Introduction to 'Ilm-al-Kalam
Martyr Murtada Mutahhari
2. The First Problem
Apparently, the first problem which was discussed and debated by the Muslims was that of predestination and free will. This was very natural, since it is a primary problem linked with human destiny and which attracts the interest of every thinking adult. Perhaps it is not possible to find a society which has reached intellectual maturity in which this problem was not raised. Secondly, the Holy Qur’an has a large number of verses on this subject, which instigate thought in regard to this problem. 3
Accordingly, there is no reason to try to seek another source for the origin of this problem in the Islamic world.
The Orientalists, habitually, make an effort, in order to negate the originality of the Islamic teachings, to trace the roots, at any cost, of all sciences that originated amongst Muslims to the world outside the domains of Islam, in particular the Christian world. Therefore, they insist that the roots of ‘ilm al-kalam should be acknowledged to lie outside Islam, and they make similar attempts with regard to the study of grammar, prosody (and perhaps semantics, rhetoric, and studies of literary and poetic devices), and Islamic ‘irfan.
The problem of determinism and free will (jabr wa ikhtiyar) is the same as the problem of predestination and Divine Providence qada’ wa qadar, the first formulation relates to man and his free will, while the second one relates to God. This problem also raises the issue of Divine Justice, because there is an explicit connection between determinism and injustice on the one hand, and free will and justice on the other.
The problem of justice raises the issue of the essential good and evil of actions, and the latter in its turn brings along with it the problem of the validity of reason and purely rational judgments. These problems together lead to the discussion of Divine wisdom; (that is the notion that there is a judicious purpose and aim behind Divine Acts) 4, and thereby, gradually, to the debate about the unity of Divine Acts and the unity of the Attributes, as we shall explain later.
The formation of opposite camps in the debates of kalam, later acquired a great scope, and extended to many philosophical problems, such as, substance and accident, nature of indivisible particles which constitute physical bodies, the problem of space, etc. This was because, in the view of the mutakallimun, discussion of such issues was considered a prelude to the debate about theological matters, particularly those related with mabda’ (primeval origin) and ma’ad (resurrection). In this way many of the problems of philosophy entered ‘ilm al-kalam, and now there are many problems common to both.
If one were to study the books on kalam, especially those written after the 7th/l3th century, one would see that most of them deal with the same problems as those discussed by philosophers – especially, Muslim philosophers – in their books.
Islamic philosophy and kalam have greatly influenced each other. One of the results was that kalam raised new problems for philosophy, and philosophy helped in widening the scope of kalam, in the sense that dealing with many philosophical problems came to be considered necessary in kalam. With God’s help, we hope to give an example of each of these two results of reciprocal influence between philosophy and kalam.