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The Theology of Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh/al-Kab (d.

319/931)

Islamic Philosophy, Theology


and Science
TEXTS AND STUDIES

Edited by

Hans Daiber
Anna Akasoy
Emilie Savage-Smith

VOLUME 99

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The Theology of Ab l-Qsim


al-Balkh/al-Kab (d. 319/931)

By

Racha el Omari

LEIDEN | BOSTON

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Names: Omari, Racha Moujir el, author.


Title: The theology of Abu l-Qasim al-Balkhi/al-Kabi (d. 319/931) /
by Racha el Omari.
Description: Boston ; Leiden : Brill, [2016] | Series: Islamic philosophy,
theology and science ; 99 | Includes bibliographical references and index.
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Identifiers: LCCN 2015046409 (print) | LCCN 2015044807 (ebook) | ISBN
9789004259683 (E-book) | ISBN 9789004259690 (hardback : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Kab, Abd Allh ibn Amad 931 or 932. |
Muslim scholars--Biography. | Islam--Doctrines--History. | Motazilites.
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For My Parents
and
for the Memory of Anas


Contents

Acknowledgmentsxi
List of Tablesxiii

Introduction1
Review of Scholarship5
Biography8
Works16
Titles of Lost Works17

Part 1
Source Criticism

1 The Four Testimonies29


The Mutazil Testimony30
The Imm Baghdadi Mutazil Testimony33
The Mturd Testimony34
al-Ashar and the Ashar Testimony35
Assessment of Testimonies37
The Attributes37
Justice42
Epistemology46
The Doctrine of Nature49
The Imma50
Summary of al-Kabs Theological Doctrines52

Appendix1: Articles in the Reconstruction of al-Kabs Doctrine of


Justice81
Appendix2: Articles in the Reconstruction of al-Kabs
Epistemology84
Appendix3: Articles in the Reconstruction of al-Kabs Cosmology85
viii Contents

Part 2
Theology

2 The Attributes89
al-Kabs Precursors on the Attributes92
al-Nam92
Baghdadi Predecessors95
al-Kabs Doctrine of the Attributes98
The Attributes of Essence and of Act98
The Scripturalist Basis for Knowing the Attributes99
The Attributes of Hearing, Seeing, and Volition99
Gods Speech and Gods Relation to Place102
The Case of the Basran Mutazil and Mturd Testimonies:
Attributes of Essence103
The Case of the Basran Testimony versus Abd al-Qhir
al-Baghdd: Scripture and Gods Names108
The Case of the Late Ashar Testimony111

3 Justice117
An Overview of the Basran Ontology of Acts122
Early Mutazil Views on Divine Justice125
al-Kabs Doctrine of Justice133
The Principles for Distinguishing Good from Evil Acts133
Gods Capacity for Doing Evil134
The Optimum136
The Case of the Basran Polemical Testimony: al-Kabs Argument
for the Optimum (al-ala)142

4 Epistemology149
Overview of Basran Epistemology150
Early Mutazil Epistemology154
al-Kabs Epistemology157
The Case of the Basran Polemical Testimony: al-Kabs Definition of
Knowledge162

5 The Doctrine of Nature166


Early Mutazil Doctrines of Nature169
al-Kabs Doctrine of Nature175
Contents ix

6 The Imma182
The Baghdadi Mutazils on the Imma Prior to al-Kab186
al-Kabs Doctrine of the Imma190

Epilogue196

Bibliography199
Primary Sources199
Secondary Literature203
Index of Names211
General Index217
Acknowledgments

This book is based on the initial work started in my dissertation. I thank my


dissertation supervisor, Dimitri Gutas and the two readers, Beatrice Gruendler
and Everett Rowson. An earlier version of Chapter 6 appeared as a chapter
entitled Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh/al-Kabs Doctrine of the Imma, in A
Common Rationality: Mutazilism in Islam and Judaism, edited by Camilla
Adang, Sabine Schmidtke, and David Sklare. This was published as part of the
Istanbuler Texte und Studien at the Orient Institut Istanbul. I thank the series
for their permission to reprint this here.
I am grateful to Wilferd Madelung for reading and commenting on Chapters
2 and 3 of the present work, and to the anonymous reviewer for his or her com-
ments. I extend my thanks to Stephen Menn for a telephone communication
discussing translation issues pertaining to Chapter 4. I am also grateful to
Hasan Ansari and Maurice Pomerantz for sharing their copies of al-Jishums
Shar Uyn al-masil and al-Mualls al-Burhn al-riq.
I thank Anna Akasoy, Hans Daiber and Emilie Savage-Smith for accepting
this work for the Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science series at Brill at a
critical time in its progress. For seeing this work through to its submission, I
thank Nienke Brienen-Moolenaar. I also thank all the editorial team at Brill:
Teddi Dols, Trudy Kamperveen, Maaike Langerak, Kim Fiona Plas, and Kathy
Van Vliet. For copyediting an early draft of this work I thank Seth Richardson
and for copyediting and producing the final draft, I thank Valerie Joy Turner.
I thank my colleagues at the Department of Religious Studies at the
University of California Santa Barbara, and all the members of the staff at
hssb Administrative Support Center. I also thank the Department of
Religious Studies for a winter quarter sabbatical in 2011, and Jos Cabezn
and Dwight Reynolds for a course release in winter 2013. For the generous
support of this work, I thank the Hellman Family Fund, the Faculty Senate
Research Grant, the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, and the Office of
the Vice Chancellor at ucsb. I would like to thankfully acknowledge the staff
members of the office of interlibrary loan at Davidson Library, all staff mem-
bers of the Davidson Library, and the Davidson Library Middle East librarian,
Meryle Gaston.
For their support and encouragement, I thank Sumaira Aasi, Zeyna al-Jabri,
Teeb al-Samarrai, Noha Bakr, Sandra Bermann, Claudia Brodsky, Juan Campo,
Magda Campo, Maureen Draicchio, Peter Fenves, Carine Fernandez, W. Randall
Garr, Carole Goldberg, Lamis Hashem, Hanan Karam, Kathleen Moore, Bilal
xii Acknowledgments

Orfali, Intisar Rabb, Asma Sayeed, Denise Soufi, Zeena Tabbaa, and Alexander
Treiger.
For her faith, I thank Stefania Tutino.
My special thanks goes to my brother Abdallah, to Hazem Bakri, Saad
Kharsa, and Shafik Kuzbari. I thank Abdel-Monem Tabbaa for taking care of
everyone. I thank my parents, entirely, for everything.
List of Tables

1 The Attributes53
2 Justice64
3 Epistemology70
4a Doctrine of Nature76
4b Nature-Related Propositions from al-Kabs Previous Articles77
5 The Imma78
Introduction

The scholastic and final phase of Mutazil theology began at the close of the
third/ninth century, as Mutazils turned their efforts toward the consolidation
and refinement of their predecessors pioneering theologies.1 These efforts
coincided with additional epistemic challenges to the Mutazils from within
their own ranks, as expressed in the skepticism of Ab l-usayn Amad b.
Yay b. al-Rwand (d. 298/910?),2 and the departure of Ab l-asan Al b.
Isml b. Isq al-Ashar (d. 324/935 or 936) from the Mutazils.3 Leading this
scholastic phase4 was Ab Al l-Jubb (d. 303/916), his son and disciple Ab
Hshim (d. 321/933),5 and their counterpart and opponent Ab l-Qsim
al-Balkh/al-Kab (d. 319/913) (henceforth referred to as al-Kab).6
Each of these three figures were tied to the early Mutazils through lines of
discipleship, which were labeled in scholastic writings as the Basran and
Baghdadi schools:7 al-Jubb and his son Ab Hshim were tied to the school

1 Josef van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra: Eine Geschichte
des religisen Denkens im frhen Islam (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 1991), 1:viii. This phase is
also often referred to as the classical phase of the Mutazila, see for example, Richard M.
Frank, Beings and Their Attributes: The Teachings of the Basrian School of the Mutazila in the
Classical Period (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1978), 1; Camila Adang, Sabine
Schmidtke, and David Sklare, Introduction, in A Common Rationality: Mutazilism in Islam
and Judaism (Wrzburg: Ergon Verlag Wrzburg, 2007), 11.
2 van Ess, Theologie, 4:295346.
3 Richard M. Frank, Elements in the Development of the Teaching of al-Ashar, Le Muson 104
(1991): 141190. Ab l-asan al-Ashars famous conversion story, namely his abandonment of
Mutazil theology under the discipleship of al-Jubb, cannot be divorced from earlier,
proto-Sunn kalm projects of the third/ninth century, such as those of Ibn Kullb (d. 241/855)
and al-Karbs (d. 245/859 or 248/862) (van Ess, Theologie, 4:180194, and 4:210214).
4 Another important opponent of the two Jubbs was Ab Bakr Amad b. Al l-Ikhshd
(d.326/938) whose followers were known as the Ikhshdiyya (see Margaretha Heemskerk,
Suffering in the Mutazilite Theology, Abd al-Jabbrs Teaching on Pain and Divine Justice
(Leiden: Brill, 2000), 2130). One of the more famous members of the Ikhshdiyya was the
grammarian al-Rummn (d. 384/994) (see J. Flanagan, al-Rummn, Encyclopaedia of
Islam, second edition, 8:614615).
5 van Ess, Theologie, 3:209291; Sabine Schmidtke, al-Jobbi, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 14:666672.
6 I have chosen to refer to our author by the nisba al-Kab for ease of reference, as many his-
torical figures are known by our authors other nisba, al-Balkh.
7 This distinction seems to have been first been addressed in modern scholarship with Max
Horten, Die philosophischen Probleme der speculativen Theologie im Islam (Bonn: Peter
Hanstein, 1910), iiiv, and then by A.S. Tritton, Muslim Theology (London: Luzac & Company,
1947), 83, 95, 140, 157.

koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 6|doi 10.1163/9789004259683_002


2 Introduction

of Basra (Bariyyn, henceforth Basrans), through al-Jubbs studies under


Ab Yaqb al-Sham,8 a student of the Mutazil pioneer of Basra Ab
l-Hudhayl al-Allf (d. 227/841).9 Al-Kab was tied through his discipleship
under Ab l-usayn Abd al-Ram b. Muammad b. Uthmn al-Khayy (d. c.
300/913)10 to Bishr b. al-Mutamir (d. 210/825)11 and the school of Baghdad
(Baghddiyyn, henceforth Baghdadis).12
The scholastic period was largely dominated by the theology of Ab
Hshim.13 Though Ab Hshims theology was influenced by his father, and
both perpetuated early Basran views, it was also significantly independent of
it. Ab Hshims followers, who came to be known as the Bahshamiyya,14
remained unchallenged except by the theology of Ab l-usayn al-Bar
(d. 436/1044). The Bahshamiyya were the last dominant Mutazil school of
thought;15 they produced some of the most renowned Mutazil luminaries,
including al-Q Abd al-Jabbr (d. 415/1025)16 and al-kim al-Jishum

8 van Ess, Theologie, 4:4551; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil (ms an, al-Jmi al-Kabr,
al-Maktaba al-Gharbiyya, collection of Maurice Pomerantz), vol. 1, fol. 62a.
9 Richard Frank, The Metaphysics of Created Being According to Ab l-Hudhayl al-Allf:
A Philosophical Study of the Earliest Kalm (Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch
Instituut, 1966).
10 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 68a; Madelung, Abd al-Ram b. Moammad
b. Omn al-ayy, Abu l-osayn, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:143144.
11 van Ess, Theologie, 3:107130.
12 This line of discipleship is most prominently documented in Mutazil biographical
sources. For example, al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 55b68a; al-Kab,
Dhikr al-Mutazila, in Fal al-itizl wa-abaqt al-Mutazila, ed. Fud al-Sayyid (Tunis:
al-Dr al-Tunisiyya li-l-Nashr, 1973), 7274.
13 See Schmidtke, Jobbi, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 14:666672; see also Hassan Ansari, Ab
Al al-Jubb et son livre al-Maqlt, in A Common Rationality, Mutazilism in Islam and
Judaism, ed. Camilla Adang, Sabine Schmidtke, and David Sklare (Wrzburg: Ergon
Verlag, 2007), 2137; Daniel Gimaret, Une lecture mutazilite du Coran: Le tafsr dAb Al
al-Djubb (Leuven: Peeters, 1994).
14 On the Bahshamiyya school, see Heemskerk, Suffering in Mutazilite Theology, 1371.
15 A former student of Abd al-Jabbr, Ab l-usayn al-Bar broke with the Bahshamiyya
and introduced systematic philosophical concepts into Mutazil thought. Madelung,
Ab l-usayn al-Bar, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three, online edition, published 2007;
and Wilferd Madelung and Sabine Schmidtke, Rational Theology in Interfaith
Communication: Ab l-usayn al-Bars Mutazil Theology among the Karaites in the
Fimid Age (Leiden: Brill, 2006). Al-Bars followers encountered significant resis-
tance on the part of the Bahshamiyya but he was followed widely by famous
Khwrizm Mutazils a century later, as is evident in the work of Rukn al-Dn b.
al-Malim (d. 536/1141).
16 Wilferd Madelung, Abd al-Jabbr, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:116118.
Introduction 3

(d. 494/1101).17 Their broad base of support meant that though none of Ab
Hshims or his fathers theologial works are extant, their theologies were rela-
tively well documented and studied among the Mutazil theologians.18 Long
after the demise of the Mutazils as an independent group after the sixth/
twelfth century, the Bahshamiyyas principle theological tenets, and to a lesser
extent those of Ab l-usayn al-Bar, were widely adopted by Zayd and
Imm Shs.19
Al-Kabs theology, however, experienced a different fate. Though his repu-
tation and followers were considerable during his lifetime,20 al-Kab left no
posthumous school in which his theology (kalm) would be represented with-
out bias, and none of his theological works have survived. His theological
tenets are known only through fragments noted or refuted in antagonistic
sources, thus a comprehensive investigation of his theology faces many obsta-
cles. The challenges of studying fragments from antagonistic sources is magni-
fied by the difficulty of contextualizing these fragments.
Before I briefly outline the main challenges of this contextualization, I must
highlight one obstacle which remains an insurmountable impediment to our
assessment of al-Kabs contributions. This is the scarcity of information avail-
able on al-Kabs Mutazil and Baghdadi Mutazil predecessors. A crucial
example of this obstacle can be found in the theology of al-Khayy, al-Kabs
teacher and immediate predecessor in the Baghdadi school. Aside from
al-Khayys cosmology,21 his theology remains, for the most part, unknown.
Only his wide heresiographical knowledge of early Mutazil doctrines is noted
in the sources and can be gleaned from his extant polemical work, Kitb
al-Intir, which he wrote to refute Ibn al-Rwand.22 Moreover, as noted by

17 Wilferd Madelung, al-kim al-Djusham, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition,


Supplement, 12:343.
18 See Sabine Schmidtke, Neuere Forschungen zur Mutazila unter besonderer
Bercksichtigung der spteren Mutazila ab dem 4./10. Jahrhundert, Arabica 45 (1998):
379408; Introduction, in A Common Rationality, ed. Adang, Schmidtke, and Sklare, 11
20; Sabine Schmidtke and Jan Thiele, Preserving Yemens Cultural Heritage: The Yemen
Manuscript Digitization Project (Sanaa, 2011).
19 See Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim ibn Ibrhm und die Glaubenslehre der Zaiditen (Berlin:
Walter de Gruyter, 1965), 177222; and Sabine Schmidtke, The Theology of al-Allma
al-ill (d. 726/1325) (Berlin: Klaus Schwartz Verlag, 1991).
20 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 68a.
21 van Ess, al-Khayy, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 4:11621164; Madelung, Abd
al-Ramal-ayy, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:143144.
22 Abd al-Ramn b. Muammad al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir wa-l-radd al Ibn al-Rwand
l-mulid, ed. Albert Nader (Beirut: Universit Saint-Joseph Institut de Lettres Orientales,
1957).
4 Introduction

Josef van Ess in his monumental Theologie und Gesellschaft,23 even when early
Mutazil theologies are recorded in the sources, they are related according to
the priorities of these mostly late scholastic sources.24
Aside from this insurmountable impediment, we face two challenges in
recovering al-Kabs theology from its extant fragments. The first pertains to
how the sources situate his theological views in relation to the Baghdadi
school. Often the sources misleadingly present al-Kab as the champion of and
advocate for a doctrinally unified Baghdadi school of theology.25 Thus, even
when extant fragments of al-Kabs doctrine are abundant, they must be veri-
fied and contextualized if they are to be useful for reconstructing al-Kabs
theology as a whole. The second challenge concerns the establishment of an
intellectual-historical context, namely an understanding of the significance of
al-Kabs contributions in relation to other Mutazil theologies and in relation
to his Baghdadi predecessors. The much needed perspective noted by van Ess
in his 1983 and then 1991 studies on al-Kab will involve meeting these histori-
cal and historiographical challenges.26
This work aims to address the twin historical-historiographical challenges
through two steps. The first step, which is Part 1 of this work, is a source-critical
investigation of the major extant fragments of al-Kabs theological tenets.
This part includes a general account of the four main theological traditions
that I use to reconstruct al-Kabs doctrinal tenets, a discussion of the testimo-
nies from each tradition and how they present each of al-Kabs five main
doctrines, and tables that reflect the source-critical reconstruction of his doc-
trines. The second step, which is Part 2 of this work, analyzes the reconstructed
doctrines in Part 1 in relation to Basran Mutazils on the one hand and
al-Kabs Baghdadi predecessors on the other. This part is divided into five
chapters; the subjects of these follow the orderalbeit rather looselyof
the topics most commonly found in kalm study manuals, of which Basran
Mutazil examples have been preserved:27 (1) the attributes, (2) justice, (3)
epistemology, (4) the doctrine of nature, and (5) the imma.

23 van Ess, Theologie, vols. 3 and 4. Van Ess Theologie und Gesellschaft includes the history of
Mutazils up to al-Khayy and his generation.
24 van Ess, Theologie, 1:viiiix.
25 This understanding of a unified Baghdadi school has not been questioned and has been
followed by general scholarship on Mutazils dealing with al-Kab.
26 van Ess, Abul-Qsem al-Balkh al-Kab, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:359362; idem,
Theologie, 1:viiiix.
27 See Daniel Gimaret, Les Ul al-amsa du Q Abd al-abbr et leurs commentaires,
Annales Islamologiques 15 (1979): 996.
Introduction 5

Two main outcomes ensue from this source-critical study of al-Kabs


theology. First, I establish the centrality of cosmology and epistemology to
al-Kabs theology as a whole. By his theology, I have in mind especially his
discussion of the divine attributes and justice, where al-Kab proved less
interested in charting new theological stances than he was in invigorating
the positions of earlier theologians. Second, I show that these earlier theo-
logical positions that al-Kab championed on the basis of new arguments
were, for the most part, far from limited to earlier Baghdadi positions he
inherited but were rather individual early Mutazil positions that he
favored. Thus, unlike Ab Hshim and al-Jubb whose ties to the Basran
school were combined with their focus on refining and upgrading the doc-
trines of the eponym of the school, Ab l-Hudhayl al-Allf, al-Kabs ties to
the Baghdadi school proved to reflect, for the most part, ties of discipleship
rather than doctrinal adherence.
I should add from the outset that while this work highlights the centrality
of al-Kabs cosmology and epistemology to his theology as a whole, it is not
an in-depth presentation of his advances in these two areas. The exposition
of al-Kabs cosmology and epistemology remains a subject for further
investigation in future studies on al-Kab; this is especially important as the
extant articles of these topics are the largest of his theology in its entirety.
Indeed, it is al-Kabs cosmology that stimulated the earliest interest of
modern scholars.

Review of Scholarship

Scholarly interest in al-Kabs theology was first sparked in 1902 by Arthur


Birams edition of a section of Ab Rashd al-Nsbrs al-Masl f l-khilf
bayn al-Bariyyn wa-l-Baghddiyyn: al-kalm f l-jawhar.28 His edition of a
part of Ab Rashds work on the atom (jawhar) turned the attention of the
emerging historical scholarship29 on the Mutazils to al-Kabs contribution to
cosmology (daqq, or laf al-kalm). Max Horten provided the first scholarly
outline of al-Kabs cosmology and his theology as a whole.30 It was, however,

28 Arthur Biram, Kitb al-Masil f l-khilf bayn al-Bariyn wa-l-Baghddiyn: al-Kalm f


l-jawhar (Leiden: Brill, 1902).
29 On the early history of Mutazil scholarship, see Schmidtke, Neuere Forschungen zur
Mutazila.
30 Horten, Die philosophischen Probleme.
6 Introduction

not until Shlomo Piness work31 that al-Kabs contributions to cosmology


were assessed against the broader history of kalm atomism.32 Pines high-
lighted al-Kabs peculiar views, that atoms have no extension (misa), that
accidents (ar) are ephemeral, and his denial of the existence of the vacuum
(khal).33 More than half a century later and using newly edited or discovered
Mutazil sources,34 Alnoor Dhanani explained al-Kabs physical theory fur-
ther, and also suggested a possible peripatetic influence on al-Kab35 through
his acquaintance with his contemporary and friend, the philosopher Ab Zayd
al-Balkh (d. 322/934).36
Beyond his cosmology from the late 1940s on, interest in al-Kabs theology
as a whole advanced with general works on the history of theology. This is
when al-Kab started to feature as the theological counterpart of al-Jubb
and Ab Hshim,37 though the sources of these early works on the Mutazila
were restricted to heresiographies and Ashar sources. Wilferd Madelungs
work on the Zayd imm al-Qsim b. Ibrhm made use of Zayd and Mutazil
sources never used before and outlined al-Kabs influence on the theology of
the Zayd imm al-Hd il l-aqq (d. 298/911), the founder of the Zayd imam-
ate in Yemen.38
A more comprehensive approach to al-Kabs theological contributions
started with Martin McDermott in his work on the Imm theologian al-Shaykh
al-Mufd (d. 413/1022). In his work, which investigates the influence of al-Kab
on al-Mufd, McDermott also outlines the formers theology, using Imm texts
and newly-discovered Basran Mutazil sources to reconstruct al-Kabs views.39

31 Shlomo Pines, Beitrge zur islamischen Atomenlehre (Berlin: A. Heine GmbH, 1936),
henceforth cited as Shlomo Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, trans. Michael Schwarz, ed.
Tzvi Langermann (Jerusalem: Hebrew University Magnes Press, 1997).
32 On the history of kalm atomism prior to Pines, see Otto Pretzl, Die frhislamische
Atomenlehre, Der Islam 19 (1931), 117130.
33 Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 8, 29, 92.
34 Alnoor Dhanani, The Physical Theory of Kalm: Atoms, Space, and Void in Basrian Mutazili
Cosmology (Leiden: Brill, 1994), 1214.
35 Ibid., 135.
36 Ibid., 11, 74. On Ab Zayd, see the biography of al-Kab (below).
37 Montgomery Watt, Free Will and Predestination in Early Islam (London: Luzac & Company,
1948), 8081; Tritton, Muslim Theology, 157162. Albert Naders conclusions about al-Kabs
theology should be treated with caution and in some cases must be discarded, see for
example, Albert Nader, Le systme philosophique des Mutazila: Premiers penseurs de
lislam (Beirut: Les Lettres Orientals, 1956), 44.
38 Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 164167.
39 Martin McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd (d. 413/1022) (Beirut: Dr al-
Mashriq, 1978).
Introduction 7

Daniel Gimaret noted the breadth of al-Kabs influence on Sunn theolo-


gians, specifically on his contemporary Ab Manr al-Mturd (d. 333/944),
the founder of the Mturd Sunn kalm school of thought.40 Ulrich Rudolph,
whose work underlines the importance of al-Mturds Kitb al-Tawd for
the study of al-Kabs theology, systematically investigated the place of
al-Kab as a principle theological interlocutor of al-Mturd.41 The encyclo-
pedia entries on al-Kab by Abbs Zeryb and Josef van Ess outline the scope
of al-Kabs theology and provide an extensive list of sources available for its
study.42
Kevin Reinhardt and Ahmad Atif Ahmad have gone beyond al-Kabs theo-
logical legacy and studied his contributions to legal thought.43 Khir
Muammad Nabha has collected and studied the extant fragments of al-Kabs
exegetical work,44 and Fud al-Sayyid has edited a part of al-Kabs pioneering
work in heresiography, his Maqlt.45 Sayyids publication was possible after
the Egyptian expedition to Yemen in the 1950s when many Mutazil works
were discovered in Zayd libraries.46 The publication of a part of al-Kabs
Maqlt provided a crucial new source for the study of early Islamic theology.

40 Daniel Gimaret, Thorie de lacte humain en thologie musulmane (Paris: Vrins, 1980),
177178, 324326, 372373.
41 Ulrich Rudolph, al-Mturd und Die Sunnitische Theologie im Samarkand (Leiden:
E.J.Brill, 1996).
42 Abbs Zeryb, Ab l-Qsem Balkh, Dirat al-marif bozorg islm, ed. Qim Msvi
(Tehran: Markaz Dirat al-Marif Bozorg Islm, 1988), 6:151156; and van Ess, Abul-
Qsem al-Balkh al-Kab, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:359362.
43 Kevin Reinhardt, Before Revelation: The Boundaries of Muslim Moral Thought (Albany:
State University of New York Press, 1995), for example, 3133; 141145; Ahmad Atif Ahmad,
The Fatigue of the Shara (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), for example, 27, 28, 29.
44 Khir Muammad Nabha, Tafsr Ab l-Qsim al-Kab al-Balkh (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub
al-Ilmiyya, 2007). On Mutazil exegesis see Daniel Gimaret, Une lecture mutazilite du
Coran; Suleiman A. Mourad, The Revealed Text and the Intended Subtext: Notes on the
Hermeneutics of the Qurn in Mutazila Discourse as Reflected in the Tahb of al-kim
al-ishum (D. 494/1101), in Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture, and Religion: Studies in
Honor of Dimitri Gutas, ed. Felicitas Opwis and David Reisman (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 367395;
Bruce Fudge, Qurnic Hermeneutics: al-abris and the Craft of Commentary (New York:
Routledge, 2011).
45 al-Kab, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, in Fal al-itizl wa-abaqt al-Mutazila, ed. Fud Sayyid
(Tunis: al-Dr al-Tunisiyya li-l-Nashr, 1973), 63119.
46 Sabine Schmidtke documented how access to Mutazil manuscripts predated the
Egyptian expedition, Neuere Forschungen zur Mutazila, 402403. For recent efforts to
grant scholars access to the Mutazil heritage in Yemen, see Schmidtke and Thiele,
Preserving Yemens Cultural Heritage.
8 Introduction

In addition, in his Der Eine und das Andere van Ess has made extensive studies
of al-Kabs Maqlt and its place in the history of the heresiographical
genre.47

Biography

Abdallh b. Amad b. Mamd al-Kab was from Balkh in Khursn,48 hence


his nisba al-Balkh. More specifically, according to Yqt al-amaw (d. 626/1229),
he hailed from a small town (bulayda) named Rwan to the east of Balkh; it was
once the property of Yay b. Khlid al-Barmak (d. 190/805).49 The nisba
al-Kab reflects his descent from the Ban Kab, but we have no details about
this descent.50
Indeed very few details about his life are available, and these surround his
career as a secretary (ktib); his literary merits were widely acknowledged.51
His father Amad b. Mamd had worked as a secretary for Abdallh b. hir
(d. 230/845), son of the founder of the notable hirid dynasty of governors in
Khursn. Abdallh b. hir was known for his patronage of belles-lettres and
his support of the Abbsid Caliphate.52 According to the account of al-Khab
al-Baghdd (d. 463/1071), both al-Kab and his father were tied to a prestigious
pedigree that included some of the most notable secretaries of the time.53

47 Josef van Ess, Der Eine und das Andere: Beobachtungen an islamischen hresiographischen
Texten (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2011), 328375.
48 Ibn Khallikn, Wafayt al-ayn wa-anb abn al-zamn, ed. Isn Abbs (Beirut: Dr
dir, 196877), 3:45.
49 Yqt al-amaw, Mujam al-buldn, ed. Ferdinand Wstenfeld (Leipzig: Brockhaus,
186673), 2:742.
50 Abd al-Karm al-Samn, al-Ansb, ed. Abdallh al-Brd (Beirut: Muassasat al-Kutub
al-Thaqfiyya, 1988), 5:80.
51 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 68; Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl wa-abaqt
al-Mutazila, ed. Fud Sayyid (Tunis: al-Dr al-Tunisiyya li-l-Nashr, 1974), 296; Ibn ajar,
Lisn al-mzn (Hyderabad: Dirat al-Marif al-Uthmniyya, 191113), 3:255256;
E.G.Browne, An Abridged Translation of the History of abaristn (Leiden: Brill, 1905), 47;
Yqt al-amaw, Mujam al-udab: irshd al-arb il marifat al-adb, ed. Isn Abbs
(Beirut: Dr al-Gharb al-Islm, 1993), 4:1491.
52 C.E. Bosworth, Abdallh b. hir, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three, online edition, pub-
lished 2007.
53 al-Khab al-Baghdd, Tarkh madnat al-salm wa-akhbr muaddithha wa-dhikr
quniha al-ulam min ghayr ahliha wa-wridha, ed. Bashshr Awwd, 17 vols. (Beirut:
Dr al-Gharb al-Islm, 2001), 14:299 (henceforth Tarkh Baghdd).
Introduction 9

Al-Kab wrote a book in praise of the hirids (Masin l hir),54 and trans-
mitted verses of poetry by Abdallh b. hir and his son Muammad b.
Abdallh b. hir (d. 269/908 or 909), the last of the hirid princes in
Khursn.55 Al-Kab was also close56 to the deputy of Khursn (ib
Khursn) at the Abbsid court in Baghdad, namely the father of the consum-
mate littrateur of the famous majlis known for its openness to all religious
groups, Ab Ubaydallh Muammad b. Imrn al-Marzubn (d. 348/994).57
Thus, although no information is available about what office al-Kab may have
held for the hirids, his commitment to them was clearly a long-standing one.
The earliest patron of al-Kab that is named in the sources was Muammad
b. Zayd (d. 287/900);58 the latter was not, however, al-Kabs first patron.59
Muammad was a Zayd d (claimant to the Zayd imma), and successor to
his brother asan b. Zayd al-D (d. 270/884) the founder of Zayd rule in
Ryn and abaristn.60 Also present at the court of al-D during al-Kabs
stay was Ab Muslim Muammad b. Bar al-Ifahn (d. 322/934) the famous
Qurn commentator,61 and the Zayd theologian and jurist al-Imm al-Nir
li-l-aqq al-asan b. Al l-Ursh (d. 304/ 917)62 who was suspected by the d

54 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:14911493; Browne, History of abaristn, 47; Abd al-Jabbr, Fal
al-itizl, 297.
55 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:149193. After his fall from power in Khursn, Muammad b.
Abdallh b. hir settled in Baghdad, where he was governor and leader of the police
until his death. C.E. Bosworth, The hirids and the affrids, in Cambridge History of
Iran, ed. R.N. Frye (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 4:102. Al-Kab may
have heard his poetry while in Baghdad, especially as al-Kab frequently visited
al-Marzubns father, who was from Khursn and had ties to Muammad b. hir.
56 al-Khab al-Baghdd, Tarkh Baghdd, 11:25.
57 R. Sellheim, al-Marzubn, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 6:634635.
58 al-Khab al-Baghdd, Tarkh Baghdd, 14:299; Browne, History of abaristn, 47; Yqt,
Irshd al-arb, 4:1491; Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim Ibn Ibrhm, 77, 176.
59 That Muammad b. Zayd was not his first patron can be gathered from the following
report attributed to al-Kab describing Muammad b. Zayd: I never worked as a secre-
tary for anyone without feeling small, until I worked for the d Muammad b. Zayd,
Wilferd Madelung, Arabic Texts Concerning the History of the Zayd Imms of abaristn,
Daylamn and Gln (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1987), 122.
60 Wilferd Madelung, D ela l-aqq, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 6:595597.
61 Wilferd Madelung, Ab Moslem Moammad b. Bar al-Esfahn, Encyclopaedia Iranica,
1:340341. Madelung suggests that Ab Muslim may have studied under al-Kab, first in
Baghdad and then in Jurjn. This hypothesis is difficult to reconcile with the little that we
know of al-Kabs biography; we do know that his visit to Baghdad when he studied with
al-Khayy must have occurred after his work for the d (see above).
62 Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 159.
10 Introduction

Muammad of conspiring against him.63 Moreover, al-Kabs work for


Muammad b. Zayd, who was assassinated in 287/900, makes the year 273/886
much too late to be accurate for the year of the birth of our theologian.64
Another employer of al-Kab as a secretary was Amad b. Sahl, a general of
the Smnid prince Nar ii b. Amad b. Isml (d. 331/943),65 who rose up
against the Smnid prince but was ultimately defeated.66 In the aftermath of
his defeat al-Kab was imprisoned and only released at the intervention of the
Abbsid vizier Al b. s b. Dwd b. al-Jarr (d. 334/946),67 during the vizier-
ate of Ab Muammad mid b. al-Abbs (r. 306311/918923). The death
date of this vizier means that al-Kabs release from prison occurred during the
latter period of al-Kabs life.68 Thus, Yqt and al-Dhahabs suggestion that
al-Kabs first visit to Baghdad occurred after this release is too late to fit in
with the little that is known of the chronology of al-Kabs life: his teacher
al-Khayy, with whom he studied during his stay in Baghdad, died around
312/900. After his return from Baghdad to Khursn, al-Kab continued a long
correspondence with al-Khayy,69 which was said to have included the latter
passing on his remarkable heresiographical knowledge to al-Kab.70
Al-Kab was well received in Baghdad, where admiration for his theologi-
cal prowess was expressed at the famous assembly of the theologian Yay b.
al-Munajjim (d. 300/912).71 This overall positive impression of al-Kab is also

63 Madelung, Arabic Texts, 87, 121122.


64 This birthdate is only reported by Ibn ajars Lisn al-mzn based on Ab l-Abbs Jafar
b. Muammad al-Mustaghfirs (d. 432/1040) now lost Tarkh Nasaf (Ibn ajar, Lisn
al-mzn, 3:255).
65 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219. Nar ii. b. Amad b. Isml succeeded his father to the
throne in 301/914 at the age of eight. His rule only gained stability in 310/922; see
C.E.Bosworth, Nar b. Amad b. Isml, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 7:1015.
66 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
67 Al b. s b. al-Jarr was a vizier for the caliphs al-Muqtadir (r. 295320/908932) and
al-Qhir (r. 320322/932934), see al-Dhahab, Tadhkirat al-uff (Hyderabad: Mabaat
Dirat al-Marif al-Uthmniyya, 1897), 3:847; al-afa, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, ed.Muammad
al-ujayr (Stuttgart: Steiner Verlag, 1988), 21:368370; H. Bowen, Al b. s, Encyclopaedia
of Islam, second edition, 1:386388.
68 al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, ed. Shuayb Arna (Beirut: Muassasat al-Risla, 1996),
14:313; and Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1491.
69 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 296297; Abd al-Qhir al-Qurash, al-Jawhir al-mua f
tarjim al-anafiyya (Hyderabad: Mabaat Dirat al-Marif al-Uthmniyya, 1913),
2:296297.
70 For example, see al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 58a, Abd al-Jabbr, Fal
al-itizl, 297.
71 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
Introduction 11

captured in al-Khab al-Baghdds accounts of him where there is no men-


tion of al-Kabs writing against the ahl al-adth. While there, al-Kab met
the mystic al-Junayd (d. 298/910), whom he praised.72
The positive reception of al-Kabs theology in Baghdad stood in sharp con-
trast to its negative reception by the ahl al-adth in the east, in Nasaf in
Transoxania, and in his native Khursn.73 Yet his unfavorable reception as a
Mutazil in the east does not mean that he did not enjoy considerable status in
Khursn. In Balkh he maintained a strong friendship with the philosopher and
scholar Ab Zayd al-Balkh (d. 322/934), a student of Ab Ysuf Yaqb b. Isq
al-Kind (d. c. 252/866).74 According to his own testimony, al-Kab grew up and
studied logic with Ab Zayd, whose character he praised.75 Along with Ab
Zayd and a certain Ab l-asan Shhid al-Balkh, al-Kab was the subject of a
book of reports (akhbr) by Ab Sahl Amad b. Ubaydallh b. Amad.76
Moreover, al-Kabs authorship of a work on the merits of Khursn speaks of
his distinguished ties to the place.77
During his final years al-Kab held a theological correspondence with the
Imm theologian Ab Jafar Muammad b. Abd al-Ramn b. Qiba, through
the mediation of the Imm Mutazil theologian Ab l-usayn al-Susanjird.78
Most sources note al-Kabs death in the year 319/931; this date is favored over
other earlier years,79 mostly because of his correspondence with Ibn Qiba, who
died in 319/931 as well.

72 al-Khab al-Baghdd, Tarkh Baghdd, 8:171.


73 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1492; Ibn Shkir al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, microfilm A 408.
Jafet Library, American University in Beirut, vol. 12, fols. 27b28a; Ibn ajar, Lisn
al-mzn, 3:255256.
74 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 1:276, 278.
75 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, ed. Al Muammad Umar (Cairo: Maktabat Wahba,
1972), 1:43.
76 The work is entitled F akhbr Ab Zayd al-Balkh wa-Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh wa-Ab l-asan
Shhid al-Balkh (Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 1:275).
77 See below, list of extant titles of al-Kabs lost works.
78 The evidence that al-Kab was Ibn Qibas disciple remains very weak. Modarressi rejects
Ibn Ab l-adds idea that Ibn Qiba was a student of al-Kab on the basis of their corre-
spondence; he considers their correspondence to be evidence of a peer relationship
(Hossein Modarressi, Crisis and Consolidation in the Formative Period of Shiite Islam
(Princeton, nj: Darwin Press, 1993), 119). For another reading of their relationship see Etan
Kohlberg who recognizes Ibn Qiba as a student of al-Kab (Etan Kohlberg, A Medieval
Muslim Scholar at Work: Ibn ws and His Library (Leiden: Brill, 1992), 238).
79 The other unlikely death date is 309/921, as noted by Ibn al-Nadm (Kitb al-Fihrist, 219).
And the year 317/929 is noted in other late sources. Ibn Khallikn, Wafayt al-ayn, 3:45.
In addition to these dates, al-Dhahab alone includes the years 327/939 and 329/941.
12 Introduction

For someone of al-Kabs status as a theologian, there is little information


about his theological education.80 Ab l-usayn al-Khayy is the only
Mutazil teacher with whom al-Kab is said to have studied,81 and he kept a
close correspondence with him upon his return to Khursn.82 Al-Khayy is
described as having deterred al-Kab from meeting Ab Al l-Jubb when
al-Kab was traveling back to Khursn. But the two certainly debated with
one another (nuar) and thus clearly must have met at some point, since,
according to Abd al-Jabbrs report, al-Jubb deemed al-Kab to be more
knowledgeable than al-Khayy.83 Perhaps it was, in part, a consequence of
that preference that Basran biographical dictionaries place al-Kab in the
same eighth generation (abaqa), as his teacher al-Khayy and al-Jubb.84
Al-Kab and al-Jubb also corresponded on the subject of the optimum
(al-ala).85
This much of al-Kabs theological education may suggest that he had little
knowledge of Mutazil theology before his meeting with al-Khayy. The d
Muammad b. Zayd is the one figure from al-Kabs background (prior to his
encounter with al-Khayy, that is), who may be credited with introducing him
to Mutazil thought. However, there is no textual foundation to support this
hypothesis. In addition to the absence of textual evidence and aside from his
support of the Mutazils, the ds Mutazil doctrines remain unknown, as
both his work and that of his brother were lost.86 But what remains certain is
that al-Kab not only worked for the d but also believed in the ds mission,
at least at the time that he worked for him. Surely, work for a patron did not
necessarily imply doctrinal adherence.87 In the case of al-Kab, however, it is

80 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 296297; al-Khab al-Baghdd, Tarkh Baghdd, 11:25.
Regarding al-Kabs legal affiliation, see al-Qurash, al-Jawhir al-mua f tarjim
al-anafiyya, 2:296297.
81 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 297; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 16b17a.
82 This correspondence is often noted for the doxographical information imparted by
al-Khayy to al-Kab, for example, al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla f ul al-dn al arqat
al-Imm Ab Manr al-Mturd, ed. Claude Salam (Damascus: Institut franais de
Damas, 199093), 2:724.
83 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 16b17a.
84 Ibid., vol. 1, fol. 17a.
85 See below for a list of titles of al-Kabs works.
86 Zayd sources do not seem to document the doctrines of the d Muammad b. Zayd, see
Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 155158.
87 See, for example, Ab Al l-Fal b. Jafar al-Anbr l-Bar (d. between 256 and 279/870 and
892), a Sh secretary who worked for al-Mutawakkil (r. 232247/847861) and other
Abbsid caliphs.
Introduction 13

not merely his work for the d that suggest his belief in his mission but the
words he used to praise him: I could have imagined that it was Muammad
the Prophet of God dictating one of his revelations.88
Based on al-Kabs extant doctrines on the imma, however, we know that
later in his life he must have distanced himself from belief in the claim of the
d.89 The sources make no mention of a break in al-Kabs political or theo-
logical commitments. The likelihood that a break occurred is strengthened,
however, by al-Kabs enduring ties to the hirids, who stood on the opposite
political and doctrinal spectrum than the d; they supported the proto-Sunn
caliphate in Baghdad.90 The d was expelled from Jurjn at the hands of the
hirid governor Isq Shr in 255/877,91 and it was under the leadership of
the d asan b. Zayd that abaristn gained independence from Sulaymn b.
Abdallh b. hir in the year 250/864.92
Al-Kab enjoyed a considerable number of followers, especially in Khursn,
where his theological legacy and reputation continued for at least two centu-
ries: The last noteworthy member of al-Kabs school in Khursn was Sad b.
Muammad b. Sad Ab Rashd al-Nsbr.93 He embraced the tenets of the
Bahshamiyya and studied with Abd al-Jabbr in the city of Rayy, then became
famous for his refutation of the Baghdadis and al-Kabs theology; parts of this
refutation are extant and constitute a major source for al-Kabs theology
(see Part 1). Among al-Kabs immediate and well-known Khursn followers
are Ab af al-Qirmaysn who can be singled out for his independent theo-
logical views, including his disagreement with al-Kabs controversial posi-
tion on perdurance (baq).94 Ab l-asan Al b. Muammad al-Khashshb95

88 Madelung (ed.), Arabic Texts, 47.


89 See Chapter 6.
90 On the policies of the two ds, see Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 158159. Madelung
quotes the names of a few anafs who were maltreated and in some cases killed in
prison under the two ds (Der Imm al-Qsim, 159). On hirid policy, see Bosworth,
The hirids and affrids, 4:106.
91 Madelung, D ela l-aqq, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 6:595597.
92 Wilferd Madelung, The Minor Dynasties of Northern Iran, in Cambridge History of Iran,
ed. R.N. Frye (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), 4:206.
93 R.M. Frank, Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 12:3132;
Hassan Ansari and Sabine Schmidtke, Mutazilism after Abd al-Jabbr: Ab Rashd
al-Nsbrs Kitb Masil al-khilf f l-ul (Studies on the Transmission of Knowledge from
Iran to Yemen in the 6th/12th and 7th/13th c.I), Studia Iranica 39 (2010): 225276.
94 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 320; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 76a.
95 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 308309.
14 Introduction

(or al-ashsh96) al-Balkh was a close student (ghulm) of al-Kab who was
welcomed and praised by theologians in Baghdad, which he visited on his way
to pilgrimage. He was known for his leadership (riysa akhma) and for having
held a debate with another student of al-Kab on the subject of the capacity
for action (qudra). He authored several books though their titles remain
unknown.97
Another close student of al-Kab, Ab Bakr Muammad b. Ibrhm
al-Zubayr al-Fris, was from Fars and visited Khursn. Al-Fris wrote a refu-
tation of four unnamed books of Ibn al-Rwand;98 his contributions were
broad and included writings on the divine attributes and justice (jall al-kalm),
cosmological questions (daqq al-kalm), and on principles of jurisprudence
(ul al-fiqh).99 He, in turn, had a considerable number of followers, including
Ab l-asan Amad b. Yay l-Munajjim (d. 327/939),100 whose fathers famous
assemblies were attended by al-Kab, and Ab Muslim Muammad b. Bar
al-Ifahn l-Naqqsh, who was known for his asceticism and piety.101
Ab Abdallh Muammad b. Umar al-aymar, who wrote al-Nihya f
l-ala, a refutation of al-Kabs position on the optimum (al-ala),102 was a
follower of al-Jubb and was described by Abd al-Jabbr as having studied at
one point with both al-Kab and al-Khayy.103 Ab Amad al-Askar l-Abdak
was portrayed by Abd al-Jabbr as a follower of al-Jubb and Ab Hshim
before visiting al-Kab in Khursn. The contentious consequences of this
shift in affiliation from the two Jubbs to al-Kab can perhaps be detected in
Abd al-Jabbrs report that al-Abdak falsely claimed that one of Ab Hshims
works by the title of al-Jmi al-kabr was his own.104 The affiliation of these last
two students is mainly known to us through Abd al-Jabbrs statements, which
in some cases were taken up by al-Jishum. Ibn al-Nadm (d. 385/995 or 388/998),

96 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:14911492; Ibn Shkir al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, fols. 27b28a;
al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:2527.
97 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 321, al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 76a.
98 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 68a, 76a.
99 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 321.
100 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 76a. Abd al-Jabbr only ties Ab l-asan
Amad b. Yay l-Munajjim to al-Kabs followers in general terms, Abd al-Jabbr, Fal
al-itizl, 299.
101 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 322323; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 76a.
102 The optimum was a theology that deemed that God created the best for His servants. It
was, however, far from a monolithic theology. I discuss its meaning, according to al-Kab
and other Mutazils, in Chapter 3.
103 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 308309.
104 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 331; Madelung, Arabic Texts, 87, 121.
Introduction 15

for example, does not mention the affiliation of al-aymar to al-Kab in his
entry on the former.105 There is no reason to reject Abd al-Jabbrs sole state-
ment in these examples, though his testimony cannot always be accepted. This
is true of Abd al-Jabbrs claim that two important Imm contemporaries (the
philosopher Isml b.Al Ab Sahl al-Nawbakh (d. 311/923) and his nephew
the theologian al-asan b. Ms b. Sahl Ab Muammad (d. between 300 and
310/912 and 922)) were followers of al-Kab and were responsible for introduc-
ing Mutazil ideas into Imm thought.106 Unlike his biography of the other
students of al-Kab, Abd al-Jabbr merely lists the two, and provides no details
about the nature of their interaction with him.107 As to al-asan b. Mss
mention, in his Kitb al-Tanzh, of summaries of assemblies that he held with
al-Kab (majlisuhu maa Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh jamaahu Kitb al-Tanzh) they
are too broad to imply discipleship.108
While the Zayd Imm Ab l-usayn al-Hd il l-aqq was indeed influ-
enced by the theology of al-Kab, ties of discipleship proper remain hard to
establish and are only noted quite late in the sources.109 Moreover, leading
theologians and philosophers, such as Ab l-asan al-Ashar,110 refuted his
work, as did the founder of what would become a prominent Sunn school of
kalm, Ab Manr Muammad al-Mturd l-Samarqand,111 and the physi-
cian and philosopher Ab Bakr Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rz (d. 313/925 or
323/935). In the case of the latter, there is clear evidence of their meeting and

105 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.


106 Madelung, Immism and Mutazilite Theology, in Le Shisme immite, ed. T. Fahd (Paris:
Presses Universitaires de France, 1979), 1329. Madelung also emphasized the indepen-
dence with which the Nawbakhts adopted Mutazil thought.
107 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 321.
108 al-Najash, Kitb al-Rijl (Tehran: N.p., 1958), 47.
109 Biographical elements that indicate that such a relationship was unlikely have also been
pointed out by Madelung (al-ad il l-a, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition,
Supplement, 12:334335). The late source that notes this discipleship is Yay l-Miqr
(d. 972/1564) (Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 164).
110 Ab l-asan al-Ashar wrote two works in refutation of al-Kab, al-Naq al awil al-
adilla li-l-Balkh (Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt al-shaykh Ab l-asan al-Ashar, ed. Daniel
Gimaret (Beirut: Dr al-Mashriq, 1987), 108); al-Radd al l-Balkh f adab al-jadal (Ibn
Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 310); al-Naq al l-Jubb wa-l-Balkh (Ibn Frak, Mujarrad
maqlt, 38, 165). Al-Ashar also wrote a refutation of the cosmology of one of al-Kabs
Baghdadi Mutazil predecessors, Ab Jafar al-Iskf (d. 240/854), Naq al-laf al
al-Iskf (Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 147, 216).
111 On the centrality of al-Kab as an opponent of al-Mturd, especially the latters Kitb
al-Tawd, see Rudolph, al-Mturd, 316317, 351.
16 Introduction

debating in person.112 Moreover, al-Kab wrote in response to Ab Abdallh


Ab s Muammad b. s l-Bar l-Burgth, a follower of the Murji school of
Ab Abdallh al-usayn b. Muammad b. Abdallh al-Najjr (d. 220/835).113

Works

Only two of al-Kabs works are extant,114 and neither of these are theological
(kalm) works. One of the two is a polemical work against the ahl al-adth;
this is extant in a manuscript (Cairo mutala 14 m) with the title Qabl
al-akhbr wa-marifat al-rijl (On the verification of the [prophetic] reports
and the trustworthiness of their transmitters), and it has been published.115
Isml Psh (d. 787/1385)116 cites it as F marifat al-rijl; the work is most
likely identical to Naq al-Sirjn (see below).117 His other extant work is a her-
esiographical work, Kitb al-Maqlt (The book of doctrines), which, as noted
above, has been edited in part.118 A comprehensive analysis of the reception of
this work is now available in van Esss Der Eine und das Andere.119 Al-Kabs

112 Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz, al-Malib al-liya min al-ilm al-ilh, ed. Amad ijz l-Saqq
(Beirut: Dr al-Kitb al-Arab, 1987), 3:318319; Abd al-Jabbr, Tathbt dalil al-nubuwwa,
ed. Abd al-Karm Uthmn (Beirut: al-Dr al-Arabiyya, 1966), 2:624625.
113 On al-Kabs refutations of Burgth, see the titles of al-Kabs works listed below. On
al-Burgth, see van Ess, Theologie, 4:162165; on al-Najjr, ibid., 4:147162.
114 Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums (Leiden: Brill, 1996), 1:622623.
115 Ab l-Qsim al-Kab/al-Balkh, Qabl al-akhbr wa-marifat al-rijl, ed. Ab Amr
al-usayn b. Umar b. Abd al-Ram (Beirut: Dr al-Kutub al-Ilmiyya, 2000).
116 Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn: Asm al-muallifn wa-thr al-muannifn (Baghdad:
Maktabat al-Muthann, 1972), 2:444.
117 For a discussion of the identity of the two works, see Racha el Omari, Accommodation
and Resistance: Classical Mutazilites on adth, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 71, no. 2
(2012): 236239.
118 Sayyid (ed.), Fal al-itizl, 63119.
119 van Ess, Der Eine und das Andere, 1:338375. Van Ess notes that a complete edition of this
work is being prepared by Hseyin Hansu (Der Eine und das Andere, 1:339). Katip elebi men-
tions that al-Kab wrote in his Maqlt that he started writing it in the year 279/892 (Ktip
elebi, Kashf al-unn, 2:1782); according to Ibn al-Nadm, Uyn al-masil was an appendix
to his Maqlt (Ibn al-Nadm, al-Fihrist, 219). Moreover the listing of this work as Maqmt
by al-Kutub and al-afa must be a copyists mistake (al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12,
fol. 28b; al-afa, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26). For other sources that mention al-Kabs Maqlt,
see al-Tawd, al-Bair wa-l-dhakhir, ed. Wadd al-Qd (Beirut: Dr dir, 1988), 5:119;
Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493; al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, 14:313; al-Dwd, abaqt
al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Murta, abaqt al-Mutazila, 89; Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn,
2:444; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn f abwb al-tawd wa-l-adl (vol. 9, al-Tawld, ed. Tawfq al-awl
and Sad Zyid (Cairo, n.d.)), 9:11; (vol. 12, al-Naar wa-l-marif, ed. Ibrhm Madkhr (Cairo:
Introduction 17

Qurnic commentary entitled Kitb al-Tafsr al-kabr li-l-Qurn (The major


commentary on the Qurn) is not extant, though fragments of it have been
collected and studied in the work of Khir Muammad Nabha.120
The following are the extant titles of al-Kabs works, listed, when possible,
according to thematic content, with references to the sources in which they
are mentioned. For the most part, we must rely on the titles themselves to
guess at their subject matter. Citations of the content of these lost works
remain an exception rather than the norm. Titles listed by Fud al-Sayyid121
are marked with [s], those listed by van Ess122 are marked with [e], and those
listed by Abbs Zeryb are marked with [z].123

Titles of Lost Works

Divine Justice
DJ-1 al-Asm wa-l-akm (The [Qurnic] names and [corresponding] legal
regulations) [s]124

1964)), 12:25; Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd, Kitb al-Farq bayn al-firaq, ed. Muammad Muy
l-Dn Abd al-amd (Jeddah: Dr al-ali, 2005), 12, 115116; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn
al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 24a, vol. 3. fol. 10b; al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd al ahl al-bida (ms B 66,
Ambrosiana Library, Milan), fols. 128a128b; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:634, 724.
120 Nabha, Tafsr Ab l-Qsim al-Kab al-Balkh; Ibn al-Nadm, al-Fihrist, 219; Yqt notes that
it was larger than the commentary of Ab Zayd al-Balkh (Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 1:279); on
several occasions, al-Kabs commentary is described as written in an unprecedented
orthographic rendering (rasm) in twelve volumes (Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493; al-afad,
al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 1:441); it is also described as con-
sisting of twelve volumes (al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, 12:28b; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-
wafayt, 17:26; Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 1:441). Ibn ws (d. 664/1266), who refuted
al-Kabs work of exegesis, describes it as consisting of thirty-two parts (juz) (Kohlberg,
A Medieval Muslim Scholar at Work, 203204). For other works that mention al-Kabs
commentary, see also al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, 14:313; Ibn ajar, Lisn al-mzn,
3:256; Ibn al-Murta, Kitb abaqt al-Mutazila, 88; al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn,
1:223; al-Tawd, al-Bair wa-l-dhakhir, 8:66; Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 297.
121 Sayyid (ed.), Introduction, in Fal al-itizl, 4655. In a few significant cases, references
to Sayyids list remain indispensable because it relies on parts of al-Kabs Maqlt manu-
script that remains unpublished.
122 van Ess, Abu l-Qsem al-Balk al-Kab, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:359362.
123 Abbs Zeryb, Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh, Dirat al-marif al-islmiyya al-kubr, vol. 5, ed.
Musawi Bugnurdi and Sayyid Kazim (Tehran: Markaz Dirat al-Marif al-Islamiyya
al-Kubr, 2003), 241246.
124 al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn, 2:444;
al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26.
18 Introduction

The title cited by Yqt as al-l wa-l-akm in Irshd al-arb is clearly a


copyists mistake.125
DJ-2 al-Nihya f l-ala al Ab Al wa-naqihi alayhi al-aymar (The last
refutation of Ab Al on the topic of the optimum (ala) and of his [Ab
Als] refutation of al-aymar) [s e z]126
DJ-3 F wad al-fussq (On the threat of punishment for the grave sinners)
[z]127
Al-Mturd wrote a refutation: Radd Kitb al-Kab f wad al-fussq.128
DJ-4 Ba al-naq al l-mujbira (A refutation of the mujbira) [s]129
Yqt cites this title as Kitb Naq al-naq al l-mujbira (Refutation of the
refutation of the mujbira).130

Epistemology and Methodology


EM-1 Adab al-jadal (The art of disputation) [s z]131
Ibn al-Nadm cites the title as Kitb al-Jadal wa-db ahlih wa-ta ilalih
(Disputation: Its art and the verification of its causes).132
EM-2 Il ghala Ibn al-Rwand [ f l-jadal] (Correction of Ibn al-Rwands
mistake [on disputation]) [s e]
Ab Rashd cites this title as Il ghala Ibn al-Rwand.133
Both Ibn Askir (d. 571/1175) and Ibn Fraks (d. 406/1015) descriptions favor
the view that Adab al-jadal and Il ghala Ibn al-Rwand are identical.
Ibn Askir writes that al-Ashar wrote a refutation of al-Kab, in which the
latter alaa bihi ghala Ibn al-Rwand f l-jadal (corrected the mistake of Ibn
al-Rwand on disputation).134
Ibn Furk cites a work of al-Ashar as Raddihi [al-Ashar] al l-Balkh f m
itaraa bihi al-Balkh al Ibn al-Rwand l-ladh zaama annahu alaa ghala

125 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493.


