SECONDARY CAUSALITY OR DETERMINISM
3.1 History of the
3.2 Ash`arite theology
3.2.1 The Shahâda
3.2.2 The Ash`arite understanding of analogy
3.2.3 There is no power in creatures
3.2.4 Absence of philosophical ethic
3.2.5 There is no divine charism in man
3.3 Mu`tazilite theology
3.4 The philosophers
3.4.8 Moshe ben Maimon
3.5 Thomas Aquinas
3.1 History of the debate (1)
The word qadar means determination of events. We might then think that a Qadarite is someone who holds that God determines everything, but historically the word was applied to those who hold that man determines his own acts by free choice.
During the Umayyad period the question had political implications. The Umayyad caliphs favored divine determinism to support their claim to authority by divine right. The poets Jârîr and al-Farazdaq popularized this claim, holding up the heirs of `Uthmân, the Umayyads, as the representatives of God on earth. They called them “the shadow of God” on earth, and used the term khalîfat Allâh to mean “deputy of God” (Qur’ân 2:30 applies the word to Adam in this sense, and 38:26 to David), and not with the usual meaning of “successor” of Muammad. Thus whatever the Umayyads decreed was taken as the decreed of God and no one was supposed to oppose them or doubt their authority.
The Islamic background to the question is important. Arabia is a country that has no regular rainy season. Nomads struggling to find pasture for their animals easily adopted a fatalistic attitude. Pre-Islamic poetry speaks of Time (dahr, zamân) or Days (ayyâm) as an impersonal force that determines everything, especially the length of one’s life (ajal) and one’s daily sustenance (rizq). On the other hand, the Arabs admired human exploits, especially victory in war, and regarded them as signs of a hereditary ability to accomplish great things.
The Qur’ân retains the notions of ajal and rizq, but teaches that these are determined by God and not by impersonal forces. (2) Although the Qur’ân teaches that man is responsible for his acts on the Day of Judgment it affirms also that God can pardon or punish sins as he wishes (2:284; 3:129; 4:48,116; 5:18,40) or pardon at the request of intercessors (10:3; 19:87; 20:109; 34:23; 43:86). Besides, it is said that God guides (ahdâ) men or leads them astray as he wishes (6:125; 16:93) or helps them to achieve success (nasara) or abandons them (khadala). Other verses present this guidance or leading astray as the result of previous good or bad actions (2:26; 3:86).
So the question arose: what is the will of God? Is it what happens in the world according to his predestination, even if it is a sin, or is it the commandments of God expressed in the Sharî`a? In a story told by al-Ash`arî, Maymûn had lent some money to Shu`ayb and came to ask for repayment. Shu`ayb answered: “I will repay you if God wishes”. Then Maymûn said: “God wishes you to repay me”; and Shu`ayb answered: “If God had wished this I would not be able to refuse you”. They continued to argue, highlighting the seeming contrast between God’s omnipotence and his goodness.
During the `Abbâsid age the question of qadar had no more political overtones. The Mu`tazilites held the Qadarite position that the justice of God required freedom of the human will. The Ash`arites held the opposite position, adopting a completely atomistic and occasionalist theory to diminish the worth of creation and exalt the omnipotence of God. Before examining the positions of the philosophers, we must first look at the position of Ash`arism, which is the dominant school of Islamic theology.
3.2 Ash`arite theology
Al-Ash`arî’s thought was developed and popularized by his disciples, especially al-Ghazâlî. Since the 15th century the best known popularizer of Ash`arite thought was Muhammad ibn-Yûsuf as-Sanûsî, from whom I take the following points. (3)
3.2.1 The Shahâda
The first part of the Shahâda or Muslim profession of faith, is: “Lâ ilâha illâ llâh” (“There is no divinity but Allâh”). This statement is the core of Islamic monotheism, and means that God is the one and only divinity.
Islamic monotheism has far ranging consequences. Muslim theologians like to tie all the beliefs of Islam to the two statements of the Shahâda: profession of faith that God is one and that Muhammad is his Messenger. The Shahâda serves as a good memory device and a pedagogical method to help students navigate among the many dogmas of Muslim theology. Nevertheless the Shahâda is more than an artificial link of disparate teachings to two fundamental points. These points bind all the teachings of Islam together in a tight logic, so that the whole of Islam is characterized by a remarkable consistency and coherence. No point of doctrine can be altered without affecting the whole religious system of Islam.
Let us examine here the logical implications of the first part of the Shahâda such as they have been developed by the interpretation of the majority of Muslims over the course of history. In fact the Shahâda has given birth to a radical monotheism in Ash`arite theology. That could have various sociological explanations, but the metaphysical foundation of Islamic monotheism can be identified as a particular understanding of analogy. Exactly what is the idea of analogy underlying the popular Ash`arite understanding of the Shahâda?
3.2.2 The Ash`arite understanding of analogy
As we have seen, pre-Islamic Arab thought was very occasionalist and fatalistic, and this is reflected in one strand of Qur’ânic thought. God can do whatever he wants because he is the sole sovereign, without partner or competitor. Having opted for an unqualified omnipotence in God, the Ash`arites found a convenient support in neo-Platonism which took the world of ideas as the true reality, leaving the material and sensible world in a shadow of irreality and near nothingness.
Plato’s idea of analogy was thus a relationship between two terms that are infinitely disparate; this is called analogy of attribution. It was Aristotle who invented an analogy of four terms to safeguard the reality of each element of the comparison; this is called analogy of proportionality.
Pursuing the exaltation of God at the expense of creatures, the Ash`arites adopted the theory of Democritus and Epicurus, who conceived of the world as a cloud of atoms floating without laws –except that the Ash`arites added: according to or under the influence of God. (4)
Let us now see how Ash`arite theology developed this occasionalist interpretation of the Shahâda, pointing out where they differed from the philosophers and the Mu`tazilites.
3.2.3 There is no power in creatures
As a variation of the Shahâda, any attribute or name of God can be replaced by “ilâha”. For example, “No one is strong (qadîr) but God”; “No one is seeing (basîr) but God”. (5) Ash`arite theology used such expressions to support its cardinal teaching that there is no power in nature; or, to be exact, nature as a principle of action does not exist. Only God acts directly at every instant on the occasion of the conjunction of what appears to be a cause and an effect. That is a way of viewing the relationship between God and creatures exclusively under the angle of Plato’s analogy of attribution, to the exclusion of Aristotle’s analogy of proportionality. Let us quote Muhammad as-Sanûsî’s al-`Aqîda al-wustâ: (6)
For the same reason, you become aware of the impossibility of anything in the world producing any effect whatsoever, because that entails the removal of that effect from the power and will of our majestic and mighty Protector, and this necessitates the overcoming of something from eternity by something which came into being, which is impossible. Therefore a created power has no effect on motion or rest, obedience or disobedience, or on any effect universally, neither directly nor through induction. (n. 35)
For that matter, food has no effect on satiety, nor water on moistening the land, growing plants or on cleaning, nor fire on burning, heating or cooking food, nor clothing or shelter on covering or repelling heat and cold, nor trees on shading, nor the sun and the rest of the heavenly bodies on illumination, nor a knife on cutting, nor cold water on diminishing the intensity of the heat of other water, as neither has the latter in diminishing the intensity of cold in the former. Conclude by analogy to these examples that whenever God acts in his ordinary way he makes something exist on the occasion of another. But know that it is from God from the start, without the other accompanying things having any intermediacy or effect on it, neither by their nature, nor by a plower or peculiarity placed in it by God, as many ignorant people think. More than one sound imâm has recalled that there is agreement that whoever holds that those things produce an effect by their nature is an unbeliever. (n 39).
The total lack of power in creatures applies also to human choice. The same as-Sanûsî holds that man has a “power” to choose, but that this power has no effect whatsoever on his act. It only gives him a feeling that all is well and that he is free, although in reality he is forced to act (n. 37). God rewards obedience and punishes disobedience by his own free decision, not because he is held to do so by some obligation of justice (n 38).
The position of as-Sanûsî perfectly expresses Ash`arite thought, even though Qur’ânic texts can be quoted in favor of human liberty as well as for diving determination. (7)
The popular expression of this teaching is the doctrine of qadar or determination, which goes back to pre-Islamic Arab tradition. Qadar is applied first of all to the termination of one’s life span (ajal) or one’s daily sustenance (rizq), but also to human choice, which Ash`arite thought, in spite of the subterfuges of kasb (acquisition, imputation of the act to man), puts firmly under the determination of God. (8)
This position was pushed to its extreme by al-Bâqillânî. Following Democritus, he denied the existence of nature and of natural units, saying that everything is just an accidental formation of tiny atoms which have no continuity in space or time, which cease to exist and are re-created at each successive instant.
3.2.4 Absence of philosophical ethic
The next step in the logical process was to deny the validity of any philosophical ethics. If the natural world has no predictable behavior of its own, we cannot look to the nature of man and say that anything is good or bad for him, because that all depends on the free decision of God. God’s free decisions, revealed in the Qur’ân and Hadîth are known as Sharî`a. Let us again listen to al-`Aqîda al-wustâ:
It is impossible for the Most High to determine an act as obligatory or forbidden... for the sake of any objective, since all acts are equal in that they are his creation and production. Therefore the specification of certain acts as obligatory and others as forbidden or with any other determination takes place by his pure choice, which has no cause. Intelligibility has no place at all in it; rather it can be known only be revealed law. (n. 19)
In other words, God does not command or forbid something because it is good or evil, but it is good or evil because he commands or forbids it.
