Category Archives: Other Deviant Sects

THE RISE AND FALL OF MU‘TAZILISM

By Firas al-Khateeb

The rise of Muslim intellectual achievement that began in the mid-eighth century was partially a by-product of a massive translation effort undertaken by the enormous Muslim empire. Ancient Greek, Latin, Persian, and Indian works were translated into Arabic, primarily at Bayt al- Ḥikmah in Baghdad. While much of the translation was in the field of empirical sciences, some of it had to do with ancient Greek philosophical ideas. The works of Socrates, Aristotle, and Plato were translated. The result of this was the development of a school of theology based on reason and rational thought, known as the Mu‘tazila.

Origins of Mu‘tazilism

Mu‘tazilism was a very broad and dynamic theological movement, and it’s thus difficult to pinpoint exactly where and how it began. What is clear, however, was the impact of ancient Greek philosophical reasoning on the movement. A prime contention of the Mu‘tazila was that rationalism can be used to understand not just the physical world, but also the nature of God and creation.

The Mu‘tazila adapted Greek philosophical reasoning and attempted to understand it in an Islamic context. To them, the Qur’an and Sunnah were not necessarily the only sources of truth. Like the Greeks, they elevated the role of reason in understanding the world to be equal to, or in some cases, higher than revelation. Using rationalism and reason (dubbed kalam), the Mu‘tazila came to conclusions regarding God that most other scholars considered to be outside of mainstream Muslim belief.

Mu‘tazili belief was summarized by its adherents into five principles:

  • Unity: The basic concept that the Mu‘tazila organized themselves around was Tawhid, the Oneness of God. While this is a concept that all Muslims accept, the Mu‘tazila took it a step further than most in insisting that the attributes of God (as exemplified by his names in the Qur’an, such as al-Raḥman, the Source of Mercy) should not be considered part of God himself. Based on their reasoning, they believed that God’s essence should not be associated with His names and attributes, for fear of falling into a form of polytheism as Christians had through their concept of the Trinity.
  • Justice: Like the ancient Greeks, the Mu‘tazila believed in absolute free will. In their view, God does not predetermine the lives of humans, but rather that they make decisions entirely independently of what God wills. As a result, they believed that humans are bound to a fate on the Day of Judgment that is entirely determined by Divine justice (‘adl). The Mu‘tazila rationalized that any faḍl (mercy) exercised by God was a violation of justice and incompatible with His nature.
  • The Promise and the Threat: A by-product of the third point, the Mu‘tazila believed in al-wa‘d wa al-wa‘id, a belief that God is bound by an obligation to exercise absolute justice.
  • The Intermediate Position: The Mu ‘tazila believed that any Muslim who died after committing a grave sin but before repenting for it, was to be considered neither a believer nor a disbeliever in God. They claimed that such a person was in an “intermediate position” that would be judged separately by God.
  • Commanding Good and Forbidding Evil: This is a primary belief in Islam, taken directly from the sayings and actions of the Prophet Muḥammad ﷺ. In their interpretation of it, however, force may be used to command what they saw as good and forbid evil, a concept that directly led to the Miḥna.

The Miḥna

The Mu‘tazila gained ascendancy in the ‘Abbasid caliphal government during the reign of Caliph al-Ma’mun (r. 813-833). The founder of Bayt al-Ḥikmah accepted Mu‘tazili beliefs as truth and used his position as the most powerful man in the Muslim world to enforce them. In an inquisition known as the Miḥna (Arabic for “the test”), al-Ma’mun (and his successors al-Mu‘tasim and al-Wathiq) imprisoned, tortured, and killed scholars of Islamic theology that did not follow the official governmental positions regarding Mu‘tazili belief, especially the idea that the Qur’an is not the uncreated, eternal Word of God.

