Islamic Metaphysics of the Future

Category: Featured, Nature & Science Topics: Metaphysics, Universe Views: 27473

Inshah Allah (Allah-So-Willing) - The Islamic Metaphysics of the Future

In the lives of devout Muslims, a day never passes by without them using the Arabic phrase, Insha-Allah (God So Willing), at the end of the conversation when they refer to future events. Without an understanding of the meaning of this Arabic phrase, God's relationship with His creatures, the concept of creation, and the role of free will cannot bring into human comprehension. It is also not possible to counter materialists with a rational internally consistent argument against their exclusion of God in the evolution of life and the universe. Materialist scientists argue that biological evolution is an "inherently mindless purposeless process.[1] They preach that impersonal laws rule the universe and atoms are at work in the operation of life.

Biologist Richard Dawkins, anti-God extremist, insists that contingency and natural selection, operating over a long period of time, account for evolution. Dawkins assumes that blind forces of physics and natural selection are sufficient to explain the origin and expansion of life. [2 & 3] He asserts that the unfolding of life is the result of selfish desires of genes to increase their opportunities for survival and reproduction. Similar fanaticism prevails among other practitioners and admirers of science, who argue that there is no reason to include God in the evolution of life.

Another extremist states, "...materialism is absolute [and] we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."[4]

Such fanaticism stems from an absolute faith in the law of causality, which most people acknowledge. A given cause always produces the same effect--gravity always pulls an apple down to the earth; spring season melts snow; drought brings destruction of crops. Chemical reactions in any organism, amoeba or human, are explainable by the same laws of physics and chemistry that govern the universe.

Based on causality, scientists maintain that the future is predetermined and can be predictable through accurate knowledge of past causes. The laws of nature, they argue, are invariant and scientific observation of the past is the product of those laws. Consequently, any natural event that departs from the anticipated effect of a uniform cause is classified as an "accident." However, scientific predictions, based on observation of matter and invariant laws of nature, are limited by their own earlier conclusions and experiences.

John F. Haught's novel and outstanding treatise, God After Darwin, helped me develop a better understanding of Islam and the concept of creation described in the Quran.[5] Since I view his mode of thought as much Islamic as his belief system, I shall apply his metaphysics to an Islamic context. Science peers into nature to gather data from atoms to stars, amoeba to man, fungus to maple tree or from any other phenomena of our universe. Science has separately cataloged the collected data using terminology such as paleontology, comparative anatomy, biogeography, embryology, molecular genetics and others such names. The materialist claim, that the unfolding of life as a "purposeless mindless process," is based upon inferences from catalogued extrapolations of past experiences. John F. Haught called materialistic metaphysics "metaphysics of the past."[6]

With unflinching and, on the surface contradictory faith that God created everything, many Muslims also believe that the past determines the future. In the Islamic universe, unlike that catalogued by materialist science, the past and the present are not the creators of the future and neither can humans or any other creatures because "...Allah is the creator of everything, ... (Quran 13:16)."[7]

Even creations that we boast are our own emanated from Allah. The Quran states, "And God created you and what you make (The Quran 37:96)."[8] Allah created everything--computers, airplanes, cars and even the atom. A few important questions Muslims might ask are: If Allah is the creator of what humans make, is He not also the creator of their good and bad deeds? Why should there be reward for the pious and retribution for the impious if Allah is the source of our actions? If Allah has sealed the hearts of disbelievers from receiving His guidance, (Quran 2:7) why does He hold them accountable for their actions on the Day of Judgment? We will answer those questions a little later.

The experienced past is irretrievable, the present is only a fleeting moment that we cannot get a hold of; on the other hand, we experience the continuous coming of the future. Future is not simply the birth of a moment.

Future means the yet to be born or created moment packed with contrasting or diametrically opposite possibilities. Each moment brings each of us hope or fear, success or failure, pain or pleasure, and routine or surprise events. Each moment presents itself to us as different kinds of information simultaneously. Islamic faith decrees that Allah is the source of all information. Therefore, Muslims pray, "...My Lord, augment me in knowledge (Quran 20:114)."[9] Its teachings regarding the coming of future events is grounded in the phrase, Insha Allah (God so willing) and the verse "And never say about anything 'Behold, I shall do this tomorrow,' without [adding] 'if God so wills.'...(The Quran 18:23)."[10] So, Muslims say Insha Allah after every statement pertaining to the future, even for simple tasks such as meeting a friend at 4 P.M. tomorrow. Muslims believe that the future is not simply born without cause, but that it will occur only if Allah creates it. Our planning and our desires may or may not be what Allah has is going to present us with in our future. Allah states: "and they contrived, and God contrived, but God is the greatest of contrivers (Quran3: 54)."[11]

