Sunday, 31 January 2016

The Prophet's parents & unbelief

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How come the father of the Prophet (peace be upon him) is in Hell, even though he never heard the Message? For the same reason, why was the Prophet (peace be upon him) not allowed to pray for his mother's forgiveness? I also heard that the parents of the Prophet (peace be upon him) were brought back to life so that they could believe in him. Is this true?


Regarding the parents of the Prophet (peace be upon him) we say: It is well known that Allah will not punish someone except after the call to Islam reaches him. This would include the people who lived before the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It also applies to the children of the unbelievers, people who are insane, and those who are born deaf and blind. All such people will be tested on the Day of Judgment. 

There are some hadîth related about the parents of the Prophet (peace be upon him). Abû Hurayrah relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “I had sought Allah permission to allow me to beseech forgiveness for my mother, but He did not allow me to do so, and I sought Him permission to allow me to visit her grave and he allowed me to do so.” [Sahîh Muslim (976)]

Anas relates that a man asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Messenger of Allah, where is my father?” 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “In the Fire.” When the man left, the Prophet (peace be upon him) called to him and said: “My father and your father are in the Fire.” [Sahîh Muslim(203)] 

It is related by way of Ibn Mas`ûd that the two sons of Mulaykah came to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and said: “Our mother used to show respect to her husband and affection to her children…” and they mentioned something about the guest “…but she buried alive an infant daughter in the times of ignorance.” 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Your mother is in the Fire.” 

They turned away with expressions of pain clearly visible in their faces. The Prophet (peace be upon him) called for them. They returned with expressions of pleasure on their faces, in hope that something had changed. 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “My mother is with your mother.” [Musnad Ahmad(3598)] 

These hadîth are used as evidence by some scholars that the parents of the Prophet (peace be upon him) had been acquainted with the message of truth. The Arabs to whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) was sent were familiar with the religion of Abraham (peace be upon him), and that is why there were among them some true believers who did not commit polytheism, such as Zayd b. `Amr and Qiss b. Sâ`idah. 

Al-Nawawî in his commentary on hadîth 203 of Sahîh Muslim speaks about the hadîth of Anas, saying [Commentary on Sahîh Muslim (3/79)]:
This shows that those whoever dies upon unbelief will be in the Fire and will not get any benefit on account of his relatives. It also shows that those (people in Arabia) who had died during the era in which the Arabs used to worship idols are also among the denizens of the Fire. This is not a case of holding them to account before they received the Message, because they had already received the Message of of Abraham and other Prophets (peace be upon them all). 

The Prophet’s saying: “My father and your father are in the Fire” is an act of good will, to help ease the pain by sharing in the affliction.
Imam al-Nawawî also comments on the hadîth in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) was not permitted to beseech forgiveness for his mother. He writes [Commentary on Sahîh Muslim(7/45)]:
This shows us that it is permissible to visit polytheists while they are alive and to visit their graves after they die. It follows from the permissibility of visiting them after death that it is permissible to do so when they are alive. Allah says: “Yet bear them company in this life in a good manner.” [Sûrah Luqmân: 15] It also shows that it is prohibited to beseech forgiveness for the unbelievers.
It is possible that these hadîth intend only that people who die on other than monotheism and faith must be treated as disbelievers in this life; so it will not be allowed for anyone to pray for them or beseech forgiveness for them. This is because they appear to us as unbelievers. However, their true fate rests with Allah. 

And Allah knows best. 

It is related in some weak and false hadîth that Allah brought the Prophet’s parents back to life so that they could believe in him. Then they were made to die again. A good number of scholars have declared these hadîth to be fabricated. Refer to: Tafsîr Ibn Kathîr (3/462), al-Hâwî fi al-Fatâwî by al-Suyûtî (2/352) and al-Rawd (2/185). 

