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An old man, heavily chained, was one day brought into his presence. The prisoner obtained permission to put a few questions to Ahmad Ibn Abu Dá,úd, a Mutazilite and the President of the Court of Inquisition. The following dialogue took place. "Ahmad," said the prisoner, "what is the dogma which you desire to have established." "That the Qurán is created," replied Ahmad. "This dogma, then, is without doubt an essential part of religion, insomuch that the latter cannot without it be said to be complete ?" "Certainly." "Has the Apostle of God taught this to men or has he left them free?" "He has left them free." "Was the Apostle of God acquainted with this dogma or not?" "He was acquainted with it." "Wherefore, then, do you desire to impose a belief regarding which the Apostle of God has left men free to think as they please?" Ahmad remaining silent, the old man turned to Wathik and said, "O Prince of Believers, here is my first position made good." Then turning to Ahmad, he said, "God has said, 'This day have I perfected religion for you, and have filled up the measures of my favours upon you; and it is my pleasure that Islám be your religion.' (Súra v. 5). But according to you Islám is not perfected unless we adopt this doctrine that the Qurán is created. Which now is most worthy of credence-God, when He declares Islám to be complete and perfect, or you you announce the contrary?" Ahmad was still "Prince of Believers," said the old man, "there

when silent.

is my second point made good." He continued, "Ahmad, how do you explain the following words of God in His Holy Book?-0 Apostle! proclaim all that hath been sent down to thee from thy Lord; for if thou dost not, thou hast not proclaimed His message at all.' Now this doctrine that you desire to spread among the Faithful, has the Apostle taught it, or has he abstained from doing so?" Ahmad remained silent. The old man resumed, "Prince of Believers, such is my third argument." Then turning to Ahmad he said: "If the Prophet was acquainted with the doctrine


which you desire to impose upon us, had he the right to pass by it in silence?" "He had the right.' "And did the same right appertain to Abu Bakr, Omar, Osmán and ’Ali ?” "It did." "Prince of Believers," said the prisoner, "God will, in truth, be severe on us, if He deprives us of a liberty which He accorded to the Prophet and his Companions." The Khalif assented, and at once restored the old man to liberty. So ended one of the fiercest persecutions the orthodox have ever had to endure, but so also ended the attempt to break through the barriers of traditionalism. 1 The next Khalíf, Al Mutawakhil, a ferocious and cruel man, restored the orthodox party to place and power. He issued a fatva (decree) declaring that the dogma,that the Qurán was created was an utter falsehood. He instituted severe measures against Christians, Jews, Shia'hs and Mutazilites. Ahmad Ibn Abu Dá,úd was one of the first to be disgraced. Heresy and latitudinarianism were banished.

The final blow to the Mutazilites, however, came not from the Khalíf but a little later on from Abu Hasan-alAsh'arí (270-340 a.h.)

The Mutazilites expelled from power in Baghdad, still flourished at Basra where one day the following incident occurred. Abu 'Alí Al-Jubbai, a Mutazilite doctor, was lecturing to his students when Al-Ash'arí propounded the following case to his master: "There were three brothers, one of whom was a true believer, virtuous and pious; the second an infidel, a debauchee and a reprobate; and the third an infant; they all died. What became of them ?” Al-Jubbai answered: "The virtuous brother holds a high station in Paradise, the infidel is in the depths of hell, and the child is among those who have obtained salvation."

1. To understand the bearing of all the discussions that then took place, the reader should have some acquaintance with the history of the Khalífs, and of the rise and progress of Muslim philosophy. The former can be found in Osborn's "Khalífs of Baghdad." A short review of the latter will be found in a note at the end of this chapter.



"Suppose now," said Al-Ash'arí, "that the child should wish to ascend to the place occupied by his virtuous brother, would he be allowed to do so?" "No," replied Al-Jubbai, "it would be said to him: 'thy brother arrived at this place through His numerous works of obedience to God, and thou hast no such works to set forward.'' "Suppose then,” " said Al-Ash'arí, "that the child should say: 'this is not my fault, you did not let me live long enough, neither you give me the means of proving my obedience.'" "In that case," said Al-Jubbai, "the Almighty would say: 'I knew that if I allowed thee to live, thou wouldest have been disobedient and have incurred the punishment of hell : I acted, therefore, for thy advantage.' Well," said Al-Ash'arí, “and suppose the infidel brother were here to say: O God of the Universe! since Thou knewest what awaited him, Thou must have known what awaited me; why then didst Thou act for his advantage and not for mine?'" 1 Al-Jubbai was silent, though very angry with his pupil, who was now convinced that the Mutazilite dogma of man's free-will was false, and that God elects some for mercy and for punishment without any motive whatever. Disagreeing with his teacher on this point, he soon began to find other points of difference, and soon announced his belief that the Quran was not created. This occurred on a Friday in the Great Mosque at Basra. Seated in his chair he cried out in a loud voice: "They who know me know who I am; as for those who do not know me I shall tell



