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2. Al-Māturīdī

In the latter part of the second century A.H., there developed a rationalist tendency among some Islamic thinkers--first influenced apparently by Neoplatonic and Aristotelian theological ideas of the Eastern Christians, and later by direct contact with Greek philosophy translated into Arabic--to systematize Islamic religious doctrine. These thinkers called themselves ahl al-‘adl wa al-tawḥīd (People of the [Divine] Justice and Unity) from two of their most characteristic arguments. God's justice, they held, necessitated that man have free will and moral choice--otherwise God would punish men for His own acts. Moreover, the Divine attributes, such as being on the Throne, seeing and speaking, must be created, otherwise they would be uncreated co-eternal partners with God, destroying His unity. Since God's Word, the Qur’ān, is an aspect of His speaking, it must therefore be created. They bolstered their position with philosophical ideas whose ultimate origins were Greek.

These arguments were wholly unacceptable to the Old Believers, whose spokesmen included Ahmad ibn Ḥanbal, and who resented what they saw as an attempt to make God conform to the irrelevant ideas of His creatures. They dubbed the rationalists "withdrawers" (Mu‘tazila).

Three Caliphs attempted to make the heresy the official school of the empire, but in A.H. 235/A.D. 850, the Caliph al-Mutawakkil decreed the death penalty for any who taught that the Word of God is created--a considerable

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blow to the Mu‘tazila. The attractions of Mu‘tazilī rationalism remained strong, however, and with the latter half of the third century A.H. there appeared several champions of the Old Believer position--which in its most intransigent form had refused to allow any place at all to reason, relying exclusively on Qur’ān and Ḥadīth--who undertook to defend it with the same logical weapons by which the Mu‘tazila had attacked it. Together with the Mu‘tazila, they became known as "exponents of Kalām" (mutakallimin).

One of these champions was the leader of the Ḥanafī school of Samarqand in Transoxania, Abū Manṡūr al-Māturīdī (died A.H. 333/A.D. 944). Few if any of his actual writings have survived, but his teachings and lecture notes were collected and set down by his students. The following selections are from a creed of the school, derived from Māturīdī's teaching, and probably set down one generation later. It contains many propositions found in the brief creed of his master Abū Ḥanīfa, but its far more complex character shows how swiftly Islamic theology had had to develop in the scant two centuries after Abū Ḥanīfa's death.


A Creedal Statement of Al-Māturīdī

1. Those things in which knowledge (‘ilm) occurs are three: sound perceptions, right intelligence, and information, coming from truthful servants of God. The Sophists held that it does not occur at all, because the data furnished by these sources are self-contradictory; in perception, a squint-eyed man will see one thing as two; as for reason, its activity may hit or miss, while information may be true or false. We reply, we are dealing here with sound perception, so that what you argue is not sound. As to reason, we mean right reason, and as to information,

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we mean information of the infallible messengers of God, related by consecutive testimony.


2. The World is originated (muḥdath), because it is divided into substances and accidents, and accidents are originated, for this is the name given to something which was not, then came to be. Thus we call cloud an occurrence. And substances are never free from accident, so they are also originated, because of their partnership with originated things in existence. If it is established that the World is originated, then it is established that it is occasioned by the action of another than itself, and if it is established that it has a maker, then its maker is eternal, since if he were not eternal he would have to be also originated, and what is originated must necessarily have an originator, and similarly with the second and third events in a regressive causal series, and the causal series cannot be infinite (wa al-tasalsul bāṭil).

And according to the materialists the world is originated from Primeval Stuff (ṭīna qadīma), that is to say from an eternal root which is matter, for they hold that creation ex nihilo (al-ijād la min aṡl) is impossible.


