Imām al-Bayhaqī on Evidence for the Existence of the Creator
The following piece was translated and edited by Shaykh Zameelur Rahman. It has been presented here with his permission:
Below we present a translation from Imām al-Bayhaqī’s celebrated work on Sunnī ‘aqīdah, al-I‘tiqād wa l-Hidāyah ilā Sabīl al-Rashād. In this passage, al-Bayhaqī (may Allāh have mercy on him) discusses the evidential basis on which a Muslim premises his faith. He discusses two basic types of thought processes (nazar) that lead one to believe in Allāh:
- First, deliberating on the created order, the heavens, the earth and the wonders of one’s own creation, and deducing from that the presence of a Powerful, Intelligent, Conscious, Wise and All-Knowing Creator and Fashioner.
- And second, reasoning from the miracles produced at the hands of the prophets – peace be upon them – and deducing thereby their honesty and integrity in everything they relate about the unseen realm, including the existence of the Creator and His eternal attributes.
Imām al-Bayhaqī (384 – 458 H) writes:
Chapter on Mentioning Some of what is Adduced as Proof for the Origination of the Universe and that its Originator and its Disposer is a Single Beginningless God with no Partner and no Likeness
[Allāh’s Signs in Creation]
Allāh (Exalted and Glorious is He) said:
Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh [al-Hākim] al-Hāfiz reported to us: Abu l-‘Abbās Muhammad ibn Ya‘qūb [ibn al-Asamm] narrated to us: Ahmad ibn al-Fadl al-Sā’igh narrated to us: Ādam ibn Abī Iyās narrated to us: Abū Ja‘far al-Rāzī narrated to us: Saī‘d ibn Masrūq narrated to us from Abu l-Duhā [regarding the verse], “And your God is One God,” he said: “When this verse was revealed, the idolaters became surprised and said: ‘Verily Muhammad is saying that your God is One God! Let him bring proof if he is from the truthful.’ So Allāh (Great and Glorious is He) sent down: ‘Verily, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day’ to His saying, ‘are signs for people who have sense.’ He is saying: Indeed in these signs are signs for people of intellect. (2:163-4).”
Thus, Allāh (Great and Glorious is He) mentioned the creation of the heavens with what is in them of the obedient sun, moon and stars; and He mentioned the creation of the earth with what is in it of seas, rivers, mountains and mines; and He mentioned the alternation of the night and day and each of them taking from the other; and He mentioned the ship which runs in the sea with that which is of use to men; and He mentioned what He sent down from the sky of rain in which is life for the lands, and by means of it and by means of what Allāh has put in the night and day of the alternation of heat and coolness, the sustenance of the slaves, beasts and animals is accomplished; and He mentioned what He dispersed in the earth of all kinds of beasts with varying shapes and bodies, and different tongues and colours; and He mentioned the ordinance of the winds and the clouds subservient between the heaven and the earth and what is in them for the welfare of animals, and what is in all of this of clear signs for those who possess reason.
[The Command to Deliberate on the Signs of Creation]
Moreover, He gave the order in another verse to deliberate over them. Thus, He said to His Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace): “Say: Behold what is in the heavens and the earth!” (10:101) Meaning, and Allāh knows best, from the clear signs and illuminating evidences. This is because when you observe the form of this universe with your vision, and you consider it with your mind, you find it like a well-constructed house, in which is prepared all that the one residing in it needs in terms of tools and infrastructure. Thus, the sky is raised like a roof, the earth is spread out like carpets, the stars are arranged like lamps, the precious stones are kept like ornaments, and varieties of vegetation are made ready for foodstuff, clothing and needs, and various animals are subjugated for riding and are used for the benefit [of man]. Man is like the one granted sovereignty of the house, and entrusted with what is in it. In this is a clear sign that the universe was created with design, planning and organisation, and it has a Wise Maker with complete power and utmost wisdom. This is from what I read from the book of Abū Sulaymān al-Khattābī (ca. 313 – 388 H) may Allāh have mercy on him.
