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FAQs on God

By: admin

Existence of God

Why do you believe in the existence of God? What is the evidence for His existence?

Reply
An aspect, which seems quite intriguing, is the ‘taken for granted’ approach of a large number of people regarding the existence of God. There are a number of people around us, who believe in the existence of God, not based on any explainable reasons, but merely because that is how it is or that is how it should be. This general approach may, at first sight, seem unsubstantiated. However, religions, claiming to be divine, have another explanation for this apparently ‘unsubstantiated’ and ‘taken for granted’ approach of man. According to the divine religions, this approach is the result of an unbroken chain of information that man has received over the generations, starting from the first man – Adam (pbuh). These religions hold that unlike the human race, in general, Adam (pbuh) directly experienced and interacted with God. Subsequently, God selected the best of men in various generations and at various places and directly interacted and communicated with them; He delivered them His messages, informed them of His likes and dislikes; gave them irrefutable signs of His existence; and educated them regarding the purpose of this life as well as the consequences of success or failure in it. God talked to Noah, He addressed Abraham, He conversed with Moses, He gave His message to Jesus and finally He revealed His word upon Muhammad (pbuh). Starting from Adam and ending at Muhammad (pbuh) the history of the communication and interaction with God is transmitted from one generation to the other in unbroken chains of transmission. Man has considered this transmission to be so authentic and reliable that it has generally led him to accept the existence of God, without asking for any other evidence to support it. For a person born in a family, which ascribes to the belief of the existence of God, this transmission of information regarding the existence of God, generally, provides the beginning for his belief. Thus, for a child born in a Jewish, a Christian or a Muslim (or any other creed, which believes in God) family, this information is the starting point of the stated belief.

However, as time goes on, the child – depending upon his internal abilities as well as the support that he gets from his external environment – develops the ability of inquisition and of testing the information that it has received from its elders. This is the time, when a growing child (or a grown up adult) starts looking for the evidence to either support the information that his elders gave him or to gather sufficient basis to reject the information so transmitted to him.

I too have gone through these phases in life. Today, I believe in the existence of God for exactly the same reasons on the basis of which, at reading a letter, I believe that it was written by a (good or a bad) writer; at seeing a building, I believe that it was designed by an architect and constructed by an engineer (with his team of workers), or at eating a delicious meal, I believe that it was carefully prepared by an expert cook. For me, being skeptical about God’s existence is exactly like being skeptical about the existence of the writer, even after having received a letter; or about the existence of the architect or the engineer, even after seeing a beautiful building; or about the existence of the expert cook, even after having one’s fill of a delicious meal.

When I look in the mirror, I see a beautiful piece of art. The eyes, the nose, the lips, the neck, the arms, the hands, the legs and the feet – everything is beautifully arranged in perfect balance. A piece of art, indeed; yet, not merely that. A masterpiece of boundless wisdom, as well. For the eyes, the nose and all the other visible parts of my body are not merely beautiful in their arrangement, but are working according to specific rules. Rules, which are so scientific, that they become predictable. Man considers these rules so predictable and reliable that academic disciplines have been derived from these rules and are very confidently taught at universities and colleges. Yet, it does not end here. This beautiful piece of art and wisdom is also endowed with a ‘divine spark’. Although, surrounded by a corrupt and unjust world, I have been endowed with the ability to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I am not just a physical being, but also have a moral touch to my existence. All things remaining the same, I would like to do ‘good’ and avoid indulging in ‘bad’. Yet I know that I have not learnt this ‘goodness’ from my environment, for had that been the case, my inclinations would have been the opposite of what they now are. When I talk to my neighbour, a passer-by, a relative, a friend, a stranger, in my own environment, in the west or the east – I realize, with some surprise, that, like the standardization in my physical being, there is a significant degree of standardization in my moral and spiritual existence, as well. For in very little time, I realize that, in the heart of his hearts, every reasonable person – irrespective of his race, creed, colour or socio-economic background – admires truthfulness, justice, kindness and consideration toward others and shuns lewdness and transgression. This is man – a masterpiece of art and wisdom.

I look further and realize that this masterpiece came into being, without any apparent desire on its own part, and one day it will have to depart the scene, though, now it does not want to let go of life. The environment, which surrounds man not only allows him to sustain and continue his life, but also provides adequately for the satisfaction of all his physical, emotional and aesthetic needs. It provides for the complete satisfaction of his thirst, his hunger and his other physical needs. Indeed it is full of all the amenities that man required for a comfortable and enjoyable life. Like a furnished and a well-equipped palace, this environment is stacked with signs of gracious providence. A closer look at this environment shows that, like man, it is also running according to mathematically predictable rules. So predictable are these rules that relying on them, man is even willing to risk his life and plan his journeys outside the limits of his small abode – the earth. Ask a qualified person to tell you the position of any given star or a planet at any given time in the future or the past and relying on the rules governing the environment, he will accurately tell you its exact location. So sure would he be of his assessment that he would even be willing to bet on it. Any one interested in finding out the predictable nature of the environment should study the history of scientific development. All of man’s scientific discoveries and inventions are nothing but a step forward in discovering, imitating or utilizing the design inherent in the environment, which surrounds him. This, then, is the environment that man lives in.

This is the data I have about myself and the environment that I live in.

I believe in God, because I do not have any other explanation for my own existence or that of what surrounds me, except that of believing in a Wise designer and a Providing Creator.

The only alternative answer given to the question ‘Why do we exist’ is: ‘We just do’. ‘By pure chance’. Sometimes, I find it very hard to believe that any reasonable person could have the courage to give that answer. Yet, whether I believe it or not this is the only alternative answer. Just imagine, where would humankind have been today – the beginning of the twenty-first century – had our scientists and explorers given the same answer to every question that arose in their minds. Imagine a Newton saying at watching the apple fall: ‘The hell with ‘Why it falls’ as long as it falls nearer to me than him’. Imagine Einstein declaring: ‘What do I care if there is a relationship between mass and energy’. Imagine Edison saying: ‘Lets just eat, drink and be merry – even if it is in candlelight’ (but then, where would have the candles come from – there would only have been ‘sunlight’ or no light).

Where would we have been?

Don’t you find it strange that when a Newton discovers a force behind the ‘falling apple’, he is acclaimed for his ‘great’ discovery? Yet, when man discovers the hand of a Wise, Merciful, and Provident Creator behind his existence, he is declared to be dogmatic!!!

I wonder why.

It was, in fact, not accepting the answer: ‘things just do happen’, but rather finding explanations for how and why they actually did that has led to all the development in science and technology. We sought explanations to all the phenomena surrounding us, based on the unshakable belief that there is, indeed, wisdom and design within ourselves as well as in the world that surrounds us. Yet, for some unknown reason, some people are not willing to accept an explanation for the existence of the material world, of ourselves, of why we come to life and why we die. The existence of God answers all these questions. It puts all the pieces of the puzzle in place. It enlightens our existence and gives meaning to our own existence and that of all that surrounds us. The Qur’an declares:

اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ

[Belief in] God is the light of the heavens and the earth.

If I were suddenly to disclaim the theory of gravitation merely on the grounds that man may discover an alternative explanation for the ‘falling apple’, I am sure people would put me in an asylum or if I am lucky, they would not even bother to notice me. I submit that they would be right in doing so. Such unfounded remarks cannot be held as a reasonable challenge for the theory of gravitation, because the theory has successfully and sufficiently explained the phenomenon of the ‘falling apple’. What should and would be considered as a reasonable challenge for the theory of gravitation is, at best, an alternative theory, which adequately explains the phenomenon, or, at least, raises sufficient questions, which remain unanswered by the theory of gravitation and, thereby, render it redundant. Similarly, the existence of God is not challenged by the ‘by mere chance’ answer, for it explains nothing. In fact, this answer insults the human existence and refutes all logic in man’s scientific and technological endeavours. What actually could really have been a challenge to the belief regarding the existence of God was an alternative explanation of the phenomena of the existence of human life and the physical world. No such explanation could yet be presented. Divine religions declare that none can be. Nevertheless, till such time that an alternative satisfactory answer is provided, I find it compelling to submit that the portrait of man and the landscape that surrounds him was designed and painted by an expert artist and engineer; that man’s abode was gracefully furnished with all that man needed, by Providence unbound and that the infinite wisdom entailed in the physical world – within and outside man – clearly points toward a Wise Creator.

The Qur’an (Al-Baqarah 2: 164) invites us:

إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلاَفِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ وَالْفُلْكِ الَّتِي تَجْرِي فِي الْبَحْرِ بِمَا يَنْفَعُ النَّاسَ وَمَا أَنْزَلَ اللَّهُ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مِنْ مَاءٍ فَأَحْيَا بِهِ الأَرْضَ بَعْدَ مَوْتِهَا وَبَثَّ فِيهَا مِنْ كُلِّ دَابَّةٍ وَتَصْرِيفِ الرِّيَاحِ وَالسَّحَابِ الْمُسَخَّرِ بَيْنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالأَرْضِ لآيَاتٍ لِقَوْمٍ يَعْقِلُونَ

 

In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the ships that sail the oceans with cargoes, which are beneficial to man; in the water, which God sends down from the sky and with which He revives the earth after its death [and as a result] disperses over it all kinds of animals; in the changing directions of the winds and in the clouds that have been placed between the earth and the skies: surely, in all these are great signs for the wise.

I am not willing to ascribe the magnificent world that surrounds me and the piece of excellent artistry that I see in the mirror to a mere improbable accident.

Are you?

 

Do The Evolution and the Big-Bang Theories Make God Redundant?

In answering the question why do we believe in the existence of God[1][1], you have written:

I believe in God, because I do not have any other explanation for my own existence or that of what surrounds me, except that of believing in a Wise designer and a Providing Creator.

