Ibn Taymiyyah on the Routes and Methods of Affirming a Creator
Ibn Taymiyyah said, "As for affirmation of a Maker, then its paths are innumerable. Rather, that which the majority of the scholars are upon is that corroboration of a Maker is fitriyy (a matter of innate intuition) and dhurooriyy (necessary), embedded in the natural disposition (of man)." (Minhaj al-Sunnah 2/270). ِHe also said, "Alongside (the fact) that the ways to know the Maker through innate disposition, necessity, observation and inference and the essences and properties of things is a vast subject area which cannot be elaborated upon here..." (Bayan Talbis al-Jahmiyyah 1/501). He also said, in refutation of the Ahl al-Kalam (speculative theologians who developed the kalam cosmological argument), "... they restricted the affirmation of the Maker to knowledge of the origin of the universe, and they restricted the affirmation of the origin of the universe to the affirmation of the origination of bodies. But the affirmation of a Maker has paths (methods, ways) that almost escape enumeration, and all of them are more apparent and clearer than the method of affirmation of the origin of the universe." (Huduth al-Aalam, p. 54). And he also said in indicating the corruption of the kalam cosmological argument relied upon by the Ahl al-Kalam, "And the affirmation of the origination of the universe has paths (ways, methods) that are clearer than (the route) of affirmation of origination of bodies - even if it had been a correct method - due to what it contains of (internal) disputes and minute details. But how is it when it is also a corrupt method in the view of the Prophets and their followers, and (in the view of) the people of sound natural dispositions and intellects, and (likewise in the view) of those who opposed them from the theistic Philosophers and the Naturalists such as the Peripatetic Philosophers, the followers of Aristotle and their likes." (Huduth al-Aalam, p. 54). And then he said straight after, "So in summary, the paths of knowledge to affirmation of a Maker are many, they are all clearer and more apparent than this path (used by the ahl al-kalam), and they are decisive evidences that cannot be invalidated. Hence, there is no need of the knowledge of the origin of the universe built upon (the route of) the origination of bodies (that comprise the universe) for corroborating a Maker. Rather, it is not in need of (even) the knowledge of the origin of the universe to begin with (in the first place)." (Huduth al-Aalam, p. 54).
Comments and Notes
01. First a crucial matter that needs to be understood is the distinction between the two different definitions of science that are in operation and failing to distinguish between these two will not allow a person to see through the naturalist religion. Read more here.
02. There are innumerable methods and ways of demonstrating a creator and it is false to assert or to practically operate as if there is only one way and that this way has to be proving the universe to be originated (having a beginning). The various ways include a) the evidence of fitrah (innate disposition) (الفطرة) b) evidence through observation (المشاهدة) of order, regulation c) evidence by way of life (organic living beings) arising (الإختراع) from inanimate matter and studying the properties of life (biology, chemistry, physics) d) evidence through precision and meticulousness in creation and created things (العناية) e) the evidence of wisdom (الحكمة) f) evidence of will and power (الإرادة والقدرة) g) the use of similitudes comprising reason and rationality h) rational arguments which are abstract in nature. The latter (rational arguments) are in fact the weakest type because they only point to an absolute and abstract existence (of a creator) rather than a specific existence in external reality.
03. As for the kalam cosmological argument that has been relied upon by the speculative theologians (Ahl al-Kalam) then valid criticisms have been made against it by Philosophers and atheists past and present, and this is because certain premises incorporated into this argument (by the speculative theologians) force a particular type of "cause" which is "timeless, spaceless, immaterial" which in turn forces the denial of attributes and actions from this "cause". From here it becomes impossible to establish that an actual "act of creation" took place in reality and thus it is sounder to conclude from this argument the necessity of an eternal first cause [as in, a cause that is in effect, eternally] (and hence an eternal universe). There are atheists today who have simply echoed the very same that Aristotelian Philophers such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) were stating a thousand years ago against those speculative theologians (Ash'aris, Maturidis) who were condemned by orthodox Muslim Scholars for using such flawed methods. By using these methods they were in turn made to assault the revealed texts with distortion when they found a conflict between their reason (that necessitates denial of attributes and actions) and what is contained in revelation of affirmation of attributes and actions for the creator.
