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Altmann Saadya's Conception of the Law

Altmann Saadya's Conception of the Law

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SAADYA'S
CONCEPTION
OF THE
LAW.
BY
DR.
LEXANDER ALTMANN.
S
ADYA
B.
JOSEF
ALFAWMI
(892-942),
the
in-
augurator of medieval Jewish scholasticism, was the first todivide the body of the Biblical laws into two distinct classes,those demanded by Reason and those which derived theirauthority from Revelation only? This distinction holds animportant place in the history of Jewish philosophy, and, as we
'6
hope to show, in the history of Europeanenlightenment
"
ingeneral. We propose to analyse Saadya's conception with aview to determining more exactly its historical position.Saadya's theory must be viewed against the background ofIslamic
"
Aufklarung
"
in the tenth century. Outwardly con-sidered, it looks like a compromise between the positions of theAsh'ariya and Mu'tazila. The Ash'ariya, clinging to the mysticalconcept of the Kuran and stressing its eternity and Divinity (inanalogy to the Christian Logos), would not allow Reason to judgethe Divine Law. The laws prescribed by the Kuran are theoutflow of God's arbitrary will. They are not to be measuredby rational standards.
If
God had willed, he could have given anentirely different Law. The Mu'tazilites rebelled against suchtyranny of the idea of Reveldtion. They proclaimed Reason thesole arbiter over the validity of the Law.
A
law was good, notbecause it was revealed by God, but it was revealed
by
God becauseit was good, an utterance which echoes the deepeisentiments ofCreek thought.= Moreover, it is in full accord
with
the Creek
l
The rational laws are termed
U
Hebr.
ni*hw),
the revelationallaws
i;cr,
(Hebr.
nl*~nw).
Cf.
Kit& al-Amhit ~~'l-l'ti~ddit,
d.
S.
Landauer, Leiden,
1880
(quoted as
Amhat),
pp.
1
14
ff.
(in Judah ibn Tibbon'sHebrew Version,
niY7;rl
nu'lDx;r
1DD
,
ed. Sluck;, Leipzig,
1864,
pp.
59
ff.)
;
Version
Arabe
du Pentateuque
(quoted as
Pent.),
ed.
J. Ddrenbourg. Paris,
1893.
pp.
3-4;
Version
Arabe
des
Prowrbes
(quoted
as
Prou.),
ed.
J.
DCrenbourg-
M.
Lambert, Pans,
1894,
pp.
3-4.
For the literature on the subject see
H.
Malter.
Saadia
Gaon,
His
Life
nd
Work.
Philadelphia,
1921,
p.
208,
n.
479.
a
Cf. I.
Coldziher.
Vorlesungen
idm
d.
Islama, 1925,
pp.
98-101
;
A.
J.
Wensinck,
The
Muslim Creed, 1932,
pp.
214-215.
320
 
SAADYA'S
CONCEPTION
OF
THE
LAW
321
notion of Natural Law which, in its Stoic form, exercised
a
profound influence on the Mu'tazilite schoo1s.l Saadya, individing the rational and purely revelational laws, and recognisingboth, seems to have steered a middle course in this great Islamiccontr~versy.~But his attitude was necessitated not so much bya tendency to compromise as
by
the character of the Biblical
Law
which so clearly showed the two separate aspects of morality andritual. Saadya, who, as a teacher of the Law accepted it in itsentirety, had to draw a distinction between the rational and reve-lational laws. Whereas Philo could do without such a distinction,applying as he was an allegorical meaning to the ritual laws ofthe Torah, Saadya, who would not indulge in an allegoricalinterpretation of the ritual laws, had to resort to this distinction,once he accepted the Mu'tazilite principle that Reason was
a
standard by which to measure the Law. His task, then, wastwofold
:
to show the rational character of the so-called
"
rational
9 9
laws
,
and to interpret, within the context of a rational philo-sophy, the second class of Iaws, those of Revelation.
The
methodical problem arising out of his conception of the Law wasthat of the reconciliation of the two principles of Reason andRevelation.
(1)
The
"
rational
Law
".-Saadya's exposition of the rationalLaw is not of one piece. There are inconsistencies, and, as
I
have been able to show in
a
recent study,' Saadya must be pre-
,*
sumed to have dealt with the matter in two separate
"
versions
,
in a pure Mu'tazilite form, and, in addition, from the backgroundof Plato's Psychology and Ethics. But despite this double linein Saadya's conception there remains the outstanding fact thatto him Reason dictated
a
system of laws on its own ground and,logically, prior to Revelation.
(a)
The Mu'tazilite exposition of
"
rational Law ".-Saadyaenumerates three distinctly rational laws
;
those of gratitude,
Cf.
H.
H.
Schaeder in
ZDMG
1 925).
Vol.
79,
pp.
193-197, in the
name
of
L.
Massignon.
Cf.
J. Cuttmann,
Die Religionsphilosophie
d.
Saadia,
1882,
p.
133.
"
I;lalubt ham-migvot
le-Rabbenu
Saadya
Caon," in
R.
Saadya
Gm,
ed.
J.
L.
Fishman, Jerusalem, 1943,
pp.
658-673.
21
 
