History of Philosophy in Islam, by T.J. de Boer , at sacred-texts.com
1. In the Koran there had been given to Muslims a religion, but no system,--precepts hut no doctrines. What is contrary to logic therein,--what we account for by the shifting circumstances of the Prophet's life, and his varying moods,--was simply accepted by the first believers, without asking questions about the How and Why. But in the conquered countries they were faced by a fully-formed Christian Dogmatic as well as by Zoroastrian and Brahmanic theories. We have laid frequent stress already upon the great debt which the Muslims owe to the Christians; and the doctrinal system has certainly been determined the most by Christian influences. In Damascus the formation of Muslim Dogmas was affected by Orthodox and Monophysite teaching, and in Basra and Bagdad rather perhaps by Nestorian and Gnostic theories. Little of the literature belonging to the earliest period of this movement has come down to us, but we cannot be
wrong in assigning a considerable influence to personal intercourse and regular school-instruction. Not much was learned in the East at that time out of books, any more than it is to-day: more was learned from the lips of the teacher. The similarity between the oldest doctrinal teachings in Islam and the dogmas of Christianity is too great to permit any one to deny that they are directly connected. In particular, the first question about which there was much dispute, among Muslim Scholars, was that of the Freedom of the Will. Now the freedom of the will was almost universally accepted by Oriental Christians. At no time and in no place perhaps was the Will-problem--first in the Christology, but afterward in the Anthropology--so much discussed from every point as in the Christian circles of the East at the time of the Muslim conquest.
Besides these considerations which are partly of an a priori character, there are also detached notices which indicate that some of the earliest Muslims, who taught the Freedom of the Will, had Christian teachers.
A number of purely philosophic elements from the Gnostic systems, and afterwards from the translation-literature, associated themselves with the Hellenistic-Christian influences.
2. An assertion, expressed in logical or dialectic fashion, whether verbal or written, was called by the Arabs,--generally, but more particularly in religious teaching--a Kalam (λόγος), and those who advanced such assertions were called Mutakallimun. The name was transferred from the individual assertion to the entire system, and it covered also the introductory, elementary observations on Method,
[paragraph continues] --and so on. Our best designation for the science of the Kalam is 'Theological Dialectics'. or simply 'Dialectics'; and in what follows we may translate Mutakallimun by 'Dialecticians'.
The name Mutakallimun, which was at first common to all the Dialecticians, was in later times . applied specially to the Antimutazilite and Orthodox theologians. In the latter case it might be well, following the sense, to render the term by Dogmatists or Schoolmen. In fact while the first dialecticians had the Dogma still to form, those who came later had only to expound and establish it.
The introduction of Dialectics into Islam was a violent innovation, and it was vehemently denounced by the party of the Tradition. Whatever went beyond the regular ethical teaching was heresy to them, for faith should be obedience, and not,--as was maintained by the Murdjites and Mutazilites--, knowledge. By the latter it was laid down without reserve that speculation was one of the duties of believers. Even to this demand the times became reconciled, for according to tradition the Prophet had said already: 'The first thing which God created was Knowledge or Reason'.
3. Very numerous are the various opinions which found utterance in the days even of the Omayyads, but especially in those of the early Abbasids. The farther they diverged from one another, the more difficult it was for the men of the Tradition to come to an understanding with them; but gradually certain compact doctrinal collections stood out distinctly, of which the rationalist system of the Mutazilites, the successors of the Qadarites, was most widely extended, particularly among Shi‘ites. From Caliph Mamun's
time down to Mutawakkil's, it even received State recognition; and the Mutazilites, who had been in earlier days oppressed and persecuted by the temporal power, now became Inquisitors of the Faith themselves, with whom the sword supplied the place of argument. About the same time, however, their opponents the Traditionalists commenced to build up a system of belief. Upon the whole there was no lack of intermediary forms between the naive Faith of the multitude and the Gnosis of the dialecticians. In contrast to the spiritualistic stamp of Mutazilitism these intermediary forms took an anthropomorphic character with regard to the doctrine of the Deity, and a materialistic character with regard to the theory of man and the universe (Anthropology and Cosmology). The soul, for example, was conceived of by them as corporeal, or as an accident of the body, and the Divine Essence was imagined as a human body. The religious teaching and art of the Muslims were greatly averse to the symbolical God-Father of the Christians, but there was an abundance of absurd speculations about the form of Allah. Some went so far as to ascribe to him all the bodily members together, with the exception of the beard and other privileges of oriental manhood.
It is impossible to discuss in detail all the Dialectic sects, which often made their first appearance in the form of political parties. From the standpoint of the history of Philosophy it is, enough to give here the chief doctrines of the Mutazilites, in so far as they can lay claim to general interest.
4. The first question, then, concerned man's conduct and destiny. The forerunners of the Mutazilites, who were
called Qadarites, taught the Freedom of the human Will; and the Mutazilites, even in later times, when their speculations were directed more to theologico-metaphysical problems, were first and foremost pointed to as the supporters of the doctrine of Divine Righteousness,--which gives rise to no evil, and rewards or punishes man according to his deserts--, and, in the second place, as the confessors, or avowed supporters of the Unity of God, i.e. the absence of properties from his Essence considered per se [or the predicateless character of the essential nature of God]. The systematic statement of their doctrines must have been influenced by the Logicians (v. IV, 2 § 1); for even in the first half of the 10th century, the Mutazilite system began with the confession of the Unity of God, while the doctrine of God's Righteousness, announced as it is in all his works, is relegated to the second place.
The responsibility of man, as well as the holiness of God, who is incapable of directly causing man's sinful actions, had to be saved by asserting the freedom of the Will. Man must therefore be lord of his actions; but he is lord of these only, for few entertained any doubt that the energy which confers ability to act at all, and the power of doing either a good or a bad action come to man from God. Hence the numerous subtle discussions,--amalgamated with a criticism of the philosophic conception of Time--on the question whether the power, which God creates in man, is bestowed previous to the action, or coincidently and simultaneously therewith: For, did the power precede the act, then it would either have to last up to the time of the act, which would belie its accidental character (cf. II, 3 § 12), or have ceased to
exist before the act,--in which case it might have been dispensed with altogether.
From human conduct speculation passed on to consider the operations of nature. Instead of God and man, the antithesis in this case is God and nature. The productive and generative powers of nature were recognized as means or proximate causes; and some endeavoured to investigate them. In their opinion, however, nature herself, like all the world, was a work of God, a creature of his wisdom: And just as the omnipotence of God was limited in the moral kingdom by his holiness or righteousness,--so in the natural world it was limited by his wisdom. Even the presence of evil and mischief in the world was accounted for by the wisdom of God, who sends everything for the best. A production or object of Divine activity, evil is not. "God may be able, indeed,"--so an earlier generation had maintained--"to act wickedly and unreasonably, but he would not do it." The later Mutazilites taught, on the other hand, that God has no power at all to do anything which is in this way repugnant to his nature. Their opponents, who regarded God's unlimited might and unfathomable will as directly operative in all doing and effecting were indignant at this teaching, and compared its propounders to the dualistic Magians. Consistent Monism. was on the side of these opponents, who did not care to turn man and nature into creators--next to and under God--of their acts or operations.