Ibn Taymiyah writes [Majmû` al-Fatâwa (4/324)]:
There is no disagreement among those acquainted with the field that this is among the most obvious of fabricated lies, as has been clearly stated by the scholars. It is not found in any of the accepted hadîth works, not in any Sahîh or Sunan or Musnad, or any other recognized hadîth work. 

It has never even been mentioned by the authors of the books of campaign and the books of Qur’ân commentary, even though they narrate weak hadîth together with authentic ones, since recognition of what is false is not hard to ascertain. 

Had it been true, great attention and care would have been paid to its transmission, since contains two miraculous acts; the first being that of bringing the dead back to life and the second being that of believing after death. 

The narration of such an event would take priority over anything else. It follows that since no trustworthy narrators ever mentioned it, it must be declared as false. 

Moreover, it goes against the Qur’ân, the authentic Sunnah, and consensus. 

Allah says: “Of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil, until death faces one of them, and he says: ‘Now have I repented indeed’; nor of those who die rejecting faith.” [Sûrah al-Nisâ’: 18] 

Allah shows us that there is no accepted repentance for the one who died as an unbeliever. 

A man asked the Prophet (peace be upon him): “O Messenger of Allah, where is my father?” 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “In the Fire.” When the man left, the Prophet (peace be upon him) called to him and said: “My father and your father are in the Fire.” [Sahîh Muslim (203)] 

Then there is the hadîth about preventing the Prophet (peace be upon him) from beseeching forgiveness. If beseeching their forgiveness had been something permissible in its own right, he would not have been forbidden from doing so. Deeds are according to how the person concludes his life, so whoever dies on faith, Allah will forgives him and consequently beseeching his forgiveness will not be prohibited. 

As for the Prophet (peace be upon him) visiting his mother’s grave, it was on his way to al-Hujûn near Mecca. As for his father, he was buried in Syria, so how could he have been brought to life for him? 

Had the parents of the Prophet (peace be upon him) been believers, they would be more renowned than Hamzah and al-`Abbâs, the uncles of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
And Allah knows best.

Patience Made Me Another Person


I had to learn that with every difficulty I faced was a test, and a lesson, challenging me to implement all that I had been taught.

I used to become frustrated easily, especially when I felt my time was being wasted.
It seemed as if slow drivers and traffic jams only existed to aggravate me.

There was the time an elderly man crashed into the side of my beloved '87 Monte Carlo. Fuming, I jumped out of my car in a tirade. The poor man was shocked, first by the crash, and then by me. This wildly agitated teenager, flailing her arms, and disrespectfully screaming, red in the face.

I remember now in disgrace, how I huffed and puffed, when my sweet, elderly grandmother could no longer keep up with my youthful stride, annoyed at how she walked so slowly as I magnanimously gave her a tour of my school as a freshman.

I am most ashamed of that day, a day that might haunt me for the rest of my life.

Alhumdulillah, I can now say with confidence and immense gratitude to Allah, that by His Mercy, my character and demeanor, has improved by leaps and bounds. Through knowledge and His guidance, I have gradually transformed. Day-by-day, test-by-test, ayah-by-ayah.You probably think I must have been a pretty horrible person. In fact, my patience before I found Islam, was less than exemplary.

Within the first year after having chosen Islam, I worked in a print shop in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. In that job, I often had to deal with angry, short-tempered customers who would treat me in humiliating ways, often hurling demeaning words at me. It reminds me now, of the way I had behaved towards that elderly man the day of the accident.

But instead of lashing out, I remained calm and polite. As a result, many of those same indignant, insulting customers, when faced with the stark contrast between their behavior and my serene kindness, would then themselves calm down. My composure and patient demeanor became a mirror, enabling them to recognize their own misconduct, sometimes even offering an unsolicited apology and leaving the store, subdued.

During the time before I was readily identifiable as a Muslim, [I had not yet begun covering] I would receive compliments from people awestruck by my self-control in the face of difficult and often intolerable adversity, often being asked how I could remain so even-tempered with someone quite literally screaming in my face.

