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Freeing Astronomy from Philosophy: An Aspect of Islamic Influence on Science

Author(s): F. Jamil Ragep and Al al-Qshj


Source: Osiris, 2nd Series, Vol. 16, Science in Theistic Contexts: Cognitive Dimensions (2001),
pp. 49-64+66-71
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fromPhilosophy
FreeingAstronomy
on Science
An AspectofIslamicInfluence
By F JamilRagep*

I. INTRODUCTION

IF

research,
onemaynote
inhistorical
ONE IS ALLOWED to speakofprogress
between
withwhichtherelationship
thegrowing
sophistication
withsatisfaction
model,the
scienceandreligionhas beenexaminedin recentyears.The "warfare"
idealhavebeensubjectedto critical
andthe"partnership"
paradigm,
"separation"
evidence.As JohnHedleyBrookehas
and theglaringlightof historical
scrutiny
of sciencehas revealedso
in thehistory
noted,"Seriousscholarship
so astutely
betweenscienceandreligioninthe
richandcomplexa relationship
extraordinarily
thismorenuanced
to sustain."1
Unfortunately,
pastthatgeneralthesesaredifficult
approachhasnotbeenas evidentin studiesofIslamandscience.Thoughtherehas
on therelationbetweenscienceand religionin Isbeensomeseriousscholarship
thegeneralaccountsorthegeneral
lam,2suchworkhasmadebarelya dentineither
tobe characterized
continue
byreducTheselatter
ofthatrelationship.
perceptions
andbarelymaskedagendas.3
apologetics,
tionism,
essentialism,
*Department
ofOklahoma,601 Elm St.,Room622,Norman
ofScience,University
oftheHistory
OK 73019
inthe
on ScienceandTechnology
atthe"Symposium
Earlierversionsofthisessaywerepresented
of
oftheHistory
June1994) andattheOctober1994meeting
andIslamicWorld"(Istanbul,
Turkish
andsuggestions
comments
ScienceSocietyinNew Orleans.My sincerethankstothosewhooffered
all of whomhelpedin myown "deliverance
reviewers,
on bothoccasionsand to twoanonymous
fromerror."
I JohnHedleyBrooke,Scienceand Religion:Some HistoricalPerspectives
(Cambridge:CambridgeUniv.Press,1991),p. 5.
and Subsequent
2 Two worksthatdeserveespecialmention
areA. I. Sabra,"The Appropriation
Hist. Sci. 25
Statement,"
of Greek Science in Medieval Islam: A Preliminary
Naturalization
andLogic:StudiesinArabicScienceandPhiin idem,Optics,Astronomy
(1987):223-43 (reprinted
Transformation,
Transmission,
1994],no. 1, and in Tradition,
U.K.: Variorum,
losophy[Aldershot,
ed. E JamilRagep and Sally P. Ragep [Leiden:Brill,1996],pp. 3-27); andA. I. Sabra,"Science
derArabisch-Islamischen
Geschichte
inMedievalIslamicTheology,"
andPhilosophy
Zeitschriftfiur
9 (1994):1-42.DavidKingandGeorgeSalibahavealso madevaluablecontributions
Wissenschaften
(in workscitedlaterinthenotes).
I Threefairly
viewvastlydifferent
theyrepresent
Although
thepointnicely.
recentbooksillustrate
points,PervezHoodbhoy(Islamand Science[London:Zed, 1991]),TobyHuff(TheRise ofEarly
Univ.Press,1993]),andS. H. Nasr(Scienceand CivilizaCambridge
ModernScience[Cambridge:
tocenmovefromcentury
IslamicTextsSociety,1987])blithely
tioninIslam,2nded. [Cambridge:
eventor
historical
visionto whatever
turyandfromregionto region,applyingtheirownparticular
religiousfanatiwhois confronting
a contemporary
physicist
personagecomestheirway.Hoodbhoy,
to be thedominantaspectof scienceand religionin
cism in Pakistan,findsreligiousfanaticism
thatsciencecouldhavearisenonlyin theWest,
Islam.Huff,a sociologistintenton demonstrating
0369-7827/01/1601-0001$2.00
reserved.
? 2001 byThe HistoryofScienceSociety.All rights
Osiris,2001, 16:00-00

49

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50

F. JAMIL RAGEP

remain
ofsources,manyofwhichunfortunately
examination
Butevena cursory
various
ofopinioninIslamregarding
diversity
revealsa remarkable
in manuscript,
to
whichmakesattempts
betweenscienceandreligion,
aspectsoftherelationship
Andtheinflutowardscienceespeciallyfoolhardy.
an "Islamic"attitude
generalize
number
ofIslamuponscience,andviceversa,tooka surprising
enceofthereligion
froma modemviewpoint.4
"progressive"
unexpectedly
sometimes
offorms,
centuandninth
founda homeinIslamintheeighth
astronomy
WhenHellenistic
waysto fitintothisnewdomicile.Thereare
riesA.D., itwas adaptedin numerous
onhowIslam-underbuthereI concentrate
manyreasonsforthistransformation,
thecourseofastronomy.
andinfluenced
andritual-affected
stoodas bothdoctrine
case inwhich
andthenexaminea specific
oftheseinfluences
I first
giveanoverview
natural
oftheAristotelian
onthecompatibility
discourse
onecanseehowa religious
pushing
astronomy,
theoretical
madeitselffeltwithin
worldandGod'somnipotence
andmetaphysics.
natural
philosophy
from
independence
itinvariousdegreestoward
views
divergent
butrather
I suggestthattherewas no single"Islamic"viewpoint,
Thoughitis
factors.
andindividual
ofhistorical,
intellectual,
arisingfroma variety
betweenviewsofIspointto similarities
notthefocusoftheessay,I occasionally
cothatmaynotbe completely
lamicscholarsandtheirEuropeanpeers,similarities
incidental.
II. OVERVIEW OF THE RELATION BETWEEN HELLENISTIC
ASTRONOMY AND ISLAM

twodistinct
waysin whichreligiousinfluence
one can identify
Broadlyspeaking,
togive
itselfinmedievalIslamicastronomy.
First,therewastheattempt
manifested
intheservice
whatDavidKinghascalled"astronomy
valuetoastronomy,
religious
the"handmaiden
another
context,
alsocallthis,toappropriate
ofIslam."(Onemight
showsup is in the
The secondgeneralwayin whichreligiousinfluence
rationale.")
as possible,inordertoensure
neutral
as metaphysically
tomakeastronomy
attempt
As we shallsee, sometookthis
challengeIslamicdoctrine.
thatit didnotdirectly
butalso stripped
hadnotonlytobe reconceived
astronomy
tomeanthatHellenistic
baggage.
ofitsphilosophical
in the
"astronomy
at thefirst
typeof influence,
Let us beginbylookingbriefly
couldanddidprovidethefaithful
(at leastthosewho
serviceofIslam."Astronomy
fordetermining
times,
tablesandtechniques
prayer
withextensive
wereinterested)
oftherationalist
toshowthat"therewasan absence[inIslamiccivilization]
unconvincingly
attempts
thatoccurredinearlymodem
thebreakthroughs
prevented
viewofmanandnature"thateffectively
Europe(p. 88). Nasr,whowishesto pointthewayto a new "Islamicscience"thatwouldavoidthe
he looksin thepast
science,findswherever
mistakesofWestern
anddespiritualizing
dehumanizing
so muchso thateventhough"all thatis astroandantisecular,
an Islamicsciencethatwas spiritual
intheschoolofal-Tus!''Islamicastronomers
can be foundessentially
newinCopernicus
nomically
"becausethatwould
Ptolemaiccosmology,
enoughnotto breakwiththetraditional
wereprescient
philosophical
butalso an upheavalin thereligious,
in astronomy,
havemeantnotonlya revolution
producedintheEast
endemicinIslamicstudieswhether
andsocialdomains"(p. 174).Essentialism,
contextseemsan especially
theseworks.Huff,forwhomhistorical
orWest,is pervasivethroughout
Khomeinitomedievaljuristsandbackagain
tomovefromAyatollah
alienconcept,does nothesitate
Falwellto analyzeThomasAquinas.
(p. 203), akintousingJerry
by B. F Musallamin his Sex and Societyin Islam (Cambridge:Cam4An exampleis provided
Islamicjurists
theuse ofancientsourcesbynumerous
bridgeUniv.Press,1983),wherehedocuments
and abortion;see especiallypp. 39-59.
of variousstripesto bolstertheirsanctionof contraception

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FREEING ASTRONOMY FROM PHILOSOPHY

