From Allah hypothesis to atheism and irrationalism
By Sujit Das
“A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it. The truth is the truth even if nobody believes it.” – David Stevens
“The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” – Delos B. McKown
What we understand from the Qur’an is that Allah is necessarily omniscient (all knowing), necessarily omnipotent (all powerful) and necessarily omnibenevolent (all merciful). But what the Muslims do not understand is that there is a serious conflict in these “omni” attributes of their Allah. If Allah is necessarily omnipotent, i.e., he has unlimited power then certainly he cannot be omniscient because such necessary omnipotence precludes him from having the experiences that are needed to acquire certain concepts. For example, it is impossible for an omnipotent Allah to comprehend fully certain concepts, such as fear, frustration, despair and greed that an omniscient being needs to possess. Here lies the hidden antitheist argument in the Qur’an which the brainwashed Muslims cannot see. If Allah is omniscient then he has to understand all concepts fully. And someone’s full understanding of such concepts as fear, frustration, and despair requires one to experience fear, frustration and despair respectively. But Allah cannot have those experiences because, by definition, he is necessarily omnipotent and so could not fall prey to the weakness entailed by the having of such experiences. Therefore, the argument concludes, the God of Muslims does not exist.
Now, Muslims can argue that even if Allah himself cannot experience fear, frustration and despair there is no reason to conclude that he cannot possess concepts of them. Allah can possess such concepts by directly perceiving the “contents of human consciousness”. For instance, someone – say, in a prayer – reflects vividly on his fear, then Allah will be able to perceive this person’s feeling and to come to understand fully what fear is. But still there are difficulties with this reply. First of all, the omniscient Allah cannot depend on insignificant human beings to perceive the contents of human consciousness, simply because he is omniscient. In fact, the Qur’an itself confirms that Allah is self sufficient.
“Allah stands not in need of any of His creatures.” (Q: 3.97)
“…and Allah is He Who is the Self-sufficient …” (Q: 35.15)
Secondly, a timeless god cannot perceive human feelings, in particular, human sufferings. Allah, who transcends space and time, is not in a position to share human feelings. This is the doctrine of divine impassibility.
Moreover, the omnipotent God cannot be jealous. He cannot crave for praise and remembrance. But Allah is jealous and his mind is full of hatred for the mortal human beings.
“Jabir b. ‘Atik reported that Prophet as saying: There is jealousy which Allah loves and jealousy which Allah hates. That which Allah loves is jealousy regarding a matter of doubt and that which Allah hates is jealousy regarding something which is not doubtful. There is pride which Allah hates and pride which Allah loves. That which Allah loves is a man’s pride when fighting and when giving sadaqah and that which Allah hates is pride shown by oppression. The narrator Musa said: ‘by boasting’.” (Sunaan Abu Dawud: 2.2563)
Allah even promises to forgive all the sins if a believer praises him one hundred times after every prayer.
“Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: If anyone extols Allah after every prayer thirty-three times, and praises Allah thirty-three times, and declares His Greatness thirty-three times, ninety-nine times in all, and says to complete a hundred: ‘There is no god but Allah, having no partner with Him, to Him belongs sovereignty and to Him is praise due, and He is Potent over everything’, his sins will be forgiven even ff these are as abundant as the foam of the sea.” (Muslim: 4.1243)
Qur’an repeatedly says that Allah is omnibenevolent. If Allah is all-powerful and perfectly good, why is there evil in the world? If Allah is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, and every human feeling and aspiration is also his work. How is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Allah? In giving out punishment and rewards Allah would to a certain extent be passing judgment on himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to him? Secondly, Allah cannot know what it is like to have an evil desire, because he, who is necessarily omnibenevolent, cannot have an evil desire. But the history of Islam is an ongoing record of human pain arising from people’ inhumanity. Qur’an itself confirms that Allah created evils.
“Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn, from the evil of what He has created.” (Q: 113.1-2)
“No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before We bring it into existence: That is truly easy for Allah.” (Q: 57.22)
If Allah is a perfectly loving God, he must wish to abolish all evil, and if Allah is all-powerful he must be able to abolish all evil. If we have to believe the verse 2.117 that Allah creates instantly, by decree; he says “be” and it is, then within the same logic Allah could say “no evil” and evil would disappear in a second. But evil exists; hence Allah is neither omnipotent nor omnibenevolent.
