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Māturīdī, Al-


MĀTURĪDĪ, AL- (d. ah 333/944 ce), more fully Abū Manūr Muammad ibn Muammad ibn Mamūd al-Samarqandī al-Māturīdī, was a Muslim theologian, jurist, and Qurʾān commentator. The name Māturīdīyah is also the eponym of a school of theology that represented an intermediate position between the anbalī traditionalists and the Muʿtazilah, advocates of religious rationalism in Islamic theology. Māturīdī was born in Māturīd, near the Central Asian city of Samarkand. Under the Persian Samanid rulers (874999), al-Māturīdī lived in a setting of intense cultural and intellectual activity. He was trained by scholars of the anafī school of Islamic law. Not much is known of his life except that he wrote several books on theology, jurisprudence, and heresiology, as well as a commentary on the Qurʾān entitled Kitāb taʾwilāt al-Qurʾān. He is said to have led a simple and ascetic life. Some sources attribute to him miracles (karāmāt) an obvious reference to his devout religious life. He died in Samarkand. Subsequent generations remember him by the honorific title Imām al-Hudá (leader of the right guidance).

Despite his fame in the Sunnī world today, no source earlier than the fourteenth century mentions a school of theology carrying Māturīdī's name. The manuals speak of the Māturīdīyah together with the Ashʿarīyah, or followers of al-Ashʿarī (d. 935), as the theological spokesmen of the ahl al-sunnah wa-al-jamāʿah (people of the prophetic norms and the community), the majority group in the Muslim world, commonly known as Sunnīs. Al-Ashʿarī lived in Baghdad and was a contemporary of al-Māturīdī, but there is no indication that they were aware of each other's work. Many similarities in their theological formulations have been noted. Al-Ashʿarī is much better known than his anafī counterpart, but recent studies have shown that the latter came nearer to providing a bridge between traditionalism and philosophical theology than did the Baghdad scholar. Substantial differences between the two are few, but they are sufficient to have created some rivalry between their respective schools.

The Māturīdīyah school spread in the tenth and eleventh centuries mostly due to the earnest efforts of Turks, mainly the Saljūqids, whose historic conversion to Islam had occurred in the preceding century. This was combined with the ardent support of the newly converted Turks for anafism. The famous cursing of al-Ashʿarī and his ideas in the Turkish-controlled Khorasan region on the order of the Saljūqid ruler Tughrul Beg points to a period of confrontation between the Māturīdī and Ashʿarite schools of kalām in the eleventh century. As the Māturīdī school was identified with anafism and Ashʿarism with the Shāfiʿī school of law, this led to some factional tensions and clashes between the anafis and the Shāfiʿīs in some Saljūqid-controlled areas. The Māturīdī school gained prominence between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries. A number of attempts were made to ease the tensions between the two schools during the Mamlūk period. The Ashʿarī Shāfiʿī jurist-theologian Tāj al-Dīn al-Subkī composed a poem in which he tried to explain away the theological differences between the two as mostly terminological and rhetorical. This trend continued in later kalām history and reached a point where Māturīdism was redefined as a branch of Ashʿarism.

Al-Māturīdī, like al-Ashʿarī, was firmly grounded in the Qurʾanic revelation, but he also developed a rational epistemology, giving a high place to human reasoninga sign of his strong anafism. He was much concerned with proofs for the existence of God and with the doctrine of creation, questions that probably reflect the intellectual climate of Samarkand and the terms of his encounter with other currents of religious thought. Al-Māturīdī accepted the reality of human freedom, as against the determinism of al-Ashʿarī, but he also opposed the Muʿtazilī view of human beings as creators of their own deeds. He maintained that every act of humankind is at the same time the result of human capacity and a divine creation. Using somewhat the same language as al-Ashʿarī and as his opponents, the Muʿtazilah, he nevertheless described a balance between divine omnipotence and human freedom that was distinctive.

Even though Māturīdī was opposed to the general thrust of Muʿtazilism, he agreed with some views of the Muʿtazilites. Like the Muʿtazilites, he believed in the human ability and, in fact, obligation to know God and worship him through unaided reason even in the absence of a specific prophetic revelation. While rejecting some interpretations of the Muʿtazilites, Māturīdī accepted the necessity of interpreting anthropomorphic expressions in the Qurʾān through metaphors and symbols rather than understanding them literally. On the question of the attributes of God, he took a position opposite to the Muʿtazilites and considered divine names and qualities described in the Qurʾān to be eternally subsisting in God's essence. Like al-Ashʿarī, he affirmed the negative formula that God's names and qualities are neither identical with the divine essence nor distinct from it. He accepted the possibility of beatific vision (ruʾyat Allāh), that is, the idea that human beings will be able to see God in the hereafter, but he rejected the specification "by the eyes," endorsing in some ways the famous anbalī position of "without [asking/knowing] how" (bilā kayf). Against al-Ashʿarī he held that faith, as the act that makes a person a member of the Muslim community, is immutable, incapable of either decrease or increase. This tenet was a part of the anafī doctrinal heritage. Furthermore, he defined faith (al-imān) as "consent by the heart" (tadīq bi al-qalb) and "confession by the tongue" (iqrār bi al-lisān). Like the anafīs and the Murjiʿas before him, Māturīdī held that works (aʾmāl) are not part of the doctrinal confession of faith.


