A QUR’ĀN-BASED ARGUMENT FOR GOD: Insights from Javed Ahmad Ghamidi

A QUR’ĀN-BASED ARGUMENT FOR GOD: Insights from Javed Ahmad Ghamidi


Have they come into being without any agent, or are they their own creators? Or have they created the heavens and the earth? Nay, they do not have conviction (for they are blinded by doubt)![i] (Qur'ān 52:35-36)

Our eyes, ears, tongue, brain, intellect, limbs, heart-beat, respiration, due proportion, and so on, all carry a strong impression of being carefully created. Since the creator is not found within ourselves, we are compelled to look for an external creator. This, so to speak, intuitive reasoning is so spontaneous that we need not consciously develop any logical argument for it. The same affirmation of the creator takes place as we perceive the external world, since it, too, gives a strong impression of being meticulously made.[ii] This naturally leads us to one of our most basic inquiries: who is our creator? Its answer, passed down to us as a common heritage of humankind, is God. Because this answer satisfies our intuition and common sense, we feel predisposed to embrace it without hesitation [1][2].

The Qur'ān (2:34-37, 2:213, and 16:36) informs that the concept of God has become our heritage because God was an empirical reality for our earliest ancestors; thus, starting from them, the knowledge of His existence has been handed down to us generation after generation, as a collective oral tradition. Mankind, therefore, had one religion to begin with but, with time, there arose disputes about the attributes and will of God[iii]. Thereupon, God initiated the institution of prophethood. From among each nation,He selected the finest individuals as prophets and, once again, revealed Himself and His plan to them. Thus, these prophets, too, bore witness to the existence of one transcendent God, His true attributes, and the Last Day [2]. Consequently, the mass-transmission of the knowledge of God was reinforced, such that at no time or place did humankind ever remain deprived of it.

Unlike the flat or the young-earth hypothesis, spontaneous creation of man, and other myths handed down to us, we have no reason to reject the concept of God. Quite the opposite, it satisfies our intellect and is corroborated by empirical evidence: Advancements in science and technology has made it ever so clear that the awe-inspiring dispositions (powers) of matter and energy are not self-explanatory. The unfolding of these powers has shaped a universe exhibiting thorough planning, diligence, deep wisdom, meaning, beneficence[iv], beauty, harmony, mathematical order, control, self-sustainment, and so on. All this is impossible without knowledge, wisdom, will, and volition, but matter and energy are void of these.Hence, the universe ought to have an external mind behind it – the mind of an all-wise and all-powerful creator[1][2].[v] The Qur'ān (88:17-23 and 2:163-164, respectively)says:

Then, do they not look at the camels – how they are created? And at the sky – how it is raised? And at the mountains – how they arerooted and fixed firm? And at the earth – how it is spread out (under their feet)? So, remind (O Muḥammad)! Your duty is only to remind, not to force them (to believe).[vi]

Your God is one God, there is no god but He; the All-Merciful, the Ever-Affectionate. In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the ships that sail the seas with goods for people; in the water which God sends down from the sky to give life to the earth after it has become barren, scattering all kinds of creatures over it; in the changing of the winds and clouds that run their appointed courses between the sky and the earth: there are signs in all these for those who use their intellect.

Earlier, we have mentioned that prophets were sent to bear witness to the existence of God and warn people of the Judgement Day. To back their claims, they presented such arguments and evidence that their people were left with no reason to dispute them on rational grounds. A record thereof – some of which we present here – can be found in the Qur'ān, the Scriptures, and the Ḥadīth, which contains much light for a seeker.

All this was sufficient to establish the existence of God. To eradicate all doubts, however, God elevated some of His prophets (anbiyā') to the status of messengers (rusul).[vii] Each messenger warned his people that God had decreed to directly interfere in this world and deal with them according to their moral conduct. The righteous among them would be blessed with honour, prosperity, and political power, whereas the wicked would be disgraced and severely punished.[viii] Mostly, only a minority paid heed and fulfilled the moral commandments of God, whereas a vast majority – with enormous resources, military, and civil authority – mocked this message. However, after each messenger delivered the truth with such arguments and evidence that his people were left with no excuse to deny it, the prophesiedpunishment – no matter how improbable it seemed – came to pass and, in most cases, utterly destroyed the deniers. On the other hand, each messenger and his companions – no matter how few, weak, or oppressed – were bestowed with the promised honour, salvation, and authority in the land [1][2]:

Have the accounts of your predecessors not reached you:the people of Noah, the 'Ād, and the Thamud, and those who came after them – they who are not known to any except God?Their messengers came to them with clear signs, but they placed their hands on their mouths and said, 'We reject the message with which you have been sent and have baffling doubts about that you are calling us to.' Their messengers said, 'Can there be any doubt about God, the creator of the heavens and the earth?He calls you so that He may forgive you your sins and grant you respite till an appointed time.' They replied, 'You are only a human being like us. You wish to stop us from worshipping the deities our forefathers have been worshipping; bring us, therefore, a clear miracle.' Their messengers replied, 'We are indeed but mortals like you. Yet, God bestows His favour onwhichever of His servants He chooses, and it does not lie in our power to produce any miracle except by the leave of God…'At last, these rejecters told their messengers, 'Return to our religion or we shall banish you from our land.' Thereupon, their Lord revealed to them, 'We will destroy these wrongdoers and then give you this land to dwell after them. [These are glad tidings for] those who are fearful of standing before Me and those who fear My warning.' (Qur'ān14:9-14)

The Qur'ān (54:9-45) tells that God set up numerous such miniature days of judgement throughout human history and, thereby, empirically established the basic claim of religion, i.e., the existence of God and the advent of the Last Day. The last of such miniature judgements took place on the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century AD, when the last messenger of GodMuḥammad (ﷺ) came to this world. This event, with its details laid bare before our eyes, invites us all to witness God through the pages of established history.

The Qur'ān (7:172-74) narrates that, in the spiritual realm, God gathered the entire humankind and asked, 'Am I not your [Creator and] Sustainer?' all unequivocally replied, 'Verily, you are! We bear witness to this.'[ix] Nonetheless, in this worldly life, man sometimes refuses to acknowledge God. This is mere obstinacy. Thus,on the one hand, he denies the existence of God but, on the other, he remains eager within his scope of knowledge to seek an actor for every action; a planner for every plan; a character for every characteristic; an effecter for every effect; and a knowledgeable, wise organiser for every organised system.All the knowledge he has acquired is a product of such pursuance. This is how the actions of such a person belie him and fully unveil the obstinacy behind his denial of God [3].

Here, one may argue that this is not always the case. For example, the Atheist-Darwinists do not seek any wise organiser for the organisation present in a living cell; instead, it is attributed to 'chance' and 'blind, random, purposeless, and unguided' processes working over long periods of time. This, in fact, is the very contradiction we intend to point out here. Nowhere else in their lives would they be intellectually satisfied without finding an actor for even a simple action[x], let alone such a marvellous unit of life. The Oxford mathematician John Lennox reminds, 'Carl Sagan thoughtthat a single message from space would be enough to convince us that there were intelligences in the universe other than our own.'[4, p. 175]However, when it comes to inherent powers of matter – enabling it to evolve into numerous awe-inspiring entities (like the cell with semantic information) and to bring about spectacular phenomena, like mathematical laws of nature[xi] – they are conveniently explained away as 'by chance'. What can be more unacademic than this? It implies that not even a decent hypothesis is there to put forward against the idea of God [2][3].[xii]

'But, then,' it is asked,'who created the Creator?' This is a secondary question, with no bearing on the question at hand, i.e., if the universe is self-explanatory or points to a mind behind it [1]. A chair from its very being necessitates a carpenter, whether or not the carpenter himself is created. If upon meeting God, He happens to be created, not self-explanatory, then we shall look for His creator too, but how can we evade an immediate question because of the one that has not even arisen yet?

