IN the beginning of fourth century AH, Abu Al Hasan Ash’ari appeared on the surface of Islamic intellectual History. He was a student of Abu Ali Al Jubba’I and for a long time was a fervent Mu’tazilite. One day, in a problem related to Itizaal he disagreed with Al Jubba’I and silenced him in debate. After this incident, he repented and became a devout Sunnite of Shaf’I’ School od Thought. He proved a godsend for Islamic Scholars of Jusrisprudence and Hadith who were not well versed in Philosophic methods. They welcomed him and propagated his books refuting Itizaal in the whole Islamic country. His books also gained popularity among the masses because they were replete with referances from Quran and Sunnah. The hold of Mu’tazilah on public intellect started weakening. Nonetheless, No province or state was devoid of them till the end of fourth century.
Imam Abu Al Hasan Ash’ari passed away in 324 AH. His belief finally started progressing in Iraq ,which was the seat of Government and Islamic Intellectuals, around 380s. In fifth century AH many renowned Islamic Scholars and Philosophers started supporting Ash’ari movement and wrote books in its favor. Among them Qadhi Abu Bakr Al Baqillani, Abu Ishaq Shirazi and Imam Al Ghazali were the most prominent. They effectively refuted Mutazilities and proved that they had deviated from the true path.
By that time, Abbasid Caliphate had become a shadow of its former self and Saljuq’s rose to power. In their rule, free discourse and debates had become sparse. Thus, they lost Government patronage alongwith the rise in a strong counter-movement. Mutzilites started being publicly persecuted and it became impossible to profess Itizaal in open. Muhammad Ibn Ahmad, a famous Mutazilite (died 478 AH), did not leave his house for the last 50 years or so of his life. AL Zamakhshari, whose famous book Kashaaf can still be found in every Library, couldnot stay peacefully in his home state because of Itizaal, therefore, he had to settle in Makkah. He hints at this in his Tafseer at one place.
When Imam Ghazali was a lecturer in Nizamiyah University, Baghdad, Muhammad Ibn Tumart came from Morocco and became his student. He learnt Ash’ari tenets from him. Ibn Tumart found Al-Mohad Dynasty in Al Maghreb after returning from Baghdad. After his death, his successor Abd Al Momin Ibn Ali became ruler of the whole Maghreb and Spain. Muhammad Ibn Tumart had bequeathed his Ash;ari beliefs to Abd Al Momin therefore, he spread the same in his region. He ordered execution of any person who disagreed from Ashári Movement. After a long blood-shed no sect other than Ash’arites remained in the whole of Spain and Maghreb.
Sultan Salah Al Din Ayubi, Fa’teh of Al Quds, had been taught in childhood by Qutb Al Din Masood of Nishapur, who was an Ash’arite. So, after gaining charge of Islamic Government, Sultan decreed Ash’ari ideology in the whole Country. These two examples, demonstrate that Ashárite gained the favored status that Itizaal had in Abbasid times.
In Seventh century AH, Mugols and Tartars laid waste to Baghdad and other major cities of Islamic Country. In parallel, they also laid waste to all the mental faculties of Muslim intellectual world. For a long period of time, both stayed in this forsaken condition with hardly any spark of life. Life resumed its flow after Mugols and Turks embraced Islam but those previous intellectual debates and discussions could not regain their foothold. When it came to State policy, Turks were more partial to Sword compared to the Pen.In sixth century AH, Turks gained ascendancy from Asia Minor to Constantinople. That fragile and delicate ideology whose favotrable clime was the world of pen and ink could not survive in the age of Iron and blood. It gradually faded and could never be revived again.
_Maulana Shibli Naumani_
1- A miniature of Islamic History:
The above essay recounts the story of Itizaal and its significance in Islamic Intellectual world in a concise form. But more importantly it happens in the back drop of all the major convolutions of Islamic History. Mu’tazilah rose in response to the state tyranny of the early Ummayad reign. They gained their primacy, in Abbasid times as defenders of Islam on intellectual fronts and eventually decayed in later times when they morphed into a lost path and lost their royal patronage. Because of this quality, this essay becomes more than a drab story of an extinct sect. We are welcomed into a dynamic and robust Islamic country unfettered from petty borders. Islamic society was imbued with an immense potential for growth and development. This essay also highlights the significance of Political aspects of evry sect. In their current rigid forms this aspect is often overlooked.
2- The Age old Question:
Did Islam spread by sword or because of its truthfulness? Is a question often raised by the Western philosophers. This essay contains an effective answer to it by telling us about a similar incident during Abbasid times. At the same time, one can not help observing the robust debating tradition developed in Islamic country at times when West was steeped into ignorance and rigid dogmas.
This essay is deficient in one aspect of Itizaal, its ideology. To know in detail about their beliefs one must read their books and Ash’arite books. Such questions, as to why Muslim scholars of Fiqh and Hadith opposed mu’tazilah can be found there.