5. The Mutazilites, it is clear from the foregoing, had a different idea of God from that which was entertained by the multitude and by the Traditionalists. This became specially evident, as speculation advanced, in the doctrine
of the Divine attributes. From the very beginning the Unity of God was strongly emphasized in Islam; but that did not prevent men from bestowing upon him many beautiful names following human analogy, and ascribing to him several attributes. Of these the following came gradually into greatest prominence, under the influence assuredly of Christian dogmatics:--viz.: Wisdom, Power, Life, Will, Speech or Word, Sight and Hearing. The last two of these--Sight and Hearing--were the first to be explained in a spiritual sense, or entirely set aside. But the absolute Unity of the Godhead did not appear to be compatible with any plurality of co-eternal attributes. Would not that be the Trinity of the Christians, who before now had explained the three Persons of the One Divine Being as attributes? In order to avoid this inconvenience they sought sometimes to derive several attributes out of others by a process of abstraction., and to refer them to a single one--for instance to Knowledge or Power--and sometimes to apprehend them each and all as being states of the Divine essence, or to identify them with the essence itself, in which case of course their significance nearly disappeared. Occasionally an attempt was made through refinements of phraseology to save something of that significance. While, for example, a philosopher, denying the attributes, maintained that God is by his essence a Being who knows, a Mutazilite dialectian expressed it thus: God is a Being who knows, but by means of a knowledge, which He himself is.
In the opinion of the Traditionalists the conception of God was in this way being robbed of all its contents. The Mutazilites hardly got beyond negative determinations,
[paragraph continues] --that God is not like the things of this world,--that he is exalted above Space, Time, Movement, and so on; but they held fast to the doctrine that he is the Creator of the world. Although little could be asserted regarding the Being of God, it was thought he could be known from his works.
For the Mutazilites as well as for their opponents, the Creation was an absolute act of God, and the existence of the world an existence in time. They energetically combated the doctrine of the eternity of the world,--a doctrine supported by the Aristotelian philosophy, and which had been widely spread throughout the East.
6. We have already found 'Speech' or 'the Word', given as one of the eternal attributes of God; and, probably by way of conformity with the Christian doctrine of the Logos, there was taught in particular the eternity of the Koran which had been revealed to the Prophet. This belief in an eternal Koran by the side of Allah, was downright idolatry, according to the Mutazilites; and in opposition thereto the Mutazilite Caliphs proclaimed it as a doctrine accepted by the State,--that the Koran had been created: Whoever denied this doctrine was publicly punished. Now although the Mutazilites in maintaining this dogma were more in harmony with the original Islam than their opponents, yet history has justified the latter, for pious needs proved stronger than logical conclusions. Many of the Mutazilites, in the opinion of their brethren in the faith, were far too ready to make light of the Koran, the Word of God. If it did not agree with their theories, it received ever new interpretations. In actual fact reason had more weight with many than the revealed Book. By comparing not only the
three revealed religions together, but these also with Persian and Indian religious teaching and with philosophic speculation, they reached a natural religion, which reconciled opposites. This was built up on the basis of an inborn knowledge, universally necessary,--that there is one God, who, as a wise Creator, has produced the world, and also endowed Man with reason that he may know his Creator and distinguish between Good and Evil. Contrasted with this Natural or Rational religion, acquaintance with the teaching of revelation is then something adventitious,--an acquired knowledge.
By this contention the most consistent of the Mutazilites had broken away from the consensus of the Muslim religious community, and had thus actually put themselves outside the general faith. At first they still appealed to that consensus,--which they were able to do as long as the secular power was favourably disposed to them. That condition, however, did not last long, and they soon learned by experience what has often been taught since,--that the communities of men are more ready to accept a religion sent down to them from on high, than an enlightened explanation of it.
7. Following up this survey let us take a closer view of one or two of the most considerable of the Mutazilites, that the general picture may not be wanting in individual features.
Let us first glance at Abu-l-Hudhail al-Allaf, who died about the middle of the 9th century. He was a famous dialectician, and one of the first who allowed philosophy to exercise an influence on their theological doctrines.
That an attribute should be capable of inhering in a
[paragraph continues] Being in any way is not conceivable, in the opinion of Abu-l-Hudhail: It must either be identical with the Being or different from it. But yet he looks about for some way of adjustment. God is, according to him, knowing, mighty, living, through knowledge, might and life, which are his very essence; and just as men had done even before this, on the Christian side, he terms these three predicates the Modi (wudjuh) of the Divine Being. He agrees also that hearing, seeing and other attributes are eternal in God, but only with regard to the world which was afterwards to be created. Besides, it would be easy enough for him and for others, who were affected by the philosophy of the day, to interpret these and similar expressions--such as God's 'beholding' on the last day, 1--in a spiritual sense, since generally they regarded seeing and hearing as spiritual acts. For example, Abu-l-Hudhail maintained that motion was visible, but not palpable, because it was not a body.
