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Al- Ghazali , the Transcendence of God, and the Primacy of Law in Islam PowerPoint Presentation
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Al- Ghazali , the Transcendence of God, and the Primacy of Law in Islam

Al- Ghazali , the Transcendence of God, and the Primacy of Law in Islam

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Al- Ghazali , the Transcendence of God, and the Primacy of Law in Islam

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  1. Al-Ghazali, the Transcendence of God, and the Primacy of Law in Islam Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy, Dr. Sebastian Mahfood Spring 2011

  2. Thesis: “The total transcendence of God and the occasionalism and Sufism of al-Ghazali necessitate the primacy of sharia within Islam” Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy, Dr. Sebastian Mahfood Spring 2011

  3. How is one to know the will of God? Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  4. Two Sources Christianity recognizes two sources of knowledge about God; direct revelation (completely in Christ), and the natural order discernable by reason. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  5. Two Sources “Beyond the witness to himself that God gives in created things…God has revealed himself fully by sending his own Son” -Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 70 & 73 Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  6. How does man come to know what God wills? & Revealed Divine Law Natural Law Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  7. Natural Law as Participation in the Eternal Law “…the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light. It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature's participation of the eternal law.” -Summa Theologica II.91.2 Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  8. Natural Law as Participation in the Eternal Law Christianity affirms that rational man is capable of discerning what God wills, not only by direct revelation, but by a “participation” in the Eternal Law that springs from the mind of God. In other words, affirming Natural Law as a discernable source of knowing God’s will means that the rational creature is capable of knowing what God wills without God directly revealing it. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  9. Natural Law as Participation in the Eternal Law Thus, discernment of the natural law presupposes that God is in some way knowable by the rational creature and that the natural world bears some similitude to God. If He is in no way knowable, then neither can his will be discerned apart from direct revelation. The next question that arises then is “to what extent is man capable of knowledge about God?” Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  10. The Primacy of Religious Law (sharia) in Islam In his chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology, Abd-Allah notes that “Islam is ‘ruled by law’.  It is not theocratic but nomocratic in nature, and the religious law which underpins this is all-embracing” (237).  Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  11. The Primacy of Religious Law (sharia) in Islam  The emphasis on religious law (sharia) in Islam stems from a number of sources and its relationship to both kalam and falsafa as understood by various Arabic philosophers and Islamic jurists is not always consistent.  Nevertheless, nearly all seem to afford sharia a primacy within the practice of Islam. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  12. The Primacy of Religious Law (sharia) in Islam Being a scholar within Islam meant primarily to be an expert in law, and jurists were seen not only as legal practitioners but as “successors to the Prophet” (Abd-Allah 237).  In other words, there is an inherent relationship between sharia and Quranic revelation.  Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  13. The Primacy of Religious Law (sharia) in Islam One such legal scholar was Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad Ghazali (d. 1111).   Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  14. al-Ghazali (Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad Ghazali) Al-Ghazali was schooled in madrasas, the religious colleges that focused on Islamic law and would later write a major work on Islamic law, The Choice Essentials of the Principles of Religion (Marmura 138).  His strong background and focus in Islamic law seems to have a kind of ripple effect throughout his later thought. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  15. al-Ghazali (Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad Ghazali) Abd-Allah makes a point of saying that after al-Ghazali, any separation between law and kalam that had previously existed among Arabic philosophers all but disappeared, to the extent that “…many jurists and jurisprudents came to regard kalam as the principal underpinning of legal speculation, even to the extent that they regarded jurisprudence as a branch of theology” (247). Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  16. al-Ghazali (Abu Hamid Muhammad ibn Muhammad Ghazali) The fact that Islamic jurisprudence came to be regarded as a branch of kalam seems to indicate that there exists an essential connection between law and an understanding of God’s very nature. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  17. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites Al-Ghazali subscribed to the Ash’arite school of thelogy and to Sufi mysticism. The Ash’arites were primarily concerned with the concept of the attributes of God, and primarily the will of God. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  18. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites Ash’arite theology posits atomism, the notion that the material world is a collection of indivisible and unconnected parts that requires being continually and directly held together by God. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  19. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites Because of this, Ash’arite theology further posits that, since God is the only cause in the world (there are no secondary causes), the world is annihilated and created in every event since each and every event or effect requires a new act of creation by God. If God did not directly will and cause an effect, it could not have occurred. This is known as “occassionalism”. (Nasr, 130) Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  20. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites For al-Ghazali, even what seem to be real secondary causes are in fact instances of God’s direct causation. Marmura explains, “The connection of [cause and effect] is due to the prior decree of God who creates them side by side” (146). There is no real necessary causal connection between things, since, because of God’s power and freedom of will, any effect perceived of as necessarily following a cause could have been otherwise. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  21. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites Al-Ghazali gives his famous example of fire igniting cotton. What we see is the fire touching the cotton and then the cotton being reduced to ashes. We wrongly assume that there is thus a necessary causal relationship between fire burning and the cotton being burned. In fact, these two events merely occur alongside one another, while it is God Who intervenes directly causing the cotton to ignite (Marmura 146). Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  22. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites This seems to be the necessary conclusion of atomism. If the material world is merely a collection of unrelated and disconnected parts (atoms), then groupings of atoms (such as what we might call “fire”) can no more act on another grouping of atoms (what we might call “cotton”) than can two individuals in separate rooms shake hands. God’s direct intervention is necessary. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  23. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites Nasr insightfully points out that this resembles the atheistic atomism of the scientific “enlightenment”, though in a “vertical” form, while modern materialism posits only “horizontal” causes. In Ash’arite theology, God is necessary for causation since there are no secondary (“horizontal”) causes, while in atheistic scientism, ONLY secondary causes exist and there is no God, and hence no need for “vertical” causes. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  24. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites This seems to remove any possibility for recognizing real “natures” in things since things have no real causality. God’s total freedom of will and power to cause an event other than what He has previously habitually caused to be so renders the human intellect incapable of assuming that it can know what God wills through insight into the natural order. Hence, direct revelation from God is necessary for the human intellect to come to knowledge of what God wills. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  25. al-Ghazali & the Ash’arites For what I believe to be the Natural Law implications of this, see Daniel Petruccio’s project: http://prezi.com/qj7l8wbohzuv/copy-of-arabic-philosophy-project-dan-petruccio/ Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  26. al-Ghazali Al-Ghazali went through a period of skepticism about the ability to trust his sense and his reason.  What can man be certain of?  While he admits that this skepticism lasted only about two months, it could be seen one wonders if his distrust of both reason and his senses led al-Ghazali toward reliance on the will of God, also a special point of focus for the Ash’arites. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  27. al-Ghazali This is consistent with the Ash’asrite adherence to the second horn of Euthyphro’s dilemma, namely that a thing is good because God wills it.  “The Good” is wrapped up in and dependent upon what God wills.  This seems to necessitate a focus on sharia not only in personal devotion but in all spheres.  So a question arises then, “what is it about God’s will that demands such a singular focus?” Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  28. al-Ghazali This brings us back to importance of law within Islam. If “the Good” is completely contingent upon the will of God (as we even seen with causation in the natural world), and God’s will is completely free and unbound, then, as Bernard G. Weiss writes, “…any reversals of divine commands [are] theoretically impossible. Quite obviously, this way of thinking was inhospitable to the development of any notion of natural law in Islam (35). Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  29. al-Ghazali the Sufi Al-Ghazali seemed to view both reason and faith as inadequate to come to knowledge of God, leading him to see direct experience with God as the highest form of knowledge about God (Fakhry, 256), or what the Sufis called “taste” (dhawq). Al-Ghazali added a particular nuance to Sufi mysticism, re-interpreting the Sufi notion of individual annihilation (al-fana) in God with “closeness” (qurb) (Marmura, 140). Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  30. al-Ghazali the Sufi For the Sufi mystics (and indeed for the majority of the Arabic philosophers), God is completely unlike anything that can be known by the human intellect. Toby Mayer writes, “…in common with other mystical theologies, [Sufism] strongly inclined to…expressing God through denial, not affirmation, through ‘unsaying’ rather than ‘saying’ (259). Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  31. al-Ghazali the Sufi Also for this reason, abd-Allah notes that “the jurists of Islam were more comfortable with sufism than with rationalistic theology”, since its foundation for the need for mystical experience is the same as that of law, the transcendence of God (253). Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  32. al-Ghazali the Sufi This approach is also seen in other Arabic Philosophers such as in the negative theologies of al-Sijistani, al-Kirmani (see Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy pp. 81-85). Universally, the Arabic philosophers sought to avoid attributing to God similitude to anything else. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  33. al-Ghazali the Sufi While we might think of legalism and mysticism as naturally opposed to one another, Sufi mysticism also placed importance on law.  As we have seen, al-Ghazali, was both a lawyer and a Sufi.  For the Ash’arites, God’s will is so free that there is no necessary relationship between human action and reward and punishment.  Rather, the divine law exists in order to give human beings a glimpse of what God will reward and what He will punish.  But God is not bound to do so.  Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  34. al-Ghazali the Sufi The law then, exists as a kind of promise, ensuring for human beings that this particular action will be rewarded and that will not.  It is not in the human capacity to know this other than by divine decree, since there is no necessary relationship between human action and divine rewards and punishments and since God is totally free.  Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  35. Sufism, Occasionalism, and Jurisprudence Converge in al-Ghazali These unlikely foci of the theology of al-Ghazali converge harmoniously if we recognize what they seem to have in common: the non-similitude of God to anything else. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  36. In Brief… • Al-Ghazali embodied the threads running through kalam and falsafa that necessitated the primacy of sharia within Islam. • Sufism posits the unknowability of God save from direct experience (taste). • Ash’arite occassionalism denies secondary causality, necessitating direct causation by God for all events. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  37. In Brief…(cont.) • The Ash’arite focus on the Divine attributes, especially the will of God, derives from their voluntaristic occassionalism. • Islamic legal scholars (such as al-Ghazali) were more confortable with Sufi theology than rationalistic forms of kalam because the Sufi focus on the inexpresibility of God highlighted the need for God’s will to be known through law. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  38. Conclusion • The total transcendence of God and al-Ghazali’s occassionalism and Sufism blended perfectly in this Islamic legal scholar, such that these ideas converge to emphasize the necessity of sharia within Islam. • God, being totally “other” than anything else, is unknowable apart from His direct intervention (hence the Sufi emphasis on direct experience), while occasionalsim means that His will is inexpressible in anything other than direct speech, thus sharia is the only true source concerning knowledge of God’s will. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011

  39. Bibliography Abd-Allah, Umar F.  “Theological Dimensions of Islamic Law.”  In The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology, edited by Tim Winter, 237-257.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Butterworth, Charles E.  “Ethical and Political Philosophy.”  In The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, edited by Peter Adamson and Richard C. Taylor, 266-286.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Fakhry, Majid. A History of Islamic Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004. Griffel, Frank.  Al-Ghazali’s Philosophical Theology.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Marmura, Michael A.  “Al-Ghazali.”  In The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, edited by Peter Adamson and Richard C. Taylor, 137-154.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Mayer, Toby  “Theology and Sufism.”  In The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology, edited by Tim Winter, 258-287.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

  40. Bibliography (cont.) Nasr, Seyyed Hossein.  Islamic Philosophy from Its Origin to the Present: Philosophy in the Land of Prophecy.  New York: State University of New York Press, 2006. Weiss, Bernard G.  The Spirit of Islamic Law. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2006. Ryan C. Mayer Arabic Philosophy Spring 2011