It is natural for a person with an inquisitive mind to ask such questions.
WHO CREATED GOD?
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan has provided this simple explanation. He says:
‘This question has been debated for a very long time. I have read a lot about it and thought considerably on the subject. The only answer to this question is that we human beings must accept our limitations. There is no other answer to this question. A human being cannot look directly at the sun. If we do so we will lose our eyes. We humans have no knowledge about 95% of the stuff of the universe. We can only see and have knowledge of 5% of the contents of the universe. We cannot even see gravity. Newton had said that the earth has gravitational pull. But to this day, the subject of gravity has not been completely settled. And debate is still going on about it. There are billions of such things which we cannot see or cannot know. Then how can we comprehend God? Those who ask this question are, in other words, proclaiming: ‘My capacity is so vast that I can comprehend God. I can encompass God in my knowledge.’ But this is impossible for a person to achieve. So, the answer to this question is given in the Qur’an in these words, Surah Al Isra, verse 85:
And they ask you, [O Muḥammad], about the soul. Say, “The soul is of the affair [i.e., concern] of my Lord. And you [i.e., mankind] have not been given of knowledge except a little.” (17:85)
Science has for the first time acknowledged that science gives us but a partial knowledge of reality. What is the meaning of science? The human capacity of observation is such that we can only know very few things. Science is the utilization of human capacity to observe and perform experiments. I believe that science has established a very important truth. There is a book titled ‘The Limitations of Science’ by science writer J.W.N. Sullivan. He explains in the book that science gives us but a partial knowledge of reality. This statement is applicable to the entire scientific community. For the first time it has been academically established that we humans can attain only partial knowledge based on our senses, and the instruments we have developed. We must, therefore, reflect that when a creature can see and understand the creation only in a partial way, how can this creature completely comprehend the creator of all things? We cannot do so. According to me, we must accept that science gives us only a partial knowledge of reality. We have reached a stage which gives us only partial knowledge, then how can we comprehend total knowledge? All scientific developments have made us arrive at a stage which has informed us that we can only attain partial knowledge. If we seek to possess total knowledge, then this would be an incorrect question to pursue.’
Maulana Saheb has given a very detailed reasoning about Allah, and our incompetence on human capacity to comprehending the existence of Allah. Only a partial understanding of this universe can be achieved with our limited knowledge. No matter how advanced we become in terms of technology, we cannot remove the barriers of our limited scientific command to comprehend the essence of the Almighty. Let alone, to term the findings about the components of this universe as ‘complete’, even after thousands of years passing by of the creation of this universe. Be it, gravitational pull, other physical laws, or the complexities of human organs and bodily functions, we can never be in a state to claim that now we have complete knowledge of any subject. Indeed, Allah the Almighty is the All-Knowing, we have limited intellect to conceive the hidden motives behind the creations in this world. And as we, the creation, are unable to finalize our research on our fellow creations, then how can we uncover the qualities and essence of our creator, the Almighty.
Javed Ahmad Ghamidi shares his thoughts;
Question: Islam says that Allah created everything, but who created Allah and how old is He?
‘This question is commonly asked but people don’t try to put some thought into it. This question arises when we begin to assess, analyze, overview something, and it becomes apparent that this creation is created. That is, first a question surfaces about the thing; is it made, or a creation, or somehow got created. Understand this with an example; we look at a table, its structure makes us think this question, that its’ decorations, the wood that is shaped, its overall look, all of this cannot be achieved without someone’s intellect. So, we start about who created this table, how it came into existence? After this we begin our search for the creator. Then we find out that a carpenter makes these kinds of tables. A similar situation arises when we look at a piece of wood, that has been cut from a tree, after looking at it we don’t have to assume that a carpenter made it, as the wood’s structure is enough to show that no human hand has touched it yet. It doesn’t have any decoration; it hasn’t been transformed. So, the very first thing to see is, that we ask about this universe or ourselves that there must be a creator, because it’s obvious, we can feel it, we assume that there must be a brain behind it, its meaning, the deeper hidden mathematical aspect of it, its discipline tells us that this has been created. We are bound in terms of knowledge and intellect, to check where it’s creator exists?’
‘So, firstly we look at the object, that whether it’s a creation or a living thing, and does it have the attributes which are not defined by its essence? When something is defined by its existence then we never question about the creator of that object. Whenever we are certain, that something is a creation, only then we search for its creator. This is why we search that who created this world, you, me, and this universe. And when we meet our creator, and find out that He also is a creation, then we will begin the search of who created Him. But if we find out that He is not a creation, and some other realities surface, then this question will become irrelevant.’
‘So this is the reason, and that’s why it is not said that everything has a creator, rather its said that every creation has a creator, every living thing has a creator. Every such thing that is unable to justify its existence, we will need to search for its creator or an explanation regarding its existence. So first we need to decide on the rationality of the object in question, then we look for its creator.’
‘Also, the statement which states that everything has a creator, but Islam never stated such a fact. Islam says that every creation has a creator, every discipline has a moderator, every science has an expert, but Islam never says that everything has a creator. If something is not known by its essence, is not disciplined by its essence, doesn’t give rise to a question with its existence that it should have a creator behind it, then we will never look for its creator.
When we look at this world, we know that the people in this day and age, searching for clues, state that this universe will eventually become self-explanatory, ruling out the need to search for its creator. The day it justifies itself, we will not find its creator. But it hasn’t justified itself, in these 5000 years of scientific research by the efforts of philosophy, sufism, religions. Our existence and this universe have an extraordinary intellect, and conscience of its own, but is unable to explain its existence, pushing us towards finding its creator. That is why we try to learn about how it got created, and when it will make its existence obvious, no one will search for the clues. The same goes for our creator, we are informed that He is there in His own essence, but if the situation comes out opposite, then don’t worry, we will find His creator too.’
As we examine the earth and the creations in this universe, our intellectual understanding and mathematical reasoning convinces us to explore all the possible explanations of who created all of this and who created the creator in the first place. The entire universe is unable to explain its origin, even though so much has transpired, countless books have been written on the possible reasonings and explanations, but still scientists are unable to publish their conclusive research on the subject. Our thirst for knowledge drives us towards assessing the objects around us, their attributes, their essence, and if it’s a natural creation or a man-made creation. This quest gifts us with answers that solidifies our faith in the Almighty, His power, and the notion that nothing can be created without His consent, all of this is created only as a result of Him being the utmost King. We are powerless creatures, buried in assumptions, speculations, theories and possible conclusions. Only by researching the Qur’anic statements about Allah, creations of this universe, human incompetence, we can reach at a point to clarify some clouds of doubts about the mysteries of this universe.
WHAT IS MEANT BY “He is the First and the Last, the Apparent and the Hidden”?
Jawed Ahmed Ghamidi sheds some light on an ayah in Surah Al-Hadid, verse 3,
‘He is the First and the Last, the Ascendant and the Intimate, and He is, of all things, Knowing.’ (57:3)
He says: ‘See, the world that we live in, in this world it is not possible to imagine that something can cross the dimensions of time and space. We are born, we reach a stage of maturity, and whatever we see is either in a time or space medium. There is not even a single instance when we can escape time, but happens only when we sleep, and this resumes when we wake up. And then that universe tells us what stages of time have transpired since then; its morning or the evening time has begun. The same goes for space, meaning, that for us to imagine that some thing or object does not exist in space? We live in a world of time and space, so when we imagine about Allah, due to our limitations to go beyond this, we adapt a way similar to these dimensions. These discussions on theology, where did they originate from? That it is born by understanding the essence of Allah or His creation. When a human being has tried to understand it with his intellect so he obviously could not cross his predicaments, his material world, his observations, his time, his space, his conflicting ways of knowledge and nature, so he confusingly tries to solve these mysteries.’
