“How did the universe come into existence?” It’s a question that most of the world’s religions seek to answer. According to the Abrahamic faiths, the world can only exist with the existence of a being who was not caused by something other than itself – and this they call ‘Yahweh’, ‘Allāh’, or ‘God’. Philosophical arguments to this end come in many forms, one of which – from the medieval Islamic philosopher Ibn Sina (known in the West as ‘Avicenna’) – claims that we can prove the existence of this necessary being with absolute certainty. If something can exist there must be an uncaused being, and from this concept alone, Avicenna says that we can deduce every other property that Muslims attribute to Allāh.
In this interview, we’ll be discussing Avicenna and the philosophy of Islam with Dr Mohammad Saleh Zarepour. Currently Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Manchester, Dr Zarepour completed his first PhD at the Tarbiat Modares University in Iran and his second PhD at the University of Cambridge. Publishing extensively in philosophy of religion – and having worked on major initiatives such as the Global Philosophy of Religion Project – it is safe to say that Saleh is one of the world’s leading experts in Islamic philosophy.
Islam claims to solve the problem of existence, but its implications extend far beyond the origin of the cosmos. Allāh is a being invested in his creation – a being that will judge, reward, or punish us for our good and bad deeds, who permits us to live and to suffer – and differs from the God of Judaism and Christianity in his nature and actions. Thus, we should ask not only whether belief in Allāh’s necessity is reasonable, but whether the beliefs of Muslims are more (or less) reasonable than those of their Abrahamic cousins.
This episode is produced in partnership with The Global Philosophy of Religion Project at University of Birmingham, led by Yujin Nagasawa and funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
Part I. Allāh
Part II. Further Analysis and Discussion
Mohammad Saleh Zarepour (website).
Mohammad Saleh Zarepour, Necessary Existence and Monotheism (book).
Zain Ali, ‘Some Reflections on William Lane Craig’s Critique of Islam’ (paper).