While many scholars accepted the government’s official dogma, or at least remained silent on it, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal refused and was famously tortured during the reigns of al-Ma’mun and his successors for it. Due to his insistence on the uncreatedness of the Qur’an and the supremacy of traditional Islamic belief over Greek rationalism, he clashed with the official ‘Abbasid government position that the Qur’an is created and that man has total free will.

The Miḥna was wildly unpopular with the general population. Riots in the streets of Baghdad threatened ‘Abbasid rule, and in 848, Caliph al-Mutawakkil ended the Miḥna and released Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal from prison. But the Miḥna had already done its damage to the Mu‘tazili cause. The brutal methods used by those in power to led to the inevitable decline of Mu‘tazilism.

Theological Alternatives

The unpopularity of Mu‘tazili thought among the general population was further compounded by the opposition of more orthodox-minded approaches towards theology. The Mu‘tazila believed, after all, that reason supplants revelation, and many of their resulting theological conclusions directly contradicted orthodox Islamic belief as stated in the Qur’an. Various Muslim scholars thus attempted to refute Mu‘tazili thought and re-emphasize the role of the Qur’an and Sunnah in deriving Islamic belief.

The first approach was that of Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, who insisted on the truth of traditional Islamic belief, but was not in favor of proving it using the kalam that Mu‘tazila believed in. This way of understanding theology became known as the Athari approach to ‘aqidah (belief). Proponents of the Athari approach resisted diving into rational explanations of God, free will, or metaphysics. Instead, they relied on a literal understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah to guide their ‘aqidah. While the Athari approach is firmly within the realm of traditional, mainstream Islam, it did little to turn back the tide of the Mu‘tazila, who fundamentally rejected the Athari approach as being un-intellectual and irrational.

A more direct and effective opposition to Mu‘tazilism came from the Ash‘ari and Maturidi schools of ‘aqidah. These two approaches, founded by Abu al-Ḥasan al-Ash‘ari (d. 936) and Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d. 944), accepted the use of kalam, but only to defend traditional Islamic belief as stated in the Qur’an. The Ash‘aris and Maturidis refused to use reason to derive new beliefs that contradicted revelation as the Mu‘tazila had, and attempted to use the same reason that the Mu‘tazila championed against them. Al-Ash‘ari and al-Maturidi were contemporaries who independently arrived at similar conclusions regarding reason, and thus founded their two parallel schools. For the most part, these two approaches are identical. They both accept the same orthodox points about ‘aqidah that the Atharis champion, and only differ on minor issues that generally come down to no more than semantics.

Throughout the tenth and eleventh centuries, the scholars of these two schools became masters of philosophy, logic, and rationalism. They managed to find a balance between reason and revelation that the Mu‘tazila could not, and formed a series of arguments based on reason that refuted key Mu‘tazili beliefs such as the createdness of the Qur’an and the inability of God to have mercy on sinners. These scholars argued that God’s attributes not separate from Him, but are simply no more than characteristics that He describes himself by. And that believing so is not a form of polytheism, but orthodox Islamic belief as typified by the Quran and Sunnah. By using reason with the Mu‘tazila considered the highest form of human thought and achievement, they managed to win converts to a more traditional understanding of ‘aqidah.

The greatest scholar of the tradition-based kalam approach was the eleventh century Ash‘ari scholar Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 1111). He saw the Muslim world as plagued by numerous unorthodox theologies, such as Ismai‘ili (Sevener) Shi‘ism, propagated by the Fatimid Empire in Egypt, and the remnants of Mu‘tazilism. His works thus rely heavily on kalam to prove traditional Islamic beliefs, while also invoking spirituality to guide the layman towards a life of subservience to God. His most profound work was Tahafut al-Falasifah(The Incoherence of the Philosophers), in which he addressed all the major theological claims of Muslim philosophers and the Mu‘tazila and refuted them using their own methods.

What is remarkable about al-Ghazali’s career is that he did not physically fight his theological opponents, yet effectively vanquished them through his writings. Mu‘tazilism did not entirely die out after al-Ghazali, but its popularity dropped precipitously. Outside of Shi‘ism, which adopted some Mu‘tazili concepts, it is difficult to find much in the way of Mu‘tazili works from the eleventh century onwards.

