Thursday, 20 November 2014

What Should be Our Attitude to Ideas Like Positivism and Rationalism?

by Fethullah Gülen   

Much has been said on the issue of information sources. Some of the people who have commented on this issue have sometimes been restricted by their knowledge and/or faith, thus they have vocalized different opinions.
According to the Islamic perspective, there are three types of information sources:
Knowledge obtained through the five senses or relating to these senses. These include, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. For example, something that is seen is there, and something that is felt through touching exists.
According to the trend which accepts only this source of information, anything beyond the perception of these senses cannot be a subject of knowledge. This positivist trend has lost its influence over recent decades; however it was widely popular at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The second source of information is the mind. When the "mind" is mentioned, an unbiased decision making entity, capable of evaluating matter within its pure form, and competent of making an objective decision is implied. The importance of a non degenerate, unbiased, non oppressed, functional mind is undeniable for information. In the modern world, rationalism is the representative of this tendency. Since its emergence, Rationalism has always advocated the "mind" as the only source of information. However, even rationalism is not sufficient to achieve true knowledge.
Another source of information is "authentic narration." Authentic narration should be understood in two ways. Firstly, it is knowledge that has been transmitted by a number of different people and accepted as true. For example, a narration about a continent or a country to which one has never been is an authentic narration. To illustrate further, for a person who has never visited the continents of Australia or America, any accurate information, or first hand information, obtained is of this type. It is possible that we may not have visited or seen these places, however millions of people live on these continents and hundreds of thousands of people visit these continents every year. The information gathered from these people is so powerful and trustworthy that anyone who has not seen these places cannot doubt their existence.
Secondly, authentic narration can also be considered to be that of "Divine Revelation." In other words, this would consist of the Divine Books revealed to the messengers by God Almighty, where the revelations were brought by the Archangel Gabriel.
In order to discover the wonders of the universe and to achieve a better and more accurate knowledge with our five senses and mind, we must make evaluations under the light and wisdom of Divine revelations. Only when manipulated to work under these principles will science be able to accomplish its task of producing the fruit that it should.
Human beings are not capable of seeing or hearing everything that exists, and thus they are not capable of knowing everything that exists. The mind cannot comprehend everything that exists. There are so many things that exist but which are not sensed through our senses or understood by our minds, or even, if the mind does understand them, can never be sensed or reached. Hence, the human being can only learn these facts through the teachings of a Divine Being whose knowledge, power, and will surround everything. We can only learn the things He knows to the extent that He teaches us in His Divine Books; in this way we become knowledgeable of those matters.
Otherwise, partial falsification or incorrect interpretations of the Divine Books is inevitable. Moreover, if only the senses and experience will be the basis of information, then one will be forced to say "I do not believe in anything other than what I see, hear. . ." This is tantamount to rebelling against everything that the mind puts forward. In fact, if only sensory information is taken as the basis of knowledge, then people will be forced to search for compatibility between their deduced knowledge and the universe that is created by God Almighty. In such a system, whatever facts agreed with their theorems would be true, anything else would be false. However, as God says in the Qur'an: We did not take the human beings as witnesses to the creation of the Heavens and the Earth (Kahf 18:51). When the Divine revelation is not taken into consideration, every explanation is no more than a theorem or a guess.
Unfortunately, because only the first two types of sources were accepted, many Divine Revelations were rejected. With the progress of science, their validity has once again been proved. For example, the stages of an embryo in the mother's womb have been well defined. When Omar Khayyam, who was an extreme rationalist, was asked about these verses, his response was to comment against the Qur'anic truth by commenting that the verses were not meant literally. Some other scholars thought that a person can only have faith in the resurrection, as it cannot be understood by the mind; however, Said Nursi has explained it with a simple analogy. The resurrection is like the spring that follows the winter. We do not have any actual sensory knowledge that this will happen, we know from observation and reasoning that the spring will come. Since some people only trust in the two types of sources, they had to twist what they read in the Divine Book, even the fundamentals of faith. For example, through the influence of philosophy, Farabi and Ibn Rushd, even though they were geniuses of their time, considered the Divine Revelations and the prophethood as being human made concepts.
Some thought that philosophers were higher in status than the Messengers of God. The All Knowing God was aware of how the Messengers would perform their duty of conveying the message; i.e. with an extraordinarily superior performance. This is why they were given the prophethood in advance; yet philosophers could not see this fine nuance. Moreover, it can be concluded that philosophers are only translating what Aristotle had earlier said to suit their time.
If the Islamic World is considered as a whole, it can be seen that not everybody fell into these traps. Zahrawi, Ali Kuşçu, Jalaladdin Dawwani, Gelenbevi and many others, did not fall into these traps; they were very religious, and they were very influential in their times. People like Molla Husrev and Khwarizmi, with their work in sciences that led their fields of study for many centuries, even in the West, were still able to maintain their faith without experiencing any conflict and lived for the most part as religious, pious people.
In conclusion, it would be proper to say that all sources of information must be handled together if one is to achieve an end result. Discriminating between these information sources and taking them discretely will open up pitfalls for humanity. The same pitfalls will continue to open if the same mistakes are repeated. Humanity will have to say "True" to those things it claimed as "False" the day before. However, using the Divine Revelations as the foundations of knowledge, and surrounding and framing them with the information attained from the senses and mind is the only path that will lead us in a true direction. 

The Kalami argument for the Existence of God

As Salamu Al 'ala man itaba'a Al-Houda

Peace be Upon All those who seek guidance, Peace be Upon the Messenger of Allah his noble Household and Companions.

To start off the Islamic argument for the Existence of God is one of the better known and respected arguments in scientific & philosophical circles.

Dr James Watson he American molecular biologist, best known as one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, wrote in an article about Islamic theology the following:

The kalām Cosmological Argument, is one of the better-respected arguments for the existence of God. Because its validity is not controversial, because it aligns with the most prominent scientific theories of the universe, and because it agrees with general philosophical insight concerning properties of infinities, it is one of the more interesting pieces of religious philosophy. It can be stated as follows:
(1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause of existence.

(2) The universe began to exist:

(2.1) Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite:
(2.11) An actual infinite cannot exist.
(2.12) An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
(2.13) Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
(2.2) Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition:
(2.21) A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
(2.22) The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
(2.23) Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.

(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Infinite Regress

Inshallah we will continue with the Islamic argument for the existence of God. Unfortunately the first few posts will be complicated bringing many advanced philosophical and scientific arguments. As the post advances though we are hopeful that we can also provide easier proofs for the layman to understand as well inshallah.

Some have objected to the KCA (Kalam Cosmological Argument) such as J. L. Mackie and Graham Oppy but we will inshallah examine their argument and respond by using the research paper by Dr. James Watson.
Objections to the Kalām Cosmological Argument

J. L. Mackie criticizes the kalām argument (KCA from here on) in his posthumous The Miracle of Theism[10]. Beginning with (2.2), Mackie says KCA proponents show a prejudice against actual infinities. In the medieval versions, this argument addressed the impossibility of traversing an actual infinite. “Since an infinite distance cannot be crossed, if the past were infinite, then today would never arrive. But this is obviously absurd, since today has arrived.[11]”

Mackie claims that the arguers make the unwarranted assumption that the universe had an infinitely distant starting point and then claims that it is impossible to traverse that infinite. But, in taking infinity seriously, there would be no starting point at all – not even an infinitely distant one. So any point in past time is only finitely far from the present.

Addressing (2.1), Mackie says that transfinite mathematics refute the premise that an actual infinity cannot exist. Just because properties differ from infinite sets to finite ones does not entail any contradiction or absurdity with regard to the actualization of those infinities.
…our normal criteria for smaller than and equal to fail to be mutually exclusive for infinite groups. For finite groups to be smaller than means that the members of one group can be correlated one to one with a proper part of another group; to be equal to means that the members of the two groups can be exactly matched in a one to one correlation. These two criteria are mutually exclusive for all finite groups, but not for infinite groups. Once we understand this relation between the two criteria, we see that there is no real contradiction.[12]
Mackie further rejects on the grounds that there is no a priori reason to accept it. Craig quotes: “…there is a priori no good reason why a sheer origination of things, not determined by anything, should be unacceptable, whereas the existence of a god [sic] with the power to create something out of nothing is acceptable.[13]” Mackie claims that, despite the fact that astronomy and physics support a finite past for the universe, given Cantorian formulations with infinite numbers and that there are, a priori, no good reasons to accept, the KCA is a flawed argument.

Graham Oppy agrees with Mackie and claims that the KCA is full of unwarranted assumptions[14]. Proponents of the KCA generally accept the validity of transfinite mathematics, but they also ask whether it is possible for these infinities to be instantiated in the actual world. Oppy admits that he does not understand exactly what is meant by this question. The logical possibility of infinities referred to in transfinite math entails their possibility in some possible world. So what is the question meant to address? Oppy offers three ways of interpreting the question,
One suggestion is that the question is whether there are any infinities in the actual world. Another suggestion is that the question is whether it is possible for there to be any infinities in the actual world. And a third suggestion is that the question is whether it is possible for there to be any infinities in any world.[15]
Oppy takes the third suggestion to be out of the question since proponents of the KCA accept the logical consistency of transfinite infinities. The KCA takes it for granted that the first suggestion is not true, stating it without argument. Oppy concedes for the sake of argument, but points out that Mackie does not.[16]

Therefore, Oppy says a stalemate exists between those who accept the existence of actual infinities, like Mackie, and those who do not.

In considering the second suggestion, Oppy says, “in order to distinguish this claim from the third suggestion, it seems that we shall need to interpret it to be asking whether the existence of infinities is compatible with the actual laws of physics…”[17] But since this ceases to be an a priori question and thus an a posteriori one, and since “we do not yet know what are the laws of nature,”[18] we are in no position to judge the question.

Oppy finds the arguments for (2.2) much more interesting. Oppy does not seem to agree with Mackie’s claim that KCA proponents misunderstand infinities by claiming an infinitely distant starting point. Proponents have clarified that the KCA refers to sets of the type *ω, when referring to the past regress of an infinite amount of time. William Lane Craig explains,
For in this case the past would be like the second version of Zeno’s Dichotomy paradox, in which Achilles to reach a certain point must have traveled across an infinite series of intervals from the beginningless and open end, with this exception: in the case of the past, unlike the case of the stadium, the intervals are actual and equal. The fact that there is no beginning at all, not even an infinitely distant one makes the difficulty worse, not better… For the past to have been ‘traversed’, would be equivalent to saying someone has just succeeded in enumerating all the negative numbers ending at 0. But this seems to be inconceivable; as G. J. Whitrow urges, a collection of order type *ω is simply not constructible.[19]
But Oppy says that this is merely one way to construe a beginningless set. He gives a prima facie tip-o-the-hat to the idea that *ω sets cannot be constructed. But goes on to say that there are other types of beginningless sets that admit of some ability to be traversed. For example, {1, 2, 3,…3, 2, 1}. Given other forms of consistent, beginningless sets the second sub-argument is unsound.

