GREAT ISLAMIC WRITINGS
Reason in Islam
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GREAT ISLAMIC WRITINGS
Reason in Islam
Averroes’ Exposition of Religious Arguments
Translated with footnotes, index and bibliography by
IBRAHIM Y. NAJJAR
with an introduction by
FAITH & REASON IN ISLAM
This ebook edition published by Oneworld Publications, 2014
First published by Oneworld Publicatios, 2001
10 Bloomsbury Street
London WC1B 3SR
Copyright © Ibrahim Y. Najjar 2001
All rights reserved
Copyright under Berne Convention
A CIP record for this title is available
from the British Library
ISBN: 978-1-85 168-263-8
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For Marina, Stephanie, Nouri, and Sally
Introduction by Majid Fakhry
1. On proving God’s existence
2. On God’s unity
3. On [God’s] attributes
4. On the knowledge of Transcendence
5. On the knowledge of God’s actions
I The first question: on the creation of the world
II The second question: on commissioning messengers
III The third question: on divine decree and predestination
IV The fourth question: on divine justice and injustice
V__ The fifth question: on resurrection and its modes
Conclusion: the canon of interpretation
Index of Quranic Verses
The modern Arabic edition of Al-Kashf’an Manahij al-Adilla ft ‘Aqa’id al-
Milla by Abu’l-Walid Ibn Rushd (Averroes),1 together with Fas/ al-Maqal
(The Decisive Treatise) and the short tract commonly referred to as AI-
Damimah (The Appendix) constitute the trilogy that was published in 1859
by M. J. Miller and translated into German in a volume entitled
Philosophie und Theologie von Averroes.2 A Spanish translation of this
trilogy was published by M. Alonso in 1947 as Teologia de Averroes,
The Muller edition was reprinted many times in Cairo, but more recently
a critical edition of A/-Kashf was published in Cairo in 1964 by Mahmud
Qasim, upon which the present English translation is based.3 The
manuscript that Qasim used is the one found in the Escorial library, number
632; it is older and more complete than the other existing manuscripts.
However, reference is made to these other manuscripts in the footnotes to
reflect important variations, additions, deletions, alterations etc. This
manuscript is dated 724H4 and written in a clear Andalusian hand. It is
referred to here as manuscript “S”’.5
Manuscript number 129 is found in the Taymuria library in the House of
Egyptian Books and is referred to here in the footnotes as “A”. It 1s dated
1202H. and written in an elegant Ottoman hand, but is itself copied from an
earlier version written by Abdullah Ibn Uthman in 1135H. However, many
pages in it are missing. Manuscript number 133, found also in the Taymuria
library, is referred to as “B”. This is written in a Maghribi hand, but is
undated, though it seems more recent than the previous one and
considerably more accurate. The copy of Mandahij which was published by
M. J. Muller under the title Philosophie und Theologie Von Averroes in
1859 is referred to here as Miller.
Ibn Rushd cites verses from the Qur’an without giving their numbers.
The reader is supplied with verse numbers and an index. Majid Fakhry’s
modern translation of the Qur’an is used as reference.6
As mentioned earlier, A/-Kashf, together with Fas! al-Magdal7 and al-
Damima, constitute Ibn Rushd’s trilogy, and when George Hourani
translated Fas! al-Magqdl into English as On the Harmony of Religion and
Philosophy,8 he translated a small part of chapter nine and chapter ten of A/-
Isb Rushd’s Exposition of Religious Arguments contains sufficient
evidence to motivate the reader to re-examine many popular views about
Ibn Rushd. I will briefly draw the attention of the reader to some of the
issues in the book where such a re-examination is called for. Some believe
that Averroes is an Aristotelian rationalist who was bent on undermining or
subverting religion, albeit while upholding the harmony between religion
and philosophy or faith and reason. It is also believed that having accepted
the Aristotelian metaphysics and the place of the Unmoved Mover in it Ibn
Rushd could not believe in the creation of the world, revealed religions and
the hereafter. The reader of The Exposition, however, will be surprised to
find Ibn Rushd offering one argument after another in support of a different
position. While maintaining the harmony between religion and philosophy,
Averroes shows that neither discipline is in need of subverting the other.
They are both legitimate human endeavors with clear lines of demarcation.
They work in harmony with each other rather than in conflict. This is
evident in the crucial issue of the separation between clear religious texts
and vague or ambiguous ones. While no disagreement arises about clear
religious texts and their acceptance is required of all believers upon faith,
ambiguous texts call for interpretation and the interference of reason. One
obvious requirement is that interpretations cannot come into conflict with
clear and unambiguous texts. Reason is necessary, and without it the
understanding of religious texts remains incomplete.
Another issue dealt with in The Exposition is the central belief in the
existence of God and the related problem of the creation of the world. Ibn
Rushd’s position on both counts is clear and his arguments are quite
elaborate, simple and straightforward. He takes the theologians to task,
especially the Ash‘arites, scrutinizing their arguments and maintaining that
their attempt to prove the creation of the world is flawed. He distinguishes
two proofs offered by this school: the first 1s adhered to by the majority of
this group and the second is held by Abu al-Ma‘ali al-Juwayni, the
illustrious teacher of Abii Hamid al-Ghazali. The first argument rests on
three premises: that substances are always found inseparable from
accidents, that accidents are created; and that what cannot exist separately
from created accidents is itself created. The crux of Averroes’ criticism of
this argument is that it fails to apply to the world as a whole, even though it
might apply to individual substances in it. As far as Abu al-Ma‘ali’s
argument is concerned, it is based on two premises: that the world with
everything in it is contingent, i.e., it could have been other than what it is,
and that whatever is contingent is created. Ibn Rushd rejects this argument,
pointing to its Avicennian origins and maintaining that its first premise is
merely rhetorical and factually incorrect, and that its second premise is not
demonstrable; the two great philosophers Plato and Aristotle took opposite
views regarding it. Abu al-Ma‘ali’s proof misses its point; instead of
pointing to the wise creator of the world, it repudiates the principles of
causality, thus abandoning the world to the vagaries of coincidence.
According to Ibn Rushd, there are two arguments that prove the existence
of God and that everyone accepts: the argument from invention, Dalil al-
Ikhtira‘ and the argument from design, Dalil al- ‘Inaya. Observation shows
that everything in the world is ordered according to a fixed causal pattern
which is conducive to serving the universal goal of the existence and well-
being of mankind, as the Qur’an itself asserts in a series of verses.
Likewise, observation, supported by many verses in the Qur’an, shows that
there are created or invented substances in the world, like the coming of life
out of inanimate objects and the creation of sensations and cognitions. The
Precious Book (the Qur’an) also contains many verses that refer to the two
arguments combined. Averroes maintains that when rational beings find
objects in nature possessing the definite characteristics referred to by these
two arguments — namely the utility and purposefulness of their parts to
human purposes — they infer the existence of a wise Maker or manufacturer
behind them. Similarly, when one contemplates the world with its existing
entities and sees how well they are ordered and causally related, and
observes their conduciveness to life and the well-being of mankind, it
becomes rather impossible not to attribute the existence of the world to a
wise Maker who is God. Ibn Rushd does not believe that there are
deductive arguments that can prove the existence of God, but his two
inductive arguments are the only arguments the human mind is capable of
offering to prove the existence of God. Chapter one and the first part of
chapter five of this translation offer a full discussion of these two
As for the widespread belief that Averroes held a position maintaining
the superiority of philosophers to the ordinary people and the dialectic
theologians, Ibn Rushd provides a detailed argument to show that in The
Exposition he does not subscribe to this position. All people, he maintains,
are equal in their rationality and capacity for understanding. Where they
differ is in the degree to which they are prepared to deal with highly
abstract issues and detailed arguments that could not be understood except
after a long period of arduous study. Unlike the common people and the
theologians, the philosophers take the needed time and acquire the
appropriate skills for understanding such arguments. What sets the
philosophers apart is not the superiority of their intellect and innate
competence, but rather their preoccupation with such matters over a long
period of time. Philosophers are experts in their field like physicians in the
field of health; the common people and the theologians are like patients
who receive treatment and follow the advice of the expert doctors. The
philosophers differ from other people in the degree and detail of their
knowledge, but not in intellectual ability. The concluding part of chapter
one offers support for this position.
On the issue of life after death, Ibn Rushd’s discussion in section five of
chapter five is very interesting, but basically he holds it upon faith, allowing
himself to speculate only on the manner in which people survive after
death. His discussion of God’s attributes in chapter three is refreshing and
the theory that he proposes for understanding religious texts is illuminating.
Particular attention should be given to Ibn Rushd’s discussions of God’s
unity in chapter two and God’s justice in section four of chapter five.
It is quite fitting to end this Preface with a word of thanks to all those
who directly or indirectly helped make this project a reality. I thank
Professor Majid Fakhry for setting this translation on the right course,
checking it thoroughly, and writing the Introduction. Not only did he
encourage me to translate A/-Kashf; he continued to offer his unwavering
support until seeing it published. I thank also the American University of
Beirut Research Board (U.R.B.) for providing me with research grants for
1997 and 1998. As for the University of Sharjah, my present intellectual
domicile, it has my sincere thanks for encouraging the publication of this
translation and supporting my research. I am especially thankful to Dr.
Abdul-Hamid Hallab and Dr. George K. Najjar for offering me the chance
to become part of this burgeoning and forward-looking institution founded
by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed AI-Qasimi, the Ruler of
Sharjah, whose vision led to the construction of such a magnificent edifice
dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and cultural harmony. In its
promotion of dialogue and inter-cultural harmony, The Exposition is one of
the great works in our cultural heritage that echoes His Highness’s concerns
My wife, Salwa Ghaly, oversaw the whole project from its inception. To
her go my sincere appreciation and thanks. As for my children, their love
made the long hours of work more enjoyable. Stephanie is eight years old
now, but her early curiosity about Ibn Rushd tickles my imagination. I hope
that my other children Marina and Nouri and future generations will
continue to find inspiration in Ibn Rushd’s works.
Ibrahim Y. Najjar
University of Sharjah
1. It should be noted that Ibn Rushd is the anglicized Arabic form and Averroes the western
2. M.J. Miiller (ed.), Philosophie und Theologie von Averroes (Munich: 1859), and M. J. Miiller
(trans.), Philosophie und Theologie von Averroes (Munich: Ausdem Nachlosse desselben hrsg.
von der kénigl. Bayer. Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1875).
3. Mahmud Qasim (ed.) Manahij al-Adilla fi Aqa ‘id al-Milla, 2nd edn, published in Series of
Philosophical and Moral Studies. (Cairo: the Anglo-Egyptian Library, 1964). The pages of this
edition are indicated in the margins of the following translation to make it easier for the reader
to refer to or consult it.
4. “H” following the date refers to Hegira, the emigration of the Prophet Muhammad and his
followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E., which constitutes the first year of the Hegira
. As my translation was being reviewed for publication, a new critical edition of the Escorial
manuscript appeared by Mustapha Hanafi, with an introduction by Muhammad ‘Abid Al-Jabiri
and published by the Center of Studies for Arab Unity, Markaz Dirasat al-Wahda al-‘ Arabia’,
. The Qur’an: A Modern English Version Majid Fakhry (trans.), (Reading: Garnet Publishing,
1997). Other translations of the Qur’an have been consulted, particularly that of Arthur J.
Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, (London: Oxford University Press, 1964). Other works
consulted as reference are: M. Fakhry, A History of Islamic Philosophy, M.C. Hernandez, Ibn
Rushd (Averroes); L. Gauthier, Ibn Roshd (Averroes); M. Marakushi, Al-Mu Jib fi Akhbar al-
Maghrib, and E. Renan, Averroes et | ‘averroisme.
George Hourani (ed.), Kitab Fas! al-Maqal (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1959).
George Hourani (trans.), On the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy (London: Messrs. Luzac
& Co., 1961).
Abia’ l-Walid Ibn Rushd, known in European sources as Averroes, was born
in Cordova, Spain, in 1126 cE. He studied Arabic letters (Adab),
jurisprudence (Figh), Kalam, medicine and philosophy with a number of
teachers, some of whose names are given in the sources. In 1169, he was
introduced to the Caliph, Abi Ya‘qub Yusuf, by Ibn Tufayl (d.1185), the
leading philosopher of the period and court physician to the Caliph. Abu
Ya’qub Yusuf was an avid reader of Aristotle, we are told, but complained
of his “intractable and abstruse idiom”’. As a result of this meeting, Averroes
was asked to expound the works of Aristotle for the use of the Caliph and
was appointed religious judge (gdadi) of Seville and shortly after chief judge
of Cordova. In 1182, he was appointed physician royal at the court of
Upon the succession of the Caliph’s son, nicknamed Al-Mansir,
Avertroes continued to enjoy the royal patronage, but in 1195, yielding to
public pressure, the Caliph ordered the books of Averroes to be burnt, on an
undefined charge of irreligion or heresy, and the teaching of philosophy and
the sciences was banned, with the exception of astronomy, medicine, and
arithmetic. In the same year Averroes was exiled to Lucena, to the southeast
of Cordova; though shortly after he was restored to favor. In 1198, he died
in Cordova at the age of seventy-two.
Averroes’ writings on philosophy, jurisprudence, theology, and medicine,
which have all survived in Arabic or Hebrew and Latin translations, place
him in the forefront of writers on these subjects in the world of medieval
Islam and beyond. He was recognized in Western Europe, starting with the
thirteenth century, which witnessed the translation of his commentaries on
Aristotle, as The Commentator, or as Dante has put it, che gran commento
feo. These Latin translations early in that century caused a genuine
intellectual stir in learned circles and laid the ground for the rise of Latin
Scholasticism, one of the glories of European thought in the later Middle
Ages. However, apart from his contribution to Aristotelian scholarship,
which was almost unmatched until modern times, Averroes has dealt more
thoroughly than any other Muslim philosopher with theological questions,
including the perennial question of the relation of faith and reason, which
became the pivotal issue in the Scholastic disputations of the thirteenth
century and beyond in Western Europe. His contribution to those
disputations is embodied in three theological treatises: The Decisive
Treatise (Fasl al-Magqal), written in 1179; The Exposition of the Methods of
Proof (Al-Kashf ‘an Manahij Al-Adilla), written in the same year; and a
short tract dealing with the question of God’s eternal and unchanging
knowledge of particulars or contingent entities. To this trilogy should be
added his systematic rebuttal of Al-Ghazali’s onslaught on Islamic
Neoplatonism in the IJncoherence of the Philosophers (Tahdfut al-
Falasifah), written in 1195 and entitled the Incoherence of the Incoherence
In the first of these works, The Decisive Treatise, Averroes sets out the
appropriate methodology for the solution of the problem of the relation of
religion (shari‘a) and philosophy (hikmah), and more specifically the way
in which philosophical or logical methods of reasoning can be used in
religious controversies, or applied to the interpretation of the texts of
Scripture (Shar ‘). He begins by defining philosophy as “The investigation
of existing entities in so far as they point to the Maker; I mean, in so far as
they are made, since existing entities exhibit the Maker.” It follows, he goes
on to argue, that the study of philosophy is indeed recommended by the
religious law (Shar ‘), as appears from a number of Qur’anic verses, such as
59: 2, which urges “people of understanding to reflect” and verse 7: 184,
which asks: “Have they not considered the Kingdom of the heavens and the
earth and all the things God has created?” For surely, Averroes asserts,
reflection and consideration are forms of logical reasoning or deduction
(giyas), or “the extraction of the unknown from the known”. He then
proceeds to rebut the claim of the literalists and traditionalists that the use
of deduction, which the first generation of Muslim scholars have shunned,
is an “innovation"on the ground that juridical deduction, which is analogous
to logical deduction, was subsequently practiced by the next generation and
was regarded as perfectly legitimate.
Next, Averroes proceeds to ask whether “demonstration” (burhdn), which
is the highest form of logical deduction, is compatible with the explicit or
implicit prescriptions of Scripture (Shar ‘). His answer is that, like the jurist
who draws out or deduces his legal decisions from the sacred texts by
recourse to interpretation (ta’wil), the philosopher is perfectly justified in
resorting to interpretation in his attempt to elicit, by means of rational
deduction, the nature of reality and the way in which it leads to the
knowledge of the Maker. He then defines interpretation as “the act of
eliciting the real connotation of (Scriptural) terms from their figurative
connotation without violating the rules of the Arabic language”. However, it
should be noted that not all the texts of Scripture (i.e. the Qur’an) admit of
interpretation; only those parts of it which the Qur’an itself has designated
as “ambiguous” (mutashdbihat), as against those parts which it has
designated as “sound” or unambiguous (muhkamdt) in verses 3: 5—7. With
respect to the former the Qur’an stipulates that their interpretation is
imperative, but “only God and those well-grounded in knowledge” are
qualified to interpret it. By those “well-grounded in knowledge”, Averroes
is categorical, only the philosophers or “people of demonstration” are
intended, followed, in the order of their aptitudes to understand the intent of
Scripture, by the “dialectical’ class (or the Mutakallimun), and the
“rhetorical” class (or the public at large). This threefold division of mankind
is confirmed, according to Averroes, by the Qur’an itself which states in
verse 16: 125, addressing the Prophet: “Call to the way of your Lord with
wisdom and mild exhortation and argue with them in the best manner.”
The second treatise, or Exposition (al-Kashf) gives, as a sequel to this
methodology, a substantive statement of those articles of faith which are
essential for salvation, or as Averroes puts it, “without which the faith (of
the Muslim believer) is not complete”. This statement, which is reminiscent
of similar statements found in Medieval Scholastic treatises, such as St.
Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologica, opens with a chapter on the
demonstration of God’s existence, followed by a discussion of God’s unity,
His attributes and His transcendence or freedom from imperfection. This
first part is then followed by a discussion of divine actions, which include
the creation of the world, the commissioning of Messengers, the meaning of
the divine decree and predestination, divine justice, and the nature of
resurrection. The book closes with a discussion of the rules of
interpretation, which had been at the center of the first volume or The
Decisive Treatise, already discussed. Here Averroes reiterates his thesis that
the statements of Scripture are either explicit, and hence do not call for any
interpretation, or ambiguous and hence should be interpreted exclusively by
the learned, or “those well-grounded in knowledge’, as the Qur’an has put
it. However, this interpretation should not be divulged to the general public,
who are not able to fathom its meaning.
Earlier in The Exposition Averroes had argued that none of the Muslim
sects, whether the literalists, the Ash‘arites, the Mu‘tazilites or the Esoterics
(i.e. the Sufis), who accuse each other of innovation or heresy, are found
upon close scrutiny to have conformed, in their interpretations or claims, to
the intent of the lawgiver (the Prophet) and are therefore all guilty of
innovation or heresy. This leads him to undertake at the outset to draw up a
list of those articles of faith which are not open to question and to define the
rules of sound interpretation.
The first rule is that none of the Islamic sects mentioned above is
competent to formulate the principles of sound interpretation; only the
philosophers or the learned are. The second rule is that Scripture, which
addresses the three classes of men, the learned, the theologians and the
common people, actually uses the three corresponding methods of proof,
the demonstrative, the dialectical, and the rhetorical, to ensure that the
intention of the lawgiver is understood by them all. The third rule is that
interpretation should be properly understood or applied. According to
Averroes, false interpretations are at the root of the rise of heretical sects in
Islam, totaling, according to a Prophetic tradition (Hadith 72), of which
only one was destined to be saved.
The line of demarcation between those parts of Scripture which may and
those parts which may not be interpreted and should be accepted by the
masses or common people at their face value, is clearly drawn by Averroes.
It is evident from his various statements in The Exposition and elsewhere
that interpretation is to be sought; firstly, in those cases which have not
been the object of consensus (ijma ‘) by the community; secondly, where the
statements of Scripture appear to be in conflict with each other; and thirdly,
where those statements appear to be in conflict with the principles of
philosophy or natural reason. Averroes, who was committed to the complete
harmony of religious and philosophical truth, proceeds next to set forth the
principal propositions around which consensus can be achieved without
violating any rational or philosophical precepts, and which can be regarded
as constituting the substance of an acceptable Islamic Credo, so to speak.
The list begins with those propositions that purport to demonstrate the
existence of God and his unity. Here Averroes reviews and then rejects the
favorite arguments of the Mutakallimun, including the Ash‘arites, which
rest upon the premise of the temporality of the universe (hudith). This
argument which goes back to the philosopher al-Kindi (d.c.866), who was
known for his Mu‘tazilite sympathies, and beyond him to John Philoponus,
known in the Arabic sources as the Grammarian (d.586), states that the
world, being created in time (hadith or muhdath) must have a Creator or
Originator (Mihdith) who created it in time. The first premise of this
argument, as Averroes observes, is supposed to be the corollary of the thesis
generally adhered to by the Mutakallimun that the world is made up of
indivisible particles or atoms, which by nature are evanescent. However,
this thesis, according to him, is far from being demonstrable in a manner
accessible to the general public or even skilled logicians. The second
argument, favored by the Ash‘arites, as propounded by al-Juwayni
(d.1086), Al-Ghazali’s illustrious teacher, is the argument from contingency,
which Avicenna (d.1037) himself had adumbrated. It states that the world’s
being contingent (ja iz or miimkin) requires that there be a determinant who
is not contingent, whom Avicenna designated the Necessary Being.
Averroes rejects this argument on the ground that the major premise, the
contingency of the world, is purely rhetorical and rests on the repudiation of
the universal principle of causality, which entails that the world is causally
ordered in a way which manifests the wisdom of its Creator. Thus, whoever
repudiates this principle, not only repudiates that wisdom, but is unable in
fact to offer a coherent proof of God’s existence. He is, consequently,
forced to concede that the world is the product of the blind forces of chance,
or simply random ( ‘Jttifaq).
Significantly, Averroes proposes two alternative proofs for the existence
of God, that of providence and that of invention, to both of which “the
Precious Book” (the Qur’an) has drawn attention, as he puts it, in a variety
of verses. The former rests on the premise that all existing entities here
below have come to exist in order to subserve the interests of mankind and
for this reason are necessarily due to a willing and intending Agent and
cannot be the product of chance. The other argument rests on the premise
that everything in the world is “invented” or made by an Inventor or Maker,
who is God. Averroes then goes on to argue that the knowledge of God as
Inventor or Maker of the world is not possible, unless one knows “the
reality of things, whereby the reality of invention exhibited in all existing
entities 1s revealed to him’.
With respect to the attributes of God, explicitly given in the “Precious
Book’, they are in fact the so-called seven attributes of perfection found in
man; namely, life, knowledge, power, will, hearing, sight, and speech,
which attributes the Mutakallimun, whether Mu‘tazilites or Ash‘arites,
actually concurred in. However, Averroes disagrees with both sects
regarding the mode of predicating them of God. Thus the Ash‘arites hold
that the attributes of knowledge and will are eternal, adding that God knows
created entities by means of an eternal knowledge and wills them by means
of an eternal will. Both notions, according to Averroes, are logically absurd.
For knowledge is consequent on the existence of its object and so 1s will. It
follows that God knows an entity when it comes to exist or ceases to exist
as He wills it to exist or to cease to exist. To contend that God knows and
wills entities created in time by means of an eternal knowledge and will
leaves unexplained the lapse of time intervening between God’s will to
create an entity in time and its actual coming to exist in time, in the light of
God’s infinite power. The explicit teaching of Scripture, according to
Averroes, is simply that created entities are known to God and willed by
Him at the very moment He wishes them to exist; it does not determine
whether such knowing and willing are temporal or eternal. Such knowledge
and will are entirely different from our own and the mode of predicating
them of God is unknown to us, as he has stated in The Incoherence. In The
Decisive Treatise and The Appendix he states that God’s knowledge of the
object is the cause of that object, whereas our knowledge is the effect of the
As for speech, around which controversy raged for centuries between the
Mu‘tazilites, who held that God’s speech, as embodied in the Qur’an, is
created or temporal, and the Hanbalites and the Ash‘arites, who believed it
to be uncreated or eternal, Averroes’ position is that speech is the corollary
of knowledge and action. God, as the supreme Knower and Maker, must be
capable of speech, and this speech is revealed to mankind through the
prophets, either directly or indirectly through the intermediation of angels.
However, there is an additional part of God’s speech, which “He
communicates to the learned, who are the heirs of the prophets in the form
of demonstrative knowledge,” by which Averroes undoubtedly meant the
highest form of philosophical discourse. On the question of the status of the
Qur’an, which is God’s speech, Averroes distinguishes between the
meanings of the words denoting this speech and the words we use in
speech; the former are created by God, the latter are our own work, “by
With respect to the two attributes of hearing and seeing, Averroes takes
the line that God must possess those two attributes, by reason of the fact
that hearing and sight bear on “certain apprehended properties which
pertain to existing entities, but are not apprehended by reason”. God, being
the Creator or Maker of these entities must be capable of knowing
everything pertaining to them and must, accordingly, possess the two
attributes of hearing and sight, whereby they are thoroughly known, not
only as objects of thought, but as objects of sense, as well.
The first part of The Exposition, as we have seen, deals with God’s
existence and his attributes, or de Deo Uno, as the Medieval Latin
Scholastic treatises have it; the second part deals with His actions. Under
this rubric, Averroes deals with five questions: the creation of the world, the
commissioning of prophets, divine justice, the divine decree, and
With respect to the first question, Averroes inveighs against the Ash‘arite
methods of proving that the world is the creation of God on the grounds that
they are neither demonstrative, nor suited to the learned, “common”, or
general public, since they base those proofs on complex premises which
confuse, rather than instruct the latter, and fall short of the criteria of
demonstration laid down by the former. The method Scripture itself has
adopted is actually the simple method commonly agreed and resting on the
principle of providence. The crux of this method is the observation that
everything in the world is ordered according to a fixed causal pattern which
is conducive to serving the universal goal of the existence and well-being of
mankind, as the Qur’an itself asserts in a series of verses. By repudiating
the principle of causality, as we have seen, the Ash‘arites have abandoned
the world to the vagaries of chance and cast doubt on divine wisdom, which
is revealed in this orderly pattern and is the key to demonstrating the
existence of its Author.
The question of the duration of the world, which was at the center of Al-
Ghazali’s attack on the Muslim Neoplatonists Al-Farabi and Avicenna, and
beyond them Aristotle, gives Averroes the opportunity to counter Al-
Ghazali’s arguments and reassert Aristotle’s thesis that the world is eternal
and indestructible. In The Decisive Treatise, he argues that the differences
between Al-Ghazali and the Ash‘arites, on the one hand, and “the ancient
philosophers”, with Aristotle at their head, on the other, are purely
semantic, and are not so divergent as to justify the charges of irreligion
(Kufr) leveled at the philosophers by Al-Ghazali. In fact, the Ash‘arites,
contrary to their allegations, cannot produce a single Qur’anic verse in
support of their thesis that the world has a beginning in time. Rather the
contrary, many Qur’anic verses appear to assert that “the form the world is
created in reality, but its existence and temporal duration are continuous a
parte ante and a parte post”. Thus, verse 11: 7, which states that “it is He
who created the heavens and the earth, while His Throne rested on water’’,
implies on the surface of it that the Throne, water, and the time which
measures their duration existed prior to the moment of creation. Similarly,
verse 41: 11, which states: “Then he arose to heaven which consisted of
smoke”, implies that the heaven was created from something already
existing, which is smoke.1
In The Exposition, Averroes justifies the use of such language on the
ground that Scripture, in its attempt to instruct the common people, has
resorted to the method of “sensuous representation” accessible to them,
since creation out of nothing and in no time is something which the
common people, and even the learned, are unable to grasp. In such cases it
is the duty of the learned to interpret such representations; that of the
common people to accept them at their face value. Averroes, who never in
fact abandoned the Aristotelian thesis of an eternal universe, whilst willing
to entertain the Islamic concept of a created universe, believed it necessary
to distinguish between continuous (da’im) and discontinuous (munqati’)
creation, as he has put it in The Incoherence. The former, the eternal
creation is certainly more appropriate where the actions of the Omnipotent
Creator are concerned, since it is inconceivable that an interval or lapse of
time should intervene between His willing and His action, as is the case
with finite agents.
On the question of commissioning prophets or divine Messengers to
mankind and the probative grounds of authenticating their claims to be
genuine Messengers or emissaries of God, Averroes is critical of the
Ashfarite thesis that miracle is an essential warrant of the truthfulness of
prophetic claims. The Qur’an itself, he argues, confirms this point, as
appears from those verses in which the Prophet is said to have declined to
meet the challenge of his hearers “to cause springs to gush out from the
ground for us” (Qur’an 17: 90), on the ground that he “was nothing other
than a human messenger” (17: 93). This is confirmed by God’s own refusal,
in verse 17: 60, to send down miraculous “signs” to sway the unbelievers.
The only miracle the Prophet resorted to in summoning mankind to believe
in his message was “the Precious Book” whose miraculousness is affirmed
in such verses as 17: 89, which challenges men and jinn to come up “with
the like of this Qur’an”’,, without any prospect of success, “even if they were
to back one another up”.
The evidence for the miraculousness of the Qur’an is then given by
Averroes as follows. First, the theoretical and practical prescriptions which
it has laid down are not the product of human ingenuity, but rather of divine
revelation, especially since the Prophet who transmitted them to mankind
was illiterate. Compared to the prescriptions embodied in the Scriptures of
Jews and Christians, those of the Qur’an are far superior. Secondly, the
prognostications embodied in the Qur’an confirm the Prophet’s claims.
(Significantly, Averroes does not give any instances of those
prognostications, unlike the majority of the commentators and biographers
of the Prophet.) Thirdly, the Qur’an’s literary excellence sets it apart from
any product of the pen of the greatest Arab literary masters and cannot for
that reason be the product of human deliberation or reflection. Averroes,
then, concludes the discussion of miracles by comparing the miracles
attributed to Jesus and other “divine messengers’, such as Moses, to the
Qur’an, Muhammad’s greatest miracle. For him, the miraculousness of the
former is extrinsic, whereas that of the latter is intrinsic, and this proves
conclusively that it is superior.
The third and fourth questions of the second part of The Exposition deal
with two related issues of moral theology, predestination and divine justice.
With respect to the first question, Averroes rightly observes that the
evidence of Scripture (Shar‘) is found upon close scrutiny to be conflicting.
Thus we find in both the Qur’an and the Traditions of the Prophet
statements which appear to support free will or acquisition (iktisab, kasb)
and its opposite. This has led to the rise of three rival sects; the Mu‘tazilites,
who support free will; the Determinists, who deny it; and the Ash‘arites,
who tried to mediate between the two parties and introduced in the process
the concept of “acquisition”. What is more, observes Averroes, even the
evidence of reason appears to be conflicting, due to the diametrically
opposed arguments which can be advanced in support of both free will and
predestination. Thus determinism (jabr) may be criticized on the ground
that it renders religious obligation meaningless and any provision for the
morrow, in the expectation of bringing about certain advantages and
warding off certain disadvantages, entirely irrational. This in turn would
render all human arts and crafts futile. To reconcile the two views, as
Scripture itself appears to demand, we should understand, as Averroes
argues, that human actions are the product of those internal faculties which
God has implanted in us as well as those external forces which allow for the
realization of our deliberately chosen aims. It is because those forces
operate in accordance with a thoroughly rigorous causal pattern which God
has imposed on the whole natural order, and which is in fact synonymous
with the “Preserved Tablet” or the divine decree, that our own actions
become possible and accord with our own deliberation and choice.
In defending the principle of causality against the attacks of Al-Ghazali
and the Ash‘arites in general, who held that this principle conflicts with the
consensus of Muslims that God is the Sole Agent, and accordingly is at
liberty to act freely and miraculously in the world, Averroes argues that the
term “agent” admits of two senses, real and figurative. God is indeed the
real and ultimate Agent, who operates by means of those figurative,
secondary agents or causes that He not only creates, but preserves in
existence. This is confirmed by both reason and observation. For, but for
the specific natures and properties pertaining to existing entities as we know
them, on the one hand, and the influence of external, physical agencies,
such as the stars, wind, rain, and sea, on the other, it would not be possible
for plants, animals or humans to subsist, let alone to act effectively in the
world. The Qur’an itself confirms this, in those verses which speak of God
“subjecting day and night, the sun and the moon and whatever is in heavens
and on earth to mankind” (Qur’an 28: 73; 45: 12; 14: 33) as an instance of
For all these reasons, Averroes concludes that neither the Mu‘tazilite (or
libertarian) position nor the Hanbalite (or deterministic) position is tenable.
