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November 26, 2020

Mu’tazila and the attributes of God

Mu’tazila and the attributes of God 1. Introduction Ahle wa al-sunna wa al-jamah (people of the tradition and gathering roughly) came to be later defined in the course of Muslim history. It can be argued that the defining of the orthodoxy (sunni Islam) happened through the negation with the emergence of new groups within the nascent Islamic community, arising out of the first fitnaawiya (RA).

The first group to emerge were the Khwarij, (kharaju lit. to go out) the Seceders. The next groups to emerge as a reaction to the political (some may argue tyrannical) rule of the Umayyads were the QadaritesAbdullah ibn Ibad against Caliph Abdul Malik. In opposition to the Qadarites, the Jabaritesari school of kalam formulated a compromise between the two positions almost two centuries later. By Motiur Rahman As the disciplines of knowledge became specialized, different schools arose as a result of it, with variant interpretations which were at times conflicting with each other; a need arose to systemize and codify theological knowledge and verify the conclusions with the first generation of Muslims, i.e. the Prophet, peace be upon him, and his sahaba (companions) to be taken as a yardstick when possible, and when it was not, it was left to the consensus (ijma) of the community deduce the correct interpretation or true belief. So in the first instance, the text of the Qur’an is taken as the primary source, followed by hadith (sayings and deeds of the Prophet, peace be upon him) and the collective practice of the Companions, may God be pleased with them, then analogy (qiyas) and inference (ijtihad), followed by the collective consensus or ijma.

This is the general approach accepted by the Sunni (traditional) schools of law, deriving the interpretation and rulings from these five sources: the Qur’an, the Sunnah, hadith, qiyas, ijtihad, and ijma, more or less in this order. However, all of these primary sources require interpretation and defining in the first instance, which in itself is not straight forward, disagreements have raged from the beginning, and it continues to still do so.

This is especially applicable when we discuss the attributes of God, the different conclusions and inferences drawn depending on whether one takes a literal, allegorical, or a metaphorical approach to the Qur’an in understanding the concept. The Sunnah in itself is difficult to define; some have accepted the Sunnah as that which belongs to the Prophet (SAW) only, others as to that which is the practice of the companions of the Prophet (SAW), and others still, to the first four caliphs in Islam.

Qiyas (analogy) is also problematic, for example to what situations can one use an analogy? Do different analogies allow different solutions for the same issue? How far can one stretch the ijtihad (inference) and apply to a similar situation? The ijma (consensus) is also difficult to define, for example, at what period in time do we define it, which opinions are to be included in it and which are to be excluded?

2. Rise of Islamic Rationalism The First Fitna The murder of the third caliph, Uthman, may God be pleased with him, who reigned between 644-659 CE, led to the question whether the fourth caliph, ‘Ali, may God be pleased with him, should avenge the death of the former caliph Usman, may allah be pleased with him. Hazrat Mu’awiya (RA) accused the then caliph Hazrat ‘Ali of not doing enough to bring justice to the perpetrators of Hazrat Usman (RA). With the political stand-off between Mu’awiya (RA) and ‘Ali (RA) the Islamic community became divided into two major factions. Another group felt that they should not take any sides and the matter should be resolved through arbitration. A group i.e. khwarij, among Hazrat ‘Ali’s party, who strongly objected to the arbitration between ‘Ali and Mu’wayia, may God be pleased with them both, turned this political problem into a theological one, the problem of faith and unbelief.

Khwarij (the Seceders) The development in ilm al-kalam did not start off as theological problem in the first instance, but more of a political one, starting with the Khwarij with the issue of arbitration between the fourth caliph ‘Ali (RA) and his Syrian adversary Mu’wawiya (RA).

