Islamic Correspondence Course (Book 1)
- :Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
Islamic Correspondence Course (Book 1)
Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi
1. Why Study Religion?
Why should we investigate about religion and study about God? What provokes us to consider religion? There are three reasons:
(A) LOVE OF KNOWLEDGE:
We all want to know the truth about the world in which we live: Did the heaven with its beautiful stars, the earth with its glorious landscapes, the beautiful birds, the colourful fish, the blue oceans and the high mountains—did all these come into being by themselves or are they the product of an All-Knowing and Powerful Creator?
Besides all this, the first question that comes to mind for all of us is the origin of ourselves: Where did we come from? Why are we in this world? Where are we heading to?
The love of knowledge and the searching spirit within us dictates that we must not rest until we find the answers to these questions.
Thus the first reason that compels us to inquire into religion is our thirst and love for knowledge.
(B) THE SENSE OF THANKFULNESS
The world around us and the world within ourselves is full of marvelous things. The sun and moon, the plants and trees, the mines and minerals hidden deep in the heart of the earth; all of them are of great benefit to mankind.
Within ourselves, we have the digestive system, the respiratory apparatus, the heart and other organs of the body; but the greatest of all, however, is the intellectual ability of man himself through which he can make a mighty mountain crumble into pieces, and create from water and iron enormous power and the most delicate objects.
Now this question poses itself: Should we not engage ourselves in research and inquiry until, if there is a benefactor, we acknowledge that benefactor, to fulfill our duty and offer him our thanks?
This is the second reason why we should inquire into religion.
(c) PREVENTING POSSIBLE DANGER
If a child were to come and tell you that he saw a poisonous snake go into the room you were in, you would immediately jump up from your chair and undertake a thorough search of every nook and cranny until you found it, or until you were satisfied that it was not there.
Similarly, while traveling by night in a dangerous country, if you learnt that bandits were waiting on the road ahead to ambush you—you would without any doubt wait until the way ahead was clear of danger, and would not take a single step forward until then.
In these two examples, we have made clear that reason compels us to investigate conceivable dangers. It is possible that some of the harmful things may turn out to be nothing at all, and that other people may not pay any attention to them; but if an inquiry carries the price of a human soul, then it cannot be ignored.
In the history of mankind, we learn of people who were famous for telling the truth and who lived an honest life. They claimed that they were messengers of God, and they called people towards God and to act in certain ways.
As a result of the efforts and the constant sufferings of these special people in all corners of the world, many groups believed in them.
Thus the birth of Jesus became the beginning of the Christian calendar and the migration of the Prophet Muhammad was taken by the Muslims as the beginning of their calendar.
Now, we see that these messengers attracted men to religion and to follow particular rules, caused them to fear punishment of their bad deeds and convinced them that they would be tried in the Great Court of Justice before the Righteous and Wise Judge.
They trembled at the hardships and perils of Resurrection and the harshness of the punishment there, and warned men of the dire consequences of evil deeds.
The question is: Do the warnings of these people make us realize the possibility of harm and danger in the same way as did the warning of the small child in the example mentioned above?
Is it right to ignore the words of the messengers of God who, after all, were men of high moral standards and who made greatest sacrifices for their cause?
Clearly, the words of the messengers —if they do not make a man certain— at least provoke him to think: perhaps what they say is true. If what they say is true, then what is our duty? What answer will we have in the Court of the Great Judge?
Common sense reckons the necessity of preventing this "possible harm". What is more, these messengers and prophets call man to a healthy and civilized life, and they also say that after death an extensive new world and everlasting blessings await one who has performed his duty. Does reason allow us to ignore this important message?
There is a similar argument known as the "Pascal's Bet,"
named so after the famous French mathematician, Pascal (d. 1662 CE). Pascal proved the importance of inquiring about religion in the following way: If you believe in the life-hereafter, you will gain everything if it really exists; and you lose nothing if it does not exist. Therefore, it is better to bet that it does exist.
The theme of this argument was presented by the Shi'a Imams long before Pascal. We also know that Pascal had read Abu Hamid al Ghazali's works.
It, therefore, seems quite possible that Pascal might have read this argument from Imam 'Ali (a.s.), the first. Shi'a Imam, as quoted in Mizdnu 'l-A^mal of al-Ghazali. Imam 'All said:
The astrologer and the physician both say, The dead will never be resurrected.
I say: ‘Keep your counsel. If your idea is correct, I will come to no harm; but if my belief is correct, then you will surely lose.’
2. Some Necessary Qualities of Religion
The religion which can fulfill the needs of mankind must have the following qualities:
(a) It must satisfy the intelligence and intellect of human beings.
Islam gives foremost importance to human intelligence. Islam emphasizes that you must understand the faith and then believe in it. Belief follows understanding, and not vice versa.
(b) It must teach and demonstrate dignity of human beings.
Islam places human beings over and above all other creations of God; it promotes equality among human beings. Islam does not allow human beings to lose their dignity by bowing down in worship to a fellow man, animal or an inanimate object.
(c) It must be a complete guide to develop the body, mind and spirit of humans as a whole.
Islam does not only develop the soul at the expense of the body; nor does it promote the care of the body at the expense of the soul.
It promotes development of all aspects of human life in a balanced way. Islam not only talks in general terms about the code of life; it gives specific details and also provides examples in the lives of the prophets and imams.
(d) It must conform with human nature.
The teachings of Islam takes the human nature into consideration. It does not promote, for example, celibacy which is completely against human nature.
(e) It should not be a tool in the hands of oppressors to suppress the masses.
Islam promotes social justice and rejects the theory of predestination. The oppression of a tyrant ruler is not predestined by God. This leaves no room for the tyrant rulers and oppressors to say that the masses have been predestined for serving the ruling class.
From time immemorial, man has found different ways of knowing God. Human beings of various intellectual levels have found their own ways to God. Common people have found simple ways; whereas thinkers and philosophers reached the same conclusion on a higher plane of thought. The two most common ways of knowing the Creator are:
• the inner way (which is also the closest way).
