Ashʿarism or Ashʿari theology (/æʃəˈriː/;[1] Arabic: الأشعريةal-ʾAšʿarīyya or الأشاعرة al-ʾAšāʿira) is the foremost theological school of Sunni Islam which established an orthodox dogmatic guideline[2] based on clerical authority, founded by the Arab theologian Abu al-Hasan al-Ashʿari (d. 936 / AH 324).[3] The disciples of the school are known as Ashʿarites, and the school is also referred to as the Ashʿarite school, which became the dominant theological school within Sunni Islam.[4][5] It is considered one of the orthodox schools of theology in Sunni Islam,[6] alongside the Maturidi school of theology.[7][8]

Amongst the most famous Ashʿarites are Al-Ghazali, Izz al-Din ibn 'Abd al-Salam, Al-Suyuti, Ibn 'Asakir, and Al-Subki.[9]



Abu al-Hasan al-Ashʿari was noted for his teachings on atomism,[10] among the earliest Islamic philosophies, and for al-Ashʿari 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.[11]

While al-Ashʿari opposed the views of the Mu'tazili school for its over-emphasis on reason, he was also opposed to the view which rejected all debate, held by 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:[12]

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.


Ashʿarism became the main school of early Islamic philosophy whereby it was originally based on the foundations laid down by Abu al-Hasan al-Ashʿari 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 Ashʿari, in modern usage, being extremely broad, e.g. differences between Ibn Fawrak (d. AH 406) and al-Bayhaqi (d. AH 384).[13][14]

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-Ashʿari 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-Ashʿari 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.[15]


The Ashʿarite view holds that:

  • God is all-powerful, therefore all Good and Evil is what God commands or forbids.[16] What God does or commands — as revealed in the Quran and ahadith — is by definition just. What He prohibits is by definition unjust.[17] Right and wrong are not objective realities.[18]
  • Insisting — as the opposing Muʿtazila did — that because God is just He cannot do/command something unjust (such as condemn someone to hell over something beyond their control) is an error because this limits His power. Some divine acts/commands might seem unfair/unjust to human beings, but ...[18][18]
  • The unique nature and attributes of God cannot be understood fully by human reasoning and the senses.[19]
  • Reason is God given and must be employed judge over source of knowledge.[20]
  • Intellectual inquiry is decreed by the Qur'an and by Muhammad, thus interpretations of the Quran (Tafsir) and the Hadith should keep developing with the aid of older interpretations.[21]
  • Only God knows the heart and knows who belongs to the faithful and who not.[22]
  • God may forgive the sins of those in Hell.[23]
  • Support of kalam.
  • Although humans possess free will (or, more accurately, freedom of intention), they have no power to create anything, thus simply decide between God's given possibilities.[24] This doctrine is now known in Western philosophy as occasionalism. According to the doctrine of kasb (acquisition), any and all human acts, even the raising of a finger, are created by God, but the human being who performs the act is responsible for it, because they have "acquired" the act.[25]
  • The Quran is the uncreated word of God in essence, however it is created when it takes on a form in letters or sound.[25]
  • Knowledge of God comes from studying the holy names and attributes in addition to studying the Quran and the Hadith of Muhammad.
  • Muslim must believe in the Five pillars of Islam;[26]
  • in all the Prophets of Islam from Adam to Muhammad;[26]
  • and in angels.[26]


Ibn Taymiyyah attacked Ashari thought as (in the words of one historian, Jonathan A.C.Brown) "a Greek solution to Greek problems" that should "never" have concerned Muslims.[27] Both Shah Wali Allah and Ibn Taymiyyah rejected the lack of literalism in Ashʿari “speculative theology” and advocated "straightforward acceptance of God’s description of Himself.”[28]

On the other hand, German orientalist Eduard Sachau blamed the theology of Ashʿari and its biggest defender, al-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."[29]

Others, however, argue that the Ashʿarites 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 Ashʿari school of Islamic theology.[30] Like other Ashʿarites who believed that faith or taqlid should apply only to Islam and not to any ancient Hellenistic authorities,[31] 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.[32]

