“Verily, a man hath preformed prayers, fasting, charity, pilgrimage, and all other good works, but he will not be rewarded except by the proportion of his understanding”
“It is not a sixth or a ten of Man’s devotion which is acceptable to Allah, but only such proportions thereof as he offereth with understanding and true devotional spirit.”
During the course of our lives we are confronted with many complex questions, some posed by our very own curiosity and some by others. Due to the nature of these questions, it is often difficult to find the correct answers, and so many of us allow them to languish on the dusty shelves in the nether reaches of our minds.
Like countless others before, many of us have questions we would not dare to ask. Out of a false sense of piety and ancestral solidarity we hypocritically submit to custom and ‘tribal’ religion. In silence we languish, and, with curiosity carelessly cast over our shoulders, we make up our drunken melodies and whistle them away.
We look at the miracle of life all around us, ignoring what we see, discarding precious opportunity … the opportunity to discover the truth. But in order to find the answer, we must first ask the question. Who is Allah? Who are we? What is the purpose of our lives? Where do we go from here? The answers to these questions will not only determine the way we think, but also our actions, our attitudes toward those around us and the circumstances that prevail
Fortunately, in our quest for answers we discover an exceptional gift called reason. By nurturing it through education, we are then able to distinguish right from wrong, good from evil and true success from failure. By this effort we begin to understand and then enjoy faith, for knowing is the greatest joy. It creates hunger for truth, and a passion for doing all that is good.
Many have unfulfilled lives due only to the lack of ambition, an ambition to search for and to know the truth of human existence. Only by discovering the truth can humankind truly flourishes …the truth of mans servitude to a single absolute creator.
Did Allah create me? If so, who created Allah?
How do we know that we’ve been created by some ‘God’? Is it not possible to explain our origins in some other more logical way?
We also say that Allah (God) does indeed exist. The chief among our proofs is the law of causation which stipulates that every artifact, creature or existent must have been brought into being by a creator, or efficient cause: a piece of fabric points to a weaver, a painting to a painter, an engraving to an engraver. The universe, according to this logic, is the most cogent proof of an All-Powerful Allah who created it.
Granted that we believe in this creator, aren’t we entitled, according to this same logic, to ask, “Who created the Creator? Who created that Allah we talk about?” Doesn’t our own reasoning and in keeping with the same law of causation lead us to this question?
Yet another doubt arises. Why do we say that Allah is one? Why shouldn’t there be many Gods sharing the ‘work’ among themselves? Can there be more than one creator with such absolute attributes? Can there for example be two absolutely powerful creators?
The Origins of the Universe
For everything, like man, there has a beginning in time; there can be only three ways of explaining how it came to be:
Either it was made, or created, or caused by nothing at all. In other words, it came out of nothing. Or it created itself. Or it has a creator, cause or maker outside itself
The first and second explanations are obviously impossible. It is inconceivable for something that has a beginning in time to come out of or be made of nothing at all. It is inconceivable that it should bring itself in to being. The universe and all that is in it, therefore, could not have created itself nor did it come about by chance.
The conclusion then is clear. The universe and all that is in it owes its existence to a Creator or Maker outside itself. We, as human beings, as a part of the universe, owe our existence to such a Creator. To say, as many do, that human beings evolved over time from other creatures or that they originated from water, or that there was a big bang and everything just happened to fall into place, does not really answer the question about the origin of the universe and all that is in it, including human beings. We can therefore conclude that any set of beliefs that denies or does not accept the existence of a Creator is False.
Who created the Creator?
Further regarding the question as to who created the Creator, there is no dilemma or anything or that sort. We admit that Allah is the absolute Creator but then we ask about who created Him, making him both creator and created in the same sentence, which is a contradiction. The other side of the question’s meaninglessness is that we imagine the Creator as being the subject to the laws which govern his creatures. It is Allah who created the law of causation and we cannot consider Him as subject to the law which he created. Causation’s a law for us who are lying in space and time. The primary constitutive elements of our universe, which is just one of the innumerous creations of Allah, are matter space and time. Allah, who created space and time, is necessarily transcendent in relation to both and it is an error on our part to think that he is bound either by them or by their laws. In fact it would be preposterous to ask the question as to what was there before Allah or who created Allah for there existed no time before Allah created time itself, thus the question of ‘before’ outside time isn’t possible.
In our misunderstanding, we are like those old dolls that, seeing that they move by springs, imagining that the human being who made them must also derive his motion from the action of springs. If they were told that he is self-moved, they would retort that it is completely impossible for anything to move spontaneously since everything in their world is moved by a spring. Just like them, we cannot imagine that Allah exists in His own essence with no need of an efficient cause, for this is because we see everything around us in need of such a cause.
