Islamic Monotheism and Reason
The Islamic belief in God is predicated on absolute and total monotheism (Tawheed). There is One God (Creator), Who is the Creator of everything and absolutely does not need anything. Truth is rationally consistent, and the true belief in God is rationally consistent. Unlike false doctrines, which are plagued by logical inconsistencies, the Islamic belief in the Creator is free from any contradictions.
When the Muslim scholars encountered people of different religious and philosophical doctrines, they did not only refute those beliefs on the basis of Qur’anic Revelation or the Hadiths (Traditions) of the Prophet Muhammad. They also deconstructed those erroneous beliefs by the use of logic and reason. The same can be said of various pseudo-Islamic blasphemous factions that claimed to be Muslim.
Historically, some of the thinkers in the Christian West, at one point–because it’s contact with the works of Arab and Persian philosophers, as well as, genuine Sunni Muslim scholars, such as, Al-Ghazali, became interested in attempting to reconcile the Christian doctrine with reason. Thomas Aquinas is among the most famous of these Scholastic theologians. Try as he and others may, they could not formulate a rationally consistent Christian doctrine. That is so because the fundamental premise of Christian theology–that an originated being (Jesus) transformed into the Eternal Creator of the Universe–is inherently preposterous, for that which has a beginning cannot become beginningless.
Flustered, the Christian West eventually gave up on even trying to claim that reason can be used to “prove” the Christian doctrine. The Christians said, and as we hear even nowadays, one must just “have faith” in the “truth” of clear cut contradictions and absurdities. This eventually led to a schism in the West with the thinkers and intellectuals in one camp leaning toward atheism, and the people of (Christian) “faith” accepting and believing in a doctrine that inherently opposes itself.
In Islam, “Faith” (Imaan) and reason are harmonious. The light of reason is the means by which one understands the light of Divine Revelation. If one tries to restrict himself only to his intellect, he will be in the dark regarding numerous verities that are imperceptible to our dense physical senses. And if one attempts to read the Divine Revelation of the Qur’an without using reason, he will misconstrue Verses and fall into grave error.
Below is an outline with some commentary demonstrating the significance of reason in the Islamic doctrine.
THE RATIONAL JUDGMENTS
I. THE RATIONAL NECESSITY
The rational necessity refers to the Creator and the Creator’s attributes. The sound mind judges that this universe could not be beginningless, and it could not be “self-created.” We know that the universe could not be beginningless, for this would lead to an infinite regress, that is, an allegedly limitless amount of time preceding the present. The present, however, is the culmination (limit) of what has come before. That which is infinite does not have a limit. That is, if the universe were beginningless (as some claim), then it would require traversing infinity to reach the present–but infinity cannot be traversed.
As for claiming that the universe “created itself,” it, likewise, is an absurdity.
A thing must be to do. That which does not exist could not act or produce something. If the universe were non-existent, then it could not do anything. Furthermore, to claim that the universe “created itself,” would entail claim that the universe was originated before it existed, and started existing after it was already originated.
The sound mind recognizes that there must be a Creator. We are. The universe is. We certainly are not beginningless, and we could not have originated ourselves. The universe is not beginningless and could not have originated itself. The universe (of which we are a part) must have Creator.
Reason necessitates the recognition of the Creator Who has Perfect, Befitting Attributes, such as:
1. Oneness (Daleel At-Tamaanu`–The Proof of Mutual Exclusion): The sound mind recognizes that there can only be one Creator. If there were two (alleged) Creators, then they would both be attributed with Absolute Knowledge and Will and would have Perfect Power. This means that these two (alleged) Creators could potentially will for occurrences contrary to each other. We know, for instance, that the sun could not be rising in Dallas, TX and setting in Dallas at the same time. If one of these alleged Creators willed for the sun to rise, and the other willed for the sun to set (in Dallas), such an event could never occur. If the sun were rising, then the alleged creator who willed for the sun to set would be imperfect and would not have the power to execute it will. And similar would be the case if the sun were setting–and if the sun were doing neither, then both would be imperfect; hence, not having the Power to create, and not deserving of worship.
2. Eternality (Beginninglessness): The sound mind recognizes that the Creator must be without a beginning. That which has a beginning would itself be dependent upon the One Who originated it.
3. Transcendence (i.e., Absolute Freedom-From-Need): Since it is established that the Creator exists without a beginning and everything else exists with a beginning, then it is known that the Creator is not dependent upon any of the creations. Before light and darkness, distance and direction, space and time, there was a Creator. The Creator is not a spatial or temporal entity. From this, it is known that the Creator exists without being in a location, whether in all places, or our minds, or in the Heavens, or what is beyond them. The Creator exists without a place.
4. Incomparability: The Creator is ABSOLUTELY different from the creations. The Creator is Eternal and all else is originated. The Creator is not a material or spiritual entity. The Creator does not have an age, size, shape, or any other dimensions. The Creator is beyond what we can fathom with our imaginations.
