The frailty of atheism: Islam’s response

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Mahmood Ahmed Hassan, Missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat

In the ever-changing world, contemporary waves of atheism have caused people to deviate from religion at astonishing rates. The British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey for 2018 showed that only 1 percent of those aged 18-25 in the UK said they were part of Church of England; the survey also noted that the decline of religion was “one of the most important trends in postwar history.” (www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jul/11/uk-secularism-onrise-as-more-than-half-say-they-have-noreligion)

The religiously unaffiliated have grown rapidly and the newest major religion of the world is “No Religion” as reported by National Geographic in 2016 www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/04/160422-atheism-agnosticsecular-nones-rising-religion/.

Even in the US, despite its close affinity to Christianity, people not affiliated with religion consist of a quarter of its population (Bullard). Such a huge tendency should raise alarm bells for us. Being a universal code of conduct, Islam provides abundant proofs for the existence of God and adequately addresses them. Not only does it draw on logic and rationale it, more importantly, it guides one toward communion with God; the ultimate proof. When debating and discussing in the academic world, Islam paves way for a mutual ground and emphasises to start the argument with already agreed upon and similar ideas between both groups. In the context of the “اهل الکتاب” [the People of the Book], it presents the following golden principle:

تَعَالَوۡا اِلٰی کَلِمَۃٍ سَوَآءٍۢ بَیۡنَنَا وَ بَیۡنَکُمۡ

“Come to a word equal between us and you.” (Surah Al-e-Imran, Ch.3: V.65)

While talking to monotheists, we have some similar beliefs and reverence regarding God and His Prophets. However atheism presents a different case altogether, drawing on present rational and scientific arguments to “prove” their stance. Islam, being a religion of immense support for science, does not shy away from the attacks of atheism. If we ponder upon the base of atheistic claim, it becomes apparent that atheism is merely a castle in the air which shatters itself when faced with the arguments Islam presents.

Relying on scientific truth and negating the ultimate reality cannot be regarded as an act of complete cognizance. It cannot be forgotten that science is still evolving, and its findings, assumptions, facts and figures are prone to change every day. As the base of their assertion is not firm and constant, their argument itself shatters and proves to be unreasonable. Human conscience cannot encompass the vast realities of the universe and perceive the reach of its intellect to be its universe.

The Holy Quran uses a remarkable metaphor for those who have been misled by their so-called “perfect” knowledge.

مَثَلُ الَّذِیۡنَ اتَّخَذُوۡا مِنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰہِ اَوۡلِیَآءَ کَمَثَلِ الۡعَنۡکَبُوۡتِ ۖۚ اِتَّخَذَتۡ بَیۡتًا ؕ وَ اِنَّ اَوۡہَنَ الۡبُیُوۡتِ لَبَیۡتُ الۡعَنۡکَبُوۡتِ ۘ لَوۡ کَانُوۡا یَعۡلَمُوۡنَ

“The case of those who take helpers beside Allah is like unto the case of the spider, who makes for herself a house; and surely the frailest of houses is the house of all the spider, if they but knew!” (Surah al-Ankabut, Ch.29: V.42)

A spider-web is a complex structure and the spider performs its best to weave in a manner that it considers unbreakable. It may be a well-woven and a complex structure, but it cannot withstand harsh weather conditions and the natural wear and tear of nature. For a spider, its primary and ultimate goal is to trap other insects into its web. It is contented with life and thinks its environment to be the whole universe, which it has conquered and considers weaving to be the only science.

The founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, the Promised Messiah, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmadas of Qadian, also states in one of his couplets:

کیڑا جو دَب رہا ہے، گوبر کہ تہ کے نیچے

اُس کے گماں میں اُس کا ارض و سما یہی ہے

“The insect that is being pressed down under a layer of manure, in its view, that is the entire world and universe.” (Durr-e-Sameen, p. 84)

Atheists and agnostics in different countries. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge University Press 2007 | Wiki Commons

If God is present, why can’t we see Him? The basis of atheism (science) negates this question itself. There are many things we experience in our daily lives that we cannot perceive through our eyes; the air we breathe, the fragrance of our favourite fragrance, the taste of a summer barbeque and even human emotions like happiness and sorrow. The world around us is saturated with “invisible” interactions; Wi-Fi, electricity, radio waves – the list goes on.

