The Role of Genes
‘From what substance did He create him? From a sperm-drop [nutfah] He created him and destined [qadr] for him.’ [Qur’an, Surah Abasa, 80:18-19]
In a single male Nutfah [sperm cell], which measures 60 microns [1 micron = 1/1000 mm], there are 23 chromosomes – long spiral double strand helices. They contain the genes which determine every type of characteristic the body has, like hair colour, skin type, etc.
Hence, it is within this Nutfah that God has determined and destined all the physical characteristics that an individual has. It is amazing that the description of these realities is so accurately stated by God in the Qur’an.
The Prophet said, ‘God has ordained an angel that accompanies the different stages of development of the Nutfah. The ‘Alaqah, the Mudgha and in every stage he asks God, ‘O God, what to do next?’ If God determines its full development, the angel asks, ‘Is it a boy or a girl? Happy or unhappy, his livelihood and his life span. All is written [determined] while he is in the mother’s womb.’ [Reported by Bukhari]
Stage 2: The ‘Alaqah Stage
According to many Arabic dictionaries, the word ‘alaqah includes the following meanings:
1. Attached and hanging to something,
2. Blood clot,
1. ‘Alaqah as ‘attached and hanging’
As we see in Figure 15, the embryo [which is represented by the bilaminar embryonic disc] is attached to the placenta and is hanging or suspended in the chorionic cavity by the connecting stalk. This is in agreement with the meaning of the word ‘alaqah as “attached and hanging to something”.
2. ‘Alaqah as ‘blood clot’
The primitive cardiovascular system in an embryo of about 21 days. During this stage we find that the external appearance of the embryo and its sacs is similar to that of a blood clot.
“Implantation begins at about the 6th to 7th day after fertilization. The part of the blastocyst projecting into the uterine cavity remains relatively thin. The syntrophoblast contains a proteolytic enzyme which causes destruction of the endometrial cells so that that the blastocyst sinks deeper and deeper into the uterine mucosa…The final deficiency in the endometrium is sealed off by a blood or fibrin clot, overlying the blastocyst. This cover is called the operculum. By about 10 to 12 days after fertilization, the blastocyst is completely encased in the endometrium and thus, implantation is complete.” 
The blood, though fluid, does not circulate until the end of the third week. On the 21st day, the heart of the embryo connects with the blood vessels in the embryo, the connecting stalk, the chorion and the umbilical vesicle [yolk sac], and the blood starts to circulate and the heart begins to beat. Thus, the embryo takes the appearance of a blood clot even though its blood is fluid.
3. ‘Alaqah as ‘leech’
Scholars, linguists and dictionaries have all mentioned one of the meanings of ‘alaqah as a leech . The fourteenth century dictionary Lisan al-‘Arab states that “‘alaqah refers to a worm living in the water that sucks blood, the plural of which is ‘alaq” and in the dictionary of al-Qamus al-Muhit that ‘alaq is “a small creature of water that sucks blood [a leech].” The word ‘alaqah also occurs in several languages related to Arabic. In Hebrew there is aluqah [or alukah] , the generic name for any blood-sucking worm or leech. And in Aramaic and Syriac there are words with apparently similar meanings. In Ad-Damiri's Arabic zoological lexicon, Hayat al-Hayawan [The Life of the Animals, 1372 C.E.], there is an article on the leech [‘alaq]  and in Ibn Wahshiya’s Kitab al-Sumum [The Book on Poisons, c. 950 C.E.] there is the treatment for the one who has swallowed a leech [‘alaq].
A popular ninth century Christian polemic against Islam claims that Muslims believe that “God created man from a leech” based on the work of Nicetas of Byzantium. Nicetas, who wrote between 842 and 867 C.E., had a copy of the Qur’an in Greek translation which he made use of to identify the tenets of Islam. His Greek translation renders both ‘alaq and ‘alaqah as bdella [`abccd], meaning “leech”.
The classic Qur’anic commentator, Ibn Kathir [b. 1302 C.E.], mentions the meaning of “elongated like the shape of a leech - . Finally, The Qur’an: an Encyclopedia has an entry for ‘alaq that also mentions the same meanings: “The linguistic definition of alaq [singular alaqa] is ‘leech’, ‘medicinal leech’, ‘[coagulated] blood’, ‘blood clot’, or ‘the early stage of the embryo’. 
A leech is an apt description of the early human embryo. The embryo clings to the endometrium or lining of the uterus [day 7] just as a leech clings to the skin. The embryo is also surrounded by amniotic fluid just as the leech is surrounded by water. If we consider the literal meaning of “leech” for ‘alaqah, we find that during the third week, the embryo loses its round shape and elongates until it takes the shape of a leech.
The shape of the embryo does in fact resemble a leech. At this stage the cardiovascular system has started to appear and the embryo is now dependent upon the maternal blood for its nutrition like a leech which feeds on the blood of others. 
In the BBC television series, The Human Body: The Incredible Journey from Birth to Death, Professor Robert Winston also describes the embryo in a similar way. Prof. Winston demonstrates how the embryo obtains nourishment from the blood of the mother by comparing it with a leech which feeds on the blood of others.
