al-‘Amiri, Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn Yusuf


al-‘Amiri, Abu al-Hasan Muhammad ibn Yusuf
(d. 381/992):
   Like his intellectual forebear al-Kindi, al-‘Amiri sought above all to show the harmonizability of Islam and philosophy, while granting primacy to the former. Although his best–known work, Exposition of the Merits of Islam (al-I‘lam bi manaqib al-Islam), presents an argument for the superiority of Islam over rival religious traditions, the overarching concern of al-‘Amiri’s work was the rational defense of divine revelation against philosophers who valorized the power of unaided human reason. In his Book on the Afterlife (Kitab al-amad ‘ala al-abad), he argues in a Neoplatonic fashion for the individual immortality of the soul and its reward or punishment in the afterlife. This is ultimately determined by the actualization or completion of the human intellect in this life. However, the actualization of the intellect is impossible without right action, which tempers the physical faculties and directs the intellect towards the divine. Here we see the indispensability of revelation for al-‘Amiri, since (1) it provides us with an unerring guide to right action and (2) it plays a necessary role in the actualization of the human intellect. For although Greek philosophers posited the immortality of the soul and its reward or punishment in the afterlife, they did not acknowledge the resurrection of the body. Revelation thus provides us with essential information about the fate of the soul, which is inaccessible to the intellect alone. In spite of his emphasis on the primacy of revelation over reason, al-‘Amiri is sometimes associated with the school of al-Farabi because of his emphasis on the soteriological function of metaphysical knowledge.
   Al-‘Amiri is also known for his interventions on the question of predestination, Deliverance of Humankind from the Problem of Predestination and Free Will (Inqadh al-bashar min al-jahr wa al-qadar) and The Determination of the Various Aspects of Predestination (al-Taqrir liawjuh al-taqdir). Anticipating Ibn Sina’s system, he attempts to resolve the problem by distinguishing between God as the only Necessary Existent and all other existents as contingent or merely possible beings. Insofar as contingent beings depend up on the Necessary Existent for their sustained existence, they are determined or preordained. However, insofar as contingent beings are related to one another, they are not, which opens up the possibility of individual responsibility. Al-‘Amiri’s treatment of the problem of predestination provides a nice example of his conciliatory approach to philosophy and Islam: by employing an Aristotelian model of causation, he arrives at a theologically respectable intermediate position which avoids the extremes of both divine compulsion and unrestricted human free will. Although quite influential in its time, al-‘Amiri’s Kindian approach to the relation between revelation and philosophy would soon be overshadowed by Ibn Sina’s approach, which while also conciliatory, would in many ways privilege the latter over the former.
   See afterlife; al-Farabi; free will and predestination; Ibn Sina; al-Kindi; psychology
   Further reading: Rosenthal 1975/94; Rowson 1988/96

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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