3. The Maker must be one, since if there were two they would necessarily either concur or not concur in their creating. Now agreement would be evidence of the weakness of both or either of them, since a free agent does not agree except by compulsion, and if they differed, then either they would each attain their desire--an absurdity--or they would not attain it, which would mean their impotence, and a weakling is not suitable as a Lord. This is taken from God's Word, exalted be He: "If there were gods other than God in heaven or earth, they would both go to ruin." (Sūra 21:22)

The Zoroastrians say that the world had two creators; one of them was good and created good things; he is Yazdān. The other was evil and created harmful things; he is Ahriman. And the creator of evil is purposeless, and not to be connected with Yazdān. We answer that the Creator of evil would only be purposeless if there were no wisdom in His creation (but there is); the least of which is that it brings tyrants low. . . .

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8. The Qur’ān, the Word of God, is an eternal attribute, subsisting in God's Essence, though not in the form of letters and sounds, and it is one, not divided in sections, neither Arabic nor Syriac, but His creatures express that one attribute with varying expressions, as they do the essence of God, exalted be He. Similarly life, will, and eternal existence, among the attributes of Essence, are expressed with various expressions. The Mu‘tazila have held that the Word of God is other than these expressions, and that it is originated, for if it were eternal, then God would eternally have been a Commander and Prohibiter and Informer about non-existent things, and that would be pointless.

We reply, it would only be pointless if, when a command is given, there had to be an immediate response, for priority and posterity are dependent on time and place--and the Word of God is dependent on neither of these.

If it should be said that God--be He exalted--has said, "We have made it an Arabic Qur’ān" (Sūra 43:3) and that making is creating, we reply that His word, be He exalted: "They make the angels, who are the servants of the Merciful, females" (43:19), does not support them.

The Ash‘arīya have said that what is in the text is not the Word of God, but is only an expression of the Word of God, which is an attribute, and the attribute is not to be separated from that to which it is attributed. We say: it is the Word of God, but the letters and sounds are created--for we do not say that the Word of God inheres in the text so that there can be any talk of "separating," since when a thing is known with God's knowledge the attribute of knowing is not thereby separated from Him. . . .


14. The sins of man occur by God's will (irāda), wish (mashī’a), ordinance (qaḍā’), and power (qadr), but not by His pleasure (riḍa), love (maḥabba) and command (amr), according to His Word, be He exalted: "He whom God wills to send astray, He maketh his bosom close and narrow" (6:125), and His Word: "Yet ye will nothing, unless God wills it" (76:31). If the creature were able to act by his own will, he could prevail over the will of God--be He exalted.

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[paragraph continues] The Mu‘tazila have held that God does not will to prevail over man, according to His Word: "I have only created man and the Jinn that they might serve me" (51:57): that is, "I have not created them to disbelieve," so that He does not will it. We reply: the meaning is: He orders them to serve Him--and He has so ordered; its meaning is not: "God does not desire to do injustice to His servants" (40:31). That is true, but there is no discussion of it, and it does not apply here--nor does their saying that in causing sin, God is doing what He himself reprobates; acting lightly. We say to this that it would only be light behavior, if there occurred no proof of God's being free of that. Again, their statement that if God wills sin, man is compelled to commit it, does not apply. Just as man cannot escape God's will, he also cannot escape God's omniscience, and it constitutes no excuse for sin. If they ask "What then does it mean when God says, 'Whatever of ill befalls thee it is from thyself' (4:73)?" We answer it means that evil may not be attributed to God outrightly, for considerations of decency, just as one cannot say to God, "O Creator of Swine!" but must be attributed to Him in a general way, as He says: "Say: all comes from God."--(4:78)

15. God created disbelief and willed it, but did not order men to it; rather He ordered the infidel to believe, but did not will it for him. If it should be asked, "Is God's will pleasing to Him or not?", we say it is pleasing. If they then ask, "And why should He punish what pleases Him?" We answer: Rather, He punishes what is not pleasing--for His will and providence, and all His attributes, are pleasing to Him, but the act of the unbeliever is not pleasing to Him, is hateful to Him, and is punished by Him. . . .

