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Abdel Hakim Ajhar

A Thesis
Submitted to the Faeulty
of Graduate Studies and Researeh
ln Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
of the Degree of Doetor of Philosophy

The Institute of Islamie Studies

MeGiil University

• August 2000
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• Name:
Title :
Abdel Hakim Ajhar
"The Metaphysies of the Idea of
God in Ibn Taymiyya's Thought"
Department: Institute of Islamie Studies
Degree: Ph.D.


This dissertation deals with Ibn Taymiyya's theory of the unity of God and of

creation, or, as Muslim philosophers have posited the question, the relation between

the oneness of God and the diversity that has come out of il. Indeed, Ibn Taymiyya

(d. 728/1328) responded ta the same ontological question that earlier Muslim

philosophers were concerned to answer. Although Ibn Taymiyya was a theologian,

he did not encounter quite the same questions as the early kalam theologian whose

concern it was to praye the existence of God. The dissertation discusses the forms

th is question took.

The introduction reviews Ibn Taymiyya's life, works and historical circumstanœs.

The tirst chapter deals with Ibn Taymiyya's concept of Gad which is that of a real

and actual being. God, for him, is not abstract in the way some Muslim theologians,

philosophers and mystics had affirmed.

• The second chapter discusses two great Muslim thinkers: ai-GhazAli, who

attempted to reconcile kalAm with Ibn SïnA's philosophy, and Ibn Rushd, who
• criticized both al-Ghazali and Ibn Sïna and established a new philosophical

approach to the notion of Gad and the process of creation. In this chapter we touch

on the later development of both kalam and philosophy in Islam and show how Ibn

Taymiyya, while pursuing the same goal as ai-GhazAli in reconciling kalâm and

philosophy, drew beneflt from these developments.

The third chapter goes to the core of Ibn Taymiyya's theory of diversity

issuing from the oneness of God. This chapter shows the bold notions that Ibn

Taymiyya believed represent the only possible answers to the question of creation:

the essence of Gad as a substrate of generation; the etemity of the world; and Gad's

attributes as species and genera, actualized in our concrete worfd.

The conclusion iIIustrates the differences between Ibn Taymiyya and other

Muslim philosophers and theologians, as weil as his adoption of certain of their


• Nom:

Abdel Hakim Ajhar

"Les métaphysiques de l'idée de Dieu

dans la pensée d'Ibn Taymiyya".

Département: Institut des Etudes Islamiques, Université McGili

Diplôme: Doctorat ès Philosophie.


Cette thèse porte sur la théorie d'Ibn Taymiyya de l'unicité de Dieu et de la

création, ou, tel que les philosophes musulmans ont examiné la question, la relation

entre l'unicité de Dieu et la diversité qui en a découlé. En effet, Ibn Taymiyya (m.

728/1328) a répondu à la même question ontologique que les philosophes

musulmans furent soucieux de répondre. Bien qu'Ibn Taymiyya fut théologien, il ne

fut pas confronté aux mêmes interrogations que les premiers théologiens du kalam

dont la préoccupation était de prouver l'existence de Dieu. l'objectif de cette thèse

sera donc d'analyser les formes par lesquelles cette question s'est manifesté.

L'introduction de la recherche passe en revue la vie d'Ibn Taymiyya, son

oeuvre ainsi que le contexte historique de son temps. Le premier chapitre porte sur

le concept de Dieu d'Ibn Taymiyya qui est un être réel et actuel. Pour le théologien,

Dieu n'est pas donc un être abstrait tel que représenté par certains théologiens,

• philosophes et mystiques musulmans.

• Le second chapitre analyse l'oeuvre de deux importants penseurs

musulmans: al-Ghazali qui a tenté de réconcilier le kalam avec la philosophie d'Ibn

Sins, ainsi qu'Ibn Rushd qui, pour sa part, a critiqué à la fois al-Ghazali et Ibn Sina.

établissant ainsi une nouvelle approche philosophique de la notion de Dieu et du

processus de la création. Dans ce chapitre, nous porterons notre attention sur les

développements ultérieurs du kalam et de la philosophie en Islam afin de démontrer

comment Ibn Taymiyya, alors qu'il poursuivait le même objectif d'al-Ghazali dans

la réconciliation du kalam et de la philosophie, a bénéficié de ces mêmes


Le troisième chapitre est consacré aux fondements de la théorie de la

diversité d'Ibn Taymiyya, qui découle de l'unicité de Dieu. Ce chapitre montre les

notions hardies qui, selon Ibn Taymiyya, représentent les seules réponses possibles

à la question de la création. Il sera ici question de l'essence de Dieu comme

substrat de la génération, l'éternité du monde, ainsi que les attributs de Dieu en

espèces et généra, actualisés dans notre monde concret.

La conclusion de cette recherche illustre les différences entre Ibn Taymiyya

et d'autres philosophes et théologiens musulmans, de même que l'adoption par Ibn

Taymiyya de certaines de leurs idées.

• Acknowledgements

1 would like to thank my professors at the Institute of Islamic Studies of

McGiII University, especially Professor Eric Ormsby for his outstanding efforts

and skillful judgments in making astute comments and giving appropriate advice.

Many thanks also go to Professor Oner Turgay for his administrative skill and

continuous assurance and encouragement that made the completion of this work

possible. Many thanks are due as weil to Professor Issa Boullata for his ready

wisdom and availability for discussion of complex ideas. 1would like to thank

Professor Hermann Landolt for his patience throughout the course work and

extensive discussions involved in this study.

1 would like especially ta thank my wife for her intensive help. for her

patience and tolerance and her support, which made me want to continue this

work and see it to its conclusion. My special thanks go to the big boy, my son

Manar, for his understanding and for the beautiful moments when he insisted that

1 leave the computer and play with him. My friend Dr. John Asfour for ail the long

hours of valuable discussions and comments concerning the literary techniques

and philosophical treatises that make Ibn Taymiyya's thought more


1 would like to thank Mrs. Ann Yaxley for making the distance of nine

thousands miles between my work in the U.A.E and the Islamic Institute in

• Montreal shrinks through her communication skills. Thanks also go to Mr. Richard
• Cooper for his help in editing and reading the manuscript and for ail the commas,

dashes, periods and dots he alerted me to.

Thanks are also due to ail librarians of the Institute of Islamic studies,

especially to Mrs. Salwa Ferahian.

Finally 1 would like to thank ail my colleagues in the institute for their

support and cooperation and giving any help for my research material needed.

• Notes on Transliteration
The Arabie to English transliteration system used in this thesis follows that

of the Institute of Islamie Studies. It must be noted that hamzah in the initial

position is omitted, and simply appears in the forms of a, i, u, according to its


Arabie English Arabie English


e:..-' b
t 1? ~

..:..:..;..J th ft ~
"- t.
-9 h ~
~ gh
~ kh ~ f
:> d L.' q
;) dh ô' k
../ r ()
.-J z r m
()--..,; s () n
sh ~ h

d ~ CS
.. y


Long vowels ( l, <:5,;} ), are indicated by placing a macron above the

characters: i, ï. ü.
• Table of Contents

Abstract 1

Acknowledgment V
Notes on Transliteration VII
Table of Contents IX
Preface XI



1. Transcendence and the Objective Reality of the Ide. of God 1

1. 1. Jahm b. $afwàn's Theology and Its Influence on Islamic Thought 2

1. 2. The Notion of Essence as a Conceptual Notion 9

2. The Orientation of God (a'·Jiha) 13

2. 1. Kalam and Philosophy on God's Orientation 13

2. 2. Ibn Taymiyya's Theory of God's Orientation 22

3. God and His Attributss 25

3. 1. The Early Kalâm Discussion 25

3. 2. The Nature of the Attributes in the Early Kalam 28
3.3. The Relation Setween God's Essence and the Attributes 29
3. 4. The Theory of States (al)wSI) 35
3. 5. The Classification of the Attributes in the Kalam 39
3. 6.The Disagreement over the Attributes of Will. Speech,
and Creation 42

4. Ibn Taymiyya Again.t the Mutakallimün 46

4. 1. Ibn Taymiyya's Theory of Gad's Attributes 46

4.2. Ibn Taymiyya's Standpoint on the Theory of States (al)wal) 51
4. 3. Removing the Division of Attributes into Many Categories 54
4.4. The Role of Gad's Attributes in Creation

4. 5. How for Ibn Taymiyya Gad Must be Viewed 59

1. The Kalim Concept of Generation (J:ludûth) 84

1. 1. The World Is Composed of Atoms and Accidents 84

1. 2. How God Acts on the World 87
1. 3. The Development of the Argument of Possibility and Creation
ex nihilo 90
1.4. The Unity of Attributes and Diversity of Created Objects 96

2. The Philosophieal Concept of Generation 99

2. 1. The Unity of God in the Philosophieal Tradition 99

2. 2. Creation as a Necessary Process 103
2. 3. AI·Ghazâli's Critique of the Philosophers' Concept of the
Relation Between the Unity of God and the Created Diversity 104
2.4. Ibn Rushd and the Reconciliation Between the Agency of
Gad and the Eternity of World 109

3. The Question of Causality and God's Agency 115

3. 1. AI·Ghazali's Development of the Concept of Cause ("ilia) 115

3.2. AI·Ghazali's Attempt at Reconciliation between the Kalâm and
Philosophy 117
3. 3. The Causes as Conditions 120
3.4. The Secondary Causes and the Ouestionable Role 122
3.5. Ibn Rushd and Causality as Comprehensive Principle 126



1. The Question of the One and the Many 138

1. 1. God's Actions as Intermediary Link: Against the Kalam

and Philosophy 138
1. 2. Creation ex nihilo versus the Eternal Agency and the Real
Unity of God 144

2. The Etemity of God's Atbibutes Neeessitate. the Etemity of Creation 150

2. 1. The Temporal Relation of Cause and Effect 150

2. 2. The Etemity of Creation Accords with God's Action Being
Volitional 153
• 2.3. The Real Agent Is He Whose Actions Reside in Himself 155
2. 4. God's Action as an Ontologically Independent Intermediary Link 157

3. Different Approach to the Notion of the Eternity of Creation 162

3. 1. Eternity is a Beginningless Action of God 162

3.2. The Inevitable Admission of Generation in God"s Essence 164
3.3. The Example of God"s Knowledge and the Incoherence of the
Kalim's and Philosophy!s Positions 169
3. 4. Ibn Taymiyya's Position on God's Knowledge 172
3. 5. Determination Means the Etemity of Motion and Time 180

4. Infinite Causality 185

4. 1. The First Cause is an Arbitrary Theory 185

4.2. Every Cause Must Be Caused 193
4.3. The Cause Is Not an Agent and the Effect Is a Trace (Athan 196

5. The Infinite Generation of the Material World 201

5. 1. The Eternity of the World as Qur'anic and in Accord with

~adnh 202
5.2. The Etemity of Creation is Transition from One Form to Another 206
5. 3. Natural Causality 211

Conclusion 242

Bibliography 257

• Preface

Ibn Taymiyya is usually dealt with as a jurist rather than a theologieal or

philosophieal thinker. Even when his thought is eonsidered from the point of view

of theology or philosophy, it is seen as representing the work of an intransigent

opponent of ail the Islamie intelleetual fields, whether theology, philosophy or

mysticism. In part this is true opinion, but it is only half or maybe a quarter of the

truth. Ibn Taymiyya is not only a refuter or eritie, he also has his own project. He

is the constructor of a system of thought belonging uniquely to him as the

founder of a school. This aspect of Ibn Taymiyya as a real philosopher and

theologian needs to be discovered.

ln this dissertation this second aspect of Ibn Taymiyya's thought is

approached and analyzed. Ibn Taymiyya has a system of philosophy similar to

any other philosophieal system. It is a coherent world-view as regards the whole

universe with a specifie logical and ontologieal basis. He considers himself to be

an advocate of a system of thought different from the mainstreams in Islamic

thought. the kalâm and philosophy, which he believed had faHed to see the Idea

of God and the process of creation in a properly philosophical way that would

meet with bath the requirements of reason and the basic laws of Islam.

Ibn Taymiyya stands as a rigid opponent of the idea heId by Muslim

theologians that the real unity of God can be appreciated only by believing in

• creation ex nihilo. But this did not lead him to compromise with the philosophers'

• theory of emanation. On the contrary he maintained the argument against

philosophy that became traditional in Islam, namely, that philosophers so as ta

avoid creation out of nothing posited the contemporarity of the world with God;

but in sa doing they sacrificed the real meaning of God as an Agent who acts by

means of His will.

The philosophy that Ibn Taymiyya undertook ta establish is one that would

maintain bath the principle of causality as a comprehensive principle and the will

of Gad as reflecting the agency of Gad over the world. To achieve this Ibn

Taymiyya tirst posited the theory that God's attributes are neither ma"anïin the

traditional sense nor concomitant (/awazim) in the Aristotelian sense. They are,

rather, genera and species which identify the essence of God.

These genera and species cannat be separated fram God's eternal

activity and operation. Their work, as a result must be eternal and the generated

world must be eternally actualized thing after thing. Although these genera

produce their particulars in an infinite and endless way on the basis of the

principle of causality. they cannot produce their infinite particulars by virtue of

themselves. Here the will of Gad appears as the major instrument by which God

functions as an Agent and by virtue of which the genera and species are enabled

ta produce themselves endlessly.

Nevertheless, the question of the relation between the unity of Gad and

the diversity of the world is still a tharny one and cannot be solved by introducing

such a theory of God's attributes. Ibn Taymiyya is aware of this; but in order to

contribute an answer to this question, he did not concur with the philosophers

• who allowed for the existence of intermediary entities, or secondary causes, that

would co-ordinate the simple unity of God with the diversity of the world, since

these heavenly Intellects would consequently participate in God's agency over

the universe. The question of the relation between the eternal One and

multiplicity would therefore become more difficult by removing the secondary

causes. Ibn Taymiyya does not hesitate to offer his alternative: his affirmation

that the philosophical solution is to allow the actions of God to represent this

intermediary stage between the two poles of God and the world. But the action

either must abide in the created thing, which brings this position close to that of

the Mutakallimün, or it must abide in God's essence.

Ibn Taymiyya adopted the second alternative that: God's actions must

originate and reside in God's essence. The essence of God, therefore, would be

a substrate of generation. Ibn Taymiyya admits that these actions are no more

than the forms that are generated from the higher genera and species. This

generation in God's essence does not entail that the unity of God be affected

since the generation of the forms is not subject to corruption nor is it indwell in

the process of transformation from potentiality into actuality. This generation, as

a result, does not diminish the transcendence of God or make God less perfect

than other beings.

By dismissing secondary causes and by positing God as the only real

Agent, 1bn Taym iyya has Gad take over the role of the active intellect in

philosophy. God would be the provider of the forms as weil as a willing Agent at

one and the same time. Ibn Taymiyya believes that this kind of unity of Gad is

• the true unity and absolutely more appropriate to the religion of Islam than

making God inactive eternally, as the Mutakallimün maintained, or striping Him

any sort ot attribute and making Him a mere mental idea, as the philosophers


ln order to construct his philosophy, Ibn Taymiyya borrowed and adapted

many previous notions from the kalam, philosophy, and even trom mysticism. We

can note briefly the influences of Aristotle, Abu al·Barakât al-Baghdadï, Abü al·

ttusayn al-Ba~rï, Ibn Sïna, Mut)ammad Ibn Karram, and above ail of Ibn Rushd,

who exerted a remarkable influence on Ibn Taymiyya.

This dissertation analyzes Ibn Taymiyya's philosophy by investigating his

criticism of the kalam and of the philosophy and through his occasionally explicit

but more often hidden ideas that underline his ontology. With the

accomplishment of this task we can see the other aspect of Ibn Taymiyya as a

true philosopher, in the sense of one who has a grounded coherent system of


• Introduction

1. The Lite of Ibn Taym~v.x~

Taqi al-DTn At:lmad Ibn Taymiyya was born at tiarran in January

661/1263.\ He was educated in Damascus after he was forced, with his father

and brothers, to leave his native town before the approaching Mongols in


He was educated at the Sukkariyya Madrasa, where Shams al-Din -Abd

al-Rat)man al-Maqdisi was one of his teachers. AI-MaqdisT was the tirst ttanbaIT

QaçiT al-Quçiat of Syria: he died in 682/1283. Ibn Taymiyya's education

concentrated on ttanbaIT theological works, such as those of Imam At:lmad b.

tian bal (d. 241/854), al-Kallâl (d. 311/923), Muwaffaq al-DTn b. Oudama J (d.

620/1223), and Majd al-Din Abü al-Barakat (d. 652/1254). Ibn Taymiyya

remained faithful throughout his life to this school, where he acquired a

comprehensive and sound knowledge of Islamic sources and disciplines. In

683/1284 Ibn Taymiyya gave his tirst lesson in the Sukkariyya Madrasa where he
himself had studied.

Ibn Taymiyya's life was marked by much persecution. His tirst conflict with

the local authorities took place in 693/1293, at the time of the affair of -Assaf al-

Na~rânT, a Christian who was accused of having insulted the Prophet: Ibn

Taymiyya's intransigence in this affair led him to his being imprisoned for the tirst


time. In 698/1298 he was accused by his enemies of anthropomorphism

(tashbïh) for ascribing human characteristics to God and for having criticized the

legitimacy of dogmatic theology.o

During the Mongol crisis (699-702/1299-1303) and the occupation of

Damascus, he led the resistance party against the invaders and exhorted people

to Jihad. He went to Cairo in Jumada 1 (700/1301) to ask the MamlCik Sultan to

intervene in Syria against the Mongols. During the following years Ibn Taymiyya

was involved in intensive polemical activity. He attacked the Ittil)lldiyya and

condemned the monism of their spiritual director, Ibn -Arabï (d. 638/1240).7 He

also attacked Kasrawan Shï-ah in Lebanon and the Al)madiyya RifS"iyya in

Damascus and accused their shaykh of Mongol sympathies. S

ln 705+706/1306/1307 his enemies attacked his profession of faith, al-

Wasi~iyya, written shortly before the arrivai of the Mongols in Damascus. He was

asked to explain his beliefs to the governor's council in 705/1306. Although the

Wasi(iyya was not condemned, Ibn Taymiyya was sent to Cairo in 706/1307.

There he appeared again before a new council on the charge of

anthropomorphism and was imprisoned in the citadel for nearlya year and a


He was confined again in 709/1309 for having denounced the veneration

of saints as being against religious law (Shan~ah). He was taken to Alexandria

where he was put under house arrest for seven months. He retumed to Cairo and

stayed there until the year 712/1313 when he left for Damascus, again under

• threat from the Mongols. Ibn Taymiyya spent his last 15 years in Damascus

under the governate of Tankiz. He was promoted ta the rank of Schoolmaster

(Ustadh) , and gathered around him many pupils from every social class. His

most famous follower was Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya, (d. 751/1350) who spread

his master's ideas and shared many vicissitudes with him. In 720/1320 Ibn

Taymiyya was arrested and imprisoned for five months for infringing the Sultan's
prohibition on issuing any fatwa on divorce contrary ta the ttanbaIT doctrine.

ln 726/1326 Ibn Taymiyya was arrested yet again, without any trial, and

was prohibited from issuing fatâwâ by the order of the Sultan because of his
risala on visits to tombs. He remained in prison for more than two years during

which time he continued writing and issuing fataw8. As a result. the Sultan

ordered that Ibn Taymyya's paper and ink should be taken from him in 728/1328.

Five months later, on the 26th of September, Ibn Taymiyya died in the citadel,

deprived of his books. He was buried in the ~üfi cemetery where a large number

of the inhabitants of Damascus gathered to pay their respects. His tomb is still

honored and sought out by a large number of visitors to Damascus. 13

2. Ibn Taymiyva's Works

Ibn Taymiyya left a considerable number of books that attempted to justify

his religious. theological, philosophical and politica 1 ideas. Rich documentation

and brilliant discussions characterized his works. His main works were listed in


• Asma"

mu" al/afat Ibn Taymiyya
written by his student Ibn al-Qayyim al-

He performed the Pilgrimage to Mecca in 691/1292 and then wrote a

treatise on the rituals of Pilgrimage (Manasik al-l:"aiJ) in which he denounced a

certain number of innovations in the rituals of the Pilgrimage . His tirst great work

was K. al-$arim a/-Mas/û/' ala Shatim al-Rasû/ (Haydarabad 132211905).15 This

book was written on the occasion of "Assaf al-Na~ranrs affair in 692/1293.

ln 698/1299 he wrote one of his most famous books, a/-I:famawiyya al-

Kubrâ-a polernical book against the kalâm and the Ash"arites-at the request of

the people of tiamat. Shortly before the arrivai of the Mongols, he wrote a/-

Wasitiyya. (in theology of the Unity of God), which caused intense polemical

discussions. He wrote K. al-Siyasa al-Shariyya in Cairo around 711/1311. For

the Bedouin Amir Muhanna b. "Tsâ (d. 736/1335), who intervened with the Amir

Salar in order to have Ibn Taymiyya released from the citadel of Cairo in Rabï'

I/September 707/1307, Ibn Taymiyya wrote, at an unknown date, al-"Aqïda al-

Tadmuriyya. in which he deals with the attributes of God and the way they should

be understood. If)

AI-Radd -a/a al-Man(iqiyyïn was written during his house arrest, which

lasted for seven months in Alexandria, beginning in August 711/1311. Between

711/1311 and 714/1315 Ibn Taymiyya wrote .. KitSb al-Siyasa a/-Shariyya".

Several Fataw8 Mi$riyya (Egyptian Fatwâs) have also been placed in that

period. 1s

• ln his book Minhaj al-Sunna a/-Nabawiyya. written in 716/1316, Ibn

Taymiyya attacked the Imam al-ttim1'l (d. 726/1325) and widely discussed the

basic tenets of philosophy and the doctrines of severallslamic sects. Even in

prison Ibn Taymiyya continued to issue fatawa and wrote several works which

have survived, such as Kitab Ma'arij a/-Wu$ül, on the methodology of Fiqh, the

Raf al-Ma/am, and Kitâb a/-Radd 'a/a a/-Ikhna'~ the Mâlikï Qâdï.

Several collections of Ibn Tayimyya's works have been compiled in Egypt

and Saudi Arabia, e.g., Majmü·at a/-Rasaïl al-Kubra, Kitab Majmü' Fatawa

Shaykh a/-Is/am AlJmad Ibn Taymiyya,~l Majmü'at a/-Rasaïl wa'I-Masaï/,22 which

one may venture to consider this collection representing the clearest form of Ibn

Taymiyya's philosophical principles that includes his conceptions of the eternity of

the world, the nature of God's attributes, and over ail his lengthy discussion of the

problem of the createdness of the Qur"an.

1n Beirut recently many of his books and the Rasa' il have been compiled

under the title Dar Ta'aruçf al-'Aql wa'I-Naql.2J Another voluminous book that Ibn

Taymiyya wrote is "AI-Jawab al-$alJi1) li-man Baddala Dïn al-Masïl) ". This text

was published in four volumes under the supervision of Faraj Allah Zikï and

Mu~t.afa al-Qabbanï in 1905 in Cairo.

3. The Historical Circumstances

• Ibn Taymiyya lived at a time when both internai and external tensions were

great. In this period, the entire world of Islam was trembling with fright as the

• imminent target of Tatars' oppression. Iraq, Iran, and Khurâsan continued to be

despotically ruled by the Tatars. Egypt, Sudan, Syria, and ttijaz were ruled by the

Mamlûk Turks. As the external pressures mounted, several internai problems

plagued Muslims. Ibn Taymiyya believed that the Sunnis' doctrine must be

defended against ail kinds of enemies. internai as weil as external. Indeed, this

was not the first time the tianbalite Madhhab undertook the mission of defending

Sunni Islam.2~

During Ibn Taymiyya's time a great I:'ianbalite school flourished in

Damascus and the names of eminent tianbalite scholars were weil known, such

as Muwaffaq b. Qudâma (d. 620/1223), who wrote many influential books,

particularly his treatise on tianbali law, the Mughnï(12 vols. Cairo 1922~30): and

Shams al-Dïn b. Qudama (d. 744/1342), who was the first tianbaIT Qa<;ii in

Damascus and a great authority in the religious sciences. 25 Ibn Taymiyya

followed and emulated this series of scholars, and undertook to defend Islam on

more than one frontier. Proceeding from what he believed was the true Islam,

based on the Qur" an and the Sunna and the first generation of companions
(salaf) , he criticized other creeds that were current during his time.

Ash-arite doctrine predominated in the religious lite of many scholars. This

predominance occurred as a result of the Seljüks and Ayyübids' struggles against

the Shï-a and, especially, against Fatimid activity. 80th $alat, al~Dïn and Nür al~

Din contributed to spreading Ash-arite beliet by imposing it through their

• educational policy. The Shafi-ite legal Madhhab superseded other schools of law

• because of the Ash·arites, who integrated their theological views with Shâfi·ite


H. Laoust believes that the hostility between the Ash- arites and the

t;-ianbalites arose for both intellectual and social reasons. Intellectually, the

Ash-arites permitted rational argument and relative freedom of interpretation.

which was regarded by the tianbalites as leading ta the production of

innovations, or heresies. and ta deviation from the Sunna. Regarding the social

aspect of the conflict, the tianbaIT Madhhab recruited its followers from among

the ordinary people because it avoided the intricacies of rational thinking and

because it expressed Islam by a simple and clear formula, as had been

established by the Prophet and his Companions. 2M

Mutual accusations between these two schools were constantly bandied

back and forth. The manifestation of this hostility can be seen in many examples;

thus, one of the Ash·arite schools established in Damascus by Ibn Rawat)a

prohibited, in its rules, any Christian, Jew or l:'ianbaIT from visiting this school. The

major criticism of the Ash-arites against the I:'ianbalites was that the l:ianbalites

were incapable of discussing religious issues in rational terms. The Ash-arites

also attacked their tendency toward anthropomorphism as weil as their constant

political agitation. The tianbalites meanwhile regarded the Ash-arites as

deviatars fram the true Islam because of their inclination toward intellectual

argument. 2<)


• The other frontier where Ibn Taymiyya was contending involved the

mystical movements that existed in his age. Many mystics and many mystical

establishments and monasteries, such as Riba\, Khanqa, Zawiya, were popular

and widespread throughout the Islamic world. Intensitying the attraction of the

populace ta mystical movements, the MamlOk rulers encouraged and supported

such movements..3" Cairo, Jerusalem, Damascus and Aleppo were the major

cities where the Sultans enthusiastically invoked support for mystical orders. JI

Mysticism in Ibn Taymiyya -sage promoted a belief in the unity of

existence (wal)dat al-wujüd), which was based on reducing God-s transcendence

and maintaining that every single existent is a mere individual manifestation of

God"s essence. The danger of this form of mysticism, according to Ibn Taymiyya,

lay in the belief that the saint (wafi) could be superior ta the Prophet since the

saint is responsible for discovering the true meaning of the Sharï-a and calling

people ta follow il. The prime goal of the believer, therefore, was to learn the

hidden meaning of the Sharï-a through spiritual intuition, while the ambition of the

mystic was to be unified with Gad and to remove ail distance between the divine

and the human. 32

The other aspect of mystical beliefs that was criticized by Ibn Taymiyya lay

in the emphasis on contemplation rather than on living an active and energetic

lite. Thus, for certain mystics, remembrance (dhikr) of God in the night was much

better than fighting in the name of God. However, this was completely

• unacceptable ta Ibn Taymiyya, who had himself taken part in fighting the Tatars;

in addition, he was a dfl'1 for jihad against the latter, for he regarded defense

• against the Tatars as the most essential obligatory rule for Islam in his time. It

must be noted here that the Tatars' threat to the Islamic world underlay many of

Ibn Taymiyya's legal opinions; one of the reasons why Ibn Taymiyya charged

certain Muslim minorities with unbelief, was his conviction that they were helping
the Tatars against Islam.

Ibn Taymiyya's bitter refutation of both the Ash"arites and the mystical

orders caused him to spend many years of his life in prison. After ail the

Ash-arites occupied a commanding position in the political life of the age.

Moreover, the great ~üfï of this period, Na~r b. Sulayman al-Manbiji (d.

719/1318),';4 who was condemned by Ibn Taymiyya for holding Ibn "Arabfs views,

was also the Sultan Baybars Jashnikir's close friend. 35 Ibn Taymiyya's criticism

was not Iimited ta refuting theoretical mystical beliefs, but extended to attacking
their practices, such as honoring saints and visiting their tombs. ln 727/1326 He

wrote a treatise entitled Ziyârat a/-Qubür, which condemned the cult of saints and

caused him and his disciples ta be arrested:~ï

Ibn Taymiyya's confrontations were not restricted to the Ash'arites and

~üfis, but also involved the jurists of his time. In 718/1318 a letter from the Sultan

forbade Ibn Taymiyya ta issue any fatwa on divorce «(alaq) contrary to the

prevailing tianbalï doctrine. He was criticized for denying the validity of uniting

three repudiations into a single one. The persan who uttered it did not intend to

proceed to an actual repudiation. Many councils were held on the matter; the

• third council, held in August 720/1320, accused Ibn Taymiyya of infringing the

Sultan's prohibition and condemned him to prison.


4. Ibn Taymiyya's Personalitv

Ibn Taymiyya's personality has been the subject of great debate among

Muslims and even sorne Western scholars. A very prominent figure, he was

considered even by his enemies to be an outstanding authority in many fields in

Islamic thought. Still at the same time he prompted many questions about his

courage in expressing very brave, and indeed, inspiring thoughts. True, he was a

tianbalite thinker, but he was not in any sense a traditional or conventional figure.

One might venture to say that Ibn Taymiyya was the first tlanbalite to try

by any means to give a solid philosophical basis to the central tenet of his school,

namely, that true Islam is to be found only in the Oufan, Sunna and the Sala'.

Yet. the thorny confrontation between him and his enemies cannot be easily

interpreted as a continuous conflict between his school and its traditional

opponents. Ibn Taymiyya's own views and his personality were important factors

in inflaming this conflict.

Kamal al-Dïn b. al-Zimlikanï (d. 727/1326), the Shâfi"ite Oâc;jï, said of him


Whenever he [Ibn Taymiyya] was asked about any branch of knowledge,

he answered in a way that the audience and viewer thought him to have
acquired knowledge of that very branch of knowledge alone and

acknowledged him as the greatest authority on the subject. Jurists
subscribing to different juristic schools who attended his discourses leamt
something that they had not known earlier.... Whatever the subject matter

• about which he spoke, whether religious or not religious, he surpassed ail

the authorities on that particular subject. J9

Some scholars believed that Ibn Taymiyya's new thought lay behind this

hostility. Tàj al-Din al-Subki (d. 756/1355) states that Ibn Taymiyya "believed that

the essence of God is a substrate of generation and Gad is eternally active and

the eternal succession of generation is possible. In this belief Ibn Taymiyya

deviated from Islam and confused the Muslims. He did not adopt the kalamic

thoughts only but he considered the visit to the Prophet's tomb to be a sin.""!)

A question that might be raised here is whether it was Ibn Taymiyya's

thought that was really the cause of his hardship and suffering. This question is

legitimate inasmuch as a large number of testimonies affirm Ibn Taymiyya's

tremendous knowledge and deep influence on other remarkable thinkers of his

age. such as Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya, At)mad b. Ibrahim al-WasitJ (d. 711/1311-

2), son of the head of the RifS"iyya brotherhood of Wasit Umm Zaynab (d.

711/1311-2), a native of Baghdad, who led a campaign in Damascus against the

/ttif)adiyya; Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1372-3), a Shafi~ï who inserted in his BidSya a

valuable biography of Ibn Taymiyya; and Ibn Rajab (d. 795/1393), who wrote a

well-documented history of tianbalism and was inspired by Ibn Taymiyya's

doctrine in his Qawa-id Fiqhiyya."H

• D. Little has shed light on another aspect of Ibn Taymiyya's personality

that may have caused a bitter conflict between him and his opponents. He quotes

• C
al-Sakhâwï (d. 853/1449), who quoted Abü ·Abd Allah Shams al-Din al-Dhahabi

(d. 739/1339) in stating that, the only reasons why sorne Egyptians and Syrians

hated him, "were his pride, his vanity, and his pretensions, his passion to head

his fellow shaykhs, his contempt for the great, and his live of publicity.,,43

This may partially explain Ibn Taymiyya's frequent conflict with his

adversaries. AI-Dhahabi. who himself was both an Ash·arite and Shafi·ite, was a

rival of Ibn Taymiyya. Both men held teaching appointments as professors of

f:'Iadïth at institutions in Damascus: Ibn Taymiyya at Dar al-ttadith al-Sukkariyya

and al-Madrasa al-tianbaliyya; al-Dhahabi at the Nafisiyya and al-FâQiliyya

Madrasa and also at Dar al-tiadTth al-Sukkariyya, where in fact he succeeded Ibn

AI-Dhahabt S was a member of a group of Damascus Shâfi·is who,

according to al-Subki, were adversely influenced by Ibn Taymiyya. Vet in spite of

(or perhaps because of) their association, and mutual interests, admiration for Ibn
Taymiyya was always tempered by acute misgivings. Ibn tiajar al-"Asqalanï (d.

852/1449) explains this with a remarkable statement:

People who know him weil sometimes accuse me of failing to do him

justice: his opponents sometimes charge me with puffery. 1have been
abused by both parties-his supporters and his adversaries-have abused
me. Though anger would sometimes grip him, he would conquer it with
forbearance. 1have not seen his like for supplications and appeals and for
his abundant concern for others. But 1do not believe him to be infallible;
indeed 1 disagree with him on bath basic and secondary issues. For,
despite his vast leaming, his extrema courage, his fluid mind, and his

regard for the sanctities of religion, he was but a man.

• The obvious conclusion is that Ibn Taymiyya was possessed of a great

mind and was even perhaps a genius in his way. By rational arguments he

attempted to consolidate the tianbalite school, or what he thought of is "pure

Islam" as revealed by the Prophet Mu~ammad and the tirst generation of his

companions; moreover, he believed that most Islamie intellectual sehools had

failed to establish themselves on solid foundations. The politieal instability and

the diversity of intellectual schools, which Ibn Taymiyya believed were unable to

institute any appropriate reforms of Islamie creeds, drove him ta re-formulate

certain basic but controversial issues by using rational arguments. His bitter and

rather rigid personality4S was probably a factor in gaining him enemies when he

defended his position. But even by his opponents he was still considered one of

the greatest Muslim thinkers. His contribution would remain influential for

centuries and is still powerlul today. He should be plaeed in the tirst rank of great

Muslim thinkers.


• Notes

1 H. Laoust, "Ibn Taymiyya", Encyclopaedia oflslam (new ed.), vol. III, p. 951: Brockelmann,
GAL II. 125-27: suppl.. II. 119-126. Many biographies have been wrinen about Ibn Taymiyya's Iife and
career: sorne of them are: Ibn' Abd al-Hadï, al-'L'qüd al-Durriyya min Maniiqib Shaykh al-Islam Ibn
Tl.1ymiyyl.1: Mari b. YÜ5uf al-Karmï. al-KLlwiikib aJ-Durriyyafi Afanaqib al-J/ujtahid Ibn Taym~lya: Ibn
Kathir. al-Bidiiya wa '/-.\'ihiiya, al-DhahabT in his Tadhkirar ai-flujJà;: AlüsT, Jafii" al-'Aynayn: al-
Shawkanï, al-Badr ai-Tait: Ibn al-'Imad, Shadharar al-Dhahab: al-Bukhari, al-Qawl al-Jalïl: al-Kutubï,
Fùwat I.1I-Wafayar: see W. Hallaq, "Introduction", in Ibn Taymiyya Agail1Strhe Greek Logicians. trans., of
Jahd al-Qùrïl:zafi Tajrïd a,-.v~ïl:za (Oxford: Clarendon Press, (993), p. xi.

2 Laoust. Ibid. p. 951 .

.i MuwatTaq al-DTn b. Qudama was born in 541: 1146, in the town of Jamma'ïl. near Jerusalem.
When he was ten years of age, his family, the banü Qudama. left the tawn to take up their residence in
Damascus. lt was in al-Madrasa al-Sali~iyya. founded in 556, 1161 by his father. A~mad b. Qudama. that
Muwaffaq al-DTn r~ceivcd the tirst phase of his education in studying the Qur'an and Tradition. To
comph:te his education. he went to Baghdad. His first trip to this great center of I:fanbalism was in 560. He
srudied there under the direction of the famed tIanbalite mystic, .Abd al-Qadir al-Jïlï (d. 561/1166): but this
discipleship was eut short by the laner's death at the beginning of the following year. Among the
biographers of Ibn Qudama, the jurisconsult and historian Abü Shama (d. 665/1167), a student ofhis. is the
onl) one wha voices regret that Muwaffaq al-DTn thought it necessary to uphold the teaching ofhis school
conceming the divine anributes. Sec George Makdisi's "Introduction" in his translation of Ta/:lrïm al-Na;ar
fi I\liwb Ahl u/-l\l.1liim (Ct!nsure ofSpecularù'e Theology), (London: Luzac & Company, 1962) pp. viii-xi:
Brockdmann. GAL 1. p. 389. suppl.. 1. pp. 688-9.

.; H. Laousr. "lbn Taymiyya". pp. 95:;-53.

:; One of the distinguishing features of the tlanbalite school is their anitude towards God's
attributes: they maintained that the anthropomorphic attributes must not be interpreted (against the
Mu·tazilites and the later Ash·arites). They cali for leaving the true meaning of these anributes to God who
alone knows their meaning. This anitude was usually ascribed to Ibn tfanbal: and sorne of Ibn Qudama's
polemical works '.vere in defense ofthis doctrine: he attacked Ibn' Aqrt. a fellow Muslim. and a member of
his own school. for the laner's position upholding speculative theology and the Mu·tazilite system of
thought which allows allegorical interpretation of the revealed text with regard ta the divine anributes. Ibn
Taymiyya likewise maintained the same doctrine with emphasis on the necessiry ofnot making any analogy
or anthropomorphism between these anribules and the human ones. See. G. Makdisi. "Introduction". pp.
xvii-xix: and Mar'j b. Yüsufal-KarrnL al-Kawiikib al-Durriyyafi A-Ianiiqib al-J\lujrahid Ibn Taymiyya, ed.
~. A. Khalaf (Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islarnï. 1986) pp. 105-16: lbn 'Abd aI-Hadr. al-'Uqüd al-Durriyya
mm .\fanâqib Shayk.h al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya, ed. M. H. FiqïtBeirut: Dar al-Katib al-'ArabL n.d) pp. 228-

!'> See Ibn 'Abd al-Hadr. al-'Cqiïd af-Durriyya. where the Ibn Taymiyya's views and the accusation
against him are clearl) shown: see also "[bn Taymiyya", Encyclopaedia ofIslam. vol. III. p. 952.

• Ibn Ta~miyya explains that his anitude towards the mysticism of Ibn 'Arabïwas reversed
because of the laner's book F~~ al-flikam. Before Ibn Taymiyya read F~~ he was among those who
held a good opinion of Ibn .Arabï and praised him highly for tlIe useful advice he provides in his books.

• This uSèful advisè is found in thè pages of the .~.teccan Reve/ations (a/-Futü/:lat al-Makkiyya), the Essence,
the Tiglzt(\, Knit l.1Ild Tied. the Precious Pearl. the Positions ofthe Stars, and similar \\Titings. "One of the
fundamental principles of Ibn ' Arabi's teaching laid down in the Fu~ii~ is that the existence of contingent
and created entities is identical with the existence oftheir Creator'. Sec Alexander Knysh, Ibn 'Arabr in the
Lall?r !s/umic Tradition (Albany: State University of New York. 1999) pp. 97-8.

~ H . Laoust.·· lb n T aymlyya.
. .. p. 9-"

1 • p. 9-"

Il' !b"J
f • p. '.J.

11 Ibid. p. 952.

12 Ibn Taymiyya's fun"ii in prohibiting visits to tombs caused hÎm a great deal of trouble. ft has
be~n said that the reaction caused by thisfan,·a drove sorne ofhis pupils to leave him out of l'ear ofthose
who were planing to kill Ibn Taymiyya or to cut out his rongue or expel him. In Egypt sorne religious men
met with the Sultan and asked him to kill Ibn Taymiyya. but the Sultan ordered the imprisonmcnt of Ibn
Taymiyya. According to ibn 'Abd al-Hadï. the Sultan visited Ibn Taymiyya before the laner's death and
asked him to forgive him. and Ibn Taymiyya. we have been told. forgave him and ail those who hated him
and intended to harm him. See. and Ibn' Abd al-Hadj, al-' Uqüd al-Durr(vya. pp. 343-6. and al-KannT. al·
Kii\l'aklh al-Durr(l:ya. pp. 148-9. & 174-5.

Ij H. Laoust. ESSQI slir les doctrines sociales et politiques de Taki-d-dïn A~lmad b. Taim(\'a (Le
CaÎre: Imprimerie de l'Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale. 1939) pp. 353-54. and "Ibn Taymiyya"
Encydopat!Jia vflslum. vol, Ill. pp. 952-53.

14 C. Brockelmann. GAL Il: 125-117 & Sil: 119-16.

15 H. Laoust. "Ibn Taymiyya". p. 951.

tl1 Ib-d
1 • p. 9-'

1- ibn Taymiyya's book al-Radd 'a/ii al-J[an~iqiyyïn (see GAL suppl. p. 114. # 93) or .\j~ilJat Ahl
JI-Imiin fi ul-Radd 'ala .\fan~iq al-'rïinan was abridged by the Shafii scholar JaH1I al-Drn al-Suyûtï (d.
911 1505) almost two centuries after Ibn Taymiyya's death. The new name ofthis abridgement was Jahd
ü/-Qûril}a fi Tujrid al-S~il}a (The E:certion of Effort in Divesting the Na{ilJa). Tajrfd a/-N~rlJa was edited
by 'Alr Samf al-Nashshâr and published in 1947 for the first time. Two years laterthe original book of al-
Radd was published in 1949 in Bombay. Both al-Radd and Jahd were printed more than one time. In 1993.
Wae! E. Hallaq. has translated al-Suyü~ïs abridgement of Jahd into English under the title Ibn Taymiyya
..tgainst the Greek Logicians. published by the Clarendon Press, Oxford. See Hallaq's Introduction to the
book. especially. pp. liii-iviii.

L aoust." lb n T aymlyya,
. .. p. 9-"

IH "" .

1'1 Ibn al-Muf;ahhar al-tlillïs full name is lamaI al-Drn b. Yûsuf He was one of the most
prominent Shï'ï Imams of the 7 Ùl centUf)' of the Hijra. His education was very broad in Arabie grammar.
jurisprudence. kalam. and philosophy. AI-tlillï accompanied the philosopher N~rr al-Din al-TUsi (d.

• kalam. and philosophy. AI-tIillI accompanied the philosopher N~ïr al-Dïn al-Tüsï (d. 672/l27~) and
leamed from him many topics in kalam and philosophy. He was educated in jurisprudence by Shams al-Oïn
al-Shatïî and Burhan al-Dïl"' al-NasaÎl (d. 687 / 1386). He was titled Ayat Allah and al-'Allama and he
bendïted from the spread of the Shrï doctrine during his time and strove to introduce this doctrine to those
who did not know it yet. It has been pointed out that Ibn Taymiyya wrote his book Jlinhaj al-Sunna al·
.\"ùhUl'·~\~·u in arder primarily ta refute al-tlillï, but Ibn Taymiyya apologized ta him because of the harsh
anack on al-tIillT when he met him in Mecca during their performance of the pilgrimage. He [eft a
considerable number of books in Many different branches of the [slamic sciences. Unfortunately, man)' of
these books are still in manuscript or have been lost. Impanant books like al-Arba'ïnfi f.-,~ül al-Dïn, aI-
Ta'iim al-' Ji 'I-f:Iikma \l'a 'f-Kalam and the Relation between the Ash'arites and the SophislS are lost. See
El:. vol. 3, p. 390: GAL li, p. 16~.

21 1 l~1 . L' -
~annl, a1.1.' ~
-nawa-k l"b ,p. l 7.J.

21 These}àliiwâ have been compiled and published in 37 vols., in Maktabat al-Ma'arif, al-Ribat..
1961 and published by al-Maktab al-Ta'lïm al-Su'üdï, in Riyad, Saudi Arabia. without date.

2.2 .tlaJmii' al ul-Rasiî il wa 'l-Masa' il was edited by the prominent Islamic reformer MuI:lammad
Rashïd Ri<;fa (d. 1352 1935). ft was published in Cairo, 1323. 1905, by'a al-'Âmira, and re-

pub1ished rccently by Dar al-Kutub al-'l1miyya in Beirut, 1985.

2." Dar' Tù·Jruc/. ul-',-lql wa '/-Saql has been compiled in ten vols., ed. M. R. Salim and published
in Cairo, 1971 by Dar al-Kutub, and published again in Saudi Arabia. University al-Imam M. Ibn SU'üd al-
Islami~ya, 1982: recently this book was also published by Dar al-Kutub al-'lJmiyya, in Beirut, 1997. in 5
\ ols. This book is the same as .\fuwafùqar $c1~lfiJ al-Jfanqülli-$arïl) al-AJa'qül which was edited by M. M.
.Abd al-tIamïd and M. H. Fiqï and published in 2 vols. (Cairo:'at al-Sunna al-MuQammadiyya,
1370 1951): again, this book has also been published in Beirut. Dar al-Kutub al-'llmiyya, 1985.

24 :\fter the tribulations of AQmad b. tfanbal because ofhis struggle against the MU'tazilites and
the 'Abbasid caliphs who had adopted their doctrine. the history of tlanbalism tells us that their political
activity did not stop. This activity was illustrated by the tIanbalï Imam al-Barbaharï (d, 329/490-1) a
traditionalist and jurisconsult who struggled bitterly against Shrism and Mu'tazilism for the refonn of the
Sunnï caliphate. His contemporary Abü al-Qasim al-KhiraqI (d. 334/945-6) left Baghdad and took refuge in
Damascus with the advent of the Büyids. Under the Büyids (334-447/945-1061). tfanbalism was an active
and numerically strong school and possessed a doctrinal literature comparable ta that which the other
schools were able to offer. The pragress of Imamï Shrism. encouraged by the Büyids, and of Isma'TIism
after the Fa~imid conquest of Egypt in 358;969 came inta canflict with the I:fanbalï theologians and
preachers. who exercised a decisive influence on the beginnings of the Sunnï restoration that began to assen
itself from the reign of al-Qadir (381-422'991-1021). tlanbalism then took on the raie of a politico-religious
opposition pany and was in the forefront of the ideologies \Vhich \Vere developed or founded for the defense
of the caliphate ofSunnism. See, ..tlanabila" Encyclopaedia of/siam, vol. 3. pp. 158-62.

25 H. Laoust. Essai. p. 13.

2h Sec NU'man Kha)T al-Ofo al-AlilsI. Jala' al-'Aynayn fi A-IulJakamar al-AiJmadayn (Cairo:'at al-MadanÎ, 1961), where the author exhibits in detaillbn Taymiyya's creeds and his ditTerence
from other theological schools at that rime,

_. Ibid. p. 20.

• :S Ibid. pp. 10-1.

:</ Ibid. p. 21: and see Abu Zahra. Ibn Taymiyya. where he presents the same interpretation of the
contlict between the l:1anbalites and the rational school in Islam. Abu Zahra affirms thatlbn Taymiyya
criticized those who inrended to follow the predecessors' (sala/) path in understanding the Qur'an but used
the Mutakallimun methods «(uruq) in inrerpreting the Qur'an. Mu~ammad Abu Zahra./bn Taymiyya (Dar
al-Fikr al-' ArabI. n.ct) pp. 1-l0-2 .

.31' When the Sultan Nur al-Dln al-ZinkI, was preparing for the war against the crusaders, his
friends advised him ta use the great amounts of money that were given ta the jurists, poor people. dervishes,
and readers (of the Qur'an). He answered them that "1 cannat ask Gad for victor)' but through those. you are
bcing bestowed sustenance and granted victory because of the feeble people (Qu'afa'). How ean 1 restrain
from giving them (money) though they are fighting instead ofme, when 1 am sleeping, with arrows that
cannat miss their targets. and give this money ta those whose arrows may or ma)' not miss their targets?
Besides. those have a right ta the Muslim money, how can 1 give il ta the others:' (m)' translation), See Abu
lahra, Ihn TLl)·ml.l'")·U, p. 206.

"1" -6 .
-'; H . L aoust. E"S.HJ/. pp. __

.32 Ibid. p. 299.

33 Ibid. pp. 58-9.

j.; al-Allis;. JJ/J·. pp. 87-8 .

.3~ Ibn Kathïr. al-Bidiiya U'a ·l-.\"ihiiya. vol. 14 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-·llmiyya. 1988) p. 39.

-'Il al-Alusi. Jiil(j·. pp. 458-9.

.3- H. Laoust. "[bn Taymiyya". Ef. p. 953 .

.3X lb"d
J • p. 9-"

- Ibn' Abd al-Hadï. al-' L"qiid al-Durriyya. p. 13.

411 Yusuf al-NabhânL Shml'iihid al-Ijaqq (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub aI-'llmiyya. 1996) p. 152.

.; t H. Laoust. "[bn Taymiyya". El:. p. 954.

·C AI-SakhawI's fuI[ name is Shams al-Din Abû al-Kha)T MulJammad Ibn 'Abd al-Ral)mân al-

• Shati'I (BrockeLmann. GAL IL pp. -l3-k suppL Il. pp. 31-3). He was bom in Caira and migrated to the
Delta town of Sakha. He was introdueed to advanced studies in Prophetie traditions by the famous shaykh
Ibn f:iajar al-' AsqalânL AI-Sakhawï soon acquired renown for his own mastery of I:fadïth-related
disciplines. ln faet al-Sakhawïs works are remarkabLe more for their encyclopedic scope than for their

• originality of method. AI-Sakhawi"' held several appoinrments as shaykh al-tladTth in distinguished religio-
academic institutions ofCairo. He also traveled to the Syrian districts of the Mamlük empire.
Although justifiably respected as a prominent figure oflate medieval scholastieism, al-SalmawT
disguised a propensity for personal vindictiveness against he adversaries and those of his associates under
the guise of a pious wish to evaluate his eontemporaries' moral probity in arder to assess the validity of
their opinions. both for interpretation of Sharra and the giving ofhistorieal details. See C. F. Petry, "al-
Sakhawî·. Encyc/vpaedia oflslam. vol. VIII. pp. 881-2.

43 Donald P. Little. "Did Ibn Taymiyya Have a Serew Loose", Srudia [slamica, vol. 41. 1975, pp.
I02-03.lLinle·s translation).

4-1 Ibid. p. 103.

-15 AI-DhahabT wrote many other statements that praise Ibn Taymiyya. and many biographers point
out thes~ statements and eonsider al-Dhahabi"' one ofthose who were influeneed by Ibn Taymiyya and who
had an inclination rowards the tlanbalite doctrine although he is a Shafi-ite. See Ibn 'Abd al-HadT, al-'U"üd
i.J!-Durr~\")'a. pp. 39-4 I. and al-Karmi"'. al-Kiiwakib. p. 61-3, and Linle's interpretation of the harsh statement
againsr Ibn Taymiyya in "Did Ibn Taymiyya". pp, 101-5.

4t· J p.
. 1b1. 10~.

Ibn tlajar al-'AsqalanT. al-Durar a/-Kaminafi ..l'yan al-J/il'a al-Thamina (Beirut: Dar lt,lya' al-
Tur;ïth al-'Arabi. n.d.l p. 161. Translation in Linle. ibid. pp. 104-5.

~s With regard to Ibn Taymiyya's personality. Abü Zahra denies that Ibn Taymiyya had qualities
of sdf-admiration or vanity. but he admits at the same time that he was rigid and harsh in his arguments and
debat~s with the omers. Abü Zahra describes Ibn Taymiyya's rigidity as painful and tough. This and his
courage in saying what he believed was true might have caused him tribulation. Abu Zahra quotes al-
Dhahabï. withoUl mentioning the referenee. when he says that Ibn Taymiyya's "exasperation and shocking
his opponents caused hostilir) between others and him: apart from these qualities, his knowledge is without
shore and beyond comparison. as was commonly held among Muslims", See Abû Zahra./bn Taymiyya.
pp. 102-Q .

• Chapter 1

Gad is a Real Existent

1. Transcendence and the Objective Reslitv of the Ides of God

50 as to formulate a rational world-view, the philosophical tradition of

Islam, and to sorne extent, that of the kalam as weil, have looked upan the idea

of God in a way that would enable it ta be feasibly incorporated into the whole

system of thought that bath the philosophers and the Mutakallimün sought to

establish. In philosophy, for instance, God cannat be called only by the terms

given ta Him in the Qur-an; rather, in arder to have God hold the ontological

position He was given by the philosophers a set of different terms had ta be

devised according to their distinctive system of thought. Thus, Gad is '''llIa-~

(Cause), --Substance" (Jawhar) , -'Necessary Seing" (Wajib al·Wujüd), He is the

"Perfectly Simple One" in the sense that He is beyond ail attributes, His essence

and His existence are the same. 1

The Mutakallimün, as weil, although staying close to scripture and

tradition employed terms that were not mentioned in the

1 aur~ an or the Prophetie

tradition. For the Mu-tazilites and the Ash-arites Gad, is an essence. His

attributes can be regarded as ma-an; (linguistie entities) additional to the

essence (the Ash-arites) or predicates identical with the essence (the


• Mu"tazilites). Some of the Mutakallimün gave too the name (mahiyya)2, others

(the Karramites) considered God a Substance (Jawhaf}.3

ln other words, both the philosophers and the Mutakallimün did not limit

themselves to using only the names and terms that the aur~an admitted, but they

went further in advancing their view of the world and gave Gad metaphysical and

conceptual names.

This chapter focuses on Ibn Taymiyya"s theory of Gad, whieh is based

primarily on his belief that God"s reality, objectivity, and actual existence, must

be expressed precisely by the philosophieal names given to Him. The prime

concern of Ibn Taymiyya is to formulate the idea of God in a way that does not

sacrifice His reality and His existence. This ean be aceomplished byavoiding

giving God meaningless metaphysical terms that do not have any actual content.

Every term given to God must, first of ail, keep the idea of Gad alive and actual.

After the actuality of God has been proved and He has been given meaningful

names and terms, Gad can then be viewed from a different philosophieal


1.1. Jahm b. Safwan'. Theoloay and lta Influence on Islamie Thouaht

ln Islam, the tapie of the unity of God has been traditionally broached on

the basis of those Qur"ânic verses that describe God in two opposing ways,

anthropomorphically and transcendentally. In general, according to early

• sources, there were two predominant points of view in Islamic discussions of


• God and His nature. One emphasized belief in a transcendent God beyond any

resemblance to or comparison between Him and His creatures.

The other, on the contrary, took an anthropomorphic perspective and

postulated God as body. This school was said to hold the corporealist (tajsTm)

view. Jahm b. ~afwan'; (d. 128/746) was a representative of the tirst school of

thought and Muqatil b. Sulaymân 5 (d. 150/768) was a representative of the

anthropomorphic standpoint,6 However, Hisham b. al-ttakam (d. 181/798) is

usually regarded as a major representative of the corporealist position,8 most

probably because he advanced many theological tenets and established an

influential school of theology in Islam, while Muqatirs interests lay more in

Qur"anic interpretation and linguistics.

The real unity of Gad for Jahm must be viewed in terms of negating any

quality or attribute that might liken Gad to His creatures. He declared that God

cannot be named a thing, because thing (shay~) is a name of a created object

which has a like but most Muslims believed that Gad can be named a thing.'o

This negation of naming Gad a thing (shay') in Jahm occurs in the context of

early Muslims' controversy about the possibility of naming Gad as shay·." We

should note here that the word shay' for Muslim theologians means ·existent'. l:!

But Jahm did not limit himselfto saying only this, he went even farther and

udid not agree ta describe God by qualities such as living (~ayy), knowing 13

• (' a/im) , willing (murTd).·· He states that '''1 cannat describe God with attributes by

which something else can be described.·.. The only attributes Jahm uses to

• describe God are attributes that are worthy of God alone, such as, Powerful

(qâdir) , Creator (khaliq), Agent <fS"if).'4

However, despite the fact that Jahm uses sorne attributes for Gad, he

came to represent in Islamic intellectual history, and especially for sorne Sunni

schools, those who ""suspend" Gad, as it were. The term ""suspension",

"hindering"", ""abstracting" (ta"(ï1) 15 was usually used of those who unduly

emphasized God"s transcendence and removed descriptions likening Him to His

creatures. Gradually in the development of Islamic thought, the name Jahmite


becomes a synonym for banishing Gad and stripping Him of those attributes He

ought te have. Still, we must also not forget here that the accusation of ""ta"(ïT" did

not always address its rightful sense.

Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) was one of those whose thought was based

mainly on affirming God"s presence and His continuous activity in this world. As

a tianbaIT, he was hostile to the Jahmite view and continued to direct the

bitterest criticism at Jahm b. ~afwan and the kind of thought associated with his

name. For Ibn Taymiyya, the term Jahmite does not always mean only those

men who Iiterally maintain Jahm"s views. Rather, the term Jahmite was applied

by Ibn Taymiyya to any position that deprives Gad of attributes or eternal action.

It is weil known that At)mad b. tianbal 16 (d. 241/855) was a very rigid

opponent of Jahm b. $afwan; his book al-Radd "a/a al-Jahmiyya wa '/-ZanlJdiqa


remained for a long time the fundamental guideline for tianbalis. Likewise there

were ether thinkers like al-Ash"ari (d. 324/935) who wrote a/-/bana "an U$ül a/-

• Diyana under the probable influence of Ibn tlanbal. Ibn l:ianbal's argument is

dedicated to refuting Jahm"s view of God as neither talking nor willing. 19

Ibn Taymiyya developed his views in the name of bath reason and

religion. He followed his master Ibn t'anbal in this tendeney, and regarded Jahm

as an arch-adversary. However, Ibn Taymiyya did not criticize Jahm and the

Jahmite in the name of religion only, as his master did. Rather, he advanced his

criticism from the philosophical grounds he had established in order to rationalize

the notion of the unity of Gad. As a matter of fact, using bath ways, religious and

philosophieal, in defending his views is the most characteristic and substantial

aspect of Ibn Taymiyya's intellectual aetivity.

The agreement of .. aql' and .naql', reason and revelation, is at the core of
his belief. His effort ta prove that there is no contradiction between reason and

revelation in terms of reaching the truth seems to have been adopted from Ibn

Rushd 2 \ (d. 595/1198). This is not the only example of the influence of Ibn Rushd

on Ibn Taymiyya; the other important notion that seems to have been taken from

Ibn Rushd and the Peripatetic philosophers is that of the distinction between

what is mental (dhihn1) and what is objectively actual (w8qi"i). Ibn Taymiyya"s

criticism of those who believed that they had suspended Gad and stripped Him

of His attributes is based on the distinction between concepts and objective


Although he did not clearly declare his adherence ta an Aristotelian world-

• view in admitting only real existents in the extemal world and in negating the

• abstract entities, he plainly declared his rejection of Platonic philosophy which

considers forms, or ideas, as real and objective existents. Plato grounds ail truth

in the perception of universal ideas, which are absolute, eternal and unchanging

entities. 22 Aristotle, denying that such forms exist apart from matter, grounded his

philosophy in the eternity and stability of sensible species existing as individuals

in the world. 2J

Thus, for Aristotle, the mind alone knows universals, but the objective

ground for this universality is the species of individual things existing in an

eternal world. It is obvious that individual things come and go in the general

process of change, but the objective species inherent in individuals is eternal.

Plata, however, defined truth by means of subsistent ideas, which are eternal

and unchanging. 24

The debate about whether the universals have an objective reality or not

occurred also in medieval Western philosophy.25 The Nominalist school took the

Aristotelian side and decided that universals are merely mental concepts and do

not have any objective real existence, while the Realist school adopted the

opposite view and maintained that the universals are real and objective entities. 26

Jahm b. Safwan and ail those who abstract God and purify Him of any

attribution in the name of transcendence, or those who assume abstract and

pure existents like the universal intelligence of Muslim philosophers, like al-

Fârâbi (d. 339/950) and Ibn Sïna (d. 428/1037), belong to Platonic philosophy

• according to Ibn Taymiyya.

This is because they believed that those ideas that

they formed and assumed in their minds were also real existents.

Jahm was not considered the champion of ta' ('fl because of his negation

of the attributes God must have. Nevertheless, he had formulated a philosophical

view on which the distinct influence of Neoplatonism can be detected. 28 Besides

his negation of the most essential attributes of God, he taught that God exists

everywhere, and that His presence is not by means of His attributes but rather by

means of His very essence. 29 Indeed, as Richard Frank has shown in his

excellent study The Neoplatonism of Jahm Ibn $afwan, Jahm was the first

theologian in Islam to be influenced by Neoplatonism. 30

Ibn Taymiyya tries to find a justification for those who stripped God to the

extent of virtually nullifying Him. He states that Muslims who adhered to this

viewpoint about God did not mean to do sa; they just attempted to negate the

bodily picture of God that other Muslims defended. However, according ta Ibn

Taymiyya, this negation had unfortunately reached the point of nullifying GOd. 31

ln his argument against Ibn Sins as weil, Ibn Taymiyya does not confute a

specifie philosophical point of view only; rather, he reviews the language of

metaphysics that has been used in tirst philosophy or i/Shiyat. He closely

examines concepts such as "absolute being~~, ··unconditioned being'·,

"unattributable being", '1he absolute simplicity of God~', and the concept of

"essence" (dhat). The comerstone of Ibn Sinirs theory of the unity of Gad,

• according ta Ibn Taymiyya, is the negation of Goers attributes, since the


• philosophers believed that any being that possessed attributes had ta be a body.

Gad is not a body, and therefore, God does not have attributes:':!

This premise. Ibn Taymiyya believed. was taken from the Mu"tazilites who

negated God's attributes on the ground of negating this bodily form. Ibn STna

added ta the Mu'tazilites' concept of God his theory of '1'rom One only one can

come.. ,JJ which appears ta insist strictly on the absolute oneness and simplicity of

God. 34 God, therefore, should not be assigned any attributes but should be

absolutely simple. 35 The principle of 'irom One only one can come'· implies that

the "One" is a mere abstract Being devoid of attributes and qualifiers.

