Eternity and God

infinitiuniverse

Allah – The Ever Living – Part of our New Existence of God Series

Article by Umar Nasser

“The God of Islam is the same God Who is visible in the mirror of the law of nature and is discernible in the book of nature. Islam has not presented a new God but has presented the same God Who is presented by the light of man’s heart, by the conscience of man, and by heaven and earth.” 1Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh)

“Are you in doubt concerning Allah, the Originator of the Heavens and the Earth?” (Holy Qur’an; 14:11)

‘God.’

No other word has quite as much power, majesty, fear, love, hope or controversy attached to it. The question of His existence needs little introduction- it is a question that is asked by the heart and mind of every human being, from whichever walk of life they may hail. It’s importance is paramount, since the existence of a Creator, if decided upon, throws one’s mind into a storm of further questions- what was the purpose of God creating us?; how did He create us?; should I care if He is there?; what happens if I don’t?, and so forth. It is a question that every responsible individual must deliberate upon, for the consequences of God’s existence are too immense to ignore out of apathy. Deciding that God exists on a purely rational basis is the first step for many in the journey towards God. As will be explored at the end of this piece, it is certainly not sufficient for true belief in God- however for many of this age the mind must be satisfied before the heart will even incline towards anything less cerebral and more spiritual- and it is that first step which this short piece seeks to help bridge. The aim therefore will be to explain why God must exist, with reference to Islamic sources, whilst also addressing common objections such as the multiverse theory, and the question of what came before God. Following this we will present some extracts on the spiritual search for God. May Allah guide us in our task. Ameen.

Atheists, by definition, are those who reject the existence of any deity. They cannot, however, reject the existence of this universe. This universe, interpretable by our physical senses is a certitude, whereas a higher, transcendental deity seems like quite the leap of faith. However, to simply affirm the reality of this universe is the first step on a path that proves God’s existence.

Anything that exists, including our universe, can only exist in two possible states.

1) The first is that it is eternal, with a past that stretches back infinitely.

2) The second is that it had a beginning, an origin, from which it emerged- prior to which it didn’t exist.

It is a self- evident truth that something with a beginning cannot come from nothing. If it had an origin, it must have had a cause. No sane mind can accept that something can invent itself out of nothingness, having no prior will to determine its creation. Nothingness is nothingness is nothingness, and by definition, is not something, and can never become something by itself.

The question then to be settled is whether our universe has always existed, or whether it had a beginning. If it can be shown to have always existed, it severely weakens the case for God- for why is God needed if His creative powers are not? We could simply accept that the universe is eternal. But if the universe can be proved to have had an origin, a prior cause initiating its existence must be brought into play.

The universe had an origin. This can be proven through two different approaches, both of which are presented below:

The scientific argument against the universe’s eternity takes many forms. The first is from the principle of entropy, and involves the 2nd law of Thermodynamics. This law states that in an isolated system, the entropy will always increase. So what does this term entropy mean? Put simply, entropy is a measure of how spread out energy is. It states that as time passes, in an isolated system such as our universe, energy becomes more and more spread out. This law therefore states that with if you had an infinite period of time, eventually the universe would reach a state of maximum entropy. This means that energy will be spread perfectly evenly. There could be no transfer of energy from one medium to another, anywhere in the universe. In Cosmology, this inevitability is given the rather dramatic name ‘Heat Death.’ At this point, no useful work could be done- stillness and stasis would be the order of the day, though there would be no Sun and Moon to give us day or night. It is clear that the present state of the universe does not reflect the condition found in ‘Heat Death.’ It is therefore also clear that the universe must have had a beginning, because if it had existed since eternity, heat death would have overcome the universe eons ago. This one principle alone tells us that the universe must have had an origin.

As well as this principle, more recent cutting edge mathematics also tells us that the universe must have had a beginning. The work done by physicist Alexander Vilenkin and co. in the last decade reveals that eternal models of the universe are not stable, and announced earlier in 2012 that all the evidence points towards the universe having a a beginning. In fact, there are various other proofs, for instance that an expanding universe cannot have expanded since eternity, and nor could the half-lives of radioactive materials have lasted an infinite past without having been extinguished. But for the sake of brevity these do not all need to be recounted here, and we hope it is now clear that the overwhelming evidence from science gives us an origin to the universe, with no evidence to the contrary.

