Divesting Allah of physical or human attributes
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In Islamic theology, taʿṭīl (Arabic: تَعْطِيل‎) means "divesting" God of His attributes. The word literally means to suspend and stop the work[1][2] and refers to a form of apophatic theology which is said because God bears no resemblance to his creatures and because the concepts available to man are limited and depends on his perceptions of his surroundings, so he has no choice but to remain silent about the divine attributes and suffice with the explanations given in the Quran and hadiths.[3][4] Taʿṭīl is the polar opposite of tashbīh (anthropomorphism or anthropopathism), the ascription to God of physical characteristics or human attributes such as emotion. Both taʿṭīl and tashbīh are considered sins[5] or heresies in mainstream Islam.

The corrective doctrine against taʿṭīl is tathbīt (confirming God's attributes), and the corrective against tashbīh is tanzīh (keeping God pure).[5]

Muʿaṭṭila or ta'tili

Those accused of taʿṭīl may be referred to as muʿaṭṭila[6] ("divestors"[7]) or ta'tili.[8] Historically, the followers of Jahm ibn Safwan (d. 746) — the Jahmi — were called muʿaṭṭila by their opponents. Of course, in the Islam world, muʿaṭṭila is also used to name people who believed that the universe is eternal and will always be and does not have a knowledgeable and wise creator.[9]

The ninth-century Muʿtazilites were called muʿaṭṭila[7] for their belief "[t]hat God is eternal [...] but they deny the existence of any eternal attributes (as distinct from His nature). [...] [K]nowledge, power, and life are part of His essence, otherwise, if they are to be looked upon as eternal attributes of the Deity, it will give rise to a multiplicity of eternal entities."[10]

People who believe in Dahriyah have also been called muʿaṭṭila. They believed that the universe was primitive and that God was not its creator, but that the intellects of the heavens and the stars caused the creation of beings.[11]

In pre-Islamic Saudi Arabia (Jahiliyyah era), some were also known as muʿaṭṭila or Arab muʿaṭṭila. Some of them denied the existence of God and the resurrection, some believed in God but rejected the resurrection, and some did not accept prophecy.[12]

In general, groups and schools that are more inclined to transcendence about God and His attributes are called muʿaṭṭila. Like groups and schools which believe that God should not be considered as an object or a being or as attributes such as: The Living (Arabic: ٱلْحَىُّ), Who is able to do Everything (Arabic: ٱلْقَادِرُ), The All-Knowing (Arabic: عالم), The All-Hearing (Arabic: ٱلْسَّمِيعُ) and The All-Seeing (Arabic: ٱلْبَصِيرُ) and the like.[13] Groups and schools that reject the imputation of attributes to the essence of God and believe in the objectivity of the essence and attributes have also been called muʿaṭṭila. The followers of the schools of Jahmiyyah,[14][15] Muʿtazila[16] and Isma'ilism[17] and philosophers and sages[18][19] have also been called muʿaṭṭila or ta'tili by their opponents, although this type of naming may not be fair.[20][21]

The views of the muʿaṭṭilas or ta'tilis

The views of the muʿaṭṭilas or ta'tilis is that the human intellect is not able to know the divine attributes and only the attributes of God should be paid very briefly and it should be enough to prove them in the Quran and hadiths. They believe that because man is incapable of understanding the truth of the meanings of the divine attributes, so the human intellect in this valley is doomed to suspend, hence this method is called "taʿṭīl" (suspended) and its followers are called "muʿaṭṭilas or ta'tilis".[22]

The muʿaṭṭilas or ta'tilis argue that the concepts with which man intends to describe the divine attributes are derived from the limited and tangible environment and beings around him, and that these concepts are not suitable for describing the attributes of God. Since God bears no resemblance to creatures and man has nothing but the same limited concepts and definitions specific to the creatures, so man should be silent about the attributes of God and its meanings, and be satisfied with the guidance in the Quran and hadiths in this regard. Hereof, it has been narrated from the prominent eighth-century Islamic religious scholar and jurist Sufyan ibn ʽUyaynah that: The interpretation of what God has described Himself in the Divine Book (Quran) is that we should recite it and remain silent about it.[3][4]