Islamic theology tells us that all living creatures participate in the actualization of the possibilities contained within future moments into visible monuments of God. The present is the pivotal moment between past and future. Allah tests us by asking us to make moral choices out of possibilities-the good, bad, and neutral, the moral and the immoral-that are contained in each approaching moment. Each moment is different for each individual and the lessons of the past and present are tools that help one make the right choices. Allah revealed his words to the prophets and provided holy books to both humans and Jinn explaining what is right or wrong, moral or immoral, preferred or not preferred, and what is rewarding or punishable. Allah narrates the histories of the past in the Quran in order to help humans and Jinn use lessons from the history in conjunction with His revelations to make the right choices.

If a future moment arrives, lacking in novel possibilities, humans and other creatures cannot change their present condition, which then becomes stagnant and could remain so for an unlimited period of time. Even when Allah sends our way moments with novel possibilities, creatures will remain unchanged if they do not accept His revelation. Thus, living creatures have the freedom only to actualize possibilities contained as information in each moments of future arriving from God. To label the above belief, we shall borrow John F.Haught's title "metaphysics of the future" and modify it to read "the metaphysics of future of Islam."

In Islamic metaphysics of the future, the universe is always within Allah's providence. Allah is the creator of all things and the one who brings each moment with possibilities as information. Nothing comes into being without the information about it initially available. Scientists provide information to various sectors of society, such as presidents, heads of corporations, assembly workers and others, guiding them to the scientific basis for managing their vocations. Those who receive such information can then actualize it into cars, airplanes, nations etc. For instance, the ordinary assembly-line worker can choose the manufacturing plant in which he wishes to be employed. In the work place workers have no freedom to manufacture any products of their choice but to assemble a product using components coming through the conveyer belt of the factory.

The physical and spiritual universe is the manufacturing plant of Islam where creatures at large, and mankind in particular, are like assembly-line workers. The chain of flowing moments of the coming future are the conveyer belt, which delivers the raw materials (possibilities as information) necessary for the making of many products. However, in this factory there are components for many product lines or possibilities and the worker is free to select any of the components from conveyer belt (arriving future) and actualizing those possibilities into visible monuments of Allah's creation. If there is no flow of information from scientists, the assembly line worker is unable to produce any anything. Even the factory would not exist. Similarly, human or any other creatures cannot produce or act upon until the future moment arrives with possibilities as information from Allah.

Belief and disbelief in God also come as possibilities in the flow of moments from the future. If human beings choose and accept disbelief in God, their minds become unreceptive to divine revelations until they are willing to give up their disbelief. Therefore, individuals opt to receive reward or retribution in the hereafter universe (al-Akhirah) based upon their earthy choices. Allah, the Merciful and Benevolent, bestowed his creatures with free will. He does not interfere or force us into making choices and voluntarily limits His Absolute Power as stated in the Quranic verse: "And had your Lord willed, whoever in the earth would have believed altogether. Will you then coerce the people to become believers? (Quran 10:99)".[12]

Therefore, we are free to choose and actualize any one of the worldly possibilities available to us, such as atomic power, computer technology, etc., but our future is limited by what possibilities that God has in store for us.

Based upon the far-reaching meaning of the phrase, Insha Allah (God willing) and the concept of "metaphysics of future," the accidents or contingencies are novelties coming from Allah even though these novelties appear random for human mind fixed in the "metaphysics of the past" of the materialists. For example, God created for Hind d. Utba, one of the foremost enemies of Prophet , the possibility of joining the distinguished company of Prophet , as Hamzah did, or the decision to kill and mutilate Hamzah. Allah did not compel Hind to choose any one of the paths. Allah created good and bad choices in her arriving future and she decided to actualize the bad choice to kill and cannibalize.[13] The Quran supports the above when it states: "Surely God does not wrong anyone, they wrong themselves. (Quran 10:44)."[14] So, there is no conflict between the belief that Allah is the creator of the world and all the creatures and the belief that human beings and other creatures are endowed with free will within the bounds of possibilities that come through the flow of moments from the future. Such a construction of the universe and with free will distances God as a tyrant.

