The phenomenon of Resurrection is even more mysterious than the mystery of our first creation. Creation takes place beyond the visible eye, and it takes place in stages; so will be the Resurrection.
The Creation of Man and His Re-creation Follow the Same Divine Order
Human creation (‘reproduction’) begins with the joining of two gametes (reproductive cells) to form a zygote (fertilized egg), and proceeds in stages to develop into an embryo, then a fetus in the mother’s womb. The stages include the physical and spiritual components, which are complementary to the creation of a human being. From beginning to end, the physical development is a continuous process, and the moment-to-moment changes take place simultaneously at molecular, and finally at tissue levels.
It is far beyond the scope of the human intellect to perceive these delicate, and yet intricate, processes that go on in the “layers of darkness” (abdominal wall, uterine wall, and the amniotic cavity filled with fluid):
“He makes you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, one after the another, in three layers of darkness.” [Surah Al-Zumar, 39:6]
The human creation is protected and nourished in that darkness for 280 (two hundred and eighty) days.
After fertilization, the gamete divides to form a bilayer embryo. A group of these cells thicken to form the structure called the Primitive Streak. The cells in this stage are ‘pluripotential’: These cells are capable of differentiation into specialized cell lines, which eventually form different organs with specialized functions:
“And indeed! We created man [Adam] out of an extract of clay. Thereafter We made him [Adam’s offspring] as Nutfah (zygote] in a safe lodging [the mother’s womb]. Then We made the Nutfah into a bloodclot, then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh [fetus]. Then We made out of that little lump of flesh, bones. Then We clothed the bones with flesh. And then We brought it forth as another creation. So Blessed is Allah, the Best of creators.” [Surah Al-Mu’minûn, 23:12-14]
One of these cell lines in the Primitive Streak induces the development of the embryonic mesoderm. The Notochord, (the primordium, the eariest stage) of the future vertebral column, develops in the mesoderm, and dictates to the embryo its vertical axis. Starting at the base of the primitive streak, the notochord grows cranially (toward the skull) to lay down the vertebral column, but its caudal (tail-end) most part remains unchanged and develops into the tailbone (the coccyx). Thus, as the lower end piece of the notochord, the tailbone holds the remnant of those pluripotential cells —the genome of which, under appropriate conditions, are capable of regenerating new cell lines, as in the original stage. In fact, at the time of human Resurrection on the Day of Judgment, the genomic material preserved in these cells of the tailbone will be primed with ‘blessed water from the sky’
We send down from the sky rain charged with blessing, and We produce therewith gardens and grains for harvest; and tall date palms with shoots of fruit stalks, piled one over another, as sustenance for [God’s] servants. And We give new life therewith to land that is dead: Like this will be the Resurrection. [Surah Qâf, 50:9-11]
And it is Allah Who sends the winds, so that they raise up the clouds, and We drive them to a dead land, and revive therewith the earth after its death. Like this will be the Resurrection. [Surah Fâṭir, 35:9]
And everyone will be re-created from the same earth elements to which their bodies have decayed after burial:
“Afterwards [after your being brought to life from the clay of the earth], He will return you into it [the earth], and bring you forth [again on the Day of Resurrection].” [Surah Nûḥ, 71:18]
The precision of re-creation is so perfect that the new creation will resemble the original creation (the one before death) to the extent that it will match even the tips of his fingers, not even a line of one’s fingerprint will be missing:
“Nay, We are able to put together in perfect order the very tips of his fingers.” [Surah Al-Qiyamah, 75:4]
Events of THE HOUR
The Holy Qur’an addresses the phenomenon of Resurrection as being associated with ‘The Hour.’ The Holy ProphetSAW said that the Hour will not be established until a series of minor and major warning signs appear (Sahih al-Bukhari 7121, Book 92, Hadith 68, Vol. 9, Book 88, Hadith 237, Heading: Afflictions and the End of the World).
The Resurrection event will lead into mankind’s final accountability and reward in recompense of each one’s conduct in this earthly life:
“Verily, the Hour is coming —and I have [purposely] designed to keep [its timing] hidden— that every person may be rewarded for that toward which he strives.” [Surah Ta-Ha, 20:15]
After the last major sign has materialized, Angel IsrafilAS will be ordered to blow the Trumpet. There will be two blowings, separated by a period of ‘Forty.’ (Regarding ‘Forty’ see hadith below.)