At this point Ibn Taymiyya argued against Ibn STna that this Being (Gad)

that is affirmed does not exist in actuality. God according ta this view is

conceived only by the intellect but has no existence in the realm of existents


Even when Ibn STnâ viewed God as the identity of essence and existence,

he considered this existence to be an absolute. Once again God was regarded

as an abstract being. Bath absolute essences and absolute existence are not

concretely real,)7 they are concepts, notions, ideas, and forms. Every absolute

and universal, thus, has no concrete existence except in the intellect. 38

"Animalness" and "humanness'·, for instance, are in ail cases qualities of

animais and of human beings. But it is impossible to posit these universals as

objective and eternal beings; this is just a delusion. Outside the mind there is

• nothing but determined and concrete individual existents. 39


• Ibn Taymiyya also criticized the mystics who had staked out their position

in picturing God as both a totally absolute and transcendental being,40 on the one

hand, and as identical with His creatures or manifested in them,41 on the other.

This double position was established by Jahm b. ~afwan,42 as we have already

noted. The doctrine of mystics is composed, according to Ibn Taymiyya, ofthree

components: the --abstraction" of Jahm (salb al-Jahmiyya) , the incarnation of

Christianity (1)ulüf) , and the ambiguities of mystics' statements (mujmalat al-


ln this criticism Ibn Taymiyya has in mind the two kinds of unity that the

mystics, particularly Ibn -Arabi, had maintained, Le. the unity of One (~I)adiyyat

al-AI)a d) which conceives Gad as absolutely above any sort of comprehension


and attribution, and the unity of manyness (al)adiyyat al-kathra), which conceives
God in His manifestation. Ibn Taymiyya said that being like this does not exist

unless we imagine its existence in our minds. 45

1. 2. The Notion of Essence as a Conceptual Notion

Ibn Taymiyya believed that Gad as a real existent must be conceived in

terms of meaningful words and concepts. In his argument with the Mutakallimun,

for example, he discussed the term -·essence·'. The term (dhat) had been used

as signitying a real entity, but for Ibn Taymiyya it is in fact a mental notion. It had

• been theorized on occasion in separation trom the attributes, since Gad for the

• Ash'rites and Karramiites. for instance. is of two aspects, essence and the

attributes. -l6

This severance of the attributes of Gad from His essence implies that the

essence of God is something different from the attributes. This is exactly what

Ibn Taymiyya wished ta criticize. It is impossible to believe that essence is

something externally real. The ward essence. therefore. objectively speaking. is

meaningless; it indicates nothing. He says: '1he assumption of an essence

deprived from ail qualities is a mental idea that cannat exist in external objective

reality. This assumption is the same as assuming an absolute undetermined


Ibn Taymiyya's view is that essence, "dhat' in Arabie, is just a word of

feminine gender usually used to relate. connect or link something to something

else. For instance. we say, ·Fat.ima has a beautiful face'. (Fatima dhllt wajhin

Jamï/in); here "dhaf' is used as "ir;Jafah". Essence. then. cannot be assumed ta

be separate from its attributes. If the Mutakallimün made this separation between

essence and attributes as merely conceptual. this is acceptable; but if they

meant that this is objective separation. that would be a grave mistake:~8

The unity of God. for Ibn Taymiyya, should be understood as the unity of

Gad Himself with ail of His attributes. Only when we deal with this issue

subjectively. mentally. could we say that there is an essence and attributes.

Otherwise. it would be delusory to consider the notion of essence as real and

• objective, and ta consider the attributes as additional,

certain Mutakallimün did.

za~ idah, ta the essence, as

ln the same context of affirming the objectivity of God. Ibn Taymiyya

rejects interpreting the anthropomorphic attributes (~ifat khabariyya) mentioned

in the Oufan, such as ··We are awaiting in your case too, for God to visit vou

with chastisement from Him, or at our hands; so await; we are awaiting with you··

(9:52), ··AII things perish except His face" (28:88). ··God's hand is over their

hands" (10:48). "What thinkest thou? If he cries lies, and turns away-Did he not

know that God sees" (96:14).4~

Ibn Taymiyya is a thoroughgoing adherent of the view of suspending any

interpretation of the anthropomorphic attributes mentioned in the Oufan. He did

not agree with either the Mu·tazilites or the later Ash-arites of whom bath

believed in interpreting the anthropomorphic attributes. Instead, Ibn Taymiyya

maintained the view of the '-salaf' whose principle caUs for non-interpretation of

these attributes and who adopted the position of what is called authorization

(tafwTçf) since God is the only being who is authorized to possess the real

meaning of these attributes and who knows their exact meaning. so

However, this attitude does not mean that Ibn Taymiyya defends

anthropomorphism. Although a human being is not authorized to interpret these

attributes, he is also strictly not allowed to understand them in an

• anthropomorphic way. 51 Ibn Taymiyya repeated that one should assert the

attributes by which Gad has described Himself in the Qur'an. Although we do not

• have to interpret these attributes, we do not at the same time have to make a

comparison or draw a likeness or an analogy between God's attributes and

human attributes. 52 The anthropomorphic attributes (~iflJt khabariyya) must be

admitted without asking how (billJ kayf), inasmuch as Gad should be conceived

as objective and transcendent being at the same time. 53

God is absolutely different, nothing is like Him, either in His existence or in

His attributes or in His actions. Ali His attributes, knowledge, power, will, etc., are

different from His creature"s attributes. 54 Participation (ishtirak) between God and

man in some names and attributes does not necessitate that God and man are

actually identicaL Likening God ta man or assuming any similarities between

them is absolutely impossible. 55

ln order to eonceptualize the notion of Gad in a way that preserves His

existence as a real existent, Ibn Taymiyya rejects both extremes of thought,

namely, suspension (tao(i1) , and anthropomorphism (tashbih). Tao(ïI leads to

annihilating Gad and reduces Him to nothing (oadam). Tashbih leads to

transfarming God into an existent like other existents and, therefore, to the loss

of the ontologieal role that He plays as the source of eternal creation in the past

and future. 56

This rejection of extreme transcendence and of anthropomorphism is

completely different trom the rejection of God's attributes that was used by sorne

Muslim thealogical sects, specifically those seets that denied that Gad can be

• qualified either by an attribute or by its opposite. These Muslims restrained from

saying --God is knowing" while at the same time refusing to say, --Gad is

• ignoranr-. According ta them, Gad is not existent and not non-existent, not

knowing and not non-knowing, not alive and not dead, and not powerful and not

powerless. 57

The being that can be defined this way, according ta Ibn Taymiyya, does

not have any existence except in our imaginations. He clearly states that the

sharing of some terms between Gad and man does not mean in any way that

bath are the same. God is completely unlike man even if the same term has

been used for bath. The sharing of names is a matter of the language we have to

use. God is transcendent, the richest, the Necessary Seing, whereas man is

always in need of God, and is generated, poor. 58

Mere linguistic usage should not lead us to assume that Gad is similar to

human beings. Aise, we should not assume that we have te remove any

description of God, including the attribute of existence, just because other

existents could be described by il. 59

Ibn Taymiyya-s readiness to name Gad knowing, powerful, willing, alive,

existent, etc., is intended not ta defend the traditional stance. Rather, this

assertion of Ged-s attributes is meant ta serve fundamentally his metaphysics,

which is grounded on giving God the essential role of etemally and objectively

producing and generating the world.

2. The Orientation of God (al-Jihal

• 2. 1. Kalim and Philosophy on God'. Orientation


• 1n the line of thought that seeks to prove that God is a real and objective

existent, Ibn Taymiyya stands against the schools in Islam that made God just a

mental idea. The latter is an inevitable outcome for those who insist on the

complete transcendence of God and who deny that qualities can be used to

describe Him so as to purify God from bodily features, or to assume that God has

no orientation (jiha). Undoubtedly, the problem of the orientation (jiha) of God is

rightly one of the major topies in Islam, for it is strongly linked to the problem of

transcendence and anthropomorphism. Many kalâmic schools deny that God

obtains in an orientation.

The Mu"tazilites, in concord with their belief that God is absolutely rich

(ghani) and transcendent, maintained that He does not need to have place or

orientation or any qualities that other bodies have. Ali the Oufânic verses that

indicate orientation or place should, according to them, be interpreted in a way

that emphasizes God's transcendence of such dimensions.

The Mu·tazilites were clearer on this point than were the Ash"arites. Their

more prominent masters, such as Abü al-Hudhayl al-"Allâf 2 (d. 235/841), al-

IskâfrJ (d. 241/855), and Abü 'AIT al-Jubbâ·t 4 (d. 303/915), maintained that God

is everywhere in the sense that He disposes, conduets (mudabbir) everything,

and His disposai exists everywhere. Others like Hishâm al-FuwatJ (flourished

during al-Ma-mün"s reign)65 and "Abbâd b. Sulayman (d. 252/864), held that Gad

is in no place, He is as He was in ail eternity.66 But ail the Mu"tazilites agreed

about one issue concerning God,


• God is One, nothing resembles Him and He is the Hearer and Viewer, He
is not body, nor corporeal, nor form, nor flesh, nor individual, nor blood ...
He does not move nor is He at rest, does not have parts and cannot be
divided .... He has no dimensions, neither right, nor left, nor front nor
behind nor up nor down. He is not surrounded by place, contingency
cannot be considered for Him, or seclusion, or dispersal in places (I)ulûf).
He can never be attributed with creatures' attributes....

The Mâturïdites also agreed with the Mu·tazilites and later the Ash'arites

in denying God's being in orientation and in interpreting the Our'ânic verses that

state that God is in a place or or:entation (jiha).h9 This agreement between many

streams in Islam about the negation of Goers directionality does not mean that

ail notions advanced in this regard are identical. Rather, ambiguity and

unspecific statements can easily be found especially among the kalam schools.

Taking the Ash"arites as another example, we find that al-Ghazali, in his

The Grounds of Beliefs (Qawa'id al-'Aqa" id), says:

Gad is neither a formed body, nor limited substance, He is not like bodies,
neither in thought nor in ability to be divided. He is not substance in the
sense that He includes neither substances nor accidents. He is different
from any other existent, and any existent is not similar to Him. He is not
limited by means of a quantity, places do not contain Him, and He is not
encompassed by directions or by skies and earth. He is sitting on the
throne in a way He mentions, and in a meaning He wills. His evenness
does not mean that there is a contingent connection with the throne or
that He is settled on it. ... The throne does not bear Gad, rather God's
power bears the throne and its bearers. He is above the throne, sky and
everything. This aboveness (fawqiyya) does not mean that He becomes
closer to the throne and sky, nor that He is banished fram the earth .... iO

As can be seen, this way of formulating a standpoint with regard to the

• directionality of Gad reflects the way in which the kalâm schools dealt with this

topic; that is to say, the main characteristic ofthis view is to negate that Gad is in

• a place. The principle that the Mutakallimün proceeded from is that God is not a

body; God therefore cannot be in a place. Any characteristic that could be

applied to body could not be applied to Gad. The language used here is

negative, since the chief concern for the Mutakallimün (Le., most Ash"arites,

Mâturidites and Mu·tazilites) is to have Gad transcend any spatial orientation.

The Mutakallimün, i.e., Mu"tazilites, Ash"arites and Maturïdites who

negated the orientation of Gad, thus remained vulnerable ta criticism. The

clearest indication of this is that the Mu"tazilites, who used a very similar

language ta that of the later Ash"arites and the Mâturïdites, came under harsh

attack from those schools. They were attacked as holders of the incarnationist

view (f)u/üf). In his a/-/bâna, al- Ash"ari accused the Mu"tazilites of holding the

incarnationalist view. -1 Other references confirm that the Mu"tazilites maintained

that God is everywhere in the sense that He directs and guides everything.ï:!

This negative language, which caused harsh criticism and

misunderstanding of the Mu"tazilites, was also the reason behind Ibn Taymiyya"s

refutation of the Ash"arites. He casts aspersions on the later Ash-arite thinkers'

attempt ta criticize the adherents of incarnation (a$/Jab al-I)u/üf). According to

Ibn Taymiyya, Fakhr al-Din al-Razf3 (d. 606/1209) and the Ash"arites who

negated the orientation of God are not able to argue against the incarnationist

view. Ibn Taymiyya implicitly indicated that those who use negative language in

regard to the orientation of Gad and say that God exists nowhere, have to be

• considered as subscribing either to the incamationist or immanentist view or to


• the abstraction (ta"(ïf) point of view. Only those who believe in God's orientation

can contend against the (lJu/ül) and abstraction (ta"(if) of God.


ln arder to prove that negative language serves in the final analysis the

notion of the abstraction of God. Ibn Taymiyya quotes the conversation between

the Ash"arite thinker Ibn Fürak75 (d. 406/1015) and the Ghaznavi Sultan

MatJmoud b. Sebuktigin (d. 421/1032). When the later asked Ibn Fürak about

Gad. Ibn Fûrak said "He is not outside of the wortd and not inside. He is not

separate and nat immanent. He is not above and not beneath. He is not adjacent

and not separate". Ibn Sebuktigin asked Ibn Fürak. "'What is the difference

therefore between this Gad and nothing (" adam). ",7(,

AI-Ghazalïs paragraph. also. can be viewed from more than one

perspective. On the one hand, al-Ghazali called for suspending interpretation of

the Qur"anic verses about the place or orientation of God. On the other hand, no

positive position for God is affirmed. If God is not in a place. and not identical

with the world or united with it, the question that inevitably arises is. what positive

thing can be asserted of Gad with regard to orientation Uiha)? This situation lad

to a further dispute among Muslim thinkers. This dispute was restricted not only

to disputation in the schoals; most intellectual fields in Islam witnessed

disagreements on this topic.

The Mutakallimün were in disagreement: Mu"tazilites, Mâturidites, and

later Ash"arites were in favor of negating God~s orientation in its positive

formulation. On the other hand, the earty Ash"arites, Karrâmitesï7 and earty Shi"i

• thinkers like Hisham b. al-tiakam were in the position of being defenders of the

orientation of God.

AI-Ash"arï and al-Baqillanï from the Ash-arite school maintained that God

is in heaven and that He is settled on His throne. AI-Ash-arï in his a/-lbSna, iX and

al-Baqillani in his al-TamhicP" both refused to say that God is in a place.

The contemporary of al-Baqillânï, the Ash-arite Abü Bakr b. Fürak

changed the direction of his school and clearly adhered to negating place and

orientation, desp!te his adoption of the Mu-tazilites' thesis interpreting the

Qur"anic verses that imply that God is in place or orientation.~1)

AI-Juwaynï (d. 478/1085) kept to this line of thinking and bravely claimed

that the interpretation of the Qur'anic verses about God's orientation is

inevitable, although this contradicted the forefathers' (salaf) doctrine which was
based on the suspension of interpretation. AI-Ghazali and later Ash-arites such

as Fakhr al- Din al-Razt 2 used negative language in this regard and so followed

Ibn Fürak and al-Juwaynï.

AI-Razi, interestingly, found support for his thesis of negating God's

orientation among thinkers like the Mu·tazilite Mu"ammar b. -Abbâd, a

contemporary of al-Na~amX3 (d. 252/845)M~, the Shï·ï Mul)ammad b. Nu·mân

and Muslim philosophers whose negation of orientation and place was not

restricted to Gad only but applied also to other intellects and souls. MS

• The negative language used and the ambiguity resulting from it opened

the door for others to discuss the problem and to seek an answer to the question

• of whether or not God possesses an orientation. Sorne thinkers argued that God

is a Seing who subsists by Himself; and if we wish to deny that the world subsists

in God's essence, then we should say that the world also subsists by itself; Gad

as a result must be in a direction. Because if we assume two things, each of

which subsists by itself, each of them, consequently, should be a direction for the

AI-Shahrastanr"7 (d. 548/1153), as a holder of the later Ash"arites' point of

view, argued that the definition "subsisting in itsetf· is usually used to describe

substance since it does not need a substrate. It is used for Gad, as weil, with the

same meaning, for He does not need a substrate and moreover does not need a

place (/Jayyiz). ss

Other theologians were more specific in dealing with such an intricate

problem and at times touched the heart of il. They established their argument on

the basis of negating the assumption of the identification of God and the world.

They argued against the negators of the orientation by asking: '''When God

created the world, did He create it in Himself or outside of Himselt?·~ If God

created the world in Himself, then God surrounds the world trom ail directions; if

He created it outside of Himself, Gad would reside in an orientation of the world.

ln either case Gad is in an orientation. These theologians believed that to negate

any orientation of Gad is equal to negating God Himself.

Moreover, those theologians distinguished between place (makan) and

orientation (jiha): God for them is not in a place, but He is in an orientation. This

• distinction is made in the context of proving their rejection of the position that

God is a body, despite their belief in God~s being in an orientation. The reason

for this is beeause things whieh exist in a plaee must be limited, while orientation
can be absolute; thus, being in an orientation ean be unlimited and absolute.

The later Ash-arites went further and attempted to establish philosophieal

premises to theorize and firm up their language negating the orientation of Gad.

AI-Râzi is considered one of the most prominent Ash-arite thinkers who

employed philosophy in formulating a solid ground for negating the orientation of

God. In his Sharl) -Uyün a/-l:Iikma (Explanation of the Sourees ofWisdom) he

insisted that ail dimensions should be limited. It is impossible ta assume that

dimensions can be infinite; this is against logie and reason because we cannot

assume an infinite dimension in a cosmos that moves in a circular way.')! This

premise leads, necessarily, to the conclusion that the world is finite and that,

therefore, ail directions are finite. This also prevents us from assuming that there

is either an existence (ma/a") or void (kha/a~) outside of the world.

Gad as a result cannot be assumed to reside outside of the world since

the world is finite and closed. Inasmuch as the dimensions are finite, orientations

or places cannat be imagined outside of the world. Gad, therefore, cannot be

assumed ta be either inside the warld or outside of it since bath assumptions are

irrational. God is not outside of the world because there is no orientation there,

Gad also cannat be inside the world because if we assume this, Gad would be

• dispersed in bodily things, and this is impossible. 92


• Ibn Rushd, unlike the philosophers Ibn Sina and al-Farabi and the

theologian al-Razi, clairned that he was "1aking ahl al-salars side who ail

maintained that God is in an orientation until the Mu"tazilites negated il, and the

later Ash"arites followed them:"93 Ibn Rushd explained why sorne Muslims

denied that Gad is in an orientation by saying that those negators assumed that

to affirm an orientation for Gad is ta affirm in consequence a place, and being in

a place is a bodily characteristic. <j~

According to Ibn Rushd, this sort of reasoning is false because orientation

is different from place: orientation is either the six surfaces of a body--right, left,

front, behind, above, and beneath-or surfaces of other bodies surrounding that

body.'15 The body"s surfaces do not form a place in which the body resides, but

the other bodies' surfaces that surround it are really a place for the body, like the

air"s surfaces surrounding the human being, and like the spheres' surfaces

surrounding the air. Likewise, the spheres, which surround each other, really

form places for each other. It is certain that we cannat assume the existence of a

body beyond the external surface of the last sphere. It is impossible for that last

surface to have a body. If we assume that the external surface of the last sphere

is a place and therefore has a body. then we would have an infinite number of


Once we demonstrate that the external surface of the last sphere is not a

place and does not contain a body, the being that exists outside of the last

sphere is absolutely not a body. None can claim that beyond the last sphere

• there is a void since philosophy has proven that a void does not exist. Ibn Rushd

contends against those who claimed that the world is finite and closed, as weil as

against those who assumed that beyond the world there is a void. 97

According ta Ibn Rushd, the old religions believed that Gad and the

angels exist there, where there is no place and time. Inasmuch as what

surrounds the last sphere is existence (wujüc!) , it is not void. The being that

exists there therefore belongs to the realm of existence. This being is the noblest

and most incorruptible existent; it does not belong ta the realm of sensible things,
but rather to the highest rank of existence, which is the heavens.

Ibn Rushd gives the shar or traditional point of view a philosophical proof.

The difficulty of the question of God's orientation, whieh lay behind many

Muslims' confusion, as Ibn Rushd believed, is to prove God·s orientation by

negating at the same time the bodily nature Uismiyya) of God. The concrete and

sensible world we live in does not help by providing an example of such a

paradoxical topie, namely, orientation Uiha) of something that is not a body. Ibn
Rushd confirmed that this is the real demonstration of what a/-shar held.

2. 2. Ibn Taymiyya'. Theorv of God'. Orientation

Ibn Taymiyya, in his insistence on the necessity offormulating a clear

position about the reality and objectivity of God, found in Ibn Rushd·s view of the

orientation of God a great support. Nevertheless, Ibn Rushd's view served Ibn

Taymiyya's thinking by providing his theory of God with a rational argument

• about which Ibn Taymiyya always expresses concern.

., .

• Ibn Taymiyya believes that to assume that God is in an orientation is an

appropriate formula by which ail the goals required, philosophieal and religious,

could be achieved. Moreover he fully agrees with Ibn Rushd that to assume that

God is in an orientation does not in any way mean that Gad is in a place. This is

to guarantee that defining Gad as being in an orientation does not imply that God

is a body, since place and oecupying space (tal)ayyuz) are bodily


Ibn Taymiyya seems to have proved his point, as mentioned earlier, by

means of the salars sayings and Ibn Rushd"s argument. The major figures in

early Islam, according to Ibn Taymiyya, had maintained that God is in a direction.

These were Malik b. Anas (d. 179/796), Abü t:ianifa (d. 150/767), Ibn Kullâb IIlI

(d. 240/862), al-Ash"ari (d. 324/935), al-Bâqillâni (d. 403/1013), and the mystic

Arymad al-A~bahâni (d. 418/1029). Sorne later figures, as weil, like Ibn -Abd al-
Barr!lI (d. 463/1070), and al-Qurt.ubi 1rt4 (d. 671/1272) also did SO.lOS

Ibn Taymiyya, of course, was aware that affirming that Gad is above his

throne and is situated higher does not mean for his predecessors that Gad is in a

place. Il If'!

The world for Ibn Taymiyya is spherieal and God encompasses il. He

maintained here the same position held by Ibn Rushd. He went further to prove

as weil that this view guarantees the highest rank and unlimitedness of God.

• Against those who said that since up and down in a spherical world are relative,

God as surrounding the spheres would be up for sorne people and down for

• others, Ibn Taymiyya argues that the encirclement of God around the world is

absolute. God is at the top of ail the spheres' curves. The central point in the

world is absolute down. As the world is spherical, there is only absolute up,

represented by the highest spheres and then God, and absolute down

represented by the center of the globes surrounding one another. The central

point is equally distant with regard to ail points in the encompassing spheres.

God then is up trom ail sides. lIl:

The assumption that God is up for sorne people and down for others is

just a deiusion (wahm). It is as if someone had been suspended by his legs: this

man would imagine that the sky is under his feet. Gad as a result is dissimilar

from the world. The world is globular, circular, and whatever is above the sphere

is absolutely up. God necessarily therefore is above. IOM

Concerning whether Gad is infinite or finite, Ibn Taymiyya disputed with al-

Râzï who in his book a/-A rb a"in fi U$ü/ a/-Din stated that the assumption of God

being in an orientation leads either to affirming that God is infinite in His upper

side, and if He is so, every point in His aboveness has a higher point over il, and

every point therefore is beneath the other, God then is over Himself. Or to

affirming that God has, in His upper side, a limit and then a void should be

behind this Iimit. in which case the aboveness of God is not absolute. HW

Ibn Taymiyya argued that one"s saying (he means al-Rizi) that for every

• point there is another point over it does not refute our assumption because the

important thing here is that nothing is above God. He is alone the absolute

• aboveness. This is the perfeet Being's characteristic.

For this point Ibn

Taymiyya seems ta have adopted a tradition of maintaining that God is infinitely

above the world.

Hence, for Ibn Taymiyya, God is an infinite Seing, not limited to any place

as are ail created beings. His existence is separate from the world in the sense

that He is not mixed with sensible things. His knowledge and power, rather, are

everywhere. Gad is not remote from the world and He is not careless of it, He is

very close, and surrounds it from ail sides. Il [

God for Ibn Taymiyya, in addition ta being in an orientation, stands in a

complete 'withness" (ma'iyya) with His creatures, in the sense that He

possesses an absolute knowledge, will, and eternal actions. ll :!

3. Gad and His Attributes

3. 1. The Ear.y Ka.lm Discussion

Islamic resources implicitly indicate that Jahm b. ~afwan was the tirst to

attempt to formulate a coherent system of theology in Islam. Although these

resources mention sorne of his predecessors' themes, these themes appear to

be fragmentary and unreliable. Ibn al-Athïr for instance said that al-Ja-d b.

Dirhaml[J (d. 117/735) was the tirst to negate ail Gocfs attributes and that he

believed in the Qur~an as a created word. 114 This testimony and sorne

• information mentioned by other sources 115 about Ja"d do not give us firm

grounds for knowing exactly what Ja"d really thought.


• According to Jahm, God must not be described as a being and, moreover,

He must not be described by anything other beings can be described by, even

the term existent (mawjüd).116 ln His eternity, God is not knowing. powerful,

willing, speaking. 117 God, as a matter of fact, does not have knowledge until He

creates knowledge for Himself, does not have power until he creates power for

Himself, does not have will until He creates will for Himself. 118

Inasmuch as these attributes are created, they are, therefore, things,

since whatever is created is a thing. These attributes are other than Gad, as weil.

Since Jahm maintained that God"s attributes were created, he cannot assume

that these attributes were created in God"s essence, for this would make God"s

essence a substrate of generation. God"s attributes were inevitably created

outside of Gad. 119

Hisham b. al-ttakam and Sulayman b. Jarir were bath disciples of the

sixth Shi"ï Imam Ja"far al-~adiq (d. 1391756), and both believed that God has

additional attributes, which cannot be said ta be identical with God's essence nor

other than He. 121 Despite the fact that Hisham believed that Gad does not have

an eternal attribute of knowledge, a notion that places him close ta Jahm, he

asserts that additional attributes belong ta GOd. 122

Jahm refused ta ascribe ta Gad an eternal attribute of knowledge in

accordance with his belief that God cannat be described by attributes by which

• His creatures can also be described. 123 Hisham, on the other hand, refused ta

ascribe ta Gad eternity of knowledge for a different reasan, namely, that the

• admission, according to Hisham, of an eternal knowledge would lead to admitting

eternal objects known to God, whereas the eternal pertains only to Gad. 124

Sulayman b. Jarir, maintained that God has eternal attributes (ma"ani) of

knowledge and power, but these attributes are neither God Himself nor other

than He. 125

Even Abü al-Hudhayl al-'Allâf and Mu"ammar b. "Abbadl~6 (d. 215/890),

the great Mu"tazilite thinkers, insisted that the attributes of God are ma- ani: God

is knowing, powerful, seeing by means of knowledge; power and sight abide in

God"s essence. These two Mu"tazilite thinkers, however, employed the theory of

ma"an; in a different context. For Abü al-Hudhayl, Gad knows by virtue of a

knowledge identical with His essence and is powerful by a power identical with

His essence. 127 By contrast, Mu"ammar held that God is knowing by the ma"na

of knowledge that abides in His essence, and this ma" na is caused by another

ma" na and so on ta infinity.128 Seings are similar to and differ from each other by

means of these ma"ani. 129

Abü Sa"id al-Cattan, known as Ibn Kullab, also maintained that the

attributes of God are ma"ani residing in God's essence. They are neither God

Himself nor other than He. 130 AI-Shahrastani states that Ibn Kullab was one of

the three founders of the Sunni Ash-arite school of kalam. 131

It is obvious then that several earty thinkers from different sects held that

• real and objective attributes must be predicated of Gad. This appears to be a

clear rejection of Jahmite~s extreme point of view. However, affirming or negating


• God"s attributes is only one part of the problem; the other important part is

substantially related ta the following questions: (1-) ln what manner do these

attributes belong ta Gad, and what sort of relation obtains between them and the

essence of Gad? And (2-) what kind of being do these attributes have, or what is

the nature of these attributes. how can they be defined, and what ontologieal

roles do they play in the kalâm system?

3. 2. The Nature of the Attributes in the Early Kallm

Every existent, according to the kalam. must be ealled a thing. Inasmuch

as the attributes are existents. should they be called things or not? Many studies

have tried to show that the early kalâm was influeneed by Stoic philosophy

whose thought was grounded on the notion of ""thing!". This is espeeially the case

when we come to the idea of ma" na as being equivalent to attribute. 132

Indeed. the Mutakallimün believed that existents should be called things

whether these existents are material or immaterial. AI-Jubba 1 the Mu·tazilite

thinker maintained that everything known that can be eounted and mentioned

can be called a "thing~ .133

Hishâm b. al-t:fakam refused ta say that Gocfs attributes are things

because. according to him, the attributes cannot be attributed --al-$i'a la tÜ$af,.134

Rather, in the passage related by al-Ash"arï about Sulayman b. Jarir's theory of

attributes as ma· anï that cannot be said to be Gad Himself or other than He. two

• accounts are mentioned in the same passage. On the one hand Sulaymân t

• allows one to say that "~ifa'", '"ma"nS~", is a thing (shay"), but he refused to let one

say that the attributes in total can be called things (ashya,).135

Ibn Kullâb, the forerunner of the Ash "arites, maintained that God"s

attributes cannot be attributed (a/-$ifa la tÜ$af), a statement which seems to have

perplexed his disciples. Sorne of his followers held that God's attributes are

things, and eternal, while others refused to hold the thingness of attributes

because the saying uGod is a thing with His attributes is sufficient and there is

no need to assert further that God's attributes are things. 136

According to the Mu"tazilite "Abd al-Jabbar 13i (d. 415/1031), Ibn Kullâb

refrained from positing that God"s attributes are eternal things because of his

fear of the reaction of other Muslims. 138

One can observe, therefore, that the Mutakallimün were troubled about

asserting that the attributes of Gad are things that can be admitted as eternal

entities beside God Himself.

3.3. The Relation between God's Essence and the Attributes

On the question of how the attributes of God belong to Him and what sort

of relation with His essence they have, the Ash"arites who inherited the legacy of

those who believed in the attributes as additional ma'Snïfoliowed the same line

of thought. namely, that God"s attributes are additional ma"Snïthat can be said

to be neither God Himself nor other than He.

• Although this formulation sounds iIIagical, wavering as it were between

two opposite sides, many Mutakallimün found in this formula a response to those

• who heId to either one of these two pales. That is ta say, this formula represents,

on the one hand, a response ta Jahm b. ~afwan, who stated that God"s

attributes are created outside of God and therefore are other than He. And it is a

response, on the other hand, ta Abü al-Hudhayl who removed any distance

between God and His attributes and considered them to be identical. 1.3<J Abü al-

Hudhayl"s theory would, for the Ash-arites, obliterate the essence of God and

make it merely knowledge and power. 140

The statement then that God"s attributes are neither Gad nor other than

He intends to affirm the attributes as immaterial entities and deny that the

attributes are created or identical with God. In other words, God"s attributes are

not created, not other than Gad, do not abide outside of God, and do not have a

different position in regard to time or place. They are not other than Gad (ghayr)

in the sense of otherness (ghayriyya) according ta al·Ash"arfs definition, which

is, that of ""every two existents, one of them is possibly detached from the other

in either nothingness (0 adam) or existence, or time or place~·.141

The Ash"arites then contended to remove the other!'1ess between God

and His attributes in a very special sense, although they believed that the

attributes are additional ta God.

It is not our interest here to trace the origin of this formula, namely, that

the attributes of Gad are neither His essence nor other than He. 142 Rather, it

served the Ash"arites in avoiding the difficult problem of the relation between

• God and His attributes, although it does not solve the problem. What is worth

• mentioning here is that this formula had been used bath by the early ShToi

thinkers Hisham Ibn al-l:iakam and Sulayman Ibn Jarïr and by the Sunnis.

On the contrary, the great thinkers of the Mu'tazilites after Abü al-Hudhayl

maintained that God must be denominated as eternally knawing, powerful, living,

seeing, hearing. Gad deserves ta be qualified by virtue of His essence (bi-

dhatih/) and not by virtue of ma' ani existing in God's essence.

It is interesting that the Mu'tazilites tried to readjust Abü al-Hudhayl"s

theory concerning the identification of essence and ma' ani in terms that

correspond with what they later held. Bath al-Khayya~I~4 (d. 300/911) and 'Abd

al-Jabbâr al-Hamadhani saw Abü al-Hudhayl"s view as a sort of

misrepresentation. AI-Khayyât., denied that Abü al-Hudhayl heId the theary of

ma·anï. He says that "Abü al-Hudhayl believed that God is truly knowing, this

knowledge is not a ma'na either eternal or generated; Gad therefore for Abü al-

Hudhayl is knowing by virtue of Himself:-145

AI-Khayyàt. implicitly confessed that Abü al-Hudhayl maintained the theory

of ma'ànï, by saying, o'Abü al-Hudhayl"s mistake was only in expressing his

view..,146 We find nearly the same justification in 'Abd al-Jabba(s SharfJ al-U$ül

al-Khamsah, where he states that Abü al-Hudhayl attempted to hold the same

statement that Abü 'AIT al-Jubbâ"ï held after him but he wrongly expressed his

view. In a very short paraphrase, 'Abd al-Jabbâr adds with wonder, "One who

says that God knows by virtue of knowledge cannot say that this knowledge is

• identical with God's Self:~147

.... ..,

• The Mu·tazilites after Abü al-Hudhayl tried by ail means to deny that the

attributes of God are ma'anT. They held, rather, that God can be described only

by nouns and verbal adjectives which are due only to the essence of Gad; they

are not derived from ma'anT. The great change trom Abü al-Hudhayl ta the later

Mu'tazilites is that a distinction must be established in the translation of Abü al-

Hudhayl's statement mentioned earlier: instead of "Gad has knowledge" we

have to say, "There is an act of knowing belonging to Gad". Arabie linguistic

feeling and the Mu·tazlites insisted that "knowledge" is "knowing", that is a

gerund, and as such is not necessarily prominent or independent. This is

however not the case with ibn Kullab and the Ash'arites, who conclude that this

formulation refers to a separate entity that subsists in God. 148

The Mu'tazilites in general maintained that with regard to God predicates

belong to Him or His essence and are not derived from ma$lJdir. God is called by

virtue of Himself (If-nafsihl) , Le., that which names or describes Him essentially

and specifically as that which He is, for example, "Gad is eternar,.149

The t~u'tazilites harshly attacked those who adhered to the ma'lJnTtheory

as being polytheists in asserting other etemal entities besides God.150 Here it is

important to note that the Mu·tazilites enthusiastically defended positive

theology. God must be attributed as existent, living, knowing, powerful, hearing,

seeing; these attributes are etemal; not one of them is created. Moreover, Gad

and man share the same names, but they differ in the way that each deserves

• them. 151

• The Mu·tazilites took a position completely different from Jahm"s,

although some Sunni sources sometimes confused Jahmite and the Mu·tazilites.

This confusion occurred because bath refuse to ascribe to Gad attributes, and

both were called the negators of attributes (nufat al-$ifst).

AI-Khayya~ in his a/-Inti$sr had shown that the Mu"tazilites went ta the

extent of considering Jahm an unbeliever (kafi", especially in the latter"s

rejection of the eternal knowledge of God. In addition to that, al-Khayya\ points

out the confusion in the public mind between Jahmite and Mu"tazilites. He did

not tolerate such confusion since the Mu-tazilites, according to him, believed that

Jahm occupied a very bad position. Interestingly, al-Khayyat ascribes this

confusion to Ibn al-Rawandï, who tried ta deform the position of the

Mu"tazilites. 152

Accordingly, Mu"tazilites, Ash"arites, Maturidites, Karramites, etc., ail

agreed on a positive theology concerning the notion of God, The difference

between these sects is due to the way that each group tried to determine the

relation between God and His attributes,

The Ash-arites were mostly concerned with asserting objective, real

attributes in contrast to the Mu-tazilites whose attempt ta avoid the etemal

ma'anï led them to depict the unity of Gad as without referents, namely, without

objective entities abiding in Gad"s essence, However, the tirst concern for the

Ash-arites and Maturidites was that if the attributes of Gad are not affirmed as

• objective entities, human beings cannot be certain that Gad really and objectively

• has attributes. Man, therefore, would feel free to give God names He might not


Abü ·AIT al-Jubbaï, on the Mu'tazilite side, explains this stand by saying,

"The act of attributing is the attributes (al-wa$f huwa al-$ifa), and the naming is

the name, i.e., when one would say, 'The eternal is an attribute" he would say,

'That is wrong, for the eternal is the thing described (al-maw$üf), while the

attribute (~ifa) is our saying '"God" and our saying "1he eternal". ,153

The Mu 'tazilites' opponents understood this identification of w8$f and ~ifa

as meaning that God"s attributes are given to Him by human beings. Abü 'AIT al-

Jubbaï, for instance, allowed Gad ta be called by names that the Qur'an does

nat mention by relying on rational analogy, since he permits saying that God is

knowledgeable ('arif) and perceiving (mudrik). These names are valid, according

to al-Jubba1, as long as ""God knaws... 154

The Ash'arites, who were cautious in taking Gad as a subjective topie and

as an abject of our intellectual activity, tried by ail means to philosophize the

notion of Gad so as to keep His objectivity as a real being. AI-Baqillanï, the

Ash'arite thinker, is representative of his school"s attitude,

The attribute (al-$if8) is the thing which exists in the object described (al-
maw$üf) and grants it the attributing (al-wa$f) , that issues from the
attributes The attributing is the saying of the attributer to God or to
someone else that He is knowing, living, powerful..,Such attributing, whieh
is heard speech or statement about it, is other than the attribute which

subsists in the essence of Gad, that by virtue ofwhich He is knowing,
living, powerful. Also our ·Zayd is knowing' is an attribute (wa$f) of Zayd
and news about his being in the way that attributes entail him; such saying

• can be true or false, but the knowledge of Zayd is an attribute existing in

Zayd"s essence since the aet of attributing issues from him. 155

A prominent Mâturïdï thinker Abü al-Mu"ïn al-Nasafi (d. 508/1114) reveals

his school"s insistence on the entailments of the structure of the Arabie

language 15f} (muqtaçJayat al-/ugha) that must be applied to B/-shshid WB 'I-ghlf ib.

He insisted on the objeetivity of Gocrs attributes. In a way very elose to the

Ash"arites, he decided that one either had to be committed to the Arabie

language or to name God by any names whatsoever; there is no other

alternative. 157 The Arabic language, therefore, necessitates that the name must

be derived from mB$dar in order to have its validity. 15X

AI-Nasafi distinguished between agnomens (BlqlJb) and real names

because the former can be false. Accuracy is not guaranteed in the agnomens;

one can cali things by names that do not necessarily refleet the thing"s reality.

Because of this, the grammarians say that the agnomens do not represent the

truth. Whereas the names and verbal adjectives that are derived from mB$lJdir ar

ma" anï are guaranteed since these derivatives do not point to the essence of a

thing only, but to the source of derivation. 159

The Mu "tazilites, aceording to al-Nasafi, were eancerned primarily ta

assert the essence of Gad alone; they maintained that the verbal adjectives

applied to Gad, such as, knowing, being powerful, living, hearing, seeing, confirm

only the essence and not anything else. This way of stating God's attributes

• does not add any new information, since our saying Gad is knowing, powerful,

living, is the same as our saying God is essence, essence, essence. The

• proposition "God is knowing" does not provide or indicate any new benefit

(ftfida) over and above "God is powerful" or "God is living", because the same

essence, and not different ma' an;' is meant. 160

Ma' ani, then, stand as linguistic objective entities which guarantee that

our discourse about God is right and correct. Without these ma' an; our discourse

would be taise and would not reflect the truth of God's unity.

3.4. The Theorv of States (shwill

One can note, as a consequence, that both the Mu"tazilites, on the one

hand, and the Ash"arites, Maturïdites, Karramites, on the other, faced a dilemma,

each according to their premises. The Mu·tazilites in their negation of the

attributes as ma'lIni deprived themselves of establishing a solid ground for the

verbal adjectives God has. The propositions that "God is knowing, powerfu1,

hearing, seeing" need te be linguistically justified as propositions of al)kllm.

God's essence cannet be the cause of these al)kam, a linguistic reterence is

required in order to explain God's predicates.

The adherents of the position that the attributes as ma-anïreside in God's

essence were in a dilemma as weil. They, however, justified their view by

maintaining that the verbal adjectives are caused by the ma' na or . il/a from which

they are derived; they affirmed other eternal objective entities besides God. This

tact was always a topic of cancern for the Ash- arites, who were bitterly criticized

• even by a Sunnï school, namely that of Ibn l:'iazm l61 (d. 456/1064), who accused

• them of being polytheistic. 1h2 This fact led sorne Ash-arites more or less to adjust

their theory.163

The theory of "states" (al)waf) invented by Abü Hashim al-Jubba'jl64 (d.

321/932) is an attempt to establish another solution to the problem of the unity of


Abü Hâshim created another formula to theorize the notion of the unity of

God. This formula is different from that of both the Ash'arites' and the

Mu"tazilites·. He considers the attributes as aspects of God's essence: they

stand beyond the essence, but they cannot be understood separately from il.

They are not entities in the sense of ma-anï, though they are different trom the

essence. They are, rather, aspects of the essence and cannot be known apart

form il. These states are neither existent nor non·existent, neither known nor

unknawn. 165

Abü Hashim remained a Ba!;rian theologian who relied on the structure of

the Arabic language for his theary. Josef Van Ess points out that Abü Hashim

established a compromise by gaing back to the original Qur'anic statements and

inserting a copula into them: Allahu -alimun thus became kana Allahu "a/iman,

""Gad is knowing". The copula was then understood as a "'complete verb", that is,

it gained existential meaning: '-God is": the assertion of God's reality had been

explicit. The participle for "knowing", however, now put into the accusative


• instead of the nominative, was no longer interpreted as a predicate but as a I)a/,

a "state" of the subject instead of an attribute.

Josef Van Ess quotes Abû Hashim's statement that "since it is true that

God has a state in his being knowing, the knowledge that he is knowing is a

knowledge of the thing itself in this state rather than a knowledge of the aet of

knowing or of the thing itself~. This theory allowed the above statements ta be

understood univocally of ail knowers; a theological problem had been put into the

general framework of grammatical analysis. 166

Interestingly enough, more than one great thinker after Abu Hashim

conceived the al)wsl {states} as universals, although the theory was originally

invented on the basis of Arabie grammar. Harry Wolfson has gathered together

those thinkers' statements that show the states as concepts, universals

(kulliyyat). AI-Ghazali states in his The Incoherence of the Philosophers that '1he

intellectual faculty apprehends the general intellectual universals, which the

Mutakallimûn cali .states' :.167

This is also implied in a statement by Ibn tiazm whieh says that ··one of

the absurdities of the Ash'arites is their assertion that it is possible for men to

believe in states and [universal] concepts (al-rna-an; al-kulliyya) which are

neither existent nor non-existent.... 168 Ibn Rushd similarly implies in a statement

that '1hose who denied the states (al)wal) deny the belief in existence in general

and color in general, whereas those who affirm states say that existence in

• general and color in general are neither existent nor non-existent. ,,169

• The answer to the question of why these states (al)wal) were understood

as universals can be found in the lengthy conversation between those who

maintained the theory of al)wal and those who denied it that is related in al-

Shahrastanfs Nihayat al-/qdam fi "llm al-Ka/am. AI-ShahrastanT mentions that

the asserters of the states (muthbitü al-al)wSI) maintained that existents differ

trom and resemble each other by means of states. These states are called the

attributes of genera and species (ajnas wa anwao). 170 The negators of states

(nufàt al-al)waf) believe that things differ and resembl6 each other by means of

their essences. The generality ("umüm) that can be conceived through nouns

that indicate genera and species is due only to the nouns, but not to universals

as intellectual ma" an/.

ln almost every argument mentioned by al-Shahrastani as asserted by the

upholders of states, the problem of similarities and differences is central.!7! This

is because the intellect, according to them, necessitates that similarities and

differences be intellectual concepts that lie beneath the utterance (al-ishtirak

wa '/-iftiraq qaçliya "aqliya wara- al-la,?). The adherents of states affirm also that

denying the theory of states is synonymous with denying definition, truth,

speculation and inference. 172

Elsewhere in the Nihayat, al-Shahrastanï significantly takes the side of the

upholders of the theory of states. He responds to those who refute the theory of

al)wa/ because the statement that the al)wal are neither existent nor non-existent

• violates the law of excluded middle. He responds in favor of assuming universal


• concepts (ma- ànin ma- qü/a) behind speech and words, but the affirmers of the

states should rather say that these universals exist only in the intellect instead of

saying that they are neither existent nor non-existent. 173

Wolfson concludes from traditional texts that states as universals are

genera or species. 174 Tritton, as weil, is with the opinion that Abü Hâshim was

striving towards the conceptualist position but he was poor in philosophy.li5

3.5. The Classification of the Attributes in the Kalim

Besides the problem of the nature of the attributes and how they belong to

God-s essence, another essential problem one can touch in the philosophy of

the kalam is the classification of attributes and dividing them into many

categories, and how each category can be assigned to Gad, or more precisely to

the essence of God. 1~h

We have seen earlier that despite the differences among these schools

concerning the classification of the attributes. al-Ash-ari employs a formai

method based on the Arab grammarians' analysis of predicative sentences. He

holds that predications are divided into three categories: (1) those that assert the

existence of only the subject itself (nafs al-maw$üf); (2) those that assert the

existence of an Uattribute" (~ifa, ma-nI) distinct from the "self" of the subject as

such; and (3) those that assert the existence of an action (fi~1) done by the

subject. 17/


• The history of the kalam bears witness to stubbom dispute over God's

attributes, especially as to whether the classification of the attributes is really

valid as weil as about to which category certain attributes ought to belong. Sorne

sources indicate that the first who categorized the attributes and distinguished

between the attributes of essence and of action was Abu ttanïfa. 178 ln al-

Ash'arïs Maqslât we find no mention of the founder of this sort of classification.

It is difficult to determine when exactly the attributes of action were categorized

as non-eternal attributes.

Many statements mentioned by al-Ash"arï in his Maqâlât show that the

dispute among the Mutakallimun was centered basically on affirming or removing

the eternity of some attributes whose content might require that they be eternal

as weil. Hishâm b. al-tlakam. as we have seen, refused ta say that God eternally

knows because that would affirm the eternity of the things God knows. Most of

the Shï"ïs agreed with Hisham. 179 Ja"far b. ttarb (d. 236/850) refused to say that

God is eternally hearing and seeing because that entails that the heard and seen

abjects be eternal too. 180

Other Mutakallimun, like Hishâm al-Fuwati, seem to have forged a

compromise by affirming that God is etemally knowing, while at the same time

refusing to say that Gad knows things etemally. Another point of view close to al-

Fuwatïs conception states that Gad etemally knows but we cannat describe Him

as knowing until He creates things. 181

• One can see, therefore, that determining whether or not Gad etemally has

attributes was a source of conflict for Muslim theologians. They were seeking for

• positive formulae as regards God"s having attributes without violating eternity as

being His most essential and uncompromised attribute.

Interestingly enough, Ibn Kullab, the father of the Ash-arites, believed that

ail God"s attributes are eternal without exception, even what is called the

attributes of action.'62

The clear and firm classification of the attributes as being divided between

eternal and created ones had been made by the Ba~rian Mutakallimün. Even al-

Ash"ari agreed with the ~1u"tazilites that the attributes of action (~ifat al-afal) are

temporal and created in time,'63 in contrast to Ibn Kullab.

The Mâturidites divided the attributes between the essential and the

attributes of action, but they maintained that ail these attributes are eternal. tH.J

The attributes of action, as defined by the Ash"arites, are those with which

Gad can be attributed and their contraries. As for the eternal attributes, God

cannat be assumed to have them as weil as to have their contraries. The

opposite of God"s being knowing, for instance, is God's being ignorant; the

opposite of God"s being powerful is God's being powerless. It is possible to say

with regard to what is called the attributes of action that Gad hates as being in

contrast ta Gad loves, ar that Gad is satisfied as the opposite of God is angry.

The eternal attributes are those that Gad cannat be imagined as being etemally

free of, while God can be canceived as being free of the attributes of action. tHS

The Ash"arites who belonged to the Ba!?rian intellectual sphere l86 and

• whose theory of the classification of the attributes was close to the Mu"tazilites'

• maintained that God~s attributes are of three kinds: the essential attributes, the

attributes of ma-ani and the attributes of action. 187 The attributes of action,

according to al-Razï, are not permanent states, nor ma"anïsubsisting in God"s

essence; they are, rather, the effects or traces (sthsr) issuing from God. The

name creator is senseless until the creature is created. Subsistence (rizq) has no

meaning until the provider (ràziq) gives it to His servant. INH

3. 6. The Disagreement over the Attributes of Will, Speech and Creation

If the criterion for determining whether a single attribute belongs to this or

that category is the possibility or impossibility of God"s being described by its

opposite, the question that can be spontaneously raised here is whether or not

the Mutakallimün were really in agreement on such a criterion and its application.

What are referred to here are the attributes of will, speech, and creation

(takwïn) or (khalq). These three attributes were the subject of a harsh conflict

among Muslim theologians. This conflict is very significant since it shows that the

early kalam suffered fram inconsistencylSl} in respect to articulating the unity of

God as eternal in relation ta historical and temporal events. That is to say,

through deep analysis and through digging into the basic foundations of the

kalam discourse. one can touch upon the lack of harmony between the etemal

and temporal. between what should belong to the etema1, immutable and

unchanging, and what should belong to the generated, temporal and changing.


• The Mu-tazilites heId that God-s speech and will are created, unlike the

Ash-arites, who held that these two attributes are eternal. God deserves them

eternally. Inasmuch as the attributes of action are defined by the Ash-arites in

terms of whether or not God can be described by their opposites, they

maintained that if God is not eternally described as being willing and speaking

He would be eternally described as being dumb and unwilling or compelled and

vanquished (mustakrah wa magh/üb).1911

The will, aceording to the Mu·tazilites, functions in specifying or

particularizing (takh$Ï$) the way the ereated thing should be. The Mu·tazilites

believed that specification or particularization cannot be eternal since it is related

to the object specified. As long as ail existents were created in time, the

instrument of their particularization cannot be assumed to be eternal.

Particularization here means God-s assignment of the accidents to a body.191

For them Gad must have irtlda or else His actions would happen

necessarily not voluntarily. But God cannot have will by virtue of His essence

because the essential attributes are comprehensive in their nexus, while the

mest specifie description of irada is particularization, and it is thus connected with

the renewal of things. irtlda then must be created.

For the other point of dispute, the Mu"tazilites maintained that Gocfs will,

as a created attribute, is ereated in no substrate (la fi mal)alf). 193 This doctrine of

created attribute put the Mu·tazilites in direct confrontation with the basic kalam

principle that the attribute cannot subsist by itself and, therefore, is in no place.

• For ail the Mutakallimun, if the attribute, or ma"na or accident, cornes to be after

having been nothing, it must be found or created either in the substrate that

produces it or in another existent that had been created with il. The option of

whether this attribute or accident can exist in no substrate is unthinkable and

unacceptable according to the early kalâm.

Even the Mu"tazilites relied on the same ground, but irada for them is an

exception because it cannot be assumed to be created in God" s essence nor in

the abject created. Ira da, for the Mu"tazilites, must either be in the eternal

essence of God, or in an object other than God, or in no substrate. It is

impossible for irada, to subsist in God"s essence because that would make

God"s essence a substrate of generation. It is also impossible ta subsist in the

created abject, since this would allow a creature (man) to assume the proposition

(lJukm) of irada as his own. The only alternative is to say that God's will subsists

in no substrate.IL)~

The Mu"tazilites defended their position by stating that most Muslims have

assumed in one way or another sorne of God"s attributes as being not in a

substrate. Jahm and Hisham b. al-tfakam held that God's knowledge is

generated in no substrate. The Ash"arites regarded God~s speech as being in no

substrate; for example, when God spoke ta Moses, Moses did not hear the

speech that was in God"s essence since the eternal speech cannot be

transmitted. The philosophers, as weil, believed in independent intelligences

• subsisting by virtue of themselves. 195


• Actually, the assumption that will is created in no substrate reminds us of

Jahm who held that the attribute of power (qudra) is created in no substrate. R.

Frank interprets this by saying that qudra for Jahm is equal to the first intellect

according ta Neoplatonism and that Jahm was under the latte(s influence. 19tl

The Karramite sect, founded by Mut)ammad b. Karram (d. 255/869),

agreed with the Mu"tazilites that God"s will is not an eternal attribute and must be

created in time, but they differed from them by asserting that irada is generated

in God's essence.I~7 For them, jrada is created but mashr a is eternal, Gad wills

what He is going ta create by a generated will. The essence of Gad, moreover,

is a substrate of many generated things. They affirmed, in addition, that what

emerges in God"s essence is created by God"s power, but what emerges outside

of Gad is produced by generation (il)dath) or by creation (ïjacl).llJ')

What is meant by quoting these passages and focusing on the great

dispute among the Mutakallimün in regard ta the classification of attributes and

the way each sect tried to ascribe sorne attributes ta one category or another is

to show how Muslim theologians were troubled and perplexed by the concepts

and themes they established.

This conflict about the position of the attribute of will was not restricted ta

Mu·tazilites, Ash"arïtes and Karramites, but included the Maturïdites as weil who

differed from the other schools of the kalam over the attribute of creation

(takwïn). Against ail other sects they maintained that creation (khalq) is an

• eternal attribute, although created things come to be in time. Their argument is

the same argument that had been used by the Ash-arites with respect to the will.

If the will can be eternal, even the willing being would use His williater; the same

applies to creation. God deserves to be attributed with attributes eternally, even

though their contents do not yet exist. God can be named as eternally

worshipped even when the worshipper does not exist. It is the same as saying

the food is to be eaten even if it is not eaten yet. 2(~1

4. Ibn Tavmivva Against the Mutakallimün

4. 1. Ibn Taymiyya's Theorv of God's Attributes

Ibn Taymiyya inherited this entire legacy with problems that remained

unsolved in his opinion and were a target for bitter criticism. The analysis of the

early kalam's foundation leads one to assume that the Mutakallimün had left

sorne essential points in their discourse arbitrary, or had defended them in a

rhetorical way (as Ibn Rushd described the typical kalam way of thinking). :!O\ This

lack of a systematic view deprived the kalâm discourse of the ability to stand firm

in the face of other discourses.

The question of the nature of the attributes, for instance, and their relation

to the essence, as weil as the philosophical raie they have to play, were central.

Ibn Taymiyya took them into consideration in thinking through ail these problems.

Here the influence of the philosophers and of Ibn Rushd, in particular, seems

• obvious. That does not mean that Ibn Taymiyya"s philosophical project is just an

• attempt ta refarm the early kalam thought; rather, his praject is a new view that

takes inta account ail Muslim contributions made before him, for he adopted and

integrated essential philosophieal and kalamie themes in his effort to create his

own philosophy.

Despite the fact that Ibn Taymiyya presents his thought as a critique of the

kalam, philosophy and mystieism, he is, in the final analysis, a Mutakallim and

philosopher. This ean be elearly seen both in his new vocabulary and in the

thaughts he articulated. The person who reads Ibn Taymiyya earefully diseavers

that although he elaims to rejeet the kalam and philosophy, he was moving and

thinking on kalamie and philosophieal grounds. In some passages in his writings

he makes it clear that he does not reject the entire views of bath streams; rather,

he does not accept certain formulas of the kalam and philosophy. He is not

against rational discourse as such, but against the way that the Mutakallimün

and philosophers deslt with the ontologieal issues. 202

Ibn Taymiyya thus maintained the formula that uGad and His attributes are

one". As we have seen earlier, the Ash"arites regarded these attributes as

maoanï that subsist in God"s essence, the Mutakallimün also were eoncerned
tirst of ail to determine whether or not these attributes are things in order to

assert their objective reality or negate it without defining what kind of thingness

these attributes might have. Ibn Taymiyya held that these attributes are the most

general universals, namely, genera and species (ajnas WB anwS"). The question

• for Ibn Taymiyya is not the same as that whieh occupied the early kalam; it is

rather the question of the nature of these attributes.


• ln his defense of his view that the unity of God is an objective unity, and

that God' s essence is one with His attributes, he refutes ail the standpoints that

were inspired by the Jahmites. For Ibn Taymiyya any point of view that tries to

exalt God above any attribution and eternal action has been, inevitably, inspired

by Jahm, including most of the philosophers, mystics and sorne schools of the

kalam, even the Ash'arites themselves, as we shall see below.

ln ail his writings Ibn Taymiyya confirms that he believes in affirming the

attributes of Gad. He does not agree with those who negate them or with those

who consider them as superadded onto God's essence.

On sorne occasions he criticizes the Ash'arites for their formula that

"God's attributes are neither He nor other than He". This statement cannat be

predicated of God because of its implication of otherness (ghayriyya) , or

difference between God and His attributes. The term ··others" (ghayrayn) implies

that one of them can be distinguished, or is different, trom the other. The notion

of others (ghayrayn) reveals both implicitly and explicitly the sense that one of

them can be known apart from the other. 203 ln his refusai to use the term ··other"

(ghayr) and his emphasis on the unity of God and His attributes, he appears to

be very close to Abü al-Hudhayl al-·Allât. But beyond Abü al-Hudhayl, Ibn

Taymiyya has determined the nature of these attributes.

1n many other passages he seems kinder to the Ash;, arites who

maintained the attributes as ma'Sn;; but he shows in the meantime that the

• Ash" arite doctrine needs to be reformulated. Sometimes he tolerantly explains

what the Ash"arites meant by using the statement about ;'·God~s attributes as

• being ~·neither He nor other than He". If the Ash'arites meant by this statement

that there is an essence on one side and attributes on the other, that would be

entirely wrong because the notion of essence is abstract, and nothing in the real

world can be designated as essence. On the other hand, if the Ash~arites were

using this statement polemically against those who believed in God as an

abstract essence, and they intended to assert God's attributes as ma'fJnïabiding

in His essence, this formula would possess legitimacy.204

The truth for Ibn Taymiyya is that Gad is an entity whose attributes and

essence are one (a/-dhat wa '/-$iffJt shay'un WfJl);d), nothing is added to Hin" nor

does He need things different trom, or other than, Himself. God cannat be

separated trom His attributes. Our saying that God knows by virtue of knowledge

subsisting in His essence and is powerful by virtue of power subsisting in His

essence must not imply that the essence of God is a different truth subsisting by

itself, with attributes supervening as additional to il.205

Ibn Taymiyya is aware that this stance brings him close to Abü al-

Hudhayl, who affirmed the attributes of ma'fJnïas being not separate from God's

essence, and he tries to distinguish himself from him by discussing the dictum

that '1he attributes and the essence are one thing" by saying that this statement

means that the essence and attributes are not different fram each other. But this

does not imply, according to him, that knowledge, for instance, is identical with

the knower. Actually even Abü al-Hudhayl refused ta say that the essence of

• God is knowledge, or the knower is the knowledge. 206


• At this point, however, Ibn Taymiyya does not clarify the difference

between himself and Abü al-Hudhayl. In the same passage Ibn Taymiyya

implicitly defends the Mu"tazilites· view that the essence and attributes are one

entity in terms of his response to Ibn Rushd, who accused the Mu·tazilites of not

accurately proving the unity of God as being really attributed. 207

Ibn Taymiyya refutes the Mu·tazilite·s traditional negation of the additional

attributes as superadded ma'an;, but significantly he does not criticize Abü al-

Hudhayl"s theory of affirming attributes and identifying them with the essence.

This is in spite of the fact that Ibn Taymiyya uses the term essence on sorne

occasions, but not in the sense of the early kalam.

He went further and argued against Ibn Rushd's accusation against the

Mutakallimün who postulated the idea of Gad as consisting of a subject and

predicates, being and attributes, since this, according to Ibn Rushd, makes God

a body. Ibn Taymiyya says that assuming ma"anïOr attributes does not imply the

jismiyya because "-you tao" (he means Ibn Rushd) allow one to say that God is

knowing and powerful, which can be applied in the same way to a human

being. 2os Indeed, Ibn Rushd agrees to describe God as being knowing, powerfu1,

willing, living, but he refuses ta consider these attributes as additional ma"snï. 209

4. 2. Ibn Taymiyya's Standpoint on the Theory of States (AhwaQ

Maintaining the attributes as ma"an; and abandoning the Ash"arites'

• formula makes Ibn Taymiyya's theory of the unity of Gad more systematic in the

sense that this theory avoids using ambiguous statements.


• The contention against the Jahmite, according to him, should not lead to

asserting only names and nouns with respect to Gad, as some Mu·tazilites did,

nor ta using double negation of the attributes as being neither God nor other than

He. God is a real and objective being forming with His attributes one entity.

Moreover, these attributes, in contrast to the early kalâm, are the most general

universals, namely, genera and species (ajnas wa anwa·).

As we have seen above, the early kalam, in order ta prove the objectivity

of God's attributes, was primarily concerned to affirm the attributes as being

things without determining the nature of these things. Only the theory of states

(a1)waf) potentially opened the possibility of theorizing the attributes as being


One can, most probably, assume that Ibn Taymiyya was familiar with the

theory of states throLJgh al-Shahrastânïs writings. This is because the name of

al-Shahrastânï is repeatedly mei"tioned by Ibn Taymiyya, and especially his book

Nihayat al-Iqdam. This book describes the theory of states as being universals

(kulliyyat). It is not surprising that Ibn Taymiyya does not attack the theory of

states, in spite of the huge criticism directed by SunnÎ thinkers at this theory. On

the contrary, Ibn Taymiyya, after stating that God's attributes are ma·anïforming

one entity with God, held that "deep investigation entails considering the states

(af)waf) to be the same as the attributes (ma·ani), just as they were considered

by the attributists (muthbitü al_$iftlt)."210

• ln defense of his theory, Ibn Taymiyya shows clearly that the unity of Gad

is a truly difficult question in Islamic thought. Against the philosophers he argued


• that they failed to regard the unity of Gad in an irreproachable way. If Muslim

philosophers accused the Mutakallimün of holding a notion of God as being

composed of different elements, he replies that the philosophers' notion of Gad

also implies composition. This is because the philosophers' belief in Gad as

being a unity of love, lover and beloved, or intellect, intellection and intellected,

violates God's unity in the sense that God would have to be both active and

passive at the same time. Furthermore, with regard ta the attributes, the

philosophers held that the knowledge is the same as the power, and the power is

the same as the will, providence and life. These different truths cannot be

delimited in this way; we cannot say that the truth of black is the same as the

truth of color?"

