Abu Taymiyyah Jeylani's Student and the Principle of Jahm bin Safwaan|
Thursday, August 04 2016 - by Abu.Iyaad
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Abu Taymiyyah Jeylani's Student and Reviving the Principles of Jahm bin Safwaan
It would be useful for the reader to read the following four part series as it will allow the reader to immediately grasp the nature and direction of the contents of this article and it will allow us to be brief and concise without having to go into too much detail. The background issue is the same and relates to the underlying foundation(s) of the deen of the Jahmites of old.
In the video (pictured), Abu Muawiyah, described as a student of Abu Taymiyyah tackles the subject matter of Allah's existence and the origin of the universe. He is heavily influenced by the same rhetoric and kalaam found in the speech of Hamza Tzortzis - in parts he uses the same citations and same examples and illustrations as presented by Hamza Tzortzis in some of his polemics. Before we analyse his speech, some brief background is necessary.
The nations of the Sabeans, Jews and Christians prior to Islam had come under the influence of the philosophy of Aristotle which was the "science of the day" in those ages and they incorporated some of his ideas and conceptual baggage in the formulation of a proof for the universe being originated. This led them to fall into errors and deviations from what came in the revealed Books regarding the attributes of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, and His actions. After the revelation of the Qur'an and after the passing away of the Companions, there appeared misguided callers who had been mixing, arguing and debating with the remnant of those of Sabeans, Jews and Christians in the Muslim lands such as in Harraan, Damascus and elsewhere. From these individuals was al-Ja'd bin Dirham and the head of misguidance al-Jahm bin Safwan. Under the influence of those interactions and exchanges he unleashed one of his major, calamitous innovations into the ummah, and the underlying foundation of it was - as is mentioned by Ibn Taymiyyah in his works - the principle of "the impossibility of an endless chain of events (infinite regress) in the past". This was the foundation of his innovation and misguidance and the outcome of this principle, incorporated into an argument for proving the universe is originated - when taken through to its logical conclusion - is to reject and deny the attributes and actions of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic. The Mu'tazilah took this from the Jahmiyyah and then Ibn Kullaab was affected by it, and this was then transmitted through the Kullaabiyyah to al-Ash'ari and through the Mu'tazilah to al-Maturidi. These were the people of "kalam" that the Salaf severely condemned, warned against and authored books in refutation of them. To provide some minor detail:
The mistake in all of these groups was that they wrongly believed that the only way to validate Islam, the Qur'an and Prophethood was through the argument that the universe is originated, thus proving Allah's existence and then everything follows on from that. This is a false premise. The existence of Allaah is not dependent on proving the universe had a beginning and is originated. Rather, the proofs for the existence of Allah an innumerable, varied and diverse as indicated by Ibn Taymiyyah (see here). However, the people of kalam made the veracity of Islam to be dependent upon this flawed proof comprising false premises and as a result, they got embroiled in centuries of wrangling with the Philosophers and never managed to refute them sufficiently and in turn brought damage to the creed of the Muslims.
Today, the Internet and social media has opened up the avenues of interaction, argument and debate and unfortunately, many Muslim polemicists - and some of them claim attachment to Salafiyyah whilst ignorant of the details of the Salafi aqidah - are resorting to the methods and polemics of the blameworthy and condemned people of kalam in their arguments against atheists. They fall into this because they are not really grounded in the Salafi aqidah and they are not competent in these matters.
The Statements of Abu Muawiyah, al-Jeylani's Student
In his video, the student of Abu Taymiyah says the aim of his video is discuss the claims of atheists and also provide the listener with the "tools to combat these doubts" (0:56). He says he will mention four topics, and the one he puts first is the "cosmological argument".
Abu Muawiyah says (2:55):
We know that the universe began around 14 billion years ago. But the question nobody seems to be able to answer is what caused the big bang...
Later, Abu Muawiyah says (5:51):
So what is an infinite regress, an infinite regress is an infinite chain of past events. So if one was to say OK, maybe the universe was created by something else created, then we would have to ask the question, if the universe was created by something else created, i.e. another universe, then what created that universe, and what created the other universe that created that universe. And this would go on for ad infinitum. And the problem with this is if the chain goes on for infinity, then there would never actually be a beginning, and therefore they say that God does not need to be in the equation because there is no beginning point... But does an infinite history of past events really make sense in the real world. Now the assertion that the universe has an infinite past is highly irrational. This is because the quantifiable infinite cannot exist in the real world...
