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HomeHeadlineWrapping up the subject of causality; the power of revelation

Wrapping up the subject of causality; the power of revelation

Islam is a religion of balance. It commands its followers to be moderate in every matter, to stay away from extremes, and to lead a life of moderation. The first verses of the Surah Ar-Rahman mention the scale (balance) four times, thus directing our attention to the magnificent balance in creation and demanding that believers maintain the same measure and balance in their lives. A person reaches true servitude insofar as they can achieve balance in matters of faith, worship, transactions, and morality. In the decrees issued by the Qur’an and the Sunnah regarding existence, life, humanity, faith, this world, the hereafter, and servitude, a perfect balance prevails. Muslims fall into extremes in their religious lives because they fail to grasp the balance in these divine commands by not looking at these two sacred sources holistically.

To concretize the topic further, one of the first balances a believer needs to establish is between this world and the hereafter. When this balance tilts too much in favor of this world, the hereafter is forgotten, and a secular life emerges; if the balance tilts in favor of the hereafter, then we encounter neglect of this world and monasticism. Similarly, if the balance between reason and revelation is not established, we either see an overly rationalistic approach where the scriptures are interpreted at whim, or a literalistic, superficial, and Salafist interpretation where the purposes and reasons within them are ignored. Likewise, failing to achieve balance in issues like matter-spirit, reason-emotion, ideal-reality, fear-hope, universal will-particular will, end-means, and science-religion brings many complications.

Balance is not only essential in religious life but in every field, every science. For instance, the fundamental balance in economic life lies between production-consumption and supply-demand. In education, the balance between discipline and seriousness with compassion and mercy is crucial. In law, justice is established by balancing the rights of the plaintiff and the defendant. A person remains healthy if they consume as many calories as they burn. Trust, balanced with caution, ensures one does not get deceived. Owning the blessings one receives can be arrogance just as ignoring them can be ingratitude; the balance here is acknowledging the blessings but attributing them to their true owner. In short, the perfection of our social, political, economic, moral, educational, and religious lives depends on capturing the delicate balances observed in everything from atomic movements to cellular activities, from living bodies to galaxies.

An important issue that needs to be balanced is the principle of causality. A believer must trust in Allah, who holds all causes in His power, and must rely on Him and ask from Him, while also being aware of living in a world of causes, understanding the principle of proportionate causality in the flow of existence, and meticulously adhering to causes to achieve their goals. On the one hand, attributing all power and force to Allah, seeing Him as the sole Agent and Creator, no real effect should be ascribed to causes, but on the other hand, being aware that Allah’s creative activity takes place through causes, they must not be neglected.

However, achieving this balance is not as easy as it seems. It requires a comprehensive understanding of existence, both through its material and spiritual aspects. It requires knowing Allah well through His names and attributes and being able to deeply read His creational commands. It involves not only focusing on how changes and transformations occur in the world of existence but also contemplating the reasons behind these regular and harmonious movements. On the one hand, recognizing that causes, by their nature, cannot independently produce outcomes, and on the other, being aware that all sciences are based on the principle of causality and thus respecting cause-and-effect relationships. If this balance is not achieved, the issue oscillates between extremes.

The fact that Allah creates everything through a cause poses a significant test for contemporary humans. Because the eye fixes on this. Minds also descend to the eyes. Science bases itself only on observation and experiment, which depend on apparent causes. Attention and interest have shifted from abstract to concrete. Subjects pertaining to metaphysics no longer fall within the scope of science. The laws of nature are misunderstood as merely depicting how causal relationships occur, rather than explaining the reasons and causes of natural events. Artworks are examined without considering the artist, forgetting that the meaningful universe is a book with an author, failing to go from the work to the cause. As a result, true, vertical, and metaphysical causal relationships are overlooked, focusing only on apparent, horizontal, and material ones.

Yet one of the important functions of reason is to deduce the unknown from the known, to see from the apparent to the unseen. Reason understands not only what entities are but also what they signify and should strive to comprehend. When someone reads a book, they form an idea about the author. When someone looks at a painting, they try to understand the artist’s craft. When we examine architectural structures, we also study the art of the architects who designed them. So why don’t we apply this reasoning to the beautiful artworks in the book of the universe that we have yet to fully discover their depths and intricacies? Why don’t we establish the causal relationship between the book of the universe and its Creator that we establish between a book and its author? Isn’t it the reason the Qur’an turns our gaze to cosmic verses in hundreds of noble verses to draw attention to the causal link between the work and the cause?

In earlier times, some people who considered idolaters who worshiped stones, soil, the moon, the sun, etc., as “primitive” and “unwise” criticized these people without realizing they shared similar beliefs by approaching events with a deterministic perspective, attributing perfect results to simple causes. They enter an irrational path by attributing the order, harmony, and discipline dominating all existence to causes without intellect and consciousness. They are misled by the regular relationships between events, thinking that subsequent events arise from previous ones. What they observe is merely a correlation, but because they cannot see the actual Independent Agent, they mistakenly believe this relationship is one of causality and effect.