The Ash‘arite position, which purports to mediate between the two
positions, is meaningless. For it rests almost exclusively on the alleged
difference between the voluntary movement of the hand, which they call
acquired or free, and the compulsory movement of convulsion. However,
since neither movement, according to them, is due to us, but rather to God,
the difference between the two movements turns out to be semantic or even
fictitious; 1t does not contribute in the least to the solution of the problem of
free will or acquisition.
With respect to divine justice, the Ash‘arites, according to Averroes, have
taken the position which is “repugnant to both reason and religion’, that
justice and injustice are entirely dependent on divine commands and
prohibitions, so that no action is just or unjust in itself. It follows on this
view that the worst sins, such as blasphemy or disobeying God’s orders,
would have been just had God commanded them. The Qur’an itself,
however, has asserted repeatedly that “God is not unjust to his servants”
(verses 8: 53; 22: 10 etc.) and elsewhere that “Surely, God 1s not unjust to
people, but people are unjust to themselves” (10: 45).
Averroes next examines the arguments advanced by the Ash‘arites in
support of their view that God is entirely at liberty to do what He pleases.
They refer to the statements in the Qur’an which speak of God leading
astray and guiding aright. Those statements, he argues, should not be taken
at face value, because they are contradicted by those other verses, such as
verse 39: 9, which asserts, that “God does not approve of disbelief in his
servants”, and hence will not lead them astray. The right interpretation of
the verses which speak of God leading astray or guiding aright is that they
refer to “His prior will which stipulated that there shall exist among the
innumerable variety of existing entities some wayward people; I mean,
some who are disposed by their own natures to go astray, and that they are
driven thereto by what surrounds them of internal and external causes that
lead them astray” see p. 117. Thus the responsibility for leading people
astray 1s not God’s, but rather their own natures, the external causes
operating on them or the two together.
Averroes does not question the thesis that God is the Creator of both
good and evil; he simply argues that this thesis should be properly
understood. God, in fact, creates the good for its own sake, whereas He
creates evil for the sake of the good that may ensue upon it, so that His
creating evil cannot be said to be unjust. Add to this the fact that if we
compare the evil ensuing upon the creation of a certain entity, such as fire,
with the parallel good, we will find that the good is definitely preponderant.
The common people should be urged to accept the view that God creates
both good and evil at its face value, lest they should question the measure of
God’s power and in particular whether He is capable of creating that which
is absolutely good or free from evil. That possibility is, for Averroes,
logically foreclosed, since the creation of the absolutely good, or God’s
equal, is logically impossible.
The last substantive question dealt with in The Exposition is that of
resurrection or survival after death (ma ‘ad), which had been at the center of
the controversy between the philosophers and the Mutakallimun from the
earliest times and which Al-Ghazali regarded as the third grievous error of
the philosophers, especially those, like Avicenna, who stopped short of
bodily resurrection. For Averroes, survival after death is something upon
whose reality all religious scriptures are in accord with the demonstrations
of the learned. The various religious scriptures, however, disagree regarding
the mode of such survival. Some have regarded it as spiritual, pertaining to
the soul only; others to both soul and body. However, the difference
between the various scriptures turns on the kind of “representations” they
resort to in speaking of the fate of the soul after death, which in perfect
agreement with the philosophers, they all regard as immortal. Thus, some
religious creeds represent the pleasures and pains in store for the soul in the
hereafter in gross sensuous terms, such as the Garden and Hellfire, because
such representations are more effective in compelling the assent of the
general public, as is the case with “this our own religion, which is Islam”’.
Other religions (presumably Christianity) resort to “spiritual
representations”, which are less effective in compelling the assent of the
Averroes proceeds next to distinguish three categories of Muslim sects,
regarding the mode of survival after death. (1) Some Muslims, he observes,
have held that the mode of man’s existence in the hereafter is identical with
his existence in this world with one difference; namely, that the former is
permanent, while the latter is ephemeral; (2) others have held that the mode
of man’s existence in the afterlife is spiritual, as the Sufis have held; (3) still
others have held that the corporeal existence of mankind in the hereafter is
different from the corporeality of the present life.
The last view appears to be the one with which Averroes is in sympathy
and is characterized by him as the one appropriate to the élite; that is, the
philosophers. It is absurd, he argues, that the same body which has
disintegrated at death and turned into dust; which changed into a vegetable,
which was consumed by a male, and subsequently turned into semen, which
gave rise to an infant, can be resurrected unchanged after death. It is more
reasonable to assume that the resurrected body is analogous to, rather than
identical with, the terrestrial body. Averroes concedes, in conclusion, that
the obligation incumbent on the believer is to assent to that mode of
resurrection commensurate with his understanding, so long as he does not
question the fact of resurrection, or as he consistently says, survival after
death (ma ‘aGd). This survival, he adds, is confirmed by the Qur’an which
speaks in verse 39: 43 of the “death of the soul” as something analogous to
sleep. What is corrupted in both cases is actually the organ or instrument
(alah), not the soul itself. He even compares this view to Aristotle’s
statement in De Anima (408 b21), that were the old man given an eye
similar to that of the young man, he would be able to see just as well as the
young man. The inference here appears to be that the body is to the soul
what the instrument or organ is to its user, as Plato had actually held.
Aristotle himself had struggled hard in De Anima to rid himself of this view
of his master.
As mentioned earlier, the whole treatise closes with an appendix “On the
Canon of Interpretation”, in which Averroes lists the cases in which
interpretation of scriptural passages is permissible and those in which it is
not. He inveighs in this connection against those, who like Al-Ghazali, were
unwilling to recognize this distinction and consequently the class of people
to whom those interpretations may be divulged. The result has been that
they led the common people astray and contributed to the rise of sectarian
strife in Islam. He expresses the wish at this point to have the opportunity
“to discuss the totality of the statements of Scripture and elicit in the
process what should be interpreted or not, and if interpreted, to whom (such
interpretation) should be addressed; I mean, regarding those passages of the
Qur’an and the traditions of the prophet [Hadith]” (see p. 131).
Averroes never fulfilled this wish, as far as we know, but The Exposition
stands out nonetheless as a remarkable instance of his judicious and
rigorous application of the method of interpretation and remains
unparalleled in the whole history of Islam. Of his predecessors, only Al-
Kindi (d.c.866) comes closest to shouldering this task of scriptural
interpretation, upon which the Hanbalites, the Malikites, and, to a lesser
extent, the Ash‘arites had frowned. Al-Kindi’s performance in that respect,
at least as far as those of his works which have reached us are concerned,
pales into insignificance when compared to this determined effort of
Averroes to apply the canons of rational discourse to the problematic or
ambiguous passages of Scripture.
1. Cf. Fad al-Magqal. Ed. Muhammad ‘Abed AI Jabiri, Beirut: Center for Studies on Arab Unity,
1997, p.106, section 41.
On proving God’s existence
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, O God our Lord, we
ask Your assistance, and prayers and greetings be upon our Master
Muhammad and his family.
Thus spoke the jurist, the learned and unique scholar Abu’|-Walid
Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd, may God
be pleased with him and bless him with His benevolence.
We praise God who has favored those whom He pleased (to favor) with
His wisdom, leading them to understand His religion! and follow His path,
and revealing to them, from His hidden knowledge the meaning of His
revelation and the intent of the message of His Prophet to mankind, that
which exposed to them the deviation of those who strayed from the path of
His religion, as well as the distortion of the disbelievers among His
Community. It was also exposed to them that there are interpretations that
God and His Messenger [the Prophet Muhammed], may God’s complete
blessings be upon him, the guardian of His revelation and the seal of His
messengers, and upon his house and family, did not allow.
In a separate treatise,2 we have already dealt with the harmony of
philosophy and religion, indicating how religion commands the study of
philosophy. We maintained there that religion consists of two parts: external
and interpreted, and that the external part is incumbent on the masses,
whereas the interpreted is incumbent on the learned. With respect to that
part, it is the duty of the masses to take it at its face value, without
attempting to interpret it. As for the learned, it is not permissible to divulge
their interpretations to the public, as Ali [Ibn Abi Talib], God be pleased
with him, said: “Address people in a language that they understand; do you
want God and his Messenger to lie?”
Thus, I decided to inquire in this book into those external dogmas which
religion intended the public to uphold, and to investigate in all this, to the
degree to which my energy and capability permit, the intention of the
lawgiver, God’s prayer and peace be upon him. For on this issue, people in
[this] religion have been greatly confused, to the point of splintering into
many erring groups and different sects, each group believing that it is
following the original religion and branding whoever disagrees with it as
either a heretic or an unbeliever (Ka@/fir) whose blood and property are free
for all. All this is a departure from the intent of the lawgiver, occasioned by
their mistaken understanding of the intent of religion.
The most famous of these sects in our time are four: (1) The sect called
the Ash‘arite, which is believed by most people of our day to be the
orthodox; (2) that which is called the Mu‘tazilite; (3) the group which is
known as the esoteric [Batini]; and (4) the one called the literalist.
All these sects have entertained diverse beliefs about God and distorted
the apparent meaning of many statements of Scripture with interpretations
applied3 to such beliefs, claiming that4 these interpretations constitute the
original religion that all people were meant to uphold, and that whoever
deviates from them is either an unbeliever or a heretic. However, if [all
such] beliefs were examined and compared with the intent of religion, it
would appear that most of them are novel statements and _ heretical
interpretations. Of these beliefs I will refer to those which have acquired the
status of obligatory dogma in the Law without which the faith [of the
Muslim] cannot be complete. In all this I will inquire into the intent of the
lawgiver, God’s prayer and peace be upon him, excluding what was
considered a fundamental principle in religion and one of its dogma, by
I begin by defining what the lawgiver intended the public to believe with
respect to God Almighty,5 and the methods that the Precious Book employs
to instill belief in them. So let us start with the argument that leads to the
existence of the Maker, since it is the first thing that the responsible believer
should know. However, prior to this, we should mention the opinions of
those famous sects regarding this matter.
We start with the sect that is called the literalist whose followers claim
that the method of knowing the existence of God Almighty is by way of
report not by reason. In other words, with respect to the belief in His
existence, which men are required to assent to, it is sufficient for them to
receive it from the lawgiver and accept it on faith, just as they receive from
him the states of the hereafter and other matters in which there is no room
for reason. It is apparent from the consideration of this wayward sect that it
is incapable of understanding the intent of Scripture regarding the method
that it laid down for leading everyone to the knowledge of the existence of
God Almighty, and through which He summoned all men to believe in Him.
For it is evident from more than one verse in the Book of God Almighty
that He calls upon men to believe in the existence of the Originator, glory
be to Him, through rational arguments detailed specifically therein, such as
the saying of the Almighty: “O people, worship your Lord who has created
you as well as those who came before you”; and as the other saying of the
Almighty: “Is there any doubt about Allah, Maker of the heavens and the
earth?”’7 in addition to many other verses in the same vein.
It is not open for someone to say: “If this were the duty incumbent upon
whoever believes in God; namely, that no man’s faith will be acceptable
unless he comes to know these arguments, then the Prophet, God’s prayer
and peace be upon him, would not have called anyone to Islam without first
presenting him with these arguments”, for all the Arabs accept the existence
of the Glorious Originator. It is for this reason that the Almighty says: “If
you ask them: “Who has created the heavens and the earth?’, they will
reply, Allah’.”s It should be admitted that it is not impossible that there may
be some individuals whose intellect is so sluggish and their acumen so dull
that they do not understand anything of the religious arguments which [the
Prophet], prayer and peace be on him, has set up for the public. But this is
the rarest exception. However, if there are such men, they would be
required to believe in God by way of report. This, then, is the way of the
literalists regarding the external meaning of religion.
The Ash‘arites, however, maintain that believing in the existence of God
Almighty is only possible through reason. However, in doing so, they
adopted certain methods which are not the religious ones that God has
drawn attention to and through which He called upon all men to believe in
Him. Their most famous method is based on showing that the world is
created in time, while the creation of the world, according to them, is based
on the claim that bodies are composed of indivisible parts, that the part
which cannot be subdivided is created in time and that bodies are created by
its creation. However, the method whereby they showed how the indivisible
part, which they call the indivisible substance,9 is created in time is an
abstruse one which many of the well-experienced in the art of logic cannot
understand, let alone the public. Moreover, it remains a non-demonstrative
method and does not lead to certainty about the existence of the Originator,
If we suppose that the world is created, it follows, as they say, that it
must necessarily have a Makerio who created it. The existence of this
Maker, however, raises a doubt that is not within the power of the art of
theology (Kalam) to dispel. We can neither say that this Maker is eternal or
created. He is not created, because a created being would be in need of a
creator, and this one of another creator, and the matter would go on to
infinity, which is absurd. Likewise [we cannot say] that He is eternal,
because His action which is related to His products would be eternal, thus
rendering the products themselves eternal. The existence of the created
must be related to a created action unless [the adherents of this sect] admit
that there can be a created action due to an eternal agent, since it is
necessary that the product be related to the action of the producer, which
they do not admit. It is one of their basic premises that that which is
conjoined to the created is created. Moreover, if the agent were sometimes
acting and sometimes not, there must exist a cause which makes it more
liable to be in one state rather than the other. Then, a similar question can be
raised regarding this cause, and the cause of this cause, and the matter
would go on to infinity.
What the theologians (Mutakallimun) say in response to the claim that
the created action was the product of an eternal will does not help them, nor
does it dispel this doubt, because the will is different from the action related
to the product. If the product were created, then the action related to its
production must be created (irrespective of whether we assume that the will
is eternal or created), and precede the action or be simultaneous with it.
Whichever is the case, they are forced to allow one of three alternatives
with respect to the eternal: either a created will and a created action, or a
created action and an eternal will, or an eternal action and an eternal will.
Now what is created cannot ensue upon an eternal action without an
intermediary, assuming we agree with them that it can ensue upon an
eternal will. Moreover, to suppose that the will is identical with the action
related to the product is irrational. It is similar to supposing a product
without a producer, for the action is something other than the agent, the
product and the will, and the will is the pre-condition of the action, rather
than the action itself. Furthermore, this eternal will must be related to the
non-existence of the created object in an infinite time [since the created was
non-existent for an infinite time]11 for it cannot be related to what is willed
at the time in which it necessitated its coming-to-be, except after a lapse of
an infinite time, and what is infinite does not cease. Thus what is willed
cannot become actual unless an infinite time has elapsed — a patent
absurdity. This is exactly the proof that the Mutakallimun employed with
respect to the creation of the rotations of the celestial [spheres].
Moreover, there must occur in the will, which precedes what is willed
and is related to it at a specific time during which it must exist at the time of
producing the willed object, a determination to produce that which did not
exist prior to that time. If there were not in the willing agent, at the time of
action, a state additional to the state it was in at the time the will
necessitated no such action, then the occurrence of that action, at that time,
would not be more likely than its non-occurrence. Add to this that there is
in this reasoning digression and abstruse doubts that even the skilled adepts
of the science of theology (Kalam) and philosophy, let alone the public,
cannot resolve. Were the public, then, required to attain knowledge through
these methods, it would be imposing on them what is beyond their
In addition the methods that these people employed in their discussion of
the creation of the world have combined these two characteristics: namely,
that they are not such that it is in the nature of the public to accept them,
neither are they demonstrative. Accordingly such methods are suitable
neither to the learned nor to the public. Thus we draw attention here to that
to some extent by saying that the methods that they have followed are
twofold. The first, which is the more famous and upon which most of their
followers rely, is based on three premises which serve as first principles
from which they hope to deduce the creation of the world. The first
[premise] states that substances never exist apart from accidents (1.e., they
are never divested of them); the second is that accidents are created; and the
third is that what cannot exist apart from accidents is created; by which I
mean that what cannot be divested of accidents is created.
As for the first premise, which states that substances do not exist apart
from accidents, if they mean by it the independent bodies that can be
pointed to, then it is true. But if they mean by substance that part which is
indivisible (since this is what they designate by the individual substance),
then there is considerable doubt concerning it. The existence of an
indivisible substance is not self-evident and there are with respect to it
many conflicting opinions that are difficult to reconcile. It is not within the
power of the art of Kalam to disentangle the truth from them; such a job
belongs more appropriately to the art of demonstration, and the adepts of
this art are very few. Moreover, the arguments which the Ash‘arites use in
proving the existence of this [indivisible substance] are mostly rhetorical,
for their famous argument in support of it states that it is one of the first
points known about the elephant, for example, that we say it is larger than
the ant, since it has many more parts than those of the ant. If this is so then
the elephant is made up of these parts, and it is not one simple entity. Hence
when the body is destroyed, it dissolves into them, and when it is
constructed, it is constructed out of them.
They committed this error due to the similarity between discontinuous
and continuous quantity. They thought that what applies to the former must
apply to the latter. However, this is true of numbers only. We say that a
number is greater than another by virtue of the many parts or units it has.
But with regard to the continuous quantity this is not true. For this reason,
we say of the continuous quantity that it is larger and bigger, but not that it
is more or less, whereas in the case of numbers, we say that they are more
or less, but not larger or smaller. On this view all things would be numbers
and there would be no continuous magnitude to begin with; in which case
geometry would be the same as arithmetic. It is self-evident, however, that
each magnitude is divisible into two halves; by which I mean the three
magnitudes which are the line, the plane, and the body [or solid].
Furthermore, it is the continuous magnitude that may have in its middle an
end where both extremities of the two parts meet; and this is not possible in
the case of numbers.
However, we find this position contradicted by the fact that the body and
all the parts of the continuous magnitude are susceptible of division; and
whatever is divisible is divisible either into something divisible or
something indivisible. If it is divisible into something indivisible, then we
have found the part which cannot be divided any further; but if 1t 1s divided
into something which 1s divisible, then the question recurs with respect to
this divisible: “Is it divisible into something divisible or something
indivisible?” If it is divisible ad infinitum, then there would be infinite parts
in the finite thing. But it is elementary knowledge that the parts of what is
finite are also finite.
One of the abstruse questions which must be addressed to them is this:
“If the part which is indivisible were created, then what is the bearer of this
creation (Hudurh)?” Creation is an accident among other accidents, and
once the created object exists, creation ceases. For it is one of their
principles that accidents do not exist apart from substances; therefore they
are forced to concede that creation is from some existing entity and out of
an existing entity.
They might also be asked, “If an existing thing can exist apart from not-
being, then to what does the action of the agent attach?” for there is no
intermediary between being and not-being, according to them. If this is the
case, and the action of the agent does not attach, according to them, to not-
being, nor to what already exists in reality, it must attach to an entity
intermediate between being and not-being. This is what forced the
Mu‘tazilites to claim that there is in not-being an entity of some sort.
They12 are also forced to admit the existence in actuality of that which does
not exist in actuality. In fact both sects13 are forced to admit the existence of
These problems, as you see, cannot be resolved by the art of dialectic.
Therefore this [view] must not be laid down as a principle for the
knowledge of God Almighty, especially with reference to the public, for the
method of knowing God Almighty, as we shall show shortly, is much
clearer than this one.
The second premise, which states that all accidents are created, is open to
doubt; the obscurity of this claim is similar to that of bodies, for we have
only seen some bodies created as we have accidents; there is no difference,
between the two in passing1i4 from the seen to the unseen.15 Thus, if it is
necessary in the case of accidents to apply our judgment of what is seen to
what is unseen (i.e., to make a judgment about the creation of what we do
not see by analogy with what we see), then we should be able to do so with
respect to bodies, dispensing altogether with inferring from the creation of
accidents the creation of bodies. For with regard to the heavenly body,
whose analogy to the seen is itself subject to doubt, the doubt surrounding
its accidents is similar to the doubt surrounding its creation itself, since
neither its creation nor that of its accidents has been perceived. Therefore,
we must investigate this matter by reference to its motion; and this is the
method that leads those who seek the knowledge of God Almighty with
certainty. Indeed, it is the method of the select and the one for which God
has favored Abraham, peace be upon him, in His saying: “Thus We show
Abraham the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth, that he might be of
those possessed of certainty,’16 since all the doubt has revolved around the
heavenly bodies, and most of the theoreticians who studied them concluded
that they are gods.
Moreover, time is one of the accidents although it is difficult to imagine
its creation, because every being must be preceded by not-being in time.
Accordingly, if the not-being of an entity precedes the thing itself, 1t cannot
be imagined except with reference to time. Furthermore it is difficult to
imagine the place the world occupies as created (assuming that every
occupant must precede the place it occupies), for if the void exists, as
maintained by those who believe that the void is identical with place, then
its creation must be preceded by another void, if it is supposed to be
created. And if the place is taken to be the boundary of the body
surrounding what is in place, as the holders of the second view maintain, 17
then it is necessary that this body should exist in place, and that this body
would then be in need of another body, and the matter will go on to infinity.
All these are abstruse doubts. However, the arguments whereby [the
Ash‘arites] seek to refute the claim that the accidents are eternal are
convincing for those who maintain the eternity of what is perceived as
created; by which I mean those who claim that all accidents are not created.
For they say: “If the accidents that appear to the senses as created were not
created, then they would have to be either in transition from one place to
another, or latent in the place where they appeared before appearing.” Then
they proceed to refute these two alternatives, thinking that they have
demonstrated that all accidents are created. However, what simply follows
from their statement is that those accidents which appear to be created are
created, but not those that do not appear to be created, or those of which the
creation of their accidents is in doubt, as in the case of the accidents
pertaining to the heavenly bodies, such as their motions, their forms and so
on. Thus, their arguments for the creation of all the accidents are reducible
to the analogy between the seen and the unseen, (which is a rhetorical
argument); except where the inference is reasonable in itself, and that 1s
possible only after ascertaining the equivalenceis of the natures of both the
seen and the unseen.
Kk OK OK
The third premise, which states that that which cannot exist without
accidents must be created, is an ambiguous one, because it can be
understood in two ways. The first meaning refers to that which cannot exist
without the genus of accidents, though it might exist without a particular
singular accident; the second refers to what does not exist without a specific
accident pointed to directly, as when you say: “That which does not exist
without this blackness I am pointing to”. This second meaning is sound;
whatever cannot exist without an accident that one can point to and is
created, its subject must necessarily be created too, for, if [the subject] were
eternal, it would be devoid of that accident, but we have assumed it not to
exist without it. This is an impossible absurdity. However, from the first
interpretation, which they favor, it does not follow that the substratum is
created; namely, that which is not free of the genus of accidents. For it is
possible to imagine the same substratum, that is, the body, occupied
successively by accidents which are infinite, whether opposed to each other
or not. This is like speaking of infinite motions, as many of the ancients
used to believe the universe is formed, one [world] after another.19 For this
reason, when the later Mutakallimun realized that this premise is tenuous,
they proceeded to tighten and strengthen it by showing that, as they
contended, it is not possible for an infinite number of accidents to exist
successively in one substratum. They claimed that there could not exist in
that substratum, on this assumption, an accident to which one can point
without this accident being preceded by an infinite number of accidents,
which would lead to the impossibility of the existence of that which
actually exists (namely that which one can point to), for it could not exist
except after what is infinite has come to an end. However, since that which
is infinite does not come to an end, it follows that that which is pointed to
does not exist; I mean, that which is supposed to exist. For example, were
the present motion of the heavenly body preceded by an infinite number of
motions, the present motion of the heavenly body could not have happened.
They have illustrated that by the case of one man saying to another: “I do
not give you this dinar20 until I have given you an infinite number of dinars
before it.” Thus it is not possible ever for that man to give him that dinar
which is pointed to. However, this illustration is incorrect because it
involves positing a beginning and an end, while positing what is between
them as infinite. The utterance of that [man] actually took place in a definite
time, and his giving him the dinar took place in a definite time too.
Therefore he laid as a condition that he will give him the dinar at a time
between which and the time of his utterance, infinite periods of time had
intervened, during which he is supposed to have given him an infinite
number of dinars, which is absurd. The example shows that there is no
analogy between it and the point it is supposed to illustrate.
As for their claim that that which comes to be after the coming to be of
an infinite number of things cannot possibly exist; it is not true in all cases.
For things in which some parts precede others are said to exist in two ways:
either cyclically or rectilinearly Those that take place in a cyclical fashion
must be supposed to be infinite, unless they are impeded by some thing. For
example, if there is a sunrise, there has been a sunset, and if there is a
sunset, there has been a sunrise; and if there is a sunrise, there has been a
sunrise. Similarly if there is a cloud, there was vapor rising from the
ground; and if there is vapor rising from the ground, the ground was wet;
and if the ground was wet, then there was rain; and if there was rain, there
was a cloud; and if there was a cloud, then there was a cloud. As for what
takes place in a rectilinear fashion, as when one human being begets
another human being who in turn begets another human being; if that takes
place essentially, then it is not true that the matter could go on to infinity.
For if the first of the causes did not exist, the last could not exist either.
However, if the existence [of the first] was accidental, as when the human
being comes to be in reality from an agent other than his father, who is his
originator — the role of the father being the role of the instrument with
respect to the artisan21 — then it is not impossible, were that agent to act
infinitely, for an infinite number of people to be produced by means of a
variety of instruments. However, this is not the place to discuss all this. We
mention it merely to show that, what those people imagined to be a proof, is
not really one. It is not even one of the arguments that are suitable for the
public; by which I mean the simple demonstrations whereby God has
required all His worshipers to believe in Him. Thus it will have become
evident to you from this that this method is not technically demonstrable or
The second method was introduced by Abt al-Ma‘ali22 in his treatise
known as al-Nizamiah. It is based on two premises. The first states that it is
possible for the world, with everything in it, to be the opposite of what it
actually is [for example, it is possible for it to be smaller or bigger than it is
now],23 or in a shape other than its present one, or to contain a number of
bodies other than the actual one, or to be such that every movable object
moves in the opposite direction to its present motion. It would, then, be
possible, [for example] for a stone to move upwards, and for fire to move
downwards, and for the eastern movement to be western, and the western to
be eastern. The second premise states that what is possible is created, and
has a creator; by which I mean, an agent who made it more the susceptible
of one of the two possibilities, rather than the other.
As for the first premise, it is rhetorical and appears so at first sight. With
respect to some parts of the world, the falsity of this premise 1s self-evident,
as, for instance, in supposing man to exist in a different form than his
present one. With respect to other parts, the matter is doubtful, such as
[supposing] the eastern movement being western and the western being
eastern, since this is not self-evident. It might have had a cause which is
unknowable in itself, or it might be one of the causes which are hidden from
man’s purview. It seems that what initially appears to the person who
investigates these matters is similar to what appears to those who study the
parts of manufactured objects without having the skills of their
manufacturers. Such people have a preconceived notion that the
constituents of these manufactured objects, or most of them, could be
otherwise, [yet they continue] to generate the same actions for which they
were manufactured; I mean, their purpose. If it were so, there would be no
wisdom in what is manufactured. The manufacturer and those who share
with him some knowledge of the science [of producing these things], would
of course think that the matter is otherwise, and that there is nothing in what
is manufactured save what is necessary; or if not necessary, that it exists so
that the manufactured object may be more complete or better. Indeed this is
the meaning of art. It seems that the creatures resemble what is
manufactured in this sense. May the Great Creator be glorified!
In so far as this premise is rhetorical, there may be no harm in using it to
convince all people; but in so far as it is false and nullifies the wisdom of
the Artisan, it is not appropriate for them. It abolishes wisdom, because
wisdom is nothing more than the knowledge of the causes of existing
things, and if there are no necessary causes which necessitate the existence
of these things, in the form in which those of their kind exist, then there is
no knowledge here that distinguishes the Wise Creator from any other.
Besides, if there are no necessary causes entering into the constitution of
manufactured objects, there would be no crafts to begin with, nor would
wisdom be attributed to the artisan rather than to the one who is not an
artisan. Indeed, what wisdom would there be in man, if all his actions and
deeds were to result from whichever organ happens to be, or even came to
be without an organ, so that seeing could take place, for example, through
the ear just as easily as through the eye, and the smell through the eye
exactly as it is through the nose? All this nullifies wisdom as well as the
reason for which the Almighty called Himself Wise, may He be Exalted and
His names be hallowed.
It might be observed that Ibn Sina accepts this premise in a certain respect,
since he believes that every existing entity, other than the Agent, if
considered in itself, is possible and contingent. The contingent is of two
types: one 1s contingent by virtue of its agent, and the other is necessary by
virtue of its agent, though possible in itself, while what 1s necessary in
every respect is the First Agent. However, this claim is patently absurd
because what is possible in itself and its essence, cannot become necessary
by virtue of its agent, unless the nature of what is possible becomes that of
the necessary. If it is said that he means by saying “possible in itself” that
which, when its agent is imagined to be removed, it is itself removed,24 we
would assert that this removal is impossible. This, however, is not the place
to argue with this man; what led us to argue with him concerning the things
he has invented forced us to mention him. Let us return to the matter at
As for the second premise, which states that what is contingent25 is
created, this too is not self-evident. Indeed, the philosophers disagreed
about it, Plato allowing a contingent thing to exist eternally, while Aristotle
did not allow it. This is a very abstruse question. Its truth does not become
evident except to the people of the art of demonstration, who are the
scholars (al-‘Ulama)26 whom God [Almighty]27 has favored with His
knowledge and supported their testimony with His own testimony and that
of His angels in the Precious Book.
As for Abt al-Ma‘ali, he sought to explain this premise by recourse to
other premises, one of which is that the contingent must have a determinant
(Mukbassis28) to make it the likely recipient of one rather than the other of
two contingent attributes. The second [premise] is that this determinant
cannot be but a willing agent; and the third [premise] is that what exists as a
result of will is created. He [Abi al-Ma‘ali] then explained how the
contingent derives from the will, that is, from a willing agent, by virtue of
the fact that every action is either from nature or from will. However, nature
does not cause one of two similar possibilities (meaning that it brings about
one to the exclusion of its like), but rather both. For example, scammony29
does not purge the bile that is on the right side of the body rather than that
which is on the left side; whereas the will determines one thing rather than
its like. [Abi al-Ma‘ali,] then, added that the world is the same whether it is
in the place where it is now, within the milieu in which it was created
(meaning the void), or is in another place within that void. From this he
inferred that the world is created by will.
The premise stating that the will is what determines the one rather than
the other of two comparable instances 1s correct, but the one stating that the
world is surrounded by a void is false; or at least, not self-evident.
Moreover, [Abu al-Ma‘ali’s] positing of the void leads to a repugnant result,
according to them; namely that the void is eternal, since if it was created it
would require another void.
However, the premise stating that nothing issues from the will except a
created object is not obvious, for the actual will exists along with the action
which produces the willed object itself, since will is a relative concept. It
has been shown that if one of two correlatives existed in actuality, the other
would exist in actuality as well, such as the father and the son; but if one of
them existed potentially, the other would have to exist in potentiality also.
Should the will, which is in actuality, be created, then the willed object
must necessarily be created [in actuality].30 Furthermore, should the will,
which is in actuality, be eternal, then the willed, which is in actuality, will
be eternal. With regard to the will which precedes what is willed, it is a will
in potentiality; by which I mean a will whose object has not come into
being actually, since this will has not been conjoined to the action which
necessitates the emergence of the willed object. It is clear, then, that if its
willed object came into being, the will is in a state different from what it
was in before its willed object came into being actually, since it 1s the cause
of the creation of the willed object through the mediation of the action.
Thus, should the Mutakallimun posit that the will is created, it follows
necessarily that the willed object is created also.
It seems that the Scripture (a/-Shar‘) does not go that far in explaining
those things to the public. For this reason it does not refer explicitly to
either an eternal or a created will; rather, it refers to what is more obvious;
namely, that the will [brings forth existing beings]31 which are created, as in
the saying of the Almighty: “Indeed, when We want a thing to be, We just
say to it: “Be”, and it comes to be.’’32 That this is the case is due to the fact
that the common people do not understand the meaning of existing things
created by an eternal will; indeed, the truth is that Scripture has not stated
explicitly whether the will is created or is eternal, since this is one of the
ambiguous issues for the majority of people.33 The Mutakallimun do not
have a single conclusive proof to show the impossibility of the subsistence
of a created will in an eternal being, because the principle to which they
appeal in denying the subsistence of a created will in an eternal being is the
premise whose weakness we have already exposed; namely, that that which
cannot exist without created accidents is created. We will explain this point
more fully in our discussion of the will.