If we take a global picture of all earthly creatures, we witness a universe filled with a mixture of pain and suffering, as well as happiness and peace. Universe is like a musical play where actors (God's creatures), at their individual hierarchical ranks, freely choose their roles from possible scenarios presented to them by the choreographer (Allah). Chance and unpredictability are inevitable and in fact built into such an atmosphere. However, in real life, the pain and suffering, that we experience as a result of the free choices of all creatures for their selfish benefits, are God's way of testing, perfecting and preparing us for the eternal world of absolute happiness and peace. Sufi poet, Rumi, describes this universe as a battlefield where atom struggles with atom like faith against infidelity. He states in this struggle, some benefit and others suffer. Finally, the "metaphysics of future of Islam" blends chance, unpredictability, and creatures with free will altogether to form our universe within the context of the existence of a Most Compassionate, Most Just, Omnipotent God, Allah.

Dr. T. O. Shanavas is Vice President,  Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.


1 Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the meaning of life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995).1

2 Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker. New York: W.W. Norton, 1986.

3 Richard Dawkins River out of Eden (New York: Basic Books, 1995).]

4 From Richard Lewontin's review of Carl Sagan's book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Cradle in the Dark, in the New York Review of Books (January 9, 1997)]

5 John F.Haught, God After Darwin: Boulder: Westview Press, 1999).

6 Ibid

7 M.M. Khathib. The Bounteous Koran. London: Macmillan Press, 1984.

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid.

13 Guillanme.A, The Life of Muhammad. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955

14. Ali, Ahmed. Al-Quran. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.

  Category: Featured, Nature & Science
  Topics: Metaphysics, Universe
Views: 27473

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Older Comments:
This reminds us that anything which we do if we mention the name of
Allah In sha Allahu we will be successful.Don't be like those who
have forgotten Allah Allah will cause them to forget themselves.So
always we should remember Allah even if we forget and then we should
remember Him immediately as the Prophet used all the time remembered
Allah in all his 24 Hours of his life.

Assalamu 'alaikum, readers: Please be very cautious is reading or
beleieving what Dr. TO Shahnavas propagates. He is one of those,
who think that reading Qur'an and its tafseer in English or other
non-Arabic language has made them 'Islamic Pundits', just like
those Mushrik Pundits in India from where he hails. He is one of the
most ignorant about Islam and there are other equally illiterate (in
Islam) liberal cohorts on his in Perrysburg, OH, who are hard at
work to disfigure Islam and its truth. Sheikh-ul-Islam Ibn Tayymiah
has warned us: If you want to learn your, Deen go to the origin, not
the MDs who have made it their past-time hobby to mock and twist
Allah's book.

In fact, Dr. Shanavas cannot even read Qur'an in Arabic - just like
most in his inner circle. But since he thrashes Islam, using names
like Haught and Hawkins, the media pays attention to him, just like
Taslima Nasreen, Asra Nomani and self-touting lesbian friend Irshad

I'm dismayed that Islamic City chose to publish this garbage. May
Allah us all to the right path which is contained in ONLY two
sources: Qur'an and Sunnah.

A H FROM USA said:
I wish to respond to the question posed by a visitor on what is the hard evidence of Allah's existence. There is plenty. The biggest being the Quran (which is the most perfectly written book since man's history). Even non-believers are challenged and asked to find fault in it through scientific testing.
Indeed many innovations in science were already stipulated in the Quran: topics like embryology, space exploration, and dietary directives are being proved correct.
The point is that it is not a matter of unbelievers needing extra "proof" in order to change their mind sets. If they are mired in disbelief, as the article states, their minds will be unreceptive to any information or events that are enlightening.
It is not hard to view the miracles of Allah all around you. Nature, the birth of animals, the orderly workings of the world, the ever expanding universe that is held together by an unknown force labelled as "dark matter" by scientists who cannot understand it.
The way in which we all have a spiritual side to us and how a foetus acquires life in the mother's womb at the time of conception. After all, we are more then just a "mass of cells". To be in denial of that, well it is just closing your eyes.
There are also countless other examples of God's existence. Our ability as humans (of choosing between the right and wrong) makes us unique as compared to other animals. It is not intelligence. It is the conscience that is the motivator and that is where God resides.
Needless to say, a "scientific" person, who claims that non-scientific explanations are sufficient for religious fold has not understood the point.

For some of you that do not comprehend this concept a good illustration is that of a computer game. When the programer sets up the parameters of the game he gives the player multiple options for each moment of play. The player is responsible for the outcome of each move that they make no matter if the chioce is right or wrong. The programer knows what the result of each chioce can be and also what must be done to complete the game. Also a good programer will include events that are outside the direct control of the player.
ALLAH is the ultimate source of all that occurs. This does not preclude our having real and meaningful choices in our lives.

