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Athari (Classical Arabic: أثري), or "textualism", is derived from the Arabic word athar, literally meaning "remnant", and also referring to "narrations". Their disciples are called the Atharis. For the Atharis, the "clear" meaning of the Qur'an and especially the prophetic traditions have sole authority in matters of belief, as well as law, and to engage in rational disputation, even if one arrives at the truth, is absolutely forbidden. Atharis engage in an amodal reading of the Qur'an, as opposed to one engaged in Ta'wil (metaphorical interpretation). They do not attempt to rationally conceptualize the meanings of the Qur'an and believe that the real meanings should be consigned to God alone (tafwid). This theology was taken from exegesis of the Quran and statements of the early Muslims and later codified by a number of scholars including Ahmad ibn Hanbal and Ibn Qudamah.
Atharism is originally traced back and attributed to Ahmad ibn Hanbal who is said to have carried on the creed of the early Muslims. Ibn Hanbal's stand against the inquisition by the Mu'tazila (who had been the ruling authority at the time) led to the Hanbali school establishing itself firmly as not only a school of Fiqh (legal jurisprudence) but of theology as well.
Later on, the well known scholar Ibn Qudama al Maqdasi came to be the highly regarded upholder of Atharism. He harshly rebuked theology as one of the worst of all heresies. He characterized it's partisans, it's theologians, as innovators and heretics who had betrayed and deviated from the simple and pious faith of the early Muslims. He writes: "The theologians are intensely hated in this world, and they will be tortured in the next. None among them will prosper, nor will he succeed in following the right direction...".
Atharism is considered to be a key school of Sunni Islam. The scholar Al-Saffarini (d. 1188) gave the following definition of the three Sunni schools in his Lawami al-Anwar:
“Ahl al-Sunna consist of three groups: the textualists (al-Athariyya), whose Imam is Ahmad ibn Hanbal, the Ash`aris, whose Imam is Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, and the Maturidis, whose Imam is Abu Mansur al-Maturidi and they are all one sect, the saved sect, and they are Ahl al-Hadith.” 
"The most important Athari text is the Tahawiyah, then the introduction to Aqidah found in the Epistle of Abi Zaid al-Qayrawani, the Lum’a of Imam al-Maqdasi, the works of Ibn Taymiyah and so on. I would also strongly encourage one to read Imam Hassan al-Banna’s Epistle on Aqida and the recent work of Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi "The differences between the creed of the salaf and the creed of the khalaf.""
Athari views on the Qur'an
The Atharis believe that every part of the Qur'an is uncreated (ghayr makhluq). It is reported that Ahmad Ibn Hanbal said that: "The Qur'an is God's Speech, which He expressed; it is uncreated. He who claims the opposite is a Jahmite, an infidel. And he who says, "The Qur'an is God's Speech," and stops there without adding "uncreated," speaks even more abominably than the former.".
Athari views on Kalam and Human Reason
For the Athari movement, the validity of human reason is severely limited, and rational proofs can neither be trusted nor relied upon in matters of belief, thus making kalam a blameworthy innovation. Rational proofs, unless they are Qur'anic in origin are considered non-existent and wholly invalid. Historically, the rejection of rational contemplation developed into a set of doctrines that were quite distinct from those of the Sunni theologians. These distinctly Athari doctrines were then propagated in the form of creedal statements.
Athari views on the Attributes of God
The Athari's staunchly affirm the existence of the Attributes of God and considered all of these to be equally eternal. They leave the verses of the Qur'an in question as well as the related ahadith simply as they are, accepting the poetical statements just as they occurred, without applying much reason either to criticize or expand upon them. According to Athari's, the real meanings of the Attributes of God should be consigned to God Alone (tafwid). According to this method, one should adhere to the sacred text of the Qur'an and believe that it is the truth without trying to explain it through figurative explanation.
Ahmed Ibn Hanbal reportedly stated that "His Attributes proceed from Him and are His own, we do not go beyond the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet and his Companions; nor do we know the how of these, save by the acknowledgement of the Apostle and the confirmation of the Qur'an".
Abu Hanifah puts the matter succinctly: "All His qualities are different from those of creatures. He knoweth, but not in the way of our knowledge; He is mighty, but not in the way of our power; He seeth, but not in the way of our seeing; He speaketh, but not in the way of our speaking; He Heareth, but not in the way of our hearing. We speak by means of organs and letters, Allah speaks without instruments and letters. Letters are created but the speech of Allah is uncreated."
He also declares that: "Allah is [a] thing, not as other things but in the sense of positive existence; without body, without substance, without accidents."
Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi stated that: "For we have no need to know the meaning which Allah intended by His attributes; no course of action is intended by them, nor is there any obligation attached to them. It is possible to believe in them without the knowledge of their intended sense."
Anthropomorphism was commonly alleged against Athari scholars by their critics, including the Hanbalite scholar and theologian Ibn al-Jawzi. In some cases Athari scholars did espouse extreme Anthropomorphic views, but these instances do not generally represent the Athari movement as a whole.
Athari views on Iman (faith)
The Athari's hold that Iman (faith) increases and decreases in correlation with the performance of prescribed rituals and duties, such as the five daily prayers. They believe that Iman (faith) resides in the heart, in the utterance of the tongue, and in the action of the limbs.
Iman is defined by Atharis as being composed of six key pillars. These being;
- Belief in Allah
- His Angels
- His Messengers
- His Books
- The Last Day
- Divine pre-ordainment good or bad [full citation needed]
- Abu Ja'far Ahmad ibn Muhammad at-Tahawi, Al-'Aqidat at-Tahawiyyah (translated by Iqbal Azami). Published by UK Islamic Academy, 2002. (ISBN 9781872531427)
- Muhammad Ibn Salih Al-'Uthaymeen. The Beautiful Names and Attributes of Allah. Published by Darussalam, 2011. (ISBN 6035000789)
- Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah. The Creed of Al-Wasitiyyah. Published by Darus-sunnah, 2009. (ISBN 1904336299)
- Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah. Kitab Al-Iman: Book of Faith Published by Iman Publishing House 1999. (ISBN 0966214005)
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 36.
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 36-37.
- W. Wesley Williams, Tajalli Wa-Ru'ya: A Study of Anthropomorphic Theophany and Visio Dei in the Hebrew Bible, the Qur'an and early Sunni Islam, ISBN 0549816887, p 229
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 38
- "Athari on Sunnipath".
- "Suhaib! Where do you stand? What kind of Muslim are you?". suhaibwebb.com.
- A. R. Agwan, N. K. Singh, Encyclopedia of the Holy Qur'an, ISBN 8187746009, p 678
- Christopher Melchert, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Oneworld Publ., 2006, p 154
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 41
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 36
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 39
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 37.
- Zulfiqar Ali Shah, Anthropomorphic Depictions of God: The Concept of God in Judaic, Christian, and Islamic Traditions: Representing the Unrepresentable, p 573. ISBN 1565645758
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 36-37
- Binyāmîn Abrahamov, Anthropomorphism and Interpretation of the Qur'an in the Theology of Al-Qasim Ibn Ibrahim: Kitab Al-Mustarshid (Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science). ISBN 9004104089, p 6.
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 42
- David Waines, An Introduction to Islam, ISBN 0521539064. p 122
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 40.
- Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam. ISBN 0230106587, p 20
- Herbert W. Mason, Humaniora Islamica, Volume 1, p 123.
- Ibn Taymiyya, Book of Faith