From all this, it will have become evident to you, then, that the
Ash‘arites’ famous methods, purporting to lead to the knowledge of God
Almighty, are not theoretically certain [nor are they religiously certain].34
This is obvious to whoever investigates the types of arguments to which the
Precious Book draws attention regarding this matter (that is, the knowledge
of the existence of the Artisan), by which I mean that, when the religious
methods are investigated carefully, they are found to include, at most, two
characteristics: certainty and simplicity rather than complexity, I mean,
having few premises, whereby their conclusions are close to their first
As regards the Sufis, their methods of investigation are not theoretical,
composed of premises and syllogisms. Rather, they claim that the
knowledge of God, as well as other entities, is something cast in the soul
once it has been cleansed of its worldly appetites and upon focusing its
attention on the desired object. In support of this view, they appeal to the
external meaning of many religious texts, like the saying of the Almighty:
“And fear Allah and He will teach you,’35 and: “And those who strive in
Our cause We shall guide in Our ways,”36 and: “O you who believe, if you
fear Allah, He will provide you with a criterion’’37 [to distinguish right from
wrong], and many other texts like these believed to buttress this point.
However, we hold that, even if we admit the existence of this method, it
is not common to all men, gua men. Indeed if they were intended to follow
this method, the method of theoretical investigation would have been
dispensed with altogether and its existence in the minds of men would have
been in vain. Yet the Qur’an in its entirety is but a call to theoretical
investigation and consideration and an admonition to resort to these
theoretical methods. It is true, we do not deny that the mortification of the
flesh might be a precondition of sound theoretical investigations, just as
health might be, but the suppression of appetites is not what yields
knowledge in itself, although it is still a precondition of it, just as health is a
precondition of learning but is not what yields it. It is from this perspective
that Scripture has called for this method and strongly urged its adoption in
its entirety, (meaning in matters of action, not that it is sufficient in itself, as
these people have imagined). If it is useful in theoretical matters, it will be
in the manner we have just mentioned. And this is obvious to whoever is
fair and considers the matter in itself.
With respect to the Mu‘tazilites, none of their books have reached us in this
island to be able to investigate the methods they followed in this matter. It is
likely that their methods are of the same type as those of the Ash‘arites.
If it be asked, now that it has become evident that none of these methods
is the religious method, through which religion has called upon all mankind,
despite the differences in their natures, to confess the existence of the
Almighty Creator, “What, then, is the religious method which the Precious
Book has recommended and which was adopted by the Companions of the
Prophet, may God be pleased with them?”
We would answer that the method3s which the Precious Book
recommends and calls all mankind to follow is found, if the Precious Book
is reviewed, to consist of two kinds. The first is the method of providing for
man, and creating all existing things for his sake. Let us call it the argument
from providence. The second method [refers to] the manifest invention of
the substances of existing beings, such as the invention of life in inanimate
matter, as well as sense-perception and intellect. Let us call this the
argument from invention.
The first method is founded on two principles; one of them is that all
existing beings, which are found here below, are suited to man’s existence,
and the second principle is that this suitability 1s necessarily due to an
Agent both intending and willing, since it is not possible for this suitability
to be due to fortuitous chance. As for its being suited to man’s existence,
one becomes certain of it from the consideration of the suitability of night
and day and the sun and the moon to man’s existence. Add to that the
suitability of the four seasons to him, and the place in which he exists,
namely the earth. Moreover, it is evident that this suitability exists with
respect to many animals, plants, inanimate objects and many particulars like
the rain, the rivers and the seas; and, in short, the earth, water, fire, and air.
Moreover, providence is evident in the human and animal organs, I mean,
their being suited to his life and existence. On the whole, then, the
knowledge of the utility of existing things falls within this category. That is
why it is incumbent on those who want to acquire a complete knowledge of
God Almighty to inquire into the usefulness of all existing things.
With respect to the argument from invention, it includes [the
investigation of] the existence of the animal kind as a whole, and that of the
plants and the heavens. This method is based on two principles existing
potentially in human nature.
The first is that all these existing entities are invented, which, in the case
of animals and plants, is self-evident, as the Almighty says: “Surely, those
whom you call upon, besides Allah, will never create a fly, even if they
band together. [And if a fly should rob them of something, they cannot
retrieve it from it. How weak is the invoker and the invoked!]’.39 We see
inanimate objects in which life then appears and so we know for certain that
there is here a Producer of life and a Gracious Giver of it, who is God
Almighty. As for the heavens, we know from their ceaseless motions that
they are commanded to attend to whatever exists here below and to be
subservient to us. Furthermore, the subservient and the commanded are
necessarily invented by someone else.
The second principle is that for everything invented there is an inventor.
From these two principles it correctly follows that for every existing
entity there is an agent who is its inventor. Evidence for this conclusion is
found in the sheer number of invented entities. That is why it is incumbent
on those who seek a true knowledge of God to know the essences of things,
in order to understand the true meaning of invention in all existing entities.
For whoever does not know the truth about the thing, does not know the
real meaning of invention. To this the reference in the saying of the
Almighty refers: “Have they not considered the kingdom of the heavens and
the earth and all the things Allah has created, [and how perhaps their
appointed term may have drawn near]?’40 Moreover, whoever pursues
carefully41 the meaning of wisdom in the existence of every individual
entity — by which I mean that the knowledge of the cause for the sake of
which that existing entity was created and the final purpose intended for it —
will have a more complete knowledge of the argument from providence.
These two arguments, then, are the arguments favored by religion. That
the verses in which the Precious Book draws attention to the arguments
leading to the existence of the Almighty Artisan are confined to these two
kinds is evident to whoever studies the verses given in the Precious Book in
this regard. Were these verses to be examined, they would be found to be of
three types: (1) either verses referring to the argument from providence, or
(2) verses referring to the argument from invention, or (3) verses combining
both types of reasoning.
Of the verses that refer only to the argument from providence is the
saying of the Almighty:
Have We not made the earth as a couch for you?
And the mountains as pegs?
[And created you in pairs?
And made your sleep a period of rest?
And made the night as a garment?
And made the day a source of livelihood?
And built above you seven mighty [heavens |?
And created a shining lamp?
And brought down from the rain-clouds abundant water?
To bring forth thereby grain and vegetation? ]
And luxuriant gardens?42
Or His saying: “Blessed is He who placed in the heaven constellations and
placed in it a lamp and an illuminating moon.”’43 And the saying of the
Let Man consider his nourishment.
[We poured the water abundantly;
Then, We split the earth wide open;
Then caused the grain to grow therein;
Together with vines green vegetation;
And olives and palm trees;
And gardens with dense trees,
And fruits and grass,
For your enjoyment and that of your cattle.]”44
The Qur’an is replete with similar verses.
As for the verses which refer only to the argument from invention, they
include the saying of the Almighty: “So let man consider of what he was
created. He was created from flowing water;”45 and His saying: “Will they,
then, not consider the camels, how they were created?”’46 or like His saying:
“O people, an example has been given; so listen to it. Surely, those whom
you call upon, besides Allah, will never create a fly, even if they band
together.”’47 In this vein also is the saying of the Almighty reporting the
words of Abraham: “I turn my face towards Him who fashioned the
heavens and the earth’’,48 to which may be added innumerable verses.
Those verses which combine both references are also numerous, in fact
they are the majority, like the saying of the Almighty: “O people, worship
your Lord who has created you as well as those who came before you [so
that you may guard against evil; Who has made the earth a couch for you,
and the heavens a canopy, and Who sent down water from the sky, bringing
forth by it a variety of fruits as a provision for you.] Therefore do not
knowingly set up equals to Allah.”49 His saying “Who has created you as
well as those who came before you” is a pointer to the argument of
invention, and His saying “Who has made the earth a couch for you, and the
heavens a canopy’’s0 is a pointer to the argument from providence. This is
also true of the saying of the Almighty: “A sign unto them is the dead land,
that We revived and brought out of it grain, from which they eat’’s1 and His
saying: “Those who [remember Allah standing, sitting or lying on their
sides, |52 reflecting upon the creation of the heavens and the earth [saying]:
“Our Lord you did not create this in vain. Glory be to You! Save us from
the torment of the Fire.’’53 Most of the verses that bear this connotation
contain both types of evidence.
Thus, this method is the straight path by which God has called upon men
to know His existence and has alerted them to it by what He implanted in
their primitive natures of [capacities to] understand this meaning. The
reference to this original primitive nature implanted in the natures of men is
contained in the saying of the Almighty: “And [remember] when your Lord
brought forth from the loins of the children of Adam their posterity [and
made them testify against themselves. He said: Am I not your Lord?’ They
said: “Yes, we testify’ |54 That is why it might be required from whoever
wants to obey God by believing in Him and listening to what His
Messengers have brought forward to adopt this method, so as to become
one of the learned scholars who testify to God’s lordship, along with His
own testimony and that of His angels, as the Almighty says: “Allah bears
witness that there is no god but He, and so do the angels and men of
learning. He upholds justice. There is no god but He, the Mighty and Wise
One.”55 Evidence that existing entities point to Him in these two respects is
the praise indicated in the saying of the Almighty: “And there is nothing
which does not celebrate His praise; but you do not understand their
It has become clear from these arguments that the evidence for the
existence of the Artisan is confined to these two types; namely, the
argument from providence and the argument from invention. It has also
become clear that these two methods correspond exactly to the method used
by the select (meaning the learned), and that of the general public. Where
the two types of knowledge differ is in the details; the general public are
content, as far as knowing providence and invention is concerned, with
what is known through primary knowledge, which is derived from sense-
impressions. The learned, however, add to what is known of existing things
through sense-perception that which is known through demonstration by
reference to providence and invention. Some scholars have gone so far as to
claim that the knowledge of the organs of human beings and animals they
have achieved is close to thousands and thousands of times in utility. And if
this is the case, then this method is the religious and natural one, and the
one that was brought forth by the Messengers and proclaimed by the sacred
Scriptures. Not only are the learned superior to the general public when it
comes to those two demonstrations in point of number, but also in point of
the depth of their knowledge of specific objects. The general public theorize
about the existing entities in the same manner as they theorize about the
manufactured objects; about the art of making them they have no
knowledge. All they know is that they are manufactured and that they have
an existing maker. By contrast the learned are those who theorize about the
manufactured objects on the basis of their knowledge of how such objects
are made and the wisdom behind making them. There is no doubt that
whoever possesses this kind of knowledge of manufactured objects knows
the Artisan, gua Artisan, better than those who merely know that these
objects are manufactured. As for the materialists,57 those who deny the
existence of the Almighty Artisan, their case is similar to those who merely
sensed the existence of certain manufactured objects, but did not admit that
they were manufactured. Instead they attributed what they saw in them of
workmanship to chance and to whatever was the product of spontaneity.
The Arabic Shari ‘a can also be translated as Law or Holy Law.
That is Fast al-Magqal, translated by George F. Hourani as On the Harmony of Religion and
Philosophy (London: Messrs. Luzac & Co, 1961).
Or Tailored to fit.
In manuscript number 129 (hereafter “A”’): Each one of them believes.
Ibn Rushd invariably uses the phrase “blessed and exalted’. I find it easier for the modern ear
to use instead ” God Almighty”.
Majid Fakhry (trans.), The Qur’an: A Modern English Version (Reading: Garnet Publishing,
1997), 2: 20.
Qur’an 14: 10. Arberry translates the verse: “Is there any doubt regarding God, the Originator
of the heavens and the earth?” The Koran Interpreted (London: Oxford University Press,
Qur’an 39: 38.
Or Producer, (FG il).
This phrase is deleted in manuscript “B”.
Ibn Rushd here resumes his discussion of the Ash‘arites’ position.
The Mu‘tazilites and the Ash‘arites.
Ibn Rushd uses d-Nugqla to denote an inductive inference from the seen to the unseen.
Ibn Rushd uses the term “the seen” to refer to what falls within the scope of our sense-
experience and the term “the unseen” to refer to what does not fall within that scope.
Sometimes he uses “the seen” to refer to this world and “the unseen” to refer to the intelligible
Qur’an 6: 75.
That is, Aristotle and his followers. See Physics IV, 217a-5.
Istiwd in this connection implies that the nature of the seen and that of the unseen are
equivalent and the laws that apply to the one apply to the other.
As held by some Presocratics, such as Heraclitus and Empedocles.
An ancient Roman silver coin, or denarius.
That is Al-Juwayni (d.1086), Ash‘arite teacher of Al-Ghazali.
This part is missing in manuscript number 133 (hereafter “B”’).
That is, it becomes non-existent.
Deleted in “A” and “B”.
Mukhassis, someone to determine or specify it.
Convolvulus Scammmia which is a twining plant whose dried sap is used for the purging of the
Deleted in “B”.
Deleted in “S”.
Qur’an 16: 40.
The reference is to the Qur’an 3: 5, which distinguishes between ambiguous (Mutashabihat)
and unambiguous (Muhkamdt) verses.
Deleted in “B”.
Qur’an 2: 282.
Qur’an 29: 69.
Qur’an 8: 29.
In “A”: the methods.
Qur’an 7: 184.
In “S”: follows.
Qur’an 78: 6-16. The verses in brackets are not cited, but are understood.
Qur’an 25: 61.
Qur’an 80: 24-33. See note 42 above.
Qur’an 86: 5.
Qur’an 88: 17. [And heaven, how it was raised up? And the mountains, how they were
hoisted? And the earth, how it was leveled?]
Qur’an 22: 73.
Qur’an 6: 79.
Qur’an 2: 20-23.
Qur’an 36: 33.
Deleted in all manuscripts.
Qur’an 3: 191.
Qur’an 7: 172.
Qur’an 3: 18.
Qur’an 17: 44.
Al-Dahriyah. In the Arabic sources, this term refers to an undetermined group of naturalists
and materialists who denied the existence of God and believed in chance.
On God’s unity
Should someone ask: “If this is the religious method for knowing the
existence of the Creator, may He be glorified, what then is the religious
method [for knowing] His oneness too, which is the knowledge that there is
no god but He? For, this negation is a notion additional to the positive one
implicit in this word, and this positive meaning has been demonstrated in
the preceding discourse. Now what is intended by affirming the negation?”
Our answer is that, as for denying the divinity to anyone other than He, the
religious method in this regard is the one that God Almighty has spoken of
in His Precious Book in three verses. The first is the saying of the
Almighty: “Were there in them both [heaven and earth] other gods than
Allah, they would surely have been ruined.” The second is the saying of
the Almighty: “Allah did not take to Himself a child and there was never
another god with Him; or else each god would have carried off what he has
created, and some of them would have risen against the others. Exalted be
Allah above what they describe!”2 The third is the saying of the Almighty:
“Say: “If there were other gods with Him, as they say, then surely they
would have sought access to the Lord of the Throne.’”’3
The meaning of the first verse 1s implanted in the instincts [of man] by
nature. It is self-evident that if there are two kings, the actions of each one
being the same as those of the other, it would not be possible [for them] to
manage the same city, for there cannot result from two agents of the same
kind4 one and the same action. It follows necessarily that if they acted
together, the city would be ruined,5 unless one of them acted while the other
remained inactive; and this is incompatible with the attribute of divinity.
When two actions of the same kind converge on one substratum, that
substratum is corrupted necessarily. [This] is the meaning of the saying of
the Almighty: “Were there in them both [heaven and earth] other gods than
Allah, they would surely have been ruined.”
As for His saying: “Or else each god would have carried off what he has
created”,7 it is His answer to whoever posits many gods performing
differing actions. For that would necessitate that no single entity will result
from gods performing differing actions, and are not obedient to each other.
And since the world is one single entity, it could not have resulted from
gods with diverse actions.
As for the saying of the Almighty “Say: “If there were other gods with
Him, as they say, then surely they would have sought access to the Lord of
the Throne’’’,s it is similar to the first verse in that it is also a proof of the
impossibility of the existence of two gods whose actions are one and the
same. The meaning of this verse is that were there [in heaven and earth]
gods other than the existing God, capable of bringing forth the world and
creating it, such that their relationship to this world is the same as that of
the Creator to it, then they would have to be on the Throne with Him. Thus
there would have been two similar beings having the same relationship to
the same locus.9 Two similar things cannot be related to the same place in
the same way, for if the relationship is identical, the relata are identical.
[The relata] cannot have an identical relation to the same locus, just as they
cannot occupy the same locus (should they be of the kind that occupies a
locus), although the relationship of God to the Throne is the opposite of this
type of relation; by which I mean that the Throne subsists in Him, not that
He subsists in the Throne. For this reason, God Almighty says: “His throne
encompasses the heavens and the earth, and their preservation does not
burden Him.’’10 This, then, is the argument that is ingrained by instinct and
religion with respect to the knowledge of the oneness of God. The
difference between the learned and the ordinary people, with respect to this
argument, is that the learned know about the origination of the world and
the existence of some of its parts for the sake of other parts, whereby they
resemble a single body, more than the ordinary public knows about them. It
is to this meaning that the Almighty refers at the end of the verse: “Glory be
to Him and may He be greatly exalted above what they say. The seven
heavens, the earth and what is in them praise Him, and there is nothing
which does not celebrate His praise; but you do not understand their praise.
He is indeed Clement, All-forgiving.”11
As for the argument that the Ash‘arites infer from this verse by
contrivance and call the argument of exclusion, it does not function the way
natural and religious arguments do. It does not function naturally, because
what they say in this regard does not constitute a proof. Moreover, it does
not function the way religious arguments do, because the masses cannot
understand what they12 mean by it, let alone be convinced by it. For, they
say: “If there were two [gods] or more, it would be possible for them to
disagree, and if they disagree, their [disagreement] would involve only
three alternatives: (1) either they would all accomplish what they desired, or
(2) no one would attain what he desires, or (3) only one of them would
accomplish what he desires but not the other.” They add that it is impossible
that none of them could accomplish what he desires, for if this were the
case then the world would neither be existing nor not-existing. Moreover, it
is impossible for what they both want to come to be, for the world would
then be existing and not-existing at the same time. Thus, the only
alternative left 1s that what one of them desires will be accomplished, while
what the other desires will be thwarted. Accordingly, the one whose will is
not fulfilled is impotent, and the impotent cannot be a god.
The weakness of this argument consists in that, just as it is possible, in
principle, for the [two gods] to disagree, by analogy with visible agents, it is
also possible for them to agree, which is more appropriate for the gods than
to disagree. Now, if they agree on making the world, they would be like two
artisans who agree on manufacturing one artifact; and if this is the case,
then it must be said that their actions, when they are both in agreement, are
concurrent, since they converge on one object. However, one might say:
“Perhaps one of them makes part of the [artifact] while the other makes
some other [part]; or perhaps they take turns.” But this objection is not
suited to the general public. The answer in this case to those dialecticians
who doubt that intent,13 is to say: “The one who is capable of creating14 the
part is also capable of creating the whole. In the final analysis, the matter is
reducible to the capacity of [the two gods] to do everything. Either they
agree or they disagree, irrespective of the manner of their cooperation in
action. As for acting by taking turns, it is a deficiency in the status of each
one of them. It is more likely that if they were two [gods], there would also
be two worlds. Now the world is one, hence the Agent is one, for one single
action can only come from one [agent]. Thus, it should not be understood
from the saying of the Almighty “And some of them would have risen
against the others,”15 that it applies only to differences in actions, but also
to their agreement in actions. For harmonious actions combine together to
achieve one goal, exactly as conflicting actions do. This is the difference
between how we understand this verse and how the Mutakallimun
understand it, even though one might find in Abi al-Ma‘ali’s words a
reference to what we have stated.16
Moreover, what might show you that the argument which the
Mutakallimun derived from the above verse is not the one implied in the
verse, is that the absurdity to which [their argument leads is different from
that absurdity to which]17 the argument mentioned in that verse leads. For
the absurdity which they allege to be implicit in the verse’s argument, is
more than one single absurdity, since they divide the matter into three
different parts, whereas there is no such division in that verse. The
argument that they1s use in this regard is the one called by the logicians the
conditional, disjunctive syllogism, while they call it in their art the
argument of measuring and division. The argument that the verse implies is
the one known in the art of logic as conditional conjunctive syllogism,
which is different from the disjunctive one. Whoever knows anything about
this art will see the difference between the two arguments.
Moreover, the absurdities to which their argument leads are different
from the absurdity to which the argument of the Book leads, because the
absurdity to which their argument leads is that the world is neither existing
[nor not-existing, or is existing]19 and not-existing, or that God is powerless
and vanquished. These are invariable impossibilities due to the absurdity of
more than one [god], while the impossibility that the argument of the Book
leads to is not an invariable impossibility, but rather an impossibility
contingent upon a specific time; namely, that the world should be inexistent
at the time of existence. It is as though had the Almighty said: “Were there
in them [heaven and earth] other gods than Allah”’,20 then the world would
have been inexistent now, but He excluded that it is not inexistent.21 It
follows that there is no God but one.
This discussion has exhibited the various methods by means of which the
Scripture has called upon people to confess the existence of the glorious
Creator, and to deny the divinity of any one other than He. These are the
two meanings implied in the profession of divine unity,22 [There is no god
but Allah, and whoever utters this word]23 and assents to the two meanings
implicit in it in the manner we have just described is a true Muslim, whose
creed is the Muslim creed. But he whose creed is not based on these
arguments, even if he assents to this profession, is, compared to a true
Muslim, a Muslim equivocally.
Qur’an 21: 22.
Qur’an 23: 91.
Qur’an 17: 42.
Or from two similar agents.
Or fall apart.
Qur’an 21: 22.
Qur’an 23: 91.
Qur’an 17: 42.
That is, the Throne.
Qur’an 2: 255.
. The Mutakallimun.
Qur’an 23: 91.
Abu al-Ma‘ali, also known as Al-Juwayni (d.1086) is the leading Ash‘arite and author of the
Nizamiyah Treatise, mentioned later on in d-Kashf-
17. Deleted in “B”.
18. Meaning the Ash‘arites, or the Mutakallimun generally.
19. Deleted in “A”.
20. Qur’an 21: 22.
21. That is, He excluded or made an exception of the non-existence of the world, since it already
23. Deleted in “A”.
ed a ee
SSeS eS eS eS eS
On [God’s] attributes
As for the attributes which the Precious Book has proclaimed in describing
the Artisan, the Originator of the world, they are the attributes of perfection
used in describing human beings, and these are seven: knowledge, life,
power, will, hearing, vision, and speech.
As for knowledge, the Precious Book has drawn attention to the manner
of referring to it in the saying of the Almighty: “Does He not know what He
has created, though He is the All-Subtle, the All-Informed?’’1 This manner
of reference stems from the way the parts of the manufactured object are
organized; namely that they are made for each other’s sake, and in so far as
they are all conducive to the intended usefulness of that manufactured
[object], point to the fact that they were not produced by nature, but rather
by an Artisan who arranged all that precedes the end in advance of the end.2
Hence it is necessary that He should know it. For instance, when a person
looks at a house and sees that its foundation was made for the sake of the
walls, and the walls for the sake of the ceiling, he will know that the house
was made by an expert in the art of masonry.
This attribute [of knowledge] is an eternal attribute, since it is not
permissible that the Glorious One be characterized by it for a given period
of time only. But one must not delve deeply into this matter and repeat what
the Mutakallimun have said to the effect that He knows the created at the
time of its creation by means of an eternal knowledge. For it would follow
from this [claim] that [His] knowledge of the created [world], at the time of
its not-being and the time of its being, is one and the same knowledge. But
this is absurd because knowledge is necessarily consequent upon existence.
Accordingly, since what exists sometimes exists in actuality and sometimes
in potentiality, it follows that knowledge of the two modes of existence
must be different, since the time of existence in potentiality is different
from the time of existence in actuality. This is something that Scripture does
not mention explicitly, but rather states its very opposite; namely that He
knows the created things when they are created; as the Almighty says: “Not
a leaf falls but He knows it; and there is no grain in the dark bowels of the
earth, nor anything green or dry, but is [recorded] in a clear Book.”’3 Thus it
must be laid down in religion that He knows that the thing, before it comes
to be, [will be, and He knows that the thing, which has existed]4 has existed,
and knows that what has decayed has decayed at the time of its decaying.
This is what the basic principles of religion stipulate, due to the fact that
ordinary people do not understand from the visible world other than this
As for the Mutakallimun, they do not possess a proof necessitating that
[the Artisan] has another attribute; they only claim that the knowledge that
changes with changing entities is created. Now no accidents inhere in the
Glorious Originator, because, as they claim, what cannot exist apart from
accidents must be created. We have already shown the falsity of this claim.
Accordingly, it is necessary to accept this rule as it stands, and it must not
be said that He knows the creation of what is created and the corruption of
what is corrupted either with a created knowledge or with an eternal
knowledge. [Such a claim] is an innovation in Islam: “Your Lord is never
As for the attribute of life, its existence follows necessarily from the
attribute of knowledge, because it is apparent in the visible world that life is
a precondition of knowledge. The Mutakallimun have maintained rightly
that in the case of preconditions, one should be able to pass from the seen to
With respect to the attribute of will, it is evident that He is characterized
by it, since it 1s a precondition of the existence of something created by a
knowing agent that he has willed it. Likewise, it is a precondition that [he]
possess power. It is an innovation, however, to say that He wills the created
things through an eternal will, and is equally something incomprehensible
to the learned and unconvincing to the general public; by which I mean
those who have attained the level of dialectic. Rather it must be said that He
wills the existence of the thing at the time of its existence, and He does not
will its existence at a time different from the time of its existence; as the
Almighty says: “Indeed, when We want a thing to be, We just say to it:
“Be’’, and it comes to be.’’6 We reiterate that there is nothing to compel the
common people to say that He wills the created things through an eternal
will, except what the Mutakallimun alleged, namely that that in which
accidents inhere is created.
However, if it is asked on what basis is speech attributed to Him, [we
answer that it is attributed to Him]7 by virtue of His possessing the
attributes of knowledge and the power to invent. For speech is nothing more
than the speaker’s performance of an act to convey to the addressed person
the knowledge that is within him [or the addressed person being in a
position whereby the knowledge that [the speaker] has is revealed to him]s,
and this is one of the many actions that the speaker can perform. If the
creature who is not a real agent (the human being), is capable of performing
this sort of action by virtue of his knowledge and power, it is much more
fitting that this should be necessarily the case with respect to the Real
Agent. There is, moreover, another condition for this sort of action in the
visible world: namely that it should be performed through an intermediary
which is speech. If this is the case, then it must be an action of God
Almighty upon the soul of whomever He chooses from His servants
through some intermediary; although it need not be a verbal one, which is
still created by Him. For instance, it might be by the intermediary of an
angel or by a revelation; that is without an utterance [which He creates.
Instead, He might influence the listener in such a way that this meaning is
disclosed to him, or it might be through an utterance]9 which God casts in
the hearing of the person favored by the speech of the Almighty. It is to
these three cases which the saying of the Almighty refers: “It is not given to
any mortal that Allah should speak to him, except by revelation or from
behind a veil. Otherwise, He sends forth a messenger who reveals by His
permission whatever He wishes. [He is, indeed, All-High, All-Wise.]’’10
Revelation, then, is the creation of that meaning in the soul of the person
receiving it without the intermediary of utterances created by [Him], or the
disclosure of that meaning [of the utterance] to [him] through some action
He performs in the soul of the addressed person; as the Almighty says:
“Coming thus within two bows’ length or closer. Then He revealed to His
servant what He revealed.”11 And “from behind a veil” refers to the speech
that takes place through utterances created by [God]12 in the souli3 of the
one He favors with His speech. This is the real speech, and it is the one that
God favored Moses with. For this reason, the Almighty says: “Allah spoke
to Moses directly.”14 As for His saying: “Otherwise, He sends forth a
messenger’’,15 it is the third way that occurs through the intermediary of an
angel. God’s speech might also include that which He imparts to the learned
who are the heirs of the prophets through the intermediary of
demonstrations. From this perspective, it is established among the learned
that the Qur’an is God’s speech.
It will thus have become evident to you that the Qur’an, which is the
speech of God, is eternal, but that the words denoting it are created by God
Almighty, not by men. In this respect the words of the Qur’an differ from
the words used elsewhere other than in the Qur’an; I mean, the latter words
are our own work with God’s permission, whereas the words of the Qur’an
are created by God. Whoever fails to understand this point in this way, fails
to understand also this form [of the question]; nor can he understand how it
can be said that the Qur’an is God’s speech. As for the letters of the written
Book,\6 they are our own work, with God’s permission. However, one
should glorify them because they refer to the words created by God and to
the meaning that is not created. Now whoever looks at words apart from
meaning and does not distinguish the two, would maintain that the Qur’an
is created; but those who look at the meaning of the words would say that
the [Qur’an] is not created. The truth, however, consists in combining the
The Ash‘arites have denied that the speaker is the author of speech
because they imagined that, if they accepted this principle, they would have
to admit that God is the creator of His own speech. Having also believed
that the speaker is the one in whom the speech subsists, they thought that
they would be required, on the basis of these two principles, to say that God
creates His speech in Himself, thereby rendering God Himself a bearer of
accidents. That is why they maintained that the speaker is not the author of
speech and that [God’s] speech is but an eternal attribute of Himself, like
knowledge and the other attributes. This claim, however, is true of inner
speech, but not of the speech that indicates what is within the self, namely
Believing that speech is an act of the speaker, the Mu'‘tazilites, by
contrast, have claimed that speech is the utterance only. For this reason,
they maintained that the Qur’an is created. The utterance, in their view, is
an action, and as such it is not necessary that it should subsist in the
speaker; whereas the Ash‘arites insist on maintaining that the utterance
must subsist in the speaker. In fact, in the visible world, this is true in both
types of speech; the inner speech and the utterance denoting it. With respect
to the Creator, however, inner speech is what subsists in Him; [what]
denotes it does not subsist in Him. Thus, when the Ash‘arites laid down as a
condition that speech subsists absolutely in the speaker, they denied that the
speaker is the agent of speech absolutely. By contrast, when the Mu‘tazilites
laid down as a condition that the speaker is absolutely the agent of speech,
they denied the inner speech of the self. However, there is in the position of
each one of the two sects a portion of truth and a portion of falsehood, as
appears to you from our foregoing discourse.
As for the two attributes of hearing and vision, [Scripture has attributed
them to God Almighty, on the ground that hearing and vision]17 pertain to
certain apprehended notions in existing things that are not apprehended by
the intellect. Now, since it is a precondition that the artisan apprehend
everything in the artifact, he must possess these two [modes of]
apprehension. It is necessary, then, that He should know [the objects]
apprehended by sight and hearing, since they are made by him. Thus, all
these point to the fact that, religiously speaking, the Glorious Creator
possesses them; in so far as Scripture refers to His possessing knowledge.
On the whole, from the meaning of the name of God and the object of
worship, it should be clear that He apprehends through all modes of
apprehension. For it would be futile for a human being to worship someone
who does not apprehend that He is being worshiped; as the Almighty says:
“Father, why do you worship that which neither sees nor hears, and can do
nothing to help you?”1s The Almighty says also: “Do you, then, worship,
besides Allah, what does not profit or harm you a whit?”19 This much of
what God Almighty is characterized with and called by Scripture has
commanded that the general public should know and nothing else.
7 OK OK
Of the innovations that sprang up around this issue is the question regarding
these attributes: “Are they identical with the essence or additional to it; that
is, are they intrinsic or nominal?” By “intrinsic” I mean attributes that
describe the entity as such, not because of an additional meaning of the
entity itself, as when we say “one and eternal”. By “nominal” I mean
attributes that describe the self on the basis of some notion subsisting in it.
The Ash‘arites call these attributes nominal, meaning that these attributes
are extraneous to the entity, meaning that [God] knows and that His
knowledge is extraneous to Himself, and that He is living, but life is
additional to Himself, as is the case with visible [entities]. From this they
are compelled to conclude that the Creator is a body, because then we
would have an attribute and a substantive, a subject and a predicate, since
this is the case with bodies. They must, then, concede that the entity is self-
subsistent and the attributes subsist in it; or else that each one of [the
attributes] is self-subsistent, and thus the gods are many. This is the position
of the Christians who believe in a Trinity of three Persons: Existence, Life
and Knowledge. Regarding this the Almighty says: “Unbelievers too are
those who have said that Allah is the third of three.”20 However, if they21
hold that one of the two22 subsists in itself and the other subsists in that
which subsists in itself, then they would have to assume that it is a
substance and an accident, since the substance is that which subsists in
itself, whereas the accident subsists in something else. Now what is
composed of substance and accident must necessarily be a body.
