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Section 1: The Proof of Self-Existence

21. And he has arranged this chapter in sections. The first section is in proof of the self-existent (wajibu’l wujudu h-dhatihi, the necessarily existent in itself). So we say that every object of thought is either necessarily existent objectively in itself, or is possible of existence in itself (mumkinu’l wujud) or else is impossible of existence in itself (mumtani‘u’l-wujud).

22. The subject which is supreme and of extreme importance in this science is the Proving of the Creator (Sani‘) so he begin to do this. And as an introduction he gives a division of the objects of thought because the argument to follow depends on this explanation. And in explanation of that every object of thought (kullu ma‘qul) means the form (as-sura) which is acquired in the mind whenever we bring objective existence into relation to it.

Then it is either sound for it (the objective existence) to be qualified by it (the mental image) in itself, or it is not. If it is not sound for it to be qualified by it in itself, that is impossible existence in itself, as (for example) the Creator’s having a partner. But if it is sound for it to be qualified by it, then it is either necessary (wajib) for it to be qualified by it in itself, or it is not. If the former be true, then it is the necessarily existent in itself, namely, Allah the Exalted, and no other. And if the latter be true, then it is possible of existence in itself, namely, all entities (mawjudat) apart from necessary existence.

23. But we have confined the “Necessary” (al-wajib) to that which is necessary in itself, to guard against the necessary because of something else, such as the necessity of the existence of an effect when a sufficient cause is present. (That is, there are two kinds of necessary, self-existent and existent in something else – but the term the Necessary should be used only of the former.) So, the effect is necessary, not in itself, but rather because of the existence of a sufficient cause.

24. And we have also confined the “impossible” to that which is impossible in itself, to guard against the impossible because of something else, such as the impossibility of the existence of an effect without its cause. And these two sorts (namely, the necessary because of something else and the impossible because of something else) belong to possible existence.

25. And as for the “possible,” its existence does not come about because of something else, so it is of no use to confine it to that which is possible in itself, except to explain that it does not come into being except in that way. There is no need of guarding against anything besides.

26. We will end this discussion by mentioning two matters of importance on which the discussion that is to follow depends. (1) The first is the characteristics of the necessarily existent in itself, which are five:

(a) First, its existence is not necessary both because of itself and because of something else at the same time, otherwise its existence would certainly be discontinued on the discontinuance of the existence of the other thing, in which case it would not be the necessary in itself, and that is contrary to the premises.

(b) Second, its existence (wujud) and its necessity are not additions (za’id) to it, otherwise it would have been in need of those two, and would then have been the possible.

(c) Third, composition (tarkib) is not true of it, because a thing composed is in need of parts distinct from it, and this is possible existence, and possible existence is not the self-existent.

(d) Fourth, it cannot be a part of another thing, for then it would have been parted from that other thing, and that is possible existence. (That is, God has no father or source.)

(e) Fifth, it cannot be true of two things, as shall appear in the proofs of the Unity (that is, there are not two necessarily self-existents).

27. (2) The second matter is the characteristics of the possible, which are three: (a) First, one of the two sides (I mean existence and non-existence) is not better for it than the other, but both are equal in relation to it, like the two sides of a balance. And making one of the two sides to preponderate certainly comes about by a cause outside of itself. For if one of them were better for it than the other, then the occurrence of the other (that is, the worse) either comes about or it does not.

If the worse occurs, then being better is not a sufficient cause; and if the worse does not occur, then the first supposition regarding it is necessary for it (that is, that one alternative is better for it than the other). In this case the possible becomes either the necessary or the impossible, and that cannot be.

28. (b) Second, the possible needs a mover (mu’aththir). For when the two sides (I mean, its existence and non-existence) are equal in relation to it, the preponderance of one of the two over the other is not possible unless there be something to cause a preponderance. And the knowledge of this is evident.

29. (c) Third, the possible-which-abides needs a mover, not only to bring it into existence (see b) but also to continue it in existence. But we have said this because possibility (al-imkan) is required for the quiddity of the possible, and possibility cannot be removed from it, otherwise its change from possibility to necessity or impossibility would be required. Now it has already been proved that need (ihtiyaj) is required for possibility, and possibility is required for the quiddity of the possible. Now the requirement of something required is itself required. Hence, the need of the quiddity of the possible is required – which is what we sought.

30. And there is no doubt that here (in the universe) there is that which exists of necessity. If this be the necessary in itself, then that was what we were seeking. And if it be the possible, then it would need a bringer-into-existence (mujid) which would bring it into existence of necessity.

Now if the bringer-into-existence be the necessary in itself, then that was what we were seeking. And if it be the possible, then it would need another bringer-into-existence. If it be the first, then it is a circle, and that is a fallacy of necessity. And if it be another possible, then it is an endless chain, and that also is a fallacy. For all the links in this chain which includes all possible existences (al-mumkinat) are possible of necessity.