The most comprehensive work on Māturīdī and his school is Shams al-Dīn Salafī Afghāni's al-Māturīdīyyah, 3 vols. (Taʾif, Saudi Arabia, 1998), in which the author analyzes Māturīdī's thought and its subsequent development. Mustafa Ceric provides a systematic analysis of Māturīdī's thought in Roots of Synthetic Theology in Islam: A Study of the Theology of Abū Manūr al-Māturīdī (Kuala Lumpur, 1995). Fatallah Khulayf prepared a critical edition of Kitāb al-tawīd (Beirut, 1969), thus making available for the first time the printed Arabic text of al-Māturīdī's most important existing theological work. The editor has provided a 43-page introduction in English, describing in an incomplete and somewhat unsystematic way the contents of Kitāb al-tawīd W. Montgomery Watt furnishes a brief introduction to the anafī theologian in The Formative Period of Islamic Thought (Edinburgh, 1973), pp. 312314; reprint, Oxford, 1998. Michel Allard provides a more detailed summary and discussion of the contents of Kitāb al-tawīd in Le problème des attributes divins dans la doctrine dʾal-Asʾari et de ses premiers grands disciples (Beirut, 1965), pp. 419427. A section of Daniel Gimaret's Théories de lʾacte humain en théologie musulmaneé (Paris, 1980), pp. 175190, deals in a perceptive and detailed way with the discussion in Kitāb al-tawīd concerning the relationship between human acts and divine sovereignty. Hans Daiber provides a discussion of Kitāb al-tawīd in "Zur Erstausgabe von al-Māturīdī, Kitāb al-Tawīd," Der Islam 52 (1975): 299313.

Muammad Ibrāhim Fayyūmī's Taʾrīkh al-firaq al-islāmīyah al-siyāsī wa-al-dīnī (Cairo, 2003) contains an extensive chapter on Māturīdī and his school. Another monograph on Māturīdī's life and thought is Balqāsim Ghālī's Abū Manūr al-Māturīdī: ayātuhu wa ārāʾuhu al-ʾaqdiyah (Tunis, Tunisia, 1989). Saim Yeprem's İrade Hürriyeti ve Imām Māturīdī in Turkish (Istanbul, 1984) is a detailed survey of Māturīdī's concept of free will and determinism. Kemal Işık's Māturīdīʾnin Kelam Sisteminde İman, Allah ve Peygamberlik Anlayışı (Ankara, Turkey, 1980), another monograph in Turkish, deals with the concepts of faith, God, and prophethood in Māturīdī's system.

Even though somewhat outdated, A. K. M. Ayyub Ali's chapter on the life, thought, and influence of al-Māturīdī in A History of Muslim Philosophy, vol. 1, edited by M. M. Sharif, pp. 259274 (Weisbaden, Germany, 1963), is based on an examination of Kitāb al-tawhīd, existing only in manuscript at the time, and Taʾwīlāt al-qurʾān, al- Māturīdī's multivolume commentary on the Qurʾān. The latter, existing in several manuscript copies, was described for the first time by Manfred Götz in an article, "Māturīdī und sein Kitab Taʾwīlāt al-Qurʾān," Der Islam 41 (1965): 2270. The most extensive study of the spread of Maturidism is Wilferd Madelung's "The Spread of Maturidism and the Turks," in Actas do IV Congresso de Estudos Arabes e Islamicos Coimbra-Lisboa 1968 (Leiden, 1971), pp. 109168. See also his two entries "al-Māturīdī" and "Māturīdīyyah," in the Encyclopedia of Islam, 2d ed., vol. 4, edited by C. E. Bosworth et al., pp. 846a847a (CD-ROM edition, Leiden, 2003). Ulrich Rudolph's Al-Māturīdī und die sunnitische Theologie in Samarkand (New York, 1996) places Māturīdī and his thought in a historical context. There is also a short commentary on Abū anīfa's Fiqh al-akbār attributed to Māturīdī.

R. Marston Speight (1987)

Ibrahim Kalin (2005)

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