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ASHʿARĪYAH . The theological doctrine of the Ashʿarīyah, the followers of al-Ashʿarī, is commonly regarded as the most important single school of systematic theology in orthodox Islam. The school and its members are commonly referred to in Arabic as al-Ashʿarīyah and its members often as al-ashāʿirah (the "Ashʿarīs"). Ashʿarī masters during the tenth and eleventh centuries ce most commonly refer to themselves and the school as ahl al-aqq ("those who teach the true doctrine") or ahl al-sunnah wa-al-jamāʿah ("the adherents of the sunnah and the consensus [of the Muslim community]") and sometimes as ahl al-taqīq ("those whose doctrine is conceptually clear and verified"). It should be noted, however, that other groups, including some opponents of the Ashʿarīyah, use the same expressions, and the first two in particular, to describe themselves. Ashʿarīyah is not, as such, identified with any single juridical tradition (madhhab ); most Ashʿarī theologians were Shāfiʿī, and some were famous as teachers of Shafiʿi law, but a large number of them were Mālikī, the most famous being the Mālikī qāi ("judge") al-Bāqillānī.

The history of the school can be divided into two clearly distinguishable periods, the division falling about the beginning of the twelfth century ce. The first period, often referred to as that of classical Ashʿarī theology, is characterized by the formal language, analysis, and argumentation of the Basran kalām employed by al-Ashʿarī himself, while the second is characterized by the language, concepts, and formal logic of philosophy (falsafah), that is, of the Islamic continuation of Greek philosophy. The school received strong official support under the Seljuk vizier Niām al-Mulk (d. 1092), with many of its masters appointed to chairs of the Shāfiʿī law in the colleges (madrasah s) that he founded. Many scholars identify the acme of the school with the great Ashʿarī masters of this period. Many, most notably Georges C. Anawati and Louis Gardet, have seen the introduction and adaptation of Aristotelian logic and concepts as analogous to the via nova of Western Scholastic theology and accordingly hold that the Ashʿarī thinking of the later period is more sophisticated and more truly theological than that of the earlier period.

Principal Figures

There is very little concrete data concerning the teaching of al-Ashʿarī's immediate disciples. Abū Bakr al-Qaffāl al-Shāshī, Abū al-asan al-Bāhilī, and Abū ahl al-Saʿlūkī are regularly cited in the theological writings of later Ashʿarī thinkers, but the only theological work by one of his direct disciples that is known to have survived is the Taʾwīl al-āyāt al-mushkilah (The Interpretation of Difficult Verses) of Abū al-asan al-abarī. In formulation and conception this work appears to follow the teaching of al-Ashʿarī rigidly: the proof for the contingency of the world and the existence of God, for example, is not the one universally employed by the Ashʿarīyah of succeeding generations, but depends directly on al-Ashʿarī's Al-lumaʿ (The Concise Remarks). The most important of al-Ashʿarī's immediate disciples, however, was certainly al-Bāhilī; although al-Qaffāl's student al-alīmī (d. 1012) is cited with some frequency by later authorities, it is three students of al-Bāhilī who dominate Ashʿarī thinking in the next two generations. These are the qāi Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī (d. 1013), Abū Bakr ibn Fūrak (d. 1015), and Abū Isāq al-Isfaraʾini (d. 1027).

Several of al-Bāqillānī's theological writings have survived and are published: two compendia of moderate length, Al-tamhīd (The Introduction) and Al-ināf (The Equitable View), and a major work on the miraculous character of the Qurʾān, Iʿjāz al-Qurʾān (The Inimitability of the Qurʾān). Of his longest and most important work, Hidāyat al-mustarshidīn (The Guidance of Those Who Seek to Be Guided Aright), however, only a part, yet unpublished, of the section on prophecy is presently known. A number of important works that are commonly cited appear not to have survived at all, among them a tract on the ontology of attributes and predicates entitled Mā yuʿallal wa-mā lā yuʿallal (What Is Founded in an ʿIllah and What Is Not) and Al-naq al-kabīr (The Major Critique), which is perhaps a longer recension of his Naq Al-naq (The Critique of The Critique ), a work written in response to the Naq Al-lumaʿ (The Critique of [al-Ashʿarī's] Al-lumaʿ ) composed by the great Muʿtazilī master ʿAbd al-Jabbār (d. 1024). Ibn Fūrak's Bayān taʾwīl mushkil al-adīth (The Clear Interpretation of Difficult Traditions) was very popular in later times and survives in many copies, but among his dogmatic writings only a few short works, none of them published, are known to have survived. (The lengthy Uūl al-din [Basic Doctrines] contained in the Ayasofya collection of Istanbul and attributed to him in several European handbooks is by his grandson.) Of al-Isfarāʾīnī's writings, only one short compendium (ʿaqīdah ), yet unpublished, is known to have survived, although a large number of theological works are cited by later Ashʿarī writers, among them Al-jāmiʿ (The Summa ), Al-mukhtaar (The Abridged Compendium), Al-waf wa-al-ifah (Predications and Attributes), and Al-asmāʾ wa-al-ifāt (The Names and Attributes [of God]).

Among the Ashʿarīyah of succeeding generations, the principal figuressome of whose theological works are available and in part publishedare ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Baghdādī (d. 1037), who studied with al-Isfarāʾīnī; Abū Bakr al-Bayhaqī (d. 1056), best known as a traditionist and jurisconsult; Abū al-Qāsim al-Qushayrī (d. 1072), a student of both Ibn Fūrak and al- Isfarāʾīnī, renowned as a teacher and writer on Sufism; his student Abū Saʿd al-Mutawallī (d. 1086), best known as a jurisconsult, and Abū Bakr al-Fūraki (d. 1094), a grandson of Ibn Fūrak and son-in-law of al-Qushayrī. None of the theological writings of Abū al-Qāsim Isfarāʾīnī (d. 1060) have survived, though his commentary on the Mukhtaar of Abū Isāq al-Isfarāʾīnī is often cited along with others of his works. His disciple Abū al-Maʿālī al-Juwaynī (d. 1085), known as Imām al-aramayn (Imam of the Holy Cities, that is, Mecca and Medina, to which he was forced to flee for a time), was not only one of the foremost Muslim theologians of any period but also the leading Shāfiʿī legist of his age.

A number of al-Juwaynī's dogmatic works have survived and are published; most important his Irshād (Guidance), the Risālah al-niāmīyah (The Short Tract for Niām [al-Mulk], twice published under the title Al-ʿaqidah al-niāmīyah ), and Al-shāmil fī uūl al-din (The Complete Compendium of the Basic Doctrines), which is a very extensive exposition (tarīr ) of al-Bāqillānī's commentary on al-Ashʿarī's Al-lumaʿ. A significant portion of Al-shāmil is preserved, and the substance of the remainder survives in an abridgement of some two hundred folios by an unknown author, entitled Al-kāmil fī ikhtiār Al-shāmil (The Perfect Abridgement of Al-shāmil). Although the second major period of Ashʿarī theology, already foreshadowed in some of al-Juwaynī's work, is inaugurated by his most famous student, al-Ghazālī, several of his disciples continued to pursue kalām in the traditional form, and their surviving works are of great importance as sources for current understanding of the development of the school in the classical period. These are the Uūl al-dīn (Basic Doctrines) by al-Kiyāʾ al-Harāsī (d. 1110), a highly respected jurisconsult, and Al-ghunyah fī al-kalām (Sufficiency in Kalām ) by Abū al-Qāsim al-Anārī (d. 1118), of whose commentary on the Irshād of al-Juwaynī a significant fragment is also preserved.

Doctrines and Methods of the Classical Period

The school of al-Ashʿarī universally holds that the sources of theological knowledge are, in order of priority, the Qurʾān, the sunnah, the consensus of the Muslim community, and human reason, and their basic teaching varies little from one master to another during the classical period. God's being is eternal (qadīm ) and unconditioned; in his "self" (nafs, dhāt ) and in his "essential attributes" (ifāt al-nafs ), his nonexistence is impossible. Every being other than God and his essential attributes exists as an action of his that is finite, corporeal, and temporal, and therefore altogether unlike him. Temporal beings are referred to as God's "attributes of action" (ifāt afʿālihi), since it is they that are asserted to exist when any predicate of action such as "creates" or "sustains" is said of him.