The only alternative answer given to the question ‘Why do we exist’ is: ‘We just do’. ‘By pure chance’.

Do you not think that the Big-Bang theory and the theory of evolution give us a complete explanation of how we came into being? Why do you still believe in the existence of God? Do you consider these theories to be inaccurate?

Reply
I am not technically qualified to comment on the accuracy or otherwise of the referred theories. Nevertheless, the way I understand these theories, they can in no way be considered as a ‘replacement’ of God. These theories do present interesting views regarding the process, through which the universe and the various species came into existence, but they do not attempt to explain the origin of the process itself.

Suppose I was to say: ‘God has given us tasty apples to eat’. Some one may not like my expression and try to convince me to remove ‘God’ from the sentence by explaining the process through which an apple seed sprouts from the earth; getting its nourishment from the land, becomes a tree, from which we get these apples. He might consider the mere explanation of the process through which we get apples to refute all involvement of God. What he would be ignoring in this explanation is that those who ascribe tasty apples to God do not imply that God ‘prepares’ these apples in their respective kitchens. On the contrary, they only imply that the whole universe, whatever exists in it (including the apples) and the laws and processes through which things come into existence are the work of an excellent, wise and merciful Planner and Provider, who they call ‘God’. Thus, it is not merely the explanation of the processes through which things come into existence, but one regarding the explanation of the origin of the laws through which things come into existence, which is required to do away with ‘God’.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica introduces the Big-Bang theory as:

Widely held theory of the evolution of the universe. Its essential feature is the emergence of the universe from a state of extremely high temperature and density–the so-called big bang that occurred at least 10,000,000,000 years ago…

According to the big-bang model, the universe expanded rapidly from a highly compressed primordial state, which resulted in a significant decrease in density and temperature. Soon afterward, the dominance of matter over antimatter (as observed today) may have been established by processes that also predict proton decay. During this stage many types of elementary particles may have been present. After a few seconds, the universe cooled enough to allow the formation of certain nuclei. (Essay on ‘Big-Bang Model’)

Introducing the theory of Evolution, the Encyclopaedia writes:

Theory in biology postulating that the various types of animals and plants have their origin in other pre-existing types and that the distinguishable differences are due to modifications in successive generations. The theory of evolution is one of the fundamental keystones of modern biological theory. (Essay on ‘Evolution’)

As should be clear, both the Big-Bang theory and the Evolution theory are estimations – based on the laws derived from the physical world around us – of the processes through which the various forms of existences came into being. Neither of these theories presents any view regarding the origin of the laws or of the energy or the matter, which initiated the ‘Big-Bang’ or the ‘Evolution’ and ultimately resulted in the beautiful world that we live in. Even if we were to consider ‘Spontaneous generation’ to be correct, we would still be faced with the question as to where did the non-living matter (through which life may be produced) get the potential of producing life.

The questions that need answers do not relate merely to the origin of the species as they exist in their present form or to the process out of which the present form of the universe evolved; to provide comprehensive answers, they should also answer the origin of the original species, the original matter/energy, which produced the Big-Bang and the origin of the various laws which resulted in the various evolutionary processes.

If one is not willing to accept the existence of God, then these questions can only have two answers, which the Qur’an has pointed out in the following (Al-Toor 52: 35) verse:

أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ

Have they come into existence out of nothing or are they themselves their own creators?

Either all the wisdom, all the providence and all the laws entailed in the creation came into existence by a stroke of luck, without a wise and providing Creator or the existence itself is its own creator. Most of the people, who do not believe in ‘God’, have opted for the first option. Thus, I had written in my referred response:

I believe in God, because I do not have any other explanation for my own existence or that of what surrounds me, except that of believing in a Wise designer and a Providing Creator.

The only alternative answer given to the question ‘Why do we exist’ is: ‘We just do’. ‘By pure chance’.

 Who Created God?

If everything must have a creator, then who created God?

Reply
Why must everything have a creator?

I do not agree with the premise that ‘everything must have a creator’. If you keep my response to your previous question in perspective[2][1], you shall see that it is not that we are fond of finding a creator and a designer for everything. On the contrary, we are interested in finding the artist, only when we see a piece of art; we are interested in searching for the writer, only when we read a letter; and we are interested in looking for the architect and the engineer, only when a building stares down at us. Obviously, our search for the writer, at being delivered an anonymous letter does not necessitate that the writer, in turn, should also be written by someone. Similarly, our search for the artist and the engineer or the architect, at seeing a piece of art or a building, does not, by itself, necessitate that the chain of searching for architects or engineers or artists would go on indefinitely.

It is not that everything must have a creator; on the contrary, every created thing must have a creator. No reasonable person would start looking for the writer, at observing a building; or the architect at observing a piece of art. What we look for at observing something depends on the properties, the features and the attributes of the thing observed.

As I had clarified in my previous response, it is primarily the nature of what surrounds us and what lies within us, which initiates our search for a Wise Artist, a Magnificent Designer and a Providing Creator. Had the world that surrounds us or that within us been devoid of all design, wisdom or providence, then, obviously, we would not have initiated this search, in the first place. The fact that the world which surrounds us and that which is within us entail a beautiful design, gracious providence and deep wisdom, coupled with the fact that neither ourselves nor the material world is capable of inculcating the design, the wisdom or the providence within itself, is what drives us to search for a creator, which exists independently. On the basis of the same reasoning, the question as to who created the Creator, deserves entertainment only if at observing the Creator, we find that He is also one of the created things.

Till such time, the question is absolutely absurd and misplaced.

Why Must I Believe in God?

Even if God exists, why is it necessary to believe in Him? After all, we do not have to ‘believe in’ everything that exists. There may be a stone lying under a tree in the jungles of Africa, but we do not have to believe in it. Do we? What exactly is the meaning of ‘belief in God’?

Reply
I would tend to agree with you that we do not have to believe in everything that exists or has a potential for existence. However, it would become easier to appreciate the answer to why is it necessary to believe in God, if we first understand the true meaning and implication of ‘belief in God’.

The phrase, ‘belief in God’ implies the recognition of and the reciprocation in the relationship that one has with his creator, provider and sustainer. In other words, it is not mere existence of something, which makes it necessary for us to believe in it. On the contrary, it is actually our relationship with that ‘something’, which exists, which makes it binding upon us to believe in it. This ‘belief’ entails two steps: First, the recognition of the relationship, if any, which exists between the ‘something’ that exists and ourselves. Next, the determination of the responsibilities that become binding upon ourselves in the relationship with the ‘something’ that exists.

Keeping the foregoing explanation in perspective it should be clear why is it not necessary to ‘believe in’ a stone that may be lying under a tree in the jungles of Africa. Merely because we don’t have any thing to do with that stone – a complete lack of relationship between the stone and ourselves and a lack of any requirement of reciprocation on our part – we do not ‘have to’ believe in the existence of the stone, even if it does, in fact, exist. However, if I were informed by an authentic source, that one of my great grandfathers had hidden a treasure under a particular stone, under a particular tree, in a particular jungle of Africa; this information would suddenly develop a relationship between me and the stone lying under one of the trees in the jungles of Africa. Now, if I believe the information to be correct, I am likely to plan a number of actions, as a response to the relationship that has suddenly developed between me and the stone. All these actions would actually emanate from my ‘belief in’ the existence and the placement of the stone and the information that I have received about its ‘relationship’ with me.

‘Belief in God’ emanates not only from the fact that He exists, but from my realization of the relationship that I have with Him and from my inherent desire to respond to Him in the most appropriate manner. Thus, ‘belief in God’ is not like ‘belief’ in something, which does not relate to us. On the contrary, it is more like the realization of the fact that the person I live with is my father. This realization, in turn, develops a relationship between me and that person, the appreciation of which requires of me to behave with that person in a particular – morally suitable – manner. Obviously, my behaviour with that person is based on my ‘belief’ that he, in fact, is my father; it is my moral obligation to respond to him in a respectful and polite manner. If, due to some reason, my ‘belief’ regarding my relationship with that person is altered, it would have an obvious effect on my relationship with that person and, suddenly, there would be a change in the nature of my interaction with him.

God does not merely exist. On the contrary, He is the being, Who has brought me to life; Who provides to sustain my life; Who has bestowed me with all the invaluable blessings that I enjoy in life; Who ultimately controls all the factors, which effect my life; and Who would, one day, end my life. This realization about God – and not merely His existence – is what develops a relationship between me and Him. It is the recognition of this relationship and the desire for the appropriate reciprocation in this relationship, which Islam – as well as other divine religions – term as ‘Imaan billah’ – ‘Belief in God’. Thus, ‘belief in God’ is one of the moral obligations, the fulfilment of which becomes incumbent upon man, as soon as he realizes that God is his creator, sustainer, provider and controller.

Thus, if God is truly our creator, sustainer, provider and controller, then ‘believing in Him’ is an obvious requirement of accepting and submitting to one of the most significant truths about this world, about ourselves and about life.

 

The Islamic Introduction to God…

Does Islam only require from us to believe in ‘a’ god? Does it introduce us to the ‘nature’ of God?

Reply
Islam does not merely want us to believe in a deity. On the contrary, Islam gives us a detailed introduction to the God that it wants us to believe in. It would be more accurate to say that all the other teachings of Islam – whether relating to other beliefs (for example prophet hood, hereafter etc.) or relating to its ethical or moral teachings (relating to social, economic, political, penal or other laws) – are, in fact, based on the very concept of God, as introduced by the Qur’an. Due to this reason, a good understanding of the concept of God is of utmost importance, not merely from the perspective of comprehension of the Islamic philosophy, but also from the perspective of understanding the framework and spirit of the Islamic teachings, in general.

Some of the salient features of the introduction to God, as given in the Qur’an, are:

  1. The Qur’an does not give any introduction of the physical characteristics of God; and
  2. The Qur’an has given a comprehensive qualitative or attributive introduction to God.

