Ash'arism or Ashʿari theology (/æʃəˈr/;[1] Arabic: الأشعرية al-ʾAshʿarīyya or الأشاعرة al-ʾAshāʿira) is an early theological school of Sunni Islam based on clerical authority and rejection of cause and effect reasoning, it was founded by Imam Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 324 AH / 936 AD).[2] The disciples of the school are known as Ash'arites, and the school is also referred to as the Ash'arite school. It is considered one of the orthodox theologies in Sunni Islam alongside the Maturidi.[3][4]

Amongst the most famous Ash'arites: Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Nawawi, Al-Ghazali, Izz al-Din ibn 'Abd al-Salam, Al-Suyuti, Ibn 'Asakir, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, Al-Qurtubi and Al-Subki.[5]


The school arose mainly as a response to the Mu'tazila school of thought and some of their beliefs, although both schools advocated the use of Rationalism in Religion and held the same opinion on the Athari School, some Muslims thought that Mu'tazilizm gave rise to strange and against previously-held opinions. For example, the Mu'tazila believed the Quran to be created, whereas Ash'arites believe that it is uncreated.

On the other hand, the new movement made a big shift for Islam. This new school became a base in educating Islam as a religion, as it depended on rationalism in understanding Islam from the Quran and the Hadith. Ash'arites state that Islamic faith is based on using the mind. With the prevalence of globalization, it became noticed that Ash'arism is rejected and attacked by Salafis, who reject the concept of depending on the mind as a basic way for understanding the Quran.


The Ash'arite view holds that:

The school holds that human reason, in and by itself, is not capable of establishing with absolute certainty any truth with respect to morality, the physical world or metaphysics.

Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari

Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari was noted for his teachings on atomism, among the earliest Islamic philosophies, and for al-Ash'ari this was the basis for propagating the view that God created every moment in time and every particle of matter. He nonetheless believed in free will, elaborating the thoughts of Dirar ibn Amr' and Abu Hanifa into a "dual agent" or "acquisition" (iktisab) account of free will.[6]

While al-Ash'ari opposed the views of the Mu'tazili school for its over-emphasis on reason, he was also opposed to the views of certain schools such as the Zahiri (literalist), Mujassimite (anthropotheist) and Muhaddithin (traditionalist) schools for their over-emphasis on taqlid (imitation) in his Istihsan al‑Khaud:[7]

"A section of the people (i.e., the Zahirites 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."

Change and development over time

Ash'arism became the main school of early Islamic philosophy whereby it was originally based on the foundations laid down by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari who founded the school in the 10th century based on the methodology taught to him by his teacher Abdullah ibn Sa'eed ibn Kullaab. However, the school underwent many changes throughout history resulting in the term Ash’ari, in modern usage, being extremely broad. For example, Abu’l Hasan al-Ash’ari of al-Lum’a differs from the Ash’arism of the Abu’l Hasan al-Ash’ari of al-Ibana, Ibn Fawrak differs from al-Bayhaqi.[8][9]

For example, the Asharite view was that comprehension of the unique nature and characteristics of God were beyond human capability. The solution proposed by Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari to solve the problems of tashbih and ta'til concedes that the Divine Being possesses in a real sense the attributes and Names mentioned in the Quran. Insofar as these names and attributes have a positive reality, they are distinct from the essence, but nevertheless they do not have either existence or reality apart from it. The inspiration of al-Ash'ari in this matter was on the one hand to distinguish essence and attribute as concepts, and on the other hand to see that the duality between essence and attribute should be situated not on the quantitative but on the qualitative level — something which Mu'tazili thinking had failed to grasp.[10]


German orientalist Eduard Sachau blamed the theology of Ash'ari and its biggest defender, Ghazali, specifically for the decline of Islamic science starting in the tenth century, and stated that the two clerics were the only obstacle to the Muslim world becoming a nation of "Galileos, Keplers and Newtons."[11]

Others, however, argue that the Ash'arites not only accepted scientific methods but even promoted them. Ziauddin Sardar points out that some of the greatest Muslim scientists, such as Ibn al-Haytham and Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, who were pioneers of the scientific method, were themselves followers of the Ash'ari school of Islamic theology.[12] Like other Ash'arites who believed that faith or taqlid should apply only to Islam and not to any ancient Hellenistic authorities,[13] Ibn al-Haytham's view that taqlid should apply only to prophets of Islam and not to any other authorities formed the basis for much of his scientific skepticism and criticism against Ptolemy and other ancient authorities in his Doubts Concerning Ptolemy and Book of Optics.[14]

Some authors have questioned the spiritual value of discussion methods employed by the Ash'aris and other dialectical theologians. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, himself a leading figure of the Ash'ari school, said at the end of his life: "I employed all the methods which philosophy and dialectic had provided, but in the end I realised that these methods neither could bring solace to the weary heart nor quench the thirst of the thirsty. The best method and the nearest one to reality was the method provided by the Qur'an."[15]

Prominent Ash'ari scholars, leaders and individuals

See also


  1. "al-Ashʿari". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari fima Nussiba ila al-Imam al-Ash`ari (Ibn 'Asakir)
  3. Halverson, J. Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. Springer. p. 9. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  4. Pall, Zoltan. Lebanese Salafis Between the Gulf and Europe. Amsterdam University Press. p. 18. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  5. Hamad al-Sanan, Fawziy al-'Anjariy, Ahl al-Sunnah al-Asha'irah, pp.248-258. Dar al-Diya'.
  6. Watt, Montgomery. Free-Will and Predestination in Early Islam. Luzac & Co.: London 1948.
  7. M. Abdul Hye, Ph.D, Ash’arism, Philosophia Islamica.
  8. "Imam Bayhaqi".
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-02-13.
  10. Corbin (1993), pp. 115 and 116
  11. Muzaffar Iqbal, Science and Islam, pg. 120. From the Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion Series. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. ISBN 9780313335761
  12. Sardar, Ziauddin (1998), "Science in Islamic philosophy", Islamic Philosophy, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved 2008-02-03
  13. Anwar, Sabieh (October 2008), "Is Ghazālī really the Halagu of Science in Islam?", Monthly Renaissance, 18 (10), retrieved 2008-10-14
  14. Rashed, Roshdi (2007), "The Celestial Kinematics of Ibn al-Haytham", Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 17 (01): 7–55 [11], doi:10.1017/S0957423907000355
  15. Rashid Ahmad Jullundhry, Quranic Exegesis in Classical Literature, pg. 53-54. Islamic Book Trust/The Other Press, 2010. ISBN 9789675062551
  16. See Tafsir Al-Manar [Exegesis of the judicious Quran, widely known as “Tafsir Al-Manar”], on Q2:115.


External links

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