Certainty and probability, from theology to the ‘servant’ sciences

Ahmad Wagih

​​Doctor in Islamic Philosophy, Faculty of ​Dār al-ʿUlūm, Cairo University

icon-calendar Wednesday October 18ᵗʰ, 2017

Muslim theologians (al-mutakallimūn) relied on the concepts of ‘certainty’ (al-qaṭʿiyya) and ‘probability’ (al-ẓanniyya) to build their theological argumentation and classify knowledge, in order to distinguish between what could be relied on and what could not. Practically speaking, however, each theological school reached different conclusions about what is certain and what is probable in their knowledge, thus leading to the differences between these schools on the mere definition of ‘certainty’ and ‘probability’.
This situation pervaded the other Islamic sciences, such as Ḥadīṯ and Uṣūl al-Fiqh, under the manifold influence of theology. This is for example the case of al-Ḫaṭīb al-Baġdādī (d. 463/1071) in his al-Kifāya fī ʿilm al-riwāya, in Ḥadīṯ sciences, where the influence of these concepts can be seen, especially in the matter of ‘uninterrupted’ (mutawātirḥadīṯ. Similarly in Uṣūl al-Fiqh, some issues have been influenced by these theological discussions: issues related to ‘independent judgment’ (iǧtihād), ‘differenciated truth’ (taʿaddud al-ḥaqq) or issues linked to the distinction between different types of semantics (dalālāt al-alfāẓ).