Existence of God

By Shaykh al-Azhar `Abdul Halīm Mahmūd
Translated by Muhammad William Charles 

Imagine a house whose rooms are well provided with luxurious furniture, standing on a high mountain surrounded by a thick forest; suppose that a man came across this house, but could not find anybody nearby. Suppose that he thought that the rocks from the mountain had been scattered around, and then automatically collected together to take the shape of this splendid palace with its bedrooms, chambers, corridors, and fittings, that the trees in the wood had split of their own accord into boards, and formed themselves into doors and beds, seats and tables, each taking its place in the palace; that the fibers from the plants and wool and hair of the animals of their own accord had changed into embroidered cloth, and then were cut into carpets, pillows, and cushions, and dispersed about the rooms and settled onto sofas and chairs; that lamps and chandeliers by themselves had fallen into this palace from all directions and fixed themselves into the ceilings, singly and in groups; would you not conclude that this must be a dream or a legend, or the reasoning of someone disturbed in his mind?

What, then, do you think of a palace whose ceiling is the sky, whose floor is the earth, whose pillars are the mountains, whose ornamentation is the plants, and whose lamps are the stars, moon, and sun? In the correct judgment of the intellect, can it be of lesser importance than this house? Is it not more likely to direct the attention and mind to a Shaping Creator, Alive, Self-Subsistent, Who created and shaped, and Who determined and guided?

And do you think that if a man brought millions of printing letters and began to move them around day after day, week after week, year after year, that he would obtain from them by chance, a composition which is a book of literature, philosophy, or mathematics?

As the Orientalist David Santillana said, even after moving them around for generations, after all his toil he would still be left with individual letters. If this is so, as Santillana continues, how can we imagine that this universe, with the perfection and harmony between its individual parts and their amazing compatibility with each other, could ever have come about through random movement in a limitless void, as the materialists imagine? There is no doubt that rational people would agree with Aristotle that ‘Every order bespeaks the intelligence behind it.’

The above manner of demonstration [that is, the cosmological proof] is the method which Kant, the greatest philosopher of Germany (2), declared to be the clearest and strongest proof of the existence of God.


1) Existence of God: Abd al-Halīm Mahmīd, The Creed of Islām, by (Lahore: Suhail Academy, 1981, reprint), p. 33-34.

2) Sabri Efendī, the Grand Muftī of the Ottoman Empire just before its collapse, in his masterly work on theology, al-fasl, regarded Kant to be the greatest European philosopher after the Renaissance.

“Why does God threaten us with Hell and how is it free-will if He threatens us with Hell?”

Islamic theology (‘Aqeedah) is based on an ethical rather than speculative imperative. Many Qur’anic verses and hadiths show that Iman (faith) is obligatory and rewarded by paradise, and that kufr (unbelief) is wrong and punished by hell. We believe that Heaven and Hell exist and this is an intellectual possibility which doesn’t go against sound intellect. 

I am not gonna delve into speculative theology much, I am gonna try to keep it simple. Suppose you have your final year exams coming up, the teacher tells you that if you don’t revise, you are gonna fail, but if you do revise then you will pass and go on to get that dream-job of yours or whatever. Now, for most of us, it’s the ‘fear of failure’ and not the ‘hope of success’, that makes us revise the hardest. Why? Human nature, that’s just how we are and how we think as human beings.

Now, if the Qur’an didn’t mention ‘hell’ (and only mentioned ‘heaven’), then the people would have questioned “Well, what about those who refuse to believe?” And if the Qur’an didn’t mention ‘heaven’ (and only mentioned ‘hell’), then the people would have questioned “What is there for the believers?” But if you analyse the Qur’an thoroughly, you’ll find that the words “paradise” and “hell” are each repeated 77 times; there is a perfect balance between ‘fear of failure’ (Hell) and ‘hope for success’ (Heaven), because our Creator knows what is best for us.

As for free-will, see it this way: “God creates the possibility of a human action with his divine predestination, but then the human follows through and “acquires” the act, making it theirs and taking responsibility for it using their human fate.” Simply put, God has knowledge of everything that will be, but humans have freedom of choice. For example, the teacher knows that the student is going to fail the exam, because he doesn’t study or attend any lectures. But the student is still given the chance to actually sit the exam without him being forced to do so. If he was to pull off an all-nighter the night before the exam and pass, that’d just show that the teacher is *not* all-Knowing, but God is.

I tried to keep it as simple as I could, but if you want me to discuss issues pertaining to theodicy and Euthyphro dilemma in-depth, then please leave a comment below.

How Watching Pornography Changes The Brain

By Mohamed Ghilan, UVic Neuroscience

It is now recognized in neuroscience that the brain is malleable. It changes with our experience and forms pathways and connections that correlate with what we watch, listen to, and learn. From the active engagement in a philosophical discussion in class to the learning of directions in the new city you moved into; even the seemingly passive sitting down to listen to music or watch television results in a constant formation of new connections in the brain that eventually make us who we are as individuals. A huge problem, albeit a silent one, that has reached epidemic proportions is the viewing of pornography, which affects men more so than it does women.