Some authors have questioned the spiritual value of discussion methods employed by the Ashʿarites and other dialectical theologians. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, himself a leading figure of the Ashʿari 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."[33]

See also


  1. ^ "al-Ashʿari". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ Cyril Glassé, Huston Smith The New Encyclopedia of Islam Rowman Altamira 2003 ISBN 978-0-759-10190-6 page 63
  3. ^ Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari fima Nussiba ila al-Imam al-Ash`ari (Ibn 'Asakir)
  4. ^ Abdullah Saeed Islamic Thought: An Introduction Routledge 2006 ISBN 978-1-134-22564-4 chapter 5
  5. ^ Juan Eduardo Campo Encyclopedia of Islam New York, NY 2009 ISBN 978-1-438-12696-8 page 66
  6. ^ Pall, Zoltan. Lebanese Salafis Between the Gulf and Europe. Amsterdam University Press. p. 18. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  7. ^ Halverson, J. Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. Springer. p. 9. Retrieved 12 July 2016.
  8. ^ Aaron W. Hughes Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam Columbia University Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-231-53192-4 page 193
  9. ^ Hamad al-Sanan, Fawziy al-'Anjariy, Ahl al-Sunnah al-Asha'irah, pp.248-258. Dar al-Diya'.
  10. ^ Ash'ari - A History of Muslim Philosophy
  11. ^ Watt, Montgomery. Free-Will and Predestination in Early Islam. Luzac & Co.: London 1948.
  12. ^ M. Abdul Hye, Ph.D, Ash’arism, Philosophia Islamica.
  13. ^ "Imam Bayhaqi".
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-16. Retrieved 2013-02-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  15. ^ Corbin (1993), pp. 115 and 116
  16. ^ John L. Esposito The Oxford History of Islam Oxford University Press 2000 ISBN 978-0-199-88041-6 p. 281
  17. ^ John L. Esposito The Oxford History of Islam Oxford University Press 2000 ISBN 978-0-199-88041-6 p. 281
  18. ^ a b c Brown, Jonathan A.C. (2014). Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy. Oneworld Publications. p. 53. ISBN 978-1780744209. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  19. ^ John L. Esposito The Oxford History of Islam Oxford University Press 2000 ISBN 978-0-199-88041-6 p. 281
  20. ^ Aaron W. Hughes Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam Columbia University Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-231-53192-4 page 194
  21. ^ Alexander Knysh Islam in Historical Perspective Taylor & Francis 2016 ISBN 978-1-317-27339-4 page 163
  22. ^ Ron Geaves Islam Today: An Introduction A&C Black 2010 ISBN 978-1-847-06478-3 page 21
  23. ^ Ian Richard Netton Encyclopaedia of Islam Routledge 2013 ISBN 978-1-135-17960-1 page 183
  24. ^ Aaron W. Hughes Muslim Identities: An Introduction to Islam Columbia University Press 2013 ISBN 978-0-231-53192-4 page 194
  25. ^ a b Cyril Glassé, Huston Smith The New Encyclopedia of Islam Rowman Altamira 2003 ISBN 978-0-759-10190-6 page 62-3
  26. ^ a b c Abdullah Saeed Islamic Thought: An Introduction Routledge 2006 ISBN 978-1-134-22564-4 chapter 5
  27. ^ Brown, Jonathan A.C. (2014). Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy. Oneworld Publications. p. 62. ISBN 978-1780744209. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  28. ^ Brown, Jonathan A.C. (2014). Misquoting Muhammad: The Challenge and Choices of Interpreting the Prophet's Legacy. Oneworld Publications. p. 65. ISBN 978-1780744209. Retrieved 4 June 2018.
  29. ^ Muzaffar Iqbal, Science and Islam, pg. 120. From the Greenwood Guides to Science and Religion Series. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. ISBN 9780313335761
  30. ^ Sardar, Ziauddin (1998), "Science in Islamic philosophy", Islamic Philosophy, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved 2008-02-03
  31. ^ Anwar, Sabieh (October 2008), "Is Ghazālī really the Halagu of Science in Islam?", Monthly Renaissance, 18 (10), retrieved 2008-10-14
  32. ^ 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
  33. ^ Rashid Ahmad Jullundhry, Quranic Exegesis in Classical Literature, pg. 53-54. Islamic Book Trust/The Other Press, 2010. ISBN 9789675062551


  • Frank, Richard M. Classical Islamic Theology: The Ash`arites. Texts and Studies on the Development and History of Kalam. Vol. III. Edited by Dimitri Gutas (Aldershot, Ashgate Variorum, 2008) (Variorum Collected Studies Series).

External links


‘Aql (Arabic: عقل‎, meaning "intellect"), is an Arabic language term used in Islamic philosophy or theology for the intellect or the rational faculty of the soul or mind. It is the normal translation of the Greek term nous. In jurisprudence, it is associated with using reason as a source for sharia "religious law" and has been translated as "dialectical reasoning".

Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi

Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi was a Hanafite jurist who lived during the second half of the 10th century. He authored various books on theology and jurist works. His work was enumerated by Brockelmann and his little work has been edited twice by AWT Juynboll.

His time of death is not quite certain.


Al-Ashʿarī (الأشعري; full name: Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Ismāʿīl ibn Isḥāq al-Ashʿarī; c. 874–936 (AH 260–324), reverentially Imām al-Ashʿarī) was an Arab Sunni Muslim scholastic theologian and eponymous founder of Ashʿarism or Asharite theology, which would go on to become "the most important theological school in Sunni Islam".According to scholar Jonathan A.C. Brown, although "the Ash'ari school of theology is often called the Sunni 'orthodoxy,'" "the original ahl al-hadith, early Sunni creed from which Ash'arism evolved has continued to thrive alongside it as a rival Sunni 'orthodoxy' as well." According to Brown this competing orthodoxy exists in the form of the "Hanbali/über-Sunni orthodoxy".Al-Ashʿarī was notable for taking an intermediary position between the two diametrically opposed schools of theological thought prevalent at the time:

He opposed both the Muʿtazilites, who advocated the extreme use of reason in theological debate, and the Zahirites, Mujassimites and Muhaddithin,

who were entirely opposed to the use of reason or kalam, and condemned any theological debate altogether.Al-Ashʿari's school eventually won "wide acceptance within Sunni Islam, the official theological creed of which came largely to be defined by Ashʿarī principles." Due to his efforts, Al-Ashʿarī came to be revered by Sunni Muslims for having successfully "integrated the rationalist methodology of the speculative theologians into the framework of orthodox Islam." He continues to be honored by the epithets Imām al-mutakallimūn ("Leader of the Scholastic Theologians") and Imām ahl as-sunnah wa l-jamāʿah ("Leader of the Sunnis").


Abu 'Ali Muhammad al-Jubba'i (Arabic: أبو على محمد الجبائي‎; died c. 915) was an Arab Mu'tazili theologian and philosopher of the 10th century. Born in Khuzistan, he studied in Basra where he trained Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, who went on to found his own theological tradition, and his son Abd al-Salam al-Jubba'i.


Azariqa (Arabic الأزارقة, al-azāriqa), The strongest and the most extremist branch of Khawarij, who follow the leadership of Nafi ibn al-Azraq al-Hanafī al-Handhalī.


Batiniyya (Arabic: باطنية‎, romanized: Bāṭiniyyah) refers to groups that distinguish between an outer, exoteric (zāhir) and an inner, esoteric (bāṭin) meaning in Islamic scriptures. The term has been used in particular for an allegoristic type of scriptural interpretation developed among some Shia groups, stressing the bāṭin meaning of texts. It has been retained by all branches of Isma'ilism and its Druze offshoots. The Alawites practice a similar system of interpretation. Batiniyya is a common epithet used to designate Isma'ili Islam, which has been accepted by Ismai'lis themselves.Sunni writers have used the term batiniyya polemically in reference to rejection of the evident meaning of scripture in favor of its bāṭin meaning. Al-Ghazali, a medieval Sunni theologian, used the term batiniyya pejoratively for the adherents of Isma'ilism. Some Shia writers have also used the term polemically.


