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By MuslimAnswers.net Team
بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم
Objection: Dr. Naik claims that the Quran says ‘We have created the human beings from ‘the best part of a whole’. The truth is that the Quran says 32:8 human progeny is made of a ‘despised fluid’ (ma-in maheenin).
Answer: In our estimation this is not a real objection, since the Qur’anic passage that is being referred to from Dr. Naik’s booklet is:
“And made his progeny from a quintessence Of the nature of A fluid despised.” [Al-Qur’aan 32:8]
After this, Dr. Naik says:
The Arabic word sulâlah means quintessence or the best part of a whole. We have come to know now that only one single spermatozoon that penetrates the ovum is required for fertilization, out of the several millions produced by man. That one spermatozoon out of several millions, is referred to in the Qur’aan as sulâlah. Sulâlah also means gentle extraction from a fluid. The fluid refers to both male and female germinal fluids containing gametes. Both ovum and sperm are gently extracted from their environments in the process of fertilization.
So the word “sulalah” is from the same Ayah which contains the phrase saying that humans are made from a “despised fluid”. The argument is actually about what “sulalah” means and how it is connected with the “Ma-in Maheen” (the lowly fluid), not about a real contradiction in the Qur’an, especially considering that the words appear in the very same Verse under discussion.
If we look at some of the Arabic translations of this word, we see that it is mostly translated as an “extract” and words related to this concept, as is the case in the online Quranic Arabic Corpus. The same can be mostly seen from other classical Arabic dictionaries and lexicons, such as the “Arabic English Dictionary” by J.G. Hava (translated as offspring, extract, pith), and Brill’s Arabic-English Dictionary of Qur’anic Usage (translated as extract, stock, strain, and essence). Other examples may be provided, but this should suffice to show that this is one of the meanings of the word “sulalah”.
However, there are some lexicons which translate “sulalah” as the “best part of a whole”, as is evidenced by Lane’s Lexicon, where is says that the “sulalah of a thing” (سُلاَلةُ شَىْءٍ) is “[an extract of a thing: and hence,] the clear, or pure, part, or the choice, best, or most excellent, part [of a thing]”.
If such is the intended meaning in here, then it may be said that the best part of the “despised fluid” is the material from which the human being is created. This would still not a problem at all, since the two intended meanings can be reconciled and they do not clash irrevocably.
We also notice that Dr. Naik’s booklet above also mentions that “sulalah” also means something extracted gently. This meaning is also included in Lane’s Lexicon, where it is mentioned that “sulalah” means “What is, or becomes, drawn forth, or drawn forth gently, from, or of, a thing”, as well as from Steingass’ “The student’s Arabic-English dictionary”, where the meanings of two forms of the root are given as “draw out slowly” and “draw or pull out slowly”. In the aforementioned Brill’s Dictionary, the original meaning of the root word is given as “to extract gently and unobtrusively, to pull out strands of wool”. So this is one of the meanings included in the lexicons and dictionaries which Dr. Naik is referring to when talking about the extraction of the fluids necessary for reproduction.
But of course, the above is only considering the possibilities of what the words may mean without scholarly input. If we consult one of the more recent commentaries of the Qur’an, we can get a picture of what this term may mean in connection with the totality of this Verse. Thus, we read in Maariful Qur’an that:
Earlier, it was said that Allah Ta’ala has made everything ‘good’ in this world. Mentioned thereafter was man, the most beautiful of all. Then, to give expression to His most perfect power alongside, it was also said that the making of man as the most superior form of creation was not because the essential ingredient of his creation was most noble, elegant and superior, which may have made it so. In fact, as for the essential ingredient that went into his making, it was something as mean and lowly as the semen. Thereafter, the rest was a masterpiece of His perfect power and profound wisdom. It was this great combination that took something so low to such a height that man was rated as the most noble Divine creation.
So in this interpretation, the view has been taken towards the word signifying the lowliness of the semen. At the same time, we read in the interpretation Muhammad Ash-Sha’raawi’s (RA) Al-Khawaatir that the “Sulalah is the finest there is in something, and for this reason it is said: A (given) person is the Sulalah of so-and-so, and he is the descendant of glory. That is, he is in a position of praise.”
This is said, while at the same time mentioning that the greatness of the Creator is shown through the precise Creation of man through this despised fluid, for in this small amount of lowly semen which comes out from the same passage as the urine passes are the specifics of a complete human, such as skin color, gender, and other characteristics.
Seeing that these are some of the interpretations presented for this Verse, it may be said that Dr. Zakir Naik perhaps did an overextension in the interpretation of this Verse and in presenting it as conforming exactly with the latest scientific findings. But perhaps there are some valid points to Dr. Naik’s presentation of the Verse, and we do not wish to attack his assessment in this respect.
We hope that at a later date we may extend the discussion regarding this Verse and the critical words under consideration, since there are some interesting threads that may be discussed with traditional scholars concerning the different possibilities this Verse may include when we combine the current knowledge of medicine with the classical understanding of key words and phrases in this Verse. However, we also acknowledge that even in the situation where the Verse seems to be completely in conformity with the science of the time, we must still tread carefully in this regard, given that the scientific field itself may move in a different direction after a few decades, and as Muslims we cannot take the scientific sayings as the primary basis with regards to what the Qur’an and other primary Islamic texts mean.
Finally, we supplicate to Allah that He may grant guidance to all those who sincerely seek it, and we testify that only through Him is our success.
 The Qur’aan and Modern Science: Compatible or Incompatible?, p.39
 p. 321
 p. 450
 p. 1397 (Volume 4, p.121).
 p. 501
 P.449. The previous six references can be accessed from the online Arabic Almanac, available at: http://ejtaal.net/m/aa/