“[The leech] takes whatever it needs to live by sucking the blood of whatever it can latch onto; in this case that’s me! As it sucks my blood, it takes from it all that it needs to live, it literally lives off me and the whole of pregnancy is shaped by a similar kind of parasitic relationship...it does raid her blood for the raw materials it needs to grow. From the word go, both leech and embryo are out for themselves.”
Similarly, in Anatomy Demystified, the early embryo is described as worm-like in appearance which is nourished by the mother’s maternal blood supply, “Another membrane becomes the yolk sac, which provides nourishment for the early embryo. By 24 days, a connecting stalk appears in the middle of the now worm-like body.” 
A segmented body like a leech
The body of the leech is divided into a number of segments which gives rise to a ringed appearance of the body, hence the name “ringed worms.” The human embryo is also segmented just like a leech or worm as Professor Peter Nathanielsz describes in A Time to be Born: The Life of the Unborn Child, “By the end of the third week the embryo has undergone segmentation, rather like an earth worm, and now consists of zones like stacked circular tires.” 
These layers curl to form a tube-like structure which Anthony Smith, in The Human Body, also likens to a worm, “the early embryo is like a worm, with a gut running from one end to the other, an outer covering also running from end to end and a central layer filling the space between the two.” Ted Zerucha in Human Development also describes the gut of the embryo as a tube, “Running through the body, along the anterior-posterior axis, is the gut. The gut is essentially a tube that runs from the mouth, through the digestive system, to the anus.” The tube-like depiction of the embryo’s gut is not unlike that of an annelid as described in The Columbia Encyclopedia, “The digestive system of annelids consists of an unsegmented gut that runs through the middle of the body from the mouth, located on the underside of the head, to the anus, which is on the pygidium [the posterior terminal region].”
 Allan, J, & Kramer, B. The Fundamentals of Human Embryology, [2nd ed.], p. 23: Wits University Press – as quoted by Kareem, E. Embryology in the Qur’an: The Alaqah Stage.
 This section is an edited version of Kareem, E. Embryology in the Qur’an: The Alaqah Stage.
 Ibn Manzur, in Lisan al-‘Arab, Dar Sadir, Beirut, n.d., vol. 10, pp 261-268; as cited in Zindani et al. [1994, p. 68].
 Al-Qamus al-Muhit, vol. 3, p 275 as cited in Zindani et al. [1994, p. 68].
 “The leech [aluqah] has two daughters: Give and Give.” Proverbs 30:15 [ESV]. Hebrew aluqah meaning a leech. [Blue Letter Bible] Although the Hebrew word is translated leech in most versions of the Bible, there has been much dispute whether this is the proper meaning. Recourse is therefore to the Arabic language - See Kaltner, The Use of Arabic in Biblical Hebrew Lexicography: Catholic Biblical Association of America. [1996, pp. 86-87].
 Kitab Hayat al-Haywan [The Book of the Lives of the Animals] finished in 1372 C.E. as mentioned in De Somogyi [1950, p. 42].
 Ibn Wahshiya’s Book on Poisons c.950 C.E. Known under various titles: Kitab al-Shanaq fi al-Sumum wa’altiryaq, Kitab al-Sumum wa’al-tiryaqat, and al-Sumum wadaf madarrha. Levey [1966, p. 84].
 “Nicetas accuses the Qur’an of teaching that man comes from a leech [Confutatio1, lines 90–92]: [he says that man is created from a leech]. The phrase is then picked up by Zigabenos, who finds it absurd...” Simelidis [2011, pp. 900-902] The Byzantine Understanding of the Qur’anic Term al-amad and the Greek Translation of the Qur’an. Speculum, 86(04), 887-913.
 Ibn Kathir, Tafsir Al-Qur'an Al-'Azim, p. 242 (1st ed. Vol. 3). 1980. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar Al-Fikr.
 Sahin, H. “Alaq” p. 27. In O. Leaman [Ed.] . The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia: Routledge.
 The umbilical vein carries well-oxygenated blood and nutrients from the chorion sac to the embryo. The arteries carry poorly oxygenated blood and waste products to the chorionic villi for transfer to the mother's blood.
 Prof. Robert Winston is Professor of Science and Society and Emeritus Professor of Fertility Studies at Imperial College, London.
 Prof Winston in The Human Body: The Incredible Journey from Birth to Death, BBC Worldwide .
 Layman, D. P., Anatomy Demystified, p. 366,  New York: McGraw-Hill Professional; London: McGraw-Hill.
 Garwood, P. R., & Campbell, A. . "Segmented Worms". The Encyclopedia of Underwater Life. Oxford Reference Online.
 Nathanielsz [1994, p. 22]. Peter W. Nathanielsz is a Professor at the Laboratory for Pregnancy and Newborn Research, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA. “Professor Nathanielsz was amongst the handful of pioneers who assisted at the birth about thirty years ago of the new discipline of fetology and has remained at the forefront of what is now an enormous field. His laboratory has contributed many of the technical advances that now allow the most intimate details of fetal life to be examined with a precision equal to that of a cosmologists’ radio-telescope.”
 Smith, The Human Body: The Incredible Journey from Birth to Death, p. 38.
 Zerucha, T., Human Development, p. 52.
 “Annelida” in The Columbia Encyclopedia .
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