Omnipotence of Allah

 

QUESTION:

I was asked once about the ability of Allah, and I could not find a
convincing answer for the question in the books I know and have looked at.
His question was , since Allah is able to do everything, can He create some
thing big that He can not carry?. And if He can, how is He able to do
everything?. And if He cannot, how can He not carry this thing while He is
able to do everything?

I have also heard in one Islamic lecture, that its impossible for Allah to
make two opposite different things like day and night occur at the same
time, I could not understand this point clearly. Can you guide me to some
books that answer these kind of questions?.

One last thing, is there any problems thinking about these kind of questions
, or it is something over the human ability of thinking?.


ANSWER:

My dear fellow Muslim, the question raised in your mail is a very common
question among some people, even in university class rooms. I have come
across many different believers who have challenged by their atheist
philosophy instructors in universities with very similar questions. These
questions are basically designed to show contradictions in the religious
conception of God. What they are doing is constructing a fictional God and
then criticising it. Their God has no reality- it exists only in their mind.

To show you what extent is the Islamic understanding of God is
sophisticated; suffice it to mention that a scholar such as Allameh
Tabatabai(rh) used to say
that "one has to spend forty years studying to get some understanding of
LA ILLAHA ILLA- ALLAH (there is no god but Allah)".

Having said this, let me try to respond to your question in general terms,
hoping you find it helpful.

First of all you should know that nothing has come or will come into being
from absolute nothingness. If you hear that we say God brought us into
being from "'udum" (nothingness), this is a relative nothingness. In other
words, we did not exist in our present form previously, but we used to
have other forms of beings. For that purpose nothing will ever disappear
totally from the scene of Being.

Secondly, if we go back in the chain of being as much as possible, we will
end up in our original state of being in God's knowledge. These states of
being are called " a'ian-e- sabete" by some scholars. They are internal
beings and have some sorts of existence in God, but to have external
existence, they have to be externalized by God. Creation is nothing but
externalizations of these "Sowar 'Ilmi" (internal forms).

Thirdly, These "Sowar" (Forms) have their own conditions, requirements, or
limitations. God's creation is "J'al-e" (establishment of ?) of these
forms in the external world. In other words, God does not make X, for
example, X or Y, God puts (to use a simple term) X outside in the external
world. This observation has a very important implication for your
question. That is, God's power is over things not over nothingness. In the
Holy Quran we read that Allah "'ala kul-i shi-n qadir" (has power over
every thing).

Our ideas of logical contradictions (such as your example of DAY and NIGHT
co-existing at the same time in the same place and with other logical
unities) are only ideas in our mind, they are not things in themselves. Yes
as ideas they are things and they exists in our minds but as externalities
they are nothing. Abosulte Nothingness is not subject of God power, not
because God is not powerful but because there is nothing to exercise power
over.
Power must have an object. If one asks why God does not create those object
in the first place, we should remind that person what creation is.

For that matter, read my first point again till you fully understand it.

As I noted, we must first know what our conceptions of God and creation are
and then attempt to see if there is a contradiction involved. I know this is
not an easy task but it is worth the effort if you are interested. I also
know that my respons does not answer all you questions, it may even give
rise to new questions for you, but I like you to know that I was also
bothered once with similar questions, it takes time to reach to a better
understanding of our belief system as Muslims, but today I have come to the
conclusion that these questions are not any challenge to our belief to God.

On the contrary, we find out the richness of our teaching, especially in
Shia' when we are confronted with these types of questions from non-believers.