Abu 'L-Hudhayl Al-?Allaf (750–C. 850)

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Muhammad b. al-Hudhayl b. ˓Ubaydallah al-˒Abdi was the first philosophically minded theologian of the Mu tazilite school. Born in Basra around 750 C.E., he lived in the neighborhood of foragers (˓allafun), where he spent the early part of his life. He was a student of ˓Uthman al-Tawil, who was one of the disciples of Wasil b. Ata, the founder of al-Mu˓tazila. He moved to Baghdad in 818 and lived a long life, as various dates between 840 and 850 are given for his death. Abu 'l-Hudhayl opposed some views of his contemporary theologians, such as the skeptic dualism of Salih b. ˓Abd al-Quddus, the determinism of Dirar b. Amr, the physics of Abu Bakr al- Asamm, and the ethical theory of Bishr b. Ghiyas al-Marisi. He also engaged in polemical discussions with the followers of other religions, especially those of the ancient Iranian beliefs. His nephew and critic Abu Ishaq al-Nazzam as well as Yahya b. Bishr and Abu Ya˓qub al-Shahham were among his closest students.

Abu 'l-Hudhayl's numerous works are not extant, though some of his views are quoted in early kalam sources. His metaphysics of created beings, indivisible atoms, motion, and the cause-effect process of generation (tawallud) provoked intellectual discussions and controversies among Mu˓tazilites. In order to protect the unity (tawhid) of God as the main principle, he denied the essential nature of things as well as the potentiality of being prior to its existence. He also rejected a division between the essence and attributes of God. Abu ˒l-Hudhayl found no contradiction between the authority of God and His doing good actions with wisdom, since it is unthinkable that God does evil or injustice with a total absence of deficiency in Him. Therefore, He would only create the best and the most convenient (aslah) circumstances for His creatures.

Abu 'l-Hudhayl's atomistic ontology and highly philosophical terminology shaped the mind of later Mu'tazilites, and his systematic reflections on theological topics make him one of the most influential thinkers of Mu˓tazilite thought at the beginning of its classical age.

See alsoMu˓tazilites, Mu˓tazila .


Dhanani, Alnoor. The Physical Theory of Kalam: Atoms, Space, and Void in Basrian Mu˓tazili Theology. Leiden: Brill, 1994.

Ess, Josef van. "Abu'l-Hudhayl in Contact: The Genesis of an Anecdote." In Islamic Theology and Philosophy: Studies in Honor of George F. Hourani. Edited by Micheal Marmura. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1984.

Frank, Richard M. The Metaphysics of Created Being According to Abu'l-Hudhayl al-Allaf: A Philosophical Study of the Earliest Kalam. Istanbul: Nederlands Historisch-Archaeologisch Instituut, 1966.

Frank, Richard M. "The Divine Attributes According to the Teaching of Abu'l-Hudhayl al-Allaf." Le Museon 82 (1969): 451–506.

Frank, Richard M. Being and their Attributes: The Teachings ofBasrian School of the Mu˓tazila in the Classical Period. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1978.

M. Sait Özervarli

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Abu 'L-Hudhayl Al-?Allaf (750–C. 850)

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