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Selina Köhr and Razi Allah Lone for their useful comments and suggestions. – J.H.

References

[1] J. A. Ghamidi, "Ghamidi: Wujud-i-Bārī kae Dalāil (Episodes: 4)," Geo Television Network, Pakistan, 2006.

[2] J. A. Ghamidi, " 'Ilm-o-Hikmat: Ghamidi kae Sāth: Arguments for God (Episodes: 3)," Dunya News, Pakistan, 2016.

[3] J. A. Ghamidi, "Unassailable Knowledge," in Selected Essays of Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2015, pp. 343–352.

[4] J. Lennox, God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?, 2nd ed. Oxford: Lion Books, 2009.

[5] J. A. Ghamidi, Al-Bayān. Lahore: Al-Mawrid.

[6] R. Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.

[7] John C. Lennox and Richard Dawkins, "Has Science Buried God?" Debate. Oxford Museum of Natural History, the UK: Fixed Point Foundation, 2008.

[8] J. Lennox, God and Stephen Hawking; Whose Design is it Anyway? Oxford: Lion Books, 2011.

[9] I. Douven, "Abduction," The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2017.

[10] C. Sagan, "Extraterrestrial Intelligence: An International Petition," Science, vol. 218, no. 4571, p. 426, 1982.

[11] "Breakthrough Initiatives," 2017. [Online]. Available: https://breakthroughinitiatives.org/About. [Accessed: 11-Nov-2017].

[12] J. A. Ghamidi, Mīzān, 11th ed. Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2018.

[13] A. A. Islahi, "Ḥaqīqat-i Shirk-o Tawḥīd," 2nd ed., Lahore: Faran Foundation, 2007, pp. 211–231.

[14] E. Andrews, Who Made God? Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2012.

[15] S. Mumford, Laws in Nature. Oxford: Routledge, 2004.

Further Reading

J. A. Ghamidi, Mīzān, 11th ed. Lahore: Al-Mawrid, 2018, pp. 85-200.

[i] Originally, the Qur'ān put these questions to the Meccan Polytheists, who believed in God but denied the Hereafter. The implication is that if they believed in God, they also had to believe in the Judgement Day because that is a necessary consequence of a just, wise, omniscient and omnipotent Creator [5, vol. 4, 2014, p. 58]. These questions, however, are so fundamental, natural, and universal that all of us can be their addressees, especially those who deny the existence of God.

[ii] Our creatureliness and that of the universe is so obvious that, owing to it, one of the 'Four Horsemen of New Atheism', Richard Dawkins, 'could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin's Origin of Species was published.' [6, p. 10]He refers to it with terms like 'apparent design' and asserts that, eventually, we had to give up the idea of a purposeful designer as the theory of evolution came along and explained the biological world's design (We will come to this point later). However, elsewhere he expressed that we could have 'a serious discussion' about and 'make a reasonably respectable case' for a deistic creator, 'who devised the laws of physics, god the mathematician, god who put together the cosmos in the first place and then sat back and watched everything happen.' [7]This shows that there can hardly be any disagreement, if at all, as to the creatureliness or design of the universe and need for its explanation. Religion attributes it to a mindful external creator but atheism assumes the mindless universe to be its own creator – an assertion which not only lacks any evidence but, even worse, is self-contradictory (See [8, pp. 29–46]).

[iii] An example thereof is polytheism: When some misfortune strikes, monotheistic religion teaches us to be patient and invoke God alone. Thus, we see that monotheists do invoke God to start with, but as their trial prolongs, desperation comes in, making them look elsewhere. The same happened to our primitive ancestors: when their prayers were not fulfilled in their adversities, they invoked angels with the anticipation that they would intercede for them with God. Thus, misuse of the concept of angels in monotheistic religion produced polytheism. For this reason, the study of pure polytheistic traditions reveals the concept of one Sky God therein, held together with the worship of idols and depictions of angels, angel-like creatures, or jinns [2].

