Saturday, 15 November 2014
The Sharing Group Discussion: Can God Lie?
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ
The following was posted by me, on The Sharing Group, on the 14th April, 2014: “Can God lie?”
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: This issue is one of the hot buttons dividing the Barelvis and Deobandis. And Shaykh Nuh Ha Mim Keller wrote a piece which, among other things, gives an interesting analysis: Iman, Kufr, & Takfir.
Two more ‘aqidah-related questions remain to be mentioned, and to understand them, we have to return for a moment to a previously made distinction from the “Letter to ‘Abd al-Matin.”
There we said, first, that Allah’s (s.w.t.) Omnipotent Power, Qudrah, only relates to what is intrinsically possible, ja’iz dzati, meaning possible in itself, not logically absurd or self-contradictory. It is sometimes termed the hypothetically possible, ja’iz ‘aqli, in view of the fact that it refers to anything that can in principle exist.
Second, Allah’s (s.w.t.) Omnipotent Power does not relate to what is intrinsically impossible, mustahil dzati, meaning something logically absurd or self-contradictory, such as creating a square circle, or a round triangle, for these are mere jumbles of words that do not mean anything that can possibly exist.
Third, we saw that there is also another class of the impossible, namely things which, while not impossible in themselves, mustahil dzati, become impossible because of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Eternal Decision that they are not to be, such as the iman of Abu Lahab, which is negated by Surah al-Masad in the Qur’an. Though intrinsically possible in themselves, such things are termed contingently impossible, mustahil ‘aradhi, since their impossibility is due to the contingency of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Deciding that they shall never exist, and Informing us so in Revelation.
These distinctions are necessary because they directly enter into two of the most heated issues debated by Barelvis and Deobandis.
The first is: Is it possible for Allah (s.w.t.) to lie? Here, both Barelvis and Deobandis, and indeed all Muslims, agree that Allah (s.w.t.) never lies, while the only disagreement is whether this is intrinsically impossible, mustahil dzati, or whether this is not intrinsically impossible, but only contingently impossible, mustahil ‘aradhi, that is, because of His Own Decision and Knowledge that He never lies, which He has Informed us of by Saying:
… His Word is the Truth ... (Surah al-An’am:73)
And many other Qur’anic verses.
Imam Rashid Ahmad al-Kankuwhi (r.a.) of the Deobandis seems to have held the latter position, that while a lie told by Allah (s.w.t.) is hypothetically possible, ja’iz ‘aqli, in the very limited sense of not being intrinsically impossible, mustahil dzati, it is nevertheless contingently impossible, since He has Informed us of His Truthfulness in the Qur’an. Unfortunately for Muslim unity in India, Imam al-Kankuwhi’s (r.a.) concept of the jawaz ‘aqli or hypothetical possibility of Allah’s (s.w.t.) lying was mistakenly translated into Arabic by Imam Ahmad Ridha Khan (r.a.) as imkan al-kadzib, which in Arabic means, the factual possibility of God’s lying, a position that neither Imam al-Kankuwhi (r.a.) nor any other Muslim holds, for it is unbelief.
Whether this mistranslation was due to Imam Ahmad Ridha’ Khan’s (r.a.) honest misapprehension of Imam al-Kankuwhi’s (r.a.) position, or directly carrying into Arabic a similar Urdu phrase without understanding the resultant nuance in Arabic, or some other reason, is not clear. But it is plain that to Imam Ahmad Ridha’ Khan’s (r.a.), it seemed to amount to a denial of the basic Muslim belief that Allah (s.w.t.) never lies, something no Muslim denies, nor did Imam al-Kankuwhi (r.a.), if one but reflects for a moment upon what the above distinction entails.
This mistaken construing of Imam al-Kankuwhi’s (r.a.) position in turn became the basis for Imam Ahmad Ridha’ Khan’s (r.a.) declaring that Imam al-Kankuwhi (r.a.) was a kafir, nicknaming those who subscribed with him to this view as Wahhabiyyah Kadzdzabiyyah, or Lying Wahhabis, and giving the tragic fatwa that all who did not consider Imam al-Kankuwhi (r.a.) to be a kafir themselves became kafir.
Muslims can rest easy about this fatwa because it is simply mistaken. The fatwa’s deductions are wrong because its premises are based on inaccurate observation and inattention to needful logical distinctions that exculpate Imam al-Kankuwhi (r.a.) from the charge of kufr, even if we do not accept the latter’s conclusions. So while Imam Ahmad Ridha’ Khan (r.a.) should be regarded as sincere in his convictions, in his own eyes defending the religion of Islam, and morally blameless, he did get his facts wrong, and it is clearly inadmissible for Muslims to follow him in his mistake, even if made out of sincerity.
So if all that was too technical, what makes sense to me, for what it is worth, is to say that hypothetically Allah (s.w.t.) can lie, but of course we all know that he never ever lies.
Brother Marquis Dawkins: A nice set up, Brother Vazquez. Now then, my turn, and for this, I am going to reference the Qur’an, so bear with me.
As believers of any faith, we are quick to shout and imagine the world torn asunder by such a notion. However in Islam, Allah (s.w.t.) is known as ‘The Best Deceiver,’ and how He Veils the hearts and Leads astray those who are already astray, Christians have often used this part of Scripture to ‘prove’ Allah (s.w.t.) is a ‘different’ God. I was going to post a few verses from the Bible, but for sake of time and further discussion, I will only post one. It is a passage that is often overlooked or outright denied in the Bible. To give a quick summary of context, the kings of Israel and Judah were waging war against the nation of Aram and inquired of Michaeas (a.s.), a prophet of Allah (s.w.t.) about their chances. Others had said they would be victorious in the war but Michaeas (a.s.). was the only true prophet in the land. He at first agreed that they would succeed but when pressed further, assured them of defeat:
1 Kings 22:19-23
19 Then Michaeas went on, “Here is a message to thee from the Lord. I had a vision of the Lord Sitting on His Throne, with all the host of heaven waiting on His Pleasure, to right and left. 20 And the Lord Said, ‘Who is to beguile Achab, king of Israel, so that he will march to Ramoth-Galaad, and there meet his fall?’ One said this, one that; 21 until at last a spirit came forward and stood in the Lord’s Presence, offering to beguile Achab.’ ‘And how wilt thou beguile him?’ the Lord Asked. 22 ‘I will go abroad, said he, and on the lips of all his prophets I will make myself an influence to deceive.’ ‘Deceive them, thou shalt,’ the Lord said, ‘and have thy way with them; go abroad, then, and carry out thy errand.’ 23 And now, see what a lying influence the Lord has Spread among these prophets of thine! For indeed the Lord has determined on thy ruin.”
Now, inferred from this verse, it could be said that indeed Allah (s.w.t.) Uses deception, which the Qur’an also Attests too. However, being that one of His Attributes is al-Haqq, this would indeed, run contradictory to His very Nature. Thus, it depends on interpretation. In the verse above, we notice that Allah (s.w.t.) Himself does not lie or put a lying spirit, but he Allowed a deceiving spirit, perhaps Biblical proof of jinn, to go forth and do such. Yet, He Himself did not lie, and Michaeas (a.s.), did, in fact, tell the truth of what would occur in the battle. In other words, if a person wants to believe a lie for whatever reason, then their own hearts will remained Veiled. However, if they truly seek Allah (s.w.t.) and petition an inquiry, He will not deceive them.
Brother Mustafa Altunkaya: Allah (s.w.t.) is al-Haqq, the Absolute Truth. Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.) said, “al-Haqq, the Truth, is the one who is the antithesis of falsehood, as things may become evident by their opposites.
