Top Tips To Become a Better Ash'ari: The 2nd Tip - Know Your Aristotelian Metaphysics Inside Out
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Tuesday, September, 29 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Top Tips Better Ash'ari Aristotle Metaphysics Top Tips Better Ash'ari Aristotle Metaphysics

All praise is due to Allaah and may the prayers and salutations be upon the Messenger, to proceed:

We are pleased to announce a new and much needed section entitled "Top Tips To Become a Better Ash'ari". Unfortunately, we are not very impressed or pleased with the level of ignorance found amongst the vast majority of Ash'aris. You will agree no doubt, this needs to be remedied. For this reason, "top tips" will provide the background knowledge and understanding to give those Ash'aris who are lagging behind a bit of sense, purpose, direction and impetus.

This series should be followed along with our "Competition Corner" series (see here), as they are in fact both complementary to each other. No matter what your level, a beginner, or a promising Kalam Atomist, these tips will still help you. You should also remember, there are lots of those 'evil wahhabis' on the one hand and 'crazy atheist philosophers' on the other that need to be kept at bay. There's no point looking brave and serious when your pockets are empty.

So here goes, this is our second tip - and our tips by the way are in no particular order, they are random and miscellaneous:

The 2nd Tip: Get That Aristotelian Metaphysics Under Your Belt

Tip Tafseer

Point 1: Metaphysics is the Basis of "hudooth ul-ajsaam"

The very first thing that you should be aware of in this tip is that there was in the Muslim lands, when Islam spread, the presence of atheist and materialist Philosophers who were very conversant with the philosophy of the Greeks, especially that of Aristotle and his metaphysical classifications. So when it came to arguing with these atheist Philosophers, then any proof devised against them would have to be with language and terminology they were familiar with and would readily accept. Hence, the original proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam" devised by Jahm bin Safwan (ex. 128H) made use of some of these basic notions which the atheist Philosophers of that time were familiar with. Aristotle's "Categories" laid the foundations of this knowledge, and in Arabic they became known as "al-Maqoolaat al-Ashar" - The Ten Categories. The Metaphysics of the Mutakallimoon was preceded by Aristotle's Metaphysics, and generally this knowledge was concerned with "bodies" (ajsaam, jawaahir) and their "incidental attributes" (a'raad), or more formally "accidents".

Point 2: Aristotle's Ten Categories

Here are Aristotle's ten categories, the first deals with "what something is":

  1. substance (jawhar)

The rest are incidental attributes (a'raad) which deal with "how it is":

  1. quantity (al-kam) - dimensions and measurable features, length, breadth, width and so on
  2. quality (al-kayf) - perceived characteristics, color, shape, and so on.
  3. relation (al-idaafah) - how a substance is in relation to others, above, below, right, left and so on.
  4. place (al-ayn) - where it is
  5. time (mataa) answering "when?" - temporal characteristics of the substance
  6. position (al-wad') - how a substance's parts are ordered in relation to each other
  7. action (yaf'al) acting - what a substance is doing
  8. affection (yanfa'il) a substance being acted upon
  9. having (al-mulk) - what the substance has on

Point 3: Be Thankful

Remember, always give credit where credit is due. Aristotle laid down the foundations for the "magnifying glass" (i.e. the categories) that helps to identify Jismiyyah (something being a body, a jism, or jawhar), no matter how subtle it is, and he laid down the foundational Metaphysics from which "hudooth ul-ajsaam" could be formulated from - so "Thank you Aristotle" - and how else could the Mutakallimoon have clarified and explained Tawheed and rebutted the apparent kufr and shirk they saw in the revealed texts without the likes of this knowledge!

Point 4: Identifying Jismiyyah, Go For It Holmes!

My dear Ash'ari friend. You are not worth your salt if you haven't mastered Aristotle's categories and his Metaphysics. Sorry to be blunt, but without getting this under your belt, you will never understand the bulk of what your creed is based upon in reality. Once you have done that, you will understand the proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam" more fully and be able to demonstrate it to any Atheist. But remember, if the Atheist comes back and says, "Describe your Lord", then you've got to be prepared for that. So you must be ready to go hunting for "Jismiyyah" in the revealed texts to protect your intellectual proof from invalidation. Once you've truly mastered this knowledge which originated with the Greek Ancients and was passed through the pseudo-Sabian Star-Worshipping Philosophers of Harraan, trust me, you'll be seeing Jismiyyah left, right and center, in all places in the revealed texts, and you will know how to deal with these problematic texts that clash with the proof. No Atheist will be able to point out the flaw in your intellectual proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam" once you learn how to deal with those revealed texts.

