al-Asha`ira – The Ash`aris

Al-Suyuti succintly defined Qadari doctrine as “the claim that evil is created by human beings.”[8] Ibn Abi Ya`la relates the following description of the Qadariyya: “They are those who claim that they possess in full the capacity to act (al-istita`a), free will (al-mashEE’a), and effective power (al-qudra). They consider that they hold in their grasp the ability to do good and evil, avoid harm and obtain benefit, obey and disobey, and be guided or misguided. They claim that human beings retain full initiative, without any priority in Allah’s will for their acts, nor even in His knowledge of them. Their doctrine is similar to that of Zoroastrians and Christians. That is the very root of heresy.”[9]

The Qadariyya or “Libertarians” are little different from the rationalists known as the Mu`tazila or “Isolationists” and both are traced back to the same founder, `Amr ibn `Ubayd Abu `Uthman al-Basri (d. ~144), who walked out of the teaching circle of al-Hasan al-Basri and “isolated” himself. Al-Dhahabi introduces him as “the ascetic (al-zahid), the devout (al-`abid), the Qadari, the elder of the Mu`tazila and the first of them.”[10] He returned onto the Ahl al-Sunna the label of Qadariyya –in the opposite sense of those who over-emphasize Allah’s Decree –in a book entitled al-Radd `ala al-Qadariyya.

The status of Qadaris in the eyes of Ahl al-Sunna varied. Al-Subki spoke of “a difference of opinion concerning the apostasy (takfEEr) of the Qadariyya.”[11] Ibn Abi Hatim in the introduction to his al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dil (1:373) relates that Ibn al-Mubarak stopped narrating from `Amr ibn `Ubayd because “he used to propagate the doctrine of absolute free will.” Al-Dhahabi refuses to call `Amr a disbeliever,[12] although some early sources such as Ibn Abi `Asim’s (d. 287) al-Sunna, al-Ajurri’s (d. 360) al-Shari`a and Ibn Batta’s (d. 387) al-Ibana relate that the Qadariyya were held so by Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz, Malik ibn Anas, Ibn al-Mubarak, Sufyan al-Thawri, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal among others.

The fact is that Sufyan al-Thawri, Ibn al-Mubarak, and Ahmad all narrated from Qadaris, such as Thawr ibn Yazid, Dawud ibn al-Husayn, Zakariyya ibn Ishaq, Dawud al-Dastuwa’i and others, all of which are also among Bukhari and Muslim’s narrators as shown by Suyuti’s list of Qadaris in the two books of Sahih in his Tadrib (1:389). These narrators could never have been retained if the imams had considered them disbelievers. However, the verdict of apostasy is true from Imam Malik who did not narrate from a single Qadari in his Muwatta‘. Malik held that they should be killed unless they repented, and the narrations reporting his position of takfeer of the Qadariyya are sound.[13]

Imam al-Nawawi gave the following explanations of the belief in Allah’s Decree in his Commentary on the Forty Hadiths:

The way of the People of Truth is to firmly believe in Allah’s Decree. The meaning of this is that Allah has decreed matters from pre-eternity and that He knows that they shall take place at times known to Him and at places known to Him; and they do occur exactly according to what He has decreed.

Know that there are four kinds of decrees:

(a) The Decree in the Divine Foreknowledge. It is said concerning it: Care (`inaya) before friendship (wilaya), pleasure before childbirth, and continual harvest from first-fruits. Allah the Exalted said: “He is made to turn away from it who has been made to turn away” (51:9). In other words, one is turned away from hearing the Qur’an and from believing in this life who was driven from them in pre-eternity. Allah’s Messenger said: “Allah does not destroy except one who is already destroyed.”[14]

(b) The Decree in the Preserved Tablet. Such Decree may be changed. Allah said: “Allah erases what He will, and He consolidates what He will, and with Him is the Mother of the Book” (13:39). We know that Ibn `Umar used to say in his supplications: “O Allah, if You have foreordained hardship for me, erase it and write felicity for me.”

(c) The Decree in the womb concerning which the angel is ordered to foreordain one’s sustenance, term of life, and whether he shall be unfortunate or prosperous.

(d) The Decree which consists in joining specific forewritten matters to the appointed times in which they are to befall, for Allah the Exalted has created both good and evil and has ordained that they should befall His servant at times appointed by Him.

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