I always responded with a big smile, "I’m Muslim".

The Quran changed me. Inspired me to look within instead of demanding from others.

That answer either left them speechless; eyes wide - mouth agape, their faces contorted in thoughtful confusion, or nodding their heads in contemplation.

I was well aware that Allah's mercy, the guidance of Islam, was the only reason I was now able to display such a self-possessed, unflappable calm as opposed to the transgressions of my impatient past. Not only had Islam satisfied my soul, it had instilled in me the clear and unwavering understanding that nothing in this world is without purpose.

I had to learn that with every difficulty I faced was a test, and a lesson, challenging me to implement all that I had been taught. As a Muslim, my top priority became fulfilling the purpose I was made for, and attaining the prize that never expires - life in Jannah.

The Quran changed me. Inspired me to look within instead of demanding from others.

I often reflected and thought about how Adam and his wife, Hawa (Eve) must have felt, having been removed from the felicity and ease of the Garden and then placed on this volatile Earth - where they had to endure hunger, thirst, pain, illness and struggles beyond imagination. They had to have true trust in Allah and steadfastness upon following His guidance. Remembering what He told them:

{We said, "Go down from it, all of you. And when guidance comes to you from Me, whoever follows My guidance - there will be no fear concerning them, nor will they grieve.} (Quran 2:38)

I had been astounded by the Prophet Noah, and how he persisted in calling his people to the forgiveness and mercy of their Creator for so many long years, even though they despised both him and his message to the point they were willing to kill him to eliminate his voice from their midst. He was mercilessly mocked and ridiculed as he constructed the ship he was commanded to build; yet he responded with matter-of-fact calm.

The Prophet Moses amazed me - He was sent back to the same place he had fled, fearing for his life. He and the Children of Israel finally escaped, traversing the sea floor – while Walls of powerful water, parted by Allah's command helping them finally flee from the tyranny of Pharaoh. Allah blessed the Children of Israel, causing them to inherit the land in which they had been persecuted for so long.

All of the prophets and messengers were clear examples of patience...
But, in spite of the many miracles they witnessed, they were ungrateful. They treated Moses with resentment, often second-guessing him, berating him for all the difficulty they faced. Yet, Moses remained patient, forbearing and humble, committed to guiding them.

The Prophet Joseph also faced many hardships. Discarded by his own brothers, made into a slave, then thrown into jail despite his innocence, where he remained for several extra years. It is difficult to imagine being forced to sit in a prison for years, having committed no crime, but he did... humbly and with neither anger nor contempt. And when he was reunited with his family, he openly forgave his brothers and wished Allah's forgiveness upon them.

All of the prophets and messengers were clear examples of patience, perseverance, certainty and humility. These are the examples I want to emulate.

But, I have learned over the years, it is difficult. Patience tends to wax and wane, along with iman.

In order to be more like the Prophets, and effectively pass the test of life, we require the Help of the One who is able over all things. This is why we say several times in our prayers, You alone we ask for help.

But is simply asking, enough?
How we can have Allah with us, on our side, as He promised.
Allah has said:

{And seek help through patience and prayer, and indeed, it is difficult except for the humbly submissive [to Allah]. Who are certain that they will meet their Lord and that they will return to Him.} (Quran 2:45-6)

We are instructed to seek help through sabr (patience) and salah (prayer). But, we are also cautioned that this will not be easy to attain, unless we are of the khashi’een, the humbly submissive, and have certainty about returning to Allah after death; being held accountable. Based on this, there are four qualities we should work to excel in:

Sabr – {Indeed, Allah is with the patient.} (Quran 2:153)

If we want Allah to be with us, we must understand the meaning of sabr, which has three types: Perseverance upon following the guidance and doing good deeds, Patience during calamities and when faced with difficulties, and forbearance in refraining from sin and bad actions.

Salah – Regular prayers performed with khushu’ (attentiveness and humility): We have detailed accounts regarding the prayer of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Read about the Prophet’s prayer, and be prepared to be awestruck by his dedication, humility and fortitude.

