Response to a comment: Calling Allah a ’cause’ is Kufr

as salam `alaykum,

The following is a response to one of the comments on this post.

wa `alaykum salam

Shaykh Abu Adam’s Response:

Commentator said: The ‘Ashari denial of the principle of causation (قانون العلية والسببية) is in conflict with one of the proofs for the existence of God (دليل الحدوث).

No one has said that you cannot use the word “cause” at all, but that is not the same as saying that one is allowed to name Allah Himself “cause.” You can say that the world exists because Allah created it. The names of Allah, however, are revelation based and one cannot make them up at convenience. This is what the christians did when they started calling Jesus the son of God. For merely saying this, Allah judged that they are blasphemers, regardless of what they meant by it. That is why scholars of the Hanafi school, ruled that to call Allah “cause” is kufr. It is actually very close to the Christian idea. Abdul Ghani An-Nabulsi said: “And based on the kufr of the christians, we can derive the (judgment of) blasphemy for the Greek philosophers, because they believed that Allah is the ’cause of causes.’ (Haqa’iqul-Islam wa ‘Asraaruh, P. 132)”

Commentator said: …theological and philosophical principles presuppose the necessity and truth of causation. If this were not the case, then one could assume that the Universe is temporal and uncaused?

The answer is simple, things exist because Allah created them. They did not exist because other created things created (caused) them. Asharis believe there is only one creator. He, Allah, created all things, all events, all incidents in every instance. Created things have no power to influence things in reality, they only correlate with them as Allah has willed. So if you do not water plants, they won’t grow because Allah has willed that the growth of plants must normally be correlated with watering. As stated in the Qur’aan:

“وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ”
Meaning: “Allah created everything.” (Al-An`aam, 101) I.e. He brought everything, absolutely and categorically into existence.

“وما تشاءون إلا أن يشاء الله”
Meaning: “You do not will anything unless Allah has willed it.” (Al-Insaan, 30)

“وَخَلَقَ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ فَقَدَّرَهُ تَقْدِيرًا”

Meaning: “And He created everything and predestined it.” (Al-Furqaan, 2)

“هَلْ مِنْ خَالِقٍ غَيْرُ اللَّهِ”
Meaning: “Is there another creator than Allah?”

37 Responses to Response to a comment: Calling Allah a ’cause’ is Kufr

  1. loveProphet says:

    Assalam-o-Alaikum,
    “No one has said that you cannot use the word “cause” at all, but that is not the same as saying that one is allowed to name Allah Himself “cause.” You can say that the world exists because Allah created it. ”
    Ah yes now i get it. Allah’s Names are fixed is what is being referred to.
    So we can use the kalam cosmological argument and say that the universe needs a cause and that Allah is the One who created it?

  2. loveProphet Says: So we can use the kalam cosmological argument and say that the universe needs a cause and that Allah is the One who created it?

    Abu Adam: Excactly. The philosophers overstepped their bounds when they decided not name Aļļaah Himself “cause.” This word is not worthy of being used as a name of His. The cause of the world’s existence is the fact that Aļļaah created it, not that Aļļaah Himself is a cause.

  3. loveProphet says:

    JazakAllah Khair.

    Also since this post is about kufr.
    Is a person considered a kafir if he denies such well known things in Islam such as the obligatoriness of the Hijab or the hadd of apostasy or believes the Islamic state to be something not ordained by Islam or mocks the Niqab?

  4. Muhammad Rashid Attari says:

    Assalam-u-Alaikum,

    Consider this. A person is borned in a purely Islamic enviornment, he has been taught Islam from the very start of his life and he has been brought up in the same atmosphere. There is another person who is borned in a pure Hindu/Christian environment (say in a pandit’s home), he has been taught Hinduism/Christianity from the very start of his life and he has been brought up in the same atmosphere.

    Now, there are people who argue that it is in the psychology of a person that it is very difficult for him to deny and take a stand against something he has been believing from his childhood. And it is also a fact that there are greater number of borned Muslims than revert Muslims similarly there are a greater number of borned Hindus/Christians than converts. If this is the case, the Hindu/Christian is put into hell for eternity and Muslim into Heaven for eternity, if they die with the same faith. Is this justice with both of them? What was the fault of Hindu/Christian for not being borned in an Islamic environment and what had the Muslim done for he got such a big prize!

