There is a profound question that each and every one of us reflects on at some point during our lives: “Why am I here? What is my purpose?”
When we reflect upon our own existence we will come to the realisation that, at some point in time, we began to exist. Since we once did not exist and now we do, it follows that we must have had a beginning. In light of this the Qur’an puts forward a simple but powerful argument with regards to our origins:
“Or were they created by nothing? Or were they the creators (of themselves)? Or did they create the heavens and earth? Rather, they are not certain.” [52:35-36]
The Qur’an engages its audience by inviting us to ponder some rational, logical questions which we can use to arrive at a conclusion, not only about our origin, but the origin of everything that exists in the material world: in other words the entire universe. There is an abundance of cosmological evidence that the universe had a beginning. This is the most predominant view among cosmologists. If we take these questions that the Qur’an poses and apply them to the universe, then there are three possibilities for its origin:
- It was created from nothing
- It was self-created
- It has an external cause
The first possibility is that the universe was created from nothing. Can something really come from nothing? This is impossible. We know from our own personal experience of life, as well as the laws of the universe, that things don’t just pop into existence out of nothing. Out of nothing, nothing comes!
This leads us to the next possibility: the universe was self-created. Can something create itself? This is a self-contradiction. Something creating itself requires its own pre-existence. Things can’t exist and not exist at the same time. That would be like saying that your mother gave birth to herself!
Since something cannot come from nothing, and self-creation is absurd, then what is the alternative? There is one final possibility: the universe has an external cause. This is the best explanation for the origins of the universe and everything in it, including ourselves, because it is intuitive and concurs with natural law: whatever begins to exist has a cause. One has to wonder, is the creative force behind the universe some random event or an intelligent mind? Universal human experience tells us that when we find things working according to systems and laws, something intelligent has made those systems and laws.
Let’s take an example of something most of us have and use on a regular basis: the mobile phone. Mobile phones are composed of a few basic elements such as plastic, glass, silicon and some precious metals. Plastic comes from oil, glass and silicon come from sand. So basically, what you are holding in your hand is oil and sand. Now, imagine if you were walking along in the desert, rich in oil and sand, and you picked up a mobile phone which you just found lying there. Would the thought ever enter your mind that this is a product of millions of years of random events? The wind blew, the sun shone, the rain fell, lightning struck, the oil bubbled, the camel trod and after millions and millions of years the mobile phone formed itself. In reality, is there a chance that this could have randomly formed itself through natural processes? However remotely possible, most of us would simply not accept this as a reasonable explanation.
Why then, would we accept such an explanation for our universe, which is significantly more complex than a mobile phone? When we observe the planets, solar systems, galaxies, stars and everything else in the universe, we can see that it is highly ordered, with intricate systems and laws in place.
A good example is the incredible fine-tuning of the universe. Evidence shows that the constants of physics have been finely tuned to a degree impossible for human engineering to achieve, never mind a random event. One such example is the Cosmological Constant. The Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Physics Steven Weinberg made the following calculation with regards to the Cosmological Constant:
“One constant does seem to require an incredible fine-tuning. The existence of life of any kind seems to require a cancellation between different contributions to the vacuum energy, accurate to about 120 decimal places.” If not: “the universe either would go through a complete cycle of expansion and contraction before life could arise, or would expand so rapidly that no galaxies or stars could form.” 
To put it another way, if this constant differed by one part in
then there would have been no chance for life in the universe. This degree of fine-tuning is difficult to imagine because such accuracy represents an incredibly sensitive balance. The following analogy should make it easier to visualise: imagine if every grain of sand on earth, from every beach and desert that exists, was collected together and placed in a gigantic container. Now take just one of these grains, paint it red and mix it back with the rest of the sand. Blindfold a friend and ask them to pick out the red grain. What are the odds that they will be successful? Yet you would have to believe in such a feat, to believe that the fine-tuning of the universe came about by chance.
