(Draft Article) Question: How do Muslims handle the “Paradox of God and the Un-liftable Stone”?

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By the MuslimAnswers.net Team

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

The question is asked from time to time, as to how Muslims find a way out of the “paradox of God and the Stone He cannot lift”.

For those unfamiliar with the “paradox”, the claim is that since God can do anything (He is Omnipotent), then can He create a stone so heavy that even He cannot lift it? The argument is that if He cannot create this stone, then He is not Omnipotent due to inability of creation, and if He can then is also not Omnipotent by virtue of being unable to lift the stone.

To begin with, we say that the question presupposes an anthropomorphic God who literally lifts stones and puts them down, sort of like a weightlifter – and this is exactly why the “heavy stone” was presented as supposedly difficult for God to lift up, as it is imagined that the “light stones” would be a cinch for God to physically lift up and put down.

The Muslim categorically rejects such a depiction of Allah, since Allah is not a body to physically interact with other bodies in the manner assumed by the questioner. We are not sure about the origin of this particular “paradoxical question”, but perhaps it emerged in those cultures where “God” is portrayed artistically as a man, and where concepts of lightness and heaviness of objects directly in relation to a physical God were readily accepted. But the Muslim can never accept such depictions, as they go against the very basis of what we believe concerning Allah the Exalted.

Some may say that fine, we will not push the “God as a body” angle, but the question can be rephrased in that would it be possible for Him to create a stone or any other object He cannot displace through non-physical means?

We answer by noting that Allah’s Power is necessarily tied to every single possibility without exception. Thus, every stone that comes into being has its space and time coordinates fully within the all-encompassing Power of Allah. If Allah wishes for the stone to be moved to any location in the Universe, it will move to that place, and if He does not will this, the stone will remain stationary. If someone says this means that Allah cannot do every “thing” due to not creating this unliftable stone, we say that an existent being outside the Power of Allah is intrinsically impossible – and from this realization, what the opponent is talking about is not a “thing” at all, not a possibility, but rather sounds made by the vocal chords or marks on a sheet of paper without any reference to reality.

If we look at it from the point of view of “bodies” coming into existence, we would say that the definition of a material body as far as a Muslim is concerned is that emergent existent whose specific coordinates in the temporal Universe is specified by Allah the Exalted, and tied to His Power, Will, and Creation. It this becomes a matter of whether we accept that differentiation and changes exist among the events and bodies on the Universe or not. And from what we understand of the questioner’s background, he does accept such differentiation and changes, which would compel him to identify the connection between this stone and Allah’s Power as derived from the “Identity Rule” if he is to maintain logical consistency. 

We can also note that if it were hypothetically said that “Allah” would lose His Power due to any reason (such as creating this “hypothetical stone”), then we would have to say that the being we called “Allah” is actually not the Absolute Divine Being, since His Power would be within the realm of possibilities itself (and it would need an outside specifier to actualize it, to give it to him and to take it away from him as per the will of this outside specifier), and what is intrinsically required of the True Divine Being is that His Power be necessarily connected to all possibilities, not that His Power be connected to only some possibilities and not to others.

This final angle may be discussed in more depth while commenting on certain articles in the future, but we believe that the above exposition should be enough for the case as presented by the questioner.

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3 thoughts on “(Draft Article) Question: How do Muslims handle the “Paradox of God and the Un-liftable Stone”?

  1. The question is a contradictory combination of words: it is based upon the premise that omnipotence means that God is able to do the logically impossible, now this by no means infringes upon the power of God it is just a paradox that our human minds can’t grasp any further. If we ask the question can God make a married bachelor well know He couldn’t because one couldn’t be married and single at the same time you are either one or the other. Impossibilities such as logical impossibilities are such things that God just can’t do not because of limited power but because of genuine human play of words upon something inconceivable.

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    • Salam Alaykum,

      From what I know, it is not appropriate to frame the issues of logical impossibilities as “Allah can’t do such-and-such” logical impossibility, but rather to say that “Allah’s Power is not connected with such-and-such” logical impossibility. Insha Allah if this may be corroborated from your side with the ‘Ulama you know this would be good so that all of us may understand how to word such matters properly.

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  2. Pingback: What is the free will paradox? Are God and free will incompatible? | Clear philosophy

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