Understanding the Battle Between the Philosophers (Aristotle, Ibn Sina, al-Farabi) and the Mutakallimoon (Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah, Kullaabiyyah, Ash'ariyyah, Maturidiyyah) Initiated By Jahm bin Safwaan
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Monday, October, 12 2009 and filed under Basics
Key topics: Falaasifah Falsafah Mutafalsifah Mutakallimoon Jahm Bin Safwaan Falaasifah Falsafah Mutafalsifah Mutakallimoon Jahm Bin Safwaan

Introducing The Players

We need to be familiar with the the following:

The Philosophers: Aristotle (d. 332BC) is known as "the First Teacher". Abu Nasr al-Farabi (d. 339H) is known as "the Second Teacher". Ibn Sina (d. 429H) is known as "the Third Teacher" - these are the actual titles given to them. The latter two are the inheritors of that Greek Philosophy of Aristotle (and Plato), and they championed it and their own beliefs through it. One of their main beliefs was that the "matter" that makes up the universe is eternal and has always been present and another being their rejection of bodily resurrection and the affairs connected to resurrection.

The Mutakallimoon: Are those who used the notions and terminology of metaphysical philosophy (of those atheists and disbelievers such as Aristotle) to argue the case for:

  • the universe being created,
  • the existence of a creator,
  • the plausibility of prophethood and
  • the plausibility of resurrection.

And they are the Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah, Kullaabiyyah, Ash'ariyyah, Maturidiyyah. And they made this proof of theirs to be the "ultimate truth" and the premise they were working on was that the truth of Islam can only be demonstrated through this proof - and in this, they were trying to impress upon those atheist Philosophers. In the course of all this, they were led to the orientation - in agreement with each other despite their different sayings, and with the Philosophers whom they were battling - that the intellect is decisive and definitive over the revealed texts and that the proof of the intellect leads and the revealed text follows. They state this in their own words, and we can dedicate a separate article to that inshaa'Allaah.

Thus a common trait between the Philosophers and the Mutakallimoon is that they put the intellect above and over the revealed texts and consider the proof of the intellect decisive over the revealed texts.

A Concise Summary Of the Philosophers and Speculative Theologians, Their Philosophy and Metaphysics

The Mutakallimoon (Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah, Kullaabiyyah, Ash'ariyyah, Maturidiyyah) used an intellectual proof based around the notions of Aristotelian Metaphysics which many of the Atheist Philosophers present in the Muslim lands in that time were very familiar with - they were familiar and conversant with Greek Philosophy and that was the science and philosophy of the day. Jahm bin Safwaan (ex. 128H) was the first to use a crude form of this proof against the Indian Materialist Philosophers called the Sumaniyyah, and the Mu'tazilah likewise were upon this, they too argued with the Sumaniyyah and others, and Abu al-Hudhayl al-Allaaf (d. 235H) was the first to really formalize it for the Mu'tazilah. The Mu'tazilah also incorporated the "Atomism" of Democritus (d. 370BC) into this proof in order to improve it and through which they could argue more soundly for the entire universe being created (on account of being made of indivisible particles that are all alike). Thereafter, Abu Bakr al-Baqillani (d. 403H) simply inherited or borrowed the bulk of it from the Mu'tazilah and laid it down for the Ash'aris by formalizing it in his book "at-Tahmeed".

And all of this, in its roots, was based around the philosophies of the Greeks and in particular the general concepts of Aristotle's "Ten Categories", which to the Arabs were "al-Maqoolaat al-Ashar".

Aristotle's "al-Maqoolaat al-Ashar"

For the sake of completeness in this article we will mention the "Ten Categories" of Aristotle. These ten categories are supposed to classify everything in the universe in its essence and its qualities - hence "al-jawhar" (substance) and "al-'arad" (incidental attribute, accident).

So 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

As you can see from the above, we are dealing here with bodies (jawaahir, ajsaam) and their incidental attributes (a'raad).

And when you look in both the books of the Mu'tazilah and Ash'aris - whose books are the most abundant from what we have of the heritage of the Mutakallimoon - then you will see that all of their metaphysical talk and the underlying roots for the elaboration of their proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam" derives conceptually from Aristotelian Metaphysics. The Mu'tazilah introduced the theory of Democritus (another Greek Philosopher) of "Atomism" in order to "tighten up the ship" a little (allowing them to argue more efficiently for the createdness of the universe), and the Ash'aris inherited all of this while differing with the Mu'tazilah on subsidiary issues regarding the proof. The metaphysical language was the underlying fabric that was common to both the Philosophers and the Mutakallimoon.

