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In the Name of God بسم الله

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Salam,

Imam Ali says in the first sermon of Nahj al-Balagha that God doesn't have any attributes. Imam Reza reiterates this in Sheikh Saduq's al-Tawhid. Shia Islamic scholars have interpreted this as meaning that all the traditional attributes of God (e.g. omniscience, omnipotence, etc.) are identical with God and are not distinct or "accidental properties" of God.

But this creates the problem of mercy and freedom. If mercy is an essential property of God, and not an "accidental property," then that means God must be merciful (or else He wouldn't be God anymore). This seems to contradict with the Shia Islamic traditions which say that God "chose" mercy for Himself (i.e. He could have not been merciful, but He chose to be merciful). This also makes the whole concept of thanking God meaningless, because he had to be merciful to us all the time because reality couldn't have been otherwise (he's a Necessary Being, couldn't have not existed, and couldn't have not been merciful). Why thank God for being merciful to us when things simply could not have been otherwise? It was not possible for God to have not been merciful to us, so why should we thank him for being merciful to us?

Unless there is a rational way to solve this problem, this problem demonstrates that the whole concept of a merciful, free, and "worthy of being grateful to" God is incoherent. And hence the Islamic concept of God is logically incoherent and should not be believed in.

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It always seems to me that the problem with these discussions is that there is a fundamental assumption being made, and that is that human beings must be capable of rationally comprehending God, who transcends time and space and is infinitely more intelligent than we are. I have yet to see an explanation for why this assumption should be made. We don't seem to have a problem with understanding that animals or children can't necessarily understand the actions or motivations of human beings, and at least they live within time and space like we do. So why do we assume that we can understand God? Is this not a prime example of the arrogance of humankind?

The way Allah describes Himself in the Qur'an is as a means of us having some sort of description that we can relate to, not a set of propositions for people to play logic games with.

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Allah's (swt) so blessed that we cannot even fathom how blessed he is.  The ultimate freedom he has is such that he chooses between perfect decisions and responds to prayer to the level he wishes.  He decides in which way to test us, among various ways, and allows us to pray to him, to try to convince him of other ways he can choose.  Ultimately,  he doesn't force himself to do the best decision because that would close the doors of prayer and actions and trial of creation would cease.  But he is free to decide how to respond to our prayer, to what level, for who's sake, etc. People try to make God too much like a computer. Look at Suratal Yaseen and God expressing his grief for the sake of his servants that they mocked the Messengers. 

Allah [swt] not only freely chooses, but also, within us, develops a relationship as he pleases and forms our soul's image from beginning of our birth till now as he pleases.  Of course Allah [swt] doesn't decide on whim, he decides on wisdom, but also on creativity he has, and also love to create diversity and see and do different results in his creation. 

Although Allah [swt] doesn't change, his pleasure/emotion particular to a servant does change.

Allah [swt] is blessed to the extent we cannot begin to fathom. Everything we value is with him. Freedom of will we value and praise, so God is perfectly and absolutely free. 

When you pray to him, you should NOT pray to him as if he is computer, compelled to decide and do something based on how you act, like some value input and algorithm output comes about automatically.

 You should rather pray to him knowing he is free to do as he pleases. The more you plead and in the way plead, try to plead to him like he has full freedom to decide on how to respond.

 

 

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On 10/8/2016 at 4:57 PM, Haydar Husayn said:

It always seems to me that the problem with these discussions is that there is a fundamental assumption being made, and that is that human beings must be capable of rationally comprehending God, who transcends time and space and is infinitely more intelligent than we are. I have yet to see an explanation for why this assumption should be made. We don't seem to have a problem with understanding that animals or children can't necessarily understand the actions or motivations of human beings, and at least they live within time and space like we do. So why do we assume that we can understand God? Is this not a prime example of the arrogance of humankind?

The way Allah describes Himself in the Qur'an is as a means of us having some sort of description that we can relate to, not a set of propositions for people to play logic games with.

All I'm saying is that there's a clear contradiction in the concept of God. And as human beings who should not believe anything contradictory or illogical, we should not believe in any contradictory beliefs, and thus should not believe in God.

Your analogy to animals is false because that does not involve believing in any contradictions. Believing in God does.

And also, if the rational understanding of God is not necessary for belief in Him (as you seem to imply), then why did Avicenna and Mulla Sadra go to great lengths to try to reason and demonstrate how God should be understood (e.g. pure, non-composite, Necessary Being, manifested in different degrees and intensities, etc.)? I'm sure they could've took the easy way out and just said "Hey guys, God exists, that's it. I know the concept of God seems very contradictory, but hey, there's nothing we can do about that because the details are probably too weird for our little minds to grasp, so stop being heretical and just sit there and believe like a good boy." I don't know about you, but I highly doubt that the infallible Imams would cop out like that if someone came and wanted to have a philosophical discussion with them. Considering that the Imams were highly intellectual people, I doubt that they would tell their followers to believe in any seemingly contradictory belief without clarifying it or demonstrating how that belief is not really contradictory.

