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Friday Sermon: Finding God

By Babatunde Jose

From the very beginning, mankind’s history has had a religious dimension. The various expressions of this religiosity, once they are purified of the superstition that comes from ignorance and sin, show that the human person naturally has a conviction that there is a God who creates all things and on whom the world and our personal existence depend. Polytheism—the belief in many gods—has often appeared in human history, yet the deepest human religious experience and philosophical wisdom have sought the ultimate justification for the world and for human life in one, unique God. This God gives rise to all that exists and he is the fulfillment of our aspiration for happiness (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church). Despite the great diversity that we see among the arts, philosophy and literature of various cultures, all cultures come together in their reflection on God and on the central themes of human existence: life and death, good and evil, our ultimate end, the meaning of all things.

Since these manifestations of the human spirit have been present throughout history, we can say that reference to God belongs to human culture and constitutes an essential dimension of society and man. Hence, religious freedom is the first human right, and the search for God is the first human duty. All human beings are “impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation . . . to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.” The denial of God and the intent to exclude him from culture, society and political life are relatively recent phenomena, limited to some areas of the Western world. The fact that the great religious and existential questions remain unchanged over time refutes the idea that religion belongs to an “infantile” phase of human history, destined to disappear with the progress of science.

In all religious books the existence of God is taken almost as an axiomatic truth. The Qur’an, however, advances numerous arguments to prove the existence of a Supreme Being Who is the Creator and Controller of this universe. These are, broadly speaking, of three kinds. Firstly, there are the arguments drawn from the creation, which relate to the lower or material experience of humanity; secondly, the evidence of human nature, which concerns the inner experience of humanity; and thirdly, there are arguments based on Divine revelation to man, which may be called the higher or spiritual experience of humanity. It will be seen, from what is said further on, that, as the scope of experience is narrowed down, so the arguments gain in effectiveness. The argument from creation simply shows that there must be a Creator of this universe, Who is also its Controller.

The first argument  drawn from the creation, centre’s round the word Rabb. In the very first revelation that came to the Prophet, he was told to “read in the name of the Rabb Who created” (Quran 96:1). Expanded and made clearer in another very early revelation which runs thus: “Glorify the name of thy Rabb, the Most High! Who creates, then makes complete, and Who measures, then guides” (Quran 87:1-3). The full meaning of Rabb is explained here: He creates things and brings them to perfection; He makes things according to a measure and shows them the ways whereby they may attain to perfection.

Everything is made according to a measure, that is to say, certain laws of development are inherent in it; and it is also shown a way, that is, it knows the line along which it must proceed, so that it may reach its goal of completion. Therefore, the creative force is not a blind force but one possessing wisdom and purpose.

In this connection attention may be drawn to another characteristic of God’s creation. Everything, we are told, is created in pairs: “And the heaven, We raised it high with power, and We are the maker of the vast extent. And the earth, We have spread it out; how well have We prepared it! And of everything We have created pairs that you may be mindful” (Quran 51:47-49). See also (Quran 36: 36) and (Quran 43:12). There are pairs not only in the animal creation but also in “what the earth grows”;   in the vegetable kingdom, and further in “what they know not”. In fact, even the heavens and the earth are described as if they were a pair, because of the quality of activity in the one and of passivity in the other. This deep interrelationship of things is also an evidence of Divine purpose in the whole of creation. This pairing in all creation has not been by chance.

A further point upon which the Qur’an lays especial stress is the fact that, there is but one law for the whole universe: “Who created the seven heavens alike; thou seest no incongruity in the creation of the Beneficent God. Then look again: can thou see any disorder? Then turn the eye again and again — thy look shall come back to thee confused, while it is fatigued” (Quran 67:3-4). Here we are told that there is in creation neither incongruity, whereby things belonging to the same class are subject to different laws, nor disorder, whereby the law cannot work uniformly; so that the miraculous regularity and uniformity of law in the midst of the unimaginable variety of conflicting conditions existing in the universe is also evidence of a Divine purpose and wisdom in the creation of things. Isaac Newton, the great scientist recognized this fact. Newton’s view has been considered to be close to deism and several biographers and scholars labeled him as a deist. However, he differed from strict adherents of deism in that he invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits. He warned against using the law of gravity to view the universe as a mere machine, like a great clock. “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called “Lord God” . . . . or “Universal Ruler”. The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, [and] absolutely perfect.”- Said Newton.

“Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors”. Sir David Brewster: A Short Scheme of the True Religion, in Memoirs of the Life, Writings and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton Edinburgh, 1850.

The Qur’an stresses this fact frequently: (Quran 55:5-6). “And the sun moves on to its destination. That is the ordinance of the Mighty, the Knower. And for the moon, We have ordained for it stages till it becomes again as an old dry palm branch. Neither is it for the sun to overtake the moon, nor can the night outstrip the day. And all float on in an orbit” (Quran 36:38-40). See also (Quran 41:11) (Quran 45:12-13) (Quran 7:54).

All these verses show that, inasmuch as everything is subject to command and control for the fulfilment of a certain purpose, there must be an All-Wise Controller of the whole. Only the unwise will say ‘there is no God’.

But, is God really lost that we are searching for Him? Or is it we who are lost and God is trying to bring us back to the path of righteousness through His message in the Good Books? May the efforts of the righteous never be in vain; Amen.

Barka Juma’at and a happy weekend

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