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Understanding Divine Wisdom in the Use of Causes

In previous articles, we focused on the nature of reasons, stating that they are veils, and that behind them, the Actuator is the Magnificent Creator. So why has God created reasons? Does He need them? Couldn’t He have created existence and events without any reasons?

The World of Examination and Wisdom

In both creating and sustaining the existence of creations, God does not need reasons. He needs nothing and is independent of everything (Qur’an, Al-Imran 3:97). If He had willed, He could have certainly created beings without any reasons. For example, to have children, merely praying to Him would have been sufficient. Inanimate objects would move at our command. To acquire things we desire, merely thinking about them would be enough. There would be no need for eyes to see or ears to hear. However, in such a case, the world would cease to be the world. There would be no discussion of faith or examination. There would be no need for prophets and holy scriptures. The reasons for the existence of heaven and hell would be lost because the presence of an infinitely powerful Creator would be evident. The secret of examination would be compromised, and thus the purpose of human creation would be lost. Therefore, reasons are necessary for servitude, examination, and the mystery of commandments in the realm of wisdom.

Veils of Dignity and Majesty

Scholars like Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi and Bediuzzaman Said Nursi viewed reasons as “veils” or “covers”. That is, reasons are not partners or executives in the dominion of divinity. They are merely veils that present the dominion to the eyes, showcases that exhibit divine art, and means that proclaim the divine names to conscious beings. The important thing is to tear these veils and see the divine actions behind them. According to Bediuzzaman, when looking at reasons, one should be able to bring the True Effector to mind and thought. (Bediuzzaman, Mesnevi-i Nuriye, p. 44) Thus, understanding the nature of reasons, realizing they are just veils, and not getting stuck on them are essential to finding a path to divine knowledge through the manifestations of divine names in existence and objects.

So why does God manage his planning behind the scenes? Bediuzzaman answers this question as follows: “Dignity and majesty require that reasons be the veils of the hand of power in the eyes of reason. But unity and majesty require that reasons withdraw their hands from the true effect.” (Bediuzzaman, Lem’alar, p. 411) From this, we understand that the dignity and majesty of God require that reasons serve as veils over the activities of divine power, so that the direct contact of divine power with trivial, worthless things remains unseen. (Bediuzzaman, Words, p. 311) This preserves the right of dignity and majesty.

Comparing this to human interactions, it’s like high-ranking individuals not doing menial tasks themselves, which are seen as simple and unworthy. For example, a ruler would not walk through markets collecting payments, a general would not clean barracks, and a governor would not sweep streets. They find such tasks beneath the dignity and seriousness of their positions, and hence delegate them to others. Similarly, the absolute dignity and majesty of God has made apparent reasons the veils of divine lordship, to preserve the sanctity, dignity, and mercy of divine power in things whose beauties and wisdoms are unseen, and to prevent them from becoming targets of criticism, looking trivial, insignificant, and merciless in the eyes of the public. (Bediuzzaman, Rays, 11th Ray)

Attributing Evils to God

Life on earth includes opposites. Sorrow and happiness, pain and pleasure, health and sickness, birth and death, abundance and scarcity, wealth and poverty, reunions and separations, ease and difficulty, justice and oppression, reformation and corruption, known good and evil, are all side by side. All these are created by God based on known or unknown benefits and wisdoms. Another wisdom behind the creation of reasons is to prevent events and existences, which we perceive as evil, fault, or deficiency, from being attributed to God. Because most often, people attribute events to reasons, knowing them as such. For instance, they attribute illness to viruses, death to accidents, earthquakes to geological movements, and oppression to the oppressors, and thus avoid misconceptions about God.

Actually, if humanity could view events with a comprehensive perspective, through the lens of faith and on account of God, they would evaluate not only the dense and murky outer faces of events but also their transparent and clear inner aspects, recognizing the wisdom, beauty, mercy, and utility in what they previously perceived as flawed, ugly, or evil. However, not everyone is capable of this. Some perceive temporary and partial evils as absolute evil, thus falling into misconceptions about God. Reasons, therefore, protect humanity from committing such sins. The problem of evil is a complex and long-standing issue that has occupied humanity for centuries. We have discussed this topic in detail in a long series of articles in this column before, so we won’t go into detail here and direct those interested to that series.

