Some others believe that this principle can never be proved in any instance. Some go into details and say that the macrophysical phenomena are deterministic, whereas in respect to the microphysical phenomena they are not governed by the causation doctrine.
The correct thesis accepted to us and to the Islamic philosophy is that the doctrine of causation is necessary and bears no exception. If we could not, however, find out the cause of a particular phenomenon, the reason is our insufficient knowledge, not that it happened without any cause. It does have a cause, but we have not discovered it yet.
However, this is philosophic topic which is irrelevant to our discussion. We mentioned it just to throw light on the connection between the causation doctrine and at-Tawhid, i.e. whether the cause acceptable to the Qur'an is regarded as a necessary and indespensable principle, or it happens, a rarely or frequently, per chance, that is, in the terms of logic, it is acceptable as a positive partial proposition, not as positive universal proposition or a general law.
The importance of this discussion appears only when we think of its connection with miracles. We do know that all divine religions, especially Islam in the Qur'an, declare that many of the world's phenomena do not happen because of merely material actions and reactions, as there is an apparatus other than that of material causation. It also rules the world, though unknown to people and is not put at their disposal.
The Connection between Causation and Miracles
A characteristic of the religious and divine belief is the acceptance of the idea of miracles, which is unknown to the materialistic school. It is, in fact, one of the pretexts used by the materialistic schools against the theological schools, especially the religious, acusing them of violating the causation doctrine. They say that the acceptance of such religious matters actually is violation of the causation doctrine, which, if acceptable, must come into existence through its own cause and conditions, otherwise it will be impossible. "How can you say," they protest, "that a phenomenon may come into existence without having a material cause? "This is a denial. of the causation doctrine". They regard this a weak point of the divine school. Maybe some Marxist literature had referred to this, saying that the religious school believed in the accidental happening of things, by which they mean the miracles.
Despite the fact that those who believe in accidentalism, in its incorrect concept, are the very materialists themselves, and of which they have no escape, yet they accuse us of being accidentalists. Realizing that we admit the happening of exceptional and miraculous phenomena, they say: here you have an accident, and, by admitting it, you reject the causation doctrine as a necessary general law. This is one of the allegations of which the materialists accuse the theologians. How much truth is there in this? Is the causation doctrine a general and inevitable law? If we accept this law, are we, then, to deny the miracles, or can the question be solved in a different way?
It must be said that the causation doctrine is a philosophic, universal and necessary one. It accepts no exception. To explain this subject, we shall have to go into a thorough philosophic discourse, which is, in fact, out of the frame of our discussion. It is not in our intention to handle such a wide philosophic subject. If we do sometimes explain similar subjects, it is because they are related to certain Qur'anic questions which require explanation. Otherwise, we do not concern ourselves with irrelevant philosophic topics. The problem, now, is if the causation doctrine is a universal and necessary one, how can miracles be justified?
Taking Position in Respect to Miracles
The First Position:
It is the position of those who take the miracles to be superstitions and say that they are myths and legends which remained in the human mind from the mythical and legendary periods. Their residues transported to the next religious periods and rested in the deep depths of the human mind, to appear in the form of miracles, which are no more than unreal fabulous legends.
This is the position of the materialists and the scientists. Such thinkers basically deny all religions, since the prominent characteristic of every divine religion is to acknowledge miracles, especially Islam, as the Qur'an is quite explicit in this respect such that to deny miracles is to deny the Qur'an itself. That is, we are either to affirm that the Qur'an is a true Book and, thus, the miracle is also true, or to say that since the Qur'an is a miracle it is false - God forbid! - Otherwise it is irrational to accept the Qur'an and deny the miracle. The Qur'anic declarations in this respect are so extensive that there can be no doubt about the truth of miracles. Such being the case, some accuse Islam as being a false religion because it says, for example, that somebody had thrown his stick and it turned into a snake. This is more like a myth. How could a piece of wood turn into a snake? The Qur'an says:" So he threw his staff, and lo! it was a real serpant". [Suratul A'raf/107 and Suratush-Shu'ara'/32] They say this is a legend, and, consequently, the Qur'an itself is not a true Book. Or they say that the Qur'an states that Jesus (A.S.) was born without having a father at all, and that a spirit appeared before Mary (A.S.). Science does not accept such things. Therefore, the Qur'an is God forbid! - a lie.
They also say that the Qur'an alleges that Jesus (A.S.), a child of one or two days, lying in its cradle, started talking and even claimed to be a prophet with a divine scripture. When Bani Israel accusingly said to Mary (A.S.): "You have done a strange thing. O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a bad man, nor was your mother a harlot"". Their attack was severe upon her. She pointed to the infant in the cradle: "They said: How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?"" But he surprised them by saying: "I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and appointed me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined upon me the Salat and the Zakat so long as I remain alive; and dutiful to my mother..."[Surat Maryam/27-32].
A new born infant, speaking from its cradle like this, astounded them all! What a story this is! Then the Qur'an adds that it was a divine sign which was brought among the people so that they may know Allah, that He is capable of doing everything and that they should submit to Him.
As for the scientific thinkers, they say such things are impossible, science has never proved them, they are but superstitions, of which there are many examples in the Qur'an. So, this position rejects the Qur'an for including such things.
The Second Position:
This position is a little milder than the first. It is the position of those who apparantly introduce themselves as Muslims and supporters of the Qur'an but they, out of ignorance or hypocrisy, resort to the interpretation of such ayahs as formerly stated. They say: the meanings of those ayahs are not as they had been understood by some people. They have different meanings. Or sometimes they ascribe them to be like superstitions. They say the Qur'an includes myths, too, and those are some of them. Myths, they say, have their benefits, if they are explained by the mythologists.
The Third Position:
Those who take this position say that these are vocabularies from which you understand the said meanings, while the story was something else. People, and sometimes men of religion, gradually show such subjects to appear as superstitions. The subject is different. By saying that he would cure their patients Jesus; they say, intended to say that he would treat them, since Jesus was a clever physician. In that era of good medication, Jesus was a genius physician who dedicated himself to the weak and the poor. He used to tell the people to bring the patients to him for treatment. He wanted to offer his humanistic services to the society, not to show miracles: "...and I heal the blind and the leprous." means that he medicated their patients, as any physician would try to do. "and bring the dead to life" means Jesus used to dig out some dead bodies. These acts cannot mean that he miraculously cured the sick or brought the dead to life. No, he disentombed the dead as dead, not alive!