Though there is problem of evil in the philosophy of every religion, in Islam, the problem is at the root. Here the god itself is evil, and hence, his judgment is also evil. He is more prone to punish than to reward, to inflict pain than to bestow pleasure, to ruin than to build. It is Allah’s singular satisfaction to let created beings continually feel that they are nothing else than his slaves, his tools to propagate his religion. His slaves have no other choice; jihad is obligatory to them. Such a god can be anything but omnibenevolent. Muslim apologists have noted this discrepancy and they come out with an explanation that there are greater goods that justify the evil’s presence in the world. But this logic is flawed, because without knowledge of what the greater goods could be, one cannot have a successful theodicy. In fact, the problem of evil does not need to be encountered in Islam because Allah is neither omniscient nor omnipotent; hence the existence of evil is explicable.
In addition, there is a moral constraint. If an evil is necessary because it secures a greater good, then it appears we humans have no duty to prevent it, for in doing so we would also prevent the greater good for which the evil is required. Even worse, it seems that any action can be rationalized, as if one can actually perform it, then it must be permitted by Allah for the sake of the greater good. From this line of thought one may conclude that, as these conclusions violate our basic moral intuitions, no greater good theodicy is true, and Allah does not exist.
The righteousness and justice of God is the aspect of God’s holiness that is seen in his treatment of his creatures. Warraq (1995, pp. 127-8) argues,
“We are told that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent; yet He behaves like a petulant tyrant, unable to control his recalcitrant subjects. He is angry, He is proud, He is jealous: all moral deficiencies surprising in a perfect Being. If He is self-sufficient, why does He need mankind? If He is All-powerful, why does He ask the help of humans? Above all, why does He pick an obscure Arabian merchant in some cultural backwater to be His last messenger on earth? Is it consistent with a supremely moral being that He should demand praise and absolute worship from creatures He Himself has created? What can we say of the rather curious psychology of a Being who creates humans—or rather automata-some of whom are preprogrammed to grovel in the dirt five times a day in homage to Himself? This obsessive desire for praise is hardly a moral virtue and is certainly not worthy of a morally supreme Being.”
The omnipotent, omniscient Allah who is supposed to have total knowledge of everything and total control of the universe cannot even reach the man’s knowledge and understanding. If we read the Qur’an with a logical mind we will find that any attributes to Allah is dependent largely on the experience of humans. Since no human is perfect, all these attributes have much deficiency in them. Allah has all the human strengths and weaknesses of a mortal human being. He is not at all supernatural or having any godly qualities.
Secondly, the concept that we have about a thing does not include its existence in the meaning. When I say that the existence of a thing is not included in the meaning of a concept, it means that concepts cannot cause their meaning to exist. No Muslim cleric can cause the existence of Allah by defining his concept. If he imagines a perfect being, and then adds all the things that make it perfect, it is still in his imagination. Muslim clerics cannot prove an existence by making a sum of its properties; they also need to prove the relationship between their concepts and the world. Simply speaking; you cannot prove that the creature of your fantasy is real with your description alone, or giving it one hundred “omni” attributes. It is nothing more than to say that some unknowable being possesses some unknown qualities in an unknowable way. Something unknowable is useless as qualities. Who can rescue such a god from the oblivion of nonexistence? Fortunately for Allah, a suicide bomber cannot return to demand a refund. If I claim that a triangle can have four sides, but if there is no such triangle anywhere within sight, then the concept is only in my mind. A triangle can only have four sides if it exists. Allah can only have attributes if he exists. Therefore, these clerics first need to prove that Allah exists before they can describe his nature. Otherwise this is an argument to ignorance.
Since there is no evidence of Allah, his existence is equivalent to nothing. If the existence of Allah is equivalent to nothing, then the only thing that remains about the concept of Allah is the belief that the Allah exists. Consequently, Allah exists only in the imagination of the believers. A god that exists only in the imagination of the believer is a delusion. The Allah simply collapses into atheism (and from there into irrationalism) under scrutiny.
The real God, if exists, necessarily has to be entirely self-sufficient, not dependent upon anything or anyone outside of himself. He exists in His own right as an independent being. Allah’s knowledge of fear, frustration and despair relies on the contents of human consciousness is inconsistent with this doctrine of divine independence. By fitting some “omni” attributes to a fantasy hero does not make it realistic. It actually strengthens the atheist argument.
