Qur'an and Semen Production (Qur'an 86:7)
This article discusses the Qur'anic idea of semen production from between the sulb and the tara’ib.
Several Muslims promulgate the Qur'anic idea of semen production from between the sulb and the tara’ib. There are at least seven distinct classes of explanations, all of these can be proven false. There are some excellent articles refuting these assertions, for example, those of Sam Shamoun's found here and here.
This article aims to summarize the case against the various Muslim claims, so that a comprehensive review can be made of this important issue.
 Verse 86:7
Transliteration: Yakhruju min bayni alssulbi waalttara-ibiLiteral: It emerges/appears from between the spine and the rib bones.
- Yusuf Ali: proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs.
- Pickthal: that issued from between the loins and ribs.
- Arberry: issuing between the loins and the breast-bones.
- Shakir: coming from between the back and the ribs.
- Sarwar: which comes out of the loins and ribs.
- Khalifa: from between the spine and the viscera.
- Hilali/Khan: proceeding from between the back-bone and the ribs.
- Malik: that is produced from between the loins and the ribs.
- QXP: that issued from between tough rocks and mingled dust.
- Maulana Ali: coming from between the back and the ribs.
- Free Minds: it comes out from between the spine and the testicles.
Pickthall’s translation of verses 86:5-7
 Apologetic Explanations
The seven different explanations are as follows:
- Drs Maurice Bucaille and A.K. Giraud: Sulb and tara’ib refer to the sexual areas of the man and woman.
- Ahmed A. Abd-Allah: Accepts and extends Bucaille’s assumption, and claims that all the acknowledged translations and tafsirs are in error, as sulb and tara’ib does not refer to a man’s backbone and ribs, but to the man’s “hardening” (i.e. penis) and a woman’s erogenous zones (not including the vagina).
- Dr Zakir Naik: Sulb and tara’ib refers to the backbone and ribs of both sexes, however the verses refer only to the gonads in the embryonic stage, and not to adults in the act of sexual reproduction.
- Dr Jamal Badawi: The verses refer not to semen production but to the blood of the aorta as the ‘gushing fluid poured forth’.
- Tafsir Ibn Kathir: Sulb refers to the man’s backbone, and tara’ib refers to the woman’s chest.
- Tafsir al-Jalalayn - issuing from between the loins, of the man, and the breast-bones, of the woman.
- Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs- (That issued from between the loins) of a man (and ribs) the ribs of a woman.
- Muhammad Asad: Sulb refers to the man’s loins and tara’ib refers to the woman’s pelvic arch.
- Moiz Amjad, the “Learner”, makes three claims; a) Sulb and tara’ib refers to the blood supply of the testes emanating from between the man’s back and ribs, b) The embryonic gonads originate in the area as per Dr Zakir Naik, and c) The sulb and tara’ib region is a euphemism for the male sexual organ.
 Dr. Maurice Bucaille
`(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."
While there is evidence that sulb can mean “hardening” and thus, the penis, there is no evidence that tara’ib can mean the vagina. Bucaille and Giraud appear to have assumed that tara’ib means the ’sexual areas of the woman’, without providing supporting evidence. Even if tara'ib means what Bucaille and Giraud want it to mean, the term, 'sexual areas of the woman' is too vague to be meaningful. To assume that it means the vagina is merely an assumption, and may constitute the logical fallacy of equivocation.
Therefore, Bucaille is debunked.
 Ahmed A. Abd-Allah
Abd-Allah extends Bucaille’s proposition, providing dictionaries and tafsirs to support his case that sulb means ‘hardening’ and tara’ib means the sexual areas of the woman.
Here is Abd-Allah's definition of sulb:
We do find it surprising that almost all the commonly available translations of the Qur'an refer to sulb as the backbone, though some refer to loins. Even Ibn Kathir accepts backbone. Is Wehr a more authoritative and knowledgeable authority on the Arabic language than Ibn Kathir? This is difficult to believe.