As regards an episode such as Bani Israel's crossing the sea, and the drowning of Pharaoh and his men in the sea, which was another one of Moses' miracles, they say: you misunderstood this one, too. Moses (A.S.) was brought up in Pharaoh's court. At those times astronomy and other similar sciences were very common among people. Moses (A.S.) was clever and talented. He had learned from the scholars of the court of Pharaoh the law of the seas ebb and tide. He could very well calculate the periods of high tide and low tide. His calculations showed him that a very strange low tide was going to start such that the bed of the sea would be exposed. He decided to cross the sea with his people at that very time. So, when he was told: "Strike the sea with your staff. And it parted, each like a huge mound,"[Suratush-Shu`ara'/63] it was a reference to this question of low tide, and the striking of the sea with his staff was ordering him to proceed, at the time of the ebb, and cross the sea. So, it was a natural phenomenon. Likewise the other miracles stated in the Qur'an can be interpreted in similar ridiculous or tearful ways.
One of the prominent examples of such dull and distorting interpretations of the Qur'an is that of the Indian commentator Mir Ahmad Khan, who has a lot of such specimen. Some Egyptian commentators have quoted him. It is regretted that persons who consider themselves writers of exegeses and they did write them in the Persian language, quoted such matters, and made of these felts hats for their heads.
This is another position, which, in fact, distorts the Qur'an. If we want to make puns on words and explain things as we desire, there can be no specific meanings for words, and everybody may assign any meaning he likes for the words, such as being done by the hypocrites who interpret the ayahs of the Qur'an in any form they like.
If such a door is flung open, no discourse can be trusted and no word may retain its specific meaning, in which case two contrary meanings, both positive and negative, may be ascribed to a single word. If this is to be the case, it is better to leave the Qur'an aside than to fabricate such ridiculous interpretations of it. Every fair thinking with a knowledge of the Arabic language can realize that giving such meanings to the ayahs is more disgraceful than denying the Qur'an altogether. It is better to say that the Qur'an is a lie - God forbid! But to admit that the Qur'an is a divine Book and it is true and was sent to the people, cannot conform with such ridiculous interpretations.
The Fourth Position:
This position towards miracles is also a mild one. The supporters of this position say that the truth about miracles is the miracle of scieqce. That is, they say: We accept that Moses, Jesus and other Prophets (A.S.) did perform things contrary to the natural proceedings. Allah had bestowed upon them a power which was the sign of their prophethood. What they did was extraordinary, but the causes of those performances were not what others say, they were something else. Allah has given them the knowledge of knowing the natural causes of those phenomena, and they utilized their divine and extraordinary knowledge. It was not a knowledge that could be learnt by whoever liked it. Its appearance in certain persons was regarded as a miracle, but the effect was, actually carried out through natural laws.
For example, you do know that in chemistry there are uncountable actions and reactions with astonishing results. Those who know such formulae, solutions, pastes and chemical compounds can demonstrate amazing effects which would surprise the others. Ordinary people think that fire and water never come together, whereas a chemist can easily demonstrate an experiment in which we see fire on the surface of water. Such instances are plenty in chemistry. So, those who know nothing about such formulae think them to be miracles, but if some illiterate in a desert performed such demonstrations, they would be miracles, because the others knew nothing about them and could not do them. Later on, when the relevant secrets were discovered and everybody could do them, they could no more be regarded as miracles.
Consequently, a miracle is a proportional matter. Under certain conditions in a certain place, done by a certain person before a certain people, it is seen as a miracle, since that people know nothing, cannot recognize it and incapable of doing it. But the same performance loses its miraculous nature and becomes an ordinary affair when all the people can learn it and have all the required means at their disposal to do it. A hundred years ago if one could have his voice heard on the other side of the world, it would have been regarded as a miracle, but nowadays, when everybody can make use of the telephone to hear his friend's voice overseas, it can be no longer a miracle. So, the first person who can do it, especially if he lacks all learning and knowledge and is in an ignorant climate, it is surely regarded as a miracle.
They say that the prophets were like that. They were taught some scientific formulae by Allah. Others did not know them. But later, after the development and advancement of science and of people's knowledge, they ceased to be regarded as miracles.
This was another interpretation of the miracles, and a particular position towards the Qur'an's declarations about the miraculous performances of the prophets. But the fact is that all these positions are false. The first is a denial of the Qur'an, the second is a distortion of the Qur'an, the third and the fourth are caused by misunderstanding the Qur'an.
What the Qur'an and the true divine religions say is that there are phenomena which happen in this world caused not by usual causes, but by the will of the prophets and Allah's men, on whom He had bestowed a power and a special knowledge to govern the natural laws. As a matter of fact, there are happenings which look like miracles and may be mistaken for miracles, such as the performances of the ascetics. These, however, are facts, too, other than the deceitful magic. There are also the godly men who attain, with their strict self-discipline, to certain truths, which may appear as miracles to the little-informed lookers on, whereas closer observers realize that such performances can be learnt and taught, since they have their preliminaries and causes leading to their appearance. These are not miracles. A miracle is something given by Allah and has neither causes nor means, nor is it possible to learn or teach. It is a power granted by Allah's Will to whomever He pleases - a power to overpower nature. As to what the self-mortifiers do, they are acts acquired by training and can be performed by others, too, but a miracle is something else. The truth of the miracles is something beyond magic, self-mortification, strange sciences and the like.
Miracles are neither learnt nor taught, they are God-given talents, which are bestowed upon whomever Allah desires and to the extent He pleases. Now, one may ask: Does accepting the principle of miracles, as such, constitute a contradiction to the principle of causation? The answer is that it does not. According to the principle of causation, every phenomenon and whatever is not self-existent depends in its appearance into existence on the effect of another factor.
