Front Page Titles (by Subject) OF DIVINE PERFECTION - The Philosophy and Theology of Averroes
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OF DIVINE PERFECTION - Averroes (Ibn Rushd), The Philosophy and Theology of Averroes 
The Philosophy and Theology of Averroes. Tractacta, translated from the Arabic by Mohammad Jamil-Ub-Behman Barod (Baroda: Manibhai Mathurbhal Gupta, 1921).
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OF DIVINE PERFECTION
We have already described the way which the Law pursues in teaching the common people the existence of God, the denial of His having any associates, and thereby the knowledge of His attributes, and the extent to which they have been explained in details in it, one after another. It is really an addition to, and deduction from, and change and interpretation of this very limit and extent which has not been productive of good to any and all the people. Now it remains for us to know the method which the Law has adopted in explaining to the common people the perfection of God and freedom from all defects, and the length to which it has gone in detailing it, and the cause of restricting its knowledge to them. Then we should mention the methods which it adopts in teaching the people the knowledge of His actions, and the latitude which it has allowed in this respect. Having done so, we shall have accomplished the purpose for which we began this book.
So we say that the knowledge of things known as perfection and holiness are found in many verses of the Quran, the most clear and definite of them being the following, “There is nothing like Him, and it is He who heareth and seeth;”40 and, “Shall God, therefore, Who createth, be as he who createth not.”41 The second verse is an argument for the verse “there is nothing like Him.” For it is one of the characteristics of the dispositions of all the people to think that the Creator must either be unlike the things which He has created, or having qualities which may be different from these which He has given to the created; otherwise he who is himself created cannot be a Creator. When we have admitted that the created cannot be the creator then it becomes incumbent upon us to say that the qualities of the created should either be not found in the Creator, or found in Him in some different way than they are in the created. We say, “in some different way,” because we have proved the divine qualities to be those which are found in the noblest of God’s creatures, man, as knowledge, life, power, volition and so on. This is the meaning of the Tradition of the Prophet, “God created Adam after His own image.” So it has been established that the Law has denied the similarity between the Creator and the created with fitting arguments. The denial of similarity is of two kinds, first, that there may not be found in the Creator many qualities of the created; and secondly; there may be found in him the qualities of the created in so perfect and excellent a form as could not be imagined. Of these two kinds it should be seen which one the Law has explained, and about which it is reticent. We would also try to find out the cause for this reticence.
We would say that the qualities of the created which have been denied by Law as pertaining to God are those which show some defects; for example, death, as God says, “And do ye not trust in him who liveth, and dieth not,”42 or sleep and things which lead to negligence and carelessness, as regards senses and the protection of the existent things, as He says, “Neither slumber nor sleep seizeth Him.”43 Of such qualities are error and forgetfulness, as God has said, “The knowledge thereof is with my Lord, in the book of His decrees: my Lord erreth not, neither doth He forget.”44 A knowledge of those qualities the existence of which has been denied in God is one of the necessary things of common education and is why the Law has been very explicit about them. It only warns us not to meddle with those things which are far from the primary principles of knowledge, because it knows the small limits of human knowledge, as God has said in many different verses of the Quran, “But the greater part of men do not understand.” For example He says, “Verily the creation of heaven and earth is more considerable, than the creation of man; but the greater part of men do not understand,”45 and “The institution of God to which He has created mankind disposed; there is no change in what God hath created. This is the right religion; but the greater part of men know it not.”46 Now it may be said, what is the proof — that is, the proof advanced by the Law — of the fact that these defects are not found in God. We would say that it is apparent from the universe itself. It is quite safe. No confusion or corruption overtakes it. Had the Creator been subject to negligence, carelessness, error or forgetfulness the whole of the universe would have been destroyed. God has made this clear in many verses of the Quran. He says, “Verily God sustaineth the heaven and the earth, lest they fail: and if they should fail, none could support the same besides him;”47 and, “The preservation of both is not burden unto him. He is the high, the mighty.”48
If our opinion be asked about the anthropomorphic attributes of God, whether the Law has denied them as attributes to the Creator or is only silent about them, we would say, that it is evident that the Law is quite silent about them, and their mention in it is quite near to their denial altogether. It has come to be so because the Quran in many verses speaks of His hands and face, and these verses are taken as showing physical attributes which the Creator has bestowed upon the created, just as He has given him the qualities of power, volition and so on — qualities which are common between the Creator and created, except that they are more perfect in the former. On account of this many Muslims believed that the Creator has a body different from all other bodies. Such is the case with the Hanbalites and their many followers. But in my opinion we should follow the path of the Law; and this should neither deny nor try to prove them, and whenever asked by the common people to do so, we should answer with words of God, “There is nothing like him; and it is He who heareth and seeth,”49 in this way preventing them from questioning. It is so because of three reasons. It is neither near to the first, nor to