We recognize the things around us through our sense-organs. Things that affect our sense-organs are called beings or creatures. Beings’ effects on our five senses are called properties or attributes, by which they are distinguished from one another. Light, sound, water, air and glass material are all beings; they all exist. Beings that have size, weight and volume, in other words, that occupy a place in space are called substances or matter. Substances are distinguished from one another by their properties or qualities. Air, water, stone and glass are each a substance. Light and sound are not substances because they neither occupy space nor have weight. Every being carries energy or power, that is, it can do work. Every substance can be in three states: solid, liquid and gas. Solid substances have shapes. Liquid and gaseous substances take the shape of the container they are in, and they do not have specific shapes. A substance having a shape is called an object. Substances are mostly objects. For intance, key, pin, tongs, shovel and nail are different objects having different shapes. But they all may be made of the same matter, i.e. iron. Substances are of two kinds: elements and compounds.

Changes always take place in every object. For instance, it may move and change its place or become bigger or smaller. Its colour may change. It may become sick or die if it is a living being. These changes are called events. No change occurs in matter unless there is an exterior effect. An event that does not make any change in the essence of matter is called a physical event. Tearing a piece of paper is a physical event. Some power must affect a substance so that a physical event may happen to that substance. Events that change the composition or essence of substances are called chemical events. When a piece of paper burns and turns into ashes, a chemical event takes place. A substance has to be affected by another substance so that a chemical event may happen in that substance. When two or more substances interact and a chemical event takes place in each, it is called a chemical reaction.

Chemical reaction between substances, that is, their affecting one another, occurs between their tiniest units (which can take part in a chemical change) called atoms. Every object is made of a mass of atoms. Though the structures of atoms are alike, their sizes and weights are different. Therefore, we know of a hundred and five kinds of atoms today. Even the biggest atom is so tiny that it cannot be seen through the most powerful microscope. When similar atoms come together they form an element. Since there are a hundred and five kinds of atoms, there are a hundred and five elements. Iron, sulphur, mercury, oxygen and carbon are each an element. When different atoms come together they form a compound. There are hundreds of thousands of compounds. Water, alcohol, salt and lime are compounds. Compounds form by the compacting of two or more elements or atoms.

All objects, e.g. mountains, seas, all kinds of plants and animals are composed of the hundred and five elements. The building stones of all living and lifeless substances are the hundred and five elements. All substances are formed by the combination of the atoms of one or more of these hundred and five elements. Air, soil, water, heat, light, electricity and germs dissociate the compounds or cause substances to combine with one another. No change happens without a cause. In these changes, atoms, the units of elements, migrate from one substance to another or leave one substance and become free. We see objects disappear but, because we judge by their outlook, we are mistaken, for this outward “disappearing” or “appearing” is nothing but a transformation into other substances; the disappearing of an object, for example, that of a corpse in the grave, is a change into new substances such as water, gases and earthen substances. If the new substances that come into being through a change do not affect our sense-organs, we cannot realize that they come into being. For this reason, we say that the former object disappeared, though it only underwent a change. We see also that the nature of each of the hundred and five elements changes and that there happen physical and chemical events in each element. When an element combines with another (or others) in a compound, it ionizes, that is, its atoms lose or gain electron(s), and thus the element’s various physical and chemical properties change. The atom of each element is made up of a nucleus and a varying number of small particles called electrons. The nucleus is at the center of the atom. The nuclei of atoms of all elements except hydrogen are made up of particles called protons, which are charged with positive electricity, and neutrons, which carry no electric charge. The electron is the negative-electric-laden particle which moves round the nucleus. The electrons do not revolve in their orbits every moment; they change their orbits.

It is evidenced in the radioactive elements that there are changes called fissions taking place in the nuclei of atoms, too. Further, in these nuclear fissions one element turns into another; and some mass of matter ceases to exist and turns into energy, and this change has even been formulated by Einstein (d. 1375 A.H. (1955)]. So, like compounds, elements change and may turn from one into another.

