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The fifth chapter offers an interpretive approach to Shihāb al-Dīn Suhrawardī’s account of causality. It also examines how he establishes freedom in the created order in accordance with his understanding of causality. It is argued that Suhrawardī’s writings suggest a participatory account of causality. The chapter first examines some salient aspects of Suhrawardī’s ontology that are relevant to our discussion. The second section rethinks the question of causality with respect to Suhrawardī’s ontology. The third section discusses the question of freedom and the responsibility of moral agents in relation to Suhrawardī’s theory of causality.
The ninth chapter examines Mullā Ṣadrā’s account of causality and freedom. It is argued that Ṣadrā’s rich metaphysical treatment of the concept of existence establishes causal efficacy and freedom of entities through the expansion of and participation in existence. The chapter also includes a discussion of the significance of the concept of essence in Ṣadrā’s metaphysics and how this concept is central to his notion of freedom in the created order.
The first chapter focuses on early Muʿtazilite and Ashʿarite theologians. It examines the birth and development of Ashʿarite occasionalism as a response to the Muʿtazilite theological project which aims to preserve the intelligibility of the world and God and, to this end, is ready to accept the idea of necessity in the world and, even, in God. The modus operandi of Ashʿarite theological project in this context remains to preserve the divine will and freedom. This, then, leads to construction of, what I call, a theology of possibility. It is within the larger context of this debate that occasionalist theory of causality emerges as the cornerstone of Ashʿarite theology of possibility. The chapter starts with an examination of early Ashʿarite and Muʿtazilite discussions about the relationship of the divine attributes to God. It then shows how these discussions led to the emergence of Ashʿarite occasionalism. Finally, it explores how the occasionalist perspective provided the basis for Ashʿarite convictions on other important cosmological and theological discussions.
The concluding chapter includes an analysis of some of the salient features of the occasionalist and participatory accounts of causation. It summarizes both the continuities and discontinuities identified in the preceding chapters. It also suggests that the participatory approach to causality presents another strong current in the Islamic intellectual tradition, alongside with the occasionalist tradition, with its distinct characteristics and advantages.
The seventh chapter focuses on later developments in Sufi metaphysics concerning the question of causality and freedom. It examines writings of two influential followers of Ibn ʿArabī: Qūnawī and Qayṣarī. It will be argued that both Qūnawī and Qayṣarī agree with Ibn ʿArabī in their construction of causal efficacy and freedom of entities. What distinguishes both Qūnawī and Qayṣarī is their attempt to understand certain ideas attributed to the Philosophers and Ashʿarites in light of Ibn ʿArabī’s articulation of the concepts of existence (wujūd) and essence (māhiyya). Their writings include references both to the ideas of the Philosophers, such as secondary causality and emanationism, and to the ideas of Ashʿarites, such continuous creation, accidents, and “preponderance without reason” (tarjīh bi-lā murajjih). These thinkers selectively appropriate these ideas defended by different schools by using the philosophical possibilities suggested by the concepts of existence and essence. The result is a critical re-interpretation of emanationist and occasionalist elements within the larger framework of Ibn ʿArabī's metaphysics.
The tenth chapter focuses on a contemporary approach to causality. Here, I offer a detailed survey of Said Nursi’s account of causality. Nursi’s neo-occasionalism makes original contributions to Ashʿarite occasionalist metaphysics of causation while integrating it with Ibn ‘Arabī’s theory of Divine Self-Disclosure. As such, his theory of causality suggests an interesting meeting point of kalām and Sufi metaphysics. He also defends and emphasizes the idea of disproportionality of cause and effect in an unprecedented way in the history of Islamic occasionalism. The chapter also analyzes Nursi’s treatment of free will and theodicy.
The fourth chapter examines Ibn Rushd’s account of causality. It will be argued that Ibn Rushd’s theory of causality comes very close to Neo-Platonistic participatory accounts, despite his strong Aristotelian tendencies. Ibn Rushd, like Ibn Sīnā, finds the basis of causal efficacy of entities in their participation in the pure existence-act of the First. The most important implication of this understanding of causality is that despite the occasionalist critique that we do not and cannot observe a necessary connection between cause and effect, for Ibn Rushd, the moment one defines existence as pure act, it metaphysically makes more sense to accept causal efficacy of entities, for they participate in the pure existence-act of the First. The chapter also examines the differences between Ibn Sīnā and Ibn Rushd that stem from the latter’s efforts to address some of Ghazālī’s challenges. Ibn Rushd agrees with Ghazālī in that plurality can emanate from the First without emanationist intermediation and solely based on the nature-capacity-form of beings. This view establishes a closer connection between the First’s existence-act and the world than Ibn Sīnā’s metaphysics allows.
