In our time there is a great misunderstanding amongst the believers who think that the Hanbalis are malignant and hateful towards the Ash’aris. And most erroneous, some who believe that the Hanbalis do not regard the Ash’aris as Sunnis, but that the Hanbalis regard them as deviants -or even worse, as disbelievers .
This false notion has to do with both a misconception and misinformation about the Hanbali works and misunderstanding the incidents that have taken place in the past which have been spread unwisely and unjustly by ignoramuses with their limited and faulty understanding.
We will make it clear upfront, the Ash’aris are declared as Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah by the Hanbalis, this is the mu’tamad without a doubt.
We will address the matter according to the following steps.
1. Defining the Hanbalis and the Ash’aris.
2. The differences between the Hanbalis and the Ash’aris.
3. Addressing the issues historically how everything developed from the early times, and how the Hanbalis interacted with the Ash’aris
4. Finally, on what the Hanbali Authorities have said and the Fatawa on the Asha’irah
1. Defining the Hanbalis and the Ash’aris
The Hanabilah are the followers of Imam Ahlussunnah Ahmad Ibn Hanbal al Shaybāni, rahimahullah (d. 264ah).
The Imam who protected the beliefs of Ahlussunnah, the Mujtahid Mutlaq, al Zahid, the Imam who is agreed upon by all of the Ummah.
The Hanbalis are from amongst the people of Ahlussunnati wal Jama’ah, they can either be followers in fiqh or ‘aqidah but in this case we are referring to those who are Hanbali in ‘aqidah.
And as we have made clear many times in the past, we speak of the classic Sunni Hanbalis/Atharis and not of those imposters of the latter days who merely claimed to be Hanbalis.
The Ash’aris need no introduction, as these are the righteous followers of Imam Abul Hasan al Ash’arī (d. 324ah), rahimahullah, the Imam, the Mutakallim, and protector of the beliefs of Ahlussunnah wal Jama’ah.
The school that is agreed upon by the Ummah as the school of Orthodox beliefs.
‘Abdullah Ibn ‘Umar, radiyallahu ‘anhum, reports that the Prophet ﷺ said,
“Allah will never allow my Ummah to unite upon misguidance, Allah’s assistance is with the group and whomsoever deviates from the group will be cast into the fire .”
Sunan al Tirmidhi
2. The differences between the Hanbalis and Ash’aris
In the main ‘Aqaid (beliefs) the differences are very small between the Hanbalis and Ash’aris.
The major differences amongst the schools have to do with the Hanbalis prohibiting the use of ‘Ilmul Kalām (Rational Theology).
The Hanabilah prohibit the use of ‘Ilmul Kalam, and this is the mu’tamad, the relied upon position, they abstain from using logic and rational argumentation in creed.
The reason for the prohibiton of this science is that they did not want to introduce Kalam out of fear of introducing something the Salaf did not practise, and they feared that it would have a negative impact on the purity of the beliefs. However, some Hanbalis in the past have made use of it.
Another thing is that the Hanbalis do not permit Ta’weel (figurative interpretation) of the Attributes of Allah. The Hanabilah practise Tafweed (leaving the meaning to Allah).
Tafweed is also the method that the Ash’aris and Maturidis use, only that they permit Ta’weel.
In the Hanbali ‘aqidah Ta’weel is not used unless it has been clearly related by the Prophet ﷺ or the Companions, and so in some places ta’weel was done by Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal and other Hanabilah.
We accept the difference of opinion, as they are both rightly guided groups .
May Allah ﷻ increase the rank of all the Ash’aris and Hanbalis!
3. Hanbalis and the Ash’aris historically
This is a pivotal part that people should
The Ash’aris have already been declared as Ahlussunnah by consensus 800 year ago, the consensus on this issue was related by the Sultanul ‘Ulama and documented by Imam al Subki.
And I also would like to add that even a 1,000 years ago the noble Ash’aris were declared as Ahlussunnah by the Shaykhul Hanabilah Qadi Abu Ya’la (d. 458). Imam Qadi Abu Ya’la the Grand Imam held debates with the Asha’irah, he did not agree with them in some issues but he did agree that they were from Ahlussunnah wal Jama’ah.