Therefore, the self-existent, i.e. Allah's Holy Essence, is outside the limits of the principle of causation, that is, Allah is not an effect and need not to have a cause. As a matter, of course, Allah is at the head of the principle of causation, since His Holy Essence is the cause of all things, though He is outside the circle of the caused. Allah needs no cause, because the principle of causation, according to its philosophic concept, means that, that which is not self-existent and is needy, its existence depends on something else which is to satisfy its needs, while Allah is a needless Being, and thus He is not included in the causation argument.
Secondly, the causation principle, as an intellectual tenet, says that the beings which are limited, conditional and needy, there must be behind them something connected to them and that which fulfils them. But as to what that "something" is, what shape it has and how it exerts its effect, they are not explained by the causation principle, i.e. it is not possible to know the particular cause of each phenomenon from the causation principle itself. The causation law is a rational one, prior to experiment and not dependant on it, whereas recognizing the particular causes is an experimental procedure and determined by experiments. That is, a scientist sits in his laboratory, changes the conditions, compounds, and analyzes until he attains to new discoveries. Then, as soon as a new phenomenon appears in the laboratory, such as the flushing of a light, the hearing of a sound or the facing of a new material phenomenon, he immediately understands that there must have been a cause for what had happened, according to reason.
This, however, is understandable by reason without having to do any experiment. But as regards what was the cause of the appearance of that phenomenon, the mind, alone, cannot help us in finding out the cause, as otherwise there would have been no need for, resorting to experimentation and the mind would have told us what caused the so-and-so phenomenon. Science and experiment can tell us about the particular causes, whereas the causation law is a philosophic one. Detailed discussion of this subject comes in its place. Here I just wanted to show how far experimentation can help us in respect to finding out the cause of a happening. Experiment can tell us that under the conditions of the experiment what connection there is between the (A) phenomenon and the (B) phenomenon, such that whenever (A) is present (B) appears, too, and whenever (A) disappears, (B) disappears, too. Only experiment can demonstrate the connection.However, can the experiment show us that (B) can never appear except through (A)? What experiment can answer such questions? To make a fire, man used for years a particular way. Had he the right to say that there was no other way to make it? It would have been childish to say so. He had no right to say there was no way to make a fire other than that. We usually obtain heat from fire, but do we have the right to say that heat can never be obtained except through this way? The only right we have is to say that, according to our so far acquired knowledge, the causes that make fire are so and so, but we have no right to exclusively confine the ways of making fire only to those which we know and that there can never be other factors producing fire, as only an ignorant can say so, and it is not expected from a researcher to disregard and deny the effect of an unnoticeable factor.
Experimentation can prove what is within the scope of its function, supported by man's senses, but it has no right to deny what lies beyond that. So, alleging that science denies such procedures as claimed by the prophets is nonsense. Science cannot deny them. It only can say that experiment shows that a human being appears by means of its parents, but it has no right to say that it is impossible otherwise. Principally, experiment cannot prove impossibility. Impossibility is not an experimental concept, it is a philosophical one. If impossibility can be proved it can be proved only through reasoning. What experiment can prove is the non-happening, not the impossibility. So, no science, however advanced it may be, can deny miracles and say that they are impossible. What science proves does not contradict the existence of miracles.
Consequently, confirming miracles does not mean denying causation in the happening of miracles. Actually, they confirm the existence of a cause beyond all causes known to people - a cause which is supernatural and extraordinary. They do not absolutely deny all causes. Therefore, causation principle, as a necessary and general one, can meet miracles and extraordinary events, without creating any problem.
Prompt and Gradual Acts of Allah
One of the discussions about Allah's acts is whether He does His acts gradually along the time, or promptly and on the spot. The reason behind this question may be the declarations of some ayahs in the Qur'an.
It can be understood from certain ayahs that Allah's acts, or some of them at least, are done gradually, such as the ayahs concerning the creation of the heaven and the earth, as well as man who is created first from a semen and then he gradually grows up to perfection.
There are, on the other hand, a group of ayahs which give us to understand that when Allah wants something He tells it to be, and there it will be on the spot.
The outer meanings of such ayahs denote that Allah's acts, in certain instances, are immediately fulfilled, and they need no time. The Qur'an says:, His command, when He wills anything, is only to say to it: `Be!' so it is."[Surat Y'asin/82]. This concept is repeated many times in the Qur'an. So, how is it possible to join these two groups of ayahs ?
A question arises in this respect: are Allah's acts gradual or prompt, or are some done gradually and some done on the spot? Many of the commentators have chosen the third version.
They say that if a phenomenon appears gradually and takes time to become grown up and complete, Allah's relevant act will similarly be gradual, such as the creation of man who starts from a semen and takes some nine months to become a complete embryo.
In this respect, Allah's act takes nine months, too, to be fulfilled. But if it was an immediate affair unconditioned by time, that is, if the creature was to wear the apparel of existence in no time, it would not, of course, be a gradually created. In this respect, it seems that to say: "prompt" or "all at once", is not quite correct. Nevertheless, anything which has nothing to do with time cannot be described as "gradual".
Now let us forsake whether this division of Allah's acts as gradual and immediate conforms with the ayahs revealed in relation to either of them, and what the opinions of the critics in this respect are.
We intend now to present the third suggested opinion, which, besides solving this problem, also solves a number of complicated questions related to theology. To do so, we must first explain that when we say that an act is gradual or immediate, do we mean that the relevant result of the act happens immediately or gradually?
Or is there a different meaning? For example, when we say that the creation of the world was immediate or gradual, do we mean that the world itself is immediate or gradual?
This is very clear. Creation can be of two kinds: what is materialistic takes time and thus its creation is gradual, and what is not meterialistic is abstract and its existence is not connected to time, and thus it is immediate, or, better to say: not gradual. So, there can be no question whether Allah's acts are immediate or gradual. Yet, the problem does not end by this.
The Infinitive and the Gerund
A verbal noun can have two moods:
1. As an infinitive
2. As a gerund
In the Persian language the verb is sometimes interpreted as an act and sometimes as the performance of the act. But in the Arabic language it seems that the word denoting the infinitive and the gerund is the same in many instances. It should be noted, however, that such words have two aspects, they are either infinitive or gerund.