126 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
127 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:359.
128 Ibid.
129 al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26.
130 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493.
131 al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, 14:313; Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 1:45; al-afad, al-Wf
bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493; Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn, 2:444.
132 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
133 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf bayn al-bariyyn wa-l-baghddiyyn, ed.
Maan Ziyda and Riwn al-Sayyid (Beirut: Mahad al-Inm al-Arab, 1979), 343.
134 Ibn Askir, Tabyn kadhib al-muftar f-m nusiba il l-imm Ab l-asan al-Ashar
(Damascus: al-Quds, 1928), 131.
Introduction 19

Ibn al-Rwand f adab al-jadal (al-Ashars refutation of al-Balkh regarding


the latters objection to Ibn al-Rwand concerning his [Ibn al-Rwands] Adab
al-jadal).135
EM-3 al-Tahdhb f l-jadal (Emendation of the disputation) [s z]
Yqt cites this work as Kitb Tadd al-jadal.136
Isml Psh cites it as Tajrd al-jadal.137
Ktip elebi (d. 1067/1657) states that this work of al-Kab was a refutation
of al-Mturds Kitb al-Jadal on the subject of ul al-fiqh, and was eventually
refuted by al-Mturd.138
Al-Mturds refutation was entitled Radd tahdhb al-jadal.139
EM-4 Kitb al-r wa-l-diynt (On opinions and religions)
Abd al-Jabbr states that in this work al-Kab speaks of why he deems it
prohibited to argue with skeptics.140
EM-5 Kitb Awil al-adilla (The first proofs [of the principles of religion]) [s e
z]141
Ktip elebi cites this work as Awil al-adilla f ul al-dn.142
It is also cited as addressing the following topics: the manner of the creation
of the world (adath al-lam),143 anti-Christian polemics,144 and the capacity
for action (qudra).145
Al-Ashar refuted al-Kabs work Awil al-adilla in his Naq tawl al-adilla
al l-Balkh,146 where he attacked Mutazil theological principles as presented
in al-Kabs work, Uyn al-masil wa-l-jawbt (see below).147

135 Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt al-Ashar, 310; van Ess, Theologie, 6:440.
136 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493.
137 Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn, 2:444.
138 Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 2:1408.
139 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:359; Rudolph, al-Mturd, 199, 201.
140 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:41.
141 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493; al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; al-afad, al-Wf
bi-l-wafayt, 17:26.
142 Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 1:200.
143 al-Maqdis [incorrectly attributed to Ab Zayd Amad b. Sahl al-Balkh], Kitb al-bad
wa-l-tarkh, ed. Clment Huart (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 18991919), 1:135.
144 P. Sbath, Vingt traits philosophiques et apologtiques dauteurs arabes chrtiens du IXe au
XIVe sicle (Cairo: H. Frederich, 1929), 5268.
145 Ibn Askir, Tabyn kadhib al-muftar, 130.
146 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:438, 2:567.
147 Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 108.
20 Introduction

Al-Mturd wrote a refutation of this work entitled Radd awil al-adilla li-l-
Kab that includes discussions of the subjects of the capacity for action
(qudra)148 and grave sin (al-kabra).149
Kitb Awwal al-maqlt (The principal doctrine)150 is most likely a copyist
mistake of either Awil al-adilla or Kitb al-Maqlt.
EM-6 Kitb Ful al-khib f l-naq al rajul tanabbaa bi-Khursn
(Sections of a letter [written] in refutation of a man who claimed to be a
prophet in Khursn) [s]151
Al-Dhahab (d. 748/1348 or 753/13523) cites this work as F l-radd al
mutanabbi f Khursn (In response to a man who claimed to be a prophet in
Khursn).152
EM-7 Kayfiyyat al-istidll bi-l-shhid al l-ghib [s e] (The method of infer-
ring [knowledge of] the unseen [world] from the seen [world])153
Al-Dhahab cites this work as al-Istidll bi-l-shhid al l-ghib.154
EM-8 Naq al-Sirjn (Refutation of al-Sirjn) [s e]155
Yqt lists this work as Naq al-Sirjns al-Sunna wa-l-jama (compare to
the title al-Sunna wa-l-jama below).156
EM-9 al-Sunna wa-l-jama (On the practice of the Prophet and the majority
[of the Muslim community]) [s e]157
The title cited by al-Jishum as Kitb al-Sunna is most likely identical with
this work.158
Van Ess deems this work to be a refutation of al-Sirjns work Kitb al-Sunna
wa-l-jama and takes Ibn al-Nadms citation of the work as al-Sunna wa
al-jama to be a mistake.159

148 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:359, 2:567.


149 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, ed. Bekir Topaloglu and Muammad Arui (Ankara: Waqf
Diyanat Turkiya, 2003), 579.
150 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:202.
151 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
152 al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, 14:313.
153 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, 14:313.
154 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
155 Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 195. On the identification of this work with Qabl al-akhbr
wa-marifat al-rijl, see El Omari, Accommodation and Resistance.
156 Yqt, Mujam al-buldn, 3:213.
157 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219; Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493; al-Dhahab, Siyar alm
al-nubal, 14:313; al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-
wafayt, 17:26; al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223.
158 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 54b.
159 van Ess, Der Eine und das Andere, 1:331332.
Introduction 21

EM-10 F ujjat akhbr al-d (The argument for the [validity] of the single
reports) [s z]160

Cosmology
C-1 Kitb f l-tawallud wa-afl al-ib (On generation and the acts of
natures)161
C-2 Kitb f l-qawl f l-ab wa-qalb al-ar (On nature and the transformation
of accidents)162
C-3 Kitb Tayd maqlt Ab l-Hudhayl f l-juz [s read as f l-Jabr] (In support
of Ab l-Hudhayls propositions on the atom) [z]163
Ibn ajar (d. 787/1385) only mentions a work in which al-Kab agrees with
Ab l-Hudhayl, without naming a title.164
C-4 Naq kitb Ab Al l-Jubb f l-irda (Refutation of Ab Al l-Jubbs
book on the [subject of divine] volition) [s e z]165
C-5 al-Kitb al-thn al Ab Al f l-[irda]166 (The second book in refutation
of Ab Al [al-Jubb] on [the subject of] volition) [s z]
The edited text of al-Fihrist reads janna and not irda.167
C-6 al-Masil al-wrida f l-ajz (Questions dealing with [the topic of the]
incapacity [for action]) [z]168

Metaphysics (Refutations)
M-1 al-Naq al al-Rz f l-ilm al-ilh (Refutation of al-Rz on meta-
physics) [s e z]169
Al-Dhahab cites it as Kitb f l-naq al l-Rz f l-falsafa al-ilhiyya.170

160 al-Baghdd, Kitb al-Farq, 180; al-Kab, Qabl al-akhbr, 1:17; El Omari, Accommodation
and Resistance, 239240.
161 Sayyid (ed.), Introduction, Fal al-itizl, 47.
162 Ibid., 52.
163 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219; al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; van Ess,
Theologie, 5:370.
164 Ibn ajar, Lisn al-mzn, 3:256.
165 al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Yqt,
Irshd al-arb, 4:1493.
166 I read this title as f l-[irda], and not [janna], because the term second (al-thn) in the
title can be understood to refer to the second work in which al-Kab refutes al-Jubb on
the topic of irda.
167 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
168 al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 246, 305.
169 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
170 al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, 14:313.
22 Introduction

Al-afad (d. 764/1363) cites it as al-Intiqd li-l-ilm al-ilh al Muammad


b. Zakariyy.171
It is also cited as Naq al-Balkh li-[l-Rzs] al-ilm al-ilh.172
Al-Rzs refutation of this work is cited as Naq naq al-Balkh li-l-ilm al-ilh.173
M-2 Jawbt Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh [il Ab Bakr al-Rz] (The responses of
Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh to Ab Bakr al-Rz)174
Al-Rzs response is titled Kitb il Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh f l-ziyda al
jawbih wa-al jawb hdha al-jawb.175
M-3 Kitb Naq al-maqla al-thniya f l-ilm al-ilh [li-l-Rz] (Refutation of
the second chapter on metaphysics [by al-Rz])176
Al-Rzs response is cited as Kitb al-Radd al Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh f
naqhi al-maql al-thniya f l-ilm al-ilh.177

Imma178
I-1 Jawb al-mustarshid f-l-imma (The response to the inquirer about the
imma) [s e z]179
Isml Psh cited it as al-Imma (On the imma) and a l-Mustarshid
f-l-imma.180
I-2 al-Kalm f l-imma al Ibn Qiba (Discussion on the imma in response to
Ibn Qiba) [s e z]181
It is also cited as Naq al-Mustathbit182 and as Naq al-Mustarshid.183

171 al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:2527.


172 Paul Kraus (ed.), Abi Bakr Mohammadi Filii Zachariae Raghensis (Razis) Opera Philosophica
(Cairo: N.p., 1939), 167; Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 104.
173 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 358; Ibn Ab Uaybia, Kitb Uyn al-anb f abaqt
al-aibb, ed. August Mller (Knigsberg: Selbstverlag, 1884), 1:317, 358; Kraus (ed.), Opera
Philosophica, 167; Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 104.
174 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 358; Ibn Ab Uaybia, Kitb Uyn al-anb, 1:317; Kraus
(ed.), Opera Philosophica, 168; Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 104.
175 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 358; Ibn Ab Uaybia, Kitb Uyn al-anb, 317; Kraus (ed.),
Opera Philosophica, 168; Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 104.
176 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 358; Ibn Ab Uaybia, Kitb Uyn al-anb, 1:317; Kraus
(ed.), Opera Philosophica, 168; Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 104.
177 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 358; Ibn Ab Uaybia, Kitb Uyn al-anb, 1:317; Kraus
(ed.), Opera Philosophica, 168; Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 104.
178 Modarressi, Crisis and Consolidation, 118119.
179 Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 2:1673; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Yqt, Irshd
al-arb, 4:1493.
180 Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn, 2:444.
181 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
182 Modarressi, Crisis and Consolidation, 119.
183 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Ktip elebi, Kashf
al-unn, 2:1673.
Introduction 23

Encyclopedic Work of Theology


T-1 Uyn al-masil wa-l-jawbt (The essential questions and answers)
[s e z]184
Ibn al-Nadm states that Uyn al-masl wa-l-jawbt was added to Kitb
al-Maqlt.185
Multiple sources note that it consisted of nine volumes.186
Ab Rashd notes that Uyn al-masil wa-l-jawbt includes a subtitle
entitled al-Asm wa-l-akm (compare to title above).187
Ibn Askir notes that Ab l-asan al-Ashar wrote a refutation to this work:
the Naq tawl al-adilla is al-Ashars refutation of al-Kabs views on the attri-
butes as noted in his Uyn al-masil.188

Exegesis
E-1 Mutashbih al-Qurn (The ambiguous verses of the Qurn)189

Belles-Lettres and History


BLH-1 Mafkhir Khursn (The glories of Khursn) [s e z]190
Ibn al-Nadm cites this work as Masin Khursn.191
BLH-2 Masin l hir (The noble qualities of the hirid dynasty)
[s e z]192
BLH-3 Kitb Tufat al-wuzar (The treasure of the viziers) [s]193

184 Ibn al-Murta, Kitb abaqt al-Mutazila, 88; Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn, 2:444;
Ab Rashd, al-Masil f l-khilf, 55, 57, 117, 160, 195, 196, 202, 204, 207, 228, 230, 237, 245,
246, 251, 252, 256, 321327, 333, 335, 336, 343, 345, 347, 363, 366, 369, 372; al-Jishum,
Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 130b; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:826, 896; Ab
l-usayn al-Bar, Taaffu al-adilla, ed. Wilferd Madelung and Sabine Schmidtke
(Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2006), 66, 84, 131.
185 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
186 Yqt, Irshd al-adb, 4:1493; al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; al-afad,
al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 1:1187.
187 Ab Rashd, al-Masil f l-khilf, 315.
188 Ibn Askir, Tabyn kadhib al-muftar, 130131.
189 Sayyid (ed.), Introduction, Fal al-itizl, 52.
190 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Ktip elebi, Kashf
al-unn, 2:1758; Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn, 2:444.
191 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 216.
192 Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn, 2:444; Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 2:1608; al-Kutub,
Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Yqt, Irshd al-arb,
4:1493.
193 Yqt, Irshd al-arb, 4:1493; al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; al-afad, al-Wf
bi-l-wafayt, 17:27; Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 1:376; Isml Psh, Hadiyyat al-rifn,
2:444.
24 Introduction

BLH-4 Tarkh Balkh (History of Balkh) [s z]194


BLH-5 Tarkh Nsbr (History of Nsbr) [s z]195

Unidentified Content
U-1 al-Fatw l-wrida min Jurjn wa-l-Irq (The explanations received from
Jurjn and Irq) [s]196
It is also cited as Fatw Ab l-Qsim.197
U-2 Kitb al-Ghurar wa-l-nawdir (The book of innovations and rarities)
[s e z]198
Ibn al-Nadm cites this work as Kitb al-Ghurar.199
U-3 al-Masil wa-l-majlis (Questions and assemblies)200
U-4 al-Majlis al-kabr (The major collection of assemblies) [s]201
U-5 al-Majlis al-aghr (The minor collection of assemblies) [s]202
U-6 Kitb al-Jawbt (The book of responses) [s]203
Compare this title to Uyn al-masil wa-l-jawbt (below).
U-7 Masil al-Khujund f m khlafa fhi Ab Al204 (The questions on which
al-Khujund disagreed with Ab Al) [s]205
U-8 Kitb al-Muht al Burghth (Excelling over Burgth [in argumenta-
tion]) [s z]206

194 Ktip elebi, Kashf al-unn, 1:289.


195 Ibid., 1:308.
196 al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Yqt,
Irshd al-arb, 4:1493.
197 Ktip eleb Irshd al-arb, 4:1493.
198 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219; al-Mufd, al-Ful
al-mukhtra min al-uyn wa-l-masin (Qom: Manshrt Maktabat al-Dwir, 1976), 40;
al-Dhahab, Siyar alm al-nubal, 14:313.
199 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
200 Sayyid (ed.), Introduction, Fal al-itizl, 53.
201 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
202 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
203 al-Kutub, Uyn al-tawrkh, vol. 12, fol. 28b; al-afad, al-Wf bi-l-wafayt, 17:26; Yqt,
Irshd al-arb, 4:1493.
204 Al-Khujund is remembered for having copied the work of Ab Al l-Jubbi on laf
(cosmology) dictated to him by al-Jubb himself (Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 319).
Thus the evidence of al-Kabs work in refutation of al-Khujund explains that the latter
not only copied al-Jubbs work but also disagreed with its author on several issues.
205 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
206 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
Introduction 25

U-9 Naq Kitb al-Khall al Burghth (Refutation of al-Khalls book against


Burghth) [z]207
U-10 F l-naq al Ibn al-Rwand (In refutation of Ibn al-Rwand)208

207 al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219.
208 Abd al-Jabbr, Tathbt dalil al-nubuwwa, 1:63, 2:548549.
Part 1
Source Criticism


chapter 1

The Four Testimonies

Overall I rely on four theological traditions to reconstruct al-Kabs theology:


the Mutazils, mostly the Bahshamiyya, the Mturds, the Imm Baghdadi
Mutazils as represented in the work of al-Shaykh al-Mufd, and the Ashars.
In addition, I use Ab l-asan al-Ashars heresiographical work, Maqlt
al-islmiyyn. Thus, with the exception of the work of al-Mufd and a few Zayd
sources, which I discuss here under the Mutazil tradition, the Zayd and
Imm traditions remain unexplored. These two traditions, along with Mturd
sources from later periods, must be explored at greater length in future studies
on al-Kabs legacy in Islamic theology.
There is one important limitation with regard to the reconstruction of
al-Kabs theology from these traditions. This is a limitation that defines efforts
to reconstruct early theologies whose doctrines survive in hostile sources: The
only articles recorded are those about which there was disagreement with
al-Kab; those issues about which there was agreement were left unmentioned,
at least in the hostile sources. I rarely found documentation of a single article
of al-Kabs doctrine in all four traditions, and I do not hold that level of hyper-
confirmation to be a condition for accepting the veracity of its ascription to
al-Kab. I take the statement of one source to be sufficient for ascribing an
article to al-Kab, provided it does not contradict any other statement. Indeed,
this minimal evidence remains the norm for most of al-Kabs theological
tenets. In the rare cases in which there are conflicting statements, I address
those discrepancies on an individual basis. The discrepant statements are
especially prominent in the case of the doctrine of the attributes. Thus the
section dealing with the assessment of testimonies (below) is much more
detailed for the doctrine of the attributes than for the remaining doctrines.
Moreover in the sources where articles are ascribed to the general category
of Baghdadis, I only accept their attribution to al-Kab when such articles are
verified on the basis of other articles established with certainty to al-Kab.
For a few articles, the only evidence available relates to articles attributed to
the category of Baghdadis, and without textual evidence I cannot attribute
such articles to al-Kab. It is, however, not the only reason. Often the content
of these articles also conflicts with articles whose attribution to al-Kab is
certain.
Before I assess the testimonies for each doctrine, I outline the general char-
acteristics of each of the testimonies by tradition, and address the prominent

koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 6|doi 10.1163/9789004259683_003


30 chapter 1

sources of each tradition. In a few cases, especially in the Mutazil tradition,


a source may be used in a limited way, and thus I only discuss it in the following
section on the testimony of that tradition.

The Mutazil Testimony

The Mutazil testimony consists mainly of Bahsham Mutazil sources. In the


two encyclopedic works of al-Musin b. Muammad b. Karma al-Bayhaq
l-kim al-Jishum, namely his al-Uyn f l-radd al ahl al-bida and his Shar
Uyn al-masl, we find comprehensive reports of al-Kabs theological doc-
trines. Both of these works were written when al-Jishum was a follower of the
Bahsham school as expressed in the work of Abd al-Jabbr b. Amad
al-Hamadhn and before al-Jishums conversion to the Zayds, which hap-
pened later in his life.1
While far from the comprehensiveness of al-Jishums two aforementioned
works, other Bahsham works are pivotal in providing in-depth discussions of
specific areas of al-Kabs theological doctrines. In his al-Mughn f abwb
al-tawd wa-l-adl,2 Abd al-Jabbr rarely names al-Kab, but some of the
articles of al-Kab that he relates without attributing them to him or to anyone
else can be identified from other sources, most often from al-Jishum. The
advantage of the testimony of al-Mughn remains, however, in the way it s ituates
the disagreement between the Basrans and the Baghdadis in the context of the
systematization of the Basran school. This is, for example, the case of al-Mughns
testimony on al-Kabs views on the optimum (al-ala) (Table2: 4, 5).
Al-Majm f l-mu bi-l-taklf 3 is a critical commentary on Abd al-Jabbrs
now lost al-Mu bi-l-taklf by Ibn Mattawayh4 (fl. fifth/eleventh century), one
of Abd al-Jabbrs late students. I use it here to document one of al-Kabs
articles on the optimum (al-ala). Future works on al-Kabs doctrine of jus-
tice and other doctrines would benefit from a detailed examination of Ibn
Mattawayhs work. Moreover, the most extensive sources on al-Kabs cosmol-
ogy and epistemology are an anonymous commentary on Ibn Mattawayhs

1 On al-Jishum, see Wilferd Madelung, al-kim al-Djusham.


2 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn f abwb al-tawd wa-l-adl, 14 vols. (Cairo: Wizrat al-Thaqfa
wa-l-Irshd al-Qawm), with multiple volumes and editors.
3 Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm f l-mu bi-l-taklf, vol. 1, ed. J. J. Houben (Beirut: Imprimerie
Catholique, 1962), and vol. 2, ed. J. J. Houben and Daniel Gimaret (Beirut: Dr al-Mashriq, 1981).
4 Sabine Schmidtke, Ibn Mattawayh, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three, online edition, published
2012.
The Four Testimonies 31

al-Tadhkira f akam al-jawhir wa-l-ar (see Chapters 4 and 5), and al-Masil
f l-khilf bayn al-Bariyyn wa-l-Baghddiyyn,5 penned by another teacher of
Ibn Mattawayh, Ab Rashd al-Nsbr.6 Once a follower of the Baghdadi
school, Ab Rashd subsequently studied under Abd al-Jabbr, adopted the
Bahsham stance, and became the leader of Abd al-Jabbrs school in Rayy after
the latters death. Al-Nsbrs statements on al-Kabs epistemology are
crucial in clarifying its cosmological and ontological foundation, for example
see Table 3: 1112B. As a former follower of al-Kabs school, al-Nsbrs
knowledge of al-Kabs cosmology and ontology was extensive; his insiders
knowledge of al-Kabs system is unparalleled in Bahsham sources, with the
exception of the anonymous commentary on Ibn Mattawayhs Tadkhira from
the sixth/twelfth century (see Appendix 2).7
Among other works that provide in-depth discussions of specific topics and
which I have only used selectively here are the commentary by the Zayd Imm
al-Niq bi-l-aqq Ab lib Yay b. al-usayn b. Hrn al-Bun (d.424/1033)
on the Kitb al-Ul, which was written by one of Ab Hshims immediate
students, Ab Al Muammad b. Khalld; the work includes information on
al-Kabs epistemology not found elsewhere (Table3: 1A).8
Lastly, manuals are useful for the way in which they situate a disagreement
with al-Kab within the larger, mostly Basran, positions of Ab Al and Ab
Hshim. They provide a much needed perspective on the significance of dis-
agreements with al-Kab that more specialized works may not spell out. This is
especially the case of al-Talq al shar al-ul al-khamsa,9 the work of
Mnkdm Shashdw (d. 425/1034),10 a follower and student of the Zayd Imm

5 al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf bayn.


6 See Frank, al-Nsbur, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 12:3132.
7 This commentary preserves earlier Mutazil views, including those of al-Kab, otherwise
unnamed in the original work of Ibn Mattawayh. Sabine Schmidtke, Introduction, in An
Anonymous Commentary on Kitb al-Tadhkira by Ibn Mattawayh. Facsimilie Edition of
Mahdavi Codex 514 (6th/12th Century) (Tehran: Iranian Institute of Islamic Studies and Free
University of Berlin, 2006), 10. I thank Sabine Schmidke for sending me a copy of this work. For
an earlier edition of this work that is not consulted here, see al-Tadhkira f akm al-jawhir
wa-l-ar, ed. Fayal Budayr Awn and Sm Nar Luf (Cairo: Dr al-Thaqfa, 1975).
8 Camilla Adang, Wilferd Madelung, and Sabine Schmidtke (eds.), Baran Mutazilite
Theology: Ab Al Muammad b. Khallds Kitb al-ul and its Reception (Leiden: Brill, 2011).
9 Mnkdm Shashdw, Ab l-usayn Amad, al-Talq f l-shar al l-ul al-khamsa, ed.
Abd al-Karm Uthmn (as a work wrongly attributed to Abd al-Jabbr, and entitled
al-Ul al-khamsa) (Cairo: Maktabat Wahba, 1965). On the correct title and attribution of
this work to Mnkdm, see Daniel Gimaret, Les Ul al-amsa.
10 David Thomas, Mnkdm Shashdw, in Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical
History (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 2:662663.
32 chapter 1

Amad b. al-usayn al-Muyyad bi-llh (d. 411/1020). Another manual, albeit


less comprehensive, is that of Jr Allh Mamd b. Umar al-Zamakhshar
(d. 538/1144), al-Minhj f ul al-dn, which clearly represents the views of Ab
l-usayn al-Bar.11 Ibn al-Malims12 Kitb al-Fiq f ul al-dn13 offers the
comprehensiveness of a general manual. His adherence to the school of
al-Bar (d. 436/1044), however, means that his statements often blur al-Kabs
original article, and instead present it according to the interpretation of
al-Bars ontology (Table1: 5C3).
The Kitb al-Bath an adillat al-takfr wa-l-tadq of Ab l-Qsim al-Bust,
one of Abd al-Jabbrs students, provides a unique perspective on the scope of
the divisions among the Mutazils, divisions triggered by al-Kabs doctrines
of the attributes, the optimum (al-ala), and his epistemology.14 Al-Bust
advocates a more lenient position on doctrinal disagreements than other
Basran Mutazils, including his teacher Abd al-Jabbr.15 For al-Bust states
that al-Kabs doctrines should not lead to accusations of unbelief, and should
not be used to make judgments or legal pronouncements.16
Our general account of the Basrans statements regarding al-Kabs articles
must recognize just how varied their perceptions were, or, at least, their pre-
sentations of the extent and gravity of the disagreements between them and
al-Kab. Indeed the reception of al-Kab in later Mutazil sources is a topic of
its own and one that is beyond our investigation here. Just to give one example:
al-Jishum, in his account of the disagreement with al-Kab on the optimum
(al-ala), interpreted it as both a disagreement in expression (ibra) and

11 Sabine Schmidtke (ed.), A Mutazilite Creed of az-Zamahar (s. 538/1144): (al-Minhg f


usl ad-dn) (Stuttgart: Deutsche Morgenlndische Gesellschaft, 1997), 9.
12 Wilferd Madelung, Ibn al-Malim, in Christian-Muslim Relations: A Bibliographical
History, vol. 3, ed. David Thomas and Alex Mallet, et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2011), 3:440442.
13 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq f ul al-dn, ed. Wilferd Madelung and Martin McDermott
(Tehran: Iranian Institute of Philosophy and Institute of Islamic Studies Free University
of Berlin, 2007).
14 al-Bust, Kitb al-Bath an adillat al-takfr wa-l-tafsq, ed. Madelung and Schmidtke
(Tehran: Markaz-i Nashr-i Dnigh, 2003), 24, 26, 66, 80, 84, 100.
15 al-Bust, Kitb al-bath, introduction, ii, iii, v.
16 I was not able to consult other Basran sources, including those newly edited or still in
manuscript form. To name only a very few examples, Ibn al-Murta, al-Bar al-zakhkhr,
Landberg mss 724 (Beinecke Library); Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Mutamad f ul al-dn,
ed. Wilferd Madelung (Berlin: Freie Universitt Berlin, 2012). The Zayd tradition also has
yet to be explored, for example, see Racha el Omari, The Theology of Ab l-Qsim
al-Bal/al-Kab (d. 319/931): A Study of its Sources and Reception (PhD diss., Yale
University, 2006), 5455.
The Four Testimonies 33

meaning (man).17 Moreover, al-Jishum was keen to favor the less grave inter-
pretation of their disagreements, and, therefore to minimize them.

The Imm Baghdadi Mutazil Testimony

It was the Basran school of the Mutazils that made the more enduring impres-
sion on Imm kalm.18 With the exception of a brief period, and despite the
objection of Imm traditionalists, various elements of al-Kabs theology and
that of other Baghdadi Mutazils were adopted in the work of Ab Abdallh
Muammad b. Muammad b. al-Numn, known as al-Shaykh al-Mufd.19 Like
other Imm Mutazils, al-Mufds doctrine of the imma was independent
of Mutazil influences.20 Moreover, as already demonstrated by Martin
McDermott, when al-Mufd followed those whom he called Baghdadis, he was
not always following al-Kab, but often some of their other earlier leaders.21 In
reconstructing al-Kabs theology from al-Mufd, it becomes clear that he used
the term Baghdadis to refer to the articles of other theologians who did not
even belong to the Baghdadi chain of discipleship, such as al-Nam (Table2:
3A1 and 3C3). Meanwhile on a number of occasions al-Mufd ascribes a theo-
logical proposition to the Baghdadis that other sources ascribe specifically to
al-Kab. This tendency is found, for example, in the discussion of the divine
attributes (see Table1: 3B, 4A1). In such cases, I only accepted al-Mufds state-
ments when these were corroborated by evidence from other testimonies.
Yet even with these reservations about al-Mufds statements, there are also
instances in which it yields a valuable perspective. This is true of al-Mufds
statement on the way in which al-Kabs version of the doctrine of nature dif-
fered from that of other Mutazils (Table4a: 5 and 6), and, for example, on his
statement about al-Kabs stance on the imma (Table5: 8). I have accepted
these statements because though they are not corroborated by other testimo-
nies they are also not contradicted by them.
In short, because al-Mufds adherence to al-Kabs views was executed
with theological independence, the use of al-Mufds work to document

17 al-Jishum, al-Uyn wa-l-radd, fols. 27b28a.


18 On the beginning of the systematic adoption of Mutazil thought among the Imms see
Wilferd Madelung, Immism and Mutazilite Theology, and the subsequent history of
the Mutazil Imms by Schmidtke, The Theology of al-Allma al-ill.
19 McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 812.
20 Ibid., 105132; Madelung, Immism and Mutazilite Theology.
21 For examples, McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 80.
34 chapter 1

al-Kabs views must be taken with caution. Finally, I have relied, for the most
part, on one work of al-Mufd, his Awil al-maqlt,22 which, while strong on
general outlines is short on in-depth discussions. Another work, al-Jamal wa-l-
nura li-sayyid al-itra f arb al-Bara, describes al-Kabs imma doctrine.23
Future studies on al-Kab, especially the reception of al-Kabs doctrines and
their appropriation and change in the Imm tradition, should systematically
investigate al-Mufds work.24

The Mturd Testimony

Al-Kab was a key target of Ab Manr al-Mturds refutations, specifically


and most extensively in his Kitb al-Tawd, which I consult here. Al-Mturds
perspective reveals al-Kabs doctrine of the attributes, especially his reason-
ing behind the distinction between the attribute of essence and act and Gods
relation to place (Table 1: 1B, 7A, 7B). The verbatim quotation from al-Kab
regarding the attributes suggests possible philosophic influences. The nature
of this influence and its textual venue is unknown and therefore must remain,
for now, only a hypothesis (see below). Moreover, the testimony of Ab l-Mun
al-Nasaf (d. 508/1114)25 in his Tabirat al-adilla underlines the influence of
al-Kabs cosmology on his doctrine of the optimum (al-ala), and in particu-
lar, relates the influence of Galenic medicine (Table2: 3D4, 5B).
It must be noted that as much as al-Nasaf quotes al-Mturd, and clearly
followed him, their statements on al-Kab, although not in conflict, also do not
match. Moreover, al-Mturds Kitb al-Tawd is unique in that it seems to
quote extensively and verbatim from works of al-Kab, but does not name
them. While future studies on al-Kab should capitalize on this unique quality
of Kitb al-Tawd, as a source I have only used it selectively, as many of the
citations of al-Kabs views require greater contextualization in al-Mturds
thought. This may be achieved in the future through a study of later Mturd
works and commentaries. In short, the Mturd testimony, as outlined here,
yields a unique perspective on al-Kab, but one that must be checked against

22 al-Shaykh al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt f l-madhhib wa-l-mukhtrt, ed. Mahd Mohaggeg


(Tehran: University of Tehran and McGill University Press, 1993).
23 al-Shaykh al-Mufd, al-Jamal wa-l-nura li-sayyid al-itra f arb al-Bara, ed. Al Mr
Sharfi (Qom, 199596).
24 For a list of al-Mufds works see McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 2545.
25 On Ab l-Mun al-Nasaf, see A.J. Wensinck, al-Nasaf, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second
edition, 7:968969.
The Four Testimonies 35

the Basran testimony. It remains very hard to gauge the degree to which
al-Mturd knew of the work of Ab Hshim and al-Jubb or even other ear-
lier Mutazils.26 Hence whatever is related in Kitb al-Tawd as specific to
al-Kab has to be measured against what is known to us of the views of other
Mutazils. Moreover, while al-Nasaf may have been more informed about
other Mutazil views in his Tabirat al-adilla than al-Mturd was, there are a
few instances in which the statements of al-Nasaf are not helpful and even
misleading in reconstructing al-Kabs doctrine of the attributes. In these
cases, his testimonies had to be rejected because they conflicted with the
Mutazil testimony (see below).

al-Ashar and the Ashar Testimony

Although Ab l-asan al-Ashar was a contemporary of al-Kab and wrote


three works in refutation of him, unfortunately none of al-Ashars extant
works cite al-Kabs theological views. The exception is al-Ashars heresio-
graphical work Maqlt al-islmiyyn,27 in which there are three instances of
al-Kabs articles ascribed to him in person. Only one of these instances con-
cerns theological doctrines proper (Table2: 2); the two others pertain to cos-
mology (daqq al-kalm), and are not discussed in this monograph.28
Moreover, Maqlt al-islmiyyn also includes references to al-Kabs doctri-
nal views, but attributes them to the general category of Baghdadis; these are
al-Kabs articles which I have identified from the corroborating testimony of
other sources (see Table1: 3Aa). Then there are the views of Baghdadis that are
not identified. An important example of this regards the distinction between
the attributes of essence and act, ascribed to the Baghdadis as an unidentifiable
group of individuals. One example is given of how they considered Gods will-
ing of creation to be an attribute of act, while the attributes of knowledge,
power, life, hearing, and seeing were deemed to be attributes of essence.29
As for the earliest generation of Ashars, Ab Bakr b. Frak (d. 406/1015)30
and al-Bqilln (d. 403/1013) cite al-Kabs articles on only a few occasions.

26 Rudolph, al-Mturd, 173, 175, 199.


27 On al-Kabs reception in al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn see van Ess, Der Eine und das
Andere, 1:470472.
28 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, ed. Helmut Ritter (Istanbul: Devlet Matbaasi, 192930),
230232, 358.
29 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 505.
30 Ibn Frak, Mujarrad Maqlt.
36 chapter 1

But even on these few occasions, these articles are very seldom attributed to
him, but only generally to the Baghdadis, for example Table1: 4A1 and 5A2;
Table 2: 3A1. As for Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd (d. 429/1037), his account of
al-Kabs articles, as of anyone with whom he disagrees, is highly polemical;
the very wording and content of the article he relates is changed by his point of
view. Indeed, al-Baghdds account of al-Kabs doctrines as a whole stands
for the most part as an example of a reception and an interpretation of the
latters theology. Therefore it cannot be independently relied upon to recon-
struct al-Kabs theology.
The works of later Ashars, however, show more familiarity with al-Kab,
even if what they report about al-Kabs theology cannot always be accepted
with absolute certainty. Ab l-Mal Abd al-Malik al-Juwayn (d. 478/1085)31
mentions al-Kabs articles extensively and relates imagined debates with him.
The source of his access to these articles remains unknown, but his reference
to followers of al-Kab (abihi) suggests that he had some contact, direct
or mediated, with late, albeit unknown, followers of al-Kab.32 Although
Muammad b. Abd al-Karm al-Shahrastn (d. 548/1153) was not an Ashar
at least not in any regular sense of the term33on occasion his statements are
similar to those noted by al-Juwayn (Table1: 5B2).34 Though al-Shahrastns
heresiographical work Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial35 makes little mention of
al-Kabs doctrines, it cites his Maqlt al-islmiyyn extensively in reference
to early groups.36
A century or so later, in the work of Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz (d. 606/1210), we
find evidence of familiarity with al-Kabs articles not attested to elsewhere.
In relating the debate between al-Kab and Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rz,
Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz underlines an important detail of al-Kabs understanding

31 Paul Heck, Jovayni, Emm-al-aramayn, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 15:6871.


32 In one instance, al-Juwayn speaks of the zeal of some of the followers of al-Kab, Kitb
al-Irshd il qawi al-adilla f ul al-itiqd, ed. Muammad Ysuf Ms (Cairo:
Maktabat al-Khnj, 1950), 66.
33 On al-Shahrastns Isml affiliation, see Wilferd Madelung and Toby Mayer (trans.),
Introduction, Struggling with the Philosopher: A Refutation of Avicennas Metaphysics
(London: I.B. Taurus, 2001), 27.
34 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm f ilm al-kalm, ed. Alfred Guillaume (Baghdad:
Maktabat al-Muthann, 1934).
35 al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, ed. William Cureton (Leipzig: Otto Harrassowitz,
1923).
36 On al-Shahrastns use of al-Kabs Maqlt al-islmiyyn, see van Ess, Der Eine und das
Andere, 2:894896.
The Four Testimonies 37

ofthe optimum (al-ala) (Table2: 3D5).37 But al-Razs work also includes a
corrupt rendering of al-Kabs articles. These are most likely the result of his
encounter with Khwarizm Mutazils, who, like their leader Ibn al-Malim,38
cite al-Kabs views as interpreted through the work of Ab l-usayn al-Bar.
This corrupt version of al-Kabs articles is found again in the work of the late
Ashar commentator Au al-Dn al-Ij (d. 756/1355),39 though this is pre-
served in mixed recensions40 that also misattribute earlier Mutazil views to
al-Kab (Table1: 5D3 and 5D3a).
Following this general outline of the distinctive aspects of the testimony of
each of the four traditions that I use here to reconstruct al-Kabs theology is a
detailed assessment of the testimonies for each doctrine I study.

Assessment of Testimonies

The Attributes
Unlike the rest of al-Kabs extant doctrines that are documented in detail in
Mutazil sources, his extant articles on the attributes are widely scattered
across theological traditions. Moreover, there are significant discrepancies in
the way al-Kabs articles on the attributes are presented in the sources. Given
these two features of the testimonies on al-Kabs doctrine of the attributes,
in this chapter I explain how the testimonies differ from, and on occasion
contradict, one another. In my analysis of the doctrine of the attributes in
Chapter 2, I address the various recensions that result from some of these
contradictions.
In the Mutazil tradition, al-Jishum notes that al-Kab disagreed with
al-Jubb and Ab Hshim in his conceptualization of the attribute of essence
as by His essence (bi-nafsihi), a disagreement that is also documented by
al-Nasaf (Table 1: 2A). Furthermore, al-Jishums statement about al-Kabs
formulation of the attribute of essence as by His essence (bi-nafsihi) dispels
the confusion that arises from al-Shahrastn (Table 1: 2Ca) and al-Mufds

37 More generally, on the extent of al-Rzs familiarity with Mutazil thought, especially
Mutazil ethics and the incorporation of some of their doctrines, see Ayman Shihadeh,
The Teleological Ethics of Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 8396.
38 See Madelung, Ibn al-Malim, 3:440442.
39 van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre des Audaddn al-c: bersetzung und Kommentar des ersten
Buches seiner Mawqif (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1966), 17.
40 By a mixed recension of an article I have in mind a recension that includes components
that are historically accurate and others that are inaccurate.
38 chapter 1

statements (Table1: 2C), both of whom confuse al-Kabs formulation of the


attribute of essence with that of al-Jubb who described the attribute as exist-
ing because of His essence (li-nafsihi). Moreover, although al-Jishum does
not address al-Kabs distinction between the attributes of essence versus the
attributes of act in the detail with which it is documented in al-Mturds
statements, he provides a framework sufficient to parallel them.41
Al-Jishums statements are also crucial in documenting al-Kabs scriptur-
alist position on the foundation of the knowledge of Gods names (Table1:
3A), as al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn only ascribes this position to the
Baghdadis (Table1: 3Aa). Furthermore, al-Jishum, along with Mnkdm on
the one hand, and Ibn al-Malim on the other, do not see al-Kab as the
inaugurator of the article that the attributes of hearing and seeing are only
Gods knowledge. Instead they ascribe it to the Baghdadis in general (Table1:
4A14A3). Indeed considering this to be al-Kabs contribution is a claim that
only starts with late Ashars (Table1: 4A and 4B), whose statements here are
weak (see below). Thus, both al-Jishum and Mnkdms statements corrobo-
rate al-Ashars statement that Gods hearing and seeing are His knowledge
was an article of al-Iskf followed by other unnamed Baghdadis (Table1: 4A).
Among the Mutazils only al-Jishum reports al-Kabs doctrine on divine
volition. His statement, however, in comparison to other testimonies, is brief.
He describes al-Kab as having followed al-Nam in deeming Gods volition
to be His act, His command or His decree (Table1: 5A). Both the brevity and
the limitation of this statement contrasts with the late Ashar testimony
(Table1: 5B, all subheadings). The latter includes significantly different variants
and in some cases also mixed recensions (Table 1: 5D1D3) that cannot be
accepted. The statement of al-Jishum proves, once again, crucial to identify
those statements that must be rejected.
As for Mnkdm, he relates two statements regarding al-Kabs doctrine of
the attributes. A component of his first statement was noted above for its over-
lap with that of al-Jishum in corroborating the article that Gods hearing and
seeing, as His perception, were not other than His knowledge. But the second
component of Mnkdms first statement also adds that perception is thus
notseparate from the attribute of life, which is only attested by him (Table 1:
4A2). Mnkdms second statement is on the attribute of volition, but it con-
sists of a mixed recension. While he correctly reports that al-Kab held that
Gods volition means His act and command, he incorrectly equates al-Kabs
article with the view that Gods volition means the absence of His forgetfulness

41 See Chapter 2.
The Four Testimonies 39

and negligence (Table 1: 5C1). This latter view was the position of al-Najjr.42
Al-Nasaf also misattributed al-Najjrs position to al-Kab (Table1: 5C2a).
As for Ibn al-Malims statements, they are not always reliable. His state-
ment is reliable in the case of the article that states that Gods hearing and
seeing are His knowledge, where Ibn al-Malim ascribes this position to the
Baghdadis in general; in this his statement was like the majority of statements,
with the addition of an argument in favor of this position (Table 1: 4A3).
Although this argument is not reported anywhere else, there is no valid reason
to reject it. The argument states that to say that God is perceiving implies that
He was not before and then came to be perceiving. As for Ibn al-Malims
statement about al-Kabs article on divine volition, it contains spurious ele-
ments and is thus unreliable (Table 1: 5C3). He equates al-Kabs view on
divine volition with a stance that he claims was shared by both Ab l-Hudhayl
and al-Ji (d. 255/869), when Ab l-Hudhayls view on the attribute of voli-
tion is known to be otherwise and nothing is known of al-Jis doctrine of
the attributes as a whole.43 Ibn al-Malim also claims that al-Kabs position
was that Gods willing of His acts is that He commits them and is not forgetful
of them nor compelled to do them. This cannot be true as it is the position of
al-Najjr, whom Ibn al-Malim does not name here. Furthermore, Ibn
al-Malim presents al-Kabs position through the interpretative lens of Ab
l-usayn al-Bars doctrine of motive, wherein al-Kab asserts that Gods voli-
tion is nothing other than Gods motive. Thus, Ibn al-Malims inaccurate
statement about al-Kab documents, instead, Ab l-usayn al-Bars appro-
priation of al-Kabs doctrine on volition through al-Bars own theological
system. Ibn al-Malims reading of al-Kab through al-Bars lens influenced
later testimonies of al-Kabs doctrine on volition, those that I designate as
mixed recensions (Table 1: 5D15D3).44 The last point to note about the
Mutazil testimony is that Abd al-Jabbrs volume 6 on volition (in two parts)
in al-Mughn does not mention al-Kabs doctrine on divine volition. The
absence is worthy of attention given that Abd al-Jabbr discusses al-Nams
doctrine in detail, including the points in which he influenced al-Kab.45

42 On the ascription of this view to al-Najjr, see for example, al-Ashar, Maqlt
al-islmiyyn, 514; al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd, 63; also van Ess, Theologie, 4:158.
43 On Ab l-Hudhayls doctrine of attributes and its relatively positive nature in comparison
to that of al-Nam, see Richard M. Frank, The Divine Attributes According to the
Teaching of Ab l-Hudhayl al-Allf, Le Muson 82 (1969), 490506.
44 For the influence of Ibn al-Malims testimony on later Imm testimonies, see, for
example Schmidtke, The Theology of al-Allma al-ill, 205.
45 See Chapter 2.
40 chapter 1

As for the testimony of al-Mufd, the Imm Baghdadi Mutazil, it corrobo-


rates the articles that were established in the Mutazil testimony though with
less detail and sometimes less precision. This is the case regarding al-Kabs
scriptural position, which al-Mufd ascribes to the Baghdadis (Table 1: 3B),
and regarding al-Kabs view on the attribute of divine volition (Table1: 5A).
In the case of the statement about the meaning of the attribute of hearing and
seeing as knowledge, al-Mufd not only corroborates the Basran sources but
also al-Ashars acknowledgment of it as an earlier Baghdadi view (in the
Maqalt al-islmiyyn), initiated by al-Iskf (Table1: 4A1). However, in his cov-
erage of al-Kabs formulation of the attributes of essence and of act (see
Table1: 2C), al-Mufd falsely reports al-Kabs formulation of the attribute of
essence as because of His essence (li-nafsihi) thereby equating his formula-
tion with al-Jubb and not as by His essence (bi-nafsihi) as it should be. In
this case, al-Mufds testimony, unlike that of the Mutazils and Mturds, fails
to report al-Kabs formulation of the attributes of essence.46 Thus, al-Mufds
testimony on the attributes remains secondary when complementing those of
other testimonies and incorrect when compared to the evidence of others.
In the case of the Mturd testimony, both al-Nasaf and al-Mturd report
articles of al-Kabs doctrine of the attributes that are not mentioned in other
sources. Thus both al-Mturd and al-Nasaf provide additional independent
evidence documenting al-Kabs formulation of the attributes of essence, as
distinct from the attributes of act (Table 1: 1A1C). More significantly for
al-Kabs theology as a whole, the Mturd testimony provides evidence, albeit
tentative, that ties al-Kabs formulation and explanation of the attribute of
essence to a distinct cosmological and ontological subtext that remains little
known (Table1: 1A1C). This tentative evidence is examined at some length in
the corresponding chapter on the attributes.47
Moreover, the statements of al-Mturd and al-Nasaf are far from identical.
Thus al-Mturd was the only source to document al-Kabs support of an
early Mutazil doctrine, first tied to Hishm b. Amr al-Fuwa (d. before
230/845),48 on Gods relation to place; this article postulates that God is not
situated in place (Table1: 7A) and that He is in every place in the sense that He
is knowing of every place (Table1: 7B). Moreover, al-Nasaf is the only source to

46 Al-Jishums statement clarifies al-Mufds misattribution (to al-Kab) of al-Jubbs view


of Gods attributes of essence as li-nafsihi. McDermotts exposition of al-Kabs position is
based on this statement of al-Mufd. McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd,
139140, 152153.
47 See Chapter 2.
48 See van Ess, Theologie, 4:23.
The Four Testimonies 41

describe al-Kabs position on the nature of Gods speech (Table1: 6A6D).


He is also the only source to corroborate what is noted anonymously in
al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn (Table 1: 6A). However, these articles only
noted in al-Nasaf were those that al-Kab followed and did not initiate, and
this may be the reason other sources did not report them.
There is one case in which a Mturd testimony must be rejected. This is
al-Nasafs statement that al-Kab, in agreement with al-Khayy and
al-Nam, deemed Gods volition to mean the absence of His forgetfulness
(Table 1: 5C2a). As noted above, when we discussed Mnkdms inaccurate
statement on this same article, this articles very content conflicts with what is
established about it being the doctrine of al-Najjr rather than al-Kab.49
As for Ashar sources, they make no note of al-Kabs formulation of the
attribute of essence as by His essence (bi-nafsihi). Instead they misascribe to
him al-Jubbs formulation of the attribute of essence as because of His
essence (li-nafsihi) (Table1: 2Ca). Moreover, Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd con-
curs with al-Jishum and al-Mufd in documenting al-Kabs scripturalist foun-
dation for knowing Gods names (Table1: 3C). But al-Baghdd also proffered
Sunn components of scripture to al-Kab and these must be rejected.
The Ashar testimony stands out in alleging views to al-Kab regarding the
attributes of hearing and seeing as well as the attribute of volition that are
nowhere else attested to him.50 Indeed in these statements, I must speak only
of the reception of al-Kabs doctrines. In the case of the attribute of hearing
and seeing, al-Shahrastn credits al-Kab, as opposed to the Baghdadis in gen-
eral, with the view that Gods hearing and seeing are His knowing (Table1: 4A,
4A4). In what he reports of al-Kabs argument for why hearing and seeing are
merely knowing, al-Shahrastn highlights elements of al-Kabs epistemology
(Table1: 4A4). Al-Juwayn also attributes to al-Kab the view that God does not
see Himself (Table 1: 4B). Furthermore al-Shahrastn (Table 1: 5B, 5B1),
al-Juwayn (Table 1: 5B2), and the late anaf Muammad Murta l-Zabd
(d. 1205/1791)51 (Table 1: 5B3) add that al-Kab understood Gods volition to

49 One argument for the negation of divine volition whose attribution to al-Kab is very
weak and is not included in the Tables (see below) justifies the denial of Gods volition by
equating it with desire and then arguing that God cannot be desiring. Because God can-
not be desiring, God cannot be willing. This doctrine was presented anonymously in Abd
al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Irda, ed. J. Sh. Qanawt (Cairo, 1962), 6/2:3539, but al-Nasaf
ascribes it to al-Nam, al-Khayy, and al-Kab (al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:375).
50 Late Imm receptions of al-Kab seem to include elements similar to those of the late
Ashar sources, see, for example, al-ills reception of al-Kabs doctrine of divine voli-
tion (Schmidtke, Theology of al-Allma al-ill, 203).
51 I thank Frank Griffel for pointing out this reference to al-Zabd.
42 chapter 1

mean His knowledge. Each of these sources also attribute different arguments
to al-Kab in defense of this same view. Just as he did in the case of the
attributes of hearing and seeing, al-Shahrastn includes elements from

al-Kabs cosmology in his statement about al-Kabs position on the attribute


of volition. Though al-Shahrastns statement remains weak, because it
includes elements of al-Kabs epistemology and cosmology, it will be given
consideration in the chapter on al-Kabs doctrine of the attributes.52
As for al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn, it is replete with references to the
general category of Baghdadis on various elements of the doctrine of attributes,
but most of these Baghdadis remain unidentifiable. The few cases in which
these Baghdadis, who remain unknown, are identified as sharing al-Kabs
articles are noted above. This identification is based on the corresponding
evidence of al-Jishum and of Mturd sources (Table1: 3Aa, 5A1, 6A, 7A).

Justice
The totality of al-Kabs extant articles on justice derive from all the testimo-
nies, each of which documents differentalthough not inconsistentarticles
of his doctrine of justice.
In the Mutazil testimony, the statements of Mnkdm and Ab Rashd
exclusively document al-Kabs principles for the proclamation that an act is
morally good (tasn) or morally evil (taqb) (Table 2: 2). Ab Rashd dis-
cusses the ontological foundation for al-Kabs stance on these principles at
some length (Table2: 1B). Al-Jishum provides the most detailed account of
al-Kabs doctrine on justice (Appendix 1.1); this allows for the identification of
al-Kab as the main proponent of the optimum (al-ala) and targeted by
Abd al-Jabbr in volume 14 of al-Mughn (Table2: 4A, 2B). Moreover, it is Abd
al-Jabbrs al-Mughn that highlights al-Kabs definition of the attribute of
acts so crucial for understanding one of his reasons for espousing the doctrine
of the optimum. Volume 14 of Abd al-Jabbrs al-Mughn documents Basran
polemics against al-Kabs doctrine of the optimum. Specifically, Abd al-Jabbr
related al-Jubb and Ab Hshims refutations of the doctrine of the opti-
mum. Abd al-Jabbr recorded al-Kabs formulation of the optimum as the
optimum of the many, a position that prompted al-Jubb to deem al-Kab
an unbeliever. Indeed the lengths to which the Basrans went to refute the doc-
trine of the optimum highlights just how crucial a task its rejection was for the
establishment of the validity of the restricted version of the optimum that they
advocated (Table 2).53 This is not to say that the Mutazils document all of

52 See Chapter 2.
53 For the discussion of the Basrans formulation of a restricted optimum, see Chapter 3.
The Four Testimonies 43

al-Kabs articles on justice. For example, al-Jishum makes no mention of


al-Kabs idea that God does not commit evil, an article that is otherwise noted
in al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn (Table2: 2).
Furthermore, Mutazil sources also document al-Kabs definitions of the
optimum as the best in matters of the world (Table2: 3A2), and the opti-
mum as worldly benefit (Table 2: 3A3). They also describe the optimum as
consisting of God doing the best for His servants in an absolute fashion
(Table2: 3B), a stance that they attribute to the Baghdadis only; they do not
name al-Kab. It is significant, however, that Mutazils present multiple expla-
nations of the reasons behind al-Kabs disagreement with them on the sub-
ject of the optimum. In some cases the extent of the disagreements with
al-Kab are recognized as ontological in nature (Table2: 4A, 4D) and some-
times they are favorably understood as merely semantic (Table2: 4C) or nega-
tively judged as based on semantic argumentation (Table2: 4B).
As for the Imm testimony, although al-Mufd reports a number of the
articles on the optimum that are specifically ascribed to al-Kab in other
sources, he never ties them to al-Kab but only to the general category of
Baghdadis. These articles include the definition of the optimum as the best in
matters of religion and the world (ala f l-dn wa-l-duny) (Table 2: 3A1).
Al-Mufd also documents a version of the optimum of the many; he notes
that Gods creation of a servant would not be good, were it not for the opti-
mum (al-ala) of this servant or other servants (Table 2: 3C3). Indeed
al-Mufd notes, and thereby corroborates the evidence in Abd al-Jabbr, that
it is generous giving (jd) that is the cause of the optimum (Table2: 4D), but
he stops short of explaining what the conceptual foundation of this generous
giving might be. Moreover, al-Mufd alone ascribes to al-Kab a definition of
the optimum not attested elsewhere. This is the stance that the optimum
(al-ala) is Gods creation of His servants as morally responsible rather than
in paradise (i.e., without taklf, imposition of moral obligation) because taklf
is better (ala) than creating humans in perfect bliss (tanm) in paradise
(Table2: 3C2).
Finally, it should be noted that al-Mufds use of the term ab al-luf (pro-
ponents of the doctrine of divine incentive) to describe those who upheld
the doctrine of the optimum (ab al-ala) remains an anomaly. Given what
we know about the doctrine of the optimum and how different it is from that
of the ab al-luf,54 al-Mufds usage must be dismissed as a mistake.55

54 On the ab al-luf and their doctrine, see Chapter 3.


55 For an overview of al-Kabs stance on the optimum (al-ala) that is mostly based on
al-Mufds testimony, see McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 7182.
44 chapter 1

Unlike the Ashars who viewed Gods arbitrary volition as the only motive
for His acts, the Mturds postulated wisdom (ikma) as the principle that
informs Gods acts and explains His justice.56 Their aim was to prove that
divine justice is divine wisdom. Therefore, in their eyes, both the optimum,
endorsed by al-Kab, and the restricted optimum, advocated by the Basrans,
were equally misguided as both operated from the principle of divine justice
and not His wisdom. Thus, Mturd writings did not distinguish between the
optimum and the restricted optimum, and this makes their testimony a poor
source for reconstructing al-Kabs doctrine of the optimum. Examples of the
mixing of the Basran restricted optimum and al-Kabs optimum can be found
in al-Nasafs refutation of the notion of jd (generous giving) as a cause for the
optimum, a view which they accused the Basrans of holding. Mutazil sources,
however, clarify that Basrans rejected it after Ab l-Hudhayl.57 Similarly,
al-Nasaf provides a lengthy criticism of the notion of obligation and of the
ontology of the mode of occurrence (wajh), both of which were important for
the Basrans construction of the restricted optimum; however, he misattrib-
utes these to the proponents of the optimum (ab al-ala).58
Meanwhile the Mturds were aware of the distinction between the opti-
mum and restricted optimum. Al-Nasaf differentiated between the Basrans
and the proponents of the optimum when he formulated the latters views as
the optimum in terms of wisdom and deliberation (ikma wa-l-tadbr)
(Table2: 4E). The familiarity of the Mturds with the details of the optimum
doctrine, in distinction from the restricted optimum, appears in an argument
of al-Kab that is exclusively preserved by al-Nasaf (Table2: 5B). Aside from
a mistake in al-Nasafs phrasing of the optimum that mixes al-Kabs position
with the restricted optimum, he cites al-Kab as defending the infinity of the
optimum and the notion that God bestows what is best in every instance.
According to al-Nasaf, al-Kabs argument draws on his familiarity with the
doctrine of nature (ab) to rationalize the manner of the meting out of the
varieties (amthl) of the optimum. Al-Mturds familiarity and agreement
with some elements of the doctrine of nature could explain why al-Nasaf is
the only source that highlights its influence on al-Kabs argument for the

56 See al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:749; al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 216; and Rudolph,
al-Mturd, 332333.
57 Al-Nasaf attacks the notion of jd without ascribing it to the Baghdadis (Tabirat al-
adilla, 2:747748). He notes the use of jd and its opposite (bukhl) by the Mutazils in
general, without referring to the Baghdadis (Tabirat al-adilla, 2:723, 725726).
58 On the critique of the notion of obligation and jd, see al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:755
756; on the critique of the ontology of wajh, see, for example al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla,
2:670673.
The Four Testimonies 45

optimum. Indeed, the relevant passage of al-Mturd, cited by al-Nasaf, that


preserves this argument of al-Kabs doctrine of nature, does not59 object to
al-Kabs ascription to a form of natural causality, but to the Galenic medicinal
rationalization that informs it.60 In this, al-Mturds critique of al-Kab dif-
fers sharply from the critique al-Nasaf attributes to al-Ashar, in which
al-Ashar objected, in principle, to al-Kabs acceptance of natural causality.
Furthermore, this passage of al-Ashars critique of al-Kab is only noted by
al-Nasaf.61
Before outlining the statements of the Ashars, I should just note that for
them God is not subjected to any obligation to do good or avoid evil, as man is.
Gods volition is external to any principle. His acts, and all other acts, are good
by virtue of His volition and not according to independently defined notions of
good and evil. He chooses which believers on whom to bestow His lufwhich
the Ashars understand to be a favorand He does not bestow it equally on
all of His servants. His luf is infinite and He bestows it as He wishes.62 As a
consequence, Ashar sources abound with criticism of the Mutazil doctrine
of justice, but the mention of the optimum and the restricted optimum is often
mixed; this makes Ashar sources for the most part inadequate if indepen-
dently used to reconstruct al-Kabs doctrine of justice. For example, in the

59 Rudolph, al-Mturd, 288291.


60 See Chapter 3.
61 Al-Ashar is cited as objecting to the underlying logic of the doctrine of nature to which
al-Kab subscribed. For al-Ashar, all causality, including the varieties (amthl) of the
optimum (al-ala), should derive from Gods volition: This argument (kalm) was built
upon the foundations (qawid) of the proponents of the doctrine of nature (ahl al-abi),
wherein they consider (yajalna) medicine (adwiya) to be beneficial (nfia) and poisons
(summ) to be harmful (rra). According to us, the [only] one who harms and benefits
is God, He is exalted. Except that He has instituted a habitual causality (ajr al-da) in
that He bestows benefit at the [moment] of drinking of an amount (qadr) of medicine
(daw) and He [bequeaths] harm at the [moment of] drinking more of it. Had He insti-
tuted a habitual causality (ajr al-da) according to any other manner (wajh), it would
have been equally possible (jiz) to create a habit in any other way. Should He change
(qalaba) [His] habit at this instant (al-n) according to a different manner (al ghayr
hdh al-wajh), that would also be possible (jiz). Had He changed His habit right now,
that would also have been possible. Thus we do not consent to the view that a union
(inimm) that combines what is beneficial with [more] of what is beneficial necessitates
(yjib) harm (al-maarra). Al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:739.
62 Al-Ashar, Kitb al-Luma, in The Theology of al-Ashar: The Arabic Texts of al-Ashars
Kitb al-Luma and Rislat istisn al-khaw f ilm al-kalm, with Briefly Annotated
Translations, and Appendices Containing Material Pertinent to the Study of al-Ashar, ed.
and trans. Richard J. McCarthy (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1953), 70; Ibn Frak,
Mujarrad Maqlt, 125; and al-Nasaf, al-Tabirat al-adilla, 2:723.
46 chapter 1

work of early Ashars, such as Ibn Frak, no reference can be found regarding
al-Kabs differing opinion about the reasoning behind the principles for
distinguishing good from evil acts.63
But later Ashar sources provide statements on al-Kabs definition of the
optimum (Table2: 3A1, 3C1, 3D5, and 4E). Al-Shahrastn brings up the notion
of wisdom (ikma), as did al-Nasaf, to account for the optimum (Table2: 4E).
But it is Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz who gives a long citation that ascribes al-ala,
understood as the optimum of the many, to al-Kab (Table2: 3D5). Al-Rz
includes the full text of the debate that occurred between al-Kab and
Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rz; it was in this debate that al-Kab conjured this
doctrine in defense of the optimum.
As for al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn, it names al-Kab as the proponent
of the stance that God is capable of doing evil, though Basran sources cite it
without attributing it to al-Kab (Table2: 2). Furthermore al-Ashar cites the
epistemic and ontological roots for al-Kabs position that God does not do evil
despite His capacity to do so. This testimony remains among the very few
instances in which the Maqlt al-islmiyyn not only relates an article of
al-Kab but also names him as its proponent.

Epistemology
With only a few exceptions that I discuss here, al-Kabs epistemological arti-
cles survive in Mutazil sources. The statements of Ab Rashds al-Masl f
l-khilf and Shar Kitb al-tadhkira f akm al-jawhir wa-l-ar64 are espe-
cially crucial in documenting the ontological foundations for understanding
al-Kabs epistemology (Table3: 614).
Moreover, al-Kabs opinion on the role of the prophetic mission (bitha) is
exclusively noted in a Basran Zayd work that preserves sections of the work of
a student of Ab Hshim. This work is Ziydt Shar al-ul written by the
Zayd Imm al-Niq bi-l-aqq; embedded in it are portions of Kitb al-Ul
and/or the Shar al-ul of Ab Al Muammad b. Khalld al-Bar (Ibn
Khalld), a student of Ab Hshim.65 Ibn Khallds Kitb al-Ul and incom-
plete Kitb Shar al-ul are extant only, in part, through the Ziydt Shar
al-ul.66 Ziydt Shar al-ul allows us to identify al-Kabs position on the
possibility of God sending a prophet to teach about matters other than
divine law (shar), such as knowledge of languages and medicine (listed as

63 Ibn Frak, Mujarrad Maqlt, 127130.


64 Published in Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary on Kitb al-tadhkira.
65 See Adang, Madelung, and Schmidtke (eds.), Baran Mutazilite Theology, 18.
66 Ibid., 13.
The Four Testimonies 47

knowledge of poisons and food) (Table3: 1A). The text of the Ziydt Shar
al-ul, however, is not clear in how it situates al-Kab vis vis al-Jubbs posi-
tion on the possibility that there could be a prophet without a religious law
(nabiyyan l shar maahu), or a renewer of a defunct religious law (mujaddi-
dan li-shar mundaris) that could only be known through this prophet. Given
what Ziydt Shar al-ul relates about al-Kabs doctrine, al-Jubbs posi-
tion seems broader, in that non-shar related knowledge could theoretically
include more than linguistic or medical knowledge. Ab Hshims reaction to
the position of al-Jubb, according to the text of Ziydt Shar al-ul, implies
an affinity between the position of al-Jubb and al-Kab:

According to Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab] it is possible for God to send [a


prophet (nab)] for matters that include knowledge of languages and
knowledge of poisons and foods. The end result of the disagreement [on
this matter] derives from the fact that (yarjiu il) [according to Ab
Hshim] it is not possible for God to send a prophet who does not carry a
law (shar) with him, or does not renew a defunct law that cannot be
known without him. As for Ab Al [al-Jubb], he deemed that it was
possible [for God to send a prophet who does not carry a law]. The proof
for the [validity] of the opinion of al-Shaykh Ab Hshim is that unless
one holds [Ab Hshims] opinion, it would be as if one stated that the
miracle of a prophet is not worth being pondered. [This statement]
amounts to holding that [God] operates miracles through the prophet for
futile purposes. But we know that God does not do what is futile. If an
opponent were to ask: why should not the purpose behind sending a
prophet be making languages known? He would be answered: Knowledge
of languages can occur by way of usage (iil) and convention
(muwa). If he [the opponent] objected: Why should not the prophet
teach about foods and poisons? He would be told: Such knowledge can be
achieved through experience and does not require the workings of a
miracle at the hands of a prophet.67

Here al-Jubb assigned a larger role to revelation than Ab Hshim, who


opposed this view. Ibn Khallds statement implies that al-Kabs position on
law may be identical to that of al-Jubb and that the latters stance represents
an older Mutazil belief that Ab Hshim had abandoned.
There is one article whose attribution to al-Kab can only be established by
a non-Basran Mutazil source. This is the view that knowledge of Godand

67 Ibid., 157.
48 chapter 1

not rational inquiry (naar)is the first obligation on man (Table 3: 2).
Whereas Ibn al-Malim only ascribes this position to the Baghdadis and does
not name al-Kab, the attribution of this article to al-Kab could only be veri-
fied through the statement of a work entitled al-Burhn al-riq al-mukhalli
min war al-maiq. Its author, Sulaymn b. Muammad b. Amad al-Muall,
belonged to a Yemeni Zayd pietistic school known as the Muarrifiyya (started
by Muarrif b. Shihb b. Amr al-Shihb, d. after 459/1067), which lasted until
the ninth/fifteenth century.68
Moreover, there are two articles whose attribution to al-Kab rests on very
weak evidence. One is the proposition that revelation is necessary for the
imposition of moral obligation (taklf) to be known (Table 3: 1B). Only
al-Mufd ties the article that revelation is necessary for knowing the begin-
ning of the imposition of moral obligation to the Baghdadis. But al-Mufd
only speaks of the Baghdadis and does not name al-Kab. McDermott identi-
fies one Baghdadi who held this opinion as an obscure Mutazilite of the
Baghdd school named Ab l-asan Amad b. Al al-Shaaw, known as
Bqa (d. 297/909 or 910).69 Given this weak evidence, this article cannot be
accepted as part of al-Kabs epistemology. The other article that also could
not be tied to al-Kab is one that postulates that it is necessary to have a
prophet for every age (Table 3: 1C). Ibn al-Malim only attributes this
stance to an unidentified group. Our theologian is likely to have been the
intended leader of the unidentified group noted by Ibn al-Malim because
Ibn al-Malim notes that this group invoked the worldly optimum (malaa
dunyawiyya) and because al-Kab supported the worldly optimum.70 Yet in
light of the absence of a direct textual link to al-Kab, this article cannot be
attributed to him with certainty. In the case of these two latter articles, it is not
only the absence of direct textual evidence for al-Kabs espousal of them that
hinders us from accepting their ascription to him, but also the fact that, if we
accept their attribution to al-Kab, we would have to attribute to him a much
broader understanding of the role of revelationbroader than what is estab-
lished from the articles that are attributed to him with certainty.

68 See McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 58. The Muarrifiyya sought to return
to the teachings of al-Qim al-Rass and were influenced by the teachings of al-Hd il
l-aqq. While influenced by al-Kab through al-Hds teachings, they upheld different
interpretations of al-Hds theology, especially in their cosmology, which distanced itself
from any form of atomism. Madelung, Muarrifiyya, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edi-
tion, 7:772773. On this work and its Muarrif attribution see Madelung, A Muarrif
Manuscript, in Proceedings of the vith Congress of Arabic and Islamic Studies, ed. F.
Rundgren (Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1975), 7583.
69 McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 62.
70 See Chapter 3.
The Four Testimonies 49

Meanwhile there are a number of articles that we can safely establish as


those of al-Kab, even if they are not directly tied to him by name in the
sources. There are a number of arguments for the validity of imitation (taqld)
as a means for attaining knowledge that are noted in Mnkdm, but without
identification. These are the arguments that the imitation of the ascetic leads
to the truth (Table3: 3B), the imitation of the many leads to truth (Table3: C),
and that the imitation of the Prophet leads to truth (Table 3: D). Although
Mnkdm does not name al-Kab, because only al-Kab and Ab Isq b.
Ayysh71 (who followed him on this) (Table3: 3G) are known for holding this
controversial position, these arguments can be accepted as having been pro-
posed by al-Kab. In the case of the argument for the validity of imitation from
the evidence that the layperson (al-mm) imitates the scholar (Table3: 3E),
there is additional corroborating evidence from al-Jishum. Al-Jishum names
al-Kab as having argued for the validity of imitation based on this argument.
Finally, al-Muahhar b. hir al-Maqdis followed al-Kabs definition of knowl-
edge, but does not name him. The arguments that al-Maqdis provides in his
introduction to Kitb al-Bad wa-l-tarkh are extensive and thus would have to
be closely investigated in future studies of al-Kabs epistemology.72

The Doctrine of Nature


In describing the testimonies for the previous articles of al-Kabs doctrines,
we see that tying al-Kabs theological doctrines to his doctrine of nature has
been documented in the work of al-Nasaf, al-Jishum, and Ab Rashd, and to
a lesser extent in al-Shahrastn (Table4b). In other words, in the matter of
tying al-Kabs theological views to his doctrine of nature the sources are far
from uniform. Moreover, not all of these sources also relate the content of his
doctrine of nature. Neither al-Mturd, al-Nasaf nor al-Shahrastn relate any
detail about the content of al-Kabs doctrine of nature. In the case of
al-Shahrastn, the reason for this absence is very likely because al-Kabs own
Maqlt al-islmiyyn was one of the main sources for al-Shahrastns infor-
mation on the Mutazils.73
Indeed only al-Jishum, Ab Rashd, and al-Mufd document the articles of
al-Kabs doctrine of nature (see Table4a). With the exception of Ab Rashd

71 Ab Isq b. Ayysh was a Bahsham Mutazil known for his asceticism, but also, most
importantly, for having been al-Qd Abd al-Jabbrs first Mutazil teacher (al-Jishum,
Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 79a).
72 al-Maqdis, Kitb al-Bad, 1:1920; on al-Maqdiss work see Tarif Khalidi, Mutazilite Historio
graphy: Maqdiss Kitb al-Bad wal-Tarkh, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 35 (1976): 112.
73 Daniel Gimaret and Guy Monnot (ed. and trans), Livre des religions et des sects (Paris:
Peeters, 198696), 1:3637, 178289.
50 chapter 1

(Table4b: 4), these sources do not tie al-Kabs theological explanations to his
doctrine of nature. These sources are also far from identical in their account of
the terminology of this doctrine.74 Both al-Jishums Shar Uyn al-masil
and Ab Rashd al-Nsbrs al-Masil f l-khilf document al-Kabs doctrine
of nature in greater detail: they not only report both the views on nature of the
early Mutazils and al-Kab, but they also explain how they differed from one
another (see Table4a). Al-Mufd gives an important perspective that situates
al-Kabs nature doctrine in an atomist framework and vis--vis other propo-
nents of nature among the Mutazils (Table4a: 5, 6).
Moreover, while al-Kabs views are rarely noted in al-Ashars Maqlt
al-islmiyyn, and when they are, they are only mentioned without being iden-
tified as al-Kabs,75 the absence of the mention of al-Kabs doctrine of nature
from Maqlt al-islmiyyn is still worth noting. This is because two of al-Kabs
more famous cosmological articles are indeed mentioned there; these are the
only elements of al-Kabs doctrines that are noted with his name.76
Lastly, the statements documenting al-Kabs doctrine of nature are not
homogeneous, especially with regard to vocabulary. Notwithstanding their dis-
crepancies, they yield enough evidence to set al-Kabs doctrine of nature
apart from that of other proponents of nature among his predecessors.77

The Imma
The extant articles of al-Kabs doctrine on the imma are preserved across all
testimonies, yet the theological tradition of each of these testimonies dictated
what and how they accounted for al-Kabs doctrine. Thus, articles document-
ing al-Kabs proto-Sunn stances are documented in Sunn sources. Al-Nasaf
and Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd document al-Kabs view that the imma had to
be held by someone from the Quraysh, unless a civil strife is looming, in which
case it is permissible for the imm to be elected from outside the Quraysh

74 See for example (below) the absence of the term khiyya in al-Mufds rendering of
al-Kabs doctrine of nature, which dominates Basran sources.
75 On the anonymous mention of al-Kabs doctrines in Maqlt al-islmiyyn, see Chapters
2 and 3. On the one instance in which al-Kabs view on Gods capacity for evil is dis-
cussed and he is named, see al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 557 (also discussed in
Chapter 3 of the present work).
76 These are the articles that the capacity for action (qudra) does not perdure and is con-
tinuously created by God, and his view that all accidents do not perdure and are continu-
ously created by God (al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 230, 232, 358).
77 As for reconstructing al-Kabs doctrine from the doctrine of nature of the Muarrifiyya,
their views were quite singular and differed from those of al-Kab, see Wilferd Madelung
on Sulaymn b. Muammad b. Amad al-Malls al-Burhn al-riq al-mukhalli min
war al-maiq (A Muarrif Manuscript, 7583).
The Four Testimonies 51

(Table 5: 7A). Al-Nasaf records another proto-Sunn position of al-Kab


regarding the acceptability of casting lots to avoid civil strife (Table5: 7B), a
position that was also advocated by an early Sunn theologian by the name of
Ab l-Abbs al-Qalnis, who belonged to the generation preceding Ab
l-asan al-Ashar.78
As for al-Kabs stance on the righteousness of Als wars, the repentance of
his enemies at the battle of the camel (36/565), and the faith of Ab Bakr
(r.1113/632634), these articles are recorded in Imm sources. These Imm
sources include the famous heresiographical Imm work Firaq al-Sha by
al-Kabs contemporary al-asan b. Ms l-Nawbakht,79 who records these
three questions that clarify al-Kabs relation to the Sha in general, in terms of
broad pro-Ald affinities (Table5: 2), or acute differences. The acute differences
are al-Kabs acceptance of the repentance of isha (d. 58/678), ala (d.36/656),
and al-Zubayr (d. 36/656) (Table5: 3),80 and his deeming the oath of one per-
son to be sufficient to elect an imm (Table5: 8). It is not surprising that Imm
sources fail to relate the one article of al-Kab that two other non-Imm
sources consider Imms and al-Kab to be in agreement on. That shared arti-
cle is their belief in the necessity of the imma as something known by reason
(Table5: 6C);81 and it is documented in Basran and Zayd Basran sources. The
majority of al-Kabs articles on the imma, especially those documenting his
support of the imma of the less excellent (immat al-mafl) remain, how-
ever, documented in the Mutazil testimony (Table5: 1B, 1C, 4, 5). This is espe-
cially the case of Ibn Ab l-adds (d. 656/1258)82 work, Shar Nahj al-balgha
(Table5: 1B, 1C, 5, 6A). Ibn Ab l-add upheld pro-Ald views that were closest
to those of Ab l-usayn al-Bar. Since al-Jishums conversion to the Zayds
took place after he wrote his work al-Uyn f l-radd al ahl al-bida,83 he is
listed under Mutazils (Table5: 6A, 6C) and not Zayds. Mnkdms testimony
about al-Kabs theological reasoning for knowing the necessity of the imma
(Table5: 6B) shows that he had no direct access to al-Kabs doctrine. He only
hypothesized about whether al-Kab upheld the religious optimum or the

78 On al-Qalnis and his views on the imma see Daniel Gimaret, Cet autre thologien
Sunnite: Ab l-Abbs al-Qalnis, Journal Asiatique 277 (1989), 259260.
79 See Madelung, Immism and Mutazilite Theology, 1330.
80 On the significance of these historical figures, see Chapter 6.
81 Madelung reports another variant of al-Kabs position, one in which al-Kab maintained
that the necessity of the imma is known by both reason and revelation. Madelung refers
to Ab l-usayn al-Bar, al-Fal muntaza min Kitb al-Ul, ms Wien Glaser 114 for this
variant (Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 143).
82 Madelung, Abd al-amd b. [Ab] l-add, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:108110.
83 Madelung, al-kim al-Djusham, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, Supplement,
12:343.
52 chapter 1

worldly optimum and gave two possible explanations and their outcome
without advocating one over the other. The fact that al-Kab upheld the
worldly optimum is documented from his articles on justice (Table 2: 3A2,
3A3). This statement of Mnkdm allows us to identify al-Kab as the one
Baghdadi that Ibn Ab l-add lists with al-Khayy as deeming the imma of
the less excellent to be for the sake of the optimum (Table5: 6A).
Finally, it should be noted that there remain limitations on the extent of the
correlation between the statements regarding al-Kabs articles on the imma
and the doctrinal priorities of the sources that record them. For example,
al-Kabs defense of the faith of Ab Bakr against accusations of hypocrisy is
not documented in Ashar or Mturd sources but in Abd al-Jabbrs Tathbt
dalil al-nubuwwa (Table 5: 4), which cites two versions of passages from
al-Kabs lost work Naq Ibn al-Rwand. This work of Abd al-Jabbr is largely
a polemical reponse to non-Muslim attacks against prophecy.84 It also includes
refutations of Isml and Imm doctrines; in it Abd al-Jabbr relies on
al-Kabs lost work to refute Imm doctrines. In this respect the preservation
of passages from al-Kabs lost work seems to be mediated by the record of
inner Mutazil polemics, namely Mutazil refutations of Ibn al-Rwand.

Summary of al-Kabs Theological Doctrines

I provide the articles of each major theological doctrine in a separate table.


These tables summarize the extant articles of al-Kabs theological doctrines as
they are preserved from four theological testimonies: the Mutazil, Imm,
Mturd, and Ashar testimony, and al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn that is
listed as a separate testimony. Thus Table1 includes articles on the attributes,
Table2 outlines articles on justice, Table3 covers epistemology, Tables4a and 4b
concern articles on the doctrines of nature, and Table 5 lists articles on the
imma. A reference precedes each individual article: the number refers to a
topic that is shared by several articles, the following uppercase letter designates
a subcategory in a topic, and this is followed by a number that indicates a vari-
ant of this subcategory. In a few cases, there is a final letter that indicates an
additional subcategory in the topic of the article. Where an uppercase letter is
underlined, it indicates a subcategory of articles that reflects incommensurate
variants. An X indicates that the article of a doctrine is not mentioned in a given
testimony. In addition, in some cases the articles are attributed to general cate-
gories of Baghdadis, or to al-Kab and others, or the attribution is unidentified.

84 Madelung, Abd al-Jabbr, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:116117.


Table1 The Attributes

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar al-Ashars


Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn
1A There is a distinction between the attribute of X X al-Kab1 X X
essence (ifat al-dht) and the attribute of act
The Four Testimonies

(ifat al-fil).
1B That in which harmony exists (m fhi X X al-Kab2 X X
al-wifq) is an internal necessary cause from
which the attribute of essence is derived.
1C Gods attributes of essence are those whose X X al-Kab3 X X
opposite are inadmissible (istala alayhi).
2A God is knowing by His essence (bi-nafsihi). al-Kab4 X al-Kab5 X X
2B God is knowing by His essence (lim X X al-Kab6 X X
bi-nafsihi), powerful by His essence (qdir
bi-nafsihi).

1 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 78; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:225.


2 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 78.
3 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:225.
4 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 171b.
5 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:225.
53

6 Ibid., 1:225.
Table1 The Attributes (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar al-Ashars


54

Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn

2C God is living because of His Essence (ayy X al-Kab X X X


li-nafsihi), powerful because of His essence and the
(qdir li-nafsihi), knowing because of His majority of
essence (lim li-nafsihi). Mutazils7
2Ca God is hearing because of His essence (sam X X X al-Kab8 X
li-nafsihi), and seeing because of His essence
(bar li-nafsihi).
3A Scriptural permission (idhn sam) is the only al-Kab9 X X X X
way to know Gods names (asm).
3Aa It is not permissible to name God by a name X X X X Baghdadis10
validated by reason (aql) unless God named
Himself by it.
3B It is not permissible to name God except by the X Baghdadis11 X X X
names that He used for Himself in scripture or
on the tongue of the Prophet (al lisn nabyyihi).

7 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 12.


8 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 341.
9 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 176b177a.
chapter 1

10 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-Islmiyyn, 525.


11 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 13.
3C Gods names are known through revelation X X X al-Kab12 X
(tawqf)the Book and the sunnaand
cannot be known through ratio legis (qiys).
4A To say that God is hearing (sam) and seeing X X X Baghdadis13 al-Iskf and the
(bar) is identical to saying that He is knowing al-Kab14 Baghdadis15
of the objects of hearing (masmt) and
seeing (mubart).
The Four Testimonies

4A1 Gods hearing, seeing, and perceiving means Baghdadis16 Baghdadis17 X X X


that He is knowing of the objects of hearing,
seeing, and perception.
4A2 God is hearing, seeing, and perceiving of the Baghdadis18 X X X X
objects of perception in the sense that He
knows these objects. Perception is not
additional to the attribute of life.
4A3 God cannot perceive because if He were to Baghdadis19 X X X X
perceive it would imply that He came to
perceive after He was not perceiving.

12 Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn (Baghdad: Maktabat al-Muthann, 1963), 115116.
13 al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamd (Beirut: al-Maktaba al-Mashriqiyya, 1957), 253.
14 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 341.
15 al-Ashar Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 175.
16 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 21a21b, vol. 1, fol. 148b.
17 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 13.
55

18 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 168.


19 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 3637.
Table1 The Attributes (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar al-Ashars


56

Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn

4A4 That God is not seeing, hearing, and X X X al-Kab20 X


perceiving is grounded in al-Kabs definition
of knowledge.
4B God does not see Himself or anything else X X X al-Kab and X
other than Himself. al-Najjr21
5A Gods volition is His act (fil) and His command al-Kab like al-Kab and X X X
(amr) or His decree (ukm). al-Nam22 the
majority of
Baghdadis23
5A1 Describing God as willing (murd) can either X X X X Baghdadis who
mean that He brings a thing (shay) into followed
existence (kawwana), and that the volition al-Nam24
(irda) to bring a thing into existence is the
thing itself, or that [God willing a thing can
mean that] He commands it (kim bi-l-shay).

20 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 343.


21 al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd, 176.
22 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 2, fol. 191a.
chapter 1

23 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 13.


24 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 509510.
5A2 God has no volition (irda). X X X Baghdadis25 X
5A2a God has no volition (irda) means that X X X Baghdadis26 X
He is not willing (murd).
5A2b God has no volition. When it is said that X X X al-Nam and X
God wills something from His servant, His al-Kab27
The Four Testimonies

volition means His command.


5B God has, in reality, no volition. What scripture X X X al-Kab and X
reports about His willing His acts (bi-kawnihi al-Nam28
murdan li-aflih) means that He creates His
acts and originates them. As for the scriptures
depiction of His willing of His servants deeds, it
means He commanded them. As for His
description as willing from eternity, it only
means that He is knowing.

25 al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamhd, 252.


26 Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 76.
27 al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 91.
28 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 238.
57
58

Table1 The Attributes (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar al-Ashars


Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn

5B1 When God is described as willingin an X X X al-Kab in X


absolute mannerthis means that He is disagreement
knowing and powerful and not compelled. with al-Khayy29
When He is described as willing His acts,
this means that He creates them according
to His knowledge. When He is described as
willing the acts of His servants, this means
that He approves of them (rin).
5B2 God is not willing in reality. When He is X X X al-Kab30 X
described in scripture as willing His acts, this
means that He creates and originates them.
When He is described in scripture as willing
the acts of servants, this means that He
commands them.

29 al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 4344.


30 al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd, 6366.
chapter 1
5B3 Gods knowledge of the events occurrence in X X X al-Kab31 X
their specific time and according to the
characteristic (khai) of their attributes
(iftiha) renders Gods willing of these events
to be unnecessary.
5C1 To say that God wills His own act means that al-Kab and X X X X
His willing is not by way of forgetfulness and al-Nam32
The Four Testimonies

inadvertence (l al wajh al-sahw wa-l-ghafla).


When we say that God wills the acts of others,
we mean that He commands them.
5C2a Gods volition means the absence of His X X al-Nam, X X
forgetfulness. al-Kab, and
al-Khayy33
5C3 Gods willing of His acts means that He al-Kab, X X X X
commits His acts and is neither forgetful of al-Nam,
them, nor contrived in doing them. The al-Ji, and
meaning of His willing the acts of others is Ab
that He commands them. Divine volition is l-Hudhayl34
not separate from Gods motives (dawhi)
for action.

31 al-Murtaa l-Zabd, Itf al-sda al-muttaqn bi-shar asrr Iy ulm al-dn (Beirut: Dr Iy al-Turth al-Arab, 1973), 2:141.
32 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 434.
33 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:374375.
59

34 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 42.


60

Table1 The Attributes (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar al-Ashars


Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn

5D1 Gods willing of an act is His knowledge that X X X al-Kab, al-Ji X


this act increases the preponderance of benefit and Ab l-usayn
(rji al-manfaa) for others. al-Bar35
5D2 The meaning of Gods willing of His own acts X X X al-Kab and Ab X
(afl nafsihi) is that He creates them (mjid l-usayn
lah). The meaning of His willing of the acts of al-Bar36
others is that He commands them. Ab
l-usayn al-Bar held that the meaning of His
willing of His acts is that the motivator (al-d)
prompted Him to create them (annahu dahu
al-d li-jdih) and that the meaning of His
being willing of the acts of others is that the
motivator urged Him (al-athth alayh) to
them and to entice others to do these acts
(al-targhb f filih). Perhaps this position of
Ab l-usayn was also that of al-Kab.
chapter 1

35 al-Rz, al-Malib al-liya, 3:179.


36 Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz, Kitb al-Arban f ul al-dn (Hyderabad: Dirat al-Marif al-Uthmniyya, 1934), 147.
5D3 Gods volition is His knowledge that an act is X X X al-Nam, X
beneficial (ilmihi bi-naf f l-fil). This was al-Ji, Ab
dubbed as motive (diya) by Ab l-usayn. l-Hudhayl
al-Allf, al-Kab,
and Ibn
al-Malim37
The Four Testimonies

5D3a Gods willing His act is His knowing of the X X X al-Kab38 X


benefit (malaa) that resides in it. His
knowledge of the act of others is His command
of it.
6A The Qurn can only be in one location, in X X al-Kab X Jafar b. arb
which it was placed at the beginning of time. followed Jafar and the
b. arb and majority of
Jafar b. Baghdadis40
Mubashshir
on this39

37 A al-Dn al-j, al-Ilhiyyt wa-l-samiyyt wa-l-tadhyl min Kitb al-Mawqif, ed. Th. Soerensen (Lipsiae: Sumptibus Guil. Engelmann, 1848), 57.
38 Ibid.
39 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:260.
40 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 192.
61
62

Table1 The Attributes (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar al-Ashars


Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn

6B That which is recited and written and memo- X X al-Kab X X


rized is an imitation (ikya) of the Qurn. followed Jafar
That which is created by God, the Qurn, is the b. arb and
object of imitation (mak). Jafar b.
Mubashshir on
this41
6C Gods speech (kalm Allh) consists of the X X al-Kab X X
shaped and written letters (al-urf followed Jafar
al-muawwara) in the eternal tablets. b. arb and
Jafar b.
Mubashshir on
this42

41 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:260.


42 Ibid., 1:260261.
chapter 1
6D The revealed text of the Qurn (al-munazzal) X X al-Kab X X
consists only of expressions (ibrt) that point followed Jafar
to the Qurn. These expressions deliver that b. arb and
which is in the eternal tablet. Jafar b.
Mubashshir on
this matter43
The Four Testimonies

7A God is not situated in place (laysa f makn). X X al-Kab44 X Unidentified45

7B God is in every place in the sense that He is X X al-Kab46 X X


knowing of every place.

43 Ibid., 1:286.
44 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 115.
45 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 157.
46 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 115.
63
Table2 Justice

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar al-Ashars


64

Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn

1A An act is evil (yaqbu) because of its occur- al-Kab1 X X X X


rence as a quality and an individual entity
(li-wuqihi bi-ifatihi wa-aynihi).
1B A movement (araka) that occurs (waqaat) as al-Kab2 X X X X
an evil movement (qaba) cannot occur as a
good one. An evil movement is not equal to a
good movement.
2 God is capable of evil acts but He does not Unidentified3 X X X al-Kab5
commit them. al-Kab4
3A1 God does the best in matters of religion and X Baghdadis6 X Baghdadis7 X
the world (al-ala f l-dn wa-l-duny). Baghdadis and
al-Nam
among Basrans8

1 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 310.


2 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 210212.
3 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Irda, 6/1:129.
4 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 2, fol. 191a.
5 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 557.
6 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16.
chapter 1

7 al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd, 287.


8 al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamhd, 255.
3A2 God does the best in matters of the world al-Kab and X X X X
(al-ala f bb al-duny). Baghdadis9
3A3 The optimum (al-ala) is a worldly benefit al-Kab10 X X X X
(manfaa dunyawyya) by which no one is
harmed and in which there is no evil.
The Four Testimonies

3B The optimum (al-ala) consists of the Baghdadis11 X X X X


obligation on God to do what is best for His
servants in an absolute manner (lamm
awjab al-ala al allh tal alaq [added
emphasis]).
3C1 The imposition of moral obligation (taklf) is X X X al-Kab12 X
the optimum (al-ala).
3C2 The imposition of moral obligation (taklf) is X Baghdadis13 X X X
better than creation in paradise.
3C3 God would not create a servant, if that creation X Baghdadis14 X X X
were not for the optimum (al-ala) of this
servant or of other servants.

9 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 27b.


10 al-Zamakhshar, al-Minhj f ul al-dn, 67.
11 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 134.
12 al-Baghdd, Kitb al-Farq, 138; al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 127.
65

13 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 1617.


14 Ibid., 16.
Table2 Justice (cont.) 66

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Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn

3D1 The damnation of one in hellfire is the ab al-ala15 X X X X


optimum (al-ala) if it allows the salvation of
two other servants or a group of servants.
3D2 An act of God that causes unbelief for one al-Kab16 X X X X
servant but causes belief for two or more
servants is a good act.
3D3 It would be evil to impose moral obligation ba X X X X
(taklf) on an unbeliever, if this same taklf were al-Baghddiyyn
not an incentive (luf ) that facilitates the (one of the
fulfillment of the moral obligation of another Baghdadis)17
servant.
3D4 The death of a child is the optimum (al-ala) X X One Mutazil18 X X
if, were he to reach adulthood, he would
mislead others. His death is the optimum for
others (malaat al-ghayr).

15 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, istiqq al-dhamm, al-tawba, ed. Muaf l-Saqq (Cairo: 1965), 14:140142.
16 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 28b.
17 Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 2:219.
chapter 1

18 al-Nasafi, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:729730.


3D5 The death of a child is legitimate for the sake of X X X al-Kab in a X
the good of a group. debate with
Muammad b.
Zakariyy l-Rz19
4A The cause of the disagreement between the aab al-ala20 X X X X
Basrans and the optimum proponents (ab
The Four Testimonies

al-ala) is in how the latter defined the mode


of occurrence (wajh) of obligation (wujb).
4B The cause of the disagreement is due to the aab al-ala21 X X X X
optimum proponents (ab al-ala) reliance
on false and irrational arguments that are not
based on a mode of occurrence (wajh) but on
words (alf).
4C The cause of the disagreement is in the wording al-Kab22 X X X X
(laf) of obligation (wujb): For the optimum al-Kab and the
proponents (ab al-ala), God is obligated Baghdadis23
to do the optimum (al-ala), but does not
deserve blame should He not mete it out.

19 Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz, al-Malib al-liya, 3:318319.


20 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:23, passim.
21 Ibid., 14:57, passim.
22 al-Jishum, al-Uyn fi l-radd, fol. 28a.
67

23 al-Zamakhshar, al-Minhj f ul al-dn, 67.


68

Table2 Justice (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar al-Ashars


Baghdadi Maqlt
Mutazil al-islmiyyn

4D The cause of the disagreement is in how the al-Kab and Baghdadis, al-Kab26 X X
optimum proponents (ab al-ala) con- Baghdadis24 proponents
ceived of the meaning (man) of obligation: of divine
For the optimum proponents (ab al-ala), incentive
God is obligated to do the optimum (al-ala) (ab
in the way generosity and nobility is an al-luf), and
obligation, and not in the way that paying a others who
debt is an obligation. support the
optimum
(al- ala)25

4E The optimum (al-ala) is what is best with X Baghdadis, Baghdadis28 Baghdadis29 X


respect to wisdom (ikma) and deliberation al-Mufd,
(tadbr). and others27

24 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fols. 27b28a.


25 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16.
26 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:736739.
27 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16.
chapter 1

28 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:724.


29 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 405.
5A The quantity of the incentive (luf) of which al-Kab30 X X X X
God is capable for the realization of the
optimum (al-ala) is infinite.

5B Although the optimum (al-ala) in Gods X X al-Kab31 X X


possession is infinite, the varieties (amthl) of
the optimum (al-ala) that are actually
The Four Testimonies

bestowed are finite. They are bestowed according


to a measure equal to that governing the
dispensation of portions (amthl) of medicine.

30 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:61.


31 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:736739.
69
70

Table3 Epistemology

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar


Baghdadi
Mutazil

1A It is permissible for God to send a prophet to teach about al-Kab1 X X X


matters other than divine law (shar), such as knowledge of
languages, poisons, and food.
1Aa The origin of language lies in revelation (tawqf). al-Kab2 X X X
1B A divine message (risla) is necessary for knowing the X Baghdadis3 X X
beginning of the imposition of moral obligation (taklf).
1C It is necessary to have a prophet in every age for the Unidentified4 X X X
realization of the optimum in this world (al-mali
al-dunyawiyya).
2 Knowledge of Godand not rational inquiry (naar)is Baghdadis5 X X X
the first obligation on man. al-Kab6

1 Adang, Madelung, and Schmidtke (eds.), Baran Mutazilite Theology, 157.


2 Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 63b.
3 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 78.
4 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 326.
5 Ibid., 382.
chapter 1

6 Sulaymn b. Muammad b. Amad al-Muall, al-Burhn al-riq, collection of Hassan Ansari and Maurice Pomerantz, fol. 6b.
3A Imitation (taqld) is a valid means for attaining knowledge Unidentified7 X al-Kab9 early
of God. al-Kab8 Mutazils10
3B The imitation of the ascetic leads to truth. Unidentified11 X X X
3C The imitation of the many (al-kathra) leads to truth. Unidentified12 X X X
3D The imitation of the Prophet leads to truth. Unidentified13 X X X
The Four Testimonies

3E The layperson (mm) imitates the scholar (lim). al-Kab14 X X X


Unidentified15
3E1 The laypersons knowledge of God as a creator is valid. al-Kab16 X X X
3F A layperson who imitates (muqallid) another and does not al-Kab17 X X X
apply rational inquiry (naar) to know God is not an
unbeliever.

7 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 6061.


8 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 174a; al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 85b; Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 302303.
9 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:42.
10 al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd, 13.
11 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 61.
12 Ibid., 6162.
13 Ibid., 63.
14 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 29a, vol. 4, fol. 174a.
15 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 61, 63.
16 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:42.
17 al-Bust, Kitb al-Bath, 26.
71
72

Table3 Epistemology (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar


Baghdadi
Mutazil

3G The morally responsible servants (mukallafn) are divided Ab Isq b. Ayysh and X X X
into two groups. The first group are the proponents of al-Kab18
rational inquiry (ahl al-naar) and they are obligated to
know God by applying rational inquiry. The second group
are obligated to know God through imitation (taqld) and
speculation (ann) and they include the laypeople
(al-awm), slaves, and most women.
4 Knowledge is the conviction (itiqd) that a thing is as it al-Kab19 X al-Kab21 Unidentified22
truly is (itiqd al-shay al m huwa bihi). Unidentified20 Unidentified23
4A Knowledge is defined by what it is in itself (ilm al m al-Kab24 X X X
huwa bihi).

18 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 56.


19 al-Bust, Kitb al-Bath, 26; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 174a.
20 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:17; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 167a.
21 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:4.
22 Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 11; al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 5.
23 Ab Bakr b. Maymn, Shar al-irshd, ed. Amad ijz l-Saqqa (Cairo: Maktabat al-Anglo Miriyya, 1987), 4142.
chapter 1

24 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 287300.


5 A proof (dall) is required for the validity of rational inquiry al-Kab25 X X X
(naar) and that it generates (yuwallid) knowledge.
6 A persons knowledge of what he perceives can be gener- al-Kab in agreement X X X
ated by his acts. with Bishr b. al-Mutamir
and a group of Baghdadis26
The Four Testimonies

7 Knowledge is defined by what it is in itself (ilm al m al-Kab27 X X X


huwa bihi).
8 It is not possible for what is not knowledge to belong to the al-Kab28 X X X
same class (jins) as knowledge.
9 A person who knows should be aware of his knowledge. the Baghdadis X X X
and al-Kab29
al-Kab30
10 Some hearts (qulb) do not tolerate every knowledge al-Kab31 X X X
because of their constitution (mizj) and do not tolerate
these subtle and intricate sciences (al-ulm al-lafa
al-daqqa).

25 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 217a.


26 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 305308 (quoting from Kitb al-Masil al-wrida).
27 Ibid., 287300.
28 Ibid., 303305; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 195a. Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 163a.
29 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 179a.
73

30 Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 164b.


31 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 318319; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 196a.
74

Table3 Epistemology (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar


Baghdadi
Mutazil

11 It is possible for the structure (binya) of the heart to al-Kab32 X X X


engender intellect, just as it does lunacy and forgetfulness.
12A It is possible for the sleeping or unconscious person to al-Kab33 X X X
create knowledge in his heart by generating it.
12B A servant can bring about (yafal) knowledge in the heart of al-Kab34 X X X
another person through generation.
13A It is prohibited to argue with the sophists. the Baghdadis and X X X
al-Kab35
13B It is prohibited to argue with the sophists because what they al-Kab36 X X X
deny is the principle (al-al), i.e., the possibility of the
existence of knowledge.

32 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 319320; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fols. 196a96b; Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary,
fol. 155a.
33 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 324325 (quoting from al-Kabs Kitb Uyn al-masil).
34 Ibid., 308309; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fols. 194b195a. Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 155a.
35 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 179a.
chapter 1

36 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:4142.


14A Knowledge of God is acquired knowledge. al-Kab37 Baghdadis38 X X
14B Knowledge of God is acquired even in the afterlife. al-Kab39 X X X
14C Knowledge of God is acquired even in the afterlife because al-Kab40 X X X
necessary knowledge is always necessary, and acquired
knowledge is always acquired.
The Four Testimonies

37 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 52; Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 391; Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 158a.
38 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 17, 35.
39 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 52.
40 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 330332; Mnkdm, al-Talq, 52; Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 156a.
75
76 chapter 1

Table4a Doctrine of Nature

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd


Baghdadi
Mutazil

1A God created human beings from the al-Kab1 X X


four elements [and not from nothing].
1B The four elements are heat (arra), X al-Kab2 X
cold (burda), humidity (ruba), and
dryness (yubsa).
1C Air (haw) is hot (rr) and humid (raib). al-Kab3 X X
Al-Kab was in agreement with the ancient
philosophers (awil) on this matter.
2A God chose to create human beings al-Kab4 X X
from the four elements, when He could
have created them from nothing.
2B God chose to create bodies from the al-Kab5 X X
four elements.
3 Scripture (Qurnic verse) is the proof of al-Kab6 X X
Gods choice to create man from the four
elements [rather than from nothing].
4 It is the natural characteristic al-Kab7 X X
(khiyya) of things that determines
how they will behave.
5 Natures (abi) are entities (man) X al-Kab8 X
that inhere in atoms, and by which the
atoms are fashioned (yatahayya) to
react (yanfail) appropriately.

1 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 125a125b, Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f
l-khilf, 149.
2 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 44.
3 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 150.
4 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 125a125b.
5 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 133.
6 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 125a125b; Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f
l-khilf, 149.
7 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fols. 66a66b, Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f
l-khilf, 133, passim.
8 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 44.
The Four Testimonies 77

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd


Baghdadi
Mutazil

6 There is a distinction between al-Kab9 al-Kab10 X


al-Kabs doctrine of nature and that of
its other Mutazil proponents.
7 God is incapable of creating the world al-Kab11 X X
except at the moment in which He did.

9 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fols. 66a66b.


10 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 44.
11 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 174a.

Table4b Nature-Related Propositions from al-Kabs Previous Articles

Ref. Articles Mutazil Imm Mturd Ashar


Baghdadi
Mutazil

1 Gods volition is determined by X X X al-Kab1


nature (mab) (see Chapter 2).

2 God could not have created the al-Kab2 X X X


world except at the moment at
which He created it (see Chapter 2).

3 In accordance with the doctrine of X X al-Kab3 X


nature the optimum (al-ala) is
distributed according to the model of
portions of medicine (see Chapter 3).

4 Due to the difference in the al-Kab4 X X X


constitution (mizj) of hearts, not all
of them are capable of holding some
types of knowledge (see Chapter 4).

1 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 245.


2 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 174a.
3 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, vol. 2, 739740.
4 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 318319.
Table5 The Imma
78

Ref. Articles Mutazil Zayd Imm Mturd Ashar


Basran Baghdadi
Mutazil Mutazil

1A Al is better than the other companions of X X X al-Kab and late X


the Prophet. But the imma of Ab Bakr and Mutazils, in agreement
Umar are valid. with the Jarrs and the
Yaqbs [i.e., the Batrs]
among the Zayds1
1B Al is superior to Ab Bakr in his right to the al-Kab, Bishr b. X X X X
imma. al-Mutamir,
al-Murdr, Jafar b.
Mubashshir and
al-Iskf2
1C The best of all Muslims are in this order: Al al-Kab and X X X X
b. Ab lib, al-asan, al-usayn, amza b. al-Khayy3
Abd al-Mualib, Jafar b. Ab lib, Ab Bakr
Abdallh b. Quhfa, Umar b. al-Khab, and
Uthmn b. Affn.

1 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:896 (citing al-Kabs Uyn al-masil).


2 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, ed. asan Tamm (Beirut: Dr Maktabat al-ay, 1963), 1:28.
chapter 1

3 Ibid., 1:645.
2 Al was always right in all of his wars. X X al-Kab4 X X
3 The repentance of isha, ala, and X X al-Kab5 X X
al-Zubayr is accepted.
4 The faith of Ab Bakr is intact. al-Kab6 X X X X
5 Abdallh b. al-Zubayr was a hypocrite. al-Kab7 X X X X
6A The imma of the less excellent mafl Baghdadis8 X X X
The Four Testimonies

(Ab Bakr instead of Al) is acceptable for al-Khayy and one


the sake of the optimum (al-ala). (ba) Baghdadi9
6B An imm is necessary for the worldly X al-Kab10 X X X
optimum (malaa dunyawiyya).
6C Knowledge of the necessity of the imma al-Kab11 al-Kab12 X X X
is attained by reason.
6D An imm needs to be elected in case God X al-Kab13 X X X
does not reveal his appointment (yanuu
Allhu alayhi).

4 al-Mufd, al-Jamal, 6566.


5 Ibid., 6566.
6 Abd al-Jabbr, Tathbt dalil al nubuwwa (citing al-Kabs Naq Ibn al-Rwand), 1:6263, 2:548549.
7 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 1:30.
8 Ibid., 1:479.
9 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, vol. 1, fol. 93a.
10 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 758759.
79

11 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, vol. 1, fol. 89a.


12 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 758.
13 Ibid.
80

Table5 The Imma (cont.)

Ref. Articles Mutazil Zayd Imm Mturd Ashar


Basran Baghdadi
Mutazil Mutazil

7A The imma must belong to the Quraysh X X X al-Kab14 al-Kab15


unless a civil strife is looming, in which case
it is permissible for the imm to be elected
from outside the Quraysh.
7B Casting lots is an acceptable method to end X X X al-Kab, following Ab X
any dispute in choosing between two l-Abbs al-Qalnis16
potential imms.
8 The oath of one person is sufficient to elect X X Ab Mujlid, X X
an imm. al-Khayy,
and al-Kab17

14 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:828.


15 al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 275.
16 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:826.
17 al-Mufd, al-Jamal, 91.
chapter 1
Appendix1

Articles in the Reconstruction of al-Kabs


Doctrine of Justice

Ref. Articles Sources

1A If pleasure and pain are equal in their status as al-Kab1


tools for bestowing divine incentive (luf) and Many Mutazils
creating what is beneficial (al), it would not be (kathr min ahl
permissible for God to choose pain over pleasure as al-adl)2
a medium for bestowing His incentive (luf).
1B It is not obligatory on God to make possible the al-Kab3
retaliation (iqti) of an animal for a wrong done Unidentified (kathr
to it by another animal, or a child for the wrong min ahl al-adl)4
done to him by another child.
1B1 God rewards animals for pain because of His Unidentified5
generous giving (jd) and generosity (karam).
2A It is not obligatory on God to bestow reward Baghdadis6
(thawb); rather He bestows it because it is the al-Kab7
optimum (al-ala) and more befitting of His
generous giving (jd) and generosity (karam).
2B The reward of the morally responsible agents Many Mutazils
(mukallaf) is in part a favor (tafaul) from God (kathr min ahl
because He would be doing them injustice if He did al-adl min
not reward them; and in part obligatory because al-Mutazila)8
their deeds necessitate this reward. As for children,
the mentally impaired, and animals, their reward is
a favor (tafaul) and not obligatory on God.

1 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fols. 28b29a.


2 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlat, 49.
3 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 32b.
4 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 50.
5 Ibid.
6 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 644645.
7 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 75a. al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3,
fols. 139b140a.
8 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 5051.

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82 Appendix1

Ref. Articles Sources

3 It is not obligatory on God to provide compensation al-Kab9


(iwa) to His servant, even if the servant were to
endure pain. In the same way, He does not have to
provide reward, even if He imposes (kallafa)
suffering (mashq).
4A Punishment of the disobedient is obligatory on Baghdadis10
God. He cannot forgive because punishment is a Bishr b. al-Mutamir,
higher priority of obligation (al lan f l-wujb) al-Kab and his
than reward. generation (abaqa)11
Baghdadis12
4B It is obligatory on God to mete out punishment. It A Baghdadi13
would not be good of (yasun) God to drop the
punishment. For, indeed, punishment would still be
obligatory even if God were to drop it (wa l yasqu
bi-isq allh tal lahu).
4C Punishment is obligatory on God because it is an Baghdadis14
incentive (luf) from Him. al-Kab15
4D Punishment cannot be dropped, according to reason. al-Kab16
5 It is rationally impossible for grave sins to be forgiven. al-Kab17
6 Punishment (iqb) can only be good (yasun) Baghdadis18
when it is of benefit to others (naf al-ghayr).
7 It is not permissible for the morally responsible al-Kab19
(mukallaf) servant to learn that he will be among
the inhabitants of hellfire.

9 al-Bust, Kitb al-Bath, 80.


10 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 645.
11 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, 76a.
12 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 158a.
13 Omar Hamdan and Sabine Schmidtke, On the Promise and Threat: An Edition of a
Fragment of the Kitb al-Mughn f abwb al-tawd wa-l-adl. Preserved in the Firkovitch
Collection, St. Petersburg, Mlanges de lInstitut Dominicain dtudes Orientales du Caire
27 (2008), 60.
14 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 646.
15 al-Zamakhshar, al-Minj f ul al-dn, ed. Sabine Schmidtke (Stuttgart: Deutsche
Morgenlndische Gesellschaft, 1997), 75.
16 Adang, Madelung, and Schmidtke (eds.), Baran Mutazilite Theology, 275.
17 Ibid., 289.
18 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, 76a; Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 157b.
19 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 158b.
Articles In The Reconstruction Of Al-kabs Doctrine Of Justice 83

Ref. Articles Sources

8 If a servant performs an act of obedience that al-Kab20


warrants reward, but then follows that act with one
of unbelief or a grave sin and then repents, the
earliest reward is reinstated.
9 If a servant repents after having committed a grave sin, al-Kab in
then returns to the sin, the first punishmentnamely, disagreement with
from which there was repentancedoes not return. Bishr b. al-Mutamir21
10 It is not permissible (l yajz) for God to withhold al-Kab and
forgiveness from someone if He has forgiven Muammad b.
someone else who is in a similar situation (f mithli Shabb22
lihi), for withholding such forgiveness would be al-Kab23
duplicitous (mukhbt).
11 Repentance has no effect in annulling punishment, Baghdadis24
but, rather, God gratuitously (tafaala) discontinues
the punishment at the time of repentance.
12 Every minor sin (aghra) when committed with Baghdadis25
intention (amd) becomes a grave sin (kabra). For
what defines a minor sin is its neglectful or forgetful
occurrence.
13 A minor sin does not fall under the category of al-Kab26
acts that are included under the principle of
punishment and threat (wad wa-l-wad).
14 Persistence in a minor sin (aghra) amounts to a al-Kab27
grave sin (kabra).
15 It is intuitive knowledge (f l-aql bi-l-badha) that it al-Kab28
is evil for God to burden His servants with what
they cannot bear.

20 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 165a.


21 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 76b; Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 166a.
22 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 77a.
23 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 166a.
24 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 790.
25 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 77b.
26 Ibid.
27 Ibid., fol. 81a.
28 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 424.
Appendix2

Articles in the Reconstruction of al-Kabs


Epistemology

Ref. Articles Sources

1 It is not possible for what is not knowledge to belong al-Kab1


to the same class (jins) as knowledge.
2 Acquired knowledge must have a necessary principle al-Kab2
(al) from which it is derived (yuraddu ilayhi). Baghdadis3
3 Knowledge of God and His messenger can be a sin al-Kab4
(maiya).
4 Knowledge cannot exist if its object does not exist. al-Kab5
5 It is not possible for the living being to be free from al-Kab6
either knowledge or its contrary. al-Kab in agreement
with al-Jubb7
6 The conviction of the existence of blackness in the al-Kab agreed with
atom at a given moment must contradict the conviction al-Jubb and disagreed
of the existence of whiteness at this same moment. with Ab Hshim8
7 It is known by intuition (ilm badha) that pain al-Kab9
and knowledge cannot be created in stone and in
the dead.
8 Knowing that God is eternal constitutes the principle al-Kab10
(al) for knowing that He is the creator of things.

1 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 303305; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil,
vol. 4, fol. 195a.
2 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 313315 (quoting from al-Kabs Kitb al-Jadal).
3 Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 158b.
4 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 315316 (quoting from al-Kabs Uyn al-masil,
chapter on al-asm wa-l-akm).
5 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 316317.
6 Ibid., 317318.
7 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, 196a.
8 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 320321.
9 Ibid., 321322 (quoting from al-Kabs Kitb Uyn al-masil).
10 Ibid., 327330 (quoting from al-Kabs Kitb Uyn al-masil); al-Jishum, Shar Uyn
al-masil, vol. 4, 197a.

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Appendix3

Articles in the Reconstruction of al-Kabs


Cosmology

Ref. Articles [of al-Kab]

1 Atoms can be different from one another (mukhtalifa), although they can
also be similar (mutamthila) to one another.1
2 The non-existent (al-madm) cannot be described as an atom or an
accident. The non-existent is also not a thing (shay).2
3 It is impossible for a vacuum (khal) to exist in the world.3
4 Air turns into (yastal) water. For example, the vapor of a pot turns into
water on the inside of its cover when it encounters it.3
5 The atom (al-juz alladhi l yatajazza) does not possess extension
(misa).4
6 It is not possible for the atom (al-jawhar) to be devoid of color, taste, smell,
temperature (arra), coldness (burda), humidity (ruba), and dryness (yubs).5
7 The atom perdures (bqiyan) with the attribute of perdurance (baq). In
this al-Kab disagreed with al-Khayy, who deemed it possible for God to
annihilate an atom. Al-Khayy was followed in this by al-Qarmaysn, a
student of al-Kab.6
8 Al-Adab, a student of al-Kab, falsely ascribed the following position to
him: The atom (jawhar) is temporary (ri) because of an entitative
determinant (man).7
9 An atom is annihilated (yafn) when God ceases to create the accident of
perdurance (baq) in it. Whereas for al-Khayy the atom is negated
(yantaf) when God annihilates it.8

1 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 2936.


2 Ibid., 3747.
3 Ibid., 4756.
4 Ibid., 5758. Ab Rashd refers to an extensive refutation of this view in his al-Naq al
ab al-abi.
5 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 5859.
6 Ibid., 6274.
7 Ibid., 7481.
8 Ibid., 8183.
9 Ibid., 8387.

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86 Appendix3

Ref. Articles [of al-Kab]

10 Nothing can exist outside the world, because nothing can exist without
place (makn).10
11 Two accidents that have the attribute black can be different from one
another. This is because if one of these two black accidents were evil (qab)
and the other were good they must be distinct from one another.11
12 The Earth is round.12

10 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 65.


11 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 115116.
12 Ibid., 100104.
Part 2
Theology


chapter 2

The Attributes

The Mutazils understanding of divine unity (tawd) was shaped by reason


and to a secondary extent by the imperatives of the scriptural account of God.
Reason dictated to the Mutazils an austere expression of divine unity and
transcendence that found obstacles in the scriptural depiction of God with
many, often anthropomorphic, attributes. The centrality of these obstacles,
and how the Mutazils sought to resolve them, partially explains why the
Mutazils treatment of divine unity came under the subject heading of the
attributes (al-ift). The topic of the attributes was recorded among the first
subjects of concern for nascent mutakallimn, and it became one of the
Mutazils key defining subjects;1 they ranked divine unity as first among their
five self-defining principles.2
To their proto-Sunn and Sunn kalm opponents the Mutazils were guilty
of divesting God of His reality (tal).3 Ibn Kullb (died 241/855?) for example,
conceived of Gods reality as expressed in the attributes as entitative determi-
nants (man) in God.4 Despite the Mutazils agreement on deeming the
attribute (ifa) as only descriptive (waf), they were far from unified on the
issue of accounting for them;5 thus they developed varied and conflicting strat-
egies for this purpose. For Ab Hshim, the sources document a systematic
and comprehensive methodology that eclipsed the experiments of earlier
Mutazils. His methodology came to dominate Mutazil discussions of this
subject by future generations of his supporters and opponents alike.
Ab Hshims theory of states (awl) sought to resolve many of the prob-
lems that early Mutazils struggled with in carving out an account of the attri-
butes that does not compromise divine unity. His theory drew from the

1 The discussion of the attributes in kalm surfaced in the early second/eighth century with
Jahm b. afwn and irr b. Amr. See Frank, Beings and Their Attributes, 10; and van Ess,
Theologie, 425439.
2 See, for example, Sayyid (ed.), Fal al-itizl, 213; al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fols. 12b13b;
and Mnkdm, al-Talq, 149291.
3 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 169170, 546547; al-Ashar, Kitb al-Luma, 1014; Ibn
Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 3842; al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamhd, 2325; al-Juwayn, Kitb
al-Irshd, 3034; al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 8889.
4 Daniel Gimaret, La Doctrine dal-Ashar (Paris: Les ditions du Cerf, 1990), 2627.
5 This distinction was first noted by al-Jubb, and also adopted by al-Kab: al-Ashar, Maqlt
al-islmiyyn, 527528; Frank, Beings and Their Attributes, 1719.

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90 chapter 2

conceptual repertoire of the grammarians. He gave attributes the ontological


weight of an accusative of state (l), thereby eliminating the multiplicity
that resulted from speaking of God as having many predications.6 But Ab
Hshims solution to the problem resided in expanding the aims of the theology
of attributes to five categories, which he crafted to describe not only God but
all other beings, including the components of those beings, namely bodies
(ajsm), accidents (ar), and atoms (jawhir).7
The first category of attributes is affirmed for every being, including God,
and it was called the attribute of the essence (ifat al-dht).8 The second cat-
egory was the essential attribute and it derived from the first category (li-m
huwa alayhi f dhtihi). When this second category of attributes is applied to
God, it refers to the attributes: powerful (qdiran), knowing (liman), living
(ayyan), and existing (mawjdan).9 While God was considered knowing
because His knowledge is derived from the attribute of the essence, a human
being is knowing because of an entitative determinant (man) in him that is
knowledge. An example of such a category of attributes applying to another
being can be seen in the occupation of space (taayyuz) being an attribute of
the atom (jawhar). The only difference is that in the case of God this category
is always affirmed, while for other beings, that category must be added to
them.10 Ab Hshims third category of attributes was this latter kind of attri-
bute that derived from an entitative determinant; these attributes inhered, in
the majority of cases, in a substrate (maall).11 One attribute of Godthe
attribute of volitionwas included in this category, though it was not consid-
ered to inhere in a substrate. The fourth category applied to attributes derived
from an agent (bi-l-fil) and included the attributes of beings created by God,
as well as attributes of Gods acts, such as His beneficence and mercy.12 The last
category of attributes was one derived neither from the essence nor from an

6 The extent to which Ab Hshims conceptualization of the attributes consisted of a full-


scale system was recognized and explained by Richard M. Frank. Ab Hshims concept
of l for an attribute was developed and borrowed from the Basran grammarians inter-
pretation of the accusative predicate of kna (Frank, Beings and Their Attributes, 2024).
7 Frank, Beings and Their Attributes, 1920, 27; Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm f l-mu
bi-l-taklf, 1:97112.
8 Frank, Beings and Their Attributes, 5355.
9 The attributes of essence are recognized as these four in Mnkdm, al-Talq, 182.
10 Richard Frank, Attribute, Attribution, and Being: Three Islamic Views, in Philosophies of
Existence, Ancient and Medieval, ed. P. Morewedge (New York: Fordham University Press,
1982), 268.
11 Frank, Beings and Their Attributes, 93111.
12 Ibid., 135136.
The Attributes 91

entitative determinant (l li-dht wa-l li-man), and to it belonged Gods


attribute of hearing and seeing that in turn derived from the attribute of living,
but is separate from the attribute of knowing.13
Al-Kabs views on the attributes were, as we see, at least in part, a continu-
ation of earlier Mutazil experiments on the attributes, which were later
eclipsed by Ab Hshims theology of the attributes. Later biographical dic-
tionaries of adth transmitters especially note al-Kabs view of divine voli-
tion for its affront to the doctrine of divine omnipotence. He was described as
maintaining the stance that Gods volition is equivalent to His knowledge.14
Similarly, al-Kabs denial of the reality of the attributes of hearing and volition
led Ab l-Qsim Isml al-Bust (d. late fifth/eleventh century) to single it out
as an example of doctrinal differences serious enough to lead earlier Mutazils
to accuse its supporters of unbelief.15
Al-Bust and the later biographical dictionaries of adth transmitters espe-
cially condemn al-Kab for his view of divine volition. There is also additional
evidence for al-Kabs contributions on the subject of volition as a cosmologi-
cal (daqq or laf al-kalm) question in its own right. Tracing the potential
influence of these contributions on his doctrine of the divine attributes, how-
ever, remains beyond the scope of the present chapter. Thus, among the extant
titles of al-Kabs lost works, two deal with the subject of volition. These are
the correspondences he exchanged with al-Jubb: Naq kitb Ab Al l-Jubb
f l-irda (Refutation of Ab Als book on volition [irda]), and al-Kitb
al-thn al Ab Al f l-[irda] (The second book in refutation of Ab Al
on the subject matter of volition [irda]). Moreover, parts of Ab Rashd

13 Ibid., 148154.
14 Amad b. Muammad Ibn Khallikn, Wafayt al-ayn, 3:45. Ibn Shkir al-Kutub includes
Ibn Ab l-Damms report, Uyn al-tawrkh, Microfilm A 408 (American University in
Beirut: Jafet Library), fol. 28a. Al-Dhahab explained that al-Kab limited Gods volition to
nothing other than His knowledge (al-Dhahab, Tarkh al-Islm wa-wafayt al-mashhr
wa-l-alm, ed. Umar Abd al-Salm al-Tadmur (Beirut: Dr al-Kitb al-Arab, 1987)),
23:584585.
15 al-Bust, Kitb al-Bath, 24. Al-Bust also included the attribute of aversion (krihan) that
is not noted in other sources (see Table1). Al-Busts final verdict was that, if unbelief were
based on the serious doctrines he listed, most Mutazils would be deemed unbelievers.
Hence, he concluded that accusations of unbelief based on grave disagreements in doc-
trine and the conclusions of these earlier Mutazils should be abandoned (Madelung and
Schmidtke, Introduction, Kitb al-Bath, ivv). Regardless of al-Busts softer position
regarding accusations of unbelief, he listed al-Kabs stance on the attributes of volition,
hearing, and seeing as among the doctrines of earlier Mutazils that warrant a declara-
tion of unbelief (takfr).
92 chapter 2

al-Nsbrs al-Masil f l-khilf document al-Kabs views on volition from his


work, Uyn al-masil.16

al-Kabs Precursors on the Attributes

al-Nam
Where the sources highlight influences on al-Kabs views of the attributes, it is
mostly of al-Nams influence that they speak. In some cases, Baghdadis, who
remain unidentified, were also linked to al-Nams doctrine of the attributes.
Although the sources do not describe them as influences, there are also cases
where the influence of al-Nam on al-Kab is apparent through kindred ten-
dencies that are outlined here. Al-Nams understanding of the divine attri-
butes had an apophatic character17 that was often presented as a response to
Ab l-Hudhayls formulation.18 The latter affirmed the reality of independent
attributes but simultaneously reduced them to only affirmations of God; Ab
l-Hudhayl depicted God as knowing with a knowledge that is He, powerful
with a power that is He, living with a life that is He.19 In response, al-Nam
acknowledged the eternity of the attributes, but used only participles and not
nouns that would imply their existence as independent and separate entities.
He pronounced that they exist only as affirmations of Gods essence (bi-nafsihi).
Al-Nam described God as eternally (lam yazal) knowing, living, powerful,
hearing, and seeing by His essence (bi-nafsihi) and not by the existence of the

16 See for example, Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 363.


17 See van Ess, Theologie, 3:399401, and al-Nams position on the attribute of volition,
ibid., 3:401403.
18 Ab l-Hudhayl is the first Mutazil for whom a cohesive formulation of the attributes is
attested. He sought to simultaneously deny the existence of attributes as entitative deter-
minants (man) and to affirm them as identical with God in his famous formula: He is
knowing with a knowledge that is He, He is powerful with a power that is He, He is living
with a life that is He [added emphasis] (al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 165, 484486;
Frank, The Divine Attributes). In a similar vein, he also affirmed the attributes that por-
tray God in anthropomorphic terms, but only as affirmations of God, he thereby negated
their separate, independent realities: God has a face that is He, thus His face is He, His
essence (nafsuhu) is He. He [Ab l-Hudhayl] used to interpret the mention of Gods hand
to mean His blessing (nima), al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 165. To emphasize the
absence of entitative determinants in these attributes, Ab l-Hudhayl specifically spoke
of God being knowing without knowledge, powerful without power, living without life,
hearing without hearing. al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 166.
19 Ibid., 165.
The Attributes 93

separate individual attributes knowledge, power, life, hearing, and seeing.20


The attributes, as participles, simultaneously affirmed Gods essence and
negated their opposites. For example, to state that God is knowing is to affirm
His essence (ithbt dhtihi) and to deny (nafy) that He is ignorant.21 Thus,
prompted by the threat of multiplicity in God, al-Nam affirmed the attri-
butes, but only designated them as participles. As for the relationship of the
attributes to one another, again, to avoid positing multiplicity in Gods essence,
he formulated the differences (ikhtilf) between the attributes of God as differ-
ences between their opposites.22
Yet, al-Nams reference point for speaking of these attributes, and not of
others, was scripture. It was this dictate of scripture that justified, in his eyes,
the special status of the attributes of knowledge and power. He recognized
knowledge and power as attributes that derived from His being knowing and
powerful, but he also recognized that they exist in an absolute fashion,
namely as attributes of His essence, precisely because of the absolute (ilq)
fashion in which they appear in scripture.

We hold that God has knowledge [because] we go back to the [verbal


meaning of the text of scripture] (narjiu il) that states His being know-
ing. We hold that He has power [because] we go back to the [verbal
meaning of the text of scripture] of His being powerful. This is because
God expressed (alaqa) knowledge in an absolute manner when He said:
He revealed with His knowledge. He also expressed in an absolute man-
ner (alaqa) the attribute of powerand did not apply an absolute expres-
sion [when referring to] any other attribute of essence.23

While for al-Nam scripture dictated that the attributes of knowledge and
power should have a less apophatic exposition than other attributes, al-Nam
claimed that it was also scripture that informed his treatment of volition
(irda) as not actually an attribute, but only a metaphor. Volition is, thus, not
separable from Gods acts and commands: Gods willing of creation (takwn) is
His creation, and His willing of human acts is His command of human acts.

20 Ibid., 486.
21 Ibid., 166167, 178.
22 Ibid., 167. In the second part of the same work (486487), al-Ashar attacked al-Nam,
stating: you only affirm Gods essence (anta l tuthbitu ill l-dht).
23 Ibid., 187188. Again in the second part of that work, al-Nam was quoted as specifying
that God spoke of the attribute of power and knowledge in an absolute manner (alaq), in
contrast to the attributes of hearing (sam) and seeing (baar), 487.
94 chapter 2

But, al-Nam maintained the distinction between the command and the
object of the command.

Gods volition is only (innam) His act, or His command (amruh), or His
decree (ukm). This is [so] because this is the meaning of volition accord-
ing to Arabic usage (f l-lugha), either it is a secret thought (amr), or
shows a things position in relation to something else. This [usage can be
observed] in His saying, He is exalted, a wall that is on the verge of falling
[literally that wishes to fall] but he [al-Khir] erected it.24 Since a secret
thought (amr) cannot be applicable (yastal al) to God, the meaning
of His volition has to be what we mentioned. He [al-Nam] also noted
that the object of volition (al-murd) is designated as volition (irda) in
Arabic usage (f l-lugha). Thus it is said: Bring me my wish (irdat),
meaning the object of my volition (murd). He [al-Nam] also says:
God willed judgment day to take place, meaning that He decreed it.25

Clearly scripture did not compel al-Nam to take a literalist position along
the lines of the without how principle (bi-l kayfa) that was adopted to vary-
ing degrees of exigency by proto-Sunn and Sunn mutakallimn.26 Indeed, the
attributes of face and hand are not real (f l-aqqa) for al-Nam. They are,
instead, simply expressions, that the hand of God is His blessing (nima), and
His face meant that He perdures (yabq).27 They are to be understood as meta-
phorical expressions precisely because Arabic usage in the Qurn treats them
as such. To regard these descriptions of God as real would be a breach of that
usage.28
Among al-Nams views surveyed here, explicit textual support that
al-Kab followed al-Nam exists only for al-Nams stance regarding Gods

24 Qurn 18:77.
25 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Irda, 6/2:34. This doctrine is noted in al-Ashars Maqlt
al-islmiyyn (190191) with the added mention that the Baghdadis (who remained
unidentified) agreed with al-Nam on this. See also van Ess, Theologie, 3:401403, 6:154.
26 Richard Frank, Elements in the Development of the Teaching of al-Ashar, and The
Science of kalm, Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 2 (1992): 737.
27 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 167. Regarding how to render the attribute of Gods face
(wajh), the Baghdadis and most of the Basrans followed al-Nam: The term wajh is
used in the broadest sense (tawassuan). We affirm a face that is He (nuthbit wajhan huwa
huwa). This position is justified in the linguistic usage of the term face (wajh) in lieu of the
thing itself. Such as someone saying, Had it not been for your face I would have not done
such and such. (Ibid., 189).
28 Ibid.
The Attributes 95

volition. In al-Nams scripturalist stance there is a significant precedence


for al-Kabs choice. But the linguistic arguments that al-Nam invoked for
his position on the attribute of volition and how he formulated the attributes
of knowledge and power were never attributed to al-Kab, nor was al-Kabs
scripturalist stance explicitly tied to al-Nam. Furthermore, al-Nams
influence on al-Kab may have been even more pervasive than indicated by
the specific similarities of doctrines just reviewed. The similarity and possibil-
ity of al-Nams influence on the Baghdadis is likely, though individual pro-
ponents remain unidentifiable, as we see in what follows.

Baghdadi Predecessors
Like other early Mutazils, the Baghdadis also distinguished between the
attributes of essence and of act. One group relegated Gods volition of cre-
ation to an attribute of act, while the attributes of knowledge, power, life,
hearing, and seeing were deemed attributes of essence.29 Moreover, their
disagreement in defining the attributes of act was documented, specifically
those related to the attribute of generosity.30 The challenge in determining
the doctrines of the early Baghdadi precursors of al-Kab on the attributes is
not only that the information is fragmentary, but also that it is sometimes
only identified as being that of the general category of Baghdadis.31
A work of al-Khayy on the subject of the seen (shhid) and unseen
(ghib) seems to address the methodological concerns underlying his discus-
sion of the attributes.32 As for al-Khayys views on the attribute of volition,
the available evidence remains inconclusive.33
On the formulation of the attribute of essence, the Baghdadis seemed to
agree in principle with al-Nam in considering the attributes of essence, in the

29 Ibid., 505.
30 There are two positions recorded on the Baghdadis understanding of whether jd (gener-
ous giving) was an attribute of act. s l-f held that His generosity was an attribute of
act but refused to answer the question whether God could be eternally (lam yazal) non-
generous (ghayr karm). Al-Iskf, however, distinguished two kinds of attributes in gen-
erosity, one an attribute of act, when generosity (karam) is generous giving (jd) and the
other an attribute of essence designating the Being as elevated above other things (ibid.,
178, 506).
31 See for example, ibid., 504, 508.
32 Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 165; Madelung, Abd al-Ram b. Moammad b. Omn
al-ayy, Encycolopedia Iranica, 1:143144.
33 Al-Nasaf reports that al-Khayy agreed with al-Kabs doctrine on divine volition, but
the content of al-Kabs doctrine that he reports is not accurate, as Gods volition is
described as the absence of Gods forgetfulness (al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:374375).
96 chapter 2

form of participles, as eternal attributes.34 The definition available was terse and
focused on the negative theology they upheld: They deny the existence of any
attribute of essence and [they] state that the Maker (al-bri) is a thing unlike
other things.35 In another context, some Baghdadis agreed with al-Nams
special treatment of the attributes of power and knowledge, to the exclusion of
the attributes of hearing, seeing, and living because of the way these attributes
appear in scripture.36 Again, while it is tempting to see this as the position of
al-Kab, there is no direct evidence to support this identification.
Although the early Baghdadis disagreed among themselves about how to
define Gods volition, they shared a common concern for separating Gods voli-
tion from His servants act and volition. It seems that all Baghdadi and other
Mutazil definitions of this attribute were in part anchored to theodicean pre-
occupations. The majority of the Mutazils deemed the attribute of volition as
an attribute of act.37 Bishr b. al-Mutamir alone held that Gods volition was an
attribute of essence, albeit only when the objects of Gods volition did not
include evil deeds: He is eternally willing the [servants] acts of obedience to
the exclusion of the [servants] acts of disobedience (lam yazal murdan
li-atihi dna maiyatih).38 Bishr postulated two volitions for God, the one
just noted and another as an attribute of act (hiya fil min aflihi).39 His signa-
ture two volitions spoke of his preoccupation with preserving the integrity of
Gods agency and His servants freedom of action.40
Other Baghdadi Mutazils did not opt for Bishrs concept of two volitions,
but they were equally concerned with defining Gods volition without compro-
mising Him by association with evil acts. Ab Ms l-Murdr (d. 226/841) under-
stood Gods willing of the servants acts of disobedience (ma l-ibd) to

34 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 503.


35 Ibid., 504.
36 Ibid., 188 and 508.
37 Ibid., 509. The term attribute of essence was used by al-Ashar in reference to earlier
Mutazil views in his heresiographical accounts on the attributes. For one interpretation
of al-Ashars tracing of this distinction to the Baghdadis, see van Ess, Theologie,
4:436437.
38 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 509.
39 Ibid., 190, 513.
40 Bishr b. al-Mutamir also disagreed with the majority of the Mutazils in holding that
creation (khalq) is distinct from the created (al-makhlq) and that creation was identical
to Gods willing of a particular thing (huwa al-irda min allh li-l-shay) (ibid., 364365).
The identity of His volition and His creation (khalq) are understood to be one since Bishr
b. al-Mutamir is reported to regard them as interchangeable in another passage: Bishr
considered His volition to be His creation (yajal al-irda khalqan lahu) (ibid., 510).
The Attributes 97

mean that He allows them to occur: He left no barrier between these acts of
disobedience and the servants (khall baynahum wa-baynah).41 The ambigu-
ity of al-Murdrs statement, in its apparent affirmation of divine volition, led
al-Ashar to describe al-Murdr as having deemed God to be willing His ser-
vants evil deeds.42 Jafar b. arb (d. 236/850) understood Gods willing of unbe-
lief and belief as no more than His awareness of the distinction between the
two. God willed them to be different only in the sense that He declared their
characteristics (akama) to be distinct from one another, specifically the char-
acteristics of evil versus good (qaban ghayr asan).43
As for the attributes of hearing and seeing, their meaning was open to great
disagreement, and this was documented for the generations following Bishr b.
al-Mutamir and Ab l-Hudhayl.44 Among the Baghdadis, a negative theologi-
cal stance was documented as early as al-Iskf, who regarded these two attri-
butes as equal to Gods knowledge.

God is eternally (lam yazal) hearing (saman), seeing (mubiran), and


hearing of objects (smian), seeing of objects (mubiran), He hears
sounds and speech. The meaning of this is that He knows sounds and
speech and that they are not hidden from Him (l yakhf alayhi) because
the meaning of hearing (sam) and seeing (bar) according to him
[al-Iskf] and whomever agrees with him is that the objects of hearing
and seeing (masmt and mubart) are not hidden from Him (l takhf
alayhi).45

Al-Iskf acknowledged the transitive quality of the attributes of hearing and


seeing as being the same as knowing, thereby including the objects of hearing
and seeing. This position of al-Iskf seemed to have dominated the Baghdadi
school,46 and was followed by al-Kab.47 Al-Iskf was also responsible for

41 Ibid., 190.
42 Ibid., 512.
43 Ibid., 191, 513514. As to the identification of Gods volition and creation (makhlq), it is
not found in al-Murdr, ibid., 190.
44 Ibid., 173174.
45 Ibid., 175.
46 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 506.
47 Certain cosmological considerations were taking center stage in Mutazil theology at the
time, and these underlay the choices of al-Iskf and other Mutazils when they spoke
about the objects of Gods knowledge. The most important detail to note is al-Kabs dis-
agreement with al-Khayys controversial view that the non-existent (al-madm) is not
only a thing (shay) but also a body (jism). Al-Khayys view was universally opposed by
98 chapter 2

promoting the view that Gods attribute of life is His power; this was also widely
followed by the Baghdadis who remain unnamed and who seem to have held a
variety of opinions on the exact relationship between the attributes of knowl-
edge and power.48 Al-Kab did not, however, follow this position of al-Iskf.49

al-Kabs Doctrine of the Attributes

The Attributes of Essence and of Act


Like his contemporary al-Jubb, and many of his early Mutazil predecessors,
al-Kab maintained the distinction between the attributes of essence (ift
al-dht) and attributes of act (ift al-fil).50 This distinction had shaped discus-
sions among the Baghdadis at least since the time of al-Murdr, though its details
are little documented.51 Al-Kabs distinction between Gods attributes of
essence and His attributes of act, which remain external to God, is documented
most explicitly and clearly in Mturd and Bahsham sources. In these sources,
al-Kabs formulation of the attribute of essence is rendered as by His essence
(f nafsihi), in contrast to al-Jubbas because of His essence (li-nafsihi).52 Thus
al-Shahrastn and al-Mufds description of al-Kabs formulation of the attribute

Mutazils, because it could lead to the conclusion that bodies are co-eternal with God
(al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 504; al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 53).
Instead al-Kab understood the non-existent (al-madm) to be a thing (shay), but nei-
ther an atom (juz) nor an accident (ara) (Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf,
3738). In this al-Kab still held a minority position, as the majority of Basrans, starting
with al-Sham, thought that things, bodies, and accidents are only known by God
before their existence (al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 162). These cosmological discus-
sions had an immediate influence on the doctrine of the attributes. For example, al-Jubb
accepted hearing and seeing as eternal attributes (lam yazal) distinct from knowledge,
but denied them their transitive quality, it seems, to accommodate al-Shams view,
which he followed. That is, al-Jubb did not deem God to be saman, mubiran, because
this would have required the eternity of the objects of hearing and seeing with God (ibid.,
175176, also 492493). On the analysis of the non-existent (madm) as a discussion of
the ontology of the possible, see Richard M. Frank, The Non-Existent, the Existent, and
the Possible in the Teaching of Ab Hshim and his Followers, Mlanges de lInstitut
Dominicain dEtudes Orientales du Caire 14 (1980): 185209.
48 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 168.
49 Ibid., 176177. The equation of Gods knowledge with Gods power is in some instances
misattributed to al-Kab (see below).
50 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 78; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:225.
51 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 178, 506.
52 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 171b; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:225.
The Attributes 99

of essence as because of His essence (li-nafsihi) must be rejected.53 Al-Kab


characterized the attributes of essence as those attributes whose opposite is
impossible. This is documented by al-Jishum, al-Nasaf, and al-Mturd;54 this
is a distinction that had been used by earlier Mutazils to define Gods attributes
of essence.55 However, in al-Mturd we find an additional argument for the
attribute of essence ascribed to al-Kab, one that is not attested elsewhere.
Al-Mturd cites an unnamed work of al-Kab directly. But al-Mturds state-
ment, as promising as it is indicative of a distinct line of argumentation, cannot
be accepted without reservation because, on occasion, al-Mturd cites al-Kab
as a spokesperson of shared Mutazil stances. Below I analyze al-Mturds
statements in tandem with accounts of al-Kabs other arguments proposed by
earlier Mutazils and given by al-Nasaf and al-Jishum.

The Scripturalist Basis for Knowing the Attributes


While al-Kab agreed with other Mutazils that each of Gods attributes (ifa)
is merely an attribution (waf),56 unlike al-Jubb, al-Kab saw that it was not
through reason but only from scriptural evidence that Gods attributes are
known. This is attested mainly through the statement of al-Jishum.57 In treat-
ing the question of the source of human knowledge of Gods attributes, the
attributes are referred to by the word names (asm). The use of the term
name (ism), as opposed to attribute (ifa) reflects the linguistic concern of
how a name relates to its meaning. Al-Jishums statement not only allows for
the identification of the otherwise unidentified proponents of this position in
al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn58 but also for a perspective on its significance
for al-Kabs theology. This perspective is otherwise lost in Abd al-Qhir
al-Baghdds statement, as well as, to a lesser extent, by that of al-Mufd.59
Al-Kabs scripturalism continued an earlier Mutazil position, one that was
implied in al-Nams scripturalist interpretation of the attributes.

The Attributes of Hearing, Seeing, and Volition


With one exception, the Baghdadis view that Gods attributes of hearing and
seeingsometimes just described as perceivingare only His knowledge is

53 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 12; al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 341.


54 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 171b; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:225; al-Mturd,
Kitb al-Tawd, 78.
55 See, for example, al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 166167, 178.
56 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 79.
57 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 176b177a.
58 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 525.
59 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 13; al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 115116.
100 chapter 2

attested across the four theological traditions. Only late Ashar sources ascribe
this article to al-Kaball other sources describe it as a general Baghdadi doc-
trine.60 Thanks to al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn, we know that it was
al-Iskf who started it.61 Other differences exist in the statements as well, but
they are minor. Ibn al-Malim is alone in relating an argument by al-Kab in
defense of his equation of the attributes of hearing, seeingand perception
with knowledge. The argument states that for al-Kab to say that God is hear-
ing and seeing implies change in Him, and thus hearing and seeing cannot be
accepted as attributes separate from knowledge.62 In a few cases, late Ashars,
specifically al-Juwayn, link al-Kab to al-Nam, in the statement that they
both held that God does not see anything, including Himself.63 Furthermore,
al-Shahrastn relates arguments that he alleges to be al-Kabs arguments
in defense of the view that the attributes of hearing and seeing are Gods
knowledge.64
In the case of al-Kabs stance on divine volition, there are four recensions
with significant differences. But only the first one can be accepted uncondi-
tionally. In recension A (under Table1: 5) al-Kab is described as having fol-
lowed al-Nam in deeming divine volition as equivalent to Gods act and
command.65 Minor details exist in this first recension. Its details are shortened
sometimes to include only the polemical accusation against al-Kab. For
example, early Ashar sources only speak of Gods volition as not real.66 In a
longer version of this recension, Gods volition is described as His creation of
His own acts, and of His command and decree of His servants acts.67 Further
more, Ibn al-Malims statement interprets al-Kabs article along the lines
of Ab l-usayn al-Basrs theology.68

60 al-Jishum, Uyn al-masil, fols. 21a21b; Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 148b; al-Mufd,
Awil al-maqlt, 13; Mnkdm, al-Talq, 168; Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 3637;
al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 341; al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamd, 253; al-Ashar
Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 175.
61 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 175.
62 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 3637.
63 al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd, 176.
64 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 341.
65 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 2, fol. 191a; al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 13; al-Ashar,
Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 509510.
66 al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamhd, 252; Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 76; al-Baghdd, Kitb
Ul al-dn, 91.
67 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 509510.
68 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 42.
The Attributes 101

In the second recension (Table1: 5B) al-Kab understands Gods volition


to mean His knowledgeand in one single statement, His power.69 This
recension must be treated as indicative of later developments in the recep-
tion of al-Kabs doctrine because this statement that Gods volition is His
knowledge veers from al-Kabs article that Gods volition is His act or His
command, an article whose ascription to al-Kab is validated by the agree-
ment of all the testimonies. It should also be treated as a later development
because the arguments reported in this second recension include signifi-
cant divergences among themselves.70 Indeed the statements of this recen-
sion all derive from late Ashar sources. But the reports of this recension
also include one verified component of al-Kabs theology, namely one
inherited from al-Nam which states that the meaning of divine volition
is His act and His command.71 Because of this component, this recension
can be read as consisting of a late reception of al-Kabs doctrine on the
attributes.
A third recension includes the most strongly and consistently docu-
mented stance attributed to al-Kab, namely that Gods volition is His act
and command (Table 1: 5C), but this recension simultaneously mixes this
with other theologians doctrines that do not agree with al-Kab. Thus the
statements of Mnkdm and al-Nasaf allege that al-Kab held that Gods
volition means the absence of His forgetfulness (sahw), and this was a doc-
trine of al-Najjr.72 Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz cites two mixed reports indepen-
dently from one another. In both reports al-Kab is linked through hybrid
articles to other figures, namely al-Ji and Ab l-udhayl, though he has
little in common with them on the doctrine of volition.73 The fourth and
last recension (Table 1: 5D) is also mixed: al-js statement links al-Kab
with al-Ji and Ab l-Huhdayl.74 Clearly these mixed recensions cannot
be used to reconstruct al-Kabs theology, rather they reflect Ashar theo-
logical concerns in the course of the sixth/twelfth to eighth/fourteenth
centuries.

69 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 238; al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 43


44; al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd, 6366; al-Zabd, Itf al-sda, 2:141; Ibn al-Malim,
Kitb al-Fiq, 42.
70 For example, compare the arguments in al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 4344 to
al-Zabd, Itf al-sda, 2:141.
71 For example, al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 4344.
72 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Irda, 6/2:5.
73 al-Rz, al-Malib al-liya, 3:179; al-Rz, Kitb al-Arban, 147.
74 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 189190, 363364, 510.
102 chapter 2

Gods Speech and Gods Relation to Place


While Mutazils stipulated that Gods speech is created, there were some dis-
agreements on where the accident of speech took place. Al-Kab followed an
earlier Baghdadi Mutazil stance promulgated by Jafar b. arb and Jafar b.
Mubashshir (d. 234/849) that stipulates that the Qurn as a created accident
could not exist in more than one place. It only exists in the eternal tablet. All
other manifestations of the Qurn, meaning its recitation, writing, and hear-
ing, were only imitations (ikya) of the letters created on the tablet, the object
of imitation (mak). In this al-Kab followed the earlier Mutazil position of
Jafar b. arb and Jafar b. Mubashshir, and he disagreed with al-Iskfs posi-
tion that was subsequently followed by al-Jubb. The latter understood the
Qurn as an accident that exists in more than one place at the same time.75
Thus al-Jubb, following al-Iskf, also thought that each recitation is identi-
cal with the created accident of the Qurn. This is documented by al-Nasaf,
whose statement allows for the identification of a similar statement in
al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn.76
In another recorded position on the attributes, al-Kab also favored an ear-
lier Mutazil stance. He followed the minority position of Hishm b. Amr
al-Fuwa77 and his student Abbd b. Sulaymn al-aymar (d. c. 250/864)78 in
believing that God is not constituted spatially.79 In this al-Kab disagreed with
the position of earlier Baghdadi Mutazils, including the two Jafars, and
al-Iskf, as well as the Basrans Ab l-Hudhayl and al-Jubb, who both consid-
ered God to be in every place in the sense that He is managing (mudabbir)
every place.80 It is al-Mturd who allows us to identify al-Kab among the
group of unidentified Mutazils noted in Maqlt al-islmiyyn who, in this
regard, are believed to have followed this minority position. Moreover,
al-Mturds statement added one further detail to al-Kabs endorsement of
this position, al-Kab explained Gods relation to place as one of knowing it
(al man annahu lim) and preserving it (fi lahu). This relationship was
comparable to the role of a person in relation to the building of a house, in the

75 al-Nasaf, abirat al-adilla, 1:288; al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 193.


76 al-Nasaf, abirat al-adilla, 1:260261, 286; al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 192.
77 van Ess, Theologie, 4:14.
78 Sulaiman Mourad, Abbd b. Salmn, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three, online edition, pub-
lished 2009.
79 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 115.
80 God is in every place (bi-kulli makn) in the sense that He is knowing (mudabbir) of every
place and that His knowledge (tadbr) is in every place (al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 157).
The Attributes 103

sense that he participates in its creation (kam yuql fuln f bin al-dr ay f
filihi).81

The Case of the Basran Mutazil and Mturd Testimonies:


Attributes of Essence
Al-Kabs formulation of the attribute of essence is recorded in his answer to
the following question: How do we know that an object is the act of a divine
agent?82 As reported by al-Nasaf, al-Kabs answer is evidence of his disagree-
ment with his Basran counterparts understanding of the attribute of essence.

A perfect (mukam) and sound (mutqan) act proves (yadullu) that its
agent (filuh) is knowing and powerful only (faasb). Then we apply
rational inquiry (naar) to [the result of the earlier proof], [if we find]
that ignorance (jahl) and incapacity (ajz) are admissible to [describe]
the agent, [we learn] that He is knowing with a knowledge (lim bi-ilm)
and powerful with power (qdir bi-qudra). If [we find that] ignorance
and incapacity and all the contraries of knowledge and power are inad-
missible for him (istala alayhi), He is [proven to be] knowing by His
essence (bi-nafsihi), powerful by His essence (bi-nafsihi).83

Thus a perfect act is the starting point for the proof that knowledge constitutes
its agents attribute of essence. The agent of this perfect act is then subjected to
rational inquiry to examine if the contrary of knowledge and power can char-
acterize him. When the result of this examination is positive, then the agent is
declared as having an essence according to an entitative determinant, be it
knowledge or power. But when the result of the examination is negativethat
is, when the agent cannot be characterized by the opposite of the attributes of
knowledge and powerHe is then declared to be knowing and powerful by
His essence (bi-nafsihi). This is how al-Kab arrived at the conclusion that
Gods attributes of essence are those that cannot tolerate their opposite.
For al-Jubb, Gods knowledge was distinguished from that of other agents
in the sense that while they know because of an entitative determinant
(man) of knowledge, God knows because of His essence (li-nafsihi).

81 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 115.


82 This framework has long been acknowledged to have dominated the extant material on
the doctrine of the attributes. See Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm, 25.
83 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:225 [emphasis added].
104 chapter 2

If an object of an act is perfect (mukam), it provides evidence both in the


seen (shhid) and unseen (ghib) world that its agent is knowing (liman)
and powerful (qdiran). In the seen world, the agent is knowing and
powerful with knowledge and power, thus the perfect object of the act is
a proof for both of them [the entities of knowledge and power].
In the unseen world, the knowing and powerful agent is knowing and
powerful because of His essence (li-nafsihi). Thus, [knowing and being
powerful] are proofs for [the existence] of His essence (fa kna dhlika
dallan al dhtih).84

Al-Jishum also accounts for al-Kabs formulation and understanding of the


attribute of essence from this epistemic lens. Just as al-Jishum disapproved of
the Ashar position that a servants understanding of Gods attribute of knowl-
edge is derived from the entitative determinant of knowledge in Him, he also
disapproved of al-Kabs understanding of Gods knowledge as by His essence
(f nafsihi). Instead al-Jishum endorsed Ab Hshims perception of Gods
attribute of knowledge through His state of knowing.

Ab Hshim, and those who followed him, upheld the view that knowl-
edge of His being knowing, powerful, and living is neither derived from
(yataallaq bi) His essence only, nor from an entitative determinant that
is other than Him, but rather it is correlated to His essence in a state (bi
dhtihi al latin) Ab Al [al-Jubb] upheld this position in [some]
instances. However, though he upheld the term l (laf al-l) in his
[work] Jawb al-Khursniyya [Response to the Khursns],85 he men-
tions a divergent term (bi-khilf dhlik) in other instances. Ab l-Qsim
[al-Kab] held that [knowledge of His being knowing, powerful, and liv-
ing] is knowledge by His essence (ilm bi-dhtihi).86

Although al-Jishum did not describe al-Kabs understanding of Gods attri-


butes of essence as those that cannot tolerate their opposite, as al-Nasaf does,
he criticized the epistemic consequences of al-Kabs understanding.87 Holding
that knowledge of Gods attribute of essence is correlated (mutaalliq) to His

84 Ibid.
85 Daniel Gimaret, Matriaux pour une bibliographie des Jubb: note complmentaire, in
Islamic Theology and Philosophy, Studies in Honor of G.F. Hourani, ed. M.E. Marmura
(Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984), 33.
86 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 171b.
87 Ibid., vol. 1, fols. 171b172a.
The Attributes 105

essence amounts to not really knowing anything about God. Al-Jishum


explained that there are two conditions that remain unmet in such a scheme.
First, knowledge of two separate things cannot be identical. Second, specific
and general knowledge are distinct from one another. If knowledge of Gods
essence is tied to (mutaalliq) knowledge of His attributes, then this is the same
as maintaining that knowledge of Gods existence is equal to knowledge of His
attributes. This was unacceptable to al-Jishum because these are two separate
types of knowledge, namely specific versus general knowledge about God.
Al-Jishum thought that al-Kabs formulation of knowledge of the attribute of
the essence did not lead to any specific knowledge about God, other than that
He is an unknowable essence.
Al-Mturd provides a more detailed account of al-Kabs understanding of
the attributes of essence, starting with his account of how an attribute of
essence is different from an attribute of act. An attribute of actas opposed to
an attribute of essenceis characterized by three features. First is its tolerance
of discord, such as the attribute that God is compassionate (ramn), or
sustaining (rziq).88 God could be compassionate in one case and not com-
passionate in another; He could sustain one servant but not another. Both
examples of the attributes of act express discord (ikhtilf), the first spelled out
as discord in state (l), meaning in Gods state, and the second as discord in
relation to the person to whom Gods attribute is directed. Second, an attribute
of act is dominated by Gods power: God could speak in one instance and not in
another. He is not necessarily held to be speaking all the time.89 The third fea-
ture of al-Kabs understanding of the attribute of act is the existence of its
opposite, such as the opposite of the attribute of mercy. The attributes of act are
external to God, they are derived from His power and can be opposed to one
another, discordant with one another.90
Discord is the criterion that defines the attributes of act, while its oppo-
site, harmony, which remains unnamed but implied in this passage, defines
the attributes of essence:

The attribute of act admits (itamala) the possibility of discord with


regard to Gods state (l) and relation to individuals. As in the state-
ment: He blesses so and so (fuln) and He shows mercy in one state
(l) and does not show it in another state. Such is the case of the

88 al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 78.


89 Ibid.
90 Ibid.
106 chapter 2

attribute of speech in its [varying] states and [varying] relations to


individuals.91

Conversely, an attribute of essence is identified first by the impossibility of tol-


erating any discord; second, it could not depend on Gods power (qudra); and
third, it is identified by the fact that its opposite could not exist. Underlying
al-Kabs characterization of the attribute of essence, namely that it could not
include contradictions, is the assumption that having discordant attributes
amounts to implying that there could be discord in God.

This admission of [discord] is not [valid] for the [attributes] of power,


knowledge, and life, for they are attributes of essence. [Each attribute]
which occurs by power (kul m yaqa alayhi al-qudra) is an attribute of
act, such as mercy and speech. The [attribute] which does not occur by
power is an attribute of essence. For example, it is not said: Is He capable
of knowing or not? Then when [al-Kab] is asked regarding the attribute
of essence: Why is it not possible to describe [God] by the contrary of
the attribute of essence. He [al-Kab] would respond: Because it [an
attribute of essence] derives from His essence and His essence is not dis-
cordant (mukhtalif), for [upholding that an attribute of essence is discor-
dant] implies discord (ikhtilf) in God.92

Finally, al-Kab spelled out the principle of the absence of discord as a prin-
ciple of internal necessity that persists for as long as His essence endures.
Since His essence (dht) is not discordant, discord is not possible as long as
His essence (nafs) lasts, just as a thing (shay) is necessary because of a cause
that endures as long as it [a thing] lasts.93 Al-Kab compared the relationship
of the necessity of a thing (shay) to an internal cause, which persists for as
long as that thing exists, to the relationship of lack of discord with Gods
essence. The comparison implied that lack of discord was due to an internal
cause that continues for as long as He exists. While the function of the absence
of discord was explained through this comparison as a necessary internal
cause, it was not identified categorically.
This necessary internal cause first described as absence of discord appears
again in al-Mturds statement of al-Kabs explanation of the attribute of

91 Ibid.
92 Ibid.
93 Ibid. [emphasis added].
The Attributes 107

essence. This time, however, the absence of discord is worded in affirmative


language. It is an internal necessary cause, and attributions are derived from it.

He [God] was named (summiya), in reality (f l-aqqa), knowing (lim),


creating (khliq), and powerful (qdir) by way of verification (f l-taqq).
Thus, God is not defined based on His attributes (fa l wajh li-tarfihi min
aythu wuifa), for the reality of His attributes [and names] is derived
from that in which harmony exists (idh aqqatuhu m tarjiu il m fhi
al-wifq).94

Of course, like other Mutazils, for al-Kab the attributes and names were
words, attribution (waf) or (tasmiya), and not attributes (ifa).95 These attri-
butes, specifically those of essence, derived from that in which harmony
exists (m fhi al-wifq). Just as the absence of discord was not recognized as
a category, though its function was, the same was true in the case of that in
which harmony exists. Indeed, aside from being described as an internal nec-
essary cause, the ontological status of that in which harmony exists cannot
be uncovered from these passages.
Al-Nam and other early Mutazils had already spoken of the attribute of
essence as negating its opposite and affirming the essence of God.96 But none
of their descriptions attest to the mention of necessity when describing the
attribute of essence, and most importantly there was no mention of a principle
of harmony or absence of discord. As for his Basran counterparts, both
al-Jubb and Ab Hshim found fault in al-Kabs formulation of the attri-
butes of essence as by His essence (f nafsihi), and thus could not have favored
his explanations of what it was. With the little information available about the
arguments used by early Mutazils for understanding the attribute of essence,
al-Mturds statement cannot be taken as final evidence for the uniqueness
of al-Kabs use of the notion of an internal necessary cause to define the
attribute of essence.
Notwithstanding that al-Kabs sources remain unknown and that his ter-
minology here must be documented further, what is attributed to al-Kab by

94 Ibid., 79 [emphasis added].


95 Al-Kab held that God has, in reality, no attribute, rather it [what is called the attribute]
is the attribution (waf) of the one making an attribution (wif) or the naming (tasmiya)
of the one who names. These two propositions (amrn) are applicable in the qualification
of the qualifiers whenever they qualify Him with knowledge, power, and action without
any disagreement with regard to attribution (min haythu al-waf) (ibid., 79).
96 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 166167.
108 chapter 2

al-Mturd as a principle of internal necessary cause that consists of inner


harmony is a promising place to follow up with Robert Wisnovskys97 hypoth-
esis on the origins of Ibn Sns (d. 428/1037) concept of the necessary of exis-
tence. In his theory, Wisnovsky argues that Ibn Sns concept of the necessary
of existence (wjib al-wujd) to describe God was the response of the Sunn
mutakallimn to what he calls the specific problems of the attributes, and the
attribute of eternity in particular. He also notes that their response may have
predated Ibn Sn among the Sunn mutakallimn and draws attention to
al-Kab as a possible origin of that response. With this hypothesis, al-Kabs
doctrine on the attributes stands a chance of being among the earliest expres-
sions of philosophical material to resolve kalm-specific problems.
Moreover, the term wifq (harmony) used in al-Kabs definition of the
attribute of essence also requires further investigation. In his discussion of
causality, the philosopher al-Kind used synonyms of the notion of harmony;
specifically he used the term talf (union),98 itidl (equilibrium),99 or
mutansiba (proportion).100 Of course, Ab Zayd al-Balkh, in the lineage of
al-Kinds school, was closely acquainted with al-Kab, and may have exposed
him to sources that in turn may explain al-Kabs use of the notion of harmony
to account for the Mutazil distinction between the attributes of essence and
act. This textual parallelism, though, as striking as it may be, does not, on its
own, establish historical influences.

The Case of the Basran Testimony versus Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd:


Scripture and Gods Names
Al-Kab asserted that scripture is the only source for knowing Gods names.
For al-Kab, this meant that if a name of God could be expressed in two syn-
onyms, the choice of which one is acceptable would be the one grounded in
scripture. In this, al-Kab disagreed with al-Jubb and the Basrans, who
deemed reason alone to be a sufficient source for knowing Gods names.101
Al-Kabs position was not based on a linguistic principle that meanings do

97 Robert Wisnovsky, One Aspect of the Avicennian Turn in Sunn Theology, Arabic
Sciences and Philosophy 14 (2004), 88.
98 Peter Adamson, al-Kind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 172.
99 Ibid., 162.
100 Ibid., 163.
101 Frank, Beings and Their Attributes, 15. For a discussion of al-Jubbs adoption of reason as
sufficient for knowing the attributes, and its influence on Ab Hshims stance that the
origin of language is convention (muwaa) and not revelation (tawqf), see Sophia
Vasalou, Their Intention was Shown by Their Bodily Movements, Journal of the History
of Philosophy 47 (2009): 201221.
The Attributes 109

not exist separately from words, or that a particular meaning could only be
expressed in one word. Rather it was based on the view that Gods names must
only be determined by scripture. Indeed al-Kab upheld the same view of lan-
guage, as known by convention (muwaa), that al-Jubb upheld,102 but he
stopped short of applying this rule to Gods names specifically.

The Baghdadis103 disagreed with him [al-Jubb]they claimed that it is


not permissible to name God, He is exalted and praised, by a name on the
basis of reason, unless God named Himself by it. They claimed that the
meaning of [the attribute] knowing (lim) is equal to being cognizant
(rif), but that we name Him knowing (lim) because He named Himself
by it [this name] and we do not name Him cognizant (rif). Similarly the
meaning of [our] saying [He is] perceiving (fhim) and rational (qil)
means knowing (lim), but we do not name Him by them [by the names
fhim and qil]. Similarly the meaning of He becomes angry (yaghab)
is equal to He becomes resentful (yaght), but the term resentful is not
used [by us]. Similarly, the meanings of eternal (qadm) and ancient
(atq) are equal [but we do not use the name ancient].104

Al-Jishum attributed to some of al-Kabs followers an explanation more


detailed than the general invocation of usage: These followers contended that
there are names of God that contradict reason, such as His being both the
apparent (al-hir) and the hidden (al-bin). There are also names by which
He is glorified, and they too can be known only through scripture.105 For these
followers of al-Kab, the resolution to these instances in which Gods names
contradict reason lay, therefore, in proclaiming complete dependence on
scripture as the only reliable source for knowing Gods names. Al-Jishum sug-
gested an alternative resolution to these two. He reframed the options they
depicted: Not all divine names must be known from scripture just because
some of them can be. Instead, al-Jishum proposed two categories of divine
names, those that are based on scriptural knowledge and those that are known
by both reason and scripture. Unfortunately, given the polemical nature of

102 Al-Jubb held that reason should suffice for knowing a given name of God and that Gods
names could not be known by scriptural postulation (talqb). This is based on al-Jubbs
stance that any given meaning was independent of the word that represented it, with
only human convention tying them together (al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 525).
103 See Table1: 3A1, where this position is identified as al-Kabs.
104 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 525.
105 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 177a.
110 chapter 2

al-Jishums report, al-Kab or his followers potential retort to this view was
never disclosed.
Moreover, al-Kab was accused of inconsistency because he deemed reason
sufficient to rule out what could not be considered divine attributes. He was
also accused of inconsistency when he accepted the Basran linguistic principle
that meaning could be expressed in different words and that meaning was
apprehended through reason, yet he did not apply these two principles to
scripture.106 Al-Kab also shared with the Basrans the principle that language
is known by convention (muwaa), but refrained from applying it in the case
of the divine names. What is framed as inconsistency by al-Jishum only illus-
trates how far al-Kabs scripturalism went: he made exceptions to divine
names over other linguistic matters.

[According to al-Jishum] A name (ism) is an attribution (waf) that con-


veys a meaning (fida), and it [the name] is a realityin so far as its
conveyance of meaning is concerned (huwa aqqa f tilka al-fida)
and this meaning (fida) is valid in its reference to the Eternal, He is
exalted. Thus the use of this term (ibra) to describe God is permissible
(yajz) without [the permission] of scripture (sam). Ab l-Qsim
[al-Kab] held that this [i.e., the ilq of the ibra about God without the
permission of scripture] is not permissible. [Further, al-Kab held that]
whatever [name] bears (itamala) two meanings (manyayn), one cor-
rect and the other false, both meanings require a scriptural authorization
(idhn sam) [by agreement (bi-l-ittifq)].107

Al-Kabs choice of scripture as the source of knowledge of the divine names


was also acknowledged by Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd. But according to
al-Baghdd, al-Kab included the sunna and consensus under the Qurn
(al-kitb).

The Basran claimed that Gods names (asm Allh) are derived from
usage (iil) and analogy (qiys). The consensus of the ahl al-sunna is
that Gods names are derived from revelation (tawqf) and that it is not
possible to name God by a name based on analogy (min jihat al-qiys),
rather He is named by that which appears in the book (al-kitb),

106 Al-Jishum understood that even the names by which God is described in ritual prayers
can also be known by reason.
107 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 176b177a.
The Attributes 111

the correct sunna, or the consensus of the community. Al-Kab


followed them [the ahl al-sunna] in this matter.108

But al-Baghdds claim about the meaning of scripture for al-Kab cannot be
accepted without contradicting what is known about the limits of al-Kabs
toleration of consensus and the sunna, and the limits he put on the Qurn as
the basis for theological knowledge.109 Furthermore, al-Mufd, who associ-
ated the majority of Baghdadis with other groups (such as the Zayds, Murjis,
and the ahl al-adth), gives no details on what scripture meant for the
Baghdadis when they accepted scripture as a source for knowing the attri-
butes.110 Al-Kabs scripturalism, as attested by al-Jishum and the Maqlt
al-islmiyyn, invites parallels between him and the ahl al-sunna. But
al-Baghdds claim that al-Kabs position on scripture for knowing Gods
names is equal to that of the ahl al-sunna is ultimately misleading, as it entails
many contradictions of al-Kabs theological commitments that are known to
us with certainty.

The Case of the Late Ashar Testimony


As we already established, late Ashar sources document spurious recensions
of al-Kabs understanding of the meaning of the attributes of hearing and
seeing on the one hand and the meaning of the attribute of volition on the
other. These same recensions, however, include otherwise valid arguments
from al-Kabs epistemology and cosmology that warrant close examination.

Gods Hearing and Seeing


Al-Shahrastn claims that al-Kab argued for the position that the attributes
of hearing and seeing are not separate from Gods knowledge; he argued this,
initially at least, on the basis of the Ashar principle of the applicability of the
seen world (shhid) on the unseen world (ghib). On the basis of this princi-
ple, al-Kab was said to have proven that hearing and seeing are not separate
from knowing in the seen world (shhid), and therefore not separate from one
another in the case of God as well.111 First al-Kab had to establish that humans
do not really hear and see the objects of knowledge because the objects of
knowledge can only be known with reason and the heart.

108 al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 115116 [emphasis added].


109 al-Kab, Qabl al-akhbr, 1:17; El Omari, Accommodation and Resistance.
110 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 13.
111 al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 343.
112 chapter 2

A human being finds in himself (yajiduhu min nafsihi) his perception of


the objects of hearing and seeing with his heart and reason. But a [human
beings] sight does not sense the object of sight rather he senses (yuissu)
the object of hearing, but not the ear.112

For al-Kab, the ears and eyes were only media (wasi) that mediated the
production of objects of knowledge; they did not apprehend the end result of
their toil. Their productswhat al-Kab refers to as the objects of seeing and
hearingare seated in the heart and in reason. This description of knowledge
implies that both a final seat and a medium of production are required, and
that these two are distinct from one other.
Once he had established the distinction between the medium and the seat for
the production of knowledge, al-Kab provided a more specific account of the
mechanism of human knowledge, in order to preface its distinction from divine
knowledge. A human being is in need of the specific medium of hearing and see-
ing to attain the object of knowledge, even when that object can only be appre-
hended by reason and the heart. Because knowledge is not realized (yaulu
lahu) for the human being except by means of his sight, the latter was labeled a
[separate] sense (ssa). Otherwise, the perceiver (al-mudrik) is the knower
(al-lim) and his perception is not additional to his knowledge.113 Just as hearing
and seeing are media (wasi) for attaining knowledge, there are also other
media for attaining knowledge. These media do not, however, affect the quality of
knowledge, which a knowing person would find in himself (yajiduhu f nafsihi).

The proof for this [that different media of knowledge do not affect the
final result of knowledge] is that whoever knows something by means of
a report then sees it with the eyes discovers a differentiation (tafriqa)
between the two states [yielded by the two media of knowledge]. Except
that this differentiation is not one of class (jins) or species (naw) but
rather one between the general (jumla) and the specific (tafl), univer-
sality (umm) and particularity (khu), and the absolute (ilq) and
concrete particular (tayn). Otherwise the state of the soul (nafs) is iden-
tical in both cases (latayn).114

Knowledge remains the same even when the medium is different; it consists of
the same class (jins) or species (naw) regardless of its medium. There are,

112 Ibid.
113 Ibid.
114 Ibid.
The Attributes 113

however, quantitative differences in knowledge generated by differing media.


These non-qualitative differences pertain to the order of the general versus the
specific. An example of this is transmitted knowledge yielded by a report: this
was deemed equal to knowledge yielded by other media in what pertained to
class, but not in what pertained to the general and the specific.115
Al-Shahrastn noted another of al-Kabs arguments in support of the
independence of the object of knowledge from the medium of hearing and
seeing. Al-Kab argued that if objects of hearing and seeing result from the
existence of hearing and seeing as independent attributes, an illogical result
would ensue. This illogical result would be that each time a person knows
somethingin other words each time knowledge is producedwhat was
simply an instrument of this knowledge would have to be produced along with
the knowledge itself. Because the medium of the production of an object of
knowledge was not always present with its object, al-Kab concluded that
hearing and seeing did not really exist; they were just media of knowledge.

[Al-Kab added] that should the perceiver perceive with perception [i.e.,
not with knowledge as al-Kab upheld] a musical instrument being
played, freely moving animals, drummed drums, and blown (tunfakh)
images would have to be present by means of an intact sense (al-ssa
al-salma) in the perceiver, but [we know that] he [the perceiver] does
not see them or hear them, for God did not create these perceptions for
him. In the same way, [should the perceiver perceive with perception],
it would have been possible [for the perceiver] to see a person in the dis-
tance and not see someone who is close because the perception of
distance was created for him while [the creation of the close person] was
not. We already know by necessity (alimn arratan) that the truth of
the matter (amr) is contrary to this [hypothesis].116

This passage invokes the idea that knowledge can be attained by different
means, and this supports al-Kabs position that Gods hearing and seeing are
means of knowledge, and not separate attributes. Moreover, this view that
knowledge can be attained by different means is a central tenet of al-Kabs
epistemology, and led him to tolerate imitation (taqld) as a means for attain-
ing knowledge.117

115 Ibid.
116 Ibid., 344.
117 See Chapter 4.
114 chapter 2

Divine Volition
Al-Kab adopted al-Nams view that God has no volition in reality, that His
volition means His act and His command of His servants act. Yet, the premise
that Gods volition is His knowledge (and is sometimes described as from eter-
nity) is a late addition and thus a late Ashar reception and interpretation of
al-Kabs original article.
Al-Shahrastn argued against this alleged position of al-Kab as follows:
Since al-Kab and al-Nam conceded that volition was a class of accidents
(jins min al-ar) based on the specification (ikhti) of one act in distinction
from another in the seen world (f l-shhid), the same distinction should follow
for the unseen world (al-ghib).118 Al-Kab hypothetically responded by
explaining that volition is necessary for humans because of the limitations of
human knowledge and power. This is how al-Kab is cited as describing the
function of volition in the human agent.

In the seen world (shhid) specification (ihkti) is proof for [the exis-
tence of] volition because the agents (fil) knowledge neither encom-
passes all the aspects (wujh) of the act, nor the objects that are unseen,
nor the time (waqt) and amount (miqdr), hence he [the agent] is in
need of intent (qad) and determination (azm) in order to specify [the
choice of] one time (waqt) rather than another, and [one] amount
(miqdr) rather than another.119

The elements that are necessary for the realization of an act by a human agent
are specification, intent, determination, and the choice of one moment in
time. These same elements have no place for an act of God. This is because His
knowledge and power renders these faculties unnecessary.

The Maker (bri), He is exalted, is knowledgeable of the unseen [worlds]


(ghuyb), overseeing (muali) their secrets, and characteristics (akmih)
such that His knowledge of them [the ghuyb and their secrets] is satisfac-
tory; it [i.e., His knowledge] makes volition and intent (qad) for specifica-
tion (takh) unnecessary. [This is so] because He knows that every
accident is specified with (yakhtau) time, form, and power (qudra), and
that only what He knows exists. So what need does He have [i.e., He has no

118 This is based on the Ashar principle guiding the relationship between the world of the
seen (shhid) and the world of the unseen (ghib) (al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat
al-iqdm, 239).
119 Ibid.
The Attributes 115

need] for intent (qad) and volition...120 Thus it is established (taayyana)


that the Eternals volition, He is exalted, has no meaning except His
being knowing, powerful, and being an agent ( filan).121

The first assumption of al-Kabs argument in favor of this position is that voli-
tion in the seen world requires intent for specification. The second assumption
is that Gods knowledge, by its very nature, makes this intent superfluous, since
His knowledge already includes specification of time, form, and power. The
premise of the argument rests on the proposition that what God knows exists
by necessity. But how this assumption was justified and what its implications
were for al-Kabs corollary view that Gods volition is His knowledge, power,
and act remain open questions.
Al-Shahrastn pointed to al-Kabs cosmology as the reason for his stance
on the attribute of volition. When al-Shahrastn repudiated the broadly held
Mutazil position on the attributes, he accused al-Kab of following the propo-
nents of the doctrine of nature and of denying Gods freedom of choice: There
is no reason to deny volition as al-Kab did. He deemed it necessary (li-annahu
yjib) for the compulsory acts (al-afl ghayr [al-]ikhtiyriyya) to be similar
(shabha) to natural acts (al-afl al-abiyya) according to the proponents of
the doctrine of nature (ahl al-abi).122
Al-Shahrastn does not, however, explain how al-Kabs doctrine of nature
influenced his conception of compulsory actions. This absence of explanation
does not necessarily imply that al-Shahrastn was merely alluding to the doc-
trine of nature with polemical intent. Indeed, when al-Mturd spoke of
al-Kabs position on Gods choice in His act as equal to what is naturally deter-
mined (mab) even he alluded to the influence of the doctrine of nature.
Al-Mturds discussion, however, remains brief and requires further elucida-
tion before it can be taken as corroborating evidence for al-Shahrastns
statement.123


Al-Kab maintained the earlier Mutazil distinction between the attributes of
essence and act. Unlike al-Jubb and, to a degree like al-Nam, he saw

120 The text that records this additional argument attributed to al-Kab contains many cor-
ruptions and is not fully legible (ibid., 240).
121 Ibid. [emphasis added].
122 Ibid., 245.
123 Gods acts are by choice because the acts of whatever is naturally disposed (mab) are
one species (naw) only (al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 92).
116 chapter 2

scripture as the only source by which to identify the attributes of God. Following
al-Iskf, he understood Gods hearing and seeing, sometimes described as His
perception, to be His knowledge. Following al-Nam, he deemed Gods voli-
tion to be nothing other than His own act and His command of His servants
acts. Al-Kabs continuation of earlier views on the attributes, views that his
Basran counterparts rejected, is evidenced in the case of the scriptural basis of
knowing the attributes, and the formulation of the attribute of essence as by
His essence (bi- or f nafsihi) rather than because of His essence (li-nafsihi) as
al-Jubb thought.
One historiographical question, with historical implications, emerges from
these conclusions. Why do the sources single out al-Kab so emphatically for
doctrines that he did not originate? Do sources associate him with these doc-
trines only because it is convenient: he was the latest representative of these
earlier views? Or did he utilize a new methodology with which he reformulated
them. Based on the evidence examined here I cannot offer a conclusive answer
to these questions. In the case of his definition of the attribute of essence, the
likelihood that it was based on his particular ontology is credible but not con-
clusive. The evidence for his definition of the attribute of essence is found in
al-Mturds work. Although there is nothing to contradict this evidence, fur-
ther perspective is needed to contextualize it. Furthermore, al-Shahrastn
noted the role of al-Kabs epistemology in support of his equating the attri-
butes of hearing and seeing with the attribute of knowledge. Al-Shahrastn
also recounted arguments derived from al-Kabs cosmology and epistemology
in support of the latters understanding of divine volition. The problem with
al-Shahrastns statement in the case of the attributes of hearing and seeing is
that it is combined with the allegation that al-Kab initiated this view, when it
was originated by al-Iskf. As for al-Shahrastns statement about al-Kabs
reasoning on the attribute of volition, it is harder to accept this without reser-
vation because it is tied to an element that is not corroborated by the majority
of the sources. This uncorroborated element is the claim that al-Kab under-
stood divine volition to be divine knowledge, a claim that was prevalent in late
Ashar sources and Sunn biographical dictionaries as well.
Thus, while al-Kab did not innovate in his formulation of the doctrines of the
attributes, there is preliminary yet significant evidence that he sought to refine
these earlier positions with advances he made in cosmology and epistemology.
chapter 3

Justice

The Mutazils principle of divine justice (adl), which they ranked second,
after the principle of unity (tawd),1 shaped the scope of their theology and
resulted in inquiries which came to be known as the sciences of justice (ulm
al-adl).2 These sciences were the theological outcome of the Mutazils postu-
lation of God as a just agent in a world that He created.3 The Mutazil principle
of justice is founded on the belief that universal moral principles exist as
objective realities, and that they are known to man intuitively.4 It was to this
principle that the Ashars strongly objected, since for them ethical values had
no real objective existence, and the only foundation for ethical value was that
of Gods arbitrary will.5 Two points about the Mutazils objective moral
principles are, however, worth noting from the outset. The first is that these
principles describe the acts of agents in the world, agents who are externally
oriented, and interacting with other agents; these principles do not describe

1 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 37a38a; Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 141142.
2 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 133, 151, 201.
3 For summaries of the large range of topics related to the principle of justice, see for example,
Mnkdm, al-Talq, 299606; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 2, fols. 183b191a.
4 Richard Frank spoke of intuitive knowledge to express the knowledge of good and evil that is
conveyed to man when his mind is mature (kaml al-uql) see Moral Obligation in Classical
Muslim Theology, Journal of Religious Ethics 11 (1983), 205206. On the objective moral prin-
ciples, see also Frank, Several Fundamental Assumptions of the Basra School of the Mutazila,
Studia Islamica 33 (1971), 57, 13; Reason and Revealed Law: A Sample of Parallels and
Divergences in Kalm and Falsafa, in Recherches dIslamologie: recueil darticles offert
Georges C. Anawati et Louis Gardet (Leuven: Peeters, 1978), 125 and the earlier discussions of
this question by George Vajda: De LUniversalit de la loi morale selon Yusf al-Bar, Revue
des tudes juives 128 (1969), 176. The foundation of Basran ethics in their ontology was further
clarified by Richard M. Frank, Can God Do What Is Wrong? in Divine Omniscience and
Omnipotence in Medieval Philosophy, ed. Tamar Rudavsky (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1985), 6979. For
a discussion of the Mutazil ontology of acts, see also Reinhardt, Before Revelation, 138160.
The Mutazil conception of divine justice and its ethical foundation received lengthy treat-
ment by George Hourani, Islamic Rationalism: The Ethics of Abd al-Jabbr (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1971); and The Rationalist Ethics of Abd al-Jabbr, in Reason and Tradition in Islamic
Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 105115. For an analytical treatment of
the Basran theory of justice, see Sophia Vasalou, Moral Agents.
5 See for example, Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 139148; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 745;
al-Shahrastn, Kitb Nihyat al-iqdm, 370373; and al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd, 258.

koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 6|doi 10.1163/9789004259683_008


118 chapter 3

the essences of agents and how they relate to themselves.6 So to assess whether
an agent is good or evil is to assess the quality of his acts, often in relation to
other agents. The second point is that these objective moral principles apply
to all agentsto man and to God.7
Therefore, when the Mutazils explained their principle of what it means
for God to be just, they named the predicates of His acts. These predicates were
summed up in three tenets: God is an agent whose acts are all good (afluhu
kulluh asana); who does not do evil (l yafal al-qab); and does not fail to
do (l yukhillu bi) what is obligatory (wjib) upon Him.8 To understand the
origin of these three tenets, we must turn to the most basic statement of the
Mutazil principle of divine justice: the proclamation that God is an agent who
does not do evil and only does what is good.9 First, this postulation of Gods
agency must account for His being a creator-agent, and most importantly,
a creator of agents upon whom He imposes moral obligations; it must also
account for the consequences of this imposition. Gods imposition of moral
obligation (taklf) was understood to be a good act. The Mutazils deemed it
to be a good act because, by imposing moral obligations, God exposes man to
the possibility of attaining reward. Without taklf, man does not have the pos-
sibility of reward.10 Although Gods imposition of moral obligation is good
because of this exposure to reward, for the majority of the Mutazils, the impo-
sition was not obligatory upon God, rather it was only a favor (tafaul; see
below on this category of good acts) on His part.11 Inherent in taklf is a power
asymmetry, with one agentGodwilling and demanding hardship from
another; it therefore followed that it could only be imposed by God and no
other agent.12

6 Frank, Several Fundamental Assumptions, 18.


7 Frank, Moral Obligation, 206207. Reason remains the source for knowing the objective
moral universal principles, but for matters related to the fulfillment of legal obligations,
revelation would have to be consulted. Frank, Reason and Revealed Law, 127129.
8 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 133, 301.
9 Khulat al-naar: An Anonymous Imm-Mutazil Treatise (late 6th/12th or early 7th/13th
century), ed. Sabine Schmidtke and Hasan Ansari (Tehran: Iranian Institute of Philosophy
and Institute of Islamic Studies, 2006), 73; Mnkdm, al-Talq, 133, 301.
10 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 509510; Khulat al-naar, 88; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Taklf, ed.
Muammad Al l-Najjr and Abd al-alm al-Najjr (Cairo, 1965), 11:134138; Ibn
Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 2:193198; al-Zamakhshar, al-Minhj f ul al-dn, 64.
11 Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 2:170.
12 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Taklf, 11:293; Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 201; Ibn
Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 2:191.
Justice 119

Once the Mutazils established that taklf was chosen by God as a favor,
they deemed it obligatory upon God to give man tamkn, which is Gods
empowering man with the capacity to fulfill that obligation.13 If He did not do
this, God would be imposing what was not bearable (taklf m l yuq), an
evil that God would not permit. God could not punish His servants if He had
not provided them with the capacity to pursue the acts He requires and abstain
from the acts He prohibits. This capacity is imparted by God when He provided
man with the capacity for action, volition, knowledge, perception, and life,
qualities that should enable him to fulfill the requirements of taklf.14 God only
provides man with the capacity to freely earn reward or punishment; He does
not create mans acts. What is fulfilled through this empowerment is mans
freedom to pursue reward and avoid punishment.15 The Mutazils affirmed
mans capacity to originate his own acts, otherwise Gods justice could not be
maintained; in this they differed from the determinists, including al-Ashar
and his followers, who denied free will.16
But in addition to tamkn, the Mutazils deemed it obligatory upon God to
dispense luf (henceforth incentive) to facilitate mans choice to perform acts
that allow him to fulfill his moral obligations (taklf).17 Luf is, therefore, that by
which the choice of an act occurs, or is more likely to occur (ma yad il fil
al-a al wajh yaqau ikhityruh indahu aw yaknu awl an yaqa).18 Incentive
prompts choice, but is not part of the capacity for choice which is already
bestowed on man through tamkn;19 it is in addition (zidan) to tamkn.20 Ibn
Mattawayh clarifies the difference between tamkn and luf: [One is] that

13 al-Zamakhshar, al-Minhj f ul al-dn, 6465; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Taklf, 11:292;


Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 2:268271.
14 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Taklf, 11:309310; Mnkdm, al-Talq, 390.
15 In Basran Mutazil manuals the discussion of mans capacity for action and the qualities
of moral responsibility extended to larger questions of the definition of a human being;
see for example, Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Taklf, 11:310367; Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb
al-Majm, 2:241258; Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 225228; and on epistemology, Abd
al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Taklf, 11:371387; and Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 1:1725.
16 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 162167. On the Ashars view of Gods creation of human
acts, see al-Ashar, Kitb al-Luma, 7074; and Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 90107. On
al-Ashars view that God can burden man with what he cannot take, see al-Ashar, Kitb
al-Luma, 6869. On al-Mturds critique of the determinists views that God creates
human acts, see al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 357365.
17 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 519; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Luf, ed. Ab l-Al l-Aff (Cairo,
1962), 13:4; Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 251.
18 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Luf, 13:9; al-Zamakhshar, al-Minhj f ul al-dn, 67.
19 Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 2:328329, 360.
20 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 251.
120 chapter 3

without which an act cannot be valid (yai) and it is called tamkn, and the
other is that at [the presence of] which choice occurs and without which choice
would not be valid and it is called luf.21 The question then arises as to why
incentive should be obligatory when tamkn already guarantees that Gods cre-
ation of man as a morally responsible agent is not evil, that God is not burden-
ing man with anything he could not bear (taklf m l yuq). The answer lies in
the theodicean reasoning underlining the Mutazil view of divine justice: God
not only does what is good and refrains from doing evil, He also does the opti-
mum (al-ala) for His servant by allowing him to fulfill his moral obligation.22
Through His incentive, He realizes the optimum, though an optimum that is
restricted to the servants fulfillment of his moral obligation. This restricted
optimum was a central component of the majority of the Mutazils definition
of divine justice, which was consolidated and expanded upon by the classical
Basran Mutazils.23
An earlier Mutazil understanding of justice existed, however. It advocated
the optimum without restriction.24 This doctrine of the optimum (al-ala),
whose proponents were known as ab al-ala, flourished among some
early Mutazils, but later receded to an archaic form of the Mutazil doctrine
of justice. By the generation of al-Kab the proponents of the optimum
(ab al-ala) held a minority position and, as I demonstrate later in this
chapter, al-Kab became their last champion and advocated their doctrine
with elements characteristic of his theology. While al-Kabs deliberations on
the broader articles of justice deserve attention (see Appendix1.1), I cannot
give them a fair treatment here, given the highly fragmentary form in which
they survive today. Our discussion of al-Kabs doctrine of justice, therefore,
focuses on the topics of (1) the principles for distinguishing good from evil acts;
(2) Gods capacity for doing evil; and mostly (3) the optimum (al-ala).

21 Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 2:328329. On the influence of incentive (luf ) in choice
versus the capacity for choice, see al-Mughn: al-Luf, 13:93. Luf can originate from God as
well as from another human being, see Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 256; Abd al-Jabbr,
al-Mughn: al-Luf, 13:27.
22 al-Zamakhshar, al-Minhj f ul al-dn, 67; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Luf, 13:20.
23 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Luf, 13:7, al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 247248.
24 On the ala, see Robert Brunschvig, Mutazilisme et Optimum (al-ala), Studia
Islamica 39 (1974): 523. For discussions of theodicy in Mutazil thought and Islamic the-
ology, see Sherman Jackson, Islam and the Problem of Black Suffering (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2009). Also on theodicy beyond the Mutazil context, see Eric L. Ormsby,
Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute over al-Ghazls Best of All Possible Worlds
(Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 1984); and Jon Hoover, Ibn Taymiyyas Theodicy
of Perpetual Optimism (Leiden: Brill, 2007).
Justice 121

Al-Kabs subscription to the doctrine of the optimum was central to his


theology, and we can quickly attest to this before its details are investigated. In
his biographical entry on al-Kab, al-Jishum singled out al-Kabs champion-
ship of the doctrine of the optimum to the exclusion of any of his other theo-
logical contributions.25 Although the titles of several lost works dealing with
the topic of divine justice are attributed to theologians among al-Kabs prede-
cessors, none of these titles seems to deal solely with the topic of the optimum,
as the term al-ala does not feature in them,26 whereas one of the extant titles
of al-Kabs lost works specifically deals with the optimum: the Kitb al-Nihya
f l-ala al Ab Al (The last refutation of Ab Al [al-Jubb] on the subject
of the optimum).27 Moreover this title dealing with the optimum suggests that
al-Kab wrote an earlier refutation of al-Jubb on this topic. Indeed Abd
al-Jabbr notes that al-Kab penned more than one work on the topic of the
optimum.28 Al-Kabs work against al-Jubb was then refuted by a disciple of
al-Jubb by the name of Ab Abdallh al-aymar. Earlier in his career,
al-aymar had studied under al-Khayy, al-Kab, and Abbd b. Sulaymn,29
who also had the nisba of al-aymar and who also espoused the optimum.30
Indeed if we take the testimony of late Ashar sources seriously, we find that
debates on the optimum were one of the defining topics of al-Kabs genera-
tion: It was chosen as the core theme for the famous apocryphal tale about Ab

25 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 68a.


26 Among the generations preceeding al-Kab and al-Jubb, we do not find individual titles
treating only the optimum, but we do find others related to this topic. Among al-Kabs
predecessors in the Baghdadi school, we find a work on pain attributed to al-Iskf, Kitb
Ibl qawl man qla bi-tadhb al-afl (van Ess, Theologie, 6:301; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-
Fihrist, 213). There is a title attributed to Ab l-Hudhayl: Kitab ifat Allh bi-l-adl wa-nafy
al-qab (van Ess, Theologie, 5:367; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 204), and Kitb al man
qla bi-tadhb al-afl (van Ess, Theologie, 5:368; Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 204).
A work entitled Kitb al-Luf is attributed to al-Murdr (van Ess, Theologie, 5:331).
27 See Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 219; al-Dwd, abaqt al-mufassirn, 1:223; and Daniel
Gimaret, Matriaux pour une bibliographie des ubb, Journal Asiatique 264 (1976),
281282.
28 In his description of a particular counter-argument al-Kab uses for the optimum
(al-ala), Abd al-Jabbr states that al-Kab employed it in his books on the optimum
( f kutubihi al l-ala) (Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:61).
29 Abbd b. Sulaymn was a student of Hishm al-Fuwa (d. before 230/845), van Ess,
Theologie, 4:115. Al-Fuwa was a disciple of al-Nam, with views independent of both
Basran and Baghdadi figures.
30 See al-aymars work refuting al-Kab on the optimum (Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist,
219; Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 309). See also the list of al-Kabs works in Part 1 of the
present book.
122 chapter 3

l-asan al-Ashar leaving the circle of his teacher al-Jubb in order to start his
version of Sunn kalm.31 Moreover, at least one of al-Kabs debates with
Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rz was centered on this topic as well.32

An Overview of the Basran Ontology of Acts

The Basran restricted optimum was in no small measure a response to and a


refinement of the earlier doctrine of the optimum. This becomes evident from

31 Rosalind W. Gwynne, Al-Jubb, al-Ashar, and the Three Brothers: The Uses of Fiction,
Muslim World 75 (1985): 132161. Gywnne traces the development of the apocryphal story
about al-Ashars conversion in Ashar writings. She identifies Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz as the
first to note the story of the three brothers as the starting point of al-Ashars conversion,
but shows that the lines of debate had already been noted by Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd.
The apocryphal story states that al-Ashar left the circle of al-Jubb when the latter fell
short of providing convincing answers to his questions about Gods justice with regard to
the unequal lot of three brothers: one dies as a child and never attains the rewards that are
possible for an adult; the second one grows to become an unbeliever and is punished in
hellfire; and the third grows to become a believing adult and finds reward in heaven. When
al-Ashar asks the questions about why God did not allow the first brother to grow into
adulthood and reach the highest reward attained by the third brother, al-Jubb is said to
have responded that if he had grown into adulthood he would have become an unbeliever,
and God wished to spare him that fate because of His justice. But then al-Ashar is sup-
posed to have asked about the second brother, who grew up to become an unbeliever; why
did he not die as a child. Al-Jubb was caught without an answer, signaling the inade-
quacy of the Mutazil explanation and understanding of Gods justice that God does the
best for His servants. Al-Ashar then reached the conclusion that servants are not allotted
equal chances of reward in heaven, and that Gods acts are not bound by any criteria exter-
nal to His will. The summary provided here is based on a version noted by Au al-Dn
al-j (d. 756/1355), see Gwynne, Al-Jubb, al-Ashar, and the Three Brothers, 146147. As
discussed in Chapter 1, early Ashar sources are characterized by the blurring of the his-
torical distinction between the restricted optimum and the doctrine of the optimum.
Later Ashar sources target the optimum, rather than the restricted optimum in their
charge against Mutazil ethical subjectivism. See Shihadeh, Teleological Ethics, 85.
Moreover, it should be mentioned here that, in line with kalm polemical practices, ver-
sions of the three brothers storywithout the Ashar conversion storyexisted in the
treatment of the question of the optimum in Mutazil sources, as this was a productive
format for exploring the various options and forms of the optimum, namely the restricted
optimum versus the optimum. See, for example, al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-ra, fol. 28b.
32 al-Rz, al-Malib al-liya, 3:318319. On al-Rzs use of Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rzs
arguments against al-Kab on the optimum for the purpose of perfecting his own argu-
ments against the optimum, see Shihadeh, Teleological Ethics, 102103.
Justice 123

an examination of the details of the Basrans efforts to refute it. The fourteenth
volume of Abd al-Jabbrs Mughn includes a large section on the topic of the
optimum. It documents the arguments that al-Jubb and Ab Hshim leveled
against al-Kab in this regard, in which al-Jubb labeled al-Kab an unbe-
liever because of the arguments that he developed to justify the validity of the
optimum.33
Mutazil sources tell us that the doctrine of justice with its restricted opti-
mum was the dominant Mutazil position.34 Even according to the testimony
of al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn, the restricted optimum statements affirm
Gods capacity for the varieties (amthl) of the incentive that He bestows,
with the further stipulation that He does not withhold any incentive that
would allow His servants to fulfill their moral obligation (taklf ).35 Indeed there
is no reason to doubt that the documented majority position was that of the
restricted optimum when there is no evidence to challenge this assumption.
Let it be noted, however, that the earliest Mutazil identified as supporting this
majority position was al-Jubb.36 And, al-Jubbs version of the restricted
optimum differed in one minor way from the dominant Bahsham school.
Al-Jubb maintained that although God provides the optimum through His
incentive that is necessary for His servants to fulfill their moral obligation, He
does not provide the absolute optimum that would allow His servants to reach
the highest possible degree of reward. In other words, according to al-Jubb,
God is only obligated to dispense enough incentive for the servants to be saved,
but not to reach the highest reward.37 Ab Hshim and his followers maintained

33 Al-Jubb objected to the reasoning behind al-Kabs conception of the optimum as the
optimum of the many, and claimed that this conception leads to unbelief (Abd al-Jabbr,
al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:140). For a full discussion of this see below.
34 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 132134.
35 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 574.
36 Ibid., 574575.
37 Ibid., 575: [al-Jubb held that] the Eternal (al-qadm) can be described as capable of
(bi-l-qudra al) meting out (yafal bi) additional reward for His servants with respect to
rank, [that is, meting out] more than what He had already meted out ( faalahu bihim).
[This is so] because had He kept [His servant] alive for longer than He did, he [the ser-
vant] would have accrued more acts of obedience [in addition] to the acts of obedience
he already had [accrued], thereby rendering his reward greater than the reward he had
gained at the moment God decreed his death. As for [the incentive] that would facilitate
the [servants] realization of belief (mn) and moral obligation (istil al-taklf ), it can-
not be said that He is capable of meting out less than what He had meted out for them
[His servants].
124 chapter 3

that God is obligated to dispense incentive that would allow them to reach the
highest reward (see Appendix1.1).38
The ethical vocabulary of the Basran sources, which document both the
majority Mutazil view on justice outlined above and the optimum espoused
by al-Kab to which they objected, was based on their ontology of acts. We
have already seen that when the Mutazils defined the ethical categories of
good and evil, they qualified the acts of the agents, including God.39
The Basrans understood acts to be contingent entities (dhawt or ashy)
originating from an agent with the capacity to act. Like all entities, acts have
attributes. Every act, be it human or divine, can have several attributes. These
attributes were understood to derive either from the essence of the act or from
its class ( jins), or from its mode of occurrence (wajh wuqihi).40 Ethical attri-
butes of acts were deemed to derive from modes of occurrence. Thus, the
mode of occurrence for a good act was deemed to deserve praise (istiqq
al-mad) and the mode of occurrence for an evil act was to deserve blame
(istiqq al-dhamm). Obligation as an attribute of an act was also understood
to derive from a mode of occurrence.41 Basrans designated the mode of occur-
rence from which the attribute of obligation is derived to be to deserve blame.
Thus, should God not do an act that would have allowed His servant to fulfill
the moral obligation He placed on him, He would deserve blame.42
For the Basrans and the majority of Mutazils, only Gods acts that are
incentives, that lead to the restricted optimum, were deemed obligatory upon
Him. Indeed, according to this majoritarian Mutazil doctrine of justice, the
optimum is not obligatory upon God. Because if God did not do the optimum,
He would not deserve blame. In other words, the Basran explanation of the
falsehood of the optimum stance consisted mainly of denying that obligation
is a mode of occurrence for the optimum as an attribute of act. Gods favor
(tafaul) is also an attribute of act that is not obligatory upon God; this
means that if God bestows it, He would be deserving of praise, and if He does
not bestow it, He would not be deserving of blame. Examples of such acts are
the beginning of creation, and, as noted earlier, the imposition of moral obliga-
tion. As for the attribute of futility (abath), it cannot apply to Gods acts
because it has no mode of occurrence whatsoever.43

38 Ibid., 574.
39 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:13; and Mnkdm, al-Talq, 133134.
40 Richard Frank, Moral Obligation, 205206; and Mnkdm, al-Talq, 309.
41 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:53.
42 Ibid.
43 Ibid.
Justice 125

Just to clarify, a mode of occurrence must be rational (wajh maql),44 but it is


not an indication (dall) of the attribute of the act but rather a cause (illa) of it.

It is befitting for an indication (dall) to unravel ( yakshif) the state of the


object of indication (madll) but not to cause it to be what it is
(yuayyiruhu). This is why we have distinguished between an indication
and a cause (illa) in a knowing person (lim). So we [Abd al-Jabbr]
stated that the indication for his [the knowing person being] knowing is
other than the cause that necessitates (al-mjiba) his [being] knowing.45

So the mode of occurrence of an act that is obligatory is not an indication that


it is obligatory but a cause of it being obligatory. Therefore, a mode of occur-
rence is an ontological component of the attribute of obligation and not an
external indication for apprehending it.
Abd al-Jabbr made an additional distinction for classifying the modes of
occurences for obligatory acts (ar wujh al-wjibt). He differentiated
between acts that are related to the agent with regard to what is specific to
the agent himself, and those acts that are related to the agent with regard to the
rights of other agents. Abd al-Jabbr deemed the second kind of acts to be
excluded from characterizing the mode of occurrence of an attribute of act
that is the optimum: it cannot be argued that an act was the optimum based on
a mode of occurrence defined in relation to other agents. This is the reason for
rejecting the argument of the proponents of the optimum, that an act was the
optimum because it was pure benefit for others while its agent is not harmed
by it and does not benefit if he withheld it; that is, because its mode of occur-
rence was defined in relation to other agents.46 The invocation of a falsehood
in the definition of the mode of occurrence of the optimum became central for
many of the arguments that the Basrans leveled against al-Kabs advocacy for
Gods creation of the optimum as a tenet of His justice.

Early Mutazil Views on Divine Justice

Bishr b. al-Mutamir stood out for his unusual conceptualization of divine


incentive, which he presented as a specifically delineated doctrine. His doctrine
of divine incentive put Bishr and those who followed him on this (known as the

44 Ibid., 14:22.
45 Ibid.
46 Ibid., 14:24.
126 chapter 3

proponents of divine incentive, ab al-luf ) at odds with Mutazils, propo-


nents of the optimum and the restricted-optimum alike.47 Bishrs doctrine of
the incentive had two components. The first was the postulation that God pos-
sesses an incentive which, if He were to bestow upon His servants, they would
become believers, and the reward of these servants would be equal to those
who believe without this incentive.48 But he addedand this is the second pos-
tulationthat there is no obligation on God to mete out the incentive in His
possession because God is only obligated to make His servants capable of fulfill-
ing their moral obligations.49 The statements of most non-Basran sources (the
exception being al-Kabs own testimony as a heresiographer, on which see
below), concur in the formulation of the second component in the doctrine,
that is, in the view that Bishr did not deny the obligation of incentive altogether,
but maintained it exclusively to allow the fulfillment of moral obligations.

God, the exalted and glorified, possesses an incentive (luf ) which if He


were to bestow upon whomever He knows to be unbelieving, he would
become a believer. God is not obligated to bestow this incentive. Should
He, the exalted, bestow this incentive, such that they [those who were
unbelievers] would become believers because of it (indahu), then they
would be as deserving of reward for their beliefthat they acquired with
the presence of incentiveas they would be if they had believed without
it [the incentive]. God, the exalted, is not obligated to do the best of things
(ala al-ashy), indeed that is impossible (ml) for there is neither
end (ghya) nor limit (nihya) to the good (al) of which He is capa-
ble. He is only obligated to bestow upon them ( yafal bihim) the optimum
(al-ala) for them in their religion and remove the ills [hindering] what
they need to accomplish and what they were obligated to do.50

47 van Ess, Theologie, 3:121126.


48 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 246, 573574.
49 This second tenet of Bishrs luf is noted in all available sources, with the exception of
al-Khayys Kitb al-Intir: Bishr used to claim that God possesses a luf which if He
were to bestow on (at bihi) unbelievers, they would believe by choice with a belief that
would make them deserve eternal reward in the heavens of bliss, but He does not bestow
this luf [on them], al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir, 5253. Its omission should be considered
in the context of Kitb al-Intirs main aim, which was to thwart the virulent attacks of
Ibn al-Rwand that often led al-Khayy to understate significant differences among the
Mutazils. This characteristic of Kitb al-Intiar has been highlighted by Pretzl in the con-
text of Kitb al-Intir as a source on al-Nam, see Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 13.
50 The most detailed of the non-Basran testimony regarding Bishrs doctrine is found in
al-Ashars Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 1:246.
Justice 127

Basran sources insisted that Bishr had rejected the obligation of incentive in
principle; in doing so, he broke with a fundamental tenet of Mutazil justice.51
Jafar b. arb followed Bishr in the general outline of the doctrine of the incen-
tive, but had his own opinion about the reward bestowed on those who met
their moral obligation through the incentive. Jafar deemed that, if the incen-
tive were meted out, the reward would be less than that of the reward meted
out to the servant who does not receive the incentive.52
Ashars and even Mturds approved of Bishrs view that God has an incen-
tive which, if granted to all servants, would cause them to believe; for they
interpreted it as agreeing with their determinism.53 For the most part Ashar
and Mturd sources never cared to mention Bishrs retraction of that posi-
tion.54 The Mutazils, however, were eager to relate Bishrs repentance from
his doctrine of the incentive.55 According to al-Nasaf, this retraction was a
subject of al-Khayys correspondence with al-Kab, and al-Kab was said to
have cited this correspondence to document Bishrs retraction. Al-Khayy
named two contemporary Mutazil authorities who transmitted this story to
him: the Basran al-Sham, and al-Khayys teacher, al-Murdr.56 This report,
recorded in al-Nasaf, is absent from the published version of al-Kabs Maqlt
al-islmiyyn, but there is at the moment no reason to dismiss its veracity.
It remains impossible with the present state of the sources to offer an
authoritative view on which is the correct version, or even present a coherent
explanation of the discrepancy between the Basran and non-Basran sources
presentation of the second precept of the doctrine of the incentive. Al-Kabs
own report of the doctrine, as documented in the extant parts of his Maqlt
al-islmiyyn, agrees with the non-Basran version that documents that Bishr
limited the incentive for the realization of the restricted optimum, in other
words that he did not categorically reject the obligation on God to dispense His
incentive. Yet, al-Kabs report has one additional feature that is lacking in
other accounts: Bishrs repentance is explicitly described by al-Kab as repen-
tance and a return to the doctrine of the optimum.

51 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 26b; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Luf, 13:200.
52 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 246247, and 573; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:724; Abd
al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Luf, 13:5; al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 26b. While there is no
clear evidence about the origin of the luf doctrine, van Ess observed that Bishr was not
its originator, and that it may be traced back to irr b. Amr (van Ess, Theologie, 3:123).
53 See al-Ashar, Kitb al-Luma, 70; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:722.
54 See al-Ashar, Kitb al-Luma, 70; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:722.
55 See Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Luf, 13:45.
56 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:724.
128 chapter 3

God possesses an incentive (luf ) which if He were to bestow upon


unbelievers they would believe by choice and without compulsion. It
[Bishrs doctrine of the incentive also] consists of stating that it is not
possible to hold that God does for the servants what is best for them
(ala al-ashy), as there is no end (ghya) to the good (al) that He
possesses and He has bestowed on all of them what is best with regard to
their religion ( faala bihim jaman m bihi aluhum f dnihim). [And
it also consists of the view that] He is not obligated to mete out the opti-
mum for that is impossible. Bishr [subsequently] repented [and]
returned to the opinion of his followers (abihi) and their doctrine
that declares that God only does the very best (ala al-ashy) for His
servants in the abode of this world (dr al-duny) and that which is more
conducive to making them perform that for which they were made mor-
ally responsible. [Bishr also returned to the opinion of his followers
regarding] the optimum and how it includes [both] disagreeable and
pleasurable acts of obedience.57

There is reason to object to the veracity of al-Kabs report that Bishr repented
and returned to the optimum stance. First, it is likely that al-Kab, as a disciple
of al-Khayy, was intent on presenting a unified Baghdadi school narrative. To
maintain such a narrative, al-Kab may have interpreted Bishrs retraction of
the doctrine of the incentive as an acceptance of the doctrine of the optimum.
Second, although the Baghdadis are tied to the doctrine of the optimum, its
proponents among them remain unidentified in the earlier generation of Bishr
and his immediate followers. Among al-Kabs immediate Baghdadi predeces-
sors, there is only brief mention of al-Iskf58 and al-Khayy (see Chapter 6) as
having embraced the optimum. In short, there is no strong evidence that the
doctrine of the optimum started in the Baghdadi school with Bishrs renuncia-
tion of the doctrine of the incentive.
All sources concur in naming Ab l-Hudhayl as the first Mutazil to be tied
to the doctrine of the optimum.59 According to Ab l-Hudhayl, God has the
power to do what is less than the optimum, but He refrains from doing so.

57 al-Kab, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, in Fal al-itizl, 72.


58 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 537.
59 Ibid., 576577. Al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir, 22, 26. Al-Bqilln mentions al-Nam as the
champion of the optimum among those whom he calls the Basrans, and the Baghdadis,
but without describing the doctrine of the optimum in any detail (Kitb al-Tamhd, 255).
Also see Ormbsy, Theodicy in Islamic Thought, 2123, 81, 154155, 221223, 233, 242, 245;
Brunschvig, Mutazilism et Optimum; van Ess, Theologie, 3:276279, 405408.
Justice 129

This reticence presents a conception of divine omnipotence consistent with


Ab l-Hudhayls view that, although God is capable of doing evil, He chooses
not to do it.60 As for how he thought of the incentive that God metes out for
the fulfillment of the optimum, Ab l-Hudhayl viewed the incentive as finite,
in his words as having an end (ghya), a sum (kull), and a whole ( jam).61
This feature of his doctrine of the optimum differs from that of all other propo-
nents of it. But the assumption of the finitude of the incentive is just another
consequence of Ab l-Hudhayls unusual belief that while God is infinite, all of
His creation must be finite.62 Since incentive is not part of God but part of His
creation, it too has to be finite for the good (al, khayr) of which God is
capable has a sum (kull) just as all objects of His capacity (maqdrtihi) have
a sum.63
Al-Nams version of the optimum did not include the finitude of incen-
tive imposed by Ab l-Hudhayl. For him, there is neither an end nor a sum to
the incentive of which God is capable. But the incentive that God bestows,
which amounts to the optimum, has varieties (amthl).64 As al-Ashar reports,
al-Nam said: There is nothing more optimal (ala) for each incentive that
God creates, except that each one of the incentives has varieties (amthl) and
for every variety (mithl) there is yet another variety.65 Yet al-Nam was
notorious for placing a constraint on Gods capacity; God could not have cre-
ated more or less incentives than what He meted out.66 This is so, he argued,
because to say that He is capable of less than what He does is deficiency
(naq), and doing what is deficient is not possible (l yajz) for God. Equally,
al-Nam reasoned that to say that God is capable of meting out what is more
optimal in order to affirm Gods capacity would be akin to calling God a miser

60 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 249.


61 Ibid.
62 For a discussion of Ab l-Hudhayls doctrine of the possibility of the finitude of creation,
see Frank, The Metaphysics of Created Being, 2326, and The Divine Attributes,
473490.
63 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 249, 576577.
64 Ibid., 576.
65 Ibid. Others, who remain unidentified, affirm that Gods capacity (qudra) to do good
(al) has no end (ghya); they were concerned with affirming the infinity of the opti-
mum and confirming that God can create varieties of the good, even if He has not, actu-
ally, created them.
66 For the non-Basrans treatment of the question of Gods capacity to do evil, see J. van Ess
Wrongdoing and Divine Omnipotence in the Theology of Ab Isq an-Nam, in
Divine Omniscience and Omnipotence in Medieval Philosophy, ed. Tamar Rudavsky
(Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1985), 5367.
130 chapter 3

(bakhl).67 In tandem with his advocating the idea that God is only able to do
the optimum, al-Nam held that God is also incapable of doing evil (qab),
i.e., injustice, lying, or inflicting pain on believers and on children.68 Al
l-Uswr69 and al-Ji both adhered to al-Nams formulation of the opti-
mum.70 This position on Gods incapacity to commit evil marked al-Nams
reputation, but his reasoning and ontology remain in need of investigation.71
For al-Nam, if God did not perform the optimum, He would be a miser
(bakhl).72 Ab l-Hudhayl invoked the absence of miserliness (bukhl) as a rea-
son for Gods doing the optimum, and further, he invoked Gods wisdom
(ikma) and His wish to bestow what is of benefit (manfaa). He added that the
optimum is most worthy of God (awl bihi) because He did not create the
world out of need.73 Among the early proponents of the optimum, only Abbd
b. Sulaymn is documented as presenting an explanation that draws on the
concept of justice itself.74 According to him, if God does less than the optimum
of which He is capable, He would be doing an injustice ( jawr).
As fragmentary as they are, the presentations and explanations documented
here in support of the optimum evoke a far from homogenous understanding
of what the doctrine stood for. Having noted this heterogeneity, we cannot but
wonder whether there was also a substantial continuity between the explana-
tions upheld by these early proponents of the optimum and al-Kabs explana-
tions. For example, the tendency to support the optimum based on the absence
of divine miserliness can be noted in the explanations attributed to al-Kab; he
was strongly criticized by his Basran critics for this tendency.

67 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 576.


68 Khulat al-Naar, 73; al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 15; van Ess, Theologie, 3:403404;
al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 555; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tadl wa-l-tajwir, ed.
Amad Fud al-Ahwn (Cairo, 1962), 6/1:127; Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 148.
69 Al l-Uswr was a student of Ab l-Hudhayl until he moved to Baghdad and studied
under al-Nam, al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 62a.
70 Al-Nam, and his followers, Al l-Uswr, al-Ji, and others held that God cannot be
described as having the capacity (qudra) for injustice and lying and for abandoning what
is optimal to do what is less than it, although He is capable of abandoning one variety of
the optimum in place of other varieties (amthl) that are infinite and that stand in their
stead (l nihya lah mimm yaqmu maqmahu); al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 555.
In one case, which also happens to be the earliest full extant biographical entry of al-Kab,
he was mistakenly associated with upholding the view of al-Nam that God cannot
create evil (al-Samn, al-Ansb, 5:80).
71 See Frank, Can God Do What Is Wrong?, 7476.
72 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 576577.
73 Ibid., 577.
74 Ibid., 250, 576; van Ess, Theologie, 4:3133; Ormsby, Theodicy in Islamic Thought, 233.
Justice 131

The last element of the early Mutazil views I turn to regards the question
of Gods capacity for doing evil. The majority of al-Kabs predecessors in the
Baghdadi school described God as capable of injustice and lying, but with the
proviso that He refrains from such actions, a precept to which the Basrans
adhered as well, although based on an alternate reasoning.75 A number of
explanations are accorded to al-Kabs Baghdadi predecessors. Ab Ms
l-Murdr76 explained that describing God as doing evil would be evil in itself,
for ascribing evil acts to a pious person, let alone to God, was evil. The invalid-
ity of such a description of God was understood to derive from a flaw in the
language employed to speak about Him.

God is capable of injustice and lying but He does not do them. When
al-Murdr is asked: what if He does them [injustice and lying]? He
[al-Murdr] responds: It is indeed a principle (al) that He does not do
them. To make such a general statement is evil (qab) when speaking
about a pious person, such as Ab Bakr, let alone about God As we
know from proofs (dalil), God does not do such things, thus even to
speak hypothetically of such a possibility is evil. When the question is
asked again, al-Murdr responds by stating that if He [God] were to com-
mit injustice, despite the existence of proofs that He does not do injus-
tice, then there would have to be [other] proofs that He does injustice
and He would be a God capable [of injustice] (qdir) and an unjust
God.77

Al-Murdr does not, however, elaborate on what would guarantee that God
does not act upon His capacity for evil. Like al-Murdr, Jafar b. arb also
believed that God can do evil but that He does not. But he provided an expla-
nation, that Gods wisdom (ikma) safeguards against such a possibility.78

75 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 555; al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir, 53; Abd al-Jabbr,
al-Mughn: al-Tadl wa-l-tajwr, 6/1:128. Hishm al-Fuwa and Abbd b. Sulaymn are also
counted among those non-Baghdadi predecessors of al-Kab; they were noted for stating
that God does not do what is unjust although He is capable of it (al-Ashar, Maqlt
al-islmiyyn, 557558).
76 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 555556. Also see Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tadl
wa-l-tajwr, 6/1:128; van Ess, Theologie, 3:140141; van Ess, Wrongdoing and Divine
Omnipotence, 54; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 2, fol. 191a.
77 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 555556. Also see al-Mughn: al-Tadl wa-l-tajwr, 6/1:128.
78 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 555556.
132 chapter 3

God is capable of doing injustice and its contrary (khilf ), and of telling
the truth and its contrary. If one were to object: Do you have any safeguard
against His doing it [evil]? We respond: Yes, it [our safeguard] is the wis-
dom (ikma) and proofs that He has made apparent in negating (nafy)
injustice, oppression ( jawr), and lying. But if [Jafar b. arb] is asked: Is
He capable despite the proof [that He does not do injustice, tyranny, and
lying] of doing injustice and lying? He [Jafar b. arb] responds: Yes.79

Jafar b. arb also argued to safeguard against the possibility that God may
mete out evil acts. He claimed that a proof that God does not do evil (because
of His wisdom) and a proof that He does evil cannot logically coexist in the
heart of the servant, and therefore God cannot do evil.80
Al-Iskf further developed Jafar b. arbs last argument against the possi-
bility of God doing evil. He identified a world in which God would potentially
act on His capacity to do evil. He states that in such a world it would not be
possible to know God. Al-Iskf also states that in the world in which he lives,
it is possible to know God. Thus he argued that since he knows God, this must
be a world in which it is not possible for God to do evil. In other words, al-Iskf
equated the state of the intellect under which God would commit evil to be
one of complete collapse.81

God is capable of injustice but it [injustice] does not occur because bod-
ies, the intellects (uql) inhering in them, and the bounties (niam) by
which He endowed His creatures prove that God does not do injustice.
[Furthermore,] the intellects on their own point to the fact that God is
just [lit., He is not unjust] and that He cannot be one ( yujmi) with
injustice because of the impossibility of the occurrence of injustice. [This
is something] that He pointed out about Himself. When asked: What if
injustice does occur on His part? al-Iskf answers: [Then] injustice
occurs when the bodies are destitute of intellects (uql). [Indeed, these
intellects] prove, by their individual existence (bi-anfusih wa-bi-aynih),
that God does not do unjust acts.82

79 Ibid., 556557.
80 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 557.
81 Ibid., 557558; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tadl wa-l-tajwr, 6/1:128. In this version of
al-Iskf, bodies are said to have intellects (uql), which would be devoid of reason should
God commit evil.
82 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 557558; also see Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tadl
wa-l-tajwr, 6/1:128.
Justice 133

Al-Kabs Baghdadi predecessors were clearly committed to affirming Gods


capacity for doing evil, while insisting that He does not act upon this capacity.
With Jafar b. arb and most importantly with al-Iskf, reconciling this two-
fold position about Gods power and justice was intrinsically tied to the affir-
mation of rationalism and therefore of the theological endeavor itself.

al-Kabs Doctrine of Justice

The Principles for Distinguishing Good from Evil Acts


Mutazils agreed that good and evil were knowable as objective realities, and
that these objective realities were attributes of acts. Thus, both al-Kab and the
Basrans shared in the principle of the proclamation [that an act] is morally
good and [that an act] is morally evil (al-tasn wa-l-taqb). The Basrans,
however, document the basis on which al-Kab disagreed with them on this
principle. Al-Kab deemed that the foundation of the knowledge of good and
evil does not derive from the mode of occurrence (wajh) of the act but from
a quality (ifa) or an individual entity (ayn).83 The Basrans believed that
this disagreement between them and al-Kab was rooted in their differing
ontologies of the attributes of acts.84
To prove that al-Kabs conception of tasn and taqb was untenable, the
Basrans argued that if an act is evil because of a quality (ifa) or an individ-
ual entity (ayn), as al-Kab thought, an act would have to be, at all times and
in all contexts, either good or evil. Al-Kabs principle for al-tasn wa-l-taqb,
for instance, fails to account for how a prostration can be good when directed
to God and evil when directed to the devil.85 Such a concept, the Basrans con-
tinued, placed al-Kab in the company of the determinists, whose principle for
explaining good and evil lacked a causality for explaining the various attributes
of acts. The Basrans comparison of al-Kab to the determinists disregards how
the determinists ontology regards the attributes of acts as caused by Gods
decree (amr), something to which al-Kab never adhered.86
But another Basran, Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, clarified the presentation of
this disagreement when he explained how it derived from al-Kabs ontology
of acts:

83 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 310.


84 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 210212.
85 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 310.
86 Ibid., 310311.
134 chapter 3

Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab] claimed that one movement (araka) that occurs


as evil (qaba) could not have occurred as good. According to him
[al-Kab] an evil movement is not equal to a good movement. His view
is the same concerning any two acts (kull filayn), one of which is good
and the other evil. That is, he takes them to be different from one
another.87

As conceived by al-Kab, an evil movement is a different kind of movement


than a good one. The one cannot become another under any circumstance.
Ab Rashd explained that al-Kab disagreed with the Baghdadis (abih) in
deeming it possible for a body ( jism)as opposed to an attribute of an act
which is an accident (ara)to be good at times and evil at others.88
Al-Iskf spoke of both acts of obedience (a) and disobedience (maiya)
as good and evil because of their essence (li-nafsih), and not because of a
cause (illa).89 But an individual entity (ayn), from which al-Kab derived
the attribute of acts, is not identical to the essence of the act. Furthermore,
almost nothing is known about al-Iskfs ontology, and this makes it impossi-
ble to make a conclusive statement about al-Kabs debt to him.

Gods Capacity for Doing Evil


Although, like al-Nam, al-Kab assumed that God creates the optimum, he
did not restrict, as al-Naam did, Gods capacity to do evil.90 In agreement
with the Basrans and the majority of the Mutazils, al-Kab held that although
God does not do evil, He is capable of it. The Basrans described God as not
committing evil because of His knowledge of its evilness and His self-sufficiency
from any need for evil.91 Al-Kab rationalized this same stance differently. He
re-iterated his Baghdadi Mutazil predecessor Jafar b. arbs view that Gods
refraining from evil is a result of His generous giving (jd) and wisdom

87 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 210.


88 Ibid., 211.
89 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 356. What remains clear, however, is the difference
between al-Kabs position and that of al-Nam (ibid.).
90 Al-Kabs agreement with al-Nam on the optimum led, in some cases, to the assump-
tion of their agreement on the question of Gods capacity for evil, see Frank, Can God Do
What Is Wrong?, 7475. Further evidence for al-Nams solitary stance on this question
can be found in al-Mufds failure to mention al-Kab with al-Nam when he notes the
latters stance (al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 1415).
91 This is the position of al-Jubb and Ab Hshim, see Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tadl
wa-l-tajwr, 6/1:128.
Justice 135

(ikma).92 But he also enlisted another argument in support of a focus already


displayed in Jafar b. arb, who sought to identify the conditions under which
God would commit evil acts.93

He [al-Kab] claimed that if injustice (ulm) were to happen [on the part
of God], the intellects (uql) would be intact (bi-lih) but the things
by which the intellects are deduced (al-ashy allati yustadallu bih
al-uql) would be other than the things by which the intellects are
deduced at the present moment ( f yawmin hdh). These things [by
which the intellects are deduced] would be identical to what they are at
this moment but different with regard to the form (haya), structure
(nam), and order (ittisq).94

Al-Kab maintained the early Baghdadis concern with articulating the conse-
quences that would result if God were to do evil. He asked the question of what
would be the status of the intellect should God commit evil acts, and posited
two premises for comprehending such a possibility. First, the intellect derives
from things as they are in the world. Second, the things of the world from
which the intellect is derived have a structure and an order that can change
and thereby affect the intellect. Thus, if God committed evil, it is the structure
of these things, from which the intellect derives, that would be altered.
Al-Jishum attacked the logic of al-Kabs argument and accused him of tying
the impossible to the probable (talq al-mul bi-l-jiz).95
Thus, like al-Iskf, al-Kab was keen on identifying the changes that would
have to occur should God do evil. But unlike al-Iskf, for whom the changes
would have to reside in the intellect, for al-Kab, the change would have to
occur in the structure of things. This is because for al-Kab the intellect
depends on the structure of things, and any change in the intellect depends on
a change in that structure.96

92 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 557.


93 Ibid., 555558.
94 Ibid., 557. The evidence for this argument is noted in Abd al-Jabbrs al-Mughn but with-
out attribution to al-Kab by name. The latter is, however, identified as the author of the
argument through the statement of al-Ashar (al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 557; see
also George Vajda, De luniversalit de la loi morale, 187).
95 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 2, fol. 191a.
96 For another interpretation of al-Kab and the early Baghdadis views on this question, see
Daniel Gimaret, Un problme de thologie musulmane: Dieu veut-il les actes mauvais?
Thses et arguments, Studia Islamica 40 (1974): 573.
136 chapter 3

The Optimum
Definitions of the Optimum
The central component of the doctrine of the optimum that circulated prior to
al-Kab was the view that God does the optimum, the best (al-ala) for His
servants.97 Both Ab l-Hudhayl and al-Nam upheld it, in variants deriving
from their respective theologies. Among al-Kabs Baghdadi predecessors,
al-Iskf was named for advocating the optimum although the components of
his doctrine remain unknown (as outlined above). There are also two minor
variants on the doctrine of the optimum documented in al-Ashars Maqlt;
those who upheld it remain anonymous,98 but their mention points to the
adoption of the optimum among some Mutazils in the generation of al-Ashar
or his predecessors.
The first step in uncovering al-Kabs doctrine of the optimum is to assess
whether he made a contribution to the earlier attested definition, with its cen-
tral component being that God does the best for His servants. The majority of
the extant definitions of the optimum are attributed to the Baghdadi school.99
The definition of the optimum as God doing the best in religion (al-ala
f l-dn) in addition to the best in this world (al-ala f l-duny) as attested in
al-Mufd and especially the statement of al-Bqilln ties the definition of the
optimum of al-Namamong the earlier proponents of the doctrineto
the Baghdadis.100 This textual evidence supports the continuity between the
earlier proponents of the optimum and the Baghdadis. This statement also
clarifies that al-Nam was a representative of the Basrans and was not tied to
the Baghdadi school. There is no reason to exclude al-Kab from the Baghdadis,
to whom these definitions are attributed, for there is no flagrant contradiction
between the definitions of the optimum attributed to the Baghdadis and what
is explicitly attributed to him. The attribution to the Baghdadis points to the
likelihood that these were definitions that al-Kab did not necessarily initiate,
but that he shared with them.
A synonymous definition of the ala f l-dn wa-l-duny101 is that the opti-
mum consists of the obligation on God to do what is best for His servants in

97 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 576577.


98 Ibid., 578.
99 See Table2: 3A1, 3C2, 3C3.
100 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16; al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamhd, 255; al-Juwayn, Kitb
al-Irshd, 287.
101 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16; al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamhd, 255; al-Juwayn, Kitb
al-Irshd, 287; Table2: 3A1.
Justice 137

an absolute sense.102 This definition is brought up in the context of the discus-


sion and definition of divine justice, and situates the optimum as the main
element of disagreement between the Basrans and the Baghdadis. Indeed, one
of the consequences of the definition is the Baghdadis contention that the
imposition of moral obligation (taklf ) is not a favor, as the Basrans main-
tained, but is a consequence of Gods doing the optimum in an absolute
sense, and is obligatory on God.103
Next I turn to the definitions of the optimum that are attributed to al-Kab.
One of them states that God does the best for the servant in matters of the
world (al-ala f l-duny).104 This appears as part of the definition of the opti-
mum attributed to the Baghdadis that I examined above,105 in that it does not
include the best in religion (al-ala f l-dn) precept. Another world-centered
definition of the optimum (al-ala) is a definition equally attributed to
al-Kab that describes it as worldly benefit (manfaa dunyawiyya), with the
explanation that it is that by which no one is harmed and in which there is no
evil.106 These two statements highlight the fact that al-Kabs definition of the
optimum focuses on worldly matters, but this is no reason to reject his concern
for al-ala f l-dn, and thus his inclusion among the Baghdadis who professed
the optimum to be the best in matters of religion and the world107 and to
affirm that God does the best for His servant in an absolute sense.108 Moreover,
a general perusal of the appendix of articles from al-Kabs doctrine of justice
demonstrates his commitment to the optimum in religious matters in addition
to worldly matters.109 Indeed the view that the imposition of moral obligation
(taklf ) is obligatory, and not merely divine favor, is attested to al-Kab.110 With
this definition of moral obligation as the optimum ascribed to al-Kab, there
can be no doubt regarding his commitment to the ala f l-dn as well as the
ala f l-duny, indeed we see here his commitment to an absolute optimum
that inevitably presented him with some problems and challenges and led him
to support a definition of the optimum that is unique to him.

102 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 134; Table2: 3B.


103 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 1617.
104 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 27b; see Table2: 3A2.
105 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 27b; see Table2: 3A1.
106 al-Zamakhshar, al-Minhj f ul al-dn, 67; see Table2: 3A3.
107 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16; al-Bqilln, Kitb al-Tamhd, 255; al-Juwayn, Kitb al-Irshd,
287; see Table2: 3A1.
108 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 134; Table2: 3B.
109 See Appendix1.1.
110 al-Baghdd, Kitb al-Farq, 138; al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 1617; Table2: 3C1 and 3C2.
138 chapter 3

At its core, this new definition presents the optimum as not about one ser-
vant but about another servant or a group of other servants.111 This definition
means that al-Kab sanctioned God meting out evil for one servant if it means
salvation for another, and on a basic level it means that a good act of God for
one servant can be an evil one for another servant.112 This is also sometimes
explained as the evil that befalls one servant but is an incentive (luf ) for
another or a group to fulfill their moral obligation.113 Indeed, it is the notion of
one act of God being at once good for one servant and bad for another that led
al-Jubb to accuse al-Kab of unbelief for sanctioning the view that God does
evil to His servants.114
In one version of this definition of the optimum, the servant upon whom
evil is meted out for the sake of others is a child. This version is indeed the most
extensively documented of al-Kabs definitions of the optimum; its genesis
was in a debate that took place between al-Kab and Muammad b. Zakariyy
l-Rz and was exclusively documented by Fakhr al-Dn al-Rz.115

Arguments in Support of the Optimum


For the early proponents of the optimum, the absence of miserliness (bukhl)
and justice (adl) were invoked as reasons for it being meted out. For al-Kab, a
number of arguments are noted. Among the most clearly documented is his
defense of the validity of the optimum as the optimum of the many, which, as
we have already seen, was the definition most closely tied to him. The argu-
ment is attested in Fakhr al-Dn al-Rzs account of al-Kabs response to
Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rzs question about the tenability of the optimum.
The latter posits the simple question: how can evil befall a servant, specifically
a child, if God is a just God. Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rz compares the situ-
ation of a god allowing evil to befall a child to a father who allows his son to
swim to a destination that brings something good (medicine) to the child
despite the fathers foreknowledge that this act of swimming will lead to the
childs death. Al-Rzs hypothetical narrative is meant to illustrate that no
variable can change the fact that God does not allot the best for His servant:

In the course of the long debate that occurred between him [Muammad
b. Zakariyy l-Rz] and al-Kab, he said: If a man teaches his son to

111 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:140142; Table2: 3D1.


112 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 28b; Table2: 3D2.
113 Ibn Mattawayh, Kitb al-Majm, 2:219; see Table2: 3D3.
114 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:73.
115 al-Rz, al-Malib al-liya, 3:318319; Table2: 3D5.
Justice 139

swim, until the son excels in it, then he [the man] requests him (kalla-
fahu) to cross a river so that he could reach a place in which there is a
cure for a malady that he hasexcept that the father knows that his son
will willingly halt and drown himself. If despite the fathers knowledge
[of the choice his son will make], he commands his son to swim, and
does not restrain him forcibly from swimming, then this father must be
deemed evil (qq) and not willing the best (amr al-ala) for him [his
son].116

In response to Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rz, al-Kab re-narrated the sce-


nario to introduce an additional variable into consideration: the good of the
many. He posited the existence of many children, whose welfare, he explained,
hinges on the fate of the child, such that the good of the child and the majority
of the children are not compatible. The father must then make a choice
between the good of the one child or the majority of the children. For al-Kab
this is the proper context for asking the question about evil befalling one child.
When the good of the many depends on evil befalling one of them, then yes,
God does the best despite allowing evil to befall the one child.

This is an incorrect example of Gods actsHe is exaltedrather [a cor-


rect example is this]: A man has children whom he taught to swim and
whom he commands to cross a river with their aim [being] a town,
wherein lies what they need, [meanwhile] the father knows that among
his children there is one who will choose to drown himself. In such a case,
a watchful compassionate father ought not to deny the children from
crossing the river because one [child] will perish.117

Only this much of the debate is documented, with no explanation of the basis
upon which al-Kab justified reconfiguring the question of the optimum as the
optimum of the many.
An important principle of al-Kabs doctrine survives in his explanation of
the infinity of the optimum and the way the variations of the optimum are
meted out.118 Let us recall that prior to al-Kab, one of the criticisms leveled
against the optimum was the question of how God could bestow a finite
amount of the optimum on each servant, while the optimum that is in His

116 al-Rz, al-Malib al-liya, 3:318.


117 Ibid., 3:319.
118 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:736739; Table2: 5B.
140 chapter 3

power is infinite.119 Al-Nasaf reports that al-Kab was questioned as to how


the optimum of God can be infinite when He bestows only a finite portion of it
on individuals. Al-Kab answered that even if God does not bestow all the
varieties (amthl) of the optimum on individuals, the varieties that He does
bestow are the best for His servants at the time. This is true, al-Kab explained,
in the same manner that a portion of medicine is just the right amount for
curing a sick person, while more of it would be harmful. Should the optimum
that God bestows be added to the varieties (amthl) that are in Gods capac-
ity, the result would not be the good (al), but rather it would be what is
most corrupt (afsad) for the believer.120 The model al-Kab invoked for justi-
fying the varieties of the optimum is that of medicinal portions. The bestowal
of excessive varieties of the optimum would be just as harmful ( fasd) as the
bestowal of excessive portions of medicine.

A portion (qadr) of medicine is beneficial (nfi), and a similar portion


(mithl qadrihi) of the same kind of medicine is also beneficial, and so it is
with the third or fourth portion of medicine until infinity. [But] should
the beneficial be added to the beneficial so that they exceed the [neces-
sary] portion (qadr), harm would necessarily be caused rather than ben-
efit (manfaa), and such is the case [with the optimum].121

Unlike al-Ashar, al-Mturd did not object to al-Kabs postulation of a cau-


sality that is independent of God. Rather, he objected to this model of causality
and its example based on medicine, namely that the adding of benefit (naf) to
benefit can harm. He explained that benefit consists of suspending need (daf
al-ja), which is a lack that has to be rectified.122
One other explanation of the optimum attributed to al-Kab is the rather
open-ended notion of wisdom andin one case deliberation (tadbr)
noted in Mturd and late Ashar sources. In al-Nasafs statement, wisdom is
contrasted with the notion of benefit that dictates the Basrans restricted opti-
mum.123 But all sources who mention it stop short of explaining what this wis-
dom consists of. Though available in different degrees of detail, the three

119 For a comparison to a defense of the infinity of the optimum (al-ala) prior to al-Kab,
see al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 249, 576.
120 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:738.
121 Ibid., 2:739.
122 Ibid., 2:739740.
123 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:724; al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16; al-Shahrastn, Kitb
Nihyat al-iqdm, 405.
Justice 141

arguments of the optimum attributed to al-Kab that we survey here attest


that he drew on his cosmological and epistemic frameworks to support the
earlier doctrine of the optimum.
In addition, a number of fragmentary and conjectural accounts of the opti-
mum proponents arguments are noted in Basran polemics. Their aim is to
make the case for the restricted optimum, and to show how the arguments for
the optimum are unsuccessful.
The first and most pervasive category of the Basrans accounts of the argu-
ments of the optimum proponents focuses on the Basran ontology of acts of
divine justice. Thus, from the standpoint of the Basran ontology, which defines
divine acts by their mode of occurrence, the optimum proponents are pre-
sented as providing false modes of occurrences. These false modes of occur-
rence as listed by Abd al-Jabbrwho wrote or compiled most of these Basran
polemicsare identifiable as al-Kabs own, thanks to al-Jishums state-
ments.124 In the second category of Basran accounts, the arguments of the pro-
ponents are reduced to lexicographical explanations, which Abd al-Jabbr
both belittled and refuted with counter lexicographical expositions.
In the third category of these Basran accounts, however, the opponent is
recognized as drawing on something beyond lexicography or failed Basran
ontology. Abd al-Jabbr recognized an alternative reasoning developed by
his opponents, and proclaimed it to be illogical. With al-Jishums more
detailed identification of this alleged illogical reasoning, and his direct attri-
bution of it to al-Kab, we are able to identify an important feature of
al-Kabs missing ontological framework by which he supported and rein-
forced the doctrine of the optimum. This framework can be uncovered from
al-Kabs use of the notion of generous giving as the cause of Gods meting
out of the optimum.125 Moreover, the testimony of al-Mufd, though short
and limited to speaking about the Baghdadis in general, concurs with the
evidence regarding the importance of the concept of generous giving ( jd)
for the optimum argument.126
These multiple hypotheses entertained by the Basrans about their oppo
nents arguments in favor of the optimum also highlight just how central and
crucial the rebuttal of the optimum was for the Basrans doctrine of justice
with its restricted optimum. I turn now to investigate in some detail these

124 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:23, al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fols. 27b28a;
Table2: 4D.
125 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 28a; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:57 and
passim; Table2: 4B, 4D.
126 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16.
142 chapter 3

three categories of Basran accounts of the arguments for the optimum as they
appeared in their original Basran context.

