Part 26

The science of metaphysics

January 14, 2022

This studies existence.

First, it studies general matters affecting corporeal and spiritual things, such as the quiddities, oneness, plurality, necessity, possibility, and so on.

Then, it studies the beginnings of existing things and (finds) that they are spiritual things. It goes on to study the way existing things issue from (spiritual things), and also (studies) their order. Then, (it studies) the conditions of the soul after its separation from the body and its return to (its) beginning.

The metaphysicians think that metaphysics is a noble discipline. They assume that it gives them a knowledge of existence as it is. This, they think, is identical with happiness.

I will refute them later. In their arrangements, metaphysics comes after physics. Therefore, they called it “that which comes after physics” (metaphysics). 738a

Aristotle’s books were abridged by:

  • Avicenna in the Kitab ash-Shifa’ and the Najah
  • the Spanish philosopher Averroes

Recent scholars wrote systematic treatments of the sciences of the people (the Muslims).

Al-Ghazzali, at that time, refuted many of the opinions of the metaphysicians. Recent speculative theologians, then, confused the problems of theology with those of philosophy, because the investigations of theology and philosophy go in the same direction, and the subject and problems of theology are similar to the subject and problems of metaphysics. 740

Theology and metaphysics, thus, in a way came to be one discipline.

The recent theologians then changed the order in which the philosophers (had treated) the problems of physics and metaphysics. They merged the two sciences in one and the same discipline. Now, in (that discipline), they first discussed general matters. This was followed, successively, by (the discussion of) the corporeal things and the matters that belong to them, the spiritual things and the matters that belong to them, and so on to the end of the discipline. The imam Ibn al-Khatib, 741 for instance, proceeded in this manner in the Mabdhith al-mashriqiyah, and so did all later theologians.

The science of speculative theology thus merged with the problems of philosophy, and theological works were filled with the latter. It seemed as if the purpose which theology and philosophy followed in their respective subjects and problems was one and the same.

This confused people, but it is not correct. The problems with which the science of speculative theology deals are articles of faith derived from the religious law as transmitted by the early Muslims. They have no reference to the intellect and do not depend on it in the sense that they could not be established except through it.

The intellect has nothing to do with the religious law and its views. Speculative theologians do not use the (rational) arguments they talk about as do the philosophers, in order to investigate the truth of the (articles of faith), to prove the truth of what had previously not been known, and to make it known. Their use of rational arguments merely expresses a desire to have rational arguments with which to bolster the articles of faith and the opinions of the early Muslims concerningthem, and to refute the doubts of innovators who believe that their perceptions of (the articles of faith in their interpretation) are rational ones.

Rational arguments were used only 742 after the correctness of the articles of faith, as they had been received and believed in by the early Muslims, had been stipulated by traditional evidence.

There is a great difference between the two positions. The perceptions which the Master of the religious law (Muhammad) had are wider (than those of philosophers), because they go beyond rational views. They are above them and include them, because they draw their support from the divine light. Thus, they do not fall into the canon of weak speculation and circumscribed 743 perceptions.

When the Lawgiver (Muhammad) guides us toward some perception, we must prefer that perception to our own perceptions. We must have more confidence in it than in them. We must not seek to prove its correctness rationally, even if (rational intelligence) contradicts it.

We must believe and know what we have been commanded (to believe and to know). We must be silent with regard to things of this sort that we do not understand. We must leave them to the Lawgiver Muhammad and keep the intellect out of it.

The only thing that caused the theologians (to use rational arguments) was the discussions of heretics who opposed the early Muslim articles of faith with speculative innovations. Thus, they had to refute these heretics with the same kind of arguments.

This situation called for using speculative arguments and checking on the early Muslim articles of faith with these arguments.

The verification or rejection of physical and metaphysical problems, on the other hand, is not part of the subject of speculative theology and does not belong to the same kind of speculations as those of the theologians. This should be known, so that one may be able to distinguish between the two disciplines, as they have been confused in the works of recent scholars. The truth is that they are different from each other in their respective subjects and problems. The confusion arose from the sameness of the topics discussed. The argumentation of the theologians thus came to look as though it were inaugurating a search for faith through (rational) evidence. This is not so. (Speculative theology) merely wants to refute heretics.

The things it investigates are stipulated (by the religious law) and known to be true. Likewise, recent extremist Sufis, those who speak about ecstatic experiences, have confused the problems of (metaphysics and speculative theology) with their own discipline.

They discussed all these things as part of one and the same subject. Thus, they discussed prophecy, union, incarnation, oneness, and other things. In fact, however, the perceptions of the three disciplines are distinct and different from each other.

The Sufi perceptions are the ones that are least scientific. The Sufis claim intuitive 744 experience in connection with their perceptions and shun (rational) evidence. But intuitive experience is far removed from scientific perceptions and ways and the things that go with them, as we have explained above and as we shall (again) explain later on.


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