Imam Al-Razi’s Debate With Christian Scholars

Imam Al-Sanusi was one of the great Maliki scholars of Kalam, Fiqh, Hadith, and the other Islamic sciences. He is most known for his series of books on Aqida, often referred to as the Sanusiyyat: especially Al-Kubra and Umm Al-Barahin. However, he was also a scholar of Fiqh, and Hadith, with a commentary on Sahih Muslim and Sahih Bukhari. He lived in the region of Tilmisan (Tlemcen) in Algeria. In his commentary on his own book, Al-Muqaddimat, a book on Kalam for beginners, he quotes a story from Imam Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi (d. 606 AH), one of the greatest scholars of Islamic history and one of the most influential scholars in Aqida and Tafsir. In this passage, I translate Imam Al-Sanusi’s transmission of Imam Al-Razi meeting a group of priests and debating them.

Imam Al-Razi wrote:

“I debated with some priests, finding them to be extremely simple-minded. I taught them a single principle of the intellect so that I can debate them using it. 

It was that the existence of an effect necessitates a source, but the absence of an effect does not necessitate the absence of the source. For example, the origin of the universe. It is the effect of our Lord, the Most High. The existence of the universe necessitates the existence of the source, which is He, the Exalted. But, the absence of the effect, i.e the origin of the universe, would not necessitate the absence of the source, i.e our Lord, the Exalted. Our Lord existed irregardless of whether time existed or not. 

This principle was hard for them to grasp, but I stayed with them until they understood it and accepted it. 

After that, I said to them: why do you specify that the hypostasis of intellect subsists in the human form of Jesus alone? [i.e why do you give Prophet Isa the eternal attribute of knowledge that we believe is only the attribute of Allah].

They replied: We specify the union [of an Eternal Attribute with a created body] to him because of what miraculously manifested at his hand of bringing the dead back to life, which can only happen from a God. 

I replied: Your statement necessitates the godhood of Moses, peace be upon him! Based on what manifested at his hand, like his staff coming to life as the giant serpent or the splitting of the seas into great cliffs, etc, these are actions that we know with certainty cannot be done by a creation! 

They tried to reject that, but I replied to them: You already accepted the principle that the existence of an effect necessitates the existence of a source. Based on your [false] claim, the proof that you gave to Jesus being a God is also present in Moses as well! This necessitates that he is a God like Jesus too because it is impossible for the existence of an effect to occur without the existence of the source. 

Then I asked them: Is it possible that us and other lowly animals are also gods? 

They said: No, of course not! There exists no proof (i.e no miracles) that they or we are gods! 

I said to them: How can you say that when you already accepted that the absence of an effect (i.e absence of miracles) does not necessitate the absence of the source? Based on your beliefs, maybe those animals are also gods but the proof just hasn’t manifested itself yet! “And so the disbeliever was dumbstruck. And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.” (Surah Baqarah, 258)

[Source: Sharh Al-Muqaddimaat by Imam Al-Sanusi, pg. 167. Dar ul Taqwa 2019.]

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