The Case of the Basran Polemical Testimony: al-Kabs Argument for


the Optimum (al-ala)
Abd al-Jabbrs overriding criticism of the proponents of the optimum is based
on the premise that a mode of occurrences (wajh) is the sole valid ontology for
accounting for divine acts, including the optimum. Thus, he cast the disagree-
ment over the optimum as a disagreement over how to define the mode of
occurrence (wajh) for obligation.127 Let us remember that, for the Basrans, the
mode of occurrence of obligation for their restricted optimum was based on
the belief that it is necessary for the servants fulfillment of their moral respon-
sibility and without the disposal of which God would be said to be deserving of
blame. Abd al-Jabbr stated that their mistake concerned three stipulations:
placing an obligation on God where they should not; considering that a mode
of occurrence for obligation could exist for evil acts; or seeing a mode of occur-
rence for obligation where there is not one.128
Several of al-Kabs articles that relate to the optimum are listed as examples
of false modes of occurrence. Thus, Abd al-Jabbr noted al-Kabs article that
God must create His servants as morally responsible, and that He would not let
a servant die if He knew that this servants belief would increase if he lived
longer.129 Abd al-Jabbr also noted al-Kabs view that God would let one per-
son die as an unbeliever to guarantee the belief of a larger number of His ser-
vants.130 Also listed in this context was al-Kabs view that God is not obligated
to reward His servants since it is not obligation but His generous giving (jd)
that makes Him reward His servants.131
Moreover, Abd al-Jabbr identified principles from which al-Kabs articles
of the optimumthese alleged false modes of occurrencesderived.132 One
principle was that one agent was obligated to give to others if he was not harmed
by giving, since benefit (manfaa) resulted for the receiving agents. A second
principle was that reward was not considered an obligation on God. A third
was that punishment was perceived as an obligation on God, and a fourth, that

127 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:23.


128 Ibid.
129 Ibid.; al-Baghdd, Kitb al-Farq, 138; al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 1617; Table2: 3C1, 3C2.
130 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:23; Table2: 3D1, 3D2.
131 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:23; al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fols. 27b28a;
al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 16; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:736739; Table2: 4D.
132 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:23.
Justice 143

the rights (uqq) and obligations of the agent were interdependent. A fifth
and last principle was that an act of God by which one believer became an
unbeliever was obligatory, if that same act transformed many of His unbeliev-
ing servants into believers. This last principle implied that the good of the
many could be achieved if God allowed evil to befall one servant.133 Throughout
the aforementioned account of the principles and arguments in favor of the
optimum, nowhere did Abd al-Jabbr suggest that an alternate ontology and
logic may be guiding the proponents of that doctrine.134
Abd al-Jabbrs strategy in his polemics against the proponents of the opti-
mum varied.135 In a second set of criticisms, he accused his opponents of rely-
ing on semantic and rhetorical maneuvers (laf or ibra) instead of a proper
method.136 He described them as taking Gods generous giving ( jd) as the
reason for Gods meting out the optimum. One such semantic argument posits
that the meaning of the noun generosity ( jd) is derived from the adjective
generous ( jawd), an adjective that describes someone who gives the
utmost of what he has. This meaning of the adjective is derived from the noun
for a mare ( jawd), which came to be used because she only performs her
best.137 In response to this semantic argument for the optimum, Abd al-Jabbr
cites this retort made by al-Jubb. The adjective jawd, al-Jubb explains, is
used to refer to a mare because it gives without toil, unlike, for example, a
donkey. Al-Jubbs competing lexical explanation, in turn, leads to the con-
clusion that jd means giving with ease, and not the optimum proponents
proposed meaning of giving all that one has. Finally, al-Jubb argued, jawd
is used to describe God because He is the one who gives effortlessly and not
the one who gives all that He has. For, al-Jubb added, verbal nouns are used
to describe agents acting without an excuse (udhr).138

133 Ibid.
134 Ibid.
135 It should be noted, however, that throughout volume 14 of al-Mughn, the arguments
based on the mode of occurrence (wajh) of the opponents, with differing degrees of con-
sistency, are mentioned, most often in or simultaneously with the main refutation based
on the mode of occurrence already examined. We separate them here for the purpose of
clarity.
136 For example, see Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:43, 44, 53. Note that Abd al-Jabbr
uses the term laf and ibra interchangeably to refer to semantic-based arguments for
the optimum. There are many examples of Abd al-Jabbrs affirmation of the misplaced
nature of the debate on meaning; on the need to address the debate on the level of termi-
nology (alfa) because the opponents use these terms, see ibid., 14:3637, 4344, 53.
137 Ibid., 14:46.
138 Ibid., 14:4546.
144 chapter 3

There are other, albeit fewer, cases in which Abd al-Jabbr was forthcoming
in suggesting that the proponents of the optimum relied on an alternate onto-
logical framework to support their doctrine. Most of these cases are too frag-
mentary for even a modest reconstruction.139 To an extent, we can reconstruct
the two arguments embedded in the debates recorded between the optimum
proponents and al-Jubb and Ab Hshim.
In one argument, the optimum proponents explained generosity ( jd) as
deriving from a quality that defines an agent. Jd was cast as a principle that is
independent of the acts of a given agent, and one from which the attribute of
the agent derives. According to this argument, a person is described as gener-
ous ( jawd) not because of his acts of generosity, but because of his disposi-
tion toward such acts. Jawd describes a disposition (l). In consequence, if
someone gives abundantly, yet does not possess this disposition, he cannot be
described as generous.140

Why should you not consider that jawd is an expression (ibra) that
refers to one whose self encompasses (amman tattasiu nafsuhu) giving

139 In the following passage, arguments 2 and 3 stand out as principles that require further
investigation should more evidence emerge for the future reconstruction of al-Kabs prin-
ciples of the optimum. In argument 2, the optimum proponent is cast as a misuse of the
application of the language of the visible world (shhid) to describe the invisible world
(ghib): Learn that it behooves meaningful concepts (man) that are only known by
means of proofs (adilla) to have no consideration for rhetoric (al-ibra) [as proofs]. [1] It
may be that proponents of the optimum relied upon words (ibrt) in proclaiming the
obligation of the optimum, words that they use to express a meaning different from ours.
[2] Equally, perhaps to prove their doctrine, they relied on (taallaq) the mention of
examples from the visible world (shhid). Among these examples are those whose exis-
tence they claim when it is known, given their state, that they do not exist; indeed their
existence is impossible. Also among these examples are those that do exist but without any
relation (l yataallaqu bihi) to the proofs whose existence they claim. [3] Or perhaps they
mixed, in this topic of discussion, scriptural propositions (samiyyt) with rational proposi-
tions (aqliyyt), [although] this is a topic in which only rational proofs (adillat al-uql) are
accepted. Thus, it is necessary to exert extreme caution before agreeing with them on these
examples. [4] Or perhaps they invoked the obligation of actions without intending the real
meaning of obligation (aqqat al-wujb); rather, they intended by it [obligation] the
bestowal of favor (tafaul) and the privilege that is allowed to the recipient of favor
(mutafaal alayhi ). Or [5] perhaps they inferred their position by expanding the mean-
ing of the expression of obligation, without a proof for its validity [to apply to the opti-
mum], and despite the impossibility [of applying it], since [mere] words and expressions
cannot be considered [as proof] for this topic. (Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Ala, 14:55.)
140 Ibid., 14:47.
Justice 145

abundantly and that his abundant giving causes him to be described as


jawd because of how it [this giving] refers to this disposition (l). For
someone who is burdened with giving the best (mutakallif bi-l-ifl)141 is
not described as jawd; someone known to be indisposed to giving [lit.,
his chest is tight] [is not described as jawd], although he may give
abundantly.142

Abd al-Jabbr spoke directly against this argument about the relevance of the
agents disposition as opposed to his acts: He dismissed the argument that it is
in the agents disposition to give generously, and insisted on the argument that
what matters is the agents acts of giving. Then, for Abd al-Jabbr, a disposition
( jd) is only a concept, a word, and unlike an act, it cannot cause an agent to
deserve (istiqq) either blame or reward.143 Rather, only a mode of occur-
rence (wajh) can be a cause of obligation, as it incurs blame.144 Other concepts,
which must have been used by the optimum proponents in arguments not
fully described by Abd al-Jabbrconcepts such as grace (isn), blessing
(inm) or goodness (al)are also declared as merely words and there-
fore the foundations of false, non-rational arguments.145
However, in his rebuttal of his opponents, al-Jubb also acknowledged
their ontological assumptions. Al-Jubb re-iterated the Basran tenet that
Gods justice consists of attributes of acts and not a quality of the agent.146 He
appealed to philological usage to support his view and noted that jd and
jawd derive from the verb ( jda), meaning to give generously. No claim can

141 Ibid. The edited text reads al-mutakallif li-l-ifl. This must be a corruption of al-mutakallif
bi-l-ifl.
142 Ibid., 14:47.
143 Ibid.
144 Ibid., 14:24.
145 We [the Basrans] do not proclaim the obligatory nature of these acts except when the
modes of occurrences (wujh) that necessitate their obligation are rational (maqla). [In
the same way] we do not uphold the obligation to return a deposit and to pay off a debt
unless the modes of occurrences are rational. It is not obligatory on God, He is exalted, to
take an action because it is good (al), or because it is the optimum, neither because it
is righteous (awb) or most righteous (awab), and neither because it is grace (isn) or
blessing (inm). ibid., 14:54.
146 A parallel argument is leveled against the use of the term miserliness (bukhl) to describe
God by what He is not. Abd al-Jabbr understands bukhl to be the withholding of the act
of giving (for this he cites Ab Hshim), while the optimum opponent insists that it is the
unwillingness to give, despite the actual giving, that makes a person a miser (bakhl) (Ibid.,
14:5152).
146 chapter 3

be made about the agents attribute without the act of giving.147 Thus al-Jubb
clarified that underlying the optimum proponents stance is the view that the
cause of the optimum is a disposition (l) rather than an act.148
Another ontological argument that Abd al-Jabbr attributes to the propo-
nents of the optimum emerged in response to an argument by Ab Hshim.149
To convince him that the optimum is a favor (tafaul), and not an act oblig-
atory on God, Ab Hshim claimed that just as there is a distinction between a
mans obligatory acts and gratuitous acts, so too there is a distinction in the
case of divine acts. The optimum proponents objected and stated that while a
human agent can incur harm from giving and benefit from withholding, that
cannot be true in the case of God.150 The optimum proponents reasoning was
that an ethical attribute (here obligatory versus gratuitous) derives from an
agent and not from an act.151 When pressed by the objections of Ab Hshim,
who insisted that ethical qualities cannot be divorced from acts, the optimum
proponents clarified the argument further: it is the disposition (l) of the
agent, in this case God, that determines the ethical quality of the agents acts.152
The response to Ab Hshims rebuttal ratified the evidence gleaned earlier
from the optimum proponents: the cause of the optimum derives from a dis-
position of the agent; and obligatory actions do not derive from the mode of
occurrence (wajh) of the act. This last argument attributed to the optimum
proponents conjures up an alternate understanding of the way they defined
the ethical attributes of acts. Thanks to al-Jishums153 identifying statements,
the last two ontological arguments for the optimum can be tied to al-Kab with
a fair degree of certainty. These arguments are especially significant because
they underscore al-Kabs support, through his ontology, of the ancient doc-
trine of the optimum.

147 Ibid., 14:4748.


148 Ibid., 14:47.
149 Ibid., 14:70.
150 Ibid.
151 Ibid., 14:7071.
152 Ibid., 14:7273.
153 Moreover, despite al-Jishums recognition of al-Kabs ontological argument for the opti-
mum, his presentation of the disagreement with al-Kab regarding the optimum remains
ambiguous, in that he pronounced that the disagreement was, possibly, of two kinds. One
kind is semantic (laf): God is obligated to do the optimum but does not deserve blame
should He not mete it out (al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 28a; Table2: 4C). Another kind
is deemed ontological ( f l-man) and has more repercussions (al-Jishum, al-Uyn f
l-radd, fols. 27b28a; Table2: 4D). Ultimately, al-Jishum did not give his opinion as to
which of these two kinds of disagreements is accurate.
Justice 147


Al-Kab never advocated the doctrine of the incentive championed by Bishr b.
al-Mutamir and some of his followers. In regard to the question of Gods
capacity for evil, al-Kab supported the majority Mutazil position that God is
capable of it, but does not mete it out. In grappling with how one knows that
God would not do evil despite His capacity to do it, al-Kab agreed with his
Baghdadi predecessors, al-Murdr and al-Iskf, but his line of inquiry focused
on how the logic of pursuing this question is dependent on the structure of
the world. Despite some evidence for the earlier Baghdadi support for the
optimum doctrine, namely the meager evidence we have about al-Iskf and
al-Khayy, it was because of al-Kabs contributions that the name of the
Baghdadi school became tied to the doctrine of the optimum. Before al-Kab,
the optimum was advocated by theologians outside the Baghdadi school,
most notably Ab l-Hudhayl and al-Nam. Al-Kabs theology of the opti-
mum was not just a continuation of earlier trends, as even these trends were
significantly diverse. Most importantly, the independence of his theology of
the optimum can be established on the basis of arguments for it that are spe-
cifically attributed to him. Thus, for example, Basran sources especially high-
lighted the role of al-Kabs ontology in his explanation for the necessity of
the optimum. Of special importance was al-Kabs understanding of the opti-
mum as the optimum of the many, which was a rethinking of the very notion
of the optimum, and in which he enlisted medical knowledge as a model of
explanation.
While there is no textual evidence to assess the sources of al-Kabs expo-
sure to medical material, I do note two points about this material in relation to
al-Kabs argument for the optimum. One is the hypothesis raised by Joseph
Schacht, that there was a direct Galenic influence on early Mutazil theology
in general. Schacht suggested the influence of the translation of De Usu Partium
of Galen (d. 216 ce)154 on the theological arguments for the doctrine of the
optimum.155 But Schacht was describing an earlier moment of the influence of
Galen on kalm in general, and the medical argument attributed to al-Kab

154 Galen was the famous late antique physician, philosopher, and commentator on Aristotle,
Plato, and Hippocrates. Many of Galens works had already been translated by the fourth/
tenth century, see Vronique Boudon-Millot, Galen, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three,
online edition, published 2013.
155 Joseph Schacht, New Sources for the History of Muammadan Theology, Studia Islamica
1 (1953), 29.
148 chapter 3

here is not attested to earlier Mutazils. Thus, conjecture turns to al-Kabs


eastern indigenous milieu. After all, al-Kabs most memorable debater on the
optimum was Muammad b. Zakariyy l-Rz, the physician and philosopher
who made extensive use of Galens work on medicine and who also wrote sev-
eral works in refutation of Galen, including one on his logic.156

156 Manfred Ullmann, Die Medizin im Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 67; Mehdi Mohaghegh (ed.),
The Kitb al-Shukk al Jlns li Muammad ibn Zakariyy al-Rz (Tehran: Institute of
Islamic Studies, 1993).
chapter 4

Epistemology

Inquiry into the meaning of knowledge, and not only theological knowledge,
occupied Mutazils from a relatively early stage. The centrality of this inquiry,
what I call here epistemology, to the Mutazil theological project and to kalm
as a whole was first systematically outlined in the work of Richard Frank, who
saw in kalm more than theological polemics.1 Mutazil epistemology took on
questions pertaining to the definition of knowledge, its ontological basis, and
its different categories. It also tackled topics of direct theological relevance,
especially the discussion of the relationship of the knowledge of God to the
imposition of moral obligation (taklf) on the servant.2
Early Mutazils had already tackled intricate epistemological questions. For
example, definitions of knowledge were attributed to Ab l-Hudhayl and
al-Nam, while Bishr b. al-Mutamir is credited with speaking of knowledge
being generated (mutawallida), much to the dismay of al-Ji (see below).
Yet epistemic categories of inquiry in scholastic Mutazil and kalm treatises
alike are strongly fashioned by those first attributed to al-Kab. As we see,
these topics include the definition of knowledge, how it is achieved, whether
knowledge of God through imitation (taqld) is possible, what happens to
those who cannot utilize rational inquiry (naar) to reach knowledge of God,
and who should be deemed unbelievers.
While many articles of al-Kabs epistemology were noted by his opponents,
some dominated their polemics against him more than others. In particular,
al-Kabs definition of knowledge and his tolerance of imitation (taqld)
brought him unfavorable attention.3 Because of the degree of attention these
two articles received and their centrality to his epistemology as a whole, I focus

1 See Frank, The Metaphysics of Created Being, 112. On the independent epistemological and
philosophical value of these kalm questions, see also Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm,
114. For earlier studies of kalm that saw in it mainly a polemical, theological discipline, see,
for example, Louis Gardet and M.M. Anawati, Introduction la thologie Musulmane: Essai de
theologie Compare (Paris: J. Vrin, 1948), 6. On the centrality of kalm as a locus for epistemo-
logical discussion in classical Islam, see Franz Rosenthal, Knowledge Triumphant: The Concept
of Knowledge in Medieval Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1970), 211212. In scholastic kalm manuals, the
epistemology entry was often the introductory one, for example see Ibn Fraks Mujarrad
maqlt, 919; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:443; and Khulat al-naar, 1924.
2 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 39141; Gimaret, Les Ul al-amsa.
3 van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre, 46.

koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 6|doi 10.1163/9789004259683_009


150 chapter 4

the following reconstruction of his epistemology on them. But al-Kabs


advances in epistemology were much broader. Even a brief perusal of the
extant articles of his epistemology4 and the extant titles of his works testify to
how central his epistemology was for his theology.5 Al-Kabs interests in
methodology included contributions to ul al-fiqh. In his F ujjat akhbr
al-d (The arguments for the [validity] of the single report) he is said to have
disagreed with al-Khayy regarding the status of the single report for matters
of positive law (fur). He also wrote a polemical work against the method of
isnd criticism (Qabl al-akhbr wa-marifat al-rijl, On the verification of the
[prophetic] reports and the trustworthiness of their transmitters) which
reflects his concern to defend rational Mutazil epistemology for younger gen-
erations of Mutazils, especially in the face of the rise of the ahl al-adth.

Overview of Basran Epistemology

Despite important disagreements between al-Jubb and Ab Hshim,6 in the


case of significant key traits one could speak of a shared Basran epistemology.
They agreed that the knowledge of God and the application of rational inquiry
(naar) for the attainment of this knowledge is obligatory on all servants if
they are to fulfill the moral responsibility (taklf) imposed on them.7 They pro-
claimed that this rational inquiry to attain knowledge is the first moral obliga-
tion on the servant.8 Without rational inquiry, God could not be known, as the
Basrans deemed that God is not known by necessity (arra) or by observation
(mushhada).9 When asked how the servant could be aware of this first

4 See Table3 and Appendix1.2.


5 Works dealing exclusively with questions of method and disputation include Adab al-jadal
or al-Tahdhb f l-jadal; Il ghal Ibn al-Rwand [ f l-jadal]; Kayfiyyat al-istidll bi-l-shhid
al l-ghib; Kitb Ful al-khib f l-naq al rajul tanabbaa bi-Khursn; Kitb al-r wa-l-
diynt (see the introduction to the present work). Al-Kabs Kitb awil al-adilla [The prin-
cipal proofs] also includes many articles of al-Kabs epistemology (see Appendix1.2).
6 For example, Mnkdm, al-Talq, 8687.
7 Ibid., 39.
8 Ibid., 3943. Abd al-Jabbr lists this moral obligation as one that cannot be replaced with
another obligation (min al-wjibt al-muayyaqa) and the forsaking of which is morally evil
(qab) (ibid., 42).
9 Ibid., 39. The view that knowledge of God is necessary was promoted by the proponents of
the view that all knowledge is necessary knowledge (ab al-marif); the Basrans and most
Mutazils objected to this. On the ab al-marif, see section below. In his al-Asm wa-l-
ift, on one occasion al-Jubb is said to have broken away from his position that, for the
Epistemology 151

obligation of rational inquiry when he does not have the necessary knowledge
of Gods existence, the Basrans, for the most part, answered that Gods allowing
the servant to recognize rational inquiry as the first obligation is in itself an
incentive (luf) from God. Without this incentive, it would be impossible for a
servant to know Gods will and commands.10

The proof (dall) that knowledge of God, He is exalted, is obligatory is


that it is an incentive (luf) for the performance of obligations (wjibt)
and the avoidance of morally evil acts. Whatever is an incentive must be
obligatory because its role is to push harm away from the self. We only
take it [the knowledge of the obligation to apply rational inquiry (naar)
to know God] to be an incentive because an incentive is nothing more
than that by which a servant would be closer to the performance of oblig-
atory acts and the abandonment of morally evil acts.11

The Basrans also held that rational inquiry generates (yuwallid) knowledge,12
but they did not agree about how to verify rational inquiry.13 For Ab Hshim,
rational inquiry is verified when it results in knowledge.14 Knowledge is then
defined by Ab Hshim as the conviction that a thing is as it truly is because
of its occurrence according to a mode of occurrence (li-wuqihi al wajh).15
For Ab Hshim, the mode of occurrence (wajh) of conviction requires
(yaqta) the production of the souls tranquility in the heart of the knowing
person.16 Ab Hshims understanding of the correct definition of knowledge
is often cited in a brief and incomplete version as representing the Basran defi-
nition of knowledge: the conviction, with the tranquility of the soul, that a

morally obligated, knowledge of God cannot be necessary knowledge (Abd al-Jabbr,


al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:512).
10 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 43, 6465.
11 Ibid., 64.
12 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:77100.
13 Ibid., 12:57.
14 Ibid., 12:69, 77.
15 Ibid., 12:1314; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 167a; Schmidtke, Anonymous
Commentary, fol. 163a. Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 287300. Mnkdm,
however, rejected the use of conviction in the definition of knowledge (al-Talq, 46).
16 Knowledge is of the same class as conviction (itiqd) thus when it [conviction] relates to
(taallaqa bi-l-shay) an object as it truly is (al m huwa bihi) and occurs according to a
mode of occurrence (wajh) that requires (yaqta) the tranquility of the soul, then it [con-
viction] is knowledge Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:25.
152 chapter 4

thing is as it truly is.17 This brief version made its way mostly to non-Mutazil
sources where the mention of the mode of occurrence was omitted; this omis-
sion, in turn, concealed the crucial ontological vocabulary of the Basrans defi-
nition of knowledge.18 The specification provided by the mode of occurrence
was in part a response to al-Kabs definition of knowledge and, of course, the
different ontology underlying it.
Without the specification provided by the mode of occurrence, the Basrans
could not sustain their view that knowledge shares its class (jins) with convic-
tion or other attributes without running into several difficulties. Ab Hshim
identified the mode of occurrence with what requires tranquility of the soul,
thereby guaranteeing the distinction between knowledge and other attributes
that share its class. This mode of occurrence is deemed to be the only valid
category of a specifying criterion (mukhai) that distinguishes the convic-
tion of knowledge from the conviction [based on] imitation (itiqd
al-taqld).19 With his definition of knowledge founded on the ontology of the
mode of occurrence, that of the tranquility of the soul, Ab Hshim excluded
definitions of knowledge that allow one to reach it by means other than ratio-
nal inquiry (naar); thus he excluded al-Kabs definition of knowledge, which
could be reached by imitation (taqld). The Basrans exclusion of imitation as
a means for reaching knowledge was significant because they and all other
Mutazils, including al-Kabs predecessors in the Baghdadi school,20 and
the Ashars21 unanimously condemned imitation as a means for attaining
knowledge.
Morever, the Basrans declared that one who applies imitation (a muqallid)
was an unbeliever:

It is reported that our [Basran] teachers [say] whoever is capable (muta-


makkin) of knowledge of God, He is exalted, (and it [knowledge of God]

17 See al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 5.


18 Al-Jubb defined knowledge as the conviction that a thing is as it is because of necessity
(an arra) or proof (aw dalla) (al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 5; al-Ashar, Maqlt
al-islmiyyn, 523; van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre, 73).
19 Schmidkte, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 163a.
20 Bishr b. al-Mutamir and al-Murdr remained notably opposed to imitation as a means for
salvation even among the masses (van Ess, Theologie, 4:671; van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre,
45).
21 Richard Frank, Al-Aars Conception of the Nature and Role of Speculative Reasoning in
Theology, in Proceedings of the VIth Congress of Arabic and Islamic Studies (Stockholm,
1972), 136154, and Knowledge and Taqld: The Foundations of Religious Belief in
Classical Asharism, Journal of the American Oriental Society 109 (1989): 3762.
Epistemology 153

is the conviction that requires (yaqta) the tranquility of the soul),


becomes an unbeliever (yakfir) if, given his obligation to know Him, he
does not apply knowledge to know God. [This is the case] regardless of
whether he abandons knowledge (adala anh) to pursue imitation
(taqld), doubt, conjecture (ann) or ignorance.22

By placing imitation in the same category as conjecture, doubt, and ignorance


with regard to salvation, the Basrans were also stating that it is a religious obli-
gation to practice theology (kalm). Indeed Basrans not only challenged
al-Kabs stance on the grounds that it is epistemologically unsound but also
on theological grounds: acceptance of imitation is an offense to divine justice.
Al-Jishum explained the theological contradictions that would result from
accepting it.

Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab] held that he who emulates the truth (muqallid


al-aqq) is saved (njin), but our teachers held that he is not saved. We
respond [to al-Kabs supporters] who hold this position [illegible lines
in ms] [that with al-Kabs stance] evil would be [assumed] as a means
for salvation (najt). [Our view, however, is] that rational inquiry is oblig-
atory. Furthermore, if imitation were permissible [as a means for attain-
ing knowledge] then rational inquiry would become futile (bil) [and we
know that] enduring hardship for its sake is evil (qabua). [Our teachers]
agreed that rational inquiry is good and that God, He is exalted, made
apparent (abna) the proofs (adilla) [for His existence]. [Our teachers
also] called attention to the obligation to apply rational inquiry. Thus if
imitation were permissible, neither rational inquiry would be good, nor
would the appearance of the miraculous be permissible (jza). Because
knowledge of Godsthe exaltedexistence is obligatory and [because]
knowledge necessitates the tranquility of the soul, [imitation cannot be
acceptable as a means for attaining knowledge of God].23

To make his argument for the theological implausibility of the permissibility of


imitation, al-Jishum advanced two assumptions. First, the application of
rational inquiry (naar), with all the effort it takes, when imitation is sufficient,
would be futile. Second, evil would result from that futility. Given that God
does not create futility and evil, then the permissibility of imitation must be

22 al-Bust, Kitb al-Bath, 26.


23 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 174a.
154 chapter 4

rejected. However, as we see in what follows, al-Kabs reasons for tolerating


imitation were far from what al-Jishum made them out to be.

Early Mutazil Epistemology

Definitions of knowledge among Mutazils date back to Ab l-Hudhayl. Unlike


later Basrans such as al-Jubb, Ab l-Hudhayl believed that knowledge was of
a different class than conviction (itiqd).24 In describing his account of mans
knowledge of God, he believed that it is necessary knowledge (bi-iirr)
deduced from His creation of accidents in bodies.25 He held that knowledge of
other matters falls under the categories of necessary (arr) or acquired
(kasb/muktasab) knowledge, a distinction that started before the Mutazila
and dated to the early first century with the Qadar Ghayln al-Dimashq
(fl. c. 100/719) and al-Jad b. Dirham.26 Al-Nam described knowledge as a
movement of the heart,27 or as a movement of the heart for the attainment of
its object.28 In yet another version of his definition, the tranquility of the soul
(sukn al-nafs) is added as a criterion for verifying knowledge.29 This criterion,
as noted, proved useful for Ab Hshim.
Those who supported the view that all knowledge, including knowledge of
God, is necessary were called proponents of necessary knowledge (ab
al-marif); they anchored their opinion to a naturalist cosmology, whereby the
acts of all beings are determined by their nature. Thumma b. Ashras
(d. 213/828) was the first to be credited with upholding a version of the view
that all knowledge, including knowledge of the existence of God, is neces-
sary.30 The absence of agency to the cognizant person was upheld by Thumma
despite his use of the notion of generation (tawallud): Knowledge (marifa) is

24 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 188. The passage on Ab l-Hudhayl as it appears in the current edition
of Abd al-Jabbrs al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:25, is corrupt, because annahu
should be read in. Richard Frank points out the inconsistency in Abd al-Jabbrs text,
although he suggests a different explanation of it, The Divine Attributes, 465. On the
ancient influences on the Mutazil use of the notion of conviction (itiqd), see van Ess,
Die Erkenntnislehre, 7072.
25 al-Baghdd, Kitb al-Farq, 101; van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre, 160, 329.
26 van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre, 114. On the Iranian influences on this category of distinction
upheld by most Mutazils, see van Ess, Theologie, 4:666667.
27 al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 6; van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre, 72.
28 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:6.
29 Van Ess noted this early use of sukn al-nafs in al-Jis work.
30 al-Kab, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, in Fal al-itizl, 73; van Ess, Theologie, 3:165.
Epistemology 155

generated (mutawallida) from rational inquiry (naar). It [rational inquiry]


is an act without an agent like the rest of generated actions.31 He held this view
in conjunction with an ontology that posits that a persons only act is his voli-
tion (irda), while all other acts take place according to nature (ab).32
Influenced by Thumma b. Ashras, al-Ji understood the doctrine of neces-
sary knowledge (marif) as follows.33

He [al-Ji] used to deem knowledge to be that which occurs by neces-


sity because of nature (arratan bi-l-ab) when rational inquiry is
[applied] to proofs (adilla). He [al-Ji] stated that rational inquiry
(naar) either occurs by nature and necessity (aban wa-iirran) or by
choice. When the motives (daw) are strengthened by rational inquiry,
the latter occurs by the necessity of nature (waqaa iirran bi-l-ab),
and when they [motives] are equal, rational inquiry occurs by choice
(ikhtiyran).34

Al-Ji, as Thumma before him, did not deny the use of rational inquiry for
the attainment of necessary knowledge, rather al-Ji thought knowledge
that occurs after rational inquiry was caused by nature and was necessary
knowledge: knowledge occurs, by nature, at the instance of rational inquiry
(taqa al-marif ind al-naar iban).35 Al-Uswr also shared al-Jis view
that knowledge of God, as experienced in this world, is necessary knowledge.36
Since al-Ji believed that knowledge was necessary, he did not consider it
part of ones moral obligation. But he did understand rational inquiry as such.37
Al-Jis affirmation that the knowledge of God that results from rational
inquiry is necessary knowledge was in part a reaction to skeptics (ab
al-tajhul) such as li b. Abd al-Qudds,38 who denied prophecy39 and was
refuted by al-Ji.40 But al-Jis doctrine of necessary knowledge was a
reaction to Bishr b. al-Mutamirs reliance on the concept of generation (tawallud)

31 al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 50.


32 al-Kab, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, in Fal al-itizl, 73.
33 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 2b.
34 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:316.
35 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 2b.
36 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 52.
37 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 2b.
38 van Ess, Theologie, 2:1520; Mohsen Zakeri, ali ibn Abd al-udds, Encyclopaedia of
Islam, second edition, 8:984985.
39 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 2a; van Ess, Theologie, 2:1520.
40 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:4753.
156 chapter 4

to explain the production of knowledge and also a reaction to al-Nams defi-


nition of knowledge.41 For al-Jz, both views were inadequate in distinguish-
ing imitation, and consequently falsehood, from knowledge and opened the
doors wide for skeptics to thrive.42
Al-Jis polemics against the skeptics did not mean that all of them stood
outside the ranks of the Mutazils. Far from it, skeptical trends took root and
ran deep among them.43 For example, Ibn al-Nadm believed that Ab Sad
al-uar and Ab Ms s b. al-Haytham al-f had caused confusion
(khallaa).44 Thus the doctrine of the equivalence of all proofs (takfu al-
adilla) that was endorsed by the Mutazil Ab af al-addd (d. c. 270/883),
led to his condemnation as a heretic.45 In the Baghdadi school specifically, the
career of Ibn al-Rwand reflected the impact of the Mutazil skeptics. Once a
student of the ascetic Baghdadi Mutazil Ab Ms s b. Haytham al-f,46
Ibn al-Rwand came under the influence of the Mutazil-turned-skeptic Ab
s Muammad b. Hrn al-Warrq.47 The impact of Ibn al-Rwands career
on Baghdadi Mutazils remains mostly known to us from al-Khayys Kitb
al-Intir, written to vindicate al-Ji and other Mutazils against the attacks
of Ibn al-Rwand.48 More directly, the influence of Ibn al-Rwands pioneer-
ing work in methodology and his work on disputation (jadal) can be seen in
al-Kabs Il ghal Ibn al-Rwand [ f l-jadal] (Correction of Ibn al-Rwands
mistakes [in his work on disputation]).
The impact of Ibn al-Rwand on al-Kabs epistemology remains unknown
in any degree of detail. In general terms, however, we can see the influence of

41 al-Ji, al-Masil wa-l-jawbt f l-marifa, in Rasil al-Ji, ed. Abd al-Salm Hrn
(Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanj, 1979), 4:5256.
42 van Ess, Theologie, 4:107, 670.
43 Both Safisa and Ab al-tajhul are used in the sources to refer to skeptics, see van
Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre, 232233; Theologie, 3:424; 4:41.
44 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 215216.
45 Ibid., 216; van Ess, Theologie, 4:89.
46 van Ess, Theologie, 4:8889.
47 Ibn al-Nadm, Kitb al-Fihrist, 216; van Ess, Theologie, 4:289294. As for the group labeled
fiyyat al-Mutazila by [pseudo] al-Nshi, including Ab Imrn al-Raqqsh, Fal
al-adath, and usayn al-Kf, they were known for their political views and asceticism
and do not overlap with the skeptics among Mutazil mystics, or the followers of Bishr b.
al-Mutamir. Van Ess (ed.), Frhe mutazilitische Hresiographie. Zwei Werke des Ni al-
akbar (gest. 293 H.) (Wiesbaden: F. Steiner, 1971), 4950; On the possible authorship of this
work by Jafar b. arb and its false ascription to al-Nshi al-Akbar (d. 293/906), see Wilferd
Madelung, Frhe mutazilitische Hresiographie. Das Kitb al-Ul des afar b. arb?,
Der Islam 57 (1980): 220236; van Ess, Theologie, 3:132.
48 van Ess, Theologie, 4:295344.
Epistemology 157

the rise of skepticism and ascetic tendencies among some Baghdadi Mutazils
on al-Kabs rejection of disputation with skeptics and toleration of the imita-
tion of the ascetics (see below). Moreover, Bishrs doctrine of generation is one
characteristic of the early Baghdadis discussion of knowledge that is clearly
attested as having persisted with al-Kab, though it was significantly trans-
formed. Bishr b. al-Mutamir developed an already existing concept of genera-
tion to include hearing, seeing, and perceiving as generated by man, and not
created by God.49 In turn, Bishrs expanded generation doctrine had direct
bearing on deliberations on knowledge in the Baghdadi school, first on Jafar b.
Mubashshir50 and later on al-Kab.

al-Kabs Epistemology

A servants first moral obligation is to know God. In holding this view al-Kab
disagreed with the Basrans, who held that rational inquiry (naar) that leads to
knowledge of God is the first moral obligation.51 Al-Kabs disagreement with
the Basrans on this crucial point must be understood as the result of his views
on a range of epistemic tenets. In maintaining a stance that knowledge and not
rational inquiry is the first moral obligation, al-Kab assumed that there are
other means of knowing God beyond rational inquiry. Indeed al-Kab upheld
the view that imitation was also a valid means to attain knowledge of God, and
in stating this he earned the condemnation of not only the Basrans, but also
the Ashars and Mturds.52 Only Ab Isq b. Ayysh53 agreed with him on
this position.54 Regardless of this disagreement, like the Basrans and the major-
ity of Mutazils, al-Kab deemed knowledge of God to be acquired knowledge

49 al-Ji, al-Masil wa-l-jawbt f l-marifa, 4:4748; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:680;


van Ess, Theologie, 3:116121, 4:668.
50 Ibid., van Ess, Theologie, 4:60.
51 al-Muall, al-Burhn al-riq, fol. 6b; McDermott, The Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 58.
52 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 6061; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 174a; al-Jishum,
al-Uyn f l-radd, 85b; Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 302303; al-Nasaf,
Tabirat al-adilla, 1:42; See Frank, Knowledge and Taqld: The Foundations of Religious
Belief in Classical Asharism, Journal of the American Oriental Society 109 (1989): 3762;
al-Mturd, Kitb al-Tawd, 45; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:2324.
53 Ab Isq al-Ayysh was a Bahsham Mutazil known for his asceticism, and also for
having been al-Q Abd al-Jabbrs first Mutazil teacher (al-Jishum, Shar Uyn
al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 79a).
54 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 5.
158 chapter 4

(iktisb), and not necessary (arr), as the ab al-marif such as Thumma


b. Ashras and al-Ji thought.55
Most importantly al-Kabs view that it is knowledge and not rational
inquiry that is the first moral obligation was not meant to sideline the crucial
role of rational inquiry in the attainment of knowledge. Rather, the belief that
imitation is permissible in some but not all cases as a means for reaching
knowledge of God was his response to the challenges presented to him by
his cosmology, as we see in what follows. This context of al-Kabs position on
imitation and on knowledgethat it, not rational inquiry, was the first moral
obligationis one reason Ibn al-Malim sought to minimize the gravity of
the disagreement between al-Kab and the Basrans on this question.56 While
noting the Basrans disagreement with al-Kab on what counts as the first
moral obligation (that is, rational inquiry versus knowledge), Ibn al-Malim
insisted that the disagreement on this question is only rhetorical, that it derives
from wording (khilf rji il l-ibra). Ibn al-Malim aimed to highlight
instead what al-Kab shared with other Mutazils, namely that rational inquiry
leads to knowledge of God. In other words, al-Kab agreed with other Mutazils
that knowledge is derived from rational inquiry, but, in addition, he upheld the
view that knowledge of God can also be reached through imitation.57
Various arguments are attributed to al-Kab in support of his key position
on knowledge and imitation. A number of examples are invoked as precedents
for the acceptability of imitation. These examples, presented as arguments, are
based on historical precedents ranging from the followers of the Prophet to the
laypeople (mma) who imitate the scholars and ascetics.58 But underlying
al-Kabs account of these examples was his view that servants are unequal
with respect to their capacity to apply rational inquiry. Thus, servants who can
apply rational inquiry must apply it to reach knowledge of God, but those who
cannot must be given the choice of reaching knowledge of God, and naturally
salvation, through imitation. This hierarchical and non-egalitarian under-
standing of the servants capacity to reach knowledge was derived from
al-Kabs cosmology.

55 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 52; Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 391; Schmidtke, Anonymous
Commentary, fol. 158a.
56 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 382.
57 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 6061; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 174a; al-Jishum,
al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 85b; Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 302303.
58 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 6163; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 29a, vol. 4, fol. 174a;
al-Bust, Kitb al-Bath, 26.
Epistemology 159

Some of them [servants] are morally obligated to pursue knowledge [of


God] and these are the proponents of rational inquiry (ab al-naar),
and another group of them [servants] are morally obligated to apply
imitation (taqld) and conjecture (ann) and these are the laypeople
(al-awm), the slaves, and many (kathr min) women. This is the opinion
of Ab Isq [b.] Ayysh and Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh [al-Kab].59

This binary division of servants based on their capacity to apply rational


inquiry is grounded in al-Kabs tenets about the mechanism of the produc-
tion of knowledge. As we saw earlier, Bishr b. al-Mutamir saw the doctrine of
generation (tawld or tawallud) as a way to explain not only the causality gov-
erning the relationship between bodies but also the production of perceptions
and sensations.60 Al-Kab incorporated generation as understood by Bishr,
only he used it to account for how a person comes to know what he perceives:
he deemed that the object of a persons knowledge was the product of his own
acts (filihi). For example, a person creates acts and this leads to the generation
of his own knowledge; a person opens his eyes and this leads to his seeing.61
This explanation of how a persons own acts lead to the creation of knowledge
through generation also means that a person can generate knowledge in the
heart of another.62 Indeed, al-Kab understood that a persons knowledge of
what he perceives (yuissu) could be his act or the act of another person.
Moreover, this makes it clear that al-Kabs expansion of Bishrs notion of gen-
eration (tawld) was closely linked to his cosmology, which was heavily influ-
enced by the doctrine of nature.
With regard to explaining how generation occurs, al-Kab was influenced by
al-Nams description of the heart as the seat of knowledge.63 For al-Kab,
the heart is not only the seat of knowledge, but also knowledge is generated
from the structure (binya) of the heart. Al-Kab described the intellect (aql)

59 Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 5.


60 Mans knowledge of what he senses can be an act which he acquires (kasb), if he is its
cause, meaning if he is the opener of his eyes, then his perception with his eyes is his
acquisition (kasb), and his knowledge of that is his acquisition (kasb). If someone else
were to open his eyes, then his perception would be, in the second state, the act of the one
who was responsible for opening his eyes. His [al-Kabs] position is the same regarding
all the senses, Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 305.
61 Ibid.
62 Ibid., 308309.
63 van Ess, Theologie, 3:380; van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre, 72.
160 chapter 4

as generated by the heart, just as insanity and forgetfulness are.64 The constitu-
tion of each heart is different, and these differences have consequences on the
capacity of individuals to attain theoretical knowledge (al-ulm al-daqqa
al-lafa).65 According to Ab Rashd and the Basrans, concepts that derive
from the doctrine of nature had no value because they rejected the existence
of nature as a cosmological framework. The doctrine of nature was also the
underlying framework of al-Kabs view that the distinction between neces-
sary and acquired knowledge continues well into the afterlife.66 In other words,
he saw natural causality as independent of eschatological change. It is worth
noting here, however, that Ab Rashd highlighted and objected to al-Kabs
use of the notion of constitution (mizj) in his argument for the existence of
discrepancies in the servants capacities for attaining knowledge.67 With the
notion of constitution, al-Kabs cosmological framework appears to be not
only influenced by the doctrine of nature, but also more specifically by his
exposure to Galenic material.68
With al-Kabs understanding that servants are inherently unequal in their
capacity to apply rational inquiry, the existence of a hierarchy between those
who apply rational inquiry and those who follow them, and hence the accept-
ability of the latters use of imitation to reach knowledge of God, the question
arises as to how this cosmological view may have informed his understanding
of the place of revelation as a source of religious knowledge. Various articles
have survived that describe al-Kabs views on the place of revelation (risla)
and prophetic mission (bitha) in relation to knowledge. But it is hard to draw
broad conclusions about the role of revelation in al-Kabs epistemology from
just these articles. This is, in part, because of the highly fragmentary state in
which these articles about revelation and the prophetic mission survive. For
example, the evidence available about the role of revelation addresses matters
that do not directly pertain to religious knowledge. As we encountered earlier,
according to al-Kab, knowledge of language is made known through revelation

64 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 319, al-Kab also believed that the heart gen-
erates knowledge even when a person is asleep. Knowledge is generated in ones self,
while asleep, and includes knowledge of God, His attributes, and the truth of His mes-
sengers. Ibid., 324.
65 Ibid., 318.
66 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 330332; Mnkdm, al-Talq, 52; Schmidtke,
Anonymous Commentary, fol. 156a.
67 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 319.
68 Hans Hinrich Biesterfeldt, Galen Traktat Dass Die Krfte der Seele den Mischungen des
Krpers folgen in Arabischer bersetzung (Wiesbaden: Deutsche Morgenlndische
Gesellschaft Franz Steiner, 1973); Manfred Ullman, Die Medizin im Islam, 39.
Epistemology 161

(tawqf). Moreover, he considered a prophet necessary for the conveyance of


linguistic knowledge.69
But, al-Kabs views that it is possible to have a prophet convey linguistic
and medical knowledge only, that is, it is possible to have a prophet without a
legal message,70 seem to be responses to a debate whose history is not avail-
able to us. The only part of the history of this debate that is available to us is
al-Kabs agreement with al-Jubb in relation to this statement; the latter said
that it is possible to have a prophet without legal knowledge. Ab Hshim
opposed al-Jubb and thought his fathers view meant that God allowed futil-
ity (abath).71 For Ab Hshim believed that languages could be learned
through convention and usage (muwaa and iil), and medical knowl-
edge (food and poisons), could be known through experiment.72 On the face of
it, to say that God can send a prophet without a legal message, but only a scien-
tific one, seems to argue that divine intervention has a larger role in scientific
knowledge. But without context, the full implication of al-Kabs statement
cannot be adequately assessed. As the history of the debate is only presented
from the point of view of the disagreement between Ab Hshim and his
father al-Jubb, it remains unclear to what exactly al-Kab was responding.
Al-Kabs position on prophets for non-legal matters is noted in the text of
Ziydt Shar al-ul only as a digression from the topic of the differences
between al-Jubb and Ab Hshim. For al-Jubb, it is permissible for there to
be a prophet without a religious law (nabiyyan l shar maahu), or a renewer
of a defunct religious law (mujaddidan li-shar mundaris) that could only be
known through this prophet.73
Lastly, al-Kab held a strict stance on debating with skeptics; this may be a
reflection of his interactions with them. The growth of skepticism among ear-
lier generations of Mutazils, especially in the case of Ibn al-Rwand, may be
read as a factor in al-Kabs opposition to even arguing with them, though his
contemporary al-Jubb allowed it. There are, moreover, reasons in al-Kabs
system that explain this position. Al-Kab noted that because they denied the
principle of the existence of knowledge, it is impossible to carry on a debate
with them. In his work Kitb al-r wa-l-diynt, al-Kab invoked an argu-
ment of the ancient philosophers (mutaqaddimn) to refute the skeptics
denial of the existence of knowledge.

69 Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 63b.


70 Adang, Madelung, and Schmidtke (eds.), Baran Mutazilite Theology, 157.
71 Ibid.
72 Ibid.
73 Ibid.
162 chapter 4

[The ancient philosophers addressed the skeptics, stating] is it by means


of knowledge that you have affirmed that there is no knowledge and no
truth (aqqa)? If they [the skeptics] respond with a no, then [these
ancient philosophers argued that] they [the skeptics] do not deserve a
response. But if they [the skeptics] show doubt, then they should be
asked: Do you know that you are in doubt or not. He [al-Kab]
explained that if one of them [the skeptics] were to experience a calam-
ity, he would behave in the [same] way as a person who affirms knowl-
edge behaves.74

The reasoning behind al-Kabs prohibition of arguing with the skeptics was
based on his belief that knowledge can only be what it is if its upholder
acknowledges that he is knowing: someone who knows should know that
about themselves.75 In other words, for al-Kab, the skeptics do not acknowl-
edge that they are knowing, and based on this rejection of acknowledging the
possibility of knowing, they cannot be argued with.76

The Case of the Basran Polemical Testimony: al-Kabs


Definition of Knowledge
Al-Kabs definition of knowledge was criticized by the four theological tradi-
tions that I use here to reconstruct his thought. Indeed Mutazil scholastic
definitions of knowledge seem to have developed, at least in part, as a reaction
to his definition. Most of al-Kabs theological opponents prefaced their new
definitions of knowledge with explanations of why al-Kabs definition did not
work.77 The Basrans took issue, at great length, with al-Kabs definition of
knowledge as the conviction that a thing is as it truly is (itiqd al-shay al
m huwa bihi). Though their focus was, naturally, on bringing their polemics
against al-Kab to a successful conclusion, they inadvertently yielded evidence
for the reconstruction of al-Kabs reasoning when they highlighted some of
the ontological bases for his epistemic choices. Ab Rashd explained that
al-Kabs definition of knowledge as the conviction that a thing is as it truly is

74 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:4142.


75 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 179a, fol. 197b; Schmidtke, Anonymous
Commentary, fol. 164b.
76 Schmidtke, Anonymous Commentary, fol. 154b.
77 al-Bust, Kitb al-Bath, 26; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:17;
al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 3, fol. 167a; vol. 4, fol. 174a; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-
adilla, 1:4; Ibn Frak, Mujarrad maqlt, 11; al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 5; Ibn Maymn,
Shar al-Irshd, 4142. Muahhar b. hir al-Maqdis was a rare example of a follower of
al-Kab (al-Maqdis, Kitb al-bad), 1:19.
Epistemology 163

meant that knowledge is defined because of what it is in itself (li-aynihi


wa-dhtihi), and not according to a mode of occurrence (wajh).78
Ab Rashd objected that it is circular to define knowledge as being what it
is because of itself, just as it is circular to define the color black to be black
because of itself. This would result in the illogical proposition that whatever
belongs to the class of knowledge has to be knowledgeand only knowledge
(lawajab an l yajz an yakn min jins al-ilm m laysa bi-ilm), and that knowl-
edge can only exist as knowledge (l yajz fm huwa ilm an yjad wa l yakn
ilm).79 Yet, it seems that al-Kab upheld this definition precisely because of
what follows from it: if knowledge has its own class80 then there is no need for
any additional criterion to distinguish it from another attribute.
In defining knowledge as being what it is according to a mode of occurrence
(li-wuqihi al wajh),81 Ab Rashd upheld Ab Hshims understanding of
attributes as ontologically similar to one another, that is, without the distinc-
tion of the mode of occurrence. Thus, Ab Rashd noted that in the case of the
attribute of knowledge, without a mode of occurrence, which for him is the
tranquility of the soul, there could be no distinction between the attribute of
knowledge and imitation.82 It is noteworthy that the ontological disagreement
upon which rests the difference between al-Kabs definition of knowledge
and that of the followers of Ab Hshim is identical to the ontological differ-
ence underlying their definitions of good and evil.83
Al-Jishum explained that al-Kabs definition of knowledge (conviction
without an external criterion, namely a mode of occurrence) allows for knowl-
edge, which is a conviction, to be produced as much by rational inquiry (naar)
as by imitation.84 Al-Jishum explained this as follows:

Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab] argued for his position [about imitation as a


means for knowledge] by [stating] that knowledge is the conviction
(itiqd) that a thing is as it truly is, and this [conviction] indeed occurred
(aala) with imitation. For [al-Kab argues that] what is sought from
rational inquiry (naar) is conviction and it occurs [with imitation].85

78 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 287300.


79 Ibid., 287.
80 Ibid., 300 and 303.
81 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 287.
82 Ibid.
83 See Chapter 3.
84 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 1:4.
85 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fol. 174a.
164 chapter 4

Al-Kabs definition of knowledge implies that just as conviction (itiqd) can


occur (aala) because of imitation it can also occur because of rational inquiry
(naar), and hence imitation can be a valid means of reaching knowledge of
God. However, his definition of knowledge taken outside the full context of his
epistemology leaves the reader with the impression that falsehood is indiscern-
ible from truth. Yet, though less often noted in the sources, his definition of
knowledge was rather circumscribed with an additional criterion of verifica-
tion. Indeed al-Jishum objected to it as a superfluous criterion of verification:

According to Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab] the validity of rational inquiry


(naar) as generating knowledge is known by means of a proof (dall) but
according to us [al-Jishum], once rational inquiry (naar) leads to ben-
efit (manfaa) and deflects (yamna) from evil, it is recognized by neces-
sity (arratan).86

The additional verification of rational inquiry demanded by al-Kab suggests


other lost characteristics of al-Kabs understanding of rational inquiry. One
thing is clear however; while imitation of knowledge is acceptable, the verifica-
tion of knowledge reached through imitation must be provided through rational
inquiry whose validity must be verified through a proof (dall).87 In short, al-Kab
demanded that those who must apply rational inquiry to reach knowledge are
subject to an additional rigorous process, though its details remain unclear.


Al-Kabs epistemology was in part a response to the crisis of skepticism that
had spread in his own Baghdadi school and among the Mutazils as a whole.

86 Ibid., vol. 4, fol. 217a.


87 As noted above, the larger framework of al-Kabs insistence on the existence of a proof
for the verification of rational inquiry is not available in the sources, but we can gather
that it derives from a greater emphasis on verification. This absolute certainty that
al-Kab required may have had a parallel in his legal thought. Unlike the majority of
Basrans, he insisted that the report of the many (mutawtir) was acquired and not neces-
sary knowledge. To attain knowledge of the report of the many he required the applica-
tion of rational inquiry (naar). Ab l-usayn al-Bar agreed with al-Kab in this view
(Kitb al-Mutamad f ul al-dn, ed. Amad Bakr and asan anaf (Damascus: Institut
franais de Damas, 1965)), 2:552. See also Ab Jafar Muammad b. al-asan al-s,
al-Udda f ul al-fiqh, ed. Muammad al-Qm (Qum: Sitara, 1997), 1:7273; and
al-Juwayn, al-Burhn f ul al-fiqh, ed. Abd al-Am (Doha: aba al nafaqat Khalfa ibn
amad l-Thn, 1979), 1:579 (I thank Devin Stewart for these last two references).
Epistemology 165

His epistemology also drew on Bishr b. al-Mutamirs use of the doctrine of


generation for his definition of knowledge. However, more than any other
theological doctrine investigated thus far, al-Kabs epistemology was a turn-
ing point in Mutazil thought. This is especially the case with his views that the
first moral obligation is knowledge and not rational inquiry, his conditional
toleration of imitation for a group of servants, and his definition of knowledge.
These articles mark a watershed in part because scholastic Basran Mutazil
views on knowledge, as well as non-Mutazil writings (Ashar and Mturd
works) seem to have developed their own methodology in response to them.
However, it is the cosmological and ontological underpinnings of al-Kabs
epistemology that most starkly reveal the depth of his theological vision and
its differences from that of his Basran counterparts and successors.
chapter 5

The Doctrine of Nature

As noted in the introduction, al-Kabs contributions to cosmology (daqq or


laf al-kalm)1 constitute the largest extant articles of his theology, though
their treatment lies beyond the scope of our inquiry here. Indeed, as signifi-
cant as these extant articles are, they remain in too fragmentary a state for a
full treatment, as noted by Dhanani.2 But from the previous three chapters we
can identify one component of his cosmological doctrine, namely the doc-
trine of nature (abi),3 that is central to his theological argumentation.
I have highlighted the role of the doctrine of nature in al-Kabs advocacy of
earlier theological stances, such as his view on the divine attribute of volition
and the optimum, in addition to his new views, such as his articles of episte-
mology.4 As I discuss in some detail in Chapters 2, 3, and 4, and earlier in Part 1
on the sources, the evidence of the role of the doctrine of nature on al-Kabs
theology varies from article to article. There is sufficient evidence, however, for
its role to prompt us to identify what al-Kabs doctrine consisted of, especially
the ways in which it differed from its earlier proponents; this enables us to
complete our reconstruction of al-Kabs theology.5 In the extant titles of

1 See Horten, Die philosophischen; and now more recently, the anonymous commentary on Ibn
Mattawayhs work (Schmidkte, Anonymous Commentary).
2 Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm, 1011. Among his more renowned contributions in cos-
mology is that the atom (al-juz alladhi l yatajaza) does not possess extension, in contrast to
other, especially later Mutazils (Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 5859;
Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm, 135136). He also deemed that an atom does not perdure
without the accident of subsistence (baq), and consequently that an atom is annihilated
when God ceases to create the accident of subsistence (baq) in it. (Ab Rashd al-Nsbr,
al-Masil f l-khilf, 7481, 8387). Most significant perhaps for what it shares with al-Ashar
and kalm occasionalism is his view that accidents do not perdure (Ab Rashd al-Nsbr,
al-Masil f l-khilf, 177179; Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm, 44). Al-Kab was also known
for denying the possibility of the vacuum (Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 47
56), and he held debates with al-Rz on this question (Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f
l-khilf, 4756). On the debates with al-Rz on the subject, see van Ess, Theologie, 4:469.
3 I translate this technical term as the doctrine of nature rather than the more literal doc-
trine of natures to facilitate reference to it in English. When I discuss the four elements from
which the term abi derives I speak of natures in the plural (see below).
4 See Table4B.
5 For previous discussions of al-Kabs doctrine of nature, see Marie Bernand, La critique de
la notion de nature (ab) par le kalm, Studia Islamica 51 (1980), 71, 87, 90; and McDermott,
Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 189232.

koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 6|doi 10.1163/9789004259683_010


The Doctrine Of Nature 167

al-Kabs works there is ample evidence of his concern with cosmological


questions, as in al-Masil al-wrida f l-ajz; Kitb Tayd maqlt Ab l-Hudhayl
f l-juz; Kitb f l-tawallud wa-afl al-ib; Kitb f l-qawl f l-ab wa-qalb
al-ar. Other more encyclopedic works testify to the wide range of his contri-
butions to cosmology: Kitb Awil al-adilla andUyn al-masil.6 Moreover,
al-Kabs contributions to cosmology must have owed something to his teacher
al-Khayy, and his longstanding interest in it. While little detail has survived
of al-Khayys theology, his cosmological tenets as well as al-Kabs position in
relation to them stand out in the sources. For example, al-Kab disagreed with
al-Khayys espousal of the view that the non-existent (madm) is a body
(jism).7 Instead al-Kab thought the non-existent was neither an atom (jawhar)
nor an accident (ara), only a thing (shay).8
As for his espousal of the doctrine of nature, al-Kab stood at the end of a
long tradition of early Mutazil supporters.9 Later on, the Muarrifiyya in
Yemen may have been influenced by the Zayds who followed al-Kabs natu-
ralist cosmology. But the naturalist cosmological doctrine of the Muarrifiyya
was far removed from that of al-Kab and the Zayds who followed him.10 The
Muarrifiyya were not alone in asserting that the creation of the world was
from the four (or three) elements, but unlike al-Kab they rejected atomism
altogether. Outside the Mutazila, al-Mturd adopted the doctrine of nature,
but after the fifth/eleventh century his followers, including Ab l-Mun
al-Nasaf, subsequently rejected it.11 As for the Mutazil doctrine of nature, its
last noteworthy proponent was al-Kab, as Basrans and Ashars were strongly
opposed to it.12 A brief summary of these early Mutazil doctrines of nature
follows here.13 To put them as well as al-Kabs doctrine of nature in perspec-
tive, we first briefly outline the main features of Mutazil cosmology.