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them ;

I am 'Alí Ibn Ismá'íl Al-Ash'arí, and I used to hold

that the Quran was created, that the eyes (of men) shall not see God, and that we ourselves are the authors of our evil deeds; now, I have returned to the truth: I renounce these opinions, and I take the engagement to refute the Mutazilites and expose their infamy and turpitude." 2

He then, adopting scholastic methods, started a school of

1. Ibn Khallikan, vol. ii. p. 669.

2. Ibid, p. 228.

thought of his own, which was in the main a return to orthodoxy. The Ash'arían doctrines differ slightly from the tenets of the Sifátians of which sect Al-Ash'arí's disciples form a branch. The Ash'aríans hold

(i.) That the attributes of God are distinct from His essence, yet in such a way as to forbid any comparison being made between God and His creatures. They say they are not "'ain nor ghair:" not of His essence, nor distinct from it: ie., they cannot be compared with any other things.

(ii.) That God has one eternal will from which proceed all things, the good and the evil, the useful and the hurtful. The destiny of man was written on the eternal table before the world was created. So far they go with the Sifátians, but in order to preserve the moral responsibility of man they say that he has power to convert will into action. But this power cannot create anything new for then God's sovereignty would be impaired; so they say that God in His providence so orders matters that whenever " a man desires to do a certain thing, good or bad, the action corresponding to the desire is, there and then, created by God, and, as it were, fitted on to the desire." Thus it seems as if it came naturally from the will of the man, whereas it does not. This action is called Kasb (acquisition) because it is acquired by a special creative act of God. It is an act directed to the obtaining of profit, or the removing of injury the term is, therefore, inapplicable to the Deity. Abu Bakr-al-Bakillání, a disciple of Al-Ash'arí, says: "The essence or substance of the action is the effect of the power of God, but its being an action of obedience, such as prayer, or an action, of disobedience, such as fornication, are qualities of the action, which proceed from the power of man." The Imám Al-Haramain (419-478 A. н.) held "that the actions of men were effected by the power which God has created in man." Abu Isháq al Isfarayain says: "That which maketh impression, or hath influence on action, is a compound of the power of God and the power of man."

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(iii.) They say that the word of God is eternal, though they acknowledge that the vocal sounds used in the Qurán, which is the manifestation of that word, are created. They say, in short, that the Qurán contains (1) the eternal word which existed in the essence of God before time was; and (2) the word which consists of sounds and combinations of letters. This last they call the created word.

Thus Al-Ash'arí traversed the main positions of the Mutazilites, denying that man can by the aid of his reason alone rise to the knowledge of good and evil. He must exercise no judgment but accept all that is revealed. He has no right to apply the moral laws which affect men to the actions of God. It cannot be asserted by the human reason that the good will be rewarded, or the bad punished in a future world. Man must always approach God as a slave, in whom there is no light or knowledge to judge of the actions of the Supreme. Whether God will accept the penitent sinner or not cannot be asserted, for He is an absolute Sovereign, above all law.1

The opinions of the more irrational sub-divisions of the Sifátians need not be entered into at any length.

The Mushábihites (or Assimilators), interpreting some of the mutashábih verses literally, held that there is a resemblance between God and His creatures; and that the Deity is capable of local motion, of ascending, descending, &c. These they called "declarative attributes." The Mujassimians (or Corporealists) declared God to be corporeal, by which some of them meant, a self-subsisting body, whilst others declared the Deity to be finite. They are acknowledged to be heretics.

1. Ibn Khaldoun says: "L'établissement des preuves (fondées sur la raison) fut adopté par les (premiers) scolastiques pour le sujet de leur traités, mais il ne fut pas, comme chez les philosophes, une tentative pour arriver à la découverte de la vérité et pour obtenir, au moyen de la démonstration, la connaissance de ce qui était ignoré jusqu'alors. tiques confirmer la vérité des dogmes, de justifier les opinions des premiers Musalmans et de repousser les doctrines trompeuses que les novateurs avaient émises." Prolégomènes d'Ibn Khaldoun, vol. iii. p. 169.

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