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Debate God's Attributes with Mutazilah & Ibn Khaldun

A guide by TheoGnostus "Encycoptic" (Sketes,Theognostic America)
(VINE VOICE)   

Products sampled from this guide:
Jewish and Islamic Philosophy: Crosspollinations in the Classic Age, Religious Philosophy: A Group of Essays, Lessons on Islamic Doctrine book One - God and His Attributes, Allah Transcendent: Studies in the Structure and Semiotics of Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Cosmology, The Epistemology of Ibn Khaldun (Culture and Civilization in the Middle East), Suffering in Mutazilite Theology: Abd Al-Jabbar's Teaching on Pain and Divine Justice (Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Science), Free will and predestination in early Islam, Muslim-Christian Polemic During the Crusades: The Letter From the People of Cyprus and Ibn Abi Talib Al-Dimashqi's Response (The History of Christian-Muslim Relations), Lectures in divinity: Delivered in the Wesleyan Theological Institution, Richmond : volume first, containing the attributes of God, and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History (Bollingen Series),



God's Attributes:
For a Christian, Experiencing God's Attributes, is pursuing God with Your Whole Heart, Mind, and Soul. The study of God's Attributes can help grow in the love for God by helping the faithful to know the Lord better through the scriptures.
To a Muslim, Allah (God in Aramaic) the Almighty, is Creator and Sustainer of the universe, Who is similar to nothing and nothing is comparable to Him. If the Creator is Eternal and Everlasting, then His attributes must also be eternal and everlasting. He should not lose any of His attributes nor acquire new ones. If this is so, then His attributes are absolute.

Science of Kalam:
Ilm al-Kalam is a branch of Islamic philosophy, generally referred to as Fiquhe. The Kalam, a discipline which evolved from medieval religiophilosophic debates, deals with Islamic doctrine definition and its defense by discursive arguments.
The rise of Kalam was closely associated with the Mu'tazilah, a rationalist school that emerged at the beginning of the second Islamic century (8th century AD) and became prominent in the next.
The Mu'tazila failure to follow up their intellectual and political position by imposing their views as official Islamic state doctrine lead to a resurgence of traditionalism and the emergence of the Ash'ariyya school, which attempted to present itself as a compromise between the two opposing extremes. However, the problem was not Kalam's fusion with philosophy as its failure to evolve into a fully-fledged Islamic philosophy with its own complete frame of reference.
Al-Ghazali, the Sufi sympathetic Imam of the Asharite school, stated that one must be well versed in the ideas of the philosophers before setting out to refute their ideas. The Incoherence of the Philosophers is the title of his landmark polemic in Islamic philosophy against the Islamic Neoplatonic school of thought, in which philosophers like Ibn Sina and al-Farabi are denounced.

God's Unity and Justice:
Mu'tazilism sought to valorize, under the attacks of Moslem heretics (Zanadiqa), the absolute Unity and Justice of God; but this valorization became quite quickly, a 'justification' ie the Divine Essence and Action become justified before and through human reason. It is to counter this reduction of the mystery that the Ash'aris take their stand, proclaiming the Omnipotence and the Omniscience of God, rejecting any ontological basis for human freedom of action, but seeking to refute the Mu'tazilis, using their own weapons.

God's Eternal Attributes:
The first principle denied the distinction between God's eternal attributes and His essence. This raised a question concerning the concept of divine will in
relation to the doctrine of the world's temporal creation. Most Mu'tazilites rejected Aristotle's potentially infinite divisibility of substance, adopting atomism as the only view consistent with the Qur'anic statement that God knows the determinate number of all things. Its principal dogmas were three:
a. God is an absolute unity, no attribute can be ascribed to Him.
b. Man is a free agent. It is on account of these two principles that the Motazilites designate themselves the 'Partisans of Justice and Unity'.
c. All knowledge necessary for the salvation of man emanates from his reason; humans could acquire knowledge before, as well as after, Revelation, is by the sole light of reason. This factual statement makes knowledge obligatory upon all men, at all times, and in all places.