3.2.5 There is no divine charism in man
The use of analogy of attribution to the exclusion of that of proportionality also means that men do not have any share in God’s life or attributes. In Islam there is none of the Christian “new life”, “regeneration”, or “sanctifying grace”. There is only fira, the natural man as God created him, distinguished only by piety (taqwa) or adherence by faith to thee covenant (mîthâq) with Adam and his descendants. (9) Thus the basic difference among men is between believers and non-believers; all believers are fundamentally equal, although they may have differing amounts of good works to their credit.
The same equality applies to rulers and the ruled. No one has a divine right to rule (except that the Shî`ites believe that `Alî and the imâms designated to succeed him do), but everyone has the right and duty to “command the good and forbid the evil”. (10) Even Muslims who are guilty of misbehavior are obliged to correct the misbehavior of others, since the obligation to avoid evil and the obligation to forbid it are distinct, and someone who omits one obligation is not excused from fulfilling the other. (11) An imâm and law enforcement agents are necessary and deserve obedience, according to Qur’ân 4:59, “Obey God; obey the Messenger and those who have authority among you.” But these functionaries, who fulfill a communitarian obligation (fard al-kifâya) do not take over this obligation completely from other Muslims. Since all are subject to the Sharî`a, any time an official is remiss in enforcing it, any Muslim has the duty, according to his ability, to correct the official or, if the case is serious, to engineer a coup.
The logic of the Shahâda, following an exclusive use of the analogy of attribution, also demands that prophets have no prerogative elevating them above the rest of men. The gift of prophesy is not a permanent gift at the disposition of the prophet, but is only God acting through him when he wants to reveal something.
This, at least, is strict Ash`arite teaching, but certainly not the popular belief in Islam. One only has to examine the literature for Mawlid (the feast of Muhammad’s birthday) to observe that Muhammad is considered as the Alpha of divine creationthe light which was created before all other thingsand the Omega whose intercession will lead the elect to Paradise on the Last Day.
A saint (walî) likewise has nothing to distinguish him from other men. He is simply purified from acquired selfishness to return to his original innocence. There is no question of “union with God” or of God “dwelling in him”, in spite of a sûfist tendency to affirm this.
The Islamic view of Scripture inspiration also follows the idea that man can have no divine charism. In a broad sense of causality, a Muslim could say that God is the author of all books, but particularly in the case of a book of revelation man cannot cooperation. To say that Muhammad is the author of the Qur’ân, even to the slightest degree, would imply that the Qur’ân is that much less inspired. Cooperation would imply a division of causality on a percentage basis. Whatever the percentage, such a partition of the composition of a book of Scripture is unacceptable both to Muslims and Christians. Yet the idea that God is the first cause and man a subordinate, secondary cause of the whole result, was never considered by Ash`arite theology. The Christian idea is that God is 100% author of the sacred book and man is likewise 100% the author of the book attributed to him.
3.3 Mu`tazilite theology
The Mu`tazilites in general were uniformly opposed to determinism, but not all for the same reasons. For the majority it was simply a case of defending the justice of God, since it would not be just for him to reward or punish someone if he were not free and responsible for his actions. Yet for Mu`ammar and an-Naâm, the issue was one of recognizing natural causality.
As opposed to the Ash`arites, the Mu`tazilites said that goodness or evil are intrinsic to things, and for that reason they are forbidden or commanded. Moreover, good and evil can be known even without Sharî`a (12)
3.4 The philosophers
Contrary to the above position, there is the Platonic concept of the philosophers that men and angels are stratified in to different ranks according to the excellence of their nature. The prophets are simply men who, by their superior intelligence, can understand divine things.
The Arab philosophers admitted the reality of nature and created power. This position was clear with al-Fârâbî, but al-Kindî seems to have hesitated. In his Risâla fî l-fâ`il al-haqq al-awwal at-tâmm wa-l-fâ`il an-nâqis alladhî huwa bi-l-majâz, as the title indicates, he attributes true causality to God alone, who acts without anything else acting upon him, whereas every other thing is called a “cause” by way of metaphor, since these act by reason of the fact that they are acted upon by others. Nevertheless, in his Kitâb fî l-ibâna `an al-`illa al-fâ`ila al-qarîba l-l-kawn wa-l-fasâd al-Kindî explains that different things are causes (asbâb wa-`ilal) of one another. Heavenly bodies, by the constant change of their positions, are the proximate causes of all the changes of seasons and variety of weather, and in this way of all life on earth. If they are also the cause of human life, al-Kindî reasons in his Risâla tî l-ibâna `an sujûd al-jirm al-aqsâ wa-tâ`ati-hi li-llâh `azza wa-jalla, they must themselves be living and intelligent. As for sensitive powers, they only have sight and hearing; the other senses are redundant, since they are at the service of nutrition, which implied corruptibility, something that heavenly bodies do not have.
While supporting causality in nature, al-Kindî, like most of the Arab philosophers, opted in principle for a cosmological determinism. That was borrowed from Greek commentators of Aristotle in Alexandria, who held that planetary positions determine every event in this world. In this way the intellects of the spheres know in advance everything that will happen. Al-Kindî accepted the principles of this determinism in a cosmos emanating from God, attributing to it not only the physical diversity of peoples, but also their level of intelligence and moral disposition. (13) While discussing the causes and remedies of sadness, he explains that everything that happens to man comes from God by his will; he has lent us all that we have and can freely take it back. (14)
Ibn-Masarra distinguishes two kinds of determination. Of the first he says:
The exemplars of things and their determinations are resting beyond motion. They are all contained in the mother-book, and undergo no change, substitution or transfer.
From these derive detailed decisions (al-qadâyâ al-mufassala), which are subject to change and exception. Prayer is useful with regard to this kind of determination but not the first. (15)
Al-Fârâbî, in a long discussion in as-Siyâsa al-madaniyya on things that are possible on this earth, (16) gives no hint that these are determined by higher causes. The same is true of his other works. In a treatise on the influence of heavenly bodies, (17) he takes a firm position: Most of the things that happen in this world happen by chance (ittifâq), and do not have determined causes; they are not therefore subject to scientific proofs, and all that one can say about them is guess work, without any certitude. In saying this, al-Fârâbî does not deny divine providence (`inâya); elsewhere he says that God takes care of the whole universe and that his universal providence flows into every detail of the universe. (18) But providence is a theme that al-Fârâbî does not develop, in his care to avoid determinism.
Just as al-Fârâbî takes a moderate position regarding the influence of heavenly bodies and the possibility of predicting earthly events, so he takes a moderate position regarding alchemy, in his Risâla fî wujûb sanâ`a al-kimiyyâ, where he condemns both those who reject this science and those who believe too much in it.
Talking of the efficacy of prayer, Miskawayh affirms the immutability of God and says that a prayer is heard because it turns us from the distractions of this world and opens us to the influence of the Creator. (19)
Ibn-Sînâ, on the other hand, takes a clearly determinist position. Nevertheless it is not God who determines things directly, but he acts through intermediaries:
He who exists necessarily influences the intellects; the intellects influence the [heavenly] souls; the souls influence the heavenly bodies... The heavenly bodies influence this sub-lunar world, and the special intellect of the lunar sphere infuses the light by which man is guided in the obscurity of his search for intelligible things. (20)
In particular, the separated souls of prophets or holy men can benefit those who approach them or visit their tombs, by giving them the good things they desire or by taking away the evils that disturb them. (21)
In his Najât, Ibn-Sînâ discusses the question of the necessity that results from this cosmological structure. (22) He distinguishes between God, who is his own existence and exists necessarily (wâjib al-wujûd), and every other thing which is not identical with its existence, and for that reason is “possible” (mumkin) in itself. Then he says that everything that is possible in itself is necessary by another, that is, by its immediate cause or by the first cause. He presents an argument that it is hypothetically necessary that what exists cannot not be non-existent. But he does not make the distinction of Saint Thomas between what is necessary by another in the sense that it has no material potency and what is essentially contingent because it is material, even though it may be necessary in reference to the first cause who determines all things without taking away their intrinsic contingency.
In his Shifâ’ Ibn-Sînâ is more nuanced. (23) Contingent hidden things (mughayyabât) are brought about by a mixture of heavenly things –which we may be able to count—and earthly things which precede and follow these happenings, whether they are active or passive causes, natural or voluntary; they do not happen by heavenly causes alone.” (24) No one can know all these factors, and therefore no one can pretend to know hidden future events, unless he receives a special illumination from on high, that is, from the Agent Intellect (which we will speak about later).
Thus, in spite of the determinism of every event through secondary cosmic causes, Ibn-Sînâ rejects astrology and popular magic. (25)
For Ibn-Sînâ, “God’s knowledge itself is his power” which gives necessity to everything that comes from him, and “the fact that he knows the good and chosen order of the universe is the fact that he is powerful”. (26) Everything that happens has a cause, and comes in the last analysis from the First Cause. That is why what happens by chance (ittifâq) is necessary (wâjib) with respect to God. (27)
Even the choices of the human will (al-ikhtiyârât) are determined. (28) These come from earthly or heavenly causes or a mixture of the two. What happens by chance comes from natural or voluntary causes, so that “what is not necessary does not exist” (mâ lam tajib lam tûjad). (29) In his Risâla al-qadâ’ wa-l-qadar, Ibn-Sînâ uses the same arguments and concludes in this way:
Agree from all that has been said that your will is forced and your actions are the consequences [of causes]. You can escape from your error [if you understand] that if it is not forced, it is as if forced. If the word “forced” did not have the meaning of putting up with what one dislikes, I would say that your are forced. For if you are not forced, you are as if forced. This makes no difference if you consider the greatness of the Creator. (30)
In the Ta`lîqât Ibn-Sînâ says that “the soul is forced with the appearance of having free choice (mudtarra fî sûra mukhtâra); only God is truly free. (31)
The whole universe is constructed in a tight order of causes, but the human intellect cannot understand this order, and it must submit with humility to the divine plans. (32)
If “all things are necessary with respect to their first principles,” why do they not always exist? Ibn-Sînâ answers this problem in his Ta`lîqât, saying that God’s emanation is constant and invariable, but the disposition of matter to receive this emanation is variable. (33)
In his Sirr al-qadar Ibn-Sînâ answers the objection that commandments, prohibitions, rewards and punishments are superfluous if qadar includes human choices. He says that the commandments are stimulations to good for those who are already determined to do good; thus they are the means of qadar, and without commandments moral evil in the world would be double what it is. As for rewards and punishment, they are automatic consequences of the state of the soul the moment it leaves this world. (34)
Ibn-Sînâ also answers the objection that the use of medicine is superfluous:
The truth is that there is no weakness or health, sickness or healing apart from God the Most High. But he has established a cause for everything. For each sickness (dâ’) there is a remedy (dawâ’). If, in his determination and decision there is a remedy for sickness, man, his servant, acts in agreement with his will and desire [in using it]. God has prepared the causes of healing and has simplified this problem for him, giving him easy access to medicine and making it a cause of the cure from his sickness. (35)
In the Ta`lîqât Ibn-Sînâ answers the objection that if God determines everything, prayer is superfluous: God has determined prayer to be the disposition to receive what he wishes to give. It is not that we move heaven, but God makes us pray. And when we pray we receive from God a power which is the instrument of moving elements for our well-being. (36)
Good and evil are not determined in the same way. “His essence causes the good by his contact or influence; it causes evil by separation or removing his influence on things. (37) In his Risâla tafsîr al-mu`awwidha al-ûlâ (sûra 113), Ibn-Sînâ explains that the first thing that comes from God is his qadâ’; this concerns the heavenly world; it is perfect and contains no evil. But from qadâ’ comes qadar, that is, the earthly world. Because the things of this world are material they accept evil as an attachment (mudâf). God directly wishes good, but evil indirectly and by accident. (38)Good and evil, as well as the differences of perfection among individuals, are attributable to different levels of matter’s preparation to receive, since the emanation of divine goodness is always equal. (39) Since God, for Ibn-Sînâ, has nothing to do directly with matter, the question of God’s freely determining what is not equal does not arise.
If the good of the universe justifies evil for an individual, Ibn-Sînâ particularly defends the wisdom for the death of men. Besides the fact that it is a passage to a better life, if there were no death the earth would be full of people and there would be no place to live. (40)
Ibn-Sînâ describes evil as “the obscurity of privation” (zulma al-`adam) (41) or simply as a non-entity, (42) without any precise notion of “privation”, which is the key to the teaching of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas on evil. In the Ta`liqât Ibn-Sînâ gives two meanings of privation (`adam): “that which is in potency to come into act,” and “the total privation of a form... as man is the privation of a horse.” (43) Thus he confuses privation with potency or matter, (44) or with contrariety. But he distinguishes it from pure negation (salb), just as not everything that has no sight is blind. (45)
In man, Ibn-Sînâ explains that evil comes from the vegetative and sensitive powers, which are the enemies to which sûra 113 alludes, even though these powers can also be put at the service of the intellect. The devil is also an enemy, and in that case evil can enter even the divine qadâ’. (46) In Risâla tafsîr al-mu`awwidha ath-thâniya (sûra 114) Ibn-Sînâ continues to allegorize evil spirits as the imagination and the internal senses (al-jinna) and external ones (an-nâs). (47) In Risâla fî bayân al-mu`jizât wa-l-karâmât wa-l-a`âjîb, he says that the jinn are only the product of the imagination, but that angels are real. (48)
On providence, Ibn-Sînâ says that it extends to everything in its individuality, whether it is good or evil. Like Christian authors, Ibn-Sînâ explains that in divine providence evil has its place for the higher good of the universe. (49)
Ibn-Gabirol’s identification of the Logos with the Will gives his universe a voluntaristic stamp. The Will envelops and imposes necessity on all lower things, but is limited by the disposition of matter to accept the positive influence of the Will. (50)
Only spiritual (i.e. intelligent) creatures can act; other bodily creatures are only acted upon by the Will. (51)
Ibn-Rushd, finally, comes back to a less determinist position. In his large commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, he says:
God’s providence extends to everything that exists, and it consists in the preservation of their species, since it is impossible to preserve them individually. But those who are of the opinion that God’s providence touches each individual are partly right and partly wrong. What is true is that each individual belongs to a species, and in this sense it is true that God’s providence concerns individuals, but to be provident of individuals as individuals is contrary to the divine goodness. (52)
Later he says that “providence certainly exists and what happens apart from providence comes from the necessity of matter and not from a defect in the agent.” (53) The small commentary, Talkhîs ma ba`d at-tabî`a, adopts no clear position, but it attributes to Alexander of Aphrodisias the opinion that providence extends only to species. (54) In Manâhij al-adilla providence is linked with the formation (ikhtirâ`) of things, without distinction between species and individuals, (55) but regarding qadar he accepts that everything is determined by intermediate exterior causes, depending on God as the first cause. Even the human will is determined in this way, as Ibn-Sînâ said before. (56) Ibn-Rushd emphasizes divine causality in the universe:
There is no agent apart from God the Blessed and Most High. Other causes apart from him, which he controls, are agents only metaphorically, since the exist only by him and it is he who set them up as causes. And it is he who preserves them in existence and action. He also preserves their effects after their action and forms the substances [of these effects] when these causes are applied to them. In this way he preserves them in themselves, and apart from this divine preservation they would cease to exist instantly. (57)
What does this preservation consist in, since Ibn-Rushd rejects the distinction between essence and existence, and thus the contingency of creatures? He explains that it is by the order of the universe, with each heavenly body defined in its size, its position and its speed.
If we were to suppose that one of these bodies were removed or placed in a different position or had different size or a different speed than that ordained by God, all the things existing on the earth would cease to exist, because that is the way he established their natures. (58)
It is in the same way that we must understand Ibn-Rushd when he says: “The name Creator (khâliq) is not shared by any creature, not even in any close or remote metaphorical sense.” (59) That does not deny intermediate causality.
Ibn-Rushd does not accept as science astrology, chiromancy, divination, the art of talismans, and alchemy. (60) He admits the possibility of miracles, but defines a miracle as something that is possible in itself, but is impossible to an ordinary man. (61) Better than miracles in nature is the miracle of announcing things hidden with God (al-ghuyûb), that is, true doctrine. (62) Elsewhere he defines al-ghayb as “what will exist in the future or does not exist at all”. (63)
As we have seen, Ibn-Rushd supports the causality of nature against the Ash`arites. Miracles are possible because a cause can be impeded. (64) Against the Ash`arites who hold for total indeterminism, as far as nature is concerned, saying that the regularity of nature is only God’s customary action, Ibn-Rushd asks what is custom (al-`âda)? God cannot have a custom, which is something acquired and added to nature; only animate creatures can have it. Thus by not recognizing nature the Ash`arites do not recognize what is a miracle. (65) On the other hand:
One must have no doubt that existing things act upon one another, but they are not self-sufficient in this action; they do it by an exterior Agent whose action is a condition not only of their action, but also of their being. (66)
But that does not prevent the Fist Agent from acting through intermediaries.
As for the question of evil, although Ibn-Rushd does not try to give a definition of evil, he says that it is exceptional and that it is for the good of the universe; as examples he cites the good and the evil effects of fire. Ibn-Rushd insists that moral good and evil exist and can be recognized by reason independently of revelation. (67) He criticizes the Ash`arites:
They hold that there is nothing just or unjust in itself. But it is extremely absurd to say there is nothing good or evil in itself, since justice is known by itself as good, and injustice as evil. It is unjust in itself to worship anything else but God; this is not wrong simply from the point of view of revelation. [According to them,] if revelation said that one must believe in many gods that would be just, and if it prescribed disobedience that would be just. But this is contrary to both revelation and reason. (68)
3.4.8 Moshe ben Maimon
Moshe ben Maimon treats of determination under the heading of divine providence. He first lists five opinions on the matter:
(1) Empedocles thought there was no providence, only chance.
(2) Aristotle and Alexander of Aphrodisias thought that providence covers everything in the heavenly world, but in the earthly world of generation and corruption it extends only to the conservation of species in the earthly world, not to individuals as such.
