The Stages of Human Development

Bismillah. We will now begin the explanation of the hadith we already mentioned which discusses the stages of human development. I am quoting heavily from the book here because a lot of this hadith is very technical subhaanAllah and there are a lot of medical references 🙂 It’s amazing how the Propet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam bought this 1400 years ago and the companions believed what he said just because he said it. We know all of this now because of science and research, but imagine being in the position of the sahabah! For them, stages of birth and all was a very foreign concept. 

Not only are the three stages of birth mentioned in this hadith, Allah mentions the three stages of human development in the Qur’an as well:

O People, if you should be in doubt about the Resurrection, then [consider that] indeed, We created you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then from a clinging clot, and then from a lump of flesh, formed and unformed – that We may show you. And We settle in the wombs whom We will for a specified term, then We bring you out as a child, and then [We develop you] that you may reach your [time of] maturity. And among you is he who is taken in [early] death, and among you is he who is returned to the most decrepit [old] age so that he knows, after [once having] knowledge, nothing. And you see the earth barren, but when We send down upon it rain, it quivers and swells and grows [something] of every beautiful kind. (Al Hajj, 5)

And also:

And certainly did We create man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm-drop in a firm lodging. Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump, bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah , the best of creators. (Al Mu`minoon, 12 – 14)

Arabic is an amazing language, subhaanAllah. I love how Bayyinah classes highlight the subtleties of the Arabic language for us non Arabic speakers. If we knew Arabic, we would appreciate the Qur’an infinitely more than we do now.

In this hadith, the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam says “each of you is brought together in his mother’s abdomen.” The word batn is used here, which means the stomach or abdomen region. The overall region is called “the stomach” and includes the womb. In other narrations, the word for womb is explicitly used – rahim. Rahim is related to rehmah, meaning mercy. This is because people have mercy towards each other due to ties of kinship and blood.

The Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said: “Verily, the womb (ar-rahim) has taken its name from al-Rahman (the All Merciful). Allah has said: ‘Whoever keeps your ties, I shall keep his ties. Whoever cuts you off, I shall cut him off.'”

And with that heavy-handed hadith, we will move into the first stage of human development inshaAllah.

“For forty days”

The first stage of the development of human beings is the nutfah, or drop of fluid. The word nutfah has been used in three different connotations:

  1. As the male gamete (75:37)
  2. As  the femal gamete (mentioned in a hadith in musnad Ahmed)
  3. The male and female nutfah being mixed in the womb of the mother

According to Ibn Atheer, this portion of the hadith can be understood in two ways: either the nutfah remains as it is in the womb for 40 days or the nutfah is growing and developing during that period until it becomes ready for the next period.

“then it is a clinging object (alaqah) during the same period”

The Arabic word alaqah literally means something that clings or attaches to something else. The word also means leech. The medical leech has been notorious for its clinging property to the skin whereby it sucks blood, a phenomenon that was often used in medicine as a remedy (blood letting). It also has a meaning seldom used in Arabic and that is a clot or congealed blood.

Albad describes the different types of clinging that takes place after the period of nutfah. He says that from the 7th to the 21st day, clinging is the most dominant feature. This is how he sums it up in his book:

  1. From day 7 – Implantation of the blastocyst occurs and becomes completely embedded by the 10th day.
  2. The chorionic villi appear for the first time by day 13 and 1, and soon cover the whole blastocyst attaching the ball like structure to the uterus by anchoring the villi.
  3. The connected stalk connects the embryo proper (the embryonic disc) with its true coverings, the amniotic sac and yolk sac to the outer ball, the chorion.

He finishes by saying:

“Thus, we find 3 different ways of clinging and attachment of the developing fertilized ovum to the womb of the mother. There is no better word for this stage, which describes it so eloquently, than the Qur’anic word alaqah.”

“then it is a lump…”

The mudhghah (or modgha) means “a  chewed lump” in Arabic. Some translate it as “a morsel of flesh” but “chewed like lump” is the correct translation.

During this period, there develops what are known as somites. It is from these that much of the axial skeleton and musculature will develop. Hence, they look like a large number of fairly equally distributed indentations or bumps. In other words, they look exactly like a piece of flesh that has been bitten into and has the teeth marks remaining in them. All of this process takes place and is finished by the sixth week or 42 days after conception.

Different hadith stress the 40 odd days of conception. All of the internal organs one will ever have are present in rudimentary form by the end of six weeks (42 days).

I believe this point becomes much important later on when dealing with when the soul is blown in and the fetus is considered a life (in terms of abortion, inheritance, etc). inshaAllah it will be dealt with in some more depth later.

next up inshaAllah: The Angel is Sent

This entry was posted in Hadith, Islam, Pregnancy and Children, Women and Islam and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Stages of Human Development

  1. islampapers says:

    Assalaamu alaikum. Please see for some new articles on Embryology in the Qur’an.

    Was al-Harith bin Kaladah the source of the Prophet’s medical knowledge? See:

  2. Zito Miah says:

    New essay on


    This essay contains a surprising comparison at the end of the essay!


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