When a researcher tries to combine the revealed knowledge of the Quran with scientific information, he encounters several difficulties. Some of these are listed as under:
Information on a single topic does not lie in one place
The Quran usually does not reveal information in one place in the form of a clear narrative on a particular subject. The statements on different natural phenomena lie scattered all over the body of its text. To extract information about a topic, it is the usual practice of Muslim scholars to bring all verses on a particular subject together and then study them as a whole.
Man’s beginning from dust
When all the verses on the origin of life and man are collected, we encounter our second problem. The Quran rarely seems to talk about the birth of life directly. Most of the verses detail the steps involved in the creation of man in stages beginning from dust.
Such information compels us to find answers for three main queries.
a. Does the Quran faithfully repeat the Biblical view of the birth of the first man from dust, or are the revelations hinting about an alternative process in this regard?
b. Is man’s creation unconnected with all life on earth, or was the creation of life from non-life (dust) the first step of this process?
c. Does an epistemological basis exist in the text of the Quran for such a fundamental departure from the traditional interpretation?
The existence of patterns
The third difficulty in this regard is the presence of ‘patterns’ in nature that look superficially similar to one another at a basic level.
Two such comparable patterns are the development of a child within the womb and the evolution of life on the earth. A zygote in the uterus of a human female undergoes several stages of evolution, involving the formation of organic tissues, bones, and different shapes in between, to become a human child. In the scientific view of the evolution of life, also, a single cell is said to have evolved into a multi-cellular organism, like man, in various stages involving the formation of organic tissues, bones, and different species in between.
The resemblance between the two processes poses a difficulty in the understanding of information from the Quran. In the absence of any alternative line of explanation, any similarity, even such a superficial one between the two processes, is likely to influence the commentators to interpret the information with reference to the only pattern available to them till recently – the process of childbirth.
Usage of peculiar words and enigmatic compositions
The fourth problem relates to another subtle similarity between the two windows of knowledge, the scientific and the revealed.
Scientists are known to have realized that the universe is not only comprehensible; it is also intelligible in parts and stages with the increasing cognitive ability of the human mind. This fact has been amply demonstrated in the continuous progress of science and in the step-by-step decoding of the “laws of nature” with ever-increasing depth and sophistication.
The revelations, akin to the laws of nature, also have an inherent progressive complexity to them. This successive complexity is built into the content of the Quran through the usage of “peculiar words and enigmatic compositions” in combination with “repeated instructions to reflect on the verses.”
For the information to remain acceptable to a person of average intellect, the subtlety of composition is such that the information seemingly does not diverge much from the existing knowledge of the time. It is only on closer examination of the words used, and against the background of fresh information, that the verses seem to reveal a different depth of meaning.
The additional beauty of such verses is that with the increase in knowledge, the meanings seem to gravitate ever closer towards the original usage of the word by the Bedouins of the area, preserved in the sources of the earliest era.
However, resemblance to the existing knowledge of the time invariably biases the commentators towards the childbirth line of explanation.
The only solution thus for finding out exactly what the verses are saying about the creation of man is to probe deeply into the meanings of the specific terms used in all such verses. But, such an attempt creates additional problems of its own.
Popularity of the derived meanings
Down the ages, scholars have always tried to interpret the enigmatic statements to the best of their ability and intentions. These interpreters of the Quran often had to strike a compromise between knowledge of the time and the literal meaning of words. Their efforts at compromise have often resulted in the derived meanings becoming more popular than their root meanings.
A sixth problem is the introduction of “foreign connotations” of Arabic words. After the advent of the Quran, the Islamic realm experienced a quick and massive expansion. Within a few, short decades, over half of the world had come under its sway. This sudden expansion resulted in a tremendous amount of interaction with new people and situations. This situation in turn resulted in the emergence of several connotations of words that were not present in the original. Assimilating all these meanings into their collection, the lexicons of Arabic, Persian and Urdu later gave these new connotations a stamp of credibility, which they did not deserve. The literal meanings of the specific words used thus became obscure, affecting the potential for dynamic interpretation of statements through an increasing knowledge base.
