The human genome project and the study of the genetic markers contained within DNA have now brought to light the story of man’s origins and his journey across the planet. This new National Geographic documentary follows Dr Spencer Wells as he retraces that incredible journey.
15:28 And lo! Thy Sustainer said unto the angels: « Behold, I am about to create mortal man out of sounding clay, out of dark slime transmuted; (29) and when I have formed him fully and breathed into him of My spirit, fall down before him in prostration! »
There are many references in the Quran to man’s having been « created out of clay » or « out of dust », both these terms signifying man’s lowly biological origins as well as the fact that his body is composed of various organic and inorganic substances existing – in other combinations or in their elementary forms – on or in the earth. We have here a description of the primeval biological environment out of which the « sounding clay » – the matrix, as it were – of man’s physical body has evolved in accordance with God’s plan of creation (see also 71:13-17). God’s “breathing of His spirit” into man is obviously a metaphor for His endowing him with life and consciousness: that is, with a soul.
2:31 And He imparted unto Adam the names of all things.
The « knowledge of all the names » denotes here man’s faculty of logical definition and thus, of conceptual thinking. Recalling also the “sounding clay” – containing an allusion to the power of articulate speech which distinguishes man from all other animal species.
7:22 But as soon as the two had tasted [the fruit] of the tree, they became conscious of their nakedness; and they began to cover themselves with pieced-together leaves from the garden.
The story of Adam and Eve is, in reality, an allegory of human destiny. In his earlier state of innocence man was unaware of the existence of evil and, therefore, of the ever-present necessity of making a choice between the many possibilities of action and behaviour: in other words, he lived, like all other animals, in the light of his instincts alone. Inasmuch, however, as this innocence was only a condition of his existence and not a virtue, it gave to his life a static quality and thus precluded him from moral and intellectual development. The growth of his consciousness – symbolized by the willful act of disobedience to God’s command – changed all this. It transformed him from a purely instinctive being into a full-fledged human entity as we know it – a human being capable of discerning between right and wrong and thus of choosing his way of life. In this deeper sense, the allegory of the Fall does not describe a retrogressive happening but, rather, a new stage of human development: an opening of doors to moral considerations. By forbidding him to « approach this tree », God made it possible for man to act wrongly – and, therefore, to act rightly as well: and so man became endowed with that moral free will which distinguishes him from all other sentient beings.
96:1 READ in the name of thy Sustainer, who has created (2) created man out of a germ-cell!
The act of divine creation has been and is being continuously repeated from the very first “living entity” within the primordial sea – to modern man’s embryonic evolution out of a “germ-cell”, i.e., a fertilized female ovum.
96:3 Read – for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One (4) who has taught [man] the use of the pen (5) taught man what he did not know!
Man’s unique ability to transmit, by means of written records, his thoughts, experiences and insights from individual to individual, from generation to generation, and from one cultural environment to another endows all human knowledge with a cumulative character; and since, thanks to this God-given ability, every human being partakes, in one way or another, in mankind’s continuous accumulation of knowledge, man is spoken of as being « taught by God » things which the single individual does not – and, indeed, cannot – know by himself. Furthermore, God’s « teaching » man signifies also the act of His revealing, through the prophets, spiritual truths and moral standards which cannot be unequivocally established through human experience and reasoning alone: and, thus, it circumscribes the phenomenon of divine revelation as such.
2:37 Thereupon Adam received words [of guidance] from his Sustainer, and He accepted his repentance: for, verily, He alone is the Acceptor of Repentance, the Dispenser of Grace.