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4. Al-Juwaynī

In the first part of the fifth/A.H. eleventh/A.D. century, the Islamic orthodoxy of the ‘Abbāsī Empire was everywhere on the defensive, as was the empire itself. There now occurred mass migrations of Central Asiatic Turks into Islamic territory. Fortunately for the settled Muslims, who were unable to effectively resist this virile nomadic people, many of the Turks had already been converted to Islam by Ṡūfīs from Eastern Han, so that some of them were ready to defend the culture of the settled people against their own tribesmen.

The ‘Abbāsī Caliph invited one family of Turkish chiefs, The Saljūqs, to replace the dictatorship of the House of Buwayh, and in 1058 awarded its head the new titles Sulṭan (authority) and "King of the East and West." The Sunnīsm of the Saljūqs recommended them to the imperial orthodoxy; they honored the Caliph and kept the

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nomads in check. Their more troublesome tribesmen they sent to the Northwest Marches, where they made rapid conquests at the expense of the East Christian Byzantine Empire, in what is now Turkey.

Sunnīs, and hospitable to Ṡūfī influence, the Saljūqs at first persecuted as rationalist innovators the followers of al-Ash‘arī along with the Mu‘tazila. Being themselves illiterate, the Saljūqs were forced to rely heavily on their Persian ministers (wazīrs). The greatest of these was the master-statesman Niẓām al-Mulk (died A.H. 485/A.D. 1092) who as regent helped reorganize the crumbling empire politically, militarily, socially and economically. A Shāfi‘ī, he supported the Ash‘arīya, to enlist their aid in the ideological struggle against the Sunnī Empire's most dangerous foes, the Ismā‘īlī Shī‘a. The madrasas or religious academies he founded also gave the rulers an important method of controlling the religious leaders.

In Nīsāpūr he endowed the Niẓāmīya madrasa for the renowned Ash‘arī mutakallim Abū Ma‘ālī ‘Abd al-Mālik al-Juwaynī, best known by his title Imām al-Ḥaramayn (Imām of the Two Holy Places), earned by four years spent teaching with distinction in Mecca and Medina (A.D. 1058-1062) during the early wave of Saljūq persecution of the Ash‘arīya in Iran. A very prolific writer of kalām and Shāfi'ī fiqh, al-Juwaynī died in A.H. 478/A.D. 1085. The following selection is from a creed of his last years, a work dedicated to his patron, the Niẓam al-Mulk.


Prophecy: A group known as the Brahmans believe in the Creator, but deny prophethood. We shall indicate the way in which they delude themselves and answer them briefly and clearly.

Among the things they mention is, that if prophets brought things contrary to reason, they would have to be discarded,

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and that if they brought what agrees with reason and satisfied it, sending them would be an absurd thing.

We reply: They bring both what reason cannot deny and would not be guided to (independently); provisions of the Law, the Divine promises and threats, on which depend judgments and which reason would not perceive, even though it concurs with all virtuous things. But reason would not concur on all the particulars which the Laws expound.

Thus there is no obstacle in what the prophets bring to what reason makes clear, so that they confirm the data of reason and assist it. (Besides) when one speaks according to the propositions of reason, his words may not be counted as nonsense, even if reason has led to what he is saying. There are (to be sure) in some of the things God has created satisfying proofs as to the existence of the Creator, and none of the wonders of creation may be counted an absurd thing.

Among things the Brahmans say is this: "We find in the laws of your prophets matters permitted and even made obligatory which reason finds hideous, (such as) the sacrificing of animals who have done no harm, and instructions of positions for prostration (in prayer), and running between Safā and Marwa, the fast pace and the pointless throwing of stones."

We shall mention briefly what will cut off this whole argument. We say to the Brahmans: You assert that you have knowledge of the Creator, who acts as He chooses, and then you reject prophethood according to what reason approves and disapproves. All that you call hideous is what He has commanded, and we shall show you the like about the other things God does. As for the sacrifice of animals, God lets them die, occasioning their death, and permits whatever (natural) pains He will. What He does Himself (in nature) is not considered hideous, and it may not be considered hideous when He commands it. As to their disapproving the aspect of a man in the ritual prayers, we say: (Even) if God were to create a man in the attitude of prostration and never enable him to find a rag with which to cover himself, and leave him with his pudenda exposed, God's action could (still) not be disapproved.

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Whoever has come this far with us can refute such things as we have mentioned among all the objections they raise, for they have based their whole position on criticizing the acts of God, and as we have said before, one can only criticize the acts of those who are harmed or benefitted thereby--and God is exalted far above that.

So, since we have stated our position and dealt with it in satisfactory terms, if anyone raises objections (to prophethood) which depend on a position similar to theirs, we shall pay no attention to him.

Further, we say that prophethood means that God causes one of His servants to know His order to communicate His message to His servants. This is not a matter which reason finds absurd, so it may be reaffirmed that prophethood is not an absurdity.

We shall now discuss the certification of prophethood and its occurrence, and prophetic wonders and the conditions for them, and then how wonders indicate the truthfulness of the messengers of God, and how a wonder is to be established, and how we may certify the prophethood of our master and lord Muhammad--the benediction of God and peace be upon him 7


196:7 al-‘Aqīda al-Nizāmīya (Cairo, 1948), pp. 47, 48. Also in German translation by H. Klopfer as Das Dogma des Imam al-Haramain al-Djūwainī (Cairo, 1958).

Next: 5. Al-Ghazālī