Ultimately, in the world of existence, they see matter, energy, natural forces, or the laws of nature, or their interactions as the active causes of events. They fail to see that the ability, power, and consciousness they attribute to causes, the laws, energy, and force they speak of are dependent on matter, and matter ultimately consists of the same types of atoms and molecules. Therefore, they attribute the acts of Allah to causes, failing to acknowledge Allah’s rights. Misunderstanding the principle of causality, their research and studies on existence do not lead to knowledge of God, nor do they arouse feelings of gratitude and praise. Although all formations and deteriorations in existence are miraculous, they appear ordinary and simplistic to them.

Conversely, some believers do not correctly read the language of existence, do not establish the correct relationship between Allah and the universe, do not adhere to the principle of proportionate causality, fail in adhering to causes, and attempt to rely on God without making actual prayers. They forget that there are certain causes behind advancement in science, art, and civilization, and that results cannot be achieved without adhering to these causes. They do not work, strive, research, or refer to causes, and thus they are doomed to live in disgrace. Some believe that Allah’s promise of help to believers will materialize miraculously, not seeing that even for prophets, Allah did not eliminate the means. They do not understand that the laws of the universe enforced by Allah are compulsory, and that even a slight opposition will be immediately punished in this world.

Even stranger, some see adhering to causes and acting according to the principle of causality as contrary to faith and trust in God. Yet the one who established the order, determined the causes, and created the results through them is Allah, and He also commands us to act according to these causes. For those who know the nature of causes, adhering to them is an act of prayer. As Muslims, we adhere to causes not because we expect them to create results, but because we know Allah will send His blessings through them. We recognize causes as ordinary conditions and fulfill these conditions.

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Respected Islamic Scholar Said Nursi says: “A manufactured item from the book of Eternal Power indicates in one direction as much as its own size, but it indicates in many directions to the Eternal Artist. And it composes a long ode from the names manifested to it.” (Mesnevi-i Nuriye) The Qur’an, in many of its verses, directs us to look at the works of Allah’s mercy, such as, “Look at the works of Allah’s mercy!” (Ar-Rum, 30/50), turning our faces to the book of the universe. Just as we read the verses of the Qur’an, it commands us to read the verses written in the book of existence. When a Muslim turns to nature with the correct perspective, they will increase their knowledge of God and discover the mysteries of existence.

It must not be forgotten that Allah is either the creator of all entities, big and small, in the universe, or He is not the creator of anything. If we attribute qualities like effect, invention, making, and creation to causes, there would be no entity or event in the universe that we could say is made by Allah. Because there are causal relationships between entities. Everything is the result of something else, and everything is also a cause of other things. Giving the causes to Allah and the results to causes is also not a solution. Because there would be other causes to claim the causes we attribute to Allah. Therefore, even though we name events as cause and effect and establish causal relationships between them, in reality, all are created and maintained in existence by Allah. Those who deny this are unwittingly forced to accept endless deities.

The observable universe is estimated to consist of approximately 10^80 atoms. How these atoms come together to form a structured universe where parts work together in harmony is a mystery. In the universe, instead of chaos and confusion, why are there meaningful objects, artful entities, harmonious operations, mutual assistance, delicate adjustments, and purposeful movements? And even more intriguing, how does this order and harmony continue despite all the formations, deteriorations, changes, and transformations in existence? How can unconscious causes and winds of chance make all entities everywhere and at all times seem as if they came from the same factory, processed on the same machine? Does the existing shape, form, and nature of each entity not require an absolute knowledge, an absolute will, a power capable of everything? What material cause can achieve this?

When viewed with the correct perspective, all of existence is nothing but mirrors reflecting the names and attributes of the Almighty Allah. The fact that the smallest causes produce the greatest results is the greatest sign of Allah’s greatness. Everything in the book of the universe indicates Allah’s infinite power with its helplessness, His encompassing knowledge with its unconsciousness, His eternity with its transience, and His independence and sufficiency with its needs. Living beings come to life with Allah’s name Al-Muhyi, take their current forms with His name Al-Musawwir, are sustained with His name Ar-Razzaq, maintain their existence with His name Al-Qayyum, and bid farewell to life with His name Al-Mumit.

We conclude our series of articles on the problem of causality with this reminder: Understanding the nature and essence of the cause-and-effect relationship observed in human actions and nature depends on understanding the relationship between Allah and the universe, which in turn depends on referring to the knowledge of revelation. Because to understand what lies at the origin of existence, the basis of movement, and the nature of change, it is necessary to draw a complete and comprehensive picture of the cosmic universe. This is not something that can be overcome with the abstractions of the power of thought without the guidance of revelation. It should also be added that the views presented by the scholars of Kalam, centered on the verses of the Qur’an and summarized with concepts like “new creation,” “custom of Allah,” and “correlation,” if well understood and supported by the data provided by science, could establish a new paradigm alternative to the modern paradigm.

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