Moreover, indeed Allāh (Exalted is He) encouraged them towards contemplating over the creation of the heavens and the earth and other than them from His creation in another verse. Thus, He said: “Have they not considered the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and what things Allah has created, and that it may be that their own term draws near? In what discourse after this will they believe?” (7:185) Meaning by “dominion”: signs. He is saying: Do they not look therein with the look of deliberation and contemplation, that they may draw evidence from its being a locus of originated things and changes of their temporality, and that something originated cannot do without a Maker that manufactures it such that what is possible for originated things is not possible for Him, just as Ibrāhīm al-Khalīl (upon him peace) drew evidence from the like of that, so he disconnected from all of them [i.e. originated things], to a Lord Who is their Creator and their Originator. Thus, he said: “I have turned my face toward Him Who created the heavens and the earth, upright, and I am not of the idolaters.” (6:79)
Abū Zakariyyā ibn Abī Ishāq informed us: Abu l-Hasan Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Abdūs reported to us: ‘Uthmān ibn Sa‘īd al-Dārimī narrated to us: ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sālih narrated to us from Mu‘āwiyah ibn Sālih from ‘Alī ibn Abī Talhah from Ibn ‘Abbās regarding His (Great and Glorious is He) saying: “Thus did We show Ibrāhīm the kingdom of the heavens and the earth” (6:75): “Meaning thereby, the sun, the moon and the stars. When he saw a star he said, ‘This is my Lord,’ until it disappeared. When it disappeared, he said: ‘I do not like those that set.’ And when he saw the moon rising, he exclaimed: ‘This is my Lord,’ until it disappeared. When it disappeared he said: ‘Unless my Lord guide me, I surely shall become one of the folk who are astray.’ When he saw the sun rising, he cried: ‘This is my Lord! This is greater!’ Until it disappeared. When it disappeared, he said: ‘O my people! Verily, I am free from all that you associate [with Him]. Verily, I have turned my face toward Him Who created the heavens and the earth, upright, and I am not of the idolaters.’”
And He encouraged them towards deliberating over their own selves, and thinking about them. Thus, he said: “And in your own selves, do you not see?” (51:21) Meaning, because of what is in them of a sign towards the remnants of handiwork found within man, of two hands with which he strikes, two feet with which he walks, an eye with which he sees, an ear with which he hears, a tongue with which he speaks, teeth with which he crushes food which grow for him when he becomes free of breastfeeding and is in need of solids, a stomach prepared to digest food, and a liver to which the purest of it travels, and blood vessels and passages through which they penetrate to the extremities, and intestines to which the impurities of food descend and emerge from the lower part of the body. Evidence is drawn from them of of a Wise, Knowing and Powerful Maker.
Abū ‘Alī al-Husayn ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Alī al-Rūdhbārī reported to us: Ismā‘īl ibn Muhammad al-Saffār reported to us: ‘Abbās ibn Muhammad narrated to us: ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn Mūsā narrated to us: Sufyān narrated to us from Ibn Jurayj from Muhamamd ibn al-Murtafi‘ from ‘Abd Allāh ibn al-Zubayr [regarding the verse], “And in your own selves, do you not see?” He said: “The passageway of stool and urine.”
Yahyā ibn Ibrāhīm reported to us: Muhammad ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Ubayd Allāh al-Adīb narrated to me: Mahmūd ibn Muhammad narrated to us: ‘Abd Allāh ibn al-Haytham narrated to us: Al-Asma‘ī narrated to us, he said: I heard Ibn al-Simāk say to a man: “Glory to the One Who created you, and He made you see with fat, hear with bone and speak with flesh!”
Moreover, we see conflicting entities, from the nature of which are mutual repulsion, opposition and corruption, brought together in the body of man and the bodies of all animals, which are heat and coolness, wetness and dryness. Thus, we say: A gatherer collected them and subjugated them to come together, and erected them with His grace. Were it not for that, they would have repelled each other and brought corruption to each other. If it was possible that conflicting entities come together and remain without a gatherer collecting them, it would be possible for water and fire to come together and remain by themselves without a gatherer collecting them or an erector erecting them [together], and this is impossible and inconceivable. Thus, it is established that their coming together is only by means of a gatherer that subjugating them to come together and join, and that is Allāh, the One, the Overpowering.