There is however, an argument that is even more convincing than any scientific argument can ever be. It is an argument that appeals so directly and so strongly to reason, that no reasonable mind can deny it. It relates to the very nature of eternity. By definition, if the universe existed eternally it would require an infinite period of time to have elapsed. Anything less than endless and infinite time would mean that the universe had not existed since eternity, and would therefore have had a point of origin. However it is impossible for an infinite period of time to have already elapsed, for if it were so we would never have reached the present. Today would be an infinite number of days, ‘+ 1.’ This means that what we had assumed was ‘infinity’ was not so, thereby necessitating an origin to our finite reality.

This ultimately tells us that temporality, ie: travelling through time, renders eternity impossible for anything bound within that time- as our universe inextricably is. For eternity to exist, you must have an infinite period of time in your past, rendering the present impossible. So if you have time, you cannot have eternity. And if you have eternity, you cannot be within the confines of time. Time and eternity can never co-exist in the same reality- they must exist separately.

So now we know that our universe is finite with respect to its past. It had a beginning, and is subject to time. So what could have caused our universe? Could it have been another, previous universe? Perhaps. But the question arises as to what caused that universe? If one was to assume another universe before that, then the same problem would be encountered. This model of multiple universes is what is known as the ‘multiverse’ theory.

However, what is remarkable about the principle explained above is that it must apply to any multiverse model which attempts to do away with an origin. This is because the multiverse itself is temporal in nature. Each and every universe in the multiverse must be time-bound, and therefore each must have had a beginning. So now matter how you look at it, there must have been an initial origin. For, as shown above, anything bound by time cannot be eternal- and anything that is not eternal must have a cause.

It should by now be clear that temporal events cannot have temporal causes ad infinitum. If it were so, it would create the absurd scenario of infinite regress- like a line of falling dominos without a first domino to have ever fallen. A chain of cause and effect cannot stretch back with no end, but what other solution is there?

The answer is given most eloquently in the following verse of the Holy Qur’an:

…And that to thy Lord do all things ultimately go (Holy Qur’an, 53:43)

“That is, if we observe carefully we find that the entire universe is bound together in a system of cause and effect. This system is at the root of all knowledge. No part of creation is outside this system. Some things are the roots of others and some are branches. A cause may be primary or may be the effect of another cause, and that in its turn may be the effect of still another cause, and so on. Now, it is not possible that in this finite world this pattern of cause and effect should have no limit and should be infinite. We are compelled to acknowledge that it must terminate with some ultimate cause. The ultimate cause is God. This verse [53:43] sets forth this argument very concisely and affirms that the system of cause and effect terminates in God.” ~ Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), “The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam,” pg. 91

This logic is undeniable.

It should be clear now that the existence of a First Cause is necessary. Denying the existence of a First Cause would render the existence of anything else impossible. It would be like trying to count from 0 to 10 without going through 1. Refuse 1, and you’ll be stuck at 0. And yet here we are- countless steps down the line. However, the question may still be asked, how is it that God is uncreated? How is He the ‘uncaused’ First Cause?

The answer is that God is outside of time. We know this because the First Cause is the being which initiated the sequence of temporal events. To have done so, it is obvious that He cannot also be temporal in nature- or He too would require a cause. And if He is not temporal, then by definition He must be outside of Time.

Therefore how can the question of what came ‘before’ God be raised? Being outside of time there was no ‘before’ God to speak of. Having created time and space, He remains outside of it. He is therefore subject to no change, and cannot be caused.

This existence outside of time is the only true eternity, an eternity that can only be found in the First Cause- in God. The same God of whom the Qur’an asks our minds as well as our hearts:

“Are you in doubt concerning Allah, The Originator of the Heavens and the Earth?” (Holy Qur’an, 14:11)

“Allah — there is no God but He, the Ever- Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not; and He is the Most High, the Most Great.” (The Holy Qur’an, ‘Ayat-ul- Kursi,’ 2:256 )

What we have presented above tells us that God should exist. However, the intellectual affirmation of the need for a God is not the same as the knowledge that there is a God- only the latter can truly affect the heart of a seeker, and such certainty can only come from God Himself. So, to close, we present some extracts on why spiritual means are needed to attain true nearness to Him.

“Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Imperceptible, the All-Aware.” (Holy Qur’an 6:104)

“Of the natural conditions of man is his search after an Exalted Being towards Whom he has an inherent attraction. This is manifested by an infant from the moment of its birth. As soon as it is born, it displays a spiritual characteristic that it inclines towards its mother and is inspired by love of her. As its faculties are developed and its nature begins to display itself openly, this inherent quality is displayed more and more strongly. It finds no comfort anywhere except in the lap of its mother. If it is separated from her and finds itself at a distance from her, its life becomes bitter. Heaps of bounties fail to beguile it away from its mother in whom all its joy is concentrated. It feels no joy apart from her. What, then, is the nature of the attraction which an infant feels so strongly towards its mother?

It is the attraction which the True Creator has implanted in the nature of man. The same attraction comes into play whenever a person feels love for another. It is a reflection of the attraction that is inherent in man’s nature towards God, as if he is in search of something that he misses, the name of which he has forgotten and which he seeks to find in one thing or another which he takes up from time to time. A person’s love of wealth or offspring or wife or his soul being attracted towards a musical voice are all indications of his search for the True Beloved. As man cannot behold with his physical eyes the Imperceptible Being, Who is latent like the quality of fire in everyone, but is hidden, nor can he discover Him through the mere exercise of imperfect reason, he has been misled grievously in his search and has mistakenly assigned His position to others. The Holy Quran has, in this context, set forth an excellent illustration, to the effect that the world is like a palace, the floor of which is paved with smooth slabs of glass, under which flows a rapid current of water. Every eye that beholds this floor mistakenly imagines it to be running water. A person fears to tread upon the floor as he would be afraid of treading upon running water, though in reality the floor is only paved with smooth transparent slabs of glass. Thus these heavenly bodies like the sun and the moon etc. are the smooth and transparent slabs of glass under which a great power is in operation like a fast flowing current of water. It is a great mistake on the part of those who worship these heavenly bodies that they attribute to them that which is manifested by the power that operates behind them. This is the interpretation of the verse of the Holy Quran:

“It is a palace paved smooth with slabs of glass.” (The Holy Quran, 27:45)

In short, as the Being of God Almighty, despite its brilliance, is utterly hidden, this physical system that is spread out before our eyes is not alone sufficient for its recognition. That is why those who have depended upon this system and have observed carefully its perfect and complete orderliness together with all the wonders comprehended in it, and have thoroughly studied astronomy, physics, and philosophy, and have, as it were, penetrated into the heavens and the earth, have yet not been delivered from the darkness of doubts and suspicions. Many of them become involved in grave errors and wander far away in pursuit of their stupid fancies. Their utmost conjecture is that this grand system which displays great wisdom must have a Maker, but this conjecture is incomplete and this insight is defective. The affirmation that this system must have a creator does not amount to a positive affirmation that He does in truth exist. Such a conjecture cannot bestow satisfaction upon the heart, nor remove all doubt from it. Nor is it a draught which can quench the thirst for complete understanding which man’s nature demands. Indeed, this defective understanding is most dangerous, for despite all its noise it amounts to nothing. In short, unless God Almighty affirms His existence through His Word, as He has manifested it through His work, the observation of the work alone does not afford complete satisfaction. For instance, if we are confronted by a room the door of bolted from inside, our immediate reaction would be that there is someone inside the room who has bolted the door from inside, inasmuch as it is apparently impossible to bolt a door from inside by some device employed for the purpose from the outside. But if, despite persistent calls from the outside over a period of years, no response becomes audible from inside, our supposition that there must be someone inside would have to be abandoned and we would be compelled to conclude that the door has been bolted from inside through some clever device. This is the situation in which those philosophers have placed themselves whose understanding is limited solely to the observation of the work of God. It is a great mistake to imagine that God is like a corpse interred in the earth whose recovery is the business of man. If God has only been discovered through human effort, it is vain to expect anything from Him. Indeed, God has, through eternity, called mankind to Himself by affirming: I am present. It would be a great impertinence to imagine that man has laid God under an obligation by discovering Him through his own effort, and that if there had been no philosophers He would have continued unknown. It is equally stupid to enquire how can God speak unless He has a tongue to speak with? The answer is:

