Abū Al-Hudhayl Al-ʿAllāf

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ABŪ AL-HUDHAYL AL-ʿALLF (d. between ah 227 and 235, 842 and 850 ce), more fully Abū al-Hudhayl Muammad ibn al-Hudhayl al-ʿAllāf al-ʿAbdī; Muslim theologian of the Muʿtazilī school. Little is known of the life of Abū al-Hudhayl. He was a client (mawlā ) of the tribe ʿAbd al-Qays and is said to have studied with a certain Uthmān al-Tawīl, an agent for the Muʿtazilī propaganda of Wāil ibn ʿAtaʾ (d. 748/9). About 819 he entered the court of the caliph al-Maʾmūn, where he was renowned for his skill in disputation and for his ability to quote poetry. Of his numerous theological, philosophical, apologetic, and polemic writings, none has survived. He is reported to have been more than a hundred years old at the time of his death.

The fragmentary and somewhat gnomic reports of Abū al-Hudhayl's doctrine supplied by later writers allow only a superficial view of his teaching, nor is it possible to determine the significance of several apparent parallels to earlier Christian writers. His teaching is based on a systematic analysis of the predicates attached to things, where the primary assertion is indicated by the noun subject used in the analytic paraphrase. For example, "x moves" is analyzed as "a motion belongs to x," and "y knows," as "a cognition belongs to y." Since the subject term of the analysis is taken to designate an entity, the method tended to posit many reified properties, such as "location" (kawn ), "conjunction," or "lifelessness." Abū al-Hudhayl's conception of material beings was atomistic: bodies are composites of discrete atoms (sg., jawhar ) in each of which subsists a set of various entitative properties (sg., maʿnā ), categorically referred to as "accidents." The atoms and some kinds of accidents perdure over many moments of time while other accidents exist only for a single instant. Because speech consists of accidents in a material substrate, the Qurʾān as God's speech is also created; it exists originally in a celestial archetype, "The Cherished Tablet," of which there are quotations.

Analyzing the descriptions of God given in the Qurʾān, Abū al-Hudhayl taught that God has cognition, power, life, eternity, grandeur, and so forth, but each of these attributes is God himself, even though they are distinguishable as such from each other. His volitions, however, come to exist temporally "in no substrate," simultaneously with his creation of their objects, as does his creative command, "Be," the reality of which is asserted by "creates." He held also that the potential objects of God's power are finite in number and that consequently there must come a time when even the activity of the blessed in Paradise will terminate in an unalterable state of bliss. This thesis he is said to have renounced late in his life.

Whether or not Abū al-Hudhayl first introduced atomism and the analytic method into the Muʿtazilī kalām is uncertain; in any event, Abū ʿAlī al-Jubbāʾī (d. 913) considers that it is Abū al-Hudhayl "who initiated kalām." His most important direct disciple was Abū Yaʿqūb al-Shaām, who was in turn the master of al-Jubbāʾī. The latter basically refined the system of Abū al-Hudhayl so as to lay the immediate foundation of what later became the predominant tradition of Muʿtazilī theology. Also through al-Jubbaʾī, who was the teacher of al-Ashʿarī (d. 935), the teaching of Abū al-Hudhayl came to play a significant role in the formation of classical Ashʿarī doctrine.

See Also



Frank, R. M. The Metaphysics of Created Being According to Abū al-Hudhayl al-ʿAllāf. Istanbul, 1966. Although dated, remains a useful summary.

Frank, R. M. "The Divine Attributes according to the Teaching of Abū l-Hudhayl al-ʿAllāf." Le muséon 82 (1969): 451506. Contains a general outline of his theology with attention to several patristic parallels.

R. M. Frank (1987)

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