Although the issue of the reality of matter is exceedingly straightforward and easy to understand, some people attempt to avoid accepting the only possible conclusion, for a number of different reasons, and pretend not to comprehend it.
Many people who have understood the problem have expressed their extraordinary excitement at learning « the secret behind matter, » and how it has changed their lives and way of thinking. Many people try to go deeper into the issue, asking questions to try to understand it better. You can see some of the comments they make in the chapter « Those Who Learn The Secret of Matter Feel Great Excitement. »
Others, however, stubbornly deny this extraordinary truth, and put forward various objections of their own in an effort to reject it. Anyone who does reject it has to scientifically demonstrate that images or sounds do not form inside the brain. Yet none of the objections that are put forward, from scientists, professors of neurology, brain experts, psychologists, psychiatrists or professors of biology, in short from anybody at all, deny that our perceptions are formed within our brains. This is because it is a scientifically established fact.
Despite this, some people try to cover the matter up by playing word games or adopting an overblown scientific manner. They try to avoid the evident truth which follows from the statement beginning « Since images form in our brains… » One of the clearest examples of this is the answers given by scientists who are asked whether images form in the brain.
One of these scientists replies: « No, images do not form in the brain. The incoming signals form a representation of a visual experience. »
Let us now examine the method this scientist employs to ignore the truth. Asked whether images form within the brain, he starts out with a definite « No. » He then follows up by saying that the signals form a representational image which enables us to see what we are looking at. So he is actually answering the above question in the affirmative. Of course the image in the brain is a « representational one ». Our brains can never contain a real table, or sun or the sky. The image we have is a representation, in other words a copy. When we say we can « see the world, » we are actually perceiving this « representational world », or « copy », or « imaginary world ». These expressions are all different ways of saying the same thing. One scientist, asked whether what we see in our brains is a representational world, answers, « Definitely not. What we see in our brain is a copy of the world. » In other words, he first rejects the question asked, but then uses a rather more confused explanation to confirm that we actually do see in our brains. This is a dishonest method resorted to by some scientists who fear that if they accept this truth they will in turn be forced to give matter up, which they believe is the only thing that exists.
Others feel unable to deny that images form in our brains, but because they hesitate to say, « Yes, I see the whole world in my brain, » they give a more meandering answer, « The brain simply processes the incoming signals and orders neural activity, that is how you see and hear. » Yet in any case, the real subject of discussion is where the image forms once the brain has carried out all its processing. The answer provided by this scientist is not an answer at all but a short account of the stage before the formation of an image. The brain processes the signals, but it does not then send them back to the eye or the ear. For this reason, it is not the eye that sees, or the ear that hears. That being the case, what does the brain do after processing the incoming signals? Where is the processed information stored, and where is it turned into images or sounds? Who is it who perceives this information as images or sounds? When these scientists are asked for answers to questions like these, they try to avoid accepting the truth by offering long, convoluted accounts. Actually, it is a wonder that there is any debate about such an obvious truth at all.
However, all these ways of objecting to or avoiding the issue to hand are feeble and invalid. Until someone who objects to the reality that is described in these pages comes up with scientific facts to disprove that all our perceptions are formed within our brains, what he says will be of absolutely no worth. It is a fact that images and all our senses form in our brains. However, even though someone has clearly grasped this concept, he may still ignorantly insist on denying in his own mind the fact that it is God Who forms these images. He may say, ‘I don’t even like to think about it,’ or ‘It is uncomfortable to imagine that I can never see actual matter itself,’ or « my life does not have any meaning any more. » However, it should be noted that learning this vital truth about matter is not an uncomfortable situation at all. On the contrary it is a means to deeper perceive the might and power of God, better grasp His superior artistry of creation, love Him and hence the images around more by knowing that they are all manifestations of God, get more pleasure from them and live with a deeper meaning. In brief it’s a great and precious blessing. Yet, some people who find it hard to understand the profoundness of faith may find it unnerving that nothing exists but God. Yet they can never say that they see what they do with their own eyes, or that what they see are the originals that exist outside them. That is because there is no scientific evidence or observation to show that that is the case, and neither can there ever be any. In any case, even the most determined materialists accept that images are seen inside the brain.
This chapter will mainly be devoted to replying to the objections of those who cannot bring themselves to accept this fact. Reading these objections and the replies to them, you will see that the replies are actually quite evident when examined with honesty and without prejudice.
Objection: « When you see a bus coming towards you, you get out of the way to avoid being crushed. That means the bus exists. Why should you get out of the way if you see it in your brain? »
Reply: The point where those who ask such questions are mistaken is that they think the concept of « perception » only applies to the sense of sight. In fact, all sensations, such as touch, contact, hardness, pain, heat, cold and wetness also form in the human brain, in precisely the same way that visual images are formed. For instance, someone who feels the cold metal of the door as he gets off a bus, actually « feels the cold metal » in his brain. This is a clear and well-known truth. As we have already seen, the sense of touch forms in a particular section of the brain, through nerve signals from the fingertips, for instance. It is not your fingers that do the feeling. People accept this because it has been demonstrated scientifically. However, when it comes to the bus hitting someone, not just to his feeling the metal of the indoor—in other words when the sensation of touch is more violent and painful—they think that this fact somehow no longer applies. However, pain or heavy blows are also perceived in the brain. Someone who is hit by a bus feels all the violence and pain of the event in his brain.
In order to understand this better, it will be useful to consider our dreams. A person may dream of being hit by a bus, of opening his eyes in hospital later, being taken for an operation, the doctors talking, his family’s anxious arrival at the hospital, and that he is crippled or suffers terrible pain. In his dream, he perceives all the images, sounds, feelings of hardness, pain, light, the colors in the hospital, all aspects of the incident in fact, very clearly and distinctly. They are all as natural and believable as in real life. At that moment, if the person who is having that dream were told it was only a dream, he would not believe it. Yet all that he is seeing is an illusion, and the bus, hospital and even the body he sees in his dream have no physical counterpart in the real world. Although they have no physical counterparts, he still feels as if a ‘real body’ has been hit by a ‘real bus.’
In the same way, there is no validity to the materialists’ objections along the lines of « You realize that matter actually exists when someone hits you, » « You can have no doubt as to the existence of matter when someone kicks your knee, » « You run away when you meet a savage dog, » « When a bus has hit you, you understand whether it is in your brain or not, » or « In that case, go and stand on the motorway in front of the oncoming traffic ». A sharp blow, the pain from a dog’s teeth or a violent slap are not evidence that you are dealing with the matter itself. As we have seen, you can experience the same things in dreams, with no corresponding physical counterparts. Furthermore, the violence of a sensation does not alter the fact that the sensation in question occurs in the brain. This is a clearly proven scientific fact.
The reason why some people think that a fast-moving bus on the motorway or an accident caused by that bus are striking proofs of the fact they are dealing with the physical existence of matter is that the image concerned is seen and felt as so real that it deceives one. The images around them, for instance the perfect perspective and depth of the motorway, the perfection of the colors, shapes and shadows they contain, the vividness of sound, smell and hardness, and the completeness of the logic within that image can deceive some people. On account of this vividness, some people forget that these are actually perceptions. Yet no matter how complete and flawless the perceptions in the mind may be, that does not alter the fact that they are still perceptions. If someone is hit by a car while walking along the road, or is trapped under a house that collapses during an earthquake, or is surrounded by flames during a fire, or trips up and falls down the stairs, he still experiences all these things in his mind, and is not actually confronting the reality of what happens.
When someone falls under a bus, the bus in his mind hits the body in his mind. The fact that he dies as a result, or that his body is completely shattered, does not alter this reality. If something a person experiences in his mind ends in death, God replaces the images He shows that person with images belonging to the hereafter. Those who are unable to understand the truth of this now on honest reflection will certainly do so when they die.