Aristotle followed the chain of causality tracing they chair from wood, wood from tree, tree from seed, and seed from planter. He had to conclude that this chain which regresses into infinite time must have begun with and ‘uncaused’ cause, a primiummobile in no need of a mover, a creator who hasn’t been created. This is the same thing we assert to Allah.
The Creator is of a different nature from all that has been created. This is because if He is considered to be one of the same nature as they are, He will need to have a beginning in time and will therefore need a maker. However we have to explain that it is He who has created time itself and is not subject to it. One word for “to have a beginning in time’ is temporal. If the Maker or Creator is not temporal, he must be eternal. Eternal, means to have no beginning or end in time.
If the Maker is eternal, He cannot be caused and if nothing caused him to come into existence, nothing outside Him causes Him to continue to exist, which means that he is self-sufficient. Self-sufficient, means that the Creator does not depend on anyone or anything to exist, and if he does not depend on anything to exist, then his existence can have no end. The Creator is therefore eternal and everlasting.
If the Creator is eternal and everlasting, then all His qualities must be eternal and everlasting. This means for example, that if He is powerful, then he must always be powerful. He cannot cease to be powerful. If he is all-knowing, then he is always all-knowing. If he is wise, he must always be wise. If he is kind and just, then be must always be kind and just. The creator doesn’t loose nor acquire any new qualities. Qualities that do not chance and that last forever are absolute qualities. Another name for qualities is attributes.
The Mind Comprehends only Particulars
Philosophers have realized that the mind cannot comprehend infinite realities and that it is, by nature, fitted only to apprehend particulars. It is incapable of apprehending such a universal of total existence as that of the Divinity. Allah was known by conscience, not by reason alone. Just as the new-born baby’s thirst for milk is a proof that is exists out there in the vast world beyond its mother’s womb, our yearning for justice, for example, is proof to us that a just Being exists ‘out there’.
Indeed human beings do have a special gift or power – the power of reason and logic. But we must realize that this power is, in itself limited: it is like a precision balance which might use for weighing gold but one would be vain and foolish to think it to weigh mountains. No single person on his own, no matter how clever he may be, can give complete, valid and satisfying answers to the questions about the origins of the world, and mans place in it, about life and destiny. No group of persons can do so either. For example, all the knowledge of the world and the universe amassed by philosophers and scientists in the future may come to know, there will always be a point of where they must say ‘We do not know!’. From the standpoint of science, the universe is like an old book, of which the first and last pages of which have been lost. Neither the beginning nor the end is known. Thus, the worldview of science is knowledge of the part, not of the whole.
Science -a Limited Worldview
Science, as the word is now widely understood, acquaints us with the situation of some parts of the universe; it cannot explain the essential character of the whole universe, its origins or its destiny. The scientist’s worldview is like the knowledge about the elephant gained by those who touched it in the dark. The one who felt the elephant’s ear supposed it to be a shaped like a fan; the one who felt its leg, supposed it to be shaped like a column; the one who felt its back supposed it to be shaped like a throne and the one who felt its trunk, supposed it to be shaped like a serpent. Science, it has been said is like a powerful searchlight in the long winter night, lighting up a small area in its beam but unable to shed like beyond its border. This is not to pronounce on its usefulness of otherwise, it is only to say that it is limited.
From another quarter, Ibn Al ‘Arabi, May Allah shower him with mercy, the Muslim mystic, replied to the question as to who made the creator saying that it can only occur to a disordered mind. According to him, it is Allah who substantiates existence and it would be erroneous to point to existence or the universe as a proof of Allah. This is the same as saying that light indicates day and it would be a lopsided argument to claim the day proves the existence of light. For everything besides Allah is false and it is Allah who aids in proving and finding, there is no proof leading to Allah. Allah is the proof which is no need of another proof. He is the self-evident truth and He is the evidence of that substantiates everything.
He is manifest in order, precision, beauty and regularity; in tree leaves, in feathers of a fawn, in the wings of a butterfly, in the fragrance of flowers, in the chanting of the nightingale, in the harmony of planets and stars which make up that symphonic poem that we call the universe. If we allege that all this came into being by chance, we would be like a person who believes that throwing a million letters into a space can result in its spontaneous assembly, into an authorless Shakespearean sonnet. The Qur’an spares us all these arguments with a few expressive words. It says without sophistry and in decisive clarity:
“Say, that Allah is One, the Absolute and Eternal. He begot none nor was he begotten. And none is equal to Him.” [Qur’ab 112, 1-4]
Could Allah not be ‘Two’?
However, as alluded to in the introduction, yet another doubt arises. Why do we say that Allah is one? Why shouldn’t there be many Gods sharing the ‘work’ among themselves? Can there be more than one creator with such absolute attributes? Can there for example be two absolutely powerful creators?
