Ibn Sina defines his terms and questions carefully when exploring
God's relationship with the universe - pre-eternal matter vs temporal world
Ibn Sina defines ‘sunan’ (creation) as “Creation according to the philosophers is referring to something which has to do with the possible things and does not have time or matter preceding it.” Muslim philosophers' use of the term Ibdaa (creation) means "possibility", which differs in that Ibn Sina is excluding time or matter preceding the act of creation thereby distinguishing God and his creation as different eternal entities. For Ibn Sina creation is possible whereas God is necessary; creation is not preceded by time or matter as both come together given time is movement of matter. Ibn Sina thought time before the universe limited God.
Ibn Sina argues that "the creator is also eternal and that it is not possible for something temporal to come from something eternal. Further to this point and to be more specific, the main problem that they have with those that hold that the universe is temporal is that it means that one is applying time to God. That there was a time ‘before’ the creation where God was not creating, then after a period of time God decided to create the universe. Applying the terms before and after to God means that one is reducing God to the level of his creation, in this case the creation is time. Another problem that Avicenna had with this view point is that according to this it means that God had a change of intention. What is meant
by this is that in the first instance God did not intend to create the universe and later he decided to create it."
In conclusion Ghazali misunderstood the argument.
God's knowledge of particulars and universals
Ibn Sina sought to understand how does Allah known what he knows. He concluded Allah knew particulars through universals. Ghazali misunderstood this argument and assumed Ibn Sina was claiming Allah only knew universals.
The nature of bodily resurrection on the day of judgement
Ibn Sina argued that if something ceased to exist, it did not exist again in exactly the same way. When Allah resurrected humans, the body would not be the exact same as the one at the point of death as one will in all likelihood be resurrected at a different age.
From the above review, it is doubtful if Ghazali was correct in his takfir of Ibn Sina. This has been endorsed by philosophers like Ibn Rushd, Ibn Tufayl, Tusi, orthodox theologians like Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Iji, Amidi, Jurjani and Sufis like Ibn Arabi and Suhrawardi. As such there appears genuine room to grant Ibn Sina space for his line of questioning regarding (i) God's relationship with the universe, (ii) God's knowledge, and (iii) the nature of bodily resurrection on the day of judgement. The fact it should be rejected as little more than a speculative enquiry has not been considered so as to address the above question and avoid addressing the mutakallimeen (theologian) arguments too which were of a similar nature.
Ghazali, Tahafat al-Falasifah
Ibn Rushd, Tahafut al-Tahafut
Ibn Sina, Al-Isharat wa al-Tanbihat
Ibn Sina, Kitab an-Najat
Iji, Kitab al-Mawaqif fi Ilm al-Kalam
Jurjani A, Sharh al-Mawaqif
Maturidi, Kitaab At-Tawheed
Nasr, Syed Hossein, An Introduction to Islamic Cosmological Doctrine
Proclus, On the Eternity of the World
Razi, Sharh al-Isharat
Sulaiman Ahmed, The Disagreement between Avicenna and al-Ghazali on the Issue of the Pre-eternity of the Universe, how their Arguments Originated from Greek Philosophers and their Effect on Muslim Philosophers
Tusi N, Sharh al-Isharat Wa Al-Tanbihat
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