Playing and Toying With the Texts So as Not To Invalidate the Proof

By using this proof, these Mutakallimoon were forced to start figuratively explaining away much of what is in the revealed texts regarding belief in Allaah, since it clashed with their proof and its necessities and would have invalidated it.

It was on account of the intellectual proof that Jahm bin Safwan devised that he was forced to speak with the following, amongst many other things:

  • That Allaah did not speak to Moses - because it would mean an event in Allaah's Essence, and thus making Allaah a body (jism), and thus falsifying His proof.

  • That the Qur'aan is created - because if Allaah spoke it, it would be an occurrence or an incidental attribute, thus rendering Allaah a body (jism), and thus falsifying his proof.

  • That Allaah will not be seen in the Hereafter - because if He could be seen, it would be in a direction (jihah), as things are only seen in direction (jihah), and this would make Him a body (jism), thus falsifying his proof.

  • That Allaah is not above the heaven - because this would necessitate direction, and anything in direction must be a body (jism), thus Allaah would be a body, and thus the proof would be falsified.

  • That Allaah cannot be described with anything that the creation is described with - because all descriptions that we see are only found in bodies (ajsaam), thus Allaah cannot be described with anything, otherwise it would necessitate that He is a body.

And the usool (foundations) of the deen of the Mu'tazilah, Kullaabiyyah and Ash'ariyyah have their roots in the deen of the Jahmiyyah.

The Philosophers Click On ...

The Philosophers such as al-Farabi (d. 339H), Ibn Sina (d. 429H) who were really heretics, mulhids, and who intended harm to Islam and the Muslims, when they saw the corrupt nature of this proof (they were shrewd and smart people), and they recognized the flaw in it, they took it as an opportunity to attack the foundations of the religion - and these Philosophers (al-Farabi, Ibn Sina) were scholars of the Greek philosophies of Aristotle and Plato, and they believed they were the true inheritors and champions of that philosophy.

The flaw that they saw was that by arguing through this proof, it was necessitated upon the Mutakallimoon that they hold that the Creator was, for "a period of eternity", doing nothing, meaning no action. Because the Mutakallimoon said, as part of their proof that it is impossible for there to be hawaadith (occurrences) with no beginning, they had to say that all of a sudden, without any reason or cause, after doing nothing for "a period of eternity" Allah decided to create. The Philosophers said this is false and corrupt, and said that you have no proof from the revealed texts to prove this, and whatever proofs you bring from the revealed texts for "the creation of the matter of the universe", we'll just make ta'weel of it just like you are doing to the texts of the Attributes.

So basically, the Philosophers, being shrewd, looked at what the Mutakallimoon were relying upon in their proof, found a hole in it and then used that to bolster their view that the universe is eternal.

What the Philosophers Said to the Mutakallimoon in a Nutshell

The Mutakallimoon were simply trying to use the language and terminology of the Atheist Philosophers to prove the universe is created and the existence of a creator and so one of the main things the Philosophers (the likes of al-Farabi, Ibn Sina) were in essence saying was:

Hey! That philosophy is our heritage, and true philosophy is that you start with just pure intellect, rejecting everything, all knowledge and all belief, and then construct reality from that point upwards through pure intellect and philosophical principles. But you "Islamists" you are starting off with a premise that Islam is the truth so you are not real Philosophers and this is not real philosophy. You are just opportunists who are stealing our goods and our heritage (philosophy, Aristotelian metaphysics) to support something which you have accepted blindly. We are the real Philosophers, and what we are involved in is real and true philosophy. We are the real inheritors of the philosophies (of Aristotle and Plato) while you are just pretenders.

