Transcript of Episode 06 – Eternal must be God and Attributes of God
Yassir Fazaga: Dr Jaafar it’s good to be with you again.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: JazakAllah Khair.
Yassir Fazaga: Ya iyyakum, Shaykh last time we were talking about different arguments which were presented by Ibn Taimiah and generally speaking we said they were three of them that he pointed to: the innate nature of humanity that we are inclined to believe in existence of God, then he spoke about ayahs, and then what we finished with last time i.e. the cosmological argument.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: These are not peculiar to Ibn Taimiah they are very well known arguments; we were talking only about his observations on these arguments. Even the argument of ayahs was known. Muslim theologians have pointed that out well before Ibn Taimiah talked about them including the cosmological argument. And we mentioned, he said that cosmological argument is good as far as it goes. But it does not go far enough.
Yassir Fazaga: And by that if I remember correctly, it points to a creator or to what …
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: To an eternal cause.
Yassir Fazaga: Not necessarily God?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Not necessarily God.
Yassir Fazaga: Okay.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: And this objection was also made by some of the philosophers. They said you haven’t proved the existence of God. You have jumped from existence of eternal cause to the ‘god of religion’. Now I said that from the fact that we have proved that the cause must be eternal we can go on to other attributes. Now I would try to prove this.
Yassir Fazaga: To speak about some of the attributes of God?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes that can be deduced from the fact that this eternal thing that caused temporal things must be God. Why?
First, it’s a logical method and it was expressed by many Muslim thinkers, if something is eternal it must be everlasting.
Yassir Fazaga: Well that’s what eternal means.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Eternal means that it has no beginning, everlasting has no end.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh just to make sure, eternal is something that has no beginning but it might have an end?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: No they say it can’t be so. If it has no beginning it cannot have an end. Why? Their argument is that if it has no beginning this means that it did not depend on something other than itself for its existence. And a thing goes out of its existence only if it depends on its existence on something outside itself.
Yassir Fazaga: Yes that makes sense.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: For example (lights a cigarette lighter for demonstration), this flame would be there so long as there is oxygen, so long as I am pressing on it, so long as …
Yassir Fazaga: The alarm does not go off inside this studio (laughs)
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: (laughs) So long as there is no wind, so long as fuel is there, if it lacks any of these conditions of its existence it goes it would come to an end. So if something has no beginning it cannot have an end. But something can have beginning and not have an end. There is no problem in this if it depends for its existence on something that is ever lasting like paradise. It has a beginning, it’s created by God, but it has not end. So now we have three attributes.
‘Power’, because it created it must have power. It is ‘Eternal’, it is ‘Everlasting’. Now how does it create?
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh these are all attributes that have been rationally deduced from accepting the cosmological arguments that there is a creating force out there.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes and as I said Muslim theologians, including Ibn Taimiah, says that it is wrong, as some people think that all the attributes of God are learned from revelation. They say this is not true because at least you know that He is the creator. This is one of the attributes, and that many of the attributes can be known by reason.
Yassir Fazaga: Many of the attributes of God.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Many of the attributes of God can be deduced by reason. And here we have some examples of these. Now they make a distinction between a cause that is natural, like if I use this cigarette lighter to burn something you would say the fire burnt the paper. This is natural causation. And there is a ‘willful agent’. Like I am now using this lighter, I am a willful agent; I am not like the fire that burns. I do this with my will.
Now they say that a natural cause depends for its causation on something else as it can’t cause just by itself. So God cannot be a natural cause. He must be willful agent. But if he is willful then He must have knowledge. Because if you decide to do something then you must have an idea of what you are going to do. We find in the Quran:
أَلَا يَعْلَمُ مَنْ خَلَقَ وَهُوَ ٱللَّطِيفُ ٱلْخَبِيرُ
Doesn’t one who creates know his creation?
Now if He is willful then He is knowing and if He is knowing then He must be living. So these are some of the basic attributes of the creator. If you have now proved that He is living, that He is willful, that He has knowledge, that He is powerful, that He is eternal, that He is everlasting. Then this is in fact ‘God of the religion’. A person who is convinced that all these attributes can be deduced from the fact that cause is eternal can easily see I think, unless he is very prejudice, that all these attributes are the attributes or at least some of the attributes of creator that religion is talking about.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh I think we are coming back to the same conclusion that we have started with, where you see that rational deduction is coming exactly where revealed religions have been teaching throughout the time.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes and again we talked too much about Ibn Taimiah as I said I wrote a book about him. But recently I read something very interesting. In a pamphlet he says that there is something like equivalence between reason and religion. Both imply the other. He said that if you are really rational then your reason would lead you to the conclusion that there must be a creator that there must be prophets and so on. And on the other hand if you are truly religious you know about your religion and this would lead you to give reasons its due. And he gives some verses of the Quran:
لِمَن كَانَ لَهُ قَلْبٌ أَوْ أَلْقَى السَّمْعَ وَهُوَ شَهِيدٌ
The Quran says that this for someone who has qalb – which here means mind and reason- or someone who listens. He says these are two entities not one and Quran uses أو ‘or’ it did not say he must have both. If he gives reason its due he will accept this truth. If he listens and understands what God says then he would come to the same conclusion and so on. He says that far from there being a conflict between revelation and reason, fact of the matter is they actually imply each other.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh I have a confession to make. And probably I should not be saying this in front of all the viewers out there, that so many times I came across this verse in Surah Qaaf but never paid attention to أَوْ the proposition ‘or’. It’s implying that if you had that mind or the faculties of learning and in this specific case to listen attentively, they would lead you to such a thing.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: And this verse can also be explained by another verse, it says that people who go to hell fire would say:
لَوْ كُنَّا نَسْمَعُ أَوْ نَعْقِلُ مَا كُنَّا فِىٓ أَصْحَبِ ٱلسَّعِيرِ
Had we been amongst those who listen or reason, we would not have been in hell fire. So this means that they lack both of them. Really rational person would believe in the creator and all that follows from it and a really faithful person would believe in reason and give its due.