6 See Introduction: Titles of Lost Works.


7 van Ess, al-Khayy, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 4:11621164; Madelung, Abd
al-Ramal-ayy, Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1:143144.
8 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 3747.
9 van Ess, Theologie, 4:458; Richard Frank, Notes and Remarks on the abi in the Teaching
of al-Mturd, in Mlanges dIslamologie: Volume ddi la mmoire de Armand Abel par
ses collgues, ses lves et ses amis, ed. Pierre Salmon (Leiden: Brill, 1974), 147.
10 See Madelung on Sulaymn b. Muammad b. Amad al-Malls al-Burhn al-riq
al-mukhalli min war al-maiq, A Muarrif Manuscript.
11 Rudolph, al-l-Mturd, 6, 282283, 285286.
12 van Ess, Theologie, 4:469470; Bernand, La critique de la notion de nature, 74, 87; Frank,
Notes and Remarks on the abi, 148.
13 The state of our knowledge of the history of the doctrine of nature among the Mutazils
and the mutakallimn remains quite preliminary, Frank, Notes and Remarks on the
abi, 137149.
168 chapter 5

Cosmology (daqq or laf al-kalm) was as much a part of the Mutazil and
kalm intellectual project as theological questions (jall al-kalm)14 proper that
discuss Gods attributes and justice. Kalm cosmology encompassed an array
of topics, including ontology, physics, and anthropology.15 Moreover, to various
extents all cosmological inquiries had a bearing on theological investigations.
One such example was the argument for the existence of God:16 Mutazil man-
uals often list the temporal creation of bodies and accidents as the first prin-
ciple for the establishment of divine unity.17 The world in Mutaziland
Asharphysics was understood to be created in time (mudath), and its for-
mation and continuous subsistence was contingent upon a creator God
(mudith).
Most Mutazils18 starting with Muammar b. Abbd19 were atomists.
Mutazil atomists, and Ashars who followed them on this matter, shared in
the view that the world was made up of bodies (ajsm) that consist of atoms
(jawhir) and accidents (ar).20 These atoms, which were deemed indivis-
ible, were often referred to as indivisible atoms (al-juz alladh l yatajazza).21
One hallmark of early Mutazil atomism, shared also by Ab Hshim,
al-Jubb, and al-Kab was its conception of atoms as not extended in space,
as having no physical magnitude.22 There were two categories of accidents:

14 On jall al-kalm, see, for example, al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 1300.


15 On the range of topics included under kalm cosmological inquiry (daqq al-kalm, and
sometimes laf al-kalm), see al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 301449; van Ess,
Theologie, 3:138139 (n48); Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm, 34.
16 On the relevance of physics for the proof of the existence of God, see Mnkdm, al-Talq,
92122. See Craig William Lane, The Kalm Cosmological Argument (London: Macmillan,
1979), 318.
17 See Chapter on the proof of the temporal creation of atoms and bodies [and this is the
first principle of unity], in Ibn al-Malim, Kitb al-Fiq, 1115; see also Mnkdm,
al-Talq, 9294.
18 Frank, The Metaphysics of Created Being, 3944.
19 van Ess, Theologie, 3:67.
20 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 301306; A.I. Sabra, Kalm Atomism as an Alternative
Philosophy to Hellenizing Falsafa, in Arabic Theology, Arabic Philosophy: From the Many
to the One: Essays in Celebration of Richard M. Frank, ed. James E. Montgomery (Leuven:
Peeters, 2006), 199272; and A.I. Sabra, The Simple Ontology of kalm Atomism: An
Outline, Early Science and Medicine 14 (2009): 6878.
21 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 314.
22 Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 9; Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm, 135. Dhanani
explains that this difference between early and later Mutazils relates to differences in their
understanding of the atoms occupation of space (taayyuz) (Physical Theory of Kalm, 108).
The Doctrine Of Nature 169

those that could be perceived and those that could not be perceived. The acci-
dents that could be perceived were classified into seven kinds: colors, tastes,
smells, heat, cold, pain, and sounds.23 Of the accidents that were imperceptible,24
there were four kinds: contact (ijtim), separation (iftirq), motion (araka),
and rest (sukn). These four accidents were categorized as akwn, of which
bodies could never be devoid,25 for they were meant to account for their spatial
behavior.26
But not all early Mutazils were atomists. irr b. Amr27 (d.c. 200/815) saw
that things are made only of conglomerates of accidents, and thus he and
those who followed him on this were labeled proponents of accidents (ab
al-ar).28 By contrast al-Nam thought that there are no accidents other
than movement29 and that the infinitely divisible atoms are the only constitu-
ents of the world.30 While al-Nam and irr b. Amr stood at the far extreme
of the spectrum of Mutazil cosmological views because of their non-atomist
stances, even the views of Mutazil atomists, and their expressions of the
doctrine of nature were far from uniform. Indeed the formulations of early
Mutazil proponents of nature (ab al-abi) were as distinct from one
another as the broader physical systems they developed.

Early Mutazil Doctrines of Nature

If we can speak of a unifying feature of the Mutazil doctrines of nature, it


would be the belief in the existence of natures, described as (ab, abi, or
iban) that determine the acts and behaviors of the entities that they inhabit.
After sampling some expressions of this doctrine, it also becomes apparent

23 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 92.


24 Ibid., 9296.
25 Ibid., 94.
26 Sabra, Kalm Atomism, 209211.
27 Dirr b. Amr was excluded from Mutazil biographical dictionaries because of his inde-
pendent doctrines, mostly his determinism, van Ess, Theologie, 3:33; al-Khayy, Kitb
al-Intir, 98; Abd al-Jabbr, Fal al-itizl, 163.
28 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 305306, 345346; Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm, 4;
van Ess, Theologie, 3:3842.
29 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 378, 403404; Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm, 5; van
Ess, Theologie, 3:309323.
30 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 318; van Ess, Theologie, 3:309; Dhanani, Physical Theory
of Kalm, 121.
170 chapter 5

that although a nature-focused outlook was attractive in providing a principle


of causality to explain how the world operated, it also posited an ontological
challenge to the notion of an omnipotent creator God.
The doctrine of nature is first attested among the Mutazils at the same
time as atomism; Muammar b. Abbd, whom we have already seen, was the
first to formulate an atomistic kalm view of the world, and he was also the
first to advocate the doctrine of nature. Muammar saw God as the creator of
bodies and he understood accidents to be the creation (ikhtirt) of bodies
either by nature (iban), as in the case of fire that causes (tudith) burning, or
by choice, as in the case of an animal who causes movement or rest.31 The role
Muammar allocated to the nature of bodies in determining the creation of
accidents provoked criticism by Ibn al-Rwand, who, as al-Khayy points out,
was himself a proponent of the doctrine of nature and in this dependence rec-
ognized the denial of divine agency.32 Al-Khayy insisted that Muammar saw
God as the cause of sickness in man and decay in plants, but only denied
His agency in relation to the harm that befell plants, which he understood to
be caused by human injustice that cannot be caused by God.33 Al-Khayy
avoided addressing Muammars stance that God only creates bodies and the
resulting limits on Gods power.34 But the inevitable marginalization of Gods
agency in Muammars formula could not, ultimately, pass by unacknowledged
in al-Khayys account, as we see here: Muammar used to claim that the
forms (hayt) of bodies are the acts of bodies according to nature (iban),
meaning that God fashioned (hayyaah) them [the bodies] in such a way that
they make their forms according to nature (iban).35 Muammar applied the
same logic that dictates the relationship between bodies and accidents to the
Qurn as a being; it too is a body whose nature dictates the accidents in it.36
Muammar seemed to accord choice to humans insofar as he deemed what-
ever occurs in the space a person occupies (ayyiz) to be his act. As for what is

31 al-Shahrastn, Livre des religions et des sects, trans. Daniel Gimaret and Guy Monnot
(Paris: Peeters, 1986), 1:46.
32 al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir, 47.
33 Ibid.
34 Ibid.
35 Ibid., 4546; van Ess, Theologie, 5:256.
36 God, He is exalted, created the atom and the accidents that are in it. [The accidents] are
[not] the act of the atom but the act of nature. The Qurn is the act of the atom that is in
it because of its [the Qurns] nature (abihi), thus it [the Qurn] is neither creator, nor
created, [rather] it [the Qurn] is the creation in time (mudath) of the thing that is
inherent in it because of its nature (abihi). al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 584.
The Doctrine Of Nature 171

not part of the space a person occupies, it should be understood as the act of
that in which the action inheres according to nature (m wujida fhi iban).37
Thumma b. Ashras also incorporated elements of the doctrine of nature in
his cosmology.38 He spoke of a created act (mudath) formed according to
nature (mab). This applies, for example, to fire that can only burn, or any
other body that can only perform one class (jins) of acts.39 In one version,
Thumma described naturally determined acts as acts without an agent.40 As
for human acts, the only act that Thumma recognized is volition.41 Regarding
the Qurn, Thumma entertained both a creationist and a naturalist option:
the Qurn can either be caused by nature (yajz an yakna min al-aba) or be
created by God (yabtadi).42 The seemingly henotic aspirations of Thummas
last position are later encountered with al-Kab, although on a larger scale (see
below).
As for al-Nam, all acts that exceed the substrate of the capacity for
action (maall al-qudra) [i.e., a human agent]43 are determined by God,
who determines them according to the necessity of nature (jb al-khilqa).44
Influenced by both al-Nam and Thumma b. Ashras, al-Ji also devel-
oped a version of the doctrine of nature.45 Like Thumma b. Ashras, al-Ji

37 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tawld, 9:11. Muammars elusive doctrine of man


(al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 372373) has been clarified to an extent by Richard
Frank, who believes that it was not tied to his doctrine of nature proper. Richard Frank,
Review, Bibliotheca Orientalis 38 (1981): 737758. On Muammars theology, compare also
to Hans Daiber, Das Theologisch-Philosophische System des Muammar ibn Abbd
as-Sulam (gest. 830 n.Chr.) (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1975), 283291; van Ess,
Theologie, 3:6774.
38 van Ess, Theologie, 3:165.
39 al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir, 25.
40 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tawld, 9:11.
41 Ibid.
42 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 584.
43 Gimaret and Monnot, Livre des religions et des sects, 1:204.
44 al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 38. A shorter version of al-Nams view on
nature can be found in Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tawld, 9:11. Al-Khayy also describes
al-Nams adoption of natural causality, but with little detail, as his concern is to pres-
ent al-Nams stance as that of the majority of the Mutazils (Kitb al-Intir, 4142).
Moreover, al-Nams doctrine of nature was characterized by his distinctive theory of
leap (afra), see van Ess, Theologie, 3:309352.
45 Al-Ji is singled out in the source for his familiarity with the doctrine of nature; this can
be easily gleaned from the titles of his works and passages in his monumental al-ayawn
(al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 58b); al-Ji, Kitb al-ayawn, ed. Abd
al-Salm Hrn (Cairo: Maktabat Muaf l-Bb l-alab wa-Awladuh, 1954), 5:4046.
172 chapter 5

deemed volition to be the only action determined by man.46 All other actions
occur on the part of human agents as a result of the necessity of nature
(iban).47 In one version noted by Abd al-Jabbr, al-Ji did not even con-
sider volition to be determined by human agents but by nature.48 Al-Jis
understanding of the production of knowledge, and his famous doctrine of
ab al-marif, was influenced by the determinism of nature and by
Thumma b. Ashras.49 Yet the mechanism of that determinism remains far
from clear; al-Ji described the forces of nature (quw abiihi) and the
forces of reason (quw aqlihi) as balancing one another in the human soul.
He then argued that while the forces of nature are present and determine
human action, they only take over a human beings soul (nafs), and thereby
his choices, if the forces of reason are not present to balance them out.50
Other early Mutazils did not uphold the doctrine of nature. For example,
Ab l-Hudhayl spoke of generation (tawallud), though only on a limited
scale. He understood that accidents, such as the pain that is caused by being
hit, the movement and falling of a stone when it is pushed, and the noise
that emerges from two objects striking one another are all generated by a
persons acts.51 Ab l-Hudhayl and the Basrans who followed him under-
stood that a person acts (yafal) in himself and on another by means of a
cause (sabab) that he originates (yudithuhu) in himself.52 For Ab l-Hud-
hayl, these latter accidents are Gods acts. Indeed Ab l-Hudhayl even
extended generation to encompass the killing or harm that result from a
man launching an arrow, even if another mans spear causes harm or death
to the same target before the arrow reaches it.53 However, Ab l-Hudhayl
stopped short of accepting that accidents, such as pleasure, color, taste,
smell, heat, cold,54 humidity, and also perception and knowledge can be
generated by a persons acts.55

46 al-Kab, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, in Fal al-itizl, 73; Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tawld,
9:11.
47 al-Kab, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, in Fal al-itizl, 73.
48 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Tawld, 9:11.
49 Abd al-Jabbr, al-Mughn: al-Naar wa-l-marif, 12:306, 316.
50 al-Ji, al-Masil wa-l-jawbt f l-marifa, 4:5859.
51 al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir, 6061.
52 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 402.
53 Ibid., 403; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:680.
54 al-Muall, al-Burhn al-riq, fol. 95b.
55 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 402.
The Doctrine Of Nature 173

It was Bishr b. al-Mutamir who pushed the concept of generation to the


point of effecting his epistemology.56 For Bishr, the doctrine of generation57
was a governing principle of causality that explains not just human agency, as
was the case with Ab l-Hudhayls version of the same doctrine, but also the
production of perception and knowledge.58 As for the evidence tying Bishr to
the doctrine of nature, it appears very late and is ambiguous. Al-Shahrastn
seems to be the only source that postulates that Bishr b. al-Mutamir was influ-
enced by the ab al-abi in this doctrine.59
Bishr b. al-Mutamirs expanded understanding of the concept of genera-
tion was followed by that of Ab Ms l-Murdr, who added to it the premise
that one action can be generated by two separate agents.60 Jafar b. arb and
Jafar b. al-Mubashshir, however, may also have relied on a naturalist frame-
work to support their unusual view that colors fall under mans capacity, that
is, that a human being can generate color. Ab Rashd reports this in a hypo-
thetical argument in which they retort that the natural characteristics
(khiyya) are responsible for the production of color.61 As brief as this testi-
mony from Ab Rashd is, it is significant in documenting the use of the term
natural characteristic (khiyya), a term that was used earlier by Thumma
and that al-Kab invokes in more detail.62

56 al-Khayy, al-Intir, 52; al-Kab, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, in Fal al-itizl, 72, al-Ashar,
Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 401402; al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:680; al-Baghdd, Kitb al-
Farq, 120121.
57 On tawallud in Bishr b. al-Mutamir, see van Ess, Theologie, 3:116121.
58 On generation among other Mutazils, see al-Ashar, al-Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 405408.
59 al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 44. He [Bishr b. al-Mutamir] claimed that color,
taste, smell, all perceptions, whether from hearing or seeing (min al-sam wa-l-ruya) can
be generated (mutawallida). Indeed he [Bishr] took this view from the naturalists
(abiyyn) except that they [the naturalists] did not distinguish between the generated
(al-mutawallid) act and the direct act (al-mubshar) by means of the capacity for action
(bi-l-qudra). Indeed they [abiyyn] do not affirm the existence (yuthbitna) of the
capacity for action (qudra) in the manner of the mutakallimn, and the power for action
(quwwat al-fil) and the power for reaction (infil) are different from the capacity for
action that is upheld by the mutakallimn. [Bishrs second outstanding proposition was]
his view that capacity (istia) is the soundness (salm) of the constitution (binya) and
the well-being of the limbs and their being free from infirmities (ft). See also Gimaret
and Monnot, Livre des religions et des sects, 1:228229.
60 al-Shahrastn, Kitb al-Milal wa-l-nial, 48.
61 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 127.
62 Thus Jafar b. arbs work on the proponents of the doctrine of nature (ab al-abi)
were refutations of non-Mutazil proponents of nature. Van Ess, Theologie, 4:74; 6:288.
174 chapter 5

This brief perusal of the various formulations of the doctrine of nature


shows, at least, the extent to which it was a cornerstone for a large majority of
the early Mutazils, though it was less utilized by the Baghdadi school. Only
Jafar b. arb and Jafar b. al-Mubashshir are said to have incorporated ele-
ments of it and the sources on this are somewhat taciturn. Rather, it was in the
expanded sense of the generation (tawallud or tawld) doctrine, which we saw
with Bishr b. al-Mutamir, that they came to terms with the question of
causality.63
Though it was pervasive in their theologies, the doctrine of nature among
the early Mutazils remains, however, hard to contextualize and situate in
Islamic intellectual history. It is clear that these early Mutazil doctrines of
nature put constraints on divine will. These constraints explain, in part, why
later Basran MutazilsAshars and later Mturdscondemned it. But
what is less obvious is why the doctrine of nature attracted so many early
Mutazils. The question is especially vexing given that the principle and origi-
nal advocates of the doctrine of nature were intellectual and theological oppo-
nents of the Mutazils: the dualists (thanawiyya) and the atheists (dahriyya)
who spoke of things having independent natures and being incorporated into
different systems of the four elements (heat, cold, humidity, and dryness).64
Indeed it was not only the Mutazils, but also other mutakallimn, who
opposed non-theist naturalists even as they fashioned their own theistic ver-
sions of the doctrine of nature.65
Our lack of knowledge of the origins of Mutazil cosmology as a whole com-
pounds the difficulty of making sense of the early Mutazil views of the doc-
trine of nature. We know very little about the Mutazils encounter with
atomistic theories, though these theories made cosmology a central issue for
the Mutazils in the first place.66 Several theories have been posited to answer
it, but as of yet we have no textual evidence to justify them.67 Though kalm

63 See al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:680681.


64 van Ess, Theologie, 1:364; 2:3940; Ullmann, Die Medizin im Islam, 97; Catarina Belo,
Elements, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three, online edition, published 2014.
65 This simultaneous opposition to the proponents of nature and adoption of various ele-
ments of their doctrines persisted throughout the history of kalm. For early examples of
this practice, see van Ess, Theologie, 1:364, 3:38; 5:440. For later examples, such as the case
of al-Mturd, see Frank, Notes and Remarks on the abi, 145, 148.
66 Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in
Baghdad and Early Abbasid Society (2nd4th/5th10th C.) (New York: Routledge, 1998), 71.
67 For a summary of M. Horten and O. Pretzels theories regarding the origins of atomism,
see McDermott, Theology of al-Shaikh al-Mufd, 189 (n1). The absence of textual evidence
for the sources of kalm atomism was long pointed out by Pines, who also spoke of the
The Doctrine Of Nature 175

atomism eventually supported the tenets of divine omnipotence with the


Ashariyya, it would be inaccurate to read the adoption of atomism into kalm
as the sole purpose of this tenet. One explanation for the inaccuracy of such a
reading can be found in Pines investigation of the late appearance of the doc-
trine that accidents do not perdure68 that was first introduced by al-Kab and
then taken up by al-Ashar and the Ashars.69 Indeed as we see in what fol-
lows, al-Kabs view (that atoms do not perdure without the accident of subsis-
tence (baq) continuously being created in them by God) coexisted with his
views on the eternity of the four elements. In other words, the perfection of a
creationist cosmology was far from the sole priority guiding al-Kabs and early
Mutazil cosmology.

al-Kabs Doctrine of Nature

Among the proponents of nature, the belief of dualists and atheists was, in
principle, tied to that of the eternity of the four elements, what amounts to the
eternity of matter.70 Whether all the early Mutazils who adhered to the doc-
trine of nature also saw the existence of the four elements (heat, cold, humid-
ity, and dryness) as the constituents of bodies is a question that is difficult to

possible influence of Indian atomism (Studies in Islamic Atomism, 141). Harry Wolfson
suggested Galenic sources as the origin of kalm atomism (Philosophy of the Kalm
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1976), 478486). Van Ess located the social context
of the origin of atomism among new converts from Manichaeism (called Zandiqa) to
Islam (Theologie, 1:423424). Dhanani looked at the origin of kalm atomism in epicurean
atomism. He notes kalm atomisms proximate origin in the dualist doctrines to which
kalm was exposed (Physical Theory of Kalm, 186). More recently, Y. Tzvi Langermann
identified Galenic sourcestranslated into Arabicin which Galen rejected atomist
views as the source of kalms knowledge about atomism. See Y. Tzvi Langermann,
Islamic Atomism and the Galenic Tradition, History of Science 47 no. 157 (Sept. 2009):
277295.
68 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 177179; Dhanani, Physical Theory of Kalm,
44.
69 Pines challenged the view that atomism came to be adopted by the mutakallimn because
of its working in the system of divine omnipotence. He shows that atomism and divine
omnipotence came together at a relatively late moment in the history of kalm atomism
(Pines, Studies in Islamic Atomism, 2325, 40). For a different perspective on creationism
as a cause for the adoption of atomism in kalm, see Wolfson, Philosophy of the Kalm,
468471.
70 al-Juwayn, al-Shmil f ul al-dn ed. Al Sm l-Nashshr, et al. (Alexandria: Munshat
al-Marif, 1969), 237238.
176 chapter 5

answer. For example al-Nam and al-Ji seem to have subscribed to the
existence of the four elements.71 Of course what was most theologically ques-
tionable about adhering to the existence of the four elements was the related
belief in the eternity of matter. But there is no evidence that any of the early
Mutazils adhered to this article.72 If we trust the testimony of al-Juwayn, it is
precisely their non-subscription to the eternity of matter that separated the
Mutazil proponents of nature from their atheist counterparts.73
The belief in the existence of the four elements, however, is clearly docu-
mented in the case of al-Kab.74 It is because of this belief that al-Jishum placed
al-Kab in the company of the philosophers, physicians, and astrologers.75 His
belief in a creator (ni), God,76 who created bodies from these four elements
is also clearly documented. Among the doctrines in which Ab l-Qsim
[al-Kb] disagreed with his [Baghdadi] colleagues (abihi) is that [which
holds that] the bodies that appear in the world are formed (mukawwana) of
the four elements (al-abi al-arbaa).77 Just as bodies are created from the
four elements, they also dissolve back into them when they die. In the book
Uyn al-masil, he [al-Kab] mentions that the human being and all these
bodies that dissolve (tataallal) and perish (tafsud) are created from the four
elements and therefore they transform (yastal) into one another.78 This
description of course evokes the eternity of these four elements. But al-Kab
made an important qualification to his view of Gods creation from the ele-
ments, namely that although God creates bodies from them, He also has the
power to create bodies from nothing, even if that is not what He chose to do:
God is capable of creating them [the bodies] not from these elements (l min
hdhihi al-abi).79 Similarly, as evidence for Gods creation of the world from
the four elements, al-Kab cites a passage from the Qurn that speaks of God
creating man from a pith of mud.

God, He is exalted, is capable of creating man and [everything] else from


nothing (ibtidan l min shay) as well as of creating them [man and

71 al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 45.


72 Bernand, La critique de la notion de nature, 67.
73 al-Juwayn, al-Shmil, 238.
74 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fols. 66a66b.
75 Ibid., vol. 1, fols. 125a125b.
76 Ibid., vol. 4, fols. 66a66b.
77 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 133. This is also documented in al-Jishum,
Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fols. 125a125b, vol. 4, fols. 66a66b.
78 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 133.
79 Ibid.
The Doctrine Of Nature 177

everything else] from the four elements. However, [in reality] He created
[them] from the four elements. He [al-Kab] took as a proof [for this
view] His saying And We have created man from a pith of mud (sulla
min n).80

Al-Kabs interpretation of the Qurnic pith of mud to mean the four ele-
ments was criticized by al-Jishum, who noted that mud is not equal to the four
elements; thus we are left with no explanation of how al-Kab may have pro-
posed to support his reliance on this verse of the Qurn.
In this reconstruction of al-Kabs doctrine of nature, we are challenged by
his willingness to entertain two possibilities for the origin of man, one being
Gods creation from nothing, which he presents as hypothetical but not real-
ized in this world, and the second, and the one realized in this world, is the
creation from the four elements. The challenge is especially acute if we recall
that the second proposition implies that God chose the eternity of matter, and
this in turn directly undermines Gods eternity by suggesting that something is
co-eternal with Him, hence Ab Rashds strong objection to al-Kab enter-
tainment of these two possibilities.81
Though the sources do not address Thummas influence on al-Kab,
Thumma presented two possibilities in his comment that God either created
the Qurn by nature or from nothing. Thumma did not, however, make a
statement about which of the two God chose, he did not speak of the creation
of bodies or humans, only of the particular case of the Qurn. Thus, al-Kabs
view of the origin of the world remains an exception to other Mutazils, even
a strong proponent of nature, such as Thumma b. Ashras. Moreover, al-Kabs
position on the origin of the world had a wide ranging effect on his view of God
as well, as he described God as being incapable of creating the world except at
the moment in which He created it.82

80 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 125a125b. A briefer version with the scrip-
tural argument is also noted in Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 149.
81 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 133. In search of a precedence for these two
possibilities that al-Kab entertains, we may recall Thumma b. Ashras view that the
Qurn can be the product of both nature and God (see above). Thumma only represents
a precedent in terms of the options between nature and creation, while no information is
reported on how Thumma resolved which option is actualized. Moreover, Thumma
does not merge the naturalist and the creationist model as al-Kab does, i.e., he does not
envision the creation from the four elements. Lastly, Thumma only speaks of the origin
of the Qurn with these two possibilities, and not the creation of humankind.
82 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 174a.
178 chapter 5

With regard to how the doctrine of nature affected al-Kabs understanding


of causality in bodies, like earlier Mutazils who advocated nature in their sys-
tems, al-Kab conceived of nature as affecting both how the bodies act in so far
as they are agents operating independently from other agents and how they
react to the acts of other agents: Bodies have natures (abi), by which they
are fashioned (tatahayya) for our actions [in them] and by which a living
being capable of action (qdir) commits them [the actions] with his capacity
for action.83 When describing how bodies behave on their own, that is, when
they are not in contact with other agents, al-Kab did not describe them as
being fashioned (tatahayya) but described nature as a natural characteristic
(khiyya) that determines the behavior of the body

There is in the wheat a natural characteristic (khiyya), such that it


would not be possible for barley to grow from it [wheat], as long as its
nature (aba) and natural characteristic (khiyya) are in it. [Al-Kab
also noted] that it is not possible (l yajz) for God to create from a
human drop of sperm (nufa) another animal.84

A natural characteristic overpowers Gods choice: God is described as not


capable of opposing it. Ab Rashd recognized this limitation of Gods power
in al-Kabs notion of natural characteristics, and rejected it:85 Ab Rashd pre-
sented empirical examples to show that the notion of a characteristic that
would make a body act in the same fashion is not rational,86 and he rejected
the four elements of nature as non-rational categories (ghayr maql).87 He
explained, for example, that knowledge of a natural characteristic can be nei-
ther necessary nor acquired knowledge,88 and if a natural characteristic were
to exist, it would have to be either the essence of the atom (dht al-jawhar), its
attribute, or an entity in it, and none of the options are tenable.89 They are
untenable, that is, from an atomist worldview.
Ab Rashds unstated objection to al-Kabs doctrine of nature is that it
cannot operate in an atomist framework. Thus, Ab Rashd notes that the gen-
eration of something that is not in its own substrate (maall) can only take

83 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 133.


84 Ibid.
85 Ibid.
86 Ibid., 143.
87 See for example, ibid., 133.
88 Ibid.
89 Ibid., 134.
The Doctrine Of Nature 179

place through pressure (itimd). This understanding of pressure seems to have


been presented already with Ab Hshim in response to Muammar b.
Abbd.90 A full investigation of the way in which the doctrine of nature fits
into al-Kabs version of atomism is beyond what we can present here, but
al-Kabs conceptualization of the effect of nature in bodies can be clarified.
Al-Kab explained that: [God] made for each thing a natural characteristic
(khiyya) against which each thing reacts (yanfail anh), such as wheat gen-
erating wheat, and a clot generating seeds.91 Nature takes effect in a body
through the process of a reaction (infil) that the body has toward its own
natural characteristic, this reaction consists of the bodies actions, such as the
production of wheat or seeds. It seems as though the natural characteristic
operates as an entitative determinant (man) in al-Kabs scheme.92 When
al-Mufd described al-Kabs understanding of the agency of nature, he noted
that it was far from the determinism of the early Mutazil naturalists or the
atheist proponents of nature (al-falsifa al-mulidn).

That which is generated (yutawalladu) by nature (ab) is only the result


of the causing agent who acts on the substrate fashioned by nature
(al-mab). Natures (al-ib), in reality, have no actions. This is the doc-
trine of Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab] and it differs from the doctrine of the
Mutazils on natures (ib) and from the philosopher atheists, in their
claim that natures (ib) have actions.93

But al-Mufds claim about the larger degree of freedom provided by al-Kab in
comparison to earlier Mutazil naturalists remains apologetic: It provides little
explanation about how nature operated differently in al-Kabs scheme.
Thus, al-Kabs understanding of nature as an agent of causality in bodies
can be summarized as follows: Nature is a characteristic that fashions things
(meaning bodies that are agents) on other bodies or just bodies who act on
themselves. In being fashioned (tatahayya) these bodies react (infil) in
ways to produce specific acts. While before al-Kab the use of the term

90 Ibid., 132.
91 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fols. 66a66b.
92 Al-Mufd also uses the term becomes fashioned (yatahayya) and reaction (infil), but
does not speak of natural characteristics: Natures (ib) are entitative determinants
(man) that inhere (taill) in atoms by which an act (fil) becomes fashioned (yatahayya)
for reaction (infil), as is the case with vision and the nature (aba) by which it [vision]
becomes fashioned for the occurrence (ul) of sensation (iss) and perception (idrk)
in it. (al-Mufd, Awil al-maqlt, 44).
93 Ibid.
180 chapter 5

natural characteristic (khiyya) is attested to other Mutazils (e.g.,


Thumma and Jafar b. arb) and non-Mutazils,94 this particular under-
standing of how a natural characteristic operates is only ascribed to al-Kab.95
The distinction between al-Kabs version and earlier ones was clarified by
al-Jishum.

They disagreed regarding [what constitutes] the doctrine of nature


(abi). Among them are those who denied it, in principle, and stated
thatit has to be relegated either to an agent who has choice or to a cause
(illa) This [first position] is the position (madhhab) of our teachers
[the Basrans]. Then there are those who affirmed [the existence of]
natures (abi) and they are two groups (firqatn). One [group] that
affirmed the existence of a maker (ni) and another [group] that denied
His existence. As for the group that affirmed the maker, it mentioned that
the maker gathered (jamaa) these bodies from the four elements
(al-abi al-arbaa)and also He made for each thing a characteristic
from which things act (yanfail), such as wheat generating wheat, and a
clot generating seeds. This is the doctrine of Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab].
Al-Ji noted that everything acts according to its natures, whether liv-
ing or dead (ayawnih wa-mawtih), and [that] all actions are equally
[produced] because of nature (ab), [and that] volition, gratitude, and
defamation follow volition. Thumma b. Ashras and Mamar [b. Abbd]
[adopted a view] close to al-Ji. He [Thumma] also held that volition
(irda) occurs because of nature (ab).96

As summed up in al-Jishums statement, al-Kabs version of a natural charac-


teristic defined his doctrine of nature as clearly as his belief that God created
the world from the four elements.
One last insight into how al-Kabs notion of a natural characteristic oper-
ated can be reconstructed from a hypothetical debate between him and Ab
Rashd, as presented by the latter. In it, al-Kab explains that according to the
dictates of natural characteristics, the magnet attracts iron, heavy objects fall

94 The same group of proponents of nature (aab al-abi) are also noted elsewhere in
al-Jishum, although without being identified; see Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 123b.
As for those philosophers, physicians, and astrologers who deny the Maker, they believed
that things are composed (murakkaba) of the four elements: heat, cold, humidity, and
dryness; and that everything has a natural characteristic (khiyya).
95 Richard Frank hints at the particular use of this term in al-Kabs doctrine of nature
(Notes and Remarks on the abi, 141).
96 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 4, fols. 66a66b.
The Doctrine Of Nature 181

down,97 and fire always affects that which it touches in the same way.98 Ab
Rashd then objects that alcohol has different effects on individuals, and thus
a natural characteristic could not stand as an explanatory principle. Al-Kab
replies that this change is not due to the absence of a natural characteristic,
but due to the individuals different constitution (mizj), which conditions the
influence of alcohol on them.99 In other words for al-Kab the characteristic
(khiyya) of a body expresses itself according to its constitution (mizj).
Thus we see here that al-Kabs doctrine of nature was tied again to a Galenic
subtext, which he also used to explain his understanding of the optimum and
various articles of his epistemology. In his final retort Ab Rashd rejects the
rationality of the notion of constitution (mizj) just as he rejected other ele-
ments of al-Kabs doctrine of nature.


Before al-Kab the major proponents of the doctrine of nature were mainly
independent early Mutazil thinkers: Muammar b. Abbd, Thumma b.
Ashras, al-Nam, and al-Ji, who did not have ties of discipleship with the
Baghdadi school. In the Baghdadi Mutazil school before al-Kab, only Jafar
b. arb and Jafar b. Mubashshir were linked, albeit not firmly, to the doctrine
of nature. Each of the systems of nature developed by Mutazils prior to
al-Kab had distinct features, and such was the case of al-Kabs doctrine of
nature. Most noteworthy about al-Kabs version of the doctrine of nature is
his view that the world was constituted from the four elements. Although
al-Kab saw that God could have created the world from nothing, he stated
that God chose to create the world from the four elements. The four elements
also affect the way the bodies behave as agents in relation to themselves and
to each other. Each body has a natural characteristic (khiyya) that fashions
(hayyaa) bodies so that they react (yanfail) to it in ways that produce acts
specific to the body.
The evidence of al-Kabs independent development of a nature-imbued
cosmology, explored in this chapter, strengthens the argument of his oppo-
nents, who claimed that his doctrine of nature guided his theological argu-
ments on the doctrine of the attributes, justice, and epistemology. This
evidence establishes his nature-imbued cosmology as not merely a historio-
graphical feature of these opponents polemics but as a consistent component
of his cosmology and theology.

97 Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, al-Masil f l-khilf, 141.


98 Ibid., 138139.
99 Ibid., 142.
chapter 6

The Imma

The question of who should lead the Muslim community after the death of the
Prophet Muammad, known as the question of the imma, is the oldest ques-
tion in Islamic theology.1 Eventually disputes over the leadership of the Muslim
community, especially following the assassination of the third caliph Uthmn
b. Affn (r. 2335/644655) and its outcome in civil strifeoften referred to as
the first fitnabecame the center point from which Muslim theological dis-
cussions arose. These discussions included such formative questions as what
makes a believer, the nature of faith, and the status of the grave sinner ( fsiq).2
By the time of al-Kab the groups that developed as a response to the question
of the imma and the theological issues that resulted from the first fitna were
edging closer to their orthodox shapes. Thus an assessment of al-Kabs views
on the imma must be briefly prefaced by an examination of the views of at
least three major groups at the time.
Politically Sunns started to gain the support of the Abbsids with the
policies of the caliph al-Mutawakkil (r. 232247/847861) and his followers,
before the advent of the Buyids (334454/9451062).3 The gains of the tra-
ditionists (ahl al-adth) among proto-Sunns were acknowledged by al-Kab
in his polemical work Qabl al-akhbr wa-marifat al-rijl, written to refute
their method and prompted by what al-Kab saw as the alarming rise in their
popularity. Al-Kabs criticism was formidable enough to earn him the repri-
mand of al-Rmahurmuz (d.c. 360/971), the author of the first work on the
principles of adth criticism (ul al-adth). Indeed al-Rmahurmuzs
work was in part prompted by al-Kabs Qabl al-akhbr wa-marifat al-rijl.4
But it was not until the fifth/eleventh century that the six a books were
unanimously recognized as the Sunn adth corpus, and the Sunn views on

1 Wilferd Madelung, The Succession to Muammad: A Study of the Early Caliphate (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1998).
2 Josef van Ess, Anfnge Muslimischer Theologie: Zwei Antiqadaritische Traktate aus dem Ersten
Jahrhundert der Hira (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1977); Michael Cook, Early Muslim Dogma:
A Source-Critical Study (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981); van Ess, Theologie,
vol. 1; Patricia Crone and F.W. Zimmermann, The Epistle of Slim Ibn Dhakwn (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2001).
3 For a discussion of the political and intellectual climate in the immediate aftermath of the
mina, see van Ess, Theologie, 4:88119.
4 El Omari, Accomodation and Resistance, 237.

koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 6|doi 10.1163/9789004259683_011


The Imma 183

the imma were, in large part, finalized with the work of al-Mward (d.
450/1058), al-Akm al-sulniyya.5 Though Sunn doctrines were far from
finalized during the lifetime of al-Kab, al-Ashars turn to Sunnism (ahl al-
sunna wa-l-jama) and his struggle to systematically introduce kalm into it,
against the adamant objections of proto-Sunn traditionalists, ultimately
changed the course of Sunn thought.6
Moreover, al-Kab died a decade before the year (329/941) that marked the
beginning of what would come to be recognized as the period of greater occul-
tation (al-ghayba al-kubr) for the Imms.7 The period of greater occultation
saw the resolution of the theological questions that the Imms struggled with
during the period of the minor occultation (al-ghayba al-ughr) (260329/
874941) following the death of the eleventh Imm asan al-Askar. The
beginning of the greater occultation marked, to a great degree, the solidifica-
tion of Imm doctrine.8 During this period of minor occultation, the Imms
adopted significant elements of Mutazil thought.9 There was a trend among
Mutazils to turn to Imm theology; this was the case of the Imm theologian
Ibn Qiba (d. 319/931). There was, equally, a movement from within the Imm
community to systematically and independently adopt Mutazil thought and
use it as a tool to defend the doctrine of the imma.10 Ab Sahl Isml
al-Nawbakht (d. 311/923) and his nephew al-asan b. Ms l-Nawbakht
(d. between 300 and 310/912 and 922) are an example of the latter case.11 The
adoption of Mutazil doctrines among the Imms was met with strong resis-
tance by Imm traditionalists.12 An equally attested resistance among the
Mutazils toward conversions to Imm theology existed. This is documented

5 George Makdisi, Ibn Aql et la rsurgence de lislam traditionaliste au XIe sicle (Ve sicle de
lHgire) (Damascus: Institut franais de Damas, 1963), 293383; Wilferd Madelung,
Imma, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 3:11631169; Jonathan Brown, The
Canonization of al-Bukhr and Muslim (Leiden: Brill, 2007).
6 Michel Allard, En quoi consiste lopposition faite al-Ashari par ses contemporains
anbalites? Revue des tudes Islamiques 28 (1960): 93105; George Makdisi, Ashar and
the Asharites in Religious History, Studia Islamica 17 (1962): 3780 and 18 (1963): 1939;
Frank, Elements in the Development of the Teaching of al-Ashar.
7 Heinz Halm, Shiism, trans. Janet Watson and Marian Hill (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1991), 2848.
8 Modarressi, Crisis and Consolidation, 3105.
9 Madelung, Immism and Mutazilite Theology, 1416.
10 Modarressi, Crisis and Consolidation, 115.
11 Ibid., 117.
12 W. Madelung, Immism and Mutazilite Theology; McDermott, Theology of al-Shaikh
al-Mufd, 315367.
184 chapter 6

in part in al-Khayys Kitb al-Intir, written in refutation of Ibn al-Rwands


Faat al-Mutazila (The disgrace of the Mutazila), which was a refutation of
al-Jis Falat al-Mutazila (The excellence of the Mutazila); the latter
included an attack on the early Imm kalm scholar Hishm b. al-akam
(d.179/795).13 As for al-Kab, he partook in the debates between Mutazils and
Imms at the time, by debating Ab Sahl and al-asan b. Ms l-Nawbakht.
More importantly, al-Kab corresponded on the subject of the imma with the
famous Imm theologian Ibn Qiba. Moreover, al-Kabs refutation of Ibn
al-Rwand (Naq Ibn al-Rwand) included discussions of the imma.14
It is al-Kabs relation to Zayd thought that particularly requires clarifica-
tion. By the second part of the third/ninth century, Zayds had already shunned
the weaker Sh expression represented by the Batriyya (or Butriyya) and had
wholly embraced its stronger Sh expression, that of the Jrdiyya.15 The
cause of the Jrdiyya was greatly advanced with the theology of the Zayd
Imm al-Qsim al-Rass (d. 246/860).16 Al-Rasss grandson al-Hd il l-aqq
(d. 298/911) established Zayd rule in Yemen, further strengthened Zayd Sh
expression, and systematically introduced Mutazil thought, especially
al-Kabs theology, among the Zayds.17 Despite the mention of an encounter
between al-Kab and al-Rass in a later Zayd biographical work, as noted by
Madelung it is highly unlikely that they met.18
Moreover, a generation before al-Kab, the first Zayd Caspian rule was
established by the asanid claimant al-asan b. Zayd (d. 270/884).19 But the
more enduring Caspian Zayd rule began with the usaynid al-Imm al-Nir
li-l-aqq al-asan b. Al l-Ursh, whose rule started after the downfall of
Muammad b. Zayd (d. 287/900, the brother of al-asan b. Zayd). Al-Kab
crossed paths with both Muammad b. Zayd and al-Nir il l-aqq; he worked
as a secretary for Muammad b. Zayd, at whose court he met al-Nir il

13 van Ess, Theologie, 4:299301; al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir, 1115; on Hisham b. al-akam,
see van Ess, Theologie, 1:349355.
14 See Biography and Titles of Lost Works in the Introduction, and Table5: 4.
15 On the Batriyya and the ways in which they differed from the Jrdiyya branch of the
Zayds, see Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 4452.
16 Ibid., 144.
17 Ibid., 166167.
18 Ibid., 164. The late Zayd source that speaks of a close familiarity between the two is the
Nuzhat al-azr of Yay l-Miqr (d.c. 972/1564). Madelung points out that Ab lib
al-Niq Yay b. al-usayn (d.c. 424/1033) also followed the doctrines of al-Kab, and
mostly likely studied with a student of al-Kab by the name of Ab Bakr Muammad b.
Ibrhm al-Maqni al-Rz. Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 174.
19 Madelung, The Minor Dynasties, 4:206.
The Imma 185

l-aqq. Muammad b. Zayd made an impression on al-Kab, who described


him in superlative terms: I could have imagined [when hearing him speak]
that it was Muammad the Prophet of God dictating one of his revelations.20
Another version of the story frames his admiration in the context of his scribal
duties: I never worked as a secretary for anyone without feeling small, until
I worked for the d Muammad b. Zayd. It seemed to me as if I were writing
for the Prophet, peace be upon him and his family.21 As noted earlier in our
account of al-Kabs biography, these statements of his express more than sec-
retarial allegiance and disclose a form of Zayd doctrine.22 Yet, the young
al-Kabs words of admiration for the d cannot be taken as final statements
on his imma doctrines, and it is his extant articles that remain the definitive
source for it. Indeed, as we will see in this chapter, the differing evidence pro-
vided by these articlesdiffering from his statement about the dsuggest
that al-Kab broke with his early Zayd sentiments.23
Before we present an overview of Baghdadi Mutazil views, let us note that
from the time of their earliest attested doctrines, the Mutazils were known for
holding varied and opposing views on the imma. There were few pro-Ald lean-
ings among the Mutazila during the second/eighth century, and among early
Basrans Mutazils until al-Jubb.24 A group of early Mutazils did not even con-
sider it necessary to have an imm, and spoke of his appointment (nab) as an
optional matter. They argued that the Prophet died without assigning a succes-
sor and that rule brought up worldly matters, of which they disapproved. Indeed
they also spoke of the prohibition of the pursuit of material gains (tarm
al-maksib). These Mutazils were labeled by Jafar b. arb as fiyyat
al-Mutazilaa distinct political group with ascetic or mystical leanings that
must not be taken to represent all Mutazils with ascetic or mystical leanings.25

20 Browne, History of abaristn, 47.


21 Madelung (ed.), Arabic Texts, 122 [added emphasis].
22 See Introduction: Biography.
23 While recognizing the decidedly superlative nature of the words of admiration that
al-Kab expressed for the d Muammad b. Zayd, we should note that he also defended
al-Nirs integrity against accusations that he had ambitions to bring down the ds rule
(Madelung, Arabic Texts, 87). Moreover, al-Kab also had positive things to say about
al-Qsim al-Rass and al-Hd il l-aqq. But his praise for these two was in the context
of relating the impact of Mutazil thought on the Zayds (al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd,
fol. 8a).
24 Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 74. For a general overview of the Basran Mutazil position
on the imma, see Madelung, Imma, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition,
3:11631169.
25 [Pseudo] al-Nshi, Kitb Ul al-nial, in van Ess (ed.), Frhe mutazilitische Hresio
graphie, 4950.
186 chapter 6

Starting with Bishr b. al-Mutamir the Baghdadi Mutazils upheld, albeit


with some variations, the doctrine of the imma of the less excellent (immat
al-mafl).26 Their doctrine was championed also by one branch of the Zayds
noted before, the Batriyya. Like them, the Baghdadis accepted the first two
caliphs through the doctrine of the imma of the less excellent, but they
deferred judgment about Uthmn b. Affn or rejected the legitimacy of the last
six years of the caliphate of Uthmn, and all the opponents of Al b. Ab lib
(r. 3540/656661). The doctrine maintained that the imma of the less excel-
lent candidate was acceptable and thus, historically, validated the imma of the
first two caliphs, Ab Bakr al-iddq (r. 1113/632634) and Umar b. al-Khab
(r.1323/634644), though the most worthy candidate for the imma was Al.
Although the similarity between the Batriyyas tenets on the imma and
that of the Baghdadi Mutazils is noted in the sources, they were understood
to be two independent groups and no historical link is attested between the
two.27 This independence is confirmed by al-Jishum, who speaks of the simi-
larity between the Batriyyas position and that of some of the Baghdadi
Mutazils, especially Bishr b. al-Mutamir and al-Iskf.28 As for the identifica-
tion of the Baghdadi Mutazil with the Zayds, al-Jishum explains, it is only a
claim and he does not uphold it in his discussion of Zayd doctrine.29

The Baghdadi Mutazils on the Imma Prior to al-Kab

Bishr b. al-Mutamir deemed the imma of the first two caliphs, Ab Bakr and
Umar b. al-Khab, to be valid, but stated that Al b. Ab lib was superior to
both and was the most worthy of the imma. He thus upheld the imma of the
less excellent. His reasoning for accepting Ab Bakrs imma was that the
Quraysh preferred Ab Bakr because Al had fought with its members during

26 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 1:28, 701; al-Mufd, al-Jamal, 6566.
27 The absence of historical ties between the two groups was pointed out by Madelung in his
discussion of al-Malas (d. 377/987) unique pronouncement that the Baghdadi Mutazil
school was a sub-sect of the Zayds. Muammad b. Amad al-Mala, Kitb al-Tanbh wa-
l-radd al ahl al-ahw wa-l-bida, ed. Muammad Zhid b. al-asan al-Kawthar
(Baghdad: Maktabat al-Muthann, 1968), 27. Madelung explained that there is no histori-
cal connection between the Baghdadi Mutazils and the earlier Zayds, namely those
before al-Qsim al-Rass (Madelung, Frhe mutazilitische Hresiographie, 228;
Madelung, Der Imm al-Qsim, 42, 78). For a different reading of the imma doctrine of
the Baghdadi school, see van Ess, Theologie, 3:129130.
28 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fols. 8b9a; al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil. vol. 1, fol. 29a.
29 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 14a.
The Imma 187

the Prophets wars with them.30 Bishr accepted only the first six years of the
imma of Uthmn (those years that predated accusations of corruption
against him), and disavowed himself (tabarraa) from Uthmns last six years.
He also disavowed himself from two companions, al-Zubayr b. al-Awwm
(d. 36/656), and ala b. Ubaydallh (d. 36/656), who fought against Al. He
testified to their error (all) and grave sin (fisq), and declared that it was
incumbent upon the Muslim community to disavow and fight them, since they
had rebelled against the leader of the Muslims (kharaj al imm
al-muslimn).31 For Bishr anyone who fought Al was in the wrong.32
The main elements of Bishrs doctrine, especially his stance on the imma
of the less excellent and his stance on Uthmn and anyone who fought with
Al, overlap with the doctrine of the Batriyya noted above. A statement made
by Bishr after his imprisonment by the caliph Hrn al-Rashd (r. 170193/786
809) sums up his position. In response to a claim against him that he was an
Imm, Bishr retorted: We are neither among the extreme rejectors (al-rfia
al-ghult), nor are we among those who withdraw (al-murjia al-juft).33 The
end of Bishrs plea that led to his release included a disavowal of two main
enemies of Al: the first Umayyad caliph Muwiya b. Ab Sufyn (r. 4160/661
680) who led the battle of iffn (37/657) and Amr b. al- (d.c. 42/663), who
fought on Muwiyas side against Al.34 Al-Jishums statement that Bishr (like
al-Khayy and al-Kab) deemed the existence of the imma of the less excel-
lent to be a result of Gods decree of the optimum (al-ala),35 contradicts
Bishrs controversial doctrine of divine incentive (luf ) (see Chapter 3), unless
this was the position he held after he supposedly renounced the doctrine of
divine incentive.
Bishrs student, Ab Ms l-Murdr, maintained Bishrs doctrine on the
imma of the less excellent.36 In the verdict about Uthmn, al-Murdr deemed
both Uthmn and his killers as grave sinners, all worthy of the punishment of
hellfire, but he also observed that Uthmns grave sin did not justify his mur-
der.37 Al-Murdr seemed to have expressed equal respect for Ab Bakr as he

30 [Pseudo] al-Nshi, Kitb Ul al-nial, in van Ess (ed.), Frhe mutazilitische


Hresiographie, 56.
31 Ibid., 5758.
32 al-Nawbakht, Kitb Firaq al-sha, ed. Hellmut Ritter (Istanbul: N.p., 1931), 1314;
al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 292.
33 al-Jishum, Shar Uyn al-masil, vol. 1, fol. 55b.
34 Compare to van Ess, Theologie, 3:93, 108.
35 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 93a.
36 [Pseudo] al-Nshi, Kitb Ul al-nial, 52.
37 al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 288.
188 chapter 6

did for Al.38 Jafar b. Mubashshir, also a student of al-Murdr, maintained the
imma of the less excellent with a preference for Al over Ab Bakr, Umar, and
Uthmn.39
Jafar b. arb, however, did not prefer Al over Ab Bakr, but only over
Uthmn.40 The stronger Ald sentiment about the imma of the less excellent,
first expressed by Bishr, appears again with Ab Jafar al-Iskf, a disciple of
Jafar b. arb.41 Though al-Iskf suspended judgment on those who did not
take up arms with Al,42 he accused Muwiya of having spread false prophetic
traditions attacking Als reputation.43 This is related in his work entitled Naq
al-Uthmniyya, a refutation of al-Ji, in which al-Iskf also refuted al-Jis
claims about Ab Bakrs superiority to Al.44 Ibn Ab l-adds Shar Nahj
al-balgha cites quite extensively from al-Iskfs Naq al-Uthmniyya, a work
in which the latter expanded upon the Batr-like positions of his Baghdadi pre-
decessors. Al-Iskf wrote another work on the subject of the imma entitled
Kitb al-Maqmt f tafl Al.45 In the words of Ibn Ab l-add he upheld the
Baghdadi Mutazil doctrine of the imma of the less excellent but exaggerated
it (yubligh f dhlik).46 In speaking of his views of Al, Ibn Ab l-add
described him as among those who exaggerated in speaking of his excellence
(mublighn f taflih).47
If, however, we rely on al-Khayys account of the Baghdadis positions on
the imma, we find a slightly different presentation of their views. For exam-
ple, al-Khayy makes no mention of Bishr b. al-Mutamirs position on ala b.
Ubaydallh or al-Zubayr, nor of his condemnation of the last years of Uthmns
reign. While the omission of this doctrinal detail may be innocent, other cases
are harder to set aside: al-Khayy defended both al-Murdr and Jafar b.
Mubashshir against Ibn al-Rwands accusations that they held Uthmn and

38 al-Ashar, Maqlt al-islmiyyn, 555556.


39 al-Mufd, al-Jamal, 6566.
40 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 93a. This divergence in Jafar b. arb is not recognized in
other sources, for example, al-Mala, Kitb al-Tanbh, 33.
41 Al-Jishum singles him out with Bishr b. al-Mutamir for being among those who hold
pro-Sh views among the Mutazils (man tashayyaa min al-Mutazila) (al-Uyn f
l-radd, fol. 8b). Also see Ibn Ab al-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 1:28.
42 Ibn Ab l-Hadid, Sharh Nahj al-balgha, 5:282.
43 Ibid., 1:782. This was not the only work he wrote on the imma; on these other titles and a
discussion of their content see van Ess, Theologie, 4:7880, 6:301302.
44 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 4:217, 219, 263265, 269.
45 van Ess, Theologie, 4:7879.
46 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 5:96.
47 Ibid., 1:782.
The Imma 189

his betrayers (khdhilhi) as grave sinners, and that both men considered
Uthmn an unbeliever (tabarra minhu). Indeed he even states that al-Murdr
suspended judgment about Uthmn and those who betrayed him. But
al-Khayy follows this with a contradictory statement declaring that al-Murdr
condemned those who killed Uthmn as deserving of hellfire (al-bara min
qtilhi wa-l-shahda alayhim bi-l-nr).48 Aside from the internal inconsis-
tency of al-Khayys text, his first plea about al-Murdr is false, as the majority
of statements we just saw indicate that al-Murdr considered both Uthmn
and his killers as grave sinners, not unbelievers. We encounter both internal
inconsistency and contradiction with other sources again in al-Khayys dis-
cussion of al-Iskf. He recognized al-Iskf as one of the leaders of Ald-
leaning Mutazils (min ruas mutashayyiat al-mutazila),49 but al-Khayys
statement that al-Iskfs position on Uthmn was parallel to that of Jafar b.
arb contradicts his prior statement. This is because in agreeing with Jafar b.
arb, al-Iskf accepted Uthmns rule (wilya), deemed his murderers worthy
of hellfire, and accepted the repentance of isha (the wife of the Prophet),
ala, and al-Zubayr.50 Furthermore, al-Khayy did not recognize al-Iskfs
view regarding those who fought against Al, and reports that al-Iskf did not
believe that they were damned to hellfire, though we know from other sources
that he did.51
Because al-Khayy was writing to rebut Ibn al-Rwand, he portrayed his
Baghdadi predecessors and colleagues as less pro-Sh than other sources.
After all, as noted earlier, the question of the imma was a key part of the gen-
esis of al-Khayys Kitb al-Intir, such that he wrote in no small measure to
distance Mutazils from Sh tendencies that Ibn al-Rwands Faat
al-Mutazila may have implied.52 Moreover, al-Khayys own doctrine of the
imma departed in some details from some of the more pro-Ald views of the
majority of his Baghdadi predecessors.
Just like his predecessors, al-Khayy supported Al in all his wars.53 More
specifically he held that the imma, based on merit, should have been in the
following order: al-asan (d. 4950/669670) and al-usayn b. Al (d. 61/680),
followed by members of the family of the prophet, i.e., amza b. Abd
al-Mualib (d. 2/624) and Jafar b. Ab Tlib (d. 8/629), over the companions.54

48 al-Khayy, Kitb al-Intir, 74.


49 Ibid., 7576.
50 Ibid.
51 Ibid.
52 van Ess, Theologie, 4:299300.
53 al-Mufd, al-Jamal, 6566.
54 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 3:645.
190 chapter 6

He held that all of Als opponents were guilty, but accepted the repentance of
isha, ala, and al-Zubayr. In this last point, al-Khayy was in agreement
with Ab Mujlid and the latters teacher Jafar b. Mubashshir before him, who
supported Al in his wars, and accepted isha, ala, and al-Zubayrs repen-
tance.55 Indeed, the latter position was common among Mutazils.56
Al-Khayy thus maintained the superiority of Al, and the imma of the
less excellent.57 He also maintained the following descending order of excel-
lence among the imms: Al, followed by al-asan and al-usayn, then Ab
Bakr, Umar, and finally Uthmn.58 Like Ab Mujlid (d. 268/882 or 269/883),
al-Khayy also accepted the one-man oath of Ab Bakr and Uthmn.59 But
unlike the two main tendencies of the earlier Baghdadis that resembled the
Batriyya, he neither condemned nor suspended judgment on Uthmn. He
even gave excuses for some of Uthmns actions,60 a rather significant depar-
ture from his predecessors. His reasoning for the necessity of the imma also
seems to be his own, for he considered that the knowledge of the necessity of
the imma was founded in reason.61 He also reasoned that the existence of the
imma of the less excellent is due to Gods decree of the optimum.62

al-Kabs Doctrine of the Imma

In his Uyn al-masil, al-Kab notes that he considered Al better than Ab


Bakr and Umar.63 In this he was in agreement with the Batriyya and the major-
ity of the early Baghdadi Mutazils just surveyed. Indeed we find attributed to
him the explicit statement of the superiority of Al and Als descendants in
the following order: al-asan and al-usayn b. Al, followed by members of
the family of the Prophet, i.e., amza b. Abd al-Mualib and Jafar b. Ab lib,
over the companions of the Prophet.64 Al-Kab had no reservations on the last
six years of Uthmns rule, nor did he suspend judgment about him. Also, like

55 al-Mufd, al-Jamal, 6566.


56 Ibid., Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 1:534.
57 Ibid., 1:28.
58 Ibid., 3:645.
59 al-Mufd, al-Jamal, 91.
60 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 1:531.
61 See van Ess, al-Khayy in Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 4:11621164.
62 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 93a.
63 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:896.
64 Ibn Ab l-add reports having read this position about al-Kab in an unnamed work of
Ab Abdallh al-Bar (d. 369/979) (Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 3:645).
The Imma 191

al-Khayy and al-Murdr before him, al-Kab accepted the repentance of


isha, ala, and al-Zubayr.65
Regarding Abdallh b. al-Zubayr (d. 72 or 73/691), who was involved in the
second fitna after the death of Muwiya (d. 41/661), al-Kab considered him a
hypocrite, and justified this condemnation on the basis of Muwiyas attitude
toward Al.66

Our Shaykh Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh [al-Kab] used to say [the following]


when the name of Abdallh b. al-Zubayr was mentioned in front of him:
No good is in him! Once he [al-Kab] said: I do not approve of his
prayer and his fasting and they will both be of no good to him, because
the Prophet, peace be upon him, told Al, peace be upon him: Only a
hypocrite can hate you.67

The favorable view of Abdallh b. al-Zubayr that was associated with his status
as a younger companion, indeed he was the first newborn in the Muslim com-
munity, had already spread in Sunn circles.68 Al-Kabs declaration about him
is, therefore, indicative of al-Kabs Ald leanings in this regard.
As all proponents of the imma of the less excellent, al-Kab supported the
integrity of the faith of Ab Bakr. In Naq Ibn al-Rwand al-Kab responded to
Ibn al-Rwands attack on al-Jis defense of Ab Bakr in al-Jis book F
nam l-Qurn wa-salmatih min al-ziyda wa-l-nuqn (On the composition
of the Qurn and its integrity from additions or omissions). Al-Kab refuted
Ibn al-Rwand, and the Imm position that Ab Bakr is a hypocrite. The pas-
sage from al-Kabs Naqd Ibn al-Rwand is preserved in two versions in
Abd al-Jabbrs Tathbt dalil al-nubuwwa (Consolidation of the proofs of proph-
ecy). In both versions the authority of Al is called upon to support Ab Bakr.

