Necessary Existence, Immutability, and God's Knowledge of Particulars: A Reply to Amirhossein Zadyousefi

Philosophy East and West 73 (1):188-196 (2023)
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From the Qur'an, Surah Maryam: (21) So she conceived him, and went in seclusion with him to a remote place. (22) And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree: she cried (in her anguish): "Ah! would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!" (23) But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm tree): "Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee;" (24) "And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee." (25) "So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man say 'I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.'" This Surah depicts a human being in unbearable pain. What makes the pain tolerable is the sympathy that God shows for Mary. Hearing her inner voice, understanding her suffering and her grief, God is moved to provide her with practical and substantive support to help her bear her agony. For me this story portrays a God who is active in the world, hears the supplications of humanity, and has empathy with the needy, the oppressed, and those who are suffering. Yet I am concerned that our theological traditions in the Islamic world (as also in Christendom) have developed through the centuries such that God is now seen, by overwhelming theological consensus, as an immutable being, a being outside time who has determined our providence from the standpoint of eternity, who has foreknowledge of every free action of his creations and has designed all according to His plan for past and future events; who knows in advance even the timings and contents of our petitionary prayers and has decided already whether to answer them.

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Ebrahim Azadegan
Sharif University Of Technology

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