How Mu'tazilah "Logic" Arrived at a Limited God

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The argument for the Unity of God was propounded by Judaeus Philo, and then restated by Spinoza in his pantheistic philosophy for the same purposes.  For Philo, Eternity is an Essential Quality of God; no other kind of being except Him is Eternal.  This view represents the established Judeo-Christian and Islamic principle of monotheism.  Its denial is the rejection of these three Semitic religions.  Spinoza supported the Philonic principle by putting the argument into a better logical form, saying that if there are two substances like immaterial God and the world, either they should be absolutely different or absolutely same.  If there are two absolutely different substances with nothing in common, one cannot become the cause of the other.  If the existence of two different substances is not possible, then we must consider the case of the existence of two substances that are absolutely alike.  But such substances cannot be called two unless, in addition to their common qualities, they possess some other quality in which they differ, “and then two substances would be granted as having the same attribute, which is absurd.”

The arguments of the Mu’tazilah and Spinoza are no different from the Philonic principle.  All of them emphasise the Eternity of God and reject the attribution of this Quality to another kind of being.  The Mu’tazilah developed another argument in support of their conception of Divine Unity, based on the nature of each positive predicate or proposition which involves negation.  When we describe Allah (s.w.t.) and mention one of His Attributes, we implicitly negate another Attribute.  For example, the proposition, “Allah (s.w.t.) is Merciful,” means “Allah (s.w.t.) is not vengeful,” and then that negation signifies that Allah (s.w.t.) is limited to that Attribute, which is not possible with regard to the Unlimited Nature of Allah (s.w.t.).

Hamdan ibn al-Hazil al-Al’at, one of the Mu’tazilah, stated, “If you say Allah is All-Knowing, then you negate ignorance to be predicated of Allah, and in this way whenever you talk about one of His Qualities, you negate some other Quality in Him.”

According to Imam ash-Shahrastani (r.a.), this argument was borrowed from Greek philosophy and not founded by the Mu’tazilah.  an-Nazzam, a Mu’tazili thinker, provided another argument for the rejection of Allah’s (s.w.t.) Will as a separate entity, by giving an equivalent meaning to “will”, like “need”, which results in action.  He said that “need” is the state of imperfection and lack and it should not be ascribed to Allah (s.w.t.).  Mu’ammar ibn Abbad as-Sulami, another Mu’tazili thinker, believed that Allah (s.w.t.) knows neither the world in which we live, nor Himself, because if He has Knowledge, then that Knowledge is either within or without Allah (s.w.t.).  In the first case, there will be no distinction between the knowing subject and the known object; both of them become one and the same, and that is not possible; the subject and object must be different.  And if we accept that knowledge is not within Allah (s.w.t.), that the known object is something distinct from the knowing subject, it simply means that the subject is dependent upon the object for acquiring knowledge.  On the other hand, there will be two different things in the Essence of Allah (s.w.t.).  For this reason, knowledge should not be predicated to Allah (s.w.t.).

And so, they were confounded by their “logic” and arrived at a conception of God that was not only not Omniscient, but did not know Himself nor His Creation.


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