Defending Orthodox and criticizing philosophy by Ghazali

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Al- Ghazzali was an orthodox scholar who operated in the political and intellectual heart of the Islamic world. After a long spiritual and intellectual voyage philosophy and mysticism, al- Ghazzali eventually came to accept and defend orthodoxy as understood by the mainstream Ash’aris. Although not as fundamental in their interpretations of God’s Attributes as the traditionalists, the Ash’aris defend the reality of the Divine Attributes partly through philosophy argumentation. Thus in order to defend orthodoxy, al- Ghazzali had to refute the Muslim philosophers who had developed a Neoplatonic concept of God as First cause from which the universe emanates.

A. The First Cause form the Islamic philosophers
Similar to Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, the First Cause or the Uncaused Cause of the Muslim philosophy is seen as the only logical explanation to avoid an infinite regression of causes. Consistent with the idea of a perfect, absolute One which is the cause of all that exists, the Muslim philosophers developed a description of God which coincided with rigid philosophical definitions of what that One must be. This definition of the One began with al-Kindi (d.259/873) who uses the term the True One (al-wahid al-haqq) in reference to God. Al- Kindi claims that the True One could bear no multiplicity kind in its being and thus is devoid of any attributes. The One’s existence is necessary and its perfect oneness is the cause of all that exists in this world. Al- Kindi maintains that the world is temporal and that all motion and time is caused by the True One ( Ya’qub ibn Ishaq al-Kindi , “Fi al- falsefat al-ula”, in Rasa’il al- Kindi al- falsafiyyah, ed. M. A. Abu Ridah (cairo , 1953): 98-126, Ivry (1974)). This attitude towards the temporality of the world was changed by the arguments of al- Farabi (d. 338/950), whose main contribution is the theory of emanation (fayd) (Al-Farabi (1985):89.) This step can be considered as a more complete absorption of Neoplatonic thought by the Muslim philosophers.

B. Ibn Sina and Farabi’s view about God’s relation with the world
Al-Farabi refers to God as the First Existent (al-mawjud al-al- awwal) whose existence is necessary and devoid of any deficiency or multiplicity. He adopts an emanative scheme in which the First Existent causes the existence of an incorporeal Second which then begins to think about its essence and about the First. This produces a Third which continues the process until the existence of the sublunary world comes into being. Al-Farabi is very careful to state that the emanation of the Second and all that follows does not add anything to First nor detract from it. Finally, Ibn Sina further specifies the philosopher’s ideas concerning God by referring to God as the Necessity of being (wajib al- wujud) (Ibn Sina(1981):16, Hourani (1972): 77) Ibn Sina contrasts the necessity of existence with the possibility of existence (mumkin al- wujud) to show that the necessity of existence must uncaused in order to avoid an infinite regression. Besides the now standard belief that the One has no multiplicity of any kind Ibn Sina further refines the description of God by saying that “his quiddity ishis individual nature” ( Hourani (1972)78.) He argues that if God’s existence were not his only true essence, then His existence would be an accident added to His reality. This contradicts the necessity of His existence because any accident added to His reality would need a cause, Ibn Sina then developed a theory of emanation based on his concept of the necessity of existence.

C. Ghazali’s attempt at revealing philosophers contradiction
Al-Ghazzali needed to criticize and refute these conclusions drawn by the philosophers. In this Tahafut al-falasifah, he seeks to defend the more orthodox views of Ash’arism by proving through philosophical demonstration that the beliefs of the philosophers were not necessary and in fact ofthen contradictory (Kamali (1963), Al-Ghazzali(1965).) In his very lengthy first chapter on the question of the eternity or temporality of the world, al- Ghazzali offers many examples and arguments to support the view that the creation of the world in the time is logical and reasonable. He argues that, by establishing the criteria which one must use for the term and definitions concerning the discussion about the nature of God, philosophers are able to prove their opponents wrong because they are not working within the limits of accepted premises and axioms. This becomes clear when we look at one of al- Ghazzali’s refutations of IbnSins concerning the creation of the world in time.

D. Criticism Ibn Sina by Ghazali concerning the creation of universe at specified time
Al-Ghazzali accepted the necessity of God as the First Cause because an infinite regression is logically impossible. However, he claims that necessity of God’s existence as First Cause does not mean that His function as First Cause is necessity eternal. Instead, he proposes that God possesses a Divine Will that is identical to His Essence. By means of this Will He was able to initiate the creation whenever He chose. The philosophers argue that a will and its object must necessarily exist together and that separation between the willer and the existence of its object necessitates a new determinant to the willer which enables him or her to bring the object into existence as that specified time. In reference to God, this meant that He is not perfect in His Will but needs a new Attribute to achieve what He wills. This, of course, is intrinsically impossible. Al-Ghazzali points out that the philosophers are inconsistent in their use of definitions and terms concerning the nature of God and adds that they are equating God’s Divine Will with human will. Their arguments apply only to human will, for God cannot be compared to anything else, according to their own statements. As proof he points to their discussions about Divine Knowledge. They claim that God knows the universals without the existence of any plurality in His Knowledge. Yet, if one compares God’s Knowledge with human Knowledge, then one must say that plurality exists in God as it does in human. The philosophers avoid this analogy by saying Divine Knowledge, cannot be conceived in terms of terms of temporal knowledge. Al-Ghazzali maintains that id God’s Knowledge, is unique then so must be His Will ( kamali(1963):19-20) Thus, by changing the focus of the debate al- Ghazzali is able to show the inconsistencies in the arguments of the philosophers.