Yassir Fazaga: And there is no need to either jeopardize or compromise any one of them for the sake of other.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: I want to concentrate now on ‘negatives’. Like He cannot have a child. This is something very important in Islam. The famous verses:
قُلْ هُوَ ٱللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ
That He begets not nor is He begotten.
Yassir Fazaga: So Shaykh you are saying that rationally speaking we can deduce attributes of God and rationally speaking we can negate some of the attributes that are not befitting to God.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes because some of the Arabs used to say, as you read in the Quran that angles are daughters of God. So it is not only some Christians who say that God has a son, the Arabs said that all the angels are His daughters, which means that there are millions of daughters out there not just one child. And it seems that there was also a Jewish sect in the times of Prophet SAW who used to say that Ezra is the son of God. Now the Quran says that this cannot be the case and Muslim theologians elaborated on that. For example the Quran says:
لَيـْـسَ كَمِثِـلــِه شَــْيٌء
There is nothing like Him. There is nothing eternal and everlasting like Him so how can He have a child. If the child is like the father, it must be eternal. If it is eternal it cannot be begotten.
Yassir Fazaga: Because it would have a beginning since it’s a child.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes it must have beginning and if it has a beginning it cannot be divine. So you have to choose between either of the two.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh I am being devil’s advocate here, if you remember what was said earlier about a thing may have a beginning but it can be everlasting by another willful agent, so just hypothetically speaking if that is what we mean that God has a child even be it in case of some Christian denomination or the case of the earlier Arabs saying that well this is the case from now on.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes but that would not be divine because otherwise everything in paradise would be divine.
Yassir Fazaga: Because now they are becoming everlasting.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: So the fact that something is everlasting does not make it divine. It must be both eternal and everlasting. And since everything other than God must be temporal nothing can be divine other than God. The Quran also says that God is Self Sufficient – Ghani. So He does not to have a child. There is a verse in the Quran which has been misunderstood even by some early scholars but some of them corrected that wrong understanding and it is now sometimes used by some people who criticize the Quran for saying God cannot have a child. There is a verse in the Quran which says:
لَوْ أَرَادَ اللَّهُ أَنْ يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا لَاصْطَفَىٰ مِمَّا يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ
Had He wanted to have a child He would have chosen from His creation. But the verse itself shows that this is not a child in the sense of child that is being born because He says that He would have chosen from His creation and that is why some of the interpreters of the Quran said that Allah means adoption here. But even that does not suit Him. He would not even do what is logically possible. The first one is logically impossible. And it is logically impossible also because Quran says how can He have a child when He does not have a wife.
Some of the Christian scholars who criticized this kind of argument tell me that you are taking the word ‘son’ literally. I say this is what son means but I am not insisting to accept only one possible meaning of the word, just give me your meaning of the word ‘son’. Even when you say something is metaphorical you say it means something. For example if you say someone is a lion and then you say that I don’t mean that he is lion in the sense that he is a beast. Then I can say what do you mean? Then you can say that I mean he is brave.
So if you say Jesus is the son of God, I say that God cannot have a son. And you say, ‘No! You are taking it literally’. So I ask you, ‘what do you mean? I am not insisting. I don’t like you to say God has a son’. If you give meaning of the word son that is acceptable I would say that difference between us is only difference of using the word in the correct sense and that is not a problem. But no one has come with a new meaning of the word son.
Recently I read what someone wrote to us that according to some new manuscripts the word ‘son’ was a wrong translation and the correct translation is that ‘he is one of a kind’. I said, ‘ok this is better than saying that he is a son, but then why one of a kind?’ This means that no one else is like Jesus in any way? This itself is one of the attributes of the creator.
Yassir Fazaga: In the sense that he was born with no mother.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: But he has some other attributes of human beings. He used to eat, he used to drink and he died and so on. And also the other problem, especially for the Christians as some of them say he is eternal and I was surprised to read this in one of the commentaries of Bible. The objection would be if he is eternal he must be everlasting so he cannot die, you cannot say he is eternal and then say he died. So this is contradiction.
Yassir Fazaga: And that is not befitting to the majesty of a creator. Shaykh we would come back to the idea of attributes of God, but I remember reading once in one of the articles that you wrote about this subject that emphasis is not only to believe in the existence of God, it invites you to get to know God and have a personal relationship with Him that should impact your life positively.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes that is why I said in an earlier episode that this is not how prophets started their message to the people. They don’t start by telling that there is a God and that He exists, rather they invite them to worship none but God. And they teach them how to and why to worship that God. So the important thing is not just to believe in the existence because someone can believe, and some in fact do believe in the existence of the creator, but then in their everyday life they behave just live non-believers. Most of the people to whom prophets were sent were believers in the existence of the creator like the Arabs.
Yassir Fazaga: But they did not act accordingly.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: No they did not act accordingly, so the emphasis is on worshiping the creator, knowing him as you said, because the more you know Him, the better your relationship would be with Him, you would be in a better position to worship Him. Also the Quran uses another argument especially when it comes to Prophets, it says that Allah will not choose someone to convey His message who would then go and tell people that I am God.
Yassir Fazaga: Like I said the other day, the more exciting this is getting, the faster the time is passing by. IA we will be seeing you next time.
Credit: Transcribed by Defiance Team. http://thedefiance.co/the-rational-one/