Though questioning the denumerability of the "essential attributes" of God, the Ashʿarīyah all recognize seven principal ones: life, cognition, volition, the ability to act, sight, hearing, and speaking. They hold these to be real (thābitah ) and distinguishable, as what is asserted by "wills" is distinct from what is asserted by "knows," and so forth; they are neither simply identical with God's "self" nor are they other than it, since "other" implies separability and therefore contingency. The objects of his ability to create are infinite and are known to him as such. What he knows will be, he wills to be, and nothing comes to be that he does not will; whatever comes to be, comes to be through his ability to act when and as his will determines.

As God is one, so each of his essential attributes is one: he knows an infinity of objects in a single, eternal cognition and wills the existence of an indefinite number of beings in a single, eternal volition. Since he has neither needs nor desires, he cannot be said to act for a motive or reason. Neither his acts nor his commands can be rationalized; since he is the absolute Lord of creation, they are right and just (ʿadl) simply because they are his, independently of any apparent good or harm they may constitute or cause with respect to any creature.

God makes himself known to the believer in a special way in the Qurʾān, and one of the issues most vehemently contested between the Ashʿarīyah and their opponents, both the Muʿtazilah and the Hanābilah, is the validity and sense of the thesis "the Qurʾān is the uncreated speech of God." According to the Ashʿarī analysis, "speech" or "speaking" (kalām ) refers to an interior intention that is materially signified and expressed by spoken, written, and remembered expressions (urūf). God's eternal attribute of speaking is one and undivided: it becomes differentiated into statements, commands, and so on in its material articulation in a particular language by means of which it is revealed and manifested. Thus the believer's recitation (qirāʾah ) of the Qurʾān, like the written copy, is created, but what is recited (maqrūʾ ), that is, the intention made present and understood, is the uncreated speaking of God.

The Qurʾān is miraculous not merely because it foretold and foretells future events, but in a unique way because of the sublimity of its rhetorical expression. According to the Ashʿarīyah God is properly described only by those expressions "by which he has described himself," that is, those given in the Qurʾān and in the tradition. Although God's being is beyond the grasp of human intelligence, these predicates, known as "his most beautiful names" (asmāʾuhu al-usnā ), are known to be true and adequate. The Ashʿarīyah analyze them systematically, first, in order to reduce them referentially to God's "self," to one of his essential attributes, or to one of his "attributes of action," and second, to examine their specific connotations. That God is in some real sense visible they hold to be rationally demonstrable; that he will be seen by the believers in the next life is known only by revelation.

Ontological bases of Ashʿarī thought

According to the Ashʿarī theologians of the classical period, the world consists of two kinds of primary entities: atoms, which are conjoined to form bodies, and the entitative "attributes" or "accidents" that reside in these atoms, each of which contains a single discrete instance of each class (jins) of accident or its contrary. The atoms perdure through many instants, but the "accidents," since they exist for only an instant, are continually created anew by God. Events are the coming to be of entities, and since God causes the existence of every entity, the causation of one event by another (tawallud) is denied. The system is thus fundamentally occasionalistic, and the interrelationships between distinct entities as they exist separately in temporal succession are little discussed as such in the available texts.

Events that are properly described as human actions (aksāb ) are defined as those that are the immediate objects of a "created ability to act" (qudrah mudathah) and are limited to those events that take place in the agent as and insofar as they are intended by the agent. As entities they are ascribed to God, as his action; under other descriptions they qualify the part, and only the part, of the agent in which they occur and are so ascribed to him as his action. The human agent is properly said to be able to perform the act he or she performs only at the moment it is actually performed; only at this instant does God create in the human the ability to perform it. On this basis the Ashʿarī theologians are accused of holding that individuals are in some instances commanded by God to do what they are not able to do (taklif mā lā yuāq ). Though this is formally true, appropriate distinctions are made between an agent's not being able to do something (ghayr qādir ) and being unable (ʿājiz ) to do it, and accordingly between voluntary omission (tark ) and involuntary omission. This analysis of human actions was radically opposed by the Muʿtazilah, who considered it to be deterministic. Viewed from the standpoint of the Ashʿarī school, however, the issue is not one of freedom and determinism, but of whether or not any event can occur independently of God's will and action.

