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While watching and participating on Islam.SE and a few other places, I have observed that there is frequently very heated anger whenever the subject of naturalism comes up; for example, anything in the region of volcanoes, earthquakes, storms, etc.

The naturalist view, obviously, would relate to fields such as physical geography, tectonics, meteorology, seismology, etc. Through observation and application of the scientific method, we (as a world) now have a pretty good understanding of these fields, which while not perfect, allows for ever-improving predictive power, often (not always) allowing successful planning (whether preparation or evacuation).

However, I've also seen significant offence taken; for example, simply by discussing the topic I've had some quite angry responses, suggesting that I was insulting Allah:

i.e. you're stating that Allah has no power over this 'natural' occurrence.... that the earth just 'moves' on it own and the wind just 'blows' by itself. If you knew anything about anything, you'd know this isn't the case and nothing happens without Allah's will.

or

In the Quran, he is referred to as al-Alim, the all knowing. You may not understand his hand on the world and ignorantly think that Earthquakes, Hurricanes, etc just come from 'no where', but you'd not walk up to a muslim and say the Quran is lies to his face - so why do it to us on here?

Now, I know Islam is a huge group, with diverse peoples and interpretations. It is, however, very hard for an outsider to understand whether a particular view is central and common to all of the faith, or whether that is a fringe view, or somewhere in between.

So (my question): how common in Islam is this objection to naturalism, in particular when discussing natural forces such as weather or significant geological / etc events?

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Many long answers have been written, but still, I would like to clarify a bit.

The faith of Islam is very clear in stating that Allah is the Almighty controller of everything. He has created the universe and set the rules that control how and why things happen. Everything that happens is within His control, and He can change the "normal" flow of events upon His will. Most of the time (99%), He leaves the universe to interact as per the rules He set at the time of creation. However, upon His will, He may order the universe to act differently.

For example, earthquakes happen due to geological reasons, and maybe even for astronomical reasons (who knows?). They are the result of particular interactions (which may be rooted to events that happened millions of years ago), and scientists would agree that these interactions follow a specific order that may or may not be entirely known to us. This "naturalist" view is acceptable within Islam, as long as the rules that control everything are attributed to Allah, the single God.

However, some unusual things may happen upon His order. One of the most famous examples is the splitting of the moon about 1300 years ago. This is, of course, an unnatural event. It had been witnessed by hundreds (thousands?) of people in different regions of the earth. How did this happen? Because of His will. As the creator, He just orders the moon to split, and it obeys.

So, here comes the question: are disasters (such as earthquakes, floods or hurricanes) natural events or unnatural, based upon His will? An answer would be divided into multiple parts:

  • Regardless of whether they are natural, they are upon His will. It was His will that set the rules for such interactions in the first place, so, by definition, all results of such interactions are upon His will.
  • Regardless of their frequency, these disasters are tools meant to punish some people, cleanse others of sins, and warn others. They are reminders that Allah has the power to obliterate all humanity, and He will at a destined time, upon His will.
  • Even if they were caused by just "natural" interactions (i.e. following the usual rules), one might discuss the potential of it being a punishment to sinners. As the all-knowledgeable, Allah knew since eternity that these people would stray from the right path, and might have ordered the earth, at any point in history, to start interacting in a way that would lead to that disaster happening at an exact point in time.

However, only annihilating disasters are described as a total punishment, such as when a disaster happens to a city and absolutely nobody survives.

In summary, Islam accepts the idea that "nature" has clear rules, but rejects the idea that "nature" has an independent will. It is only by the approval of Allah that nature follows (or strays from) its defined rules.

  • This is an excellent answer. It could possibly be improved by directly referencing a few ayat (if only to sate the "citation-needed" crowd), but it definitely gets a +1 from me. – goldPseudo Nov 9 '12 at 9:41
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    Agree with goldPseudo - good answer. One slight criticism would be the subtle suggestion that astronomers, when talking about the moon's origins, are talking about a split about 1300 years ago - that really isn't the case, so those two things are unrelated. But still a good answer, thanks. – Marc Gravell Nov 9 '12 at 9:44
  • @MarcGravell Thank you. I removed the clause about scientists observing clues regarding moon splitting. Although it has been mentioned by a famous geological scientist, I couldn't find evidence of that claim. Nevertheless, the incident is documented in historical Islamic books. – Hosam Aly Nov 9 '12 at 14:08
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    I wonder idly if that was the Dr. Zaghloul El Najjar hoax - but yes, I'm well aware if it terms of Islamic hisotry. – Marc Gravell Nov 9 '12 at 14:16
  • "One of the most famous examples is the splitting of the moon, about 1300 years ago. This is, of course, an unnatural event. It had been witnessed by hundreds (thousands?) of people in different regions of the earth." Can you cite evidence for this? This claim sometimes pops up, but no one seems to know about any evidence for it. – G. Bach Mar 30 '17 at 13:27
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First, the reactions you're seeing are from Muslims, and are not necessarily representative of Islam; simply representative of whoever has the "louder voice."

