Introductory thoughts on the post ‘Refutation of Ibn Rushd’s ‘Jiha’ Argument’

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

These are just some thoughts I am writing down while trying to understand the topic entitled: Refutation of Ibn Rushd’s “jiha” argument from the aslein forum’s English section. If any mistakes appear in my understanding, I hope that the experts may correct my errors. It also seems that the translation made by the brothers in the link containing the excerpt of Shaykh Foudah’s book is incomplete, along with the fact that the excerpt is from the middle of the book, so there may be some important missing assumptions and discussions due to this.

Anyway, I will do my best to understand the matter with the material provided, and at a future date, if Allah permits and with the help of scholars, I may be able to give a fuller and more correct exposition of the matter as needed.

Presentation of Ibn Rushd’s Argument

Ibn Rushd was saying that the opponents (that is, the Sunni scholars) say:

Direction necessitates place, and place necessitates jismiyya [translated as form, or material object, substance, etc.]

Ibn Rushd says that no, direction does not necessitate place, since direction is other than place. His definition of direction braches off into two options:

1. Surfaces of an object that encompasses it [let us call them “internal surfaces”], and these are referred to as bottom, top, right, left, front, and behind.

2. Surfaces of another object that encompass the first [let us call them “external surfaces”], also referred to as bottom, top, right, left, front, and behind.

Ibn Rushd says that “internal surfaces” do not constitute a place/location for the body itself, but that only “external surfaces” constitute a place/location for it.

His example is that a man is surrounded by the external surface of the atmosphere and these constitute a place for man; the atmosphere itself is surrounded by the external surface of celestial bodies and these constitute a place for the atmosphere; also, in some cases these “first-order” celestial objects are surrounded by “higher-order” celestial objects and these constitute a place for the first-order celestial objects. (He says this is due to their orbits, though it is unclear to me how this would affect the issue, perhaps because his assumptions about the nature of orbits are not mentioned in the translation.)

Anyway, Ibn Rushd says that the external surface of the celestial bodies is not “outside” the body with form [jismiyya] of its own, since such would lead to infinite regress. He also says that the extreme ends of the Universe do not constitute a place, since there is no ‘jismiyya’ or ‘ajsaam’ after its end has been reached. If something were to be found, Ibn Rushd says that it would be without ‘Jismiyya’ (form). From what I understand, he is saying this since according to him, there would be no accompanying ‘Jism’ (material object) besides it to give it a place. So he says that for some bodies, particularly the celestial ones and those at the “End of the Universe and Beyond” they are basically devoid of place and form altogether.

So it seems to be that Ibn Rushd is saying that bodies do not necessitate form, and also that place is necessitated only by the outer/external form encompassing the first body, while he also holds to a physically-bounded Universe (in the three dimensions at least.)

From what I understand, the reason for bringing up Ibn Rushd to begin with was his opposition to the traditional Sunni scholarship, and the fact that Ibn Taymiyya took a lot of philosophical concepts from Ibn Rushd. In the case under discussion in here, Ibn Rushd is saying that direction is not tied either to place or to form, with the intention of saying that Allah may exist in a direction without being in a place or being attributed with ‘Jismiyya’ [material form/being an object, etc.]

Refutation of this view as per Shaykh Foudah’s work as per the translation         

The compatibility between direction and place is clarified when we consider the definition of place, for place is the conceptual void that an extended substance occupies. Direction then is the relative connection between two places of (a) two substances or (b) two bounded atoms. One cannot imagine a bounded atom without being encompassed by a direction Why? (as far as I could understand) because the bounds of the atoms occupy each a different place, and the conceptual unit used to measure this is called distance.

Thus, if someone says that Allah is encompassed by directions, they are saying that He is bounded Why? Because direction is the measurement related to the places of different boundaries. But Ibn Rushd conveniently did not mention this because he did not wish to say that Allah is bounded while being in a direction. Ibn Taymiyya understood the connection between distance and boundedness, but unfortunately he said that Allah was both bounded and at a distance.

Also, admitting boundaries would necessitate occupying space, and being in location with respect to other bounded objects that occupy space; this is why the ‘Ulamaa said that direction necessitates jismiyya [form]. From what I gather, when there is direction, it automatically means multiplicity of objects or substances [ajsaam] in different places.

Ibn Rushd tried to flee from this by saying that a substance occupies space, where “space” for him is the internal surface of an object encompassing the external surface of another one. It is due to this (faulty reasoning) that Ibn Rushd said that Allah is in a direction but not in a place, since He is not “encompassed” by other substances/surfaces. But this is obviously wrong, since direction applies only when we are talking about boundaries and extensions of objects and their spatial relationship with one another.

Now, the Shaykh is using some of the sayings of the philosophers against Ibn Rushd, since Ibn Rushd had claimed to be following the way of the philosophers. Thus, we have to consider what the philosophers said concerning motion. They said that motion is either in a location or between locations. For them, in the second case, motion is attributed to what is in a location, but in the first case, motion can be envisaged for that which is in a place or placeless. But if this is used by Ibn Rushd, this would lead to saying that Allah [being without a place] is an eternally locative moving object, and this is totally wrong.

If we analyze this even more [that is, the connection between direction and boundedness, and between boundedness and location], then the connection between form and direction is even more obvious. For the philosophers said that the extremity of directions must be a jism [substance or material object.] So if Ibn Rushd claims that Allah is in a direction with respect to a sphere, then Allah would be the extremity for every single direction, that is, He would be a ‘jism’, and this is again unacceptable.

Also, philosophers said that bounded beings are things that are possible in existence, in addition to saying that whatever is in a direction must be bounded. So according to this, Ibn Rushd would lead us to say that Allah is possible in existence, because of being in a direction, again an impossible assertion.

And philosophers also said that the extremity of all directions is the external surface of a sphere and they said that there is no direction above this extremity. But Ibn Rushd says the things in an opposite way, he agrees with the philosophers on the extremity, but he says that Allah is in a direction. This would lead to several dead-ends for Ibn Rushd, either saying that Allah is inside the sphere, or that the extremity of all directions is not the upper (or last) sphere. Additionally, seeing that philosophers said that the extremity must be one spherical surface, this would lead to Ibn Rushd saying that Allah is the extreme upper spherical surface, and this is insanity.

Finally, concerning Ibn Rushd’s statement that the external surface of celestial bodies are not outside of them with form [jismiyya] of their own, this is again false, since a jism is a material object even if it was not surrounded by other objects or surfaces.


The translation ends here, so I will also stop here as well, but I am definitely open to correct any mistakes that may have crept into my writing above. And may Allah’s blessings and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad , his family and Companions.