Deviant Contention: There is a flaw in the proof you presented for the existence of Allah.

as salam `alaykum

A few days ago, a person posted an objection under the “The Foundations of Religion” article. Hereunder is the response to it. I took the liberty of changing the wording of the question a little bit so that the question becomes clear.

wa `alaykum salam

Ibn Mazhar

The author said: Basically this says that, if an eternal amount of time has been concluded then eternity has come to an end, which, I think, is wrong.

Here’s why:

Visualize the eternity (infinite spectrum of time) as the infinite real number line. Now suppose we are at number 8, which represents some point in time, say the present. There is an infinite amount of time, or numbers in this case, prior to the number 8 (namely from minus infinity to 8). Does it mean that the number line has come to a stop? No. There still is an infinite amount of time or numbers in this case, in front of 8 (namely 8 to positive infinity).

Answer: Here is the first problem:

The author said:Visualize the eternity as the infinite real number line.”

Your proposal falls apart already here. Infinity cannot be visualized, because visualizing it would take an infinite amount of time. Truly visualizing it would never be achieved, which is exactly the point we have made. You cannot reach true infinity. It is because infinity cannot be reached that we say that the real countable events that took place before we existed today must be a limited number.

For example, imagine yourself riding on this line, starting at 8 and going backwards to the beginning of that line and back. You cannot ever finish this ride even backwards if it was infinite.

The author said: “Now suppose we are at number 8.”

Here there are at least two problems: you are assuming you have reached a number after an infinite number of events. This cannot be because they could never have finished. You cannot finish an infinite amount of events before reaching a particular event, be it 8 or any other number. That is why the real events that took place before our existence must be limited.

Another problem with the idea is that the number line in mathematics cannot represent time. It was not designed for that. The number line simply means that any time a mathematician mentions a larger or smaller number than another number; another mathematician can mention a larger or smaller number than those. This is as long as there is life left in them, for even this counting activity ends with the end of the mathematicians counting. The number line does not represent time; it does not prove anything in itself.

Here is another substantial problem with your proposition:

The author said:There is an infinite amount of time prior to the number 8 (namely from minus infinity to 8).”

Remember that we are talking about real countable events. Real events cannot be counted as minus, because a negative number cannot represent something existing, i.e. you cannot say that a “minus event” happened. In a subtle way you have shown our point, because on the number line countable events start at “1”, and cannot be negative. In other words, when you choose the number “8”, then you are saying that only “8” events have taken place before we are here today. “8” events cannot be infinite, because “8” is not equal to infinity. What you are saying is that “8” real events are equal to an infinite number of real events, which is clearly false.

Then the author proposed that after reaching “8” events: Does it mean number line has come to a stop? No. There still is an infinite amount of time or numbers in this case, in front of 8 (namely 8 to positive infinity).”

When we say that there were a limited number of events, namely “8,” in this case, that have taken place, then we can accept that it can continue after that and never end as long as the Creator has willed it. We cannot accept, however, and no rational being can, that “8” past events are equal to infinite past events!

The author said: If there were a mathematically rigorous proof for the existence of God, none would be happier than me. But this particular proof is not one of them.”

My response is that then you should use your mental facilities to defend the proof, not attack it with imaginary evidences. The proof is rock solid and has withstood the test of time.

Authored by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

11 Responses to Deviant Contention: There is a flaw in the proof you presented for the existence of Allah.

  1. Uhaymid says:

    Thank you Shaykh for your beautiful answer. I just wanted to re-iterate what you have already mentioned to remove any doubts from my mind and perhaps of someone else.

    When I read the above posts I pictued a man who had some cold coins and used to like counting them (using numbers). Then one day he sat with some mathematicians and learned that any number he gave them, they could produce a bigger number (perhaps by adding 1 to it). The mathematicians hence showed him that numbers are infinite as a potentiality only (because to realize infinte numbers one would need to spend an infinity generating them perhaps by adding 1 over and over again and that could never materialze).

    Hearing this the man starting dancing, overjoyed that he had infinite cold coins, hence inexhaustible wealth!

    What would the questionner say to this man? He should perhaps say that out aloud as that is exactly his own argument. “Numbers are used to count events; since numbers can be infinite, there must be an infinite number of events as well!”

    To this one can say, the counted does not change to conform to a property of the tool used to count (i.e. numbers). Even though there can be infinite numbers in potential whatever they are used to count remains finite.

    Such mistakes are made because in these times most people study the application of mathematics in most branches of worldy knowledge from accounting to engineering. This application does not teach them the theoretical basis and construction of mathematical concepts and theorems. Only if one knows them can one correctly apply mathematics to logical issues. Reality can be modelled with mathematics keeping in mind that the properties of the real world would hold in the model constructed; and certainly not the other way around (that the properties of mathematics would over-ride the properties of reality!)

    That is why an excellent french mathematician that I met once, who was applying mathematics to the field of quantum computing, told me that his professor would never let him use a theorem unless he knew the proof of that theorem by heart. This is because he had to make sure at every step that any assumption of the theorem he was applying did not contradict with the properties of the world of quantum mechanics.

    The proof you have presented is a light, that humbles the mind as to why it had not seen the obvious before, and shows one that guidance is from Allah alone.

  2. r-z says:

    Assalam Alaikum,

    I am the person who objected to the argument. And I see here an attempt to nullify my counter argument, and I disagree. Different people understand words like ‘eternity’ ‘visualize’ and infinity in different ways. I believe the argument presented here is just lingering on irrelevant semantics rather than the actual proof. But ofcourse that’s my opinion alone, and I fully recognize the possibility of me being wrong.

    However I’d like to request my comment to be posted here in full, so the reader can decide for himself about it’s validity. I would also like to apologize to Ibn Mazhar or anyone associated with this website if I have offended them in anyway.

    ——————
    Shaikh says;
    “if someone claims that an infinite amount of time had to be passed before his existence, then he is saying that time have ended, which is a contradiction in terms. ”

    At this point, I am introducing a way to represent time. We can use numbers (…,-3,-2,-1,0,1,2,3…) or letters (…,AAA,AA,A,B,BB,BBB,…) or what ever labels you like. Let’s stick to numbers for convenience. Let the numbers represent seconds. And let 0 represent present time (or the time you were born- it doesn’t matter). The point is, now we have a system in which we can represent any point in time by a real number.

    At this point we don’t know if universe had a beginning or not. If it did have a beginning, its possibly an act of God, hence God exists. –
    If it didn’t have a beginning then Shaikh’s proof of existence of God fails. But, Shaikh is showing us that, it makes no sense to think universe has no beginning. (– and I disagree with his proof.)

    So shaikh is starting with premise, If universe had no beginning; – infinite amount of time had passed before now
    Then shaikh is saying time must have ended – then he says it makes no sense. Since, of course as we know time have not ended. But I am going to show you time does not need to end, even if infinite time have already passed before.

    Look at our representation of time again. If we look back from 0th time coordinate, we could keep on counting backwards without an end. It doesn’t matter if infinity is a tool, not real or whatever, the point is, if universe had no beginning we could keep on counting backwards without end. This doesn’t land us at the end of time. We are at 0. There is no contradiction of terms!

    We would be at the end of time, only if universe did have a beginning, and if we saw infinite amount of time behind us.

  3. loveProphet says:

    A small contribution by me here.
    But famous mathematicians have also deemed the argument as a sound mathematical proof. Amongst them David Hilbert and Gregor Cantor(who done major work on set theory and infinity).

  4. Ibn Mazhar says:

    as salam `alaykum

    r-z stated elsewhere:

    “Suffices to say, My argument doesn’t require actual existence of a number line or infinity or anything that you require me to prove.”

    Now if someone doesn’t want to prove his assertions in the first place, then how can he be convinced of the truth of anything?

    That sounds more like “It’s my way or the highway!”

    By the way, the whole discussion can be found here:

    http://maniacmuslim.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=18031

    In that thread, I raised several concerns about r-z’s objections, NONE of which he answered. It’s perhaps because, as he stated in the same thread:

    “i ignored them bcos i dont understand what u mean.”

    My advice to you r-z, is to first read introductory works in the following subjects:

    (1) Formal logic
    (2) Philosophical logic (and the two are slightly different)
    (3) Classical metaphysics
    (4) Modern metaphysics (again, the two are slightly different)
    (5) Perhaps even something on the Falasifa, just to give you a heads up of what the mutakallimun were up against.

    Take this as serious advice, please. I’ve been through roughly the same pattern of study, and I know it helps. Unless you can actually ground yourself in the terminology and the proper conception of that terminology, then I am afraid it’s useless to argue. This is not meant to insult your intelligence. I know you’re a physics student. I am probably dumber than anyone else in physics, which is why I won’t argue with a physicist about physics in the first place. The same would apply to you. Since you’re not even rudimentarily educated in classical or modern logic, then I am afraid it’s pointless to argue.

    Again, I am being extremely sincere.

  5. loveProphet says:

    Walaikum us Salam,

    Ibn Mazhar, that list that you gave, wouldn’t it give the chance of misguiding a person who doesn’t have a reasonable amount of knowledge of Ash’ari kalam or doesn’t have 100% certainty about the religion through knowledge of the religion?