The bulk of Ahl al-Sunnah wal-Jama‘ah (Sunni Islam) came to accept the Athari, Ash‘ari, and Maturidi approaches to ‘aqidah as legitimate. And while knowledge of kalam and rational discourse meant to prove Islamic orthodoxy is not considered to be mandatory on every Muslim in Sunni Islam, that field of Islamic sciences has been used throughout history to defend orthodoxy. In the past hundred years, opposition to the use of kalam has developed among some Muslims who believe it to be an unlawful innovation and who fail to differentiate it from Mu‘tazilism. Yet throughout Islamic history, the use of kalam to defend Islamic beliefs as relayed in the Qur’an and Sunnah has been almost universally accepted. It was, in fact, the kalam-based traditional approach of the Ash‘aris and Maturidis that helped bring about the fall of the unorthodox Mu‘tazili approach towards theology in the first place.

Bibliography:

Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid, and Richard McCarthy (trans.). Deliverance from Error. Beirut: American University of Beirut, 1980.

Brown, Jonathan. Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet’s Legacy. London: Oneworld, 2014.

Yusuf, Hamza. The Creed of Imam Al-Tahawi. Zaytuna Institute, 2007.

Are the MAMATIS part of Ahlus Sunnah?

By Shaykh Muhammad Yasir

The “Mamatis” are those people who believe that the Prophet ﷺ and other Prophets are dead in their graves (we seek refuge in Allah from such false beliefs).

Some people are still under the misconception that the issue of Hayat al-Nabi/al-Ambiya (the lives of the Prophets in their grave) is only a dispute of words. This is totally incorrect. This dispute is Haqiqi (real) and it is related to creed. Many reputable scholars have written books on this issue, including the likes of Imam al-Bayhaqi and Imam al-Suyuti.
The creed of the Ahl Al-Sunnah Wa al-Jama’ah is that there is a connection between the souls of the Prophets and their bodies in their graves.

The revered “scholars” of these opponents of the Ahl al-Sunnah Wa al-Jama’ah from the previous century have written books trying to negate the belief of Hayat al-Ambiya in their graves and have clearly mentioned that there is no connection of the soul with the body in the grave (Nida Haq & Iqamat al-Burhan). This belief goes against the consensus of the Ummah which even Hafiz Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Hafiz Ibn al-Qayyim have related in this matter.

The pioneer of this incorrect creed, of not accepting the connection of the soul with the body after death, was Hafiz Ibn Hazm al-Zahiri and he was thoroughly refuted by many great scholars.

In addition to this, some people are still under the notion that Mamatis are a sub-group within the scholars of Deoband. This is also utterly incorrect. Moulana Sarfaraz Khan Safdar (rahimahullah), in his book:

ﺗﺴﻜﻴﻦ ﺍﻟﺼﺪﻭﺭ ﻓﻲ ﺗﺤﻘﻴﻖ ﺃﺣﻮﺍﻝ ﺍﻟﻤﻮﺗﻲ ﻓﻲ ﺍﻟﺒﺮﺯﺥ ﻭﺍﻟﻘﺒﻮﺭ

“Taskin al-Sudur fi Tahqiq Ahwal al-Mawta fi al-Barzakh wa al-Qubur” has written a chapter titled: “Akabir Deoband ka Maslak aur un ka Muttafiqah Ilaan” (The Stance of the Elders of Deoband and their unanimous edict) and in this chapter, he has stated that a person with such a belief, without a shadow of doubt, has no link with the scholars of Deoband. This statement was signed by ten great scholars of the time, amongst who are worth mentioning here, were: the Mufti A’zam of Pakistan, Muhammad Shafi al-‘Uthmani rahimahullah; Mawlana Yusuf Binnori rahimahullah; ‘Allamah Zafar Ahmad al-‘Uthmani rahimahullah (author of I’la al-Sunan); Mawlana Shamsul Haq al-Afghani, and others.