    Your Sincerely,
    Rashid

  5. Answer: Al-Bukħaariy narrated through Abuu Hurayrah that the Prophet
    said: “Your deeds will not put you in Paradise.” They asked: “Not even
    for you, O Messenger of Aļļaah?” He answered: “No, not even for me,
    except that Aļļaah will cover me with grace and mercy.” (Şaĥiiĥ
    Al-Bukħaariy No 5349, 5/2147; ˆUmdatu-l-Qaariy 21/227)

    What this means is that Aļļaah is not obliged to do anything, and that
    your deeds do not influence Aļļaah. Good deeds do not earn you the
    right to go to Paradise; it is a grace from Aļļaah to enter. It means
    also that if you do not do good deeds, then this indicates that Aļļaah
    has not willed good for you, and this is a sign that you are heading
    for loss in the Hereafter. For some people He has made it easier to do
    good than others. For some people he has created the ability to
    overcome difficult obstacles to do good, others not. Aļļaah has
    created some people to go to Hell, and some to go to Paradise. This is
    not injustice, for Aļļaah does not have a creator or a judge that He
    is accountable to, and what He creates is fully His to do with as He
    wills. Aļļaah said:

    لا يُسْأَلُ عَمَّا يَفْعَلُ وَهُمْ يُسْأَلُون
    Meaning: “He is not asked about what He does to creation, but the
    creation is asked.” (Al-Anbiyaa’, 23).

    I have mentioned it elsewhere, but it is useful to recount the debate
    between Al-Qaađiy ˆAbdulJabbaar of the Muˆtazilite sect, and the great
    Imam of the Sunnis of the time, Abuu Isĥaaq Al-Isfaraayiiniy . When
    the two met, ˆAbdulJabbaar said, “Exalted is Aļļaah, who transcends
    the obscene.” (While this is a sound expression, what he meant to say
    was that Aļļaah does not create evil. This is blasphemous, because
    Muslims must believe that Aļļaah is the only creator, as it is stated
    in the Qur’aan that He created everything, and that no one wills
    anything except by His Will.)

    Imam Al- Isfaraayiiniy (418 AH) realized what he had implied and
    responded, “Exalted is Aļļaah, who nothing happens in His dominion but
    by His Will.” The Muˆtazilite then made another attempt and said,
    “Does our Lord like to be disobeyed?” Al-Isfaraayiiniy quickly
    replied, “Could He be disobeyed against His Will?” Upon that
    ˆAbdulJabbaar tried again to defeat his adversary and said, “If God
    denied me guidance, then ruled that I be destroyed for it, has He
    treated me fairly?” Al-Isfaraayiiniy calmly answered, “If He denied
    you something that was yours, then He would have been unfair, but if
    it was not rightfully yours, then Aļļaah does with His creation what
    He wills.” ˆAbdulJabbaar fell silent, and could not argue further.
    After all, Aļļaah is the true owner of all creation. (V.4/ P. 261-262.
    Ţabaqaatu-sħ-Sħaafiˆiyyati-l-Kubraa).

    Abu Adam

  6. Abu says:

    “name Allah Himself cause. “ “You can say that the world exists because Allah created it.”
    Allah is the cause of the universe. Now how is that calling Allah by another name? That’s guilty of naming Allah as much a name as saying “created it”.

  7. No, there is a big difference between calling Aļļaah Himself a cause, and saying that it exists because He created it. In the second case you are only saying that Aļļaah caused it to exist, not that Aļļaah Himself is a cause.