The philosophers also had fallen into the same error as sorne of the

theologians, namely, of maintaining the notion of God as a unity of essence and

existence, like the Mutakallimün who heId the notion of God as a unity of

essence and superadded attributes. In both cases, Gad is regarded as a mental

abstract notion and assumed at the same time to be real and objective. The

notion of essence is not a real thing, it is a product of the human mind. 212

Elsewhere, Ibn Taymiyya uses the same criticism al-Ghazâlï had directed

against the philosophers concerning the unity of Gad as being absolutely simple

on the one hand and a source of emanation on the other. In other words, Ibn

Taymiyya confutes the most important principle Muslim philosophers had

• maintained, namely, that '''nothing emanates from the One but one". This

principle is false for Ibn Taymiyya and reflects the trouble the philosophers had in

• philosophizing the unity of God. Thus Ibn Taymiyya states that. if the One

emanates only one, this one that is being emanated should not emanate, in turn,

but one. The first intellect either to be one in ail its aspects and does not have

multiplicity in itself, or it is multiple in itself. The first assumption means that the

first intellect cannot produce more than one thing, whereas the second

assumption leads to conclude that God is not one and must emanate more than

one thing.2 13

Ibn Taymiyya, in his view of the unity of God, wishes to confirm that this

unity is a real and objective entity. He struggled in ail his writings, as mentioned

earlier, to assert God"s reality. Proceeding from this fact, he contends against

those who strongly espoused an extreme negative theology. This sort of

theology, according to him, annihilates the existence of Gad and strips Him of

His existential reality.

Ibn Taymiyya stood firmly in opposition to these standpoints. Any notion

about God must not be drawn by means of metaphysicallanguage or abstract

concepts emptied of realistic content. Ibn Taymiyya strongly articulates the

difference between the notion of the unity of Gad and the process of creation, not

only in his own philosophy, but also in his criticism of the kalam, philosophy and


Along with his emphatic rejection of negative theology and meaningless

• metaphysical language, he refused to use ambiguous or equivoca1language that

either asserts two opposites or negates two opposites. Although he politely


• dismisses the Ash-arite formula of God's attributes as being neither God nor

other than He, he adopted the theory of attributes as being ma·anT, but also

added that these ma- àn; are, first. universals and secondly, represent, with God,

one inseparable entity.

4.3. Removing the Division of Attribute. into Many Categories

Ibn Taymiyya, unlike previous Mutakallimün, attempted to create a

coherent system in order to overcome the inconsistencies in kalamic thought. He

affirmed the eternity of ail God"s attributes and rejected the classification the

Mutakallimün used for God"s attributes. He argued against those who held that

the attributes of essence are different from the attributes of ma- an; by refuting

the argument they relied on concerning these two kinds of attributes. The

argument states that the attributes of essence are those which the intellect

cannot imagine or know the thing as being without. But God can be imagined or

known apart trom the attributes of ma'an;.21-l

Ibn Taymiyya discusses this argument by means of directing questions to

the dividers of attributes: What do you mean by the term ""mental supposition"

(taqdïr dhihni), or knowledge by which one can assume a single attribute to be

essential or ma-na? Do you mean npure knowledge" (a$1 al-rna" ri'a) , or the

knowledge one already has (ma-ri'a tamma) , or do you mean potential

knowledge? Ibn Taymiyya continues to argue that as far as pure knowledge is

• concerned, it can be said that one could hear the name of God without

• necessarily knowing that Gad is eternal or everlasting or a Necessary Seing

subsisting by virtue of Himself.:! 15

As for the second sort of knowledge, one either cognizes that Gad knows

and is powerful by means of revelation or by means of speculation. However, it is

impossible for somebody who has knowledge about God to think of Him without

asserting His being knowing and powerful. In this case it is impossible as weil to

assume the existence of Gad in reality without attaching to Him His attributes of

being eternal. Necessary Seing. knowing and powerful. These attributes are

essentially concomitants (lawazim) to Him.:!lh

Ibn Taymiyya interprets the kalâm"s classification of attributes as being

due to the influence of logicians who distinguished between what is essential and

constitutes the essence of a thing (/awazim al-mahiyya al-muqawwima lil-dhat)

and the accidentai qualities of a thing (lawazim al-wujüd "aragiyya).2Iï

This difference between these two kinds is due to the difference between

what exists in the mind (mahiyyat) and what exists in reality (a"yan). The

mahiyyat muqawwima Ii/-dhat are our concepts of the thing, they are mental

concepts. they can be increased or decreased according to our thinking of a

thing. We express these concepts by means ofwords. But the attributes that God

has in reality must ail be concomitant to Him. It is artificial to differentiate

between the attributes of essence (~ifat dhat) and the attributes of nJa" ani (~ifat

ma"na).2IM ln reality Gad owns themall without priority; this priority occurs only


• when we think of a thing and distinguish mentally between what is essential and

what is accidental.

God must have ail attributes eternally-the essential, the ma"anïand the

attributes of action-in an equal way, without our assuming that any one of them

is more important than the others or that each belongs to God in a different way

tram the others. Ali these attributes are eternal universals and in everlasting

action; each according t\) its function eternally produces the individuals; ail are
unified with God and form with Him one entity.2:1

4.4. The Role of God's Attribuas in Creation

After Ibn Taymiyya"s having affirmed that God's attributes are genera and

species, and that God is an objective entity, the other particular point of

departure from the kalam is to be found in his doctrine in the eternity of God~s

activity in the world. The contention against the Jahmites was not limited to

affirming the existence of eternal attributes and determining their nature, but also

had te extend itself to refuting the doctrine of creation out of nothing. God must

be assumed as eternally active. Any assumption that God remained for a while

inactive is a sort of ta"fjI.22t

The crucial and revolutionary philosophical principle of the eternity and

activity of ail attributes distances Ibn Taymiyya fram those Mutakallimün who

regarded Gad as a creator out of nothing. Ibn Taymiyya asserted the attributes

• as being due to Gad objectively. This affirmation is not based on the same

• arguments used by the defenders, such as the Mâturïdites, of the etemity of the

attributes. The basic contention for the Mâturïdites in their asserting the eternity

of ail God"s attributes is what they called '1he right of God'" (lJaqq Allah)222 to be

described eternally by even the attributes of action, although they maintained

belief in the doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Their reasoning for the assertion of the

eternity of attributes is based on the impossibility of assuming created attributes

in either God"s essence or in no substrate. 22J

The eternity of attributes therefore is not philosophical in the sense of

proving the full presence of Gad in the universe. Although this theology is

positive in accordance with thase who considered the affirmation of Go(fs

existence along with His attributes to suffice, it still shares a fundamental

background with the adherents of negative theology, namely, abstraction (ta"(i1)

of God from being regarded as an eternal agent (fa";1 azafl). The negators of

God"s attributes stripped God even of existence in the name of His

transcendence (tanzih). The upholders of a completely positive theology stripped

God as weil of etemal action, even though God, for sorne ofthem, eternally has

attributes of action, since creation ex nihilo, implies this sort of ta"(ï1.

Ibn Taymiyya defined the nature of attributes as being the most general

universals and as eternally active and etemally producing their content, Le.,

creation. In this way, Ibn Taymiyya offered a different view in the history of

Islamic theology and contributed by giving his own conception to the disputes

• among the Mutakallimün on the great ontological challenge. The latter was, of

course, the question of the connection between the affirmed etemity of God's

• attributes on the one hand and the temporality of creation on the other. Ibn

Taymiyya developed Ibn Rushd's eriticism that the kalam affirmed its themes
arbitrarily or by a non-demonstrable method.

The unity of God for Ibn Taymiyya is an objective unity of universals,

being eternally present and active in the world, which is eternally in a process of

generation and production.

Although the attributes, in the philosophy of the kalâm, are confirmed as

entities, their ontologieal role is restricted to a positive theology of the idea of

Gad and as a reference to the al)kllm that God must have. Their role, in other

wards, is more logical than ontological.

It is hard to find in the kalam how the creation came out of attributes. And

it is hard to find as weil a profound expianation to the nature of the relation

between the immutability and unity of each attribute, on the one hand, and the

change of the temporal created things in time through three moments, before,

during and after creation, on the other. The only relation they have with created

beings is through what may be called a "nexus'~ (ta-al/uq). The seven divine

attributes remain penect and immutable while the objects of these attributes

undergo incessant change. It is the relation that changes between attributes and

their objects, and not the attributes themselves. Accordingly the seven

troublesome attributes are sometimes termed ··attributes standing in nexus'~ (~ifat

muta- alliqa). 225

• 4. 5. How Accarding to Ibn Taymivva Gad Must be Viewed


• The notions of the transcendence and the similitude (tanzih wa tashbih) of

Gad took a different direction with Ibn Taymiyya. That is to say. for him. Gad

transcends by means of His attributes even though He shares these attributes

and names with His creatures. God, nonetheless, has His attributes in a different

sense. He deserves His attributes in a manner completely different from the way

in which His creatures do. God is the richest being, He does not need anything

outside Himself. He is the Necessary Seing while every temporal existent needs

a creator.~h

However, the universe consists of only two kinds of existents: the Eternal

and Necessary Seing who exists by virtue of Himself, and generated beings that

exist by virtue of this other Seing. The participation in the concept of existence

between the necessary and the contingent does not mean participation in the

peculiarity of existence that each has. Ibn Taymiyya argues against those who

negated God s attributes on the basis of their claim that these attributes would

liken Him to His creatures and that their negation of the attributes would in a way

liken Him to nothing (oadam).227

God is necessary and it is impossible for Him to suffer dissolution,

whereas the creature is a contingent thing that exists after having been nothing

and that subsequently undergoes dissolution. We need to disclose what

differentiates them and what is similar between them. or else we will faU into

believing either that the universe is completely etemal and necessary or that it is

• completely temporal and potential. 80th statements are false.


• However, those who deny either their affirmation or negation would be led

ta negate the two opposites, and God would be, according to them, likened to

the non-possible (mumtani"), such as describing Gad as being non-existent and

not non-existent, not living and not non-living. This sort of dealing with the idea of

Gad makes Gad an imagined notion in one"s mind without a reality. Gad for Ibn

Taymiyya is the most perfeet Seing so He should be described by ail the

attributes, since being described by ail the attributes is more perfeet than that

which is not described at ail or described by only part of the attributes. Perfection

for Gad, according te Ibn Taymiyya, means that God owns ail the attributes and

that these attributes are etemally active and productive. 228


• Notes

1 These tenns, which were used by the philosophers to name God, can be found in any of the
books of al-Farabi or Ibn Sïna: e.g. al-Farabrs ..friT ahl al-Aladrna al-FëufiJa. F~i4 a/-f!ikam. a/-Siyiisa
a/-,\ladani))'a. or Ibn Sïna's al-Najar. al-Shifà', a/-Isharar \va ï- Tanbihiir.

2 'Abd al-Karim al-Shahrasœni. says that I:-Iafs al-Fard and Oirar b. 'Amr permitted naming God
mâhi.\)'a: Abü ls~aq al-lsfara'Tnï was close to them in this regard. See ai-lvii/ai wa 'I-NiF;ral, ed. 'A. M. al-
WakTl (Cairo: Mu'ssasat al-~alabr, 1968) vol. 1. pp. 90,100.

3 Ibid. p. 108.

~ Jahm b. Safwan. Abù Mu~riz. early theologian. He was a client of Rasib (a ba~n of Azd) and
appears as a secretary to al-I:-Iarith b. Sura~j. who revolted against the Umayyads 1161734 to 128/746 and
controlled tracts of eastem Khurasan. Jahm was captured and executed in 128/746. shortly before al-I:-Iarith
himsdf. The basis of this revoIt. of which Jahm was the intellectual protagonist. was the demand that
government should be in accordance with "the Book of God and the Sunna of His Prophet": the movement
is therefore reckoned to belong to the Alurjïa. In regard to his theological views. Jahm argued for the
existence of God against the Indian sect ofSumaniyya. We are infonned that Jahm and his followers held
an extreme form of the doctrine ofJabr. according to which men act only metaphorically. Jahm held the
Qur'an to be created. They denied that God has a distinct eternal attribute ofknowledge. considering that
His knowledge of temporal events follows the occurrence of the event. More generally they denied the
distinct existence of ail God's anributes. and were therefore accused of ra'/ll (making God a bare unity).
Sec M. Wan. "Jahm b. Safwa::' and "Jahmiyya". EncycJopaedia of Islam. vol. p. 388: cf. Also A. J.
Wensinck. The Muslim Creed (Cambridge: 1932) pp. 91-119: and p. 165 ff.

:; This is Muqatil b. Sulayman b. BashTr al-Azdï al-Khumsanï. traditionalist and commentator on

thè Qur·an. His prestige as traditionalist is not very great: he is reproached \Vith not being accurate with the
l.miid. His elaboration of Biblical elements in the Qur'an and his rracing every allusion back to the "People
of the Book" heightened his disrepute in later centuries. Overal1 his exegetical work is infrequently cited:
al-Tabarr makes no use of the work. for example. The association of Muqatil with sectarian Muslim
leanings is widespread. as is his belief in an extreme anthropomorphism. He is frequently associated with
the Murji'a in theology and the Zaydiyya in politics. See M. Plessner-[A. Rippin]. "Muqatil b. Sulayman".
Encyclopaedia oflslam. vol. VIL pp. 508-09.

h Abü al-tlasan al-Ash·arT. Alaqiiliit al-Isliimiyyfn. ed. H. Riner (Istanbul: Wiesbaden. 1929-1933)
pp. 151-3.

Hishâm b. al-I:-Iakam is the most representative figures of ImamT kalâm in the lime of Imam
Ja·tàr al-Sadiq and Müsâ al-Kazim. He is said to have been a Jahmï before his conversion to Shrism by the
Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq. Other accounts. however. point to his early association with representatives of
dualist religion. notably with Abü Shâkir ai-Day~anÎ. The theory of the Imâmate which Hisham elaborated
has remained at the basis of the ImamT doctrine. It rests on the idea of the permanent need for a divinely

guided Imam who could act as the authoritative teacher of mankind in aU religious matters. With regard to
his theological views. Hisham defined God as a finite. three dimensional body (jism) and as radiantlight.
God being in no place produced space by His movement and came to be in a place. namely the throne. At
the same time Hisham rejected the doctrine of other contemporary Imâmï theologians, such as al-JawâliqT
and Mu'min (Shaytfin) al-Taq. that God has a shape like that of man. Hisham held that God does not know

• things or ~vents before they come into being and argued that God's knowing them from etemity would
~ntail their existence from eternity. By considering the Qur'ân as a descriptive attribute ofGod, he could
furthermore maintain that it was neither creator. nor create<i nor unereated. This neutral position in the
dispute coneerning the createdness of the Qur'ân tallied with the sratement attributed to Imâm la'far. See
W. Madelung. "Hisham b. al-tIakam". Encyclopaedia of Islam. vol. III. pp. 496-7; cf. Trinon• .~/us/im
The%gy (London: The Royal Asiatie Society by Luzac & Company. 1947) p. 49; cf. Wensinck. The
.\llls/im Creed. p. 76: cf. H. A. Wolfson, The PhiJosophy ofthe Ka/am (Cambrdige: Harvard University
Press, 1979) p. 143-4; M. Watt. The Formative Period ofIs/amic Thought (Edinburgh: The University of
Edinburgh Press. 1(73) pp. 186-9.

S Ibn Taymiyya. a/-Furqt1n bayn a/-/:faqq ",a ·/-Ba~i/. ed. H.Y. Ghazali (Beirut: Dar I~ya' al-
·Ulüm. 1(87) p. 177.

9 Trinon believes that the anthropomorphist tendency in Islam oeeurred mainly among the Shï'ïs
whose them'Y of the Imam drove them in This direction; and he does not agree that the anthropomorphie
movement in Islam was barn as a reaction against the MU'tazilites. See A. S. Trinon. ,Hus/im The%gy. pp .

(II al-Ash'arï. .\faqii/iit. p. 518.

Il Ihid. p. 181.

1: The tenn shay' (thing) as used in the early kalam is the most general tenn. referrïng te every
thing. whatever its nature. The linguistic entity like (ma' nii), the eorporeal abject. and the essence of God
are ail ashyii·. things. ln other words. whatever being we can speak of and make statements about it is a
thing. whether this being is sensible or not. See al-Ash'arï. Jfaqa/iit. p. 181.

)j "lt is said that Jahm argued that God's knowledge does not precede phenomena because that
would imply change in Him beeause knowing that a thing will he is different fram knowing that it is. There
is one knowledge for every knowable." See Trinon. .\.fuslim The%gy. pp. 63-4.

14 'Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadï, a/-Farq bayn al-Firaq (Beirut: Dar al-JTI & Dar al-Afâq) p. 199.
and' Abd al-Karïm al-ShahrastânT. al-Amal. vol. l, p. 23.

(5 It is hard to find an appropriate English tenn equivalent for the Arabie tenn la' ~ï/. especially
since this term has been used in many different eontexts in Islamic theology. For the Ash'arite Sunni. ta'~ï/
means depri\"ing God of His attributes as were understood by them as ma' anï, linguistic entities subsisting
in God's essence. ln general. la'~ï/ at the early stage denotes negating the ascription to God ofany kinds of
qualities. Jahm was considered the most representative upholder ofthis kind oftranscending God. The
MU'tazilites. although were accused ofbeing mu'a({i/a. admined that God must he described by attributes.
These anributes for them, however. are not entities. as the Ash'arites believed but predieates ofGod. Ibn
Taymiyya as we shaH see. gave a ditTerent sense to the term. For him, God must be considered as etemally
having aIl His anributes. even the attributes of action. whieh were considered by the Ash'arites and
Mu"tazilites to be created in lime. Also. these attributes must he etemally operative. \\;thout any delay,

from the existence of Gad.

16 Alpnad Ibn tianbaL Abü 'Abd Allah Al).rnad b. MlÙJammad b. l:ianbal al-Shaybanï is a
celebrated theologian.jurist and traditionalist. and one of the mast prominent personalities of Islam, which

• he has profoundly influenced both in its historical development and the modem revival. He was founder of
one of the four legal Sunnï schools. The policy adopted by the caliph al-Ma'mün toward the end ofhis
reign. under the intluence of Bishr al-Marïsï. of giving official suppon to the doctrine of the MU'tazilite
inaugurated for Ibn tlanbal a period of persecution. Ibn tlanbal vigorously refused to adopt the dogma of
the creation of the Qur'an. With the reinstatement of Sunnism by al-Mutawakil on his accession in
232.8-&7, Ibn tfanbal was able to resume his teaching activity. He does not. however. appear among the
traditionalists appoimed by the caliph in 234 to oppose the Jahm:te and the MU'tazilites. The most
cdebrated of Ibn tIanbal's works is his collection of traditions. the Musnad. Within the framework of
Tradition, Ibn I:fanbal is to be regarded as an "independent mujlahid."
The two fundamental treatises for the study of Ibn tlanbal's dogmatÎC position are the shon a/-
RadJ 'alii al·Jahm~l'ya wa 'i-Zaniidiqa and K. a/-Sunna. Conceming the unity of God. not only attributes,
such as hearing. sight. speech. omnipotence, wisdom. etc., are to be affirmed as realities (lJaqq), but also ail
the tenns called "ambiguous" which speak of God's hand. throne, and vision. God at the same time is
unique. absolute. and is not to be regarded as comparable to anything in the world of His creatures. Ibn
I:fanbal therefore vigorously rejects the negative theology (ta' ql) of the Jahmite and no less emphatically
rejects the anthropomorphism (lashbïh). See F. Dachraoui. "Al)mad Ibn tfanbal". Encyciopaedia oflslam.
vol. III. pp. 272-75: Brockelmann. CAL 1. pp. 125-7: cf. Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des Arabischen
Sdlr~/itlims (CAS) (Ldden: E. 1. Srill, 1867) pp. 502-9: M. Watt. The Formative Period, p. 292.

1- Abü Sa'rd al-Darimï, another Muslim traditionalist. composed a book that bears almost the
same title. Kilab ai-Radd' alii a/-Jahmiyya. ed. G. Vitestam (Leiden: E, J. Brill. (960).

lH Abü al-tfasan 'Alï b. Ismail al-Ash"art Muslim theologian and founder of the tradition of
Muslim theology known as Ash'arite. He was for some time an adherent of the MU'tazilite school and a
disciple of al-Jubba"ï (d. 2-&0/915). but at sorne point. probably prior to 909. he rejected the teaching of the
Mu'tazilites in tàvor of the more conservative dogrna of the traditionalists (ah/ a/-lJadith). Vet al-Ash'ari
claim that he taught the doctrine of traditionalists was vehemently rejected by the more conservative of
them, panicularly the tianbalite, whose approbation and suppon he had expected to receive but he looked
upon his as unreconstructed rational ist. Hostility between the I:fanbalites and the followers of al-Ash' ari
continued unabated for many centuries, sometimes erupting into civil disturbances, and the polemic and
counterpolemic oflater supponers and opponents ofal-Ash'ari doctrine tended to obscure the basic issues.
as current attitudes ",ere often projected bac~-ward onto the founder hirnself. Against.
To a large extent al-Ash'arï's teaching follows and develops that oflbn Kullab (d. 241/855), who
is regarded by the later Ash'arites as one of theiT own fellows. AI-Ash"an-'s doctrine ofhuman action,
however. is based on a distinction previously formulated by pir3r b. 'Amr (d. 200/815) and al-Na.üar (d,
toward the middle of the ninth century). AI-Ash'aJi's view of creation is basically occasionalistic.
\\lhatever exists and is not eternal, God creates, and its existence is his action. See R. Frank, "Ash'arï',
Encyc:lopedia ofReligion, vol. l, 1987. pp. 445-7: F. E. Peters, Aristotle and the Arabs, pp. 147-51: Daniel
Gimaret, Le doctrine d'a/-Ash'art (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf. 1990) pp. 9-23: Brockelmann, GAS l, pp.
602--&: CAL I. pp. 207-8: M. Watt, The Formative Period. pp. 303-12.

Il} Al)mad Ibn I:fanbal. al-Radd 'a/il a/-Jahm(vya wa 'I-Zanadiqa. ed. A. R. 'Umayra (Riyad: Dar
al-Liwa'. 1977) pp. 109-11.

2t1 Ibn Taymiyya's voluminous book. "The Agreement of the Plain Reason and the True Religion"
(.t/uwilJâqat $arî!; a/-Ala'qul li-$aiJïlJ a/-i\fanqûl) or "Deniai of the Opposition of Reason and Religion"

(Dar' Ta'iirot:J a/-'Aq/ wa 'I-Naql), is dedicated to proving his theory of the unity of the truth in both
religion and rational thinking.

• 21 Abu al-Walïd Mul:tammad Al:tmad b. Rushd was descended trom a long line of distinguished
scholars and jurists in Muslim Spain. His early education was of the traditional type and centered chiefly
on linguistic studies. jurisprudence. and scholastic theology. The philosophical output of Ibn Rushd was as
voluminous and varied as that of any of the greater philosophers of the East. Two characteristic features set
his works apart from those of the two Eastern masters. al-Farabi and Ibn Sïn~ his only two equals in the
world of Islam: his meticulousness in commenting on the text of Aristotle and his conscientiousness in
grappling with the perennial question of the relation ofphilosophy and dogma. A third feature must also be
mentioned: no other philosopher ofnote had either exercised the functions of canonical judge or composed
systematic treatises on jurisprudence. See M. Fakhry. A History of Islamie Philosophy (New York &
London: Columbia University Press. 1970), p. 304: cf. .<\rnaldez. "Ibn Rushd" El =. vol. Ill. p. 909-20: M.
Fakhry. A History of/slamie Philosophy (New York & London: Columbia University Press. 1970) pp. 302-
25: F. E. Peters, ArislOtie and che Arub (New York: New York University Press, 1968) pp. 92-101.

22 Edith Hamilton & Huntington Cairns (eds.). The Collecred Dialogues ofP/ato (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, (981), intro.. p. xviii.

23 Eduard Zeller. Duclines ofche HislOry ofGreek Philosophy (Cleveland: The World Publishing
Company. 1967) pp. 186-7.

24 James A. Weisheipl. "Thomas' Evaluation ofPlato and Aristotle". Journal ofthe Hisrory of
PhilcJscJphy (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University ofCalifomia Press, 1965) vol. Ill. p. 112.

25 Medieval philosophy was not primarily interested in questions about the nature ofhuman
knowledge. But its concern with metaphysics, especially in [hose aspects that carried theological
implications, led to continuation of the dispute between the two versions ofrealism and nominalism.
Platonic realism was championed by St. Augustine. for whom divine illumination performed much the
same tùnction as Plato' s Form of the Good, rendering intelligible by its light the necessity of eternal truths
which the human intellect could grasp. The leading exponent of Aristotelian realism was Thomas Aquinas.
who. although protèssing the greatest reverence for Augustine, departed widely from Augustine's views.
Thomas' metaphysics is like Aristotle's. He extended Aristotle's contrast between potentiality and act,
berween form and matter, and berween essence and existence. Essences are universals, which have no
being apan from existence but which are intelligible withour the supposition of existence. See A. D.
Woozley. ··Universals". The Encyclopedia ofPhilosophy, P. Edwards (ed.). vol. 8, p. 198.

2h Frederick Copleston, S. 1., A Hiscory ofPhilosophy, vol. 2, pan, 1 (Maryland: The Newman
Press, 1961) pp. 157-67.

:-:- Ibn Taymiyya, Jfuwiifaqat Saril] a/-Afa'qü/ li-$aiJïl] a/-~\fanqül (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-
'IIm iyya. ( (985) vol. 1. pp. 212-3.

2S Richard Frank. "The Neoplatonism of Jahm Ibn Safwan", Afuseon, vol. 78. 1965, p. 396.

211 Ibn Taymiyya. al-Furqiin bayn al-Ifaqq wa '/-Bii~i/. p. 174.

311 Richard Frank, "The Neoplatonism:' p. 97.

JI Ibn Ta}miyya. al-Furqiin. p. 174.


• 3~ Ibn Taymiyya Dar' Ta'ürUfj al-'Aql wa 'I-Naql. ed, A, .Abd al-Rafpnan (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub
al-'Ilmiyya. 1997) vol. 4. p.117.

33 This notion originated from Greek theosophists who lived in Alexandria and who established a
sort of mysticism that reached its peak with Plotinus (d. 169170) who defended the notion ofGod as being
beyond any Idnd of attribution and description. The transcendence of Gad that was emphasized by Plotinus
had a very imponam intluence on cenain Muslim philosophers and mystics. Plotinus maintained that God
is One and he repeatedly tells us that the One is beyond being and even that it is non-being. He tells us that
it is ~\'en incorrect to cali the one 'one'. See L. P. Gerson. Gad and Greek Philosophy (London & New
York: Routledge, (990) pp. 103-4. Actually, this sort of philosophy, which intluenced some Muslim
intellectuals and which Ibn Taymiyya was afraid of, equates God with nothing. Ibn Taymiyya contended
and argued against it.

.H Ibn Taymiyya. Dar', vol. 4, p. 218.

35 Ibn STna, al-Najat, ed. M. Fakhry (Beirut: Dar al-Âfaq al-Jadïda. 1985) pp, 263·66, and Ibn
Taymin"a, .\fajmü· t.1t al-Rasail wa 'I-~\Jasif il, ed. Rashid Ri<;ta. 5 vols. (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al·'Ilmiyya.
1983) vol. 4 &5, pp. 317-28.

-'h Ibn Taymiyya. Dar', vol. 4, p. 219.

r AI.Farabi and Ibn Sina believed that God is the only being whose essence and existence are
identical and the same. What Ibn Taymiyya and his disciple Ibn al-Qayyim are trying to say here is that
even the existence of God is an abstract notion. The identification between the essence and existence does
not make the notion of Gad a concrete notion. See Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya. al-Q~ïda al-Nuni.lya or al-
Kiifiya ai-ShiiR\'a fi a/-Int~iir Ii/-Firqa a/-Niijiya. edited and explained by M. K. Harrâs (Beirut: Dar al-
Kutub al- 'IImiyya, 1995) vol. 2. p. 45.

jH Ibid. p. 46.

39 Ibn Taymiyya, aJ-Furqiin, p.116.

~(l This kind oftranscendence was reterred to by the mystics as "absolute divine truth" (a/-I}aqïqa
aJ-i/iihiyya al-mu~'aqa). See 'Abd al-Razzaq al-Qashanï, SharlJ F~i4 a/-flikam, (Cairo:'at al-Babï
al-l;1alabT. 1987), p, 57. This doctrine of transcendence led the Sufis, according to Ibn Taymiyya. to deny
an)' description ofGod. to the extent that they were saying that "God is is" huwa huwa without giving Him
any name. See Ibn Taymiyya. AJuwâfaqat. vol. 1. p. 215.

~ 1 Ibn Taymiyya, .Hajmu·at al-Rasa II wa 'I-Alasü' il. ed, M. R. RiQa (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-
'I1miyya) vol. 4. p. 33.

1 • p. .J"'1 •

• ·U Ibid. p. 31.

• ~4 See al-Qashanï. ShariJ F~i4 al-Ifikam. pp. 54-61, and William Chinic~ The Se!/Disclosure of
God. (Albany: State University of New York Press. 1998) pp. 167-9.

.;5 lb n T aymlYYa.
. D ' vo l. .J.
ar. '"' pp. 6'"'.J-).

';/1 'Abd al-Karim al-Shahrastanï. .Vihiiyat al-Iqdamfi '[lm al-Kaliim. ed. A. Guillaume (London:
Oxford University Press. 1934) p. 112.

.;-:- Ibn Taymiyya. .\fajmü·at al-Rasiiïl. vol. 4 & 5. p. 207.

';H Ibid. p. 108.

';'1 The KlIran Inrerpre(t!d. transe Arthur J. Arberry (London: Oxford Univiersity Press. (964).

511 Ibn Taymiyya. ù/-Fatwii a/-f:lamaw(vya al-Kubrii, ed.H. A. M. Tuwaijarï (Riyad: Dar al-
~umay·ï. 1998) p. 368.

51 Ignaz Goldziher mentions in his Introduction ra [s/amie The%gy and LClK'. trans. A & R.
Hamon (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981) p. 93. mat the famous I;-Ianbalite shaykh Ibn
Taymiyya cited a Qur'anic passage in which God's "descent" is mentioraed. in a lecture in Damascus. Ibn
Taymiyya. in order to exclude an)' ambiguity and to iIlustrate concretel)' his conception ofGod's descent.
descended a tèw steps from the pulpit and said "Exactly as 1 am descending now" (ka-mczi/ï hiidhii).
Goldziher does nol mention where this story came from. but most probably it was taken from Ibn Bat.t.iit.a
(l;. 779 1377) who mentions il in his stories during his visit to Damascus. In any case there is nothing in
Ibn Taymiyya's writings to indicate that Ibn Taymiyya really held such an extreme anthropomorphic
anitude toward God. Rather he constantl)' emphasized that ail the anthropomorphic verses in the Qur'an
must be left as cited. without likening God to. or making any analogy between. these verses and human
beings. See D. Unie. "Did Ibn Taymiyya have a Screw Loose?" Studia [s/arnica, vol. 41, pp. 93-100.
\\'here Little discusses the reliability of stories related by Ibn Ba~ut~ who had never seen or met Ibn
Taymiyya and argues that aIl the stories related by Ibn Ba@t.a about Ibn Taymiyya are taken from other

52 Ibn Taymiyya. ul-Fatwii a/-flamaw(vya. p. 373.

53 Ibid. p. 367.

54 Ibn al-Qayyim al-Jawziyya. Shijà' al-Ghalïl fi Afasa' il a/-Qaç/ii' WQ '1-Qadar wa 'f-Ta' fil
(Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'llmiyya. 1987) p. 365.

55 Ibn Taymiyya. Taqrfb af-Tadmuri)ya (Sharjah: Dar al-FaÙ). 1994) p. 27.

511 Ibn al-Qayyim. ShijQ' a/-Ghatfl. pp. 361-2.

• 5"7 Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3. p. 166.


• 5H

.. ., 1-_.
lb 1'd• pp. ~_


Ibid. pp. 166-7.

hO The literai English translation of the wordjiha is "direction". But the question ofwhether or
not God is in jiha as discussed in kalam and philosophy denotes a different meaning. "Jiha" in this
discussion opposite to the notion of immanence or incarnation (lJu/üf). 50 those who deny the notion of
God as existing everywhere hold the notion ofGod's being injiha. But even those who maintained the
notion that God is in jiha did not accept rhe notion ofGod's being in a place. and admitted that God's
being in jiha does not imply that God occupies space. Ail this takes us farther from the literai meaning of
the notion of God as being in direction. This may explain why we have chosen the word orientation instead
of direction. since "orientation" might be more revealing ofwhat is meant by jiha as was discussed by the
Mutakallimün and the philosophers. This discussion is indebted to Prof. Onnsby.

h\ 'Abd al-labbar al-Hamadhani, SharlJ al-U~ü/ a/-Khamsa. ed. A. K. 'Uthman (Cairo: Maktabat
Wahba. 1988) pp. 213-232. a/-Afughnïfi Abwiib ,li- TawJJïd wa '/-'A dl, (Cairo: al-Mu' ssasa al-Mi~riyya al-
'Âmma lil-Taïif waï-Dirasat wa'l-Nashr, 1965) vol. 1 Led. M. 'A. al-Najjar& 'A. H. al-Naliàr, pp. 83-
99. & al-Ash'arï, a/-Ibiina 'an U~'ii/ al-Diyiina, trans. W. C. Klein. New Heven. p. 87, & Maqiiliir a/-
Isliim~\'yïn. p. 382.

h2 Abü al-Hudhayl al-' Allatïs considered the first speculative theologian of the Mu'tazilites. The
theology \\'hich he inherited trom the school of W~i1 b.. At.a· was still rudimentary. Essentially polemical.
ir opposed-in a rather unsystematic fashion. it seems-the anthropomorphism ofpopular Islam and of the
traditionalists, the doctrine of detenninism favored for political reason by the Umayyads, and the
divinization of ' Ali preached by the extreme ShPis. While continuing this polemic. Abü al-Hudhayl was
the tirst to engage in the speculative struggles of the epoch. a task for which he was exceptionally equipped
by his philosophical mind, his sagacity and his eloquence. He became the apologist of Islam against other
religions of the preceding epoch: the dualists. represented by the Zoroastrians, the Manichaeans and other
Gnostics: and the philosophers ofGreek inspiration. the dahri}'ya, mainly represented by the champions of
the natural sciences. God does not resemble his creatures in any respect~ He is not a body (against Hisham
b. al-l:Iakam): has no figure (hay'a), forro (~üra) or limit. God is knowing with a knowledge. powerful with
a power, alive with a life. eternal with an eternity: but this knowledge, power. etc .. are identicai with
Himself (against those who regarded the divine attributes as entities added to essence): there were
provisional formulas of compromise which did not satisfy the later generations. God is omnipresent in the
sense that He directs evel!1hing and His direction is exercised in every place. It was Abü al-Hudhayl who
introduced into the Mu'tazilite speculation the concept of the accidents (a'riiif) of the body, and lhat of the
alom. which he called (jawiihir). These concepts, which originally had a purely physical relevance. were
made by him to serve as the basis for theology proper, cosmology, anthropology and ethics. This is his
most original innovation, as weil as the most heavy with consequences~ it was this which gave to the
Mu'tazilite theology its mechanical character. Life, soul. spirit. the five senses. are accidents and therefore
not enduring: even spirit (nïl.t) will not endure. See H. S. Nyberg, ,0Abü al-Hudhayl al_ o AIBif',
Em..:yclopaedia of Islam. vol. l, pp. 127-8: cf. 39-40: cf. Brockelmann, GAS l, pp. 617-8; GAL suppl. 1. p.
338: R. Frank. The ,\./eraphysices ofCreaared Being according 10 Abü'/-Hudhayl al-"AlIiif(lstanbul. 1966);
M. Watt. The Formarive Period. p. 219.

AI-Iskâfi is Abü la'far MuJ)ammad b. 'Abd Allah, a Mu'tazilite of the Baghdad branch and a


native of Samarqand.. In general. he adhered to the opinions of his master la"far b. l:Iarb. depaning fonn
these only over sorne details, but he certainly seems to have been one of the most productive of the
Mu·tazilites. Likc the other members of the school, he maintained that the Qur'ân was created, but that it
existed wherever it was read. written and heard. God exists outside time, and His existence could he

• deduced from the existence ofthings. He is everywhere in the sense that He controls ail. He always works
through His attributes. In his view. bodies consist ofa combination oftwo elements. In politics also he
seems to have recognized the legitimacy of ·Uthman. See Encyclopaedia ofIs/am. vol. IV. p. 126; Trinon.
.\luslim The%gy. p. 123: M. Watt. Free Will and Predestination in Ear(l' Islam (London: 1948) pp. 78-80.

h4 He is Abü . AIT MUQammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab, a Mu'tazilite thinker of the Ba~ra branch. He
believed that God is etemally knowing of atoms and accidents, and that things are known before their
creation. and called 'things' before their creation. or things are things before their being. He maintained the
word ..thing" is a name for every thing can be known. This doctrine implies that things existed etemally in
the know ledge of God. He said that the meaning of our statement that God is knowing affinns His
existence and confinns that He is ditTerent from whatever is ignorant. This can be applied to ail other
attributes. He believed that whatever God knows should be. AI-Jubbâ'ï is the first to have the opinion of
the eternity ofGod (qadïm) as His the most essential anribute; nothing whatsoever participate with Him in
this anribute. He believed in the creation of the Qur'an. but he added that Qur'an. ,"vith respect to humans.
can only be read. \\Tinen. and memorized. He believed that the spirit is a body and ditTerent from life
(~lc.J)·,lr) but that spirit cannot accept accidents. See A. R. Badawï. iHadhiihib al-Isliim(lyin. Beirut: Dar al-
'lIm lil-MalayyTn. 1971) vol. l. pp. 280.,310: El, pp. 569-70: Brockelmann. GAS
l. pp. 621-2: M. Watt. The Formative Period. pp. 298-300.

n5 Majid Fakhl')" ... HislOry' ofls/amie Philosophy. p. 80.

tlh al-Ash'arL .\faqiUàr, p. 157.

t17 Ibid p. 155. (my translation).

hS The Mâturïdites were a theological school named after its founder Abü Man~ür al-Mâturïdï
which came to be widely recognized as the second orthodox Sunnï kalâm school besides the Ash'arites.
The name Mâturïdites does not seem to have been current before al-Taftazânï (d. 792/1390) who used it
evidently to establish the role of al-Mâturîdi as the co-founder of Sunnï kalam together with his
contemporal')" al-Ash'arL The school c1aimed to represent the doctrine of Abü tfanïfa and sometimes
identitied itself as ahl a/-sunna u'a 'l-jamâ·a. Unlike the MU'tazilites and the Ash'antes, Mâturïdite
theology always remained associated with only a single legal school. that of Abü tfanIfa. It also generally
lagged behind the other two kalam schools in methodical sophistication and systematization, especiaHy in
the question of natural science treated by them, and was less subject to the pervasive influence of the
terminology and concepts of fa/iis~fà on later Ash'arism and lister. particularly Imâmî Shi'ï, Mu·tazilism.
The main MâturïdI doctrines affirmed the etemity ofGod's attributes ofact subsisting in His essence. the
rational basis of good and evil. the reality of free choice of man in his acts and the Murji'a definition of
faith as assent and confession excluding works. See P. Crone. "Mâturidiyya'" Encyclopaedia oflslam, vol.
VI. pp. 8.t6-47: Brockelmann. GAS L pp. 604-6: M. Watt. The Formative Period, pp. 312-6.

hl} Abü al-Mu'ïn al-Nasafi. Tab~irat al-Adilla, ed. C. Salamé (Damascus: Institut Français de
Damas. 1990) p. 166.

-'1 al-Ghazali. Qawii' id a/-'Aqii' id, ed. M. M..AlI (Beirut: 'Âlam al-Kutub, 1985) pp. 51-2. (my

• 71 al-Ash·arr. al-Ibiina. p. 70.


• 72 al-Nasafi. Tab~·irat. p. 167.

-3 Fakhr al-Dfn al-Ràzi is Abü 'Abd Allah MUQammad b. 'Umar b. tlusayn, one of the most
celebrated theologians and exegetes of Islam. He was born in 54311149 at Rayy and educated by the
Ash'arite masters, one of them Abü al-Qasim al-An~ârf a pupil of Abü al-Ma'alï al-JuwaynI Besides his
knowledge in kalam he acquired a profound knowledge in falsafa (he had studied al-Farabi and composed
a commentaI)' on Ibn Sïn~ïs al-/shiiriit wa 'f-Tanbihat), ln this commentary al-Râzi preserved his freedom
of mind and, and criticized Ibn Sïn~ strongly, where he did not wish to follow his opinion. Kraus believes
in the originality of al-Razï in his 'ïeconciliation of philosophy with theology at the level of a Platonistic
system which in the last reson derives from the interpretation of the Timaeus". (Le "Controverses" de
Fakhr al-Dfn al-Rii=ï, in BLE, xix [1937]. 190). See G. C. Anawati. "Fakhr al-Din al-Razf' in
Encydvpaedia vflslam, vol. II. pp. 751-55.

74 Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3. pp. 181-2.

-5 His full name is Abü Bakr Muf:tammad b. al-I;-tasan b. Fürak al-An~ari al-I~bahani. an Ash'aritc
theologian and traditionalist. In Iraq, both at B~ra and at Baghdad. he studied the Ash'arite kalam under
Abü al-tiasan al-Bahilï along with al-Baqillani and al-Istam'ini. From Iraq he went to Rayy, then to
Nïsabür. where a madrasa was built for him beside the khanqah al-Bushanjï. He disputed with the members
of the Karrâmite sect in Nïsabür who tried to prove to sultan MalJmoud that he was a heretic. But he seems
to have defended himself successfully. though he was poisoned by the Karrâmites on his way back to
Nïsâbür. Another version tells that sultan MaQmoud poisoned him. but this version is improbable. His
views may have differed slightly at certain points from other Ash'arites·. He wrote a book on I;-tanafijiqh.
:\ lost work by Ibn Fürak entitled fabaqiir al-Afurakallimfn is the main source for our knowledge
of al-Ash'arî and his writings, and was extensively used by Ibn' Asâkir in his Tabyfn Kadhib al-lvfu/tarf. At
NTsâbür Ibn Fûrak seems to have played a pan in securing the adoption of Ash'arite theology by a group of
mystics. See M. Watt, "Ibn Fürak", Encyc/opaedia of/sIam, vol. III. pp. 766-7; Brockelmann. GAL 1. p.
166, GAS 1. pp. 610-11.

7h Ibn Ta)miyya, Taqrïb al-Tadmuriyya. p. 53.

" AI-Karramiyya. or the Kam1mites. is a sect which flourished in the central and eastern parts of
the Islamic world, and especially in the [ranian regions, from the 3rd ! 9th century until the Mongol
invasions. The founder of the school. MulJammad b. Karram. was born 190/806 in Sistan. His theological
ideas \Vere set forth in his 'Adhab al-qabr (Punishment of the Grave). Ibn Karram considered that God is a
substance (jawl1ar), this approaching in Baghdad the beliefs of the Christians. and that He has a body finite
in certain directions when He cornes into contact with the throne. (bn Karrâm was also exercised by the
questions of the eternit)' of the world and the Qur'anic act of creation. In accordance with the difference
berween substance and accidents, God is subject to cenain accidents, such as willing, speakiog, perceiviog,
etc .. over which He has power, but not over the world and the created objects in il.. which come ioto
existence not by power and will but by the divine fiat (kun). Baghdadï holds this limitation ofGod's power
over generated objects, which originate in His essence to he an innovation of Ibn Kamlm' s and to he
especially abhorrent. See C. E. Boswonh, "Karrâmiyya". Encyclopaedia ofIslam, vol. IV. pp. 667-668; al-
ShahrastânY. ai-.llilal, vol. 1. pp. 108-13: al- Baghdadi. al-Farq bayn a/-Firaq, pp. 215-25; M. Watt. The
Formative Periad, pp. 289-91.

• 7H al-Ash'ar1. ai-/bana, pp.69-70.


• 74 al-Baqillanï. K. a/-Tamhrd. ed. R. J. McCanhy (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-Sharqiyya. 1975) p. 108.

Stl Fakhr al-Din al-Razï, Asiis a/-Taqdis (Beirut: Mu'ssasat al-Kurub al-Thaqafiyy~ 1995) pp. 54-
5. & Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3. p. 307.

SI AI-Juwaynï. al-Irshiid i1ii Qawii~t a/-Adi/lafi U-rii/ a/-Drn. ed. M. Y. M11sa & A. A. 'Abd al-
tfamïd (Cairo: Maktabat Khanjï. 1950) pp. 3942.

S2 Fakhr al-Din al-Razï. Asiis a/-Taqdis. pp. 15-22.

Sj AI-N~m's full name is Abü Is~aq Ibrahim b. Sayyar b. Hàni', a Mu'tazilite theologian. He
has trained in B~ra. mainly in the circle of his maternai uncle, Abü al-Hudhayl. but he succeeded in
gening access to the court at Baghdad when the caliph al-Ma'mun returned from Marw. AI-J~i~ was his
pupil in theological matters. He built his theology on a broad speculative basis of natural philosophy which
was more elaborate man and different from that of Abü al-Hudhayl. Al-Na~, contrary to Abü al-
Hudhayl. thought the clements which make the bodies penneate cach other. God created themall at once;
when bodies undergo change they do not nonnally add on new accidents but bring hitherto hidden
components [0 the surtàce. See J. Van Ess. ·'al-Na~". Encyclopaedia ofls/am. vol. Il. p. 1057; GAL 1.
pp. 618-9, GAL. suppl. I. p. 339: M. Wan. The Formative PerlOd. p. 219-20.

S4 M. Fakhry. A History of/s/amie Philosop1r)'. p. 80.

~5 al-RàZï. Asâs al-Taqdis. p. 16.

St) al-Nasafi. who related the opinions of the adherents of the thesis ofGod's being in orientation.
in his Tab~irar. p. 167. did not determine who those theologians were.

s"' al-Shahrastânï is Abü al-Fa~ Mu~ammad b. 'Abd al-Karim. thinker and historian ofreligious
and philosophical doctrines. who lived in Persia in the first half of 6lh /12 th century. After what was
det1nitely a very substantial traditional education. he was sent to the prestigious metropolis ofNlsablir. lt
was there he embarked on detailed study of the Islamic sciences. His principal masters are known: most of
them were in their tum disciples of al-Juwayni. Ai-Shahrastâniobtained a post al the Ni~iyya school and
he taught there for three years. The contribution of his vast corpus of writings is twofold. In the first place,
he has rransmined and presemed to generations of readers a mass of information on previous opinions in
numerous domains. But al-ShahrastânI does not only expound the thoughl of others. He has his own, which
is immediately apparent in the refutation of Ibn SIDa. His books a/-.~Iila/ wa '/-Nil)a/ and Nihayal a/-Iqdam
fi . /lm al-Ka/am are believed to have been wrinen under the Ash'arite influence, but his book MafiilïlJ a/-
Asriir is said to belong to Isma'ijI theology. See G. Monnot. ooal-Shahrastâni'. Encyclopaedia ofls/am. vol.
IX. pp. 21~-15.

MS al-Shahrastânï. Nihiiyar, p. 109.

al-Nasafi. Tab~iral. p. 168.


4n Ibid. p. 168.

• 91

1. pp. 61. 65-6.

al-Razï. SharJ] 'Uyun al-Ifikma. ed. A. H. Saqqa (Cairo: Makûbat Anglo-M~riyya. (986) vol.

'l2 Ib 1-d .pp. 6"-,_.


'13 Ibn Rushd. al-Kashf 'an .\{anahij al-Adillafi 'Aqii'id al-Mi/la (Beirut: Dâr al-Âfàq al-Jadida.
1(82) p. 83.

'/4 1. p. 8"
Ib"d -'.

::l Ibid. p. 84.

'ln Ibid. p. 85.

. Ibid. p. 84.

'IS l'm"d. p. 8-).

'1'1. _
Ibid. pp. 84-).

1\"1 Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3. pp. 101-36.

III] Ibn KulHib. Abu Sa'id al-Qat.t.ân Iived in the time of the 'Abbasicaliphal-Ma'mun(191-
111 813-833). and was one of the most imponant figures in the history of Islamic kalam. to whom most of
the Ash'arite issues are due. He criticized the school of Jahm b. ~afwan and the Qadarites. He maintained
that the world is generated and has a beginning. and God is transcendent above ail anthropomorphic
qualities. Ibn Kullab believed in the possibility of the vision ofGod and in the uncri:atedness of the Qur·an.
Moreover. the theor"y of the anributes of God as ma' ânî was held by Ibn Kullab. See Ibn Taymiyya. ;\finhâj
a/-Sunna al-Naba.....iyya. vol. 2. p. 251. al-Subki. fabaqiil al-Shiifi' (~')-·a. vol. 2, p. 51. Ibn' Asakir. Tabyïn
KadJ/ib al-A!ufiarï. p. 116, and al-Ash·ari. Afaqâlât al-lslamiJ.')-'ïn. p. 517; Brockelmann. GAS 1. p. 599: M.
\\'an. The Formative Period. pp. 286-9.

(112 Abu Bakr al-BaqilHini is an Ash'arite theologian and Maliki jurisprudent, said to have been a
major factor in the systematizing and popularizing of Ash'arism. He studied u~ül al-din under disciples of
al-Ash'arf and is said to have attracted auditors for his own lectures. His book al-Tamhid is the earliest
example we have of a complete manual oftheological pol~mic which would become the example for al-
Baghdiidï. al-ShahrastanI and al-Juwaynï. This book contains a considerable amount ofpolemic against
other Muslim sects. Christians and Jews. The book al-l/z'!iifcontains two pans: a version of the Sunni creed
with brief explanations. and a detailed discussion of the uncreatedness of the Qur'ân. 5tudy ofthese works
does not enable us to define precisely the author's contribution to the development of the Ash"arite kalam.
For we do not know enough about the works ofhis contemporaries and predecessors. e.g. Ibn Furak. Abü
Is~aq al-Isfara'ïni. and al-Ash'arr himself. Thus it is now clear that much ofwhat once might have been

anributed to al-Bâqillânî already existed in al-Ash'an-'s K a/-lbiina and a/-Luma'.AI-Baqillânï is
considered the Ash'arite thinker who introduced his school to (Wo major doctrines of the Mu"tazilites, the
theory ofatoms and accidents and the theory of states (al,twiil). See Badawï. Afadhiihib, vol. 1, pp. 592-610.

• and R. 1. McCarthy, "Abü Bakr al-Ba~ilanr, Encyclopaedia oflslam. vol. 1. p.

pp. 608-10: Watt, The Formarive Period. pp. 185, 31,.
958~ Brockelmann, GAS I.

1 (13 Ibn 'Abd al-Barr is the appellative of a family of Cordovan scholars. He studied in his native
ci~' under masters ofrepute and engaged in correspondence with scholars of the East but never went to the
East. Considered the best traditionalist ofhis time, he was equally distinguished infiqh and in the science
of genealogy. After displaying ?:âhirI tendencies at first in which he resembled his friend Ibn l;iazm. he
13ter followed the Malikr doctrine. not without sorne inclination toward Shafi'I teaching. He held the
position of QiiifJ at Lisbon and Santarem and died in 1ativa in ..J63/1010. See C. Pellat. "Ibn .Abd al-BélIT·.
Encyc/opùedia ofIslam. vol. III. p. 6ï..J.

Il ~4 AI-Qurt.ubïs full name is Abu' Abd Allah al-An~arr al-Andalusl. He was a Muslim scholar of
the Mâlikï law school. an expert on lJadfth and was known for his comrnentary on the Qur'an. AI-Dhahabï
says of him. in his Ta'rikh al-Islam that he was an imam versed in numerous branches ofscholarship. an
ocean of learning whose works testify to the wealth of his knowledge. and he was remembered as pious
man inclined towards asceticism and meditation on the life after death. He \\-Tote great books on lJadith. al-
.\Iujlllm fi Sharl:z .\lus/im, and on the Qur'ân. al-Jiimi' /i-Al)kiim al-Qur'an wa 'I-Mubayyin li-ma
Taifùmmùna min al-Sunna wa-.-(viit al-Furqiin. See R. Amaldez. ··Al-~un.ubï". Encyclopaedia ofIslam.
vol. V. p. 511.

11I5 1b n T ayml~"ya.
. Dar, . .J. p. _"11 .
' vo 1"

tilt! lb 1'd• p. ~6"

__ .

111-:" "77 -.J.

lb 1'd• pp. _ 9"

11I!'i lb 1'd• p. "'88

_ .

Ilt9 Fakhr al-Din al-Razï. al-Arba'ïnfi U~ül al-Dïn. ed. A. H. Saqqa (Cairo: Mak'labat al-Kulliyyat
al-Azhariyya. 1986) p. 163. (my translation).

1111 lb n T aymtyya
. D ' vo 1"
ar. . .J. p. _"'9"~.

1Il Ibid. pp. 191-92.

1 t:~ Ibn Taymiyya. al-·,-tqïda al-Wasi(iyya (Riyad: Dar al-Sumay'ï, 1996) p. 7.

113 al-1a'd b. Dirham was a native of Khurasàn but spent most ofhis Iife at Darnascus: he was
imprisoned and then put to death. on the orders of Hisham b. 'Abd al-Malik. by Khâlid al-Qasn. Very few
facts are known about his doctrinal position. He was accused of having advanced the doctrines, later
specifically associated with the Mu·tazilites. of the created Qur'an and offree will. errors which he was
said to have led Marwân b. MlÙ}ammad into holding; ofhaving professed a radical doctrine of denial of the

Divine attributes. whence probably the saying attributed to him by Khlilid: "Gad did not speak to Moses,
nor take Abraham for His friend": he is described as a dahrf and appears prominently in the list of
=anâdiqa in the Fihrisl. He is also associated with Jahm b. Safwân; il is certain. however, that the later did
not profess the doctrine of free will. Without casting doubt on the authenticity of the majority ofthese

• statements, their coordination is. however. difficult. See G.

vol. III. p. 747: M. Wa~ The Formative Period. pp. 242-3.
Vajd~ "Ibn Dirham". Encyclopaedia ofIslam.

1 14 Ibn al-' Athrr. al-Kiimil fi '1- Tiir'ikh. (Leiden: E, J. Brill, 1876) vol. 5. p. t 04.

115 Ibn tIanbal mentions in his al-Radd 'alii Jahmiyya wa 'l-Zaniidiqa that Jahm had gotten his
teaching from la'd, his comemporary who. like him. was put to death under Hisham. See R. Frank. "The
Neoplatonism of Jahm Ibn $afu.'an". in AJuseon. vol. 78. 1965. p. 396.

l!h al-RazI. l'tiqad Firaq al-A/uslim'in wa 'l-A/shrik'in. ed. T. R. Sa'd (Cairo: Maktabat al-Kulliyyat
al-Azhariyya, 1978) p. 104. al-Baghdadï. al-Farq bayn a/-Firaq. ed. Lajnat lt,ya' al-Turàth al-'Arabï
(Beirut: Dar al-HI & Dar al-Afliq al-Jadrd~ 1987) p. 199. al-Ash'arr. .~laqiiliil aJ-ls/iimiyy'in. p. 222. and al-
ShahrastànI. al-Ali/al wa '/-Nif;al. vol. l, pp. 86-7.

117 a1- Ah' - .\ laqa

san. 1 - /al,
- "') 80 .
p. _

11~ Ibn f:-Ianbal. al-Radd. p. 89.

11'1 R. Frank, "The Neoplatonism". pp. 406-7. Frank here turns the reader's attention to the facr
that the sources do not mention that the immaterialit)' and being outside God are said about qudra. though
these formulae are used of His knowledge ('jlm): by analogy. we should he safe in assuming that the same
was said of ,!udra.

1:!ll Sulayman b. Jarïr was a Zaydï kalàm theologian from al-Raqq~ active in the second half of
nd th
the :! 8 century. He is said to have panicipated in debates with Hishâm b. al-tlakam. pirar b.. Amr and
the Ibaçir 'Abd Allah b. Yazrd in the circle of Barmakid Yal,ya b. Khalid. ln his theology Sulayman
espoused predestination. to avoid determinism. Against the Sunnï traditionalist doctrine. Gad does not will
acts of disobedience. The human ability to act (isti~ii'a) exists before the act and is used by it. Sulayman
was opposed to anthropomorphism and interpreted the Qur'anic face (wajh) ofGod as God's self. Against
the MU'tazilite doctrine. however. he affirmed the realiry of the divine anributes ofknowledge. power.
\\·ill. etc.. describing them as neither identical with Gad nor other than He. About the nature of the Qur'an.
he seems to have taught that whatever constituted divine knowledge in il was uncreated and whatever
constituted command or prohibition was created. Il has been said that the later zaydï tradition was
generally hostile towards his teachings. See W. Madelung, "Sulayman b. Jarïr al-Raqqî'. Encyc/opaedia of
Islam. vol. IX, p. 824. M. Wan. The Formative Period. pp. 162-6.

121 D. Gimaret. Le doctrine d·al-Ash'arï. pp. 237-8.

122 al-Ash'arï. Maqaliil. p. 494.

12.3 al-Shahrastânï. a/-Ali/a/. vol. 1. p. 86.

124 al-Ash·arï. .\Iaqiiliit. p. 494 .

• 1"'-
-::> Ibid. p. 70.

• 12h The cardinal contribution of Mu"ammar is that his belief in nature Vab") as the decisive
principle of activiry inhering in things. AI-N~ (d. 110/835) seems to have followed the lead of
MU'ummar's teacher Bishr b. al-Mu'tamir (d. 110/825). Mu·ammar. who pushed this notion to its logical
limit, argued that the existence ofbodies is to be ascribed 10 God. whereas the existence of accidents must
be ascribed to the action of bodies themselves. This action is brought about cither by necessity. as in the
case of inanimate things. or in a voluntary manner. as in the case of animate beings such as man, The other
important idea that MU'ammar advanced is his beliefin God's attributes as ma"nii: each ma'na is caused by
another ma'na and the process goes intinitely. See M. Watt. The Formative Period. p. 193.202: M.
Fakhry. A Hisrory. p. 65.

1 ~-
-, Ibid. p. 484.

12S Ibid. p. 488.


t2 H. A. Wolfson. The Phi/osophy o/the Kalam. pp. 154-5.

\JI! al-Ash"arL :Haqiilar. p. 546.

U 1 al-Shahra5tânI. al-i\-liIal. vol. I. p. 32.

U2 Josef Van Ess. "The Logical Structure of [slamic Theology". in Logie in Classieallslamie
Culture. ed. V. Grunebaum (Los Angeles: University ofCalifomia Press. 1967). and Fahmï Jadaane. L'
h~rluence du SlOicisme sur la Pense!:! Alusulmane lBeirut. 1968).

I.3 .' a 1-.",,5

A h'an.,~
- Ilaqa-1-
al.)- 19 .

• lb 1.
'd p. )).

us Ibid. p. 70.

13n Ih"d -"6 .

1 • p.)':'

t3 This is .Abd al-Jabbâr b. ~ad b.· Abd al-Jabbâr b. Al:tmad b. aJ-KhalTI. the Qii4i. In the
carly period of his life he was an A5h"arite in theology and a Shâfi-ite infiqh; he adopted the Mu·tazilism
raught by Abü [st)âq b. . Ayâsh. In defense of the Mu ·tazilites he wrote a huge number of books. among
them a/-AIlIghnï fi Abu·ab al-Ta'wlJïd wa '1-"Adl. SharlJ al-U~ül al-Khamsa and al-A-fajmü" fi '1-MulJï~ bï/-
Takllf He adopted the position of the great Mu·tazilite thinker Abü Hashim al-Jubbâ"ï. He held this
school's vie,,\" about negating God's additional anributes and the impossibility of the vision ofGod. We are
told that the vizier al-~âI:lib b. 'Abbâd said ofhim that he was the Most knowledgeable man in the world,
He became president of the Mu"tazilite school and left such prominent disciples as Abü Rashïd al-
NïsâbürL al-Shanf al-Murtaga. Abü MuI,lammad b. Matawayb. and Abü al-tlusayn al-B~ri. the author of
the weil kno\\lll al-!vlu"tamadfi U~I al-Fiqh. See A. R. BadawL .Madhiihib. voL 1, pp. 380-423: M. Watt.

The Formative Period. pp. 302-3 .

I3M • Abd al-Jabbar. SharlJ. p. 183.


• ~98.
1.3'1 al-Baghdadi. U~zïl a/-Din. p. 91. al-Shahrastâni, al-/HUa/. p. 34, al-Ash'ari. al- Maqii/iil, p.

140 al-Ash'ari al-Ibiina. pp. 88-9.

141 Abü al-Ma·alial-Juwaynï. al-Shiimi/fi U~ül a/-Din, ed. A. S. Nashshar & F. B. 'Awn (Cairo:

Munsha'at al-Ma·arif. 1969) p. 323.

142 See W. Madelung repons that Hisham b. al-t-fakam borrowed this formula of the anributes as
being neither God Himself nor other than He from dualist doctrine, and specifically, from his Daysanite
master. Abü Shakir al-Day~âni See "The Shrite and Kharijite Contribution to Pre-Ash'arite Kalâm", p.

HJ 1 • p. 1"""
Ib'd __ .

144 al-Khayyat. was theologian and jurist. foremost of the Baghdad school of the Mu"tazil ite
during his time. He seems to have received his main theological training from 'lsa b. Haytham al-~üti and
Abü Mujalid b. I)usayn al-parir a1-Baghdadi Both ofthem were pupils of Murdâr and la'far b. I;-Iarb (d.
236:850-1). AI-Khayyat.'s theological activity was determined by problems inside his own Baghdadi
school. above all by the shock caused by the books oflbn al-Rawandi, a co-disciple ofhis in the school of
'lsa al-~üti. He was very weil intormed about the history and the doxographical tradition of early [slamic,
and especially about the MU'tazilite kalam. His authority seems to have been relatively unquestioned; only
al-Jubbaï. who contemporaneously tried in Ba~ra to restructure the Mu'tazilite system by going back to
the ideas of Abü al-Hudhayl al-' Allât: attacked him in a book against his doctrine of the pre-existence of
the body. His main disciples were Mut)ammad b. 'Umar al-$aymarï and especially Abu al-Qasim al-Ka'bi
ld. 317929 or 319/931). who through their antagonism towards Abü Hâshim al-Jubbâl both stressed their
ditTerence from the B~ra school. With regard to his theological views al-Khayyat. tries to preserve a
certain self-deterrninedness of the created world in relation to God's omnipotence: God cannot intertère
with the laws of the nature. even a kharq al-'âda. as the B~rfschool believed. The possible (al-ma"düm)
is. insofar as it is known by God and comprised by His power. not only "something' but also . body' . al-
Jubba'i attacked this theory on the basis that it implies the etemity of bodies and matter. because bodies are
material, whereas atoms and accidents are not. as long as they are not put together. See ·'al-Khayyat.".
Enc.·yclopaedia ofls/am. vol. IV. pp. [162-3: GAS 1. p. 621; M. Watt. The Formalive Period. pp. 210-5.

o ::l al-Khayyat: K al-lnt4iir. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Thaqafa al-Diniyya, n.d) p. [28.

