Philosophy & Theology

“The Bedouin and the Existence of Allah…”

The Bedouin and the Existence of Allah

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Imam Ahmad Ibn Muhammad al-Maqqari al-Tilimsani al-Andalusi (d. 1041/1631) writes in Kitab Nafh al-Tib:

Arabic:

قيل لأعرابي بم عرفت ربك فقال البعرة تدل على البعير والروث يدل على الحمير وآثار الأقدام تدل على المسير فسماء ذات أبراج وبحار ذات أمواج أما يدل ذلك على العليم القدير

Translation:

“A Bedouin was asked: how do you know your Lord exists? He replied: “Camel dung indicates camels, donkey dung indicates donkeys and footprints indicate travel. So the sky, with its constellations and the seas with its waves, do not these indicate the All-Knowing, the All-Powerful?”[1]

Notes:

  • There are traces, marks or signatures that mark the existence of Allah.
  • The imprint of Allah is in his creation much like the designer and manufacture imprint (whether stylistic or numerical) on a specific product.
  • There are indications that the Creator Allah (swt) exists through evidence in His creation.
  • The Bedouin made a simple attestation to there being a design imprint of Allah in His creation much how tracks left behind in the desert sand indicates a desert traveller and animal excrements left behind by an animal indicates its presence. In other words, there is design in the world that bears the mark of a ‘Designer’.[2]

The Foolish fisherman Fallacy:

The Bedouin’s analogy is simple (conjured from his reality) but worth consideration. The simplicity of the analogy should not be a reason for the discerning seeker to undermine it as compelling. The existence of the Designer should not be discounted if it is based on the failure for the observer to comprehend design in the world. Doing it is to imitate the foolish fisherman who when unable to catch any fish, cries out that there are no fish in the water. Perhaps it is the fisherman who is inept. Therefore, denial of design in the world is actually a reflection of the inability of the observer to recognise and understand the design being the product of a Designer.

Thus, rejection of Allah’s existence is often down to denial of it not the irrationality of it.

And with Allah is success.

s.z.c.


[1] See al-Tilimsani, Nafh al-Tib min Ghusn al-Andalus al-Ratib (‘The Breath of Perfumes from the Boughs of Andalucía), vol.5, p.289.

[2] In Ibn Rushd’s taxonomy, this argument is thoroughly Qur’anic and is called the Argument from Creation (dalil-ikhtira`). See Faith and Reason in Islam: Averroes Exposition of Religious Arguments, [Al-Kashf ‘an Manahij al-Adilla fi `aqa’id al-Milla], tr. I. Najjar (Oxford, 2001), p.33. See C. S. Yaran, Islamic Thought on the Existence of God, pp.119-133 for basic surveys of the different arguments offered for the existence of God in Islamic thought.

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