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The Quran, Islamic Theology, Philosophy And The Sciences - What Is God And How Do We Go About Trying To Know God Better? (Part 1)

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam

29 July 2017

Science informs us that the world and time have a beginning. Science also informs us that what originates in time and at a point in time has a cause. Nothing happens by itself. There must be a cause therefore for the creation of the universe and this cause we call the Creator. Unless there is a cause for the creation of the Creator of this Universe, the Creator is the First Principle we call God. Every being and thing has a cause and every cause has its cause and if we go back in this series which cannot be infinite, we end at a cause that has no cause which is God who is uncaused and the cause of creation.

If the world itself was uncaused, then the world itself would have been the first principle, and the atheists would have been right in rejecting the notion of a God who is among other things the Creator. This is what the philosophers believed and the atheists hoped for. They believed that matter was eternal and they argued about the eternity of the Universe with neither a beginning nor an end. This was without proof or demonstration. It was simply grounded in their dogmatic rejection of God since creation of the world posed the question about the Creator. The idea of a beginning in time for the universe was therefore repugnant to them. However, this attribute of eternity without a beginning or an end is exclusive to God. “He is the First and the Last, the Evident and the Immanent: and He has full knowledge of all things” (57:3) He is evident in His creation and yet immanent. This Universe according to the Quran has both a beginning and an end and all things return to Him

When the Big Bang theory implying the beginning of time was proposed in the early twentieth century, there was dismay and consternation among the atheists. As much as the atheists may hate it, Science confirms what the scriptures say about the creation of the universe, the beginning of time, as well as the different scenarios in which an end to this universe is possible.

(10:82) "And Allah by His words does prove and establish His truth, however much the sinners may hate it!"

God is the First Principle, the Uncaused cause of the first creation, the uncreated Creator who created everything else either directly or indirectly through His own creations. The only Being necessary for all other beings. The necessity of God’s existence is essential to God’s existence and such necessity cannot belong to anyone else. If such necessity is shared, then there must be a cause for such necessity to exist and anything with a cause is only a possibility and cannot be described as necessary. Logically therefore, there cannot be two or more gods and logically, what is necessary must subsist by itself and does not need a cause for its existence.  This property of being necessary in itself does not belong to anything created. What is created is from what is possible given the appropriate cause for it to come into existence.

 And He is Allah: There is no god but He, the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal (2:255).Creator, Lord and Sustainer of the heavens and the earth (13:16). Knower of all that is hidden and open(39:46) He is the Guardian and Disposer of all affairs(39:62).The Exalted in Might, the Irresistible, the Supreme (59:23),To Him be praise, at the first and at the last(28:70),Everything (created) will perish except His own Presence. To Him belongs the Command, and to Him will you (all) be brought back (28: 88).

The existence of an Uncaused Being is established by rational necessity. It is only with respect to the attributes of such a Being that opinions can vary.

(The above discussion is based on the style of argument followed by the philosophers and is based on readings of their works)

The proof of God and His attributes are in His creation and the logical necessity of a primal cause. An axiom or first principle does not derive from anything else and therefore cannot have a proof. It is self-evident truth which is further strengthened from the practical use of the truth that is derived from it.

 God has created the Universe having unerring order and perfect causality. If this was not so, then we would have had things that have no cause or therefore necessary by themselves, or with multiple first principles or multiple gods. The world would then have been chaotic and unpredictable and full of surprises. Such a world is more than any human or even any animal can endure. Peace, order, predictability and a smooth flow is important to our mental health and well-being. Unerring Order and Perfect Causality is also proof of a single Uncaused Cause. The law of perfect causality is what causes new life beings to come into existence or existing forms to go extinct and for genetic mutations to take place to adapt to our changing environment. The basic building blocks of all things created at the lowest level being simply a cell (different types) or an atom (different for each element) etc., make possible for these to combine with their own kind or other kinds in an infinite variety of ways for new life forms and objects to come into existence, given the right cause, conditions or environment. Everything is subject to God’s laws of perfect unerring and predictable causality, as though the laws are indelibly and unchangeably recorded in a Book or inscribed on a Tablet (Loh-e-Mahfooz to use the Quranic term)

This is expressed in several verses (of necessity using allegorical language for the 7th century audience) thus:

Everything Is Subject To the Law of Allah

(6:59) Not a leaf does fall but with His knowledge: there is not a grain in the darkness (or depths) of the earth, nor anything fresh or dry (green or withered), but is (inscribed) in a clear book.

Every occurrence follows His inexorable laws unfailingly.

(3:83) Do they seek for other than the Religion of Allah (Deenillah)?-while all creatures in the heavens and on earth have, willing or unwilling, bowed to His Will, and to Him shall they all be brought back.

The reference here is to man’s limited freedom and autonomy which he uses to rebel against the religion of Allah (Deenillah or Islam), when all else submit to His laws. The proof that all else submit is perfect causality that we find in all phenomena.

59:1 Whatever is in the Heavens and on earth declare/celebrate the Praises and Glory of Allah

(59:24) He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms (or Colours). To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.

The manner in which anything created declares His Praises and Glory is through absolute obedience to His laws/commands or by following the nature created for it, or by serving the purpose of its being brought into existence. The prime example is the angels (2:30). As far as man is concerned, he enjoys limited freedom and autonomy by divine design, and can choose to rebel and is therefore repeatedly asked to celebrate the praises of God and to submit to the law He has laid down for him (follow Islam)(3:41, 3:83).

Allah’s word is both His command and His Law

(16:40) For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, "Be", and it is.