However, since this new set has a starting point we must examine the case further. If we simply raise the objection based on this set, it would only prove that, whether time was infinite or finite, it would have a starting point; but this is what the KCA wants to prove. The KCA needs a starting point because a beginningless set, one that has no first member, cannot be traversed. Oppy claims this is tautologous. “But what does this mean? Well, as far as I can see, it means that it is a legitimate objection to infinities which have no first member that they have no first member!”[20] He says that it is no argument against the actualization of infinities that they have no first member, but merely more prejudice against actual infinities. “Once we grant…that Cantorian set theory reveals that worlds with actual infinities are logically possible, there can be no good a priori argument against actual infinite temporal sequences.”[21]
Support for the Kalām Argument

William Lane Craig is one of the staunchest supporters of the KCA and rebuts Oppy’s claims of prejudice and unwarranted assumptions in a series of articles. Craig does not feel that Oppy has accomplished anything toward supporting Mackie’s objections. That Cantorian set theory is logically consistent does not imply that it is possible in some worlds. There is a subtle distinction that Oppy fails to address:
But how does Cantorian set theory show that there are possible worlds in which there are actual infinites? And even if there are, how does that show that an actual infinite is ontologically possible? The issues involved here are more subtle than Oppy seems to realize. He states, "[Craig] concedes that infinite set theory is a logically consistent system; consequently, it seems that he concedes that there are logically possible worlds in which various 'infinites' obtain." But it is by no means obvious that this second alleged concession follows from the first. The validity of this inference depends on how broadly one construes the logical modality involved in one's possible world semantics.[22]
According to Craig, Oppy fails to take into account the distinction between ‘strictly’ logical and ‘broadly’ logical. To say that a system’s logical consistency in first-order logic indicates that it is true in some possible world is to construe the system much more broadly than is normally considered in possible world semantics. Alvin Plantinga, in The Nature of Necessity, provides some background on modal construal.

Plantinga explains,
…Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s being more than seven feet tall is a state of affairs, as is Spiro Agnew’s being President of Yale University. Although each of these is a state of affairs, the former but not the latter obtains, or is actual. And although the latter is not actual, it is a possible state of affairs; in this regard it differs from David’s having traveled faster than the speed of light and Paul’s having squared the circle. The former of these last two items is causally or naturally impossible; the latter is impossible in that broadly logical sense.

A possible world, then, is a possible state of affairs—one that is possible in the broadly logical sense. But not every possible state of affairs is a possible world.[23]
And, also important to the distinction,

Objects or individuals exist in possible worlds, some like Socrates existing in only some but not all possible worlds, and others, like the number seven, existing in every world. To say that an object x exists in a world W is to say that if W had been actual, x would have existed; more exactly, x exists in W if it is impossible that W obtain and x fail to exist.[24]

Notice that it is “objects or individuals” that exist in possible worlds. Given these distinctions, actual infinities and properties of transfinite math do not necessarily exist in some possible world. Their independent coherence determines that. ‘Socrates’ and ‘Spiro Agnew’ are independently coherent objects described in a situation as possible or impossible, but with a symbol or a vague term it is unclear how to determine possibility without reverting to mere definitions. To attribute properties to a symbol and place it in a situation where contradictions between the properties and the situation cannot be derived is to create the possibility of instantiation. Despite the fact that infinities are capable of being introduced in complex theories and attributed properties that limit their functions (such as subtraction and division in cardinal arithmetic), it is the individuals themselves, the infinities, that are defined in such a way as to reject instantiation, not the consistent mathematical systems. Transfinite arithmetic is not an ontological argument for infinities. For Oppy to rely on transfinite arithmetic in support of the possibility of an actual infinity is to miss the point of what is required for modal instantiation.

Craig points out that Plantinga has criticized Mackie on just this point. “…for the resources of first order logic do not permit us to deduce a contradiction from propositions like ‘2+1=7’ or ‘Some prime numbers weigh more than Jackie Gleason,’ but we should not regard such propositions as therefore possible.”[25]

‘Broadly logical modality’ typically indicates a concept of possibility that is “narrower than that of strictly logical possibility (which characterizes a proposition just in case it is not the negation of a thesis of first-order logic, for example) but broader than physical possibility (which characterizes a proposition just in case it does not violate a law of nature)…”[26]
Therefore, in failing to note this distinction, Oppy has failed to provide any evidence that the logical consistency of transfinite numbers necessarily lends to their instantiation in some possible world. And even if we define a “sphere of accessibility containing strictly logical possible worlds,” as does Oppy, and concede the possibility of strictly logically possible worlds, a logically consistent system such as infinite set theory does not imply that an infinite is ontologically possible.

A Note On Instantiation

D. M. Armstrong sets out a criterion for instantiation:
C1: “The Possible is restricted by the actual in the sense that all possibilities are composed from actually existing elements, but actually existing combinations form a subset of possible combinations.”[28]
Armstrong is defending his version of naturalism against primitive modality. He is basically saying, “…the only universals which can exist are those which are instantiated in the natural world…”.[29] If infinity is taken to have the predicate un-completeable totality, we certainly have record of objects that, given their form constitute ‘always incomplete,’ the natural numbers being the most obvious. However, predicates like ‘the cardinal number of N’ do not seem to exist by any empirical method. Therefore if one is a naturalist, one can accept Armstrong’s thesis concerning the possibility of instantiating a modal predicate for infinity, and thus reject the possibility of an actually completed infinity.

Craig does not get off so easily. He is an anti-naturalist and holds a theory of universals much closer to the classic version: namely, there are uninstantiated modal properties. This means that the logical possibility of an infinity’s being complete, would require the acceptance of the existence of an infinity in some possible world. Craig wishes not to accept this and must argue as to why it is unreasonable to do so. He gives us little or no reason to this effect in the exchange with Oppy, though he relies on the reader’s prior knowledge of an article by Plantinga concerning essential properties, which we will examine later. For now, let us see why Craig might be right.

Peter Suber provides some interesting insights into the way infinite set theory is conceived among mathematicians. In, “A Crash Course in Mathematics of Infinite Sets,” Suber highlights something to which we cling intuitively, “Now you know how many natural number there are:
. But this is not profound. So far we’ve only invented a name (numeral) for the number of natural numbers.”[30]

The “so far” seems an obvious indication that he will flesh out later why we can do so and what this magnificent number could be. But he never does this except in relation to larger infinities. The only understanding he or anyone else has concerning a completed infinity is the א0’s relationship to exponentially higher infinities. The argument is that there must be a higher infinity than cardinal because between any two points there is necessarily a third. But, given that we know this, why postulate the cardinal number in the first place. All the other numbers existed all along, every point between 1 and 2 is an infinity equal to the natural numbers. But the same goes for counting by tens (10, 20, 30, 40…), all these are equal to the infinite number of cardinals; just as an infinite number of cardinal infinites is equal to the exponential increase of one cardinal. But this is merely a mathematical way of saying there are infinite numerals and the natural numbers are a smaller subset, however, they are also infinite, but a smaller infinite. The question remains how could there be a ‘smaller’ infinite if a basic definition of infinite is that it is never complete?

Also, the use of infinity in Calculus is on par with that of Aristotle because, with the infinitely small, things ‘tend toward’ zero, which means that zero is the stopping point and any non-extended point on your trajectory from a starting point to zero is perfectly willing to act as an indication of the direction you are heading: toward zero. There is nothing that calculates the cardinal number of points between your starting point and zero; it is merely potential. The same goes for the infinitely large. Numbers, propositions, possibilities tend toward infinity, but are inexhaustible.

Therefore, if one is a naturalist, if you accept Armstrong’s theory of universals you are forced to accept the infinity statements of the KCA. On the other hand, if you take Craig’s position, you need to find something between cogent talk of infinities in mathematics and logical possibility. From the classic point of view, after defining the terms appropriately, it may be possible to speak of infinities, yet contradictory to treat them as completed.

An Aside Concerning Modal Possibility

Craig briefly describes properties generally attributed to ‘broadly logical possibility.’ Continuing from the previous quote, he says:
Actualists like Plantinga and Stalnaker construe the possibility of the abstract objects which are possible worlds to consist in their instantiability and hold that the framework of possible worlds is grounded in these abstract objects’ possessing the modal property of being possibly instantiated. Broadly logical possibility/necessity is therefore frequently identified with metaphysical possibility/necessity. A state of affairs which is strictly logically possible may, in fact, be metaphysically impossible, incapable of being instantiated. [31]
This is the crux of Craig’s argument against the actualization of infinities, but it involves some intricacy. Craig says that broadly logical modality is typically left undefined, except as construed above, and then examples are given to show their uniqueness. However, no examples are given for the impossibility of ontological instantiability of logically consistent states of affairs. This leads us to question our typical notion of taking ‘logically consistent’ to mean ‘logically possible.’

Craig seems to be relying on Plantinga’s argument for the ability to identify modality de re via modality de dicto, though he does not indicate this directly. Roughly the argument states that existence need not be considered a property for determining essential properties of an object, and that if it can be shown that “de dicto modal properties determine whether x has P essentially.”[32] Given the complexity of this argument, we may substitute a simpler argument along the same lines.

We will take it that infinity (i) has the property of (P) incompleteness (u). (This is incompleteness in the quantitative sense, rather than the Anaxagorian ‘unboundedness,’ or qualitatively incomplete.) If we do not take it this way, it would be finite, the word ‘infinite’ would not exist, and discussion would be over. Therefore we must investigate to what degree infinity has the property of incompleteness, that is, we must determine the sense of our predicate. Our range includes the traditional categories of necessity, possibility, essentially, and contingently. Some, like Armstrong, say that no object has a property necessarily but that all objects necessarily have some property or another. This means that it could not have the property essentially. Therefore, if it is the case that [Piu], then it is contingently. This means that it could have been otherwise and that in some possible world infinity does not have the property incompleteness, and it may be the actual world. But if infinity does not have the property of incompleteness in this world, we have merely chosen the wrong word to define it. We are actually working with a finite sum. We are merely noting that in some possible world there exists a number of objects that has no coherent ending point, but we are not saying that it is the case in this world. But this is senseless; even the mathematicians who chose to use the word infinite claim that it is not characterized by any known numeral.

If infinity possibly has the property of incompleteness we are stuck with the same quandary. If it is possible that [Piu] then it is not the case in every possible world, but need only be so in one possible world. If it were the case that [Piu] in every possible world, then it would be so necessarily and therefore ‘i’ would have ‘u’ essentially. If then, [Piu] in this, the actual world, then in all other possible worlds it may be the case that [~Piu] and the word would then be meaningless in those possible worlds. This is the most likely alternative to essentialism for infinity. But if it is the case then in the actual world, [Piu] necessarily in this world and any additional predicate that contradicts this predicate makes the term incoherent.

Given that infinity is properly a predicate of mathematical sets and we have dispensed with the use of ‘infinite’ as a qualitative whole, this argument involves the invocation of second order properties. Despite the skepticism concerning their efficacy, they serve to indicate the sense in which the property ‘infinite’ is used in various contexts. Here especially, if it is the case that it has some property or other essentially, then a contradictory attribution is unacceptable.

So where does this leave us with Craig’s argument? He says:
Oppy, like Mackie, seems to take a proposition’s freedom from inconsistency in first-order logic to be indicative of that proposition’s being true in some possible world. But this involves a notion of possibility which is much broader than that normally countenanced in possible world semantics.[33]
The propositions of infinite set theory that claim equal properties for infinities of different sizes serve as an example here. One infinite can be larger, even substantially larger than another infinite, yet they are considered to be of equal value. For example, in Hilbert’s Hotel with its infinite number of rooms, if there were no vacancies but an infinite number of guests arrived needing rooms, the accommodation would be effortless. Though this poses no problems in infinite set theory, given that the sets to which it adds possess amorphous maximums, but it creates some headaches for mathematics of distinct objects. Terms apply in different ways in different types of mathematics. “This is because our normal criteria for smaller than and equal to fail to be mutually exclusive for infinite groups.”[34] However, in our world they are mutually exclusive, even contradictory. Does this transfer to broadly logical standards? In an interesting sense, smaller than = equal to on Cantor’s scheme. What is needed is to show that there are necessarily no possible worlds in which smaller than and equal to are not mutually exclusive.

At minimum, it seems obvious that a world where smaller than and equal to are not mutually exclusive could not be a world that contained even one physical object. Smaller than and equal to are conventions of language that describe physical things in addition to conceptual ones, so they share a similarity with married and bachelor. To say that one physical object is smaller than and equal to another physical object simultaneously, and in the same sense without qualification, is a misuse of language and a contradiction.

