Daqīq Al-Kalām


Daqīq al-kalām investigated some of the basic concepts that are the subjects of contemporary physics, such as space, time, matter, motion, force, speed, heat, color, smells, and the like. So it is quite legitimate to revisit this discipline seeking a common understanding, not necessarily with physics as such but perhaps with the philosophy which surrounds these now scientific concepts. This approach is supported by the fact that the resources of kalām are quite different from those of classical natural philosophy, including the philosophy of the Greeks.

Mutakallimūn considered the Qur'ān to be the prime source for their knowledge about the world, and accordingly they founded their discipline a way as to understand the world according to the stipulations of the Qur’ān. This is the main reason why we find that some concepts of kalām are different in their meanings and implications from their apparent counterparts in either Greek or Indian philosophy. For example: the Qur'an stipulates that the world was created by God at some finite time in the past; accordingly the mutakallimūn projected this demand into a whole theory of creation of the world and generated their own understanding of substances (jawāhir: single jawhar) and accidents (aʽrāḍ: single ʽaraḍ) as part of a general principle of discreteness in order to serve the notion of creation. On the other hand, for God to be free in designing the world according to His own unpredictable will, and in order that He exert full control over the world, the world had to be thought of as being composed of a series of unstable and ever-changing events. This requirement generated the concept of ever-changing accidents which was expressed by the principle of continued re-creation. Accordingly, this led theologians to consider the results of the action of the laws of nature (fire burning cotton, for instance) as being undetermined, so that the mutakallimūn were able to develop a new concept of causality.


Altaie has designated five basic principles of Daqiq al-Kalam. These constitute almost a consensus among the Mutakallimun.

These principles are: 

  1. Temporality of the world. According to the mutakallimun, the world is not eternal, but was created at some finite point in the past. Space and time had neither meaning nor existence before the creation of the world.
  2. Discreteness (Atomism). The mutakallimun believed that all entities in the world are composed of a finite number of fundamental components , each called jawhar (the substrate or substance), which is indivisible and has no parts. The jawhar was thought to be an abstract entity that acquires its physical properties and value when occupied by a character called an a'raḍ (accident). These accidents are ever-changing qualities. Discreteness applies not only to material bodies but to space, time, motion, energy (heat), and all other properties of matter. Since the jawhar cannot stand on its own, as it would then be unidentified, without being associated with at least one 'araḍ, it can therefore be considered as an abstract entity and this is a basic character which makes it different from the Greek and Indian atom. Some authors have tried in vain to relate the Islamic concept of the atom with those of the Greeks or the Indians; however, rigorous investigations have shown that it is unlikely that the Muslims took this idea from elsewhere; the Islamic atom possesses genuinely different properties.
  3. Continual re-creation. The Mutakallimun suggested that every thing in the world is under continued process of re-creation every moment. This re-creation occurs with the accidents, not with the substances, but since the substances cannot be realized without being attached to accidents, therefore the re-creation of the accidents effectively governs the ontological status of the substances too. This notion finds a resonance in contemporary quantum physics. Regarding the second, it is astonishing to consider that this theory would explain why, in the quantum world, we see a range of possible values for physical parameters and what we measure is an average of all possible values being expressed by the so called “expectation value”. With this vision, the principle of re-creation may provide yet another explanation for why our physical measurements detect only the average of possible values.
  4. Indeterminism of the world. Mutakallimun suggested that the world is to be indeterministic, so that physical values are to be contingent and undetermined. From such stance, the Mutakallimun deduced the indeterminacy of the world. This resulted in rejecting the existence of deterministic causality. This is because nature, according to the Mutakallimun, cannot possess any sort of will. The Mutakallimun also rejected the Greeks’ four basic elements and the alleged existence of any kind of self-acting property belonging to those elements. 
  5.  The integrity of space and time. The Mutakallimun had the understanding that space has no meaning on its own. Without there being a body, we cannot realize the existence of space. So is the case with time, which cannot be realized without the existence of motion, which needs a body to be affected. This connection between space and time is deeply rooted in the Arabic language itself. Therefore, neither absolute space nor absolute time exists. This understanding enabled them to visualize motion as being discrete, so that the trajectory of moving bodies are thought to be composed of neighboring “rest points”, waqafat. Accordingly, a body is seen moving faster than another only because the number of rest points along its trajectory is small compared with those along the trajectory of the other. In another theory, the Mutazili al-Naẓẓam believed that motion on the microscopic level takes place in discrete jumps called ṭafra. That is to say, the body moves in discrete steps or leaps. The famous historian of modern physics Max Jammer considered this understanding of al-Naẓẓam as being the oldest realization of a quantum motion; he says: “In fact al-Naẓẓam’s notion of leap, his designation of an analyzable inter-phenomenon, may be regarded as an early forerunner of Bohr’s conception of quantum jumps.”  This proposal by al-Naẓẓam may also solve the old Zeno's paradox.


There are a number of problems in Daqiq al-Kalam which are in need for research and more perfections. Among these are the followings:

The Problem of Motion

Mutakallimun Considered motion to be performed in discrete steps. This visualization is in need for more detailed consideration to see if this concept can lead to the quantization of spacetime. Al-Nazzam notion of Tafra is worth considering in this context. 

The Problem of Re-Creation

This is a very novel concept to understand and resolve  many problems in Quantum Physics. However, the concept is in further need to be developed as to give clearer picture of the way such a re-creation takes place. In addition to this a complete mathematical formulation is needed to develop the concept into quantitative calculations.



Here are some articles in Daqiq Al-Kalam that you may download.

Adobe Acrobat Document 268.4 KB
Adobe Acrobat Document 269.3 KB
The Scientific Value
The Scientific Value.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 783.1 KB
Recreation Paper at arXiv
recreation paper at arXiv.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 153.4 KB