Is sperm, which is the essence of semen, meant in verse 8 of the chapter of at-Tawba?

Details of the Question
Is sperm, which is the sperm -essence of semen- or semen itself -ordinary water- meant as the essence in verse 8 of the chapter of at-Tawba?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Holy Qur’an mentions the stage before insemination in many verses and the following expressions were used in those verses; ‘’semen’’ (al-Qiyamah, 75/36; al-Waqia, 56/58), "main dafiq (drop emitted)" (at-Tariq, 86/6) and "main mahin’ (a fluid despised/despicable)” (as-Sajda, 32/8; al-Mursalat, 77/20).

Nutritious fluid named semen which carries sperms does not merely consist of sperms. On the contrary, semen consists of a mixture of different fluids.

Semen is a compound of substances excreted from the canals of sperm, the seminal vesicles, the prostate glands, and glands connected to the urinary tracts. With detailed analysis, we can see that the fluid named semen consists of many components like citric acid, prostaglandins, flavins, ascorbic acid, ergothioneine, fructose, phosphorylcholine, cholesterol, phospholipids, fibrinolysin, zinc, acid phosphatase, phosphatase, hyaluronates and sperms.

These fluids has duties like containing the glucose which will provide the energy needed for the sperm, neutralizing the acids at the entrance of the womb with its base quality, providing the slippery environment where the sperm will move.

In the Qur’an, it is reported that gender -masculinity and femininity- are created from the semen flowing into the womb. However, until quite recently it was thought that gender was determined by the mother’s cells. Science discovered this information, which is given in the Qur’an- only in the 20th century. In the Qur’an, many details related to the creation of man like this were stated many centuries ago.

When semen is mentioned in the Qur’an, this fact which was revealed by modern science is also pointed and semen is described as a “mingled” fluid:

“Verily We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him: So We gave him (the gifts), of Hearing and Sight.” (al-Insan, 2)

In the verses mentioned in the question, it is pointed out that semen is a mixture; and it is emphasized that the human is created from the essence of this mixture:

“He Who created all things in the best, and He began the creation of man from clay, And made his progeny from a quintessence of despised fluid.” (as-Sajda, 7-8)

The Arabic word progeny (sulala) translated as essence here means ‘the best part of something’. No matter which meaning is accepted, it means ‘a part of a whole’ thing.

Indeed, the sperms are both a part of the semen and the basic raw material of it. The sperm which inseminates the ovum among all the sperms is both a small amount of the sperms that can be expressed as only one in a hundred millionth of the sperms and the most successful swimmer reaching its destination by overtaking millions of sperms in this long distance race.

This shows obviously that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, who knows the creation of man in every fine detail.

The stages man undergoes in the womb are mentioned as follows in the Holy Qur’an:

"Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (fetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!" (al-Muminun, 23/12, 13, 14)

In the verse, the stages of fetus are mentioned in the order of "nutfa, alaqa, mudgha".

These stages of creation mentioned in the Qur’an correspond with the data of modern science.

The first stage is the occurrence of insemination (fertilization) as a result of the sperm going into the (ovum) fallopian tubes (in the canal between the womb and ovarium). This inseminated ovum is called ‘zygote’

The second stage is the stage when the zygote holds onto the womb at first, and then sinks into the womb (implantation). From this stage on, the term ‘embryo’ is used.

Some special tissues and organs develop in this stage, which includes the 3rd to 8th weeks of growing after fertilization.

Third stage is the stage when the embryo gets the name ‘fetus’, the body starts to grow fast -from third month to the birth-, and the skin and the organs develop. (see Örs, Rahmi ve Dilmen, Uğur, "Fetal Fiyoloji", Temel Kadın Hastalıkları ve Doğum Bilgisi, 205, 206.)

As it is seen, a zygote -which is totally different and new living being- comes into existence by the insemination of two living beings: sperm and ovum. The genes of the chromosomes of this inseminated cell contains the characteristics of the baby which will be born.

Afterwards, this inseminated ovum starts to cover distances every day and becomes an embryo, fetus, baby, child, young, adult and old person according to the stages it undergoes.