The Cosmological Constant is just one example. There are many others including the ratio of electrons and protons, ratio of electromagnetic force and gravity, and mass density of the universe. These have similar degrees of fine-tuning. Together they form a delicately balanced system, virtually nothing of which can be altered without either preventing the universe from existing or making it unsuitable for any form of life to exist. This would be similar to painting one of those grains of sand blue, one green and one yellow and picking them out in that order after the red grain! Isn’t it much more reasonable to conclude that the universe and life are a result of wilful intelligent design? Such fine-tuning throughout the laws of physics demonstrates the wisdom and power of the creator of the universe. As the Qur’an tells us: “He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth, and when He decrees something, He says only, ‘Be,’ and it is.” [2:117]
WE HAVE PURPOSE
Now, having a creator is one thing, but how do we know we have a purpose? Everything in this universe has a purpose. Even simple things like a chair, a bowl and even the book you are holding in your hands, serve a purpose. Wouldn’t it be sad if we didn’t have a purpose? If we reflect and look at the world around us, we can easily come to the conclusion that we must have a purpose. Think about the vastness of our universe with all its billions of galaxies and trillions of planets. The Qur’an tells us that God did not create all this for no reason: “We did not create the heavens and the earth and everything between them playfully.” [21:16]
The sun gives us warmth, the clouds give us rain, the trees and animals give us food. Since a lot of the systems that God has put in place in our universe are to ensure our survival and wellbeing then God must have a purpose in mind for us, too. This is what the Qur’an tells us:
It is God who created the heavens and earth, who has sent down water from the sky and with it brought forth produce to nourish you; He has made ships useful to you, sailing the sea by His command, and the rivers too; He has made the sun and the moon useful to you, steady on their paths; He has made the night and day useful to you and given you some of everything you asked Him for. If you tried to count God’s favours you could never calculate them. [14:32–34]
So that nagging question comes up again, what is our purpose? Again the Qur’an has the answer: “I created jinn [spirits] and mankind only to worship Me.” [51:56]
Now, what do you understand about ‘worship’? Most will say prayer. This is correct, however in the Qur’an, worship is much more comprehensive than just praying. It includes all acts of obedience that are pleasing to our Creator. Even exercise and eating can be acts of worship if our intention is to stay healthy and strong!
Why perform worship? It’s important to understand that our Creator does not need our worship. In fact the Qur’an tells us that it is human beings who have a need to worship. We are more than just flesh and bone, we have a spiritual side that also needs nourishing. Many people are wealthy materially speaking but are unhappy with their lives because they neglect their spiritual wellbeing. In order for us to experience true peace, both our bodies and soul need to be in tune with our Creator: “Truly it is in the remembrance of God that hearts find peace.” [13:28] By endeavouring to make every aspect of our lives pleasing to our Creator, we will be in a state of constant remembrance of God and our hearts will be at peace. This is a revolutionary way of thinking but practically, if someone were to do this, a lot of their actions wouldn’t change. Crucially however, the thought process behind their actions would, and they would find the inner peace so needed in today’s society!
So, the question arises – what is the best way to worship God? To help us consider this, let us again return to the example of mobile phones. Mobile phones are obviously not as sophisticated as human beings, but we share many things in common. We both have a lifespan, we both require energy to function correctly, and we can both be damaged if we are not properly taken care of. When mobile phones develop a problem, the first thing most people do is to refer to the instruction manual for the mobile phone. Why? Because it has been made to show us the best way of using it and we rightly listen to the experts! The creator of the phone knows the best way to use that phone and they have imparted their knowledge to us in the form of instruction manuals. Similarly then, the Qur’an is like an instruction manual for humanity as it came from the one who made us. God, our Creator, knows us better than we know ourselves. This is why His knowledge and His guidance for how we should live, will always surpass any invented human philosophies and ways of life.