The great majority of articles on the problematic nature of this subject typically speak about it from a psychological and/or social perspective. This article, however, will shed light on the effects of viewing pornography from a neuroscience perspective.The current model explaining how we learn and remember things at the brain level uses synaptic plasticity as the basis. Synaptic plasticity is the ability of the brain to change the strength in connections between the neurons (brain cells) in response to experience. This involves changing the amount and types of receptors expressed, as well as the amount of neurotransmitters (communication molecules) being released.

A vital neurotransmitter in the brain is dopamine. It has many important roles that it serves in functions such as voluntary movement, motivation, reward, punishment, and learning. Dopamine has been implicated in children with ADHD, cognitive decline due to aging, and depression. Most of the public’s knowledge about dopamine is about famous individuals with Parkinson’s disease such as Muhammad Ali and Michael J Fox, who have dopamine dysfunction pathology.

A vital role for dopamine is in pleasure experience, reward, and learning. Drugs such as cocaine target the dopaminergic system to release great amounts of dopamine which results in experiencing a “high,” often leading to addiction. A number of studies have implicated dopamine in either the anticipation or the direct experience of pleasure. Depending on the brain area, dopamine can be released either prior to or during the moments of heightened pleasure. When released, dopamine strengthens and reinforces the new connections that are being made in the brain while an activity is undertaken.  This in turn acts to encourage the individual to repeat the activity again so they can feel that pleasure once more.

How is this relevant to pornography? As the images are displayed on the screen, an arousal takes place and the dopaminergic system is triggered just like it would be by drugs such as cocaine. The newly formed connections in the brain from watching pornographic images become greatly reinforced by the massive amounts of dopamine being released. Rather than going into short-term memory, where these images can be forgotten after the screen is turned off, the dopamine reinforcement ensures they’re moved into the long-term memory stores where they can be stuck in replay mode in the person’s mind. The troublesome fact about this is that the more something is recalled, the more it solidifies it in the brain. Think back to your school days when you studied for an exam – you repeated the statements you needed to memorize over and over until they stuck.

Pornography is fantasy. Different scenes present with different women give the illusion of the watcher having a relationship with a new person every time. These “stars” subject themselves to different demeaning sexual practices by the men in the scenes. The acts in their totality are detestable to most mentally healthy people. However, the design of the act in a pornographic scene is to link one or two normally arousing and familiar elements with others that are not. This is how the viewer acquires new tastes in sexual practice. Electromagnetic waves are emitted from the screen with a fantasy that triggers a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing dopamine. The result is a feeling of a real, yet delusional, state of pleasure and satisfaction. The dopamine reinforces the new connections with newly acquired sexual tastes, and the next thing taking place is the man asking his wife to engage in a sexual fantasy that was downloaded into his subconscious.

The sequence of events in the brain is quite disturbingly simple. Synaptic plasticity works to form new connections as a result of watching pornography, and newly learned memories are stored. Since the experience is an arousing one, dopamine release results in very strong reinforcement of those new connections. Now that the scenes are in long-term memory, two consequences take place: 1) since the very same system stimulated by cocaine is being triggered by pornography, addiction is developed; and 2) the man will often attempt to create his own re-enactments with his wife, which leads to a great disappointment. The re-enactments do not live up to expectations because instead of many different women, it’s now only one. Worse yet, this only one woman doesn’t sound, act, or look the same as the ones downloaded into his mind. Although the first couple of re-enactments might be exciting, soon reality will strike and dopamine will no longer be released because pleasure is no longer derived.

Sadly, that’s not the end of it. After such a disappointment in the actual experience due to the unrealistic fantasy-based expectations, the brain not only refrains from releasing dopamine; it actually dips below baseline levels. It goes into a depression response that results in disappointment, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness in the marriage since the wife is “not up to what he expected”. Despite the efforts by many women to “spice things up” and even subject themselves to the demeaning acts that have been artificially downloaded into their husbands’ brains, the pornography-addicted husbands will only enjoy themselves for a very short while before losing interest. Meanwhile, the wife feels unattractive and emotionally abandoned despite her best efforts, not knowing that she couldn’t compete with the dopamine buzz offered by pornography.

What’s alarming about this information is that the brain acts as a whole entity; its plasticity is global. Change in one area affects other regions. It is a literal re-wiring of overall neural connections as a result of pornography viewing. The extent of influence on other parts of the brain and cognition is an area of research requiring attention.

While neuroscience paints a very disturbing picture for those affected by watching pornography, it’s not all bad news. Although the same system for cocaine addiction is targeted by it, the substance is not the same. A cocaine addict must go through a regimented program to detoxify his system or otherwise he’ll be placing his life at risk. On the other hand, many men that have learned about the real stark effects of watching pornography are able to quit immediately without experiencing negative physiological consequences. It does take a lot of willpower and requires the person to busy themselves with other activities. Initially, tormenting replays of pornographic scenes watched over the past months or years will test the person’s drive and strength to give it up. Luckily, the same brain that went through a re-wiring due to viewing pornography can also be rewired again. It is an extremely efficient organ that gets rid of unused connections. The longer a person can go without re-stimulating his pornographic connections, the more likely he makes it for his brain to discard them. Engaging in new experiences and occupying the brain with other PG-rated matters will be bound to force it to prune others away. It just needs time to do its work and it needs to be given the choice; it will always choose what the person activates more often.

Picture taken from: Salvo Magazine