The chief argument for the beginninglessness of the world presumes that effects necessarily exist if their cause does, and that God is the cause for the world, entailing the existence of the world so long as God does. And since God is beginningless, the world must be beginningless as well. Imam Fakhr Al-Deen Al-Razi relays this argument in more detail in his Al-Arba’een fi Usul Al-Deen. The Imam writes:

Those who believe in the beginningless of the world have several arguments for their position.

The first of which: “there is no doubt that the sequence of contingents ultimately depends on a necessary being for its existence. So we say: everything by virtue of which God is the effecter of His effects, is either beginningless or not.

If beginningless, then either this necessitates the existence of His effects or not. If it does necessitate their existence, then those effects must exist so long as their effecter exists [entailing the beginninglessness of contingents]. If it does not necessitate the existence of the effects, then it would be possible for God to exist without them.

So let us suppose that the necessary being, alongside all that by virtue of which He is an effecter, existed; first with those effects, and then without them. So either the existence of those effects at that particular time, depends on something by virtue of which that time was specified instead of the other, or not.

If the first, then the thing by virtue of which that time was preferred, is something by virtue of which God is an effecter. And we have supposed that all that by virtue of which God is an effecter, existed beginninglessly. So this would entail the beginninglessness of the effect.

If the second, then this would mean that this time was specified without a specifier. And that is impossible.

All of the above assumes that everything by virtue of which God is the effector, existed beginninglessly. So if we suppose that not all of this was beginningless, then the emergence of that which is not beginningless, either depends on an effector or not. If it does not depend on an effecter, then a thing emerged into existence without a specifier, and this is impossible. If it does depend on an effecter, then the same argument applies to the emergence of those things. And this cannot regress infinitely, as it necessitates the Tasalsul [of causes], which is impossible.”

And this is their most powerful argument.

– Al-Razi, Al-Arba’een fi Usul Al-Deen (Vol. 1, pg. 66)

Al-Razi’s Response

Let us suppose the soundness of the above argument. This would not only be proof for the beginninglessness of contingents, but also proof that it is impossible for any beginningless effecter to bring an emergent effect into existence. Entailing the impossibility of anything emerging into existence. However, since things really do emerge into existence, then this means that the above argument is not sound. Imam Fakhr Al-Deen Al-Razi focuses on this very same angle in his refutation. The Imam writes:

In response, we say: if what you say is true, then it would be impossible for changes to occur in the world [since changes are nothing more than emergent accidents]. For the beginninglessness of the necessary being would entail [according to you] the beginninglessness of the first effect. And the beginninglessness of the first effect, would entail the beginninglessness of the second effect. And so on and so forth. Entailing: that it be impossible for anything to emerge into existence. And this is contrary to observation [since we do in fact, observe the occurrence of events].

So if the opponent says: “why cannot it be said: effects generically flow from the necessary being, except that the emergence of effects depends on the [emergence of the] preparedness of their possessors. And the emergence of the preparedness of the possessors, depends on the motions of celestial bodies, and planetary alignments, each event of which is preceded by another, without beginning. And it is for this reason, that changes occur in the world.”

Then the response is: the emergence of a particular accident in this world, either depends on something to have brought it into existence, or not.

If not, then the contingent emerged into existence without a specifier. This is impossible by agreement.

If the emergence of this accident does depend on something to have brought it into existence, then this creator would be either emergent or beginningless.

If emergent, then the same would argument apply to this emergent creator [meaning this creator would itself also depend on another creator to have brought it into existence]. And this cannot regress infinitely, as it would entail the concurrent existence of an infinite number of causes and effects[1] [which the opponent accepts is impossible].

And if the creator is beginningless, then you have affirmed the emergence of an effect by virtue of a beginningless creator. So why do you believe it impossible for the entire world to have emerged in this manner?

– Al-Razi, Al-Arba’een fi Usul Al-Deen (Vol. 1, pg. 78)

Does a beginningless God entail a beginningless world?

I would like to add to the Imam’s response, and focus on the opponent’s claim: “If the second [i.e. the existence of the effect at that particular time, does not depend on something by virtue of which that time was specified instead of the other], then this would mean that this time was specified without a specifier. And that is impossible.”

The response: the opponent conflates “specification” (Rujhan) with “specifying” (Tarijh). The former being the existent contingent effect. The latter being a relation between the effecter and its effect[2].

As for the emergence of a specification without an extrinsic specifier (Al-Rujhan Bila Murajih), this is impossible by agreement. Since an existent essence whose existence is not by virtue of what it is, must exist by virtue of what is other than it.

As for the specifying not requiring an extrinsic specifier (Al-Tarjih Bila Murajih), then this refers to the specifier’s selecting one possibility over another, without requiring an obligator to make the specifier select what was selected. This cannot be impossible, for it would then be impossible for anything to emerge into existence[3], which is contrary to observation.

So in summary: the existence of the contingent effect is proof that God chose for it to emerge when it did, and this choosing is proof of His ability to select without an obligator. And it cannot then be asked: “what specified God’s ability to select without an obligator?”, since this is a necessary quality of God, and what’s necessary is not specified.


 

[1] Given that, according to the opponent, effects cannot emerge into existence unless the effecter (or something by virtue of which the effecter affects) also emerges into existence. So the emergence of an effect, is proof that its effecter emerged into existence at that moment. And the emergence of that effecter would be proof for the emergence of yet a second effecter, by virtue of which the first emerged into existence. And so on and so forth, ad infinitum.

[2] In other words, the fact that this effecter specified existence for that effect.

[3] Otherwise, God would depend on another specifier to specify His selections for Him (i.e. another specifier to make God choose what He did). And this other specifier would depend on a third specifier to specify its selections for it. And the third specifier on a fourth. And so on and so forth, ad infinitum. This is impossible, because Tasalsul is impossible.

Given the above, the emergence of contingents depends on God’s being able to specify existence without requiring another specifier to specify His selections for Him. So if this were impossible, then the emergence of contingents would depend on an impossibility. And what depends on an impossibility is impossible. Thus, the emergence of contingents would have been impossible.

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