Can Allah make a stone that even He cannot lift?
An atheist recently asked me if I believed that Allah was “Almighty” and “All-Knowing”. Since I believe that to be true, I responded in the affirmative. He then responded that these two qualities were, in fact, contradictory. The argument was that it was paradoxical, because if Allah knows what He is going to do in the future, then He cannot be Almighty, meaning He is incapable of changing His decision, and vice-versa. It is similar to the question, which I am sure non-believers ask out of mischief, that is, “Can Allah make a stone that even He cannot lift?”
Can you please clarify this point? What does the Quran say in this regard? If there are any references to the Quranic verses that that would be helpful, I would like to know them.
My understanding on this subject is that there are three important features of the Almighty’s attributes:
i) All good attributes belong to Him. The Quran says:
“The most beautiful names belong to Allah: so call on Him by them; but shun such men as use profanity in His names: for what they do they will soon be requited.”(7:180)
ii) They are all unlimited. For instance, the Quran says about His control that “He has control over everything.” (57:2)
iii) They are all simultaneously operative. The Quran generally mentions two attributes of the Almighty without separating them with a conjunction, ‘vow’ (i.e. and). This suggests that both are effective at the same time.
That essentially means that when we say that the Almighty is Powerful and Wise, it means that He is All-Powerful and All-Wise, and both at the same time. The result of this understanding is that the Almighty can do everything, but He doesn’t do anything against His wisdom. Like, when you say that a certain king is very powerful, and you know that the king is very just, you would never imagine that his might is actually meant for unjust purposes too.
Given this understanding, the question raised by the atheist doesn’t arise about Allah Almighty. He knows everything about the future and He is fully powerful to ensure that what He knows is implemented. Had He desired to implement any thing other than what is there in His Knowledge, there would have been contradictions in Him. He is free from all flaws. “Subhan Allah”