The Khwarij, who strongly resisted the arbitration between the two parties, turned this political problem into a theological one, and for the first time the Islamic community saw a theological debate over the concept of the grave sinner, whether the grave sinners belong to the Islamic community or not. They were the first group to denounce human political authority with slogans such as la hukm illa lillah (the rule belongs to Allah only).This was the first time when reason was being predominantly used for the interpretation of Islamic theology. Before this, it was the strict following of the Prophet’s peace be upon him, Sunnah and Revelation (Qur’an) – the Sunnah and Revelation had the priority in formulation theological decisions and religious rulings. Prior to this, only in the absence of Qur’an and the Sunnah reason would take the dominant stage. The Concept of Grave Sin Arbitration, the Khwarij held, was a pre-Islamic practice of the Arabs; therefore it violated the principles of justice as laid in the Qur’an they claimed. And to violate the principles of justice in the Qur’an is to commit a major sin. They concluded from it that whoever commits a major sin has become an unbeliever and an apostate, therefore must be killed in accordance with the Qur’an. We shall later see that this issue had been taken up and incorporated in the doctrines of the Mu’tazila in albeit a modified form.

Historical development (qadar) When al-Hasan al-Basri (d.728) was asked about qadar (free will and predestination) by ‘Abdul Malik, he took the position that everyone was accountable and responsible for their actions, implying that there is the freedom of choice. Wasil ibn ‘Ata (d. 748) was among the students of al-Hassan (rah), who later withdrew from his circles (“i’tazala ‘anna”, said al-Hassan, which means “he left us”), over the dispute of whether a grave sinner was a believer or unbeliever. Al-Hassan (rah) had taken the Murjia position (of reserving judgement), while Wasil thought that a grave sinner was neither a believer or unbeliever.

His position, is that which the Mu’tazila have adopted, al-manzila bayn al-manzilatayn or the intermediate position; indeed our contemporary Mu’tazila, Harun Nasution, verifies in his writings that Wasil is the founder of the Mu’tazila school. Amr ibn ‘Ubayd (d.762) another rationalist, who held onto the doctrine of the intermediate position, went on as far as to deny the verses of the Qu’ran when it apparently contradicted human reason[1]. Jahm ibn Safwan (d.746) postulated the difference between God and all other ‘things’. God is transcendent and all other things are created. No likeness of any ‘thing’ can be attributed to God.

Therefore, God does not have physical qualities such as that of bodies; neither can seeing, hearing, and other anthropomorphic qualities can be attributed to God. This is the introduction of the doctrine of tanzih (negation), that is, God is devoid of all attributes. Since, according to them, the Qur’an is also a ‘thing’ it too must be created. This is absolutely against all Islamic theologies which take the Qur’an as the uncreated word of God that has been sent down,[2]. However,

Jahm did not believe in free will but held the position of the jabarites. His doctrine of tanzih, has been incorporated in the doctrine of the Mu’tazila school. Dirar Ibn ‘Amr (d. cir. 815) also a rationalist, postulated that every action has two agent – both man and God – the doctrine of kasb, God creates the action while at the same time man acquires it. He held that the existence of God can be known but not His essence. To talk about the attributes of God means to negate the negation, i.e. He is not weak, not deaf, not blind etc. He also holds that the original Qur’an was created on the tablet next to God’s direct vicinity[3]. Nagel writes that al-Ahsh’ari (rah) did not count Dirar amongst the Mu’tazila.

This too has been incorporated in the Mu’tazila school. 3. Reason v Revelation Although reason has always been a significant factor in all fields of Islamic thought, disciplines and sciences, initially it had occupied a position subservient and secondary to Revelation with the Companions of the Prophet, may God be pleased with them, for them the slogan was “We hear and obey” as mentioned in the Qur’an[4], and “may my parents be sacrificed for you O Rasulallah” as it is recorded in the traditions (ahadith). The Islamic Law for them is the Revelation in terms of the Qur’an and the Sunnah of the Prophet. The Sunnah consisted of the sayings, action and the tacit approval (or disapproval) of the Prophet (SAW); the concept of Sunnah was later extended by majority of the community to at least the first four caliphs, known as the ‘righteous caliphs’ or khalifa rashidin. According to hadith, when the Prophet (saw) dispatched Jabal ibn Muadh (RA) and Ali (RA) as governors to foreign lands, he asked them how they would rule among the people?