It might be objected that we merely do not know of any objects on which this contradiction would not rest. But is it because we do not know of any ‘married bachelors’ that we call it a contradiction? If we devised a theory in which a creature was so extravagantly virile or his marital status was so surreally conceived as to consider him a ‘married bachelor,’ would that lend any weight to its instantiability in a possible world? Perhaps, though it does not seem possible with other contradictions like round-squares. In the case of the bachelor, we would have then altered the definitions such that they reject exclusivity. But that seems to be what is done with infinite set theory. The infinite is discussed in finite terms: an unlimited set,
א0 is now limited to a symbolized finite sum smaller than a larger sum, א1
. But in doing so, the necessarily inexhaustible nature of infinity has led to theories of talking about it that have nothing to do with infinity. We have already seen that to add a predicate that contradicts ‘incompleteness’ makes the term incoherent. We must remove the predicate altogether to add another, but then we are left with a finite sum, rather than an infinite one.

To flesh out the coherence of the objects of infinite set theory we have to reduce them to definitional situations and determine their consistency. The natural numbers are considered to be infinite because for any finite natural number, another follows it. The process itself is infinite. The natural numbers are, by definition, incomplete on any rendering. They cannot be rendered in their entirety, regardless of human capacity. We could then define an infinity as follows: a set of objects, conceptual or physical, the number of which cannot be conceived (1) by continuous process of accumulation, even granting the possibility of super-tasks and indefinite time, or (2) as complete in its entirety as defined by a single cardinality, belonging to that set, yet succeeding all other members to the point that none follow it. Neither
א nor ω indicate a completed set, for doing so violates the very definition of ‘infinite.’ Therefore, “An actual infinite [in the sense of complete whole] cannot exist.” Therefore the infinities in set theory are merely symbols representing logical potentialities (in Aristotelian terms), not logical completions.
Further, Craig finds the paradoxes of the infinite themselves to be a decisive reminder that infinities cannot be instantiated. Any infinity, if instantiated, would create a conundrum of contradictory situations. The opponent of the KCA must show there to be a reason or possible situation in which these problems would not ensue. Craig responds to Mackie, “Rather than alleviating the difficulties entailed therein, Mackie has merely specified an aspect of that system which supplies the conditions which, if instantiated in the real world, would spawn the absurdities like Hilbert’s Hotel or Russell’s Tristram Shandy paradox.”[35]

Except for some quibbling, Craig’s attack on Oppy’s view of successive addition (2.2) mainly concerns Oppy’s introduction of different types of infinite sets, especially {1, 2, 3,…3, 2, 1}. Craig calls this “bizarre.” Is this really a completable set? “If I started counting now, when would I arrive at that second 3? Let us have no fictional suggestions about counting progressively faster so that the infinite super-task is completed in a finite time, for such scenarios are wholly unrealistic.”[36] Such a set is necessarily incompletable in the case of adding members. But Mackie does not dispute that a series type *ω is unformable.
He argues that the KCA proponents mistakenly assume that the present exists as a point succeeding the completion of a ω-type series, that is, an infinite series that had a definite beginning point, though infinitely far from the present. But Craig denies that the KCA makes any such assumption and argues that no ω-type series can be formed by successive addition.


It is obvious that Oppy’s central task is to undermine the KCA’s strict finitist metaphysics. He claims that, if we get rid of this unwarranted notion, then the KCA falls apart. It is imperative that we examine such claims, because if they undermine the KCA, they also undermine several hundred years of physics and metaphysics.

First in this final section, I will address Oppy’s objection to the claims concerning actual infinities and then close with comments concerning the relevance of these claims to the KCA. Oppy focuses his sights on Craig’s response to transfinite math and its broadly logical possibility of instantiation of infinities. Oppy merely states that he is not willing to concede the point. His claims that the arguments are question-begging seem to hit all around the point. He wants to say that the finitist metaphysic is a presupposition, grounded only in prejudice. With regard to inverse operations with transfinite cardinals, Oppy says, “so why should one who thinks that Cantorian infinities might be physically instantiated lose any sleep over these operations?”[37] The most obvious reasons are the fact that the Cantorian system works on a different conceptual plane of operation, that is, one in which subtraction and division “cannot be defined,” and smaller than and equal to mean the same thing, and that incompleteness seems an essential property of infinity at least in this world.

Oppy’s defense of the ω+ω* set is baffling. The only answer he can offer conjures the notion of topological space and then invokes “supertasks”[38] to complete the traversal of an infinite in a finite amount of time. Oppy rejected this series the first time because it had a beginning, and that was what the KCA was trying to prove. How does re-invoking it help his case? Where are the ‘other’ infinite types that do not fit the description of an untraversable infinite, that he said existed in the first argument? Again, Craig is charged with question-begging. “…[I]t seems to me that all we have is the expression of a question-begging intuition. Certainly, I have not been able to find anything in Craig’s writings which give one who believes that an ω*-series can be formed by successive addition a reason to change her mind.”[39] But really, what more does he want? Infinities are, by definition, untraversable. Both Aristotle and Cantor admit as much.

Oppy continually criticizes the KCA proponents for holding a ‘strict finitist metaphysic.’ He assumes that there is some reason to doubt that the universe, time, sets, events,… whatever, can exist in complete, though infinite packages. But is this the case? Certainly the advancements in transfinite mathematics make room for these questions and demand a certain amount of precision in our answers to them. To begin, we have seen that a consistent system can be said to possess ontological import in some possible world as long as its individual components possess real possibility (though ‘real possibility’ tends to remain a fuzzy concept). The individuals in our case are sets that contain an infinite number of members. Though we have never discovered an actual infinite, Oppy would say this is merely a posteriori and does not address the modal possibility of these individuals. Granted. Also, to say that we do not have a conception of what an infinite number of things is like is merely untrue as far as Cantorian formulas are concerned; there are a number of positive properties of infinities that abide by certain fixed laws of transfinite math.

So what we need is an understanding of infinity that resolves the problems of both temporal and ontological construction implicitly in its definition. Whether such beasts can exist at all is our question, but, as A. W. Moore explains, intuitionists take it to be merely a matter of chronographic ineptitude that we cannot construct an infinity. They invoke ‘super-tasks’ (sound familiar?) to explain away the impossibility.
Let us call any story in which infinitely many tasks are performed in a finite time a ‘super-task story’. Then one thing is surely beyond dispute: that logically consistent super-task stories are there for the telling. In one such story someone constructs all the natural numbers in a minute. They spend half a minute constructing 0, a quarter of a minute constructing 1, and so on ad infinitum. [40]
So, the question is, does this make any sense? Moore says no. “It literally makes no sense to describe anything as infinite in this or that respect. We can only use ‘infinity’ to describe the endlessly nested possibilities that (finite) things afford.”[41] This still sounds like prejudice. However, Moore does not think that much else is available to refute the intuitionist.
But the possibility that super-task stories are not coherent will not—yet—help the intuitionist. For there can be no non-question-begging way of explaining the incoherence if all we have to appeal to is pure temporal structure and the fact that we are immersed in time. We need some independent leverage.[42]
Moore suggests that we conceive of infinites as Wittgenstein: “as abuses of grammar, misappropriations of the language.”[43] Now we are back to needing an understanding that resolves the issue of time.

Without answering again the argument from transfinite math, the best suggestion that I can offer is that, implicit in the definition of ‘the infinite’, is the notion of inexhaustibility. If an actual infinity exists, instantiated in some objects or other, the whole of them would remain untraverseable. As in one of Moore’s arguments, inexhaustibility is, “a matter of there coming a point—some point or other—beyond which we cannot exert ourselves…[and that would] remain beyond us however far we extended our powers and abilities,”[44] including ‘super-task’ speed. If this understanding is correct, then the possibility of an actual infinite being formed by successive addition (or subtraction), whether in ω or ω* or ω+ω* set-types, or even existing at all as completed or whole, is incoherent. And this leaves untouched transfinite math’s claim to consistency, as Moore points out, “…[L]ogical consistency does not guarantee coherence—a point that intuitionists are especially keen to emphasize.”[45] Yet at the same time it rejects ontological instantiability in the sense of completing an infinite set, by construction or numeration.

There are many objections to the KCA,[46] some concern the coherence of cosmological singularity,[47] some concern the warrant to believe the valid arguments of the KCA,[48] some concern the coherence of God’s existence sans the big bang, that is without temporal succession of, say, intrinsic divine thoughts leading to the act of creation,[49] and some which primarily question the intuitive nature of the concept ‘ex nihilo, nihil fit.’[50] But whatever the outcomes of those debates, though I think they are very positive for the KCA, the issues of infinity involved in the argument seem to present no problems for the mechanics of cosmology. No one is having problems making their theories work because an actual infinity must be constructed, and we are just waiting on the tools to do so.
In fact, many physicists, mathematicians, and philosophers agree to the claims made by the KCA, given their continuous attempts to debunk their consequences. It is their application that makes these theoreticians uneasy. Given their validity, they must be addressed in one form or another, say, in the construction of a consistent theory of a beginningless universe. But no one is running around trying to find things that come into being out of nothing (except perhaps Quentin Smith), and the evidence continually points to an initial cosmological singularity.

__________________________________________________ ____


[1] A. W. Moore, The Infinite (London: Routledge/Taylor and Francis, 2001), “[Cantor] was adament throughout his life that the whole idea of an infinitesimal was demonstrably inconsistent,” p. 117; concerning the paradoxes of the infinitely big, Cantor claimed some totalities “…were too big to be regarded as genuine sets at all… There was no such set as Ω,” p. 127; “There could not be any sets that were genuinely infinite, p. 128, italics his; “…the truly infinite is that which resists mathematical investigation,” p. 198.

[2] Ibid., pp. 36-44.

[3] Its logic seems the least problematic of the theistic proofs. The ontological argument suffers the pain of explaining “existence” as a coherent predicate and the teleological argument has trouble avoiding the naturalistic fallacy.

[4] In that it is a logical argument supporting the intuition that an infinity cannot be instantiated.

[5] W. L. Craig schematizes the argument this way in “Professor Mackie and the Kalām Cosmological Argument,” Religious Studies, No. 20 (1985), p. 367.

[6] As Mackie and Oppy will argue here.

[7] Quentin Smith has argued this in “The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe,” Philosophy of Science, Vol. 55, No. 1, (1988), pp. 39-57.

[8] Paul Davies, God And The New Physics (New York: Simon And Schuster, 1983); Adolf Grünbaum, "The Pseudo-Problem Of Creation In Physical Cosmology" in Leslie, J. (ed.) Physical Cosmology And Philosophy (New York: MacMillan, 1990), pp.92-112.Grünbaum, "Creation As A Pseudo-Explanation In Current Physical Cosmology" Erkenntnis 35, (1991), pp.233-254. Steven Hawking, A Brief History Of Time (New York: Bantam Books,1988).

[9] By ‘physical evidence’ I am referring to those several independent confirmations of an inflationary universe, including red shift and background microwave radiation. See Alan H. Guth, The Inflationary Universe (Reading, MA, Perseus Books, 1997).

[10] J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism: Arguments For and Against the Existence of God (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982).

[11] Craig, “Professor Mackie and the KCA,” p. 368.

[12] Ibid, italics his.

[13] Ibid, pp. 368-69, quoting Mackie, The Miracle of Theism, p. 94. “[sic]” belongs to Craig.

[14] Graham Oppy, “Craig, Mackie, and the Kalām Cosmological Argument,” Religious Studies, Vol. 27, No. 2 (June 1991) pp. 189-197.

[15] Ibid., p. 193, italics mine.

[16] “[Craig] tells us that the proponent of the kalam argument is committed to the claim that there are no infinities in the actual world; however—at this point in his paper—he provides no further evidence for the truth of the claim that there are no infinities in the actual world beyond the thought that it would be absurd to suppose otherwise. Since Mackie does not share this intuition…; at best we have a stalemate,” Ibid., pp. 193-94.

[17] Ibid., p. 194.

[18] “Perhaps, on the basis of our current knowledge of the actual laws of nature, we can judge that it is fairly likely that there are no actual infinities; however, it is hard to see that we have much reason to be very confident about this,” Ibid.