Regardless, Abd-Allah’s proposition collapses with his own definitions of tara’ib. He failed to show that his tafsirs and dictionaries explain tara’ib to mean vagina. Instead, tara’ib is defined as breasts, eyes, legs and chest. Any person (sexually-experienced or not) would know that while erogenous zones are important in foreplay, the sexual act really must be consummated through the vagina.
Further Abd-Allah’s reference to Ibn Kathir’s tafsir is disingenuous as he only mentions the one half of the description which supports his case (i.e. tara’ib refers to the woman), while leaving out the other half that debunks it (i.e. tara’ib is the woman’s ribs). This selective quoting may be construed by many readers to be deceptive and deceitful.
 Dr. Zakir Naik
“Now let man but think From what he is created! He is created from A drop emitted – Proceeding from between The back bone and the ribs.” [Al-Qur’aan 86:5-7]In embryonic stages, the reproductive organs of the male and female, i.e. the testicles and the ovaries, begin their development near the kidney between the spinal column and the eleventh and twelfth ribs. Later they descend; the female gonads (ovaries) stop in the pelvis while the male gonads (testicles) continue their descent before birth to reach the scrotum through the inguinal canal. Even in the adult after the descent of the reproductive organ, these organs receive their nerve supply and blood supply from the Abdominal Aorta, which is in the area between the backbone (spinal column) and the ribs. Even the lymphatic drainage and the venous return goes to the same area.
Firstly, Dr Naik’s embryology is a little askew as the original position of the cells destined to develop into spermatogonia (sperm producing cells) is not ventro-medial to the kidneys (where they undoubtedly develop) but in the wall of the yolk sac:
Even if we accept Dr Naik’s assertion that the verse refers to the embryonic testes, it is unclear whether the gonads are located where he claims, i.e. between the spinal column and the eleventh and twelfth ribs.
This cross-sectional diagram of the human embryo shows the gonads at or around the level of the placenta:
Thus, it is not strictly true that the embryonic testes is located specifically between the spinal column and the eleventh and twelfth ribs as the gonadal or genital ridge (precursor of the gonads) is commonly believed to lie medial to the lower part of the mesonephros, while the adult kidney actually develops from the metanephros.
It is incorrect to assume the position of the embryonic gonads from the position of the adult kidneys, as the embryonic positions of gonads and kidneys are not the same as their adult positions. Gonads descend, while kidneys enlarge and ascend. It should also be noted that the developing gonads are ventro-medial to the mesonephros (i.e. the embryonic kidney) and not the metanephros (which would develop into the adult kidney). Hence it would seem that Zakir Naik does not know the embryology of the urogenital system and cannot differentiate between the mesonephros and the metanephros.
Even if we were to accept Naik’s implied association between embryonic and adult anatomical positions, he is also wrong because in the condition of cryptorchidism where the testes is undescended, the highest position of the undescended testes is below the kidney. 
Note that the inferior pole of the kidney lies around L3 (the third lumbar vertebra), thus the embryonic testes must be below L3. The twelth rib does not extend below L2. Since the testes are below the kidneys, there is no possibility that the testes were ever between the ribs and the backbone either in the embryonic or the adult (as with cryptorchidism) stage.
Further, it seems disingenuous to interpret a ‘drop emitted, proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs’ to mean the embryonic development of the testes, as the ‘drop emitted’ suggests a fully developed and functional testes, rather than an embryonic structure. Embryonic testes do not emit, ejaculate, gush forth, pour forth, spurt or ejaculate any substance; only the peri- and post-pubertal testes do.
Lastly, Naik’s explanation of the nerve, blood and lymphatic circular from the abdominal aorta is irrelevant and constitutes the logical fallacy of the red herring. This is because verses 85:6 speak about ‘a drop emitted’, commonly taken to mean semen and semen only as this drop is directly responsible for human reproduction, something which cannot be claimed for nerve signals, blood or lymph. Further, circulation and nerve supply do not correlate with embryonic origin. For example, the blood supply, lymphatics and nerve supply of the lower limbs originate in the abdomen and pelvis. Does that mean the lower limbs embryonically originated in the abdomen and pelvis? No it does not.