In both cases, they had replied that in the first instance they would resort to the book of God (i.e. Qur’an), and when asked if they do not find the answer in the book of God, they replied that they would resort to the Sunnah of the Prophet. When they were asked again about what they would do if they could not resolve the matter through the Book and the Sunnah, they replied that they will resort to reason (pointing to the chest). Upon hearing this the Prophet, peace be upon him, became really pleased and showed his approval for it.[5] We have seen the traditional role of reason to be just that, as described above, among the vast majority of the Islamic community, this is also true in the disciplines of fiqh with the Sunni and Shi’a schools. In kalam ( theology, when approximately translated) reason is given more of a prominent role, this arises because of the need to understand the scriptures and the teachings in a logical way that appeals to the human intellect, making the divine law accessible, justified, reasonable, and rational. Therefore, naturally this leads to the two main groups: the Revelationists and the Rationalists. Those who rely primarily on the revelations and adhere to the traditional account for interpretation became to be known as the ahl wa l-sunnah wa l-jama’ah (lit. people of tradition and consensus i.e.

Revelationists. The earlier generations of the Shi’a were also included with this group. In the general sense, the Rationalists were the groups that splintered off the main body of the community, having disagreements and dissents over rational disputes. This is a general categorization because within the Revelationist schools reason is extensively used, but mostly subservient to the Qur’an and the Sunnah and cannot contravene it, and at the same time, the Rationalists do not completely put aside the Qur’an and the Sunnah but interpret it according to the dictates of reason.

The use of ta’wil (allegorical interpretation of the scriptures) has been employed by all schools in both kalam and fiqh, to a lesser or greater extent, but more in ilm al-kalam than in the disciplines of fiqh. In this sense then, the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafii, Hanbali and Jafri schools of fiqh can be said to belong to the Revelationist school and the Khwariji, Mu’tazia and the philosophers can be classified as belonging to the Rationalist school. Later, in kalam the Revelationist tradition of the four Sunni schools were represented by the Maturidi and the Ash’ari schools of kalam while the Shi’a became separated from this group with a distinct identity of its own.

4. Mu’tazilism As the case is within all schools of thought, not everyone belonging to any school will hold identical views on all the subjects. Therefore, I propose to limit my scope on the works of Qadi Abdul Jabbar’s Kitab al-Usul al-khamsa, under whom saw the peak of Mu’tazilism in the classical period in Islamic history, and I then discuss some aspects of Harun Nasution’s text: The Mu’tazila and rational Philosophy, for a comparison. Qadi Abdul Jabbar – Kitab al-Usul al-khamsa[6] The first obligation upon the believer is to know God, according to Qadi Abdul Jabbar, this can only be accomplished through speculative reasoning (ilm an-nazar), because God cannot be known intuitively or through the senses.[7] What about Revelation i.e. the Qur’an and the Sunnah and the Shari’ah, one might ask? Well the Qadi replies that the Sharia’h only becomes binding once we have established evidence for God; he says the “stipulates of the revelation is no good until after there is knowledge of God.[8]”

The Qadi’s reasons demands high standards – one must possess sufficient reason capable enough of being able to know God – “Do you not see that it is no good for us to pray without knowing to who we are to pray?”[9] In paragraph 4, First Principles, the Qadi talks about the first grace in general that humans are provided with power (qudra), physical means (al-ala), and passions that enables one to enjoy a variety of pleasurable things. Since humans are free and autonomous they have been imposed with commands and prohibitions in order for them to be admitted to paradise. But before one can embark upon the sharia’h it is incumbent upon one to establish the existence of God. And how is that possible? “On evidentiary proofs (al-adilla)”,[10] he says. He explains the four proofs in descending order: rational argument (hujjat al-aql), scripture (kitab), the Sunnah, and consensus of the community (ijma’). Unless one can establish a truthful God, “we will not know the authenticity of the Book, the Sunnah, and the communal consensus”, says Abdul Jabbar. In paragraph 7, 8 and 9 Abdul Jabbar proposes the that he shall establish the proofs of God from the analogy of the self (nafsi) and the external world, i.e. inferring the unknown from what is known, although he is against the idea of anthropomorphism or tashbih and advocates the doctrine of tanzih (absolute negation). In point 8, we find references to the cosmological argument for the existence of God; point 9 is a snub at the philosophers’ doctrine of the eternity of the world, since all bodies posses motion, rest, contiguity and separation therefore they are contingent and contingent things cannot be eternal, says the Qadi.

