Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rambam: Islam says that everything is governed by Providence

Daas Torah page 280

Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3:17):  ... (3) Everything is controlled by Providence and there is no such thing as accident or chance at all. A corollary of this view is that the one who governs must have total knowledge of what will happen in the future. This is the view of the Islamic sect - the Ashariya. This view has tremendous problems and whoever accepts it is obligated to accept the inherent absurdities. For example they must accept the view of Aristotle that there is no difference between the falling of a leaf and the death of a person! They in fact agree to this equality but explain that in fact the wind itself only blows by the decree of G﷓d and not by chance. Furthermore no leaf falls by chance but at a particular time and place by the direct decree of G﷓d… Those accept this view also must believe all the movements of all living things are totally determined and that therefore man has neither the ability to initiate nor stop doing anything. Thus everything is totally determined and either must happen or can’t happen… It necessarily follows from this view that the Torah itself serves no purpose since man has no independent ability to obey what he is commanded to do or desist from that which he was commanded not to do. Those who accept this view say that G﷓d will send messengers, command , warn, give hope and threaten - even though man has no free will. Thus it is possible that a person will be obligated to do something totally impossible and that even if a person fulfills the command he still might be punished while someone who transgresses will be rewarded. Therefore this view assumes that G﷓d’s activities serve no purpose. All of these absurdities are inherent in this view so that when we see a person who was born blind or leprous it is not possible to conclude that these result from sin - but only that this is the will of G﷓d. When we see a pious person tortured to death - we can only say that this is G﷓d’s will and that this is not an injustice because it appropriate for G﷓d to afflict the innocent and reward the sinner…


  1. Not Islam, one particular sect, the Ash'ariyah. (Notice I had to go to the Jewish Encyc to find an article to link to -- wiki doesn't even mention them. Good article, with reference to Chovos haLvavos in it.)

    The Calvinists believe something similar, but I wouldn't claim all Christians also deny free will and consider everything predestined.


  2. ...which is one reason the Islamic world is so 'successful'...

    On a more serious note, I recall once getting into a heated argument with a chasid who claimed that (even) a leaf falling (IIRC, Avraham Fried has a Yiddish song called 'Der Bletteh' [?] regarding the subject) had to be willed by Hashem which I thought was pretty absurd -- although not impossible.

    Any thoughts from the Oilam?

  3. Rabbi E, you really should start the source at the beginning and cite the whole thing! The way you clipped it makes it sound like Rambam agrees to the first sentence, but he does not. If I remember correctly, here he was presenting a hypothetical view which he rejects. And that first sentence is part of that entire view (looks like view #3)

  4. R' Berger,

    The Jewish Encyclopedia article to which you linked seems to ascribe the "extreme predestination" view to Orthodox Islam as a whole (in contradistinction to the Rationalist "Motazilite" school of Islam), with the the Ashariya taking a view that attempts to reconcile the two opposing sides:

    "[W]hile the Orthodox, taking the Koran literally, believed that human actions were determined by the will of God, as laid down in an eternal law, the Motazilites, refuting this doctrine as being contrary to the spirit of divine justice, insisted on man's perfect freedom to do either good or evil, which accordingly meets with reward or punishment hereafter. The Ash'ariya, ascribing divine authority to the word of the Koran, could not but give their adhesion to the belief of the Orthodox; but, in order to preserve a semblance of freedom for man, and of justice for God, they conceded to man the benefit of making the first efforts toward the realization of the predestined plans of God for good and evil[...]"


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