Similarly the statement of the Mu‘tazilites, with respect to this response
that the self and the attributes are identical, is very far from being part of
primary notions,23 but may be thought to be the opposite of that. For it
might be thought that it is part of primary notions that what is known must
be other than the knower and that it is not possible for what is known to be
identical with the knower, except where the two terms of the relation are
correlative, as when the father and the son refer to the same denotation.
However, this sort of instruction is beyond the comprehension of the
general public, and its disclosure [to them] is heresy. It 1s more likely to
misguide the ordinary people than to guide them rightly. Besides, the
Mu‘tazilites do not possess a proof to show that this is necessarily the case
with respect to the First Being, glory be to Him, since neither they nor the
Mutakallimun in general possess a proof denying the corporeality of [God],
seeing that their denial of corporeality is based, for them, on the necessity
of the created character of the body gua body. But we have shown in the
first part of this book that they do not have a proof of this [and that those
who have a proof of it]24 are the learned.
From this standpoint the Christians also erred. For they believed in the
multiplicity of attributes and in their being substances not subsisting in
something else but rather self-subsistent, just as the self itself. Furthermore,
they believed that attributes of this kind are two: knowledge and life. In one
respect they claimed that God is one, and from another three; meaning that
He is three with respect to existing, living and knowing, but One with
respect to the fact that their sum-total is one thing.
We have here, then, three doctrines: (1) the doctrine of those who think
that [the attributes] are identical with the self and there is no multiplicity
therein, (2) the doctrine of those who admit multiplicity. The latter are
divided into two groups: one regards multiplicity as self-subsistent25, and
the other regards it as multiplicity subsisting in something else26. However,
all this is far from the intention of Scripture. If this is the case, then, what
the ordinary people should know with regard to these attributes is only what
Scripture discloses, which is the admission of their existence, without any
further details. For it is not possible for the ordinary people to arrive at
certainty on this issue in the first place. (By the ordinary people here, I
mean all those who do not devote themselves to the demonstrative arts,
whether they be those who have succeeded in acquiring the art of theology
or not.) For it is not in the power of the art of theology (Kalam) to attain
this measure of knowledge, since the highest grade of the art of Kalam is
the attainment of dialectical, and not demonstrative, wisdom. Nor is it
within the power of dialectic to arrive at the truth on this point.
From this discussion it has become evident what measure of knowledge
[Scripture] has disclosed to the general public and the methods through
which it led them to it.27
Qur’an 67: 14.
Qur’an 6: 59.
Deleted in “B”.
Qur’an 19: 64. In “A” there is the following addition: “What one should tell the select few is
that eternal knowledge is not similar to created knowledge. For eternal knowledge
encompasses all the sciences because denying Him knowledge of what He creates in these
three types of objects is absurd. Thus, it is certain that the Glorious One knows these objects,
even though the modality of this knowledge is unknown, since that modality necessitates that
eternal knowledge be analogous to created knowledge.”
Qur’an 16: 40.
Deleted in “B”.
Deleted in “B”.
Deleted in “A”.
Qur’an 42: 50.
Qur’an 53: 9-10.
Deleted in “S”.
In “A”: the hearing.
Qur’an 4: 164.
In “A” “who reveals”.
Deleted in “B”.
Qur’an 19: 42.
Qur’an 21: 66.
Qur’an 5: 73.
The entity and the attributes.
Primary notions are the first concepts, or principles, of knowledge.
Deleted in “B”.
This should be the second group.
This should be the third group. Ibn Rushd leaves out mentioning the third group.
In “A” there is the following addition of: “The methods that the people have followed in these
matters, claiming that they are part of the principles of religion, are not part of the principles of
religion, but rather of what religion has remained silent about.”
On the knowledge of Transcendence
So far we have discussed in this booki the methods which religion has
followed, firstly in teaching people about the existence of the Glorious
Creator, secondly in denying the existence of a partner with Him, and
thirdly in knowing His attributes. We have also discussed the measure
which religion has determined expressly in each of these cases. Indeed, it is
the measure, which, [if]2 added to, subtracted from, altered or interpreted
allegorically, the happiness common to all mankind could not be attained. It
remains for us to inquire into the methods through which [religion] has led
people to exalt the Glorious Creator above all imperfections, the extent to
which it made its position explicit regarding the exaltation, and the reason
for which it has limited the people to that extent. Subsequently, we will
discuss the methods whereby religion has led people to know [God’s]
actions and the extent of its help in this respect. Once we have done this we
will have achieved the goal we set ourselves.
As for the knowledge of exalting and hallowing God, it is explicitly
stated in more than one verse of the Precious Book. The most telling and
complete one is the saying of the Almighty that “Nothing is like unto Him;
He is the All-Hearing and the All-Seeing,’3 as well as His saying: “Now, is
He who creates like him who does not create? [Do you not take heed?]’4
[The first verse is a conclusion, but the second verse is demonstrative; the
saying of the Almighty “Now, is He who creates like him who does not
create?” is a proof of His saying, “Nothing is like unto Him’’.]5 For it is
ingrained in the natures of all mankind that the Creator must either possess
an attribute not possessed by the one who does not create anything, [or
possess an attribute unlike that possessed by the one who does not create
anything]6 Otherwise the one who creates would not be a creator. If to this
principle is added that the creature is not a creator, it follows that the
attributes of the creature are either negated of the Creator, or exist in the
Creator in a different manner from that in which they belong to the creature.
We say in a different manner, because the attributes that belong to the
Creator are attributes that we have inferred from those attributes found in
the noblest of creatures on earth (namely man), such as affirming
knowledge, life, power, will, and so on of Him. This is the meaning of the
saying of the Prophet, peace be upon him, “God created Adam in His own
If it 1s established that Scripture has expressly asserted the negation of
the similarity between the Creator and the creature and offered the proof
necessitating that, and if the negation of the similarity is understood in two
ways — the one being that the Creator does not possess many of the
attributes of the creature, and the second that the attributes of the creature
exist in Him in a more perfect and complete manner than the human mind
can possibly comprehend — then let us consider what Scripture has
expressly stated regarding these two manners, what it has remained silent
about, and what was the wisdom of its reason for remaining [so] silent. We
hold that, regarding Scripture’s explicit negation of the creature’s qualities
of [God], it is obvious that it refers to the attributes of imperfection, such as
death (as in the saying of the Almighty: “Put your trust in the Living God
who does not die’7), sleep, and what falls short of it involving
inattentiveness, dullness of perception, and failure to remember things. All
this is expressed in the saying of the Almighty: “Neither slumber nor sleep
overtakes Him.”s Of [these defects] also are forgetfulness and error, as He
says: “[‘The knowledge thereof is with my Lord]9 in a Book. My Lord
neither errs nor forgets.’”10 Understanding the meaning of the negation of
these imperfections 1s very close to necessary knowledge. For what part of
[these imperfections] is close to necessary knowledge is what has been
expressly denied of God Almighty by Scripture, whereas what was far from
necessary primary cognitions, Scripture has indicated by stating that it is
part of the knowledge of the fewest people, as the Almighty says in more
than one verse of the Book: “But most people do not know,” [which is part
of] His saying: “Surely, the creation of the heavens and the earth is greater
than the creation of mankind, but most people do not know,’11 and His
saying: “It is the original nature according to which Allah fashioned
mankind. There is no altering Allah’s creation. That is the true religion; but
most people do not know’’12 If it is asked: “what is the proof (that is, the
religious proof) for denying these imperfections of [God]?” we would
answer that the proof is the fact that existing beings continue to be
preserved without disruption or corruption. Now were the Creator liable to
be overtaken by inattentiveness, error, forgetfulness or distraction, then
existing beings would be disrupted. God Almighty has indicated this notion
in more than one verse of His Book saying: “Allah holds the heavens and
the earth firmly, lest they become displaced [were they displaced, none will
hold them together after Him]. He is indeed Clement, All-Forgiving.”13 He
also says: “[His throne encompasses the heavens and the earth,] and their
preservation does not burden Him. He is the Exalted, the Great.” 14
On the Attribute of Corporeality
If it is asked: “What do you say regarding the attribute of corporeality? Is it
one of the attributes which was explicitly denied by Scripture or one of
those [attributes] on which it has remained silent?” We would answer that it
is evident from what we know of Scripture that it is one of the attributes
about which it has remained silent [although it is closer to being explicitly
mentioned in Scripture rather than denied].15 For Scripture mentions the
face and the hands [of God] in more than one verse of the Precious Book.
Such verses give the impression that corporeality is one of the attributes in
which the Creator has surpassed the creature, in much the same way as He
has surpassed him with respect to the attributes of power, will and other
attributes which are common to the Creator and the creature, although they
exist more perfectly in the Creator. For this reason, many people in Islam
have come to believe that the Creator is a body unlike all other bodies, such
as the Hanbalites and many of their followers.
The rule with respect to this attribute [of corporeality], in my view, is to
follow the method used by Scripture, and assert neither its negation nor
affirmation. If somebody of the general public should ask about it, he
should be answered by reference to the saying of the Almighty: “Nothing is
like unto Him; He is the All-Hearing, the All-Seeing.” 16
He should also be dissuaded from raising such a question for three
reasons. First, understanding this notion is not close to what is self-evident,
either by one, two or even three degrees. You will ascertain this yourself
from the method followed by the Mutakallimun. For they have claimed that
the proof that He is not a body is that every such body is created. If they are
asked about the basis for their concluding that every such body is created,
they resort to the method that we mentioned earlier regarding the creation
of accidents and the fact that what cannot be divested of accidents is
created. It has become clear to you from our discussion that this method is
not demonstrative, and even if it were demonstrative, it is not part of the
nature of the majority of the public to grasp it. Furthermore, those who
maintain that the Glorious One consists of an entity and attributes added to
that entity actually stipulate thereby that He is a body, more than they deny
Him corporeality, as evidenced by their negation of createdness of Him.
This is, then, the first reason why Scripture did not mention that He is not a
The second reason is that the public believes that what exists is either the
imaginable or sensible, and that what is neither imaginable nor sensible is
non-existent. Thus, if they are told that there is an existing being which is
not a body, their imagination would fail them and they would consider it
not-existent, especially if they are told that he is neither outside the world
nor inside it, neither above it nor below it. For this reason the sect which
affirmed corporeality considered the one which denied it minimalisti7,
whereas the sect which denied corporeality considered the one affirming it
The third reason is that, if the negation of corporeality were asserted
explicitly, innumerable doubts would arise about it in religion similar to
what is asserted with respect to the survival after death and the like. One
such doubt arises regarding vision that was taught by the accredited
Tradition.18 For those who assert the negation [of corporeality] are two
groups: the Mu‘tazilites and the Ash‘arites. As for the Mu‘tazilites, this
belief led them to deny the vision [of God]. By contrast, the Ash‘arites
wanted to combine the two beliefs; but when they found it difficult, they
resorted, in their attempt to combinel9, to sophistical arguments, the
weaknesses of which we shall show when we come to the discussion of the
question of vision. [One of these arguments] is that the negation of direction
with respect to the Glorious Creator entails at first sight that He is not a
body, which leads to the ambiguity of religion. For the sending forth of
prophets is based on the fact that revelation comes down to them from
heaven, and on this [thesis] our religion is based; indeed our Precious Book
came down from heaven, as the Almighty says: “We have sent it down on a
blessed night.”20 Hence, the sending of revelation down from heaven is
based on the belief that God is in heaven and that the angels come down
from heaven and ascend to it, as the Almighty says: “Unto Him good words
ascend and the righteous deed uplifts it.”21 The Almighty also says: “Unto
Him the angels and the Spirit ascend.”22 Add to this all the things that
compel those who deny direction, as we will show later when we speak of
Another [argument] is that 1f one were to assert the denial of corporeality,
one would have to assert also the denial of motion. But if one were to affirm
the denial [of motion], it would be difficult to explain what was said
regarding resurrection, to the effect that the Creator will rise up to the
resurrected people and will take charge of judging them, as the Almighty
says: “And your Lord comes, together with the angels in rows upon
rows.”23 Similarly it becomes difficult to interpret the famous Tradition
(Hadith) regarding the descent of revelation, even though interpretation is
more appropriate to it than regarding resurrection, although what was said
about revelation was repeatedly confirmed in Scripture.
Thus, one must not divulge to the general public what leads them to
repudiate such [explicit statements] because their impact on the souls of the
general public lies in clinging to their apparent meaning. However, if they
are interpreted, one of two things would happen: either that interpretation
would be applied to these and all similar statements in Scripture, in which
case religion in its entirety would be torn apart and the wisdom intended by
it would be lost; or they would all be accepted as part of what is
ambiguous.24 [AIl this would amount to the repudiation of religion and its
eradication from the souls of people, without the advocate of such a view
becoming aware of the catastrophic damage that he wreaks on religion. ]25
Nonetheless, if you were to study the arguments that the proponents of
interpretation in these matters resort to, you will find them all to be non-
demonstrative. In fact the explicit religious statements are more convincing
than these; I mean they are more believable. You will be able to ascertain
this from our discussion of the proof upon which they based their
repudiation of [corporeality. This has also been shown in the proof upon
which they base their repudiation of]26 direction, as we will show later.
What might lead you to recognize that Scripture did not intend to
expressly repudiate this attribute [of corporeality] of God [as far as the
general public is concerned, regarding their denial of this attribute]27 of the
soul, is the fact that Scripture did not expressly disclose to the public what
the soul is. The Precious Book says: “And they ask you about the spirit.
Say: “The spirit is of my Lord’s command, and you have not been given
except a little knowledge.’”2s For it is difficult for the general public to
conceive of a proof of the existence of a being that is self-subsistent, but is
not a body. If the general public could comprehend the denial of this
attribute, then Al-Khalil [Abraham], God’s blessing and peace be upon him,
would have been satisfied with it in his dispute with the unbeliever, when
he said to him: “‘My Lord is He who gives life and causes death,’
whereupon the other said: ‘I give life and cause death’” and so on.29 For
Abraham could then have said: “You are a body, but God is not a body,
because every body is created, as the Ash‘arites would say. Likewise
Moses, God’s peace on him, would have been content with this in his
debate with the Pharaoh, who claimed divinity. Similarly the Prophet, God’s
blessing and peace be upon him, would have been satisfied, in the case of
the [One-eyed] Imposter, with directing the faithful to see the lie in his
claim of divinity, [by saying] that [the Imposter] is a body whereas God is
not a body. Instead [the Prophet], peace be upon him, said [in leading the
believers to perceive the lie in the Imposter’s claim of divinity]:30 “your
God is not one-eyed”. He was content to show his lie by pointing to the
existence of a defect,31 which everyone would admit on the basis of one’s
rational intuition to be inadmissible in the case of the Glorious Creator.
Thus, as you see, all these are recent innovations in Islam. They are the
cause of the appearance of many sects into which the Apostle predicted his
community would splinter.
If someone were to say: “Seeing that religion does not expressly state
either that God is or is not a body, how are we to answer the one who asks
what He is?” This is a legitimate question and one cannot help but raise it.
That is why it would not convince the general public to be told regarding a
certain being whose existence they already concede, that it has no essence,
because what has no essence has no identity.
In response, we would say that they32 must be given the religious answer
and be told that [God] is light. For it is the attribute that God described
Himself with in the Precious Book, on the same ground that a thing is
described by the property that is identical with itself; thus the Almighty
says: “Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth.”33 With this
description the Prophet, God’s blessing and peace be upon him, has
described Him in an accredited Tradition (Hadith). It is reported that he was
asked, God’s peace on him: “Have you seen your Lord?” He said “As a
light I see Him.” Moreover, in the /sra Hadith [or The Prophetic Ascent
Tradition] it is stated that when he, God’s blessing and peace be upon him,
got closer to the Lotus Tree in the Seventh Heaven (Sadrat al-Mintaha)
that tree was covered with such a dazzling light that his sight was barred
from seeing it or Him.
It is stated in the Collection of Maslim34 that “there is a veil of light
around God, were it to be lifted, the face of anyone looking at Him would
be burnt.” In some versions this Hadith speaks of “seventy veils of light.”
You should also know that this analogy is very appropriate to the Glorious
Creator because [it]35 combines the claim that He is perceptible — though
the eyes are incapable of perceiving Him — and intelligible — even though
He is not a body. The existent,36 for the general public, is that which is
perceptible, whereas what is non-existent, according to them, is the
imperceptible. Furthermore, since light is the noblest of all existing things,
it is necessary to represent to them the noblest of all beings by it. There is
also another reason why He should be called light. The mode of His
existence, for the learned, who are well-grounded in knowledge, when
conceiving Him with their minds, is similar to the mode of the eyes looking
at the sun, or rather like the eyes of the bats. This sort of description is
appropriate to both classes of people and rightly so. Moreover, because God
Almighty is the cause of existing entities and the cause of our perceiving
them, just as the light has this characteristic with respect to colors (by
which I mean that it is both the cause of the actual existence of colors and
of our perception of them), it is fitting that God Almighty should call
Himself light. And if it is admitted that He is light, then there can be no
doubt regarding the vision which would occur at the Appointed Hour.
Thus the original belief prevalent in this religion regarding this attribute
[of corporeality] and the innovations that arose concerning it will have
become clear to you from this discussion. The reason why Scripture has
remained silent about this attribute is that no one would admit the existence
in the invisible world of a being who is not a body except one who
apprehends demonstratively that there exists in the visible world an entity
with this sort of attribute, namely the soul. However, since the knowledge
of this aspect of the soul is not within the grasp of the general public, it was
not possible for them to understand how there can be an entity which is not
a body. When they were barred from knowing the certainty,37 we knew that
they were barred from knowing this aspect of the Glorious Creator.
As for the attribute of direction, it has been customary for people of [our]
religion to affirm it of God Almighty since the beginning, until the
Mu‘tazilites denied it. Later on they were followed in this denial by the
later Ash‘arites, like Abu al-Ma‘ali3s and his followers. Yet all the external
references of Scripture require the affirmation of direction, such as the
saying of the Almighty: “[And the angels shall be ranged around its
borders,| eight of whom will be carrying above them, on that day, the
Throne of your Lord,”39 and His saying: “He manages the affair from the
heaven to the earth; then, it ascends to Him in one day whose measure is a
thousand years of what you reckon.”40 There is similarly His saying: “Unto
Him the angels and the Spirit ascend [on a day the duration thereof is fifty
thousand years],’41 and His saying: “Are you sure that He who is in heaven
will not cause the earth to cave in upon you? Behold how it quakes!’’42
There are many other verses of this type, which, were one to interpret them,
the whole of religion would become interpreted; whereas, if one were to
declare them ambiguous, the whole of religion would become ambiguous.
For all the religious laws are based on [the beliefs] that God is in heaven,
wherefrom the angels bring down revelation to the prophets, that from
heaven the holy books were sent down; and that to heaven the Prophet
[Muhammad], God’s blessing and peace be upon him, was carried up
during the midnight journey until he came close to the Lotus Tree.43
Furthermore, all the philosophers are in agreement that God and the angels
are in heaven, and all religions concur with them in this.
The difficulty which led those who deny direction to deny it is their
belief that by admitting direction they are forced to admit place, and the
affirmation of place necessitates corporeality. We find none of these
assertions necessary because direction is other than place. For direction
refers: (1) either to the surfaces of the body itself which surround it and are
six in number, and for which reason we say that the animal has above and
below sides, right and left, a front and a rear, or (2) to surfaces of another
body surrounding that body of six sides. The sides which are the surfaces of
the body itself are not the place of the body itself, to begin with; whereas
the surfaces of the bodies surrounding it constitute a place for it; as, for
example, the surfaces of the air surrounding human beings, and the surfaces
of the celestial sphere surrounding the surfaces of the air, constitute a place
for the air. In like manner, the celestial spheres surround each other and
constitute a place for one another. However, with respect to the surface of
the outermost sphere, it has been proven that there is no such body outside
it, for if this were the case, there would have to be another body outside this
body, and the matter would go on ad infinitum. Therefore, the surface of the
last body of the universe is not a place, to start with, since it is not possible
for it to contain a body because every other place contains a body. Thus, if
it can be proved that there is an existing entity on this side, it must be other
than a body. Hence what is impossible there is the opposite of what these
people thought (namely, a being which is a body, not a being which is not a
It is not open for these people to say that outside the universe there is the
void, for in the theoretical sciences the impossibility of the void has been
proven; what the word “void” denotes is nothing more than dimensions
(i.e., length, width, height, and depth) within which there is no body. For
were these dimensions removed, the void would become nothing; whereas,
if the void were supposed to exist, it would be necessary for accidents to
exist in no body. For, the dimensions are, doubtless, accidents in the
category of quantity. However, it is known from the ancient and early
beliefs and from preceding religions that that place44 is the dwelling-place
of spiritual entities (meaning God and the angels). However, that location is
not a place nor is it encompassed by time, since all that is encompassed by
space and time is corruptible. It follows, then, that what exists there must be
incorruptible and ungenerable (ghayra fasid wala kai’n). This is evident
from what I have just said. For since there is nothing [in this world] except
this existing perceptible being or not-being, and since it is self-evident that
the existing being is related to existence (it is said to exist or is in existence
since it is impossible to say that it exists in not-being), then if there is [in
the outer sphere] a being who is the noblest of all existing beings, it must be
affiliated to the noblest part of the perceptible world, which is the heavens.
Referring to the nobility of this part, the Almighty says: “Surely the
creation of the heavens and earth is greater than the creation of mankind,
but most people do not know’’45 All this is perfectly clear to the learned
who are well-grounded in knowledge.
From this it will have become evident to you that positing direction is
required by both religion and reason, and it is what religion teaches and is
built upon. Thus, the repudiation of this rule entails the repudiation of
religions. The difficulty in explaining this notion, while denying
corporeality, is the absence of a parallel thereof in the visible world. This is
precisely the reason why religion did not expressly deny the corporeality of
the Glorious Creator, because the common people only assent to something
pertaining to the invisible world when it is known to exist in the visible
world, as is the case with knowledge. For since knowledge in the visible
world is a precondition of the existence [of the knower], it is also a
precondition of the existence of the invisible Artisan. However, when an
assertion about the unseen is not known to the majority of people in the
visible world, but only to those well-grounded in knowledge, religion either
prohibits seeking its knowledge (especially where there is no need for the
common people to know it, as in the case of the soul), or gives them
representations of it from the world of experience, provided they need to
know it for their own happiness, even if representation is not the same as
the matter intended for explanation, as in the many representations of
The ordinary people do not discern the doubt inherent in the denial of
direction, particularly since they are not told that God is not a body. Thus,
in all this, one must follow the example of religion and refrain from
interpreting what religion does not explicitly state should be interpreted.
With respect to these matters, as far as religion is concerned, people fall
into three groups: (1) A group who is not aware of the doubts that arise
concerning this matter, especially when these matters are accepted in their
literal meaning in religion. (This group includes the majority of people who
form the general public.) (2) Another group, having experienced these
doubts, are unable to resolve them. These are superior to the public, but are
inferior to the learned. This group is the one singled out for the allegation of
ambiguity in Scripture, and God Almighty has reproached them.46 By
contrast, neither the learned nor the public finds any ambiguity in Scripture.
It is in this sense that ambiguity should be understood. What happens to this
group47 of people with regard to religion is similar to what happens to the
wheat bread, which is beneficial nourishment for the majority of bodies but
might happen to be harmful to a minority of bodies, despite being beneficial
to the majority Similarly religious teaching is beneficial to the majority of
people, but might be harmful to a minority, as is meant by the saying of the
Almighty: “And by it, He leaves in error only the sinners.”’48
However, this occurs only with regard to a few verses of the Precious
Book and to a minority of people. Most of these are verses which contain
revelations about things in the invisible world for which there is no analogy
in the visible world. In this case they are represented by examples of the
closest and most similar things to them in the visible world. However, it
happens sometimes that some people may mistake what is represented for
the representation itself and thus become confused and perplexed. This is
what is called “ambiguous” in Scripture but this sort of perplexity never
affects the learned or the general public, who are really the only two classes
of people, because they are healthy, and the proper food is suitable to the
healthy bodies only. As for the others, they are the ill and those are the
minority. For this reason the Almighty says: “As to those in whose hearts
there is vacillation, they follow what is ambiguous in it, seeking sedition
[and intending to interpret it].”49 These are the adepts of dialectic (Jadal)
and of theology (Kalam).
The worst that has befallen religion from this group of people is that they
have interpreted many of [those passages] which they thought should not be
understood literally, and maintained that such interpretation was not its
intent; God made it look ambiguous in order to try and test His servants. We
take refuge in God from entertaining this suspicion concerning Him. We
rather hold that the Precious Book is miraculous in its clarity and
eloquence. Hence, how far from the intent of Scripture are those who claim
that what is not ambiguous is really ambiguous! Furthermore, they
interpreted that which they alleged to be ambiguous telling everybody: “It is
your duty to accept this interpretation.” This is similar to what they claimed
with respect to the verse referring to “the sitting on the Throne” and many
other verses the apparent meaning of which they claimed to be ambiguous.
In short, then, it may be said that most of the interpretations that their
advocates alleged to be the intent of Scripture, when examined carefully,
are found to have no proof to support them, on the one hand; and they fail
to have the effect of the literal meaning in appealing to the common people
and influencing their conduct, on the other. The primary [purpose]50 of
acquiring knowledge, where the common people are concerned, is to lead
them to action, so that what is more useful in action is more worthy of
pursuit. However, what is intended by knowledge, with respect to the
learned, is both objectives, namely knowledge and action.
The case of the person who interprets a part of Scripture and claims that
what he has interpreted is what Scripture has intended, and then divulges
that interpretation to the common people, is similar to the case of [someone]
who takes a medication prepared by a skillful physician for the preservation
of the health of all or most people. It may [then happen] that somebody took
that very well-prepared medication without profiting from it, due to a bad
humor which only affects a small minority of people. He then went on to
claim that some of the ingredients that the original physician had prescribed
in preparing that medication for the general benefit [of the public] were not
intended for that medication habitually referred to by the name applied to it
in that language, but were rather intended for another medication which
may be referred to, through a remote metaphor, by the name of that
medication. He has thus removed the original ingredients from that great
medication, and replaced them with the ingredients that he believed the
physician had intended, telling people: “This is [the medication] intended
by the original physician.” Thereupon people proceeded to use this
medication prepared in the manner interpreted by that interpreter and thus
the health of many people began to deteriorate because of it. When [others
began] to feel the damage caused by this medication to the humor of so
many people, they attempted to remedy it by replacing some of its
ingredients with some ingredients other than the original ones, a new kind
of disease, other than the original one, afflicted the people. Then a third
person came forward offering an interpretation of the ingredients of the
medication other than the first and the second interpretations. Thus a third
kind of disease other than the first two kinds afflicted the people. A fourth
[interpreter] then came forward offering an interpretation of the medication
quite different from the previous interpretations, and a fourth kind of
disease, other than the preceding diseases, afflicted the people. After the
passage of a long period of time since the preparation of this great
medication, and because many people had altered and changed its
ingredients through a chain of interpretations, many diseases spread [in the
community] and the common benefit intended was lost, as far as the
majority of people for whose sake it was originally intended were
concerned. This is the case with those nascent [sects ]51 that use this method
in matters of religion; for each group interprets Scripture in a way different
from the way the other sect interprets it, claiming that that, indeed, is the
intent of the lawgiver. As a result, religion is utterly ripped apart and is
When the lawgiver, God’s blessing and peace be upon him, saw that
something like this was bound to happen with respect to his religion, he
said: “My community shall split into seventy-two Sects, all but one shall be
consigned to hell.”” He meant by that one the Sect that followed the literal
meaning of Scripture and did not interpret it, divulging [its interpretations]
to the public. Now if you were to ponder the state of this [our] religion at
the present time and the widespread corruption it is exposed to due to
interpretation, you would realize that this illustration is sound.
The first group to change this great medication were the Kharijites,
followed by the Mu‘tazilites, the Ash‘arites and then the Sufis. Then Abu
Hamid [Al-Ghazali] came and opened the flood-gates of the valley so that
all the towns were swept away. For, he divulged all [the secrets of]
philosophy to the general public, as well as the opinions of the
philosophers, to the extent that he was able to understand them, in a book
called The Intentions of the Philosophers (Magqasid al-Falasifah). He
claimed that he wrote the book merely for the purpose of refuting them.
Then he wrote his well-known book The Incoherence of the Philosophers
(Tahafut al-Falasifah) exposing their unbelief (Ku/r) with respect to three
questions wherein they violated the consensus [of the Muslim Community],
as he claimed, and accusing them of innovation (Bid ‘ah)52 with respect to
other issues. He advanced in it many doubtful and perplexing arguments
that drove many people away from both philosophy and religion. Then he
said in his book known as The Jewels of the Qur’an (Jawahir al-Qur’an)
that what he wrote in The Incoherence were merely dialectical arguments,
but the truth is to be found in his other book entitled What Is Concealed
From The Unworthy (Al-Madnin bihi “ala ghayri Ahlihi). Then he
enumerated, in his well-known book The Niche of Lights (Mishkat
al-’Anwar), the various classes of people who know God truly, stating that
most of them are sealed off from the knowledge of God, except for those
who believe that God Almighty is other than the mover of the first heaven,
and is the One from whom that mover has emanated. This is a clear
admission on his part of subscribing to the doctrines of the philosophers in
the metaphysical sciences. However, he had claimed in more than one place
that their metaphysical sciences are conjectures, unlike the rest of their
sciences.53 Nevertheless, in his book, The Deliverer from Error (AI-
Mungidh minal-Dalal), he reproached the philosophers, indicating that
certain knowledge arises by means of withdrawal [from the world] and
reflection only, and that this level of knowledge is equivalent to the levels
of knowledge attained by the prophets. He reiterated the same [opinion] in
his book, entitled The Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiyd ’al-Sa‘adah). As a
result of this confusion and muddling, people split into two groups, one
who took it upon itself to denounce philosophy and the philosophers and
the other to interpret Scripture and assimilate it to philosophy. However, all
this is an error; for Scripture should be accepted on its face value and the
harmony between religion and philosophy should not be divulged to the
ordinary people because such divulgence amounts to divulging to them
philosophical conclusions without providing them with any proof thereof.
To divulge philosophical conclusions to people who do not possess the
demonstrations thereof is neither lawful nor permissible because [those
people] do not belong to the class of the learned, who combine religion and
reason, nor the ordinary people who follow the literal meaning of Scripture.
As a result of [Al-Ghazali’s] action some people violated the principles of
both philosophy and religion, while others preserved them both. As for
violating the principles of religion, it consists in his making public the
interpretations that should not be made public; whereas his violation of the
principles of philosophy consists in expressing opinions that should not be
divulged except in books of demonstration.s4 As for his preserving both
[philosophy and religion], it consists in the fact that many people do not
find any contradiction between the two in the way they were brought
together. He emphasized this point by defining the manner of harmony
between them in the book that he called The Discrimination Between Islam
and Heterodoxy (al-Tafrigah baynal-Islam wa’l-Zandagqah). In it he has
enumerated the various kinds of interpretations, asserting categorically
therein that the person who resorts to interpretation is not an unbeliever,
even if he violates the consensus [of the Muslim Community] in his
interpretations. Hence, what he did in this regard is harmful to religion in
one respect, to philosophy in another respect, and to both of them in yet a
third respect.55 However, if one were to examine carefully what this man
has done, it would appear that it is essentially harmful to both of them —
philosophy and religion — although it could be accidentally useful to them
both. Making philosophy public to those who are not worthy of it leads
necessarily either to repudiating philosophy or repudiating religion. It might
lead accidentally to bringing the two together.
