The issue of the existence of God in Ibn Taymiyya

Adrien Candiard

Member of the IDEO and PhD student in Islamic studies

icon-calendar May 22, 2018

For Heidegger (1889‒1976), if metaphysics failed in its project, it is because it identified the “Being” with God, transforming into a sterile onto-theology. This description undoubtedly applies to Avicenna (d. 428/1037), for whom the proof of God’s existence finds itself in the necessity that there be an end to the chain of causalities. God is the necessary Being who has no cause other than himself.

This proof of the existence of God is repugnant to Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), not only because it is rooted in logical human tools, incapable by definition of reaching the divine being, but also because it is valid only inside the world of logic, without saying anything about the actual existence of God.

Among all of Ibn Taymiyya’s philosophical refutations, his refutation of al-Siǧistānī (d. after 361/971) in Darʾ al-taʿāruḍ bayna al-ʿaql wa-l-naql is particularly interesting. In his Kitāb al-maqālīd al-malakūtiyya, al-Siǧistānī criticizes the Avicennian definition of the existence of God as the ‘necessary being’ (wāǧib al-wuǧūd) because it makes God a composite being, as he would share the fact of “being” with his creatures, yet would have his own kind of being, the “necessary being.” Al-Siǧistānī then explains that the “being” of God has nothing to do with the “being” of creatures. Ibn Taymiyya criticizes this position, which ultimately amounts to saying that God does not exist, because we cannot say of him that he is nor that he isn’t, which is contradictory according to the laws of logic itself.

For Ibn Taymiyya, this contradiction is based on an error shared by all philosophers, namely that they believe that existence, which is only a concept, has real existence.  “Existence,” like all universals, does not exist outside our mind. It is meaningless to seek to demonstrate God by a conceptual way that can only reach concepts without real existence; we must find a direct way. However, precisely, man knows that God exists because of an innate natural faculty, the fiṭra. There is no need to mediate concepts to know that God exists. In addition, if someone refuses to recognize that God exists, it is simply because his fiṭra is sick.

The problem with such a solution (a nominalist one for sure) is that it cannot be refuted. Anyone who questions Ibn Taymiyya’s thinking would only prove that his fiṭra is deficient.

L’Egitto sciita

Adrien Candiard, « L’Egitto sciita : la dinastia fatimide » in: Luciano Vaccaro (éd.), Popoli, religioni e Chiese lungo il corso del Nilo, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Città del Vaticano, Gazzada Schianno : Fondazione Ambrosiana Paolo VI, 2015, p. 189−299.

The theory of knowledge and religious polemics according to Ibn Ḥazm al-Andalusī

Adrien Candiard

PhD candidate in Islamic studies, Paris

icon-calendar June 15, 2016

20160615_Seminaire_Adrien_CandiardThe theory of knowledge according to the Andalusian theologian and jurist Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456/1064) seems to be paradoxical at first glance. On the one hand, he is an enthusiastic defender of the use of reason in theological discussions. And on the other hand, he has a literalistic reading of the revealed and transmitted texts.

In fact, Ibn Ḥazm adopts Aristotle’s theory of knowledge, based on axioms and on the logical demonstration of new knowledge derived from these axioms, with the difference that he considers the revealed texts to be axioms, not knowledge that should be tested by reason.

The logical result of this theory of knowledge is that the demonstrative evidence is the reason itself, not its exercise, implying that there is no more difference between faith and knowledge, between God and the science of God, and generally speaking, between science and the mere accumulation of knowledge.

For Ibn Ḥazm, if the non-Muslim and the deviant Muslim refuse the demonstration of the truth of Islam, they cannot be but liars or hypocrites, because their very own reason has to tell them that Islam is the truth.

Muḥammad ʿAbduh (1849-1905): Historian of the Decline of Islam

Adrien Candiard

Alumnus of the French École normale supérieure, Paris

icon-calendar June 16, 2015

CandiardMuḥammad ʿAbduh identifies the reality of Islam and its rationality, and opposes the tradition he sees as rehearsed. In this, he is an heir of the Enlightenment and their pretention in inventing a unique universal system of reasoning, ignoring multiple types of reasoning.