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Title: Free will and predestination in early Islam
Author: Watt, William Montgomery
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1944
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I. INTRODUCTION. 1. The aim of the study is to describe the arguments about "free will and predestination" in Islam from about 80 A.H., when they started up to the time of al-Ash`a.rï, about 330 A.H. 2. A discussion of the main sources. II. THE OPPOSING TRENDS IN ISLAM. 1. The Qur'an emphasizes both Divine omnipotence and human responsibility. 2. Tradition contains many conceptions not present in the Qur'an. 3. There is a contrast between the theistic conceptions of the Qur' En and the impersonal and atheistic conceptions of Tradition; this is to be traced to the continuing influence in Tradition of pre-Islamic fatalistic ideas, since the Qur'án firmly opposes the fatalistic attitude, whereas many Traditions are thoroughly fatalistic. III. THE BEGINNINGS OF THE DOCTRINE OF QADAR. 1. The doctrine of .Qadar was held by the IVlaimûniya and the Ashab al-Su' al among the Khawarij towards the close of the first century of the Hijra. It is a logical development of the Khariji emphasis on righteousness in God and man, through such questions as that of the punishment of children and others who are not responsible for their actions. The opposition to the doctrine among the Khawárij seems to spring not from belief in God but rather from a conservative attitude. 2. The doctrine of Qadar as held by Ghailän and others of the Murji'a is again connected with the conception of righteousness (which likewise brought some of them into conflict with the Umaiyads) . Some of these men stand close to the Qadari sects of the Khawarij. 3. The little that is known about the Qadariya as a separate sect and about Ma'bad al-Juhani,the reputed originator of the discussions in Islam, suggests that they belonged to the same circles as Maimun and the others. IV. THE MU`TAZILA. 1. The Mu'tazila really began with Abu 'l- Hudhail. 2. The Mu'tazila, far from being pure rationalists, were thoroughly Muslim in many of their conceptions; but they believed in Reason and in rational ideas. 3. Abu 'l- Hudhail and the early school of Basra. were concerned more with the physical aspects of metaphysics than with purely religious issues; yet they contributed to these by their analysis of human activity and by their general arguments to prove God does no evil. Al- Na.zzam made God subordinate to rational ideas. 4. Bishr b. el- Mu'tamir, founder of the school of Baghdad., was naive in some ways, but stimulated. thought by his theories of man's power over generated. effects and of the infinity of goodness . 5. .The followers of Bishr, influenced by Basra, were more rationalistic then their master. They might be said to be working out the rationalism of al-Nezzan. 6. In Basra 'Abbad criticized the school of Baghdad and began to make clear the inadequacy of their rational conceptions. This process culminated in al- Jubba'ï with a growing realization of man's incapacity and God's omnipotence. Al- Ash`ari made what was logically the next step, whereas Abu Hashim turned back rather to older views. V. THE UPHOLDERS OF THE DIVINE QADAR. 1. Quite apart from the Mu'tazila there was considerable and diversified theological activity before the time of al-Ash`arI. 2. Abú.Hanifa is typical of many who united theistic and non-. theistic conceptions without feeling any inconsistency. 3. The threefold classification of Qadar, Kasb and Jabr was only beginning to appear about 300 A.H. Before that time kasb and Jabr were not distinguished. The Jahmiya, who were subsequently regarded as the chief exponents of Jabr, were originally upholders of the Divine Qadar whose primary aim was to assert the unity and majesty of God. 4. There was a close approximation to orthodoxy in the Ahl al-Ithbat. Of their three main members, Dirar was probably the author of the conception of Kasb (acquisition), al-Najjar of the doctrine that the power accompanies the act, and Burghuth of the distinction between voluntary acts and those done under compulsion. They seem to have explained evil by saying that God was beyond man's comprehension. 5. Hisham b. al-Hakem also worked at the analysis of human activity, and made a distinction between choice and compulsion. 6. The Wasïya or Testament of Abú 'Hanîfa contains third century Hanifa views, similar to those of al-Najjar but slightly more conservative, yet theistic rather than fatalistic. 7. Khushaish is representative of the anti-intellectual position of Ahmad b. Hanbal and his followers. He combines theistic and non-theistic conceptions without any misgivings. 8. The practical rather than the theoretical side of religion is illustrated by al-Kharraz. His mysticism makes him sympathetic to fatalistic resignation. He shares in the common confusion, but is able to derive truly religious, and therefore theistic, ideas from unpromising fatalistic material. VI. AL-ASH'ARI AND HIS CRITICS. 1. The essential point of his conversion was the recognition that Revelation and not Reason is the ultimate source of religious truth. Yet he continued to use rational methods of argument. 2. He emphasized the omnipotence of God to the neglect of the aspect of human responsibility, but insisted that evil is not to be attributed to God although He wills it, defending this position by various subtle arguments. 3. He was a leader in the revival of Islam chiefly because of his deep spirituality, with which he combined a keen intellect and participation in the typical Muslim mentality (the sense of dependence). 4. Al Ash`ari was criticized by the school of the Hanafiya. The divergence of view, which is apparent in the creed of al-Tahawi and the Fioh Akbar II, becomes explicit criticism in the Sharh al-Pioh al-Akbar (attributed to al-Maturïdi) . These deal more adequately with human responsibility, and so are more balanced, but they lack the spiritual fervour of al- Ash'ari. VII. CONCLUDING SURVEY. The deterministic outlook of Muslims belongs to the framework of civilization and culture in which Islam developed, rather than to the prophetic proclamation. The religious impulse did something to transform that background from fatalism to a more theistic determinism, but in other respects the background has largely persisted.
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Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available