Khushu’ - Humble submission in and out of our prayers: Living without arrogance. Remaining humble and aware of Allah’s complete power over everything, and our need of Him, while He is free of need.

Yaqeen - Certainty of the meeting with Allah: There is no doubt that there will come a time, when our lives will end, and we will then face Allah. Our deeds will be evident and even small issues and indiscretions that were hidden will be exposed. We will be judged without the slightest injustice.

All of the examples within the Quran are there for our assistance, as a mercy from our Bountiful Lord; instructing each and every one of us how to make seeking and attaining His help easier - How we can have Allah with us, on our side, as He promised. While it may appear to be easier to seek help by other means, there is no help like the help of Allah. We would all do better to remember this.

May Allah guide us to have certainty, true patience and to seek His help through prayer with complete humility and submission. Ameen!

The lineage of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

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Please tell me about the lineage of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).


Allah sent to the Arabs a Messenger who was one of their number. 

Allah says: “Allah did confer a great favor on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the Signs of Allah, sanctifying them, and instructing them in Scripture and Wisdom, while, before that, they had been in manifest error.” [Sûrah Al-`Imrân: 164] 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “Allah chose Kinânah from the progeny of Ishmael and chose Quraysh from the progeny of Kinânah and chose the tribe of Banû Hâshim from the progeny of Quraysh. Then he chose me from among Banû Hâshim.” [Sahîh Muslim (4/1789)] 

When the Roman governor Heracles met the Quraysh nobleman Abû Sufyân who was an avowed enemy of Islam, he asked him a number of questions about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Among the matters that Heracles asked about was the lineage of the Prophet (peace be upon him). 

Abû Sufyân informed him that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was a man of respectable lineage. To this Heracles said: “Likewise, the Messengers share the lineage of the people to whom they are sent.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (1/5-6) and Sahîh Muslim (3/1393-1397)] 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) was of a most noble lineage which is expressed as follows: 

Muhammad the son of `Abd Allah the son of `Abd al-Muttalib the son of Hâshim the son of `Abd Manâf the son of Qusayy the son of Kulâb the son of Murrah the son of Ka`b the son of Lu`ayy the son of Ghâlib the son of Fahr the son of Mâlik the son of al-Nadr the son of Kinânah the son of Khuzaymah the son of Mudrakah the son of Ilyâs the son of Mudar the son of Nizâr the son of Mu`idd the son of `Adnân. 

To this point the lineage is unquestionably authentic. It is agreed upon by all the genealogical experts of the Arabs. Disagreement comes into play when we try to go further back than `Adnân.

What we know for sure is that `Adnân was from the descendants of Prophet Ishmael (peace be upon him) and Ishmael was of course the son of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him). 

The Prophet’s mother was Aminah the daughter of Wahb the son of `Abd Manâf the son of Zahrah the son of Kulâb the son of Murrah and continues back with the same lineage as that of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

And Allah knows best.

Denying God, Denying Reality: Why We Don’t Need Evidence for God (part 3 of 3)

Our Innate Nature (fitrah)

