Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani's Mention of the Ash'ari Sect By Name in Fath ul-Baaree - Part 4
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Sunday, July, 05 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.

Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani, when discussing the hadeeth of Mu'aadh bin Jabal at the beginning of Kitaab ut-Tawheed in Bukhaaree's Saheeh, in which there occurs the saying of the Prophet (sallallahu 'alayhi wasallam), "... Let the first thing that you call them to be to the Tawheed of Allaah (yuwahhidullaahu), and when they have come to know that ..." he discusses the issue of what the first obligation upon the servant is.

The generality of the Ash'aris hold that it is an obligation for each person to know the proofs for the existence of his Lord, through rational and observational proofs and some of them (such as al-Baqillani) go to extremes in claiming that each and every person must learn the preliminary philosophical precepts that underlie the demonstration of Allaah's existence through al-jawhar wal-'arad (substance and accident).

Ibn Hajr first makes mention of the positions of Ibn Fawrak and his followers, and also that of Abu Bakr al-Baqillani and Abu Ishaq al-Isfaraa'eenee (all Ash'aris - being students of Abul-Hasan al-Bahili, the student of Abu Hasan al-Ash'ari) on this subject.

So in the course of discussing this issue, Ibn Hajr rebuts this position of the Ash'aris saying:

And I have mentioned in "Kitaab ul-Eemaan" the one who turned away from all of this [i.e. what al-Baqillani, Ibn Fawrak, and al-Isfaraa'eenee are upon] from its very foundation and who held on to His, the Most High's saying "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)..." For indeed the apparent meaning of the verse and the hadeeth is that knowledge (al-ma'rifah) is already acquired on the basis of the fitrah, and that (a person's) departure from that is through what (subsequently) happens to a person, due to his (alayhis salaatu wassalaam), saying "...then his parents make him a Jew or a Christian..."

And Abu Ja'far as-Simnaanee - and he is one of the heads of the Ashaa'irah - has agreed with this, and he said: "Indeed this one of the issues of the Mu'tazilah that remained in the saying of al-Ash'ari and branching off from it is (the saying) that the obligation upon every person is to have knowledge of Allaah through the evidences that point to Him, and that taqleed is not sufficient in this regard."

So here:

  • Ibn Hajr rebuts this position (of the main early Ash'ari scholars) very clearly and unequivocally, as he has also done previously in Kitaab ul-Imaan (see part 1 of this series) - with just one verse and one hadeeth.

  • Ibn Hajr makes mention of as-Simnaanee who agreed with what was correct and had to admit that this issue was one that remained with al-Ash'ari from his Mu'tazili past.

As we shall demonstrate inshaa'Allah, this is not the only issue in which the Ash'aris are simply followers of the Mu'tazilah. In reality, the bulk of the Ash'ari madhhab is tainted with Mu'tazilite influence. They are pretty much agreed upon foundational principles and their differences and debates are regarding subsidiary issues branching off from those foundational principles.