Hence, they share in the impossibility of existence in themselves. Hence, they need some bringer-into-existence necessarily outside of themselves. Then that is the necessary (al-wajib) of necessity – which was what we were seeking.

31. Among all the doctors there are two ways of proving the Creator. (1) First, seeking for proof in effects (athar) which need a cause for their existence, such as is indicated in His Mighty Book in the word of the Most High,

“We will show them our signs in different countries and among themselves, until it become plain to them that it is the truth.” (41:53).

And this is the way of Ibrahim the Friend, for he sought for proof in the setting of stars, which is disappearance, and that requires motion, and that requires becoming (huduth), and that requires the Most High Creator.

32. (2) Second, that one should speculate (nazar) about that which exists itself, and divide it into the necessary and the possible, that division may bear witness to the existence of the necessary from which proceed all of the possible existences which are separate from it. And there is reference to this in that which descended, in the word of the Most High,

“Is it not enough for thee that thy Lord is witness of all things?” (41:53).

33. And in this chapter the writer has referred to both ways at once. He refers to the first in connection with His being powerful, the explanation of which is to follow (see par. 38). And the second is what is mentioned here. And as for his statement that thou shouldest say, “If the Necessary, the Most High, does not exist, then either a circle or an endless chain must follow,” (it is clear that) both of the things necessitated are false, hence, that which necessitated them, that is, the non-existence of the Necessary, is in like manner false. And there is need here of an explanation of both matters, first of the necessity for a circle and an endless chain, and second of the fallacy of both of them.

34. (1) Now in explanation of the first matter, (we would say that) there are here quiddities (mahiyyat) which are qualified by objective existence of necessity. If the Necessary exists along with them, then that was what we were seeking. And if it does not exist, then it becomes necessary that all these quiddities share in possibility, for there is no middle ground between them (that is, between the possible and the necessary). Then in this case they (the quiddities) must of necessity have a mover (mu’aththur).

And if their mover is the Necessary, that is what we sought to prove. And if it is the possible, then it needs another to produce it. Now if that mover be what we first supposed (if it be caused by the other possible), it results in a circle. And if it be another possible, we will transfer the discussion to that and say what we said regarding the first – and the result is an endless chain. So, the necessity (luzum) of both of them has been proved (that is, either a circle or an endless chain must result in case there is no Necessary).

35. (2) And in explanation of the second matter, namely, the fallacy of the circle and the chain, we say (a) that a circle means the dependence of a thing upon something which in turn depends on it, as for example that A should depend on B, and B on A – and that is a fallacy of necessity. For it would then be necessary that the first thing should be both existent and non-existent at the same time, and that cannot be.

For when A depends on B, then A is dependent on B and on all on which B depends. And among the things on which B depends is A itself. Then A must depend on itself. And that on which something depends precedes that which depends on it. Then it is necessary for A to precede itself. And that which precedes, by the fact that it precedes, comes into existence before that which follows. So in this case, A comes into existence before itself. Hence, it is both existent and non-existent at the same time, and this is impossible.

36. (b) And an endless chain is the arrangement of causes and effects in such a way that each one which precedes is the cause of the one which follows, and so on – and this also is fallacious. For all the individual links of this chain, which includes all possible existence, are possible because they possess the quality of need. Hence, they all share in possibility. Hence, they need a mover (a cause). And their mover is either themselves or a part of themselves or something external to them. And all of these alternatives are absolutely fallacious.

37. First, it is impossible for a thing to be moved (ta’thir) by itself, for otherwise it would be necessary for it to precede itself, and this is a fallacy, as was proved above. And the second is impossible, because if the mover of them (the units of the chain) be a part of them, then it becomes necessary for a thing to be the mover of itself, because it (the mover) is one of their number and also one of their causes (‘ilal). Then it would have to precede itself and its causes – and this also is a fallacy.

And the (proof of the fallacy of the) third alternative is of two kinds. (a) First, the thing external to them must be necessary (wajib), since it is presupposed that all possible existences are united in this chain, and there remains no external entity (mawjud) except the Necessary (al-wajib). For there is no middle ground between the Necessary and the possible. Hence, our conclusion has to be true. (b) Second, if the mover of each single individual of the links of the chain be something external to them, then two independent causes (‘illa) would have to unite in producing one single effect, and this is a fallacy.

For the supposition was that each of the links of this chain be the mover of the one that follows. (But according to this third alternative) it has been supposed that for each of the links there be also an external moving (ta’thir). Then two causes would have to unite in producing one single effect, and that cannot be, otherwise, it would have to be independent of the two causes, in spite of its being in need of them both. Then two contradictories would have to agree, and that is impossible. Hence, the endless chain is absolutely false. So the fallacy both of the circle and of the chain has been demonstrated, and that was what we sought, namely, the existence of Allah the Most High.