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How Does Islam See Idealism?

20 December, 2023
Q Salam. How does Islam see idealism? Please explain. May Allah reward you.


Salam Dear Ahmad,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Because of its complexities, idealism is a difficult topic to discuss, but I will do my best to make the issue as clear as possible.

I am assuming that you are asking about the type of idealism that states that ideas, or thoughts, make up the whole of reality; that a world of material objects containing no thought either could not exist, or would not be fully real.

This type of idealism is the opposite of materialism, the idea that the only thing that can be proven to exist is physical matter.

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Basically, it all comes down to the questions, “What is reality?” or “What is real and what is imagination or thought?” One of Allah’s names, as mentioned in the  Quran is “Al-Haqq” or “The Truth” or “The Ultimate Reality”.

Allah is the ultimate reality, or what is really real. He created our bodies from the soil of the Earth and then gave it life by Him breathing into our bodies a soul.

As Muslims, we understand that Allah has eyes, a face, hands, etc. but they are not like our eyes, face and hands. We know that Allah sees and hears all, but no human eyes or ears can encompass Him.

We also know that the inhabitants of Paradise will be given the ultimate reward which is to be able to see Allah as He really is. What really exists is Allah alone. Our own existence relies on Allah’s. Without Him we do not exist.

With our limited knowledge and intellectual capacity, it is impossible to try to understand what Allah really is, because unlike our minds, He has no limits. Our minds are not able to envision or comprehend such a magnificent being as Him.

The Quran is full of descriptions of Allah and His attributes but we are unable to draw a picture in our minds as to what Allah is or looks like. Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) is mentioned in the Quran as asking:

{When Moses came to the place appointed by Us, and his Lord addressed him, He said: “O my Lord! show (Yourself) to me, that I may look upon thee.” Allah said: “By no means can you see Me (direct); But look upon the mount; if it abides in its place, then shall you see Me.” When his Lord manifested His glory on the Mount, He made it as dust. And Moses fell down in a swoon. When he recovered his senses he said: “Glory be to You! To You I turn in repentance, and I am the first to believe.}  (Al-A`raf 7:143)

What an incredible moment! Prophet Moses (peace be upon him) was the only prophet to whom Allah spoke directly. All other prophets had messages brought to them by Jibreel (Gabriel, peace be upon him).How Does Islam See Idealism

In an innocent request to gaze upon his Lord, Moses is shown the magnitude of what he is asking for in an awesome display of the true reality of Allah.

How huge and intimidating is a mountain to us humans? Yet when Allah manifested His glory on the mountain, it immediately became dust. It ceased to exist in an instant.

If it was Allah’s Will, He could turn the whole universe and everything in it to dust, to cause its existence to end immediately. This is because it only exists according to His Will.

Allah’s Will is not a material thing. It is His Wish, what He likes. If He decides that He no longer “likes” something, it ceases to exist as it did.

{It is He Who gives Life and Death; and when He decides upon an affair, He says to it, “Be”, and it is.} (Ghafir 40:68)

The perceptions of reality that we “see” and “feel” in the world around us are only illusions. Every thing in our sphere of existence is made of atoms of matter. If we stopped there, we would think that all matter is real because it is made up of atoms.

When atoms are split, as in a nuclear reaction, we find that they are made up of smaller particles, protons, neutrons and electrons. These can also be split using advanced technology.

The search for the building blocks of matter can never really end. In the end, the particles can be split an infinite number of times. When do we reach the smallest indivisible particle? Is there such a thing?

In reality, we can continue to divide these particles until we have something so small that it is non-existent. So in the end, everything is really made up of nothing but Allah’s Will.

There is no physical matter and no building block. Only Allah exists. He has created this “reality” that we live in, for reasons that only He knows, and given us a form that interacts in it and is part of it. The only part of our existence that is not material is the soul Allah has created.

The soul is what experiences this life. It is not the brain in our skull that is experiencing life. The brain is merely made up of the same material, in a different form, as is found outside our skull in the world around us.

All of the known elements of the periodic table, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, etc., make up everything in the universe. Our bodies and everything in them are made up of these elements in varying amounts.

{Has there not been over Man a long period of Time, when he was nothing – (not even) mentioned? Verily We created Man from a drop of mingled sperm, in order to try him: So We gave him (the gifts), of Hearing and Sight. We showed him the Way: whether he be grateful or ungrateful (rests on his will).} (Al-Insan 76:1-3)

There was a time when each of us did not even exist, before our mothers became pregnant with us. Allah created us in our mothers’ wombs by His Will and we came into this world. So in reality, we existed only in the Knowledge of Allah, even before we were created in our mothers’ wombs, and we continue to exist only in the Knowledge of Allah.How Does Islam See Idealism

To conclude, idealism is in line with Islam, so long as it acknowledges that The Ultimate Reality is Allah, Glory be to Him in the Highest. He created the universe and everything in it.

{He is Allah, the Creator, the Evolver, the Bestower of Forms. To Him belong the Most Beautiful Names: whatever is in the heavens and on earth, doth declare His Praises and Glory: and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.} (Al-Hashr 59:24)

May Allah guide all humanity to understand that He is The Ultimate Reality and to Him is the Return.

I hope this has been helpful to you. Please keep in touch.


About Waleed Najmeddine
Waleed Ahmed Najmeddine is a Canadian born Muslim and public school administrator. He is an active member of the Muslim community and enjoys educating Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam. He currently holds a Master of Education degree in leadership and school improvement.