Some apologists who understand this drawback of the Allah hypothesis come out with a wonderful explanation – Allah is epistemologically transcendent; i.e., he falls beyond the scope of man’s intellectual comprehension. The full nature of Allah is not merely unknown; it is unknowable. Man’s rational capacity does not allow him to understand the true nature of Allah, and any knowledge that man does possess concerning Allah is necessarily inadequate in some respect. Thus, Allah, by definition, is that which Muslims cannot understand. What then shall we say about Allah? What Muslims had been able to understand is not Allah but something else instead of Allah. It leads to serious confusion – What identifiable characteristics does Allah possess? In other words, how will we recognize the Allah if we run across him? To state that Allah is supernatural and unknowable does not provide us with an answer. If clerics are to talk intelligibly about Allah, they must presuppose that Allah has characteristics by which he can be identified. But once the idea of supernatural existence is introduced, an existence apart from the limitations of natural law, they exclude the possibility of assigning any definite characteristics to Allah – because by so doing they bring their Allah within the realm of limitations and hence within the realm of natural law. The standard defense of the clerics is actually flawed. It is foolishness to introduce the “unknowable” as a supposed characteristic of the concept itself. If Allah is completely unknowable, the concept of Allah is totally devoid of content, and the word Allah becomes a meaningless sound.
Also, if Allah must remain forever outside the context of man’s knowledge, a “supernatural explanation” is a contradiction in terms. Nowhere in the Darwinian theory of evolution did I have find “divine intervention” of Allah. Indeed, to explain everything in terms of Allah is precisely not to explain anything – it is to cut all inquiry dead, to stifle any intellectual curiosity, to kill any scientific progress. To explain the wonderful and awesome variety and complexity of living organisms as “miracles” is not to give a very helpful, least of all a scientific explanation. One cannot explain the unknown with reference to the unknowable. Allah is like a doctor’s placebo, which is, however, effective in spite of being pretended. To state that “Allah exists” is to communicate nothing at all; it is as if nothing has been said. The label of “Allah” serves no function, except, perhaps, to create confusion.
The adaptation of Occam’s razor to this controversy consists in demonstrating that Allah is a redundant identity in the pantheon of Gods. This god cannot be shown to be necessary for any explanatory purposes, and unless science and reason are vigorously attacked and hard scientific truth is distorted, this failed god cannot gain a foothold. When the door is wide-opened for science and reason, the subject of faith in Allah does not arise in the first place since it is much simpler to assume that the world is logical and scientific where the moral and ethical values are approved by God, and therefore these qualities always have higher priority. A true God, if he exists, cannot be immoral. It is much easier to believe that Muhammad was the actual author of the Qur’an, and an ungodly god – a god of intolerance, violence, treachery, lying and, above all stupidity and confusion – does not exist. The hypothesis of Allah as a creator explains nothing; it merely asserts the futility of explanation. It simply pushes the problem one floor upstairs! It is futile and redundant.
The great majority of the believing Muslims are unwilling to reexamine their beliefs. They find it difficult to accept the truth because of their fear to lose the false moral support that is founded in the belief of Allah. The very meaning of “Islam” – “submission” – notifies the Muslims of their proper role in Allah’s religion. If the choice must be made between the comfort of Allah delusion and the truth of science, they will sacrifice the latter without hesitation. His entire life is frozen in his Allah. This pattern of behavior is passed from one generation to another by imitation. If the evidence seems to contradict Allah, it is the evidence that must be thrown out, not the belief in Allah. Science cannot save him, logic cannot save him, knowledge cannot save him, medicine cannot save him – only his Allah can save him.
The solution to the problems of life does not depend on imaginary perceptions. Where was Allah while millions of Muslim children died from starvation and disease in the Middle East? Where was Allah while a cyclone killed 266,000 Pakistanis in 1970? As per the verse 7.57, – “… make rain to descend thereon, and produce every kind of harvest therewith” – rain is the mercy of Allah, yet devastating floods claim the lives of thousands of people in, ironically, a Muslim country, namely, Bangladesh. The cyclone of 1991, with winds of 200 kilometers per hour, resulted in floods that left 100,000 dead and 10,000,000 without shelter. All these must be the works of Allah, as Qur’an says,
“No misfortune can happen on earth or in your souls but is recorded in a decree before we bring it into existence: That is truly easy for Allah”. (Q: 57.22)
There is no Ayatollah or Grand Mufti who can create an Allah with the force of his religious faith, even if when he shares his belief with the entire Muslim Ummah. Nobody can alter the nature of reality with the power of his blind faith. Religious faith does not make humans infallible; extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Muslims have prayed for the total destruction of the Jewish ever since the time of Muhammad without a single result. There was no Allah to save the hundreds of thousands of children who died from starvation and disease in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sudan. This is clear evidence that the power of blind faith in Allah is a hideous instrument of forged reality that confronts every faithful Muslim at every waking hour and can convince even the most educated of them.
Warraq, Ibn (1995); Why I am not a Muslim. Prometheus books. NY.
Sujit Das lives in Mumbai (India). He is the author of several articles critical to Islam and a book Islam Dismantled: The Mental Illness of Prophet Muhammad available for online purchase at Amazon.com and in various book stores. His forthcoming book The Allah Delusion is due for publishing. He can be contacted at [email protected]