  8. Mashsha'i says:

    i think that you failed to adequately address the commentators criticism above. all you had done is assert a bunch of propositions. let me build on what he said.

    the dalil al-huduth is based on the principle of causality i.e., that effects have necessary causes. in other words, something cannot come from nothing without any cause whatsoever. in the proof itself, this principle is what grounds the first premise, i.e., that ‘everything which begins it exist has a cause’. now you can go on and quibble about words, saying that ’cause’ is not the same as ‘creator’ and that you only mean ‘creator’, not cause. but this i think is unhelpful to you because even if i grant that, it renders the dalil al-huduth question begging insofar far as it is combined in the Ash’arite system with the premise that God is the sole agent/creator (of effects). this is because the first premise of the proof now will be ‘everything that begins to exist has a creator’ – but what is the proof of this premise? you’re either going to beg the question in proving it or all your attempts at a proof will fail because you hold that there is no other agent/creator than God, which means that you cannot draw from experience (of the world) to ground the premise (in a non question-begging way).

    • The issues here is regarding what one is allowed to call Allaah. This is narration based, and is primarily a legal religious question, even though it is traditionally dealt with in books of Kalaam. E.g. it is not allowed to say that Allaah has a son, no matter what one means by it. To a person that believes in Allaah and in His messenger this is not merely a verbal quibble, but a grave question of religious decree.

      I never said that the world exists without a cause. However, it does not follow that Allaah is called cause. Allaah is not called “cause” (sabab or ˆillah), based on Sunni law, because it implies no will. The reason why the world exists is because Allaah willed for it to exist. So the “cause” of the different events of the world is the fact that Allaah has willed for them to exist and brought them into existence. See also this.

      • Salam Alaykum dear Shaykh,

        This is one issue that may be relevant to our discussions with non-Muslims. Because from what I have seen, when we present the premise ‘Everything that begins to exist must have a cause’, the non-Muslim immediately says: “The cause can only be something in this material world. Bringing God into the picture makes no sense.”

        You may correct me if I am wrong, but I think if we were to say: “Everything that begins to exist needs to have an Originator/Creator” that would be correct to use as a premise, and it would not be question-begging. The reason is that we have established that there is need for an originator/creator, and we now need to see whether this is a “Creator” existing within this world (or any modification of this, such as the Buddhist ‘dependent co-origination’, where countless material causes may give rise to an event), or whether the Creator is a Being existing without being bound by the limitations of the dimensional Universe.

        However, the only problem that rephrasing the premise would have is that the atheist mind would immediately think of “Creator” as being ‘God’, and would perceive it as question-begging. So the only issue I would need to ask is: Whether there is some other word we can use in the beginning premise to indicate the necessity for events that begin to exist have for an Originator, without directing the non-Muslim mind into thinking that we are begging the question.

        Wa Slaam.

      • I am not aware of a simple phrase. In Arabic the expression used for the impossibility you are referring to is “tarjiiĥ bi laa murajjiĥ”, which is sometimes translated as preponderance without a preponderating factor. I have dealt with this issue here.

      • Mashsha'i says:

        “I never said that the world exists without a cause. […]”

        i know you didn’t. i’m saying you cannot prove it. and you cannot prove it because in your aqidah the principle of causality is denied, so effects don’t have necessary causes, it isn’t necessarily the case that a tarjih must have a murajih, etc. you keep asserting God wills this and God will that. but i’m trying to get back to something deeper, namely, before you can say if and what God wills, you have to first establish His existence. and you cannot cannot do this because, give that you deny the principle of causality (whatever you want to call it), it’s possible that something can come into existence (i.e., an effect) without any sort of cause whatsoever.

      • First you say I do not deny the principle of cause, then you say “in your aqidah the principle of causality is denied”. I don’t like to waste my time. This is your final warning.

  9. Mashsha'i says:

    i never said that you don’t deny it; nor does anything i did say imply that you don’t deny it. can you show me otherwise?

    • This is what you said quoting me: “I never said that the world exists without a cause. […]” i know you didn’t.

      The world is everything other than Allaah, i.e. everything with a beginning. So I am not denying the principle of cause. Here is an explanation of what I mean by that.

      • Mashsha'i says:

        Let me, to clarify matters, stated your options disjunctively here:

        Either you (a) affirm the principle of causality and prove God’s existence on it’s basis, or (b) you deny it, in which case you cannot prove God’s existence. but you cannot (c) claim to prove God’s existence AND deny the principle. there’s no fourth alternative.

