The Holy Quran and the Camels of the Americas

The desert camel that we all know, also known as Dromedary

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

If my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

This article I believe will give you a scientific paradigm to read the holy Quran like no commentator of the Quran has ever done before. So, if you leave this page without reviewing or reading this article, can I respectfully say that you do it at your own peril.

There are at best only 250 verses of the Quran about legislative issues and yet a large proportion of the Muslims lead their lives in dreams and activism to implement those in the Muslim societies and bring the discussions to the brim of irrationality and chaos.[1]

Nevertheless, a large majority of them are oblivious to the fact that there are 750-1000 verses inspiring believers to study nature and ponder over and stand in awe of the creativity and marvel of God’s creation.[2] There are also more specific instructions about the camels. Generations upon generations of the Muslims have been hearing this verse of Surah Ghashiah in almost every Friday prayer:

أَفَلَا يَنظُرُونَ إِلَى الْإِبِلِ كَيْفَ خُلِقَتْ

“Do they not then look at the camels, how they are created?” (Al Quran 88:17)

I have checked in more than 50 different English translation of the holy Quran and a large majority of them translate الْإِبِلِ in this verse as camels and a few as clouds.[3] For our purposes today we will focus on the camels.

It seems that even though many a Muslim want to make the Quran a priority in their lives, yet, this specific instruction has fallen on deaf ears for more than 1400 years.

If the Muslims had treated this verse with as much respect and awe as they have for some of the verses about corporal punishment of some crimes or political and religious leadership, they would have remained world leaders in sciences and more specifically biology and biological evolution.

Please do not reject this article on the assumption that biological evolution is not true based on your prior reading of the Quran or of your teacher. There are now libraries filled with evidence for common lineage of all 9 million or more life forms on our planet and I have linked a collection of articles for proof at the bottom of this article. So, please read rest of the article with the presumption or premise that biological evolution is true and not against Islam or the Quran. As the holy Quran is nothing but the Truth: Truth Cannot Contradict Truth: Understanding the Holy Quran.

Scientists now have fairly good description of how different families of animals came about from the first unicellular organism some 4 billion years ago, but that is not the scope of this article.

There are six species in the family of camels that are found in two groups. Camels are found in Asia and Africa. Llamas, guanaco alpacas, and vicugnas are found in South America.

Scientists have found fragments of a camel’s leg bone from over 3.5 million years ago in the Canadian Arctic.

These early camels were nearly twice the size they are now – over three meters tall – and evolved their fat-filled hump to help them survive the cold. The Arctic was warmer back then and forested with conifer and birch.[4]

The arctic or the western camel in artist’s imagination

As the Ice Age came, the camels moved south. On reaching the deserts they found themselves surprisingly suited to their new environment.

Their big flat feet, evolved for spreading their weight over snow, helped them to walk on sand. The thick fur on their backs, originally developed to keep them warm, now shielded them from the sun. And their three eyelids, once so effective against snowstorms, now protected their eyes from wind-blown sand.

The camel’s hump is also useful in the desert. Almost all of its fat is stored there, rather than being evenly distributed over its body, so it stays cool in warm environments.

The hump isn’t rigid: if a camel uses up its supply of fat, the hump shrinks and flops over to one side, only reverting to its upright shape when the animal has fed and slept.

Before we go further, my main suggestion to the open minded readers is to read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is camelops_hesternus.jpg
Skeleton of the extinct western camel (Camelops hesternus) in the foreground, in the George C. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, California. Background spotlights have been removed with Photoshop. The western camel stood seven feet tall at the shoulder, similar in size to the living Asian Bactrian camel. An American mastodon (Mammut americanum) mother and child are behind the camel.

Camelops[Note 1] is an extinct genus of camels that lived in North and Central America, ranging from Alaska to Honduras, from the middle Pliocene to the end of the Pleistocene. It is more closely related to the Old World dromedary and bactrian and wild bactrian camels than the New World guanacovicuñaalpaca and llama; making it a true camel of the Camelini tribe.[1][2] Its name is derived from the Ancient Greek κάμηλος (cámēlos, “camel”)[3] and ὄψ (óps, “face”),[4] i.e. “camel-face”.

The species ranged widely from Alaska in the north to Oregon and California in the west, southernmost Baja California Peninsula and Mexico and Honduras in the south, and Tennessee in the east, and a notable number of fossils have been excavated among central North America such as at Colorado and California.[11][12]

Encyclopedia Britannica offers a very precise and concise evolutionary history of all the species in the larger camel family:

Camels are classified in the family Camelidae, which first appeared in North America 40 million years ago. North American camelid stock became extinct 10,000 years ago. Living South American camelids are represented by the llama (Lama glama), guanaco (L. guanicoe), vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), and alpaca (V. pacos). The lineage that produced modern dromedary and Bactrian camels diverged from the South American camelid lineage between 11 million and 25 million years ago.[5]

Bactrian camels

Dromedary and Bactrian camel lineages split from one another between 4 million and 5 million years ago, with wild and domestic Bactrian camels separating from one another between 1.5 million and 700,000 years ago. Bactrian camel domestication by human beings came much later, however, occurring between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago. By 2 million years ago (the early Pleistocene EpochCamelus representatives had crossed back to Asia and were present in Africa (Tanzania).[5]

Bactrian Camels have two humps and are rugged cold-climate camels while Dromedaries have one hump and are desert dwellers. Dromedary hybrids are called Bukhts, are larger than either parent, have a single hump and are good draft camels. The females can be mated back to a Bactrian to produce ¾-bred riding camels. These hybrids are found in Kazakhstan.

Bering Land Bridge, illustration. This area of land connected what is now Siberia and Alaska when sea levels were lower. The Bering Land Bridge (also known as Beringia) was covered by rising seas around 11,000 years ago at the end of the most recent period of glaciation (the Last Glacial Period). It is thought that the Americas were populated by humans via this land bridge around 15,000 years ago.

While the direct ancestors of modern camels inhabited the arctic and spread across the Bering Land Bridge into Asia around 2-7 million years ago, the western camel branch stayed in North America until the end of the Ice Age. For most of their history, western camels stayed home in the southern part of North America.[6]

Llamas

The llama, the guanaco, and the alpaca. They are all native to the Andes Mountains in South America and they are all herbivores. The only wild species is the guanaco. The llama and the alpaca are domesticated. The guanaco is found in the grasslands of the Andes Mountains. It has a small head, long legs, and a long neck. It is about 3.5 feet tall from shoulder to feet. It has a shaggy, reddish-brown coat and is white on its undersides. Like the camels, it has a split upper lip. It eats grasses and shrubs.[7]

The camel and the llama descend from a species that lived about 30 million years ago.  In 1998 Scientists in the United Arab Emirates perfected the artificial insemination technique necessary to breed llama mom, a petite 165 pounds, with his overwhelming dad, who weighs in at 990 pounds.  There hope was that they may be able to come up with some useful animal like a mule.  This new kind of animal was called Cama.  The Dromedary is six times the weight of a Llama, hence artificial insemination was required to impregnate the Llama female (Llama male to Dromedary female attempts have proven unsuccessful). Though born even smaller than a Llama, the Cama had the short ears and long tail of a camel, no hump and Llama-like cloven hooves rather than the Dromedary-like pads. At four years old, the Cama became sexually mature and interested in Llama and Guanaco females. A second Cama (female) has since been produced using artificial insemination. Because Camels and Llamas both have 74 chromosomes, scientists hope that the Cama will be fertile. If so, there is potential for increasing size, meat/wool yield and pack/draft ability in South American camels. The Cama apparently inherited the poor temperament of both parents as well as demonstrating the relatedness of the New World and Old World camelids.