Therefore, ‘true’ applies to existence in individuals, to existence in the intellect, which is knowledge; and to existence in speech, which is utterance. That which Most Deserves to be True is the One Whose Existence is Established by Virtue of Its Own Essence, Forever and Eternally, and Its Knowledge as well as the Witness to Its Truth Forever and Eternally. So all that pertains to the Essence of the Truly Existing One, and to nothing else.”
If Allah (s.w.t.) is the Truth, then His Words are the truth; His Promise is the truth; His Threat is the truth; and His Acts are the truth. Thus, if we are the Creation of the Ultimate Truth, and we worship Allah (s.w.t.) the Truth, then we have to live this life by the principles of truth. As Allah (s.w.t.) Tells us in the Qur’an:
Such is Allah your Real Cherisher and Sustainer: apart from Truth, what (remains) but error? How then are ye turned away? (Surah Yunus:32)
If we truly love Allah (s.w.t.) and His Attributes, then we need to be sincere lovers of truth over all else, even over our own selves and interests. Some may wonder what the difference is between truth and justice. Justice is the implementation of the truth. Truth is a value, and justice is its implementation.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: The Deobandi scholars said He can lie and Defend his Omnipotence and Will, and the Barelvi scholars issued a fatwa on them, alleging case of blasphemy and defending the Truthful Nature and Allah’s (s.w.t.) Goodness. My personal opinion is that He can lie. If we believe he cannot lie or it is out of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Power to lie, then we limit Allah’s (s.w.t) Omnipotence. I prefer to compromise on my belief of the Benevolent Nature of Allah (s.w.t.) over His Omnipotence. To be honest, if Allah (s.w.t.) Made morality , then He can lie, and Change the moral standards because He can Amend laws of Morality by His Will; he is not bound by anything. Imam al-Ghazali (r.a.), if I am not mistaken, in answering the Euthyphro dilemma, said that it is in Allah’s (s.w.t.) Voluntary Power to change laws of morality anytime; something is morally good because it is Commanded by Allah (s.w.t.).
Imam Rashid Ahmad Kankuwhi’s (r.a.) fatwa concerning the issue above, surely Allah (s.w.t.) is far above from being attributed with the characteristic of lying and neither is there ever any suspicion of lying in His Words just as Allah (s.w.t.) has Said:
… And whose word can be truer than Allah’s? (Surah an-Nisa’:87)
And whoever believes and expresses that Allah (s.w.t.) lies is definitely a rejected disbeliever, an opposer of the Qur’an and sunnah and the ijma’ of the ummah. Allah (s.w.t.) is Transcendent and above all that the transgressors say.
Nevertheless, it is the belief of the people of iman that whatever Allah (s.w.t.) has Said in the Qur’an regarding Pharaoh, Haman and Abu Lahab that they are from the denizens of Hell is a Definite Decision of which He will not do the contrary. However, Allah (s.w.t.) is Capable of Entering them in to Heaven and is not powerless to do so; nonetheless, He will not do this. Allah (s.w.t.) Says:
If We had so Willed, We could certainly have Brought every soul its true guidance: but the Word from Me will come True: “I will Fill Hell with jinn and men all together.” (Surah as-Sajdah:13)
It is clear from this verse that had Allah (s.w.t.) wanted, He could have Made all of them believers, but He does not contradict what He has Said. All of this is out of Will and not out of compulsion, for He is the Doer out of His Own Accord and He Does whatever He Intends to do. This is the opinion of all the scholars of this ummah as Imam al-Baydawi (r.a.) mentioned under the commentary of the verse “If you punish them…”, saying “Not forgiving shirk is due to Allah’s Warning that He will never Forgive it, not due to it being intrinsically impossible.”
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Lying, even the capacity to do so, is a defect. It is impossible upon Allah (s.w.t.) to lie.
Brother James Currie: Defects are impossible for Allah Ta’ala. It is as simple as that. No need for lengthy discussions.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: It is defect according to current moral standards; should Allah (s.w.t.) Amends those moral standards, then the defect will not be a defect any longer.
Sister Ishq Ain Sheen Qaaf: I say: falsehood is a flaw, and a flaw for Allah Ta’Ala is muhal. It is not included in the mumkinat and neither is it included in Divine Power. And this, just as His Divine Power does not include anything that implies a flaw in Him, like ignorance, jahl, and powerlessness, ‘ajz, or negation of the Attribute of Speech or any other attribute of perfection.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Brother Marquis Dawkins, on the concept that Allah (s.w.t.) is the ‘Great Deceiver’, that is something Christian Evangelists say. It derives from the word ‘makr’, from the following verse:
Remember how the unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out, (of thy home). They plot and plan and Allah, too, Plans but the Best of Planners is Allah. (Surah al-Anfal:30)
In Arabic, it reads, “Wa yamkuruuna wa yakurullah wa Allahu khayru al-makiriin.” In this case, the root word, ‘makr’, does not mean ‘to deceive’. It relates to cunning and guile. There is no active deception on the part of Allah (s.w.t.); it is the kafirun who are led astray by their nafs.
Moreover, ‘al-Makr’ is not one of the Asma’ al-Husna, the Beautiful Names, Mentioned in the Qur’an. al-Haqq, the Truthful, the Sure Reality, is. Neither is ‘al-Makr’ any of the Names of address for Allah (s.w.t.) even in the Jawshan Kabir, the compilation of the thousand Divine Names.
On the Deobandi position itself, I disagree. On the surface, what is said is correct, However, we must consider that Allah (s.w.t.) is al-Haqq. al-Haqq does not mean ‘The Truthful’ alone. It emphasises that He is Master of Reality. Whatever He Says is: Be and it is. It means, not only does Allah (s.w.t.) not lie, whatever He Says is. If one is born a male and Allah (s.w.t.) Says you are a woman, then reality changes and you are.
Further, Allah (s.w.t.) has no need to lie simply because He has no authority to lie to and no judgement of a higher being. As such if He wanted something Veiled from you, then it is Veiled.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother James Currie, to me, what you are saying is incorrect, because you are saying that Allah’s (s.w.t.) Power to lie will result in a defect on part of His Goodness. I will say that if Allah (s.w.t.) is powerless to lie and Change the laws of morality, it is defect on Allah’s (s.w.t.) Omnipotence, Will, and Sovereignty. In both cases, there are defects. You have to compromise on either His Benevolence or His Omnipotence; there is no third option. I will defend his Omnipotence, because it defines Allah (s.w.t.) better than Benevolence for me. Omnipotence can Create new morality, and Redefine Goodness in new ways.
Allah (s.w.t.) is not limited by morality because He Made them. We can deduce multiple events from the Qur’an and sunnah where, what in present time looks evil was given an exception to be good and lawful in the past. For example, in the current time, prostrating before anyone other than Allah (s.w.t.) is evil, constituting the highest form of sin, polytheism. But in Qur’an, we know that Allah (s.w.t.) Commanded Iblis and angels to prostrate before Adam (a.s.). Because Allah (s.w.t.) Commanded them to prostrate before someone other than himself, that Command itself Made that prostration lawful for the angels and Iblis. That event showed Allah (s.w.t.) can work against the moral standards because moral standards are nothing but what Allah (s.w.t.) Wills them to be. Things are not good and evil in and of itself but by the Command of Allah (s.w.t.).
Another example is the authentic hadits where Allah (s.w.t.) Says, “I have Made oppression Unlawful for Me.” From this hadits, we understand that the oppression in itself was not evil or unlawful, but it was Made unlawful because it was Decreed by Allah’s (s.w.t.) Command upon Himself, and Allah (s.w.t.) has Made it unlawful and evil for us to commit oppression in the land.
