A Semantic and Ontological Critique of Fakhr al-Rāzī’s View of God’s Essential Attributes

Document Type : Research Paper

Authors

1 PhD student of Islamic Philosophy and Theology, University of Religions and Denominations, Qom, Iran

2 Assistant professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Religions and Denominations, Qom, Iran

3 Assistant professor, Seminary of Qom and Vesf Cultural Institute, Qom, Iran

10.22034/jid.2023.236650.2046

Abstract

The problem of divine essence and attributes is widely recognized as one of the most significant issues in theoretical and transmitted disciplines. Understanding the nature of God provides motivation for a deep connection with the absolute perfection, whereas worship based on ignorance is less effective in this regard. Consequently, the discussion surrounding God's essence and the characterization of its attributes holds great significance. In fact, the problem of divine essence and attributes can be categorized into three distinct areas: semantics, ontology, and epistemology. Regarding semantics, there exist multiple accounts. The attributes commonly referred to as the "seven attributes"—knowledge, power, hearing, seeing, will, life, and word—can be understood through mystical, philosophical, theological, and sharia perspectives. Furthermore, the ontology of attributes and their connection to the divine essence encompass various dimensions. One aspect involves the identification of the essence and attributes, which entails the rejection of the independent existence of the attributes. This viewpoint is shared among adherents of sharia, philosophers, and mystics. According to Ashʿarite theologians, including Fakhr al-Rāzī, the divine attributes are dependent on the divine essence, resulting in their distinction. On the other hand, Miʿtazilites purportedly assert that the essence serves as a representation of the attributes. Fakhr al-Rāzī himself holds distinctive perspectives, such as emphasizing the relational nature of knowledge and the intrinsic nature of the divine word. Additionally, in his definition of power, he includes the permissibility of both action and omission within the actions of a free agent. This article explores Fakhr al-Rāzī's viewpoints regarding the semantics and ontology of the essence and attributes.

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