• the outer way (which is also the clearest way).
First Method: The Inner Way
God has created the inner light in each and every human being. If we go deep within ourselves and touch our souls, we hear the message of God.
History and anthropology has shown that if man is left alone and is not indoctrinated by any school of thought— then, sooner or later, his inner voice will lead him to believe in a power as the Creator and Maintainer of this world.
However, at times this natural feeling is subdued by external means. But it re-emerges when that person finds himself in difficulties—he naturally prays to a Power whom he believes to be above all powers.
This is very well portrayed in the talk which Imam Ja'far as-Sadiq (a.s.), the sixth Imam of the Shi'a Muslims, had with an atheist.
Knowing that the atheist had gone on sea voyages several times, the Imam asked:
"Have you ever been caught in a fierce storm in the middle of nowhere, your rudder gone, your sails torn away, trying desperately to keep your boat afloat?" The Atheist: "Yes."
The Imam: "And sometimes perhaps even that leaking boat went down leaving you exhausted and helpless at the mercy of the raging waves?" The Atheist: "Yes."
The Imam: "Was not there, in all that despair, a glimmer of hope in your heart that some unnamed and unknown power could still save you?"
When the atheist agreed, the Imam said, "That power is God." That atheist was intelligent. He knew the truth when he saw it. The "inner way," in spite of being the natural and closest way of knowing God, is also a very personal way. It is only sufficient for the person who has seen the light within himself.
Second Method: Experiment Beyond Sensation:
The second way of knowing God is by studying the signs of His presence and power in the world within us and around us. The Qur'an has mentioned both these signs as follows: "We shall show to them Our signs upon the horizons (i.e., space) and in their own selves so that it may become manifest to them that He is the Truth."
(41:53) This method of knowing God is based on the principle of "cause" and "effect". The signs of nature are the effects of which the ultimate cause is God.
Now, let us try to understand the nature and scope of this method more clearly.
NATURE & SCOPE OF THIS METHOD:
Whenever we see a beautiful building of great splendour and design, we can easily understand that its architect was an expert in his own craft.
Similarly, by looking at a car, an airplane, a computer or any other well-designed product or artifact, we are invariably guided to well-informed and knowledgeable inventors, designers and manufacturers, and we are also made aware of their skill and learning.
In none of these instances is it necessary to actually see the builder, the manufacturer or the designer of such an artifact with our own eyes to testify to his existence.
Moreover, when observing all these things, it is not with any of our external senses that we perceive the knowledge and skill of the builders and manufacturers. But, nevertheless, we believe in his expertise and knowledge. Why?
Because the design and order which we perceived in the artifacts forces us to recognize the knowledge of their builders. And from this we reach the conclusion that it is not necessary that something whose existence we wish to believe in should be visible or tangible.
There are many things which are not perceptible to our external senses, but we become aware of them through their effects. For every wise person understands that there can be no effect without a cause, nothing orderly without a wise and knowledgeable designer.
Based on the above, we can divide the things of this world into two categories:
1. Things which are evident to one or more of the five senses; we observe visible things with the eyes, we hear sounds with the ears, we become aware of pleasant and unpleasant smells with our nose, we know bitter and sweet tastes with our tongue, and we feel hot and cold or rough and smooth with the skin of our body.
2. Things which are not perceived by any of the five senses, but whose existence we can deduce by considering their effects. These facts are not all of one kind, some are material and some are non-material. We shall mention a few of them here.
Electricity: By merely looking at two wires, one of which is electrified, we can never determine which of them has an electric current. We can only discover the existence of this current from the effect of electricity, e.g., a lamp being lit.
So electricity is something which exists although our eyes cannot directly see it. Gravity: If you let go of the book which you now have in your hand, it will fall to the ground, i.e., the ground will pull the book towards itself.
This power is something which we do not directly perceive through our senses. Gravitation is again one of those things which is not visible, but we come to know its existence by observing its effect: the falling of bodies to the ground.
Magnetism: When we place a magnet beside a piece of iron, we do not see anything except the two objects. But when the iron is pulled towards the magnet, we discover that magnetism exists around the magnet.
Invisible Radiation: If we shine white sunlight through a prism we see on the other side of the crystal six colours (the spectrum) which are: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. No more colours are to be seen on both extremes of the spectrum.
However, scientists have discovered that in the place where the eyes see no more light, further ‘colours’ exist which have heating and chemical properties. These lights' are called infra-red and ultra-violet.
Intelligence & Mental Image: All of us are aware of ourselves, i.e., we perceive that we exist; and we also arrive at concepts in a gradual manner concerning matters outside ourselves which we explain by this kind of statement: "I solved the most difficult mathematical problem."
Also, man is aware of his own knowledge: he knows that he knows. Intelligence is not something visible or audible in the sense that man can see it with his eyes or hear it with his ears; but everyone finds it in himself.
Others cannot learn about my intelligence through the five senses, but they can deduce its presence from the effect it produces. For example, when a scientist is expounding on a problem, it becomes clear that he has understood it.
People can construct in their own minds any form that they wish, e.g., a tower similar to the Eiffel Tower whose construction in the external world required many years, a thousand sorts of different building materials and substances, and hundreds of workers; this can be built in the mind in an instant.
It is clear that others cannot be informed directly of the creations of our minds, because they are not visible and audible, but they can discover their existence from our speech.
Life: A beautiful chicken, moving towards the water, falls into a pond, and, before we can rescue it, it dies. At this very moment, what change has taken place in the chicken; and what difference has occurred that it no longer moves, plays or eats?
There surely was something in the live chicken but which does not exist in the dead—life itself. Life is not an object of the senses. We only perceive the effects of life: movement, feeding, etc., and from these effects we discover its existence.
