By: WAJIH UDDIN
أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ ﴿٣٥﴾ أَمْ خَلَقُوا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ ۚ بَل لَّا يُوقِنُونَ ﴿٣٦﴾۔
“Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they are not certain”
Atheism linguistically means ‘not a theist’; in other words, someone who does not believe in a God or gods. Theism, coming from the word ‘theos’, denotes a ‘belief in the existence of an intervening God or gods.
Academics have not reached a consensus on a definition for atheism, but our concern here should not be with philosophical hair-splitting definitions. Rather it is the confusion behind this very issue which is becoming prevalent to some degree within our society.
Atheists, according to Professor Richard Dawkins, are “philosophical naturalists.” As stated by Dawkins, an atheist “believes there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world”. However, some atheist academics are not naturalists. Although these atheists deny the Divine, they affirm the existence of non-physical phenomena.
For the theist, this type of atheism is generally speaking easier to intellectually engage with because they do not dismiss non-physical phenomena. In this respect there is some common ground with theism. It is important to note that most atheists, who assert evidence against God’s existence or argue that there is an absence of strong evidence for the Divine, adopt philosophical naturalism, implicitly or explicitly.
They seem to struggle with the idea of a compassionate and merciful God in a world of evil and suffering. The typical rejoinder amongst atheists is that they can make or find their own meaning, which apparently means they can pretend there is meaning to their lives – but they seem to miss the fact that this is exactly what they criticize the religious of doing.
There is a principle that one should uphold before talking about God with atheists, and it is that they approach it not from a Christian understanding, but from a Muslim one.
The precondition put forth is quite simple; before they ask you any question about God, you put that question to be filtered through:
لَيْسَ كَمِثْلِهِ شَيْءٌ…
“There is nothing like a likeness of Him”
The traditional Islamic term for atheism is ilhaad, which literally means ‘deviation’, best translated as ‘godlessness’. The term ‘ilhaad’ comes from the Arabic word lahad, which is used to describe a type of Islamic grave where a hole is dug and a side pocket is made for the deceased. In this sense the lahad is a deviation from the main hole that is dug.
Since atheism denies the Divine and the supernatural, it also rejects the concept of an afterlife. Without that, there can be no hope of pleasure following a life of pain.
The Qur’an alludes to this hopelessness. It argues that a believer cannot despair; there will always be hope, and hope is connected to God’s mercy, and God’s mercy will manifest itself in this life and the hereafter:
وَلَا تَيْأَسُوا مِن رَّوْحِ اللَّـهِ ۖ إِنَّهُ لَا يَيْأَسُ مِن رَّوْحِ اللَّـهِ إِلَّا الْقَوْمُ الْكَافِرُونَ ﴿٨٧﴾ ۔
“Certainly no one despairs of God’s Mercy, except the people who disbelieve.”
It’s really fascinating that the vastness of the universe is yet to be comprehensible, but somehow God who created it all is quite easily understood by them. They continuously complain and frequently cite the amount of ‘unnecessary’ and ‘gratuitous’ evil and suffering in the world.
Most atheists adopt philosophical naturalism as a worldview. Philosophical naturalism is the view that all phenomena within the universe can be explained via physical processes. These physical processes are blind and non-rational. Philosophical naturalists reject all supernatural claims and some argue that if there is anything ‘outside’ the universe it does not interfere with it.
Under atheism, justice is an unachievable goal—a mirage in the desert of life. Since there is no afterlife, any expectation of people being held to account is futile.
رَبَّنَا مَا خَلَقْتَ هَـٰذَا بَاطِلً
“Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose.”
There are many signs which Allah (SWT) has placed for men of intellect to ponder upon and realise that there is a Creator. Take a look at the moon, which has a regular cycle of phases that has been important for keeping monthly calendars in many cultures. How about the gravitational field of the earth that is dependent on its size, which keeps the moon at a particular distance from it. The moon’s gravitational influence gives rise to the ocean tides, which have implications for ocean ecology. Any change in size of the eartho r size of the moon would’ve resulted in a different distance between the two. This would’ve produced a very different ecology on earth. But atheists believe all this happened just by accident and there was no intelligent being behind such a systematic order.
In the same way one can even reflect upon the distance of the earth from the sun. If we were any closer or any further we would’ve either burned up or frozen up. How about the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere? Lower means suffocation and higher means burning. What about the change in seasons and length of day and night produced by a particular angle and speed of rotation and revolution of the earth? Small-scale manipulations of conditions in botany labs change how plants grow, so how different would things have been if the speed or angle of the earth were other than they are? What about the atmospheric properties? Questions such as these can go on and on. But it seems that it’s all random and unrelated chance of events that somehow all came to work together accidentally to allow for not only our existence and survival, but also our use and benefit.
كَذَٰلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الْآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ ﴿٢٤﴾ ۔
“Thus do We explain in detail the signs for those who give thought.”
إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَاتٍ لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ ﴿٢١﴾ ۔
“Indeed in that (heavens) is a sign for a people who give thought.”
Ibn Taymiyya (Rahimullahu Alaihi) was not a strong advocate of rational arguments for God’s existence. He maintained that the fitrah was the main way of affirming the Divine. However, he did not dismiss sound rational proofs for God’s existence. However, these rational arguments must conform to Islamic theology and not adopt premises that contradict it.
Believing in God, entails certain consequences to how they would live their lives, which means they can’t just follow their whims and desires anymore. The delusional prospect of not having to answer to a greater being at the end of the day is quite attractive. Their understanding of God is based on material presuppositions and cultural upbringings, which allows them to anthropomorphize and restrict His essence into a scientific hypothesis, as if they can measure and detect His existence through some lab equipment and manmade technology. Hence, they’re able to give preposterous explanations of how the world came about the way it is so as to take God out of the equation.
Since our ultimate purpose is to worship Allah (SWT), we must establish our natural balance to find out who we really are. When we worship Allah (SWT), we free ourselves, and find ourselves. If we do not, we are forgetting what makes us human.
May Allah (SWT) allow us to live a life of obedience to our Creator and follow in the example of our beloved Prophet ﷺ.
وَلَا تَكُونُوا كَالَّذِينَ نَسُوا اللَّـهَ فَأَنسَاهُمْ أَنفُسَهُمْ ۚ أُولَـٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ ﴿١٩﴾ ۔
“And be not like those who forgot Allah, so He made them forget themselves. Those are the defiantly disobedient.”
وَلَقَدْ صَرَّفْنَا فِي هَـٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ لِلنَّاسِ مِن كُلِّ مَثَلٍ ۚ وَكَانَ الْإِنسَانُ أَكْثَرَ شَيْءٍ جَدَلًا ﴿٥٤﴾ ۔
“And We have certainly diversified in this Qur’an for the people from every [kind of] example; but man has ever been, most of anything, [prone to] dispute.”