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Ibn Sina’s Islamization of Aristotle’s Concept of God
By. Dr. Hamid Fahmy Zarkasyi Introduction The concept of God in Islam is the key element of Islamic doctrine and become the core of theological and philosophical discourse. Due to the universality of the concept, the Muslim philosophers tried to interpret, explain and clarify in their respective ways (ijtihÉd). Some by referring the very sources of Islam, i.e. Qur’an and Hadith, whereas others interpret the concept by adapting or borrowing the concept of other cultures. Ibn Sina was one of Muslim philosophers who carried out the former kind of endeavor. It implies the activity of transformation of thought involving reformulation and adjustment procedure that would certainly result in the alternation, if not deviation of the original thought. Therefore, it is not surprising that Ibn Sina’s concept of God, according to Netton is ‘mis-statement’ of Greek thought.1 Ibn Sina’s concept is originally his own and has gone beyond Aristotle’s, says Davidson.2 In similar tone Goichon rightly regards Ibn Sina as shedding a flood of light on Aristotle’s text and develops Aristotle’s thought.3 Joseph Owen bluntly admits that “Avicenna’s fresh look at Aristotle notion of being is Islamic motivation or Islamic approach”.4 All those comment are nothing more than a proof that Ibn Sina has carried out the process of assimilation, or in our present terms, Islamization of Aristotle’s concept of God in particular and metaphysics in general. Oliver Leaman notes that the assimilation of foreign element in Islamic thought is subject to the process of Islamization, 5 yet this concept was subject to refinement or further Islamization process in later period. This article delineates Ibn Sina’s attempt to Islamize Aristotle’s concept of God.
Netton, Ian Richard, Allah Transcendence, London: Routledge, 1989, 149. Herbert A Davidson, “Avicenna’s Proof of the Existence of God as Necessarily Existent Being”, in Parviz Morewedge, Islamic Philosophy and Theology, New York, Albany: SUNY Press, 1979, 180. Goichon, A.M. “The Philosopher of Being” in Avicenna Commemoration Volume, Calcutta, Iran Society, 1956. 109. Joseph Owens, C.Ss.R, “The Relevance of Avicennian Neoplatonism”, in Parviz Morewedge, ed.
Neoplatonism and Islamic Thought, New York, SUNY Press, 43 Leaman, Oliver, An Introduction to mediaval Islamic Philosophy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985, 6.
We shall restrict our discussion on some major points where Ibn Sina attempted to Islamize Aristotle’s concept of God. It is because at certain point Ibn Sina is not too much at variance with Aristotle or even still Aristotelian and Neoplatonist. The point of our present discourse will include his alternation of Aristotle’s subject matter of metaphysics, his proofs for existence of God and the nature of God. In the last point we shall look from the doctrine of causality and the personality as well as the unity of God. On the subject matter Ibn Sina’s alternation of Aristotle’s subject matter of metaphysics marks the fundamental differences in their understanding the spiritual, intelligible and material realities. Ibn Sina ameliorate this point in the beginning of his IlÉhiyÉt as if he laid down the foundation of his discourse. There are threefold divisions at the content of Aristotle’s metaphysics, they are the existing entities in so far as they exist, the first principle of demonstration and the non-corporeal entities.6 However, in his formal definition of First Philosophy Aristotle confines its subject matter in three specific notion 1) the “first principle and causes of things” (Met. 1.981b 25ff), 2) the things which exists separately and are immovable (Met. 6.1026a 15) and 3) being qua being, both what it is and the attribute which belong to it (Met. 6.1026a 30). The term ‘being’ here is in the category of primary substance. Since there are different kind of primary substances Aristotle designated that the subject matter or the objects of discourse of metaphysics or theology is the study of separate but unchanging substance, in which God is the outstanding case.7 Ibn Sina in the same line with Aristotle regards theology as science that deals with entities, which are separable from matter or primary causes of both physical and mathematical reality as well as the Cause of all causes (al-mawjËd al-ma’lËl ) or the Principle of all principle, namely God.8 However, Ibn Sina does not in opinion that God, the Supreme Being,
Aristotle, Metaphysics, Translated by Richard Hope, The University of Michigan Press, 1969, 4 10026a 30; 4 1005b, 5-7, 12. . Hereinafter cited as Metaphysics. Metaphysics, 6.1.1026a27-32. In the beginning of Book Lambda, the immovable substance is identified as
one of that primary substance which are regarded the first of existing thing, the other kinds are sensibleperishable and eternal sensible substance. See Metaphysics, 1069a19-26. 8 Ibn SÊna, Al-ShiafÉ’, al-IlÉhiyÉt, ed. QanawÉti and Sa’Êd Zayd, Cairo: al-Hay’ah al-‘Émmah li shu’Ën alMaÏÉbi’ al-AmÊriyyah, 1960, vol. I, 4. Hereinafter cited as al-ShifÉ’
as the subject matter of metaphysics or theology.9 Its subject matter is the existing entity (almawjËd) in so far as it exists. Ibn Sina’s principle thesis here is that the subject matter of any science must be already given as a postulate, prior to the investigation of its nature and attributes. Besides, he holds that no branch of knowledge can demonstrate the existence of its own subject matter. Therefore, he distinguishes between the subject matter (mauÌË‘) of metaphysics and its objective (maÏlËb). Thus, the subject matter is al-mawjËd bimÉ huwa mawjËd,10 (being qua being) or existing entity (al-mawjËd ) in so far as it exists, and its objective is God. The focal point in the above alternation is that Ibn Sina defines the subject matter of metaphysics strictly in ontological terms. His most radical departure from Aristotle is discernable from his doctrine of causality that we will discuss later, where he clearly differentiates between physical and metaphysical cause, on which Aristotle blurs or overlaps.11 This alteration is intended to avoid the depiction of God from physical phenomena so that God and His creature can clearly be distinguished. By so doing Ibn Sina come up with the concept that demonstrate the Necessary Being. His division of being into substance and accident is significant departure of Aristotle’s doctrine. In addition, his al-ShifÉ’, al-IlÉhiyÉt is illustrated with non-Aristotelian themes, like divine-decree, resurrection, heavenly rewards, prophecy and others, all of them are purely Islamic subjects. This is clear indication that Ibn Sina has change Aristotle’s way in understanding both spiritual and material realities. On the existence of God The proof for the existence of God is the core of both Aristotle and Ibn Sina’s theology, but their differences are manifest. Aristotle’s proof starts from a set of physical principles, mainly motion, motion in place underlies all other kinds of change.12 Everything moved have the cause of their motions outside themselves;13 nothing can maintain itself in motion unless it
This notion was then criticized by Ibn Taymiyyah for allowing God to be subsumed under the notion al-
mawjËd including His creature. See Ibn Taymiyyah,, al-Radd ‘alÉ al-ManÏtiqiyyÊn, ed. R.Ajam, Beirut: DÉr al-FikrÊ al-LubnÉnÊ, 1993, 133-34. 10 Ibn Sina, al-Shifa’: al-Ilahiyat, vol. I, 13.
For further detail on the distinction between Aristotle and Ibn Sina see Majid Fakhry, “The Subject-Matter of Islamic Theology and
Metaphysics: Aristotle and Ibn Sina (Avicenna)”, in Michael E Marmura, ed. Philosophy, New York, Albany, SUNY, 1984, 137-47 12 Aristotle, Physics, VIII, 7. 13 Ibid, 5.
٤ is continuously moved by an agent;14 only circular motion is continuous and eternal;15 and only an infinite force can maintain the heavens in motion for an infinite time.16 From all those principles Aristotle came to his final analysis that there must exist the Unmoved Mover, the only cause of the motion in the universe.17 Here the existence of God is identified from the physical phenomena and drawn from physical principles. Ibn Sina, in contrast, does not start his proof from physical phenomena, but from the very existence of the universe. He left aside all the physical argument leading up to Aristotle Unmoved Mover and begins with a fresh concept by analyzing the existent of necessity or as he calls it Wajib al-Wujud (Necessary Existent) and claims that this requires less premises and more certain. The term Wajib al-Wujud is coined by Ibn Sina to establish the proof for the existence of God, instead of Aristotle proof of physical principles. Since this concept is of Ibn Sina’s origin, Davidson regards him as the first philosopher who employed the concept of necessary existence to prove the existence of God.18 It is a fixed expression and becomes the core of Ibn Sina’s theology (Ilahiyyat) as he reiterates in his various treatises.19 Netton identifies that Ibn Sina employs four major methods to prove the existence of Wajib al-Wujud, they are: metaphysical proof from necessity, proof from movements, proof from causality and proof from ontology. Morewedge
The proof from movement is almost the same as the proof from causality.
finds out that the concept of Wajib al-Wujud has been used in three ways:
ontological, theological and phenomenological principles. Morewedge does not mention cosmological principles for he found that it is analyzed within the context of ontological principle.22 In this principle Ibn Sina examines and then establishes the Wajib al-Wujud from the existence itself, by considering the condition (ÍÉl) of being and the existence in general. This is quite different from Aristotle, who considers only one segment of existence, which is God’s
Ibid, 6. Ibid, 8. 16 Ibid, 10. 17 Metaphysics, XII, 7. 18 Davidson, Herbert A, “Avicennas’s Proof of the Existence of God..” 169. 19 His long elaboration is to be found in his Kitab al-Najat; his brief and somewhat obscure presentation is in the Isharat wa al-Tanbihat. The full account of Wajib al-Wujud is in al-Shifa’ and Danish Nama, in which he tends to be only concentrating in the nature of Wajib al-Wujud.
Netton, Ian Richard, Allah Transcendent, 173. Morewedge, Parwiz, The Metaphysics of Avicenna (Ibn Sina), A critical translation-commentary and analysis of the fundamental argument in Avicenna’s Metaphysics in the Danish Namai, ‘ala’i, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973, See translator commentary pp. 229. 22 For the difference between ontological and cosmological argument, See Simon Blackburn, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996, 85; 269.
creation and effect, namely motion. Although Ibn Sina’s concept is still within the Aristotelian tradition, which “examine the existent qua existent and what belongs to it by virtue of itself”,23 he brilliantly applied it in different way, that is by limiting his examination only from metaphysical principle drawn from metaphysics. In contrast, the proof for the existence of God in Aristotle’s theology is drawn largely from the argument of Physics. For this reason Ibn Sina claimed that his method is more certain and more exalted ( batassssssssssssssss As we have mentioned above that Ibn Sina examines the necessary existence from metaphysical principles. In this regard he begins with the statement that primary concepts cannot truly be defined.25 Definition in this sense refers to Aristotelian logic, which is formed from genus and a specific difference already known. Since the primary concepts like existence and thing are not subsumed under anything better known, they are not definable.
necessary, possible and impossible are of primary concepts and therefore cannot be defined and made known in a true sense. But they, in fact, imprinted in soul in a primary fashion.27 Since the primary concepts are not definable, the definition constructed by philosophers, in the eye of Ibn Sina, lead to vicious circle. The possible is defined in terms of either necessary or impossible, and the necessary is either possible or impossible, while the possible is either necessary or possible. However, Ibn Sina tries to clarify them in ostensible definition. The impossible, is that which is not possible to exist, or that which is necessarily not to be; the necessary is that which is impossible not to be or not possible not to be. The possible is that which is not impossible to be or not to be. 28 This is the only possible way to define, but in fact not in Ibn Sina’s standard. However, although the primary concepts cannot be defined from anything better known, Ibn Sina find a way to explain to those who do not have them imprinted in the soul. That is by understanding the denotation of the words and by directing attention and following the speaker’s intention.29 Among these three concepts (necessary, possible and impossible) the priority should be with the necessary. It is because necessary “signifies certainty of
Metaphysics,IV.1.1003a20-21. Cf. al-ShifÉ, vol.1, 13. Ibn Sina, al-IshÉrÉt, wa al-TanbÊhÉt, ed. S.Dunya, Cairo: 1971, vol. I, 146. 25 Ibn Sina, Al-Shifa’, p.35.
Ibid , p.35. Ibid, p.28. 28 Ibid, pp.35-36 29 Ibid, p.29.
٦ existence”30 and existence is better known than the non-existence (‘adam) as it is known by itself, while the non-existence is known, in some way, by existence. By this way the existence play role like, so to speak, the better known thing, from which anything else can be described. Accordingly, if the necessary is signifies certainty, and existence is better known than non-existence, the Necessary existent by reason of itself is final the result. On the principle of Causality We have mentioned that from the from the alteration of the subject matter of metaphysics, the problem of causality is the crucial point that Ibn Sina come with his solution. With reference to the Metaphysics and Physics (Book VII and VIII ) the Unmoved Mover is not a cause within physics but a cause within the science of being qua being, that is a cause of being.