All of these stages cannot be considered as separate and independent from one another. All of them are in the scope of the being called a human.

Note: We recommend you to read the following explanations that we think might be useful to help you to understand the subject:

The wonders in the subject of Embryology

There is a large-sized scientific book called ‘The Developing Human’, which belongs to Prof. Dr. Keith L. Moore, who is the head of the Anatomy Department of Toronto University of Canada and a member of various science foundations.

This valuable book, which narrates the development of man according to the science of embryology in detail beginning from a single cell, especially the part in the eighth and ninth pages of the book, which mentions the history of human embryology, attracts attention since it states that development in exact sciences of people in Middle Ages were slow and it mentions that important information is given in the Qur’an, the holy books of Muslims, about the development of man beginning from a single cell. (Full name of the book: Moore, K. L; The Developing Human-Clinically Oriented Embryology, 3.rd Ed. Philadelphia, W. B Saunders Co, 1982).

Prof. Moore made a detailed statement about this particular subject in the daily newspapers called “The Gazette” and “The Globe and Mail’’ on 22-23 November 1984 and dealt with this subject in one of his scientific articles.

In his scientific article -which was published with the title ‘The Wonders in the Subject of Embryology’- Prof. Moore included the photographs of the posters that included Quranic verses and hadiths in their original forms and their English translations and that he showed to the journalists in the press conference and allowed them to take pictures.  

In this scientific article which he published, Prof. Dr. Keith L. Moore, points out the wonders he determined from the Qur’an and hadiths about embryology as follows:

"First studies about embryology started at -as much as we know- in the 4th century BC and developed embryos of chicks were searched in order to come to a comparative conclusion. For approximately 2000 years after this study, there had not been any remarkable progress in the science of embryology. And after the invention of the telescope in the 17th century, the embryologic stages in the human started to be determined. I examined the human’s embryologic progress by working on the Qur’an and hadiths for a few years and I was astonished to see the information which is completely in harmony with the scientific facts in this divine book, which was sent to humankind in the 7th century.

Now I will quote the verses I had taken from the Qur’an in the light of the recent developments in embryology.

The idea that man developed in the womb in stages was put forward in 1942 but the latest information that is still valid today was accepted by everybody in 1974.

However, the Qur’an indicates in an obvious way that the creation of human happens in three dark areas by saying: ‘He created you (all) from a single person: then created, of like nature, his mate; and He sent down for you eight head of cattle in pairs: He creates you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness. Such is Allah, your Lord and Cherisher: to Him belongs (all) dominion. There is no god but He: then how are ye turned away (from your true Lord)?’ in verse 6 of the chapter of az-Zumar.

The first one of these areas which are completely in compliance with the recent developments of embryology is wall of the womb, the second is the mother’s abdominal wall and the third is the amniochorionic membrane composed of the fused amnion and chorion. These three anatomic areas protect the embryo from external effects and harms.

Verses 12-14 of the chapter of al-Mumimun makes a complete description of the human embryo while mentioning the developments in the first weeks and states that it was transformed from a climbing leech into a chewed flesh.

“Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest firmly fixed; Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (fetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create!”

Despite the fact that we did not understand these verses at first, we were thunderstruck when we compared the shape of the 24-day old human embryo with the Arab leeches. That shape of the embryo looked like the leeches very much. And this stage was the stage when the embryo climbs the wall of the womb, which is in compliance with the phrase “climbing leech”, one of the lexical meanings of the word alaqa.

For centuries, people believed that a miniature shape of human was in the sperms of male and that it grew up in the womb without changing its shape. In the same way, the other group alleged that the ovum of female contained the model of human in it. So, for centuries, the cells of sperm and ovum were dealt with separately.

We learned the fact that human being was created from a single cell called zygote, and that zygote is came into existence by the insemination of the ovule only in the 18th century by the results of the experiments of Spallanzani.

