Q & A: Is the jawhar perpetual?

Question: I have a question regarding atomism that the Salafis are charging on us Sunnis. Do the Ashari really believe that the atom is perpetual in the sense that it itself is not an accident? So, this is one special object that exists, all else is accident? And this one special object is the common composition of everything? I know about there not being an infinitely indivisible particle, but my question is regarding its perpetuality. Should not this small special object “the atom” be an accident itself, as God would have to recreate it at every instant. So then everything in the universe is an accident according to the Asharis but based on the existence of this indivisible particle?

Yasir Qadi says: “For the Asharites, the only perpetual object is the atom. The atom itself is created at a specific point in time, but after that time, it remains in creation until God wills otherwise.”

Answer: First of all never say “God would have to recreate it,” because God does not have to do anything. This is one of the most important principles of belief.

Second, using the word “atom” is a bit misleading. Asharis do not hold that the atom is the jawhar, the indivisible element of physical things. Take a look at the following article to know more about this: The Indivisible Element

As for your question: They are all things that have a beginning. “Accidents” or `arad, better translated as “incidental characteristics,” in my opinion, are simply attributes of the indivisible element (jawhar) that bodies are made of. None of them can exist without the other, but the indivisible elements are more lasting, because if there is a change in a body, then the `arad has changed, but the jawhars presumably remain the same. That is why they are longer lasting, but not perpetual in an absolute sense, only relative to the `arad. On the other hand, a jawhar cannot be without being either moving or still, so you cannot have a jawhar without `arad, because movement and stillness are `arad.

Yasir appears to be a mushabbih, that is why he says things like “The atom itself is created at a specific point in time, but after that time, it remains in creation until God wills otherwise.” He imagines this is the Ashari position, because he seems to think that Allah, after a creating something, might just take a break from it and leave it until He wills for it to be no more. This is equivalent to the Judeo-Christian belief that the creator took a rest on the 7th day. He has the same position on causation. He says that once a thing has been given a power to cause things, to actually influence events, it can be left alone to do its own thing under supervision, in his opinion. Here are his exact words: “Rather, Allah has created each and every substance with intrinsic properties, and these properties may in fact effect other substances if Allah allows them to.” This belief is one of the origins of shirk, because it explicitly states that Allah’s power is shareable.

This belief in complete or partial rest comes from the methodology of thinking of Allah in terms of created things. The mushabbihah believe that Allah’s actions are sequential events: doing one thing and then another and another and so on. Actually though, Allah’s actions are not events, they do not start or stop, they are not sequential, they are not in time. They are without a how.

Asharis, on the contrary to what was proposed by Yasir, believe that neither a change nor a lasting existence happens even for a moment without Allah having specified and created that. Nothing is ever acting without Allah having specified and created that act to the last detail. This is because every moment of existence for a created thing is only a possibility, so if Allah has not willed for its existence in the next moment, it will not exist.

Authored by Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji

12 Responses to Q & A: Is the jawhar perpetual?

  1. Shakir says:

    What is meant bu al taftazani when he says in sharh aqaid that atoms and accidents cease to exist at every moment of time?Does it mean they perish by itself?Also how do sunnis explain the annihilation of things by Allah and that Allah’s Qudrah pertains to existants also?

    • Nothing in creation perishes except by the Will of Allaah. At all.

      • Shakir says:

        You mentioned in The creed of Sanusi
        “The attribute of Power is an eternal attribute by which Allāh  brings what has the
        possibility of existence into existence,or annihilates it,according to His Will.”
        But i find quite different mentioned
        Al Ghazali says in tahafut al falasifah II page 88 “Accidents become non existent by themselves and cannot be conceived as enduring.With regards to substances,the endure by a duration added to their essense,so when God does not create a duration in them,they become non existent.”Al bazillani also says like this in Tamhid.
        So does it mean Allah creates things for an”Ana”or moment of time and then they become non existent by themselves(I feel this goes against our belief that no change happens but Allah having created that).And then Allah replaces them by similars(tajaddud amsal).If this is the case,then how do we explain the statement of sanusi that power pertains to all possibles and Allah,by his Power,both creates and annihilates things(particularly ANNIHILATION).

      • The most precise expression is that a creation lasts for the duration created for it. It cannot last beyond that, because any creation is only exactly what Allaah has willed for it in terms of all of its aspects, including duration, space, etc. So the end point of its specified duration is its “annihilation”.

      • Shakir says:

        So what does it mean when we say that the power of Allah also pertains to things that exist and not merely to non-existent possibles(since Annihilation merely means not creating as you have written).

      • It means that whatever Allaah has willed will be and whatever He has not willed will not be.

        Remember also that Allaah Himself is not something that passes through time. I.e. He is not something that passes through changes and events or states, such as doing one thing, then another, etc. Whatever you imagine in your mind, Allaah does not resemble it.

  2. Mohd Ibn says:

    Assalamualaikum Shaykh,

    Is our soul/spirit/nafs is the same as the essence? Jazakallah khair.

  3. shakir says:

    sorry to bother you again but what i want to know is that what does pertaining of power(and not will as it obviously means to specify them in all aspects and also their annihilation) to existents mean as pertaining of power to non existents means that they are brought into existence by the power of allah.

    • Dear Shakir, You don’t need to worry about this issue so much. Sometimes I write about issues on this blog that are not meant as required for all Muslims to know. The reason being that some people need it. All you need to know is this: Allaah is the creator of everything that is, was or will ever be, and all of that is according to His will and power. Further, Allaah and His attributes cannot be imagined, because He does not resemble us at all.

      That being said, His Power pertains to the possible category of things, because these are the things that could be. I.e. it could be that it exists at one point and not at another. It is not more complicated than that. The reason for mentioning this is simply to make it clear that it does not pertain to what is impossible in the mind’s eye (such as a perfectly square circle), or what must be, i.e. is necessarily so and cannot be otherwise in the mind’s eye (e.g. Allaah’s existence). As for your question about annihilation; as I told you, annihilation simply means that the created thing ceases to exist. Annihilation simply refers to non-existence after existence. I.e. when something ceases to exist we say that it has been annihilated. It is a manner of expression. It does NOT mean blowing things up so that they will not continue existence without Allaah having specified such a continuation! NO ONE says that, whether they affirm takwiin or not.

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