1. Understanding the Existence of God before the Attributes of God

Before We Start

Before I start with the book, I want to mention something about different ways of knowing God. In Islamic theology and also in Islamic philosophy, when it comes to discussion about God which we call ‘ilaahiyaat bil maane akhas – when we talk about theology in its narrowest sense, what we normally do is we first prove the existence of God. Then, we study the different attributes of God. This is the general pattern in all Islamic books on kalam, philosophy and aqaid.  First, existence of God and then attributes of God. But in philosophy of religion, which is a new kind of study, they discuss issues which are common in different religions without being necessarily committed to any religion. In philosophy of religion, which is different from theology, which is different from kalam, we just want to see how different issues are addressed in different religions.  The main thing for them is to see whether they are meaningful or not and the second thing is to see whether they are consistent or not.

Anyway, what they do normally is they first talk about the quality or attributes of God and then they talk about the existence of God. The reason is because there are so many different understandings of God among religions, that first they try to come up with some understanding of what we mean by God and then they try to prove it—whether He exists or does not exist. They have arguments for the existence of God and arguments against the existence of God but all is after talking about the attributes of God. The way we do it, which is more logical because we have to first establish the existence of God, is we start with the arguments first for the existence of God. This is one point.  So if you see in some books of philosophy of religion, the order is different then you should not wonder why the order is different.

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