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Anisim Antonov
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Maqalat Al Islamiyyin Pdf Free



The Mu'tazila - literally 'those who withdraw themselves' - movement was founded by Wasil bin 'Ata' in the second century ah (eighth century ad). Its members were united in their conviction that it was necessary to give a rationally coherent account of Islamic beliefs. In addition to having an atomistic view of the universe, they generally held to five theological principles, of which the two most important were the unity of God and divine justice. The former led them to deny that the attributes of God were distinct entities or that the Qur'an was eternal, while the latter led them to assert the existence of free will.




maqalat al islamiyyin pdf free



Much more problematic than the Qur'an's anthropomorphisms are the adjectives which it employs to describe God. He is said, for instance, to be 'living', 'knowing', 'powerful' and 'eternal'. If we deny these qualities to God, we must then attribute to him their opposites, which are imperfections. But God is by definition free from imperfections; therefore God must always have had these qualities. But does this mean that he possesses the attributes of 'life', 'knowledge', 'power' and 'eternity' and that they are distinct from his essence? The Mu'tazilites reasoned that this was impossible because it would imply plurality in the Godhead. When we speak of God as 'living', 'knowing', 'powerful' and 'eternal', we are, in their opinion, merely considering him from different points of view. God's 'attributes of essence' (sifat al-dhat), as they are generally called, are a product of the limitations and the plurality of our own intellectual faculties; in reality, they are identical with God's essence. Thus, according to al-Ash'ari (Maqalat: 484), Abu al-Hudhayl maintained that 'God is knowing by virtue of a knowledge which is His own essence' and that he is likewise powerful, living and eternal by a power, a life and an eternity which are none other than his own essence. Al-Nazzam expressed this even more forcefully when he said, 'If I say that God is knowing, I merely confirm the divine essence and deny in it all ignorance. If I say that God is powerful, living and so forth, I am only confirming the divine essence and denying in it all powerlessness, mortality and so forth' (Maqalat:484).


In addition to championing the unity of God, the Mu'tazilites stressed his justice. They held that good and evil are objective and that the moral values of actions are intrinsic to them and can be discerned by human reason. Hence God's justice obliges him to act in accordance with the moral law. For instance, he is thus bound to stand by his promise to reward the righteous with paradise and his threat to punish the wicked with hellfire. More importantly, the reward and punishment which he metes out must be merited by creatures endowed with free will (see Free will). Thus although the Qur'an says that God guides and leads astray those whom he wills (Surah 14: 4), it cannot mean that he predestines them. This and similar texts refer rather to what will happen after the judgement, when the righteous will be guided to paradise and the wicked will be caused to stray far from it. With regard to our acts in this world, God creates in us the power to perform an act but we are free to choose whether or not to perform it.


For al-Ash'ari, divine justice is a matter of faith. We know the difference between good and evil solely because of God's revelation, and not by the exercise of our own reason. God makes the rules and whatever he decrees is just, yet God himself is under no obligation: if he wished, he could punish the righteous and admit the wicked to paradise (see Voluntarism). Moreover, to suppose as the Mu'tazilites did that human beings had free will would be to restrict the sovereign freedom of the creator. On the contrary, God creates in his creature both the power and the choice; then he creates in us the actions which correspond to these. Nevertheless, we are conscious of a difference between some actions, such as the rushing of the blood through our veins, which are involuntary, and others, such as standing up or sitting down, which are in accordance with our own will. Al-Ash'ari argues that by approving of these latter actions, which God created in us, we 'acquire' them and are thus held responsible for them.


This free choice of man is not effective in producing the action. It is the habit or nature of God to create the action corresponding to the choice and power created by Himself in man. Thus, the action of man is created by God, both as to initiative and as to production or completion. Man is free only in making the choice between alternatives and also in intending to do the particular action freely chosen: Man, in making this choice and intending to do the act, acquires (iktisab) either the merit of appreciation and reward from God if he makes the right choice, or the demerit of condemnation and punishment if he makes the wrong choice.


It is this intention on the part of man which makes him responsible for his deeds. Man cannot take the initiative in any matter, nor can he originate any action. But the completion of the act is partially due to his intention: He, thus, acquires the merit or demerit of the action because of his intending to do a good or bad action. Man's free choice is, so to say, an occasion for God's causing the action corresponding to that choice.


As a matter of fact, it ceases to exist when the actual action takes place. Man, therefore, does the act, practically without having the power and the ability to do so. He is held responsible for his actions because of his choosing freely one of the two alternative actions and intending to do the action so chosen. But neither his choice nor his intention can produce the action. It is God who creates the action and is thus its effective and real cause.39


Objection might be raised against the Ash'arite metaphysics that it establishes in effect a relationship between God and the atoms, but relationships, according to the Ash'arites, are subjective illusions. In reply to this objection it may be pointed out that all relationship applies only to contingent beings or things perceived by the senses. It would not hold in the case of the Necessary Being, God, who is suprasensible. And according to their principle of mukhalafah, nothing which is applied to created things or beings can be applied to God in the same sense. God is not a natural cause but a free cause.


One great theological result of the Ash'arite system was that it checked the growth of free thought which tended to dissolve the solidarity of the Islamic Shari'ah. The Ash`arite mode of thought had its intellectual results also.


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