Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Ash`ari (Allah be well-pleased with him)

There are also blatant errors which al-Ash`ari the heresiographer and former Mu`tazili would never commit, such as the attribution to the Mu`tazila as a whole of the belief that Allah Almighty and Exalted is everywhere,39 when he himself reports in his Maqalat that the vast majority of the Mu`tazila said, like Ahl al-Sunna, that it was the controlling disposal (tadbîr) of Allah Almighty and Exalted that was everywhere.40 Furthermore, there is apparently no known chain of transmission for the Ibana from the Imam despite its ostensible fame and the abundance of his students,41 nor do any of his first or second-generation students – such as Ibn Furak – make any mention of it.42 Finally, Imam al-Qushayri’s Shikaya Ahl al-Sunna bi Hikaya Ma Nalahum Min al-Mihna provides an additional external sign that the tampering of al-Ash`ari’s Ibana took place possibly as early as the fifth century:

They have attributed despicable positions to al-Ash`ari and claimed he had said certain things of which there is not one iota in his books. Nor can such sayings be found reported in any of the books of the scholars ofkalâm who either supported him or opposed him, from the earliest times to our own – whether directly quoted or paraphrased. All of that is misrepresentation, forgery, and unmitigated calumny!43

In conclusion it is possible to say with a fair degree of certainty that the Ibana attributed to al-Ash`ari today is actually the anonymous, chainless rewriting of an anti-Ash`ari, anti-Hanafi literalist with clear anthropomorphist leanings and a willingness to adduce Israelite reports typical of the works of anthropomorphist doctrine44 while the unaltered version known to Ibn `Asakir, Abu `Uthman al-Sabuni, and other Ash`aris did not reach us. It is a telling confirmation of this conclusion that the early anthropomorphists used to reject the Ibana while those of later centuries quote it without reservation. And Allah knows best.


[1] Al-Khatib in Tarikh Baghdad (11:346) gives the dates 260-330. Ibn `Asakir in his Tabyin, Ibn al-Subki in Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (3:347, 3:352), al-Dhahabi in the Siyar (al-Arna’ut ed. 15:85) and Tadhkira al-Huffaz (3:820), Ibn Kathir in al-Bidaya (Ma`arif ed. 11:204), and Ibn Qadi Shuhba in Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya (1:114 #60) all give the dates 260-324. Ibn al-Athir, as quoted by Ibn Kathir, gives the obitus as 330. See also Ibn `Imad’s Shadharat al-Dhahab (2:303), and Wafayat al-A`yan (2:446). Shaykh Ghawiji gives the dates ~260-~324 in his Nazra `Ilmiyya (p. 21).

[2] Cf. al-Shahrastani, al-Milal wa al-Nihal (1:93=1961 ed. p. 118-119); Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (3:356). See also Nur al-Din Ahmad ibn Mahmud al-Sabuni (d. 1184), al-Bidaya min al-Kifaya fiUsul al-Din.

[3] Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini and Ibn Furak considered al-Ash`ari a Shafi`i in fiqh. Cf. Ibn Qadi Shuhba, Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyyar (1:115). He is declared a Hanafi in Ibn Abi al-Wafa’s al-Jawahir al-Mudiyya (p. 247).

[4] Ahmad ibn Yahya ibn Ishaq al-Rawandi (d. 298), a Mu`tazila turned freethinker and atheist. Ibn Hazm also wrote a book against him entitled al-Tarshid.

[5] In his Tashih al-Mafahim al-`Aqdiyya (p. 25).

[6] In al-`Awasim min al-Qawasim as quoted by Ghawiji in Nazra `Ilmiyya (p. 5-6).

[7] Ibn al-Subki, Tabaqat al-Kubra (3:355).

[8] Cf. Ibn Hajar, al-Mu`jam al-Mufahras (p. 408 #1862). On Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Miqsam (296-380), one of Abu Nu`aym al-Asbahani’s shaykhs, see al-Khatib, Tarikh Baghdad (4:429).

[9] In Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari (p. 129-137).

[10] Ghawiji, Nazra `Ilmiyya (p. 8).

[11] Such as his early al-Luma` and Kashf al-Asrar, cf. Ibn `Asakir, Tabyin (p. 50-51 = al-Kawthari ed. p. 39).

[12] In Tabaqat al-Hanabila (2:18). Even if the account of al-Barbahari’s snub were to be proven true, it would only show one scholar’s misjudgment of another.

[13] In the Siyar (11:543) without chain.

[14] As cited by Ghawiji in Nazra `Ilmiyya (p. 8) without giving his source.

[15] Ghawiji, Nazra `Ilmiyya (p. 21-64 on Abu Hanifa; p. 65-99 on


[16] Al-Ash`ari, al-Ibana (Mahmud ed. 2:22=Sabbagh ed. p. 36), cf. Maqalat al-Islamiyyin (`Abd al-Hamid ed. 1:345=Ritter ed. p. 290).

[17] Ibn `Asakir, Tabyin (p. 159= al-Kawthari ed. p. 158).

[18] Al-Ash`ari, al-Ibana (`Uyun ed. p. 44).

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