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Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī
PARSONS(1808) p008 View of Bagdad on the Persian side of the Tigris.jpg
A depiction of Baghdad from 1808, taken from the print collection in Travels in Asia and Africa, etc. (ed. J. P. Berjew, British Library); al-Ashʿarī spent his entire life in this city in the tenth-century
Scholastic theologian;
Champion of Islam
Imām of the Scholastic Theologians
Imām of the Sunnis
Venerated inSunni Islam
Major shrineTomb of al-Ashʿarī, Baghdad, Iraq
Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī
Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī in Arabic calligraphy
TitleImām al-mutakallimūn, Imām ahl as-sunnah wa l-jamāʿah
BornAH 260 (873/874)
DiedAH 324 (935/936) (aged 64)
EraIslamic golden age
CreedKullabi which then developed into the Ashari creed.
Main interest(s)Islamic theology
Notable work(s)Maqalat al-Islamiyyin wa Ikhtilaf al-Musallin (The Treatises of the Islamic Schools), al-Luma' fi al-Rad 'ala Ahl al-Ziyagh wa al-Bida' (Refutation to Heresy), Al-Ibanah 'an Usul al-Diyanah, Risalah ila Ahl al-Thaghr
Muslim leader
Influenced by

Al-Ashʿarī (الأشعري; full name: Abū al-Ḥasan ʿAlī ibn Ismāʿīl ibn Isḥāq al-Ashʿarī; c. 874–936 (AH 260–324), reverentially Imām al-Ashʿarī) was an Arab Sunni Muslim scholastic theologian and eponymous founder of Ashʿarism or Asharite theology, which would go on to become "the most important theological school in Sunni Islam".[1]

Al-Ashʿarī was notable for taking an intermediary position between the two diametrically opposed schools of theological thought prevalent at the time. He opposed both the Muʿtazilites, who advocated the extreme use of reason in theological debate and believed the Quran was created, as opposed to uncreated. Ashari refuted this by stating "if the Quran was created then that implied God created this knowledge, and thus did not have knowledge of the Quran before this, and this contradicts God's omnipotence as he is all knowing, and therefore must have always had knowledge of the Quran". The Zahirites, Mujassimites and Muhaddithin, were also opposed to the use of philosophy or Kalam, and condemned any theological debate altogether.[2]

Al-Ashʿari's school eventually won "wide acceptance" within some sects of Sunni Islam. However the Shi'a do not accept his beliefs, as Ashari's works involved refuting Shi'ism and Mu'tazilism, which was the doctrine held by Shi'as. His original versions of his text did not survive.[3]


Al-Ash'ari was born in Basra,[4] Iraq, and was a descendant of the prophet Muhammad's companion, Abu Musa al-Ashari.[5] As a young man he studied under al-Jubba'i, a renowned teacher of Muʿtazilite theology and philosophy.[6][7]

He remained a Muʿtazalite until his fortieth year when al-Ash'ari saw Muhammad in a dream three times in Ramadan. The first time, Muhammad told him to support what was related from himself, that is, the traditions (hadiths).[8][9][10] Al-Ash'ari became worried as he had numerous strong proofs contradictory to the traditions. After 10 days, he saw Muhammad again: Muhammad reiterated that he should support the traditions.[9][10] So Al-Ash'ari forsook Kalam and started following the traditions alone. On the 27th night of Ramadan, he saw Muhammad for the last time. Muhammad told him that he had not commanded him to forsake Kalam, he had only told him to support the traditions narrated from himself. Thereupon Al-Ash'ari started to advocate the Hadith, finding proofs for these that he said he had not read in any books.[9][10]

After this experience, he left the Muʿtazalites and became one of its most distinguished opponents, using the philosophical methods he had learned.[4] Al-Ash'ari then spent the remaining years of his life engaged in developing his views and in composing polemics and arguments against his former Muʿtazalite colleagues. He is said to have written up to three hundred works, of which only four or five are known to be extant.[11]


After leaving the Muʿtazila school, and joining the side of traditionalist theologians[12] al-Ash'ari formulated the theology of Sunni Islam.[13] He was followed in this by a large number of distinguished scholars, most of whom belonged to the Shafi'i school of law.[14] The most famous of these are Abul-Hassan Al-Bahili, Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani, Al-Juwayni, Al-Razi and Al-Ghazali. Thus Al-Ash'ari's school became, together with the Maturidi, the main schools reflecting the beliefs of the Sunnah.[14]

In line with Sunni tradition, al-Ash'ari held the view that a Muslim should not be considered an unbeliever on account of a sin even if it were an enormity such as drinking wine or theft. This opposed the position held by the Khawarij.[15]

Al-Ash'ari also believed it impermissible to violently oppose a leader even if he were openly disobedient to the commands of the sacred law.[15]