In fact, the question of determinism is treated ambivalently in most of the texts that survived. Those events that occur regularly as the apparent consequences of human actions are not considered as true effects of the basic act, but are created by God occasionalistically according to the consistency of the "convention" (ʿādah ) that he freely follows in ordering material events. Miracles are events that God has created with a radical departure from the sequence in which he usually makes things happen, in order to verify the divine origin of a prophet's message. Belief (īmān ) is essentially the assent (tadīq ) of the believer to the truth of God's message transmitted by the prophet, and one in whom this assent occurs is by definition a believer (muʾmin ). The assent requires, but is distinct from, cognition and entails, but is distinct from, the performance of what God commands. God commands the belief of the unbeliever but does not will it (otherwise the unbeliever would believe). The obedience of the believers is neither the cause nor the necessary condition of their reward in the life to come; it is simply a criterion arbitrarily decreed by God.

Ashʿarī methods

The Ashʿarī school disapproves of taqlīd, the unreflecting assent to religious dogmas by simple acquiescence to recognized authority. They hold that, at least on a basic level, the believers ought to know the sense and coherence of what they hold to be true and should rationally understand the validity of its foundation in the Qurʾān and the teaching of the Prophet. According to the traditionalist method, creedal and theological statements are established and verified through the collection of a consistent body of citations from the Qurʾān, the Prophet, and recognized authorities among the first generations of Muslims, so that any deviant thesis can be excluded on grounds of contextual incompatibility with these canonical sources. By contrast, the Ashʿarī method proceeds to a formal, logical, and conceptual analysis of the terms of each thesis on the basis of a rigid set of definitions and distinctions, axioms and principles, which both explain the elementary sense and foundation of the thesis and exclude any counterthesis as unfounded or inconsistent in some respect.

Among the most conspicuous aspects of the Ashʿarī texts are the formalism that dominates both their expression and their intention and the narrow delimitation of topics as defined by the particular thesis. Since the Ashʿarīyah, unlike the Muʿtazilah, did not consider it necessary to found their theology autonomously on philosophical reasoning, the theoretical principles and implications of their doctrine are not extensively set forth in the texts. One begins from and always returns to the basic definitions and distinctions, which are presented and argued in what often appears to be a rather peremptory manner. Even where positions are argued at great length in terms of a variety of questions and against a number of counterpositions, as in al-Juwaynī's Al-shāmil, the discussion of the basic issue seldom advances much beyond its original statement. Consequently, and especially given the limited sources currently available, for a number of important questions it is extremely difficult to interpret what is explicitly presented within the broader implications of the question. For this reason, the Ashʿarī kalām of the classical period has been considered chiefly a dialectic exercise and one that is mostly, if not entirely, apologetic in character. The formal disputation (munāarah ) was from the outset a central element in the study and cultivation of the religious sciences in Islam, and as in the case of Western Scholasticism, it largely determined the literary expression of Muslim theology.

A number of leading Ashʿarī theologians wrote works on dialectics (jadal). Although the form of their presentation is often dialectical, few if any classical Ashʿarī works are dialectically apologetic in the strict sense of the term, for both the question and the argument are always presented and elaborated within the narrow context of the formal and theoretical presuppositions of the school's own doctrine, not those presupposed by the counterthesis or any other that might presumably be acceptable to both disputants. Even so, their Muslim opponents, at first chiefly the Muʿtazilah and later the Karrāmīyah, had a significant catalytic effect on the development of Ashʿarī theology in the classical period: They were not simply a source of countertheses that had to be dealt with, but were also significant figures within the religious and intellectual milieu, and as such were, along with the anābilah, competitors for the allegiance of the Muslim community and in some cases for patronage too.

Philosophical problems

It was apparently under pressure from the Muʿtazilī school of Basra, then approaching its zenith, that Ashʿarī theology made rapid advances in sophistication toward the beginning of the eleventh century. Concepts that had remained somewhat vague or inadequately elaborated in the work of al-Ashʿarī and his immediate disciples underwent revision and redefinition, while principles and constructs that had not been sufficiently thought through were redefined and the system as a whole brought into more rigorous coherence. In the process, a certain diversity of teaching became apparent in the works of the leading masters. The distinction between the necessarily existent (the eternal) and the contingent (al-mudath, the temporal) was fundamental.

Beyond this, most of the Ashʿarī theologians of the classical period understood being univocally, to the extent that terms meaning "entity" (shayʾ, dhāt, mawjūd) were applied to the atoms and their accidental properties alike. The Ashʿarīyah of this period were basically nominalists. God determines the various kinds of beings, creating each with its distinctive characteristics; the names of the classes or kinds of things by which their individual instances are called are given originally in God's instruction (tawqīf), not by human convention. The basic adjectival or descriptive terms that ascribe distinct or accidental properties to things are derived from the names of those properties, as ʿālim (knows) is derived from ʿilm (cognition) to describe a subject in which a cognition exists.

The question of what qualifications or predicates of a being are or are not grounded (muʿallalah ) in distinct properties was the subject of considerable discussion. Because the foundation of the system lay in its analytic formalism, problems inevitably arose concerning the universality of many terms. These were especially acute since they held that terms that name both human and divine attributes (life, cognition, volition, for example) are basically univocal, while asserting at the same time that God and his eternal attributes are wholly unlike created beings and so belong to no class (jins ) of entities: It is known that these terms name God's attributes truly and adequately because they are used by God in the Qurʾān. Formulations to the effect that God's will, for example, "is a volition unlike volitions" stated but did not adequately resolve the problem.

Following a formula found already in al-Ashʿarī, Ibn Fūrak and others held that things simply "deserve" (istaaqqa ) to be called by the terms that describe them properly and truly. Any subject in which there exists a cognition, for example, "deserves" to be described by the expression knows, and the cognition is, in each case, the reason or cause of the predication (ʿillat al-waf); what they have in common (jāmiʿ ) is this cause or reason. What any two cognitions, on the other hand, have in common is simply that they deserve to be named by the expression cognition. Some authorities will speak of their having the same "particular characteristics" (khawā, khaaʾi ). Al-Bāqillānī, however, adapting a concept from his Muʿtazilī contemporaries, posits the reality of non-entitative attributes or "states" (awāl) of things, which are the referential or ontological basis of the universality of descriptive terms. In this way, every cognition, whether created or uncreated (eternal), is qualified by a state of "being a cognition" (ʿilmīyah ), and every subject in which there exists a cognition is qualified by a state of "being cognizant" (ʿālimīyah ). Similarly a human action (kasb) is qualified by a state of being a human action (kasbīyah ). Among the Ashʿarī masters of the classical period, only al-Juwaynī accepted and defended al-Bāqillānī's concept of "states."

There were a number of other difficulties and differences among the Ashʿarī theologians of the period, though these are less clearly presented in the available sources. The school agreed, for example, that God is able to create an infinite number of individuals belonging to any given class of beings, but did not agree as to whether or not he is able to create an infinity of classes other than those he has actually created. The question of whether, and in what way, God's will is general or particular with regard to its objects was debated, but exactly how the problem was treated by the various authors remains unclear. Likewise, al-Juwaynī, and he alone, it would seem, held that God's knowledge of creatures is general and not particular, but again the available sources do not provide an adequate view of his thought on the question. Though the same basic distinctions are made with regard to the createdness of human actions, and the same set of basic propositions are formally maintained by all authorities, there are differences concerning the way the concrete relationships between the elements involved in human actions are understood. Some, among them al-Juwaynī, hold that the relationship between the created ability to act and its object is simply intentional. The antecedent or concomitant actuality of motivation and volition is seldom discussed in the available texts, since it is not formally pertinent, given the way the basic question of the createdness of human actions is posed and treated. The most conspicuous deviation from the normal form of the school's teaching in this period is found in al-Juwaynī's Risālah (or ʿAqīdah ) dedicated to Niām al-Mulk. Although he maintains the basic theological dogmas of the school, the way in which they are presented and explained is new and, in the case of some major elements, irreconcilable not only with the teaching of his predecessors but also with that of his own major theological writings. In many respects the work anticipates the fundamental trend of the following period.

Later AshʿarĪyah

With the rapidly increasing assimilation of ancient and Hellenistic learning, both scientific and philosophical, and its integration into the intellectual life of Islam, the change in both language and conceptualization that characterizes the second major period of Ashʿarī theology was inevitable: the urgent need of Sunnī orthodoxy to counter the growing influence of Ismaʿīlī gnosticism and of the philosophers (falāsifah ), particularly the Neoplatonism of Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), made it imperative. The three most creative theologians of this period were al-Ghazālī (d. 1111), al-Shahrastānī (d. 1153), a student of Abū al-Qāsim al-Anāri, and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1209). The major Ashʿarī texts surviving from this period are more numerous and also more diverse than those of the earlier school, since many of them, especially those of al-Ghazālī and al-Rāzī, enjoyed great popularity over the centuries, while the earlier works, rapidly outdated, became progressively more remote in concept and expression. The apologetic and polemic of the Ashʿarī theologians of this period engage their rationalistic opponents directly, not merely in their own language, but on purely rational grounds, as in al-Ghazālī's famous refutation of Ibn Sīnā's philosophy, Tahāfut al-falāsifah (The Incoherence of the Philosophers), and in al-Shahrastānī's Muāraʿat al-falāsifah (Wrestling the Philosophers Down). Where the formal and theoretical principles of their doctrine were not much discussed in the texts of the classical period, they are now set forth in extensive detail.

The general attitudes of the three great masters of the period and the character of their thought manifest significant differences, however. Al-Ghazālī's view of the nature and value of formal, systematic theology, in particular, was not shared by other Ashʿarī thinkers either before or after him. In the wake of intellectual and religious crises, he became convinced that the only valid and certain knowledge of God is given in direct mystical experience. As a result, where the common Ashʿarī tradition held that systematic theology furnishes a sound and valuable, if not essential, conceptual foundation for one's belief, al-Ghazālī insists that it is wholly inadequate. Since it cannot be grounded in autonomous human reason, moreover, it is at best founded in taqlīd and, he concludes, has no valid function other than as a dialectical apologetic. He did, however, produce two kalām compendia in the traditional form, the Iqtiād fī al-iʿtiqād (The Just Mean in Belief) and the Qawāʿid al-ʿaqāʾid (Foundations of the Creeds, which is book 2 of the first part of his Iyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn [The Vitalization of the Religious Sciences]). While these works by no means embody his entire theology, they are demonstrative of his dogmatic thought as it relates to the Ashʿarī tradition.

In these works, as in al-Shahrastānī's Nihāyat al-iqdām fī ʿilm al-kalām (The Furthermost Steps in the Science of Kalām ), one sees not so much a sudden and radical break with the past as an effort to rethink and recast the basic dogmas within an expanded theoretical framework, one that required and produced a definite, and ultimately definitive, movement away from the rigid kind of analysis and close restriction of topics that had characterized the school since its foundation. The traditional formulation of the basic dogmatic theses is thus consistently maintained, but the exposition and argumentation of most of them is in many respects new and often impressive.

Against what they regard as an impoverished conception of God's being held by the falāsifah, al-Ghazālī and al-Shahrastānī set forth an understanding of the traditional seven essential attributes that, in taking them more as aspects of God's "essence" than as distinct properties, is somewhat analogous to the position of the Muʿtazilī school of Basra. The relation between God's eternal power, knowledge, and will and their temporal objects is more thoroughly and explicitly explored than in earlier Ashʿarī texts and in different, more Aristotelian terms. God's speaking is conceived in terms akin to cognition, with all modalities of interior speech tending to be reduced to propositions. The attribute of "perdurance" (al-baqāʾ ), previously rejected by a number of Ashʿarī masters, is considered simply as a negative concept ("perdures" = "does not cease to exist") by al-Ghazālī, who explicitly rejects the earlier conception of the ontological grounding of attributes.

Where the classical doctrine of the school had held that all beings other than God are corporeal, the Ashʿarī theologians now recognize the existence of a host of "spirits" (arwāh ) belonging to the "upper world" (al-ʿālam al-aʿlā ). The atomistic conception of material bodies continues to be stated in much the same terms as before, but on another level, living beings tend to be talked of not as mere composites of atoms and their discrete "accidents," but as beings having a real, essential unity. The conception of God as the sole cause of the existence of every contingent being is maintained, though now discussed and argued with somewhat different terminology, as is the thesis of the createdness of human actions, which continues to be set forth on the basis of the same set of distinctions as in the texts of the classical period. The occasionalistic language that characterizes classical Ashʿarī writing is formally retained, but its radical tone is to some extent mitigated and the function of secondary causes plainly recognized.

