Allah is identified with Truth; all truth derives from Him. Truth is in accord with who He is within Himself, and is defined by what He wills into existence, and by how He wills things to be. Science works to discover the truths of our world. It is not correct to say that our Creator is equivalent to the sum total of all that exists. No. Rather, Allah exists independently of His creation. The creation —meaning all that He has created and continues to create— is not to be equated with a physical materialization of the Creator Himself. Deity does not reside within our material world —within this closed system— and God in Himself is not accessible to our physical human perceptions, even though it is He who animates all that is within our material world. Allah “sees,” “hears,” and “knows” in ways beyond our capacity to hear, see or know.
THE TRUTH ABOUT INDEPENDENCE FROM GOD, RELIANCE ON HIM, AND RECEIVING GUIDANCE
There are various ways of rejecting the Creator. Whether those rejecters be pagans, who worship elements of nature, or whether they be modern “atheists,” who believe in no Unseen world —or at least no divine personality in it— or whether they be those who accept the concept of God but behave as if their Creator and Maintainer has no claim on their behavior and requires no accountability from them.
Now, truly, indeed, We have varied in this Quran [something] of every kind of illustration for [the good of] all people. Yet of all things man is most argumentative. For there is nothing to prevent people from believing, now that the [Heavenly] guidance [of the Quran] has come to them. Nor [is there anything to prevent them] from seeking forgiveness from their Lord, except that the [obstinate] ways [of unbelief] of the earlier generations [re-emerge and] overcome them—or [except that] the punishment [of God, at last,] comes to them face to face. [Sûrah Al-Kahf, 18:54-55]
God guides unto His light him that wills [to be guided]; and [to this end] God propounds parables unto men, since God [alone] has full knowledge of all things. [Sûrah Al-Nûr, 24:35]
God communicates to man in likenesses (“parables”) relating to what we know in human experience —because we are not able to grasp His type of reality, nor can we intuit the processes by which He functions. A meaningful modern rationalistic style of verification of our Creator’s full intention for us —and His ultimate overall purposes in creation— are beyond independent human discovery in this life. What we successfully know of Him is limited to what He has chosen to reveal to us.
What, then, can we humans know independently of prophetic revelation?
Consider the following as a starting point in your pondering over the verse-signs of the Quran and in your pondering over the way-things-work signs regarding ourselves and our world: What all human beings have seen, heard and can realize is that all of us are here in this physical world, but that this existence is not of our own doing: We did not place ourselves here. Nor did we create the earth, the heavens; nor did we initiate any force or principle governing their operation. At best, in the modern way of thinking, we can only discover and describe —using Science, Mathematics, and Logic— what is within us and around us. Science, Mathematics and Logic work for us humans, but how is it that there exists the system inherent throughout the universe on which these human areas of discovery and knowledge are structured?
So then, mustn’t there necessarily be an Independent Agent who has arranged, in one way or another, for us to exist, here and now, One who manages operation of the universe in which we find ourselves? Doesn’t there have to be something beyond what any of us can “prove” or deduce by Science or Philosophy?
Sometimes, in Science and Philosophy, the Process of Elimination is the only method left standing for positing an acceptable explanation when we are failed by the insufficiency of our data collected through the five senses, or failed by the reach of our methodology. The actuality of God is a case in which we can never have direct observable data to meet the requirements of Science; He is the one Uncaused Cause who remains after the attempted explanatory systems have been exhausted, found lacking, and ruled out.
It is not the Truth of the world that is lacking, but rather the insufficiency of the observer to properly interpret the underlying Truth of what he perceives! In fact, we must respect our lack of human omniscience before we can begin to judge the reliability of ourselves as human beings who engage in scientific investigation and before we can judge the scope of our scientific method and our reliable exercise of it! Even the best and brightest among our scientists and philosophers do not escape their own human nature.
…for man was created weak. [Sûrah Al-Nisâ’, 4:28]
Yet [in anger] man [unknowingly] invokes evil [upon himself] as [eagerly as] he invokes good. For man is, indeed, [given to] haste. [Sûrah Al-Isrâ’, 17:11]
Is man, then, not aware that it is We who create him out of a [mere] drop of sperm — whereupon, lo! he shows himself endowed with the power to think and to argue [against Us]? [Surah Yâ Sîn, 36:77]
O man! What is it that lures you away from your bountiful Sustainer, who has created you, and formed you in accordance with what you are meant to be, and shaped your nature in just proportions, having put you together in whatever form He willed [you to have]? [Sûrah Al-Infitâr, 82:6-8]
Consider the human self, and how it is formed in accordance with what it is meant to be, and how it is imbued with moral failings as well as with consciousness of God! [Sûrah Al-Shams, 91:7-8]
Nor, on the reverse side of the coin, is any of us less than what Allah created him to be.
