Islam, Rationality and non-Contradiction

By MuslimAnswers.net Team, Checked and concurred by, Mufti Faisal bin Abdul Hameed al Mahmudi ( http://www.fatwa.ca, http://www.ilmhub.com)

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

In this article we show that every single non-Islamic religion has a fatal flaw that essentially shows the falsity of that religion. This flaw relates to joining of mutually exclusive and contradictory claims when it comes to God, His Essence and His Attributes. We may concentrate on a certain religion (Christianity for example), but for all non-Islamic religions, this basic premise stands. Taken as a whole[1], their claims are invalid and should be rejected by every clear-thinking human being.

It is best if we focus on showing how the different non-Muslim ideologies are faulty and flawed as religious systems, rather than slowly comb through the books of our opponents trying to find some or the other piece of truth in their religions. Thus, in the case of the Christian Bible, we will not try to show that the Bible has prophecies showing the truth of Islam, because such a situation is somewhat far-fetched when one considers the totality of the Bible. Rather, what we are trying to show is that the Bible and the Christian religion adopt a series of stances that when taken together show that they do not have any intelligible positions regarding God, and that their religion at the very core is totally inconsistent within itself and should be rejected outright.

Now, one of the matters we commonly hear among the non-Muslims is how their knowledge of “God” is wrapped in mystery, or how “God” does not and cannot conform to our standards of logic and rationale. As Muslims, we indeed do say that full comprehension of God is not possible for any human being to attain. However, what our non-Muslim opponent is advancing by means of his reasoning is not only that “Full knowledge of God is incomprehensible by human beings”, but that “no intelligible statement can be made about God at all”. We explain this as follows:

What our opponent is positing is that it is possible for there to subsist mutually exclusive attributes – that is, totally contradictory attributes- within God Himself. If we take the matter of God’s existence, our opponents are saying that the phrase “God exists” also accepts its opposite “God does not exist” as being true. So for them Existence and Non-Existence can both be true descriptions of His Self, and the position of the atheists who say that “God does not exist” is also potentially true.

The same goes with the statement “there is only One God”. Since our opponent cannot make recourse to any logic at all in describing God, then He is saying that the statement “there are multiple Gods” can also be true according to him. So if someone says “there are 20 Supreme Gods”[2], our opponent cannot object, since for him 1= 20 is a potentially correct statement when it comes to describing God and His Essence.

With respect to the statements made in the “Holy Books” of our opponents we have the same issue at work in here, since our opponent holds that truth and falsehood are the same, and that God could reveal and inspire truth as well as falsehood in the bible. Moreover, since for our opponent knowledge is the same as ignorance, then it is possible for his “God” to have inspired some things to be written in the “Holy Books” that were in accordance with God’s knowledge, but other things could have also been written in the “Holy Books” which “God” was not fully aware of. Thus, our opponent cannot fall back and say that such-and-such doctrine is true because it is mentioned in the “Holy Books”, since in his worldview God transcends rationality, truth is the same as falsehood, and it is possible for both to be mentioned in the “Holy Books” without us human beings being able to differentiate between them at all, even if God supposedly assures that this is the case – because to our opponent, “God” can assure humans of the “truth” of a false statement, or He may not even know whether a statement is true or false so “God” may unknowingly assure us of the truth of a false statement.

So it is clear that our opponent is in a quandary. Even if our opponent says “God is beyond the laws of logic” one would need to use logic itself in order for this proposition to have any meaning. Why? Because the person is making a proposition and is presenting this proposition as being true. That is, they are saying that the statement: “God is beyond the laws of logic” is true and not false, which is based on rational reasoning. If they totally reject rational reasoning, then they cannot even say that the statement “God is beyond the laws of logic” is true and not false, since it could be both true and false at the same time as per their rationale, a rationale which allows fallacies and incongruence with respect to discussions about God.