That is not possible. Why? If a maker is absolutely powerful, it follows that he is absolutely free of to do whatever he wishes. But if another maker with similar powers exists and they differ over the making of something, they of the two things can happen. Either, one will overcome the other, in case the latter cannot be absolutely powerful. Or, they will neutralize each other, in which case both the powers are limited.
This epitomized that in the parable of the simple old yarn spinner when she was asked by her skeptical friend, “How do you know that God exists?” The old lady replied saying, “I am a simple old woman who does not know much. However this much I do know, that when I turn my spindle it moves and when I leave it, it stops. Never does it move on its own accord. Thus I see the sun rising in the east and setting in the west, the moon traveling its course, the stars swimming harmoniously through the heavens, the rain falling gently, the trees growing tall and strong, the flowers blossoming exquisitely, the birds flying by gracefully and I know that there must be some great mover, some great creator of this beauty” Hearing this, her skeptical friend retorted, “Very well! Admitted that there must be some creator, how do we know that he is one God, and not many Gods?” They old woman calmly replied again, “I am a simple old woman who does not know much. However this much is do know, that if I trying to turn my spindle in one direction, and you were trying to turn my spindle in the other direction, then one of three things would happen. Either I would be stronger than you, in which case it would go in one direction, or you would be stronger and it would go in the other direction or we would break the spindle in our struggle. Thus never do I ever see this sun rising in the east one day, and the west the next, nor the moon traveling its course one day and in disarray the next, nor the stars swimming harmoniously one day and in confusion the next, nor the rain falling down one day and ascending the next, not the trees up tall and strong one day and then its branches digging the earth the next, nor the flowers blossoming exquisitely one day and collapsing the next, nor the birds flying by gracefully one day and then crawling on their backs in the dust the next, nor do I see this wonderful universe around me in disharmony and destroyed and thus I know that my Lord is One.”
Even if we assume that the two powers agree on everything or complement each other, they cannot both be absolutely powerful because in doing anything one at least will need to assume that the other will not interfere or is not capable of interfering. In other words, one will need to assume that the function of the other is redundant or that the power of the other is limited. The creator then must be One. There cannot be any other like Him, so He must be unique. The Creator must be all Powerful and must be able to do what ever He wills.
From the above, it is valid and reasonable to assert that the Creator must be Eternal and Everlasting, Self-Sufficient and All-Powerful, One and Unique. These are some of the qualities or attributes of the creator that we must have in mind when we use the word Allah. We must also remember that His attributes or qualities are absolute and do not change. There must be clear separation between the Creator and the created. It follows that no man can be Allah. Allah cannot have a mother or father. He cannot have a son or daughter. The sun, the moon, the stars or any other heavenly bodies cannot be Allah. No part of Creation whether it be a mountain, a tree or a fire can be Allah and does not deserve to be worshipped as Allah. Any religion or any worldview which regards any human being or any part of creation as Allah or part of Allah must be a false religion or worldview. Also any religion or any worldview which regards Allah as having human characteristics, for example a human shape and suffering from tiredness and needing rest and sleep, must be a false religion or worldview.
Nature Declares Allah’s Oneness
From yet another perspective we see the open book of nature revealing to us the attributes of its author. Allah is one because the entire universe is built out of one material and according to a unified plan. The ninety two elements in the Mendelev table are built from a single element, hydrogen. All forms of human life are built of carbon composites- they are all charred when burned according to one anatomical plan.
The anatomy of a frog, a rabbit, a pigeon, a crocodile, giraffe, and a whale reveals the same arteries, veins, cardiac chambers, and bones correspond in all of them. The wing of a pigeon is the foreleg of a frog; same bones with a slight variation. The long neck of a giraffe contains seven vertebrae; we find the same number in the hedgehogs’ neck. The nervous system in all consists of the brain, the spinal cord, and the motor and sensory nerves. Their digestive apparatus contains the stomach, duodenum, and the small and large intestines. The genital apparatus has the same components: the ovary, the uterus, the testicles and their ducts; while the urinary system in all consists of the kidney, the uriter, and the bladder. The anatomical unit in each of these creatures is the cell. Whether we are dealing with plants, animals, or humans, we meet with the same features; they are breathe, breed, die, and are born in the same way.
What is so strange, then, in asserting that the Creator is one? Does He suffer from a deficiency to need completion? It is the imperfect only who multiply. If there were more that one Allah, they would fall among themselves, each taking his own creation to his side and the universe would be ruined.
Why have I been Created?
What is the purpose of the creation of Mankind? If the purpose of man is, as Muslims advocate, to worship Allah, as mentioned in the following verse:
“I have created mankind and the Jinn (a fiery, invisible creature) in order that they may worship me.” (51, 56)
…does it then suggest that the Almighty is in dire need of our worship? This, though, would be an obvious contradiction of the Islamic belief in Allah being absolutely Self-Sufficient, Independent and Transcendent. If, on the contrary, the answer be no, then it would seem that mankind serves no purpose at all. What then is the purpose of the creation of Man?