Every substance, living or lifeless, changes, that is, the old one disappears and a new one comes into being. Every living being, plant or animal that exists today used to be nonexistent, and there were other living beings. And in the future, none of the present living beings will remain, and some other living beings will come into existence. So is the case with all lifeless beings. All living and lifeless beings, for example, the element iron and the compounds stone and bone, and all particles always change, that is, the old ones disappear, and others come into being. When the peculiarities of the substance that comes into being and those of the substance that disappears are alike, man, being unable to notice this change, supposes that the substance is always existent. An example of this is seen in a movie, where a different picture comes in front of the eye at certain short intervals, yet, being unable to notice this, the watchers suppose that the same picture moves on the screen. When a piece of paper burns and becomes ashes, we say that the paper disappeared and ashes came into being, because we notice this change. When ice melts, we say that ice disappeared and water came into being.

It is written at the beginning of the book Sharh al-Aqâ’id, “Because all beings signify Allâhu ta’âlâ’s existence, all creatures are called the ’âlam. Also, each class of beings of the same kind is called an ’âlam, for example, the ’âlam of human beings, the ’âlam of angels, the ’âlam of animals, the ’âlam of the lifeless. Or each object is called an ’âlam.”

It is writen on the 441st page of the book Sharh al-Mawâqif, “The ’âlam is hâdith, i.e. everything is a creature. In other words, it came into being later while it had been nonexistent. [And we have explained above that creatures always come into being from one another.] Both matter and peculiarities of substances are hâdith. On this subject, there have been four different beliefs:

1) According to Muslims, Jews, Christians and fire worshippers (Magians), both matter and peculiarities of substances are hâdith.

2) According to Aristotle and the philosophers following him, both matter and peculiarities of substances are eternal. They said that they had not come into being out of nothing and that they always existed. Modern chemistry positively proves that this statement is wrong. A person who believes or says so goes out of Islam and becomes a disbeliever. Also, Ibn Sînâ (Avicenna) and Muhammad Fârâbî [d. Damascus, 339 A.H. (950)] said so.

3) According to the philosophers preceding Aristotle, matter is eternal but the peculiarities are hâdith. Today most scientists have this wrong belief.

4) No one has said that the matter is hâdith and that the peculiarities are eternal. Calinos was unable to decide on any of these four types.”

Muslims prove in several ways that matter and its peculiarities are hâdith. The first way is based on the fact that matter and all its particles are always changing. Something that changes cannot be eternal, but has to be hâdith, since the process of each substance’s coming into being from the one that precedes it cannot go as far back as to the eternal past. These changes should have a beginning, that is, some initial substances should have been created out of nothing. If there were not an initial substance created out of nothing, that is, if the process of succeeding a substance originating from the substance preceding it went far back to the endless past, there would not be a beginning for substances coming into being from one another, and no substance would exist today. The present existence of substances and their originating from one another shows the fact that they have multiplied from the initial substances which were created from nothing.

Furthermore, a stone that falls from the sky cannot be said to have come from infinitude, infinite space (infinity) or time (eternity), since these words denote ‘having no beginning or bound.’ Coming from infinitude, then, comes to mean coming from nonexistence, and something which is said to have come from infititude should have not come at all. It would be ignorant and preposterous to say, “It comes from infinitude.” Likewise, men multiplying from one another cannot be coming from eternity. They must have multiplied beginning with the first man who was created out of nothing. If there had not been a first man created out of nothing and men’s multiplying from one another had come from eternity, no man would have existed today. The case is the same with every being. It would be ignorant and incompatible with reason and science to say, “So has it come and so will it go. There was no initial substance created out of nothing,” on the substances’ or beings’ originating from one another. Change does not indicate being eternal, but it shows being created out of nothing, that is, it shows not the quality of being Wâjib al-wujûd but being mumkin al-wujûd.