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Title: The philosophical problem of the relation between reason and revelation in the thought of Qādī 'Abd al-Jabbār
Author: al-Mūsawī, Muḥammad Jawād Ḥasan Hāshim
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1976
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The significance of 'Abd al-Jabber (320-415 A.H.) in the history of Islamic thought is that his works represent the ultimate features of Islamic rationalism in general and Mu'tazilism in particular. His works, especially the theological encyclopaedia Al, ughni, did not only preserve the ideas of the old rationalists and the nature of the disputes between them and their opponents, but also attempted to present Islam from a comprehensive point of view. As a Mu'tazilite he gave reason a very prominent place in his thought. He based his argument to support the primacy of reason on the responsibility of man. Since man is responsible, he must understand the nature of his responsibility. Obligation, according to 'Abd al-Jabbar, involves knowledge and action; knowledge is entirely independent but the performance of actions depends on knowledge. Inquiry is the first of man's obligations, because it is the main source of truth and knowledge. The function of inquiry, he held, is to understand things as they exist in the material world and to understand factual events by observation and comparison. He refused to recognize the following of the ideas of others as a source of knowledge, because that raises the question why one person or doctrine is to be followed rather than another, and the question cannot be answered without inquiry or thinking. 'Abd al-Jabber also rejected the view that inspiration (ilham) could be considered as a source of knowledge and truth, arguing that since speculation and reasoning are within human capability, there is no need for inspiration. Knowledge, according to 'Abd al-Jabber, is a conviction related to the object as it is, when this conviction occurs in such a way as to entail the tranquility of mind. 'Abd al-Jabber built his theory of knowledge on the a priori principles, which he called "necessary knowledge", and which include perception, the s principles of ethics and the basis of the proofs. He also considered perception as the source of human knowledge through which we know the material world and the concept of existence, and through the suffering we know what is just and what is unjust. 'Abd al-Jabber argued against the denial of prophecy. Since there is no clear evidence that the Indian Brahmins had representatives in Islamic intellectual life, the name Barahima could have been used, by some Muslim theologians, as a nickname for those who denied the prophecy, to justify their hostility towards them as an alien group or sect; and it is also possible that this name was used by the individuals or groups who attcked prophecy in an attempt to hide their real attitude towards the question. The functions of prophecy according to 'Abd al-Jabber is two-fold: i) As a source of knowledge or information; prophets inform us in detail of what we already know in general by reason. Detailed knowledge, he asserted, is as important as general knowledge. Revelation also informs us about many obligatory duties which cannot be known by reason, namely the religious observances. 2) As a afvour (lutf) of God to man, revelation helps men, in other words through the preaching of the prophets men might be more likely to perform their obligations. Revelation also confirms to rational beings the truths and knowledge which they gain by reason. As for the problem of the relation between reason and revelation it arose from many factors: Among these factors was the fact that the adoption of Islam by a large number of people from different cultural backgrounds created the need for presenting Islam in a rational way. Other factors were the conflict between political parties and groupings, together with their use of the religious texts against each other, the development of the state in such a way as to open a gap between ideals and practical realities, and the translation of Greek philosophy. 'Abd al-Jabber's solution to the problem was the assertion of the independence of reason in necessary knowledge and most acquired knoeldge, and the independence of revelation in the sort of knowledge which one cannot know by reason, which is the knowledge of the religious observances. He also held that since revelation informs us about detailed knowledge, which is known, in general, by reason, contradictions can never occur between reason and revelation, because truth never contradicts the truth whatever its source may have been. 'Abd al-Jabber gave reason the primacy as a source of knowledge and truth, but he gave a supplementary, yet important role, to revelation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available