Ibn Sina’s Concept Of Wajib Al-Wujud

Hamid Fahmy ZarkasyiWajib al-Wujud is a term coined by Ibn Sina to establish the proof for the existence of God. Since this concept is of Ibn Sina’s origin, Davidson regards him as the first philosopher who employed the concept of necessary existence to prove the existence of God.  It is a fixed expression and becomes the core of Ibn Sina’s theology (Ilahiyyat) as he reiterates his elaboration in his various treatises. Netton mentions Ibn Sina’s proof for the existence of Wajib al-Wujud  are four: metaphysical proof from necessity, proof from movements, proof from causality and proof from ontology. But the proof from movement is almost the same as the proof from causality.  Morewedge  finds out that the concept of Wajib al-Wujud  has been used in three ways: ontological, theological and phenomenological principles. Morewedge does not mention cosmological principles for he found that it is analyzed within the context of ontological principle. However, here I shall concentrate on the concept of Wajib al-Wujud  based on ontological principles that will include cosmological principle with additional discussion of His nature.


Ontological Principles

Ontological argument is an argument in the realm of thought without assuming the actual existence of anything. It is notable as being purely a priori as an attempt to prove the existence of God without using any contingent premise. According to Davidson, in the history of ontological proof, the term necessary being is used in two senses: a) Necessary being in the sense of a being, whose existence is established by a priori, logical necessity. b) Necessary being in the sense of a being that exists through itself, whose essence contains sufficient reason for its existence. Wajib al-Wujud in Ibn Sina’s theology is logical necessity based on an analysis of the concept of God’s nature in so far as the essence of God in that concept contains sufficient reason of His existence.

In this principle Ibn Sina examines the Wajib al-Wujud  from the existence itself, by considering the condition (hal) of being. Ibn Sina established the existence of the Wajib al-Wujud from the consideration of existence in general. This is quite different from the other general proof for the existence of God like Aristotle; for example, who considers only one segment of existence, which is God’s creation and effect, namely motion. Although Ibn Sina’s concept is still within the Aristotelian tradition, which “examine the existent qua existent and what belongs to it by virtue of itself”, he brilliantly applied it in different way, that is by limiting his examination only from metaphysical principle drawn from metaphysics. In contrast, the proof for the existence of God in Aristotle’s theology is drawn largely from the argument of Physics. For this reason Ibn Sina claimed that his method is more certain and more exalted  (أوثق و اشرف).

The distinction of Ibn Sina’s proof from that of Aristotle is manifest. Aristotle’s proof starts from a set of physical principles, mainly motion, while motion in place underlies all other kinds of change.  Everything moved have the cause of their motions outside themselves; nothing can maintain itself in motion unless it is continuously moved by an agent; only circular motion is continuous and eternal; and only an infinite force can maintain the heavens in motion for an infinite time. From all those principles Aristotle came to his final analysis that there must exist the unmoved mover, which is the only cause of the motion in the universe. Here the existence of God is identified from the physical phenomena and drawn from physical principles. Ibn Sina, in contrast, does not start his proof from physical phenomena, but from the very existence of the universe.  He left aside all the physical argument leading up to Aristotle Unmoved Mover and begins with a fresh concept by analyzing the existent of necessity or as he call is Wajib al-Wujud  (Necessary Existent). This, certainly, requires less premises and, as Ibn Sina claimed, more certain.

Hamid Fahmy Zarkasyi
Institut Studi Islam Darussalam (ISID) Gontor