It was related from al-Shāfi‘ī (may Allāh have mercy on him) that he argued with something similar to this concept when al-Marīsī asked him about the evidences of tawhīd in the gathering of al-Rashīd, and he also argued using the verse which we cited to you at the start of the chapter, and with the differences in sounds.
And indeed Allāh (Exalted is He) has explained in His Mighty Book the progression of our persons from state to state and their alteration, to draw evidence thereby of their Creator and their Changer. Thus, He said: “What has happened to you that you do not appreciate the Majesty of Allah, while He has created you in different phases?” (71:13-14) and He said: “We have created man from an extract of clay. Then We made him a drop in a firm resting place. Then We turned the sperm-drop into a clot, then We turned the clot into a lump, then We turned the lump into bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh. Thereafter We developed it into another creature. So, glorious is Allah, the Best of the creators. Then, after all this, you are to die.” (23:12-15)
Thus, when man contemplates over his own self, he finds it is designed, and disposed to various states. He was a small drop, then a clot, then a lump, then flesh and bone. It is known that he did not move himself from a state of deficiency to a state of perfection, because he is not able to create for himself in the superior state – which is the state of his mature intellect and complete strength – a limb from the limbs, and he cannot add an appendage to his appendages, so that proves to him that he in his deficient state and the period of his weakness is more incapable of doing that. He finds himself a child, then a young man, then a man, and he did not move himself from the state of youth and strength to the state of old age and weakness, nor did he choose it for himself, and nor is it in his capacity to make the state of youth permanent or go back to the strength of youth. It is known thereby that it is not he that did these actions by himself, and that He has a Maker that made him and a mover that moved him from state to state, and were it not for that, his states would not change without a mover and planner.
[Rational Deduction of Allāh’s Attributes and His Oneness]
Moreover, it is known that a well-designed brilliant creation does not come about, nor is command and prohibition found, from one that has no life, nor knowledge, nor power, nor will, nor hearing, nor seeing, nor speech. Thus, it is proven thereby that its Fashioner is living, knowing, powerful, willing, hearing, seeing and speaking. Further, it is known that the manufactured item is not in need of more than one Fashioner, and one would have dominated the other if there were other gods with Him, and what would penetrate the creation of corruption had there been gods with Him. Hence, proof is derived from that of His being One God with no partner, as He (Glorious is He) said: “Allāh has not taken a son to Himself, nor was there any god with Him. Had there been so, every god would have taken away what he created, and each one of them would have been aggressive against the other. Pure is Allah from what they describe. He is the Knower of the hidden and the manifest. So, He is far higher than their ascribing of partners to Him. ” (23:91-2) and He said: “Had there been gods beside Allah, in the heavens and the earth, both of them would have fallen in disorder. So pure is Allah, the Lord of the Throne, from what they describe. ” (21:22)
[Allāh’s Dissimilarity to Creation]
Moreover, it is known that the Creator of creation does not resemble anything of the creation, because if He resembled any originated thing in any way, He would resemble it in origination from that aspect, and it is impossible for the beginningless to be temporal, or beginningless from one angle and temporal from another; and because it is impossible for a Doer to do the like of Himself, like an abuser is not abuse although he carried out abuse and a liar will not be a lie when he carried out a lie; and because it is impossible that two things being the same, one of them performs its counterpart, because one of two equals is not more likely than the other to have performed its counterpart, and when it is so, neither of them has a distinction over the other by which it is entitled to be the originator of it since that is the law of two equal entities in that which they are equal. When it is so, it is impossible for the Maker (Glorious is He) to be similar to things. Thus, He is as He described Himself: “Naught is as His likeness; and He is the Hearer, the Seer.” (42:11) and He said: “Say: He is Allah, the One, Allah, the Independent. He begets not nor was He begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him.” (112:1-4)
Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Hāfiz: Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn Ya‘qūb al-Hāfiz and Abū Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Sālih ibn Hāni’ said: al-Husayn ibn al-Fadl narrated to us: Muhammad ibn Sābiq narrated to us: Abū Jafar al-Rāzī narrated to us from al-Rabī ibn Anas from Abu l-‘Āliyah from Ubayy ibn Ka‘b that the idolaters said: “O Muhammad! Tell us the lineage of your Lord.” Thus, Allāh (Blessed and Exalted is He) said: “Say: He is Allah, the One, Allah, the Independent!” (16:60). [Ubayy said:] “Because nothing is born except it will die, and nothing dies except it will be inherited, and indeed Allāh (Glorious and Exalted is He) will not die nor will He be inherited”. “And there is none comparable unto Him”: “He has no likeness or equal, ‘Naught is as His likeness’”
Abū Zakariyyā Yahyā ibn Ibrāhīm reported to us: Abu l-Hasan al-Tarā‘ifī reported to us: ‘Uthmān ibn Sa‘īd narrated to us: ‘Abd Allāh ibn Sālih narrated to us from Mu‘āwiyah ibn Sālih from ‘Alī ibn Abī Talhah from Ibn ‘Abbas about His (Great and Glorious is He) saying: “Allāh’s is the highest similitude” (16:65), he said: “Nothing is as His likeness,” and about His saying, “Do you know of one that can be named along with Him?” (19:65), he said: “Do you know of an equal or likeness of the Lord?”