The basic difference between them is that as regards the infinitive it has a sort of connection with the subject, i.e. it has an additional meaning, which is a kind of verbal meaning: to do, besides denoting the act which is to be done, it always attracts our attention to the subject, the doer of the act.
So, to eat, to sleep, to go, to talk, denote some connection between the subject and the action. As regards the gerund, such a connection is not noticeable. Actually, an obstruction and non-connection are noted, such as: trying and to try. In the first the subject is not obvious, while it is in the second, as it denotes the one who tries, the subject. Similar are: creating and to create.
When we say that creation is gradual or immediate, we must make it clear whether we mean "to create" or "creating", whether we mean the creation of this world, disregarding who created it, or the creation including our concern about the creator. More precisely, we realize that this verbal noun does not speak of a concrete fact, but of an abstract matter.
By way of explanation, we may say that an action depends on two elements:
1. The doer himself, who is real, i.e. he is an entity in the outside.
2. The act which is to be fulfilled and implemented. It can also be an entity.
For instance, Allah, Who creates the world, is a real entity that gives entity to all things. There is no entity higher than Allah [It should be noted that by "entity" we do not mean something "material". Contrary to what the materialists say, entity does not mean corporeal.
The entity is that which has its own existence, disregarding our opinion. It is real and outside our thought. Its existence does not depend on our recognition. Whether we exist or not, it does exist. Consequently. Allah is an entity]. The world, being created, is also a real entity, because, having been created by Allah and got its entity in the outside, it could no longer be regarded as a mental image.
But what about creating? Is it an entity, too? Is it, like the subject and the object of a verb, an entity? Can we find in the outside something named "creating"? Or is "creating" an abstract mental concept, a proportion which we consider to exist between two things (from a certain view, of course)? Undoubtedly, there is nothing in the outside named "creating".
What is outside is the subject and the verb meaning the object. But the verbal noun related to the subject cannot be an entity. It can only be a relation which we admit to be between the subject and its dependent. When I write something, a letter, I myself am an entity, the letter is an entity, too. Similarly are the movements of my hand, the paper and the pen. But the "writing" as something related to the writer, is not an entity.
So, "writing' is an abstract concept taken from these entities. The hand which moves on t he paper at the command of the writer's will result in the appearance of writings on the paper, from which we extract a concept and name it "writing", but it is not a separate entity beside these. All such concepts are abstruct ones extracted from the relation between the subject and the object.
So, as regards the creation of the world, instead of having three things: Allah, to create and creating, we only have the creator and the created. When it is recognized by the mind that the world did not come into existence by itself, but was created by Allah, we, then, say that Allah is the creator and the world is the created.
Of the other clear "annexed concepts" is the concept of "brotherhood". You may be given a son by Allah. As long as this is your only son, we cannot describe him to be a "brother" - whose brother?
When Allah grants you your second son, only then you can say that it is the first's brother - Hasan is Husayn's brother. This "brotherhood" is nothing but Hasan and Husayn. We have nothing in the outside except Hasan and Husayn. There is no third entity named "brotherhood". Brotherhood is an annexed concept, a correlation between two things. It is not a real thing and has no entity. What has entity, in this respect, is Hasan and Husayn. As long as Hasan was the only son he was not a brother.
The concept of brotherhood appeared only when Husayn was born. Did the birth of Husayn add something to Hasan? Did Hasan find a thing called "brotherhood" which he did not have in his existence? Hasan did not change at all. But when another son was born to Hasan's parents, you extracted from this incident a concept which you called "brotherhood". Such are the annexed concepts - they are concepts that come true between two things, without adding anything to either of them.
"To create" and "being created" can similarly be explained. When Allah created the world nothing was added to Him as a creative. Likewise when the world was brought into existence, we got nothing in the name of "creating" along with the world itself, so as to say we have got four things: "Allah", "creating", "the world" and "being created". In the outside we have Allah and the world, to create and being created, while the correlation between these two, the creating, is an extracted abstract concept.
Temporal and Non-Temporal Beings
When the two sides of a correlative matter are controlled by time, the extracted abstract concept related to the said two sides will also be a temporal one. That is, when you say: "I wrote a letter", your being will be controlled by time, because it happened in a materialistic condition related to a material. The letter, being written in a period of time, is also temporal. The writing (that relation between you and the letter, whose accepted infinitive is "to write") is also temporal.
The writing is temporal because the writer is temporal, as well as what is written. This annexed abstract matter happens in time, too. But when the two sides of this correlation are non-temporal, the correlation will, of course, be non-temporal too, since the correlation itself has no independence of its own. So, if its two sides were non-temporal, the very concept would not be temporal. So far no problem. Whoever can correctly recognize the concepts of this proposition and predicate, will admit that the case is as has been explained.
But if there was a correlation between a non-temporal and a temporal being, such as is between Allah, who is non-temporal and the world, or man, who is temporal, there would be a correlation of creating and createdness. This abstract concept, which consists of correlation and annexation, is connected from one side to a non-temporal being, Allah, and from the other side to a temporal being, the world or man.
What kind of correlation can this be? Does it follow the temporal or the non-temporal being. Naturally, there can be two standpoints, depending on your own point of view. If you consider its connection to the non-temporal being, then it is non-temporal, and if you consider its connection to the temporal being, then it is temporal. But since we are not well-informed about the non-temporal and cannot quite explicitly imagine a being that is not conditioned by time, we press our intellect hard to imagine a mental picture of a being that is outside the limits of time.
It is the intellectual proof that takes us so far, as otherwise we cannot by ourselves imagine a being that is outside time, the same as we cannot imagine a being that is outside place. In which case we shall continually ask ourselves: if it is in neither time nor place, where is it then?
Perhaps you have, within your argument with yourself about abstract things, felt that a question keeps pressing upon your mind: How can an abstract and non-material being be in no need of place?
To ask "where" actually belongs to a being that is in a place, but if it has no place, we cannot ask "where"?, or "when"? it was, since this is used in respect to something that is conditioned by time. If a verb can have no time, no tense, there will be no meaning in asking about the time of its being carried out.