What is Bahaism and what is their Theological belief??

The founder of Baha`ism

Baha`ism or Babism is a sect attributed to Mirza Ali Mohammed who was known as al-Bab. He initiated his call in 1260 AH (1844 AD), announcing his aim to reform the corrupted conditions of Muslims. He made his call public in Shiraz—south of Iran—where he gained some followers. Later, he sent a group of his followers to different parts of Iran to announce his advent and spread his claims, mainly that he is a messenger sent by Allah. 

Mirza Ali Mohammed authored a book entitled Al-Bayan, and claimed that it contains a divinely revealed code of laws. Moreover, he claimed that his message abrogates the laws of Islam and innovated rulings for his followers similar to those of Islam. He instituted a 19 day fast that ends with the spring equinox, so that ‘Eid al-Fitr always coincides with the day of Nawruz (Coptic New Year). In the Baha`i faith the fast starts from sunrise and ends at sun-set. In Al-Bayan, he said: “We have enjoined upon you fasting for a fixed number of days, and designated for you Nawruz as a feast after completing them.” 

The founder of the Baha`i faith called for the conference of Badasht which was held in Iran in 1264 AH-1848 AD. In this conference, he outlined the faith and declared its independence from Islam and its laws. Scholars of his time resisted this call; they proclaimed its corruption and issued fatawa declaring him a disbeliever. He was incarcerated in Shiraz and then in Isfahan. After wars and clashes between his followers and Muslims, Mirza Ali Mohammed was sentenced to death and was crucified in 1265 AH. 

His successor, Mirza Hussein Ali, called himself Baha`ullah and authored a book entitled Al-Aqdas, in which he followed the footsteps of his late leader and founder of this belief, Miraz Ali Mohammed, as outlined in his book Al-Bayan. 

In Al-Aqdas, Mirza Hussein Ali contradicted the principles of Islam and the other faiths. He annulled the doctrine of Islam and its laws by prescribing nine prayers to be performed each day and night and designating the place of his residence as their qibla [direction of prayer]. In Al-Aqdas, he said: “When you wish to perform prayer, turn your faces towards my holy direction.” He further annulled pilgrimage and commanded the destruction of the sacred House of Allah (Ka’ba) after the advent of an able and brave man from among his followers. 

The Baha’is [followers of Baha’ism] followed the opinion of former philosophers. They stated the eternity of knowledge saying: (Baha’ teaches that the universe is without beginning in time. It is a perpetual emanation from the First cause. God and creation are co-eternal 

Opinions on Baha’ism 

Generally speaking, Baha’ism is a fabricated faith; it includes elements from Buddhism, Brahmanism, idolatry, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and beliefs from the Baatini school of thought. 

Baha’i beliefs

– Baha’is do not believe in the afterlife, Paradise or Hellfire. In this respect, they imitated the Dahriyyahs. 

– The first Baha’i leader claimed in his interpretation of Surat Yusuf that he is better than Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) and his book Al-Bayan is better than the Qur`an. 

– They do not acknowledge the prophethood of our master, the Messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) or that he is the seal of all Prophets. Hence, they are not Muslims since all Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the Book revealed by Allah and believe in the words of Allah Almighty: 

Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah, and the seal of the Prophets. [Qur`an 33:40)

In his interpretation to this verse, the luminary Al-Alusi said, “There were a group of Shi’a extremists at this time who called themselves as al-Babia and who authored works on this belief. Any sane person who believes in this [sect] is a kafir [disbeliever]”. 

The ruling

Based on this, Muslims have unanimously agreed that Bahai’sm or Babism is not an Islamic doctrine and that whoever believes in it is not a Muslim but an apostate from Islam; an apostate is a person who abandons Islam for another faith. Allah Almighty says, 

And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their deeds will ear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter they will be Companions of the fire and will abide therein [Qur’an 2:217).

