The Philosophy of Ibn Al-Razi
Ibn Al-Razi was a Muslim philosopher and alchemist who created his original philosophy based on the ancient writings and mystic Arabic texts. Moreover, he was one of the greatest physicists of his time, even though his study had a distinct philosophical nature. Besides, his medical input was very important, and today his legacy accounts for more than 200 manuscripts. Nevertheless, the theoretical core of his scientific research was the philosophy, which consisted of rational-logical and mystical doctrines. However, many researches have been ignoring his philosophy for centuries, and only in the 20th century his metaphysical heritage has become the subject of interest for many people. Ibn Al-Razi not only managed to develop the original metaphysical theory in the context of Islam, but he also synthesized various sciences. This essay analyzes the philosophy of Ibn Al-Razi with the central idea of God and the interaction of four eternal creative principles (soul, matter, time, and place), which were some of the first Arabic rational metaphysics ideas that combined both Platonism and Medieval mystical traditions.
The Arabic philosopher Muhammad ibn Zakariya Al-Razi (865-925) was also known as the physician and alchemist. He was born in the city if Rey, one of the oldest Persian cities . He received a thorough education in philosophy, metaphysics, poetry, magic, and alchemy in Persia, as well as in cities located on the modern territory of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Already in his youth, he started experimenting with refining metals, as he was trying to find the “elixir”. 30-year-old Al-Razi moved to Baghdad, where he studied medicine . He soon became famous as an excellent doctor, led a clinic in Rey, and then in Baghdad: “Al-Razi was generous, humane towards his patients, and charitable to the poor, so that he used to give them full treatment without charging any fee, and even stipends” . Besides, he was well-acquainted with the ancient writings of philosophy and medicine, so it was the base for his original metaphysics ideas.
The ancient philosophy had a special significance for the establishment and development of the philosophy of Al-Razi. He was aware of the Arabic translations of the Greek philosopher Democritus, and thus stressed the importance of the doctrine of atoms. He used the idea that atoms ??consisted from small particles, and also borrowed the principle of ??the motion in a vacuum, both of which resulted in the formation of various bodies and space . Nevertheless, for Al-Razi, the cosmogony of Heraclitus has been combined with theology, since the Arab philosopher has proposed that God is the foundation and source of all things, and He is the first reason and principle of all things.
God could not create the world from nothing, and therefore five perpetual elements have used for its development. These principles have always been in the world, and, in essence, they are likened to God. There is no chance in the world, and thus the movement of atoms is caused by the unattainable divine order: “God creates everything, He is incapable of nothing, and nothing can be contrary to His will” . Moreover, the eternal matters preceded these small particles, which he called atoms. Life starts from God and it will end in his essence. God has unattainable wisdom, so He knows how the world works. However, for the fullness of being, God created the blind soul that did not know how to move. It is the second element of Al-Razi’s metaphysics, which is connected to the creation of the world: “In Being there are living things, so there must be soul” . Above all, the soul is connected only with living beings, and thus it belongs to both people and animals.
The philosopher had developed the idea of ??the relationship between body and soul, which was crucial for medieval philosophy. However, it had a completely different sense than the one in the European medieval philosophy. If the majority of scholastics considered the body as the center of sin that was dependent on the soul, then Al-Razi proposed a different idea. For him, soul and body were as inseparable as the earth and the air. For example, if a person always thinks about death, then soul inevitably affects the body, so that he/she is really starting to die. At the same time, if a person does not take care of his/her physical health, then the soul will inevitably get sick. In this sense, the human thoughts about death are absurd, because people cannot do anything. Moreover, if a man leads a righteous and honest life, then there is no use to care about death, because he/she will be happy in afterlife in any case.
God gave the soul a physical shell shape, but the soul always tries to return to God. Plato’s precondition for returning to the world was the recollection of relevant ideas, but Al-Razi proposed another principle. The creation was the result of an unexpected, sudden turn of events (falta) . It happened when the soul wanted the matter, and good Allah eased her suffering, allowing it to satisfy its passion, and thus to experience suffering in the material world. Afterwards, the soul was in random motion, until God did gave it reason, leading it in the right direction. Hence, the reason provided a chance to see that our world was not the soul’s real home, and, therefore, the soul needed to use the possibilities of the mind to return to her true shelter.
God poured intelligence to remind the real suffering of the world that belongs to God and his wisdom: “Since we have admitted the wisdom of the Creator, we must admit that the world is created” . Due to this principle, the soul seeks its way to salvation and eternity. Thereby, mind is the grace that God has given a man to find the path. Besides, the idea of intelligence is not a single principle, but the immanent essence of the soul. In this case, the intelligent man can distinguish good from evil, and, more importantly, understand the difference between the four elements. It is important to realize that these five principles are eternal, but intellect is not. It does not mean that God does not have mind, since he is beyond the limits of mind. The only way of perception both for the divine and earthly worlds is the soul.
The third component is matter, which is entirely built from atoms. Every atom has its own value, which enables the creation of different things. If the atoms are close to each other, then they form solid objects; if the distance between them is void, then they form soft objects, respectively. In fact, there are no empty things in the world, because there are atoms everywhere. The matter is eternal, “since atoms are uncompounded and indestructible” . Besides, the matter is eternal, because it is not possible for it to have come from something that has been already created, because then it would contradict the logic of God’s creation. The sphere also consists of atoms, but its structure is different from other objects. The philosopher believed that the scope of movement was not aimed at the center of the earth, but to its periphery. Accordingly, Al-Razi offered two pieces evidence of the infinity of matter. Firstly, if the Creator used the matter to create the world, then it has always existed, because he could not create the world out of nothing. Secondly, the other piece of evidence is the unfeasibility of the creatio ex nihilo . According to the Creator, the creation of things must have been caused by its composition, not the creation itself. Hence, the matter is eternal and has always been in the world.
The last two important elements of the world are space and time, which are also considered to be the eternal components. However, it is important to distinguish absolute space/time from those that belong to people. More specifically, Al-Razi discriminates between two types of spaces: eternal and relative. If the matter is eternal, then it must be in some kind of space, and thus this space is eternal, too. In other words, space is a repository for objects: “If it is a body, it must be in space, and outside this body there is space or no-space; if no-space, it is a body and finite” . However, space can exist without the specialized objects. In addition, the philosopher has mentioned vacuum, which is located in space and matter. This is the strength of attraction of other bodies for cooperation. In addition, the philosopher proposed a law similar to that of physical attraction, but at the level of metaphysics.
Al-Razi used the same logic to explain that time was eternal, because God had been creating the world during some period. He could not create things before time, because in such a way, they would have to exist before the creation: “One thesis singled out for rebuttal is аn anti-Aristotelian view that R?z? shares: time would continue even if all motion ceased” . Just as absolute space allows, but does not require the presence of matter, the absolute time also allows, but does not require the emergence of a movement. Al-Razi mentioned eternity as an example of the absolute time, and a long flight of the ball – as the example of the limited time. There are similarities between them, but in reality they are significantly different. As a result, the philosopher projected the absolute through the idea of duration (al-dahr) in the absolute space (cosmos). For Al-Razi, time is similar to matter, but it has some different qualities and features. For instance, relative time is irreversible, and absolute time is cyclical. Therefore, for him, time is not the sum of the motion of bodies, because it contradicts the logic of time. If this idea were true, then the body would be able to move in opposite directions, and to break the nature of time.
In conclusion, the philosophy of Al-Razi is a synthesis of ancient philosophy and Arabic Mysticism. Therefore, he created his original metaphysical doctrine by combining different theories. The Antique impact on the Arab philosopher can be divided into two parts: the do-Socratic philosophy and the Platonic tradition. The main elements of Al-Razi’s metaphysics are nature, fetus, and eternity. Al-Razi offered a theory in which God created the world from five eternal elements. These elements were vital for the creation of the world; otherwise, the world would not exist. He proposed the idea that the world cannot be accidental, because it has its own structure and logic. In this sense, Al-Razi is a pure rationalist, as seen in the logic and reason of the world. Man appeared as the bearer for the soul, through which the mind (intelligence) found its way to God. While Plato’s principle was based on the return to God with the remembrance of the past lives, Al-Razi considered the soul as a way of recognition of the eternal elements. In addition, God has allowed the soul to understand that the world does not belong to a person, and there is too much suffering for physical existence. Thus, the ancient philosopher combined the atomic philosophy, Platonism, and Islam, and then created his rational metaphysics on the basis of these ideas.