Allah’s Word/Laws and decrees are unchanging

(10:64) For them are glad tidings, in the life of the present and in the Hereafter; no change can there be in the words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme felicity.

(10:19) Mankind was but one nation, but differed (later). Had it not been for a word that went forth before from thy Lord, their differences would have been settled between them.

(20:129) Had it not been for a Word that, forth before from thy Lord, (their punishment) must necessarily have come; but there is a Term appointed (for respite).

Why Didn’t God Also Ensure Perfect Justice On The Earth?

Apart from unerring order and perfect causality which are essential for life to survive, why didn’t God also create perfect justice on the earth? Why did God give respite to all people for a fixed term to do as they please? Why are people not punished immediately for any wrong they do or prevented from doing wrong?

If God had ensured perfect justice on earth, then we would have lost our freedom and autonomy and with it the motivation for doing anything beyond what is necessary for mere existence. We would have lived like animals, content with what nature provided us. We may have even become extinct. Although honesty may wear a rag and rascality a robe, and this may seem to be gross injustice, it is a pinch of rascality that has ensured progress. In a political leader, it is the lack of rascality that is a fatal weakness which was the undoing of the first four Caliphs. It was rascality that made the subsequent Caliphs better administrators. Muhammad (pbuh) was a prophet of God and protected by Him and survived several attempts on his life. Other mortals must watch out for themselves and especially the rulers who have many enemies. The first four Caliphs didn’t and three of them paid the price with their lives. The first one had a short tenure of two years and died a natural death.

Without greed, envy, fear, megalomania, why would we work harder? Without the fear of what people may say behind our back, why would we be careful in our behavior? Rascality has its uses. It is the rascals who have created great wealth. They can consume what they can but leave most of what they create behind. Progress wouldn’t have been possible without a little evil. What Bernard Shaw said is rephrased for clarity “Self-denial is not a virtue but exercising prudence on rascality”. It is maintaining a balance and moderation in all things that is a virtue. The warning always is not to transgress the limits. The limit being what is necessary (but no more) to achieve what is right and just and good for all.

It is the tension of opposing forces of good and evil that ensures our well-being and progress and both must have freedom and respite for a term. If God keeps pulling the carpet from under our feet each time we do wrong, we will never attempt anything worthwhile. When evil is so attractive, there must be a check on it from an equally strong motivation for good. This comes from our sense of morality which religion has given us.

(18:7) That which is on earth we have made but as a glittering show for the earth, in order that We may test them - as to which of them are best in conduct.

If God is going to judge us, then for a just God it is essential that He should give us the moral code or the ideal way of living and conducting our affairs to judge us by. He has done that through revelations from time to time and finally by revealing the Quran and confirming: “This day have I completed your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Islam means submission to God which is also a generic name for all religions which teach submission to God)

For people to follow the moral code there must be the assurance that justice will find perfection in the Hereafter which is what God promises in the Quran. There will be great rewards for those who do good works and are righteous and punishment for those who do evil.

What Is The Path To Getting To Know God Better?

Read the Quran with understanding and contemplate on its verses. Try to get the holistic message. Spend some time reading the Quran every day. The Quran is the word of God through which He is trying to reach you and your innermost thoughts. Let the Quran do the speaking to you by becoming a good listener. This requires freeing your mind from all the clutter of pre-conceived notions and beliefs gained from other sources. All else, except the Quran are fallible. Discard everything else unceremoniously. A stage will be reached when the Quran begins to reveal its meaning to you and it will be as though the revelations descend on you afresh giving you deep insights and holistic understanding. That is a point when all doubts disappear. The whole of it now makes perfect sense without a single contradiction.

God manifests His attributes in His creation and His Laws. Study these which mean pursue the sciences vigorously including the behavioral sciences. You cannot understand the Quran perfectly, unless your knowledge of what God has created is accurate. Many of the verses were misunderstood and continue to be misunderstood because our knowledge of the world is defective. The simplest examples are the verses on conception which speak about the intermingling of the seed from the man issuing from his loins and the seed from the woman in her pelvis. People who thought that the seed came only from the man understood the verses differently and said that the seed comes from between the backbone and the ribs of the man. They reasoned that if the seed came only from the man then Sulb which means like a rigid rod must mean the backbone and Taraib which means an arch must mean the ribs!

The knowledge that is not accessible to man in foresight but perfectly understandable in hindsight has been given to us in the Quran. Knowledge which is accessible to us in foresight is in the pursuit of the Sciences. There is no knowledge beyond these two. If your knowledge is not anchored in the Quran or the Sciences, and without suppressing your rationality while trying to make sense of the Quran, then it is not knowledge but a form of Jahiliyah. Mysticism has only given us myths and false beliefs. Belief does not trump reason ever. Such belief that defies reason or a clear demonstration of the truth is false belief and most likely an incorrect understanding of the scriptures as I explained about the verses on conception.

Forced contemplation or following a formula like the Sufis practice is to enter a dead-end street and limit the possibilities. The whole of the Quran and all the sciences must be your scope and this is a lifelong quest. You should allow the understanding to grow on you naturally. Do not set up expectations and become impatient for miraculous results. The study requires discipline and patience. Nothing worthwhile is achieved easily. The objective should simply be the pursuit of knowledge to get to know God better. Avoid the practices of the mystics. Mysticism has become another name for hallucinating and for making fraudulent claims which are not grounded in sound knowledge. The call is to keep your eyes, ears and mind open and not to shut these up. You are also taught to keep your eyes open in prayer for the same reason.

Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to


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