Attributes and Trinity:
As far as the Sunni Muslim concept of Attributes is concerned, it can be shown that their position is almost parallel to that of Orthodox Christian. If one is to put the Attributes, in Muslim understanding, in place of the second and third Persons of the Trinity (The Merciful, The Compassionate), the doctrine of the Trinity is transformed into Muslim Attributism. However, unlike the second and third persons of the Trinity, which are Intradeical and extradeical, by unification, that is, they were at once the same as God and other than He, these orthodox Muslim attributes were intradeical and extradeical by 'location,' that is, they were in God but other than He. Whereas the unorthodox position of the Anti-attributists in Islam corresponds to Sabellianism in Christianity.

Mutazilah on causality:
The doctrine of the world's eternity, the Mutazili maintained, deprived God of will. It meant the simultaneity of cause and effect which only obtains, as in natural causes, when the effect is necessitated by the agent's nature or essence. Here, however, their principle of divine unity faced a major difficulty: if the divine will is conceived as an eternal attribute and hence not distinct from the divine essence, God's acts become in reality essential, not voluntary. This led many Mu`tazilites to argue that the divine will itself is created—a doctrine vulnerable to the Ash`arite criticism that such a will requires another created will to create it and so on ad infinitum.

Ibn Khaldun's Thought:
Ibn Khaldun's fourteenth century, was dominated by 'neo-Hanbalism', which aired strong suspicion of both mysticism and philosophy. Ibn Khaldun, born in Tunisia in 1332 AD, lived at a time when it was possible to reflect upon a profound period of Islamic thought, as a writer, he was to sum up this period, pointing towards the future of Islamic intellectual enquiry. He used the terms and concepts of his time, and some have argued that he was a culturally-specific phenomenon, interpreting his thought in Western terms must distort it fatally. Logic cannot be applied to this area of enquiry, and must be restricted to non-theological topics. Philosophy was regarded as going beyond its appropriate level of discourse, in that the intellect should not be used to weigh such issues as 'the oneness of God, the other world, truth of prophecy, real essense of the divine attributes, or anything that lies beyond the intellect's domain' (Muqaddima 3, 38).
Ibn Khaldun was also critical of Neoplatonic philosophy, mainly the notion of a hierarchy of being, according to which human thought can be progressively purified until it encompasses the First Intellect which is identified with the necessary being, that is, God. He argued that this process (Theosis) is inconceivable without the participation of revelation, so that it is impossible for human beings to achieve the highest level of understanding and happiness (Orasis) through the use of reason alone. Interestingly, the basis of his argument here rests on the irreducibility of the empirical nature of our knowledge of facts, which cannot then be converted into abstract and pure concepts at a higher level of human consciousness. Ibn Khaldun follows al-Ghazali in reconciling mysticism with theology, bringing mysticism completely within the jurisprudent, and viewing the Sufi master, as a theologian.

Revised & Edited 4/14/06

Products mentioned include:
1.  Jewish and Islamic Philosophy: Crosspollinations in the Classic Age  by Lenn Evan Goodman
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2.  Religious Philosophy: A Group of Essays  by Harry A. Wolfson
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3.  Lessons on Islamic Doctrine book One - God and His Attributes  by Mujtabá Mūsavī Lārī
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4.  Allah Transcendent: Studies in the Structure and Semiotics of Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Cosmology  by Ian Richard Netton
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5.  The Epistemology of Ibn Khaldun (Culture and Civilization in the Middle East)  by Zaid Ahmad
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6.  Suffering in Mutazilite Theology: Abd Al-Jabbar's Teaching on Pain and Divine Justice (Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Science)  by Margaretha T. Heemskerk
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7.  Free will and predestination in early Islam  by W. Montgomery Watt
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8.  Muslim-Christian Polemic During the Crusades: The Letter From the People of Cyprus and Ibn Abi Talib Al-Dimashqi's Response (The History of Christian-Muslim Relations)  by R.Y. Ebied
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9.  Lectures in divinity: Delivered in the Wesleyan Theological Institution, Richmond : volume first, containing the attributes of God, and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity  by Thomas Jackson
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10.  The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History (Bollingen Series) [Abridged]  by Ibn Khaldūn
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Author

TheoGnostus "Encycoptic" (Sketes,Theognostic America)
(VINE VOICE)   
Qualifications: Yusof,  the Debating Arbiter
Last updated: 4/9/09
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