The Quranic Argument for God’s Existence

[By Brother Hamza Tzortzis]

“No question is more sublime  than why there is a universe: why  there is anything rather than  nothing.” [1]

When we reflect upon our own  existence we will come to the  realisation, that at some point in  time, we began to exist. Since we  were once non-existent and are  now in existence, it follows that  we must have had a beginning. In  light of this, the Qur’an raises  some profound questions: were  we created by nothing? Did we  create ourselves? Or did we  create the universe?

“Or were they created by nothing? Or were they the creators (of  themselves)? Or did they create  heavens and earth? Rather, they  are not certain.” [Quran 52:35-36]
These questions can be  addressed to the existence of  everything temporal, in other words the entire universe. Therefore, the exegetical  implications of these verses can be logically formulated in the  following way: Things that began  to exist were either:-

1. Created or brought into being  from nothing

2. Self caused or self created

3. Created or brought into being  by something else that began to exist

4. Created or brought into being by a non-created or un-caused entity

Before we proceed, the first pre-supposition has to be  subtantiated, as it forms the basis for the Qur’an’s argument  for the existence of God. This first  assumption is that the universe  began to exist.

Did the universe begin to exist?

To substantiate the view that the  universe began to exist we can  bring into our discussion a  plethora of philosophical and  inductive arguments:

1. The  second  law  of  thermodynamics

2. The  absurdity  of  an  infinite  history of  past  events

3. Astrophysical evidence

1. The second law of thermodynamics

The concept of entropy was  introduced to explain the  direction of various processes that occur in the natural world. Entropy is a measure of how  evenly energy is distributed in a  system. For example, heat always flows from a body of a higher temperature or energy (low entropy) to one of a lower temperature or energy (high entropy). 

Take the following illustration of  a container with gas, when the  partition is removed, the gas in  one end of the container will spread to the whole of the  container, going from a state of  low entropy (higher temperature  or energy) to high entropy (lower temperature or energy).

Hence, according to the second  law of thermodynamics,  processes in a closed system tend towards higher entropy, as their energy is being used.

Applying the second law of  thermodynamics to the universe  we will conclude that it must  have began to exist. Since the  universe is a closed system, with  enough time the universe will suffer a heat death or  thermodynamic equilibrium. 

When systems are in thermodynamic equilibrium, they  cannot transfer energy. This is because entropy can only  increase over time. Therefore, as the universe continues to expand  it will eventually become cold and  dead. 

However this raises a question, if  the universe never began to exist  it would imply that the universe  has existed for an infinite amount  of time. If this is true then why  isn’t the universe already in a  state of heat death? This strongly suggests that the universe must  have had a beginning, because if it didn’t it would imply that it has existed for an infinite amount of time, which would mean that it should already have suffered a heat death. Since it hasn’t suffered a heat death, it strongly indicates that the universe is finite, meaning it began to exist.

2.  The absurdity of an infinite history of past events

Some philosophers such as Bertrand Russell argued that the  universe is eternal, meaning it  has no beginning and it will never end. However if we think about  this we will conclude that this position is irrational. If the  universe never had a beginning it means there must be an infinite  history of past events. Yet does an actual infinite exist in the real  world? Is it possible?

The concept of the actual infinite  cannot be exported into the real  world, because it leads to contradictions and doesn’t make  sense. Let’s take the following  examples to illustrate this point:

1. Say you have an infinite  number of balls, if I take 2 balls  away, how many do you have  left? Infinity. Does that make  sense? Well, there should be two  less than infinity, and if there is, then we should be able to count  how many balls you have. But  this is impossible, because the  infinite is just an idea and  doesn’t exist in the real world. In light of this fact the famous German mathematician David  Hilbert said,

“The infinite is nowhere to be  found in reality. It neither exists  in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational  thought…the role that remains for the infinite to play is solely  that of an idea.” [2]

2. Imagine you are a soldier ready  to fire a gun, but before you  shoot you have to ask permission  for the soldier behind you, but he  has to do the same, and it goes on for infinity. Will you ever  shoot? No you wouldn’t. This highlights, the absurdity of an infinite regress and this applies to events too. Therefore, there  cannot be an infinite history of past events.

3. Take the distance between two  points, one may argue that you  can subdivide the distance into infinite parts, but you will always be subdividing and never actually reach the ‘infinitieth’ part! So in  reality the infinit is potential and  can never be actualised. Similarly  the ancient Greek Philosopher  Aristotle explained,

“…the infinite is potential, never actual: the number of parts that  can be taken always surpasses  any assigned number.”[3]

So if we refer back to an infinite  history of past events we can  conclude, since events are not just ideas they are real, the  number of past events cannot be  infinite. Therefore the universe  must be finite, in other words the  cosmos had a beginning.

3.  Astrophysical  evidence 

The ‘Big Bang’ is the prevailing  theory in cosmology. It was first  formulated by the aid of some  observations made by an  American Astronomer called  Edwin Hubble. While Hubble was  trying to understand the size of the universe, he observed  immensely luminous stars called  Cepheid Variables and noticed  something peculiar. He observed that some of these stars were  further away than initially anticipated, and that their colour  was slightly changed, shifting  towards red, something now known as red-shift. From Hubble’s observations we were  able conclude that everything  seems to be moving away from  each other, in other words the  universe is effectively expanding.  As time moves on the universe  continues to expand, but if time  is reversed, the theory is that  everything starts to coalesce and  come together. Coupled with the  discovery of cosmic  microwave  background radiation, which is the radiation uniformly filling the observable universe, the idea of  the ‘Big Bang’ was born. In other  words the universe began at a  cataclysmic event which created  space-time and all matter in the  universe. The physicist P. C. W.  Davies explains,

“If we extrapolate this prediction  to its extreme, we reach a point  when all distances in the universe  have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore  forms a past temporal extremity  to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime,  through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On  this view the big bang represents  the creation event; the creation  not only of all the matter and  energy in the universe, but also  of space-time itself.” [4]

Although our understanding of  what happened 10-43 seconds  after the ‘Big Bang’ is highly  speculative, astrophysicists now concede little doubt that this universe in which we live is the  aftermath of the emergence and  expansion of space-time, which occurred  approximately 14 billion years ago. John Gribbin, an  astrophysicist at Cambridge University, summarises the importance of ‘Big Bang’ cosmology,

“…the discovery of the century, in  cosmology at least, was without  doubt the dramatic discovery made by Hubble, and confirmed by Einstein’s equations, that the  Universe is not eternal, static,  and unchanging.” [5]

Thus the ‘Big Bang’ model  describes our universe as having  a beginning a finite time ago. As Alex Vilenkin, one of the world’s leading theoretical cosmologists,  writes,

“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men  and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable  man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide  behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the  problem of a cosmic beginning.” [6]

Other models have been proposed to try and explain away the obvious metaphysical questions that arise from a finite  universe, for instance P.C.W.  Davies questions,

“What caused the big bang? . . .  One might consider some  supernatural force, some agency  beyond space and time as being  responsible for the big bang, or  one might prefer to regard the  big bang as an event without a  cause. It seems to me that we don’t have too much choice. Either…something outside of the  physical world…or…an event  without a cause.” [7]

These models include the  oscillating and vacuum fluctuation models. These models however still have principles that necessitate a beginning to the  universe, in other words they are  non-infinitely extendable into the  past. Take the oscillating model as an example, this model maintains that if the gravitational  pull of the mass of the universe was able to surmount the force of  its expansion, then the expansion  could be changed into a cosmic  contraction or ‘Big Crunch’, and  then into a new expansion, with  the process continuing ad infinitum. However, there are a few issues with this model,

1. Firstly, there is nothing  available in modern physics that  would allow a universe that is collapsing to spring back into a  new expanding universe.