Aristotle connect the physical to metaphysical proof by treating substance or being
based on the concept of change or the principle of change, which is change from potentiality to actuality.32 Therefore, he argues that in order to cause motion its substance must be actuality.33 Thus, Aristotle’s god is the ultimate cause of the physical universe. But it is problematic that God being the First Mover is imparting motion or causing motion but itself being unmoved. In what way does the Unmoved Mover impart motion? And what kind of motion is it? Aristotle’s answer is quite clear from his statement below:
Now such a mover must impart movement as do the desirable and intelligible, which impel movement without themselves undergoing movement. But what is primary of desire and for intelligibility is the same, for 34 what is desired is what appears good, and the primary object of rational choice is what is good.
If it is so, the Unmoved Mover causes motion in a non-physical way and it is by being good as a final cause. Owen remarks that Aristotle describe the relation of both the heaven and the nature with the Unmoved Mover in the order of final causality.35 But in Book VIII of Physics 36 the flow of the argument leading up to the Unmoved Mover indicates a chain of the
Ibid, p.36. Metaphysics, 6.1.1026a27-32. Metaphysics, 12.2.1069b10-20 Metapysics, 12.6.1071b18-20. Metaphysics, 12. 7. 1072a29-34. Owen Joseph, The Doctrine of Being in Aristotle Metaphysics, Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1978, 443. Physics, VIII, 258b10.
31 32 33 34 35 36
line of efficient causality. Perhaps this is the reason that Sir David Ross is in the opinion that Aristotle’s god is the final cause and the efficient cause as well, of change. 37 Copleston38 and Gerson
reject that Aristotle’s God as efficient physical cause. In fact, this controversy is
due to the ambiguous meaning of the term arche tes kineseos. According to Vlastos the term arche tes kineseos is mistranslated. The term “efficient cause” (arche tes kineseos) can apply to any of the four causes except the material. To limit its meaning only to efficient cause is ‘a flagrant translation’. 40 Nevertheless, Vlastos accepts the idea of God being efficient cause on account that when the form functions as both a final and efficient cause, it is never the form itself, but only its actualization in some individual that perform the latter function. Now the only way in which the form of Unmoved Mover could be actualized in an individual other than the Unmoved Mover would be a thought in some minds other that its own. In that case it would be only the thought of the Unmoved Mover in minds that would function as efficient cause. The problem appear from the two different fact that on Physics the Unmoved Mover appears to exercise efficient causality, while in Metaphysics Aristotle denies it as efficient cause. From this predicament we may infer that the designation of final causality for god is perhaps adequate only within the stricture of the Metaphysics. But the problem is that to assume that god is only a final cause would result in difficulty in seeing how being is derived to everything else in that way required by the Metaphysics. By being a final cause God should be a perfect example of being and not being itself. In which case the final causality of the Unmoved Mover is not sufficient to provide the necessary relationship with everything else. Indeed, to grasp the nature of Unmoved Mover in the sense of cause and effect is elusive, just as it is hard to conceive god as the First Cause with direct knowable contact with the universe. God-world relation cannot be regarded as an activity, since it is sort of influence that one person may unconsciously have on another. Therefore, if a question were asked, whether Aristotle’s god is the creator of the world, the answer is obviously negative. It is because he
Ross, Sir David, Aristotle, London, New York: Routledge, 1995, 186. For the notion that the Unmoved
Mover is living being refer to Aristotle’s notion in De Caelo 285a29 and 292a18, that that heavenly bodies are living being. 38 Coupleston, S.J., Frederick, A History of Philosophy, London : Search Press, 1946, 315.
Gerson, God and Greek Philosophy , pp. 134-135. Vlastos, Gregory, Studies in Greek Philosophy, vol.II, ed.Daniel W Graham, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1995, 283-284.