The facts mentioned above make it thoroughly clear that over and above the beings that we perceive with our sensory organs, there are also things which we do not directly perceive, but we know about them only through the effects they produce.
Thus we draw the conclusion that it is not right for us to reject something which we do not see only because it is not visible, because invisibility is different from non-existence.
Moreover, the way of discovering something is not confined to the eyes or other external senses. The human mind can discover something by means of the effects of those things, as we saw in the examples mentioned above.
We do not wish to say that God is similar to the scientific examples mentioned above, because God is a reality above those things, nothing is equal or comparable to Him. Our intention, however, is to say that in the same way as we discover the existence of those things through their effects, we can also discover the existence of God through His signs.
Discovering the existence of God through His signs is the "outer way" of knowing Him.
Thus, those who deny the existence of God just because they cannot see Him with their eyes, are blind as far as their eyes of wisdom and contemplation is concerned—since we know that His existence can be demonstrated through the precise design and order of creation.
To these people we say, with the poet: Open thy heart's eye for your soul to see, And what is invisible will be manifest to thee.
In this universe, from the smallest atom to the largest celestial body, in everything we see, we are reminded of its perfect orderliness and exact regulation, so much so that great scientists have been provoked to amazement.
One look at the world around us makes it clear that all things in it are in full coordination with one another.
The nourishment of living creatures, for example, depends on the coordination between the sun, clouds, rain, earth and its resources. All this points to the existence of one coordinated system in the universe.
There is so much orderliness in nature that the scientists, by using the immutable laws of nature, can explain the course any phenomenon will take before it occurs.
For this reason, scientists endeavour to discover these laws. For if these laws did not hold would not every kind of effort in this field be fruitless? So let us look at some examples of the order and design in the universe:
The earth in which we live, with respect to its size, its distance from the sun, the speed of its orbital movement, etc., is so arranged that it is able to act as the support for life. If the smallest change were to take place in its condition, losses of unacceptable dimensions would occur.
"The earth rotates on its axis at one thousand miles an hour; if it turned at one hundred miles an hour, our days and nights would be ten times as long as now, and the hot sun would then burn up our vegetation during each long day while in the long night any surviving sprout would freeze.
"Again, the sun, the source of our life, has a surface temperature of 12,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and our earth is just far enough away so that this "eternal fire 1 warms us just enough and not too much! If the sun gave off only one-half of its present radiation, we would freeze, and if it gave half as much more, we would roast.
"The slant of the earth, tilted at an angle of 23 degrees, gives us our seasons; if it had not been so tilted, vapours from the ocean would move north and south, piling up for us continents of ice.
If our moon was, say, only 50 thousand miles away instead of its actual distance, our tides would be so enormous that twice a day all continents would be submerged; even the mountains would soon be eroded away.
If the crust of the earth had been only ten feet thicker, there would be no oxygen without which animal life must die. Had the ocean been a few feet deeper, carbon dioxide and oxygen would have been absorbed and no vegetable life could exist."1
The atmosphere, most of whose constituent elements are lifegiving gases, is sufficiently viscous that it can, like a shield or armour, protect the earth from the deadly attack of 200 million meteors every day, which approach the earth with a speed of 50 km per second.
The responsibility for regulating the temperature of the earth's surface within limits which maintain life also belongs to the atmosphere, and if it did not exist, inhabited land, like the dry deserts, would become incapable of supporting life.
"Because of these, and a host of other examples, there is not one chance in millions that life on our planet is an accident." 2 But why are we taking the long way round in explaining these things?
Nearer than anything else is our own body. The mysteries of man's existence are without number, so much so that the world's scientists, after years of research and study, have not yet been able to fathom all the wonders of it.
After many years of study, Dr. Alexis Carel wrote a book called L 'homme, cet inconnue (Man, the Unknown). He confessed that biology and other sciences were 1 A. C. Morrison quoted in S. Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, God of Islam, Tanzania 1969, p. 31.
still unable to discover the facts about the working of the human body, and that many problems remained to be unraveled. Now let us examine some of the marvels of our own existence. THE CELLS OF THE BODY: A human body is like a building.
It is composed of small building blocks called cells, each of which is itself a living entity. In the structure of the cells most metals such as iron, copper and calcium are used as are other elements like oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulphur.
The number of cells in the body of man is about 10*6 which is equivalent to ten thousand, million, million.
Each one of these living cells works in perfect cooperation with the next, and all of them follow the same aim. They are very quick to suffer, having low tolerance levels, and nourishment must be correctly supplied for their needs.
The blood, with the help of the heart, performs this duty very well. The structure of the heart is well-designed and has perfect dimensions, so that it can supply blood to the whole body through the agency of the blood vessels and the capillaries.
The blood, after it has delivered nourishment to the cells, absorbs poisonous substances which have accumulated there and returns to the heart with a dull colour.
The heart delivers this to the lungs, a filtering apparatus for the blood, whereupon it is resupplied to the whole body with a bright colour and greater freshness.
While passing through the kidneys, another part of these poisonous matters are removed, so that no kind of disturbance arises in the general working of the body.
Do we not see in the precise combination and quantity of the metals and elements from which the cell is formed, and also the amazing structure of the heart and its way of working, a plan of perfect and superior design? And if we see in the human body, a mysterious whole and at the same time a design, are we exaggerating?
Without doubt, no.
1. The Eternal Need for God
Examine the following examples, and then you will realize the extent to which the creatures of this world show the presence of a Creator.
1. How do those who construct airplanes work together to produce a plane? These specialized engineers assemble the body sections in a specific manner according to exact equations so that the plane may fly, carrying passengers and cargo.
Of.course, the work of the construction engineers is to assemble the basic material according to their plans, in such a way that when their work is finished their activity ends.
As for the engines, the electronic control systems, the interior setting and decor, etc., these do not depend upon the body constructors.
2. If we want to build a house and we are in possession of all the raw materials, is that sufficient? Surely, we need a builder and his workmen, not in order to produce the raw materials, but so as to put them together according to their craft.