There is a scholarly consensus on the obligation to kill an apostate if he insists on his disbelief due to the words of the Prophet (pbuh) who said: “Whoever changes his faith, kill him” [Bukhari and Abu Dawud).

Allah Almighty says:

If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah) never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost [Qur’an 3:85].

Allah Almighty knows best. 

The Qadariyyah [Deniers Of Pre-Destination]

(Note: Not to be confused with Qadriyyah Sufi Order)

In the latter days of the Sahabah (Radhiyallahu Anhum), there emerged the despicable sect of the Qadariyyah.

The deniers of Divine Pre-Determination who claimed that Allaah has no power of His creation and that mankind is totally independent of His Will and Power. Qadariyyah are people who claim that Allaah forces us to choose the wrong religion.

The sect was initiated at the hands of Ma`bad al-Juhani, and they denied destiny. Ja`d ibn Dirham, another pioneer of the sect, was the first to claim the Qur’an is created. The remaining Sahabah, among them `Abdullah ibn `Umar, Jabir ibn `Abdullah, Abu Hurayrah, `Abdullah ibn `Abbas and Anas ibn Malik (Radhiyallahu Anhum) abjured the Qadariyyah. They instructed people not to greet them with salaam, nor to pray over their dead, nor even to visit their sick.

Our religion is a religion of following. It is not a religion of innovation or invention. That is to accept whatever Allah and His Messenger have said, not to go beyond this. 

“O you who believe! Do not put (yourselves) forward before Allah and His Messenger (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) ..” [Suratul-Hujurat 49:1] 

In the Qur’an, Allah describes the most excellent person to be the one who submits himself to His commands completely. 

“And who can be better in religion than one who submits his face (himself) to Allah (i.e. follows Allah’s Religion);” [Suratun-Nisa 4:125]

And one who adopts the saying of Allah flees away from using his own ‘Aql (intellect) and from innovation. 

When the Messenger of Allah was not authorized to introduce in this religion from his own intellect, then who else is there who claims such a right. 

“It is only an Inspiration that is inspired.” [Suratun-Najm 53:4] 

“I but follow what is revealed to me by inspiration.. ” [Suratul-An’am 6:50] 

“Follow that which is inspired in you from your Lord.” [Suratul-Ahzab 33:2] 

History and Experience have proven that those who have adopted a way of using their own intellect instead of the pure way of following (the Qur’an, Sunnah & 4 Madhabs) have deviated. And not only did they misguide themselves but they became the cause of abasement of many others and after blackening their records of deeds they departed from this world. 

In this introduction we do not want to give a lengthy argument or else many examples could be given to prove this point, however we will suffice with one example. 

With regards to Qadr, instead of accepting the Shar’iah rulings apparently, these people started thinking about it using their own intellect. The more they thought, deeper they got into their errors, up until some of the impatient elements amongst them even rejected the Qadr. In contrast, with regards to it, some of them declared man to be totally helpless. For them the worship and sins of Allah’s slaves are equal. 

The Messenger of Allah said about them: Such people (i.e. the Qadariyyah) are the majoos of this Ummah. [Abu Dawood] 

Once in front of His companion, Abdullah bin Umar (radiyallahu anhu) Qadariyyah was mentioned, so he said: “If I come across these people then I would break their necks.” And he said: “Go and tell them that I am free from their spurious way.” [Saheeh Muslim] 

O noble Readers, This is the end of those who instead of accepting and submitting the Shar’iah injunctions use their intellect and fall into the sickness of this ill understanding. They spend time in long and futile discussions and waste time in disputes and debates. Because of their taking pleasure in logic, philosophy and rhetoric they remain deprived of the sweetness and the taste of Emaan and Ittibaa (following). What a good saying did Wahb bin Munabbih (rahimahullah) say: One who understands best the matter of Qadr Is the one who remains most quiet about it.