As another example, the believer in God –even the one who says that rationale has no role to play in understanding God- says that there exists only One Supreme God. This person knows that the phrase “there is no God” is false and not true. This is why he would do his utmost to try to refute the statements of the atheists in this respect, since he acknowledges that most certainly God does exist and His Non-Existence is logically unacceptable and impossible. If he did not take logic into consideration at all, then he and other believers in God would have never written thousands of works refuting atheists, nor spent decades upon decades doing their utmost to show that the arguments of the atheists are false and invalid. No. He would have simply said that the statements “God exists” and “God does not exist” are both equally valid possibilities and both can be accepted as true descriptions about God’s existence. The steadfastness of such “believers in God” in arguing and refuting the atheists is ample proof that they do consider that rationality has a prime role to play in describing and understanding God and His Attributes.

However, these same “believers in God” then explicitly state that human rationale has no role to play in understanding or describing anything about God whenever they are cornered by their own propositions which show obvious and clear conjunction of mutually contradictory attributes with respect to God.[3]

Here is where Islam differs from all other religions, since the primary texts of Islam constantly urge humanity at large to use their intellects in arriving at the truth of Islam. For example, the Holy Qur’an says:

And what is there after truth but error? To where, then, are you being diverted (by your whims)? (Holy Quran 10:32) 

The blind and the sighted are not equal, nor are darkness and light, nor shade and heat of the sun.

And the living and the dead are not alike. (Holy Quran 35:19-22)

Notice that the Qur’an categorically states that there are certain things which completely oppose one another, and that if a thing is established to have some characteristic, its opposite characteristic cannot simultaneously subsist within that thing. The Quran also states:

Do they not, then, ponder about the Qur‘an? Had it been from someone other than Allah, they would have found in it a great deal of discrepancy. (Holy Quran 4:82) 

Even though the above passage may seem obvious to the lay reader, in it Allah reveals that all other scriptures, and the religions and ways they represent are deficient when it comes to the issue of internal consistency of their beliefs, especially their beliefs regarding the Supreme Lord of the Universe. 

Thus, in Islam the categorization of matters is done into:

·         “Absolutely Necessary”

·         “Impossible”

·         “Merely Possible”

This categorization is found in the beginning of all classical Islamic belief texts, and such categorization is extremely important when it comes to describing Allah and His Essence, since without these categories then nothing at all can be said about Allah the Exalted, not about His Power, nor His Knowledge, nor His Will, not even about His Existence.

Thus, in Islam the matters of faith are never spoken off as being contrary to rationality, or of the Muslims having to believe in certain precepts even though they are contrary to the sound mind. Granted, there are matters of the religious practices that cannot be known through reason alone (such as the number of daily prayers and their times), but the core religious beliefs of the Muslims – and especially those related to Allah and His Attributes- can very well be defended on the basis of reasoning alone without any explicit reference to scripture.  

If one were to peruse the various presentations of Islamic belief (such as Aqeedah at-Tahaawiyah, Aqeedah as-Sanussiyah) and their explanations by later scholars (for example, one may read “The Aqidah of Tuan Guru” for an elucidation of Aqeedah as-Sanussiyah[4]), one would see that great pain has been taken to ensure that the explanations provided are totally in nature with sound reasoning, and that the common layman can understand what these explanations mean, since it is incumbent upon the Muslim to know which matters are “absolutely necessary” when talking about Allah and His Attributes, which ones are “impossible” to attribute to Allah, and which ones are “merely possible”.

 


[1] When both of the propositions are put together they give a result of false.

[2] Here we are not discussing trinity or other such doctrines at all, but we mean that if someone says “there are 20 Supreme Gods” in the sense of 20 distinct and different “Supreme Gods” that have no unity amongst them whatsoever.

[3] That is, whenever it is shown to them that they are taking mutually contradictory statements and attributing both of them to God.

[4] Available on http://muslimanswersfiles.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/sanusiyyahabdullahalmalali1.pdf

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11 thoughts on “Islam, Rationality and non-Contradiction

  1. I asked these questions on another Muslim website from another school of thought (which has yet to answer them all completely) and I wanted to see If you could answer them, I apologize in advance for the bluntness of the questions, and I hope I am not condescending in any way when I ask them.

