Proving God’s Existence | In Pursuit of Conviction II
Human beings are in need
O humankind, you are those that need Allah with much destitution, while Allah is The Self-Sufficient, the Praiseworthy. (Qur’an 35:15)
Any motivated behavior, either preparatory or consummatory, must be understood to be a channel through which many basic needs may be simultaneously expressed or satisfied.5
Anthropogenic changes are assessed at the scale of human needs, rather than in terms of ecosystem structure and function.9
Maslow defines growth as the continuous development of talents, capacities, creativity, wisdom, and character, the various processes which bring the person toward ultimate self-actualization.10
The need for God and the need for meaning
Say: The Truth is from your Lord, whoever wants (to believe) let him believe and whoever wants (to disbelieve) let him disbelieve. (Qur’an 18:29)
[W]hat does it actually mean to believe in meaninglessness? The belief in meaninglessness is itself meaningless, and therefore not a belief at all. Accordingly, there really is only one option—the meaningful. There was no battle to begin with. For an entity that fathoms meaning, there is no escape but to find a meaningful outlook on life.13
1) The spiritual necessity of God
The need for value
Man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain, but to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has meaning.14
Finding value in purpose
And We did not create the heaven and the earth and that between them aimlessly. That is the assumption of those who reject faith. (Qur’an 38:27)
Is there a purpose to life?
There’s no point to humanity, So many people are suffering. If humanity is extinct, Earth and animals would be happier. They’ll certainly be better off. Also no human will then suffer. Human existence is totally pointless.16
The example of the believer is like the fresh stalk, the leaves of which move in whatever direction the wind blows and, when the wind becomes still, it stands straight. Such is the example of the believer being affected by hardships. And the example of the one who rejects faith is like a cedar tree that remains hard and straight until Allah cuts it down whenever He wills.17
Requirements for a purpose in life
They only follow dhann and what their egos desire even though guidance has come to them from their Guardian Lord. (Qur’an 53:23)
And most of them only follow dhann while dhann cannot compete with haqq at all. (Qur’an 10:36)
He created the heavens and the earth with the Ultimate Purpose (Haqq). (Qur’an 16:3)
...And they reflect regarding the creation of the heavens and the earth (saying), “Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly...” (Qur’an 3:191)
And We didn’t create the universe and the earth and everything in between for fun. If We had desired to have some amusement, We would have derived it from Ourselves, but We did not do that. (Qur’an 21:16-17)
Or do they have a stairway (to heaven) upon which they listen? Then let their listener bring a clear sultan. (Qur’an 52:38)
What is wrong with you? How do you judge? When will you learn? Or do you have a clear sultan? (If that is the case), then bring your scripture if you are being truthful. (Qur’an 37:154-157)
And they did not appraise Allah with a true appraisal when they said, “Allah did not reveal anything to a human being.” (Qur’an 6:91)
Just as We have sent among you a messenger from yourselves reciting upon you Our signs, purifying you and teaching you knowledge of the scripture and wisdom, and teaching you what you couldn’t have ever known. (Qur’an 2:151)
So see the effects of Allah’s Mercy how He brings life to the earth after it had died. Certainly, that (same One) will give life to the dead. (Qur’an 30:50)
Finding purpose elsewhere
Whoever worshipped Muhammad, know that he has died, but whoever worships Allah, then know that He is The Living and will never die.18
Let no one force another to adopt a way of life. Without a doubt, Truth is clear from Falsehood. So whoever rejects false gods and puts their faith in Allah, then they have grasped the firm, trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. Allah is the Ally of those who believe, taking them out from the darkness into the light. (Qur’an 2:256)
Finding purpose through God
And I have not created Jinn and Humankind except for them to lovingly devote themselves (to God) through worship. (Qur’an 51:56)19
Allah, there is nothing worthy of worship except Him, The Living, The Sustainer of All. Neither sleep nor drowsiness overtakes Him. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and in the earth. Who can intercede except with His permission? He knows what is before them and what will come after. And they cannot apprehend even a drop of His Knowledge except with His Will. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth. Protecting them does not tire Him and He is The Transcendent, The Magnificent. (Qur’an 2:255)
O Humankind, lovingly devote yourself through worship to your Guardian Lord, Who created you and those before you, so that you may attain taqwa (caution and alertness, being fearful of God). (Qur’an 2:21)