Objection: « It is true that I see all objects in my mind, but I cannot believe that all are copy images. »
Reply: The fact that we perceive the whole world in our brains has been definitively established by science, and no right-thinking person can claim anything to the contrary. However, the point that people fail to understand is this: If we perceive all things in our minds, then will we never be able to know the originals of the objects that exist outside our minds? This doubt is valid: We never can be sure that what we perceive in our minds is the original external matter. That is because we can never step outside our brains and see what is really out there. That is why it is impossible for us to know how the external counterparts of the images in our brains really are. Nobody—not the person making the claim, nor a neurologist, nor a brain surgeon, nor a philosopher, nor anyone else—has ever been able to step out of his own brain to know how the matter outside it is.
Everything that a person knows about his life is perceived by the brain by means of the electrical signals reaching it. In other words, we always live in the worlds that exist within our own brains. The birds we see when we look at the sky, the car about to disappear from sight at the other end of the street, the things in our rooms, the book in our hands, our friends, relations and everything else—all of these are copy images that reach our brains. Nobody can step outside this life within the brain. Neither science nor technology can be of any assistance in doing so. That is because whatever a scientist may invent, he still invents it within that image in his brain. For that reason, the object he invents to see the outside world with still remains inside his brain.
It is not possible for anyone to know what matter actually looks like, because nobody has ever come face to face with the original of anything. From the time of the first man right up to today, not one human being has ever heard the original of any sound, nor seen the original of any view, nor enjoyed the original smell of a rose.
Objection: » The pain when a knife slips and cuts my hand and the blood that flows from it are not an image. What is more, my friend was with me and saw it happen. »
Reply: We actually considered the reply to this objection in the previous answer. Given the importance of the subject, however, it will be beneficial to run over it one more time.
Those who say this kind of thing ignore the fact that not only sight, but other senses such as hearing, smell and touch also happen inside the brain. That is why they say, « I may see the knife in my brain, but the sharpness of the blade is a fact, just look how it has cut my hand. » However, the pain in that person’s hand, the warmth and wetness of the blood, and all the other perceptions still form within the brain. The fact that his friend may have witnessed the incident changes nothing, because his friend is also formed in the same visual center of his brain where the knife is formed. This person could also experience the same feelings in a dream—the way he cut his hand with a knife, the pain in his hand, the image and the warmth of his blood. He can also see in that dream the friend who saw him cut himself. Yet the existence of his friend does not prove that what he sees is not a dream.
Even if someone came up just when he was cutting his hand in that dream and said: « What you are seeing is just perceptions, this knife is not real, the blood flowing from your hand and the pain in it are not real, they are just events you are witnessing in your mind, » the person will not believe him, and will object. He might even say: « I am a materialist. I do not believe in such claims. I feel everything I am now seeing. Look, can’t you see the blood? »
Those who insist that they have direct contact with the original matter are like the person we have just been considering. In the world of perceptions they live in, they hear the words, « All these things are perceptions, and you can never reach the original sources of these perceptions, » yet they violently oppose this truth.
Yet we must not forget that nobody who cuts his hand just says, « This is only an image » and sits down without doing anything about it. That is because God has created effects binding people to the images they perceive. For instance, someone who cuts his hand puts something on it, bandages it or goes to the doctor. However, he merely has experience of images formed in his brain of all of these processes. The bandage and the medicine he puts on are all images that form inside the brain.
Objection: « Is saying that we only have experience of the illusion of matter we perceive in our minds compatible with Islam? »
Reply: Some Muslims suggest that the fact that we only have experience of the illusion of matter in our minds is not compatible with Islam, and maintain that religious scholars in the past rejected this fact. That is not actually the case, however. On the contrary, what we are saying here is in complete conformity with the verses of the Koran. It is exceedingly important for a definite understanding of many verses and subjects revealed in the Koran, such as heaven and hell, timelessness, infinity, resurrection and the hereafter.
Unquestionably, even if he is unaware of this subject, a person can still live in complete faith. He can have faith, with all his heart and feeling no doubt, in what God has revealed in the Koran. We must still make it clear, however, that an awareness of this subject allows such a person to deepen his faith and certainty. A number of Islamic scholars of the past looked on the matter from that same point of view. The only factors that prevented what they had to say from being widely spread and known were 1) the fact that the level of science when they lived was unable to totally clarify the subject and 2) the existence of trends that were apt to lead to its being misunderstood.
The most important of those Islamic scholars who explained the true nature of matter was Imam Rabbani, who has been widely respected in the Islamic world for hundreds of years and is seen as « the greatest reformer of the 10th century according to the Muslim calendar. » In his book Letters, Imam Rabbani provides a detailed commentary on this very subject. In one of his letters, Imam Rabbani says that God created the entire universe at the level of perception:
I have used the following sentence above, « God’s creation is at the sphere of senses and perceptions. » This means « God’s creation is at such a sphere that at that sphere, there is no permanency or existence for objects apart from senses and perceptions. »46
On close examination, Imam Rabbani is careful to emphasize that the world we see, in other words all that exists, has been created on the level of perception. All that exists outside this level of perception is the Being of God. Imam Rabbani explains that God is the only absolute being:
Nothing but God exists on the outside… Perhaps all of Almighty God’s creation finds constancy on the sphere of perception… If it does have a fixed appearance, that is again only on the perceptual level. It only has permanency thanks to God’s artistry on that one level. In short, it only has permanency and appearance on one level. It does not have existence on one plane and appearance on another… 47
As a result, as we can see from Imam Rabbani’s clear exposition, matter is not an absolute entity and we have only a very limited knowledge of it. All we can see is the image presented to us in our minds. It is God, the Lord of all the Worlds, who creates this image and presents it to us.
The great Islamic scholar Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi also believes that the only thing that has definitive existence is God, Who has created the whole universe only on the perceptual level. He is known as « The Greatest Master » (Shaykh al-Akbar) on account of the depth of his knowledge, and in his work The Essence of Wisdom (Fusûs al-Hikam), he reveals that the universe is but a shadow existence consisting of what is manifested by God:
I say that you must know that apart from God, all that exists, or everything in the universe, stands in the same relation to God as a shadow to a man. That being the case, everything apart from God is but His shadow… There is no doubt that the shadow exists in perception.48
As Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi’s words demonstrate, man is something that possesses the soul God has breathed into him, a manifestation of God. God is all that really exists, whereas man is a dream. This is a most important truth, and we would be making a grave error to believe the opposite.
Alongside Imam Rabbani, Mawlana Jami also expresses this astonishing truth, that he came by from signs in the Koran and by using his own powers of reason, in the words; « Whatever exists in the universe is but a perception. It is like a reflection in a mirror, or a shadow ».
As we have seen, great Islamic thinkers have made this truth perfectly clear, and for this reason it is not credible to claim that it conflicts with the Koran and the Sunnah, or that it is rejected by the world of Islam. What is more, it must not be forgotten that it is a scientifically proven fact, which nobody can deny, that we see all that we do in our brains. Because this was not scientifically known in past times, it is quite natural that some Islamic scholars should not have referred to it. Furthermore, the fact that we cannot have direct experience of the original matter has been described in a perverted way by some circles, who have tried to do away with the rules and laws of religion in this way. On account of these twisted and dishonest views, some Islamic scholars have issued warnings against these dangers. However, these comments have deviated from the truth. They should not be compared with the comments we have seen above.
As we have stressed from the very beginning, the truth is that matter is created by God and we cannot experience direct contact with its original.
Objection: « If we are dealing with an illusion of everything, how can we explain some of the attributes of God? »
Reply: Some believers think that when we accept the true nature of matter, a curtain is brought down on many of the names of God, and that if matter is simply an illusion, the manifestation of some of those names cannot be explained. This is again an error that stems from shallow thinking and failure to understand the nature of the subject.
First of all, no force or idea can draw a curtain over any of the names of God. No scientific truth can prevent the manifestation of any of these names. It is God Who creates these truths in the first place. God is not bound by the things and laws He creates. For this reason, no power or knowledge in the world can do away with any of these manifestations. Even thinking such a thing would be failing to appreciate the infinite might of God.
