The Quran on Semen Production

Sam Shamoun

The Quran implies that semen production takes place in the kidney or back area:

"Now let man but think from what he is created! He is created from a drop emitted - Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs:" S. 86:5-7

Dr. William Campbell explains why this passage is incompatible with modern medical knowledge relating to the production of semen:

Here we find that Man is made from a 'gushing fluid' that issues from the adult father during the 'now' of the reproductive act, from a specific physical place 'between the loins and the ribs.' (other translations have backbone instead of loins)

Since the verse is speaking of the moment of adult reproduction it can't be talking about the time of embryonic development. Moreover, since 'sulb' is being used in conjunction with 'gushing fluid', which can only be physical; and 'tara'ib' which is another physical word for chest or thorax or ribs, it can't be euphemistic. Therefore, we are left with the very real problem that the semen is coming from the back or kidney area and not the testicles.

Dr. Bucaille, as a physician recognizes this problem only too well, so he wiggles and squirms (as he accuses the Christian commentators of doing) and finally after quoting the verse as we have seen it translated above says, 'This would seem more to be an interpretation than a translation. It is hardly comprehensible'. This is the second time he has called the Qur'an obscure or hardly comprehensible when there was a problem.

Therefore, let us look at the translations which I have been consulting. Those made by Muslims are:

Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Egyptian, 1946 with a preface from 1938
'He is created from a drop emitted—proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.'

Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, English, 1977 (translation probably 1940)
'He is created from a gushing fluid that issued from between the loins and ribs.'

Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, Pakistani, 1971
'He is created from a fluid poured forth, which issues forth from between the loins and the breastbones.'

Muhammad Hamidullah, French, 1981 (10th Edition, completely revised)
'Il a été créé d'une giclée d'eau sortie d'entre lombes et côtes.'
He was created from a spurt of water coming out between the loins and ribs.

Made by a non-Muslim: D. Masson, French 1967
'Il a été créé d'une goutte d'eau répandue sortie d'entre les lombes et les côtes.'
He was created from a drop of spread out water coming out between the loins and the ribs.

That these five translations are exactly equal is perfectly obvious to every reader even if he does not know French or the original Arabic.

Dr. Bucaille's Translation

What would Dr. Bucaille like to suggest? He writes, 'Two verses in the Qur'an deal with sexual relations themselves... When translations and explanatory commentaries are consulted however, one is struck by the divergences between them. I have pondered for a long time on the translation of such verses (In plain English that means there is 'an improbability or a contradiction, prudishly called a "difficulty"' <sic>), and am indebted to Doctor A. K. Giraud, Former Professor at the Faculty of Medicine, Beirut, for the following:

"(Man was fashioned from a liquid poured out. It issued (as a result) of the conjunction of the sexual area of the man and the sexual area of the woman."

'The sexual area of the man is indicated in the text of the Qur'an by the word sulb (singular). The sexual areas of the woman are designated in the Qur'an by the word tara'ib (plural).

'This is the translation which appears to be most satisfactory.'

When compared, however, with the five translations quoted above, it is clear that Dr. Bucaille's suggestion is not a translation, nor even a paraphrase. It is an 'explanation' and 'interpretation' which rests on the following basic assumptions:

a. That the word 'sulb' can stand for the male sexual area. Though no examples of such a usage from the 1st century of Islam have been given.

b. That the phrase '(as a result) of the conjunction' can be found in the two Arabic words 'min bain' which literally mean 'from between'.

c. That the word 'tara'ib' can mean 'the sexual areas of the woman'.

This last word occurs exactly one time in the Qur'an and you cannot establish a meaning with one usage. The dictionaries of Wehr, Abdel-Nour, and Kasimirski mention (a)the chest, (b)the upper part of the chest between the breasts and the clavicles, and (c)the ribs, and Abdel-Nour includes (d)the euphemistic extension to the breasts. It can also include the neck up to the chin and speak poetically of the area for a woman's necklace.

No dictionary includes the female genital area, and Dr. Bucaille has given no examples from literature to support his idea. He seems to be fulfilling his own complaint against others. He is trying "to camouflage (his problems) with dialectical acrobatics" (Campbell, The Qur'an and the Bible in the Light of History and Science [Middle East Resources 1992, ISBN 1-881085-00-7], pp. 182-184).