The one thousand years of scientific inactivity of Islamic followers, and the strict bar on new researches on the Quran, both seem to have contributed negatively and to have resulted in the traditional Islamic view on our origins becoming gradually frozen in the Judeo-Christian mold.
The Quran’s solution
To steer out of this maze, the Quran itself has guided its interpreters. It has pointed out that its medium of communication is chaste Arabic - Aarabiyyun mubeen [An-Nahl 16: 103], straight in its meaning Qaiyim, and without any ambiguity iwaj [Al-Kahf 18: 1, 2].
Significantly, such an emphasis on the straight and clear meanings of words goes against the possibility of multiple connotations of a word, which is a popular belief among Arabic scholars, arising out of their attempt to understand the enigmatic compositions. Multiple connotations introduce obvious uncertainties into the choice of meanings and clearly go against the claims of the Quran.
For a communication to reveal an unambiguous message, the words are expected to have a single definite connotation implying a clear meaning. The present research aims to show that such a meaning exists for many of the terms used.
Such a meaning can be isolated and selected for understanding the message correctly by investigating the usage of all words from the same root in the Quran and then correlating these terms with other words from the same family of Arabic roots.
Ironically, the biggest barrier expected in such an exercise is the reverence which an average Muslim has for the works of past commentators.
Traditional interpretation v. literal interpretation
Mainstream Muslim scholars believe that in order of priority, the Quran should first be understood through the Quran itself, then via the sayings of the Prophet, followed by those of the Sahaba (companions of the Prophet), and then of the Tab’een (followers of the companions of the Prophet). This approved form of commentary on the Quran is known as tafsir bi al ma’thur (interpretation based on traditions or reports). The logic behind it is obvious. Prophet Muhammad was the channel through whom the Quran was revealed. Therefore, he was the only true authority on the revealed words. After Prophet Muhammad, the sayings of the companions were considered most credible as, being closer to the Prophet, they had the best opportunity to understand the spirit of the Quran. Later, the Tabeen, being closer in time to the companions, were the obvious fourth category of resource for understanding the Quran.
The fifth and last source for understanding the Quran in order of priority is the analysis of language. According to Syed Iqbal Zaheer, “If a Mufassir (commentator) uses his intelligence, knowledge, intuition, inspiration to bring out a point in language, history, law, and so forth, then such a form of commentary is called tafsir bi al Ra’yi.” 
The permission for this kind of interpretation is based on the prayer words (dua) of the Prophet for Ibn Abbas. The Prophet is reported to have said: “O, Allah, grant him the knowledge of this religion and teach him the interpretation (ta’wil).”
However, the acceptability of this interpretation depends ironically upon how much it is in accord with the existing explanations. If it is in contradiction to either the traditions or the companions’ sayings or those of later followers, or if it is in opposition to the opinion of majority in letter or spirit, then the new interpretation will not be acceptable. Unfortunately, such criterion about acceptability or non-acceptability virtually seals the fate of several fresh insights and new researches on the verses of the Quran.
Would it mean that a Message, believed to contain guidance for all humanity (2:185) and information that a man knew not (96:5), would always be understood as our elders of the first three centuries had interpreted it against the backdrop of their own knowledge?
Respect” for elders v. “uncritical acceptance” of their ideas and beliefs
The Quran, surprisingly, has not left this problem unresolved. It has noticeably warned about this tendency and makes a clear distinction between “respect” for elders and “uncritical acceptance” of their ideas and beliefs. The former has been encouraged , while the latter has been frowned upon in the strongest possible terms. In fact, the Quran has described the “uncritical acceptance of elders’ beliefs and ideas” as being the biggest stumbling block  that all prophets of God had faced during their missions.
Fortunately, or by Design, the original text lies unchanged in millions of homes, and early grammarians had preserved how the words were understood by natives of the time.  From such a study of the Arabic roots, several pointers emerge on the birth of life and man. These hints help us differentiate and understand correctly the pronouncements of Quran on the childbirth, on the creation and evolution of life, and about its linkage with modern man.
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