 Dr. Jamal Badawi
Dr. Badawi’s proposition is debunked with the same explanation given for Naik’s blood circulation proposition.
 Ibn Kathir
Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs
This concludes the description started in ayah 5. The following is an excerpt of commentary on this passage, from Tafsir Ibn Kathir:
- 'Referring to the creation of man from a drop of fluid gushing forth from between the backbone and the ribs, Allah emphasizes the inherent weakness of man... Allah says that man has been created from a mix of seminal fluid of man which gushes forth from the backbone and the yellowish fluid of woman that flows from her ribs.'
Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Modern medical science suggests that semen does not emanate from a man’s backbone, nor do a woman’s sexual secretions emanate from her ribs.
 Muhammad Asad
(6) he has been created out of a seminal fluid
(7) issuing from between the loins [of man] and the pelvic arch [of woman].
- The plural noun tara'ib, rendered by me as "pelvic arch", has also the meaning of "ribs" or "arch of bones"; according to most of the authorities who have specialized in the etymology of rare Quranic expressions this term relates specifically to female anatomy (Taj al-'Arus).
Even if we accept Muhammad Asad’s definition of sulb as the male loins, it is a stretch of the imagination to accept that sexual reproduction is the consequence of a union between the male loins and the female pelvic arch. Note that the tafsir does not claim tara’ib means the pelvis, but the pelvic arch which is a specific part of the pelvis. This suggests that a claim of euphemism cannot apply due to the specificity of the description.
 Moiz Amjad
The “Learner”, makes three claims:
- Sulb and tara’ib refer to the blood supply of the testes emanating from between the man’s back and ribs,
This is has already been debunked in our refutation to Dr. Naik.
- The embryonic gonads originate in the area (as per Dr. Zakir Naik)
This is has already been debunked in our refutation to Dr. Naik.
- The sulb and tara’ib region is an euphemism for the male sexual organ.
Amjad’s hilarious attempt to show this by drawing lines on pictures of a human skeleton is unworthy of formal refutation due to its patent absurdity. Any line can enclose any human organ if that line is drawn on the surface of the body.
The various attempts to show that the Qur'an correctly describes semen production are not supported by modern scientific knowledge.
These propositions are frequently conflicting, for instance, Ibn Kathir refers to tara’ib as a female organ, while other tafsirs claim it belongs to the man. Another conflict is the definition of sulb to mean either the backbone or the ‘hardening’ or the loins.
A point often missed, though alluded to by Dr. Campbell, is the phrase “min bain” which literally means “from between”. If this interpretation is accepted, which seems to be the case from a reading of the commonly available translations, then one must also note that semen emanates from the penis, and not from between the penis and the vagina. To be strictly correct, semen emanates from the penis into the vagina. This point seems to rule out tara’ib as being anything to do with the female sexual partner.
 See Also
- Reproduction - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Reproduction
- Mistranslated Verses - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Mistranslated Verses
 External Links
- Answering Dr. Jamal Badawi: A Christian Response to Dr. Jamal Badawi's "Seven Wonders of The Quran" by Sam Shamoun
 Links from Muslims
- Hippocratic Writings , op. Cit., 317-8
- 86. At-Tariq - The Morning Star (سورة الطارق) - Revealed in Makkah (English: Literal) - IslamicNature, accessed November 15, 2011
- The Qur'an and Sex Education
- Indiana University; School of Medicine
- genetics basics
- A Christian Response to Dr. Jamal Badawi's "Seven Wonders of The Quran" - Answering-Islam.org
- A Quranic Journal: Surah at-Tariq ayah 7
- The Message of the Quran - Muhammad Asad - Surah 86