Reason and the Creator
Excerpt from 'Tawheed Al Muffadhel':
Imam Ja'far Al Sadiq (pbuh) said:
"And according to this too, we say: reason perceives the Creator in a way that necessitates man to acknowledge His existence, and it does not perceive Him in a way that necessitates man to know His qualities. If they ask: how is a weak man charged with knowing the Creator without knowing His qualities? It is said to them: people have been charged with what they can do and within their abilities, that is to believe in the Creator and to follow His orders and prohibitions, and they have not been charged with knowing His attributes. A king does not ask his subjects to know whether he is tall or short, white or brown; rather, he asks them to submit to his rule and follow his orders. Do you not think that if someone were to come to a king and say “present yourself to me so that I can know you fully; otherwise, I will not follow your orders”, he would expose himself to punishment? In the same way, he who refuses to believe in the Creator until he knows His essence will receive His wrath. And if they say: do we not describe Him when we say that He is the Mighty, the Wise, and the Generous? It is said to them: these are attributes of acknowledgment and not of description. We know that He is wise but we do not know the essence of His wisdom, and the same can be said about His other attributes. We see the heaven but we do not know its essence, and we look at the sea but we do not know where it ends. The examples of this cannot be counted, though they fail in comparison, but they lead the reason to know the Creator. If they ask: then why do people disagree over Him? It is said: because minds fail to recognize the extent of His greatness and exceed their capacities in searching to know Him, and they want to know everything about Him while they are unable to do that or even the least of it.
One of these examples is the sun that shines all over the world and yet no one knows its reality. There are too many sayings about it, and philosophers have disagreed over how to describe it. Some of them say that it is a hollow star full of fire with a mouth agitating with flames. Some others say it is a cloud. Some say it is a glass mass that concentrates heat and then sends rays. Some say it is a fine, clear mass of congealed seawater. Others say it is many parts of fires gathered together. Some others say it is a fifth element separate from the four elements. Then they have disagreed over its shape. Some of them say it is like a flat page. Others say it is like a ball. They have also disagreed on its size. Some say it is as big as the earth. Some others say it is less, and some say it is much greater than a great island. People of geometry say it is one hundred and seventy times bigger than the earth.
The disagreement in the sayings about the sun shows that people cannot realize its reality. Minds are unable to realize the reality of the sun, which eyes clearly see and senses easily feel, then how about what is beyond the senses and hidden from the minds? If they say: why is He hidden? It is said to them: He is not hidden with a means, as one who hides from people behind doors and walls. The meaning of our saying “He is hidden” is that He is invisible to the eyes and minds because He is beyond the extent of the faculties of eyes and minds, like the case with the sun which is a creation created by Him and cannot be realized by eyes and minds. If they say: why is He so greatly beyond that? This is a wrong saying because it does not befit One Who is the Creator of everything except to be different from everything and exalted over everything. Glory be to Him the Almighty.
If they say: how is it possible that He is different from everything and exalted over everything? It should be said to them that the truth about things can be known in four ways: first, to see whether that thing is existent or not; second, to know what it is in its essence; third, to know how it is and what its description is; and fourth, to know why and for what cause it is. There is nothing in this existence that man can know in the Creator as it is except that he knows that He exists. If we say: how and what is He? Knowing His essence and all things about Him is beyond the bounds of possibility. Or we say: for what is He? It is not valid in the description of the Creator because He, glory be to Him, is the cause of everything, and nothing is a cause for Him. The knowledge of man that He (the Creator) is existent does not necessitate that he know what and how He is, just as his knowledge that the soul is existent does not necessitate that he know what and how it is. The same can be said about other spiritual matters. If they say: now you describe Him due to the shortage of knowledge about Him as if He is unknown. It is said to them: it is so, on the one hand, if minds want to know His essence and description; and on the other hand, He is closer than every close one when His existence is proved by satisfactory evidences. From one side, He is clear to everyone, and from another side, He is so mysterious that no one can realize Him. So is reason. It is clear through its evidences whereas it is hidden in its essence.
The naturalists say that nature does nothing meaningless nor does it leave anything incomplete and claim that wisdom proves that. It is said to them: who has given nature this wisdom then, and how does it not exceed the limits of anything, which is something that minds fail to learn even after long experiments? If they prove wisdom and power to be of nature in doing such things, they will acknowledge what they have denied because these are the attributes of the Creator. But if they deny this to be of nature, then this is the creation calling out that it is the Wise Creator’s.
From the ancient nations, there were some people who denied the divine will and management in things and claimed that things came into existence by accident and by chance. They took some signs which were unlike the usual, such as when one was born with a finger less or more or when one was born disfigured, as evidence showing that things were not under will and management but by accidents as they happened.
Aristotle refuted that by saying: that which comes into being by accident and chance is something that comes one time due to certain factors in nature making something unusual and not like the natural matters that happen in one form continually and successively.
Oh Mufaddal, you see the different species of animals following a regular pattern and having identical shapes. For instance, a human infant when born has two hands, two legs with five fingers or toes in each limb. But sometimes, as for one who is born unlike the usual, it is because of some reason in the womb or in the substance from which the infant grows, as it happens in some crafts when a skillful craftsman wants to be accurate in his craft but some defect in the raw material or tools affects his production. Such a thing may happen to the children of animals for the reasons we have mentioned that a child may be born with less or more or disfigured limbs, but most of them are born sound with no defect.
The defects that happen in some things because of some shortage do not mean that all the things have come by accident with no maker. So are things in nature. The saying that things have come into existence by accident and chance is totally wrong and nonsensical.
If they say: why does such a thing happen? It is said to them: to know that things are not created inevitably by nature nor by something else, as some people say, but are created with will and management by a Wise Creator Who has made nature run most of the time in certain routines and sometimes in variation because of some temporary causes, so it is concluded that nature is managed by the Creator and it needs His power to attain its purposes and complete its acts. Blessed be Allah, the Best of creators.
Oh Mufaddal! Take what (the knowledge) I have given you, and keep what I have presented you, and be to your Lord grateful, and to His blessings a praiser, and to His guardians an obeyer.
I have explained to you a part from the whole and a little from plenty of evidences of creation and proofs of the right management and ordinance. Think of them deeply and take a lesson.’"