According to the view of the muʿaṭṭilas or ta'tilis, the last thing that can be expected from the human intellect about the attributes of God is to deprive the divine essence of the concepts and attributes related to defects and limitations. Such meanings of attributes such as "God is omniscient" or "God is omnipotent" imply that God is not ignorant or powerless. Thus, by presenting proving attributes for God, the human intellect has been able to remove some of the non-existent concepts expressing the imperfection and weakness of the divine essence. Man with his intellect can not prove the attributes of God and gain an understanding of the truths about God, but can ultimately rule with his intellect that God is free from all imperfections and limitations.[23][24]

Critique of this view

The muʿaṭṭilas or ta'tilis view has been criticized, including:

  • There is certainly an understanding of God's attributes, although it may be primitive. With the help of intellect, man can comprehend the divine attributes, even if a little understood.[25]
  • The theory of Tashbih is an exaggeration in the definition of the attributes of God and the theory of the "taʿṭīl" of underdo in it.[26]
  • Man's greatest honor is that among creatures, he is able to know God and gain the knowledge of God.[27][25]
  • It cannot be said that the good qualities of creatures are not related to their Creator. These attributes are found in the perfected versions and are highly related to the Creator.[28] The difference between the creator and the creature is in the type of occurrence and the type of existence. For example, the type of existence of God is Aseity and has absolute and infinite knowledge, but man, as His creature, is possible to exist and has limited and finite knowledge.[29]
  • This view leads to a denial of the existence of God and His oneness.[30][31]
  • The text of the Quran regarding the divine attributes is not compatible with the theory of "taʿṭīl" and testifies to its invalidity. The Quran has many verses describing the divine attributes and names in which it has called man to ponder. If man was not able to understand the meaning of these attributes and names, the invitation to contemplation would not be raised in them.[32]