Frankly, the major question for modern Western man is not, primarily, whether or not Deity exists, but rather how to understand the One who speaks in the Quran and claims to be our Lord. It may be excusable to deny the existence of Deity when one wrongly conceptualizes Him as a superhuman version of ourselves. It is another thing to reject the merciful, almighty and all-wise Deity, Allah, who speaks in the Quran.
For one to accept the existence and sovereignty of an all-powerful Creator means, inescapably, to acknowledge one’s personal dependence upon Him. Those who have an intense dislike for dependency on others may reject belief in the one God, especially so if they have attained a high position or station in life. They may see themselves as having “pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps,” as the saying goes —as if the conditions for their success had not been provided for them from beyond their own domain and jurisdiction.
The truth of personal dependency is a stumbling block for modern man, especially since religion is popularly associated with authoritarian hierarchies in which one is expected to believe —without evidence or personal investigation— what current religious leadership has worked out as God’s Truth. Truly, even in the case of the best of our very own Islamic scholars no one has legitimate cause for authority over us except insofar as their knowledge of God’s revelation is correct and insofar as they can convey it to us in ways that we can comprehend it. We depend upon them to speak with verifiable knowledge.
Western culture tends to overestimate the reach of Science as it pushes us toward accepting the illusion of independence and self-sufficiency at multiple levels: personal, family, community, etc. In fact, it is true that we Muslims, too, must strive to be independent of reliance on unsupported interpretations of our perfected religion:
Today, those who are bent on denying the truth have lost all hope of [your ever forsaking] your religion: do not, then, hold them in awe, but stand in awe of Me! Today have I perfected your religious law for you, and have bestowed upon you the full measure of My blessings, and willed that self-surrender unto Me shall be your religion. [Sûrah Al-Mâ’idah, 5:3c, d]
It is our duty to discern what is truly sent down for us through the final Prophet.
This is the Book [of God]. There is no doubt therein. It is guidance for the God-fearing: Those who believe in the [realms of the] unseen, and who [duly] establish the Prayer [set by God], and who spend [charitably] out of what We have provided them; and those who [further] believe in [this Quran] that has been sent down to you, [O Muhammad, as a revelation from God] and [who believe in the Scripture] that has been sent down [to the prophets who came] before you, and those who, [within themselves,] have [utter] certainty of [the immanence of] the Hereafter. It is these who are [advancing] upon [the path of] guidance from their Lord. And so it is these who are the [truly] successful. [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:2-5]
Thus whoever turns away [from God’s religion] after this —then it is they who are the ungodly. So [as to the People of the Scripture]: Is it, then, other than God’s religion that they seek, when all those in the heavens and [in] the earth submit to Him—willingly or unwillingly—and [when it is] to Him that they shall all be returned [for Judgment]? Say [to one and all, O Prophet: As for those who follow me,] we believe in God and [in] what has been sent down to us, and [in what has been sent down to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and [to] the [prophets of the] Tribes [of Israel]. And [we believe] in what was given to Moses and [to] Jesus and [to] all the [other] prophets from their Lord. We do not differentiate [in faith] between any of them. Thus are we muslims, in willing submission to Him [alone]. And so, anyone [after this] who seeks a religion other than submission to God, islam, [as revealed to all the prophets] —never shall it be accepted from him! Moreover, in the Hereafter, he shall be among the losers [of an everlasting Paradise]. [Sûrah Âl ‘Imrân, 3:82-85]
Discerning what is truly sent down for us is a step-by-step process. We begin with understanding what is absolutely clear and unquestionable: We practice Prayer, Charitable-Giving, Fasting —and Hajj if we are able— in addition to holding to unalloyed faithful allegiance to the Creator, who has sent Scriptures and prophets to mankind. As we continue to practice these Pillars of Islam, mindfully, we gain in closeness to Allah, in knowledge of our history and heritage, as well as in mutual cooperation and support of our fellow Muslims.
…To be continued in Part 6