Sister Jennifer Giove: We are looking at the definition of a lie from the human perspective, and not the Divine perspective. Does Allah (s.w.t.) have the ability to lie? Certainly. Does He lie? No, that would break our trust in Him. Does He veil the eyes to the truth? Yes. He Controls everything, including what we see or do not see. How many times have you walked down a road but never saw that thing that had been there all this time? How many times have you bought a new car and suddenly, you see them everywhere? These things happen all the time. Did those cars suddenly become popular at the same time you decided to get one? No, but your eyes were veiled to them.
Brother James Currie: Frankly, Brother Aftab, Christians use similar accusations against Muslims, saying that Muslims compromise the Omnipotence of Allah (s.w.t.) by denying the incarnation, not realising that the doctrine of the incarnation actually entails contradiction and intrinsic impossibility. The way I tend to approach this issue is not via the subject of morality, as you have done, but rather from the perspective of whether contradiction, falsehood, can exist within the uncreated Speech of Allah (s.w.t.).
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Brother Aftab, your argument seems to relate to Allah’s (s.w.t.) Ability to Change things, including the laws of morality. Lying is, however, something completely different. In the context of the Qur’an and sunnah, where lying is portrayed as reprehensible and blameworthy, it is in the application of this quality to Allah (s.w.t.) that the debate exists. If the possibility of Allah (s.w.t.) lying is theoretically possible, then neither can we say with absolute certainty that His Word is free of flaw and defect. So the hadits qudsi you mentioned, I would suggest, is not meant to be taken literally but merely to put things into context for us. He has Made oppression unlawful for himself does not mean that He is capable of it, but in the context of the bit that follows, to emphasise to us that He does not oppress and so neither should we.
Brother Marquis Dawkins: Very good reply, Brother Terence, and thank you for the correct explanation of ‘makr’. I could not find the particular verse at the time, hence I did not quote it verbatim. It is true many anti-Muslim, not just Christian, people use that quote against Muslims and indeed some Muslims themselves misuse the quote. I am surprised no one commented on my Bible verse. I know many Muslims have a dismissive view of the Bible, but when I have discussed that verse before with Christians, as a Christian and then, as a Muslim; the shock they go into is quite interesting and a few who have claimed to read the Bible cover to cover do not seem to ever recall that verse for one reason or another. But again, it is an interesting discussion. And that story from 1 Kings pretty much sums up the question asked. Indeed men veil or harden their own hearts and Allah (s.w.t.) Allows it
When we consider Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, it says both that ‘God Hardened his heart,’ and also ‘Pharaoh hardened his heart.’ Thus, indeed guile and cunning are Used. However, He, being al-Haqq does not and cannot lie. Hence when pressed, Michaeas (a.s.) told the truth from God about the outcome of the battle and the false prophets listened to the lie from the jinn. Allah (s.w.t.) Allowed this because those prophets were false and did not seek Him. When supplicated to directly, Allah (s.w.t.) does not lie or allow a lie for it contradicts His Nature.
Brother James Currie: Following on, Brother Aftab, if you believe that Allah (s.w.t.) can lie, then how do you exclude the possibility that lies are contained within Revelation?
Brother Marquis Dawkins: So to open an additional can of worms, this discussion could also lead to interpretations of the following:
That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”;― but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was Made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. ― Nay, Allah Raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in Him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment, He will be a Witness against them.― (Surah an-Nisa’:157-159)
Considering the Crucifixion then, did God use deception? Most of you know my answer: He did not. There was no need to put the likeness of Jesus (a.s.) on another man or confuse another man for Christ (a.s.) or anything of that sort that has been said. It is plain and simple to me: Allah (s.w.t.) Raised him from the dead. To deny that such a thing can happen is to deny the very Power of Allah (s.w.t.) itself. But, if we take the usual stance that gets even found into some exegesis, God indeed used a trick to Cast the likeness of Jesus (a.s.) on someone else. That being said, would we then say indeed God used deception? And why would He?
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother James Currie, please read this Qur’anic verse. Allah (s.w.t.) Himself Raised a possibility that He has the Power of Contradicting His Command or lying after Promising, because the Highest Authority is His and He is not answerable to anyone. But He will never contradict himself and we believe in His Speech. This verse also upholds the Omnipotence of God.
… If He so Will, He can Remove you and Put (in your place) a new Creation? (Surah Ibrahim:19)
When Allah (s.w.t.) Himself argues that He can Do Away with this Creation, even though He Promised that this Creation would be eternally in Paradise or Hell, then lying is possible, but He will not lie.
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi, if lying is an evil act, and an evil act concerns the laws of morality, that is why I approached the topic from there. If Allah (s.w.t.) can Change morality, then yes, He can lie and that lie would not be evil because the new morality would make that lie a good thing.
Brother James Currie: Brother Marquis, I see this as a very weak argument from Christians. The issue of who was crucified on the cross has really nothing to do with the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Whoever was hung on the cross, there is still no excuse to worship a man.
Brother Aftab, you have misunderstood the Qur’anic verse. Everyone agrees that Allah (s.w.t.) has the Power to Do Away with us and Produce a new Creation, but the issue is whether He can Lie about it in His Uncreated Speech.
Brother Marquis Dawkins: Well, Brother James, I can say for certain on what you just said about the Crucifixion, we can agree, which is why I am a Muslim in the first place. You are right that the Crucifixion has no bearing on doctrine, certainly not as far as Islam goes. If it were a bigger issue, it would have been mentioned more than that one ayat and, thus not subject to debate by early Islamic scholars. But the question at hand is concerning whether God did use deception if He Cast the likeness of Jesus (a.s.) on another man, as some translations say, and if He did, why did He? This question is actually posed to Christians from Muslims at times. If, they say, Jesus (a.s.) is God and God cannot die, then did he merely deceive everyone and pretend to be dead? And if so, why did he? Or if you say he fully died for redemption and such, then that means God, the Creator ‘died’. And the universe was rent asunder for three days.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: I think you are ignoring the fact which the verse is pointing to. It is pretty easy for one to understand that verse, and it defends Allah’s (s.w.t.) Omnipotence that He can contradict what He Says, but due to His Will, He will not, and that is what I am arguing about. On one hand, Allah (s.w.t.) Promises in Qur’an we will abide eternally in Paradise or Hell. On other hand, Allah (s.w.t.) Poses a possibility that if He Wills, He can Do Away with this, meaning no abiding in Paradise or Hell. Thus, making it clear that it is in his Power to lie.
Brother James Currie: Brother Aftab, I have considered the verse just fine. The problem is your argument implicitly assumes that Allah (s.w.t.) is in time, whether you realise it or not.
Brother Colin Turner: There is so much to unpack here and so little time. The issue of whether God can lie or not is part of the larger theological discourse on good and evil, praiseworthiness and blameworthiness, and whether these are essential, dzati, or not. In other words, are actions good or evil intrinsically or are they good or evil only because God has Decreed that they be so? And, is it possible for us to know what is praiseworthy and blameworthy through our own powers of reason, or do we know them only because God has Shown them to us to be such? Bearing this in mind, if we apply it to ‘lying’, the questions that we ask ourselves are these: Is lying intrinsically and essentially bad? Or is it bad only because God Says it is? And, are we able to understand that lying is bad without any reference to Revelation? Or do we know lying is bad from Revelation alone? If we can consider these questions for a while, then we can move forward insha’Allah, because the rest of the debate hinges on whether we have understood the questions properly.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother James, if the above statement implicitly assumes that Allah (s.w.t.) is in time, then whole Qur’an assumes He is in time. As Brother Colin Turner has said, I approached the topic from the subject of morality, that is Euthyphro dilemma, are actions good or evil intrinsically or are they good or evil only because Allah (s.w.t.) has Decreed that they be so? I hold the opinion that things are morally good because they are Commanded by God.