Furthermore, the fact that we are dealing with a copy of matter that forms in our minds is an important proof that, contrary to what these people may think, the manifestation of the names of God takes place at all times and in all places. That is because, just like a film, this image which forms on the perceptual level cannot come about of itself, and there must be something that displays it, and that means a Creator, Almighty God, Who brings it into being.
The fact that the image is permanent and unbroken is clear evidence that our Creator God continues His act of creation at all times. In fact, one verse says that the earth and the sky (in other words, the universe) are not fixed and unvarying, that they only exist by virtue of God’s creation, and that they will cease to exist when that creation ceases:
God keeps a firm hold on the heavens and earth, preventing them from vanishing away. And if they vanished no one could then keep hold of them. Certainly He is Most Forbearing, Ever-Forgiving. (Surah Fatir: 41)
In the Koran, sura 27, verse 64, God reveals that He « originates creation and then regenerates it ». In another verse, He draws attention to the fact that people are at every moment being created:
Do they make things into partner-gods which cannot create anything and are themselves being created? (Surat al-A‘raf: 191)
In other words, the reason for the permanent and unbroken nature of the images we see, is not that they have a fixed existence, but that God creates them at every moment. So the manifestation of God’s continuous creation can be seen at every moment, in everything a person sees or feels.
In consequence, this truth makes the manifestation of the attributes of God in the universe even clearer. For example, someone who knows that when he goes into a garden he has experience of only the images of all the fruit, flowers and trees presented to him in his own mind will recall that it is God, the Provider (al-Razzaq), Who gives him countless blessings and beauties, and Who shows these images to him. Someone with a pleasant house who knows the true nature of all the furniture, antiques, gold and silver in it, in other words who realizes that he is only dealing with images of all these things in his brain, can never brag about his possessions. Just like the Prophet Solomon (pbuh), he identifies God, the Giver (al-Vahhab) as He Who shows the beauty of these possessions to him and makes him wealthy by means of it. Or, when someone convinces another of the existence and oneness of God, that He is the only Absolute Being, together with the existence of heaven and hell, he thus sees the manifestation of God’s attribute of He Who reveals the true path, the Guide (al-Hadi).
We must here recall that it is a scientific fact that everyone sees the images, hears the sounds that accompany them, and feels their physical properties in his brain. We can never know, by means of our perceptions, what lies outside our brains. We can be sure, however, that there is a power as the result of which we see these images and hear these sounds, and who creates them in a relationship of cause and effect. That force is God. If He did not create these images for us, there would be no life in this world. In this way, God’s creation and the manifestation of His attributes continue at every moment. For instance, God continues to create this book and the words in it, together with the colors in the pictures it contains, for whoever reads it.
This shows to us God’s attribute of Creation (al-Khaliq), and the power of His creation. At this very moment, God is showing the billions of people on earth billions of separate images. Each of these images is created without pause, in perfect harmony, and down to the finest detail. Every individual is shown images without the tiniest error of detail. Thinking of this wonder will demonstrate God’s infinite might and that He is the only Ruler of the Worlds.
When saying that matter was created on the level of perception, Imam Rabbani explains that the names of God are also manifested on the level of perception:
… The Glorious God assigned an appearance from all appearances for names from all names in the sphere of non-existence with his Perfect Might. And He created it at the sphere of sensations and perceptions. At the time He willed and in the way He willed… The constancy of the world is not at the exterior level but at the level of sensations and perceptions… Even in the exterior, there is nothing permanent and existing other than the being and attributes of the Almighty God…51
It is impossible for anyone who comprehends this truth to swell up with pride because of his success, wealth, property and titles. Since at every moment, in every place, he knows there is a manifestation of the name of God, and that he is perceiving an image that God is causing in him, he can never forget how helpless and needy he is in the face of God.
He believes in the truth stated in the verse below as « Haqq-al yakin' »or with truth of certainty:
Mankind! you are the poor in need of God whereas God is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy. (Surah Fatir: 15)
Objection: « This is an old philosophy that was once put forward by the idealists »
Reply: Because some people are very uncomfortable at the true explanation of matter, they try to compare the truth that we have experience of only a copy of matter formed in our brains to earlier philosophies. Developments in the sciences, however, reveal that this is a scientific fact, not a mere philosophical speculation. So these peoples’ efforts are all in vain.
Besides, the fact that other thinkers in other times have supported an idea neither disproves nor makes it worthless. The fact that we have experience of a perception of matter has been understood and stated by people in earlier as well as our own times.
Furthermore, the ideas of the idealists of the past were not disproved by the materialists who emerged later. Therefore, saying, « This idea has been expressed in the past » proves nothing.
The idea that we perceive the world in our brains is not a philosophical speculation:
The true facts about matter are not something that has been discovered for the first time, although it is true that in the past they were discussed only in the form of a philosophical speculation. However, the facts have now been scientifically proved.
Many thinkers, religious scholars and scientists throughout history have brought this subject up and explained that we merely have experience of copies of matter. For instance, ancient Greek philosophers such as Pythagoras, the Elea School and Plato—with his allegory of the cave—have looked at the subject from that aspect. Documents that have come down to us show that false religions such as Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, as well as Judaism and Christianity, two of the true religions based on Divine revelation, have all discussed the matter. Prominent Islamic scholars such as Imam Rabbani, Muhyiddin Ibn al-‘Arabi and Mawlana Jami have also discussed the essence of matter in the same way. However, it is the Irish philosopher Berkeley whose ideas on the subject need to be given the most detailed discussion.
Berkeley said that we knew only the copy version of matter that formed in our minds. He came in for fierce attacks from the materialists of the time who believed that matter enjoyed an absolute existence, and who tried to silence him by insults and slander.
However, because of the lack of scientific facts at the time when they lived, neither Berkeley nor other thinkers were able to support their views with empirical evidence. As a consequence, it was not possible for the matter to be completely understood or widely discussed, particularly given the pressure from those who held the opposite view. Some of these incorrectly evaluated the truth they had discovered, and even though they came close to the truth, they were unable to draw the correct conclusions. Others with hidden agendas tried to drag the matter in a completely erroneous direction.
The Essence of Matter is a Scientific Fact:
In our time, however, “that we know matter as it is perceived in the mind, » is no longer a matter of philosophical speculation, but has turned into a fact backed up by scientific proof. Advances in the world of science have revealed the functioning of man’s sensory organs. As we saw at the beginning of this book, this functioning is the same for every sensory organ. The signals coming to our sensory organs from the outside world are turned into electrical signals by our cells and forwarded to the perception centers in our brain by our nerves. So man sees, hears, smells, tastes or touches the world in tiny perception centers in his brain.
These scientific facts are now completely clear, and can be found in any book on physiology or high school biology textbook. The way images and perceptions form in the brain is now taught in a detailed manner in medical schools. As our knowledge has advanced, sciences such as physics, quantum physics, psychology, neurology, biology and medicine have clarified the factual details of the process.
For instance, the theoretical physicist Dr. Fred Alan Wolf, who has attracted considerable attention with his research and has written eight award-winning books, explains that quantum physics in particular has revealed that the world we see is composed of copy beings that we have experience of in our brains:
…there is something beyond all materialism, beyond the physical world, out of which all reality, the whole of existence, projects. This would overwhelm traditional dualism – and I take this view not as a mystic but as a quantum physicist. I think that our most modern understanding of the physical world suggests that there may be an ineffable realm, a mystical realm, an « imaginal » realm, out of which the physical world pops into existence. Kind of like what [the German physicist and pioneer of quantum mechanics] Werner Heisenberg suggested when he brought the notion of consciousness into physics – when he said that it’s the observer who creates the observed simply by the act of observation… I see reality differently. Reality to me is more like a dream – I see a dreaming reality. I envision a dreamer, or a great spirit, of which we’re all a part… And I think that using this model we can achieve some real scientific breakthroughs, rather than attempting to reduce everything down to the simplest level.53
This scientist has seen the fact that we perceive the material world in our minds in the light of scientific discoveries, and is only one of the scientists who have done so. Those who reject this evident scientific truth do so for ideological reasons, not scientific ones. That is because these scientists do not wish to accept this fact, knowing as they do that it will completely undermine the materialism to which they are so stubbornly attached. In fact, Dr. Wolf makes it clear that this reality will exclude any possibility of materialism.
