Belief in God
Muhammad, peace be upon him, was sent to invite people to God and to teach them how to perform the task for which they were created, namely to worship Him. Many of the people whom he addressed had a hazy idea of God. Some did believe in Him, though they associated other lesser gods with Him, but a few of them were downright atheists, or materialists, whose creed was, ‘we live and we die and nothing causes our death except Time.’ [Jathiya XLV: 24] Before inviting such atheists to God one must first convince them that there is such being. “What reason do you have for believing that there is a God?” This, logically, is the first question which a theistic view of life should address itself to. The Qur’anic answer to it is given in the following words:
” . . were they created out of nothing? Or were they the creations (of themselves) or did they create the heavens and earth.” [Tur, Lll: 36]
The Qur’an is here saying that for everything like man that has a beginning in time, there are only three ways of explaining how it came to be.
a.Either it is created, or made, or caused by nothing at all i.e. it came out of nothing.
b.Or it is the creator of itself.
c.c. Or it has a creator, cause, or maker, outside itself.
The third possibility is not mentioned in the quoted verse but it is understood because the verse is addressed to people who deny the existence of a creator and it is telling them that if there is no creator then only two possibilities remain. But the Qur’an does not go into the details of showing why the first two positions are untenable. Clarity of expression often convinces people of the truth or untruth of a statement. Mental seeing here, more than physical seeing, is believing (or rejecting). This is borne out in the case of these Qur’anic words by a historical event. Jubayr Ibn Mut`im, until then, a non-Muslim was sent by Quraysh on a mission to the Muslims at Madina. He says that when he arrived he heard the Prophet, who was leading the evening prayer, reading Surat al-Tur and when he reached the foregoing verses “my heart was almost rent asunder.”] Shortly after that Jubayr embraced Islam.
Why did this happen to him? Probably because the verse made things clear to him for the first time. It is inconceivable for something to come out of or be made by nothing at all, he realized, and it is even more inconceivable that it should bring itself into being. Hence the only conclusion is that it must have a creator outside itself.
A thesis is therefore untenable if it means the denial of any maker or cause whatsoever. But admitting that this is indeed so, one might still wonder why should that cause or maker or creator be the God to whom Muhammad was inviting people? Why shouldn’t it be one of the many other gods in whom people believe or why shouldn’t it even be the “matter” of the materialists? Almost the entire Qur’an deals with this question but we shall do our best to give a brief answer which would provide the reader with the basics of the Qur’anic position. In a nutshell the answer is as follows: to explain the coming into being of temporal things, the creator (or cause or maker) for which we are looking, must (logically must) have the attribute of the God to whom Muhammad invites us. How so?
The creator must be of a different nature from the things created because, if he is of the same nature as they are, he will have to be temporal and therefore need a maker. It follows that “nothing is like Him.” [Shura, XLII: 11] If the maker is not temporal then he must be eternal. But if he is eternal, he cannot be caused, and if nothing causes him to come into existence, nothing causes him to continue to exist, which means that he must be self sufficient. And if he does not depend on anything for the continuance of his existence, then that existence can have no end. The creator is therefore eternal and everlasting: “He is the first and the last.” [Hadid, LVII: 3] “All that dwells upon the earth is perishing, yet still abides the Face of thy Lord, majestic, splendid.” [Rahman, LV: 26-27]
There are two ways in which causes produce their effects. Either they produce them naturally or intentionally. The maker that has the attributes we have enumerated cannot be a natural cause. Because if things of this world flow from Him naturally and spontaneously, they cannot be but of the same nature as He is. And if like all natural causes He causes only under certain conditions, then His power is limited. It follows that He must be a willful agent. But intention implies knowledge and both imply life. So, that maker must be a living all-knowing agent with a will that is absolutely free. Thus God according to the Qur’an does everything with intention and for a purpose.
