Meaning vs Meaninglessness: How Islam Connects Us to Meaning

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The mathematical constants of our universe and their evidence that the universe is fine-tuned for life has been considered proof that the most reasonable explanation for the creation of the universe is not random events or necessity but design. And design means, essentially, God. Christians have taken this up and added further embellishments to support beliefs unrelated to the physics. The Quran however teaches that God “has no similitude”, the meaning of God defined as unlike anything or anyone else. This is the one fact that is revealed in the “fine-tuning” discovery. Truth-seekers would do well to consider that such a God would also communicate with the life God created: with divine revelation such as the Quran. 

Scientists are by and large disinclined to jump to the conclusion that the mathematical and scientific constants validate Christian doctrine, but rather try to find alternative explanations, such as the unsatisfying and fanciful multiverse theory, a theory which does not provide the most reasonable or “natural” (if “natural” is defined as being at least “somewhat normal” or “not entirely outrageous/ fanciful”) explanation of the fine-tuned universe issue. Or, finding that problematic for sound scientific reasons, look to see where the facts actually lead if one accepts them as true. The same method of using reason could also be relevant to finding the best understanding of the Designer of that universe. And that best understanding can be found in the Quran.  

One scientist describes on his blog how atheists, such as some of his family members, are determined to prove the universe is random and meaningless. The only other conclusion seen in historically Christian countries is the existence of the God they have come to erroneously think of as a dogmatic “hierarchical, paternal God in the sky”.

Yet if we put the literal interpretation of the bible aside and just consider that this “designer” is nothing like God in the way we have come to know God, rather as something far more unfathomable, mysterious and maybe even unknowable, then maybe letting in the idea of an intelligent designer is less intellectually abhorrent.

It is the Christian doctrine and its attendant absurdities, such as the notion of a human “son” allegedly being “part” of the Creator, that scientists find “intellectually abhorrent.” And indeed the Islamic understanding of Allah as presented in the Quran is not like the Christian concept familiar in Western countries, but being “unlike anything else whatsoever” by definition, certainly is “far more unfathomable…maybe even unknowable” in the sense that knowing means “wrapping one’s head around” something. Allah is beyond our comprehension, yet we can know Allah in the sense of affirmation or deciding to base one’s understanding of things on the presumption of God’s existence as one and totally unique. 

In the Sura entitled Devotion (Al-Ikhlass, sometimes translated “sincerity” but whose meaning is more intense than sincerity), we read these well-known words:

قُلْ هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ
Say: He, Allah, is One. (1)
اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ
Allah is He on Whom all depend. (2)
لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ
He begets not, nor is He begotten. (3)
وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُ كُفُوًا أَحَدٌ
And none is like Him. (4)

Aya #4 above is stronger in Arabic: kufwun excludes the possibility of other than …  ahad, the word for “one” that is a concept not simply a numeral. In other words, it excludes any connection of any kind, comparison, similarity, or cause-and-effect, with any other. It is a total exclusionary idea of One.

The word Al-Samad, translated correctly “the one on whom all depend” also has an emphatic element of being eternal in a penetrating, thorough way. 

These four ayat are the foundation of Islam: acknowledgement of Allah’s oneness (tawheed) goes deep in its overwhelming reality and power. Aya #3 distinguishes between Creator and creation. On the One hand, is Allah; on the other is everything else. The first commandment is essentially this deep acknowledgement of tawheed. We are commanded not to blur the border between Creator and creation, because this is the essence of faith and worship. In the Quran, Allah often addresses humans as ‘abaad which means “worshippers”, not “servants” as it is usually translated, which would be ‘abeed and is used far less frequently. 

The purpose of our very being as humans is to worship Allah. Voluntarily.  Of our own free will. And once we surrender our egos to the worship of Allah, which is reverence and mindfulness and compassion, our lives will begin to fulfill the depth of purpose and value and meaning. Indeed, the meaning of the Quran becomes more evident the deeper one’s faith. It was always there. But we need to open our minds and hearts to find it. 

Imagine the heavens and the earth and their fine-tuning. And now imagine this: Allah is “closer to you than your jugular vein.” And try wrapping your head around that. 

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