      • Seriously? I have already clarified my position on cause here.

  10. Mashsha'i says:

    right, but that was in response to your initial response to me. in that response of mine, nothing i said implied that you deny that the world has a cause and so you didn’t need to respond by saying “I never said that the world exists without a cause”. i was simply clarifying that in my second response.

    my point this whole time was that you cannot prove that the world has a cause (even though you believe that it does) because on on the Ash’arite system, effects do not have necessary causes. so, it’s not necessary then what the world have a cause, even though it may be an effect according to you. so-called “causes and effects” are merely arbitrarily correlated according to you. if that’s true, then one need not believe that a given effect is necessarily, and not just arbitrarily or by chance, the result of a cause, i.e., in this case God. (i’ve read the link you provided. trust me, i understand it. it’s standard mashsha’i doctrine which our Shaykh Ibn Sina taught. but it affirms necessary causal connections, which you deny).

    • Inaccurate. What I actually say is that events are intrinsically possible, and as such their sequence is not intrinsically necessary either. Again, I have already clarified my position on cause here.

      • Mashsha'i says:

        so what that you say “events are intrinsically possible”? their intrinsic possibility is inextricably related to the principle of causality (again, all this is standard Mashsha’i doctrine) – but causality is something you deny! and so there’s no proving the existence of God in your system.

      • Once again: I do not deny the principle of causality. I have never said I did, nor have I implied it. What I have said is that events do not have intrinsic causal power. I.e. I do not share a mechanistic, “clockwork” view of the universe in which if event “a” happens, “b” must happen due to “a” alone. Rather, I believe all events to be created by Allaah. In other words, the world is not created by the world, but by Allaah. In other words, the “cause” of all events is that Allaah has specified them and brought them into existence.

      • Mashsha'i says:

        “What I have said is that events do not have intrinsic causal power.”

        this is confused. an “event” is nothing but an action; and an action is always the action of some substance. and it is substances that have intrinsic causal power. so, when you deny that events have intrinsic causal power, you’re really denying it of the substances whose acts constitute the so-called ‘events’ in question. and to deny causal power to substances is just to deny the principle of causality – something that necessarily follows from your crude and completely false doctrine of atomism.

        “I.e. I do not share a mechanistic, “clockwork” view of the universe in which if event “a” happens, “b” must happen due to “a” alone.”

        great, me too.

        “Rather, I believe all events to be created by Allaah. […].”

        sure, but like i said, there’s no way of proving it in your system. for all i know, events could be “loose and separate”, just popping into and out of existence.

      • It is you who are confused. Substances are events, because they are possible in existence and have a beginning. To deny substances causal power is not the same as denying the principle of causality, because the cause for their change could be from other than them. You are confusing the principle of cause with mechanical cause. What you fail to understand is that one does not need to affirm mechanical cause to affirm the principle of cause. The principle of cause is an a priori axiom. If you knew anything about the scientific method, you would have known that claims of causality are not empirically established, but based on conjecture. All that is actually observed is correlation. So the principle of cause is an unobservable and one either affirms it or not, and once affirmed one attributes it either to substances or not. Finally, you cannot affirm causal power to substances and then also claim that all events are created by Allaah. Why? Because you have already said that events create events when you affirm to them causal power. You are, in other words, committing shirk, like the Greek pagans you so admire.

  11. Mohd Ibn says:

    Assalamualaikum Sheikh,

    I think Allah is a being who is purely volitional (purely will), because Allah is not an essence and “cause” according to you and some scholars.

  12. Muslim Answers says:

    Salam Alaykum dear Shaykh,

    There is a question about the “creating act” of Allah that I would like to ask based on what I remember hearing in a speech concerning the explanation of Maturidi Aqeedah. The scholar was trying to explain how the matter was related to the person’s choice. What I heard was that according to the scholar, Allah creates the action of the servant based on His Knowledge of what the servant will choose to do at that time.

    My question is: Is it not clear that “what the servant will choose to do at that time” is also created by Allah? So was this matter formulated in this way in order to fight some deviants who may have been hardcore “jabiriyya”, or is there some other reason for things to be presented like this which I missed in my understanding of this statement?