But this is how our minds are.
According to Avicenna, the nature of imagination is such that we understand what is within time and place, while we are unable to comprehend what is outside time and place. At any rate, having understood, through mental reasoning, that Allah is outside time, and that it is He who creates the time.
He is not in a place, but it is He who creates the place, while all the things of this world are in time and place. The relation which takes place between Allah and the things of time and place, is it temporal or non-temporal?
We said that in respect to the creator it is non-temporal, and in respect to the created it is temporal. But as our mind cannot perceive the being that does not belong to time and place, it commonly is inclined to think of its relation with the created, the temporal, and talk about it as temporal, too.
The Verb and Its Three Tenses
A notable point is that in our language, as in many other languages, in respect to the verb, we observe its main tenses, the past,, the present and the future. Now, if we wanted to speak of something which is not connected to time, what verb should we use?
Suppose we want to say that Allah, who is non-temporal, had created a being which is also non-temporal, what verb could we use to denote creation. If we- said "created" we would be using the past tense, that is, a time in the past. But our supposition was that neither the creator nor the created belongs to time. So, how can we express such an idea. We know of no vocabulary in our language to express it, because all the tenses denote a certain time.
Every act must be related to time. So, how are we to tell that a non-temporal being had been brought to existence by the non-temporal Allah? We lack such a word. We have but to use the ordinary words used for temporary acts.
The Timeless Verb
Men of literature use a noteworthy expression in this respect. They say that verbs ascribed to Allah are timeless.
For example:. and Allah is ever Knowing, Wise".[Suratun-Nisa'/17]
They say that this "is" is timeless [the English commentator had added "ever" to denote this meaning, although it is not in the original Arabic text. trans.]. Probably those who are acquainted with the Arabic syntax and grammer know this expression to mean so. That is, the verb, as it is, and according to its position, requires to denote time. But in this very instance it is timeless.
No time is observed in respect to Allah's acts. The indication of time is to be omitted from them. When we say that this verb is timeless we mean that time has been omitted from it, i.e. past tense minus its past time.
What is observed here is its relation with the subject, disregarding time, since it has no place, too, for the simple reason that neither its creator nor the created is temporal.
Consequently, the relation is also not temporal. But when Allah creates a temporal thing, it is created with the limits of time, while Allah, who is non-temporal and who encompasses all times, His relations to the past, the present and the future are equal. He is not subject to any time - dimension to be bound by a certain limit of time. He encircles all times.
When we want to ascribe a temporal verb to the non-temporal, what kind of a verb must we use? Will it denote time or not? Being ascribed to the non-temporal Allah, it should be non-temporal, too, and being ascribed to a created thing, it should be related to time.
To throw more light on this, imagine a piece of a string or a rope, of which one end is connected to the supernatural which has no time, and its other end is connected to the temporal nature.
It seems that this example cannot incarnate the truth, yet it will do as an example. Or you may imagine a cone whose base is in the infinitive and whose head is placed on a concrete thing. It is possible for man to imagine such a thing.
The base which is in the infinitive has no limit, no distinct point and no time, but the cone's head connected to the world of limits must inevitably rest on a particular spot, where the limits, time and place are distinct.
Similar are the acts of Allah. They are of two ends, one is connected to the limitless Allah, while the other end is connected to the, created which is captured by the bounds of time and place.
At one end it is connected to the world of constancy, eternity, infinity and divinity, and at the other end it is connected to the world of the limits, bounds, time and place.
Allah's Timed Acts
Consequently, it can be said that Allah's acts which are connected to temporal and material things, have two aspects, one is that which is connected to Allah, it is non-temporal. The act that is issued by Him does not happen in a frame of time.
The other aspect connection to this world would be temporal. As a matter of course, this connection is an abstract one. We imagine the existence of such a connection between Allah and the creation, and say that the end with Allah is timeless, and the end with the creation is timed.
Such an act, therefore, is, on the one side, untimed and not gradual, while, on the other side, it is timed. Why? Because it is issued by Allah who is beyond gradualness, since gradualness is twin to time. Because of this we say that all things, even the materialistic ones, are created by Allah without time.
On His part, He just says: Be! It is a will of Him. When Allah's Will decides that there should be a world and human beings, this Will happen in no time. He, of course, does not need to move, as it were, any hand or limb to "make" something. So, when Allah wants to create something, He has but to will, and there the thing is. But the created thing is governed by time.
Time as a Dimension of a Corporeal Being
It had already been proved that length, width and size are dimensions of the material being, likewise is time. It is another of its dimensions. Everything has its particular time, as it has its particular length, width and size.
This had been proved by Sadrul Muta'allihin of Shiraz (may Allah be pleased with him). This is other than that problem which Albert Einstein said to have solved concerning time being the fourth dimension. The former idea is much wider than the latter.
However, we are not to discuss it at this instance. If it is solved to us that time is originally the dimension of the very world, not a vessel in which the world is placed, and that it appeared simultaneously with the appearance of the world itself, we will very well understand that Allah's act does not happen in time, since there was no time yet.
It was with the creation of the world that time appeared, just as-the world's length, width and depth, which also appeared together with its creation. If we could understand that time is another dimension of this being, we would come to the conclusion that to create a thing means creating its time, since time is not something separate from the things.
Therefore, Allah's acts, so far as connected to Him, are not characterised by time. When He creates a temporal thing, its time is also created with it, because time is one of that thing's dimensions, just as when a table is made its size is simultaniously made, too. The size is not made separately. Wherever there is a table there is its size, too. Similar is time.
Therefore, as the world is temporal, its creation is temporal, too, but as it had been issued by the non-temporal Allah its creation is non-temporal, too. But how? Like this: It is Allah alone who, when willing to create the world, says: Be! and there it is. But what kind of a world it would be? A world of a billion years old, and of, say, a billion km. long.
When Allah wanted to create the length of the world, had He to go along the length while creating it? Had He to be present in the place? When He wants to create a being with length or size, has He, like an architect, who wants to draw a line on the ground, to walk along the line? Is He to be with the length? Certainly not! Allah is non-spatial.
