Being may be taken to mean as such (al-wujud al-mutlaq), which will comprehend the Necessary Being as well as the possible being. In this sense being is a common universal which does not exist except in mind or in word. Or it may be taken to mean the being which is ascribed to the Necessary or to the possible. Being in this sense is specific to the thing to which it is ascribed. Hence the being of the Creator is other than the being of the world; similarly, the being of Zayd is other than the being of `Umar, and there is no being which is common to any two things.
Some people think that things which we predicate of the world are only predicated of the Creator as a metaphor including the word `thing’ (shayy) itself. This is the opinion of Jahm and the Batin yyah who agree with him on this point. They refrain from calling God as existing (mawjud) as a thing or by any other name.
Others hold just the opposite view: everything predicated of God is predicated in the real sense, whereas it is predicated of the world as a metaphor. This is the view of Abu Al-`Abbas An-Nashi”Z from among the Mu’tazilah.
People in general believe that things are predicated of both God and the world in the real sense, and for most of them they are predicated of both unequivocally in the broadest sense of the term, or equivocally if that is distinguished from the former. The latter is certainly different from special unequivocal predication in which the meanings are similar while the words are cognate. Only a small group of later thinkers have regarded them to be homonymous as against the majority and the most popular thinkers. Ar-Razi has attributed this view to Al-Ash’ari, but it is not correct, for Al-Ash`ari and for his followers in general, wujud, or being, is a general term divisible into the eternal and the contingent. He, however, believes that the existence of everything is identical with its essence which is the view of all rational people, Muslims as well as non Muslims. Some people such as Al-Amidi”Za have wrongly inferred from this that the term is a homonym. We have discussed this at length elsewhere for everyone to find out the truth.
To one who says that wujud may either refer to the essence or to an attribute over and above the essence we would put the following question: Do you mean by wujud being as such’, which may be eternal and may be possible, or do you mean by it a particular being, whether the Necessary Being or the possible beings We have three terms here. When we say the wujud of a man, his self (dhat), essence or reality, it is specific to him, referring to his own self qualified with his own attributes. Similarly when we say the wujud of the Lord, His self, His essence, His reality, they all refer to what is specific to Him, which is His self qualified with His attributes. Hence, in reply to Al-Amidi’s statement that the term wujud refers either to the essence of God or to an attribute over and above it, we say that if you mean by the term `being as such’, which comprehends both necessary and the possible beings, then it does not refer to something which is specific either to the Necessary or to the possible being; it rather refers to a universal concept only exist in mind or in word. There is nothing out in reality there which is something universal as well as real… However, if you mean by wujud that which refers to both, as in the in the phrase `all beings, the necessary and possible’, or `being, necessary and possible’, then it refers to what is specific to each, as when we say the being of the necessary and the being of the possible. In short, it either means being as a universal concept which is divisible, or it means a particular being such as the being of the necessary or the being of the possible, or both, as when we say `all beings, necessary and possible’, or `beings, necessary and possible’, without implying in any case that it is common to both.
Al-Amidi has said that if wujud refers to the Essence (of God), the divine Essence will be opposed by all other beings. We would point out that wujud as such, which is divisible, does not refer to what is specific to God. But when we take it in the sense of particular beings, it does refer to God; similarly, when we take it in a general sense and say `being, necessary and possible,’ it also refers to what is specific to God, even though it is opposed by other beings. It is just like saying `the divine self’ nd `the human self’ since each refers to what is specific to itself, even though the reality of one is opposed to the reality of the other. The word wujud refers to God and to the world in a similar way, even though they are two different realities.
It may be said that since the reality of one being is different from the reality of the other, the word being (wujud) will be a homonym. This, we will say, is a mistake which has given rise to other mistakes. Different realities are called by a general name which refers to them unequivocally or equivocally. For example, the word color applies to black, white, and red, even though they are different colors; similarly, the words attribute, accident, and concept apply to knowledge, power, life, taste, color, and smell, even though they are different realities. In the same way, the word animal applies to human beings and cattle even though they are different realities. This is all the more true of the word wujud.
Diverse realities may have something common between them which may be referred to by a word such as color. Later on it may be qualified in order to refer to every particular reality. For example, we may say black color or white color. Similarly, we may say the being of God and the being of man, even though we are using a general term which applies to all its particular instances. We say color or colors, animal, accident or being, which apply to everything that comes under them, even though they may be different realities; this is because these terms comprehend them as does any other general term, even though individual realities differ in another sense from these general terms.
If, on the other hand, the term wujud stands, Al-Amidi says, for an attribute that means one and the same thing in the case of the Necessary and the possible, it will follow that the necessary is possible and the possible is necessary, or else the term has to be treated as a homonym. To this objection we respond in this way. We ask if you mean by the term wujud `being as such’ or a particular being referring to one thing or the other, as when we say the wujud of the necessary or the wujud of the possible. if you take the term in the first sense then we will say that it means one and the same thing, but it will not follow thereby that their wujud is similar. Even if their ideas in mind may be similar, it does not follow that they are similar out there. The only thing that follows is that the term applies to both, just as any other term unequivocal or equivocal. When we say black, it may refer to the blackness of pitch or of ink even though they are not similar; or when we say white or red it may refer to many things which are white or red in various degrees. Similarly, the term living applies to the angels, the people in Paradise, the fly and the mosquito, even though their lives are completely different. If this is the case, how can the wujud of God or His knowledge or power be like the wujud of the possible or its knowledge or power, even though the word wujud as such or knowledge as such or power as such comprehends them both.
But if Al-Amidi says that he means a particular being, such as the being of the Necessary or the being of the possible, we will say that what being denotes in one case is different from what it denotes in the other case. That is why it is qualified. We say being of the one or being of the other. This qualification rules out similarity between the two beings, which is by no means necessitated by the commonness of the term, for in this case the difference lies in the term wujud itself, and the qualification through ascription only enforces it, in whatever form we express it, whether `the being of the Lord’ or the `Necessary Being’, on the one hand, and the being of the object created or `the possible being’ on the other.
Author: Ibn Taymiyyah
Islamic Topic: PROPHET AND PROPHECY
Source: Book: [Fatawa 20:441-447] / Also mentioned in “Ibn Taymiyyah Expounds on Islam”