Can God make a stone so heavy, He can not lift it?

From the statement we know the subject is about a stone, the property of the stone is that it is so heavy that even an all powerful being can not lift it. The paradox is that God should be able to do and make anything, but if He makes the stone, but then can not lift it, He is not all powerful. If he does not make such a stone, then He is not all powerful, so either option leads to the conclusion that God is not all powerful. How can this be paradox be resolved?

 

The issue here is the properties of the stone have a contradiction, this stone can not exist, the properties that define it are in contradiction, so the riddle is null and void as there is no such stone for God to make. It would be the same as saying “Can God make a shape which is a triangle and a square in the same respect?”, there is no such shape as the definition of a triangle is incompatible with that of a square, its essence is different, and if we changed the essence, then the triangle wouldn’t be a triangle and the square wouldn’t be a square. These examples do not mean that God is weak, or unable to effect the outcome He wants, but that there is no outcome for Him to desire in this case, not because God is not powerful but because there is nothing to exercise His power over.

 

One could argue that God could change the essence of the stone, or the triangle and square, however that would not satisfy the question, as if the question stipulates a stone, with a known essence, it is not acceptable to change the essence of a stone in order to complete the challenge. So essentially these types of riddles exposes the concept of essences, or haecceity,  whereby all things have definition and parameters.

You May Also Like

13 thoughts on “Can God make a stone so heavy, He can not lift it?

  1. Thank you for commenting Hussain Tasaduq,

    The riddle is like this, surely we believe that God can make anything right? and surely we believe that God can lift anything right?

    So then, can God make a stone that is so heavy, that even God can not lift it?

    If he can not make this stone, then He is not all powerful, if He can make the stone, but cant lift it then He is not all powerful.

    Do you see the issue now?

  2. Thank you for commenting Hussain Tasaduq,

    The riddle is like this, surely we believe that God can make anything right? and surely we believe that God can lift anything right?

    So then, can God make a stone that is so heavy, that even God can not lift it?

    If he can not make this stone, then He is not all powerful, if He can make the stone, but cant lift it then He is not all powerful.

    Do you see the issue now?

  3. Thank you for the clear explanation in this article. To add to that and continue with the explanation above, we can say that God’s essence and attributes are such that the creation of such a stone would go against and contradict the very essence and attributes of God. God would never *will* to do anything that would contradict His own power and might, essence and attributes. The same can be said about God creating another god or gods. Everything that happens, and everything that exists in time and space, and everything that is created…is by the *will* of God. Another explanation can be found here…

    http://godallah.com/limitations.php

    1. Salams Yusuf,

      The explanation you give, is different to mine. In yours you say, no such stone can exist because it would contradict, Allah’s attributes. This is problematic, as Allah’s attributes are not definable or understandable by us, so logically, we can not make an argument this way. It would be like one saying “God will not make a bad person, because he is a good God”, bad people exist, so does that mean God doesnt have the essence of good, or does not exist? By trying to put God into a framework we understand, can lead to false conclusions.

      As, we can not use God as a reference point, we can use other things, in this context the stone. The concept “Stone” must be different to “paper”, so “stone” has an essence, something which makes it unique and definable. I have explained how the understanding of the concept of stone, and other items make such riddles flawed, as they are seeking to change the nature of the essence of a thing which defines it, something which must be impossible, if it is impossible, then it can not exist, hence there is no such stone which could ever have these properties.

  4. Walaykum Salaam wr wb:

    Sorry for the long wait in replying back. I could not find the bookmark I had for your site. jazakAllah khair for responding.

    To begin with, the argument I articulated (nothing is mine, and anything we say that is good or righteous is from Allah) in my view, works alongside your original post here.

    God in both essence and attributes is something the human mind cannot understand. We agree here. But think about the mathematical concept of infinity (and I bring this up since you are looking at all of this from a philosophical and logical point of view). Infinity is something that goes beyond the human mind. Yet, we can still understand the basic concept of infinity and even use that concept in our various equations and abstractions. Likewise, we can have a basic conceptual understanding of a concept without fully understanding or knowing what that concept is (due to the limitations of the human mind).

    You said: “as Allah’s attributes are not definable or understandable by us”. But if we believe that Allah has given us a message and that message contains instruction and description of Allah’s attributes…then of course we can define and understand such attributes of God (without being able to completely define or fully understand them).

    I must ask: if you believe that Allah’s attributes are not understandable, then how can you say that Allah’s essence is understandable? From there, one would ask how Allah is understandable in any shape or form. And even if you say such things, one could still ask: can the Creator not make Himself knowable or understandable to the creation? If we continue down this line of thought…the Creator becomes an unseen and unknowable and undefinable mystery beyond any comprehension or discussion. Some sects of early Jews in fact felt that it was wrong to even say God’s name as human speech could never do justice to something so magnificent. Indeed, we cannot. Yet…

    We talk about God every day, speak about God, give dawah in regards to the Creator, and pray to God constantly! Through God’s Divine Mercy and Literal Word (Quran), we know and can understand and conceptualize that which Allah has told us; instructed us; and described to us! In doing so, we are not ascribing anything to God or defining God in such a way that puts any sort of limitation on Him.

    It is God who is, by His Will, telling us about Himself (just enough so that we understand – while those who try to go deeper and fully understand are never able to and will only go mad). God’s Mercy, Justice, Love, Compassion, Help, Power, Sight, Hearing, etc. < these are all attributes of God. We know they exist and we are told about them and we make sure to never ascribe any of these attributes to the creation…for they are only for the Creator. We cannot fully understand or comprehend either the essence of attributes of God…yet that does not mean we are unaware of God, His existence, His essence, His attributes, His message, His commands, and so forth.

    All of these attributes are first and foremost – Unique to the Creator. They are unlike anything in the creation (there is no similitude to it). They are beyond our understanding (as we agree on) and our comprehension. We know of Allah as we are born on “fitrah”. More on this concept can be learned here…

    http://www.angelfire.com/al/islamicpsychology/fitrah/fitrah.html

    Thereafter, we know about Allah and about our religion (the religion of all mankind though so many detest it) based on what Allah Himself has taught us, and we understand what Allah Himself has allowed us to understand (and nothing more than that). All the while, full knowledge and understanding remains with Allah alone.

    You said: “By trying to put God into a framework we understand, can lead to false conclusions”. But part of the original question that you are trying to answer here (Can God create a rock that even He cannot lift – audillLLAH)…is derived from the attributes of God that state that God is all-powerful or able to do anything. The reason someone would ask such a question or create such a riddle in the first place is on account of these descriptions and attributes. That is a framework in and of itself.

    In other words, by acknowledging that God is all powerful, you are already putting God into a framework for us to understand. We understand (without fully realizing it) the basic concept that God is all-powerful (or able to do all things), but our created minds nonetheless cannot go beyond this basic concept and fully understand what it truly means to be all-powerful or all-knowing or all-capable. That level of understanding is beyond our human limits (but not the basic or general concept), and we are but the creation in service to the Creator.

    So again, I state that the simple answer to the original question/riddle is that Allah would never *Will* to do anything that would contradict His Divine Nature and Divine Attributes/Properties.

    And as you have articulated, such a question is a contradiction in terms since it attempts to dilute the properties of God by contradicting His essence.

    w’salam

  5. Yusef,

    Thank you for taking the time to write so beautifully.

    To pick up some of the points you raised in order:

    I must ask: if you believe that Allah’s attributes are not understandable, then how can you say that Allah’s essence is understandable? From there, one would ask how Allah is understandable in any shape or form.

    Yes, when we affirm certain things, we do not affirm their magnitude, we merely deny the opposite, we do not know, nor could we any more than that. Islam does not ask us to “understand” Allah, but to accept the rational premise that there is a God and there is consequences to our actions, so do what is good.

    the Creator becomes an unseen and unknowable and undefinable mystery beyond any comprehension or discussion

    This is what I believe, and I think this is what the majority of Muslims believe.

    It is God who is, by His Will, telling us about Himself (just enough so that we understand – while those who try to go deeper and fully understand are never able to and will only go mad). God’s Mercy, Justice, Love, Compassion, Help, Power, Sight, Hearing, etc. < these are all attributes of God.

