Part 1c

The Day of Judgment

by Averroes

If the Law is divided into these 3 parts, to which of these does the description of the state of the Day of Judgment belong?

We anser that it belongs to that part in which there is some difference of opinion.

For one group of men, who class themselves among philosophers, say that these things should be taken literally. For, according to them, there is not a single argument which makes their literal sense absurd and unreasonable.

This is the method of the Asharites. But another group of philosophers interpret them; but they differ very widely in the interpretation itself. Amongst these may be mentioned Abu Hamid (Al Ghazzali) and a large number of Sufis. There are some who would amalgamate the two interpretations, as Abu Hamid has done in some of his books. These questions are among those in which, if the learned men err they are to be excused; otherwise, they are to be thanked and rewarded.

For, if one acknowledges the reality of the Day of Judgment, and then begins to apply the principles of interpretation to the description, and not its reality, he does not in any way deny it. A denial of its reality is infidelity, for it is one of the fundamentals of the Law, and it can be easily verified by any of the three methods of argument common to all men. But one who is not learned should take it exoterically, an interpretation in his case is unbelief, for it leads to infidelity.

I thus think that such people should accept the literal sense, for interpretation will certainly lead them to infidelity.

  • A learned man who discloses the discussions of these things to the common people helps them towards unbelief.
  • One who abets another in that direction is himself no[51] better than an unbeliever.

It is therefore unsuitable that these interpretations should be published in any other than learned books, for in this way they will reach none but the learned.

But it is a mistake, both in religion and philosophy, to put them in other books, with dogmatic and exhortative arguments.

  • Abu Hamid did this.
  • His intention was good – to increase the number of learned men
  • But he caused a lot of mischief through it.

Because of his books:

  • some people began to find fault with philosophy
  • others began to blame religion
  • others began to think of reconciling the two.
    • This was the very aim which Abu Hamid had in view in writing these books.

He tried to awaken the nature of men, for he never attached himself to any particular way of thinking in his books.

He was an Asharite with the Asharites, a Sufi with the Sufis and a philosopher with the philosophers, so much so that[52] he was, as has been said:

“I am a Yeminite when I meet a Yeminite; if I meet a Ma’adi I am one of Banu Adnan.”

Hence, the doctors of Islam should:

  • prevent men, except the learned, from reading his books.
  • hinder people from reading controversial writings which should not be studied except by those fit to do so.

As a rule, the reading of these books is less harmful than those of the former.

For the majority cannot understand philosophical books, only those endowed with superior natures. People are on the whole destitute of learning and are aimless in their reading which they do without a teacher.

Nevertheless they succeed in leading others away from religion. It is an injustice to the best kind of men and the best kind of creation; for in their case justice consists in the knowledge of the best things by the best people, fit to know it.

It should be remembered[53] that the greater the thing is the higher will be the injustice done to it on account of ignorance.

Hence God says: “Polytheism is a great injustice.”[17]

These things we have thought proper to mention here, that is, in a discussion of the relation between philosophy and religion and the canons of interpretation in Law.

If these matters had not become commonly known among men, we would not have said anything about them and would not have entered in a plea on behalf of the interpreters. For these things are suitable only for mention in philosophical books.

The real purpose of the Law is to impart the knowledge of truth and of right action.

The knowledge of truth consists in the cognisance of God and the whole universe with its inner significance, especially that of religion, and the knowledge of happiness or misery of the next world. Right action consists in following[54] those actions which are useful for happiness and avoiding those which lead to misery. The knowledge of these actions has been called practical knowledge.

This is divided into two kinds: external actions, the knowledge of which is called Fiqh, that is, Theology; and actions pertaining to feelings, such as gratitude, patience, and other points of character to which the Law has urged us or from which it has prohibited us. This is called the knowledge of continence and of the next world. Abu Hamid in his book The Revivification of the Sciences of Religion seems to be inclined to this kind, and as the people have always turned away from the former kind of knowledge and have turned themselves to the second which leads them easily to piety, the book attained its name. But we have wandered from our own purpose and will now return to it.

If the purpose of the Law is to impart the knowledge of truth and of right[55] action, this cannot be attained except by one of the two methods: viz, by conception or verification such as Mutakallimun have maintained in their books. There are three methods of verification open to people: philosophy, dogmatics and exhortation. There are two methods of conception: either by the thing itself, or by its like. As all people cannot by their nature understand and accept philosophical and dogmatic arguments, together with the difficulty of learning the use of inferences and the long time it takes to learn them, and the purpose of the Law being to be quite common among men, it is necessary that it should contain all kinds of verifications and conceptions.

Among the methods of verification there are some which are meant for the common people: that is, exhortative and dogmatic, the exhortative being more common than the other. There is one method which is meant solely for the learned, and that is the method of rational inference. Now, it is[56] the primary aim of the Law to improve the condition of the many without neglecting the few, and hence the method of conception and verification adopted are common to the majority.

These are 4 kinds of methods:

  1. while in particulars the same in both, that is, both exhortatively and dialectically, is still true by conception and verification. These are syllogisms of which the minor and the major premise are certain, besides being easily imagined and well known. These are set before the deductions which are drawn from them, and not from their likes. To this kind of religious injunction there is no interpretation, and one who denies them or puts an interpretation upon them is an infidel.

  2. the premises of which although well known or easily imagined are also positively established. Their conclusions are drawn by analogy. Upon these, that is, their conclusions, an interpretation may be put.

  3. The reverse of the second, that is, the conclusions are themselves intended and their premises are well known or easily imagined without being positively established.

Upon these also—that is, upon the conclusions, no interpretation can be put, but the premises may sometimes be interpreted.

  1. The premises of which are well-known or conjectural without being positively established. Their deductions are by analogy when that is intended. It is the duty of the learned men to interpret them and of the common people to take them exoterically.

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