The adoption of Aristotelian psychology is of signal importance. The changing perspective of the Ashʿarī kalām is perhaps most conspicuously exemplified in al-Ghazālī's discussion of what is morally good and bad, right and wrong. The traditional Ashʿarī conception of ethical valuations in terms of obligation based in God's unconditioned command, license, and prohibition he rationalizes through a sort of utilitarianism of virtue: one ought always to act for his own ultimate good (that is, that to be achieved in the next life), and this is uniquely made known in God's revelation. He accounts for good (asan ) and bad (qabī ) not directly in what is commanded and forbidden but, harmonizing ūfī teaching with an Aristotelian notion of virtue, in terms of ends (aghrā ), where moral perfection is measured by one's nearness to God.

If in their kalām works al-Ghazālī and al-Shahrastānī seem to have harmonized or juxtaposed disparate conceptual frameworks in a synthetic unity, this is not the case with al-Rāzī, who maintained a profound commitment to the Muslim philosophical tradition. He wrote extensively on philosophy (as well as on medicine and other sciences), and in his principal kalām works, Maʿālim uūl al-dīn (The Landmarks of Fundamental Doctrine) and the much longer Kitāb al-arbaʿīn fī uūl al-dīn (The Forty [Questions] concerning Fundamental Doctrine), as also in his monumental commentary on the Qurʾān, one finds Ashʿarī theology almost fully adapted to the conceptual universe of the philosophical tradition. Indeed, it seems possible that in some places al-Rāzī may follow his philosophical sources (chiefly Ibn Sīnā) so far as to compromise one or more of the fundamental theological tenets of the school. The number and diversity of his works are so great, however, that with the present state of knowledge it is not possible to come to a firm assessment of his thought.

After al-Rāzī, Ashʿarī theology is continued chiefly in a series of manuals eclectically dependent upon the great writers of the past. The most famous of these, Al-mawāqif fī uūl al-dīn (The Stages in Fundamental Doctrine) of ʿAud al-Dīn al-Ījī (d. 1355), has continued to serve as a textbook on theology to the present day. Among the various commentaries written on it, the most important and widely used is that of al-Jurjānī (d. 1413), and together with this text the Mawāqif has gone through a large number of printed editions since the early nineteenth century.

Because of the differences in language and conceptualization between the Ashʿarī theology of the classical period and that of later times, especially after al-Rāzī, it is impossible to define or characterize the tradition in terms of a single way of conceiving, formulating, and dealing with theological and metaphysical problems. The original success of Ashʿarī theology stemmed from the kind of coherent balance it achieved between rational understanding and a religious sense that was rooted in a basically conservative reading of the Qurʾān and the sunnah. Its development followed the religious and intellectual evolution of Sunnī Islam. The unity of the school lies largely in its common adherence to a basic set of theses, which sets it apart from other Muslim schools of speculative theology, such as the Māturīdīyah, on the one hand, and in its conceptual rationalization of these theses, which sets it apart from the more rigid traditionalists, on the other. Above all, it is the tradition's sense of its own continuity, beginning with the immediate disciples of al-Ashʿarī, that allows it to be identified by itself and others as Ashʿarī.

See Also

Ashʿarī, al-; Attributes of God, article on Islamic Concepts; Falsafah; Free Will and Predestination, article on Islamic Concepts; Ghazālī, Abu Hamid al-; Iʿjāz; Ījī, ʿAdud al-Din al-; Kalām; Occasionalism.



Ess, Joseph van. Die Erkenntnislehre des ʿAdudaddin al-Īcī, Übersetzung und Kommentar des ersten Buches seiner Mawāqif. Wiesbaden, 1966. The extensive commentary here presents a vast amount of valuable material on the history of a large number of questions treated by the Ashʿarīyah and other Muslim theologians from the earliest period.

Frank, R. M. "Two Short Dogmatic Works of Abū l-Qāsim al-Qushayrī: 'Lumaʿ fī l-iʿtiqād.'" Mélanges de l'Institut Dominicain d'Études Orientales 15 (1982): 5374.