51

forfinding
thesacreddirection
ofMecca,forcalculating
thebeginning
ofRamadan
offasting),
(themonth
andso on.SinceMuslimritualcouldhavesurvived
perfectly
well without
theastronomers
(does God reallydemandthatone prayto withina
minuteor less of arc?),it does nottaketoo greata leap of imagination
to realize
thatthis"serviceto religion"was reallyreligion's
serviceto theastronomers,
both
Muslimandnon-Muslim,5
ontheonehanda degreeofsociallegitimation
providing
andon theothera setofinteresting
mathematical
problems
to solve.6
Onemayalso findinstances
ofa different
typeof"service"thatastronomy
could
provide,namelyto revealthegloryof God'screation,
a pointmadeby no less a
thefourteenth-century
personagethanIbn al-Shatir,
of theUmayyad
timekeeper
Mosque in Damascus.7This typeof servicewas notnew withIslam,of course;
Ptolemy,
Plato,andAristotle,
amongothers,saw astronomy
as a waytowardthe
divine(thoughin practice,
thismeantsomething
different
foreach of
admittedly,
ButifI weretohazardherea particular
"Islamic"influence
anddifference,
I
them).8
on"God'screation"
wouldsaythatitis intheemphasis
rather
thanonsomePlatonic,
Islamicastronomers
werethusless disposedtowardthetwootherworldly
reality.
tieredreality
thatone seesinNeoplatonists
suchas Proclus(d. A.D.485) orevenin
IfI amright
aboutthisdifference,
itwouldgo a longwaytoward
himself.9
Ptolemy
one findsin Ptolemyabouttherealityof his
thesurprising
explaining
ambiguity
modelsand themuchmorerealistapproachtakengenerally
planetary
by Islamic
I An exampleof a non-Muslim,
whoworked"in theserviceof Islam"
indeedpagan,astronomer
see R6gis
on crescentvisibility;
is ThabitibnQurra(d. A.D. 901), who wroteat leasttwotreatises
(Paris:BellesLettres,1987),pp. XCIII-XCVI.
Morelon,ThdbitibnQurra:(Euvresd'astronomie
ofresearchdealingwithbothaspects.For sociallegitima6 David Kinghas beenin theforefront
in
tion,see his essay"On theRole of theMuezzinandtheMuwaqqitin MedievalIslamicSociety,"
(cit. n. 2), pp. 285-346, whereKing
Transformation
Transmission,
Ragep and Ragep,Tradition,
(muwaqqit)bothin
and therole of theMosque timekeeper
of timekeeping
discussesthehistory
For moredetailed,technicalstudies,see his
of astronomy.
Islamiccivilizationand in thehistory
1993).
U.K.: Variorum,
intheServiceofIslam(Aldershot,
Astronomy
in whichhe
astronomy
forhis treatiseon theoretical
7Ibn al-Shatiris todaybestremembered
The passage
identicalto onesusedbyCopernicus.
modelsthatarevirtually
astronomical
presented
to hisal-Zfjal-jadid,a bookon practicalastronomy;
occursin theintroduction
referred
to,though,
contexts
see Sabra,"Scienceand Philosophy"(cit.n. 2), pp. 39-40. In additionto thescientific
dedicatedto the
occurs,thereis a religiouscosmologicalliterature
wheresuchpraiseforastronomy
alA StudyofAs-Suyu-itf's
ofGod'screation;see AntonM. Heinen,IslamicCosmology:
glorification
(Beirut:Steiner,1982),especiallypp. 37-52.
as-sunnrya
Hay'a as-saniyafi-l-hay'a
trueRealityin Republic528E-530C,
forfinding
of astronomy
8 Platodiscussestheimportance
extolsthestudyof
theDivineinLaws 820E-822C; Ptolemy
especially530A,andforunderstanding
themandreforming
loversof thisdivinebeauty,accustoming
formaking"itsfollowers
astronomy
s Almagest,trans.and annot.G. J.
theirnatures,as it were,to a similarspiritualstate"(Ptolemy
he is not
is a bitmoremundane,
1984],1.1, p. 37). ThoughAristotle
Toomer[NewYork:Springer,
hisstudyofthecelestialaetherwiththedivine(De Caelo,1.3,especially270b6aversetoassociating
ofdivinebeings
thenumber
resultsforascertaining
theuse ofastronomers'
12) nortorecommending
XII.8, 1073b1-17).
(Metaphysics,
9 Thismanifests
betweenhumanbeings,whocan onlyapproxiitselfwithProclusin hiscontrast
therealityof
regarding
andthegods,whoalonecan knowit,andin hisambivalence
matethetruth,
by
andepicycles.Thispositionwas called"instrumentalist"
modelssuchas eccentrics
astronomical
butdeeplyflawedSavingthePhenomena("YOZEIN TA OAINOPierreDuhemin his influential
4th
MENA: Essai surla notionde th6oriephysiquede Platona Galil6e,"Ann.Philo. Chrnienne,
ser.,6 (1908):113-39,277-302,352-77,482-514, 561-92; issuedin book form[Paris:Hermann,
Paris:Vrin,1982]; Englishedas To Save thePhenomena:An Essay on theIdea of
1908; reprinted
fromPlato to Galileo,trans.EdmundDoland and ChaninahMaschler[Chicago:
PhysicalTheory
analyzedbyG. E. R. Lloydin
Univ.of ChicagoPress,1969]).Duhem'sviewshavebeencarefully
with
Cl. Quart.,n. s.,28 (1978):202-22,especiallypp.204-11(reprinted
"SavingtheAppearances;"
CambridgeUniv.
in idem,Methodsand Problemsin GreekScience[Cambridge:
newintroduction

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52

F. JAMILRAGEP

ofthemtoattempt
I shouldadd,thatleda largenumber
astronomers-an
approach,
acceptablemodels.10
morephysically
toreform
Ptolemy
byproposing
in theserviceof Islam.Let us nowmoveon to those
So muchforastronomy
neutral"
astronomy.
Thefirst
religious
influences
thatledtoa more"metaphysically
objectionable
partofHelleexampleneednotdetainus. Clearlythemostreligiously
whichseemedto givepowersto thestarsthat
nisticastralsciencewas astrology,
in Islamarenotdifficult
to find,
shouldbe reserved
forGod.Attackson astrology
from
butalso,moresurprisingly,
fromreligious
quarters
andtheycame,predictably,
suchas Ibn Sina (= Avicenna[d. A.D. 1037]).It is
someHellenizedphilosophers
notnotedforconventional
religious
piety,
didnothesitate
instructive
thatAvicenna,
fromtheProphet
to bolsterhis case against
to use Qur'anicversesanda tradition
theargument
thateventhosescientists
committed
thistendstostrengthen
astrology;
outlookweresensitive
to religiousobjectionsandwillingto forgo
to a Hellenistic
"I A moresubtleinfluence
canbe detected
intheseparapartsoftheirGreekheritage.
In earlyIslamicastronomical
textsandin works
fromastronomy.
tionofastrology
Hellenistic
andastrology,
standard
following
thesciences,astronomy
categorizing
undera rubricsuchas "scienceofthestars"
practice,
wereusuallylistedtogether
with
Greekterm).Starting
(i.e.,thetransliterated
('ilmal-nujim) orevenastronomia
as a partofnatural
cametobe categorized
philosophy
astrology
Avicenna,
however,
(whichbecameknownas 'ilmal-hay'a)was cate(orphysics),whereasastronomy
As we shallsee,thiswasjustone of
mathematical
discipline.2
gorizedas a strictly
mathematiseveralmoveswhosepurposeseemstohavebeentofreea reconstituted
obtrue,fromthereligiously
cal astronomy,
which,itwasclaimed,wasobjectively
jectionablepartsofGreekphysicsandmetaphysics.
therewerereligious
toastrology,
In addition
tothesepredictable
objecobjections
to Duhemand arguesthatProclus,
Press,1991],pp. 248-77). Lloydprovidesa usefulcorrective
even
astronomy
phenomenal
regarding
had realistattitudes
fora Platonist,
somewhatsurprisingly
should"say goodbyeto the senses"(p. 207; reprint,
whileclaimingthatthe "truephilosopher"
nota Platonist
andcertainly
astronomer
unlikeProclus,Ptolemywas a working
p. 259). Although,
to comparehuman[con(at leastnotin anysimplesense),he does warnthat"itis notappropriate
in theTimaeusthatanyaccount
withdivine"and,withfaintechoesofPlato'sinsistence
structions]
as faras possible,tofit
admitsthat"one shouldtry,
worldis onlya "likelystory,"
ofthephenomenal
to theheavenlymotions,butif thisdoes notsucceed,[one shouldapply
thesimplerhypotheses
instrumentalist
whichdo fit"(Almagest[cit.n. 8], XIII.2, p. 600). Buttheseseemingly
hypotheses]
"that
to theAlmagest,
in theintroduction
shouldbe balancedagainsthis bold confidence,
remarks
knowledgeto itsdevocan providesureand unshakeable
astronomy]
[including
onlymathematics
alongitsway"(p. 36), as wellas againsthis
tees"andthat"thisis thebestscienceto helptheology
Clearlythisaspectof Greekasto providea cosmologyin his PlanetaryHypotheses.
laterattempt
andcosmologydeservesa muchmoreelaborateandseriousstudythanis possiblehere.
tronomy
ofreforming
withtheIslamictradition
0 To connect
certainaspectsofIslamicreligiousdoctrine
exhibited
interest
byIslamicastronmoresubstantial
itselfpartofa seemingly
Ptolemaicastronomy,
would
a truephenomenal
cosmology,
indiscovering
withtheirGreekpredecessors)
omers(compared
hereare
stages.My remarks
studythatis at bestin itspreliminary
historical
requirea significant
hypothesis.
meantsimplyas a working
by bothreligiousand philosophical
discussionof theobjectionsto astrology
For a competent
PlanetaryTheoriesduringtheGolden
writers,
see GeorgeSaliba,A HistoryofArabicAstronomy:
"The
AgeofIslam(NewYork:NewYorkUniv.Press,1994),pp.53-61, 66-72. Cf.IgnazGoldziher,
Islamtowardthe'AncientSciences,"'inStudieson Islam,ed. andtrans.MerofOrthodox
Attitude
lin L. Swartz(New York:OxfordUniv.Press,1981),pp. 185-215,especiallypp. 195-6 (German
Abhandlungen
zu denantiken
Wissenschaften,"
Orthodoxie
original:"Stellungderaltenislamischen
8 (Berlin,1916).
Akademieder Wissenschaften
derKiniglichPreussischen
ofthispoint,see E J.Ragep,Nasfral-Dinal-Taiss MemoironAstronelaboration
I' Fora further
1993),vol. 1,pp. 34-5.
2 vols.(New York:Springer.
onmv,

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FREEING ASTRONOMY FROM PHILOSOPHY