Batriyya (Arabic: بترية‎, adjective form Batri) is a Muslim sect from Zaidiyyah, some Shia clerics may use this term to refer to any shiite mixing the allegiance to the Imams and the allegiance to Abu Bakr and Umar.

Among those who used the term were Fadil Al-Darbandi, Muhammad Al-Sanad and Yasser Al-Habib.


The Bishriyya was a sub-sect of the Mu'tazilite school of Islamic theology.

While the Mu'tazilite school generally was founded in Basra by Wasil ibn Ata, the Bishriyya follow the teachings of Bishr ibn al-Mu'tamir (d. 210 H / 825 CE).


The Buyruks are a collection of spiritual books providing the basis of the Alevi value system. The word buyruk in Turkish means "command". Topics addressed in the Buyruks include müsahiplik "spiritual brotherhood" and a wide range of Alevi stories and poems. The story of Haji Bektash Veli is found in them.

The Buyruks also contain Quranic verses, the sayings of Ali and the Twelve Imams, as well as sayings and songs written by Yunus Emre, Pir Abdal Musa, Pir Sultan Abdal, and Ismail I, known by his pen name, Khata'i.


Jahmī (Arabic: جهمي‎) was a pejorative term used especially by early Hanbalites to refer to the followers of Jahm ibn Safwan (d. 128/746). In the modern era it is also used by followers of Salafism against Muslims who believe the Quran is a created thing, not the eternal speech of Allah.


Jarudiyah (Arabic: الجارودية ; Persian:جارودیه) is among the first branches of Zaidiyyah, attributed to Abul Jaroud Ziyad Ibn Mansur. This sect was also known as Shorobiyah, because Shoroub was the title of Abu Jaroud. Among the theorists of the Jarudiyah are Fazl ibn Zubayr al Rasani, Mansour Ibn Abi Al Aswad, and Haroun Ibn Saad al Ajli. Abu Khalid al Vaseti is another prominent figure in this school. Jarudiyah beliefs include: Zayd Ibn Ali ibn Hussein as successor, Ali's preference over other Sahabah and the necessity of arising against a Tyrant.


ʿIlm al-Kalām (Arabic: عِلْم الكَلام‎, literally "science of discourse"), usually foreshortened to Kalām and sometimes called "Islamic scholastic theology", is the study of Islamic doctrine ('aqa'id). It was born out of the need to establish and defend the tenets of Islamic faith against doubters and detractors. A scholar of Kalām is referred to as a mutakallim (plural: mutakallimūn), and it is a role distinguished from those of Islamic philosophers, jurists, and scientists.The Arabic term Kalām means "speech, word, utterance" among other things, and its use regarding Islamic theology is derived from the expression "Word of God" (Kalām Allāh) found in the Qur'an.Murtada Mutahhari describes Kalām as a discipline devoted to discuss "the fundamental Islamic beliefs and doctrines which are necessary for a Muslim to believe in. It explains them, argues about them, and defends them" (see also Five Pillars of Islam). There are many possible interpretations as to why this discipline was originally called so; one is that the widest controversy in this discipline has been about whether the "Word of God", as revealed in the Qur'an, can be considered part of God's essence and therefore not created, or whether it was made into words in the normal sense of speech, and is therefore created.

Logic in Islamic philosophy

Early Islamic law placed importance on formulating standards of argument, which gave rise to a "novel approach to logic" (منطق manṭiq "speech, eloquence") in Kalam (Islamic scholasticism)

However, with the rise of the Mu'tazili philosophers, who highly valued Aristotle's Organon, this approach was displaced by the older ideas from Hellenistic philosophy,

The works of al-Farabi, Avicenna, al-Ghazali and other Persian Muslim logicians who often criticized and corrected Aristotelian logic and introduced their own forms of logic, also played a central role in the subsequent development of European logic during the Renaissance.