It is clear that we do not need the workmen for producing the materials used in the building, but that we need them only in so far as the use of these materials is concerned. In this way a house can be built from these materials.
3. A person who has never seen the Eiffel Tower can nevertheless construct it in his imagination in no time at all, merely from having heard about it. He can even construct it higher than it is, and imagine people climbing it.
The existence of the Tower in the imagination is, as the previous two examples suggest, the work of the one who has imagined it.
The basic materials of the plan and the house were not produced by their constructors, but all the materials for the imagined Tower were made by the one who imagined it, not obtained from some place or another.
That is why their size is not dependent on the quality of raw material available, and it can be made larger according to the wish of the one who imagines it. We can see that imaginary forms derive their existence from ourselves.
They remain in our minds as long as we want them to, and when we forget about them they become nothing again, and have no further existence in our imagination.
From this last example, we can conclude that anything whose existence depends on the existence of something else can not be independent, and at every moment has need of the other.
Now we can understand the condition of the created things of this world which have come into existence from nothing and which are the creation of God.
Are these created things, at every moment, in need of their creator? Some people may think that the created things of this world, after their creation, do not stand in need of their creator for their continued existence.
However, this is a completely erroneous concept, because the things in the world are the effects and creations of God and are identical with the imagined forms which we ourselves can construct in our imaginations, in that at every moment they need the One who created them in order to continue existing.
In order to understand this better, imagine a human figure, speaking, walking and working according to his will. Does this figure have any independence? Clearly his existence is due to you, for if you cease to want him to exist, he will be annihilated and returned to nothingness.
This is the condition of the entire universe of creation which is completely from God, created by Him, and in no way independent. It is always in need of God. Also, if God ceased to will its existence, it would return to nothingness.
The Qur'an says: O men, you are the ones that need God; He is the All-sufficient, the Alllaudable. If He will, He can put you away and bring a new creation. (35:15-16)
This is a subject to which Islam directs the attention of its followers. For example, it is instructed that in daily prayer when one rises one should say “bi hawli 'l-lahi wa quwwatihi aqumu wa aq’ud — with the power of Allah do I stand up and sit down."
2. God Occupies No Space
The world we see with our eyes is a material world composed of atoms. Every object has a special place and special properties, which vary from situation to situation.
Distance plays a role in the action of these properties and the nearer the cause is to the effect the stronger the effect is; the further away it is, the weaker the effect, until a distance is reached where the cause has no action at all. To elucidate this point we shall give one or two examples.
(a) The power of a magnet is not the same at all distances: the nearer the metal is to the magnet, the stronger the power of attraction. If a nail is placed at a distance of two centimeters from a magnet, the attraction will be stronger than if it is placed at a distance of ten centimeters.
(b) The light of a lamp may reach a hundred meters, but within this distance the intensity is not uniform. The nearer to the lamp we are, the greater the intensity of its light.
These two examples show that all things which are situated in a certain place do not have an equal effect at all distance, the nearer we are to the center of something, the greater its effect will be, and vice versa.
Does God Have a Center?
Some people may possibly think that like the sun and other material things, God has a place and that He has a seat from which He exerts His influence over His creation.
However, this is not the case, because His influence on creation, which is His own work, is the same in every place, from the depths of the oceans to the furthest parts of outer space. There is no place to which His influence does not reach in sufficiency.
This influence is not such as has a center, such that the further we go from it the weaker it becomes, until we reach a point where there is no trace of his influence and chaos reigns. For if God had a place like other material things, His influence would vary throughout the universe.
Therefore we can deduce from this that the Creator of this world has no location and no center. Indeed, God is the Creator of "place" and it is impossible that the Creator should be dependent on what He has created.
God cannot be compared with an inventor, because, as we explained previously, an inventor is not a creator. His only genius is that he understands the properties of things and is successful in bringing together certain elements to make something which, in some cases, he is himself in need of. But God, who is the Creator of all creation, is not in need of what He has created.
3. Is God Visible?
Now, since we have seen that God has no place, it is clear that he has no body either, because a body needs a place, and there can be no body which has no place. Since God has no body, he cannot be seen, because our eyes can see only bodies.
4. God is in Need of Nothing
Since God is the Creator of nourishment and other necessities of life and all things, we must agree that He has no need of any of these things. God, therefore, is the entire Truth who is in need of nothing. Unlike human beings, He does not need shelter, nourishment, and the other necessities of life, rather all people and things are in need of Him.
Maybe you will now ask: "If God has no body, occupies no space and cannot be seen, then what is He and how can we say that He exists?"
To understand this, take the following example. We can say that electricity is neither solid, nor liquid, nor gas. These negations do not deny the existence of electricity, and it could never be true to say that because electricity is none of these things, therefore it does not exist. We have to admit that electricity is a fact which is not describable by any of the aforementioned conditions.
Now, when we say that God, the Self-Sufficient, has neither body, nor place, nor can He be seen, nor is He in need of anything, we mean that none of these imperfections can be found in the perfect, unlimited Being of God, who is the source of all existence.
Here there can only be Perfection and Self-Sufficiency.
These properties distinguish His Being from other beings, and this is the God in Whom we must believe. Intelligence and human nature can accept such a God. No wise and honest person can deny His existence.
The supremacy and glory of Islam can be seen when we compare this concept with the belief that God is on a level with man, having a body, children and other such attributes and appendages.
In fact, we might say that many materialists reject God because the true God has not been made known to them, and what they have considered is not the real God.
5. God's Omniscience
The grandeur and mystery of creation cannot be compared to a man-made machine. The infinite details seen in living beings and inanimate objects indicate the unlimited knowledge of God. Let us examine the following:
(a) Newton said that a study of the components of the ear and the eye would lead us to understand that the maker of the ear was thoroughly acquainted with the laws of acoustics, and that the maker of the eye was thoroughly acquainted with the laws of light and vision; a study of the heavenly bodies, he said, would lead us to understand the Truth which governs the universe.
