Can It Be Matter?
A very popular question among atheists is, ‘Granted that the existence of
temporal things necessitates the existence of an eternal cause, why should that
cause be the God of religion? Why can’t matter be eternal and be therefore in no
need of an eternal creator?’ I shall argue, on an Islamic basis but at the same
time also on a rational basis, that the attribute of eternity entails other
attributes, which matter does not and cannot have, and cannot, in view of this,
play the role of the original and ultimate cause of temporal things. Muslim
theologians say that eternity of existence logically implies everlastingness.
This is true because, if something is eternal then it does not depend for its
existence on anything outside itself. If this is so then it can never pass away,
because only those things pass away that lose some of the external conditions on
which they depend for their existence. If the ultimate cause of temporal things
is eternal and everlasting, it must of necessity be self-sufficient, qayyoom and
Can there be more than one such creator? The Quran tells us that this is
“God never had a child, nor have there been any gods beside him. (Had there
been any), each of them would have appropriated to himself what he created, and
some would have overcome others.”
This Quranic argument was paraphrased by some Muslim theologians in a way
somewhat like the following: The assumption that there are gods beside the one
true God leads to false consequences and must therefore be false. If there is
more than one god, then (a) if every detail of everything in the world was the
result of the action of one of the gods, it cannot at the same time be the
result of the action of another god. But if (b) some things in the world were
created by some gods, and others by other gods, then each god would rule
independently over what he created, which means that nothing in his world can
even in principle, be influenced by anything outside it. But this contradicts
the observed unity and interdependence of the world. And if that is impossible,
then (c) some gods will overcome others, but if that happens then the ones who
are vanquished cannot be true gods. There can, therefore, be no more than one
How does this creator create? Since He is self-sufficient, He cannot be said to
depend on anything outside Himself in any actions, and cannot therefore be said
to produce His effects the way natural causes do. But if He is not a natural
cause, He must be a volitional agent. And since intention implies knowledge, and
knowledge and intention imply life, he must be a living being. Since He is an
eternal and everlasting being, all His attributes must reflect this quality;
thus He must be not only knowing, but all-knowing, not only powerful, but
Since no matter in any form can answer to these attributes, and since all these
attributes are implied by the two attributes of eternity and everlastingness, no
form of matter can be either eternal or everlasting, and thus no matter of any
form can play the role of that ultimate cause. This much of the attributes that
an eternal and everlasting creator must have is enough, I suppose, to show that
it cannot be matter.
But this conclusion can be further confirmed by what modern science tells us
about the nature of matter.
Why Should He Be The God of Islam?
Some might say, ‘Granted that this god is a personal and living God, and that
He has the attributes which you mentioned, why should He be the God of Islam and
not, say the Christian or Jewish God?’ The God of Islam is the God of all true
prophets of God from Adam down to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. But it is a basic
claim of the religion with which Muhammad came that previous religions
(including Christianity and Judaism) have not been kept in their pristine form
which those prophets advocated, but have been tampered with and distorted. The
only religion whose book has taken upon itself to be preserved from any such
distortions is the religion of the last of God’s prophets, namely Muhammad
(p.b.u.h.). This is not to say that everything in those religions is false or
bad. No! There is much in them that is good and true; it is only those elements
in them that contradict Islam which must be false or bad. But even if they were
to be purged of everything that is not in consonance with Islam, they would
still be less perfect than Islam is, especially in their conceptions of God,
therefore unsuitable for being universal religions.
Having said this, let me give one example of a non-Islamic religious belief
which the Quran considers to be a stupendous blasphemy against God, namely that
He has children. At the time of the Prophet, some Arabs believed that the angels
were the daughters of God, while some Christians believed that Jesus was the son
of God, and some Jews believed that Ezra was the son of God. Just as the Quran
gave arguments for the impossibility of there being any gods besides the one
true God, it also gave elaborate arguments to show the impossibility of Him
having a child, whether male or female. If the Creator is one and
self-sufficient, then He is also unique, ahad, “Nothing is like Him.” But
if so then, “He neither begets nor is He begotten.” “How can He have a
child if He has no consort, and if He created everything?” The Quran is here
saying that the claim that God has children contradicts the facts (acknowledged
by those who make this claim) that He is the Creator of everything, that He is
Self-sufficient, and that He has no spouse. Now if He is the creator of
everything, this necessarily includes the one who is claimed to be His child.
But if this is created by Him, it cannot be His child; it has to be one of His
creations. One does not create one’s child; one begets it. If it is insisted
that the child is actually begotten and not created by God, this will entail the
following false consequences:
- The begotten child must be of the same nature as its father, in which case
God will not be unique or one.
- God will not be the creator of everything.
- God will have to have a spouse, who must of course be of the same nature
as He is, otherwise they cannot beget anything.
- But in that case the number of beings who are of the same nature as God
will be raised to three.
- If the child is begotten then it cannot be eternal, i.e. it cannot be of
the same nature as the father.
- It must therefore be temporal; but in that case it has to have a creator.
But if the God who is its father cannot at the same time be its creator, then
there must be its creator, then there must be another creator besides that God
the father; but in that case, this other creator will be the one true creator
because it was through his power that the first one was able to beget its son.
This will raise the number of gods to four.
No wonder than that the Quran said about those who claimed that Allah has a
child. “You have indeed come with something most monstrous, of which the
skies almost burst, the earth split asunder, and the mountains fall down in
utter ruin. All this because of their attributing a child to Allah."