Whomever the commander of the believers considers most worthy [has


to be the most worthy]. We cannot refute the commander of the believers
[Als] word that the best of this community after its Prophet are Ab
Bakr and Umar. No one who has some knowledge or some share of
knowledge can refute this statement. The early Shs used to prefer Ab

65 al-Mufd, al-Jamal, 6566.


66 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 1:30.
67 Ibid.
68 al-Bukhr, al-Tarkh al-kabr (Hyderabad: Mabaat Dr al-Marif al-Uthmniyya, 1958),
3:6. Ibn Ab tim al-Rz, Kitb al-Jar wa-l-tadl (Hyderabad: Dirat al-Marif
al-Uthmniyya, 1952), 2:56.
192 chapter 6

Bakr and Umar. He [al-Kab] said: Someone said to Shurayk b. Abdallh


Who is better, Ab Bakr or Al? He [Shurayk] responded: Ab Bakr. The
person asking him continued: [How] Do you say this when you are one
of the Shs? He [Shurayk] responded: Yes, a Sh is one who says the
likes of this. By God, the commander of the believers [Al] has mounted
this pulpit [lit., these pieces of wood] and said: The best of this commu-
nity after its Prophet is Ab Bakr and Umr. He [Shurayk] added: Shall
we refute his words? Shall we call him a liar? By God he [Al] was not a
liar.69

In the second version the identity of the witness to Als report is revealed as
the Kufan jurist Shurayk b. Abdallh, Ab Abdallh al-Nakha (d. 177/793).70
This second and longer version is followed by an explanation that al-Kab pro-
vides for his choice of Shurayk as a transmitter of what he deems to be an
otherwise well-known saying by Al. Shurayk directed this saying against the
claims of the ghult (extreme) Sh figure of Abdallh b. Saba (whose claim
al-Kab seemed to equate with the claim of Ibn al-Rwand and the Imms),
and in doing so he shows his proto-Sunn stance as well.71

Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab] said: The report is correct but according to us it


has a specific purpose. We did not single out this quote for the purpose of
mentioning what the commander of the believers said with regard to
their [Ab Bakrs and Umars] excellence, for that is clearer than the sun

69 Abd al-Jabbr, Tathbt dalil al-nubuwwa, 1:6263.


70 This second version reads as follows: Ab l-Qsim al-Balkh [al-Kab] reported in his
book, in which he refuted Ibn al-Rwands objection to Ab Uthmn Amr b. Bar
al-Jis statement that the Qurn is free from additions and deletions: The statement
of the commander of the believers [Al] that the best of this community after its Prophet
are Ab Bakr and Umar is transmitted in a manner that cannot be denied by any one with
some degree of knowledge. He [al-Kab] mentioned a group among those who reported
their [i.e., Ab Bakrs and Umars] merit, nobility, strength, and glory. Then he [al-Kab]
said: But according to us it is what Al himself wished that counts. Then Ab l-Qsim
[al-Kab], may God have mercy on his soul, said that Shurayk b. Abdallh was one of the
most important Shs and he used to say: The best of this community are Ab Bakr and
Umar and they are both better than Al. If I had said other than this, I would not be
among the party of Al. Because he [Al] mounted this pulpit [literally these pieces of
wood] and said: Indeed the best of this community after the Prophet are Ab Bakr and
Umar. How can we call him [Al] a liar? By God he [Al] is not a liar! (Abd al-Jabbr,
Tathbt dalil al-nubuwwa, 2:548549.)
71 Marshall Hodgson, Abd Allh b. Saba, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 1:51.
The Imma 193

and there is much [evidence] in support of it, and many lengthy and spe-
cific books were written about it. Rather, we mentioned it [this quote of
Shurayk b. Abdallh] in response to Abdallh b. Saba72

Considering how Shurayk was perceived in Sunn and Imm sources, al-Kabs
choice to cite him as an authority for his views on Ab Bakr reveals a doctrinal
preference. Sunn sources gradually came to consider Shurayk a trustworthy
adth transmitter, knowledgeable in law, and a companion with pro-Ald
sympathies.73 Meanwhile al-Nawbakht labeled him under the broad category
of Murjis and Batriyya, a category that also includes Muammad b. Idrs
al-Shfi (d. 204/802).74 In other words, al-Kab chose a proto-Sunn figure,
with Ald sympathies, as a witness for Als pronouncement on Ab Bakr. His
choice continued the Baghdadi schools shift toward a more proto-Sunn
stance, starting with al-Khayy and his teacher al-Murdr.
Furthermore, al-Kab included a Sunn framework for choosing a legitimate
leader of the Muslim community that is not documented among his predeces-
sors. This is the view that the imm has to be from the Quraysh, a view that was
enshrined in the adth the imms are from Quraysh.75 The Sunn formula
also includes the qualification that this person must be most pious and mind-
ful of God, as well as perceptive and knowledgeable of what is best for the
community; none of these criteria were included in the formula attributed to
al-Kab.76 Moreover, al-Kab made one important exception to this formula: if
there is risk of civil strife, then it would be acceptable to have an imm from
outside the Quraysh.

Al-Kab claimed that Quraysh is more worthy (awl bih) of it [the


imma] than whoever may be deemed worthy of it from outside Quraysh.
However, if civil strife (fitna) is feared, then [al-Kab claimed] it is accept-
able to have the office of the imma from outside Quraysh.77

72 Abd al-Jabbr, Tathbt dalil al-nubuwwa, 2:549.


73 al-Bukhr, al-Tarkh al-kabr, 2:238; Ibn Ab tim al-Rz, Kitb al-Jar wa-l-tadl, 2:365
367; al-Khab al-Baghdd, Tarkh Baghdd, 10:384401; al-Dhahab, Tarkh al-Islm,
4:642643.
74 al-Nawbakht, Kitb Firaq al-sha, 7.
75 See A.J. Wensinck, Concordance et indices de la tradition musulmane (Leiden: Brill, 1936
69), 1:92. On the Murji and early Sunn doctrines on the imma, see Wilferd Madelung,
Murdjia, Encyclopaedia of Islam, second edition, 7:605607. For more on the Sunn doc-
trine of the imma, see al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:828.
76 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:828833.
77 al-Baghdd, Kitb Ul al-dn, 293294.
194 chapter 6

Al-Kabs emphasis on avoiding civil strife appears in another article of his on


the election of the imm. He deemed that casting lots was an acceptable
method to end any dispute in choosing between two potential imms.78 In this
last view, al-Kab was in agreement with Ab l-Abbs al-Qalnis, a proto-
Sunn theologian.79
In terms of the theological reasoning for his views on the imma, just like
al-Khayy, al-Kab rationalized that the imma of the less excellent was for
the optimum (al-ala).80 But al-Kab also deemed that the presence of an
imm was necessary for worldly benefit (malaha dunyawiyya).81 Furthermore,
al-Kab refuted the Imm doctrine that God has to reveal an imm through a
specific designation (na), because people need him; rather al-Kab main-
tained that people have to elect an imm in case God does not reveal His
appointment.82 That an imm should be designated is deemed necessary for
the benefit (malaa) of the community. In Mnkdms text the meaning of
malaa is left open to two possible interpretations: either a religious malaa
or a worldly one. Since the optimum in al-Kabs theodicy includes worldly
benefit (see Chapter 3), we must assume that al-Kab opted for the second
interpretation.

Ab l-Qsim [al-Kab] disagreed with us on this question [the knowl-


edge of the need for an imm] and said: We know of the necessity for an
imm through reason and it is this view that the Imms have adopted.
Ab l-Qsim says: It is necessary for people to appoint him [an imm] if
God does not reveal His appointment, because their benefit (malaa)
resides there. This may imply that he intends by this a religious benefit in
accordance with the Imms who take the imma to be a divine incen-
tive in matters of religion (luf f l-dn), or it may imply that he means by
it a worldly benefit (malaa dunyawiyya) in accordance with what some
of our friends [i.e., Baghdadi Mutazils] say. If he [al-Kab] intends the
first meaning, then the difference between him and the Imms is in the
aspect that I have mentioned [i.e., that an imm is made known by God
through specific designation (na)]. Because of this it is not necessary
[in al-Kabs view] for the imm to be infallible. The Imms [by contrast]

78 al-Nasaf, Tabirat al-adilla, 2:826.


79 On Ab l-Abbs al-Qalnis see Gimaret, Cet autre thologien Sunnite; van Ess, Theologie,
2:638.
80 Ibn Ab l-add, Shar Nahj al-balgha, 1:479; al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 93a.
81 Mnkdm, al-Talq, 758759.
82 Ibid., 758.
The Imma 195

hold the infallibility of the imm to be necessary. If he [al-Kab] intends


the second meaning, then the difference between him and the Imms is
apparent because they hold the imma to be a divine incentive, like
knowing God through His unity and justice and other divine incentives.
He [al-Kab] does not uphold this position.83

Finally, albeit with a different understanding of the nature of the office of the
imm, al-Kab agreed with the Imms in deeming the imma to be known
through reason; this was in contrast to the Zayds. In holding this stance about
the foundation of the necessity of the imma through reason, al-Kab followed
al-Khayy, and al-Ji. Ab l-usayn al-Bar also agreed with all of them on
this.84


For the most part al-Kabs version of the imma of the less excellent, espe-
cially the absence of condemnation of Uthmn and the forgiveness of isha,
ala, and al-Zubayr, was influenced by prior choices made in the Baghdadi
school. Al-Khayys views, fashioned by those of his own teacher al-Murdr,
were especially influential. Both al-Kab and al-Khayy believed that knowl-
edge of the necessity of the imma was based on reason, and in doing so they
agreed with the Imms. They also both justified the imma of the less excel-
lent as based on the view that God acts for the optimum. Other articles of
al-Kab, however, were his own contributions. Though al-Kab expressed pro-
Ald sentiments in his condemnation of Abdallh b. al-Zubayr as a hypocrite
for his enmity toward Al, he further softened the moderate Batr-like position
of al-Khayy. He did so by agreeing with an eclectic proto-Sunn figure,
al-Qalnis, who saw casting lots as an acceptable way to settle a dispute
between two potential imms. Al-Kab also moved closer to the proto-Sunn
imma doctrine by adopting the formula that the imma should be chosen
from the Quraysh, with the exception that someone from outside Quraysh
could be chosen to avoid civil strife. The last two articles of al-Kab express an
additional closeness to the proto-Sunn doctrine of the imma not seen among
his Baghdadi predecessors.

83 Ibid., 758759.
84 al-Jishum, al-Uyn f l-radd, fol. 89a. On the Imm position regarding the knowledge of
the necessity of the imma through reason, see Madelung, Imma, in Encyclopaedia of
Islam, second edition, 3:11631169.
Epilogue

Epistemology was at the center of al-Kabs theology, and thus reflects the
depth and breadth of his cosmological contributions. The extent of these twin
concerns of his theology are most dramatically attested in the fact that he
declared imitation (taqld) a valid means for attaining knowledge of God for a
group of servants because of the constitutions of their hearts. Moreover, his
epistemic and cosmological concerns were pervasive of his entire theology.
Even when al-Kab seemed to merely follow already established theological
stances, in fact in many, if not all instances, he reconfigured their reasoning on
the basis of his epistemological and cosmological logic. A significant example
of this reconfiguration is found in al-Kabs assumption of the earlier Mutazil
doctrine of the optimum (al-ala), and in his development of the argument
of the optimum of the many, to the detriment of the few. Another example of
his reinforcement of an established Mutazil position with components from
his cosmology and ontology is clear in his explanation of the distinction
between the attribute of essence and the attribute of act.
Early Mutazil influences are consistently reflected in al-Kabs theological
views, especially those of early Mutazils to whom he was not tied through
attested lines of discipleship. Al-Nams influence was most significant, as
was that of al-Ji, and the independent figures of Thumma b. Ashras and
Hishm al-Fuwa. These influences co-existed with those of members of the
Baghdadi line of discipleship started by Bishr b. al-Mutamir. The legacy of
Bishr was most strongly expressed in al-Kabs doctrine of the imma, where
he favored the doctrine of the imma of the less excellent, a doctrine advo-
cated in various degrees of intensity by earlier members of the Baghdadi line
of discipleship. It is also in al-Kabs doctrine of the imma that the legacy of
his immediate teacher al-Khayy is most noted. The proto-Sunn additions
al-Kab introduced to the doctrine of the imma of the less excellent built on
al-Khayys proto-Sunn shift. The continuity with the Baghdadi line can also
be seen quite clearly in al-Kabs following of Bishr b. al-Mutamirs doctrine of
generation (tawallud or tawld), though al-Kab expanded on it significantly.
The influence of al-Iskf is attested, but only in a fragmentary manner; al-Iskf
was a close predecessor in the Baghdadi line who anticipated al-Kab in speak-
ing of Gods attribute of hearing and seeing as His knowledge and chose the
earlier Mutazil doctrine of the optimum.
The present source-critical investigation identifies the central and pervasive
methodological themes on which al-Kab developed his theology. Al-Kab
emerges as a systematic thinker in his approach toward a wide range of

koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 6|doi 10.1163/9789004259683_012


Epilogue 197

t heological questions. His development of a systematic logic was executed in


conjunction with his incorporation and re-rationalization of earlier Mutazil
theologies. His innovations lie in his reworking and refinement of earlier posi-
tions and his improvements on them. In this regard, al-Kab was part of the
scholastic phase, when Mutazils struggled to refine the legacy of earlier
Mutazil experiments. Yet his theology was not necessarily expressive of scho-
lasticism; his views were independent of fixed doctrines of the Baghdadi
school, particularly as the Baghdadi school was mostly an expression of ties of
discipleship.
These conclusions, however, are constrained by a number of cautionary
notes. By contextualizing the fragments of the tenets attributed to al-Kab
within the context of what is reported about his predecessors I show that his
tenets were often continuations of theirsand hence reaffirmations of their
influence. Few details are known of the theologies of these predecessors, espe-
cially the extent to which their theologies were systems in their own right. For
example, the scarcity of information on a presumably central figure such as
al-Khayy and the extremely fragmentary nature of the extant material on
al-Iskf are sobering reminders that the conclusions reached here are contin-
gent on the intellectual priorities of the scholastic sources in which they
survived.
Other outcomes of this study are inconclusive or do not serve to fulfill larger
narratives. This source-critical inquiry allows for the isolation of articles incor-
rectly attributed to al-Kab. The most important case may be the view errone-
ously noted in late Ashar sources that al-Kab believed that the divine
attribute of volition is Gods knowledge. Though this article ascribed to al-Kab
cannot be accepted as part of his doctrine of the attributes, it is indicative of a
significant reception of al-Kab in Khursn and Transoxania, where later gen-
erations of Ashars went on to document and perhaps even imagine dialogues
with him to refine and expound their own theologies.
In principle, articles attested in one testimony were accepted even when
not corroborated in all testimonies, and this meant that in most cases al-Kabs
articles accepted here derived from Mutazil, and often Basran sources. Where
evidence of a single testimony is not contradicted by others, further documen-
tation must be established. This is especially the case of the unique testimony
in al-Mturds Kitb al-Tawd on al-Kabs explanation of the attribute of
essence as a principle of internal necessary causein which harmony exists.
Additional documentation is highly desirable since the arguments attributed
to al-Kab by al-Mturd have extensive ramifications about the subtext of
al-Kabs theology and Robert Wisnovskys theory regarding the kalm roots of
Ibn Sns necessary of existence (wjib al-wujd).
198 Epilogue

Finally, even when al-Kabs arguments in support of his theology were con-
sistently documented, they still raise difficult questions for future studies on
him. Thus, in outlining the pervasive role of al-Kabs cosmology in his theo-
logical argumentations, it becomes evident that al-Kab took the doctrine of
nature quite seriously. A feature of his naturalist vocabulary that appears with
a fair degree of consistency is the notion of constitution (mizj). I have high-
lighted how inquiry into the sources or medium of al-Kabs exposure to the
Galenic and philosophic material, though tempting, can only be answered at
present, in conjecture, some of which was reviewed. But al-Kabs espousal of
the doctrine of nature, with the consistency and distinctiveness with which it
is documented, this late in the history of the Mutazila (i.e., when his Mutazil
peers turned away from it) raises the question about the sources once more. In
other words, the evidence that emerges here about the role of the doctrine of
nature at this turning point from the early to the scholastic period in the his-
tory of the Mutazila provides additional reasons to revisit earlier scholarly
investigations of its little known role in Mutazil history. Evidence that is little
known in its genesis and scope. These earlier investigations would have to be
revisited, however, with the full awareness of the perils and tribulations of
investigating non-textually attested (voix diffuse) transmissions of Greek
philosophy and science.1

1 Dimitri Gutas, Pre-Plotinian Philosophy in Arabic (Other than Platonism and


Aristotelianism): A Review of the Sources, in Aufstieg und Niedergang der romischen Welt,
Part ii, vol. 36.7=Rise and Decline of the Roman World, ed. W. Haase and H. Temporini (Berlin:
De Gruyter, 1994), 49454949.
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Index of Names

Abbd b. Sulaymn al-aymar (d. c. Ab Muammad mid b. al-Abbs


250/864)102, 121, 130, 131 n.75 (r. 306311/918923)10
Abbsids8, 182 Ab Mujlid (d. 268/882 or 269/883)80, 190
Abdallh b. Saba192193 Ab Muslim Muammad b. Bar al-Ifahn
Abdallh b. hir (d. 230/845)89 l-Naqqsh (d. 322/934)9, 14
Abdallh b. al-Zubayr (d. 72 or 73/691)79, Ab Rashd al-Nsbr, Sad b. Muammad
191, 195 b. Sad5, 13, 18, 23, 31, 42, 46, 4950,
Abd al-Jabbr = Abd al-Jabbr b. Amad 9192, 133134, 160, 162163, 173, 177178,
al-Hamadhn (d. 415/1024)2, 1315, 19, 180181
3031, 39, 42, 49 n.71, 52, 121, 123, 125, 141, Ab Sahl Amad b. Ubaydallh
142145, 172 b. Amad11
Abd al-Qhir al-Baghdd (d. 429/1037)36, Ab Sad al-uar156
41, 50, 99, 110111, 122 n.31 al-Adab85
Ab l-Abbs Jafar b. Muammad Ahmad, Ahmad Atif7
al-Mustaghfir (d. 432/1040)10 n.64 isha bt. Ab Bakr (d. 58/678)51, 79,
Ab Amad al-Askar l-Abdak14 189191, 195
Ab Al l-Fal b. Jafar al-Anbr al-Bar Al b. Ab lib (r. 3540/656661)51, 7879,
(d. between 256 and 279/870 and 892)12 186190, 192
n.87 Al l-Uswr130, 155
Ab Bakr Abdallh b. Quhfa al-iddq Amr b. al- (d. c. 42/663)187
(r. 1113/632634)78, 131, 186188, 190 al-Ashar, Ab l-asan Al b. Isml b. Isq
faith of5152, 79, 191192 (d. 324/935 or 936)1, 15, 18, 23, 45, 51, 96
Ab Bakr Muammad b. Ibrhm al-Maqni n.37, 97, 119, 121122, 129, 140, 175, 183
al-Rz184 n.18 Maqlt al-islmiyyn29, 35, 38, 4043,
Ab af al-addd (d. c. 270/883)156 46, 50, 5263, 99100, 102, 123, 136
Ab af al-Qirmaysn13 Ashar(s)29, 3536, 38, 44, 46, 117, 127, 152,
Ab l-asan Amad b. Al l-Shaaw, known 157, 167168, 174175, 197
as Bqa (d. 297/909 or 910)48 reception of al-Kab35 n.27, 41, 114, 197
Ab l-asan Al b. Muammad sources41, 46, 52, 100101, 121, 127, 140,
al-Khashshb (or al-ashsh) 165
al-Balkh1314 testimony38, 41, 52, 111
Ab l-asan Shhid al-Balkh11
Ab Hshim al-Jubb. See al-Jubb, Ab Baghdad2, 911, 1314
Hshim (d. 321/933) Baghdadis/Baghdadi school15, 13, 2931,
Ab l-Hudhayl al-Allf (d. 227/841)2, 5, 21, 33, 3536, 3841, 44 n.57, 48, 52, 5457,
39, 44, 59, 61, 92, 97, 101102, 121 n.26, 61, 6468, 70, 7375, 79, 8184, 92,
128130, 136, 147, 149, 154, 172173 9598, 109, 121 n.26, 128, 131, 134137,
Ab l-usayn al-Bar (d. 436/1044)2, 32, 141, 147, 152, 156157, 164, 174, 181, 186
37, 39, 51, 60, 100, 195 n.27, 193, 195, 197
Ab l-usayn al-Susanjird11 Mutazils29, 33, 40, 96, 102, 156157, 181,
Ab Imrn al-Raqqsh156 n.47 185186, 188, 190, 194
Ab s Muammad b. Hrn Bahshamiyya23, 13, 29, 31, 98, 123
al-Warrq156 Balkh8, 11
Ab Isq b. Ayysh49, 72, 157, 159 al-Balkh, Ab Zayd (d. 322/934)6, 11, 108
212 Index of Names

al-Baqilln (d. 403/1013)35, 128 n.59, 136 existence of90, 104106, 151, 153154,
Basran Mutazil(s)30, 44, 64, 67, 97 n.47, 168, 180
108, 124125, 128 n.59, 131, 133134, 136, as hearing (sam)5455, 92, 113, 116
140142, 145 n.145, 153, 157, 160, 162, 167, and injustice130132
172, 180 and [issue of] blame67, 124, 142, 146
epistemology150152 n.153
school12, 5, 30 and [issue of] evil43, 4546, 50 n.75,
sources51, 124, 127, 147, 197 64, 9697, 118120, 129135, 138139,
testimony35, 108 142143, 147, 153
al-Bar, Ab Abdallh (d. 369/979)190 n.64 justice of117120, 122 n.31, 132133, 138,
Batriyya (or Butriyya)184, 186187, 190, 193 145, 168, 195
Biram, Arthur5 as knowing5354, 58, 63, 90, 92, 103104,
Bishr b. al-Mutamir (d. 210/825)2, 73, 78, 107, 109
8283, 9697, 125128, 147, 149, 152 knowledge of3839, 42, 47, 60, 71, 84, 91,
n.20, 155, 156 n.47, 157, 159, 165, 173174, 97, 104105, 111, 115
186188, 196 as living54, 90, 92
al-Burgth, Ab Abdallh Ab s names of38, 41, 5455, 108110
Muammad b. s l-Bar16 and obligation8182, 119, 123124, 126,
al-Bust, Ab l-Qsim Isml (d. late fifth/ 128, 136137, 142, 145 n.145, 146
eleventh century)32, 91 and the optimum (al-ala)125, 128, 130,
Buyids (334454/9451062)182 134, 136137, 143, 187, 195
as powerful/power of5354, 58, 90, 92,
al-Dhahab (d. 748/1348 or 753/135253)20, 98 n.49, 103, 105, 107, 133, 178
21 in relation to place/space34, 40, 63, 102
Dhanani, Alnoor6, 166, 174 n.67 as seeing (bar)41, 5456, 92, 113, 116
irr b. Amr ( d. c. 200/815)127 n.52, 169 speech of41, 62, 101
volition/will of56, 101, 115, 151
Fal al-adath156 n.47 as willing (murd)5661, 93
al-Fris, Ab Bakr Muammad b. Ibrhm
al-Zubayr14 al-Hd il l-aqq, Ab l-usayn
Frank, Richard117 n.4, 149, 171 n.37 (d. 298/911)6, 15, 48 n.68, 184, 185 n.23
al-Fuwa, Hishm b. Amr (d. before amza b. Abd al-Mualib (d. 2/624)78, 189
230/845)40, 102, 121 n.29, 131 n.75, 196 Hrn al-Rashd (r. 170193/786809)187
asan al-Askar (eleventh Imm)183
Galen (d. 216 ce)147148 al-asan b. Zayd al-D (d. 270/884)9, 13,
influence/material of174 n.67, 181, 198 184
medicine of34, 45, 54, 147, 160 al-asan b. Al b. Ab lib (d. 4950/669
Ghayln al-Dimashq (fl. c. 100/719)154 670)78, 189190
Gimaret, Daniel7 Hishm b. al-akam (d. 179/795)184
God9293, 96, 105, 109, 114, 119120, 123 n.37, Horten, Max5
129, 157, 176177 al-usayn b. Al b. Ab lib (d. 61/680)78,
acts of66, 90, 93, 100101, 114, 139 189190
attributes of89, 90, 92 n.18, 94 n.27, 99, usayn al-Kf156 n.47
116, 168
burdening servants with what they cannot Ibn Ab l-add (d. 656/1258)11 n.78, 5152,
bear83, 119 n.16, 120 188, 190 n.64
as creator (mudith; ni; khliq)84, Ibn Askir (d. 571/1175)18, 23
107, 118, 168, 170, 176 Ibn Frak = Ab Bakr b. Frak
doing best for servants/in religion/in (d. 406/1015)18, 35, 46
world6465, 122 n.31, 136137 Ibn ajar (d. 787/1385)21
Index of Names 213

Ibn al-Jarr = Al b. s b. Dwd b. al-Jarr al-Jishum, al-kim (d. 494/1101)23, 14,


(d. 334/946)10 20, 30, 3233, 3738, 40 n.46, 4143,
Ibn Khalld = Ab Al Muammad b. 4951, 99, 104105, 109111, 121, 135,
Khalld31, 4647 141, 146, 153154, 163164, 176177, 180,
Ibn Kullb (d. 241/855)1 n.3, 89 186187, 188 n.41
Ibn al-Malim, Rukn al-Dn (d. 536/1141)1 al-Jubb, Ab Al (d. 303/916)1, 56, 12, 14,
n.15, 32, 3739, 48, 61, 100, 158 24 n.204, 35, 3738, 40, 42, 47, 84, 91, 97
Ibn Mattawayh (fl. fifth/eleventh n.47, 9899, 102104, 107109, 115116,
century)3031, 119 121123, 138, 143146, 150, 152 n.18, 154,
Ibn al-Nadm (d. 385/995 or 388/998)14, 18, 161, 168, 185
20, 2324, 156 al-Jubb, Ab Hshim (d. 321/933)12,
Ibn Qiba = Ab Jafar Muammad b. Abd 56, 14, 35, 37, 42, 4647, 84, 108 n.101,
al-Ramn b. Qiba (d. 319/931)11, 183184 123, 144, 146, 150152, 161, 163, 168, 179
Ibn al-Rwand = Ab l-usayn Amad on the attributes8991, 104, 107
b. Yay b. al-Rwand (d. 298/910?)1, 3, al-Junayd (d. 298/910)11
14, 52, 126 n.49, 156, 161, 170, 184, 188189, Jurjn9 n.61, 13
191, 192 n.70 al-Juwayn, Ab l-Mal Abd al-Malik
Ibn Sn (d. 428/1037)108, 197 (d. 478/1085)36, 41, 100, 176
Ibn ws (d. 664/1266)
al-j, Au al-Dn (d. 756/1355)37, 101, 122 al-Kab = Ab l-Qsim al-Kab/al-Balkh
n.31 (d. 319/913)1, 4, 7, 21, 36, 94, 106, 133,
al-Ikhshd, Ab Bakr Amad b. Al 134 n.89, 134 n.90, 153, 156, 158159, 184,
(d. 326/938)1 n.4 187, 194
Imm(s)3, 29, 33, 41 n.50, 183, 187, 192, on accidents6, 86, 97 n.47, 114, 175
195 articles of3537, 4043, 4852, 101, 195,
doctrines/theology of15, 29, 52, 183, 194 197
sources51, 193 biography of8, 185
testimony of43, 52 cosmology of6, 21, 31, 42, 50, 8586, 111,
s b. al-Haytham al-f, Ab Ms95 115116, 158160, 166167, 181, 198
n.30, 156 and definition of knowledge56, 152, 159,
Isq Shr13 162164
al-Iskf, Ab Jafar (d. 240/854)15 n.110, 38, on divine incentive127128, 147
40, 55, 78, 95 n.30, 9798, 100, 102, 116, and doctrine of nature7677, 177181
121 n.26, 128, 132136, 147, 186, 188189, and doctrine of the optimum121,
196197 124125, 130, 136142, 144 n.139, 146,
Ismls52 181, 196
Isml Psh (d. 787/1385)16, 19, 22 epistemology of3132, 41, 46, 48,
7075, 84, 111, 113, 116, 149150, 156, 160,
al-Jad b. Dirham154 164165, 181, 196
Jafar b. Ab lib (d. 8/629)78, 189190 on the four elements175177, 180181
Jafar b. arb (d. 236/850)6163, 97, 102, 127, on God and evil134135
131135, 156 n.47, 173174, 180181, 185, on Gods attributes23, 3435, 37, 5363,
188189 91, 98101, 104106, 116
Jafar b. Mubashshir (d. 234/849)6163, 78, on the imma13, 22, 3334, 5052,
102, 157, 173174, 181, 188, 190 7880, 182, 184185, 190, 194196
al-Ji (d. 255/869)39, 59, 6061, 101, 130, on imitation153154, 158
149, 155156, 158, 171172, 176, 180181, on justice42, 45, 52, 6469, 8183,
184, 188, 191, 192 n.70, 195196 120, 137
Jarrs78 on messengers/prophetic mission47,
Jrdiyya184 160
214 Index of Names

reception of1011, 41, 114, 197 Muammad b. Shabb83


and skeptics161162 Muammad b. Zayd al-D
teachers and students of1214 (d. 287/900)910, 12, 184185
on volition9192, 114115 al-Munajjim, Ab l-asan Amad b. Yay
works of1617, 91, 121, 150, 166167 (d. 327/939)14
al-Karbs (d. 245/859 or 248/862)1 n.3 al-Munajjim, Yay b. Al (d. 300/912)10
Ktip elebi (d. 1067/1657)19 al-Muqtadir (r. 295320/908932)10 n.67
al-Khab al-Baghdd (d. 463/1071)8, 11 al-Murdr, Ab Ms (d. 226/841)78,
al-Khayy, Ab l-usayn Abd al-Ram 9698, 121 n.26, 127, 131, 147, 152 n.20,
b.Muammad b. Uthmn (d. c. 173, 187189, 191, 193, 195
300/913)2, 10, 12, 14, 41, 52, 5859, 7880, Murjis111, 193
85, 95, 97 n.47, 121, 127128, 147, 150, 167, Muahhar b. hir al-Maqdis49, 162 n.77
170, 171 n.44, 187189, 191, 193, 195, 197 Muarrif b. Shihb b. Amr al-Shihb (d. after
Kitb al-Intir3, 126 n.49, 156, 184, 189 459/1067)48
al-Khujund24 n.204 Muarrifiyya48, 50 n.77, 167
Khursn814, 197 al-Mutawakkil (r. 232247/847861)12 n.87,
al-Kind, Ab Ysuf Yaqb b. Isq (d. c. 182
252/866)11, 108 Mutazil(s)13, 29, 35, 37, 40, 4951, 54, 66,
Kohlberg, Etan11 n.78 71, 78, 81, 126, 133134, 136, 147, 149, 152,
156, 174, 177, 180, 184, 189190, 196
Madelung, Wilferd6, 9 n.61, 13 n.90, 15 on attributes89, 96, 107, 115, 117
n.106, 15 n.109, 51 n.81, 184, 186 n.27 Bahsham30, 49 n.71, 157 n.53
al-Mala (d. 377/987)186 n.27 Basran4, 3233, 120, 165, 174, 185
Mnkdm Shashdw (d. 425/1034)31, 38, cosmology97 n.47, 167168, 174175
4142, 49, 5152, 101, 151 n.15, 194 divisions among32, 126 n.49
al-Marzubn, Ab Ubaydallh Muammad on doctrine of nature77, 167 n.13, 172, 179
b. Imrn (d. 348/994)9 epistemology149150, 154, 162
al-Mturd, Ab Manr (d. 333/944)7, on Gods speech102
15, 18, 19, 38, 45, 49, 99, 102, 105107, on the imma183, 185186, 188
115116, 140, 167, 197 on justice45, 117118, 120, 123124, 127
Kitb al-Tawd7, 3435, 197 and the optimum43, 123, 126
testimony of34, 4042 and reception of al-Kab11, 3233
Mturd(s)7, 29, 40, 44, 52, 127, 157, 174 and skepticism161, 164
sources52, 98, 127, 140, 165 sources7 n.46, 4344, 4647, 197
al-Mward (d. 450/1058)182 fiyyat al-Mutazila156 n.47, 185
McDermott, Martin6, 33, 48 testimony30, 33, 35, 3940, 42, 5152
Modarressi, Hossein11 n.78 theologies4, 19, 97 n.47, 147, 149, 197
Muammar b. Abbd (d. 215/830)168, 170, thought/doctrines183184, 185 n.23
171 n.37, 179, 181 and unbelief91 n.15
Muwiya b. Ab Sufyn (r. 4160/661 al-Muyyad bi-llh, Amad b. al-usayn
680)187188, 191 (d. 411/1020)3132
al-Muall, Sulaymn b. Muammad
b. Amad48 Nabha, Khir Muammad7, 17
Muammad (Prophet)13, 49, 54, 71, 182, 185, al-Najjr, Ab Abdallh al-usayn b.
192 n.70 Muammad b. Abdallh (d. 220/835)16,
Muammad b. Abdallh b. hir 39, 41, 56, 101
(d. 269/908909)9 Nasaf11
Index of Names 215

al-Nasaf, Ab l-Mun (d. 508/1114)3435, al-Sayyid, Fud7, 17


3941, 4446, 4951, 95 n.33, 99, Schacht, Joseph147
101104, 127, 140, 167 al-Shfi, Muammad b. Idrs
al-Nshi al-Akbar (d. 293/906)156 n.47 (d. 204/802)193
al-Nir li-l-aqq al-asan b. Al l-Ursh al-Sham, Ab Yaqb2, 97 n.47, 127
(d. 304/917)9, 184185 al-Shahrastn, Muammad b. Abd al-Karm
Nar ii b. Amad b. Isml (d. 331/943)10 (d. 548/1153)36, 4142, 46, 49, 98, 100, 111,
al-Niq bi-l-aqq Ab lib Yay b. 113115, 173
al-usayn b. Hrn al-Bun al-Shaykh al-Mufd = Ab Abdallh
(d. 424/1033)31, 46, 51, 184 n.18 Muammad b. Muammad b. al-Numn
al-Nawbakht, Ab Sahl Isml b. Al (d. 413/1022)6, 29, 3334, 37, 4041,
(d. 311/923)15, 183184 43, 4850, 68, 9899, 111, 134 n.90, 136,
al-Nawbakht, al-asan b. Ms (d. between 141, 179
300 and 310/912 and 922)51, 183184 Sha/Shs3, 51, 191192
al-Nam, Ab Isq Ibrhm b. Sayyr (d. Shurayk b. Abdallh, Ab Abdallh
between 220/835 and 230/845)33, 3839, al-Nakha (d. 177/793)192193
41, 5657, 59, 61, 64, 114116, 121 n.29, 134, iffn (37/657)187
147, 149, 154, 156, 159, 169, 171, 176, 181, 196 al-Sirjn (d. 280/893)20
on the attributes9296, 100101, 107 fiyyat al-Mutazila156 n.47, 185
on the optimum128 n.59, 129130, 136 Sulaymn b. Abdallh b. hir13
Sunn(s)182, 191
Pines, Shlomo6, 175 biographical dictionaries116
adth corpus182
al-Qhir (r. 320322/932934)10 n.67 kalm89, 122
al-Qalnis, Ab l-Abbs51, 80, 194195 mutakallimn89, 94, 108
al-Qarmaysn85 proto-Sunn stance/views5051,
al-Qsim b. Ibrhm al-Rass (d. 246/860)6, 183184, 192193, 195196
48 n.68, 184, 185 n.23, 186 n.27 sources50, 193
Quraysh50, 80, 186, 193, 195 Traditionists (ahl al-adth)182
Sunnism (ahl al-sunna wa-l-jama)183
al-Rmahurmuz (d.c. 360/971)182
Rayy13, 31 abaristn9, 13
al-Rz, Ab Bakr Muammad b. Zakariyy hirids89, 13
(d. 313/925 or 323/935)15, 22, 46, 67, 122, ala b. Ubaydallh (d. 36/656)51, 79,
138139, 147, 166 n.2 187190, 191, 195
al-Rz, Fakhr al-Dn (d. 606/1210)3637, Thumma b. Ashras (d. 213/828)154155,
46, 101, 122 n.31, 122 n.32, 138 158, 171172, 177, 180181, 196
Reinhardt, Kevin7 Transoxania11, 197
Rudolph, Ulrich7
al-Rummn (d. 384/994)1 n.4 Umar b. al-Khab (r. 1323/634644)78,
Ryn9 186, 190, 192
Uthmn b. Affn (r. 2335/644655)78,
al-afad (d. 764/1363)22 182, 186190, 195
li b. Abd al-Qudds155
Smnids10 van Ess, Josef4, 78, 1617, 20
al-aymar, Ab Abdallh Muammad b.
Umar1415, 18, 121 Wisnovsky, Robert108, 197
216 Index of Names

Yay b. Khlid al-Barmak (d. 190/805)8 al-Zamakhshar, Jr Allah Mamd b. Umar


Yay l-Miqr (d. 972/1564)15 n.109, 184 (d. 538/1144)32
n.18 Zayd(s)3, 15, 78, 111, 167, 184, 186 n.27, 195
Yaqbs [i.e., Batrs]78. See also Batriyya sources6, 29, 46, 51, 184
(or Butriyya) thought/doctrine184, 185186
Yqt al-amaw (d. 626/1229)8, 1720 Zeryb, Abbs7, 17
al-Zubayr b. al-Awwm (d. 36/656)51, 79,
al-Zabd, Muammad Murta 187190, 191, 195
(d. 1205/1791)41
General Index

accident(s) (ara, pl. ar; akwn)6, atomism48 n.68, 167, 174175, 179
8586, 90, 97 n.47, 114, 134, 154, 167170, atomist(s)168169
172 worldview/framework50, 178
and perdurance50 n.76, 166 n.2, 175 atom(s) ( juz; jawhar, pl. jawhir)5, 76,
of Qurn102 8485, 90, 97 n.47, 166 n.2, 167168, 170
acquisition (kasb)159 n.60 n.36, 175
acts170, 179 n.92 attribute(s) (ifa, ift) [of God]45, 29,
of agents117118, 124125 3233, 52, 59, 89, 91 n.15, 97 n.47, 99, 103
compulsory (ikhtiyriyya) and natural n.82, 106107, 124125, 197
(abiyya)115 of act(s) (al-fil)42, 53, 95 n.30, 98, 105,
as contingent entities (dhawt or 133134, 145
ashy)124 derived from an agent (bi-l-fil)90
determined by nature(s)154, 169 as descriptive (waf )89
divine/of God115 n.123, 122 n.31, 142143, of essence (al-dht)53, 90, 95, 9899,
146, 172 106, 116
of God ( fil, pl. afl)5657, 59, 100, of essence and act3435, 38, 40, 95, 98,
114116, 118, 124 105, 108, 115, 196
human171172 of hearing3841, 91, 93 n.23, 9697,
ontology of117 n.4, 122, 124, 133, 141142 99100, 111, 196
of servants96, 100, 114, 116, 119, 159 al-Kab on3435, 3738, 4041, 9899,
without an agent155, 171 103, 107, 116, 197
afterlife75, 160 of knowing/knowledge35, 91, 93, 9597,
agency/agent(s)90, 103, 114115, 117118, 106, 163
124125, 154, 173, 178181 of living/life35, 38, 91, 93, 98, 106
absence of155, 171 of power93, 96, 98, 106 (See also power/
disposition of vs. acts of144146 capacity for action)
divine/of God96, 103, 117118, 170 of seeing3841, 91, 93 n.23, 9697,
human114, 120, 171173 99100, 111, 196
as knowing (liman), as powerful of volition92 n.17, 99, 111 (See also
(qdiran)104 volition)
as morally responsible (mukallaf )72, attribution (waf )99, 107, 110
8182
of nature179 behaviors, as determined by nature169,
obligations of142143 178
ahl al-sunna110111 Being95 n.30
analogy/ratio legis (qiys)55, 110 belief (mn)66, 97, 123 n.37, 126, 142
animals, and retaliation81 believers126, 130, 140, 143, 182
annihilation85, 166 n.2 belles-lettres8, 23
anthropology168 benefit/beneficial (malaa; manfaa)61, 81,
apparent (abna; hir)109, 153 130, 140, 142, 164, 194. See also good
appointment (nab)185 worldly137, 194
ascetics/asceticism14, 49, 71, 156 n.47, blame145
157158, 185 God does not deserve67, 124, 142, 146
atheists (dahriyya)174175 n.153
218 General Index

blessings; bounties (niam, pl. inm)94, of bodies (ikhtirt)170


132, 145 finitude of129
bliss (tanm)43 in time (mudath)168, 170 n.36
body(ies) ( jism, pl. ajsm)90, 97 n.47, 132 of the world19, 77, 167, 176177, 180181
n.81, 134, 154, 159, 167168, 175177, 181 creator; maker (ni) [i.e., God]176, 180
Book. See Qurn
decree (amr; ukm)38, 56, 94, 100, 133
capacity. See also power/capacity for action of the optimum187, 190
for action (bi-l-qudra)173 n.59 deficiency (naq)129
for action (maall al-qudra)171 deliberation (tadbr)68
given by God119 determination (azm)114
casting lots194195 determinism127, 169 n.27, 172, 179
causality45, 108, 133, 140, 159, 170, 173174 determinists119, 133
in bodies178 discord (ikhtilf )105107
natural160, 171 n.44 disobedience (maiya)9697, 134
cause (sabab; illa)125, 134, 172, 180 disposition/state (l, pl. awl)89, 90 n.6,
internal necessary106108 104106, 144146
characteristics (khiyya, pl. khai; disputation ( jadal)150 n.5, 156157
akama, pl. akm)50 n.74, 59, 76, 97, doubt153, 162
114, 173, 178181 dualists (thanawiyya)174, 175
children81, 130, 138139
death of6667 Earth86
choice120, 155, 170 elements (heat, cold, humidity, dryness)76,
civil strife ( fitna)5051, 80, 182, 193195 174177, 180181
class ( jins)73, 84, 112, 113114, 124, 152, 163, 171 end (ghya)126, 128129
cognizant (rif ) [God as]109 entitative determinant(s)/entities (man,
colors85, 163, 169, 172173 pl. man)76, 85, 8990, 92 n.18,
command (amr), of God38, 5661, 9394, 103104, 179
100101, 114, 116, 151 epistemology45, 3032, 52, 149
companions [of the Prophet]78, 187, of al-Kab3132, 41, 46, 48, 7075, 84, 111,
189190 113, 116, 156, 160, 164165, 181, 196
compensation (iwa)82 of Mutazil(s)149150, 154
compulsion128 equilibrium (itidl)108
concepts (man)144 n.139. See also entita- error (all)187
tive determinant(s)/entities essence(s) (dht)53, 90, 93, 98, 104, 106, 178.
conjecture; speculation (ann)72, 153, 159 See also attribute(s)
consensus110111 of agents118
constitution (mizj; binya)73, 77, 160, 173 bi-/li-/f nafs3738, 4041, 5354, 92,
n.59, 181, 198 9899, 103104, 106107, 116, 134
convention (muwaa)47, 108 n.101, 110, 161 eternity/eternal (qadm)57, 108110, 114115,
conviction (itiqd)72, 151 n.16, 152153, 154, 123 n.37
162164 attributes92, 96, 97 n.47
cosmology (daqq, or laf al-kalm)56, 14, elements/matter175177
24 n.204, 30, 3435, 73, 91, 168, 196 of God84, 92
naturalist154 tablets6263, 102
creation/created96 n.40, 97 n.43, 177 n.81 ethical
act (mudath)171172 categories124
beginning of124 qualities146
General Index 219

values117 transmitters, biographical dictionaries


evil (qab; qq)42, 4546, 6465, 86, of91
9697, 118119, 124, 130131, 133134, harmony (wifq)53, 105, 107108, 197
139, 142, 147, 150 n.8, 151, 153, 163 heart(s) (qulb)73, 77, 111112, 159160,
excuse (udhr)143 196
exegesis7 n.44, 17 n.120, 23 hellfire66, 82, 187, 189
existence/existing [of God]90, 104106, 151, heresiographies68, 16
153154, 168, 180. See also non-existent heretic(s)156
(madm) hypocrites79, 191, 195
expression (ibra)32, 63, 110, 144. See also
rhetoric/wording; semantics ignorance ( jahl)103, 153
extension (misa)6, 85 imm5051, 80, 185
infallibility of194195
faith182 necessity of79, 194
of Ab Bakr5152, 79, 191 imma4, 13, 22, 3334, 5052, 7880,
falsehood, and truth164 182183
fashioned (tatahayya)76, 170, 178179, 181 of the less excellent (al-mafl)5152,
favor (luf; tafaul)45, 81, 118, 124, 144 79, 186188, 190191, 194196
n.139, 146 imitation (taqld)49, 7172, 113, 149, 152153,
forgetfulness74, 160 156, 158160, 163165, 196
in relation to God3839, 41, 59, 95 n.33, of the Qurn (ikya)62, 102
101 incapacity (ajz)103, 130
forgiveness8283 incentive, divine (luf )66, 69, 8182,
of isha, ala, and al-Zubayr195 119120, 123128, 138, 151, 187
form(s) (haya, pl. hayt)135, 170 finitude of129
free will119 obligation of126127
futile/futility (bil; abath)124, 153, 161 proponents of (ab al-)43, 68, 125126
in relation to God47 individual entity (ayn)64, 133134
injustice ( jawr; ulm)81, 130132, 135, 170
general ( jumla), vs. specific112113 insanity/lunacy74, 160
generation (tawld, tawallud)154155, 157, intellect (aql, pl. uql)74, 132, 135, 159. See
159, 172173, 178179, 196 also reason/intellect
doctrine of165, 174 intent (qad)114115
generosity/generous giving ( jd; intention (amd)83
karam)4344, 68, 81, 95, 134, 141145
good (al; tasn; khayr)42, 4546, 70, jurisprudence, principles of (ul
118, 124, 126, 128129, 133134, 140, 145, a l-fiqh)14, 19, 150
145 n.145, 163. See also optimum justice (adl)45, 14, 1718, 30, 4245, 52,
vs. evil acts120, 133134 117121, 122 n.31, 123125, 127, 130, 133,
and God118, 120 137138, 141, 145, 153, 168, 181, 195
of the many139, 143
grace (isn)145 kalm (theology). See theology
knowledge (ilm; marfa)7273, 77, 152,
adth 154155, 158, 160161
ahl al-adth11, 16, 111, 150 acquired (kasb/muktasab)75, 84, 154,
imms must be from Quraysh193 157158, 160, 164 n.87, 178
principles of adth criticism (ul definition of149, 151152, 163, 165
al-adth)182 existence of74, 161
220 General Index

knowledge (cont.) by/according to nature (iban)170172


generated (yuwallid, mutawallida)73 doctrine of (abi)4, 44, 45 n.61, 4950,
74, 149, 151, 154155, 164 52, 7677, 115, 159160, 166167, 170171,
of God75, 149151, 153155, 157158, 196 174, 178, 180181, 198
human112, 114 forces of (quw abiihi)172
intuitive/by intuition (badha)8384 proponents (ahl/ab) of45 n.61, 115,
knowing (liman), God as90 169, 173, 175176, 180 n.94
necessary (arr)154155, 158, 160, 164 necessary of existence (wjib al-
n.87, 178 wujd)108, 197
production of112113, 156, 159, 172173 necessity (arra)150, 164
proponents of necessary knowledge non-existent (madm)85, 97 n.47, 167. See
(ab al-marif )150 n.9, 154, 158, 172 also existence/existing

language(s)47, 70, 109110, 131 obedience (a)83, 123 n.37, 128, 134
knowledge of160161 objective moral principles117118
law (shar)46, 47, 70 objective realities117, 133
laypeople (mma, mm, al-awm)49, objects84, 103104, 114
7172, 158159 of Gods capacity (maqdrtihi)129
letters, shaped and written (al-urf of [Gods] volition (murd)94, 96
al-muawwara)62 of hearing and seeing (masmt and
lexicography141 mubart)55, 97, 112113
limit (nihya)126 of imitation (mak) [i.e., Qurn]62,
living (ayyan), God as90 102
lying130132 of knowledge111113
obligations/obligatory (wjib, wjibt,
manuals4, 3132, 119 n.15, 149 n.1, 168 wujb)67, 118, 124, 142, 144 n.139, 145, 151
meaning ( fida; mana)33, 68, 110. See also occultation (al-ghayba)183
entitative determinant(s)/entities occurrence (aala; ul)163164, 179 n.92
media (wasi) [of knowledge]112113 omnipotence, divine91, 129, 175
medicine34, 45 n.61, 46, 69, 77, 138, 140, 148 ontology3132, 97 n.47, 116, 117 n.4, 124, 130,
poisons and food4647, 70, 161 133134, 141143, 146147, 152, 155, 168,
mercy, of God90, 105106 196
messenger70, 84 of the mode of occurrence44, 152
miser/miserliness (bakhl, bukhl)44 n.57, oppression ( jawr)132. See also injustice
129130, 138, 145 n.146 optimum (al-ala)12, 14, 30, 32, 34, 37,
mode of occurrence (wajh)44, 67, 124125, 4246, 6566, 69, 77, 79, 81, 120121,
133, 141142, 143 n.135, 145146, 151152, 122 n.31, 123, 125126, 128, 136137,
163 194, 196
moral obligation150 n.8, 155, 157 absolute123, 137
imposition of (taklf )43, 48, 6566, 70, as best in matters of religion and the
118120, 123124, 126, 128, 137, 149150 world ( f l-dn wa-l-duny)43
motive(s) (diya, pl. daw)61, 155 best of things (al-ashy)126, 128
movement (araka)64, 134 Gods decree of190
multiplicity [in God]90, 93 Gods obligation to do6768
mutakallimn. See theology (kalm) infinity of129 n.65, 139140
of the many4243, 46, 123 n.33, 138139,
name(s) (ism, pl. asm)38, 41, 5455, 99, 147, 196
107, 108111 proponents of (ab)4344, 6668,
nature (ib, abi, ab, mab, iban)76 120, 125126, 130, 138, 142146
77, 115 n.123, 155, 169, 171, 178180 religious vs. worldly5152
General Index 221

restricted42, 4445, 120, 122124,


126127, 140142 quality (ifa)133. See also attribute(s)
worldly (malaa dunyawiyya)48, 52, 79 Qurn55, 76, 94, 110111, 170171, 176177,
order (ittisq)135 192 n.70
commentaries on1617
pain82, 84 created accident of102
paradise43, 65 imitation (ikya) of62
participles9293, 96 and man from pith of mud176177
particularity (khu)112 in one location61, 102
perception(s)/perceiving ( fhim; idrk)55, as revealed text of (al-munazzal)63
100, 109, 113, 116, 159, 173, 179 n.92
perdurance (baq)13, 85, 94 rational (qil, maqla)109, 145 n.145. See
perfect (mukam)103104 also reason/intellect
philosopher(s) (mutaqaddimn; awil)76, non-rational categories (ghayr
161162 maql)178
atheists179 proofs (adillat al-uql)144 n.139
and physicians, astrologers176, 180 n.94 propositions (aqliyyt)144 n.139
physics168 rational inquiry (naar)48, 7071, 73, 103,
piety14 149152, 155, 157158, 160, 163165
place (makn)86 as obligatory153
Gods relation to34, 40, 63, 102 proponents (ahl; ab) of72, 159
pleasure81, 172 rationalism133
polemics/polemical works3, 16, 52, 115, 141, reaction (infil)173 n.59, 178179, 181
143, 150, 156, 182 reason/intellect (aql, pl. uql)51 n.81, 54,
anti-Christian19 79, 82, 89, 99, 108112, 118 n.7, 132, 135,
against al-Kab, 36, 42, 100, 109, 149, 162, 159, 172, 190
181 and imma194195
positive law (fur)150 recensions100101
power/capacity for action (qudra)14, 1920, mixed3739
50 n.76, 114, 123 n.37, 171, 173 n.59 spurious111
of God35, 5354, 58, 90, 9293, 9596, recitation [of Qurn]102. See also Qurn
98, 101, 103, 105107, 114115, 128, 129 refutations1314, 15 n.110, 16 n.113, 1823, 24
n.65, 130 n.70, 133, 140, 170, 176, 178 n.204, 25, 3435, 42, 44, 52, 85 n.4, 91,
God as (qdiran)5354, 90, 103104, 121, 143 n.135, 173 n.62, 184, 188
131, 178 repentance83
praise (mad)124 of isha, ala, and al-Zubayr51, 79,
prayers110 n.106, 191 189191
pressure (itimd)179 reports (akbhr)11
principle (al)74, 84, 131 of the many (mutawtir)164 n.87
proof(s); indication(s) (dall, pl. dalil, retaliation (iqti)81
adilla)73, 125, 131132, 144 n.139, 151, revelation (risla; tawqf )55, 70, 108 n.101,
153, 155156, 164 110, 118 n.7, 160161
prophecy52, 155 and the imma51 n.81
prophetic mission (bitha)46, 160 role of4748
prophet(s) (nab)4647, 70, 161 reward (thawb)83, 118119, 123 n.37,
necessity of48, 70 126127, 145
proportion (mutansiba)108 highest degree of123124
punishment8283, 119 not obligatory on God81, 142
as obligation on God142 rhetoric/wording (ibra, ibrt)144 n.139,
and threat (wad wa-l-wad)83 158. See also expression; semantics
222 General Index

righteous, most righteous (awb, testimonies4, 33, 35


awab)145 n.145 agreement of101, 197
rights (uqq)143 Ashar38, 41, 52, 111
assessment of29, 37
salvation (najt, njin)66, 138, 152 n.20, Basran35, 108
153, 158 Imm43, 52
scholar(s) (lim)49, 71, 158 of al-Mturd34, 4042
scholastic phase/period12, 197198 Mutazil30, 33, 35, 3940, 42, 5152
scripturalism99, 110111 theodicy120 n.24, 194
scripture/scriptural54, 76, 93, 96, 108109, theology (kalm)3, 67, 14, 23, 29, 89 n.1,
111, 116 108, 122, 147, 149, 168, 174 n.65, 182183,
seen/visible world (shhid) vs. unseen 197
(ghib)95, 104, 111, 114115, 144 n.139 atomism6, 170, 174175
semantics (laf, pl. alfa; ibra)110, 143, of attributes9091
146 n.153 cosmology168
sense/sensation (ssa, iss)112113, 179 Imm33, 183
n.92 of al-Kab5, 15, 23, 29, 33, 3536, 52, 99,
sin ( fisq, fsiq; maiya)84, 182, 187, 189 101, 120121, 150, 166, 181, 184, 196197
grave/major (kabra)20, 8283 mutakallimn89, 108, 167 n.13, 173 n.59,
minor (aghra)83 174, 175 n.69
skepticism157, 161162, 164 Mutazil4, 12, 19, 97 n.47, 117, 147, 149, 197
skeptics19, 155156 negative96
slaves72, 159 occasionalism166 n.2
sophists74 as religious obligation153
soul (nafs)112, 172 thing(s) (shay, pl. ashy)56, 72, 76,
tranquility of (sukn al-)151154, 163 8485, 96, 97 n.47, 106, 126, 135, 151152,
sources 162163, 167, 170 n.36, 179180
Ashar41, 46, 52, 100101, 121, 127, 140, time (waqt)114115
165 traditionists (ahl al-adth)182. See also
Basran51, 127, 147, 197 adth
Imm51, 193 truth (al-aqq; aqqa)49, 71, 132, 153, 160
Mturd52, 98, 127, 140, 165 n.64, 162, 164
Mutazil7 n.46, 4344, 4647, 197
Sunn50, 193 unbelief66, 83, 97, 123 n.33
Zayd6, 29, 46, 51, 184 accusations of32, 91, 123, 138
species (naw)112, 115 n.123 unbelievers71, 122 n.31, 126, 128, 142143,
specific (tafl), vs. general112113 149, 152153, 189
specification (ikhti, takh)114115 union (talf )108
specifying criterion (mukhai)152 unity, divine (tawd)89, 117, 168
specific designation (na)194 universality (umm)112
structure (binya; nam)74, 135, 159, 174. unseen [worlds] (ghuyb)114
See also constitution
subsistence (baq)166 n.2, 175 vacuum (khal)6, 85, 166 n.2
substrate (maall)90, 178 varieties (mithl, pl. amthl)
sunna55, 110111 of the incentive123, 129
ahl al-sunna110111 of the optimum44, 45 n.61, 69, 130 n.70,
ahl al-sunna wa-l-jama183 140
General Index 223

volition (irda)5657, 9394, 155, 180 wisdom (ikma)44, 46, 68, 130132,
divine/of God4445, 56, 59, 61, 77, 134135
9091, 9597, 114116, 197 and deliberation (wa-l-tadbr)44, 140
human/of servants119, 171172 without how (bi-l kayfa)94
al-Kab on divine3842, 9192, 100101, women72, 159
111, 114, 166, 197 words (alf)67. See also semantics
world
will, divine174. See also command (amr), of created in time (mudath)168
God; volition (irda) structure of147