[19] Craig, “Prof. Mackie and the KCA”, pp. 369-70. “Construction” here is taken in the normal sense, affirming that the concept of infinity implies the inability to achieve it by finite process.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., p. 195.

[22] Craig, “Graham Oppy on the Kalām Cosmological Argument,” Sophia 32 (1993), p. 2, citations omitted.

[23] Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 44, italics his.

[24] Ibid., p. 46, italics his.

[25] Craig, “Graham Oppy on the KCA,” p. 2. Craig directs readers to Plantinga’s “Is Theism Really a Miracle?” Faith and Philosophy 3 (1986): 117.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Steven K. McLeod, Modality and Anti-Metaphysics (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2001), p. 79.

[29] Ibid, p. 84.

[30] Peter Suber, “A Crash Course in Mathematics of Infinite Sets,” St. John’s Review, XLIV, 2 (1998), pp. 35-59.

[31] Ibid., italics mine.

[32] Alvin Plantinga, “De Re et De Dicto,” Nous, S. 69, V. 3, pp. 235-258).

[33] Craig, “Graham Oppy on the KCA,” p. 2.

[34] Craig, “Prof Mackie and the KCA,” p. 368, italics his.

[35] Craig, “Prof Mackie and the KCA,” p. 371.

[36] Craig, “Graham Oppy on the KCA,” pp. 3.

[37] Ibid., p. 17.

[38] ‘Super tasks’ are problematic in themselves, in that they presuppose performing an infinite amount of tasks in a finite amount of time. But given that the possibility of an actual infinity is at stake it seems to beg the question to introduce them.

[39] Oppy, “Reply to Prof. Craig,” p. 18.

[40] Moore, The Infinite, pp. 213-14.

[41] Ibid. p. 215.

[42] Ibid,. p. 214.

[43] Ibid.

[44] Ibid., p. 213.

[45] Ibid., p. 214.

[46] Three prominent objections are brought out in Graham Oppy’s article, “Professor William Craig’s Criticisms of Kalam Cosmological Arguments by Paul Davies, Steven Hawking, and Adolf Gruenbaum,” Faith and Philosophy, Vol. 12 (1995), pp. 237-50.

[47] Quentin Smith questions the nature of the initial cosmological singularity traditionally postulated by physics and claims that, given the unanswered problems, big bang cosmology actually contradicts theism, “Atheism, Theism, and Big Bang Cosmology,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 69, No. 1 (March 1991) pp. 48-66.

[48] As we have seen Oppy takes a shot at this. John Taylor does also in “Kalam: A Swift Argument from Origins to a First Cause?” Religious Studies 33 (1997) pp. 167-179.

[49] see Adolf Grünbaum, "The Pseudo-Problem Of Creation In Physical Cosmology" in Leslie, J. (ed.) Physical Cosmology And Philosophy (New York: MacMillan, 1990) pp.92-112, and "Creation As A Pseudo-Explanation In Current Physical Cosmology" Erkenntnis 35,(1991) pp.233-254.

[50] In addition to Graham Oppy, Quentin Smith has criticized the rejection of something coming into existence out of nothing. See "The Uncaused Beginning of the Universe," in Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, by William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993). Though in 1999 he changed his contention from the universe coming into existence out of nothing to the universe coming into existence as its own self-causal agent, “The Reason the Universe Exists is that it Caused Itself to Exist,” Philosophy 74 (1999), pp. 579-86.

A Scientific Analysis of Islam

By Raashid Sherif

A lot has been written on the contributions that Islam and the Muslims have made to the field of science. For instance, Wikipedia has the following: “According to most historians, the modern scientific method was first developed by Islamic scientists, pioneered by Ibn Al-Haytham, known to the west as “Alhazen”. Robert Briffault, in The Making of Humanity, asserts that the very existence of science, as it is understood in the modern sense, is rooted in the scientific thought and knowledge that emerged in Islamic civilizations during this time”. And it is no surprise that Muslims should be the pioneers in the field of science, as the Muslim scriptures are full of verses encouraging the study of nature and contemplating over the wonders of God’s creation. As a matter of fact, the Qur’an vehemently opposes an unscientific approach in any field, including religion. Hence we have the following: “And follow not that of which you have no knowledge. Verily the hearing, sight and heart will all be questioned about”[i]. And “(The trues servants of God are) Those who when are reminded of the Signs of their Lord, do not fall upon it as if they are deaf and blind”[ii].
However, the purpose of this booklet is not to prove that Islam patronized science, but to show that the converse is also true.
 That is, science, by it’s very nature espouses and establishes Islam. In today’s world, this may sound awkward and perhaps even funny. That is since over the last couple of centuries, due to various factors, among them, the incompatibility of most religions with science, and a dereliction on the part of the Muslim scholars to rightly educate the masses, religion and science have drifted further and further apart.
Today, in the western society, it is common for a person to introduce himself as either a man of science or a man of faith. If he believes in religion, he considers it his duty to shut his eyes to science and what science stands for, and if he follows science, he sees religion as a bunch of baseless beliefs and superstitions. As a result, you find that the vast majority of people in the West can be classified into one of these two groups. However, the tragedy is that today, under the influence of the West, even Muslims have begun to think in this manner.
Therefore, our approach will be completely scientific and rational. In arriving at any conclusion, we will follow a scientific method and we will not accept any conclusion that we reach through non-scientific paths. However, any result we obtain scientifically, we will accept it, and build upon it. As a matter of fact, this is the approach that Islam teaches, as we have already seen. Hence, our goal is to find out to what extent the Islamic Creed and Belief are based on science.

What is Science?
Before we start proving the Islamic creed through science, we need to ask ourselves what science is. To some it may be a course taught in universities, to others it may be the branch of knowledge found in science books, to some more scientific-minded people, it may be a method of research or any result that a scientist reaches through the methods adopted by scientists. But obviously, such a vague definition, with so many possibilities can not properly define science. It would be doing science an injustice, more than anything else.
The Academic Press Dictionary of Science and Technology defines science as “The systematic observation of natural events and conditions in order to discover facts about them and to formulate laws and principles based on these facts”. Notice that the discovery of facts, and the building of laws and principles on facts, is what constitutes science. Hence the whole process of hypotheses building and breaking, which Physics Nobel prize laureate Richard Feynman describes in the following words, ‘things must be learned only to be unlearned again or, more likely, to be corrected’ is an integral part of the scientific method, but not a part of science. Therefore not every theory or hypothesis that is proposed through the scientific method is considered a part of science, until it is proven beyond doubt, i.e. unless it is established as a fact. The people who propose them are scientists, no doubt, but their theory falls short of science.

The fact that so many theories, be they, biological, physical, chemical, astronomical or medicinal, put forth by great scientists of their times have been refuted and are still being refuted even today, is not hidden from someone with even a superficial knowledge of science. One theory is rejected for another theory, which is usurped by a third theory, only for a fourth theory to take it’s place. Can this chain of contradictory theories all be considered science? Never. In short, any unproven proposition, hypothesis or assumption is not science, as long as there is room for doubt in it. They are trials at reaching facts, but trials are one thing, and facts are another.
A simpler definition giving the same meaning, which we can propose for science could be, ‘The recognition of things as they actually are’. However, this recognition will only be called science, if there is a complete correspondence between the recognition and the actuality or reality of the thing being studied. Let us look at a simple example of what we mean by that. If I observe a flower, and I try to recognize the various parts of the flower and their purpose, my recognition will be called science if a) that which I am observing is a flower, b) the parts were properly recognized, and c) their uses are what I thought they were. These would have to be proved by me, and no one should be able to disprove that, for my understanding to be called science. Suppose, what I was looking at was an artificial plastic flower, I have not even started on my journey of establishing the various parts of the flower, and their uses, as my recognition was faulty, right from the beginning. This recognition is not science. The same will be said if my observations do not correspond with the reality with regards to points b) or c).
This is the concept of science that we will be dealing with in our trial to prove scientifically whether or not Islam confirms to scientific rules. Hence, we will not be satisfied with a hypothesis or theory leaving room for any sort of doubt. In other words, a no-compromise approach is what we will be adopting. If any principle of Islamic belief is left such that it can not be proved in a scientific manner, we will leave it, no matter where we heard it from, or what that principle is. This is the scientific approach, and this is what Islam teaches us.
The basic scientific method that we will be adopting is sound and yet comprehensive. Further, it is rational and based on common sense. It is something that Muslim scholars and scientists have followed over the centuries, whether expressedly or not. It is: “When reporting, then authenticity is the criterion, and when making claims, then proof”. In other words, if I am hearing of or reading about a phenomenon, the means or links through which that report came to me from its source should be authentic, and when I make a claim, I should have sound and logically consistent proof for it. And these are the only two means of knowledge. If one takes care to ensure that no doubt or possibilities creep into knowledge by these two means, that knowledge will definitely be scientific.
What is Islam?
Since we have defined science, let us also define Islam. Islam has been defined in simple terms, as ‘The ideal way of interacting with life, other human beings and the universe at large’. In other words, it is a system for man to follow in his interactions with everything around him. Where did this system come from? Of course, some of you have not yet recognized the presence of a Creator, but just to make the definition complete, it has come to man from the Owner of life, the Lord of mankind, the Creator of the universe. It is analogous to a catalog or how-to-use guide that comes with a product that comes out of a factory, written by the manufacturers of the product, telling you about the product, about the manufacturers, about its benefits and about how it should be used, so as to maintain it and retain its benefits. It also tells the consumer how to protect it and what possible harms could face it. In the exact same manner, God did not create man and leave him at that, but he sent religion, to guide him, through out the ages, based upon the needs of the time, as to how to spend his life, how to deal with other human beings and how to treat the creation of God.
A question may arise as to why this catalog is directed at man, and not at any other creation of God. This is because man was made the ‘user’ of this universe. All of God’s creation was subjected to the service of man. It is but natural that he be given the guidelines based on which he is to use it. So we can conclude, though prematurely, that Islam is the ‘catalog’ that God sent to mankind with the best and most beneficial method of using the ‘equipment’ that He supplied mankind with, viz. life, society and all that exists.

Chapter 1: God

Does this Universe have a Creator?

