ABSTRACT

Investigating the origin of the world within the science (Arabic: ʿilm) of kalām, premodern Islamic theologians employed a particular form of analogical reasoning: they argued that experienceable phenomena could yield knowledge about unexperienceable phenomena (al-istishhād bi’l-shāhid ʿalā al-ghāʾib). Though in agreement that analogical reasoning could solve the theological problem of the world’s origin, they quarreled over the precise norms that ensured its validity as a way to knowledge. This chapter sheds light on the questions discussed by theologians in their attempt to define such norms: What sorts of experienceable phenomena could, or should, be used as the starting point of analogical reasoning? What do these experiences have to involve in order to serve as an analogy for unexperienceable phenomena? And what is a valid analogy between experienceable phenomena and phenomena beyond experience? I argue that theologians were engaged in a translation process: their use of analogy implied a translation of judgments about entities between two epistemic domains, comparable to the translation of meaning between two languages in interlingual translation.