The Kitab al-Usul al-khamsa (Book of the five fundamentals) in accordance with the name is divided into the five areas: unicity (tawhid), justice (‘adl), the promise and threat (al-wa’d wa l-wa’id), the intermediate position (al-manzila bayn al-manzilatayn) and commanding the good and forbidding the evil (al-amr bil ma’ruf wal-nahy al-munkar). At first glance it looks like the subject matters are in divided into distinct and different areas, however, on a closer scrutiny the whole book stems from the issue of tawhid – the essence and attributes of God – in relation to humans both in His justice and Unicity (tawhid). What I mean by justice is what is contained in the last four of the five fundamentals: justice, promise and threat, intermediate position and commanding the good and forbidding the evil. The section on tawhid includes the essence and attributes of God. Essence & Attributes (tawhid) In paragraph 11, Abdul Jabbar discusses about God’s unicity (tawhid), the first point being that “being unique, has attributes no creature shares with Him.” This is very similar if not identical to the Jahmiya creed. The Qadi goes on to elaborate the main points: 1. His eternal existence: “He existed eternally in the past and cannot perish (fana), while we exist after non-existent, and we can perish.” 2. He is eternally powerful (qadir) “and that impotence (al-ajz) is not possible for Him”. Is this the same concept of Dirar ibn Amr, i.e. establishing the attributes through the negation of negation, that He cannot be attributed negative qualities? 3. Omniscient in the past and present (alim) – ignorance is not possible of Him, 4. all-Knowing – He would know “how things that are not if they were”, 5. He is eternally living in the past and the future, calamities and pain are not possible for Him, 6. He perceives without sense organs, 7. He is eternally beyond any needs (ghani), 8. Beyond physical bodies, without motion, change or from, (i.e. substance), 9. He is not an accident (pertaining to bodies e.g. colour, smell, taste),

10. He is One throughout eternity and there is no second besides Him. However on the tenth point the Qadi says in the last sentences, “and that everything other than Him is contingent, made, dependent (muhtaj), structured (mudabbar) and governed.” This leads to the suggestion that the world, which is contingent, dependent, structured and governed existing alongside God, not eternally, but temporarily, a form of dualism? From this we can deduce the following attributes of God – Existence, Power, Omniscience, Self-Sufficient, Changeless, Eternal, Unique – but makes God unknowable to human reason in the positive sense since He shares His attributes with nothing and no comparison can be made about him with anything therefore making Him utterly unknowable.

How could we know all that which is mentioned above using human reason alone when no creature has any means to know the unknowable? Isn’t it the case of negative anthropomorphism? The Qadi has ruled out intuition (marifat or gnosis) from the very onset which could possibly lead to the knowledge of God. The answer seems to be in the negation and inversion of all that we know of – inverse anthropomorphism – since speculative reasoning (ilm nazar) is constrained and confined the human world of time, quality and quantity, the realm of known.

The Qadi in particular, and the Mu’tazila in general, have not given us a proper justification into why we can make a massive leap from the known world to the unknown, from the physical realm to the realm of God. Dualism In paragraph 12, the Qadi explains the concept of divine justice that God cannot be associated with deeds that are morally wrong, “all human acts of injustice, transgression and the like cannot be of His creation. Whoever attributes that to Him… strays from the doctrine of justice. The main points again: God does not impose faith or unbelief without giving him power (qudra), and man chooses on his part on God’s part faith or unbelief, God does not will, want or desire disobedience, Every soul is accountable for his/her deeds but not for others, if that were the case then God would not be just. God does not violate the rules of fairness and justice,

“He only causes sickness and illness in order to turn them to advantage” God imposes moral and religious obligations on the people for their own benefit (Is God compelled to do what is mentioned in points 4 and 5?) Every benefit comes from God. If that were the case then where does evil come from. The obvious conclusion must be that power must inherently lie in nature as well as in humans. When we examine the concept of Mu’tazila divine justice, clearly there is dualism that things in themselves possess power inherently, besides God, in contrast to the views of the Maturidites and the Ash’arites. For their part they hold that God is spontaneously present and that all power is with God who creates the actions, at the same the creatures earn or acquire it because they are worthy of it.