Why would an All-Powerful, All-Wise Being send us guidance? Why not just create us and leave us to our own devices? The Qur’an tells us that as well as having attributes of Power and Wisdom, our Creator is also the Most Forgiving and Most Loving: “It is He who brings people to life, and will restore them to life again – and He is the Most Forgiving, the Most Loving.” [85:13-14] Our Creator cares about us and it is out of His mercy that He sent mankind the Qur’an.
THE NATURE OF OUR CREATOR
The essence of the Qur’an, monotheism, is captured in its 112th chapter:
Say, ‘He is God the One,
God the eternal.
He begot no one nor was He begotten.
No one is comparable to Him.’ [Chapter 112]
You can think of this chapter of the Qur’an as the manifesto of monotheism in Islam. It tells us that God is One. This isn’t one in the sense of one which can become two and two which can become three and so on. This is One and uniquely One, that cannot become two. But how can we know that our Creator is One? Why can’t there be two or three? We can come to this conclusion through reason, a gift given to us by God which allows us to ponder and reflect on the universe around us and make conclusions about it. It is like when an art historian looks at a series of paintings without knowing the name of the painter, but can identify the artist who created them based on the signature style of the painting.
So when it comes to our divine origins, what can we conclude based on the universe around us? It turns out that there is consistent design throughout nature; there are many repeating numbers such as the Fibonacci Sequence. This mathematical series of numbers has been described as “Nature’s Code”. Fibonacci numbers recur over and over in many unrelated phenomena in nature. These numbers can be seen from the smallest of things to the largest, from biological systems to inanimate objects. A swirling pattern, known as the Golden Spiral, is one example of a shape based on these numbers:
Examples in nature that exhibit this pattern include a snail’s shell, the shape of galaxies, the swirling formation of hurricanes, flowers and even our fingerprints:
You can think of these patterns as a consistent design signature. This consistent design signature in nature shows the Oneness of the Creator who made it all.
Another example of consistent design throughout nature is DNA. DNA is genetic information which all living creatures carry in each of their cells. All genes, in every living creature, are coded messages for how to build the organism. You can think of them as blueprints. Even though living things may outwardly appear to be very different, at the genetic level, because of their shared creator, they can be very similar. For example, as humans we share approximately 50 per cent of our DNA with banana trees. We find that the DNA, the blueprint, is shared by all living things across nature. This common design points to a common designer – One Creator behind it all.
What would be the case if there were multiple gods, multiple creators? Polytheistic religions, religions that believe in multiple gods, always portray these gods with distinct personalities. This is why the religions are filled with tales of disputes among the gods as their personalities clash. A good example is Hinduism where the god Shiva is said to have cut the head off the god Ganesh and later replaced his head with an elephant’s.
If there were multiple gods, multiple creators, then this would be reflected in the reality of the world around us. The state of creation would likely be chaotic and the blueprints across nature would surely differ: each god, with its own distinct personality, would impose its own design on its own creations. If there were various gods who made the different things we see today, it would be reasonable to assume that even those things which look the same are very different at a microscopic level. Therefore evidence in nature points us to the conclusion that there must rather be One Creator.
A critic may point out that things that are engineered are generally made by more than one creator, for example cars. When it comes to the creation of cars, one person designs the engine, another person designs the braking system and so on and so forth. Is this a valid argument? There may be a possibility of multiple designers or creators collaborating with one another in the human domain, as illustrated by the car example, but there cannot be more than one God in the domain of the divine. This is because when we think of God, we think of a divine being with a will – God does whatever He wills. In other words God, by definition, is a being that has an unlimited imposing will. For the sake of argument, what would be the situation if there were two Gods and a conflict arose between them? Say they each wanted to move a rock in opposite directions. Since both their wills can’t be enforced, there are only two possibilities:
- They agree to compromise and have the same will: this would mean that both their wills are now limited and passive, which would mean they are not Gods anymore by definition!
- One overpowers the other: it is this dominant God that is the true God.
As you can see in this example it is impossible to have multiple wills. The will of any God which is not realised cannot be considered God. This is the simplest and most logical explanation for the order and stability of the universe around us: there is only one unlimited imposing will, one God, and He alone deserves our worship.