And follow the path of those who turn to Me. (Qur’an 31:15)
And Allah calls to the Home of Peace and guides whom He wills to the straight path. (Qur’an 10:25)
Is that better or the Garden of Eternity which has been promised to the pious? It will be for them a reward and their final destination. They will have whatever they wish, abiding in it eternally. That is a binding promise on your Lord. (Qur’an 25:15-16)
In the heart, there exists an anxiousness that nothing can calm but drawing nearer to Allah. In it is a desolate feeling that cannot be removed except by experiencing His Loving Company in solitude. In it is sadness that will not leave except with the joy of knowing Him and genuinely devoting oneself to Him. In it is a worry that is not made tranquil except by focusing on Him, fleeing from His punishment toward Him. In it is a fire of regret which cannot be extinguished except by satisfaction with His commands, prohibitions, destiny, and patiently gripping on to all that until the time it meets Him. In it is a strong desire that will not cease until He is the Only One Who is sought. In it is a hole that cannot be filled except by His Love, turning to Him, always remembering Him, and being sincere to Him. Were a person to be given the entire world and everything in it, that would never fill the hole.20
Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, (making) a pure word like a pure tree, whose roots are firmly fixed and its branches (high) in the sky? It produces its fruit at all times by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for people that perhaps they will recognize. (Qur’an 14:24-25)
Faith has over seventy branches—or over sixty branches—the uppermost of which is the declaration: “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah”; and the least of which is the removal of a harmful object from the road, and modesty is a branch of iman.21
So is it other than the way of Allah that they seek while whoever is in the galaxies and the earth have submitted to Him, willingly or out of compulsion, and to Him shall they all return. (Qur’an 3:83)
2) The intellectual necessity of God
- Option 1: Every proof itself requires another proof, in which case they require an infinite number of proofs to justify a belief as true (infinitism).
- Option 2: All proofs go back to a certain indubitable premise which itself does not need to be proven or justified (foundationalism). For instance, for some people that foundation may be rationalism; for others, it may be empiricism.
- Option 3: The proofs justify one another in a circular fashion, with the last proof being justified by the first (coherentism).
Does the existence of God require philosophical proof?
Knowledge (of God) according to them (spiritual masters) is innate rather than something that requires proof...This is why none of the messengers were ever sent to their nation in order to prove the existence of a Creator, rather their calling was to the devotion to and unity of the Divine.27
And how can the proof (for God) be valid if His existence is more obvious than the supposed proof?28
And (even) if We opened to them a gate from heaven and they continued therein to ascend, they would say, ‘Our eyes are hallucinating, or we’ve been affected by magic.’ (Qur’an 15:15)
Reality of faith
Faith in God
He created the heavens and earth with a purpose; Transcendent is He above all they associate with Him. (Qur’an 16:3)
Finding intelligibility through God
And We did not create the heaven and the earth and everything between them randomly. That is the assumption of those who reject faith. (Qur’an 38:27)
The naturalist tries to build his whole outlook of reality based on what can be directly observed and tested—whatever constitutes ‘empirical evidence.’ But as a consequence of his a priori commitment to exclude anything beyond the immediacy of his own empirical lens, he ends up with a puzzling picture of a pointless world of purposeless particles. There is no good or evil, right or wrong, pleasure or pain, knowledge or ignorance—only different arrangements of particles, which are all equally aimless and bereft of any significance. Values, ideas, meanings—nay, even consciousness itself, must be nothing more than the delusions of collections of particles we call ‘people,’ which presume their own consciousness and individuated existence. Everything in existence which is conceived to have meaning is—at its very root and essence—ultimately, meaningless. Nothing matters and nothing means anything at all. This conclusion all stems from the initial choice made to dismiss the spiritual instinct that life is inherently about something greater.32
We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. (Qur’an 41:53)
They cannot encompass anything from His Knowledge except what He wills. (Qur’an 2:256)
By the Lord of the Universe and the Earth, it is the Truth, just as sure as it is that you are speaking. (Qur’an 51:23)
The moral instinct
According to Noam Chomsky, we are born with a ‘universal grammar’ that forces us to analyze speech in terms of its grammatical structure, with no conscious awareness of the rules in play. By analogy, we are born with a universal moral grammar that forces us to analyze human action in terms of its moral structure, with just as little awareness.35
Moral realism is incompatible with naturalism
Just as atheists claim that the beliefs of theists about the objective existence of a god are in error, moral error theorists claim that the beliefs of moral realists about the objective existence of moral rules, prohibitions, virtues, vices, values, rights, and duties are also in error, and for the same reason—what they are talking about doesn’t exist.37
My purpose was to show that moral truths exist and that they must fall (in principle, if not in practice) within some (perhaps never to be complete) understanding of the way conscious minds arise in this universe.39
We have certain logical and moral intuitions that we cannot help but rely upon to understand and judge the desirability of various states of the world.40
An atheist’s eventual embrace of a moral error theory will be facilitated, if not forced, by the ease with which arguments used to undermine theism can be recycled to criticize the analogous beliefs of secular moralists.41
Morality comes from beyond this world
We have raised the heavens and placed the balance so that you do not transgress (and stay) within the balance. (Qur’an 55:7-8)
So is it other than the way of Allah they desire, while to Him have submitted [all] those within the heavens and earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him they will be returned? (Qur’an 3:83)
Islamic theology and Euthyphro’s dilemma
All (moral) obligations are based on revelation (sam’iyya), and the intellect (’aql) has no role in discerning between right and wrong.50
The judgment of goodness in this world is not established except with revelation (shar’) and nothing can judge over revelation.51
The command is based on its connection to goodness and benefit … The prohibition is based on its connection to evil. And so, based on its connection to evil, it is something that leads to corruption or prevents benefit.53
Allah has predisposed His creation to (intuitively) know that truth and justice are good, along with beauty, modesty, and gratitude. He has also predisposed His creation to (intuitively) know that the opposite of all the above is evil. This capacity is related to their fitrah (human nature) and ‘aql (intellect), just like sweetness and bitterness is known through taste sensation, or like perfume and foul odor is known through smell sensation … Our moral sense is just as intuitive as our empirical senses in distinguishing between the good and the bad, the pure and the filthy.55
Humanity is created with a capacity to be able to receive the manifestations of all Divine Names and attain all perfections.56
By means of the miniature measure it contains, Selfhood slowly comes to understand the true nature of the Divine Attributes and Names.57
That would necessitate an infinite regress. Because if His action had a cause, then that cause would require another cause.58
This is an infinite chain of events into the future rather than into the past. When He does an action for a wisdom, that wisdom is achieved after the action. Then from that particular wisdom that is achieved, another wisdom is intended from that, and it continues into eternity. So that wisdom that is achieved is intrinsically loved and also a means for a second wisdom. So Glorified is He, the One who brings forth from His wisdoms what He loves and makes them means for more of what He loves.59
Ahl al-Sunnah (people following Islamic tradition) agree that He created everything as Lord and Owner. Everything He wills becomes and anything He does not will does not become and no one else can place restrictions that He must abide by.60
Finding morality through God
Recognizing God through your lived experience
Declare that the Truth is from your Lord. So whoever chooses, let him have faith and whoever chooses, let him repress faith. (Qur’an 18:29)
O humankind, you are those that need Allah with much destitution, while Allah is Free of need and Worthy of All Praise and Thanks. (Qur’an 35:15)
1 Ontology is the study of existence, being, and the very nature and constituents of reality. Content in the field includes the examination of such questions as the nature of causality, the existence of numbers, the relationship between explanations and abstract concepts and the objects to which they relate, and so on. What is required in order for us to maintain coherent notions about existence indicates an ontological necessity.
2 Philosopher Harry Gene Blocker writes on the meaning of meaning, “the logical root of meaning can be traced to the sense of purpose and a system of purposeful relations. When people speak of the meaningfulness of things, they are usually talking either about (a) the purposive way things seem to hang together or (b) the purpose which this system has as a whole. Correspondingly, meaninglessness can mean either (a) the breakdown of this system or (b) the realization that the purpose for the system as a whole is a human projection having no foundation in reality.” Blocker, H. G. The Meaning of Meaninglessness (1974), pp. 33-40.