[iv] However, we also find bloodshed, disease, genetic disorders, pain, distress, natural disasters, and other such apparent evils in the world. The Qur'ān elucidates that such things seem evil because of man's limited knowledge and perspective (See, for example, 18:60-82 and 2:216). God is all-good, and everything He does or allows to happen has a good purpose behind it. Consider a mother forcibly waking her little girl every day before sunrise and pushing her out of the house in bitter cold. It may seem evil to the little girl; however, when she would realise the importance of school with age, she would eventually acknowledge it as an act of care, wisdom, and dutifulness. Similarly, although we cannot yet make sense of everything that happens, we must not lose our trust, hope, and faith in God. He deserves to be thought about positively because of His countless blessings upon us, myriad good things He has created, and all the good purposes He has revealed (or we have discovered) behind the ups and downs of this world.

[v] Here, we have inferred the existence of God to explain the existence of the universe. Such an inference to the most likely or best explanation of some observation(s) is formally called 'abductive reasoning'or'abduction'. Abduction is ubiquitous in all fields of study, including science. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states, 'Philosophers of science have argued that abduction is a cornerstone of scientific methodology; see, for instance, Boyd 1981, 1984, Harré 1986, 1988, Lipton 1991, 2004, and Psillos 1999. According to Timothy Williamson (2007), "[t]he abductive methodology is the best science provides" and Ernan McMullin (1992) even goes so far to call abduction "the inference that makes science."' [9]An example of abductive reasoning is the theory of evolution, wherein common descent is inferred as the most likely explanation of available data (showing variation within species; homologous structures among species; and similar or, sometimes, identical genes across species etc). Another example is the discovery of sub-atomic particles, whose existence cannot be directly perceived but inferred from their effects. Yet another interesting example is the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI), wherein radio signals are monitored from the outer space for semantic messages. The underlying idea here is based on abductive reasoning that if such a message is received or intercepted, it would be indicative of other intelligent beings in the universe. In 1982, a petition from Carl Sagan advocating SETI was published in one of the most prestigious scientific journals, Science [10]. The petition was signed by 68 scientists, with seven Nobel Prize winners among them. Since then, many expensive projects have been undertaken and much collective effort is dedicated to SETI. Recently, a Stephen Hawking-backed programme, 'Breakthrough Initiatives', is launched for this purpose with $100 million cash investment [11]. One project of the programme, 'Breakthrough Listen', is dedicated to probe over one million stars for radio or laser signals in anticipation of intelligent life.

[vi] Here, too, the Meccan Polytheists are the primary addressees. The aim is to establish the advent of the Judgement Day by reminding them of the extraordinary providence, wisdom, power, and control of God [5, vol. 4, 2014, pp. 442–446].

[vii] A prophet is he who, upon receiving divine revelation, preaches God's will to his people and proclaims that those who would live by it shall have a good fate in the Hereafter, whereas those who would deviate from it shall have to face its consequences on the Judgement Day. In contrast, a messenger is a prophet who, in addition, warns his people of a miniature judgement awaiting them right in this world [12, pp. 71-72].

[viii] This is a recurrent topic in the Qur'ān; see, for example, 10:47, 24:55, 58:20-21, 61:8-9, and Chapter 54. For a detailed discussion, see[12, pp. 534–552].

[ix] God has erased this vow from our memories and has also kept Himself invisible in the wake of His grand scheme. As per this scheme, this world is created as a temporary place of trial to select individuals for the forthcoming eternal world(Qur'ān 67:2). Only those will be selected therefor who listen to their conscience, let evidence lead them to truth, and adhere to good moral conduct despite having a choice to do the opposite (Qur'ān 4:135, 103, 2:256, and 76:3). But our free will would have been subdued and real attitude towards evidence could never come to the surface if God were perceivable or such vows, made in the presence of God, persisted in our memories. Nonetheless, the Qur'ān insists that this vow will be used against all deniers of God and polytheists on the Judgement Day. That is because, even if God is not visible, the awareness of our creatureliness and that of the universe is deeply ingrained in our nature as a constant reminder of a creator. 'A creator' not 'creators' because our nature is monotheistic, predisposing our minds to the idea of one Supreme Being. This predisposition is so strong that even among many gods of polytheistic mythologies, the greatest is always only one. (See [5, vol. 2, 2015, pp. 340–343]and [13].)

