Q & A: The logical difference between correlations and definitions

as salam `alaykum

I read the following in An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy by Oliver Leaman:

“Examples of beings which are necessarily existent by reason of something else are ‘combustion,’ which is ‘necessarily existent… once contact is taken to exist between fire and matter which can be burned,’ and ‘four‘ which is ‘necessarily existent… when we assume two plus two.'”

My question with regards to this is as follows:

Combustion‘ and ‘four‘ are not the same. The only reason it appears to us that combustion is the result of coming into contact with fire is because we have always observed this to be the case. In other words, since the result of coming into contact of fire being ‘combustion‘ is empirically observable, it is not necessary that things always burn when they come into contact with fire. On the other hand, ‘two plus two‘ is one of the definitions of ‘four.’ That is how ‘four‘ is defined. Is my reasoning correct?

jazak allahi khayrun

Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji’s Response:

wa `alaykum salam,

Yes, you’ve got it right, except that 2+2=4 is not only a definition, as I will explain below. What he is talking about is not Islamic philosophy, but the Greek philosophy of Ibn Sinaa and his ilk. They believed that fire has the ability to burn by itself, without Allah having willed it. They are kuffaar, as stated by Al-Ghazzali and others.

The causes of normalcy in this world are actually just correlation. If you took some statistics or philosophy in science course, you probably know that researchers always talk about causation versus correlation. Well, to Muslims, it is all just correlation. When we say that fire causes combustion, it is a judgment regarding the habit of creation. This judgment is based on seeing that two events tend to correlate. So we say, “you need wings to fly, you need water to grow plants,” etc. The real cause is that Allah has willed for such events to always correlate. Make sure that you never name Allah “cause” though, as this is kufr, and the expression of the philosophers. You can say that the cause is that Allah has willed it, or that Allah caused it, but not that Allah is the cause.

2+2=4 is something entirely different, because it is a count, not correlation. 4 things are 4 things, no matter how you group them. It is a matter of definition, but not only a matter of definition. It is a matter of necessary knowledge, knowledge that the mind is forced to admit is true, because it does not require pondering. This is why people do not disagree about 2+2=4 just as 1+3=4, unless they are of the I-do-not-knowers sect of philosophers – the Sophists/relativists, that deny knowledge of anything (they contradict themselves though, for they claim to know that they do not know.) In Talbis Iblis Ibn Al Jawziy said that they can be handled by taking their property, and then when they ask about it, tell them “you mean the property you are not sure exists?” This is because it is usually some kind of compulsive obsessive disorder of Satanic whispers (waswasah.)

Answered by Shaykh Abu Adam

19 Responses to Q & A: The logical difference between correlations and definitions

  1. Hussain20 says:

    As Salam Alikum

    Shaykh I have a question about Ibn Rushd, Imam Dhahabi (Rahimullah) in his Siyar (15:452) has written nothing negative about Ibn Rushd who authoried Bidyat al-Mujtahid nor has Ibn `Imad in Shadharat al-Dhahab (4:320).

    Could you please clarify if he really did commit kufr because I have hard of this before as well.

    Jazkallah Khair.

  2. loveProphet says:

    Assalam-o-Alaikum,

    I’m loving this!
    JazakAllah Khair.
    Keep up the good work, this is exactly the stuff that this Ummah needs:)
    May Allah Most High make many blessings emanate from this site, Ameen.

  3. loveProphet says:

    But i don’t get this part:
    “Make sure that you never name Allah “cause” though, as this is kufr, and the expression of the philosophers. Say instead that the cause is that Allah has willed it.”
    How is it kufr?
    What about saying that Allah caused it?
    And haven’t the Ash’aris in their proofs for God used the argument of causality and said that Allah is the “Real Cause”?