53

as a whole.It is to theseand theireffectsuponIslamic


tionsto Hellenisticastronomy
astronomythatwe now turn.
III. ON SAVING ASTRONOMY

FROM THE TAINT OF PHILOSOPHY

Because it was one of the "ancient sciences" (i.e., pre-Islamic),astronomywas


sometimestarredwiththesame brushthatbesmirchedanyknowledgethatfelloutside thedomainof thereligioussciences.This tainttook severalforms.Therewere
certainlythosewho condemnedall the"ancient"or "foreign"sciences.13On theone
hand,some singledout astronomybecause of itspresumablyclose associationwith
astrologyand even magic.14 Otherssaw itas advancingstrangeand dangerousideas,
such as thenotionof regionswitha midnightsun,whichwas a consequence of the
astronomers'circularmotionsand sphericalbodies. If true,thiswouldmakeitvirtuclimes
ally impossibleundersome circumstancesforMuslims in extremenorthern
Al-GhazalI (d. A.D. 111 1), certainly
to maintainthedaylightfastduringRamadan.'-5
accepts thatthereare partsof astronomy(for
a moresubtleand profoundthinker,
example,thetheoryof solarand lunareclipses) thatare based on apodeicticdemonstrationand are thus"impossibleto deny"; such thingsare, in and of themselves,
unconnectedwithreligiousmatters.However,these "neutral"and trueaspects of
also exists
mathematicsmayseduce theunwarystudentintobelievingthatcertainty
in thephysicaland metaphysicaltheoriesof thephilosophers,some of whichstand
in contradiction
to Islamic religiousdogma. Thus the studyof thesesciences must
be limitedand constrained,for"few thereare who devotethemselvesto thisstudy
withoutbeingstrippedof religionand havingthebridleof godlyfearremovedfrom
theirheads."16
of
But besides thesemoregeneralwarningsagainstastronomyas a representative
morespecificobjection.Ghazahltellsus that
the"ancientsciences,"therewas another,
thatnature
is therecognition
philosophy]
[t]hebasisofall theseobjections[tonatural
in
to God mosthigh,notactingof itselfbutservingas an instrument
is in subjection
to His
are in subjection
thehandsof itsCreator.Sun and moon,starsand elements,
is producedbyor proceedsfromits
Thereis noneof themwhoseactivity
command.
'7
ownessence.
This is partof Ghazall's criticismof whatwe mighttermAristoteliannaturalcausation.
Islam"(cit.n. 11),providesseveralexamples.
ofOrthodox
"TheAttitude
Goldziher,
madebyQadi (Judge)Taj al-Dinal-Subki(14thc.); see DavidKing,"On
Thisis theinsinuation
theRoleoftheMuezzin"(cit.n.6), pp.306-7 (p. 329 fortheArabictext).ForSubki'shostileattitude
reasonfor
oflogic),whichcouldwellbe theunderlying
(withtheexception
towardall ofphilosophy
Islam"(cit.n. 11),p. 207.
ofOrthodox
"TheAttitude
see Goldziher,
hisdisdainofastronomy,
Islam"(cit.n. 11),p. 197.
ofOrthodox
"TheAttitude
5 Cf.Goldziher,
al-Marraq(Tunis:al-Dar
al-Munqidhminal-dalal,ed. 'Abd al-Karlim
6 Abi Hamidal-Ghazali,
Watt,
used hereis fromW Montgomery
1984),pp. 49-52. The translation
li-'l-Nashr,
al-Ttinisiyya
TheFaithand Practiceof al-GhazdlT(London:GeorgeAllen & Unwin,1953),pp. 33-5. Cf. the
and Fulfillment
Freedom
(Boston:Twayne,
byRichardJ.McCarthy,
morerecentEnglishtranslation
discussion
morereliable.Foran informed
lesselegantbutrather
1980),pp.73-4, whichis somewhat
forthecourseofIslamicscience,see Sabra,"Apanditspossibleimplications
ofGhazali'sattitude
(cit.n. 2), pp. 239-41.
Naturalization"
andSubsequent
propriation
(bothcit.n.
byWatt,TheFaithand Practiceofal-Ghaza-lf
p. 54; translation
1' Ghazall,Munqidh,
(cit.n. 16),p. 76. Thispointis closelyrelatedtothe
andFulfillment
Freedom
16),p. 37; cf.McCarthy,
(theologians).
mutakallims
positionoftheAsh'arite
andtotheoccasionalist
issueofcauseandeffect
3

'4

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54

F.JAMILRAGEP
believedtobe a causeandwhatis habitually
between
whatis habitually
Theconnection
is dueto
tous.... Theirconnection
according
is notnecessary,
believedtobe an effect
in
thepriordecreeof God,whocreatesthemsideby side.notto itsbeingnecessary
it is within[divine]powerto create
On thecontrary,
itself,incapableof separation.
decapilifeafter
tocontinue
decapitation,
eating,
tocreatedeathwithout
satiety
without
of
deniedthepossibility
tation,and so on to all connectedthings.The philosophers
[this]andclaimedittobe impossible.'8

This is the well-knownpositionof theAsh'aritetheologians's sometimesreferred


Exactlyhow thismightworkforestablishing,say,
to as Islamic "occasionalism."21"
interestedin) is una science of astronomy(somethingGhazall is notparticularly
hints.For example,in Ghazall's al-Munqidhmin
clear.But thereare some intriguing
al-dalal (Deliverancefromerror),writtenas an intellectualbiographyin the latter
who triesto
partof his life,he warnsagainsttheman,"loyal to Islam butignorant,"
defendthefaithby "thedenial of themathematicalsciences."Such a person"even
rejectstheirtheoryof the eclipse of sun and moon, consideringwhat theysay is
contraryto the sacred Law." Ghazali perceptivelynotes thatsomeone who underof themathematical
proofsinvolvedmightconclude"thatIslam
standsthecertainty
is based on ignoranceand the denial of apodeicticproof" and thatsuch a person
"growsin love forphilosophyand hatredforIslam."AfterquotingtheProphet,Ghazali judges that"thereis nothinghereobligingus to denythescience of arithmetic
whichinformsus in a specificmannerof the pathsof sun and moon, and of their
conjunctionand opposition."?'
WhatGhazali seems to be proposingis an acceptanceof themathematicalaspect
of astronomybut not thephysicalpartof thatdiscipline,whichmightcompel one
to accepta "natural"motionin theheavensthatwas somehowindependentof God's
inasmuchas it would tendto rewill. This view has been called "instrumentalist"
move astronomersfromtheoreticalconsiderationsregardingthecauses of celestial
motionand confinethem,presumably,to mattersof calculation,more likelythan
anotherway, "instrumennot in the service of religion.2 Of course, interpreted
to pursuealternative
hypothesesregardingcelestalism"could also freeastronomers
of the heavens,a pointto which we shall return
tial motionand the configuration
laterin thisessay.23
ed. and trans.MichaelE. Marmura(Provo,
of thePhilosophers,
,xAl-Ghazali,TheIncoherence
Utah:BrighamYoungUniv.Press,1997),p. 170.
(kalam)group
theological
becamethedominant
orso, theAsh'arites
century
19 Fromtheeleventh
traditheatomist
continue
Theydid,though,
amongtheSunniMuslims,succeedingtheMu'tazilites.
approachtophysicalandtheologias wellas, forthemostpart,a rationalist
tionoftheirpredecessors
cal matters.
ofthispositionin thecontextof Islamickalam,see Sabra,"Scienceand
20 For a luciddiscussion
(cit.n. 2); he also comparesitwiththepositionofDescartes(pp. 29-32).
Philosophy"
TheFaithand PracWatt'stranslation,
modified
2' Ghazdlh,
Munqidh,pp. 51-2. I havesomewhat
and Fulfillment
(cit.n. 16),p. 74.
Freedom
(cit.n. 16),pp. 34-5; cf.McCarthy,
ticeofal-GhazdlT
of
andSubsequentNaturalization
has beenlaid outbySabra,"TheAppropriation
22 Thisposition
GreekScience"(cit.n. 2), pp. 238-42.
to theview(heldbyboth
proposespossiblealternatives
23 It is worth
notingthatGhazalihimself
suchas Ptolemy)thattheentireheavenis an animalwitha soul that
and astronomers
philosophers
causes itsmotion.On thislatterview,see Ragep,NasTral-Din (cit.n. 12), vol. 2, pp. 408-10. For
pace Sabra,that
(cit.n. 18),pp. 149-51. The possibility,
see TheIncoherence
Ghazl-l'salternatives,
needsa much
possibilities
as well as instrumentalist
Ghazdl-'spositioncould open up theoretical
viewsregarding
studythanis possiblehere.(Cf.P. Duhem'scontroversial
morecarefulandsustained
ofAristotle.)
ofthemedievalEuropeancondemnations
effects
theliberating

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FREEING ASTRONOMY FROM PHILOSOPHY