3 Ibn al-Qayyim. (2009). Rawdatul-Muhibeen. Cairo, Egypt: Dar Alam al-Fawa’id, p.14. For a full discussion see Khan N. (2015). Tawheed - A life worth living. Accessed on https://spiritualperception.org/a-life-worth-living/.
4 Ibn al-Qayyim. (2007). Tareeq al-Hijratayn. Makkah, Saudi Arabia: Dar Alam al-Fawa’id, pp.12-16. He contrasts this view with the notion that God’s role with respect to creation is limited to a cause-effect relationship, either originating their existence as an occurrence in time (huduth) or affirming a contingent possibility (imkan), whereas Ibn al-Qayyim sees these as mere signs of the more essential ontological dependence of creation upon the Creator.
5 Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370.
8 Bouzenita, A. I., & Boulanouar, A. W. (2016). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: An Islamic critique. Intellectual Discourse, 24(1).
9 Briggs, J. M., Spielmann, K. A., Schaafsma, H., Kintigh, K. W., Kruse, M., Morehouse, K., & Schollmeyer, K. (2006). Why ecology needs archaeologists and archaeology needs ecologists. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 4(4), 180-188.
10 Sengupta, S. S. (2011). Growth in human motivation: Beyond Maslow. Indian Journal of Industrial Relations, 47, 102-116.
11 Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and unification. Review of General Psychology, 10(4), 302.
12 Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370.
13 Khan N. (2015). The real battle: Meaningful vs meaningless. Spiritual Perception. Accessed on https://spiritualperception.org/the-real-battle-meaningful-vs-meaningless/
14 Kaplin, A., & Anzaldi, L. (2015). New movement in neuroscience: A purpose-driven life. Cerebrum: The Dana Forum on Brain Science, 7.
15 Urry, H. L., Nitschke, J. B., Dolski, I., Jackson, D. C., Dalton, K. M., Mueller, C. J., ... & Davidson, R. J. (2004). Making a life worth living: Neural correlates of well-being. Psychological Science, 15(6), 367-372.
16 Piper, K. ( 2019, February 7). This man is trying to sue his parents for giving birth to him. Vox, Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/2/7/18215586/india-man-suing-parents-giving-birth-antinatalism-raphael-samuel
17 Sahih al Bukhari, Hadith 7466.
18 Sahih al-Bukhari, Hadith 4453.
19 For a larger discussion on the concept of ‘ibadah (worship) see: https://yaqeeninstitute.org/mohammad-elshinawy/why-does-god-ask-people-to-worship-him/
20 Ibn al-Qayyim (2013). Madaarij as-Saalikeen. Al-Mansoorah, Egypt: Maktabah Fiyaadh, p. 987.
21 Sahih Muslim, Hadith 60.
22 Ibn Taymiyyah. Dar Ta’arud al-ʿAql wal-Naql. Edited by Muhammad Rashad Salim, second edition (Riyadh: Al-Imam University 1991), vol. 8, p. 458.
23 There are also some permutations that combine these options but do not significantly impact the trilemma. See, for instance, Tramel, P.(2008). Haack’s foundherentism is a foundationalism. Synthese, 160(2), 215-228.
24 See for instance Qur’an 16:3 and 38:27. Also, refer to Ibn Taymiyyah, Naqd al-Mantiq. Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut 1999. p131.
25 Ibn Taymiyyah, Naqd al-Mantiq. Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut 1999, p. 166.
26 Al-Alusi. Ruh al-Ma’ani fi Tafsur al-Qur’an al-Adhim wa Sa’ al-Mathani. Dar Ihya Turath al-Arabi, Beirut n.d. Vol. 25, pp. 141-142.
27 Ibn al-Qayyim. (2013). Madaarij as-Saalikeen. Al-Mansoorah, Egypt: Maktabah Fiyaadh, p. 720.
29 Clark, K. J., & Barrett, J. L. (2010). Reformed epistemology and the cognitive science of religion. Faith and Philosophy, 27(2), 174-189.