Brother James Currie: No, Brother Aftab, the Qur’anic verse does not imply Allah (s.w.t.) is in time, but your understanding does. You seem to believe that Allah (s.w.t.) can Say something and then act against it later in the future. Do you believe that Allah’s (s.w.t.) Eternal Uncreated Speech can contradict His Eternal Uncreated Will?
Brother Colin Turner, I do not think the starting point in this discussion should be from the topic of morality.
Brother Syed Madar: ‘Aqidah ath-Thahawiyyah has the answer.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: And what is that answer, brother?
Brother Syed Madar: The answer is same as for the question, “Can God Create another God,” “Can God Sleep,” "Can God Eat,” and such forth. Moreover, the Attribute of al-Haqq nullifies that Allah (s.w.t.) can ever lie. Here, it must be understood that the inability to deceive is not a weakness. So it is not as if Allah (s.w.t.) cannot lie, but it is against His Nature to lie? Lying, giving birth, eating, sleeping and so forth are attributes of His Creations; they do not apply to the Creator.
Brother James Currie: Brother Colin, please consider my question on whether the Eternal Uncreated Speech of Allah (s.w.t.) can contradict His Eternal Uncreated Will. Then you may appreciate why I do not think the subject of morality should be the starting point of this discussion.
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Brother Aftab, that verse from Surah Ibrahim, as I read it, does not mean that Allah (s.w.t.) Will Destroy all of Creation and Put them beyond Judgment. Would the victims of the Flood of Nuh (a.s.) not have received justice despite having been ‘Done Away’ with? Also, an ‘everything goes’ approach leads to the natural progression of your argument that if Allah (s.w.t.) so Wills, He can Command that we burn our women alive, use rape as a weapon of war, and so forth. It seems to me that Allah (s.w.t.) must not only be beyond the ability to decide not to do such things but be beyond the ability to do them at all. I think Brother Syed Madar is spot on above; that Allah (s.w.t.) is unable to do certain things is not a weakness - they are signs of His Being above them all.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Why must hypothetical lying only be carried out by the Eternal Uncreated Speech? Why cannot God Create a miraculous loud booming voice from the Heavens which says anything He Wishes?
Brother James Currie: Brother Abdul-Halim, such a voice, being Created as you said, would not be the actual Uncreated Speech of Allah (s.w.t.), and so is not relevant to the issue of lying.
Sister Samra Hussain: First off, we have to define what exactly do we mean by ‘lying’? To me, lying is to deceive another or others for self-benefit, and if we use this definition, then no way can God lie, because God has no need to lie. He is Above all needs and constrictions, and so it is illogical to conclude that he would lie. Human beings lie because we wish to evade punishment, embarrassment, humiliation, and hardship, and God is free of such afflictions.
Sister Ishq Ain Sheen Qaaf: Just for something mentioned early in the discussion to read in your own time, insha’Allah: The Killer Mistake: A Critique of Nuh Keller’s ‘Iman, Kufr & Takfir’.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother Hamayoon, please read the tafsir of that verse, it is simple to understand. The ‘Do Away’ used there does not mean the ‘Do Away’ of Nuh’s (a.s.) people or the ‘Aadh’s. It means the ‘doing away’ of all humanity with no Judgement and placing therein a new Creation, hence there being no Hell or Heaven for this Creation.
Brother James Currie, you are reading into my comments the things which are even not there. It is basic belief of the Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jama’ah that God is beyond time, so considering that I understand God is in time is absurd in itself.
If people accept that lying is impossible or He is powerless to lie, then it would imply that God is limited by the laws of morality instead of being their establisher. The Goodness of God depends upon the laws which are independent of Him which would imply that God is dependent on these set of standards, which again questions His Sovereignty. These moral standards would limit God's Omnipotence, meaning not even God could oppose them. To avoid limiting God’s Sovereignty and Omnipotence, we can accept that God has the Power to lie; He can Change the laws of morality anytime. A thing is good because it is Commanded by God, not because it is good.
Brother James, Uncreated Will and Uncreated Speech cannot contradict. But that issue is irrelevant here. This question concerns morality.
Brother Colin Turner: So, with regard to lying, the polarised opinions are as follows: A says that lying is evil only because God Says it is; consequently the only way that we can know lying is evil is through Revelation rather than reason. B, on the other hand, says that lying is inherently evil and God’s Decree has nothing to do with it; consequently, it is possible to know that lying is evil through rational means rather than through Revelation. Of course, this argument has been stripped down here to its bare bones, hopefully without too much over-simplification. The problem with position A, lying is evil only because God Says it is, is that not only does it appear arbitrary, it also flies in the face of the dictates of conscience, which God Says was Created in order to distinguish between right and wrong. The problem with position B, lying is inherently evil and can be understood rationally, with no need for Revelation, is that it would appear at first glance to make God's Decrees dependent on something other than Himself; that is, this irrationally determined good or evil, praiseworthiness or blameworthiness. It makes it look as though God Himself is subject to external considerations and constraints. Thus both positions appear problematic on the surface. However, there is a third way, a compromise. There may be fourth, fifth and sixth ways too, but that is another issue. The third position is that there are truths within both A and B, but also problems, and that the true position, C, takes the best from both position A and position B.
As far as I see it – and that may not be very far – B is right about A to an extent, and A is also right about B. Let us look first at the notion of good and evil. Are things inherently good or evil? A would say no, B would say yes. This is an over-simplification. First of all, what do we mean by ‘things’? If we are talking about phenomena which are Created, then all things are inherently and essentially good because God Created them; all of Creation is a Reflection of His Names, and there does not exist a Divine Name, ‘The Evil One’. So everything which exists is good, because that is how He Creates. We can already see that there are aspects of both A and B positions which apply here. Yes, everything Created is good inherently and essentially, but only because they are the reflection of how God is Inherently and Essentially good. So what, we may ask, about lying? Is that not a thing? Well, however we describe lying, it is not a Created thing. Lying is an absence, a lack. It is the absence or lack of truth, and as such it is a privation, a non-existence. And non-existence, since it is not Created, is by default evil. But is lying inherently evil? One would have to say yes.
Now, is the blameworthiness of lying understood by reason or by Revelation? This is where the positions become even more nuanced. Position A says that it is understood by Revelation alone. In other words, the only way that we can know that lying is bad is because God Tells us in His Revelation that it is bad; reason has nothing to do with it. B then responds by saying, 'Okay, if reason is no arbiter of right or wrong, how come that we use our reason to accept the truth of Revelation? And what point is there in having a conscience if morality is a wholly arbitrary affair?”
Again, there are things to commend both positions, but ultimately they cancel each other out. The solution, it seems, is another compromise. It is clear that praiseworthiness or blameworthiness can be understood rationally; one does not need scripture to tell us that hurting other people is wrong, or that stealing is bad – children have an inbuilt sense of right and wrong, which, if not perverted as they grow up, will be able to navigate through good and evil with not too much trouble. However – and this is a big however – without Revelation, such as the Gospels, the Quran and so forth – there is only so much that reason can figure out on its own, and one needs Revealed Scripture in order to provide the fine details. This seems at first glance to privilege B’s narrative over A. Yes, we agree with B that good and evil can be understood rationally, and we give a tiny concession to A by saying, okay, yes, we also need Revelation to show us the finer details.
