The Psychology of Denial, Ash'ari Burnout, and the Differences Between the Creed of the Early (Kullaabi) Ash'aris and the Later (Mu'tazili, Jahmee) Ash'aris
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Thursday, October, 15 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Early Ash'aris Later Ash'aris Early Ash'aris Later Ash'aris

In this article we explore "the psychology of denial" and a condition arising from it known as "Ash'ari Burnout" within the context of when the difference is established between the creed of the early (Kullaabi) Ash'aris and the later (Jahmite, Mu'tazili) Ash'aris and the illustration of the fact that much of the underlying usool (foundations) and mawaaqif (positions) of the Ash'aris are, upon verification, those of the Mu'tazilah, with this similarity being obfuscated and covered with plays with words and terminologies.

The Creed of the Early Ash'aris and Later Ash'aris

The Early Ash'aris: In brief, they are the likes of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 324H) in his post-Mu'tazili days, Abu al-Abbaas al-Qalanisi (a contemporary of al-Ash'ari), Ibn Mahdee at-Tabari (d. 380H), Abu Bakr al-Baqillani (d. 403H), and we may possibly be able to squeeze Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H) in there too. And though there was no such faction known at that time as "the Ash'aris" (this happened later), we simply use the term "the early Ash'aris" to refer to those people who were upon the creed of Ibn Kullaab al-Qattaan al-Basri (d. 240H), as this is the actual source of what became known as the Ash'arite creed before it got taken in the direction of the creed of the Mu'tazilah by the likes of al-Juwaynee (d. 478H) and those coming after him.

Their creed (being taken from the creed of Ibn Kullaab) was essentially to affirm the sifaat Dhaatiyyah and to reject the Sifaat Fi'liyyah (the actions tied to Allaah's will and choice). Pay attention to this, this was the creed of the Early Ash'aris, following Ibn Kullaab in that. So they affirmed Allaah's uluww, and attributes such as Face, Hands, Eyes - that are mentioned in the Qur'an - without ta'weel, whilst refuting the ta'weel of the Jahmites and Mu'tazilah in this regard - and this has been documented from them in other articles on this site.

As for the reason they did not affirm the Sifaat Fi'liyyah, it was because this would invalidate their intellectual proof of "hudooth ul-ajsaam" because if Allaah had actions tied to His will and power, it would mean actions arising from Him that did not arise previously, and this would mean "hulool ul-hawaadith" which is the occurrence of events, and in accordance with the Ten Categories (al-Maqoolaat al-Ashar) of Aristotelian Metaphysics, having action (fi'l), or being acted upon (infi'aal) is from the special characteristics of jawaahir and ajsaam (substances, bodies) - so these attributes must be rejected, otherwise the intellectual proof is invalidated.

Some of The Evidence to Establish the Creed of the Early Ash'aris

You can refer to the following, which covers the issue of al-uluww (Allaah being above His Throne, with His Essence)

  • Abdullah bin Sa'eed bin Muhammad bin Kullaab al-Qattan al-Basri (d. 240H): See here (from Abu Mansur Abdul-Qahir al-Bagdhadi), and here and also here (from Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari's "Maqaalaat")
  • Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 324H): See here
  • Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari (d. 380H): See here
  • Al-Qadi Abu Bakr al-Baqillani (d. 403H): See here, here and here
  • Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi: See here
  • Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H): See here, from the words of al-Qurtubi, in one of two sayings reported from him.

And regarding the sifaat Dhaatiyyah, such as Face, Hands and Eyes, whilst noting that the affirmation of al-istiwaa and an-Nuzool (Sifaat Fi'liyyah) are reported from al-Baqillani by the likes of adh-Dhahabi:

And from the greatest and most amazing of affairs is that the Early Ash'aris refuted the ta'weels of the Jahmites and the Mu'tazilah - those very same ones that the Later Ash'aris went on to adopt, speak with and argue for!

The Later Ash'aris: They are from the time of Abdul-Malik al-Juwaynee (d. 478H) onwards. And al-Juwaynee took the Ash'ari madhhab back in the direction of the Mu'tazilah, and those after hiim such as al-Ghazali (d. 505H) and ar-Razi (d. 606) followed on with that course. They affirm just seven attributes, deny the sifaat Dhaatiyyah such as Hand, Face, Eyes, and deny all the Sifaat Fi'liyyah.

And from the affairs in which they departed from the earlier Ash'aris was their adopting the saying of the Jahmites, Mu'tazilah and the Philosophers such as Ibn Sina (d. 429H), that, "Allaah is not within His creation nor outside of it" (see here). And likewise, their rejection of Allaah's attributes of Face, Hands and Eyes and making ta'weel of them with the very same ta'weels of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah that the Early Ash'aris refuted! And they rejected that it could be said "Allaah is above the Throne and is not a jism (body)", which is what the early Kullaabi Ash'aris tended to. And they said this because the Karraamiyyah who also affirmed Allaah to be above the Throne were making additions to this such as "with contact", "with touch", "with confinement and containment by the Throne" and so on. So they (the Kullaabi Ash'aris) used these negations "without contact", "without confinement" and the likes alongside their affirmation that Allaah Himself is above the Throne. And as for the Later Ash'aris, they tended towards the views of the Jamiyyah and Mu'tazilah, and they held it to be an impossibility and unsustainable that Allaah Himself be above the Throne (which to them is direction and place) and at the same time not be a body (jism). So they just adopted the saying of the Philosophers, Jahmites and Mu'tazilah that "He is neither within the creation and nor outside of it."

Underlying Usool of the Ash'aris in General: Then what is in top of all that of the agreement between the Ash'aris and the Mu'tazilah in the usool (foundations). Rather, it is more correct to say that the Ash'aris simply remained upon many of the usool of the Mu'tazilah in reality, but clothed a lot of their views and positions with terms and labels that just hid the realities. Whilst the Early Ash'aris were much better, the later ones practically reverted back to much of the views of the Mu'tazilah in reality. Refer to this series that shows that the usool of the Ash'ariyyah are the usool of the Mu'tazilah.

And as an example of a major issue of belief, the Ash'aris are in agreement with the Mu'tazilah that the Qur'an which we hear, memorize, recite and hear, and which the Salaf said is "uncreated" is to them "created", and they differ in wording only:

  • Imaam ul-Haramayn al-Juwaynee (d. 478H): We Agree With the Mu'tazilah That the Qur'an is Created - We Just Differ on a Matter of Wording Which Is On Account Of What Can We Call Allaah 'Mutakallim' (One Who Speaks) - (see here)
  • Muhammad Sa'eed Ramadan Buti: We (The Ash'aris) and the Mu'tazilah are United that the Qur'an Is Created And What the Mu'tazilah Call 'Knowledge (al-Ilm)' and 'Will (al-Iraadah)', We Simply Call 'al-Kalaam an-Nafsee' - (see here)
  • Fakhr ud-Deen ar-Razi (d. 606H): We Agree With the Mu'tazilah That the (Recited) Qur'an is Created And Our Dispute Is One of Wording Only - (see here)
  • The Haashiyah of al-Bayjoori: The Qur'aan We Memorize and Recite Is Makhlooq (Created) And Is From Hudooth - But We Only Say That In Private, Not Openly - (see here)

And this is just a part of what can and will be presented inshaa'Allaah -and it is sufficient for the person with a sincere and truthful heart to start searching and questioning and investigating. And this example of the issue of the "Qur'an" is one that nicely illustrates what we have mentioned that in reality, the usool of the Ash'ariyyah are just the usool of the Mu'tazilah but obfuscated with newly devised terms and phrases and the use of language - whereas upon tahqeeq (research and investigation), the actual usool are exactly the same. If you wan to see this illustrated in black and white, go and read those articles on "Kalaam Nafsee" and Ash'arite viewpoint on the Qur'an being created. And then use that as a guide for other issues in which see the same thing.

The Psychology of Denial

After we documented all of these things with first hand evidence, it became clear that most of those people who ascribe themselves to the Ash'ari creed suffer from a psychological disorder known as "denial". So in this article we want to understand what it is, its manifestations and effects and then also try to offer some free counseling - you see the diseases of the mind very often have greater consequences than the diseases of the body.

The following have been said in characterizing and defining the psychology of denial:

  • Unconsciously putting up a barrier to experiencing what is too painful to consciously bear

  • An unconscious defense mechanism in which emotional conflict and anxiety are avoided by refusal to acknowledge those thoughts, feelings, desires, impulses, or facts that are consciously intolerable.

  • The refusal to admit a problem, and a way of lying to oneself.

But for our purposes, this seems to be the best:

Being presented with information that is too disturbing, threatening or anomalous to be fully absorbed or openly acknowledged. The information is therefore somehow repressed, disavowed, pushed aside or reinterpreted. Or else the information 'registers' well enough, but its implications - cognitive, emotional or moral - are evaded, neutralized or rationalized away.

With these definitions, we can now go on to look at some of the associated language that follows on from this psychological condition - and examples include:

Turning a blind eye. Burying your head in the sand. She saw what she wanted to see. He only heard what he wanted to hear. Ignorance is bliss. Living a lie. Conspiracy of silence. Economical with the truth. It's got nothing to do with me. Don't make waves. They were typical passive bystanders. Being like an ostrich. I can't believe that this is happening. I don't want to know, hear, or see any more. Averting your gaze. Wearing blinkers He couldn't take in the news. Wilful ignorance. She looked the other way. He didn't admit it, even to himself. It didn't happen on my watch.

More Severe Cases of Denial

Unfortunately, if psychological denial is not recognized and treated early on, it can turn more severe. We have seen instances where mild cases have turned into "denial" of the denial itself. Meaning one denies that one is in denial. This is similar to what is called "compound ignorance". A number of cases have been spotted whereby attempts have been made to "reinterpret", "rationalize" and "neutralize" some of the statements brought from the Early Ash'aris regarding al-uluww (Allaah being above the Throne) and their affirmation of the sifaat Dhaatiyyah (Face, Hands, Eyes) without ta'weel.

These people are typical of most Ash'aris who live beneath the sand or in cloud cuckoo land and know little about history and who Ibn Kullaab al-Qattaan al-Basri (d. 240H) was, and they know little about the real origins of the rejection of the attributes and what it stems from - its all to do with the intellectual proof called "hudooth ul-ajsaam" that was based around the notions of Aristotle's "Ten Categories" relating to substances (jawaahir) and incidental attributes (a'raad). These basic notions were first used by Jahm bin Safwan (ex. 128H) to devise the proof against the Indian Materialist Philosophers (the Sumaniyyah) and also by the early Mu'tazilah. It was later refined by Abu al-Hudhayl al-Allaaf (d. 235H) who incorporated Democritus' "Atomism" theory into it and formalized it for the Mu'tazilah - and this was later taken up in the Ash'arite textbooks who used it to argue for a creator, prophethood and resurrection. Then they considered this proof to be the absolute truth, without which the veracity of Islam cannot be established. In turn they had to reject much of what has come in the revealed texts of the affairs of belief, or distort them or give them figurative explanations in order to protect and maintain that proof, because those revealed texts conflicted with that proof and invalidated it.

So most Ash'aris are ignorant of these affairs and its not really their fault, this type of information is concealed from them. It's not their fault because the bulk of the tarbiyyah they appear to receive is:

jism (body), jawhar (substance, particle), 'arad (incidental attribute), jihah (direction), makan (place, location), al-kam (quantity), al-kayf (quality) al-ayn (where), mataa (when), al-wad' (position), al-fi'l wal-infi'aal (change through acting or being acted upon) - this is the true and real language of Tawheed (thanks Aristotle, and thanks again) which is definitive and decisive over the revealed texts (which provide nothing but presumptions of tashbeeh and Tajseem to the dumb commoners). Now here is your anti-Mujassim gun, get out and go and zap those 'evil Wahabis' and don't forget to fill your pockets with the ta'weels of Jahm and Bishr, which we were fortunate enough to inherit through the Mu'tazilah (thanks Mu'tazilah).

And that's the bulk of what you see from these people. They have little knowledge, little understanding, but great zeal which is sadly misplaced. With the blinkers of Aristotelian Metaphysics veiling them, they think they are championing Islaam and the Sunnah but when information comes to them (like what has been presented above and like the Ash'ari viewpoints being nothing but the viewpoints of the Mu'tazilah and Jahmiyyah in reality) - it is denial, and then denial of the denial, and this simply sets the stage for the condition known as "Ash'ari Burnout" - short-circuited by the new information they could not handle, resulting in the kind of ugly and violent hissy-fits that we have seen being played out in forums and blogs.

As for the real Mujassimah - whom the Salaf refuted - they are the likes of the followers of Abdullaah bin Saba' who resembled Alee with Allaah the Most High. And then the likes of Daawud al-Jawaaribee and followers who claimed their Lord is a person with limbs made of light. And the Mugheeriyyah, the followers of al-Mugheerah bin Sa'eed al-Ijlee who said that their Lord has limbs like those of the creation, and that these limbs are in the form of the letters of the alphabet. And then the Khattaabiyyah, and they spoke of the divinity of Abu al-Khattaab al-Asadiyy. Then there are the factions of the Hulooliyyah who claim that Allaah indwells in specific people amongst the Imaams, whom they then worshipped because of that - and this includes factions of the Soofees who are present amongst us today. Then there is Hishaam bin al-Hakam ar-Raafidee who likened his deity to a person, and he described his deity as a body (jism) having color, scent, width, height, depth and so on. And then the Karraamiyyah, who likewise declared Allaah to be a jism with limbs - and in all of that they likened Allaah to the creation.

And the Salaf refuted all of these people, because all of these people made Tajseem and tashbeeh - and at the same time they affirmed what is reported in the Book and the Sunnah of Attributes for Allaah such as Face, Hands and Eyes - and they said it is not tashbeeh to affirm these attributes but it it is tashbeeh to liken these attributes with those of the creation, which is what the Mujassimah and Mushabbihah did. And it is established from the Early Ash'aris, like al-Baqillani, that they affirmed these attributes as attributes of the essence (dhaat) without ta'weel and they refuted the ta'weels of the Mu'tazilah in this regard and in that they were following Ibn Kullaab al-Qattaan al-Basri (d. 240H) from whom the bulk of their creed is taken.

So Tajseem and tashbeeh is to liken what Allaah has affirmed for Himself to that which is found in the creation - it is not to affirm these attributes in and of themselves. So just like we say Allaah has hearing, seeing, speech, will, power, and life - then none of that is not like ours. Even if we argue that we do not see in observable existence anything that has hearing, seeing, speech, will, power and life except that it is a body (jism) and it is not possible for it to exist except in a body (jism) - then this does not mean that Allaah's hearing, seeing, speech, will, power and life is like that of anything in the creation, because Allaah has declared, "There is nothing like unto Him" - so this verse falsifies and invalidates any attempted analogies used to negate what He has affirmed for Himself. So this does not prevent us from affirming these attributes, just like it does not prevent us from affirming attributes such as Face, Hands, Eyes, which are also reported in the revealed texts. And if Face, Hands and Eyes are rejected, then it is a plain contradiction to affirm the likes of "hearing", "seeing", "speech" and so on, because we do not know in observable existence anything that has "hearing", "seeing" and "speech" except that it is a body (jism).

And whoever thought that these attributes are like those of the creation - and then sought to deny them - then the presumption of tashbeeh originated in his heart and mind - and it is not with those who affirmed these Attributes in accordance with what Allaah said, "There is nothing like unto Him", where Allaah negated any "mithl" (likeness) for Himself. And this is what the Salaf were upon unanimously.

And these Ash'aris - in whose hearts and minds the presumption of tashbeeh first arises in relation to the revealed texts, they confuse between the saying of the Mushabbihah, Mujassimah, like those which we have mentioned and whom the Salaf refuted and between the creed of the Salaf which is to affirm what has come in the Book and the Sunnah of Attributes of the Essence, whilst negating likeness and similarity and resemblance from them.

Speaking about those ahaadeeth which mention the attributes of Allah, Imaam at-Tirmidhee (d.279H) - (rahimahullaah) said in his Sunan (1/128-129), quoting the consensus of the leading Imaams of the Salaf:

It has been stated by more than one person from the People of Knowledge about such ahaadeeth, that there is no tashbeeh (resemblance) to the Attributes of Allaah, and our Lord - the Blessed and Most High - descends to the lowest heaven every night. So they say: "Affirm these narrations, have eemaan (faith) in them, do not deny them, nor ask how." The likes of this has been related from Maalik ibn Anas, Sufyaan ath-Thawree, Ibn Uyainah and Abdullaah Ibn al-Mubaarak, who all said about such ahaadeeth: "Leave them as they are, without asking how." Such is the saying of the People of Knowledge from the Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah. However, the Jahmiyyah oppose these narrations and say: This is tashbeeh! However, Allaah the Most High, has mentioned in various places in His Book, the Attribute of al-yad (Hand), as-Sama' (Hearing), and al-Basr (Seeing) - but the Jahmiyyah make ta'weel of these aayaat, explaining them in a way, other than how they are explained by the People of Knowledge. They say: Indeed, Allaah did not create Aadam with His own Hand - they say that Hand means the Power of Allaah. Ishaaq ibn Ibraheem ar-Raahawaih said: tashbeeh is if it is said: "Hand like my hand, or similar to my hand", or it is said: "Hearing like my Hearing,or similar to my hearing", then this is tashbeeh. But if what is being said is what Allah has said: Hand, Hearing, Seeing and it is not asked how, nor is it said: "Like my hearing, or similar to my hearing" - then it is not tashbeeh. Allaah, the Most Blessed, Most High, said in His Book (ash-Shooraa 42:11):

There is none like unto Him, and he is the all-Hearing, the all-Seeing

And inshaa'Allaah we will be expanding more on the "Psychology of Denial" and the "Ash'ari Burnout", as more and more cases are brought to our attention for the appropriate inspection, diagnosis and remedy.