The Hashwiyya, Mujassima, and Mushabbiha

Shaykh Abd al-Qadir Jilani

Ibn `Asakir states in Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari (p. 150-151): “The Hashwiyya and Mujassima said that Allah is materialized (hallun) over the Throne, that the Throne is His place, and that He sits on it.. . . The Mushabbiha and Hashwiyya said: Descent is the descent of His person (dhat) together with movement (haraka) and displacement (intiqal), and istiwa‘ is [His] sitting on the Throne and indwelling on top of it.”

In his Sharh Mukhtasar Ibn al-Hajib al-Subki describes them thus:

The Hashwiyya are a group who deviated from the right path in their blindness. They take Allah’s verses purely in their literal sense (yujrun ayat Allah `ala zahiriha), believing that is their intended meaning (murad). They were named thus because Hasan al-Basri found some of them in his circle (halqa) holding unseemly speech, so he ordered for them to be moved to the bowels or belly (hasha) of the circle. In that sense they are the hashawiyya or ‘Visceralists.’ It was also said that they were named thus because they are among, or actually are, the mujassima — those who ascribe a body to Allah. In that sense they are associated to ‘stuffing’ (hashw) and are called the Hashwiyya or ‘Crammers.'[22]

Of note in relation to the above literal elucidations of the name Hashwiyya is the explanation of the divine Attribute al-Samad, “The Everlasting Sovereign” given by several imams of tafsir and major Tabi`in as al-ladhi la jawfa lahu or “He who does not possess an inside.”[23] This meaning is mentioned by Bayhaqi.[24]

Al-Zabidi (d. 1205) in Taj al-`Arus identifies the Hashwiyya merely as “a group of innovators.” Al-Munawi in his commentary on the hadith: “The angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog” in Fayd al-Qadir said: “One who takes externals exclusively is a Hashwi, and one who takes secret meanings exclusively is a Batini (esotericist).” While Ibn Qutayba (d. 276) in his Mukhtalif al-Hadith (1326H ed. p. 96) states of the scholars of hadith who collect narrations without pausing to understand what they write: “Some have called them the Hashwiyya.” He avers that there is no mention of that term in the hadith, however, it is narrated from Sahl ibn Sa`d al-Sa`idi by al-Tabarani in al-Awsat that the Prophet said: “Every Community has its Zoroastrians, and every Community has its Jews, and every Community has its Christians. The Zoroastrians of my Community are the Qadariyya, its Christians are the Hashwiyya, and its Jews are the Murji’a.”[25]

Taj al-Din al-Subki assimilates them to those who declare dialectic theology (kalam) an innovation and base belief on imitation (taqlEEd).[26] He quotes Ibn Jahbal’s (d. 733) observation: “That party does not deem sufficient the belief (uEEman) of people except if they believe that Allah lies in a specific direction (jiha).”[27]

Al-Subki also relates that the Hashwiyya, unable to answer Imam Fakhr al-Din al-Razi’s (d. 606) arguments against them, resorted to writing ugly remarks and insinuations on scraps of paper and attaching them to the pulpit from which he gave the Friday sermon. He arrived one day and read one of these, and then spoke to those present in an impassioned voice, saying:

This piece of paper says that my son does such and such. If it is true, he is but a youth and I hope he will repent. It also says that my wife does such and such. If it is true, she is a faithless woman. And it says that my servant does such and such. Servants are wont to commit every wrong, except for those Allah protects. But on none of these scraps of paper — and may Allah be praised! — is it written that my son says Allah is a corporeal body, or that he likens Him to created things, or that my wife believes that, or my servant — So which of the two groups is closer to guidance?”[28]

The following two doctrines are also related from the Hashwiyya:

(a) According to some of the Hashwiyya, the Prophet was a disbeliever (kafir) before his prophethood on the basis of the verses: “Did He not find you wandering and direct you?” (93:7), “Before this, you were among the heedless” (12:3), and “You knew not what the Scripture was, nor what was the Faith” (42:52). This is stated in Fakhr al-Din al-Razi’s al-Tafsir al-Kabir under the verses cited. Their claim was rejected by the scholars as there is consensus, apart from the Hashwiyya, whereby the Prophet was made immune to sin (ma`sum) both before and after prophethood in the light of the verse “Your companion errs not, nor is deceived” (53:2).[29] Note that this belief of the Hashwiyya remains a staple of diehard Orientalist historians to the present day.[30]

(b) The Hashwiyya hold, like Jews and Christians, that it is possible for Prophets to intentionally commit all sorts of major and minor sins after prophethood. Some of them specified “openly,” others, “secretly.”[31] This claim was also rejected by the vast majority of the scholars (al-jumhur) on the basis of the consensus of the Predecessors (ijma` al-salaf) whereby it is impossible for Prophets to deliberately commit major sins or contemptible minor ones (al-saghuEEra al-khasuEEsa).[32]


[22] As quoted in Hujjiyyat al-Sunna (p. 110).

[23] This is related with fair (hasan) or sound (sahuEEh) chains by Ibn Abi `Asim in his Kitab al-Sunna from `Ikrima (p. 299 #667), Mujahid (p. 300 #673-675), al-Hasan al-Basri (p. 301 #680), al-Sha`bi (p. 302 #682-683), Sa`id ibn Jubayr (p. 302 #685-686), al-Dahhak ibn Muzahim (p. 303 #688-689), and with weak chains from Ibn `Abbas (p. 299 # 665) and from the Prophet through Burayda in Tabarani.

[24] See the section entitled “Allah’s Speech” of al-Bayhaqi’s al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat, translation forthcoming.

[25] Al-Haythami in Majma` al-Zawa’id said: “Its chain contains Yahya ibn Sabiq who is weak.”

[26] In Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (3:421-422).

[27] Op. cit. (9:39).

[28] Op. cit. (8:89) as translated by Nuh Ha Mim Keller in Reliance of the Traveller (p. 1046).

[29] Consensus is reported in Razi’s Muhsal Afkar al-Mutaqaddimin wa al-Muta’akhkhirin (p. 160-161) and al-Tafsir al-Kabir (7:506, 8:451-452), Abu Muhammad al-Bataliusi’s (d. 521) al-Insaf fi al-Tanbih `ala al-Asbab al-Lati Awjabat al-Ikhtilaf (“Equity in Signalling the Causes Which Necessitate Disagreement”) p. 71-74, Muhammad `Abduh’s Tafsir Juz’ `Amma (p. 110-112), and others such as al-Qadi `Iyad (d. 544) in al-Shifa’, al-Qastallani (d. 923) in al-Mawahib al-Laduniyya, and Shaykh Muhammad ibn `Alawi al-Maliki in Muhammad al-Insan al-Kamil (“Muhammad the Perfect Human Being”).

[30] Cf. F.E. Peters’ book on the Prophet and what he named “The Quest for the Historical Muhammad.”

[31] This is reported in al-Razi’s `Isma al-Anbiya’ (“The Immunity of Prophets” p. 27), al-Sharif al-Murtada’s Tanzih al-Anbiya’ (“The Sanctification of Prophets” p. 2-3) and in Sharh al-Maqasid (2:142). [32] See al-Qadi `Iyad’s al-Shifa’ (2:137-139), al-Razi’s al-Muhassal (p. 161) and `Isma al-Anbiya’, al-Iji’s (d. 756) al-Mawaqif (p. 359), and Sharh al-Mawaqif (3:205).

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