The Will of God, however, is not to be regarded as eternal. On the contrary, Abu-l-Hudhail assumes absolute declarations of Will as being different both from the Being who wills and the object which is willed. Thus the absolute Word of Creation takes an intermediate position between the eternal Creator and the transient created world. These declarations of God's Will form a kind of intermediate essence, to be compared with the Platonic Ideas or the Sphere-spirits, but perhaps regarded rather as immaterial powers than as personal spirits. Abu-l-Hudhail distinguishes between the absolute Word of Creation and the accidental Word of Revelation, which is announced to men in the form of command and prohibition, appearing as matter and in space, and which
is thus significant only for this transient world. The possibility of living in accordance with the Divine word of revelation, or of resisting it, exists therefore in this life alone. Binding injunction and prohibition presuppose Freedom of Will and capability of acting in accordance therewith. On the other hand in the future life there are no obligations in the form of laws, and, accordingly, no longer any freedom: everything there depends on the absolute determination of God. Nor will there be any motion in the world beyond, for as motion has once had a beginning, it must, at the end of the world, come to a close in everlasting rest. Abu-l-Hudhail, therefore, could not have believed in a resurrection of the body.
Human actions he divides into Natural and Moral, or Actions of the members, and Actions of the heart. An action is moral, only when we perform it without constraint. The moral act is Man's own property, acquired by his own exertions, but his knowledge comes to him from God, partly through Revelation, and partly through the light of Nature.
Anterior even to any revelation man is instructed in duty by Nature, and thus is fully enabled to know God, to discern Good from Evil, and to live a virtuous, honest and upright life.
8. Noteworthy as a man and a thinker is a younger contemporary of Abu-l-Hudhail's, and apparently a disciple of his, commonly called Al-Nazzam, who died in the year 845. A fanciful, restless, ambitious man, not a consistent thinker, but yet a bold and honest one,--such is the representation of him given us by Djahiz, one of his pupils. The people considered him a madman or a heretic. A good deal in his teaching is in touch with what passed among
the Orientals as the Philosophy of Empedocles and Anaxagoras (Cf. also Abu-l-Hudhail).
In the opinion of Nazzam God can do absolutely no evil thing; in fact he can only do that which he knows to be the best thing for his servants. His omnipotence reaches no farther than what he actually does. Who could hinder him from giving effect to the splendid exuberance of his Being? A Will, in the proper sense of the term,--which invariably implies a need,---is by no means to be attributed to God. The Will of God, on the contrary, is only a designation of the Divine agency itself, or of the commands which have been conveyed to men. Creation is an act performed once for all, in which all things were made at one and the same time, so that one thing is contained in another, and so that in process of time the various specimens of minerals, plants and animals, as well as the numerous children of Adam, gradually emerge from their latent condition and come to the light.
Nazzam, like the philosophers, rejects the theory of atoms (v. II, 3 § 12), but then he can only account for the traversing of a definite distance, by reason of the infinite divisibility of space, by postulating leaps. He holds bodily substances to be composed of 'accidents' instead of atoms. And just as Abu-l-Hudhail could not conceive of the inherence of attributes in an essence, so Nazzam can only imagine the accident as the substance itself or as a part of the substance; Thus 'Fire' or 'the Warm', for instance, exists in a latent condition in wood, but it becomes free when, by means of friction, its antagonist 'the Cold' disappears. In the process there occurs a motion or transposition, but no qualitative change. Sensible qualities, such as
colours, savours and odours, are, in Nazzam's view, bodies.
Even the soul or the intellect of Man he conceives to be a finer kind of body. The soul, of course, is the most excellent part of man: it completely pervades the body, which is its organ, and it must be termed the real and true Man. Thoughts and aspirations are defined as Movements of the Soul.