55

Ghazali's warningsabout being overlyzealous in condemningall of ancientscience, even the apodeictic parts,indicates that he was tryingto establish some
"middleposition."But whatwas theextremetheologicalposition,and how mightit
work for understandingcelestial phenomena?We learn fromal-QUshj! (d. A.D.
1474), a CentralAsian scientistassociated firstwiththe Samarqand observatory
and laterwiththescientificcommunityof Constantinople(afterits conquestby the
Ottomans),what these may have been. In his major theological(kala-m)work,a
on Nasir al-Din al-Tus!'s Tajrrdal-'aqd'id, he presentswhathe sees as
commentary
some of theabsurdimplicationsof thestandardAsh'aritedenialofnaturalcausation:
itis
Omnipotent,
{thubtt}ofthevolitional
{taqdfr}ofthevalidity
On theassumption
couldbyHis will{irada} darkentheface
Omnipotent
conceivablethatthevolitional
oftheEarthandlikewise
theinterposition
oftheMoonduringa lunareclipsewithout
of
theinterposition
duringa solareclipsethefaceof theSun [woulddarken]without
tothe
thefaceoftheMoonaccording
he coulddarkenandlighten
theMoon;likewise,
shapes.24
observedfullandcrescent
It is not clear whetherhe was settingup a strawman or whetherQishjT was rethat
spondingto an actualargumenthe had encountered.Whichever,itis interesting
Ghazall had, as we have seen,raisedjust thissortof examplein his warningagainst
takingthecondemnationof the ancientsciences too far.But in one of the most,if
of thelateAsh'aritetextbooks,theMawdqifff'ilmal-kalam
notthemost,influential
by thePersian'Adud al-Din al-Iji (ca. A.D. 1281-1355), we do notfindthisextreme
a full and quite
viewpointregardingthe explanationof eclipses but, surprisingly,
of
Ptolemaic
astronomy.25
exposition
well-informed
of GreekphilosBy thistime,theAsh'ariteshad adoptedmuchof theterminology
he adopted the
that
this
did
not
however,
mean,
was
no
exception;
and
ophy,
IjI
he maintained,contraAristotle,that
In particular,
doctrinesof Greekphilosophy.26
and contingent,
dependingon God's will to
theuniversewas atomisticin structure
exist frominstantto instant.When it came to astronomy,Iji, who was well acheld thatthe orbs were
quainted with the basic pictureof Ptolemaic astronomy,
"imaginarythings"(umuirmawhfima)and moretenuousthana spider'sweb (bayt
al-'ankabut).27But Ij! did not drawthe conclusionthatastronomers'constructions
wereto be censuredorcondemned,as impliedin thepassage fromQUshjI'sSharhaldoes notextajrfd.Ratherhe insisted,echoingGhazl-l, that"[religious]prohibition
ornegation."28
tendtothem,beingneitheran objectofbeliefnorsubjecttoaffirmation
Viewed fromthe perspectiveof thepossible rangeof religiouspositionson this
matter,one would have thoughtthatthe astronomerswould have been gratefulfor
thisseeminglygeneroussolutionto theirproblems;theycould use whatevermathematicaltools theyneeded fortheircraftas long as theydid notdeclarethemreal. In
24 All b. Muhammad
1890(?)],p. 186(line28) through
SharhTajrzdal-'aqd'id[Tehran,
al-QUshj!,
andArabictextofthelargerpassageofwhichthisis a partis contained
p. 187 (line2). A translation
Curlybrackandexplanations.
additions
([ 1) areusedforeditorial
intheAppendix.Squarebrackets
ets(I }) areusedfororiginalArabicwordsoran Englishtranslation.
ofthissectionofIjl's text,see Sabra,"ScienceandPhilosexposition
25 Fora brief
butinformative
ophy"(cit.n. 2), pp. 34-8.
the
butnotnecessarily
of theterminology
26 The adoption
by a numberof Muslimtheologians
forwhichsee ibid.,pp. 11-23.
story,
is a fascinating
ofGreekphilosophy
doctrines
27 Ibid.,p. 37.
28 Ibid.

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56

F. JAMILRAGEP

as
option.Buttheastronomers,
essence,theywerebeinggivenan "instrumentalist"
problem,
tothescience-religion
withthissolution
thrilled
we shallsee,werehardly
and we willneedto explorewhytheywerenot.Butbeforethat,we needto ask
to offerthema solution
question:WhydidIj! feelthenecessity
ourselvesanother
andin themainhe
himself,
in thefirst
place?Afterall, he was notan astronomer
claimsaboutthenatureoftheuniverse.
rejectedmanyoftheirmostfundamental
of thecontextand
something
To answerthisquestion,we needto understand
Forthemostpart,theparticiperiodin whichthisdebatewas occurring.
historical
of the
pantswereeitherPersiansor CentralAsians;theperiodwas theaftermath
reshapedthepolitiwhichconsiderably
century,
ofthethirteenth
Mongolinvasions
politicalbutalso
landscapeofthearea.Notonlythetraditional
cal andintellectual
weakened.
orconsiderably
intheEastwaseitherdestroyed
thereligiousleadership
withsomerelatively
to filltheircourtsandbureaucracies
The Mongolspreferred
easytograsp.)Themostsignificant
(Thereasonsforthisarefairly
figures.
heterodox
was Nasiral-Dinal-Tisl (A.D. 1201-1274).
standpoint
ofthesefroman intellectual
Tiis! was a crucialfigurefora numberof reasons,butespeciallybecausehe left
but
thatbecamethemainvehiclenotonlyforstudying
behinda corpusofwritings
at leastin easternIslam,until
Greekscienceand philosophy,
also fordefending
andintheseworkshe continued
times.He also wroteon religiousmatters,
modern
termsand ideas intothetheological
Greekphilosophical
theprocessof bringing
Shiciteandhaddabbledfora timewith
Thoughhe wasborna mainstream
context.
doctrine,
bythetimeTUsTbeganworking
ShT'ite
a muchmoreheterodox
Ismad'lism,
withtheHellenistic
allegiancewas firmly
fortheMongolsin 1256,hisintellectual
thesciencesbut
of Islam,whichforhimwas notonlya wayof unifying
tradition
hehearkens
As
such
anddisputes.
differences
religious
alsoa meansoftranscending
the
to
the
Kindis, Farabls,
history,
backto an earlierperiodof Islamicintellectual
becamea kindoftranscenforwhomGreekphilosophy
andespeciallytoAvicenna,
in
reviledby thereligiousestablishment
dentreligion.For thisTiis! was bitterly
Curithe
which
had
escaped Mongolonslaught.
MamelukeEgyptandSyria,
mostly
suchas Iji,seemtohavebeenmostly
respectthePersiantheologians,
ously,though,
I haveno doubtthatIjI, whowas born
fultowardhim-but notsimplyrespectful.
andperhapsevenhis
less thantenyearsafterTtisi'sdeath,learnedhis astronomy,
was
in
that
he
fromTUsl'swritings;
sweptup inTUsT'sdiscase,
Greekphilosophy,
course even while disagreeingwithit. It should thereforenot surpriseus thatIjT
would tryto reassuretheAsh'aritefaithfulthattheyhad nothingto fearfromthe
surgingtide of Hellenisticscience and philosophyin Iran while at the same time
thema respectableway to
accommodatingTusi and his manyfollowersby offering
be bothgood astronomersand good Muslims.29
to theastronomers,
whywould some of themfeeluneasywithIj!'s, and
Returning
forthatmatterGhazali's, compromise?That theywould rejectthisaccommodation
durof theirtradition
and thestrength
tellsus somethingabouttheirself-confidence
But this was not simplya case of disciplinarypride. Some
ing these centuries.30
29Fora moredetailedanddocumented
see Ragep,
discussionofthepointsmadeinthisparagraph,

NasTral-DMn (cit. n. 12), vol. 1, pp. 3-20.

of sciencein Islam afterA.D. 1200 has onlyrecently


of thetradition
strength
30 The continuing
in thefield.The reasonsforthislongneglecthavea greatdeal todo
byresearchers
beenrecognized
conof science,whichhas tendedto assume,whether
natureof mosthistory
withtheEurocentric
fromArabicintoLatinwas commovement
translation
sciouslyornot,thatoncethetwelfth-century

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FREEING ASTRONOMY FROM PHILOSOPHY

57

of an astronomythat
wereled to thisrejectionby whattheysaw as therequirements
could providea correctpicture(hay'a) of theuniverseas well as insightintoGod's
creation(as we have seen). This can be clearlyobservedin theresponseof al-Sharif
al-Jurjani(A.D. 1339-1413) to IjT's dismissiveremarksregardingthe "imaginary"
and "tenuous"natureof the astronomers'orbs. In additionto his manyotherhats,
who wrote
was an astronomer
whichincludedbeinga renownedtheologian,JurjdanT
to ThsT'sastronomicalmasterpiece,the
a widelyread and appreciatedcommentary
Tadhkira.Withhis astronomer'sturbanfirmlyin place, he respondedto Ij! as folthough
lows, by tryingto explainthatthemathematicalobjects of theastronomers,
with
reality:
"imagined,"do have a correspondence
imagthatarecorrectly
yettheyarethings
reality,
Eveniftheydo nothavean external
bysound
to what[exists]in actuality
inedandcorrespond
{ffnafsal-amr}as attested
suchas ghouls'fangs,ruby
{al-fitra
al-salfma};theyarenotfalseimaginings
instinct
thecondinotions,
men.By meansofthese[astronomical]
mountains
andtwo-headed
as perin regardto speedanddirection,
areregulated
tionsof [celestial]movements
[Bymeansofthesenotions
orobservedwith[theaid of] instruments.
ceived[directly]
{ahkam}of thecelestialorbsand the
is madeof thecharacteristics
also] discovery
that
creation-things
earth,andof whattheyrevealof subtlewisdomand wondrous
themwithawe,andfacinghimwiththegloryoftheir
overcomewhoeverapprehends
himto say:"OurLord,thouhas notcreatedthisin vain'"Thisthenis
Creator,
prompt
andthatoughtto
a valuablelessonthatlieshiddeninthosewords[oftheastronomers]
whoeveris driventodisdainthembymereprejudice.31
be cherished,
whileignoring
quicklybecame an integral
It is importantto note here thatJurjani'scommentary
(It was stillbeing
partof Iji's textbookand was studiedwithitin theschool tradition.
studiedin Islamic theologicalschools, such as Cairo's al-Azhar,intothe twentieth
view of astronomicalmodels
century!)Thus Ij1's conventionalist/instrumentalist
would have been read withJurjani'sforcefulrejoinder.32
Jurjani,though,while defendingastronomy'sintegrityand its religious value
againstIjT's dismissiveremarks,does not here deal withthe issue of astronomy's
alleged dependenceupon suspectreligiousdoctrines,such as naturalcausationand
feltthatat least
of theworld.Most, thoughnotall, Islamic astronomers
theeternity
some of these doctrineswere indispensable.As TUsi says in the Tadhkira,"Every
science has ... principles,which are eitherself-evidentor else obscure,in which
case theyare provedin anotherscience and are takenforgrantedin this science
... [T]hose of its principlesthatneed proofare demonstratedin threesciences:
Thus in additionto mathematics
and naturalphilosophy."33
metaphysics,geometry,
certain
that
is
physicaland metaphysicalprinciples
and observation,TUs! claiming
was nottakenlightly;indeed,
This
importation
need to be importedfromphilosophy.
a
astronomers
Islamic
finds
greatreluctanceto use physical
in generalone
among
theirconclusionson whatthey
for
substitute
as
a
basing
from
philosophy
principles
forEurope,must
missionofpreservation
theirhistorical
havingfulfilled
pleted,Islamicintellectuals,
endeavors.
havegivenup theirscientific
ed. Muhammad
of al-Jurjani),
al-kalam(withthecommentary
3' al-Iji,Kitabal-Mawdqiffl'ilm
Badral-Dinal-Na'san1(Cairo,A.H. 1325/A.D. 1907),pt.vii,p. 108.Thisis mostlySabra'stranslation
(cit.n. 2), p. 39.
(withminorchanges)fromhis "ScienceandPhilosophy"
Islamicreligious
32 One hopesthat
suchexamplesmightgivepausetothosewhoinsiston treating
viewsas monolithic.
33 Ragep,Nasiral-D~n(cit.n. 12),vol. 1,pp. 90-1.

