Episode 51 : The Stages of Fetus: the Sperm, The Clinging Clot and the Embryo
Episode 51 : The Stages of Fetus: the Sperm, The Clinging Clot and the Embryo
Comparison between Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud and Hudhayfah:
It is known that the creation of human-being begins after the sperm develops into a chewable piece of flesh as was mentioned in the previous Hadith of Anas that says: “Allah appoints an angel in charge of the uterus who says: “O Lord, (It is) semen O Lord, (It is now) a clot. O Lord, (It is now) a piece of flesh.” And then, if Allah wills to complete its creation the angel asks: “O Lord, (will it be) a male or a female? ....”
It is worth mentioning that bones don’t develop but from that little piece of flesh (Al Mudhghah) as Allah Almighty said: “Then We made the Nutfah into a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood), then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh, then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So Blessed is Allâh, the Best of creators. [Surat Al-Mu’minun: 14].
Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud denotes clearly that the little lump of flesh develops only after second fortieth and in the beginning of the third fortieth.
On the other hand, Hadith of Hudhayfah is clear that the creation begins at the end of the first fortieth and during the beginning of the second fortieth, which means that development of sperm into a clinging clot then into a little lump of flesh happens in the first fortieth. But this meaning contradicts apparently the meaning of Ibn Mas`ud’s Hadith that led some scholars to explain the context of both Hadith as follows:
1 – The fortieth mentioned in the narration of Hudhayfah is the third fortieth and the lump of flesh was described as sperm with regard to the fact that it was a sperm during its earlier developments (1).
However, this opinion is too far from the text of the Hadith and the nature of the wording of Hadith refuses this solution totally (2).
2 – The word of Takhliq (creating)and Tsawir (shaping) here denotes only writing and proposing not direct creation or actual formation. The evidence for the validity of this opinion is represented in the fact that making it a male or female happens alongside the above-mentioned shaping procedures. That was described by saying “And your Lord decides as He wills and the angel writes them down.” (3) So the act of writing, proposing and shaping was described as creation with regard to the coming developments. (4)
But this in my view is contrary to the clear and evident meaning of Hudhayfah’s narration.
3 –The Arabic word Takhliq (creating) and Tsawir (shaping) here refers to a concealed act of creating and shaping that could not be perceived by the sense of human beings. When the sperm exceeds forty days it develops into a clinging clot that is regarded the first stage of creation where the concealed act of creation begins and could not be perceived by the human sense. And when the third fortieth is passed the visible creation begins which could be perceived by human scenes."(5).
But this opinion is also unacceptable as in many cases the developments of embryos are visible during the second fortieth, as well as the differences of male and female become distinguished during this period. (6) This fact has become clear now due to modern precise machines which depict the fetus in the mother's womb and shows that the act of creation takes place after the first fortieth where the human figure begins to appear clearly.(7)
4 – The Hadith of Hudhayfah is clear that the sperm in the first fortieth remains untouched and disregarded. But when it has crossed this stage and entered the period of creation after its continuous developments then the process of proposing and writing happens, eventually, the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud indicates clearly that it occurs after the third fortieth, after it has developed into a little piece of flesh. On the other hand, the Hadith of Hudhayfah points out that it happens after the first fortieth without specifying its time. So His Hadith is absolute and infinite in this regard. However, it was defined and determined by the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud. The principle that rules here is to consider the defined and specified one so it is valid to say that the sperm after forty days develops into the clinging clot, then into a little piece of flesh and the creation continues then skin and bones are created and hearing and sight are brought up and life is breathe into it and fortune or misfortune are written. But it does not mean that all these developments happen immediately after the first fortieth. (8) This is the opinion that was outlined by Ibn Al Qayyim who concluded saying: "This interpretation is very good."
But when we think it seems to be similar to the first opinion which suggests that the fortieth must be understood as the third fortieth which was rejected by Ibn Al Qayyim himself. Furthermore, it means that the word of fortieth is meaningless that was mentioned in the Hadith of Hudhayfah.
If it is said that the number of forty is still meaningful as it explains that the sperm does not achieve any improvement before the end of the first fortieth. Then we answer that it is already known from the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud.
All of these interpretations are based on assumed explanation of Hudhayfah’s Hadith in-order to make it agreeing with the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud.
But some scholars assumed to interpret the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud, in-order to make it agreeing with the Hadith of Hudhayfah. I came to know two kinds of interpretations for the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud, namely:
(1) Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud means that the semen during the first fortieth of conception in general is called sperm but during the second fortieth it is described as ‘Al `Alaqah’(Clinging Clot) and during the third fortieth it is named as ‘Al Mudhghah’ (A little piece of flesh). This interpretation does not contradict if the act of shaping and creating proceeds (9). But this opinion is contrary to the scenes and pictures of today’s embryology (10).
