Creation of Humans from Clay
Harun Yahya has used the recent scientific hypothesis of clay particles as catalysts for abiogenesis as evidence of the veracity of the Qur'an.
- Your Lord said to the angels, "I am going to create a human being out of clay. When I have formed him and breathed My Spirit into him, fall down in prostration to him!" (Qur'an, 38:71-72)
- Then inquire of them: Is it they who are stronger in structure or other things We have created? We created them from sticky clay. (Qur'an, 37:11)
When the human body is examined today, it may be discovered that many elements present on the earth are also to be found in the body. Living tissues contain 95% carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur, with a total of 26 different elements. In another verse of the Qur'an we are told:
- We created man from an extract of clay. (Qur'an, 23:12)
Harun Yahya, The Scientific Miracles of the Qur'an
The Scientific Hypothesis
The study of montmorillonite clay, by Martin Hanczyc, Shelly Fujikawa and Jack Szostak at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, revealed it can sharply accelerate the formation of membranous fluid-filled sacs.
These vesicles also grow and undergo a simple form of division, giving them the properties of primitive cells. Previous work has shown that the same simple mineral can help assemble the genetic material RNA from simpler chemicals. "Interestingly, the clay also gets internalised in the vesicles," says Leslie Orgel, an origin of life expert at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in San Diego, California. "So this work is quite nice in that it finds a connection between the mechanism that creates RNA and encloses it in a membrane."
Inherit, mutate, evolve
The genesis of genetic material and the emergence of cell structure are hot areas of research, but until now the two had not connected. The birth of genetic material was clearly crucial for life to take on its unique abilities to inherit, mutate and evolve.
And membranes were key to the physiology of cells because they protect their contents, concentrate chemicals to promote reactions and isolate successful genes from unsuccessful ones. "It's clear you really need both these elements to get evolution off the ground and running," says Szostak.
Research has already shown that some of building blocks for RNA-like molecules and membranes are spontaneously created by chemical reactions in outer space and in conditions that may have existed on the primordial Earth. But how these subunits were then assembled is still debated.
For RNA, one popular theory revolves around the unusual properties of montmorillonite clay. The negatively charged layers of its crystals create a sandwich of positive charge between them. This turns out to be a highly attractive environment for RNA subunits to concentrate and join together into long chains.
Szostak wondered whether montmorillonite could also help the assembly of vesicles from simple fatty acid precursors. He remembers the day his colleagues Hanczyc and Fujikawa ran into his office to show him their first results: the clay caused a 100-fold acceleration of vesicle formation.
"It was pretty amazing," he says. Once formed, the vesicles often incorporated bit of clay and were able to grow by absorbing more fatty acid subunits.
His team also showed the clay could hold RNA and form vesicles at the same time. Fluorescently-labelled RNA attached to the clay ended up assembled into vesicles after the reaction. And the researchers were able to get these "protocells" to divide by forcing them through small holes. This caused them to split into smaller vesicles, with minimal loss of their contents.
Szostak admits that in a natural setting the vesicles would rarely be forced to divide in this way. So now his group is searching for different mixtures of membrane-forming molecules that might divide spontaneously when they reach a certain size.Journal reference: Science (vol 302, p 618 )
Philip Cohen, NewScientist, October 23, 2003
The scientific hypothesis postulates that the clay merely 'match-makes' RNA and membrane vesicles - and therefore does not form a building block. This is contrary to the Islamic faith which postulates that human beings were created from clay, implying clay was a building block.
Notwithstanding this key distinction, is Islam the only religion which postulated the creation of human beings from clay?
Humans from Clay Story in Other Religions
Many religions pre-dating (and some post-dating) Islam also carry this 'creation of human beings from clay' story. The earliest are the pre-cursors of the Abrahamic faiths - namely the early Mesopotamian religions.