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F. JAMIL RAGEP

58

whichincludedobservation.In thistheyseem to have followed


saw as mathematics,
In a passage preservedby Simtrendsthathad alreadybeen establishedin antiquity.
plicius (6th c. A.D.) in his commentaryon Aristotle'sPhysics,he quoted Geminus
(ca. 1st c. A.D.), who was, we are told,"inspiredby the views of Aristotle,"to the
effectthata clear demarcationcan be made betweentherole of the physicistand
"The physicistwill in manycases reach the cause by
the role of the astronomer.34
when he provesfactsfromexternal
looking to creativeforce;but the astronomer,
conditions,is notqualifiedtojudge of thecause, as when,forinstance,he declares
the earthor the starsto be spherical."This is elucidatedin an earlierpartof the
passage:
willproposeto provethesame
Now in manycases theastronomer
andthephysicist
buttheywillnot
point,e.g.,thatthesunis ofgreatsize or thattheEarthis spherical,
ofeswillproveeachfactbyconsiderations
proceedbythesameroad.The physicist
senceor substance,
offorce,ofitsbeingbetter
thatthingsshouldbe as theyare,orof
of
willprovethemby theproperties
comingintobeingand change;theastronomer
or magnitudes,
andthetimethatis appropriate
orbytheamountofmovement
figures
to it.35

declaresthattheastronomer
Geminus,no doubt"inspiredbytheviews ofAristotle,"
"mustgo to thephysicistforhis firstprinciples,namely,thatthemovementsof the
starsare simple,uniformand ordered."But thiswas a view thatwas notuniversally
held in antiquity.
Ptolemy,forexample,refersto physicsand metaphysicsas "guesswork" and proclaimsthat"only mathematicscan provide sure and unshakeable
One would assumethathe wouldtherefore
tryto avoid
knowledgeto itsdevotees."36
and, indeed,in theintroducphysicaland metaphysicalprinciplesin his astronomy,
torycosmological sectionsof theAlmagest,he generallyestablishessuch thingsas
the sphericityof the heavens and the Earth,the Earth'scentralityand its lack of
motion,accordingto observationaland mathematicalprinciples,in contrastto the
morephysicalmeans used byAristotlein, say,De Caelo.37
Ptolemy'sstatedpositionhad some major supportamong Islamic astronomers.
The PersianscholarQutb al-Din al-Shirazi(A.D. 1236-1311), onetimestudentand
associate of Nasir al-Din al-Thsl,paraphrasesPtolemy:"Astronomyis thenoblest
of thesciences.... [I]ts proofsare secure-being of numberand geometry-about
whichtherecan be no doubt,unliketheproofsin physicsand theology."38
But severalIslamic astronomers
note,oftenwithdismay,thatPtolemyhad broken
theeminentCentral
his own rule and had used "physical"principles.In particular,
Asian scientistAbfiRayhanal-Birtini(A.D. 973-1048) chides him forusing arguof theheavensin theAlmagest(1.3)
mentsbased on physicsto provethesphericity
and insiststhat"each disciplinehas a methodologyand rulesand thatwhichis exter(cit.
Physics11.2;cf.Lloyd,"SavingtheAppearances"
toAristotle,
inreference
34 Thisis probably
n. 9), pp. 212-13.
ofSamos (Oxford:Clarendon,1913),p. 276; rebyT. L. Heathin hisAristarchus
35 Translation
Mass.:
A SourceBookin GreekScience(Cambridge,
in MorrisR. Cohenand I. E. Drabkin,
printed
HarvardUniv.Press,1948),pp. 90-1. Cf.Lloyd,"SavingtheAppearances"(cit.n. 9), pp. 212-14.
36 Ptolemy
s Almagest(cit.n. 8), 1.1,p. 36.
see Ragep,Nasfr al-D~n(cit.n.
of how thisis viewedin theIslamiccontext,
37 For a discussion
12),vol. 1,pp. 38-41; vol.2, pp. 382-8.
AhmetIII MS 3333 (2),
al-aflak,"
prefaceto "Nihayatal-idrakfidirdyat
38 Qutbal-Dinal-Shirazi,
fol.34b,TopkapiSaray,Istanbul.

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FREEING ASTRONOMY FROM PHILOSOPHY

59

} uponthem;therefore,
nal to itcannotbe imposed{yastahkimu
what[Ptolemy]has
set forththatis externalto thisdisciplineis persuasiveratherthannecessary."39
Looking at BIrUn!
's insistenceupon a clear separationof astronomyfromphysics
(or naturalphilosophy)and TUsT'sintroductory
remarksregardingthe need of astronomyforprinciplesfromnaturalphilosophyand metaphysics,
one mightwell be
temptedto conclude thatwhat we have is a continuationof the ancient debate
betweenthe mathematicians(such as Ptolemy,who insistedupon an autonomous
astronomy)and the philosophers(represented,as we have seen, by Aristotleand
Geminus,who placed the astronomersin a dependentrole).40But this would be
misleading.Even the more philosophicallyinclined of the Islamic astronomers
seem,forthemostpart,to be intentnotonlyon demarcatingastronomyfromnatural
philosophybutalso on makingit as independentas possible.We have alreadyseen
how Avicennaseparatedastronomy(as a mathematicaldiscipline)fromastrology
(consideredto be partof naturalphilosophy).Furthermore
Tiisyhimselfmade clear
in the Tadhkirathatan astronomershould provemostcosmological mattersusing
"proofsof the fact" (thatsimplyestablishtheirexistenceusing observationsand
mathematics)ratherthan"proofsof thereasonedfact"(that"conveythe necessity
of thatexistence"usingphysicaland/ormetaphysicalprinciples);thelatterkindof
proofs,he tellsus, are givenbyAristotlein De Caelo.41 In otherwords,theastronomershouldavoid dealingwithultimatecauses and insteadestablishthefoundations
This attitudeis
of his disciplineby employingtheapodeictictools of mathematics.
as well in thephysicalprinciplesthatThs'uses to explainregularmotion.
reinforced
He analyzes it in such a way thatthesourceof thatmotion,whetheran Aristotelian
"nature"(as in thecase of thefourelements)or a soul (as in thecase of thecelestial
forastronomy;in bothcases, he maintains(departinghere
orbs) becomes irrelevant
fromAristotle)thatregularmotionis alwaysdue to an innateprinciple(mabda' =
opX) called a "nature"(tab'), thus sidesteppingthe problemof ultimatecausation.42MuhammadAUhal-TahanawT(1 8thc. A.D.) nicelysummarizesthesituation:
"In thisscience [i.e., astronomy],motionis investigated[in termsof] its quantity
and direction.The inquiryinto the origin(asi) of this motionand its attribution
{ithbdtijto theorbs is partof NaturalPhilosophy(al-tab'iyydt[sic])."43
3' AbU Rayhanal-Biruni,Al-Qanuin al-Mas'adi, 3 vols. (Hyderabad:Da'irat al-ma'arifalphysical
atPtolemy's
use of"certain
is directed
1954-1956),vol. 1 p. 27. Thecriticism
'Uthmdniyya,
motionoftheheavens(Ptoleandcircular
theaethertoprovethesphericity
regarding
considerations"
strongly
m's Almagest[cit.n. 8], 1.3.p. 40). Elsewherein theQdnan(vol. 2, pp. 634-5), Birfini
in his Planetary
and ideas fromoutsideof astronomy
criticizesPtolemyforusingassumptions
and discussionof
see Ragep.Nasfr al-Dfn(cit. n. 12), vol. 1, p. 40, fora translation
Hypotheses;
thispassage.
resorting
without
we can makesucha distinction
totherecentworkofLloydandothers,
4( Thanks
versus"realists";cf.n. 9.
of"instrumentalists"
rhetoric
to Duhem'sreductionist
of thispassage and
41 Ragep,Nashr al-Dizn
(cit. n. 12), vol. 1. pp. 106-7. For an examination
see vol. 1,
PosteriorAnalytics,
madein Aristotle's
quid distinction
itsrelationto thequia-propter
pp. 38-41, andvol.2, pp. 382, 386-8.
to accountforthefactthattheensouledcelestialorbs,eventhoughthey
42 TUs1
seemstobe trying
realm.Thiswas
withsoulsinthesublunar
unlikeentities
"choose"tomoveuniformly,
havevolition,
fromancientto earlymoderntimes;see Ragep,Nashralobviouslya problemwitha longhistory
"TheProblemoftheSoulsofthe
Wolfson,
Dfn (cit.n. 12). vol. 1,pp.44-6; vol.2, p. 380. Cf.Harry
theArabsandSt.ThomastoKepler,"
onAristotle
through
Commentaries
SpheresfromtheByzantine
oftheHeavens
OaksPapers16(1962):67-93,andRichardC. Dales,"TheDe-Animation
Dumbarton
intheMiddleAges'"J.Hist.Ideas,41 (1980):531-50.
43 Muhammad
A Dictionaryof the Technical
al-funm-n:
Kashshdfi'istildhat
A'1db. 'All al-Tahanawi,
TernmsUsed in the Sciences (f' the Musalmans, edited by Mawlawies Mohammad Wajih, Abd