‘Religion has taught us a rather opposite approach, that in the matters of Allah, not a tiny parable can be created by the human laws. And, this notion is given that all our knowledge in this world is based on parables. When I look at something, I directly see and observe, after this if I imagine or form an opinion, then with a deeper understanding, you realize that the basis and foundation of that opinion is on parables. That, one concept comes in my observation, my experience, I try to comprehend it either by applying it with past or future. Things are derived from parables in this world, it is also termed as speculation, what happens there, is, situations, issues, ideas, rules; these create their parables somewhere. This world of ours is built on it. No matter how many things you look at, be it related to science, in this, inference, to establish opinions, to form theories, is a basis. Allah has told us in the Holy Qur’an, Surah Ash Shuraa, Verse 11:
‘[He is] Creator of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you from yourselves, mates, and among the cattle, mates; He multiplies you thereby. There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing.’ (42:11)
Nothing in this world, this world of time and space that has been created, the material world that has been created, nothing in this world bears not even a tiny resemblance to Allah or to His essence. It doesn’t resemble then it means that His essence is beyond our intellect, His attributes in its original form are beyond us, and the manner in which creation and command take place is beyond our knowledge. So when a question was asked about it, as it is quoted in the Qur’an, an answer was given, Surah Al Isra, Verse 85:
‘And they ask you, [O Muḥammad], about the soul. Say, “The soul is of the affair [i.e., concern] of my Lord. And you [i.e., mankind] have not been given of knowledge except a little.’ (17:85)
Two aspects are under discussion, that don’t postulate Allah on time or space, He is beyond that. He is the first, meaning, there hasn’t been a time when He wasn’t there, similarly, He is the last, that we can’t imagine a time when He wasn’t there. Same goes for space, in space things are up, down, right, left, He is ‘zahir’ (apparent) and ‘baatin’ (hidden), these are all Allah’s attributes, that He is above and beyond the limitations of time and space. A similar result can be extracted from Allah’s attributes, that as He is beyond the boundaries of time and space, resultantly His knowledge encompasses everything.
In another answer about verse 3 in Surah Al Hadid, Mr. Ghamidi says:
‘… it’s not said here that, whatever you see is Allah, as He’s ‘Az-Zahir’. Or whatever you cannot see is Allah. People have reversed the meanings and have established arguments. It’s not stated that He is actually what’s apparent, hidden, first and the last, rather, stated that He is beyond the limitations of time and space, by being the first, last, apparent and hidden. That a creation limited by the boundaries of time and space cannot attempt to perceive Him as He is above all these.
‘There is nothing like unto Him.’
That the concepts of unity of existence (Wahdat Al Wajood) that have come to surface in our time is the result of all these attempts to perceive Allah. That we understand creation, and command, we depict Allah’s relation to mankind on a personal level, all this has been attempted. And if you think deeply, the reasoning is human imagination. After this, the people who are interested in this concept, argue, that there is an aesthetic basis within humanity which is satisfied with it. Now, if you want to satisfy that aesthetic basis, you can do it with poetry, fine arts, painting, music, or enjoy food, but why practice all that on religion. Religion is all about facts, and that fact is, that Allah, His essence, His creation and command, are all beyond our knowledge. It is the teaching of the Holy Qur’an, and we are not supposed to understand all this in the boundaries of time and space. What we have been shown by the Qur’an is a glimpse of Allah’s attributes as these are present in humans, so we imagine about our Allah according to that… that Allah is full of mercy, full of compassion, how He handles His matters, it is all of these things. His essence, creation and command are beyond our knowledge.’
Question: When we want to invite someone to the deen of Islam, and we tell him that His essence is beyond our knowledge, then how can we introduce to him, Allah, and persuade him to come towards Islam?