This has been formulated in the doctrine of kasb. Mu’tazilites, however, deny the theory of the Dualists because of “(a) two things they willed must both exist, which is impossible because they contradict each other, (b) or neither of them exists, which is impossible because it implies the impotence of both of them, and it is impossible of the omnipotent divine being to be impotent, (c) it must be that one of the two willed things exists, and that necessitates that one be powerful and the other be impotent, and the impotent one cannot be eternal or divine.”[11]

Now, if we take human will for example, logically it should fall into category (c), and leads us to an absurd position that either God is impotent when humans do things that are apparently against His will or that man is compelled to do God’s will therefore humans have no choice in the matter. This problem cannot be avoided when any form of dualistic position is held, i.e. to posit power, will, desire and the capability of action to the ‘other’ besides God, even though it may be His creation. Divine Justice Under this heading we can group the remaining four fundamentals of the Kitab al-Usul, because, God’s justice, promise and threat, the intermediate position (of grave sinners), and commanding the good and prohibiting evil can be all subsumed under this category of divine justice. The ancient Greek philosophical maxim, attributed to Protagoras of Abdera (480-410 BC) “man is a measure of all things,” seems to be starting point for the Mu’tazila concept of divine justice. Does God have to abide by the human concept of justice in order to be qualified as just, or does man have to abide by the divine revelation in order to be just? What is the proof that God does not do what is ethically wrong? The answer: because He knows the immorality of lying and injustice, and since He is beyond any needs He would not choose it, “thus it must be human act”, says Abdul Jabbar.[12] What is the proof that human acts are not created by God? Answer:

“A wise man cannot create his own abuse and vilification to him of his own doings. … if God committed injustice He would be unjust, just as if He acted justly He would be just”. This last sentence gives us a definition for Qadi Abdul Jabbar’s concept of divine justice – the justness or unjustness of God is qualified by the human concept of justice. The examples and analogies Qadi Abdul Jabbar uses are of the ‘wise man’ in establishing the nature of divinity, yet the Mu’tazila strongly oppose anthropomorphism. 5. Harun Nasution (Modern Mu’tazilism) Harun Nasution is a rare contemporary example to openly professes Mu’tazilism, although the trend of rationalism in Islamic thought is on the ascendancy in its various forms. Some commentators have argued that it has resulted as a consequence and response to colonialism and the Islamic encounter with modernity; however,

Martin, Woodward and Atmaja have pointed out that Islamic rationalism can be traced through to Ibn Taiymiyya via Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab; and this was further developed in its course during the modern period by such figures like Sayyid Ahmed Khan in India, and Jamal Uddin Afghani, Muhammad Abduhu and Rashid Rida in the Arab world. The modern Islamic rationalists have had a lot of contact with the West, therefore is it not beyond assumption that they have been influenced by the West in their academic styles and thoughts. Harun Nasution, in his Kaum Mu’tazilah dan Pandangan Rasionalanya (The Mu’tazila and Rational Philosophy) gives us an account of the Mu’tazila theology and defends it from the modern Mu’tazila perspective. Nasution explains the term ‘Mu’tazila’, “According to Qadi Abdul Jabbar…in a theological sense the Arabic term i’tazala means to distance one’s self from that which is false, and in that sense it is associated with worship”[13] Nasution, in his work, begins with the Mu’tazila teachings on sin and free will, which is chronological in the sense of the development of Islamic history and rationalism with the issues introduced by the Khwarij. Sin and Free Will Nasution holds that Wasil ibn ‘Ata as the founder and the first spokesman for the Mu’tazila school, holding the doctrine of al-manazila bayn al-manazilatayn (the intermediate position) on the case of the grave sinner. This is a modified position of the Khwarij who held that grave sinners had moved out of the fold of Islam. The other position Wasil held, says Nasution, is that of the qadariya or free will. “The attribute of God[14] that was valued most highly by the Mu’tazila was that of His justice. Wasil stated that God is both wise and just and cannot do evil or act in an arbitrary fashion”, therefore humans alone carry out acts out of their will and desire. And, “If humans did evil – not out of their own will and desire, but rather because of the will of or pressure from outside themselves – God would not be able to send them to hell.[15]” Nasution lists the teachings of the Mu’tazila, in his book Kaum Mu’tazilah dan Pandangan Rasionalanya : Starting with Wasil ibn ‘Ata:

The Intermediate Position Free will non-existence of the attributes of God (tanzih) Abul Hudhayl al-Allaf (752 – 848) brought in Doctrine of justice or al-adl: al-salih wa l-aslah (a perfect God cannot do which is not good), philosophical tawhid (or aql,) which can be used to discern: the existence of God the duty for humans to give thanks to God good from evil the duty for humans to do good and avoid evil, from Abu Hashim “rituals cannot be known from reason, but only through revelation”, therefore prophets are needed, revelation is required to validate reason, no conflict between treason and revelation, Mu’ammar ibn ‘Abbad (d. 830) “God created only material elements” Uthman al-Jahiz (d. 869) “Every material has its own nature” “human action [freedom and choice] are limited by the laws of nature” There are no exceptions to the natural law Naturalistic Dualism Harun Nasution writes, “D. B.

MacDonald has called them [i.e. Mu’tazila] ‘daring and absolutely free-minded speculators’ and ‘deistic naturalist.’ In order to understand the accusations levelled at the Mu’tazila, it is first necessary to examine their teachings and the result of their theological inquiries.[16]” On reading this at the beginning of his text, one would expect that he would respond to these accusations. However, he almost completely (although maybe inadvertently) admits it by endorsing the teachings of ‘Abbad and al-Jahiz who posited inherent power to nature. This actually leaves a get-out clause for God in explaining the evil in the world, however, sets a rival or dualism in the universe. Mu’tazila do maintain that this dualism is not eternal, the only eternal being is God but the creation is posited with power.

This will be all the more interesting when we examine Nasution’s argument against shirk or polytheism in his section on divine attributes. Divine Attributes Nasution says the Mu’tazila want to teach the purest form monotheism: “If it is said that God has attributes, then it follows that God consists of many element: the element of His essence which is characterized by attributes, and the elements of the attributes which are attached to His essence. If it is said that God has twenty attributes, God would consist of twenty-one elements…to assign attributes to God implies that large numbers of things are eternal.” He goes on to explain that since only God is eternal, therefore maintaining eternal attributes of God is to commit shirk (polytheism), which Allah will never pardon. However, for the Mu’tazila, positing power to nature and humans in terms of freedom and the power to act, is not shirk at all! All the attributes of God are not attributes at all, but aspects of His essence, Nasution explains

“With this style of interpretation the Mu’tazila present a portrait of the unity of God that is not composed of the level of His essence and layers of attributes, but rather a single essence which has various aspects.” This is a problematic solution, because the attributes such as, al-Rahman, al-Rahim, al-Ghafur and so on, still have values and meanings to human even if they are divine attributes, if they were not then it would not make any sense for us to speak of them. Also, we would not know what they meant even if we are familiar with these names. If that were the case then the attributes too would transcend everything leading to further problems. For example, God’s attribute of justice is either transcendent as is the case with the essence, or immanent. If it is transcendent then God’s justice cannot be immanent in the world; and if it is immanent then it cannot be an aspect of the transcendent essence. The rule of excluded middle must apply.

