The Main Sects

The Mu‘tazila denied the existence of the “Attributes of Meanings” (sifât al-ma‘ânî), [10] asserting that Allah is Knower with­out being character­ized by any Attribute of Knowledge (sifa al-‘ilm), and Powerful with­out being characterized by any Attribute of Power (sifa al-qudra). The only reason that made them adopt this position is their notion that to attribute such an essential Attribute (sifa dhâtiyya) to Allah I entailed assent to a multi­plicity of beginningless entities (ta‘addud al-qudamâ’) to the number of these Attributes, which assent constitutes disbelief by unanimous agreement. Therefore, they said that His “being-knower” (‘âlimiyyatuhu) and “being-powerful” (qâdi­riy­yatuhu) are necessarily true of His essence and need not, in order to exist, Knowledge and Power, contrary to the case for human beings. They also said that Allah is perfect and complete in His essence, so that, if we said that His “being-knower” is estab­lished by means of the Attribute of knowl­edge, then His essence would be lacking something since it needs, for its completion, an external means – a position that is unanimously null and void.

The above are all specious claims to which the Mu‘tazili per­spec­tive gave rise due to their burdening reason with more than its capacity in these matters. This is their well-known method. What is impossible in the multiplicity of beginningless entities is that the be­gin­ningless essences be multiple – not the Attributes of a single es­sence. [11] Now, the “being-knower” of Allah is nothing more than the ascrip­tion of the Attribute of knowledge itself to Allah I. Nowhere in this is there anything “needing” nor anything “needed.” This also tells you that the ascription of the Attribute of knowledge to Him does not entail His being com­pleted by means of something other than Him.

There is proof enough for us that Allah ascribed to Himself the Attribute of Knowledge in the verse (they encompass nothing of His know­ledge save what He will) (2:255). [12] It is natural that reason cate­gorically assimilate His other Attributes with this one, as­cribing to Him, similarly, the Attributes of life, power, hearing, sight, etc.

The adduction of this verse as proof is well-established even if we interpret the terms “knowledge” in it to mean “the known” (al-ma‘lûm), although there is no necessity for such interpretation. For if knowledge were not firmly established for Allah I He would not have at­tributed it to Himself nor signified the object of the known by it. Thus the signify­ing of “the known” by “knowledge” is still a branch of the validity of the ascription of Knowledge to Allah Almighty. [13]

2.         In the chapter of the Divine Justice (al-‘adl), the Mu‘tazila – and the Qadariyya, Shi‘a, and Christians likewise – held that Allah I cannot possibly create the evil deeds of His servants, therefore they are in charge of their own destinies and create the latter themselves through a power which Allah I deposited in them. This heresy is the core of Qadari belief and was refuted by Imam al-Ash‘ari in his book Khalq al-A‘mal, his student Ibn Khafif in hisal-‘Aqida al-Sahiha (§40: “Acts belong to Allah, not to creatures, while earning – al-iktisâb – belongs to creatures, but earning is created by Allah, not by them”) and, before them, by al-Bukhari in his Khalq Af‘al al-‘Ibad.

Page 2 of 5 | Previous page | Next page