If Allah orders a man to believe, it means he is capable of belief, and according to Allah's justice, even though through his foreknowledge he knows that a man will not believe, He still enables him to do so. Watt formulated this as a maxim: "Imposition of duty implies power". There was a side argument to this, regarding the source of the power of a man to act. Opponents of the Mu'tazila saw the power in man as given to him by God to do this particular act. Refutation of this view required elaborated ideas of power on the part of the Mu'tazilites, separating an act into its components three moments and then assigning a certain type of power to each component.
This was accompanied by grammatical elaborations using different forms of verbs, which could express completeness or incompleteness of an act. The types of power in question were the power to will and the power to carry out the will. Further controversy occurred over the idea of "generated effects". There were two views of the subject among the Mu'tazila themselves. The example used was that of a man who throws a stone and hits another man. Those who held that the substance acts in virtue of its nature, said that the flight was an "act" of the stone, and the injury of the second man is the "act" of his body.
Bishr ibn al-Mu'tamir asserted that all these occurrences were generated effects and acts of the first man. In the efforts to maintain God's justice, the hardest question of all was reconciling his benevolence towards men, expressed in the Mu'tazila belief that God always did what is best for the humans with suffering of the innocent in the world.
With regard to adults, it was believed that suffering could be a punishment for some sins which are being punished in this world, or it could be a test of believer's faith and patience, and in the second case it would be amply rewarded in the next life, so that sometimes God may cause a person to suffer in this world so as to reward him in the next. But none of these theories could apply to the suffering of children, because not being responsible for their actions, they could not sin, and because no duties are imposed on them, they have nothing for what to be rewarded.
If an earlier view saw children as being automatically accepted to heaven, later, noting the difference between them and the adults who have deserved reward by their own efforts, saw them as placed in a kind of intermediate place between heaven and hell, just as their status would not make it possible for them to deserve neither. This raised the question of injustice resulting from the fact that had those children been allowed to live, they could have performed the good acts which would take them to Heaven. The most famous illustration of this controversy, not allowing any solution within the boundaries of defined principles of God's purely benficeint nature, is the story of the three brothers.
It was preserved as evidence of the victory of the 'Ashari school over the Mu'tazila, but it is thought by some contemporary scholars to be evidence of a split between the schools of Basra and Baghdad. Impact on Judaism Now it is time to look at the impact of the ideas described above at the Jewish philosophers. The geographical factor comes into play here.
A large and significant community of Jews resided in Babylonia ever since the exile. When the area became a centre of the new empire, Jewish activity increased and their presence became noticeable in all the new centres of administration and culture. Coming into close contact with all the advances of learning occurring around them, they too were affected by this process. Questions debated by the Muslim theologians were of much applicability to Judaism, which had not dealt with religion in philosophical manner before.
The processes of reconsidering religion in the light of new learning began rapidly. The forerunners in this process were the Karaites. They were the first to subject religion to the scrutiny of rationalism. Having rejected Talmud and the wisdom of the Rabbis, they were at liberty to reinterpret the Bible in accordance with the demands of the new age. This largely meant succumbing to the pressure of Muslim criticism.
Husik writes: " The Rabbanites being staunch adherents of the Talmud, The Karaites are less scrupulous; and as they were the first among the Jews to imitate the Mu'tazila in the endeavor to rationalize Jewish doctrine, they adopted their views in all details, and it is sometimes impossible to tell from the contents of a Karaite Mu'tazilite work whether it was written by a Jew or a Mohammedan.
XXV I have decided not to concentrate on the Karaites because of their limited importance to the mainstream Jewish thought, and to exclude Maimonides from this overview, not so much because in his time it is questionable if the Mu'tazila school had existed at all, and its ideas have long been officially rejected and replaced among the Muslims, but because of his conscious rejection of their views and methods. It is unquestionable that those early rationalists did make an impact on him as well as on almost any other Jewish scholar, both via the writings of the Arab philosophers, and, to a much greater extend, through the work of Saadia Gaon, who laid foundations of the Jewish rationalist theology, largely "turning the tide" from the mythical explanations of the Rabbis, and is thus of special interest for all the future development of Jewish religious philosophy.
Of more interest to theologians were questions of God's unity and attributes, for example, David al-Mukammis devotes two chapters in his work to this, mentioning reward and punishment too. This is because due to plenty of anthropomorphism in the Bible, Jews and Christians were routinely blamed for anthropomorphism by the Muslims, who have largelyS rejected it since the Mu'atazila, and indeed, simple anthropomorphism was common among the less sophisticated worshippers, as it was widespread among the early Muslims.
From a young age he took part in religious controversies, with the Karaites and later between the authorities of Palestine and Babylonia over fixing of the calendar. As a result of his role in defending the Babylonian side he was made a member of the academy of Sura, the greatest place of religious learning in the Jewish world at the time, and in he was appointed Gaon, the head of the Sura academy.
He died in His "Book of Beliefs and Opinions" was the first systematic presentation of the belief system of Judaism, and as such had established those beliefs more than presented them. This book is patterned along the usual Mu'tazilite lines, with the first part dealing with the nature of God and the second with God's justice.
His ideas are also largely in accordance with the Mu'tazila views and the greatest differences are in sources of the quotes and material used to justify the claims - it is Quran and preceding Muslim authorities for the Muslim Mu'tazila, Bible and the rabbis for Saadia and other Jews. While Watt notices that Arab mentality was easier reconciled with predestinarian ideas, it was clearly not the case for Jews.
All the Jewish philosophers believed in the free will and had to deal with the same antinomies as Muslims. Saadia says: "No one can be held accountable for an act who does not possess freedom of choice and does not exercise this choice. Saadia defends the impossibility of God's compulsion upon humans, and points out that a man is given an equal opportunity to act or to desist. His view that both doing a thing and abstaining from in constitutes an act seems to coincide with the Muslim view of action and desisting from action being rewardable or punishable acts. Accordingly, he separates action from intention, illustrating it by example of a person who breaks the law because of ignorance.
The major obstacle again were the verses in the scripture with clearly predestinarian meaning. Parallel to the Quran, Bible talks about God sealing the hearts and leading astray. A number of such verses refer to the Pharaoh, such as Exodus , "And the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he would not let the children of Israel go". Inconsistency of the accounts about the Pharaoh with the idea of free will has been noticed by the Rabbis, who tried to explain it away by saying that Pharaoh was an exception, because of his exceptional sins.
Saadia has specifically dealt with the passages seeming incompatible with the principle of free will, by classifying them into groups and then explaining each group. The third group deals with the verses about hardening of Pharaoh's heart and the verse in Deutronomy about hardening Sihon's spirit: "For the Lord thy God hardened his spirit". According to Saadia, God gave Pharaoh strength, to withstand all the plagues and survive through all the punishments.
Mu'tazila - reasoning in Islamic theology
This in no way mean that God caused Pharaoh to disobey him. Sihon too needed the such bolstering to survive the terror brought by the news about the Children of Israel. The fourth group in Saadia's classification consists of the verses which describe God as leading men astray, for example Isaiah , "Oh, Lord, why hast Thou made us to go astray from thy ways, and hardened our heart from Thy fear. In common with the Mu'tazila, he explains that such verses do not mean that God caused men to go astray, but rather that he is stating the fact of them having gone astray. In connection to this partucular topic it is interesting to mention the views of Abraham ibn Ezra , a philosopher of later age, and different place, and not as heavily influenced by the Mu'tazila as Saadia.
Yet in some questions, the Mu'tazila impact is still very evident in his writings, and those opinions of his are worth mentioning. Ibn Ezra continues struggle with the same verses. He mentions some other explanations before his own, quoting Saadia's opinion as incorrect. He makes a connection between God allowing men to make choices and the result of their decisions. Letting Pharaoh to harden his own heart, permits the possibility of assigning to God responsibility for Pharaoh's choices. Another explanation hinted that when Pharaoh had made his choice of actions and decided to disobey God, he was permitted to follow that, and in this way, by giving him the power to do as he chose, God hardened his heart.
The verse from Isaiah is discussed by Ibn Ezra largely along the Mu'tazila lines. At first he again mentions the fact that by giving us the freedom of choice in the first place, God allows us to go astray, and thus can be named as the cause of our wrong choices. Another explanation refers to the idea mentioned previously that God would help those who are likely to benefit from his help, but may abandon those whose sins make them unworthy of assistance. It is interesting to note that the last explanation has the support of Rabbinic sayings: "to him who desires to purify himself assistance is given [from haven]" Shabbat, a , and "he who causes the multitude to sum will be given no opportunity to do repentance" M.
Abot V, Another explanation which has relation to the Mu'tazilite ideas is that humans address God in the terms they use for themselves. Because of this they attribute all their actions, even evil ones, to God. This relates to one of the Mu'tazila explanations of the anthropomorphic verses in the Scriptures as those which refer to God in the terms understandable for humans. On the question of the predetermined length of human life, Saadia seems to detach himself from the Muslim answers to the problem.
While the Muslims formulate the general rule on the basis of their sources, Saadia quotes Exodus "The number of thy days I will fulfill". In opposition to the common Muslim view that each man's term of life was directly set by God, he asserted that the length of life was determined by a "power" which a man is given at birth. This "power" may last longer or shorter depending on the circumstances of a man's life, but the events of the life are determined by men themselves, because of their discretionary power, and not by God directly.
It is interesting that in further discussion of this question, Saadia seems to refer implicitly to a Muslim tradition which says that God may increase a man's term as a reward for certain acts of obedience, and parallel to Proverbs "The fear of the Lord prolongeth days but the years of the wicked shall be shortened". While Muslims understood it to mean that due to some actions God predetermined a man to do, the man's term of life is predetermined as the term it would have been had he not done these acts, plus or minus that added or taken away as a reward or punishment for the acts of obedience or disobedience.
For Saadia, the actions a man will perform are certainly not predetermined, he does them on his own will and may be rewarded or punished for those acts by extending or decreasing his life, but only at God's discretion to enforce this particular form of punishment.
Because he is not bound by the inexorable term of life as understood by Muslims, but rather see it as subject to the natural circumstances, he is free from the controversial problems of murders and accidents. His discussions of this topic were continued by Hai Gaon, who appears to have received a large number of responsa questions from other Jews disturbed by the Muslim polemic. At some points he comes closer to the understanding of the Muslim theologians, believing in an individual term of life for each man, but unlike the Muslims, he understands this term of life to be known to God but not caused by that knowledge.
He seems to take off from Saadia's explanations, paying more attention to the questions not discussed by Saadia. The three questions discussed by him are about a murdered person, about people who die in a disaster in large numbers and how could a murderer be held responsible for his actions if they were preordained by God.
In his answer to the first question, Hai Gaon gives an option that it is both possible that a man would die at the same time anyway, and it is also possible that he would live to complete his term, in both cases the length of his life would be known to God. This answer implies that he differs with Muslims, denying the inexorable term of life, and while affirming the more orthodox Muslim view of God's foreknowledge, he differs in seeing this knowledge as non-causative, not infringing on human free will.
In the answer to the second question he makes distinction between a multitude of people dying as a result of a disaster, and those dying as a result of God's punishment. In the first case his answer is the same as in the first question, in the second case, those people would not have died at this time otherwise.
Of course, he answers to the third question that the fact that a man's life was to be ended at that moment does not make a murderer who killed a man on his own free will any less guilty. The question of God's sustenance, even though discussed by Saadia did not present such a great problem in Judaism, because it did not have the same concept as Islam of all sustenance being provided by God. But due to his interest in the question, Saadia makes a case which presents a similar problem to the Islamic one, i.
The solution, again, lies in the exercise of free will by the thief, who is in no way compelled by God to do his act. In the question of suffering of the good and prosperity of the evil people, Saadia proposes a theory that a righteous person is likely to be punished by God for his minor sins in this life, while a wicked person is likely to be rewarded for his few good deeds in this life, so that nothing would prevent their reward or punishment in the afterlife.
It is important to note, that at this stage the question of the suffering of innocents was going through the second round of discussion in Judaism, the whole book of Job being devoted to this question, where it is solved from a different angle than in the later discussions. Discussions of the book of Job, which can be traced along centuries, are the best illustration in the change of methods of approach to theological questions in different times and places.
It is clear from this overview that there was an intellectual exchange of profound importance between Jews and their Muslim neighbours in the cultural centres of the Abbasid Caliphate. Where it did not lead to direct borrowing of dogmas and definitions, it helped to formulate questions. It empowered Jewish scholars with the new methods of enquiry, and moulded a new form of religious outlook, which partly lasted to the present day, defining ideology of Judaism.
Defenders of reason in Islam , R. Martin and M. Woodward with Dwi Atmaja, Oneworld, 2. Watt, Oneworld, 3. Repercussions of the Kalam in Jewish Philosophy , H. Wolfson, Harvard University Press, 4. Husik, New York, 6. The Meaning of the Glorious Quran , M. Pickthall, Dar Al-Faihaa 8. A Short History of Islam , W. Watt, Oneworld, 9. Islamic Philosophy and Theology , W.
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A note to page 11 The distinction in Jewish-Muslim definitions of good and evil have survived to the present day. Translation of good and evil into the relative concepts defined by God through revelation limits good to the bounds of Islam. This means that only the good deeds done by a Muslim in obedience to Allah's command are deserving of reward.
In Judaism, no such exclusivist complex have ever defined the mainstream. If good and evil were absolute, and even binding on God himself, there was nothing to exclude any human being, endowed by God with discretion between right and wrong, to perform rewardable acts. Mu'tazila, who saw good and evil as general categories, were pushed to admit reluctantly that a non-Muslim was capable of earning his reward and entering paradise. A note to pp.
The Muslim tradition on which this idea is based names "acts of obedience " as a cause of such reward. The clear implication is that the good acts for which a man is rewarded are those carried out in obedience to Allah's will, as expressed in Islam. Saadia, when discussing the same question, agrees that the term of human life can be extended as a reward for his "acts of righteousness ". For example Al-Taftazani, in his commentary on Nasafi's creed, often discusses things such as physics, succession to Muhammad, rudimentary political philosophy and even touches on some topics in jurisprudence, such as on mujtahids.
Secondly, Sharastani uses terms such as 'the kalam of Aristotle' and other figures, such as Averroes, Ibn Khaldun and Maimonadies also use the term mutakallimun in ways that imply that it was not just reserved for Muslims; Yahya Ibn Adi refers to Christian mutakallimun. Wolfson also points out that the hellenic term for psychist is translated in Arabic as 'Ashab Al-Kalam Al-Tabi'i masters of the kalam of physics. Personally, I feel that the term 'kalam' was initially used for any kind of scholastic discourse that's subject was not necessarily fiqh or hadith. I also think its a mistake to jump ahead to Mutazili'ah and see them as the first real Muslim philosophers, it overlooks many of their predecessors, such as the Murji'ah, who often discussed and approached simmilar issues as Wasil and his followers did.
So, it is a well-attested usage even if potentially confusing. Gregor Schwarb and Sabine Schmitdke and her team have done a lot of work on this.
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