    1. First of all why are there so many negative hadith reports if they are all false, like the banu Qurayza incident or the blind man killing the Jewish slave who criticized the prophet, and the marriage of Aisha, what are they doing there in the first place? How can so many scholars believe the moon split when all the other civilizations around havent seen it happen? Why did so many scholars report on and agree with those reports even if only your school of thought (Hanafism) disagreed with them, it’s three on one isn’t it? Why did so many contradictory hadiths make it in to the volumes that are considered most authentic?

    2. I have read in a hadith that a woman approached the prophet and asked him why women were not mentioned in the Quran and then later the prophet received a revelation that mentioned women, doesn’t that seem suspicious that only after the woman complained that the revelation began to include women? Why didn’t the previous revelation include women before? Doesn’t it seem that at times the prophet is acting on his own will?

    3. Why did the Quran come only in Arabic and not in other languages as well or in a universal language? If it came for all peoples and all times why does it only have Semitic/African references?

    4. Why does the Quran mention the Torah and the gospels as single revelations when they are split up into many books? Why does Injeel mean? I don’t recall Jesus receiving any scriptures or Abraham for that matter, where is the body of the pharaoh that was said to be preserved for future generations to see?

    5. How do Muslims explain human evolution when their texts claim Adam was created?

    6. How do you respond to those that claim Muslims slaughtered thousands of people in India when they arrived (according to Will Durant)? How do you respond to the accusation that the Arab slave trade was no different than that of the European one, and that Islam is just another racial supremacist religion but with Arabs instead of Europeans (according to Woke BLM and Hoteps)? Or that European colonialism was just a response to the Muslim conquests? Why were there Muslim conquests to begin with if Jihad was only for defense?

    7. Why did the prophet not end slavery right then and there? Why let it continue on for so long?

    8. Why are there blasphemy laws to begin with regardless of punishment? Don’t blasphemy laws make god and the prophet look weak that they need laws to protect them from insult, does the religion needs brute force? Why can’t it take criticism even if it is in an insulting manner?

    9. Why does god allow men to hit women if the Quran admits that men are stronger than women and that they are their protectors?

    10. Isn’t it strange that the prophet forgot what Jerusalem looked like after the night journey, but suddenly remembered it in detail afterwards?

    11. What are Muslims thought on Alien life, If God created intelligent life in another solar system, would Muhammad also be their Last Prophet? Did they have other Prophets? If they did wouldn’t that contradict with the statement that all the prophets are related by blood?

    12. Does the Qu’ran say that the intellect is in the heart or the soul? If someone gets a heart transplant does that mean their soul is being removed?

    13. If we were to invent Artificial intelligence would it have a soul? Or does it have to be Organic? I’ve read that angels breath in the soul after six months, would they breathe it into a machine if it were to gain consciousnesses?

    14. Why did god allow his message to be distorted through out the ages? Why does god need abrogation, why didn’t he just send Islam as it were to begin with instead of allowing confusion through out the ages?

    Thank you for reading the questions and again I hope I was not rude in any way shape or form when asking my questions.

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  2. Dear Gill,

    These are a lot of questions, and it seems that there is no coherent thread running through all of them as a whole. We can attempt to answer them in the best way, but it seems that first of all a proper system to accept information/knowledge needs to be agreed upon.

    For example, in terms of the first question, there is a lot of criticism of the scholars of Islam and what they have accepted, yet there is also a comment about how the Hanafis reach conclusions differently than other schools of thought – of course, the issue would be that whichever school of thought from among these four is accepted, each has their own methodology to reach conclusions (some of the conclusions being indubitable which they share with other schools and with all Muslims in general, others where the conclusions are in their own school but they have evidences they consider to be substantial though not Islam-defining); in all cases though, the importance of the efforts of the scholars would need to be accepted and not dismissed, rather the evidences and the proofs would need to be studied.

