Is Dr. Zakir Naik Right About Embryology in the Quran?


1 Jan 2018

Embryology, Miracles / I'jaz

Mohammed Hijab

Abu Safiyyah Mohammed Osman

This video blog (vlog) presents three speakers discussing the topic of embryology.  This is the third video in a series that Mohammed Hijab hosts that focuses on various scientific topics.  The purpose of the series seems to be to recycle material that Zakir Naik has presented in his videos using the approach that Hamza Tzorztis (also of iERA) presented, of “multi-layered, multi-dimensional meanings” in the Qurʾān.  Hijab states that he believes “what we’re talking about here … could revolutionize the way we think about these things….”

In this rather long episode, the three discuss embryology, which has had extensive presentations not only by Naik, but by Tzortzis and a number of other individuals in print and on video.  This ground is also well trod by critiques of the iʿjāz ʾilmii approach, which can be found under the Biology tab above.  The three discuss specific Arabic words, such as nutfa, sulala, ‘alaqa, mudra, idam, durukh (wrapped in a discussion of thumma), the gendering of the fetus, and finally the “three layers of darkness”.

The speakers open the video by declaring their love and respect for Zakir Naik, as they “grew up” watching Naik videos.  They note that truth (ḥaqq) is more important to them than their respect for Naik.  They incorporate a few clips from Naik videos from the Campbell debate, used to show that the Qurʾān is better than the Bible.  (Hijab also brings up the book of Job in this regard.)  This debate took place in Chicago, IL on 1 April 2000.  The full four-hour video is available.

The speakers also address superficially the relationship of the “Qurʾānic discourse” to material from Aristotle, Hippocrates, and Galen.

They never specifically cite any Qurʾānic verses.  They mention Surat al-Ḥajj [22], Surat al-Muʿminūn [23], and Surat al-Zumar [39].  Zakir Naik, in one of the clips used, mentions Surah al-Sajdah, 32.8.  Those who do not know Arabic well will have difficulty following all of the discussion of the Qurʾānic and hadīth, as the speakers do a poor job of providing references to their sources.

Hijab creates “some Orientalists” as foils for this presentation, not noting that often the critics of this embryological material are as often scientists as those who study Islam or the Middle East.  Although Hijab presents his discussion as “academic”, it lacks clear references to sources and prior ideas that characterize academic discourse.

This video has been critiqued/ranted about in a short video by Stop Spamming.

The speakers:

Ayman Sebazzi — nothing concrete can be found about him on the Internet.  On the video Hijab says embryology is “kind of” what he studied, and Sebazzi agrees that it was “along those lines”.  He maintains a YouTube channel and has an inactive blog primarily focused on science and Islam.

Abu Safiyya Muhammed Osman — received a degree from Madina University in Sa’udi Arabia.  Osman typically presents himself as an expert on the Qurʾān, Qurʾānic exegesis (tafsīr), and hadīth (reports of the sayings and doings of the Prophet Muḥammad).  He also maintains a YouTube channel.

Mohammed Hijab — Hijab is hosting these casual vlogs about topics related to iʿjāz.  He is active on YouTube, Facebook (where he presents himself as a “public figure”), and has an inactive Twitter account, but provides no information about his education or background.


Islam:  The material on Islam is within the bounds of what Muslims have historically understood as acceptable.  Note that they are presenting views from the Hanbali legal school only.  Also note, as mentioned on the Portal when Tzortzis first started using this approach in 2015, this “multi-layered” approach has been used by modernist Muslim interpreters for 120 years.

Science:  Dr. Ayman Sebazzi presents embryological development from a medical standpoint.  His statements do not always reflect actual science, however.  For instance, the sex of a child is determined at conception, by the recombination of chromosomes (XY, etc).  The formation of secondary sexual characteristics are initiated through hormones later in a pregnancy, but this is not a determination of the fetus’s sex.  The speakers generally avoid applying science to the Qurʾān to create meaning, but they do suggest that the Qurʾān is “better” than the Bible in terms of science, which suggests they are still using science as a measure.

Most of the Arabic material here (use of terms such as nutfa, etc) has been thoroughly debunked.  See this video.

History:  The discussion of “Hellenic” material is presented ahistorically, with little understanding of how these various thinkers relate in time.  Galen, for instance, lived in the second-third century CE.  Aristotle, on the other hand, lived 500 years earlier, in the fourth century BCE.