by Dr. Abu Izhaam Haykal
There are literally dozens of web sites on the net that claim Muhammad correctly stated that the human body consists of 360 joints (though naturally they all copy one another, and thus can be traced back to one or two sites). We are told by these sites that this is yet another scientific miracle - the insinuation being that Muhammad was not just stating his opinion, rather he was stating a fact that proves he was divinely inspired. There are a number of objections that can be made.
First, assuming the claim that the human body had 360 joints was correct, what would be so amazing about that? Wouldn't this be something that is observable? We would think that it would only take one person to count the number of joints, and then we would have a perfectly natural way of arriving at the correct number. There is no need to think it would be a miracle.
A second point that should be noted is that Chinese thinkers, centuries before the advent of Islam, positively asserted that the human body had 360 joints. In fact, this claim is even repeated to this day in certain Kung Fu classes! Consider that in the third century BCE, Lu Pu-wei wrote the following in his work Lu shih ch'un-ch'iu:
Human beings have 360 joints, nine body openings, and five yin and six yang systems of function. In the flesh tightness is desirable; in the blood vessels hsueh-mo free flow is desirable; in the sinews and bones solidity is desirable; in the operations of the heart and mind harmony is desirable; in the essential ch'i regular motion is desirable. When [these desiderata] are realized, illness has nowhere to abide, and there is nothing from which pathology can develop. When illness lasts and pathology develops, it is because the essential ch'i has become static.However, Lu Pu-wei was apparently not alone in writing such. A short time later, in the second century BCE, Tung Chung-shu (Dong Zhongshu) wrote the following in his work Chunqiu fanlu:
The human being has 360 joints, which match the number of Heaven [i.e., of days in the year]. With bones and flesh, the human body matches the Earth’s thickness. The eyes and ears, with their sense of vision and hearing, resemble the sun and moon. The orifices and veins resemble rivers and valleys.So what we see is that it is perfectly possible for a human being to assert that there are 360 joints in the human body, and moreover that Chinese philosophers had asserted precisely that long before the advent of Islam. However, the most interesting fact of all is that this assertion is false! The reality is that there are not 360 joints in the human body, rather there are actually a great deal less. Keep in mind that the proper definition of "joint" is a point of articulation or meeting place between two bones. Thus if it takes two bones to make a single joint, obviously a person cannot have more joints than bones. The average adult human body has roughly 206 bones, which would mean that the average human body has less than 206 joints. Precise numbers cannot be given because exact bone counts can differ from person to person, though it is nonetheless clear that the figure of 360 is way off. Jochen Katz' relevant article (which is still evolving) offers further discussion on the number of bones and joints.
Nonetheless, Osama Abdallah's Answering Christianity page happens to be one of the sites that parrots the claim that Muhammad correctly noted the number of joints in the human body. The point of Osama's page is to demonstrate the falsity of Christianity while simultaneously demonstrating the veracity of Islam. There are many other web sites dedicated to this subject, but, for some bizarre reason, Osama's site is one of the most popular, despite the fact that it contains some of the most laughable errors (exempli gratia:  ). Of all the errors he has made, by far the funniest can be found in his article pushing the 360 joints polemic.
As is the case with all the sites pushing the polemic, Osama's article cites two hadiths that assert that the human body has 360 joints, and then goes on to "prove" that this statement (allegedly) made by Muhammad is true. This is interesting because (a) the claim is woefully incorrect, and (b) the method of "proof" that Osama uses demonstrates how little thought he has put into the subject. This is so funny, in fact (and the article is so short), that we are going to post the entire text of Osama's piece (and hence preserve it in case he decides to take the article down, which would be the smart move). Here is the article in its entirety:
Let us consider Osama's attempts at offering proof. First, he states that some anonymous source originally stated the number of joints was 340, but then and equally anonymous "scientific institute" raised the number to 360, and this can be found in some medical encyclopaedia. Which encyclopaedia might we find this in? Is anyone surprised that Osama never tells us which encyclopaedia or which "scientific institute"? Most of the sites that push the 360 joints polemic mention encyclopaedias, yet none tell us which encyclopaedia is being referred to. Once again serving as an analogy for the manufacturing of the ahaadeeth, it seems that one Muslim made the claim and dozens more simply parroted it.
Regardless, Osama goes on to cite three "scientific sites that prove the Islamic claim". The first two sites are Islamic pages that assert what was already asserted in the ahaadeeth, but nothing is proven. The third link is the most humorous of all, and we recommend readers visit it now:
If you search for the number 360, you'll find a line that reads:
360 _____ Muscles, Joints & BonesOf course, if you searched for 359, you'd find a line that reads:
359 _____ Mental HealthIf you searched for 350, you'd find a line that reads:
350 _____ Digestive SystemAnd if you searched for 494, you'd find a line that reads:
494 _____ AIDS & HIVIf you have not figured out what these numbers signify, the word "Tel-Med" should have served as a relevant hint. The reality is that these are telephone extensions! Osama seems to have put no thought whatsoever into considering the very source that he recommends others consider. It is a mammoth blunder to think that the third site was asserting that there are 360 joints in the human body. In the past people responding to Osama's polemics have called him names like "liar". We here at the FTMecca have speculated that he was often either deliberately deceptive or a very bad researcher. The text above would cause us to lean heavily in favor of the latter, and maybe worse, in favor of questioning his mental stability.
Jochen Katz' Answering Islam page has an entire section dedicated to responses to Osama, and there you will find a far more in depth rebuttal to the 360 joints polemic. We highly recommend this article, which offers a thorough demolition of Osama's argument.