In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful
One of the classic counter-arguments to faith in Allah is the question: Who created the Creator? This question is posed to unsettle the believers and rationalize an atheistic lifestyle. However, it is a logically baseless question as it is predicated on a categorical error of definitions, as well as a failure to appreciate the strong argument proving the existence of the uncreated Creator.
The Prophet (ṣ) informed us that this question comes from the whispering of Satan. As such, when the believer is confronted with this question, he or she should reaffirm their faith in Allah and stop trying to think about it logically because the premise itself is flawed.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
يَأْتِي الشَّيْطَانُ أَحَدَكُمْ فَيَقُولَ مَنْ خَلَقَ كَذَا وَكَذَا حَتَّى يَقُولَ لَهُ مَنْ خَلَقَ رَبَّكَ فَإِذَا بَلَغَ ذَلِكَ فَلْيَسْتَعِذْ بِاللَّهِ وَلْيَنْتَهِ
Satan will come to one of you and he will say, ‘Who created this and that?’ until he says to him, ‘Who created your Lord?’ When it comes to this, let him seek refuge in Allah and stop such thoughts.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 3102, Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi
In another narration, the Prophet (ṣ) said:
فَلْيَقُلْ آمَنْتُ بِاللَّهِ
Let him say: I have faith in Allah.
Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 134, Grade: Sahih
The existence of the contingent, dependent, and temporal universe is itself sufficient proof that a necessary being exists who caused it to be. This higher power must be greater than the universe and not dependent upon anything to sustain itself. The Creator is by definition uncreated and thus asking who created the Creator is a logical fallacy of definitions.
Ibn Taymiyyah commented on this tradition, writing:
من المعلوم بالعلم الضروري الفطري لكل مَن سلِمتْ فطرته مِن بني آدم أنه سؤال فاسد وأنه يمتنع أن يكون لخالقِ كلِّ مخلوقٍ خالقٌ فإنه لو كان له خالقٌ لكان مخلوقاً ولم يكن خالقاً لكل مخلوق
It is known by necessity and human nature, for all who have sound nature among the children of Adam, that the question is invalid. It is not possible for the Creator of the creation to have a creator. If He had a creator, He would be created Himself and would not be the Creator of everything.
Source: Dar’ Taʻāruḍ al-’Aql wal-Naql 3/314
It is the same error as if one asked: What does the color blue taste like? These properties does not interact in the way the question assumes. Atheists propose this flawed question because they do not grasp or accept the solid logic of the cosmological argument for the uncreated Creator’s existence.
Every human being knows intuitively that everything in existence has a cause and an explanation for its existence. There is sufficient reason to explain any occurrence in the universe; it is impossible that the universe came into existence without any reason, agent, or cause.
أَمْ خُلِقُوا مِنْ غَيْرِ شَيْءٍ أَمْ هُمُ الْخَالِقُونَ أَمْ خَلَقُوا السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضَ بَل لَّا يُوقِنُونَ
Were they created by nothing? Or were they the creators of themselves? Or did they create the heavens and the earth? Rather, they are not certain.
Surah al-Tur 52:35-36
No one can reasonably claim that we created ourselves or the universe created itself. Something that does not exist has no agency to bring about its own existence. On this basis, Al-Ghazali succinctly stated the logical proof that Allah is the only plausible explanation for the creation of the universe:
وجوده تعالى وتقدس برهانه أنا نقول كل حادث فلحدوثه سبب والعالم حادث فيلزم منه إن له سبباً ونعني بالعالم كل موجود سوى الله تعالى
The proof for the existence of the Exalted and Holy is that we say every event happens by a cause. The world is an event and thus it must have a cause, and what we mean by ‘the world’ is everything that exists besides Allah the Exalted.
Source: al-Iqtiṣād fī al-I’tiqād 1:24
In other words, the logic of the cosmological argument unfolds in these steps:
- Everything that has a beginning must have a cause.
- The universe has a beginning, so it must have a cause.
- The cause of the universe must be uncaused itself, which is the uncreated Creator.
To counter this point, philosophers and atheists will attack the premise of the argument that the universe has a beginning, instead suggesting that the universe is eternal or exists as an infinite regression of events. This is related to their error in asking who created the Creator, because in positing an infinite regression they attempt to deny the existence of an uncreated being. The truth is that an infinite regression of contingent, temporal, and created causes is impossible.
Al-Ghazali explains this reality from a number of angels in his refutation of the philosophers. One thought-experiment he provides is based upon the movements of the planets around the Sun. Imagine that the solar system has existed for eternity. Yet, the planet Saturn still revolves around the Sun once for every thirty years on Earth. This means the Earth has completed more revolutions than Saturn, while an eternal universe must necessitate that both planets have made an equally infinite number of revolutions. The number of revolutions of Earth compared to Saturn cannot be both equal and unequal at the same time, as Al-Ghazali says:
وكل واحد لا نهاية له وبعضه أقل من بعض فذلك من المحال البين
Each number has no end, yet some of them are less than others. This is clearly impossible.
Source: al-Iqtiṣād fī al-I’tiqād 1:29
The point of this example is the same as was demonstrated by mathematician David Hilbert’s famous paradox of the Grand Hotel, which is to illustrate that an actual infinite regression cannot exist in the real world because it would have to be both complete and incomplete simultaneously. A never-beginning and never-ending trail of falling dominoes has by definition already finished its course, but in reality it would still be unfinished because we can always add one more to the series; this contradiction means it cannot really exist.
The philosophers’ claim of an eternal universe or infinite regression of events leads to a number of absurd propositions such as these, which is why Al-Ghazali stated elsewhere:
فإن في العالم حوادث ولها أسباب فإن استندت الحوادث إلى الحوادث إلى غير نهاية فهو محال وليس ذلك معتقد عاقل
In the world there are events with causes. If these events depend upon other events without end, this is impossible and cannot be believed by a rational person.
Source: Tahāfut al-Falāsifah 1/107
It should be noted that there is no scientific proof whatsoever that the universe exists as an infinite regression or it is, as they say today, one of many ‘multiverses.’ Infinite regressions are only imaginary numbers, as opposed to natural numbers; they can be expressed abstractly in mathematical formulas but do not reflect the tangible reality of contingent beings. Rather, such claims of an eternal universe are counter-intuitive to our entire human experience, which is unavoidably based upon the acceptance of discrete cause-and-effect as a fact of life.
In sum, the question, ‘Who created the Creator?’ is a logical fallacy based upon a mistake of category. The cosmological argument definitively concludes that the uncreated Creator must exist and, hence, asking who created the uncreated Creator is nonsensical. It is like asking what sound do colors make; these properties do not relate to each other in the way the question presumes. When the believers are confronted with this question, which originates from Satan, they should seek refuge in Allah and reaffirm their faith. If they need further reassurance, they should investigate the many evidences proving not only the existence of the Creator, but also His indisputable power over the creation and His absolute right to be worshipped alone without any partner.
Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.