Religion

  • Issue 111 / May - June 2016



    The Existence of God - According to Muslim Theologians and Thinkers

    Matthew Wallis

    Proving the existence of God is a venture that numerous Muslim philosophers, theologians, and thinkers have been attempting for many centuries. This issue has been argued and debated on scientific, philosophical, and theological platforms, and the debate continues today. In any argument for God, it is necessary to note that God is a transcendent and infinite Being and hence cannot be tested with science, whilst humans are mortal and transient physical beings who try to make sense of everything using their own reasoning and logic. Thus, some scientists and philosophers claim that it is impossible to prove the existence of God.



    Muslim theologians who have been compelled to respond to such claims have also offered a number of philosophical and rational arguments to prove the existence of God. This paper aims to explore the arguments for the existence of God put forward by some of these Muslim theologians. Islamic Scholars such as Nursi (d. 1960), Al-Kindi (d. 870), Gulen (2000), and others have provided sound arguments based on theological, philosophical, and scientific reasoning that consists of comprehensive and valid premises, which taken together make a strong case for the existence of God.

    The cosmological argument is one of the primary arguments of the kalam theology, which states that the initial point is existence, and thus the universe must have an origin. One of the original developments of the cosmological argument in Islamic tradition was formed by Al-Kindi (d. 870), who was one of the earliest Islamic philosophers to initiate an argument for the existence of God based upon purely empirical grounds (Nasr 1964). His main contribution is the cosmological argument (dalil al-huduth) for the existence of God, in his “On First Philosophy” (Nasr 1964). He provided four different variations of this theory, all of which state that a cause must be required.



    Al-Kindi contends that the creation had a beginning in time and that the universe cannot bring itself into existence; thus, diversity in the universe must be caused by an external agent and the origin of variety within the universe indicates a creator. Ultimately, this creator is God (Ozalp, 2014, Slide 29). The cosmological argument had been rejected by some philosophers, because the notion of causality upon which it rests its foundations has been open to doubt since the commencement of Kalam (Fakhry, 1957). Al-Ghazali (d. 1111) however, rejected these doubts, on the basis that the requirement of this foundation is only a perception (Ghazali, 1997).


    Taking this viewpoint into consideration, it is necessary to note that others still regard the cosmological argument highly, and it is still used by Muslim and western theologians today. In response to the claims about the universe being infinite in time, modern scholars use the following argument: if the universe was infinite in the past, there would be no such thing as the present. In other words, if there was no beginning in time, we would have never arrived at the present. This means that both time and space had a beginning and therefore need a (creative) cause. According to the cosmological argument, this cause is none other than God.


    The default argument is another important argument for the existence of God, and it was first advanced by Nursi. He offered four possibilities for existence to come into being. He then claimed that if the first three are proven to be false and refuted through valid arguments, God’s existence will be proven by default. He argued that since creation exists; that every single being comes into existence in a necessary and great manner; and that all beings are finite and not eternal, they were either: 

    Created by ordinary causes or formed through causes; 

    Formed of their own power; 

    Created by nature; 

    Created by God.

    According to Nursi (1995), human justification cannot find any other explanation apart from these four possibilities. Nursi then refuted the first three claims by using logical arguments. 

     

    In regards to the first three possibilities, Nursi’s refutations are based on the argument that causes do not possess intelligence. For example: the availability of ingredients are not enough to make a cake, hence a chef is required. If the universe was to occur by itself, then atoms and particles (which are the ingredients of the universe) require infinite knowledge to create something by themselves. 

    The following analogy may also shed some light onto the argument: If an architect is not accepted as the designer of a building, then each brick must possess complete knowledge of architecture. Furthermore, nature cannot cause the universe to come into being because nature, itself is a work of art; therefore, nature itself cannot be the artist. Nature is a set of laws, therefore it cannot be the lawgiver. Since the initial three theories are impossible, by default, God’s existence is proven. (Ozalp 2014, slide 20).

     


    Nursi also provided another analogy in regards to the existence of God: a commander of an army can achieve many accomplishments by commanding a large quantity of soldiers. However, if the soldiers were required to perform these duties themselves, without guidance, it would result in disarray and have chaotic consequences. Similarly, assigning all astronomical occurrences to God develops a simple methodology to comprehend that God, Who through controlling astronomical circulations and orbits, and displaying art in the course of certain phases, proves there is Divine wisdom displayed in the universe. There is one Commander of the universe, and undoubtedly, that is God Almighty (Nursi 2001).


    Nursi also explained the fact that God is the eternal one, without beginning or end. Non-existence is insubstantial to Him, for He does not require anything to exist, owing to the fact that life begins in His Essence. Without a creator, it is impossible for life to originate by itself, hence the only plausible and logical reasoning would be to accept a creator that has power over all things (Nursi 1993).


     

    As we shift to a contemporary Muslim theologian, we first look at the idea of “Occam’s Razor,” a popular philosophical idea, which states that, “The simplest answer is usually right” (Clark, 2007). Supported by Occam’s Razor, Gulen appears to have a straightforward approach in regards to the existence of God. He argues that the existence of God is too obvious to require any arguments (Gulen 2000).