holds that matter is un-generated and eternal, and even argues expressly against the creation of the world. 41 As we have alluded above that the doctrine of causality is the point where Ibn Sina has the most radical departure from Aristotle. The above predicament would be readily resolved if we turn to Ibn Sina’s doctrine of causality. Ibn Sina observes that the fundamental difference between the physical and metaphysical philosophers consists in their use of the term cause or ‘illa. For the former, cause is efficient cause or the principle of movement, whereas for the latter it is the principle or source of existence, primarily God. 42 Hence, Ibn Sina holds that the investigation of the existence of God and of His nature lies outside the scope of physics altogether and must be developed within a metaphysical framework. This thesis departed from Aristotle’s procedure in Physics 8, where the existence of God is demonstrated as the Prime Mover of the universe. Ibn Sina holds that God is the efficient as well as the final cause in metaphysical realm. Efficient cause, says Ibn Sina, is a cause, which bestows existence that differs from itself. 43 The efficient causality in terms of existence itself (bi hasb al-wujËd binafsihi) means that everything which is a cause of an existence different than itself becomes an efficient cause. 44 This explanation not only suggests the inclusion of the emphasis on the otherness of cause and effect, but also the separation between efficient and final causality. In the case of God with respect to the world, the term agent (al-fÉ’il) is not the principle of motion as Aristotle and other natural philosophers believed, but the principle and the bestower of existence. Thus, God is the efficient cause who bestows the existence of the entire creature including the world. The final cause is the cause of the existence of other causes, and it precedes them in mind and in existence, it is the Cause of the Causes (illat al-‘ilal).45 In this definition Ibn Sina introduces other causes, which is the cause of the cause that end at the final cause. In Aristotle theory of causality the causes are referred to matter and form from which thing exist. Moreover, Ibn Sina introduces the concept of “The First Cause” and applies it to his concept of the series of cause and effect to arrive at his doctrine of God as Necessary Being.
Aristotle, De Caelo, 301b31, 279b12ff. Ibid, 257. See Michael E Marmura, “The Metaphysics of Efficient Causality in Avicenna”, in Michael E Marmura Islamic Theology and Philosophy, Albany, SUNY, 1984, 174. Al-ShifÉ’, al-IlÉhiyÉt, vol.1, 293-4.
Al-ShifÉ’, al-IlÉhiyÉt, vol.2, 257.
In his al-IshÉrÉt he argues that whenever there was a series of causes and effect that followed each other, and there appeared in it a cause that was not an effect, then that series had to be regarded as terminating in that cause. Furthermore, every such series or chain arranged according to causes and effect had to be finite and every series end in the Being who necessarily exist by virtue of Himself (wÉjib al-wujËd bi-dhÉtihi),46 who is God. Here God is depicted as the First Cause. This theory of causality is related to his doctrine of intellect, in which heavens are generated by a series of intellection, each Intellect actually bestowing existence upon that which it generates. The series of intellection represented by the hierarchy of being in the whole cosmic process end in the Pure Being from which all thing began. Here Ibn Sina is able to describe the process of creation from God, although he does not employ the term as such. Moreover, as in Aristotle’s natural theology the final cause face difficulty in producing motion and deriving everything else from it, in Ibn Sina this problem is solved by his theory of God’s knowledge. To him “God necessarily knows (ya‘qilu) His essence by essence…. And necessarily knows what come after Him inasmuch as He is the cause of what comes after Him and derives its existence from Him.”47 His knowledge is also unlimited to time and can therefore know about things susceptible to change without being changed Himself. This depiction of God is sufficient to provide the necessary relationship with everything else. So far Ibn Sina has applied the doctrine of causality to his concept of God that totally at variance with that of Aristotle’s God. Ibn Sina interpreted the Aristotelian notion of first efficient cause in metaphysics as the one God from whom all else receive being. By positing god as efficient cause for this universe he substitutes Aristotle’s passive god with the idea of the active and living god who can move everything in the universe. On the personality and unity of God Another point that Ibn Sina Islamizes is on the personality and unity of God, a strange and uncommon issue in Greek philosophy, in general and Aristotle doctrine in particular. In fact, Aristotle demonstrates serious ambiguity on this point, while Ibn Sina exhibits a definite explanation from Islamic doctrine. In Book Lambda Aristotle briefly explains that the individuation or the oneness of the First Mover in definition and in number is only because of
al-IshÉrÉt, vol..3 26-27. al-IshÉrÉt, vol. 3, 278.
