Mustanser Qamar, New Zealand
In this day and age, we frequently come across atheists or those who deny the existence of God. Some time ago, I also had a long conversation with one such individual. He said it is irrational and there is no evidence for His existence.
I knew that it is impossible to conclusively prove the existence of God to anyone. Just as the Promised Messiah (as) has said in a Persian couplet:
Whoever wants to find God through mere intellect is certainly mad
Because the hidden ways of His access are beyond the reach of mere intellect. 
When faced with such questions from atheists, it is vital for us to understand the different stages of belief and the levels of evidence for the existence of God, otherwise, we fall into the habit of only presenting such arguments which leave much doubt and many unanswered questions.
So, in this article, I attempt to explain the different levels and stages of evidence and belief in God, starting from the lowest rungs of belief and leading to more compelling evidence which leads one to a level of certainty that necessitates a personal effort.
‘It is narrated that someone asked Hadrat Ali (ra) [the Fourth Caliph of Islam] for proof of God’s existence. Seeing that the man was a simple person, he replied: It is enough for you to realise that if there is no God, the believers and non-believers are all the same and no one has anything to lose. However, if there is indeed a God, then the deniers would be in grave trouble. This rationale satisfied the man and he asked no further question.’ 
This is known as the precautionary argument for belief in God. In our day-to-day affairs, we often undertake chores, not because of their absolute necessity, but merely because it is safer to do them. For instance, when camping in a forest, we arrange for a guard – not because of any imminent danger of thieves or wild animals- but as a precaution. We argue that although there is no imminent danger, there is no harm in having a guard. We all understand that such precautions are indeed necessary and useful.
When we consider the matter of belief in God based on this principle, we find that it is more prudent to believe in God than to deny Him. Even if there is no God and the universe is a result of chance, it can do us no harm to believe in God.
Though this is not true faith, this prudent or precautionary approach is better than no belief at all.
First Level of Belief in God – ‘Certainty Through Inference’
The first and weakest level of belief in God is called علم الیقین (`ilmul yaqeen) or ‘certainty through inference’. This is based purely on a logical and rational proof. For example:
‘It is said someone once asked a Bedouin what proof he had for the existence of God. The Bedouin replied that if he were to see camel dung in a forest, he would be able to tell by looking at it that a camel had passed that way. Therefore, by observing the glorious creation of the universe, why would he not be able to recognise that there was an ultimate creator. What a true and natural response. If human beings ponder over the origins of creation, it perforce leads them to the acceptance of a being who is the ultimate creator of all things.’ 
Can anyone truly believe that the Eiffel Tower came about without a designer or creator? Or a magnificent art piece was the result of a random chance explosion of paint? Or a plane was created from a tornado whirling through a junkyard? Or that an explosion in a printing press caused the Oxford Dictionary to form?
Likewise, it is not only the existence of creation which proves a designer or Creator but the order of all the systems working together. ‘There is never a system of design to those things which come together through chance, rather they are marked by disorder.’ 
‘Consider this: the earth came about by itself; the things moving about in it came into existence by themselves; man came into existence from nothing by himself; his nose, ears, and eyes all appeared by themselves. In short, all this happened by chance. Then, how come a magnificent lamp was lit more than ninety million miles away from the earth for the light to facilitate human eyes to see? A tree grew on the earth. It produced seeds, and the seeds were made to fall on the earth and sown therein. However, who determined that water is required for the seeds to sprout, and who arranged for sunlight to fall upon the ocean and carried therefrom billions of tons of water on the winds to the scorched land and caused these clouds to rain?’ 
This is the absurdity of not believing in a Creator of this vast, intricate and complex universe.
It is said that for a single protein molecule to be formed out of chance, it would require 10248 years! As far as the known span of evolution is concerned, for it to accommodate all the figures that have been mentioned, it is as impossible as impossible can be. All the amazing steps of creation only took 4.5 billion years! 
But, is this conclusive proof of the existence of God? No!
The order, the functioning of different things within their designed circles, yet dependence on other events and other millions of equally impossible ‘chances’ proves that there most certainly is a designer of the universe.
However, once again, this is only ‘certainty through inference’. This is like seeing smoke from a distance and inferring that there is a fire there. It is not an absolute certainty and is only inferring that ‘there should be’ a God.
Second level of belief in God – ‘Certainty through sight’
The second evidence is that which, to a certain extent, eliminates doubt and takes one to the stage of actually ‘seeing that fire’ – or of being sure that there ‘must be’ a God. This stage, in Islamic terminology, is called عین الیقین (`ainul yaqeen) or ‘certainty through sight.’
Testimony of millions
In our daily lives, we often rely on the testimony of others. For example, ‘travellers say Siberia is a vast sparsely inhabited region and we do not deny this. Why? Because numerous people have given testimony in support of these facts. We believe them in spite of the fact that we are unaware of the circumstances of these people and whether they are tellers of truth or tellers of lies.’ 
Also, we often quite rightly believe what we are told by our teachers or our doctors, sometimes without even being provided evidence. So, why should we not take in to account the first-hand testimony for the existence of God Almighty from the millions of pious, honest people who have borne testimony to His existence; who have claimed God has spoken to them and they have seen and heard Him with their spiritual faculties?
Lives of Prophets
Furthermore, we can attain ‘certainty through sight’ by actually studying the lives of these pious, righteous people, such as the prophets. For example, every single prophet has always faced opposition. Despite presenting the belief in One God, and going against all accepted norms of society, despite being outnumbered and out powered and at times having to face the strongest enemies, they are always successful. Their message always prevails while those who oppose them are humiliated.
Take the example of the prophet Moses (as) who, despite being apparently powerless, was granted victory over the powerful Pharaoh, who was humiliated and drowned.
There is also the example of the Chief of all prophets, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa). ‘Plans were made to kill him; he was forced into exile; many tried to humiliate him and the Muslims in market places and alleyways; and the whole world severed their ties with them.’  Despite all this, history bears testimony to the truth of the Prophet’s (sa) claim as he was granted victory over all the enemies of Islam. He peacefully and victoriously marched back into his homeland with an army of 10,000 and the enemies were humiliated. To this day, millions honour, respect and revere the Prophet Muhammad (sa). But what became of the enemies of God and His chosen, noble prophets? They faced humiliation and are remembered with disdain to this day. These victories were, and still are proof of Divine support for the chosen ones of God.
Prophecies and Signs
Likewise, we see countless prophecies, revelations, signs and examples of acceptance of prayer through God’s elect.
For example, there are countless prophecies in the Holy Qur’an which, over 1400 years ago, foretold what we now understand as scientific facts; the Big Bang, creation, the development and evolution from a single cell, the printing press, and the development in means of communication and travel, just to name a few. All of these things were foretold in the Holy Qur’an. On certain occasions, the Prophet Muhammad (sa) gave such details regarding the future, that it is inconceivable for a human being to know of such details unless an All-Knowing, Master of the universe had informed him.
Likewise, there are examples of true dreams foretelling future events. Then, there are also examples of acceptance of prayer. These are all things which believers experience. When we see these signs coming true and realize that an individual could not have influenced the outcomes of these events and had no way of knowing their result, then it certainly proves that there ‘must be’ a God guided and informed them of these matters.
Those who deny the existence of God, often attribute such prophecies, acceptance of prayer and revelation to educated guesses or chance. However, the same individual or the same scripture making countless clear prophecies decreases the chance of all those independent events happening and strengthens our belief that ‘surely there MUST be a God’ who is behind all this.
This can also be understood through mathematics. If the probability of an accurate prediction of a future event is ½ then the probability of thousands of equally likely independent and unlinked predictions from the same source being accurate comes closer and closer to being impossible. Therefore, there is not just one sign, rather there are countless Divine signs throughout the lives of prophets which clearly reflect the existence of God. It is in this regard that the Promised Messiah (as) writes:
‘Know for sure, therefore, that certainty of Tauhid [Oneness of God] can be achieved only through a Prophet, as our Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, convinced the atheists and pagans of Arabia of the existence of God Almighty by showing them thousands of heavenly Signs. Even to this day, true and perfect followers of the Holy Prophet, may peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, present those Signs to the atheists. What is really true is that, until a person observes the living powers of the Living God, Satan does not depart from his heart, nor does true Tauhid enter into it, nor can he be convinced with certainty of the existence of God.’ 