146 Ibid. p. 128.

147 • Abd al-Jabbar. Shar~l. p. 183.

1-4X Josef Van Ess. "Mu'tazilah", Encyclopedia of Religion. vol. 10. p. 226.

R. Fran.
k "Th e N I ' .. • p. "'6"
eop atomsm __ .


150 'A bdal-labb-ar.Shar.,p.IS3.


• 15!lb'd
1 • pp. 1"'0"'1
~ -~ .

152 al-Khayyat", al-Inri~ar. pp. 188-89.

153 R. Frank. Beings and Their ArtribUles (Albany: State University of New York. 1978) pp. 18-
19. s~e also al-Ash·arï. .\Iaqaliil. p. 529.

154 ~ h' an..

a 1-.",s - \/' aqa-1al.
- p. ,_
-"'6 .

155 al-Bâqillanï. K. al- Tamhfd. pp. 113-4. (my translation).

ISt> D. Gimaret. La doctrine d'al Ash·arf. pp. 135-7.

15~ al-Nasafi. Tab~iral. vol. 1. p. 136.

151'! lb 1'd• p. '0'"


15'1 lb 1'd. p. _"0'"~.

tt1ll/b'd "0'....
1 • p. _

th 1 Ibn l:iazm was born in Cordova in 384/994. an Andalusian poet. historian. jurist. philosoph~r
and thc:ologian. one of the greatest thinkers of Arabo-Muslim Civilization. who codified the ~âhirr doctrine
and applied its method ta ail the Qur'anic sciences. What is important for us here is ta point out mat Ibn
tlazm refrained from building up a metaphysical system based on so-ealled logical realities. or on concepts
of substance and accidents. act and power. nature. etc. He refrained as weil from formulating a theor'Y
about the unit)' ofGod: he does not allow names to be referred to God other man He has used of Himself.
nor tor Him to be described in terrns different trom those which He Himself has t3ught us. One may not
use derivation (ishriqâq) in order to apply ta God a name which He has not given Himself. Thus. He is
seated on the Throne. but He may not be invoked by calling Him seated. On His attributes. Ibn ~azm states
that God's knowledge is lJaqq. It is eternal and extends to ail tbat is and ail that shaH he. Similarly there are
no limits ta His power. which is capable of bringing about that which is impossible (mulJiil); God has
power even over that which will never be. It is He who orders ail mat He has crealed. who makes necessary
the necessary tawjaba al-wiijib) and who makes possible the possible (amkana al-mumlcin). Against the
Mu·tazilites Ibn t{azm believes that it is not possible to identify God's knowledge with His essence, that is
with Himself. since in no tex"! is God referred to as knowledge. The same reasoning applies to God's other
attributes. Ail God's names. in relation to God. are descriptions which are not derived from His attributes.
Conversely. it is not perrnined to derive attributes from them. In this. Ibn ~azm disagreed with al-Ash'arï
and his school who practice ishtiqiiq (derivation). Their mistake. he maintains, was to wish (0 preserve the
reality of the names ofGod while remaining within the MU'tazilite system offonnulating problems. See.
R. Arnaldez. ..rbn tlazm". EnC).·clopaedia oflslam. vol. III. pp. 790. 797: M. Fakhry, A Hislory. pp. 392-3,

• 1h: Ibn tlazm. a/-Fi~alfi l-AfilaJ. vol. III. p. 209.


• Ih,; (t is known that bath al~Baqillanïand al-Juwaynï adopted the theory of states of Abu Hashim.
See al~Shahrastanï. a/-Mi/al wa '/~;Vi/:lal, vol. l, aJ~$ifâliyya, pp. 92-103. This adoption can be explained as
a search for another fonnula of admining God's anributes as entities residing in God's essence. In al-
Juwaynïs writing in particular we clearly observe that the way the Ash'arites dealt with the problem of
mû' tÎnT had taken on a different fonn. AI-Juwaynï rarely used the formula of"God's attributes as being

neither He nor other than He". Also, he did not spare any effort in proving that the ma" anT which became
a~7'U'al are nothing more than causes by which we could understand aJ;kam a/~~ifât, the propositions, Later
Ash'arites med as weil to give another explanation to the anributes: al-Razï. for instance, believed that
God's attributes are concomitants (lawiï=im). See al~Razï, SharJ; Asma' Allah al-f/usna, ed. T. A. Sa'd
(Cairo: Maktabat al-Kulliyyàt al-Azhariyya, 1976) pp. 18-26.

\1">4 This is Abu Hashim 'Abd al-Salâm b. Abu' Alï MUQammad b. 'Abd al-Wahhab al-Jubb~ïï,
barn in B~ra in 277890. He studied Arabie grammar in Baghdad and learned the Mu'tazilite's doctrine of
theology from his tàther Abu' AIL He wrote many books in his short Iife, sorne ofthem were dedicated to
refuting Aristotle' s theOl'Y of nature and generation and corruption. He is considered one of the most
intluential ligure in the Mu·tazilite school. Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadï (d. 429/1037) says about him that
most Mu'tazilite in our time (al-Baghdadïs time) believe in his doctrine. AI-Baghdadi explains why most
Mu'tazilites maintained Abü Hâshim's theory oftheology by saying that the vizier al-~âQib b. 'Abbad (d.
385'995) of the Buyid d~nasty supported Abu Hâshim's doctrine and called upon people to adopt it. See al-
Baghdadi al-Farq bayn al-Firaq. pp. 184-5. Abü Hâshim' s students. as a matter of fact, such as ' Abd al-
Jabbar and Abu al-tIusayn al-Ba~rï played a great role in spreading their master's doctrine. Abü Hashim
ditTered trom his father on many theological issues, the Most important one being the theory of states
tù~nrâ{): this theory became in the histol')' ofIslam identitied with Abü Hashim's name. See A. R. Badawï.
.\lùdhiihib. vol. l. pp. 330-64: GAS 1. pp. 6234: M. Watt, The Formalive Period. p. 300.

\tlS al-Shahrastânï, al-A/ilal. vol. l, p. 82.

Itln Van Ess, "Mu'tazila", Encydopedia ofReligion, vol. 10, p.126.

Ih7 al-Ghazalï, Tahiifui. p. 78. cited in H. Wolfson's The Philosophy ofthe Kalam. p. 170.

IhS Ibn tIazm, al-Fi~al. vol. IV, p. 108. cited in H. Wolfson's The Phi/osophy ofthe Kalam. p.
Ibn Rushd, Tahafur al-Tahiifur. 210. cited in H. Wolfson's The Phi/osophy ofthe Kalam. p.

I"~n a 1- ShahrastaCll, ~ 1 ayar, p. 1'"

- - .IH'h- ~
" ....

We are told by the historians of Muslim sects that MU'ammar was also concemed with
interpreting similarities and differences among things. This concem led him to the theory of ma' anT, in the
sense that these ma' tinT are universals or the most general universals. Le., genera and species: each naw"
can produce an infinite number of accidents. Indeed. both al-Baghdadî and al-Shahrastânï, mention sorne

general statements in the context of their representation of MU'ammar's theory of ma" anï, which in al-
Baghdadi reads that '''every species of accidents existing in bodies is infinite in number", and in al-
ShahrastanT reads that "accidents are Infinite in every species" (al-a'râ4 /a-lalanaha fi leull naw"),
Accidents. therefore. according to these texts. are infmite in number and each accident is caused by an

• infinite chain of ma·iinï. See. Wolfson. The Phi/osophy ofrhe Ka/am, p. 153; al-Baghdadi. a/-Farq bayn
a/-Firaq. p. 137; al-Shahrastanï, a/-Ali/al wa '/-Ni/;al. vol. l. p. 67; GAS l, p. 616.
,- Ibid. pp. 131-43.

173 Ibid. p. 148.

1-4 Wolfson. The Philosophy ofrhe Kalam. p. 170.

175 Trinon, .\./uslim The%gy, p. 150.

17h D. Gimaret. Lü docrrine d'al Ash'arî. pp. 243-5.

177 R. Frank, ·'Ash'arl. Encyc/opedia ofReligion. vol. l. 1987, pp. 445-7.

17~ , AIT SamT al-Nashshar. Nash'ar ai-Filer al-Isiamï (Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif. 1978) vol. 2, pp. 234-

17'1 al-Ash'arT, Jtaqiiliir, p. 489; cf. Wensinck. The Jtusiim Creed. pp. 207-8.

1Sil Ibid. p. 486.

1~ 1 Ibid pp. 489-90.

1~2Ib'd ·,t6 .
1 • p.)':"

1~3 R. Frank. "Attributes, Attribution", pp. 269-70. and al-Nasatt Tab~irat a/-Adilla. vol. l. pp.

j:-;'; Abü al-Thana' al-Lamichï. K. a/-Tamhfd Ii-Qawa'id ai-Taw/;fd. ed. A. M. Turkï(Beirut: Dar
al-Gharb al-lslamL (995) p. 75; Maymün al-Nasafi (Abü Mu'Tn). Ba/;r a/-Ka/am, (Damascus: Maktabat
Dar al-FartUr, 1997) pp. 92-4.

IM5 al.Ash'arî. a/-Luma', p. 87.

tStl R. Frank in his article "The Attributes, Attribution" tries to prove that the Bai!rians worked
within this sort ofthinking since even the opponents. such as the Ash'arites and the Mu·tazilites, had sorne
common items they shared with each other, This is in contrast to those who worked in the Baghdadian
milieu, which included the Baghdadian Mu'tazilites and the Mâturidites.

\1'17 al-Razr, Shar/; Asmiï Allah a/-Ifusna, p. 43; Sayfal-Dïn al-Âmidï, Ghiiyat al-Alariimfi'llm
a/-Ka/iim, ed H. M 'Abd al·La~îf(Cairo: al-Majlis al-A'la IiI-Shu'lin al-Islamiyya, n,dl pp. 50~O.

• 1MM al-Razï, Sharl}. p. 44.

tH'} Concepts such as inconsistency, inharmony, and heterology are fundamental in the analysis or
deconstructing of any discourse. according to Jacques Derrida's philosophy; see Rodolphe Gasché. The
Tain ofthe Jfirror(Cambridge. Massachusetts. London: Harvard University Press, 1986) pp. 142-54.

l'ill ai-Ash'arr. al-Lulna', p. lOI: al-Nasafi. Tab~iral, vol. l, p. 373; see aise D. Gimaret, La
doctrine d'al Ash'ar;, pp. 291-2.

1YI "The object or existent does not intrinsically have a potential nature to produce its qualities or
accidents. The agent. God. is the specifier who grants the thing created by His power (qudra) its accidents
or qualities. When something is possibly existent there is nothing intrinsic to prefer its existence over its
non-existence, and therefore the cause that '1ips the scale" in favor of its existence must be a
"particularizing agent" acting through the existence of will," See H. A. Davidson, "Arguments from the
Concept of Particularization in Arabie Philosophy" in Phi/vsophy East and WeSI (Honolulu: University of
Hawaii Press, (968) vol. 18, p. 305.

192 a 1- Sh a h rastan!,
- - .'il
ayat, p. ,--

1')3 al-Amidî, GhiiJ'at al-Mariim, p. 52: al-ShahrastanT. Nihiiyat. pp, 244-5,

\')4 _ ,
. Abd al-Jabbar. Shar~l. p. 449. (rny translation).

\'15 Ib"d
1 • p. "4-
_ ,.

IlJtl R. Frank. "The Neoplatonism", p. 407.

197 al-Shahrastanr. .Hi/ai. vol. 1. p. 113.

Ibid. p. Ill.

!'J<) .
Ibid. pp. 109-10.

2110 al-LâmichT. K al-Tamhïd. pp. 75-6; Abü al-Mu'In ai-Nasatl. Bal}r al-Ka/am, p. 93.

Ibn Rushd. Fa~/ a/-Afaqiil wa Taqrïr ma-bayn al-Sharf'a wa '/-f:likma min lti~âl. ed. George F.
21 1

Hourani (Leiden: E. J. Brill. 1959) pp. 27, 30-3. 37.

202 [n more than one passage Ibn Taymiyya blames the Mutakallimün because oftheir failure to
defend the doctrine of [siam by means of rational thought. Sorne times he blames both the Mutakallimün

and the philosophers for the way they used the rational argument. According to lbn Taymiyya, the
terminology and methods ((uruq) of the Mutakallimün did not accord with right reason (s,arïlJ al-ma"qül)
they were far from comprehending the heart of the truth and, therefore, trom removing any contradictions
with the Qur'an and the Sunna. (bn Taymiyya believed that the rational thought that used by the
Mutakallimün led them into trouble and perplexity. AI-RàzT. for instance. it has been said, in the final days

• of his litè admined that ail the kalâmic methods are false, and al-Ghaz:m as weil even though he spent his
life arguing against others, was not able to affirm his own creeds and beliefs. This perplexity led him to
take retùge in mysticism. But, according to Ibn Taymiyya. the right or pure reason should lead to the truth
and to agreement with what the Qur'an asserts. See Ibn Ta}miyya, Aluwiifaqar. vol. l, pp. 126-36.

2113 lb n T aymlyya,
. D ' vo 1. ",
ar, - p. .>_
. . '8 .

2"14 lb 1-d• p. .>_

...'8 .

2115 lb 1-d• p. .>_

"'9 .

21lh a 1-."'S
A h' - \'luqa-1-al. p. "'t184' .

2117 Ibn Taymiyya. Dur'. vol. 5. pp. 332-3.

21lX lb 1'. . . ~o .
'd p. J.J

211'1 Ibn Rushd. al-Kushf, pp. 70-5.

2111 lb n T aym.yya.
. D ' vo [-
ar. ... '9 .
. ". p. J_

211 Ibn Taymiyya. J/uwiifaqar. vol. 1. pp. 209-16.

-".'"- Ibid. p. 216.

213 Ibn Taymiyya. .Uinhiij al-Sunna. \'01. l. p. 112.

214 Ibn Taymiyya. .\-Iuwiifaqal. vol. 2. p. 108.

215 Ibid. p. 108.

21(, .
Ibid. pp. 108-9.

217 Ibid. p. 109.

21X ln Jahd al-QarrJ;.a fi Tajrfd al-N~flJa. Ibn Taymiyya explains this by refuting the
philosopher's logic ofmaking a distinction between what is essential and what is accidentai in deftning the
object. He says: "They hold that no concept of the definiendum may he formed unless its essentiai
attributes are specifted. They follow this by maintaining that a concept of the essence must frrst he fonned
in order to form a concept of the quiddity. If a person seeking to fonn a concept cannot conceive the

detiniendum without first fonning a concept of its essential qualities. and ifhe does not know that the said
qualities are essential until he forms a concept of the object which is to he qualified-namely. the
detiniendum--and if he cannot fonn a concept of the object qualified until he forms a concept of the
essential qualities and distinguishes between them and other qualities. then the apprehension of the essence
will depend on the apprehension of what it essential qualities are, and the apprehension of the essentia[

• qualities will depend on what the apprehension of the essence is. Thus, neitheT the essence nor the essential
qualities will be known. This is a ponentous criticism that destroys the foundations oftheir doctrine and
demonstrates that what they have established is arbitrary and has no foundation or apodictic. truthful
principles. They hold. on purely arbi~' grounds. that one thing is of the essence white another is not.
They do not imply any means by which the essential may he distinguished from the non-essential. If the
detiniendum cannat be known without definition. and definition is impossible, then the definiendum cannot
be known. Therefore, their doctrine is false:' Indeed. in his SharlJ al-lsharat. al-Tilsi "acknowledges a
problematic element in the detinition of the essence. tor 'forming a concept of a thing is impossible
without first tonning a concept ofwhat is essential to it. This difficulty is multiplied when both Avicenna
and al-Tusï maintain that the necessary accidentai attributes (a/-' araifi a/-/ii=im ghayr a/-muqawwinr) are
identified not by means of other accidents but rather through the essential attributes. by which. we must
assume, they meant those attributes that they constitute the quiddity:' See Wael Hallaq's translation ofthis
treatise under the title Ibn Ta}'miyya Against Greek Logicians (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993) p. 29, with
the footnote.

"Il'! .
- . Ibn Taymlyya. Muwafaqat. p. 110.

':211 Ibid. p. III.

221 Abü al-Barakat al-Baghdâdï in his argument against those who believed in creation out of
nothing and who believed that the world has a beginning, anticipated Ibn Taymiyya in calling them
mu' ~~ila since he assumed as weil that God and His attributes must be etemally active or else something
prevented Him From operation. See a/-Afu'rabar fi a/-/filcma al-l/iihiyya (Hyderabad. 1358/1939) vol. Ill.

222 al-LâmichL K. al-Tamhïd, p. 75.

- Ibid. p. 78.

22'; Ibn Rushd. F~l al-Afaqii/. pp. 3 1-5.

225 Eric Ormsby, Theodicy in Is/amie Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984) pp.

22li Ibn Taymiyya. Taqrïb al-Tadmuriyya. p. 39.

227 Ibid. p. 38.

-' Ibid. pp. 36-.0.

• Chapter Il

The Concept of Generation in the Kalam and

in PhilosoQhx

The mutual criticism between the Mutakallimün and the philosophers,

which mounted up in the two celebrated refutations written by al-Ghazâli and Ibn

Rushd, manifests how Muslim thinkers endeavored to find a proper theory that

would respond to the question of creation.

The main concem of the Mutakallimün is to be found in their insistence on

affirming God's will and power as the sole means by which the universe was

created. Any theory of creation cannot be admitted, for them, without asserting

God's absolute omnipotence and will. This may have led them to sacrifice a

world-view grounded on causal relations between things, beings and existents in

their existence since things do not have power to affect each other because God

is the sole agent in the universe. The philosophers, on the contrary, were

concerned to regard the universe as organized and designed according to causal

relations and nexus since other agents besides God, Le., the heavenly spheres,

secondary causes, are operating in the universe and are responsible for

maintaining things related causally.

The discussions between the two parties led each of them to be influenced

• by the other. AI-Ghazâli, who refuted Ibn Sïna, had taken the latters views into

consideration. Likewise, Ibn Rushd, who refuted al-Ghazali, was not able to

• ignore the latter's points of criticism. This is why bath al-Ghazali and Ibn Rushd

are important: al-Ghazali, because he represents the great attempt to reconcile

the kalam and philosophy by advancing a coherent view of creation that

combines admission of God's power and will, on the one hand, with causal nexus

among the existents in the universe, on the other hand; and Ibn Rushd because

he also attempted to re-philosophize the universe in a way that would avoid the

faults his predecessors had fallen into, and by taking into consideration the

traditional and scriptural matters that al-Farabi and Ibn Sina were accused of

having ignored.

This chapter aims to explore these attempts by a great Mutakallim like al-

Ghazali and a great philosopher like Ibn Rushd. But this chapter is not limited to

offering a mere description of both thinkers' points of view. It goes further to

demonstrate whether or not these thinkers sucœeded in removing the

discrepancies and inconsistencies that their discourses (kalam and philosophy)

suffered from.

It is hard to have an appropriate picture of Ibn Taymiyya's contribution

without reviewing al-Ghazali's and Ibn Rushd's achievements. Ibn Taymiyya

himself represents another attempt of reconciling the kalâm and philosophy. So,

his avoidance of al-Ghazali's failures or his being influenced by Ibn Rushd cannot

be recognized without exploring these two thinkers' standpoints on the question

of creation. This question includes many problems to be solved: for instance, the

combination of the will and power of Gad, on the one hand, and the causality in

the world, on the other hand; the problem of how diversity issued from or was

• created by one simple unity, i.e., God; the problem of agency or the definition of

action (fi°l)-who is the agent and who is not?; and, finally the problem of the unity

of God itself-how it can be regarded in a scheme different from that of the

Mutakallimün, philosophers and mystics.

1- The Ka/am Concept of Generation (Hudüthl

The notion of generation is central to any discussion of Islamic thought. It

is through the theory of generation that other philosophical problems appear: the

nature of the created universe and the nature of the relation between it and God.

1.1. The World 15 Composed of Atome and Accidents

The Mutakallimün's attempt to express philosophically the notion of God's

omnipotence and capacity for creation was based primarily on depriving the

created world of any intrinsic efficacy or natural potentialities. They believed in an

extreme contrast between Gad as the sole creator and active Agent. on the one

hand, and the world as passive and merely an object of God's actions, on the


1n arder to thematize philosophically both the eternity and agency of God

and the limitation and passivity of the world, the Mutakallimün proceeded to prove

the generation and dependence of the world on God's creation by asserting that

the world, which they defined as "everything other than Gad", (ma siwa Allah)

was composed of atoms and accidents Uawahir wa a-raçl). They argued that the


• accidents (a'raçJ) could not endure independently for two instants of time. but

were continually created by God, who creates or annihilates them at will. l

Things that make up the created world are corporeal bodies, which are

ultimately composed of "atoms" and their inhering "accidents". In the doctrine of

Abu al-Hudhayl al-'Aallf, for example, body exists as such through the creation of

the accidents of composition (ta'Iif), juxtaposition (ijtima·). contiguity (mumassa).

and conjunction (mujama'a) in the atoms. The body has its specifie configuration

as being composed by means of God's power and of atoms and accidents, since

in the composite each accident inheres separately in as many individual atoms as

may belong to il. The reality of the thing, then, in its being what it is, consists of

the presence of the total complex of its separate accidents inhering in the atoms

which belong to it as their substrate. l

The kalâm theory of atoms and accidents was expounded both by many

thinkers inside the various "schools" and by their opponents. Herbert Davison has

used al-Farabi to expose the atomistic theory of the early kalâm, which he

summarizes as follows:

1- Every body is composite.

2- Everything composite is joined to and cannat be free of an accident [the

accident of composition itself).

3- Everything joined to and not free of an accident is joined to and not free of

what is generated.

• 4- Everything joined to and not free of what is generated does not precede what

is generated.

• 5- Everything that does not precede what is generated has its existence together

with the existence of what is generated.

6- Everything having its existence together with the existence of what is

generated has its existence after non-existence.

7- And everything having its existence after non-existence is generated. But the

world is a body. Consequently, the world is generated. 3

The basic foundations for the philosophy of the kalam were intended ta

prove that the difference between Gad and the world is very acute in the sense

that God is the only eternal being in ail respects, while the world has an absolute

beginning and is not only generated, but also depends for ail its components and

continuation on Gad's power. God with His attributes is etemal, unchangeable

and absolutely remote in whatever circumstances. whereas the world is

generated and lacks any sort of individual autonomy.

The principle that ··what is joined to what is generated and does not
precede the generated is absolutely generated is a favorite dictum that the

major schools of the kalam adopted. This principle represents, as weil. the roots

of the kalam's philosophy in the early perio<t since by this premise the

Mutakallimün believed that they had proved that Gad is the only Agent because

He is not joined to what is generated and does precede generation, while

everything else is joined to and does not precede generation. The constant

creation of the accidents by Gad makes this principle applicable to everything in

• the universe, except God.


• The Mutakallimün, then, after having affirmed that the world is generated

by means of the above mentioned principle went further to prove the continuous

creation of accidents as absolutely created by God. For the Mutakallimün, this

would entail denying that things have natures or any intrinsic ability to act or to

affect other things. The belief that things do not have an inherent nature is held in

common by the Ash"arites, Maturidites and Mu"tazilites,5 with the exception of

certain Mu"tazilite thinkers, such as Mu"ammar b. "Abbad and al-Nazzam.'

Even the theory of man's free will that the Mu·tazilites held and that

became their distinguishing feature must be understood in terms of atoms and

accidents, not in terms of any potential nature. The Mu"tazilites extended

atomism to the realm of human action, since the free choice necessary for human

responsibility is based on a capacity that the individual receives from God. This

capacity is not a permanent quality or an inborn power of acting, but a

momentary capability to do one specific act. The Mu"tazilites shared this basic

assumption with their determinist or predestinationist opponents. The difference

lay merely in the fact that they did not think that this capacity, as an accident, was

given simultaneously with the act, as the determinists did, but rather, a moment

before, leaving an interval of one atom of time that would allow people the

chance to make a decision and to choose whether to perform the action, leave il,

or do something else. s

• 1. 2. How God Acta on the World


• What the Mutakallimün intended to affirm as their final end was that Gad is

not only the sole Agent but also that He aets by free will. This freedom of will is

absolute for the Ash"arites; nothing whatsoever can affect Gad in His action; He
creates when He wants to create and annihilates when He wants to annihilate.

The Mu"tazilites differed in this regard; they, on the eontrary, believed that God

works in the interest of people. God can do no wrong because it is against His

nature. III

For al-Ash'ari, the founder of the school that bears his name, God's will is

a comprehensive attribute: everything created is inevitably willed by God, nothing

whatsoever escapes God's will. Since God is the creator of everything. it is not

possible for anything that He does not will to be created. The assumption of the

existence of a single thing in the universe that Gad did not will would mean that

there is in the wortd a thing to whose existence Gad is averse! For al-Ash"arï this

might lead ta the assumption that God is weak and can be overcome. 11

Eisewhere al-Ash"ari opposed the Mu·tazilites' thesis of the creation of the

best (a/-a$/al) for people by asserting that Gad wills freely; nothing necessitates

God ta create or not to create something. God has absolute freedom in ereating

whatever He wants and wills without any cause driving Him to create and will.

God may cause pain for ehildren at Judgment Day, He may punish a person with

an infinite punishment for a small mistake, or, conversely, He may take care of

the unbelievers. He creates those He knows will be unbelievers, and He may

• torture the believers. God in any case does not lie and does no wrong. 12

• It is obvious, then, that al-Ash-arï formulated his view of how God creates

things in such a way as to preclude any rational or logical explanation of God's


If we attempt to rephrase al-Ash"arTs argument we might say that

everything in the world, according to his view, is possible, nothing is necessary,

and God does only what He wants to do. Ali creation happens through His

comprehensive power, will and knowledge. Even the Mu"tazilites' theory of God's

wisdom as a cause for God to create what is in the interest of people is rejected

by al-Ash"arï since the wise, for the Mu"tazilites, can only do what is salutary and

good and God's wisdom keeps in view what is salutary for His servants. 13

This Mu"tazilite thesis was very harshly rejected by the Ash"arite thinker

.Abd al-Qâhir al-Baghdidi (d. 429/1038) who considered this sort of thinking

scandalous since it implies that Gad is not able to create anything but the good.

Gad, therefore , is powerless ta increase or decrease the suffering of the people

in hell. God is also not able ta create wrongdoing or to expel the inhabitants of
heaven from heaven. The Mu"tazilites implicitty invoked this way of thinking for

the theory of measuring or weighing (taqdTr), that is, everything is estimated or

weighed and considered by Gad according ta a measure or rate. This a theory

that would be very much welcomed by Ibn Taymiyya later. The thesis of God's

wisdom as a cause for Gad to create would also be welcomed by Ibn Taymiyya,

who completety rejected the theory of absolute possibility in relation to God's

• creation .

• 1. 3. The Development of the Argument of Possibility and Creation ex nihilo

The second generation of Ash "arites attempted to ground ta their view of

generation philosophically. They developed the argument of passibility (dam a/-

jawâz) which they intended to employ in arder to affirm the absolute

comprehensiveness of the power, freedom and will of God. Dam al-jawaz was

used to assert creation ex nihilo.

The Ash"arites, in order ta make their theory of creation ex nihilo more

rational and philosophical, invented with al-Baqillani the theory of preponderance

(tafJ7fJ) , which would later occupy a very important place in the Ash"arites'

development. As mentioned earlier, every body is necessarily joined to accidents,

ail accidents are generated, and whatever is joined ta the generated is

generated, therefore the whole universe is generated. But whatever is generated

requires a cause for its generation, thus the proof of creation is turned into a

proof of the existence of God. t5

The world being temporal (1)adith) , therefore, must of necessity have a

Maker and Fashioner (mul)dith wa-mu$awwir). AI-Baqillani adds, secondly, that

the priority of certain things over others presupposes an "Agent who made them

prior" since priority does not belong to a pair of equals; and this "determinant of

priority" is God. th ln other words, sorne generated things are observed to come

into existence sooner or later. The reasan for their appearance at different times

cannet be sought in their own nature, for then things of the same genus would by

• virtue of having the same nature ail come into existence at the same time. It

• follows that whatever comes into existence must have "an agent that brought

about its early existence, and delimited it in existence according to His will". li

AI-Biqillini also introduces the concept of contingency (or "admissibility")

(jawBz) and argues that things in themselves are capable of receiving various

'forms' or qualities. The fact that existing things are endowed with certain

determined 'forms' presupposes a 'determinant' who has determined that they

should receive these forms and no others, and this 'determinant' is Gad. IH AI-

Biqillini is therefore virtually giving an implicit proof for the existence of Gad

from the presence in things of particular characteristics or forms. 19

This theory of determinants is based on the principle of the universe's

being both equally possible and not possible before its coming-to-be. A

determinant (muraüilJ) is required to make one possibility prevail over another or

ta make the passibility of being prevail over non-being. This determinant or

preponderant (muraüilJ) is Gad.:!ll AI-Juwayni followed his master al-Biqillini in

this regard,:!1 and the great Ash-arite thinkers adopted the argument of

determination or preponderance.

The contribution of al-Ghazâli is reflected in considering the murajj;1) or

determinant as a cause. Owing ta its Aristotelian associations, the term 'cause'

was never in vogue among the Mutakallimün. Nevertheless, theologians of the

later period are not entirely averse to using il in the special sense of

'determinant'. For instance, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, one of the subtlest theologians

• of Islam, employs this term and its synonym -;lIa repeatedly in his exposition of

• the scholastic proofs for the existence of God22 in his book al...Arba·Tn ff U$ül al...

Oin. 2J

Two points remained without satisfactory answers for the opponents of the

Mutakallimün: first, why did God delay creating the world although He is an

absolutely eternal, powerfu1 Agent? Second, what happened ta motivate God ta

create the world at a certain moment in time what activated His attributes ta

create the universe?

AI... Razi exhibited five arguments presented by Muslim theologians to

respond to these questions. The first argument is that the universe was

generated at a definite moment in time because Gad's will was in nexus with its

existence at that time, rather than at another moment of time. Nobody, therefore,

has a right ta ask why God's will was in nexus with the universe at that time and

not at ail times because this certain will in its specifie essence entail this nexus,

and essences are not subject to reasons.

The second argument is that Gad knows ail particulars. God's knowledge,

therefore, is in nexus with the existence of the world at that one moment in time

and not at any other. The will cannot bond with something except in a way

knowledge determines.

The third, it is possible ta assume that there is an unknown goal "hidden

wisdom" (1)ikma khafiyya) that stands behind choosing this moment in time: and if

this is sa, we need not raise any objection.

• Fourth, it is impossible to assume that the universe was generated

eternally because the notion of generation (I)udüth) contradicts the notion of


• eternity (azal): we cannot hold both notions at the same time, namely, "eternal

generation n •

The fifth and final argument is that God is able to preponderate one of His

possible abjects of power (maqdûr) without a preponderator (murajjil), namely, a

cause. The example here is of a thirsty man who finds two cups of water, and

who chooses one of them over the other without a preponderator or any other
cause entailing him to take one rather than the other.

The philosophers raised a number of questions for the Mutakallimün. If the

world is created in time, then prior to its creation, it was equally possible to be

created and not to be created. On the assumption of its creation in time, the

question as ta why the world at tirst did not exist and then came into existence

would have to be answered by arguing that a preponderant (murajjil) emerged at

some point after there had been none to give preponderance to existence over


The only other answer that seems open is to maintain that God did not will

the creation of the world earlier. But this, again, inevitably leads to a number of

other questions. In tact, it leads to the very question: why is it that God did not will

the world earlier? Was He at that earlier time incapable of creating it or was

creation then impossible and became possible only later on? To answer these

two questions affirmatively leads to turther absurdities. Thus it is absurd to

suppose that the etemal being changed trom a state of powerlessness at a

• certain time to a condition of being powerfu1 at a later time. Moreover, how did the

impossible become possible?

Furthermore, there is the question of the divine will coming into existence

when willing the world's creation in time. Where would it be created? ln God?

This would render the divine essence a receptacle of created things, an

impossibility. Would it then be created outside God? If this is even possible, how

can it still be God's will? Hence, since ail these absurdities follow from the pre-

supposition of the world's creation in time, the only alternative is to maintain that

it is pre-eterna1, the eternal effect of an eternal cause. 15

AI-Ghazali arbitrarily answers as follows:

There are two objections to this. The first objection is to say: why do you
deny the theory of those who say that the world has been created by an
eternal will which decreed its existence in the time in which it exists; that
its non-existence lasts until the moment it ceases and that its existence
begins from the moment it begins; that its existence was not willed before
and therefore did not happen, and that at the exact moment it began it was
willed by an eternal will and therefore began? What is the objection to this
theory and what is absurd in it?2fl

AI-Shahrastani argues against those who criticize creation ex nihilo for

theïr understanding of this theory in terms of time. He maintains that it is

necessary to remove any delusion with regard to whether the universe is

preceded by nothing (- adam) or not. Man's imagination misleads him in thinking

that the generated thing should be preceded by time or duration. Time must not

be considered between the existence of Gad and the creation of the universe. 27

• AI-Shahrastani firmly states that the contingent must be deferred with respect to

• its existence from God and cannat co-exist with Gad in time since assuming that

Gad precedes the universe in time implies that Gad is a being in time.

AI-Shahrastâni, moreover, agreed with the Mutakallimün in denying any

relation (munasaba) between Gad and the universe, since the warld has a

beginning and is completely passive, finite and deferred while Gad is etemal,

infinite and acting. He maintains as weil that the wortd needs a preponderator

and has to be created by means of God's will, not by necessity, as the

philosophers held.

The Mutakallimün understand the philosophers' theory of intermediary

causes as being inseparable from the thesis of creation by necessity (al-ïjab bit-

dhat). Gad is by nature absolute, one and simple; therefore, He cannat emanate

multiplicity directly from His oneness. His nature emanates necessarily and

eternally and does not imply multiplicity but only simple unity. The unavoidable

result of these premises is that if the universe is multiple; it must issue tram a

being who potentially implies such multiplicity. Here the necessity of assuming

intermediary beings between Gad and the universe becomes inevitable. AI-

Shahrastani added that the assumption of creation by necessity entails that

similarities between Gad and His creation must be assumed as weil. Gad for al-

Shahrastani does not create the universe by necessity, since this assumption

implies that a relation (munasaba) and connection (itti$af) must be posited

between Gad and the created universel while Gad is transcendental above any

sort of relations and connections with the universe. Gad has His own truth that

• nothing shares with Him. 50 your assumption [the philosophers'] of Gad's

essence as having similarities with heavenly spheres and intellects contradicts

your assumption of God's transcendence. You go further and propose that the

First Intellect is necessitating the universe. This theme compels you to assume

an abstract intellect that behaves on behalf of Gad as long as this intellect is able

ta act and has godly characteristics. 29

Sa if the philosophers propose intermediary beings between Gad and the

universe in order to save the simplicity of Gad, what thesis can be proposed by

the Mutakallimün who. on the contrary, assert that Gad created the world by

means of His will, not by necessity?

1.4. The Unitv of Attributs. and Diversitv of Created Objects

Since the world was created out of nothing, the creation is a totally new

avent in the sense that it is not preceded by anything except Gad's will ta create.

Each of God's attributes as instruments of creation is absolutely one, whether this

attribute is essential (nafsiyya) or active (fi-liyya). Here two qUt~stions can be

raised: first. how did the eternal attribute remain inactive until God's will came ta

create? Second, what kind of relation can be deduced between created things,

which are changeable and temporal, and God's attributes, which are one, eternat

and unchangeable?

Although the major kalamic schools in Islam were in agreement that

• creation must have happened outside of God's essence, they were divided about

some of His attributes as to whether they were etemal or created. As we have


• seen earlier, the classification of attributes between what is essential and belongs

to God eternally and what is active and created in time was invented in order to

make possible this separation between the etemal unity of God and the created


The history of the kalam presents the dispute on this matter as divided

mainly between two extreme tendencies: the Jahmite, who believed in Go<fs

attributes as created, and the Kullâbiyya, who believed that ail God's attributes,

essential and active, are eternal. Although the Ash"arites and Mu"tazilites

followed a middle path between these two extremes, conflict remained with

regard to some attributes. That is because, one might venture to say, of the

foundations that the Mutakallimün were relying on in their philosophical activity,

which drove the Mutakallimün into considerable difficulty in determining what

relation, if any, might obtain between eternal and immutable attributes and

abjects that come into being and pass away in time. 30

Furthermore, the problem for the kalam is harder than this; it is not only a

matter of knowledge, it is a matter of creation. The kalam was confronted with the

question of the relation between the eternal attributes and changeable, temporal,

created things:

If it is asserted, for example, that God's knowledge is eternal, it then

becomes crucial to explain how or what God knows before the objects of
knowledge (ma-Iûmat) exist. Can there be knowledge without an object of
knowledge? If Gad can be described as knowing only after the creation of
cognizable things, then He was previously unknowing; and His subsequent
knowledge is somehow dependent on contingent and created things. This

is clearly inadmissible. 31

• The solution for the Karramite sect was that God has an individual act of

knowledge for each knowable, that His knowledge cornes ta be created

coincidentally with the thing ta be known. 3:!

The expression that was broadly used by the kalam ta determine the

relation between the etemal Gad and His attributes and the universe is nexus

(ta· alluq). Ta· alluq means that everything in the universe occurs through the

absolute eternal attributes; nothing in the universe escapes the

comprehensiveness of these attributes. The question of how we are to

understand the relation of God's attributes of power, knowledge, and will to their

manifold possible objects is not given any philosophical interpretation by the

kalam. Each one of these attributes is cognitively distinct and one, eternal and

without any temporal inception, and subsistent in the divine nature. In arder,

therefore, to avoid the consequence that any of these attributes be in sorne way

dependent on its objects, the kalam devised the expedient notion of nexus

(ta' alluq) between each of these attributes and its objects. 33

This notion escapes any sort of relation between the created universe and

God's attributes, whatever this relation might be: cause and effect, universal and

particular, potentiality and actuality, oneness and multiplicity. It reflects mainly the

relation of indication, that is, a particular thing points to God's etemal agency and


"In reply to the question as ta how divine attributes could remain perfeet
and immutable when the objects of these attributes undergo incessant

• change, it thus could be said that while God's attribute remains

unchanged, the nexus that exists between His attribute and its objects
changes as these objects change. The interposition of this relation, or

• nexus, would lead to other thorny problems, but it had the advantage of
preserving the perfection of the divine attributes intact, without in any way
diminishing their scope. Divine attributes remain unchanged; it is the
nexus which changes. ,,34

The kalam, in the very structure of its thinking, encountered real difficulties

with these premises in regard to the answers they needed to find to give their

system some coherence. The sharp contrast between God and the world and the

refusai of secondary causes drove the Mutakallimün into a shaky philosophical

position and led them to limited alternatives.

This may explain al-GhazalT's attempt to defend the kalamic system by

borrowing sorne elements from his foes. But despite this development, sorne of

the early kalam's dilemmas remained in need of proper answers, especially for

the following questions: why did God create and become active after having not

created? Even if we posit creation ex nihilo what causes God to create? Do


Godts essence and attributes remain the same before and after creation? If there

are no bridges between God and the universel and if one holds that the universe

is created entirely outside of God's essence, what is the relation between God

and His attributes on the one hand and the world with ail ils changes on the


2- The Phi/osophica/ Concept of Generation

2. 1. The Unitv of God in the Philosophical Tradition

• Muslim philosophers who inherited the Greek philosophicallegacy tried to

approach the Islamic ontological question from a different point of view. That is,

• besides asserting the unity of Gad, which is essential in the Islamic intellectual

tradition, philosophically justified links and connections between this unity and the

universe had to be made. The basic starting point in Islamic thought is that God

must be regarded as the creator in the strict sense. This was exactly the Muslim

philosophers' task in their efforts ta adapt the pre-Islamic legacy of philosophy to

the Islamic ontological question.

It is weil known that Plotinus (205-270 A.D.) described God by naming Him

'the One', and as the tirst cause of the tirst intellect that emanated from Him.

Apart from the name the 'One', 35 negative theology is strictly applied to God. The

metaphysical duality of tirst cause and tirst entity emanating from It was
developed by Proclus (410-485 A.D.) into a trinity by assuming that between

Gad and the tirst intellect there is another entity that he called "existence" or


The Arabs were familiar with Proclus' trinity through the book Pure Good

or al-Khayr al-MalJç/. But they adapted this theory and integrated it into the

context of what can be called the Islamic ontologiesl question, namely, that God

is both one and creator. This question stood behind the Muslim phitosophers'

efforts ta unite these three entities namely, Oneness, Existence and Intellect inta

the One or Gad.

For Muslims Gad is one, existence and lite, or Intellect, ail together at the

same time. Both al-Farabi (d. 339/950) and Ibn Sinà (d. 428/1037) emphasized

• this fact in their philosophy. AI-Farabi, for instance, in his KitSb Mabadi' Ara' Ahl

al-Madïna al-Faç/ila says:


• The First Existent is the First Cause of the existence of ail the other
existents. Il is free of every kind of deficiency, whereas there must be in
everything else some kind of deficiency, either one or more than one. Thus
its existence is the most excellent and precedes every other existence... It
can in no way have existence potentially, and there is no possibility
whatsoever that it should not exist. Therefore its without beginning, and
everlasting in its substance and essence. 3H

ln other passages al-Farabi clearly identifies the aneness, intellect,

existence and the lite of God. He states that the particular existence by which

God is distinguished trom other beings is that Gad exists by virtue of Himself. So

His difference from other beings is His existence in the way He is in Himself. And

this is the real meaning of the unity. God in this respect most of ail deserves to be

called one. J<l Ali other beings exist in the sense that their existence is granted

trom the first existent. Ali other existents consist of existence and non-existence,

and are in a middle position between impossibility and the necessity of

existence."· This position is called the possible. God, on the cantrary, is the most

perfect existence; the assumption of His non-existence is impossible.

Ibn Sina, likewise, repeats in almost the same words what al-Farabi says

about unifying the three concepts of oneness, existence and intellect. 4 !

AI-Farabi and Ibn Sins ascribe to Gad ail the attributes that Proclus

ascribed to existence and intellect as being, for him, different entities. Gad for Ibn

Sina is the Necessary Existent and as such He is necessarily one. He is the

cause of the existence of everything and nothing caused Him since "Gad is giving

(mufidan) existence to every existent. n Ibn Sins therefore does not differentiate

• between intellect, unity and existence. 41


• ln the same context, Muslim philosophers re-formulated Aristotelian

philosophy when they changed Aristotle's God from being the tirst moyer to the

creator, the cause of existence, the being that grants existence to ail other


Furthermore, in his commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics XII, Ibn Sinâ

criticizes the proof from motion on the grounds that it establishes no more than a

tirst cause of motion; it is "incapable... of establishing the One, the True, who is

the tirst cause (mabda of ail existence..H4 Despite this criticism, Ibn Sinâ states

that God's being the first moyer implies that He is the creator. He asks, "If a

proper preof of the existence of God must establish a 'first cause' of the existence

and substance of the universe, why did the earlier philosophers limit themselves

to proving a 'cause merely to motion'?" Ibn Sinâ's brief reply is that indeed, the

earlier philosophers demonstrated merely a tirst cause of motion; yet by "allusion"

and by "implication" (bi'l-quwa) they also proved a first cause of the existence of

the universe. Ibn Rushd agrees with Ibn Sina on this matter and affirms that

God's being a first cause of motion implies that Gad is the first cause of

existence. ~5 ln any case what the Muslim philosophers are attempting to do is to

view God as Creator, even though they do not wish to oppose Aristotle

completely: they interpret Aristotle's Gad as implying creationo

Muslim philosophers, however, in formulating or re-understanding

Aristotle's Gad, attempted to achieve two goals: first, to conform to the basic

• teaching of the Qur"an about God and, second, to maintain the conditions of

philosophy at the same time. They tried to philosophize the whole process of

• creation in a way that did not stray far either from philosophy's requirements or

Qur"anic criteria.

2. 2. Creation as a Nees.sarr Procass

Muslim philosophers' creativity manifests itself in using concepts like, "the

necessary" and "the possible". AI-Farabi formulates this kind of philosophy by

saying that existents are of two kinds: the first is that which is not necessary by

virtue of itsetf, it needs a cause outside of it to make it happened, and when it

cornes into existence it can be called necessary by virtue of something else.

While the second existent is that whose existence is necessary by virtue of itself

and does not need any cause outside of Himself ta happen. ·Hi The important

conclusion here, which is original in Islamie philosophy and not taken from

Aristotle, is that the existence of contingent beings requires a necessary

existent.· This principle, as the prime one in Islamic philosophy, ehanged

Aristotle's metaphysics from focusing on the explanation of becoming and the

transformation of things from potentiality to actuality by virtue of the motion

caused by God~~ to a metaphysical concem about the process of the

existentiation of things.

God then is the cause of existence, and as long as He is considered a

neeessary and perfeet being, His originating of the universe should not be

separated from His etemity. AI-Farabi, in a decisive statement, puts it as follows:

• "Since the First Seing exists, it follows that ail the existents must necessarily

• come to be through Him" (wa-mata wujida al-awwal al-wujüd alladhï lahu lazima

çJaruratan an yüjad .anhu sa- if al-mauwjüdat). n4l)

The other important tenet of Islamic philosophy is that Gad is absolutely

one in the sense that His simplicity is absolute and does not imply any sort of

multiplicity. Ali God's attributes are the same as His essence. 50 This essence is

completely identified with His existence. This simplicity, theretore, cannot be

assumed as directly producing multiplicity since this assumption would imply that

God is the source of diversity. On the contrary. the absolute simplicity produces

or emanates only one thing.

God as absolutely simple and perfect exists eternally; thus, intermediary

beings that occupy a position between God and material things are inevitable. It

is impossible, according to the Muslim philosophers' premises. to assume that

multiplicity can be originated and produced directly and eternally trom the simple

essence of God. 5 i

2. 3. AI-Ghazifi's Critique of the Philosophera' Concept of the Relation

Setween the Unitv of God and the Created Diversitv

AI-GhazâIT was a theologian who directed the most systematic and

comprehensive refutation against al-Farabi and Ibn Sina. The later Mutakallimün,

as weil, maintained the same attitude toward philosophy.

Muslim theologians believed that the philosophers had failed to prove that

• God is really one, in spite of their efforts to assert this absolute simplicity. The

model of emanation, which is based on the principle of "tram God only one may

• emanate" intends to distance God from any sort of multiplicity by affirming that

the simple essence of God has nothing to do with the world's diversity. Diversity

actually began with the tirst intellect, which is assumed to be one but implies

multiplicity. The question raised by the Mutakallimün is: if God is one in ail of His

respects, must the tirst emanated being be one in ail of its respects too? If this is

correct, the chain of emanation would be a strait line of one producing one. 52 If

this is not correct. and the first emanated being implies diversity, the unity of Gad

would then be suspect, as the source of this implicit multiplicity.53 ln that case, the

principle of "from One only one can be produced" is called into question. 54

AI-Ghazali puts the matter in the form of a question: how did diversity

occur in the tirst intellect since its principle is one? You might say [he means the

philosophersl that one reason for this multiplicity in the tirst intellect is that it is

possible (mumkin). Here we ask, al-Ghazali says, whether the contingency

(imkan) of the tirst intellect is identical with its existence or not? If it is identical,

then there is no multiplicity in it. If it is other than its existence, you should say

that God, the necessary existent, implies diversity as weil because neœssity is

not the same as existence. If you say, that necessity is meaningless without

existence, we say that the same holds true for the possible, since possibility is

meaningless without existence. The term existence is a general term and can be

divided into necessary and possible, if one part of this division is additional to the

general term, the second would also be additional. 55

• The problematic ontological relation between the One and the composite,

however, is always there for al-Ghazali. As long as the question of the connedion

• (iltiqa") between the One and composites cannot be solved philosophically, the

principle of "tram One only one can emanate" is wrong. How were composites

formed? AI-Ghazali asks: was it from one cause? If so, the above-mentioned

principle is not correct. Was it from a composite cause? If so, the question can

then be turned back to the cause of this composite cause until we arrive to a

simple cause, and here we are again facing the problem of connecting the

composite with the simple and one. The conclusion al-Ghazali arrived at is that

inasmuch as the question revolves around the relation between the simple and
composite, the assumption of "trom One only one can emanate" is false.

On the other hand, the metaphysics of Muslim philosophers in its

commitment to the necessity of emanation, as al-Farabi states it, "whenever the

tirst exists ail the existents must exist", leads to a strict model of necessity

according to which God does not act and does not will, but the wortd emanates

from Him by necessity.

As for the relation between God and the world, God's unity seems to

imply His inability to generate anything but one monolithic hypostasis. This not

only limits God's power but eliminates His will, for will is the capacity to choose

between two alternatives. Emanation is a profound conception. But Gad must not

be thought to entail the world's being. Si

Asserting God's action and will is not merely intended to stress God's

attributes; rather, it proves the existence of Gad Himself. The real actor must be

• free, knowledgeable, and willing. AI-GhazaFi strictly asserts that the notion of

Creator means only the one who acts by His power and other attributes.

• Otherwise God would be an unaware and lifeless source of existence. The

universe as potentially implied in the tirst intellect emanates, for philosophers, in

a way similar to light rays from the sun or effect from cause. This makes the

philosophers incapable of proving the existence of Gad since Gad for them is a

mere cause at which the chain of causes and effects must terminate. In their

system God becomes a dead being, deprived of life and power. 5H

AI-GhazâIT goes further to refute even those statements by the

philosophers that affirm God's attributes; he considers these statements to be

merely pretenses, void of any real or solid content. The idea of Gad for the

philosophers was formulated to serve the metaphysical system they intended to

construct. Ali the attributes the philosophers tried to ascribe to God, from al-

Ghazàrrs point of view, do not make God active and energetic as God is

supposed to be. In philosophy, God's will means only that God is content with

whatever may occur. God's power means that God produces the world in

accordance with the emanation modal. God's lite is synonymous with God's

knowledge of what emanates from Him. 5'J

If the philosophers say that Gad is a creator and actor with ail the active

attributes, they mean that God's existence is subtle and noble and that everything

flows from Him by necessity. If the sun and ils radiation are taken as an example,

the sun can be said to be senseless because it works according to its nature. The

• same holds true for the philosophers' God, since He works by necessity and

without providence. 60

• ln his discussion of the prime doctrines of the philosophers al-Ghazali

accuses them of deciding their tenets in a very arbitrary way. That Gad as an

intellect knows Himself by virtue of Himself is an essential notion in Islamic

philosophy. AI-Ghazali asks, how you prove that Gad is an intellect? If you say

that the First (al-Awwaf) exists free of matter, and whatever exists free of matter

is pure intellect, and whatever is a pure intellect knows ail intelligibles, you then

affirm arbitrary premises. What is your proof for the premise that ueverything free

from matter is an intellect"? How do you prove that every pure intellect knows ail
intelligibles. 80th premises are false.

AI-Ghazali, in addition, says that it is correct to say that every being free of

matter must subsist by virtue of itself (qS4im bi-nafsih/) , but if you cali it an

intellect and define it as an essence that knows things, vou would contradict

yourself. There is no proof that because He is free from matter God would know

Himself and what Îs different from Him as well. fI :; The affirmation of these

premises is arbitrary. Moreover, your [the philosophers'] saying that uan

affirmation of an infinite chain of causes is impossible" does not accord with your

philosophy since Vou believe that existence is infinite and generation (I)awsdith)

has no beginning. This absolutely opposes any assumption that the universe has
a tirst cause.

On the contrary, the philosophers who assume that the world has existed

eternally, cannot eliminate the assumption of an infinite succession of causes and

effects. Such, in fact, is the option chosen by the atheists. and it is an alternative

• not ruled out by the contingency argument. Moreover, merely proving the

existence of a self-sufficient being by no means proves the existence of God.

Platonic metaphysics may be wrong in supposing that only the

unembodied is self-sufficient. Surely, if the physical world or the heavens are

eternal they too are self-sufficient and self-caused. "To be consistent with your

system," writes al-Ghazali, "if the bodies that make up the world are eternal they

too should have no cause." And if the world needs no cause, God can be
dispensed with. The contingency argument, then, is inadequate. AI-Ghazali,

once again, accuses the philosophical assumption of God as uncaused cause in

which everything is terminated of being strictly arbitrary.65

2. 4. Ibn Rushd and the Reconciliation between the Aaency of God and

the Eternitv of World

Ibn Rushd, who learned a lot from al-Ghazafi's criticism, tried to free

himself on many occasions from the latter's attaeks on emanationist philosophy.

Ibn Rushd, therefore, would create his own project by means of which, he

believes both the true philosophy and the true doctrines of Islam can be

preserved. He means by true philosophy that which remains faithful to Aristotle

and is free from Neoplatonic aecretions.

Ta achieve his goal, Ibn Rushd critieizes the argument from contingency

as the fundamental one in Ibn Sïnâ and al-Farâbfs philosophy, and as the

• argument that had received the harshest refutation from al-Ghazali. Ibn Rushd

states that the possibly existent contains the possibility both of existing and not

• existing. Consequently, to maintain that something is possibly existent but etemal

amounts to maintaining that Usomething has the possibility of being destroyed

without ever undergoing destruction. "66 But should anything contain the possibility

of undergoing destruction, the possibility must eventually be realized and the

abject destroyed; for over an infinite time every possibility is eventually realized.

When Ibn Sins by contrast maintained that the heavens are eternal yet

have the possibility of both existing and not existing, he was affirming a possibility

that is in infinite time never realized. Ibn Sina's conception of the celestial realm

is therefore untenable. ôH

Although Ibn Rushd criticized the argument from contingency, he

maintained the eternity of the world and defended the philosophers on this

matter. He made a very clear distinction between two concepts: the notion of

generation in the sense that Gad is a real agent and creator, on one hand, and

the eternity of the world, on the other. Ibn Rushd, however, asserted that

affirmation of the eternity of the world does not cancel the notion of Gad as being

willing. creating and acting.ftl)

He explains this by stating that there are two kinds of agents (fa-il): first is

the agent who acts according to inborn ability or nature. This agent produces but

one thing, as heat produces heat. Second is the agent who aets according ta his

free will; this agent is imperfect for will is a means by which the willing agent gets

what he needs. Neither of these two kinds of agency can be applied to Gad. Gad

• does not act according ta nature or will as human beings do, since willing in this

• sense means a change in emotion of the one who wills and Gad transcends


The true meaning of agent is, he states, 'what causes sorne other thing to

pass trom potency to actuality and trom non-existence to existence; this

actualization occurs sometimes trom deliberation and choice, sometimes by


Ali agents so conceived have the power to make things happen. They can

initiate changes of various sorts and can bring things into being. Ibn Rushd in this

definition did not restrict agents to efficient causes or the production of existence

as such. He speaks rather of the transition trom potency to act. This means tor

him that what ail agents produce is motion or change, whether this effect is

manitest in change of place, qualïty, or quantity, or in new substances

altogether. 72

To defend his understanding of the notion of true agent, Ibn Rushd argued

against those who believed that the assumption of natural causes would

inevitably lead to negating the will of God by saying that those people [he means

the Mutakallimün] understood the will of Gad in the sense of the human being's

will, namely, that will is ta be attributed to one who has the ability to make a

certain thing or not to do so. They said, therefore, that the world is absolutely

possible in the sense that Gad may create it or may not create it. ï3

• Ibn Rushd argued that God's will must be understood in the context of

God's wisdom. Otherwise, the will that does not create something for a definite

• purpose is a frivolous will. And a will that could create the world accidentally and

not by a pre-determined coherent design and plan would not be a wise will. God

therefore preserves and maintains the universe by means of natural forces

inhering in the existents; only in this way can the wisdom of Gad be realized.

Ibn Rushd says that 'what led the Mutakallimün to reject the natural

causes is their belief that any assumption of natural causes would assume other

creators besides God."~ Ibn Rushd rejected this argument by saying that the

natural forces and causes are also created by Gad, which means that everything

is still under God"s decree. 75

God's agency must be regarded, Ibn Rushd stresses, as God is eternally

generating things; there is no beginning and end to generation, as long as God is

eternal agent. This idea is different, however, from that of those who believe in

the eternity of the world without admitting the existence of a generator, and

different also from that of those who believe in generation in time. ï6

God is eternal in the sense that He is the final cause, completelyactual,

nothing in Him is potential, He is perfect in ail respects, while the etemity of the

world can be called "etemal becoming", Ti the eternal process of transformation

fram potentiality to actuality. This theory is different from that of the Mutakallimün

because it pictures God, according to Ibn Rushd, as etemally powerful and

eternally using His power.;8

The agent, whatever il may be (including Gad), does not create the form

• out of nathing, since the form is not a subject of creation and corruption. Only the

particular existent can be a subject of creation and corruption; the form, rather,

• remains in potentiality, in ail circumstances, without annihilation. The form of a

statue is always there in the unformed matter of bronze or iron, it needs only an

agent ta release this form and actualize il. In this sense the forms are eternal, but

not in the same way as Plato's forms, since the forms do not have an objective

existence apart from matter, though they are eternally in potency, and etemally in

Gad. Ali the forms exist potentially in the prime matter, and actually in the

unmovable moyer. ï9

The process of producing, generating or actualizing the forms happens

only through motion. Motion then is the essence of the process of creation, that

by which a new existent emerges.

The true agent, Ibn Rushd states, is he ·who composes the matter and

form through moving the matter and changing it in arder ta actualize the potential
form that exists in il.·· God as an agent and as the final cause of the universe

produces the actual thing from the situation of potentiality, which is equal to

nothing. sl

Movement does not happen directly trom God, but indirectly through the

encompassing sphere (a/-fa/ak a/-mul)1t) , which moves and gives motion to the

next sphere and gradually ta ail existents. Since God is the intellect that hoIds the

most perfect and noble forms (a/-atamm wa '/-ashraf), ail existents or forms in the

universe move toward Him as toward their beloved. Forms in turn ascend upward

gradually ta the point of the most perfect form because each form represents the

• matter for a more perfect and noble form, and the process goes on up to Gad

(the Form offorms).


• ln this understanding, the world cannot be depicted as generated or

eternal in the sense that determined and specifie things are etemal, but eternal in

the sense that motion is eternal. The existents as such are created inasmuch as

they are subject to generation and corruption. Ibn Rushd described this process

by the term ""eternal generation~' (f)udüth dfJ·im).82 For Ibn Rushd, time,

movement, genera and species are ail eternal, ~3 but ail individuals are generated

in time and are subject to generation and corruption.

He states that not ··all theories about the world (its eternity or generation)

accord with religion (~fJh;r a/-shar), since if religion is understood correctly, the

world (ils structure and individuals) can be conceived as generated, but existence

itself (nafs al-wujud) and time are eternal in two dimensions, the past and the

future. The Qur1inic verse, 'Surely your Lord is Gad, who created the heavens

and the earth in six days' (7:54); (25:59); (50:38) clearly shows, according to Ibn

Rushd, that before this world another world existed, and before that one another

one. ".1'14

God's function as creator is not restricted just to moving things and

bringing them into actuality and existence from potentiality or nothingness.

Beyond this, Gad preserves the universe in the sense that the world stands in

everlasting need of God for its maintenance and being watched over. K5 The world

needs Gad not only in the moment of its creation, but also in its eternal process

of generation.


• 3- The Question of Causalitv and God's Aaencv

3. 1. AI-Ghazili's Development of the Concept of Cause ('II'a)

The early Mutakallimûn held that Gad created the world by means of His

will. They refused to use the term cause ("il/a) when they approached the

question of creation; rather, they used the term determination (tariil) or

particularization (takh$ï$) to indicate that God is the determinant of the world.

This determination, however, occurred through God-s absolute freedom;

therefore, no necessity or explanation is required for what impelled Gad to

determine the creation.

ln his major treatise al-Irshad, al-Juwaynï sets forth the more popular

argument from temporality or 1)udüth. "If the temporality of the world (f)adith) is

established and if it is established that [the world] has a beginning (muftatal) al-

wujüd) , since the temporal can equally exist or not exist ... reason requires that

[the world] must have a determinant (mukha$$i$) who determined its actual


AI-Ghazali, in Questions 17 and 18 of al-TahSfut, shows that the

philosophers contradicted themselves by asserting that things affect each other

by means of the nature inherent in them. AI-Ghazarr argues against the idea that

fire does not burn cotton because of ils nature; rather, il is because of the will of

the actor or agent, who is Gad. Fire is inanimate and, therefore, is not an actor or

agent. God or the angels, on behalf of Him, cause the cotton to bum. 87 AI-Ghazâli


• explains, however, in the same passage that by 'cause ~ he simply means a

"determinanf (i.e. murajjif).l!lS

AI-Ghazalï made an important distinction between the determinant cause

(";lIa murajjif)a) and the will of God. These two notions are parallel to another

distinction made by al-Ghazali, that is, the distinction between God's will as an

eternal attribute, which does nat entait the necessity of the abject willed etemally,

and the will as a determinant act that is connected to its object necessarily. This

distinction is plainly stated by al-Ghazali in distinguishing between '1he existence

of God"s will"" and ""its relationship to its object"" (wujüd al-irfJda wa la"alluqiha).s9

AI-Ghazali"s attempt at a reconciliation between the kalam and philosophy

is obvious at this point since when he offers his own concept of agency

represented by God"s eternal will he resembles an Ash-arite thinker; while when

he talks about the action of creation or the relation between the will and its object,

his Aristotelian language is conspicuous. ~l

When al-Ghazali deals with the notion of Gad as an agent he describes

the true agent as someone who wills or wishes to perform an aet, wills the action
by choice, and has knowledge of the object willed. \ This agent is Gad in His

state as eternal being with His attributes. Such language is purely Ash-arite and

contradicts the philosophers ~ language of agency which was understood in terms

of necessary conneetion or natural causes concomitant with their effects through

necessity and not by willing.

