Goodness and Infinity: The Meaning of Death and Life in al-Māturīdī and al-Dabūsī’s Metaphysics

Kader 18 (2):470-487 (2020)
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Abstract

This article aims to analyze the views of two pioneering Ḥanafī scholars, Abū Manṣūr al- Māturīdī and Abū Zayd al-Dabūsī, on the meaning of death and life in terms of their general doctrine of religion. In the first part, the general framework of Māturīdī and Dabūsī’s evidentialist conception of religion are drawn. In the second part, Māturīdī's views on the meaning of death and life and are explored. In the third part, the views of Abū Zayd al-Dabūsī on the meaning of death and life, who establishes a striking connection between the divine order and existence, divine prohibition and non-existence, are examined, and a general evaluation is offered in the last section. Al-Māturīdī proposed a very original and systematic example of doing philosophy of religion, which still promising for the modern problems of the field, by opening the phenomenon of religion itself to discussion, and analyzing the nature and elements of religion. Māturīdī aims to place the problems on a universal and theoretical basis and to present a holistic, metaphysical understanding while discussing specific and particular issues in religion. Just as there are main notes in classical Western music that repeat throughout the symphony in baroque style, there are universal principles in al-Māturīdī’s metaphysics that cut all particular debates vertically. The basic principle of the al-Māturīdī’s metaphysics is based on this idea: God is a wise being, he does not do anything wise. Accordingly, it is absurd to create something to destroy; God did not create man to perish. The love of life and the fear of death are the deepest existential problems facing man as a finite being that goes towards death. Religion can be regarded as a powerful alternative to other worldviews to the extent that it provides a reasonable explanation for man’s deep concern about finitude. For al-Māturīdī, neither pessimistic understandings that emphasize only the fear of death nor hedonistic understandings that ignore death offer a reasonable solution. God created death as something that people fear the most and avoid, and life as something they love and desire. The testing of man is about being between the fear of death and the desire to live in the world. According to al-Māturīdī, this dilemma that man is facing also shows him the way out. If people do good and useful deeds because of their love for life, and avoid nonsense and ugly deeds because of their afraid of death, they can make their life eternal with their own efforts and escape from eternal/permanent death. The other Hanafī thinker, a philosopher of law Abū Zayd al-Dabūsī’s views on the meaning of death and life are parallel to Māturīdī's. According to al-Dabūsī, to test man, what God has placed in human nature is not only the soul and reason but also the spirit (al-nafs) and whim (al-hawa). While the spirit and whim invites man to the temporary by ignorance, it calls the soul and reason to the permanent by knowledge. The test for human beings is to choose between the temporary and the eternal life. For al-Dabūsī, man’s saving himself from falling into nothingness and gaining the eternal life depends on his use of reason. In other words, the reason binds human beings to life, and the whim leads them to nothingness. Drawing a parallel between reasoning and existence, ignorance and absence, Dabūsī defines the terms divine command and divine prohibition in a very original way. For him, the divine command is the things that must exist, and the divine prohibition is the things that must not exist. If the man helps exist the things that God wills to exist, he can make his own existence eternal. If the man helps exist the things that God does not will to exist, he puts himself into nothingness. Lastly, both for al-Māturīdī and al-Dabūsī, life is a divine grace bestowed on human being to gain eternal life through the good deeds he does at any moment. In short, reason is necessary in religion because its use is a preference of existence to non-existence. This metaphysical system, which sees goodness as a bridge from this finite world to heaven and eternity and makes a connection between faith and deeds on the ontological and ethical level is the essence of the worldview of the Hanafī-Māturīdī tradition.

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An Evaluation of Epicurus and Lukretius' Perceptions of Death and Non-Existence.Mustafa Çakmak - 2018 - Beytulhikme An International Journal of Philosophy 8 (1):357-376.

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