All of these subtleties can be felt but cannot be seen or appropriately allotted physical dimensions. Why can’t this principle work when it comes to God? Is He not the Most Subtle? After all, if he is the Creator of every universe to exist, and all creation, then, surely, He would be the most hidden as well. The Holy Quran describes Him as:

لَا تُدۡرِکُہُ الۡاَبۡصَارُ ۫ وَ ہُوَ یُدۡرِکُ الۡاَبۡصَارَ ۚ وَ ہُوَ اللَّطِیۡفُ الۡخَبِیۡرُ 

“God cannot be seen with the physical eyes but He reveals Himself to the eyes of man. He is too subtle to be seen by the eye of man, but He is aware of everything!” (Surah al-An‘am, Ch.6: V.104)

Now the question arises that if we cannot see God, how can we experience His existence? God can only be recognised through His attributes. He is “خالق” [the Creator] and presents His flawless creation as a proof of His existence. Moreover, He challenges man to reflect upon it and try his best to find a fault. The Holy Quran states:

الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَ سَبۡعَ سَمٰوٰتٍ طِبَاقًا ؕ مَا تَرٰی فِیۡ خَلۡقِ الرَّحۡمٰنِ مِنۡ تَفٰوُتٍ ؕ فَارۡجِعِ الۡبَصَرَ ۙ ہَلۡ تَرٰی مِنۡ فُطُوۡرٍ۔ ثُمَّ ارۡجِعِ الۡبَصَرَ کَرَّتَیۡنِ یَنۡقَلِبۡ اِلَیۡکَ الۡبَصَرُ خَاسِئًا وَّ ہُوَ حَسِیۡرٌ

“…Who has created seven heavens in harmony. No incongruity canst thou see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again: Seest thou any flaw? Aye, look again, and yet again, thy sight will return unto thee only confused and fatigued.” (Surah al-Mulk, Ch.67: V.4-5)

The Holy Quran, in this verse, is not only presenting a great proof for the existence of God, but is also educating the world of science. If any flaws are seen in the creation of the universe, then scientists and researchers need to delve further and they will soon realise that the “flaw” was never a flaw in the first place! This has been proven through many revised theories. Humans are also a remarkable creation. Allah Almighty says:

لَقَدۡ خَلَقۡنَا الۡاِنۡسَانَ فِیۡۤ اَحۡسَنِ تَقۡوِیۡمٍ

“We have created man in the best make.” (Surah al-Tin, Ch.95: V.5)

His magnificent creations still contain innumerable mysteries in them, proving the point that they have been created by a Higher Omnipotent Being, who has perfected them on every level that their minute details startle the observer. This excellence seems impossible without a Supreme Creator. At the same time, Allah has reminded mankind how limited and weak they are compared to God the Almighty:

اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ تَدۡعُوۡنَ مِنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰہِ لَنۡ یَّخۡلُقُوۡا ذُبَابًا وَّ لَوِ اجۡتَمَعُوۡا لَہٗ ؕ وَ اِنۡ یَّسۡلُبۡہُمُ الذُّبَابُ شَیۡئًا لَّا یَسۡتَنۡقِذُوۡہُ مِنۡہُ ؕ ضَعُفَ الطَّالِبُ وَ الۡمَطۡلُوۡبُ

“Surely, those on whom you call instead of Allah cannot create even a fly, though they combine together for the purpose. And if the fly should snatch away anything from them, they cannot recover it therefrom. Weak indeed are both the seeker and the sought.” (Surah al-Hajj, Ch.22: V.74)

Prophets – Signs of God Be it physical or spiritual, God Almighty caters for all the needs of human beings. He has created resources for subsistence, security, accommodation and welfare. He did not neglect spiritual nourishment. He sent prophets for the guidance of people from every nation. Prophet Adamas, Noahas, Mosesas, Jesusas, Zoroasteras, Buddhaas, Confuciusas, Krishnaas, Ram Chandraas etc., all were proclaimers and torch-bearers of the same light.

Despite their cultural and territorial differences, they emerged to reform mankind. How is it possible that these prophets, from different parts of the world, without the knowledge of one another, raised the same message and were always successful in their goal? There was no medium of communication between those remote areas and cultures of the world to which prophets came. Is it a coincidence or a work of a Magnificent Lord? The Holy Quran states:

 وَ اِنۡ مِّنۡ اُمَّۃٍ اِلَّا خَلَا فِیۡہَا نَذِیۡرٌ

“There has been no people in the world but that God raised among them a Prophet for their guidance.” (Surah al-Fatir, Ch.35: V.25)

The same thing is said in another verse:

وَّ لِکُلِّ قَوۡمٍ ہَادٍ

“And there is a Guide for every people.” (Surah al-Ra‘d, Ch.13: V.8)

All of them propagated the message of the presence of a High Being, and claimed themselves to be His messengers. These were the people whose lives are the examples of truth and piety. The contemporaries have affirmed that they never saw any vices in their person and conduct. The testimony of the righteous of all ages cannot be neglected. How can a person of such a high stature and morality lie about the existence of God? Atheists would be flabbergasted to know that almost all the known and practiced religions of the world have prophesied the second advent of their reformers in the latter days.