When we consider the scientific results that have been obtained, there is no credibility in treating the fact that we perceive the outside world in our brains as a philosophical speculation. It is not a philosophical speculation at all, but a scientific fact clearly revealed by scientific discoveries. It is a fact that everyone lives within, and which nobody can deny. Everyone, religious or not, knows that unconditionally, and even if someone does reject it, that rejection is meaningless.
Objection: « Is the subject of the truth of matter the same as the idea of the unity of being (Wahdat al-Wujud)? »
Reply: It is true that the idea of the unity of being is something that many Islamic scholars of the past have discussed while considering some subjects that appear in this book. However, what is being discussed here is not the same as the unity of being.
Throughout history, many scholars and thinkers have explained this principle. Some of them, however, have been led astray by a false idea, and have seen the things that God has created as totally non-existent. However, to say that we see an illusion of matter formed inside our brains does not mean that « none of the things we see exist. » That is because all the things we see, the mountains, meadows, flowers, people, seas, in short everything we see, everything whose existence God has described in the Koran, has been created and does exist. However, each and every one exists as an image.
Everything created by God exists whether we see it or not. It has in any case been created, and as we have seen, it will continue to exist under the memory of God from the moment it is created until the moment it dies. (For further information see Eternity Has Already Begun by Harun Yahya).
As a result of this, the fact that we have experience of only an illusion of matter formed in our minds does not mean it does not exist. But this fact does tell us something about the true nature of matter i.e. that it is a perception.
Objection: « How can anyone love something he knows to be an illusion? If we accept that everything is an illusion formed within our minds, how are we to love our mothers, fathers, friends and the prophets? »
Reply: A person asking this question does not know, or has not understood that he is also an illusion. Whereas he accepts his friends and family as illusions, he accepts himself as absolute. However, like those close to him, he is also an illusion. The body he sees and touches, like those of those he loves, is an image that forms inside his brain.
Furthermore, the fact that such peoples’ friends and family are also perceptions in their minds does not prevent them being loved. If someone loves his family and friends because of their corporeal or material existences, then that is in any case a false love. True love consists in loving someone because of the features manifested in him by God. For instance, although we have never seen the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace), we feel great love and affection for him because we know that many of the attributes of God, such as The Supporter (Al-Wali), The Sovereign Lord (Al-Malik), The Generous One (Al-Karim), The Trustee (Al-Wakil), The Guide (Al-Hadi) are manifested in him. Yet the only source of this love we have for the Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) is the love and affection we feel for his true Lord, God.
Muslims love people, and all other things too, because of their love of God, and because all of these things are a manifestation of Him. For instance, a Muslim who loves a young gazelle, does so because God’s compassion and love are manifested in it, because the lovable qualities God has created in the animal please him, and its appearance inspires a feeling of compassion in him. He does not love the animal itself, or any other creature, on its own as an independent entity.
A Muslim feels no independent love or ties for any person or thing. The origin of all love is the love of God. One Koranic verse says, « … besides God, you have no protector and no helper, » and stresses that man has no other friend than God. (The Koran, 2: 107) Another verse asks, « Is God not enough for His servant? ». (The Koran, 39: 36) That being the case, those we love cannot be our friends and parents independently of God. For that reason, the fact that all our family and friends are perceptions in our mind just reinforces that truth. When we love our mothers, what we actually love are the qualities of God that He manifests in her, The Merciful (Ar-Rahim), the Compassionate (al-Rauf) and the Protector (al-Asim). Alternatively, when we love a brother believer, we really love the pleasing morality that God manifests in him. Since we hope that his character and nature will be pleasing to God, they are also pleasing to us. Since we see that he loves and fears God, we also take pleasure in this faithful image that God has created. For that reason, when we love someone, we are really loving God, and our love and affection for that image are really love and affection for their true source, God.
Those people who love others independently of God, as having an independent existence distinct from Him, are making a grave error. According to the Koran, love and devotion are only to be felt for God, and other things are loved for their manifestations of Him. God has the following to say about those who love people and ascribe to them an independent existence:
Some people set up equals to God, loving them as they should love God. But those who believe have greater love for God. If only you could see those who do wrong at the time when they see the punishment, and that truly all strength belongs to God, and that God is severe in punishment. (Surat al-Baqara: 165)
As it says in the verse, to ascribe to people or things a force outside the existence of God means to consider them the equals and partners of God. However, nothing that exists has the power to do anything or carry out any action apart from God. In many verses of the Koran, people are warned about ascribing powers to anything else than God:
Those you call on besides God are servants just like yourselves. Call on them and let them respond to you if you are telling the truth. Do they have legs they can walk with? Do they have hands they can grasp with? Do they have eyes they can see with? Do they have ears they can hear with? Say: « Call on your partner-gods and try all your wiles against me and grant me no reprieve. My Protector is God Who sent down the Book. He takes care of the righteous. » Those you call on besides Him are not capable of helping you. They cannot even help themselves. If you call them to guidance, they do not hear. You see them looking at you, yet they do not see. (Surat al-A‘raf: 194-198)
As is clearly stated in the above verses, it is not possible for anyone other than God to help anyone else. Not even a person’s parents, children or friends, whose existence he assumes throughout the course of his life, can actually do anything to help him. Help from friends and family only happens by the will and permission of God. It is not even possible for someone to help himself outside the will of God. It is even impossible for anyone to walk, see or feel, in short to survive, if that is not the will of God.
Neither must we forget that things and people, of whose original existence we can have no idea, and we are dealing with only copy images of which, will be taken away from those who resist acknowledging this fact in the Hereafter. As revealed in the Koran, everyone will be called to account all alone. In other words, in the same way that everyone is actually alone with God in this world, so he will be called to account in the same way after death. God states this in a verse;
You have come to Us all alone just as We created you at first, leaving behind you everything We bestowed on you. We do not see your intercessors accompanying you, those you claimed were your partners with God. The link between you is cut. Those you made such claims for have forsaken you. (Surat al-An‘am: 94)
When looking at a friend, for instance, everyone sees the image of a friend that God creates in his mind. If the nerves to his brain are cut, the image of his friend will disappear. It is only God Who is Living and Eternal. So how, in that case, can anyone be attached to anything, the original of which he can never establish contact with, and which only exists in his mind? It must not be forgotten that it is only God Whom a person must love and submit to.
Objection: « A person wants his loved ones to be as real and permanent as he is. »
Reply: Some of those who object to this matter say: « A person wants his friends to be as real and permanent as he is. How can they be any different? »
Such statements show that these people have not understood what we have been saying about the true nature of matter, or else have not thought deeply enough about it. People who say such things are not « real and permanent » as they believe themselves to be, so they cannot expect their loved ones to be real and permanent. When one considers the matter, a person will understand that his own body is merely an image that God shows to his soul.
When some people feel their bodies, feel pain when they cut their fingers, or meet some of their bodies’ physical needs, this may cause them to forget that their bodies are copy images. However, a person’s own body is actually a perception, just like everything else, and nobody can ever know the original of the physical existence of his body. For example, the pain when one cuts one’s finger is again a perception. So is the feeling of fullness one enjoys after eating something. Artificial signals from outside the human body can also produce the same feelings. However, nobody can ever know how the original of his own body is. It is the soul that God has given to man that feels pains or understands the words on a page, for that reason, the individual himself is also a manifestation of God. These people are not real and permanent, as they would believe.
Objection: « To conclude that the universe is a collection of perceptions means abandoning enquiry into how the universe functions, in other words science. »
Reply: This is a form of objection generally put forward by materialists, and is used to show this subject, in their own opinions, as opposed to science and intended to negate it. However, it is clearly false and invalid.
God shows us the images we experience within ourselves as united by a network of cause and effect relationships, all linked together by laws. The images that form in our brains of night and day, for instance. We perceive night and day as being linked to the Sun and the movement of the Earth. When the image of the Sun in our minds is at its height, we know that it is noon, and when the Sun goes down, we witness the fall of night. When creating perceptions belonging to the universe, God created them together with a cause and effect relationship. We never experience daytime after the Sun has gone down. Thus science is the observation and study of this cause and effect relationship that God has created in our minds.
Let us consider another example: In the illusion within our minds, whenever we let a pen go, it falls to the ground. As a result of research into the cause and effect relationship that governs these kinds of occurrences, we discover « the law of gravity. » God presents the images he shows us in our minds as linked to particular causes and laws. One of the reasons for the creation of these causes and laws is that life is created as a test. Science is born as a result of research into the order within which these laws and the collection of perceptions called the « universe » function. That is why it is very important to study science, the laws that appear to govern the extraordinary images that God has created.
In conclusion, there is no justification for materialist claims that accepting the fact that we do not have direct contact with the actual matter means rejecting science. On the contrary, those who genuinely accept the fact see science as an important way of understanding this collection of images, and the secrets within them.
There is a great difference between this conception of science and that of the materialists. The laws of nature that we have discovered by observing the totality of images in question are the laws of God, Who created that same totality. The view of science held by materialists, who erroneously think that matter has an absolute existence, that the laws of nature stem from matter itself, and that it is these laws which actually created them, collapses in the light of this truth.
Neither must we forget that God possesses the power to create all these perceptions without the need for any cause or law. For example, God can create a rose without using a seed, or rain without the need for clouds, or shadow and day and night without the Sun. God reveals this fact in a verse:
Do you not see how your Lord stretches out shadows? If He had wished He could have made them stationary. Then We appoint the sun to be the pointer to them. Then We draw them back to Ourselves in gradual steps. It is He Who made the night a cloak for you and sleep a rest, and He made the day a time for rising. (Surat al-Furqan: 45-47)
As we have seen in this verse, God reveals that He first created shadow, then the Sun as a cause of it. Dreams are an example that can help us to understand this creation better. Although our dreams have no material counterpart, we still perceive the light and warmth of the Sun. From that point of view, dreams are indications that perceptions of the Sun can be created in our minds without its actually being there.
However, within this test, God has also provided humans with a reason for everything. Day is caused by the Sun, and rain by clouds. All of these are images that God creates individually in our minds. By creating a cause before an effect, God enables us to think that everything functions within specific rules, and thus enables us to carry out scientific enquiry.
Objection: « Is there not a contradiction between describing the being of God with the proofs of His existence in nature on the one hand, and saying that the physical world, put forward as a proof of His existence, does not exist on the other? »
Reply: Some people who have not fully understood the essence of matter mistakenly suppose that the statement « We cannot contact the original of the physical world, all we are dealing with is the copy images in our minds » means « Nothing exists. » However, saying that matter is a totality of perceptions or an image we perceive in our brains is not the same as saying that matter does not exist. There is a physical universe, but we can never know its original. We merely have experience of its copy, or illusion, in our minds.
That we merely deal with matter’s illusion is very definite proof of the existence of God. That is because since nothing that exists on the perceptual level (just like an image) can possibly create itself, that shows there is a Creator—Almighty God—Who brings it into being. Thus, the fact that the physical universe is only an image is concrete proof of the existence and oneness of God. For that reason, there is no contradiction between the fact that we have experience of matter’s image and existing things manifesting the existence of God. Quite the contrary, one is a logical consequence of the other.
God has created everything that exists. However, we only know their perception and images formed in our minds. Examining and studying the properties of these image-objects demonstrates proof of the superiority of God’s creation, His art and His infinite knowledge. As a result, there is no contradiction between saying that matter is a totality of perceptions and then studying the properties of these perceptions and seeing the greatness, and might of God.
It must also be made clear that some people think that God only exists as long as there exist beings that think about Him (God is surely beyond that), and as a result of this a grave error, put forward a number of objections. However, if God wished He could eliminate all the images that He has created, and destroy all that exists, yet He would still exist. That is because He is infinite and timeless. Several verses draw attention to the fact that God can destroy whatever He wishes at any time:
Mankind! if He wanted, He could remove you altogether, and produce others instead. God certainly has the power to do that. (Surat an-Nisa’: 133)
Mankind! you are the poor in need of God whereas God is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy. If He wills He can dispense with you and bring about a new creation. That is not difficult for God. (Surah Fatir: 15-17)
God existed before anything else, and will continue to exist even if everything else ceases to exist. This is revealed in a verse:
Everyone on it will pass away; but the Face of your Lord will remain, Master of Majesty and Generosity. (Surat ar-Rahman: 26-27)
Objection: « If we accept this account, then there can be no concepts of lawful or unlawful. »
Reply: This is a completely unrealistic claim. The fact that we cannot be in direct contact with the physical world does not do away with the secret of the test. Even though we never get to know the original of the matter, what God has said to be forbidden is forbidden, and what is lawful is lawful. For example, God has forbidden the eating of pork. Saying, « I only confront the perception of pork » and then going on to eat it is evidently dishonest and unintelligent. Alternatively, saying « I only know the images of these people in my mind, so it does not matter if I lie to them » is not something that anyone who fears God and has understood what we are discussing could ever do. That applies to all the limits, commands and prohibitions imposed by God. The fact of what we are discussing does not do away with performing the five daily prayers, giving alms, for instance. The fact that the alms we give exist in the minds of the people we give them to does not mean we need not perform this obligation. God has created the whole world as a totality of perceptions, however, within these perceptions we are still charged with abiding by what the Koran has revealed.
In the past, some people twisted this truth to try and do away with the concepts of lawful and unlawful. However, they already possessed a twisted belief system, and they may have wanted to use this truth for their own ends. Yet it should be understood that the conclusion they arrived at was incorrect.
In conclusion, anyone who honestly considers the situation will clearly see that, for the purposes of the test which God gives us, it is not necessary to interact with the matter itself. God has created this test within the world of images. There is no basis to the suggestion that one needs to know the original of the matter to pray or distinguish between what is lawful and unlawful. Furthermore, the important thing is the soul. It is the soul that will be punished or rewarded with blessings in the Hereafter. For that reason, the fact that we confront an illusion of matter in our minds does not prevent us doing what is lawful and avoiding what is unlawful or carrying out our religious obligations.
At this point, we need to be clear that those who claim they have no responsibility for images will say, « We thought we were not responsible, that is why we are here, » when they are sent to Hell. Even though Hell is an image, in the same way as this world is, its torments will still be suffered forever.
Objection: « Everybody says leaves are green when they look at a tree. Since everyone describes this tree in the same way, that means it does not exist in my mind alone. »
Reply: What people around us call green, we also call green. However, is the color they call green the same green we see in our minds, or do they refer to what we see as blue, and call it green? There is no way we can ever know. As we have already seen, there are no colors outside our mind. There are only different length light waves outside, and it is our brains which process these into colors. Thus colors form within us, and no one else can ever see the color we see in our brains.
This is a subject that has been discussed by many philosophers and scientists, and the latter have agreed that « We can never say whether someone else sees the rose which we see as red in the same way as we do, or whether what we see as blue he refers to as red. » This applies to perceptions, not just colors. Daniel Dennett, for instance, expresses his thoughts on and interest in the subject:
Locke discussed it in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690), and many of my students tell me that as young children they hit upon the same idea for themselves, and were fascinated by it. The idea seems to be transparently clear and safe:
« There are the ways things look to me, and sound to me, and smell to me, and so forth. That much is obvious. I wonder, though, if the ways things appear to me are the same as the ways things appear to other people. »
Philosophers have composed many different variations on this theme, but the classic version is the interpersonal version: How do I know that you and I see the same subjective color when we look at something? Since we both learned our color words by being shown public colored objects, our verbal behavior will match even if we experience entirely different subjective colors – even if the way red things look to me is the way green things look to you, for instance.54
Drew Westen, a professor of psychology from Harvard University, says that from the scientific point of view we can never know whether somebody else perceives a rose in the same way we do:
If perception is a creative, constructive process, to what extent do people perceive the world in the same way? Does red appear to one person as it does to another? If one person loves garlic and another hates it, are the two loving and hating the same taste, or does garlic have a different taste to each? The constructive nature of perception raises the equally intriguing question of whether, or to what extent, people see the world as it really is. Plato argued that what we perceive is little more than shadows on the wall of a cave, cast by the movement of an unseen reality in the dim light. What does it mean to say that a cup of coffee is hot? And is grass really green? A person who is color-blind for green, whose visual system lacks the capacity to discriminate certain wavelengths of light, will not see the grass as green. Is greenness, then, an attribute of the object (grass), the perceiver, or some interaction between the observer and the observed? These are philosophical questions at the heart of sensation and perception.55
As we see, the fact that we make the same definitions, or call the colors by the same name, does not mean that we see the same things. To compare the perceptions of people is absolutely impossible, because everyone sees a distinct world within his brain which belongs to him alone. The next objection includes yet another explanation pertaining to this objection.
Objection: « I am in a garden with two friends, and the three of us see exactly the same things. If what we each see in our minds is the same, how can you say that these images are illusions? »
Reply: The fact that you and other people see the same things does not mean that you see the original of matter that exists outside your minds. That is because you also see your companions in your mind. For example, when strolling with your friends in a fruit garden, in the same way that the apples, apricots, colored flowers, the sounds of the birds, the warm breezes, and the smells of the fruit and flowers all form in your brain, so do your friends, and the things you all talk about. In other words, your friends are walking in the garden you see in your mind, not one in the outside world. So the fact that your friends see the same things as you does not mean that you confront the original of all that you see.
When you watch a match in a stadium full of people, the fact that thousands of people see a goal being scored at the same time and react to it at the same moment is no proof of your seeing the real existence of the stadium, the players, the referee nor the thousands of people in the stands. The players, fans, cheering and everything else you see there all take place inside your brain. The player who scores a goal and the fans who rejoice at it are all inside you. You rejoice at a goal scored in your mind, and clap and cheer with the crowd in your brain. In conclusion, the fact that the people you see alongside you confirm what you see does not mean that you are seeing their originals that exist in the external world. No matter what their number is, the people you say are « right beside » you, are actually in your brain.
Objection: « We perceive the external world as it actually is so there isn’t any abnormality in our behavior. For instance, when we come to a cliff, we stop instead of keeping on and walking over the edge. »
Reply: This objection shows that the questioner is seriously confused, and has not understood what is being said. That is because the objection rests on the following claim: « There is a physical world out there. However, everybody sees that world differently in his own mind. » This person thinks that such a claim is being made, and goes on to object to it, thinking that he disproves the claim by saying: « There is a material reality out there, and we see it as it is. Nobody sees it any differently. The proof of this is that when there is a cliff edge out there we see it as such, and stop walking. »
However, the fact under discussion here is very different from what that person supposes. One case says, « There is an outside world, but we see this world differently from how it truly is. » The other says, « We perceive all that we experience in our minds, and we can never make direct contact with any sort of original independent entity. For that reason we can never know what these originals that exist in the external world are like. »
The fact that we do not walk over the edge of a cliff does not mean that we have direct experience of the original matter in the external world. When we walk along a straight path and then stop at the cliff edge, we are walking along a path in our brain, and see the cliff edge in our brain. In fact, even if we do fall off the edge of the cliff, we still perceive doing so in our brains. That happens in exactly the same way as when a bus hits us, or a dog bites us, as we have seen above. When we fall off the cliff, the pain of any injuries or broken bones we suffer still forms in our brains.
Objection: » God shows us these images in order to test us. However, why should God, the creator of all actions, bring about such a test? »
Reply: Naturally, God has no need to test people to see their attitudes, since it is our Lord who has created all events, times and places. God is not constrained by time and place. What for us are the past and future have been lived and come to an end in an instant in His sight. However, God allows us to experience these tests and causes so that people should witness their own attitudes and understand why they go to heaven or hell. Someone who knows that God is his friend—that He is infinitely just, compassionate and loving—will accept this creation of His.
God shows us things that have already happened in His sight. He gives people the feeling that they are doing these actions themselves. Within that feeling, He announces by means of the Koran that we are responsible for everything He reveals. That responsibility is to obey all of our Lord’s commands. We can learn beyond this only if God wills. If He wishes, God can reveal this secret and wisdom to us either in the world or in the hereafter. Or if He wishes, never at all. As stated in a verse, ‘they cannot grasp any of His knowledge save what He wills’. (Surat al-Baqara: 255) Whatever happens, God is our Lord and Protector. It is therefore our duty to trust in Him, who gives us so many blessings, and to be pleased with everything He creates.
Some people in the past have grasped the truth about the essence of matter, yet because their faith in God and their understanding of the Koran have been weak, they have produced deviant ideas. Some have said, « Everything is an illusion, so there is no point in worship. » Such ideas are twisted and ignorant. It is true that everything is a perception presented to us by God. However, it is also true that God charges us to abide by the Koran. What we have to do is to carefully abide by His commands and prohibitions.
In the Koran, God reveals that He has provided very little information about the soul. God has created this image of a test for a certain cause:
We will test you with a certain amount of fear and hunger and loss of wealth and life and fruits. But give good news to the steadfast. (Surat al-Baqara: 155)
You will be tested in your wealth and in yourselves and you will hear many abusive words from those given the Book before you and from those who associate others with God. But if you are steadfast and do your duty, that is the most resolute course to take. (Surah Al ‘Imran: 186)
There is considerable wisdom within this test. One of these is that we are tested and then it is determined where we will be in the eternal life of the Hereafter as a result. Further wisdom could lie in the way people can witness what they do throughout their lives, and see why the morality by which they have lived should lead them to heaven or hell at the Day of Judgment. But God knows the truth. All we can do is to pray that He will reveal His knowledge to us.
Objection: « From what we have seen so far, our perception will continue even after death. Will that last forever? Are heaven and hell nothing but totalities of perception? »
Reply: God has created the people in such a way that we can only perceive the world by means of images presented to our souls. In other words, we can only see the images presented to us in our brain, and can by no means see or touch what lies outside it. However, after death God will create the individual in a different manner. This creation will also be an image, in other words, we will see an image of heaven again in our minds, although we can never know how that new creation will be.
Nevertheless, the fact that heaven and hell are experienced as perceptions does not in the least detract from the pleasure received from the former, nor the suffering from the latter. In the same way that someone in this world feels pain when he burns his hand, so he will also feel the reality of this perception in the Hereafter. Feelings such as pain are also perceived in the brain. However, this perception, which everybody experiences, has been created to be exceedingly realistic, just like all our other perceptions. People can even faint from the violence of the pain they feel. In the same way, some images can cause people intense discomfort, even though they are created as perceptions in our minds. For instance, an unpleasant sight or sound, or a bad smell can cause great discomfort. The fact these are perceived in the brain changes nothing. Therefore, even though hell will be presented to the soul as a perception, that fact does nothing to lighten the torment that will be experienced there. In the same way that God creates the life of this world to be so clear and convincing that people assume it to be « a definite fact, » He has the power to do exactly the same thing in the hereafter. God reveals in several verses that the torments of hell are quite unbearable:
… My punishment is the Painful Punishment. (Surat al-Hijr: 50)
We will make those who disbelieve suffer a severe punishment and repay them for the worst of what they did. That is the repayment of the enemies of God – the Fire. They will have it for their Eternal Home as repayment for their renunciation of Our Signs. (Surah Fussilat: 27-28)
The same thing applies to heaven. Everything a person enjoys or which gives him pleasure is a perception that forms in his mind. Someone enjoying a conversation with his best friend, for instance, is in reality doing so in his mind. Or someone enjoying the magnificent sight of a waterfall, and listening to the roaring of the water, is actually seeing sights and hearing sounds in his mind. There is no question about that. Yet that does not stop him enjoying that image. That is why God reveals in the Koran that heaven represents supreme achievement for people, and that it contains everything their souls will take pleasure from:
But those who heed their Lord will have Gardens with rivers flowing under them, remaining in them timelessly, for ever: hospitality from God. What is with God is better for those who are truly good. (Surah Al ‘Imran: 198)
Their Lord gives them the good news of His mercy and good pleasure and Gardens where they will enjoy everlasting delight, remaining in them timelessly, for ever and ever. Truly there is an immense reward with God. (Surat at-Tawba: 21-22)
As for him whose balance is heavy, he will have a most pleasant life. (Surat al-Qari’a: 6-7)
Furthermore, someone who knows that it is God Who allows him to see these delightful images will take even greater pleasure from the fact. For example, someone who picks an apple from a tree, with its lovely smell and pleasing appearance, and thinks of God Who has created that smell and appearance for him, will enjoy that image even more than other people. God will prepare different images of heaven for each believer, and the best examples of whatever a believer’s soul craves will be given to him there. In this world and in the hereafter, a person’s only friend, protector and creator is God. All the prophets, apostles, devout believers, houris and others that he will see with him in heaven are beings that form the clearest manifestation of God’s friendship, love and closeness.