 

On 10/8/2016 at 5:09 PM, .InshAllah. said:

A number of things could be said, but I will say one (or two).  You are making the assumption that we should only thank someone for doing us good, if their nature allowed them to do otherwise.  For the sake of argument, I will grant this assumption, although it is dubious.  However, you are also making the assumption that God is in this position of not being able to do otherwise: in view of His essential mercy, He had no choice but to create us.  This is clearly false, as God could have created other beings instead, and still been essentially merciful.  Therefore He didnt have to create us,  and so things could have been otherwise, and your argument falls apart.

I like how you approached this. However, I don't think that it's an "assumption" to think we should only thank someone for doing us good if their nature allowed them to do otherwise. It's not an assumption; I take it as self-evident. I do not see why I should honestly thank a helpful person if that person was forced to help me (i.e. he didn't have any other option, he had to help me).

As for your second statement, well, so you're saying that we should thank God because He could've made other beings instead and could've been equally merciful to them as He is to us. But then why did He pick us over them, if there was no rationally compelling reason to pick us over them (since either way would've been equal and one choice is not better than the other)?

Edited by Three-One-Three

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On 10/8/2016 at 6:53 PM, LinkZelda said:

Allah's (swt) so blessed that we cannot even fathom how blessed he is.  The ultimate freedom he has is such that he chooses between perfect decisions and responds to prayer to the level he wishes.  He decides in which way to test us, among various ways, and allows us to pray to him, to try to convince him of other ways he can choose.  Ultimately,  he doesn't force himself to do the best decision because that would close the doors of prayer and actions and trial of creation would cease.  But he is free to decide how to respond to our prayer, to what level, for who's sake, etc. People try to make God too much like a computer. Look at Suratal Yaseen and God expressing his grief for the sake of his servants that they mocked the Messengers. 

Allah [swt] not only freely chooses, but also, within us, develops a relationship as he pleases and forms our soul's image from beginning of our birth till now as he pleases.  Of course Allah [swt] doesn't decide on whim, he decides on wisdom, but also on creativity he has, and also love to create diversity and see and do different results in his creation. 

Although Allah [swt] doesn't change, his pleasure/emotion particular to a servant does change.

Allah [swt] is blessed to the extent we cannot begin to fathom. Everything we value is with him. Freedom of will we value and praise, so God is perfectly and absolutely free. 

When you pray to him, you should NOT pray to him as if he is computer, compelled to decide and do something based on how you act, like some value input and algorithm output comes about automatically.

 You should rather pray to him knowing he is free to do as he pleases. The more you plead and in the way plead, try to plead to him like he has full freedom to decide on how to respond.

 

 

So you're saying God was free to choose whether to show us mercy or to not show us mercy. But if that's the case, then that means being "merciful" is not an essential attribute of God (as He could be either merciful or not merciful), and that is contradictory to the Shia Islamic belief that God has no non-essential attributes.

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1 hour ago, Three-One-Three said:

All I'm saying is that there's a clear contradiction in the concept of God. And as human beings who should not believe anything contradictory or illogical, we should not believe in any contradictory beliefs, and thus should not believe in God.

Your analogy to animals is false because that does not involve believing in any contradictions. Believing in God does.

You don't think it's possible for a being of lesser intelligence to view something as a contradiction, when in fact it isn't a contradiction at all? The point is that there is no acknowledgement in this debate that by our nature there is no reason to suppose that we should be able to to understand God, and you have given no evidence for why that should be so.

 

1 hour ago, Three-One-Three said:

And also, if the rational understanding of God is not necessary for belief in Him (as you seem to imply), then why did Avicenna and Mulla Sadra go to great lengths to try to reason and demonstrate how God should be understood (e.g. pure, non-composite, Necessary Being, manifested in different degrees and intensities, etc.)? I'm sure they could've took the easy way out and just said "Hey guys, God exists, that's it. I know the concept of God seems very contradictory, but hey, there's nothing we can do about that because the details are probably too weird for our little minds to grasp, so stop being heretical and just sit there and believe like a good boy."

There are people on both sides who like to debate this stuff, so that's why they do it. And maybe they see it as important to try to give these rational explanations, but I'm of a different opinion.

I'm not claiming that the concept of God is contradictory, but at the same time I realise that rationally speaking it's obvious that human beings are not going to be able to understand something that is completely outside of their frames of reference. It would be like, except much worse, a being stuck in 2 dimensions trying to understand one in 3 dimensions. Or, to give another example, some people might think that the statement that two parallel lines intersect each other is contradictory, but in fact this happens in some non-Euclidean geometries. However, in our immediate frame of reference, two parallel lines can't intersect each other. We can't reason or imagine anything outside time and space, so how are we supposed to comprehend actions that might only make sense from that perspective?