A H FROM USA said:
This is in reference to the comment posted a few days ago condemning all religions and looking for New Age solutions to the world's problems.
The fact is that even philosophers have not been able to fully comprehend the meaning and purpose of life. Each one has a varying opinion. The reason is that they are human. As such they are limited in their knowledge and thought process. Only a supreme being can know and understand us and what is the best way to live. The rest is up to us to perservere in that goal or to reject, ridicule and condemn it.
The other fact is that Islam is indeed the most tolerable religion concerning and treats everyone equally. In fact, non-believers are not ridiculed or derided. Surat al-Kafirun will attest to that (Muslims are told to "live and let live").
Therefore the only problem we can have is hatred or intolerance for another's beliefs.

5. Science and Religion don't need to conflict. In a democratic scociety laws and general conduct are informed by a myriad of forces. People are free to choose amongst religions or no religion and all sorts of different but lawfull behaviour. We can be a Muslim and a scientist and pro-abortion or whatever for a complex variety of personal reasons. If this is not true, then we will live in static, unchanging and I believe generally more unpleasant world.

4. Finally, you talk about Free Will. Individual choice and responsibility. This is Allah's test for us. But why? if Allah created us, why did he create an imperfect us. If we are flawed, some of us alot, He did it, no? Maybe the answer lies elsewhere.

Individual responsibility this has nothing to do with materialism or science. There is no conflict. It has to do with society. We all know that we are responsible for our behaviour (except for the very young or mentally disordered). This is a requirement of society. Society can only function if individual atoms (people) behave in concert. If it doesn't then mayhem ensues, Society breaks down and it's much worse for everyone.

Again, Society is an Emergent property. It happens when we have effectively communicating creatures such as bees or people. Something new and unpredictable happens and one of the results is rules of conduct and each person must be responsible for his conduct.

To reconcile our moral flaws with Allah's omnipotence, religious folks have coined the term 'Free Will'. This suggests that Allah somehow granted us the ability to choose without really denying that Allah didn't know that we would choose wrong. I see this as a flim-flam - how to confuse the gullible. Be that as it may, free-willer's amd scientific/materialists both agree that we should pay for being bad.

3. You say 'The materialist claim, that the unfolding of life as a "purposeless mindless process," is based upon inferences from catalogued extrapolations of past experiences. John F. Haught called materialistic metaphysics "metaphysics of the past."'

I just don't like this kind of statement. "Purposeless mindless process," may or not be true. But if you're doing science, whether you're a Muslim, Christian or humanist, who cares. I'm of a mind to say, 'Separation of science and metaphysics or philosophy'. As a scientifically oriented humanist I don't think less of someone because they are Muslim, Christian, Buddhist,... And I don't care if they don't know a whit about science. Bit I do think less of them if they are homourless, a jerk, a crook, generally immoral, etc. whatever their religion or lack thereof.


2. You state 'Based on causality, scientists maintain that the future is predetermined and can be predictable through accurate knowledge of past causes.' This may have been true at one time but is definitely not true today. There is a lot of secular metaphysics around this as well as science. Quantum mechanics and Chaos theory put a lie to this statement. The concept of Emergence shows how we cannot see the next level even if we have complete knowledge of a lower one.

For example, we might know all the physical properties of oxygen and hydrogen and have a complete and highly accurate theory of how they would interact. We would predict a lot of energy release when they combined and the appearance of the subsequent molecule of water but we would not 'know' about water. We wouldn't know about rain and snow and flow. And then fish and plants and how it froze from the top down and not the other way. We would need new physics, chemistry and biology for that. See for discusion of Emergence.

Regarding the article 'Islamic Metaphysics of the Future'.

1. You say 'It is also not possible to counter materialists with a rational internally consistent argument against their exclusion of God in the evolution of life and the universe.' Why counter materialists/scientists at all? If you want tou use Allah as the explanation for everything then it is valid to ask 'If Allah/God is the primary creator and provides the explanation for who we are, where we came from, etc. then 'Where did Allah come from?'. How did He come into being? What is the hard evidence for Him?

Faith-based answers to scientific questions are fine for non-scientific folks but are not satisfactory for providing an entry into observatories, field studies, labs and scientific journals. That Allah is omitted from science is fine and proper. If we cannot 'see' before the Big Bang then we cannot see - we don't insert Allah into the equation. You may do so, fine, but Allah or God cannot inform science.

