Surah 15 Verse 28
And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, “I will create a human being out of clay from an altered black mud.
According to the hadith literature, Allah sent an angel to the earth to get clay and bring it to the heaven where Allah slowly shaped, evolved and sculpted this clay into the first man (Adam). The hadith literature also attests that the first woman was created from Adam’s ribs and these two primordial ancestors of man were sent to the Earth where they populated the Earth. This is the esoteric meaning of the verse, or the revealed version which was revealed to the Prophet. It is binding on every Muslim and not subject to change regardless of empirical progress.
As for the empirical version, it has been described as follows by modern scholars:
The meaning of this verse is best explained by another verse of the Quran, namely “We have made man from a breed of clay” (Believers, 12).
According to Mustafa Mahmud:
“Now this is direct statement. It explicitly says that man was not created in the beginning out of clay but rather out of a certain breed developed from clay. There is therefore an intermediate stage between clay and man–a stage of various successive breeds culminating in the superior breed of mankind.” (The Quran: An Attempt at Modern Reading, pg. 72)
Also, under the commentary of the same verse, Dr. Maurice Bucaille writes: “I have used the word ‘quintessence’ to translate the Arabic term sulatat, which means ‘one thing extracted from another thing’. As we shall see later, the word appears in another passage of the Quran in which it is stated that man’s decent derives from that which is extracted from spermatic liquid; (it is known today that the active component of spermatic liquid is a unicellular organism called a ‘spermatozoon’. I imagine that the
‘quintessence of a clay’ must refer to the various chemical components which constitute clay, extracted from water, which in terms of weight is its main element.” (What is the Origin of Man, pg. 174)
“Sulâlah in its root expresses the process of evolution,
starting from the inorganic state to the organic, then from a single cell
to organized cells, then to the state of primitive animals, and, finally, a
human being. The creation of the human being is here traced back to
earth, as the life-germ in sperm is an extract of food that is drawn
from earth in whatever form it may be. The verses show that the
human soul is not implanted into the human body from outside but
grows in the body as it develops.” [Exegesis of The Holy Qur’ân Commentary and Reflections, pg. 742]
Surah 15 Verse 29
And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.”
According to Allamah Noorudin,
Human evolution was the evolutionary process leading up to the
appearance of modern humans. It began with the last common
ancestor and the emergence of Homo sapiens. Anatomically modern
humans evolved from archaic Homo sapiens about 200,000 years ago.
The transition to behavioral modernity with the development of
symbolic culture, language, and specialized lithic technology
happened around 50,000 years ago, and according to many
anthropologists even earlier. (Exegesis of The Holy Qur’ân Commentary and Reflections. p. 343)
What is meant by ‘His spirit?’ There are mixed views on this issue, with some scholars postulating that the soul that we humans are endowed with is a small sample taken from the same spirit-matter that makes up God. This in no way means that we are gods ourselves, and no scholar has ever assumed such. Instead, it is akin to taking a cup of water from the sea. Is the water in the cup still the sea? No, it is separated and disconnected. It may be consumed, cycled through the environment, bottled and even used to create electricity, but eventually it may find itself back in the sea from whence it came, but until then, it’s just water. Likewise, when the child in the womb has reached 120 days of development (according to the explanation of the Prophet), an angel comes and breathes a spirit from God into the baby. Assuming the child is born and lives its life (for good or evil), one day he or she will die, releasing that spirit back into the universe where it rejoins its master essence. (See 2:28) This ruh (spirit or divine gift) is what sets us apart from all other life forms that we know about. From this we can conceive of morality, justice and truth, even as we can use our hyper-expanded imagination to peer into the recesses of the very meanng of the universe itself. Our use (or misuse) of this spirit will determine whether our unique personality (called a nafs or individual self) enters Paradise or is doomed to Hell. (See 33:72-73) The Sufis often take this concept (of having a spirit on loan from God) as the basis for their poetry and philosophy. To achieve union with God, in their view, is not becoming God, but rather returning your soul back to its rightful master (a state they equate with being drunk with ecstacy, no less!) The Day of Judgment is when our nafs, or individual essence, is judged on how well we took care of the spirit that was loaned to us. (See 16:111, 29:57-59 and 21:35, for example.) Other scholars contend that the ‘spirit’ was especially created matter from God’s creative will and implanted in human beings to give us our essential quality and unique nature. The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an in Today’s English (p. 829)
For further information on the concept of ruh or divine spirit, see the following post:
Surah 15 Verse 30
So the angels prostrated – all of them entirely,
Surah 15 Verse 31
Except Iblees, he refused to be with those who prostrated.
Surah 15 Verse 32
[Allah] said, O Iblees, what is [the matter] with you that you are not with those who prostrate?”
Surah 15 Verse 33
He said, “Never would I prostrate to a human whom You created out of clay from an altered black mud.”
Surah 15 Verse 34
[Allah] said, “Then get out of it, for indeed, you are expelled.
Surah 15 Verse 35
And indeed, upon you is the curse until the Day of Recompense.”
Surah 15 Verse 36
He said, “My Lord, then reprieve me until the Day they are resurrected.”
Surah 15 Verse 37
[Allah] said, “So indeed, you are of those reprieved
Surah 15 Verse 38
Until the Day of the time well-known.”
Surah 15 Verse 39
[Iblees] said, “My Lord, because You have put me in error, I will surely make [disobedience] attractive to them on earth, and I will mislead them all
Surah 15 Verse 40
Except, among them, Your chosen servants.”
Surah 15 Verse 41
[Allah] said, “This is a path [of return] to Me [that is] straight.
Surah 15 Verse 42
Indeed, My servants – no authority will you have over them, except those who follow you of the deviators.
Surah 15 Verse 43
And indeed, Hell is the promised place for them all.
Surah 15 Verse 44
It has seven gates; for every gate is of them a portion designated.”
Surah 15 Verse 45
Indeed, the righteous will be within gardens and springs.
Surah 15 Verse 46
[Having been told], “Enter it in peace, safe [and secure].”
Surah 15 Verse 47
And We will remove whatever is in their breasts of resentment, [so they will be] brothers, on thrones facing each other.
Surah 15 Verse 48
No fatigue will touch them therein, nor from it will they [ever] be removed.
- Al-Azami, Usaama (2013). Muslims and Evolution in the 21st Century: A Galileo Moment?. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/muslims-and-evolution-in-the-21st-century-a-galileo-moment_b_2688895
- Mahmoud, Mostafa (2000). The Quran: An Attempt at a Modern Reading. (p. 72). http://www.islamicweblibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/English_THE_QURAN_An_Attempt_at_a_Modern_Reading.pdf
- Bucaille, Maurice (1983). What is the Origin of Man? The Answers of Science and the Holy Scriptures. p. 174). http://www.islamicweblibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/WhatIsTheOriginOfManMauriceBucailleDr.pdf
- Emerick, Yahiya. The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an in Today’s English (p. 827). Unknown. Kindle Edition.
- NOORUDDÎN ,ALLÂMAH. (2015). Exegesis of The Holy Qur’ân Commentary and Reflections. (p.343, 742). http://www.islamicweblibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Exegesis-of-the-Holy-Quran-Commentary-and-Reflections.pdf