Perhaps some of you had an objection with the way we defined Islam, as we presumed the presence of a Creator, without first having proved it, so let us start from there. Let us ask ourselves, does this universe, and all that we see, and the vast majority of things that we can not see, in short, all that exists, does it all have a Creator? Perhaps it does not have a Creator. Perhaps it just always existed. Or perhaps it came into being by itself and then developed. If there is no Creator, then there is no need for a catalog at all. In that case, the best way for us to deal with the universe and with ourselves would be to come up with our own system. To lay down our own rules and regulations on how to deal with life in this world. The other possibility is that it does have a Creator.
Science tells us to hold one assumption in front of the other, and see which one holds good. But we have to come to one conclusion. As we have already established, science does not leave room for doubt. Either we decide that there is no Creator, and we lead our lives accordingly, or we decide that there is a Creator, and we continue our research as to who that Creator is and what He wants from us, based on the scientific realization that there is a Creator.
First let us assume that God does not exist. This is our first assumption. What is the scientific approach that allows us to recognize the veracity of this assumption or the lack of it? The scientific approach for establishing and verifying any claim depends on the type of assumption it is. Any assumption can be of two types. Either it is regarding something that can be realized through our senses, or it is regarding something that is hidden from our senses. That is, it can be something we can see, hear, touch, smell or taste, which are the five methods of getting definitive knowledge about something, or it may be something that we can not prove through the use of these senses of ours. All assumptions will be of one of these two types. There is no third possibility.
For those assumptions that are of the first type, i.e. those that can be realized through our senses, the only scientific method to establish them is through experimentation and observation. Neither hearsay nor scriptures are of any use in this regard. If it is said that the water in such and such a place has certain harmful minerals, you test it. If someone tells you that the soil in his backyard is not cultivable, you check it out. If a triangle is said to be a right angled triangle, you measure the larger angle. If someone claims that he has discovered a cure for AIDS, his medicine is tested on HIV positive patients, and so on. This is the scientific method that we are familiar with. And this is exactly what Islam prescribes in such situations. Islam urges us to use our reason and the senses we were endowed with to contemplate on the creation of God. That is why He has never asked us to believe in something that can be realized through experimentation and observation through the scriptures.
On the other hand, if the assumption is of the second type, i.e. it is out of the reach of the senses, in that case should we declare everything that we can not see, hear, touch, smell or taste to be non-existent? No. This is not the scientific approach. There are a vast majority of things that can not be sensed, about which scientists have proposed and even proved many theories. For example, the existence of subatomic particles, the fact that dinosaurs lived in a particular region, the fact that a particular civilization led a particular type of life or that it was literate and so on and so forth. The list is non ending. One such assumption is the assumption of the presence or absence of God. If this was an assumption of the first type, we would have checked it out, and have settled the matter for once and for all. The scientific approach to prove such assumptions is through evidences in favor of the assumption. In other words, we have to look for evidences that can be sensed, that prove the claim which can not be sensed. If we can not find definitive evidence, we drop the assumption.
By looking for evidences, what we mean is that we assume that the assumption does hold good. Then we ask ourselves what the indications or evidences of its holding good would be. What is it that that assumption necessitates? What would be the definite results of this assumption? Then we look and see if they are present. If so, we accept it. Otherwise we reject it. A simple example of this is, a thief broke into your house in the middle of the night. You did not sense him, in any way. However something valuable is missing. How do you verify that this is not an inside job? How do you prove that a thief broke into the house? You look for evidences. For instance, a lock is picked, a window is left unlocked, a foreign set of fingerprints is present, signs of struggle are found, the flower bed is damaged, and so on. Now, even though the entry of a thief into your house was something beyond the reach of your senses, you are certain he had entered. The evidences prove this beyond doubt. This is the scientific approach for those assumptions that can not be tested through experimentation or observation, as they are not perceivable by the senses.
Let us see another example, but of the usage of the lack of evidence to disprove an assumption. There are those evolutionists who believe that the human mind developed due to the needs and wants that he faced with regards to food, drink, shelter, etc. until he became able to talk. This is also something that can not be sensed. However this assumption that the needs that were with man and the necessities he faced led to the development of his intellect has some indications, and some necessities, that would have to be present for us to consider it a fact. The most obvious one would be that we would have found the animals living in the jungles possessing the same intellect and speech that we have, or at least something similar. This is because they also faced the same biological needs that we did. Perhaps some of them to an even greater extent. If not tens of thousands of years ago, at least by now, a few of them should have started talking and wearing clothes. It didn’t happen, and hence we have no choice but to disappoint the proponents of this theory by telling them that it is not scientific.
Now that we have understood the scientific approach that we will be taking for the assumptions of Islamic creed and belief, which are naturally of the unseen type, we can return to the first assumption that we made. That is, we assumed that God does not exist. Henceforth we have to assume that this complex universe and all that it contains has no Creator. Let us apply the methodology that we have just understood to this assumption. If this universe has no Creator, there are two possibilities. One is that the universe had a beginning, and the other is that it was always there, in some form or the other. Among those who hold this assumption dear, you find a division. Some believe in the first possibility, and others in the second. That is, some people say that this universe has a beginning, if you go far back enough, and before that beginning was non existence. This is the specific view that most astronomers and their like would probably confirm to. Others, such as the philosophers of Marxist materialism, say that there was no beginning to this universe, however far back you go. The universe is just a continuum of cosmic rays with no source.
Therefore, when we make the assumption that God does not exist, either we have to take the first view, that this universe had a beginning or a starting point, before which was nothing, or we have to take the second view. Let us say, first, that we believe that the universe has an age and that it was preceded by nothingness, which is the view of majority of the scientists today. What does this imply? This implies that the universe came into existence by itself, without any external force, which is impossible. If we say that the universe came into existence after it was not there, in the absence of a Creator, that necessitates the appearance of something out of the blue, without any cause. However any sensible person will tell you that such an occurrence is unrealistic.
Let us look at some analogies of the above assumption, so that it becomes clear to us how silly it actually is. Suppose I tell you I was holding a weighing scale, and both the pans were empty and balanced at the same height. All of a sudden, one of the pans suddenly outweighed the other, without any external weight being put on it, i.e. without any external influence. You would tell me that is against Newtons first law of motion. I tell you that this which you are proposing is against a law which is so basic that no one ever felt the need to state it. That is, the actual status of anything is to stay as it is, as long as no one changes its status. Therefore, no object can come into creation from non-existence without an external influence. Hence the assumption of the non-existence of God, considering the universe to have a beginning, is proved wrong, as we could not find any evidence on the presence of an external influence in the middle of non-existence.
Now suppose the staunch believer in the non-existence of God were to say, “Okay, perhaps I was wrong. Maybe the universe did not have a beginning. It was present from eternity. Therefore there is no need for a Creator. It is a continuum of cosmic waves, as claimed by the Marxists”. What would be our reply to that? Let us look at the indications and results of assuming that, and see if they are existent or not, as we did in the first case.
Assuming that the universe is eternal and self evolving, as claimed, implies the ‘continuation of non-self reliant forces to eternity’, which is scientifically impossible, implying that the assumption that necessitates this impossibility is also impossible. We shall explain this in some detail.
Suppose I owe you a thousand Dollars. I give you a cheque with a ’0′ written on it, and I point at it and tell you that that zero is equivalent to one thousand Dollars., would you believe me? Of course not. Because you know a simple mathematical rule that zero has no value in itself. In other words, it is not self reliant. Rather it is reliant on the number written next to it. I say okay, you will get your thousand Dollars, and I write another zero next to it. You’re still not satisfied. I write one more and yet one more, and I fill the whole cheque up with zeros. You tell me, even if you right a thousand zeros, it will not be of any value, until you put a number from one to nine next to it. This is because these numbers have their own value, or they are self reliant. Zero, on the other hand, is reliant on the number next to it. How can a force which has no power in itself take power from a force which is next to it also having no power in itself? You might tell me that this is like trying to raise business capital from a large group of beggars who do not have enough money to spend on themselves. In their place, if you had approached one rich man, his money might have been sufficient. On what basis are you making this refutation? It is because you know there is a need for at least one force that is self sufficient. In other words, it does not need to take power from anything else. Otherwise what would be the source for its own power?
Let’s look at another example. There is a twenty floored building. On the top floor is a hotel where I want to stay. However I want to make sure it is safe, so I ask the engineer who built the building as to what the twentieth floor is supported on. He says the nineteenth floor. Is that enough for me? No. I want to know what that is resting on. He says it lies on the eighteenth. And so I keep asking him, till I get to the ground floor. Only when he tells me that the ground floor is based upon the foundation or the cornerstone, will I be satisfied. This is because I know that anything that needs to be supported by something else can not be having it’s own strength. However when I get down to the cornerstone, I feel safe, because I know that that has it’s own strength, and can at the same time support all the above floors.
Let’s consider a third example. I am giving a lecture to you about a new theory I am proposing. I give you a proof for this theory. However it is not a complete proof. It requires further proof. So I give you a proof for that proof. However the second proof is not fool-proof either, so you ask for a third. I give you a third, but you need a fourth, and so on. Even if I gave you proofs from morning to evening, you would not believe me, because they are all dependent proofs. Until I give you a self-dependent proof, you are not buying my theory.
From these three examples, it should be clear as to what the principle that ‘the continuation of non-self reliant forces to eternity is impossible’ means. Now if you apply it to our assumption that the universe was always existent, in various forms, and has been self evolving since eternity, i.e. it has no age, you can see that the origination of the matter and power involved still remains unaccounted for. Everything we see around us has taken it’s power and existence from something before it, and it passes it on to something after it. But if we keep going back and ask ourselves what the source of this power, or continuum of cosmic waves, as they called it was, we would be like I was in the above examples. On this basis, we have to come to the conclusion that the universe could not have been so, without the presence of a Creator, to give it that power and act as the self-sufficient source for the existence of the universe.
Hence, either view you take with regards to the birth of the universe, the non-existence of God has been proved to be impossible. Hence we have no choice but to accept the other assumption as true. That is, that the Universe has a Creator, and it has an age. However, a person who is not ready to believe in God might say, “Okay, you have disproved my assumption that there is no God, but you are yet to prove that there is a God”. We could tell him that he is forgetting that there were only two possible assumptions, and when one was proven false, the other became a fact. However, he is right to the extent that we have only negated a negative to prove the existence of God. Do we have a positive proof for the presence of God? The answer is a resounding yes. Not one proof, but many.
The first and foremost scientific proof to the presence of God is what is called the ‘Purpose of Creation’ or the ‘Teleological Argument for Creation’. Wikipedia defines the Teleological Argument as follows: “A teleological argument, or argument from design, is an argument for the existence of God or a creator based on perceived evidence of order, purpose, design, or direction — or some combination of these — in nature. The word “teleological” is derived from the Greek word telos, meaning “end” or “purpose”. Teleology is the supposition that there is purpose or directive principle in the works and processes of nature”. This is a proof that philosophers, logicians, scientists and intellectuals have used throughout the ages for the proving the existence of God.
We shall try to explain this proof in simple words. Any action that takes place can be of two types. One is mechanistic, or automatic, and the other is purposeful. A mechanistic action is one that takes place without the use of the mind or thought. For instance, if straw is thrown into fire, it burns. The burning is a mechanistic action, as it takes place with no role played by the mind. Similar is eating in causing nourishment and sleep in giving rest. You do not have to intend nourishment for food to nourish you. That is what it does. Therefore, these are called mechanistic actions. We are not bothered about this type of action now. The other action is the purposeful one. Purpose refers to the intention that lies in the mind behind doing a certain action, that causes one to behave in a certain way. For example, imagine that you want to become a doctor. This will cause you to perform certain actions that are clearly purposeful. You will study day and night, you will appear for the necessary examinations, and anyone who knows you will explain your behavior as a result of that purpose that lies in your mind. If you continue to act according to your purpose, what will the result probably be? It will be the appearance of that goal or intention that you had in your mind, in reality. This result that you see in front of you, after having been a purpose in your mind, is in itself a proof of the purpose that was in your mind. A person who has no intention to become a doctor is not just called to the university and given a medical degree just like that. Hence the fact that you are a doctor in the future will in itself be a proof of the purpose that was in your mind. This logic can be extrapolated to all purposeful actions, big or small.
The person who invented the telephone aimed at facilitating the process of communication between people, for their benefits. This intention drove him to try and experiment and put in effort, and so on. What was the result of this effort? It was the conversion of this dream into a reality. Thus, when we look at the telephone, we find ourselves looking at the result of an intention or a purpose. The same would be said when we look at any of the invented equipments around us, such as the radio, the computer, the internet, and so on and so forth. They are all fruits of purposes and goals in the minds of their manufacturers. These goals drove them to try, experiment and suffer for a long time, until it became a reality. Thus they are materialized results of intentions. This is what is meant by purpose of creation.
Suppose I looked at a computer, and I said, I do not think anyone made this. It just happened to become. The metal casing was molded that way by water, and the wind carried the various chips which were formed by themselves from sand, due to some complex process, and brought them all together, to form a computer working in perfect condition. You would definitely doubt my sanity. But how about this universe which is much more complex than a computer? How about the human body, which can not be replaced by the most complex of computers? How about the solar system, and the perfect positioning of earth within it? How about the ideal living conditions on earth? How about the subjection of all of creation to man? If somebody called all of this an accident, should he not be considered crazier than I should be? Why is it that when we see a piece of art, we can appreciate the artist’s mind behind it, but when we see the real beings, which the artist can only try and imitate, our mind does not transfer to the Creator who has so intelligently designed them. How unscientific are we, when it comes to processing simple facts in our mind. That is why the Qur’an is full of examples of the intelligent design of God, to keep man from forgetting this reality[iii].
However, like any theory, attempts have been made to counter the Teleological Argument as well. Let us look at some of these attempts, and see how we can reply to them, or if they even need replying to. Some people have said that the Teleological signs are something they too see, but this purpose and intelligent design that is present in the universe happened as a result of the elongation of time. That is, as time passed, things began to fall into harmony, and become perfect. They say that the harmony that you see, and that you claim is a proof of God’s existence is the result of a lengthy process that took place over millions of years. Initially, there was no harmony and everything was haywire. As a result of clashes and chaos over this long period of time, this harmony arose. This objection which we have seen is not a made up argument. This was an actual objection to the Teleological argument, put forth by a scientist of Marxist materialism, Boknes. He gives an example for this. He says, if you have a box full of printed letters, a, b, c etc., and you empty them on the ground, and you let some monkeys come and play with them, sooner or later, a meaningful word would be formed. If this continues, later you would have a whole sentence, and if those goes on for long enough, the whole works of Shakespeare could be reproduced. Similarly, he says the harmony seen in the universe came about, and it wasn’t there initially. The biggest flaw to this example is that if the monkeys could make words, they could also, as easily break them. They do not have the intelligence to know when a word is made, so as to take it and keep it aside. Also, if the universe and all its harmony happened to come about by chance, why did it remain stationery once it formed, and why did it not change any more. This purpose of creation seen in the universe and all its parts is proof of an Intelligent Hand behind it.
Another famous Marxist scientist, Engels tries to refute the purpose of creation saying that there is teleology, but it is as a result of the rationality of nature. Perhaps Engels thought that by giving this purpose a different name, he could divert the attention of the masses from the fact of its presence. If what he means is that the rationality of nature emanates from within, any one with a little sense can see that something that was chaotic can not be removed from this state of chaos by itself. This is the essence of the Chaos theory.
Another positive proof for the existence of God lies in accepting the testimony of the Messengers and Prophets, based on their truthfulness, integrity and honesty, supported by miracles from God. We will see this proof in more detail in the chapter on Prophethood.
Now that we have established the existence of God in a purely scientific manner, our next step would be to try and understand the characteristics of God through the means which he has made available for us to recognize Him. For a more comprehensive understanding of His attributes, we will take help from the Word of God, the Qur’an, which we will come back to prove valid in the chapter on Prophethood.