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60

F. JAMILRAGEP

Letus takestock.Islamicscientists
inherited
an astronomy
fromtheancients
that
alreadyhadbeendifferentiated
toa lesserorgreater
degreefromnatural
philosophy.
Islamicastronomers,
though,
carriedthisprocessmuchfarther
along,and it does
notseemunreasonable
to see this,at leastin part,as a responsetoreligiousobjectionsdirected
at Hellenistic
physicsandmetaphysics,
on theone hand,andtoreligiousneutrality
toward
mathematics,
ontheother.
Anattentive
reader,
though,
might
stillhavequestionsaboutthesetentative
conclusions.
Why,forexample,didsomeonelikeTUs!stillinsistthatastronomy
neededphysicalandmetaphysical
principles
evenwhilehe contributed
towardmakingit moreindependent?
Did anyIslamic
everdefendan astronomy
astronomer
completely
independent
ofphilosophy?
And
finally,
can we makea stronger,
moreexplicitand less circumstantial
case fora
connection
between
ofastronomy
religionandthisfreeing
fromphilosophy?
In the
remaining
partoftheessay,I explorethesequestions.
As we haveseen,Blriiniimpliesthatthephysicsone needsforastronomy
could
withintheastronomical
be generated
contextusingmathematics
andobservation;
henceone wouldnotneedto import"philosophical
physics."
But was thisreally
feasible?Couldoneclaimthatuniform
circular
motionintheheavens,
thestraightlinemotionsof thesublunar
of all, theEarth'sstateof
realm,and,mostimportant
As mentioned
restwerenotbaseduponAristotelian
physics?
earlier,
TUs!certainly
instance
didnotbelieveonecouldgo thatfar.In part,thiswasduetooneparticular
In a famousand
thatbecamea cause celebreoflatemedievalIslamicastronomy.44
controversial
passage,Tus! explicitly
saysthattheEarth'sstateof restcannotbe
claimthatitcanbe.45In
andexplicitly
deniesPtolemy's
determined
observationally
need
andobservation
failus,andwetherefore
mathematics
atleastthisoneinstance,
thattheelementearth's
thephysicalprinciple
to importfromnaturalphilosophy
Ina more
theEarthcannotrotate
natural
motion
is rectilinear
andtherefore
naturally.
and at somelengthbyThsi's
generalform,thispositionwas reiterated
forcefully
commentator
sixteenth-century
al-BlrjandL.46
This,then,was a bottomline that
and whyTius!
couldnotabideIji's compromise
showsus whysomeastronomers
needfornatural
on astronomy's
andothersinsisted
philosophy.
Butnoteveryastronomer
agreedwithThsT.In facthisownstudent
Qutbal-Din
andW. NassauLees, 2 vols.
ofA. Sprenger
al-Haqq,andGholamKadirunderthesuperintendence
(Calcutta:W.N. Lees' Press,1862),vol. 1,p. 47.
44This question,namelywhether
by observational
theEarth'sstateof restcouldbe determined
toappearinScience
The Earth'sMotioninContext,"
tests,is dealtwithinmy"TtisiandCopernicus:
inRagep,Nasiral-Din(cit.n. 12),vol.2, pp. 383-5.
Itis also discussed,moresummarily,
inContext.
45 The passage,whichis from
(Ragep,Nasrral-Din [cit.n. 12],vol. 1,pp. 106-7),is
theTadhkira
motionto theEarth.This is not,however,
theprimary
as follows:"It is notpossibleto attribute
up in theair
namelythatthiswouldcause an objectthrown
becauseof whathas beenmaintained,
fallto thewestof it,or thatthis
notto fallto itsoriginalpositionbutinsteadit wouldnecessarily
leavesthe[Earth],suchas an arrowor a bird,in thedirection
wouldcause themotionof whatever
Forthepartof
oppositeto itto be faster.
ofthe[Earth's]motiontobe slower,whilein thedirection
theair adjacentto the[Earth]couldconceivablyconform
(yushavi'u)to theEarth'smotionalong
to
is joinedto it,justas theaether[(here)= upperlevelofair]conforms
(yushayi'u)
withwhatever
theorb as evidencedby thecomets,whichmovewithits motion.Rather,it is on accountof the
witha
frommovingnaturally
thatitis precluded
inclination
ofrectilinear
[Earth]havinga principle
1543),6a, lines16De Revolutionibus
(Nuremburg,
toCopernicus,
The similarity
circularmotion:"
footnote.
listedinthepreceding
34, is discussedin thereferences
ColMS Arabic4285,fol.39b,Harvard
Houghton
46 'Abdal-'Allal-Blrjandli,
"Sharhal-Tadhkira,"
philostheuse ofnatural
defending
Mass.; forhismoregeneralstatements
Cambridge,
legeLibrary,
see fols.7a-7b and38a.
ophyin astronomy,

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FREEING ASTRONOMY FROM PHILOSOPHY

61

al-Shirazitookissue withhis sometimemasterand claimedthatone could establish


the Earth'sstate of restby an observationaltest,thus obviatingthe need for imThis position,of course,goes well
portinga physicalprinciplefromphilosophy.47
withwhatwe have seen of Shirazi's insistence,followingPtolemy,thatthemathematicalproofsof astronomywere moresecurethanthoseof physicsand theology;
by claimingthatobservationaltestscould establishthe Earth'sstate of rest,one
fromthe encroachmentof naturalphilosophy
could protectastronomy'sintegrity
and metaphysics.
But because thisdebate was mainlybeing carriedout withinthe confinesof the
scientificliterature,
thereligiousdimensionsare notveryexplicit.We mayfeeljustifiedin claimingthatBirUniand Shiraziwerebeinginfluencedby religiousconsiderationsin tryingto separateastronomyfromphilosophy,butthisis merelya conjecture.In contrast,therecan be no doubtas to thereligiouscontextof thisdebate in
on TUsi'stheologicalwork,theTajrTdal-'aqd'id
thealreadymentionedcommentary
(Epitomeof belief),writtenby 'All al-QUshj!.
QUshj1was theson of PrinceUlugh Beg's falconerand grewup in or close to the
century.
Samarqandat thetime,withits
Timuridcourtin Samarqandin thefifteenth
large scientificstaff,brilliantindividuals,and scientificallyaccomobservatory,
plishedpatronUlugh Beg, was withouta doubtthe major centerof science in the
predecessorthathad been esworldand certainlycould rivalits thirteenth-century
Aftertheassassinationof
tablishedby TUsi in Maragha underMongol patronage.48
his patronUlugh Beg, Qutshj1traveledthroughIran and Anatolia and eventually
at thecollege (madrasa) ofAyaSofia
and mathematics
assumeda chairin astronomy
It shouldbe emphasizedthattheteachingof
in thenewlyIslamic cityof Istanbul.49
science in the religious schools, and laterthe establishmentof an observatoryin
bythereligiousestablishment.50QUshj!,
Istanbul,wereopposed,sometimesbitterly,
writinghis commentaryon Tus-'s "Epitome of Belief" afterthe assassinationbut
beforeassuminghis chair,was no doubt mindfulof thisreligiousoppositionand
soughtto answertheobjectionto astronomythatI havepreviouslyquotedfromhim.
Let us summarizesome of thekey pointshe makes. (The entireArabictext,with
my translation,is in the Appendix.) Qhshji is clearly sensitiveto the Ash'arite
47 Shirdzi's
discussioncan be foundin maqalaII, bMb1,fasl4 (fols.46a-47b) ofhis "Nihayatalal-aflak"(cit.n. 38), whichwas completedin A.D. 1281.A similarpassageis in his
idrakftdirayat
fi al-hay'a,"whichappearedin A.D. 1284 (bMbII, fasi4 [Jdmi'al-BashaMS
"al-Tuhfaal-shahiyya
Film346),fols.15a-18a,andMS Add.
ghayrmufahras
287,Mosul(= ArabLeaguefalakmusannaf
into
7477, BritishMuseum,London,fols.9b-l la]). This sectionof the"Nihaya"was translated
in "Ueberdie Gestalt,Lage undBewegungderErde,sowiephiloGermanbyEilhardWiedemann
der
die Geschichte
vonQutbal-Dinal-Schirazzi,"
Betrachtungen
sophisch-astronomische
Archivfiur

Naturwissenschaftenund der Technik3 (1912):395-422 (reprintedin E. Wiedemann, Gesammelte


am Main: Institutfur
3 vols. [Frankfurt
Schriftenzur arabisch-islamischenWissenschaftsgeschichte,

1984],vol.2, pp. 637-64).


Wissenschaften,
derArabisch-Islamischen
Geschichte
in Islam (Ankara:Turkish
see AydinSayilh,The Observatory
On theSamarqandobservatory,
HistoricalSociety,1960),pp. 259-89. See also E. S. Kennedy,"The Heritageof UlughBeg," in
idem, Astronomyand Astrologyin the Medieval Islamic World (Brookfield,Vt.: Ashgate, 1998),

no. XI.
49 See A. AdnanAdivar,
ofIslam,2nded. (Leiden:
Encyclopedia
al-Kuishdj!,"
'"All b. Muhammad
1939),
(Paris:Maisonneuve,
Brill,1960),vol. 1,p. 393,andidem,La Sciencechezles Turcsottomans
pp. 33-5.
PPAdivardiscussesthisin his La Sciencechez les Turcsottomans(cit. n. 49). For theIstanbul
see Sayili,TheObservatory
forcedtobe demolished,
whichthereligiousestablishment
observatory,
(cit.n. 48), pp. 289-305.

