Dancing with Devil or Chanting with Angels? al-Rāzī’s Employment of Philosophical Arguments in Discussion of Divine Attributes

Arslan M. F.

Islamic Philosophy Conference, Massachusetts, United States Of America, 5 - 06 December 2020, pp.1

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Massachusetts
  • Country: United States Of America
  • Page Numbers: pp.1
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


This study examines al-Rāzī’s (606/1210) discussion of the ontological status of divine attributes and aims to demonstrate to what extend he was influenced by philosophical theories and discussions. One of al-Rāzī’s harshest critics, Ibn Taymiyya (728/1328) claimed that al-Rāzī applied the rational proofs so excessively that he ultimately developed a philosophized understanding of divine attributes which does not comply with the path of Ahl al-Sunna and consequently he corrupted Ashʿarī theology. This study argues that Ibn Taymiyya’s accusations about al-Rāzī’s abandonment of Sunnī path are imprecise. On the contrary, the findings of this study attest that al-Rāzī constantly struggled to defend Sunnī theory of divine attributes against philosophers and Muʿtazilīs. Yet, Ibn Taymiyya’s allegations about introducing philosophical arguments and “excessive” rational proofs are credible to a certain extent. For, al-Rāzī employed many philosophical concepts and ideas which are profoundly distinctive and unprecedented. Among the multiple changes he proposed, his key contribution was to describe the attributes as relations (al-nisab) which is a modification of Avicennian principle about the emanation theory and God’s munificence. This principle was associated with formula whereby the attributes can be regarded as possible in themselves and necessary by the essence (ḏāt) of God which is also an adaptation of Avicennian formula about the ontological status of the divine intellects. Furthermore, for sake of consistency, al-Rāzī also abandoned certain Sunnī principles such as the idea that eternality should be considered God’s most exclusive attribute.