Moreover, all of them contain similar signs and qualities. Muslims await the Mahdi, Jews await Elijah, Christians await Jesus, Hindus await Krishan Avatar, Zoroastrians await Saoshyant and Buddhists await Maitriya etc. God Almighty revealed to the Promised Messiahas that he was the longawaited saviour of the latter days, by naming him:

جَرِیُ اللہِ فِیْ حُلَلِ الْاَنْبِیَاءِ

“The Champion of Allah in the mantle of the Prophets.” (Tadhkirah, p. 100)

The fulfilment of prophecies, against all odds, also serves to prove the existence of an All-Knowing and All-Aware God, Who reveals the unseen unto His beloved ones. The world confronts and opposes them, but the word of God remains as a solid immovable rock. Such predictions are beyond the capacity of a human to forge. The Promised Messiahas states:

قدرت سے اپنی ذات کا دیتا ہے حق ثبوت

اُس بے نشاں کی چہرہ نمائی یہی تو ہے

جس بات کو کہے کہ کروں گا مَیں یہ ضرور

ٹلتی نہیں وہ بات خدائی یہی تو ہے

“God provides evidence of His existence with His Omnipotence; For the Invisible One, that indeed, is the only way of showing His countenance.

“When He says that He will certainly do something; That becomes inevitable; indeed, this is Godhood.” (Durr-eSameen, p. 182)

The need for religion and God Atheists have been misled by the notion that the primary motive of all religions of the world is to propagate good moral qualities in their followers, and for its fulfilment, the fear of God is imposed to ensure the condition of law and order. Islam presents the need of religion and the motive behind the creation humanity in these words of the Holy Qruan:

وَ مَا خَلَقۡتُ الۡجِنَّ وَ الۡاِنۡسَ اِلَّا لِیَعۡبُدُوۡنِ

“And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me.”(Surah adh-Dhariyat, Ch.51: V.57)

This argument is further explained in a hadith-e-qudsi [a hadith which relates a revelation from God in the words of the Holy Prophetsa] where God discloses the reason of creating the universe. It states:

كنت كنزا مخفيا فاحببت ان اعرف فخلقت الخلق

“I was a hidden treasure. I desired to be discovered, so I created the creation.” (Tafsir Mazhari, 303/10)

The need of religion is to fulfil God’s will; to be discovered and worshipped. The real motive is to attain perfect union with God. There is a higher pedestal of spirituality above moral qualities and that can be only achieved with a strong bond with Allah the Almighty. The Promised Messiahas said that while many atheists may be moral people, only believers can advance to the higher degrees of spirituality.

“Mere acquisition of moral qualities does not bestow spiritual life upon a person. A person who denies the existence of God can yet exhibit good moral qualities, such as to be humble of heart, to seek peace, to discard evil and not to resist the evil-monger. These are all natural conditions, which may be possessed even by an unworthy one who is utterly unacquainted with the fountainhead of salvation and enjoys no part of it. Many animals have a gentle disposition, and can be trained to become wholly peaceful and not to react savagely to chastisement, and yet we cannot call them human, let alone humans of high status. In the same way, a person who is entirely misguided and even suffers from some vices, can exhibit these qualities.” (The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, pp. 19-20)

Why has God kept Himself physically hidden? Life is a journey and God has given us the abilities to choose between right and wrong. We will be rewarded on account of our actions and ultimately, everyone will certainly end up believing in God in the Hereafter. But, in this world, the test is to believe in God while not being able to “physically” see Him, rather one has to feel and understand the existence of God at a much higher level of consciousness, as opposed to sight. Allah desires for us to merge with Him, not to be distant observers.

The lack of a physical presence of God is certainly a test for all of humanity which relies on sight as the ultimate proof of existence. This challenge has been described by Allah in the following words:

لِیَبۡلُوَکُمۡ اَیُّکُمۡ اَحۡسَنُ عَمَلًا

“Th at He might try you—which of you is best in deeds.” (Surah al-Mulk, Ch.67: V.2)

Leading a life where one seeks the spiritual image of God and tries to become like God and also exerts his utmost to serve His creation is the test. Eventually, our actions will decide whether we are successful or not. Why God desired to create man? Humans, according to Islam, have been created to reflect, adopt and manifest the attributes of God.

For example, He is معبود (the One who is worshipped), but how can He be worshipped when there is no one to praise or glorify Him. So the creation of an عابد (worshipper) becomes indispensable. How could there be a محمود (praised one) without a حامد (the one who praises).

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