Likewise, He need not go along the time when He creates a temporal creation, since He is never simultanious with time. Neither Allah nor His act, as far as it is ascribed to Him, has time, but if the act is ascribed to a temporal creation, it will be temporal, too.
Therefore, if we consider an act as relevant to Allah, none of His acts are temporal: "His command, when He wills anything, is only to say to it: Be! so it is [Surat Yasin/82] What command? No matter what it is. Material or non-material "when He intends anything".
The opinion of some commentators that this a yah belongs to non-material thing is not in conformity with the a yah's generalization. The Qur'an does not say that when Allah wants to create any non-material thing, He says to it "Be!". It says "When He intends anything He says to it `Be!' so it is." . This is because Allah is non-temporal, and similar is His act.
But what about the created? All the material creations have temporal and spatial dimensions. We say that the creation of the earth and the heavens was completed in six periods: "And he it is Who created the heavens and the earth in six days"[Surat Hud/7.(In Suratul Hajj/471 it is Said that "...a day with Allah is as a thousand years of what you reckon" -translator)] or the creation of man which takes nine months.
But it does not mean that Allah accompanies these events along the time of their fulfillment and development, such as to be present at the time of ejaculating the semen, then at the time of its becoming a clot, then a lump of flesh, and so on. No, Allah does not move along time. All the times are in Him.
So, how is it that a human being is created in nine months, i.e. He creates something whose temporal dimension is nine months, and it has, at the same time, its particular length, width and depth.
Taking these facts into consideration, the ayah, in its generality, comes true in respect to all things. Even in respect to a thing whose creation requires billions of years, we can say that Allah tells it to be, and there it is.
What does it mean to say to something: "Be!? It means: "O you whose age is six million year, come to existence!" What is it? It is a being which had been continuous for six million years, but not that Allah had been moving along those six million years, from one point to another (temporal point). A million light years or a single minute makes no difference to Him. Similarly being spatial is the characteristic of the created, not the Creator.
In short, Allah's acts, taken as issued from Him, are non-temporal because Allah Himself is non-temporal, but taken as belonging to material and temporal beings. They have their temporal dimension, as well as the acts issued from them.
Allah's Will and Talk
In the previous discussion concerning whether Allah's acts are prompt or gradual, we referred to some ayahs which denoted that when Allah willed to create something He just said to it "Be!" and there it was. Such ayahs spoke of Allah's Will and talk. Here also arises the following question: Does Allah's Will, or speech, take time to be fulfilled?
Taking into consideration what has already been said, the answer will be easy. Considering Allah's Will and speech as being ascribed to Him, they are neither gradual nor temporal. But considering them belonging to a gradual and temporal matter, they can be regarded so.
However, to expound this subject, which is extensively handled in the theological and philosophical writings, we shall touch upon it a little.
Attributes of Essence and of Acts
Firstly, we must say that Allah's attributes are divided into two groups: the Attributes of Essence, and the Attributes of Acts. The Attributes of Essence are those which the mind independently comprehends, without having to consider any of His creations.
For example, life is of Allah's Attributes of Essence: Allah, there is no god save Him, the ever living."[Suratul Baqarah/255] The divine life is a divine attribute, and it has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of any other living being. Allah is a living Being. He is not a dead thing like stone.
Life is an attribute which we ascribe to Allah's Essence as far as the very Essence is concerned, not that something comes forth from the Essence. Similarly Allah's Knowledge of Himself is an attribute of Essence. Allah is Knowing.
Allah's Knowledge of Himself is nothing but His Essence: Similarly the attribute of power, which means He is a powerful being. Even if we take the concept of power to include the concept of free will and explain power as to be something that can be used whenever wanted. He is not compelled, and no one can force Him to do anything. However, power is an abstract concept extracted from His sacred and divine state.
On the other hand, there are attributes which are ascribed to Allah only with connection to a creature. Such attributes are called "Attributes of Acts", or the attributes abstracted from the divine acts, such as: The Creator, the Provider, the Manager, and the like, which denote Allah's acts. Without thinking of a created thing we cannot say: Allah is the Creator, or He is the Provider without there being someone needing to be provided for.
This is unlike the Attributes of Essence, such as life. When we say: Allah is alive, no object is needed here. Yet, if we consider the concept of "the Creator" to include "Power", i.e. the one who has "Power" to create, then it would be referring to an Attribute of Essence.
Allah is the potential Creator of the world before its appearance. That is, in Him is the "Power" to create it. But when there is no creating, there can be no attribute as Creator. The existence of the two is simultaneous.
Whenever there is a created there is a creator, too. When there is no creator there can be no creating and created, and the concept of Creator cannot be abstracted, too, unless our intention is directed to His "Power" of creating, in which case it means an Attribute of Essence.
That is why the divine and theological books divide the attributes into Attributes of Essence and Attributes of Acts. After this dividing there were discussions about some other attributes, whether they were among the attributes of Essence or of Acts, such as: to want, to will, to talk, etc.
One of the earliest subjects discussed by the theologians is Allah's words. It is said the ‘Ilmul Kalam [theology] began with discussing whether Allah's Kalam [talk] is eternal or new.
Is Allah's talk to be abstract from His Essence, or from His creation? A group, Ash'aris , believed that the Qur'an, Allah's words, was eternal and one of Allah's Attributes.
On the other end, the Mu'tazilahs insisted on saying that the Qur'an was new and created, and it was not eternal. The situation was so grave between the two groups that they began to accuse one another of infidelity.
However, the dispute about whether Allah's words and His Will are of the Attributes of Essence or of Acts, continued till the blooming of the Islamic philosophy. Even the philosophers who used to consider the philosophic questions through the Islamic standpoint had their disputes and differences, until the matters ripened and became more acceptable.
The philosophers used to say that Allah's Will is His Knowledge of what is good. When we say that Allah has willed to do an act, we mean that He knew that that act was the best and the most advisable, and since they believed that Allah's knowledge was an Attribute of Essence, it was natural to regard His Will also to be of the Attributes of Essence. They would sometimes take Allah's Words to be an Attribute of Essence, too.