(3) The Ash`arites say that nothing happens by chance, but everything is planned and determined by God’s will. Thus everything is either necessary or impossible, and nothing is possible.
(4) The Mu`tazilites say that man is free, but God’s providence touches every detail of nature. They believe that the evil one suffers in this life will be compensated by the rewards of the next life; this applies also to animals.
(5) The Torah teaches that man has free will, and no evil intent (jawr) can be attributed to God. In the earthly world providence extends to individuals of the human race, but only to the species of other things. Providence is more active with prophets, and with others according to the level of their perfection. (69)
A peculiar teaching of Moshe ben Maimon is that each man gets what he deserves, even if we sometimes do not understand why. As for the possibility of the innocent suffering, he says: “The question of testing is very difficult. In fact it is the greatest problem in the Law.” Yet he does not allow that even Job suffered innocently. In his exegesis of the book of Job, he identifies the views of the interlocutors with various philosophical positions:
(1) Job’s view, that God strikes the good and the evil indifferently, thus denying providence for individual men, is that of Aristotle.
(2) Eliphaz’ view, that Job deserved all that he suffered, is that of Jewish Law.
(3) Bildad’s view, that if Job is suffering so much innocently he will be rewarded in the next life, is that of the Mu`tazilites.
(4) Zophar’s view, that all that happened to Job is because of God’s arbitrary will, and no reason should be sought, is that of the Ash`arites.
(5) Elihu repeated the views of the other opponents of Job, and went on to explain that God is just, but is not obliged to treat men as we expect, because his wisdom is far above our understanding. (70)
3.5 Thomas Aquinas
Against Ash`arism, particularly that of al-Bâqillânî, Thomas teaches that God preserves the continued existence of things, since the being of things depends directly on him. (71) Against the philosophers, he says that no intermediary can confer the act of existence. (72) With the Ash`arites, he holds that God is the cause of the action of all things, since they all depend constantly on him for their existence. (73)
On the other hand, Thomas insists that creatures have their own causality. In taking this position, he is not only against the Ash`arites but also Ibn-Sînâ who attributed the generation of everything on earth to the Agent Intellect as the giver of forms. Ash`arite occasionalism goes contrary to the evidence of the senses, which bear witness that definite effects come regularly from definite things. And, instead of exaggerating the omnipotence of God, he says that the power of God is manifested in the perfection and fertility of what he makes, and not in their poverty and sterility. And, as Ibn-Rushd objected, such a position denies the order and inter-dependence of things in the universe, and consequently the wisdom of God. Thus one should admit the causality of creatures not only in producing accidental effects, like heat, but also in the generation of their like. (74)
These effects are attributable to natural causes and to God and the same time, according to the order of subordination of secondary causes to the first cause. There is no question, as the Ash`arites and even the Mu`tazilites imagine, of sharing causality between the creature and the Creator, implying a subtraction from divine omnipotence.
Again, one can see a Platonic notion of analogy as the ultimate root of the Ash`arite position, that is, the use of analogy of attribution to the exclusion of that of proportionality. (75) As Plato thought that the sensible world was only a shadow or and almost irreal reflection of the world of intelligible forms, so the Ash`arites minimized nature to exalt God.
Are these positions necessary to Islam? Historical circumstances contributed to their development and a different direction is theoretically possible. The Mu`tazilites wanted to recognize in creatures a power that God gave them to act, but they were unable to provide a coherent rationalization of their position, even though it was reasonable in itself. Mu`tazilite thought was echoed in a modern thinker, Muhammad `Abduh, (76) and it is popular in certain modern Muslim circles that are opposed to any fatalism. But most such authors do not give any philosophical foundation for their preferences.
Certainly Christianity has accommodated different tendencies on this question. The more we meditate on God and his perfections, the more we think in terms of the analogy of attribution. The more we are engaged in this world, the more we think in terms of analogy of proportionality. A balance of the two points of view could well gain wide acceptance in the Muslim community.
1. Cf. W.M. Watt, The formative period of Islamic thought, ch. 4; L. Gardet, Dieu et la destinée de l’homme, chs. 1-4; H.A. Wolfson, The philosophy of the Kalâm, chs. 6-8.
2. Cf. Qur’ân 45:23-25; 57:22.
3. Cf. J. Kenny, Muslim theology as presented by M. b. Yûsuf as-Sanûsî, especially in his al-`Aqîda al-wustâ.
4. For a detailed study of this question cf. J. Kenny, “Islamic monotheism: Principles and consequences.”
5. Cf. M. as-Sanûsî, al-`Aqîda a-ughrâ, and al-Ghazâlî, al-Maqad al-asnâ fî shar asmâ’ Allâh al-usnâ, p. 47.
6. References to al-`Aqîda al-wusâ are from my Muslim theology as presented by M. b. Yûsuf as-Sanûsî, especially in his al-`Aqîda al-wusâ.