    My understanding is that by accepting these attributes, we are just denying the opposites of them, we are not saying how merciful Allah is, but we are saying He is not unmerciful. We do not know the limit of His mercy.

    You said: “By trying to put God into a framework we understand, can lead to false conclusions”. But part of the original question that you are trying to answer here (Can God create a rock that even He cannot lift – audillLLAH)…is derived from the attributes of God that state that God is all-powerful or able to do anything. The reason someone would ask such a question or create such a riddle in the first place is on account of these descriptions and attributes. That is a framework in and of itself.

    But the issue is, someone misunderstood the attributes and applied them in a paradoxical way.

    In other words, by acknowledging that God is all powerful, you are already putting God into a framework for us to understand. We understand (without fully realizing it) the basic concept that God is all-powerful (or able to do all things), but our created minds nonetheless cannot go beyond this basic concept and fully understand what it truly means to be all-powerful or all-knowing or all-capable.

    I agree with your thinking. We are not saying God is not all powerful, we are saying He is, but the point is, we dont know what that means in real terms.

    So again, I state that the simple answer to the original question/riddle is that Allah would never *Will* to do anything that would contradict His Divine Nature and Divine Attributes/Properties.

    This is problematic, as it does not answer the question. For example you could say, a man will never do anything beyond his means. This isn’t actually saying anything.

    Very detailed thoughts Yusuf, thanks for sharing your insight.

  6. jazakAllah khair for the response.

    On affirmation – then this applies to the attributes of Allah – specifically as a consequence of Allah telling us about them in the Quran and Sunnah (although the Shia do not accept our Sunnah, nonetheless, the basic concept remains). Affirmation implies a basic understanding without, as you said, knowing any more than that (any more than what God wills for us to know).

    The majority of Muslims do not believe that God is unknowable. The majority of Muslims affirm not only God’s existence, but the attributes of God – which help us to know God without likening the Creator to the creation or falling into anthropomorphism (as so many religions and sects do). Allah’s transcendence, oneness, and uniqueness are the attributes that provide the foundation for not going down the path of polytheism or anthropomorphism.

    I agree that we do not know the limit of Allah’s mercy, although Allah repeatedly says that He (swt) is the most Merciful. Affirming this attribute denies the opposite, but it also confirms the attribute in the language that we speak and with the conception we already have that gives some understanding of what one attribute is or isn’t as compared to another attribute. In other words, knowing that the opposite of something isn’t true – is itself a way and method for us to understand the meaning of something. Indeed, if we did not have any knowledge or understanding of an attribute or conception – we could not understand what “denying the opposite” means either. In math, if you have a variable (say x) – how would you know what the opposite of x is or isn’t without some understanding of x?

    If Allah was completely unknowable and beyond our understanding…we would not affirm any attribute (as doing so contradicts such notions of complete mystery and incomprehension). Of course, that doesn’t mean that we can understand and comprehend our Creator – that is clearly beyond our ability. Knowing something about the value of x in order to know that the opposite of x is false, still does not give us the full range of x’s values. Those values are without limitation and exist in a domain beyond our understanding. Allah only wills for us to know enough about Him (swt) as to be able to affirm His essence and attributes, commands and legislations, power and uniqueness, oneness and transcendence. This gives us the ability to deny the opposite (as you pointed out), as well as differentiate Monotheism from polytheism, as well as one religion or sect from another religion or sect.

    I think you’ll agree with me here: to affirm something and to believe in it and have faith in it – does not require one to “know what it means in real terms”.

    Finally, returning to the original topic/question/riddle – pointing out that the question itself is flawed and contradictory – also does not answer the question. In what I wrote, I was going beyond directly answering the question in order to teach and educate the one who asked the question so that they know why their question does not have an answer to begin with. You did the same (but from a different perspective – concentrating on the nature of the question itself rather than the nature of the ONE that the question is being asked about).

    and Allah alone knows best.

    w’salam

  7. Eugene,

    Jesus can either be a man or a God, but not both. Just like a square can not be a circle at the same time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *