Ibn Taymiyya’s Theodicy of Perpetual Optimism
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 Ibn Taymiyyas Theodicy Of Perpetual Optimism
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IBN TAYMIYYA’S THEODICY OF PERPETUAL OPTIMISM – Book Sample

CONTENTS – IBN TAYMIYYA’S THEODICY OF PERPETUAL OPTIMISM

  • Acknowledgements …………………………………………………………………………… xi
  • Introduction ……………………………………………………………………………………… 1
  • Chapter One: Worship, Religious Epistemology and Theological Jurisprudence
  • Ibn Taymiyya as a Theological Jurist …………………………………………… 19
  • The Centrality of Worshipping God Alone ……………………………….. 26
  • The Correspondence of Reason and Revelation …………………………. 29
  • On Knowing that God Exists and that He Alone should
  • be Worshipped …………………………………………………………………………. 32
  • The Methodology of Theological Jurisprudence ………………………… 46
  • The Apologetic Quality of Ibn Taymiyya’s Theological
  • Jurisprudence ……………………………………………………………………………. 68
  • Chapter Two: God’s Wise Purpose, Perpetual Activity and
  • Self-Sufficiency ……………………………………………………………………………… 70
  • The Problematic of God’s Goodness and God’s
  • Self-Sufficiency …………………………………………………………………………. 70
  • Joseph Bell on God’s Wise Purpose and Self-Sufficiency
  • in Ibn Taymiyya’s Theology ……………………………………………………… 72
  • Ibn Taymiyya’s Classification of Views on Wise Purpose/
  • Causality in the Will of God ………………………………………………….. 76
  • The Ash≠arī Case against Causality in the Will of God:
  • It Entails Imperfection and Origination in God, as well
  • as an Infinite Regress ……………………………………………………………….. 78
  • Ibn Taymiyya’s Case for a God Who Acts Perpetually for
  • Wise Purposes and Creates from Eternity ……………………………… 80
  • Ibn Taymiyya on God’s Voluntary Acts Subsisting in
  • God’s Essence ……………………………………………………………………………. 95
  • Ibn Taymiyya on God’s Sufficiency apart from the
  • Worlds in the Exercise of Wise Purpose …………………………………. 97
  • Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………………………. 101

INTRODUCTION

Theodicy and Ibn Taymiyya

The eminent Muslim jurist Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328) is well known for polemic against all manner of rational thought, whether the Neoplatonic philosophy of Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), the mystical speculation of Ibn ≠Arabī, or the Kalām theology of the Ash≠arīs and the Mu≠tazilīs. Furthermore, Ibn Taymiyya’s resolute adherence to the Qur±an, the Sunna and the Salaf (i.e. the pious early Muslims) is nearly legendary. Yet, scattered about in special- ized studies are hints that there is more to the shaykh than polemics and unyielding literalism.

While polemics and literalism are indeed prominent features of Ibn Taymiyya’s writing, it is growing ever more apparent that their import is not fully grasped without reference to a broader method and theological vision at work in his thought. Perhaps even more surprising is that Ibn Taymiyya shares with Ibn Sīnā and Ibn ≠Arabī, as well as with al-Ghazālī in his I!h±y≠āulūm al-dīn, a similar stance on one of the most fundamental questions of monotheistic theology, that of theodicy.

The term theodicy as used in modern western philosophy of religion indi- cates the attempt to explain why a good, just and all-powerful God created a less than perfect world. The term is not indigenous to the Islamic tradition, and a major current within the tradition—the voluntarism of Ash≠arī Kalām theology—rejects the question of theodicy as meaningless. God’s unfettered will, sufficiency apart from the world, and exclusive power preclude asking why God does this or that. God is not limited by any necessity of reason, and His acts require no deliberation, rational motive or external cause. Thus, God’s creation of injustice, unbelief and other evils is not susceptible to any explanation except that God wills it.

Despite this, theodicy and its division into two basic kinds—the best- of-all-possible-worlds theodicy, also known as optimism, and the free-will theodicy—prove useful as analytical shorthand for sorting through other theological  currents  in  the  Islamic  tradition [01]I owe this conceptual distinction to Marilyn McCord Adams, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), … Continue reading.   Mu≠tazilī  Kalām  theology provides the primary instance of an Islamic free-will theodicy. While the….

The Centrality of Worshipping God Alone

An incident related by Ibn Taymiyya’s biographer Ibn ≠Abd al-Hādī (d. 744/1343) points to the centrality of worship (≠ibāda) in his vision of Islam. In the year 707/1307, on Friday, 30 Rabī≠ al-Awwal, Ibn Taymiyya went to a mosque in Cairo for the noon prayer. Some people asked him to teach, but he said nothing. He only smiled and looked around. Then someone quoted the quranic verse, “God made a covenant with those who were given the Scripture that you make it clear to the people and not conceal it” (Q. 3:187). At that, Ibn Taymiyya got up, quoted the first sura of the Qur±an, the Fātih!a, and proceeded to speak on its fifth verse, “You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help,” and the meaning of worship and asking for help (isti≠āna) until the mid-afternoon (≠a$)sprrayer call, a period of perhaps two

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or three hours [02]Ibn ≠Abd al-Hādī, Al-≠Uqūd al-durriyya, 255..  Since Ibn ≠Abd al-Hādī does not provide further details of Ibn Taymiyya’s long discourse, we can only imagine what he might have said.

However, there is ample material in his oeuvre to elucidate his thought on worship [03]In addition to the sources from which the following discussion is drawn, see especially ≠Ubūdiyya, MF 10:149–236; Qudra, MF 8:39–57; Tawh!īd, … Continue reading. The discussion here is limited to writings on the Fāti!ha itself.

For Ibn Taymiyya, the Fāti!ha holds a privileged place in the quranic rev- elation because God made its recitation a duty during what he considers the best of deeds, the ritual prayer ($sal)ā.hFurthermore, he sees the fifth verse “You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help” as both the summary of the Fāti!ha and the pivot between its two halves. “You alone we worship” ends the first half of the sura, which is worship dedicated to God. “You alone we ask for help” begins the half of the Fāti!ha, which is dedicated to the worshipper himself and in which he asks for the help that God will provide. In this fashion, the fifth verse captures the two elements of worship and supplication that characterize the whole sura. Here Ibn Taymiyya quotes a saying attributed to (Hasan al-Ba$srī to thecetetffhat God summarized all  the scriptures in the Qur±an; then, He summarized the Qur±an in the Mother

of the Book, the Fāti!ha; and finally He summarized the F!ātiha in its two phrases, “You alone we serve, You alone we ask for help.”[04] Manbijī, MF 2:455–6; Talbīs, 2:454; and Fāti!,hMa F 14:7

Ibn Taymiyya also finds the senses of worship and asking for help grouped together elsewhere in the Qur±an and the Hadith just as they are in the Fātih!a. He cites for example, “Worship Him, and trust completely in Him” (Q.

11:123), “In Him I have completely trusted, and to Him I turn” (Q. 11:88), and, “In Him I have completely trusted, and to Him is my repentance” (Q. 13:30). Turning to God (ināba) and going to God in repentance (tawba) are aspects of worship, and complete trust (tawakkul ) is related to asking for help. In the hadith, “O Lord, this is from You and for You,”[05] Dārimī, 1864, Al-A#!dāhī, Al-Sunna fī a#l-ad!hiyya. Ibn Taymiyya interprets “for You (laka)” as worship and “from You (minka)” as complete trust and asking for help in the midst of whatever comes from God.[06] Manbijī, MF 2:456; and Fāti!,hMa F 14:9.

In God’s relationship with humanity, worship is linked to God’s divinity (ulūhiyya or ilāhiyya) and asking for help to God’s lordship (rubūbiyya or rabbāniyya) [07]Paralleling divinity and lordship in Ibn Taymiyya’s writings is a wide range of cognate terms including God’s command and creation and God’s … Continue reading. Ibn Taymiyya observes that these respective senses of divinity and lordship are found in the locutions of prayer. The name God (Allāh), which has the same Arabic root (±-l-h) as ulūhiyya, is associated with wor- ship, as in “God is greater (Allāhu akbar)” and “Praise be to God (al-!hamdu li-llāh),” while the name Lord (Rabb), which has the same root (r-b-b) as rubūbiyya, is linked with seeking help, as in “Our Lord, forgive us our sins” (Q. 3:147) and “Lord, forgive and be merciful; You are the best of the merci- ful” (Q. 23:118).[08] Manbijī, MF 2:456; and Fāti!,hMa F 14:12–3  Thus, as illustrated in the following quotation, worship flows out of God’s divinity, and asking for help springs from His lordship.

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[“You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help” (Q. 1:5)] is the elaboration of His saying, “Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds” (Q 1:2). This indicates that there is no object of worship except God and that no one other than Him has the right to be worshipped. His statement, “You alone we worship,” points to worship of Him by means of the love, fear, hope, command and prohibition that His divinity requires, and, “You alone we ask for help,” points to the complete trust, commitment, and submission that His lordship requires.[09] Shirk, MF 1:89.

For Ibn Taymiyya, asking for help signifies absolute human dependence on the God who is the Lord of the worlds. Lordship indicates God’s creative and determining activity, and this lordship is exclusive. Creatures have absolutely no existence apart from God, and they may ask for help only from the source of their existence and trust in Him alone. The confession that God is the sole Creator and Lord of the universe is called taw!hīd al- rubūbiyya or tawh!īd al-rabbāniyya. In like manner, worship indicates human devotion to God—turning to Him, loving Him, obeying Him, hoping in Him and fearing Him—and this is linked to God’s divinity (ulūhiyya).

The divine is that which is loved and served as a god, and God’s divinity denotes His essential right to worship. Taw!hīd al-ulūhiyya or ta!whīd al-ilāhiyya is recognizing God as the only one with the right to divinity and turning to worship Him alone. This, as Ibn Taymiyya explains, is the meaning of the Islamic confession, “There is no god but God.” Unifying all one’s energies in worship to God excludes any kind of shirk or associating partners with God and withholding from God the devotion that only He deserves. [10]Taw!hīd, MF 1:22–3; and Manb,iMF 2:456–9. Cf. Fī Fu$$sūs, MF 2:404–6

Ibn Taymiyya clarifies the ultimate priority of God’s divinity over God’s lordship—and thus worship over asking for help—with the aid of Ibn Sīnā’s notions of final and efficient causality. Ibn Sīnā regards the final cause or telos

(al-≠illa al-ghā±iyya) as the end for which something comes into existence,

while the efficient cause (al-≠illa al-fā≠iliyya) is that which brings the thing into existence. Furthermore, the final cause is an efficient cause in that it activates the operation of the efficient cause. Conversely, the final cause is also

the effect (ma≠lūl) of the efficient cause when it is realized in existence.[11] Ibn Sīnā, Al-Ishārāt, 3:30–3 Ibn Taymiyya applies this analysis to “You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help” by linking worship and divinity to final causality on the one hand and asking for help and lordship to efficient causality on the other:

The God (al-ilāh) is the one worshipped (al-ma≠būd ) and asking for help is linked to His lordship. The Lord of the servants is He who lords over them. This entails that He is Creator of everything that is in them and from them. The divinity is the final cause, and lordship is the efficient cause. The final [cause] is that which is aimed at, and it is the efficient cause of the efficient cause. Therefore, He made “You alone we worship” precede “You alone we ask for help.” Confessing the exclusiveness of the divinity (tawh!īd al-ilāhiyya) includes confessing the exclusiveness of the lordship (taw!hī#d al-rubū)b.iIynyacluded in worshipping only God is not confessing the lordship of any other.[12] Talbīs, 2:454. Cf. ≠Ubūdiyya, MF 10:194