Denying_God_03.jpgThis whole idea of basic beliefs, of self-evident truths concerning God’s existence, is in line with the Islamic theological tradition concerning the fitrah.  The fitrah is an Arabic word that essentially means the natural state, the innate nature, or the innate disposition of the human being.  This innate nature acknowledges God and wants to worship Him.[1]  As the Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, said in an authentic prophetic tradition, "every child is born in a state of fitrah.  His parents then make him a Jew, a Christian or a Magian…".[2]
The concept of the fitrah has been a topic of scholarly discussion in the Islamic intellectual tradition.  The 14th century theologian and polymath Ibn Taymiyyah explained that "affirmation of a Maker is firmly-rooted in the hearts of all men…it is from the binding necessities of their creation…"[3]  The 12th century scholar Al-Raghib al-Asfahani similarly asserts that knowledge of God "is firmly-rooted in the soul".[4]
In spite of this, the fitrah can be ‘veiled’ or ‘spoiled’ by external influences.  These influences, as indicated by the above Prophetic tradition, can include parenting, society and peer pressure.  These influences can cloud the fitrah and prevent it from acknowledging the truth.  In this light Ibn Taymiyyah argues that when the natural state of someone is "altered" that person may need "other evidences" for God’s existence:
      "Affirmation of a Creator and His perfection is innate and necessary with respect to one whose innate disposition remains intact, even though alongside such an affirmation it has many other evidences for it as well, and often when the innate disposition is altered…many people may be in need of such other evidences."[5]
These other evidences can include rational arguments.  Ibn Taymiyyah asserts that the originated being "itself knows through clear reason that it has an originator".[6]  However these rational arguments must conform to Islamic theology and not adopt premises that contradict it.  From this perspective, it is important to know that belief in God is not inferred from some type of inductive, deductive, philosophical or scientific evidence.  Instead, this type of evidence acts as a trigger to wake up the fitrah, the innate natural disposition to believe in God.  In addition to this, a key principle is that the Quranic arguments ‘unveil’ or ‘uncloud’ the fitrah.  These Quranic arguments include encouraging reflection, pondering, and introspection:
"Thus do We explain in detail the signs for a people who give thought." (Quran 10:24)
"Indeed in that is a sign for a people who give thought." (Quran 16:69)
"Or were they created by nothing? Or were they the creators (of themselves)? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they are not certain." (Quran 52:35-36)

Evidence Supporting the Fitrah

Interestingly, the Islamic concept of the fitrah is supported by psychological, sociological and anthropological evidence.  Below are some brief examples:
·       Psychological evidence: the academic Olivera Petrovich conducted some studies concerning the psychology of the human being and God’s existence.  She concludes that the belief in a non-anthropomorphic God is the natural state of a human being.  Atheism is a learned psychology.  Theism is our natural state.
      "The possibility that some religious beliefs are universal (e.g., basic belief in a non-anthropomorphic God as creator of the natural world) seems to have a stronger empirical foundation than could be inferred from religious texts.  Some of the initial findings of research into early religious understanding are consistent with other areas of developmental research which suggest that there are cognitive universals in a number of domains of human knowledge…"[7]
·       Sociological evidence: Take for instance, Prof Justin Barrett.  Professor Barrett’s research in his book Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief looked at the behaviour and claims of children.  He concluded that the children believed in what he calls "natural religion".  This is the idea that there is a personal being that created the entire universe.  That ‘being’ cannot be human – it must be divine, supernatural.
      "Scientific research on children’s developing minds and supernatural beliefs suggests that children normally and rapidly acquire minds that facilitate belief in supernatural agents.  Particularly in the first year after birth, children distinguish between agents and non-agents, understanding agents as able to move themselves in purposeful ways to pursue goals.  They are keen to find agency around them, even given scant evidence.  Not long after their first birthday, babies appear to understand that agents, but not natural forces or ordinary objects, can create order out of disorder…This tendency to see function and purpose, plus an understanding that purpose and order come from minded beings, makes children likely to see natural phenomena as intentionally created.  Who is the Creator? Children know people are not good candidates.  It must have been a god…children are born believers of what I call natural religion…"[8]
·       Anthropological evidence: Consider the atheism of communist Russia and communist China.  They still had signs of what you would call a worship instinct, a sanctification instinct, awe of a greater being, which relates to the fitrah.  For example their big statues of Stalin and Lenin were almost revered.  When you look at different cultures you can see this worship instinct coming through.  This instinct even manifests itself in Atheist cultures.
In summary, to deny God is like denying the real world is actually real.  We previously discussed self-evident truths and that the reality of our world is one of them, although we have no evidence for it.  This is why if you deny God, Who is also a self-evident truth, you are denying reality itself.
And this was confirmed via the teachings of our beloved Prophet over 1400 years ago.
"Can there be doubt about Allah, Creator of the heavens and earth?" (Quran 14:10)

