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asked to put the meaning of the Qurán into writing. He became angry and said: "I should rather be palsied in one-half of my body than do so." 'Ayesha said: "Avoid those persons who dispute about the meaning of the Qurán, for they are those whom God has referred to in the words, 'whose hearts are given to err.''

The first reading is the one adopted by the Asháb, the Tábi'ín and the Taba-i-Tábi'ín and the great majority of Commentators. The Sunnís generally, and, according to the testimony of Fakr-ud-dín Rází (A. H. 544-606), the Shafa'í sect are of the same opinion.


Those who take the opposite view are the Commentators Mujahid (died A.H. 101), Rábí' bin Ans and others. The scholastic theologians (Mutakallimán) generally adopt the latter reading. They argued thus: how could men believe what they did not know; to which their opponents answered, that the act of belief in the unknown is the very thing here praised by God. The scholastics then enquired why, since the Qurán was sent to be a guide and direction to men, were not all its verses muhkam ? The answer was, that the Arabs acknowledged two kinds of eloquence. One kind was to arrange words and ideas in a plain and simple style so that the meaning might be at once apparent, the other was to speak in figurative language. Now, if the Qurán had not contained both these styles of composition, it could not have claimed the position it does as a book absolutely perfect in form as well as in matter.4

Bearing in mind this fundamental difference of opinion, we can now pass on to the consideration of the attributes.

1. Ibn Khallikan, vol. i. p. 565.

2. "The Musulmán Authors distinguish between the earlier and later Mutakallimán. The former (of whom we here treat) were occupied with purely religious questions; the latter, who arose after the introduction of the Greek philosophy amongst Muslims, embraced many philosophic notions, though they tried to make them fit in with their religious opinions." Mélanges de Philosophie Juive et Arabe, p. 320.

3. Tafsír-i-Faiz-ul-Karím, p. 250. 4. Tafsír-i-Faiz-ul-Karím, p. 250.

The essential attributes are Life, Knowledge, Power, Will, for without these the others could not exist. Then the attributes of Hearing, Seeing, Speech give us a further idea of perfection. These are the "Sifát-i-Sabútiah," or affirmative attributes, the privation of which would imply loss; there are also Sifát-i-Salbiah, or privative attributes, such as-God has no form, is not limited by place, has no equal, &c. The acts of sitting, rising, descending, the possession of face, hands, eyes, &c., being connected with the idea of corporeal existences imply imperfection and apparently contradict the doctrine of "exemption" (tenzih) according to which God is, in virtue of His essence, in no way like the creatures He has made. This was a difficulty, but the four great Imáms all taught that it was impious to enquire into these matters for all such allusions were mutashábih. "The Imám Hanbal and other early divines followed in the path of the early Muslims and said: 'We believe in the Book and the Sunnat, and do not desire explanations. We know that the High God is not to be compared to any created object : nor any creature with Him.'” 1 Imám As-Sháfa'í said that a man who enquired into such matters should be tied to a stake, and carried about, and that the following proclamation should be made before him: "This is the reward of him who left the Qurán and the Traditions for the study of scholastic theology." Imám Hanbal says: "Whosoever moves his hand when he reads in the Quran the words, I have created with my hand,' ought to have his hand cut off; and whoever stretches forth his finger in repeating the saying of Muhammad, 'The heart of the believer is between two fingers of the Merciful,' deserves to have his finger cut off." At-Tirmízí when consulted about the statement of the Prophet that God had descended to the lowest of the seven heavens, said: "The descent is intelligible, the manner how is unknown; the belief therein


1. Dabistán, p. 218.

is obligatory; and the asking about it is a blameable innovation." But all such attempts to restrain discussion and investigation failed.

The two main points in the discussion of this question are (1) whether the attributes of God are internal or external, whether they are part of His essence or not, and (2) whether they are eternal or not.

The two leading Sects were the Sifátians (or Attributists) and the Mutazilites. The Sifátians whom the early orthodox Muslims follow, taught that the attributes of God are eternally inherent in His essence without separation or change. Every attribute is conjoined with Him as life with knowledge, or knowledge with power. They also taught that the mutashábih verses were not to be explained, and such were those which seemed to show a resemblance between God and His creatures. So at first they did not attempt to give the meaning of the terms, "hands, eyes, face, &c.," when applied to God. They simply accepted them as they stood. In course of time, as will be seen, differences of opinion on this point led to some sub-divisions of this sect.