322
THE
JOHN RYLANDS
LIBRARY
reverence and social conduct, from which, in turn, he derives alarge number of specified laws. The stereotyped formula used
'
"
1
by him to introduce these laws isReason demands.
.
.
.
Cod has implanted in our Reason the cognition of what is laud-able and blameworthy with regard to our actions. It is mostsignificant that the list of these
"
rational
"
laws is headed bythe example of gratitude, which Saadya regards
as
the root ofall forms of religious devotion. In the controversy betweenMu'tazila and Ash'ariya,
"
gratitude
"
is the classical exampleadduced by the Mu'tazila in order to demonstrate the rationalcharacter of moral ~ognition.~ he fact that Saadya opens hisexposition of the rational laws by citing the example of gratitudeis important, not only because it illustrates the extent to whichSaadya is under the spell of Mu'tazilite thought, but also becauseit sheds light on the meaning of this multi-coloured term,
"
Reason
"
('aql). Reason demanding gratitude can only mean
a
natural moral instinct, not Reason in any sense of logic. This isexactIy the Mu'tazilite conception of Reason as an organ of moral
'
judgment.
It
denotes man's natural gift, his mental equip-ment by
birth
"
(jfra),'
and is tantamount to the Stoic notion ofman's nature of Reason.
It
expresses, as Wensinck
has
ex-plained, the Mu'tazilite doctrine of natural religion. Everychild is, according to this doctrine, a Muslim by birth, grantingthat Islam is a rational religion.4 In stating that Cod has im-planted the cognition of certain moral values in Man's Reason,'Saadya clearly expresses the same idea. There seems to be noclash, in this view, between Nature and Reason. The example
I
eb
5)
f.
Arnhdt,
pp.
1
13-1 14
(pp.
58-59)
a
Cf.
Al-~harast~
d.
aarbriicker). I, pp.
41.44.59.72.74.82, 110.3%
1
M.
Horten,
Die phil. Probleme
d.
SpeAylat Theologie
i.
Islam,
1910,
p.
257;
Cuttmann,
1.c..
p.
133,
n.
2.
'
f.
Wensinck,
1.c..
pp.
214-215, 261
;
H. Malter,
"
Mediaeval HebrewTerms for Nature." in
Judaica,
Festschrift
z.
H.
Cohen's
70.
Ceburtstag.
1912,
pp.
253
ff.
"f.
Wensinck,
1.c.
In another tradition
firs
denotes the pre-Islamicreligion which
has
its origin in the revelation to
Adam.
Cf.
Wensinck.
1.c.
'Cf.
rnhdt.
p.
115:
4-1
W+
j
,i
4
jYL
0.b
j.
3
3,
bbl
Up
j
j
&
2
4
$,
(P
59
:
nlsnw n5xa
~IY
ki
aw
ubw2
YP~
nn i9n~nwnn
T~Y
31 ,ina'lt) uhwa
YD~
2).

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