A FORTIORI LOGIC
CHAPTER 11 –Islamic ‘logic’
In this chapter, I am called upon for the sake of comprehensiveness to comment on some of the a fortiori discourse found in Moslem literature. I must stress that I do not intend the following treatment to be exhaustive. I am merely breaking ground for a more extensive treatment by others. Being personally not very interested in the Moslem religion, I am not sufficiently motivated to do a thorough job on the subject. I do hope someone else will take up the challenge and do the necessary research.
Needless to say, although I am a Jew, I have no desire to engage here in religious polemics against Islam. Jews do not normally try to convert non-Jews to their views. My interest here is entirely logical. The proof is that I am not always critical. When I am critical, it is with an impartial, scientific spirit – the same spirit I apply to assessment of a fortiori and other forms of reasoning found in Jewish texts or texts of other traditions.
It should of course be unnecessary for me to make such a disclaimer, but we sadly live again in an age where tempers easily flare in relation to religion (which is understandable) and even sometimes lives are threatened (which is inexcusable). Some decades ago, this was not the case (at least not in the Western world), although a few centuries ago the threat against free speech was indeed high (in Europe as well as in Islamic regions). But nowadays, there are unfortunately some dangerous fanatics around, so speaking one’s mind freely takes a bit of guts. I am determined to do so, and not let myself be intimidated.
A bit of systematic research. I have carefully searched through an English translation (from Arabic) of the Koran, looking for instances of a fortiori argument, or indeed any other logical argument I might find, by means of the same key words and phrases used in other contexts – and to my great surprise I found exactlynone!The Koran seems to be a long harangue, with no resort to logical argument, let alone a fortiori argument.
The translation of the Koran I relied on is that by John Medows Rodwell, which dates from 1861, with a 2nd ed. in 1876. I acquired a Kindle edition (2011) of this document, which can be searched through using the Kindle reader. The following is a summary of the results of this research by means of key words or phrases in the Koran (to the exclusion of hits in the introductory and explanatory notes by the translator):
I first looked for idiomatic words or phrases that are often indicative of a fortiori argument. I found no instances of the specific key phrasesmuch the(more/less) ormuch more/less; the vaguer key wordmuchoccurs 14 times, but none of these constitutes an a fortiori. The key phrasesall the more/less/samewere likewise not found; the vaguer phraseall theoccurs 8 times, but again none of these involves a fortiori. The key phrasesstill more/lesswere likewise not found; the vaguer phrasestilloccurs 17 times (including 2 instances ofstill the, though none ofstill the more/less), but again none of these involves a fortiori. I found one instance of each of the key phraseseven more, less, but neither involves a fortiori. There were no hits for the key phrasesmore so, less so, although each of the key wordsmore, lessregistered over 100 hits (I did not look through the latter).
Next I looked for descriptive expressions, which might signal a fortiori argument or some other form of argument. The expressiona fortiorioccurs zero times.Argue, argued, arguingnever occur;argument(s)occurs twice.Proveoccurs 31 times (includingprovedtwice andproventwice);proof(s)occurs 48 times.Deduceand its derivatives never occur, except fordeductionwhich occurs once (in “make no deduction”).Inferand its derivatives never occur.It followsnever occurs, andnot followoccurs 3 times.Logicor its derivatives never crops up.Thereforeoccurs over 100 times. However, although words or phrases relating to logical processes do (rarely, as these statistics show) occur – none of the cases found turned out to concern logical processes (I examined all the instances here mentioned, though only a sample of those withtherefore).
There are no logical arguments (“since this and that, therefore so and so”) – there are onlyrhetoricalclaims. For example: “Say: I only follow my Lord’s utterances to me. This is a clear proof on the part of your Lord, and a guidance and a mercy for those who believe.” The mere use of a term (such as “proof”) normally associated with logic is not proof that logic is being used. Thus, it would appear from this research effort that there is no logic use in the Koran. The sweet voice of reason is never actually used. This is quite a shocking finding, which goes some way to explain the dogmatic style of Islam.
Note that this conclusion does not exclude the possibility that closer reading might reveal some use of logic, because it is based on mechanical search of key words and phrases. However, in similar research efforts elsewhere – in the Jewish Bible, or the works of Plato or Aristotle, or the Christian Bible – such mechanical search has always yielded some results, even if admittedly incomplete results. So, it looks as if there is no use of logic in the Koran.
In truth, after writing the above I discovered that there is in the Koran at least one passage that can reasonably be admitted as a fortiori, namely36:78-79:
“He [man] says, ‘Who will give life to bones while they are disintegrated?’ Say [to him], ‘He [God] will give them life who produced them the first time; and He is, of all creation, knowing.’”
Although here there is no key phrase indicative of a fortiori argument, there is a connection between the sentences in the fact that the first is a question and the second is an answer to it. Moreover, since the reply “He will give them life” would have sufficed, it is obvious that the clauses “who produced them the first time” and “He is, of all creation, knowing” are intended as additional explanations for that reply. The argument here is clearly that if God (S) was powerful (R) enough to create man in the first place (P), He (S) is surely just as able (R) to resurrect him long after he dies (Q). This is a positive predicatal argument, since the subsidiary term S (God) is the subject of the minor premise and conclusion. It would be counted asa pari, since the premised act P (initial creation) is not presented as more or less difficult than the concluding act Q (resurrection). Indeed, the additional comment that God fully knows creation implies that both these acts are equally easy for Him. Lastly, the argument is purely a fortiori, not a crescendo, since the subject (God) is the same in the minor premise and conclusion.
So there is, after all, at least one a fortiori argument in the Koran. Maybe there are others, but so far this is all I have found – a pretty poor harvest, anyway.
Logic in the Koran spotted by al-Ghazali. Additionally, there are some syllogisms and other arguments in the Koran. The Moslem commentator Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (11th-12thcent. CE) draws attention to a number of them in his bookal-Qistas al-mustaqim(The Correct Balance). Incidentally, he wrote this book, not as one might expect in defense of rationalism, but in order to show that logic was used in the Koran long before Greek logic made its way into Islamic discourse. Nevertheless, it is evident from his systematic treatment, starting with the first three figures of Aristotelian logic and continuing with the hypothetical and disjunctive arguments of Stoic logic, that he was himself strongly influenced by that logic. Despite this and other logical works, he is regarded, rightly, in view of his overall philosophical and religious orientation, as an anti-rationalist.
A syllogism is suggested inKoran 2:258, where Abraham says to Nimrod: “God brings up the sun from the east, so bring it up from the west.” Ghazali explains that Abraham argued thus because “Nimrod claimed divinity” and he wanted to prove him wrong, so his argument in full would have been: “Whoever can make the sun rise is God; but my God can make the sun rise; [therefore] my God is God – and not you, Nimrod” (1/AAA). Ghazali justifies the major premise by saying that “‘God’ is a designation for the omnipotent, and making the sun rise belongs to the totality of those things [which he can do]; this principle is known by convention and agreement.” He justifies the minor premise by saying that “‘The one who can make the sun rise is not you [Nimrod]’ is known by seeing.”
The first figure argument proposed by Ghazali is formally valid. Its major premise can be justified as he suggests on purely rational grounds: given the definition of God as omnipotent (not to mention omniscient and all-good), it would follow that He can well cause the sun to rise (from the east or west or anywhere). But Ghazali’s justification of the minor premise is clearly fallacious. For granted that Nimrod can evidently not make the sun rise (in the west or anywhere else), it does not follow that Abraham’s God can do so. To assume the minor premise on this basis would be to argue in a circular manner. The argument implied by the Koran rather proceeds as follows. First, we reason: “Whoever cannot make the sun rise is not God; Nimrod cannot make the sun rise (differently than it does, i.e. in the west instead of the east); therefore, he is not God (1/EAE). This syllogism does not in itself prove that the God Abraham believes in is one and the same as the God defined as omnipotent. For that conclusion we must take for granted the Koran’s implicit disjunctive proposition: Either Abraham’s God or Nimrod is God. On this basis we can then argue: Since Nimrod is not God (as just proved syllogistically), then Abraham’s God must be God.
Thus, the argument implied by the said Koran passage is not as Ghazali describes it. A syllogism is implied, but not the one he proposes. Additionally, there is a disjunctive apodosis he has not discerned. Moreover, the premise that either Abraham’s God or Nimrod is God remains unproved, although obviously presented approvingly by the Koran. It can only be truly proved by eliminating all other possibilities, including the thesis of atheism. In other words, merely observing the sun rise in the east does not suffice to prove that it is God as Abraham conceives or experiences Him, or even the omnipotent Being men generally define as God, Who in factmadethe sun rise. We might well assume so on faith, but to scientifically prove it is more difficult. Therefore, the Koran cannot truthfully be said to have produced a proof of the existence of God, or even a proof that Abraham’s God is God, through this argument.
Another example of syllogistic reasoning is found inKoran 6:75-78:
“And thus did We show Abraham the realm of the heavens and the earth that he would be among the certain [in faith]. So when the night covered him [with darkness], he saw a star. He said, ‘This is my lord’. But when it set, he said, ‘I like not those that disappear’. And when he saw the moon rising, he said, ‘This is my lord’. But when it set, he said, ‘Unless my Lord guides me, I will surely be among the people gone astray’. And when he saw the sun rising, he said, ‘This is my lord; this is greater’. But when it set, he said, ‘O my people, indeed I am free from what you associate with Allah. Indeed, I have turned my face toward He who created the heavens and the earth, inclining toward truth, and I am not of those who associate others with Allah’.”
Although Abraham’s thinking here is not made fully explicit, it is reasonable to suppose it was syllogistic. The three syllogisms involved here would have the form 2/EAE: God does not disappear; the stars, moon and sun do disappear; therefore, these cannot be God. So well and good; except that the content of these arguments is not very convincing. We can criticize them by pointing out that disappearance does not necessarily imply cessation of being – something may disappear by merely ceasing to be visible. To be hidden from view is not to be non-existent. For example, since God is formless, He is not perceivable through the senses, yet this ‘invisibility’ does not imply His non-existence. Thus, the proposed middle term is inaccurate, and the major premise ought rather to be: Since God is eternal, He cannot beimpermanent. In that case the minor premise would need to be: the stars, moon and sun areimpermanent. Only then would the putative conclusion that ‘these cannot be God’ be logically justified.
Abraham could well on the basis of observation say that the stars, moon and sun disappear daily; but to state that they are impermanent, he would have to rely on extrapolation – i.e. on the assumption that when these heavenly bodies disappear they actually cease to exist. Such extrapolation would, of course, constitute an inductive act – a generalization from experience. In his day, and maybe even at the time the Koran was written, such a supposition might have seemed credible. But of course, nowadays we know it is nonsense. The stars, moon and sun do not cease to exist when they disappear – we just no longer see them from where we happen to stand, although they remain or become visible elsewhere. They are indeed impermanent, but not for the reason given – i.e. not because they disappear daily. They are impermanent because they undergo changes (visible with telescopes) all the time, and because they will cease to have their present forms (as stars, moon or sun) in a few billion years.
Of course, Abraham could hardly know that. Maybe also the much later author of this story in the Koran could hardly be expected to have this knowledge, which we have thanks to modern astronomy and all the technology it is based on. Still, the author of this story ought to have realized the logical weaknesses in it, if he knew logic. This story seems designed to establish that knowledge of the existence of God can be known through intellectual means, i.e. that it is rationally obvious. But as we have just shown, it is not very successful in demonstrating that possibility. This shows that, even if Abraham, or at least the author of the Koran, could think syllogistically, he was not sufficiently skilled in logic to see that the proposed argument was not watertight and needed improvement. We can still say there is some (although not very much) syllogistic reasoning in the Koran, but it cannot be said that these three occurrences are demonstrative of the Divine source of the document, since God, being omniscient, would not make errors of fact or of reasoning.
Note that Ghazali only mentions 6:76, regarding the moon; but it is clear that the Koran additionally contains two similar arguments, regarding the stars and the sun. Moreover, while he correctly quotes the Koran as there saying “I love not the things which set,” for some reason he seems to assume this refers to the moon, instead of the stars; for he then describes the argument as: “The moon is a thing which sets; but God is not a thing which sets; therefore, the moon is not a God” (2/EAE). Be that as it may, he admits that this argument is not fully laid out in the Koran, since he adds that the latter is “its foundation by way of concinnity and ellipsis.” He claims to draw its two premises, viz. that the moon sets whereas God does not, from the narrative. But in my view, it would be more accurate to say that the narrative implies the minor premise (the moon sets, from “when it set”) and the conclusion (the moon is not God, from Abraham’s stated rejection of “things which set”), while the reader must provide the major premise (God does not set), which is obvious enough.
However, Ghazali does not see the latter as obvious, saying: “that God is not a thing which sets I know neither necessarily nor by sensation.” He then argues that Abraham must have known the latter indirectly through knowledge that “God is not a thing which changes [a changer]. And… setting is changing.” Here, he is introducing a new syllogism: God is not subject to change; and setting is changing; therefore, God does not set (2/AEE). This comment of Ghazali’s is interesting, in that it brings into play the more radical concept ofchange. As I point out above, the proposed syllogism, even if formally okay, is contentually weak without this narrower middle term. Nevertheless, Ghazali introduces this term only in order to establish that God does not set, and not in the way of a criticism of the proposed argument as I did. This shows he has not fully understood the issues involved.
In fact, it cannot rightly be said that “setting is changing.” Although setting is disappearing and changing is disappearing, it does not follow that setting is changing (this would constitute a 2ndfigure syllogism with two positive premises, which is invalid). Things may disappear (or more specifically, set) without changing: stars disappear in daylight because the strong light from the sun eclipses their light, not because they cease to be or go away; the sun disappears at night because it goes over the horizon, due to the rotation on its own axis of the earth and not to revolution of the sun round our planet; the moon’s disappearances are due partly to its own movements and partly to ours. Thus, the minor premise of Ghazali’s second syllogism is false, and the Koran’s argument in the name of Abraham is wobbly. Even so, we can grant Ghazali’s main claim that a syllogismis (or rather, a set of them are) embedded in the said passage of the Koran.
After that, Ghazali lays claim to two more examples of syllogistic reasoning in the Koran, and hints that there are more of them besides these. More precisely, he states that Allah taught Mohammed “to weigh by this balance in many places in the Koran, to follow the example of his father, the Friend [i.e. Abraham];” and he adds: “Be content with my calling attention to two places and seek the rest in the verses of the Koran.”
The first additional example he gives isKoran 5:18– “But the Jews and the Christians say, ‘We are the children of God and His beloved’. Say, ‘Then why does He punish you for your sins?’ Rather, you are human beings from among those He has created.” Ghazali’s comment on this passage is that the Jews and Christians “claimed to be the sons of God,” so Allah taught Mohammed how to “expose their error by means of the correct balance [i.e. the appropriate argument],” namely: “Sons are not chastised; but you are chastised; therefore you are not sons” (2/EAE). He adds that the major premise of this syllogism is “known by experience,” its minor premise is “known by seeing,” and “from these two necessarily follows the denial of son-ship.”
Here again, while the argument is formally okay, its content is open to much criticism. When and where do Jews and Christians claim to be “the sons of God” instead of human beings subject to chastisement? If this is an argument against the Jews’ belief they are ‘the chosen people’, it is nonsensical since this concept is not believed to exclude punishment for sins (but on the contrary makes it more likely). The Koran argument can only be credibly directed at the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus and that he was crucified; yet elsewhere (4:157) it denies Jesus died on a cross, so that would be inconsistent. Clearly, the fact that the Koran includes some syllogistic reasoning should not be taken to imply that its reasoning is materially sound.
Note moreover that while Ghazali makes a show of specifying the empirical sources of the premises of the syllogism (“by experience,” “by seeing”), he takes for granted without questioning it the Koran’s unsubstantiated claim that Jews and Christians say: “We are the children of God and His beloved.” This issue of historicity is not incidental. The Koran’s syllogism is formulated with the express purpose of contradicting the statement attributed to Jews and Christians. If, as a matter of historical fact, they never made such a statement – then the whole argument is spurious rant. A logician is duty-bound to be scientific all the way, not just as convenient to his convictions. Fiction cannot be treated as fact.
The second additional example Ghazali gives isKoran 62:6-7– “Say, ‘O you who are Jews, if you claim that you are allies of God, excluding the [other] people, then wish for death, if you should be truthful.’ But they will not wish for it.” He explains this as follows: the Jews “claimed friendship [with God],” and as everyone knows “the friend desires to meet his friend;” yet “it was also known that they did not desire death, which is the cause of the meeting:” whence “it follows of necessity that they are not the friends of God.” He then proposes the following more formal presentation: “Every friend desires to meet his friend; but the Jew does not desire to meet God; therefore he is not the friend of God” (2/EAE). Excuse me for laughing out loud at this anti-Semitic drivel!
For a start, the latter presentation is formally invalid, since the middle term is differently formulated in the major premise (friend) and minor premise (God); a syllogism cannot have four terms. Ghazali’s preceding explanation is closer to formally correct; this is in fact a succession of two arguments (a sorites). The first argument is: Whoever wants to meet God must desire death; but the Jews do not desire death; therefore, they do not want to meet Him. The second argument is: Whoever one is a friend of is someone one wants to meet; but the Jews do not want to meet God (as just concluded); therefore, they are not friends of God (contrary to what they claim). Both these arguments are substitutive syllogisms of form 1/AEE (or negative apodoses,modus tollens). Therefore, Ghazali did not manage to correctly pinpoint the logical structure of the Koran’s argument.
Moreover, the argument’s content is absurd. The Koran suggests that one has to die to meet with God. Yet, it also evidently claims that Mohammed met with God (if only through an angel) without having to die. Therefore, the Koran is using double standards. It is inventing an excuse for pouring on the Jews scorn that they do not deserve. The Koran’s ‘reasoning’ here is ridiculous: why would truthful friends of God need to wish for death? The Jewish perspective is that God wants us to love life; to love life is to show God appreciation for His kindness in giving it to us. We do not yearn for death, for we believe that we can well through virtuous behavior “meet with” God in the midst of this very life. Indeed, that is the purpose of life and the reason for our creation. Therefore, the major premise of the first argument is, in Jewish eyes, wrong – not only factually erroneous, but also morally reprehensible. It is obviously just an expression of the Koran’s hatred for Jews, a wish for their death.
A bit further on, Ghazali does in fact propose one more example of syllogistic reasoning, inKoran 6:91. This passage is yet another moronic diatribe against “the Jews.” The relevant part reads: “And they [the Jews] did not appraise God with true appraisal when they said, ‘God did not reveal to a human being anything’. Say, ‘Who revealed the Scripture that Moses brought as light and guidance to the people?’” According to Ghazali, the argument’s premises are: “Moses is a man” and “Moses is one upon whom the Book was sent down;” and its conclusion is: “some man has had sent down upon him the Book” (3/AAI). The first premise is “known by sensation;” and the second is “known by their own admission,” since the Koran says of them: “You [Jews] make it into pages, disclosing [some of] it and concealing much.” The particular conclusion they yield suffices to refute the Jews’ “general claim that Scripture is not sent down upon any man at all.”
Ghazali’s third figure argument is sound, but quite incidental. The Koran’s focus here is on the statement “God did not reveal to a human being anything.” This proposition is of course one more fabrication by the Koran, expressing the anti-Semitic feelings of its author(s). When and where did the Jews say that God did not reveal anything to anyone, as the Koran here claims? They may well have said that God did not reveal anything to Mohammed specifically, but they surely never ever collectively made that general statement (at least in those days, even if some Jews nowadays are skeptics). The rebuttal of the said proposition is not as Ghazali claims a syllogism. It is simply a rhetorical question by the Koran, viz. “Who revealed the Scripture that Moses brought as light and guidance to the people?” The assertoric implication of this rhetorical question is: God revealed the Scripture to Moses, and it is this implication that contradicts the allegation that God has made no revelation to anyone. This is the essence of the argument here, and not Ghazali’s syllogistic proof that revelation to Moses is revelation to some man.
The Koran’s logic here is therefore oppositional rather than syllogistic. This is also in itself interesting, of course. Ghazali’s 3rdfigure syllogism is, admittedly, present in the background of the Koran’s argument – but only in the sense that syllogistic logic is always present when we apply or deny a generality. So we can say that Ghazali is, in this instance, a bit artificially reading a syllogism into the Koran. Note moreover that here again he shows no aptitude for historical criticism. He takes for granted without questioning it the Koran’s unsubstantiated claim that the Jews denied the occurrence of any revelation by God to humans. Nevertheless, albeit the deficiencies in Ghazali’s understanding pointed out in the present analysis, his contribution to the search of logic in the Koran is very valuable.
Ghazali additionally points out three examples of counterfactual hypothetical argument (negative apodoses,modus tollens). They are:Koran 17: 42– “If there had been with Him [other] gods, as they say, then they [each] would have sought to the Owner of the Throne a way;”Koran 21:22– “Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides God, they both [the heaven and earth] would have been ruined;” andKoran 21:99– “Had these been gods, they would not have come to it [Hell], but all are eternal therein.” He rightly explains the reasoning involved as follows, for instance: “If the world has two gods, heaven and earth would have gone to ruin. But… they have not gone to ruin. So [the] necessary conclusion [is] the denial of the two gods.”Finally, Ghazali also points out an example of disjunctive argument, namelyKoran 34:24– “We or you are either upon guidance or in clear error.” He rightly interprets this as: “We or you are in manifest error. But… We are not in error. So… you are in error.”
I think this exhausts the examples of reasoning in the Koran pointed out by Ghazali in hisQistas. If these examples are all the logic there is to be found in the Koran, it is not very much. But of course, there may be other instances, which may have been pointed out by Ghazali elsewhere or by other commentators, but which I have not come across to date. Note that Ghazali does not mention a fortiori argument in hisQistas, even though I have found one instance of it in the Koran. This shows two things: (a) that his treatment in this work is not exhaustive; and (b) that he was not very aware of a fortiori argument. In conclusion, having found in the Koran a total of about a dozen arguments, including one a fortiori argument and a few arguments of other forms, we cannot say that there is no logic in Islam’s founding document, but we can still say that there is rather little. This is surprising, considering that this document dates from the 7thcentury CE or later, over a thousand years after Aristotle.
Sticks and carrots. There is rather little logic in the Koran – unless, that is, we countthreats of punishmentandpromises of reward(wa’idandwa’d, in Arabic) as logical arguments. For of such ‘stick and carrot’ arguments, there are many in the Islamic Koran, as indeed in the Jewish Tanakh and the Christian New Testament. For example: Koran 9:5 teaches that idolaters who consent to convert to Islam should be granted freedom, whereas those that do not should be killed. These arguments take the following forms:
·If you do this vicious deed (or don’t do that virtuous deed), then such and such negative consequences (punishments) will befall you; therefore, don’t do this (or do do that)—and such and such harm won’t happen to you.
·If you do this virtuous deed (or don’t do that vicious deed), then such and such positive consequences (rewards) will befall you; therefore, do do this (or don’t do that)—and such and such benefit will indeed come upon you.
Quite often, the promised reward or threatened punishment referred to in such statements is, respectively, heaven or hell. This is rather convenient, since there is no way to empirically verify such otherworldly claims, at least not till one dies! Sometimes, however, the reward or punishment referred to is an earthly one. But even then, such statements have to be taken on faith, since the reward or punishment follows, not mechanically, but only on condition that God wills it to. Since God may occasionally choose, for His own reasons, not to make the consequences follow, there is no way for people to empirically verify such earthly claims. Sometimes, the reward or punishment is not specified, but left tantalizingly or terrifyingly vague. Thus, when such statements concern Divine retribution, for good or bad, they necessarily rely on faith. Sometimes, of course, as in the example given above (9:5), such statements are intended to be realized by human agency – that is, the specified reward or punishment for the stated action or inaction is to be effected by some specified or even unspecified person(s), such as a court of law, or maybe the monarch, or even some self-appointed executor(s). But even the latter statements, unless they fit in with our natural sense of justice, are proposed as “revelations” to be taken on faith – there being no way to prove them true, let alone to prove their source to be Divine.
From a formal perspective, statements of this sort, which threaten or cajole, are indeed logical arguments insofar as they involve apodosis: either themodus ponens‘If X, then Y, and X, therefore Y’ or themodustollens‘If X, then Y, and not Y, therefore not X’. We are enjoined to behave in certain waysin order toobtain certain desirable things and/or avoid certain undesirable things; and action in conscious accord with purposes is a prerogative of all conscious beings (animals), and most obviously of human beings (rational animals). However, the logical aspect of such discourse is only the surface of it. The purpose of such statements is not to invite rational deliberation and decision, but essentially to preempt or banish all thoughtful reflection and bring about blind compliance. This may be characterized as irrational argument; it is appeal to emotions – namely, fear (hawf) or hope (raga). The message is not really: ‘think about it carefully and do what you think is right’, but more radically: ‘just do and obey’. The talk of good or bad consequences of action or inaction is only intended to exploit the worries and appetites of people, and make them do what they are told to do and not-do what they are told not to do. There are no ifs or buts about it—it is commandment and interdiction.
This is, to be sure, the very nature of law. Even in a democratic state, when representatives of the people freely convene to enact just laws, after they have debated an issue, they make a decision in accord with the procedural norms, and once a ruling is handed down the citizens are required to abide by it. If the process has been truly democratic, individual citizens or groups of citizens are not expected to short-circuit the legislative process and point-blank refuse to abide by the decisions of the majority, even though in a democratic society the dissenters may well try by all legal means to have the laws they regard as unjust reviewed by the legislative body and possibly repealed. All the more so, in a non-democratic state, laws are intended as orders to be executed by the populace, like it or not; although here, of course, the laws, being tyrannous due to the way they have been enacted, are inherently unjust, and citizens indeed ought to rebel against them on principle, whatever their content, until the people’s natural rights as human beings are clearly upheld.
As regards the Koran, it is not hard to see that its purpose in formulating threats and promises is simply to ensure compliance to the decrees of some human legislator(s) claiming to speak, directly or indirectly, on behalf of God. No discussion is allowed regarding ends, though the means may occasionally require some reflection and debate. The Koran, typically, claims that its commands and prohibitions, and indeed its permissions and exemptions, to be Divinely-ordained. But this is just the Koran’s say-so; there is no “proof” for such claims to revelation. It may be argued that such a document instills fear and love of God in people, and makes them do good and eschew evil, and thus improves society. But this is just a circular argument, in that what the speaker (Mohammed or whoever) regards as good or evil is merely his personal assumption and certainly not something he has scientifically proved, or even could conceivably prove. There may be some truth in it; but there may also be a lot of falsehood. The only way to test and judge the matter is with reference to reason. No one may claim something so important arbitrarily, without being subject to rational examination and evaluation. To uncritically accept claims that are so consequential is to invite disaster somewhere down the line for sure.
It is easy to see in this context, regarding the issue of legitimacy of laws, the importance of freedom of conscience (to choose this or that faith, or even non-faith), free thought and free speech, as against “blasphemy” laws. The latter laws, which play a major role in Islam, are clearly intended to block at the outset all attempts to question and challenge Islamic belief in general and the temporal hegemony of its ruling classes in particular. To physically enforce laws having to do with spiritual belief is in direct contradiction to the claim that such laws are ‘ethical’ – for what is ethical is by definition a matter of free choice under the guidance of reason. The Koran’s legal philosophy is tocoerceeveryone, Moslems and non-Moslems alike, to submit to its will (which it calls the will of Allah or of his messenger Mohammed); this is what the word “Islam” literally means: utter submission, with no right of dissent or review. But mindless conviction and compliance, like an automaton, out of oppressive fear of punishment or abject hope for rewards, is surely the antithesis of human dignity, the very negation of human spirituality. It is the depths of darkness, the death of the light of life.
The paucity of logic in the Koran is seen to be all the more predictable considering the declamatory, peremptory, and mostly rancorous, tone the author adopts (or authors adopt) throughout the document. The ‘voice’ heard in the Koran is very different from that heard in the Jewish Bible. The Allah of the Koran does not sound like the God depicted in the Tanakh, who (besides) is differently named and described. The word ‘Allah’ (etym.al-ilah, the god) was, before the advent of monotheistic Islam, the name of a deity worshiped by idolatrous Arabs. Although the word is etymologically close to the Hebrew words ‘El’ and ‘Elohim’ – it is not necessarily equivalent to them. The Koran verbally claims its god to be great and merciful; but the effective message of this document is one of pettiness and antagonism – perpetual enslavement for Moslems and implacable hostility towards all non-Moslems.
Admittedly, the word ‘Allah’ has since the advent of Islam been generally taken – even by non-Moslems – as referring to what everyone means by the English word ‘God’, and we shall here use the two terms as equivalent in various contexts. But I want to first briefly draw attention to the discursive difficulties this terminological equation presents. It is not innocuous, for if we say that ‘Allah’ is equivalent to ‘God’, we seem to accept as true the Moslem claim that their deity is indeed God (as understood in other traditions, notably the Jewish and Christian, and in Western philosophy). If, instead, on the basis of evident differences in the name, character, behavior and sayings of the Islamic deity, we say that ‘Allah’ is never equivalent to ‘God’, we would be in error, for there is much philosophical discourse in Islam, whether right or wrong, which is effectively about God although (naturally, since it is in Arabic) it is said to be about Allah. Thus, we must say that the term ‘Allah’ is, objectively,sometimes but not alwaysequivalent to the term ‘God’. The term ‘Allah’ of course always refers to God for Moslems; but for non-Moslems (yours truly included) it need not do so – it depends on the precise context.
The Koran (orQur’an), the holy book of the Moslems, is traditionally regarded as having been composed by their alleged prophet, Mohammed (Arabia, ca. 568-632 CE), mostly under dictation from the angel Gabriel. However, it was put together much later. Some twenty years later, during the reign of the Rashidun caliph Uthman (644-656 CE), according to Moslem tradition. More like as of some sixty years later, during the reign of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik (685-705 CE), according to some modern critics, who also raise doubts as to the authorship of the document. Some of the latter suggest the document was largely fabricated, for essentially political purposes, as convenient ideology for an already established (not yet Moslem) Arab empire. They point out the lack of solid historical evidence for an earlier date of composition. On the contrary, the little historical evidence found suggests the non-existence of a religion called Islam and its founding document the Koran till the late 7thor early 8thcentury CE. The personage of Mohammed described in it might, therefore, be partly based on a vaguely remembered past teacher or even be entirely mythical.
The Koran contains many internal and external inconsistencies. That is, contradictions between propositions in it, and possibly some illogical propositions in it; as well as discrepancies between it and documents it refers to (mainly the Jewish and Christian Bibles), and between it and various scientific and historical facts. This is not very surprising, being true to varying extents of all religious texts (including the Jewish and Christian Bibles). Of course, the frequency and nature of these inconsistencies are significant, and need to be closely examined. In any case, internal contradictions and contradictions with scientific and historical facts must surely be considered as unerring signs that the document is not, or at least not wholly, of Divine origin – since it is inconceivable that God makes such errors. Just as the external contradictions in a document can only be due to human ignorance, so the internal contradictions in it are indicative of human fallibility. Many of the contradictions within the Koran are between earlier and later laws; Moslems presumably view such developments as implying that God changed his mind, but this is an essentially absurd notion. An Omniscient Being would surely forewarn that a temporary or otherwise circumscribed law is so intended when promulgating it.
Islamic jurisprudence has developed complex hermeneutics for dealing with internal contradictions in the Koran (and other recognized sources). When two texts are found to be in conflict, various means may be used to reconcile them: they might upon further scrutiny be found to be more harmonious than they seemed at first sight, or one might be considered an exception to the other, or their scopes might be particularized to exclude each other, or the two might be somehow merged into one; alternatively, as a last resort, one might be considered as abrogating the other. In the latter event, the decision as to which supersedes the other is mainly made with reference to chronology, the later text being considered as intended to replace the earlier. Of course, it is not always easy to establish chronology, but various criteria are agreed on as reasonable. Note that the Koran isnotarranged in chronological order. We need not go into more detail here, but only remark that all this goes to show that Moslem commentators admit the existence of internal contradictions within their source documents (and indeed between them). This shows commendable respect for logic on their part; but it also shows the logical imperfection of their proof-texts.
As regards discrepancies with earlier religious documents, although the Koran is manifestly (as anyone can see by making comparisons) largely based on the Jewish Bible (Torah and Nakh), and to a lesser extent on the Talmud and some Midrashim, as well as on the Christian Bible and some related books, it is obvious that whoever wrote the Koran he or they had a very superficial knowledge of these various books. The snippets of these books referred to in the Koran are obviously only known second-hand, by hearsay, or from casual perusal, not from intensive personal study and mastery. Either those who taught the Koran’s author(s) parts of these books were themselves not very knowledgeable, or the Koran’s author(s) had acute problems of attention and memory! This is evident from the ridiculous inaccuracies and bloopers in it, such as the anachronistic confusion between Miriam, the sister of Aaron, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who existed some thirteen centuries apart; or the unsubstantiated claim that Jews were wont to kill their prophets! There are many details in Judaism and Christianity that the Koran displays ignorance of; and a lot of the information it apparently relays from them is erroneous. How then can this document be regarded as credible?
To protect itself from this accusation of ignorance and confusion, the Koran claims that Jews and Christians falsified their own Scriptures, and that Islam is older than Judaism and Christianity, whose prophets it claims were really Moslems!This is like hijacking a couple of vehicles, and then accusing their real owners of theft. The main purpose of the Islamic claim to an earlier date is of course to deny that it was largely derived from Judaism and to a lesser extent Christianity; i.e. to occult the plagiarism on which it was founded. The claim that Judaism and Christianity falsified their Scriptures is thus a subsidiary one, designed to explain differences in detail found in the Koran. Since Judaism and Christianity in fact, judging by concrete historical evidence, including third party records, antedate Islam by some 2,000 and 600 years, respectively – this is a claim that whole peoples for two millennia or several centuries had nothing better to do than combat and conceal a religion that they had never even heard of! Can such a wacky retroactive argument (to justify the Koran’s misinformation) be taken seriously by anyone with intelligence and good faith? Surely this accusation of falsification is a cynical attempt at falsification by Moslems!
Imagine what would happen if the methodology thus proposed by Islam were to be applied in courts of law. In the abstract, it is conceivable that an innocent man be wrongly accused of some crime after some people maliciously hiding evidence in his favor and planting evidence against him. But no judge in his right mind would consider such abstract possibility as relevant in a trial where zero evidence is brought to bear that substantiates it in the particular case under consideration (and moreover where much evidence is available with opposite effect). Indeed, in a sane society, a judge who based his judgments on such fantasy would surely soon lose his job. If this fanciful argument was allowed by historiology, historicity would disappear from historiography. There would be no reliable history, only fictional accounts. While it is true that history books cannot be fully objective, and entirely based on facts demonstrable through documents and other physical traces, to say this is a far cry from regarding all allegedly historical accounts as equally valid (or equally invalid).
Some interpretation is inevitable and indeed necessary in history, but this must always be done within the framework of unbiased methodological criteria. History is an inductive discipline, subject to empirical evidence, critical verification and other rational considerations; it cannot be allowed to become the product of arbitrary assertions in the service of some ideology. Some accounts are, therefore, more credible than others. The notion that a book could have traversed centuries or millennia in a subterranean manner, leaving no mark on history, no mention anywhere, no archeological vestige, is one found in many religions. In Buddhism, for instance, Mahayana sutras are routinely pre-dated to Buddha’s time. Just as I do not accept such Buddhist claims, or the unsubstantiated claim by some Jews that the Zohar, which appeared in 13thcentury CE Spain, originated in 2ndcentury CE Israel, I would not grant any credence whatsoever to the Islamic claim as to the antiquity, let alone perennity, of the Koran. The same criteria of evidence apply to all.
Moreover, the Koran’s central thesis is preposterous. It claims that God, i.e. the God of the Jews, the children of Israel, sent a non-Jewish messenger to them (as well as to the Arabians, and everyone else eventually); and that when “the Jews” – i.e. only the few hundred or thousand Jews living in a certain corner of Arabia at that time, note well – refused to believe this alleged messenger, God became super angry with Jews in general, insulting them and cursing them all forever!Such a narrative is logically incredible for anyone truly acquainted with Jewish Scriptures, which teach God’s justice and mercy, his patience and benevolence. Moreover, nowhere in them does God indulge in rude language, as when the Koran refers to Jews as “apes and pigs”. The Koran’s Jew-hatred is certainly not God’s. It is the emotional reaction of some quite ordinary person(s) filled with resentment of some sort.
Throughout the Tanakh, God professeseternal lovefor the people of Israel. It is not conceivable that He would then, ever, change His mind. When the Jewish people fail to sufficiently obey His Torah, He may for a while seem angry with them. But then (at least in ancient times, according to the Tanakh), He sends them a prophet to call them to order. Always a Jewish prophet, one of their own brethren; never a foreigner. The Torah explicitly commands it, and the whole Tanakh repeatedly confirms it (i.e. all prophets and leaders of Jews therein were Jewish). All Jewish prophets were well versed in the Torah, and considered particularly wise and virtuous; and they had to be to have credibility in the Jewish people’s eyes. It is unthinkable that God would suddenly choose to send the Jews someone ignorant of Jewish law and lore, and demand that they obey him. Someone who, to boot, engaged in highway robbery, murder, wife-stealing and pedophilia, to mention only some of the remarkable ‘achievements’ attributed to Mohammed by the Koran itself as well as by later reports.
God would surely have anticipated that the Jews were not likely to follow foreign religious leadership, all the more someone of doubtful morality. Indeed, they are specifically forbidden to do that, according to the Torah. Only one of their own can lead them spiritually, and it must be someone of proven spiritual elevation. So it can hardly be claimed that He sent them an Arab messenger, and then got terribly upset when the Jews did not accept him as a prophet! Moreover, God had no reason to be angry with the Jews at that period of history, the early 7thcentury CE. They were doing rather well spiritually – learning, praying and following the Torah assiduously (this was the period of the Geonim in Babylonia, remember) – so why would God resent them? So, the whole scenario concerning them that the Koran blithely projects is absurd.
Funnily enough, unfortunately—Mohammed may have been Jewish!If Mohammed was indeed Jewish through his mother, it does not follow that he was qualified to preach to the Jews. His evidently sketchy knowledge of Torah and Talmud, and his immoral personal behavior, naturally disqualified him from such a mission. If he was a Jew, it can be said, in view of his many anti-Jewish statements, that he was a ‘self-hating’ Jew, i.e. a Jew who for whatever reason (in this case probably due to feeling rejected by his mother’s tribe) hated the Jews in general (and therefore, by implication, himself too). The irony of all this is that when Moslems express their hatred for Jews in general they may be abusing their own leader as well as his relatives! This is something Moslems ought to think about.
As we have seen, not only does the Koran involve almost no use of logic, i.e. of rational argument, but also the Koran involves a great deal of illogic. In view of this, we have to wonder how a bit of logic did come to appear in Islam at a later stage. A full study of this question would require us to first look for all a fortiori arguments and other logical processes in thehadiths. These are the next layer of Islamic material, in principle closest in time and in perceived holiness to the Koran, being allegedly statements of the companions of Mohammed, purporting to recall things he (and to a lesser extent his companions) said and did. In view of the contradictions between some of these accounts, not to mention other absurdities, many hadiths are considered even by Moslems to be unreliable; but Moslems do believe many of them. This is rather optimistic on their part, seeing as these sayings and stories only began to appear on the stage of verifiable history in the late 7thcent. and early 8thcent. CE; that is, many decades after the purported date of Mohammed’s death. Many hadiths are of much later date than that; some perhaps are from as late as the 9thcent. CE.
The following are two commonly given examples of logic in the hadiths:
“Ibn Abbas narrated: A woman said, ‘O Messenger of Allah, my mother died owing a vow to fast; should I fast for her?’ He said, ‘What if your mother owed a debt and you paid it back for her, would that settle it?’ She said, ‘Yes.’ He replied, ‘Then, fast for your mother.’” “Abdullah ibn Zubair narrated: A man from Khath’an [a tribe] came to the Messenger of Allah and said, ‘My father embraced Islam at an old age, and he cannot ride the camel and at the same time he is obligated to perform Hajj [the pilgrimage to Mecca]. Should I perform Hajj for him?’ The Prophet said, ‘Are you the eldest son?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ The Messenger replied, ‘What if your father owed a debt and you paid it back, would that settle it?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet said, ‘Then perform Hajj for him.’”
These are both, of course, simple arguments by analogy, and their resemblance (both refer to paying off debt) is noteworthy. They constitute inductive, rather than deductive, logic – since the conclusion, though reasonable enough, is not necessary; i.e. we could well conceive Mohammed giving the contrary answers to the questions put to him without being guilty of illogic. An inductive argument is one whose conclusion can be assumed true on the basis of the given premises,unless or untilsome contrary information is found that puts it in doubt. Such simple argument by analogy may be all the logic that Moslems have found in the hadiths, judging by the fact that they are often given as the justification and illustration of Islamic hermeneutic techniques. They are considered as justifying the use of reasoning to develop the law, because they show Mohammed in the act of using such reasoning and therefore apparently inviting imitation by later authorities. Although some commentators did not accept this implication of the examples, arguing that while Mohammed could well do it, it does not follow that his successors were qualified to do it, the mainstream posture has been to accept some development of the law through reasoning.
However, as we shall see further on, Islamic jurisprudence in fact usually resorts to a more complex form of analogical argument. In the above examples, a religious obligation, whether voluntary or fixed, is simplisticallylikenedto a financial debt; so the conclusion is based on a mere impression of similarity. In the more complex form of the argument, however, the two things compared are considered to have an allegedor demonstratedcommon ground; so the conclusion is based on a more intricate rational process. In simple analogy, the comparison between the two terms involved is unmediated, direct; whereas in complex analogy, it is mediated, indirect. I do not know whether examples have been found in the hadiths themselves of such more elaborate form of argument by analogy. There may be other examples. There may also be examples of other logical processes – this question can only be answered through close study of all the hadith collections by competent logicians.
But judging from the data I have some far come across offhand, logic does not seem to be much more present in the hadiths than in the Koran. The following story tells us something about the level of logic to be expected in them.
Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, author ofSirat Rasul Allah(Biography of the Prophet of Allah), wrote about an alleged rabbi of Medina, called al-Husayn, also known (possibly after his conversion to Islam) as Abdullah bin Salam, who asked Muhammad “about three things which nobody knows unless he be a Prophet.” Follow three silly questions which I will not bother repeating, to which Muhammad readily gives three silly answers, which again are not worth the trouble of retyping. Whereupon, highly impressed for his part, the questioner immediately converts to Islam, testifying that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Obviously, the purpose of this story is to ‘prove’ Muhammad’s status as an envoy of God, by having a Jewish rabbi test him and testify to his having successfully passed the test. Why a Jewish rabbi? Because that would connect Muhammad’s mission to earlier Scriptures, and thus enhance his authority.
But what is the ‘logic’ of this attempted proof? First, there is no evidence whatsoever that this story is historically true; without our having any means to verify the fact, we have to keep in mind that it could have been invented by Ibn Ishaq or someone before him. Who is this rabbi? He must have been an important fellow, to have been entrusted with such an important secret. Yet no Rabbi al-Husayn of Medina is known to us Jews, or to historians at large. Second, even supposing that this Jew existed and was a rabbi and did indeed ask Muhammad those questions and did indeed find his answers correct – how can we be sure that he did not simply invent the questions with the intent to admit Muhammad’s answers whatever they were (in order to please him and gain his favor)? In other words, what tests did al-Husayn first pass to provehis ownreliability as an examiner? None that we know of. The story told, of course, implies that al-Husayn knew the three questions to ask of a prophetic candidate and the three answers to them, from his own, Jewish tradition; but we know of no such tradition in Judaism(the Moslems would of course reply that we lie when we say that, claiming that we have falsified our tradition in order to hide its anticipation of Muhammad’s mission). Third, there is an internal inconsistency to this story. If (as al-Husayn claims) the answers to the three questions are knowableonlyto a prophet, how does al-Husayn (who isnotclaimed to be a prophet) know them? To claim that someonenotprivy to informationisnevertheless privy to it is a self-contradiction.
From this parody of logic we can conclude without doubt that the story is made up. Whoever made it up, either he did not himself have the intelligence to notice its inherent paradox, or he was confident that his target audience was composed of simpletons who would not spot its absurdity. I do not suppose any Moslem commentator through the ages ever belied this story on logical grounds.
The dating of hadiths is of course very relevant to the issue of the sources and development of Islamic logic. A considerable effort of collection and translation of non-Islamic texts into Arabic began already in the Omayyad period (661-750 CE). This effort increased greatly during the Abbasid period (750-1258 CE). Thus, the influx of foreign philosophy and logic into Islamic culture accelerated over time. Knowing this, we may expect the hadiths appearing in the later period to involve more logic than those in the earlier period. This is just a speculative prediction on my part, which may or may not be empirically confirmed. In any case, even before any translations of texts occurred, there was bound to be some measure of cultural osmosis from the population and institutions of the conquered peoples to their conquerors. The conquerors took over the existing institutions, without at first modifying them greatly. It is only over time that they tailored them to their own philosophy.
In any event, Islamic law (called the sharia) is often based to a large extent on material found in hadith collections, rather than in the Koran. These collections constitute the ‘oral law’ of Islam, as against the ‘written law’ given in the Koran. It is reasonable to suppose that some logic might be found in the hadiths, though this question can only, to repeat, be answered empirically by actual detailed research in these compilations, some of which are massive. However, it is safe to predict that most of the logic that eventually makes its appearance in Islam, in legal discussions leading to the formulation of laws (constituting the sharia), was learned from Jewish, Christian, and eventually Persian and Greek, and later Indian, logical traditions. This could have occurred by observation during discussions with non-Moslems of their logical practices, as well as through learning from oral and written theoretical teachings. But I suspect that logic came into Islam mainly though diverse converts to it, who brought it with them as cultural baggage. In any case, while Islam was apparently little touched by logical thought in its presumed Arabian cradle, it was very soon in close contact with the rich traditions of the countries the Arabs and their successors conquered with the sword, and from then on could absorb and assimilate much of the knowledge in these other cultures.
It should be kept in mind that the Arabs produced no philosophical reflection, at least not in writing (even though they had an alphabet very early on), till the late 8thor early 9thcentury CE, when the bulk of writings in Greek, Persian and Syriac, and possibly Hebrew, among others, were translated into Arabic (notably under commission of the Abbasid caliph al-Mansur, who reigned in Baghdad 754-775 CE). Indeed, the Arabs hardly had any literature till the Koran appeared, as they themselves admit when they refer to the earlier era as the “period of ignorance” (Jahiliyyah). In short, to put it bluntly, the Arabs were not exactly an intellectual people, at least not till very late in human history compared to other peoples in their region. It is therefore not very surprising to find almost no logic, and much illogic, in the Koran and in many hadiths. And it is accordingly not very surprising that the Arabs, and likewise later conquerors, were greatly impressed by the discourse of the Koran and hadiths: they simply knew no better!
That the Arabs and later conquerors were willing to learn from their subject-peoples is certainly to their credit, and it made possible their eventual entry into the field of philosophy. However, while Islamic philosophy flourished for a while, between the 9thand 12thcenturies CE, with the likes of al-Kindi (Arab, ca. 801-873), al-Farabi (Turk, ca. 872-950) and ibn-Sina (aka Avicenna, Persian, ca. 980-1037), under external influences, it soon came to an abrupt halt due to strong fundamentalist reaction. This reaction began early on, with the anti-rationalism of al-Ash’ari (Arab, ca. 874-936), and came into full force later on, through al-Ghazali (Persian, 1058/9-1111). Even if ibn-Rushd (aka Averroës, Andalusian, ca. 1126-98) made a last-ditch effort to rebut Ghazali, his writings had little effect on Moslem thought in the East. Free thought and free speech in Islamic philosophy effectively never recovered. There were also, of course, political causes for this reversal, notably the Mongol conquests in the 13thcentury. Islamic philosophy was thenceforth largely limited to the task of theological defense of faith against rational doubt (and Islam against other faiths, as well as disputes between Sunni and Shia Islam), and this has remained its essential role to this day.