The Mutazilites were the great opponents of the Sifátians. They rejected the idea of eternal attributes, saying that eternity was the formal attribute of the essence of God. "If," said they, "we admit the eternal existence of an attribute then we must recognize the multiplicity of eternal existences." They also rejected the attributes of hearing, seeing and speech, as these were accidents proper to corporeal existences. They looked upon the divine attributes as mental abstractions, and not as having a real existence in the divine essence. The Mutazilites were emphatically the Free thinkers of Islám. The origin of the sect was as follows: Al Hasan, a famous divine, was one day seated in the Mosque at Basra when a discussion arose on the question whether a believer who committed a mortal sin became thereby an unbeliever. The Khárigites (Ante p. 76) affirm


ed that it was so. The orthodox denied this, saying that, though guilty of sin, yet that as he believed rightly he was not an infidel.1 One of the scholars Wásil Ibn Atá, (who was born at Madína A. H. 80), then rose up and said: "I maintain that a Muslim who has committed a mortal sin should be regarded neither as a believer nor an unbeliever, but as occupying a middle station between the two." then retired to another part of the Mosque where he was joined by his friend 'Umr Ibn Obaid and others. They resumed the discussion. A learned man, named Katáda, entering the Mosque, went up to them, but on finding that they were not the party in which Al Hasan was, said 'these are the Seceders (Al-Mutazila).' Al Hasan soon expelled them from his school. Wásil then founded a school of his own of which, after the death of his master, 'Umr Ibn Obaid became the head.

Wásil felt that a believer, though sinful, did not merit the same degree of punishment as an infidel, and thus starting off on the question of degrees of punishment, he soon opened up the whole subject of man's responsibility and the question of free-will. This soon brought him into conflict with the orthodox on the subject of predestination and that again to the subject of the inspiration, the interpretation and the eternity of the Qurán, and of the divine attriHis followers rejected the doctrine of the "divine right' of the Imám, and held that the entire body of the Faithful had the right to elect the most suitable person, who need not necessarily be a man of the Quraish tribe, to fill that office. The principles of logic and the teaching of philosophy According to Shahrastání the Mutazilites hold:


were brought to bear on the precepts of religion.

"That God is eternal; and that eternity is the peculiar property of His essence; but they deny the existence of any eternal attributes (as distinct from His nature). For they say, He is Omniscient as to

1. Ibn Khallikan, vol. iii, p. 343.

His nature; Living as to His nature; Almighty as to His nature; but not through any knowledge, power or life existing in Him as eternal attributes; for knowledge, power and life are part of His essence, otherwise, if they are to be looked upon as eternal attributes of the Deity, it will give rise to a multiplicity of eternal entities."

"They maintain that the knowledge of God is as much within the province of reason as that of any other entity; that He cannot be beheld with the corporeal sight; and with the exception of Himself everything else is liable to change or to suffer extinction. They also maintain that Justice is the animating principle of human actions: Justice according to them being the dictates of Reason and the concordance of the ultimate results of this conduct of man with such dictates."

"Again, they hold that there is no eternal law as regards human actions; that the divine ordinances which regulate the conduct of men are the results of growth and development; that God has commanded and forbidden, promised and threatened by a law which grew gradually. At the same time, say they, he who works righteousness merits rewards and he who works evil deserves punishment. They also say, that all knowledge is attained through reason, and must necessarily be so obtained. They hold that the cognition of good and evil is also within the province of reason; that nothing is known to be right or wrong until reason has enlightened us as to the distinction; and that thankfulness for the blessings of the Benefactor is made obligatory by reason, even before the promulgation of any law upon the subject. They also maintain that man has perfect freedom; is the author of his actions both good and evil, and deserves reward or punishment hereafter accordingly."

During the reigns of the 'Abbásside Khalífs Mámún, Mutasim and Wathik (198-232 A.H.) at Baghdad, the Mutazilites were in high favour at Court. Under the 'Abbásside dynasty1 the ancient Arab Society was revolutionized, Persians filled the most important offices of State; Persian doctrines took the place of Arab ones. The orthodox suffered bitter persecution. The story of that persecution will be told later on. The Khalíf Wathik at length relented.

1. "C'etait l'époque de la plus grande splendeur extérieure de l'empire des Arabes, où leur pouvoir, et en même temps leur culture intellectuelle et littáraire, atteignirent leur point culminant." Journal Asiatique 4me Série, Tome xii. p. 104.

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