See also


  1. ^ زوزنی, حسین بن احمد. کتاب المصادر. Vol. ۲. تهران: چاپ تقی بینش. p. ۵۸۲. ۱۳۷۴ ش.
  2. ^ محمد بن مکرم بن علی أبو الفضل جمال الدین ابن منظور, الأنصاری الرویفعی الأفریقی. لسان العرب (in Arabic). Vol. ۱۱. p. ۴۵۳. ذیل «عطل».
  3. ^ a b سبحانی, جعفر. الالهیات (in Persian). Vol. ۱. قم: انتشارات امام صادق (ع). p. ۸۷.
  4. ^ a b احمد بن عبدالحلیم بن تیمیه, حرانی. الرسائل الکبری (in Persian). Vol. ۱. p. ۳۲. به نقل از، الالهیات، ج۱، ص۸۷.
  5. ^ a b Tashbīh. 1998-07-20. Retrieved 2020-02-22.
  6. ^ Livnat Holtzman (2013). "Debating the Doctrine of jabr (Compulsion)". In Birgit Krawietz; Georges Tamer (eds.). Islamic Theology, Philosophy and Law: Debating Ibn Taymiyya and Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya. Walter De Gruyter GmbH. p. 68. ISBN 978-3-11-028534-5. ISSN 1862-1295.
  7. ^ a b Edward Sell (1907). The Faith of Islám (3rd ed.). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. p. 195.
  8. ^ C.E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W.P. Heinrichs; G. Lecomte; P.J. Bearman; Th. Bianquis (2000). Encyclopaedia of Islam. Vol. 10 (T-U) (New ed.). Leiden: Brill. p. 342. ISBN 9004112111.
  9. ^ مشکور, محمدجواد. هفتاد و سه ملت، یا، اعتقادات مذاهب: رساله ای در فرق اسلام از آثار قرن هشتم هجری (in Persian). Vol. ۱. تهران: مؤسسۀ مطبوعاتی عطائی. p. ۱۰. ۱۳۳۷ ش.
  10. ^ Al-Shahrastani, al-Milal wa'n-Niḥal, page 30. Quoted in Edward Sell (1907). The Faith of Islám (3rd ed.). Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. pp. 196–197.
  11. ^ قبادیانی بلخی, ابومعین ناصر بن خسرو بن حارث. جامع‌الحکمتین (in Persian). Vol. ۱. تهران: چاپ هانری کوربن و محمد معین. p. ۳۱. ۱۳۶۳ ش.
  12. ^ شهرستانی, محمد بن عبدالکریم. المِلَل و النِحَل (in Persian). Vol. ۲. قاهره: چاپ محمد سیدکیلانی. p. ۲۳۵-۲۳۶. ۱۳۸۷/ ۱۹۶۷.
  13. ^ علم الهدی, مرتضی بن داعی. تبصرة العوام فی معرفة مقالات الانام (in Persian). Vol. ۱. تهران: چاپ عباس اقبال. p. ۸۶. ۱۳۶۴ ش.
  14. ^ انجمن دانشنامه اسلام. دانشنامه اسلام (in Persian). چاپ دوم، ذیل «جهمیه».
  15. ^ غزالی (نظام), محمود طاهر. رسالة معرفة المذاهب (in Persian). Vol. ۱. تهران: چاپ عباس اقبال. p. ۸۴. در محمدبن عبیداللّه ابوالمعالی، کتاب بیان الادیان (۱۳۱۲ ش).
  16. ^ شهرستانی, محمد بن عبدالکریم. المِلَل و النِحَل (in Persian). Vol. ۱. قاهره: چاپ محمد سیدکیلانی. p. ۹۲. ۱۳۸۷/ ۱۹۶۷.
  17. ^ اقبال آشتیانی, عباس. خاندان نوبختی (in Persian). Vol. ۱. تهران. p. ۲۶۴. ۱۳۴۵ ش.
  18. ^ امام الحرمین, عبدالملک بن عبدالله. الشامل فی اصول الدین (in Arabic). قاهره ۱۹۸۹.: چاپ هلموت کلوبفر. ج۱، کتاب ۱، ص۱۶۶{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  19. ^ شبستری, محمودبن عبدالکریم. مجموعه آثار شیخ محمود شبستری (in Persian). Vol. ۱. تهران: چاپ صمد موحد. p. ۱۸۴. ۱۳۷۱ ش.
  20. ^ "دانشنامه جهان اسلام: تعطیل - کتابخانه فقاهت" (in Persian). Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  21. ^ "دانشنامه جهان اسلام: تعطیل" (in Persian). Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  22. ^ "امکان شناخت صفات خدا" (in Persian). Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  23. ^ سعیدی مهر, محمد. آموزش کلام اسلامی (in Persian). قم: انتشارات طه. p. ۲۰۲-۲۰۳.
  24. ^ مصباح یزدی, محمدتقی. آموزش فلسفه (in Persian). Vol. ۲. قم: انتشارات مؤسسه امام خمینی. p. ۳۶۸.
  25. ^ a b "نقد عقیده تشبیه و تعطیل در نهج البلاغه" (in Persian). Retrieved 3 December 2021.
  26. ^ پيام امام امير المومنين عليه السلام‏، آيت الله العظمى ناصر مكارم شيرازى، دار الكتب الاسلاميه‏، تهران‏، ۱۳۸۷ ه. ش‏، ج۱، ص ۱۰۶.
  27. ^ نهج البلاغه، خطبه ۴۹.
  28. ^ مطهری, ‌مرتضی. مجموعه آثار (in Persian). Vol. ۶. تهران: انتشارات صدرا. p. ۱۰۴۱.
  29. ^ مطهری, ‌مرتضی. مجموعه آثار (in Persian). Vol. ۶. تهران: انتشارات صدرا. p. ۱۰۳۳-۱۰۳۴.
  30. ^ مطهری, ‌مرتضی. مجموعه آثار (in Persian). Vol. ۶. تهران: انتشارات صدرا. p. ۱۰۳۵.
  31. ^ اصول فلسفه و روش رئالیسم، مطهری، مرتضی، ج۵.
  32. ^ سعیدی مهر, محمد. آموزش کلام اسلامی (in Persian). قم: انتشارات طه. p. ۲۰۵-۲۰۶.
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