     

    Gulen (2000) contends that it is impossible to prove the non-existence of God. In relation to creation, Gulen (2000) argues that anything can exist, at any time or at any place, and in any form. Therefore, everything is contingent, meaning it is possible that things can exist or not exist. As Gulen (2000) contends, things that are isolated are able to receive different qualities. The reality is that living and non-living things are provided with particular chosen forms; therefore, these chosen forms that exist require one who determined them to exist. Nothing can dictate how something will come into existence, except an infinite power behind all things, and possessing infinite will and knowledge over all things – and that power is God. Furthermore, Gulen argues that everything changes and thus everything has a beginning and an end. Therefore, whatever had a beginning requires something that has no beginning. Moreover, since physical agents cannot originate themselves, and since infinite regression is not possible, reason states that a creator is necessary, and this necessary creator is God Almighty. 

     

    Gulen (2001) also responds to the question of “Who created God?”, put forward by those who make a counter-argument to the causation argument for God. He (2001) states that the causation argument is not valid for God because if this criteria is applied to God, there will then be a never ending chain of creators. This is also elaborated on by Ergi (2013), who offers an analogy of a train and its carriages, and asks: what pulls the last carriage? The answer is the one in front, and then the one in front again; however, when arriving at the locomotive, it is utterly nonsensical to repeat the same question again, since the locomotive is self-powered and does not require an external power. Thus, the same question cannot be asked when reaching God in the chain of creation of matter. Taking this into consideration, this argument unequivocally proves the existence of God, since it would be logical to accept one creator who has no beginning than to enter into the impossible argument of infinite regress. 

    Can the life be self-originated? Is life a process that uncoiled corresponding with laws that could be comprehended by mankind? Natural laws do not have a real existence. Natural laws and causes draw the inference from the connections of events seen in the universe. This being the case, as they are dependent upon exterior components, they are not self-existent. Furthermore the universe is contingent.


    As Gulen (2000) argues, two types of existence are reality: there are those things that exist necessarily and those existing on a conditional level. Those that exist incontrovertibly, exist only by a perquisite of their individual characteristics and attributes. Thus, nothing in it must exist, since it is not necessary for it to exist. Anything whose existence is conditional and contingent is not infinite. For that reason, life cannot be self-originated, because someone has to have preference over its non-existence or its possible existence. Anything that begins, will definitely end, so the idea of eternal creation is deemed to be false. Everything is dependent on something, so when tracing this chain as far back as possible, it is beyond reasonable to accept the fact that it is God who has no beginning and is the creator of all things. Taking these irrefutable arguments into deep contemplation and examination, it is logical and plausible to accept the fact that God is the only reasonable explanation for the origin of the universe and all of existence.


    Through the thoughts and explanations of rational arguments regarding the proofs of God’s existence, it is evident that Muslim theologians have aspired to provide a sturdy and forceful structure to Islamic theology. After deep reflection, thought, and consideration surrounding the arguments that were provided by Muslim theologians, in this respect, it is clear that the evidence put forth unambiguously demonstrates that God exists and is the creator of all things. It is useful to ponder over analogies and to exercise scientific and rational reasoning as these scholars have put forward, so that we can have a better understanding of our existence.


    Before the emergence of theories proposed by disbelievers, it was unnecessary to even engage in proving God’s existence. Obstacles like these theories are still being debated over, but via irrefutable analogies, scientific and rational reasoning, the existence of God is evident.


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


     


    REFERENCES


    Clark, J. (2004). How Occam’s Razor Works. Retrieved from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/scientific-experiments/occams-razor.htm

    Ergi, O. 2013. Can a bridge build itself: essays on belief and moral values. [S.l.]: Ipg-Academic.

    Fakhry, M. (1957). The Classical Islamic Arguments for the Existence of God. The Muslim World, 47, 2.

    Ghazzālī, ., & Marmura, M. E. (1997). The incoherence of the philosophers =: Tahāfut al-falāsifah: a parallel English-Arabic text. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press.

    Gülen, F. (2000). Essentials of the Islamic faith. Fairfax, Va: The Fountain.

    Gulen, F. (2001). Who created God?. Retrieved from: http://en.fgulen.com/questions-and-answers/584-who-created-god

    Nasr, S. H. (1964). An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines: Conceptions of nature and methods used for its study by the Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʼ, al-Bīrūnī, and Ibn Sīnā. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press

    Nursi, S., & Vahide, S.. (1993). The Words. Istanbul, Turkey: Sozler Publications.

    Nursi, S. (1995). The Flashes collection. Istanbul, Turkey: Sozler Nesriyat A.S.

    Nursi, S., & Vahide, S. (2001). Letters. Istanbul: Sozler Nesriyat.

    Ozalp, M. (2014). Lecture 2: Existence of God (World view and Faith Essentials). [PowerPoint Slides].Retrieved January 8, 2015, from Charles Sturt University website. (Link no longer available)

    Ozalp, M. (2014). Lecture 4: Proof of God’s Existence. [PowerPoint slides].Retrieved from Charles Sturt University website: http://interact.csu.edu.au/access/content/group/ISL202_201490_UC_D/Lectures/Lecture%204%20-%20Proofs%20of%20God_s%20Existence.pdf



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