Belief in Allah

Shehzad Saleem


    The Islamic faith is based on belief in Allah. When a person believes that the heavens and the earth and the world around him have been created by Him, and it is He who is governing them and it is He who will one Day call all mankind to account, then this is the beginning of religious awareness. Quite obviously, it is necessary that people have a true conception of their Creator. For this, they must have knowledge of the rational grounds of His existence as well as knowledge about gaining His correct recognition (ma`rifat). 
    In this article we shall dwell upon these twin issues. 


    We shall first take up the issue of the Almighty's existence. A logical starting point in this regard would be to analyze all human sources of knowledge. A little deliberation shows that, apart from Divine Guidance revealed to the Prophets, man has three sources of knowledge. We shall examine each one of them. 
    a) Faculty of Intuition: Certain a priori information exists in every person's intuition: it pertains to the knowledge which is not learned through the senses but which is innate and inborn in an individual. This innate information consists of various concepts. For example the concept of contradiction is an information present in our intuition. This concept, of course, is not a tangible thing. However, we apply this concept to a certain phenomenon and conclude that contradiction exists. Similarly, the fact that a thing is smaller than another is a concept which exists in our intuition and has no external form. Harmony, part and whole, unity, cause, space (up, down), time (before, after), etc are other examples of such concepts present in a person's intuition since his very birth. Human emotions like love and hatred, etc and human conscience, which discriminates between good and evil etc are some other examples of information which are present in our intuition. 
    b) Faculty of Sense Perception: Similarly, man receives knowledge through his five senses from the external environment. A person's senses are his receptors, which link him to the outside world. He sees, hears, touches, smells and tastes a thing and gets information about it. Moreover, this information gathered by the senses is transmitted to the later generations and such information becomes established history. 
    c) Faculty of Reason: Now, the human faculty of reason collates the information that it receives through the senses with the innate information present in human intuition. This internal analyses produces results, which, if proven correct, become facts and add to the treasure of human knowledge. One form of this analysis is called induction ie general laws are deduced by analysing particular examples. Many conclusions reached in this regard are not tangible facts. In fact, these conclusions are supported by evidence that exists in the external world. Most scientific laws which have been discovered are of this nature. One does not see the force of gravity, yet undeniable proof exists of its existence. Similarly, it is a fact that the earth is rotating on its axis at a very high speed and also, at the same time, revolving round the sun. Obviously, these are things our senses do not register; yet this rotation and this revolution are irrefutable realities. The point which is being made is that besides knowledge received through the senses and through intuition, there is another kind of knowledge in which knowledge and information are gathered through the process of induction and analysis. Such facts are not seen or heard or touched or tasted or smelt but are arrived at after evaluating what is perceived through the senses and what is already present in our intuition. This particular source of knowledge, it seems, is something which distinguishes man from other species which inhabit this earth. 
    In the light of this analysis, consider now how we have knowledge of the existence of the Almighty. No doubt, our senses have no means to perceive the Almighty. A person's intuition, on the other hand, has ample testimony within it which corroborates the existence of a Supreme Being. However, if a person does not pay heed to the testimony of his intuition, the third source of knowledge makes the existence of Allah the most manifest reality in this universe. This universe is brimming with certain signs and indications that point to the existence of a Creator. We shall allude to some of these: 
    Their exists a certain order and control in the universe. It is, in fact, this order to which we owe our very existence. Man till now has been able to explore a major part of the solar system in which he dwells on a very tiny part of it. His knowledge of the solar system and of what is beyond it shows that definite physical laws control the movement of all heavenly bodies. The precision and accuracy in these movements is astounding. Like mechanical parts of a machine each heavenly body seems to be controlled by a central system which is working without blemish. The sun and the moon, the two heavenly each person can observe, show remarkable consistency in following a particular schedule. Similarly, the coming of day and night at their appointed times has become an unerring phenomenon. Moreover, man's own body is a whole compound of extraordinary systems, which work with unimaginable order. In other words, there exists a tremendous order and control in this universe, both at the cosmic and the human level. 
    With this Order and Control, there exists a great amount of Providence in this world. All phenomena of nature seem to be directed at the obedient service of man. The sun rises and sets for him and the moon waxes and wanes for him. The waves of the sea serve man and the waters of the springs are for his comfort. It is he for whom the clouds burst with rain and it is he for whom the stars shine to show the way. This Providence is evident in the tiniest of nature's manifestations. 
    A person who lives in this world experiences the Benevolence and Mercy of some Superior Being. It is the wish of every individual who lives in this world to live as long as possible. To escape death as much as he can is a strong desire within him. His love for this world and for the attractions within it is unceasing. This attitude of man clearly shows that he considers his existence an act of benevolence and mercy. 
    The whole world seems to be created with a certain purpose. It seems as if man and woman, families, tribes, civilizations all have certain objectives to fulfil. Similarly, there exists a tremendous amount of harmony between diverse manifestations of nature, which seem to be assisting one another to achieve a common goal. It is this aspect of the striking amount of creativity around us that we call Wisdom. 
    This macrocosm in which is present this immense control, this boundless benevolence, this profound providence and this overwhelming wisdom induces human reason to ponder on it. The curiosity within a person motivates him to find a plausible explanation of these great manifestations. The Quran says that the only explanation of all this is that a Cognizant and Responsive Being has brought this world into existence who from the very beginning is running its affairs: 

Your God is one God. There is no Gobut He. He is the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful. Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of night and day; in the ships that sail the ocean with cargoes beneficial; in the water, Allah sends down from the clouds and with which He revives the dead earth and with which He dispersed over it all kinds of animals; in the movement of winds and in the clouds that are driven between the earth and the sky surely are signs for men of understanding. (2:163-164) 

