A cause (‘ila) is an essence whose existence is the reason for the existence of its effect. As long as the cause exists, the effect will also exist. On the other hand, a willing agent (Fa’il Mukhtar) is a being who brings its effects into existence given its power, and in accordance with its will. As such, the effects of a willing agent are always emergent. The Mutakalimun maintain that Allah ﷻ is the willing agent who brought the world into existence, whereas the Philosophers claim that He is the cause for the world’s existence.
Under the model of the Philosophers, and since the cause of the world is beginningless, the world is itself also without beginning. The Philosophers maintain their position by arguing that a beginningless being cannot produce an emergent effect, because an emergent effect necessitates the emergence of that which produced it. Ibn Sina writes in Al-Naja:
الذات الواحدة إذا كانت من جميع جهاتها كما كانت وكان لا يوجد عنها فيما قبل شيء وهي الآن كذلك فالآن أيضاً لا توجد عنها شيء فإذا صار الآن يوجد عنها شيء فقد حدث في الذات قصد أو إرادة أو طبع أو قدرة وتمكن أو شيء مما يشبه هذا
The single being, if it existed without producing anything, and its existence now is at it was before, then it wouldn’t produce anything now either. So if this being brought something into existence, then this means that something emerged within this being: either an intention, or a will, or a nature, or power and ability, or something similar.
And since it is impossible for qualities to emerge into existence within a necessary being, the Philosophers conclude: since Allah ﷻ is beginningless, it is impossible for that which He produces to be emergent. Rather, the world is a necessary product of the necessary being’s existence.
In response, we argue that it is not necessary for a being to be emergent in order for it to bring something into existence. We demonstrate this using the following syllogism:
- If it were impossible for a beginningless being to bring an effect into existence, then nothing would emerge into existence.
- Things do emerge into existence.
- Therefore, it is not impossible for a beginningless being to bring an effect into existence.
Premise 1: If it were impossible for a beginningless being to bring an effect into existence, then nothing would emerge into existence.
The first premise is true, because effects exist as long as their cause exists. So a beginningless cause would entail a beginningless effect. And even if this beginningless effect was itself a cause for some other effect, then this third effect would also be beginningless. And so on and so forth. This ultimately necessitates that everything in existence be beginningless.
For example: consider the following chain of cause and effect:
If God were a beginningless cause for E₁, and since the effect of a cause exists as long as the cause exists, then E₁ would also be beginningless.
Now consider this next chain:
If God were the beginningless cause for E₁, E₁ would also be beginningless. And if E₁ were a beginningless cause for E₂, E₂ is would also be beginningless. And if E₂ were a beginningless cause for E₃, E₃ would also be beginningless.
No matter the number of intermediary causes between God and any given effect on the chain, every member of the chain would be beginningless.
So if the Philosopher argues: “let us suppose that one of those intermediary effects is a willing agent, not a cause for the effects which follow. This way, its effects would be emergent and this issue would be resolved.”
We respond: according to you, this intermediary effect is beginningless. And your initial objection was that a beginningless existent cannot produce an emergent effect. So this supposition would be a negation of your original position.
Premise 2: Things do emerge into existence
The second premise is true by observation. Even if the Philosopher refuses to accept the emergence of matter, which has been argued for here, he cannot deny the emergence of accidents.
Therefore, it is not impossible for a beginningless being to bring an effect into existence.
The two premises are true, so the conclusion necessarily follows. Which means that it is not necessary for a being to be emergent in order for it to bring something into existence.