the second, nor to the third grade. This would be quite clear to you from the method adopted by the Mutakallimun. They say that the proof of the fact that He is not a body is that it has been proved that all bodies are created things. If they are asked to point out the method of proving the latter proposition, they adopt, the method, which we have already pointed out, concerning the creation of accidents, that that which cannot be separated from created things is itself created. You have already seen, from what we have said, that this method is not a philosophical one, and had it been so, even then a majority of the common people would not have grasped it. Moreover, whatever these people have said about God, that He is a Self (Zat) and divine attributes added to it, proves by itself that He has a body, on account of the denial of creation, rather an argument denying anthropomorphism. This is the first reason why the Law does not speak of these things in clear terms. The second reason is that common people think that all that is existent they can imagine and feel, all else being non-existent to them. So when they are told that there exists One who has no body, their imagination does not work and He becomes almost non-existent to them, particularly so when they are told that He is neither outside our knowledge nor in it, neither above nor below. That is why the sect which believes in anthropomorphism thinks of those who deny it, that they also believe in it; while, on the other hand, the party thinks its opponents to be believing in a number of gods. The third reason is that had the Law denied anthropomorphism altogether there would have arisen many a misgiving about what has been said concerning the Day of Judgment, and other beliefs.
Of these one is the problem of Divine Vision which we find stated in authentic Traditions. Those who have been very explicit in denying it are the two sects of the Asharites and the Mutazilites. The belief of the latter has driven them to deny the vision altogether; while the Asharites have tried to make the two things agree, but this was impossible for them to do. So they have taken refuge in many sophistic arguments, the weakness of which we would show when talking of the Divine Vision. Another problem which rises out of this is that it evidently gives rise to a denial of the direction in which God is. For if He has no body then the Law becomes an allegory. For the advent of the prophets is founded upon the fact that Divine Revelation is sent to them from the heaven. Upon this very principle is also based our religion, for the Divine Book has come down from the heavens, as God says, “Verily we have sent down the same (the Quran) on a blessed night.”50 The descending of the divine revelation from heaven is based upon the fact of God’s being there. So also is the descending and ascending of angels from heaven, as God says, “Unto him ascendeth the good speech; and the righteous work will He exalt;”51 and says He, “The angels ascend up unto and the spirit.”52 We would mention all the things which the deniers of direction bring to prove their proposition when we come to talk of this problem.
Another difficulty which arises is that with the denial of anthropomorphism we shall have to deny movement to God, after which it would be difficult to explain with regard to the Day of Judgment, that He would appear to the people at that moment, and would himself superinted their judgment, as He says, “Thy Lord shall come and the angels rank by rank.”53 It would also be difficult to explain the famous Tradition of Descent, though its explanation would be, on the whole easier than that of the former in spite of all that has been said about it in the Law. So it is necessary that there should be disclosed to the common people nothing which might lead them to a disbelief in the literal meanings of these things. This would be its effect upon the mind of the people if taken exoterically. But when it is interpreted it would come to either of two interpretations. Either interpretation would overcome the exoteric side of it and of other things like it, thus destroying the Law altogether, and and falsifying their purpose; or it will be said about all of them that they are only allegories, which would destroy the Law, and efface it from the mind of the people, while the man doing it would not know the sin he has committed with regard to Law. With all this, if you were to look into the arguments which the interpreters advance about these things, you would find all of them unreasonable, while the exoteric meanings are much more satisfactory, that is, verification through them is more common and much better. This should become clearer to you when we begin to review the arguments which they advance for a denial of anthropomorphism, and discuss the question of direction, as we may shortly do. You should also know that the Law never intended to disclose the question of the denial of this attribute completely to the common people, since it can be done by an explanation of the soul, and the Law has not explained to the masses what the soul was. God says in the Quran, “They will ask thee concerning the Soul; answer, The Soul was created at the command of my Lord; but ye have no knowledge given unto you except a little.”54 This is so, because it is difficult to establish reasons for the common people for the existence of a thing existing by itself, without a body. Had the denial of this attribute been understood by the masses then it would not have been enough for prophet Abraham to say in his discussion with the infidel, “When Abraham said, My Lord is He who giveth life and killeth: he answered, I give life and I kill.”55 On the other hand he would have said, “Thou art a body, and God has not one, for every body is created,” as the Asharites would argue. So also it would have sufficed for Moses in his discussion with Pharoah about his divinity; and for the Holy Prophet in case of the anti - christ, telling the Faithful of the falsehood of his claims for divinity, because he would have a body while God has none. On the other hand he told them that our God was not one - eyed. An argument proving the physical defect in him was enough to falsify him. So you see that all these are innovations in Islam, and have become the cause of its being split up into sects, into which the Prophet tells us that his people would be divided.
