One day three people—an atheist, a Mu’tazilite and a person holding the Jabriyya belief (a determinist)—came before Imâm-i A’zam. The atheist said:
“If Allah exists, He who is existent is seen. If He exists, prove His existence.”
The rationalist Mu’tazilite asked:
“There is fire in Hell. The Devil was created from fire. Then is it possible to punish the Devil with fire?”
Then the determinist asked:
“You claim that people have irada-i juz’iyya [partial will]. Now that the Creator of everything is Allah, what can people do?”
Hadrat Imâm-i A’zam, taking three handfuls of damp soil from the ground and shaping it into three balls, threw each lump of soil at each of the three people.
All three of them made a complaint to the Qâdi about the event. The Qâdi asked the Imâm the reason why he threw those clods of earth.
Imâm-i A’zam gave the following reply:
They asked me questions, and I answered them. Initially, the atheist said that Allah had to be seen if He existed. But (when I threw the clod of soil at him) he said that it caused pain in his head. If there is the feeling of pain, he should show and prove it. How can a person who cannot see even the feeling of pain see Allah? The atheist does not have mind. If he has, he should show it. A soul, like mind, is not seen, but its existence is understood through the deeds it does. The existence of the universe, in the same way, shows the necessity of the existence of a creator of it.
As for the Mu’tazilite, even though he was created from soil, the clod of soil affected him. Now that the soil is affected by soil, so fire is affected by fire. As a hacksaw cuts metal, so fire burns fire.
Lastly, the determinist asserted that Allah made people do all deeds by force. Then, (according to his belief) that lump of soil was thrown at him by Allah. Why did he make a complaint to you about me? He is contradicting himself with this complaint.
The boat without a maker
Occasions for which Hadrat Imâm made such pithy replies are many. For example, one day he made an agreement with an atheist to meet at ten o’clock and have a debate. Hadrat Imâm intentionally came about an hour later than the arranged time. When he was late, the atheist said, “Your imâm feared, so he has not come.” But when he came, he was asked the reason why he was late. He answered, “There was not a boat, so I could not get across the river. All of a sudden, to my utter amazement, tree branches that broke off became a boat without anyone intervening. I boarded it and came. Therefore, I am late.” On hearing this, the atheist burst out laughing. “Do you see how he is lying? Can a boat be made without anyone intervening, without a maker?” said the atheist. The Imâm hit the nail on the head saying, “Oh atheist! Even a boat cannot come into existence without a maker, how can this enormous universe come into existence by itself?” So he gained a decisive victory over the atheist before the debate ended.
There is no end to numbers
An atheist, again, said, “If Allah exists, He cannot be eternal in the past and in the future.” Upon this, Hadrat Imâm asked, “Is there a number before 1?” The atheist answered, “There is not.” The Imâm said, “Count up from beginning to end.” After counting up for quite a while, he gave up. Hadrat Imâm told, “Go on! Count up to the last number.” When the atheist opposed him saying, “Million, billion, trillion, quadrillion … There is no end to them,” At that moment, Hadrat Imâm made a sharp riposte, “Now that there is not a number before 1 and there is no end to them, is it not possible for the Creator, who has created the universe out of nothing, to be eternal in the past and in the future?”