5. Knowledge, Power, and Will: There are other Attributes that must necessarily be ascribed to the Creator, among them are, Knowledge, Will, and Power. The One Who creates must have knowledge of that which He* created. The Creator must have Will, that is the Attribute of specifying things to be the way they are, and the Creator must have Power over that which He created. [*The use of the grammatical masculine is a means of speech and does not imply that the Creator has an actual gender–the Creator is not a body and is not a male or a female.]
II. THE RATIONAL IMPOSSIBILITY
The rational impossibility is that which the mind does not accept its existence under any circumstances. Two of the basic principles of reasoning are the priniciple of non-contradiction and principle of definition. The latter pricinciple states that a thing cannot be contrary to its definition. You cannot, for instance, have a butterfly that is a hippopotamus. You cannot have a square that is a circle, and the daughter cannot give birth to her (own) mother. Such things cannot exist under any circumstances. The principle of non-contradiction states that a thing cannot both be and not be, in the same regard, at the same time. For example, a person cannot (literally) be sitting and standing simultaneously.
III. THE RATIONAL POSSIBILITY
The rational possibility is that which the sound mind accepts its potential existence at one time, and non-existence at another; this refers to the entire creation. The rational possibility is not restricted to just what we are familiar with. The extraordinary miraculous acts (mu`jizaat) of the Prophets, and the marvels (karamaat) performed by the ultra-righteous Muslims (awliyaa’) are certainly contrary to the normal course of events, but no one should deny the existence of such widely reported and documented occurrences on the basis of their personal lack of familiarity with them. Likewise, simply because something is beyond the perception of our material senses does not mean it does not exist. The information reported to us, for instance, from a trustworthy source (i.e., the Prophets) regarding the events of the Hereafter must be accepted being true.
The Power of the Creator is related to what could potentially exist and is not related to what is rationally impossible. To claim that the Creator’s Power is related to the rational impossibility leads to preposterous absurdities. For instance, some Christians object to Muslims for saying that it is not permissible to attribute fatherhood to the Creator. However, if the Christians took a moment to consider what such a claim entails, they could see the inherent contradictions of such a position. A “father,” by definition, is the one whose reproductive essence has produced an offspring. This entails divisibility and corporeality (being a body/spatial entity), as well as, change. We know that divisibility and corporeality cannot be ascribed to the Creator, because that which divides (or is corporeal) must be a spatial entity of some sort. The Creator originated space. The Creator existed before space without occupying space, and after originating space, the Creator did not transform and then materialize in a space.
As for change and fatherhood, there would necessarily be a state prior to the separation (of reproductive essence) taking place and a state after the separation. This would involve change. The Creator, on the other hand, is Perfect and not a temporal entity. The One Who is not subject to time does not develop and does not change. Hence, the Creator does not become a “father.”
If one were to accept one rational absurdity about the Creator, then there is no compelling reason not to accept others. For instance, we know from the aforementioned that reason rejects that a baby could become the Eternal Creator of the Universe. (That which is originated can’t become beginningless.) Jesus was born; he came forth from his virtuous mother’s womb; he was composed of flesh and blood and a soul; he was an infant; he nursed. He walked upon the earth and ate and drank and slept. These are not the attributes of the Eternal Creator–but rather, these are the attributes of an originated being. However, if one accepts for originated attributes to be ascribed to the Creator–or God’s Attributes to be ascribed to a creation–then one would have to accept the possibility that that a creation could become superior to the Creator, and that this creation could come to dominate or annihilate its Maker. Again, accepting one absurdity about the Creator necessarily leads to accepting a multitude of blasphemous absurdities about the Creator.
It is also important to note that the causes do not create the results. Indeed, we can through observation recognize a customary correlation between events (e.g., when fire is placed to dry wood, the wood burns); however, the creations do not specify themselves with their own properties (wood does not make itself flammable, and fire does not give itself the property to burn wood). The particles that constitute this universe did not give themselves their own properties (they also did not, of course, originate their own existence), and then agree to arrange themselves with other particles to produce a mind-boggling array of complex systems. Consciousness, for instance, did not give itself consciousness. All that we see of this universe–and what we don’t see–must have a Creator, Who is One, without a partner or peer, and without want or need.
The true belief in the Creator is between the extremes of negation and comparison. That is, one should not negate the Creator’s existence because when we observe the world we don’t see the Creator. And at the same time, while affirming the Creator’s Existence, we should not think that the Creator is comparable–in one way or another–to what we see amongst the creations. Instead, we use our intellects to recognize that there must be a Creator for this universe, while at the same time being certain that the Creator is totally different from everything of this universe. The Creator of all objects, images, and forms is not an object or an image or a form. The Creator does not resemble the creation. This balanced view regarding the Creator is in keeping with the saying of the Prophet Muhammad:
“You [The Creator] are Adh-Dhaahir [The One Whose existence is evident by the existence of the creations] and there is nothing above You. And You are Al-Baatin [The One Who cannot be fathomed by the mind] and there is nothing below You.”
In the Arabic language, the Name of the Creator is “Allah.” And it is Allah alone whom Muslims worship. For one to embrace Islam, one says:
I bear witness nothing is worthy of worship except Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.
This is the key to our success and our salvation.