But B does not have the last laugh. Because if we broaden the definition of ‘Revelation’ to include the Creation of the human conscience, one might easily say that every Created thing is a Revelation. In other words, conscience itself is a form of Revelation. Which would mean that if we change the definition of Revelation a little, A is in a sense right: we know everything through Revelation, albeit the Revelation that is Creation itself rather than Revelation in the sense of written scripture.
Conclusion? Lying is inherently evil and we know this through both reason and Revelation. And since it is inherently evil, it cannot be predicated of God. God is Pure Good and His Creations are Pure Good. Lying is a lack, a privation, an evil, and it cannot be applied to God. In other words, God cannot and does not lie. Truth is a Reflection of His Name ‘al-Haqq’, and since God has no opposites, lying cannot be attributed to Him. You may say why I did not just post the conclusion. Agreed, it is a lot to read, but it is important that we see how such conclusions are arrived at. People may recognise A as Ash’ari and B as Mu’tazili, and that would be correct. But there are problems with both approaches, which is why, Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez, it was said earlier that “we have to move theology on.”
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother James, you said, “Abdul-Halim, such a voice, being Created as you said, would not be the actual Uncreated Speech of Allah, and so is not relevant to the issue of lying.” Why not? The voice can make claims? The truth or falsehood of those claims can be evaluated.
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Brother Aftab, we are not scholars so are trying to use our own reason; if it were simple, we would all be scholars and there would be no argument about anything.
I have read a couple of works of tafsir on this and none of them say about Creation being erased from existence, that is, that they will not be Judged. My example of the people of Nuh (a.s.) was to illustrate that Allah (s.w.t.) Destroyed them for their heedlessness but that they would have been Judged and been Sent to Hell. Your point earlier about how Allah (s.w.t.) would be breaking His promise was what I was challenging. It is entirely possible for the Almighty to Destroy Creation and to Judge them, whilst Putting another in its place.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Sister Samra, you said, “To me, lying is to deceive another or others for self-benefit, and if we use this definition, then no way can God lie, because God has no need to lie. He is above all needs and constrictions, and so it is illogical to conclude that he would lie. human beings lie because we wish to evade punishment, embarrassment, humiliation, and hardship, and God is free of such afflictions “ I think it is really important to make certain distinctions. There is a big distinction between saying “God does lie,” and, “God can lie.” And even under the second category, one can distinguish between saying, “God can lie in the sense that it is not intrinsically impossible for God to lie, even though He does not,” and, “God can lie in the sense that this is a real possibility that we ought to be concerned about.”
Brother James Currie: Brother Abdul-Halim, that Created thing you are speaking about would not be the Speech of God.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother Colin Turner, it is my understanding that the Maturidis say that some things can be known through reason, but not everything.
Brother James Currie: Brother Colin, have you presented the Maturidi position as well?
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother James Currie, so you agree that God can Create a loud miraculous booming voice from heaven which makes false statements? Maybe there should be another thread just on the Speech of Allah (s.w.t.) and what it means to say the Qur’an is Uncreated. Because that seems to have become part of the background of this thread. I actually never thought that the question of lying was so dependent on the Nature of the Eternal Speech.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez, yes, the Maturidis did indeed say that some things can be known by reason. The compromise position between A and B is a Maturidite position. It also has resonance for Shi’ite theology.
Brother James Currie, the Maturidite position is in some respects a compromise between the Ash’arite and the Mu’tazilite, as in the examples.
Brother James Currie: Yes, Brother Abdul-Halim, we all know that Allah (s.w.t.) can Create false statements, but such statements can never be His Uncreated Speech by definition.
Brother Colin Turner: A false statement has no real existence and so while the individual sounds that are uttered are Created, the falseness of the statement that those sounds form is a lack and therefore uncreated, and hence not from God. How did the thread get sidetracked to the subject of Divine Speech? To say that “Allah can Create false statements,” is a slippery slope.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Allah (s.w.t.), by His Nature, cannot ‘Create’ false statements. If that were so, the entire premise of the religion would collapse. I actually addressed it much earlier in this thread. If everything that Allah (s.w.t.) Says is, then whatever He Utters becomes the Reality and cannot be a lie. What is ‘truth’? Truth is whatever God Says. A lie is actually what we say He Says but is not.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, I would say that the distinction between can and does is crucial there. Allah (s.w.t.) does Speak the Truth. So we trust Revelation and the prophets. That is the foundation. Can does not matter.
Brother James Currie: Brother Colin, why is it a slippery slope?
Brother Terence, why would the entire premise of religion collapse?
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: If God ‘lies’, would not people think He lied about everything in the Qur'an, for example? Also, on the basis of tawhid, the Eternal Speech can be nothing but Truth since whatever is Said becomes reality.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez That does not follow.
Brother James Currie: Brother Terence and Brother Colin, denying that God can Create false statements strikes me as highly problematic, but I hope you can explain yourselves.
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: If you accept that Allah (s.w.t.) can lie, then you introduce doubt into everything He Says and has Said. That is not just a slippery slope; that is a massive abyss.
Brother James Currie: Brother Hamayoon, who creates false statements? When humans speak falsehood, who creates their statements?
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi, no one on this thread is saying Allah (s.w.t.) lies, has lied, or ever will lie. We all have trust in Allah (s.w.t.) and believe He Speaks the Truth. The issue is more technical than that.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother James, when human beings speak falsehood, the breath that they take, the words that they utter, the sounds that resonate through space, they are all Created by God. The falsehood is intended by the speaker, not by God. As such, it has no external existence and cannot be said to have been Created.
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez, it is not about whether He does or does not lie; the mere doubt created by the possibility of His Doing so brings into question the veracity of everything He has Said and Revealed. I am not only saying that He does not lie; I am saying that He cannot lie.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: I am not sure what you mean. I am a convert. The Qur’an starts off being in question in the first place anyway. And then we examine it and come to accept it.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: That falsehood exists, brother, is not related to whether Allah (s.w.t.) lies.
Brother James Currie: Brother Colin, so you do not think falsehood exists?
Brother Colin Turner: Falsehood has an external reality, Brother James, but not an external existence. There is a big and very important difference.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Falsehoods exist due to perception and the inadequacy of the Created being. That does not relate to Allah (s.w.t.) directly lying.
Brother James Currie: Explain the difference please, Brother Colin.
Brother Colin Turner: If X shoots Y in the heart and Y dies, who is called the murderer, X or God? Bearing in mind, that is, that the bullet, its entry into the heart of Y and the death of Y are all Created by God.
Brother Jon Beatty: I think the topic deviated a bit I think the answer is quite simple and does not need a long theological discussion. Is Allah (s.w.t.) capable of lying? Allah (s.w.t.) is Capable of all things but does Allah (s.w.t.) lie? No, this would denote some sort of imperfection on His part and we know he is al-Haqq and we know that there is no imperfection and that He is Pure so no Allah (s.w.t.) does not lie in the sense of acting upon it but since He is capable of all things, it is possible but we know He does not.
Brother James Currie: I agree, Brother Terence, so what is your issue with saying God Created false statements?
Brother Colin Turner: Brother James, falsehood has no external existence in the same way that murder has no external existence.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: As I have mentioned above, brother, the nature of the Eternal Speech is such that Allah (s.w.t.) does not lie. Why? Because a lie is something that is contrary to reality. For example, if I said I was a woman, that is a lie. But if Allah (s.w.t.) Said it, it would be so because of ‘Kun fayakun’. If Allah (s.w.t.) Says something, that will become the reality. And since it is the reality, how can it be anything other than Haqq? This phrase occurs seven times in the Qur'an. Seven here referring to all the ‘alamin. There cannot be something that is not. If it is Said by the Eternal Speech, it is. It is for this reason that Allah (s.w.t.) does not lie.
Brother James Currie: Brother Terence, I have already indicated that falsehood cannot exist in the Uncreated Speech of Allah. I do not think we disagree on that at least.
Brother Colin, you say that falsehood has an external reality. Would you say that reality is Created or uncreated?
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: Brother Hamayoon, there are different kinds of impossible.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother James, as far as I understand it, the distinction between external reality and external existence is that the former is abstract and the latter concrete, that is, the latter is Created and has a form that is tangible, palpable. I am not sure what you mean by reality.
Brother James Currie: You used the term first in this context, not I.
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Brother Abdul Halim, either Allah (s.w.t.) is al Haqq or He is not. There's no middle ground here where we can go playing around with the technicalities about the various types of impossible.
I'm not often absolutist in my thinking but lying is a flaw as is clear across the Qur’an and sunnah; and He is the Infinitely Truthful. This means that He cannot lie. To question that even one iota introduces that one iota of doubt about the Truthfulness of what He has Revealed.
Brother Colin Turner: No, Brother James, I did not use the term ‘reality’. I used the term ‘external reality’.
Brother James Currie: And that is a compound of two terms ‘external’ and ‘reality’.
Brother Colin Turner: Hamayoon, this whole notion of Allah (s.w.t.) being ‘able’ to lie came about because people thought that if they say God is ‘unable’ to do something, it somehow detracts from His Omnipotence.
Brother James, ‘external reality’ is a technical term used by Ustadz Said Nursi (r.a.) to indicate things which exist but which are not Created. There was no contradiction.
Brother James Currie: Brother Colin, you said, falsehood has an external reality, but not an external existence. But now you seem to be saying that ‘external reality’ indicates things that do exist, but are not Created. So does ‘external reality’ exist or not?
Brother Colin Turner: Ustadz Said Nursi (r.a.) said in his Signs of Miraculousness, “Although the forces of attraction and repulsion form the basis of physical matter in the smallest indivisible atoms, this appears to be the combining of opposites. Yes, the law of attraction and that of repulsion and others are the names of the laws of Divine Practice and the Most High’s Shari‘ah of Creation, ash-shari‘at al-fithriyyah, which is called nature. Such laws are acceptable on condition they do not cease being principles and become nature, and exist only in the mind and are not ascribed external existence, and do not cease being merely theoretical and become real, and do not cease to be seen as means and are considered effectual.” In short, laws of nature have an external reality, because we can talk about them and see their effects, but they do not have an external existence.
Brother Hamayoon Sultan Qurayshi: Brother Colin, I know. Though I do not see how His not having the flaw of lying detracts from His Omnipotence. As was mentioned above, Allah (s.w.t.) not being able to lie simply means that He is Above all that. It does not affect His Omnipotence at all, but to say that He can lie does go right to the heart of whether we can trust Him.
Brother James Currie: This is a question not addressed by proponents: “If you believe that God can lie, then how do you exclude the possibility that lies are contained within Revelation?”
Brother Colin Turner: Agreed, Brother Hamayoon. Their criticism is unfounded. God cannot lie because God cannot not be God. It is not an issue of incapacity, it is an issue of logical impossibility.
Brother Terence has already addressed that issue, Brother James.
Brother James Currie: Brother Terence is not a proponent of that position, Brother Colin. The question is for those saying that God can lie.
Brother Colin Turner: Is anyone here saying that apart from Brother Aftab?
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: We all have to answer that question. And neither side has a shortcut. If we are starting from scratch, how do you know that there are not any lies in the Qur’an? Each of us has our specific path but for many, they have probably studied Islam, the Qur’an, the sirah of the Prophet (s.a.w.), have been exposed to various compelling arguments, have weighed different pros and cons until they come to the conclusion that there is no god but Allah (s.w.t.), that Muhammad (s.a.w.) is a servant and messenger, and that the Qur’an is Revelation from Allah (s.w.t.).
Brother Colin Turner: What is the issue here, exactly? Has it not been proven already that if God is as He Says He is, and if lying is in and of itself non-existent, which we know it is, then God cannot and does not lie. And so if the Qur’an is from Him, then it cannot contain any falsehood. The only problem remaining is whether we have faith in that or not.
Brother James Currie: I do not understand your position, Brother Colin. If lying is in and of itself non-existent, then can humans even lie?
Regarding the quote from Brother Abdul-Halim, “How do you know that there are not any lies in the Qur’an,” the Quran is the Uncreated Speech of Allah (s.w.t.), and it is inconceivable that the Speech of Allah (s.w.t.) could contain any falsehood, as has been explained.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: ‘Inconceivable’ is a really critical word. Is it really true that it is impossible to conceive? That is where the crux is.
Brother James Currie: On proper reflection, yes, it is inconceivable. If one likens Allah (s.w.t.) to human beings, then superficially one may think it is conceivable.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother Colin, to be honest, the argument that evil is the absence of good does not make sense in many cases.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother James, by non-existent is meant a lack, a not-created thing. And yes, by not intending the truth, one can lie. Not sure what the problem is there.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother Colin Turner, how do you explain the natural disasters and the animals being killed and injured due to natural calamities? When you hold to the position that evil is non-existent?
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Aftab, death is not evil. It is Given by God, Who is al-Mumit. If you are asking about things such as earthquakes, their ‘evil’ is relative. If there is an earthquake on the moon, and it is visible from earth, astronomers would look at it with awe and wonder, and no one would call it evil. However, if an earthquake on earth kills thousands of people, it is considered ‘evil’ because it has resulted in death. The earthquake in and of itself is not evil at all.
Is evil not the lack of good? Why is good always juxtaposed with evil? Is darkness not the opposite of light? Where is God's name, ‘The Dark One’? These things are examples of privation and as such cannot said to be created? We call them evil but in actual fact they have no external existence. To say that God Creates evil really does not make much sense. One who creates evil must by definition be evil, just as one who creates with wisdom must be wise. Are you telling me that God is stupid because He Creates stupid people?
Brother Aftab Ahmed: To say that evil originated from itself, is also not a good notion when Qur’an itself claims evil is from god and good is from God. To answer your question, God does not have attribute of evil, all His Attributes are of Goodness, that is why, evil is created for the greater good. By created evil, there comes many folds of good. So technically, evil is good because it is benefiting whole mankind. That is the position of the Maturidi school, if I am not mistaken.
Brother Colin Turner: If evil is technically good, then it is good and not evil. It is evil only in relation to this or that. Furthermore, where does the Qur’an say that God Creates evil? Please show us.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Evil is the absence of good is justified for people who have free will and move away from the Light of God. This argument is useless for those animals who does not possess free will. So consider this argument.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez:
“Wherever ye are, death will find you out, even if ye are in towers built up strong and high!” If some good befalls them they say, “This is from Allah”; but if evil, they say, “This is from thee,” (O Prophet). Say, “All things are from Allah. But what hath come to these people, that they fail to understand a single fact? (Surah an-Nisa’:78)
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Aftab, it makes no difference whether we shift the arguments from humans to animals or from animals to plants: God does not create evil.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez:
For verily it is thy Lord Who is the Master-Creator, Knowing all things. (Surah al-Hijr:86)
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez, of course misfortune is from Allah (s.w.t.). If I shoot my next door neighbour, it is very misfortunate for his family. But what is God’s part in this? You may say, as the verse does, that it is ‘all from Allah’ (s.w.t.), and that would be true. The death of my neighbour is from Allah (s.w.t.), but the murder of my neighbour - the only evil part of the equation - is from me. Allah (s.w.t.) Creates my actions, it is true, but I ‘acquire’ the evil of my own intentions. There is nothing about my neighbour's family’s misfortune which is evil apart from my evil intention. And that has nothing to do with God.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: I think there is a translation issue. Brother Colin Turner, you are using a non-conventional definition of ‘evil’, which is fine, but it is a source of confusion.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez, brother, throwing verses like stones will solve nothing. Evil is not a thing and so it cannot be created.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: I agree. I think we need a common definition of ‘evil’. Or baring that, you should be clear on the fact that you are not referring to the same concept.