2. Secondly, the mean mass density of the universe, derived  from observational evidence, has shown that it is not enough to develop the required  gravitational force to stop and  reverse the expansion of the universe.

3. Thirdly, the second law of  thermodynamics (as discussed  above) implies the finitude of the  universe. According to the  oscillation model, the entropy is conserved from cycle to cycle of  the various oscillations of  expansion, crunch and expansion. This has the effect of generating larger and longer oscillations. Therefore the thermodynamic property of this model implies a beginning, as the universe that we exist in has not suffered a heat death, or thermodynamic equilibrium.

Since we have presented good  evidence that the universe began  to exist. We can now address the  logically possible explanations  the Qur’an presents as rationalisations of the origins of  the universe.

Created or brought into being  from nothing

We know the universe couldn’t  have come out of nothing,  because out of nothing, nothing  comes! This is an undeniable  philosophical principle, as P. J. Zwart in his publication About  Time explains,

“If there is anything we find  inconceivable it is that  something could arise from nothing.” [8]

A significant point to raise here  is that nothingness should not  be misconstrued as the nothingness that some physicists talk about. The term nothingness in this context refers to the  absence of anything physical, in  other words there is no pre-existing ‘stuff’. In light of the beginning of the universe, there  was absolutely nothing before it began to exist, which  lis why  physicists have explained the  universe as having a space-time  boundary.

However, nothingness as defined  by some physicists relates to the  quantum vacuum. This is misleading because the quantum  is something. In quantum theory the vacuum is a field of energy  pervading the whole of the  universe. In the word’s of John Polkinghorne, a philosopher of  science, the quantum vacuum,

“…is not ‘nothing’; it is a  structured and highly active entity.” [9]

So, in context of some of the  physicists’ definition, the universe  could not have come from  absolutely nothing, as the quantum vacuum is something. It  is a sea of fluctuating energy,  which is still part of the cosmos  and it did not pre-exist the  universe. This point leads us nicely to the next possible  explanation.

Self caused or self created

Philosophically, the universe  couldn’t have created itself because that would imply a paradox. It would mean that  something can exist and not  exist at the same time. The logical ends of this explanation are tantamount to saying that your mother gave birth to herself!
Recently, the world renowned  physicist, Stephen Hawking in his new book The Grand Design argues that the universe did self  create due to the law of gravity,

“Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing…” [10]

But his view on nothing, as previously mentioned, is not really nothingness but is space filled  with the quantum vacuum, which  is part of the universe. In essence  Hawking is telling us that the  universe can create itself, but it  has to already exist for it to do that!

Concerning the law of gravity, well that is just a mathematical  equation that describes nature.  This law is part of the universe,  which can also be described as a  force of attraction between  material objects. Therefore, how can this force exist before matter, in other words the universe? To  assert that the universe created  itself would be absurd and self refuting, because in order for  something to create itself it would need to exist before it  existed!

Created or brought into being by  something else that began to  exist

This is not an adequate explanation for the origins of the  universe. The universe could not have owed its existence to another state of temporal  physical existence. To maintain  such an explanation would be  equivalent of expanding the  boundaries of the universe, as all  things which have a temporal beginning exist within the  universe. Also, if temporal  physical existence owes itself to another temporal physical  existence ad infinitum, it doesn’t  explain anything. Rather it  highlights the absurdity of an  infinite regress, and that there  has to be a beginning to the  temporal physical states, which logically must be a non-physical  state.

Take the following example into consideration. If the universe, U1,  followed another temporal cause  U2, and U2 followed another temporal cause U3, and this went  on ad infinitum we wouldn’t have  the universe U1 in the first place.  Think about it this way, when does U1 come into being? Only  after U2 has come into being.  When does U2 come into being? Only after U3 has come into being. This same problem will continue even if we go to infinity. If U1 depended on its coming  into being on a chain of infinite temporal causes, U1 would never exist. As the Islamic Philosopher  and Scholar Dr. Jaafar Idris writes,
“There would be no series of actual causes, but only a series of  non-existents, as Ibn Taymiyyah  explained. The fact, however, is that there are existents around  us; therefore, their ultimate cause  must be something other than  temporal causes.” [11]

Created or brought into being by  a non-created or un-caused entity
Since something cannot come  from nothing, and self creation is absurd, including the unreasonableness of the  aforementioned explanation,  then the universe being created or brought into existence by an  uncaused entity is the best  explanation. This concept is intuitive but also agrees with  reality: whatever begins to exist  has a cause or a creator.

This cause or creator must be uncaused due to the absurdity of  an infinite regress, in other words  an indefinite chain of causes. To  illustrate this better, if the cause  of the universe had a cause and  that cause had a cause ad infinitum, then there wouldn’t be  a universe to talk about in the  first place (something we have  already discussed above). For example, imagine if a Stock Trader on a trading floor at the Stock  Exchange was not able to buy or  sell his stocks or bonds before  asking permission from the  investor, and then this investor  had to check with his, and this went on forever, would the Stock Trader ever buy or sell his stocks or bonds? The answer is no. In  similar light if we apply this to  the universe we would have to posit an uncaused cause due to this rational necessity. The  Qur’an confirms the  uncreatedness of the creator,  God,

“He neither begets nor is born.”   [Qur’an 112:3]

The cause or creator for the  universe must be a single cause  for several reasons. An attractive  argument to substantiate this claim includes the use of the  rational principle called Occam’s  razor. In philosophical terms the  principle enjoins that we do not multiply entities beyond necessity. What this basically  means is that we should stick to explanations that do not create  more questions than it answers.  In the context of the cause for the universe we have no evidence  to claim multiplicity, in other words more than one. The Qur’an affirms the Oneness of the  creator,

“Say: He is God, [who is] One.”   [Qur’an 112:1]

However some philosophers and  scientists claim: why doesn’t the  cause be the universe itself? Why  can’t the cause stop at the  universe? Well, the problem with these claims is that they would  imply that the universe created  itself, which we have already  discussed, is absurd. Additionally,  we have good reasons to postulate a cause for the universe  because the universe began to exist, and what begins to exist has a cause.

Our argument thus far allows us to conclude that this cause or  creator must be non contingent  meaning that its existence is dependent on nothing but itself.  If it were contingent it would be  one more effect in the chain of  causes. The Qur’an verifies this,

“God is Independent of (all)  creatures.” [Qur’an 3:97]

The cause or creator must also be  transcendent, this means that the  cause of the universe must exist  outside of and apart from the  universe. Since this being exists apart from the universe it must be  non-physical or immaterial, if it was material then it would be part of the universe. This is confirmed in the Qur’an,

“There is nothing like unto Him,  and He is the Hearing, the Seeing” [Qur’an 42:11]

This cause must have the power  to create the universe, without  this ability nothing could be created. The Qur’an testifies to  God’s power,

“Certainly, God has power over all things.” [Qur’an 2:20]

This cause must have a will,  because it wouldn’t be able to  create the universe without one. What this means is that it must  have a will so the power to create  could be acted on. The Qur’an  refers to God as having a will in  many places, for instance,

“And God guides whom He wills  to a straight path.” [Qur’an  2:213]

In summary, we have concluded  what the Qur’an concluded over 1400 years ago, that a creator for the universe exists, that is one,  has a will, is powerful, uncaused, immaterial and eternal.

Quantum Physics Undermines the Argument

A common contention to the central argument made in this essay is that the assumption –  whatever begins to exist has a  cause – is false. This is due to the apparent observations in the  quantum vacuum that sub-atomic events behave spontaneously without any causes. In light of this common contention there are some good objections we can raise:

1. Firstly, the view that some  events just happen, also known as indeterminism, for no reason at  all is impossible to prove  conclusively. Our inability to identify a cause does not necessarily mean that there is no cause.

