Many people will be familiar with the long lists of 'Ash'ari' scholars that are presented on websites, blogs and forums to argue that since all these scholars were 'Ash'aris', then as they claim through the tongue of disposition - how can the Ash'ari creed possibly be fallible or anything from it to be erroneous when it is (supposedly) the very creed (in all its foundations and branches) that Allaah actually revealed upon the Prophet and His Companions 250 years before Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 324H, rahimahullaah) was even born, and 300 years before he had even abandoned the Mu'tazilah and adopted the creed of the followers of Ibn Kullaab al-Qattaan al-Basri (d. 240H) - and that in light of this how can it contain a single shred of error?
And this is their intent behind compiling and spreading such lists to deceive people - and they resort to this practice out of seeking psychological comfort after they are unable to respond to the hujjah (proof) and the bayaan (clarification) that comes (from the Salaf) in demonstrating their creed to be but an aberration, a mere extension derived from the same usool (foundations) of the Mu'tazilah in reality.
So what about the hundreds of Scholars that could be compiled into lists from before 400H, and who decisively refuted the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah before the Ash'arites were even known of as a faction? Were all those scholars ignorant of the true creed and did they fail to propound it, explain it, defend it, and write about it at all. And this, despite the fact that the main period in which the Jahmiyyah and more so the Mu'tazilah had strength and vigour was 200 years before even a single name appears on these huge lists of "Ash'ari" Scholars?
- And was their creed the creed of the Ash'aris regarding the Qur'an, that this Qur'an we have, in letter word, recited, heard and memorized is created, and that there are two Qur'ans one which is created and which is not?
- And was their creed the creed of the Ash'aris regarding the reality of Eemaan (it is tasdeeq only) which is barely different from the creed of the Jahmiyyah (it is ma'rifah only)?
- And was their creed regarding Allah that He is "neither within the creation nor outside of it" - which is the creed that the Ash'aris took from the Philosophers like Ibn Sina (d. 429H) - see here - and the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah?
- And was their creed to use the Metaphysics of the Greek and atheist Philosophers (al-jawhar wal-'arad and Aristotle's al-Maqoolaat al-Ashar, the Ten Categories) to devise a [corrupt] rational argument to prove the universe, made up of ajsaam (bodies) is created, then to make this the very foundation of the religion itself without which a person is sinful (or in the view of al-Juwaynee d. 478H, a kaafir - see proof here), when Allaah has in fact endued each soul with the innate instinctive disposition to affirm a supreme creator?
- And was their creed to disdain the ahaadeeth and reject them in matters of creed because they are "aahaad" and to treat the proof of the intellect as definitive and decisive over the revealed texts, as is found explicitly in the books of the Ash'aris?
So we can see that these long lists are simply attempts at intellectual fraud whose real aims are:
- To impute ignorance to the entirety of the Salaf prior to 400H
- To argue by way of the "majority" - that the "majority" is right - and this is in opposition to the Book and the Sunnah.
- To deceive the people after they have been unable to answer the unanswerable objections to the glaring discrepancies in their creed which are mostly attempts to camouflage what is in many respects a Mu'tazili creed - (even if they oppose the Mu'tazilah on certain issues) - disguised with the use of innovated terms and phrases to give the illusion that it opposes the creed of the Mu'tazilah and is in fact the creed of Ahl us-Sunnah - perfect example is their creed on "Kalaam Nafsee" and the Qur'an. To put the Kullaabi-derived, Ash'arite creed in perspective, you may want to take a look at the American Chestnut Tree in this article.
So it is necessary to lay down some rules or criteria through which these lists can be evaluated and purged, for the purpose of:
- Correcting their improper attributions of Ash'ariyyah to certain scholars (such as al-Khateeb al-Baghdadi and Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdisi and others)
- Defending the honor and belief of such scholars from such imputations
So before discussing such rules and criteria, an important clarification is necessary as to why we repeatedly refer to today's Ash'aris as "Jahmites":
Laying Down the Criterion
So when you get slapped with a big long list of alleged "Ash'ari" Scholars, then the following evidence should be requested as a validation of the claim for each and every scholar:
Explicit Propounding and Validating Of the Usool
Many of the Scholars on these alleged lists have never textually or verbally claimed to be "Ash'ari" or even formally identified themselves with the Ash'ari madhhab, and thus, in the absence of that, we need to apply a just and fair criterion which is outlined below. And when you apply this, you will see the list starting to dwindle. Just because a Scholar made one or many instances of ta'weel, or concurred with the Ash'arites in some affairs of creed, does not make him an "Ash'ari" and it is not a proof of such either.
Here is how you apply this criterion. First go to all the standard Ash'arite textbooks:
- The books of al-Baqillani (d. 403H), "at-Tamheed" and "al-Insaaf"
- The book of Abdul-Qahir (Abu Mansur) al-Baghdadi (d. 429H), "Usool ud-Deen"
- "al-Ghunyah Fee Usool ud-Deen" of Abu Sa'd an-Neesabooree (d. 478H)
- "ash-Shaamil Fee Usool ud-Deen", of al-Juwaynee (d. 478H)
- "al-Irshaad" of al-Juwaynee (d. 478H)
- "Lum' al-Adillah" of Abdul Malik al-Juwaynee (d. 478H)
- "al-Iqtisad fil-I'tiqaad" of al-Ghazali (d. 505H)
- "Nihayat ul-Aqdaam" of ash-Shahrastani (d. 548H)
- "Mahsul Afkaar il-Mutaqaddimeen wal-Muta'akhkhireen" of ar-Raazee (d. 606H)
- "al-Arba'een fee Usool ud-Deen" of ar-Raazee (d. 606H)
- "Asaas ut-Taqdees" of ar-Raazee (d. 606H)
- "Ma'aalim Usool ud-Deen" of ar-Raazee (d. 606H)
- "al-Mawaaqif" of al-Eejee (d. 756H)
Then extract all the usool that are laid down in these books which are the foundation and fabric of the positions in creed of the Ash'arites.
So as some examples:
- Al-Jawhar wal-Arad: Use of the Metaphysics of the atheist Philosophers such as al-jawhar, al-'arad, Aristotle's "al-Maqoolaat al-Ashar" (the Ten Categories) - and making this the base and foundation for proving Allaah's existence, and making this to be the ultimate truth upon which the actual veracity of the religion itself depends - this is called "hudooth ul-a'raad fil-ajsaam", or "hudooth ul-ajsaam".
- Al-Jawhar al-Fard (Atomism): Use of what the Mu'tazilah incorporated into the proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam" in order to refine the argument a bit more and to lay down the argument for the possibility and plausibility of resurrection.
- An-Nadhar wal-Istidlaal: Making inspection and inference (an-nadhar wal-istidlaal) to be the first obligation upon each and every individual reaching the age of responsibility (mukallaf), and considering him a blameworthy muqallid, sinner or a kaafir (view of al-Juwaynee, d,478H in "ash-Shaamil Fee Usool id-Deen") if he did not do so, whilst having had the ability and thereafter died.
- The Proof of Intellect is Superior to Proof of Revelation: That the proof of the intellect (al-aql) is decisive and definitive over the revealed texts (an-naql), that the intellect leads and guides, and the revealed texts follow - as is found in their books, such as those of al-Bagdhadi (d. 429H), al-Juwaynee (d. 478H), al-Ghazali (d. 505H), ar-Razi (d. 606H) and others.
- Khabar ul-Waahid: That the akhbaar ul-aahaad (solitary narrations) amount only to speculative knowledge, speculative in terms of whether they are authentic or not, and speculative in terms of their meaning and indication - and rejection of these narrations in affairs of creed.
- The Reality of Eemaan: That faith (eemaan) is only tasdeeq (assent of the heart) and actions are not from eemaan, and this view of theirs is based upon their belief in "Kalaam Nafsee", that speech (Kalaam) is the meaning (ma'naa) that subsists in the self, exclusive to the word (lafdh) - and not a combination of the meaning and wording. Based upon this, when it is said by them that , "Imaan is belief and speech" - then as speech (kalaam, qawl etc.) to them is the meaning that exists in the self, or soul, exclusive to the expressed word, then faith (eemaan) remains what is just in the heart (of belief) and speech (i.e. in the self, soul). And this is viewpoint is based upon usool they have laid down and built their madhhab upon.
- Obligation of Ta'weel: That it is waajib (obligatory) when faced with a text that gives a presumption of tashbeeh to make ta'weel of tafweed. Note here their saying that it is a must to do so, it is obligatory to do so - and though many Scholars felt into something of ta'weel, it does not mean that they held it obligatory to make ta'weel - as is from the usool of the Ash'arites.
- The Tawheed of the Messengers: That Tawheed is "There is no creator besides Allaah", and that the Tawheed that the Messengers called to is to negate divisibility (inqisaam, tajzi'ah), numerousness (kathrah, ta'addud), and composition (tarkeeb) from Allaah's Essence (based upon the notions, language and terminology of the atheist Philosophers - jawhar, jism 'arad and so on)
- There is no Qur'an on this Earth: Based upon their view that Allaah does not speak according to His Will and Power and that His speech is only a single meaning present with His Self from eternity (Kalaam Nafsee), then this means that what we have with us of the recited, memorized, heard, written Qur'an is not the real Qur'an it is only a created expression of that - since Allaah never spoke with letters and words. And thus what everyone is worshipping Allaah with, is not Allaah's speech in reality, it is just something created.
So these are just some examples, there are many more usool that are the fabric of the Ash'arite creed. So once we have this list we need to verify and demand an answer,
This particular scholar that you have imputed with Ash'ariyyah, please establish for us that he propounded and validated these usool which are from the essence of the Ash'arite creed, its very framework and foundation, and its core, and that he agreed with them all, and then built his creed upon this framework, arguing for it, defending it, and inviting to it.
And when you demand this, you will see these people fling their wares in their bags and flee on their heels with their tails in between their legs and the list will become shortened and will be seen for what it is - spurious. This is because these people are relying upon people's ignorance of what specifically defines what is "Ash'ariyyah" - and the only way to know that is to gather all their books together and extract all the the usool that would make someone an Ash'ari.
Clarification Regarding the Ascription of Ash'ariyyah To Specific Scholars
To follow inshaa'Allaah - clarifications regarding the likes of al-Khateeb al-Baghdaadee, Abu Uthmaan as-Saaboonee, Ibn Qudaamah al-Maqdisee, Ibn al-Jawzee, al-Mizzi, adh-Dhahabee and others who are included in these spurious lists.