The Start Of Man’s Life
It is God who creates you all out of the dust, then out of a gamete. He then makes you into two sexes. No female conceives or gives birth without His knowledge. No one attains to old age or has his life cut short unless it be thus laid down in (God’s) decree. All this is easy for God. (The Originator, Fatir, 35: 11)
Having referred to the fact that all life starts with water, the surah now refers to the start of man’s own life, beginning with pregnancy and followed by a term in this world, which can be long or short as God determines: “It is God who creates you all out of the dust, then out of a gamete. He then makes you into a couple. No female conceives or gives birth without His knowledge. No one attains to old age or has his life cut short unless it be thus laid down in (God’s) decree. All this is easy for God.”
Reference to man’s origin as a creature made from dust in the first place is often mentioned in the Qur’an, as is the first element in producing a pregnancy, namely the gamete. While a gamete is something that carries the potential of life, dust has no trace of life. The first miracle is ‘life’ itself, and no one knows where it came from or how it was mixed with the first element. This remains a closed book as far as humanity is concerned. Yet it is a fact we all see and have no option but to accept and recognize. The evidence it provides, pointing to the Creator who gives life, is irrefutable.
The transformation that gives life to what is lifeless represents a bridge over a gap that is far greater than any distance in time and place. Contemplating such transformation will never tire a mind that looks at the great secrets of the universe. Again, the gap separating the stage of one cell, a gamete, from that of a fully formed embryo, when a male is distinguished from a female, is again too wide to imagine. It is to this latter stage that the Qur’an refers to in the sentence, “He makes you into a couple,” whether this is a reference to a couple, male and female, in the embryo stage, or to married couples after they have become adults. How far removed is the one-cell gamete from the greatly complex human constitution, which includes numerous systems and functions, and also from a human being with its many characteristics?
Look at the senseless fertilized egg as it divides and multiplies, and then each group of cells it produces joins together to form a particular organ with a specific nature and function. Look how all these organs fit together and group to make a single creature, which is remarkably distinct from all other creatures of the human race, including those who are most closely related to him. Thus, no two human beings are exactly and completely identical. Yet all of them come from gametes that carry no distinctive mark of any sort, or at least that we can make out. Then look at these cells and follow their way until they become couples able to restart the cycle once more, with new gametes that follow the same line and the same stages, without deviation. All this is amazing, truly wonderful. This is the reason for the repeated references in the Qur’an to this miraculous process, or indeed processes, involving unknown secrets. People should listen to these references and set their minds thinking about this process of creation. It may awaken their spirits to its message.
Next comes an image of God’s absolute knowledge, which is akin to the images given in the preceding surah, Sheba: “No female conceives or gives birth without His knowledge.” The reference here is not merely to women, but to all females, including animals, birds, fish, reptiles, insects, and others, which we may or may not know about. All of them conceive and give birth, including those, which lay eggs. An egg is an embryo, which does not fully develop inside its mother’s body. It is laid in the form of an egg, and is then incubated, either by its mother or in an incubator, until it completes its development, and breaks its shell to continue its growth. God’s knowledge includes every conception, of every form, and every birth throughout the universe.
Describing God’s absolute knowledge in this way is not something a human mind normally follows, neither in conception nor expression. By itself it is proof that the Qur’an is a revelation from God: it confirms its divine source thereby.
The same applies to the reference to age in the same verse: “No one attains to old age or has his life cut short unless it be thus laid down in (God’s) decree. All this is easy for God.” Let our imagination follow every living thing in the universe, including trees, birds, animals, humans, and others, with their different shapes, sizes, kinds, races, abodes, and times. No one can imagine the total number of all these. Yet imagine that every single one of them may be allowed to attain old age, or may have its life cut short and that whatever happens is according to specific knowledge concerning this individual, and indeed concerning every part of every individual. A leaf in a tree may be allowed to remain green, extending its life span, or it may dry up and fall. A bird’s feather may remain in its wing or fall and be blown by the wind. A horn may remain in an animal or get broken in a quarrel. A human eye, or a hair, may stay or be removed. Yet all this occurs in accordance with specific knowledge, which is ‘laid down in God’s decree’ that is part of His comprehensive knowledge. It neither requires an effort nor constitutes a burden: “All this is easy for God.”
If we let our imagination follow this line and look at what it entails, our amazement is endless. It is a line that human imagination does not normally follow, nor does it normally try to understand or describe facts in this way.
By: Sayyid Qutb