Some dissenters and false claimers of the Hanbali madhhab tend to use some names of the Hanbali scholars that had objections towards the Asha’irah and spread it like it is the relied upon ruling, and they also take some historical passages from the incidents of Baghdad where the Ash’aris and Hanbalis fought one another, and quote this to use it as a proof that the Ash’aris were deviant .
Regarding the incidents that took place amongst them, such as, the many debates, the Hanbali works that objected towards the Asha’irah, and the fighting amongst them in Baghdad.
We will explain these incidents and explain them in the correct context.
After Imam Abul Hasan al Ash’ari had left the Mu’tazilah he wrote his book al Ibanah, and he presented this work to Imam al Barbahari al Hanbali (d. 329), Imam al Barbahari rejected his work and did not accept it.
In the very early days when Imam al Ash’ari was teaching his ‘aqidah it would take some time before it would be spread and accepted, it began only after Imam al Ash’ari taught his methodology which then would be taught further to others.
From the above we see that the Ash’ari ‘aqidah was alien in the early stages and that they still needed time to be fully understood and accepted amongst the Ummah .
Also, many tribulations took place between the two groups, most of the tribulations being in Baghdad, such as, Imam ‘Abdul Rahim al Qushayri who was one of the proponents of the Ash’ari ‘aqidah that caused conflict and disputes between the Hanabilah and the Asha’irah in Baghdad around the year 465 ah, the city which was the stronghold of the Hanabilah at the time. His desire to preach Ash’ari creed in that place caused fighting amongst the two groups that even led to killings.
And other incidents, such as, Abul Qasim al Bakri who came to preach the Ash’ari theology in Baghdad in the year 475 ah, which caused further riots in Baghdad. Also, Imam Abu Bakr al Maghribi (d. 476) who was from amongst the Ash’aris in Baghdad who caused a lot of tribulation amongst the Hanabilah at the time as well.
From the above we see that fighting broke out amongst them because the Hanbalis did not want to accept their creed, even though the Imam of the Hanbalis in Baghdad, Abu Ya’la, declared them already as Ahlussunnah but it seems that this had not taken root yet amongst all the Hanbalis.
However, looking at it in the correct context of location, most of this was confined to Baghdad alone, as the Shafi’i Ash’aris and the Hanbalis of Isfahan did not have this infighting amongst them.
Others such as, Muwaffaq al Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 620) and his cousin ‘Abdul Ghani al Maqdisi (d. 600) were also from the Hanabilah who had disputes with the Asha’irah. To the extent that some of the Asha’irah tried to kill Imam ‘Abdul Ghani al Maqdisi al Hanbali for preaching against them.
Verily, al Barbahari, Ibn Qudamah, ‘Abdul Ghani al Maqdisi, and many other Baghdadi Hanbalis might have disagreed with the Ash’aris. However, this still does not negate that the ‘majority opinion’ of the Hanabilah was that the Ash’aris were Ahlussunnah, which is to be found amongst the very early Hanabilah, such as Ibn Batta, al Tamimi, Qadi Abu Ya’la.
There were many political tensions amongst them, and most of the Hanbali Ash’ari clashes were confined to Baghdad .
And when we look at Imams such as Muwaffaq al Din Ibn Qudamah and his objections, one can not ignore the fact that even if he disagreed with the Asha’irah, nevertheless he knew that their creed was sound, and had the akhlaq to take benefit from them, and this is proven from his company and gatherings with leading Ash’ari scholars such as Sultan Salahuddin al Ayyubi.
As Muwaffaq al Din Ibn Qudamah, his older brother Abu ‘Umar al Maqdisi and ‘Imaduddin al Hanbali were all generals in the army of Sultan Al Ayyubi, along thousands of Hanabilah who pledged their allegiance to Sultan Salahuddin al Ayyubi, the Ash’ari mutakallim.
As many Hanbalis also studied with Ash’aris and Maturidis, so one must use his intellect and realise why these noble scholars would take the company or knowledge from someone if they were deviant?
