Cultural Relations Between Christianity and Shia Islam (2)

Cultural Relations Between Christianity and Shia Islam (2)

His argument seems to be baseless, for Tahafut al-Tahafut by Ibn Rushd was translated before 729/1328 by Qalunimus bin Dawud and was published under the title Hapatlat Hapala, while Karaska died in 814/1210. Even on this ground if we accept that there was no possibility of his direct access to the arguments of al-Ghazzali, forwarded in Tahafut al-Falasifah, it may be conjectured that undoubtedly he could have possibly referred to al-Ghazzalis arguments by means of the translation of Al-Ghazzalis Tahafut al-Falasifah. Raymond Martin, one of the eminent Christian scholastics, who died in 1285 A.D., is the person who worked as a link between European Christianity and al-Ghazzali, because in his works, Interpretation of the Secrets of the Disciples of Jesus, and The Sword of Faith, he has evidently borrowed ideas from al-Ghazzali. The influence of Ibn Sina on B. Spinozas various views, particularly his doctrine of emanation (ifadah), serves as irrefutable in the view of the thinkers of the East and the West.(1) From these examples it may be inferred that the scholastics of other religions, particularly the Christianity, have benefited from Muslim mutakkalimun in the middle ages without doubt. But the question arises as to whether non-Muslim scholastic thinkers have also influenced in a similar way of the Muslim scholastics.

5) The Mutazilah claimed (2) that the Ashairah in preaching uncreatedness of the Quran, were advocating the Christian doctrine about Logos, and as a result have fallen prey to a kind of pluralistic heresy. The Mutazilah argued that the emphasis of the Ashairah on the uncreatedness of the Quran cause them in believing the doctrine of the eternity of the Quran and its coexistence in pre-eternity with Allah. Thus they attributed eternity to the Quran along with the Eternity of Divine Essence. Shaykh al-Mufid says: “A man from Basra was talking about one of Ashariah beliefs which was against monotheism. He was of the view that Gods Eternal Attributes are not the Divine Essence and not otherwise as well.

That is why God is ascribed to be All-Knowing, the Living, the Omnipotent, the Hearing, the Seeing and the Speaker. That man was of the view that God possesses eternal face, eternal hearing, eternal seeing and eternal hands, such ideas are against the ideas of the monotheists what to talk of Islam.”(3) This is interesting to note that the Ashairah made a similar allegation against the Mutazilah and dubbed them as the greatest of atheists (kafirun). They argued that whosoever maintains emphatically that the Quran is created comes closer to the views of the atheists, since the atheists said that the Quran was a creation of the Prophets mind. To support their argument they site a verse from the Quran, in which Allah Himself explains the unbelievers faith by saying:

“This (the Quran) is saying of man.” (4) Al-Ashari writes: “Anybody who maintains that Quran is created, verily believes that Quran is mans words. Such idea is like the ideas of unbelievers.” The criticism of the Mutazilah seems to be a criticism far from truth. They say that the Ashairah, supported by some orientalists, borrowed this doctrine of the eternity of the Quran and its uncreatedness from Jewish or Christian interpretation of the term “Logos”. As the Ashairah have based their doctrine on the apparent meanings of some of the Quranic verses per se, they may not be blamed for adopting this view from alien sources and then reconcile it with the Quranic verses. But we have to concede to some extent that the issues concerning the Divine Attributes in general, and the controversy regarding the Quran in particular, have emerged and developed in the course of controversies and discourses among mutakallimun of Islam and the use of other religions, during which they came in contact with the works of each other. The same is applicable in the context of the medieval Christian scholasticism and the role of Descartes, and in the context of Medieval philosophy of Judaism and its impact on the modern philosophy of Europe through Spinoza.

6) The word of God (Kalimat Allah): It may be said that the image of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH&HP) bin Abdullah in Muslims view and the Christian view of the personality of Christ (PBUH) may not be compared reasonably, since the concept of prophethood of Isa bin Maryam (PBUH) in the Christian milieu and the concept of the Prophet (PBUH&HP) in Islam is also different. Whenever we want to compare and contrast some sacred things in Islam and Christianity, we should try to compare the image of Christ in the Christian view with the words of the Quran and their nature, because both the Quran and Isa Masih are called Kalimat Allah (The Word of Allah). It occurs in the Quran: “When the angels said: O Mariam surely Allah gives you good news with a word from him (of one) whose name is the Messiah Isa son of Mariam, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near (to Allah).” (5)

In Christianity Isa Masih is the embodiment and incarnation of the “Word of God” (Kalimat Allah). His embodiment and anthropomorphisation is similar to what is meant by the revelation and descent and consequently written form of the Quran. This matter is discussed in the history of Ilm al-Kalam in the same way and sense.(6) The Quran described itself as having the attributes according to which it is indicated that the existence of the Quran precedes its revelation in historical time to the Prophet (PBUH&HP). For instance: “Most surely it is an honored Quran, in a book that is protected.” (7) “Most of it is a glorious Quran, in a guarded tablet.” (8) “And surely it is in the original of the Book with us, truly elevated, full of wisdom.” (9) A number of verses in the Quran throw light on this issue, that is, the Quran has been revealed (in time), and despite this its existence precedes its revelation.

7) Accordingly “The Preserved Tablet” is considered as contingent and created. The problem of revelation and written form of the Quran, that is, the issue of the relationship of the revealed word to the Mother Book (Umm al-Kitab), does not give rise to any philosophical difficulty. The philosophical difficulty arises when in the light of some Quranic verses. The Quran is referred to as existing in the realm of Divine Knowledge. “And if you follow their low desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you shall not have against Allah any guardian or a protector.” (10) “And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper.” (11) These verses led some Mutakallimun to confuse the Quran with the Divine Attributes of Knowledge, and they were compelled to believe that the Quran as created in time, revealed and written, is an accident of the Attribute of Eternal Divine Knowledge that preceded the written revelation.

This confusion is like the problem that arose in Christianity particularly regarding the embodiment and incarnation of Christ. It is interesting that this issue too was interpreted in a similar way, since the Christian scholastics considered Christ as embodiment of Divinity in the person of a human being and called the second member of the Trinity. When the Shii Mutakallimun came to know that the use of the term “created” (makhluq) created difficulties, so in accordance with the way the Holy Family (Ahl al-Bayt) of the Prophet (PBUH&HP), they avoided to make use of the word Muhaddith and instead of it used the word muhdath. This term is used in the Quran for itself: “Never comes there unto them a new reminder from their Lord but they listen to it while they play.” (12) “Never comes there into them a fresh reminder from the Beneficent One but they turn away from it.” (13) Al Shaykh al-Mufid, says: “In my view, Quran is the Gods word and revelation. It is created in time (hadith), as is described by God, I do not wish to call it Mukhluq. There are certain hadith from Imam Baqir (PBUH) and Imam Sadiq (PBUH) supporting such meaning.”

Continue in the next article: ( Cultural Relations Between Christianity and Shia Islam (3) )

NOTES:

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1. On influence of Ibn Sina on Jewish Thinkers particularly spinoza refer to the following books: E.I.J. Rosenthal, Avicenna's Influence on Jewish Thought, “Avicenna: Scientist and Philosopher”, ed., G.M. Wiefens, London, 1952, Ch. IV. Encyclopedia Britanica, “Studies in Muslim Philosophy”, by Saeed Shaikh.

2. Refer to “Comparative Studies in Islamic Philosophy”, translated by Sayyid Mustafa Muhaqqiq Damad, Kharazmi Publication, 1369, Tehran, p.48.

3. Al-Abanah, p.56.

4. (The Quran 25:74)

5. (The Quran 3:44)

6. Wolfson, Philosophy of Kalam. The term `inlibration' is used for this matter.

7. (The Quran 56:77-78)

8. (The Quran 85:22)

9. (The Quran 43:3)

10. (The Quran 13:37)

11. (The Quran 2:120)

12. (The Quran 21:2)

13. (The Quran 26:5)