17. A slain man dies in his due term; if he did not, it would mean that God was unable to fulfill his due term, and was ignorant of it. That is infidelity. The Mu‘tazila say he does not die in his due term, because of the (Qur’ānic) necessity for retribution and the payment of compensation. We say these are only necessitated by the act of killing, forbidden by God, and this is part of the general question of the creation of acts. . . .

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19. It is not incumbent on God to do what is most salutary for His creatures; we cite: "And we give unbelievers a respite, that they may increase their sins" (3:178). Now a respite to the creature so that he may increase his sins is not what is good for him; though if He did choose to do the most salutary, God would be good and gracious; still, if He had to, it would invalidate His Word, be He exalted: "God disposes of grace abounding." The Mu‘tazila have held that it is incumbent on God, and that He has given as much faith as possible to every man, and as little infidelity, since if He did not, He would be either unjust or ungenerous. . . .


22. According to some, faith and Islam are one, following God's Word, be He exalted: "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted of Him" (3:75). According to others, faith and Islam are different, following His Word--be He exalted--"The Beduins say, 'We believe'; say: You have not believed. Say rather, 'We have become Muslims'" (49:14). But the soundest is that which Abū Manṡur al-Māturīdī said, God have mercy on him: "Islam is knowledge of God without modality (bilā kayf), and its locus is the breast (al-ṡadr). Faith is knowledge of Him in His Godhood, and its locus is the heart (al-qalb), inside the breast. Gnosis is knowledge of God in His attributes, and its locus is the inner heart (al-fu’ād) inside the heart. True worship of God (tawḥīd) is knowledge of God in His Unity, and its locus is the innermost heart (al-sirr, wa hūwa dākhil al-fu’ād)." This is the analogy contained in God's word: "The likeness of His light is like a niche in which is a lamp" (24:35). So this is a matter of four knots (‘uqūd), not one, and there is no contradiction between them. When they are united the sum is a true service of God (dīnan)."

If a man says, "I do not know who created this world," or "I do not know if prayer is an obligation for me," or "I do not know what an infidel is," or "I do not know what happens to infidels," he becomes an infidel, while any man from the land of the Turks who professes Islam in a general way, and knows nothing of the Religious Laws (sharā’i‘), nor fulfills any part of them, would still be a True Believer.

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[paragraph continues] This indicates the soundness of the faith of the muqallid (who believes uncritically), in opposition to the Mu‘tazila and the Ash‘arīya. What they have taught would imply that God was unwise in the sending of the Prophet (al-risāla) for if uncritical belief had not been enough, God's intention would not have been fulfilled. Nonetheless, the stage where one seeks understanding is a higher one, for its faith is more enlightened--as the Prophet, God's benediction and peace be upon him, said: "If the faith of Abū Bakr were weighed against that of all mankind, it would outweigh theirs,"--i.e., as regards its enlightenment (nūr), not as regards its quantity, for profession and interior assent do not permit of being greater quantitatively. Now if faith consists of profession and interior assent, then faith is created. Some people have maintained that it is not created, because it occurs by God's assistance (tawfīq) which is not created. We reply: No doubt, but thereby the act of the creature still does not become the act of God, and it remains a created thing, like fasting and prayer. . . .


27. The obligation to command the good and forbid evil does not obtain for every individual believer in our times, because it (no longer) pertains to equity (la ‘ala wajh al-ḥisba). Thus it is not permissible for one to rebel with the sword against an unjust ruler, because it leads to mischief and blood-shed. . . .


29. The torments of the grave are a reality, we hold, in opposition to the Mu‘tazila and the Jahmīya. They say, "We see and observe that dead bodies do not suffer any suffering by our causing, and similarly in the unseen," and in this connection they also have denied the Praise of God by mineral bodies, the Scales of Judgment, the Bridge, the Exit of the People of Faith from the Fire and the Ascending Stairway. We say: Reason is weak. The Prophet, God's benediction and peace be upon him, said: "Think about God's creatures, not about their Creator!"--i.e. because of the weakness of your intellect. The proof is in God's Word, be He exalted: "We shall chastise them twice"--i.e., in the grave and at the

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resurrection. Similarly: "Punishments other than those," and again, "We shall make them taste the lower punishments be-fore the greater" (32:21)--i.e., the torment of the grave; (As to their other objections, we cite:) "There is not a thing but hymneth His praise, but you understand not their praise" (17:44); also: "And We set a just balance for the Day of Resurrection" (21:47).