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62

F JAMILRAGEP

observationthatpart of their
positionon causality,and he makes the interesting
has to do withthe astrologicalconobjectionto it, at least as regardsastronomy,
events(espetentionof a causal linkbetweenthepositionsof theorbsand terrestrial
cially "unusualcircumstances").To get aroundsuch objections,QUshjiinsiststhat
astronomydoes notneed philosophy,since one could build theentireedificeof orbs
reasonablesupposinecessaryfortheastronomicalenterpriseusingonlygeometry,
These
premisesallow ashypotheses.
and
provisional
judgments,
appropriate
tions,
tronomers
theone by whichthe
fromamongthepossibleapproaches
to conceive{takhayyalu-}
maybe putin orderin
irregularities
of theplanetswiththeirmanifold
circumstances
ofthese
andconjunctions
ofthepositions
theirdetermination
sucha wayas tofacilitate
withperception
planetsforanytimetheymightwishandso as toconform
{Jiss} and
sight{'iyan}.
thatbest explain "or save" the
What thiswill allow us to do is make presumptions
phenomena.Of course God might,by His will, cause the phenomenadirectly;
QUshji gives the example of God darkeningthe Moon withouttheEarth'sshadow
and causing an eclipse. But just as we go about our everydaylives using whathe
calls ordinary('adiyya) and practical(tajribivya)knowledge,thusshould we proceed in science. Here he allows himselfa bitof sarcasm,arguingthatwe could (for
example) claim thatafterwe had leftourhouse one day,God turnedall thepots and
the sciences of theologyand
pans into humanscholarswho took to investigating
geometry;insofaras we feel confidentin assumingthatthishas not happened,so
also should we have confidencethattheheavensnormallyfollowa regularpattern
thatwe have thecapacityto explain.We do not,however,need to make thefurther
claim thatour explanationrepresentstheonlypossible one; in thisway,QUshjibelieves he has made astronomyindependentof philosophy.
are some oftherepercussions
WhatmakesQutshj!'spositionespeciallyfascinating
it had forhis astronomicalwork.Since he claims to be no longertied to the principles of Aristotelianphysics,he feels freeto exploreotherpossibilities,including
ofthedebatethatwe outlinedearlier,
theEarth'srotation.Clearlywithinthetradition
he agreeswithTuisi,thuscounteringPtolemyand Shirazi,and arguesthatthequestionof theEarth'smotioncannotbe determinedby observation.But unlikeTiisi,he
refusesto settlethematterby appealingto Aristoteliannaturalphilosophy.Instead
he statesthat"it is notestablishedthatwhathas a principleof rectilinearinclination
concluis preventedfrom[having]circularmotion."5'He thenends witha startling
Earth].""5
sion: "Thus nothingfalse(fidsid)follows[fromtheassumptionofa rotating
Qtshji also showedthathe was trueto his principlesin his elementaryastronomy
work,Risa-lahdar 'ilm-ihay'a; in it,he took thehighlyunusualstep of dispensing
withthe sectionon naturalphilosophywithwhichalmostall othersimilartreatises
began.5
51QUshji,Sharh Tajrid (cit.n. 24), p. 195.The samepointis madebyCopernicus
in De Revolutionibus(cit.n. 45), 1.8.

52 Ibid. Qtishjl's
is dealt
position,and thepossiblerelationof thisIslamicdebateto Copernicus,
withmorefullyin my"Tisl andCopernicus"(cit.n. 44).
51 This workwas originally
quite
in Persianand,giventheevidenceof theextantmanuscripts,
by QUshj!himselfintoArabicand dedicatedto Mehmet,theConqueror
popular.It was translated
"The
whenceitwascalledal-Risdla al-Fathivva. Cf.TofighHeidarzadeh,
(Fatih)ofConstantinople,
M. A. thesis,(IstanbulUniv.*1997),pp.24, 30-32,
Worksof'All Qiishj!"(inTurkish),
Astronomical

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FREEING ASTRONOMY FROM PHILOSOPHY

63

Butin freeing
himself
fromAristotle,
didQtshj!also freehimself
fromseeking
reality?
In otherwords,insteadof beingtheprecursor
of Copernicus,
is he rather
thepredecessor
ofOsiander,
theLutheran
minister
whoseanonymous
prefacetoDe
Revolutionibus
proclaimed,
certain
fromastronomy"?
"[Lletnooneexpectanything
Mytentative
answeris thatI do notthinkQUshji'spositionis instrumentalist
in the
samesenseas Iji's (or Osiander's)54Andthereason,in a way,is quitesimple.Iji
wasa theologian,
whereasQuishjl,
inhisheartofhearts,
wasa scientist,
whosework
was ultimately
a wayto knowand understand
God's creation.Qtshji makesthis
clearwithhisremarks
at theendof his discussionofpremises.
The astronomers'
modelsmaybe calculating
devicesthatcannotbe claimedas unique,butnevertheless theyare,he tellsus,a sourceofwonder,
becauseoftheircorrespondence
with
He continues,
theobservedphenomena.
"Whoevercontemplates
thesituation
of
shadowson thesurfaces
ofsundialswillbearwitnessthatthisis dueto something
wondrous
andwillpraise[theastronomers]
withthemostlaudatory
praise."Qtshj!
citedearlier,
in whichthelatter
countered
hereseemstoechothewordsofJurjani,
that
and
by
insisting
through
astronomy
we
can
behold
God's
subtle
wisdom
Ij
inrejecting
wondrous
creation.
QUshji,though,
theviewthatsomehowwe canknow
is attempting
to presenta rather
truereality,
moresophisticated
position:thatthe
betweenourhumanconstructions
and externalrealityis itselfa
correspondence
sourceofwonder.55
Ultimately,
then,forJurjani,
QiIshji,andmanyotherIslamicscientists,
Iji's wellmeantinstrumentalist
was rejected.As wouldalso occurin Europe,
compromise
God with
God withscience;one couldnotglorify
theyheldthatone couldglorify
conventions.
IV. CONCLUSION

to
ortwofollowing
In thegeneration
Qushji,scienceintheIslamicEastcontinued
of
workswereproduced
Severalmajorastronomical
thrive.
bytwocontemporaries
'Abd al-cAl!al-Birjandi
Copernicus,
(d. A.D. 1525or 1526) and Shamsal-Dinalcontinued
thedebatereKhafri(fl. A.D. 1525).As we havealreadynoted,B-Irjandli
defended
theneedtousebothnatural
motion
andstrongly
theEarth's
garding
philosin astronomy.
In fact,he quotesanddirectly
ophyandmetaphysics
arguesagainst
hisposition,
In developing
Birjandli
thepassagethatI havequotedfromQushjL.56
Tarihi,2 vols.(Istanbul:IRCICA, 1997),vol. 1,
Literatiiri
etal., OsmanliAstronomi
41; E. Ihsanoklu
in
pp. 27-35; andDavid Pingree,"IndianReceptionof MuslimVersionsof PtolemaicAstronomy,"
(cit.n. 2), p. 474.
Tradition,
Transmission,
Transformation
54 Fora comparison
(cit.n. 2), pp. 38-9.
ofIji andOsiander,see Sabra,"ScienceandPhilosophy"
ofIjT'spositionintheIslamicschools
tocomparethelatermanifestations
Itwouldbe quiteinteresting
which
of Copernicantheory,
interpretation"
withwhatRobertWestmanhas calledthe"Wittenberg
circles
Lutheran
tobe studiedinsixteenth-century
universe
ofa Sun-centered
allowedthehypothesis
toembraceitas trueor real.
anyattempt
whileitcondemned
Ideas and Opinions(New York:Dell, 1973),p. 285: "The veryfactthatthe
Einstein,
55 Cf.Albert
(operationswithconcepts,and
of oursenseexperiencesis suchthatby meansof thinking
totality
of sense
relationsbetweenthem,and thecoordination
functional
thecreationand use of definite
thisfactis onewhichleavesus inawe,butwhich
totheseconcepts)itcanbe putinorder,
experiences
It
oftheworldis itscomprehensibility.'
One maysay'theeternalmystery
we shallneverunderstand.
worldwould
ofa realexternal
ofImmanuelKantthatthepostulation
is one ofthegreatrealizations
thiscomprehensibility."
be senselesswithout
QUshj!
Birjandidoesnotmention
(cit.n.46), fol.7a-7b.Curiously,
56 Birjandi,
"Sharhal-Tadhkira"
scholars"(ba'd al-afiddil).
tohimas "oneoftheeminent
bynamebutsimplyrefers

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64

F. JAMILRAGEP

(which
occuriftheEarthwererotating
makesan interesting
analysisofwhatmight
something
quiteclose to Galileo'snotionof
he himselfrejects)and hypothesizes
"circular
inertia.?57
(orGalileo)readBirjandi(thoughthis
The pointis notto claimthatCopernicus
to
as it mightonce haveappeared),butrather
does notnow seemas far-fetched
ofopinionthatcontinintensity
ofscholarship
anddiversity
indicatetheremarkable
(andin factevenlater).Thisis
uedin Islamiclandswellintothesixteenth
century
bythesteepdecline,or
a timethatuntilrecently
was seenas a periodcharacterized
this
oftextswritten
during
evenabsenceofscientific
work.Sincethevastmajority
ofIslamicsciencehaveyettobe studied(muchlesspublateperiodin thehistory
Butwhether
ornotthis
surprises
mightwellbe anticipated.
lished),manyexciting
of
discussionofone smallaspectofthesituation
provestobe thecase,thepresent
sciencein Islamshouldalertus to thefactthatsciencewas stilla majorforcewell
intotheearlymodernperiodand can shedlightnotonlyon Islamicintellectual
butthehistory
ofEuropeanscienceas well.Andonehopesthatpartofthat
history
inboththe
therelation
betweenscienceandreligion
lightwillhelpus tounderstand
Islamicworldandin Christendom.
Thatreligionplayeda rolein Islamicscience-perhapsevena crucialroleaudiencein the
shouldnotsurprise
us. Whatis surprising,
especiallyto a Western
andobstrucis thatthatrolewas notsimplyone ofopposition
twenty-first
century,
I hopeI willnotbe
ofconstructive
tionbutrather,
atleastsometimes,
engagement.
observation
ifI makethehistorical
as beingan apologist
forreligion
misunderstood
Islam
andChrisand
in
both
attackson aspectsofscience philosophy
thatreligious
doctrines
toward
scientific
and
tendomled to a morecriticalattitude
philosophical
outcomes.
This
in
even
some
and
andthatthisoftenresulted
productive
interesting
of
and
historians
has beena pointincreasingly
Europeanscience, one
acceptedby
the
on
write
and
those
who
Islam,to understand
thatwouldgreatly
helpIslamists,
of
and
in
Islamic
civiliof
secular
religiousknowledge
complexity theinteraction
zation.
57

my"Tosl andCopernicus"(cit.n. 44).