This course of events may be described as follows in more sociological terms. A backward people (the Arabs) were suddenly confronted with bits and pieces of the thoughts of more advanced societies (mainly Jewish and Christian to start with, then many others), spurring them into a period of considerable spiritual and cultural progress. However, when they reached the limits of the developmental potential of their core doctrine (the Koran and hadiths), rather than question it and go beyond it they clung to it and erected it into an unassailable dogma. At that critical juncture, Moslems effectively gave up evolving intellectually and chose permanent stagnation instead. For this reason, their societies stagnated politically and economically thereafter, prospering intermittently only by looting other societies. For a while, in the past couple of centuries, it looked a bit as if Western (i.e. European and American) modernity might stimulate them into reviving their own slumbering spirits. But in the last few decades we have seen a violent reaction to such liberating influences, in the form of ‘Islamism’.
Not having looked into the hadith collections, or studied subsequent developments in Islamic law, I cannot for the time being propose a more precise analysis of how logic filtered into Islam. However, I propose to next briefly look into a modern work on Islamic law and legal reasoning, and see what we can learn from it about use of a fortiori argument, and eventually other forms of argument, in Islam. In this regard, I will refer mainly to a work by Hallaq, a contemporary scholar whose books seem at first blush particularly clear and instructive.
Sources of Islamic law. A fortiori and other arguments are studied in Islam, as in Judaism, in the context of jurisprudence (fiqh, in Arabic). The principles of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) today acknowledge four main sources of Islamic law (Shariah): the Moslems’ holy book (Qur’an), their oral traditions (Sunnah), the consensus (ijma) of their religious authorities, and various arguments (qiyas) these used to infer information from the preceding sources. There is actually relatively little law in the Koran; most Islamic law is drawn from the other sources. The Sunnarefers principally to the sum total of the hadiths accepted within a given Islamic community, or school of Islamic law. Hadiths, as we have seen, are alleged reports of the sayings and doings of Mohammed. Different communities may acknowledge (or reject) different hadiths. Moslem jurists of a given community first attempt to determine the reliability of hadiths (in their view, according to certain standards set by them); then they examine them closely, looking for answers to new legal questions they face – looking for clues in Mohammed’s precise words, or even in his silences, on some matter, or in his practical responses in different situations, or in his habitual behavior patterns. He is regarded as “the best exemplar,” someone who can do no wrong, and therefore whose words and acts can and should be used as bases for imitation and legislation.
The term Sharia – which means, the path or way (which Moslems are required to follow) – refers to the net result of all legal decision-making. It is thus equivalent in concept and etymology to the Hebrew word Halakha. The process of legal decision in Islam is calledijtihad. Naturally, in an organized religion like Islam, such decision making cannot be personal (ra’y), but must obtain the stamp of approval of the community as a whole (so to speak, meaning in practice the most authoritative religious scholars); this is the meaning ofijma, ‘consensus’. Lastly comesqiyaswhich is usually translated as ‘argument by analogy’, although, while this may be accurate etymologically, the term in practice seems (as we shall see) to refer more broadly to any sort of deductive or inductive inference used to derive laws from Koran, Sunna or consensus.Qiyasthus corresponds somewhat to the hermeneutic principles(middot, in Hebrew) used in Jewish jurisprudence, or potentially even more largely to logic in general (mantiq, in Arabic).
There are two main branches of Islam, the Sunni (to which the majority of Moslems adhere) and the Shia(or Shi’ite, the adherents to which are mostly Iranians). These differ considerably in their specific legal sources, methodologies and decisions, although they both adhere to the general pattern just described. Shia scholars refer to‘aql(the rational faculty), rather thanqiyas(arguments), to explain their inferences. There are also different communities within each of these larger groups that have their specific authorities and traditions. There are in Sunni Islam today four main schools of interpretation (madh’hab): the Hanafi, the Maliki, the Shafi’i, and the Hanbali; in Shia Islam, there are mainly two: the Ja’fari and the Zaidiyyah. These various schools all began roughly in the period from the mid-8thto mid-9thcenturies CE. For historical reasons, their influence is essentially regional, although the Hanafi school is the most widely influential.
We have already, in the previous section, briefly presented various concepts and facts we need to know before we can study Moslem use and discussion of a fortiori and other forms of argument. We shall now turn our attention to this interesting investigation, which is our main goal, referring mainly toWael B. Hallaq’sA History of Islamic Legal Theories: An Introduction toSunni usul al-fiqh.This author devotes a goodly number of pages (pp. 83-107) to the topic ofqiyas, including a few (pp. 96-99) to a fortiori argument in particular.
Two moods of a fortiori. Hallaq informs us that Islamic jurists were aware of a fortiori argument in both itsa minore ad maius(from minor to major) anda maiore ad minus(from major to minor) forms. First thing to note here is that he does not mention Islamic jurists having a specific name for a fortiori argument, nor tell us as of when they became aware of this argument at all. Secondly, we must note that the names of the two forms of a fortiori argument that Hallaq gives are, of course, Latin; he does not tell us what names Islamic jurists give them, and as of when they became aware of the distinction between them. I found the probable Arabic names of these two arguments in Islamic websites: they areqiyas al-awla(analogy of the superior) andqiyas al-adna(analogy of the inferior); however, it is not from there immediately clear which is which, i.e. whether ‘of’ is intended to mean ‘from’ or ‘to’ (see my analysis of this issue further on).
According to Hallaq (on p. 29), this nomenclature was first proposed byMuhammed ibn-Idris al-Shafi’i(b. Gaza, 767 – d. Fustat, 820 CE), who is generally considered to be the founder of Islamic “legal theorization” in its more systematic form. Shafi’i “lived in the major centers of learning, where he became exposed to all the influential trends of legal learning.” He probably finalized his treatise known asal-Risalain Egypt, in about 813 CE. In this work, he offered the following illustration of the said two moods of a fortiori argument:
“When God forbids a small quantity of a substance, we will know that a larger quantity is equally forbidden… and if He permits a large quantity of something then a lesser quantity of the same thing isa fortioripermitted.”
Thus, based on Hallaq’s account, we can suppose that Shafi’i was, in the early 9thcentury CE, the first Moslem author to have consciously focused on a fortiori argument, by naming and exemplifying two of its moods and presumably discussing their operation somewhat. This tells us something about the level of knowledge on this subject in Islam at that time. Since, as we shall presently show, these examples are valid, we can say that Shafi’i was capable of reasoning correctly in this mode. However, assuming he was able to express his understanding only in such relatively material terms, rather than in formal terms, we have to say that though he had mentally isolated the argument, he had not fully grasped how it works. Be that as it may, we may put these arguments in standard form for him as follows:
A large quantity of a substance (P) is more legally serious (R) than a small quantity of it (Q), whence:
given that a small quantity (Q)is legally serious (R) enough to be forbidden (S),
itfollows that alarge quantity (P) is legally serious (R) enough to be forbidden (S).
A large quantity of something (P) is more legally serious (R) than a small quantity of it (Q), whence:
given thatalarge quantity (P) is legally serious (R)notenough to be forbidden (S),
it follows thata small quantity (Q)is legally serious (R)notenough to be forbidden (S).
Note that both of these arguments are purely a fortiori – they are not a crescendo; that is to say, the predicate in the conclusion (“forbidden”) is identical (“equal”) to that in the minor premise – no proportionality is claimed. The first argument is a straightforward positive subjectal one, going from minor (Q) to major (P). The second argument, being also subjectal, has to be in negative form to go from major (P) to minor (Q) – otherwise it would not be valid. Therefore, the way it is originally formulated, as inference from permissibility of the greater quantity to permissibility of the lesser quantity, is a bit misleading. It is not a very serious error – but it is indicative of the unawareness by the person formulating the argument (Shafi’i) that his argument has to be negative in form to succeed. Positive permissibility may be educed from non-prohibition after the negative a fortiori conclusion has been drawn.
Another thing to note is the absence of an explicit major premise (the comparison between the larger and lesser quantity on some scale). Also notable here is the absence of an explicit middle term – it is I who has introduced the term “legally serious” needed here (some scale of comparison R between the major and minor terms is required); and moreover, the absence of the crucial factor of ‘sufficiency’ of the middle term in the minor premise and conclusion. The latter is asine qua nonto enable the inference: it isbecausethe quantity in the minor premise is R enough (or not enough) for prohibition that the quantity in the conclusion is R enough (or not enough) for prohibition. Furthermore, note, the two moods of argument illustrated are both subjectal – there is no display of awareness of predicatal a fortiori argument. Moreover, the examples are both copulative; no example is forthcoming of implicational argument. Thus, at least the way Islamic tradition has presented a fortiori argument thus far reveals a significant deficiency of knowledge. However, as we shall see further on, Hallaq himself does show awareness of the tacit major premise and middle term, although not of the other missing information.
Notice as well that the subject-matter of these arguments is not general, but specifically legal prohibition or non-prohibition. This specificity is of course understandable – the arguments are formulated in a legal context. But the question may be asked whether Islamic jurists were or are aware that a fortiori argument can be formulated in non-legal contexts. Actually, it seems that they may well have been, judging by an example given further on (although that example involves value-judgments). Another reflection worth making here is how similar these examples are to rabbinic examples. Consider for instance the following formula for the rabbinic hermeneutic principle ofqal vachomerproposed by R. Feigenbaum:
“Any stringent ruling with regard to the lenient issue must be true of the stringent issue as well; [and] any lenient ruling regarding the stringent issue must be true with regard to the lenient matter as well.”
This definition ofa fortiori argumentis proposed by a contemporary rabbi, of course. I have not managed yet to discover exactly when some such abstract formulation first appeared in Jewish history. But I have managed to identify a passage in the Mishna which may be its source (namely,Beitzah5:2); and there are probably others like it. I have not found quite similar arguments in Greek or Roman discourse. I have found in a work by Cicero, the famous Roman jurist (2ndcent. CE), a clear statement of two moods, indeed three, of a fortiori argument, viz.:
“What is valid in the greater should be valid in the less … Likewise the reverse: what is valid in the less should be valid in the greater… Likewise, what is valid in one of two equal cases should be valid in the other.”
However, while this statement has the ideas of argument from major to minor and from minor to major – and additionally, from equal to equal – it is formulated more vaguely than the Jewish and Islamic statements. “What is valid, etc.” is pretty vague – for legal purposes one has to be more specific and mention that what is under discussion is whether the court isallowed or forbiddento react in certain ways to defined situations. The reference to such predicates is what makes the a fortiori discourse specifically legal discourse. Moreover, Greek and Roman laws were not essentially deductive, but rather inductive; they were based on commonsense judgments, in the context of relatively hazy cultural traditions. On the other hand, Jewish and Islamic laws are predominantly deductive, even if they do have inductive elements – they are usually derived from some fixed proof-text.
For these reasons, and because Judaism preceded Islam in recorded history, I suggest that Islamic jurists probably learned these forms of a fortiori argument from Jews, either in discussions with learned Jews or through reading some Judaic texts or through Jewish converts to Islam bringing with them their knowledge. Remember that the Mishna had been in existence over 600 years and the Gemara had been around for over 300 years when Shafi’i wrote his treatise. Alternatively, the transmission may have occurred indirectly via Christian intermediaries. It is also possible, of course, that Islamic jurists came upon these forms of reasoning independently; but it seems unlikely. I say this without chauvinism, as an honest opinion based on the overall picture of development of a fortiori argument presented in the present book.
Hallaq next gives two examples of the above described two forms of a fortiori argument, drawn from Islamic tradition.
A crescendo argument passes unnoticed. To illustrate argument from minor to major, Shafi’i offered the following passage of the Koran (99:7-8): “Whoso has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it, and whoso has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.” He then remarked (roughly, in Hallaq’s words): “From this verse, it is understood that the reward for doing more than an atom’s weight of good and the punishment for doing more than an atom’s weight of evil are greater than that promised for an atom’s weight.” But clearly, this is an illicit process on the part of Shafi’i. The two arguments he formulates in his comment (one about good and one about evil) are indeed a fortiori – but these arguments are not given, or even hinted at, in the Koran passage it is based on. See for yourself. The said passage does not contain any a fortiori argument, nor suggest any sort of inference is intended; it is merely being used by the commentator to construct two arguments external to it.
Notice now that the proposed arguments are a crescendo, and not purely a fortiori. That is to say, they clearly yieldproportionalconclusions. Shafi’i shows no awareness that these two arguments are thus significantly different in structure from the preceding two examples he gave; or at least Hallaq does not mention any such awareness. Put in standard form, these two arguments would look as follows:
More than an atom’s weight of good (or evil) (P) is more consequential (R) than atom’s weight of good (or evil) (Q), whence:
given that an atom’s weight of good (or evil) (Q)is consequential (Rq) enough to bring about a certain reward (or punishment) (Sq),
and given that S varies in proportion to R,
it follows that more than anatom’s weight of good (or evil) (P) is consequential (Rp) enough to bring about agreaterreward (or punishment) (Sp).
The mood is, here again, positive subjectal. The major premise seems obvious enough not to need further proof. Note well here the additional premise about proportionality of S to R (shown in italics), and the fact that the predicate Sp in the conclusion is quantitatively different from (greater than) the predicate Sq in the minor premise on which it is based. Without the tacit additional premise, the proportional conclusion cannot be validly drawn. However, this pro rata premise is a reasonable inference from the given information; obviously, if each atom’s weight of good (or evil) engenders a certain quantity of reward (or punishment), then two or more such atom’s weights will cumulate two or more such quantities. Hallaq, and therefore presumably Shafi’i, does not mention these important details. They have apparently passed unnoticed in Islamic tradition.
Furthermore, Shafi’i does not show awareness that these two arguments differ from the preceding ones in another significant respect. Namely, that although they involve value-judgments (about good or evil), they are not per se legal arguments. They donotconclude that something is permitted, imperative, forbidden or exempt – they only tell us of the expected (natural or Divinely-willed) consequences of good or evil, viz. some reward or punishment, respectively. Of course, it is tacitly intended that, since good brings about a reward and evil brings about a punishment, weshoulddo good and abstain from doing evil. The latter are indeed imperatives, or recommendations of wisdom, but they stand outside the a fortiori arguments. They are subsequent conclusions, which are obtained by hypothetical syllogisms from the major premises “if something is beneficial to you, then pursue it” and “if something is detrimental to you, then avoid it.” The good being advantageous is thus recommended, and the evil being disadvantageous is thus discommended. But, to repeat, all this comes after the a fortiori arguments as such, and is not part of them.
There are a couple more criticisms we can level in this context. First, the major premise of the first proposed a fortiori argument could be put in doubt by pointing out that an excess of good can sometimes turn to bad. However, this objection can be rebutted by saying that when something that is good in lesser quantities becomes bad due to excess, it ceases to be classed as ‘good’ and becomes subsumed under ‘bad’, so that the major premise remains unaffected. Second, the Koran passage can be used to construct syllogisms instead of a fortiori arguments, since any weight of good or evil is composed of many atom weights thereof. The arguments would thus run as follows: any amount of good (or evil) entails some reward (or punishment); so and so is good (or evil); therefore, so and so entails reward (or punishment). The issue of proportionality is not mentioned here, but it could be by stating the major term as ‘entails a proportionate amount of reward (or punishment)’. It could be that Shafi’i had these syllogisms in mind, rather than a fortiori arguments.
Concluding more than the conclusion. Again, as example of argument from major to minor, Hallaq offers “the Quranic permission to kill non-Muslims who engage in war against Muslims” (he unfortunately does not specify where in the Koran this is stated), and then adds: “From this permission it is inferred that acts short of killing, such as the confiscation of the unbelievers’ property, are also lawful.” Here again, it is clear that the a fortiori argument put forward is not explicitly found in the Koran, but is a construct proposed ex post facto by commentators. It seems, judging from these two examples, that Hallaq and no doubt other Islamic jurists do not have a clear idea of the difference between literal reading and interpretation. I have so far only found one a fortiori argument in the Koran, and the two examples here offered certainly do not mitigate this poor showing.
Now, assuming that Hallaq has correctly represented Islamic law in this context, the practical purpose of this argument is patent: to provide a legal framework for the lawful expropriation of enemies of Islam, be they still alive or already dead. The argument goes: since the Koran explicitly says they may be killed, then obviously it tacitly intends that they may also be expropriated. This argument can be put in standard negative subjectal form, as follows:
With regard to non-Muslims who engage in war against Muslims, killing them(P) is legally more grave (R) than confiscation of their property (Q), whence:
given thatkillingthem (P) is legally grave (R)notenough to be forbidden (S),
it follows thatconfiscation of their property (Q)is legally grave (R)notenough to be forbidden (S).
Note that this argument is purely a fortiori like the earlier examples and not a crescendo like those immediately preceding it. The argument has to be put in negative subjectal form because it goes from major (killing) to minor (confiscating property). Put like that, the argument looks technically flawless; but as we shall see, this a fortiori discourse is only the tip of the iceberg: there are unspoken aspects to the proposed argument.
Needless to say, the content of this argument is open to much criticism. For a start, the characterization (by Hallaq, at least) of non-Muslims as “unbelievers” is ridiculous – disbelief in Islam does not imply disbelief in God, as here implicitly suggested. The intent of this characterization is, of course, to devaluate non-Moslems, and thus make way for their mistreatment in Islamic law. Secondly, the implication that non-Muslims who engage in war against Muslims are criminal, i.e. deserving of legal sanctions in Islamic law, is also ridiculous, since it makes no distinction between wars of aggression and wars in self-defense (at any rate, Hallaq mentions no such distinction here). Judging by this broad term of reference (viz. “non-Muslims who engage in war against Muslims”), Hallaq and Moslems in general think that non-Moslems have no right to defend themselves against Moslem aggression; this is, of course, resorting to a double standard.
Thirdly, according to commonsense and the legal standards of civilized nations, even if one may lawfully kill an aggressor in self-defense, it does not follow that one may lawfully “confiscate,” i.e. loot, his property. All the more, of course, one may not steal from a non-aggressor, i.e. from a person who was merely trying to defend himself from one’s aggression. This means that the proposed argument is flawed somehow, even if it looks technically okay on the surface. If we were to follow its ‘logic’ thoroughly, then non-Muslims who engage in war against Muslims may not only be killed and have their property confiscated, but may also be tortured, sodomized, and have their wives, daughters and sons raped – they lose all rights as human beings – for each of these brutal acts is, like confiscation of property, considered to be less severe punishment than killing! This is no doubt the general conclusion consciously or subconsciously sought by this argument – a blanket permission to Moslems to do as they please with non-Moslems with the excuse that they dared to fight Moslems.
What, then, is the logical flaw, here? Obviously, a crime cannot haveunlimitedlegal repercussions. It cannot be said that if a crime X1 deserves punishment Y1, then italsodeservesallpunishments (Y2, Y3, etc.) that are less severe than Y1. The underlying idea of the said a fortiori argument is rather that the less severe penalty (e.g. loss of property) may perhaps besubstituted forthe more severe penalty (death); it is not an argument that justifies an accumulation of penalties. Just because death is the most severe penalty, it does not follow that itsubsumesall lesser penalties. It is a maximum penalty, not a genus for all penalties. A crime may well deserve death without deserving a mass of other penalties. Ideally, the penalty reflects the crime, measure for measure: murder is punished by execution, theft is punished by restitution of equivalent property and possibly more (i.e. a fine), and so on – although imprisonment is often used as a substitute penalty, and in some situations financial compensation is considered a fair compromise. There is no concept in rational jurisprudence of all-out vengeance for a single crime, even one deserving capital punishment. Thus, the Islamic interpretation of the said a fortiori argument is abusive: it concludes more than its conclusion. The argument might conceivably be used to justify the imposition of a lesser penaltyinstead ofa greater one, but it cannot be used to stack any number of lesser penaltieson top ofa greater one.
Furthermore, note well, even if we can argue from thepermissibility(i.e. the non-prohibition, as above) of the major penalty to that of the minor penalty, it does not follow that a similar inference is possible from theimperativeof the major penalty to that of the minor penalty. In fact, such reasoning would be invalid: we cannot argue from the premise that a certain crime must be subject to a severe penalty to the conclusion that that same crimemustbe punished by a less severe penalty (whether in addition to or instead of the more severe one). Yet only such a (fallacious) inference would justify the accumulation of penalties that the said Islamic argument seems to advocate. We can further show the absurdity of the proposed argument by substituting the term “no penalty” for the term “confiscation of property,” and say: since killing a criminal is more grave a penalty than letting the criminal off scot-free, then if killing him is permissible, setting him free at will is permissible. Arguing this way would, of course, be the end of the human justice system, which is based on the concept of retaliation (thelex talionis). But moreover, if we assume that the said a fortiori argument allows the minor penalty to be added to the major penalty, as above suggested, then in this case we would obtain a self-contradiction: both the penalty of death and no penalty at all, at once.
In short, the proposed a fortiori argument per se is not formally flawed; what is flawed is the Moslem attempt, consciously or subconsciously, tosubvertthat argument for conclusions that it does not formally afford. In other words, the argument actually proposed, though partly a fortiori, is not entirely a fortiori. Islamic jurists read the conclusion of the a fortiori part in ways that a fortiori reasoning per se does not justify; i.e. they implicitly add layers of meaning to it that it does not logically have. They use it not for strict inference, but to spin their desired final conclusion. Thus, the full argument though disguised as a fortiori, is not really a fortiori. It is not genuine logical discourse, but is just a bit of pseudo-logic designed to provide a legalistic pretext for theft by Moslems of non-Moslem property. This is in addition to the killing by Moslems of non-Moslems, which is allowed (if not called for) by the Koran in the event of any war.
This is, of course, essentially religious discourse, insofar as the protagonists and antagonists are defined by their religious membership. The argument is of course put forward so as to justify Moslem spoliation of non-Moslem property, even after they have killed the owner (and all the more so if they have not killed him); it is an expression of materialist greed. Whether such illogic is cynical manipulation or the result of intellectual confusion finally matters little: the fact remains that Moslems proceed to act on its basis. Ironically, while Moslems evidently consider non-Moslem property theirs to “confiscate” under whatever pretext, they quickly and vehemently object when what they consider to be their property is forcibly taken from them, even if this property was previously “confiscated” by them and is merely being restored to its original owners or their families and descendants or their people! This is of course the situation in Israel – where Arabs claim Jewish lands as their own, conveniently forgetting that they originally stole those lands from the Jews, or from other people who had stolen them from the Jews. This is the meaning of the fashionable characterization of the ancestral land of the Jews as “occupied Arab land.”
It is worth observing, in passing, that Hallaq dishes out the above example of a fortiori argument quite uncritically. He does not raise any of the objections regarding the form or content of the discourse that I have just raised. He lets it all pass without comment as if it is obvious and innocuous. Non-Moslems are “unbelievers;” non-Moslems who engage in war against Moslems may have their property “confiscated.” We would expect a Humanities professor at a prestigious American university at least to question such outrageous assumptions, if not the ‘reasoning’ that is put at their service; but he does not. Surely, one cannot let such things pass without comment by claiming they are outside the scope of one’s study. Presumably, that means that he approves of them. Pity for him; because he piously suspended his critical faculty in this matter, he missed out on discovering an interesting twist in fallacious discourse – viz. the misinterpretation of a legitimate conclusion in order to fit it in with some preconceived agenda.
Attempts to underpin a fortiori argument. Hallaq gives some interesting information concerning how different Islamic jurists have tried to underpin a fortiori argument by describing its modus operandi. Some considered that “no inference is involved [in it] and the matter is purely linguistic,” while others regarded it as “the most compelling form ofqiyas.” This is, really, an issue of formalization and validation. If we do not know how and why an argument ‘works’, we can hardly rely on it to prove anything.