Brother Colin Turner: Yes, there are probably lots of translation issues and crossed wires here, but it is not really clear what you mean by ‘non-conventional’. The problem, it seems, is that most of us come to this issue with the presupposition that evil is actually a Created thing, when in actual fact, it has, at best, an external reality but not an external existence.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: To be honest, I did not follow that distinction you made between external reality and external existence. By non-conventional, I mean that most people would have no problem opening up a newspaper and pointing to a couple of things that happen which are worthy of being called ‘evil’. You claiming that evil is not a thing is, upon first hearing, totally unconvincing. I think if you want to persuade anyone of your perspective you absolutely need to give due regard to a conventional view of evil. Telling someone who has had a loved one murdered, raped, kidnapped that ‘evil is not a thing’ does not cut it.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Abdul-Halim, I am not here to persuade anyone of anything. And yes, I agree that evil has a reality. If someone murders, rapes, kidnaps - well, those actions are evil, absolutely. That is not the point here, though, to be honest. It is important for our own understanding of God and His Names and Attributes that we do not impute to Him that which does not befit Him. To say that evil is not a thing is merely another way of saying that evil is not one of God’s Creations. it is an absence, a lack of good that occurs when human beings fail to intend in the way that they should. That is all.
Brother James Currie: It is an odd opinion you have, Brother Colin, because you seem to affirm something uncreated besides God, which would be dangerous.
Brother Colin Turner: Evil is uncreated because it is non-existent. God Exists and is uncreated. There is a big, big difference, and not an odd opinion at all.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother Colin Turner, whether you agree or not, but Qur’anic text shows evil as a Created thing which itself has existence, evil is present within us; our ego, evil also exists out of us and is Satan, evil is under the Command and control of God. The Qur’an Says that not even a leaf can move without God’s Will. How can we even assume or believe that evil is born out of itself? Evil is limited and relative in nature; Good is Absolute and Infinite; evil is a Creation of God which He Allows to exist in this world and in man for certain purposes. We know good because evil exists – this relativity is important. Indirectly, evil works for the realisation of Good. God had Decreed both evil and good, and good is His Approved path.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Aftab, please show me where the Qur’an tells us about evil as a Created thing, that is, evil with palpable, tangible, external existence.
Brother James Currie: But Brother Colin, you have indicated that ‘external reality’ which indicates things that do exist.
Brother Aftab Ahmed:
“Wherever ye are, death will find you out, even if ye are in towers built up strong and high!” If some good befalls them they say, “This is from Allah”; but if evil, they say, “This is from thee,” (O Prophet). Say, “All things are from Allah. But what hath come to these people, that they fail to understand a single fact? (Surah an-Nisa’:78)
Brother Colin Turner: Brother James, love has an existence, but not an external existence. Had we not cleared this up?
Brother James Currie: No, Brother Colin.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Aftab, you are throwing verses at me like stones again. Ultimately, yes, Allah (s.w.t.) Permits me to shoot my neighbour, but the evil in that is from me, brother, not from Allah (s.w.t.). It is from my misuse of my free will. The Creation of my neighbour's death is by God and it is not evil; death is not evil. The evil in this equation is the inclination which I have and which I use for wrong instead of right.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: I agree that the argument for absence of good is a good one, but when seen in the light of natural disasters and pains of wild animals, I reject that argument completely, also, If someone injures a person by a knife, even though the person who injured him is acting against good, and is lack of good, what about the victim? What was his mistake in this?
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Aftab, the case of the victim is completely different from the case of the assailant.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother Colin, the argument simply does not look flawless.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Aftab, I am just a simple man and sometimes I do not articulate things as I should. Forgive me. I think the argument is flawless but maybe I am not putting it across properly.
Brother Aftab Ahmed: Brother Colin, if you may, tell me where does Ustadz Said Nursi (r.a.) illustrates this argument in his Risale-i Nur? I will read it. I have Risale-i-Nur with me. I have not read it completely until now.
Brother Colin Turner: I will try to find some Nursian arguments, Brother Aftab. But I do not want to keep referencing Ustadz Nursi (r.a.), to be honest. It is not good to come across as an advocate all the time. And to be frank, it is sometimes good for us to put just our consciences and intellects on the table and let them pick their way through the maze, without constantly bringing in Qur’an, sunnah, Tom, Dick and ‘Ali.
Brother Ebu Aydin: Brothers, the notion that evil is non-existence is mentioned in numerous places throughout the Risale-i Nur, such as the Twenty-Sixth Word on Divine Determining and the Thirteenth Flash - Fourth Indication. But in any case, the notion that evil is the absence of good is also to be found in Christian theology - the notion of 'privatio bono', privation or absence of good. Yes, just as coldness has no external existence, but is simply the absence of heat, similarly, evil is merely the absence of good. It has merely an abstract existence - an external reality - but not an external or concrete existence.
Brother Jerry Mikell:
Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to thee is from thyself. And We have Sent thee, as a Messenger to (instruct) mankind: And enough is Allah for a witness. (Surah an-Nisa’:79)
This is what comes with lack of comprehensive knowledge of the Qur’an and diving into self opinion. Ayat 79 was left out and it is a continuation from ayat 78. Evil is a fact. It is from man not following Divine Knowledge. That is why Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) was Sent and the Qur’an Revealed. The Garden is true and Fire is true. What you are doing is called rajimin bi al-ghayb, dabbling in unseen knowledge that is only known by comprehensive ‘ilm and presential knowledge if one is gifted with that.
God’s Emanation is flawless. It is reflected through countless creational prisms according to their natures and with human beings according to the polishing of the facets of their hearts and strength of their intellects. And the intellect is not informational knowledge. It is the highest form of discriminate consciousness.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother Jerry, the ‘self opinion’ you mention, what are you referring to? And ‘evil is a fact’. Yes, it is. But that has no bearing on its ontological status. Or are you saying something different?
Brother Jerry Mikell: This is what I am saying, and it is from Qur’an:
The Signs of Allah have they sold for a miserable price, and (many) have they hindered from His Way: evil indeed are the deeds they have done. (Surah at-Tawbah:9)
To me, this is Haqq al-Mubin. There is no need to go beyond it. But if I want to know more about what Allah (s.w.t.) Says regarding evil, I believe the best way is knowledge of Qur’an bi al-Qur’an. The trilateral root s-w-a is listed 167 times in the Quran. I suggest we study these ayat carefully and then perhaps, suggest what we may understand after a comprehensive knowledge of what Allah (s.w.t.) Says. There is an evident danger for me in regard to ontological analysis before comprehensive Qur’anic analysis. And even then, if the ontology in any way contradicts the Qur’anic theology we must discard it.
Brother Colin Turner: You are being obtuse. Say what you mean.
Brother Jerry Mikell: Brother Colin my life is not philosophy. It is real and I am engaged in determining my destiny:
Or think ye that ye shall be abandoned, as though Allah did not know those among you who strive with might and main, and take none for friends and protectors except Allah, His Messenger and the (community of) believers? But Allah is Well-Acquainted with (all) that ye do. (Surah at-Tawbah:16)
Brother Colin, what do mean obtuse? I have been completely clear. What is obtuse about what I said? Do you know the meaning of obtuse? Not a very nice word: annoyingly insensitive or slow to understand; synonyms: stupid, slow-witted, slow, dull-witted, unintelligent, ignorant, simpleminded, witless.