• The action of creation, for al-GhazârT, does not necessarily proceed trom

the etemal will, but it is necessarily connected to the object willed. Here the will is

• called the determining cause. AI·Ghazali says that "the existence of the world is

necessary when we assume that the eternal will has its existence as its object. ,,9~

AI·GhazalT paid much attention to the question of causality and tried to

adapt and reformulate this principle by giving it a logical form. Many studies have

been carried out in order to shed sorne light on al-Ghazali's theory of causality

and ta show that despite his Ash"arite characteristics, al-Ghazali went beyond

their ideas and attempted to invent a different theory. 'J3 But the question of

whether or not al-Ghazali"s theory of causality is systematic is another matter.

The primary goal here is merely to discuss some aspects of his thought

concerning the two dimensions of the notion of causality, that is, the cause of

creation, or how God created the world, and the nature of the relations among


3. 2. AI· Ghadtrs Attempt at Reconciliation between the Kalim and


A number of modern studies'J-4 show indubitably that al-Ghazali was deeply

influenced by the Muslim philosophers, and particularly by Ibn Sina.

AI-Ghazali seems to have attempted to reconcile two systems of thought,

the kalam and philosophy.'J5 This attempt lad him to devote much effort to drawing

a picture that would retain as much as possible of both views. In regard to

• creation, he tried to affirm that the will of Gad is the primordial means of creation,

• creation 1 and at the same lime he assumed that secondary causes play a crucial

role and share Gad" s will in affecting the rest of existents.

With respect to the relations among things, al-Ghazali, like the

Mutakallimün, admitted that things are connected to each other according to the

habit or custom that Gad wills; <J6 and like the philosophers, he did not avoid

completely the necessary connection between things. L. E. Goodman explains

this in affirming that the proximate causes, within the frame of reference of nature

and the characters with which things are created. must have their effects and vice

versa. AI-Ghazali thus retains causality while rejeeting the philosophers" doctrine

of necessity among created causes. If we ask why al...Ghazarr retained causality,

it is safe to say that he was motivated by the same rationalistic affection for

science that moved the philosophers, a science which he like them would place

in the service of theology as a means of studying and appreciating the wisdom of

the divine plan:r:-

The relation between one thing and another, cause and effect, is a subject

of Gad"s eternal will. This phrase seems at first sight to be the same as the

Ash-arites·, but al-Ghazali adds that this consecutiveness between things is

necessary and inevitable. In order to confirm his thesis, al-Ghazali cites the

Qu(anic verse that "-you shall never find any substitution in the custom of Gad""

(lan tajida li-sunnati Allahi tabdila) (17:77); (33:62), which means for him that it is

not possible that Gad who has willed etemally the process and the order of the

• world and aetually realized His will in it would alter His sunna or the way He wills

things to be. Cause and effect are related as concomitants and this is referred to

• in terms of the consistency of customs (it;(imd a/·"adat). The phrase -·is not

subject to substitution or alteration" explicitly qualifies --God~s eternal will," but

through the manifest allusion to the qualification is plainly extended to -custom'

which necessarily ensues from God's eternal and necessary wil1.

On the question of creation and the sort of causality ta be assumed, al-

Ghazali said that the essential characteristic of God is that '-He is the existent

whose existence is necessary in itself and from which exists everything whose

existence is in possibility :,'19 This formulation evokes the usage of Ibn Sins. But

this usage does not mean that al-Ghazali, who adopted the duality of necessary

being/possible being, would follow Ibn Sina in applying the consequences that
the Avicennian system entails. "'

It would seem that for al-Ghazali, the possible as being possible is

somehow eternally already and always there for God in its own givenness, not

apart from Him, but in a sense, nonetheless, independently from Him. God~s

being is not absolutely prior to the possible as such, but only to the actual

existence of the contingent entities He causes to come ta be in the world and

which do not originate in Gad but are etemally there as givens to God~s


AI-Ghazali held as weil that it is impossible that the wortd has existed

eternally. On this he can only hold the traditional Ash-arite teaching. 102 Moreover,

• al-Ghazali refused to admit any sort of motivation or any explanation as to why


• God creates, since, for him, it would be quite legitimate for Gad not to have

created mankind at ail; and although He did create them, it was not incumbent

upon Him; and when He created them, it was His decision, if He wished, not to

impose the revealed law upon them; and when He did impose it on them, this
again was not incumbent upon Him.

One may therefore conclude that although al-Ghazali was influenced by

the philosophers, he maintained the Ash'arite and traditional stance in regard to

God's absolute freedom and Will.ll~ The world is etemally possible, but it does not

proceed from God eternally and by necessity. Gad determines the world as its

cause, but not by any motivation that could cause the determination.

The term 'Wajib' or -Necessary Existent" (WSjib al-Wujüd) used byal-

Ghazali may then be intended simply as a synonym of etemal "qadïm~. It was

never meant ta imply that the world must proceed from Gad necessarily and

eternally. The act of Gocfs will, therefore, is etemal without necessarily implying

that He necessarily wills what He wills. 1115

3. 3. The Causes as Conditions

The important contribution that al-Ghazarr made to the notion of causality

is the idea of conditions (ShUfÜ(). This idea was introduced, one may assume, in

arder to lessen the meaning of the term "cause' in the sense that it has an

intrinsic nature that allows it to produce and generate its effect. It also avoided

• the philosophers" and Mu"tazilites" theories of causality, 106 whose points of view

• about causality would lead, according to al-Ghazali, to saying that things "come

to be not from the power of God.'·I07

AI-Ghazali, unlike the philosophers and the Mu"tazilites, held that

"concerning coming into being (lJudüth) , some of the determined things (ba"Q a/-

muqaddarat) derive from ethers in the same way as a conditioned thing (mashfÜt)

derives from a condition (shart). Volition, then, cornes out of the etemal power

only after knowledge [cornes out] and knowledge [cornes out] only after lite

[cornes out] and life [cornes out] only after [the existence of] the substrate of life

(Le. the body). Just as it is inadmissible te say that lite derives from a body, which

is the condition for life, so it is inadmissible to say that about the rest of the

stages of derivation (darajat a/-tartib).··tl'~

Everything that happens in the world, al-Ghazali asserts, is according to a

necessary derivation (tartib wajib) and obligatory truth (lJaqq lazim). It is

impossible that a conditioned thing should precede a condition. 109

AI-Ghazali, as B. Abrahamov observes, distinguished in sorne of his

writings between two kinds of causal relations: first, the necessary events which

occur through a chain of conditions giving rise to conditioned responses (e.g. life-

knowledge-volition) and second, necessary events such as cotton buming when

it is near tire which occur by virtue of the consecutiveness of custom. 110


• AI-Ghazali, according ta Abrahamav, has fallen inta a great contradiction

in distinguishing between two kinds of chains of events. But Abrahamov tends to

believe that al-Ghazali removed this contradiction in his al..ll)ya ' when he relates

the same example of tire and cotton but without mentioning consecutiveness of

custom. Abrahamov believes that al-Ghazali proves by not mentioning the term

'custom' that he adhered to the tirst assertion, namely that everything that

happens in the world happens along the condition-conditioned chain, so that this

chain becomes imperative not only logically but also ontologically. III

Richard Frank has explained the difficulties that can arise from the

assumption of the principle of causality if it is taken as being synonymous with

the theory of conditions. According to Frank, '''AI-Ghazali does not explicitly

distinguish for us the ways in which one thing may be a contributing condition of

the coming to be of another and consequently his explanation is, if not strictly

equivocal, at least so vague as to give the appearance of avoiding the issue:~II:!

3.4. The Secondarv Causes and the Questionable Role

AI-Ghazali has, in regard to the secondary causes, two different,

incompatible statements. According to him, whatever happens in the world is due

to God·s will. God is at the same time a wise being and creates everything with

an absolute primary design and etemal order. This design determines which

instruments, causes and motions are needed to bring about that which should be

• brought about. 1 J}
", ...

• AI-Ghazali speaks here of God's establishing the essence of causality,

namely of the fact that causes bring about effects and of Go(fs decision as to

what devices He will use to fulfill His plan. At this point, Gad establishes absolute,

basic, fixed and stable causes which neither disappear nor change till the end of

days.114 These are the earth, the seven heavens, the stars, the celestial spheres

and their proportional perpetuai motions, the creation of which is God's decree. 115

AI-Ghazali. according to B. Abrahamov's conclusion, has put forth a

theory of dual causality, divine as weil as natural, co-operating in the generation

of the same effect. God is the first cause of everything that happens in the world.

He created a chain of causes and effeds and He keeps it in continuous

operation. He does not intervene in the world directly. Nothing, in this regard, is

said about continuous creation. 1 III

But al-Ghazali, as Frank has noticed, identified the determinant cause (-iIIa

murajjil)a) with the term 'cause' (sabab) and said that "by cause (sabab) we

mean murajjih and nothing else,··"7 and he avoided the term murajjil) when he

came to deal with secondary causes. The possibilities whose existence and

non-existence are equal must have a cause in arder to exist, '''something that

renders their existence rather than their non-existence necessary" (murajjil)un /i-

wujüdihi . a/a . adamihl). t 19

The significance of avoiding the term ""determinant cause" in the context of

secondary causes is to be found in the role that murajji/J can play as bestowing

• existence on the possible whose non-existence is prior to its existence. AI-

Ghazali, in order to deprive the secondary causes of the ability to produce their

effects, talks vaguely of conditions and of things whose being is conditiona!. R.

Frank calls al-GhazalT's treatment of the principle of causality in a number of

different contexts a rhetorical strategy.l:!Ü

The important thing to be noticed here is al-GhazalT's understanding of the

raie and nature of secondary causes. Sometimes he does not use theJerm

efficient causes when he talks about them and then considers them as mere

conditions, as we have seen above; or he considers them as divine agents such

as angels, who not -naturally' possessing their own efficacy, are merely passive

bodies. 121 ln other places, al-Ghazali holds that the secondary causes are mere

instruments that Gad aets through. l21

On the other hand, if R. Frank's analysis of the secondary causes as

being mere conditions in a broad and unqualified sense is taken into account, 11.3

the question that would inevitably arise is, why did al-Ghazali assume the

existence of secondary causes? Or, in other words, what is the particular

ontological role of the secondary causes if they are to be understood as part of

the condition-conditioned chain?

The major purpose of assuming secondary causes in Islamic philosophy

was ta establish intermediary entities by which the question of the relation

between the absolute unity of Gad and the multiplicity of the wortd could be

• answered. In al-Ghazalrs thought, secondary causes do not play this kind of

ontological role. Gad for the most part has additional attributes, as ail the

• Ash"arites before him held, 124 and He created the world out of nothing by means

of His will at a definite moment in time.

The only remaining possibility for assuming secondary causes is in al-

Ghazalïs belief that Gad aets through instruments (a/st)l25 in order to set forth

His eternal plan and design of the universe. This can be clarified by the principle

adopted by al-Ghazali that there is nothing in the sublunary world that does not

have its analogue in the celestial world. Thus, according to al-Ghazali, the soul

governs the body as Gad governs the universe; and the soul govems the body
through the brain. The relationship between the brain and the rest of the body,

for al-Ghazali, is an analogue of the relation of the outermost sphere to the rest of

the created universe.

But the question still rises, why does God not aet direetly by means of His

absolute power and will, for Gocrs power is comprehensive and nothing

whatsoever happens apart from it?! 2ï Why did He need instruments through

which to aet; and, finally, what ontological role do seeondary causes have if one

maintains the primordial kalamic premise that nothing should aet on behalf of

God, even if we agree with al-Ghazaff that these causes are mere conditions?

If we do agree with al-Ghazali that these secondary causes are mere

conditions. and that Gad through them realizes His etemal plan, the other

question that can be raised is, what role would God have after His creation of the

world as a real actor in the universe? AI-Ghazirr does not talk about continuous


• emanation, despite Avicennian influence,128 because such a theory would

annihilate the role of God·s will and power. 119

At this point it is legitimate to ask, to what extent did al-Ghazali succeed in

reconciling God's absolute power, as held by the kalam, with the role of

secondary causes?13 11 Frank noticed that the efficient operation of secondary

causes is implied and alluded to in several places in al-Iqti$fld fi '1-1" tiqSd,

although it is never formally thematized and discussed.

AI-GhazalTs attempt, however, to reconcile the kalâm and philosophy and

to employ the term 'condition" in arder to admit the principle of causality, on the

one hand, and ta maintain the absolute role of God·s will and power, on the other

hand, was very useful for another generation of thinkers, despite the fact of its

need for more elaboration.

3.5. Ibn Rushd and Causality as Comprehensive Principle

There is no doubt that Ibn Rushd who was defending the Muslim

philosophers and criticizing al-Ghazalrs harsh attack on them, read and analyzed

the latter's critique very carefully and with full consideration. This investigative

reading by Ibn Rushd of al-Ghazali can be noted in many places, but let us focus

here on the main questions mentioned above.

• Ibn Rushd's chief insistence is the point that was held by the philosophers

before him, that is, that the etemity of God entails etemal creation. Ibn Rushd

• agreed with al-Ghazali that God is a purposeful and wise creator who designed

the universe in a coherent and solid order. To give this premise its full meaning

we have to remove any assumption offrivolous action from God's activity. which

can only be achieved by fully admitting the principle of causality in the universe. 132

The argument of possibility (dam al-jawfJz), which had been defended by

the Mutakallimün in order to prove the absolute freedom of the will, and which

stated that God may do certain things or He may not, was completely rejected by

Ibn Rushd. For him such a principle goes against the notion of God as a wise

creator. God"s wisdom can be demonstrated by two fundamental arguments: the

argument for invention or creation (dam al-ikhtira") and the argument for

providence (dam al-"infJya).13.3

By the tirst argument Ibn Rushd means that every existent or created

being must have a creator (mukhtari io

) , a creator who actualizes things out of

nothing. We should not, however, be confused by the term "nothing', which does

not have here the same content as the Mutakallimün's notion of nothing; rather,

by nothing Ibn Rushd means the potentiality that precedes the existent and from

which the existent proceeds.

The argument for providence signifies, on the other hand, the way and

design according to which God created the world. Ibn Rushd believes that this

argument complements the creation argument in the sense that Gad created

• everything in the universe in a way to benefrt human beings. Everything must be

in accordance and harmony with the existence of mankind. This harmony and

• compatibility between man and the universe manifest God's providence and are

called by Ibn Rushd the ""benefits of existents" (manafi" al-mawujüdat) 134; they

must have been realized by a willing and purposeful creator.

The creation, on the one hand, and God's maintaining this creation in its

pre-determined plan and design, on the other hand, both indicate a creator. Ibn

Rushd, moreover, asserts that "one who denies the effects resulting from causes,

or denies the order of causes and affects in this universe, would deny the

existence of the wise creator.,·135


• Notes

1 Majid Fakhry. "The Classical lslamic Arguments for the Existence ofGod in The ,\foslem

Wor/d. vol. ~7. 1957. pp. 136-7.

2 Richard M. Frank. The AfeTaphysics of Crealed Being according 10 Abü L-Hudhay/ a/-'A//af
(Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut in Hel Nabije Oosten, 1966) p. 13.

3 Herbe" A. Davidson. Proofs for Erernity. Creation and the Existence ofGod in Medieval/s/amic
I.lnd Jr!l,'ish Philosophy (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1987) pp. 132-33.

~ . Abd al-Karfm al-Shahrastani. Nih[ryar al-/qdamfT '/lm a/-Ka/am, ed. A. Guillaume (Baghdad:
Maktabat al-Muththanna. 1934) p. 115; Abü Bakr al-Baqillani, a/-Tamhid. ed. R. McCarthy (Beirut: al-
Maktaba al-Sharqiyya. 1957) pp. 12-3: Sayfal-Din al-Âmidï. Ghayat a/-I\lariimjT '/lm a/-Ka/am. ed. H. M.
'Abd al-Lat.if (Cairo: al-Majlis al-A'la IiI-Shu'ün al-Islamiyya. 191971) p. 187; Ibn Rushd. a/-Kashf'an
.Haniihij a/-A dil/a jÎ 'Aqiï id a/-Afi//a (Beirut: Dar al-Âfâq al-Jadïda. 1982) pp. 141-4.

5 Abü Rashid al-Nisabüri. al-J!asa'il fi'I Khi/af bayn ai-BarrÎ}'yïn wa ·I-Baghdiidiyyïn. ed. M.
Zyada & R. Sayyd lBeirut: Ma'had al-Inma' al-'Arabi, (979) pp. 133-49.

11 R. Frank, "..11- .\fa-nà: Sorne Reflections on the Technical Meaning of the Term in the Kalam and
its Use in the Physics of MU'ammar" in JA.o.S. Vol. 87, 1967. pp. 253-4. and M. Mannura, "Causation in
Islamic ThoughC, in Dicrionary ofthe HislOry ofldeas. ed. Ph. Wiener. vol. 1. p, 287.

Josef Van Ess. "al-N~m", Encyclopaedia of/siam, vol. Il. n.e., p. 1057.

:-1 Josef Van Ess. "Mu'tazilah", Encyc/opedia ofReligion. vol. 10. 1987, p. 227.

l) See Abü al-tlasan al-Ash'arï. al-Ibiinah 'an U~ül a/-Diyiinah. ed, W. C. Klein (New Haven:
American Oriental Society. 1940) p. 47.

III Josef Van Ess. "Wrong Doing and Divine Omnipotence in the Theology of Abu Is~aq al-
Na~m" in Divine Omniscience and Omnipotence in ~\Iediel'al Philosophy. ed. T. Rudavski (Dordrecht:
Reidel Publishing Company. 1985) p. 53.

Il Abü al-tlasan al-Ash·arr. K. al-Luma' (Beirut: Dar Lubnan 1iI-Tiba"a wa'l-Nashr, (987) pp.

12 Ibid. p. 149: see also Eric Onnsby. Theodicy in Islamic Thought (Princeton: Princeton
University Press. 1984) pp. 19-216: 117-48.

1J A. J. Wensinck. The ,\fuslim Creed(London: Cambridge University Press, (965) p. 62.

1~ 'Abd al-Qahir al-Baghdadi. al-Ali/al wa '/-NifJal. ed. A. N. Nadir (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq, 1992)
pp. 91-2.

• 15 Herbert Davidson, "Arguments trom the Concept ofParticularization in Arabic ThoughC, in

Philosophy East and West, vol. 18. 1968. p. 300.

III Fakhry. "The Classicallslamic Arguments", p. 139.

17 Davidson. "Arguments", p. 300.

Il'! Fakhry, "The Classicallslamic Arguments", p. 139.

l'] aV1 son. "A rgumen ts" . p. .)"01 .


20 Fakhry. "The Classicallslamic Arguments", p. 139.

21 Wolfson. Thr: Philasaphy afthe Kalam. p. 435.

22 Ibid. pp. 141-2.

2J Fakhr al-Din al-Râzi, al-Arba'fnjT U~iiJ aJ-Dfn, ed. A. H, Saqqa (Cairo: Mak'tabat al-Kulliyyat
al-Azhariyya, 1986) p. 67.

2~ Ibid. pp. 67-8.

25 al-Ghazali Tahiijill aJ-Faliisifa, ed. M. Bouyges (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq. 1986) pp. 49-50, cited
in lysa A. Bello. The Medieval [slamic Con/raverS}' between PhiJosophy and Orthodoxy (Leiden: E, J, Brill.
1989) pp. 86-7.

2f1 al-Ghazali. Tahiifut, pp. 48-50. cited in Bello. The ,Hediellallslamie COn/roversy. p. 87.

27 al-ShahrastânL Nihiiyat al-Iqdiim. p. 18.

2H lb"d .,..., .
1 • p. __

2lJ Ibid. pp. 16-7.

.311 al-Taftazanï in his SharlJ. al-'Aqii'id. p. 70, explains this: "Ifwe say, as do the philosophers, that
there is no relation between divine knowledge or p<Jwer and panicular things, we render God in sorne sense
ignorant. But if we declare that there is such a relation, and that Gad knOWS the particulars, we seem to
surrender God's knowledge to the mercy of the contingent", cited in Onnsby, Theodicy in [slamie Thoughl,

• 31

Ibid. p. 70

al-Ghazalï, Tahiifut. p. 223. cited in E. Onnsby, Theodicy in [s/amie Thoughl, p. 149.


• 33 Ormsby. Theodicy. p. 151.

34 Ib'd
1 • pp. 1-
, 1-_.

35 According to sorne researchers even the term "One" should not he used to name God since God
is beyond any sort ofbeing and names. See L. P. Gerson. God and Greek Philosophy: Sludies in the Ear(v
Hisrory ofNalllral The%gy (London & New York: Routledge. 1990) p. 204.

JtJ The last major Greek philosopher, he was instructed systematically by the elderly Plutarch of
Athens. Proclus was prepared to become the "Platonic successor" or administrator of the Athenian school of
Neoplatonism. Proclus assumes that reality is fundamentally matenal but mental. or the substance of
consciousness: thus every '1.hing" is ultimately a thought. and every thought is somehow real. And even the
distinction between any thing and my thinking of it is also mental. not bodily. The process ofknowing is
practically identical \"'ith whatever is known. There is only one true Reality for Proclus; it is the "One:'
beyond ail possible description because it is the most fundamental thought conceivable (Iike "consciousness
itself"). And Proclus asserts that the One already contain::; the who le universe, absolutely unified. within
itselt: leaving its oneness uninfected with plurality. The inconsistency in this philosophy is that: although
the One is the only reality, Proclus describes its apparent decline into plurality with highly detailed
attention, thereby tuming the focus away from the One to the neatly arranged successive states of"lesser
realities" which are then carefully analyzed as ifthey were independent entities. See, Laurence J. Rosan,
"Proclus", Encyclopedia ofPhilosophy. ed. P. Edward. vol. 6. pp. 479-8.

r Pierre Duhem. Sources de la Philosophie Arabe (Paris: Universitaires de France. 1973). Arabic
trans. Abou Ya'rub al-Marzou~i (Tunisia: Bayt al-I:fikma. 1989) p. 165.

jS al-Farabi. K. ;\/abadr .-ira· Ahl al-A/adina al-Facjila. a revised text with intro.• trans., and
commentary by Richard Walzer (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1985) p. 56.

-"} Ibid. pp. 70. 74. 76.

411 al-Farabi. K. a/-Siyiisa al-i\/adaniyya. intro. F. M. Na.üar (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq, n.d) p. 56.

41 Ibn SIna. K. a/-Najat. intro. M. Fakhry (Beirut: Dar al-Àtàq al-Jadïda, 1985) pp. 261, 263, 265.

- P. Duhem. Sources. p. 167.

·H S. Van Den Bergh believes that this refonnulation was achieved by means of combining
Aristotle's astronomical view of animale planets circling round in their spheres with the Neoplatonic theory
of emanation. and introducing into the Aristotelian framework Proclus' conception ofa triadic process.
From God's single act only a single effect follows. but this single effect, the supramundane Intellect.
develops in itselfa threefold action. "Introduction", Taha[ul a/-Tahiiful of Ibn Rushd, trans. Van Den Bergh
(London: Oxford University Press. 1954) p. xxvi.

• 44 Ibn Sînâ. Commenlary on A-Ielaphysics XII. in Aris(ü 'inda a/-·Arab. ed. A. R. Badawï (Cairo,
19"7). p. 23. cited in H. Davidson. Proofs for Elernity, p. 282.
.. ..,

• ~5 D'd
aVI son. p.#.
rao/s. p. "S'"
_ .J.

~tJ al-Farâbï. K. .-ira· Ahl al-Alamna al-Fat:jila. al-Farabi. intro., with comments. A. N. Nadir
(Beirut: Dâr al-Mashriq. n.d) p. 55-S. & al-Siyiisa al-Madaniyya. p. 47-S.

~7 D uhem. Sourees. pp. _


~s David Ross. .-Irislorle (London: University Paperbacks. 1966) pp. 176-S7 .

~l) ai-Farâbl. K. al-S~\"iisa. p. 47; .Habadt ..rra·. p. 8S.

5t' al-GhazalI. Tahiiful. p. 128.

51 Christian medie\'al philosophy asserted as weil the pure unity of God by means of assuming
intennediary entities. since God is self-subsisting unit)' whence ail multiplicity follows without atTecting in
the least its absolute simplicity. From the fecundity of the One a second principle is born. inferior to the
First. and the cause of ail diversity that cornes after him. See Etienne Gilson. God and Philosophy (New
Haven & London: Yale University Press. (941) pp. 46-7.

52 al-Ghazâlr. Tahaful. p. 98.

53 Ibid. p, 100.

54 Abü al-Barakât al-Baghdadl harshly criticizes the principle that t'Tom one only one emanates.
His major argument seems to be similar to that used by the others. namely. if the one is perfect in ail His
aspects. the first produced entity must be perfect as weil. and the whole series of causes-effects should he
consecutive one by one. The diversit), therefore cannot be explained by the philosophers. See al-Mu' tabar ft
al-I:fikma al-l/ahiyya (Hyderabad. 1358! 1939) vol. III. pp. 150-1.

55 al-GhazalI. Tahafur. p. 100.

5t, Ibid. p. 98.

Si Lenn E. Goodman. "Ghazâlfs Argument from Creation" in Inrernational Journal of ~fiddle

East Srudies. vol. 2. 1971. p. 82.

SM See David B. Burrell. "Creation or Emanation". in Gad and Creation. ed. D. B. Burrell & B.
McGinn (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press. 1990) p. 31.

59 a I-Ghaza-(-1. T'
1 a h;:rl;,
"JI.t. pp. ("''''
_-~. ..

• /l0

Ibid. p. 131 .

Ibid. p. 13 1.
I .J.J

• n2 Ibid. pp. 156-7.

oJ Ibid. p. 110.

04 Goodman. "Ghazâlrs Argument". p. 83.

05 al-Ghazali. Tahafur. p. 114.

06 Averroes. Long Commentary on De Caelo. vol. V (Venice. 1562). Il. Comm. 71. cited in
Davidson. Proofs for the Existence ofGod. p. 320.

67 Aristotle• .~feraphysics Lr. 4. 1047b. p. 90. cited in Davidson, Proofs. p. 320.

hl'! D'ct
aVI son. ProoJs. .. ..,0 •
,,' p. .J_

hL) Majid Fakhry. lb,; Rushd (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq. 1982) p. 73.

-II Ibid. p. 73.

-1 Ibid. pp. 150-1.

-2 Barry S. Kogan. Al'erroes and the .~fetaphysics ofCausality (Albany: State University of New
York Press. (985) p. 35.

73 Van Den Bergh. "Introduction" in his trans.. to Incoherence ofIncoherence, p. xix.

Fakhry. Ibn Rushd, p. 106.

75 Ibid. p. 105.

-(, [bn Rushd. F~/ a/-~Haqa/l~'a Taqrrr ma bayn al-Sharï'a wa '/-Ifilcma min Itt~âl, ed. George f.
Hourani (Leiden: E. J. Brill. 1959) pp. 20-1.

, . Oliver Leaman• .·h,:erroes and his Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988) p. 51.

-S Fakhry, Ibn Rushd. pp. 74-5.

79 lbn Rushd. Tafsrr ma-ba'd a/-Tabl"a. ed. M. Bouyges (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq, 1990) pp. 1502-

• Hli Ibid. pp. 1497-1505.


• Hl R. Amaldez explains this by stating that Ibn Rushd holds that neither form nor matter can be
generated: ail that can be generated is their union under the action of the mover; what it moves is matter.
that tO\~"ards which it moves is fonn. Thus the only thing which is engendered is that which is composed
(murakkab). Ibn Rushd disagrees here with Themistius. who believed that. in generation, the fonn was
created (for him the generation of animaIs by putrefaction was a proof ofthis since, he asked, where did the
fonn of these animais come trom?). The substantial fonn wouId thus he separate and come from without:
there would be Wahib al-$uwar which would he the Agent Intellect (al-'aq/ al-fa"al). This was also the
doctrine of Avicenna. based on the following argument: "There are no active powers in matter except the
four qualities. hot. cold. dry and wet. These qualities produce what is similar to them. But the substantial
fonns do not act upon each other." Ibn Rushd's thesis is that ..the agent produces only the composite result
of matter and fonn. and this by setting matter in motion and changing it so that that within it which is in
posst! to the form passes into actuality.'· As for the agent, Ibn Rushd criticizes the theologians who admit
only one single efficient cause and who deny secondary causes. This is because they think that ail action is
created c'.:r mhilo. The true agent is that which causes a subject to pass from potentiality tO actuality, and it is
in mis sense only that it is said that it unites matter and form. See "Ibn Rushd", Encyclopaedia ofIslam. vol.
Ill. pp. 918·9.

H2 ibn Rushd. Fa.rl a/-Afaqiil. pp. 20- 1.

SJ Ibn Rushd. Tahiifut al-Tahafut. ed. M. Maurice Bouyges (Beyrouth: Imprimerie Cstholique) p.

.~ .. Ibn Rushd. AI-Kashf'an .\(anahij al-Adi/la. pp. 63-5.

:-15 A. L. [vry, "Averroes on Causation". in Studies in Jewish Religious and Inrellectua/ History, ed,
S. Stein (Albama: Albama University Press, 1979) pp. 151. [53.

St> Abü al-Ma'alï al-Juwaynï. al-Irshad ilii Qawa~i' a/-Adillafi U~ül a/-l"tiqiid, ed. M. Y. Müsa &
A. A.. Abd al-I:famïd (Cairo:·at al-Khanjï. 1950) p. 16, cited in M. Fakhry, "The Classical". p. 140.

x':" al- Ghazalï. Tahiifut al-Fa/iisifa, intro. M. Fakhr; (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq, 1986) pp. 195-6.

SX Ibid. p. 196: Fakhry, "The Classical" p. 143.

HII Richard M. Frank. Creation and the Cosmic System: AI-Gha:a/ï & Avicenna (Heidelberg: Carl
\\Ïnter. Universitatsverlag. 1992) p. 74.

'JI, Ibid. pp. 66. 69.

ljl Kogan. Averroes and the .~.Jetaphysics. p. 30.

lj2 al-GhazaIL ;\fi'yiir a/-'Ilm. ed. M. S. al-Kurdï (Carro: 1929) p. 193.

93 al-Ghazâlï's anempt to go beyond the literaJ Ash'arites has been studied and expressed in Many
different ways. While Frank and Alon, for instance, believe that al-Ghazalrs concept of causality was
influenced by the philosophers. and Ibn Sïna in panicular. Goodman believes that it is a development that

• the demands of logie imposed upon al-Ghazali. See L. E. Goodman, "Did al-Ghazali Deny CausalityT.
Swdia Islamica. vol. XXVIII. 1978. p. 104.

Y-+ Richard M. Frank's works in panieular are meant here. and especially Creation and the Cosmic
Systl!m: .-tl-Gha=a/ï & .-Ivicenna and .-tl-Gha=a/ï and the Ash'arite School (Durham & London: Duke
University Press. 1994).

cl5 liai Alon, "Al-GhazalI on Causality". Journal afthe American Oriental Society, vol. 100. 1980.
p. 397. see also M. Watt. .\ lus/im Inrellectual. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 1963) pp. 173-80.

Yh Stephen Riker. ·'AI.GhazaIr on Necessary Causaliry in The Incoherence ofthe Philosophers",

The .\fonisl. vol. 79. pp. 315-24. This article tries to show al-Ghazalï as an occasionalist thinker belonging
to the Ash'arite sehool and as rejecting the necessary connection between what is usually believed to be a
cause and what is believed to be an etTect.

97 L. E. Goodman. "Did al-Ghazali Deny". p. 1 [1.

qS Frank. al-GherJ/ï and the Ash'arite Schoo/. p. 20.

'1<1 al-Ghazalï. ü/-Maq~ad al-Asnii. ed. F. A. Shehadi (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq. 1982) p. 47.

Il "' k (~rl!atlOn.
Fran·. . p. 69 .

1 • p. 6".l.

1112 Frank mentions in "Creation and the Cosmic System. .. p. 66. that the traditional understanding
followed by al·Harâsi and al-An~an. is that niggardliness. the contrary to [iberality, is to withhold or refuse
something that is morally obligated and that since Gad is above command and prohibition it is impossible
that an~thing be obligatory for God. therefore it is impossible that He he niggardly because of anything He
might do or not do.

1113 al-Ghazali. a{-fqti~adfi 'f-f" tiqâd, intro. A. D. tlamawi (Damascus: Dar Afnan) pp. 153-4.

11/4 The absolute freedom ofGod's will does not denote only one sense because while al-Ghazalï
maintains this freedom of will when he cornes to the question of creation, and to why Gad delayed the
creation from the etemity-at least, he does not give this question a different answer from the Ash'arite's
teaching--he believes that this freedom of will does not contradict the wisdom of Gad. L. Goodman points
out that al-Ghazalï does not accept the Ash'arites' doctrine of the divine will hecause he does not believe it
assigns sufficient consistency to the creative act ofGod or sufficient stability to nature, which Scrîpture and
the "most insightful" of the philosophers had regarded as the expression of the divine wisdom. See
Goodman "Did al-Ghazâlï Deny". p. [05. Ormsby likewise states that al-Ghazalï insists on the wisdom of
God as being an imputation to God of subservience to sorne ruling principles. Al-Ghazali uses wisdom in
rather a precise way. Someone is wise who knows ..the Most excellent of things by the most excellent
science". Moreover, "Gad is truly wise" since He knows '"the most exalted ofthings by the most exalted

• knowledge". In God's case. to he wise means to "arrange causes and direct them to their effects," for He is
"the cause ofall causes" (musabbib leul! al-asbiib). See Onnsby, Theodicy in [slamic Thought, p. 197.

105 Frank" Creallon,

. p. 7"_.

• Illn The theory of rawa/lud (generation) as illustrated in the chain of generation (cognition-volition-
power to act-motion) was rejected by al-Ghazali because it reflects the MU'tazilites' theory of the free
action of man. (n many places al-Ghazali seems more c1early to follow traditional Ash'arite teaching and to
imply, if not to say outright, that one contingent entity or event is never the immediately detenninant (or
efficient) cause of the being of another. Since these passages tend to provoke confusion. in regard to al-
GhazaIT's real theor'y of causality, see R. Frank. Creation. p. 29.

Ill';' ai-GhazalI. i/:ryo' 'Ulüm aJ-Dfn (Beirut: Dar al-JTI. n.d.) vol. IV, vol. 4. p. 249.

11iS - aza-1-/1--'
a IGh "'17 •
1. '.'.l'a, p. .J

111'/ Abrahamov. "AI-GhazâIT's Theory ofCausality", p. 90.

1111 Ibid. p. 90.

111 Ibid. p. 9 t .

112 k CreallOn,
R. Fran', " p. "8
_ .

lU al-Ghazalï. ùl-Arba'ïnJT C~iil al-Dïn, p. 13.

II~ lb"d
1 • p. \"

115 Ibid. pp. \0-\4.

Il,.., Abrahamov, in the foomote to his "AI-Ghazalïs Theory ofCausality", p. 83, points out the
similarity between al-Ghazâlïs and al-N~'s theory ofcausality, which regards the world as govemed
by causality rules imposed by God at the time of creation when God implanted nature in created things,
which then acted according to that nature.

1 Ji a 1-Gh aza-1-l, 1qll~a

. -d,p. "6
_ .

111'1 Frank. C '

reallOn, pp. _'8 - 9.

119 a 1- Gh aza-1-l, aJ I ' -d,p. "6

- qll~a _ .

1211 Frank", Creatlon.

. p. _"9 "

121 Alon, "AI-Ghszalï on Causality", p. 400.

- Abrahamov, "al-Ghazalï Theory", p. 80.

• 123 Moreover, Frank believes that al-Ghazalfs use of the term condition (sharO was broad enough
to allow him to dodge the question of efficient causality, Creation. p. 31.

124 al-Ghazâli. Qawt1'id aI-·Aqt1·id. ed. M. M. 'Ali (Beirut: 'Alam al-Kutub. 1985) pp. 58-9.

125 al-Ghazali. al-Arba''injT U~iil a/-D'in, p. 13.

1211 Frank. al-Ghera/ï and the Ash'arile. p. 37.

127 al-Ghazali. al-lqti~t1d. p. 87.

12H Frank. A/-Gha=t1/ï and the Ash'arire. pp. 50-5, also the foornote 40 on page, 123.

129 Goodman asserts that al·Ghazali. who rejected the emanative necessary model of creation.
suggests that the "Principles" (the secondary causes) and God. who employs them in ruling the world.
operate in a voluntary way. Therefore. what produces the buming of the cotton is Gad or the "Principles"
that act voluntary to create buming upon contact of cotton and flame. Goodman comments that al-Ghazalï.
"speaks of the voluntarism he has established with respect to God. and considers the possibilities of its
extension to the intellectual angelic principles which bath he and the philosophers regard as regulating the
general causal patterns of nature". (See "Did al-Ghazali Deny?'". p. 96). Once again the question concerning
the role of the secondary causes (Princip les) is still raised. To what extent these angelic Principles have
rreedom of choice if they have any: or why God should be assisted by other Principles as long as they
would operate in the way that God wants !hem to operate'? It is unthinkable that these Principles would
operate or exercise their voluntary action independently ofGod.

131 Frank. A/-Ghera/ï and the Ash'arite. p. 37.

tJ2 Ivry. "Averroes on Causation·'. Studies in Religious and /nrellectual Histo"}·. ed. S. Syein & R.
Loewe (Alabama: Alabama University Press. 1979) p. 153.

133 Ibn Rushd. al-Kashf. p. 64.

134 Ibid. pp. 60-1.

135 lb"d
1 . pp. 10'" ~•

• Chapter III

God's Essence as a Substrate of Generation

and the Eternal Creation

1. The Question of the One and the Manv

1. 1. God's Actions as Intermediary Link: Aaainst the Kalim and


The starting point in Ibn Taymiyya"s theory of creation is the assumption of

the existence of three links in the process of the generation of the world: the

Creator (Kha/iq), the created object (makh/üq) and the act of creation (kha/q). The

act of creation (kha/q) is essential as it constitutes the intermediary link between

the creator and the created object. In Ibn Taymiyya"s terminology, these three

links can be expressed by many different terms: Cause (Mu'aththir), causation

(ta"th;r) and the effect (athar); Agent (Fa"if), action (fi"/) and the object produced

by the action (mafü/); Inventor (Mubdi"), invention (ibda") and the invented object

(mubda").l Ibn Taymiyya defined the intermediary link-causation, creation,

invention, torming-as an existential entity (amr wujüdT), i.e., that which is active

• and positive and has the efficient ability to act and affect.:2

• Ibn Taymiyya paid much attention in his writings to explaining the role and

necessity of the intermediary link. This link represents the clue by which Ibn

Taymiyya"s philosophy can be approached and understood. 3

These actions are no more than the matrix the universe would emerge out

of; they are the same as God~s attributes after having been transferred from their
first status of genera into being determined entities. Their existence is not

immutable, and they come and go in time. 5 From the temporal point of view,

these actions come, after a very short interval, out of God"s attributes, i.e.,

genera and species, by virtue of God"s will and power, and they cause the

empirical things to be actualized after a very short interval (i.e., the interval of

time that the process of causation needs).fi And these actions, although they

emerged in God' s essence, never endure and never represent fixed entities in

that essence."7

These actions, as a matter of fact, play a double role, they connect the

agent (His essence united with the attributes) with the entire empirical world and

the phenomena, on the one hand, and separate them 8 at the same time, on the

ether hand. They do not allew God to be the same as His creatures, but they

permit in the meantime these creatures to have an origin in God's essence and

to be generated etemally, since these created beings have come into existence

by virtue of the action of creation, which in tum has emerged in Gad's essence. 9

For Ibn Taymiyya, it is unthinkable and irrational to maintain the principle

of causality and the role of Gad's will at the same time without admitting the

• necessity of the emergence of actions in God's essence. Moreover, the real

sense of the concept of generation (f)udüth) cannot be approached if the two

opposite views of the kalam and philosophy still dominate our perspective in

regard to the theory of creation. 10

The falasifa"s concept of Gad as the Necessary Seing (WSjib al-Wujüd)

who is the sufficient, etemal cause of the universe led them to the concept of the

coevality (muqarana) of the effect with the cause and, hence, to the doctrine of

the eternity of the world. t t The implication of Gocfs being an eternal and efficient

cause ("ma tamma wa aza/iyya) necessitates by His very nature the existence of

the effect (the universe) trom ail eternity. God cannot by any means, therefore, be

separated trom His effect. This doctrine, according to Ibn Taymiyya, suspends

the notion of God as acting voluntarily and as a real generator and creator. 11

If Gad always and naturally necessitates the object of causation from ail

eternity, none of the caused abjects could really fall behind the cause in being

eternal, not even in the lagical, let alone in the temporal category. It would then

be impossible for God to cause anything ta exist and, therefore, the universe

could not have come into being. In the case in which the universe is posterior to

its cause, such a universe could not be eternal because something else, Le., its

cause, has preceded it in existence. 13

ln other words, the concept of an efficient cause contradids the notion of

generation (/Judûth) , since while the efficient cause assumes production of the


• entire universe at once the notion of generation entails the process of generation

happening successively stage by stage. 14

Furthermore, the efficient cause would naturally produce an efficient affect,

because the efficiency of the cause means that it is perfect in ail its aspects,

which implies that nothing imperfect issues from il. The efficient effect in turn

would produce another perfect affect, and that would go on infinitely. The

conclusion then is that the universe consists of an infinite chain of efficient

causes existing ail at once, which is self-contradictory.15

The doctrine of the philosophers, as a matter of fact. annihilates the notion

of Gad both as voluntary agent and as etemally active producer. 16 This argument

can be supported by another sort of argument. that is, how do the philosophers

explain the diversity of the universe if God as efficient cause and absolute

oneness could logically have produced only one perfect effect? The

philosophers' answer is that the diversity in the world cornes from the difference

in ability of the recipient objects ta receive their forms as they emanate from the

active intellect. 17

Ibn Taymiyya responded to the philosophers" argument by saying that the

philosophers have two choices in replying: either to admit that Gad is the only

creator in the universe, and then to admit that the recipient abjects also are His

creation; or to assume that the recipients belong to the prime matter which is not

created by God. If the philosophers take the second option, their theory would be

• explained and justified, since the difference in the recipients' ability to receive the

emanated forms is due only to the nature of the prime matter; but in this case

• God would not be the creator of everything, as the philosophers wanted to

maintain. If the philosophers take the tirst option, that is, that Gad is the only

creator, the only supporter and provider, and one in ail His aspects, then the

dichotomy of the universe between active agent and recipients is invalid since

God is the creator of both. IH

The recipients in this context presumably would not have an independent

existence and could not behave according to their own nature apart from God's

decree. Besides, the possible (mumkin) has nothing in virtue of itself, it has no

nature or indeed, anything else, until Gad the agent gives it its existence. This

fact leads to the assertion that everything must be according to Gad's creation,

and nothing therefore would behave independently according to its own will. Il}

One of the reasons that Muslim philosophers denied creation ex nihilo,

and asserted the existence of concomitant effect of, and with, the efficient cause,

according to Ibn Taymiyya, is that creation ex nihilo would affect God's

uniqueness and absolute simplicity.20 The creation out of nothing after He has not

been acting would mean an emergence of sorne new factor in His being in the

form of new qualities, such as power, will, knowledge, the availability of a means

of creation or absence of an obstacle to that creation. Such emergence would

interfere, for the philosophers, with His being absolute. 21

Muslim philosophers believed that Gad, in causing the world to come into

existence, does not change in quality. His causation is only the necessary

• consequence of His very being, combined with the preparedness of the recipient

objects (qawabi/) , i.e. abjects that are to reœive the effect of His causation. This

• theory is the reason why Ibn Sins who denied the attributes and deeds of God

were of the opinion that the changing quality of God's being a cause after having

not been so is something separate from His essence or is itself a caused object. 22

The meaning of "causing', in the context of understanding Gad as an efficient

and eternal cause, is to be conceived as identical with the very coming into being

of the caused objects themselves. 23

Ibn Sina"s theory of generation (f)udüth) , according ta Ibn Taymiyya, is

that the tirst caused existent prepared the conditions for the 1)awadith to

emerge:~4 But Ibn Sïna, in representing the philosophers' view, did not speak of

the problem of what would have preparecl the conditions for the emergence of the

tirst caused existent itself within the concept of sufficient, eternal causation. Such

a view is arbitrary too, especially because the philosophers also held that pure

non-existence does not necessitate the production of new qualities in God, such

as will or power, to bring things into being. In other words, Muslim philosophers

regarded the world as coming into existence not because of the power and will of

God, but simply because of the mere existence of God. 25

ln addition, the philosophers understoad the principle of causality in terms

of concomitance, in time, of cause and effect. Inasmuch as Gad emanates by

virtue of necessity not by will, or any other attribute, the tirst entity causecl

coincides with Gad etemally as its cause. Ibn Taymiyya's criticism of the

philosophers does not oppose the notion of cause or necessity, but opposes

• thinking of Gad as acting by means of necessity freecl from will or power. 26


• 1. 2. Creation ex nihilo versus the Eternal Aaency and the Real Unitv of

The Mutakallimün, in turn, refused to admit any renewal in God's essence

by which the creation out of nothing could be explained and philosophically

justified. Such a refusai left the core of their theory of creation open to harsh

criticism, and the questions of how God created and why He delayed in creating

remained without answer, or were answered only arbitrarily.

ln many passages Ibn Taymiyya seems to have regarded Muslim

philosophy as a response directed against the Mutakallimün. He seems,

moreover, to agree with the philosophers' criticism, particularly on the point of

creation ex nihilo. Many substantial themes in philosophy were adopted by Ibn

Taymiyya and employed in his philosophy in a way that gives one the impression

that he represented, because of this adoption, a major position in Islam that could

be compared with al-Ghazalfs, with the difference that Ibn Taymiyya is much

more systematic in his thought.

Ibn Taymiyya agreed with Ibn Sïns's negation of the theory of creation ex

nihilo as put forward by the Mutakallimün on the ground that this theory leads

inevitably to considering Gad as being inactive and powerless before creation.

Ibn Sînâ in his explanation of efficient cause in his al-Najat says that:

The plain reason which never lies proves that if the unique essence (God)
remained one in ail its aspects before creation, and did not create anything

till a definite moment (now) and then creates something, a new factor must
have emerged in this unique essence-intention, will, nature, power, or
something like that. Anybody who denies this premise would contradict the
logic of reason ... , since the possible (mumkin), which equally can be or

• not be, needs, in order to exist. a cause. If this essence (dhat), which is
the source of the cause of determination, remained as it is, before and
after determination, without assuming any sort of new factor, inclination
(da'i) or interest (ma$/al)a) , a generated cause must be assumed in the
essence (if this essence is an agent) in order to determine the possible. Or
else the relation (nisba) of this essence with the possible would remain as
it was and a new relation will not emerge. The possible, therefore, would
remain as a mere possibility in itself.•.:28

Ibn Sins adds that we cannot presuppose generation (I)udüth) without

assuming a generated factor in the essence of the tirst principle, whether the

generation has occurred by nature or by will.:29 Besides, Ibn Sins accused the

Mutakallimün of holding the same view as the negators of God's attributes

because of their belief in creation out of nothing, despite the fact that they did not

justify their position by arguing that God had created the universe at a definite

moment of time without any change in His essence. JO

1ndeed, the philosophy of the kalâm heId in regard to the question of

creation that everything which begins ta exist must have a cause, and as long as

the entire universe began to exist, the entire universe, therefore, must have a

cause. JI The questions that can be raised here, and that were actually raised by

the Muslim philosophers, as weil as Ibn Taymiyya, are: Why did God delay in

creating the world although He is the etemally powerful agent, and what

happened or emerged inside His essence that motivated Him to create after He

had not been creating?

The early Ash-arites maintained that the determinant (murajjil) is the will

of God. AI-Ghazali is considered the tirst to equate the term "determinant' with

the term -cause', as we have seen in the second chapter. As a matter of fad,

• Muslim philosophers like "AI-Kindi3:! (d. 251/866), al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, and Ibn

TufaylJJ (d. 58211185) ail accept as self-evident the principle that whatever exists

after nat having existed needs sorne producing cause. "34 But in each view the

mast comman answer used by the Mutakallimün, even byal-Ghazali, is that the

universe came ta be by means of an eternal will that entailed its existence at the

moment of its existence. Nothingness ("adam) continued until it reached its end,

when the universe began ta exist. 35 This answer, obviously, did not satisfy either

Ibn Rushd or Ibn Taymiyya because it does not comprehend the essential and

unavoidable question, Le., what emerged in Gocfs essence that motivated Him to


The Mutakallimün denied the eternity of the universe and denied as weil

the assumption of the emergence of any new factor in God's essence that

motivated Him to create. This double denial required Muslim theologians ta affirm

the theory of creation out of nothing without supplying a convincing answer ta the


For the philosophers, the only appropriate response was to remove any

interval of time between Gad's existence and the existence of the world. Since it

is impossible ta assume generation (1)udüth) out of an absolutely etemal and

simple being, the assumption of the generation of the universe implies two

possibilities: either ta admit that a determinant had emerged and then caused the

existence of the world, and that would lead ta another question: who generated


• the determinant and why did he generate it at this time and not another? Or to

hold that the universe forever remains a pure possibility.37

The Mutakallimün did not explain the determinative cause for the

existence of the universe because any expianation would entail the assumption

of an infinite series of causes. The determinant cause needs to be caused by

another cause in order to be justified and explained. And this in turn needs

another one, and so the series goes on ad infinitum. 3M Such a cause, therefore.

was decided in an arbitrary way in order to avoid the difficulty of admitting a

series of intinite causes. The impossibility of such an infinite series of causes

(secondary causes or essential causes) was held by the philosophers, as weil, on

the grounds of Aristotelian philosophy. which strictly asserted that any series of

causes must be terminated at a detinite cause (the Unmovable Mover) that

stands as a tirst cause for ail other causes and effects. 39

Another tradition in philosophy, represented by the prominent figure John

Philoponus, the grammarian (Yat,ya al-Nat:1wi),"o refuted Aristotle's argument of

the eternity of the world and held that the universe must have a beginning. In the

Islamic intellectual tradition the philosopher al-Kindi and the Mutakallimün

maintained this view. AI-Ghazali argued that the philosophers admitted, on the

one hand, a series of causes and effects, that is the heavenly bodies, but on the

other have they arbitrarily decided to terminate this chain at a definite cause they

called the First Cause. This was, for al-Ghazali, a self-contradictory and arbitrary


• stance since nothing explains why the philosophers did not go on with this series

and assume more than ten causes (the heavenly spheres).-41

Although Ibn Taymiyya did not agree with the philosophers' theory of

creation, he adopted, for the most part, their criticism of the Mutakallimün with

respect to the determinant cause. Ibn Taymiyya used the term determination

(tarj;l) to name the action or performance of this cause. And he repeatedly

invoked the kalam' s theory of creation as a determination without determinant

(taf)7fJ bila muraiiil)~2 as being equivalent to the Mutakallimün ·s assumption of

generation without a generated cause (!Judüth bila sabab 1)adith),-43 or to their

assumption of the determinant cause without an explanation of what caused this

cause ta begin its act of determination.

Ibn Sïna and the philosophers, in the course of refuting the kalam's view,

troubled the Mutakallimün by confronting them with two choices: either to admit

the notion of God as a sufficient cause and its corollary, the eternity of the world,

or to hold the theory of determination without determinant. 44

The Mutakallimün. however, were perplexed because they could not agree

with the philosophers' assumption of the eternity of the world, nor could they

assume that there is another cause behind the determinant cause. for this would

imply an unthinkable notion: admitting the infinity of a series of causes. Both

notions (the eternity of the world and an infinite series of causes) were anathema

to the Mutakallimün's philosophical foundations. which are the premise of the

• creation out of nothing by means of the uncaused free will of Gad. on the one

• hand, and the premise that "-what is not free trom generation is generated". on

the other hand. Any presupposition of a new factor that emerged in God and

motivated Him to create would mean that this factor would have had to occur in

God's essence. God's essence, therefore, would be a substrate of generation,

and thus a generated being.';5

It is astonishing to find a Muslim thinker who breaks with these

imponderable foundations and establishes a new line of thought, the first concem

of which is to build a coherent system that could overcome the outstanding

defects that both philosophy and the kalâm suffered from.

Besides his new terminology, Ibn Taymiyya gave a different meaning to

the vocabularies that were commonly in use before him. Thus, when we find Ibn

Taymiyya harshly attacking the kalam's terminology in the name of religion,';(, he

does not intend to discard the entire philosophy of the kalàm; rather, he wants to

tUfn his reader"s attention, implicitly or explicitly, to the fact that the kalâm,

because of its way of thinking, proved its inability to defend rationally the doctrine

of Islam, especially the notion of the unity of Gad and creation:n

Ibn Taymiyya believed that the true meaning of causality and hence of

creation could not be established without deconstructing the kalàm's foundations

of thought-mainly the principles mentioned above, creation ex nihilo,4S the

impossibility of infinity"~9 and the principle that ·what is not free trom generation is

generated'·so. Ibn Taymiyya, in his criticism of the kalam. actually used many

• philosophical themes borrowed trom Muslim philosophers.


• 2. The Eternitv of God's Attributes Necessitates the Etemifv of


2. 1. The Temporal Relation of Cause and Effect

As it is weil known, al-Ghazali, in his Tahafut al-Fa/asifa, charged the

philosophers with unbelief because of three doctrines they held; the eternity of
the world is one ofthem. The early Mutakallimün, despite their great differences

in regard to the relation between the eternal God's attributes and the temporality

of the world, agreed that Gad created the world out of nothing. They believed in

eternal attributes, but without their abjects and content being eternal.

The dispute among the Mutakallimün about whether certain attributes

belong to the essential or to the action attributes discloses the ontological

dilemma of the kalâm. as we have seen in the tirst chapter. But even those who

believed in the etemity of sorne attributes that other kalam schools insisted were

temporal, maintained, like their opponents, that the connection between these

attributes and their objects could not be understood in terms of causality and


The Maturidite school unlike the Mu"tazilites and the Ash"ames, heId that

the attribute of creation (~ifat al-khalq) is essential not an attribute of action


(fi"/iyya). God must have it etemally.52 But this doctrine does not campel the

Mâturidites to say that the created abjects must be produced etemally.53


• The assumption of the etemity of Gocfs attributes does not mean that

these attributes necessarily produce their objects. 5-' Rather, the relation between

the two sides, the attributes and their content, is not philosophical; it is due to

God's decree, which cannot be interpreted in terms of causality.

Ibn Taymiyya did not hesitate to accuse these schools of holding the

doctrine of abstraction of God ,·ta·("~55 and more or less belonging to the Jahmite

school of theology. which represents the extreme position of ta' t]f.56 1n order to

describe the kalam"s theory of the relation between God"s attributes and their

abjects as being non-causal, he used the term tamkhï: loosening, easing,


Ibn Taymiyya refused both the kalam's and philosophy's conceptions with

respect to creation and causality. His theory of the relation between cause and

effect, genera and species and their individuals, as he repeatedly asserts, must

postulate a temporal relation. An effect is neither concomitant with nor loosened

(la muqarina wa-Ia mutarakhiyya) from a cause. 58 Recent studies in modern

English philosophy describe the relation between cause and effect in the same

language that Ibn Taymiyya has used, ~·tt~~re is no gap between cause and

effect nor are they simultaneous. ,.59

Both philosophy and the kalàm, according to Ibn Taymiyya, ignored time in

their theories of creation. The Mutakallimün did not accept the notion of creation

in time because this notion would require them to admit the prior and the

posterior (qabl wa-ba"d), and then they would not be able to answer the question

• of whether or not God in His eternity was with nothing.

The philosophers refuted

the kalam"s rejection of time on the ground that the rejection of time is self-

contradictory and unthinkable because Gad did not create the universe from

eternity and then at a definite moment create the universe. 61 Ibn Taymiyya, in

turn, wonders how the philosophers could have committed the same mistake and

removed any temporal distance between cause and effect. Muslim philosophers~

belief in the coevality between Gad (the First Cause) and His effect (the universe)

is self-contradictory as weil, according to Ibn Taymiyya. The examples offered by

the philosophers in order to justify this coevality between the cause and its effect
are contrary ta reason.

As for the most frequently used example, that is, the movement of hand

and ring, Ibn Taymiyya argued that this example is invalid since it is an arbitrary

argument to have the hand in this example as an efficient cause and the

movement of the ring as its effect. Actually, the hand and the ring are moved

because of an agent, who is different from both of them; the hand, therefore, is

just a condition of the movement of the ring but under every consideration is not

its efficient cause. fI.3

The effect always follows its cause after a short interval. This interval does

not disconnect effect from cause. On the contrary, both are linked to each other

in terms of consequence and necessary consecutiveness. Whenever the cause

is, its effect cornes necessarily and immediately after it. 64 Time is no more than

• the period that the effect takes to be born. Time is not emploYed in order to

reduce the importance of the notion of necessity, but rather to deconstruet the

• element of concomitance in the philosophers' notion of causality. Pain cornes

after being hit warmth after heat, created things after creation, broken things
after breaking, women become divorced after the action of divorce, and so on.

This concept of causality, Ibn Taymiyya believed, completely accords with

what our senses affirm, namely, that created things come successively one after

another (shay' ba-da shay') or consecutivelyh6 (tasa/su/). By contrast, the

philosophers- notion of causality leads to the assertion that the universe existed a

priori and has always already been accomplished.

2.2. The Eternitv of Creation Accord. with God'. Action Beina Volitional

Ibn Taymiyya strongly believed that his conception of causation, which

insists on the consecutiveness of effect ta cause, is the only true conception by

which both the notion of God as a volitional agent and the notion of necessity can

be affirmed. Moreover, this conception allows Ibn Taymiyya, as he stated on

many occasions, to put the notion of generation (I)udüth) in its right context by

keeping in mind that Gad is eternally active. No concrete and sensible being can

be coeval with God: rather, it cornes after sorne period oftime. The universe is

eternal and coeval with God only on the level of genera and species. 6i

Maintaining the notion of the divine as a volitional agent and as etemally

active required Ibn Taymiyya to answer the question that the Mutakallimün in the

early and later periods were not able to answer, namely the cause that motivated

• God to create the universe when He possesses an etemal will. 68


• Although Ibn Taymiyya believed that God's attributes are united with

God"s essence and rejected the Ash"arites' formula (neither Gad nor other than

He). he constantly maintained that each attribute is different from the others;69

thus. power cannot be confused with knowledge. hearing is not lite, and so on.

These attributes do not produce themselves automatically. The will of Gad

functions as a producer for each attribute to give birth to its individuals (alJad). He
held that attributes cannot produce themselves by virtue of themselves because

this would correspond to the philosophers" theory of creation and would lead as

weil to their conception of neœssity whereby cause and effect are simultaneous

and there is no place for the will of God. 70 The will of God in its raie as

intermediary factor between the attributes and their products functions in a

determined and logical contexte

One should be aware of the great difference between this sort of

philosophy and the kalam"s theory of Goefs will and power. The majority of

Islamic theological schools. and especially, the Mu"tazilites. the Ash"arites and

the Maturïdites, in arder to defend the free action and will of God. allowed one to

believe, for instance. that God could produce any animal tram the human being!s
sperm. or could produce wheat from a stone. This kind ofthinking is completely

rejected by Ibn Taymiyya. since every species produces only what logically

belongs to it: man"s sperm produces man. the egg produces the bird. the seed

produces the trae and the tree produces the fruit.ï:! The will of God is thus an

• extemal factor motivating the genera and species to produce themselves. to

actualize and generate them.


• Ibn Taymiyya, in some places, identifies Gocfs will, power and the

imperative "Be" (kun) as the three attributes that represent the action (fi·f) by
which God creates or determines His attributes, i.e., the genera and species.

The statement that "God is everlastingly acting, the volitional actions subsist in

His essence by virtue of His will and power,·i4 is frequently used and emphatically

repeated by Ibn Taymiyya.

2.3. The Real Agent 15 He Whose Actions Reside in Himself

Ibn Taymiyya's theory of creation presents a real challenge for any reader

since it presented such a challenge to its inventor himself. Many questions must

be answered philosophically, keeping in mind the major premises that Ibn

Taymiyya proceeded from: e.g., tirst, there are no secondary causes; second, the

attributes of Gad are the means whereby Gad creates; third, the relation between

cause and effect is neither simultaneous nor extended.

The major philosophical question Ibn Taymiyya's theory presents is, how

far is it possible to combine the causation force and the activity of God's will, and

in that case what are the implications or philosophical difficulties of this theory?

God's attributes, as already mentioned, do not produce themselves by

virtue of themselves; the will or power of God, rather, is brought into play as a

cause generating (determining) these attributes. i5

Once the will causes any attribute to be determined, this causation is

• called an action (fi·f). When, therefore, Ibn Taymiyya says that nothing subsists in

God's essence but actions and utterances (af al wa-aqwal)i6 he means those

• actions of the determination of the attributes by virtue of the will and power in His

essence. These actions can be considered attributes as weil, and can be given

the names of the attributes that they are derived from, e.g. creation (khalq) ,

knowledge, etc. Also, we have to distinguish here between these attributes as

genera, on the one hand, and as particular actions of God, on the other hand. But

in either case they are called attributes, whether at the genus or the action

The action or the determined attribute as a conceptual entity must have

occurred or been generated in God's essence. God cannot be predicated as

agent if His actions do not subsist in His essence, in the same way as He cannot

be predicated by the rest of the attributes if they are not subsist in Him. It is

unreasonable, for Ibn Taymiyya, for a being to be attributed by an attribute if this

attribute does not subsist in the being's self. God cannot be attributed as speaker

(mutakal/im) if the attribute of speech does not subsist in Him, nor can he be alive

if the attribute of lite does not subsist in His essence, nor can he be knowing, if

knowledge does not subsist in His essence, nor can he be an agent it action does
not subsist in His essence.