[1] Ibn Qayyim argued that the fitrah is truly an inborn predisposition to acknowledge Allah, the Oneness of Allah and the religion of Islam (al-Asqalani, Fathul Bari, p.  198).
[2] Saheeh Muslim
[3] Dar’ al-Ta’arud 8/482
[4] al-Dharee’ah p.  199
[5] Majmu’ al-Fatawa 6/73
[6] Nubuwwat, 266
[7] Infants ‘have natural belief in God’.  The Age National (Australia)  Accessed 17 December 2014.
[8] Justin L.  Barrett.  Born Believers: The Science of Children’s Religious Belief.  Free Press.  2012, pp.  35 – 36.
READ Part 1 : Denying God, Denying Reality: Why We Don’t Need Evidence for God (part 1 of 3)

READ Part 2 : Denying God, Denying Reality: Why We Don’t Need Evidence for God (part 2 of 3)

Denying God, Denying Reality: Why We Don’t Need Evidence for God (part 2 of 3)

Objection #2: Wasn’t the belief in a flat earth once self evidently true?

Denying_God_02.jpgAnother objection is the belief that the earth was flat.  This was once a self-evident truth, it was a basic belief.  As science has progressed we have found that this is not the case.  We now know that the world is round.  I don’t want to get into a big philosophical discussion about basic beliefs or self-evident truths and if they can be changed by future scientific evidence but what I will say is this problem is not applicable to God’s existence.  God, by definition, is a non-observed being and is outside of His universe.  For example, if I made a chair, I obviously remain distinct and disjoined from the chair.  I am outside of the chair.  Likewise, the creator is distinct and external to the universe.[1]  Therefore, the creator cannot be observed.  We can’t observe what’s outside of our universe.  So, from this perspective, the objection doesn’t apply: it is only applicable to things which can be observed.
Science is based on a theory of knowledge called Empiricism.  Empiricism stems from the idea that you can only have knowledge of something from experience based on direct or indirect observation.[2]  An empirical rejection of God is impossible as it requires evidence from observation to form conclusions.  To deny something that cannot be observed, by using the theory of knowledge that can only form conclusions based on observations, is absurd.  The scientific world can never deny God’s existence because science can only deal with things that you can observe.  This is why the philosopher of science Elliot Sober, in his essay Empiricism asserts that science is limited to questions which observation can explain,
"At any moment scientists are limited by the observations they have at hand…the limitation is that science is forced to restrict its attention to problems that observations can solve."[3]
God is not observed.  How can you use the observed world to deny that which cannot be observed? It’s impossible.  This is why science can never directly reject God’s existence.  It can only do one of two things:
1.     Stay silent on the matter
2.     Suggest some evidence that can be used to infer His existence
A common reply to this answer includes ‘if it cannot be observed, you cannot believe it’.  This is a misplaced assertion because observations do not encompass all phenomena.  There are many things we believe in that we cannot observe.  The Philosopher John Cottingham exposes this problem in his book Rationalism:
"But what about ‘all water at a given atmospheric pressure boils at 100 degrees Celsius’? Since this statement has the form of an unrestricted universal generalization, it follows that no finite number of observations can conclusively establish its truth.  An additional and perhaps even more worrying problem is that when we reach the higher levels of science…we tend to encounter structures and entities that are not observable in any straightforward sense.  Atoms, molecules, electrons, photons and the like are highly complex theoretical constructs…here we seem to be very far removed from the world of direct ‘empirical observation’…"[4]

