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Ibn Taymiyyah said in Kitab al-Safadiyyah (Adwaa al-Salaf, 1423H, p. 169 onwards, abridged):
However, the intent here is that many of the people of inspection and speculative theology (kalam) such as al-Ash'ari and others rejected the (natural) causes (asbaab), the inherent properties (of things) and the forces present in the creation of Allaah and His command, and they denied the wisdoms intended by that...
The Ash'arites are a heterodox Islamic sect who departed from both reason and revelation whilst claiming to establish one (revelation) through the other (reason). One of their laughable positions is their denial of natural causes. The falsification of this claim lies in thousands of texts in the Qur'an and the Sunnah (prophetic traditions) indicating they oppose both reason and revelation. In opposition to them, orthodox Sunni Muslims, in agreement with sensory perception (hiss), reason (aql) and revelation (naql), affirm the inherent strengths and properties of things, and consider them to be the foundation of material (natural) causes and effects. Thus water has an inherent property of quenching thirst, and when a person drinks pure water his thirst will be quenched by necessity. Just as water is also the means through which life is given to plants and animals, something we can see just by sensory perception. And if a person was to study the matter in depth at the biochemical level, then the actual mechanisms would be established and more detailed knowledge would be acquired. And it would be clear that water has structural properties and qualities that allow it to function the way it does (to facilitate vital biochemical operations), be that in plant or animal cells. You can analogize this for every other known (or yet unknown) cause in the study of organic life, the world and the universe. And whether you rely purely on observation through the vision of the eyes, or observation at a much deeper (physical, biochemical level), the presence of natural causes and explanations is plainly obvious. Claiming only natural explanations should be given (as a second definition of science) is not actually saying anything at all, its just a pretense of showing, through mere definition, that the intuitive, innate, rational necessity of identifiable design and purpose in things pointing to a designing agency has somehow been falsified.
...and the intent here is that the vast majority of the Muslims ... affirm the causes and the wisdoms belonging to Allaah in His creation and what Allaah has endowed upon living (hayawaan) and non-living entities (ajsaam) of inherent strengths and properties.
All elements that constitute the living and non-living entities have inherent properties and strengths and they provide the underlying basis for the system of interconnected, interdependent causes and effects operating in the universe. Underlying them are more fundamental laws that provide the basis for the inherent properties of things. The regularity and order in these laws is what makes life and the universe investigable at all, and all scientific inquiry presupposes this (learn more in this article). Thus, whenever any entity, process or phenomenon is studied through the first definition of science, "observation, theorization, experimentation and inference" a gradual understanding will develop of the collection of causes and effects that help explain it. Detailing and explaining that collection of causes and effects does not eliminate the question of where such an interconnected and interdependent system of causes and effects came from in the first place, one which Naturalists want eliminated through pure word definitions (explanation through natural causes only), since no person of sound reason denies natural causes. This additional definition of science (explanation through natural causes only) is used to portray that there is a conflict between science and theism - that the two are diametrically opposed. This is not the case however, and the true and real conflict is between:
However, alongside their affirmation of the causes and wisdoms, they do not speak with the saying of the Naturalists amongst the Philosophers and others. Rather, they say that Allaah is the Creator of every thing, its Lord and its Master... and they know that all the causes are created by Allaah through His will and power... so whatever arises through the causes, then Allaah is the creator of the cause and the effect...
So we have the originating agent (musabbib), the cause (sabab) and the effect (musabbab) and all three are necessary, you cannot have any two without the third. This is accepted by all parties. The real argument is what is the originating agent (musabbib)? In the naturalist (superstitious) religion it is "nothing" which created matter and energy and thereafter blind purposeless physical forces acted randomly, eventually sending shuttles into space. Here we get the "blind-watchmakers", "mimickers of conscious design", "mountains of improbability" and other naturalist fables. These are the only possible explanations available if you make a prior assertion of naturalism in the study of a rational, intelligible, framed-for-life universe. Thereafter these fables are given weight not by the scientific method, but by a second rigged definition of science (explanation through natural causes only) which is really a meaningless statement in the overall scheme of things. What we have is a tautology, a closed, circular loop. Naturalism is true. In light of that, here are our naturalistic theories and explanations to account for the universe and life. They must be true because science by definition can only explain through natural law. And because naturalism is true, then our explanations simply have to be correct, its impossible for them not to be.
The saying of the speculative theologians of the religious factions from the Mu'tazilah, Shi'ah, Karraamiyyah and Ash'ariyyah is closer to acceptance than the sayings of the Philosophers, the Naturalists and the Astrologers.
The saying of the speculative theologians (Ahl al-Kalaam) even though it comprises falsehood is still closer to acceptance than the saying of the Naturalists. As for the Naturalists:
For these ones (the latter) observe some of the (natural causes) just as they observe the inherent properties and powers (forces) which Allaah created in entities (ajsaam) and just as they observe the effects of the sun and moon upon this world, but alongside this, they assign the (observable) events arising (thereby) to a cause amongst His causes, such as ascribing newly-emerging entities to "nature." But "nature" is simply an attribute (that is) established with the entity.
That which is referred to as "nature" refers to the properties of a thing. The attributes and behaviours it exhibits. Thus all entities and elements have a "nature." This nature in all instances has no inherent creative power in its own right. The "nature" of water refers to its collection of unique and special properties. Those unique and special properties do not have any creative power on their own. But when a system of causes is brought together (soil, seed, air, water) a creative process goes into motion. Assigning independent creative power to the nature of each entity (cause) is false. Likewise assigning independent creative power to the system of causes is also false. But this is what Naturalists do. They assign independent creative power to what they refer to as "nature" but then they have to qualify this creative power as "an automated blind, purposeless, illusory design process" so as to keep within the naturalistic fold. The creative process is essentially assigned to chance and randomness operating on the inherent properties of things. What Ibn Taymiyyah has alluded to here is perfectly illustrated by citing examples from Richard Dawkins from his book the Blind Watchmaker. On the cover we read, "Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of Natural Selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning", and also, "All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way. A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind's eye. Natural Selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose at all" (p. 5). This view is further from acceptance than the saying of those from the speculative theologians of Islam who erred in certain respects.
Thus, the one who made "nature" to be that which brings about a human in the womb of his mother and whatever he possesses of the various limbs and the strengths and benefits endowed upon (these limbs), then his saying is more apparently corrupt than those sayings in which the newly-emerging entities are assigned to an eternal (static) will without affirmation of a cause or a wisdom (therein), or assigning newly-emerging entities to the power of a willing, powerful agent, irrespective of whether that power (has been exercised in) eternity or is exercised (through recurring will). For both of these sayings are better than assigning that to "nature" which is simply an attribute in an entity amongst the entities, which has no wish or will.
As an example illustration, to ascribe the process of human development in the womb to "nature" means assigning independent creative power to the sum of causes involved in that process which is false because "nature" refers to an attribute of an entity, its behavioural property, which in itself cannot have independent creative power. And the sum of the properties (natures) of the various causes involved (in human development by way of example) do not have independent creative power. The originating source of independent creative power, the musabbib, is external to the sum of causes (asbaab) and their effects (musabbabaat) and creative power has been placed within that collection of causes in terms of the individual properties of things. When all the right causes come together (and preventative barriers are absent), the effect will take place. This can only be through prior estimation and determination (taqdeer) and it is impossible for the creative power to be assigned independently to the "nature" of the system (in our example, the human reproductive system). Naturalists assign this independent creative power to "nature" but must qualify it immediately as a process of apparent and illusory design, not actual design. This is because purposeful design necessitates a designer with knowledge, intent, creative power and purpose in the innate disposition and reason of all humankind.
...As for the vast majority of the Muslims, they do not reject the causes and effects, neither in inanimate (non-living) things and nor in living things. However, they acknowledge everything whose soundness is demonstrated by evidence, irrespective of whether the evidence is textual (from authentic text) or rational (investigative).
Every confirmed explanation through "natural law" or natural cause is automatically accepted by Muslims by default since all causes (asbaab) and effects (musabbabaat) are tied together and made law-like through an external agent (musabbib) possessing will, knowledge and power by necessity and to whom "independent creative power" is assigned. The saying of the Naturalists is that the external agent responsible for this system of causes and effects is "nothing" or "blind forces" which mimic "conscious design" in the absence of knowledge, will and intent. There is no difference between naturalists and theists in affirming the presence of something (a power) above the system of all natural causes and effects. To Muslims that entity is described in a way consistent with what the order, regularity and rational intelligibility of the universe demands by necessity. The Naturalists, like Dawkins, opt for "the blind-watchmaker" which is sophistry in reason and revilement in intellect.
Nature is not an independent creative power, since the word nature is merely a reference to the essential properties of a thing which in themselves are not creative. The individual nature of each cause (or entity) in a system of interconnected causes does not have independent creative power. Nor does the system as a whole. True independent creative power is always external to the sum of interconnected causes which when found together lead to a particular effect or effects. There is always a musabbib (originating agent who placed causes and effects), asbaab (causes) and musabbabaat (effects), no two can exist independent of the third (except where some causes are made barriers to the effects of other causes in which case the presence of a cause will not necessarily lead to its effect). But such a system of interconnected causes behaving in this way and exhibiting creative processes can only behave as such through prior determination (taqdeer) of the essential properties of each element comprising it and not merely because of the "nature" of the elements that comprise it, individually or collectively. This reasoning is sound and validated by the sum whole of human activity in the field of industrial and technological enterprise in that the originating, independent, ultimate creative power (musabbib) is always external to the system of causes (asbaab) and their effects (musabbabaat). No valid distinction can be made between industrial, technological or biological systems. That issue will be looked at in separate articles. But in short ascribing "independent creative power" to nature is false and that is why we see people like Richard Dawkins using very specific and carefully chosen language when attempting to propose the "blind watchmaker" thesis, "the blind, unconscious, automatic process", "it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view", "the illusion of design and planning", "the blind forces of physics albeit deployed in a very special way." In all of these quotes (and many more can be provided from atheist naturalists) we see that something is being invoked above and beyond the "nature" of the system being spoken of, bearing in mind that "nature" simply means the essential properties of an entity that do not in themselves have any creative power. The creative power being invoked that lies beyond that nature is being ascribed to that very nature and then immediately qualified as a blind, unconscious, illusion of design. These are the types of explanations that come from young children when asked to explain who broke the glass, "the glass broke by itself (through the laws of physics)."
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