What is Evidence?

What is Evidence?

Claims, theories, hypotheses and beliefs – the advocate of any of these must have adequate evidence to substantiate his stance. The police might use CCTV footage to justify their arresting a potential criminal; the philosopher could base his conclusions on deductive reasoning; the evolutionist, in his faith, relies a lot on Darwinian observations; and the believer will present the argument of Intelligent Design to prove the existence of the Creator. Many a times, the hypotheses of men contradict the fundamental beliefs of religion. At this juncture, atheists tend to accuse theologians of lacking evidence. A number of questions, therefore, arise: what is evidence? Must all evidences, by definition, be scientifically-testable?

The Oxford Dictionary defines evidence as: ‘the available body of facts or information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid.’ This definition gives ‘evidence’ a significantly broad scope, does not require it to be scientifically-testable. Rather, any fact or nuanced information, provided it indicates to the validity of the given assent, will be regarded as sound evidence – irrespective of whether or not science has progressed enough to acknowledge it.

By asserting that an evidence must be empirically verifiable or falsifiable, atheists unknowingly create two problems for themselves:

  • They must justify why they decided to define evidence differently to its linguistic, dictionary definition. Failure to do so will inevitably mean they have hijacked the word to their own advantage.
  • According to this definition, they have no evidence for supersymmetry, dark matter, electrons, macro-evolution etc. Let them produce and present empirical evidence demonstrating the transformation of one species into another!

According to the dictionary definition, evidence will differ according to the particular case and subject. For this reason, it will be illogical to attempt to prove a mathematical sum via human psychology, just as trying to verify punctuation through algebra would be irrational. Therefore, it would be correct to say it is nonsensical to demand scientifically-testable evidence for facts pertaining to logic, philosophy and theology – namely: the existence of the Creator, the origin of life, its purpose, the concept of miracles etc.

This can be understood by the following example: if I, Shahin-ur Rahman, were to state my great-great-great-grandfather’s (five generations before me) name was Shahad Ullah, the presenting of a recorded family-tree is sufficient evidence; it would be incorrect for someone to demand a DNA sample of my ancestor to examine under a microscope. This is because the assent is related to the history of lineage; it does not concern biological science. Science deals with science; it cannot explain history.

In the above example, the evidence is essentially based on authentic testimony. This could be of either individuals or the public masses. An example of the latter type would be the assertion of volcanoes erupting at sea – the vast majority of humankind believe it to be true due to the testimony from the scholars of geology, not because of them having witnessed it with their own eyes; therefore, their evidence is not empirical.

Applying this reasoning into earlier times, historian specialists of world lineages have recorded the lineage of the Holy Prophet of Islām, Muḥammad . He was the son of ʿAbdullāh Ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib Ibn Hāshim Ibn ʿAbd Manāf Ibn Quṣayy Ibn Kilāb Ibn Murrah Ibn Kaʿb Ibn Luʾayy Ibn Ghālib Ibn Fihr Ibn Mālik Ibn al-Naḍr Ibn Kinānah Ibn Khuzaymah Ibn Mudrikah Ibn Ilyās Ibn Muḍar Ibn Nizār Ibn Maʿadd Ibn ʿAdnān.[1]

The historians continue: ʿAdnān is the son of Adad Ibn al-Muqawwim Ibn Tāriḥ Ibn Yashjub Ibn Yaʿrub Ibn Nābit Ibn Ismāʿīl[2] Ibn Ibrāhīm Ibn Tāriḥ (Āzar) Ibn Nāḥūr Ibn Sārūgh Ibn Rāʿū Ibn Fālakh Ibn ʿUbayr Ibn Shālakh Ibn Arfakhshadh Ibn Sām Ibn Nūḥ n Ibn Lamk Ibn Mutawashlikh Ibn Akhnūkh (supposedly the Prophet Idrīs) Ibn Yarid Ibn Mahlāyīl Ibn Qīnān Ibn Yānish Ibn Shīth Ibn Ādam.[3]

This family tree – although it cannot be noticed through any of the five senses, nor be examined under scientific principles – is certainly a sound, historical piece of evidence displaying the descent of man from Ādam. Whether or not this aids in disproving the theory of evolution is a different matter.

While on the topic of the theory of evolution, the only available evidence is of micro-evolution; as for macro-evolution (the transformation of one species into another), there is no evidence, at all. In fact, the theory itself leads to many absurdities:

  • The theory of evolution suggests positive mutation of creatures. All induced mutations are negative (i.e. it is of a deficiency); never has a positive mutation been witnessed.
  • It is based on the premises of natural selection and survival of the fittest. If the concepts were true, only the primates would survive; the unfit creatures ought to have been extinct. However, the existence of millions of monkeys and apes throughout the world refute this.
  • It states creatures evolve over millions of years. Had this been true, there ought to have been millions of half-ape half-man creatures alive today, just as there are millions of apes and monkeys, and billions of human beings. Their absence indicates to an absurdity in the theory.
  • Irreducible complexity and specified complexity suggest otherwise.
  • The origin of man is a matter concerning history. Had man evolved from apes, the earlier generations would have known of this and, therefore, passed it onto their offspring. As mankind scattered throughout the world, there ought to have been a massively-transmitted, authentic testimony accepted by human beings in all continents of planet Earth. This is not found; rather, the world is united upon the universal, mainstream concept of Ādam and Ḥawwāʾ (Eve). The fact that the concept of evolution is unprecedented in history, and was theorised by a man thousands of years away from the origin of the first human being, is absurd and a logical fallacy.

Another argument atheists pose to theists is of faith: they claim that faith, by definition, means to believe in something without evidence; therefore, it is irrational to have faith in anything at all due to the lack of evidence. This can be answered in the following ways:

  • Faith is an English word. In Arabic, the language of Islām, three words are used: īmān, tadīq and iʿtiqād; none of these words require the absence of evidence. If faith necessitates the absence of evidence, it is an incorrect translation of the Arabic words.
  • Although the secondary meaning of faith is ‘strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof,’ its primary meaning has been defined by the Oxford Dictionary as ‘complete trust or confidence in someone or something.’ According to this definition, the above argument is unsound.
  • While faith might lack empirical evidence, it is not void of reasons to believe. For example, a wife’s love for her husband cannot be seen through a telescope or under a microscope; however, there are indications giving clue to it, such as her testimony, her smile, a catch in her voice etc. One might consider these to be evidences; others might not, due to their nature of not being scientifically-testable. Should this be the case, it would mean faith only lacks empirical evidence, but has numerous signs indicating to the reality of what the one having faith believes.

Interestingly, while the miraculous nature of the Qurʾān is evidence of the truth of Islām, none of its six-thousand-plus āyāt suggest any evidence for the existence of Allāh . Many āyāt do, however, entail signs upon signs which overwhelm the reader and lead him/her to believe in Allāh , albeit without empirical evidence. The Qur’ān reads:

يُخۡرِجُ ٱلۡحَيَّ مِنَ ٱلۡمَيِّتِ وَيُخۡرِجُ ٱلۡمَيِّتَ مِنَ ٱلۡحَيِّ وَيُحۡيِ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ بَعۡدَ مَوۡتِهَاۚ وَكَذَٰلِكَ تُخۡرَجُونَ ١٩ وَمِنۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦٓ أَنۡ خَلَقَكُم مِّن تُرَابٖ ثُمَّ إِذَآ أَنتُم بَشَرٞ تَنتَشِرُونَ ٢٠ وَمِنۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦٓ أَنۡ خَلَقَ لَكُم مِّنۡ أَنفُسِكُمۡ أَزۡوَٰجٗا لِّتَسۡكُنُوٓاْ إِلَيۡهَا وَجَعَلَ بَيۡنَكُم مَّوَدَّةٗ وَرَحۡمَةًۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَأٓيَٰتٖ لِّقَوۡمٖ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ ٢١ وَمِنۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦ خَلۡقُ ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِ وَٱخۡتِلَٰفُ أَلۡسِنَتِكُمۡ وَأَلۡوَٰنِكُمۡۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَأٓيَٰتٖ لِّلۡعَٰلِمِينَ ٢٢ وَمِنۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦ مَنَامُكُم بِٱلَّيۡلِ وَٱلنَّهَارِ وَٱبۡتِغَآؤُكُم مِّن فَضۡلِهِۦٓۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَأٓيَٰتٖ لِّقَوۡمٖ يَسۡمَعُونَ ٢٣ وَمِنۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦ يُرِيكُمُ ٱلۡبَرۡقَ خَوۡفٗا وَطَمَعٗا وَيُنَزِّلُ مِنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ مَآءٗ فَيُحۡيِۦ بِهِ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ بَعۡدَ مَوۡتِهَآۚ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَأٓيَٰتٖ لِّقَوۡمٖ يَعۡقِلُونَ ٢٤ وَمِنۡ ءَايَٰتِهِۦٓ أَن تَقُومَ ٱلسَّمَآءُ وَٱلۡأَرۡضُ بِأَمۡرِهِۦۚ ثُمَّ إِذَا دَعَاكُمۡ دَعۡوَةٗ مِّنَ ٱلۡأَرۡضِ إِذَآ أَنتُمۡ تَخۡرُجُونَ ٢٥ وَلَهُۥ مَن فِي ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِۖ كُلّٞ لَّهُۥ قَٰنِتُونَ ٢٦ وَهُوَ ٱلَّذِي يَبۡدَؤُاْ ٱلۡخَلۡقَ ثُمَّ يُعِيدُهُۥ وَهُوَ أَهۡوَنُ عَلَيۡهِۚ وَلَهُ ٱلۡمَثَلُ ٱلۡأَعۡلَىٰ فِي ٱلسَّمَٰوَٰتِ وَٱلۡأَرۡضِۚ وَهُوَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ ٢٧

“He brings out the living from the dead, and brings out the dead from the living, and gives life to the land after it is dead. And in a similar way, you will be brought out (from graves). It is among His signs that He has created you from dust, then soon you are human beings scattered around. And it is among His signs that He created for you your wives from among yourselves, so that you may find tranquillity in them, and He has created love and kindness between you. Surely, in this, there are signs for a people who reflect. And among His signs is the creation of the Heavens and the Earth, and the difference of your tongues and colours. Surely, in this, there are signs for the persons having knowledge. And among His signs is your sleep by night and day, and your search for His Grace. Surely, in this, there are signs for a people who listen. And it is among His signs that He shows you lightning which causes fear and hope, and that He sends down water from the sky, then He revives the earth with it after its death. Surely, in this, there are signs for a people who understand. And it is among His signs that the sky and the Earth stand firm by His command. Then, when He will call you from the Earth, by a single call, you will be coming out all at once. To Him belong all those in the Heavens and the Earth. All (of them) are obedient to Him. It is He Who originates the creation, then will create it again; and it is easier for Him. His is the highest description in the Heavens and the Earth, and He is the Mighty, the Wise.”[4]

Although the Qurʾān mentions many signs and no ‘evidence’, Islāmic theism is not void of solid proof. The logical evidences of Allāh’s  existence can be found in some books of Logic and Islāmic Creed.


[1] Al-Bukhārī before (3851). The word ‘Ibn’ has been used in place of ‘son of’ the next father.

[2] Al-ʿAsqalānī, Ibn Ḥajar, Fat al-Bārī Shar aī al-Bukhārī, Dār al-Maʿrifah, Beirut (1379), before adīth (3851).

Note: the historians unanimously agree that ʿAdnān was a direct descendent of the Prophet Ismāʿīl; however, there are differences of opinion pertaining to the number and names of the men in between; these differences are of no consequence – whatever the case, ʿAdnān was definitely a direct descendent of the Prophet Ismāʿīl according to the consensus of the historians who specialised in the field of world lineages.

[3] Sīrah Ibn Hishām vol. 1 p. 3. The latter part can also be found in al-Minhāj (commentary of aī Muslim) under (163) [415], and in David Fasold’s The Discovery of Noah’s Ark, p. 56.

[4] [Al-Rūm: 30/19-27].

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