[ by Charles Cameron -- with cites from the Qur'an and Bukhari, together with a concerto by Saint-Saëns ]
Stephen Hough is a classical pianist of note recording on the Hyperion label, the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, and one of twenty living polymaths listed as “Pianist, poet, composer, writer on religion” in a 2009 survey by The Economist’s 2009 Intelligent Life blog.
Hough — a Catholic — blogs at The Telegraph, and today he wrote something that caught my eye in his post Why haven’t you written anything about Gosnell?:
I think that without religious faith it is hard to accept a zygote as equivalent in value to a fully formed child. I can understand that a non-religious person is going to see a scale of development in the nine months of pregnancy.
To broaden Hough’s discussion a little, I’d like to gently point out that not all religious faiths perceive these matters in the same way. Islam, for instance, has a Qur’anic passage that’s apposite in Sura 20, The Believers, 12-16:
Man We did create from a quintessence (of clay); Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest, firmly fixed; Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (foetus) lump; then we made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then we developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the best to create! After that, at length ye will die Again, on the Day of Judgment, will ye be raised up.
Getting into more detail, we find these ahadith — the first in Bukhari, Chapter 6, The Book of Menstruation, 312:
It is related from Anas ibn Malik that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Allah the Mighty and Majestic appoints an angel to every womb who says, ‘O Lord! A sperm drop! O Lord A clot! O Lord! A lump of flesh! ‘ Then if He desires to complete His creation, He does so and the angel asks, ‘Is it to be male or female? Wretched or happy? What is its provision? What is its life-span?’ This is all decreed in the mother’s womb.”
and the second in Bukhari Chapter 63, The Book of the Beginning of Creation, 3036:
It is related that ‘Abdullah said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, who is the truthful confirmed one, said, ‘The way that each of you is created is that you are gathered in your mother’s womb for forty days as a sperm-drop and then for a similar length of time as a blood-clot and then for a similar length of time as a lump of flesh. Then an angel is sent and he breathes the spirit into you and is encharged with four commandments: to write down your provision, your life-span, your actions, and whether you will be wretched or happy.
Qur’an 20, in the Yusuf Ali rendition Bukhari, Book of Menstruation 312 the Aisha Bewley translation Bukhari, Book of the Beginning of Creation, 3036 also in the Bewley translation
Here Stephen Hough plays Camille Saint-Saëns‘ Piano Concerto 2 in G minor Op. 22 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo conducting: