This is a followup to my previous post here comparing the metaphysics of the European philosopher Leibniz and Imam Maturidi . This is a comparison of Imam Maturidi's views directly with modern physics.
I am copy/pasting this exactly as it was on reddit's Islam forum (warning for those who wish to visit it, it's full of atheist and ex-Muslim trolls, the news of the Higgs boson announcement was really popular on the site).
I'll copy it completely here for you.
---For those familiar with the philosophy surrounding ancient atomism and the notion of substance and accident, Islamic theology was distinguished (for better or worse) for its view of substance itself being a kind of accident. In the mind of Western commentators it was definitely for the worse as they saw Islamic metaphysics as strange and ridiculous. Particles continuously being created and annihilated out of the void, substance was not substantial but was itself a transient arrangement of the interactions of a class of constitutive accidents, an idea which most closely corresponds to our modern idea of the four forces or interactions of nature. The driving motivation behind the development of these metaphysical ideas was that it best upheld Islamic theology's specific brand of occasionalistic monotheism.
Atomism in Islam is usually associated with Imam Ash'ari (ra). Imam Maturidi, however, also made contributions to this doctrine by focusing on accidents rather than on substances (atoms).
This is a small excerpt from something I've been writing regarding Islamic theology (which won't be ready for a while since I'm busy with school, maybe next year I'll find time to finish it, possibly this fall).
Even though Imam Maturidi did not place as much of an emphasis on metaphysics, preferring to emphasize the connection between man’s rationalism and God over the physical world and God as the more effective tactic in debating the particular heresies he ran into in Central Asia, he did use a coherent metaphysical model where necessary. Particularly when debating theologies such as those of the Manichean dualists. The Manicheists also tended to favor a materialist spin on dualism, talking about opposing flavors of “substances” (in the metaphysical sense of the word like jawhar or Leibniz’s monad) which were constantly in a struggle for supremacy over each other. They correlated to good (light) and evil (matter) and were the source of motion.
The polar opposite of this view was the general Neoplatonist viewpoint of other groups in Central Asia like the Ismailis, or some of the pantheist/atheist philosophers. This view, based on Plato’s idealized forms, thought of the material world as a mere projection of the idealized world of forms (drawing strong comparisons to Descartes).
The typical reaction on behalf of Islamic theology by initially the Mu’tazilah and later the Ash’arites was to use atomism as a compromise, where the ideal principle of the world of creation was monistic, real, and also reflective of the description of God in the Qur’an (as having omnipotence over a quantified material world with ontological externality in the context of real existence). Imam Maturidi generally favored this view, especially some of the philosophical implications of the idea of a “rest accident” granting spatiotemporal meaning.
In general though he saw no point in going too far into detail in trying to identify a particular elementary constituent substance. He spoke of matter in its colloquial, “continuous”, sense as we could hypothetically go about arbitrarily dividing it into “substance” ad infinitum without any empirical accountability. So he only did it as much as he needed to, which is to say quite rarely. He instead used the idea of “natures” or “taba’i”.
This was an expansion of existing ideas of “constitutive accidents” (a class of accidents common to all bodies, playing a role similar to substance but having no spatial reality of their own). Imam Maturidi used the term taba’i by which he referred to the “primary qualities” of bodies. They are part of the essential attributes of a thing.
The root of the word is the same as that of “tabeehat” which is used today to refer to one’s health.
These natures corresponded to the ancient attributes of heat, cold, moisture, or dryness which were derived from the more familiar ancient idea of four elements (fire, water, earth, air). The essence of the relationship is what’s useful for Maturidi, that they are in mutual opposition and have a divisive effect. On the other hand, their transient interactions are also seen as constructing all other accidents. He used this to argue against Manichean dualist metaphysics by pointing out that four natures were not enough, substances (in which the other four would interact constructively) had to be considered as a fifth principle, effectively negating any theology which tried to join dualism with materialism. Furthermore, he reasoned, there had to be yet another influence to explain the creation and interaction of such inherently opposite natures into the order we see in the world today, which he identified with God. In fact, the existence of such natures in a logical order unto themselves also indicated the need for God.The root Tab' means nature, as well as pressure; it reflects an idea of animal instincts or four humors, on whose equilibrium Galen defined health.279
Imam Maturidi compared this idea to humans and our own natures (i.e, fitrah). We have varying tendencies, dispositions, emotions, desires, etc and our rational mind controls and orchestrates them by weakening some and focusing others to form more coherent motivations.
This is similar to the “naturalistic panentheism” of Roman Stoics who posited an active God configuring passive matter composed of four elements however a strong distinction must be made between the idea of an “element” and Imam Maturid’s idea of a “nature”, the latter being a class of accident or ‘aradh and the former being a class of substance or jawhar. This translates into our understanding today of elementary particles and the fundamental forces of nature. Jawhar most literally correspond to elementary particles,283 ‘aradh to the general idea of properties, states, or attributes and taba’i to the fundamental forces of nature.
The fundamental forces of nature, also called the fundamental interactions or interactive forces, also happen to be four. The electromagnetic force, the weak nuclear force, the strong nuclear force, and gravity. There is a remarkable and uncanny parallel between these and Imam Maturidi’s idea of natures which focused on them predominantly as constitutive interactions forming the fabric of material existence.