Frank, R. M. "Al-Fuūl fī l-uūl: Part Two." Mélanges de l'Institut Dominicain d'Études Orientales 16 (1983): 5994.

Kholeif, Fathalla. A Study on Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and His Controversies in Transoxiana. Beirut, 1966. Contains text and translation of al-Rāzī's Munāarat fī-mā warāʾ al-nahr together with a somewhat superficial commentary.

Klopfer, Helmut, ed. and trans. Das Dogma des Imâm al-aramain al-Djuwainï und sein Werk al-ʿAqïdat an-niâ-mïya. Cairo, 1958. A very brief discussion of al-Juwaynī's teaching followed by the translation of the Nizamian creed.

Köbert, Raimund. Bayān muškil al-aadīt des Ibn Fūrak, Auswahl nach den Handschriften in Leipzig, Leiden, London und dem Vatikan. Analecta Orientalia, vol. 22. Rome, 1941. Although it does not contain the entire text, this edition and translation of Ibn Fūrak's Interpretation of Difficult Traditions does have the author's preface (omitted in Eastern editions of the work!), which is of considerable importance for understanding the principles of Ashʿarī theology and exegesis in the period.

Luciani, J.-D., ed. and trans. El-Irchâd par l'Imâm El-Harameïn. Paris, 1938.

McCarthy, Richard J. Freedom and Fulfillment: An Annotated Translation of al-Ghazālī's al-Munqidh min al-alāl and Other Relevant Works of al-Ghazālī. Boston, 1980. Al-Ghazālī is one of the most studied and translated of Muslim religious writers; this work contains a fulsome discussion of his personality and thought and an excellent critical bibliography in which studies on al-Ghazālī and translations of his other works are listed and evaluated.


Allard, Michel. Le problème des attributs divins dans la doctrine d'al-Ašʿarï et de ses premiers grands disciples. Beirut, 1965. A detailed study of the texts and teaching of al-Bāqillānī, al-Baghdādī, al-Bayhaqī, and al-Juwaynī; a valuable work.

Bouman, J. Le conflit autour du Coran et la solution d'al-Bâqillânï. Amsterdam, 1959.

Frank, R. M. "Moral Obligation in Classical Muslim Theology." Journal of Religious Ethics 11 (1983): 204233. A general analysis of the theology of moral action in classical Ashʿarī thought.

Frank, R. M. "Bodies and Atoms: The Ashʿarīte Analysis." In Medieval Islamic Thought: Studies in Honor of George F. Hourani, edited by M. E. Marmura, pp. 3953. Toronto, 1984. A study of several basic concepts and their development during the period of the classical Ashʿarīyah.

Gardet, Louis, and Georges C. Anawati. Introduction à la théologie musulmane (1948). 2d ed. Paris, 1970. Still the best introduction to the general topic and to the role and character of Ashʿarī theology in Islam.

Gimaret, Daniel. Théories de l'acte humain en théologie musulmane. Études musulmanes, vol. 24. Paris, 1980. Contains a detailed account of the teaching of al-Ashʿarī and the most important Ashʿarī thinkers into the sixteenth century ce, together with translations and paraphrases of portions of a number of important works.

Hourani, George F. "A Revised Chronology of Ghazālī's Writings." Journal of the American Oriental Society 104 (1984): 289302.

Jabre, Farid. La notion de la ʿMaʿrifaʾ chez Ghazali. Beirut, 1958. A study of al-Ghazālī's understanding of the nature of religious knowledge and human knowledge of God.

Rubio, Luciano. "Los Asʿaríes, teólogos especulativos, Mutakállimes, del Islam." Ciudad de Dios 190 (1977): 577605; 192 (1979): 355391; 193 (1980): 4783. An account, without much analysis, of the teaching of al-Bāqillānī, al-Juwaynī, and al-Ghazālī concerning creation and human action.

Watt, W. Montgomery. "The Authenticity of the Works Attributed to al-Ghazālī." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1952): 2445.

Watt, W. Montgomery. The Formative Period of Islamic Thought. Edinburgh, 1973. More a study of the period than of theology. An excellent introduction to the historical context of classical Ashʿarī thought.

R. M. Frank (1987)

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