The more one studies religion, the lives of prophets and keeps company with the righteous, the clearer that vision of the fire becomes. The clearer it becomes that there actually ‘is’ a God.
The importance of prophets in the quest of recognising the One God is beautifully summarised in the words of the Promised Messiah (as) who states:
‘When God Almighty desires to reveal Himself to the world, He raises a Prophet, who is a manifestation of His powers in the world, and sends down His revelation upon him and manifests His powers of Rububiyyat [Providence] through him. It is then that the world comes to know that God does exist. It is a part of Tauhid [belief in the Oneness of God] to believe in those individuals who have been appointed under the eternal law of God as the essential means for the recognition of God. Without this belief, Tauhid cannot become perfect; for, it is not possible to achieve absolute Tauhid, which is created from the fountain of perfect certainty, in the absence of heavenly Signs and wonders manifesting the Omnipotence of God, which are displayed by the Prophets and which lead to full cognition. They alone are the group that points to God and through whom God—whose Being is imperceptible beyond imperceptible and hidden beyond hidden and concealed beyond concealed— reveals Himself. That Hidden Treasure, whose name is God, has always been known through the Prophets. To realize without the agency of a Prophet that Tauhid which is estimated as true Tauhid by God Himself and demonstrated in reality perfectly in all its glorious colours—is as much opposed to reason as it is contrary to the experience of the seekers after God.’ 
Highest stage of certainty in God – Absolute certainty
The third and final stage, is the stage of absolute certainty, which also has many stages within itself.
This is the stage where, after relying on the previous two stages, one has enough food for thought. At this final stage, which in Islamic terminology is called حق الیقین (haqqul yaqeen) or ‘absolute certainty.’ By treading on the same path of the elect of God, an individual also begins their spiritual journey and search of God. One begins to experience true dreams, acceptance of prayer and communion with God for themselves. This is like one walking to the ‘fire’ and feeling its heat and warmth and being certain that this was not just an image but is an actual fire. The more one experiences, the more the frequency, and the higher the level of experiences. Consequently, one continues to increase in their faith and certainty of the existence of the infinite God.
These final two steps also highlight the importance of religion. So, whilst we ponder over the creation; we should also study the lives of prophets as well as the Holy Qur’an and the prophecies found therein. Then, armed with the certainty of ‘there must be a God’, we will be able to go on our own journey of searching for God. We will be able to attain absolute certainty through our own experiences. We shouldn’t just rely on the testimony, acceptance of prayers or prophecies of others; We must experience the Living God for ourselves!
The Second Caliph, Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) writes:
‘If in the hearts of some people there is a sincere desire to discover the truth, they ought to fall prostrate before God in prayer with full fervour and beseech Him in the following terms:
O God, if indeed You exist and if, as those who believe in You say, that You are possessed of infinite power—then have mercy on me and guide me to Yourself, and fill my heart with faith and belief so that I may not be left deprived.’’ 
To those who undertake this journey, God Almighty promises:
‘And as for those who strive in Our path – We will surely guide them in Our ways.’ 
About the Author: Mustenser Ahmad Qamar is a graduate from Jamia Ahmadiyya UK, a religious institute of languages and theology. He is currently serving as an Imam in New Zealand.
 Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A. (ra) Our God p.26
 Ibid p.36
 Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) Ten Proofs for the Existence of God p.21
 Ibid p.23
 Hazrat Mirza Bashir Ahmad M.A. (ra) Our God p.56-57
 Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) Revelation Rationality Knowledge and Truth p.472
 Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) Ten Proofs for the Existence of God p.15
 Ibid p.14-15
 Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) Haqiqatul Wahi (English Translation) p.140-141
 Ibid p.134-135
 Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad (ra) Ten Proofs for the Existence of God p.44
 The Holy Qur’an 29:70