It is quite evident that God allows us to receive this totality of perceptions throughout our lives. An honest person who realizes this can feel no doubt about His justice, flawless creation, and that He creates the best and most beautiful of everything. God will also create heaven and hell within an image as perceptions. Yet that fact does not change the promises God makes in the Koran. While a person is offered the greatest joys and pleasures for all eternity in heaven, the terrible suffering in hell for unbelievers will also last for all eternity. God’s creation is flawless, and He keeps His promises.
Those are people from whom We accept the best of what they have done and pass over their evil deeds. They are among the Companions of the Garden, in fulfillment of the true promise made to them. (Surat al-Ahqaf: 16)
As verses make clear, heaven exists at this very moment in the sight of God. He has created heaven and hell, and both of them exist, in time and form, in His sight.
Objection: « Can we never directly experience absolute existence? I am uneasy at knowing that I exist only in a world of perceptions. »
Reply: Only God exists absolutely. Whatever else we see is a manifestation of God. People generally assume that they and others do physically exist, and that God permeates them, a bit like radio waves. (God is surely beyond that) Yet the truth is the exact opposite of that. In other words it is only God Who exists. We must not be deceived by the fact that we cannot directly see His Being. Wherever anyone turns, whoever he looks at, whatever he is actually seeing is the manifestations of God.
Furthermore, far from making someone uneasy, this fact should give even greater happiness to anyone who believes in God. It is a great honor that God is all that exists and that we, His servants, are illusions. That fact is cause for rejoicing. It multiplies the awe we feel for our Lord, and our submission to His infinite might.
It is also an important statement that people will naturally be freed from their worldly desires, and that will allow them to worship God without attributing any partners to Him. That is because saying « Something else must exist besides God, » is actually attributing an equal to Him, and claiming that there is another power outside that of God. However, that can never be the case with a true believer. Such a person has no fear of anything but God. When he comes by any strength or power, he knows that these really belong to God. When a doctor finds a cure for his sickness, he praises God as the One who has really supplied the cure. He knows that the doctor is just an agent for the cure God has caused to come about.
God always creates the most beautiful and best of everything. That fact must never be forgotten. In one verse, God reveals:
Return to your Lord, well-pleasing and well-pleased! (Surat al-Fajr: 28)
A person must always be content with every event that God creates. In that case it can be clearly understood how this truth we are discussing can bring people closer to God. What is more, when the Koran is read again with this truth in mind, the wisdom in many of the verses can be more readily appreciated.
It is true, however, that someone who does not believe in God, who is trapped by his worldly desires, who has no hope of the hereafter, and who holds materialist views, could be made terribly uneasy by this situation. It is truly disappointing and crushing for such people to understand that they confront only an illusion of all the things they desire and all the people they assume to have absolute existence. When they understand the truth, they will see that they have spent all their lives chasing illusions, and wearing themselves out in vain with their desires. They will see that they wasted their energies in denying the truth. They will be truly saddened by that, and even humiliated.
They will also suffer grave disappointment in the hereafter from assuming that all such illusions were truly real.
Those are the people who have lost their own selves. What they invented has abandoned them. Without question they will be the greatest losers in the hereafter. (Surah Hud: 21-22)
Yet, the fact that everything is an illusion, that God is all that truly exists, is a source of great joy to anyone who accepts God as his only friend and protector, and who genuinely loves Him.
Objection: « Is the end of this world of perception nothingness? Can people remain in that nothingness? »
Reply: One of the things that prevent people from thinking about this subject is that they are frightened of remaining in complete nothingness. When they consider the implications of this, they realize that they can never know the original of what they think they touch. However, nothing apart from the will of God can remove any of the causes that He has created to test us in this world. These causes will continue to be created until the moment of our death.
We will continue to undergo such tests as feeling the hardness of a table, seeing our blood when we cut our hand, pain, suffering, fear and sickness. The fact that we live in a world of nothing but perceptions will not do away with our close connection to such causes. Even when we die, there will still not be nothingness. As God has revealed in the Koran, we will begin a new life of different dimensions and causes. There is no reason to think that we will end up in nothingness. Since God has created human beings in this environment which tests us, He will continue to provide us with perceptions. That is in fact what He reveals in the Koran. When our perceptions in this world cease, perceptions of the hereafter will start, and we will never feel ourselves to be in nothingness.
Objection: « Can someone who understands that he can never reach the world existing outside his brain continue to be tested in this world? »
Reply: This is a very important subject. Some people suggest that the test will come to an end when this truth is finally understood. However, that is a dishonest idea. As we have already seen in other replies, the test will continue as long as we live.
Even though God causes us to live in a way in which we can never confront the original matter, He also links the world to all its many causes and effects. For instance, when we are hungry we eat something. We do not say, « It is all an illusion, so it does not matter. » If we do not eat, we grow weak and eventually die. God can remove these causes and effects whenever He wishes, for whoever He wishes, by whatever means He wishes. We can never know when or why He will do this. However, this is a most important truth: God charges us with abiding by the whole of the Koran, and we continue to live in the sphere of causes in order to abide by the divine commandments in it. For example, God commands people to do good and avoid evil. He orders defenseless women and children to be spared cruelty and suffering. In the Koran God asks « Why are you not fighting in their name? » It would be completely wrong and dishonest to adopt an attitude rejecting these responsibilities that God has placed on our shoulders.
On the contrary, someone who is aware that it is God Who shows him everything that goes on will feel an enormous obligation in response to every image he sees. Unlike many people, he will always try to support good and prevent evil. That responsibility can never be passed on to others, and no excuses to the effect of « Let someone else do a bit, I’ve done all I can » are acceptable. Someone who knows the true facts of the situation will say, « If God is showing me this image, then He wants me to find a solution, and I am responsible for doing so. »
In conclusion, everyone must do all he can to carry out the responsibilities laid on his shoulders in the Koran. Knowing the true nature of matter -and coming by a view of the world in accordance with that nature- further strengthens all our efforts to gain God’s good pleasure, and increases our determination many times over.
Objection: « Is it really true that God is everywhere? Does His sovereignty not lie in the heavens? »
Reply: Some people believe in the existence of themselves, matter, and the world they see around them. They think of God as an illusion that somehow surrounds this existing matter. (God is surely beyond that) Or, since they cannot see God with their own eyes, they say « God must be somewhere we cannot see, in space, or somewhere far away in the sky. » (God is surely beyond that) These are all enormous mistakes.