  4. Assalaamu ^alaykum,

    What I mean is that it is kufr to call Aļļaah Himself “The Cause.” Asħˆariyys do not call Aļļaah “the Great Cause” at all. This is the naming that the Greek philosophers use, and as the Prophet said, “the one that imitates a people is one of them.” An-Nasifiyy said in his tafsiir of Al-‘Aˆraaf:
    ومن الالحاد تسميته بالجسم والجوهر والعقل والعلة
    “Among the deviant ways of naming Allah is to call Him body, essence, mind or cause.” It is not allowed to use such words, because they indicate what is not true of Allah or are misleading or unworthy. Allah is not a cause, He is the Creator of causes, the one that has created and specified all that exists from sub-atomic elements to the whole of the cosmos, and everything that happens at every moment. No quark or electron anywhere in the universe moves without Him having created it. I will provide more details about what is allowed to say about Allah in general very soon in shaa’ Allah.

    Abu Adam

  5. Abu Omar ash-Shafi'i says:

    Actually, Imam al-Ghazali never accused ibn Rushd of being a kafir, as he (al-Ghazali) proceed him. As for ibn Rushd, he was a scholar of the Maliki madhab and though a commentator on the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, I do not know that any scholar accused him of kufr or heresy.

  6. hussain says:

    I think you need to be careful when accussing people of kufr, especially ulama of the past, as this is your blog, why do you put ‘shaikh’ infront of your name, some humility would help your cause, would’nt it?

  7. What Al-Ghazaaliy, and all the scholars said was the philosophers are kuffar. It does not matter if they are before him or after him, because it is their beliefs that make them non-Muslims. Ibn Rushd himself was indeed accused of blasphemy and expelled from Spain for it. Some of his books were even burned. Then later he was permitted to come back, but died before he could make it. There are terrible things in his books, many of them designed to sow doubt about the belief of Muslims, such as the belief that the world has a beginning.

    Abu Adam

  8. inanuuri says:

    The ‘Ashari denial of the principle of causation (قانون العلية والسببية) is in conflict with one of the proofs for the existence of God (دليل الحدوث). How can one say anything that comes into existence (hadith) necessarily needs a muhdith, murajjih, and the like, if causation itself is not assumed to be true. The version of the cosmological argument, the so-called kalam cosmological argument, which the Mutakallimun have employed, states:-

    P1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause (major premise)
    P2. The Universe began to exist
    C. Therefore, the Universe has a cause for its existence.

    The whole arguments turns on the major premise, namely, that everything that begins to exist, or comes into existence, has a cause or a determinant thereof. However, this premise assumes that causation is real and true. Otherwise, as Hume argued, if there is no necessary connection between a cause and its effect, how could one argue for the soundness of the first premise?

    Finally, to say that the cause of something cannot be nothing (فاقد الشيء لا يعطيه) , or that two equally possible states for a thing, X, will not change unless there is a determinant which changes it (لا يترجح أحد طرفي الممكن بغير مرجح) and similiar theological and philosopical prinicples presuppose the necessity and truth of caustion. If this were not the case, then one could assume that the Universe is temporal and uncaused.

    P.S. I initially posted this comment in the wrong category. My apologies.

  9. loveProphet says:

    Assalam-o-Alaikum,

    Yes it is true that Ibn Rushd held the universe to be beginningless, a belief that is kufr because it is associating partners with Allah.
    Plus he was accused of kufr which is why he was expelled.
    It is well known, just because a person hasn’t heard of such an incident, doesn’t mean its not true.

    As for Sheikh Abu Adam, there is nothing wrong nor contradictory to humility that he is called Sheikh.

    Imam Ghazali wrote in his ihya:
    “It is a natural impulse that the intellect dictates that no thing which has a beginning in time could be free of a preceding external cause to have brought it into existence. And the universe has a beginning in time and thus must necessarily need an external cause to have brought it into existence….”

    And yes, i find it troublesome to formulate an argument for the belief in God if the use of the word cause is taken out. Can the Kalam cosmological argument and others be form in another way?

    JazakAllah Khair.

