How can gender detection through ultrasound be explained in terms of the verse “He knows what is in the wombs”?

The Details of the Question

- The verse “He knows what is in the wombs” is interpreted as the baby’s being a good or bad person is known only by Allah, not as its being a boy or a girl. However, there is the following hadith about the reason why the verse in question was sent down: - A man named Waris b. Amr came to the Prophet and said: “My wife is pregnant; let me know what she will give birth to...” In other words, the verse was revealed based on a question in terms of gender. - Since our Lord gave this verse as an answer to the man’s question, how should gender determination through ultrasound be explained?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

First of all, we know that a significant part of the incidents shown as the reason for revelation in tafsir books did not reach us in a sound way. The reason for the revelation about the issue in question is generally expressed with the use of a passive word such as “it is narrated that, it is said that, according to what is narrated”, which shows weakness”. (See Tabari, Mawardi, Qurtubi, Ibn Kathir, Razi, Baydawi, the interpretation of verse 34 of the chapter of Luqman) According to Ibn Kathir, it was reported by Ibn Abi Najih from Mujahid (the interpretation of the verse in question).

That is to say, there is no information here as to from whom Mujahid reported it and with what chain of narrators. As a matter of fact, Ibn Ashur (see the interpretation of the verse in question) “This news is based on Muqatil and Ikrima, but the original chain of narrators is unknown.” This point alone is an important indicator of weakness.

Even if this news is true, it is not appropriate to confine the broad expression of the verse only to the narrow question of the person asking the question. The Quran sometimes answers a question, not according to the outward appearance of the question shaped by the narrow capacity of the questioner, but by mentioning a scientific fact that is beneficial to everyone in a broad sense. It is called “wise style”. For example, in the answer to a person asking how the moon thins and takes the shape of a crescent, the Quran attracts attention to the calendar function of the crescent, which is beneficial to everyone, instead of describing an astronomical event that is difficult to be understood by him. The meaning of the verse in question is as follows:

“They ask thee concerning the new moons. Say: They are but signs to mark fixed periods of time in (the affairs of) men, and for pilgrimage...” (al-Baqara, 2/189)

Similarly, even if someone asked “whether his wife had a boy or a girl in her womb” regarding the issue we are talking about, the expression of the Quran is not based on his narrow capacity, but is a universal fact to all people who will come until the Day of Judgment. With this, the Quran not only satisfies the person who asks the question but also underlines a fact that is timeless by using a word that will always be fresh. That word is “ma (what)” in the verse. If “man (who)” was used and it was said “man fil-arham”, it could only be suitable for the perception of boys and girls since the word “man” is used for “living-intelligent beings”, whereas the actual meaning of the word “ma” is “thing” and is used for “inanimate-mindless beings” in principle.

So, whatever the reason for its revelation, the choice of “ma” in the Quran, which comes from Allah’s infinite knowledge, is definitely based on a reason, and that reason is to express the material-spiritual face and destiny program of the fetus in the womb.

To sum up, until now, many tafsir scholars considered the issue within the framework of the knowledge of their age and explained its absolute and concise expression of the Quran as “only Allah knows what is in the womb” as “female-male”. The gender of the child in the womb started to be determined with the advancing medical technique. It contradicts the outward statement of the Quran. According to Badiuzzaman said Nursi, who did not find it appropriate to consider the issue within the framework of “femininity-masculinity”, what is meant in the verse is the child’s spiritual face, such as his life program, special talents and abilities, which is a divine seal and is impossible to know because the word “ma” in the verse is the most comprehensive word in Arabic that expresses the absolute general. No one but Allah knows the spiritual face of a person, which is a divine art, as well as the physical and physiological face that distinguishes a child from others. If a hundred thousand human ideas were united, they would not be able to achieve it. (see Niyazi Beki, Kur’an’ın büyük ve parlak bir tefsiri, Risale-i Nur, 111; Lem’alar, 102)

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