So when these Philosophers saw the corrupt nature of this proof used by the Mutakallimoon, they saw their opportunity and pounced. And as these Philosophers believed that the universe is eternal, that the Prophets just made things up to dupe the people so that they would accept faith and belief in the hereafter more easily, and that they, the Philosophers themselves, can become "prophets" and many other beliefs - they turned to the Mutakallimoon and said:

Hey! Thank you very much. As you have now made it clear that whatever is in the revealed texts of speech about Allaah and His Attributes is metaphorical and figurative, and you need to claim this in order to sustain your proof - and we'll agree with you on that (nod, nod, wink, wink to each other) - then likewise, everything in the revealed texts that speak about the creation and resurrection, then all of that is metaphorical and figurative, and the prophets just made it all up, and all of this supports us and what we claim that the universe is eternal, even if there is a Maker for it, it is still eternal, and the Prophets just duped the people with made up things to help them believe, and there is no such thing as "creation" and "resurrection" in reality.

So the proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam" of Jahm and the Mutakallimoon opened up the door for these people (the Philosophers) and others such as the Qaraamitah Baatiniyyah to start assaulting Islaam and the revealed texts.

  • So the Philosophers would say that things like the blowing of the trumpet (as-soor), raising of the bodies and their gathering (al-hashr), the scales (al-meezaan) and the bridge (as-siraat) and all of the affairs related to resurrection, and whatever has been mentioned in that regard are all just metaphors, they are not real, they are just things made up by the Prophets who used such expressions to induce belief in the people. And this sounds greatly familiar to what al-Ghazali said regarding the language used in the Qur'an and the Sunnah to describe Allaah - go and take a good, slow, reflective, read of this article, then read it again, twice, no, ten times! Then come back here and read on. The Philosophers said all this because they believed, like Aristotle did, that the universe is eternal, meaning that what the universe is made of, the matter, the substance, has eternally been present, and that the creator simply made what we have now from that matter. And likewise that this matter will not perish, there is no destruction of everything, and no such thing as resurrection. And so they turned to all of those texts with ta'weel, just like the Mutakallimoon turned to the texts of the Attributes with ta'weel, whilst grinning and saying "Thank you very much" to the Mutakallimoon.

  • And the Qaraamitah Baatiniyyah did the same to the Sharee'ah, so they said that the prayer (as-salaat) is just a metaphor what it really means is "knowing our secrets" or "giving allegiance to our scholars", and that fasting (as-sawm) is to "conceal our secrets" and that the pilgrimage (al-hajj) is to "visit our shaykhs", and they would teach this in isolation amongst themselves - and so they turned to all the actions of worship (al-ibaadaat) with ta'weel, explaining them away and abolishing them.

So the Mutakallimoon turned upon the texts of the Attributes with ta'weel and tahreef, and the Philosophers turned upon the texts of creation and resurrection with ta'weel and tahreef and the Baatiniyyah Qaraamitah turned upon the texts of ibaadah with ta'weel and tahreef.

And what led them, the Mutakallimoon, into such affairs and to open up such an evil door, was that they made Metaphysics (which they took from the likes of the Greeks, and pseudo-Sabean Harranians) to be the foundation of what is the ultimate truth - to prove the existence of a creator, and then holding that an-nadhar wal-istidlaal (inspection, observation and inference) is more or less obligatory upon every individual (i.e. to prove the existence of his Lord through these methods). And all of this is false, corrupt, for the belief in a creator is in the fitrah (innate instinct), the first obligation is to testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allaah, alone.

And this is why it has been said, as quoted by Ibn Taymiyyah in Bayaan Talbees ul-Jahmiyyah from Ibn Suraij ash-Shafi'ee (d. 306H), and also reported by Abu Ismaa'eel al-Harawi with his isnaad in "Dhamm ul-Kalaam":

Ibn Suraij as-Shafi'ee (d. 306H) said, as narrated from him by Abu Ismaa'eel al-Harawi in "Dhamm ul-Kalaam" and as mentioned by Ibn Taymiyyah in "Bayaan Talbees al-Jahmiyyah":

توحيد اهل العلم وجماعة المسلمين أشهد أن لا اله الا الله وان محمدا رسول الله وتوحيد اهل الباطل الخوض في الأعراض والأجسام وانما بعث النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم بانكار ذلك

The Tawheed of the people of knowledge and the jamaa'ah of the Muslims is "I testify none is worthy of worship except Allaah (alone) and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah". And the Tawheed of the people of falsehood is disputing about al-a'raad (incidental attributes) and al-ajsaam (bodies) and the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) was sent with the rejection of that.

And inshaa'Allaah what has been covered briefly in this article will be expanded upon in other articles.