To fully appreciate why the Qur’an has not given any information about the physical characteristics of God, it is important to understand the process through which man can form and develop physical concepts.

Man can understand and develop physical concepts about various things primarily in two ways. Firstly, if something comes within the scope of man’s sense of touch or his sense of sight; and secondly, by comparison to things that come within the scope of man’s senses.

Take the example of the words ‘light bulb’. As soon as I speak the words ‘light bulb’, I get a picture of a pear-shaped glass container for the filament of an electric light. The reason for such spontaneous physical imaging of the words ‘light bulb’ is that whatever we call a ‘light bulb’ in the English language is something that is within the scope of our sense of touch and our sense of sight. In other words, because we have already developed a physical image of a ‘light bulb’ through our sight or our touch, we can easily recall the already developed image as soon as the words ‘light bulb’ are spoken in front of us. The same is the case with most of the words of our languages that connote physical entities. The words man, woman, child, horse, donkey, cat etc. all belong to the same category.

Closely related to this category of words entailing physical concepts is another category, which connotes imaginary physical entities. For instance, the word ‘unicorn’ connotes an animal, which although does not exist in reality, yet its image can be developed by explaining it. However, to develop effective images of such imaginary physical entities, it is extremely important that they be explained with reference to those physical entities that we are already exposed to. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Encyclopaedic Dictionary describes the word ‘unicorn’ as:

A mythical animal resembling a horse, with a single straight horn projecting from its forehead.

This explanation, if correctly understood, would help in developing a physical image of a non-existent entity. However, it is important to note that to be comprehensible the explanation had to resort to words, which already had their respective physical images in our minds. Note the words ‘animal’, ‘horse’, ‘single’, ‘straight’, ‘horn’ and ‘forehead’. All these words have their respective physical or abstract images in our minds. It is only on the basis of these already existing images, that we can now form a new physical image of a non-existent physical entity.

From the above explanation, it should be clear that human languages, normally, are a collection of words connoting such physical or abstract entities, which the particular group of human beings has either been exposed to or has a clear concept of. Thus, it is obvious, that centuries ago, none of the human languages could have contained the word ‘airplane’ or ‘computer’. These words came in vogue only after the entities that they connote became clear in the minds of the speakers of that language – even if such entities were only conceptual and not physical in the beginning. Now suppose, someone living about fifteen hundred years ago, somehow, had a visualization of an airplane and wanted to explain to the people living around him that hundreds of years down the road, people would use high speed airplanes for travelling long distances. How would he do that? Simple!! He would say: ‘People would start using airplanes for travelling’. Well, not so simple after all. We forgot that the word ‘airplane’ would be non-existent. What then would he say? Keeping in mind the limitations of human languages mentioned above, it is obvious that whatever the person says, would likely be within the frame of reference of his own times. He may say: soon there will be a time when people start using ‘flying horses’ or ‘huge birds’ or ‘big mechanical birds’ etc. for travelling from one place to another. This explanation, however, unclear it may seem, is probably the closest that a person living fifteen hundred years ago is likely to be able to give and his listeners able to comprehend (even if such comprehension is not likely to be very accurate).

In the above example of communicating the ‘visualization’, we see, once again, that a relatively unknown concept (whether physical or abstract) can only be communicated in human languages by using references to what those human beings are already exposed to.

Thus, to summarize the preceding discussion, a person can comprehend a physical or an abstract concept if:

  1. Such physical or abstract concept enters the scope of his senses; or
  2. Such physical or abstract concept is explained to him with reference to what has already entered the scope of his senses. However, this is only possible if the concept is explainable by referring to any existing concepts or if the listener is exposed to the concepts to which reference is being made. Thus, a ‘unicorn’ is only explainable if the listener is aware of what the words ‘animal’, ‘horse’, ‘single’, ‘straight’, ‘horn’ and ‘forehead’ imply.

Why Does the Qur’an not introduce us to the Physical Attributes of God?

It should now be easily comprehensible why the Qur’an has not introduced us to the physical characteristics of God. The reasons may be summarized as follows:

  • Because of the limitations of human languages and comprehension explained above, man is not in a position to understand and comprehend the physical attributes of God. It is obvious that the physical personality of God is not something that comes within the scope of our senses. Thus, the only possibility was to introduce the physical personality of God through comparison with or reference to something that the human being was exposed to. The Qur’an has categorically refuted this possibility by stating that nothing that has existence is even remotely similar to the physical attributes of God and therefore, the physical person of God cannot even be explained through analogy or comparison. According to the Qur’an, God is “الأحد” – Al-Ahad – i.e. absolutely unique, while at another instance (Al-Shooraa 42: 11), it declares:

لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ

There is nothing that resembles Him.

  • For the development of a sound relationship with his Creator, man does not need to be familiar with His physical characteristics. A sound relationship – one that is based on the correct appreciation of the rights and duties of man with reference to his Creator – can be fully developed even without information of His physical appearance and personality. The important thing that needs to be understood and acknowledged for the purpose of developing a sound relationship with God is a good knowledge of the qualitative attributes of God, rather than His physical attributes. It is for this reason that the Qur’an has concentrated on an attributive introduction of God.

The Qualitative Attributes of God

In contrast to the complete lack of explanation of the physical attributes of God, the Qur’an has given an exhaustive explanation of those qualitative attributes of the Creator, which were pertinent to man’s development of a sound relationship with Him. It would thus be correct to say that the Qur’anic introduction of God is a qualitative or a characteristic based introduction.

Because the nature of our relationship with God is, basically, not physical, therefore, this relationship is not dependent on our understanding of God’s physical attributes. However, a good understanding of the qualitative attributes of God is imperative to understand as well as develop the correct interactive relationship with our Creator. It is the understanding of these qualitative attributes of God, which can subsequently guide us in establishing a relationship with Him, based on the right footing.

To understand the importance of the appreciation of the qualitative attributes of a personality in the development and the maintenance of interactive relationships with that personality, let us consider a few situations that we face in our every day life. We see that when we meet a person for the first time, there is a certain air of formality in the interactive environment. We refrain from playing pranks with the individual and even refrain from becoming overly personal with that individual. As we become aware of the qualitative attributes of the individual, we start developing an interactive relationship with that individual. As we find (and subsequently confirm through our interaction with that individual) that the individual is trustworthy or honest or loving or rude, we consciously (and sometimes even unconsciously) start defining our relationship with that individual. As our initial findings about the qualities and characteristics of that individual are confirmed, our relationship becomes stronger – as the response of the individual becomes more and more predictable and confirmed. However, on the contrary, if our initial findings are proven incorrect, we consciously (or unconsciously) revise our relationship with that individual. This is precisely the reason why out of the so many individuals that surround us, there are only a few whom we consider as our true ‘buddies’. These ‘buddies’ are individuals whose actual attributes correspond with those that we value in our own minds. Difference in qualitative attributes is the reason for our separate relations with our different neighbours. We deal with a ‘rude’ neighbour in a manner, which is quite different from our dealing with a ‘polite’ neighbour. In short, our relationships with others are actually governed by our understanding and perception of the qualities and characteristics of the individuals concerned. In most of these cases, our relationship is not influenced as much by the physical attributes of the individuals concerned, as by their qualitative characteristics.

Our relationship with God is no exception.

The kind of relationship that we have or should have with our Creator is dependent upon our understanding of the qualitative attributes or characteristics of God. We would have a different relationship with a tyrant god as compared to a merciful god. An ignorant god would deserve a separate response from us as compared to a God that is omniscient[1].  It is primarily due to this reason that the Qur’an has not only given a detailed account of the qualitative attributes of God, but has, at some places, also explained the requirements that these various attributes impose upon man.

The primary attributes of God, as given in the Qur’an are as follows:

  1. Qualitative Attributes Inherent In the Concept of ‘god’

There are certain characteristics that are inherent in the very concept of god. God is a being that is not dependent on anything outside of himself for his life; who is the creator of all that has existence; who has absolute power over nature and human affairs; and who has the power to act beyond the scope of the cause and effect relationships, generally, operative in the universe.

The qualitative attributes inherently entailed in this concept of god are:

He is alive in a self-sustaining manner –الحي;
He is the creator of all that exists –الخالق; and
He is the absolute, ultimate and active ruler over all that exists –مالك المُلك، المَلِك، الحَكَم.

2- 2. Mercy

Besides the characteristics inherent in the concept of god, the most stressed qualitative attribute in the Qur’an is that of abounding and everlasting mercy (الرحمة). The Qur’an introduces God to be an embodiment of everlasting mercy. The word Al-Rahmaan (الرحمن) connotes the abounding nature of God’s mercy. While the word Al-Raheem (الرحيم) signifies the continuity of this abounding mercy, forever.

3- 3. Providence

God, according to the Qur’an, is not just the creator of life, but also the sustainer of all that enjoys existence. God has abundantly provided whatever was essential to sustain the life of all that was bestowed with life. If closely observed, we further see that this provision – especially in the case of human life – is not merely for the sustenance of life but also for its furtherance and development. In other words, it is not merely the sustenance needs of man that have been taken care of by the Merciful Provider (الرب), but also his aesthetics in sight, sound, taste, smell, feeling and emotion. It is primarily this aspect of provision that has resulted in the tremendous speed of development of the human kind since the time of its inception. Another, generally ignored, aspect of providence is the provision of divine guidance for the furtherance of the spiritual well being of the human race. Thus, in short, providence covers all aspects of the sustenance and maintenance as well as the development of life – especially with reference to the human race.