“Surely We have created everything in (due) measure.” [Qamar, LXIV: 49]
“What, did you think that We created you only for sport?” [Mu’minun, XXIII: 115]
He is absolutely free to do whatever he wills [Hud, Xl: 107] and is aware of every movement of His creation.
“He knows what is in land and sea; not a leaf falls, but He knows it. Not a grain in the earth’s shadow, not a thing fresh or withered, but it is in a Book Manifest. It is He who recalls you by night, and He knows what you work by day.”[An’am, Vl: 59-60]
God is living:
“There is no God but He, the living, the everlasting. Slumber seizes Him not, neither sleep; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. Who is there that shall intercede with Him save by His leave? He knows what lies before them and what is after them, and they comprehend not anything of His knowledge save such as He wills. His throne comprises the heavens and earth; the preserving of them oppresses Him not; He is the All-high, the All-Glorious.[Baqara, II: 255]
God is not only willing and powerful, He is also Just in that He does not punish a sinner for more than his crime. He is merciful and His mercy, in the words of the Prophet “overcame his punishment.” So He does not punish us for whatever we do, but forgives and erases our sins, and magnifies and multiplies our good deeds.
“The likeness of those who expend their wealth in the way of God is as the likeness of a grain of corn that sprouts seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains, so God multiplies unto whom He will; God is All-embracing, All-knowing.”[Baqara, Il: 261]
These, and many others which can be arrived at in a similar way, are the attributes which the true creator must possess. Any other being or object which is alleged to be a god or an ultimate cause and which necessarily lacks some of them cannot in actual fact be what it is believed to be. Thus, having shown clearly what the true God should be like, the Qur’an goes on to show why there cannot be any god but He, and reveals the falsity of all alleged gods.
To the worshipers of man-made objects it says:
“Do you worship what you have carved out and God created you and what you make?”[Saffat, XXXVIl: 95]
“… have they taken unto themselves others beside Him who create nothing, who are themselves created, who cannot protect them, nor can they protect themselves.”
[A`raf, Vll: 191-192]
To the worshipers of heavenly bodies it relates as a reminder the story of Abraham:
When night outspread over him he saw a star and said, ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set he said, ‘l love not the setters.’ When he saw the moon rising, he said, ‘This is my Lord.’ But when it set he said, ‘If my Lord does not guide me I shall surely be of the people gone astray.’ when he saw the sun rising, he said, ‘This is my Lord; this is greater!’ But when it set he said, ‘O my people, surely I am quit of what you associate with God. I have turned my face to Him who originated the heavens and the earth, a man of pure faith; I am not of the idolaters.’ [An`am, Vl: 76-79]
And when, later on, the Prophet comes i nto contact with the Jews and Christians, the Qur’an condemns their belief in the divine nature of human-beings.
“The Jews say, ‘Ezra is the son of God.’ The Christians say, ‘The Messiah is the son of God.’ That is the utterance of their mouths, conforming with the unbelievers before them. God assail them! How they are perverted.” [Tawba, IX: 30]
It tells them that if everything is created by God then it must be His servant and cannot, therefore be his son, [Maryam, XIX: 88-95].
It then goes on to explain to the Christians the real nature of Jesus.
“Truly, the likeness of Jesus in God’s sight is as Adam’s likeness; He created him of dust, then said He unto him ‘Be!’ and he was.” [Aal `Imran, Ill: 59]
For someone to take something as a god, it is not necessary that he should acknowledge it as such or worship it in a ritualistic way; it is enough for him to follow its dictates obediently, or devote to it acts or have towards it feelings which should be devoted to or felt towards God only. There are many such unacknowledged gods.