The issue is discussed by Hallaq and others in relation to the following example. The Koran enjoins Moslems: “Say not ‘Fie’ to them [i.e. your parents] neither chide them, but speak to them graciously” (17:23). ‘Fie’ is an interjection (nowadays obsolete) expressing disapproval or even disgust. From this injunction, Islamic commentators infer a fortiori that “actions of the same kind as well as actions exceeding in strength the uttering of ‘fie’, such as striking one’s parents, are prohibited.” There of course is no denying the wisdom of respect for parents, and the necessity to avoid verbally abusing or physically them; this is not the issue here. To clarify what the issue is, precisely, let me restate the proposed a fortiori argument more fully and precisely, in standard form. It is obviously a positive subjectal argument, going from minor (Q) to major (P):
Physically striking one’s parents (P) is morally more serious (R) than verbally abusing them (Q), whence:
given that verbally abusing them (Q)is morally serious (R) enough to be forbidden (S),
it follows that physically striking them(P) is morally serious (R) enough to be forbidden (S).
This is, note, a purely a fortiori argument (the subsidiary predicate S, “forbidden,” being the same in minor premise and conclusion). The middle term (R), viz. “moral seriousness,” has been introduced by me, but is clearly the minimum tacitly intended (if Islam enforces a law relating to parental abuse, the middle term would rather read “legally serious”). Note also that this a fortiori argument is not literally given, or even hinted at, in the Koran. Rather, the Koran passage provides the minor premise, while commentators provide the major premise (which is reasonable enough, because almost everyone would agree to its truth on the basis of normal human sensibility) and draw the conclusion (which is morally undeniable).
The argument is intuitively valid, and indeed since we can put it in standard form we know it can be formally validated (using the methods of validation developed earlier in the present work). This is my own formalization and validation for the reader’s benefit. A fortiori argument undoubtedly appears intuitively valid to Moslems, as it does to all other people. But Moslem commentators are not entirely clear as to how and why it seems valid, or at least they disagree on this issue. It is the debate between Islamic jurists that concerns us, here; it allows us to measure their levels of understanding of this type of argument. Hallaq presents a couple of theories on the subject, plus one of his own.
The purely ‘linguistic’ explanation, regarding how the prohibition of saying ‘fie’ to parents in the above passage of the Koran gives rise to a wider prohibition including violent acts against them, was adopted for instance by the Hanafi jurist Ibn Sahl Sarakhsi (Persian, d. 1096 or 1101 CE). His view was, according to Hallaq, that “the full extent of the meaning of ‘fie’ is in fact encompassed by the meaning of harm.” Thus, the word naturally ranges from expressing disapproval to striking parents, and no inference is involved in applying the Koran’s rule not to say ‘fie’ to other forms of harm. The ‘linguistic’ explanation was opposed by other commentators, such as the Shafi’i jurists Abu Ishaq as-Shirazi (d. 1083) and Abu al-Hasan al-Mawardi (Arab, 972-1058 CE). These emphasized that the language in such case is not conclusive, and inference must be involved. As Hallaq puts it, the conclusion is “deduced from the intention behind the prohibition of uttering the expression ‘fie’, and not intuitively conceived from the very word itself.”
This was the position ofAbu Hamid al-Ghazali(Persian, 1058-1111), also of the Shafi’i school. In his view, Hallaq tells us, “we deduce this prohibition through theratiobehind the necessity to respect parents, and the knowledge that uttering ‘fie’ runs counter to such respect.” This is, for Ghazali, “the very course of reasoning known asqiyas,” here using the termqiyasin its core sense of argument by analogy. Hallaq reduces Ghazali’s argument to the following syllogism: “All harmful acts (directed against one’s parents) are prohibited” and “striking is a harmful act,” therefore, “striking (one’s parents) is prohibited.” In this schema, which I will call ‘syllogistic’, “harm” is assumed by the jurist as the “ratio legis,” i.e. the reason behind or underlying the law, which makes possible the inference from the law against saying ‘fie’ to parents to one against using violence against them. According to Hallaq, this argument is an enthymeme (i.e. incompletely stated), because “the jurists… supplied the implied premise” that saying ‘fie’ is a form of harm.
Hallaq’s own perception of the argument is more in line with what we would regard as a fortiori argument. In his view, the inference is not subsumptive, as Ghazali’s schema suggests, but transitive. It is “asyllogistic,” as it involves “a comparison in terms of ‘more’, ‘greater’, ‘smaller’, etc.” Thus, in the example under consideration, “striking parents ismore objectionable thansaying ‘fie’ to them” (his italics). This is, of course, a more accurate rendering of a fortiori argument; and Hallaq deserves credit for the clarity of his awareness of this premise, which most commentators leave tacit. Thus, Hallaq presents three theories regarding the functioning of a fortiori argument. Two of them are drawn from Islamic tradition; and one is apparently his own, more modern explanation.
Now let me react to these proposals. In my view, the ‘linguistic’ interpretation (in this particular example, at least) is manifestly a cop-out – a mendacious attempt to evade the issue of a fortiori argument by denying the occurrence of an inference. In English common usage, at least, the word ‘fie’onlydenotes verbal abuse, and certainly doesnotconnote physical violence. The latter meaning isread intothe text, rather thanread out ofit. To pretend that the word ‘fie’ equally intends verbal insults and acts of physical violence is therefore to lie. To label something in a convenient manner does not change its real nature. The mental movement from the former to the latter can only be honestly interpreted as inference, and specifically inference from minor to major. This inference is best represented as a fortiori, as above shown; but there is another way to look upon it.
A case could be made for its representation as movement from the thought behind or underlying the saying of ‘fie’ to parents, namely disrespect for them, to a non-verbal and more forceful expression of that same thought, viz. striking parents. We can describe this process more precisely as follows. We start with the Koranic law that “Saying ‘fie’ (to one’s parents) is forbidden” and the commonplace that “Saying ‘fie’ is disrespectful.” From these two premises, we forma third figure syllogism(3/AAI), whose conclusion is: “Some disrespectful acts (to one’s parents) are forbidden”. This conclusion is nextgeneralizedto give: “Alldisrespectful acts (to one’s parents) are forbidden”. This general law is next used as the major premise ofa first figure syllogism(1/AAA), whose minor premise is “Striking (one’s parents) is a disrespectful act” and whose conclusion is “Striking (one’s parents) is forbidden.” The latter is the desired final conclusion. The logical process leading to it thus consists of three stages: a deductive act, followed by an inductive act, followed by another deductive act.
This is a more precise rendering of the analogical process Ghazali must have had in mind than the single “deductive inference” proposed by Hallaq. Hallaq does not show he realizes that what he calls theratio legis(viz. the prohibition of acts harmfultowards parents)is the product of a generalization, an inductive act capable of formal articulation. Hallaq does acknowledge that the ratio depends on a prior insight, when he says that “the jurists… supplied the implied premise,” but he does not clearly describe this prior act. However, although Hallaq does not say so explicitly, he does realize that Ghazali’s analogical schema is not a faithful rendition of what we call a fortiori argument.
Note this well: although Ghazali’s reading is a credible alternative to a fortiori argument in this context, it is not a fortiori argument. Even though it can equally well explain arguments like the ‘fie’ example above given, it does not follow that it describes a fortiori reasoning. For whereas a fortiori depends on quantitative comparisons, the Ghazali formula works equally well with non-quantitative comparisons. From this insight, we can understand why Islamic tradition classifies a fortiori argument under the heading ofqiyas, i.e. analogical argument: it is not because they consider a fortiori argument as analogical (which it is, somewhat), but because the authoritative commentator Ghazali misread its form. This is implied in the continued use of the generic name ‘qiyas’ when referring to what is in fact more specifically a fortiori argument, something quite distinct. There does not seem to be a special name in Arabic for a fortiori argument.
In today’s atmosphere of Islamist intolerance, Hallaq’s approach is brave, in that it is somewhat critical – of both traditional explanations of a fortiori argument, i.e. the ‘linguistic’ of Sarakhsi and the ‘syllogistic’ of Ghazali. The criticism is evident in the fact that Hallaq proposes an alternative, and indeed more accurate, schema – involving the comparative major premise “striking parents ismore objectionable thansaying ‘fie’ to them”. Unfortunately, he does not make his argument fully explicit, as he could have by saying: if saying ‘fie’ to one’s parents is sufficiently objectionable that the Koran explicitly prohibits it, then striking one’s parents must be sufficiently objectionable that the Koran implicitly intended to prohibit it. That is, although Hallaq’s major premise has an explicit middle term (“objectionable”), he does not show awareness of the role played by this middle term in the minor premise and conclusion, i.e. that latter can be drawn from the former due to the sufficiency of the middle term. This is, of course, a serious deficiency in his treatment.
Moreover, Hallaq shows some confusion in his concluding remarks, when he says that a fortiori inference is neither deductive (since its “premises have not been originally stipulated but are themselves conclusions of yet another inference”) nor inductive (because, whereas “in analogy the inference proceeds from a particular to another particular,” in a fortiori argument “there is no such parity”). Both these claims (and the reasons for them) are inaccurate (non-sequiturs). In truth, a fortiori argument per se is deductive, insofar as the premises together definitely imply the conclusion; yet it is also usually inductive, insofar as some elements in it are based on extrapolation or generalization. Additionally, in his view, whereas analogy is based on “a similarity” between the cases compared, in a fortiori argument the conclusion is drawn without appeal to such similarity. This too is inaccurate.Allargument, including a fortiori, and not only argument by analogy, is based on appeal to similarities. The similarity always lies in the middle term – whether this is a particular or a general term.
Nevertheless, on the whole, Hallaq’s presentation is a valuable contribution to the historical study of a fortiori argument. Assuming that his reading of Islamic tradition is reliable and complete, it reveals to us that past Islamic scholars were in factnotable to theoretically understand a fortiori argument correctly, even though they apparently were able to intuitively use it in practice. They either effectively denied that it is inference, dishonestly claiming it is merely a ‘linguistic’ clarification; or they misconceived it as a kind of ‘syllogistic’ inference, from a more general principle to specific cases. Although Hallaq does come up with a third alternative, using a comparative major premise, he does not attribute it to some past Islamic scholars, but presents it as his own.
We could of course say that Hallaq is himself an “Islamic jurist” and thus conclude that Islam has at least lately (through him) produced a credible, albeit partial, explanation of a fortiori argument. However, this is a rather forced conclusion, considering that Hallaq even if well-versed in Islamic laws and methods is no doubt also someone much influenced by his modern Western education, which seems to have begun in Israel and continued in North America. Moreover, the question must be asked whether other Moslems approve of his innovation, or reject it as unorthodox. What is evident anyway, judging from his account, classical Islamic jurists did not manage to truly grasp the distinctive features of a fortiori argument.They could apparently intuitively use the argument (some forms of it, at least) correctly, but they could not pinpoint how and why it works.At least, that is my conclusion based on the information obtained thus far.
On second thought. After writing the above, I had the following reflections. Intuitively, the Koran passage seems to call for the said reading or inference. Why does the Koran mention the lesser sin, and say nothing of the greater sin? Obviously, because if it had only mentioned the greater sin, the lesser one would have remained unknown; but by mentioning the lesser sin, the greater sin was logically included albeit tacitly. Can one imagine saying that “saying ‘fie’ to one’s parents is forbidden” without as well intending that “striking one’s parents is forbidden”? Clearly, one cannot reasonably do so. But how can this be proved more formally? To correctly assess Koran 17:23, it is wise to look at the whole of it. Hallaq, as we have seen, uses the following translation: “Say not ‘fie’ to them neither chide them, but speak to them graciously.” This seems to be largely based on the Pickthall translation, which presents the whole passage in the following terms:
“Thy Lord hath decreed, that ye worship none save Him, and [that ye show] kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with thee, say not ‘Fie’ unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word.”
There is a difference, as can be seen, in that Pickthall’s “nor repulse them” is rather vague. Hallaq’s “neither chide them” suggests a more specifically verbal act of reproach, and some other translations concur in this respect, saying “nor chide them” (Shakir), “nor shout at them” (Muhsin Khan), “nor scold them” (Dr. Ghali). Thus, the expressly forbidden acts (saying ‘fie’, chiding) areverbalones; there is no hint of a larger intention there. Indeed, the rest of that sentence, “but speak to them graciously,” confirms that this Divine decree is concerned, at least primarily, with forms ofspeech. It just says: do not speak ungraciously (by saying ‘fie’ or chiding), but on the contrary do speak graciously (to your parents). If the sentence had been intended more broadly, it would have included some word or phrase indicative of such intent, e.g. “do notso much assay ‘fie’ to them.” Indeed, some translationsinclude these additional words in round or square brackets. The fact that they do so may mean the words are felt to be intended – but they may also mean that they are felt to be needed and yet lacking.
However, if we look beyond that sentence, and notice the preceding sentence, which introduces it, we can assume a larger intent of “kindness to parents.” This is the wording in the Pickthall translation; other translations refer variously to: “good treatment,” “dutiful[ness],” “goodness,” and “fairest companionship,” to parents. Thus, we do in fact have anexplicittextual basis for broadening the application of the decree from mere speech to other forms of action. That is, it can reasonably be claimed that not only ungracious speech, but all forms of unkindness are forbidden. Ungracious speech is only given as an example of the more general prohibition of unkind deeds; thus, it does not exclude, but rather includes, more marked forms of unkindness such as “striking one’s parents.” In view of these insights, the easiest course in this specific example is to syllogistically deduce the interdiction to strike one’s parents from the prohibition of unkindness to them, which is simply the obverse of the command to be kind to them. No generalization is needed, note well, since the general law is already explicitly given.
However, if this is true, we can equally easily infer syllogistically the interdiction to say ‘fie’ to one’s parents and to chide them from the prohibition of any unkindness to them! In that case, what need had the Koran to specify the obvious conclusion about speech in particular? The answer to that could simply be: in order to exemplify the kind of deduction that should be carried out. But then, one might ask, why exemplify by means of the least form of unkindness, rather than by means of a more harsh form, such as striking one’s parents? It is only at this stage that appeal to a fortiori argument becomes relevant again: because prohibition of unkind speech a fortiori implies prohibition of more unkind deeds (such as physical violence), whereas the reverse is not true. Thus, if a fortiori argument is at all involved in this passage of the Koran, it is not in order to deduce the prohibition of harsher forms of unkindness from that of unkind speech (for both these prohibitions are already implicit in the general prohibition of unkindness), but only in order to explain why unkind speech is given as example rather than more unkind deeds.
From here on, we must again judge the pertinence of the various explanations of a fortiori argument. The ‘linguistic’ explanation by Sarakhsi is seen to be inadequate, because even though it is correct in considering that the text explicitly includes the information (viz. the prohibition of all unkindness) needed to obtain the proposed law (viz. prohibition of unkind deeds), this explanation wrongly considers this information to be merely a connotation of the prohibition of unkind speech (whereas it is in fact given in the preceding sentence on the necessity of kindness), and moreover it cannot also explain why the Koran specifically mentions the lesser example (viz. prohibition of unkind speech). As regards the ‘syllogistic’ explanation by Ghazali, it is correct in referring to aratio legis, since one is explicitly given in the text (viz. the necessity of kindness), and from its obverse we can – without even resorting to any generalization – syllogistically deduce the proposed law (viz. prohibition of unkind deeds); however, this explanation does not correctly identify the source of the middle term (viz. the preceding sentence), and moreover, here again, fails to explain why the Koran specifically mentions the lesser example (viz. prohibition of unkind speech).
Thus, only a fortiori argument, correctly conceived – as Hallaq in part succeeds in conceiving it – is capable of explaining the Koran’s specific mention of prohibition of unkind speech and how it implies prohibition of unkind deeds. Whence, we return to the same conclusion; namely, that past Islamic scholars did not succeed in clarifying the nature and validity of a fortiori argument. They could use the argument, but apparently – assuming the accuracy of Hallaq’s historical account – they were not able to grasp its exact conditions and functioning. This is an important finding for historians of logic to note. As regards Hallaq’s own – much better, though incomplete – interpretation of a fortiori argument, we have already suggested that it was probably influenced (even if unconsciously or subconsciously) by his acquaintance with more modern Western reflections on this subject.
Modern usage. Let alone Hallaq’s contemporary interpretation of a fortiori argument, even mere usage of a fortiori argument in today’s context is of questionable origin. Considering the worldwide use of radio, television, telephonic and internet technologies, including their use by very traditional Moslems, we cannot immediately assume when we observe a Moslem speaker or writer using a fortiori argument that he learned this form of argument exclusively from Islamic sources, even if the content of his discourse is entirely Islamic. He may well have absorbed the form from Westerners or from people who absorbed it from Westerners. To illustrate this issue, I give you the following two examples I came across by chance. These two statements were originally in the Arabic language by Islamic commentators. Leaving aside for a moment the obscenity of what they are actually saying, we can see that these arguments are formally valid.
The first argument is an attempt to defend the sexual appetite of the prophet of Islam, Mohammed (who married at least nine women, including a child of six, a captive Jewish married woman and the wife of his adopted son). This sexual appetite, Muhammad Husayn Haykal assures us, “constitute[s] no flaw in the prophethood of Muhammad, in his own greatness or that of his message,” because “the rules which are law to the people at large do not apply to the great.A fortiori, they have no application on prophets, the messengers of God” (my emphasis). Of course, reason would have it that the standards of morality for spiritual leaders should be more stringent than those for common folk of whatever level; but, supposing the apologetic premise of Haykal that the opposite is true, the a fortiori argument would pass: If great men are great enough to be exempt from ordinary morality, then all the more so are prophets (who are greater than great men) exempt.
The second argument, spoken by the Islamic cleric Muhammad Al-‘Arifi, is an explanation as to why Moslem men should beat their wives (as a last resort) only lightly: “Beating in the face is forbidden, even when it comes to animals… If this is true for animals, it isall the moretrue when it comes to humans. So beatings should be light and not in the face” (my emphasis). Here again, without accepting the speaker’s premises that wives may be beaten, or that women may be compared to animals even if favorably, we can admit that the argument is formally passable: If animals have enough dignity that it is forbidden to strike their faces, then women (who have still more dignity) should not be so struck.
From these examples we see, by the way, that a fortiori reasoning can be used for the most nefarious purposes! Their content is definitely Islamic (Judaism and Christianity do not admit such outrageous conduct) – but is their form Islamic? Where did these two Moslems learn to argue a fortiori? Was it solely from Islamic tradition or as a result of Western influence, however indirect? This question is difficult to answer offhand.
I found in the Internet what could be considered a different Moslem attempt to understand a fortiori argument. Hallaq does not mention this alternative theory in his study; that is surprising and suggests his exposé is incomplete somewhat. However, judging from its frequent repetition in the Web, we may assume that this theory is commonly taught in at least some circles. However, I cannot tell when and by whom it was first expounded, as those who use it do not mention its original author.
Definitions and analyses. The theory is apparently founded on the following more detailed definition of the wordqiyas. This means, firstly, “measuring or ascertaining the length, weight or quality of something. Scales are calledmiqyas.” Also, it means “comparison – equality or similarity between two things.” This twofold definition is interesting in that its first fork seems to clearly refer to a fortiori argument, while the second fork seems to refer to argument by analogy in a larger sense (which includes comparisons of quantity) or more narrowly in a residual sense (referring to non-quantitative comparisons). Moreover, note that the Arabic termqiyasas here explicated seems to correspond exactly to the Hebrew termmidah, which likewise refers both specifically to a measurement and more broadly to a hermeneutic principle; this suggests a historical connection between Islamic interpretative techniques and the earlier rabbinic hermeneutic principles. The Arabic word for analogy, as a logical process, is actuallytamthil.
However, as we shall presently see, this definition promises more than is later delivered (in the said webpages, anyway). The theory proceeds by naming three “varieties” ofqiyas(analogy); they are:qiyas al-awla(analogy of the superior),qiyas al-adna(analogy of the inferior), andqiyas al-musawi(analogy of equals). We might at first sight interpret these terms as referring to a fortiori argument, since that likewise includes three essential forms: from minor to major, from major to minor and from equal to equal (i.e.a parior egalitarian a fortiori). However, while it is clear that analogy of equals may refer toa pariargument, it is not clear with regard to the other two varieties which name refers to which argument. Does “of” here mean ‘from’ or ‘to’? Do the terms “superior” and “inferior” correspond to the terms ‘major’ and ‘minor’, respectively – or is the reverse true?
The answer to this question may be forthcoming if we consider how the three varieties are defined.Qiyasis described as an argument with four components: an “original case (asl),” a “new case (far’),” an “effective cause (‘illah)” and a “rule (hukm).” The rule is known to apply to the original case on the basis of a source text, principally the Koran or the Sunna; the new case is a subject for which a ruling is sought, seeing it is not directly dealt with in any source text; a common ground between original and new cases provides a bridge from the former to the latter over which the rule may be carried. Thus, the major premise of the argument is the common ground (which Hallaq termed theratio legis, the reason for the law) between the two cases; the minor premise is the application of the rule to the original case; and the conclusion is the application of the rule to the new case.
From this description, it would seem that what is here meant byqiyasis inference based quite simply on analogy, or perhaps rather the more complex form of analogical inference we earlier saw used by Ghazali. There is no description of the distinctive features of a fortiori argument. Thus, although the initial definition of someqiyaswith reference to measurement, and the subsequent distinction between superior, inferior and equalqiyas, both seem to allude to a fortiori argument, the analysis ofqiyasinto four components (asl, far’, ‘illahandhukm) does not seem to have been made with a fortiori argument in mind. We could admittedly regard theratio legisin its case to be the middle term used to quantitatively compare the major and minor terms; but this would be forcing things, for the said analysis is clearly syllogistic rather than quantitative. That is, it formally proceeds as follows:
(a)‘Original case X is (textually given as) subject to rule S’. But new case Y is not textually given as subject to rule S. (This is based on literal reading of proof-text.)
(b)Items X and Y both have property R (general knowledge, or textually given).
(c)From (a) and (b) it follows by substituting ‘some R’ for ‘X’ that ‘some things that are R are subject to S’. This is a deductive argument (substitution, 3/AAI).
(d)From (c) it follows by generalization that ‘all things that are R are subject to S’,providedthere is no counter-evidence, i.e. no case of Rknownnot to be subject to rule S. This is an inductive argument (note well its negative proviso).
(e)From (b) and (d) it follows syllogistically that ‘New case Y is subject to rule S’. This is a deductive argument (syllogism, 1/AAA).
Notice that in this argument it makes no difference whether the new case Y is quantitatively larger, smaller or equal in some respect to the original case X –the argument works just as well anyway. And it works equally well without reference to any quantitative relation between X and Y. In Talmudic logic, this form of argument is calledbinyan av(lit. father construct, argument by analogy based on a common cause), and we shall here refer to it by this name. In the list of thirteen hermeneutic principles attributed to R. Ishmael ben Elisha (Eretz Israel, 90-135 CE), this is the third principle, after a fortiori argument andgezerah shavah(lit. equal rulings, argument by analogy based on synonymy or homonymy, i.e. on similar wording or meaning). Thus, the argument above described by Moslem commentators (initially by Ghazali, it seems) was one that had been in use for many centuries, very frequently and quite consciously, in rabbinic discourse. And to repeat, this argument is not to be confused with a fortiori argument, in which the middle term R is a scale of quantitative comparison and the conclusion (regarding being subject to rule S)dependson the positions of X and Y on that scale (if X is less than Y, the conclusion follows – but if X is more than Y, it does not).
Most people who try to analyzebinyan av, whether Jewish or Moslem, think of it in the following terms: although it is given in the text that the original case X is subject to rule S,the reason whyX is S is (it is claimed) that X is R and all R are S; this being so, since new case Y is also R, it follows that Y is also S. In this supposed modus operandi, it is assumed that the major premise ‘all R are S’ is knowable through some sort of direct insight; although the text only explicitly gives the more specific ‘X is S’, it is assumed to thereby implicitly intend the more general ‘all R are S’ from which ‘Y is S’ may be deduced. But this is of course a naïve view: as we have just shown the logical process through which we arrive at the desired conclusion is more complex and quite capable of formal representation; it is not an issue of direct insight but a set of deductive and inductive steps.
