More than anything else, I was struck by statements in the Qur’an dealing with living things, both in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, especially with regard to reproduction. We should really devote much more time to this subject, but, due to the limited scope of this presentation, I can only give a few examples.
I must once again stress the fact that it is only in modern times that scientific progress has made the hidden meaning of some Qur’anic verses comprehensible to us. Numerous translations and commentaries on the Qur’an have been made by learned men who had no access to modern scientific knowledge. It is for this reason that scientists find some of their interpretations unacceptable.
There are also other verses whose obvious meanings are easily understood, but which conceal
scientific meanings which are startling, to say the least. This is the case of a verse in chapter al-Ambiyaa, a part of which has already been quoted:
“Do the unbelievers not realize that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then I clove them asunder and I made every living thing out of water. Will they still not believe?” Qur’an, 21:30
This is a dramatic affirmation of the modern idea that the origin of life is aquatic.
Progress in botany at the time of Muhammad (S) was not advanced enough in any country for scientists to know that plants have both male and female parts. Nevertheless, we may read the following in the chapter Taa Haa:
“(God is the One who) sent down rain from the sky and with it brought forth a variety of plants in pairs.” Qur’an, 20:53
Today we know that fruit comes from plants that have sexual characteristics even when they come from unfertilized flowers, like bananas. In the chapter ar-Ra‘d we read the following:
“… and of all fruits (God) placed (on the earth) two pairs.” Qur’an, 13:3
In the field of physiology, there is one verse which appears extremely significant to me. One thousand years before the discovery of the blood circulatory system, and roughly thirteen centuries before it was determined that the internal organs were nourished by the process of digestive , a verse in the Qur’an described the source of the constituents of milk, in conformity with scientific facts.
To understand this verse, it must first be known that chemical reactions occur between food and enzymes in the mouth, the stomach and the intestines releasing nutrients in molecular form which are then absorbed into the circulatory system through countless microscopic projections of the intestinal wall called villi. Blood in the circulatory system then transports the nutrients to all the organs of the body, among which are the milk-producing mammary glands.
This biological process must be basically understood, if we are to understand a verse in the Qur’an which has for many centuries given rise to commentaries that were totally incomprehensible.
Today it is not difficult to see why! This verse is taken from the chapter an-Nahl:
“Verily, in cattle there is a lesson for yon. I give you drink from their insides, coming from a conjunction between the digested contents ( of the intestines ) and the blood, milk pure and pleasant for those who drink it.” Qur’an, 16:66
The constituents of milk are secreted by the mammary glands which are nourished by the product of food digestion brought to them by the bloodstream. The initial event which sets the whole process in motion is the conjunction of the contents of the intestine and blood at the level of the intestinal wall itself.
This very precise concept is the result of the discoveries made in the chemistry and physiology of the digestive system over one thousand years after the time of Prophet Muhammad (S).