If we take Islam as the essential belief that there is one, supreme Creator and that everything else is merely a creation of the Creator with no share in divinity, then a belief in no god at all is contrary to that which is espoused in the Qur’an. The relationship of the Qur’an with atheistic belief is an interesting one in that certain realities exclusive to mankind are assumed to be true. In fact, Islam takes the belief in a higher power as an innate disposition placed in human beings as evidenced by the overwhelming majority of human societies believing this to be the case, even without external factors or influence. However, this does not imply that human societies tend to have the correct beliefs about God; interestingly, the Qur’an addresses this phenomenon.
Atheism is characterized by the rejection of the existence of a higher power. According to Islam, this notion is so absurd that the Qur’an deals with it directly only a handful of times. As we will see, the specific arguments are extremely logical by design, but the remaining approach on atheism throughout the text is notably subtle and consistently so. This is because further arguments are actually intertwined with multiple other issues human beings face, the least of which is correcting wrong beliefs about God in general. So what does the Qur’an say about atheism? In Surah At-Tur, Chapter 52 Verse 35, the Qur’an asks the reader a set of rhetorical questions:
“Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]?”
And in the following verse 52:36 the Qur’an says:
“Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they are not certain.”
As you can see, the Qur’an uses arguments against atheism that are very straightforward and to the point, yet these few words are packed with deep meaning. Despite clear and concise reasoning, the Author of the Qur’an knows the reader may not be convinced by this alone. As such, the Qur’an doesn’t actually leave the topic. Instead, it employs a consistent strategy no other book has come to match in terms of approach. Take these verses for example:
“We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. But is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness?” – 41:53
“And a sign for them is the dead earth. We have brought it to life and brought forth from it grain, and from it they eat. – 36:33
These and many, many other verses can be found in the Qur’an, each time using a variety of different examples urging its readers to reflect, challenge, and reconsider their beliefs about God that are not in line with the truth. That one could look at the night sky filled with stars and get just a small glimpse of the vast universe, that the sun and the moon serve clear and precise purposes in our lives, and that nature is so perfectly symmetrical yet complex, just to name a few, are all testaments that something intelligent and powerful placed them there to function as they do. Yet still the Qur’an gently reminds the reader to use their intellect and reflect if they have doubts about the existence of a Creator. It does something very special in terms of style here: The Qur’an proposes, in a distinct yet notably succinct and meaningful way, arguments whereby a whole array of issues are covered at once. In fact, it covers multiple facets of life in one verse using as few words as possible.
There are no less than three purposes achieved in such verses: incorrect beliefs about God are clarified and corrected, those who are ungrateful are given a reminder about the realities of the world and that God is aware of what they do, and those with no belief in God are asked to ponder over the signs of the creation to logically conclude that there had to have been an intelligent causer behind it all. And this very style of speech in its ability to captivate an audience from many angles leads to a fourth argument for the existence of God; perhaps the strongest evidence for the existence of God is the miraculous nature of the Qur’an itself, a feat no human could accomplish.
Consider for a moment the original listeners of the Qur’an – those who spoke fluently and understood the nuances of the language – who were enamored by the multi-faceted yet elegant approach of the Qur’an. How could a book that steers clear of following the norms of any known writing style, cover so many different topics in a matter of a few words, all the while making complete sense throughout?
Sticking to the realism the Qur’an adheres and holds itself to, its Author knows too well both the limitations and potential of the creation. Despite seeing, hearing, and feeling clear arguments for God’s existence, the free will of this creation can still lead to his or her denial of the truth via arrogance. The Qur’an remarks on this phenomenon directly – that even if a revelation was to be sent upon these same deniers from the sky, they would still disbelieve. It humanizes this further by saying that some may believe for a little while until they are once again distracted by worldly temptations which in turn could lead to a state of heedlessness.
True to its message of being a timeless book for all of mankind, the Qur’an addresses universal questions and problems. It actively acknowledges the nature of a human being to believe in a higher power without dismissing the fact that these same beings are prone to incorrect beliefs including the disbelief in a Creator, especially when those beliefs go unchallenged or become normalized. And it is in this unique approach to and recognition of the vastness of the human experience that the Qur’an stands out.