In view of the above, the three terms ‘analogy of the superior’, ‘analogy of the inferior’ and ‘analogy of equals’ become quite mysterious. Since as we have just clearly shown it makes no difference inbinyan avreasoning whether the new case Y is greater or smaller than, or equal to, or not quantitatively related to, the original case X, since the conclusion is based on generalization and syllogism and not on quantitative comparison, these three terms seem to be quite out of place inbinyan av. It appears that Moslem jurists tried to introduce them artificially, mimicking their use in Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Christian discourse in relation to a fortiori argument, but they did not know quite what to make of them, since they had no clear idea of the distinctive form of a fortiori argument, compared with their essentially non-quantitative analogical arguments (qiyas).
We cannot even assign to these terms epistemic instead of ontical values, for though it could well be said that the conclusion (about Y) isless surethan the premise (about X), due to an inductive act (generalization) intervening between them, it could never be said that the conclusion ismoresure than or even (usually)assure as the premise. Thus, while the term ‘analogy from the superior (to the inferior)’ might thus be given meaning (viz. from the more sure to the less sure), the terms ‘analogy from the inferior (to the superior)’ and (to a lesser extent) ‘analogy from equal (to equal)’ would be meaningless.
What, then, are these terms supposed to designate in Islamic jurisprudence? They are presented as follows. In ‘analogy of the superior’, theratio legis(‘illah) is “more evident” in the new case than the original case, and in ‘analogy of the inferior’, itis “less clearly effective” or “present less clearly” in the new case than the original case,” whereas in ‘analogy of equals’, it is “equally effective” or “equally present” in both. Notice the description of theratio legisas more or less “evident” or “present” (the Arabic word intended seems to bezahir). These terms, “evident,” “present,” or the like, could be intended as ontical or as epistemic – they are not in themselves clear on this point. The main question to ask here, though, is whether or not these definitions are applicable to a fortiori argument. To answer these several questions, we must closely examine some of the examples usually given as illustrations of these definitions.
Illustrations. The example usually given for ‘analogy of the superior’ is Koran 17:23; that is, the argument based on the prohibition of saying ‘fie’ to one’s parents and concluding with the prohibition of striking one’s parents. As we saw in the previous section, if the whole of this verse of the Koran is taken into consideration, there is no need of a fortiori argument to draw the conclusion – it can be drawn syllogistically from the explicitly given general command to be kind to one’s parents; a fortiori argument can still, however, be used incidentally to explain the Koran’s choice of example. But if, for the sake of argument, we ignore the said general command, the desired conclusion can be drawn in two ways: either as by means of abinyan avtype of argument (as Ghazali did, though he did call it thus) or by means of an a fortiori argument (as Hallaq much later suggested). In the latter event, if we use the comparative major premise proposed by Hallaq, and ourselves add the formally required minor premise and conclusion, the argument would look as follows:
Striking one’s parents (P) is more objectionable (R) than saying ‘fie’ to them (Q),
and saying ‘fie’ to them (Q) is objectionable (R) enough to be forbidden (S);
therefore, striking them (P) is objectionable (R) enough to be forbidden (S).
This is a valid positive subjectal a fortiori argument, going from minor term (Q) to major term (P), passing through the middle term (R) to the subsidiary term (S). Thus, from anonticalperspective, this argument can well be labeled ‘analogy of the superior’ in the sense of ‘analogytothe superior (from the inferior)’, i.e.to the moreobjectionable from the less objectionable. Since this is deductive argument, the conclusion is in principle as sure as the major and minor premise combined; i.e. if they are both 100% sure, then it is also 100% sure. However, since only the minor premise is textually given, whereas the major premise is proposed by the interpreter (even if everyone would agree that it is very reasonable indeed), the conclusion may be said to be possibly slightly less sure than the minor premise. Thus, in anepistemicperspective, this argument can only be labeled ‘analogy of the superior’ in the sense of ‘analogyfromthe superior (to the inferior)’, i.e.from the moresure to the less sure. Thus, here, the ontical and epistemic senses of the term ‘analogy of the superior’ are in disagreement. Nevertheless, the example constitutes a credible illustration of a fortiori argument.
Having thus sorted out all the possibilities of interpretation, let us reassess the proposed theory that in ‘analogy of the superior’ theratio legis(‘illah) is “more evident” in the new case than the original case. If the term “evident” is interpreted in an ontical sense, this sentence means that the new case (striking) contains more of theratio legis(objectionable qualities) than the original case (saying ‘fie’) – this is true. If the term “evident” is interpreted in an epistemic sense, the same sentence would mean that the new case (striking) has morecertaintythan the original case – which is usually both in principle and in practice untrue. Therefore, judging by the given definition of ‘analogy of the superior’, we can only credibly interpret it as ontical rather than as epistemic in intent.
We can similarly quickly deal with ‘analogy of equals’. An example often given of this is the following: “according to a Hadith, a container which is licked by a dog must be washed seven times. The Shafi’is extend the same ruling by analogy to a container which is licked by swine.” This example suggests that although dogs and swine are quite distinct animals, they are equal with respect to ‘impurity’ (in Moslem eyes). Thus, any rule concerning ‘impurity’ relative to the one must equally apply to the other. This argument can be equally well conceived asbinyan avor as a fortiori. In thebinyan avapproach, the law regarding vessels licked by dogs is generalized into a law for all ‘impure’ animals; after which this generality, now our major premise, is applied syllogistically to swine. In the a fortiori approach, the major premise declares dogs and swine ‘impure’ to the same degree; thence it follows that if dogs are impure enough that vessels licked by them must be washed seven times, the same applies to swine. However, it is clear from the above quotation that the Moslem interpretation in fact proceeds “by analogy” (i.e. bybinyan av), and not by a fortiori argument. Anyway, as regards the expression ‘analogy of equals’, it is clear that the equality intended here is ontical, because from an epistemic perspective the conclusion is pretty well bound to be less sure than the minor premise in view of the uncertainties inherent in the major premise.
Next, let us consider ‘analogy of the inferior’, which is the most dubious of the three concepts. Remember that this was defined by saying that in such contexttheratio legisis “less clearly effective” or “present less clearly” in the new case than the original case. The following illustration is usually given for this argument:
“The rules ofribaprohibit the exchange of wheat and of other specified commodities unless the two amounts are equal and delivery is immediate. By analogy this rule is extended to apples, since both wheat and apples are edible (according to Shafi’i) and measurable (according to Hanafi)… But the‘illahof thisqiyasis weaker in regard to apples which, unlike wheat, are not a staple food.”
One author remarks, by way of explanation of the term ‘inferior’, that “it is not quite so obvious whether the new case falls under the same ruling which applies to the original case.” The argument can be restated as follows. Under certain conditions (namely, “unless the two amounts are equal and delivery is immediate”), a certain commercial operation relating to one sort of commodity (namely, “exchange of wheat and of other specified commodities”) is forbidden (by “the rules ofriba”). Islamic jurists seek to extend the same interdiction to another sort of commodity (namely, apples). For this purpose, they resort to “analogy” (this is how the argument is characterized in the quoted illustration), through the intermediary of a common property the two commodities (wheat and apples) have in common. One authority (Shafi’i) suggests that the effective common property might be “edibility,” while another authority (Hanafi) suggests that it might rather be “measurability.” However, someone raises the objection that, in either event, the analogy is imperfect, because wheat is a staple food, whereas apples are not. Thus, though the conclusion about apples (the new case) can be drawn from the premise about wheat, etc. (the original case), the conclusion is “weaker” than, or “not quite so obvious” as, that premise.
All this seems reasonable enough at first glance. However, let us look deeper. First, let us note that the common attributes of “edibility” and “measurability” are objectively true of all foods and all physical bodies, respectively; whereas the differentia being or not-being a “staple food” is an issue of custom, i.e. somewhat a subjective attribute. Thus, whereas the former might be confidently presented as candidates for the role ofratio legis, the latter constitutes a somewhat artificial objection. Nevertheless, it was reasonable to look for an objection, because there was a need to explain why wheat was specifically mentioned, and not (say) apples, or foods in general. That is to say, the argument presented is subject to contrary forces: on the one hand, there is a tendency to extend it to other foods (from wheat to apples); and on the other hand, there is resistance to such extension, due to the need to explain why wheat specifically was initially mentioned and not all foods, or at least all foods of a certain kind. It is this tension which generates debate.
Now, what is the logical form of the argument? Is it an argument by analogy (whether simple or of the more complexbinyan avtype) or is it an a fortiori argument (in the true sense of the term)? Obviously, the commentators above quoted consider this an argument “by analogy,” which depends on an “‘illah” (aratio legis), and whose conclusion is relatively “weak.” This is precisely why the argument is referred to ‘analogy of the inferior’ – to signify that the conclusion is “not quite so obvious” as the main premise it is based on, there being some doubt regarding the “effectiveness” of the “effective cause.” Clearly, this argument nowhere appeals to a quantitative comparison between the original case and the new case; apples are not presented as being more or less edible or measurable than wheat. However, the reference to staple foods could be regarded as introducing a quantifiable factor, in that wheat could be said to be more “staple” (i.e. more commonly cultivated and consumed) than apples.
If we take the argument to be analogical, the expression ‘analogy of the inferior’ has no quantitativeratio legisto refer to and therefore must be understood in its epistemic sense – as indicative of the relativeuncertaintyof the conclusion in comparison to the given premise. But this, as we have seen, is something true of almost all argument, whatever its form: the conclusion is always a bit less reliable in some way than the premises giving rise to it. Moreover, we have shown above that the epistemic interpretation of ‘analogy of the superior’ (and likewise of ‘analogy of equals’) is incredible, since the conclusion can never be more reliable than the premises it is derived from. The latter means we cannot use the term ‘analogy of the inferior’ in an epistemic sense anyway, since we cannot use the term ‘analogy of the superior’ (or ‘of equals’) in an epistemic sense – otherwise, our terminology would be incoherent. Therefore, logically, the argument proposed can only be interpreted as a fortiori, if we wish to label it as ‘analogy of the inferior’!
As an a fortiori argument, the above example would read: since wheat (P) is more staple (R) than apples (Q) are, and wheat (P) is staple (R) not enough to avoid subsumption under the rules ofriba(S), it follows a fortiori that apples (Q) are staple (R) not enough to avoid subsumption under the rules ofriba(S). The ‘rules of riba’ are apparently that a food cannot be exchanged, except for an equal amount and with immediate delivery. Notice that the minor premise and conclusion are formulated in a double negative manner, saying: “notenough toavoidsubsumption under,” rather than positively as “enough to be subsumed under.” This is intentional and essential. For if the argument were formulated positively, it would be formally invalid, being positive subjectal and yet going from major to minor. The argument therefore must be formulated negatively, in which case being negative subjectal and going from major to minor, it is formally valid. Clearly, this argument can be credibly interpreted as ‘analogy of the inferior’ in an ontical sense, since it goes for major to minor; and this interpretation is consistent with the ontical interpretation of ‘analogy of the superior’ we arrived at earlier. In other words, this interpretation makes the proposed terminology both meaningful and coherent.
Concluding remarks. It evident that the Islamic jurists who developed the above examples were unaware of the central role played by a fortiori argument in the terminology they appealed to. If the stated examples are interpreted as arguments by analogy, as they indeed interpreted them, then the terminology of ‘analogy of the superior’ and ‘analogy of the inferior’ is not coherent. The examples can indeed be interpreted as analogical arguments, but in that case the proposed terminology cannot be applied to them, because if it is regarded as epistemic in intent it cannot differentiate between the two arguments, since both go from more sure premises to a less sure conclusion, and if it is regarded as ontical, quantitative comparison is not inherent to analogical argument, so there is no basis for reference to ‘more’ or ‘less’. It isonlyin the context of a fortiori argument, properly conceived, that the terms ‘of the superior’ and ‘of the inferior’ become significant and needed.
Evidently, while Islamic jurists were vaguely aware of the existence and efficacy of a fortiori argument, they did not – as far as I can tell from the material found so far – actually integrate this knowledge in their sharia deliberations. They could well have done so, as we have above shown – but in fact they did not. This means that their thinking in these contexts was rather vague and uncertain – lacking in logical skill and understanding. Note in particular, as an added indicator, the fact that both the examples they gave (for analogy ‘of the superior’ and ‘of the inferior’) were positively formulated. This shows that they did not realize that arguments from minor to major and those from major to minor are correlative, the former being positive and the latter accordingly negative (in subjectal moods). While it is undeniable that Shafi’i did correctly formulate some a fortiori arguments of both the minor-to-major and the major-to-minor types (we saw this earlier, in Hallaq’s presentation), it does not follow that the a fortiori form of argument thereafter really played a great role in Islamic jurisprudence. This conclusion is in accord with our earlier conclusion based on Hallaq’s presentation.
It appears from the examples we have just seen, and others like them, that in practice a fortiori argument was never clearly differentiated from other forms of analogical arguments and never really understood. Moreover, the fact that no distinct name (other than the generic wordqiyas) is given to a fortiori argument tends to confirm this overall negative conclusion. Even though the terms ‘analogy of the superior’, ‘analogy of the inferior’ and ‘analogy of equals’ seem to us to refer to a fortiori argument, it does not follow that Islamic jurists using them are aware of their real meaning. I suggest that in their minds these three terms refer to three types of analogical argument in a generic sense, and not to three types of specifically a fortiori argument. I would however say that these terms were ‘borrowed’ by them from a fortiori argument, because in fact (as we demonstrated) they cannot be meaningfully and consistently applied to mere analogical argument. Thus, these terms are used more for the purpose of intellectual posturing than out of real intellectual comprehension.
Islamic jurists might be said to have mastered, more or less, mere argument by analogy, in its more complex form as well as in simpler form, but it seems that they never truly came to grips with a fortiori argument.
Further confirmation. I made additional efforts to test this conclusion, that a fortiori argument though known in Islam and sometimes used, was never theoretically differentiated from complex analogy (i.e.binyan avtype reasoning), and found it again and again confirmed. Of course, such ‘spot checks’ are not as conclusive as an exhaustive study of Islamic literature would be – but they certainly buttress our thesis considerably.
One book I read with this purpose in mind was:A Summary of Logicby Sayid Sadiq Shirazi (1964). Although this book does not claim to be an exhaustive study of logic knowledge in Islam, it does claim to be a summary of its main features.
It refers to three types of reasoning: Induction (istriqra), Analogy (tamtheel) and Syllogism (qiyas), which respectively infer universals from particulars, particulars from particulars and particulars from universals. As regards induction, it distinguishes complete and partial enumeration; and although it does not specify the negative condition for the latter, it does point out that the assumption of generality is sometimes incorrect. As regards syllogism, it includes under this heading: firstly, the positive and negative moods of apodosis, i.e. of hypothetical and disjunctivearguments; secondly, the universal and particular, positive and negative moods of Aristotelian syllogism in four figures; and thirdly, a variety of ‘equational’ arguments, such as what is equal to something is also equal to whatever that thing is equal to, or what is part of something is also part of whatever that thing is part of.
As regards analogy, it analyzes it as usual in terms of four components, viz. the root (asl), the branch (far), the reason (illa) and the ruling (hukm). The ruling (e.g. a prohibition) is transferable from the root to the branch, due to their having in common the reason; if any of the necessary conditions for such inference is lacking, the inference is of course not feasible. The example given is the usual one: the prohibition against wine may be passed on to any other intoxicating substance. What is noteworthy here for our purpose is thatthere is no mention, or even example, of a fortiori argument – let alone any theoretical consideration of its nature. Seeing the degree of detail with which ‘induction’ and ‘syllogism’ are dealt with, one would expect the varieties of analogical argument to be listed too. But ‘analogy’ is presented in a monolithic manner, without any thought of subdivision. This confirms my thesis, that Islamic logic has not clearly assimilated a fortiori argument.
I have briefly looked at other Islamic sources and found them equally silent on the subject of a fortiori argument.
Another book I looked into carefully was a study byRoger Arnaldez(France, 1911-2006), in which he discusses Ghazali’s take onqiyas. The basis of analogical inference is the cause (illa). Ghazali points out errors that may occur in relation to the supposed cause. It may in fact not be a cause, or at least not the relevant cause (in God’s eyes); or it may be wrongly thought to be the whole of the cause, while it is only a part; or it may be the whole, but be wrongly thought to be only a part; or it may indeed be a part, but tied in thought to the wrong other part; or it may relate to the root and branch in different ways; or it may indeed be thought to be the cause, but without certainty, or without clarity. In such events, the proposed analogy is of course not reliable. In any case, the issue according to him is not merely formal or to be resolved by personal insight – the source text and its traditional interpretations have to be referred to.
In this context, Ghazali examines the argument a fortiori, which “draws from what is said (al-mantuq) what is not said (al-maskut).” For example, if saying ‘Fie’ to one’s parents is forbidden, then all the more so is insulting or hitting them. Again, if sacrificing a one-eyed sheep or a sheep missing a leg is forbidden, then sacrificing a blind sheep or a sheep with two legs missing is a fortiori forbidden. Some say noqiyasis needed to draw such conclusions: to them, these are immediately obvious. Others, however, note that the conclusion has some additional (ziyada) factor, which extends the law beyond its literal meaning. For example, if expiation is required of someone who has killed unintentionally, it is also required of someone who has killed intentionally, for in the latter case the sin of hostility is added to that of killing. Again, if the testimony of the impious (a Moslem) is disqualified, all the more so is that of the infidel (a non-Moslem), since the latter is not only impious but also ignorant of the (Islamic idea of) truth.
But such additional factors cannot be proposed with scientific certainty; they are mere opinions. Except wherea quantityis involved, in which case the conclusion is immediately obvious. If the testimony of two witnesses is admitted, then that of three must be; similarly, a blind sheep is twice as inadequate for sacrifice as a one-eyed sheep. However, in some cases the difference isqualitative, rather than quantitative, and the conclusion is not so sure. For example, it is conceivable that expiation is possible for unintentional killing but not for intentional killing, because they differ qualitatively. Admittedly, in some cases the qualitative difference does not affect the conclusion. For instance, a difference in sex or color or size might be irrelevant in a given case. But can such inferences be regarded asqiyas? Some doubt it, and say that a reason for ignoring the difference would have to be adduced.
I will stop my account of Arnaldez’s commentary on Ghazali here, having reached the crux of the issue concerning us – which is whether or not Islamic logic has drawn a clear differentiation between argument by analogy and a fortiori argument. The previous paragraph seems to suggest it has, although it is not clear to me whether the distinction between quantitative and qualitativeziyadais made by Ghazali or by Arnaldez. But, whoever made that distinction, it is inadequate. There is some truth in it; but it is too vague to accurately reflect the formal differences between the two types of argument.
For a start, it cannot be said that quantitative argument is more obvious than qualitative argument. Neither argument is obvious. Whether the terms involved differ in quantity or quality, a premise (be it made explicit or left implicit) is always formally needed to express their difference. That premise may in some cases be obvious to all, but it is still relevant to the argument as a logical process. For instance, the premise that ‘three is more than two’ is obvious to all, but it is still needed to infer a fortiori that the acceptability of three witnesses follows from that of two. Likewise, the premise that ‘intentional killing is more grave a crime than unintentional killing’ may seem obvious to all, but it still needs to be acknowledged as playing a role in drawing a conclusion concerning these qualitative terms. Furthermore, the distinction between quantity and quality is rather tenuous in this context. In fact, as common usage demonstrates, a fortiori argument is frequently possible with terms that are qualitatively different as well as with those that are quantitatively different.
For example, it was claimed above that the reason why “it is conceivable that expiation is possible for unintentional killing but not for intentional killing” is “because they differ qualitatively.” But this explanation is wrong, for we can easily find a respect in which these two terms do differ quantitatively, such as ‘gravity of the crime’. We can then use this comparative proposition as the major premise of a valid a fortiori argument, as follows: given that intentional killing is more grave a crime than unintentional killing, it follows that if unintentional killing is (grave enough to be) not-expiable, then intentional killing is (grave enough to be) not-expiable; and it also follows that if intentional killing is not (grave enough to be) not-expiable, then unintentional killing is not (grave enough to be) not-expiable. But we cannot validly deduce from the fact that unintentional killing is expiable that intentional killing is also expiable, because we conceive a crime to be expiable ininverseproportion to its gravity. Similarly, in some cases differences in sex or color or size might be relevant and in some cases they might not be. But none of this affects the forms of the arguments.
In all the examples above, proposed by Ghazali or Arnaldez, the differences are not formal but material. As I have shown in my formal treatment of the issue earlier in the present volume, the differences between a fortiori argument and argument by analogy are so marked thatneither can be reduced to the other, although the latter may be characterized as a subaltern of the former. Moreover, analogical argument is not necessarily qualitative – it may also be quantitative. Thus, the mere presence of a quantitative distinction is not proof that a fortiori argument is involved. A fortiori argument has two factors one or both of which are absent in argument by analogy: (a) a ‘comparative’ major premise that places the major and minor terms in a common continuum, signified by the middle term, and (b) a ‘suffective’ minor premise that sets a certain quantity of the middle term as precondition for access by its subject to its predicate. Quantitative analogy has (a) but lacks (b), while qualitative analogy lacks both (a) and (b).
Obviously, neither of these conditions for a fortiori argument can be mechanically satisfied given an analogical argument (whether simple or complex). For, even if the qualitative terms P and Q are known to be alike with respect to R, and therefore can theoretically be placed along a quantitative continuum R, we cannot in practice formulate the major premise, without further input of information as to whether P ≥ or ≤ Q. Moreover, even if we manage to formulate the major premise, it does not follow that the minor premise is readily true – i.e. that the subsidiary term S is predicable of the minor term Q (in the case of positive subjectal argument), or the major term P is predicable of the subsidiary term S (in the case of positive predicatal argument),through the intermediary ofa certain measure or degree (a threshold value) of the same middle term R. The crucial factor of sufficiency of R for Q to be S or for S to be P (as the case may be) is always absent in analogical argument; and very often absent too is the information regarding the hierarchy along some middle item R between P and Q.
It is these formal issues that differentiate the arguments, and not a mere quantitative-qualitative distinction. For this reason, the above proposal, whether due to Ghazali or to Arnaldez, is wrong. Therefore, I maintain that Islamic logicians have apparently not managed to formally distinguish between the said two types of argument. Evidently, they vaguely imagined that a fortiori arguments they came across in practice could somehow be cast in the form of complex analogical argument – but they did not realize that doing so would not only cause waste of information but also decrease in certainty. For, whereas well-formed a fortiori argument is deductive, argument by analogy is always inductive (since, as already explained, we must resort to generalization before a conclusion can be drawn). Thus, though in practice Islamic jurists might intuitively use a fortiori argument correctly, they lacked a correct theoretical understanding of that reasoning process.
There is good reason to believe that the hermeneutic principles used in Islam were, at least in part, derived from those used by rabbis in the Mishna and the Talmud to develop Jewish law on the basis of the written and oral Torah. This is reasonable, first of all, because the problem of exegesis faced by Islamic jurists was similar to that faced by the rabbis. Secondly, because it is evident that their solution to that problem was, at least in part, the same – namely, use of simple and complex analogy, i.e. ofgezerah shavahandbinyan av, and (to a lesser extent) use of a fortiori argument, i.e. ofqal vachomer. It can hardly be claimed that Islamic jurists fortuitously ‘rediscovered’ these very same methods, which had been in use in Jewish jurisprudence for about a millennium before and were still being regularly used in countries (notably ‘Palestine’, Syria, Iraq and Persia) that the Arabs conquered. No, the Moslems no doubt learned these methods from the Jews, and possibly others, and adapted them to their own needs. They emphasized what was relatively clear to them (notably, complex analogy – i.e.binyan av), but only partly assimilated other things they did not fully understand (notably, a fortiori argument).
The latter difference is of course not insignificant. Its consequence is that whereas the forms of human reasoning considered most representative of Greek and Roman thought were Aristotelian syllogism and Stoic apodosis (modus pollensandtollens), and most representative of Jewish thought were a fortiori argument and to a lesser extent analogical arguments (includinggezerah shavahandbinyan av) and syllogistic ones (notably themidotof inclusion and exclusion and those of harmonization) – in the case of Islamic thought, analogical arguments (whether simple or complex, qualitative or quantitative) stand out undoubtedly as most representative, so much so that it is debatable whether the word ‘qiyas’ applies to any other form of argument. The most elaborate form of Islamic argument is complex analogy (i.e.binyan av), rather than a fortiori argument. This concentration and dependence on one form of argument above all constitutes, of course, a limitation on the scope and potential of Islamic logic.