Just as in our own age, almost a thousand years later and people are still using the same arguments and bickering over the same long-resolved issues .
Looking at the teachings historically and objectively, one will understand the correct context in how they interacted, and we will present below some examples of Hanbali scholars who studied different sciences such as tafsir, grammar, hadith, tasawwuf, and many others, under Ash’ari ‘ulama.
– Imam ‘Abdurrahman Ibn Batta taught in al Qarawiyyin, which is a Maliki Ash’ari Institute, and used to exchange knowledge with the Ash’ari ‘ulama around the year 420 Ah .
– Imam ‘Awnun Din Ibn Hubayra (d. 560) participated in Jihad along Nuruddin Zangi al Ash’ari
– Imam Muwaffaq al Din Ibn Qudamah (d. 620) used to consult Najm al Din al Shirazi on difficult matters and pledged his allegiance to Sultan Salahuddin al Ayyubi al Ash’ari and kept his .company
– Imam Shamsuddin Ibn Qudamah (d. 682) taught at Jami’ul Umawi, the Ash’ari Institute, and one of his tudents was the great Imam al Nawawi al Ash’ari
– Imam Ibn Rajab al Hanbali (d. 796) from his teachers were the likes of Taqiuddin al Subki al Ash’ari and Zaynuddin al ‘Irāqi al Ash’ari
– Imam Taqiuddin al Futuhi (d. 972) taught al Azhar, the Ash’ari Institute
– Imam Mansur al Buhuti (d. 1051) taught at the Ash’ari al Azhar University, and he had Hanbali students who were Ash’ari in creed
– Imam ‘Abdul Baqi al Mawahibi al Ba’li (d. 1071) studied in the Ash’ari institute, al Azhar al Sharif. From amongst his teachers were Imam Ibrahim al Laqqani al Ash’ari, Imam Ahmad al Muqri al Maghribi al Ash’ari, and his student Shaykh Abdul Gani al Nabulsi al Maturidi
– Imam Muhammad al Saffarini (d. 1188) one of his teachers was Imam ‘Abdul Ghani al Nabulsi al Maturidi
– Imam ‘Abdullah al Qaddumi (d. 1331) taught in al Azhar the Ash’ari University
– Imam Musa Ibn ‘Isa al Qaddumi (d.1336) studied under Imam Muhammad al Manini al Hanafi and Salim Ibn Yasin al Attar al Ash’ari
– Imam ‘Abdul Latif al Subki al Hanbali (d. 1388) was ‘Shaykhul Azhar’ in the Ash’ari Institute .
– Imam Ahmad al Shami (d. 1414) his teacher in Tariqa was the Sufi Shaykh Muhammad al Hashimi al Ash’ari
– Shaykh Muwaffaq ‘Uyun al Hanbali (born 1377) his teacher was Muhyiddin al Kurdi al Ash’ari
– Imam ‘Abdul Karim al Subki taught at al Azhar al Sharif
– Shaykh Muhammad al Sayyid al Hanbali, a contemporary Hanbali faqeeh also teaches at al AzharAnd several other Hanbalis that study and teach at al Azhar al Sharif.
The Umawis were Ash’ari, the Ottomans were Maturidi, if they were deviants than it would have been impossible for the Hanabilah to reside amongst them .
Most importantly, the Hanabilah would never contradict the Noble Prophet ﷺ, if the Prophet ﷺ said that conqueror of Constantinople would be a righteous leader, than this meant only that he praised a rightly guided believer, and this rightly guided believer was none other than Sayyidina Muhammad al Fatih, the ‘Maturidi’.
Sallallahu ‘ala Sayyidina Muhammad ﷺ
4. What the Hanbali Authorities have said and the Fatawa on the Asha’irah
For the following we will present proofs from the great authoritative Hanbali Imams on what they said about the Asha’irah .
– Imam Abul Fadl al Tamimi (d. 410)
Shaykhul Hanabilah Abul Fadl al Tamimi, rahimahullah, said to his companions,
“Adhere to this man, Abu Bakr al Baqillani, because the Sunnah cannot be without him “.