Imam Maturidi’s natures are, as mentioned, derived from the ancient elements. Though the ancient notion of element corresponds, in Stoic metaphysics and perhaps others, to the same way we use our modern elements today, they were not the same thing. Our elements can be more aptly called substances (only one kind of atom makes up each element). The ancient elements were a mixture of substances and accidents. Imam Maturidi didn’t use elements, he used their interactions which he called natures. If we think of natures as the tendencies or dispositions (dispositions is the word I use often as it most reflects the definition) then they obviously describe interactions. It doesn’t even matter what elements you use, but he (no doubt for convention when debating old religions) used the old four. So the natures were like dryness, moistness, heat, cold, etc. Each elemental nature was thus divided into specific polarized interactions, usually two opposite tendencies. There was also a sense of parity, or symmetry in their constructive interactions. The point is that the functional use thereof (and end result of his logic in using them) is the same as our modern concept of the fundamental interactions.
With regards to the current fundamental interactions of nature studied in physics, they too represent fields of interactions and separate forces themselves interact and in fact join in symmetry under higher energy conditions. The electromagnetic and weak nuclear force join to form the electroweak force. The electroweak and strong nuclear force join to form what’s known as the “Grand Unified Force” (of GUT or Grand Unified Theory). That combined with the force of gravity is known as “supergravity” which existed in the extremely high energy conditions near the Big Bang. In accordance with our view of energy, what Imam Maturidi said about only God being able to hold the divisive and opposite natures together in bodies becomes clear.
There was “spontaneous symmetry breaking” as the forces decoupled. The separation of gravity from the other unified force is associated with the beginning of “real” time (before this the dimension of time could have been spacelike or “imaginary” rather than timelike as we perceive it today). The symmetry breaking of the grand unified force into the strong nuclear force and electroweak force is associated with the inflationary epoch and reheating. This marks the start of the “electroweak epoch” or the radiation dominated era of the universe.
One of the most significant features of Imam Maturidi’s metaphysics is the idea of the “rest accident of existence” granting spatio-temporal meaning (i.e, real existence and ontological externality within that context) which was the result of the constructive interaction of these natures. This is how substances, and in turn bodies, existed. This accident, being transient and fleeting, required constant “renewal” through God’s creating for anything to have sustained existence.
The end of the electroweak epoch signified the breaking or decoupling of the weak nuclear force and electromagnetic force. Like the inflaton field, there is a posited scalar field called the Higgs field.284 The spontaneous electroweak symmetry breaking interacts with the Higgs field causing excitations in it which take the form of elementary particles (Goldstone bosons) which are absorbed by the elementary particles of other fields, giving them mass.285 Thus begins the “matter dominated era” of the universe, when the fundamental particles acquired mass.
One of the scientists who shared the ‘79 Nobel Prize in physics for the discovery of the electroweak unification was a Pakistani physicist who quoted the Qur’an during his acceptance speech,
279 - Simko, Ivan (2008). Parallels of Stoicism and Kalam, University of Vienna“This, in effect, is the faith of all physicists; the deeper we seek, the more is our wonder excited, the more is the dazzlement for our gaze.”“Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure? Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze, Comes back to thee dazzled, aweary.”
283 - And the Stoic notion of “element” would correspond to what we define as element today.
284 - In early inflationary cosmology, the inflaton field was thought to be the Higgs field.
285 - The Higgs boson would be a leftover elementary particle from this interaction. The elementary particles of the Higgs field are called, somewhat ironically in the context of this section, the “God particle”.
The scientist in question, Dr. Abdus Salam, was an Ahmadi whose community has been under intense scrutiny in Pakistan (and Ahmadis are not considered Muslims by Sunnis or Shi'ites, though these two mainstream sects do not consider each other Muslims either so this kind of thing is not new).
One of the guys who shared the Nobel in '79 for the discovery of the electroweak unification of the electromagnetic and weak forces was Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam. Was an Ahmadi (which resulted in controversy since people refused to acknowledge him as the first Muslim Nobel Laureate though being the first Pakistani one is a pretty big deal in itself) and said this,When he accepted the Nobel he said,"The Holy Quran enjoins us to reflect on the verities of Allah's created laws of nature; however, that our generation has been privileged to glimpse a part of His design is a bounty and a grace for which I render thanks with a humble heart."
As far as I know there is no connection whatsoever between Ahmadis and Maturidi/Ash'ari theology, so I do not mean to draw any connection there. Theirs is a new religious tradition without significant metaphysical/philosophical development though it's likely they inherit either the Sunni or Shi'ite view (the Shi'ite view is more Neoplatonist, following the Islamic Aristotelian/Neoplatonist philosophers rather than the road the Sunnis (orthodox) went down which was the above).In the Holy Book of Islam, Allah says
This in effect is, the faith of all physicists; the deeper we seek, the more is our wonder excited, the more is the dazzlement for our gaze."Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure. Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze, Comes back to thee dazzled, aweary."
I am saying this, not only to remind those here tonight of this, but also for those in the Third World, who feel they have lost out in the pursuit of scientific knowledge, for lack of opportunity and resource.
Alfred Nobel stipulated that no distinction of race or colour will determine who received of his generosity. On this occasion, let me say this to those, whom God has given His Bounty. Let us strive to provide equal opportunities to all so that they can engage in the creation of Physics and science for the benefit of all mankind. This would exactly be in the spirit of Alfred Nobel and the ideals which permeated his life. Bless You!
The point of this post isn't "Simpsons did it first!" but rather to, as the physicist mentions in his address, encourage more people from this part of the world to get into this specific science which is often neglected in favor of fields with more immediate materialistic reward (engineering, medicine, less emphasis on research).