Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sunni Islam and the Natural Law: Natural Law Thought in Al-Qadi ʿAbd al-Jabbar, Part 2: The Prophet Within Man Called Lutf

THE ALL PROVIDENT ALLAH not only provided for man and indeed the entirety of creation with sustenance (rizq), but he also provided man with a sort of internal compass on its distribution. ʿAbd al-Jabbar referred to this guiding principle within man as lutf (لتف). Lutf is what drives the motive, the underlying urge behind an act. It is not a deterministic urge, as one can either choose or not choose that which the lutf. Emons explains: "In ʿAbd al-Jabbar's theory of Hard Natural Law, lutf is a term of art that reflects the God-given human dispositional traits or motivations that propel us towards the good and keep us away from evil. . . . In short lutf is a dispositional trait that directs us to the good. By itself, it does not determine action, but rather represents humanity's divinely created innate sense of the good." Emon, 58. Lutf is sort of an internal prophet.

Al-Jabbar ("The Compellor") one of the 99 Names of Allah

When the lutf is followed, then there is a correspondence between the lutf and the act which ʿAbd al-Jabbar called tawfiq (توفيق). When prohibitively or admonitionally the lutf urges one not to act in a certain manner and that prohibition is followed by not acting, that negative correspondence is called ʿisma (عشـم). Whether in tawfiq or in ʿisma, correspondence with the guidance of lutf means one is free from sin. On the other hand, the lack of correspondence with lutf means one is in sin.
The lutf represents the potentiality in human nature to engage in morally righteous thought and conduct. That potentiality may not always result in specific moral action, but the possibility that it might is all that ʿAbd al-Jabbar required to situate the telos of his natural law theory.
Correspondence with the lutf not only assures us freedom from sin, and from concomitant punishment, but it also provides for self-fulfillment. In other words, the lutf corresponds to our own internal happiness. Yet correspondence to the lutf does more than merely perfect the individual; it is also related to social or communal fulfillment.

Emon provides a summary of the relationship between rizq and lutf in ʿAbd al-Jabbar's teaching in his al-Mughni:
The lutf or dispositional quality in human nature certainly offers a guide to all of us who wish to understand the will of God. The imperative to understand the lutf and follow is guidance is based on the fact that it guides us to self-fulfillment. For ʿAbd al-Jabbar, benefit is not calculated in utilitarian or consquentialist fashion. The benefit is designed to promote self-fulfillment, which makes the obligation both justified and meaningful in ʿAbd al-Jabbar's Hard Natural Law theory. ʿAbd al-Jabbar did not suggest that we always know and follow our lutf. But he did not need to offer such a thesis to philosophize about the ontological authority of reason in the law. The mere possibility that we can reason to the good and the bad using our divinely endowed lutf is all that he needed to formulate his naturalist thesis about reason and the telos of the Shariʿa.
Emon, 61-62. It would seem, then, that the notion of lutf in ʿAbd al-Jabbar is analogous to, if not identical with, the notion of synderesis or conscience in the Christian tradition.

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