It should be said that I have here omitted to mention and deal with many interesting and relevant details. It would be unfair to say that what we have looked into here is all there is to Islamic hermeneutics. It is clear from even the few documents and webpages that I have read on the subject that Moslem jurists have given much thought to these issues, and have done so in a generally intelligent manner and in an atmosphere of considerably free debate. I do not want to seem to be dismissing these centuries of hard work offhand. However, I do believe that the analysis proposed above, of a fortiori argument in an Islamic context, is a fair assessment of the main issues. As regards some of my conclusions, I realize that many Moslems (in their ideological anti-Semitism) are sure to be indignant at the very thought of a debt that Islam may have to Judaism as regards hermeneutics. But this is a prejudice they need to get over.
Already at the level of the Koran, the debt of Islam to Judaism is enormous; see for example the detailed study by Haï Bar-Zeev to that effect. Moslems do not realize it, because they generally refuse to study Judaism (unlike Christians, who have on the whole maintained a profound interest in it). If they but read the Torah, they would surely be shocked to discover just how much of the Koran was derived, sometimes to be surehaphazardly and in a distorted manner, from the Torah; and, by the way, this would indeed help them better understand the Koran. Naturally, as a consequence, Islam shares many beliefs and values with Judaism, though they also disagree on many points. There are also, very probably, many correspondences to be found between the Islamic oral tradition given in the hadiths and various sources in Judaism.
There are likewise a great many convergences, as well as divergences, between later Islamic law (sharia) and the much earlier Jewish body of law (halakha). An extensive and detailed study of this matter needs to be done by someone – perhaps there are already published studies that I am not aware of. But even at a glance, the similarities are striking and undeniable, even if there are some significant differences in some details. Clearly, seeing their number and degrees, such similarities cannot be honestly attributed to mere chance. The same applies to the specific domain of hermeneutics. The Islamic principles of jurisprudence are very often almost identical to those developed in Judaism. This is no surprise, for the reason I already stated: similar problems often give rise to similar solutions.
One example that can be given offhand is the rule in Islam that “one qiyas may not constitute the asl of another qiyas;” that is to say, the conclusion of oneqiyascannot be used as the premise of a subsequentqiyas. There is a similar rule in Judaism. Again, we find a rule in Islamic hermeneutics very similar to thedayoprinciple in Judaism. Consider the following “restrictions on the operation of qiyas in regard to crimes and penalties:”
“There is a Hadith which provides: ‘drop the hudud [penalties] in cases of doubt as far as possible. If there is a way out, then clear the way, for in penalties, if the Imam makes an error on the side of leniency, it is better than making an error on the side of severity’.”
With regard to penalties, says this hadith, leniency is preferable to severity; for if there is an error of fact or of judgment, it is better to punish too little than too much. This could of course be compared to the rule found in Christian canon law (possibly based on Roman law, or possibly on Jewish law): “In poenis bensignior est interpretatio facienda;” that is, in English translation: “In penalties, the more benign interpretation is to be applied.”Nevertheless, it is interesting that the same rule is found in Judaism; and that at least as of Mishnaic times, i.e. long before Christian canon law was developed (and possibly even before the equivalent, if any, in Roman law – though this yet needs investigation). In Judaism, the rule is worded as: “Dayo lavo min hadin lihiot kenidon;” which in English means: “It is quite sufficient if the law in respect of the thing inferred is equivalent to that from which it is derived.”This means that it is forbidden to infer agreaterpenalty for a greater crime from the penalty for a lesser crime textually given in the Torah; onlythe samepenalty may be inferred. The focus here, note well, is on inference – and more specifically, apparently (in view of the original context), on a fortiori inference. The Islamic rule is not exactly identical, but clearly very similar. Clearly, there is every reason to expect some causal connection (if only by way of inspiration) between the rule in Islam and the comparable rules in earlier systems of law, and in particular the Judaic system which is generally the most similar.
To be sure, not everyone agrees with this hermeneutic restriction in Islam, any more than in Judaism. In Judaism, it appears that R. Tarfon disagreed with his colleagues, the Sages, in this regard; at least, this is the impression given by the relevant Mishna, even if the later Gemara relative to it attempts to claim they all agreed in principle. In Islam, too, there seems to be some disagreement. There is in Islam some resistance to the inference of even anequalpenalty for a more serious crime, let alone more severe penalty. Thus, some scholars (Abu Hanifah is mentioned) argued that: “The Lawgiver has prescribed the amputation of hand for committing theft, but he has not prescribed it for making correspondence with the infidels in the enemy territory, although the latter is more serious.” Such rejection of logical inference is, of course, a fundamentalist and anti-rationalist posture. But a majority of scholars (including, we are told, Al-Shafi’i, Ahmad, Ibn al Qassar) supported use ofqiyas(i.e. inference by analogy) in such cases, arguing it did not apply in the said particular instance because “as regards theft and correspondence with the infidels, there is a difference between the two.”
But of course, thedayoprinciple relates principally toproportionalreasoning. We find such reasoning being both used and challenged in Islam, as the following anecdote illustrates: “In this authentic Hadith which is from Aban Ibn Taghlib from Abi ‘Abdillah Al-sadiq who said I asked the Imam, ‘What do you say sir, about a man who has cut one of the fingers of a woman and how much must he pay in compensation?’ The Imam replied, ‘The compensation is ten camels.’ I asked, ‘What if he cut two fingers?’ The Imam replied, ‘Twenty camels’. I asked, ‘What if he cut three fingers?’ The Imam replied, ‘Thirty camels’. I asked, ‘What if he cut four fingers?’ The Imam replied, ‘Twenty camels.’” The questioner is understandably befuddled by the last reply, but the Imam explains that, by “decree of the holy Prophet,” there is an upper limit after which the compensation decreases.
The latter explanation makes no sense (to me at least). All it really means is that Mohammed arbitrarily decided to deny constant proportionality between the crime and the punishment in this case. There is a pro rata relationship between them only part of the way. The compensation varies in direct proportion to the number of fingers cut (10 camels for 1 finger, 20 for 2, 30 for 3), but then (as of 4 fingers) the proportionality breaks down, and is even reversed. One could argue convincingly that the compensation of thirty camels is a ceiling – so that it is the same for more than three fingers as for three fingers. But I do not see how one might argue that the compensation decreases for four fingers! It does not seem just – it seems to reward increased cruelty. Irregular proportionality (involving ups and downs) is not inconceivable – but it does not make sense in this particular case.
The dangers of dogmatism. We can no doubt adduce many more examples of parallelism between Islamic and Judaic jurisprudence, but we shall not pursue the matter further here, as it is not the main object of our research and a very large study would be needed to fully document this thesis. I am not saying that Islamic religion and jurisprudence are entirely second-hand; but I am saying that they are far from original – and that this is something that Moslems should be made acutely aware of. The reason they urgently need to know this is that such knowledge would considerably dampen their excessive pride and feelings of supremacy, which cause them to think, speak and behave arrogantly and insultingly towards others.
There is an enormous amount of material about Islam on the Internet. If for instance you search for the word ‘qiyas’ in Google, it returns about 675,000 results. Some search strings yield results numbering in the millions. This is I venture to say out of all proportion to the importance of Islam in world culture; but, I suspect, much of it is probably financed directly or indirectly with oil money for propaganda purposes. Be that as it may, much of the Islamic educational material is repetitive, and repetitiveness is indicative of a deficiency of critical and novel thought. Moreover, the material is presented by its authors with great solemnity, using modern methods of orderly presentation – textbook-style lay out, with numbered and lettered paragraphs, and conflicting opinions by Islamic commentators carefully and respectfully reported. The message conveyed by this sort of stately discourse is that the Islamic religion as a whole, and especially Islamic jurisprudence, constitutes a profound and final ‘science’.
At first, this sort of hubris is comical, being manifestly naïve; but upon reflection it is a very worrying phenomenon, being so totally devoid of humor. I suspect such dogmatic certitude leads many an ignorant Moslem, eager to do the will of Allah and thus earn a choice place on earth and in heaven, to believe that Islam is the last word on truth and therefore can and must be unconditionally and thoroughly obeyed, even to the point of killing innocent people. I do not say all Moslems react in this idiotic and selfish manner. Some are presumably more balanced mentally. But evidently hundreds, if not thousands, or even maybe hundreds of thousands, of Moslems today do so react and thence engage in a terrorist career, doing great harm to world peace and prosperity, not to mention our planet’s ecology. There is no denying the fact: we are pounded with it every day in the news. So, the matter is serious.
Thus, it is very important for thinking Moslems to realize and publicly admit that Islam in general, and Islamic jurisprudence in particular, is not a body of knowledge productive of utter certainties. It is a faith, which must be received if at all with the caution befitting a faith. Ideally, faith implies intellectual humility and modesty, i.e. inner and public admission of ignorance. Moslems must learn to approach their religion with a more scientific spirit; that is, with willingness to ask difficult questions and demand convincing answers, and a healthy-minded refusal to be bamboozled into submission through spine-chilling threats and fanciful promises. This is a mature and intelligent attitude, which ensures that truth is upheld and not smothered. As we have shown in this paper, even if Islam has resorted to some logic, its logical scope has been rather limited. There are many logical processes – notably, a fortiori argumentation – which it has not fully understood and assimilated. It is important for Moslems to grasp this fact.
The all-importance of history. Religion has both good and bad impacts on individuals and society. This is true of all religions, though no doubt in different ways and to varying degrees. To personally and collectively overcome the negative influences of any religion, it is important to know and understand that it has a history. Its holy book has a history; its oral traditions have a history; the laws derived from these sources have a history; the means used to derive these laws have a history; everything to do with religion, as with any other human endeavor, has a history. That history may not always be known, and even may not be entirely knowable. But every effort must be made to increase our collective and individual knowledge of it.
The reason for that is that history introduces into human affairs the crucial dimension of time. It tells us of the evolution and development of the things we face today. It addsdepthto our perceptions of things. Without historical perspective, everything looks fixed and final; things have always been so and therefore will always continue to be so; no idea is therefore open to review or revision. Whereas, when time and change are taken into account, when we realize that the situation was not always what it is today and need not remain as it is today, we become free to rethink and remake the world. Awareness of historical development is liberating. It enables our wise judgment. It frees us from compulsively repeating the mistakes of the past.
With regard to the four sources of Islamic jurisprudence, the first question to ask is: what aretheirsources? And indeed, what is the source of this doctrine of four sources? It is not enough to piously acquire flat knowledge of the final product. We need to know its history, how it emerged out of the deeps of time, so as to be able to evaluate it correctly. The doctrine evolved gradually over more than a century, starting about one century after Mohammed’s death; it was not handed down ready-made by him. In this perspective, a historical study like Hallaq’s is very welcome and illuminating; his work is a lucid presentation of the development of Islamic (or at least, Sunni) legal thought. Nevertheless, even though his work is not dogmatic or apologetic, but constitutes a sincere research report, Hallaq does not question Islam radically enough.
With regard to the Koran, for a start, though he acknowledges that doubts have in recent times been sown by academics regarding its age and authorship, he dismisses these attempts at critical history rather shortly. As far as he is concerned, the Koran is a reliable document, which “originated during the lifetime of the Prophet” and “reflected events and ideas that occurred then.” Whatever it says, he takes to be an “authentic representation” of things as they in fact were, and he justifies this “assumption” by “the absence of noteworthy evidence to the contrary.” This is clearly a very conservative stance, which has been shown to be quite unjustified by recent studies (summarized by Spencer). There is much evidence within and outside the Koran to suggest that it is a much later production. By taking the Koran for granted at the outset, Hallaq throws considerable doubt on his scientific credentials. His dedication to impartial truth is clearly not total and unconditional. This means he must be considered as, at least to some extent, a Moslem apologist.
With regard to the Sunna, his position is, at least in theory, a lot more open; but in practice he does not return to this issue very much. In other words, he on the whole accepts the judgments of Islamic jurists as to the authenticity of this or that hadith, without greatly questioning the credibility of their standards of judgment. He does conceive as rather “historiographically problematical… the authenticity of the reports about the deeds and utterances of the Prophet,” and mentions studies by “Goldziher, Schacht and Juynboll, among others” which suggest that “Prophetic reports were fabricated at a later stage in Islamic history” and “gradually projected back to the Prophet;” but he immediately adds that more recent research and critical studies showing that “while a great bulk of Prophetic reports may have originated many decades after the Hijra, there exists a body of material that can be dated to the Prophet’s time.”
Thus, he concludes, though he does not “a prioripreclude” all the reports as unauthentic, he does not either “accept their majority, even though many may have been admitted as authentic (sahih) by the Muslim ‘science’ ofhadithcriticism.” This suggests Hallaq is willing to think for himself to some extent, and not necessarily tow the orthodox line. Here he is, of course, on less dangerous ground, since there have always anyway been controversies within Islam regarding the hadiths. With regard to ‘consensus’ and to ‘qiyas’, he is again not sufficiently critical. Overall, we may say that, though Hallaq is occasionally willing to criticize the form of Islamic law, he rarely displays thechutzpahneeded to judge or even merely question its content.
According to the testimony of a police informant, the terrorist Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif (aka Joseph Anthony Davis), referring to the murder of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, by another terrorist a couple of years earlier, argued a fortiori as follows (presumably in English): “If one person could kill so many, three attackers could kill many more!” He intended “to storm a Seattle military recruitment center with machine guns and grenades,” but was arrested before he could carry out his plot.
Evidently, although Islamic terrorists, and the ‘theoreticians’ of Islam who encourage them, are mentally deranged, suffering from severe dysfunctions of their emotional and rational faculties, they are quite capable of making inferences within the framework of their deadly belief-system. Just as the Nazis or Communists were capable of reasoning to some extent, enough to produce their tanks and concentration camps, so today’s Islamists are able to manipulate mobile phones and hi-tech guns. This is reason in the service of madness.
Everyone, or almost everyone, has the capacity to reason to some extent – but the question is always: to what extent? Obviously, people whose commitment to reason is very tenuous and circumscribed, consisting of occasional ad hoc reasoning acts, cannot rightly be called rational. Only people whose commitment to reason is firm and consistent can rightly be characterized as rational. This brings us to the issue of the essence of Islamic discourse: is it rational or irrational? Although, as we have seen, Islam has a tradition of genuine logic, it must be said that the overarching ‘arguments’ of Islam, the principal means of its propagation, are and have always been violence and threats of violence, and lying and pretending. We shall now expose this fact.
In any study of the logic of a particular culture, it is important to draw a distinction between its essential means of discourse, through which the culture is principally formed and sustained, and the relatively incidental aspects of its discourse. The logician cannot merely list forms of argument, without critical consideration of their effective hierarchy. His analysis must aim for the essence of the matter. Let us, then, be frank. The essence of Islamic discourse is, evidently, violence and the threat of more violence, and lying and pretending. Comparatively, all other forms of argument used in Islam pale into insignificance. It is not an accident that Islamic discourse today is so charged with anger, hatred and aggressiveness – these qualities are already manifest in Islam’s founding document, the Unholy Koran. Today’s Islamic discourse is just reviving and mimicking the tone and tactics exemplified in the Koran.
The primary ‘argument’ of Islamic logic is—physical intimidation, i.e. the explicit or implicit threat of violent reprisal if you disagree with Islam in any significant way. This ‘might is right’ argument is evident in many statements and stories in the Koran and the hadiths (the oral traditions of Islam), and in consequent Islamic law (Sharia), and the consequent behavior throughout history and today of Islamic régimes and groups. The physical intimidation argument is used on Moslems (e.g. apostates risk execution, so-called honor killings are tacitly encouraged), and against non-Moslems when these are under their power (Jews and Christians are forced to convert or at least pay ‘protection money’ (jizya) or be executed, while other non-Moslemsmust either convert or face death). When non-Moslems are not under their power, they threaten them with deadly riots or terrorist acts. Of course, verbal threats have no persuasive power if not backed up by actual violence now and then.
And it works! Witness the way today most Western governments, academics and journalists are cowed into praising Islam and disapproving of anyone who criticizes it. Of course, these people do not admit themselves as intimidated; their mentality is that of people with the ‘Stockholm syndrome’. They are hostages who are so thoroughly cowed that, instead of turning their wrath on the thugs victimizing them, curse and oppose the heroes who try to resist and oppose the thugs. Such people think that denial, passivity, appeasement and accommodation will save them – whereas it is precisely such timid responses that will cause their perdition and enslavement to the proponents of this evil doctrine, which aims at world domination and totalitarian control of everyone’s life, and not incidentally intends to attempt another Holocaust of the Jews.
Another ‘argument’ of Islamic logic is—deception, i.e. Moslems lying and pretending so as to gradually subdue their potential victims without their true intentions and identity being evident. They may lie by commission (takkiya) or by omission (kitman). This non-violent tool of persuasion is used in conjunction with that of violence and threats of violence, so as to psychologically allow the submissive victims (who may already be characterized asdhimmis, the name given to second-class citizens in a Moslem state) to maintain an illusion self-esteem. In this context, the predators pose as innocent victims of those who resist them and appeal to the scared portion of their prey for protection against the resistors.
One of the most successful acts of deceit is recent times has been the cunning redefinition of ‘terrorism’ by Moslems (and their ‘leftist’ sympathizers), as referring to acts of violence aimed at civilians, or at least with civilian casualties (even if they are incidental to a military operation). But this is not the essence of the matter. What distinguishes terrorism is that it involvesthe initiation of violence, or even the initiation of a threat of violence. It is the use of violence as an ‘argument’ against people who were not using force against the perpetrators. Thus, a soldier may be a victim of terrorism. When the intended victims are civilian, this is just a greater degree of terrorism. But violence aimed at combating terrorism is not terrorism. There is no ‘moral equivalency’ between thugs and police forces. The issue is always: who started it, really? Islamic terror, although it pretends to be defensive, is always aggressive – simply because it is triggered and driven by a perpetual religious imperative of global conquest. Terrorists usually give pretexts for their heinous acts, but their real motive is always ideological, viz. “holy war” (jihad).
The purpose of such redefinition is to blur the distinction between terrorism and anti-terrorism in the public’s mind. Those who murder in the name of Islam are presented as freedom fighters struggling against imperialism and colonialism, or racism, while their victims are depicted as callous oppressors who ‘had it coming’. Using their positions of influence and considerable propaganda skills, Western leftistshelp to create and confirm this upside-down narrative. Moreover, anyone who dares to challenge it, demanding truth and justice, is slandered and diabolized as a ‘right-wing extremist’ or ‘Islamophobe’. This is social intimidation, aimed at silencing opponents through fear of disrepute and ostracism. This is also a form of terror, of course—terror being action intended to cause governments and populations tofearfullysubmit to overt or stealthy aggression. Nowadays, even our judges and police are not immune to such insidious pressures, allowing illegal acts from Moslems they would never allow from others.
Note well the inversion: Islam, an utterly oppressive and intolerant, fascistic and bloodthirsty movement is presented as ‘politically correct’, while those who bravely denounce it and oppose it are reviled. Those who do the reviling categorically refuse to admit, or even consider the possibility, that the religious and political teaching of Islam isthe causeof the crimes of Moslems who engage in jihadi terrorism or other inhumane acts. Such people shunt aside all evidence brought to their attention of the criminality of those they passionately defend, preferring instead to ‘shoot the messenger’, i.e. to attack those who present them with the facts. They conceal the facts from people and even make efforts to excuse crimes, so as to grant them no reality. Not psychologically disposed to admit their cowardice, they simply deny its object.
Leftists who perform this sleight of hand are scared stiff that if they acknowledged that Islam is a menace, they would be obliged to do something about it, which would stir up still more trouble and make yet more demands on them. They apparently think that if they are sweet to the fundamentalist Moslems, they will be spared from their wrath. As a result, ‘Islamization’ is proceeding apace, unhindered, indeed aided by them. Europe and North America are hurtling towards what promises to be one of the darkest, most horrific periods in human history. When the Moslems come to power, as could happen within a few short years at the rate things are going, the leftists will be among the first victims of their cruel tyranny. The leftists’ collaborationism will certainly not save them, since their ideology is objectively incompatible with that of Islam. They will be remembered by those they helped to come to power as ‘useful idiots’.
Physical intimidation and deception are ‘arguments’ in the sense that they are used to make others submit to certain demands or adopt certain beliefs and practices; but of course, they are notrationalarguments. People resort to such irrational means when they believe reason to be incapable of moving their respondents, because these lack the requisite intelligence or honesty – or when they have no rational arguments to offer them. Moslems, believing that Islam is Divinely-ordained, think that all people who refuse to submit to its dictates must be stupid or evil. But of course, their blind faith in Islam is not rational justification for the violent and dishonest means they use to propagate it. Therefore, it is they, rather than the victims of their intolerance, who are deficient in intelligence and/or goodness.
The logical flaw, the contradiction, in the Islamic rationalization is that you cannot force or trick a volitional being into being moral, since morality depends on thefreeexercise of freewill. An act of will performed under coercion or ruse cannot constitute a moral act; people mustchooseto be moral. It is therefore unthinkable that God enjoins forcing or tricking people into (allegedly) moral behavior. Moreover, if Islam does not believe in human freewill, as seems to be the case, it cannot claim to be an instrument of morality. If human behavior is, as Islam apparently advocates, predestined (Moslems often saymaktoob– meaning, ‘it is written’), then there is logically no such thing as good or bad. Then anything goes, i.e. force and trickery are not reprehensible, although not morally justifiable. Thus, underlying Islamic use of coercion and ruse is a profound contempt for humankind, a denial of human dignity. Either way, Moslems who indulge in such practices, and those who effectively support them, cannot claim to be defending morality.
Islamic logic does also make use of rational or rational-seeming arguments in circumscribed contexts, but its overarching arguments – the arguments through which it has taken power and continues to spread – are the said irrational ones. These are very powerful arguments – even I, as I write these few lines, wonder whether some mad-as-hell Moslem fanatic will try to murder me when I publish them, or whether some people in authority subject to the Stockholm syndrome will try to suppress their publication. People who submit to such fears, and allow others to intimidate or fool them without reacting, effectively rush headlong like lemmings to their own destruction. Where there’s no will, there’s no way. By refusing to confront the ongoing world jihad head on, by first acknowledging its religious source and motive and then reacting as necessary, they hasten the realization of the nightmare global dictatorship it aims for.
Some reflections on current events. If things go on like this, future historians will say that the super-powerful West was defeated by a mere handful of Islamist terrorists in a single day, on September 11, 2001. True, the Americans and some of their European allies at first responded forcefully to the aggression, by attacking Afghanistan and later Iraq. But under pressure of their mainstream media, their defiance and determination soon flagged, and they chose instead a course of resolute self-deception and self-paralysis. They opened the way to their own total defeat, by refusing to even name their enemy (Islam) let alone take all necessary action to decisively neutralize him. They now behave like prey frozen with fear, ready meat for the ruthless predator.
Such fearfulness is contrary to logic, which teaches that before one can solve a problem, one has to acknowledge its existence and identify its true nature; then one must respond accordingly, or face defeat. The lessons of history are clear on this point: denying reality and refusing to act in accordance with it is a sure way to self-destruction. A danger won’t go away by being carefully ignored; it will only grow and grow. The enemy advances step by step; each step is too little to make much of, but the advances soon add up. This is clear with the now proverbial Munich agreement of 1938, between Chamberlain and Hitler.
The policy of appeasement and accommodation towards Islam started with U.S. President George W. Bush, even though his opponents paint him as a warmonger. Bush was of course only reflecting American ‘public opinion’, which was well orchestrated by the major (mostly leftist) media. These same forces soon replaced Bush with the more photogenic and likeminded Barack Hussein Obama. Even if Obama claims to be a Christian, the fact remains that he is a Moslem according to Islamic law, because his father was one. Moreover, he had some Moslem education in his youth (in Indonesia), and has never publicly renounced Islam. Indeed, instead of denouncing its brutality and hegemonic ambitions, he loudly praises it. He does not seem very concerned with the persecution of Christian and other minorities in Moslem lands. But most importantly, his behavior since he became U.S. President (in 2009) shows he has considerable sympathies with Moslem causes both nationally and internationally. Thanks to his policies, the Islamic grand project is moving forward on all fronts.
