God's Existence: Reasoning of Aquinas and Al-Ghazali
Thomas Aquinas was a well-respected theologian, philosopher, and the most significant figure of the 13th century. Aquinas argues that God's existence may be demonstrated through natural reason. He discovered five ways to prove the existence of God. Aquinas's arguments are based on observations of the natural world and are designed to offer reasonable proof for God's existence. On the other side, we have a famous Islamic philosopher, theologian, and mystic, Al-Ghazali (1058-1111), who significantly contributed to the development of Islamic philosophy and theology. Al-Ghazali also put forth his arguments for the existence of God.
Thomas Aquinas Arguments:
- First evidence or argument from motion: Since everything in the universe is in motion, there must be something that first caused all the things to move without being moved. However, this chain of causality cannot go on indefinitely. There must be the first "unmoved mover" who sets everything in motion, and that "unmoved mover" is God.
Suppose: A series of dominoes are lined up in a row. They are all motionless until you hit the first domino; the first domino falls, followed by the second, and so on until the final domino falls. But, if there were an infinite number of dominoes, there would have been no first domino to initiate the chain reaction. Hence, according to Aquinas, there must be a first “unmoved mover” that puts everything into action
- Second evidence or argument from efficient cause: Aquinas argues that everything in the world has a cause, and this cause cannot go on indefinitely. There must be an initial cause in the chain of causes that comprise this world. Aquinas argues that the first cause is God.
Suppose: There is a series of billiard balls lined up on a pool table. When one ball hits the other balls, it causes them to move. However, if there were infinite balls, no first ball would ever strike the second ball. Hence, there must be the first cause that sets other things in motion.
- The argument from necessary being/contingency: As all existing things depend on other things for their survival and existence, there must be at least one entity that does not rely on other things and is thus a necessary entity. Aquinas names this independent entity God.
Suppose: You may ask someone who created him, and he would respond his parents, then you can ask the same question about who created his parents, and he would respond the same about his parents, and it would go on to our first ancestors. Then, again, you can ask him who created our ancestors, and he will reply, God. Some laymen might argue who created then God. Let's understand it.
Suppose: God A is created by God B, then who created God B? Ok, if we say God B was created by God C, then again, the question is, who created God C?... This will lead us to an infinite number of Gods which is a fallacy. So, the reason guides there must be one God who is an absolute and independent being, and all the other things in the world depend on Him.
- Argument from gradation: There are differing degrees of perfection in everything. Thus, there must exist a transcendent perfection to which all imperfect beings strive but inevitably fail to attain. According to Aquinas, God is absolute perfection.
Suppose: In a singing competition, singers' voices are compared with other singers' voices. Even great singers lack some degree of perfection or quality of their voices. It denotes that there must be a transcendent being who has the perfect and greatest standard degrees of voice. And not only voice but perfect in every trait that we humans strive for.
- The argument from the intelligent designer: Each item has a certain arrangement or sequence that leads to its objective. Since the order of the cosmos cannot be the result of random chance, design, and purpose must be involved. The creator must have possessed supernatural insight. The orderliness and purpose in the universe imply that there is an intelligent designer who is God.
Suppose: The design, purpose, and functionality of things like a watch, car, building, or computer imply the existence of their creator. Similarly, the natural world's order, purpose, and functionality imply the existence of an intelligent designer, God.
Al Ghazali arguments:
- The Kalam Cosmological argument:
- Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
- The universe began to exist.
- Therefore, the universe has a cause.
These first two premises are irrefutable since everything that exists has a cause. The universe began to exist; therefore, the universe has a cause. Al Ghazali argued that this cause is "God," who Himself is uncaused and eternal.
- The Teleological Argument: Al-Ghazali thought that the complicated, complex, and ordered nature of the cosmos, including the rules of physics and the qualities of matter and energy, demonstrated the presence of an intelligent and mighty creator, namely God. He used the example of the human eye, which is intricately designed to perceive light and different colours. Such a complex eye could not rise out of chance; there must be a skilled designer who is God.
- Argument from Contingency: Al-Ghazali argued that everything in the universe is contingent or dependent on something else. Therefore, there must be a necessary being that is independent and exists independently. And all other things are dependent on that necessary being. Al-Ghazali argued that this necessary being is "God".
- Argument from morality: Al-Ghazali felt that moral ideals, such as justice and kindness, are objective and universal and must have a basis outside humans. He maintained that the presence of God, the source of all moral values, is the only plausible explanation for this. He maintained that in the absence of God, morality lacks a firm basis and hence becomes subjective and arbitrary.
- Spiritual argument: Al Ghazali's spiritual case for God's existence is founded on his own experiences. He maintains that God's existence may be known by direct experience of God's presence through spiritual activities such as prayer, meditation, reflection, and self-examination. He believed this experience was the most trustworthy way to ascertain God's existence. All of this needs submission to God's will and spiritual purity.
What was Imam Ghazali's proof that God exists? (2021, September 28). Islamiqate Allah (God),Scholar: Abu Hamid Al-ghazali,Proof of God. https://www.islamiqate.com/4473/what-was-imam-ghazalis-proof-that-god-exists#
- (2019, May 10). The existence of God. Islamic Pulse. https://islamicpulse.tv/the-existence-of-god/
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2020, June 18). Existence of God | Definition, Arguments, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/existence-of-God
About the author
Aijaz Ahmad Mir is a research scholar from Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad, Telangana. His areas of interest are Islam, Politics, and Philosophy.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily mirror Islamonweb’s editorial stance.