Objection #3: The belief in God is not universal

A final key objection is that since self-evident truths must be universal, the existence of millions of atheists worldwide suggests that the God’s existence is not self-evident.  There are two reason why this objection is false:
1.    Self-evident truths do not have to be universal: Self-evident truths, basic beliefs or axioms can be individualised and do not have to have universal appeal.  Take for example your mother; you have a basic belief that the lady that you call your mother is the one that gave birth to you.  You do not have a home DNA test kit and accept the fact that she is your mother because for you it is self-evidently true.  However, to someone else, the lady that you call your mother could be your aunty, step-mother or adopted guardian.  Basic beliefs and self-evident truths do not have to be universal.  They can be individualised.
2.    The belief in God is universal: In spite of the number of atheists in the world, the belief in God is universal.  A universal belief does not mean every single person on the planet must believe in it.  A cross cultural consensus is enough evidence to substantiate the claim that God’s existence is a universal claim.  Evidently there are more theists than atheists in the world, and this has always been the case from the beginning of recorded history.
In order for atheists and sceptics to effectively challenge this thesis, they will have to explain that God is not a self-evident truth.  They will have to explain that God is not a foundational belief, is culturally bound and is only acquired via information transfer.

[1] "To Ibn Taymiyya, the term ‘created’ implies something distinct and disjoined from God…" (Perpetual Creativity in the Perfection of God: Ibn Taymiyya’s Hadith Commentary on God’s Creation of this World.  Jon Hoover.  Journal of Islamic Studies 15:3 (2004) pp.  296.)
[2] Elliot Sober "Empiricism" in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science.  Edited by Stathis Psillos and Martin Curd.  2010, p.  129.
[3] Ibid, pp.  137-138.
[4] John Cottingham.  Rationalism.  Paladin.  1984, pp.  109 -110.
READ Part 1 : Denying God, Denying Reality: Why We Don’t Need Evidence for God (part 1 of 3)

Denying God, Denying Reality: Why We Don’t Need Evidence for God (part 1 of 3)

Denying_God_01.jpgDoes God exist? This is the question I’ve constantly discussed with Atheist academics.  The discussion is often put forward in different guises but the premise is always the same; does God exist and what evidence is there to support this belief?
In fact, I would argue that we don’t need any evidence for God’s existence.  So the question itself needs debating.  It shouldn’t actually be "does God exist?", but rather "what reasons do we have to reject His existence?"
Now, don’t get me wrong, I believe we have many good arguments which support a belief in God.  The point I am raising here, however, is that we don’t require any evidence for His existence: God is an axiomatic belief.  In other words, God’s existence is self-evidently true.  Also known as a ‘basic belief’ in the language of philosophy.
The idea of self-evident truths are accepted by all.  Take science for example: science takes the world’s reality as a self-evident truth; it believes that the world is real.  In other words, the physical world is separate and external from our minds and our thoughts.
So you may be thinking, ‘I believe that the real world is real, as I can touch and feel it.  I believe the world is real because other people also say that the world is as tangible to them as it is to me.’
However, this doesn’t prove anything.  Touching and feeling something doesn’t prove that what you touch and feel is external to your mind.  The thinking and feeling could simply be happening by the workings of your brain.  Consider this; maybe your brain is in a jar on the Moon.  There is an alien who has placed probes in it, who is making you think and feel what you’re feeling right now.
You don’t actually have substantial evidence for the reality of the world you experience.  Evidence based on experience is unreliable as the experience could simply be produced in the brain.  Evidence based on philosophy or complex logic is also a product of the mind.  The external world may have no real existence apart from what is going on in your skull.
On reading this you may demand proof, proof that the real world is external to the brain… but we don’t have any proof.  Actually, we don’t need it.  That’s why we call the belief in the real world an axiom, a self-evident truth or a basic belief.  Therefore, I would argue, that rejecting God’s existence is equivalent to rejecting that the world is real because they are both self-evident truths.
This is not a type of special pleading for God because there are a myriad of other self-evident truths and axioms that we believe in.  These include:
        The existence of other minds
        The existence of objective moral values
        The existence of logical truths
        The validity of our reasoning
        The law of causality
Self-evident truths, axioms and basic beliefs are cross cultural in that they are not culturally bound.  They are also innate in that they are not acquired via any form of information transfer, and they are also foundational.  What is meant by foundational is that they provide the basis for a coherent worldview.  These aspects of self-evident truths will be explained further while addressing the key objections to this argument.

