Q & A: Someone asked, “If God is perfect, then why are certain things, for example the eye, imperfect?”

Someone asked: On the point about the creator having no imperfections, how does that square with imperfections in the creation?  Our eyes are wired back to front, for example, and there are other numerous biological anomalies brought about via natural selection – you may be tempted to argue that these are imperfections by design to challenge our faith or somesuch, but that’s stretching pretty far. I mean where’s the challenge?  What divine test does the wiring of our eyes represent?

Answer: Eyes cannot be perfect. If they were wired as you would like, you could say why the wires? If not the wires, you could say why can’t I see smaller things? Why can’t I see further? The possibilities are not limited, but no matter what the specification is, it will still be imperfect, because an eye is something limited, no matter how powerful it is. Your request for perfection therefore, implies that the impossible is possible. It is like a request for a part that is larger than its whole. The question rather becomes: “Why that limit and not another?” and the answer is always, “It is as Allah had willed it. He willed that limit and not another.” This has no bearing on the assertion that Allah Himself is perfect, or on His existence. It might be a test, and it might not, but it certainly seems that you are challenged by it in terms of faith. When Muslims say that Allah is perfect they mean that He has no needs. This means He has no obligations to create someone’s eye with a particular specification, or to test someone or not test him. If you say that He must create different wiring then you are saying that He has needs, which contradicts perfection.

Author: Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

5 Responses to Q & A: Someone asked, “If God is perfect, then why are certain things, for example the eye, imperfect?”

  1. loveProphet says:

    Someone commented here:

    http://maniacmuslim.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=18372&pid=937977&st=0&#entry937977

    “Everything Allah makes has to be perfect because everything He creates is made exactly the way He wants them to be. Allah creates every single detail exactly the way He wants them to be.
    If a person has an extra finger on his right hand for example, it’s just something that looks different, unusual, or weird to us- but we shouldn’t think of it as being “imperfect”. Maybe there’s a good reason why Allah made him like that. “

  2. Of course things come to be as Aļļaah has willed them, but a creation is always limited. The limit is as Aļļaah has willed, and created things differ in their relative level of perfection or imperfection. If someone has a 6th finger it means that Aļļaah has willed for it to be so, but that is not a perfect hand with respect to the normal standard of having 5. Created perfection is different from absolute perfection. Only Aļļaah is attributed with absolute perfection, because He does not have needs. Created perfection, on the other hand, is according to some standard, it is something relative. For example, the highest level of human moral perfection is that of the prophets, everybody else is lesser than that. Likewise, some people are faster runner than other, better looking than others, etc.

  3. Arabic treasures says:

    Salam aleykum

    Jazakumu Allahu khayran for a good response. Another point might be added regarding the conception of perfection. When we ask if something is perfect it always relate to something else. A thing might be perfect in one environment and for a specific purpose, but not in another environment and for another purpose.

    Questioning the creation of man and claiming it’s not perfect reflects a specific view of humanity and of God. It’s like the questioner is claiming that God has an obligation to create man in a way that removes all kinds of suffering and shortcomings. If He doesn’t then He is not all powerfull.

    From an Islamic perspective man is perfect according to the purpose he was created and suffering and shortcomings are part of the Divine plan.

    • Salam,

      You have obviously thought this true, and I just want to add a couple of comments on what you said for the purpose of clarification for other readers.

      First, I want to stress this point (I am not saying you are contradicting this in what you said): Regarding perfection it is important to note that Allaah’s perfection is absolute, because His attributes are not like anything else. He cannot be compared to anything else because we cannot comprehend the reality of His attributes, since His attributes are not like ours, and because our minds are limited. What we know about Allaah, is either (1) in the sense of negation of imperfection, like in the sense that He is neither a body, nor a particle, or (2) in terms of meanings that pertain to Him, such as, “He is the one that has all rights to judge.” In fact the most apparent fact we know about Him is: “He is the Creator of the world,” and that therefore He precedes it. Yet we cannot know the reality of this precedence, because it is not one of time, and not one that can be captured by our imagination.

      Second, you are absolutely right that the questioner is assuming that God has obligations, which is of course a false assumption that contradicts the meaning of godhood. This is an issue that has been dealt with more in detail here and here.

      Third, I would not use the phrase “man is perfect.” I feel it can be misleading. Rather, I would say that every single man is as exactly as Allaah has willed for him to be, and does not differ from that at any moment. I think perhaps this is what you meant to say.

      Fourth, another phrase I feel uneasy about is “Divine plan”. To be more clear, I would say that God has predestined exactly how things will be, and no event ever differs from this. The word “plan”, to me, has a strong sense of temporality and uncertainty, which are meanings that cannot be ascribed to Allaah. Allaah knows everything, has predestined everything, and He is not in time.

      Finally, it may seem that I am quibbling about words, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to make some points that many may not be clear about. In belief issues clarity is very important since many people are unfamiliar with basic principles.

  4. 'Abd-Allah al-Mujaddidi al-Naqshbandi says:

    The word “plan” also refers to a reactionary approach that is based on responding and giving reactions to certain causes, … and well, … ‘planning’ for some “if-then” scenarios. It implies being dependent or constrained by some causes or external influences.

    Of course Allah is the Creator of all causes and all effects, and He is not constrained by anything. He does not need a reason to make a certain cause or effect appear. He does not “respond” to anything neither does He “prepare” for anything as He controls everything.

    Some people use the word “plan” based on the verse:

    وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ

    but in that verse it (literal translation ‘Allah is the Best One who plans’) refers to His Will being executed with certainty and it is a metaphor and a linguistic tool to state that the plans of the kuffaar will be subdued and destroyed, that any blessing they obtain in this life is istidraj that will destroy them and that Allah’s Will is to punish and destroy them.

    The classical exegetes good translation is that the verse means that: “Allah is The Best One Who Punishes those who make evil plots.”

    Of course the situation-specific meaning is referring to the plotting of the children of Israaiil to murder Prophet ‘Eisa, ‘ala nabiyyina wa ‘alaihis salam, and the entire event of how Allah replaced him with a man that looked like him, and how they were fooled into thinking they murdered Sayyidina ‘Eisa, and how he was raised unto the heaven, all in accordance to His Will.

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