Agnostic Contentions: Randomness and Infinity

An agnostic said: How do you see the randomness in Quantum Physics then, why does a atom decaying for no reason not equate to the universe being random as well?

Answer: The randomness spoken of in Quantum Physics does not contravene the fact that there is order, such as animals, plants, and the solar system, and developments over time. It also does not contravene the fact that the so called physical laws, even if they are incomplete, give the world around us a high degree of predictability. Events that happen for no apparent “reason,” could be because we do not know them. Even if we assumed they did not, however, this is not problematic in the Islamic Creed, as I will show you shortly.

In any case, let it be clear from the outset that the issue of cause is a metaphysical question, more than a physical question, because the assertion of cause is based on observed correlation, not that the cause itself can be observed. In short, if there is correlation, and there is an explanation for it, then it is called “cause.” So for example, if one finds that objects attract each other always, then one says that if a glass falls from the table, it is “caused” by gravity. Gravity itself, however, has no verifiable existence in itself, it is assumed to be there, because that bloody glass always falls when it is moved off the edge of the table. This is just an example, I am not saying that scientists all believe that gravity always holds true.

On the other hand, if the pattern of something is totally unpredictable, then people start saying it is “random.” This is what is meant when they say that the quark’s pattern (the element spoken of in Quantum Physics, which is supposedly the subpart of the electron, which is a subpart of the atom) is random. They mean that it’s pattern has no physical explanation; that there is no observed event or condition that somehow makes the quark’s pattern predictable.

Maybe physics, with its tools and methodologies, can prove the non-existence of cause, maybe it cannot, it is not important. The reason is that it can be proved not to exist by proving the existence of a creator, by whom nothing happens except by His Will. This proof is based merely on the existence of events, which is anything that has a beginning. It does not matter if they have apparent order or not, or whether they are contingent or not. I will get back to that when I address your next question.

An agnostic said: My point being that if the universe had no beginning, what purpose then for a creator? Since in an infinite model the universe sustains itself.

Answer: The universe absolutely must have a beginning, so this is not an issue. I will show you why:

Premise a – We exist here today.

Premise b – Before we existed there were a series of events, one after another, leading up to our existence today. (The passing of such a series of events is what we call time, and measure in minutes, days, weeks and years.)

If one accepts premise a, then one must also accept that the series of events in premise b must have a beginning. This must be, because if someone claims that an infinite succession of events had to be concluded before his existence, then he is saying that that infinite succession of events came to an end, which is a contradiction in terms. It is like if someone said “this car will only get to its destination after its wheels have spun infinitely many times,” and then claimed that the car arrived at its destination. It is clear, however, that the car could never have gotten to its destination if an infinite number of spins was the condition for its arrival.

Those who claim that the world has no beginning are in fact saying that it is a prerequisite for tomorrow to arrive that an infinite number of events first take place. This is impossible, because infinity cannot end. Clearly then, the number of events that precedes our existence must have a limit.

In addition, since it is necessarily true that this series of events has a beginning, then it must also be that before this beginning there were no series of events (defined as anything with a beginning). If someone claimed otherwise, then they would end up with the same contradiction (saying that infinity came to an end). Accordingly, the claim that the world was created by random events is irrational.

Rather, there must be a Creator that gave the series of events existence – since it was nonexistent before it began. Moreover, since it is impossible for there to be any events before the existence of this series, then it must also be that the Creator is not attributed with events, i.e. with any attribute or action that has a beginning. This again means that the Creator does not resemble His creation, since all created attributes must have a beginning. Actually, having a beginning and being a creation is the same thing. This is because to create is to bring into existence, and everything with a beginning must have been brought into existence.

We know from the above, by mathematical precision and logical necessity, that the Creator exists and does not resemble His creation. From the fact that the world has a beginning, we have proven that it must have a creator. The name of this creator is Allah in Arabic. If someone asks, “Who created Allah?” we say Allah does not have a creator, and does not need one as He has no beginning. If someone then asks, “how can you accept that Allah has no beginning, while you do not accept that the world has no beginning?” The answer is that we have shown that the world has a beginning based on the fact that it changes (changes are events). We do not believe, however, that Allah changes. Rather, we believe He is One, and doesn’t change and has no beginning.

From all this we can also safely conclude that Allah has a will to specify events, and unlimited power to create them. We can also conclude that He must have knowledge, because specification without knowledge is impossible. It is now easy to see also, that no event can take place without Him willing it. This again means that there is no such thing as real cause, in the sense of one event truly influencing or shaping a subsequent event. There is only correlation, because if an event happens, it’s form can only be completely subjugated to Allah’s Will and Power. All of this is according to the teachings of Islam, as is shown by the following statements in the Quran:

“هُوَ الأَوَّلُ”

“He is Al-Awwal.” (Al-Hadiid, 03).”