Brother Colin Turner: Brother, the cryptic responses do no one any favours. Your two previous posts are a hundred kinds of deconstructable, but I do not want to go down that route and say something that may be regretted later. If the kind of discussion that we are having here is, in your opinion, flawed or dangerous, you should tell us outright and use plain, direct words rather than code. I meant deliberately obtuse; no offense was meant.
Brother Ebu Aydin: But brother, philosophy, properly understood, is just thinking hard about stuff. This question has been the subject of debate among some of the greatest Muslim and non-Muslim minds that have ever lived. To deride it is to insult both them and us. Anyway, the short answer to the original post is that if lying is to be understood as something morally objectionable, something ugly or something evil, then no, Allah (s.w.t.) cannot lie. It is ontologically, perhaps even logically, impossible. Allah (s.w.t.) cannot be not-Allah (s.w.t.).
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: This question was posed to both Imam al-Ash’ari (r.a.) and Imam al-Maturidi (r.a.). It is the basis of the difference of opinion of the Barelvi and Deobandi groups of the Hanafi madzhab. It was addressed at length by such distinguished scholars as Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (r.a.) and Shaykh Muhyi ad-Din ibn 'Arabi (q.s.).
As Brother Colin Turner put correctly, ‘evil’ does not have an independent reality. Pain and suffering are of this world. Attributing it to Allah (s.w.t.) is unbecoming. There have been several ayat that have been offered but the tafsir and the context is missing. As Brother Jerry Mikell correctly pointed out, in some verses, they quoted half of them and not the other.
The following verse is quite clear on that:
Whatever good, (O man!) happens to thee is from Allah; but whatever evil happens to thee is from thyself. And We have Sent thee, as a Messenger to (instruct) mankind: And enough is Allah for a witness. (Surah an-Nisa’:79)
What does this mean? It means that in the long run, in the face of Eternity, when the Scales of Divine Justice are Weighed, everything is always good in the Sight of Allah (s.w.t.) because not a single thing is out of His Divine Plan. Evil is from us because we do not see that Plan. We see only a small part of it and not the pain and suffering. We see the inadequacy of ourselves there.
When a person dies in tragic circumstances, people see the ‘evil’ there. But they forget that for everything in their world, there is a recompense. We have failed to take into account the Hereafter. There is the Hand of Providence, the Hand of Compassion, the Hand of Wisdom Involved in this. And that is Allah (s.w.t.) being al-Lathif.
The mistake of some of the people in the last few exchanges is that they have forgotten to factor in God and see this from the Divine Plan. Everything that is taken outside of it, in bits and pieces is either ‘good’ or ‘bad’ based on relative perspective and limited knowledge. Allah (s.w.t.) is Absolute. Thus His Justice is also Absolute.
We shall Set Up scales of justice for the Day of Judgment, so that not a soul will be dealt with unjustly in the least. And if there be (no more than) the weight of a mustard seed, We will Bring it (to Account): and enough are We to Take Account. (Surah al-Anbiya':47).
Brother Jon Beatty: I guess my question now is since both the Deobandi and Barelvi follow Hanafi fiqh, are they following different theological schools hence the difference on this matter?
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: The Barelvi is generally of the orthodox Maturidi position in almost everything. It is difficult to say with the Deobandi since they say they are Maturidi and it is true that they began as such. However, the position taken by their ‘ulama as evidenced from their recent series of fatawa that are contrary to orthodox Sunni positions, which have drawn massive criticism from our scholars in that region, shows that they have moved closer to the neo-Atsari ‘aqidah of the Wahhabi sect.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: For a more detailed analysis, you could go to the link I shared in the beginning of this thread. From an outsiders perspective, Barelvis and Deobandis all claim a lot of the same things: Hanafi, Maturidi, respect for the thuruq, and they look back to the same great Muslims of the sub-continent up until recently. My feeling is that some of it has to do with local personality conflicts and weird misunderstandings rather than deep philosophical differences.
Brother Jon Beatty: A lot of groups have deviated relatively recently because of literalist influences and a lack of understanding into the traditional sciences. That is why you have scholars like Shaykh Hamza Yusuf who are such staunch advocates of returning to the roots.
Brother Colin Turner: The journey is often more enlightening than the destination. The subjects discussed here are, for the most part, subjects which scholars have been grappling with for centuries. And while we may not all be scholars, the issues that these subjects deal with are pertinent to all of our lives. The issue of whether God is able to lie, or whether He Creates evil, may for some people be the deciding factor behind their acceptance or rejection of Islam. And if we are not following the right adab in our discussions, it is better that people point this out in a helpful rather than an abrasive manner. I am here to learn as well as to convey what little I have learned, and it costs nothing to guide people to the right adab rather than push them away from discussion altogether. And Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best, as always.
Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: One of the issues we have with the Muslim psyche is that they are afraid to think, to delve into their religion and their ‘aqidah. They manifest that fear by shutting down discussions of this nature. One of the reasons we have this group is because there is nowhere else that I know of that actually provides a platform that allows any sincere person, whether scholar or non-Muslim, to have a fair look at these issues.
I did not come to Islam, change my entire worldview and life to be told by someone, I cannot ask this or question that. We left that thinking behind in the Dark Ages. This sort of thinking is a tyranny of the soul and we cannot condone it.
Brother Jon Beatty: This kind of thought process is usually done by those who want to entrap an individual or group into a cult like follow the leader mentality and if the student surpasses the leader in knowledge, the leader no longer has power, and therefore, no longer has a relevant position and in the cases of these internet preachers, they do not get a paycheck.
Sister Jennifer Giove: Brother Colin Turner, these question are oftentimes questions that people have often wondered about but either were too afraid to fully allow themselves to think about or did not know who to ask. Brother Terence Nunis knows the value of the hypothetical question and the unanswerable one. We may never know, for scientific security, if God can or does lie. Who would He have to lie to anyway? He is not afraid of anyone’s judgement or getting reprimanded by anyone so the question is not so much does He but does He have the ability to lie? Probably, I do not know and for me, I will never we certain until after my death.
Brother Colin Turner: It is understandable that people will have different methodologies, different strategies, different sensitivities when it comes to engaging with the Qur’an, with issues of faith, with issues of spirituality. But what is adab for one may not have even occurred to another, and what constitutes ‘meddling with the Unseen’ for some may constitute no such thing for others. Granted, there are tried and tested methods of engaging with the Qur’an, and it is clear that not everyone can be a mufassir. But the Qur’an was not Sent only for mufassirun. We take from the Qur’an only as much as we bring to it, and if the questioner is sincere, the Qur’an’s answer will be commensurate with that. In this, there can be no doubt. We need to think a little differently and start to trust each other a little more. We cannot all be on the same spiritual path and at the same spiritual stage. All roads, as they say, lead to Rome. Whether I get there by car or by horse or on foot, surely that is down to me? If I am going too slowly, or driving too recklessly, then tell me, honestly and sincerely. But do not watch me driving like a lunatic and then castigate me for it without explaining exactly what it is that I am doing wrong.
Brother Abdul-Halim Vazquez: I never liked the argument that that was a ‘lie’. There are lots of examples of how in Creation one thing looks like another. Toadstools look like mushrooms. Pyrite looks like gold. Just because we might have a hard time telling the difference does not mean God is lying to us. Also, God is Telling us the truth in the Qur’an.