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The Presence of Buddhist Thought in Kalām Literature
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1 / 32 The Presence of Buddhist Thought in Kalām Literature Dong Xiuyuan Center for Judaic and Inter-religious Studies, Shandong University, China. This paper is intended to examine the accounts of Buddhist thought in Kalām literature and its influence on the early Mutakallimūn. I shall focus on the Samaniyya’s view on epistemology, the Barāhima’s rejection of prophecy, and the origins of Islamic Atomism. These seemingly separate topics were all treated by Shlomo Pines throughout his academic career spanning half a century. Pines, who made groundbreaking contributions to each issue, did not establish a link among them. Based on the examination of Buddhist literature and Kalām works, the present study hopes to shed some light on the common sources of the Barāhima-Samaniyya doctrines and Islamic Atomism. I. The Samaniyya on Epistemology It is generally accepted that the term Samaniyya (or Shamaniyya, Sumaniyya), deriving from Śraman . a (meaning “monk”), designates the Buddhist thinkers in medieval Arabic Literature.1 In Kalām works, there are reports of debates between some early Mutakallimūn and the Samaniyya.2 Pines calls our attention to the one related to the founder of the Jahmiyya, Jahm b. S . afwān (d . 745): It is reported that some Samaniyya said to Jahm b. S . afwān: Does the knowledge of what is regarded as good (al-ma‘rūf) follow (yakhruj) from the five senses (al-mashā‘ir al-khamsa)? He answered: No. They said: Tell us about the object of your worship (ma‘būd). Do you know Him (‘araftahu) by any of them? 2 / 32 He answered: No. They said: Consequently He is unknown. Hereupon he remained silent and wrote about this to Wās . il [b. ‘At . ā’]. The latter replied and said: You may posit a sixth [source of knowledge], namely inference (dalīl ). Hereupon they will say: He (God) does not follow either from the senses or from inference (my emphasis). Thereupon I shall ask them whether they distinguish between the living and the dead, between rational being and a madman. There is no doubt about an affirmative answer. Now this is known by means of inference. When Jahm gave this answer, they (the Samaniyya) said: ‘This is not your discourse (kalām)’. He informed them (of the facts). Hereupon they went to Wās . il, had a conversation with him, and were converted by him to Islam. 3 An earlier version of the same story is reported by Ibn H . anbal: Some information of Jahm came down to us. He is from Tirmidh (my emphasis) in Khurasan and a master of debate and Kalām. Most of his kalām is about God. He met some people among the polytheists called Samaniyya who knew Jahm. So they said to him: We are arguing with you. If our argument prevails over yours, you should convert to our religion; if your argument prevails over ours, we will convert to your religion. So they argued with Jahm and said to him: Do you not assert that you have a God? Jahm said: Yes. They said: Did you see your God? He said: No. They said: Did you hear his word? He said: No. They said: Did you smell his smell? He said: No. They said: Did you find him by taste? He said: No. They said: Did you find him by touch? He said: No. They said: Then how do you know that he is God? It is said that (thereafter) Jahm was confused and did not participate in worship for forty days. Then he came up with an argument just like that of the Christian heretics who assert that the spirit (rūh . ) in Jesus the son of 9 is the spirit of God from God’s essence… Jahm came up with an argument just like this one. Thus he said to the Samaniyya: Do you not admit that there is a soul (rūh . ) inside you? They said: Yes. He said: Did you see your soul? 3 / 32 They said: No. He said: Did you hear its word? They said: No. He said: Did you find it by taste or touch? They...