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The Wisdom of the Existence of Causes

In previous articles, we discussed the nature of causes, mentioning that they are veils and that the active force behind them is the Creator of Majesty and Glory. So why has God created causes? Does He, God forbid, need causes? Couldn’t He have created beings and events without any causes?

The World of Testing and Wisdom In both creating and sustaining beings, God does not need causes. He needs nothing; He is completely self-sufficient (Quran, Al-Imran 3:97). If He willed, He could certainly have created beings without causes. For example, to have children, praying to Him alone would suffice. Inanimate objects would move at our command. To acquire what we desired, merely thinking of it would be enough. There would be no need for eyes to see or ears to hear. But in such a case, the world would cease to be the world. There would be no talk of faith or of being tested. There would be no need for prophets or holy scriptures. Paradise and hell would lose their reason for existence. The presence of an all-powerful Creator would be obvious. The mystery of the test would be disrupted, and the purpose of human creation would disappear. Thus, causes are essential for servitude, testing, and the secret of responsibility in the realm of wisdom.

The Veils of Dignity and Grandeur Scholars like Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi and Bediuzzaman Said Nursi have viewed causes as “veils” or “covers.” That is, causes are not partners or executors of divine sovereignty. They are merely veils that present this sovereignty, showcases that display divine art, and means by which divine names are proclaimed to sentient beings. It is important to tear through these veils to see the divine actions behind them. According to Bediuzzaman, when we consider causes, we should bring to mind the True Effecter (Bediuzzaman, Mesnevi-i Nuriye, p. 44). Thus, understanding the nature of causes, realizing they are but veils, and not getting fixated on them, is crucial to finding a path to divine knowledge through the manifestations of divine names in existence and things.

Therefore, why does God execute His plans behind the veil of causes? Bediuzzaman answers this question as follows: “Dignity and majesty demand that causes be the veil-bearers of the hand of power in the view of reason. But unity and majesty demand that causes withdraw their hands from the true effect.” (Bediuzzaman, Lem’alar, p. 411) From this, we understand that God’s dignity and majesty require that causes serve as veils to divine activities, so that direct contact with mundane, insignificant matters does not become apparent. (Bediuzzaman, Words, p. 311) Thus, the right of dignity and majesty is preserved.

To draw a parallel, consider how people in positions of authority delegate menial tasks they deem beneath their station to others. For instance, a king would not collect payments in the market, a general would not clean the barracks’ toilets, and a governor would not sweep the streets. They find such tasks below the dignity and seriousness of their positions, and so they assign them to others. In the same way, the absolute Lord of dignity and majesty has made apparent causes the veil of His divine dignity so that the grace, sanctity, and mercy of divine power are preserved in seemingly unattractive and unknown matters, and they are not subject to objection, nor do they appear to directly interact with trivial or unmerciful matters. (Bediuzzaman, Rays, 11th Ray)

The Problem of Evil Not Being Attributed to God Life carries opposites within it: sorrows with joys, pains with pleasures, health with illness, birth with death, abundance with scarcity, wealth with poverty, reunions with separations, ease with hardship, justice with injustice, improvement with corruption, good with evil side by side. All these are created by God based on known or unknown benefits and wisdom. Another wisdom behind the creation of causes is to prevent the attribution of what we perceive as evil, fault, or deficiency to God. For most people tend to attribute occurrences to causes. For instance, they attribute illness to viruses, death to accidents, earthquakes to tectonic movements, and oppression to oppressors, thus sparing themselves from having misconceptions about God.

In fact, if people viewed events with a comprehensive perspective, through the lens of faith and on account of God, they would not only see the opaque and murky outer aspects but also the transparent and clear inner aspects of events, recognizing the wisdom, beauty, mercy, and utility in what they mistakenly thought was faulty, ugly, or evil, and would find no problem in attributing them to God. However, not everyone is capable of this. Some people misinterpret partial and temporary evils as absolute evils, leading to misconceptions about God. Causes protect humanity from committing such sins. The problem of evil is a complex and enduring issue, and we have discussed it in detail in a previous series of articles in this column, so we will not delve into it here and direct interested readers to that discussion.

Complaints Not Reaching God The essence of servitude is submission and contentment. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever is pleased with Allah as their Lord, Islam as their religion, and Muhammad as their prophet, paradise is obligatory for them.” (Muslim, İmâre 116) In times of abundance and ease, people generally are satisfied and grateful to God. However, maintaining the same attitude during times of trial and misfortune is not easy. Hardships and difficulties can easily turn submission and contentment into complaint and rebellion. Another wisdom of appointing causes is to redirect complaints and grievances from God to causes.

As reported, when Azrael was tasked with taking souls, he expressed concern to God that people would complain about him and hold grudges against him. God assured him that He would place veils of calamity and illness between people and Azrael, directing complaints towards them instead. Indeed, calamities and illnesses thought to cause death are veils for Azrael’s task, just as Azrael himself is a veil for God’s actions. Thus, when in distress, people’s focus often shifts to the perceived causes of their troubles, preventing them from adopting a complaining or rebellious attitude towards God.

The Possibility of Conducting Science The foundation for discovering natural laws, developing scientific theories and explanations based on observation and laws, and making predictions about the future is the order and harmony in the universe. God has created everything according to a measure (Quran, Furqan 25/2; Qamar 54/49), for example, tying the movements of celestial bodies to a certain calculation. (Rahman 55/5) All events occur in a regular, harmonious, and orderly manner according to a chain of cause and effect known as the principle of causality.

Our observations and experiments show that certain causes lead to specific effects, and this will continue to occur. This general knowledge spurs our curiosity and drives us to explore and research existence, leading to scientific advancements, new discoveries, and high technologies.

If we were to witness divine manifestations without causes or intermediaries at every moment, the world we live in would turn into a land of surprises. In such a scenario, we could not conduct research, develop technology, or establish civilizations. We would not be able to develop our innate abilities and skills. If today we possess even limited knowledge about existence and nature and engage in scientific activities, we owe it to the existence of causes.

Facilitating Our Lives The cause-and-effect relationships within existence make our lives easier, provide stability, create a sense of security in our minds, and bring us peace. Without such order, understanding the relationship between cause and effect would be difficult, making stable life on earth challenging. In an unpredictable world, we could neither make plans for the future nor live a disciplined life. We would not develop habits, and a sense of familiarity and intimacy with our lives would not form. The emergence of existence and events without cause-and-effect relationships would create a life full of uncertainty and unknowns, increasing our anxiety and fear. Thus, we enjoy the peace and tranquility of living in an orderly world thanks to causes.

Introducing Us to Our Lord Just as we owe much of our knowledge about humans and existence to causes, we largely learn about our Lord, His names, and attributes through causes. We recognize our Lord either through revelation (Quran and Prophets) or by inferring the Cause from its effects. All interconnected causes and consequences in the universe ultimately are the works of God. In this sense, causes and effects reflect the infinite divine artistry and the magnificence and perfection of creation. Theologians have derived arguments for the existence of God—such as possibility, creation, order, purpose, providence, and art—from causes.

In conclusion, the Lord, who introduces Himself as the Wise in the Quran, fills every act with known and unknown, seen and unseen wisdoms, benefits, and secrets. Although God, with His infinite and limitless power, could create anything at any moment by merely saying “Be,” He still chooses to create the beings of this world gradually, within an order, and through certain causes. There are countless wisdoms, mentioned or unmentioned, behind this. For God does not engage in futile actions. Therefore, we should not get stuck on causes but see the hand of the Cause of Causes in action behind them, understand the purposes of their appointment well, and conduct our lives accordingly.

In the next article, we will discuss the religious reasons for adhering to causes.

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Professor Yuksel Cayiroglu is a scholar focusing on Islamic Law and Religous Studies.

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