I've read (probably in wikipedia but can't track down the reference now) that the Asharite strand in Islamic theology couldn't accept that substance necessarily exists pre-eternally as the Quoran revealed Allah as the creator of this universe, and if something existed pre-eternally then there is no need for a creator.

Accordingly they dismantled time and space, by cleverly extending Democritus's theory of atomism from substance to both space & time. That is time and space emerged from a gathering together of time & space atoms.

(Of course one could say that these time atoms were also pre-existant before time itself. On a straight reading that question is nonsensical as time has been dismantled, there is no pre-, but to me, the question still has force, it is a matter of framing it correctly. How, I don't know, otherwise I would have framed it here.)

Does anyone have a reference where this is discussed, as it seems an interesting & fundamentally novel extension of greek atomism?

  • Hi Mozibur Ullah, while this isn't explicitly pertaining to the Asharite contribution, perhaps you might be interested in the topics of "digital physics" and "digital philosophy", and also especially, the "Fredkin finite nature hypothesis"? I also seem to recall that Penrose's "Road to Reality" has something in it relevant to this, something to do with finite fields, but am not totally sure, it's been awhile since I browsed through it... – user1539 Sep 29 '12 at 7:49

According to at least one source, it seems that the Asharites didn't believe in space or time as physical constructs. They only exist in the mind of the one who perceives them:

The Aristotelian categories of thought were subjected by the Ash'arites to a searching criticism. Only two of those categories, substance and quality, were retained by them. The other categories, quality, place, time, etc., are nothing but relative characteristics (i'tibarat) that exist subjectively in the mind of the knower, having no corresponding objective reality. Source: MuslimPhilosophy.com

This quote does state "quality" in both that they retained and that they didn't, but I assume one of them is meant to be "quantity".

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