Sunday, May 22, 2011

Islamic Metaphysics

In the name of Allah The Beneficent The Merciful

Islamic metaphysics is the study of metaphysics within Islamic philosophy.  The problems inquired in Islamic metaphysics are the same as the problems investigated in the study of Western metaphysics.  Islamic metaphysics is concerned with finding the truth about the nature of God, the nature of truth, the nature of the universe, the nature of man, the purpose of all creations including man, life after death, and other such metaphysical problems.  The difference between Islamic metaphysics and Western metaphysics is Islamic metaphysics recognizes the existence of the spiritual or unseen realities.  What is real is not just a concept conjured up by the mind through synthesis of information but a concept or a word that represents a reality that exists external of the mind.  This means reality exists independent of the mind.  Truth is the ideas one has in his mind that corresponds to realities outside his mind.  Therefore, truth is part of reality and reality is greater than truth.  This implies that there are a multitude of realities exist in the universe which we do not even know they exist; and thus we have no truth about these realities.  According to Ibn Sina, the truth is “what corresponds in the mind to what is outside it” (Osman Amin, 2007). This applies to both material (seen) and spiritual (unseen) realities.  Hence the concept of God is not a postulation made by the mind but an objective Reality that exists not only independent of all existence but all existence is dependent on HIM. 
Truth can be determined through combinations of methods of investigation depending on the purpose of investigation.  Muslim scholars “…have all and individually applied various methods in their investigations without preponderating on any one particular method.  They combined the empirical and the rational, deductive and inductive method, and affirmed no dichotomy between the objective and the subjective” (al-Attas, 1996: 27) and “true reports transmitted by authentic authorities” (p. 36).  The truth about the unseen realities is not mere conjecture inferred by speculation and abstraction but the truth about metaphysical realities is known with certainty.  This does not mean that Islam recognizes the infallibility of the human intellect.  On the contrary Islam admits human intellect can only know data and information fed into it through the senses.  The invisible world does not give effect to the human senses, therefore cannot be known through the use of the intellect.  That is why questions about the unseen or spiritual entity (ruh) should be dealt with appropriately.  Allah says, “They ask thee concerning the spirit (ruh).  Say: ruh (cometh) by command of my Lord.  Of knowledge it is only a little that is communicated to you (o men!)” (al-Isra’: 85).
Islam claims the truth of metaphysical world can be known with certainty through Revelations conveyed to man via the Prophets.  However, the intellect is capable of making conclusion, through the study of natural phenomena, that the natural phenomena are signs which point towards the existence of God and indications of His beautiful Attributes (al-Edrus, 1992).
The philosophical speculations in Islamic metaphysics are centered on the debates regarding God’s attributes and His essence, allegorical interpretation of the Qur’anic verses that describe God anthropomorphically, human free will, the possibility of beatific vision, the createdness of the Qur’an, reason and Revelation, and the Mu’tazilites’ rejection on several doctrines which included reward and punishment in the grave, gog and magog, the weighing of actions in a balance on the Day of Judgment, the existence of angels who record good and bad deed of each human being, miracles performed by prophets, and the Prophet’s ascendant to heaven (Qadir, 1991). 
After the arrival of Greek philosophy, Muslim thinkers attempted to prove the existence of God through philosophical reasoning.  Al-Kindi adopted Aristotelian cosmological argument to demonstrate that God exist (1974).  It is the first-cause argument which claims that infinite regress in the chain of causes is impossible, thus conclude there must be the first-cause which is God.  This argument was rejected by al-Ghazali (1963) and Iqbal (2006).  Al-Ghazali argues that it is not the right of the philosopher to say that an infinite regress of cause is impossible.  He claims that philosophical speculation could never achieve its attempt to prove the existence of God.  Ibnu Sina argued that God is a Necessary Being.  All other existences are contingent upon Necessary Being for their existence. 
Ibnu Sina further argued that God’s essence is His existence and He has no other attributes therefore “God cannot be an object of thought since He is without cause, quality, position and time” (Fakhry, 1983: 153).  He also asserts that creation emanates from God’s creative ability necessarily, therefore the universe is eternal.  This belief was unacceptable to the conservatists and thus, al-Ghazali branded him as kufr.  Abduh (2004) adopted Ibnu Sina’s position on Necessary Being and contingent being but he disputed Ibnu Sina’s assertion that God has no other attribute.  Al-Attas (1995) refuted Ibnu Sina’s view that essence precedes existence.  In his perspective, “Existence (wujud) is the real essence of things; and what is mentally or conceptually posited as essences are in reality accidents of existence” (p. 182).  Islamic metaphysics also deals with questions such as on happiness (al-Attas, 1994; al-Ghazali, 2007b), human nature (al-Ghazali, 2007a; al-Attas, 1995; Mohamed, 1998a), cosmology (Nasr, 1964, 1975) and key concepts essential for the establishment of Islamic worldview (al-Attas, 1995).  


  1. with the greatest respect to all believers,the above is subjective speculation and opinion is it not? peace...

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