This text subordinates lordship to divinity such that divinity is both the final cause, that is, the ultimate object of worship, and the efficient cause of confessing God’s lordship, which in turn is the efficient cause bringing all things into existence. Exclusive worship of God includes confessing God as the sole Creator. In a different text, and as in the passage quoted above, Ibn Taymiyya observes that the Fāti!ha in “You alone we worship; You alone we ask for help” (Q. 1:5) puts the final cause of worship before the efficient cause of asking for help because the final cause should be the efficient cause

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of this efficient cause. Ideally speaking, worship activates and is the efficient cause of asking for help. Yet, Ibn Taymiyya observes, humans, out of their sense of profound neediness, typically confess God’s lordship and ask for His help much more than they worship Him. Thus, God raised up mes- sengers to focus on calling humanity to worship God alone. Then, when humans worship God, it will follow that they also confess His lordship and ask Him for help.34 Putting it differently, God should be worshipped, loved, and praised primarily for Himself in His divinity and only secondarily for what He does in His lordship.

With the priority of worship in Ibn Taymiyya’s thought firmly in view, we turn now to the epistemological foundations by which human beings know that God exists and should be their sole object of worship. Ibn Taymiyya bases his thought on quranic revelation, even if interpreting it philosophi- cally, but he also makes the apologetic claim that independent reason agrees with revelation in providing the same information.

The Correspondence of Reason and Revelation

Ibn Taymiyya devotes his major work Dar±, eleven volumes in the critical edi- tion, to refutation of the rule established by Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and others that rational arguments must be given precedence over traditional proofs in case of contradiction.35 Instead, the shaykh contends, there is no contradiction between reason and tradition. Two studies by Binyamin Abrahamov illustrate that it is not immediately obvious what Ibn Taymiyya means by this. In a

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References / Footnotes

01I owe this conceptual distinction to Marilyn McCord Adams, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999), 179, and passim
02Ibn ≠Abd al-Hādī, Al-≠Uqūd al-durriyya, 255.
03In addition to the sources from which the following discussion is drawn, see especially ≠Ubūdiyya, MF 10:149–236; Qudra, MF 8:39–57; Tawh!īd, MF 1:20–36; Shirk, MF 1:88–94; and the many selections pertaining to Ibn Taymiyya’s spirituality in the two series of transla- tions by Yahya M. Michot, “Textes Spirituels d’Ibn Taymiyya,” Le Musulman (Paris), 11–29 (1990–8), and “Pages spirituelles d’Ibn Taymiyya,” Action (Mauritius), 1999–2002. Full ref- erences for some of these may be found in the Bibliography, and, as of December 2006, the texts could be accessed at http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/it/index.html. Also of interest for Ibn Taymiyya’s spirituality are Th. E. Homerin, “Ibn Taimīya’s Al-!Sūfīyah wa-al-fuqa±,rā Arabica 32 (1985): 219–244; and Thomas Michel, “Ibn Taymiyya’s Shar!h on thFeutū!h al-ghayb of ≠Abd al-Qādir al-Jīlānī,” Hamdard Islamicus, 4.2 (Summer 1981): 3–12.
04 Manbijī, MF 2:455–6; Talbīs, 2:454; and Fāti!,hMa F 14:7
05 Dārimī, 1864, Al-A#!dāhī, Al-Sunna fī a#l-ad!hiyya.
06 Manbijī, MF 2:456; and Fāti!,hMa F 14:9.
07Paralleling divinity and lordship in Ibn Taymiyya’s writings is a wide range of cognate terms including God’s command and creation and God’s legislative will and ontological will, respectively, which will be discussed in detail in Chapter Three
08 Manbijī, MF 2:456; and Fāti!,hMa F 14:12–3
09 Shirk, MF 1:89.
10Taw!hīd, MF 1:22–3; and Manb,iMF 2:456–9. Cf. Fī Fu$$sūs, MF 2:404–6
11 Ibn Sīnā, Al-Ishārāt, 3:30–3
12 Talbīs, 2:454. Cf. ≠Ubūdiyya, MF 10:194