4- 4. Wisdom

One of the most stressed attributes of God, given in the Qur’an is that He is an embodiment of wisdom(الحكمة). God does not take a decision or an action, which is, in any way, wanting in wisdom or knowledge. All of God’s actions, directives and decisions are based on His absolute wisdom. We, due to our limited knowledge and imperfect vision, may or may not be able to appreciate the reason or the wisdom governing any of His decisions, directives or actions, yet, for a correct relationship with God, we must truly believe that all His decisions, directives and actions are based on His perfect knowledge and His absolute wisdom.

5- 5. Omniscience

God is All-Knowing. Nothing, whether apparent or hidden, is beyond God’s knowledge. According to the Qur’an, God is not only aware of what man does and says but is also fully aware of the thoughts that spark in his mind and also his intentions in doing a certain act (هو بكل شيء عليم، عليم بذات الصدور)[2].

6- 6. Omnipotence

God has power to do whatever He decides to do (هو على كل شيء قدير)[3]. Although omnipotence is also inherent in the very concept of god, yet due to the stress and the importance given to this attribute in the Qur’an, we have placed it separately. One of the reasons why the Qur’an has stressed this attribute is that a mistake in the appreciation of this particular attribute has always been one of the major causes for the rejection of the Day of Judgment.

7- 7. Justice

One of the most important attributes of God, given in the Qur’an is that of justice. Although, justice, in a way, is closely related to, as well as, a practical requirement of mercy, yet this attribute has been so immensely stressed in the Qur’an that it should be considered separately from mercy in the study of God’s attributes according to the Qur’an.

Keeping in view the absence, to a great extent, of the principle of justice in our lives, man has sometimes been prone to believing that even if there is a creator and a controller of our lives, he is indifferent toward our moral behaviour. Abiding by moral principles generally entails costs and losses and vice versa. Honesty is hardly, if ever, rewarded, dishonesty rarely punished. This absence of justice in the moral sphere of our lives, has generally led to the refutation of the attribute of justice in god. Nevertheless, the Qur’an tells us that for the purpose of carrying out the test of man, during the life of this world, God has generally kept this attribute dormant. If individuals were to be immediately punished for doing wrong or immediately rewarded for doing good, this effectively would have negated all moral authority for the individual, which subsequently would have refuted the test, which man is faced during the life of this world.

However, if one desired to see God’s attribute of justice in action, the Qur’an points out toward a) the delicate physical balance of the universe, which is a sign to the effect that even in moral spheres, God wants us to maintain this delicate balance; b) God’s law governing the fall of nations, which is primarily based on the collective morality of the nations; and c) God’s dealing with the rejecters of His messengers[4].

8- 8. Two General Attributes

Besides the basic attributes of the deity given above, the Qur’an has also mentioned two additional qualities, which are more general in nature. Firstly, the Qur’an says that He is clear of all weaknesses and all such qualities that obviously are not suitable to be ascribed to Him[5] and that He positively possesses all the good qualities that He should obviously possess[6]. The word Al-Subbooh (السبوح), as it appears in some of the supplications of the Prophet (pbuh) means that God is clear of all shortcomings or weaknesses that are not suitable to be ascribed to Him. While Al-Quddoos (القدوس) refers to the fact that God possesses all revered and venerated qualities. The latter quality is also mentioned in the Qur’an in the words: له الأسماء الحسنى (i.e. He possesses the best of attributes).

This should suffice as a basic summary of the Qur’anic introduction to the God that it wants people to believe in.

[1] All Knowing – A being that knows everything.

[2] That is: “He knows all things”; “He is aware of what lies in the bosoms (of thoughts, intentions, undeclared plans etc.

[3] That is: “He has power over all things”.

[4] This aspect shall be explained in more detail in the section relating to ‘Risalah’ (Prophethood).

[5] As, for example, injustice, death, ignorance, prejudice etc.

[6] As, for example, justice, perfection, knowledge, permanence, etc.

 

The Importance of ‘Tawheed’ – Oneness of God…

Why does Islam stress on the belief in one God only?

Reply
The Islamic stress on the belief in only one God is because of the simple fact that there is absolutely no reason to believe in more gods than one. Belief in one God is a matter of necessity, as there is no other satisfactory explanation for our own existence or for that of whatever surrounds us in this world[3][1]. It is, in fact, in search of an explanation for our own existence and for that of whatever surrounds us that we believe in the existence of an unseen God. Our belief in a god provides us with a comprehensive answer for our search. Once we discover the unseen God, there is absolutely no reason to carry on searching for more gods than one.

Thus, the Qur’an has rejected polytheism[4][2] simply on the basis that there is absolutely no reason to believe in more gods than one. The Qur’an (Al-Anbiyaa 21: 24) says:

أَمِ اتَّخَذُوا مِنْ دُونِهِ ءَالِهَةً قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ

Do they hold other gods besides Him? [Prophet,] tell them: ‘Bring your evidence [for believing in more gods than one].

The whole universe is clearly a work, a production and a management of a single mind. There is nothing in the physical world, which leads us to believing in the existence of a second or a third god. Even the apparently opposing phenomena in the world combine to form unblemished harmony and a sweet rhythm. Although the skies, the earth, the moons and the stars, are independent entities and one may be driven by the apparent diversity and variety in them to consider them the production of different architects, yet they all combine together to form a single system, in which each is playing its allotted role. The scorching heat of the summers and the chilling cold of the winters may by its apparent variation draw one to believe in ascribing seasons to different gods, yet with the advancements of our knowledge of the physical world, we know today that the change in seasons is but a result of the systematic movements of the celestial bodies. Likewise, the variation in the phenomenon of life and death can lead us to ascribe the two to different powers, yet a closer look at the two would show that, under the present physical set-up, death is essential for the sustenance of life itself.

 

 

The Qur’an has pointed toward the various aspects of the physical world, of life and death and of man’s inherent belief in the oneness of God and has rejected the idea of plurality of the deity, as completely baseless and without any foundation at all. Al-Namal 27: 60 – 64 says:

أَمَّنْ خَلَقَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ وَأَنْزَلَ لَكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ مَاءً فَأَنْبَتْنَا بِهِ حَدَائِقَ ذَاتَ بَهْجَةٍ مَا كَانَ لَكُمْ أَنْ تُنْبِتُوا شَجَرَهَا أَئِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ يَعْدِلُونَ  أَمَّنْ جَعَلَ الأَرْضَ قَرَارًا وَجَعَلَ خِلاَلَهَا أَنْهَارًا وَجَعَلَ لَهَا رَوَاسِيَ وَجَعَلَ بَيْنَ الْبَحْرَيْنِ حَاجِزًا أَئِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ بَلْ أَكْثَرُهُمْ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَأَمَّنْ يُجِيبُ الْمُضْطَرَّ إِذَا دَعَاهُ وَيَكْشِفُ السُّوءَ وَيَجْعَلُكُمْ خُلَفَاءَ الأَرْضِ أَئِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ قَلِيلاً مَا تَذَكَّرُونَأَمَّنْ يَهْدِيكُمْ فِي ظُلُمَاتِ الْبَرِّ وَالْبَحْرِ وَمَنْ يُرْسِلُ الرِّيَاحَ بُشْرًا بَيْنَ يَدَيْ رَحْمَتِهِ أَئِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ تَعَالَى اللَّهُ عَمَّا يُشْرِكُونَأَمَّنْ يَبْدَأُ الْخَلْقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُ وَمَنْ يَرْزُقُكُمْ مِنَ السَّمَاءِ وَالْأَرْضِ أَئِلَهٌ مَعَ اللَّهِ قُلْ هَاتُوا بُرْهَانَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ صَادِقِينَ

[Ask them: Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who created the heavens and the earth and sent down water from the skies for you, bringing forth gardens of delight? Try as you may, you cannot cause such trees to grow. Is there another god, besides the one God? Yet they are a people, who ascribe equals to Him.

[Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who has established the earth and has watered it with running rivers, Who has set mountains upon it and has placed a barrier between the two seas? Is there another god, besides the One God? Indeed most of them do not know.

[Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who answers the distressed, when he cries out to Him and relieves [him] from his afflictions? It is He, Who made you successors of the earth. Is there another god, besides the One God? How little do you reflect.

[Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who guides you in the darkness of the dry lands and the seas and sends the winds as a sign of His mercy? Is there another god, besides the One God? He is absolutely clear of their polytheistic ascriptions.

[Are these false gods worthier of your worship and reverence] or Him, Who initiates creation and shall repeat it and Who blesses you through the heavens and the earth? Is there another god, besides the One God? Say to them: ‘Bring your evidence, if you are truthful’.

Thus, according to the Qur’an, when God alone is the planner, the creator, and the sustainer of whatever enjoys existence, as is clearly evidenced by the magnificent coherence in the physical world, then why should any one ascribe to the belief of more gods than one[5][3]?

Besides the evidence of the physical world, another important aspect of the stress on the oneness of God is that throughout the history of man, whenever God spoke to man, He commanded him to refrain from ascribing partners or equals to Him. Through Moses (pbuh), God directed the Israelites:

You shall fear the LORD your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast (Deuteronomy 10: 20)

According to the Gospel of Mark:

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ (Mark 12: 28 – 30)

Through Muhammad (pbuh), God declared:

وَإِلَهُكُمْ إِلَهٌ وَاحِدٌ لاَ إِلَهَ إِلاَّ هُوَ الرَّحْمَنُ الرَّحِيمُ

And your God is One God; there is no other God, except Him – mercy abundant, mercy eternal.

When there is neither any physical evidence to believe in more gods than one nor has God Himself authorized such a belief, then there is absolutely no reason to ascribe to the belief of more gods than one.

It is primarily because of the complete lack of any plausible argument in favour of the existence of other deities as well as the lack of authorization from God to the effect, that religions claiming to be divine hold ascribing false partners to God, as a blasphemy against God and thus, an unforgivable sin.

One of the reasons given by the Torah for the gravity of the crime of ascribing false partners to the One God, is that it challenges the honour of God. Our God is an honourable God. He does not like to share our reverence and worship with false productions of our own minds. When He alone is the source of all the blessings that we enjoy in life, then He alone should be the target of all our gratitude, reverence and worship. Exodus 20: 3 – 6 says:

You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20: 3 – 6)

The Qur’an (Al-Mu’minoon 23: 117) declares:

وَمَنْ يَدْعُ مَعَ اللَّهِ إِلَهًا ءَاخَرَ لاَ بُرْهَانَ لَهُ بِهِ فَإِنَّمَا حِسَابُهُ عِنْدَ رَبِّهِ إِنَّهُ لاَ يُفْلِحُ الْكَافِرُونَ

And whoever calls upon another deity besides the One God, having no evidence for it, he shall be held accountable for it, by his Lord. Indeed such rejecters shall not prosper.

Another reason, which seems quite apparent, for the unforgivable nature of the sin of ascribing false partners to God is that even though man can have a plausible excuse for the most heinous of crimes that he may have committed – He may have been driven by extreme anger, while killing another person; he may have been overcome by uncontrolled emotions, while committing fornication; he may have been overpowered by his self-interests, while taking an unjust decision – yet it is obvious that he cannot have any such excuse for ascribing partners to God. According to the Qur’an, ascribing partners to God is a case of clear transgression against God, for which man does not have any excuse. Thus, the Qur’an unequivocally declares that God may forgive any sin for whomsoever He decides, yet He shall never forgive the sin of ascribing partners to Him, unless the person truly repents and corrects his behaviour, during his life. Al-Nisaa 4: 48 says:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لاَ يَغْفِرُ أَنْ يُشْرَكَ بِهِ وَيَغْفِرُ مَا دُونَ ذَلِكَ لِمَنْ يَشَاءُ وَمَنْ يُشْرِكْ بِاللَّهِ فَقَدِ افْتَرَى إِثْمًا عَظِيمًا

Indeed God shall not forgive that partners be ascribed to Him; besides this, He may forgive anything for whomsoever He wills. And whoever ascribes partners to God, is guilty of a great injustice.

 

[1][2] The belief that there are more gods than one, which in the Arabic language is known as ‘Shirk’ (lit: ascribing partners or holding equals with the One God).

 

[1][3] The first two verses point toward the beautiful overall coherence in the heavens, the earth, the rivers, the mountains and the seas. When all these phenomena combine to make a magnificent coherent system, which ultimately supports and sustains life, then why should man blindly hold separate creators and designers for them? The third vese points toward man’s inherent attachment with the One true God only. Deep inside man knows that the One God is fully sufficient to remove all his afflictions and to grant him all the blessings that he craves for. There is absolutely no reason to hold others as equals to the One True God. The fourth verse points to the stars and the winds and how they play their prescribed roles in the overall system. While the last verse points to the ultimate wisdom in the creation – the resurrection – which makes it all meaningful. The oneness of purpose is also presented as evidence of the oneness of the creator.

 

 

Regarding the Physical Attributes of God…

Where is God?

What does God look like?

Does God have a home?

What is God’s gender? Is God a male or a female?

Reply
A close consideration of these questions shall show that all of them, in fact, relate to the physical attributes of God. As I have already clarified in one of my earlier responses[6][1], the Qur’an has not given us any information about the physical attributes of God. In my referred response, I have clarified the basic reason why the Qur’an does not give any information about the physical attributes of God and have mentioned that:

For the development of a sound relationship with his Creator, man does not need to be familiar with His physical characteristics. A sound relationship – one that is based on the correct appreciation of the rights and duties of man with reference to his Creator – can be fully developed even without information of His physical appearance and personality. The important thing that needs to be understood and acknowledged for the purpose of developing a sound relationship with God is a good knowledge of the qualitative attributes of God, rather than His physical attributes. It is for this reason that the Qur’an has concentrated on an attributive introduction of God.

Thus, after having known that God is alive in a self-sustaining manner; God is the sole Creator of all that enjoys existence; and God is the ultimate and active ruler and controller over all that exists and that mercy, providence, wisdom, omnipotence, omniscience and justice are some of His permanent attributes, what difference would it make if we are not aware of the exact location of where He resides? What changes would occur in our relationship with Him, if He resides in a palace or a house?

One can easily see that questions regarding the physical attributes of God, hold absolutely no relevance in defining and developing our relationship with Him. This holds true for all questions directed toward understanding the physical attributes of God.

Thus, even though we are not aware of the exact location of God or whether He is everywhere or not, yet we do know that His knowledge encompasses everything – at all places in all times; and we do know that He has active control over everything – at all places in all times. The Qur’an considers this information to suffice for us, in the present life.

As far as the ‘gender’ question is concerned, we know that the division of various species into males and females of that species is a part of the grand plan of creation. In this plan, even though each individual male, as well as female, is an independent being, yet from the perspective of sustaining the existence of that species, as a whole, the males and the females are completely dependent upon each other. From this perspective, like a number of other perspectives, it is clear that the males and the females of a species complement each other. This translates into the fact that taken independently, the males and the females of a species are, in fact, incomplete by their very nature. It clearly follows that God, being clear of all imperfections, is neither male nor female.

Furthermore, it is also clear that one of the prime reasons for the division of various species into males and females is to create, within these species, the potential of reproduction and, thereby, the potential of sustaining the species itself. The creation of this potential, in turn, was to cope with the fact that the individual members of each species was given a limited life cycle, which was to end at its death. God, on the other hand, is alive in a self-sustaining manner and does not need to reproduce for the purpose of sustaining His ‘species’.

God is the creator and designer of the males and females in each species. He, Himself, is above the scope of this division.

 

 

Why is God not Visible?

Why is God not visible? Why does God not make an appearance before man?

Reply
The life of this world is a test for man. The Qur’an says that God created the heavens and the earth for the purpose of testing man. Hu’d 11: 7 says:

وَهُوَ الَّذِي خَلَقَ السَّمَوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ فِي سِتَّةِ أَيَّامٍ وَكَانَ عَرْشُهُ عَلَى الْمَاءِ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلاً

He it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six days – at that time His rule was over the waters – to test you, as to who among you is the best in deeds.

At another instance, the Qur’an tells us that the chain of life and death was also created for the purpose of this test. Al-Mulk 67: 2 says:

الَّذِي خَلَقَ الْمَوْتَ وَالْحَيَاةَ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ أَيُّكُمْ أَحْسَنُ عَمَلاً وَهُوَ الْعَزِيزُ الْغَفُورُ

Who created death and life to test you, as to who among you is the best in deeds. And He is Mighty [in punishing those, who transgress in this test]; Forgiving [for those, who prove themselves deserving of His mercy].

During this test, man is required to recognize God, acknowledge God’s bounties and blessings upon himself by utilizing the faculties that God has bestowed upon him and to fulfil the responsibilities that these bounties and blessings entail. During this test, God has decided to keep Himself hidden from man’s eyes. In fact, a closer analysis would show that it is the fact that God remains hidden during the life of this world, which creates the potential for man to deviate from His paths and, thus, allows for man’s test. Just as people would, generally, not break any laws in the physical presence of the authorities, for making the test during the life of this world practically possible, it was essential that God keeps Himself physically hidden from man. Hence, on the one hand, God’s remaining hidden from man allows for man’s testing during this life, while on the other, God’s remaining ‘unseen’ makes the deeds of the pious even more commendable and deserving of the great rewards that God has promised them through His prophets and messengers. The Qur’an (Al-Mulk 67: 12) says:

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَخْشَوْنَ رَبَّهُمْ بِالْغَيْبِ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةٌ وَأَجْرٌ كَبِيرٌ

Indeed those, who fear their Lord – unseen – for them is forgiveness [of their mistakes] and a huge reward.

Thus, it is because of the very nature of this test, which man is faced in the life of this world, that God has decided to remain unseen.

Can God Make a Stone…

If God can do anything, then can He create a stone, which He Himself cannot lift?

Reply
Before answering your question, I would like to clarify what the concept of ‘omnipotence’[7][1], as used with reference to God, implies. To fully understand the implication of the ‘omnipotence’ of God, we should keep in mind that God is not ONLY ‘omnipotent’. God’s omnipotence is subject to His mercy, wisdom, omniscience and His other attributes. Therefore, it would not be very accurate to say that ‘God can do everything/anything’. A more accurate statement would be ‘God can do everything/anything that His wisdom/mercy/omniscience/etc. require Him to do’. Hence, even though God is ‘omnipotent’, yet He CANNOT do anything, which is contrary to His other attributes. Thus, one may ask: “If God is ‘omnipotent’, can He create another one like Himself?” Or “if God is ‘omnipotent’ can He commit suicide?” Or “If God is ‘omnipotent’, can he throw the pious in Hell and place the evil in heaven?” All these questions are, in fact, based on a ‘Playing Tom’ view of an omnipotent God. God is absolutely clear of all wrong and, therefore, even though He is ‘omnipotent’, yet He CANNOT do anything, which is against His wisdom, justice, knowledge etc. It should, therefore, remain clear that God’s omnipotence is conditional upon His other attributes.

Keeping the foregoing clarification in perspective, let us now turn to your specific question.

The fact that God is ‘omnipotent’ implies that, if His wisdom so requires, there is no limit on the largeness of a stone that He can make. It also implies that, if His wisdom so requires, there is no limit on His capacity of lifting stones. Both the capacities – that of creation as well as that of lifting – are infinite; neither of the two is limited. Now, when someone asks whether God can make a stone, which He Himself cannot lift, the question can actually be rephrased as: ‘Can God limit His power of creation?’ or ‘Can God limit His power of lifting stones?’. In other words, the question, in fact, is similar to ‘Can God create something (a stone), upon which He loses control?’ or that ‘Can God create another God?’.