١٠ its being complete actuality, for it contains no matter.48 Here the basis of the individuation or the unity is its being actual and immaterial. This seems to contradict his doctrine of matter and form where the individuation of the concrete substance is found in matter, and it is matter that mark off one individual from another. The form of each species is identical in every member of the species and therefore cannot individuate thing. Form is not understood as a correlative of matter any more and therefore it is totally different from the doctrine of matter and form. Therefore, introducing god as “pure form” or “pure substance” is shifting the individuation from matter to form. For this reason O’Connor accused Aristotle as ‘cheating’ his reader.49 From metaphysical viewpoint the principle of individuation relates directly to personality and unity of God. God is already depicted as form and form in Aristotle doctrine is universal, whereas the universal that has no particular in it cannot be individual. To connote the individuality with personality is to seek that the universal in Aristotle’s metaphysics is also individual. Halper 50 infers that Aristotle has an extended usage of both terms and proves that it is possible for something to be both universal and individual. Aristotle’s concept of universal can be referred to the way he calls the first philosophy as universal in the sense of its being primary,
not in the sense of the universality of a predicate. The concept of
individual, on the other hand, is applied to species. Now if in usual usage the term individual refers to one single matter,52 in the extended usage it refers to single form of species. If individual is applied to species, the Unmoved Mover resembles a species in being one in formula. If anything that is one in formula, including species, can be called universal, then the Unmoved Mover is also universal. Besides, the thing that has no matter is numerically one. Since the Unmoved Mover has no matter, it is numerically one. If anything that is numerically one is, in some way, individual, then the Unmoved Mover is individual. But, Gerson disagree to regard the Unmoved Mover as one in formula for its being a resemblance of species. It is because all things that are many in number but one in form have matter and it is impossible to
48 49 50 51 52
Metaphysics, 12. 8.1074a35-37. O’Connor, D.J., A Critical History of Western Philosophy, London: The Free Press of Glenco, Collier Macmillan Limited, 1964, 55. See Edwards C Halper, One and Many in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Columbus : Ohio State University Press, 1989, 242-244. Metaphysics, 6.1. 1026a29-31. Here Aristotle explains the notion “one” in many ways, such as one in form, on in kind and one by analogy. Those numerically one has a single matter, those formally one has a single definition, those generically one has a single pattern of classification and analogically one bear to each other the same ration or relation that another pair has. See Metaphysics, 5. 6.1016b31-33
be applied for the primary substance. But he agrees with the idea that the Unmoved Mover, being a primary substance, which has no matter and is pure actuality, is one both in form and in number.53 However, with regard to other textual evidence it is not the case. In his Book Lambda (1074a12) Aristotle explicitly mentions that there are fifty-five Unmoved Movers. This indicates that Aristotle does not seem to be concerned much about the number of the god, in which case he is definitely and exclusively polytheist. His next statements that the “Unmoved Mover is one both in definition and in number” implies the same understanding as the polytheist conceive the plurality of gods. This also means that Aristotle assumes that there is one form of fifty-five numbers of Unmoved Movers. This can be apprehended that god is one form of different species, who has material entity. Gerson already rejected this. In addition, in the pure form and pure actuality the individuation is taken for granted for its being immaterial, whereas the immaterial things such as soul, intelligence and others can have plurality. Thus, since the immateriality does not necessarily mean individuality or unity, the argument for the basis of individuality of Aristotle’s god is not cogent. So, the idea of the unity of god in Aristotle’s theology is hardly conceivable unless we can affirm that he is definitely monotheist. Since the individuation of god can hardly be identified, the personality of the Unmoved Mover is also vague. In his non-metaphysical work Aristotle strangely wrote a phrase that indicates the personality of God, where god is understood as being that possesses such a kind of consciousness. Since it is not in his Metaphysics it has also no metaphysical explanation. He says in his Politic:
God is happy and blessed, not through any external good but in himself and because of his own natural 54 character.
From just literal understanding of the above statement we may infer provisionally that Aristotle’s God is personal, who has consciousness, feeling and blessedness. But from his other statement this seems to be not the case. Copleston finding is worth noting here. According to him there is no indication that Aristotle understands the First Mover as an object of worship, to whom prayer might be addressed. This argument is referring to Aristotle’s own
Gerson, L.P., God and Greek Philosophy,
p.168.; Cf. Scaltsas, Theodore, Substance and Universal in
Aristotle Metaphysics, Ithaca-London : Cornell University Press, 1994, 92. As quoted by Guthrie, from Aristotle Politic, 1323b24-26. in History of Greek Philosophy: Aristotle an Encounter, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983, 259.
