Cause of causes


Please is it possible to explain what is meant by God being the Cause of causes?

(I have heard God is the Supreme ‘Doer’, and ive heard about reaping what we sow, actions creating consequences, etc and dont understand but would love to understand to see clearly that Allah controls everything.)


Salam alaykum, and thank you for your question. God is often described as musabbib al asbab (the Causator of Causes). First, God is the source of Causes because God needs no cause to exist.  God always was and always will be, and God is self-subsisting; thus God’s Names, the Ever Living, the Self-Subsisting (al-Hayy al-Qayyum). The causes that we see around us in our material world are only apparent causes; the Causator of Causes is God.

Second, God is the Creator, Originator, and Preserver (al-Khaliq, al-Badi`, al-Hafizh), Who creates and sustains the entire system of cause and effect that we see functioning in this world: He creates the agent of every action, creates every cause and creates every effect. He set the whole system in motion, and He keeps it going at every instant. Therefore God as Creator and Preserver transcends cause and effect. This is one meaning of the Qur’anic verse:

{You did not throw when you threw, but God threw}(Surat al-Anfal, 8:17),

which describes how the Prophet (s) threw pebbles at the enemy at the Battle of Badr. That is, ultimate control lies with God.

How is it that God controls everything but we still reap the consequences of our actions? Do we have free will or is everything pre-determined? We have to approach this question from different points of view – one is our own point of view, the limited perspective of the human being. The other is from the perspective of God, Who is without beginning,
without end, and All-Knowing (al-`Aleem), and is a perspective that we can only try and imagine (based on what we have been told about God by the Qur’an and our Prophet and our awliya) but can never truly experience.

From God’s point of view, which is all-encompassing (al-Wasi`), God knows what choice we will make. Because God is al-Awwal and al-Akhir (the First and the Last), for God, time is immaterial (to God there is no ‘past’, ‘present’, and ‘future’). God created time, and therefore God is not limited by the constraints of time. Actions and their consequences (which we experience over the passage of time) are already known by God.

From our limited perspective, however, we are free agents. When we make a decision or a choice, we experience that decision as our own. Even if we factor in external constraints and pressure from family, friends, circumstances, etc, the final act of deciding or choosing appears to us to be in our hands. Our decisions have consequences which we see in this world and consequences in the afterlife (which we cannot see but are told about in the Qur’an and hadith, and by our awliya). Whenever we make decisions, we factor in the possible consequences. We cannot see what lies ahead. The only reality we know is that each action creates a particular consequence in this world. This experience of cause and effect is what allows us to function effectively and productively in this world, to make certain decisions as opposed to others. And that is why, if we are sane and free human beings, we are held responsible for our actions by God, and rewarded or punished. That is why the Qur’an too presents morality as a choice – we can choose to be reminded of our true nature as `abd allah (servant of God) or we can choose to continue living a life of ghaflah (heedlessness).

Knowing that God is the Causator of causes is not a cause for apathy; rather, it is a cause for more determined action. This world and this life are full of what we perceive as sadness and pain – it is only by knowing that God only wills good, that we can live in this world faithfully, productively and with hope, rather than asking the futile question “Why me?” Knowing that all of our actions go back to God, and not to us, also prevents takabbur (arrogance, thinking ourselves better than we are) when we engage in an action that we are proud of.

Finally, all of the above is merely a rational exercise. It is only by remembering God, by doing dhikr that we may insha-Allah begin to “see”, with the eyes of the heart, that God is the True Agent (al-Fa`al). If we fill our hearts with remembrance of God through dhikr, then our actions will begin to automatically conform to what God loves. That is the deeper meaning of the Qur’anic verse {You did not throw when you threw, but God threw.}

This is also the meaning of the hadith qudsi:

“…My servant draws near to Me by nothing dearer to Me than that which I have established as a duty for him. And My servant does not cease to approach Me through supererogatory acts until I love him. And when I love him, I become his hearing with which he hears, his sight with which he sees, his hand with which he grasps, and his foot with which he walks. And if he asks Me, I give it to him. If he seeks refuge with Me, I place him under My protection…”

And God knows best.

Salam alaykum,


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