The answer to all these questions is ‘No, God cannot do anything, which is contrary to His wisdom and His other attributes’.

 

 

If God is Omnipotent and Omniscient, then how can Man be Responsible for his Deeds?

If God is omniscient and omnipotent then how can we be held responsible for making “choices” we could not have possibly made, without his knowledge and permission? If we do have freewill, does it mean that God is limited in knowledge and power? And if he is limited, then what else can he not do?

Reply
Man’s freedom to choose between right and wrong is granted by God Himself. This freedom does not, in any way, limit God’s knowledge nor His powers.

God created man and granted Him the freedom to choose between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ for a limited time and in a very limited area of activities. Man is responsible for the ‘good’ and the ‘evil’ that he does only when such ‘good’ or ‘evil’ is done by man’s freewill. I can easily tell the difference between when, in practical life, I am forced to do ‘evil’ or when ‘evil’ is, unintentionally, wrought through my hands and when I opt to do ‘evil’. While in a state of extreme hunger, I did not have any other option but to steal some bread to keep myself alive. Nevertheless, when I lied on the witness stand and falsely implicated an innocent person, in my greed to earn a few pennies, I knew deep inside that I was free to save myself from the detestable act, had I wanted to. The detestability of my act is not affected, in the least, by whether the Omniscient God, knew about it before I committed it, or not. Thus, my freewill is not affected, in any way, by God’s pre-knowledge of any of my actions.

It should further be kept in mind that all my actions, which emanate from my freewill are not dependent upon God’s pre-knowledge of these actions. I know, through introspection, that I am never forced to do ‘good’ or ‘evil’, when I want to do otherwise. In other words, God’s pre-knowledge of any of our deeds does not affect our deeds in any way. Thus, God’s omniscience does not, in any way, affect man’s freewill.

The Question: ‘Can man do otherwise than what God knew beforehand?’ is only a philosophical question. It has no practical significance at all. It would only have had a practical significance had man known about what God knew beforehand and then would have tried to alter it. As things stand, for all practical purposes, man is responsible for the actions that he commits with freewill and this responsibility of man is not affected by whether God knew about man’s actions beforehand or not. Thus, it would not be very accurate to say that ‘God knows that Tom would commit a grave sin two days later’, on the contrary, it would be more accurate to say that ‘God knows that Tom, with his freewill, would commit a grave sin two days later’.

Now let us consider the relationship between God’s omnipotence and man’s freewill: In the course of the test, during the life of this world, God has granted man the opportunity to do what he wants to do. During this time, God does not, generally, hinder man from carrying out his evil desires nor forces him into doing good. This permission is granted by the Omnipotent and the Omniscient, Himself. Thus, because this freedom is bestowed upon man, by God Himself; because man enjoys this freedom only for the time for which God, Himself, has decided to grant man the privilege; because man enjoys this freedom only in the particular circles of activities, in which God, Himself has allowed man this privilege; because, God shall hold man responsible for the decisions that he takes by utilizing this great privilege; and because even with this great privilege, God has complete control over man, we cannot, therefore, say that man’s freewill, during the life of this world and within a limited circle of activities, refutes God’s omnipotence.

The Question: ‘If God is omnipotent, then why does He not stop man from doing evil?’ is actually based on a lack of appreciation of the concept of test, during the life of this world. God, for the purpose of this test, has decided that He would generally not interfere in man’s decisions. A close analysis would show that had that not been the case, the ‘test’, during the life of this world, would have been impossible. It is, in fact, this lack of direct interference from God, in most of the cases, which makes this ‘test’ possible. This is precisely what the Qur’an has referred to in the following verse (Al-Maaidah 5: 48):

وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَكِنْ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا ءَاتَاكُمْ

And had God so desired, He would have made you a single people [and not given you the freedom to deviate], but for the purpose of testing you in what He has bestowed upon you [He granted you freedom].

 

 

If God is All-Good, then Why does Evil Exist?

If God is Benevolent and Omnipotent, then why is there existence of evil in the world? If God allows evil to exist, then He is not all-good. If God cannot help but allow evil to exist, then he is not all-powerful.

Reply
The word ‘Evil’ is generally used in two separate connotations. Firstly, it is used for reference to the bad deeds of people; for instance lying, injustice, oppression etc. Secondly, it is used for circumstances and conditions, which people consider as ‘not good’; for instance poverty, earthquakes, natural calamities, drought etc. The above question is generally asked from both perspectives, i.e. ‘if God is All-good, then why does He allow people to do evil?’ and ‘if God is All-good, then why is there so much suffering in this world?’.

As far as the first question is concerned, evil deeds are, in fact, a result of the freewill that God has bestowed upon man, for the particular purpose of the test, during the life of this world. As mentioned in my response to the previous question[8][1], this ‘test’ would not have been possible without granting man the freewill to deviate from the right path, if man so desired. Thus, the Qur’an (Al-Maaidah 5: 48) says:

وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَكِنْ لِيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا ءَاتَاكُمْ

 

And had God so desired, He would have made you a single people [and not given you the freedom to deviate], but for the purpose of testing you in what He has bestowed upon you [He granted you freedom].

At another instance, the Qur’an also tells us that God created man on the path of ‘good’, evil came into existence only because of man’s deviation from that ‘good’. Yunus 10: 19 says:

وَمَا كَانَ النَّاسُ إِلاَّ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً فَاخْتَلَفُوا وَلَوْلاَ كَلِمَةٌ سَبَقَتْ مِنْ رَبِّكَ لَقُضِيَ بَيْنَهُمْ فِيمَا فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ

 

And [in the beginning,] people were but a single nation [on the path of piety], but then they started creating differences [and thus, deviated from the right path]. And had it not been for God’s decision, which had preceded [regarding testing man and allowing him time], the matter would have been [immediately] decided between them, regarding what they differed in.

It is clear from the cited verses that ‘evil deeds’ are only a product of man’s deviation from the right path, which, in turn, is the result of the freewill, which God has bestowed upon man. One may, however, say that when man commits a sin – deviates from the right path – God should restrict his freedom. Even though, it was possible for God to do so, yet doing so would effectively have meant taking away man’s freewill and, thereby, terminating his test. This is precisely what is referred in the above-cited verse in the words: “had it not been for God’s decision, which had preceded [regarding testing man and allowing him time], the matter would have been [immediately] decided between them, regarding what they differed in.”

Hence, for the purpose of making the test possible, it was necessary to allow man to deviate from the prescribed path, if he so desired, without following such deviation with any immediate punishment: as an immediate punishment for doing ‘evil’ and an immediate reward for doing ‘good’ would also have rendered the ‘test’ ineffective and impossible. The Qur’an (Faatir 35: 45) says:

وَلَوْ يُؤَاخِذُ اللَّهُ النَّاسَ بِمَا كَسَبُوا مَا تَرَكَ عَلَى ظَهْرِهَا مِنْ دَابَّةٍ وَلَكِنْ يُؤَخِّرُهُمْ إِلَى أَجَلٍ مُسَمًّى فَإِذَا جَاءَ أَجَلُهُمْ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ كَانَ بِعِبَادِهِ بَصِيرًا

 

And had God [immediately] punished people for their deeds, He would not have left any moving creature on the face of the earth. But He allows them [to do their deeds] till an appointed time. Then, when that time comes… Indeed, God is fully watchful over His people.

As should be obvious, there is nothing in the concept of ‘test’, which refutes God’s benevolence, mercy or His being all-good. Nevertheless, if all were to end with man’s death, if ‘good’ and ‘evil’ were not to meet their separate ends, if the test, during the life of this world, were abandoned without its logical results – this would then, indeed, refute all benevolence, mercy, justice and goodness of the Creator. It is because of this reason that the Qur’an has emphatically declared that it would not be all over at man’s death and that at the end of the ‘test’, man shall be rewarded or punished for his performance during this ‘test’. Thus, the verse of Al-Maaidah cited above, goes further to say:

فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُمْ بِمَا كُنْتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ

 

Therefore, excel in good deeds, to your Lord shall be the return of all of you, then He shall inform you regarding that, in which you differed.

Now, let us turn to the second question. The Qur’an tells us that the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ times are also a part of the ‘test’ of man. It tells us that ‘good’ times are a test of man’s gratitude, while ‘bad’ times are a test of man’s perseverance and steadfastness in God’s ways. The Qur’an (Al-Anbiyaa 21: 35) says:

وَنَبْلُوكُمْ بِالشَّرِّ وَالْخَيْرِ فِتْنَةً وَإِلَيْنَا تُرْجَعُونَ

We shall try you with good and bad times, as a test. And to Us shall you return.

The Qur’an also tells us that the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ times for a particular individual or a people is not merely a test for that particular individual or people alone. It is also a test for all others, who directly or indirectly come in contact with those individuals or people. For instance, loss of wealth of an individual is a ‘test’ of perseverance and steadfastness for that particular individual, on the one hand, while on the other, it is a ‘test’ for those living around that individual, insofar as how they behave and help out that particular individual in his hard times. Similarly, a famine, for instance, is not merely a ‘test’ for those directly affected by the calamity; on the contrary, it is also a ‘test’ for those whom God has bestowed with surplus food.