Hafiz Ibn ‘Asakir in al Tabyīn Kadhib al Muftarī
Here one should realize the authority the Imam had, as his statement is not a random scholarly statement, as this was an authoritative Imam and head of the Hanabilah of his time. And one should also keep in mind that they were already accepted by the Hanbalis in the very early stages of their inception.
Imam Abu Bakr al Baqillani is from amongst the great Ash’ari theologians.
– Imam Qadi Abu Ya’la (d. 458)
He included the Asha’irah amongst Ahlussunnah, the Imam used to hold debates with Ash’aris and he said that the Asha’irah are from Ahlul Hadith (Ahlussunnah), and this can be found in the second volume of Tabaqatul Hanabilah .
He was the Grand Imam of the Ummah, Shaykhul Islam, the authoritative Imam, his work on creed was studied throughout the Khilafah
– Imam Abul Khattab Mahfuz al Kalwadhani (d. 510)
The Imam was an Ash’ari in creed, as this is confirmed by his student and related by Hafiz Ibn ‘Asākir in his book Tabyīn Kadhib al Muftarī .
We mention these evidences to prove that the Hanabilah accepted them as Ahlussunnah. As this great authoritative Imam was a student of Qadi Abu Ya’la, he was from amongst the Mujtahid fil Madhhab rank, the Imam along Sayyidina ‘Abdul Qadir al Jilani could do Ijtihad in all 4 schools .
– During the seventh century ah, the Hanabilah agreed on that the Asha’irah are from .Ahlussunnah
– Imam Najm al Din al Tufi (d. 716)
The great Hanbali Usuli Is described in Imam Ibn Rajab’s al Dhayl ‘ala Tabaqatul Hanabilah as being an Ash’ari .
– Taqiuddin Ibn Taymiyyah al Harrani (d. 728)
In his Majmu’ al Fatawa, the Imam tried to unify the Hanbalis and Ash’aris, as he praised Imam Abul Hasan al Ash’ari and said that he was from amongst the greatest of the Mutakallimin.
ﺃَﻥ ﺍﻟْﺎﺷﻌﺮﻱ ﻛﺎﻥ ﻣِﻦ ﺃﺟﻞِّ ﺍﻟﻤُﺘﻜَﻠﻤﻴﻦَ
– Imam Muhammad Ibn Muhammad al Sa’di (d. 900)
The Hanabilah have mentioned that this great Imam was Ash’ari in creed, and this is known from his biography and his work called ‘Jawhar al Muhassal’.
May Allah ﷻ uphold the believers of Ahlussunnah and forgive those who erred.
– The Fatawa and relied upon ruling of the Hanabilah on the Asha’irah –
ﻭﻗﺪ ﺫﻛﺮ ﺷﻴﺦ ﺍﻹﺳﻼﻡ ﻋﺰ ﺍﻟﺪﻳﻦ ﺑﻦ ﻋﺒﺪﺍﻟﺴﻼﻡ ﺃﻥ ﻋﻘﻴﺪﺗﻪ ﺍﻻَﺷﻌﺮﻱ ﺍﺟﺘﻤﻊ ﻋﻠﻴﻬﺎ ﺍﻟﺸﺎﻓﻌﻴﺔ، ﻭ ﺍﻟﻤﺎﻟﻜﻴﺔ، ﻭ
ﺍﻟﺤﻨﻔﻴﺔ، ﻭ ﺍﻟﻔﻀﻼﺀ ﻣﻦ ﺍﻟﺤﻨﺎﺑﻠﺔ .
– Shaykhul Islam al ‘Izz al Din Ibn ‘Abdussalam (d. 660) said,
“The Ash’ari ‘aqidah is agreed upon by the Shafi’is, the Malikis, the Hanafis, and with the nobility of the Hanbalis “.
Imam al Subki in Tabaqatul Shafi’iyyah al Kubra
This consensus related by Ibn ‘Abdussalam proves that by this time they were already declared as Ahlussunnah by all of the authorities from all the Madhahib.