2. Secondly, there are deterministic perspectives adopted by physicists to explain these so-called spontaneous  sub-atomic events. For instance  in the 1950s David Bohm showed  there was an alternative formulation of quantum theory that is fully deterministic in its basic structure. [12] Commenting  on Bohm’s theory Polkinghorne explains,

“In Bohm’s theory there are  particles which are as unproblematically objective and deterministic in their behaviour as  Sir Isaac Newton himself might  have wished them to be. However, there is also a hidden wave, encoding information about the  whole environment. It is not itself directly observable, but it  influences in a subtle and highly sensitive manner the motions of  the particles in just such a way as  to induce the experimentally  observed probabilistic effects.” [13]

What this means is that the  apparent indeterminism present  at the quantum level can be  explained deterministically by  this hidden wave that produces  observed indeterministic or  probabilistic effects.

However, since these two  interpretations of quantum  theory are empirically equivalent  the choice between them will not be based on a scientific decision  but on a metaphysical one. This leads to the philosophical  objection to this contention.

3. Thirdly, from a philosophical  perspective it is extremely  difficult for these physicists (who adopt an indeterministic explanation of sub-atomic events) to justify their conclusions. This is because without the concept of  causality we will not have the mental framework to understand  our observations and experiences. In philosophical terms causality is a priori, which means knowledge we have independent of any experience. We know causality is true because we bring it to all our experience, rather than our experience bringing it to us. It is like wearing yellow-tinted glasses, everything looks yellow not because of anything out  there in the world, but because of the glasses through which we are looking at everything. Take the following example into consideration; imagine you are looking at the White House in Washington DC. Your eyes may wonder to the door, across the  pillars, then to the roof and finally over to the front lawn.  Now contrast this to another experience, you are on the river Thames in London and you see a boat floating past. What dictates the order in which you had these experiences? When you looked at the White House you had a choice to see the door first and then the pillars and so on. However, with the boat you had no choice as the front of the  boat was the first to appear.

The point to take here is that you  would not have been able to  make the distinction that some  experiences are ordered by  yourself and others are ordered  independently, unless we had the  concept of causality. In absence  of causality our experience would be very different from the way it  is. It would be a single sequence  of experiences only: one thing  after another. So to accept that sub-atomic events do not correspond with causality would  be tantamount of denying our own experience!


[1]  Derek Parfit, “Why Anything?  Why This?” London Review of  Books 20/2 (January 22, 1998),  page 24.

[2]  David Hilbert. On the Infinite,  in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed.  with an Intro. by P. Benacerraf and H. Putnam. Prentice-Hall. 1964, page151.

[3]  Aristotle, Physics 207b8 (available online here

[4]  P.C.W. Davies, “Space-time  Singularities in Cosmology,” in  The Study of Time III, ed. J. T. Fraser (Berlin: Springer Verlag,  1978), pages 78–79.

[5]  John Gribbin, In the  Beginning: The Birth of the  Living Universe (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993),  page  19.

[6]  Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in  One: The Search for Other  Universe. Hill and Wang. 2006,  page 176.

[7]  Paul Davies, “The Birth of the  Cosmos,” in God, Cosmos, Nature  and Creativity, ed. Jill Gready  (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic  Press, 1995), pages. 8-9.

[8]  P. J. Zwart, About Time  (Amsterdam and Oxford: North  Holland Publishing Co.,1976), pages 117-19

[9]  John Polkinghorne and  Nicholas Beale. Questions of  Truth. 2009, page 41

[10]  Stephen Hawking and  Leonard Mlodinow. The Grand  Design. 2011, page 180.

[11]  accessed 1 October 2011,  10:32AM.

[12]  See D. Bohm and B. J. Hiley. The Undivided Universe. Routledge, 1993.

[13] John Polkinghorne. Science and Religion in Quest of Truth. SPCK. 2011, page 39


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