Point 5: Find Jismiyyah, Point, Shoot With a ta'weel and Move On...

We are now ready to illustrate ... so let's see what we can find in the revealed texts ...

ar-Rahmaan ascended (istiwaa) above the Throne (Taha 20:5)

Hey, that's al-ayn (place) and al-idaafah (relative position) - and those are properties of ajsaam (bodies) - this is Jismiyyah - and this opposes our proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam". Pull out the ta'weel gun, load it with a ta'weel (bullet) of Jahm bin Safwan, or Bishr al-Mareesee or any of the Jahmee, Mu'tazilee brands, 'zap', and you've got your end result. You've abolished that apparent kufr and shirk which necessitates Allaah is a body (thanks Aristotle, pseudo-Sabeans, Jahm, and al-Ja'd for helping us to understand the true Tawheed which the Messengers did not know of, or they were not able to express, or they knew it but deliberately never expressed it) and depending upon what bullet you used you've ended up with:

  • ar-Rahman conquered the Throne
  • It's the Throne that made istiwaa in actuality
  • The Throne is simply Allaah's dominion and al-istiwaa is an act that takes place therein

And thus those 'evil wahabis', on the one hand, and those 'nasty, evil' Philosophers are kept in check - all with a single 'zap' - this is powerful stuff.

And look what we've found here:

And Allaah spoke to Moses (wa kallamAllaahu Moosaa), direct (Nisaa 4:164)

Hey, that's an action (what an entity is doing), its a temporal characteristic (an instance of speech that takes place and ends) which is an event (haadithah), and it also includes quality (al-kayf) because speech necessitates sound - something perceived with the senses, thus necessitating a "howness" - and all of this is pure Jismiyyah - kufr and shirk. We know the routine now. Load, point, 'zap' and we can now have:

  • Allaah created speech in the tree and the tree spoke
  • Allaah spoke to Moses with his "eternal Kalaam" that resides within His Self
  • Allaah inspired the meaning into the heart of Moses

And if the ta'weel gun is not effective, just utilize a bit of tahreef instead and that way we can have:

  • "And Moses spoke to Allaah (wa kallamAllaaha Moosaa), direct" so its Moosaa who actually spoke and not Allaah

And thus those 'evil wahabi mujassims', on the one hand, and those 'nasty, evil' atheist Philosophers are kept in check, once again and we've dealt with them with a single stone.

Point 6: Don't Waste Those Bullets, Be Wise

In the later times (after six or seven centuries) the situation became such that the Mutakallimoon and the Ash'arites in particular had political strength and their creed was spread in many lands, in North Africa and in Shaam. This is similar to how the Mu'tazilah had gained an upper hand around the time of Imaam Ahmad.

Within this climate (in the later centuries) there arose many good Scholars who were brought up and who learned knowledge, and they considered much of what they learned about the creed to be the truth, as that was what was predominant. Examples include Ibn Hajr, and an-Nawawi and al-Qurtubi. These scholars were not upon the usool (foundations) of the Mutakallimoon, rather they rejected many of them - and that is because Allaah had favoured them with good knowledge and understanding and they believed in these usool. However, they were affected in certain areas in creed and thus they spoke with something of the ta'weel of the Ash'aris, believing it to be the truth. Now, as an prudent Ash'ari, it's important you don't waste those ta'weel bullets. It's simpler and easier that you just make good use of the statements of the likes of Ibn Hajr, an-Nawawi, al-Qurtubi and others because they can be an effective means in promoting the cause.

But just don't venture too close to the third century and before, because that's very a dangerous time and territory.

Keep safe by keeping away from that zone, it won't be very friendly for you and some poor guys were getting executed, others imprisoned, and others beaten with sandals for indulging in this "Kalaam" and making "ta'weel" of the texts. So the rule is "Know your territory, play safe, and remain safe".

If you've got a choice of a few hundred statements from the early Salaf on the issue of Allaah being above the Throne, with His Essence, don't go there, flee from it - it's dangerous, unfriendly territory. Stick with quotes from the later times. One quote from the later times can be just as effective as a full round of ta'weel bullets. So be wise and don't be wasteful in any way.