30. People who innovate in religion or do as they please (ahl-al-bid‘a wa-l-ahwā’) go to Hellfire, in accord with the Ḥadīth. . . .


34. It is not permissible to curse Yazid ibn Mu‘awiya, because he is a transgressor; perhaps God will forgive him. . . .

36. The miracles (Karāma) of the saints are established. As for the objection of the Mu‘tazila that if they were possible, human weakness (‘ajz al-nās) would be unable to distinguish between them and the wonders (mu‘jiza) of the prophets, we reply: A wonder is what appears at the time of a specific (prophetic) claim, unlike a saint's miracle. Also, their position would lead to denial of the Revelation, where Mary's miracle is mentioned, "Whenever Zacharia entered the sanctuary, he found food with her" (3:38), as well as the miracle of the throne of Bilqīs and the story of ‘Umar, God be pleased with him, (how in Mecca he perceived a woman, Sāriya, in difficulties in Persia) and cried "Sāriya! To the mountains! To the mountains!" (and she heard him).


37. Jinns and Mankind are not preserved from mortal sin, except for messengers and prophets, for if they were not so, prophets would not be free of lying. But prophets are not free of venial sins, so that their intercession will not be weakened, since one who has not been tried cannot pity those who are. The Mu‘tazila have held the Prophets preserved from all sin, because they do not admit of any intercession. . . .


39. The errors of the prophets are in the things they did before the revelation, such as the marriage of David to the

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wife of Uriah, or in leaving the better and inclining to the good, such as Adam's leaving off avoidance of the Prohibited, out of respect for the name of God. [According to one legend, Adam ate the forbidden fruit believing it would bring him eternal life, so that he could remain forever in Paradise.]


41. The especially favored (khawāṡ) of Adam's sons, such as the prophets, are nobler than the especially favored of the angels, and the especially favored angels are nobler than ordinary men, while ordinary men are nobler than ordinary angels. As for the Rafiḍīya, they prefer ‘Alī to Abū Bakr and the Companions--God be satisfied with them--according to the Ḥadīth, that the Prophet said "O God! Bring me the creatures dearest to Thee, to share this fowl with me," and ‘Alī came. And also, because he is said to have been bravest of the Companions, the one of them furthest from disbelief, and the one who learned most from the Prophet.

The Sunnīs quote the Prophet, God's benediction and peace be upon him: "Abū Bakr does not surpass the rest of you by much fasting and prayer, but by something which is in his heart."

According to Ibn ‘Umar, God be satisfied with him and his father: "We used to say when the Messenger of God was living, the best man of Muhammad's Community is Abū Bakr, then ‘Umar, then 'Uthmān, and then ‘Alī." As for the ḥadīth related about the fowl and the Prophet's praying--God's benediction and peace be upon him--"Bring me the dearest of Thy creatures," if we were to give this due weight, then God should have brought one of His prophets. As for their saying that ‘Alī was braver and had learned more, such information would be inaccessible to them. Still, some of the people of the Sunna do prefer ‘Alī to 'Uthmān.

‘A’isha, God be satisfied with her, was nobler than Fatima, God be satisfied with her, because her position was higher than the Prophet. Others have held that Fāṭima was nobler because ‘A’isha's rank was only raised due to her proximity to the Prophet--on whom be the benediction of God the Exalted, and peace! 3


187:3 Arabic in Islam Akaidine Dair Eski Metinler, with Turkish paraphrase by Y. Z. Yörükän (Istanbul, 1953).

Next: 3. Al-Ash‘arī