The right course for him to follow would have been not to divulge
philosophy to the general public, but once this divulgence was done, the
right thing now was for that group of the public that believes that religion
contradicts philosophy, to know that it does not contradict it. Similarly
those among the philosophers who believe that philosophy contradicts
religion, [should know that] it does not. Every adherent of the two groups
should be told that he does not really know the essence of each one of them;
neither the essence of religion nor the essence of philosophy. Thus, the
opinion [of Al-Ghazali] that religion contradicts philosophy, is either a
heresy in religion, not a fundamental principle thereof, or a mistaken
opinion in philosophy (by which I mean a mistaken interpretation thereof,
as happened in the case of [God’s knowledge of] particulars and similar
questions). For this reason, we were forced in the present book to define the
fundamental principles of religion. For, if its principles are carefully
examined, they would be found to be more compatible with philosophy
than its interpretations. The same is true of the opinion of those who believe
that philosophy contradicts religion.56 They should know that the reason is
that they did not fully comprehend philosophy or religion. That is why we
were compelled to write our book The Decisive Treatise on the Harmony
Between Philosophy and Religion (Fas! al-Maq4l).57
The Problem of Vision
Seeing that this issue [of direction] has been explained, let us go back to
where we were. What is left of this part of well-known questions for us to
deal with in this section is the question of vision. It might be thought that
this question is somehow part of the previous section, because the Almighty
says: “Vision does not attain Him, but He attains the vision.”5s For this
reason, the Mu‘tazilites denied [vision] and rejected the references to it in
religious traditions, despite their being numerous and well-known, and so
they were held blameworthy on that account. The reason why this doubt
arose in religion is that when the Mu‘tazilites believed that God’s
corporeality should be denied, and that they must make this [denial] known
to all those religiously responsible, it followed in their view that, if
corporeality is denied, direction must be denied too; and if direction is
denied, vision must be denied, since every visible object is to one side of
the beholder or the other. Hence, they found themselves compelled for that
reason to reject the transmitted religious traditions. They held that those
traditions (Hadiths) have emanated from a singular source, and [thus] do
not amount to necessary knowledge, since the literal meaning of the Qur’an
contradicts them, as in the saying of the Almighty: “Vision does not attain
As for the Ash‘arites, they sought to combine both beliefs: the denial of
corporeality and the possibility of seeing through the senses that which is
not a body. However, they found that too difficult, and thus they resorted to
misleading sophistical arguments — arguments that give the impression of
being sound arguments when, in fact, they are false. For, it is possible to
find among arguments what is found among people; just as one may find
among people the perfectly virtuous, those who are beneath that in virtue
and those who pretend to be virtuous, when in fact they are not, but are
hypocrites, the same is true of arguments. Some are completely certain,
some are less than certain and some are disputatious arguments which give
the impression that they are certain when, in fact, they are false. The
arguments that the Ash‘arites advanced in connection with this issue are
either refutations of the arguments of the Mu‘tazilites, or arguments
intended to prove the possibility of vision of something which is not a body,
and to show that no absurdity would follow from such a supposition.
With respect to [the arguments with which] they challenged the
Mu‘tazilites, claiming that “everything visible must be to one side of the
beholder’, some have maintained that this is true in the case of the visible
world but not that of the invisible world, and that this is not one of the cases
wherein the status of the visible world could be extended to the invisible
world. It is possible [they argued,] for a human being to see [that which is
not to one side, provided it is possible for him to see]59, with the faculty of
perception, without an eye. However, those people confused the
apprehension of the intellect with eyesightoo because the intellect
apprehends what is not to one side; I mean, is in place. But it is evident that
with respect to the perception of sight, one presupposes not only that the
object seen be to one side, but also be to a specific side. For this reason,
vision is not possible from whichever position the sight happens to be in,
with respect to the object seen; it must rather be in a certain position and
meet specific conditions too. These [conditions] are three: the presence of
light, a transparent medium between the sight and the seen object,o1 and the
seen object being necessarily colored. Rejecting these self-evident
conditions with respect to vision amounts to a rejection of the primary
principles known to all people by nature, and a repudiation of the sciences
of optics and geometry. But those people, I mean, the Ash‘arites, have
maintained that one of the cases where the inference from the visible world
could be extended to the invisible world is that of the precondition, as when
we judge that every knower is living, since life appears in the visible world
as a precondition for the existence of the knower. Our response to them is
that, if this is the case, then it appears also that in the visible world these
things are preconditions of seeing. Therefore, apply your own rule and treat
the invisible world in this case as analogous to the visible world.
Abii Hamid [Al-Ghazali] has tried, in his book known as The Intentions
[of the Philosophers] (Magqasid [al-Faldasifah]), to dispute this premise
(namely that every visible object is to one side of the beholder), by
[asserting that] the person sees himself in a mirror, without himself being to
a Side opposite to the side where he is. For, when he sees himself, and his
self is not on the opposite side, he actually sees himself not to one side. But
this is sophistry because what is seen is his shadow, and the shadow is to a
given side, since the shadow is in the mirror, and the mirror is to a given
Of the arguments which [the Ash‘arites] cited in support of the
possibility of seeing what is not a body, they have two famous ones. Their
most famous argument consists in their claim that a thing is seen either by
virtue of being colored, by virtue of being a body, by virtue of being a color,
or by virtue of being an existing entity. Sometimes they enumerate other
aspects than these pertaining to the existing being;62 then add that it is
absurd that [something] should be seen by virtue of being a body. For if this
were the case, it would not be possible for the color to be seen,o3 and it is
also absurd for [the thing] to be seen by virtue of being a color, because if
this were the case, then the body would not be seen. [They said]64 that if all
these alternatives that could be imagined in this connection are false, then it
only remains that the body is seen by virtue of being an existing entity. The
fallacy in this claim, however, is obvious, because visible objects are either
visible in themselves or are visible by virtue of that which is visible in
itself. This is the case with colors and bodies. A color is visible in itself,
whereas a body is visible by virtue of the color. For this reason what does
not have a color cannot be seen. Were it possible for something to be seen
merely by virtue of its existence, then it would have been possible for
sounds and the other five sensations to be seen. In that case, sight, hearing,
and the rest of the five senses would be but one sense-organ; but all these
suppositions are contrary to reason.
Due to the importance of this and similar questions, the Mutakallimun
were forced to admit that it is possible for colors to be heard and sounds to
be seen, but all this is unnatural and incomprehensible. For it is evident that
the sense of sight is not the same as the sense of hearing and that the objects
of the former are not the same as the latter. Furthermore, the organ of the
one is not the same as the organ of the other: it is not possible for sight to
become hearing, just as it is not possible for colors to become sounds.
Those who claim that it is possible for sounds to be seen at a certain point
should be asked: “What is sight?” Their answer must be that it is the faculty
of perceiving visible objects, such as colors and the like. Then they could be
asked, “What is hearing?” to which they must inevitably answer that it is
the faculty of perceiving sounds. If they admit all this, then they could be
asked further: “Is sight, when it perceives sounds, sight only, or hearing
only?” If they answer hearing only, then they have admitted that it does not
perceive colors, but if they answer sight only, then it does not perceive
sounds. If it is neither merely sight, because it perceives sounds, nor hearing
only, because it perceives colors, it is then both seeing and hearing.
Accordingly all things would constitute one single entity, including
opposites. I believe this 1s something admitted by the theologians of our
religiones, or something they are forced to admit. However, this is a
sophistical opinion that was held by a famous group of ancient Sophists.
The second method that the Mutakallimun adopted in explaining the
possibility of vision is the method favored by Abi al-Ma‘ali in his book
known as The Guidance (Al-Irshad). It can be summarized as follows: the
senses perceive the things themselves, but what distinguishes existing
things from each other are states (Ahwal)o6 which are not things, and so the
senses do not perceive them, but perceive the things themselves. The
essence is the same as existence itself, common to all existing things. Thus,
the senses perceive the thing in so far as it is an existing entity. All this is
The clearest evidence for the falsity of this opinion is that if sight
perceived things as such, it would not have been able to distinguish between
black and white because things are not distinguished by virtue of that which
they have in common. Nor would it have been possible in the case of the
senses, either for sight to perceive different kinds of colors, or for hearing to
perceive different kinds of sounds, or for taste to perceive different kinds of
tastes. It would also have been necessary for all the percepts of sensible
objects to be of one kind, so that there would be no difference between the
percept of hearing and the percept of seeing. All this, however, is well
beyond the grasp of human reason. In fact the senses perceive the things
themselves that can be pointed to through the intermediary of their
perception of the proper objects of sense. The point of the fallacy in this
[position] is that what is perceived essentially has been mistaken for what is
perceived in itself. Indeed had people not been familiar with these
arguments and glorifying their exponents from birth, it would have been
impossible to find in them any hint of conviction, nor would anyone with a
sound natural disposition have assented to them.
The root-cause of this confusion that has affected religion (to the point
that it forced its defenders, as they claim, to resort to such strange
arguments, which are the object of derision for all those who have the
slightest acquaintance with distinguishing the various forms of arguments)
is the divulging of what neither God nor His Apostle permitted in religious
matters; namely, the divulging of the denial of corporeality to the public.
For, it is difficult to combine in the same mode of belief that there is an
existing entity who is not a body yet is visible to eyesight because the
perceptions of the senses are either bodies or in bodies. That is why some
people have held that vision is an added knowledge, at the time [of vision];
but it is inappropriate to make this claim known to the common people also.
For since the intellects of the common people cannot be rid of the influence
of the imagination so that what they cannot imagine does not exist for them,
imagining what is not a body is impossible and believing in the existence of
what is not imaginable is impossible, according to them, Scripture has
avoided disclosing this matter to them. Thus, it has ascribed to God
Almighty, for their information, certain attributes which are close to their
faculty of imagination, such as hearing, seeing, a face and the like. At the
same time it took care to tell them that He is unlike any imaginable existing
thing, neither does He resemble any existing thing.
Were the intention of [Scripture] to inform the masses that He is not a
body, it would not have mentioned anything of the kind. But since light is
the noblest of all imaginable things, it has likened Him to light, which, of
all existing things, is the most obvious to the faculties of sense and
imagination. It is also through such representations, that [the common
people] are able to understand the notions associated with survival after
death; by which I mean that those notions are represented to them in terms
of imaginable and sensible objects. Thus, when Scripture’s attributes of
God Almighty are understood literally, neither this nor any similar difficulty
would arise. For, when it is asserted that God 1s light or that He has a veil of
light, as stated in the Qur’an and other accredited Traditions, and when one
is then informed that the faithful shall see Him in the hereafter as they see
the sun, there would not arise, either as regards the common people or the
learned, any doubt or difficulty. For it has been demonstrated by the learned
that that condition is one of added knowledge. However, if divulged to the
common people, they would either renounce religion or regard those who
divulge such views to them as unbelievers. Thus, anyone who diverges
from the right path of religion in these matters has gone astray.
As for you, if you examine Scripture carefully, you will find that even
though it has illustrated these matters to the common people by
representations without which they could not have understood them, it has
alerted the learned to the real meaning of these matters, of which it gave
such representations to the common people. Thus, one must observe the
limits which religion has set with respect to the instruction it has proposed
for each class of people, and avoid mixing up the two kinds of instruction,
destroying thereby the religious and prophetic wisdom. That is why [the
Prophet,] God’s peace be on him, said: “We, the prophets, have been
ordered to put people in their places, and to address them according to their
rational capacities.” Now, whoever regards all mankind as being of the
same stripe, with respect to instruction, 1s similar to one who regards them
as being of the same stripe, with respect to certain actions; but all this is
contrary to what is both sensible and rational.
It will have become clear to you from this that vision [with respect to
God Almighty], is a literal notion and that no inconsistency should arise, if
Scripture is understood literally; I mean that if one does not openly deny or
affirm corporeality of God. Having understood the original dogmas of
religion regarding transcendence and the extent to which they have gone in
teaching the general public about this matter, it may be appropriate to
proceed to the part pertaining to the knowledge of the actions of God
Almighty. This will be the fifth chapter of this inquiry, and with it we
conclude the discussion of our intended subject.
As in Miller, Philosophic und Theologie von Averroes.
As in “A” only.
Qur’an 42: 11.
Qur’an 16: 17.
Added in “A”.
Deleted in “B”.
Qur’an 25: 58.
Qur’an 2: 255.
Deleted in “S”.
. Qur’an 20: 52.
. Qur’an 40: 57.
een ee el ae ee
Qur’an 30: 30.
Qur’an 35: 41.
Qur’an 2: 255.
Deleted in “A”.
Qur’an 42: 10.
The term in Arabic is Milshi’a which denotes reductionism. The opposite term is Mukthira or
maximalism or pluralism.
As eclectics are prone to do.
Qur’an 35: 10.
Qur’an 70: 4.
Qur’an 89: 22.
The reference is to Qur’an 3: 6 which distinguishes between ambiguous and non-ambiguous
(or sound) verses.
Deleted in “A”.
Deleted in “B”.
Deleted in “B”.
Qur’an 17: 85.
Qur’an 2: 258. The rest of the passage is: “‘Allah brings the sun from the East, brings it up
from the West.’ Thereupon the unbeliever was confounded. Allah does not guide the
This addition exists only in “S”.
. His being one-eyed.
The general public or common people.
. Qur’an 24: 35.
Author of an accredited collection of Prophetic Traditions (Hadiths), known as Sahib Mislim.
. Deleted in “A”.
In “S” and Millen existence.
In “A”: the soul.
. Al-Juwayni, teacher of Al-Ghazali (d. 1086).
Qur’an 69: 17.
. Qur’an 32: 5.
. Qur’an 70: 4.
. Qur’an 67: 16.
. Reference to Prophet Muhammad’s ascendance to heaven, called al-Isra.
. Or the outermost heavenly sphere.
. Qur’an 40: 57.
. By this group, Ibn Rushd means the Mutakallimun. The third group is that of the philosophers
or “people of demonstration” and is not explicitly mentioned in this passage.
Qur’an 3: 6.
Deleted in “B”.
As in “A”,
Meaning logic and mathematics, which Al-Ghazali did not denounce, as he had done in the
case of metaphysics and parts of physics.
In “A”: and benrfcial to them in another respect.
In “A” there is the addition: in something.
Or The Decisive Treatise on the Relation of Religion and Philosophy
Qur’an 6: 103. In Arberry’s translation: “The eyes attain Him not, but He attains the eyes.”
Deleted in “B”.
In “B” the apprehension of sight.
In Aristotelian physics, this is the diaphanous medium identified with ether. (Cf. De anima II,
In “A” the existing ones.
In “A” on page 59, there is this addition: “[It would not be possible] to see what is not a body.
It is absurd that it can be seen gua colored, because if this were the case, then color would not
be seen, and it is absurd to see, etc.”
As in “S”.
In Ash‘arite theology, these states are modes of being, distinct from both the entity or accidents
pertaining to it.
On the knowledge of God’s actions
We only discuss in this chapter five questions that are the principles around
which all this section revolves.
The first question: On proving that the world is created.
The second question: On commissioning Messengers. 1
The third question: On God’s decree and predestination.
The fourth question: On divine justice and injustice.
The fifth question: On resurrection.
I. The first question:2 on the creation; of the world
You should know that what religion has intended with respect to the
knowledge of the world, is that it is made by God Almighty and invented by
Him and that it did not come to be by chance or by itself. Indeed the
method4 adopted by religion in leading people to accept this fundamental
principle is not the method of the Ash‘arites. We have already shown that
that method is not one of the demonstrative methods proper to the learned,
nor is it one of the general methods common to all mankind. The latter are
the simple methods, in the sense that they have few simple premises and
their conclusions are close to being self-evident propositions. However,
explanations formulated according to complicated and elaborate syllogisms,
based on diversified principles, are never used by Scripture in instructing
the common people. Thus, whoever uses any other kind of methods — by
which I mean simple methods for instructing the common people — and
attributes them to Scripture, is ignorant of its intent and diverges from its
path. Similarly Scripture does not introduce syllogisms in such matters,
except when parallels are already found for them in the visible world.
Whenever there is an urgent need for introducing the common people to a
certain issue, Scripture represents it [to them] by reference to the closest
things to it, as is the case with the nature of resurrection; whereas when it
comes to that which the common people do not need to know, they are told
that such knowledge does not belong to them, as the Almighty says
regarding the spirit.s
Thus, if this principle is granted, it follows that the method employed by
Scripture for instructing the general public about the creation of the world
must be one of the simple methods acknowledged by everyone. However,
since the creation [of the world] has nothing comparable to it in the visible
world, it is necessary for Scripture to use for its representation [instances]
drawn from the production of observable things.
As for the method which Scripture has adopted in teaching the common
people that the world is made by God Almighty, it will be found, if one
examines carefully the verses containing a reference to it, that that method
is the method of providence, which is one of the [two] methods mentioned
earlier as a proof of the existence of the Glorious Creator. For just as a
certain person, upon seeing a sensible object and finding it made in a
certain shape, of a certain measure, and in a position conducive altogether
both to the advantage known to accrue from that sensible object and the end
desired, is forced to admit that if that object were to exist in a different
shape, or a different position, or a different measure, that advantage would
not accrue from it, he would, then, know for certain that that object has a
maker who made it and that it is for this reason that its form, position, and
measure came to be conducive to that advantage; and that it is not possible
for the union of all these factors to be conducive to such advantage by
accident. For example, if a person sees a stone lying on the ground and
finds its shape suitable for sitting upon and finds its position and measure
are similarly [suitable], he would conclude, then, that that [stone]6 was
made by an artisan who gave it that position and put it in that place. If he
does not find anything in it suitable for sitting, he would conclude definitely
that its being in that place and its having a certain property is a matter of
chance and no agent actually put it there.
The same is true of the world as a whole. For if a human being looks at
what [it] contains in the form of the sun, moon, and other planets, which are
the causes of the four seasons, the day and the night, the rain, the water and
the winds, how certain parts of the world are inhabited by people, together
with different kinds of animals and plants; and if he looks at the earth and
how it is suitable to the habitation of people and other wild animals, and
how water is suitable for marine life, and the air for flying birds, and that if
any part of this creation and structure were disturbed the existence of
creatures herebelow would be disturbed, he would know for certain that it is
impossible that this suitability of all the parts of the universe to mankind,
animals, and plants is a matter of chance. It must rather be intended by an
intending and willing Agent who is God Almighty. He would also conclude
categorically that the world is created.7 For he will know necessarily, then,
that it would have been impossible for this suitability to exist, had the world
not been the work of a Maker, but rather of chance.
That this sort of proof is both conclusive and simple is clear from what
we have just said. For it is based on two principles admitted by all. The first
is that the world with all its parts 1s suited to the existence of man and all
existing entities [here below]. The second principle is that everything that is
suited in all its parts to a certain action is one and directed towards a single
purpose and is necessarily created. From these two principles it naturally
follows that the world is made and has a Maker, for, the argument from
providence entails both meanings, and for this reason it is the best argument
for proving the existence of the Maker.
That this type of demonstration is the one found in the Precious Book is
evident from more than one verse wherein the beginning of creation is
mentioned. One such verse is the saying of the Almighty:
“Have We not made the earth as a couch for you? And the mountains as pegs? [And created you
in pairs? And made your sleep a period of rest? And made the night as a garment? And made the
day a source of livelihood? And built above you seven mighty [heavens]? And created a shining
lamp? And brought down from the rain-clouds abundant water?] To bring forth thereby grain
and vegetation? And luxuriant gardens?’”8
When these verses are studied carefully, one finds them drawing attention to the suitability of
the various parts of the world to the existence of mankind. For He starts by pointing to
something self-evident to us, human beings, whether black or white; namely that the earth is
created in such a manner that it is possible for us to dwell in it. For were it movable,9 had a
form other than its present form, was in a position other than its actual position or of a
magnitude other than its actual magnitude, it would not have been possible for us to exist or be
created on it. All this is implied in His saying: “Have we not made the earth as a couch for
you?” For the meaning of a couch combines agreement of the shape, rest, and position, in
addition to that of comfort and softness. How wonderful is this miraculousness, how beautiful
this metaphor, and how marvelous that combination! For the word “couch” has combined
everything on earth, pertinent to its suitability to human habitation. The scientists are perfectly
aware of this fact, as is shown in their lengthy discourses over extensive periods of time. God
bestows His mercy on whomever He pleases.
However, the words of the Almighty “And the mountains as pegs?” alert us to the advantage of
the stability of the earth, due to the existence of mountains. For if the earth were smaller than it
is, say without any mountains, then it would have been rocked due to the movements of the
other elements (i.e., water and air), and it would have quaked and become unhinged. Indeed
were this the case then all animals would have inevitably perished. Thus, the suitability of its
stability to the entities existing on it did not arise by chance, but was produced by an intending
and a willing Agent. Therefore, it is necessarily made by that intending Agent who determined it
to possess those properties suitable for the existence of those existing entities on it.
[God] has also drawn our attention to the suitability of night and day to the existence of living
beings, saying “And [We] made the night as a garment and the day a livelihood” 10, meaning
that He made the night like a cover or clothing to protect existing entities here below from the
heat of the sun. For if the sun did not set at night, then all the existing entities which depend on
the sun for their life, like animals and plants, would have perished.11 For, since the clothing
might protect from heat, although it is a cover, and since the night has these two aspects, God
has called it “a garment’. This is one of the most beautiful metaphors. There is also another
benefit to animals from the night; namely that it allows them to sleep soundly, due to the
absence of light that moves the senses to the external parts of the body in a state of wakefulness.
That is why the Almighty says: “And made your sleep a period of rest’, that is, restful due to the
darkness of the night. Then He says: “And built above you seven mighty [heavens], and created
a shining lamp”, indicating by the term “building” the notion of invention and that of craftiness,
order, and organization. He also expressed by the notion of “might” the power with which He
endowed [the heavens] to move without cessation or weariness. There is no fear also that [they]
might collapse like ceilings and lofty edifices, as appears from His saying: “And We made the
sky a well-guarded canopy.” There is in all this an indication by Him of the suitability of [the
heavens] with their numbers, shapes, positions, and motions to what exists here on earth and
around it; so much so that if one of the heavenly bodies were to stop for a single moment, let
alone all of them, everything on earth would perish. Some people have contended that the
blowing of the Horn that causes the Seizure refers to the grinding of the celestial spheres to a
The Almighty has also drawn our attention to the special benefit of the
sun and its suitability to what exists on earth, saying: “And [We] created a
shining lamp.’’13 He called it “a lamp” because darkness is the original state
and light is adventitious in relation to darkness, just as the lamp is
adventitious in relation to the darkness of the night. Were it not for the
lamp, mankind would not have benefited from the sense of sight at night.
Similarly, were it not for the sun animals would not have benefited from
this sense of sight to begin with. The Almighty has drawn our attention to
this benefit of the sun, but not its other benefits, because it is the noblest
and most manifest of them all. He has also indicated the aforementioned
providential advantage of rain for the nourishment of animals and plants
and the fact that it falls in certain amounts and at certain times, suited to the
growth of vegetation, which cannot be the product of chance, but must be
the product of providential care for everything here below. Thus the
Almighty says: “And we brought down from the rainclouds abundant water
to bring forth thereby grain and vegetation, and luxuriant gardens.”
The verses in the Qur’an that draw our attention to this notion are
numerous, such as: “Do you not see how He created for you seven heavens
superposed upon one another? And placed the moon therein as a light and
made the sun as a lamp? And Allah caused you [plants] to grow out of the
earth?” 14 as well as His saying: “Who has made the earth a couch for you,
and the heavens a canopy’’15 Indeed, if we were to enumerate all such
verses, detailing how they alert us to the presence of that providence which
points to the Creator and the creation, many volumes would not suffice.
This is not our intention in this book. Perhaps, if God prolongs our life, and
we have enough free time, we might write a book on the providence to
which the Precious Book has drawn attention. 16
You should also know that this type of demonstration is the very opposite
of the demonstration that the Ash‘arites regarded as the proper method
leading to the knowledge of God Almighty. They have claimed that existing
things point to God Almighty, not due to any wisdom inherent in them and
necessitating providence, but rather due to mere contingency, due to the fact
that what appears in all existing entities as possible in reason may be of this
type or its opposite. However, if this possibility is even then there would be
no wisdom [in creation], and there would be no correspondence, to begin
with, between mankind and other parts of the world. For were it possible, as
they claim, for all the existing entities to be other than what they are, just as
easily as they actually are, then there would be no correspondence between
mankind and the existing things, with whose creation God has favored man
and commanded him to thank Him for. What this opinion entails is that the
possibility of His creating man as part of this world is equivalent to the
possibility of creating him, for instance, in the void, which they believe
exists. Indeed for them it is possible for man to be of a different shape and a
different constitution, and still act like a human being! It is also possible, in
their view, that he may be part of another world entirely different from this
world in definition and detail, in which case there would be no grace for
which man should be thankful. For that which is not necessary or is not the
most fitting for man’s existence, man can certainly dispense with, and that
which man can dispense with does not count as a grace he is favored with.
All this is contrary to human nature.
On the whole, just as one who denies that in manufactured things the
effects are ordered according to appropriate causes, or is unable to
understand this fact, does not have much knowledge of the making or the
Maker, similarly, the one who denies that the effects are ordered according
to causes in this world must denyi7 the existence of the Wise Maker, may
He be exalted beyond measure.
Theiris claim that God has decreed that habit should govern these causes,
and that they do not affect the effects, by His leave, is a claim far removed
from the dictates of wisdom. In fact it destroys wisdom, because if these
effects could exist [without these causes, just as they could exist]i9 with
them; then what wisdom is there in their existence through these causes?
For the existence of the effects through causes may take one of three forms:
1. Either the existence of causes for the sake of the effects is a matter
of necessity, like man’s being in need of nourishment;
2. or they are for the sake of what is best; that is, the effects will be
better and more perfect thereby, as is the case of man having two
3. or that they are neither for the sake of what is best nor by reason of
In the case of the latter the existence of the effects through the causes would
be by chance or unintentionally. In that case, there would be no wisdom [in
creation] nor would it point to a Maker but rather to chance. For if the shape
of the human hand and the number of fingers [or their magnitude]20, for
instance, were not necessary or for the sake of the best in point of gripping,
which is its action, or holding various things with different shapes or being
useful for holding the tools of all the crafts21, then the actions of the hand
due to its shape, the number of the fingers, and their magnitude would be by
chance. Were this the case, then there would be no difference whether man
is endowed with a hand, a hoof or any other organ pertaining to any animal,
provided it is suited to its action.
In general whenever we repudiate the causes and their effects, there
remains nothing whereby the advocates of chance can be rebutted (by
which I mean those who claim that there is no Maker [of this world], but
that everything that happens in it is due to material causes). It is more
appropriate that one of two possibilities might occur by chance, than from a
willing agent. Indeed, if an Ash‘arite allows that the existence of one, two,
or more possibilities is an indication that an agent or determinant exists,
then those [advocates of chance] could rather argue that the existence of
entities, according to one of two or more possibilities, is due to chance,
because the will acts for a particular reason, whereas what exists for no
reason or cause is due to chance. They might then argue that we see many
things occurring in this way, as happens when the [four] elements combine
fortuitously in a certain way, leading to the emergence of some existing
entity by chance. Then they [the elements] combine in another way by
chance and thus another existing thing would emerge from that combination
by chance. In this way all existing things would arise by chance.
As for us, since we hold that it is necessary that there should exist in this
world such order and organization, nothing more perfect and better than
which can exist, that the combinations are limited in number and are
determinate, that the objects resulting from them are necessary and this
never fails; it follows that it is not possible for all this to arise by chance
[for what arises by chance]22 is much less necessary; in the words of the
Almighty: “The handiwork of Allah who perfected everything.”23 What
perfection, I wonder, would there be in existing entities if they are supposed
to be merely contingent? For what is contingent is not more worthy of
existence than its opposite; in the words of the Almighty: “You do not see
any discrepancy in the creation of the Compassionate. So fix your gaze, do
you see any cracks?’24 What greater discrepancy could there be than that,
when everything that exists could have existed with a different property, it
nevertheless came to be with the one it now has? Perhaps that non-existing
property is better than the existing one! Thus, whoever claims that had the
easterly movement been westerly, or the westerly movement easterly, and
that, in either instance, it would have made no difference to the way the
world was created, simply destroys the [concept of] wisdom [in creation].
He is like someone claiming that if the right of the animal were left and the
left right, there would be no difference in the way the animal is made. Just
as it could be said that one of two possibilities has occurred due to a free
agent, who favored one of the two possibilities, it could also be said that its
agent produced it in one of the two possibilities by chance, for we see that
in the case of many possibilities an agent brings about one of two
You will no doubt recognize that all people consider that only base
products could have been made differently; so that the baseness of many
manufactured objects of this kind has led people to believe that they arose
by chance. By contrast, they consider noble products are those that cannot
be in a more perfect or complete form than the one their maker gave them.
Thus, the opinion of the Mutakallimun is contrary to both religion and
The gist of our statement that the thesis of contingency is more likely to
lead to denying the existence of the Maker, rather than affirming it, besides
denying Him wisdom, consists in this; that once it is held that there are no
intermediates between the beginnings and the ends of products, on which
the existence of these ends depends, there will be no order or organization
[in this world]. And if there is no order or organization, then there would be
no indication that these existing entities have a willing and knowing agent.
For order, organization, and the founding of effects upon causes are the
indicators that [existing entities] were produced through knowledge and
wisdom. As for the existence of one possibility rather than another, it may
result fortuitously from an agent who is not wise. For example, a stone may
fall to the ground due to its weight, to one side rather than on another, in
one place rather than another, or in one position rather than another. Thus,
this view leads necessarily either to denying the existence of an agent
absolutely or to denying the existence of a Wise Agent, may God be
Exalted and His names hallowed.
What led the Ash‘arite theologians to adhere to this position was the
desire to escape from recognizing the action of natural faculties which God
has implanted in existing entities, endowing some with souls and other
efficacious causes. They avoided admitting the existence of causes for fear
of admitting that there are [in this world] active agents other than God. How
can there be any other agent than God, when He is the Inventor of Causes
and their causal efficacy is by His leave and His preserving them in
existence? We will explain this point more fully when we discuss the issue
of [divine] decree and predetermination. Furthermore, they refrained from
admitting natural causes for fear that they would have to admit that the
world is the product of a natural cause. However, if they knew that nature is
created and that there is no more conclusive proof [of the existence] of the
Maker than the existence of a being so well-made, then they would have
known that whoever denies nature rejects a great part of the grounds of the
proof of the existence of the Maker of the world, by repudiating the
existence of a part of God’s creation. For, whoever repudiates one kind of
existing creations denies in fact one of God’s actions, which is close to
denying one of His attributes.
In short since the thesis of these people is derived from provisional
opinions, which are the conjectures that a person forms when he first
considers an issue; and since it appears on the basis of such opinions that
the term “will” is predicated of whomever is capable of performing an act
and its opposite, they thought that if they did not posit the existing entities
as contingent, they would not be able to admit the existence of a willing
Agent. Hence they claimed that all existing things are contingent, hoping to
prove that the originating agent is a willing one. It is as though they failed
to see that the order observed in the manufactured objects is necessary,
despite the fact that it is produced by a willing Agent, who is the Maker.
Moreover, those people have failed to take into account what this
position entails regarding the denial of the wisdom of the Maker and the
inherence of fortuitous causation in existing things, for the things that the
will produces for nothing,25 to no end, are nothing but sheer vanity and the
product of chance. Had they known, as we said previously, that, due to the
presence of order in the works of nature, [existing things] must be produced
by a knowing agent (otherwise the order observed in them would be
fortuitous), they would not have needed to deny the actions of nature,
denying thereby one contingent of God’s soldiers which were enlisted by
His leave, for creating and preserving many of the existing beings. For God
Almighty has brought the existing things into being both by means of
causes He subordinated to them from outside (namely the heavenly bodies),
and causes He implanted in their very natures, which are the souls and
natural powers by means of which things are preserved and wisdom
fulfilled. There are none more unjust than those who deny this wisdom and
impute falsehood to God.
This is the measure of the change that has occurred in this religion [of
ours] concerning this and other matters that we have discussed earlier or
will discuss later, God willing.
Thus, it has become evident that the religious methods which God has
laid down for His servants, whereby they might know that the world is
created and made by Him, are those based on the perception of the wisdom
and care for all existing entities, and especially mankind. The relation of the
obviousness of this method to reason is similar to that of the sun to the
senses in point of clarity.
However, the method by means of which the common people were led to
comprehend this notion is through representation based on observed
instances even where there are no instances of it in the visible world
because the common people cannot comprehend the reality of what has no
instances in the visible world. That is why the Almighty informs us that the
world was created in time and that He created it from something, since
nothing generated in this world is known to be otherwise. Thus He
describes Himself to us prior to the generation of the world, by saying that
“His Throne was upon the water’’26, and “Your Lord is truly Allah, who has
created the heavens and the earth in six days, [then He sat upon the
Throne].”27 And He says: “Then He arose to heaven while it was smoke”’28;
and so on to the rest of the many verses in this vein in the Precious Book.