  10. Assalaamu^alaykum,

    Everybody should be aware that there are two Ibn Rushd, one is known as the grandfather, the other as the grandson. It is the latter that is also known as Averroes, the Aristotlean philosopher. The grandfather is a great faqiih of the Maalikiyy school.

    Abu Adam

  11. Ibn Mazhar says:

    as salam `alaykum

    Here is a response to inanuuri: https://sunnianswers.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/response-to-a-comment-calling-allah-a-cause-is-kufr/

    Please keep the comments on topic, otherwise they will be deleted. If you have other objections/concerns about aqidah, and the way Shaykh Abu Adam presents it, we will be putting up a “Contact Us” section soon. So please, have some patience, insha Allah.

    wa `alaykum salam

  12. Abu Omar ash-Shafi'i says:

    In which of his books did ibn Rushd say that the world is without being created? Have those accusing him of kufr ever actually read his writings, or are all the charges based of hearsay? If one wants to know his views on this issue, they should read his “Decisive Treatise,” which is available in English.

  13. It is not hearsay, even a quick look at Decisive Treatise reflects a man whose primary purpose is to defend Aristotle and his heresies against Ahlu-s-Sunnah. He says in it that it is not kufr to deny resurrection or to claim that the world is eternal. That is enough in itself. You find him always trying to cast doubts about the certainty of the world having a beginning.

    As for plain quotes, here is one: In “Risalah maa baˆd Al-Ţabiiˆah” Ibn Rusħd states plainly his belief that the world is eternal and says: “… moreover, the parts of what is eternal are eternal, because it has become clear that this one movement, I mean the daily movement, is beginninglessly eternal. And if the elements of the sky, which are the parts of the greatest bulk, are eternal, then their movement is necessarily eternal, and the things that move them are also eternal. I mean they are all eternal, and they are of the kind of what moves it all.” (“Risalah maa baˆd Al-Ţabiiˆah,” Ibn Rusħd the grandson (595 AH), 1st Ed., Dar Al-Fikr Al-Lubananiy, Beirut, 1994.)

    One of the bad omens about this person is that he is really the source for most attacks launched by orientalists and Ibn Taymiyyah against rational proofs for Islam’s correctness. They took their ideas from him in terms of how to sow doubts about basics of the religion.

    I think enough has been said about this man for now. I simply meant to mention him as one of the philosophers, for he is famously one of them, and that the philosophers are kuffar in general, as has been stated by Al-Ghazaaliyy, Abuu Manşuur Al-Baghdaadiyy and others. What someone thinks about Ibn Rushd the grandson specifically and individually is not that important as long as they believe that denying that the world is eternal is blasphemy, as is the denial of bodily resurrection on the Day of Judgment.

  14. Logan Zagzebski says:

    Salam ‘Alaykum,

    I think that what Ibn Rushd would say about the eternality of the world is this: the heavens and the earth indeed had a beginning, as the Quran states; however, they were created by Allah from some prior substance that existed before them. So he would affirm a beginning to the heavens and the earth, but he would deny that before they were created nothing else existed besides Allah.

    Now my question is this: why exactly is this beleif kufr? Is it because of the hadith that “Allah was and nothing was with Him”?

  15. Ibn Abu Talib says:

    If all philosophers were declared disbelievers, does that mean philosophy is a subject which Muslims should avoid?

    Also, was Ibn Sina considered a disbeliever in his lifetime?

  16. TAS says:

    Salam Alaikum,

    On an online forum it was being discussed regarding astronomical calculations predicting moon-sighting not being possible, and yet there are claims from witnesses in Australia that they saw the crescent. Some people disqualified the witnesses based on the fact that scientific evidence was against it, alluding human error to the witnesses. I had posted the following post there:

    “Human error is equally as likely to be committed by the witnesses AS IT IS LIKELY to be committed by the scientists and calculators.

    PLUS

    A detailed analysis needs to be conducted on the calculation, simulation, and forecasting methods employed by those who like technical mumbo jumbo. I’m not intimate with the scientific and mathematical modelling techniques they use in such forecasts for moonsightings.