The election of an Islam-friendly President after 9/11 was surely no ‘accident’, but a statement by the people who brought him to power that they were duly impressed by that mega terrorist act and similar expressions of hatred, and wished to express their ‘friendliness’ to those responsible. I am not suggesting that Obama was a ‘Manchurian candidate’ injected by pro-Moslem conspirators; his is more likely a lone-wolf plot. But I am saying that his election was uncannily timely, effectively allowing the cowed portion of the American public to send a message of capitulation and abject submission to their aggressors. It is significant that those who had doubts about Obama’s constitutional eligibility to run for the office of President (due to questions regarding his birthplace and his father’s nationality) were never allowed their day in court. Amazingly, no one in the U.S. judiciary was the least curious about what might very well turn out to bethe biggest scam and usurpation of power in world history! We may well wonder, in view of this, what future there is for the rule of law and democracy in America.
The above remarks are perhaps as much a commentary on the sick ‘logic’ of Western cowards as on Islamic ‘logic’. As regards the latter, physical intimidation and deception have, to repeat, proved very successful. As for rational or pseudo-rational arguments, they are used within Islamic societies for purposes of control, and not as in Western culture for the purpose of discovering truth or developing useful gadgets. Their main use is of course to develop Islamic law, based on the Koran and the hadiths; but these are composed of dogmas immune to rational criticism, forever closed to revision or repeal. Within this limited framework, there may well be some logical thinking– although we must never forget that even if the form is logical, it does not follow that the content is logically sustainable let alone objectively true. The use of some logic does not vindicate the whole enterprise.
Looking at the history of Islamic societies, what is evident is how little they have contributed to the welfare and advancement of mankind. They have, to be sure, made some contributions to philosophy and mathematics way back in the Middle Ages, following their encounters with Greek and Indian thought. But their rationalism, creativity and productivity soon petered out, for the simple reason that their founding doctrine is essentially reactionary and repressive. Without freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and freedom of conscience (choice of this or that faith or even of non-faith), human welfare and progress are impossible. Logic can only properly function within a free mind, in a free society. To mention one statistical index – consider how very few Nobel prizes (just two) have been awarded to Moslems for contributions to science or technology. It is shocking that a cultural group that is currently at the very back of the class nevertheless wishes to take over the world and rule it. And of course, loot it.
Prospects. As we have seen, Islamic discourse, whether intended for internal or external consumption, consists mainly of violent acts and threats of more violence, and lying and pretending. These are its main ‘arguments’, through which it has progressed in the past and through which it lately again hopes to take over the world and rule it.
Whether out of intellectual mediocrity or out of moral cowardice, Moslems very early in their history lost their intellectual and other freedoms. They had only themselves to blame. Now, driven by the intense inner suffering their religion causes them, by confining them in one of the dreariest forms of existence ever devised by men, more and more of them want to impose the same suffering on the rest of humanity. People who feel miserable are always looking for others to blame for their pain, and so are easy targets for hate-mongers. A happy person simply cannot feel the sort of malevolence they are taught.
Admittedly, Moslems are not all the same. As in any religion, the adherents range in degree of commitment from zero to extreme. A few, a very few, born Moslems have the wisdom and courage to criticize and even actively combat Islam. Many Moslems are Moslem only in name – their religious practice is perfunctory, if not nil. Many others, no doubt, practice out of conformism, i.e. to signal their inclusion in the society around them. Still others, no doubt, feel an emotional attachment to God, and know of no other way to express it than through practicing the religion they were born into. Some of the preceding may become more devout out of personal need for self-discipline and a purpose in life. Some of those may go much further and become fanatics, driven by the desire to surpass and dominate their neighbors. Evident in the latter are grave psychological problems: lacking a sense of identity, they seek to be acknowledged members of a group; and lacking self-respect they yearn to be feared by everyone.
Clearly, not all Moslems are actual terrorists, or even incipient ones. Some Moslems may well be considered as “moderate,”notbecause normative Islam is moderate, but because they wisely don’t really buy it. However, ultimately the true test of moderation is opposition to extremism. If ordinary Moslems remain silent and passive in the face of the jihadists’ excesses (to put it mildly), they become effectively accomplices. It is primarily their responsibility to loudly condemn and resolutely eject from their midst the bad apples, who are enemies of all humanity. In any event, some Moslems, though not themselves actual terrorists, do ideologically or financially positively support terrorism, or at least secretly take pride in the actions of the terrorists; these certainly cannot be called “moderate,” even if there is no visible blood on their hands – they are de facto accomplices to terrorism. And a big problem for the world right now is that the latter group seems to be growing. Moreover, even if most Moslems do not yet engage in terrorism, the fact remains that most terrorists nowadays are Moslems. Since they are people who engage in terrorism in the name of Islam, it is true to say, and it would be a lie to deny, that there is a causal connection between Islam and terrorism.
And indeed if one examines Islamic doctrine honestly, one cannot but be struck by its extreme virulence. Moslems who become terrorists are radicals – people who take the imperative of violent jihad literally and wish to put it in practice fully. Therefore, the doctrine they refer to isthe main causeof their savagery; it is not merely an accidental conjunct, as wishful-thinking apologists claim. The problem with Islam is not the divinity and religious rituals it advocates – who cares, nowadays? Everyone has a right to believe and worship as they see fit,so long as they hurt no one else. The problem with Islam is that its most radical adherents, the so-called Islamists, try to force less convinced Moslems as well as all non-Moslems to believe or do as they want them to. This is the problem –force. These people have not yet understood that other people have natural rights to life and liberty, and to their own conscience. That is why Islamists and those who cheer them on deserve to be described as uncivilized. To be intolerant of Islam does not constitute religious or racial intolerance – it is wise intolerance of brutal intolerance; the action and the reaction are morally very different.
Jihadists evidently imagine that God is pleased with their orgies of massacre and mayhem. They could hardly be more stupid. God is surely utterly disgusted by their wanton destruction of human life and property, and all the more so because it is alleged to be done in His name. God is not vain; He does not need the flattery of criminals. These people must be quite deluded to think that God, Who created this world and humanity out of love, and Who delights in the peace and welfare of His creatures, would condone such insane behavior. In the Torah of Moses, God commands: do not kill, do not steal, do not covet; do not hate, do not bear a grudge, but love your neighbor as yourself. A psalmof David urges: seek peace and pursue it. The Mishnaic sage Hillel taught: do not do to your fellow that which is hateful to you. Likewise, the Talmud teaches that indulgence in anger is equivalent to idolatry. It also teaches that wisdom departs from an angry sage, and his prophetic powers depart from an angry prophet. Truly, the angry are mad – anger is madness. God certainly prefers a peaceful “unbeliever” to a murderous “believer.”
Islam has, through the misdeeds of its fanatics, given itself a lasting bad name. These people claim to be fighting for God and religion, but in fact the effect of their cruel deeds is to turn decent people away from religion and even, by association, from God. Unfortunately, for various reasons already mentioned, Islam seems to be currently waxing rather than waning. I solemnly pray to God that Moslems who take part in this calamitous revival wake up soon, and shake off the ignorance and blind hatred that currently afflicts them, and keeps them very far from spiritual enlightenment and liberation. They need to muster a healthy dose of critical thought, and have the courage to question and reject the many elements of mainstream Islamic doctrine that enjoin propagation by brute force. Do not allow your minds to be poisoned by this ideology. Be honest and think rationally. The antagonistic spirit of radical Islam may have seemed normal a millennium ago, but it is certainly outdated and utterly wrong today. God would surely never enjoin such animosity and ferocity; it is the invention of men craving to kill, plunder, rape, and enslave.
I often reflect that Moslems could learn much from Buddhism, regarding the futility of worldly desires and the value of self-control of one’s passions. To give an example, briefly: instead of hiding women from the sight of men, so as to avoid illicit sexual relations, they should teach men to control their own lust on the grounds that women are human beings with independent rights. They (the men in power) force the women (all of them) to hide their faces and stay indoors, when it is the men (mostly) who act irrationally. This means that they preemptively imprison the potential victims, and let the potential aggressors wander around with all their sick inner urges intact! This is patently unfair, and a very bad solution to the problem at hand. Another example is, of course, that of wrath. Buddhism rightly teaches the ugliness, evil and self-destructiveness of hatred, anger and violence. Yet, Islam goes to great lengths to cultivate these very vices in Moslems, teaching them: to consider themselves as superior to non-Moslems, and to hate them all and especially Jews; to engage pitilessly in “suicide bombings” and other forms of terror, with a view to ultimately conquer and enslave the world for Islam; to kill apostates, heretics and “blasphemers,” i.e. the critics in their midst; to stone, burn, amputate or whip people they disapprove of; to mutilate the sex organs of Moslem women, and to beat and imprison them, so as to tame them and use them at will; to indulge in “honor” killings of relatives, or even of strangers; so forth. Such inhumane acts are not only permitted, but enjoined by Islam; and they currently frequently occur.
Clearly, Moslems need to cultivate the fine art of self-improvement; and for that, they must practice humble self-scrutiny. This is most easily achieved through regular meditation. If one wishes to become wise, one must be already at least intelligent enough to be able to discern which teachings are wise, and to avoid foolish ones. Buddhist psychology and ethics point the way to self-understanding and wise conduct. I am not, needless to say, advocating that Moslems bow down to Buddha statues. Buddhism is spiritually deficient with respect to such idolatry and, in my view, to its rejection of monotheism. But these are minor sins, to be sure, compared to the major sins of unchecked rage and cruelty common in Islam. When in the Jewish Bible prophets condemn idolatry, their main focus is always on themisconductof the idolaters who in those days practiced human sacrifices, sexual depravity and other immoralities. Buddhism, though idolatrous in some respects, repudiates such lowly practices. Islam, on the other hand, though not idolatrous (though that is debatable, in view of the Moslems’ de facto excessive veneration of Mohammed), countenances some very immoral behavior patterns, as just explained (and of course, this is largely due to their imitation of Mohammed). God has surely made clear throughout the Scriptures of His love of harmonious living, and His profound contempt for troublemakers. This is by far more important to Him than worship, although worship of Him is certainly recommended as highly beneficial spiritually.
I also fervently pray that Europeans, North Americans and other Westerners soon become aware of the great danger to their civilization and personal freedom that today’s Islam constitutes, and do whatever is necessary to prevent its implantation in the West. In particular, the Leftists who effectively support the current Islamic onslaught need to look in the mirror and ask themselves what motivates them to do this. Up till now, they posed as opponents of religion, “the opium of the people.” Suddenly, they have become its most passionate defenders, so long as it is called Islam. They cannot but fail to see that every concession they make to Moslem demands relinquishes oh so precious freedoms of ours, which it took Western civilization centuries of courageous struggle to win and defend. It is true that the Left yearn for omnipresent world government, but do they really want to end up living in a totalitarian Islamic society?
The political left in the West has, in the past century, and especially since the 1968 cultural upheaval, notwithstanding the collapse of Marxism in 1991, managed to sell itself to the public as ‘progressive’. This fantasy image has attracted a great many people with very conventional minds, who saw in adherence to its values a quick and easy way to feel and to seem avant-garde, intelligent and firmly on the moral high ground. Leftists are essentially dull and narcissistic people, which is why they have great difficulty facing reality and stopping to cling to the dogmas they have built their identity around. One can only hope and pray they will wake up and get wise before it is too late. Oh, have pity on your children! Consider that they will lose all human rights, and be at the mercy of merciless barbarians. If you do not take stock of what is happening and do something about it in time, our civilization is very likely to collapse and be replaced by a truly horrible régime – namely, the global Caliphate that many Moslems so fervently yearn for and some of them kill for.
If (God forbid) this historical disaster occurs, it will have done so, not because of cultural or moral inferiority by the West, as the Islamic supremacists claim, but because of the West’s absurd self-delusion, self-abasement and lack of political will in the face of open and covert aggression.
Note that this includes cases where the meaning of ‘to prove’ is to test the faith or loyalty ofa person, rather than to show the logic of a proposition.
Note that the identification of the argument as predicatal in form is mine; I have found no evidence so far that Islamic commentators are at all aware of the differences between predicatal and subjectal arguments. As we shall see further on, they seem to have only noticed the subjectal form.
The major premise of the argument is clearly: “As much power is required to produce new life as to recover past life.” But it could be “More power is required, etc.”
This Koran argument from one power of God to another is reminiscent of some in the Jewish Bible: Psalms 78:20, which states that if God is powerful enough to draw water from a rock, then He is powerful enough to feed His people with bread and meat; and Psalms 94:9-10, which states that if God is powerful enough to implant the ear and form the eye, then He is powerful enough to hear and see, and if God is powerful enough to chastise nations, then He is powerful enough to reprove individuals.
Trans. Richard J. McCarthy. Boston: Twayne, 1980. The title is drawn from a statement in the Koran. A free .pdf version of this work is available online at:www.ghazali.org/books/jb-4.pdf. Chapters 2, 3 and 4 concern respectively 1st, 2ndand 3rdfigure syllogism; chapters 5 and 6 concern respectively hypothetical and disjunctive apodoses. More on Ghazali further on.
The argument is valid even though the middle term (“cannot make the sun rise”) is negative in content, because it is the same in both premises.
Note well, I am not personally denying the proposition, but merely showing it to be unproved. See § 17-19.
Although, to be sure, it is said that God makes his presence known to prophets indirectly through sounds or sights, and perhaps also to ordinary people who are open to it through intuition. So, in one sense He can be said not to appear and therefore not disappear, and in another sense He can be said to both appear and disappear. Indeed, God does eventually appear to Abraham in various ways: the Lord “said unto Abraham” (Gen. 12:1, 13:14); “appeared unto Abraham” (12:7); “came unto Abraham in a vision” (15:1); and so on.
Which he clearly identifies as being in the second figure, since he defines its principle as: “that of which is denied what is affirmed of another is different [distinct] from that other.” This discussion is found in § 36-40.
As is written or implied in the Tanakh countless times; e.g. in Deut. 14:2 – “For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be His own treasure out of all peoples that are upon the face of the earth.”
See for instance: Amos 3:2 – “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will visit upon you all your iniquities.” The covenant between God and the Jews is conceived as a demanding régime ofnoblesse obligerather than as one (such as the Moslems claim for themselves) of supremacist privilege and domination immune from judgment. According to it, the Jews are given more responsibilities rather than more pleasure and power.
It is worth mentioning that Ghazali takes a passage of the Koran as a justification for the use of reasoning, namely 16:125– “Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.” (See chapter 9.)
The point being made here is not denial that God exists or denial that God instructs mankind, but only to emphasize our inability as mere human beings to determine God’s existence and will with the utter certainty claimed by sundry “prophets.” Such claims can only be taken on faith, and therefore must always be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism if we are to avoid fanatic excesses. It is doubtful that God, whose intelligence is surely the highest conceivable, wishes people to behave like idiots and believe whatever they are told without asking questions and demanding credible answers. Faith is valuable and necessary, but blind faith is dangerous.
Even negative comments directed at their alleged prophet, Mohammed, or at the Koran, are considered “blasphemy.” Apostasy, adultery, and many other violations of Islamic law are, it seems, also sometimes characterized as “blasphemy.” Clearly, this word has for Moslems a wider applicability than speaking ill of God. It should be pointed out that such expansion of meaning is not innocuous. To denote criticism of Mohammed or of the Koran as “blasphemy” is in effect todeifythe said person or book. To deify a mere person or book is nothing less thanidolatry, since the implication is that God is not the One and Only. This is surely the very essence of blasphemy – an insult to God. Thus, to expand the meaning of blasphemy as Moslems do is itself an act of blasphemy.
One can only feel pity for Moslems as human beings, for the mental, social and political prison Islam condemns them to from day one and for their whole life. Even their rabid Jew-hatred is pitiful, indicative of their great inner confusion and turmoil. There seems to be no way out for them. Very, very few have the wit and courage to break free.
Koran 2:97 – “Jibrael [Gabriel], for indeed he has brought it [this Quran] down to your heart by Allah’s permission.” Also, 53:5 – “He has been taught [this Quran] by one mighty in power [Jibrael].” And 53:10 “So did [Allah] convey the inspiration to His slave [Muhammad through Jibrael].” These are Muhsin Khan translations; note that the material in square brackets is not present in the original but constitutes interpretation by the translators and presumably by Moslem commentators before them.
The editor, and perhaps largely the author, of the Koran seems to have been Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, governor of Iraq under Abd al-Malik. He then distributed this Koran throughout the Moslem world.
If you think such outright fabrication is unthinkable, considerThe Urantia Book, which was produced anonymously probably in the second quarter of the 20thcent. (first published in 1955). This strange book (which I read once, out of curiosity) is designed to look like a new revelation. Though this has not happened so far, one can well imagine a group of people adopting it as their scripture and founding a new religion with it; thereafter, some centuries later, when people have forgotten how it initially emerged, they will look upon it as a holy book. More details on this book at:en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urantia.
In this context I highly recommend Robert Spencer’s very interesting books on Islam:The Truth about Muhammad.(Washington, D.C.: Regnery, 2006).The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran.(Washington D.C.: Regnery, 2009).Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins.(Wilmington, Del.: ISI, 2012). Spencer refers in the latter to many other, similarly skeptical, past and present authors.
See the very interesting list and discussion of contradictions and confusions in the Koran at:answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/index.html. See also in this regard the very interesting work of Haï Bar-Zeev,Une lecture juive du Coran(Paris: Berg, 2005).
I have described the formal logic of these different responses in a 1998-9 paper entitled “Islamic Hermeneutics,” which was posted in my website in 2001 as an annex to myJudaic Logic, and then published in myRuminationsin 2005. This essay is still online at:www.thelogician.net/JUDAIC-LOGIC/Islamic-Hermeneutics.htm.
This harmonization is reminiscent of the 13thhermeneutic principle of Rabbi Ishmael (Israel, 90-135 CE), though they are not identical. At:wikiislam.net/wiki/List_of_Abrogations_in_the_Qur%27anthere is a list of verses abrogated and verses they were abrogated by.
In my past essay on Islamic hermeneutics, I wrongly stated that the Koran “is supposed chronologically ordered.” Perhaps I meant to say: “is supposedlychronologically ordered”? In any case, it is generally agreed that it isnotchronologically ordered, and besides that it is not always possible to determine the temporal order with certainty. For assumed order, see:wikiislam.net/wiki/Chronological_Order_of_the_Qur%27an.
Koran 19:16-34 and 66:12. Another confusion I find hilarious is the Koran’s presentation of Haman as a contemporary of Pharaoh (28:4 and 8), and as being ordered by the latter to “make for me a tower that I may look at the God of Moses” (28:38). The idea of a tower reaching up to God comes from the Tower of Babel episode (Gen. 11:4), which occurs in the Babylon region some 500 years before Moses’ time. The character of Haman comes from the Book of Esther (as of 3:1), which tells of events in Persia over 900 years after the Exodus. Yet another instance I find revealing is the conflation in the Koran (2:67-73) of two unrelated passages of the Torah (Num. 19, on the red heifer, and Deut. 21:1-9, on another heifer altogether). And there are many more such mix-ups.
Koran 2:61, 91; 3:21, 112, 181, 183; 4:155. None of these passages mention which prophets were supposed to have been killed; indeed, they seem to be saying thatallthe prophets were killed. Two more passages suggest thatonly someprophets were killed; namely, 2:87 and 5:70. Perhaps the author of the Koran here again demonstrates his confusion, and has in mind the killing by the prophet Elijah of the ‘prophets’of Baalin 1 Kings 18:40? Or maybe he is referring to 1 Kings 19:10, where Elijah says: “the children of Israel have… slain Thy prophets with the sword”? But this passage in fact relates to Ahab, the renegade king of the northern kingdom, or more precisely to his non-Jewish (Zidonian) Baal-worshipping consort Jezebel, as it is written: “Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD” and “Jezebel slew the prophets of the LORD” (1 Kings 18:4, 13). Or maybe the Koran author has Jesus in mind, and thinks the Jews killed him, unaware of the role the Romans played in that episode; but then why in 4:157 would it say that Jesus wasnotkilled (by anyone)? Clearly, this repeated accusation, that Jews are either habitually or occasionally prophet-killers, is a deliberate lie aimed at making the Jews look as bad as possible. It is sheer calumny, mere hate speech.
Note that the Koran does not say: “the story told in the Jewish Bible or the Christian Bible is thus and thus, but I inform you that it was really so and so” – the Koran just tells a story, obviously unaware of its contradicting the older sources, i.e. thinking it is in accord with them!
Jews and Christians (at least those who disagree with Islam, which means almost all of them) make “statements other than that which had been said to them” (2:59); they “conceal testimonies” (2:140); they “alter the Scripture” and “speak untruth” (3:78); they “distort words” (5:13); they “forget portions” (5:14); and so forth. This thesis of falsification was, according to Bar-Zeev (p. 134), later much stressed by Ibn Hazm (a convert from Christianity in Andalusia, 994-1064), Samuel al-Mograbi (a convert from Judaism, 12thcent.) and Ibn Taymya (d. 1328, who is often referred to by modern Salafists and Wahabists). Bar-Zeev also suggests (p. 135) that the original intent of such passages of the Koran may have been to refer to the false prophets mentioned in 2 Kings 17:9, Ezek. 13, Jer. 14:13-15 and Jer. 23.
Consider the ‘logic’ of such claims. In 3:65: “O People of the Scripture, why do you argue about Abraham while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed until after him? Then will you not reason?” This is a claim that, since Abraham preceded the Torah and the Gospel, his religion cannot have been theirs. Fair enough; but then the Koran infers that, since Abraham was neither Jewish nor Christian, he must have been Moslem! This is the intent of 3:67: “Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim” (Tr. Sahih International). Notice the double standard: the fact that Abraham preceded the Koran, too, is blithely ignored. Another fallacy in this argument is that of equivocation: it could well be said that Abraham was amuslimanwith a small m, meaning someone submissive towards God; but it does not follow from that that he was a Muslim, meaning a member of the religion of Islam, which did not yet exist. No one denies that the patriarch Abraham preceded the Torah – the Torah itself affirms it, and indeed is the source of our knowledge of his existence. Moreover, the Torah does not go against the teachings of Abraham, as the Koran suggests, but on the contrary lovingly transmitted them and was inspired by them. The Koran seems to be claiming that if someone antedates a religious document, having inspired it (as in the case of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons) or written it (as in the case of Moses), he may not be counted as a member of that religion, since it did not yet exist. But if we accept this idea, not only were the Israelites mentioned in the Jewish Bible not Jews, but Jesus and his Apostles were not Christians and Mohammed and his Companions were not Moslems! Surely, anyone able to reason would see the absurdity of such claims.
I can only here refer the reader to the important work of Bar-Zeev,Une lecture juive du Coran. This rich and illuminating study by a learned rabbi (the author adopted a pseudonym, no doubt to avoid becoming a victim of Moslem insults and threats) shows in detail the Judaic sources of much of the Koran’s alleged prophesies. Moreover, it proposes a credible detailed theory regarding how the Koran was probably composed and put together from these sources. Ironically, Moslems proudly challenge others to “produce asuralike it,” unaware of the foreign literary sources of their holy book. This may rightly be called plagiarism, in that material is drawn from other sources without acknowledging those sources.
And they keep up the tradition of lying and pretending to this day, claiming that Arabs are the original inhabitants of the holy land, which all historical records show the Jews inhabited long before any Arab arrived, and claiming that Israelis persecute them, while the exact opposite is the truth. They destroy archeological evidence of the Jewish Temples under the Temple Mount, and assert no such edifice ever existed, blithely claiming Jerusalem as their eternal capital. And the witless and wicked mass media, BBC, CNN, and all their ilk, and even the British Museum and sundry Western universities, shamelessly pass on such nonsense as undeniable fact. Another shocking example of this disregard for facts by Moslems is their lately concocted claim that Moslems discovered America before Christopher Columbus! This new invention is being propagated ostensibly in order to suggest that Moslems have from its beginnings been part of the USA and therefore they have an equal share in what was until very recently thought to be only a “Judeo-Christian civilization.” But its ultimate purpose is obviously to stake a Moslem claim of ownership on that country, and indeed the rest of the continent, in order to eventually turn it into the ‘Amerabia’ province of the world caliphate which it is their stated ambition to create. Distortions of history are never innocent.