None of these verses should be interpreted to the masses, nor should they be
represented differently than the way they were represented there. Whoever
alters any of that destroys the wisdom in religion.
To tell the ordinary people, however, that the religious creed, regarding
the world, is that the world is created from nothing and not in time is
something that the learned cannot comprehend, let alone the ordinary
people. Therefore, as we said earlier, one should not diverge from the
representation that religion has proposed for the ordinary people; nor should
they be told otherwise, for this is the kind of representation of the creation
of the world that is given in the Qur’an, the Old Testament, and other
revealed Scriptures. What is really astonishing in this regard is that the kind
of representation proposed by religion about the creation of the world
corresponds to the notion of generation in the visible world. However,
religion has refrained from expressing it in these terms because it wanted to
alert the learned to the fact that the generation of the world is not similar to
generation in the visible world. Instead it has used the terms “creation” and
“origination’’29 as two equally suitable terms for conveying the two notions
— the generation found in the visible world and the origination found in the
invisible world — to which the learned were led through demonstration.
Therefore, the use of the terms “creation in time” (Hudiath) and “eternity” is
an innovation in religion and a source of a great perplexity that corrupts the
beliefs of the ordinary people, and especially the dialecticians30 among
That is why the greatest perplexity and worst quandary beset the
Ash‘arites among the theologians of our religion. When they claimed that
God is willing with an eternal will (which is a heresy as we said earlier),
and posited that the world was created in time, they were asked: “How can
there be something willed and created in time by an eternal will?” They
answered: “The eternal will refers to creating it at a specific time, which is
the time it came to be in.” But if the relation of the willing agent to the
created entity during the time in which it did not exist is the same as its
relation during the time in which it was created, then the existence of the
created entity would not have been likelier, during the time of its existence,
than during another time; unless there attached to it during its existence a
certain action which did not exist during its non-existence. If [that relation]
is not the same, then there must necessarily be a created will, otherwise
there would be a created entity from an eternal action, since what applies
with respect to the action will apply with respect to the will. One could ask
them: “If the time of the existence [of the world] arrived, and it came to be,
would it exist by an eternal action or a created one?” If they answer “by an
eternal action”, then they would have allowed the existence of a created
entity from an eternal action. But if they answer “by a created action”, they
would be forced to admit that there is a created will. Should they say that
the will is the same as the action, then they would have admitted an
absurdity, because the will is the cause of the action in the willing agent.
Were it possible for the willing agent to will something at a certain time,
and that thing came to be when that time arrived, without any action on his
part, stemming from his preceding will, then that thing could exist without
an agent. Moreover, it might be thought that, if it were necessary that from a
created will, a created object should arise, then from an eternal will an
eternally willed object should arise also. Otherwise the object of an eternal
will and that of a created will would be one and the same object, which is
All these perplexities were introduced into Islam by the Mutakallimun
when they divulged those religious matters that God did not permit. There
is no reference in Scripture to the fact that God Almighty is willing either
with a created will or with an eternal one. With respect to these matters they
neither followed the literal meaning of Scripture, and thus were counted
thereby among those whose happiness and salvation lie in following the
literal meaning, nor did they attain the rank of the people of certainty,32 and
thus were reckoned among those whose happiness lies in the demonstrative
sciences. Accordingly, they neither belong to the learned class nor the bulk
of the trusting and believing class. Instead, they belong to the class of those
in whose hearts there is vacillation and sickness. They admit with their
tongues33 what they deny in their hearts. The reason for this is group feeling
and its love.34 It might be that the habitual acceptance of these kinds of
arguments is the reason for their abandoning rationality, as we see
sometimes happen to those who have excelled in Ash’arism and practiced it
since their youth. Undoubtedly those people are veiled by the veils of habit
What we have said so far regarding this question is sufficient for our
purposes. So, let us move on to the second question.
II. The second question: on commissioning messengers35
The investigation of this question revolves around two issues: one 1s
proving [the existence of] messengers, and the other, how it can be shown
that the person who claims to bear a message [from God] is really one of
them and is not an imposter.
With respect to the existence of this class of people, the Mutakallimun
sought to prove it syllogistically. They held that, since it has been
established that God speaks, wills, and controls His servants, and since it is
possible for a willing agent who controls the affairs of his servants in the
visible world to send forth a messenger to those servants whom he owns,
then the same thing should be possible with respect to the invisible world.
They reinforced their position by rebutting the absurdities that the Brahmins
attempt to infer from the existence of messengers sent forth by God.36 [The
Mutakallimun] then added that since it has been shown that [the sending off
of messengers] is possible both in the invisible, as well as in the visible
worlds, and since it is also evident that if, in the visible world, a person
rises in the presence of the king saying: “Oh people I am the messenger of
the king to you” and a sign from the king appeared to the effect that the
claim of this messenger must be admitted to be true, this sign, they claimed,
being the appearance of miracles at the hands of the Messenger, [he must be
This is a convincing method, and in some sense is quite appropriate for
the ordinary people. However, if it is examined carefully, signs of weakness
will appear in it, due to what they stipulate in these principles. We do not
believe the person, who claims that he is a messenger of the king, unless we
know that the sign that appeared at his hand is one of those carried by the
messengers of the king. This can be done either through a statement of the
king to his subjects, that whoever displays such a sign of my specific signs,
is my messenger, or it is known that it is customary for that sign of the king
not to appear except at the hands of his messengers.
If this is the case, then one might ask: “How do we know that miracles
which appear at the hands of some people are signs proper to messengers?”
This is known either from Scripture or reason. But it is impossible for this
to be known from Scripture, since Scripture has not been ascertained yet.
Neither is it possible for reason to assert that this particular sign 1s proper to
the messengers, unless reason has already recognized repeatedly that it is a
sign pertaining exclusively to certain individuals whose message is
generally accepted, and did not appear at the hands of anyone else. The
proof of the message must rest on two premises: first, that the person who
proclaims this message has performed a miracle37; and second, that anyone
who performs a miracle is a prophet — from which it would follow
necessarily that this person is a prophet. As for the premise which states
that the person professing to be a messenger has performed a miracle, it
might be said that it is derived from the senses, once it is admitted that there
are in fact certain actions which appear at the hands of creatures, which can
be categorically asserted not to derive from some strange art or a special
property, and what appears that way is not a matter of imagining.
With respect to the premise that whoever performs a miracle is a
messenger, it may be granted upon the acceptance of the actual existence of
messengers and the recognition that it has not appeared except at the hands
of one of those whose message is found to be true. We assert that this
premise is not true except in the case of one who admits the existence of the
message and the existence of miracles, because this is the nature of
declarative statements; the one to whom it has been demonstrated, for
example, that the world is created must already know that the world exists
and that [the Creator] exists as self-evident truths. If this is the case then
one might raise the question: “How do we ascertain the truth of the
statement that whoever performs a miracle is a messenger, when the
existence of the message has not been ascertained yet — that is, assuming
that we have already admitted the existence of the miracle in that manner
which entails that it is miraculous?” For it is necessary that both parts of
this statement — the subject and predicate — are known to exist, prior to
admitting the truth of what the second asserts of the other.
It is not open for one to say that the existence of messengers is indicated
by reason, on the ground that it is logically possible. For the possibility to
which they38 appeal is ignorance, which is different from that possibility
which inheres in the nature of existing things; such as saying that it is
possible for rain to fall or not to fall. For the possibility inherent in the
nature of existing things consists in perceiving that the thing sometimes
exists and sometimes ceases to exist; exactly as is the case with rain.
Reason, then, judges categorically that this natural [occurrence] is possible.
The necessary is the opposite of this; namely, it is that whose existence is
perceived constantly, reason stipulating categorically that this nature cannot
change or alter. If our opponent were to admit the existence of one single
messenger at a particular time, then it would appear that the message is one
of those things that are possible. However, since the opponent claims that
this has not been perceived yet, then the possibility that he alleges consists
in the ignorance of one of two opposites; either of the possible or of the
impossible. With respect to those people for whom existence of messengers
is possible, [it is to be allowed that] we have admitted that possibility,
because we have learned of the existence of messengers from them, unless
we maintain that the perception of the existence of human messengers is
evidence for the possibility of their existence, [as messengers] of the
Creator, just as the existence of a messenger from ‘Amr is evidence for the
possibility of his being sent by Zayd. This requires that the two natures are
equivalent, which is very hard to accept.
However, if we assume that this is something possible in itself, albeit in
the future, then it would still be a possibility only with respect to the thing
in itself, but not with respect to our knowledge. Now, since one of the two
opposite possibilities has come to be, it is a possibility in relation to our
own knowledge; although the existence of the matter in itself is impossible
on either of two opposite assumptions; that 1s, whether the messenger was
sent or was not sent. Thus, regarding [that issue] we are ignorant, just as
when we doubt whether ‘Amr has sent a messenger previously or not. This
is different from raising the question: “Will he send a messenger tomorrow
or will he not?” For if we were ignorant whether Zayd, for example, has
sent a messenger in the past or not, it would not be possible for us to judge
that whoever carries a sign from Zayd is his messenger even if we know
that this sign is that of his messenger, but only after having already known
that he has actually sent a messenger. Besides all this, once we assume that
the message exists and that the miraculous exists, it might still be asked:
“How do we know that [he] who performs the miracle is his messenger?”
For this judgment cannot be based on reported testimony, because what is
based on such testimony cannot be accepted on the basis of this proposition,
since it would be like correcting the thing by reference to itself,39 which is
absurd. It is not possible to appeal to experience or custom to establish the
truth of this premise, unless miracles are seen to take place at the hands of
messengers by those who believe in their message and, in addition, were
not seen performed by others. In that case, it would be an explicit sign for
distinguishing the one who is a messenger sent by God from the one who is
not; that is, between the one whose claim is true and the one whose claim is
false. From this it can be seen that the Mutakallimun have missed the point
of this aspect of the miraculous. They have substituted the possible for the
existent, and discovering their ignorance of what is possible, they then tried
to correct this proposition; namely, whoever is known to perform a miracle
is a messenger. But [this proposition] is not true, unless the miraculous
refers to the message itself and to the one who sent it. However, it is not
within the power of the strange and extraordinary action that everybody
regards as divine, to prove beyond doubt the existence of the message,
except in so far as it is generally believed that whoever performs these
things is a virtuous person, and the virtuous person does not lie. It proves
that this is a messenger only if the existence of the message 1s admitted and
this miraculous act is not the work of any other virtuous person, except a
messenger. The fact is that the miraculous does not prove the validity of a
message, because reason does not apprehend a relation between the two,
unless it is admitted that the miraculous is one of the acts of prophethood,
as healing is one of the acts of medicine. For whenever someone performs
an act of healing, [this act] points to the existence of medicine and that [the
person who heals] is a physician.
This is one of the weaknesses of this demonstration. Moreover, if we
accept the existence of the Message by allowing that possibility, which is
ignorance, 1s equivalent to existence, and regard miracle as an indication of
the truthfulness of the person proclaiming the message, then it follows
necessarily that [the message] will not be binding on those who believe that
the miraculous might appear at the hands of someone who is not a
Messenger, as the Mutakallimun do. For they allow its appearance at the
hands of magicians [and at the hands of saints |40. As for what they stipulate
as a condition, that the miraculous is a proof of the message, compared with
[the messenger’s] proclamation of the message, and that if he were to
proclaim the message, he could perform [the miraculous], whereas the one
who is not a messenger could not perform it; it is a claim that cannot be
proved. It is not known either from reported testimony or by reason that if
someone proclaims a false message, no miracles would appear at his hands.
But, as we said previously, since it does not appear to be impossible that
[miracles] do not appear except at the hands of virtuous people, whom God
favors, and if such men were to lie, then they would not be virtuous, and the
miraculous would not appear at their hands. However the persuasive force
of this claim is not sufficient to convince those who allow for the
appearance [of miracles] at the hands of magicians, since the magician is
not a virtuous man.
This, then, is the weakness of this method, and that is why some people
have held that in this case it is best to believe that miracles appear only at
the hands of the prophets, and that magic is nothing but illusion that
changes nothing actually. This group includes those who deny, for this
reason, saintly favors (Karamat).
You can see this from the lawgiver, God’s blessing and prayer be upon
him, who did not call anyone or any nation to believe in his message or in
what he brought forth by offering in support of his message any miraculous
deeds, such as turning one particular object into something else. Regarding
the favors and other extraordinary deeds that appeared at his hands, God’s
blessing and peace be upon him, he performed them during his [mystical]
states41, without presenting a challenge thereby to anyone. You might
ascertain this from the saying of the Almighty, “And they say: “We will not
believe you until you cause a spring to gush out from the ground for us. [Or
have a garden of palms and vines; then cause the rivers therein to gush out
abundantly; or cause heaven to fall upon us in fragments, as you claim; or
bring Allah and the angels down, so that we can see them face to face. Or
possess a house of gold, or ascend to heaven. Yet, we will not believe in
your ascension, until you send down to us a book we can read.’ ]42 Say:
“Glory be to my Lord; am I anything other than a human messenger?’”’43
and His saying: “Nothing prevents Us from sending the signs except that
the ancients denied them.’’44 The only thing whereby he called people [to
God] and challenged them is the Precious Book. The Almighty says: “Say:
“were men and jinn to band together in order to come up with the like of
this Qur’an, they would never come up with the like of it, even if they back
up one another.’’45 He also says: “Come up then with ten forged suras like
If this is the case, then, the extraordinary thing with which he, God’s
blessing and peace be upon him, challenged people and offered as evidence
for his truthfulness regarding the message he proclaimed is the Precious
If it is objected that although this might be obvious, one might still want
to ask: “Wherefrom does it appear that the Precious Book is miraculous and
that it proves that [Muhammad] is a messenger of God, considering that
you have yourself shown the tenuousness of the probative relevance of the
miraculous to the existence of the message, let alone specifying the person
bearing it? Besides, people have disagreed about the manner in which the
Qur’an is to be considered a miracle. Some have held that it is a
precondition of the miraculous that it be generically different from ordinary
actions, and that the Qur’an is one of those ordinary actions, since,
according to them, it consists of words, albeit words that surpass all other
contrived [human] words.” They maintained, in fact, that [the Qur’an] is
miraculous by virtue of deterrence — in barring people from coming up with
something like it, rather than by representing a high order of eloquence. For
what is of this kind differs from the ordinary in quantity rather than in kind,
and things that differ only in quantity are of the same kind. Others have
considered [the Qur’an] miraculous in itself and not by virtue of deterrence,
without laying down the precondition that the extraordinary must be
different from ordinary actions generically They have maintained also that
it is sufficient for [the miraculous] to be an ordinary action of a magnitude
well beyond the capacity of all men.
We are in agreement with the objector in all this, but the matter is
different from what these people47 have imagined. The fact that the Qur’an
is evidence of the truthfulness of [Muhammad’s] prophethood, God’s peace
be upon him, rests, in our view, on two principles which the [Precious]48
Book has drawn attention to:
The first principle is that, with respect to the kind [of people], known as
messengers and prophets, their existence is known in itself, and it is the
kind that lays down religious laws to mankind through revelations from
God and not through human learning. For no one denies their existence,
except one who denies the existence of transmitted reports, such as the
existence of all sorts of things that we have not seen, and famed people in
wisdom, and the like. All philosophers and the rest of mankind are in
agreement, except for those whose views are not worthy of consideration,
that is, the naturalists (Dahriyva), that there are, indeed, some people who
receive revelations in order to inform other people about matters involving
knowledge and good deeds whereby their happiness is fulfilled, and
dissuade them from holding false beliefs and [committing] evil deeds. This
is the [function] of the prophets.
The second principle is that anyone who is known to have promulgated
religious laws through revelation from God Almighty, is a prophet. Human
nature does not doubt [the truth] of this second principle. It is self-evident
that the function of medicine is healing, and that whoever heals is a
physician. Similarly it is self-evident that the function of the prophets,
peace be upon them, is to lay down religious laws through revelation from
God. Thus, whoever performs this function is a prophet.
As for the first principle, the Precious Book has drawn attention to it in
the saying of the Almighty: “We have revealed to you as We revealed to
Noah and the prophets after him. [And We revealed to Abraham, Isma’il,
Isaac, Jacob and the tribes; and to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron and Solomon;
and We gave David a book. And [We sent forth] some apostles We have
already told you about and some We have not told you about.] And Allah
spoke to Moses directly”49 The Almighty also says, “Say: “I am not the first
of the messengers.’”’50
The second principle, namely, that Muhammad, God’s blessings and
peace be upon him, has performed the function of the prophets by laying
down religious laws to people through revelation from God, is known from
the Precious Book. For this reason it draws attention to this principle
saying, “O people, a proof from your Lord has come to you, and We sent
down to you a clear light’s51 meaning the Qur’an. He also says, “O
mankind, the Apostle has come to you with the truth from your Lord. If you
believe, it would be better for you;’52 and [He says] “But those firmly
grounded in knowledge among men and the believers do believe in what
was revealed to you and what was revealed before you.” He also says: “But
Allah bears witness by what He has revealed to you, that He revealed it
with His knowledge. The angels bear witness too, and Allah suffices as a
If someone were to ask: “How do we come to learn the first principle,
which is that there is a class of people who bring down religious laws to the
rest of mankind through revelation from God? Similarly, how do we come
to learn the second principle that what the Qur’an contains in the form of
beliefs and precepts derives from revelations from God? We would answer
that the first principle is learned:  from [the prophets] who forewarn of
the things that have not come to pass yet, and then come to pass in the
manner they forewarned and at the time they forewarned;  from the
actions they have commanded; and  from the kinds of cognition they
exhorted to, which do not resemble the cognition and actions that are
learned through instruction. For what is extraordinary, when it exceeds [the
kind] of knowledge involved in laying down religious laws, proves that this
action is not the product of instruction, but revelation from God, and this is
what is called prophethood. However, the extraordinary that does not
consist in laying down religious laws, such as the splitting of the sea and the
like, does not necessarily prove the property called prophethood; but only if
it is conjoined to the former type of evidence. By itself this characteristic is
not evidence [of prophethood]. That is why [this characteristic] does not
indicate in the case of the saints this notion [of prophethood], even if they
have it. In this way, then, you should understand how the miraculous is a
proof of prophecy. The miraculous, both in knowledge and action, is the
only definitive proof of the attribute of prophethood, but the miraculous in
other actions is merely a warrant and a strong proof thereof.
By now it will have become evident to you how this class of people
exists and how people learn about their existence which was transmitted to
us through successive reports, just as the existence of philosophers and
philosophy and that of other sorts of people was transmitted to us.
If someone were to ask, “But how does the Qur’an prove that it 1s itself
extraordinary and miraculous and of the type of miracle which indubitably
proves the attribute of prophethood (extraordinary in the sense that it is
intrinsic to the act of prophethood and is evidence for it, just as the act of
healing is evidence for the attribute of medicine that is identical with the
function of medicine)?”, our answer would be that this can be learned in
many ways: (1) the laws54 contained in [the Qur’an] regarding action and
knowledge cannot be acquired through instruction, but only through
revelation; (2) the information it contains regarding the future; and (3) its
style, which differs from the style which is the product of reflection and
deliberation. It 1s known that [the Qur’an] is of a different kind of
[composition], compared to that of the eloquent speakers of Arabic,
whether those who speak [Arabic] as a result of learning and art, as non-
Arabs do, or native speakers like the ancient Arabs. The reference, however,
is to the first way.55
It may further be asked: “How do we know that the religious laws,
whether theoretical or practical, contained in [the Qur’an] are revealed from
God Almighty, so as to deserve to be described as the word of God? We
would answer that this may be known in several ways: (1) the knowledge of
the promulgating of religious laws cannot be acquired except after
acquiring the knowledge of God, of human happiness, and of human
misery; (2) the knowledge of voluntary matters by means of which
happiness is attained, and these are goods and charitable deeds; and (3) the
knowledge of those matters that impede happiness and conduce to
otherworldly misery, and these are evil deeds and wickedness. The
knowledge of human happiness and human misery requires the knowledge
of what the self 1s, what its essence is, and whether it will enjoy happiness
or suffer misery in the afterlife or not. If it can, then, what is the measure of
that happiness and that misery? Also to what extent can the good deeds be
the causes of happiness? For just as foods cannot be the cause of health in
whatever amount they are consumed, and at whatever time they are taken,
but rather in specific amounts and at specific times, such also is the case
with respect to good and bad deeds. That is why we find all these things
defined in Scriptures. Moreover, all this or most of it, does not become
evident except through revelation [or is best understood through
revelation]56. Furthermore, the perfect knowledge of God is not attained,
except after securing the knowledge of all the existing entities.
In addition to all this the lawgiver needs to know the measure of
knowledge that would make the majority of people happy and the methods
that would best lead them to this knowledge. All this, if not most of it,
cannot be attained through instruction, art or philosophy. This fact may also
be known with certainty by those who study the sciences, especially how to
enact and determine the laws and how to teach about survival after death.
Since all these matters are found in the Precious Book in the most complete
way possible, it must be known that this is learnt through revelation from
God, and that it is the speech of God that He imparted [to mankind] on the
tongue of His Prophet. For this reason the Almighty drew attention to this
by saying: “Say: “were men and jinn to band together in order to come up
with the like of this Qur’an, they would never come up with the like of it,
even if they were to back up one another.’”’57
This matter is confirmed, or rather attains the level of decisive and
complete certainty, when it is known that the Prophet, God’s blessing and
peace be upon him, was illiterate and was raised in an [illiterate] and
common Bedouin community, who did not practice any sciences, nor were
any sciences attributed to them, nor did they pursue the inquiry into existing
things as the Greeks and other nations were wont to do and with whom
philosophy reached its zenith over extended periods of time. There is a
reference to this in the saying of the Almighty: “You did not recite before it
any book or write it down with your right hand. Then the negators would
have been in doubt.’’ss For this reason, God praised those who worship Him
for His Messenger’s illiteracy in more than one verse in His Book saying:
“Tt is He who raised up from the common nations a Messenger of their own
[reciting to them His signs, purifying them and teaching them the Book and
the wisdom, although they had been in manifest error before that].”59 He
also says: “[He gives life and causes to die; so believe in Allah and His
Apostle, |60 the unlettered Prophet who believes in Allah and His words; and
follow him, that perchance you may be well-guided.”61
This point can be grasped in another way, namely by comparing this
religione2 with other religions. Now the function of the prophets, whereby
they are prophets, is the laying down of religious laws through revelation
from God Almighty, as everybody will admit; I mean, those who believe in
religious laws and in the existence of prophets, God’s blessings upon them.
Thus, if the Precious Book is contemplated with all the laws, which are
useful both for knowledge and actions conducive to happiness it contains,
and then [compared] with what all other religions and Scriptures contain,
they would be found to infinitely surpass them all in this respect.
On the whole, if there are in some religions certain [books]63 that deserve
to be called the speech of God, due to their strangeness and their departure
from human modes of discourse, by virtue of what they contain of
knowledge and action, then it is obvious that the Precious Book, [that is the
Qur’an], is more worthy of this and deserves [to be called the speech of
God] many times more than they.
You will understand this quite well, if you have perused the Old
Testament and the Gospels. It is impossible for them to have all changed,
and if we were to attempt to demonstrate [the superiority of one religious
law over another, and the superiority of the religious law prescribed for
us]64, we Muslims over the other religious law prescribed for the Jews and
the Christians, as well as the superiority of the teaching proposed for us
regarding the knowledge of God, the resurrection and the knowledge of the
things related to them, then we would need many volumes which we admit
would not suffice for such a demonstration. That is why it was said
regarding this religion, that it is the seal of all religions. [The Prophet],
God’s peace be upon him, has said: “Had Moses lived in my time, he could
not but follow me’, and he was right, God’s blessing and peace be upon
Because of the universality of the teaching of the Precious Book and the
universality of the laws contained in it — by which I mean their liability to
promote the happiness of all mankind — this religion is common to all
mankind. That is why the Almighty says, “Say: “Oh people, I am Allah’s
Messenger to you all.’’6s5 [The Prophet], peace be upon him, has said, “I
was sent to the red and to the black [nations].” It appears that the case of
religions is similar to that of foods. Just as there are some foods that suit all
people (or at least most of them), the same is true of religions. It is for this
reason that all religions which have preceded ours were intended
specifically for one people rather than another, whereas our religion was
intended for all mankind.
In all this our Prophet, God’s blessing and peace be upon him, has
surpassed the other prophets because he has surpassed them in that
revelation by which a prophet deserves the title of prophet. Thus, drawing
attention to this distinction for which God has singled him out, he has said,
God’s peace upon him: “None of the prophets but I was given signs by
means of which all people were called to believe. What I was given was
revelation. I hope I will have the largest following on the Day of judgment.”
If all this corresponds to what we have described, then it has become
evident to you that the Qur’an’s proof of his prophethood,66 God’s blessing
and peace be upon him, is not similar to the turning of the stick into a
serpent, as a proof of the prophecy of Moses, God’s peace on him, or the
raising of the dead or the curing of the blind and the leper, as a proof of the
prophecy of Jesus. Although these actions do not appear except at the hands
of prophets and are convincing as far as the common people are concerned,
they are still insufficient to prove positively, if considered in isolation, [the
claim of prophethood,] since they are not actions of the type which make a
prophet a prophet.
As for the Qur’an, its proof of this attribute [of prophethood] is similar to
the proof of healing with respect to medicine. If two persons claimed to be
physicians, and one of them said, “The proof of my being a physician is that
[I can walk on water”, while the other said: “The proof that I am a
physician]o7 is that I can heal the sick’, then the former walked on water
and the latter healed the sick, our recognition of the existence of medicine
in the person who cured the sick would be based on demonstration, whereas
our recognition of the existence of medicine in the person who walked on
water would be a matter of conviction; which is a better and superior way.
The kind of belief which the common people entertain in that regard rests
on the notion that whoever is capable of walking on water, which is a
superhuman feat [is more likely to be capable of healing, which is a human
activity.]68 The same is true of the relation of the miraculous, which is not
an activity proper to the attribute [of prophethood], to the attribute whereby
the prophet deserves to be a prophet; namely, revelation. To this attribute
belongs what is implanted in the soul, to the effect that whomever God has
empowered to perform this strange act, favoring him over all his
contemporaries, has the right to claim that God has singled him out to
receive His revelation.
On the whole when it has been admitted that Messengers exist and that
extraordinary actions can only come from them, the miraculous becomes
evidence for believing the prophet (the extraneously miraculous that is not
appropriate to the attribute whereby a prophet is called a prophet that is).
Perhaps the assent that results from the extraneously miraculous is the
method appropriate to the common people; whereas the assent resulting
from the appropriately miraculous is a method common to the common
people and the learned alike. The common people are not aware of the
objections and the doubts that we raised against the extraneously
miraculous. However, if religion were pondered carefully, it would be found
that it only takes into account the fitting and appropriate, not the
What we have said on this subject is sufficient for our purpose and for the
truth in itself.
III. The third question: on divine decree and predestination
This question is one of the most difficult religious questions, for if the
evidence of reported testimony supporting it is examined, it is found to be
conflicting, and the same is true of the evidence of rational arguments.
The conflict in the reported proofs exists both in the Book and in the
orthodox Tradition (a/-Sunna). In the Book, we find many verses that
indicate that everything is predestined and that man is determined to act,
and at the same time we find many verses which indicate that man earnso9
credit for his actions and that his actions are not determined.
The verses indicating that everything is necessary and predetermined
include the saying of the Almighty: “Indeed, We have created everything in
measure,’70 and His saying: “And everything with Him is by measure,”71
and His saying: “Not a disaster befalls in the earth or in yourselves but is in
a Book, before We created it. That for Allah is an easy matter.”72 There are
many other verses indicating this notion.
However, the verses indicating that man earns credit and that existing
things are contingent and not necessary, include the saying of the Almighty:
“Or destroy them for what they have earned, while pardoning many,”’73 and
His saying: “[Whatever calamity might hit you] is due to what your hands
have earned,’74 and His saying: “[Fear a day when you will return to
Allah;] then each soul will be rewarded fully for what it has earned; [for the
good works it has done] and none shall be wronged,’75 and His saying:
“But as for Thamood, We extended guidance to them; yet they preferred
blindness to guidance.’’76
Sometimes in the same verse the conflict appears in this sense, as in the
saying of the Almighty: “And when a misfortune befell you77 after you had
inflicted twice as much,78 you said: “Whence is this?’; say: “It is from
yourselves.’”79 Then He says regarding this calamity itself, “And what
befell you on the day the two armies met was by Allah’s leave,”s0 as well as
His saying: “Whatever good visits you, it is from Allah; and whatever evil
befalls you, it is from yourself,” and His saying: “Say, everything is from
Likewise we find conflicting Prophetic traditionss2 regarding this issue,
such as his saying, God’s peace be on him: “Everyone is born in the state of
nature (fitra), but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian”; and his
saying: “I [Allah] made these for Paradise, and thus they perform the
actions of the people of Paradise, and I made those for Hell and thus they
perform the actions of the people of Hell.” The first tradition indicates that
the cause of unbelief is the person’s upbringing, and the cause of faith is
man’s original nature; while the latter indicates that God creates
disobedience and unbelief and that the servant’s actions are predetermined.
That is why, the Muslim [community] split into two groups over this
issue. One group, which is the Mu‘tazilite, believed that man’s “earning” is
the cause of disobedience and good deeds, and it is for this reason that he is
punished or rewarded. The other group, which is the Determinists3,
believed the opposite; namely, that man is predetermined in his actions and
is compelled to act.
The Ash‘arites, however, wanted to come up with an intermediate
position between the two positions and said that, although man has the
power to “earn”, what he earns thereby and the act of earning are both
created by God. But this is meaningless, because if God Almighty creates
both the power to earn and what man earns, then the servant must
necessarily be determined to earn it.
This is one of the reasons for disagreement on this issue. There is a
reason other than tradition for the disagreement; namely the conflicting
rational proofs. For if we assume that man is the originator of his actions
and their creator, then there must exist certain actions that do not occur
according to God’s will or His choice, in which case there will be a creator
other than God. But they object that this is a [breach] of the consensus of
Muslims that there is no creator other than God Almighty. However, if we
assume that [man] is not free [to “earn”] his actions, then he must be
compelled [to perform] them [because there is no intermediate position
between determinism and earning. Then if man is compelled in his
actions]84 religious obligation is intolerabless. For, if the human being is
obliged to perform what he cannot tolerate, then there would be no
difference between imposing an obligation on him and on inanimate
objects, because inanimate objects do not have any capacity to act.
Similarly man would have no capacity to do what he cannot tolerate. That is
why the common people came to believe that capacity (istitd‘ah) is a
precondition of obligation, exactly as reason is. We find Abt al-Ma‘alise
saying in his [treatise], al-Nizamiah,s7 that man earns his actions and he has
a capacity to act, basing this on the impossibility of imposing what is
intolerable, but not on the same ground precluded by the Muttazilites.
However, the early Ash‘arites permitted the imposition of what is
intolerable, in an attempt to escape admitting the principle upon which the
Muttazilites denied it — namely its being rationally abhorrent — but the
[Ash‘arites] disagreed with them on this point.
Moreover, if man had no power to earn, then the order to make
preparations for calamities that might occur would be meaningless; and
likewise [the order] to seek good things. Thus, all the arts intended to bring
about good things would be useless, like the art of agriculture and similar
useful arts. The same applies to all the arts that aim at self-preservation and
warding off harms, such as the arts of war, navigation, medicine, and the
like. But all this is beyond the grasp of human reason.
It may be asked: “If this is the case, then how can one reconcile the
conflict between what is based on tradition and what is based on reason?”
We answer that it appears that the intention of the lawgiver is not to
separate these two positions, but rather to reconcile them in an intermediate
position, which is the true solution of this problem. For it seems that God,
the Blessed and Exalted, has created for us faculties by means of which we
can choosess between opposites. But since the choice of these things cannot
be accomplished except through the propitiousness of the causes that God
has made subservient to us from outside, and after the removal of their
impediments, then the actions imputed to us occur for both reasons. If this
is the case then the actions imputed to us are performed through our will,
together with the propitiousness of external forces, and that is what is
referred to as God’s decree. These external causes that God has made
subservient to us do not only complement or impede the actions we want to
do, they are also the causes of our choice of one of the two opposites. For
the will is a desire that arises in us from imagining something or from
believing something. This belief is not part of our choice, but is something
that arises by virtue of the things that are external to us. An example of this
is that if something desirable presented itself to us from outside, we would
desire it necessarily without any choice, and then we would move towards
it. Similarly if something frightful descended on us from outside, we would
necessarilys9 hate it and run away from it. If this is the case, then our will is
preserved by the things 227 that come from outside and is bound to them.
