Tahafut al-Falasifa

(Incoherence of the Philosophers)


Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111 CE)

Translated into English from Urdu Translation by Sabih Ahmad Kamali


Problem X
On their inability to prove by rational arguments that there is a cause or Creator of the World


We will say:

He who believes that all body is originated (for it is never free from changes) has an intelligible position, if he claims that body requires a cause or a creator. But what prevents the philosophers from saying — as the Materialists say — that

"From eternity, the world has been as it is. It has no cause or creator. A cause is required by that which originates in time. No one of the bodies in the world originates in time; nor does it perish. It is only the Forms and Accidents which originate in time. The bodies — i.e., the heavens — are eternal. And the four elements, which are the stuff of the sphere of the Moon, and their bodies and Matter(s) are eternal. On these pass in succession the Forms resulting from combination and transformation. Further, the human soul and the vegeta­tive soul originate in time. And the series of the causes of all those things which originate in time comes to an end at rotatory motion. And rotatory motion is eternal, its source being the eternal soul of the sphere. All this shows that the world has no cause, and that the bodies in the world have no creator. The world is as it has always been. Similarly, the bodies in the world are, and have been, eternally uncaused."?

What do the philosophers mean by saying that the eternal bodies in the world have a cause?


If it is said

That which is uncaused is a necessary being. In connection with the attributes of a necessary being, we have stated the reason why body cannot be a necessary being.


we will answer

And we have exposed the invalidity of what you claim to be the attributes of a necessary being. It has been shown that rational demonstration does not prove anything but the impossibility of an infinite regress. And the Materialist cuts short — at the very outset — an infinite regress by saying that

The bodies have no cause. As regards the Forms and Accidents, some of them are causes of others, till at last the series comes to an end at rotatory motion.

And, as the philosophers themselves believe (the Materialist admits that) some of the rotatory movements are causes of others, but that the causal series reaches its end in rotatory motion.

So he who reflects over the points we have mentioned will see the inability of all those who believe in the eternity of bodies to claim that they have a cause. These people are -in consistency bound to accept Materialism and Atheism — as some thinkers, who gave clear expression to the presuppositions of the philosophers' theory — have actually done.


If it is said:

Our argument is this: If these bodies are supposed to be necessary, it will be absurd. If they are supposed to be possible, al that is possible needs a cause.


we will answer

The words 'necessary' and 'possible' are meaningless. All the confusion created by the philosophers has its source in these two words. We prefer substituting for them their sense — i.e., the denial of a cause, and its affirmation respectively. This would result in the philosophers' saying that these bodies may, or may not, have a cause. The Materialist will say that they do not have a cause. Why should the philosophers find fault with him? And possibility meaning what it does, we will say that body is necessary, not possible.

If they say that it is not possible for body to be necessary, they make a groundless and arbitrary assumption.


If it is said:

No one can deny that body has parts: that parts constitute the whole; and that essentially they take precedence over the whole.


we will answer

Let it be so. Let the whole subsist by the parts and their combination. Let, however, the parts as well as their combination be uncaused, eternal aid independent of an efficient cause. The philosophers cannot prove the impossibility of these assumptions, unless they use the argument which they advanced to prove the impossibility of plurality in the case, of the Prime Being. We have refuted that argument. And the philosophers have nothing else whereby to defend themselves.

This makes it clear that he who does not believe in the origination of bodies has no basis on which his belief in the Creator may be founded.


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