Has He not created the earth and the heavenly bodies without physical hands? Does He not view the universe without eyes? Does He not hear our supplications without physical ears? Then is it not necessary that He should also speak to us? Nor is it correct to say that God spoke in the past but does not speak now. We cannot limit His Word or His discourse to any particular time. He is as ready today to enrich His seekers from the fountain of revelation as He was at any time, and the gates of His grace are as wide open today as they were at any time. It is true, however, that as the need for a perfect law has been fulfilled all law and limitations have been completed. Also all prophethoods, having arrived at their climax in the person of our lord and master, the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, have been fulfilled.2

Man’s Ability to Receive Revelation. As God has invested man with the faculty of reason for the understanding, to some degree, of elementary matters, in the same way God has vested in him a hidden faculty of receiving revelation. When human reason arrives at the limit of its reach, then at that stage God Almighty, for the purpose of leading His true and faithful servants to the perfection of understanding and certainty, guides them through revelation and visions. Thus the stages which reason could not reach are traversed by means of revelation and visions, and seekers after truth thereby arrive at full certainty. This is the way of Allah, to guide to which Prophets have appeared in the world. Without treading this path, no one has ever arrived at true and perfect understanding. But a poor dry philosopher is in such a hurry that he desires everything to be disclosed at the stage of reason. He does not know that reason cannot carry a burden beyond its strength, nor can it step further than its capacity. He does not reflect that, to carry a person to his desired excellence, God Almighty has bestowed upon him not only the faculty of reason but also the faculty of experiencing visions and revelations. It is the height of misfortune to make use of only the elementary means out of those that God has, out of His Perfect Wisdom, bestowed upon man for the purpose of recognizing God, and to remain ignorant of the rest. It is extremely unwise to let those faculties atrophy through lack of use and to derive no benefit from them. A person who does not use the faculty of receiving revelation and denies its existence cannot be a true philosopher, whereas the existence of this faculty has been established by the testimony of thousands of the righteous and all men of true understanding have arrived at perfect understanding through this means.3

 

A foolish one thinks that prayer is a vain and useless thing, but he does not know that it is prayer in consequence of which God, the Glorious, manifests Himself to His seekers and conveys to their hearts the revelation: “I am the All-Powerful One.” Everyone who is hungry and thirsty for certainty should remember that for the seeker of spiritual light in this world, prayer is the only means which bestows certainty with regard to the existence of God Almighty and removes all doubts and suspicions.4 

You should remember this and this is our religion, that God’s light does not shine upon a person until that light descends from the heavens. It is absolutely true that blessing comes down from the heavens. Until God himself reveals his light for the one who seeks him, the speed of (progress) of the seeker is like that of a worm and that is how it should be because he is engulfed by all manner of ignorance and darkness as well as facing the difficulties of this path. But when the light (of God) shines upon him, his heart and his mind become bright and being thus enlightened by the light his speed becomes as fast as lightning.5

To Supplicate is Human and to Respond is Divine. When a child being driven by hunger cries for milk, then milk is generated in the mother’s breasts. The child does not know what prayer is, but his cries draw the milk. This is a universal experience. Sometimes when the mother does not perceive the presence of milk in her breasts, the child’s cries help to draw it. Then can our cries before God Almighty draw nothing? They certainly draw everything. But those sightless ones, who parade themselves as scholars and philosophers, cannot see it. If a person were to reflect on the philosophy of prayer, keeping in mind the connection and relationship which a child has with its mother, he would find it easy to understand.

The second type of mercy comes into operation after supplication. Go on asking and you will go on receiving.   

