Ibn al-Rawandi, Abu al-Husayn Ahmad ibn Yahya ibn Ishaq


Ibn al-Rawandi, Abu al-Husayn Ahmad ibn Yahya ibn Ishaq
(d. c. 245/910)
   A protean freethinker who experimented with Mu‘tazilism and Shi‘ism before finally embracing atheism, Ibn al-Rawandi was condemned by most Muslims as a dangerous heretic. Of the 114 books he composed only a few fragments remain, preserved through the refutations of subsequent authors. Of these, the most important are The Scandal of the Mu‘tazilites (Fadihat al-mu‘tazila), which attempts to refute the major Mu‘tazilite theologians, The Refutation (al- Damigh), which attacks the Qur’an, and The Book of the Diamond (Kitab al-zumurrud), which offers up a scathing critique of prophecy. In these works alone, he (1) rejects all religious dogmas as unacceptable to reason, (2) argues that prophets – Muhammad included – are like sorcerers and magicians, and that their miracles are entirely fictitious, (3) questions the necessity of prophecy and revelation if God is indeed all-powerful, (4) denies that the Qur’an is the revealed word of God and that it has any unique aesthetic value, (5) maintains that the God of the Qur’an is ultimately all-too-human and imperfect (i.e. lacking in knowledge and wisdom, easily angered, quick to punish, excessive, arbitrary and unjust), (6) argues that the world is eternal and we are by no means compelled to posit a first (divine) cause, and (7) points out that Paradise as described in the Qur’an does not seem particularly desirable. No surprise, then, that he was branded as a dangerous heretic, but Ibn al-Rawandi’s bold and radical freethinking is nonetheless a testament to the striking diversity of ideas that emerged within the Islamicate context.
   Further reading: Stroumsa 1999

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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