Transcript of Episode 03: Existence Of Creator and Human Nature
Yassir Fazaga: Sheikh, Last time you mentioned an extremely important point i.e. as a religious person or all revealed religions including Islam , rationality is innate in them and as a religious person you are expected as somebody who is not jeopardizing or compromising their intellect in the beliefs they have at any particular point in time.
I am reminded of a story where a philosopher sat with a group of farmers and he wanted to provoke them so he said to a very simple man amongst them how do you know, if somebody asks you, does God exist? What would you tell them? And the farmer said I would invite them to my garden and I would say come and find him there.
The philosopher was very offended by this answer and he said what if they come to your farm or garden and tell you they did not find Him what would you say then and the farmer said well I would tell them to look closer! I am not sure if that was a good answer. It was definitely a simplistic one but it seems that believers at this point are at defensive where they would actually have to give a proof that God does exist, is this something that Islam or previously revealed religions have addressed?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: Of course and this will hopefully be our discussion tonight i.e. what is the evidence for the existence of the Creator and by the way if the farmer was intellectual to some extent, he would have said what some thinkers have said i.e. if you don’t know how to express yourself that doesn’t mean that you don’t think.
These are two different things, we can say that the farmer had an argument there, but it is not the kind of argument, given the way it was expressed, that could convince the philosopher.
Yassir Fazaga: Does that mean that the argument or the issue here is that the people of faith are not able to eloquently rely their beliefs?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: I wouldn’t say people of faith can’t, as this includes some Muslim philosophers and I hope I am one of them! (laughs)
So of course we argue e.g. now since I studied western philosophy, I can argue with westerners because I can use their terminology, it’s a matter of knowing the language only.
Yassir Fazaga: Isn’t the question itself ironic that ‘we’ would actually have to prove that God exists and not ‘them’?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: Yes inshaAllah and we’ll show that this should not be the case when we come to the Quranic arguments. We should not fall into this trap because the natural thing is that there is a Creator. The burden of proof is on the person who denies the existence of the Creator!
Yassir Fazaga: Ladies & gentlemen, I bet you are in for a treat and you are invited to be part of this. Well in that case I think we would have to ask what are the fundamentals upon which such a belief is based?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: As we said earlier, there should be rational arguments supporting the fundamentals of religion. In fact you can broaden this and say anyone who invites us to believe in an ideology whether it is marxism, democracy, dictatorship or whatever…
Yassir Fazaga: Usually we’re not invited to dictatorship, it’s just imposed!
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: (smiles) No! Some people actually defend it! So such a person must give us reasons for the fundamentals of his ideology e.g. democracy is the rule of the people. Why should the people rule? One can ask!
Theoreticians of democracy try to answer this question because if you don’t give me good reasons why democracy is better than dictatorship, then why do you expect me to agree with you!
So we’re saying that the fundamentals of the religion must be rationally supported. There must be evidence for the truth of fundamentals of religion and we said in the last episode that secondary matters that are based on this need not have direct proof for them but I forgot to mention that sometimes you can have proof for some of the secondary things so now you know that there is a new kind of science called scientific miracles of the Quran.
These depend on some of what I call secondary issues like the development of the embryo. Most Muslims believed in this because they believe in Quran because this is what God has said. Now we have evidence that this development of embryo described in the Quran could not have been known by any human means at that time because the means by which this was discovered are new and it is because of this that some people in fact accepted Islam. I even know some of them, so even some of the secondary things are backed by proof. And this is not necessary by the way, but now you know even some of the secondary things can have direct evidence.
Yassir Fazaga: And I think what I am understanding is that the original claim itself needs not to be of a miraculous nature but it must have some sort of rational reasoning?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: Yes! Now before we come to the fundamentals that include the existence of God, why God should be worshipped, the truth and authenticity of the Prophet, the fact that the Quran is the word of God, the fact that there is life after death and so on. For all these Quran and Sunnah give us evidence.
So when a Prophet comes he doesn’t start with proving the existence of God because majority of human beings even today believe in the existence of the Creator, so when a Prophet comes, he invites them to worship the Creator in whose existence they already believe in.
They might attribute some things to the Creator, meaning their knowledge of the Creator may not be perfect but people all over the word believe in the core of this that there is a Creator. And even when they worship some idols they know the difference between the idol they worship and the God that is in Heaven. I know some people in Africa who are like this so the fact that there is a Creator is absolute.
But someone might say I am one of the minority and I don’t believe in the existence of the Creator, now what would the religion say here. It would not say that no we are not dealing with people like you!
Yassir Fazaga: So when a Prophet comes, the assumption is that people already believe in God?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: Yes, but there is a minority who say no we don’t believe in God and so the Quran gives them evidence for the existence of the Creator. What is the evidence?
I am relying quite a bit on answering some of these questions based on Ibn Taimiyah Rahimuhullah’s thought. I happened to write a book about what I call philosophical theology according to Ibn Taimiyah, so inshaAllah we will rely heavily on what he said as he was very much concerned with this problem and had to argue a lot with the philosophers of his time so he had very interesting things to say about this.
Yassir Fazaga: Sheikh, just in case, to accommodate our viewers with names we use and they might not be familiar with, just briefly who Ibn Taimiyah would be?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: I think it is just enough to say to the non muslims that he was one of our greatest thinkers. He combined good knowledge of religion i.e. the Quran and sayings of the Prophet with almost every branch of knowledge that was available at his time. He said something that I wouldn’t have believed in, had he not been the truthful person that he was.
He said he argued with philosophers when he was 14 yrs old. Ibn Taimiyah says that the real evidence of the existence of Creator is in fact human nature. But this raises many questions.
Yassir Fazaga: what does he mean by that? Is he saying that’s innate in human nature?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: There are many things that you would know by nature e.g. the fundamentals of the principles of logic. No one needs to teach you that a contradictory statement is a false statement. When you believe in what you see suppose now I am seeing you and someone asks me how do you know that Yasir exists? I would say well i am seeing him! And he says that’s not a proof, give me a proof!
Well it’s like a self evident truth like half is less than whole and so on, but this raises many questions and he himself tries to answer some of the questions.
The first question is what kind of knowledge is this. We know that a child does not have this knowledge as he doesn’t even speak. There’s a verse in the Quran that makes it clear ‘When you come out of the womb of your mother, you come out knowing nothing and then he endowed you with sight, hearing and mind but in the Quran itself there’s another verse that this religion is of human nature. A famous hadith of the prophet says every child is born on fitrah which means original good human nature. The nature that Allah put in the heart of every human being at the time of creation. Every bad thing is a deviation from this human nature.
Let us now use the Arabic word fitrah further in our conversation. The listeners should remember there is no equivalent to this world in English. Even in Arabic people sometimes tend to misuse it, but in Quran’s terminology, it means original good human nature.
So it says that this Deen is the Deen of that nature so this means that the whole religion has its roots in human nature and the Prophet says that all newborns are born on fitrah and that its parents and devils deviate him/her from it.
So how do you reconcile the two? He says this knowledge develops with development of mind, you are born knowing nothing but as your mind develops, you don’t need to be taught this even though no one speaks to you about God or anything. You become aware of the fact that you have a Creator and that you must worship him.
In the book that I wrote about Ibn Taimiyah (it has not been published yet), I mentioned there that this is like saying there is a seed of knowledge that germinates to full fledged tree with the development of mind, so this was his first question.
The second question: What if someone says that I don’t feel this?
He tells him you must be mistaken because an overwhelmingly majority of human beings have a consensus on this so you cannot be right and all these people cannot be wrong and he mentions here something interesting.
He says when people agree and they have a consensus on something positive, they say we know this is accepted but sometimes there might be a consensus on something negative this might be because of lack of knowledge but as far as affirming something, consensus of people has to be accepted. Again he says why then do people deny existence of the Creator. These people are of three kinds.
The first are just liars. They know in their heart of hearts that there is a Creator but they don’t want to acknowledge because mistakenly they think they this might not be in their interest because of some worldly gains and he gives the example of pharaoh. Because Quran says he denied it while deep in their hearts he knew it.
The second group is interesting. These people are suffering from some kind of sophistry, this can be a real disease and they are not pretending.
If a person suffers from this kind of mental disorder, he can deny real self evident truths. And by the way the first philosophy book that I read was by Bertrand Russell on the problems of philosophy and he was explaining the position of empirics.
Some people said how do we know that there is an external world? Now I see you and I say Yasir exists because I can see him, but what if I close my eyes? I cannot see, so does Yasir still exist? What if I turn away? I remember very well when I was reading this I began to turn around the table to see if the table exists or not! And they can deny, as I said, even logical or mathematical principles.
And I would add this, this is not what Ibn Taimiyah said; some people think when they do this they are being rational in fact they are not!
Because when you ask why is this so, you are asking for an explanation and usually when you ask, you think what the person is saying contradicts the truth that you know but if there is no truth at all, then the question doesn’t arise and a person who doubts everything cannot ask any questions ! So this is my contribution to Ibn Taimiyah.
The third group is also very interesting. They say that there is a difference between having something in your mind and being aware of it. Perhaps this will remind you of some psycho analysis.
He likens the mind to the body. He says there might be something for example on your back, it is on your body and the fact that you are not aware of it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The same applies to the mind, he gives example of familiar things and he says sometimes you pass through an experience and you discover something bad about yourself. You say that I didn’t think I had this nasty trait! He says the importance of evidence for such people is to make them have a link between the two to bring awareness.
Yassir Fazaga: Before we go on with these three kinds of people, I am very sure that Ibn Taimiyah did not intend to insult the intelligence of these people?
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: Except the first one!
Yassir Fazaga: True, I am sure in the category here your addition eluded to it that some people do really think that they are being very rational in the process, so denial is not necessary because they are denying for worldly gain or something like that, because you are probably aware too that these are people who have actually lived for this and read and written about this.
Dr Jaafar Shiekh Idris: Remember he accused only the first kind. But with the second kind he was actually sympathetic; he said this was a kind of disease that can be cured. And being unaware too is something that can be cured after you pass through an experience.
I know one of my relatives who was a communist. He went and studied geology in Russia, and he came back a good Muslim from soviet union at that time. They were going down a mine. And then a rock fell and closed the path to go out. He said at that time he believed in God! So a person may pass through an experience which reveals to him a truth that is already innate in his nature.
Yassir Fazaga: Sheikh, we would come to continue this point in the next episode. We thank you all for being with us in this intersection between faith and reason series with Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris. Hoping you would join us next time as well!
Credit: Transcribed by Defiance Team. http://thedefiance.co/the-rational-one/