See 2:89, 3:181, 5:13, 5:41, 5:60, 5:64, 98:6. The Koran of course claims the Jews to be accursed so as to reassign the role of ‘chosen people’ to the Moslems. However, such replacement is impossible according to many passages of the Tanakh. See for instance Jer. 31:34-36: “Thus saith the LORD, Who giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, who stirreth up the sea, that the waves thereof roar, the LORD of hosts is His name: If these ordinances depart from before Me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me for ever. Thus saith the LORD: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD;” indeed, read the whole chapter, a beautiful prophetic promise of eternal love by God for the Jewish people.
See 5:60; also 2:65 and 7:166. Lest this seem like a misunderstanding of the Koran’s intention, note the characterization in 2010 by the Moslem Brotherhood president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, of Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs.” Needless to say, he was not referring to Darwin’s theory of evolution!
If the Koran is attributed to Mohammed, then the insults and curses can be explained with reference to his having been slighted by the Jews of Medina. If the Koran is a later product, the anti-Semitism evident in it was probably due to more diffuse Christian and other cultural influences. In any case, we see how rudely and hotly many Arabs and Moslems still today react when their pride is hurt.
Needless to say, it is not my purpose here to defend the idea of Jews as the ‘chosen people’, but only to show the absurdity of the Islamic (and before that Christian) attempt at ‘replacement theology’. The point made is that since such attempts refer to Jewish Scriptures they cannot consistently ignore what is in them.
See Deut. 13, 17:2-20, and 18:9-22. Online at:www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0513.htm. Note especially: 17:15 – “One from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, who is not thy brother;” and 18:15 – “A prophet will the LORD thy God raise up unto thee, from the midst of thee, of thy brethren,” and 18:18 – “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren.”
As regards murder, the Moslem historian Ibn Ishaq (8thcent. CE) reported that, after the Jewish Banu Qurayzah tribe surrendered to Mohammad, their men “were brought out to him in batches,” and he “struck off their heads,” thus massacring with his own hands at least 600, maybe as many as 900, unarmed innocent people. (Quoted in Spencer’sThe Truth about Muhammad, pp. 129-131. See the same book for details Mohammed’s other ‘achievements’.)
See references in preceding footnote. E.g. “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” (Dt. 17:17.)
This speculation is based on a report by the Islamic historian Ibn Hisham (d. ca. 833), following of a report by his predecessor Ibn Ishaq (ca. 704-761/7 CE), whose works are lost. These sources are both generally respected by Moslems. It seems that Mohammed’s mother may not have been Amina (an Arab), as orthodox tradition has it, but was an unnamed Jewish woman, sister of Waraqa Ibn Naufal. The latter, according to these historians, “belonged to the religion of Moses, before embracing that of Jesus.” Mohammed’s Arab father, Abdallah, died before his son was born. Still young, Mohammed went to live with Waraqa, who referred to him as his nephew. Waraqa seems to have been Mohammed’s main teacher in religious matters. When Mohammed was six, his mother took him to Medina, to visit her family in the Jewish clan of the Beni al Najjar. Later, when Mohammed left Mecca for Medina, he first went to live with this clan. All this information is drawn from the book by Bar-Zeev, p. 17. Needless to say, the thought that Mohammed might have been a Jew is not a source of pride for us, but – in view of the havoc and bloodshed he has caused in the past 1400 years and continues to cause today – a source of acute shame. Hopefully he was not Jewish; but if he was, we have much reason to be sorry – as with Karl Marx and other lasting trouble makers.
The plural of hadith, in Arabic, isahadith; but here we shall give the word an English plural, hadiths.
The references given for these examples in the source I used are, respectively, “Moslem” and “Ahmed,” without further specification.
Such simple analogy seems to be calledqiyasal-shibh, judging by a comment by Arnaldez, p. 43 (see reference further down).
This story is reported and discussed in some detail by Spencer in hisThe Truth about Muhammad, pp. 92-5. He analyzes it further in his more recent bookDid Muhammad Exist?pp. 107-9.
If we have any tradition concerning prophets it is that they must be extremely ‘disinterested’ – devoid of lust for political power or material possessions or sexual gratification. See for examples, regarding worldly gains, Numbers 16:15 (where Moses declares: “I have not taken one ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.”) and I Samuel 12:3-4 (where Samuel asks: “Whose ox have I taken, or whose ass have I taken? Whom have I defrauded or whom have I robbed? From whom have I taken a bribe to look the other way?”). Very different was the behavior of Mohammed, according to Moslem sources.
Hallaq considers that logic “made an entry to legal theory” after the 11thcent. CE (p. 257). But I would say that though this may well be true of conscious efforts of application of formal logic to Islamic law, logic must have be intuitively used and/or seeped in from the outside two or three centuries before that, as of the start of legal discourse, for the simple reason that no such discourse is possible without “reasoning” of some sort.
The Turks who later conquered Arab territories adopted Islam because it seemed great in their eyes compared to whattheyhad before. The Mongols were less inclined to become Moslems, remaining largely aloof rulers – Moslem in name only, if at all.
Of course, this refers to the Moslems collectively. The philosophers were no doubt a small élite, the masses of the people remaining very ignorant. Still, some knowledge must have trickled down.
The Al-Nahda (Renaissance) movement is a notable example of such attempted awakening.
Hallaq tells us that though the Koran text “comprises some 500 legal verses… these cover a relatively limited number of legal issues and, furthermore, treat of them selectively” (p. 10).
“The termsunnameans an exemplary mode of conduct.” (Hallaq, p. 10.)
This of course goes a long way to explain the lack of wisdom in a great many Islamic laws and customs.
Ordinary Moslems do not make their own decisions but follow the instructions of their religious authorities (this is calledtaqlid).Ijmais perhaps comparable torov(majority decision in rabbinic jurisprudence).
Qiyasis a singular word, even though it ends ins. We shall nevertheless use the same word for the plural. I have not found the plural form of the word in Arabic – apparently no one uses it in English.
The passages to be used as premises inqiyasmust first be evaluated, by checking that they are not in conflict with any others. If there seems to be some conflict, then the texts concerned must be reconciled somehow, whether by particularization, merger or abrogation (as already explained).Qiyascome into play only after such preparatory processing. These preliminaries are of course also hermeneutic acts.
Cambridge: UP, 1997. See especially pp. 96-99. This book is partly on display in Google books, at:books.google.ch/books?id=pB5mxMebvDUC&pg=PA99&dq=fortiori&hl=en&sa=X&ei=YptlT5LmJYfrOYylhf0H&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=fortiori&f=false.
A difficulty we face here is making a distinction between the author’s personal analysis, and the analysis of Moslem traditions. He himself admits this distinction (p. 101). We shall do our best to remain aware of this difficulty and overcome it. Though he is a Moslem, Hallaq is also a modern Western university professor influenced by Western thought; so, his understanding is not purely Islamic. Our primary interest here is, of course, not in his synthetic or syncretic viewpoint, but in purely Moslem thought.
Moreover, this source mentions a third mood,qiyas al-musawi(analogy of equals); this obviously refers toa pariargument, which Hallaq does not discuss. An example given for this is Koran 4:2. I have not found outwhen and by whomthese three expressions were introduced into Islamic logic.
This is the formula given by Hallaq on p. 29, between quotation marks. However, since he nowhere says what the expression “a fortiori” looks like in Arabic, I suspect this phrase is a translator’s interpolation. On p. 96 he paraphrases this same illustration (without quotation marks) in the following words: “When God or His messenger forbids a small quantity of a certain matter, we conclude that a larger quantity of the same matter is also forbidden. Similarly, if the consumption, say, of a large quantity of foodstuff is declared permissible, then a smaller quantity would also be permissible.” Note here the addition of “or His messenger” and the specification of consumption of foodstuff, as well as the absence of the words “a fortiori.”
Note that there is not mention here of egalitarian (a pari) a fortiori argument. The reason may simply be that it is difficult to cast such argument in similar terms. If we try to state it as: “When the Koran forbids or permits a certain quantity of something, it follows that an equal quantity of the same (kind of) thing is equally forbidden or permitted, as the case may be.”—it looks like mere tautology.
Even though the one example of a fortiori argument seemingly to be found in the Koran is predicatal in form, Islamic scholars do not seem to have noticed the fact.
Understanding the Talmud, p. 88. Here, ‘stringent ruling’ refers to prohibition and ‘lenient ruling’ refers to permission. The ‘stringent issue’ is the major term and the ‘lenient issue’ is the minor term.
“All these things they [the rabbis] prescribed [as culpable] on a Festival, how much more [are they culpable] on Sabbath.” This refers to inference of specific prohibitions from a less important religious ritual (Festivals) to a more important one (the Sabbath). This is a negative predicatal mood; the corresponding positive mood follows by reductio ad absurdum; and two other moods follow from these two in turn by negation of the subsidiary term. See the discussion in the section ‘Qal vachomer without dayo’ in the chapter ‘In the Talmud, continued’ (8.5) for more on this topic.
Topics, §23; in the original Latin: “Quod in re maiore valet, valeat in minori… Quod in minori valet, valeat in maiore… Quod in re pari valet valeat in hac quae par est.”
To his credit, Hallaq does notice this discrepancy, saying (on p. 29): “the use of this inference derives from ethical rather than strictly legal subject matter.”
The same argument could also of course be put in positive predicatal form, i.e. worded: “If non-Muslims who engage in war against Muslims (S) are criminal (R) enough to be lawfully killed (P), then they (S) are criminal (R) enough to be lawfully divested of their property (Q).” However, it is clear from Hallaq’s presentation that he does not conceive it in this form; and since we have no evidence so far that predicatal argument is at all noticed by him, or by Islamic jurists in general, we cannot analyze the discourse in this form.
The word used in the Arabic original is “uff” – clearly just a sound expressing annoyance, an onomatopoeia. The nearest modern English equivalent would be “ugh” – and indeed one translator has opted for this word (Shakir). Other translators simply resort to description: “a word of disrespect” or “of contempt.”
Presumably he was Persian, judging from his name. Hallaq does not say.
More precisely, in the sense of the rabbinic hermeneutic principle ofbinyan av(see further on).
Hallaq does not say whether this insight is his own, or derived from some other person’s work. This book was published in 1997; but I do not think he was influenced by me, because his treatment lacks many important details found in myJudaic Logic(which was first published in 1995). I am assuming here that Hallaq does not intend to pass off his theory, here, ex post facto, as an originally Islamic idea – it is obviously one influenced, directly or indirectly by, Western perceptions.
There are no doubt cases where the ‘linguistic’ interpretation is the most appropriate, e.g. because the language is so vague or metaphorical that a general intent can be assumed immediately because appeal to any more precise form of argument (such as analogy or a fortiori) would be forced. But this is clearly not the case with the example of “saying ‘fie’.”
Note that ‘some’ here does not necessarily mean ‘many’, but merely means ‘at least one’.
Such generalization is valid if and only so long as no counter-example is found; i.e. provided there is no textual evidence that “Some disrespectful acts (to one’s parents) arenotforbidden.”
Note Hallaq’s use of “harm” as the middle term, whereas I prefer to use “disrespect.” This difference is not very significant; either term will do the trick. I think mine is more accurate and his is too broad.
Or the middle thesis. Hallaq also says ofreductio ad absurdum, which he classifies as a third type ofqiyas(besides analogy and a fortiori argument), that it “like thea fortiori, lacks all analogical features” (p. 101). But in my view, since such reduction relies on apodosis (specifically, as Hallaq himself describes it, on themodus tollens), it also calls for comparison (in this case, the contrast between the minor premise and the consequent of the major premise that it denies).
Sahih International, Shakir.
Thus, my reference to generalization in my earlier analysis of Ghazali’s interpretation was unnecessary. It was unnecessary in this specific example because the required major premise is already textually given; but in other examples, where the required major premise isnottextually given, the stage of generalization is essential.
In hisTheLife of Muhammad, translated by Isma’il Razi A. al-Faruqi (1968). Quoted by Robert Spencer in hisThe Truth about Muhammad, p.70.
In 2007, on Saudi and Kuwaiti TV. Quoted by Spencer in hisInfidel’s Guide, p.173.
See for instances:ufaoil.blogspot.ch/2008/02/rule-of-qiyas-its-meaning-justification_09.html, which lists the basics;www.islamicboard.com/worship-islam/4985-usul-al-fiqh-qiyas-analogical-deductions-detailed-description.html, which is more detailed; andwww.theislamicseminary.org/articles/articl target=”_blank”e002.html#articleand related pages, which give additional details in some areas. The author(s) of these and similar webpages are not clearly identified, so I do not attempt to name them here. In any case, their names are not very important since they seem to all be following roughly the same line – which implies that they have some source(s) in common. The reader should study these and similar webpages, which contain many interesting details and conditions not here specified.
“The Hanafis, however, do not allow this Hadith in the first place.”
Oh, how I pity Moslems for disliking dogs and missing out on the joys of interacting with ‘man’s best friend’!
A similar analysis can be made relative to another often-given illustration of ‘analogy of equals’, based on Koran 4:2. However, I chose not to discuss this example here because it contains many ambiguities which are not of direct concern to our purposes here.
References given here are: “Muslim, Sahih Muslim, p. 41, Hadith no. 119; Ibn Hazm, Ihkam, VII, 54-55; Abu Zahrah, Usul, p.195-196. Zuhayr, Usul, IV, p. 44.”
In predicatal moods, the opposite is true – the negative mood is from minor to major and the positive mood is from major to minor. But no need to mention that, since Islamic jurists seem to have only noticed subjectal moods, even though the apparently sole example of a fortiori argument in the Koran (36:78-79) is positive predicatal in form. Each negative argument is validated by reductio ad absurdum to the corresponding positive one.
It is interesting to note that I came to similar conclusions in my first essay concerning Islamic logic, back in 1999, even though my approach at the time was much less critical. There I refer to simple and complex analogy as “extension by direct analogy” and “by indirect analogy,” respectively, and show them to be inductive processes. Furthermore, I compare the former to the rabbinical rule ofgezerah shavahand the latter tobinyan av. I also say: “Talmudic logic includes valid forms, like the a-fortiori argument, which are (to my knowledge so far) absent in Islamic methodology, at least at a self-conscious level.”
This book was originally written in Arabic and published in 1964, under the titleal-Mujaz Fi al-Mantiq; it was translated into English by Ali Abdur-Rasheed in 2006, and posted in pdf format in the Internet at:www.al-islam.org/hawza/mantiq/A_Summary_Of_Logic.pdf. The author seems to be an Iraqi Shi’ite.
I am here changing the wording somewhat, but the intent is clearly as I present it. I do not here want to engage in a critique of the author’s or translator’s terminology.
The three forms of disjunction are dealt with: either-or, and/or and or-else. Invalid arguments are mentioned as well as valid ones, but there is no serious effort of validation (other than by example).
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi: Commentateur du Coran et philosophe(Paris: Vrin, 2002), pp. 40-43.There is a Google books preview of this book. I here paraphrase him very roughly. Arnaldez was a well-known Islamicist (academic student of Islam); see more on him:fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Arnaldez.
That is, the minor premise “if unintentional killing is (grave enough to be) expiable” or “if intentional killing is not (grave enough to be) expiable” would not make sense and therefore could not be used. The inverse proportionality is implied by Arnaldez’s (or Ghazali’s) own objection.
A fortiori argument was present in other cultures, but I do not think (offhand) thatbinyan avwas.
This rule was upheld by the majority of Islamic jurists, we are told, although “Ibn Rushd (Malikis) and some Hanafis opined otherwise.”
References given: “83. Tabrizi, Mishkat, II, 1061, Hadith No 3570; Abu Yusuf, Kitab al Kharaj, p. 152; Ibn Qayyim, I’lam, I, 209.”
From the Digest of Justinian, no 49, in Albert Gautier,Introduction to Roman Law for Studies in Canon Law(Rome: Faculty of Canon Law, St. Thomas University, 1994), page 154. Quoted by Wiseman, inA Contemporary Examination of the A Fortiori Argument Involving Jewish Traditions, p. 165. Note the reference to “interpretation,” implying that the rule relates to deriving a penalty from some given text or tradition.
Mishna Baba Qama 2:5.
Note anyway that no a crescendo argument is possible here, since the additional premise about proportionality is denied.
They also, in fact, harm themselves enormously – spiritually, psychologically and materially.
Op. cit. pp. 2-3.
He was “arrested in June 2011 and indicted the following month.” This information is drawn from a report by Reuters on Dec. 6, 2012.
Such violent tendencies are admittedly apparent in all the major religions at different periods of history; but what distinguishes Islam is that that it has them stilltoday, in the 21stcentury, andin a big way. So much so, that it is a direct threat to world peace and security, affecting everyone’s lives and liberty daily. See the arguments at:wikiislam.net/wiki/Are_Judaism_and_Christianity_as_Violent_as_Islam%3F.
This refers to non-monotheists – that is: pagans, polytheists, idolaters, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, etc. When the Moslems conquered India, they exceptionally did not universally enforce the ‘convert or die’ rule, simply because there were too many Hindus around. One blogger (Bill Warner) has estimated that Islam has over the fourteen centuries of its existence caused the death of some 270 million non-Moslems, including 120m Africans, 60m Christians, 80m Hindus and 10m Buddhists:www.politicalislam.com/tears/pages/tears-of-jihad/.
Islam is as rabidly anti-Semitic as Nazism was, one of its oft-declared ultimate goals being the mass murder of all Jews on this planet. A hadith has Muhammad saying that “the last hour” will not come unless the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them all (Sahih Muslim, book 41, no. 6985). There are many Muslims today just aching to carry out this genocidal programme, judging by declarations published (in writings, recordings or videos) on the Internet. Ultimately, all non-Moslems risk persecution, to be sure; but Jews are the most passionately hated.
Read for instance the work of Robert Spencer on this topic,Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs.(Washington D.C.: Regnery, 2008), and look for daily updates on the subject in his website,www.jihadwatch.org, and that of his close colleague Pamela Geller,www.atlasshrugs.com, for examples (see other links there). For a deeper understanding of the essentially political nature of Islam from its inception, do also read Spencer’s works:The Truth about Muhammad,The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, andDid Muhammad Exist?
Let us call the non-Moslem de facto defenders of Islam ‘leftists’, for we need to give them some name, and most (though not all) of them come from the left side of the political spectrum, i.e. they incline towards socialism or communism.
And as everyone knows, when the law is not equitably enforced, the end of the rule of law is in sight. When Moslems commit violence or threaten it, the authorities blame their victims and turn a blind eye to the aggressors. Seeing such criminals treated with kid gloves by the authorities, ordinary citizens feel more and more unprotected, and naturally some of them are eventually tempted to take the law into their own hands.
For example, the increasingly common kidnap and gang-rapping of non-Moslem children or youths to “groom” them for sex-slavery or prostitution.
They are fallacies. Forcing and threatening force are traditionally referred to as the argumentumad baculum. Lying and pretending might be classified asignoratio elenchi, in that they aim at disinformation. Those who use such means think that they have ‘won the argument’ if they have succeeded in killing or cowing or fooling their opponents.
But looking back further, consider the feeble response of Montezuma, the Aztec emperor of Mexico, who could muster an army of some 300,000 men, to the invasion by a Spaniard force ofonly some 600 menled by Cortés in 1519-20. Reflecting on this enigma, in his account of the episode, Hammond Innes wrote: “Moctezuma’s policy was one of appeasement, but now he must have begun to realize that the road of appeasement is a long one that leads finally to degradation.” Moctezuma sought “to buy time and wait upon events;” “but the door of appeasement, once opened, is not easily shut.” And: “The wretched king was now so deeply involved with the Spaniards that he was apparently willing to buy peace at any price.”The Conquistadors(London: the Book Club Associates, 1972): Pp. 148, 149, 151.
Which is perhaps why we almost never hear Moslems accusing him of apostasy.
For a detailed exposé of Obama’s Islamic connections and tendencies, I recommend Pamela Geller’sThe Post-American Presidency(New York: Simon & Shuster, 2010). And of course her website, at:www.atlasshrugs.com. Concerning Obama’s failure to produce a birth certificate and other documents, see:atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/obamas_birth_certifcate_forgery/; reading these blog posts leaves one with zero doubt that this president is illegitimate.
Needless to say, though alleviating the terrorist threat was an important (albeit largely subconscious) motive for the election of Obama in 2008, it was not the only motive; another was, of course, the desire by many voters to turn America into a socialist state. The latter motive was even more evident with his reelection in 2012, although by then Americans should have been intensely alarmed by his Islamic inclinations.
Although in a past essay and in the previous sections of the present chapter I have detailed various logical practices and doctrines found in Islam, and this material is of interest to logic history, it should not be used to dignify Islam as a rational doctrine. Islam remains an essentially emotional doctrine, driven by hatred.
Here, a distinction must obviously be made between Moslems educated in the West and those trained in Moslem countries. Only two Moslems have to date won a Nobel Prize in physics or chemistry, and both were based in the West. Do not be fooled by the image propagated by certain media of rich Arabians with engineering degrees from prestigious American and European universities driving fancy cars and using mobile phones. Arabian wealth derives principally from oil revenues, and thereafter to some extent from commerce; it is not based on scientific research and technological creativity. There are only some 600 universities in the 57 countries with Moslem majorities, for a combined population of 1.4 billion. About six out of ten Moslems are still today illiterate (i.e. cannot even read). Compare these figures to Western ones, or even to those for India and China, and you realize the immensity of the problem these people pose in today’s world.
Moslem terrorists have murdered over 20’000 people across the world in the less than twelve years since Sept. 11, 2001. This statistic is given atwww.thereligionofpeace.com, which has been keeping track of terrorist acts. This is 95% of all terrorism in the world; there is no comparable figure for any other violent group. See also:wikiislam.net/wiki/Muslim_Statistics_-_Terrorism.
The Torah decries human sacrifice, e.g. the interdiction of sacrificing children to the pagan god Moloch (Lev. 18:21). But Islam still today entices its sons and daughters to prove their faith by killing innocent people; in view such terrorist tendencies, Islam can surely be characterized as a religion that practices human sacrifice, i.e. ritual murder. The people who thus kill fellow human beings out of selfish desires (for promised material or even spiritual rewards) have not “misunderstood” Islam, as the PC andtakkiyacrowd would have us believe; they haveall too wellunderstood it and taken it at its word.
Lev. 19:17-18. All the commandments and words of wisdom reproduced here are lessons in morality intended for all mankind, not just for Jews. And the list here proposed is, of course, far from exhaustive.
Shabbat 31a. Or more accurately said: Do not do unto others that which you would not have them do unto you. Notice that the golden rule isnot: Do to your fellow what you would have them do unto you. It is not an instruction to lay your trip on others, but one to respect the space of others.
Shabbat 105b. Anger is comparable to idolatry because it is effectively a denial of God’s control of the world.
Pesachim 66b. See also Rashi’s commentary to Num. 31:21.
There is Judaism a concept known asChillul Hashem– desecration of the name of God. This is the grave sin of people who commit atrocities allegedly in God’s name, and so turn people off from spiritual pursuits, thinking that such disgusting behavior is where such pursuits inevitably lead. This is based on Lev. 22:32.
They should read, for a start, theDhammapada, a treasury of wise insights attributed to the Buddha.
It could be said that Islamic preachers who encourage Moslems to hate, kill, plunder, destroy, enslave, rape, etc. their non-Moslem neighbors, and even engage in various crimes and depravities against other Moslems, are cunningly exploiting the lower natures of their fanatic disciples. The fanatics respond enthusiastically, because they perceive in the call of Islam opportunities to engage in all sorts of obviously vicious deedswith a good conscience. That is surely one aspect of their motivation, one of the twists and turns in their sick psyche.
Needless to say, that is their own business: it does not give Moslems a moral right to engage in violent acts against them.