Objection #1: What about the great pumpkin, or the spaghetti monster?

There are some objections to this argument.  Some atheists and sceptics will say: ‘What about the great pumpkin, or the spaghetti monster?’ They highlight that if God is a self-evident truth, if God is axiomatic, then why can’t the spaghetti monster, or the great pumpkin be self-evident truths as well?
There are three ways of dealing with this false contention:
1.    A Cross Cultural Belief: The ‘spaghetti monster’ and the ‘great pumpkin’ are not natural tendencies.[1]  There is not a broad natural tendency to believe in a ‘spaghetti monster’ or ‘great pumpkin’.  These are not natural tendencies, they are culturally bound.  For example, if I believe in a spaghetti monster, I would have to have been brought up in a culture in which you are taught about spaghetti and monsters.  However, the idea of God, the basic underlying idea of a creator, of a supernatural cause for the universe, is cross-cultural.  It is not contingent on culture but transcends it, just like the belief in causality and the existence of other minds.
2.    An Innate Belief: Properly basic beliefs, axiomatic beliefs, and self-evident truths, do not require information transfer.  For me to understand what a spaghetti monster is, I require information to be transferred to me.  For example, I require knowledge of western cuisine and Italian culture.  But when it comes to the idea of God’s existence as the creator of the universe, you do not require any information transfer, whether from culture, or education.  This is why sociologists and anthropologists argue that even if atheist children were stranded on a desert island, they would come to believe that something created the desert island.[2]
      This is very critical to understand because we frequently hear ‘God is no different than believing in the spaghetti monster’.  This is not true.  If you understand self-evident truths, axiomatic and basic beliefs then you would see that they do not require information transfer.  The basic concept of God does not require information transfer.  The idea that monsters exist, or even that spaghetti exists, requires information transfer.  Therefore the spaghetti monster is not a self-evident truth.
3.    A Foundational Belief: The third point is that basic and axiomatic beliefs are foundational: they provide a basis for a coherent world view.  They answer questions and facilitate knowledge.  For example, God’s existence, explains conscious emergence, the fact that we have consciousness within a material world.[3]  It answers the questions for which we have no answer, like the question of language.  Currently, evolutionary paradigms can’t explain the development of language.[4]  It also explains the existence of objective moral truths and offers a foundation for explaining why things happen.
Let’s apply this to another self-evident truth: the validity of our reasoning.  Trusting our minds and the very fact that we can reason to the truth is a basic belief.  If we did not hold such a belief then how could we trust our minds? How could we reason to the truth? How could we understand the universe and ourselves? These questions are indicative of the foundational nature of the validity of our reasoning.
God’s existence provides a foundation for a coherent world view, facilitates knowledge and answers key fundamental questions.  A belief in the spaghetti monster or the belief in the great pumpkin, only provides the foundation for a few laughs.

[1] Is Belief in God Properly Basic. Alvin Plantinga. Noûs. Vol. 15, No. 1, 1981 A. P. A. Western Division Meetings (Mar., 1981), pp. 41-51. You can find the journal online here:

[2] BBC Radio 4 Today, 24 November 2008  Accessed 17 December 2014.
[3] For more on this please read "Consciousness and the New Scientist Magazine", Hamza Andreas Tzortzis, 2014.  Accessed 17 December 2014.
[4] "This highlights an important and difficult challenge facing the study of language evolution: the need for cooperation between different disciplines and between researchers working on different aspects of the problem.  Without this cooperation a satisfactory account of the evolution of human language, and therefore of human language itself, is likely to be elusive." ([Prefinal Draft] Kirby, S.  (2007).  The evolution of language.  In Dunbar, R.  and Barrett, L., editors, Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, pp.  669–681.  Oxford University Press.)