[Drawing Evidence from the Prophetic Miracles]
Some of our elders – may Allāh have mercy on us and them – adopted, in affirming the Maker and the origination of the universe, the path of drawing evidence from the premises of propethood and the miracles of messengership, because their evidences are derived from sensory perception for those who observed them, and via overflowing transmission for those absent from them. Thus, when prophethood is established, it becomes a basis for the necessity of accepting what the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) called towards. The faith of most of those who responded to the messengers (the blessings of Allāh be upon them all) was in this fashion.
Abu l-Hasan ‘Alī ibn Muhammad ibn ‘Alī al-Muqri (may Allāh have mercy on him) reported to us: Al-Hasan ibn Muhammad ibn Ishāq reported to us: Yūsuf ibn Ya‘qūb narrated to us: Nasr ibn ‘Alī narrated to us: Wahb ibn Jarīr narrated to us: My father narrated to us from Muhammad ibn Ishāq: Al-Zuhrī narrated to me from Abū Bakr ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn al-Hārith ibn Hishām and from ‘Ubayd Allāh ibn ‘Abd Allāh ibn ‘Utbah ibn Mas‘ūd and from ‘Urwah ibn al-Zubayr – and the backbone of the hadīth is from Abū Bakr ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmān – from Umm Salamah the wife of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), she said:
“When the companions of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) were tested in Makkah, he advised them to go to the land of the Ethiopians.”
He mentioned the hadīth in its length until he said:
“So Ja‘far (may Allāh be pleased with him) spoke to him, meaning al-Najāshī, saying:
“‘We were on their religion’ – meaning, on the religion of the inhabitants of Makkah, ‘until Allāh (Great and Glorious is He) sent amongst us a messenger whose lineage, integrity and chastity we recognised. He called us to worship Allāh alone, not associating anything with Him, and we disassociate [ourselves] from what our people and others worshipped besides Him. He commanded us towards good, and he forbade us from evil, and he ordered us to pray, fast, give charity and maintain family ties, and all that is recognised as good character. He recited unto us a revelation that came to him from Allāh (Great and Glorious is He), nothing besides which resembles it, so we believed him and we accepted him, and we knew that what he came with is the truth from Allāh (Great and Glorious is He). Upon that, we parted from our people and they persecuted us.
“Al-Najāshī said: ‘Do you have with you something that was revealed to him that you may recite unto me?’ Ja‘far said: ‘Yes.’ So he recited Kāf Hā Yā ‘Ayn Sād (16:1), and when he [continued] reciting it, Najāshī wept, until he wetted his beard, and his priests wept until they wetted their scrolls. Al-Najāshī said: ‘Verily this speech and the speech with which Mūsā (upon him peace) came emerged from one niche.’”
Hence, in the presence of Najāshī and his companions, these [Sahābah] drew evidence from the miraculous nature of the Qur’ān for the integrity of the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) in what he claimed of messengership. They sufficed with that and believed in him, and in what he brought from Allāh. Amongst what he brought was affirmation of the Maker, and the origination of the universe.
