The Existence of God According to Aristotle and Avicenna

The Existence of God According to Aristotle and Avicenna May 8, 2024

 Hard Things 

I am a big fan of doing hard things. I have run many ultramarathons, 12 hour and even a 23-hour event once. I went back for a second master’s in my thirties while raising small children. This week’s post on a philosophical concept will be one of those hard things. This week, I want to look at Aristotle and Avicenna’s proofs of God. While I am fairly familiar with Aristotle, Avicenna and other Sufi and Muslim teachers only recently came onto my radar.  

The Existence of God 

Arguing or exploring the existence of God has taken up a consider amount of space and time in the world of philosophy. God is a transrational reality. For me, faith in God is a subjective experience of this transrational reality. Let’s unpack this.  

A Philosophical Metaphysics, Considering the Existence of God 


Aristotle lays out his argument for the existence of God in his book, Metaphysics. His argument rests on the idea that there must be some sort of eternal and imperishable substance and then everything in the world would be perishable. Since the world and time are not perishable, he suggests the idea of a single prime mover. This prime mover, while the source of all process and change, is not itself subject to process or change. Aristotle posits that this substance then does what the highest forms of life do, think.  

Aristotle’s two views of God reflect the Greek “defining aspects of Classical Greek Philosophy: the experience of the intelligibility of the natural order and the search for the first principle(s) responsible for its intelligibility, on the one hand, and the experience of nous both as the capacity to behold nature’s intelligibility and as the source of order in the human soul, soul itself being a source of shapely motion in the natural order”(Olson, 2013).  

We would need to read to the end of Metaphysics in Book Lambda to find where Aristotle argues for the necessity of an eternal and changing substance. It is only here that he calls this substance “God”.  

Later, the Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas would pick up these concepts and apply them to his arguments for the proofs of God, primarily seeing God as the “First Mover” ( ). 

If this is not clear as mud, let’s consider Avicena.  


Avicenna made an argument for the existence of God which would be known as the “Proof of the Truthful” (wajib al-wujud). This doctrine was formulated by the school of Ibn al-Arabi, which postulates that God and His creation are one, since all that is created preexisted in God’s knowledge and will return to it, making mystical union with God possible. This was a problematic doctrine for legalist interpreters of Islam such as the Wahhabis, who held to a strict interpretation of tawhid that did not permit anyone or anything to be associated or in union with God (Oxford Reference). 

Avicenna argued that there must be a Proof of the Truthful, an entity that cannot not exist and through a series of arguments, he identified it with God in Islam. Avicenna’s proof is metaphysical unlike the cosmological nature of Aristotle.  

Wajib al wujud is translated and explained as Wajib al wujud) is “that reality which cannot not be, in contrast to the ‘possible things’ (mumkin) and ‘impossible things’ (mumtani’). The impossible thing is that which cannot exist within the cosmos but may nonetheless exist within the mind of man. The Realm of Imagination is the place of ‘impossible things’. The existence of the ‘possible thing’ depends totally upon the desire of Necessary Being (wajib al wujud) to turn His Attentiveness towards it and bring it into existence. Wajib al wujud may also mean Necessary Finding. Allah finds Himself and cannot not find Himself. The entity may or may not find itself and Allah. The ‘finding’ depends upon Allah’s giving preponderance to the entity’s finding Allah” (ElSenossi),  

If we consider my opening thoughts as God as a transrational reality, then the notion of Wajib al wujud kinda fits. If we think of God as THE creator and with the Holy Spirit as the presence that moves within all of life, we can piece together how Aristotle, Aquinas and Avicenna can help shape our understanding of the existence of God.  

It is not that Aristotle and Avicenna contradict each other, it is felt that their ideas complement each other with Aristotle laying out his ideas and Avicenna building on them from his Islamic point of view.  

Why is this discussion important? 

In my faith tradition, we consider tradition to be a pillar of our epistemology of what and how we believe. With the ongoing conversation these days around the notion of deconstruction, it is felt that it is important that we see how other people have wrestled with questions. For me, I do not need a proof of the existence of God. What I observe people needing is better language and theology to talk about the existence of God. Here, Aristotle and Ibn Sina give us another example of how.  

As we continue to deconstruct our faith and at times our views of God, we need to reconstruct the meaning of God’s existence. In the work of deep pluralism or deep ecumenism, it is important to note that theologians come to different understandings of the divine as they work through their studies. If we consider God as the creator and we can get our head around the idea of the becomingness of life, we can open ourselves up to a vastness of mystical and spiritual wealth that is hidden from us when we silo our beliefs. Faith is an experience; life is an experience. We ask questions. If the study of Existentialism and almost 30 years as a pastor or a therapist has taught me anything, it is a normal and healthy process to ask questions of meaning.  



Ali ElSenossi, M. (n.d.). The Language of the Future Sufi Terminology. Retrieved May 8, 2024, from

Liu X. On Proofs for the Existence of God: Aristotle, Avicenna, and Thomas Aquinas. Religions. 2024; 15(2):235.  

Olson, R.M. (2013). Aristotle on God: Divine Nous as Unmoved Mover. In: Diller, J., Kasher, A. (eds) Models of God and Alternative Ultimate Realities. Springer, Dordrecht.  

Wahdat al-Wujud. Oxford Reference. Retrieved 17 Feb. 2024, from 


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