A Reply to Some Rational Criticism of Belief in Prophethood – Imam Al-Ghazali


I have had no experience of what you have mentioned [regarding prophethood]: how, then, can I know that it exists and is verifiable, even though I admit its possibility?


You do not limit yourself to believing what you have experienced.  On the contrary, you have listened to the reports of experienced men and have unquestioningly accepted their statements.  Listen, therefore, to the utterances of the prophets: for they have indeed experienced and seen what is true in all that revelation has brought us.  Follow in their path, and you will perceive some of that by direct vision.

Even if you have had no such experience, your reason peremptorily judges it necessary to believe and follow the experienced.  Let us suppose the case of a man of mature mind who has never experienced sickness, and then he falls sick.  He has a sympathetic father skilled in medicine, whose claim to be versed in medicine the sick man has been hearing ever since he reached the age of reason.  His father compounds a remedy for him and says: ‘This is good for your sickness and it will heal you of your malady.’  What, then, does the sick man’s reason require, if the remedy be bitter and foul-tasting? That he should take it? Or that he should disbelieve and say: ‘I do not understand this medicine’s suitability for obtaining a cure, since I have had no experience of it’? Undoubtedly you would regard him as stupid if he acted thus.

So, too men of insight regard you as stupid in your hesitation to believe. If you then say: ‘How can I know the compassion of the Prophet–God’s blessing and peace be upon him!–and his knowledge of this spiritual medicine?’  I would say: ‘And how did you know the compassion of your father, seeing that it is not something perceptible to the senses? Rather, through the indications of his various attitudes and the evidences of his actions in his daily comings and goings you came to know it with a necessary and unquestionable knowledge.’

Anyone who reflects on the sayings of the Apostle–God’s blessing and peace be upon him!–and on the reports that have come down about his concern for guiding men rightly and his subtlety and delicacy in drawing people by the various forms of gentleness and kindness to the improvement of their morals and the patching up of discord and, in general, to whatever is best for their religious and temporal affairs, obtains a necessary knowledge of the fact that the compassion of the Apostle for his Community was greater than a father’s compassion for his son.

Moreover, when one considers the marvelous deeds manifested at his hands, and the wonders of the unseen reported in the Qur’an and the traditions, and what he mentioned about the distant future–which in the event turned out just as he had said–he knows with necessary knowledge that the Apostle had reached the stage which is beyond reason and that the eye had been opened for him to which are unveiled the unseen and the special properties and things which reason does not perceive…So try it yourself and meditate on the Qur’an and study the traditions–then you will know that by seeing with your own eyes.

Source: Deliverance from Error (al-Munqidh min al-Dalal) by Al-Ghazali (translated by R.J. Mccarthy, S.J.), pp. 77-79.  Please note that the title given is of my own and not included in the actual work.

8 Rational Arguments for the Existence of God

The Contingency Argument

The contingency argument, also known as the argument from contingency, is a philosophical and theological argument for the existence of God. It is based on the concept of contingency, which refers to things that could either exist or not exist and are dependent on some other factor for their existence. The argument aims to show that there must be a necessary and non-contingent being (God) that explains the existence of contingent beings.

The argument can be summarized as follows:

  1. Everything in the universe is contingent; it could either exist or not exist.
  2. If everything were contingent and had the potential not to exist, then at some point, nothing would have existed.
  3. If at some point nothing existed, there would be nothing to bring contingent beings into existence.
  4. Therefore, there must be a necessary and non-contingent Being that has always existed and is the cause of the existence of contingent beings.

Proponents of the contingency argument argue that the chain of contingent beings cannot extend infinitely into the past, as it would still require an explanation for its existence. They posit that there must be a necessary Being that exists independently and does not rely on any other cause for its existence. It is seen as a way to address the question of why anything exists at all rather than nothing.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument

The Kalam cosmological argument is a philosophical and theological argument for the existence of God that is based on the concept of causality and the nature of time. It is often associated with medieval Islamic theology and philosophy but has been adopted and adapted by thinkers from various religious traditions.

The argument can be summarized in the following way:

  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause for its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe must have a cause for its existence.

The argument is named after the Arabic term “kalam,” which refers to philosophical discussions and debates. It was prominently developed by Islamic theologians and philosophers, including figures like Al-Kindi, Al-Ghazali, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes), and later gained attention in Western philosophy through the works of medieval Jewish and Christian scholars.

Proponents of the Kalam cosmological argument argue that if the universe had a beginning (as supported by Big Bang cosmology), it requires a cause that exists outside of the universe itself. This cause is often referred to as the “First Cause” or “Uncaused Cause,” which is considered to be God. The argument asserts that this First Cause must be eternal, unchanging, and powerful enough to bring the universe into existence.

The Argument from Consciousness

The argument from consciousness is a philosophical argument for the existence of God based on the nature of human consciousness and subjective experience. It posits that the existence of consciousness, self-awareness, and subjective thoughts cannot be adequately explained by materialistic or naturalistic explanations alone and points towards the existence of a Higher, Conscious Being.