The Attribute of Will as an Act
If one wanted to disregard the purely philosophic way of handling such a question, and study it from the Qur'anic standpoint, what should one say?
If "will" is taken to mean "knowledge", then it is an Attribute of Essence because "knowledge" is an Attribute of Essence. If the reality of "speech" is Allah's knowledge, it will also be an Attribute of Essence.
But as regards the will and the words stated in the Qur'an, are they to be taken as such, or are they differently regarded by the Qur'an? Disregarding the mental arguments of the philosophers, and resorting, instead, to the method of the exegeses of the Qur'an and the study of its concepts, we realize that the "will" is undoubtedly regarded by the Qur'in as an act, and thus it should be of the Attributes of Acts: His command, when He wills anything, is only to say to it: Be!" so it is!" [Surat Yasin/82].
Is it possible to speak of the Attributes of Essence in the conditional or temporal moods? Can we say: during Allah's life, or when He was living, He did a certain act?
No, of course not, because life is the very Essence of Allah, and cannot be expressed in conditional or temporal speech forms. It is true that we do not regard as temporal what is ascribed to Allah, though temporal, i.e. we do omit the time from it, but the style of speaking of Attributes of Essence is different from the style of speaking of Attributes of Acts. There should be a justification for using a conditional or temporal sentence.
Therefore, according to the Qur'an, willing and talking are two attributes of acts. Allah says: “And Allah spoke to Moses direct".[Suratun-Nis'a'/164].
Allah's speaking to Moses, to the prophets or to the angels, is abstracted from the state of act, i.e. there must be angels or else so as to may receive Allah's words and understand them. In this case we can say: "He said to them, spoke to them". As long as there is no listener, there will be no talking. So, talking is an attribute of acts.
But here is a point worthy of noting. All these attributes stem from the single Attributes of Essence. For example, creating stems from Power. If there was no Power of creation there could be no creating.
Will is also Allah's acts, and its source, as a matter of fact, is an Attribute of Essence. Which one? Is it, as the philosophers say, the will of knowing what is best?
To extensively handle this subject is out of our concern here. But those who have some studies of this subject are to pay attention to the fact that the origin of will is "to love", which is of Allah's Attributes of Essence. Actually, the very word "will" or "want" is used in the Qur'an to mean "love": "you want the vanities of this world, while Allah wants (for you) the Hereafter".[Suratul Anfal/67].
"To will" and "to want" are. the same in meaning, though "will" has another meaning that denotes taking decision, in which case it refers to a "work" that is willed by the doer.
If the will mentioned in the a yah denotes decision on doing a work, then it must belong to work. But it says that you want this world, which is not your ."work". So, "will" here means something else, i.e. you like and want it.
"Want" in the Persian language has, like its Arabic equivalent, two meanings, too: one denoting decision to do something, such as when you say: "I wanted to get up but I could not." So, "I wanted" means here "I willed". But sometimes we say: "I want" to mean "I like" or "I desire".
Willing, in the Arabic language, also has two meanings: to like, to accept, to approve, to be pleased with, and another meaning is to decide, which, after all, also denotes liking doing something, to assent. Consequently, there is a kind of connection between "to decide" and "to like".
The origin of willing to act is not only knowledge. Knowledge is, of course, necessary. Without knowledge one would not voluntarily carry out an act. But the concept of wanting and willing is proportionate to loving and desiring, not to knowing, because desire results in deciding to perform the act.
However, I think that to will is an attribute of the act, though its origin is self-willing, meaning love. In other words, the will can, from one aspect, be regarded as an Attribute of Act, while, from another aspect, it can be regarded as an Attribute of Essence. If it denotes deciding on doing something, it is of the Attributes of Act, but if it refers to its origin, the Divine Essence, denoting love, then it is of the Attributes of Essence.
This idea is inferred from the writings of Sadrul Muta'llihin and the late 'Allama at-Tabataba'i (may Allah be pleased with him). They explicitly said that the will can sometimes be of the Attributes of Act, and sometimes of the Attributes of Essence-from a certain point it is of the Attributes of Act, and from another point it is of the Attributes of Essence.
Now, let us see what Allah's Will, as an Attribute of Act, means. Our decision to do something. is usually preceded by some preliminary steps. When we want to decide upon doing something we first think it over, count its prons and cons, and accordingly we make one decision to do or not to do it.
This would be our will to do or not to do something. But in respect to Allah, the Exalted, Who says: "His command, when He Wills anything, is only to say to it: 'Be!' so it is", words like "when" have no meaning, since Allah's acts are detached from time, and, as long as they are ascribed to His sacred Being, they are non-temporal.
So, how is it that we say: "When He wills"? We had already said that if the attributes of act are looked at as being abstracted from a temporal act, they can be regarded as temporal. Allah's Will, when abstracted from a temproal act referring to a connection between Him and His act, will be temporal, too.
Seeing that the act was not implemented contrary to Allah's Will, and that during its implementation it received His contention and pleasure, we regard the will to act as an additional attribute, as, actually, the time limitation belongs to the act, not to its doer.
But if it is looked at through its connection to Allah, the act is to be detached from time limits, as we had formerly explained.
So, what is the truth about Allah's Will? His Will means that His Acts are not carried out under the pressure and force of any subduer, and He likes doing them.
Later on we shall have discussions about the things Allah loves to do, and that the events that happen in the world belong to His Will.
Now we turn to the Divine Talking When one talks the air quivers, that is, by passing the air through the respiratory tract to the vocal cords, sound-waves will be produced.
When these sound waves enter the ear, they vibrate the tympanic membranes, and they will be translated, according to a certain process, into intelligible signs to be understood by the brain.
So, if Allah produced a sound exactly like human voices, producing sound-waves transforming intelligible concepts to the hearer, there would be grounds to say that He talked.