(2) All stages of developments mentioned in the Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud are related to the first fortieth. And this Hadith does not intend to explain any order in the developments of embryos; rather, it has intended only to put the information in good order.
This point of view was elucidated and detailed by Ibn Az-Zimalkany in his book (Al Burhan Al Kashif `An `Ejaz Al Qur’an).Due to the magnificence of his words and accuracy, I would like to quote as it is, he said: "I say: the opinions of Muslim scholars about the interpretations of both Hadith remained confusing because they didn’t know what has been discovered by the anatomy, here I am going to mention the developments of sperm in the uterus and then I will interpret the Hadith in the light of this discovery so that it would become clear that both facts are same and agreeing with each other as the best reported information is that which agrees with reasonable reality. I say: the period therein the embryo is created has been divided into three stages:
First: if the semen was not hurled by the uterus to outside it becomes round and like a small ball then it thickens by heat, then on the sixth day it turns like butter.
Second: then three blobs of blood appear: one in the middle, the place that develops into a heart if completes its creation and the second blob on the upside that develops into a brain and the third blob on the right side that becomes a liver. And then those blobs begin to diverge and some red lines between them begin to appear. This happens during three days after and the total period becomes nine days.
Third: when it becomes like blood and develops into a piece of clinging clot. It happens during another six days, thus the total period became fifteen days.
Fourth: when it becomes a flesh this takes another twelve days, eventually the total period became twenty-seven days.
Fifth: when the head becomes separated from the shoulders and parts of the body branches out from ribs and abdomen, then some parts become visible while some remains hidden and it happens during another nine days, making a total of thirty-six days.
Sixth: when these organs become separated from each other and appear to the sense apparently. And this takes another four days, making the total period forty days. However, in some cases it may be delayed rarely to the end of forty-five days while in some rare cases it advances before that period and takes only thirty days.
Aristotle said: If womb is cut open after forty days and the fetus is put in cold water then something like small parts appear distinct out of it.
If it is proved (11) then Hadith of Hudhayfah agrees with this fact clearly as there are many middle stages between being a sperm and creation of the sense of hearing and sight, such as the state of being a clinging clot and then a little piece of flesh and then bones and covering the bones with flesh. It is notable that Hadith of Ibn Mas`ud agrees with this fact as the phrase of his Hadith "Each one of you is collected in the womb of his mother for forty days.” means that his creation is completed and fashioned perfectly during this period. As the Arabic word ‘Yujma`u’ has been derived from ‘Jam`a’ that means perfection and excellence, Arabs describe a person with strong and perfect body by saying ‘Rajulun Jami`as well as the head of human-being is called ‘Juma`a’ because perfection and integrity of the human body depends on his head. And Arabs say “Matat Al Mar’atu Bi Juma`a” (if a woman dies while her womb contains an embryo.)
The phrase of the Hadith: “And then it turns into a clot for an equal period.” that is to say: it becomes a clinging clot, full of creation having a perfect and strong physique appropriate for the nature of sperm during the mentioned fortieth, thus both Hadith are equal in the significance of the perfection and precision. Then it develops into a little piece of flesh during its own period of fortieth, full of creation like the perfect figure of human creation after forty days. The style of Hadith in expression is like your word if say: “A person changes continuously duration his age) then you begin to explain the changes and say: he becomes a baby, then a weaned child, then a teenager, then a young man, then a mature man, then an old man, then a very old man, and then Allah causes his death. It is evident that you have intended merely to put your information about the developing stages and periods of life in this world in a proper order. Furthermore, the word ‘Mithl’ in the Hadith may be regarded as additional that has no specific meaning and the phrase ‘Mithl’ Dhalika” would be an adverb of time as was said about the word of ‘Mithl’ in the following A’yah:
“So if they believe in the like of that which you believe, then they are rightly guided; but if they turn away, then they are only in opposition. So Allâh will suffice you against them. And He is the All-Hearer, the All-Knower.”[Baqarah: 137]. (Some commentators regarded the word like in this A’yah as extra.)
Now in the light of anatomy the coincidence of both Hadith has become clear (12).
(1) Tariq Al Hijratayn, p (138), and At-Tibyan Fi Aqsam Al Qur’an, p (346).
(2) At-Tibyan Fi Aqsam Al Qur’an, p (346).
(3) Fataawa Ibn Salah (1/165, 166).
(4) Tariq Al Hijratayn, p (139).
(5) Tariq Al Hijratayn, p (139), the compiler has favored this opinion and said: "This explanation is logical and more suited to the textual nature of this Hadith." End of quote.
(6) Fathul-Bary (11/484).
(8) Tariq Al Hijratayn, p (139, 140).
(9) Fathul-Bary, (11/485).
(11) Al Burhan Al Kashif `An I`ajaz Al-Qur’an, (273-275).