If translated literally, it would be “He is the First,” i.e. He existed before everything else, and He was not preceded by non-existence or the existence of something else. It is a beginning-less and necessary existence, and is not affected by anything, since it is not preceded by anything.

“إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ”,

Meaning: “Verily Allah is able to create anything.” (Al-Baqarah, 20)

“وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ وَهُوَ بِكُلِّ شَيْءٍ عَلِيمٌ”

Meaning: “Allah created everything, and He knows everything.” (Al-‘Anˆaam, 101)

“وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَقَدَّرَهُ تَقْدِيرًا”

Meaning: “And He created everything and predestined it.” (Al-Furqaan, 2)

Based on the above, we can say that if the pattern of quarks truly have no observable correlating event that makes it predictable, and is thus labeled “random,” it is either because Allah has not willed for it to have a correlating event, or because He has not willed for it to be discovered.

Authored by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

15 Responses to Agnostic Contentions: Randomness and Infinity

  1. loveProphet says:

    Isn’t there a sign of Allah that the “randomness” that we see in quantum level leads to remarkable order in the observable universe?

    Also isn’t it a quality of infinity that nothing can be added to it? If so, then it cannot apply to real time as time is obviously being added to,
    Consider the absurdity of infinite time that the Ash’aris mentioned:
    Infinite time entails an infinite number of events. How many events were there until 1560 AD? Infinitely many. How many events are there until now(2008)? Infinitely many.
    Thus leading to absurdity.

  2. Exactly, but again, we are talking about real events, not imaginary or potential. People who are confused about these proofs need to understand this.

  3. […] Agnostic Contentions: Randomness and Infinity […]

  4. Ibn Abu Talib says:

    How do you respond to those who say that if an actual infinity cannot exist how can Allah exist since he is an actual infinity?

  5. First of all, we cannot call Allah “an infinity,” as there is no narrated permission to do so. Rather we say that Aļļaah is not limited, as He does not have a need, or a creator or a beginning or an end. Second, what is impossible is for a series of infinite changes to end. Allah does not change, so this does not apply to Him.

  6. Mohd Ibn says:

    Assalamualaikum Sheikh,

    Can we call Allah as “beyond”, Beyondness, the Beyond, etc. because we tend to say Allah is beyond this, beyond that? I used to believe that Allah is not beyond us yet no not-beyond.

    • We cannot use such phrases as names of Allaah, no. I have no idea what “not beyond us yet no not-beyond” is supposed to mean.

      • Mohd Ibn says:

        Jazakallah. What I mean for “not beyond us” is we can still recognize and know Allah while “yet not not-beyond” is we can’t fully know what Allah is.

      • Saying it plainly like you did now works much better.

      • Mohd Ibn says:

        Oh I forgot to ask this, why we can’t call Allah as beyond whereas most of us will say Allah is beyond this, beyond that. (I don’t mean physical beyondness btw)

      • We can’t just make up names for the Creator. To say “His reality is beyond our understanding” is one thing – it is needed for clarification. Calling Him “The Beyond” is another – there is no necessity and it does not serve to clarify, in fact it is misleading to say that without further comment. The basic rule is that one cannot translate the names of Allaah unless there is a teaching necessity.

      • Salam Alaykum,

        Maybe this has to do with using the terms “Transcendent” and “Immanent” to describe Allah. In one place I read that the Ash’ari scholars argued that Allah was neither transcendent nor immanent (ghayru muttasilin bi khalqihi wa la munfasilun ‘anh).

        I did not fully comprehend what this meant, since there was no explanation for this, save to say that it was not dissimilar to the Eastern Orthodox position (and this was even more confusing, since Eastern Orthodox Christianity believes in theosis, saying that humans will be risen up to God’s level without them becoming God, in the way that a bar of metal is heated up in a fire and becomes red-hot without becoming the fire itself).

        Anyway, is there any tract from the classical scholars explaining this “neither transcendent nor immanent” phrase?

      • ghayru muttasilin bi khalqihi wa la munfasilun ‘anh means “neither connected, not detached”. Because He is not in a location. This is to reject huluul and tajsiim. It is similar to saying neither inside nor outside.

  7. Mohd Ibn says:

    Jazakallah, so we can safely conclude that Allah is not truly beyond us right? Because I can comprehend Allah somehow in the sense of negation and what Himself and prophet Muhammad said about Him.

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