To avoid attributing a scientific error to the Quran, some Muslims claim that the Quran is not referring to the production of semen. Rather, they claim that the Quran is referring to the area that supplies the testes with the necessary blood supply to produce semen. Typical of such a Muslim response is the following proposed by the Learner:

The latter part of this verse, i.e. "emanating from a place between the (lower) back and the (lower) ribs", has generally been taken to imply the part of the abdomen that lies between these points. In Figure 1, this part has been roughly marked by the red triangle ABC. This implication, obviously, has led the Muslims to believe that the sperm itself or its basic ingredients are made within the (roughly) marked area. I, being a novice in the related fields, asked a few of my doctor friends about the making of the male sperm and the supply of its ingredients to the ultimate place of its making. In response, among a few other things, I was told that although the male sperm is formed in the testes, yet the blood supply which, obviously, is integral to the making of the sperm comes from between the ribs and the back. I was also told by one of my doctor friends that the cells that form the sperm originate from between the ribs and the back. If this is true, then the words of the Qur'an are not scientifically incorrect, as the words "emanating from a place between the (lower) back and the (lower) ribs", do not necessarily imply "emanating in its final shape" only, but can also cover "initial emanation". (Source:; bold emphasis ours)

Learner is not alone here. Both Dr. Jamal Badawi and Dr. Zakir Naik have made the same exact claim regarding the meaning of S. 86:5-7. We recommend that our readers view Dr. Badawi's debate with Jay Smith, Is the Quran the Word of God?, and Dr. Naik's lecture Islam, Medical Science and Dietary Laws given at King Fahad Hospital, Jeddah Saudi Arabia (January 28, 1996) for the documentation.

The problem with the above explanation is that Dr. Naik, Dr. Badawi and the Learner are Sunni Muslims. In fact, at the Learner's homepage one will find the following claim:

At 'Understanding Islam', we present the explanation of Islam in the light only of the Qur'an and the Sunnah of the Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). (Source:; bold emphasis ours)

This means that instead of asking doctors what S. 86:6-7 means, or giving their own private interpretation of the text, they must consult the interpretation given by Muhammad and his followers regarding the correct meaning of this passage. Once this is done, one discovers that both Muhammad and his followers understood the passage in a manner completely incompatible with modern medical and scientific discoveries regarding the human anatomy. The following commentary is taken from Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged Volume 10, Surat At-Tagabun to the end of the Qur'an, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri, Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, September 2000:

<He is created from a water gushing forth.>

meaning, the sexual fluid that comes out bursting forth from the man AND THE WOMAN. Thus, the child is produced FROM BOTH OF THEM by the permission of Allah. Due to this Allah says,

<Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.>

meaning, the backbone (or loins) of the man and the ribs OF THE WOMAN, which is referring to her chest. Shabib bin Bishr reported from 'Ikrimah, who narrated from Ibn 'Abbas that he said,

<Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.>

"The backbone of the man and the ribs of the woman. It (the fluid) is yellow and fine in texture. Th child will not be born except FROM BOTH OF THEM (i.e., THEIR SEXUAL FLUIDS)." (Ibid., p. 439; bold and capital emphasis ours)

According to Ibn Kathir, the first Muslims understood S. 86:5-7 to be referring to the sexual fluid provided by both the man and the woman in producing a child. This implies that the first Muslims believed that women contributed actual sperm necessary in determining the characteristics of a child.

The hadiths provide additional proof that both Muhammad and his followers did in fact assume that a child's characteristics along with its gender was the direct result of the sperm contributed by both the male and the female. Muhammad declared,

"As for the resemblance of the child to its parents; if a man has sexual intercourse with his wife and gets a discharge first, the child will resemble the father, and if the woman gets her discharge first, the child will resemble her." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Number 546)

"Narrated Zainab bint Um Salama: Um Sulaim 'O Allah's Apostle! Verily Allah is not shy of (telling you) the truth. Is it essential for a woman to take a bath after she had a wet dream (nocturnal sexual discharges)?' He said, 'Yes, if she notices discharge. On that Um Salama laughed and said, 'Does a woman get a (nocturnal sexual) discharge?' He said, 'How then does (her) son resemble her (his mother)?'" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 113)

That Muhammad is speaking of actual female sperm becomes clear from the following hadith:

Thauban, the freed slave of the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him), said: While I was standing beside the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) one of the rabbis of the Jews came and said: Peace be upon you, O Muhammad. I pushed him back with a push that he was going to fall. Upon this he said: Why do you push me? I said: Why don't you say: O Messenger of Allah? The Jew said: We call him by the name by which he was named by his family. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: My name is Muhammad with which I was named by my family. The Jew said: I have come to ask you (something). The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Should that thing be of any benefit to you, if I tell you that? He (the Jew) said: I will lend my ears to it. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) drew a line with the help of the stick that he had with him and then said: Ask (whatever you like). Thereupon the Jew said: Where would the human beings be on the Day when the earth would change into another earth and the heavens too (would change into other heavens)? The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: They would be in darkness beside the Bridge. He (the Jew) again said: Who amongst people would be the first to cross (this bridge)? He said: They would be the poor amongst the refugees. The Jew said: What would constitute their breakfast when they would enter Paradise? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: A caul of the fish-liver. He (the Jew) said. What would be their food after this? He (the Holy Prophet) said: A bullock which was fed in the different quarters of Paradise would be slaughtered for them. He (the Jew) said: What would be their drink? He (the Holy Prophet) said: They would be given drink from the fountain which is named "Salsabil". He (the Jew) said: I have come to ask you about a thing which no one amongst the people on the earth knows except an apostle or one or two men besides him. He (the Holy Prophet) said: Would it benefit you if I tell you that? He (the Jew) said: I would lend ears to that. He then said: I have come to ask you about the child. He (the Holy Prophet) said: The reproductive substance of man is white and that of woman yellow, and when they have sexual intercourse and the male's substance prevails upon the female's substance, it is the male child that is created by Allah's Decree, and when the substance of the female prevails upon the substance contributed by the male, a female child is formed by the Decree of Allah. The Jew said: What you have said is true; verily you are an Apostle. He then returned and went away. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: He asked me about such and such things of which I have had no knowledge till Allah gave me that. (Sahih Muslim, Book 003, Number 0614)

Interestingly, this idea was not unique to Muhammad, but was something that Greek physicians believed prior to the advent of Islam. Dr. Lactantius comments:

"In the verses listed above nutfah is used when describing the fluid which gushes out during sexual intercourse and clearly this can only refer to semen. However, Prof. Moore is keen to translate nutfah in sura 76:2 as "mingled fluid" [3] and explains that this Arabic term refers to the male and female fluids which contain the gametes (male sperm and female egg). While it is true that the ancient Greeks would not have been able to see individual sperm or eggs, these only being visible through the microscope, the Qur'an emphatically does not mention sperm or eggs; it simply says nutfah. This can reasonably be translated semen, or at a push, germinal fluid - which was a term used as early as Hippocrates [4] who spoke of male and female reproductive fluids (but obviously could not have been aware of the cells contained in the fluids). If Moore wishes to translate nutfah as germinal fluid, he inadvertently reinforces that the Qur'an is borrowing this term from the Greeks."


Another Hadith says "If a male's fluid prevails upon the female's substance, the child will be a male by Allah's decree, and when the substance of the female prevails upon the substance contributed by the male, a female child is formed"[25]. Surely this is not referring to dominant and recessive genes at all, as certain Muslims have claimed [26], but is simply repeating the incorrect belief of Hippocrates that both men and women produce both male and female sperm. The sex of the resulting child is determined by which sperm overwhelms the other in strength or quantity:

"...both partners alike contain both male and female sperm (the male being stronger than the female must originate from a stronger sperm). Here is a further point: if (a) both partners produce a stronger sperm then a male is the result, whereas if (b) they produce a weak form, then a female is the result. But if (c) one partner produces one kind of sperm, and the other another then the resultant sex is determined by whichever sperm prevails in quantity. For suppose that the weak sperm is much greater in quantity than the stronger sperm: then the stronger sperm is overwhelmed and, being mixed with weak, results in a female. If on the contrary the strong sperm is greater in quantity than the weak, and the weak is overwhelmed, it results in a male" [27].

