How should the statement "Allah grew you (your ancestor Adam) from the earth like plants " in verse 17 in the chapter of Nuh be understood?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Question:And Allah has produced you from the earth growing (gradually)” How should we understand the statement above mentioned in verse 17 of the Chapter of Nuh?1

Answer:     وَاللَّهُ أَنبَتَكُم مِّنَ الْأَرْضِ نَبَاتًا“And Allah has produced you from the earth growing (gradually)”. (Nuh, 17) Evolutionist interpretations were made about the verse above. The word nabat, which is an object in the verse, is a noun used for an infinitive in the sense of inbat as Qurtubi states, that is, it is used in order to strengthen the verb anbata-grew (created) but since the word nabat means plant, it was translated as plant and its position in the sentences was thought to be an adverb; therefore, in many translations of the Quran, it was translated as follows: “Allah grew you from the earth like plants” and “Allah grew you from the earth as plants”.

     However, what is meant in the verse is the creation of Hz. Adam from soil in a nice way. That is, creation is expressed with a similar word (anbata). The word nabatan at the end of the verse is used in place of inbat in the sense of (growing-creating) is the object of the sentence. Thus, the meaning of the statement is “Allah produced you (your father Adam) by creating you from the earth”. This word is interpreted as building/constructing in tafsir books. For instance, Tabari interprets it as follows:

“Allah built you by creating you from the soil of the earth”.

Qurtubi states the following:

“The word nabatan in the verse is an infinitive other than the main infinitive because the main infinitive of the verb “anbata” is “inbat””. Thus, the noun (nabat) was used in place of the infinitive (inbat). Razi states the following:

 “Instead of أنبتكم إنباتاً, أنبتكم نباتاً is used in the verse. The point here is that “inbat” is an attribute of Allah and it cannot be observed.

When the verse immediately after it  ثُمَّ يُعِيدُكُمْ فِيهَا وَيُخْرِجُكُمْ إِخْرَاجًا  “And in the End He will return you into the (earth), and raise you forth (again at the Resurrection)?” is viewed, the meaning of the verse will be understood better. For, Allah’s existence and power are expressed in the verse as well as the fact that resurrection is so easy for Allah. The verse states that Allah, who created you once, can create you again from the earth after you die and are mixed with soil. He definitely has power to do it.

The word inbat(growing/creating from earth) is used in order to make that comparison settle in the minds. A verse similar to that one is as follows: مِنْهَا خَلَقْنَاكُمْ وَفِيهَا نُعِيدُكُمْ وَمِنْهَا نُخْرِجُكُمْ تَارَةً أُخْرَى

“From the (earth) did We create you, and into it shall We return you, and from it shall We bring you out once again.”2

As it is seen, the difference between this verse and verse 17 of the Chapter of Nuh is that the word anbata is used in one of them and khalaqna in the other. Both verses were sent down based on the same purpose. 

        The word nabat used in the following verse to express that beauty of Hz. Maryam (Mary) is not in the sense of plant and it is clear that it is used in the sense of growing/creation: 

 “He made her grow in purity and beauty (Waanbatahanabatanhasanan).”3 (For, it is clear that Hz. Maryam was not created and grown as a plant and that she was not converted from a plant to a human being.) The same thing applies to verse 17 of the Chapter of Nuh. To sum up, the verb “anbata” is a word used in the sense of creating.

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1.From Veysel Güllüce’s article “Evrimci Görüşün Kur’ân Meâllerindeki İzdüşümleri ”in print. (Âdem Dursun, ÂdemTatlı, Ercan Kaya, İdris Görmez, Nihat Yatkın, Orhan Erdoğan, Ömer İrfan Küfrevioğlu,Veysel Güllüce. İslamiyetin DilindenYaratılış. Atatürk ÜniversitesiYayını, 2019, p. 47).
2.Ta-Ha, 55.
3.Aal-iImran, 37.

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