‘The thing is, that when did we say that we have seen Allah or He is in our laboratory, and we have analyzed the properties of Allah, so come and we will show you? This is not the dawah of deen the invitation to Islam is, that this universe, human beings, the order of this world, all of it is showing with their existence, that it will not come to life if someone tries to create it. Qur’an e Majeed has said it in Surah At Tur, Verse 35:
‘Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]?’ (52:35)
Meaning, how is it possible, that one is a creation, and is telling us that with its existence, and it doesn’t have a creator? We only say, that the universe demands a creator from its existence, its inferential reasoning, mindful reasoning. Nothing is being observed, and it is not said that come and we will show you how Allah looks like. After this, when a person grasps the rationality of this concept, then he is told, that the prophets have observed Allah’s ayahs, and they have given their testimony and those are fully acceptable by all means as compared to a mystical testimony. We can see its results in front of us and can analyze them through Quranic ayahs. So read the Holy Qur’an, and then you will find out what attributes your creator has, and how your creator handles His matters with the human beings. Meaning, Allah’s attributes and His ways, this is the topic of the Holy Qur’an, and this we use as His introduction and from this comes His knowledge. Allah’s essence and the nature of His creation and command, this is what has been the basis of all philosophies for centuries. These discussions of the world of examples, the inter-relationships of post physics, it was only this. Then afterwards, the Sufis tried to interpret all of this with their observations, but it’s of no value. Allah has told us in the Holy Qur’an that all of this is beyond our understanding:
‘And you ˹O humanity˺ have been given but little knowledge.’ (17:85)
Time and Space are the two main dimensions that are under consideration in Ghamidi Saheb’s article. Doubtfulness, confusion, unclarity; these are the emotions felt by the humans whenever they begin to understand the origin of this universe or the essence of the Almighty. And he explains it in a very simple and tactful manner, passing his vast experience and knowledge to us about the boundaries and limitations of time and space, and the human incompetence in comprehending Allah, His traits, His essence, let alone His origin.
Ghamidi Saheb attempts to enhance our understanding of this world by giving an example of how we compare our findings with parables in our past and future. We, humans, speculate and then judge the findings based on our previous experiences, complementing them further with parables in this universe. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an that the human beings are blessed with only a little amount of knowledge. We can never exercise our human abilities to comprehend Allah and His attributes, as He said Himself that ‘there is nothing like Him’, so creating any parable for analyzing Him is impossible.
We can fuel our knowledge by imagining Him as the first, the last, the apparent and the hidden; all these are His traits which help us in putting some sense into things related to this universe.
In all of mankind a glimpse of Almighty’s essence can be seen, our imagination grasps all those shades and begins to understand Allah and His creation. Our imagination then gives way to the aesthetic sense present in all of the human race. Satisfying that aesthetic hunger can be blinding, making us fall prey to associating fiction with the Almighty and ignoring the factual Islamic reasonings altogether. Our faith and the Qur’anic teachings guide us that even the entire mankind combined, doesn’t have the intellectual capability to comprehend the creation or the Creator. The Holy Qur’an is there as a supreme guide for us to understand qualities, attributes, essence of the Almighty, this entire universe. Inviting people towards the deen of Islam should be done purely by introducing the ayahs in the Qur’an, and Allah should be introduced to them through this medium only. Human beings are not perfect and neither is their research, we are not able to understand numerous concepts due to our limits of time, space, knowledge, etc.
WHERE IS ALLAH?
‘Allah is a spaceless and timeless being, to say Allah is at a specific place or everywhere is not right. What Allah actually tells us in the Qur’an is the right thing to say. He says in the Qur’an that there was no such time when Allah was not present, i.e.,
‘He is the First and the Last, the Ascendant and the Intimate, and He is, of all things, Knowing.’ (57:3)
There will be no such time when Allah will not be present, i.e. He is the last (see Qur’an is talking about time). Nor Allah is above a specific place, i.e., He is Al-Batin (The Hidden), nor below a specific place. Being a human whenever we will perceive Allah, we will see it under space-time. We are inseparable from space-time. The aforementioned Qur’anic verse says that it is not right to explain Allah in space-time; rather He has knowledge of everything, i.e., nothing is hidden from Him, and there is no such thing that is not visible to Allah. Therefore, it is told that when you are three, He is the Fourth. When you are four, He is the Fifth; it doesn’t mean that Allah is sitting with us. What it actually means is that we are always under the supervision of Allah. His knowledge is always encompassing us. Nothing is hidden from Him. His essence is not being discussed and cannot be discussed. We should say that Allah’s very existence is not bound by space and time.’
Question: Why Qur’an says that Allah’s throne is above the seventh heaven?