Complaints Not Reaching God

The essence of servitude is submission and satisfaction. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever is pleased with God as his Lord, Islam as his religion, and Muhammad as his prophet, paradise is obligatory for him.” (Muslim, governance 116) In times of abundance and ease, people are generally satisfied and thankful to God. However, maintaining the same attitude during times of calamity and distress is not easy. During hardships and difficulties, submission and satisfaction can easily give way to complaints and rebellion. Another wisdom of establishing reasons is to redirect complaints and grievances from God to reasons.

It is reported that when Azrael was assigned the task of taking souls, he told God that people would complain about him and resent him. God replied that he would place veils of calamity and illness between Azrael and the people, directing their complaints towards these veils. Indeed, the calamities and illnesses thought to be the cause of death are veils for Azrael’s task, and Azrael himself is a veil for God’s actions. Yes, when people are in distress, their focus often remains on the apparent causes they see, preventing them from adopting a stance of complaint and rebellion against God.

Enabling Science

The discovery of natural laws, the development of scientific theories and explanations based on observation and laws, and the ability to make predictions and plans based on these predictions are all founded on the order and harmony in the universe. God has created everything according to a measure (Qur’an, Furkan 25/2; Kamer 54/49), for example, he has tied the movements of celestial bodies to a specific account (Rahmân 55/5). All events follow a regular, harmonious, and rule-based sequence according to a certain cause-and-effect chain, known as the principle of causality.

Based on our observations and experiences, we know that certain causes produce certain effects, not just once but continuing in the same way thereafter. This general knowledge triggers our curiosity and eagerness to discover the underlying order and causal relationships between events, driving us to investigate and research existence, and motivating us to make an effort. As a result of these researches, scientific advancements, new discoveries, and high technologies emerge.

If we were to witness the manifestations of divine names without cause, intermediary, or veil at every moment, the world we live in would become a realm of surprises. In such a scenario, we would not be able to conduct research on existence, develop techniques and technologies, or establish civilizations. We would not be able to develop our existing talents and abilities. If today we have a limited knowledge of existence and nature and can engage in scientific activities thanks to this knowledge, we owe it to the existence of reasons.

Facilitating Our Lives

The existence of cause-and-effect relationships within a structured order makes our lives easier, provides stability, creates a sense of security in our minds, and gives us peace. If there were no order, the relationship between cause and effect would be incomprehensible, and living a stable life on earth would be very difficult. In an unpredictable world, we could neither make plans for the future nor live our lives in a disciplined manner. We would not be able to develop habits. A familiarity and affinity with our lives would not form. The appearance of existence and events as surprises without a cause-and-effect relationship would create a life filled with uncertainty and unknowns, increasing our anxiety and fear. Therefore, we enjoy the peace and reassurance of living within an orderly structure thanks to reasons.

Introducing Our Lord

Just as we owe much of our knowledge about humans and existence to reasons, we largely learn about our Lord and His names and attributes through reasons. For we recognize our Lord either through revelation (Qur’an and Prophets) or by moving from effect to cause. All entities and events interconnected by cause-and-effect relationships in the universe are essentially the works of God. In this sense, causes and effects present the infinite divine art, and the magnificence and perfection in creation. The arguments presented by theologians for the existence of God, such as possibility, emergence, order, purpose, care, and art, are derived from reasons.

In conclusion, the Qur’an introduces our Lord as the Wise, and every action of His contains many known and unknown, seen and unseen wisdoms, benefits, and secrets. God, due to His infinite and limitless power, can create anything at any moment simply by saying, “Be!” Yet, if He creates the beings of this worldly life gradually, within a certain order, and using a set of reasons, there are many listed and unlisted wisdoms behind this. For He does not engage in futile actions. Therefore, we should not get stuck on reasons, but should be able to see the acting hand of the Cause of Causes behind them, understand the purposes of their establishment well, and conduct our lives accordingly.

In the next article, we will focus on 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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