“Hast thou seen him who has taken his caprice to be his God? Wilt thou be a guardian over him?” [Furqan,] XXV: 43]
“They have taken their rabbis and their monks as lords apart from God, and the Messiah, Mary’s son, and they were commanded to serve but one God.”[Tawba, IX: 31]
Thus to be a Muslim – i.e.. to surrender oneself to God— it is necessary to believe in the unity of God in the sense of His being the only creator, preserver and nourisher. But this belief – later on called tawhid ar-rububiyya – is not enough. In fact many of the idolaters did know and believe that it is the supreme God alone who can do all this. But that was not enough to make them Muslims. To tawhid ar-rububiyya one must add tawhid al uluhiyya i.e. one must acknowledge the fact that it is this God alone who deserves to be worshiped, and therefore abstain from directing any of one’s acts of worship to someone or someth ing else. In the Qur’an the argument for tawhid al-uluhiyya is based on tawhid ar-rububiyya i.e. if it is God alone who creates and controls everything why then and to what end do you worship others beside Him?
“O you men, serve your Lord who created you, and those that were before you; haply so you will be god-fearing; who assigned to you the earth for a couch, and heaven for an edifice, and sent down out of heaven water, wherewith He brought forth fruits for your provision; so set not up rivals to God wittingly.” [al-Baqara, Il: 21-22]
Having known the true God, man is called upon to affirm what he knows i.e. to believe and have faith in God, and not allow any ulterior motives to induce him to deny a fact which he knows to be true.
“… that they who have been given knowledge may know it is the truth from thy Lord and so believe in it, and thus their hearts become humble unto him.”[Hajj, XXII: 54]
“But when our signs came to them visibly, they said, “This is a manifest sorcery;’ end they denied them, though their souls acknowledged them, wrongfully and out of pride.” [Naml, XXVII: 14]
When faith enters a person’s heart, it causes therein certain mental states, which result in certain apparent actions, both of which are the proof of true faith.
Foremost among those mental states is the feeling of gratitude towards God, which could be said to be the essence of ibada (worshiping or serving God).
This feeling of gratitude is so important that a nonbeliever is called kafir which means, ‘one who denies a truth’ and also ‘one who is ungrateful.’ One can understand why this is so when one reads in the Qur’an that the main motive for denying the existence of God is that of unjustified pride. Such a proud person feels that it does not become him to be created or governed by a being whom he must thus acknowledge to be greater than himself and to whom he must be grateful.
“Those who dispute concerning the signs of God without any authority come to them, in their hearts is only pride that they shall never attain.”[Ghafir, XL: 56]
With the feeling of gratitude goes that of love.
“There are some people who take to themselves (for worship) others apart from God loving them as they should love God: But those who believe, love God more ardently than they love anything else.”[Baqara, Il: 165]
A believer loves and is grateful to God for His bounties, but being aware of the fact that his good deeds, whether mental or physical, are far from being commensurate with Divine favors, he is always anxious lest because of his sins God should withhold from him some of these favors or punish him in the hereafter. He therefore fears Him, surrenders himself to Him, and serves Him with great humility.
“Your God is one God, so to Him surrender. And give thou good tidings unto the humble who, when God is mentioned, their hearts quake.”[Anfal, Vll: 2]
One cannot be in such a mental state, without being almost all the time mindful of God. Remembering God is thus the life-force of faith, without which it fades and might even wither away. So,
“The faithful are those who remember God, standing and sitting, and on their sides.”[Aal `Imran, Ill: 191]
The Qur’an therefore prescribes and describes, in great detail ways and means of helping man to remember God and keep his faith alive. All Qur’anic and Prophetic injunctions and prohibitions which extend to all aspects of human life acts of worship and personal matters, social relations, political order, etc., etc. – are designed to put man in a state which is conducive to God’s remembrance. The details of this Islamic way of life were expounded in the Madina period, and we shall not therefore be concerned with them now. But the main principles of this new order were already laid down in the Makkan period, and will be summarized at the end of this chapter.
We shall now go on to deal with the other pillars of faith. These are belief in life after death, in God’s angels, His books, His messengers and His qadar, the arguments for all of which are almost entirely based on the assumption that the audience believes in God.