The Attributes of God
Now that we have believed in God as the Creator and Lord of the universe, let us understand His Characteristics and Attributes. God has all attributes of perfection and is free from all shortcomings. His attributes are divided into two types. One is the Divine Attributes, and the other is the Attributes of Perfection. Divine Attributes are called so because they can only be understood by looking at their opposites, or their hypothetical absence, whereas the Attributes of Perfection are those that we can understand in their positive senses, as we shall see in detail.
The Divine Attributes are many, as any attribute which is not fitting for God can be negated to give rise to a Divine Attribute. However the most important amongst them are five in number. 1) His Oneness 2) His Pre-existence 3) His Everlasting-ness 4) His Self Existence and 5) His Difference from all creation. If we look at these, we can see that they can only be understood by negating their opposite. Therefore Oneness is the absence of partners, Pre-existence is the absence of a beginning, Everlasting-ness is the absence of an end and so on.
The first Divine Attribute is Oneness of God with regards to His Presence and Attributes. We have both narrated as well as rational proofs for this attribute. The transmitted proofs include the verses of the Qur’an, “Say He is Allah, the One and Only”[iv] and “Allah, there is no Deity but He”[v]. As for the rational proof, it can be best understood by the method we have already seen of making an assumption and seeing whether or not the evidences and indications of this assumption are there or not, and whether or not sufficient proof is available to uphold the assumption. So, let us assume that there were more than one gods. Two, three, four or more. Did these gods agree upon the creation of the universe and what it contains or not? Did they discuss it, and all come to the same conclusion, or did they have differences in opinions? Suppose, for now, that one god wanted to create one thing and another god wanted to create something else. Each wanted to do what they wanted, and they both had equal power. What would happen? Either one would overcome the other, in which case it is clear that the winner is the God, and the other can not be. Hence we return to the Oneness of God. The other possibility is that both were equally able to enforce their decision. For instance, one would have wanted say, to create something, and the other did not want it created. In that case, the object would have been torn between existence and non-existence. Suppose one god agreed to co-operate with the desires of the other, that itself would be an inherent weakness, preventing him from being the God.
This is the meaning of the verse in the Qur’an which says: “Had there been therein (in the heavens and the earth) gods other than Allah, both (heaven and earth) would have been ruined”[vi]. Hence we have to assume that the Creator is the One and Only God. That is because only one can create a thing at a time. And once it is created, no other god can come and re-create what has already been created. God is the one who creates Alone. It can not be imagined that He needs any sort of assistance. One should not be confused by God using the plural form on some occasions in the Qur’an, as when He says We created, We revealed etc., as this is a style of speaking which is generally used by kings and those in authority.
What is meant by Pre-Existence? It means that there was no non-existence before Him. That is, He was always present. There is no beginning to His existence. What is the proof of this Attribute? One is the proof from the Qur’an, in which He describes himself as Al-Awwal (The First)[vii]. That is, not even ‘nothing’ existed before Him. What is the scientific proof behind the Pre-Existence of God? It is that if we assume that God was not Pre-Existent, or that God was not there, and then He became, it would necessitate that we also assume that someone was there who created God. It would be similar to the argument that we put forth when we were discussing the beginning of the universe, i.e. that something that was non-existent can not come into existence by itself. And if there was another being that created God then that being would have been God, and not this one.
The third Divine Attribute is Everlastingness. Naturally, if we were to consider that God dies, that would be proof that he was not god. Besides, this attribute is also a result of His Pre-Existence. Anything that does not have a beginning does not have an end. He describes himself in the Qur’an as Al-Aakhir (The Last)[viii].
Before we go onto the fourth attribute, we should realize that there might be those who are thinking, ‘I cannot imagine how God can be Pre-Existent, or how He can be Everlasting’, and hence they may feel that their inability to envisage this is a proof of the absence of these attributes. The reason for this doubt is that man wants to see an example for everything, and hence he aims on basing his understanding of the outside world on those things alone which he has seen or come across. So it will be easy for man to understand that God is Merciful or Just, because Man has come across these qualities to some extent, though in a far inferior manner, in his own experiences. However when we say that God has no beginning or that he is not bound by space or time, it becomes difficult for him to imagine that, as nothing he has ever experienced shares that Characteristic at any level.
Hence there is a principle that we should understand, that will clear this doubt and similar doubts. Man has two distinct potentials. One is his intellect with which he understands, and another is his imagination with which envisages. However, it should be clear that there is no connection between the two. Please do not fall into the error of thinking that there is an inseparable relationship between the two. If I cannot envisage something, by no way does that mean that I can not understand it. The intellect may very well realize something which is unimaginable. Let me give an example. Suppose a man was born blind, and he lived till he was old. Can this man imagine what sunlight is like? No. Can he imagine what the different colors look like? No. However, would he believe in the existence of the sun, after having lived amongst people and hearing talk about it. Of course. In the same way, he would believe in colors. This is because of the separation between the mind and ones imagination. The mind can realize what one can never imagine, but the imagination can only envisage that which one has come across. The imagination is very much like a mirror in the back of the brain, reflecting what it has seen, and that’s all. Therefore, when I am not able to imagine the Pre-Existence of God, I should not let it bother me, as there is a lot I can not imagine, just like the blind man.
The fourth attribute, or the Self Existence of God means that He is not bound by space or time. He does not need space to exist in the same way that He does not need time to exist. For that matter, He is not in need of any external factor for existence. Such limitations are characteristic of His creation, but He is far Superior to such limitations and boundaries. The proof of this attribute is given in the Qur’an, as “Allah is As-Samad (Self Sufficient)”[ix]. The rational proof of this attribute is also the Pre-Existence of God. That is because if He was present before all things, including space and time, He can not be dependent on it. His existence can not be due to something else. Again, the fact that we can not imagine this, does not make any difference in our belief, as our imagination can only envisage what it has come across. However our intellect should be able to differentiate between the creation whose physical existence depends on Him and between Him whose existence is a logical necessity and can not be dependent upon anything.
The fifth attribute is His Difference from all that exists . This also follows, as all of creation requires space to exist and have physical bodies which are made up of parts. On the other hand, God does not require space and is not made up of different parts which combine to form a whole, as that would imply his dependence upon those parts. Hence Allah says in the Qur’an, “There is nothing like Him”[x], and “There is nothing comparable to Him”[xi]. As for the fact that He describes himself in some verses of the Qur’an as having a hand, and in some verses as seeing or hearing, and in yet others as ascending or coming, we as Muslims believe in these, without realizing how they are. What we do know is that it is different from what we can imagine, as we can only imagine that which we have seen in the creation, from which God is completely different.

The Attributes of Perfection of God are innumerable, as all the good qualities belong to Him in a manner befitting His Majesty. However, seven such attributes are given special mention, as a lot of the articles of faith in Islam are based on them. They are: 1) Knowledge, 2) Will, 3) Ability 4) Audition, 5) Vision, 6) Speech and 7) Life. All of these attributes are pre-existent and have always been associated and will always remain associated with God. They are not to be envisaged based on human imagination, which is based on its experience with the creation, but should be understood keeping in mind the Divine Attribute of God being un-comparable to all that exists.
Knowledge is the ability of God to know things as they are at any moment of time or as they will be in the future. Will is the means by which God decides to affect His creation by giving it existence or any other qualities This attribute is not affected by the will that God has bestowed upon man, by which he can make his own decisions, as this is only a means to test him. Ability is the power of God to do whatever he wills. Audition and Vision are attributes which are associated with all perceivable things in a manner different from our hearing and sight. These two attributes are established in the scriptures, both the Qur’an and Hadith in many places, and hence can not be doubted. Since this is not something that can be understood by reason, we can not go any further into trying to find out the scope of these attributes and the purpose they serve Him. Speech is a very important attribute, through which God spoke to man in the form of his Messengers and through which He tells man what to do and what not to do. Hence the Qur’an is called ‘Kalaamullah’ or the Speech of God. His command ‘be’ through which He creates is also a result of this Speech. This is the Everlasting Attribute of God based on which all His Attributes are based.
One important article of faith that is associated with the above mentioned attributes is that of fate. It is based on the Hadith of the Prophet in which he enumerates the articles of faith saying: “Faith is that you believe in God, His angels, His books, His Messengers, the Last Day and that fate good and bad is from God”. Destiny is based on the Knowledge and prescience of God regarding what he decrees for Man as to what his fate will be. Fate is the nothing but God taking action according to His Will. The meaning of belief in destiny and fate is to believe that God knew what would happen with relation to Man before it happened and that when it happens, it is due to the action of God in the specific way that He already knew.
This wraps up the discussion about God, the sole Creator and Owner of the Universe, and with that half of the testimony of Islam can now be declared with certainty. That is, ‘There is no God but Allah’. Now to better understand the second half, ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’ we will start our discussion on Prophethood.