Ibn Taymiyya's new terminology must be noted here. The statement that

"1he agent"s actions must abide in himself' (al-fa"il man qSma bihi al-fi"f) is a

revolutionary one that separates Ibn Taymiyya from many Muslim theological

• schools since this statement admits that generated entities would reside in God's

essence, because they belong to this essence. This is far from the Mutakallimün

• axiom that the actions of God must be generated in time and outside of God's

essence in order to keep this essence pure from any possible change. 79

The other thing we should note here is that the difference between

attribute as genus and attribute as action is quite different trom the kalam's

doctrine. For the Mu-tazilites and Ash"arites, the difference is based on having

the essential attributes and action attributes as two strictly different kinds of

attributes. The tirst are eternal. while the second are temporal. 80 Ibn Taymiyya. on

the contrary, believed that the difference is not based on dividing God's attributes

into two kinds, but on maintaining ail God's attributes as passing from being

eternal species into determined actions generated in God's essence. But the

attribute is still the same attribute in bath cases. The difference between these

two stages is to be found in the ontological context Ibn Taymiyya is trying to

establish: namely, the action attribute is the determined attribute that becomes

ready. philosophically speaking, to be embodied outside of Gad. Many different

names were given to such created material things: e.g., created (makhIDq) ,

enacted (mafü/).MI

2. 4. God'. Aetion as an OntoloGie.lly Independent Intermediarv Link

God-s action. as we have already seen, is the determination of the

attributes in God's essence. This action is Goers attribute and represents an

intermediary stage between the attribute as genus and the sensible thing that

• would be produced outside of Gael. Ibn Taymiyya repeatedly emphasizes the


• importance of distinguishing between three things: the Agent (Fa" il), the action

(fi"/) and the created thing (marü/).S2

The grave mistake that many MutakallimOn, particularly the Ash"arites,

made was their identification between the action of Gad and the created thing

(a/-fi"1 wa '/-marü/). This led them to believe that what a human being is doing is

the action of God, or to say that the action of the individual is the action of God,

without separating these two. Gad, therefore, could be described by His separate

created things (marü/atihl) considered as God's actions, and not by His actions

as residing in Himself. This implies that God could be described by every ugly
and bad action He, so to speak, created in the world.

The attribute of action, or the determined conceptual entity in God"s

essence, is a crucial theme in Ibn Taymiyya's thought. As an intermediary stage

the action or determined attribute prevents the created concrete entity from being

coeval with God in time, and it articulates by necessity as weil the agent with His

created things without describing Gad or making Him possess what His creatures

have. Gad is transcendent by means of being separate from created things and

as described by His own attributes as being prior to the created phenomenal

world. 1H

The generation of these actions or the production of the detennined

attributes in God"s essence does not affect, for Ibn Taymiyya, the transcendence

of Gad. The best synonymous term for the transcendence of Gad, for Ibn

• Taymiyya, is eternity, which means that Gad is not preceded by anything else,

while every thing other than Gad is preceded by Gad and His attributes:

• Etemity means the beginningless and infinite. Our saying God is

everlastingly powerful means that God is always powerful. This description
of "powerful' is an eternal description and has no beginning. The same
holds true for our saying that He is everlastingly speaking if He wills and
everlastingly acting if He wills. Ali these descriptions necessitate that He is
eternally speaking and acting by means of His will and power. Any thought
whereby one might imagine that there is something else eternal besides
God is false. There is nothing eternal but Him. If somebody argues that
God is eternally creating, the implication of this saying is that God is
eternally creating creature by creature (makhlDq ba"da makhlDq) as God
would remain creating for an eternal future as weil (abad). God as an
eternal agent creating by virtue of His will does not mean that any of His
created things can be etemal with Him. M5

The transcendance of God cannot be theorized by holding, as did the

Mutakallimün, the theory of creation ex nihilo. Nor can it be theorized by negating

any description or attributes of God and making Him an abstract idea, as did the

philosophers. The real transcendence is to be found in asserting God·s eterniti

and in affirming that every other concrete entity is generated and produced

outside of the essence of God.

The other aspect that Ibn Taymiyya understands by the transcendence of

God is the notion of perfection. The Seing who acts eternally and who possasses

His entire attributes etemally, who knows, even though His knowledge

encompasses the three moments of development of a thing, past, present, and

future, this being is more perfect than any other being that does not aet and does

not possess its entire attributes etemally. 86

Ibn Taymiyya strictly distinguishes between two levels in existence: the

Divine which includes God's attributes in both stages, the genera and the

• determined actions (afal mu-ayyana),87 and whatever falls outside of God. He


• decisively asserts that everything that abides in God's essence is not create(i.

The term generated (/Jadith) , nevertheless, must be used to describe the actions

emerging in God" s essence, while the term created (makhlüq)89 must be used

exclusively to describe the material created thing outside Gad. 90 This distinction is

illustrated by two terms: the adherent actions (atSIISzima) that reside in God's

essence; and the relational actions (atSI muta;' addiya), whose efficacy

necessarily extends outside of God. These two sorts of actions represent two
sorts of existence, the divine and the material universe.

Ibn Taymiyya, who completely rejected any sort of eternity of determined

beings other than Gad, such as the spheres, gave the actions of God the

transitional raie between the genera and species and the created universe

outside of God. One may venture ta assume that ";,atSI ISzima", which belong to

the Divine, are presupposed and described in order to provide an alternative to

the philosophers' intelligences, since both God's actions and the intelligences

play an intermediary role between two different kinds of beings, Divine and

worldly. These actions are caused, according to Ibn Taymiyya's concept of

causality, which makes the effect come after a while trom the cause. The

essence of Gad, therefore, and its attributes are eternally prior to anything else,

including the action attributes generated in God's essence. 92

One may notice that Ibn Taymiyya is advancing a particular theory of

Gad"s unity. This theory is never thought apart trom the operation of creation.

• Bath Gad"s unity and the creation of the world are essentially interwoven. The

• requirements of a coherent system of ontology drove Ibn Taymiyya to focus on

solidifying philosophically his theory of creation.

By admitting generation in God's essence, Ibn Taymiyya is responding to

an ontological question about the relation between the unity of Gad and creation

that had arisen in antiquity.

aaçiï 'Abd al-Jabbar (d. 415/1025), the Mu·tazilite thinker, postulated that

creation would imply a change in Go(fs knowledge since at the moment of

creation God would require a new item of knowledge, the knowledge that the

world does exisl. This change seems very necessary for other thinkers, or else ail

creation would be impossible. The argument is that on the assumption of

creation, the cause of the universe, or the deity, would enter into a new

relationship; for before creation He would not have had a relation to the universe,

whereas subsequently He would. But a change in the creator's relationship to the

world would entail a change in Himself, which is an impossibility. Consequently,

creation is an impossibility. 93

1n sum, it was argued that creation would imply a change in the cause of

the universe, or a change in His will, or in His knowledge, or in His relationship to

the world; but a change of any sort is impossible in the cause of the universe;

therefore the creation of the world is impossible. 94

Ibn Taymiyya did not hesitate to take the position of admitting change in

Gad's essence as the only answer ta the relation between God and creation.

• Inasmuch as Gad can be held to be the only etemal being and the only agent,

change in His essence can be allowed 1 especially since the change does not

• necessitate any sort of corruption of Gad"s Seing. Rather, this change, or

generation in God"s essence, explains and philosophically justifies how Gad

creates the world and how He is regarded as being etemally active.

Corruption happens with respect to the material beings whose destiny is to

be transformed from potentiality into actuality and to decline during this

transformation. On the contrary, what happens in Gad"s essence is a different

sort of operation, it is the actualization of forms, being transformed from their

most general status, Le., as genera and species, into more determined forms.

This preparation of the forms is by way of introduction to bestowing these forms

upon the empirical world. This is why Ibn Taymiyya refused to cali the actions of

God created.

3. A Different ADproach to the Notion of the Etemitv of Creation

3. 1. Eternitv is a Beainninale•• Action of God

The eternity of creation was a topie of heated debate among thinkers, both

pre-Islamic and Islamic. Most probably, Ibn Taymiyya was acquainted with this
discussion through al-Shahrastanfs book Nihayat al-lqdSm, where Proclus (c.

410-485) is depieted as believing that the etemity of the universe must be

assumed because of the etemity of God"s actions.

The influence of the adherents of the etemity of the world was not

restricted to Proclus only. Walzer believes that John Philoponus provided sorne

• Muslim thinkers, especially al-Ghazali, with arguments against Aristotelian

doctrine of the etemity of the world. The Muslim philosophers who adhered to the

• theory of the eternity of the world, like al-Farabi (d. 339/950), were familiar with
the refutation that Simplicius directed against Philoponus. AI-FarAbi's work The

Refutation of John Philoponus on the Matters on which he Refuted Aristotle (AI-

Radd -a/a Ya1)ya a/-Na1)wïfima Radda bihi -a/a Aris(ütans) points out al-Farabi's

familiarity with Simplicius" work. 'Hl

Proclus, as refracted through the Arabic translation,99 maintains the

eternity of the world as being the obvious result of the doctrine of the eternal

generosity of Gad. : ~l

The proof for eternity from the deity"s eternal attributes, generosity,

knowledge, power and 50 forth, exhibits a number of variations. In each variation

an eternal attribute of God is shown to express itself eternally in the existence of

the world-God"s knowledge, His wisdom, His perfection in generai-ail being

brought inta play as grounds for etemity. Here the contention is that Gad!s

eternal wisdom and knowledge would require Him to produce the world eternally.

Proclus, who philosophized the notion of the etemity of the world by

means of the eternity of God"s actions or generosity, affirmed that God must be

actual and unchangeable, although the unchangeability is impossible to prove. lUI

Ibn Taymiyya, who learned from al-Shahrastani's exposition of Proclus!

philosophy in Nihayat a/-lqdSm, went to the ultimate conclusions the question of

ontology requires in arder to suggest answers to the metaphysical problem of the

unchangeablity of God. According to al-Shahrastani, Proclus believed:

• That the Creator (al-Ban") was essentially generous; the cause of the
world"s existence was His generosity; and His generously was etemal.

• Therefore the world is eternal. He could not be generous at one time and
not generous at another, for that would involve alteration in His essence.
There could be no impediment in the way of emanation of His generosity,
for if there were, His generosity would not result from His essence,
because an essential restraint would operate etemally, whereas
generosity of the production of things has been established. And if the
restraint came from an external source, that source would be the impelling
force of the necessarily existent One who cannot be impelled to aet or
restrained from acting.ll):!

AI-Shahrastani continues with a criticism of this philosophy:

Further he [Proclus] said that the Creator (al-~ani·) must either have
created eternally in aetu or in potentia. If the former, then the created is
caused eternally; if the later, the potential cannot emerge into the aetual
without external aid which must be other than the essence of the thing
itself, so it follows that the Creator's essence must change, and that is
false. (II}

According to Ibn Taymiyya, the answers to the problem of creation are

limited in the history of philosophy. The basic two answers are, tirst, to assume

that God created in aetu from which il follows that the coexistence of cause and

effect is inevitable or, secondly, to deprive God of the ability to aet eternaUy.

Ibn Taymiyya admitted the eternal creation of the world and the necessity

of change in the essence of God. He found a solution of the philosophical

problem in the assertion that God~s creation is causal and a necessary transition

from the genera and determined actions. Ibn Taymiyya gives his theory a fully

rational explanation by asserting the etemal action of God~s attributes, and

having these attributes as the most general universals giving etemally the forms

to things being transformed trom potency to actuality. 104

• 3. 2. The Inevitable Admission of Generation in Gad'. E. .ence


• Ibn Taymiyya differentiated between two sorts of generation (fJudüth): the

genus of generation (jins aJ-lJawadith) and the generation of a partieular accident.

He agrees with the principle of the Mutakallimün that 'what is not free and does

not precede generation is generated,"' as long as this prineiple is applied to a

particular accident. But Ibn Taymiyya rejected generalizing such premises and

maintaining them ta be validly applicable to every sort of generation. IOS The

conceptual generation, or the genus of generation, on the contrary, does not

entail generation of the substrate. The grave mistake and the root of ail kalamic

confusion, according to Ibn Taymiyya, is to be found in generalizing this prineiple

and considering it true for every kind of generation. 106

Ibn Taymiyya was obviously influenced in regard to this important

philosophieal principle by the Muslim philosophers and partieularly by Ibn Rushd,

who dedicated a long passage in his aJ-Kashf· an Manahij a/-Adilla to refuting the

kalam"s thesis of generation. Ibn Rushd says that the prineiple of the

Mutakallimün is true if a particular accident like this black (hadha a/-sawsd) is

meant. But if the genus of generation is meant. the Mutakallimûn prineiple is

false, since what is not frae tram the genus of generation does not necessitate

the generation of the substrate. One can imagine an infinite number of

generations trom the same substrate without assuming that this substrate is

generated, as in our assuming the infinite movement of a body. lOi

Ibn Rushd tried in his criticism of the Mutakallimûn by refuting their

• doctrine of generation to justify his doctrine of the etemal renewal of the

movement of the spheres and to demonstrate his belief in the etemity of time and

• movement.lll~ He means by the term genus of generation vins al-l)awSdith) the

genus of time and the genus of movement, since the heavenly spheres form a

substrate of the infinite and eternal renewal of movement and time, though these

spheres are not preceded by nothing. 104

Ibn Taymiyya, in turn, would consider ail God-s attributes as genera and

species. Their eternal generation, therefore, does not mean that their substrate is

This theory was attacked, however, and criticized by theologians

contemporary to Ibn Taymiyya and was shocking to Muslims, whose belief in Gad

cannot be compromised by the notion of generation in God"s essence, whatever

this generation may be. ! Il

This approach is different from that of the Karramites, whose doctrine of

generated attributes in God-s essence was based on the same premises other

schools of the kalam held. Indeed, the Karramites believed God-s will to be

generated in God-s essence, but this school was, despite this theme, very close

to the Ash"arites and Mu"tazilites, ail of whom believed in creation ex nihilo. The

Karrâmites maintained that Gad was etemally without will and speech until he

created will and speech for Himself in His essence. Gad, for them, was not

originally willing until he created in His essence will (ilJdSth fi l-dhSt). 112

This thesis is very similar to that of Jahm who insisted that God was

eternally without knowledge until He created knowledge for Himself. The

• Karrâmites, however, differed in their thesis that the will is created in God~s

• essence and not outside of Him, but they still believed that God is not etemally

willing. 113 For Ibn Taymiyya, this theory means that the genus of God's attributes

Uins al-$ifst) is created, while what is required is to affirm the eternity of the genus

of the attributes despite the fact that their individuals are renewed and generated

eternally, without beginning and end.

Even though there was this essential difference between Ibn Taymiyya

and the Karramites, Ibn Taymiyya agreed with the Karramites on the doctrine of

God"s being a substrate of generation, since Ibn Taymiyya believed that this

doctrine is the only solution for the differences among the Muslim sects. Muslims,

according to Ibn Taymiyya, could not deny this tenet and implicitly or explicitly

admitted. He quoted Fakhr al-Din al-Razfs (d. 606/1209) book al-Arba"ïn ff U$ûl

al-Dïn, which mentions that many Muslims confessed in one way or another

generation in God"s essence. Indeed, al-Razi writes:

Sorne people say that most reasonable people believe in this doctrine (that
God"s essence is a substrate of generation). The Mu"tazilites Abu "Ali al-
Jubba"i, his son Abu Hashim and their followers maintained that Gad wills
by virtue of a will generated in time in no substrate, hates disobedience by
virtue of a hate generated in time in no substrate.... Vet the Mu"tazilites
did not use the term generation in Gocfs essence (/Judiith ff dhat Allah);
rather, they used the term renewed (yatajaddad) , but this a mere verbal
difference. Abu al-l:iusayn al-Ba$rT, (the Mu"tazilite thinker), affirms a
renewable knowledge in God~s essence corresponding to the renewable
information. The Ash"arites believed in abrogation (naskh) , and they
interpreted it as cancellation of a particular judgment and replacing it with
another. This is a clear admission of a change happening in God's
essence.... On the other hand, they (the Ash"arïtes) believed that Gad's
knowledge is one, and this knowledge has a certain nexus with a thing
before its occurrence in the future. This nexus would be changed after the
occurrence of that thing and would become a nexus with that thing as

• having already happened. However, this is a clear admission in the

change of nexus. Moreover, the Ash"arïtes said that the power of Gad has
an eternal nexus with a particular thing and that this nexus would be

• removed after the thing came into existence. The same holds true in
regard to the Ash·arites~ theory of determination (tSIJ7IJ). Since the etemal
will has a particular nexus with a thing that will occur at a definite time, this
nexus would vanish after the thing occurred or became determinant.
Furthermore, we agree [with the Ash"arites] that ma"dum (a thing
before its creation) cannot be sean or heard, but after God creates colors
and sounds. this thing could be seen and heard. And this constitutes an
admission of change of nexus.... God, as a matter of fact, sees the thing
before its creation as nothing and sees the thing after its creation as
existent. And this change proves once again what we have already
mentioned ....
Abü al-Barakat al-Baghdadi, one of the subtlest philosophers in the
later period, admits as weil in his book al-Mu"tabarthat God~s will and
knowledge constantly change in God~s essence. Abû al-Barakat claims
that we cannot imagine Gad as a Creator without admitting this doctrine of
change in His essence. Glorifying and transcending God this way is

ln ail his writings Ibn Taymiyya repeatedly expresses his admiration for

both the Mu·tazilite thinker Abû al-tiusayn al-Ba~riI15(d. 436/1044) and the

philosopher Abû al-Barakat al-Baghdadi t '''(died in Baghdad after 560/1164-5),

were the clearest examples of Muslims who insisted on the fact of the essence of

God as a substrate of generation. He also admired some sects of the Shi·a who

belonged, according to him, to those who believed in change in God's essence.

There are numerous occurrences of the phrase ··some Shi'f' and the term

"Hishamiyya,,~"i which was most probably used to point to Hisham b. al-ttakam

who believed in generation in God's essence llK and whose name was employed

to indicate that his thought is not mere invention, but was rather admitted and

adopted by a huge number of Muslims and sects. 119

• Ibn Taymiyya, in looking for support for his theory, employed as weil the

Muslim philosophers' arguments concerning the movement of the spheres.


• These spheres according to the philosophers are eternal and uncorrupted

entities, although they are eternally accompanied by change by virtue of eternal

movement. 12U

3. 3. The Example of God's Knowledge and the Incoherence of the Kallm's

and Philosophy's Positions

Ibn Taymiyya tried to show that Muslim philosophers, too, were confused

about the relation between God' s knowledge as being stable and one and the

world as being changing and multiple. Ibn Rushd, who criticized the Mutakallimün

for their confused position on the same issue, did not advance, according to Ibn

Taymiyya, a different solution to this topic.

Indeed, Ibn Rushd in his Manahij al·Adilla confuted the Mutakallimün's

point of view on the relation between God~s knowledge and the changing world.

He maintained that '1he Mutakallimün believed that God knows the generated

thing by virtue of etemal knowledge", which is completely wrong for Ibn Rushd

because this doctrine implies that God's knowledge would remain the same,

without any change before and after the existence of a thing. It is impossible to

hold that Gad 's knowledge is absolutely the same both: before creation and after

creation. 121

Ibn Rushd goes further and argues against the Mutakallimün fundamental

principle, '''any knowledge that changes in parallel to the world's changing is

• absolutely generated knowledge; but God is not a substrate of generation,

because what is not frae from generation is generated." Ibn Rushd rejected the

• Mutakallimün's attempt to describe Gocrs knowledge as either eternal or

generated because for him this description is false and an innovation (bict a) in

Islam. l22

Ibn Rushd explains that both definitions and descriptions of Gocfs

knowledge are insufficient. God"s knowledge is neither etemal, because eternity

means that God-s knowledge would remain the same before and after the

existence of a thing, which is absurd, nor is it generated, because generation

means that God"s knowledge changes, which is impossible. God-s knowledge

therefore cannat be described as either etemal or generated. l23

ln addition, Ibn Rushd rejects al-Ghazalrs suggestion about the relation

between God-s knowledge and changing things that the latter expressed in his

book Tahafut al-Fa/asifa by saying that the connection between the two sides

must be described as relational (içlafa). Ibn Rushd argues that this assumption is

not convincing because içlafa entails change in knowledge but not in the object

known. Ibn Rushd iIIustrates this by saying that if we assume something posited

on the left side of Zayd and this thing has been moved to the right side, the

knowledge about this thing must be changed, whereas zayd himself does not


Ibn Rushd, therefore, insisted that the only alternative is to hold that the

basic difference between God~s knowledge and man~s knowledge must be based

on the nature of each kind of knowledge. The difference between Gocrs

• knowledge and man ~s knowledge is that Gad's knowledge is the cause of a

thing"s coming into existence while man's knowledge is a mere reflection of


• things already existing. The former kind of knowledge is a creative whereas the

latter is passive and receptive. Ali the confusion has come tram the

Mutakallimün's belief in the analogy between the transcendent and the sensible

worrds. God"s knowledge, on the contrary, must be dealt with as different since

we should not ask how God knows changing things and we should not

understand God"s knowledge by means of our wortdry experience (bila taky11).I15

Actually, Ibn Rushd even rejects Ibn Sins"s thesis that God knows the

particulars in a universal way. He considers Ibn Sina~s position not to be

Peripatetic. God. rather, knows everything, both universals and particulars, but

man is not able to know how God knows and is not allowed to interpret this

relation or to ask how God knows. 127

50. one can easily observe that neither the Mutakallimün nor the

philosophers formulated a convincing answer congenial to both philosophy and

the religion of Islam. The Mutakallimün affirmed a sort of arbitrary relation

between God"s knowledge and the created world by using the ambiguous term

nexus (ta-alluq). although they implicitly admitted change in God's judgments and

knowledge, as al-Rizi pointed out.

The philosophers, in turn, attempted to avoid any position on the same

problem, as can be seen in Ibn Sins~s denial of God's knowing particulars 128 and

in Ibn Rushd's cali for not suggesting any formulation of the relation between

• God"s knowledge and changing things. Ibn Rushd instead, in his distinctions

• between God"s knowledge as creative, the things generated from it, and man's

knowledge, ignores Gad"s will and power, as Ibn Taymiyya pointed OUt. 129

3.4. Ibn Taymivya's Position on God's Knowledge

For Ibn Taymiyya God"s knowledge is one and many at the same time. It

is one in its state as genus and eternal, while it is many in its eternally generating,

endlessly different kinds of knowledge by virtue of Gad"s will. God's knowledge is

continually renewing itself in parallel to the everlasting generation of things. The

everlasting renewal of information does not affect the unity and eternity of the

attribute of knowledge, since the attribute of knowledge as a genus would remain

one despite the multiplicity of its content.

Both Ibn Sïna and Ibn Rushd believed that God"s knowledge creates and

produces things known to God, and they had in mind when they stated this tenet

that the knowledge is a genus that endlessly actualizes things known to God. Un

But for Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sïna, knowledge would generate things by virtue of

itself, while Ibn Taymiyya in spite of his agreement, for the most part, with the

philosophers' doctrine of God's knowledge as being creative and productive, 131

gave the agent and His attribute of will their role to play. He discusses this matter

at length by dealing with Ibn Sïna's theory that Gad knows the particulars in a

universal way.

Ibn Taymiyya does not rejed everything that Ibn 5ïna advanced, rather he

• seems to have attempted to find sorne common ground for his theory of Gad's

knowledge and Ibn Sïnâ's. He focuses on Ibn 5ïna's belief that '"the Necessary

• Being must intellect Himself by virtue of Himself, and then intellect what cornes

after sinœ He is the principle of what comes after and its provider of existence.

God, therefore, would comprehend the entire things that were neœssitated in

descending arder vertically and horizontally.",IJ2

Ibn Taymiyya comments that Gad's knowledge is concomitant with God's

Self (min lawazim dhatihl); it is not generated for it is passive. Rather, God's

knowledge is due to His essence, and the created things due to His knowledge.

So the premise that Gad knows Himself would necessarily entail that He knows

ail His creation, is a true one. 13J

Ibn Taymiyya agrees then with Ibn Sïna on two of his essential premises:

God·s knowledge is the cause of other beings" existing and God's knowledge of

Himself means God knows everything of which He is the principle.

ln order to enhance his agreement with the philosophers and contribute te

their belief he brings up the will of God. He states: "Gad does not know Himself

completely unless He knows ail His concomitants; the creation is one of His

volition"s concomitants (al-khalq min /awazim iradatih/), and the volition in tum is

a concomitant of His essence (al-mashra min lawazim nafsihl)."

It is obvious that Ibn Taymiyya used the same syllogism that the

philosophers applied to Gad's knowledge. He rephrases the same topic by

saying that Gad is a perfect cause, and the knowledge possessed by a perfect

cause necessitates the knowledge of everything that is caused by Him. In

• addition, Ibn Taymiyya is trying to minimize the difference between the

philosophers and himself, he says: ··any one of the philosophers who accepts the

• fact that Gad is acting by virtue of His will, our disagreement with him would be

verbal (/af?i) but the meaning is correct (a/-ma"na $alJ11).IJ~

Ibn Taymiyya implicitly points out that the premises that the philosophers

have preceded from are correct and must lead them ta admit God~s will, Gad

cannat be knowing Himself if He does not know His Self~s concomitants (/awazim

dhatihl), the will and power are among God·s concomitants, and whatever He

wills falls under this wilrs concomitants (wa muraduhu min /awllzim a/-irada). The

created things, therefore, are concomitant ta the will which is concomitant to

God"s Self. 135

Ibn Taymiyya does not speak of will as an alternative to knowledge. On

the contrary, he admits that "1he created thing is necessitated by virtue of God"s

knowledge, despite the intermediary raie of the will. But the will is implied in the

creation even if one cannat prove its presence·~. 136 This statement is very clear on

the importance of God·s knowledge in the process of creation. But Ibn Taymiyya

cannot accept the tact that creation issued trom Gad apart from the will. If he
were ta admit this, he would have to admit as a consequence that the world is

simultaneous with God Himself.

He sums up and explains this discussion by stating that "1he creation is

conditioned by the agent" s concept of the created thing before its creation (al-

khalq mashrü( bi-ta$awwur al-khilliq qabla khalqihl). But the creation must be

realized by means of the will, and the will is conditioned by knowledge (wa '/-irada

• mashrü(atan bi'/-"i/m). Gad therefore creates by means of His will, and He wills

what He knows, everything created then is known to God."IJ7


• The will of God is the obstetrician who pushes the attributes to produce

themselves. Ibn Taymiyya emphasizes in ail his writings that this intervention of

the will is inevitable for making the knowledge and wisdom of Gad prevail. The

will works to determine a definite process of creation and a specifie plan that Gad

wills to actualize in the world. In many places Ibn Taymiyya identifies God's will

as it works in the way stated above with the wisdom of Gad. 138

The will of Gad is no exception ta the way in whieh each attribute works. It

also is a genus and has the ability to be reproduced in an indefinite number of

wills (irlldat). Each specifie will pertains to a specifie operation of generating

things. 13 'J

The general scheme of creation and the issuance of the world from Gad

can be depicted as an eternal process of determination (ta'yïn) from the general

ta the specifie and then to the concrete, sensible thing. The production and

activity of God's attributes, therefore, never begins and never ceases; they only

come ta be etemally actualized in fresh individuals.

This notion of determination (ta'yin) propelled Ibn Taymiyya to continue

his discussion with Ibn Sïna and ta prove the importance of the will alongside

knowledge sa as to avoid Ibn Sïna's conclusion, namely, that Gad knows

particulars in a universal way. Ibn Taymiyya implicitly wants to say that according

to the philosophers' belief God's knowing Himself is the cause of the creation of

things and they are caused by means of this knowledge. Gad knows the

• universals, therefore and, Gad praduces only universals. l40


• If Ibn Sïna admits the will of God, whose main role is to determine things in

their particularity and individuality, then God would know ail particulars because

He determined them. Ibn Taymiyya says, "1he universal knowledge does not

suffice in creation of the particulars since the determined thing does not exist

except by means of a determined conception (ta$awwur mu"yan) and a

determined will (irada mu-yana):·141

But the philosophers, on the contrary, believe in an absolute universal

beginning and neglect the determined individual. Their belief in an absolute will

and absolute knowledge does not help them in reaching their goal of dealing with

the particulars, since absolute universals do not exist in the empirical world. [43

Ibn Taymiyya adds that the philosophers" belief in Gad as the cause of

created things must lead to a different outcome. By calling God -cause' it is

intended that Gad should know every particular thing, as long as He created

every particular thing. After having affirmed that Gad is the cause of every

particular thing, there is no contradiction if we assume that God has general and

universal knowledge, because Gad would thus deserve to be the creator of

everything universal and determined (particular).144

Despite the fact that 1bn Taymiyya invoked the traditional criticism that the

philosophers divorced the will of God from theif system of thought, he was able to

direct a more systematic refutation by means of using what he believes to be the

correct and true premises in philosophy and by defining the will of Gad as a
• determinant cause. His own philosophy, as we have seen above, regards the

• will as an eternal determinant of genera and species into more determined and

specific forms called actions.

The will acts in cooperation with God's knowledge; it determines and

specifies what is universal in knowledge. From this it follows that God both

creates and knows individuals. Ibn Sina's first concem, according to Ibn

Taymiyya, is to avoid saying that God's knowledge can change in corresponding

with changes in particulars themselves since there is no direct relation between

the simple One and the diversity of the world.

Ibn Taymiiyya maintains that '·Ibn Sina does not have to argue against this

[that God"s knowledge of particulars would make His knowledge changeable]

since God's knowledge of the thing that would be and then is and finally was

does not make God"s knowledge imperfect because this is the true knowledge

that corresponds to the abject known as it is (hadha huw al-"ilm al-mu(abiq Iii...


For Ibn Taymiyya, knowledge both as God's attribute and as a genus

actualizes by virtue af God's will an infinite number of actions, i.e., information

correspond the created things. The effect or the product of the knowledge is an

action consisting of the determined aspect of knowledge and the determined

volitional cause that affected and produced it. This action is the immediate cause

of the existence of beings embodied outside of Gad.

• Whereas Ibn Taymiyya explains his affinity with the philosophers. he does

not torget to mention that this way of thinking (the philosophers' and his own) is

• very far from the Mutakallimün method of dealing with God's knowledge. t4ï Ibn

Taymiyya shows as weil the trouble that the early Mutakallimün faced in regard to

the relation between God"s eternal knowledge and the temporality of things.

Apart from those, like the Ash"arites, who arbitrarily asserted the eternity

of God"s knowledge without assuming things known to Gad eternally, and apart

from those, like Jahm b. $afwân, who believed in the temporality of the genus of

knowledge or the attribute of knowledge in the sense of a time when Gad had not

been knowing, Ibn Taymiyya pointed to Hisham al-Fuwa~ï (flourished during al-

Ma"mün"s reign 198-218/813-833), HM as an example of those who were

perplexed about this philosophical problem. Hisham al-Fuwa~ï, the Mu"tazilite

thinker, affirmed the eternity of God's knowledge but denied the expression that

God knows things eternally. Hishâm asserted that:

God is eternally knowing and He is one, nothing is beside Him; but Hishâm
refused ta say that God is knowing things eternally. Hisham says, if 1 say
that Gad knows things etemally, 1would affirm things abiding etemally in
God"s knowledge. Moreover, when Hishâm was asked: Do vou say that
God eternally knows that He would create things? Hisham denied that Gad
knows etemally that He would create things because this statement is an
indication of the things, while the indication must be of the real existents. Hl)

God"s knowledge is etemally active and Gad etemally knows things and

eternally produces things by virtue of actualizing His knowledge by means of His

will. In sorne places Ibn Taymiyya uses the term -renewal' (tajaddud) ta indicate

this process of production. 150


• Once again Ibn Taymiyya found support in Abü al-Barakat al-BaghdAdi,

whom he caUs the master of the philosophers (Imam al-Fa/asifa), and in Abü al-

t'usayn al-Ba~rï, the Mu"tazilite thinker. 80th maintained the renewal of

knowledge according to the renewal of information in the essence of God.

God"s attributes as genera and species are different from the Platonic

ideas as regards their ontological status. They are not the only true and real

entities subsisting by themselves in their own world outside space and time, 152

while the only function of the material world is to imitate this heavenly world. Ibn

Taymiyya"s scheme is completely different since the genera and species never

subsist by themselves but reside in God.

The material world, on the contrary, is a real and true production of the

attributes. Every single thing in our sensible world has its origin and source in

God"s attributes, although the individual concrete being has a beginning and an

end, the process of determination itself never ends and remains the unexhausted

source for ail beings. Ibn Taymiyya~s idea of creation can be described as

generation, rather than creation in the occasionalist view. The world is truly in a

process of continuous newness, but not in the sense of having an absolute

beginning and absolute direct dependence on God's power. The existentiation of

the world is not static and passive but active and dynamic. This dynamism

involves the creativity of Gad,153 as weil as the created beings themselves as

• representing conditions by which the continuous emergence lasts, as we shall

see below.

• 3. 5. Determination Meana the Eternity of Motion and Time

God"s attributes or species do not obtain apart from time and movement.

Time and movement for Ibn Taymiyya are eternal. 154 Movement and time are

eternal qua genus. 155 Time and movement, therefore, do not have a beginning, as

the early Mutakallimün held.

One of Ibn Taymiyya"s bold assertions is that the eternal process of

particularization of the attributes into actions can be called a motion. God's

essence then is a substrate of this particular kind of motion:

It is one of His perfections (kama/at) that the Agent is unceasingly acting

and producing action after action. If the agent is alive, and the lite, as has
been said, necessitates (musta/zima) the action and movement, as the
imâms of Hadith, al-Bukhari, al-Darimi and others, said; and Gad is
eternally speaking if He wills and whatever He wills as Ibn al-Mubarak and
At:lmad b. ttanbal believed. Speech and acting therefore (a/-qaw/ wa '/-'P'I)
are concomitant to Gad's lite, and God"s lite is concomitant to God"s
essence. God is therefore eternally speaking and acting. Moreover, the
living agent acts by virtue of his will, and this fact entails affirming that
God"s actions come one after another and God's speech comes words
after words. Nothing, therefore, precedes Gad, while Gad precedes every
action of His own. Everything other than God is generated and created.
Created things are not preceded by nothing (-adam) but rather by the
We deny that God was powerless until He created His power....
Our doctrine is that God is etemally knowing, powerful, and possessing
(Malik); nothing is similar to Him and He cannot be shaped. 156

Eisewhere, Ibn Taymiyya seems clearer and more decisive in affirming the

eternity of movement and time:

People before Ibn Kullab were of two groups, the people of the Sunna and

Jama-a, who asserted that Gad is a substrate of attributes and actions that
He wills, and the Jahmite, such as Abü al--Abbis al-Qalinasi, al-Ash-ari
and others. Ibn l:ianbal commanded abandoning AI-Mut,àsibi because he
adopted Ibn Kullàb's doctrine.... The Imàms of t:iadith and Sunna affirmed

• the two standpoints.... tiarb al-Kirmani, "Uthman b. Sa"id al-Darimi, and

others declared the term (motion) and ascribed this doctrine to the people
of tladith and Sunna in early and later periods. AI-Kirmàni emphasized
that this doctrine is Ibn l:ianbal's, Ibn Rahaway's, Ibn al-Zubayr's and
Sa'id b. Man~ür's. 'Uthman b. Sa'id and others stated that motion is a
concomitant of lite because every living being is moving, and any negation
to this fact leads to taking the side of the Jahmiyya which was accused by
the predecessors and Imams of innovation and misleading. Other groups
of the predecessors, including al-Khuzs"i, al-Bukharï, the author of the
sahih, Ibn 'Abd al-Barr and Ibn Khazima, affirmed the same notion and
called it God's action, but they did not use the term motion (I)araka)
because it was not common. 15i

Ibn Taymiyya thus clearly upholds the doctrine of the etemity of motion

and time, but unlike the philosophers he equates the notion of motion with the

eternal particularization of God"s attributes into actions.

He argued against those who believed that '·every movable thing is

generated""'5H by saying that this premise cannot be demonstrated, there is no

consensus on il, and it is not a spontaneous and inbom belief. The same is true

for the statement that "every changeable thing is generated." Both premises

need ta be demonstrated and proved. '59

Ibn Taymiyya"s challenge to those who maintained the principle of ··every

movable thing is generated", that it is not a demonstrable, comes from his feeling

that the philosophers trying ta bracket etemity and motion together in arder to

accommodate their theory of the heavenly spheres, which are alive and move


And he also has in mind Abü al-Barakat al-Baghdàdï's theory of motion

and renewal of things. As a matter of fact this doctrine of motion is of prime

importance philosophically and religiously, and Ibn Taymiyya did not formulate

• this sort of philosophy without reference. Actually, we have an opportunity here to

discover Ibn Taymiyya's aàmiration of Abü al-Barakat al-Baghdadi, who, most

probably represents the philosophical reference for Ibn Taymiyya in this theory of


ln his definition of the mover and motion, Abû al-Barakat divides the

movers into two kinds: the motion of the natural things and the moyer by will. The

destiny of the natural motion is to terminate at a definite moment of time when it

reaches its goal, every natural motion must terminate at a station of rest either in

a place (ayn) or quality (gaining or losing a quality), or quantity (growing or

getting small). thl)

The other kind of motion is that which happens by will. The volitional

motion, in turn, may last, or may terminate. Abü al-Barakat implicitly points here

to the human will and God's will. He distinguishes between a volition that may be

in conflict with other motivations, and a volition whose activity is in harmony with

the other motivations and attributes of the mover. The destiny of the volitional

motion is to continue and to everlastingly renew itself, inasofar as there is no

hindrance ('awa~iq).'61

Under the title of '1he continuous connections between the causes and

effects ,.162 Abü al-Barakat deals with the raie of Gad' s volition in some detail and

with explicit indications. He affirms that as long as ail the natural motions are to

terminate by their nature, their real motion then must come trom outside them.

• Motion in natural things is always against their nature, since every material thing

seeks stability and rest and to keep its qualities as they are; the motion which

• causes change in a thing~s nature definitely must be received from a different sort

of moyer, which non-natural, Le., volitional mover.


This volitional mover enforces ail the beings in the universe to move and to

change either in place (bi'/-makan) (the spheres) or in a process of becoming

(bi 'J-istil)aJa) (material things which move from potency to actuality); by virtue of

the will (which is God's will) ail the relations between the causes and the effects

in the universe are maintained and endure. th~

Abü al-Barakat generalizes and decisively asserts that ail sorts of motions,

from eternity, in the universe are volitional. He seems to have been clearer in his

definition to the volitional moyer whose will does not face any prevention or

conflicting motivation rather it is in complete harmony with other attributes, i.e.,

with the knowledge and generosity; therefore it is etemal and unterminated.

Whatever issues from the moyer by His will is issuing by virtue of the

essence and from the essence and for the essence (" an dhatihi wa li-dhStihi wa

Ii-aj/i dhatihl) everything He is doing, at this stage He is doing for Himself. This

will is to be called the universal will (irada kulliyya). The particular will (irada

juz 'wa) follows the universal one, by necessity, and is used to designate the
things other than He.

The volition never rests of "1he one who encompasses everything, the

causes and effects, His will never stops. and he never steps back from His

actions.·· lllh

• This will or volition is continuos and is the provider of ail the made things

(mafü/at) that pesses motion: both the motions of in the heavens (spheres); and

• the natural things in their renewal (tatajaddud) , in accordance with the etemal

consecutiveness of things. ltli

To explain this we have to notice that will, knowledge and motion are of

particular importance; they always have two aspects, namely, the universal and

the particular. Each one of them causes the other to be transformed from

universality into particularity. The will must accord with and cause the motion, the

motion must accord with and cause the knowledge, the knowledge in tum must

accord with and cause the will. As a result, each aspect will be necessitated in its

transformation from universality into particularity by means of the other. The

motion necessitates the knowledge, and knowledge necessitates the will, and the

will again necessitates the motion. IbM

Abû al-Barakât emphasizes the mutual causation of these three aspects in

each other. The conclusion thus is that the renewal of material things accords

with the renewal of knowledge, and the renewal of knowledge is in accordance

with the renewal of will, namely, the particular wills. The willing being of the

universal motion (al-mu1)arik bil-irada) renews itself in His particular will which is

necessitated by the renewal of timely knowledge and which, in tum, is

necessitated by the motion.'6~

This mutual causation therefore results in the emergence of particulars,

i.e., particular wills (iradatjuz'iyya), knowledge (tajaddud al-ma~rifa a/-zamaniyya)

and motions. The transformation from the universal into the particular, Le., the

• renewal (tajaddud) which occurs by means of this mutual causation of these


• three aspects, must always be called motion (hSdha a/-tajaddud "inda a/-

muta1)arik huwa alladhï yusammS 1)araka).170

These two aspects of the three components, the universal and the

particular, are parallel to two things: the universal which happens for the Self and

by virtue of the Self (bi-dhstihi wa Ii-ajli dhstihl), and the particular which occurs

outside the Self (particulars accord with the motion of things). But the actions of

the universal will (ar III al-irada al-kulliyya) are always to be called a motion,

whether of the Self, where the moyer itself is the goal of these volitional motions,

or for the propose of moving and renewing other beings.

The first motion which occurs inside the Self and for the Self is the cause

of the second motion which is parallel to the renewal and change in the other

beings. Abû al-Barakât says: "every moyer by means of will is moving in the

sense of renewing, this motion is in himself and from himself; and by virtue of

which the motion issues trom himself, but the first motion which is for himself and

trom himself is the cause of the second motion which issues from himself and

extends to the other thing·· (kull mu1)arik bi'l-irada mutal)arik bi-tajaddud

lJarakatan ff dhatihi bi-lJasbiha ta$dur al-I)araka fi 'l-ta1)ffk "an dhStihi, ISkina al-

/)araka al-' üla lahu bi-dhatihi wa -an dhStihi hya a/-sabab fi'I-lJarakati al-thaniya

al-$adira 'anhu fi ghayrihl). IiI

• 4. Infinite Causalitv

4. 1. The First Cause is an Arbitrarv Theory


• Ibn Taymiyya"s new foundations for metaphysics would naturally lead to a

different conception of causality. In order to examine his conception of causality

we have to pay attention to the question that was completely ignored by the

Mutakallimün, namely, the question of the cause that produces the determined

cause of the will of God. AI-Ghazarr, as we noticed earlier, maintained that the

determinant cause (muraüilJ) is an immediate resson for the existence of the

world, but he did not explain and justify how this cause came about and what

caused this cause. AI-GhazaIT and the later Ash-arite thinkers left the question of

the cause of the determinant cause unanswered.lï:!

According to Ibn Taymiyya, the admission of an infinity of causes, each

cause being caused by another cause, is inevitable if we are to hold a coherent

notion of the eternity of Gad. Otherwise, we would arbitrarily affirm a tirst cause

without any philosophical justification of how it is possible to link the intinity and

eternity of God, on the one hand, and the termination of the chain of causes at an

arbitrary point of tirst cause, on the other. lï~

AI-Ghazalrs criticism of the philosophers on this point is greatly admired;

but according to Ibn Taymiyya he did not carry his criticism to its logical

conclusion. AI-GhazaIT has shown, according to Ibn Taymiyya, the Muslim

philosophers" contradiction with regard to their assertion of intinite generations on

the one hand and their negation of an intinite chain of causes and effects on the

other hand. Ibn Taymiyya maintained that AI-GhazAli meant by this criticism to

• force the philosophers either to negale the creator [the implication of an endless

series of causes] or to admit the generation of the universe [Gad is the only

• eternal being and nothing is coeval with His eternity], and he has shown that the

best solution is to admit the creator by means of asserting the generation of the

universe. But instead of holding that every generated thing must have a

generator or every determined thing a determiner, he insisted on the beginning of

the universe and heId that the generated being (al-mulJdath) is a mere possible

(muja"Bd imkan) the existence of which cannot be determined except by a

determiner ('illa murajjil)a). This assumption of a determiner (oilla murajjilJa) does

not [for Ibn Taymiyya] prove the existence of God unless this cause is proved as

having, by necessity, a generator. 175

Necessity means for Ibn Taymiyya that this cause must be explained or

justified philosophically by assuming another cause that generates the

determinant cause. Ibn Taymiyya hypothetically asks, ··Why do you not allow a

chain of causes ail of which are generated?'· He anticipates al-Ghazalrs answer

as, "The generated is possible and the possible needs a cause, and this cause

must not be possible,··lï6 because if it is possible it would need another cause to

determine it and grant it existence.

Ibn Taymiyya is trying to prove that either one can assume a determinant

cause without any explanation of how this cause came into existence, and what

kind of existence this cause obtains, necessary or possible, or one can assume

that this cause is possible (mumkin) and thus has a determiner and that the

• determiner, in turn, is possible and has another cause. The assumption of a

determinant cause as not possible does not prove the existence of GOO, while the

• assumption of an infinite series of possible causes is the only answer by which

the existence of the agent can solidly be established. 177 According to Ibn

Taymiyya, terminating causes at a definite cause and calling this cause the

necessary cause does not philosophically define the notion of generation

(fJudüth) nor does it prove the existence of GOd. He argues that generation

(fJudüth) and the existence of Gad can be proven by examining the nature of the

generated thing, i.e., its poverty and its need, in its very nature, for a generator. 'J

Our envisaging that the chain of causes is ""infinite does not neœssitate

that this chain is not in need of a creator or any creative agent existing outside of

it. On the contrary, infinity itself entails the need for creator since whenever we

add a possible existent ta another possible existent for an infinite number of

times, ail these possibles remain possible and still in need of an agent. The

infinite number of possibles proves in the extreme way the need for a creator....

The infinite succession of contingents does not change their nature as still being
contingent and in need for a generator:

Ibn Taymiyya, in this statement, does not intend to negate the principle of

causality. On the contrary he strongly held this principle and applied it in his

world-view, as we shall see below; rather he is attempting to refute those who by

affirming a first cause sought a philosophical proof for both the existence of Gad

and the generation of the world. He asserts, ontologically speaking that the notion

of the "tirst cause" is not a philosophical one and il is refutable. His criticism of the

• first cause is aimed at both the philosophers and Mutakallimün. Also, Ibn

Taymiyya never considers that this world has neither cause nor creator; rather he

• is seeking for a different proof for both the existence of Gad and for generation.

This kind of proof must be based on a different conception of the notion of agent:

The assumption of the existence of an effect without a cause is

impossible, since the possible is always caused by something else. And
the assumption of an infinite number of causes is equal to assuming an
infinite number of effects. [These premises lead to] an obvious conclusion,
that is, the infinite number of effects necessarily requires a
cause ... besides that the nature of the possible or contingent [as being
always caused] requires a cause, and this shows that the possible is
caused, invented (mubda'), administered (mudabbat) , made (mafül),
cannot exist by virtue of itself, and inasmuch as it exists that means there
is a cause, creator, maker, inventor.
Ibn Taymiyya concludes that the need for a cause in respect to an infinite number

of contingents is more convincing than holding the position of the need for a

cause for a limited number of entities, such as the philosophers' intelligences:~tHt

Tc envisage the universe as having a first cause that stands behind the

world as the starting point of everything and as the final termination of everything,

is a limited and closed view for Ibn Taymiyya. God is the cause in the sense that

He is the source of ail beings but without naming Him the first as the starting

point of existence. Gad is the cause in the sense that He is the inexhaustible

generator, but this does not mean to place Him, philosophically speaking, at a

specifie ontological location. God is the cause in the sense that He makes the

eternal future of the universe possible, as long as He is the external cause that

helps actualize the potentiality of the world.

As a matter of fact Aristotelian philosophy does not oppose the doctrine of

potential infinite series of causes and effects, especially when this philosophy

cornes to discuss the relation between the genera (ajnas) and their infinite

• number of the individuals. Ibn Rushd states that the infinite series of causes and

effects does not contradict the necessity of the existence of Gad. In his Tahafut t

the forth discussion, Ibn Rushd says, "you will see that the proposition that the

man who allows the existence of an infinite series of causes cannot admit a first

cause is false t and that on the contrary the opposite is evident, namely, that the

man who does not acknowledge infinite causes cannot prove the existence of an

eternal first cause, since it is the existence of infinite effects which demands the

necessity of an eternal cause from which the infinite causes acquire their

existence; for if not, the genera, ail of whose individuals are temporal, would be

necessarily finite. ltIM :! It should be kept in mind here that, although the influence of

this aspect of Aristotelian philosophy as formulated by Ibn Rushd on Ibn t

Taymiyya t is obvious, he opposes the philosophers theory of the chain of

secondary causes which should be terminated at a definite tirst cause.

Ibn Taymiyya does not believe that the world can be drawn geometrically

as a straight line of entities standing behind each other and existing ail together

at once or cyclically as entities moving around one another. With Ibn Taymiyya,

the discrepancy in Islamic philosophy between the eternity and infinity of the

universe, on the one hand and on the other the termination of the chain of

causes and effects (the Heavenly Intellects) at a definite tirst cause is to be

undertaken and solved in terms of rejecting the secondary causes which exist

together and cause each other. 183

• The notion of infinity is more appropriate and congenial to the notion of

God as an eternal Active Agent. This infinity is to be conceived as infinite

succession in time of causes and effects; by contrast, the philosophers asserted

a point of departure or tirst cause because they considered an infinite number of

causes and effects (secondary causes) existing together to be impossible. 18..

The tradition in Islamic theology held the notion of an infinite series of

causes and effects to be unthinkable. But in regard to the philosophers, their

argument of denying such an infinite series of causes and effects was always

conditioned by the statement ""existing together:" Indeed, Ibn Taymiyya agreed

with them that an infinite series of causes and effects existing together is
impossible as a philosophical notion. The only Muslim philosopher who allowed

infinity as being actual is Ibn Sïns, who admitted an infinite number of souls
existing together.

Ibn Sïnâ"s argument for admitting an infinite actual number of souls is

based on the Aristotelian doctrine of an etemal world and etemity in the process

of generation and corruption. As long as an infinite number of men die and an

infinite number of bodies become corrupt, an infinite number of immortal souls

must exist. lM':" Because Ibn Sins knows that the admission of the coexistence of

an infinite number of any actual entities presents a real difficulty, he justified his

position by stating that these souls have no order in position or nature, 188 since

what is impossible in the Aristotelian tradition is the assumption of an infinite


• number of actual things one after another in a straight line and coexisting with

each other.

Ibn Taymiyya"s major argument in defending his doctrine of the possibility

of an infinite number of causes and effects is that this series of infinite causes

and effects does not obtain simultaneously, for things infinitely cause one another

but they do not coexist with each other. This is why Ibn Taymiyya stressed two

things in many passages of his writings: the importance of time as extension, that

is, each moment cornes after the end of the previous one; and the notion that

things come after each other in a process of transformation from potentiality to

actuality (Allah yakhluqu a/-"a/am shay'an ba-da shay,).190

This theory of infinite causation was employed by Ibn Taymiyya to serve a

theological issue, namely, whether God!s actions are caused or not. Thus, by

maintaining that God!s actions are caused and determined by the cause of will,

Ibn Taymiyya provided Islamic theology with a different approach to the dilemma

that had occupied theologians before him. That is to say, a huge number of

Muslims refused to admit any sort of explanation of or reasoning about Gad's

actions (ta-m afal Allah). Gad had to be viewed as an absolutely free agent,
nothing whatsoever forcing him to do what He wants to dO.

Some people said that Gad created the creation and commanded His
commandments without cause, inclination or motivation. Gad acts,
according to these Muslims, by virtue of a pure volition and to exercise His
will. A huge number of those who believe in predestination (qadar) and
who belong to the Sunna: Mutakallimün, jurists and others have

maintained this. The followers of MAlik, ai-ShAfi'i, Ibn l:ianbal and others
as weil held the same position. AI-Ash'ari and his followers and a number
of negators of analogy (qiyas), Le., the ~Ahiris: Ibn l:iazm and his like,
maintained the same view. The argument used by these Muslims is that if

• Gad creates out of cause or motivation, He would thus be an imperfect

being and would become perfect by virtue of such a cause.... The other
argument that has been used by them is that if the cause is eternal, the
created universe would be eternal toO. I92

Ibn Taymiyya, who allowed God~s actions to be generated, would maintain

that Gad creates by virtue of a cause generated in His essence. This cause is

caused by another one, infinitely. Ali God"s actions then are reasoned or caused

(mu"allala). This doctrine, according to Ibn Taymiyya, is much better than making

Gad create frivolously. He employs this sort of philosophical infinite causation in

his discussion of sorne theological issues, such as the good and the bad or the

beauty and the ugly (al-lJusn wa 'l-qublJ) , and he arrives at the conclusion that

both the Mu·tazilites and Ash"arites were mistaken on this point. Against the

Mu·tazilites Ibn Taymiyya stressed the necessity of conceiving Gad as the

creator of every thing, even injustice (?ulm); and he rejected the Ash'arites" belief
that deprives God's will of any wisdom and life.

4.2. Every Cause Must Be Caused

Ibn Taymiyya frequently insisted on differentiating between two sorts of

causes: tirst, the cause that aets as an agent and producer of the coming to be of

the following being; and, second, the cause that stands as a condition (sharl) of

the birth of its effect. Cause in the tirst sense is completely rejected by Ibn

Taymiyya since it is always understood as being synonymous with Islamic

• philosophy~s secondary causes. These kinds of causes represent real entities

that can generate their effects and works as representative of Gad. On the

• other hand, cause as a condition (shart) , although the relation ta its effect is

necessary, does not produce its effect by virtue of itself; it aets, rather, as a
milieu, the agency of Gad working through it.

ln the context of his differentiation between these two sorts of causes, Ibn

Taymiyya defined cause as a condition in the sense that the cause is never

lasting, it may vanish at any moment after its effect cornes into being. And as a

consequence of this, the chain of causes and effects cannat obtain

simultaneously and ail together. 1'J6 As a matter of fact, Ibn Taymiyya's definition

of cause removes any possibility of the existence of lasting entities. This doctrine

is in direct opposition to the Muslim philosophers' doctrine of emanation, which

admitted the continuation of existence or the eternity of secondary causes, i.e.,

the heavenly intellects, and regarded these intellects as real entities that produce

their effects everlastingly. The argument Ibn Taymiyya uses to refute the

philosophers is that existence is of two kinds, necessary and contingent. 197 Every

thing other than God is contingent or possible, and its contingency must

necessarily be understood in terms of its limitedness of creation and duration:

"The existent whose existence cannot happen by virtue of itself cannot be a

cause for something else.... It is impossible to maintain that the possible which

gains its existence from sorne other existent can bestow existence on another

possible... 1'J8

Ibn Taymiyya, who unhesitatingly held that Gad is the only real agent,

• decided that causes are conditions that endlessly produce each other and that

• they are annihilated and cannot last forever. He clarifies his notion of infinite

generation by mentioning the theories that have been articulated before him:

People have many different points of view regarding the possibility of

asserting the infinity: al-Jahm and Abü al-Hudhayl al-"Allâf have denied the
infinity in everything, past, present and future. Sorne Indian, Muslim
philosophers, and others believed that God is infinite in ail His
dimensions.... Other Muslims maintained that the world has a beginning
but does not have limits at the present time, since it is unlimited ....
Mu-ammar and his followers believed in the existence of an infinite series
of ma-ani at once, and believed as weil that generated things do not have
a beginning. Others held that generation is finite in the past in bath events
and directions.... Many of the philosophers (al-nu~àr) held that infinity is
impossible in regard to what already exists, but that in the future, potential
infinity is possible.... Ibn Rushd allows infinity in bath the past and the
future, but it is impossible, according ta him, for infinity ta exist at the
present moment, either in seuls or in directions or in ma- ani.... 199

Ibn Taymiyya turns the reader-s attention to the fact that the Mutakallimün

were confused about terminology. They did not notice the difference between the

twe terms nbeginningless" and uinfinity'·:

Most of the Mutakallimün, such as the Mu-tazilites, the Ash-arites and al-
Juwaynï, relied on this argument (what does not have an end cannot be
terminated); even John Philoponus, as we are told, relied on il. They ail
thought that what is infinite does not terminate, and whatever is terminated
is finite. They were troubled by the term -1ermination" because of its
ambiguity. Since the past series of events has terminated now, it is
finite .... They meant that whatever is terminated is finite ... , whereas the
disputed definition of the infinity is that 'what does not have a beginning'·
(la bidayata lahu): meaning that the individuals (ashkha$) of what does not
have a beginning eternally succeed each other. 100

The beginninglessness of generation is philosophically possible insofar as

the succession of events coming one after another is maintained. Gad and His

• attributes are etemal and infinite in bath dimensions, past and future. It is true

that every individual is generated in time and must end, but it is not true ta apply

• this statement to genus or species, since the position of the whole is different

trom the position ot each of its individuals. This distinction between the totality
and the individuals is adopted from the philosophers. 20 1

Ibn Sïna held this position and explained it in his al-Isharat by

distinguishing between the position of the whole (I)ukm al-kulf) and the position of

the individual (fJukm al-fard). Our saying, however, that Zayd is generated and

has a beginning in time does not imply that the species of human beings, wherein

there is not yet an individual, is generated and has a beginning in time too.

According to Ibn Sïna, the Mutakallimün confused these two sorts of things and

held that if a certain individual of a species is generated and has a beginning, the

whale (al-kulf) would also be generated and have a beginning. This is wrong

because the whole cannot enter into existence at once, but rather enters inta

existence and becomes actualized gradually and infinitely. If the whole is

assumed to be actualized at once, it could no longer become a species or be

infinite.2\ l2

Everything other than Gad is generated and has a starting point and an

end. This is true even of God's actions, which cause one another. God's

attributes are eternally in a process of renewal; no real entities permanently abide

in God's essence.

4. 3. The Cause la Not an Agent and the Effect la a Trace (Ath."

• The importance of the actions of Gad as an intermediary stage between

God's attributes and the material universe is unquestionable in Ibn Taymiyya's


• analysis. But these actions, although conceptual, are not latent in the sense of

fixed archetypes. For Ibn Taymiyya, it is unthinkable to assume an infinite series

of archetypes that cause each other and abide in God's essence. Rather, they

represent merety a stage or a level in the process of creation.

One of Ibn Taymiyya' s prime concems is to remove any assumption of an

enduring or eternal entity besides God, the only etemal being is Gad and His

attributes in their first stage of being genera and species. This is why Ibn

Taymiyya harshly rejected the philosophers' intelligences, and also why he

directed a very harsh criticism at Ibn 'Arabis notion of ""immutable entities"

(a"yan thabita). In Ibn "ArabiS system, however, God is not able to dispense with

the immutable entities as long as ail created things are identical in existence and

differ trom each other by virtue of their particular properties encoded in their

a'yan thabita. In this scheme, Gad is in need of the immutable entities in order to

manifest His perfections and qualities in the material universel whereas the

immutable entities are in need of Him for their concrete existence. 20J

When Ibn Taymiyya therefore criticized the theory of causes as agents

(fa"i/ün) and real causes (mu'aththirün) he instead had in mind, as he repeatedly

insists, the cause-effect relation as a relation between God as a real agent and

traces (atha".2l4 Ali the effects in the world are traces (stha" but can never in

themselves be permanent vital causes.

Ibn Taymiyya's criticism was restricted not only to the philosophical theory

• of secondary causes and Ibn "Arabis immutable entities, but also included

MU'ammar"s theory of endless causes of ma·SnTthat affect and produce each


• other eternally. Ibn Taymiyya assumed that Mu"ammar believed in ma~anTas

enduring causes, in the sense of agents. 205 So Ibn Tayrniyya rejected this theory,

although Mu~ammar was perhaps the tirst to state that causes must not terminate

at a definite stage but must go on infinitely.206

The central point in Ibn Taymiyya's philosophy. as one can notice, is that

everything in existence is in a continuous transition of species, action and

sensible object. Nothing endures except God and His attributes. Everything else

is in a process of transition from being what it is to a different and following stage.

Every stage represents the condition for the next.

We need to be aware that this theory is very far from the kalâm and

mystical thought. Ibn Tayrniyya did not intend to say that God is the only true

existent in the universe, as the mystics held,207 nor to say that the wortd is just a

subject for God's free will, as the kalam believed. He was perhaps the only

Muslim thinker ta maintain that God is the only agent without sacrificing the

principle of causality. Everything in the wortd is a trace and it is at the same time

a condition for a following thing ta come into being as an effect or conditioned

thing. In other words, Ibn Taymiyya, in arder to maintain the agency of Gad and

the causality of the world, seems to have believed in ~·double causality",20K each

cause or condition is a mere instrument of an eternal agent, and the present

effect would result from the present action of the eternal agent.

Actually, even Ibn Rushd is not farfrom this sort of causality.2Ü9 But the

• basic difference between these two theories is that Ibn Rushd still believes in the

• First Cause, or the Unmovable Mover,110 whereas Ibn Taymiyya has taken the

position of an infinite series of causes and effects that succeed each other in time

by means of actions emerge in God"s essence. As a matter offact the position of

infinite series of causes and effects was admitted by Ibn Rushd as we have

already seen; and if we venture ta go farther in our analysis we would find an

avident similarity between Ibn Rushd's theory of infinite series of accidentai

causes and effects and Ibn Taymiyya's theory of infinite series of traces as

causes and effects. Ibn Rushd says:

An accidentai infinite, not an essential infinite, is admitted by the

philosophers; nay, this type of infinite is in fact a necessary consequence
of the existence of an etemal First Principle. And this is not only true for
successive or continuous movements and the like, but even where the
earlier is regarded as the cause of the later, for instance the man who
engenders a man like himself. For it is necessary that the series of
temporal production of an individual man by another should lead upwards
to an eternal agent, for whom there is no beginning either for his existence
or of his production of man out of man. The production of one man by
another ad infinitum is accidentai, whereas the relation of before and after
in it is essential. 211

According to Ibn Taymiyya, even Gad, the sole agent in the IJniverse,

creates and acts according to the conditions residing in His essence. Gad as an

agent produces an action by virtue of a previously created action, which

represents the condition and cause of the next action. The renewal of generation

(tajaddud a/-1)awadith) necessarily entails the renewal of causes (tajaddud a/-

asbab). The generation is a necessary process, and whatever is produced from

the eternal essence (al-dhst al-qadfma) must be caused. 212


• Gad as an agent with His attribute of will does nct act lawlessly. His

agency and eternal activity, rather, behave according to conditions or causes that

determine ail Gocfs creativity. These causes or conditions, however, do not rule

God~s activity as outside forces, but are in themselves a production of God. They

are His actions. '·The wisdom of the creation of any thing happens according to

conditions. God's wisdom, which produced ail kinds of animais, plants, and

metals. necessitates that the concrete individuals of these species be

transformed from one definite state to another (min I)al ila /Jal). But neither these
concrete individuals nor the bodies can be defined as eternal.,,213

Here Ibn Taymiyya·s attempt ta reconcile the Islamic doctrine of God as

agent with the principles of philosophical reason can be illustrated by the rational

justifications that he tries to set forth at every stage of his thought. His endeavor

to avoid any arbitrary argument is a distinguishing feature in the ontology he

established. The full agreement the" between "1he true religion (,al)11) al...manqül)

and the plain rules of reason (,al11) a/-ma"qürr· takes on its ultimate meaning with

Ibn Taymiyya. This agreement ca" be said to be a rubric of ail his intellectual


God as an agent, for Ibn Taymiyya, can be affirmed by having the notion

of God as the only etemal agent. Nothing whatsoever precedes Him, while

everything else is generated and cornes necessarily after a while by means of

God·s agency. Nothing, therefore, is concomitant or coeval with Gad. Things

• succeed the action of Gad and each other necessarily. There is only one agent in

the universe; everything other than Gad is His action and his trace (atha".214

• If it is said that ·'Gad is etemallyacting... this saying does not contradict

our belief that everything is generated. Rather, the generation of
everything is the inevitable result of the etemal activity of God. Every
created thing (mafü1) is generated, and everything other than Gad is
created and preœded by nothing. Whatever is preceded, in time, by
something else cannot be etemal; the effect (atha" succeeds its being
effected in time, just as the components of time (ajzll' al-zamlln) succeed
each other. Neither is the particular moment of the time eternal, even
though time as genus is eternal. 215

1n his doctrine of the etemal process of creation and his avoidance at the

same time of secondary causes, Ibn Taymiyya approached the problem of the

one and the many from a different angle. He was not compelled by the tenet that

One can produce only one to maintain the pure simple unity of Gad, nor was he

compelled by the idea that multiplicity was barn from the tirst intellect. Instead, he

proposed that the diversity of the world takes place directly in God's essence.

