The ways to attain knowledge of the Creator


There are four ways to attain knowledge of the Creator, which is the highest point human beings can reach:

THE FIRST is the way of the scholarly Sufis, based on the purification of the soul, refinement of the heart, and inner illumination and observation.

THE SECOND is the way of the theologians. It is based on two arguments. The first is that the existence of the universe is not necessary, because the universe’s existence is not by itself and the universe itself has nothing of its own which can necessitate its existence; it is equally possible that it would or would not come into existence. It is contained in time and space, or is accidental or contingent. Consequently there must be One Who willed it and brought it into existence. The second argument is that the universe is not timeless or without beginning: it has a starting point, and this requires the existence of One unbounded by time Who brought it into existence.

Both of these ways are derived from the Qur’an, but human thought has given them their own forms and elaborated on them accordingly.

THE THIRD WAY belongs to the people of wisdom or the believing philosophers. This way is open to controversy and the assault of whims or suspicion.

THE FOURTH WAY is the way of the Qur’an, which is the most direct and clearest of ways, one which shows the peerless eloquence of the Qur’an and is possible for all to follow. There are four means to climb to this highest station: inspiration; study; the correction of wrong information, prejudices, wrong perspectives, and sins or sinful attitudes such as oppression and arrogance; and a correct viewpoint.

The way of the Qur’an is principally based on two arguments. The first is the argument of the perfect order of the universe and mutual assistance, beneficence and purposefulness. All of the Qur’anic verses that mention the purposes and benefits of things are indicative of this argument. This argument is based on the fact that the perfect universal order takes into account beneficence and purposefulness. Whatever exists serves many benefits and purposes and has many instances of wisdom. As a corollary of this argument, any notion of chance or coincidence in the creation of beings is categorically rejected. Perfection or faultlessness is impossible without a determining will. By showing the fruits and purposes that hang from the links of the chains of creatures, and the instances of wisdom, uses and benefits concealed in the knots of the changes and transformations of conditions and states in existence, all the sciences that study the universe and witness its perfect order bear decisive witness to the Maker’s purpose and wisdom. For example:

The sciences of botany and zoology bear witness to the fact that millions of plant and animal species came into existence at a point in time and each ends in a father or mother-individual. What we call laws, whose existence we deduce from the working of the universe and who we name, and therefore which are nominal, and blind, unconscious natural causes, are absolutely devoid of any capacity – knowledge, will, and power – to originate, form, or develop these amazing chains of the beings and the individuals – those Divine machines – that form them. Therefore, each individual and each species demonstrates and announces that they have been produced by the Hand of an All-Wise Maker’s Power. The Qur’an says: Look yet again: can you see any rifts? (67: 3)

The Qur’an expounds the argument of beneficence and purposefulness in the most perfect fashion. In addition to ordering reflection on the universe, in the conclusive parts of the verses that mention the purposes and benefits of things, the Qur’an commands and warns with such statements as Think and take lessons! Do they not know? Do they not reason? Do they not remember and take heed?, calling us to use our reason and consult our conscience. Thus, it establishes the argument of beneficence and purposefulness.

The second Qur’anic argument for God Almighty’s Existence and Oneness is that of creation or origination. Its summary is as follows:

Every species, and each member of that species, has been given an existence that accords with the function or purpose assigned to it and the inherent capacity it possesses. In addition, no species is a link in a chain that stretches back to the eternity of the past so that it can also be the originator of the chain, for the existence of each species is contingent, not absolute. (There is a Will that makes a preference between the existence and non-existence of each thing and a Power that gives it existence. Existence is clearly not timeless, but is contained in time and space, and therefore has a beginning.) A truth or an established reality cannot become its opposite, nor can its nature change. Hybrid species – like mules – which are the offspring of two different species, cannot reproduce. They are exceptions and never mean the complete transformation of an established truth, which is impossible. What people call matter is not separate from or independent of a changeable  form or the motions and changes which occur within time. Therefore, matter also has a beginning and is time bound. Being accidental and time-bound, forces and forms cannot be the cause of the essential differentiation between species. Something accidental cannot be the original substance or essence. This means that all the links that form species and their distinguishing features originate from non-existence. The successive generation or reproduction in species is only among certain apparent, nominal conditions for their life and survival.

How strange a misguidance that those who cannot attribute to God His essential Attributes and manifestations, such as eternity and creativity, in their reason are able to ascribe them to lifeless, powerless, unconscious, and time-bound matter or atoms. How can the huge universe submit itself to the control and management of the motion of tiny atoms instead of the Hand of the Divine Eternal Power? How can origination and creation, which are particular to the Eternal Divine Power, be attributed to the poorest and most powerless causes, which have nothing to do with originating and creating?

In consequence, the Qur’an establishes this argument with its verses that mention creation and origination. The True Cause is only God. Other causes have no creative part in the existence or life of things. These causes are veils before the dignity and grandeur of the Divine Power, so that the Hand of Power will not be seen by a superficial reason as being related to mean acts and affairs.

Everything has two aspects or faces; one is corporeal, like the dark face of a mirror. Opposites, such as ugliness  and beauty, evil and good, small and large, occur in this face. A role has been assigned to causes in this face, as the manifestation of Divine Grandeur and the dignity of the Power require it to be so.

The other is the transparent, immaterial aspect or face, like the transparent face of a mirror. Everything is pure and beautiful in this face and causes have no part or effect at all. Divine Unity requires this to be so. It is for this reason that, as both faces of life, spirit – which is the light of life – and existence are pure, transparent and beautiful, causes have no part in either of their faces and they are directly created by the Hand of Divine Power.

Things such as gravity, motion, and force are in fact the names of God’s habitual acts in the universe. Provided they are not taken for real causes or forces that are responsible for the occurrences in the universe, they may be called laws.

(From Noqta [“The Point”])


Bediuzzaman Said Nursi