Earlier in the Hadith, Muhammed says that the reproductive substance of men is white and that of women is yellow. This sounds very much like the content, white and yellow, that is found inside developing chick-eggs, and which Aristotle was known to dissect [28]." (Source: Embryology in the Qur'an; bold emphasis ours)

Therefore we discover that Muhammad believed that women actually produced the sperm necessary in determining both the gender and characteristics of the fetus. This is an idea that Muhammad clearly took from the Greek physicians as indicated by Dr. Lactantius.

Learner also proposes an alternate theory regarding the meaning of S. 86:5-7. The Learner claims that the reference to "the back and the ribs" is a euphemism referring to the male sexual organ. The Learner explains why the Quran doesn't simply explicitly refer to the male sexual organ in unambiguous terms:

As far as the first question is concerned, it is obvious that the Qur'an, as any decent and sober literature would do, has only avoided direct reference (in words) to the male sexual organ. Through the words that it has used, the Qur'an has made a complete euphemistic reference to the point of emanation of the sperm, while successfully avoiding naming it. Naming it would definitely have negatively affected the literary value of the Qur'an. As far as the objection that the euphemistic style of the Qur'an, in this case, has negatively affected the clarity of the message and has resulted in confusion regarding the implication of the verse is concerned, in my opinion, it seems quite out of place. The mere fact that the previous verse had referred to 'the fluid gushing forth' (semen), which is followed by the words 'which emanates from...', brings to mind the source of the 'gushing forth' of the fluid, without much difficulty. Furthermore, one should not forget that even if the male sperm was actually formed within the two stipulated points, the mention of this source of formation of the male sperm had absolutely no pertinence with the message of the Qur'an and the information would have been of absolutely no relevance to the Arabs of old - the direct addressees of the Qur'an. The mere realization of the point that the Qur'an does not refer to any such information, even if it is true, that has no relevance to its basic message, guides one to the simple physical (non-scientific and uncomplicated) interpretation of the verse under consideration. (bold emphasis ours)

The only problem behind the Learner's reasoning is that the Quran does in fact explicitly refer to the sexual parts of a human, specifically the sexual areas of a woman, in rather vulgar fashion. For instance, in narrating the virginal conception and birth of Jesus the Quran unashamedly refers to Mary as one that guarded her sexual organ:

And (remember) her who guarded her SEXUAL ORGAN (Arabic-farjahaa): We breathed into her from Our Spirit, and We made her and her son a Sign for all people. S. 21:91

And Mary the daughter of 'Imran, who guarded her SEXUAL ORGAN (Arabic-farjahaa) and We breathed INTO IT of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His revelations, and was one of the devout (servants). S. 66:12

Mahmoud M. Ayoub contrasts the birth narratives of the Gospel of Luke with that mentioned in the Quran. All bold and capital emphasis is ours:

"The language of this verse (author- Luke 1:35) is clearly circumspect. It implies no sexual union or divine generation of any kind. Furthermore, while Luke's description agrees both in form and spirit with the Qur'anic idea of the conception of Christ, the language of the Qur'an IS FAR MORE GRAPHIC AND OPEN TO INTERPRETATION." (Christian-Muslim Encounters, ed. Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad & Wadi Z. Haddad [University Press of Florida, 1995], p. 67)

He goes on to say:

"...Then of Mary He (author-allegedly God) continues: 'And she who guarded well [lit. fortified] her chastity [lit. GENERATIVE ORGAN], and thus We breathed INTO HER of our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign [or miracle, 'Aya] for all beings' (S. 21:90-91) ...

"In the second instance the Qur'an speaks of Mary as a righteous woman who lived in strict chastity and obedience to God: 'And Mary daughter of 'Imran who guarded well her GENERATIVE ORGAN farjaha, and thus We breathed INTO HER of our spirit' (S. 66:12). THE BOLD AND GRAPHIC STATEMENT APPEARS TO HAVE SHOCKED TRADITIONISTS AND COMMENTATORS, so that most of them tried to cover it up with different and FARFETCHED significations or glossed over it with out comment...