This is a logically absurd position, Dirar ibn ‘Amr’s position was much more logical and consistent, only that it conflicted with the Qur’anic revelation. Amr ibn ‘Ubayd had rejected the Qur’anic revelations to overcome this problem. The physical descriptions of the attributes of God, such as hands, eyes, and sitting have been explained in the same manner as the Ash’arites, “the literal meaning of the hand and the chair acquires the metaphorical meaning of the authority of God.” [17] Harun Nasution does not address the issue of the ‘createdness’ of the Qur’an, which might be highly damaging for the cause of modern Mu’tazilism. The nearest allusion he makes to it is that, “The Mu’tazila strongly oppose theological positions according to which God is not unique including those which would give Him attributes, anthropomorphism, beatific vision, or that there is anything eternal other than God.”[18] Wajib ‘aqli v wajib shar’i Nasution states that there is no apparent conflict between reason and revelation in principle. Whenever there is an apparent contradiction between reason and revelation reason takes the precedence and the tool of allegorical interpretation (ta’wil) should be employed to remove the apparent contradiction. This, he says, has been commonly used by all schools including the philosophers. However, he has not explained whether reason in its essential nature human or divine.

If it is only human then how can an absolutely transcendent God be fathomed and defined by human reason? On the other hand if human reason can be extended to fathom God then God cannot be absolutely transcendent, which is against the doctrine of the Mu’tazila. 6. Conclusion The Mu’tazila, which incorporates the rational thoughts of various trends from both within and outside the Islamic traditions, have attempted and sought to fathom God and revelations within the bounds of human reason. The Mu’tazila arose as a product of the rational thinking of the Khwarij, the Jahmites, the Qadarites, and Greek philosophy, eventually reaching to conclusions similar to the philosophers’ concept of a transcendent God who is completely unknowable and unspeakable. A similar if not an identical view was held by the ancient Greek philosopher, Parmenides who preceded Plato and Socrates. Indeed Plato had been impressed by him. The Mu’tazila school, sought to prove and establish a transcendent God, as Qadi Abdul Jabbar attempted, through the analogy of the self, yet discounting the possibility of God having any likeness, resemblance or even attributes. This is quite impossible in the definition. In doing so, this has demonstrated that reason alone is not capable in establishing the existence of God or His justice.

Human reason is a human quality that puts forward human ideas of justice and perfection, but logically there is not sufficient ground to extend our human reason to the unknown, i.e. God. To do so, from the Mu’tazila perspective, one would be accused of tashbih (anthropomorphism), unless the concession is granted that humans have been given divine means to know God – i.e. divine reason. For the Mu’tazila this is impossible, they are not even willing to admit of God having attributes, as Harun Nasution explains that this is a form of polytheism that conflicts with the absolute Unicity of God (tawhid).

Yet by making God absolutely transcendent leads to another form of shirk that there are other powers independent of God – a form of dualism – where the universe exists without the need of a Guardian since it has inherent powers. In this sense the hadith becomes piercing, accordingly, it states that the qadarites are the Magians of this nation! [1] Nagel, The History of Islamic Theology, (English Translation) 2000, p112 [2] Qur’an 85: 21-22 [3] Nagel, The History of Islamic Theology, (English Translation) 2000, p108 [4] Qur’an 24:51 [5] Fill in the ref [6] I will use the translation of Abdul Jabbar’s Kitab al-Usul al-khamsa by R C Martin and M R Woodward with D S Atmaja, Oxford, 2003, for the purpose of this essay, and quote all following references to the book Defenders of Reason in Islam instead of the original. [7] Translation of Kitab al-Usul al-khamsa,

Martin, Woodward, Atmaja, , Defenders of Reason, p.90 [8] ibid [9] ibid [10] Ibid, p.91 [11] Para 27, Translation, Kitab al-Usul al-khamsa, Martin, Woodward, Atmaja, , Defenders of Reason, p.96 [12] Para 28, ibid [13] Translation, II, Section F, Kaum Mu’tazilah dan Pandangan Rasionalanya, Martin, Woodward, Atmaja, Defenders of Reason, p.183 [14] The use of ‘sifat’ (attribute) is interesting because the Mu’tazila deny God of any attributes [15]Translation, II, Section F, Kaum Mu’tazilah dan Pandangan Rasionalanya, Martin, Woodward, Atmaja, Defenders of Reason, p.184, [16] Translation, II, Section F, Kaum Mu’tazilah dan Pandangan Rasionalanya, Martin, Woodward, Atmaja, Defenders of Reason, p.184 [17] Ibid, p.189 [18] Ibid, p.190

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