    The issues are many as I said but the disparate nature of the critiques has to be resolved into a framework first and foremost. Actually this article itself was a step towards that direction, but of course much more study and research goes into deducing conclusions in Islam.

    Thank you.

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  3. ^

    Looking at the first question a little deeper, it seems the first part of it is with respect to questions that would be posed by a Hadith-rejector. We must keep in mind that most of the issues mentioned in the question are actually based on authentic narrations, whether it is about the punishment the Banu Quraiza were given after trying to help the enemy in their attempt to overrun and massacre the entirety of the Muslim community in spite of their binding pact to the opposite, or the age of Ayesha (RAA) when she married and subsequently moved in to live with the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam), or the incident of the killing of the woman who not only criticized but kept on blaspheming and abusing the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam). Besides, these matters have very strong indications to them in the Qur’an so the criticism seems very strange from the angle it usually comes from [i.e., there is an indication to what occured to the Banu Nadhir and the Banu Qurayza in Surah Al-Ahzab, there is the injunction for what to do with different types of married women if they are given a divorce, and this includes all types of women, including the very old and the very young women, plus there are allusions to Allah the Exalted indicating full-out war against those who, in the midst of Muslims, constantly malign and abuse the community of Muslims.]

    Concerning the moon-splitting issue, this is again an issue brought up by the certain Hadith-rejectors, and again it is something indicated to in the Qur’an itself. One could say that there may have been a couple of scholars of the Ummah who indicated to a future occurrence of this moon-splitting event and the majority of scholars have reconciled their statements with what is reported to have already happened, but that is again why we mentioned in the first post about the importance of having a proper methodology (i.e. if one is saying that moon-splitting is suspicious because they are doubtful such a thing could happen or could be properly narrated in the first place, it would not matter if the occurrence was in the past or will be in the future, since in their minds miracles cannot take place in their ideological paradigm anyhow). Besides, the narrations are well-documented in the Hadith collections through various routes, and perhaps it may be an interesting thing to look at it from a more natural perspective, but that would need to first accept that the witnessing and thus the narrations have actually been reported and not simply invented.

    Now, regarding the Hanafi school, note that the Hanafi school like other schools of legal thought is a system of interpretation. Anyone trained in Hanafi tradition would naturally use its mechanism to understand the Ahadith and the Qur’an. This cannot be termed as weak by numeric comparison with scholars with different views, and saying that it is a 3-to-1 numerical disadvantage is not the academic manner in which to approach the issue. Rather, it should be viewed and analyzed on its actual academic merits.

    Concerning the ‘contradictory Ahadith’, first note that a weak hadith is not essentially false. An isnad-wise weak hadith can help understanding a larger context, add clarity or meanings to an authentic but on a certain point ambiguous or unclear report. Also, when we come to an Usooli study of Islam, many issues are discussed and many layers of scholarship not dealt with merely in Hadith nomenclature are put forward, and different conclusions may be and are reached by the scholars of Islam. This can be known only through study, not through mere perusal of the subject-matter.

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    • Thank you for taking the time to reading my questions, I apologize for the random mode of thought and structure of the questions, but I have to add one more to the list.

      15. How do Muslims deal with the problem of free will and predestination?

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  4. ^

    Concerning the second question, what I recall of the narrations in this respect is that this general incident was the reason for revelation of one Verse (Surah 33:35). It is extremely common for a certain question or a situation that occurred at the time of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) to be the basis for the revelation of a Verse, or a number of Verses, etc., and it is not at all restricted to this one question/case.

    About this narration in particular, I would need to further look and ask on the exact wording of the narrations and how these various narrations [since there are variants] are seen with respect to the totality of the Islamic corpus. The truth is, what we see from the commentaries of this Verse, is that the injunctions are made to the believers in general and the masculine form is normally used, yet women are included therein, the hint being the honor and esteem in their affairs being hidden, except when absolutely necessary. For example, this Verse is a Madinan Verse, while even in the Makkan revelation there was indeed mention of pious women, but most of the time under the cover of their attribution to men, like the ‘Wife of Pharaoh’ or the ‘Wife of Ibrahim’ [and the same with non-pious women, such as the ‘Wife of Lot’]. There is an exception in the case of Maryam, the mother of Jesus (Alayhima Salaam), but as alluded to, this is due to absolute need, since Jesus (Alayhi Salaam) cannot be attributed to any father, so only attribution to his blessed mother is possible. And these are all cases were the rule is constant throughout the Qur’an, both in Makkan and Madinan revelation.