Abū ‘Abd Allāh al-Hāfiz reported to us: Abu l-‘Abbās Muhammad ibn Ya‘qūb narrated to us: Muhammad ibn Ishāq al-Sāghānī narrated to us: Abu l-Nadr narrated to us: Sulaymān ibn al-Mughīrah narrated to us from Thābit from Anas, he said: “We were prohibited to ask the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) about anything, so it would delight us when a man came to him from the desert folk and asked him while we listened. A man from them came to him and said: ‘O Muhammad! Your messenger came to us and he claimed that you claim that Allāh sent you?’ He said: ‘You spoke the truth.’ He said: ‘Who then created the sky?’ He said: ‘Allāh.’ He said: ‘Who created the earth?’ He said: ‘Allāh.’ He said: ‘Who erected these mountains?’ He said: ‘Allāh.’ He said: ‘Who put in them these benefits?’ He said: ‘Allāh.’ He said: ‘Then [I swear] by the One Who created the sky and the earth, erected the mountains and put in them these benefits, did Allāh send you?’ He said: ‘Yes!’ He said: ‘Your messenger asserted that five prayers are binding on us in our day and our night.’ He said: ‘He spoke the truth.’ He said: ‘Then [I swear] by the One Who sent you, did Allāh order you this?’ He said: ‘Yes’ He said: ‘And your messenger asserted that charity is binding on us in our wealth.’ He said: ‘He spoke the truth.’ He said: ‘Then [I swear] by the One Who sent you, did Allāh order you this?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘And your messenger asserted that fasting a month of our year is binding on us.’ He said: ‘He spoke the truth.’ He said: ‘Then [I swear] by the One Who sent you, did Allāh order you this?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘And your messenger asserted that pilgrimage of the House is binding on us for the one who can make his way to it.’ He said: ‘He spoke the truth.’ He said: ‘Then [I swear] by the One Who sent you, did Allāh order you this?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ He said: ‘[I swear] by the One Who sent you with the truth! I will not add to these, nor will I deduct from them.’ When he went away, he said: ‘If he has spoken the truth, he will surely enter Jannah.’”
This questioner had heard about the miracles of the Messenger of Allāh (Allāh bless him and grant him peace), for they were abundant in his time, and perhaps he also heard what he would recite from the Qur’ān, so he restricted [himself] in the affirmation of the Creator and knowing His creation to his questions and his answering him. Some who did not come across his miracles demanded him to show him from his signs that which would prove to him his integrity, and when he showed it to him and made him acquainted with it, he believed him, and accepted what he brought from Allāh as true.
Muhammad ibn ibn ‘Abd Allāh al-Hāfiz reported to us: Abū Bakr ibn Ishāq narrated to us: ‘Alī ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz reported to us. And Abū Nasr ‘Umar ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz ibn ‘Umar ibn Qatādah reported to us: Abu ‘Alī Hāmid ibn Muhammad al-Rafā’ narrated to us: ‘Alī ibn ‘Abd al-‘Azīz reported to us: Muhammad ibn Sa‘īd al-Asbahānī narrated to us: Sharīk reported to us from Simāk from Abū Zabyān from Ibn ‘Abbās, he said:
“A Bedouin came to the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) and he said: ‘How can I know that you are the Messenger of Allāh?’ He said: ‘What would your opinion be if I were to invite this branch from this palm tree, would you bear witness that I am the messenger of Allāh?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ So he called the branch and the branch began to come down from the palm tree until it fell to the earth and then it started to jump until it came to the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace.). Then he said to it, ‘Go back!’ And it went back until it returned to its position.’ Then he said: ‘I bear testimony that you are the messenger of Allāh,’ and he believed.” Al-A‘mash followed him [i.e. Simāk] up from Abū Zabyān, and Abū Hayyān narrated it from ‘Atā’ from Ibn ‘Umar from the Prophet (Allāh bless him and grant him peace) with like meaning.
Al-I‘tiqād wa l-Hidāyah ilā Sabīl al-Rashād, Dār al-Fadīlah, pp. 32-43