[To] this is the reference in the saying of the Almighty: “There are guardian
[angels] before him and behind him, guarding him by Allah’s command.’’90
However, since the eternal causes occur in accordance with a definite
pattern and a well-planned order, without the slightest deviation from what
their Creator has decreed for them; and since our will and our actions are
not accomplished, and do not even exist, as a whole, without the
concurrence of external causes, it follows that our actions occur according
to a definite pattern — they take place at specific times and in a determinate
measure. This must be the case because our actions are effects of these
external causes. Now every effect that results from specific and determinate
causes must necessarily be specific and determinate. This connection is not
found between our actions and their external causes only, but also between
[our actions] and the causes that God Almighty has created within our
bodies. The determinate order of the internal and external causes (those that
do not fail) is the decree and foreordination (al-gada’ wa al-qadar) that
God has prescribed for His creatures; that is the Preserved Tablet.91 God’s
knowledge of these causes and of what results from them is the cause of the
existence of these causes. That is why no one but God encompasses the
knowledge of these causes. He alone is the true knower of the Unseen, as
He says: “Say: “No one in the heavens or on the earth knows the Unseen
except Allah.’’92 The knowledge of the causes is tantamount to the
knowledge of the Unseen, because the Unseen is the knowledge of the
existence of existing entities or their non-existence in the future.
Now since the disposition and order of the causes call for the existence of
the thing or its non-existence at a certain time, it follows that the knowledge
of the causes of a certain thing is equivalent to the knowledge of the
existence of that thing or its non-existence at a certain time, and the
knowledge of the causes absolutely is equivalent to the knowledge of what
can exist or cease to exist from them at any particular time throughout all
time. How marvelous is the One who encompasses all the causes of existing
entities with His inventiveness and knowledge. These are the keys of the
invisible world implied in His saying, “With Him are the keys of the
Unseen; only He knows them, and He knows what is on land or in the sea.
[Not a leaf falls but He knows it, and there is no grain in the dark bowels of
the earth, nor anything green or dry, but is [recorded] in a clear Book. ]’’93
If all this is as we have explained, then it is evident to you how we earn
the merit [of our actions] and how all our earnings are foreordained. This
combination is what religion has meant by those general verses and
Traditions that are thought to contradict each other, but if their generality
were specified in the [above] manner, their contradiction would vanish.
Similarly, all the doubts urged in this regard by which I mean the
conflicting rational arguments to the effect that all the things that result
from our will, in fact come to be by virtue of both factors — our will and the
external causes. If the actions are attributed absolutely to one of these two
factors, the previously mentioned doubts will arise.
If it is said that this is a good answer in which religion agrees with reason
— though it is a claim based on the assumption that there are in the world
efficient causes acting on their effects, whereas the Muslim community is
unanimous in the belief that there is no other agent but God — we would
reply that what [the Muslim Community] has agreed upon is true, but this
matter admits of two responses. The first response is that what may be
understood from this statement is one of two things; either that there is no
agent but God Almighty, or that all the other causes that He made to be
subservient are not active except metaphorically; since they owe their
existence to Him and it is He who caused them to exist as causes. He is
indeed the one who preserves them in existence as efficacious causes and
preserves their effects after coming to be. He invents their substances once
their causes are conjoined to them, and He maintains them in themselves.
Indeed were it not for the divine preservation these [causes and effects]
would not exist for a given period of time; that is, they would not exist for
the shortest period of time that can be apprehended as time. Abt’ Hamido4
says that the case of the one who makes any cause share with God
Almighty the names of agent and action is similar to that of the one who
makes the pen share with the writer in the act of writing; I mean by saying
that the pen is a writer and the man is a writer. Thus, just as the name of
writing is applied equivocally to both of them — which is to say that they are
two notions which are verbally common, whereas in themselves are two
very distinct things — the same is true of the name of agent when it is
applied to God Almighty and to all other causes.
Our response is that there is a certain latitude in this illustration. The
illustration would be obvious had the writer been the inventor of the
essence of the pen and its preserver so long as it is a pen, and subsequently
the preserver of the writing after it has been written and its inventor when
the pen was associated with it, as we will explain later, to the effect that
God Almighty is the Inventor of the substances of all the existing things
that are conjoined to those causes that habit has led us to describe as their
In fact this is the sense understood by senses, reason, and religion to the
effect that God is the Sole Agent. The senses and reason determine that
there are certain things in this world from which other things are generated
and that the order pertaining to existing entities is due to two things; one is
the natures and souls God has placed in them, and the other is the existing
entities which surround them from outside. The most important of these are
the movements of the heavenly bodies. For it appears that [the day and the
night],95 the sun and the moon, and all the other stars are made subservient
to us; and that it is due to the order and the disposition that the Creator has
imparted to their movements, that our existence and the existence of
whatever exists [on earth] are preserved by them; so much so that were one
to imagine that one of them is removed or is imagined to be in a different
position, is of a different magnitude or has a different speed from that
determined by God, then all existing things on the face of the earth would
perish, because of what God has instilled in their natures and instilled in the
natures of things on earth, and their susceptibility to be influenced thereby.
This is very evident in the case of the sun and the moon; I mean with
respect to their influences on what exists herebelow It is also evident in the
case of water, the wind, the rain, the seas, and in general all sensible bodies,
but their necessary existence is mostly discerned in the life of plants and
many animals; indeed in all animals without exception.
Moreover, it appears that, but for the powers that God [Almighty]96
implanted in our bodies, with respect to nourishment and sensation, our
bodies would have perished, as we find Galeng7 and all other philosophers
admit, saying that without these powers that God implanted in the bodies of
animals for their survival, it would not have been possible for the bodies of
these animals to last for a single hour following their coming into being.
We hold that, but for the powers that inhere in the bodies of animals and
plants, and for the forces diffused throughout the universe due to the
movements of the heavenly bodies, [existing things] could not have lasted
for a single moment. How marvelous is God the Subtle and the Well-
informed! God has drawn attention to this in more than one verse in His
Book saying: “And He subjected to you the night and the day, the sun and
the moon,”98 and in His saying, “Say: “Have you considered, what if Allah
had made the night to last, for you, continuously till the Day of
Resurrection?’”99 There is also His saying: “It was out of His mercy, that
He created the day and the night, so that you may rest in it and to seek some
of His bounty, [that perchance you may give thanks];”100 and His saying:
“And He subjected to you what is in the heavens and the earth all together,
[as a grace] from Him,”101 and His saying: “And He has made subservient
to you the sun and the moon pursuing their courses, and subjected also the
night and the day’’102 There are many other verses of this kind. If these
things did not influence what exists here on earth, there would not have
been any wisdom in their existence, with which He has favored us, or
reckoned as one of the gifts for which we should be thankful.
The second response is that existing things consist either of substances
and concrete entities or accidents like movements, heat, and cold.
Substances and concrete entities cannot be invented except by the Glorious
Creator. However, the causes associated with these entities affect only their
accidents, not their substances. An example of this is that the sperm derives
from the woman or the menstrual blood heat only; but the creation of the
fetus and its soul, which is life itself, comes from God Almighty. Likewise
all that the farmer does is to till the soil, fertilize it, and sow the grain in it;
but the one who creates the ear of wheat is God Almighty. On this basis,
then, there is no Creator but God, since in reality the existing things are the
substances. To this fact the Almighty refers in saying: “O people, an
example has been given; so listen to it. Surely, those whom you call upon,
besides Allah, will never create a fly, even if they band together. And if a
fly should rob them of something, they cannot retrieve it from them. How
weak is the invoker and the invoked.”103 This also is how the unbeliever
wanted to take issue with Abraham, God’s peace be on him, when he said:
“T give life and cause death.” But when Abraham saw that [his opponent]
did not understand his meaning, he resorted to another argument that
silenced him, saying: “Allah brings the sun from the East, bring it up from
On the whole, if the matter is understood in this way regarding the agent
and the creator, no contradiction would arise with respect to tradition or that
of reason. It is for this reason that we see that [the name of Creator is more
appropriate to God Almighty than the name of Agent, because]105 the name
of Creator is not shared between Him and the creatures, either by a near or a
remote metaphor; since the meaning of Creator is the “inventor of the
substances”. Thus, the Almighty says: “Allah created you and what you
You should also know that whoever denies that the causes affect their
effects, with God’s leave, simply repudiates wisdom and knowledge. For
knowledge consists in the knowledge of existing things by means of causes,
whereas wisdom is knowledge of the final causes. But the denial of the
causes altogether is very alien to human nature; and those who deny the
causes in the visible world do not have any means of proving the existence
of an efficient cause in the invisible world, because judgment regarding the
invisible world is reached by analogy with the visible world. Those people,
then, have no way of knowing God Almighty, since they are forced to deny
that every action has an agent. If this is the case, then from the consensus of
the Muslims that there is no other agent than God Almighty should not be
inferred the denial of agents in the visible world altogether. For it is from
the existence of the agent [in the visible world]io7, that we infer the
existence of the agent in the invisible world. But once the Unseen has been
confirmed for us from our knowledge of Him in Himself, we understood
that everything other than He is not an agent except with His permission
and by His will.
It has become evident, then, in what sense we possess “earning power” and
that whoever accepts only one side of this issue, like the Mu‘tazilites and
the Determinists, is mistaken. But the middle position that the Ash‘arites
wished to be the legitimate exponent of, has no basis whatsoever; since they
do not allow for man any part of earning except the difference he perceives
between the reflex movement of his trembling hand and the voluntary
movement of his hand. Their admission of this difference is meaningless,
given their claim that the two movements are not due to us. For if [these
two movements] are not due to us, then we have no power to refrain from
them, and accordingly we are compelled to act. Thus, the reflex movement
of trembling and the [voluntary] movement that they call “earned” are the
same in meaning, and thus there is really no difference between them
(except verbally, and the verbal difference does not warrant a judgment
regarding things themselves). All this is self-evident, so let us proceed to
what is left for us of the questions we promised to deal with.
IV. The fourth question: on divine justice and injustice
With respect to God’s justice and injustice, the Ash‘arites held a very odd
view from the standpoint of both reason and religion. They took a position
on this issue which is not only one which was not proposed by Scripture,
but also runs counter to it. They maintained that, regarding this matter, the
invisible world differs from the visible world, claiming that in the visible
world justice and injustice are attributed [to a person] by virtue of certain
restrictions religion imposes on his actions. Thus, whenever a person
performs what is considered just from the standpoint of religion, his action
is just; but whoever performs an action, which religion regards as unjust, is
unjust. They added that if one is not obliged or restrained by religion,108
there will be no actions performed by him that can be described as just or
unjust, so that all his actions are just. Accordingly, they committed
themselves to the view that here on earth there is nothing that is just in itself
or unjust in itself.
This view is of the utmost absurdity. It follows [on this view] that
nothing [in the visible world] is good or bad in itself. Yet it is self-evident
that justice is good and injustice bad, so that [it follows on this view] that
believing that God has a partner is not unjust or wrong in itself, but only
from the point of view of religion; and had religion stipulated that God has
a partner, then that would be just; and had it [stipulated] disobedience to
God, that would have been just, too. But all this is contrary to both tradition
and reason. As for tradition, God has described Himself in His book as just
and denied that He is unjust, saying: “Allah bears witness that there is no
god but He, and so do the angels and men of learning. He upholds
justice.”109 He also says: “Your Lord is not unjust to His servants”,110 and
“Surely, Allah does not wrong people at all; but people wrong
It might be asked: “What do you say about misguiding the servants;112 1s
it just or unjust?” There is more than one verse in His Book where God
states that He leads astray and guides rightly, such as His saying: “Then
Allah leads astray whom He pleases, and guides whom He pleases”’,113 and
His saying “Had We wished, We could have granted every soul its
We answer that these verses cannot be taken at their face value.115 For,
there are many verses which conflict with their literal meaning; such as the
verses in which the Almighty denies that He is unjust, and His saying: “He
does not approve disbelief in His servants’’.116 It is evident that if He does
not approve disbelief in them, then He does not mislead them.
As for the Ash‘arites’ claim that it is permissible for God to do that of
which He does not approve, or enjoin that which He does not want, we take
refuge with God Almighty from this sort of belief, because it is tantamount
We have evidence that people are not led astray or created in order to err,
in the words of the Almighty: “So, set your face towards religion uprightly.
It is the original nature according to which Allah has fashioned
mankind,”117 “And [remember] when your Lord brought forth from the
loins of the children of Adam their posterity [and made them testify against
themselves. [He said]: “Am I not your Lord?’ They said: “Yes, we testify’
[This] lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: “We were in fact
unaware of this.’]’118 We also have the saying of the Prophet, God’s
blessing and peace be upon him, “Every child is born in the state of nature
(fitra).” If in fact there is this kind of conflict [between verses of the
Qur’an], then we should reconcile them in accordance with the canons of
Our position is that His saying “Allah leads astray whom He pleases, and
guides whom He pleases” refers to the prior [divine] will that allowed for
the existence of some misguided people among the different kinds of
existing entities; people who are predisposed to error by their very natures
and driven to it by what surrounds them of misleading causes, whether
internal or external. As for His saying “Had We wished, We could have
granted every soul its guidance’, it means that if God had wished not to
create people predisposed to being led into error, either by virtue of their
own natures, of external causes or of both, He could have done so.
However, since the natures of people are different, it may happen that some
verses might accidentally mislead some people while rightly guiding others;
not that these verses were intended to lead into error. [We find evidence of
this in] His saying: “By it, He leads many astray, and guides many others
rightly; but He only leads the sinners astray;”119 and His saying: “We did
not make the vision We showed you except as a trial to mankind, and
likewise the accursed tree120 in the Qur’an;”121 and in His saying, following
his enumeration of the angels of Hell: “Then Allah leads astray whom He
pleases and guides whom He pleases;” 122 that is, that it might happen that
the people of evil character will find these verses misleading, just as it
might happen that sick bodies find nutritious foods harmful.
It might be asked: “What was the need for creating some creatures
predisposed by their natures to error, and is this not the ultimate injustice?”
We answer that the divine wisdom has stipulated that, so that there would
have been genuine injustice had matters been any different. For the nature
out of which man was created and the way he was put together has
necessitated that some people, or the minority, should be wicked by nature.
Similarly the causes that are ordered from outside to lead people to the right
path happened to be misleading to some people, while guiding the majority
of people rightly. It was thus inevitable, according to the dictates of
wisdom, that one of two things should happen: either [God] should not
create those species in which evils appear in the minority of cases, and the
good in the majority, in which case the greater good would be nullified
because of the lesser evil; or that He should create these species so that the
greater good would coexist with the lesser evil. It is self-evident that the
coexistence of the greater good with the lesser evil is better than nullifying
the greater good altogether lest the lesser evil should exist. The secret of the
[divine] wisdom that the angels could not grasp, as the Almighty reports [in
the Qur’an] that when He told them that He was placing on earth a deputy,
meaning Adam, “they said: “Will You place one who will make mischief in
it and shed blood, while we sing Your praise and glorify Your sanctity?” He
said: “I know what you do not know’’123 What [God] means is that the
knowledge that was hidden from them is such that, if the existence of
something is both good and evil and the good is preponderant, then wisdom
stipulates its existence rather than its non-existence.
It has become evident from this discussion how leading astray is
attributed to [God] along with justice and the negation of injustice. He
created the causes of error because right guidance results from them more
often than misguidance. For of the causes of guidance certain entities were
given some [from which no error arises at all, as is the case with the angels,
but other entities were given some causes of guidance that could lead]124 to
error in a minority of cases. For it was not possible to instill more
[guidance] in their mode of existence, due to the way they were made, and
such is the case with man.
If we are asked: “What is the wisdom in the revelation of conflicting
verses of this kind and forcing one to resort to interpretation, while you
wish to exclude interpretation everywhere?” We would answer that it was
due to theiri25 desire to explain this matter, as it really is to the common
people, that they were forced to adopt this position. For they needed to
explain that God is described as Just and Creator of all things, both good
and evil, because in the past many nations used to believe erroneously that
there are two gods, one creating the good and the other creating evil.
Accordingly they asserted that God is the Creator of both.
However, since leading astray is evil, and since there is no creator beside
God, it was necessary to attribute that to Him, just as the creation of evil126
is too. However, this must not be understood in an absolute sense because
He is the Creator of the good for its own sake, and the Creator of the evil
for the sake of the good; I mean, for the sake of the good that is conjoined
to it. On this view, God’s creation of evil could be just. An example of this
is that fire was created, because it is necessary for the subsistence of many
things that would not exist if fire did not exist. However, because of its
nature, fire might accidentally destroy some existing things; but if we were
to compare the destruction resulting from it, which is evil, and its existence,
which is good, we would find that its existence is better than its non-
existence, and thus it is good.
As for His saying: “He is not questioned about what He does, but they
are questioned”’,127 its meaning is that He does not perform any action
because He is obliged to perform it; since this implies that whoever is in
such a state is in need of that action, and whoever is in need of that sort of
action will need it either as a matter of necessity or as a means of perfecting
himself. But the Almighty Creator is above being described in this fashion.
Man acts justly in order to reap what is good for him, since if he were to act
unjustly, he would not reap that good. By contrast, the Almighty acts justly,
not because He Himself becomes perfect through that justice, but because
the perfection which is in Himself necessitates that He act justly. Thus, if
this meaning is understood in that way, then it becomes clear that He is not
described as just in the same sense in which the human being is so
described. However, this does not imply that He should not be described as
just in principle, and that all the actions that emanate from Him are neither
just nor unjust, as the Mutakallimun imagined. For this claim destroys what
is intelligible to human beings and destroys the literal meaning of
Scriptures. Thus, those people groped for a certain meaning, but fell short
of it. For if we assume that God cannot be described as just at all, then that
will destroy what is known to reason here below to the effect that there are
things that are in themselves just and good and things that are in themselves
unjust and evil. Moreover, if we assume that He is characterized by being
just in the same sense in which human beings are so characterized, it would
follow that there is imperfection in Him. For the one who acts justly exists
for the sake of that wherein he acts justly, and he 1s, in so far as he is just, a
servant of others.
You should also know that the knowledge of this measure of
interpretation is not obligatory with respect to all people, but only with
respect to those who were assailed by doubts regarding this issue. However,
not every common person is aware of the contradictions involved in these
generalizations, so that whoever is not aware of them is obliged to accept
the literal meaning of these generalizations. For there is another reason why
these generalizations are given [in Scripture], which is, that [the common
people] cannot conceive of the distinction between what is impossible and
what is possible and God Almighty cannot be characterized as being
capable of doing what is impossible. Thus, if they were told that with regard
to what is impossible in itself, but possible according to them; I mean, as
they imagine, that God cannot be described as capable of performing it,
they would imagine that this implies imperfection and impotence in the
Almighty Creator, because the one who is incapable of doing what is
possible in their view is impotent. Now since the existence of all existing
entities as free from evil is something possible, in the opinion of the
common people, the Almighty says: “Had We wished, We would have
granted every soul its guidance, but My word is now fulfilled: “I shall fill
Gehenna with jinn and men, all together.’’’123 However, the common people
understand by this one thing, while the select understand another thing;
namely, that it is not incumbent on God Almighty to create people whose
existence involves evil. Thus, the meaning of His saying: “Had We wished,
We would have granted every soul its guidance,” consists in that if He
wished He would have created people whose existence involves no evil;
that is, people who are purely good. In this case, every soul would be
granted its guidance. This measure of explanation of this question 1s
sufficient, so let us now turn to the fifth question.
V. The fifth question: on resurrection and its modes
The reality of resurrection is a matter about which all religions are in
agreement and philosophers have offered demonstrative proofs. Religions,
however, disagreed about the mode of this reality. In fact, they did not
disagree on the mode of its existence, as much as over the representations
they used to symbolize that unseen state to the common people. Some
religions have described it as spiritual, pertaining to souls only, while some
others have described it as pertaining to bodies and souls together. Their
agreement on this point is based both on the agreement of revelation
concerning that as well as the agreement of all parties regarding the
necessary proofs demonstrating it. There is, then, a universal agreement that
there are two kinds of happiness accessible to mankind, one is otherworldly
and the other is this worldly. This agreement is based on principles
acceptable to all; one of them is that mankind is nobler than most existing
entities, the other is that, in so far as every existing entity appears not to
have been created in vain, but rather for some function incumbent on him,
which is the fruit of its existence, then man is more worthy of this function.
God Almighty has drawn attention to the existence of [this matter] in all
existing entities in His Precious Book saying: “We have not created the
heavens and the earth and what is between them in vain. That is the
presumption of the unbelievers; so woe betide the unbelievers because of
the Fire.”129 He has also praised the scholars who recognized the purpose
incumbent on this existence saying: “Those who remember Allah while
standing, sitting or lying on their sides, reflecting upon the creation of the
heavens and the earth [saying]: “Our Lord You did not create this in vain.
Glory be to You! Save us from the torment of the Fire.’”’130 For the
existence of the purpose in [the creation of] man is more evident than in all
other existing entities. The Almighty has drawn attention to it in more than
one verse in His book, saying: “Did you, then, think that We created you in
vain and that unto Us you will not be returned?’’131 and “Does man think
that he shall be left unattended?”’132 and “I have not created jinn and
mankind except to worship me”’,133 meaning the kind of beings who know
Him. Drawing attention to the rise of the obligation to worship consequent
to knowing the Creator, He also says: “And why should I not worship Him
who created me and unto Him you shall be returned.” 134
Thus, if it appears that man is created for certain functions intended for
him, then it becomes clear that these functions must be peculiar [to him].
For we see that each one of the existing entities is created for the sake of the
particular function that belongs to it rather than to something else, (I mean,
that which is peculiar to it). Now if this is the case, then the purpose of
mankind must consist of those activities that are peculiar to them, as distinct
from all other animals, and these are the activities of the rational self.
However, since the rational self has two parts, one theoretical and the other
practical, it follows that what is required primarily from him is to be perfect
with respect to these two powers, the practical and theoretical virtues, and
that the actions that enable the soul to acquire these two types of virtue are
the good things and good deeds; whereas those that impede it are the evil
things and bad deeds.
Now since the determination of these actions derives mostly from
revelation, the various Scriptures undertook to determine them, as well as
define them and exhort people to perform them. Thus, they commanded the
pursuit of virtues and prohibited the vices, determining the exact measure in
which the happiness of the whole of mankind consists, in point of both
theory and practice; I mean, the happiness common to mankind. Thus, with
respect to speculative matters, they denned the part which all people should
know, which is the knowledge of God, Most High, the knowledge of the
angels and of other noble entities, and the knowledge of happiness.
Likewise, they defined the measure of actions whereby human souls are
virtuous in the practical sense; especially this our religion. Indeed, if it is
compared to all other religions, 1t would be found to be absolutely the most
perfect religion; and that is why it is regarded as the final religion.
Now, in all religions revelation has warned that the soul is imperishable,
and the philosophers have offered demonstrative proofs of that
[imperishability]. Moreover, human souls are rid after death of bodily
appetites, [and if they are pure, their purity is doubled upon being freed
from bodily appetites],135 but if they are wicked, their separation from the
body will make them still more wicked because they are injured by the
vices that they had earned, and their distress at the loss of that purity which
they missed will increase upon leaving the body; since that missed purity
cannot be acquired except in conjunction with the body. To this state is the
reference in the saying of the Almighty: “Lest any soul should say: “Woe
betide me for what I have neglected of my duty to [Allah and for having
been one of the scoffers].’”136 Accordingly all religions have concurred in
making this condition known to people and calling it ultimate happiness or
However, since there is nothing akin to this state in the seen world to
compare it with, and since the measure of what is known of it through
revelation differs from one prophet to another, because the [prophets] differ
from one another in this respect (I mean, on the question of revelation),
religions have differed in their representations of the states of the happy and
the miserable souls after death. Some of them have refrained from
representing the pleasures that are in store for the pure souls and the pains
for the miserable ones in visible forms, declaring that all these states are
spiritual states and angelic pleasures. By contrast, other religions have
resorted in representing these states to invisible forms, assimilating the
pleasures attainable in [the afterlife] with pleasures attainable here below,
after discounting any harm that might be associated with [such worldly
pleasures]. They assimilated the pain experienced in the afterlife to the pain
that is experienced here below, after dissociating it from any abatement that
might attend it in this world. The reason why the founders of these religions
[resorted to this kind of assimilation] is either that they knew, through
revelation, aspects of these states that were not known to those who
represented them spiritually, or deemed that representing them by reference
to sensible matters is more effective in leading the common people to
understand; since they are more likely to be drawn or repelled by them
respectively. Thus, [the prophets] informed us that God restored the happy
souls to bodies in which they will eternally partake of the most enjoyable
sensual pleasures, such as in Paradise; and that contrariwise, He restores the
wicked souls to bodies in which they will suffer for all time the most
painful of sensual experiences, such as in hellfire.
This is the procedure of our own religion which is Islam, in representing
the hereafter. Our Precious Book offers many general proofs accessible to
everybody, regarding the possible existence of these states, since the human
intellect cannot conceive, when it attends to these matters, more than the
mere possibility that is open to the common apprehension of everyone. All
this is a matter of analogy of the existence of what is equal to the existence
of its equal in its coming into being, that is, and, of comparing the
possibility of existence of the more or less to the coming into being of the
greater and the smaller as in God’s saying: “And he produced an equal for
us, forgetting Our creating him. [He said: “who brings the bones back to
life, once they are withered?’]’137 The argument implied in these verses
consists in drawing an analogy between restoration and origination, which
are equal. There is in this verse, in addition to the analogy, which confirms
the possibility of the restoration, a rebuttal of the reyection by the opponent
of this view, by reference to the difference between origination and
restoration, as in the saying of the Almighty: “Is it not He who produces fire
from green trees for you?”138 The objection is that the origination was due
to heat and moisture and the restoration to cold and dryness, and thus it was
countered by asserting that we perceive that God Almighty brings forth the
opposite from its opposite by creating one from the other, just as He creates
the like from its like. As for the analogy of the possibility of the existence
of the less to the existence of the more, we have the saying of the Almighty:
“Is not He who created the heavens and the earth able, then, to create the
like of them? Yes indeed, and He is the All-knowing Creator.’139 These
verses contain two proofs of the resurrection and a refutation of the
argument of those who deny it. However, if we were to enumerate the
verses in the Precious Book containing these proofs, we would be guilty of
prolixity, since they are all of the same type we have described.
Thus, as we stated earlier, all the different religions are in agreement that
souls experience, after death, certain states of happiness and suffering; but
they disagree in the manner of representing these states and in explaining
the mode of their existence to mankind. It appears that the way our religion
represents them is more adequate for making the majority of people
understand them and rendering their souls more eager to seek what exists
[beyond this life]. After all, the primary target [of religions] is the majority
[of people]. It appears that the spiritual representation is less effective in
stimulating the souls of the common people to [seek] what lies beyond, and
the common people are less desirous and less fearful of it than they are of
corporeal representations. [For this reason the corporeal representation
seems]140 to be a stronger impetus for seeking the hereafter than spiritual
representation, and the spiritual is more acceptable to the dialectical
theologians, who are in the minority.
For this reason we find the people of Islam divided, regarding the
understanding of that representation of the states of resurrection that our
religion proposes, into three sects:
One sect holds that life after death is exactly the same as this life, with
respect to bliss and pleasure; that is, they believe that the two are of the
same kind, differing only in the manner of their duration and cessation, the
former being permanent, while the latter ephemeral.
Another group holds that the two modes of existence are distinct, and this
group has splintered into two. The first believes that the existence depicted
in these sensual representations is spiritual, but it was represented in that
way for stylistic reasons. This [group] has appealed to many other religious
arguments, which we need not enumerate here.
A third group believes that [resurrection] is corporeal, but that the
corporeality that exists in the afterlife differs from corporeality in this life,
because the former is everlasting while the latter is ephemeral. This group
has a series of religious arguments, too. Ibn Abbas141 seems to belong to the
latter group, for he is reported as saying, “Nothing in this world is
analogous to the next one, except the names.” It is likely that this view is
more appropriate for the elect, since it is founded on facts uncontested by
anyone. One of these is that the soul is immortal, and the other is that the
return of the soul to different bodies does not involve the absurdity that the
supposition of the return of the same bodies involves. For it appears that the
material components of bodies in this world exist in succession and are
transmitted from one body to another; that is, the same matter supervenes
on many persons at different times. But it is impossible for the likes of all
these bodies to exist in actuality because they are made of the same matter.
For example, a person dies and his body turns to earth, then the earth is
transformed into plants on which some other person feeds and from his
semen another man is generated. However, if different bodies are assumed
to exist [in the hereafter], then no such absurdity would arise.
The truth of the matter is that the obligation incumbent on each person is
to take the position to which his speculation leads him to; provided that
such speculation does not completely destroy the original principle; namely,
the denial of the existence [of life after death] altogether. This kind of belief
necessitates that its holder be declared an unbeliever, because the
knowledge of the existence of this state of man [after death] is known to all
people through religion and reason. All this is based on the immortality of
If it is asked: “Does religion have any proof for the immortality of the
soul or any indication of it?”, we would answer that all that 1s found in the
Precious Book, where the Almighty says: “Allah carries off the souls of
men upon their death and the souls of those who are not dead in their sleep.
[He then holds back those whose death He has decreed and releases the
others till an appointed time. Surely, there are in that signs for people who
reflect.]’143 The point of the proof in this verse is that He equates sleeping
with death in suspending the activity of the soul. Were the suspension of the
activity of the soul at death due to its corruption, and not for the change of
its instrument,i44 then the suspension of its activity during sleep should
have been due to its corruptibility, too. However, were this the case, then it
would not return upon awakening to its own state. For since it returns to its
own state we know that the suspension of its activity does not happen to it
due to a defect in its essence, but is the result of some deficiency affecting
its instrument. Hence, it does not follow that if the instrument is corrupted,
the soul must be corrupted, too. Death is a form of corruption; therefore it
should affect the instrument, as happens during sleep; or as the Philosopher
says: “If the old man were to find an eye like the young man’s eye, he
would be able to see as well as the young man sees.’’145
This is what we thought should be stated in the exposition of the beliefs
of this our community, which is the community of Islam.
1. Apostles or prophets
2. Deleted in “A”.
Ibn Rushd uses the terms creation (Hudiith), using (Sun’) and origination (jad)
interchangeably throughout this work.
In “A” the methods.
Qur’an 17: 85.
Deleted in “A”.
Qur’an 78: 6—7. As usual Ibn Rushd quotes the first and last parts of this passage only, with the
rubric “from ... to”.
9. In Ptolemaic cosmology the earth was fixed as the center of the universe.
Qur’an 78: 5.
Ibn Rushd clearly means the setting of the sun as followed by its rising.
This is a reference to the blowing of the Horn on the Last Day by the angel.
Qur’an 78: 13.
Qur’an 71: 15—17. God caused plants to grow for your sustenance.
Qur’an 2: 22.
No such book appears to have been written by Ibn Rushd.
In “A” there is the addition, The art and wisdom; and whoever denies art and wisdom must
Deleted in “B”.
Deleted in “A”.
In “A” all tools of crafts.
Deleted in “B”.
Qur’an 67: 3.
Deleted in “B”.
Qur’an 11: 7.
Qur’an 7: 54.
Qur’an: 41: 11.
Khalg and Futir. In “A”, there is the addition: and initiation (/btida‘). The Almighty says:
“Initiator of the heavens and the earth” (2: 117 and 6: 101) and “Is there any doubt about Allah,
Maker of the heavens and the earth? (14: 10), but these are words.. .”’Arberry translates the
latter verse as “the Originator of the heavens and the earth”.
The text says dialecticians, which Ibn Rushd identifies with the theologians (Mutakallimun) in
Fasl al Magqal.
In “A”, there is the addition: “Also, how can a time be determined, while supposing an
extension that has no beginning preceding it? It cannot be imagined that it is a determinate
future, unless it was preceded by a determinate [past].”
