Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani's Mention of the Ash'ari Sect By Name in Fath ul-Baaree - Part 1
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Wednesday, July, 01 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani

The Ash'aris of today claim that Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani (rahimahullaah) was a subscriber to the Ash'ari madhhab, and Ibn Hajr's name is often mentioned in a long list of those whom they claim were Ash'aris.

The Ash'aris have certain fundamental principles (usool) that characterize their madhhab, and though Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani fell into their way of ta'weel in relation to many of Allaah's Attributes, that does not make him an Ash'ari (in the manner that al-Baqillani, al-Juwaynee and others were Ash'ari). There is a great difference between a person's usool (foundations) being Ash'ari and a person agreeing with the Ash'aris in some affairs.

As will be shown in later articles, Ibn Hajr was not upon many of the false usool of the Ash'aris, and it cannot be said that Ibn Hajr was an Ash'ari (in the manner that al-Baqillani, al-Juwaynee and others were Ash'ari by way of example), merely because of his ta'weel of the Attributes. For someone to be considered an Ash'ari, they have to propound and validate the usool of the madhhab - and Ibn Hajr certainly was not upon that.

For he opposes the Ash'aris in some of the views held by them as a faction - some of which are from their usool - the issue of the first obligation upon the servant, and likewise, the entrance into the affairs of theological philosophy (ilm ul-kalaam), and the issue of khabar al-waahid, and also whether Allaah's speech is just of a single type (i.e. there being no difference between a command, a prohibition, a threat, a promise and so on) and other affairs.

So if someone says "Ibn Hajr was an Ash'ari", we say he agreed with the Ash'aris in their ta'weelaat, or we say he fell into some of what the Ash'aris fell into of ta'weel of the Attributes, or he was influenced by the path of the Ash'aris but he did not propound the generality of their usool from the angle of validating them, or deeming them correct.

In this series, inshaa'Allaah, we will show all the places in Fath ul-Baaree where Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani mentions the sect "Ashaa'irah", or "Ash'ariyyah". The purpose behind this is to indicate that Ibn Hajr (rahimahullaah) speaks of the Ash'aris as a faction, a sect, outlining their viewpoints on certain issues as they are raised in the course of his explanation of the ahaadeeth (indicating thereby that he did not identify himself as an Ash'ari).

In Kitaab ul-Eemaan

Ibn Hajr mentions from one of the heads of the Ash'ariyyah, Abu Ja'far as-Simnaanee, that the saying that the first obligation upon a person being to observe and reflect and to acquire ma'rifah (knowledge) of Allaah with intellectual proof - which is the saying of the generality of the Ash'ariyyah - is of the issues of the Mu'tazilah that remained in the (Ash'ari) madhhab...

And Ibn Hajr does not agree with this viewpoint, which is one of the usool of the Ash'aris, namely that the first obligation is to observe and reflect and derive evidence (for the Creator). Following on from this, the Ash'aris as a whole hold that the eemaan of the muqallid (blind-follower) is invalid.

Ibn Hajr said in Fath ul-Baaree, in the opening pages to Kitaab ut-Tawheed, regarding the claim that the first obligation is to observe and reflect:

.. and a faction have tended [to the view] of the obligation of contemplation (an-nadhar) and deduction of evidence (al-istidlaal), such as Ibn Fawrak...

Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H) is one of the Theologians of the Ash'aris, being a student of a student of Abu Hasan al-Ash'ari.

And in the above scanned page, Ibn Hajr actually refutes this position (of the Ash'aris) by simply quoting one verse and one hadeeth and saying that these two texts rebut this matter from its very foundation. After quoting the Imaam ul-Haramayn (al-Juwaynee) on this subject (indicated by the blue line in the graphic above) Ibn Hajr says:

And alongside this, then the saying of Allaah, the Most High, "So set your face towards the upright religion, Allaah's fitrah (meaning Tawheed) to which He has made mankind to be inclined..." (ar-Rum 30:30) and the hadeeth, "Each child is born upon the fitrah (i.e. inclination to Allah's recognition and Tawheed)..." are very clear in rebutting this matter from its very foundation.

So with these words, Ibn Hajr repudiates the view of the Ash'arites in this subject.

Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) explains what is correct, in Dar' ut-Ta'aarud (8/6-10):

And the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) did not call anyone to contemplation (over the creation for deduction of proof for Allah's existence) and nor to the mere affirmation of a creator. Rather, the first thing he called them to was the two testimonials (of faith) and this is what he commanded the Companions.

In Kitaab ul-Ilm

Here Ibn Hajr (rahimahullaah) mentions the theological Philosophers of the Ash'aris:

He says, in reference to the hadeeth he is discussing,

... and some of the theological Philosophers (Mutakallimoon) of the Ashaa'irah, have used as evidence from his saying...

This is in the context of the discussion of al-Qadr and whether the servant has any influence or effect upon his own action. It appears from other places that Ibn Hajr inclines towards what is essentially the doctrine of al-kasb of the Ash'aris and considers it to be the view of Ahl us-Sunnah - and inshaa'Allaah this can be covered in a separate article. As we have said previously, agreement with the Ash'aris in some issues does not make a person an Ash'ari - and as we shall show later inshaa'Allaah, Ibn Hajr repudiates the likes of the Ash'ari Theologians and also demolishes one of their important foundations regarding the issue of the first obligation upon the servant.

In Kitaab ul-Qadr

Here Ibn Hajr mentions the Hanafiyyah and the "Ashaa'irah" and "Ash'ariyyah". The mention is in the context of the hadeeth regarding one doing the deeds of Paradise through all one's life and then one's fate being sealed with the deeds of Hellfire, and vice versa - and some of the issues that arise from it in connection to Allaah's decree. So he says:

...the difference regarding that (matter) between the Ash'ariyyah and the Hanafiyyah has become well-known, and the Ashaa'irah have clung to the likes of this hadeeth and the Hanafiyyah have clung to the likes of His, the Most High's saying, "Allaah erases whatever He wills and establishes (whatever He wills)..."

So from these examples, we see that the way Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani speaks of the Ash'aris is as though they are a faction amongst the factions, and of which he is not a part.