Monday, 15 June 2015

Al-Muʿtazilah (early Islamic theology based on reason and rational thought)

Mu`tazila (Arabic: المعتزلة‎ al-muʿtazilah) is a school of Islamic theology based on reason and rational thought[1] that flourished in the cities of Basra and Baghdad, both in present-day Iraq, during the 8th–10th centuries. The adherents of the Mu`tazili school are best known for their denying the status of the Qur'an as uncreated and co-eternal with God.[2] From this premise, the Mu`tazili school of Kalam proceeded to posit that the injunctions of God are accessible to rational thought and inquiry: because knowledge is derived from reason, reason is the "final arbiter" in distinguishing right from wrong.[3] It follows, in Mu`tazili reasoning, that "sacred precedent" is not an effective means of determining what is just, as what is obligatory in religion is only obligatory "by virtue of reason."[3]

The movement emerged in the Umayyad Era, and reached its height in the Abbasid period. After the 10th century, movement declined and lost any influence it had held. It is viewed as heretical by many scholars in modern mainstream Islamic theology for its tendency to deny the Qur'an being eternal, and to allow for the possibility of free will and thus opposing the strict determinism of mainstream thought. In contemporary jihadism, supposed allegations of being a mu`tazili have been used between rivalling group as a means of denouncing their credibility.[4]

The name muʿtazili is derived from the reflexive stem VIII (iftaʿala) of the triconsonantal root ع-ز-ل "separate, segregate" (as in اعتزل iʿtazala "to separate (oneself); to withdraw from".[5]

The name is derived from the founder's "withdrawal" from the study circle of Hasan of Basra over a theological disagreement: Wāṣil ibn ʿAṭā' asked about the legal state of a sinner: is a person who has committed a serious sin a believer or an unbeliever? Hasan answered they remain a Muslim. Wasil dissented, suggesting that a sinner was neither a believer nor an unbeliever, and withdrew from the study circle. Others followed to form a new circle, including ʿAmr ibn ʿUbayd. Hasan's remark, "Wāṣil has withdrawn from us", is said to be the origin of the movement's name.[6][7]

The group later referred to themselves as Ahl al-Tawḥīd wa l-ʿAḍl (اهل العدل و التوحيد, "people of unity and justice",[citation needed] and the name muʿtazili was in origin used by their adversaries.

The verb i'tizal is also used to designate a neutral party in a dispute (as in "withdrawing" from a dispute between two factions). According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The name [Mutazilah] first appears in early Islāmic history in the dispute over ʿAlī's leadership of the Muslim community after the murder of the third caliph, ʿUthmān (656). Those who would neither condemn nor sanction ʿAlī or his opponents but took a middle position were termed the Muʿtazilah." Nallino (1916) argued that the theological Mu'tazilism of Wasil and his successors was merely a continuation of this initial political Mu'tazilism.[8]

Mu'tazili theology originated in the 8th century in Basra (Iraq) when Wāṣil ibn ʿAṭā' (d. 131 AH/748 AD) left the teaching lessons of Hasan of Basra after a theological dispute regarding the issue of al-Manzilah bayna al-Manzilatayn (a position between two positions); thus he, and his followers, including ʿAmr ibn ʿUbayd (d. 144 AH/ 761 AD), were labelled Mu'tazili. Hasan's remark, "Wāṣil has withdrawn from us", is said to be the origin of the movement's name.[6]

Though Mu'tazilis later relied on logic and different aspects of early Islamic philosophy, ancient Greek philosophy, and Hellenistic philosophy, the truths of Islam were their starting point and ultimate reference.[9] The accusations leveled against them by rival schools of theology that they gave absolute authority to extra-Islamic paradigms reflect more the fierce polemics between various schools of theology than any objective reality. For instance, Mu'tazilis adopted unanimously the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, contrary to certain Muslim philosophers who, with the exception of al-Kindi, believed in the eternity of the world in some form or another.[10] It was usually Muslim philosophers, not the Muslim theologians generally speaking, who took Greek and Hellenistic philosophy as a starting point and master conceptual framework for analyzing and investigating reality.

This school of thought emerged as a reaction to political tyranny; it brought answers to political questions, or questions raised by current political circumstances. The philosophical and metaphysical elements, and influence of the Greek philosophy were added afterward during the Abbasid Caliphate. The founders of the Abbasid dynasty strategically supported this school to bring political revolution against Umayyad Caliphate. Once their authority established, they also turned against this school of thought

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