Fiqh al-Akbar Commentary (al-Maghnisawi)

Appendix Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar_Allah’s Omnipotence (qudrah)

Allah’s Power: QUDRAT ALLAH

Imam `Ali al-Qari remarks:[1]

هذا و قد قيـل: كل عام يخص لما خص قوله تعالى: (و الله على كل شئ قدير)[2] مما شاء ليخرج ذاته و صفاته و ما لم يشأ من مخلوقته و ما يكون من المحال وقوعه في كائنته .

و الحاصل أن كل شئ تعلقت به مشيئته فعلقت بـه قدرته. و إلا فلا يقال هو قادر على المحال لعدم وقوعه و لزوم كذبه و لا يقال غير قادر عليه تعظيــما لأدبه من ربه. ثم هذا العام مخصوص بقوله تعالى: (و الله بكل شئ عليــم).[3]

Moreover, it has been said: Every general expression is specified with what He wills as is His statement (Most High!): (Allah has power over all things… [2:284]). This is in order to exclude His Essence and Attributes [from this] as well as whatever he does not desire from His creation and impossibilities that occur in his creation.

The point is that Allah’s power is connected to what His Will is connected to. Otherwise, it cannot be said that He has power over impossibilities because they do not [actually] exist and will necessitate the falsehood [of its supposition]. But one must not say that [Allah] does not have power over it out of utmost respect to his Lord.

Finally, this generality is specified with His statement (Most High!): (And Allah knows all things[2:282]).

Some points need to be considered.

  • Omnipotence has scope. It is not the power to do absolutely anything and everything, even the nonsensical.
  • From this scope, certain impossibilities or ‘inabilities’ arise related to Divine Omnipotence.

[1] For any x, if x is impossible, then Allah’s power does not extend to it.

  1. ‘Impossibility’ here must be taken to mean logical impossibilities such as: contradictions (e.g. square circles, round triangles, unmarried bachelors, etc.).
  2. Impossibilities do not have any content or meaning. They are not possible or even real as they have no coherence or sense, e.g. what does it mean to say can Allah become human?

[2] For any x, if x is something contrary to Allah’s nature, then Allah’s power does not extend to it.

  1. E.g. lying, forgetting, sinning, growing tired and weary, are all contrary to Allah’s nature.
  2. E.g. bringing about another God, bringing about an equal, bringing about something which He cannot preserve are all contrary to Allah’s nature.

Divine power therefore does not entail or imply the following statements and entailments: >

[3] For any x, if x is impossible, then Allah’s power does extend to it.

On the basis of (3) then anything for Allah is possible absolutely. This would entail that:

  1. Allah can bring about contradictions (e.g. square circles) and logical impossibilities (e.g. to make something that very thing and not that very thing at the same time).
  1. Allah can do the nonsensical (i.e. whatever the nonsense is, Allah can bring it about).
  2. Allah can act contrary to His own nature (e.g. self-destruct, create an equal and peer, etc).

This view that God can bring about anything in its absolute and unrestricted sense is called “universal possibilism”.


Affirming true contradictions: > DIALETHEISM.

Dialetheism is the view that there are true contradictions (called ‘dialetheias’). In other words, the following is what dialetheists believe:

[1] For any proposition, P, both P and its negation, not-P is true.

e.g. take P to be the proposition, ‘God is Omnipotent’ and ‘~’ to be the negation symbol. On the above assertion we would have: ‘[it is the case that] God is Omnipotent and [it is not the case that] God is Omnipotent’. > P & ~P as both propositions being true.[4]

Dialetheists reject the Law of Non-contradiction presented by Aristotle which states that:

[2] For any A, it is impossible for both A and not-A.

e.g. take A to stand for the statement ‘Mary is a woman’, ‘&’ for the conjunction ‘and’ and ‘¬’ to stand for the negation symbol. On the above law we would have: ‘it is the case that Mary is a woman and it is not the case that Mary is a woman’. > A & ¬A. This means that it is not true/impossible/never the case that Mary is both a woman and not a woman at the same time. On dialetheism both statements would be true even though they contradict each other.

Dialetheists also reject the principle of classical logic which is known as ‘the principle of explosion’[5] which states that anything follows from a contradiction. The principle is (where ‘⊢’ is ‘logical consequence’):

[3] {& ¬f} ⊢ y

The principle states that if one takes anything as being true (f) and not true (¬f) at the same time, then logically any conclusion can be derived.

Problems with Dialetheism:

  • It fails to capture the nature of negation and thus disagreement. In the example above, suppose Mary says ‘God is Omnipotent’ (= P) and Rachel says ‘God is not Omnipotent’ (= ~P), then Mary’s statement will be meaningless in that it will be a dialetheia (a true contradiction) and hence both P and ~P will be true (or can be true).
  • It is somewhat self-refuting in that statements about itself can be a dialetheia.

Affirming everything as true: > TRIVIALISM.

Dialetheism is not strictly the same as ‘trivialism’ which holds that any and every proposition is true. Thus:

[4] Given any proposition, P, P is true.

Hence, all contradictions of the form P & ~P are true.

Thus, on this view, any pair or set of contradictory statements about God would be true.

[1] See al-Qari, Minah al-Rawd al-Azhar, p.143.

[2] See Q. 2:284.

[3] See Q. 2:282.

[4] Provided of course that the meaning and definition of ‘Omnipotence’ is consistent each time.

[5] Known in Latin as ex falso quodlibet, ex falso sequitur quodlibet, ex contradictione (sequitur) quodlibet and ex falso/contradictione (sequitur) (“from falsehood/contradiction [follows] anything”; literally = “…what pleases”).

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