Saturday, 27 September 2014

Explaining the “Mustahil” or “Rationally Impossible"

(Edited by Defending-Islam.com Staff)
Question: I am a novice in regards to hard `aqida and `ilm al-kalam. Could you explain to me the issue of Imkan al-Kidhb in a very simple manner (and could you also tell me what Muhal, mumkin, jayiz-`aqli , jayiz-dhati, and Mustahil means)?
Answer: You should learn the following from my commentary on what Al Sanusi said (Arabic followed by translation bolded in brackets):
اعلم أن الحكم العقلي ينحصر في ثلاثة أقسام الوجوب والاستحالة والجواز
{Know that the judgments of the intellect are limited to 3 categories:
1)    what absolutely must be,
2)    what absolutely cannot be, and
3)    what may be.}
That is, if we propose something to exist in itself, or in relation to something else, then our minds will judge that this existence is absolutely necessary, absolutely impossible, or possible. For example, if someone said, “`Umar exists,” a listener would immediately consider this proposition as possible, without knowing more about this `Umar.
The judgment of the mind may be immediately obvious, or it may require some thinking. Note that these categories refer to purely intellectual judgments, regardless of any physical evidences or other information. These intellectual judgments are not the only sources of certitude of knowledge. There are two other ways.
First, we may gain certainty of knowledge through sound sensory organs by seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, or touching. For example, we become certain of our own existence and that of our families through our senses.
Second, we may gain certitude about a fact by hearing about something from other people in a way that precludes the possibility of a mistake. For example, we are certain about the historical occurrence of World War II and the existence of Hitler, because we have received consistent information from masses of people about these facts. The way we received this information eliminates the  possibility that they could all be mistaken, or have conspired to lie.
In short, the causes of knowledge for creations are three: sound senses, true information and the mind. What Al Sanusi is concerned with here, however, are the pure judgments of the mind, regardless of sensory input or information from others. This is because the pure judgments of the mind are essential to proving the Islamic creed regarding Allah to be correct. After all, Allah is not something one captures with one’s senses, as He is not something physical.
فالواجب ما لا يتصور في العقل عدمه
1)    {What absolutely must be is what the mind absolutely does not accept the non-existence of.} That is, to propose its non-existence would be irrational. It is thus labeled as necessarily existing, required to exist, impossible not to exist, or the like. In Arabic the expression for this is wajib.
That which must be does not need anything for its existence. This is because if it did, then it would depend on that other thing to exist. Thereby its existence would be a possibility, not a must. Allah’s existence, and His attributes, absolutely must be.
There is another type of must be, which is not absolute, but dependent on the existence of something else that is not a must. For example, when a body exists, we know it must be in a location. The body itself, however, is only possible in existence to begin with.
والمستحيل ما لا يتصور في العقل وجوده

2)    {What absolutely cannot be is what the mind does not accept the potential existence of under any circumstance.} That is, the proposition of its possible existence is absolutely irrational and logically incongruent. The impossible is expressed as “necessarily non-existing,” or “required not to exist,” “rationally impossible” or “impossible to exist.” In Arabic the expression for impossibleis muhaal or mustahil.
This does not meant that it is impossible to propose the idea of its existence. This is because the proposal only requires putting words together to form a descriptive sentence, such as: “the spherical ball is perfectly cubical.” It is just that when one analyzes the meaning behind the words, one ends up with an absurdity. For example, the expression: “The round circle is a perfect square” is a grammatically sound sentence. It does not, however, have a sound meaning. Its proposition is impossible, because it expresses a contradiction of terms.
Note that what absolutely cannot be does not refer to what is merely practically or normally impossible, such as rivers flowing up a mountain, replacing the Atlantic Ocean with orange juice, walking to the moon, or awaking the dead.
والجائز ما يصح في العقل وجوده وعدمه
3)    {What may be is that which the mind alone can accept the existence or non-existence of.} All created things fall into this category. Note that we are only speaking of the mind’s judgment, without reference to any other information or evidence. In Arabic the expression for this is jaa’iz (`aqliyy or dhaati).
 
The Arabic expression Imkan al-Kidhb means “possibility of lying”. Some ignorant non-Muslims (that claim to be Muslims) say that it is possible that Aļļaah could lie, i.e. that it belongs in category 3 above. To lie is to say something that is not true. This is a flaw, and it is impossible that Aļļaah should have flaws. This is the simple answer.
Question: Also, one of my non-Muslim friends asked me this question: Is it possible for Allah (Subhan wa Ta`ala) to create a stone so large that he (Subhan wa Ta`ala) can not lift it? Could you answer that rationally and Islamically (according to the books of `aqeeda) ?

This is the typical Satanic question, where a kaafir asks “Can Allah <insert impossible proposition>?” The answer to this particular question is that Allah is not a body, so the idea of lifting in the sense that Christians would think of it does not befit Allah, because He is not a body, unlike what those idiots think. The question then is non-sensical, because Allah does not need a body to move something from a low place to a higher place. If the Christian means by lifting simply having something moved from one place to another, then the answer is that the inability to move something is a weakness, and since what is weak cannot be god, the question he asked is actually “Is it possible for Allah, who is not Aļļaah, to create a stone so large that he can not lift it?” This is because whatever is weak is not god, and whatever is not god is not Allah, so it is a meaningless question.

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