God is everywhere, not just in the heavens. As the only thing that truly exists, God permeates all the universe, all people, and all places and He manifests Himself in the entire universe. Wherever you turn, the face of God is there. According to the accounts related, our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) told a person who says that God is in the heavens that he’s telling the truth. However, this account does in no way conflict with the fact that He is everywhere. Since if one person on earth at one point on your location holds his hands up and prays to God and assumes that He is in the heavens and if another person at the South Pole turns to God in the same way and yet another person at the North Pole also holds his hands up, and another in Japan, another in America and yet another on the equator all turn to Him holding their hands up to heaven, then it’s impossible to talk about any fixed direction. In the same way if the djinns, angels, satans at different points of the universe and the space pray towards the heavens, then a fixed heaven or direction would be out of the question to discuss and it would cover the entire universe. Wherever you turn, the manifestation of God is there. As we have seen in earlier sections, it has been revealed in several verses of the Koran that God is everywhere, closer to us than our own bodies, and that wherever we turn we see the face of God. For instance, He says « … His Footstool encompasses the heavens and the earth… » (Surat al-Baqara: 255) Another verse stresses that there is no doubt that the Lord encircles all that people do:
« … But my Lord encompasses everything that you do! » (Surah Hud: 92)
As is revealed in the Koran, God is not solely in the heavens. God is everywhere. This truth has been given us by means of the Koran.
The explanation of the secret behind matter will enable people to understand these verses better. Those people who see that matter has no absolute existence will understand that God is everywhere, that He sees and hears them every moment, that He witnesses everything and is closer to them than their own bodies, and that He hears every prayer offered to Him.
Conclusion: Hell Is The Home Of Argument
In the Koran, God draws attention to human beings’ argumentative natures, « We have variegated throughout this Koran all kinds of examples for people, but, more than anything else, man is argumentative! » (Surat al-Kahf: 54) Some people pretend not to understand the simplest truths, no matter how clear they are, especially if they think these truths conflict with their own interests. They go into unnecessary detail, ask pointless questions that can never lead to any definitive conclusion, and reveal an argumentative nature. On account of that character trait, some people throughout history have argued with all the prophets and messengers chosen by God, and put forward unrealistic arguments to oppose the clear truth that has been given to them. The aim behind this opposition was not a genuine desire to learn the truth, but rather a wish to make difficulties in their own opinions so they could ignore it.
We must exclude here those people who ask questions out of a genuine desire to learn the truth, consider and understand it. Of course it is totally reasonable and necessary to ask questions about this very important subject, and to refer to those who know more about it, since most people will have come across it for the first time in their lives and it will completely change their ways of looking at the world. It is also evident that people who ask questions out of a genuine desire to understand are different from those who are simply argumentative and skeptical and lack all understanding. The people we are talking about here are those who refuse to see the truth, and who have grown used to argument and denial.
God describes the state of mind of such argumentative types in a verse:
They retort, « Who is better then, our gods or him? » They only say this to you for argument’s sake. They are indeed a disputatious people. (Surat az-Zukhruf: 58)
One of the examples of stubborn and argumentative people given in the Koran is Pharoah. Although the prophet Moses (pbuh) explained the whole truth to him quite clearly, he asked a question that had nothing to do with what the prophet had been saying, the answer to which could not possibly do him any good. This is the question he asked the Prophet Moses (pbuh) when told about the existence of God:
He said, « What about the previous generations? » (Surah Ta Ha: 51)
It is evident that Pharaoh only asked the question to start an argument. There was no sincere desire to learn in it, and he thought in his own feeble mind that the Prophet Moses (pbuh) would have no answer. However, the prophet immediately understood why he asked it, and, as revealed in the verse, gave him a clear reply:
He said, « Knowledge of them is with my Lord in a Book. My Lord does not misplace nor does He forget. » (Surah Ta Ha: 52)
Naturally, argumentative and denying natures are not restricted to Pharaoh and similar types who lived in the past. A large part of people today are always ready to start an argument about subjects that clash with their own interests, and particularly about religion. They do not really want to understand a subject that is perfectly obvious if approached with a measure of honesty. This is immediately clear from their attitudes and the questions they ask. Subjects such as destiny and the nature of matter in particular, such as we have been considering in this book, are some that people most often try to ignore. For that reason, questions asked about these subjects are often inspired by a wish to convince themselves such things are not true, rather than a sincere inquiry into the truth. For instance, those who ask, « If everything is an image, what is the purpose of carrying out our religious duties? » cannot realize what a meaningless question that is. The only reason they suggest the fact that man is created as an image should stop him praying, or the fact that food is an image should stop some things from being unlawful, is simply to raise an objection, without thinking about the matter at all. Their sole aim, which lacks any logic, is to refuse to accept the truth.
Believers, however, immediately accept the truth when they see it, and abide by it. They say, « We have heard and obeyed, » as the Koran puts it. When argumentative types ask them questions, they give clear replies without getting drawn into polemics. God has revealed that believers give this kind of reply when questioned by those who want to have an argument:
Say, « Do you argue with us about God when He is our Lord and your Lord? We have our actions and you have your actions. We act for Him alone. » (Surat al-Baqara: 139)
Those who argue with true believers, who refuse to understand that God is all that truly exists and that they themselves actually belong to God, thus rejecting obvious truths, and who, with their foolish minds, question the existence of heaven and hell, the compassion of God, and His justice with illogical questions must understand the following: They will continue these arguments in hell. Koranic verses describe hell as a place of eternal argument and conflict:
Arguing in it with one another, they will say, « By God, we were plainly misguided » (Surat ash-Shu‘ara’: 96-97)
When they are squabbling with one another in the Fire, the weak will say to those deemed great, « We were your followers, so why do you not relieve us of a portion of the Fire? » Those deemed great will say, « All of us are in it. God has clearly judged between His servants. » (Surah Ghafir: 47-48)
As we have seen in the above verses, the deniers will continue to argue even in the flames of hell. In other verses, Allah reveals the following about those who try to argue with believers, and cites their words:
They will say, « Our Lord, give him who brought this on us double the punishment in the Fire! » They will say, « How is it that we do not see some men whom we used to count among the worst of people? Did we turn them into figures of fun? Did our eyes disdain to look at them? » All this is certainly true – the bickering of the people of the Fire. (Surah Sad: 61-64)
The souls in hell will still continue to argue in those dark and narrow places, under the iron cudgels and the boiling water poured over them, as their skins melt from the heat of the flames. The pointless debates will go on, and they will keep asking each other why they are suffering these torments. They will continue to fall out over God and the believers:
Here are two rival groups who disputed concerning their Lord. Those who disbelieve will have garments of fire cut out for them, and boiling water poured over their heads, which will melt the contents of their bellies as well as their skin, and they will be beaten with cudgels made of iron. Every time they want to come out of it, because of their suffering, they will be driven back into it: « Taste the punishment of the Burning! » (Surat al-Hajj: 19-22)
However, they will never be able to come to any conclusion from these debates. The unbelievers who argued over the truth in this world, and thus ignored it, will continue arguing in the pains of hell, in great sorrow, which will never cease—unless God wills.
The continuation of this debate among the companions of hell is a sign that not even when they see the fires of hell will those who do not believe come to understand the truth of what they are talking about. They will continue to deny, even among the torments of hell:
Those in the Fire will say to the custodians of Hell, « Call on your Lord to make the punishment less for us for just one day. » They will ask, « Did your Messengers not bring you the Clear Signs? » They will answer, « Yes. » They will say, « Then you call! » But the calling of the disbelievers only goes astray. (Surah Ghafir: 49-50)
The bad manners and attitude of these people, who will continue to refuse to call on to their Lord even in the fires of hell and to be swollen with pride, are clear for all to see. No matter how many examples are given them, no matter how much proof, they still will not understand. God reveals how some people will never believe in another verse:
They have sworn by God with their most earnest oaths that if a Sign comes to them they will believe in it. Say: « The Signs are in God’s control alone. » What will make you realize that even if a Sign did come, they would still not believe? (Surat al-An‘am: 109)
For that reason, we must not be surprised if some people refuse to accept the truth of what we have been discussing here, no matter how clear and evident it is. Their stubbornness in the face of the truth is actually a revelation from God.