Gods were having difficulty in finding food, and their problems have increased when the later born goddesses joined them. Enki the water god - he was the god of wisdom and in a position to help them - was fast asleep in the sea and did not hear their complaints. Enki's mother Mother of all Gods Nammu brought the tears of the complainants to Enki and told him in their presence: "O! my son, get off your bed... do what is wise. Give shape to (make some) servants to gods. Let them make their own copies.(?)" Enki thinks, decides to head the 'union of good and bright modelists' and says to Nammu: 'O! mother, the creature you have mentioned exists: Put the image of gods(?) on him. Shape his heart from the clay on the surface of the Bottomless Deep. Good and bright modelists will thicken this clay. You make its organs; Ninmah (Goddess of Earth) will work in front of you. While you are making a model…goddesses of birth will be with you. O! mother decide on the faith of the newborn, let Ninmah put the image of gods on it: This is the human."
"Enki and Ninmah"She is the mother goddess and, as Ninmah, assists in the creation of man. Enki, having been propted by Nammu to create servants for the gods, describes how Nammu and Ninmah will help fashion man from clay. Prior to getting to work, she and Enki drink overmuch at a feast. She then shapes six flawed versions of man from the heart of the clay over the Abzu, with Enki declaring their fates. Enki, in turn also creates a flawed man which is unable to eat. Ninmah appears to curse him for the failed effort. (Kramer 1963 pp. 149-151; Kramer 1961 pp. 69-72)
Other faiths that postulate the 'creation of human beings from clay' stories include the ancient Egyptians, some African tribes and the Incas.
South Californian Amerindians
The ‘creation of humans from clay’ stories are common throughout the world, including places like Australia and the Pacific Islands which were not in contact with Islam or any of the other Abrahamic faiths until recent times.
The aborigines of Minahassa, in the north of Celebes, say that two beings called Wailan Wangko and Wangi (created humans from earth). Said Wailan Wangko to Wangi, "Return and take earth and make two images, a man and a woman."
The Dyaks of Sakarran in British Borneo say that the first man was made by two large birds. At first they tried to make men out of trees, but in vain. Then they hewed them out of rocks, but the figures could not speak. Then they moulded a man out of damp earth and infused into his veins the red gum of the kumpang-tree. After that they called to him and he answered ; they cut him and blood flowed from his wounds, so they gave him the name of Tannah Kumpok or "moulded earth.
The supreme god of the Island of Nias, Luo Zaho, took a handful of earth as large as an egg, and fashioned out of it a figure like one of those figures of ancestors which the people of Nias construct. Having made it, he put it in the scales and weighed it; he weighed also the wind, and having weighed it, he put it on the lips of the figure which he had made ; so the figure spoke like a man or like a child, and God gave him the name of Sihai.
The Bila-an, a wild tribe of Mindanao, one of the Philippine Islands, relate the creation of man … (by) a certain being named Melu. He fashioned them accordingly in his own likeness out of the leavings of the scurf whereof he had moulded the earth, and these two were the first human beings.
The Bagobos, a pagan tribe of South-Eastern Mindanao, say that in the beginning a certain Diwata made the sea and the land, and planted trees of many sorts. Then he took two lumps of earth, shaped them like human figures, and spat on them; so they became man and woman.
The Kumis, who inhabit portions of Arakan and the Chittagong hill tracts in eastern India, told Captain Lewin the following story of the creation of man. God made the world and the trees and the creeping things first, and after that he made one man and one woman, forming their bodies of clay.
According to the Korkus, an aboriginal tribe of the Central Provinces of India: Thereupon the god (Mahadeo aka Shiva) repaired to the spot, and taking a handful of the red earth he fashioned out of it two images, in the likeness of a man and a woman.
A like tale is told, with a curious variation, by the Mundas, a primitive aboriginal tribe of Chota Nagpur. They say that the Sun-god, by name Singbonga, first fashioned two clay figures, one meant to represent a man and the other a woman.(According to) the Santals of Bengal… Some say ' she (Malin Budhi) made them (humans) of a kind of froth which proceeded from a supernatural being who dwelt at the bottom of the sea, but others say she made them of a stiff clay.
A very generally received tradition in Tahiti was that the first human pair was made by Taaroa, the chief god. They say that after he had formed the world he created man out of red earth, which was also the food of mankind until bread-fruit was produced. Further, some say that one day Taaroa called for the man by name, and when he came he made him fall asleep. As he slept, the Creator took out one of his bones (ivi) and made of it a woman, whom he gave to the man to be his wife, and the pair became the progenitors of mankind.
