al-Juwayni, Abu al Ma‘ali


al-Juwayni, Abu al Ma‘ali
(419–478/1028–85)
   The Persian al-Juwayni is a Janus figure of sorts in the history of Ash‘arite kalam, occupying an intermediate position between its old (mutaqaddimun) and new or ‘modern’ (muta’akhkhirun) theologians. On the one hand, he espoused many traditional Ash‘arite views: e.g. the idea of God as omnipotent cause of everything that occurs, the doctrine of ‘acquisition’, the derivation of ethics from revealed scripture rather than reason, and the insistence that God’s actions cannot be understood or evaluated in terms of human conceptions of justice. On the other, he introduced innovations that would come to characterize the more sophisticated modern school of Ash‘arite philosophical theology, laying the groundwork for thinkers such as al-Ghazali, al-Shahrastani and Fakhr al-Din al- Razi. His protracted skirmishes with the philosophers pushed him to adopt more rigorous methods of reasoning and argumentation (i.e. Aristotle’s demonstrative syllogism), and even to cast rational inquiry as a religious duty. He learned from the rationalist Mu‘tazilite theologians as well, appropriating Abu Hashim’s theory of modes (ahwal) and applying it to his theory of knowledge and conception of the divine attributes. Other innovations that would have an important bearing on modern Ash‘arite philosophical theology are al-Juwayni’s emphasis on the absolute, unqualified freedom of God (whose actions are undetermined by anything but God Himself), his rejection of necessary causal relations in nature (and thus determinism), and his move away from the traditionalist bila kayf strategy of scriptural hermeneutics (towards a recognition of the necessity of interpretation [ta’wil] when confronted with concealed or obscure passages). Al-Juwayni’s greatest work of theology was the now-incomplete and unpublished Book of the Summa (Kitab al-shamil); his chief extant work is The Guide to the Cogent Proofs of the Principles of Faith (Kitab alirshad ila qawatial-adilla fi usul al-i‘tiqad). Known as the ‘Imam of the Two Holy Cities’ (imam al-haramayn) because of his teaching at both Mecca and Medina, he later held an appointment at the Nizamiyya madrasa in Nishapur, where he taught his most famous student, al- Ghazali.
   See Ash‘arites; al-Ghazali; theology
   Further reading: Hourani 1985; Saflo 1974

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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