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Christian Engagement with Islamic kalām in Late 14th-Century Egypt: The Case of al-Ḥāwī by al-Makīn Jirjis Ibn al-ʿAmīd ‘the Younger’

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‭Towards the end of the 14th century ce, a Coptic government-bureaucrat-turned-monk called al-Makīn Jirjis ibn al-ʿAmīd produced a theological/ecclesiastical encyclopedia known sometimes as Mukhtaṣar al-bayān fī taḥqīq al-īmān, and sometimes as al-Ḥāwī al-mustafād min badīhat al-ijtihād, or simply as al-Ḥāwī. Book I, Chapter 1, Part 3 of this work is an essay on al-qaḍāʾ wa-l-qadar, which is described in the present essay. In making his case for humanity’s capacity for freely willed action, Ibn al-ʿAmīd presents arguments from the Old Testament and the New; a story from the Kitāb al-Siyāsa fī tadbīr al-riʾāsa (better known as Sirr al-asrār or Secretum secretorum), purportedly a book written by Aristotle for Alexander the Great (which is interesting as a witness to the use of Alexander-material by the Copts); and a typology in which the Muslim mutakallimūn Abū Isḥāq al-Isfarāʾīnī, al-Bāqillānī, al-Ashʿarī, Abū l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī, and the Muʿtazila in general serve as convenient labels for the positions described—and which turns out to be an epitome of a passage from masʾala 22 of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s Kitāb al-Arbaʿīn. While the reproduction of al-Rāzī’s typology hardly amounts to a serious engagement with him or with the list of thinkers just mentioned, it is perhaps not insignificant that, in a time of sharp inter-communal tensions, Ibn al-ʿAmīd should claim the Muʿtazila as allies in his discourse on human freedom.‬

Affiliations: 1: Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago


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