Then he quotes from an atheist professor, Lawrence Krauss to suppor this, then he says (7:23):
Now to highlight why infinity can't exist in the real world, let me give you a few examples...
He proceeds to give an example of an infinite number of "Bobs" (people) in the room he is sat in and if he was to come in the room and take five "Bobs", the question is asked, how many "Bobs" are left in the room? He says, mathematicians will give one answer, an infinite number of "Bobs" and logicians will say infinity minus five. He says that nothing prevents him from taking five "Bobs" out of the room and so the question of what we are left with leads to absurdities and contradictions.
The second example he gives is by holding out his hands and saying that he can split the (finite) distance between his hands into infinite parts yet he would still be able to traverse the finite distance. Then he goes on to say (8:20):
... which shows as the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle said, "Infinity is a potential, never actualised."
Then he proceeds to outline the deductive argument on the basis of what has preceded (9:15):
Number 1: An actual infinite cannot exist, Number 2: An infinite history of past events is an actual infinite, Number 3: Therefore an infinite history of past events cannot exist, therefore the universe is finite, therefore the universe could not have been created by something else created. Here the conclusion is that the universe could not have been created by something else created, which has to be necessarily true because we have proven the premises to be true. But to further illustrate why an infinite past or why or an infinite series of past events cannot exist in the real world, let me give you a couple more examples...
Then he proceeds to give his examples, the first is that if the universe had an infinite past we would never reach the present moment and the second is that if was to step on a bus and was a pound short and asked the person behind him if he could borrow a pound, and then that person asked the person behind him and so on to infinity, he would never actually get on the bus, because there would be an endless chain of people requiring a pound from someone behind them, and this is the same for the universe.
ONE: His statement, "We know that the universe began around 14 billion years ago. But the question nobody seems to be able to answer is what caused the big bang..." There is no knowledge that establishes the universe began around 14 billion years ago and that "a big bang" was its starting point. This is pure conjecture and fancy of the atheists and naturalists and this figure has been derived at through assumption upon assumption. Refer to the paper on Big Bang Cosmology for more details on this matter (see here). Using the kalam cosmological argument pushes polemicists to affirm the big bang model of cosmology (as a means of validating the argument) and in doing so, they enter into a deeper ditch than the one they were already in. This is because the big bang model is futile, false and baseless. It is all founded upon conjectures and assumptions, and is only promoted because it is part of an inseparable package consisting of cosmic evolution, geological evolution and biological evolution. The time-scales have been carefully engineered and fixed (fudged) to allow cosmic, geological and biological Evolution to be accounted for within the materialist, naturalist belief system.
TWO: He does not distinguish between the impossibility of an infinite chain of dependent causative agents (التسلسل في المؤثرين أو الفاعلين) or dependent causes (التسلسل في العلل الفاعلة) and an infinite chain of events (التسلسل في الآثار) and speaks of them all in one and the same speech. His speech in negating an infinite chain of past events is very explicit. He says, "So what is an infinite regress, an infinite regress is an infinite chain of past events...But does an infinite history of past events really make sense in the real world... ... which shows as the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle said, "Infinity is a potential, never actualised." ... But to further illustrate why an infinite past or why or an infinite series of past events cannot exist in the real world, let me give you a couple more examples..." This is the origins and starting point of the misguidance of al-Jahm bin Safwan (see Majmu' al-Fatwaa 5/541), as this the principle upon which the deen of the Jahmites is founded - that of the negation of the attributes and actions which is logically demanded from the assertion of this premise - if one was to remain true to this argument and all of its necessities.
THREE: That which is correct, upon the tahqeeq of the scholars who were given tawfeeq in this matter, such as Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, is that an endless chain of events in the past is possible (mumkin) and it is tied to Allaah's actions and statements being eternal, in the sense that he is eternally one who speaks and acts according to His will and choice, this being something obligatory (waajib). Because these matters are inseparably tied, then when the Jahmites (in their varying factions) asserted that an endless chain of events is impossible, then they were forced to deny that Allaah acts according to will and choice (because that would mean an endless chain of events in the past, as created entities arise due to Allaah's command and action), and from here were born further false principles, such as that of the Mu'tazilah, the attribute (sifah) is other than the one being described (mawsoof) and that of the Asharis, (al-fi'l huwal maf'ul) [refer to this article for an explanation of this]. Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah said (Majmu' al-Fataawaa 5/537-538):
As for the second foundational principle, which is (asserting) the impossibility of the eternity of the genus of events, then this (principle) is prevented by the leading Imaams of Sunnah and Hadith who say that Allaah speaks with His will (mashee'ah) and power (qudrah), and that there is no end to His words, and those who say that He has never ceased being one who acts, as is said by al-Bukhari and others, and those who say that activity is from the necessities of life such that it is impossible for there to be any life without any activity, as is said by al-Daarimee and others. This (principle) is also prevented by the Philosophers, but the Jahmites, Mu'tazilah, Kullaabiyyah and Karraamiyyah speak with its impossibility, and this is from the mighty foundational principles upon which speech about Allaah's Speech and His creation is based upon. And this saying is the foundation of the innovated "kalaam" in Islaam which the Salaf and the leading Imaams rebuked...
Ibn Taymiyyah is speaking here about this very principle, the claim of the impossibility of an endless chain of events in the past which is the foundation of the deen of the Jahmites and the foundation of the "kalaam" condemned by the Salaf. It is the starting point and the door-opener to a series of steps that lead to the rejection of the attributes and actions of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic.
FOUR: Some more quotes from Ibn Taymiyyah:
We will mention here only a few statements from the scores of statements of Ibn Taymiyyah in this regard. In Minhaj al-Sunnah (1/157) Ibn Taymiyyah says:
And the origin of this kalaam is from the Jahmiyyah, the associates of Jahm bin Safwan and Abu al-Hudhayl al-Allaaf and others. They said: "Because the evidence has indicated that the continuous (infinite history of past) of events is impossible and that it is obligatory that all events (collectively) must have a beginning because of the impossibility of an endless chain of events" - as I have detailed in other than this place.
Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) also says in Majmu' al-Fatawa (5/540-41):
And this foundational principle which was innovated by the Jamiyyah and whoever followed them from Ahl al-Kalaam, of the impossibility of the eternality (dawaam) of Allaah's action, it is that upon which they built the foundations of their religion and they made that to be the foundation of the religion of the Muslims.
And in Majmu' al-Fatawa, (6/307) Ibn Taymiyyah says:
And we have said already: They followed every faction in that which it erred and as for their contradiction then it is because the Mutakallimeen, in (the proof of) huduth al-ajsaam (the origination of bodies, kalam cosmological argument) they depended upon the impossibility of an endless chain of events in the past, this is their (supporting) pillar.
And also in Majmu' al-Fatawa (9/278), Ibn Taymiyyah connects the matters together nicely for us:
And know that those philosophers overpowered the Mutakallimeen, the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah and whoever followed their path, because they (the Mutakallimeen) did not know the reality of what Allaah sent His Messenger with, and they did not use the sound evidences of reason as proof for what they supported (in their view). So these Mutakallimeen fell short in knowing both the revelation and reason until they (began to say): "Allaah never ceased not doing anything and nor speaking with His will, then there occurred whatever there occurred without any newly-arising cause" and they claimed the impossibility of the eternality of Allaah being one who speaks with His will, and then there occurred what occurred without any newly-arising cause, and they claimed the impossibility of Allaah eternally being one who speaks with His will and (one who) does whatever He wills because of their claim of the impossiblity of the infinite (history) of (past) events. Then their Imaams such as al-Jahm bin Safwan and Abu al-Hudhayl al-Allaaf tended (to the view) of the impossibility of (events) being eternal in both the future and the past (together).
This corrupt principle which opposes the Book and the Sunnah allowed the atheists and Philosophers to cast doubt on the flawed proof that rested upon it and the discussion of this is a lengthy matter and is outside the scope of this article - you can study many articles on Asharis.Com for more elaborate details.