus, between the backbone and the ribs, but they gradually descend, until birth of the child, to their position, at birth, between the legs.
5. Even an adolescent can say that the translators' above explanation is nothing but stretching of their imaginations in a vain bid to justify their interpretation of the Divine Verses. [There are other explanations given, which are equally un-convincing.] Such justifications cannot but cast doubts on the veracity of the Qur'an being the Word of Allah. And Allah says of the Qur'an: "Zalikal kitabu la raiba feehi" (This is the book wherein there is no doubt) [Q: 2.2]!
6. The Qur'an itself says that the meanings of some of the verses may not be clear to mankind initially for some period of time because of the limits of its (mankind's) knowledge. But, "soon will We show them Our Signs in the regions, and in their own souls, until it becomes manifest to them that this (Qur'an) is the Truth" [Q: 41.53]. It is therefore imperative for true believers to stick to the plain meaning of Qur'anic Verses and refrain from devious interpretations, even when the plain meaning is not understandable. The expanding sphere of human knowledge may make the meaning clear at some future point of time.
7. The plain meaning of the Verses under consideration [Q: 86.5 to 7] is that Allah created `insaan' by means of the fluid that gushes out from the cavity enclosed by the back on one side and the ribs on the other. At the time, in the seventh century A.D., when these Verses were revealed, people could not understand the full implication of the Verses. The level of their knowledge about the intricacies of the human body was too low. They could not then understand as to what fluid could gush out of the said cavity. It was only ten centuries later, when the English physician, William Harvey*, announced his discovery of blood circulating around the body in a closed circuit, that mankind became aware of blood gushing out of the heart located in the cavity formed by the ribs and the backbone. Now we know how the pumping action of the heart makes the blood gush out into the aorta. So now we know what fluid it is that gushes out from the exact place described in the Qur'an. The fluid is nothing but blood. Why, then, do we, the people of the modern age, not accept this simple truth? Why do we still insist that the fluid is semen, when deep down in our hearts, we know that semen does not spurt out from the spot in the human body, so exactly described in the said Verses?
8. After the creation of the first man and woman by Allah, semen of course is the source derived from man for the creation of Adam and Eve's succeeding progeny. But semen is not the only source. The other source is the female egg. Neither of these two sources, however, can be said to be the ready-to-use materials from which `insaan' is created. After fertilization, the two sources together have to undergo numerous changes till the formation in the uterus of what Allah calls `alaq'. Now this `alaq' is the ready-to-use material with which `insaan' is created as stated by Allah Himself [Q: 96.2 cited above].
9. With the tremendous advances made in human knowledge during the last 13 centuries since the revelation of the Qur'an, we now know that `alaq' or the leech-shaped embryo in the mother's womb has the rudimentary (undeveloped) forms of the heart and the network of blood vessels. The rudimentary heart and blood-vessel-network is even filled with blood (the tiny embryo's own distinctive blood and not the mother's), but there is no heartbeat and no consequent circulation of the blood. `Alaq' is thus merely the source from which a human being is to be created, but it is not an `insaan' yet. Except for the cardio-vascular system, no other organ system has reached a functional state therein. In fact, there is not even a rudimentary formation of any other distinctly human organ at this stage.
10. The Qur'an (Q: 96.2) says, I repeat, that `alaq' is the material from which `insaan' is created. But `alaq' is not `insaan'; it is only a raw material for the latter. Something else, other than `alaq', is therefore logically required for the creation of `insaan'. It is my humble submission that the Verses (Q: 86.5 to 8) provide a clue to the other thing required. This other thing cannot be semen for the obvious reason that semen has already gone into the making of `alaq'.
11. As explained in para 7 above, the gushing fluid referred to in Verses (Q: 86.5 to 8) could only be blood. One may, however, ask, how could blood be the thing, other than `alaq', from which a living `insaan' is created, when blood might be part of `alaq' itself? Yes, it is not blood, per se, which is the other thing required, but it is the gushing fluid (blood), together with the motive force behind it, which is required to convert `alaq' into a living thing, `insaan'.
12. When blood stops gushing out of the heart, life ceases to exist. As a necessary corollary to this statement of fact, one has to admit that life begins when the heart in the embryo starts ticking and blood starts gushing out therefrom at the beginning of the 4th week after conception. It is with this gushing blood that primitive organs are formed and the embryo takes distinctly human shape by the end of the 8th week.
Without this gushing blood, the embryo would not develop into the infant, capable of coming out into the world and continuing to live therein. Even after birth, the creating and developing work of the gushing blood continues till the infant turns into a fully developed `insaan'. It is this gushing blood which sustains every cell of the body by regularly supplying oxygen and nourishment to it and draining out wastes therefrom. Without this gushing blood, the cells would all be dead, life would cease to exist, and there would be no `insaan'.
13. In the light of the above discussion, is there any doubt now that along with `alaq', it is the blood gushing out of the heart by means of which `insaan' has been created and sustained? Is there any doubt now that the gushing fluid referred to in the Verses, (Q: 86.5 & 6) is not semen but blood gushing out of the heart? Is there any doubt now that the said Verses had revealed a scientific truth in the seventh century, when the truth dawned on the scientific world only over a thousand years later? Is there any doubt now that the Qur'an is the book of Allah? Only those will have doubts who are "deaf, dumb, blind and therefore do not understand" (Q: 2.171).
14. The Verse, (Q: 86.8), is generally so translated as to mean that Allah is capable of resurrecting `insaan' on the day of judgement, after his death in this world. The crucial word in the Verse is `raj'eihi'. `Raj'ei', of course, means return. But what does `hi', meaning `his/its' pertain to - to `insaan' or to `gushing fluid' both referred to in the preceding Verses? In the traditional translation, of course, `hi' has been taken to mean `his' and is construed to pertain to `insaan', occurring in the earlier Verse #5. But the interpretation of Verse #8, thus made, appears to be rather contrived. This `contrivance' was naturally to be expected from interpreters/translators at the time of the revelation of the Verses, and for centuries later, because of the limitation of human knowledge about the intricacies of the human body, at that time. If the Verse were to be then interpreted to mean that the gushing fluid was capable of being returned to where it originated from, it would make no sense to the people living then. But now, this interpretation would not only make sense, but would be a natural corollary to the interpretation given to the immediately preceding Verses above, in this write-up.
15. Look at the implication of this interpretation: The Holy Qur'an had revealed the fact of blood circulation in the human body, long back in the seventh century, whereas the world of science came to know of it about a thousand years later! *
16. But, alas, most of humanity would persist in being "summunm, bukmun, umyun, fahum la yaqiloon" (Q: 2.171)!
*Note: It has come to my knowledge, after I first wrote the above piece, that blood circulation was first discovered, not by William Harvey, but by a Muslim, Ibn Nafees, in the twelfth century AD itself. But, even then, the fact remains that blood circulation was first revealed, earlier, in the Qur'an.