Chapter 2: Prophethood

Now that we have come to a definite conclusion with regards to God, and we have realized that there is a Creator and Director to this Universe, is it possible for us to stop at that, without further asking what He wants of us? Can we possibly imagine that His Presence and Potence do not have any effect on us, and that we can go on leading our lives just like we used to before this realization? Can we fool ourselves into thinking that it was sheer chance that differentiated man from all Creation, giving him intellect and the ability to subdue the forces of the universe, to himself, without any extra responsibility being given to him? Surely, the answer to all these questions is in the negative. God asks a similar question in the Qur’an, when He says “Do you think that We created you without a purpose, and that you will not return to Us?”[xii]
If man realizes that such is not to be the case, his next step should be to find out what his responsibility is, and why it is that God created him here and gave him the potentials that he has. However God, out of His infinite mercy, did not leave him alone to find out what his duties and responsibilities are, rather He sent a series of prophets to introduce man to God and let mankind know what it is that He wants of them, and to warn them about the life to come after death in which man will be compensated for all the good and bad that he has done in this world, where there is apparently no-one to question him.
But obviously, it would not be scientific of us to accept the testimony of any person who claims to be a prophet, without having sufficient proof to support the same. Hence in this chapter, we will try to understand the meaning, implications, signs and evidences of prophethood in general and that of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), in specific.
Prophethood, Revelation and the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)
A prophet is a human being to whom God sends a revelation through the angel Gabriel, so that he can show the people the right way. If along with the revelation, he is also given a book or message to pass on as such to the people, he is called a Messenger. All messengers are prophets, but all prophets are not messengers.
Revelation is the foundation upon which Prophethood is based. It is the sole source for knowledge of the unseen to be acquired by man. Creed is based on revelation alone. So is majority of the rules and regulations of religion. Hence revelation is the only thing that differentiates between a man who thinks and innovates or legislates on his own and a prophet who relays the message of God, without making any change in it.
The presence of revelation in the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is something that is very obvious. This is because his whole life is very well documented and transmitted to us through a number of sources, making it indubitable. Having been orphaned at birth and not being under the guardianship of any one person for a considerable period of time, it is not possible that he derived this knowledge or training from any other source. Furthermore he was illiterate, and majority of the stories of long past nations and Prophets which are narrated in the Qur’an are based on historical facts which were not known to the Arab at that time. It also contains prophecies which could not have been made without Divine intervention.
His honesty and trustworthiness were well known in Makkah, the city in which he was born and in which he grew up, and where he stayed until he was 53. It is unimaginable that a person who would never speak a lie in mundane matters could all of a sudden lie about God. His life before Prophethood was just like that of any businessman of the time, and when he was finally given Prophethood at the age of 40, even he found it difficult to digest, as you will see in the following narration found in many books of Hadith describing the beginning of revelation in the life of the Prophet.
“The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) was in the form of dreams which came true like bright day light. Then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food like-wise again till suddenly Prophethood descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel (Gabriel) came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read”.
The Prophet (PBUH) added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” (96.1, 96.2, 96.3)
Then the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) returned with the Inspiration (shivering from fear) and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija and said, “Cover me! Cover me!” She covered him till his fear subsided and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, “I feared that something may happen to me.” (implying that he was being possessed) Khadija replied, “Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your Kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones.”
Khadija then accompanied him to her cousin Waraqa bin Naufal, who, during the PreIslamic Period became a Christian and used to write and read Hebrew. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqa asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out.” The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) asked, “Will they drive me out?” Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said, “Anyone (man) who came with something similar to what you have brought was treated with hostility; and if I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly.” But after a few days Waraqa died and the Revelation was also paused for a while. (6 months to 1 year)”[xiii]
This one narration is sufficient to prove the presence of revelation beyond doubt, provided one understands it properly. For instance, why did the Prophet (PBUH) see Gabriel the very first time with his own eyes, instead of the revelation being from behind a screen? Why did God put fear and confusion in the heart of the Prophet (PBUH), instead of comforting him? Why did he allow him to fear that he was being possessed by spirits, instead of comforting him that the being that he met was a trustworthy angel from Allah? Why did the revelation stop after that for a long while, which disturbed the Prophet (PBUH) so much that he contemplated suicide, as narrated in other reports, as he felt he had seen and heard things in the cave the first time? These are natural questions that arise when we read the description of the commencement of Revelation in the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). If we ponder upon the answers, we will realize that there is a common underlying wisdom behind all of this. This is so that a person who might doubt that the revelation was something that arose from within Muhammad, or was a result of sudden self-enlightenment, could easily see that that was not the case.
The Angel Gabriel presented himself in front of the Prophet (PBUH), so that he would realize that this voice that he was hearing was not his own soul talking to him. It was definitely external. He was further squeezed by the angel, so that he could feel this external presence, and would not imagine that he had some vision or the sort. He became afraid and left his seclusion and hurried back to the home in a frenzied state, shivering, yellowed, from which it becomes clear that Prophethood was not something he was expecting, wanting or preparing for. It was not a result of some thinking or internalization that was going on within him. Rather it struck him all of a sudden, and changed his life in a way he could never have imagined. The fact that Revelation stopped after this incident for more than 6 months further emphasizes that what had come upon the Prophet (PBUH) was not a case of self-enlightenment, as someone who is enlightened is not put off like that.
Apart from this, there are innumerable proofs from the life of the Prophet (PBUH), which prove beyond doubt, the presence of Revelation in it. For instance, there is a notable difference of style between the language of the Qur’an, which is the Word and Message of God and the Hadith, which is the Message of God in Muhammad (PBUH)’s own words. Also, sometimes the Prophet would be asked about certain matters about which he was not aware, and he would have to wait for Revelation to come to answer these questions. Sometimes he would do something, and a verse of the Qur’an would be revealed which blames him for his action[xiv], which the Prophet (PBUH) would faithfully convey.
Hence we can conclude that the presence of Revelation in the life of the Prophet (PBUH) is proved beyond doubt as a result of the various authentic reports which reach us from so many sources that it becomes impossible to claim that they are all false.
The Other Prophets and Belief in Them
Once you have accepted that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received revelation from God, it becomes necessary for you to accept the Qur’an as the Word of God. And accepting the Qur’an as the Word of Allah implies that you will have to believe the following about other Prophets who came before Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
· The first Prophet was Adam, the first man to be created.
· The last Prophet was Prophet Muhammad, after whom no prophet will be sent. Allah says in the Qur’an, “Muhammad is not the father of any man amongst you, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets”[xv]. However, the fact that Jesus (PBUH) will come back to earth from heaven before the Day of Judgment does not mean that he will be the last Prophet, as his coming back will not be as a new Prophet, but only to enforce the message that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) already gave.
· The Qur’an mentions 25 Prophets by name, and hence a Muslim can not be in doubt about their Prophethood, and that they are similar in that God revealed to each of them in the same way. Their names (with the biblical names in brackets) are: Adam, Idris (Enoch), Noah, Hud, Salih, Ibrahim (Abraham), Ismail (Ishmael), Ishaq (Isaac), Lut (Lot), Yaqub (Jacob), Yusuf (Joseph), Shu’aib, Ayyub (Job), Musa (Moses), Harun (Aaron), Dhul-Kifl (Ezekiel), Dawud (David), Sulaiman (Solomon), Ilyas (Elias), Al-Yasa’ (Elisha), Yunus (Jonah), Zakariyya (Zechariah), Yahya (John), Isa (Jesus) and Muhammad.
· There were many many other prophets as well, whose names are not mentioned in the Qur’an, and who were sent in different times to different nations. The Qur’an speaks generally about them saying “Verily We have sent thee in truth, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner: and there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them”[xvi].
· The main difference between the Prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and all the other Prophets is that he was sent to all of Mankind until the end of time, whereas they were sent for specific periods of time, to specific tribes. Hence we have in the Qur’an, “And We have not sent thee except as a bearer of glad tidings and a warner Unto all mankind; but most of mankind know not”[xvii].
· We must also believe that certain Propehts were sent Books, and in specific, that Moses was given the Torah, Jesus the Injeel, David the Zabur and some Booklets were given to Abraham as well.
· The religion given to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) abrogates those given to the Prophets before him, while the creed remains the same.
· All Prophets were protected from sins and were the best example for mankind. The Qur’an says, “Assuredly in their stories is a lesson for men of understanding. It is not a discourse fabricated, but a confirmation of that which went before it, and a detailing of everything, and a guidance and a mercy unto a people who believe”[xviii].
· Prophethood can not be earned by effort or hard work. God alone chose who was to be made a Prophet, and he prepared them for it by giving them the required character and qualities. He says in the Qur’an, “Allah knows with whom to put His Apostleship”[xix].
Miracles of the Prophets
Miracles are those supernatural occurrences that are given by God to His Prophets, to enforce the truth of their claim against those who deny it. Note that they are supernatural, but not impossible. That is, they would probably be against the familiar or the experience, but not against the possible. The miracles are such that they can not be reproduced by even the top minds of the time. This makes it easier for the people to believe in the message, as the message usually comes across strange to the people it is sent to, as it is against most of what their forefathers have been doing.
The first and foremost miracle that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was bestowed with is the Qur’an. Since this miracle of the Qur’an remains with us, it is the most powerful miracle ever given to man, as such an eloquent, authentic and prophetic book could not be reproduced and will not be reproduced until the end of time. While the eloquence factor can best be understood by the Arabs who were unable of bringing even a single chapter similar to it, despite the challenge by the Qur’an to do so[xx], the remaining factors can be understood by all. The fact that it was conveyed through an illiterate man makes it all the more astonishing. Other miracles include the Isra’ and Mi’raj (The night trip to Jerusalem and then to the heavens), the splitting of the moon[xxi], the gushing of water between his fingers, the sufficiency of little food for large number of people and many other such incidents which reach us through the concurrence of authentic reports.
It should be noted here that since we have accepted the Prophet Muhammad as the last Prophet based on the relevant verse of the Qur’an which we mentioned earlier, we must also realize that such miracles are no longer possible, as they are only given to Prophets. However, this does not imply that supernatural occurrences can not take place, but only that if they do, there is some other explanation for it, and it has nothing to do with Prophethood or Miracles, as in the context of Prophethood.
With the discussion on Prophethood coming to a close, one can now profess the complete testimony of Islam, that ‘There is no God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’, which makes one a Muslim, with belief. Since to become a Believer, he would need to believe in this testimony, as just profession of it alone would not qualify him as a Believer, and since it is belief upon which salvation in the hereafter is dependent, we hope the above discussion would help even those Muslims who have not yet become true Believers. And God alone guides to the Straight Path.