This is because --Gad must be described by means of the multiple attributes and

multiple actions He owns. Gad has His own states and modes as weil. ·Each day

He is upon sorne task' (kull yaum huwa ft sha'n) (55:29).216 The diversity of

created things and the generation of generated things are due to the different

states of the agent...21 ï

Once again, Ibn Taymiyya, instead of assuming the multiplicity of things

outside of God's essence, believed that the diversity emerged in God's essence

and was then reflected outside of Gad by means of the eternal generation and

particularization of the etemal genera and species.

• 5. The Infinite Generation of the Material World


• 5. 1. The Etemity of the World as Qur'inie and the Prophetie Tradition'.


Ibn Taymiyya, besides his contribution to the ontological question of the

relation between the one and the many, also contributed to the question of

whether or not the universe was preceded by nothing. The notion of nothingness

(-adam) for Ibn Taymiyya is completely different from that of the Mutakallimun.

·Adam for Ibn Taymiyya is just the thing in its state of potentiality.21H A particular

thing was not and then exists. Nothing (. adam) does not precede the whole of

things in the universe, but a particular thing. 21 'J This understanding of nothingness

and existence is the same as Ibn Rushd"s.220 It is the etemal generation of things,

or the etemal transformation from potentiality to actuality, as we saw in the

second chapter.

ln order to get a detailed view of Ibn Taymiyya·s ontology, we have to

consider his doctrine of the material world, or what he caUs the world of created

things (mafülat). In his Majmü-at al-Rasa 'il wa '/-MasS JI, Ibn Taymiyya deals with

a Prophetie saying that had been transmitted by -Umran b. tla$in: ·-Gad was and

nothing was with Him."· Ibn Taymiyya tries in a very lengthy discussion to prove

that the true reading of this 1)adlfh is that '-Gad was and nothing was before

Him.··221 Ibn Taymiyya admits that al-Bukhârï in his $a1)11) relates the f)ad1fh in

more than one form, sometimes al-Bukhari mentions the f)acJlfh as hnothing

before Him (Goor-; on other occasions he mentions that ··Gad was and nothing

• other than Him existed with Him.'~ Indeed, in reviewing the $a1)11) of al-BukhAri we

• find that the two versions of the l)ad1fh are mentioned. In the book of the

beginning of creation (Kitab Bad' al-Khalq) al-Bukhari mentions in the name of

'Umran b. tla~in that sorne people ofYemen came to the Prophet Muhammad,

and said to him, "We have come in order to ask vou about this matter ("an hadha

al-amr); the Prophet Mul)ammad said: '''Gad was and nothing other than Him,

(ghayruhu) was with Him·· (kana Allah wa-Iam yakun shay' ghayruhu) and He has

written in the dhikr (the Preserved Tablet) everything, and He created the heaven

and the earth ... 222

ln the same $al)i1), vol. IV, in the book of the unity of God (Kitab al-

Tawl)ïd) al-Bukhari relates in the name of the same transmitter, ·Umràn b. tta~in,

that sorne people of Yemen came to the Prophet and asked, ··We have come

here to ask you about the beginning of this matter what it was; the Prophet says

.God was and nothing was before Him and His throne was upon the water and

then He created the heaven and the earth and has written in the dhik,

everything··· (kana Allah wa-/am yakun shay'un qabluhu).~

Ibn Taymiyya, on the basis of his doctrine of creation, believes that the

true reading of the I)adith is that ··Gad was and nothing was before Him"". This

reading of course enhances his belief that the world in its stage as genera and

species was etemallywithGod.itis His attributes; it is therefore impossible to

read the I)aclifh as ·"nothing was with Gad. ,,22.J

Ibn Taymiyya~s suggested reading of the f)ad1fh as ~·nothing was before

• God.... is a negation of the possibility of the proposai of a preceding nothingness


• (-adam) which is implied in the statement that God was and nothing was with

Him. The world as a whole, genera and species, is etemal and coeval with Gad.

This sort of simultaneity or withness (ma" iyya) cannot be denied by either reason

or religion. 225 ln neither case, then-the withness of species in relation to God, or

the eternal generation-can we assume that Gad was and nothing was with

Him. 22n

On the other hand Ibn Taymiyya does not deny that the other reading of

the /Jadïth as "with'- or "other"" are possible,~7 but he does not admit these

versions without interpretation. Then, if the other readings of the f)adTth are to be

considered, the only interpretation therefore is that the Prophet Mul:1ammad was

intending to mention only the creation of the empirical world not the world as a

whole (its genera and species). He inferred that the Prophet did not mention the

creation of the throne, although the throne was created too, but only mentioned

the creation of the heavens and the earth. He concludes, therefore, as mentioned

earlier, that the Prophet wanted to talk only about the creation of the tirst materia1

thing in this phenomenal world (al·"a/am a/.mashhüd).~K

But even with these readings of "~ith~~ (ma") and -·other" (ghayr) Muslims

were split in their interpretation of this version of the f)adflh. Some believed that

nothing was with Gad means, neither the material wortd nor its species, neither

time nor motion; the whole universe was preceded by pure nothingness.~9 Other

Muslims believed that the I)adifh means exactly the opposite of the foregoing

• interpretation. It denotes the creation of the world gradually thing after thing, the

• idea of pure nothingness is not an Islamic one. This follows because the I)adith

says that God measured everything by writing on the Preserved Tablet and then

he created the heaven and the earth. 2JO As a matter offaet, this is Ibn Taymiyya's

suggestion of what is meant by the phrase "God was and nothing else was with

Him'·. God was before everything, even the throne which belongs to the actions

of Gad. God then measured everything in writing its destiny in the preserved

tablet; then He created things, Le., the actions, and then the material world, thing

by thing.~.J t

The Prophefs intention, therefore, was to tell people about the beginning

of the creation of the heavens and the earth, the tirst material thing in this

phenomenal world (aJ-'aJam al-mashhüd),:!3:! when the water was inundating the

earth, and the wind was blowing over the water.!33 The Oufan also states that

"Then He lifted Himself to heaven when it was smoke, and said to it and to the

earth, -Come willingly or unwillingly: They said, 'We come willingly'" (41:11).234

The predecessors (salaf) , as Ibn Taymiyya believed, related as weil that the

heavens were created from the smoke, which is the vapor of the water.:!35

Ibn Taymiyya provides another argument in his interpretation byemploying

the Qur" ânic verses about the throne, water and smoke: that before every state of

the world there was another state and that the chain goes on infinitely. In this

argument Ibn Taymiyya repeats the same argument that was used by Ibn Rushd

in his Fa$1 al_Maqa/,236 where he maintained that Gad's saying, "·He who created

• the heavens and the earth in six days, while His throne rested on water" (11 :6),

• implies that before this existence there was another existence, that is, the throne

and the water, with the further implication that before this time there was another


Also, God"s saying ""Upon the day the earth shall be changed to other than

the earth" (14:56) implies that after this existence there is another existence.

God's saying as weil "He lifted Himself to heaven when it was smoke" entails

that the heavens were created not from nothing but from something else. Ibn

Rushd affirmed before Ibn Taymiyya that nothing in scripture indicates that God

existed with pure nothingness (. adam mal)r/).l3H

5. 2. The Etemitv of Creation is Transition from One Form to Another

Ibn Taymiyya thus unhesitatingly posited the doctrine of the transition of

things from state to state provided that the necessary connections or links are

admitted. This occurs through the transition from potentiality to actuality. Ibn

Taymiyya, who claims not to be using the philosophers' terms, in fact attempts to

affirm a number of Islamic philosophical concepts without employing the technical

terms that were often used. Instead, for example, he describes the transition

from state to state as being from body to body. He says that sorne Muslims have

summarized the methods that Muslims depended on to prove the existence of


The proof of the existence of Gad can be obtained by either the argument

• from possibility (imkan) or the argument from generation (I)udüth). Each of

these can be applied either to the essences or to theïr attributes.... 1-The
philosophers held the theory of possibility of the body on the grounds of

• the argument of composition. 2-The Mu"tazilites held the argument from

the generation of accidents and movements. 3- The possibility of the
attributes which is based on the similarities of the bodies. 4-The possibility
of ail what is mentioned above. 5-The generation of the attributes, this
method is mentioned in the Qur'an. 6-The generation of both the bodies
(ajsam) and their attributes.

Ibn Taymiyya comments that ail these arguments or methods are based

on a single notion, that is, the notion of body Uism). Even those who believed in

the generation of the attributes meant that the attributes are generated on the

same bodies which are composed of the same atoms. Some Muslims believed

that God's creation means that God is generating the generation by means of

transforming the same atoms from one quality into another. The adherents of this

argument concerning creation deny the theory of becoming.24 1

Ibn Taymiyya affirms that the majority of knowledgeable people are in

agreement on the incorrectness of this argument. Rather, they believed that Gad

is generating and creating the individuals (yakhluq al-a"yan WB yubdi" uha) under

the condition of transforming one body into another or one individual into another.

They do not say that sperm would remain in a man's body, or seed would remain
in the sowefs palm.

We find here, therefore, a comprehensive understanding of the idea of

becoming. Every individual is born and produced from another corruptible

individual, and this production might have delivered a totally different existent.

Every existent is created in a complete sense, there are no enduring similar

• atoms, and the accidents supervene upon them.

• Ibn Taymiyya instead talks about two kinds of form: the first kind of form is

the accidentai form where the matter is still the same but the forms change. "The

cloth can be torn. the stone can be broken. and the silver can be changed from

form ta form. but its truth, Le. its matter, remains as it is. This is what is called the

accidentai form ...244

The other concept of form is of the form that can be taken as the shape or

structure; the substrate that bears this kind of form is the body itself. Such a body

or thing subsists by virtue of itself and is produced from previous matter. Iike man

who is created from sperm. the sperm being the matter that does not endure but

that is going ta be annihilated and undergo corruption. 245

The true investigation leads one to say that the accidentai forms are

applicable only to artificial things like silver, iron, and wood. But the natural

entities, such as animais and plants, must possess their forms in the second

sense, that is. where the form can never be separate from its matter. The latter.

Ibn Taymiyya caUs the substantial forms for in them the substance subsists in

itself. A form such as the body of a man is to be understood as an independent

substance, created trom previous independent substance. 246

Neither of the concepts of form, accidentai or substantial, is

interchangeable. Gad creates the world. theretore, by way of a succession of

substantial torms: in transtorming things trom one sate to another. According to

Ibn Taymiyya, the Qur'ânic verses mentioned above, '~He rested at heaven while

• it was smoke~~ (41: 11) and "He who created the heavens and earth in six days"

• (11 :7), both prove that things are in a process of transformation rather than being

created out of nothing.

The Qur' an never mentions that Gad created out of nothing. Even a verse

like "1 created thee when thou wast nothing" (38:9) does not mean that God

created man or anything else out of a pure nothing. In other verses God says that

He created man from a drop of sperm. The interpretation of this is that God

creates things by means of producing them from each other. God's saying

therefore that He created man when he was nothing means when he was

potential in another determined substance, or in other words, Gad created the

created existent after such a determined existent was nothing.

Ali of these premises drove Ibn Taymiyya to the conclusion that "God

created the heavens and the earth in time and from an extant matter (0 mudda

wB-min madda):'14M This gives the theory of causality its fuillegitimacy, and, in

addition the notion of becoming gains its full validity in Ibn Taymiyya's thought.

Becoming, in consequence, is an infinite series of determined existents, or

substances, that follow necessarily upon each other. Prior matter is determined

and created in turn from another determined matter or from a different substance.

There is no prime matter as a real pre-existing element. 149 What exists is only

substance composed of matter and form, and the generation of a substance is

always the corruption of a previouslyexisting substance. Prime matter, if the term

is retained, therefore can be described as a constituent of the newly generated

• substance, the other constituent of the substance being its substantial form.:!So

But both matter and form can never be posited in separation from each other.

• Ibn Taymiyya, in his discussion of Ibn Sinâ's belief in etemal forms, i.e.

the possible, states that ~"it is true to understand the body as being composed

tram matter and form... but it is wrong ta believe that these forms can be

separate from the matter,251 sa as ta have an abstract form and abstract matter;251

this is what Plato and his followers said, but Aristotle denied any such theory.,,253

With respect ta future eternity, Ibn Taymiyya says, "what Gad is going ta

create after Judgment Day will happen in the same way as the creation of our

world from the coming into being of one thing after another, but people are not

able ta comprehend this in details...254

Ibn Rushd agrees with Ibn Sins that the wholly non-material agent,

namely, the active intellect, which is also called the ""giver of forms," creates the

form of every natural object. 255 Ibn Taymiyya, who did not agree with the

philosophers' belief in secondary causes and the active intellect, directly

connects the attributes of Gad with the natural forms. God's attributes as genera

and species are the givers of the forms. not the active intellect.

The common Aristotelian metaphysical ideas remain a source for both Ibn

Rushd and Ibn Taymiyya in maintaining that the world is etemal in the sense that

its genera and species are eternal. The transition, then, from the genera and

species into determined torms is the point of departure between these thinkers.

Ibn Taymiyya, in asserting the attributes of Gad as the most general forms, on

• the one hand, and the generation of God's actions in God's essence as the

• intermediary stage, on the other, provided a different ontology from that of the

Muslim philosophers who preceded him. Indeed, Ibn Taymiyya's harshest

criticism of Ibn Rushd is of Ibn Rushd's position on the heavenly spheres and on

Gad as a teleological cause (the spheres move toward Him). For Ibn Taymiyya

this deprives Gad of being the creator and real agent in being the giver of the

forms or substances.

5. 3. Natural Causality

The eternal transition tram substance ta substance, or from thing to thing,

is based on Ibn Taymiyya"s idea of causality.

Ibn Taymiyya completely rejected the Mutakallimün's denial of causality,

and considered their theory of the consecutiveness of things according ta God's

custom as a denial of the content of the Islamic religion itself: "'Whoever says that

man"s ability to act (isti(à"a) is not a cause, and considers the existence of this

ability as the same as its non-existence, and believes that the relation between

things is a mere custom or habit. is denying the causes, the wisdom of God and

God"s laws (shar AlJlJh)...256

Those who repudiated the causes, forces and natures allowed

knowledgeable people the opportunity to mock them. The adherents of this

stance said: --One should not say that man could be satisfied by bread or quench

his thirst by water because Gad creates the satisfaction and quenching at the

moment of eating the bread and drinking the water, not by virtue of il. ,,257 This

plainly contradicts the Qur'àn and Sunna, where Gad says, "And the water Gad

• sends down from heaven therewith reviving the earth after it is dead" (2: 164).

And "Fight them, and Gad will chastise them at your hands and degrade them"

(9:14). And ""It is He who sent down out of heaven water, and thereby We have

brought forth the shoot of every plant, and then We have brought forth the green

leaf of if" (5: 99).5M

Many Our"ânic verses clearty indicate that God acts by means of causes

He created first and then brings out of these causes new things. God. for Ibn

Taymiyya works through instruments and things produce each other as God has

decided for them; therefore, ""it is wrong to say that God created without
instrument (bi-la wllsita) for He produces things by means of each other.

Ibn Taymiyya decisively asserts that "1here is a power in fire that

necessitates heat, and in water a power that necessitates cold, the eye as weil

has a power to see, and the tongue a power to taste:,,26U He added that ""sorne

Muslims deny powers and natures, as did al-Ash-ari and the disciples of al-

Shâfi"ï and Ibn I:'ianbal, and others. Those who deny powers and natures deny

causes as weil, and say that God acts at the moment of causation not by means

of these causes ("inda al-asbllb Ill-bihll). ... Ali people know according to their

senses and reason that man satisfies hunger by means of eating food not stones,

and that plants grow by means of water. ... ",251

The theory of conditions as -causes' becomes clearer here, since causes

do not generate their effects by virtue of themselves alone, and Gad at the same

• time does not aet but through things themselves. Things as the creation of Gad

• have theïr potentiality; emergence from this potentiality occurs by means of God

as agent and as giver of the forms, or as actualizer of what is potential.

The transition into actuality, therefore, must occur through the agency of

God. The thing itself stands as a set of conditions by means of which God acts

and actualizes what things possess as their natures. Ibn Taymiyya clearly states

that, "Assertion of causes which cannot be independent in their power of

causation, but need a cooperator and helper (mushSrik wa mu·Swin) ... , is what

the Qu(an has stated, and what reason and proof have affirmed ....this is the true

tawlJid... and this tawlJid is what the philosopher Ibn Rushd believed.~~2h:!

Ibn Taymiyya seems more systematic than al-Ghazali in determining what

is due to God and what is due to natural things. Indeed, he uses the term

"condition" but he gives it its logical and ontological meaning, while al-Ghazali,

as we have seen earlier, used the term "condition" in order to adapt the notion of

philosophical cause to the kalam's doctrine of causality.:!63 But al-Ghazali did not

explain, as Frank has observed, how the effect emerges from of the condition.:!64

Ibn Taymiyya, however, gives this explanation and admits the existence of

potentiality and determines the thing as an instrument or shar( by which the

Agent work and provide, as an external factor, the existents with the actuality or

their forms.

Ibn Taymiyya maintained that the endless generation of things,

• beginningless and endless production are based on what can be called "double

causality·. The agent is Gad and the condition or instrument which stands as the

• proximate cause produces the next thing or event. The term --instrumenf' here

takes on its full meaning as the condition from which the effect emerges. This

emergence does not happen as a product cornes out of this and only this cause,

since the proximate cause does not represent a sufficient cause by which alone

the coming to be of the following thing can be born. This cause, in Ibn

Taymiyya"s understanding, is merely a condition or instrument by and from which

God actualizes the effect that occurs.~fl5

When Ibn Taymiyya, therefore, emphasizes the notion of the generation of

thing after thing, shay' ba-da shay', he absolutely means that each being

represents an immediate instrument, cause, or condition for the agent to

actualize its potentiality. This theory is in direct opposition to Aristotle and the

Muslim philosophers, including Ibn Rushd, inasmuch as it involves a rejection of

essential causes as permanent and lasting cosmic forces. Yet, both Ibn Rushd

and Ibn Taymiyya agree that the forms are to be received from an extemal entity;

but it is God, for Ibn Taymiyya, not the active intellect who is responsible for

providing forms in Ibn Rushd"s and Ibn Sinâ"s system. By removing the active

intellect, Ibn Tayrniyya guarantees that the will of Gad is totally involved in the


Ibn Taymiyya seems to have used and re-employed the traditionallslamic

approach to the theory of cause as condition. A condition is an instrument (a/a)

upon which the existence of another thing depends, it is a type of cause and it is

an existential thing upon which something different tram it depends (yatawaqqafu

"alayh), but the existence of the latter does not come completely from its

• condition 1 it is not its product, it is ··necessary!· in this process of production but it

is not '1he only sufficient cause··.

Sayf al-Din al-Amidi (d. 631/1234) explains

that a condition is what affects something else by virtue of the ability of affecting
(ta' thir) not by virtue of ils essence:·

These definitions may shed more light on Ibn Taymiyya's theory of

causality as being of two kinds: Gad is the only Agent in the world and the only

Seing who can create and produce something, on the one hand, and the created

things which are ail traces (athar) and instruments as weil of God's creation, on

the other. These traces affect each other by virtue of the ability of affecting

(ta·thir) that they possess, but they cannot play the agent's role and create things

by virtue of themselves. They are traces in the sense of being conditions which

will vanish at a definite moment of time, but not in the sense of secondary causes

which permanently exist and affect each other.

The source of confusion among people is that they do not succinctly

differentiate between two sorts of succession. What is meant by the term
succession (tasa/sul) is not the succession of the essences of things but
the succession of the traces (athar), in the sense that things are generated
one after another. ... The meaning of the affecting, i.e. causation (ta'thTr)
of a certain thing... is that the affected, Le. the effect (al-athar) is
conditioned (mashrüt) by virtue of a generated thing that occurred before
it; the athar cornes subsequently not simultaneously. By means ofthis
method, nothing would be etemal but Gad .... God's action in generating
something is conditioned by a previously generated thing by virtue of
wh ich the causation can happen (bihi tattimmu mu 'aththiriyat al-mu' thir). If
somebody says that Gad is sufficient in inventing and creating what He
has created, His action is not conditioned by something else, we say that
every action whereby God acts is conditioned by the action that Gad has
created in Himself, the created object cornes after it, this action in tum is
conditioned by something else.... What should be denied, therefore, is the

• succession of causes, but the succession of conditions and athar is

acceptable. And if every effect is preceded by another cause, the
succession is thus the succession of athar. 268

• One of the Islamic philosophical tradition's implications has been fulfilled

in Ibn Taymiyya's theory of infinite and etemal generation. This theory allowed

him to contribute to and justify many Muslim philosophical and theological issues:

the creation of the world, causality, and the etemity of God's actions. He avoids

as much as he possibly can using technical philosophical terms, although they

are present by implication. He never, for instance, uses the term -"cause" (-iIIa)

for God; rather, God is the Agent, Creator, Actor. Everything else is generated in

time but the process of generation in itself is etemal.


• Notes

1 Ibn Taymiyya. Afuwafaqar $a~1flJ a/-Manqü/ /i-$arfit a/-Ma'qü/ (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-
·Ilmiyya. (985) vol. l, p. 160.

2 Ibid. pp. 261-8.

j Ibid. p. 268.

4 The action is the anribute itself by which God created the created beings, and this action is
different From any created thing, and this is against the Ash'arites who said that the creation is the created
ching itself (a/-kha/q huw al-makhlüq). The action then is both a generated entity in God's essence and
remains a God's attribute: it is the attribute itselfin the sense that it is in a frequent state ofrenewal. See
.Huwàfaqar, vol. 2, pp. 15-7.

5 Ibn Taymiyya. Dar' Ta'arwj al-'Aql wa 'l-Naql (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya. (997) vol. 5,

n Ibn Taymiyya. Majmü' al a/-Rasa' il wa 'l-.\'fasa' il, 5 vols, ed. MulJammad Rashïd RiQa (Beirut:
Dâr al-Kutub al-'Ilmiyya, 1983) vol. 3, p. 383.

Ibn Taymiyya. ;\tuwafaqar, vol. 1. p. 17: Ibn Taymiyya argues against those who cali mis process
of the generation of the actions in God's essence as "change in God's essence", that '"the tenn change is a
common one (loft mushrarak) and what 1 mean by the emergence of generation in God's essence is not
becoming (isriJ;iila) but the actions themselves or transformation (taJ;iJawuf) or what is like, and no body
has an argument to deny that, since you [the philosophers] admined generation with respect to the heavenly
spheres despite their etemity and unchangeablity:', See Dar', vol. 5, p, 87.

~ Ibn Taymiyya. Jfajmü'ar al-Rasaïl, vol. 1, p. 361.

'1 Ibn Taymiyya. Afuwafaqar, vol. 1, pp. 17-8.

III Ibn Taymiyya. Afajmü'ar al-Rosa'il, vol. 3, pp. 441-4.

Il Nurcholish Madjid, Ibn Taymiyya on Kalam and Fa/safa (Chicago: Illinois, 1984) p. 159,

12 After al-Ghazali s criticism of the philosophers for holding the position of creation by necessity
which abrogate the role of God's wilL this argument became traditional, and has been used by almost ail
Sunnï theologians. See, for instance, 'Abd al·Karim al-Shahrastânt Kitab Nihâyal a/-Iqdam fi 'Ilmi a/-
Ka/am. ed. A. Guillaume (London: Oxford University Press, 1934) pp. 20-3, where he differentiates
between the creation Cfjad) and necessitation Cfjiib) and assigns the will as the basic distinguishing
character between the !wo processes, he says: '~ere is no relation between God and the world except

• through the action. God's activity and the agent"". But the case is different with Ibn Taymiyya, since he does
not refute the philosophers and use the same argument ofthe Asb'arites in order to defend the will ofGod
in arbitrary manner. Rather he would give mis will its philosophical role where it would be interwoven with
the etemal causa lity as we shall see below.

• 13 Ibn Taymiyy~ Jfinhâj a/-Sunna a/-Nabawi}ya (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'l1miyy~ n.d) vol. l,
pp. 89-92. cited in N. Madjid. Ibn Taymiyya. pp. 159-60.

14 Ibn Ta~miyy~ Jfuwiifaqat. p. 304.

15 1b1'd • p. "'-1
_:1 .

Ih . . . D
lb n T a~ml~'Ya. ' vo 1. "- pp. "9
ar. - 9.
_ ,-

17 Ibn Taymiyya. Aluwiifaqal. vol. 1. p. 252.

I~ Ibn Taymiyya. Afinhiij. vol. 1. p. 94.

ILl Ibn Taymiyya, Aluwiifaqat. pp. 284-90.

2\ 1 Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3. pp. 403-4

21 Ibn Taymiyya. Afinhiij, vol. 1. pp. 191-2. see N. Madjid./bn Taymi}'}'a, p. 169.

22 Ibn Taymiyya uses the term 'Jahmiyya' in a very broad sense: every Muslim thinker who
emphasizes the rranscendence of Gad and deprives Him of anributes is considered to belong ta the
Jahmiyya school of theology. Jahmiyya in Ibn Taymiyya's terminology is a category that includes many
philosophers. theologians and mystics because of their view of God's extreme transcendence. See Ibn
Taymiyya. .'.finhiij a/-Sunna. vol. 1. pp. 93-99. & Dar', vol. 3. pp. 346-58.

~ Ibn Ta~miyya, Jfinhiij. vol. l, p. 191.

2~ Ibn Taymiyya means here that the fICSt intellect is prepared by its nature to move and generate
more than one entity: change and diversity begin from the tirst intellect. God for the philosophers ncither
changes nor produces more than one. The real meaning of generation, therefore, starts from the tirst
intellect. But the emanation of the tirst intellect wherein God's will is absent and God's essence maintains
its entire simplicity and stability cannot be called a creation or generation (JJudüth), as we shaH see below.

25 Ibn Taymiyya. .~linhiij. vol. 1. p. 171.

26 "idhâ qi/a huwa miijibun bi-dhiitihi. 'aw bi-·il/a. 'aw nalJwa dhâlika. annahu miijibu mii.vüjibu
hi-mashf alihi wa-qudratihi fi a/-waqt a//adhi shii'. fa hiidhii lJaqq. wa-lii muniifàl bayna Icawnuhu miijib
wa fàïl bi'l-ilchtiyiir. Wa ln urida 'annahu miijib bi-dhiil'ariyalin 'an al-~iflit. 'aw miijib lâmm li-ma'/üJ
muqiirin lahu-wa-hiidhii qawlu hâ"iilii'- jà-ki/ii al-amrayn biit,il.'· See Ibn Taymiyya, Muwiifaqat, vol. l,

Creation out ofnothing was always encountered by the argument that the creation of the world
after this world was nothing entails that sorne thing emerges in God's essence that caused the creation to
tak~ place. The traditional argument of those who held the creation of nothing was that the will ofGod
created the world at the moment when this world should he. If we assume that something emerged in God' s

• essence that impelled Him to create, we have to look for the cause that caused this new thing to emerge and
that would go intinitely, and the infinite regress is impossible. The only possibility, therefore. is to assen
that the determinant (murajjif.z) of the world is eternal and that He is at the time of creation the same as was
He is before creation. See, Sayfal-Dïn al-Âmidï, Ghiiyal a/-Afaramfi '/lm al-Kalam. ed. H. 'Abd al-La~ïf
(Cairo: al-Majlis al-A 'Ia lil-Thaqafa. 1971) pp. 265. 269; al-Shahrastânï. Nihiiyat a/-lqdam. pp. 35-45; 'Abd
al-Jabbar al-Hamadhani, Sharf.z a/-L~ül a/-Khamsa, ed. A. K. 'Uthman (Cairo: Maktabat Wahba. 1965) p.
115; Fakhr al-Din al-Râzï, a/-Arba'ïn fi u~iil a/-Dïn, ed. A. H. Saqqa (Cairo: Mak"tabat al-Kulliyyat al-
Azhariyya. 1986, pp. 41-2.

2S Ibn Sina, K. a/-:\'ajt11, intro. M. Fakhry (Beirut: Dar al-Âfàq al-Jadïda. 1985) p. 291 (my
translation ).

2Y Ib"d "9'" .
1 • p. __

JI j Ibid. pp. 249-56.

31 William L. Craig, The Ka/am Cosm%gical Argument (London: Macmillan. 1979) p. 46.

32 The historians of Islamic philosophy are almost a~1 in agreement that al-Kindï is the tirst
systematic and creative philosopher in Islam. He was a prompter or patron of the translation movement and
the champion of the introduction ofGreek and Indian writings into the Muslim world. [n Baghdad al-Kindï
enjoyed the patronage of three 'Abbasid caliphs: al-Ma'mün ([98-2[8/813-833), al-Mu'~im (218-
227'833-842), and al-Wathiq (227-232/842-847) whose inclination towards the Mu'tazilites' doctrine is
kno\"·n. The historians also agree that Many aspects of al-KindTs thought give a clear indication of the
Mu'tazilite's influence. al-Kindï held the doctrine of creation e.l' nihilo even though he was acquainted with
Aristotle and Plotinus: his work defending creation out ofnothing is entitled The True and Perfeet PrimaIJ'
Agenr. as Against the Imperfect. Figurative One. The opposite view developed by al-Fâr3bï and Ibn Sïna
that maintained the etemity of the world through the philosophical theory of emanation was under harsh
attack. AI-KindI believed that metaphysical knowledge is the knowledge of the causes of things: the
materiai. formaI. efficient. and final causes. He believed as weil in (wo sorts of existents, malerial and
immaterial. God remains for al-Kindï the only real Agent or Cause in the world. Everything other than God,
if to he calied agent. possesses an agency that is figurative, not real, although things are related to each
other according to cause-effect and potentiality-actuality. See M. Fakhry, A History ofIslamic Philosophy
(New York & London: Colombia University Press. 1970) pp. 83-11 1.

33 The available information on the general biography of Ibn Tufayl tells us that he was born in
Guadix. 60 kilometers nonheast of the great cultural center of Granada in Andalusia. Funher information is
not available until he emerges into view in 54211147 when he traveled to Marrakesh to undertake an
assignment for the MuwalJlJid caliph 'Abd al-Mu'min (r. 524-58/1130-63). Ibn Tufayl is said to have
wnuen numerous works on medicine, astronomy, and philosophy. The only philosophical work ofhis to
survive is fjayy b. raq;iin. an allegorical novel in which he develops the esoteric theme of the solitary
which Ibn BaBah had placed at the center of his ethical and metaphysical system. His medical career it is
said to be echoed in fjQ)}" b. t"aq;iin. but more prominent in Ifayy is Ibn Tufayl"s interest in philosophy. [n
this work Ibn Tufayl wanted to express the harmony between philosophy in its Neoplatonic form and
religion. but M. Fakhry believes that the philosophical truth in this work is on[y for the privileged few. See,

Fakhr)', A History. pp. 295-301; and La\Wence 1. Conra~ The Wor/d oflbn Tufayl (Leiden. New York.
Koln: E.J. BrilL 1996) pp. 2-34.

• 173.
34 Julius Weinberg. "Causation'" Diciionary ofthe History ofldeas, ed. P. Wiener, vol. l, 1968. p.

35 al-Ghazâli. Tahiifut a/-Falasifa, ed. M. Bouyges. intro. M. Fakhry (Beirut: Dar al-Mashriq,
1983) p. 50.

Jo Ibn Sina. K. aJ-Najiit. pp. 275-6; Ibn Rushd, al-Kashf. p. 108.

37 al-Ghazâli. Tahafut. p. 49.

JH The admission that a cause stands behind the creation of the world is not a sufficient answer for
Ibn Taymiyya. since the question still needs to be responded ifwe are going to philosophically explain the
emergcnce of everything. Reason. therefore. would not be satisfied and would ask again what caused this
cause or who caused the generation of the cause: every assumed cause needs another cause that produces it.
and the process goes infinitely. See Ibn Taymiyya's l\4uwafaqat. vol. 1, pp. 241-2.

J9 H. Davidson. Proofs for Eternity. Creation and the Existence o/God in Medieval/slamic and
Jel\'ish Philosophy (New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1987). p. 132.

40 John Philoponus (sixth century) is the Christian pre-Islamic philosopher who was known to the
Arabs as John the Grammarian. He is the most celebrated philosopher to undenake first a comprehensive
and massive attack on the Aristotelian and Neoplatonic doctrine of the etemity of the world in a systematic
way. and who assened that the world must have a beginning in time. John believes that in order to conceive
the universe as a creation ofGod we should apply the category of privation. Like every physical fonn. the
universe presupposes its privation. the nonuniverse. out of which it was created and into which it must
perish. God in Philoponus' belief is both the Creator ex nihilo and transcends ail creations. The object of
Philoponus' attack was not restricted to his rejection of the etemity of the world; he rejected as weil the
dichotomy of heaven and earth. Against the doctrine that the celestial bodies are made of the indestructible
ether (the fifth element whose natural movement is circular) and their changelessness therefore was
believed to affirm the etemity of the world. Philoponus argued that the universe. like every organic entity. is
composed of parts that change at different and sometimes very slow rates. Furthermore, the greater the
quantil)o' of matter. the lower its rate of change. This applies to the immense celestial bodies as weil as to
terrestrial objects. See. Samuel Sambursky. "Philoponus, John", Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. P.
Edwards. vol. 6. pp. 156-7.

41 al-Ghazâli. Tahiifur. pp. 44. 110. 114.

42 Ibn Taymiyya. i\luwafaqar. vol. l, p. 278.

43 These tenns (rarjÏ/:l bilii murajji~l and !Judûrh bila sabab /:ladith) are repeatedly mentioned by Ibn
Taymiyya to denote the later Ash'arites' philosophical weakness in determining the way God created the
world. 8efore al-Ghazali even the terro 'cause' was never used by the Ash"arites. See M. Fakhry. "The
Classical Arguments for the Existence ofGod". The A-Iuslim World, vol. 47,1957, pp. 136-40.

~ Ibn Taymiyya. of course. fully agrees with the philosopher's refutation of the MutakallimÜD•
and he found himself 50 convinced that he implicitly points out that the kalam should either change its way
of thinking or to he unable to defend the doctrine of the reallslamic religion. See K ."A. al-"Ikk, a/-U~ül al-
Fikriyya lil-A-fanâhij al-Sa/af.rvya (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islamï. 1995) pp. 129-30.

• 45 Ibn Taymiyya. '''Iuwafaqal, vol. 2, p. 30.

~tl Ibn Taymiyya repeatedly expresses his rejection and dislike of the kalam's use oftenns 5uch as
atom. accident, generation. body (jism), composition, etc. See .\1ajmü·al a/-Rasa' il, vol. 5, p. 2]6.

~7 Ibn Taymiyya. .\-Iuwafaqal, vol. 2, p. 143.

~H What Ibn Taymiyya exactly opposes in relation to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is the
Mutakallimun's belief that the world has a beginning (anna /i/-wujüd muftala/:J) as al-Juwaynï expressed
this in his a/-/rshàd, p. 16. Ibn Taymiyya does not agree with this tenet, although he does agree that each
individual of a species is really created, but the world as a whole does not have a beginning, Ibn Taymiyya,
....tajmii·QI al-Rasa'il. vol. 3. p. 375.

~9 The kaHimic literature. particularly the Ash'arite's, is in consensus that the notion ofan infinite
series of causes or infinite regression of'asbab' is absolutely unthinkable. See Abu Bakr al-Baqillâni, K. al-
Tamhid. ed. J. McCarthy (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-Sharqiyya, 1957) p. 25; Abu al-Ma'âli al-Juwayni. a/-
Irshàd Hii Qawii~i' a/-Adi//a fi U~ül a/-/"tiqad. ed. M. Y. MUsa & A. A.. Abd al-~amïd (Cairo: Maktabat
Khanji, 1950) p. 32; a/-Shiimi/ fi U~ü/ al-Din. ed.. A. S. al-Nashshâr and F. B.' Awn & S. Mukhtar
(Alexandria: Munsha'at al-Ma'ârif. 1969) pp. 617-18; 'Abd al-Jabbar, Shar/:J al-U~ul. p. 181. al-Râzï, al-
..lrba'in. p. 92; ,Açlud al-Din al-Tji, al-Jlawiiqiffi 'llm a/-Kalam, (Beirut: •Âlam al-Kutub, n.d) vol. 3, pp. 4-
15: 'Abd al-Qâhir al-Baghdadi, K. U~ü/ al-Din, 3rd ed, H. P. Linss (Cairo: Dar IlJya' al-Kutub al-·Arabiyya.
1963) p. 76; Sayfal-Din al-Amidi. Ghiiyal al-Moram. p. 81; Abu al-Mu'in al-Nasati. Tab~iral a/-Adi//a, ed.
C. Salamé (Damascus: Institut Français, 1990) vol. 1, p. 301.

Sil Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3, pp. 401-3.

SI The other two doctrines are the philosophers' beliefs that God does not know particulars and
their denial of the resurrection of bodies. See, Al-Ghazali, Tahafut a/-Faliisifa (Incoherence of the
Phi/osophers) trans. S. A. Kamali (Lahore: Pakistan Philosophical Congress. 1963) p. 249.

5~ Abu al-Thana' al-Lâmichï, K. al-Tamhid Ii-Qawa'id al-TawlJid, ed. A. M. Turkï (Beirut: Dar al-
Gharb al-Islâmï, 1995) pp. 75-77; Maymûn b. MulJammad al-Nasati (Abü al-Muln), BalJr al-Ka/am
(Damascus: Maktabat Dar Fartùr, 1997) pp. 92.

53 al-Nasatl. Tab~iral a/-Adi//a, vol. 1, p. 308; BaJ;r al-Ka/am, p. 93.

54 al-Nasatl. Tab~irat. pp. 307-10.

55 Ibn Taymiyya. .\Juwii/aqal, vol. l, p. 89.

5n lb1-d. pp. .> 1"_- 1.>.


• 5i Ibn Taymiyya, .Uajmü'al a/-Rasa' if wa '/-Alasa'i/, 5 vols., ed. M. R.

al--I1miyya. (983) vol. 3, p. 373.
Ri44 (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub

• 5M

Ib'd ... 7..J.
1 • p. .J ..

Evan Fales. Causalion and Universals (London & New York: Routledge, 1990) p. 132.

hl) Sayfal-Dïn al-Âmidï. Ghiiyal al-Alaramfi '/Im al-Kalam. pp. 266-7; al-Shahrastânï, Nihiiyal al-
Iqdam. pp. 3-4.

hl Ibn Sïna. al-Najat. p. 117.

h2 Ibn Taymiyya. Minhaj al-Sunna. vol. 1. p. 57.

IJJ lb 1'd• p.'-8 .

M Ibn Taymiyya. Aluwafaqat. vol. 2. pp. 129-30.

/15 Ibn Taymiyya. Majmü'al al-Rasa'il. vol. 3. p. 373.

hn This sort of causality can be found in contemporary Western philosophers Iike Bertrand Russell
who states his view in a way similar to that mentioned by Ibn Taymiyya with regard to the time interval
between cause and effect and how events come after each other in an order of consicutiveness. Russell says:
"No two instants are contiguous. since the time-series is compact; hence either the cause or the effect must
... endure for a tinite time ... But when we are faced with the dilemma: if the cause is a process involving
change within itself. we shaH require causal relations between its earlier and later parts ...This dilemma,
therefore. is fatal to the view that cause and efTect can be contiguous in time; if there are causes and effects,
they must be separated by a finite time interval." "On the Notion of Cause," in Russell, Afysticism and
Logie (Totowa. N. J.: Bames & Noble) pp. 132-5 L cited in E. False, Causation and Universals, p. 130.

hi Ibn Taymiyya. l~.fajmü·at. vol. 5, p. 449.

hX Van den Bergh explains Ibn Rushd's refutation of al-Ghazàlrs argument of the distinction
between the etemal will and the created object. He says "to this argument al-Ghazâli gives the foHowing
answer. which has become the classical reply for this difficulty and which has been taken from Philoponus.
One must distinguish. says Philoponus. between God's eternally willing something and the etemity of the
object of His will. God willed, for instance. that Sacrates should be born before Plato and He willed this
from eternity. so when it was lime for Plato 10 be born it happened. Il is not difticult for Ibn Rushd to refute
this argument. In willing and doing something there is more than just the decision. An impulse or
motivation must be added to make the eternal decision to be fulfilled, in God there would have to be a new
impulse. and it is just this newness that al-Ghazâli and the ail adherents ofcreation ex nihilo are to deny."
"Introduction" to his translation of The Incoherence a/the Incoherence (London: Oxford University Press,
(954) p. xviii.

fol) This is the traditional stance that the Ash'arite school took against the Mu·tazilites who held that
the identitication between God's essence and His attributes means that the attributes are identical with each

other. This stance is modified by Ibn Taymiyya who found in the Ash·arite definition a means of making
each attribute. in its quality of genus or species, different from the others.

in Ibn Tayrniyya, l\Jinhiij al-Sunna. vol. 1, p. 61.


• 71 Abü Rashïd al-Nïsabüri. aJ-Alasa'il fl't-Khilal bayn aJ-Bayriyyïn wa 'l-Baghdiidyyïn, ed. M.

Zyada and R. Sayd (Beirut: Ma'had al-lnma' al-' Arabi. (979) pp. 133-39.

7~ Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3, p. 399.

-3 Ibn Taymiyya• .\luwiifaqar, vol. 2. p. 25.

7-1 Ibn Taymiyya. K. t.lJ-Radd 'ala a/-AJan~iqiyyïn (Bumbai:'a al-Qayyma, 1949) pp. 229-

75 For Ibn Taymiyya the will is a genus like ail other attributes and when he talks about the will as
a cause he means a particular cause which is a particular actualized entily produced from the will as a
genus. So we have always to be cautious and differentiate between the will as a genus and the will as a
detennined particular cause.

70 Ibn Taymiyya, Jfajmü'al al-Rasii'il. vol. 3, pp. -164, 504.

" Ibn Taymiyya. .Huwiifaqar. vol. 2, p. 16.

7S Ibid.• vol. 1. p. 306-1 1.

-:'1) al-:\midi. Ghiiyar al-Afariim, pp. 268-9: al-Shahrastani. Nihii)'ar al-Iqdam (Arabie text) pp. 36-
-15: al-Ash'arï. Jlaqiiliir aJ-lsliimiyyïn, pp. 155-6.

Sil R. Frank. '·Anribute. Attribution. and Being: Three lslamic Views" in Philosophies ofExis/ence.
ed. P. Morewedge (New York: Fordham University Press. 1988) pp. 261-2, 267-70.

~ 1 lb n T ayml}-ya.
. D ' vo 1. ::l,
ar. - p. 8"".J.

~~ The debate between Muslim theologians about the agent, His actions and the created thing is a
long-established one. AI-Ash'arï in his Afaqiiliir, p. 51. and al-Baghdadi, U~ül a/-Dïn, p. 69, tell us that
Bishr b. al-Mu'tamir (d. 210/825) the founder of the Baghdad Mu·tazilite schoal under al-Ma'mun. said
that ..the aet of creation of somelhing is different from the thing created," Abu al-Hudhayl al-' Allaf,
distinguished as weil the ael of creation from the thing created, identifying the former with God's creative
utterance. "Be" (kun). He thus distinguished the thing created from the act which affects its existence. Abu
al-Hudhayl's disciple Abü Ya'qüb al-Shai:ll)am explicitly states that the possible (al-ma"düm) is "a thing"
(sh~"): an entity which is. strictly speaking, an individual object ofGod's knowing. AI-Ash'ari and his
followers simply deny the distinction which was made between essence and existence. The possible
(ma"diim) simply is not. Any being which is contingent and temporal (mul)darh)--Le., bodies and accidents-
-is simply the act of its being created: a/-Icha/q huwa a/-makh/üq (the act ofcreating is the thing created).
The act of creation is the Self or essence which is the existence of the creature, and the totality of the being
of any contingent being is its being created. See Richard Walzer, Greek into Arabie (Cambridge,

Massachusen: Harvard University Press, 1962) p. 183, and R. Frank, "Attribute, Attributions", pp. 261,
271. Although the Mu'tazilites made this distinction between the act ofcreation and the created thing, we
cannat find sufficient explanation in their literature for the nature of the relation between the act ofcreation
and the created thing, nor do we find a c1ear defmition of the term "act of creation': where it takes place,

• what substrate it resides in. and what its ontological position is. Ibn Taymiyya clearly defines it as being a
second stage of the actualization ofGod's attributes, and as being the real cause of the created thing, since
the created object is no more than the final embodiment and actualization the attribute of God.

HJ Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 5, p. 361.

S~ Ibn Rushd. in an interesting passage in his aJ-Kashf'an iHanahij aJ-Addi/a admits that the will
of God is genus and prior to individuals, "The will that is prior ta the object willed is the will that remains
potential (bi '/-quwa); its actions do not occur yet. ln arder for the will to he actualized, an action must
adhere to il that necessitates the production of the individuals willed. The resulting actuality would change
the will. The will wouId not remain as il was before and after the actuality is produced, especially as the
will that was the cause of producing the thing willed by virtue ofan action (hi-lawasU( al-fi'f). Religion
(shar') does not state whether the will is eternal or generated, but rather states what is clcarer, that the will
is generating a generated object." p. 58.

:-15 Ibn Taymiyya. "'fajmu'ar al-Rasa'i/. vol. 5. p. 371.

Sil Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3. pp. 191-203: ~fuwafaqal. vol. l, pp. 344-50.

Si Ibn Taymiyya. Jfzl'wiijàqar. vol. 2. p. 21.

1'114 Ib"d
1 • p. 1'"

H'i lb 1'd• p. "'6

_ .

'11' The distinction between what is generated in God's essence and what is generated outside of
God was made by the Karramites. who admined generation in God's essence. Sayfal-Dïn al-Âmidï says
lhat ·'the Karrâmites agreed that God is a substrate of generation, but they do not agree that this substrate is
a substrate of ail generated things, it is rather a substrate of what God needs to create. They differ in the
way the generated thing happens, sorne believed that God's saying 'Be" others maintained that the will of
God is the cause of generation... they agreed that the created thing which abides in God's essence is to he
named 'generated' (I]adirh), and what is created outside Gad is to he named created (mulJdalh):' The
Karramites believed as weil that Gad is a body, and sorne of them exaggerated in this regard and
maintained that God has a form similar to the human. Others said that Gad is composed of flesh and blood.
See Ghiïyar al-IHariim. p. 180. Ibn Taymiyya who shared with the Karrâmites the belief in God as a
substrate of generation differed from them on many points; he made generation a philosophical principle
based on the consideration of God' s attributes as genera and species, and he rejected their view of depicting
God in a bodily shape.

91 1b1'd• p. "'7
_ .

- Ibid. p. 21.

'J3 • Abd al-Jabbar. SharlJ. a/-U~ü'. p. 117, cited in Davidson, Proofs, p. 60; Davidson comments

• that . Abd al-labbar does not explain how the authors of the argument would hannonize the unchangeability
ofGod's knowledge with the constant changes in the objects ofhis knowledge within an etemal universe.

• 44 Davidson. relates sorne of the philosophers' views which held that the process of creation
implies inevitably that a change in God's essence would occur: "The argumentation has been mat the
ultimate cause of the universe mus~ in general, he unchangeable and consequently could not pass from
inaction to action. Several variations are in evidence as well, each of which directs its attention to a respect
wherein the cause of the universe would have to be unchangeable. Proclus (410-485) argues that the
decision to creatc the world at a particular moment would constitute a change in God's will. Inasmuch.
however, as God's will must be identical with His essence, and His essence is unchangeable, His will must
be unchangeable. God consequently could not have decide to create the world after having failed to make
the decision. and the world must be etemal:' This argument is repeated in almost the same way by the
Muslim philosophers and Ibn Taymiyya in order to refute the creation ex nihilo and defend the etemity of
the world. See Proofs for Ererniry. p. 61.

'.15 Proclus was the administrator of the Athenian school ofNeoplatonism. His works remained
very influential for many centuries after his death. Simplicius who came almost two centuries after Proclus
was influenced by him though he differs on many points. Simplicius was a pagan philosopher and was
closer to Arislotle than Proclus: he defended Aristolle not only against Philoponus but also against Proclus
who believed that there was a ditTerence between Plata and Aristode, though both agreed on the etemity of
the world. Interestingly. whereas Proclus was defending the etemity of the world from the Neoplatonic
Christian point of view. Simplicius was defending the etemity of the world from pagan Neoplatonic point
of view. ·'Later. Simplicius used Proclus' argument regarding the longevity of the observation of the
Babylonians and Egyptians to suppon the etemity and unchangeablity of the heavens. He did this to counter
the Christian lohn Philoponus. who professed that. as the Bible says, the cosmos had a beginning in time."
Simplicius records five groups of arguments, but they more obviously have to do with the world's ending or
perishability than with its beginning. Philoponus in his refutation of Aristotle was concemed to prove that
the world has an end. which leads obviously to the conclusion that the world has a beginning. Simplicius'
success. as a matter of facto in proving that the world does not end means that it does not have a beginning.
See. Laurence 1. Rosan. "Proclus". ed. P. Edwards. Encyc/opedia ofPhilosophy. vol. 6, pp. 479-8. and
Lucas Siorvanes. Proc/us: .VeoplalOnic Philosophy and Science (New Haven & London: Yale University
Press. 1996) p. 28.

% Davidson. Proo/s. p. 61.

97 Simplicius (sixth century) a Neoplatonic pagan philosopher, is one of the seven philosophers
who left the Roman Empire and sought to continue teaching at the court of the Persian emperor at
Ctesiphon. Nevertheless, things did not tum out successfully, and they returned. The end of the Athenian
school is lost in the mists of history. Vet, after the retum of the seven professors. there began to appear
major publications from Simplicius. Simplicius wrote extensive commentaries on Aristotle's Categories,
the Physies and On the HeQ\·ens. which are invaluable. Not only did they preserve many Pre-socratic
doctrines. but also conveyed a fresh understanding of matter. space and dynamics. See L. Siorvanes.
Proclus. p. 28.

9K R. Walzer. Greek in/o Arabie. p. 193.

<}'1 Proclus' commentaries in Rep. Book X. the Gorgias, the Phaedo and the Golden Verses, are
known to have been translated into Syriac. Fragmentary Arabic versions of the last two are also recorded.
and various others of his worles were known at least by name to Muslim scholars. See E. R. Dodds,

"Introduction" to his trans., Proclus' The Elements of The%gy (Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1963) pp. xxviii-
x-xix. Dodds seems to have relied on the Fihrist of MuI}ammad Ibn Is~aq in the German translation by
August Muller. published under the tide Die Grieehisehen Philosophen in der Arabisehen Ueberlieferung,
Halle. 1873. pp. 22-3. Walzer confinns in his Greek into Arabie. pp. 190-1, that the late Alexandrian
Christian Neoplatonic Aristotelian philosopher John Philoponus' work against Proclus De aetern;tale

• mundi and the tater work--in six books-against Aristotle (known only from copious quotations to he found
in Simplicius' commentaries on Aristotle's Physics and the De caeJo) were bath known to the Arabs in
translation. Walzer also depended on Ibn Isl:lâq al-Nadrm's Fihrist. Cairo, pp. 16-7.

1(H 1 al-Shahrastânï. Nihiiyat. p. 20. This discussion may have played a role in influencing Ibn
Taymiyya. who read Nihâyal al-Iqdâm and mentioned many times.

/b 1'd • p. 6'".,.

Ill:! a 1- Shahrastam.
- - ,li ayat. p. "'1
,r'h- _, Ara b'IC version.
. p..4-,.

1113 Ibid. p. 2 I. Arabie version. p. 45.

1114 It is important to note that Ibn Taymiyya's theory of creation as God's will being etemally
motivating the attributes is different trom those theories which maintained that creation is the emergence of
universals existing pre-etemally in God's mind. The metaphysical theory ofuniversals as heing God's nous
can be traced back to the many thinkers. Philo Judaeus (20 S.C.-A.D. 40) retrieved and revived some
Platonic ideas in order to harmonize them with scripture. Philo found that the most compatible with
scriptural teaching was Plato's conception. in the Timaeus, ofa God who had existed from etemity with His
etemal ideas. Philo adopted this pan of Plato's Timaeus though maintaining at the same time that these
ideas are not etemal because he wants to harmonize scriptural teaching about God as the only etemal being
with Greek philosophy. These ideas. or "logos" or "intelligible world", as Philo called them. have a twofold
existence: first. from etemity they existed as God's thoughts: then. prior to the creation of the world they
were created by God as real beings. Philo, however. following the scriptural conception ofGod as an all-
powerful tree agent. takes the will by which Gad created the world to mean that had Gad willed. he could
have c=ither not created the world or created another kind ofworld. See H. Wolfson. "Philo Judaeus'·. The
Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ed. P. Edwards. vol. 6. pp. 151-2. The theory ofuniversals as God's nous can
also be found in the early Neo-platonist school. We are told that the distinction between Gad and the nous
was made by Plotinus. Saccas. and his tèllow pupils. like Origin and Cassius Longinus. who was executed
in 273 by Aurelian. ail held that Gad and the nous are one. See E. Zeller. DucUnes ofthe History ofGreek
Philosophy (Cleveland & New York: The World Publishing Company. 1967) p. 313.
Ibn Taymiyya's theory of the universals. genera and species, is completely different from these
early contributions. First of ail. these universals are not God's ideas; they are rather His attributes. the fact
that makes Gad more involved in the process of creation. Second, these attributes are not created and
cannot be embodied and actualized in time. On the contrary. these genera and species are etemal and they
are etemallyproducingtheirindividuals.Moreover.this production is conceived philosophically. for each
stage of production or creation is philosophically justified and grounded in argument.

IIt5 Abü al-Barakât has refuted this kalamic principle and rejected its application to everything. He
says that. the admission of this principle is equal to negating the infinite generation, which leads to
abstracting God trom etemal action. ft is almost the same argument that also used by Ibn Taymiyya. See a/-
Alu'tabar fi al-Hikma al-lIâhiyya (Hyderabad. 1358/1939) vol. III. pp. 32-3.

IlItI Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 3. pp. 173-9.

lm Ibn Rushd. a/-Kashf 'an .Manâhij a/-Adi/la fi 'Aqii'id a/-Mil/a, ed. Lajnat D,iya' al-Turath

• (Beirut: Dâr al-Âfiiq aJ-Jadïda. 1982) p. 53.


"d Fakh
. ry, Il . 0 eeaslOna
s amIe
George Allen & Unwin, (958) pp. 120-l.
. l'lsm an d'us Crluque
-. b~' ."tllerroes
an d,f .
."tqumas (L on don:

Ill'} Ibn Rushd. al-Kashf. p. 52.

Illl Ibn Taymiyya. ;\finhaj al-Sunna. vol. L pp. 122-23.

III Yüsuf Ibn Isma'TI al-Nabhanï. Shawahid al-Ifaqq (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-"I1miyya. (996).

112 Henri Laoust. Essai sur les doctrines sociales et politiques de Taki-d-D'in AlJmad b. Taimiya
(Le Caire: Imprimerie de nnstitut français d'archéologie orientale, 1939) p. 170~ see also al-Shahrastanï,
.\ïhiiyal al-Iqdam. where he states that the Karramites distinguished between will (mashï a) and volition
(irada) and considered the tirst al-mashïa etemal though they believed that the second irada was created in
time. p. 18.

lU Ibn I;-lanbaL al-Radd 'ala al-Jahmiyya wa 'I-Zanadiqa. ed. 'Abd al-RaJ:unan Abu 'Umayrah,
(Riyad: Dar al-liwa', 1977) p. lot2: al-Baghdadï. U~ül al-Dïn, p. 109: al-Shahrastânï. al-Mi/al, vol. 1. p. 46.
and .\ïhayar al-Iqdiim. p. Tl.

114 al-Razï. al-Arba·ïn. pp. 168-70.

115 Abü al-I:fusayn al-Ba~rï a Mu·tazilite theologian. originated trom B~ra where he heard the
fJadich as he studied kalarn and u~ül al-fiqh with QaQï 'Abd al-Jabbar. He studied philosophy and science
with the Christian Abü' Alî b. al-Sam~, a student ofYaI)ya b. 'Am. His book al-Mu'tamadfi U~iil al-Fiqh
also became popular among non-Mu'tazilite scholars and, aecording to Ibn Khallikan. fonned the basis of
Fakhr al-Dïn al-Razï s K. al-.\1a~ül. In his doctrine. Abü al-I;-Iusayn was deeply intluenced by the concepts
of the philosophers and diverged from the Bahashima. the school of Abü Hashim al-Jubba·ï. Ibn al-Qif\î
suggests that he concealed his philosophical views under the fonns of the kalam theologians in order to
protect himself. According to Ibn al-MunaQâ, Fakhr al-Din al-RazI adopted many ofhis views on the
"subtleties" (la(fj) of kalam. i.e.. rnatters not touching fundamental dogm.l. See. W. Madelung, "Abü 'L-
l:1usayn al-B~n-', Encyclopaedia of Islam, supplernen~ 1-6. p. 25. Although both al-Razï and al-
ShahrastanÎ present Abü al-I;-Iusayn as an adherent of the doctrine of the tajaddud in God's anribute of
knowledge. Madelung does not mention. AI-Râzï in his al-Arba''infi U~ül al-D'in, as mentioned above.
reports that Abü al-tlusayn al-B~rï maintained that God's knowledge changes in correspondence to the
change of renewal of information which corresponds to the change in created things. Al-ShahrastanL as
weiL in his Nihayar al-Iqdam, p. 221. repons. in course ofhis discussion of the notion ofGod's knowledge,
that ..the Mu'tazilites said mat God knows etemally through His essence about the future, and the relation
of His essence. or the mode of His knowingness to the knowable in the future is the same as to the
knowable in the present. Abü al-{-Iusayn al-B~rï ditTered from his school and inclined towards Hisham b.
al-I;-Iakam's doctrine and afflIlTled the renewablity of God's states (tajaddud aiJwal ai-BarI) in
correspondence to the renewablity of things' states. Although Abü al-{-fusa}n was not an adherent of the
theory of sates (alJwal). he maintained that the connections between God's knowledge and things are
additional states of the Self-knowing. Abü al-I;-Iusayn. in ail his tenets. was following the method of the
philosophers and refuting his masters the Mu·tazilites".

• 116 Hibat Allah b. Malka al-Bagbdâdï al-Balam was a philosopher and physician. He served as
physician to the caliph of Baghdad-where he resided-and the Seljuq sultans. The main book of Abü al-
Barakat is the K. a/-l\fu'tabar. dealing with logie. naturalia (including psychology) and metaphysics. In al-

• Mu·rabar. Abü al-Barakat sometimes adopts theses trom Ibn SIna's al-Shijà'. but at the same time attacks
others that are among the most essential. According to Abu al-Baraka~ time is the measure of being (not
movement as the Peripatetics held). He does not admit the diversity of the various levels oftime, the
gradations of =amiill. dahr, sarmad assumed by Ibn Sina and others. ln his opinion, time characterizes the
being of the Creator as weil as that of created things. Rejecting the theory of emanation held by the
philosophers. Abü al·Barakat thinks that things were created by a succession of divine volitions, either pre-
etemal or coming ioto being in rime. The first ofthese volitions, an attribute of the divine essence, created
the first thing in existence. Abü al-Barakat seems to have taken the side ofthose who assened the etemity
of the world. See S. Pines. "Abü al-Barakat al-Baghdadi" in Encyc/opaedia ofIslam, vol. l, pp. 111-2. See
31so the comments ofSulaymân al-Nadawï, in the last pages of volume three of al-Mu' tabar where he states
that Abü al-Barakât al-BaghdadI refuted the major philosophers' principles, such as, 1- from one only one
emanates. 2- that the etemal is not a substrata of generation, 3- Gad does not have additional attributes and
~- the limitation of the heavenly intellects in only number to ten. al-Afu'tabar. al-Nadawï's comments
(Hyderabad. 1358/(939) vol. HI. pp. 251.

IIi The tenn "Hishamiyya" was used most often by the historians of Muslim sects to point to both
Hisham b. al-~akam and Hisham al-Jawâliqï. See al-Shahrastâni, al-A-Iilal, p. 184; •Abd al-Qahir al-
Baghdâdi. a/-Farq bayn a/-Firaq. ed. M. M.' Abd al-tlamïd (Cairo: Maktabat Muf:tammad 'Ali $ubayt,.
n.d) p. 65: sorne times this teon was used to point to the fol1owers of Hisham al-Fuwt.i; see a/-Mi/al, p. 72.

Il M Ibn Taymiyya. J/uwiifaqal, vol. 1, p. 400.

1l'J lb n T aymlyya.
. D ' vo.1'"-'. p. "'05
ar. _ .

120 Ibn Taymiyya. .\1inhiij a/-Sunna, vol. 1. p. 54.

121 Ibn Rushd. a/-Kashf. p. 71.

12~ lb 1'd• p. 71 .