The time of the onset of the Hour and the specific length of this gap period between the two blowings of the Trumpet have been kept inaccessible to human knowledge, because of its unbearable impact on human emotion and psychology:
“O you who believe! Ask not about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble…” [Surah Al-Maidah, 5:101]
With the first sounding of the Trumpet, everything and everyone alive, will be caused to die except him whom AllahSWT wills to exempt:
“And the Trumpet will be blown; and all who are in the heavens, and all who are on earth will swoon away except him whom Allah wills. Then will a second one be sounded, when, behold, they will be standing [in the Plain of Judgment] looking on…” [Surah Al-Zumar, 39:68]
For those who will swoon away at the first Trumpet sounding, their lives in Barzakh (the Interregnum) will start. Life in this interim period will last until the second blowing, which will mark the beginning of the Hour.
The Resurrection will begin with the revival of all the dead existing in the state of Barzakh. Our ProphetSAW will be the first to raise his head.
“I will be first to raise my head after the second blowing of the Trumpet, and will see Musa (Moses) holding on (or, clinging to,) the Throne; and I will not know whether he will have been in that state all the time [since his death] or starting after the blowing of the trumpet.” [Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 6 Hadith No. 337, Hadith 4813: Prophetic Commentary on Qur’an (Verse 68, Surah al-Zumar), Narrated by Abu HurairahRA)
The ProphetSAW will be revived from his intact body, the way he was buried; his body will not have decayed, because AllahSWT has forbidden the earth to disintegrate the bodies of the Prophets.
The ProphetSAW said: “Verily, Allah has forbidden the Earth to consume the bodies of the Prophets.” (Sunan Abî Dâwûd 1047, Sunan al-Nasâ’î 1374, and Sunan Ibn Mâjah 1636)
The martyrs, too, will be revived from their intact bodies, because their bodies also do not decay back to elements of the earth:
“Think not of those who are killed in the Way of Allâh as dead. Nay, they are alive, with their Lord, and they have provision.” [Surah Âl-‘Imrân, 3:169]
But, all the rest of us human beings — rich or poor, humble or arrogant, believing or disbelieving and in whatever form our bodies are disposed of after our deaths— will return to the earth, since Allah has created the earth as the receptacle for the living and the dead. It is from this receptacle that our resurrection will begin:
Have we not made the earth accommodating [to] the living and the dead. [Surah Al-Mursalât, 77:25-26]
…And whosoever rejects His worship and is proud, then [let it be known that] He will gather them altogether unto Himself [for Judgment]. [Surah Al-Nisâ’, 4:172]
The human life cycle began with the creation of AdamAS who was created from ‘dirt’ —elements of the earth— in the best mold, which AllahSWT created with His own “Two Hands” (Surah Ṣâd, 38:75). Since the creation of Adam, all of his descendants have inherited that same pattern encoded into the genome (totality of genetic information) of AdamAS:
“(Remember) when your Lord said to the angels: ‘Truly I am about to create mankind from clay.’” [Surah Al-Ḥijr, 15:28]
“Verily, We created mankind in the best stature (mold)” [Surah Al-Tîn, 95:4]
On burial, our bodies will return to the earth, and on Resurrection Day everyone will be revived from the ‘dirt’ into which his/her body has decayed.
“Thereof [of the earth] We created you, and into it We shall return you, and from it We shall bring you out once again.” [Surah Ṭâ-Hâ, 20:55]
On revival, we will be rushing out of our graves; spellbound and in a crowd, we will hasten as if running in a race to reach the finish line:
“The Day when the Trumpet will be blown, and you come forth in crowds.” [Surah Al-Naba’, 78:18]
“And the Trumpet will be blown (i. e. the second blowing) and behold from the graves they will come out quickly to their Lord.” [Surah Yâ Sîn, 36:51]
“Then it will be blown the second time, and behold they will be standing, looking on (waiting).” [Surah Al-Zumar, 39:68]
Between the two blowings of the Trumpet and before the beginning of the revival of the dead, AllahSWT will send down the Blessed Rain from the sky to initiate the resurrection:
“And it is Allah Who sends the winds, so that they raise up the clouds, and We drive them to a dead land, and revive therewith [by its rain water] the earth after its death. Likewise [will be] the Resurrection!” [Surah Al-Fâṭir, 35:9]
The ProphetSAW further elaborated on the phenomenon of resurrection in the following traditions which mention the little bone at the tailend of the coccyx:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said: “Between the two soundings of the trumpet, there will be ‘forty.’ Somebody asked Abu Huraira, “Forty days?” But he refused to reply. Then he asked, “Forty months?” He refused to reply. Then he asked, “Forty years?” Again, he refused to reply. Abu Huraira added, “Then (after this period) Allah will send water from the sky, and then the dead bodies will grow like vegetation grows. There is nothing of the human body that does not decay except one bone: that is the little bone at the end of the coccyx —of which the human body will be re-created on the Day of Resurrection.” (Ṣaḥîḥ al-Bukhari 4935)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
“Between the two trumpets there will be forty.” The people said, O Abu Hurairah! Forty days?” I refused to reply. They said, “Forty years?” I refused to reply and added: Everything of the human body will decay except the little bone at the end of the coccyx, and from that bone Allah will reconstruct the whole body. (Ṣaḥîḥ al-Bukhari 4814)
So, at the end of this world, the beginning of ‘the Hour’ will be heralded by a series of minor and major signs. The last major sign will be followed by the first blowing of the trumpet. With the first blowing, everyone will die (“except him whom Allah wills”).