    BUT if like Ibn Yusuf said, they rely on past data to forecast (ie posit a strong mathematical probability, not the stupid kind of fortune-telling which is a sin/kufr) the birth and appearance of the moon or weather conditions, etc, then- regardless if they use simple methods like moving averages or if they used advanced astronomical data and computerised simulation and projecting techniques coupled with sophisticated stochastic modelling and time series analyses, etc. THERE IS STILL a margin of error in the forecasts based on the modelling techniques employed. PLUS:

    1) The future event is still a discrete time, random, event at a basic, core essence. Mind you here I’m using the language of simulation and probabilistic modelling theory. Interestingly, it is validated by Islam too. Past data and pattern does NOT guarantee future repitition. This is something both Islam teaches and science acknowledges, that a future event does NOT have to be based on a pattern from the past. [Slightly Offtopic: At the core essence of it, all events occuring in the universe are discrete even though they seem to exhibit correlations and/or patterns. Islamically we believe this very strongly with the simple point that Submission highlighted. Allah says “kun” and the object exists. Allah is the Creator of all causes and all effects. It is His will that eyes see and ears listen. If He wills He can create the hearing in the eyes and the seeing in the ears. Patterns from the past and/or correlations between events are not a guaranteed indicators (Islamically speaking or mathematically speaking) of something in the future. They (patterns and correlations) are guidelines we use and the correlation between events exists because Allah wills them to exist. Thats why we (Muslims) study the various “how to’s” in nature when we study science, not because we believe events are absolutely dependant on each other, but because we believe Allah created them and willed for them (patterns and correlations) to exist (for the most part)- we believe everything and every event in the universe is dependant on Allah alone.]

    2) The forecast is just that- a forecast. Its not a guaranteed prophecy. Its a mathematical probability only. Even if the simulation model says the probability of non-visibility of the moon is 99.9%, it still means theres a 0.1% chance it can be seen.

    These margins of errors are a part of the package that come with mathematical modelling and probability theories. Its not even a rarity that one of the variables involved in the correlations constituting an event might change or even disappear or be exaggerated immensely, and yet the original event remains the same in real life occurences, even though the simulation might not suggest so.

    Mind you these are DIFFERENT than the actual blatant human errors committed in applying and implementing these models and simulations and computations. Like for eg. if the formula says one needs to calculate (a+b) as a part of the modelling and simulation process and (a+b=c), but the scientist is having a homer simpson moment and he incorporates (a+b=d) into the mathematical model, that only compounds the issue and expands the margin of error further.

    It is VERY condascending to say that a human error occured on the part of the wtinesses and that everything on the calculation side is perfect.”

    Did I speak correctly and was my wording correct regarding patterns and correlations and how every event is discrete and dependant solely on Allah?

    Jazak Allah for your response.

  17. TAS says:

    Just to clarify, the “for the most part” refers to patterns and correlations existing for the most part, not implying it towards Allah’s will which obviously controls ALL of creation. I mean for the most part eyes see and ears listen. For the most part, fire burns, but empirically speaking we know its not always true as was the case with Ibrahim, alaihis salam.

  18. Assalaamu^alaykum,

    Yes, it was nicely put, Jaazaaka Allaahu khayraa. The only thing I would object to is when you said, “Allah says “kun” and the object exists.” This is a more or less literal translation from the Qur’aan. When translated like this, someone might be mislead and think that Aļļaah is something that speaks Arabic, and decrees things sequentially by uttering “kun,” “kun,” “kun”…. The meaning of the Quranic “kun fayakuun” is that Allah decreed without a beginning or end that something is to be so and so at such and such a time, or it is a figurative expression meaning that nothing is difficult for Him. It does not mean that Aļļaah utters letters and sounds to create something, as letters and sounds are themselves mere creations. If someone believes that, then he believes that Aļļaah needs to create letters and sounds in order to create something else. As all Muslims believe, however, Aļļaah does not need anything.

    Abu Adam

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