Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Summary of Belief (Tajrīd al-iʿtiqād) and Later Theology in Islam II

What is discussed in Tajrīd al-iʿtiqād of Naṣīr al-dīn al-Ṭūsī [d. 1274]?
The six sections comprise the following:

1. General ontology (umūr ʿāmma) – following the khuṭba in which he starts with describing God as necessary of existence/the Necessary Existent (wājib al-wujūd), it is divided into ‘fuṣūl’/chapters.
The first on being and non-being (al-wujūd wa-l-ʿadam) and is rather long [in fact the longest chapter of the work] covering the following issues: 
i) the fact that there is no definition for being (neither as a ḥadd or a rasm) as nothing is better known or recognised than it (i.e. bidāhat al-wujūd, that being is divided into mental and extra-mental (dhihnī/ʿaynī) and that any definition of being is merely a paraphrase, 
{Technically, an Aristotelian horismos that indicates the essence of a thing is based on the putting together the genus [jins] and differentia [faṣl] of the thing to be defined; in the absence of such specifics, a vaguer definition that indicates the essence of something is a rasm}
ii) that being is mentally distinct and additional to quiddity (ziyāda ʿalā l-māhīya) for contingents and that being is not merely a intentio in the mind that corresponds to a quiddity in reality (i.e. the famous Avicennan existence-essence distinction pertaining to contingents, and in terms of the later question, he seems to hold that within the mental distinction it is being that is prior - aṣālat al-wujūd),
iii) that being is a modulated concept (i.e. tashkīk al-wujūd) and a reality (and this involves a clear denial of being more or less by intensity that is latter central to Mullā Ṣadrā’s metaphysics – although contingents are modulated - famously in namaṭ 4 of his Sharḥ al-Ishārāt, al-Ṭūsī argues that there are two issues whose denial means that Rāzī fails to understand Avicenna's metaphysics: tashkīk al-wujūd and the concept of mental existence or wujūd dhihnī), 
iv) that the concept of being is a secondary intelligible (maʿqūla thānīya) and this is co-extensional with the concept of ‘being-a-thing’ (shayʾīya), 
v) that being has three modalities of necessity, possibility, and impossibility (classically following Avicenna), 
vi) and that there are four expressions of being: mental, extra-mental, inscribed (bi-l-kitāba) and pronounced (bi-l-ʿibāra), with the latter two being figurative uses of the former two.
The second is on quiddity (māhīya). It discusses the different types of universal and the five predicables of the Isagoge. The third is on cause and effect (al-ʿilla wa-l-maʿlūl) affirming secondary causality, the four Aristotelian causes (material, efficient, formal, and final) and the notion that causality is a secondary intelligible.

2. Substance and accident (jawhar wa-ʿaraḍ) – Aristotelian substance metaphysics through Avicenna. The first chapter defines substances. The second discusses bodies, the four elements and the basic stuff of ontology. The third rehearses the kalām argument from the finitude of bodies for the creation of the cosmos. The fourth chapter is on separable substances especially souls and involves a denial of the pre-existence or even the eternity a parte ante of souls. The soul is defined as the first entelechy of the natural body (kamāl awwal li-jism ṭabīʿī). The fifth turns to the nine Aristotelian accidents and categoriology and includes a discussion on human epistemology (knowledge is a quality [kayfīya] and is conception and assent [taṣawwur, taṣdīq], priori and posteriori, knowledge is a property of the intellect that is immaterial).

3. Metaphysics (ilāhīyāt, Ithbāt al-ṣāniʿ) focusing on the famous proof for the existence of God that overlaps extensively with the Ithbāt al-bāriʾ genre. The first is a remarkably pithy version of the famous Avicennan burhān al-ṣiddīqīn for the existence of God, dependent on the Aristotelian scientific principle of the impossibility of an infinite regress of actual causes [Physics book 3]. The second is on the divine attributes focusing on God’s knowledge and along the way a strict [Muʿtazilī] denial that God can lie; states, modes, attributes are identical to the divine essence, and God cannot be open to ocular vision; anthropomorphisms require figurative explanation. The third moves onto divine agency and the rational need for justice and for moral good and evil hence to be rationally discernable. Although he does not explicitly mention the Shiʿi (and Muʿtazilī) principle of divine justice, but implies it by insisting that God cannot do an injustice (ẓulm) such as punishing one who does not deserve it. This includes an expression of the famous principle of the facilitating grace (luṭf) that is central to Shiʿi theology and that it is incumbent upon God to bestow grace upon the believer to render his moral obligation.

4. On prophecy (al-nubūwa). After the previous discussions, the remaining sections are short. Here he covers the basics: that the provision of prophecy is a rational good incumbent upon God following the notion of grace (luṭf), the prophets demonstrate their status through proofs in the form of miracles, and that they must be infallible (through a form of the infinite regress argument), and that prophets are superior to angels.

5. On the imamate (al-imāma) – another hotly contested section. The Imam is an act of grace and necessary to be divinely ordained, must be the most excellent of his time (i.e. against the Zaydī possibility of the lesser), must be infallible  (maʿṣūm) through designation (naṣṣ), and why the hadith demonstrate the imamate of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib and that those reports are multiple and not isolated [countering an important Sunni argument found in Ashʿarī works such as al-Inṣāf of Juwaynī], and that the selection of Abū Bakr was a mistake. He includes the various excellences of ʿAlī and the wrongs perpetrated against him. The proof for the Imams after him are said to be clear in the scriptures (i.e. they are not rationally discernible).

6. On the resurrection (al-maʿād) starts with the Muʿtazilī principle of reward and punishment based on the threat and promise (al-waʿīd wa-l-waʿd). He insists upon the eternity of punishment for one who rejects faith and affirms the intercession (shafāʿa) that might follow one’s regret and repentance from sin. He affirms various things in the scriptures such as the punishment in the grave and the bridge crossing into paradise and so forth. He ends with a basic definition of faith (īmān): affirmation in the heart and on the tongue (taṣdīq bi-l-qalb wa-l-lisān).

The Tajrīd is more than an Avicennan text – whilst its metaphysics are philosophical, on a number of theological points it presents the mature Shiʿi position of the middle period. He does not discuss his positions on God's knowledge of particulars, or the eternity of the cosmos, or on abrogation, or God's middle knowledge and so forth. It's as if the first 3 maqāṣid are philosophical and the second 3 theological. It's really about time someone took on the study of this textual cycle as a way to make sense of later theological developments and fill in some of the many gaps in Islamic intellectual history that remain. 

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