    The existence of the Almighty is the only plausible explanation of this universe. For something to be the only explanation of a phenomenon it is necessary that it fulfil all the requirements and requisites of that phenomenon. For example, if for some reason we tear a piece of writing to pieces and throw them in a waste paper basket, and later the written paper is needed, what we do is that we gather all the pieces of paper from the basket and by joining them together try to reconstruct what had been written. After some effort, we succeed in our efforts. Disjointed words and scattered phrases became a meaningful piece of writing. What is now infront of us is an undeniable reality in which words have been knitted together in a particular pattern of arrangement. No other arrangement of words is possible to make the writing seem meaningful. 
    Similar is the position of Allah with regard to this universe. The components of this universe only seem meaningful because of His existence. His existence is the only explanation after which this universe can be termed as an explained phenomenon. It is this basic argument which the Quran gives in this regard. It says that belief in Allah illuminates this world. Without this light, this universe is darkness; darkness for reason and rationality: 

[Belief in] Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth! His light, in terms of a similitude, is like a niche in which there is a lamp -- the lamp is in a glass, the glass as if it were a brilliant star -- that is being kindled by [the oil of] a blessed olive tree that is neither [of the] eastern nor [of the] western [side]: its oil would all but light up, even though no fire touched it. Light upon light! Allah guides to His light whomever He wishes. And Allah strikes similitudes for people. And Allah has knowledge of everything.-- This niche is in those houses which He has ordered to be built for the remembrance of His name. In them, morning and evening those people glorify Him whom neither trade nor profit divert them from remembering Allah, from offering prayers, from paying zakat; who dread the Day when men's hearts and eyes shall writhe with anguish. [They do all this] that God may best reward them for their deeds and give them even more out of His Grace and Allah shall give without measure whom He pleases [according to His law]. As for the unbelievers, the similitude of their deeds is like a mirage in a sandy desert. The thirsty mistakes it for water; but when he comes up to it, he finds nothing. He, however, finds God there who pays him back in full and Allah is swift in reckoning. Or their similitude is like the depths of darkness in a vast deep ocean overwhelmed with billow topped by billow topped by clouds. Darkness upon darkness. If he stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it. Indeed, the man from whom Allah withholds His light, shall find no light at all. (24:35-40)


     We now address ourselves to the second issue, viz how can the correct recognition (ma`rifat) of the Almighty be obtained in this world? In this regard, the Quran says that it is not possible to observe the Almighty. In other words, it is not possible for us to attain his recognition through visual experience. The Quran says that whatever concept we have of the Almighty is with reference to His attributes since we have no means to comprehend His Being. The reason for this is that we can only have knowledge of someone's being when we are either able to perceive it through our senses or we are able to comprehend it by considering it to be analogous to beings which our senses can perceive. It is clear that the Almighty's Being cannot be conceived since both these means are not available to us. Consequently, the Quran says: 

No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision. (6:103) 

    When Moses, (sws) one the most distinguished of Prophets, asked Allah to give him the chance of directly observing Him, he was clearly told that his wish could not be fulfilled: 

When Moses came to the place appointed by Us and his Lord addressed him, he said: Lord give me the ability to observe that I may look upon thee. The Lord said: By no means can you see Me. But look upon the mount. If it abides in its place, you shall be able to see Me. When His Lord manifested His glory on the mount it was crushed to pieces and Moses became unconscious. When he recovered his senses he said: Glory be to you! To you I turn in repentance and I am the first to believe. (7:143) 

    The Quran positively asserts that the recognition of the Almighty must be obtained through His attributes. The reason for this is that we find a reflection of these attributes in our own selves. We are aware of mercy, power, wisdom, justice and control in our own selves to some extent.  Consequently, we are able to conceive the Almighty with respect to His attributes. The Quran says that man should restrict himself to this conception of the Almighty. This concept is enough to fulfil all the requirements which belief in Him entail. To acknowledge the oneness of the Almighty, to prostrate oneself infront of Him, to seek help from Him, to obey all His directives and to worship Him are what belief in Him entail. If we have knowledge of His attributes, we have His recognition (ma`rifat) after which all these requirements can be fulfilled. 
    Moreover, two aspects must remain in consideration in this regard. To obtain the correct recognition of Allah, belief in Him should be professed with all His attributes. Secondly, only those attributes should be accepted in Him which have been delineated by Him in the Books revealed to His Prophets. In this regard, no person on his own should ascribe any attribute to Him. 
    If these two aspects are not kept into consideration, grave consequences result. For example people who acknowledged the attribute of Mercy in Him and ignored His attribute of Justice, committed so many sins that they became unworthy of the Mercy they were actually seeking. Similarly, people who recognized His attribute of Power and became indifferent to His Wisdom ultimately ended in believing that if the Almighty puts the most righteous of people in Hell and the most sinful of them in heaven, He has all the power and authority to do so. Other people who ascribed to Him attributes of their own, in fact, also ended up outside the folds of the religion revealed to them. For example, the proponents of Tasawwuf, while discussing the highest level of Tawhid, acknowledge existence only for the Almighty and simultaneously affirm that no one besides Him actually exists. All the determinations (ta`ayyunaat) of the Universe whether observed directly or perceived through reason and intellect are mental concepts and emanate from the Absolute Being -- the Almighty. They have no external existence beyond the Absolute Being. The Universe is actually another name for the manifestations of Allah. It is God as regards its substance though it cannot be considered so as regards its determinations. Its nature is nothingness (`adam). If it is regarded to exist then this would be associating something in the Being of Allah, and this is precisely what they negate by saying: Laa maujooda illalaah (there is nothing except God). 
    These are some of the very blatant results of not keeping in consideration the correct attributes of Allah.