If one were to analyse the events taking place around him, one would realize the immaculate set-up that the All-Wise has created for comprehensively testing mankind. This realization would, in turn, significantly affect one’s behaviour and response to the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ that comes one’s ways. After this realization, one would consider the ‘good’ that comes his ways, as much a test, as the ‘bad’ that he is made to face. Ignoring this fact, man is prone to becoming arrogant, whenever good comes his ways and to losing all hope, when faced with a difficulty. This attitude is only the result of ignoring the concept of ‘test’ that is inherent in all events that happen around us or upon us. The Qur’an (Al-Fajar 89: 15 – 16) comments on this attitude of man in the following words:

فَأَمَّا الإِنْسَانُ إِذَا مَا ابْتَلاَهُ رَبُّهُ فَأَكْرَمَهُ وَنَعَّمَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَكْرَمَنِوَأَمَّا إِذَا مَا ابْتَلاَهُ فَقَدَرَ عَلَيْهِ رِزْقَهُ فَيَقُولُ رَبِّي أَهَانَنِ

 

As for man, when his Lord tests him by exalting him and bestowing favours upon him, he says: ‘My Lord is bountiful to me.’ But when He tests him restricting his subsistence, he says: ‘My Lord has humiliated me’.

Thus, as a general principle, an individual, according to the Qur’an, may be faced with extreme ‘hard times’ for any of the following reasons:

  1.     The person faced with the particular situation is tested with such a situation while others are made to realize the blessings of God and the privileges that they enjoy in life. Such a situation normally is to point out to others the great blessings of God that we tend to take for granted. A normal person suddenly loses his eyesight and is turned into a blind. This extra-ordinary event in the life of one person may point out to others the great blessing of “eyes that see”, which we normally tend to ignore in our lives and may also help us realize the duties that are incumbent upon us for enjoying this extra-ordinary privilege in life. On the other hand, the particular individual faced with such a situation is tested for his steadfastness and perseverance in the God’s ways. Our hardships, normally, fall into this category. The ideal attitude that we all must aspire to develop is that every time a hardship comes our way, we should consider it an opportunity of success in our ultimate life and pray to God to help us succeed in this test.
  2.     Sometimes God selects a person, on the basis of His absolute knowledge, to behave as an epitome of gratitude toward God for all those around him. In such cases, the primary objective of putting an individual through an extremely severe situation is to teach others of the correct attitude of thankfulness and gratitude toward their Lord. In this situation, others are made to see the individual’s faithful and thankful behaviour toward his Creator in a very severe situation and thereby realize the importance of the good things God has given them and also to compare their own behaviour with that of the person put in such a severe situation. The basic difference between this situation and the one described in number 1 above is from the particular individual’s perspective that is taken through such extra-ordinary situation. In number 1, it is primarily a test for the individual, while in number 2, it is a privilege for the particular individual that he is selected by God for the purpose of teaching others of the right attitude and to act as an example for them. An example of this may be seen in the life of Hadhrat Ayyub (pbuh) [For details, you may see the book of “Job”, in the Old Testament]..
  3.     To cleanse an individual of the bad deeds that he might – knowingly or unknowingly – have committed in the past. If the person remains steadfast and faithful to his Lord in this cleansing process, all his bad deeds are washed away in the life of this world, which guarantees his success in the life hereafter.
  4.    To punish an individual for his general attitude of transgression against God in life In such a situation the severe condition is only a preamble for the real punishment that the person shall face in the life hereafter.

 

Why does Everyone not Believe in God?

It is normally claimed that concept of God is in the very nature of human beings, as you also seem to have implied in one of your answers[9][1], if this is so, then why does not everyone believe in God?

Reply
The fact that a particular concept or value is entailed in the very nature of man does not imply that man cannot make a deviation from that particular value or concept. On the contrary, the external environment of a particular person as well as his own positive or negative attitude toward these values and concepts may strengthen or weaken the impulses of these values and concepts inherent in man’s nature.

Take, for instance, the example of cleanness. Keeping oneself as well as one’s environment clean is, indeed, one of the natural inclinations of man, yet with persistent deviation from this natural inclination, the light of this invaluable flame, which God has lit within man’s heart may start to fade and, ultimately, extinguish. At that time, man loses all sense of dislike for uncleanness. This is very effectively portrayed in one of the letters that I received, some time back. In this letter, a couple who had recently converted to Islam, wrote:

My question is that in India it is customary for Husband/Wife to use the other spouses’ urine for some applications like washing the hair with it before shower. In some instances, spouses drink drops of their partners’ urine for health…

As is obvious, man can easily weaken the impulses of even these naturally induced values and concepts by persistently avoiding to abide by them or under the negative influence of his external environment. The same is the case of all other values and concepts, which are entailed in the nature of human beings. More easily comprehensible examples of man’s deviations from the concepts and values entailed in his nature are his telling a lie, or his being unjust to his fellow human beings, or his behaving in an unkind manner toward those who are weaker than him etc. Even though all these actions are contrary to the values and concepts entailed in the very nature of man, yet we know that man can so easily silence his screaming conscience and opt to tread a path, which takes him on route to fighting and, ultimately, killing the ‘goodness’ inherent in his nature.

Thus, even though the concept of a deity is entailed within man’s nature, yet by consistently avoiding to accept this concept or by satisfying oneself with more ‘fancy’ and ‘fashionable’ ideas or merely by being under the influence of one’s external environment, one may weaken the impulse of believing in God to the extent that one, sometimes, reaches the level of even rejecting the idea of the existence of a deity.

Practical Effects of the Belief in God…

What are the effects of believing in God on our practical lives?

Reply
The attributes of God are not just a philosophical or a theoretical reality that Islam wants us to accept. On the contrary, Islam not only wants us to accept that God – and only God – possesses all these attributes at the same time and at the absolute level, but also wants us to live a life that is philosophically as well as practically in conformity with the this acceptance. In other words, Islam wants us to maintain a relationship with the physically unseen yet qualitatively understood God, which is in accordance with the requirements of His attributes.

What should be our relationship with a being that we have understood to be our living creator, who actively controls our lives and all that surrounds us, who, at the same time is extremely merciful as well as wise, an embodiment of providence as well as justice and one whose knowledge as well as powers are all encompassing? This, precisely, is the question that the Qur’an helps and guides us to answer.

The first and the most basic ingredient of our relationship with the one God possessing the mentioned attributes is what the Qur’an has called ‘`ibaadah’ (عبادة). The Qur’an says:

وَمَا خَلَقْتُ الْجِنَّ وَالإِنْسَ إِلاَّ لِيَعْبُدُونِ

I created the Jinn and the men only for my `ibaadah.

The Arabic word `ibaadah, closely translated in the English language as ‘worship’, is basically the expression, at the ultimate level, of humility and humbleness on the part of the worshipper, on the one hand and that of extreme respect, reverence fear and love, toward the worshiped, on the other.

This expression, when it originates from the correct appreciation of the qualitative attributes of God, translates into the ultimate level of submission and obeisance based on extreme love and extreme fear toward the worshiped.

`ibaadah, in its essence, therefore, is primarily a condition internal to the human soul. Remembrance[10][1], gratitude[11][2], fear[12][3], sincerity[13][4], dependence[14][5], trust[15][6], submission[16][7] and seeking the pleasure[17][8] of the worshiped are the basic and the active internal emotions of the human soul, which are translated into bowing down and prostration, glorification and praise, supplication and prayer and spending one’s physical and material resources in the way of the Creator to win His pleasures. This, in its essence, is the complete concept of `ibaadah. However, because man, in the life of this world is not just a mental and spiritual existence but also a practical or physical existence, the concept of `ibaadah expands to include ‘obedience’[18][9] to the decisions and the directives of the Creator in all spheres of man’s practical and physical life as well.

It follows from the belief in ‘God’ – Allah – as given in the Qur’an that man should do whatever is ‘good’, as per his inherent sense of ‘good’ as well as according to the revealed guidance of God, and avoid whatever is ‘evil’. Seen in this perspective, doing ‘good’ and avoiding ‘evil’ is the requirement of the Muslim belief in the merciful, wise, omnipotent, omniscient, just, Al-Quddoos and Al-Subbooh Creator.

The basic and universal values of mercy, justice, honesty, trustworthiness, truthfulness, Hayaa, cleanness etc., which man has always considered among ‘good’ are to be practiced for no other reason but to live a life that is in accordance with the decision and the directives of the Creator. Seen in this perspective, our belief in God provides the primary basis of our ethical and moral behaviour.

Our Relationship with our Creator…

Ever since I have grown up every time something happens that is good, it immediately follows with something that undoes all the happiness. I almost feel scared to feel happy, as it will be taken away from me. I used to have faith… so much faith… I would counter what everyone would say to me… that God is just separate. That religion is all right to a certain point but that it isn’t what your whole life is about. However I always felt that God loves His creation… that He would never leave them hopeless and helpless. But somehow I have lost all that faith. Everything I ever dreamed of has been taken away from me and I feel no desire to pray or believe in anything. I feel numb… faithless. Why does God do this? I believed that He loves us. Why are we hurt like this then? I did not lack in faith… for I never ever lost hope. But I feel abandoned. I almost feel stupid for being such a blind believer. Where do I go from here? Was my faith not important to Allah? I don’t know why I should believe in anything anymore.

Can you answer any of my questions or explain anything to me? I understand I am immature and people go through much worse. But I need to understand why I pray? Why are we required to pray? Why indeed am I here on this planet?

Reply
There is a general tendency among us – humans – to expect worldly benefits accruing from our faith in God and from submitting to His directives. That is not necessarily the case. It is not because God listens to our prayers and grants us what we desire that we should adore and worship Him or submit to His directives, but, merely, because He alone deserves all our adorations and reverence and all our worships and submissions.

It should be kept in mind, my dear brother/sister, that adherence to faith and religion is not an elixir or a panacea for our problems and worldly sufferings. On the contrary, it is an unconditional submission to the truth. A voluntary submission, not for gaining any advantages in the life of this world, but for the sole reason that truth deserves to be accepted and submitted to.