The demonstrative class.
That is, verbally.
i.e. blind loyalty to one’s group has hindered their pursuit of truth.
Of God or apostles.
The Brahmins are credited in Arabic sources with denying prophethood and relying on natural
Or is one on whose hands a miracle appeared.
That is, as a form of begging the question.
Deleted in “A”.
Ahwéailih — altered states of consciousness during periods of revelations.
Abridged by Ibn Rushd with the words: up to His saying.
Qur’an 17: 90-94.
Qur’an 17: 59.
Qur’an. 17: 88.
Qur’an 11: 13.
Exists only in “S”.
Qur’an 4: 163-164.
Qur’an 46: 9. Arberry’s translation reads “Say: “I am not an innovation among the
Qur’an 4: 174.
Qur’an 4: 170.
Qur’an 4: 166.
Al-Sharai‘, plural of shart‘a. Ton Rushd uses Shari ‘a to refer to religion, and sometimes to
refer to religious laws. In this context, he appears to mean all the teachings of religion,
including beliefs and laws.
That type not acquired through instruction.
Deleted in “B”.
Qur’an 17: 88.
Qur’an 29: 47.
Qur’an 62: 2. This verse speaks of Ummiyin, which could also mean illiterate or haying no
revealed Scripture, as against the People of the Book, or Jews and Christians.
Not quoted in the text.
Qur’an 7: 157.
Deleted in “B”.
In “A”: and prefer one religion of the religions revealed to us.
Qur’an 7: 157.
Meaning the prophet Muhammad.
Deleted in “A”.
Deleted in “B”.
The noun is kash or iktisab.
Qur’an 54: 49.
Qur’an 13: 8.
Qur’an 57: 22.
Qur’an 42: 34.
Qur’an 42: 3.
Qur’an 2: 286.
Qur’an 41: 17.
In the battle of Uhud, 625 C.E.
In the battle of Badr, 624 C.E.
Qur’an 3: 165.
Qur’an 3: 166.
Qur’an 4: 79.
Hadith, the collected pronouncements attributed to the Prophet.
Deleted in “B”.
Al-Juwayni, the teacher of Al-Ghazali.
In “A” and “B” inclined in the Nizamiah to say.
In all other copies by force.
Qur’an 13: 11.
Or Primordial Codex, al-lawh al-mahfouz.
Qur’an 27: 65.
Qur’an 6: 59.
95. Deleted in “A”.
96. Exists only in “S”.
97. Galen 129-199 C.E. (?) the most famous Greek authority in medicine in antiquity after
Hippocrates 460-377 B.C.E, who is regarded as the father of medicine.
98. Qur’an 16: 12.
99. Qur’an 28: 71.
100. Qur’an 28: 73.
101. Qur’an 45: 12.
102. Qur’an 14: 33.
103. Qur’an 22: 73.
104. Qur’an 2: 258.
105. Deleted in “B”.
106. Qur’an. 37: 96.
107. Deleted in “A”.
108. Here begins a long passage deleted in “A”, which ends on p. 117 with the words “the accursed
109. Qur’an 3:17.
110. Qur’an 41: 45.
111. Qur’an 10: 44.
112. That is, of God, or the human race.
113. Qur’an 14: 4.
114. Qur’an 32: 12.
115. Or literally
116. Qur’an 39: 7.
117. Qur’an 30: 28.
118. Qur’an 7: 171.
119. Qur’an 2: 26.
120. Here ends the missing paragraph in “A”.
121. Qur’an 17: 60.
122. Qur’an 14: 4.
123. Qur’an 2: 29.
124. Deleted in “B”.
125. The Ash‘arites.
126. In “A” good.
127. Qur’an 21: 23.
128. Qur’an 32: 12.
129. Qur’an 38: 27.
130. Qur’an 3: 191.
131. Qur’an 23: 115.
132. Qur’an 75: 36.
133. Qur’an 51: 56.
134. Qur’an 36: 21.
135. Deleted in “B”.
136. Qur’an 39: 56, the sentence between the brackets is deleted in “A”.
137. Qur’an 36: 78.
138. Qur’an 36: 80.
139. Qur’an 36: 80.
Deleted in “B”.
The Prophet’s uncle and an authority on the transmission of Prophetic traditions (Hadiths).
In “A” there is the addition: “But the thoughts of the general public are not moved to correct
these conceptions of the resurrection, but they are moved to follow the Scriptures and practice
Qur’an 39: 42.
Meaning the body.
Aristotle, De Anima, 1, 4, 408b 21.
Conclusion: the canon of interpretation
Of the questions we promised it remains for us to discuss which parts of
religion are, and which parts are not, susceptible of interpretation; and
regarding what is so susceptible, who is entitled to undertake it? With this
discussion, we will conclude this book.
Our position is that there are five levels of meaning in religion. These
levels are divisible, in the first instance, into two major types. The first is
indivisible, and the second is divisible into four different types.
The first indivisible type consists in that the declared meaning 1s identical
with the real meaning.
The second divisible type consists in that the declared meaning in
Scripture is other than the real meaning; but is substituted for it by way of
The latter type is divided into four parts. The first is that whose
representation is given [in Scripture], but whose existence is only known
through lengthy and complex syllogisms that are learnt over a long period
of time and through various arts and are not understood except by people of
superior natures. Besides, it is not possible to know that the given
representation is other than what is represented, except through the lengthy
process we mentioned.
The second part is the opposite of the [first]. Here the two casesi are
known relatively easily; I mean, that that declared [by Scripture] to be a
representation is a representation and the reason why it is a representation.
The third part is when it is known readily to be a representation of the
thing in question and why, in an elaborate way.
The fourth is the opposite of this, where it is known readily why it is a
representation, but with difficulty that it is a representation.2
As for the first type of the two divisions, it is undoubtedly an error to
With respect to the first type of the second division, which is the result of
elaborate study in both respects3, its interpretation is confined to those well-
grounded in knowledge, and it is not permissible to divulge it to those not
However, with respect to the opposite type, where both cases are readily
grasped, its interpretation is meant and divulging it is obligatory.
[ With respect to the third type, the matter is different.]4 Representation 1s
not attempted here [because it is beyond the understanding of the common
people, yet this representation is attempted|5 so as to move the souls
towards it. This is similar to the saying of the [Prophet], peace be on him:
“The Black Stone is God’s right hand on earth”, to which may be added
other similar sayings which are either self-evident or readily known to be
representations, but are known through an elaborate process why they are
representations. The obligation in this case is not to be interpreted except by
the elect among the learned. Those who know that this is a representation,
but do not belong to men of learning, will be told why it is a representation;
either because it 1s ambiguous [that is known by those well-grounded in
knowledge]6, or because the representation thereof is reduced to what is
closer to their understandings. Perhaps this is the proper course in order to
dispel the lingering ambiguity in their souls from that. The rule to follow in
this type of speculation is the one Abu Hamid [AI-Ghazali] adopted in The
Book of the Distinction7 Here this class is informed that the same thing
admits of five modes of existence: the essential, the sensible, the imaginary,
the intelligible, and the ambiguous, as Abu Hamid [al-Ghazali] calls them.
Thus, when a problem arises, one considers which of the four modes of
existence 1s more convincing for that class of people who find it impossible
that such statements could denote the essential existence (the one that 1s
externals). Representation should, then, be couched in terms of the mode of
existence that they believe is most likely to exist. To this type, the saying of
[the Prophet], peace be upon him, actually refers: “There is nothing that I
have not seen but I have seen it already in this station of mine, even
Paradise and Hell’’;9 his saying: “Between my basin and my pulpit there is
one of the gardens of Paradise, and my pulpit is by my basin’”;10 and his
saying “Dust will consume every son of Adam except the coccyx of the
tail’’11 All these are readily known to be representations, but it cannot be
known why they are representations except through elaborate knowledge.
Thus, it should be assigned to that class of people who have understood
readily the similarity of the four modes of existence. If this kind of
interpretation is used in these contexts and in this way, then its use in
religion is permissible; but if it is used in other contexts, then it is wrong.
Abi Hamid [al-Ghazali], however, did not discuss this issue in detail, as
when, for instance, the context lends itself to knowing both aspects of the
problem in an elaborate way; I mean, that it is a representation and why it is
a representation. In that case, an ambiguity might arise giving, at first sight,
the impression that it is a representation; but this is a false ambiguity. The
obligation in this case is to ignore that ambiguity and no interpretation be
attempted, as we have shown you in this book in the many places where the
Mutakallimun, I mean, the Ash'arites and the Mu'tazilites were faced with
However, the fourth type, which is the opposite of this, consists in the
fact that its being a representation is known in an elaborate way. But if it is
admitted to be a representation, and it can readily be known why it is a
representation, then its interpretation is open to question (I mean, with
respect to that class of people who perceive that if it is a representation,
then why; but they do not perceive that it is a representation, except in an
ambiguous manner and a persuasive way, since they do not belong to those
well-grounded in knowledge). Thus, it might be said that it is safer for
religion that these matters should not be interpreted, lest those people cease
to believe the things for which they took that statement to be a
representation, and is rather the most likely. It might also be possible to
allow them free rein to practice interpretation, on account of the strong
similarity between that thing and that whereby it is represented. However,
once interpretation is allowed in these two cases, many strange beliefs are
generated therefrom that are very remote from the literal meaning of
Scripture. They might become widespread and the common people would
reject them, as happened to the Sufis and to those scholars who followed
Thus when control over interpretation passed to those who could not
discriminate between these contexts, nor determine the class of people to
whom it is permissible to engage in the interpretations, confusion arose,
with respect to these matters, and many divergent sects arose accusing each
other of unbelief. All this is tantamount to ignorance of the intent of the
Scripture and a violation thereof. However, you have no doubt perceived
from our discussion the extent of error that results from [false]
interpretations. It is my sincere wish to be able to achieve this goal [of
interpretation] regarding all the statements of Scripture — to discuss what
ought or what ought not to be interpreted, and if it is to be interpreted, then
who should interpret it — with respect to all problematic issues in the Qur'an
and the Hadith, reducing them all to these four categories [mentioned
ok 3K ok
Now the purpose that we set for ourselves in this book has been
accomplished. We proposed it because we felt that it was the most
important goal pertaining to religion. It is God who guides to the truth and
guarantees the reward with His grace and mercy. This book was finished in
the year five hundred and seventy-five. 12
The Scriptural term and its interpretation.
That is, both what is declared as a representation and the reason why it is a representation.
Deleted in “S”.
Deleted in “A”.
This part is smudged in “S”.
Distinction between Islam and Heresy (al-Tafriqa bayna al-Islam wal-Zandaqah).
Wensinck, Concordance, s.v. ra’a. Bukhari, iii, 24.
Wensinck, Concordance, s.v. hawd. Bukhari, xx, 5.
. Muslim, Fitn, 142.
575 of the Hijra Calendar or 1179/80 C.E.
eee ale eer
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Index of Qur’anic Verses
Note: references appear in the following form: verse number, verse line,
Arabic verse name, English verse name, page number.
: 20 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 18
: 282 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 32
: 20-23 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 36
: 255 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 41, 56
: 258 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 60
: 26 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 66
: 21 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 83
: 117 Al-Bagara, The Cow, 90
: 286 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 106
: 258 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 113
: 26 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 117
: 29 Al-Baqara, The Cow, 118
: 5 Al ‘Imaran, The Family of ‘Imaran, 31
: 17, Al ‘Imardn, The Family of ‘Imaran, 37
: 6 Al ‘Imaran, The Family of “Imaran, 59, 66
: 165 Al ‘Imaran, The Family of ‘Imaran, 106
: 166 Al ‘Imaran, The Family of ‘Imaran, 106
: 18 Al ‘Imardan, The Family of ‘Imaran, 37, 116
: 191 Al ‘Imaran, The Family of ‘Imaran, 36, 122
: 163-164 Al-Nisan’, Women, 99
: 164 Al-Nisan’, Women, 48
BBW WWWWWWNNNNNNNNNN DWN LN
CONNANINAINANNANIDAADA VAN FS HA HA
: 170 Al-Nisan’, Women, 99
: 166 Al-Nisan’, Women, 99
: 78-79 Al-Nisan’, Women, 106
: 73 Al-Ma’ida, The Table, 51
: 75 Al-An‘am, The Cattle, 24
: 79 Al-An‘am, The Cattle, 36
: 103 Al-An ‘am, The Cattle, 71
: 101 Al-An ‘am, The Cattle, 90
: 59 Al-An‘am, The Cattle, 46, 110
: 184 Al-A ‘raf, The Ramparts, 34
: 172 Al-A ‘raf, The Ramparts, 37
: 54 ALA ‘raf, The Ramparts, 89
: 157 ALA ‘raf, The Ramparts, 102, 103
: 171 ALA ‘raf, The Ramparts, 117
: 29 Al-Anafal, The Spoils, 32
: 44 Yunus, Jonah, 116
: 7 Hiid, The Prophet Hud, 89
: 13 Hiid, The Prophet Hud, 97
: 8 Al-Ra‘d, Thunder, 106
: 11 AL-Ra ‘d, Thunder, 109
: 10 Ibrahim, Abraham, 18, 90
: 33 Ibrahim, Abraham, 113
: 4 Ibrahim, Abraham, 116, 117
: 40 Al-Nahl, The Bees, 31, 47
: 17 Al-Nahl, The Bees, 55
: 12 Al-Nahl, The Bees, 112
: 44 Al-Isrd, The Night Journey, 37
: 42 Al-Isrd, The Night Journey, 39, 40
: 43 Al-Isra, The Night Journey, 41
: 85 Al-Isrd, The Night Journey, 60, 79
: 90-94 Al-Isra, The Night Journey, 97
: 59 Al-Isrd, The Night Journey, 97
: 88 Al-Isrd, The Night Journey, 97, 102
60 Al-Isra, The Night Journey, 117
64 Maryam, Mary, 46
42 Maryam, Mary, 50
52 Ta Ha, Taha, 56
22 Al-Anbiya; The Prophets, 39, 40, 43
23 Al-Anbiya; The Prophets, 119
66 Al-Anbiya; The Prophets, 50
73 Al-Hajj, The Pilgrimage, 34, 36, 113
91 Al-Mu’minun, The Believers, 39, 40, 42
115 Al-Mu’miniin, The Believers, 122
35 Al-Nur, The Light, 61
58 Al-Furqan, The Criterion, 55
61 Al-Furqan, The Criterion, 35
88 Al-Naml, The Ants, 86
65 Al-Naml, The Ants, 109
71 Al-Qasas, The Storytelling, 112
73 Al-Qasas, The Storytelling, 113
69 Al-‘Ankabiit, The Spider, 32
47 Al-‘Ankabit, The Spider, 102
28 Al-Rum, The Greeks/Byzantine, 116
30 Al-Riim, The Greeks/Byzantine 56
5 Al-Sajda, The Prostration, 63
13 Al-Sajda, The Prostration, 116, 120
10 Fatir, The Originator of Creation, 58
41 Fatir, The Originator of Creation, 56
33 Ya Sin, Ya Sin, 36
21 Ya Sin, Ya Sin, 122
77 Ya Sin, Ya Sin, 124
80 Ya Sin, Ya Sin, 124, 125
96 Al-Saffat, The Ranger, 114
27 Saad, Saad, 121
7 Al-Zumar, The Throngs, 116
38 Al-Zumar, The Throngs, 19
56 Al-Zumar, The Throngs, 123
42 Al-Zumar, The Throngs, 127
57 Ghafir, The Forgiver, 56
57 Ghafir, The Forgiver, 64
10 Fussilat, Well-expounded, 90
16 Fussilat, Well-expounded, 106
45 Fussilat, Well-expounded, 116
10 Al-Shura, The Counsel, 57
11 AL-Shura, The Counsel, 54
28 Al-Shura, The Counsel, 106
33 Al-Shiira, The Counsel, 106
50 Al-Shira, The Counsel, 48
2 Al-Dukhan, The Smoke, 58
12 Al-Jathiyah, The Kneeling Down, 113
46,9 Al-Ahqaf, The Sand-dunes, 99
56 Al-Dhariyat, The Scattering Winds, 122
9-10 Al-Najin, The Star, 48
49 Al-Oamar, The Moon, 106
22 Al-Hadid, Iron, 106
2 Al-Jum ‘ah, The Congregation, 102
14 Al-Mulk, The Sovereignty, 45
16 Al-Mulk, The Sovereignty, 63
3 Al-Mulk, The Sovereignty, 88
17 Al-Haqqah, The Certain Hour, 62
4 Al-Ma ‘arij, The Ways of Ascent, 59,63
15-17 Nuh, Noah, 83
36 Al-Oiyama, The Resurrection, 122
6-16 Al-Naba ‘, The Tiding, 35, 81
10-11 Al-Naba‘, The Tiding, 82
13 Al-Naba ‘, The Tiding, 83
24—33 Abasa, He Frowned, 35
5 Al-Tariqg, The Night-Visitor, 36
17 Al-Ghashiyah, The Overwhelming Day, 36
89: 22 Al-Fajr, The Dawn, 59
Abraham (AI-Khalil) 24, 60, 113
Abii al-Ma‘ali al-Juwayni see al-Juwayni
Abu Hamid al-Ghazali al-Ghazali
Abii Ya‘qub Yisuf, Caliph 1
accidents, and creation of the world xi, 21-27, 46, 47
actions, knowledge of God’s 4, 8-9, 54
commissioning messengers 92—105
creation of the world 78-91
divine decree and predestination 4, 87, 105-115
divine justice and injustice 115-121
resurrection and its modes 121-127
representations of 13-14
state of soul in 123-124, 125-127
see also resurrection
al-Damimah (The Appendix) ix, 7
al-Ghazali xi, 2, 6, 111
free will 11
interpretation of scriptural passages 15, 130
Islamic Neoplatonism, onslaught on 2, 8—9
al-Jabiri, Muhammad Abid x n5
al-Juwayni xi—xii, 6, 27, 29-30, 42, 62, 75, 108
Al-Kashf ‘an Manahij al-Adilla fi ‘Aqa’id d-Milla (The Exposition) ix—xiii, 2, 4
al-Kindi 5, 15
al-Nizamiah 27, 108
al-Sunna (orthodox Tradition) 58 nl8, 105
al-Ulama (scholars) 29
Alchemy of Happiness (Kimiya’ al-Sa’adah) 69
Alonso, M. ix
intent of Scripture 66—67
interpreting x1, 3, 4, 5, 15, 31, 59, 63, 129-130
meaning of ‘ambiguity’ 65—66
existence of the less and existence of the more 124, 125
restoration and origination 124—125
visible and invisible world 23-24, 25, 65, 66, 73, 92
apostles see prophets
Aquinas, St. Thomas 4
contingent things 1, 29
eternal universe 9
Ibn Rushd’s commentaries on 2
articles of faith 4
arts, useful 108
argument of exclusion 41—42
corporeality, denial of 58—59
creation of the world xi—xii, 5—6, 19-21, 78, 90
accidents 21—27, 46, 47
contingency thesis 27-31, 83-88
eternal will 90-91
direction, denial of 62
duration of the world 8-9
existence of God 5—6, 17, 19
free will 11, 12
interpretation of Scripture 15, 68
justice and injustice of God 12, 115-117
method of providence 83-85
predestination 107, 108, 114
speech of God 49, 50
vision of God 72-74
of God xiii, 4, 6-8, 45-53
of imperfection 55—56
Averroes see Ibn Rushd
Avicenna xii, 6, 8
bodily powers, implanted by God 112
Book of the Distinction 130
contingency thesis of Ash‘arites 83-88
creation of the world xii, 8
existence of God xii, 6
free will 11
God as Sole Agent 11, 110-114
knowledge of causes 109-110
chance, in creation 85-87
Christian Trinity 51, 52
Collection of Mislim 61
color, seeing and hearing 73—74
Commentator, The 2
contingency thesis, creation of the world xii, 6, 27-31, 83-88
and direction 63-64
of God 51, 52, 57-62, 75-76, 77
and resurrection 125, 126
corruption, due to interpretation 68
cosmology, providence of 82—83
couch, metaphor for earth 81
creation of the world xi—xii, 4, 78-91
actions, knowledge of God’s 78-91
Ash‘aritearguments xi1—xil, 5—6, 19-21, 78, 90
accidents 21—27, 46, 47
contingency thesis 27-31, 83-88
eternal will 90-91
causes and effects (chance) 84-88
and generation in the physical world 89-90
Maker as eternal or created 19-20
method of providence 79-80
methods of proof 8
Creator, name of God 113-114
creature, attributes of 55-56
al-Damimah (The Appendix) ix, 7
De Anima 14
de Deo Uno (God’s existence and his attributes) 8
death, attribute of imperfection 55
Decisive Treatise, The ix, x, 2—3, 1, 7, 8, 16-17, 71
Deliverer from Error (Al-Miangqidh minal -Dalal) 69
demonstrative knowledge 7, 8, 37-38, 53, 57, 70
determinism (jabr) 11
Determinists, and predestination 11, 107, 115
dialectic (jadal) 66
attribute of God 59, 62-71
and place 63-64
Discrimination Between Islam and Heterodoxy (al-Tafriqah baynal-Islam wa’l-zandaqah) 70
divine decree and predestination 4, 87, 105-115
duration, of the world 8—9
Empedocles 25 nl9
existence of God 32
interpretations of Scripture 131
knowledge of God 4, 32
ether 72 n6l
evil, for the sake of good 118-119
exaltation, of the Creator 54
existence, five modes of 130
existence of God, proving xi, xii, 4, 56, 16-18
religious method 33-38
Fakhry Majid x
Fasl al-Magal (The Decisive Treatise) ix, x, 2-3, 4, 7, 8, 16-17, 71
free will 10-12
see also predestination
garment, metaphor of for night 82
Al-Ghazali xi, 2, 6, 111
free will 11
interpretation of scriptural passages 15, 130
Islamic Neoplatonism, onslaught on 2, 8—9
Guidance, The (Al-Irshad) 75
Hanafi, Mustafa x n5
free will 12
interpretation of scripture 15
hearing and vision (God’s attributes) 7-8, 50
God in 62-63, 64
and hell 124
heavenly bodies, influences of 111-113
Heraclitus 25 nl9
heresy see innovations
History of Islamic Philosophy, A x
Hourani, George x
Ibn Abbas 126
Ibn Abi Talib 17
Ibn Rushd ix, x n6
brief account of life 1
popular views, re-examining x—xi
writings of 2
Ibn Sina 29
Ibn Tufayl 1
Ibn Uthman, Abdullah x
and representation 76
imperfection, attributes of 55—56
Imposter, one-eyed 60
Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al- Tahafut) 2,7, 9
Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-Falasifah) 2, 68, 69
indivisible substance, existence of 19, 21—23
inductive argument xii, 23—24, 73
see also analogy
influences, of heavenly bodies 111—113
injustice see justice
innovations (heresies) 4, 69
attributes of God 51
corporeality of God 60
creation in time 90
knowledge, God’s 46
will of God 47
Intentions of the Philosophers (Maqasid al-Falasifah) 68, 73
interpretation, of Scripture
al-Ghazali 15, 130
ambiguous texts xi, 3, 4, 5, 15, 31, 59, 63, 129-130
canon of 128-132
conflicting verses 118-119, 120-121
intention of Scripture 66—68
levels of meaning 129
making public 70
representations 9, 128-131
rules of 4—5, 14-15
threefold division of mankind (philosophers, dialectical class and public at large) 15, 129-131
invention, method of 6, 34-38
irreligion (Kufr) 9
compared with other religions 102—104
modes of resurrection 125—127
most perfect religion 123
seal of all religions 103
Isra Hadith (Prophetic Ascent Tradition) 61
al-Jabiri, Muhammad Abid x n5
Jesus, prophecy of 104
Jewels of the Koran (Jawahir al-Qur’an) 69
human and divine xiii, 4, 10, 12-13, 119-120
and injustice of God 12-13, 115-121
al-Juwayni xi—xii, 6, 27, 29-30, 42, 62, 75, 108
Al-Kashf‘an Manahij al-Adilla fi ‘Aqa’id al-Milla (The Exposition) ix—xiii, 2, 4
al-Kindi 5, 15
attribute of God 6—7, 45-46
of causes 109-110
demonstrative 7, 8, 37-38, 53, 57, 70
of God 101
needed for happiness 101-102, 123
of objects 7, 28, 37-38
superior, of philosophers xii—xiii, 3, 4, 37-38
Koran see Qur’an
Latin Scholasticism, writings of Ibn Rushd 2
leading astray, attributed to God 116-119
methods of proof 8
see also philosophers
life, attribute of God 47
light, God as 61-62, 76
literalists, proof of existence of God 17, 18-19
literary excellence, of Qur’an 10
logical deduction (qgivas), in interpretation of Scripture 3
see also demonstrative knowledge
Malikites, interpretation of scripture 15
Manahij al-Adilla fi ‘Aqa’id al-Milla ix n3
mankind, threefold division of (philosophers, dialectical class, and public at large)
interpretation of scriptural passsages 15, 129-131
methods of proof 4—5, 8
manufactured objects, knowledge of 28, 37-38
manuscripts, of Al-Kashf (The Exposition) ix—x
maximalism (mukthira) 58 nl7
meaning, levels of 128-131
measure, determined by religion 54
measuring and division, argument of 43
Medieval Scholastic treatises 4, 8
commissioning 4, 92-105
God’s speech through 49
proof of existence of 92-96, 100
see also prophets
metaphysical sciences, of the philosophers 69
might, of the heavens 82
authentification of prophetic claims 9-10, 93, 95—96, 100, 104-105
Prophet Muhammad 96-97, 100
Moses 60, 99, 103
prophecy of 104
motion, denial of 59
Muhammad see Prophet Muhammad
Miiller, M. J. ix, x
ambiguity in Scripture 65—66
attributes of God 6
corporeality of God, denial of 46, 52, 57
creation of the world 20
existence of God 5
knowledge, God’s 46
messengers, existence of 92, 94-95
perplexities introduced into Islam 91
subsistence of created will, denial of 31
unity of God 42-13
vision of God 74-75
will of God 47
attributes of God 6, 51-52
corporeality of God, denial of 58, 71
direction, denial of 62
entity in not-being 23
existence of God 17
free will 11, 12
interpretation of Scripture 68
methods similar to Ash‘arites 32
predestination 107, 108, 114
rejection of traditions 71
speech of God 7, 49-50
vision, denial of 71
mystical states (Ahwadlih), of the Prophet 97
naturalists (Dahriva) 98
nature, created 87-88
Necessary Being 6
Neoplatonism, Al-Ghazali’s onslaught on 2, 8-9
Niche of Lights (Mishkat al-‘Anwar) 69
night and day, providence of 82, 112—113
al-Nizamiah 27, 108
non-demonstrative methods 19, 21
numbers, discontinuous and continuous quantity 22
Old Testament 103
On the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy x
original nature of man 37
People of the Book (Jews and Christians) 102 n59
perception, of the senses 74-76
perfection, attributes of 45
Pharaoh, divinity of 60
Philoponus john (the Grammarian) 5
philosophers, superior knowledge of xii—xiii, 3, 1
Philosophie und Theologie von Averroes ix, X
philosophy, defining 2
place, and direction 63-64
Plato xii, 14
contingent things 29
pluralism (mukthira) 58 nl7
popular views, of Averroes x—xi
power, attribute of God 47
Precious Book see Qur’an
preconditions, in analogy 73
and free will 10-12
versus man’s power to earn credit 105-108, 110, 114-115
prescriptions, theoretical and practical of Qur’an 10
Preserved Tablet (divine decrees) 11, 109
primary knowledge 37
primary notions 51
Primordial Codex 109 n91
prognostications, embodied in Qur’an 10
proof, methods of
and threefold division of man 4—5, 8
ascent to heaven 63
claim of divinity of ‘One-eyed imposter’ 60
classes of people 77
God is light 61
‘human messenger’ 10
miracles 96-97, 100
truthfulness of prophethood 97-99
Prophetic tradition (Hadith) 5, 11
authentification of 9-10, 92—96, 100, 104-105
and revelation 48—49, 58-59, 98-100, 105
proof of creation of the world 8, 81
proof of existence of God 6, 34-37
divulging philosophy to 68, 69-70
methods of providence and invention 37-38, 79-83
attributes of God 51-52
corporeality of God 59-60, 61, 75-76
creation of entities capable of evil 120-121
creation of good and evil 13
miraculousness and prophethood 105
representations, method of 9, 76-77, 79, 89
Scripture, accepting at face value 9, 17
understanding by analogy 65, 66
purpose, of mankind 121-122
Qasim, Mahmud ix
quantity, discontinuous and continuous 22
ambiguous and unambiguous verses 31
attributes of God 6
call to theoretical investigation 3 1
causes, knowledge of 109-110
corporeality of God 57-62
created versus not created 49-50
creation of the world in time 89
direction of God 62-63
duration of the world 9
exaltation of God 54-55
existence of God xii, 18, 19, 24
hearing and vision of God 50
heavenly bodies, influences of 113
immortality of the soul 127
imperfection, attributes of 55—56
invention 6, 34-36
justice and injustice, of God 12-13, 116-117
knowledge, God’s 45, 46
light, God as 61, 76
miraculousness of 10, 97—98, 100-101
illiteracy of 102
prophethood of 97—99
original nature of man 37
philosophy recommended 2-3
prophetic claims and miracles 10
providence 6, 8, 34-36, 81-83, 82
purposefulness of creation 121—122
resurrection 14, 124-125
revelation 10, 58-59, 99, 100-102
Sole Agent, God as 11-12, 113
soul, what is not disclosed 60
speech of God 7, 48-50, 103
style of 101
superiority over books of other religions 103
threefold division of mankind 3
translations and reference sources x
unity of God 39-41, 42-43
universality of teaching 103—104
will, created or eternal 31
will of God 47
Qur’an: A Modern English Version x n6
rain, providential 83
random (’/ttifaq), world as 6
reasoning, in interpretation of Scripture 2, 15
reductionism (milshi’a) 58 nl7
defining fundamental principles 71
external versus interpreted 17
and philosophy xi, 2-3, 5, 16-17, 69-71
religious laws (al-sharai ‘) 98-102, 103
Renan, E. x n6
creation of the world 89-90
interpretation of Scripture 9, 128-131
levels of meaning in religion 128-131
method for the common people 76-77, 79, 89
of resurrection 121
resurrection (ma ad)
modes of 13-14, 121-127
nature of 4
revelation 7, 10, 100-102
and prophets 48-49, 58-59, 98-100, 105
saintly favours (karamat) 96
Scripture see ambiguous texts; interpretation, of Scripture; Qur’an; Tradition
seal of all religions, Islam as 103
sects 4, 5, 11, 60
existence of God 17-18
interpretations of Scripture 17, 68, 131
mode of survival after death 14
strife among 15, 17
senses, of sight and hearing 74—75
sight, sense of 74, 83
silence, of Scripture 57, 62
attribute of imperfection 55-56
and night 82
Sole Agent, God as 11, 110-114
and corporeality of God 62
immortality of 13-14, 126-127
imperishability of 123
what is not disclosed 60
sounds, hearing and seeing 74
speech, of God 7, 47—50, 103
stability, of the earth 81-82
States (Ahwal) 75
Sufis see Esoterics
Summa Theologia 4
sun, providential benefit of 83
al-Sunna (orthodox Tradition) 58 nl8, 105
conditional disjunctive versus conditional conjunctive 43
temporality, of the universe (hudith) 5
Teologia de Averroes ix
theological treatises, of Averroes 2
theology (Kalam) 19, 21, 66
dialectical wisdom 52—53
and corruptibility 64
creation in 89-90
creation of 24
Tradition (Hadith) 58, 59, 61
of God 4
knowledge of 54-77
trilogy, theological treatises ix, x
al-Ulama (scholars) 29
unbelief (Kufr) 69
unity, of God xii, 4, 39-44
universality, of teaching of Qur’an 103-104
utterance versus inner speech 49-50
vegetation, product of providential care 83
veils of light, of the Creator 61
virtues, practical and theoretical 122—133
of God 58, 62
problem of 71—77
dimensions within which there is no body 64
positing of 30
What is Concealed from the Unworthy (Al-Madnun bihi ‘ala ghayri Ahlihi) 69
attribute of God 47
creation of the world 85—87, 88
eternal or created 19-21, 30-31, 47, 90-91
world, as single entity 40, 42