I~ Ibn Rushd. F~/ a/-."Iaqii/. pp. 23-4.

12.. Ib"d
1 • p. ..,..,..,

1:5 Ibid. p. 24.

l~fl According to Ibn Rushd...the world. as an effect ofGod, testifies to the wisdom ofits agent by
being a place in which wisdom, i.e., knowledge of the true nature ofthings, obtains. This knowledge can be
had because objects do not change fundamentally, they have preferment by necessary nature. ln this they
reflect God's own unchanging self, in whom alteration is impossible. Nor need Gad change the course of
nature, for as a benevolent as weil as omnipotent cause of the universe, He has created the best ofpossible
world." See A. L. Ivry, "Averroes on Causation" in Studies in Jewish Re/igious and Intellectua/ Hislory, ed.
S. Stein & R. Loewe (Alabama: Alabama University Press, 1979) p. 153.

-, Ibid. pp. 41-2.

• 12S Michael Marmura has wriuen an imponant study on Ibn Sina's theory ofGod's knowledge of
particulars. He auempted. in this study. to explain and explore the real meaning of Ibn Sina's statement that
God knows particulars "in a universal way", which provoked criticism from many Muslim thinkers, both
theologians like al-Ghazali. al-Râzï and Ibn Taymiyya, and philosophers Iike Abü al-Barakat al-Baghdadï
and Ibn Rushd. Marmura arrives al the conclusion that the conceptual knowledge of an individual means
IWO [hings: apprehension of its abstracl qualities and knowledge of the fact that these qualities belong to the
individual in question. These qualities, in tum, related to the heavenly immaterial and unchangeable
intellects. each of which consists of three specics: intellect, soul, and body. The theologian, according to
Mannura. in opposing Ibn Sina's theory is defending his concept ofan omnipotent Gad, in the sense thal
"not even the weight of an atom escapes His knowledge." See "Some Aspects of Avicenna's Theory of
God's Knowledge of Paniculars", Journal ofAmerican Oriental Society, vol. 82. 1962, pp. 299-312.

129 lbn T aymlyya.

. D ' vo.1... p.,)J
ar. .. .. 8 .

130 Marmura says that "In the case ofGod, the object ofknowledge is not the cause ofknowledge.
The process is reversed. God knows and the object exists as the consequence ofthis knowledge. Divine
knowledge is ontologically and causally prior to the existents." See, Marmura. "Sorne Aspects", p. 302.

131 lb n T aymlYYa.
. D ' vo 1·
ar, . ,. p. "6"
_ .J.

1J2 Ib 1"d• p. "6'"


133 Ib"d
1 • p. "" 1

134 lb 1'd• p. "64

_ ".

135 lb 1'd• p. _

I3ti Ib"d
1 • p. "".

137 Ib"d
1 • p. -65
~ .

13M Ibn Taymiyya. Jfuwiijaqal. vol. 2. pp. 336-7.

13Y Ibn Taymiyya repeatedly emphasizes the doctrine of the wisdom ofGod in contrast 10 the
Ash·arites. with the exception of al-Ghazali, whose theology gives the wisdom ofGod a great deal of
emphasis. See Ormsby, Theodicy, p. 189. This abandonrnent of the wisdom ofGod cornes as a part of the
Ash'ariles' theology which affrrmed that nothing couId cause God to do this thing or that; the will ofGod
rather works complelely on to its own. See al-Ârnidi, Ghiiyat al-.\-faràm. p. 266; al·Shahrastânï, Nihâyal al-
Iqdâm. p. 339; al-Râzï. al.Arba"Jn. p. 249; al-Baqillânï, al-Tamhïd, p. 50; al-Juwayni, al-lrshâd, pp. 271-2.
The MU'tazilites opposed the Ash'arites and believed in God as a purposeful agent, but their theory served
the purpose of their theodicy, that God creates only for the best, in order to purify God's actions of
injustice.•Abd al-Jabbar, al-A.fughnf. vol. Il, pp. 124-5. Ibn Taymiyya in combining the will and the

particularization of the genera and species gave the theory of the wisdom ofGod and His purposeful agency
a complete ontological ground. God's actions, therefore. are able to he understood in lenns of causality and
are capable ofbeing rationally interpreted.

• I ..h l

lb n T a~mlyya,

Ibid. p. 294.
D ' vo 1. ~,
ar, - p. "'9'"
_ ~.

I·e Ibn Taymiyya most probably identifies epistemology with ontology in his analysis oflbn STnà.
The universals then are intellecrual and conceprual in an epistemological sense. This is what allowed Ibn
Taymiyya to connect Ibn STnà's doctrine of creation regarding the created things caused by God's
knowledge, on the one hand, with God's knowledge as being knowledge of only the universals. But even if
we assume that Ibn Taymiyya distinguishes between epistemology and ontology, he would still believe that
the metaphysical universal exists only in our minds. See M. Marmura, "Sorne Aspect", pp. 300-1.

143 lb 1-d• p. "'9-

_ ,.

144 Ibid. p. 297.

145 We should note here that this definition of the will as a detenninant cause is totally different
from the kalam's definitian. Determination in Ibn Taymiyya's thought is etemal and operates in God's
essence. The will as a determinant in traditional kalàm is completely opposite, it operates after having been
inactive, and its entire business is outside Gad.

141"> . . . D
lb n T a~ml~}a. ' va 1. ~,
ar, - p. "'99
_ .

147 lb n T a~ml)}a.."
. . . ,IfIrKwJaqar,
,;;.f, vo 1"
. _, p. "'64
_ .

14~ Fakhry. A Hisrory. poo 80.

149 Ibn Ta)miyya. Afuwiifaqar. vol. 2, p. 33~ in al-Ash'arïs Afaqalat Hisham says that '·God is
etemally knawing and pawerful. and when he was asked: do you believe that God knows things etemally?
he replied: 1 do not say that God knows things eternally but 1say He is eternally knowing and He is one,
nothing shares etemity with Him. If 1 say: He is etemally knowing things, 1 would affinn that things
etemally exist with Gad. And when he was asked: do you believe that God knew that things would he? He
replied: if 1 say that. 1 would point to things, but 1 have only to point to existing things. See al-Ash'arr.
.\laqâlàr. p. 158.

ISll The prime concern for Ibn Taymiyya. as his writings clearly show, is to rationally interpret the
process of creation. even of this interpretation leads him to deconstruct the foundations of Islamic theology,
which had become through the passage afrime religiaus and almost pan of the Muslim consciousness. The
admission of the etemity of the world and of change and generation in God's essence. and the admission of
motion in God's essence as we shall see below, would shock Muslims who were accustomed to premises
completely different from these. Ibn Taymi)ya's task would have been much easier that he asserted
arbitrarily sorne basic notions. such as admitting the unit)' ofGod and the unity and unchangeablity ofeach
of God's attributes in their relation to the diversity of the world as the theological and philosophical
tradition had affrrmed. But Ibn Taymiyya knew that reaffumation ofthese principles would not respond to
the intellectual need. whicb is a Muslim need also, to bave a rational explanation of the relation between the

unit)' of God and the process of creation. ln brief Ibn Taymiyya, in bis contribution to the basic issues in
Islamic though~ was, philosophically speaking, led very much, by rationality rather than by current
religious axioms and commonplaces.

• 151 Ibn Taymiyya. Jàmi'ai-RasifiJ, ed. M. R. Salim (Cairo:'at al-Madanï. 1969) p. 180; al-
Shahrastânï has reported that Abü al-l:Iusayn
things renewed: .Vihâyal al-Iqdiim. p. 221.
al-Ba~rï admined the renewal ofGod's states when the created

152 G. M. A. Grube. PlaID 's Thought (London: The Athlone Press, 1980) p. 31.

153 Sorne words in these sentences are borrowed from L E. Goodman'sanicle "'Three Meanings
of the Idea of Creation" in Gad and Creation. ed. D. B. Burrell & B. McGino (Notre Dame: Notre Dame
University Press, 1990) p. 103. This anicle tries to show that a new theology ofcreation in the age of
science can be based on three values: contingency, design, and newness.

15~ Eternity and the beginning of time were discussed by Abü al-Barakât in order to refute the
Mutakallimün, see al-I'v!u·rabar. pp. 82. 88-90.

155 Ibn Taymiyya. ,\-fajmü'at a!-Rasà'iJ, vol. 5, p. 373.

15h lb 1-d• p. .J"'61 •

157 Ibn Taymiyya. .~fll",àfaqat, vol. \, pp. 308-9.

15H Most probab1y Ibn Taymiyya refers here to the MutakallimÜfl. Proceeding from theirtheory of
atoms and accidents, they considered motion to be an accident (" aratf) created by God. ln the context of
ka1amic thought. every created thing or every object that receives accidents by means ofGod's power is a
generated thing and therefore perishable. The majority of the Mutakallimün maintained that motion is an
accident. but they ditfered in the question of how this accident of motion abides in the body. Many
Mutakallimün held that "'a pan of the body might be static while the l'est of it was in motion". Thus the
motion of a horse. they argued. is interrupted by innumerable, though imperceptible, moments of l'est; and
that is why the speed of one horse is greater than that ofanother. The general Ash'arite view of motion was
that motion and l'est were t'Wo of the "modi' of substance. A substance which moves from one point to
another is al rest in relation 10 the second point and in motion in relation to the frrst. Only Mu"ammar and
al-N~ have different point of views. thought they were not accepted by the majority of the
Mutakallimün. MU'ammar. in the manner of Parmenides and the Eleatics denied the reality or motion
altogether and ascribed it to linguistic usage only. AI-N~ believes that every thing in the universe is
either body or motion. Motion is very general category in his thought since every body is in position of
motion even when it is itselfat l'est. which al-N~ described as a "motion ofintention' (i'timâd). See M.
Fakhry. [s!amie Oeeasiona/ism. pp. 38-41.

15l} Ibn Taymiyya. ,\-fll"'lfaqal, vol. l. p. 98.

160 Abü al-Barakât. al-A--fu" tabar. v. n. p. 105.

161 Ibid. p. 105.

162 Ibid. vol. III. p. 174.

• lliJ Abü al-Barakat seems to have maintained the spheres as weil the volitional movers because
they do not change and transform from potentiality into actuality, nor do they seek a definite goal, but move
rather by another cause, namely. God.

1M Abü al-Barakat. al-JUu'tabar. vol. III, p. 178.

105 Ibid. vol. III. p. 178.

1116 Ibid. vol. III. p. 175.

loi Abü al-Barakat's contribution to concept of motion is to be found in taking into account God's
will as means of motion of the whole universe. This doctrine. as spoken by a philosopher not a theologian.
seems to have intluenced Ibn Taymiyya very much.

16M Abü al-Barakat. a/-Alu'tabar, vol. III, p. 176.

Ibid. vol. Ill. p. 176.

nn Ibid. vol, Ill. p. 176.

Abu al-Barakat does not clanCy and explain what he means here as in ail his passages whether
he means the spheres or God, most probably he means Gad. but he seals this by an ambiguous language in
order to avoid any reactions, and ifthis assumption is true. he admits then in the motion in God's essence.
This is al 1east what Ibn Taymiyya has understood trom Abü al-Barakat. See a/-Mu'tabar. v. III, p. 179.

'- Davidson, "Particularization in Arabic Thought", in Phi/osophy East and West, vol. 18 (1968)
pp. 304-5.

li3 Ibn Taymiyya. Jluwéifaqat. vol. l. pp. 27~-5.

li~ See Abu al-Barakat. al-llu·tabar. v. Ill. pp. 23-7, where he also raised this probl~m of the
relation of the intinity of causes and the tirst cause.

175 Ibn Taymiyya, Muwiifaqat. vol. 2, p. 197.

176 Ibid vol. Il. p. 198.

Iii Ibid. p. 199.

liH AI-Ghazalï raised the objection against the philosophers in his Tahafut in regard to their belief
in terminating the series of causes al an uncaused cause while they believed in the etemity of the world and

a celestial revolution without an initial term (cause), p. 114; see also ··The Founh Discussion" in Ibn
Rushd's Tahafut al-Tahiifut, trans. Van Den Bergh, pp. 156-66.

179 Ibn Taymiyya, Muwâfaqat. vol. l, p. 198.

• ISO Ibid. p. 199.

1S1 lb 1'd• p. "0"

__ .

IN2 Ibn Rushd, Tahiifut al-Tahajùt (The Incoherence ofthe Incoherence) trans. Simon Van Den
B~rgh (London: Lozac & Company. 1969) vol. l, p. 283.

INJ Muslim philosophers anempted ta solve this discrepancy by assuming an eternal circular
movem~nt of the heavenly spheres. This solution, as a maner of fact, depended on the astronomy. Today we
cannat take mis solution seriously. The metaphysics of Muslim philosophers is not a pure ontology and did
not build itself on philosophical grounds only.

1N.t Davidson, in Proofs for Eternity. pp. 127-8, states mat Aristotle speaks of two sorts of series of
caus~s: first, th~ possibility of an infinite succession of causes and ~ffects in time; second, the impossibility
of an intinite number of causes and effects existing together and therefore necessarily requiring the
existence of a tirst cause.

1:oi5 Ibn Taymiyya, Dar'. vol. 4, p. 180.

IHf> See Mannura, "Avicenna and the Problem of the Infinite Number ofSouls" in ,Wediaeval
Swdies. vol. XXII. 1960. pp. 233-9.

1l'!7 lb 1'd• pp. _~_-.J.

., ... ., ...

IH!'! lb'd
1 • p. _".J.
.., ... ,; ;

Ibn Taymiyya is silent on Ibn Sina's belief in an infinite actual number of souls. This is
interesting: in a long discussion with the philosophers about the necessary first cause, al-Ghazalfs
refutation of the philosophers on the discrepancy of the infinity of the world and the limited number of
spheres, and Ibn Rushd's argument against al-Ghazalï and Ibn Sina. In ail these discussions and Ibn
Taymiyya's comments on them he does not make any comment about Ibn Sïnâ's doctrine of the infinite
number of souls. although he mentions it in the context of this discussion. See. Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'
Ta'(jrucf, vol. 4. pp. 169-250.

l'JI) This is against al-Razi who postulates lhat -'the cause exists actually at the lime of the existence
of the effecl. or else the later would be capable of existing by itself." AI-Razijumps from this premise,
which is correct, to the conclusion that the whole series therefore of causes-effects would exist actually
simultaneously. which is impossible. See M. Fakhry, "The Classical [slamic Arguments for the Existence of
God" in The Afuslim World, vol. 47, 1957, pp. 143-4. Ibn Taymiyya agrees with the first part that the cause
should exist actually al the time of the existence of the effecl, but he totally rejects the second pan as the
whole series would endure and exist actually. He rather holds that the cause would vanish at a dermite
moment of time after actualizing its potentiality: the sperm would disappear after the fertilization. and the
fertilization would disappear after the embryo. and 50 on. See Ibn Taymiyya, Muwiifaqal, vol. 2, p. 21; and

Dar'. vol. 5, p. 38.

l'lI 'Abd al-Qihir al-Baghdadï. U~ü' al-Dïn (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-'ltmiyya, 1981) p. 150, and
al-Farq bayn al-Firaq (Beirut: Dar al·ln & Dar al-Afiq al-Jadida, 1987) p. 331, where al-Baghdadï does

• not state directly that God's actions are beyond reason (ghayr mU'al/a/a) but rather maintains that "God is
wise in every action He does, if He creates or not, if He creates only unbelievers or only believers, if He
creates only inanimate things (jamadal) or only animais. Whatever is done by God is wise. This view stands
in contrast, ta the Qadarites and the Kammites who maintained that God is obliged by His very being to do
certain things and must create everything, inanimate, alive, believers and unbelievers." As one can notice,
this stance is equivalent to saying that God's actions cannot be accounted for or explained in tenns of
reason. This is what Ibn Taymiwa is refuting and rejecting.

[lJ:! Ibn Taymiyya, IHajmü'at al-Rasa'i/. vol. 5, pp. 286-89.

\l)) The Mu·tazilites, in order to assure that whatever is created by God is the best (a/-a~/a/.J), held
that God's ability to create is limited since God is not able to create injustice (:;ulm); while the Ash'arites
who admined the existence of God's volition (irada), deprived this will of any wisdom. They admined
God's will (mashfa) but they understood this will apart from the mercy and love. ln addition, they leveled
ail God's created objects: there is no difference. for the Ash'arites. in God's creation between will, love,
and satisfaction (rif/a), on the one hand, and evil. disobedience. and iniquity (jisq), on the other hand. since
ail of them are created by God.
For Ibn Taymiyya, Gad is the creator of everything, and every created thing is created for wisdom
and mercy (li-aj/i lJikmatin wa ra/.Jma) and whatever issues from Gad is for the goodness ofpeople. Here he
seems very close ta the Mu'tazilites: evil exists in the world because there is no absolute good, every good
should have some aspect of evil, i.e., the rain is good. but it may destroy some houses, sending Prophets ta
guide people on to the right path is good, but this would affect those who do not want to believe in God, and
so on. Evil is the other aspect of the good, although it is minor in comparison with the good.
But if the good represents the wisdom and mercy ofGod. the evil that results from the good itself
represents the justice of Gad. The evil, then. exists in the world. but not because people create it; it exists
because the assumption of absolute mercy and wisdom would abrogate the justice of God. Justice takes its
meaning from the contradictories. oppositions, and discrepancies that exist in the world. When a human
being does not understand this variety in the world, and does not understand the wisdom and purpose of
why sorne evil things were created, he should know that there is a hidden wisdom Urikma khafryya) in the
creation of these things. as in the creation of any thing else.
Ibn Taymiyya stresses that his theory of bad and good is much doser to that of the philosophers
than to that of the Mutakallimün. See Ibn Taymiyya, I\lajmû·at a/-Rasa' il wa 'I-Atasa' il, vol. 5, pp. 292-300.

1l)4 Ibn Taymiyya. Dar', vol. 5. pp. 80-1.

"d 1-9
'b 1 • p. , .

IlJt1 Ibn Taymiyya, Aluwâfaqat, vol. 2. p. 80.

197 The division of existence into IWo kinds-necessary and contingent-originated in Muslim
philosophy with, al-Farabi and Ibn Sïna. Ibn Taymiyya uses these terms from time ta time. but he uses them
in a special way. Necessary being for him should not be abstract like the mental idea of the philosophers,
and cannot be understood as a ftrSt cause of other causes (secondary ones) issuing from il. The basic
distinction between these IWO sorts of existence is that the necessary is that which is not caused by any
other cause. and which is the agent that proceeds ail other beings in time. God's being necessary being does
not apply to His essence only, but to His attributes as being genera and species as weil. Nothing coexists

with Him but His attributes, which are the world itself in its most general forms,

!l)K Ibn Taymiyya, .~tuwiifaqat. vol, 2, p. 175.


• 199

1b 1"d• pp. 7'"-'~.

Ibid. pp. 79-80.


~tll Even sorne MU'tazilite thinkers like Mu'ammar b. 'Abbad are said to have believed in this
philosophical distinction. namely. the species. on the one hand. and its infinite number of accidents. on the
other hand. AI-Baghdadî mentions in his ai-Farq. that the third scandai of MU'ammar is his beliefthat
every species has an infinite number of accidents. and he says: if the mover has moved because the motion
abides in it. this motion has been specified in this substrate because of another ma"na. and this ma' na in
turn has been specified by means ofanother ma'na and that goes on infinitely." Sec ai-Farq. pp. 152-3; al-
Shahrastânï in al-Mi/ai, affinns that one of MU'mmar's faults is his saying that ..the accidents never
terminated in each species, and he says that every ma' na abides in the substrate it does because of another
ma" nii that causes its abiding in this substrate, and that leads to the succession (tasa/su!)", ai-.\.fi/a/, vol. l,

:1f2 Ibn Sina. al-Ishiiriit wa ï-Tanbihat, with N~ïr al-Din al-Tüsfs explanation. ed. S. Dunya. vols.
3& ~ {Cairo: Dar al-Ma'mf. 1957) p. 543, see also Abü al·Barakât. a/·Afu·tabar. v. 2, p. 90.

:113 Alexander Knysh. Ibn 'Arabi in the Later Isiamie Tradition (Albany: State University of New
York Press, (999) p. 101.

:n4 The Arabie word athar can be translated literally as trace, but this is not enough in the context
of Ibn Ta~miyya 's thought. What is meant by athar is both something acting, affecting. and being acted
upon. atTected. lnasmuch as any arhar 'trace' is both acting and being acted upon. or more specifically the
athar is the shar~ (condition) itself. lt is better to translate it as cause or effect depending on the context.
with keeping in mind the ditTerent connotation ofIbn Taymiyya's terminology and the special meaning that
he gave to this term,

- Ibn Taymiyya apparently was acquainted by MU'ammar's theory through many texts. e.g.• al-
Baghdadï in al-Farq bayn ai-Firaq, pp. 152-3; al-Shahrastani in a/-IUi/a/. vol. 1. p. 67; and al-Ash"arï. al-
Afaqcïiiit. p. 488. The application of the infinite series of ma'iinïthat cause each other to the anributes of
God is mentioned by al·Ash·arr. but al·Shahrastânï. for instance. does not mention that Mu"ammar believes
in an infinite number of ma'ani by which God obtains His attributes. H. Wolfson is suspicious of the
validity ofal-Ash'arïs story about MU'ammar"s theory of an endless chain of ma"anlby which God obtains
His attributes. See Wolfson. The Phi/osophy 01 the Ka/am. pp. 163-4. Actually, Mu"ammar's theory of
God's attributes as caused by an infinite series of ma"iini seems very bold, but ambiguous as weil. Ibn
Taymiyya seems to have understood Mu"ammar's ma'anias a chain ofspecies causing each other, so he
rejected this theory in its application to God's attributes.

:. th Ibn Taymiyya. Jfuwalaqar. vol. l, p. 258.

:!o7 lt is true that there are many ditTerences between lbn Taymiyya and Ibn" Arabi, but there are
also many things in common. Although 1do not intend to make comparison between these two thinkers 1

shall note one of Ibn Ta)'miyya"s themes that can also be found in Ibn "Arabi and his school. The example
here is the notion of trace (athar). This term was used by [bn "Arabi, although with a ditferent connotation
than was given to it by [bn Taymiyya. Ibn 'Arabi believed that God discloses Himself in the fonns of
·'creatures". or God shows Himselfto the universe in as much as wujüd is present in ail things, or inasmuch

• as His names and anributes display traces (alhar) and propenies (aJ:zkam) in the cosmos; the configuration
and forms left by these traces and propenies are then kno\\ln as ·'the creatures". See W. C. Chitteck, The
Se/f-Disclosure o/God (Albany: State University of New York, 1998) p. 5.

20H The tenn "double causality" is used by R. Amaldez in his description of Ibn Rushd's theory of
causality. See "Ibn Rushd", Encyclopaedia 0/ Islam, vol. 3. p. 914.

20<) Ibid. p. 914.

211) Ib'd
1 • p. 91~

211 Ibn Rushd. Taha/ut al-Tahafùt. trans. Van den Bergh. p. II.

-'1'- Ibn Taymiyya. •Huwa/aqal. vol. 1. p. 278.

21J Ibn Taymiyya. Jfinhaj a/-Sunna. vol. 1. p. 107. & .\'Iuwèifaqat. vol. 1, p. 259-60.

21-4 Ibid. p. 109.

215 Ibn Taymiyya, Jfuwa/aqat. vol. l, p. 275.

21h The only system ofthought that allowed generation, or multiplicity. in God Himself is mystical
thought. "Panentheism holds that we [the creatures] are accidents in God, and thus it is equally opposed to
the classical. ·there are no accidents in God but accidentai realities outside Him.' Or, in other terms,
panentheism conceives process. becoming, as real in God; classical theism as real outside God. See Charles
Hartshome and William L. Reese, Philosophers Speak o/God (Chicago and London: The University of
Chicago Press. 1976) p. 163. William Chittick in The Se/f-Disclosure o/Gad says that Ibn •Arabfs usage of
the tenn waJ:zid signifies that others can he envisaged in relation to God. Ibn' Arabfs other usage is "Unity
of Manyness" (aiJiidiyyal a/-kalhra). White God possesses the Unity ofOne in Himself, He possesses the
Unit)' of Manyness in respect to His names. In other \\lords, with regard to the term wiilJid Ibn •Arabï allows
the existence ofmultiplicity in God's Self. This admission in diversity in God would he more meaningful if
we knew that the Unity of One (aiJadiyyal a/-'ayn) and the Unity of Manyness (alJadiyyal al-kalhra) were
not two separate entities. "Ibn .Arabi employs several terms to explain the relation between the two sons of
divine Unity. Among these isjam' ... this terrnjam' "bringing together" or "all comprehensive" is a quality
that belongs to God ... The tenn presupposes multiplicity.", p. 168. This admission of diversity in God's
unit), may explain why both Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn' Arabi frequently used the Qur'mic verse "Each day He
is upon sorne task" (leu" youm hwuafi sha 'n) (55:29). Chittick says that the direct vision ofthis verse in Ibn
.Arabi is to be tound in his conception of "stability of variegation," which means the constant wimessing
of the renewal of creation at each instant.. p. 172.

~lï Ibn Taymiyya. ,Ullwaj"aqal. vol. l, p. 288.

21H Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 5. p. 217.

• 219 Ibid. p. 38. Ibn Tayrniyya says "know that every generated thing has a beginning and is
preceded by nothing, and nothing here should not he understood as enduring until the genus of generation
has existed. On the contrary, the mind can envisage that every generated thing has another generated thing

• that preceded it and has a generated thing that cornes after it. Every generated thing has a beginning and
will perish. but it must be kept in rnind that the genus of generation Oins a/-lJawadith) does not have
beginning nor end". See also. Ibn Rushd. Tafsir ma ba'd a/-Tabi'a, ed. Maurice Bouyges (Beirut:
Imprimerie Catholique. 1948) pp. 1490-504.

22(~ According to Ibn Rushd, the agent does not produce anything out ofnothing, but simply brings
the fonn and the maner together, or, to be more exact. reduces what is potential in the patient into actuality.
With regard to those entities whose being is the product of the union of fonn and matter (Le., the whole
world of generation and corruption), God should be designated as the cause or maker of the world. See M.
Fakhry, A Hislory ofls/amie Philosophy, p. 321. But where did the forms come trom? The substantial fonn.
for Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd. is separate and comes from without; the active intellect (al-'aql al-fa"al) is
wahib a'-~uwar. See. Ibn Rushd. Tafsir mil ba'd al-Tabi'a, pp. 1504-5; Amaldez. "Ibn Rushd", Et , vol.
III. p. 918.
Ibn Taymiyya, who struggled against admining the existence of any intermediary entities between
God and the world, maintained that the forms come directiy from God; the only intermediate stage between
God and the world is the actions of Gad that are the particularized forms produced from the genera and
species in God's essence by vinue of His will.

221 Ibn Taymiyya. J'aimû'al al-Rasa' il, vol. 5. p. 351.

222 al-Bukhari. Mu~ammad b. Isma'n. $alJiIJ, ed. L. Krehl. 4 vols. (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1862-1908)

vol. li. p. 302.

- Ibid. vol. IV. p. 257.

22~ Ibn Taymiyya believes that the maJortly of ah/ al-lJadith read the IJadith as "Gad was and
nothing was before Him" See MlIjmû'al a/-Rasa' il. vol. 5, pp. 353,355,371.

225 Ibid. p. 361.

22fl Ibn Rushd in his Fas) al-Alaqa/ divided the existents into three kinds: the existent whose
existence has been gained by means of and because of another existent that preceded it, namely by means of
an agent and through maner (miidda) like ail the sensible things, water, air, eanh, animais and the Iike,
whereas ail the Mutakallimün and the philosophers agreed mat this sort of existents are generated
(mlllJdalh). The other extreme of an existent is an whose existence was not preceded by anything and did
not come into being by means ofanything else, either another existent or time, and ail the Mutakallimün
and the philosophers were agreed that this existent is God and they called Him the etemal (qadim). He is the
agent and the maintainer of everything in the universe. The third kind of existent, which stands in the
middle position between these IWO, is the existent whose existence does not come by means ofsomething
else and was not preceded by time, but it is founded in an agent; this existence is the world as a whole (a/-
.a/am bi-asrihl). Ibn Taymiyya, actually was thinking and philosophizing in terms ofthis, their types of
existent. and this is can be illustrated by his emphasis on the imponance of the middle position that was
calied by Ibn Rushd the world as the who le, which is the genera and species of the world. Ibn Rushd
himself means by the world as the whole this sort of existent which is neither created nor God as agent. See
Ibn Rushd. F ~/ a/-Maqa/, pp. 19-20.

• 22ï Actually the scholars of Ijadilh after al-Bukhan were oftwo opinions because ofthe two forros
of the /Jadilh related by al-Bukhari. Ibn f:{ajar al-' Asqalànï (d. 85211449), for instance, mentions the IJadith
in its tirst form as it was related in the Kitab Bael a/-Kha/q. "Gad was and nothing other than He was with

• Him··. See FalJ; al-Biirï bi-SharJ; $aJ;ïJ.t al-Bukharï (Beirut: Dar al-Ma'rifa, n.d) reviewed by 'A. 'A. Ibn
Bâz. vol. 6. p. 286. While Abu tlaf~ b. Badr al-Maw~iIï (d. 622/1224) mentions in his book "Combining of
the Two $aJ;ïJ.t.s.. (Kitiib al-Jam' bayna al-$aJ.tïJ;ayn), the ~adilh in its second tonn as was related by al-
Bukharï in Kitiib al-TawJ;ïd. "God was and nothing else was before Him". See AI-Jam', S. A. al-ShâmI. 2
vols (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami. 1995) vol. 1. p. 261.

~H Ibn Taymi}'-ya. Majmü' al a/-Rasa' il, vol. 5. p. 35 l.

~4 .
Ibid. p. ,,'0.

2.30 lb 1"d• pp. -',

.. -0- 1.

231 Ibn Taymiyya. Majmü'ul a/-Rasii'i1. vol. 5, pp. 355-6.

2.32 lb 1"d• p. -',

.. -1 .

2JJ This is really the original four elements in ancient Greek philosophy: tire, air, water, and eanh.
Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sïna's philosophies were based on the following argument: "there are no active powers
in matter except the four qualities. hot. cold. dry. wet. These qualities produce what is similar to them. But
the substantial torms do not act upon each other:' See R, Amaldez, "Ibn Rushd", pp. 919-20: Ibn Rushd.
Tafsir ma ba'd al-Tabi'a. p. 1500.

2.34 The same verse was employed by Ibn Rushd to prove that before this world there is another
world. or pre-existing matter from which our material world, the heavens and the earth were created. See M.
Fakhry, "Philosophy and Scripture in the Theology of Averroes" in Mediaeval Sludies. vol. XXX, 1968. p.

2.35 Ibn Taymiyya, .Hajmü'al a/-Rasa' il. vol. 5. p. 352.

2.3n Ibn Rushd. F~l a/-Maqal. ed. G. Hourani. p. 21.

23ï The doctrine of the full accord of reason or rational thinking based on philosophy in its
Aristotelian form and the religion of Islam is claimed by Ibn Ta}miyya, following Ibn Rushd. Ibn Rushd
believed that there is only one truth in both philosophy and religion but that it is speken in two languages,
In fact. they represent twO different types of minds can arrive al the same truth. Arnaldez, Ibn Rushd. p.
913. This means that the major parts of Ibn Rushd's works could he seen as his commentaries upon or
interpretation of Aristotle and the way an essential hannony between philosophy properly understood and
Scripture properly interpreted cao he realized. M. Fakhry. A Hislory. p. 305, and Philosophy and Scriplure,
pp. 80-9. Ibn Taymiyya, in tum. believed that the correct and reliable tradition <s,alJï/.l al-manqiil) and the
right or pure reason (s,arfJ; al-ma'qiil) accord with each other because there is ooly one truth: both
revelation and reason express this truth. Ibn Taymiyya's endeavor in aU his writings is to find a means to
achieve this harmony hetween them. According to him, the etemity of the world, for instance, is the (slamic
creed and can tind its full foundation and support in rational thinking. Ibn Taymiyya. of course, does not
use the word ·philosophy· because ofits special connotation for Muslims' minds; he instead makes use of

the term . s,arïJ.t al-ma' qiif, pure or right reason, but this pure reason by implication is very close to
Aristotelian philosophy in Ibn Rushd's fonnulation.

Ibn Rushd, F~' a/-A-faqal, p. 21.

• 2.)LJOnly when he cornes to argue against the philosophers does he use their technical tenns since
he feels himself free to do so in order to refute the phïlosopher's arguments with their own. So ail the
philosophical technical tenns are to be found in Ibn Taymiyya's polemical writings rather than in his
writings which are intended to state what he wants to say apart From debate.

:!~tI Ibn Taymiyya. Muwâfaqal. vol. l, p. 230.

:!41 l'Dl"d. p. ""'0

_~ .

:!~:!" ., ...
Ibid. p. _-,O.

:!4.3 lb n Taymlyya.
. D ' vo 1'"
ar. . .J, p. ""'99 .

:!·~4 Ibid. p. 400.

:!45 Ibid. p. 400.

:!411 lb lu.

- , Ibn Taymiyya, Jfajmü'al al-RasaïJ. vol. S, p. 368.

1 • p...'0-
:!41'lIb"d ,.

- Ibn Taymiyya, Dar'. vol. 3. p. 405. states that "the affirmation of the prime matter is a false
doctrine; things become by transforming trom one substance into another substance:' Ibn Taymiyya adds
that ..the affirmation of the prime matter goes back to Plato and his followers, while Aristotle and his
followers deny it.'.

2511 Joseph Bobik. "Maner and Individuation" in The Concept ofA-faller in Greek and Medieval
Philosophy. ed. Eman McMullin (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press. 1965) p. 288.

:!51 The same argument was used by Ibn Rushd in his Taftïr "la ba'd al-Tabra. p. 1498.

252 ln this discussion, Ibn Taymiyya was most probably inspired by Ibn Rushd's understanding
and criticism of Ibn Sïna's theory ofthe essence-existence relation. Ibn Rushd, Maimonides, and Aquinas
ail understood Ibn STna's theory as maintaining the priority of essence, which is equal to fonn, over
existence. See Fazlur Rahman, "Essence-Existence in Ibn S-ma" in Hamdard lslamicus, vol. IV, pp. 3-14.

253 Ibn Taymiyya. Afajmü'at al-Rasëi il, vol. 5, p. 405.

p. 365. Ibn Taymiyya's hint that people do not comprehend this cornes because ofhis
:!54 Ibid.
awareness that what he is talking about, i.e., the continuation of the same process of transfonnation of
things from potentiality into actuality after the Judgment Day, is very sensitive and dangerous. But in any
case. Ibn Ta~miyya implicitly suggests that he has a ditTerent point ofview about the hereafter and the way

• that this Iife would be lived. Ibn Taymiyya completely opposes Abü al-Hudhayl al-"Allâfs point ofview.
which held that motion would stop and the people of heaven would enter into a period of subsidence.

255 Ibn Rushd, Long Commentary on the ~fetaphysics 7, comm. 31; 12, comm. 18; Arabie text.
(Tafsir ma ba'd al-Tabï'a) pp. 1496-8, cited in Davidson. Alfàrabi. Â\'icenna, and Âverroes on Intellect
(New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. (992) p. 245.

256 Ibn Taymiyya. Afajmü'at al-Rasâ' il. vol. 5, p. 330.

257 Ibn Taymiyya. Majmü' at al-Rasâ' il. vol. 5. p. 330, the same example of satisfaction and
quenching at the moment of eating the bread and drinking the water was used by Ibn Rushd to assert the
principle ofcausality. See Ibn Rushd. Tafsir mii ba'd al-Tabï'a. p. 1504.

-~, Ibn Taymiyya• •Hajmü·at al-Rasa' il, vol. 5, p. 331.

259 Ibid. vol. l. p. 100.

2011 lb n Taymlyya,;t'
. 'l - - vo 1'"
· ' F atawa.
aJmu . .J, p. 11'"_.

201 Ibn Taymiyya, "al-Radd 'alâ al-Manâ~iqa". in ~fajmu' al-Fatiîwa. vol. 9, p. 287.

202 Ibn Taymiyya. Dar'. vol. 5. pp. 159-60.

2(,.) The whole theor'Y of causalit)' in al-Ghazalfs thought is still a maner of heated debate. Sorne
scholars stress that al-Ghazali did not deny causality and indeed. that he strongly maintained it, as Goodman
dearly states "Rather the question we asked is 'did Ghazali deny causalityT" Goodman's answer is "quite
consistently he did noC. See. L. E. Goodman. "Did al-Gazali Deny Causality?". Studia [slamica, vol.
X.XYIII (1978) p. 120. Abrahamov cornes to the same conclusion that al-Ghazalï believed in the causal
necessary connection between things. See B. Abrahamov, "AI-Ghazalï's Theory of Causality", Studia
Islamica, 67-68 (1988) pp. 89-111. On the other hand. sorne researchers deny that al-Ghazali believed in the
causal connections within things; al-Ghazali in this view is an occasionalist thinker belonging to the
Ash'arite school. .See S. Riker. "AI-Ghazàli on Necessary Causality in The Incoherence of the
Philosophers. The .\tonist. vol. 79. pp. 315-24.
Others believe that al-Ghazali was :ntluenced by Ibn Sina and he anempted to reconcile kalam and
philosophy. See 1. Alon. "AI-Ghazâlion Causality", Journal ofAmerican Oriental Society, vol. 100, 1980,
p. 397. and M .M. Watt. Jtuslim Intellectual, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1963) pp. 173·80,
and R. Frank. who shows in a very thorough examination that al-Ghuali failed on many occasions to
actualize this reconciliation although the intluence of Ibn SIna, Creation and the Cosmic System: Al·
Gha=iili & Avicenna & AI-Gha=âlf and the Âsh'arite School (Durham & London: Duke University Press,

204 R. Fran~ Creation and the Cosmic s..vstem, pp. 66-9.

265 Ibn Ta)'miyya.. .Huwiifaqat. vol. 1, p. 275.

266 These terms, "a necessary condition" and ..the only sufficient condition", are borrowed trom J.
L. Mackie. "Causes and Conditions" in American Philosophica/ Quarter/y, vol. 2, 1965, p, 246.

• 2li7 M. A. TahanawI. Kashshaf l~(i/al)al a/-Funün wa'/-'U/üm. ed. Ali Dal:uiij (Beirut: Maktabat
Lubnan. 1996) voU. p. 1014.

2lil'! Ibn Taymiyya. Muwafaqar. vol. 1. pp. 259-60.

• Conclusion

The major concern of the Mutakallimün was to establish a sort of

philosophy by means of which the existence of Gad could be proved. The

occasionalist philosophy that had been formulated by Abü al-Hudhayl al-·Allaf,

and widely adopted by the Mu·tazilites as weil as the Ash·arites made the

universe free from any sort of intrinsic power. The contrary view, however, is that

the universe is completely subject to Go<fs will and that this will remains

inexplicable to philosophy.

The Mutakallimün formulated theïr view of the world primarily on the

grounds of making it able to receive God·s commands. in whatever way these

commands were issued. But the question of how God"s will and power operate

was not of great concern to them; their major concem was to affirm the absolutely

free will of God. Any philosophical explanation of the way God's will works was

regarded by most of the Mutakallimün as restricting and limiting Gocfs freedom of

action. This is why there is not much emphasis, especially in the early kalamic

literature, on the wisdom of Gad, the purposeful finality of the world, and Gocfs

goal in creating the world.

Although the question of the unity of Gad occupied the minds of the

Mutakallimün, their chief aim was to assert a reat unity of Gad in the face of any

philosophical articulation that might be made between this unity and the

• multifarious world. This clarifies why the Mutakallimün did not contribute

• significantly towards finding philosophical solutions to the problem of the relation

between God"s attributes and constant change in the wond.

The philosophers altered the way in which the MutakaliimOn regarded the

universe. The ontological starting point for the philosophers was ta proceed from

Gad and descend downward toward the wond. Their philosophical task,

therefore, was based on explaining how diversity emanated from the absolute

One, and how the eternal and simple Seing was articulated into the contingent

and composite. The philosophers, contrary to the Mutakallimün, did not view the

world as a mere subject of God's action, but as an organized entity which moves

according ta a purposeful plan drawn up by God. On the basis of these premises,

the philosophers attempted by every means ta give philosophical explanations for

each and every link and point in their systems. The question of whether or not the

philosophers succeeded in this project remains debatable.

Ibn Taymiyya"s philosophical projed proceeded from the same point as

that of the philosophers before him. He was concerned ta answer the ontological

question that had occupied them. Thus, his goal was completely different from

that of the Mutakallimün. The problem of proving the existence of Gad did not

concern him. Instead, the question of how multiplicity issued from Gad and how

the process of creation, as an ontological problem, might be philosophically

explained was his first preoccupation. This may explain why Ibn Taymiyya

• devoted most of his writing to defending and justifying the notion of the essence

of Gad as a substrate of generation.

For him the philosophers' approach to the problem was not accurate. The

assumption that multiplicity can originate outside of Gad's essence is

contradictory since things emanate from God. The absolutely simple and one

must have the essential characteristics of God namely, absolute simplicity and

pure Oneness in ail its aspects. The question of how the tirst intellect implies

diversity, even if this diversity is potential, continuous to be raised despite the

philosophers" answer that the tirst intellect thinks of itself as possible by virtue of

itself, but as necessary by virtue of its cause.

The issuance of diversity out of the oneness of God, according to Ibn

Taymiyya, can only be explained by assuming that this diversity must occur

within God"s essence, not outside of il. At this point one can venture to say that

Ibn Taymiyya was convinced by al-GhazâJrs criticism of the philosophers, which

was based for the most part on refuting the philosophers" assumption that the

first emanated intellect, although it issued from the pure unity of God, potentially

contained diversity. Furthermore, one can conclude that Ibn Taymiyya shares Ibn

Rushd" s agreement with al-Ghazali in his criticism of the emanationist theory.

Some scholars believe that Ibn Rushd changed the direction of his philosophical

thinking because of al-Ghazalrs criticism and so abandoned the emanation

theory. [

Ibn Taymiyya"s rejection of emanation likewise led him to rejed the

philosophers ~ theory of efficient causa1ity, since the philosophers' concept of


• efficient causality implies that the perfect cause must by necessity produce a

perfect object. Although the philosophers did not admit such a conclusion to their

theory, Ibn Taymiyya maintains that the theory of efficient causality leads one

inevitably to assume that the world was created perfectly and at once. The

question of the continuous production of the world and the theory of corruption

and generation, according to Ibn Taymiyya, thus falls into doubt.

Ibn Taymiyya"s denial of emanation was not limited to these points, but

extended to the whole system of the philosophers. That is to say, the nature of

the concept of emanation presupposes a theory of knowledge that may open the

door to mystical philosophy. In other words, inasmuch as emanation theory

follows a vertical descending line of producing entities, it may be inferred that

knowledge must ascend, following the same verticalline of emanation in order to

reach the higher level of the Active intellect, which in turn allows the knower to

enter the realm of the noble heavenly spheres.

Although Ibn Taymiyya's ontology began from Gad and is concerned in

the same way as that of Ibn Sina and al-farabiwith explaining how multiplicity

issued God, he did not adopt the philosophers' metaphysical theory of

knowledge, which allowed philosopher or prophet to ascend to higher ontological

levels by means of knowledge. Ibn Taymiyya's stance can be understood in part

by his fundamental philosophical position, i.e., to negate any intermediary entities

that could occupy the space between Gad and man.

• Ibn Taymiyya"s theory of knowledge is based on a direct relation between

man and existing things. Knowledge must be obtained by means of concepts or

··universals"', and these concepts must be built on real and genuine abjects. Ibn

Taymiyya"s theory of knowledge does not imply any metaphysical dimension. His

writings about the theory of knowledge are sometimes reminiscent of those of

contemporary positivist philosophers who strongly emphasize a type of

knowledge completely void of metaphysical aspects. Ibn Taymiyya went further in

this regard than Ibn Rushd, since even Ibn Rushd had admitted the Active

intellect which he considered to be the storehouse of knowledge.

Whereas knowledge for Ibn Tayrniyya is void of any metaphysical

dimension and must be built on the objective reality of concrete objects, the

relation between man and God as construeted by Ibn Taymiyya must center on

religious worship. Ibn Taymiyya completely separates epistemological activity

from religious piety. He never mixes knowledge in its philosophical sense with

metaphysics or religious requirements.

ln arder to differentiate between knowledge and worship, Ibn Taymiyya

makes a distinction between two understandings of the unity of Gad: the unity of

Lordship (Tawf)ïd al-Rubübiyya) and unity of divinity (Tawl)Td a/-U/ühiyya).

Whereas the unity of Lordship is philosophical and means that God is one in the

sense that He is one in His essence, attributes and actions, the unity of divinity

means that man should establish his ties with Gad by means of worshiping Him

direetly and excluding ail sorts of intermediary beings, whatever these beings

• may be: saints, spheres, or anything else. This stance actually removes any

mystical trend from Ibn Taymiyya's philosophy since the universe has only two

dimensions: the tirst is ontological and begins with God and goes toward man:

the second is religious and goes from man to God. This latter dimension means

that Muslims could achieve a real connection with God by fulfilling Islamic

religious obligations.

Ibn Taymiyya's theory of knowledge, however, is historically horizontal.

Inasmuch as God's task of creation in the universe never ends and the world is

constantly actualizing itself thing by thing (shay' ba'd shay') and will never be

fultilled, man's knowledge likewise never ends and can be obtained step by step

by dealing with real entities and extracting the universals. This sort of philosophy

is free, as weil, of the prejudicial division of people into two classes: elite and folk,

which most Muslim philosophers accept. The elite includes those thinkers who

are able to enter the realm of the Active intellect and the heavenly spheres; the

folk, on the other hand, cannot do so.

The Nature of Ibn Taymivva's Discourse

Ibn Taymiyya's discourse operates on two levels: the surface level and the

deep, interior dimension that is hidden behind what he is declaring. The two

levels can be brought out clearly in his stance toward the kalam philosophy and


A superficial reading of Ibn Taymiyya's writings might lead one to

conclude that he is really, as he always claims, against the intellectual fields in


• Islamie thought. But an investigative reading reveals the real philosophical project

that Ibn Taymiyya has undertaken to follow through. Unfortunately, most studies

of Ibn Taymiyya do net go beyond the superficiallevel and deal merely with those

who adhered to his thought and belonged to his school and, conversely those

who attaeked him. There is very little about his philosophical thought in Western

seholarship and almest nothing in the Arabie language about his philosophy.

Indeed, ail that has been said about him, i.e., that he is completely against

philosophy and the kalâm or any kind of rational thinking in Islam, is absolutely


The major and voluminous books of Ibn Taymiyya, e.g., Muwafsqat $al)ï1)

a/-Manqü/ /i-$arï1) a/-Ma" qü/, Minhaj a/-Sunna al-Nabawiyya, MujmCr at a/-Rasa' il

wa '/-MasS" il, AJ-Radd .ala aJ-Man(iqiyyin and Majmü' at a/-Rasa' i/ al-Kubra, were

dedieated to dealing with the very philosophical problems with which Islamie

thought before him dealt. Ibn Taymiyya's discussion of these problems is not only

intended to deny and dismiss what was created by previous Muslim thinkers in ail

the Islamie intelleetual fields, but also to criticize them analytically and to offer a

different philosophical point of view.

Most studies of Ibn Taymiyya"s theory of the unity of Gad, for instance,

discuss his attitude towards what is known traditionally as the '''anthropomorphic

attributes~' (~ifSt khabariyya) , which liken Gad to humans. Indeed, Ibn Taymiyya

here advocates not interpreting these attributes but leaving them as they are

mentioned in the Qur~ an. But conceming other sorts of attributes, such as the

attributes of essence, the attributes of the ma- anT and the action attributes, Ibn

• Taymiyya was completely involved in discussing these categories in arder to take

a stance and develops his own philosophical views on them.

As mentioned earlier, Ibn Taymiyya's contribution here is to maintain that

ail these categories of attributes are etemal, belong in the same way to God's

essence, and are unified with His essence. Ibn Taymiyya was deeply involved in

kalamic discussion and in refuting what he believed to be irrational ideas as weil

as in showing what he considered to be the right side of each school. He rejected

the Ash'arite formula of considering God's attributes as neither God's essence

nor other than it, and he maintained that these attributes are the most general

universals, species and genera.

Ibn Taymiyya thus does not agree with Ibn tiazm, for example, whose

stance toward the kalàmic argument about God's attributes is completely

traditional. Rather Ibn Taymiyya established a strongly philosophical view and

employed this view in constructing a systematic philosophy.

Besides his emphasis on the importance of God's attributes as being His

means of creation, Ibn Taymiyya defines these attributes as species and genera

in a sense similar to that of the philosophical definition of universals used by

Muslim philosophers. They are not created in time, and they continue producing

their particulars eternally; there is no beginning and end to their existence. Ibn

Taymiyya also rejected the Muslim theologians' theory of creation out of nothing.

He believed that the etemal capacity of Gad means inevitably that God creates

the world eternally. Any assumption that there is a delay between God's

existence and the creation of the world is self-contradictory.


• Although Ibn Taymiyya seems to have contended against the rational

argument used by the kalam and falsafa, his readers can notice his justification of

the usages of the Mutakallimün and the philosophers' method of rational thinking.

He says, for example, that, ""conversation with those who use a definite

methodology and terms by using the same methodology and terms is legitimate

(Iaysa bi-maknlh), if there is a need for that."' Ibn Taymiyya makes an analogy

with language when he says that "Oit is legitimate as weil to speak with those who

speak Persian or Turkish in their own language if we need to.• ,2

Ibn Taymiyya in this text not only allows the use of kalamic and

philosophical methodology, but he goes further in giving such usage a full legal

justification when he says that '1he predecessors (salat) and trusted Imams did

not deny the usage of kalam methodology because of the terms that were used,

like atom, accident, body and other terms, 3 but because the content that was

given to these terms is not true and because of the ambiguity of the

Mutakallimün"s usage ofthese terms.',4

Ibn Taymiyya therefore removes from this text any possibility of

considering the kalamic methodology as innovation (bict a); what he objects to

here is the Mutakallimün's way of using rational thinking, which is, he believes,

confusing and ambiguous. The usage and integration of philosophical terms and

methodology to defend Islam and establish a rational and philosophical

• foundation for religion is completely legitimate. Ibn Taymiyya enhances this

attitude by insisting on the necessity of making a comparison and then an


• identification between philosophy and the Qur'an and Sunna. He sayst "If you

know what is meant by the kalamic and philosophical terms and vocabularies and

compare it with the Our"an and Sunna in a way of proving the truth and negating

the false in both discourses- kalamic and philosophical-you will reach the

absolute truth (a/-1:/aqq).,,5

Actually, Ibn Taymiyya"s whole project depends strongly on these

premises, despite his statements that forbade any kalâmic or philosophical

usages and despite his attack on al-Ghazali because of his use of the kalam and


Ibn Taymiyya*s readers can easily find numerous philosophical terms as

weil as extensive usage of the rational methodology of both philosophy and the

kalàm. Terms such as the eternity of genera and species and the generation of

particulars, the eternal succession (lasa/su!), the creation of thing after thing (a/-

khalq shay~ ba"d shaY*)t generation in God"s essence, the difference between

creation and generation, etemal generation, etc., ail these terms are Ibn

Taymiyya"s philosophical contribution.

Ibn Taymiyya on Mysticism

Ibn Taymiyya"s discourse on ~üfism likewise generates on two levels, but

• it is riddled with contradictions and ambiguities. Many of his statements and those

of his disciples show that he admired certain great mystics in the history of Islam;

• other statements demonstrate an uncompromising hostility to both mystics and

mysticism. The tirst thing that strikes the reader of Ibn Taymiyya is his admiration

for such great ~üfis as 'Abd al-Qadir al-JnT (d. 561/1166) and al-An~ari al-Harawi

(d. 481/1087), who were both tlanbalites. (AI-Harawi is the author of the famous

ManaziJ al-Sa"irïn, and -Abd al-Qadir is the author of Futül) al-Ghayb).

ln spite of the apparent consensus of scholarly opinion on this subject, H.

Laoust was the first to make clear that Ibn Taymiyya's doctrines contained an

appreciable amount of influence from ,üfism and furthermore that one would

search in vain to find the least condemnation of ~üfism in his works. What Ibn

Taymiyya did condemn was the pantheistic ,üfism of the Ittil)Sdiyya, as

represented, for instance, in the doctrine of Ibn -Arabi (d. 638/1240).fl

ln al-Ristlla al-$afadiyya, Ibn Taymiyya defends the ~üfis as those who

belong to the path of the Sunna and represent it in their teachings: the great

shaykhs mentioned by Abü -Abd al-Ral:1man al-Sulami in TabaqSt al-$üfiyya and

Abü al-Qssim al-Qushayri (d. 564/1169) in al-RisSla were adherents of the school

of Ahl al-Sunna wa "-Jama" a and the scheol of Ahl al-I:fadllh. 7

Indeed, Ibn Taymiyya refers te his own reflection of the works of many

~üfis: Sahl al-Tustari (d. 283/896), al-Junayd (d. 290/903), Abü Talib al-Makki (d.

386/996), Abü al-Qâsim al-Qushayri (d. 564/1169) and Abü l:iafs al-Suhrawardi

(d. 632/1235). He also mentions having allowed himself to be deluded in his

youth by the Futü/Jst of Ibn al-oArabi. 8


• ln his treatise Fi al-Mu'jizst wa'I-KaramSt on the difference between the

lawful forms of worship and the innovative forms Ibn Taymiyya incontrovertibly

states that the lawful is the method and way of '1hose who follow the $üfi path" or

'1he way of self-denial" (zuhd) and those who follow ·what is called poverty and

ta$8wwuf', Le., the fuqam' and the $üfis: the lawful is that by which one draws

near to Allah. It is the way of Allah. It is the way of those on the $üfi path (al-
salikïn) , the method of those journeying toward AllAh and worshipping Him.

Regarding 'Abd al-Oadir's teaehing that the salik or $üfi must abstain from

permitted desires, Ibn Taymiyya clarifies al-Jilrs intention by stating: '·'Abd al-

Qâdir explains what he means as follows: at every stage the servant must desire

to do that whieh has been commanded in the shatra and avoid what has been

forbidden him in the shatra. When he commands the servant to curtail his

desiring, that pertains to those things which have neither been commanded nor

forbidden ... 111

What Ibn Taymiyya wants to say is that one should give up those

permitted things which are not commanded, for there may be a danger in them.

Ibn Taymiyya concedes that the Our'An and Sunna cannot explicitly coyer every

possible specifie event in the lite of every believer. Vet, if the goal of submission

of one's will and desire to Allah is to be accomplished by those seeking Him,

there must be a way for the striver to ascertain the Divine command in its

particularity. The goal of mystical philosophy, as Ibn Taymiyya understands it, is

• not a union of being between Gad and the believer, as is spoken of by many

• mystical writers, but a unity of will. where the believer actively wants and desires

nothing except what Gad desires and performs in his lite. II

Ibn Taymiyya's answer is to apply the legal concept of ijtihad to the

spiritual path, specifically to the notion of i/ham or inspiration. In his effort to

achieve a union of his will with Allah's, the true ,üfi reaches astate where he

desires nothing more than to discover the greater goOO, that action which is most

pleasing and lavable ta Allah. When externallegal arguments cannot direct him in

such matters, he can rely on the standard ,ufi notions of private inspiration

(ilham) and intuitive perception or '1aste'- (dhawq). If the ,afi wayfarer has

creatively employed his effort to the external indications of revelation (shar) and

sees no ctear probability conceming his preferable action, he may then feel

inspired, along with his goodness of intention and reverent fear of Allah, to

choose one of the actions as superior to the other. This kind of inspiration (i1ham)

is an indication concerning the truth. 11

George Makdisi points out that Ibn Taymiyya received his teaching from

great tianbalite thinkers who were ,ufis. There are chains of ~üfi initiation, or

si/sila in which tianbalites were named who had been invested with the
1 ~üfi

cloak, the so-called khirqa, by the celebrated tianbali ,afi "Abd al-Qadir ai-JilL

Thus -Abd al-Qadir, eponym of the ,afi brotherhood, invested with the !?üfi cloak

both Abü "Umar b. Qudama (d. 607/1210) and his brother Muwaffaq al-Din b.

Qudama (d. 620/1223). The son of the former, and therefore nephew of the latter,

• Ibn Abü "Umar b. Qudima (d. 682/1283) received the cloak directly trom both his

father and his uncle. It is this Ibn Qudima who invested Ibn Taymiyya with the

• ~üfi cloak. This spiritual genealogy continues through Ibn Taymiyya with Ibn al-

Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 751/1350), author of the ~üfi work Madarij a/-SalikTn,

which is a commentary on the famous ~üfi al-Harawi. t.j

This may shed sorne light on the spiritual tradition that Ibn Taymiyya

belonged to, notwithstanding his bitter attack on certain ~üfi views, and especially

the notions of pantheism and the superiority of the walf over the Prophet. Sorne

believe that Ibn Taymiyya"s rigid rejection of ~üfism came after he read Ibn

-Arabis FU$ü$ a/-I:fikam, where these notions are clearty defended by Ibn -Arabi.

On the other hand, we have a statement from Ibn Taymiyya himself revealing that

he admired Ibn al-"Arabls book al-Futül)at a/-Makkiyya (The Meccan

Revelation). 14


• Notes

(Barry Kogan, "Averroes and the Theory of Emanation", j~fedieval Studies, vol. 43, 1981, pp.

Ibn Taymiyya, J/ajmu' at al-Fatin\'a al-Kubra (Riyad. 1381) vol. 9, pp. 306-7.

3 lbid. vol. 3, pp. 306-7.

~ Ibid. vol. 3. pp. 306-7.

5/bid. vol. 3. pp. 306-7.

'" George Makdisi. "Ibn Taymiyya: A ~üfi of the Qadiriyya Order", American Journal ofArabie
Sllidies, vol. 1. p. 121.

Ibn Taymiyya, a/-Risala a/-$afadiyya (Riyad: Mat.abi· I:'fanlfa. 1396/1976) vol. 1. p. 267.

:-l H. Laoust. "Ibn Taymiyya", Eneyclopaedia ofIslam, vol. III. p. 952.

Ibn Taymiyya. Jfajmu' at al-Rasa'il wa Ï-Afasa' il. ed. M. R. Riçla (Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-
·Ilmiyya. 1983) vol. 5. pp. 179-80.

\1/ Ibn Taymiyya. Jfajmu-at al-Fatin\·a. vol. 10. pp. 524-525, cited in Thomas Michel, "Ibn
Taymiyya's Shar~ on the FutuJ.r al-Ghayb of'Abd al-Qâdir al-Jilanr', Hamdard Islamicus, vol. IV, No. 1,
pp. 5-9.

\\ Thomas Michel. "Ibn Taymiyya's Shar~", pp. 5-6.

12 Thomas Michel. "Ibn Taymiyya's Shart)''. summarized, refonnulated and reproduced in

"Süfism oflbn Ta~miyya", $uJism oflbn Taymiyya.htm. pp. 1-3.

13 Makd"151," lb n Taynuyya.
. " p. 1"'"

Alexander Knysh. Ibn' Arabi in the Later Islamie Tradition (Albany: State University of New
y ork Press. 1999) p. 96.

Works by Ibn Taymivva

Ibn Taymiyya. Taqi al-Din. Al)mad. a/-"Aqïda a/-Wiisi(iyya. Riya4: Dar al-~umay"i,

_ _. Diir' Ta" iirluj a/-'Aql wa '/-Naql, ed. A. "Abd al-RaQman. 5 vols. Beirut: Dar aI-
Kutub al-·Ilmiyya. 1997.

_ _. A/-Fa/wii a/-flamawiyya al-Kubra. Ed. H.A.M. Tuwayjari. Riyad: Dar al-

~umay"i. 1998.

_ _. a/-FlIrqiin bayn a/-f:laqq wa 'I-Bii(i/, ed. H.Y. Ghazali. Beirut: Dar Il:ty~ï al-
"Ulüm. 1987.

_ _. Kitlib al-Imiin. Ed. H. Y. al-Ghazzâl. Beirut: Dar Qtya' al-"Ulüm, 1986.

_ _. Kitiib al-Radd "alii a/-Afan(iqiyyïn. Ed. "Abd al-~amad Sharafal-Din al-Kutubi.

Bombay:·a a1-Qayyimah, 1949.

_ _. "Jahd a/-QarïJ]afi Tajrïd a/-Iva~ïJ]a". Trans.. with an intro.. and notes by Wael B.
Hallaq under the title. Ibn Taymiyya Against the Greek Logicians. Oxford:
Clarendon Press. 1993.

_ _. Jâmi" a/-Rasif il. Ed. M. R. Salim. Cairo:"at al-Madani, 1969.

_ _. al-Jawab al-$alJïJ] li-man Baddala Dïn al-MasïlJ. Cairo: Ma~ba"at al-NU, 1905.

_ _. .\lajmü" Fatiivdi Shaykh a/-Islam Ibn Taymiyya. 36 vols. Riyad: Maktabat al-
tluküma. 1968/1386.

_ _. ~\lajmû'at a/-Rasa' if al-Kubrâ. 2 vols. Cairo:"a al-·Âmi~ 1904/1323.

_ _. Jfajmü" at a/-Rasa· il wa 'l-k/asâ· il. Ed. M. R. Ri4a. 5 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub
al-·I1miyya. 1983.

_ _. Aluwiifaqat $alJïJJ a/-Alanqii/li-$arïlJ a/-1.'Ja"qzïl. 2 vols. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-

• ·Ilmiyya. 1985.

_ _. J.\1inhiij a/-Sunna aJ-Nabawiyya. 4 vols. Beirut: al-Maktaba al-'Ilmiyya, n.d.


• Ibn Ta}nÏyya. lVaqq al-i\;fan(iq. Ed. M. tlamza & S.

~àni;'. Beirut: al-Maktaba al-·I1miyya.

_ _. Qaïda Ja/ï/afi 'I-TCllvassul wa 'l-Wasila. Beirut: a1-Maktab al-Islàrni~ 1990.

_ _. Tafsïr Siirat al-Ikh/iis. Cairo: Dar al-Rayan lil-Turath~ 1987.

_ _. Taqrfb al-Tadmuriyya. Sharjah: Dar a1-Fatb. 1994.

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