In matters of Faith and in questions of Law Nazzam rejects both the consensus of the congregation and the analogical interpretation of the Law, and appeals in Shiite fashion to the infallible Imam. He thinks it possible for the whole body of Muslims to concur in admitting an erroneous doctrine, as, for instance, the doctrine that Mohammed has a mission for all mankind in contradistinction to other prophets. Whereas God sends every prophet to all mankind.
Nazzam, besides, shares the view of Abu-l-Hudhail as to the knowledge of God and of moral duties by means of the reason. He is not particularly convinced of the inimitable excellence of the Koran. The abiding marvel of the Koran is made to consist only in the fact that Mohammed's contemporaries were kept. from producing something like to the Koran.
He has certainly not retained much of the Muslim Eschatology. At least the torments of hell are in his view resolved into a process of consuming by fire.
9. Many syncretistic doctrines, but all devoid of originality, have come down to us from the school of Nazzam. The most famous man, whom it produced was the elegant writer and Natural-Philosopher Djahiz († 869), who demanded of the genuine scholar that he should combine the study
of Theology with that of Natural Science. He traces in all things the operations of Nature, but also a reference in these operations to the Creator of the world. Man's reason is capable of knowing the Creator, and in like manner of comprehending the need of a prophetic revelation. Man's only merit is in his will, for on the one hand all his actions are interwoven with the events of Nature, and on the other his entire knowledge is necessarily determined from above. And yet no great significance appears to accrue to the Will, which is derived from 'knowing'. At least Will in the Divine Being is quite negatively conceived of, that is, God never operates unconsciously, or with dislike to his work.
In all this there is little that is original. His ethical ideal is 'the mean', and the style of his genius is also mediocre. It is only in compiling his numerous writings that Djahiz has shown any excess.
10. With the earlier Mutazilites reflections on Ethics and Natural Philosophy predominate; with those who come later Logico-metaphysical meditations prevail. In particular Neo-Platonic influences are to be traced here.
Muammar, whose date cannot be accurately determined, although it may be set down as about the year 900, has much in common with those who have just been named. But he is far more emphatic in his denial of the existence of Divine attributes, which he regards as being contradictory of the absolute unity of the Divine essence. God is high above every form of plurality. He knows neither himself nor any other being, for 'knowing' would presuppose a plurality in him. He is even to be called Hyper-eternal. Nevertheless he is to be recognized as Creator of the world. He has only created bodies, it is true; and these of themselves
create their Accidents, whether through operation of Nature or by Will. The number of these accidents is infinite, for in their essence they are nothing more than the intellectual relations of thought. Muammar is a Conceptualist. Motion and Rest, Likeness and Unlikeness, and so on, are nothing in themselves, and have merely an intellectual or ideal existence. The soul, which is held to be the true essence of Man, is conceived of as an Idea or an immaterial substance, though it is not clearly stated how it is related to the body or to the Divine essence. The account handed down is confused.
Man's will is free, and,--properly speaking,--Willing is his only act, for the outward action belongs to the body (Cf. Djahiz).
The school of Bagdad, to which Muammar seems to belong, was conceptualist. With the exception of the most general predicates,--those of Being and Becoming, it made Universals subsist only as notions or concepts. Abu Hashim of Basra († 933) stood nearer to Realism. The attributes of God, as well as Accidents and Genus-notions in general, were regarded by him as something in a middle position between Being and Not-Being: he called them Conditions or Modes. He designated Doubt as a requisite in all knowing. A simple Realist he was not.
Mutazilite thinkers indulged in dialectic quibbling even about 'Not-Being'. They argued that Not-Being, as well as Being, must come to possess a kind of reality, seeing that it may become the subject of thought: at least man tries to think of 'Nothing' rather than not think at all.