Resurrection will begin with the second blowing. There is an unspecified time period of ‘Forty’ between the two blowings. Within this period and prior to the second blowing, the earth will be soaked with ‘blessed water’ from the sky, and the revival of each individual will start from his “little bone at the end the coccyx” (the Tailbone). This is Allah’s Will and Plan. He is the Creator, and He creates however He wants.
The Science of Resurrection
From a science point of view, the creation of an identical replica of a person is possible only from his genomic material. The genomic material is the DNA that carries the code of hereditary propagation, and dictates the body’s physical and functional qualities. DNA is made up of billions of base pairs of nucleic acids (Adenine and Thymine, Guanine and Cytosine —with Uracil replacing Cytosine in RNA). Chromosomes, the building blocks of DNA, forms the Mold (the template); it is the lofty Blueprint on which man is created:
“Verily, We created man in the best stature (mold)” [Surah Al-Ṭîn, 95:4]
From a doctrinal point of view, a person is created from the ‘dirt,’ or, the elements of the earth; most of his body will decompose into that same kind of ‘dirt’ after death and he will be resurrected out of the earth, from among that same base materials:
“Thereof (the earth) We created you, and into it We shall return you, and from it We shall bring you out once again.” [Surah Ṭâ-Hâ, 20:55]
What would be the source of the genomic material (DNA) necessary to re-create a particular individual? According to the above two Hadith, upon death the body will decay, all but the tailend of the coccyx. And AllahSWT will re-create the person from that seemingly insignificant tissue. So, the tail piece is somehow preserved from decomposition and it retains its DNA identity indefinitely, for centuries or millenia; the ability to re-encode the new re-creation lays dormant within it.
Resurrection for each person will begin with the re-awakening of the biochemical codes within his/her coccyx, and from it Allah will reconstruct the whole body, when His pre-determined ‘Hour’ arrives.
Science has discovered, in the human embryo, how the tailbone figures in the step-by-step development of the spinal column. It is the spinal column which gives human beings their upright posture, with the distinction of being a fully upright creature, carrying all its weight on two legs.
To fully grasp the primary role of the tailbone in the individual’s resurrection, it is important to understand, further, the anatomy and functions of the coccyx, and its unique characteristics of development in the early embryonic period.
The developing adult human body passes through embryogenesis, which lasts for eight weeks or fifty-six (56) days. At the end of that period, the size of the embryo is only 30mm and it is called a gastrula. The gastrula has three germinal layers, which can specialize to form all the organs of a future adult. The layers of embryo tissue are, from outside to inside: the ectoderm, the mesoderm and the endoderm.
Within the mesoderm, the middle layer, there develops a flexible rod called the notochord, formed of material similar to cartilage; from the base of the notochord the coccyx develops.. The notochord is key in signaling the orientation of the embryo in its longitudinal and antero-posterior axis. Since the notochord develops from the primitive knot in gastrulation and from the primitive streak (the site of the pluripotential cells), and since the coccyx develops from the tail end of the notochord, the coccyx does contain —and continues to contain throughout a person’s life — those all-important pluripotential cells. The genome of these pluripotential cells is preserved —even after death— in the coccyx, which is the site protected from threat to decay of the individual’s genomic identity. Accordingly, it is these pluripotential cells, derived from the coccyx, which will provide the genomic material for the resurrection of each person.
In conclusion, the aHadith, quoted above, establish the role of the Coccyx in the phenomenon of Resurrection and indicate that it is the genomic material (DNA) that will be used to produce the identical replica of the dead person’s physical body.
Again, the Hadith of the Coccyx:
[“Between the two trumpets there will be forty.” The people said, O Abu Hurairah! Forty days?” I refused to reply. They said, “Forty years?” I refused to reply and added: “Everything of the human body will decay except the little bone at the end of the coccyx, and from that bone Allah will reconstruct the whole body.” (Ṣaḥîḥ al-Bukhari 4814)
This hadith was narrated by the ProphetSAW over fourteen centuries ago, when there was not yet the development of any biological science, let alone genomic science. Yet, the Hadith gives a key detail about the process of Resurrection. This re-creation is but a miracle, and its key biological component is made known only through Divine Inspiration:
“Nor does he [Prophet MuhammadSAW] speak out of [his own] desire. It is none other than a Revelation revealed [to him].” [Surah Al-Najm, 53:3-4]