    • Yes, Allaah creates all events, as you know. I don’t think it is helpful to state it like that, and it is very misleading in more than one way.

      The difference between jabriyyah and sunnis is that the former say that human beings are like leafs in the wind. The jabriyah have never been a very big sect, since they denied the obvious phenomenon that human beings make choices, even if these choices are predestined by Allaah. A leaf does not have any choices, predestined or otherwise. Hence it has no accountability, because accountability, by Allaah’s decree, is only related to choice. The reason why the sunnis rejected the jabriyyah for their saying is that they implied lack of accountability.

      The notion of choice comes from the fact that we face expectations and uncertainties regarding the future. We act in order to steer towards what we prefer for the future according to our expectations in terms of what is achievable and desirable. However, all of these thoughts, mental images and events, as well as our behavior and thinking, are predestined and created by Aļļaah.

      Human choice then, is a phenomenon intrinsically linked to human ignorance of the future. Without at least some ignorance of what will be next, we would perceive no choice. However, since we are ignorant of the future, we try to move towards what we desire for ourselves among the perceived options. Hence, desire or need or dissatisfaction is another intrinsic part of choice along with imagination to form expectations and goals to work towards. Moreover, we do not hesitate to blame ourselves and others for wrongdoings, because our experience of choice dictates that, and because this is what the religion prescribes. None of this is found in a leaf, but it is all part of creation.

      That being said, and with regards to the fact that all that exists is by Aļļaah’s Will, it is useful to recount the debate between Al-Qaađii ˆAbdulJabbaar of the Muˆtazilite sect, and the great Imam of the Sunnis of the time, Abuu Isĥaaq Al-Isfaraayiiniyy . When the two met, ˆAbdulJabbaar said, “Exalted is Aļļaah, who transcends the obscene.” While this is a sound expression, what he meant to say was that Aļļaah does not create evil. This is blasphemous, because Muslims must believe that Aļļaah is the only creator, as it is stated in the Qur’aan that He created everything, and that no one wills anything except by His Will.

      Imam Al- Isfaraayiiniyy realized what he had implied and responded, “Exalted is Aļļaah, who nothing happens in His dominion but by His Will.” The Muˆtazilite then made another attempt and said, “Does our Lord like to be disobeyed?” Al-Isfaraayiiniyy quickly replied, “Could He be disobeyed against His Will?” Upon that ˆAbdulJabbaar tried again to defeat his adversary and said, “If God denied me guidance, then ruled that I be destroyed for it, has He treated me fairly?” Al-Isfaraayiiniyy calmly answered, “If He denied you something that was yours, then He would have been unfair, but if it was not rightfully yours, then Aļļaah does with His creation whatever He wills.” ˆAbdulJabbaar fell silent, and could not argue further. After all, Aļļaah is the true owner of all creation.

  13. Mohd Ibn says:

    So Allah is a being without essence and body that has will, power, knowledge, might, etc. Is it appropriate in your view?

    • A body IS an essence.

      I am very, very conservative in expressions used to refer to Aļļaah. This is because we are dealing in English, so we do not have explicit permissions in terms of what expressions we can use. We do know, however, that we are in need of permission. The source of knowing the permission is necessity of teaching. That is why I personally do not feel comfortable with using the word “being”. I do not see any necessity. Simply say that Allaah is the Creator and He is attributed with will, power and knowledge. I think everybody can understand it. You have been asking a lot about words like “dhaat” and “existence”, and so on. When we ascribe a “dhaat” to Allaah it is mainly to point out that Allaah Himself is not an attribute. So “dhaat” means “Him”. In addition, existence is not something that exists in itself, so that is why “His existence” is said to mean “Him” also. However, some said that the meaning of “His existence” is that it is impossible that He could not exist. That is, it is simply a negation of the possibility of His non-existence.