11. In the 9th century several dialectic systems had been formed in the contest against the Mutazilites, one of which,
viz. the Karramite system, held its ground till long after the 10th century. There arose, however, from the ranks of the Mutazilites a man whose mission it was to reconcile antagonistic views, and who set up that doctrinal system which was acknowledged as orthodox first in the East, and, later, throughout the whole of Islam. This was Al-Ashari (873-935), who understood how to render to God the things that are God's, and to man the things that are man's. He rejected the rude anthropomorphism of the Antimutazilite dialecticians, and set God high above all that is bodily and human, while he left to the Deity his omnipotence, and his universal agency. With him Nature lost all her efficaciousness; but for man a certain distinction was reserved, consisting in his being able to give assent to the works which were accomplished in him by God, and to claim these as his own. Nor was Man's sensuous-spiritual being interfered with: He was permitted to hope for the resurrection of the body and the beholding of God. As regards the Koranic revelation, Ashari distinguished between an eternal Word in God, and the Book as we possess it, which latter was revealed in Time.
In the detailed statement of his doctrines Ashari showed no originality in any way, but merely arranged and condensed the material given him,--a proceeding which could not be carried out without discrepancies. The main thing, however, was that his Cosmology, Anthropology and Eschatology did not depart too far from the text of the Tradition for the edification of pious souls, and that his theology, in consequence of a somewhat spiritualized conception of God was not altogether unsatisfactory even to men of higher culture.
Ashari relies upon the revelation contained in the Koran. He does not recognize any rational knowledge with regard to Divine things that is independent of the Koran. The senses are not in general likely to deceive us, but on the other hand our judgment may easily do so. We know God, it is true, by our reason, but only from Revelation, which is the one source of such knowledge.
According to Ashari, then, God is first of all the omnipotent Creator. Farther he is omniscient: he knows what men do and what they wish to do: he knows also what happens, and how that which does not happen would have happened, if it had happened. Moreover all predicates which express any perfection are applicable to God, with the proviso that they apply to him in another and higher sense than to his creatures. In creating and sustaining the world God is the sole cause: all worldly events proceed continually and directly from him. Man, however, is quite conscious of the difference between his involuntary movements, such as shivering and shaking, and those which are carried out in the exercise of his will and choice.
12. The most characteristic theory which the dialectic of the Muslims has fashioned, is their doctrine of Atoms. The development of this doctrine is still wrapped in great obscurity. It was advocated by the Mutazilites but particularly by their opponents before the time of Ashari. Our sketch shows how it was held in the Asharite school, where partly perhaps it was first developed.
The Atomic doctrine of the Muslim dialecticians had its source, of course, in Greek Natural Philosophy; but its reception and farther development were determined by the requirements of theological Polemic and Apologetic. The
like phenomenon may be observed in the case of individual Jews and among believing Catholics. It is impossible to suppose that Atomism was taken up in Islam, merely because Aristotle had fought against it. Here we have to register a desperate struggle for a religious advantage, and one in which weapons are not chosen at will: It is the end that decides. Nature has to be explained, not from herself but from some divine creative act; and this world must be regarded not as an eternal and divine order of things, but as a creature of transient existence. God must be thought of and spoken of as a freely-working and almighty Creator, not as an impersonal cause or inactive primeval source. Accordingly, from the earliest times the doctrine of the creation is placed at the apex of Muslim dogmatics, as a testimony against the pagan-philosophical view of the eternity of the world and the efficient operations of Nature. What we perceive of the sensible world,--say these Atomists,--is made up of passing 'accidents' which every moment come and go. The substratum of this 'change' is constituted by the (bodily) substances; and because of changes occurring in or on these substances, they cannot be thought of as themselves unchangeable. If then they are changeable, they cannot be permanent, for that which is eternal does not change. Consequently everything in the world, since everything changes, has come into being, or has been created by God.
