Academic journal article Islamic Sciences

Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali: Iljam Al-'Awam 'An 'Ilm Al-Kalam: Chapter Two: Establishing the Evidence That the Method of the Salaf Is the Right Method [in Understanding the Divine Attributes]

Academic journal article Islamic Sciences

Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali: Iljam Al-'Awam 'An 'Ilm Al-Kalam: Chapter Two: Establishing the Evidence That the Method of the Salaf Is the Right Method [in Understanding the Divine Attributes]

Article excerpt

The evidence is of two types: rational ('aqli) and revelation-based (sam'i). The rational proof itself is of two sorts: general (kulli) and particular (tafsili). The general proof that the method (madhhab) of the Salaf (early generations) is the right [hermeneutic for the ambiguous proof-texts on Divine attributes] is unveiled through four principles, which are admitted by every rational person.

The first [principle] is that the Prophet--Allah's peace and blessings be with him--is the most knowledgeable of creation regarding the probity of the states of the righteous servants ('ibad; sing. cabd) vis-a-vis the good of [their fate in] the afterlife. That which benefits or harms in the hereafter cannot be known through experience as can medicine, since there is no domain for the empirical sciences (al-ulum al-tajribiyya) save repetitive observation, [which is not the case for the former]. Who [besides the Prophet] has returned from that world, having apprehended through direct observation what benefits and harms, and reported on what cannot be encompassed by mere rational analogy (qiyds al-'aql) (7) The intellect does not have the capacity for that. Thus, rational people have recognized that the intellect neither guides to that which lies beyond death nor leads one to [conclude] the harm of sins or the benefit of obedience, especially to the detail and delimitation as found in divine laws (shara'i'). They have unanimously acknowledged that such matters can only be apprehended through the light of prophethood (nubuwwa)--a power that lies beyond the intellect and perceives unseen matters of the past and future, which are inaccessible through the acquaintance of rational faculties (asbab al-'aqliyya). This was among those matters agreed upon by the early sages (kukama'), let alone the adepts (awliya') and elite among the learned (rasikhun), who focused their attention on learning from the presence of prophethood (nubuwwa), affirming the deficiency of all powers beside it.

The second principle is that the Prophet--Allah's peace and blessings be with him--did inform the people of what was revealed to him regarding the probity of the states of righteous servants in this life and the afterlife. He neither concealed nor withheld anything from them, for he was not sent but to proclaim the revelation. Hence, he was a mercy to the worlds (rahmat lil-'alamin) (Q 21:107) and was never faulted in that respect, which is known by necessity, as the contexts of his [different] states demonstrated--from his deep concern for their purification and guidance to his eagerness for their weal here and the hereafter. He did not omit anything that would bring the creatures closer to Paradise and the Creator's pleasure, guiding, enjoining, and encouraging them in it. He also did not leave out anything that would drag them close to Hell and Allah's wrath, prohibiting and warning them in both knowledge and deed.

The third principle is that those most knowledgeable about [the Prophet's] speech and most perspicacious in grasping its reality and mysteries were those who witnessed divine revelation and its descent, lived with him, and accompanied him; indeed, they associated with him night and day. They were zealous about the meanings of his speech, first acting on it and second transmitting it to those after them, while seeking proximity to Allah the Glorified through heeding, understanding, memorizing, and divulging it (this message). They are those the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, had motivated to listening, understanding, memorizing, and practicing [the message], when he said, "May Allah illumine a person who hears my speech and then memorizes and practices it as he heard it." (1) Upon my life, can the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, ever be accused of concealing it from them? The status of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah upon him, is far removed from such a thing! …

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