    One important point though with respect to this Verse [Verse 33:35] in particular is that the mention of women along with men has been made ten times, yet as mentioned by the exegetes, there are points even in here where the honor and esteem of the women through avoiding the mention of certain matters has also been done; specifically where the righteousness of guarding the private parts has been explicitly attributed to men, but for women the guarding is mentioned and the ‘private parts’ is not explicit, rather it is implicitly understood in the context of the Verse. So of course, the fact that Muslim women are within the purview of responsibilities and rewards of Islam is present and is a point of agreement among all, but the way in which this is conveyed is subject to certain distinctions and is a subject for study, and this is true within the totality of the Islamic corpus. (The original question thus seems to be somewhat off, in that women were included in the revelation from the very beginning, sometimes more openly than others, and the revelation of Verse 33:35 did not constitute a wholesale alteration of this reality one way or the other).

    This is what I can say for the time being concerning this particular matter, there are other questions left in this regard, plus I will see when it might be proper to answer the remainder of the questions.

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    • I also have to ask in regards to this comment:

      “It is extremely common for a certain question or a situation that occurred at the time of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) to be the basis for the revelation of a Verse, or a number of Verses, etc., and it is not at all restricted to this one question/case.”

      There are many Islamaphobes and critics of Islam who claim that the Prophet acted according to his own whims and desires, which is why the revelation was sent down only when those events pertaining only to that situation occurred.

      What is the Muslim response to these accusations by the critics of coincidences in revelation.

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      • ^
        I will need some time to go through the many remaining questions; Concerning this last issue, if the opponent presents such an argument, the truth is there would need to be an evidence of when the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) was allegedly found to be “inventing” the Quran as per their claim, not mere speculation. We have to be remember that a great number of Verses and even Chapters of the Qur’an came in a relatively short time-frame, and Arab society being quite open, it would have been quite impossible for anyone to compose these Verses or for one to teach them to another with absolutely no one finding out what was happening, and added to this that the enemies of Islam even at that time were waiting for exactly this kind of opportunity to expose the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam).

        Also one more thing from the top of my head is that there were occasions when the Revelation itself lifted worries from the person of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam); one salient example is that of the Incident of the Ifk that was directed towards the conduct of the Prophetic Household; had this been merely an “invention”, there would have been no way that the worry of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) in this matter would have been lifted.

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  5. I apologize for doing this once again as I know your are busy and you just answered my question, but I forgot to add this one to the list:

    16. Judaism does not believe in an afterlife, and yet the Qur’an states that they believed in one, the Qur’an also states that the past nations all believed in a monotheistic but the vast majority of societies were either polytheistic or Animists according to most Archaeological and written records, why is that? There is also the matter of The Qur’an claiming that the Bible predicts the Prophet Mohammed, how do you respond to the counter arguments made by James White and other Christian theologians who claim otherwise?

    Thanks again for taking the time and answering my questions and I apologize for their random nature.

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  6. ^

    Dear Gill,

    As I mentioned to another questioner, I am submitting the questions to Muslim scholars, yet up to now I have not received a reply to these questions. I will attempt to answer the matter one by one as best as I can and I hope that such replies will be sufficient; also, if there does come a feedback later on I will modify my replies accordingly or add to them as the case may be. [As you know, the first two questions have already been answered by me, but I will modify them if I get any feedback there as well].

    Concerning Question Number 3, we say the signs of Allah are of various types and the conclusions that should be made from these signs are related to both the Reality of God and to the Reality of Messengership. It should be noted that the signs concerning the Reality of the Divine are not necessarily tied only to the Revelation of the Quran, so they can potentially be deduced by every human being; thus even if someone has no access to the Message of the Prophet (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) they would still be held accountable for their belief in the Reality of God, at least according to a great number of Islamic scholarly opinion.

