The Necessary Attributes of God and the Logical Absurdity of Infinite Regression
Answered by Sidi Faraz A. Khan
Question: as-Salaam Alaykum
I pray that you all are well. My question in regards to infinite regression is:
Assuming that there is a chain of regression in which “this world was created by a creator, who in turn was created by another creator, and so on (to the nth creator), leading back to a first cause of creation. What is the rational proof that this is an absurdity? After all, in this chain there is a first cause that brings creation from unexistence to existence.
Afwan, by Allah, I do not pose this question out of doubt or jest. I just want to have an adequate understanding of this issue.
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.
The Short Answer
Logically, there must be only one Creator, not a “first” creator, due to the absurdity entailed in any other belief. There cannot be a “series” of creators, as “creation” is the act of bringing something from nonexistence into existence, and this act belongs only to the Divine, Who is one and alone in His entity, attributes and actions.
The Logical Basis
What you have described is not “infinite” regress, but rather “finite” regress, as you end at a “first cause.”
Infinite regress is for the chain of regression to never end, i.e., the idea that each creator was created by an earlier creator, and it by an earlier creator, ad infinitum. The absurdity of such a theory is quite plain to anyone who gives it sincere and honest reflection.
Because of the absurdity and inconceivability of infinite regression, one is forced then to admit to a “first creator,” as you did in your statement. This “first” Creator would therefore have no beginning, which would entail that He is outside of time and hence that He has no end either. He must be completely outside of time, so time itself would have to be a creation of His.
His very existence is therefore absolute and necessary, which is termed by Islamic theologians as “wajib al-wujud.” He is necessarily existent, and this is His essential attribute.
He would also have to have will, since creation is engrossed in particulars – in particular times, in particular spaces, of certain sizes, in certain directions, of particular dimensions, etc. These particulars indicate that many choices were made, and choosing entails will.
He would also have to have knowledge, since those choices could not be made based on ignorance. And He would have to have power, as one who is incapable could never produce anything or bring something from nothing. And of course, neither of these three – will, knowledge, and power – are possible without the attribute of life.
He would also have to be one and alone in His essence and attributes and actions, without any partner, since the existence of another absolute being would contradict the existence, intricacy, and order of creation, as the “two creators” would otherwise vie with each other and nothing would result.
As the Qur’an states: “Were there gods besides Allah in them [the heavens and earth], they both [the heavens and earth] would have been utterly disordered” (21:22).
And His oneness entails that He differs from His creation, as resemblance approximates multiplicity.
In addition, differing from His creation entails that He is absolutely perfect, since creation is full of imperfections. Hence, He cannot have inabilities, such as the inability to speak, hear, or see. Hence, He must have speech, hearing, and sight.
And lastly, it is evident to all that creation is constantly in utter need – of provision, protection, sustenance, maintenance, help, etc. So He must necessarily be free of any need whatsoever.
These attributes clearly show there can be no other creator, and so He is not the “first creator” but rather the only Creator. In English He is called God; in Arabic, Allah.
Once we know Him and His attributes, there is nothing left for us to do but to submit wholeheartedly to Him and draw near to Him, for with Him is infinite beauty and infinite pleasure. Out of His mercy, He sent messengers to confirm for us His oneness and divine attributes, and to teach us the way of submission, called Islam. They were exemplars of submission, and as they taught, emulation of their lives is the only way to the Divine. A life of such submission leads to His good pleasure, which far surpasses any other pleasure conceivable.
As the poet said, “All that you desire is with the entity of God.”
And Allah alone gives success.
Faraz A. Khan
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani