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date: 12 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter charts the development of the theory of occasionalism within the Islamic tradition until the fifth/eleventh century. Occasionalism emphasizes God’s absolute power by negating natural causality and attributing every causal effect in the world immediately to Him. It is often assumed to be a distinctive, if not exclusive, feature of Sunnī kalām as opposed to Muʿtazilism, Shīʿism, and Islamic philosophy. The chapter begins with the question of how the foundations of the occasionalist theory were prepared in the evolving Muʿtazilī discussions of the third/ninth and early fourth/tenth century. It then considers the role of Abū l-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī in the completion and final formulation of the theory before turning to later developments originating with some Ashʿarī theologians of the late fourth/tenth and the fifth/eleventh century. It also looks at the seventeenth chapter of Tahāfut al-falāsifa, in which Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) discusses occasionalism and the problematic of causality.

Keywords: occasionalism, Islam, Muʿtazilī, Abū l-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī, Tahāfut al-falāsifa, Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī, Islamic theology, Sunnī, kalām

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