That is the starting-point. The changeableness of all that exists argues an eternal, unchangeable Creator. But later writers, under the influence of Muslim philosophers, infer from the possible or contingent character of everything finite, the necessary existence of God,
But let us come back to the world. It consists of Accidents and their substrata,--Substances. Substance and Accident or Quality are the two categories by means of which reality is conceived. The remaining categories either come under the category of Quality, or else are resolved into relations, and modifications of thought, to which, objectively, nothing corresponds. Matter, as possibility, exists only in thought: Time is nothing other than the coexistence of different objects, or simultaneity in presentation; and Space and Size may be attributed to bodies indeed, but not to the individual parts (Atoms), of which bodies are composed.
But, generally speaking, it is Accidents which form the proper predicates of substances. Their number in every individual substance is very great, or even infinite as some maintain, since of any pair whatever of opposite determinations,--and these include negatives also,--the one or the other is attributable to every substance. The negative 'accident' is just as real as the positive. God creates also Privation and Annihilation, though certainly it is not easy to discover a substratum for these. And seeing that no Accident can ever have its place elsewhere than in some substance, and cannot have it in another Accident, there is really nothing general or common in any number of substances. Universals in no wise exist in individual things: They are Concepts.
Thus there is no connection between substances: they stand apart, in their capacity of atoms equal to one another. In fact they have a greater resemblance to the Homoeomeries of Anaxagoras than to the extremely small particles of matter of the Atomists. In themselves they are
non-spatial (without makan), but they have their position (hayyiz), and by means of this position of theirs they fill space. It is thus unities not possessing extension, but conceived of as points,--out of which the spatial world of body is constructed. Between these unities there must be a void, for were it otherwise any motion would be impossible, since the atoms do not press upon one another. All change, however, is referred to Union and Separation, Movement and Rest. Farther operative relations between the Atom-substances, there are none. The Atoms exist then, and enjoy their existence. but have nothing at all to do with one another. The world is a discontinuous mass, without any living reciprocal action between its parts.
The ancients had prepared the way for this conception by their theory, amongst other things, of the discontinuous character of Number. Was not Time defined as the tale or numbering of Motion? Why should we not apply that doctrine to Space, Time and Motion? The Dialecticians did this; and the 'skepsis' of the older philosophy may have contributed its influence in the process. Like the substantial, corporeal world,--Space, Time and Motion were decomposed into atoms devoid of extension, and into moments without duration. Time becomes a succession of many individual 'Nows', and between every two moments of time there is a void. The same is the case with Motion: between every two movements there is a Rest. A quick motion and a slow motion possess the same speed, but the latter has more points of Rest. Then, in order to get over the difficulty of the empty space, the unoccupied moment of time, and the pause for rest between two movements, the theory of a Leap is made use of. Motion is to be regarded
as a leaping onward from one point in space to another, and Time as an advance effected in the same manner from one moment to another.
In reality they had no use at all for this fantastic theory of a Leap: it was a mere reply to unsophisticated questioning. With perfect consistency they had cut up the entire material world, as it moves in space and time, into Atoms with their Accidents. Some no doubt maintained, that although accidents every moment disappear, yet substances endure, but others made no difference in this respect. They taught that substances, which are in fact points in space, exist only for a point of time, just like Accidents. Every moment God creates the world anew, so that its condition at the present moment has no essential connection with that which has immediately preceded it or that which follows next. In this way there is a series of worlds following one another, which merely present the appearance of one world. That for us there is anything like connection or Causality in phenomena proceeds from the fact that Allah in his inscrutable will does not choose either to-day or to-morrow to interrupt the usual course of events by a miracle,--which however he is able at any moment to do. The disappearance of all causal 'connection according to the Atomistic Kalam is vividly illustrated by the classical instance of 'the writing man.' God creates in him,--and that too by an act of creation which is every moment renewed--first the will, then the faculty of writing, next the movement of the, hand, and lastly the motion of the pen. Here one thing is completely independent of the other.
Now if against this view the objection is urged, that along with Causality or the regular succession of worldly
events, the possibility of any knowledge is taken away, the believing thinker replies, that Allah verily foreknows everything, and creates not only the things of the world and what they appear to effect, but also the knowledge about them in the human soul, and we do not need to be wiser than He. He knows best.
