The Kalām cosmological argument is a variation of the cosmological argument that argues for the existence of a first cause for the universe, and the existence of a god. Its origins can be traced to medieval Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers, but most directly to Islamic theologians of the Kalām tradition.[1] Its historic proponents include Al-Kindi,[2] Saadia Gaon,[3] Al-Ghazali,[4] and St. Bonaventure.[5] William Lane Craig revived interest in the Kalām cosmological argument with his 1979 publication of a book of the same name.[6][7]

The argument postulates that something caused the Universe to begin to exist, and this first cause must be God.

Historical backgroundEdit

The Kalām argument was named after the Kalām tradition of Islamic discursive philosophy through which it was first formulated. In Arabic, the word Kalām means "words, discussion, discourse."

The cosmological argument was refined by Al-Kindi, Al-Ghazali (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), and Ibn Rushd (Averroes).[8] In Western Europe, it was adopted by the Christian theologian Bonaventure (See Craig, 1979, p 18). Another form of this argument is based on the concept of a prime-mover, which was also propounded by Averroes. His premise was that every motion must be caused by another motion, and the earlier motion must in turn be a result of another motion and so on. He argued that there must be an initial prime-mover, a mover that could cause motion without any other mover. One of the earliest formations of the Kalām argument comes from Al-Ghazali, who wrote, "Every being which begins has a cause for its beginning; now the world is a being which begins; therefore, it possesses a cause for its beginning."[1]


Two kinds of Islamic perspectives may be considered with regard to the cosmological argument. A positive Aristotelian response strongly supporting the argument and a negative response which is quite critical of it. Among the Aristotelian thinkers are Al-Kindi, and Averroes. In contrast Al-Ghazali and Muhammad Iqbal[9] may be seen as being in opposition to this sort of an argument.

Al-Kindi is one of the many major and first Islamic philosophers who attempt to introduce an argument for the existence of God based upon purely empirical premises. In fact, his chief contribution is the cosmological argument (dalil al-huduth) for the existence of God, in his On First Philosophy.[10]

Al-Ghazali was unconvinced by the first-cause arguments of Kindi. In response to them he writes: "According to the hypothesis under consideration, it has been established that all the beings in the world have a cause. Now, let the cause itself have a cause, and the cause of the cause have yet another cause, and so on ad infinitum. It does not behove you to say that an infinite regress of causes is impossible."[11]

Al-Ghazali did, however, formulate logical arguments against an infinite past. According to Robert C. Koons: "Another example is mentioned by al-Ghazali. Suppose that the sun and moon have each been revolving around the earth throughout an infinite past. There are 12 revolutions of the moon for every revolution of the sun. As we go back in time, the gap between the number of months and years grows ever wider, yet, taken as a whole, there are an equal number of elapsed months and years (both infinite). Cantorian set theory agrees with this paradoxical result: the cardinal number of months and years is exactly the same." Al-Ghazali's argument for a finite beginning is regarded as a precursor to Big Bang cosmology. [1]

Al-Kindi's argument has been taken up by some contemporary Western philosophers and dubbed the Kalam Cosmological Argument. Among its chief proponents today is William Lane Craig.[12]

The Kalām argument is applied by the spiritist doctrine as the main argument for the existence of God.


Classical argumentEdit

  1. Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence;
  2. The universe has a beginning of its existence;
  3. The universe has a cause of its existence.[13]

Contemporary argumentEdit


William Lane Craig formulates the argument with an additional set of premises:[14]

Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite
  1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
  2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
  3. Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition
  1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be an actual infinite.
  2. The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
  3. Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.



The argument has seen some revival within Christian apologetics and among philosophers, but has been criticized by philosophers J. L. Mackie, Graham Oppy, and Quentin Smith, and physicists Paul Davies, Lawrence Krauss and Victor Stenger.[15]

William Lane Craig argues that the first premise is strongly supported by intuition and experience. He asserts that it is "intuitively obvious", based on the "metaphysical intuition that something cannot come into being from nothing".[16][17] Additionally, Craig argues the first premise is affirmed by interaction with the physical world; for if it were false, it would be impossible to explain why things do not still randomly pop into existence without a cause.[16]

Stenger has argued that quantum mechanics refutes the first premise of the argument (that 'everything that begins to exist has a cause'). He points out that such naturally occurring quantum events violate this premise, such as the Casimir effect and radioactive decay.

Craig disagrees with physicists on the definition of "uncaused", and has said that particles which appear due to these effects are not really uncaused, but rather are produced from a quantum vacuum which contains energy to permit for the spontaneous existence of matter.

Craig argues that it is logically impossible for the number of past events to be infinite, and therefore the universe must have a definite beginning to its existence. From the position of Cosmology, Craig cites the Big Bang theory as evidence for the second premise. He argues in favor of the dominant Big Bang model as supporting the temporal beginning of the universe, as opposed models which claim differently, such as the Cyclic model, vacuum fluctuation models, and the Hartle–Hawking state model.[18]

Al-Ghazali thought that it is at least theoretically possible for there to be an infinite regress, and that there is nothing that necessitates a first-cause simply by pure deductive reason. He thus disputes one of the essential premises of the first-cause argument. Muhammad Iqbal also rejects the argument, stating: "a finite effect can give only a finite cause, or at most an infinite series of such causes. To finish the series at a certain point, and to elevate one member of the series to the dignity of an un-caused first cause, is to set at naught the very law of causation on which the whole argument proceeds."[19]

Craig's argument concludes, through a process of elimination known more formally as modus tollens, that the cause of the universe must be a personal, uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, enormously powerful, and enormously intelligent being,[20] which Craig defines as God.

According to Craig, another objection comes from the B-theory of time. On a B-theory of time, the universe doesn't come into being, it just exists tenselessly as a four-dimensional space-time block,[21] and so the Kalām cosmological argument is predicated upon the A-Theory of time.

More recently, the argument was used by Greek Islamic philosopher Hamza Andreas Tzortzis in his debate with Lawrence Krauss. Lawrence Krauss argued that this argument was flawed, arguing that infinity can exist. Tzortzis responded by observing that Krauss could not show him an actual infinite and was only able to explain to him a theoretical/mathematical infinite.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Craig 1994: 80
  2. Al-Kindi, On First Philosophy, with an Introduction and Commentary by Alfred L. Ivry (Albany, N. Y.: State University of New York Press, 1974), pp. 67–75
  3. Saadia Gaon, The Book of Beliefs and Opinions, trans. Samuel Rosenblatt (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1948), pp. 41–44
  4. al Ghazali, Kitab al lqtisad, with a foreword by Î. A. Çubukçu and H. Atay (Ankara: University of Ankara Press, 1962), pp. 15–16.
  5. Francis J. Kovach, 'The Question of the Eternity of the World in St. Bonaventure and St. Thomas – A Critical Analysis', Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 5 (1974), pp. 141–172.
  6. Smith, Quentin (2007). "Kalam Cosmological Arguments for Atheism", The Cambridge companion to atheism. Cambridge University Press, 183. ISBN 978-0-521-84270-9. 
  7. Craig, William Lane; The Kalam Cosmological Argument (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2000); ISBN 978-1-57910-438-2
  8. Averroes, Ibn Rushd, The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al-Tahafut) London:Luzac, 1954, pp. 58
  9. Iqbal, Muhammad The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam Lahore:Institute of Islamic Culture, 1986
  10. Nasr, trans. Seyyed Hossein, An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines. Albany : State University of New York Press, 1993 pp. 168
  11. Al-Ghazzali, Tahafut Al-Falasifah (The Incoherence of Philosophers), translated by Sabih Ahmad Kamali. Lahore: Pakistan Philosophical Congress, 1963 pp. 90–91
  12. Ramey, B. The Kalam Cosmological Argument: A Summary. 1998 (
  13. Nasr, trans. Seyyed Hossein, An introduction to Islamic cosmological doctrines. Albany : State University of New York Press, 1993
  14. Craig 1994: 116
  15. Reichenbach 2008: 4.1
  16. 16.0 16.1 Craig 2007
  17. Craig 1994: 92
  18. Craig 1994: 100–116
  19. Iqbal, Muhammad The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam Lahore: Institute of Islamic Culture, 1986
  20. Craig 1996
  21. Craig, Moreland 2009: 183–184

See alsoEdit


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

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