‘Qur’an does not say that it is above the seventh heaven. Allah says I have created this universe, and in addition to what you see, there are six more like this, and I am governing everything sitting on the throne, i.e., it shows Allah’s ultimate authority. We have no knowledge regarding the questions that where is the Throne and whether it is the center of everything? When we say Allah is present, listening, He is watching everything, and is with everyone, every time. It actually explains Allah’s comprehensive and encompassing knowledge. It is not the description of Allah’s essence, because we do not know about that. When you say that Allah is present with His essence everywhere, it means that Allah is bounded by time-space. We should not even imagine Allah in that way. Allah is closer than our jugular vein, but it is not a description of space. It means that nothing can possibly be concealed from Allah. To say nothing is hidden from Allah and to say Allah is sitting with us, are both completely different things. Only those explanations should be told which Qur’an tells, and see how great they are; Al-Awwal (The First), Al-Akhir (The Last), Az-Zahir (The Apparent), Al-Batin (The Hidden). There was no such time when Allah was not present, there will be no such time when Allah will not be present, neither He is above nor below anything. Therefore, it means that the words ‘time and space’ cannot be used for Allah, we use these terms for our universe. We cannot think beyond this. Allah should not be bound in our imagination. Therefore, we only describe Allah’s attributes, Allah’s laws but not His essence.’
We are always under the supervision of Allah, whether sitting among friends, working in our offices, asleep or awake. Even when we are sitting alone, Allah the Almighty knows of our intentions, actions and plans. He has the total knowledge of all things present or hidden, while we are only able to have partial knowledge. This resultantly bars us from escaping the limits of time and space, confining our mental capabilities to a certain extent only. Saying statements like, Allah is present everywhere at all times is not valid, as we are associating time and space with Him, while He is above and beyond all such boundaries. These limits and conditions are for us to understand the universe and its miracles.
LOOKING FOR ALLAH
Every human is naturally pursuing an ideal. But to achieve your ideal, in this world of today, is so difficult, that we say; an ideal cannot be achieved.
Now what happens is that people don’t necessarily differentiate amongst ideal and non-ideal, they attend to their non-ideal as it was their ultimate goal, due to their frame of reference. But wise people instantly separate non-ideal from an ideal, ultimately not accepting anything less than their ideal. A human being’s ideal can only be one, that is their Creator, their Lord. Wiser people, who are on a mission, are after nothing but a mission of God. Allah’s existence is the only ideal that can ever be, and getting ourselves lost in this mission of Allah, can help us gain our soul’s satisfaction, and comply with the intellectual standard of this ideal. A human being’s ideal is Allah, but he is unfortunately searching for an ideal in a non-Allah.
Idealization, standardization, goal-oriented lifestyles, depression prevalent environments, fuel our ambitions for an idealistic approach towards life. Either we end up in a state of constant denial towards accepting the non-ideal goals, ultimately parting ways from a healthy, happy life. Or we learn to accept a more rational approach, letting go of our ideals and settling for a healthier but non-idealistic life.
People with a more intellectual mindset move head-on towards life in pursuit of their goals, rejection and failure have no place in their lives, and accepting less than perfect milestones are a definite NO. When we define such standards for ourselves, breathing in such tense settings becomes unbearable, unfortunately driving us towards depression, or taking our own lives. Ideals, what are they, and can we define them for ourselves? Well, as believers, it’s our faith that Allah the Almighty is our only ideal, He is the most perfect, and the Supreme King. Our endeavors in life should only be towards becoming closer to Allah, and defining our goals around Him only.
Soul searching, exploring mother nature’s miracles and mysteries, collapsing the walls of worldly ideals around us, and accepting less than perfect milestones can aid in attaining a more satisfied, content, healthy life. Searching for Allah’s existence, His essence, His pleasure, is the need of the hour in order to create peace in this life and the next. Drifting away from a path that takes us towards Allah will create a sense of non-satisfaction in our souls. Transforming our life’s mission to a more Allah-centered approach can help us in defining ever-lasting happiness and ultimate soul satisfaction.
Arabic Text sourced from Quran.com