31 For a more complete examination of the epistemological failings of skepticism, refer to Khan, N. (2017). Shakk - The Epistemology of Doubt. https://spiritualperception.org/shakk-1-the-epistemology-of-doubt/
32 Khan N. (2015). The real battle: Meaningful vs meaningless. Accessed on https://spiritualperception.org/the-real-battle-meaningful-vs-meaningless/
33 The quiddity (mahiyyah = ma bihi huwa huwa; i.e., that by which something is what it is) of intellect would subsume what is referred to by contemporary philosophers and neuroscientists as the ‘hard problem of consciousness’ famously described by David Chalmers in The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1996).
34 Al-Maturidi. Ta’wilat Ahl al-Sunnah - Tafsir al-Maturidi. Edited by Majdi Muhammad Surur Baslum. Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah 2005. Vol. 7, pp. 26-27.
35 Pinker, S. (2008, January 13). The moral instinct. The New York Times. Retrieved from, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html
36 Bloom, P. (2013). Just babies: The origins of good and evil. New York, NY: Broadway Books.
37 Garner, R. (2011). Morality: The final delusion? Philosophy Now, 82, 18-20.
38 Harris, S. (2011). The moral landscape: How science can determine human values. New York, NY: The Free Press.
41 Garner, R. (2011). Morality: The final delusion?
42 Hallaq, W. (2009). Groundwork of the moral law: A new look at the Qurʾān and the genesis of Sharīʿa. Islamic Law and Society, 16(3/4), 239-279.
43 Pinker, S. (2008, January 13). The moral instinct. The New York Times. Retrieved from, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html
45 Pinker, S. (2008, January 13). The moral instinct. The New York Times. Retrieved from, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html
46 This comes from the name of a character who engages with Socrates in the dialogue written by Plato. Euthyphro tells Socrates that he is attempting to prosecute his father over a crime, to which Socrates responds by interrogating Euthyphro regarding the definition of piety, and he enquires as to what makes a matter good and beloved to the gods.
47 Shahrastani, M. (1992). Al-Milal wa Al-Nihal. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar al Kotob Ilmiyya, vol. 1, p. 88.
48 The Maturidi approach agreed with Mu’tazilah in epistemology but with the Ash’ari view in ontology. In other words, what determines whether an action is good or bad is nothing other than Divine instruction; however, God has rendered the intellect capable of recognizing the moral value of actions in some matters. Rudolph, U. (2014). Al-Māturīdī and the Development of Sunnī Theology in Samarqand. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, p. 297.
49 Pinker, S. (2008, January 13). The moral instinct.
50 Ar-Razi, M. (1905) Muhassal Afkaar al-Mutaqaddimeen wa al-Mutakhireen. Cairo, Egypt: Al-Matba’ah Al-Husayniya, p. 148.
52 Johnston, D. (2004). A turn in the epistemology and hermeneutics of twentieth-century usūl al-fiqh. Islamic Law and Society, 11(2), 233-282.
53 Abdul Jabbar, A.H. (2011). Al-Mughni fee Abwaab at-Tawheed wa al-’Adl. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar ul Kutub al-’Ilmiyya, vol. 9, p. 82.
54 Ibn Taymiyyah notes that the moral quality of some actions is rationally discernible; however, human accountability for those matters is contingent on receiving guidance from God. On the other hand, there are other matters which have no intrinsic moral quality but only become morally praiseworthy or blameworthy after the Divine command. Ibn Taymiyyah. (2005). Majmu al-Fatawa, Mansoura, Egypt: Dar Al-Wafa, vol. 8, pp 256-7.
55 Jawzi, I.Q. (2013). Madaarij as-Saalikeen. Al-Mansoorah, Egypt: Maktabah Fiyaadh, p. 197.
56 Nursi, S. (2013). The words: The reconstruction of Islamic belief and thought. Clifton, USA: The Light, Inc., p. 354.
58 Taymiyyah I. (1986). Minhaj as-Sunnah. Riyaadh, Saudi Arabia: Jami’ Al-Imam Muhammad Bin Sa’ud Al-Islamiyya, vol. 1, p. 145.
59 Ibid., p. 146.
60 Taymiyyah, I. (1999). Iqtidaa Seerat al-Mustaqeem. Beirut, Lebanon: Dar ‘Aalim al-Kitab, vol. 2, p. 310.