  14. Omer says:

    As Salam Alaikum,
    I want to ask some questions:

    1)Does not Imam Ghazali say the words are not important if the right meaning is meant when he was telling Allah is not jawhar, but He can be called so if it mean self-subsisting(kaim binnefsihi)

    2)You said that “The names of Allah, however, are revelation based and one cannot make them up at convenience.” But doesn’r Baqillani and Taftazani say He can be named with names if they do not humiliate or imply flaw to Allah’s perfection, and does not Taftazani answer the question about Allah being called Vacip’ub Vücud as there is an ijma.

    So based on my first two questions, how can we act? Can Allah be called Cause?

    3) How do we know that Allah called Christian kafir regardless of what they meant by son of God?

    • One cannot call Allah “jawhar” or “cause”. The meaning of jawhar is something possible in existence that does need something else to exist in. The meaning of cause is something that if it exists, something else must exist because of its existence. So Allaah is not said to be the cause of the world, because that would lead to saying that the world must exist and that Allaah did not choose to create it. Both of these names imply flaw. As for those who say that Allaah has a son, they are kuffaar, because Allaah said they are, see this.

      • Omer says:

        Hi sir,

        In other messages you answer for other people, i see you are responding all the points they are making; but unfortunately, this is not the case for me.

        1) I didn’t ask whether who say that Allah has a son is kafir or not; or i didn’t ask if Allah called them kafir. What you said was that: ” Allah called Christian kafir REGARDLESS of what they meant by son of God”. I am asking are we sure that it is regardless of meaning of it? I don’t think so. And I don’t think so that Christians didn’t think about any meaning while they were saying so. So how can we know that it is regardless of the meaning, since Christians used the word to refer some meaning?

        2) I understand that He cannot be called cause or jawhar. But what i am asking to you is that as Baqillani said, if a name is not going to detract Allah’s glory and sublime, He can be called so. Am I not right about what he said? And as I also asked, especially kalam scholars call Allah, Vacip Teala or Vacib’ul Vucud, and that is not one of His names actually. But Taftazani says there is an ijma.

        3) Although kalam scholars refer jawhar as substance that occupies space, there is no really agreement about the definition of jawhar. And some, for example philosophers used to mean it “kaim bizzat”, standing itself.

      • I did respond. First, the answer to your first question is at the end of the article I linked. Second, regarding Al-Baqillaaniy, he said that if the word used has a meaning that is known by reason to be true of Aļļaah, then it is allowed to use it as a name or as referring to an attribute of Aļļaah. This is if the other conditions of having the meaning of glorification, not being misleading, not having a sense of impoliteness, etc. are met so that it can be said of the name to be among “the most beautiful names”. Other said that this is only for the case of attributes, not names. Names need a firm narrational proof or ijmaaˆ consensus. Hence, it is only by ijmaaˆ that we know that we can call translate the name of Allaah to other languages. Moreover, there is a religious necessity in this. Third, “jawhar” does not meet the conditions mentioned. Qaaim biddhdhaat just means that it is a subject and not a predicate, since predicates need a subject to exist.

      • Hugh Slaman says:

        Salam ‘Alaykum,
        Thank you for this clarification: “The meaning of cause is something that if it exists, something else must exist because of its existence.” This helps us to understand why, if someone calls Allah a “cause”, he is said to be a kafir.
        It is worth pointing out, though, that the meaning of cause you have given above is not necessarily the way the word ’cause’ is used in English. In modern philosophy, for example, it is common to hear people talk about “agent causation”, a type of causation in which there is efficacy in bringing about a result, but in which the effect need not exist (since the agent could have freely chosen to bring about something else).
        In this modern usage of the word ’cause’, it is not immediately clear that calling Allah a cause amounts to kufr. It is probably still not advisable, but hopefully those reading this will be cautious to ascertain what someone actually means before making takfir on these grounds; the word ’cause’ is a technical one, and it gets used differently by different thinkers.
        (This is just a clarificatory sidenote about modern English usage).

      • wa3alaykumussalaam,

        In individual cases of takfiir the context and individual understanding for the particular case is of course important. However, one must keep in mind that the issue here is what is appropriate as a name of the Creator. It is not only about some possible understanding of a word, but also about whether it is glorifying and befitting. Extreme caution must be taken, for the warnings against using inappropriate words as names or to ascribe attributes to Allaah are severe.

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