    With respect to the language of the Quran, it would have been revealed in only one language to begin with and likewise in only one broad location and time, since a ‘Universal language’ has not existed in human history, and it is difficult to see how it would exist, as there can be no ‘universality’ besides few basic symbols and expressions amongst all people. Besides, we Muslims say it is within the purview of Allah’s Decision for where, when, and to whom or how many persons to give the Divine Message, and what proofs and evidences to furnish these chosen exalted person or persons.

    This also brings us to the second part of the question, about the references in the Quran to Messengers and peoples of a particular region. The truth is that the Quran does mention the general truth that many previous Prophets were sent, indeed all communities in the world received a Prophet at some point, so this itself goes beyond Semitic or African references.

    But in term of specific mentioning of Prophets, not mentioning say Persia or India for example [even though Arabs knew of their existence] should not be seen as a negative. If anything I would take it as a positive, because if [God forbid] Muhammad (Salla Allahu Alayhi Wa Sallam) had been trying to invent something, there would have been an urge to ’embellish’ the Quranic narrative by including alll sorts of historical or semi-historical personages from Persia, Egypt, Rome, etc., and the urge for a fluffy perrenialsm [i.e. of all spiritual paths being the same] would have been too strong to resist for one thinking of how to make up their own book and to be likeable to people at large.

    All in all, the specific and general references point to Prophets and Messengers conveying the message to various parts of the world, their being bellied by their communities, and of what Allah’s Decision with respect to those who denied such Messages ultimately was and will be.

    I will respond to the remaining questions one by one whenever possible and include any new feedback I may receive in the future.

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  7. ^

    I still have not been able to get any scholar to answer the remaining questions as of now, in spite of the relatively long time. I will try what I can myself little by little, then see where any modifications will be necessary in the future:

    Now, concerning Question number 4, this seems to be a number of somewhat unrelated questions rolled up into one: But basically our position is that the Torah was a revelation given to Musa (Alayhi Salaam), the Injeel a revelation given to ‘Isa (Alayhi Salaam); then we have Zabur and the Scrolls of Ibrahim (Alayhi Salaam) also mentioned in the Qur’an. Anything else which may have been added and then attributed as ‘Torah’ or ‘Injeel’ is not considered by us as the Revelation we are talking about at all, and it is important to note this since some may try, for example, to equate the ‘Four Gospels’ with the ‘Injeel’ while we do not consider this as the Revelation given to ‘Isa (Alayhi Salaam). What may have been preserved of these revelations or altered is another issue which can be taken up by those who had knowledge of the altered versus the unaltered parts, such as the Companion Abdullah ibn As-Salaam (Radhia Allahu Anhu); if such an endeavor were to be attempted today, it would have to follow the methodology of verifying Naqli sources as developed by Muslim scholarship, and I doubt a lot of the current books of the Bible, for example, would be considered potentially authentic. Thus, the crucial proof for believing in the ‘Torah’ the ‘Zaboor’, and the ‘Injeel’ as revelations from Allah to the respective Prophets (Alayhimaa Salaam) is the Quran itself, this is important, since we would largely agree that the Bible in its current form has undergone many, many modifications.

    There was also another somewhat tangential question about Pharaoh, his death and his body. The exegetes mention that primarily this was related to the Bani Isra’eel, when they refused to believe the news that Pharaoh had died due to the huge awe and dread he commanded over them for such a long time, but Allah had the corpse of the Pharaoh thrown ashore and all the Israelites saw this corpse and it became a moral deterrent to all. After that, what has happened to the corpse is not known with certainty, we know there are some reports about a corpse of a Pharaoh being maintained in the Cairo Museum, and while this is interesting it is not necessary to believe it is the Pharaoh who opposed Musa (Alayhi Salaam) nor does it negate the meaning of the Verse.

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