Thursday, October 05, 2006

Creationist Ahoy!

A very interesting female (and indeed self-proclaimed feminist!) Muslim blogger, Zola Malay has been commenting on my post on richard Dawkins over the last few days. Something I've found very interesting since she's actually a creationist. And prepared to talk about her views - in my experience most creationists are shut off to discussion. Anyway so I thought some of you might like to read the latest from her and from me and join the discussion.

From Zola:

"Cruella my response to "who created god?" is fortunatley already given in Islamic texts.

According to the Quran, Allah tells us that He is the only creator and sustainer of all that exists and that nothing and no one exists alongside Him, nor does He have any partners. He tells us that He is not created, nor is He like His creation in anyway. He calls Himself by a number of names and three of them are:

A) The First - (Al-Awal)
B) The Last - (Al Akhir)
C) The Eternal, who is sought after by His creation, while He has no need from them at all. (As-Samad)

He always has existed and He never was created, as He is not like His creation, nor similar to it, in any way.("He" is used only out of respect and dignity - not for gender, Allah has no gender).

A number of sceptics ask this question. But God by definition is the uncreated creator of the universe, so the question 'Who created God?' is illogical, just like 'To whom is the bachelor married?', i.e. God cannot be a creation if He himself is the creator?I will try and post more on this on a seperate piece on my own blog. "

Well fair enough, let me respond to that...

Starting, if I may, at the end with the notion that the creator cannot him/herself be created. That for me doesn't hold water. Only this afternoon I created a very nice tray of cinnamon shortbread. And by your reasoning I was created by Allah, which makes me both creator and created. And before you suggest that it was in fact Allah who created the cinnamon shortbread let me remind you that (a) I don't believe in Allah so it sems odd that he would help me out in the kitchen and (b) I've also created some very interesting variations on the bacon sandwich. I'm sure Allah wouldn't have wanted to help me with those. So if you believe I was created then a creator can be created. So for me the issue of who created Allah remains.

Evolution offers an explanation for how life on earth came to be. Your argument is that A created B and A "just does" exist. That's not an explanation, it's a refusal to address the issue. You might as well cut out the middle man and say life on earth "just does" exist.

Now secondly the proof you offer of your theory comes from a book. Surely if that's proof enough then I might say "Evolution is a fact because it says so on Cruella-blog". There are books about teenage wizards, talking rabbits, two-dimensional planets and inter-gallactic time-travel, it doesn't mean that such things exist.

And finally, strangely, the book you choose to accept as fact is littered with contradictions and inconsistencies not to mention things that are simply horrific. A pertinent example of a contradiction is in Quran 02: 256 "There is no Compulsion in religion. ", then in Quran 9: 29 "Fight those who do not profess the true faith". And for general horrificness Quran 4: 34 "As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and beat them."

And now some more questions - open to anyone who wants to answer them:

1) What is your view on the dinosaurs? Did Allah bury stacks of giant reptile bones as a big trick to confuse scientists?

2) There are millions of people around the world who believe just as strongly as you do that the earth was created by a God other than Allah. How can they all be wrong and you right? Do you think you would believe in Allah if you had been raised by, say, Japanese Shinto-ist parents?


Zola_Malay said...

Some interesting points you have raised which I will try to clarfiy.
(a) Your cinnamon short bread (sounds very nice may I add, given I am fasting I may just have to hold out on asking you to bake me one!)
Agreed, you created the cinnamon bite - but you dont claim to be the creator of the universe (or do you? )or that you were The First, The Last, The Eternal? These are serious statements which cannot be reduced to the analogy you have given.

The real question which I believe you need to address is what your definition of "God" is? I have already posted the islamic response, that Allah is the First, The Last, The Eternal, so wont repeat myself....I believe any description other than this will pose with the problem of "who created the creator" and this argument will go on forever...

Fair enough, you dont believe in God you are already half a muslim by saying this! you agree with the first part of the Shahada i.e. the Islamic creed "La ilaaha" meaning "there is no god", the only part left convincing is the "il lallah" "But ALLAH" ;)

For you to proclaim there is no god you need to define what your god is (you cant deny what you havent defined), moreover before you deny, you need to at least know the concept of god and then the concept of God in Islam (ill post on my own blog)

As rightly stated the proof I present for the existance of Allah is based on the Q'uran, which muslims like myself beleieve as being the revelation from Allah. As Allah is perfect, there can be no error or contradiction in his words.

The verses you have quoted and contradictions you have alledged are not new, and have been categorically dismissed over the last 1400yrs.

I wont go into the individual verses you quote to explain them unless you want me to (details of these are on this site for your interest:

With response to the creation of dinosaurs - Islam has no problem - infact Allah has already stated that we are among one of his multitude of creations, certainly not the first and not the last either.

Finally, there have been millions upon millions of converts to Islam throughout history (from all walks of life) so perhaps I would have believed in Allah had my parents been Japanese Shintoists...

Cruella said...

Ah Zola - sorry I've been busy a few days so not able to get back to you. All you say is all very well IF I am prepared to believe that the writings of a 7th century preacher and some of his fans are to be 100% believed. I don't really buy that. Why should that book be true? I see no reason to believe it any more than I believe that, say L Ron Hubbard (leader of Scientology cult) has met space aliens.

This first, last and eternal thing doesn't mean anything to me. I mean if Allah existed before the universe where was he? Clearly not in the universe, some other dimension or another universe? And if he already knows that he will be the last then he must know how the universe ends. And if he knows how the universe ends than he knows what happens to all of us - whether we become muslims or not. So really he's playing a very cruel trick on us by bringing us to life, letting some of us live horrible lives of suffering and knowing that many of us will get no reward for their efforts. And clearly first means at the beginning and last at the end so if there is a beginning and an end then there can be no eternity so no eternal. It's just one of those nonsense brain-washy answers to everything that has no real meaning.

And if Allah created the world including people in 4 or 8 days (depending which Quran verse you read) then when did he create the dinosaurs? Afternoon of day 2?

And finally I lived four years in Japan and I never met a single Muslim, not a one. Globally there are 2.1b Christians and only 1.3b Muslims. Now since the two are mutually incompatible one of two things are true:

1) One group have correctly-founded faith in a real God and the other group are just nutters.

2) Humans have a natural tendency to adhere to religious systems but in fact none is true.

Andy said...

Regardless of whether you are religious (and I am not) it is not wise to dismiss as "one of those nonsense brain-washy answers to everything that has no real meaning" the question of whether free will can coexist with an omiscient deity. It is a very complex issue which has divided the opinions of philosophers for centuries.

Zola_Malay said...

Andy great point you raise.
The question of fate and free will is one of the most intriguing topics in metaphysics and religion.
Man feels absolutely powerless, regarding many of the circumstances in which he/she finds him/herself. One might feel that there are so many givens, which one has to take for granted, and nothing can be done about them. On the other hand, there are many areas where one feels free to act. Look at the marvelous progress of humanity through the centuries. If humans were mere puppets, could we have managed all these wonderful achievements, which have made us so proud of human potential?

Indeed the question of pre-destination and free will has haunted Man for so long; but it has been adequately dealt with in the Holy Qur’an.

From the Qur’anic point of view, Man is not completely a master of his fate; nor is he a puppet subject to the hazards of destiny. It is true that God’s sovereignty is all pervading and nothing falls outside its purview. This means that God knows everything and it is according to His will, things happen here. The universe is completely subject to the overriding power of God, and nothing happens without God willing it to be so.

However, God not only created everything, but He determined its nature and scope. In His infinite wisdom and mercy, He gave Man limited power and great freedoms, including the freedom of choice. It is because of this autonomy, enjoyed by Man, that he/she is held accountable for the individual deeds.
The Holy Qur’an says:

That man can have nothing but what he strives for;

Surah 53 Verse 39

... Verily never will God change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls). ...

Surah 13 Verse 11

Say: "With God is the argument that reaches home: if it had been His will, He could indeed have guided you all."

Surah 6 Verse 149

Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it!
And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it.

Surah 99 Verses 7 - 8

In fact the concept of qadar (destiny), used in the Qur'an often, means a measure or the latent possibilities with which God created Man and all things of Nature. For example, God says:
... it is He who created all things, and ordered (qadara) them in due proportions.

Surah 25 Verse 2

In this verse, destiny implies the scope and potential of things. This means their latent capabilities.

There is a hadith, which says that God wrote down the decrees regarding the created world, fifty thousand years, before He created the heavens and the earth. The point to be noted here is that this does not, in any way, mean that God created a universe, finished off and complete, bound to the iron rules of Nature. The idea behind qadar is that the creation of this universe was in accordance with the grand design of the Creator. This means that there is no element of chance in the creation of this universe. Everything is well arranged and well planned.

So this is not a kind of clockwork universe where God simply winds up the clock and then lets it run. The Holy Qur’an clearly says that God is constantly active in Creation:
God! There is no god but He,-the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).

Surah 2 Verse 255
This verse indicates that God does not feel tired or sleepy in spite of the fact that He is constantly active.

Muhammad Iqbal, the renowned Islamic poet, has written: ‘Divine knowledge must be conceived as a living creative activity, to which the objects that appear to exist in their own right are organically related. By conceiving God's knowledge as a kind of reflecting mirror, we no doubt save His foreknowledge of future events. But, it is obvious that we do so at the expense of His freedom. The future certainly pre-exists in the organic whole of God's creative life, but it pre-exists as an open possibility, not as a fixed order of events with definite outlines.’

Time as an abstract concept- encompassing the past, present and future- is very much relative. It is, however, a great ‘present’ for the All-Seeing God. The whole continuum of time lies before Him in the shape of now. Knowledge is an act of creative activity and not the mere reflection of it. When He decrees a thing it happens and He sees it before it happens. God in Islam is therefore a free Creator with foreknowledge.
God's knowledge, however, is not like our knowledge. God's knowledge covers everything created, its past and its future.
... With God is the Decision, in the past and in the Future...

Surah 30 Verse 4

But God is the creator and we are the created. Our knowledge is limited in ways that God's knowledge is not. It is our very lack of knowledge which gives us free will. We cannot know our future and to a large extent we cannot control it. Our decisions are based on our understanding of the way the world works. Are these decisions free from God's command? Not really, but for all practical purposes we inevitably see them as free choices, we cannot do otherwise – that is our nature. We are held accountable only for things we understand. Our deeds are judged by their intentions.

So just as someone who punches his fist into a brick wall cannot claim injustice when it hurts, nor can we claim any injustice if we disobey God's moral laws, when we know them, and get punished. We "know" that the wall exists and that it is hard and that is the reality we deal with. The ultimate reality is however, that God could make that wall disappear just before your fist reached it.

The concept of qadar, therefore, indicates that we must seek harmony with God’s rules of human nature and nature at large, and consciously submit to His will. Destiny as conceived by Islam, therefore, does not take away our freedom of choice and action. It is our willful choice of those actions from our inherent possibilities that are in harmony with God’s will that earns us our reward from God. Thus, qadar can be a source of inspiration and encouragement for us, and it really opens up vast fields of human activity. It need not make us utterly powerless or helpless; on the contrary it can be a source of inspiration and encouragement.

Indeed, when God has set certain rules in his decree as to how things evolve, even these things can be changed through prayers. The prophet stressed that only sincere prayers can change the way events unfold, and that true worship and sincere submission to God can raise the believer above the normal ways of nature: Prayers can and do result in "personal miracles" - events or experiences which we consider almost impossible and certainly highly improbable.

From an Islamic point of view, Man is free for all practical purposes. He/she has no excuse for making the wrong choice and then blaming qadar or fate, any more than a man punching his fist into a wall can blame the laws of nature. He knew the consequences of his actions for all practical purposes and he shouldn't expect a miracle!

The foregoing means, that we should not worry about what God has written for us, since we can never know it; but our duty, here and now, is to strive for the best in this world and the next.

Cruella said...

The paradox of free will and an omniscient deity is a lovely riddle to ponder. However there is one very easy solution to it: no God!

That's not actually what I was dismissing as having no meaning, I was referring to the phrase "The first, the last, the eternal". Religious doctrines are full of phrases like this which are trotted out as the answer to everything that people don't understand. That sort of thinking to my mind is dangerous and lazy.

Zola I see your points but speaking as someone who doesn't choose to believe that every word of the Quran is factual, it proves nothing to me. Christians feel just as strongly about the bible as do Scientologists about L Ron Hubbards descriptions of aliens he's met.