The eighth chapter focuses on the thought of Jurjānī to understand later developments in the occasionalist tradition. Jurjānī was one of the most important Ashʿarite theologians who transformed occasionalism from a theory of causality into the central axis of all theological thinking. The notion of possibility made central by Ashʿarite occasionalism became the modus operandi for thinking about questions from prophetology and eschatology to theodicy and free will. More importantly, Jurjānī develops a critical philosophy of science to appropriate and criticize Aristotelian-Ptolemaic-Avicennian natural philosophy/sciences. An examination of this attempt reveals the complex relationship of Ashʿarite occasionalism with medieval natural philosophy and sciences.
The third chapter introduces Ghazālī’s and Rāzī’s responses to Ibn Sīnā’s theological and cosmological challenges to the occasionalist worldview. Ghazālī’s response is heavily influenced by Ashʿarite theology’s emphasis on the divine will and freedom. In this discussion, Ghazālī harkens back to the earlier Ashʿarite tradition, offers novel applications of old arguments, and raises important challenges to Ibn Sīnā. Rāzī, on the other hand, formulates a list of arguments for the defense of Ashʿarite cosmology based on a discrete and atomistic model of the universe. Rāzī’s atomistic arguments can be seen as a novel development in the occasionalist tradition. Rāzī’s use of Euclidian geometry for and against atomism also led to emergence of an occasionalist philosophy of science marked by pragmatic and sceptic attitude towards dominant scientific models.
The introduction presents main research questions, key concepts, and methodology. It introduces some of the reasons that make questions about causality and freedom fundamentally important for any religious tradition in general and Islamic tradition in particular. It discusses the reasons for the selection of thinkers examined in the book. It also provides short introductions to Platonic, Neo-Platonic, Aristotelian, and occasionalist accounts of causality to help the reader better understand the spectrum of ideas about causality and freedom examined in this book.
The sixth chapter offers a way of approaching the question of causality in Ibn ʿArabī’s metaphysical system. Ibn ʿArabī’s metaphysics is relational in the sense that entities are comprehended as the totality of their relationships to God. The divine names are theological categories denoting these relations. It is processual in that it perceives the world as the multiplicity of the incessant and ever-changing manifestations of the divine qualities. The world is recreated anew at each moment and entities are societies of divine acts or theophanies. In this framework, causal power is attributed to God, and causality refers to the regularity and predictability of the related theophanic individualities. The relational and processual qualities of Ibn ʿArabī metaphysics allow him to integrate participatory and occasionalist perspectives on causality. The chapter also examines how Ibn ʿArabī uses the idea of participation and the fixed archetypes (al-aʿyān thābita) to establish freedom.
The eleventh chapter steps back from the specifics of the discussion and investigates the strengths and weaknesses of the various proposed theories of causality in the face of certain contemporary philosophical challenges. As a case study, the chapter focuses on a central issue in contemporary discussions of religion and science: the reconciliation of religious claims about divine causation with scientific explanations that depart from the premise that the world is a causally closed system. Here the chapter first provides a brief overview of the important controversies in the discussion of religion and science that are relevant to this topic. It then explores whether the examined theories on causality are viable options for thinking about the divine causality without undermining the rigor of the scientific approach to the world.
The second chapter examines Ibn Sīnā’s account of causality and freedom through an analysis of his concepts of existence (wujūd) and essence (māhiyya). It will be argued that these concepts allow Ibn Sīnā to make a distinction between metaphysical and physical causality and, then, to locate physical causality within the larger context of metaphysical causality. As such, he offers an integration of Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic theories of causality. The result is a participatory theory of causality with strong Aristotelian elements that affirms freedom both in the created order and in the First.
In this volume, Ozgur Koca offers a comprehensive survey of Islamic accounts of causality and freedom from the medieval to the modern era, as well as contemporary relevance. His book is an invitation for Muslims and non-Muslims to explore a rich, but largely forgotten, aspect of Islamic intellectual history. Here, he examines how key Muslim thinkers, such as Ibn Sina, Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Arabi, Suhrawardi, Jurjani, Mulla Sadra and Nursi, among others, conceptualized freedom in the created order as an extension of their perception of causality. Based on this examination, Koca identifies and explores some of the major currents in the debate on causality and freedom. He also discusses the possible implications of Muslim perspectives on causality for contemporary debates over religion and science.