There are two important preconditions to understanding the answer to this question:

  1. Islam came as a way of guidance, not scientific details or evidence.
  2. In Islam, Allah (God) is the all-knowing, all-capable, all-powerful, all-merciful, and all-just ruler of the universe.

Islam, therefore, postulates that natural disasters are done by the will and power of Allah almighty. Nobody will dispute this. There are many ayaat in the Qur'an that speak of natural diasters, to which the cause is ascribed to Allah. (For example, the great flood in the story of Prophet Nuh (Noah).) Other phenomena (such as shooting stars) are addressed lightly.

The Qur'an (and hadith) also state that Allah punishes people through the use of natural disasters. This goes without question.

However, we know as Muslims that even the lives of Muslims are subject to hardship. Allah says:

enter image description here

Translation: Do the people think that they will be left to say, "We believe" and they will not be tried? (Surah Ankaboot, verse 2)

This means that Muslims, believers, who subject themselves to Islam, may also be tested. These tests can come in many forms, including natural diasters.

Also, there is not an immediate, observable cause-and-effect. Just because one person, or group, or nation, does something that goes against Islam, does not mean that they would be immediately and completely obliterated from the face of the Earth. Allah is Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem, the source of mercy, the one who is especially merciful.

On this particular point, the Qur'an says:

enter image description here

Translation: "And I know not; perhaps it is a trial for you and enjoyment for a time." (Surah Al-Anbiyaa, verse 111)

So we know that Allah gives respite, and accepts repentance, and does not punish immediately.

Putting all this together, the bottom-line TLDR is that only Allah knows the wisdom and reason behind natural disaters. Sometimes, we can analyse them with an Islamic lens and say "perhaps the reason is this (sin or unislamic reason) and perhaps the reason is that (sin or unislamic reason)." But ultimately, Allah knows best.

  • Please clarify if this answers your question, I tend to ramble sometimes. – ashes999 Nov 8 '12 at 16:15
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In the name of Allah, Most Beneficent, Most Merciful

Naturalism is a philosophy that says "There is no such thing as God". And, Almost all religions (obviously including Islam) say "There is someone called God controlling everything". So basically, naturalism denies the presence and concept of God. You find heated arguments only because of this non-intersection of the two concepts. Naturally, people who believe in God and pray to Him 5 times a day, will not readily accept denial of His control over His creations.

Every religion teaches that natural events like rain are controlled by God alone. For example,

[He] who made for you the earth a bed [spread out] and the sky a ceiling and sent down from the sky, rain and brought forth thereby fruits as provision for you. So do not attribute to Allah equals while you know [that there is nothing similar to Him]. Qur'an 2:22

Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not He, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things. Jeremiah 14:22.

So, by supporting naturalism, you are already partially denying the truth in every holy scripture on the earth. This may be a reason why you find "You are insulting Allah"-like comments.


Coming to your final question "How common in Islam is this objection to naturalism?",

Islam doesn't totally reject the concept of naturalism. It supports many naturalist theories like

  1. Water cycle:

    The water cycle is described by the Qur’aan in the following verses: “Seest thou not that Allah Sends down rain from The sky, and leads it Through springs in the earth? Then He causes to grow, Therewith, produce of various Colours.”
    Qur’an 39:21.

    “He sends down rain From the sky And with it gives life to The earth after it is dead: Verily in that are Signs For those who are wise.”
    Qur’an 30:24.

    “And We send down water From the sky according to (Due) measure, and We cause it To soak in the soil; And We certainly are able To drain it off (with ease).”
    Qur’an 23:18.

  2. Big Bang:

    “Do not the Unbelievers see That the heavens and the earth Were joined together (as one Unit of Creation), before We clove them asunder?”
    Qur’an 21:30.

    And many more...

Islam doesn't reject the laws and theories of Naturalists. After all, nature itself is a creation of Allah. But, wherever the concept of God is denied, Islam opposes it strongly.


Last word: It is not God that rejects naturalism. It is Naturalism that rejects God.


ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ حَكِيمٌ (And Allah is the All-Knower, the Wise)

اللَّهُمَّ انْفَعْنِي بِمَا عَلَّمْـتَنِي وَ عَلِّمْنِي مَا يَنْفَعُنِي

  • I guess by naturalism I mean more "pursuit of the natural sciences": I'm not sure that makes much of a statement about God, in terms of rejecting it - but indeed it certainly doesn't use religion as a foundation – Marc Gravell Nov 8 '12 at 17:03
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Islam considers Nature created by God and a tool in hand of God for performing commands of God. Nature is like a knife in hand of a man for cutting a fruit. The knife itself is not a decision maker. But knife is a tool for mind of human to perform commands of mind. So anything happening by Nature is in fact done by God. Even humans are considered tools in hand of God.