7. Cf. J. Jomier, “La toute-puissance de Dieu et les créatures dans le Coran”.
8. Cf. W.M. Watt, The formative period, pp. 88-90, 191-195.
9. Cf. Qur’ân 20:115; 7:172 etc.
10. Cf. Qur’ân 3:104 etc.
11. Cf. M. as-Sanûsî, Shar al-wusâ, f.82b.
12. Cf. M. Valiuddin, “Mu`tazilism”, ch. 10 in M.M. Sharif, A history of Muslim philosophy, I, p. 201.
13. Cf. al-Kindî, Kitâb fî l-ibâna `an al-`illa al-fâ`ila al-qarîba li-l-kawn wa-l-fasâd, 225-6.
14. Risâla fî hîla li-daf` al-azân, n. 6.
15. Khawâ al-urûf, 99, 106.
16. Pp. 56:13-65.14.
17. Nukat fî-mâ yasi wa-lâ yasi fî akâm an-nujûm.
18. Al-jam bayn ra’yayn al-akîmayn, pp. 25:27-26:3.
19. Fasl âkhar min kalâmi-hi, p. 194.
20. Risâla az-ziyâra wa-d-du`â’, p. 34; cf. Ta`lîqât, p. 130.
21. Ibid., p. 35.
22. Qism 3, maqâla 2, ed. M. Fakhrî, pp. 262-3; see also Fuû al-ikma, 6.
23. Al-Ilâhiyyât, maqâla 10, fal 1.
24. Ibid., p. 440.
25. 25Cf. Risâla fî ibâl ahkâm an-nujûm.
26. `Uyûn al-ikma, 52.
27. Ta`lîqât, p. 115.
28. Fuû al-ikma, 48-49.
29. Awâl an-nafs, ch. 13.
30. Pp. 59-60.
31. P. 53.
33. P. 29.
34. Pp. 303-305.
35. Nasâ’i al-ukamâ’ li-l-Askandar, p. 297,
36. Pp. 47-48.
37. `Uyûn al-ikma, 52-53.
38. The same explanation is offered in ar-Risâla al-`arshiyya, p. 16-18.
39. Cf. Risâla fî s-sa`âda, pp. 7-8; Ta`lîqât, p. 62.
40. Risâla fî l-mawt, pp. 383-384; Ta`lîqât, pp. 46-47.
41. Ibid., p. 25.
42. Sirr al-qadar, p. 304.
43. P. 30.
44. Ibid., p. 32.
45. Ibid., p. 36.
46. Tafsîr sûra al-falaq, p. 29.
47. Pp. 31-32.
48. P. 413; the same in Risâla ayy ibn-Yaqân, and in Jâmi` al-badâ’i`, p. 413.
49. `Uyûn al-masâ’il, 22; the same in Sirr al-qadar, p. 303; cf. Ta`lîqât, pp. 157, 159.
50. Maqôr ayyîm, 5:19,86.
51. Ibid., 3:16; 5:57.
52. Tafsîr mâ ba`d a-abiyya, p. 1607; cf. Tahâfut, II, p. 759.
53. Tafsîr mâ ba`d a-abî`ya, p. 1715.
54. Pp. 160-164.
55. Pp. 65-70.
56. Pp. 134-143.
57. Manâhij al-adilla, pp. 139-140.
58. Ibid., p. 140.
59. Manâhij al-adilla, p. 142.
60. Tahâfut, II, pp. 768-769.
61. II, pp. 775-776.
62. II, p. 776.
63. Manâhij al-adilla, p. 138.
64. II, pp. 783-784.
65. II, pp. 786-796.
66. II, p. 787; cf. p. 793.
67. Manâhij al-adilla, pp. 143-149.
68. Ibid., p. 144.
69. Dalâla al-â’irîn, pp.524-536.
70. Ibid., pp. 533, 548-569.
71. Cf. Summa contra gentiles, III, 65.
72. Ibid., n. 66.
73. Ibid., n. 67.
74. Ibid., nos. 69-70.
75. For the teaching of Thomas Aquinas on analogy, see In Metaphysicorum libros Commentarium, liber 5, lectio 8. For its application to the relationship between creature and God wee Questiones disputatae de veritate, 1, art.11, et Quaestiones disputatae de potentia, 7, art. 7; Summa theologiae, I, q.13, a.56; Summa contra Gentiles, I, ch. 34.
76. Cf. J. Jomier, Le commentaire coranique du Manâr, chs. 3 & 4.