(b) The physiology of the bat is full of amazing things. In order to be able to find its way in the dark without flying into obstacles, the animals sends out ultrasonic waves in front of itself rather like radar. If there is an obstacle in the way, the sound waves reach it and are reflected back, and thus the bat can steer clear of the obstacle.
(c) Although insects are very small, they are very delicate and wonderful in their structure. For example, some of them, instead of eyes with one lens, have compound eyes made up of individual visual units called ommatids, every one of which has three parts: a cornea, a lens and a retina.
The number of ommatids varies between insects. Glow-worms have about 2,500, but in others there can be between 10,000 and 28,000. Because insects cannot rotate their heads, they can be permitted, by these compound eyes, to see things which happen beside them or behind them Now we must ask if God knows all the things after He has created them. And the answer is, yes, of course He does.
God knows about things, whatever their place and whenever they happen. He is aware of the shinning of the furthest star in the highest heaven, of the tempestuousness of the foaming blue waves breaking on the furthest shores of the ocean, of the most mysterious hollows of the most remote valleys in the folds of the mountains,
of the rustling of even one leaf in the gentle breeze, of the doleful coo of the owl in the deepest silence of the forest, of the flicker of the glow-worm among the leaves, of the innumerable fish with their infinite colours and variety in all the waters of the world,
of the birth of the fawn of the honey-coloured gazelle in the depths of the forest, of the falling of the clear, pearly dew-drop from the petal of the half-opened rosebud in the recess of the rocks. He knows the height of the mountains, the covering of the sky, the expanse of the lands and the seas and the treasures of the mines, the hidden depths of the caves and of all and everything.
THE BASIS OF GOD'S KNOWLEDGE
He who creates and gives existence is aware of His creation and always attends to it, in the same way as we are not unaware of the forms we create in our own imaginations. As long as we wish them to exist, they remain in our minds, but when we turn our attention away from them, they cease to exist.
If you imagine a person, you are necessarily aware of all his movements and his resting, and his actions are never hidden from your mind, because this imaginary person is your creation, that is, he did not exist before you thought of him, and you brought him into existence by your imagination.
God, who created the world and all of creation, whose existence comes from Him, oversees it all and is never unmindful of it. Of course, the difference between us, who imagine various forms in our minds, and God, who created the universe,
is that we ourselves depend on God for our existence and that our existence comes from Him. However, God is independent of all things and has given existence to all things. It is for this reason that we call only Him the real Creator.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CREATOR & MAKER
The maker of a computer is not its creator and did not give it its existence; his only skill was that he gave a new’ form to what was already in existence. He was not aware of the computations and the information that will be stored in it in the future.
Similarly, other inventors, discoverers and artisans are not informed of all the minutiae of the movements and stillness of what they have made, because they have not given existence to them, they have not brought them from non-existence into existence.
The raw materials were already in existence in the world. Only, by analysing and constructing, have they changed their form.
Take the case of the airplane, which is made from raw materials in mines which were extracted, smelted and forged and made into the finished products. Clearly, then, the makers did not create what they made; they only changed the form of the materials.
For this reason, they are not permanently aware of their artifacts, and one cannot, therefore, properly call them creators. If, in some cases they have to be called creators, they have only been called so figuratively, not literally.
But God, Who has given existence to all things, is always aware and knowledgeable of their actions, because He is the real and true Creator. The Qur'an says, "Shall He not know who created?" (67:14)
Now we have understood that we ourselves and all the creatures of this world are not separated from the glorified presence of God.
Wherever we are and to whatever land we travel, in the depths of the oceans, in the outer reaches of space, in the narrow places of the valleys, we are not hidden from Him. He sees the smallest of our good or bad deeds, and will reward and punish accordingly.
Can someone who has such a God and believes in Him ever fall prey to sin? Think about it.
The advent of science has exposed for us a unique pattern of the universe. There was a time when the earth was considered to be the center of the universe, that it was stationary, and the heavenly bodies revolved around it.
Then came a time when the people explored the solar system through the help of the telescope; and so, they gave the sun, the pride of place.
Now we know that our solar system is but an insignificant family of planets at the edge of the huge galaxy which we call the Milky Way.
We see the moon rotating around the earth, like a happy child dancing brightly around its mother. There are eight other planets, besides our own earth, in the solar family; and five of them have satellites of their own.
Mars and Neptune have two moons each; Jupiter has twelve moons and satellites; Saturn has nine and Uranus has five moons.
All the moons and satellites rotate around their planets. And all these planets, in turn, rotate around the sun, which may be called the head of the family.
Now, let us trace back our steps before going further. All these stars, planets, and satellites are made of atoms. And an atom itself is just a miniature solar system. Formerly, it was believed that atoms were immutable entities, i.e., they could not be divided.
Now that atoms are known to have so many particles, the belief in their indestructibility has been shattered away. Atoms consist of a nucleus and a number of electrons.
The nucleus is built from simple particles: neutrons and protons. The nucleus is located at the center of the atom and is surrounded by electrons. Electrons revolve around the nucleus in a fixed orbit much like our solar system.
It should be mentioned here, to make the picture more clear, that the nucleus of an atom is a particle of very small radius, but of exceedingly great density.
In plain words, all the atomic mass (except a negligible fraction) is concentrated in the nucleus, while the size of the nucleus is less than one hundred thousandth of the size of an atom. And don't forget that more than 100,000,000 atoms can be put side by side in one centimeter. Now, as we have stated earlier, the atom is a world in itself. The protons and neutrons behave as though they were rotating around their own axis, like rotating tops. Their spin suggests the idea of an internal rotation.
Thus, we see that there is a single pattern of operation, right from the smallest sub-atomic particles to the mighty solar system. But this is not the end of the story.
As we know, the sun, together with its family, is placed on the brink of the Milky Way. "If we could view the Milky Way from a vast distance and see it as a whole, we should observe a rather flat wheel of stars with spiral arms — something like the sparks of a Catherine wheel."
It consists of many millions of separate stars like our sun. This system of stars is physically connected by gravitational forces and moves through space as a whole.
It is called a Galaxy.
If we think that our solar system is a family of stars, a galaxy may be called a very big tribe consisting of millions and millions of such families.
The multitude of galaxies were unknown in the past. By about 1920 it was thought that there were at least 500,000 galaxies. Now, with the advent of powerful telescopes this number had risen to 100,000,000, and is increasing day by day. So far as the eyes of cameras and telescopes can see, there are clusters and clusters of galaxies.
Human knowledge, at present, is in its infancy. Nobody knows what is beyond these galaxies. Nor do we know much about the nature of their movement. The Qur'an says, "God has decorated the nearest sky with these lamps (i.e., stars)."
So we know that until now, we have not seen the end of even the first sky. And who knows what wonders are hidden beyond the first sky! "You have not been given knowledge but a little."
So, let us confine our talk to the little that we know about. We know that the particles of atoms are rotating around their axis; satellites are rotating around their planets; planets are rotating around their stars; and stars along with their dependent families, are rotating in the galaxies.
Our faith in monotheism, the Unity or Oneness of God, is the purest in the world. We have given countless proofs for our belief in the last fourteen centuries. Now science has opened a new path, which, also leads to the belief in the Unity of God.
It may be described briefly, in these words: "The uniform pattern of the universe is an indisputable proof that all this has been made by one, and only one, Creator."
When we see two identical watches, we need not be told that they were made in the same factory.
On the same ground, when we see the entire universe woven into a single entity; all its components governed by the same laws; all its parts operating on the same pattern, our natural instinct guides us to believe that it is created, made and controlled by ONE and only ONE Creator.
And, remember, there is a great difference between watches and the universe. Watches may be imitated or duplicated by impostors and forgerers. But, as the scientists say, aby definition there is only one universe.
One cannot repeat it or do experiments with it." So, we need not bother ourselves with the thought of any imitation-gods. If the universe —the creation— cannot be more than one, how can God —the Creator— be more than one?
The corner-stone of Islamic beliefs is tawhid, the belief in Unity or Oneness of God which is also known as monotheism. Tawhid is the first part of the kalimah—the formula of faith in Islam. It says:
La ilaha il-lal Iah
There is no god but Allah.
"Allah" is the proper name of God in Islam. The word "Allah" means "One who deserves to be loved" and "in Whom everyone seeks refuge." This word, grammatically speaking is unique. It has no plural and no feminine.
So this name itself reflects light upon the fact that God is one and only one; He has neither any partner nor any equal. The name cannot be adequately translated by the word "God" because God can be transformed into "gods" and "goddess".
The Message of Tawhid:
The first part of the kalimah consists of two statements: A negative statement ("There is no god") and a positive ("but Allah").
The negative statement leads a Muslim throughout his life not only in religious matters but also in social affairs. "There is no god" shows a Muslim that nothing in the universe is superior to him. It is observed in the Qur'an that He is the One who created for you all that is in the earth.
So a Muslim knows that nothing in this world is to be worshipped. Neither stone nor trees, neither animals nor human beings, neither the Sun, the Moon, nor the stars can be worshipped, because everything is created for his benefit.
When a Muslim thus rejects every falsehood and every idea of nature-worship, idol-worship and human-worship, he is ready to believe in the positive truth of tawhid.
Believing in a Supreme Being gives an aim to our life and provides a purpose for our actions. Had man been left with the wrong impression that there was no God at all, his life would have been aimless, and an aimless life is dangerous. So it is added that there is no god "but Allah".
The kalimah of tawhid has a negative and a positive aspect. Both are instrumental in creating the belief that every person is equal to every other person.
When nobody is superior, nobody is inferior. Thus, the belief in tawhid promotes the sense of brotherhood and equality and equity which is another feature of Islam.
2. Sifat—the Attributes of God
In the preceding lessons, we have learnt about most of the important attributes of God. There are many attributes which are a must for God, while there are others which are beneath His dignity and, therefore, cannot be found in Him.
The attributes of God, therefore, have been grouped into "positive" and "negative": the former reflects the attributes that exist in Him, where as the latter reflect the attributes that cannot be found in Him.
The positive attributes of God are known as as-sifat ath-thubutiyyah; whereas the attributes that cannot be found in God are known as as-sifat as-salbiyyah.
(A) THE POSITIVE ATTRIBUTES (AS-SIFAT ATH-THUBUTIYYAH):
There are many attributes which are befitting Allah, but only eight are usually mentioned because of their importance. The eight as-sifat ath-thubutiyyah are as follows:
1. Eternal (al-Qadim): God has neither a beginning nor an end.
2. Omnipotent (al-Qadir): God is Omnipotent; He has power over every thing and every affair.
3. Omniscient (al-‘Alim): God is Omniscient; He knows every thing. Even our unspoken intentions and unexpressed desires are not hidden from Him.
4. Living (al-Hayy): God is always Alive and will remain Alive for ever.
5. Will Power (al-Murid): God has His own will and discretion in all affairs. He does not do anything under compulsion.
6. All-Perceiving (al-Mudrik): God is All-Hearing and All-Seeing; He can see and hear everything without any need of eyes and ears.
7. Master of Speech (al-Mutakallim): God can create speech in anything, as He did in a tree for Prophet Musa (a.s.) and in the curtain of light for our holy Prophet (a.s.).
8. Truthful (as-Sadiq): God is always true in His words and promises.
It is impossible to fix any limit to the attributes of God. This list is not exhaustive but is essential to understand the glory of Allah. These attributes are not acquired but are inherent in the concept of Divinity.
