Friday, May 17, 2019
Atheists As A Fringe Group In Human History
Author: Kamil Ahmad
Although atheism is nothing new and has always existed throughout human history, it was never a widespread phenomenon like it has become today. In fact, what history shows us is that there were very rare cases of the total denial of a supreme divine being who created this world. What this proves is that the natural position of human beings is belief in God and not disbelief in His existence, as atheists would like you to believe.
Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah [d. 728 AH / 1328 CE] says in this regard:
Denial of the Creator was never a predominant religion prevalent over any nation. Rather, the religion of the disbelievers who opposed the Divine Message was that of Shirk. It was only some people who denied the existence of the Creator. These were their scholars from among the Mushrik Sabian philosophers who used to venerate temples, planets and idols. The reports that have been narrated concerning their news and biographies all prove that. - Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah [d. 728 AH / 1328 CE]
What further proves this fact is that although the Qur’an has narrated in precise detail many stories of past nations, it has not narrated a single story of atheism being spread among any nation. Rather, it has narrated a common phenomenon that existed among all nations: Shirk or directing worship to others besides Allah while acknowledging His existence. Allah says: “And most of them do not believe in Allah without associating others with Him [in worship].” Thus, what was common among all people in the past was their mutual understanding of the existence of a supreme divine being who created everything that exists, including the Mushrikun who used to believe in Allah’s existence as the Creator, Provider and Controller of this universe.
Allah says: “If you ask them, ‘Who created the heavens and the earth and subjected the sun and the moon,’ they will certainly say, ‘Allah!’ How can they then be deluded?” This is why Allah never sent the prophets and messengers to their people to prove to them the existence of God, because it was already common knowledge that no one denied. The Qur’an relates to us the response of the messengers when their people proclaimed their doubt in what the messengers were inviting them to: “Their messengers said, ‘Is there any doubt about Allah, Creator of the heavens and earth?’”
So it wasn’t the existence of God that the messengers were sent to prove. Rather, the mission that the messengers were sent on was to call the people to the oneness of Allah and that He alone deserves to be worshipped without any partners. This was after the people had deviated from the natural belief in the oneness of the Creator. The Andalusian Islamic scholar, Imam al-Shatibi [d. 790 AH / 1388 CE] states:
The origin of this dispute is in Tawhid and worshiping The One, The Truth Almighty. The people in general did not differ in that they have One who controls them and a Creator who brought them into existence, but they differed in specifying who He is according to different views, some saying that the deity is two or five, or nature or time, or the planets; to the point that some said it is humans, trees, stones, and what they carve out of their hands. Some of them affirmed the necessary existence (of God), but also according to different views, until God sent the prophets to clarify for their nations between the truth and falsehood of what they disputed over. - Imam al-Shatibi [d. 790 AH / 1388 CE]
So the point of contention was never over God’s existence to begin with, but rather identifying who God is and whether He is one or has partners, which is why Allah sent the prophets and messengers to clarify His oneness and exclusivity to be worshiped. Allah says: “We never sent a messenger before you except that We revealed to him that, ‘There is no god [worthy of worship] except Me, so worship Me [alone].’” Imam al-Shahrastani [d. 548 AH / 1158 CE] states:
As for stripping the world of a Creator who is All-Knowing, Powerful and Wise, I do not see that it is the view of anyone, nor do I know of anyone who holds such a view… This is why there is no mention [in Islamic sources] of the obligation to know the existence of the Creator, but rather there is mention [of the obligation] to know Tawhid and negate Shirk: “That is because, when Allah was called upon alone, you disbelieved; but when others were associated with Him [in worship], you believed." - Imam al-Shahrastani [d. 548 AH / 1158 CE]
Based on the above, it can easily be concluded that belief in the existence of a supreme divine being who created this world is the natural position that humans have always held, and that denial of the existence of such a creator is an unnatural belief that may have been adopted in rare individual cases throughout history for various reasons and motives not necessarily linked to ‘absence of evidence’.
That being the case, belief in the existence of God is a self-evident truth that has never required evidence to prove, as it was always common knowledge that no one denied. However, in today’s world, due to the spread of atheism and objecting to this natural belief in God’s existence, it has become incumbent to present evidences proving His existence and counter the arguments of the atheists in their attempt to disprove God’s existence or undermine the evidences proving His existence. Ibn Taymiyyah [d. 728 AH / 1328 CE] says in this regard:
Affirmation of a Creator and His perfection is innate and necessary with respect to one whose fitrah (innate disposition) remains intact, even though there are many evidences that can be used to prove it. However, many people may be in need of such evidences when the fitrah is altered and circumstances affect it. - Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah [d. 728 AH / 1328 CE]
So the fact that we present arguments and evidences proving God’s existence does not take away from the nature of this belief as being self-evident not requiring evidence to prove it. That is because humans are naturally predisposed to believe in a supreme divine being; it is integral to human nature and not something simply learned or acquired from society.
Ahmad b. Abdul-Halim Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu’ al-Fatawa (Madinah: King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, 2004), 7:631
Surah Yusuf (12:106)
Surah Al-Ankabut (29:61). Also, see: Surah Yunus (10:31) and Surah Al-Mu’minun (23:84-89)
Surah Ibrahim (14:10)
Ibrahim b. Musa al-Shatibi, Al-I’tisam (Dammam: Dar Ibn al-Jawzi, 2008), 3:89-90
Surah Al-Anbiya’ (21:25)
Muhammad b. Abdul-Karim al-Shahrastani, Nihayat al-Iqdam fi Ilm al-Kalam (Cairo: Maktabah al-Thaqafah al-Diniyyah, 2009), 118-119
Ahmad b. Abdul-Halim Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmu’ al-Fatawa (Madinah: King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an, 2004), 6:73
Interestingly enough, recent scientific research has arrived at the same conclusion. A three-year international research project, directed by two academics at the University of Oxford, has found that humans have natural tendencies to believe in gods and an afterlife. See: “Humans 'predisposed' to believe in gods and the afterlife” ScienceDaily. Accessed 18 May 2019. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110714103828.htm