THE MUTAZILAH

ON THE DOCTRINES OF THE MU’TAZILA AND THE QADARIYY

[Ed. Qadariyya are not to be confused with the Sufi order of the Qadiriyya].

The Mu’tazila [Separatists] came to be so called on account of their separation [i’tizal] from the truth, or, as some prefer to put it, because of their separation from the generally accepted doctrines [aqawil] of the Muslims. This separation came about in the following circumstances:

The members of the Muslim community were in disagreement over the question of how to classify a person who has committed a major sin [kabira]. Some of them said: “Such people are believers [mu’minun], to the extent of the faith [iman] they still possess.” There were also some among them who said: “No, they are unbelievers [kafirun].” Then along came Wasil ibn ‘Ata’ with a third opinion on the issue. He parted company with the Muslims, and separated himself off from the believers, for he said: “Those who commit major sins are neither believers nor unbelievers.”

There we have one explanation of how they [as the followers of Wasil ibn ‘Ata’] came to be known as the Mu’tazila. According to some, however, they acquired this name on account of their i’tizal [separation in the sense of withdrawal or secession] from the council [majlis] convened by al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allah bestow His mercy upon him). As he walked past them, al-Hasan remarked:

“These people are mu’tazila [a bunch of separatists],” and so it came about that this nickname stuck to them.

They also looked up to ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubaid as one of their leaders. On a certain occasion, when al-Hasan al-Basri became angry with ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubaid, and was sharply criticized on that account, he responded by saying: “How dare you rebuke me so harshly for the sake of a such a man? I saw him in a dream, prostrating himself in worship to the sun instead of to Allah!”

As for the Qadariyya, they are so called because of their refusal to acknowledge the foreordainment [qada‘] of Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) and His predestination [qadar] with respect to the sins of disobedience committed by His human servants, and because of their insistence that human beings are themselves the authors of those actions.

With respect to the denial of the divine attributes [nafy as-sifat], the doctrine of the Mu’tazila, the Jahmiyya and the Qadariyya is one and the same. We have already discussed some of their teachings on the subject of religious belief [i’tiqad].

The name of the authors who compiled their textbooks are as follows: Abu’l-Hudhail, Ja’far ibn Harb, al-Khayyat, al-Ka’bi, Abu Hashim, Abu ‘Abdi’llah al-Basri, and ‘Abd al-Jabbar ibn Ahmad al-Hamadhani.

The majority of the people who adhere to their doctrine are to be found in [the districts of the Iranian province of Khuzistan called] al-‘Askar, al-Ahwaz and Jahzam.1

They can be subdivided into six factions, namely the Hudhaliyya, the Nazzamiyya, the Mu’ammariyya, the Jubba’iyya, the Ka’biyya and the Bahshamiyya.

The point on which all the various factions of the Mu’tazila are in virtually unanimous agreement is the negation of the divine attributes [sifat] in their entirety. They deny that Allah (Almighty and Glorious is He) has knowledge [‘ilm], power [qudra], life [hayat], and the faculties of hearing [sam‘] and sight [basar].

They likewise deny the reality of those divine attributes that have been corroborated by traditional report, such as istiwa‘ [firmly establishing Himself (on the Throne)], nuzul [descending (to the heaven of this lower world)], as well as others that could be mentioned.

They are also in general agreement in professing the following doctrines:

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