Ibid.,fol.37a. See further

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Appendix
theSupposedDependenceof
Concerning
uponPhilosophy
Astronomy
By 'Alfal-Qiishjf
[186] It is statedthatthepositingof theorbs in [that]particularway dependsupon
falseprinciplestakenfromphilosophy{falsafa}, forexample,thedenialof thevolitional Omnipotentand the lack of possibilityof tearingand mendingof the orbs,
and thattheydo not intensifynor weaken in theirmotions,and thattheydo not
reversedirection,turn,stop,norundergoanychangeof statebutratheralwaysmove
witha simplemotionin thedirectionin whichtheyare going,as well as otherphysical and theologicalmatters,some of whichgo againstthe Law {sharc} and some
of whichare notestablishedinasmuchas theirproofsare defective{madkhala}. For
ifit were notbased upon thoseprinciples,we could say thatthevolitionalOmnipotentby His will moves those orbs in the observedorder,or we could say thatthe
starsmove in the orb as fishdo in water,speeding up and slowing down, going
backward,stoppingand movingforwardwithoutneed for those manyorbs. But
by assumingthe validity{thubit} of those principles,whattheyhave statedis an
{ithbat} of a cause based upon the existenceof an effect;but thiswill
affirmation
[noteundertheline: "i.e.,
notbe valid unless one knowsthecorrelation{musawwat}
thecorrelationof theeffectto thecause"]. But thisis notknown,since thereis no
{burhan} of the impossibility
necessary[connection];noris therea demonstration
are forreasonsotherthantheones theyhave stated.
thattheobservedirregularities
However,thereis nothingto the above, since it stemsfroma lack of studyof
theproblemsand proofsof thisdiscipline.Most of [itsprinciples]are suppositions
[{muqaddamathadsiyya} = (literally)conjecturalpremises]thatthe mind {caql},
resolvesto positaccordingto an
irregularities,
upon observingtheabove-mentioned
observedorderand a relianceupon geometricalpremisesthatare notopen to even
a scintillaof doubt.For example:thesightingof thefulland crescentshapes [ofthe
Moon] in the mannerin whichtheyare observedmakes it certainthatthe lightof
the Moon is derivedfromthe Sun and thata lunareclipse occurs because of the
of theEarthbetweentheSun and Moon, and thata solareclipse occurs
interposition
of theMoon betweenthe Sun and theeye,thisdespite
because of theinterposition
theassertionof thevalidityof thevolitionalOmnipotentand thedenial
of 'All al-QUshjl'sSharhtajrfdal-caqd'id(cit.n. 24), p. 186 (line
Thisappendixis mytranslation
(cit.
p. 187 (line29); partofthispassageis citedbyBlrjand!in his"Sharhal-Tadhkira"
11) through
al-funtin
(cit.
istildiha-t
n. 46), fol.7a-7b,anda goodpartofitis quotedbyTahanawiin hisKashshdf
n. 43), vol. 1,pp. 48-9.

66

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zA

.~~~~~-Joal+
s
A - oL~J-II

A;
op~l Jkitl 2; JI lo

LA

YJ

UR

Y . Ioj! OA sL LtlA
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<191Jr

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68

F. JAMILRAGEP

principles.For the validityof thevolitionalOmnipotent


of thoseabove-mentioned
and thedenial of thoseprinciplesdoes notprecludethesituationbeingas stated;at
most,theywouldallow forotherpossibilities.For example:on theassumptionofthe
validity{thubfit}of the volitionalOmnipotent,it is conceivablethatthe volitional
Omnipotentcould by His will {irada} darkentheface of the Moon duringa lunar
of the Earth and likewise during[1187]a solar
eclipse withoutthe interposition
of the Moon;
eclipse theface of the Sun [would darken]withoutthe interposition
theobserved
to
according
Moon
the
face
of
the
lighten
and
darken
likewise,he could
of the
of
the
possibility
the
assumption
on
Furthermore,
fulland crescentshapes.
bodies
the
celestial
of
circumstances
the
other
motions
as
well
as
in
the
irregularity
{falakiyyat},it is possible thatone half of each of the luminariesis luminous
whereasthe otheris dark.The luminarieswould thenmove about theircentersin
such a waythattheirdarksides wouldface us duringlunarand solar eclipses,either
completely,whentheyare total,or partiallyin magnitude,whentheyare nottotal.
By an analogous argument,the situationof the full and crescentshapes [can be
explained].Nevertheless,despitetheraisingof thepreviouslymentionedpossibiliwe affirm{najzinau} thatthesituationis as stated,namelythatthe
ties {ihtimarlait},
Moon derivesits lightfromtheSun and thatlunarand solar eclipses occurbecause
{ihtimal}
of theEarthand Moon. This same sortof presumption
of theinterposition
is made in ordinary{'divyya} and practical{tajribivya}knowledge{'ulum}-inFor we assertthatafter
deed, forall necessary[direct?]knowledge{darflrivyydt}.
leavinga house thepots and pans inside do notturnintohumanscholarswho take
despitethefactthatthevolithesciencesof theologyand geometry,
to investigating
tionalOmnipotentmightmake it thusin virtueof His will.
But [on the otherhand],on the assumptionthatthe principle{mabda'} is made
an unusualcircumstance{wad' gharfb}maybe realized {yatahaqcausal {miimjab},
qaqu} fromthepositionsof theorbs; accordingto thedoctrineof theproponentsof
ofthatunusualoccurrenceis requiredbythedependency
causality,themanifestation
of eventsupon thepositionsof theorbs.This and otherexamples are embeddedin
theskepticism{shubah} of thosewho condemnnecessaryknowledge.
The upshotis thatthatwhichis statedin thescience of astronomy{cilm al-hay'a}
does not depend upon physical {tabrcivya}and theological {ildhiyya} premises
{muqaddamdt}. The commonpracticeby authorsof introducingtheirbooks with
themis bywayoffollowingthephilosophers;this,however,is notsomethingnecessary,and itis indeedpossibleto establish[thisscience] withoutbasingit uponthem.
For of what is statedin [thisscience]: (1) some thingsare geometricalpremises,
hadsiyya},
whichare not open to doubt; (2) othersare suppositions{tmuqaddamct
as we have stated;(3) othersare premisesdeterminedby {vahkumubiha} themind
{al-'aql} in accordancewiththeapprehension{al-akhdh} of whatis mostsuitable
and appropriate.Thus theysay that

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70

E JAMILRAGEP

the convexityof thedeferenttouchestheconvexityof thepareclipticat a common


point,as is the case withthe concavities.They have no otherreason {mustanad}
[forthis]exceptthatit is moreproperthattherenotbe anyuseless partin theheavens. Similarlytheysay thattheSun's orb is above theorb of Venus and of Mercury,
awayor having
sincethebestarrangement
and orderdictatethatthatwhichis farther
a largercircuithas the slowestmotionamong the planets;or thatin the orderand
the Sun is in themiddle-in themannerof thetassel of a necklacearrangement
betweenthosethatreachthefourelongationsfromit,i.e., thesextiles,quadratures,
trines,and oppositions,and thosewhose elongationis onlytheleast,i.e., thesextile;
and (4) otherpremisesthattheystateare indefinite{'ala- sabTlal-taraddud},there
beingno finaldetermination
{al-jazm}. Thus theysay thattheirregularspeed in the
Sun's motionis eitherdue to an eccentricor to an epicyclichypothesiswithoutthere
beinga definitive
decisionforone or theother.
If one were to grantthattheestablishingof theorbsin themannerin whichthey
have statedwas based on those false principles,this would doubtlessbe due to a
claim by thepractitioners
of thisscience thattherewas no possibilityotherthanthe
approachwe have stated.But if theirclaim was thatit was possible forit to be by
thisapproach,even thoughit was possible thatit could be by otherapproaches,one
forthemto conceive
could notthenimaginea dependency.It is morethansufficient
{takhavvalu-}fromamong the possible approachesthe one by which the circummaybe putin orderin such
stancesof theplanetswiththeirmanifoldirregularities
of thepositionsand conjunctionsof these
a way as to facilitatetheirdetermination
planetsforany timetheymightwish and so as to conformwithperception{hiss}
and sight{'iydn }, thisina waythattheintellectand themindfindwondrous{tatahayvaru}. Whoevercontemplatesthe situationof shadows on the surfacesof sundials
will bearwitnessthatthisis due to somethingwondrousand will praise[theastronomers]withthemostlaudatorypraise.

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