The life of this world is a comprehensive test for us. We are being tested in a number of spheres during this life[19][1]. This test is a temporary phase in our lives. It starts with our mental maturity and ends at our death or mental incapacity. The basic target to be achieved during this testing phase is to cleanse and purify our hearts[20][2], minds[21][3], bodies and souls[22][4] from all such things that can defile and corrupt them. The fortunate among us, who shall succeed in their efforts of cleansing and purification, shall be the ones ultimately successful; while those who defile and corrupt their hearts, minds, bodies and souls, shall face the consequences of their defilement and corruption. Immediately after this test is over, we shall be faced with the results of this test. These results shall not be temporary. They shall be eternal. The consequences of failing in this test shall be in the shape of eternal and everlasting punishment; while that of success shall be in the shape of everlasting bliss in the life of paradise.

What we generally term as ‘faith’ or ‘belief’, relates initially to the cleansing and purification of our mental and intellectual abilities, as, primarily, they relate to the acceptance of and the submission to the truth. However, subsequent adherence to this faith or belief, especially under adverse circumstances, leads to the purification of the heart, the body and the soul as well. Take, for instance, the faith in God. Belief in God relates primarily to the acceptance of the fact that there is only one God and that He possesses all the attributes, which can not only be inferred from the observation and study of His creations, but, which He has Himself declared to be His permanent attributes. Some of the more basic among these attributes are: Mercy, Providence, Omnipotence, Omniscience, Wisdom and Justice[23][5]. Now, if I truly hold the existence of a god, with the stated attributes to be a truth, acceptance of this truth becomes an issue of intellectual honesty for me. It would, thus, become a moral obligation for me to accept this truth. Refusal to accept this truth, even after being fully convinced of it being the truth, is, therefore, termed as rejection (kufr) and injustice upon oneself (zulm) by the Qur’an and is declared to be among a few of those crimes, which, on their own, are followed by eternal punishment. However, if, on the other hand, after being convinced of this truth, I accept and declare it to be a reality, I become a believer in God, as introduced by the Qur’an. One can easily see that till this stage, the whole process of ascribing to a particular (Islamic) belief or faith relates primarily to my intellect and understanding.

The stages that are subsequent to the declaration of my faith and belief, relate primarily to the truthfulness of this declaration and my practical adherence to this faith under varying circumstances. In other words, after my initial submission to the truth, I am subsequently tested in my commitment with this truth. In these stages, I come in practical contact with the decisions, judgments and directives of God. In these stages, I am required to maintain the prescribed relationship with God – entailing His continual remembrance in my heart, expressing my sincere gratitude for His countless blessings, remaining steadfast, under all circumstances, in His prescribed ways and submitting whole-heartedly to His directives and decisions, irrespective of whether these directives and decisions are according to my desires and wishes or against them. In these stages, man is tested with good times as well as bad, with successes as well as failures and with elations as well as disappointments. Truthful in their initial declaration of faith are those who accept and submit to all the decisions and directives of God, even if these decisions and directives translate into their apparent failure or in the undoing of their most valuable possessions in life. While deceitful in their declaration are those who are willing to accept only those decisions of God, which are according to their own wishes and desires. Such people by objecting to God’s decisions and directives, in effect, refute their initial claim of holding God to be merciful, wise, omnipotent, omniscient and just. It is due to this reason that the Qur’an has contemptuously referred to those whose faith is conditional upon God’s granting them their desires: The Qur’an says:

وَمِنَ النَّاسِ مَنْ يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ عَلَى حَرْفٍ فَإِنْ أَصَابَهُ خَيْرٌ اطْمَأَنَّ بِهِ وَإِنْ أَصَابَتْهُ فِتْنَةٌ انْقَلَبَ عَلَى وَجْهِهِ خَسِرَ الدُّنْيَا وَالآخِرَةَ

 

There are those who worship God from a threshold [of faith]. Thus they are content only if they are blessed with good, while if an ordeal befalls them they turn away [from faith]. They are the ones who are losers in this world as well as the hereafter. (Al-Hajj 22: 11)

If you look closely at the foregoing explanation you should be able to find the answers to most of your questions. However, you ask: “why are we required to pray?”

Our prayers are actually an expression of our love, adoration and worship toward God. This expression, for a true Muslim, is not conditional upon the fulfillment of his worldly desires. It is independent of all our unfulfilled wishes and desires and is solely dependent upon our initial intellectual decision of believing in one God, Who possesses the stated attributes.

Prayer is an expression of our servitude and submission to our Master. It is an expression of our gratitude and thankfulness for all the blessings that we enjoy in life. It is an acceptance of the fact that if our eyes see, our ears hear and our touch feels, it is because our Creator has allowed us these privileges. It is a vow to remain steadfast in His ways, till the day we die. It is a pledge of unshakable confidence on His absolute mercy and wisdom and of complete submission to His decisions relating to us, which are always based on these attributes, even if they apparently go against our desires. It is an oath of giving up all that we have, for His cause, whenever the situation so requires. It is a supplication for all that we desire; yet it is also the expression of absolute submission for whatever He decides for us. And it is an invocation for steadfastness on faith, till He, in His absolute wisdom and mercy, decides to conclude our test.

Moiz Amjad

UIUK team

 

[4][2] The belief that there are more gods than one, which in the Arabic language is known as ‘Shirk’ (lit: ascribing partners or holding equals with the One God).

[5][3] The first two verses point toward the beautiful overall coherence in the heavens, the earth, the rivers, the mountains and the seas. When all these phenomena combine to make a magnificent coherent system, which ultimately supports and sustains life, then why should man blindly hold separate creators and designers for them? The third vese points toward man’s inherent attachment with the One true God only. Deep inside man knows that the One God is fully sufficient to remove all his afflictions and to grant him all the blessings that he craves for. There is absolutely no reason to hold others as equals to the One True God. The fourth verse points to the stars and the winds and how they play their prescribed roles in the overall system. While the last verse points to the ultimate wisdom in the creation – the resurrection – which makes it all meaningful. The oneness of purpose is also presented as evidence of the oneness of the creator.

[7][1] i.e. the ability to do everything or the concept that nothing is impossible for God.

[9][1] The reference is probably to one of my previous responses titled: ‘Regarding the Existence of God…’.

[10][1] dhikr (ذكر), i.e. man finds respite and spiritual elation in the remembrance of God. It may be mentioned here that dhikr (i.e. remembrance of God) is primarily the remembrance of God’s attributes, as introduced in the Qur’an.

[11][2] shukr (شكر), i.e. man, as soon as he becomes conscious of the fact that whatever he possesses of value in the life of this world, is bestowed upon him by his most gracious Creator, he should be filled with an all-encompassing feeling of gratitude toward his Creator.

[12][3] taqwaa (تقوى), i.e. man, is afraid of behaving in any such way that would disqualify him from the abounding mercy of God. Fear of God is not a fear of an unpredictable power. It is a fear, which is based purely on the attributes of justice, quddoosiyyah (i.e. God possesses all revered and venerated qualities) and subboohiyyah (i.e. God is clear of all shortcomings or weaknesses that are not suitable to be ascribed to Him) of God – that is His being absolutely clear of all .

[13][4] ikhlaas (اخلاص), i.e. all of man’s deeds are for the sole object of winning God’s pleasures. He saves himself from bad deeds and tries to do all the good that he can for no other reason but to win the goodwill of his Creator.

[14][5] tawakkul (توكل), i.e. man’s life becomes a living example of dependence on God. It should be clarified that ‘tawakkul’ does not imply indifference toward planning and effort in achieving the desirable objectives. ‘Tawakkul’ relates not to planning and effort, but to the outcomes and the results of our planning and efforts. ‘Tawakkul’, as should be obvious, is a corollary of our belief in a living and active controller of the universe as well as our lives, who is controlling the universe based on His perfect and all-encompassing knowledge, wisdom and mercy.

[15][6] tafweedh (تفويض), i.e. to trust God to bestow us with all that we desire and to save us from all that we consider undesirable. Closely related to tawakkul, tafweedh is also a combined result of all the attributes stated earlier.

[16][7] tasleem (تسليم), i.e. to wholeheartedly accept the directives and decisions of God. If God is truly believed to be merciful, wise, omniscient and just, then it should logically follow that all that God decides about our lives and all that He directs us to do is best for us. It may be worth mentioning here that Islam – the name of our religion – is primarily a reference to this particular quality. Islam refers to the unconditional submission to God’s decisions and directives.

[17][8] ridhaa (رضا), i.e. man, in all spheres of his life, is eager to do all that shall make God happy with him. God’s pleasures are won by living a life, which is a practical example of true and complete acceptance of the attributes of God.

[18][9] ataa`ah (أطاعة).

[19][1] However, as a general rule, we may say that this test relates basically to the moral aspects of our lives – i.e. the goodness or otherwise of our personal and interpersonal behavior.

[20][2] Cleansing of the heart’ refers to the cleansing of one’s emotions and feelings and making them subservient to the universally accepted moral values and the directives and decisions of God.

[21][3] ‘Cleansing of the mind’ refers to the cleansing of one’s intellectual and mental abilities and making them submissive to God’s Truth.

[22][4] ‘Cleansing of the soul’ refers to one’s spiritual and moral elevation.

[23][5] Keeping in view the absence, to a great extent, of the principle of justice in our lives, man has sometimes been prone to believing that even if there is a creator and a controller of our lives, he is indifferent toward our moral behavior. Abiding by moral principles generally entails costs and losses, while ignoring these moral values may sometimes result in tremendous physical/material benefits. Honesty is hardly, if ever, rewarded, dishonesty rarely punished. This absence of justice in the moral sphere of our lives, has generally led to the refutation of the attribute of justice in God. Nevertheless, the Qur’an tells us that for the purpose of carrying out the test of man, during the life of this world, God has generally kept this attribute dormant. If individuals were to be immediately punished for doing wrong or immediately rewarded for doing good, this effectively would have negated all moral authority for the individual, which subsequently would have made the test during the life of this world absolutely redundant.

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