E. Criticizing Ibn Sina for God’s knowledge of panticuars, by Ghazali
Al-Ghazzali continues with this form of argumentation concerning God’s knowledge of particulars. The philosophers reject the idea that God know every individual thing for two reasons. Firstly, to know an individual thing means perceiving its specific qualities through sense perceptions. Since these attributes are not part of God’s Essence, He could not perceive individuals. Secondly, the process of the knower knowing the known indicates multiplicity in action and in the number of things known. Again, it could only be said that God is the One in which there is no plurality. Any hint of God acquiring something to His being through a dependent relation with what is other than Him has to be rejected. Thus Ibn Sina theory of God’s knowledge of particulars poses some difficult problems in that he seems to attempt a compromise between the philosophical and theological viewpoints on this topic. Perhaps in an attempt to placate the orthodox theologians, Ibn Sina uses a verse from the Qur’an to show knows all things, even the weight of an atom (Ibn Sina(1960): 359, Marmura (1962):304, Qur’an, 10:61,34:3.) However, he qualifies this by saying that God knows the particulars in a universal way. He expresses this with two phrases: God knows the particulars “in as much as they are universal” or “in universal way” (Marmura(1962):300) His explanation of these two phrases id based on the assumption that God is pure intellect. Thus the epistemological process which occurs in humans not only does not apply to God but is fact completely reversed in Him.

Before he begins his criticisim of Ibn Sina theory, al- Ghazzali summarizes the orthodox view concerning the nature of God. He states that the Muslims consider the world to be temporal, only God and His Attributes are eternal and everything other than Him was created by Him through His Will. Thus everything is necessarily known to Him because the object of the will must be known to the willer. Once it is confirmed that He is the knowing Willer, then it must be accepted than He is necessarily living, for every living beging knows other than itself. Thus in this way the Muslim know that God knows the universe because He created it through His Will (al- Ghazzali (1965), Kamali (1963). (Tahafut al-falsaifah, p. 198, Kamali (1963):143.)But the philosophers can have no such certainty because of their belief in the eternity of the world. Thus al- Ghazzali challenges them to prove that God can know other than Himself while remaining consistent their assumptions.

R. God’s will and knowledge as the focuses in Criticism of philosophers by Ghazali
In his criticism of Ibn Sina, al- Ghazzali focuses on the issue of God’s Will and knowledge. He claims that if Ibn Sina remains faithful to his belief that God has no will and that emanation is a necessary act, then he would have to accept that God has no knowledge of the other. Al- Ghazzali bases his claim on the argument that knowledge of an action is necessary only in the case of voluntary (Tahafut al-falsaifah, p. 200 Kamali (1963):146.) So if one claims that the universe necessarily emanates from God without His Will or Choice, as light comes from the sun, then it requires no knowledge on the part of God. Al- Ghazzali similarly rejects the claim that because God’s Knowledge is His Essence it is the cause of all that exists, thus indicating that God knows the effects of which He is the cause. Again he states that Ibn Sina is being, inconsistent with the beliefs of other philosophers and with what he himself claims about the emanation of the universe. Even if it is granted that God knows what He is the cause of, all philosophers agree that His Act is one and from Him comes only one, i.e. the First Intelligence. All else flows from the First Intelligence and only indirectly comes from God through intermediaries. It is not necessary that God knows other the First Intelligence. If the emanation is a necessary act, then knowledge of the effects id not required by God (Tahafut al-falsaifah, p.201, Kamali(1963): 147.) Even for a voluntary act knowledge is needed only for the first movement, mot for the indirect effects.

M. Disagreement between Islamic beliefs and philosophical forms
According to al- Ghazzali, all of the demonstrations and proofs presented by the philosophers are based on approvable premises. A general theory must first be adopted, and then one can present proofs. However, all the terms must be clearly defined in order for the demonstrations to work. The internal logic of a system is not in itself proof of the correctness of the system. Muslim philosophers adopted the theories and definitions from the Greek philosophers and then attempted to mould Islamic beliefs in to a Greek philosophical framework. Al- Ghazzali accepted the basic tenets of orthodox Islamic beliefs and then showed that these beliefs cannot be disproved philosophically. al- Ghazzali made conscious attempts to use logical argumentation to defend orthodox beliefs. In the process, however, he drifted away from the traditionalist approach towards discussing the Attributes of God. For the Hadith scholars, the issue was far more fundamental: Revelation is supreme, and reason must be subjugated to it. In opposition to the arguments of al- Ghazzali and others, traditionalists continued to argue for the complete acceptance of God’s revelation without resorting to any form of kalam. However, even the traditionalists were developing more sophisticated arguments to support their basic belief in the attributes without questioning how they exist.


History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:110to113


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