In Nui, or Netherland Island, one of the Ellice Islands, they say that the god Aulialia made models of a man and a woman out of earth, and when he raised them up they came to life. He called the man Tepapa and the woman Tetata. The Pelew Islanders relate that a brother and sister made men out of clay kneaded with the blood of various animals, and that the characters of these first men and of their descendants were determined by the characters of the animals whose blood had been mingled with the primordial clay.
According to a Melanesian legend, told in Mota, one of the Banks' Islands, the hero Qat moulded men of clay, the red clay from the marshy riverside at Vanua Lava.
The inhabitants of Noo-hoo-roa, in the Kei Islands, say that their ancestors were fashioned out of clay by the supreme god, Dooadlera, who breathed life into the clay figures.The Marindineeze, a tribe who occupy the dreary, monotonous treeless flats on the southern coast of Dutch New Guinea, not far from the border of the British territory: They say that one day a crane or stork (dik) was busy picking fish out of the sea. He threw them on the beach, where the clay covered and killed them. So the fish were no longer anything but shapeless lumps of clay. They were cold and warmed themselves at a fire of bamboos. Every time that a little bamboo burst with a pop in the heat, the lumps of clay assumed more and more the shape of human beings.
The Maidu Indians of California the first man and woman were created by a mysterious personage named Earth-Initiate, who descended from the sky by a rope made of feathers. His body shone like the sun, but his face was hidden and never seen. One afternoon he took dark red earth, mixed it with water, and fashioned two figures, one of them a man and the other a woman.
The Diegueño Indians or, as they call themselves, the Kawakipais, who occupy the extreme south-western corner of the State of California, have a myth to explain how the world in its present form and the human race were created…. Tcaipakomat took a lump of light-colored clay, split it partly up, and made a man of it.
The Hopi or Moqui Indians of Arizon… Thereupon the eastern goddess took clay and moulded out of it first a woman and afterwards a man ; and the clay man and woman were brought to life just as the birds and beasts had been so before them.
The Pima Indians, another tribe of Arizona, allege that the Creator took clay into his hands, and mixing it with the sweat of his own body, kneaded the whole into a lump. Then he blew upon the lump till it began to live and move and became a man and a woman. A priest of the Natchez Indians in Louisiana told Du Pratz " that God had kneaded some clay, such as that which potters use, and had made it into a little man ; and that after examining it, and finding it well formed, he blew upon his work, and forthwith that little man had life, grew, acted, walked, and found himself a man perfectly well shaped."
The Michoacans of Mexico said that the great god Tucapacha first made man and woman out of clay.The Lengua Indians of Paraguay believe that the Creator, in the shape of a beetle, inhabited a hole in the earth, and that he formed man and woman out of the clay which he threw up from his subterranean abode.
This is not a "scientific miracle of the Qur'an" because it is apparent that folkloric tales about the creation of humans from clay/earth/mud is very common throughout the world, and many of these tales pre-date the existence of Islam.
It is also scientifically inaccurate because the Islamic faith claims that human beings were created from clay, contrary to the scientific hypothesis that clay merely 'match-makes' RNA and membrane vesicles - and therefore does not form a building block.
- The Older (genealogical) Gods (gods and the heroes of the Babylonians) - Assyro-Babylonian Mythology FAQ, Stason.org
- Christopher B. Siren (1999) based on John C. Gibson's Canaanite Mythology and S. H. Hooke's Middle Eastern Mythology
- Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Ed. Richard Cavendish. Silverdale Books. page 57. ISBN 1-85605-794-1
- Ileana Fernandez - African Creation Stories - The College of New Jersey, accessed December 14, 2012
- Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Ed. Richard Cavendish. Silverdale Books. page 141. ISBN 1-85605-794-1
- Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Ed. Richard Cavendish. Silverdale Books. page 187. ISBN 1-85605-794-1
- John M. Hunt - The Creation of Man by Prometheus - San Diego State University, accessed December 14, 2012
- Alana Jolley - Acjachemen Creation Myths - Saddleback College (National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar), 1997
- Sir James George Frazer - Folk-Lore in the Old Testament: Studies in Comparative Religion, Legend & Law - 1918