Chapter 3: The Unseen

The unseen refers to all those aspects which we can not realize except through the information received through Prophets. Belief in the unseen is a fundamental part of the Islamic Creed, as belief in the seen is no big deal. The unseen includes the angels, the events that take place after death, the events leading up to the Day of Judgment, the description of Heaven and Hell etc. As we have discussed in the beginning, the scientific method of acquiring sound knowledge about such items which can not be experienced or experimented is to check the authenticity of the report. It is not possible for us to test the report based on our experiences, as they are different from anything we have experienced, which is precisely why they are called unseen (though unexperienced would have been a better term, as it would have included all 5 senses).
Before we start discussing specific instances, let us look at an example or two, from day to day life, where we have no problem in accepting something without necessarily understanding it, based on the person who is saying it, so that we may be better prepared to accept this as well. The reason I feel the need to give these examples is that though the method we are following is scientific, there may be those who are skeptical about its scientificity, as they have never come across any such items before. Whenever they talk about the future, they talk about the probability of an event, and never about the certainty of event. But that is the difference between the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man, which we have already discussed in the first chapter.
If you walk into a chemists shop and you pick up a beaker and are about to drink its contents when the chemist shouts out to you not to do so, as it is poisonous. Considering you do not know much chemistry, you will probably obey him (unless you came there to commit suicide in the first place). Or if you read in the paper that a certain astronomical society has determined that a solar eclipse would take place at a particular time. You would probably believe it, even though you did not verify from the astronomical society themselves, as you know that the newspaper does not generally make mistakes in such basic reporting.
These are just two examples of the various occasions on a day to day basis in which we believe things purely based on reports, which would have been difficult for us to verify otherwise. How about those things which can only be ascertained through reports? In such a case, the only thing you need to check is the authenticity of the report. As the Qur’an was revealed by God through a trustworthy angel to a Prophet of God, and then recorded immediately, there is no need to worry about the authenticity. In the case of Hadith, since they were not recorded for a couple of decades, the need arises to see who the narrators of the report were and how good memories they had and so on and so forth. Keeping all this in mind, we will now look at a few things from this class of knowledge, the unseen.
The presence of angels is established through clear verses of the Qur’an and innumerable narrations in the Hadith about them. What we know with certainty about them can be summed up as follows:
· They are slaves of God, and have no other relationship with Him[xxii].
· They obey all of God’s commandments and never disobey Him, spending their whole time in accordance to His Command, praising Him and glorifying Him[xxiii].
· They are winged, having wings in twos, threes and fours[xxiv].
· They are created from light.
· They can take various forms, even that of humans, and appear before other humans[xxv].
These angels have various duties for which they are created. Gabriel brings revelation[xxvi]. Some angels carry the Throne of God[xxvii]. Some guard Heaven and Hell[xxviii]. Every human being has two angels who record his actions, one recording his good deeds and the other his bad deeds[xxix]. There are angels to protect human beings in their day to day activities[xxx]. There are others to extract his soul at the time of death. According to one verse[xxxi], many angels extract the soul at the time of death. Another verse[xxxii] seems to imply that there is only one. It is possible that there is one main angel who has been given helpers for his duty. The name of these angels have not been revealed through authentic sources, except for the one of Gabriel, which is why we have not mentioned them here.
One question may arise as to why God chose the help of so many angels, when he could have done all of this without any help. The answer is that yes, he could have done it without help, and hence His use of angels is not because of His inability to do all this, but rather as a show of His Majesty and Kingdom, which is organized to so minute details, and so large in magnitude, to show the Splendor of God.
Matters Relating to Death
Death is not by any mean from the realm of the unseen. However there are many aspects related to death which only the dying person knows, and no person can come back from death and describe it to us. Therefore these events relating to the time of death and beyond that is related to the unseen. What we know from the authentic sources is:
· The soul is taken out by an angel or by angels, as we saw above. The exact way in which the soul is taken cannot be said for sure, but from some verses[xxxiii] and various narrations, indications are available that the soul of those who were good is taken with more ease and gentleness than that of those who were not. This has nothing to do with the mode of death, but it is only about how the soul is finally taken.
· As soon as a person dies and is placed in his grave, two angels come and question him about his belief. Whoever had believed in this life and died in the state of belief, will be able to answer their questions and escape their wrath. Others will be frightened by their sight and not able to answer their questions. The fact that all the narrations mention the questioning being in the grave, does not mean that those who are not buried, such as those who drown or are engulfed by flames will escape the questioning. This is just used to show how soon the questioning starts after he dies.
· Those who were unable to answer the question posed by the angels, as well as according to some other narrations those who used to commit other types of sins, will face severe punishment in the grave. Others will be in great luxury. This will continue until the day of Judgment[xxxiv]. This also refutes the concept of reincarnation, as since the soul is either in luxuries or being punished, how can it be sent back to the world in another body?
The Signs of the Day of Judgment
The time in which the Day of Judgment or the Last Day will be established, also called the Hour, is a matter which God chose not to disclose to anyone, including His Messengers and Prophets. Hence this fact is clearly mentioned in many verses of the Qur’an, such as these: “They ask thee concerning the Hour, when will its coming be? Say: knowledge thereof is with my Lord only, none shall disclose it at its time but He; heavy it is in the heavens and the earth; it shall not come upon you except all of a sudden. They ask thee as though thou were familiar therewith. Say: knowledge thereof is with Allah only; but most of men know not”[xxxv]. “And they say, when will this promise be fulfilled, if you are truthful? Say: it’s knowledge lies with Allah, Alone, and I am but a clear warner”[xxxvi]. “They ask you about the Hour, when will be the appointed time? What knowledge do you (O Muhammad) have about it? To your knowledge belongs the term thereof. You are only as warner for those who fear it. The Day they will see it, it will be as if they had not stayed in this world except for an afternoon or a morning”[xxxvii]. Therefore it is not possible for anyone to know, by any means, when the Day will arrive, or calculate, in any way, when this world will come to an end, as this is something, the knowledge of which, God has kept to Himself.
The Signs of the Day of Judgment are those major events which we have been informed about, that lead up to the Day of Judgment. These can be classified into two types. One are those that have come either in the Qur’an or have come to such an extent in the Hadith, that it becomes necessary to believe in them. The other are those that though they might have come in authentic Hadith, they do not have the sort of concurrence that requires us to believe in them without doubt. Here we will only mention those Signs of the first type.
· The Arrival of the Antichrist or Dajjal: He will be of Jewish origin, and will originate from the East. He will initially claim that he wants reform. He will then claim divinity. All Prophets had warned about him in their own time. A lot of people will follow him, most of them Jews. He will have supernatural powers. His right eye will be deformed. He will have no offspring. He will not be able to enter Makkah or Madinah. He will be killed by Jesus (PBUH). The powers that he will be given, such as ability to bring back to life will be as a trial for the believers, to test their faith.
· The Descent of Jesus Christ (PBUH): Jesus was not killed by the Jews or crucified, as is the belief of the Jews and the Christians, but a man who looked similar to him was crucified in his place. Jesus (PBUH) was lifted alive with body and soul to the heavens[xxxviii]. His return to the earth will be a Sign of the Day of Judgment[xxxix]. He will establish the same Islamic Creed with which all Messengers and Prophets were sent, and will follow the Islamic Rules and Regulations which abrogate those of the previous Prophets, including his own. He will marry and then die, after having killed the Antichrist. All the Jews and Christians will also believe in him before he dies[xl].
· The Appearance of Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog): Ya’juj and Ma’juj are terms used in the Qur’an while referring to a large group of people who will appear near the end of time and take the world by surprise, descending from every high area, and will spread mischief and destruction in the world, in a frightful manner[xli]. They will emerge when a mighty barrier that had been barricading them will be broken[xlii]. Time alone will tell where they will emerge from and further details about these people and the havoc they will wreck.
· The Appearance of a Beast from the Earth: The Beast of the Earth is the name given by the Qur’an[xliii] to an animal that will emerge from the earth near the end of time, whose physical appearance is known to God alone.
· The Rising of the Sun From the West: This is clearly mentioned in many narrations such as the one in which the Prophet is reported to have said: “The Hour will not arrive until the sun rises from the West (or from its place of setting). When this happens, and people witness this, they will all believe. However at that time, no ones belief will benefit him in any way. Perhaps this will be by the reversal of the direction of spinning of the world around its axis, but the exact way in which it will happen is known only to God.
The Events of the Day of Judgment
When all of the signs of the Day of Judgment have appeared, and the particular moment which only God knows of arrives, this world and everything that exists will give way to another existence, called the Hereafter. The time when this happens is called the Last Day, the Day of Judgment, The Day of Recompense, the Day of Reckoning or the Hour. This is the most important day, and can be looked as at a conclusion to this play that we are all a part of. Man will stand before his Lord, weak and helpless, and He will question him about everything that he did on earth, where it seemed he was free to do whatever he willed, and those whose rights were usurped will get their rights back from the usurpers, whom people believed were too strong to take to account. This day is the logical conclusion to all the injustice that we see in the world. Perhaps one of the topics the Qur’an dwells upon the most is the fact that this day is coming, and what will happen thereafter.
What you should know about the events of this day can be summarized as follows.
· It will begin with the blowing of the Trumpet once, upon which all souls remaining will be taken. Then the Trumpet will be blown for a second time, upon which all the souls will come back to life.[xliv]
· The bodies will be resurrected and joined by their souls.[xlv]
· God will tell man all that he did in his life, with regards to his actions, statements and beliefs. This will be in front of all mankind, so as to honor the good and disgrace the evil. Man will be given his book of deeds, which will not leave out even the smallest detail of his life. The length of this reckoning and its ease or difficulty will vary from person to person, depending on his virtue.[xlvi]
· Everyone will be waiting for their turn, naked and barefoot, but they will not bother about that due to the extreme fear of the reckoning that awaits them. The sun will be right above their heads, as a result of which they would be drenched in their own sweat, or even drowning in it, again according to their virtue. It will be so severe a day, except for those whom God makes it easy for, that people will wish that it would be over, even if it means going to Hell.[xlvii]
· The deeds will be weighed, and those whose good deeds outweigh their evil ones will be successful, and those whose evil deeds outweigh their good ones will be in great loss.[xlviii]
· All mankind will have to pass over a bridge that lies over the Hellfire, and those who were not in the Right Path in this life will find it narrower than a hair, and as a result will fall into the Fire, whereas those who were on the Path of God in this life will find it broad, and will cross over it with the speed of lightning.[xlix]
· God will accept the intercession of whom He wills amongst his pious servants, and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) will be given a special status, based on which he will intercede for all mankind in general and for his nation, in particular. This will be as a result of the Mercy of God and as a bestowal of honor on the Prophet, as a result of his longing for the guidance of all mankind. The Prophet (PBUH) will also be given a well or body of water, called Al-Kawthar, from which he will give the true Muslims to drink, after which they will feel no more thirst.[l]
· The final and eternal destination of each and every human being is either Heaven or Hell. To describe them in the type of detail mentioned in the Qur’an would lengthen this discussion beyond the scope of this booklet, but nevertheless at this junction, two facts are necessary to mention. One is that both Heaven and Hell are material, and those entering it with enter it with their bodies, though the body will be changed, either for beautification, as in the case of the people of Paradise, or for being able to bear the punishment, as in the case of the people of Hell. Secondly, both are eternal, and will never come to an end. However, a believer who is being punished for his evil deeds may complete his term of punishment in the Fire and eventually be admitted into Paradise, by the Grace of God.[li]
With that, we conclude the major articles of the unseen which we must believe in, based on the report that comes to us from the most authentic of sources. Without believing in any of these, one can not be considered a believer, as it would be to deny the Word of God, or the Prophethood of the Prophet (PBUH), which we have already believed in, in the second chapter. This is precisely why I took up the task of showing that Islam does not demand that anyone believe ‘blindly’, in anything, but rather that one understands what he is being asked to believe in, and why he should do it, in a rational manner, as we have done above. However, if anyone still has any doubts, or can not understand something that I have written above, or how I came to a particular conclusion, feel free to contact me at and I will try my best to help you out.
Yours Faithfully,
Raashid Sherif
[i] (17:36)
[ii] (25:73)
[iii] For instance (36:34-40) and (56:58-74)
[iv] (112:1)
[v] (2:255)
[vi] (21:22)
[vii] (57:3)
[viii] (57:3)
[ix] (112:2)
[x] (42:11)
[xi] (112:4)
[xii] (23:115)
[xiii] Sahih Bukhari, chapter of Commencement of Revelation, Hadith 3, and other books
[xiv] For instance (66:1) and (80:1-10)
[xv] (33:40)
[xvi] (35:24)
[xvii] (34:28)
[xviii] (12:111)
[xix] (6:124)
[xx] (2:23)
[xxi] (54:1)
[xxii] (4:172)
[xxiii] (66:6)
[xxiv] (35:1)
[xxv] (19:17)
[xxvi] (26:193-194) and (40:15)
[xxvii] (69:17)
[xxviii] (39:71-73) and (74:27-31)
[xxix] (50:17-18)
[xxx] (13:11)
[xxxi] (6:61)
[xxxii] (32:11)
[xxxiii] (8:50)
[xxxiv] (40:45-46)
[xxxv] (7:187)
[xxxvi] (67:25-26)
[xxxvii] (80:42-46)
[xxxviii] (4:157-158)
[xxxix] (43:61)
[xl] (4:159)
[xli] (21:96-97)
[xlii] (18:94-99)
[xliii] (27:82)
[xliv] (39:68)
[xlv] (19:66-68)
[xlvi] (84:7-12)
[xlvii] (21:103-105) and (22:1-2)
[xlviii] (101:6-11)
[xlix] (19:71-72)
[l] (19:87), (20:109) and (108:1-3)
[li] (88:8-16), (4:56), (18:107-108) and (43:74-75)