(B) THE NEGATIVE ATTRIBUTES (As-SiFAr AS-SALBIYYAH)
The term "negative attributes" means those attributes which cannot be found in God because they are incompatible with the concept of Divinity. Similar to the positive attributes, the negatives attributes are also many but only eight are normally listed because of their importance. The eight as-sifdt as-salbiyyah are as follows:
1. Partner (as-Sharik): God has no partner or colleague.
2. Compound (al-Murakkab): God is neither made nor composed of any material. He cannot be divided even in imagination.
3. Place ( al-Makdn): God has neither a center nor a place because He has no body; and He is everywhere because His power and knowledge is magnificently apparent everywhere.
4. Incarnation (al-Hulul): God does not enter into anything or any person, nor does anything enter Him. Therefore, the belief in incarnation is incompatible with the concept of Divinity.
5. Change (Mahall-e Hawadith): God is not subject to change.
6. Visible (al-Mar'i): God is not visible; He has not been seen, is not seen, and will never be seen.
7. Need (Ihtiyaj): God is not deficient in any virtue, so He does not need anything. He is free from want.
8. "Acquired Attribute' (Sifat-e Za'id): The attributes of Allah are not separate from His person. When we say that God is Omnipotent and Merciful, we do not mean that his power and mercy are something different from His person.
To understand the concept of ‘additional quality’ or ‘acquired attribute’ more clearly, read the following two sentences: "Tea is sweet" and "Sugar is sweet". In the first example, sweetness is an additional quality for tea; the tea was not sweet when it was made, it became sweet after sugar was added to it.
But in the second example, sweetness is an essential quality not an added quality for sugar; the sugar was sweet from the day it became a sugar; a "sugar" which is not sweet is not sugar at all.
The positive attributes of God are like sweetness is to sugar; they are not additional to the person of God. Power, mercy, knowledge, justice, virtue, truth, etc. were never separate from His person.
1. God's Justice
From previous lessons we have read and learned that:
1. The order, design and harmony in the universe in general and in the human body in particular are veritable witness to the existence of a Creator whom we call God.
2. The same order, design and harmony also shows the Omniscience and Omnipotence of the Creator; but at the same time, due to our limitation, we cannot fully encompass the extent of His wisdom, knowledge and power.
3. Unlike the perpetual need of all creation, God is the Absolutely Needless and He stands in need of nothing. We also came to know that He does not occupy any space or center, nor is He visible.
Now we may ask if it is possible for God to be unjust? We know that injustice stems from ignorance, need, weakness or similar causes, none of which can exist in God. If we seek to find the cause of injustice, we may find the following reasons:
People sometimes commit injustice out of ignorance. At times, injustices stem out of man's limited and finite knowledge. For example, a judge can unjustly pass a sentence against an innocent person because he does not know the truth or because the truth was hidden from him.
Injustice sometimes takes place when a person cannot get what he needs by proper means.
3. Weakness or Compulsion:
Sometimes, people commit injustice because of weakness and compulsion. For example, after much struggling, when a person cannot get his rights from an unjust person,
he is, sometimes, led to extremes and does anything he can to bring that person down. The deprivation of that person becomes a pretext for violence and crime.
These and similar causes of injustice are impossible for God, because He is Omniscient, Free from need, and Omnipotent. So He is incapable of any injustice.
This is a very clear and obvious matter. Those who doubt the justice of God have not considered what we have explained, or else they do not understand what justice is.
2. What is Justice?
Justice is that every person's rights should be respected, that no distinction should be made between people for no reason. For example, in a school examination, all those who have a certain mark can move up to next grade.
Thus, the principal cannot make any distinction among the students and allow some of them to proceed to the next class while depriving others of this right while their marks are the same—because creating such a distinction among students who have the same right of entry into the higher class constitutes an act of injustice.
But in a situation where the question of rights does not arise, discrimination between individuals cannot be counted as injustice. For example, if someone wishes to invite some deprived persons to a meal, and chooses only some of these unfortunates,
his act does not constitute injustice—because here there are no rights which are being violated. What is given to them is only given in order to help them and purely out of a sense of doing good.
The observance of equality and justice is necessary when all have the same right; but when no rights exist, there can be no discussion of equality and justice, and discrimination between two individuals in such cases cannot be called injustice.
Thus, those who find difficulty in understanding the creation of things, and ask why God has not created all people equal and without distinction, and why He does not behave towards everyone with equal measure, have actually not understood the real meaning of justice.
If God does not create anyone at all or if He distinguishes between beings, nobody's rights have been violated, and therefore we can say that there is no injustice in spite of the differences and variations we find among human beings.
However, since God is Omniscient and Wise, and does nothing without a good purpose, we can ask: What is the reason for the distinctions among human beings? Are the differences necessary in the order of things?
3. The Vicissitudes in the Life of Man
Certainly you have heard of the spacecraft "Apollo", a perfect example of the marvelous progress man has made in science and technology. It took man above the clouds, beyond the atmosphere, and allowed him to set his feet on the surface of the moon, thus opening the door to a world hitherto unknown to him.
Looking at the design of this spacecraft, we see a huge mass of nuts and bolts, large and small, and various delicate and complex instruments; the command module, the main craft, the lunar landing module, landing and take-off equipment, fuel tanks, telecommunication and navigational apparatus, power sources, safety devices and sufficient stores of food, water and other necessities.
Each of these parts has its own role. Obviously, if it were not for these various parts, Apollo would never have come into existence, and it would not have been able to overcome the difficulties facing man on his way to the moon.
This example shows us that in a whole whose parts are connected with each other and in harmony, variety cannot be avoided.
Now let us look at the world of existence to discover that diversity here is neither pointless nor without reason. Without doubt, the beauty and complexity of this world is due to the variety of its parts, and we cannot call this diversity meaningless or unjust.
We have shown above that injustice exists where distinction is made when all have the same right to use something equally.
However, the parts of the world had no existence before they were created, and so they had no pre-existent rights which would enable us to say that the distinctions between them constitutes an injustice.