However,

- Verse 37 of ‘the chapter of al-Qiyamah and verse 8 of ‘the chapter of as-Sajda stated how the zygote -mentioned as (Nutfa)- came  into existence eleven centuries earlier than this discovery; and

- Verse 19 of the chapter of Abasa stated clearly that the zygote carried the characteristics and life program of the developing human.

This fact which was discovered at the end of the 19th century was stated in the Qur’an centuries ago and it is interesting that those verses were in the form that could be understood even by the people of that century.

Although it was discovered in the last century that the sperm was the factor that provided insemination in recent centuries the verses of the Qur’an did not only describe insemination but also stated the properties of the sperm centuries ago.

The fact that only very few of the millions of ejaculated sperms were able to reach the womb where the ovum waited and that only one of them united with the ovum was discovered in the 18th century.

However, Allah explained this creation stage of human 1200 years ago by the following verses:

‘Was he not a drop of sperm emitted (in lowly form)?’ (al-Qiyamah, 75/37)

‘And made his progeny from a quintessence of despised fluid.’ (as-Sajda, 32/8)

It is stated that not all semens result in making a child in a hadith related to this.

Dr. Moore narrates his other similar determinations which he qualifies as miracles as follows:

According to the researches, the embryo descends to the womb after ten days. It resembles to a human in the 8th week. 50-55 days after arriving in the womb, the embryo becomes a human with everything. However, the ears and eyes start to shape up in the 4th week. 6 weeks later, they become quite distinct.

In one hadith, Prophet (pbuh) states: When forty-two nights pass after the semen gets into the womb, Allah sends the angel and gives him shape. Then he creates his sense of hearing, sense of sight, his skin, his flesh, his bones, and then says: My Lord, would he be male or female?

The Prophet (pbuh) described the event that would be discovered after 1100 years by giving even the correct number of the days; which word can describe this other than the word ‘miracle’?

There is one more fineness in this hadith. Why does the angel ask the gender of the baby? It is very stunning to view the answers of this hadith by the scientific knowledge of today: For, until the forty-second day, even though the embryo’s bones and flesh are completed, and the character and senses are settled, the gender of it is not specified at that time and this was stated perfectly in the hadith 1200 years ago.

The Qur’an also clarifies the implantation process of the human’s blastocyst.

Verse 223 of the chapter al-Baqara  likens the state of the blastocyst in the womb to a seed thrown into ground by saying ‘Your wives are as a tilth unto you’. This verse is also very meaningful. For, as ground conceals seed, the epithelium of the womb conceals the blastocyst which clings to it. And blastocyst immediately starts to generate the fibrils named chorionic villi in order to feed itself. Just like the seeds taking root under the ground in order to feed themselves.

Dr. Moore narrates another astonishing finding of him as follows:

Why do the verses we quoted before mention the shape of the four-week-old human embryo as “chewed flesh” (Mudgha)? When we examine this 4-week-old embryo, named as ‘Mudgha’ by the Qur’an, we see that a patter like a chain of beads appear on it and we noticed with astonishment that the structure actually looked like teeth marks.

We made a model of four-week-old human embryo out of plastic and we chew it, leaving our teeth marks on it. The shape looked extremely like the real embryo and it explained very well why the Qur’an mentioned it as “chewed flesh” (Mudgha).

The conformity between the information given in the Qur’an and the result of the embryological researches today about mudgha does not consist of this only.

The following is stated in verse 14 of the chapter of al-Muminun: “…We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature…" "These changes, which are stated to have been made in mudgha, were determined to be in the same way as it is stated in the verse as a result of the embryological studies that were made; it was even observed that the organs like the brain and heart started to form in this stage."

The Canadian Professor Keith L. Moore, who attracts attention to the miracles in the Quran and hadiths through a press conference and his books by comparing the findings of the science of embryology today and the Quran and hadiths, states the following as a conclusion:

"I think I will be able to evaluate better the facts of the verses of Quran and hadiths confirmed by today’s exact sciences as my knowledge increases. I believe that the gap that has formed between science and religion for years can be bridged as the truths of the Quran and hadiths are understood."

"This is the Book; in it is guidance sure, without doubt, to those who fear Allah" (al-Baqara, 2)

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