"Ibn Kathir interprets the phrase 'guarded well her generative organ' to mean: 'safeguarded and protected it. Guarding well ihsan signifies chastity and high birth.' He comments on the phrase, 'and thus We breathed into it of our spirit' thus 'that is, through the angel Gabriel. This is because God sent him to her, and he took for her the form of a man of good stature (S. 19:17). God commanded him to breathe INTO THE BREAST OF HER CHEMISE. HIS BREATH WENT DOWN AND PENETRATED HER GENERATIVE ORGAN, AND THUS CAUSED HER TO CONCEIVE JESUS..." (Ibid.)


"Abu Ja'far al-Tusi, the jurist doctor of the Shi'i community, as well as his well known disciple al-Tabarsi, read the words, 'We breathed INTO IT' literally. Al-Tusi says: 'It has been held that Gabriel BREATHED INTO MARY'S GENERATIVE ORGAN then God created Christ in it'..." (Ibid., p. 68)

Here is Ibn Kathir's commentary on S. 66:12:

<And Maryam, the daughter of 'Imran who guarded her chastity (PRIVATE PART).> meaning who protected and purified her honor, by being chaste and free of immorality,

<And We breathed INTO IT (PRIVATE PART) through Our Ruh,> meaning, through the angel Jibril. Allah sent the angel Jibril to Maryam, and he came to her in the shape of a man in every respect. Allah commanded him TO BLOW into a gap of her garment and that breath went into her womb THROUGH HER PRIVATE PART; this is how 'Isa was conceived. This is why Allah said here,

<And We breathed INTO IT through Our Ruh, and she testified to the truth of her Lords Kalimat, and His Kutub,> meaning His decree and His legislation. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged, Volume 10, Surat At-Tagabun to the end of the Qur'an, pp. 75-76; bold and capital emphasis ours)

In his comments to S. 19:22-23, Ibn Kathir states:

"Allah, the Exalted, informs about Maryam that when Jibril had spoken to her about what Allah said, she accepted the decree of Allah. Many scholars of the predecessors (Salaf) have mentioned that at this point the angel (who was Jibril) blew into the opening of her garment that she was wearing. Then the breath descended until it entered INTO HER VAGINA and she conceived by the leave of Allah." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Volume 6, Surat Al-Isra', Verse 39 To the end of Surat Al-Mu'minun, first edition July 2000, p. 244; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Ibn Kathir provides additional evidence that farj refers to the female organ. In his comment on S. 2:223 and the impermissibility of anal sex, he writes:

<... as Allah has ordained for you.>

this refers to Al-Farj (THE VAGINA), as Ibn ‘Abbas, Mujahid and other scholars have stated. Therefore, anal sex is prohibited, as we will further emphasize afterwards, Allah willing ...

Ibn Jurayj (one of the reporters of the Hadith) said that Allah's Messengers said ...

((From the front or from behind, as long as it occurs IN THE FARJ (VAGINA).)) ...

Abu Bakr bin Ziyad Naysaburi reported that Isma‘il bin Ruh said that he asked Malik bin Anas, "What do you say about having sex with women in the anus?" He said, "You are not an Arab? Does sex occur but in the place of pregnancy? Do it only IN THE FARJ (VAGINA)." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 1, Parts 1 and 2 (Surat Al-Fatihah to Verse 252 of Surat Al-Baqarah), first edition January 2000, pp. 618, 619, 622; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Muhammad Asad also recognized that the term farjahaa literally meant the sexual area of a woman. Asad comments on S. 21:91 and states:

"... As for the description of Mary as allati ahsanat farjaha, idiomatically denoting 'one who guarded her chastity' (lit., 'HER PRIVATE PARTS')..." (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited, 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar, rpt. 1993], p. 500, f. 87; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Here is the final Muslim example showing that farj refers to the female organ:

Narrated Basrah:
A man from the Ansar called Basrah said: I married a virgin woman in her veil. When I entered upon her, I found her pregnant. (I mentioned this to the Prophet). The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: She will get the dower, for you made her VAGINA (farj) lawful for you. The child will be your slave. When she has begotten (a child), flog her (according to the version of al-Hasan). The version of Ibn AbusSari has: You people, flog her, or said: inflict hard punishment on him. (Sunan of Abu Dawud, Book 11, Number 2126)

Christian writer Abd al-Masih gives us the following perspective of this issue. Commenting on S. 21:91, al-Masih notes:

"Whoever reads verse 91 of Sura al-Anbiya' 21 carefully could be embarrassed. It is scandalous how Muhammad and his spirit of revelation lift Mary up as the most important of all women, and at the same time tear away her veil of chastity. Her self-protection is not described in a euphemism, but is calculated brutally, as in a business deal:

And she guraded her vagina [farj] so we breathed into her of our spirit. (Sura al-Anbiya' 21:91)

This revelation is not an honour, but an exposition. Maybe it was customary among Bedouins to speak contemptuously and carelessly about women. But this only shows the rule of Arabic men and their contempt for women. If the best of women is spoken about like this, what about others! The men are never written about like this. They remain covered, holier-than-thou and self-righteous." (Abd al-Masih, Who Is The Spirit From Allah In Islam? [Light of Life, P.O. Box 13, A-9503, VILLACH AUSTRIA], pp. 46-47)

The author goes on to comment on S. 66:12:

"The second problem is caused by the Arabic language. In Arabic, Allah does not say: ‘so we breathed into her of our spirit’, but ‘into him’. Who is it, into whom the spirit was breathed? The embryo 'Isa? That is difficult to accept, for then 'Isa would have existed in Mary's womb already before the spirit was breathed into her. That would mean that Allah created 'Isa beforehand or that he existed before he was conceived. Both options are out of the question for Islamic scholars.

Who is it then, into whom the Spirit from Allah was breathed? IT IS ALMOST UNSPEAKABLE, but the last expression in the previous sentence, which is masculine in Arabic, IS THE EXPRESSION FOR MARY'S GENITALS.[43] The literal meaning of Allah's statement in Arabic is then, ‘so we breathed into her vagina [farj] of our spirit.’ This turns the stomachs of some of our readers.

Rudi Paret, the best translator of the Qur'an into German, confirms the meaning of this phrase in a footnote. This seems not only to us, but also to many Islamic scholars to be a blasphemy. Ibn Mas'ud went so far as to suggest that the Qur'anic text should be changed to read ‘so we breathed into her [Mary] of our spirit.’ It is comforting to see that there are Muslims who prefer the possibility of a fallible Qur'an to a blasphemy like this.

Other commentators explain the expression into him as Mary's heart or body, which are masculine in Arabic, but not mentioned in the text. These are nothing but attempts to cover up the problem, but the problem itself remains. The assumption that it was an unclean spirit that spoke through Muhammad is obvious. It is almost impossible to imagine that Muslims claim that Jibril himself did this. Here the false statement of an unclean spirit stands against the noble Holy Spirit." (Ibid., pp. 53-54; capital emphasis ours)

In the above indicated footnote, the author states:

43. According to al-Nasafi: "in her vagina" (Madarik al-Tanzil, vol. 4, p. 272). (Ibid., p. 53)

Another rather explicit reference to a woman's sexual area includes:

"Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security, gardens and vineyards, and maidens of SWELLING BREASTS (kawa'ib), like of age, and a cup overflowing." S. 78:33 Arberry (see also Dawood, Rodwell)

Ibn Kathir comments on the meaning of kawa'ib:

<And vineyards, and Kawa'ib Atrab,> meaning, wide-eyed maidens WITH FULLY DEVELOPED BREASTS. Ibn 'Abbas, Mujahid and others have said,

<Kawa'ib> "This means ROUND BREASTS. They meant by this THAT THE BREASTS OF THESE GIRLS WILL BE FULLY ROUNDED AND NOT SAGGING, because they will be virgins, equal in age..." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Abridged, Volume 10, pp. 333-334; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Another famous commentator, ar-Razi, stated in his Tafsir (Volume 8, p. 311) that:

"The kawa`ib are the buxom girls (nawahid) whose breasts have become FULL (taka``abat) and ROUND (tafallakat)." (bold and capital emphasis ours)

Interestingly, one Sunni Muslim writer quotes certain Muslim authorities who acknowledge that the Quran's language can be quite erotic and that this particular reference can even cause persons to get aroused. In response to the unfairness of men having up to 70 wives whereas women will only have one husband in paradise, G.F. Haddad states:

We do not know with certainty that there will be such a restriction on women even if the reverse would hardly be mentionable to a decent woman. A woman in the traditional world would and does consider it a horrible thing to say to her that "You can have all the men you want"! The Qur'an would never use inappropriate language. However, the Qur'an does mention that for the inhabitants of Paradise - male and female - {There wait on them immortal youths} (56:17), {There serve them youths of everlasting youth, whom, when you see them, you would take for scattered pearls} (76:19). If this does not make a believing woman happy then, as Imam al-Shafi`i said to the one WHO IS NOT MOVED BY EROTIC POETRY, "You have no feelings." As for the believing men, as one of the Awliya said, some of them will need GHUSL just FOR HEARING THE VERSE {Same-age young-bosomed girls} (78:33). As for us hard-hearted analphabets we may read it and read it without effect. (Haddad, Sex with slaves and women's rights; source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Ghusl refers, in this specific context, to the ritual bathing of the body that a Muslim must perform after sexual intercourse or because of a seminal discharge. What the author is essentially saying is that Surah 78:33 can cause a person to be aroused to such an extent that he ends up having an emission!

To imagine that in paradise one finds women with firm round breasts for sexual pleasure is rather incredulous to say the least.

The idea of having sexual relations in Paradise has led some Muslims to interpret these passages metaphorically. This in turn has prompted the assumption that the description is merely a poetic attempt to describe that which is indescribable.

Unfortunately for these Muslims, Muhammad will not allow for such an interpretation. In Sahih Muslim, no. 6793 and 6797, we are told:

"In Paradise ... every person would have two wives (so beautiful) that the marrow of their shanks would glimmer beneath the flesh and there would be none without a wife in Paradise."

In Mishkat Al-Masabih, Muhammad indicates:

"The believer will be given such and such strength in Paradise for sexual intercourse. It was questioned: O prophet of Allah! Can he do that? He said: 'He will be given the strength of one hundred persons.'" (Bk. IV, chp. XLII, Hadith no. 24; transmitted by Tirmizi who classified this Hadith as sound)

Bilal Philips, in responding to Yusuf Ali's "spiritualizing" of the passages relating to sexual pleasures in paradise, writes:

"In an attempt to appeal to the Western reader of Christian background, some translators of the Quran have wrongly interpreted its clear references to the sexual pleasure of paradise in a symbolic fashion. For example, in his commentary on the verse, And for them therein (in paradise) are wives who are Mutahharatun (pure) (Soorah al-Baqarah 2:25), the Quranic translator Abdullah Yusef Ali states the following: Then there is companionship. If sex is suggested, its physical associations are at once negatived by the addition of the word Mutahharatun pure and holy. The Arabic is in the intensive form, and must be translated by two adjectives denoting purity in the highest degree. The companionship is that of souls and applies to both sexes in the physical world of men and women. (A. Yusef Ali, The Holy Quran, (Trans.), (Brentwood, Maryland: Amana Corp., 1983) p.22. ft n. 44). There are many Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions which address the physical aspects of men and women in paradise. Hence, it can not be accurately claimed that the companionship is that of souls and not that of beings possessing both souls and bodies. The term Mutahharatun actually only confirms that bodies in paradise will be free of the defects and decay of bodies in this life as the wine, honey, and milk of paradise will not sour or intoxicate. Mutahharatun (purified) from filth and waste matter. His student Mujaahid said, (Purified) from menses, feces, urine, phlegm, spittle, mucus and childbirth. (See Muhammad Alee as-Saaboonees, Mukhtasar Tafseer Ibn Katheer, (Beirut: Daar al-Quraan al-Kareem, 7th ed., 1981), vol. 1, p. 44). Based on his mistaken interpretation, Yusef Ali was obliged to mistranslate all the obvious references to the physical pleasures of paradise. For example, in Soorah an-Naba (78) he translates verse 33 (wa kawaaiba atraaban) as companions of Equal Age, (The Holy Quran, (Trans.), p. 1676). Atraaban does mean of the same age according to Ibn Abbaas (Mukhtasar Tafseer Ibn Katheer, vol 3., pp 434 and 593), however Kawaaiba does not mean companion. Kawaaib is the plural of Kaaib which means a girl whose breasts are beginning to swell or one WHO HAS PROMINENT BREASTS (E. W. Lane, Arabic English Lexicon, vol. 2, p. 2616). Kawaaib means BUXOM GIRLS (J. Milton Cowan, ed., A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic, (Beirut: Libraire Du Liban, 1980), p. 831). Ibn Katheer quoted both Ibn Abbaas and Mujaahid as saying, Kawaaib means Nawaahid. He then went on to explain, They (Ibn Abbaas and Mujaahid) meant that their (women of paradises) breast are prominent and not sagging because they are virgins (see also Soorah al-Waaqiah 56:35-37 (Mukhtasar Tafeer Ibn Katheer, vol. 3, p. 593). Thus, the verse actually refers to the women of paradies as HIGH BREASTED females all having the same age). This view of Yusef Ali has been refuted at length by Mujlisul-Ulama of South Africa's book, A Discussion of the Errors of Yusuf Ali, (Transvaal, Rep. South Africa: Young Mens Muslims Association, n.d.) pp. 16-26, 44-50." (Ibn Taymeeyahs ESSAY ON THE JINN (DEMONS), Abridged, Annotated and Translated by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips [Published by International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1998], pp. 28-30, fn. 2; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Even more amazing is Ibn Kathir's commentary on S. 56:35-37:

Abu Dawud At-Tayalisi recorded that Anas said that the Messenger of Allah said,

<In Paradise, the believer will be given such and such strength for women.>

Anas said, "I asked, 'O Allah's Messenger! Will one be able to do that? He said,

<He will be given the strength OF A HUNDRED (MEN)> At-Tirmidhi also recorded it and said, "Sahih Gharib." Abu Al-Qasim At-Tabarani recorded that Abu Hurayrah said that the Messenger of Allah was asked, "O Allah's Messenger! Will we have sexual intercourse with our wives in Paradise?" He said,

<The man will be able to have sexual intercourse WITH A HUNDRED VIRGINS IN ONE DAY.>

Al-Hafiz Abu 'Abdullah Al-Maqisi said, "In my view, the Hadith meets the criteria of the Sahih, and Allah knows best." (Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged, Volume 9, Surat Al-Jathiyah to the end of Surat Al-Munafiqun, pp. 429-430; bold and capital emphasis ours)

In light of the preceding examples, we find the explanation given by the Learner to be without merit. Both the Quran and Islamic traditions are quite explicit in describing the sexual body parts of women, often in quite graphic details. Therefore, based on the Learner's own criteria, the Quran cannot be categorized as decent literature due to its graphic depiction of a woman's sexual organ, or the claim that Allah breathed into a woman's sexual organ causing her to conceive, or of its statement that maidens in paradise will have firm round breasts. In the report of the conception of Jesus the language of the Quran is just plain vulgar and out of place. Regarding the description of the maidens of paradise there is another aspect still. It is not a neutral statement of factual information (as the statement "these maidens will be perfect in every regard" would have been) but the description is designed to awake sexual desire in the listeners, and the longing to make it to this place where those maidens are waiting for the faithful. As such the Quran is using a direct appeal to the sexual desires of men to convince them to believe in and fight for the cause of Islam. This is very similar to the tricks in modern day commercials where the advertizing companies use images of naked women to sell cars or any other products. Finishing this detour, we conclude that the Learner's explanation seems to be more of an attempt to save the Quran from a gross scientific error than a correct interpretation of the text in question.

In light of the preceding considerations, we find that the interpretation of S. 86:5-7 proposed by Dr. Badawi, Dr. Naik and the Learner is more of a private interpretation that seeks to make science the standard by which the Quran is understood and judged. In so doing, these individuals must ignore the authentic interpretation of their Prophet and his companions in order to avoid the gross scientific errors contained within both the Quran and Hadith. Hence, it is no longer the Quran that is God's Criterion to distinguish between truth and error. Rather, it is science that now judges and critiques God's alleged "revelation".

Note- In all fairness, the Learner does affirm that the Quran is not a scientific textbook and that the verses in question must be understood in light of its historical context. The Learner does claim that these verses had significance to those who first heard the Quran in the seventh century. Hence, in order to understand the meaning of the Quran we must first seek to know what these verses meant to those who first heard them, as opposed to applying modern scientific knowledge upon the correct interpretation of the Quran. Yet, once this is done we discover that the early Muslim understanding of S. 86:5-7 is completely incompatible with modern scientific understanding.

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