words in Magna Moralia that “those are wrong who thinks that there can be a friendship towards god, for god could not return our loves and we could not in any way be said to love god.” This implies that Aristotle’s god is still unable to have direct contact with his creature with his consciousness, blessedness, mercy and the like. In a very confusing notion, Copleston portrays god for his being an intelligent or a thought and conclude that God may not be personal secundum nomen (according to the name), but he is personal secundum rem (according to the entity). 55 The foregoing elaboration is just to show that the concept of the personality and unity of Aristotle’s god is obscure, unclear and sometimes contradictory. On the contrary, the oneness or the absolute unity of God is the key element in Ibn Sina theology. Ibn Sina’s attempt to introduce the absolute unity of God, in place of Aristotle’s God is stressed on the merge of existence and essence. He says: The First Being has no mÉhiyah other than his anniya.56 This means that God cannot be composed of anything, nor divided into anything. God is not dependent on anything or anyone, for His existence is identical with His own essence. He argues then that whose essence (mÉhiyah) is other than existence is not the Necessary Existence. The Necessary Existent cannot have an essence as the cause of Its Existence. It follows that the First or Necessary Being is absolutely simple, without any kind of composition, above all of genus and specific difference. He does not belong to a class, as man belongs to the class of animal whose essence he shares and from which he is differentiated as a species by being rational. Since the Necessary Being is that by his essence (bidhÉtihi ) realizes his existence, his haqÊqah belong to him alone. He therefore, has no mÉhiyah (quiddity). If God has mÉhiyah He belongs to a genus and would share the other genus or become a part of thing in some way. The Necessary Being, however, is not something composed.57 Thus, God that exists necessarily must have a unique essence.58 God cannot be united to any other being or cause: for if His existence is necessarily uncaused, it clearly cannot be linked in any way to a cause. If, on the other hand, His existence is not necessarily uncaused He obviously cannot be considered as the Necessary Being. To support this doctrine
55 56 57 58
Coupleston, A History of Philosophy, 317. Al-ShifÉ’, al-IlÉhiyÉt, vol.2, 344 Ibid, vol.2, 347. Ibid, vol.1, 43ff; cf. Al-IshÉrÉt, vol.3, 42-43
Ibn Sina characterizes God with some negative notion, such as that God has cause, neither relative, changing, multiple nor has any associate in the existence which is His own. 59 Having described the unity of God Ibn Sina characterized His personality in various ways. In his Al-IshÉrÉt Ibn Sina depicts God as the loved, the lover and the love and hence He is Pure Love:” The First Being loves His essence and is loved by His essence regardless of whether or not He is loved by other things.60 God is also Pure Wisdom, for He knows all things completely and perfectly not via intermediaries, but from Himself since He is the source and cause of all things. The clearest indication of the concept of God’s personality is Ibn Sina’s notion that God is the Truly Rich (al-Ghani al-Haqq) and the True King (al-Malik al-Haqq) in an absolute sense: the essence of all things belongs to Him for all things derived from Him.61 Unlike Aristotle Ibn Sina does not face much difficulty in positing the unity and personality of God, all those attributes are mentioned in the Qur’an. He has successfully introduces the Islamic message although his demonstration might be controversial. His theory of the unity of essence and existence in God and his theory of emanation, for example have resulted in the negation of God’s attributes and creation calls for Muslim theologians to repudiate. Concluding Remark Despite his remarkable system of philosophy, Aristotle’s concept of God is not so exhaustive. It is still within the boundary of pagan theology,62 that usually involve natural process of reasoning concerning God that oppose to those that requires the assistance of revelation.63 All those doctrines and concepts that based on unaided reason are not only contradict the Islamic doctrine, but philosophically implausible. Perhaps these are what Prof. Wan Mohd Nor means by vain argumentation (mirÉ’), doubt (shakk) and conjecture (Ðann) in attaining the certainty of spiritual, intelligible and material realities. 64 If this assumption is
59 60 61
Al-ShifÉ’, al-IlÉhiyÉt, vol.1, 37; cf. Al-IshÉrÉt, vol., 3, 44-45. Al-IshÉrÉt, vol. 4, 42. Ibid, vol. 3, 124.. Gerson quoting St.Augustine mentioned three kind of pagan theology: civic theology, mythical theology and natural theology, See Gerson, God and Greek Philosophy, 1. Blackburn, Simon, Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, s.v. “natural theology”. Wan Mohd Nor Wan Daud, The Educational Philosophy and Practice of Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, Kuala Lumpur, ISTAC, 1998, 312.
admitted, what has been carried out by Ibn Sina, to some extent, has liberated Aristotle’s concept of God from vain argumentation that resulted in doubt and conjectures. This is the very meaning of Islamization. Kuala Lumpur, June, 22, 2000
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