Or, to give another example from mathematics, if you look at a representation of a Klein bottle, it will appear that it self-intersects, but in fact mathematically it doesn't, and only appears that way because of the way we have to represent it in order to visualise it. 

Einstein and others thought that Quantum Mechanics led to logical contradictions, but the model proved to be accurate. If this type of stuff can happen in Physics or mathematics, where we can actually do calculations and make measurements, you don't think it's possible that we might just be missing something when it comes to understanding God?

Furthermore, it is ridiculous to have a debate about whether the attributes of God are contradictory or not, when we don't even have any clear definitions of these attributes to work with. What does 'merciful' or 'just' mean exactly? All you can say is what you think 'merciful' or 'just' means to you, or even for arguments sake to mankind, and then apply that standard to God. This is clearly a logical error.

 

1 hour ago, Three-One-Three said:

I don't know about you, but I highly doubt that the infallible Imams would cop out like that if someone came and wanted to have a philosophical discussion with them. Considering that the Imams were highly intellectual people, I doubt that they would tell their followers to believe in any seemingly contradictory belief without clarifying it or demonstrating how that belief is not really contradictory.

Actually, I'm pretty sure this is what they did.

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The Quran in verse 3:7 speaks an important thing. We should follow what is clear from the book as opposed to concentrating on what is unclear.

In fact this is true regarding all things in life. If something is unclear, you don't give up what you know for what you are uncertain of.

Now that said, no one argues believing in God should be based on blindness. 

There are some proofs of God that I've come to know that have added to certainty of his existence.

Among them is that I am certain I have an objective value. I am also certain I don't decide what that objective value is. I am also certain that unlike physical objects, it is clear that perception is required for my objective value. That perception must see me as I truly am and is the accurate judgement to who I am. The most best judgement possible is the most accurate judgement possible. The Ultimate being by definition has the greatest possible judgement. It's obvious our personality value is thus perceived through this being. Without this perception, how would we inherit our actions in an objective sense? We would not. I know my actions form a part of me, and my value is perpetual.

This argument you can find in Quran. I'm not sure if Mulla Sadra argument is in Quran, but you can see argument that Allah refutes people doubt of him by the fact he witnesses all things or encompasses all things or sees all things.

As morals, praise, etc, are all defined by the sight of this being, it follows he knows truly what it means to be good, praiseworthy, and is the ultimate standard of that.

Now you can stick to what you know for certain, or you can give up what you can know for certain for what you are confused about.

 

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9 hours ago, Three-One-Three said:

I like how you approached this. However, I don't think that it's an "assumption" to think we should only thank someone for doing us good if their nature allowed them to do otherwise. It's not an assumption; I take it as self-evident. I do not see why I should honestly thank a helpful person if that person was forced to help me (i.e. he didn't have any other option, he had to help me).

 

Quote

 

There is a difference between a being who is essentially merciful, and helps you because they want to, and a being that doesnt want to help you but is forced to because someone is holding a gun to their head.  In the first case, the being isnt forced to help you, if that being is God.  What is it that is forcing Him?  You cant say 'His nature', because He is His nature, so saying that His nature forces Him is equivalent to saying that God forces God which doesnt make sense.

However, I would say that even in the latter case (involving the pointed gun), a morally virtuous agent would thank this second being for their help, even though they know it was forced.  This is because it seems self evident (to me) that one should thank those who do good to you (unless their intention was to do you harm).

 

Quote

As for your second statement, well, so you're saying that we should thank God because He could've made other beings instead and could've been equally merciful to them as He is to us. But then why did He pick us over them, if there was no rationally compelling reason to pick us over them (since either way would've been equal and one choice is not better than the other)

Take a look at this:  http://alexanderpruss.com/papers/DivineCreativeFreedom.pdf

He argues for the existence of incommensurable goods, and from this argues that one can rationally act on any of these.  Basically there are lots of options (including not creating anything), good for different reasons, and these reasons cant be compared, and its rational to act on any of them provided they are good.  But read the paper

Edited by .InshAllah.

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On 10/9/2016 at 1:57 AM, Haydar Husayn said:

It always seems to me that the problem with these discussions is that there is a fundamental assumption being made, and that is that human beings must be capable of rationally comprehending God, who transcends time and space and is infinitely more intelligent than we are. I have yet to see an explanation for why this assumption should be made. We don't seem to have a problem with understanding that animals or children can't necessarily understand the actions or motivations of human beings, and at least they live within time and space like we do. So why do we assume that we can understand God? Is this not a prime example of the arrogance of humankind?

The way Allah describes Himself in the Qur'an is as a means of us having some sort of description that we can relate to, not a set of propositions for people to play logic games with.

I never really thought about it that way. Beautifully put. Thank you. 

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