The argument can be summarized as follows:

  1. Consciousness exists and is a fundamental aspect of human experience.
  2. Consciousness cannot be reduced to or explained solely by physical processes, since physical processes alone do not account for the subjective aspect of experience.
  3. The existence of consciousness implies the existence of a conscious source that transcends the physical world.
  4. This conscious source is God, who is considered the ultimate Conscious Being.

Proponents of the argument from consciousness argue that the subjective nature of consciousness – the “what it’s like” to experience something – cannot be fully explained by the physical interactions of particles in the brain. They claim that consciousness points to a higher reality beyond the material world, which they associate with the Divine.

The Moral Argument

The moral argument for God’s existence is based on the idea that the existence of moral values and duties in the world suggests the existence of a moral lawgiver or source. It posits that objective moral values and duties cannot be adequately explained by naturalistic or atheistic explanations alone and are better accounted for by the existence of a Transcendent, Moral Being.

The argument can be summarized as follows:

  1. If objective moral values and duties exist, then there must be a foundation for them.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist in the world.
  3. Therefore, there must be a foundation for these moral values and duties.

The argument suggests that without a transcendent and moral source, it becomes difficult to explain why certain actions are considered objectively right or wrong, rather than merely being a result of personal or societal preferences. The existence of a Moral Lawgiver provides a coherent explanation for the existence of moral principles that are universal and binding.

Proponents contend that the argument provides a plausible explanation for the existence of objective moral values and duties that goes beyond purely naturalistic explanations.

The Argument from Biological Information

The argument for God’s existence from biological information is based on the idea that living organisms contain complex and specific information that is crucial for their functioning. This information is encoded in the DNA molecules within cells and is responsible for guiding the development, growth, and functioning of all living things.

Think of DNA as a set of instructions, like a recipe book for building and maintaining a living organism. These instructions are incredibly precise and detailed, like a recipe that tells you exactly how to make a cake. The argument suggests that such intricate and precise information cannot simply arise by chance or through natural processes.

Proponents of this argument believe that the existence of this intricate biological information points to an intelligent source that designed and encoded these instructions. Just as a well-written book requires an author, the complex information in DNA suggests a Knowledgeable Creator.

In essence, the argument from biological information asserts that the presence of specific, complex information in living organisms provides evidence for the existence of a purposeful and Intelligent Creator.

The Argument from Biological Complexity

The argument for God’s existence from biological complexity is based on the incredible intricacy and complexity found in living organisms. When we look at living things, like plants, animals, and even ourselves, we see that they are made up of countless tiny parts that work together in amazing ways.

Imagine looking at a super intricate puzzle. Every piece fits perfectly with the others to create a beautiful picture. In a similar way, living things are like intricate puzzles with all their different parts working together perfectly. This complexity is so mind-boggling that some people believe it’s hard to explain just by chance or natural processes.

The argument suggests that such complexity in living things is a sign of an Intelligent Creator who designed and put all these pieces together. Just like a puzzle needs someone to assemble it, some people think that living organisms also need a creator to explain their intricate design.

So, the argument from biological complexity says that the incredible design and complexity of living things point to the existence of a thoughtful and creative Creator.

The Fine-Tuning Argument

The fine-tuning argument is another way that people talk about God’s existence. It’s based on the idea that the universe is set up in a very precise and delicate way that allows life to exist. Imagine if you had to adjust a bunch of knobs on a machine just right for it to work perfectly. In a similar way, scientists have discovered that if certain things about our universe, like the force of gravity or the way atoms work, were even a little bit different, life wouldn’t be possible.

This argument says that the chances of all these factors being just right for life to exist are incredibly small, like winning a super-duper hard lottery. They believe that this precise setup of the universe couldn’t have happened by chance alone. They think it’s more likely that there was a Powerful and Intelligent creator who set everything up perfectly, like a Master Designer.

So, the fine-tuning argument says that the way the universe is finely tuned for life suggests that there’s a God who carefully designed it all.

The Ontological Argument

The ontological argument is a philosophical argument for the existence of God that is based on the concept of God’s nature and Existence itself. Unlike many other arguments that rely on empirical evidence or observations of the world, the ontological argument is a purely conceptual and logical argument.

The core of the ontological argument can be summarized as follows:

  1. God is defined as the greatest conceivable Being, a being that possesses all perfections.
  2. Existence is a perfection. It is better to exist in reality than merely as an idea.
  3. If God, as defined, does not exist, then a greater conceivable being can be imagined—one that exists in reality.
  4. However, by definition, God is the greatest conceivable being, and therefore, it is logically contradictory to think of a greater being that doesn’t exist.
  5. Therefore, God must exist in reality.

In essence, the argument seeks to establish that the very definition of God as the greatest conceivable Being necessitates His existence.