17. The Arabic word salsal means the dried clay which produces a sound like pottery.
Hams is the black mud which has become so rotten as to be in a fermented state.
Masnun has a double meaning: (a) rotten clay which has become greasy, (b) clay which has been molded into a shape. It is clear from the wording of the text that at first the image of man was made of clay from rotten earth and when it dried up, soul was breathed into it. Thus the Quran positively refutes the Darwinian theory of evolution that man came into existence after passing through continuous genetic adaptations. It will, therefore, be a futile attempt, as some modernized commentators have done, to prove that theory from the Quran.
18. As samum is not wind, nar-i-samum will mean flame of intense heat and not of fire. This is the explanation of those passages in which it has been stated that jinns have been created from fire.
19. “And have breathed into him of My Spirit” means when I have cast a reflection of My divine characteristics on him. This shows that the soul of man implies life, knowledge, power, will, discretion and other human characteristics in the aggregate. These are in reality a slight reflection of divine characteristics that has been cast on the human body, which was originally created from dried clay. And it is this divine reflection on the human body which has raised him to the position of the vicegerent of Allah and made him that worthy being before whom angels and every earthly thing should bow down.
As a matter of fact, the source of each characteristic of everything is one divine characteristic or the other, as is borne by a tradition: Allah divided mercy into one hundred parts: then He reserved ninety-nine parts for Himself and sent down the remaining one part to the earth. It is because of that one part that the creatures show mercy to one another. So much so that it is due to this that an animal refrains from placing the hoof on its young ones.
In this connection one has to be on strict guard against the notion that the possession of a part of any divine characteristic amounts to the possession of a part of Godhead. This is because Godhead is absolutely beyond the reach of each and every creation.