Getting back to the chapter of the Qur’an, in the next verse, we are also told that God is eternal: “God the eternal…” This means that He has no beginning and will never come to an end. A common question many people ask is “who created God?” If we use reason we come to the conclusion that God must be uncreated due to the absurdity of a never ending chain of creators. To illustrate this better, if the creator of the universe had a creator, and that creator had a creator, and that creator had a creator, and so on and so forth, then we wouldn’t have a universe. Imagine if you were told that you couldn’t read this book until someone else read it before you, and that person also couldn’t read it until someone else read it before them, and this went on forever. Would anyone ever read this book? The answer is no. Now if we apply this principle to the universe then we would have to conclude that the creator behind it is uncreated out of rational necessity, because for the universe to be in existence we could not have an infinite number of creators. We rather need one eternal creator.
The next verse tells us that God does not have any children or parents: “He begot no one nor was He begotten…” Why would a supreme God not have any children or parents? The final verse of the chapter answers this question, “No one is comparable to Him”. Everything within the creation has to reproduce in order for life to continue. In other words, we have offspring out of a need for survival. Some people have children for other reasons, such as wanting to be looked after when they become old and frail. This is also a need. But if God is unlike His creation, then He does not have any needs, and so He does not beget.
Another point worth mentioning is the notion of the Creator being distinct from the creation. For example, if a person were to create a chair or a table, then that person would not become the chair or table. We are distinct and disjoined from what we make. Similarly, God created the universe and therefore the universe is distinct and disjoined from Him.
BELIEF IN OUR CREATOR IS NATURAL AND INSTINCTIVE
An interesting point is that the Qur’an says that belief in a Creator is the natural state of all human beings: “So [Prophet] as a man of pure faith, stand firm and true in your devotion to the religion. This is the natural disposition God instilled in mankind…” [30:30]
There is in fact psychological, sociological and anthropological evidence to support this notion. Oxford University psychologist Dr Olivera Petrovich, an expert in psychology of religion, conducted some studies concerning the psychology of the human being and God’s existence. She discovered that infants are hard-wired to believe in God, and atheism has to be learned .
Professor Justin Barrett did some research by looking at the behaviour and claims of children. He concluded that the children believed in what he calls “natural religion”. This is the idea that there is a personal being that created the entire universe. That ‘being’ cannot be human – it must be divine, supernatural:
Scientific research on children’s developing minds and supernatural beliefs suggests that children normally and rapidly acquire minds that facilitate belief in supernatural agents… Not long after their first birthday, babies appear to understand that agents, but not natural forces or ordinary objects, can create order out of disorder… Who is the Creator? Children know people are not good candidates. It must have been a god… children are born believers of what I call natural religion… 
Let’s consider the atheism of Communist Russia and Communist China. The Soviet Union was the first state to have an ideological objective to eliminate religion and replace it with atheism. The vast majority of people in the Russian empire were, at the time of the Communist revolution, religious believers, whereas the Communists aimed to break the power of all religious institutions and eventually replace religious belief with atheism. Toward that end, the Communist regime confiscated church property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers and propagated atheism in the schools. Criticism of atheism was strictly forbidden and sometimes led to imprisonment. In spite of this, atheists still had signs of what you would call a worship instinct, which relates to the natural state that the Qur’an speaks of. For example their big statues of Stalin and Lenin were almost revered. When you look at different cultures you can see this worship instinct coming through. This instinct even manifests itself in atheist cultures. The fall of Communism saw a rapid revival of religion which is flourishing today in Russia. If belief in God is nothing more than an ideology, something that people are indoctrinated with by their parents, then shouldn’t these efforts by the Communist Party over the space of several generations have undone religious convictions?
All this evidence leads to one conclusion: belief in God is not taught, but exists naturally within human beings. Therefore when pondering God, the question shouldn’t actually be “does God exist?”, but rather “what reasons do we have to reject His existence?” because God’s existence is self-evidently true.