  6. Ibn Mazhar says:

    as salam `alaykum

    The logic stuff won’t. It’s just logic and deals with how to make propositions and judge arguments and so forth. Even advanced logic should be okay, as it merely deal with the structure of logic. When you start doing kalaam, you begin with Mantiq, anyway.

    The metaphysics might, but since I am only advocating introductory metaphysics it should not be a problem. Any introductory work will merely list the various opinions there are without going into detail about the various proofs of those opinions.

    That said, avoid advanced metaphysics at all costs. For example, don’t even bother getting into Aristotle’s Analytics or Kant’s Critiques. They will surely mess you up.

    First go through a rigorous study of kalaam, then tackle the advanced stuff. That is, if you’re interested. For many people, it’s just not their cup of tea.

  7. al-faqir says:

    The fact that you are at 0 or rather, the fact that the present has arrived means that the past can not be infinite – if it were the case then it would not be logically possible to arrive at the present or 0 as you put it.

  8. loveProphet says:

    Walaikum us Salam,
    Faqir: Exactly!

    Ibn Mazar: True. The MIT site is a good resource for notes.
    So what books do you recommend?
    At times the philosophers who are anti-God will at times when teaching or writing about logic and other parts of philosophy bring in their bias and try to shape the readers views. Thats what i’ve noticed at times and i don’t like it.
    But it does depend on the book anyways.
    For me, i just hope now to steer away from philosophy(and i’ve tried to keep away but i keep getting pulled into it lol). It dulls my brain and hurts it. But at the same time i am forced to deal with nutcases trying to use it against my beliefs and thus i end up going back into it again.
    Tasawwuf is the way for certain knowledge.

  9. Ibn Mazhar says:

    as salam `alaykum

    For starters, try “Logic” by Greg Restall. It lacks any “agenda-pushing” and is in clear lucid style. Very, very good.

    “Five Plays” of Plato (and I forgot who translated the plays) is a good intro to the classical metaphysics of the Greeks. It doesn’t have anything “disturbing” in it, at all.

    Plato’s “Republic” is also good, because it doesn’t go into too much detail into the actual metaphysics of his political philosophy, but just touches on the various themes of his thought.

    “The Great Philosophers” is an excellent collection of essays that gives insight into the various opinions of both the classics and the moderns. Reading this work will make you realize that philosophy is much more than an eternal wraggling about the question of the existence of God, though it is a central theme.

    “Introduction to classical Islamic Philosophy” is another one, but I don’t recommend this until you’ve read the above books. This book is a lot deeper than the others, and has the potential of messing up your mind, slightly. Though I must say that the author is extremely faithful to the actual arguments and doesn’t misrepresent them, unlike others. And he does comment that al-Ghazzali did a thorough job of defeating the Falaysuf, and also says that Ibn Rushd failed in his attempt to overturn al-Ghazzali’s arguments. If one can understand the issues, presented in this book, it might actually turn out to be delightful read for them. Personally though, I found it boring, perhaps because much of the stuff I read in the book I already knew, and a lot of it didn’t concern me directly at all.

    Another good book, that perhaps gives a more historical account of the various religious philosophies etc. is Karen Armstrong’s “A History of God.” It is not a book on philosophy per se, but gives a good sense of what people believed and what opinions they adhered to. Though sometimes, it can misrepresent certain concepts and ideas and hence reduce the overall value of her work.

    A final comment, however (though unrelated to the books). For those that think that “Islamic Falaysuf” is the be all and end all of all wisdom, think again. Most of the theories of these so-called Falaysuf were based on the ancient pagan ideas of emanation. The ancient pagans talked about emanation in symbolic forms, with gods and goddesses, and demi-gods and demi-godesses. What the Greeks merely did was to turn these symbols into abstract concepts. What the Falaysuf, then in turn did, was try to justify these abstractions via the Quran. In other words, the Falaysuf were justifying through the Quran, nothing but pure shirk, which is an anti-thesis of the Quran.

    This isn’t a simple ra-ra against the Falaysuf. Read about them and find out for yourself.

    wallahu ta’ala ‘alam

  10. Ibn Mazhar says:

    A bit of general advice:

    The first key to logic is clarity.

    And clarity comes from being able to express oneself precisely.

    And that ability comes from being able to define properly what you mean.

    In other words, one must master language before one can turn to logic.

    Also, though logic can be universal, it will take on different forms in different languages. Since many people are used to using more colloquial forms of English, not to mention the bastardized form called “l33t sp33k,” i.e. “elite speak” or “Internet rubbish”, logic will neccessarily not happen because the terms cannot be define properly.

  11. Yahya A. says:

    I believe the Sheikh’s arguments is also known as the “Kalam Cosmological Argument” for the existence of God. Perhaps r-z might be interested in reading more about this at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/billramey/kalam.htm.

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