By: Jaafar Sheikh Idris
Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to invite people to God and to teach them how to perform the task for which they were created, namely to worship Him. Many of the people whom he addressed had a hazy idea of God.
Some did believe in Him, though they associated other lesser gods with Him, but a few of them were downright atheists, or materialists, whose creed was,
We die and live, and nothing destroys us except time. (Al-Jathiyah 45:24)
Before inviting such atheists to God one must first convince them that there is such being. “What reason do you have for believing that there is a God ?” This, logically, is the first question which a theistic view of life should address itself to. The Qur’anic answer to it is given in the following words:
Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they are not certain. (At-Tur 52:36)
The Qur’an is here saying that for everything like man that has a beginning in time, there are only three ways of explaining how it came to be.
a. Either it is created, or made, or caused by nothing at all, i.e. it came out of nothing.
b. Or it is the creator of itself.
c. Or it has a creator, cause, or maker, outside itself.
The third possibility is not mentioned in the quoted verse but it is understood because the verse is addressed to people who deny the existence of a creator and it is telling them that if there is no creator then only two possibilities remain. But the Qur’an does not go into the details of showing why the first two positions are untenable. Clarity of expression often convinces people of the truth or untruth of a statement. Mental seeing here, more than physical seeing, is believing (or rejecting). This is borne out in the case of these Qur’anic words by a historical event.
Jubayr ibn Mut`im, until then, a non-Muslim was sent by Quraysh on a mission to the Muslims at Madina. He says that when he arrived he heard the Prophet, who was leading the evening prayer, reading Surat At-Tur and when he reached the foregoing verses “my heart was almost rent asunder.”
Why did this happen to him? Probably because the verse made things clear to him for the first time. lt is inconceivable for something to come out of or be made by nothing at all, he realized, and it is even more inconceivable that it should bring itself into being. Hence, the only conclusion is that it must have a creator outside itself. A thesis is therefore untenable if it means the denial of any maker or cause whatsoever.
But admitting that this is indeed so, one might still wonder why should that cause or maker or creator be the God to whom Muhammad was inviting people? Why shouldn’t it be one of the many other gods in whom people believe or why shouldn’t it even be the “matter” of the materialists? Almost the entire Qur’an deals with this question but we shall do our best to give a brief answer which would provide the reader with the basics of the Qur’anic position.
In a nutshell the answer is as follows: to explain the coming into being of temporal things, the creator (or cause or maker) for which we are looking, must (logically must) have the attribute of the God to whom Muhammad invites us. How so!
The creator must be of a different nature from the things created because, if he is of the same nature as they are, he will have to be temporal and therefore need a maker. lt follows that “nothing is like Him.” lf the maker is not temporal then he must be eternal. But if he is eternal, he cannot be caused, and if nothing causes him to come into existence, nothing causes him to continue to exist, which means that he must be self-sufficient. And if he does not depend on anything for the continuance of his existence, then that existence can have no end. The creator is therefore eternal and everlasting:
He is the first and the last. (Al-Hadid 57: 3)
Everyone upon the earth will perish. And there will remain the Face of your Lord, Owner of Majesty and Honor. (Ar-Rahman 55:26-27)
There are two ways in which causes produce their effects. Either they produce them naturally or intentionally. The maker that has the attributes we have enumerated cannot be a natural cause. Because if things of this world flow from Him naturally and spontaneously, they cannot be but of the same nature as He is. And if like all natural causes He causes only under certain conditions, then His power is limited. lt follows that He must be a willful agent. But intention implies knowledge and both imply life. So, that maker must be a living all-knowing agent with a will that is absolutely free. Thus God according to the Qur’an does everything with intention and for a purpose.
Surely We have created everything in (due) measure. (Al-Qamar 54:49)
What, did you think that We created you only for sport. (Al-Mu’minun 23:115)
He is absolutely free to do whatever he wills and is aware of every movement of His creation.
And He knows what is on the land and in the sea. Not a leaf falls but that He knows it. And no grain is there within the darknesses of the earth and no moist or dry [thing] but that it is [written] in a clear record. And it is He who takes your souls by night and knows what you have committed by day. (Al-An`am 6:59-60)
God is a living person with all that this implies:
Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great. (Al-Baqarah 2:255)
God is not only willing and powerful, He is also Just in that He does not punish a sinner for more than his crime. He is merciful and His mercy, in the words of the Prophet “Overcame his punishment.” So He does not punish us for whatever we do, but forgives and erases our sins, and magnifies and multiplies our good deeds.
The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing. (Al-Baqarah 2:261)
These, and many others which can be arrived at in a similar way are the attributes which the true creator must possess. Any other being or object which is alleged to be a god or an ultimate cause and which necessarily lacks some of them cannot in actual fact be what it is believed to be.
Source: Taken from the author’s The Pillars of Faith.