Moses (A.S.), when on Mount Tur, heard a voice coming from the tree - the tree from which a light was glowing - telling him: "O Moses! Surely, I am Allah, the Lord of the worlds".[Suratul Qasas/30]
Supposing that Allah had produced the voice from it, and it was heard by Moses (A.S.), then it would be right to say that Allah talked to Moses (A.S.). But if there were other beings whose means of hearing are not the ear and the sound-waves - such as if the angels way of hearing is not through corporeal ears and air - talking with them would be in a different way, of which we have no idea.
We just know that Allah expresses Himself to everybody through "an act" understood by him, and this "act" is called "talking".
In such cases, however, there must be a hearer with the ability to understand the subject under certain conditions, before being allowed-to say that Allah talked and the hearer heard: "And when your Lord said to the angels: `I am going to place in the earth a vicegerent' ".[Suratul Baqarah/30]. He talked to the angels and they heard Him. But we know nothing about the mode of that conversation. We only know that Allah made them understand His intention.
As to a non-existent being which Allah wants to bring into existence, how does He tell it: "Be!? His command, when He wants something, is only to say to it: `Be!' so it is."[Surat Yasin/82].
Undoubtedly, Allah's talk here is different from other talks.
As far as Allah's talk with the angels, Moses (A.S.) or other prophets is considered disregarding the mode of the conversation, there was an addressee who understood the meaning intended by the speaker.
But when there is no being yet, in what mode will Allah's talk to it be? Should there actually be any talk, there must also be a hearer. But as it is supposed that there is no hearer yet, talking in common meaning will not fit in.
In such cases the talking, in fact, is a kind of metaphor, i.e. there is no interim of time between Allah's willing and the implementation of the thing. No sooner had the command been issued than the thing was implemented.
This is a metaphor denoting that when Allah intends to do something, there will be no delaying and no hindering condition. Allah's act, being His own, is never conditional, since, as a Creator, He is in need of nothing. It is the created who is in need all the time.
The Effectiveness of the Factor and the Receptivity of the Recipient
Here a question arises: Does Allah create the things of the world with or without an agent? There is no doubt that the creation of the things of this world are governed by a system of causation, cause and effect. The sun is the cause of heat; the rain comes from the clouds. When there is no cloud there can be no rain.
The cloud is moved by the wind, and so on. All the phenomena of the world appear only through causes and means. So, are they not conditional on these causes?
Without father and mother no human being can be brought into existence, except a single instance in which Allah had caused Jesus (A.S.) to be born without having a father, and another exception in which Adam (A.S.) was created without any father and mother.
Except in those two instances, all human beings exist by means of mothers and fathers. Do fathers and mothers have no effect on the existence of their children?
Of course, they have. Through the mother and father Allah brings their children into existence. So, this act of Allah is conditional on the existence of a father and a mother.
Heat is conditional on the existence of the sun and light. If it is so, then Allah's acts cannot be implemented without means. So, Allah's acts are conditional, too. What answer can be given to this?
Here is the answer: The conditions needed for the appearance of an effect are divided into two groups: One covers the conditions of the effectiveness of the factor, that it, without carring out the given condition.
The factor will not have the power to be effective. The other group covers the conditions of the receptivity of the recipient.
The first condition for a teacher to be efficient is to have good knowledge of the subject he is to teach. He is to know it well. In this case the teacher is the "factor", the one who "gives" his knowledge.
The teaching is the "act", which is implemented only when the teacher knows his subject. So, the condition for a teacher to be a qualified one is that he must have prepared himself to be a good teacher. This is called the effectiveness of the factor.
But sometimes it happens that there can be too many students in a class, in which case a loudspeaker should be used by the teacher, as otherwise some of the back benchers may not hear the teacher's voice.
But this loudspeaker does not increase his ability. His ability is to know the lesson and explain it. That is what is related to the teacher. But there must be a means for the student to be benefited by the lesson.
This means increases the receptivity of the recipient, the student, but not the effectiveness of the factor, as it adds no perfection to it. The means offers a condition for the perfection of the listener, not the speaker. There is no deficit in the teacher. It is the recipient who is in need of a means to receive the lesson.
As a matter of fact, this example does not, all in all, fit in our argument. An example, we may say, brings nearer on one side and keeps at a distance on other sides.
The Conditions of the Recipient's Receptivity
If earth is to be changed into man, it must undergo certain stages under certain conditions. If food (vegetables, meat, etc.) is to turn into blood, it must undergo some stages of certain changes until at last it changes into blood, and later into a muscle. This condition belongs to matter.
The condition for a matter to reach this last stage, is to go through the middle stages, similarly, when you want to reach a certain town, you will have to cover the distance to that town, whether on foot, by car or by any other means of transport.
This condition is connected to matter. The changes in matter are subject to these conditions, and this is not a deficiency in Allah's Power. If He wills to turn earth into man, the earth must undergo some stages before turning into man.
If Allah wanted to take you from Tehran to Qum He must pass you through stages of transport to take you there. If somebody objectingly says that Allah is capable of taking us there without having to pass through any stages, he is mistaken.
If there is moving, journeying or taking someone to somewhere, the common steps are to be taken, as without passing through the middle stages no goal can be reached.
Therefore, supposing that Allah turns a being into another, or moving from one place to another, requires that certain stages should be passed through, and this is not a deficiency in Allah's Power.
In other words, Allah may, in an instance, want to create a being, which is not preceded by past nor present conditions, since it is free from matter and not subject temporal and special conditions, He has the power to create it.
But such a being would not be made of matter, because a materialistic being cannot come into existence without passing through all the stages prescribed for it, in which case such a being would be an abstract, of which uncountable ones had been created by Allah.
In "Nahjul Balaghah" you read that the heavens are crowded with angels created by Allah, such that there is no room even for a foot, unless an angel is engaged in genuflection or kneeling in worship.
They are unlike the beings of this world which we know to be made of matter that undergo many stages of changing. They exist all at once and their perfections are in their inner potentiality.
But if Allah wants to create a world of matter, it must be created accompanied with movement, time and place.
The conditions of this world's phenomena are of the kind of the receptivity of the recipient, not of the kind of effectiveness of the factor.
Thus, Allah's act, when ascribed to the Divine Potency and His limitless Power, is unconditional.
By: Ayatullah Muhammad Taqi Misbah Yazdi؛