Now some one may object that the Law has not made it clear to the common people that God has or has not a body, then what should they believe about him. This is a question which will naturally arise in the mind of every man, and cannot be put away from him. So it would not satisfy the common people to let them know of a thing, the existence of which they should believe, that it is not made of matter. We should say that they should be answered with the answer given by Law — That He is the Light, for this is the quality which God has assigned to himself in His Book, for describing himself, He says, “God is the light of heaven and carth.”56 The prophet has also assigned to him the same quality in an authentic Tradition. It says that he was asked whether he had seen God, and he answered, “He was Light, and I saw him.” The Tradition of the Night Journey says that when the Prophet neared the lote-tree,57 it was completely covered with light, which did not hide it from his sight. There is also a Tradition in the book of Muslim which says that God is a curtain of light, which, if opened, would burn the opener, and yet God would not be seen. In some other readings of this very Tradition it is said that He is seventy curtains of light. It should be known that this illustration is especially fit for God, for it comprises the two things, that He can be felt, our eyes and intellect being powerless to see or comprehend him, and in spite of this He is not a body too. Now according to the common people the existent thing is one which can be felt, while the non-existent thing is that which they cannot feel. So light being the best of the things felt, it is but fitting that the best existing thing should be likened unto it. There is another cause for it which should be noticed. The condition of His existence to the learned people, when they begin to ponder over him, is like the condition of the eyes when they look towards the sun. But such is not the condition of the eyes of the bat. So this quality fittingly describes the condition of the two classes of people. Moreover, God is the cause of the existence of things, and of our knowledge of them. This is also the quality of the light in showing colours, and of our seeing them. So God has very fittingly named himself Light. When it is said that He is Light then there remains no doubt as to His Vision on the Day of Judgment. From these it must have become clear to you what the primary belief of the Law was about this attribute, and what are the innovations which rose in it afterwards. The Law is silent about it because there is not found in the universe anything unseen without a body, except that which is found by arguments among things seen as existent with this quality, and that is the soul. As the belief of the soul was impossible for the masses, it was also impossible for them to understand the existence of a Being who exists without a body. Hence they cannot understand it about God.
[40. ]Quran xlii, 9.
[41. ]Quran xvi, 17.
[42. ]Quran xxv, 60.
[43. ]Quran ii, 256.
[44. ]Quran xx, 54.
[45. ]Quran xxxv, 39.
[48. ]Quran ii, 256.
[49. ]Quran xlii, 9.
[50. ]Quran xliv, 2.
[51. ]Quran xxxv, ii.
[52. ]Quran lxx, 4.
[53. ]Quran lxxxix, 23
[54. ]Quran xvii, 87.
[55. ]Quran ii, 260.
[56. ]Quran xxiv, 35.
[57. ]He also saw him another time, by the lote-tree, beyond which there is no passing: near it is the garden of eternal abode. When the lote-tree covered that which it covered, his eye-sight turned not aside, nor did it wander: and he really beheld some of the greater signs of his Lord. (Quran lii, 16, 18.) The lote-tree is the limit beyond which neither angel nor man can pass. It stands in the seventh heaven, on the right hand of the Throne of God.