In fact, the world of creation owes its existence to variety, and if there had not been any variety there would not have been any universe, there would have been just one big uniformity.
It was this variety that brought into existence atoms, solar systems, galaxies, trees, plants and animals.
Turning now towards variety in human life, we see that diversity in man is not an exception to this general principle of variety.
If we look at the diversity in human ability, intelligence and memory and ask why they are not the same in all humans, we must first ask why plants and minerals do not have these superior faculties.
Then we can see that neither of these questions can be properly discussed, because such questions can only arise when rights are being trampled on. In this case, neither of these two conditions existed prior to creation such that a distinction between them should be seen as an injustice.
Another point to notice is that God demands from everyone according to his ability and responsibility, and no one is asked to do more than his bodily and mental powers enable him. This is justice itself.
For example, if a principal gives the examination of the most advanced class to one of the lower classes, this is an act of injustice.
However, if he gives the easy questions to the lower class and the difficult questions to the advanced class, then no one can complain that there had been injustice. Instead, he would be regarded as just by any meaning of the word.
Therefore, if all existent things are regarded from the same point of view and their responsibilities were all the same, then to make a distinction as regards their creation would be an act of injustice.
But we know that responsibilities are proportional to the individual's capabilities, and thus there is no injustice. For example, if a small screw in a machine has to do the same work as the largest cog, there would be injustice; but if each part must work according to its design and possibilities, then there is no injustice.
Moreover, we believe that God is Wise and that He does not do anything for no reason or for no good purpose, and we believe that the world has a special design so that no speck can come into existence without reckoning or design.
If, in such cases, something appears useless or without a function, it is in fact because of the limited nature of our minds. Not knowing something does not mean that it does not exist.
We can conclude from this that all the variations in things have some good purpose, and that they are all perfectly useful and necessary in the system of the universe, although we may not be able to understand this by our restricted thinking.
It may be objected that all individuals may have the same characteristics, talents and abilities, but that because of the needs of society they are forced to divide their labour among themselves.
The answer to this is that if this were the case, those who seek an easy life would choose the easier occupation, and the difficult and laborious occupations and menial tasks would be left with no one to do them; for no one would be ready to do them, since they all think the same way.
The spirit of man must pass through various states in order to obtain moral perfection. Gradually, calmly and without haste, through facing difficulties and comforts, tasting the bitter and the sweet, his spirit becomes more perfect.
It is these ups and downs that teach man to acquire pleasure; sometimes he is the king of the castle, and sometimes he is thrown into the dungeons. Happy is the one who uses whatever situation he finds himself in to perfect his soul.
If he is well-off, he can follow the way of perfection by helping the poor and the orphans, thus acquiring a great, humanitarian spirit, although he could be using his riches for easy living and luxury without putting them to any spiritual use.
Similarly, if he is poor, instead of encroaching upon other people's property and rights, he can be contented with his lot, be patient and cultivate self-respect, thus rolling away the stone of life's difficulties with the hand of activity and patience.
Thus all the vicissitudes of life are ways to perfection, and we must follow this way, whether the passage is narrow or wide.
Our meaning is not that we should will upon ourselves difficulties and sufferings. It is clear that this would be very difficult because we would not be using the natural abilities that God has bestowed upon us.
What we mean is that, if we try our best, but do not reach our objective or fall from prosperity to hardship, we should not consider ourselves to be unfortunate.
Rather, we should regard the vicissitudes, ease and difficulty, as new fields for the building of our souls and the use of our minds in resistance and struggle against these difficulties. In this way, we can derive the greatest benefit for our spiritual strength.
One who acts thus does not find in life anything against the principles of justice and purpose, and everywhere he turns he finds victory and prosperity. In this respect, the Qur'an says: He has raised some of you in rank above others, that He may try you in what He has given you. (6:165)
The meaning of the words ‘that He may try you’ here is that we should use to our benefit the present moment, and so, whatever situation happens to man, it is for his spiritual development, and this is the Grace and Justice of God.
This is the philosophy of differences and vicissitudes which can never be in contradiction to Justice. If we fail to understand some of the world's events we should not consider them to be unjust and wrong, because the system of creation is built firmly by the Powerful hands of the One with whom there can be no injustice, and all that He demands from us is through His Love.
This is a fact that we have clearly observed many times in the things which have happened to us and to others. Sometimes we consider something to be bad, but after a while we realize that not only was it without harm, but that it was also positively beneficial.
The Qur'an says: Yet it may happen that you will hate a thing which is better for you; and it may happen that you will love a thing which is worse for you. Allah knows and you know not. (2:216)
This lesson is based on the followings: Dar Rah-e Haq Board, The Roots of Religion, Qum 1982. It has been compiled and edited for this course by S.M. Rizvi.
1. The Purpose of Life
Did God create man as part of the chain of reproduction, to be a cog in a machine, and to be counted only as an automaton? Was man created only for his own enjoyment?
Was he created only to amass as much wealth as possible through any means, direct or devious, so as to satisfy his material wants? Is there no greater idea behind His creation?
A large number of people regard only man's material aspect and neglect the other side of the coin, because they have not understood the profundity of the nature of man or because they have not correctly evaluated it. Men of great understanding have ascribed three dimensions to man:
1. Individual material dimension.
2. Social dimension.
3. Spiritual dimension.
Those who give importance only to the first dimension, overlook the profound character of man and have thus forgotten the other two important dimensions. Those who land importance to the first two dimensions, but neglect the third, only succeed in creating an environment devoid of any spiritual and moral values.
Arnold Toynbee, the famous British historian, in a long interview with Life magazine, said that man had submitted himself to materialism and that from that point of view we do not lack anything.
However, he said, we have become bankrupt on the spiritual side of things. There is still time, he said, to address this problem and return to religion.
So a serious thinker goes further than the first two dimensions, and studies the purpose of life from all three dimensions. The third dimension gives man the power to evaluate his entrances and exits on th
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