For example Quran says:

فَلَمْ تَقْتُلُوهُمْ وَلَـكِنَّ اللَّـهَ قَتَلَهُمْ وَمَا رَ‌مَيْتَ إِذْ رَ‌مَيْتَ وَلَـكِنَّ اللَّـهَ رَ‌مَى وَلِيُبْلِيَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْهُ بَلَاءً حَسَنًا إِنَّ اللَّـهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيمٌ

And you did not kill them, but it was Allah who killed them. And you threw not, [O Muhammad], when you threw, but it was Allah who threw that He might test the believers with a good test. Indeed, Allah is Hearing and Knowing. http://tanzil.net/#8:17

This verse means that actions done by human are in fact done by God.

Or Quran says:

أَفَرَ‌أَيْتُمُ الْمَاءَ الَّذِي تَشْرَ‌بُونَ ﴿٦٨﴾ أَأَنتُمْ أَنزَلْتُمُوهُ مِنَ الْمُزْنِ أَمْ نَحْنُ الْمُنزِلُونَ ﴿٦٩﴾ لَوْ نَشَاءُ جَعَلْنَاهُ أُجَاجًا فَلَوْلَا تَشْكُرُ‌ونَ ﴿٧٠﴾ أَفَرَ‌أَيْتُمُ النَّارَ‌ الَّتِي تُورُ‌ونَ ﴿٧١﴾ أَأَنتُمْ أَنشَأْتُمْ شَجَرَ‌تَهَا أَمْ نَحْنُ الْمُنشِئُونَ ﴿٧٢﴾ نَحْنُ جَعَلْنَاهَا تَذْكِرَ‌ةً وَمَتَاعًا لِّلْمُقْوِينَ ﴿٧٣﴾ فَسَبِّحْ بِاسْمِ رَ‌بِّكَ الْعَظِيمِ

And have you seen the water that you drink? (68) Is it you who brought it down from the clouds, or is it We who bring it down? (69) If We willed, We could make it bitter, so why are you not grateful? (70) And have you seen the fire that you ignite? (71) Is it you who produced its tree, or are We the producer? (72) We have made it a reminder and provision for the travelers, (73) So exalt the name of your Lord, the Most Great. http://tanzil.net/#trans/en.sahih/56:69

Believing that Nature is something working by itself and without control from God is against Islam.

If one consider intelligence and decision making ability for Nature then it is same as Allah but only different name. it depends that one consider the decision making

he answer to this is that if there is no Designer of the universe, why are they not more severe catastrophes, as for example the complete disorder in the universe, the rending of the earth, the cessation of sunrise, the drying up of river beds so as to leave no drop of water to moisten the lips, the air becoming stationary leading to the disorganisation of all matter, the advance of oceanic water to the earth submerging it. Who guards all these events? Whose planning is behind the scenes?

When you say that if there had been a Designer and Creator, such swarms of locusts would not have visited us to cause such heavy damage, such virulent epidemics would not have taken toll c>I' millions of lives, hail storms would not have been so severe as to destroy our corn fields. If all these are real facts, why does not this universe get disorganised leading to the destruction of the whole world? Why does not the ocean submerge the earth with gushing water? Why does not the air become stationary to stifle all living beings? Why does not all this occur?

Tradition of Mufaddal (Fourth Session - The Natural Disasters )

Now, I know Islam is a huge group, with diverse peoples and interpretations. It is, however, very hard for an outsider to understand whether a particular view is central and common to all of the faith, or whether that is a fringe view, or somewhere in between.

This is will of God to Muslims do not be a united nation:

وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَـكِن يُضِلُّ مَن يَشَاءُ وَيَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ وَلَتُسْأَلُنَّ عَمَّا كُنتُمْ تَعْمَلُونَ

And if Allah had willed, He could have made you [of] one religion, but He causes to stray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And you will surely be questioned about what you used to do. http://tanzil.net/#16:93

And:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّـهُ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْ‌عَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّـهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَـكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَ‌اتِ إِلَى اللَّـهِ مَرْ‌جِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ

And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. So judge between them by what Allah has revealed and do not follow their inclinations away from what has come to you of the truth. To each of you We prescribed a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made you one nation [united in religion], but [He intended] to test you in what He has given you; so race to [all that is] good. To Allah is your return all together, and He will [then] inform you concerning that over which you used to differ. http://tanzil.net/#5:48

  • The last two Ayahs talk about all human beings, not Muslims in particular. It is the will of Allah that humans will not be one nation; there will be faithful followers and others who will stray (upon His will). – Hosam Aly Nov 9 '12 at 8:57
  • @HosamAly how you ensure it is not about Musims? I do not want to disagree you but do you have any proof for this claim? it can be for both Muslims and non Muslims. any way the fact is that Muslims are not united and are different branches. – Battle of Karbala Nov 9 '12 at 10:53

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