Guanaco

The guanaco lives in groups of females and their young and one adult male. It can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. The guanaco is a protected species in Chile and Peru. The llama and the alpaca are descended from the guanaco. The llama was domesticated from the guanaco 4,000-5,000 years ago. Llama were used as pack animals. The llama is 5.5-6 feet tall from head to toe. It has two toes on its padded feet and can easily grip the rocky surfaces in its mountain habitat. The llama has long, shaggy fur. Its fur can vary in color from reddish-brown, to white, black, brown, or a combination of colors. Llama fur is used to make clothes. The alpaca was also domesticated from the guanaco. The alpaca is slightly smaller than the llama. It is about 5 feet tall from its head to its toes. It looks like the llama. Unlike the llama, the alpaca is not used as a pack animal, but its soft, shaggy fur is used to make clothing.[7]

vicugna

The vicugna is found in the plains and grasslands of the Andes Mountains. It is the smallest member of the camelidae family. It is three feet tall from shoulder to feet. It has a slender body; a long neck; thin legs; and long, silky fur. It is a reddish-brown on its uppersides and white on its undersides. It has a mane of hair on its chest. The vicugna is also known as the vicuña.

The holy Quran addresses the whole of humanity and no where it says that it is meant for a few individuals or scholars of Islam, who are to disperse the message of Islam to the masses. No one has a monopoly over the understanding of the Quran.

As there are almost a thousand verses in the Quran about study of nature and science, every good scientist becomes a commentator of the Quran and Islam, when theologians like me put their discoveries to the service and understanding of the scripture, the holy Quran.

Given my decades of reading and understanding of biological evolution, God has blessed me with an objective proof against the Christian dogma of Original Sin: Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians, The Truth is Out: The Book of Genesis is Mythohistory According to William Lane Craig and Has the Top Christian Apologist, William Lane Craig Stepped on a Landmine by Searching Historical Adam.

I conclude with two of my previous works to demonstrate how every good scientist in a way becomes an illustrator of the Truth and commentator of the Quran, A Slight Twist Makes David Attenborough a Great Teacher for God of the Abrahamic Faiths and Everything is a Miracle According to the Holy Quran and Albert Einstein.

Reference

1. https://themuslimtimes.info/2018/11/11/dr-abdus-salam-islam-and-science-concordance-or-conflict/

2. https://themuslimtimes.info/2021/10/20/cataloging-750-verses-of-the-holy-quran-inspiring-believers-to-study-nature-12/

3. https://themuslimtimes.info/2020/09/14/more-than-fifty-different-simultaneous-translations-of-the-holy-quran-in-english-2/

4. https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/mammals/how-did-the-camel-get-its-hump/

5. https://www.britannica.com/animal/camel

6. https://www.beringia.com/learn/news-research/re-arranging-camel-family-tree#:~:text=While%20the%20direct%20ancestors%20of,southern%20part%20of%20North%20America.

7. https://nhpbs.org/wild/camelidae.asp

Some articles or videos for biological evolution or guided evolution

Visit Galapagos Islands with David Attenborough: The Best Proof for Biogeography for Evolution

The Single Quranic Verse that Can Convince You about Evolution

8 Minute Video to Convince You of Biological Evolution

The world’s largest spider is the size of a dinner plate

Watch Vicky and Her Mystery | Netflix

Exposing Creationism of Zakir Naik, Tahir ul Qadari, Yusuf Estes and Harun Yahya

If you haven’t seen ‘Monkey Trial,’ you may not know law, science or American history

Two Words for the Christian Apologist Ravi Zacharias: Biological Evolution

Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

The Single Quranic Verse that Can Convince You about Evolution

12 Minute Video: Everything You Wanted to Know about Guided Evolution

Evolution: Natural Selection or Divine Choice?

Meeting the Quranic Adam with Charles Darwin

TheQuran.Love: Surah Baqara (The Cow): Section 4: Adam and Eve

BBC Debate: Is it time for all religions to accept evolution?

Demystifying Quantum Physics: You Need it for Your Faith

Move over T-Rex, there’s a bigger fossil in town

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