An example of this type of approach was Issac Newton's belief that the God set the planets into their original elliptical paths and occasionally nudged them to keep them in stable orbit otherwise it appeared that the small perturbations would cause them to go crazy. Later, I think that it was the development of the calculus of variations showed how stable orbits would be maintained naturally.

If Allah informs science then the religious arbitrators of Islam or Christianity can say 'we don't like that - don't go there'. That happened with Galileo and in the Scopes monkey trial. Just as Church and State should be separate, Church and science must be separate.

By the way I am not saying that religion doesn't play an indirect role in a democratic society or scientific study. But only through the personal faith of the citizen and their representatives. Just not through the mighty arm of the religious organization.

An absolutely brilliant article that addresses some very important 'factors'. Makes you think twice.

To add, please remove the abusive comment on the board above.


I am amazed that your site actually printed the comment by Jolyon. That person just proved how obnoxious and obscene the world is with people like (him/her considering the kind of language used.
Islam does not need any defense. Just live your life and you will come to your senses.
Excellent article.

Salaam.. Excellent Article I think u can bring more jazakallhalikum thanku....

I am still struggling to conceptualize the whole Islamic Metaphysics thing. Going by the author's choice of verses from the Qur'an, I would guess she/he is very smart - masha'Allah. In my view, that alone would be sufficient reason for studying her/his work as time permits. Going by other selections at - and located by Googling "T.O.Shanavas" - there would seem to be a lot more where that came from.


I heard that everymoment is a creation separate from the other moment i.e we are being continuosly created. Why look at the past or look into the future , itsn't Allah creations so astounding that we should be kept breathless lost in thought by what we see, forgetting ourselves from His beauty and Bounties ,Glory to Allah none but He says it "be" and it is

It was written in the article:"Such fanaticism stems from an absolute faith in the law of causality, which most people acknowledge. A given cause always produces the same effect--gravity always pulls an apple down to the earth; spring season melts snow; drought brings destruction of crops. Chemical reactions in any organism, amoeba or human, are explainable by the same laws of physics and chemistry that govern the universe.

Based on causality, scientists maintain that the future is predetermined and can be predictable through accurate knowledge of past causes."

Well, the kind of causality described above reigned indeed in physics (and therefore in other natural sciences) in 18th century.
But when modern physics broke through due to arise of quantum mechanics (and theory of relativity) such strict causality has fallen and given way to statistical causality. Possibilities are here to stay. Even though we have the best possible information of some physical system, we still don't know how it's going to evolve in time. This is a feature that won't go away, especially in description of atomic- subatomic systems.
Yes, those times are over when scientists could claim that they could foresee the progress of the universe had they been given accurate description of a system at some moment. No wonder it was back then when Nietze declared God dead.
In quantum mechanics matter itself posess features contradictory to our everyday experiences, like instant("telepathical") change of information between particles.

All things are from Allah (SWT) whether be good or bad....but we must attribute Bad things to our own deeds and not to Allah (SWT)in order to be humble and respectful to the creater of all the universes and creations. He(SWT) is the best of knowledge who has predestin everything.

As a Muslim and a philosopher all I have to say by reading this article partially is that, this author has no idea of the complexity with philosophical issues such as determinism, caudsality and the natural science. He presumes what not all scientist believe. I really cannot comment anymore on this as I totally disagree with this individual on this basis. As for the Holy Qur'an of course I agree with him there.

An very impressive article. Very well written and puts complicated concepts into easy everyday language.

Excellent article

An excellent article about a difficult subject...JazakAllah for sharing your insights.

When we Pray & "Give Thanks" we give "Recognition"
that "Lights a Humbleness" of Being 'Part of Life's
Creation'. There is a "Full Feeling" of "Satisfaction" when we "Give Thanks before we Eat,
before we Work to ask that we be Blessed with the
Ability to Help Another or with Quality & Success 4 All Complete the Work we Begin 4 Life, Success &

The "Fruits of R Labour" : we may 'prepare the
fertalizer &/or prepare the ground, but the Seeds
are not Ours. We must be Grateful that ther are
Seeds. We must be Greatful that even One may Sprout
by being 'given' the 'Gift of Life'.

It is how we 'take care of our Gifts';
how we prepare the groundwork 4 their Future :
before their birth & after their birth;
It is how we Listen & Learn from & with each other.
This is a Team & we are Utilizing 'given Seeds'.
Right ??