– Imam ‘Abdul Baqi al Mawahibi (d. 1071)
the Hanbali authority of his time said the following in his ‘al ‘Ayn wal Athar fi ‘Aqa`idi Ahlul Athar’.
ﻭ ﻫﻲ ﺃﻥ ﻃﻮﺍﺀِﻑ ﺃﻫﻞ ﺍﻟﺴﻨﺔ ﺛﻼﺛﺔ، ﺍﺷﺎﻋﺮﺓ، ﻭ ﺣﻨﺎﺑﻠﺔ، ﻭ ﻣﺎﺗﺮﻳﺪﻳﺔ .
“The groups of Ahlussunnah are three, Asha’irah, Hanabilah, and Maturidiyyah”.
The Imam also added that the Asha’irah are declared as Ahlussunnah in all of the Hanbali works.
Imam ‘Abdullah ibn Sufan al Qaddumi in his ‘al Manhaj al Ahmad’ said that the most used and relied upon (mu’tamad) ‘aqidah works of the Hanabilah are Mukhtasar al Ilfadat by Ibn Balban and al ‘Ayn wal Athar by Imam al Mawahibi.
The above proves that the above related statement is the mu’tamad, and without a doubt this is agreed upon by all the Hanbalis.
– Imam Muhammad al Saffarini (d. 1188)
Imam Muhammad al Saffarini is the relied upon source in the Hanbali ‘aqidah, he made the following statement in his ‘Lawami’ al Anwar al Bahiyyah.’
“The Ahlussunnah consist of three, The Athariyyah, their Imam being Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, the Ash’ariyyah, their Imam being Abul Hasan al Ash’ari and the Maturidiyyah, their Imam being Abu Mansur al Maturidi. And as far as the astray sects and cults besides them, they are very many indeed “.
Imam Mustafa ibn Ahmad al Shatti al Hanbali in his Rabseer al Qani’ and Shaykh Ibn Sallum al Hanbali both agree on the Poem of Imam Muhammad al Saffarini on that The Ahlussunnah are the Hanabilah, Asha’irah and Maturidiyyah .
Again, another authoritative Imam, who is the mu’tamad as well relates the same ruling regarding the Asha’irah and is backed up by other Hanbali authorities in this.
– Imam ‘Abdullah Ibn Sufan al Qaddūmi (d. 1331) in al Manhaj al Ahmad, a mu’tamad work on Hanbali ‘aqidah, said,
ﺍﻫﻞ ﺍﻟﺤﺪﻳﺚ ﻭ ﺍﻻَﺷﻌﺮﻳﺔ ﻭﺍﻟﻤﺎﺗُﺮﻳﺪﻳﺔ ﻓﺮﻗﺘﺔٌ ﻭﺍﺣﺪﺓ
“Ahlul Hadith, the Ash’ariyyah and the Maturidiyyah are one group “
From these Fatawa and Mu’tamad works, it proves that the Hanbalis have concluded that the noble Ash’aris are from Ahlussunnati wal Jama’ah.
– Some fatawa of the contemporary scholars –
– Shaykh Salih al Asmari, a Sunni Hanbali from Hijaz said in a Risalah called, ‘al Ijabat al fasilah fil Ash’ariyyati ‘indal Hanabilah’ mentioned that the Hanabilah have declared the Ash’aris al Ahlussunnah’
Shaykh ‘Abdul Wahid al Azhari al Hanbali
A Hanbali ‘aalim from al Azhar al Sharif has made the following statement
“The Asha’irah are from Ahlussunnati wal Jama’ah.”
And Shaykh Abu Ja’far al Hanbali who has made the same statements .
All the Hanbalis from Ahlussunnah hold the mu’tamad opinion that the Ash’aris are from Ahlussunnah wal Jama’ah.
This is the truth, and we do not care about the opinions of the dissenters and false claimers of this noble Madhhab.
May Allah ﷻ make us from those who are guided and given sound understanding .
Finished in Ingushetia, Caucasus
10 Rabi’ul Awwal, 1441 AH
7 November AD 2019
Imran al Hanbali