Furthermore, if man was created for worship then why was he granted the freedom to choose not to do so, and even to deny the very existence of Allah himself? What then is the nature of man and what, if anything at all, makes him so unique? And how are we to understand the nature of the relationship between mankind and Allah?
‘Everything besides Allah is False!’
The Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and blessing be upon him, is reported to have said, “The truest words ever uttered are (that), ‘Everything besides Allah is False!’”. Islamic Doctrine informs the Muslim, as its fundamental premise, that everything around us does not, of itself, exist. We exist only solely by the will and intent of Allah, this divine being more than adequate a reason for the creation of all being.
The existence of the world is thus a shadow existence in so far as a shadow cannot exist without the object, which is in itself real and true. The existence of the shadow cannot in anyway be denied, but it is contingent on the existence of the image too is completely different and separate from the real existence of the object.
Similarly, the existence of the world is a ‘shadow’ existence, different and separate from the real existence of Allah. The important thing that has to be noted in this regard is that the shadow of a thing is not the thing itself. It is different from the object numerically as well as qualitatively.
The world is, in essence, unreal. What imparts to it a ‘shadow existence’, a semblance of reality, and elevates it from absolute nothingness and gives it a permanence and stability, is the reflection of Allah’s existence and attributes on it: Allah decree that it be:
“For when he intends that a thing be, He merely declares, ‘BE’ and it becomes.” (Qur’an 2, 117)
Man’s Ignorance disqualifies him
As has been determined in the previous section, to believe in Allah is the to believe in the existence of a supreme power; that this unimaginable power is behind the creation of the universe and that it is incomparable in its scope of knowledge, creativity, mercy, punishment and all the other features attributable to Allah. Once this understanding has taken root in the heart of the believer, he becomes aware of the fact that man shouldn’t assess Allah’s intent, power and absolute knowledge in terms of his own limited knowledge and physical powers. He understands that he is not qualified to question His authority and ask from reasons of motives, for dialogue is futile and will not serve its end unless those taking part in it possess equal mental ability and logic.
Man’s mental and physical limitations make him no match with Allah, no matter how knowledgeable and powerful man may think himself to be. Yet we still meet some unfortunate and vain persons who pretend shamelessly to be qualified to argue with Allah over His intent and knowledge, and the way He has prescribed for mankind.
The recognition of Allah’s supreme power and sovereignty over His universe and mankind and His all-encompassing knowledge, establishes the route through which faith enters mankind’s heart where it lodges and grows. But this route doesn’t open without prior contemplation and musing about this universe and the signs through which Allah reveals Himself to us, signs which constitute that glorious symphony we call creation.
Creation is a Spectacular Expression of Allah’s Divine Attributes
Creation is a spectacular Expression of Allah’s divine attributes. It has often been described as the veritable artwork of Allah, for through His creation does Allah manifest Himself. He is the artist and creation is His glorious artwork. Creation thus exists as a direct consequence of His attributes and His intent to manifest them.
Allah declares in a Divine utterance (Hadith Qudsi) by way of allegory, “I was as a hidden treasure, and thus I created creation that this treasure be (revealed in its splendor), known, (appreciated and celebrated)”.
Allah is the Creator, and creation and expression of his creativity, Allah is Perfect and so we find that creation too is perfect; Allah is the Fashioner and the Beautiful and His creation thus fashioned into most wondrous, beautiful forms; Allah is the Cherisher and creation cherished and caringly nurtured.
In fact, the very first verse of the Holy Qur’an alludes to this mystery for out of the ‘Beautiful Names’ (al Asma ul Husna) of Allah and His attributes of perfection, only two have been mentioned in this introductory verse – namely, ‘Ar Rahman’ and ‘Ar Rahim’ – both of which have been derived from the root ‘Rahmah’ (mercy), indicating the all-persuasiveness and perfection of divine mercy, compassion and love. It points to the fact that the creation of the heavens and the earth the sustenance of all the worlds has no other motivation other than manifesting Allah’s attribute of mercy, generosity and selfless love. He Himself had no need of these creatures, nor could anyone compel Him to create them. It is His very own mercy, generosity and love which has determined the creation and sustenance of the entire universe.
How aptly this was out in by the great mystic poet Allamah Rumi: “There was nothing – neither our being nor our claim to be; It was by thy mercy that heard our unsaid.”
And further a poet states,
“…For he loved us even before we knew ourselves, and from this love he created us.”
Thus Allah is the Grand sculptor and creation his wondrous, perfect sculpture – a wondrous declaration of his perfection of being.
Related Article: Fate and Destiny (Al-Qadaa wa Al-Qadar)