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Abu l'Hasan al-Ashari

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Title: Abu l'Hasan al-Ashari  
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Abu l'Hasan al-Ashari

Muslim scholar
Abu al-Hasan Ali ibn Ismaʻel al-Ashʻari
Title al-Ash'ari
Born AH 260 (873/874)
Died AH 324 (935/936)
Era Islamic golden age
Jurisprudence Sunni
Main interest(s) Islamic theology
Notable work(s) Maqālāt al-eslāmīyīn,[1] Ketāb al-loma,[2] Ketāb al-ebāna'an osūl al-dīāna[3]

Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Ismā'īl al-Ash'arī (874 – 936) (Arabic: ابو الحسن علي ابن إسماعيل اﻷشعري‎) was a Muslim Arab theologian and an early follower of the Mu'tazila school[4] before studying under Abdullah ibn Sa'eed ibn Kullaab whom he was a follower of according to Ibn Taymiyyah. During this period of his life, a number of al-Ash'ari's students went on to propagate this Sunni theology.


Al-Ash'ari was born in Basra, Iraq, a descendant of the famous companion of Muhammad and arbitrator at Siffin for Ali ibn Abi Talib, Abu Musa al-Ashari. He spent the greater part of his life at Baghdad. Although belonging to an orthodox family, he became a pupil of the great Mutazalite teacher al-Jubba'i (d.915), and himself remained a Mutazalite until his fortieth year. In 912 he left the Mu'tazalites and became one of its most distinguished opponents, using the philosophical methods he had learned. Al-Ash'ari then spent the remaining years of his life engaged in developing his views and in composing polemics and arguments against his former Mutazalite colleagues. He is said to have written over a hundred works, from which only four or five are known to be extant.


Muslims consider him to be the founder of the sunni Ash'ari tradition of Aqeedah with followers such as Abul-Hassan Al-Bahili, Al-Baqillani, Al-Juwayni, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, and Al-Ghazali.[5]

Al-Ash'ari was opposed to the views of the Mu'tazili school for its over-emphasis on rationalisation and philosophical ijtihad and reasoning.

"A section of the people (i.e., the Thahirites and others) made capital out of their own ignorance; discussions and rational thinking about matters of faith became a heavy burden for them, and, therefore, they became inclined to blind faith and blind following (taqlid). They condemned those who tried to rationalize the principles of religion as `innovators.' They considered discussion about motion, rest, body, accident, colour, space, atom, the leaping of atoms, and Attributes of God, to be an innovation and a sin. They said that had such discussions been the right thing, the Prophet and his Companions would have definitely done so; they further pointed out that the Prophet, before his death, discussed and fully explained all those matters which were necessary from the religious point of view, leaving none of them to be discussed by his followers; and since he did not discuss the problems mentioned above, it was evident that to discuss them must be regarded as an innovation."

The historian, Al-Dhahabi said of al-Ash'ari: "I saw four works of Abu al-Hasan relating to Aqidah theological fundamentals in which he mentioned the principals of the school of thought of the early scholars, the salaf, pertaining to the attributes. He said in each of them, 'We leave them as they are,' and then saying, 'This is my position by which I practice my religion and they are not to be interpreted to other than their apparent meanings.'"[6] Al-Dhahabi then quoted Abu al-Hasan, in the latter's book entitled Al-'Amd fi al-Ruyah, listing the books he had authored, saying the following, "... And a book about the attributes, the largest of our books, in which we contradict what we had previously authored in correcting the Mu'tazili school of thought.[6]


Shah Waliullah, a 18th century Sunni Islamic scholar stated:

A Mujadid appears at the end of every century: The Mujadid of the first century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah, Umar bin Abdul Aziz. The Mujadid of the second century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah Muhammad Idrees Shaafi. The Mujadid of the third century was the Imam of Ahlul Sunnah, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari. The Mujadid of the fourth century was Abu Abdullah Hakim Nishapuri.[7]


The Ashari scholar Ibn Furak numbers Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari's works at 300, and the biographer Ibn Khallikan at 55;[8] Ibn Asāker gives the titles of 93 of them, but only a handful of these works, in the fields of heresiography and theology, have survived. The three main ones are:

  • Maqālāt al-islāmīyīn,[1] it comprises not only an account of the Islamic sects but also an examination of problems in kalām, or scholastic theology, and the Names and Attributes of Allah; the greater part of this works seems to have been completed before his conversion from the Mutaziltes.
  • Kitāb al-luma[2]
  • Kitāb al-ibāna 'an usūl al-diyāna,[3] an exposition of his developed theological views and arguments against Mutazilite doctrines. The book was primarily an orthodox critique of radical elements of the Hanbali school of thought in general, and polemicist Al-Hasan ibn 'Ali al-Barbahari in particular.[9]


Further reading

  •  Template:Islamic Theology

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