Fiqh al-Akbar Commentary (al-Maghnisawi)

Appendix Sharh Fiqh al-Akbar_Essence and Attributes

Appendix_Divine Essence and Attributes

The orthodox tenet of the Maturidite creed asserts the following:

(i)                 Allah has an Essence.

(ii)               Allah’s Essence is not utterly identical to His attributes.

(iii)             Allah’s Essence is not utterly distinct from His attributes.

(iv)             Allah’s existence is His Essence (= doctrine of ‘aseity’ [or ‘sovereign aseity intuition’ (SAI)] where Allah is a necessarily self-existent Being not dependent upon anything else for His existence and His nature but all things depend upon Him).

The claim for (iv) is based upon reading the implication of the predicate ‘is’ in `Ali al-Qari’s statement “His existence is His Essence” as the ‘is of identity’ and not the ‘is of predication’.

The reasoning behind this equation may be as follows: Allah cannot develop contingent modal stays. > If Allah exists, then He is necessary and if He does not exist then He is impossible. > If Allah exists then there is a very rigid and fixed connection between the divine nature and divine existence. > The doctrine of divine simplicity assays this rigid connection as identity. > Therefore, simplicity grounds divine necessity.

Assumptions to accept the above 4 propositions as a coherent set of claims will include:

(a)    Allah is unlike creation/creatures (= radical ontological distinction and hence He is non-anthropomorphic and non-creaturemorphic).

(b)   Allah’s Essence is inexpressible.

(c)    Allah is devoid of any complexity or composition whether physical or metaphysical.

(d)   Allah is free of matter/form composition.

(e)    Allah is free of potency/act composition.

(f)    Allah is free of essence/existence composition, etc.

(g)   Thus, no real distinction between Allah as subject of His attributes and His attributes.

(h)   Allah is not predicated or described in the manner human beings are predicated and described. The argument for this may be that a created thing x has a property F that is constituent to x or external to x by which it is tied in an asymmetrical (or non-relational tie) of instantiation/exemplification. If a property F of x is a constituent or ontological (proper) part of x, then x will depend on it in the same way that any whole composed of parts depends on its parts. But if x is tied to its property by the asymmetrical relation of instantiation, it is still the case that x will depend on it: if x is F in virtue of x’s instantiation of F-ness, then F-ness is a logically prior condition of x’s being F.

(i)     With regards to Allah, He is not predicated in this way outlined above – He simply is with His attributes and does not have or possess them in the sense human beings do. Thus, Divine aseity requires that Allah be rather than have His attributes. Thus, Allah is being Omnipotent; Allah is being Omniscient; Allah is being Omnipresent, etc. Therefore, Allah is what he has.

(j)     Allah is also described not in terms of properties but names and predications of attributes, namely Allah is understood in a certain ‘way’, ‘manner’ or ‘mode’ of predication not like the way human beings are predicated .

Assumptions (a) – (j) comprise what is known as the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity (DDS).


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