‘Pray unto Me, I will answer your prayer.’ (Holy Qur’an, 40:61)

is not mere verbiage, but is a characteristic of human nature. To supplicate is human to respond is Divine. He who does not understand and does not believe is false.6

It is a truth that he who does not do good deeds for the acceptance of his prayer does not pray, but tries God Almighty. Therefore, before making supplication it is necessary to put forth every effort and that is the meaning of this prayer. First a supplicant should check up on his beliefs and actions for it is the way of God Almighty that reform comes in the shape of means which he makes available in some form or another.7 

Be Sincere and Determined Praying is like the sowing of a seed by a farmer. Apparently he buries the good seed in the soil and who can expect at that time that the grain of seed will grow up in the form of a good tree and bear fruit? Outsiders and even the cultivator himself cannot see that the grain is assuming the form of a plant inside the earth. But the reality is that within a few days the grain undergoes a change and begins to assume the shape of a plant till its shoot emerges from the earth and becomes visible to everyone. From the moment when the grain was placed in the earth it had started its preparation to become a plant, but an eye that can only perceive the visible was not aware of it till its shoot emerged from the earth and became visible. An ignorant child cannot understand at that stage that it will bear fruit only at its due time. He desires to see it bearing fruit immediately, but an intelligent cultivator will know what is the time of its bearing fruit. He looks after it steadfastly and nurtures it till the time comes when it bears fruit and which also ripens. The same is the case with prayer, which is nurtured in the same way and brings forth fruit. Those who are in haste get tired quickly and give up, and those who are steadfast persevere and arrive at their objective. It is true that there are many stages in prayer, ignorance of which deprives the supplicants of the fruits of their prayers. They are in a hurry and cannot wait, whereas there is progression in the works of the Almighty. It never happens that a man marries today and a child is born to him next morning. Though God is All-Powerful and can do whatever He wills, yet compliance with the law and the system that He has appointed is necessary. In the first stages of childbearing nothing is known, like the nurture of vegetation. For four months there is no certainty. Then a movement begins to be felt and after the expiry of the full period the child is born after great travail. The birth of the child is also gives a new life to the mother. It is difficult for a man to form a concept of the troubles and travails which a woman has to endure during her pregnancy, but it is true that the coming of a child is a new life for the mother. She has to accept death so as to have the joy of bearing a child. In the same way, it is necessary for a supplicant that he should discard haste and endure all troubles and should never imagine that prayer is not accepted. At last the time arrives for the result of the prayer to be manifested; the child which is the objective is born.

A prayer should be carried on to the limit until it produces a result. You will have observed that a piece of cloth is placed under a burning glass and the rays of the sun concentrate upon it and their heat arrives at the degree which sets the cloth on fire. In the same way, it is necessary that a prayer should be carried on to a stage where it should develop the power of burning up failures and frustrations and to fulfil the desired purpose.8 

The God of Islam is the same God Who is visible in the mirror of the law of nature and is discernible in the book of nature. Islam has not presented a new God but has presented the same God Who is presented by the light of man’s heart, by the conscience of man, and by heaven and earth.1

References

A brief introduction to Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community: http://www.alislam.org/topics/messiah/index.php

1 – Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), Essence of Islam 1, pg. 39
http://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-1.pdf

2- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, pg. 91. http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Philosophy-of-Teachings-of-Islam.pdf

3- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), Essence of Islam, Vol.2, pg. 37 http://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-2.pdf

4- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), Essence of Islam, Vol. 2, pg 209 http://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-2.pdf

5- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), The Search for God, ‘Malfoozat’  http://www.alislam.org/library/links/00000203.html

6- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), Essence of Islam, Vol. 2, pg. 198 http://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-2.pdf

7- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), Essence of Islam, Vol. 2, pg. 212 http://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-2.pdf

8- Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (pbuh), Essence of Islam, Vol. 2, pg. 200

http://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-2.pdf

2 thoughts on “Eternity and God

  1. Nomaan

    By The grace of Allah this is an excellent article. You have showcased the perfect teachings of the Holy Quran and the excellent explanations delivered by the Hadhrat Muhammad Rasuallah’ (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) greatest and most obedient servant, the promised messiah (on him be peace). I want the podcast, DVD and T-shirt of this article, MashAllah very well written.
    I look forward to the follow up comments.

    Reply
  2. jdedeusbrasil

    I’m sorry for atheists because they are so wrong. I believe in GOD. Period. You may call Him Allah, it doesn’t matter, He is our Glorious Father, the Almighty. Blessings!

    Reply

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