Rational possibility vs legal possibility


In one question you state “everybody including mushriks might enter Paradise as a rational possibility (عقلاً), not a legal one (لا شرعاً)” can you explain the difference between a rational possibility and legal possibility?


The Ash‘arī position is that Allah rewards and punishes without being obliged to do so by the actions of His servants (“Allah is doer of what He will”), contrary to the Mu‘tazilī claim that Allah, by necessity, must reward those who do good and punish those who commit evil. Rather than being necessitated to do anything, He is free to place the disbeliever in Paradise and the believer in Hellfire without any injustice on His part (“Injustice is never attributed to Him” per Ibn Khafīf), since He owns all sovereignty over the heavens and the earth, and no one received any share of authority from Him to object to what He does.

The evidence for this is in the verses: {Know you not that unto Allah belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth? He punishes whom He will, and forgives whom He will. Allah is Able to do all things} (5:40); {Say : Who then can do aught against Allah, if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary, and his mother and everyone on earth? To Allah belongs the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He creates what He will. And Allah is Able to do all things} (5:17); {The sentence that comes from Me cannot be changed, and I am in no wise a tyrant unto the slaves} (50:29) among others.

At the same time it is obligatorily known that Allah does not take back His promise to reward those who believe and do good and punish evil-doers: {But as for those who believe and do good works We shall bring them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide for ever. It is a promise from Allah in truth; and who can be more truthful than Allah in utterance?} (4:122). The scholars have described the former evidence as “based on reason” (dalīl ‘aqlī) and the latter as “based on law” (dalīl shar‘ī), noting that it is the latter that takes precedence over the former.

See, for example:

1.      al-Būtī, Kubrā al-Yaqīniyyāt (p. 149) = English translation p. 100, “Allah is not obligated to do anything”. See the latter at https://mawaridlifestyle.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/THE-GREATEST-UNIVERSAL-SURETIES.pdf

2.      Fadl al-Rasul Badayuni, al-Muʿtaqad al-Muntaqad (Mubarakpur: al-Majmaʿ al-Islāmī; Mumbai: Raza Academy 1420/1999. Rept. 1422/2001) 2.4.13: “The paining of creatures by Allah without crime or reward is rationally conceivable;” 2.4.18: “Forgiveness for unbelief is legally impossible, and Muʿtazilīs said rationally also.”

3.       Imam Abū Ishāq al-Isfarāyīnī’s debate with the Mu‘tazilī ‘Abd al-Jabbār:

‘Abd al-Jabbār: “Glory to Him Who exalted Himself above indecency!”
Abū Ishāq: “Glory to Him in Whose dominion nothing befalls but what He wills!”
‘Abd al-Jabbār: “Can our Lord will that He be disobeyed?”
Abū Ishāq: “Can our Lord be disobeyed against His will?”
‘Abd al-Jabbār: “Do you think, if He has prevented me from being guided, that He has acted well towards me, or ill?”
Abū Ishāq: “If he prevented you from something that you own, then He has acted ill towards you; but if He prevented you from something that He owns, then {He selects for His mercy whom He will} (2:105, 3:74).”
‘Abd al-Jabbār remained silent.

Narrated by Ibn ‘Asākir, Tabyīn (p. 240-241); al-Dhahabī, Siyār (13:225-227 §3834); Ibn al-Subkī, Tabaqāt al-Shāfi‘iyyat al-Kubrā (4:256-262 §358).

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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