04. An invalidation of the claim that demonstrating the origination of the universe is the only way to prove a creator, or making this method to be the core method. In any case, this matter is innate (fitriyy) and necessary (dhurooriyy) in the first place and it is why no rational human being can escape using teleological language when describing the operation of life and the universe. The foundations of all rational investigative sciences stem from the fitrah (innate disposition) which acknowledges design, order, uniformity and regularity in the universe which makes it intelligible indicating, axiomatically, that it is created. Consider the following interesting remarks by Del Ratzsch (Philosopher of Science) in a 2006 interview which describe a reality that in Islamic texts is characterized through the word "fitrah" (innate disposition): "Furthermore, given the role of theology in the rise of science itself, and given that the cosmos which science presupposes has a creation-esque flavor (orderly, law-governed, elegant, intelligible, coherent, unified - as one might reasonably expect of a deliberately designed creation), it may be that science itself is a design payoff... In any case, design theories might conceptually lock into those design-shaped foundations more elegantly than do non-design or anti-design theories. On the Reidian view, we have innate faculties which simply generate such beliefs (both general principles and specifics) within us, and if these faculties are operating properly and under appropriate circumstances, the produced beliefs are rationally legitimate for us. Reid catalogued a variety of belief areas in which such belief-producing dispositions operated - again, the past, other minds, the external world, as well as basic moral principles, principles and processes of reason, acceptance of the testimony of others, aesthetics, and of present interest design in nature which, by a very short inference, led to conclusions about a designing mind. Reid's basic idea was that we perceptually (and immediately albeit often implicitly) recognize marks of design and that it is a short (inferential) step from that recognition to the thing in question being designed and the existence of a designing agent. Among the marks Reid cites were contrivance, order, organization, intent, purpose, regularity, beauty and adaptation.... Science requires a battery of presuppositions and those presuppositions are not direct results of science - they are conceptual structural materials science itself depends upon and without which there would be no science. Thus if we are rationally justified in accepting science then we must be rationally justified in accepting those foundational presuppositions. But not being results of science, their rational justification cannot rest upon science, but must lie beyond science. Thus, if we take science and its results to be rationally justified, science is not the only source of rational justification. There must then evidently be some deeper source of rational justification. Historically religion played a significant role here. But the present point is that even if the usual empirical gap-closing induction worked flawlessly, the story - even of science's own rational legitimacy - is not complete, and may require design ideas at some deeper level... any simple, sharp separation of science and religion does not reflect our cognitive and neurological architectures, that there are deep interconnections between what we take to be scientific and religious beliefs, and that cases for the two being in deadly conflict - which already fail historically and philosophically - fail at the even deeper level of neural structures giving rise to our very cognition as well. Some of the deep interconnections between science and religion I think ultimately track back philosophically to the created structure of the cosmos itself, but also back to the fact that inputs from neurological structures and systems routinely associated with science - e.g., reason - and those routinely associated with religion - e.g., emotion - are not completely separate or separable systems. There is increasing and no longer even controversial evidence that reason itself does not function properly in the absence of properly functioning emotion neural systems, and in some cases the structures themselves and their inputs and outputs are integrated - fused - prior to our having conscious access to them." End quote from Ratzsch. You should read this quote again and very carefully! And note the following points:
a) Scientific enquiry (observation and inference) has to presuppose design, order and purpose, otherwise it simply cannot take place and cannot investigate causes, b) The scientific enterprise therefore is in reality a consequence of design, order and purpose, c) Innate faculties generate these beliefs (of design, order and purpose) and these beliefs are rationally legitimate, d) Marks of design are recognized perceptually and implicitly (innately) and the inferential step to a designer is minimal, innate and natural, e) Such marks include contrivance, order, organization, intent, purpose, regularity, beauty and adaptation, f) This rational justification is actually the source of the rational justification of science and the scientific method, g) It is therefore not possible to separate innate (relgious) beliefs about the universe from scientific enquiry. This is precisely why you see atheists like Dawkins unable to flee from teleological language and subsequently suffer from such illusions and delusions that we shall elaborate in a separate article.
05. Ibn Taymiyyah said, "The basic foundation of the knowledge of a maker is innate and necessary. It is more deeply rooted in the souls than elementary knowledge of math such as our saying 'one is half of two' and elementary knowledge of natural reality such as our saying 'a body cannot be in two places at the same time'." (Majmu' al-Fatawa 2/15-16), and also "He (Allaah) made the innate dispositions of his servants prepared (with the capacity) to know and perceive realities, and had there not been such preparedness in the hearts to know realities, then there would be no observation and inference and nor (any) speech and discourse (with respect to that)." (Dar al-Ta'arud 5/62). This second statement indicates that rational sciences and the scientific method (observation and inference) and reporting of that through speech and discourse would not be possible had the faculties not been predisposed to perceiving realities upon a deeply-rooted foundational conviction of their being law, order, regularity and uniformity in the universe through design and purpose. It is precisely that conviction, that life and the universe are designed and rationally investigatable, that gives rise to science, in other words, "it may be that science itself is a design payoff" to borrow the words of Ratzsch earlier.
06. The Prophets and Messengers, such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammad (peace be upon them), all appealed to this basic innate instinct and in the Qur'an we see the command to observe and reflect upon the universe, man himself, the various elements and other such affairs so as to corroborate and perfect what is already found in the innate disposition. However, the call of the Messengers was not merely to affirm a creator, since that knowledge is already innate and necessary, rather their call was to the rational consequence and conclusion following on from affirmation of a creator which is that worship of created things is the ultimate falsehood and that false religion is characterized through worship and devotion of others besides, or alongside the creator. Now many smart and shrewd atheists are atheists because they have found legitimate flaws in what is really false, corrupted religion, not sound religion. And hence a large body of their arguments are in fact strawman arguments. We shall elaborate on these affairs in other articles inshaa'allaah.
Written by Abū ʿIyād on 21/12/1434H (26/10/2013CE)