What Does it Mean by Man Created from 'Clay'?
Salamun Alaikum sister,
Of course as you no doubt will appreciate, the English 'clay' is only a best rendition of the particular Arabic words used to describe man's initial creation which can imply shades of meaning.
The 'tiin’in' in Arabic implies earth, soil, earthy, mud or earthly composition. Depending on the different layers of the earth's strata, the composition can vary.
In some verses, there are different Arabic words to describe the initial composition of man through his evolutionary cycle .
"We created humankind from sounding clay (Arabic: salsalin) from black mud (Arabic: ham-in) altered (Arabic: masnun)"
Note the Arabic word used for altered as 'Masnun'.
Masnun is formed from the same root word (Siin-Nun-Nun) which forms other words such as 'sunnah'.
The root word means to follow a path, a line of conduct or mode of life, to establish the law, to form, to mould into shape, to polish. Therefore, a gradual altering seems to have been implied by the use of the word 'masnun'
The Quran is best making use of words to describe man's earthly composition and possible gradual development.
On a side note however, and not intended to provide ‘support’ for the above, it is not unusual to find discussions of ‘clay’ in scientific communities when debating the origins of life.
I hope this helps,