Allah and the World, God and Man,--beyond these antitheses Muslim dialectic could not reach. Besides God, there is room only for corporeal substances and their accidents. The existence of human souls as incorporeal substances, as well as generally the existence of pure Spirits,--both of which doctrines were maintained by philosophers, and, though less definitely, by several Mutazilites,--would not harmonize properly with the Muslim doctrine of the transcendent nature of God, who has no associate. The soul belongs to the world of body. Life, Sensation, Rational endowment, are accidents, just as much as Colour, Taste, Smell, Motion and Rest. Some assume only one soul-atom: According to others several finer soul-atoms are mingled with the bodily atoms. At all events thinking is attached to one single Atom.
13. It was not every good Muslim that could find mental repose in dialectic. The pious servant of God might yet, in another way, draw somewhat nearer to his Lord. This need,--existing in Islam at the very outset, strengthened too by Christian and Indo-Persian influences, and intensified under more highly developed conditions of civilization,--evoked in Islam a series of phenomena, which are usually designated as Mysticism or Sufism. 1 In this development of a Muslim order of Holy men, or of a Muslim Monkish
system, the history of Christian monks and cloisters in Syria and Egypt, as well as that of Indian devotees, is repeated. In this matter then we have at bottom to deal with religious or spiritual practice; but practice always mirrors itself in thought, and receives its theory. In order to bring about a more intimate relationship with the Godhead, many symbolical acts and mediating persons were required. Such persons then endeavoured to discover the mysteries of the symbols for themselves and to disclose them to the initiated, and to establish, besides, their own mediatory position in the scale of universal being. .In particular, Neo-Platonic doctrines,--partly drawn from the turbid source of the Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite and the holy Hierotheos (Stephen bar Sudaili?)--had to lend their aid in this work. The Indian Yoga too, at least in Persia, seems to have exercised considerable influence. For the most part Mysticism kept within the pale of Orthodoxy, which was always sensible enough to allow a certain latitude to poets and enthusiasts. As regards the doctrine that God works all in all, Dialecticians and Mystics were agreed; but extreme Mysticism propounded the farther doctrine that God is all in all. From this a heterodox Pantheism was developed, which made the world an empty show, and deified the human Ego. Thus the Unity of God becomes Universal Unity; his universal activity Universal Existence. Besides God, there exist at the most only the attributes and conditions of the Sufi souls that are tending towards him. A psychology of feeling is developed by the Sufi teachers. In their view, while our conceptions come to the soul from without, and our exertions amount to the externalizing of what is within, the true essence of our soul consists in certain states or feelings of
inclination and disinclination. The most essential of all these is Love. It is neither fear nor hope, but Love that lifts us up to God. Blessedness is not a matter of 'knowing' or of 'willing': it is Union with the loved one. These Mystics did away with the world (as ultimately they did with the human soul) in a far more thorough-going fashion than the Dialecticians had done. By the latter the world was sacrificed to the arbitrary character of God in Creation; by the former to the illuminating, loving nature of the Divine Being. The confusing multiplicity of things, as that appears to sense and conception, is removed in a yearning after the One and Beloved being. Everything, both in Being and Thinking, is brought to one central point. Contrast with this the genuine Greek spirit. In it a wish was cherished for a still greater number of senses, to enable men . to get a somewhat better acquaintance with this fair world. But these Mystics blame the senses for being too many, because their number brings disorder into their felicity.
Human nature, however, always asserts herself. Those men who renounce the world and the senses, frequently run riot in the most sensual fantasies, till far advanced in life. We need not wonder after all, that many troubled themselves very little indeed about religious doctrine, or that the ascetic morality of the Sufis often went to the other extreme.
The task of following out in detail the development of Sufism, however, belongs to the history of Religion rather than to the history of Philosophy. Besides, we find the philosophical elements which it took up, in the Muslim philosophers whom we shall meet with farther on.
50:1 For this the Mystics introduced a sixth sense.
62:1 Ascetics were called Sufis, from their coarse woollen garment, or Sûf.