[x] For example, for actions like theft, murder, or even a few symbols found on a cave's wall. One may argue that the human agency or mind is sought here simply because these are empirically known actions of intelligent beings. Let us use the same argument to analyse, for example, DNA of the cell. Each DNA molecule contains complex specified information – a feature not simply analogous but identical to language.Since the only source of any language is intelligence, we are compelled to infer a mind behind DNA [4, pp. 135–192][14].

Note that we are not proposing a 'god of the gaps' here, i.e., a god postulated because we cannot explain how DNA or RNA originated, and who would perish as soon as our scientific research will fill this knowledge gap. Firstly, the explanation or, rather, description of mechanisms through which DNA came about is one thing and the explanation of the whole show of life is quite another, i.e., the ability of matter to transform into chemical elements, DNA, ribosomes, proteins, a functional cell and, then, evolve into higher animals with brains capable of appreciating this whole show. This complete story of life – with information (genetic code) lying at the heart of it as an obvious indicator – requires a metaphysical explanation, irrespective of any scientific descriptions. Secondly, this inference is based not on ignorance (gap), but on knowledge of DNA gained through scientific research. (For details, see [4, pp. 31–46 and 174–192].)

Also, note that the same abductive inference – namely from semantic information to an intelligent source – is central to SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence), backed by Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and other prominent scientists (See footnote 5). Now, suppose if one of the dedicated radio-telescopes receives a book like Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' (any genome, at least, is as information-rich), should that be dismissed as no evidence for the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence and labelled 'alien of the gaps' [4]? After all, what's good for the goose is good for the gander!

[xi] Some eminent physicists believe that laws existed when there was nothing and brought into existence the universe and all we have herein. This idea is based on misconception of laws. Laws of nature are nothing but descriptions of how entities in the universe are predisposed to behave in a certain, consistent manner because of their inherent causal powers(See [15]). Since causal powers are dispositions or properties, there is no question of them without a prior existence of matter, energy and/or space.

[xii] In his book 'The Blind Watchmaker', Dawkins argues that the 'apparent design' in the biological world can be fully explained by the theory of evolution, rendering any purposeful designer irrelevant or redundant. Again, Lennox can help us get rid of this myth: Firstly, this thesis commits a 'category mistake' in that it confuses two different levels of explanation, i.e., God (an agent) and evolution (a mechanism). The mechanism of, say, assemblage of cars in some automated car-plant can be explained solely in scientific terms. However, it does not make the other level of explanation of the plant redundant, namely that it is there because some intelligent minds carefully set it up and are constantly supervising it. Both these complementary explanations are necessary to give a holistic explanation of the plant. 'It is the same with explanations of the universe,' writes Lennox. 'God does not conflict or compete with the laws of physics (or evolution) as an explanation. God is actually the ground of all explanation, in the sense that he is the cause in the first place of there being a world for the laws of physics to describe… Offering people the choice between God and science is therefore illogical.' ([8, p. 37]; parentheses mine.) Secondly, numerous pre-requisites for evolution – such as the inherent potential of matter or laws of physics – are taken for granted in such narratives which, as we have discussed, clearly indicate the involvement of an intelligent source. There is no alternative explanation for these, except blind chance. Thirdly, it is pseudoscience anyway to claim that 'natural selection… is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life.' [6, p. 9]Natural selection does not explain the existence of life; rather, life (a mutating replicator, at least) must first exist for any selection to take place. Also, if the available evidence is not extrapolated, it suggests that mutation and natural selection only explain some of biological world's observations, by far not all of life's complexity. (For details, see [4, pp. 44-46, 69-77, and 86-134].)