The use of Aristotelian logic in Islamic theology again began to decline from the 10th century, with the rise of Ashʿari theology to the intellectual mainstream, which rejects causal reasoning in favour of clerical authority.According to the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

For the Islamic philosophers, logic included not only the study of formal patterns of inference and their validity but also elements of the philosophy of language and even of epistemology and metaphysics. Because of territorial disputes with the Arabic grammarians, Islamic philosophers were very interested in working out the relationship between logic and language, and they devoted much discussion to the question of the subject matter and aims of logic in relation to reasoning and speech. In the area of formal logical analysis, they elaborated upon the theory of terms, propositions and syllogisms as formulated in Aristotle's Categories, De interpretatione and Prior Analytics. In the spirit of Aristotle, they considered the syllogism to be the form to which all rational argumentation could be reduced, and they regarded syllogistic theory as the focal point of logic. Even poetics was considered as a syllogistic art in some fashion by most of the major Islamic Aristotelians.

Important developments made by Muslim logicians included the development of "Avicennian logic" as a replacement of Aristotelian logic. Avicenna's system of logic was responsible for the introduction of hypothetical syllogism, temporal modal logic and inductive logic. Other important developments in early Islamic philosophy include the development of a strict science of citation, the isnad or "backing", and the development of a scientific method of open inquiry to disprove claims, the ijtihad, which could be generally applied to many types of questions.

Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari

Muhammad Zahid b. Hasan al-Kawthari (1296 AH – 1371 AH/1879–1952) was the adjunct to the last Shaykh al-Islam of the Ottoman Empire, a Hanafi Ashʿari scholar and a polymath.


The Najdat were the sub-sect of the Kharijite movement that followed Najda ibn 'Amir al-Hanafi in the late 7th century and briefly ruled over the historical provinces of Yamamah and Bahrayn in central and eastern Arabia.


The Nukkari (also Nakkari or Nakkariyah; in Latin sources named Canarii) are one of the main branches of the North African Ibadi, founded in 784 by Abu Qudama Yazid ibn Fandin al-Ifrani. Led by Abu Yazid al-Nukkari, they revolted against the ruling Fatimids in Ifriqiya (today's Tunisia and eastern Algeria), conquering Kairouan in 944 and laying siege to Sousse, but were ultimately defeated in 947. Remnants of the Nukkari are thought to have survived on the island of Djerba.

Organized religion

Organized religion (or organised religion—see spelling differences), also known as institutional religion, is religion in which belief systems and rituals are systematically arranged and formally established. Organized religion is typically characterized by an official doctrine (or dogma), a hierarchical or bureaucratic leadership structure, and a codification of rules and practices.


The Sufris (Arabic: الصفرية‎ aṣ-Ṣufriyya) were Khariji Muslims in the seventh and eighth centuries. They established the Midrarid state at Sijilmassa, now in Morocco.

In Tlemcen, Algeria, the Banu Ifran were Sufri Berbers who opposed rule by the Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates, most notably under resistance movements led by Abu Qurra (8th century) and Abu Yazid.The Khawarij were divided into separate groups such as the Sufri, Azariqa, Bayhasiyya, Ajardi, Najdat, and Ibadi. Only the Ibadi continue to exist today.

Zahir (Islam)

Ẓāhir (Arabic: ظاهر‎) is an Arabic term in some tafsir (interpretations of the Quran) for what is external and manifest. Certain esoteric interpretations of Islam maintain that the Quran has an exoteric or apparent meaning, known as zahir, but also an underlying esoteric meaning, known as batin, which can be interpreted only by a figure of esoteric knowledge. For Shi'a Muslims, the Imam of Time alone can understand the esoteric meaning.

In Sufism, the actions of an individual are the zahir, and the intention in the heart is the batin. Zahir is the world of bodies whereas batin is the world of souls. Sufis believe in the purification of the batin by their spiritual guide to assure a zahir that follows Shariat.

Zahir is also the underlying principle of the Ẓāhiriyya, a school of thought in Islamic jurisprudence and theology known for its insistence on sticking to the manifest or apparent meaning of expressions in the Quran and the Sunnah.

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