Al-Ash'ari spent much of his works opposing the views of the Muʿtazila school. In particular, he rebutted them for believing that the Qur'an was created and that deeds are done by people of their own accord.[14] He also rebutted the Muʿtazili school for denying that Allah can hear, see and has speech. Al-Ash’ari confirmed all these attributes stating that they differ from the hearing, seeing and speech of creatures, including man.[14]

He was also noted for his teachings on atomism.[16] The Salafis argue that he had accepted the Salafi theology before his death.[17]


The 18th century Islamic scholar Shah Waliullah stated:

A Mujadid appears at the end of every century: The Mujadid of the first century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah, Umar bin Abdul Aziz. The Mujadid of the second century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah Muhammad Idrees Shaafi. The Mujadid of the third century was the Imam of Ahlul Sunnah, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari. The Mujadid of the fourth century was Abu Abdullah Hakim Nishapuri.[18]

Earlier major scholars also held positive views of al-Ash'ari and his efforts, among them Qadi Iyad and Taj al-Din al-Subki.[19]

According to scholar Jonathan A.C. Brown, although "the Ash'ari school of theology is often called the Sunni 'orthodoxy,' "the original ahl al-hadith, early Sunni creed from which Ash'arism evolved has continued to thrive alongside it as a rival Sunni 'orthodoxy' as well."[20] According to Brown this competing orthodoxy exists in the form of the "Hanbali über-Sunni orthodoxy".[21]


The Ashari scholar Ibn Furak numbers Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari's works at 300, and the biographer Ibn Khallikan at 55;[22] Ibn Asāker gives the titles of 93 of them, but only a handful of these works, in the fields of heresiography and theology, have survived. The three main ones are:

  • Maqalat al-Islamiyyin wa Ikhtilfa al-Musallin ("The Discourses of the Proponents of Islam and the Differences Among the Worshippers"), an encyclopaedia of deviated Islamic sects.[23] It comprises not only an account of the Islamic sects but also an examination of problems in kalām, or scholastic theology, and the Names and Attributes of Allah; the greater part of this works seems to have been completed before his conversion from the Muʿtaziltes.
  • Al-Luma`
  1. Al-Luma` fi-r-Radd `ala Ahl al-Zaygh wa al-Bida` ("The Sparks: A Refutation of Heretics and Innovators"), a slim volume.
  2. Al-Luma` al-Kabir ("The Major Book of Sparks"), a preliminary to Idah al-Burhan and, together with the Luma` al-Saghir, the last work composed by al-Ash`ari according to Shaykh `Isa al-Humyari.
  3. Al-Luma` as-Saghir ("The Minor Book of Sparks"), a preliminary to al-Luma` al-Kabir.[24]
  • Kitāb al-ibāna 'an usūl al-diyāna,[25] though the authenticity of this book has been disputed by several scholars.[26][27][28][29][30]

See also[edit]

Early Islam scholars[edit]

Muhammad (570–632 the Constitution of Medina, taught the Quran, and advised his companions
`Abd Allah bin Masud (died 650) taughtAli (607–661) fourth caliph taughtAisha, Muhammad's wife and Abu Bakr's daughter taughtAbd Allah ibn Abbas (618–687) taughtZayd ibn Thabit (610–660) taughtUmar (579–644) second caliph taughtAbu Hurairah (603–681) taught
Alqama ibn Qays (died 681) taughtHusayn ibn Ali (626–680) taughtQasim ibn Muhammad ibn Abu Bakr (657–725) taught and raised by AishaUrwah ibn Zubayr (died 713) taught by Aisha, he then taughtSaid ibn al-Musayyib (637–715) taughtAbdullah ibn Umar (614–693) taughtAbd Allah ibn al-Zubayr (624–692) taught by Aisha, he then taught
Ibrahim al-Nakha’i taughtAli ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (659–712) taughtHisham ibn Urwah (667–772) taughtIbn Shihab al-Zuhri (died 741) taughtSalim ibn Abd-Allah ibn Umar taughtUmar ibn Abdul Aziz (682–720) raised and taught by Abdullah ibn Umar
Hammad bin ibi Sulman taughtMuhammad al-Baqir (676–733) taughtFarwah bint al-Qasim Jafar's mother
Abu Hanifa (699–767) wrote Al Fiqh Al Akbar and Kitab Al-Athar, jurisprudence followed by Sunni, Sunni Sufi, Barelvi, Deobandi, Zaidiyyah and originally by the Fatimid and taughtZayd ibn Ali (695–740)Ja'far bin Muhammad Al-Baqir (702–765) Muhammad and Ali's great great grand son, jurisprudence followed by Shia, he taughtMalik ibn Anas (711–795) wrote Muwatta, jurisprudence from early Medina period now mostly followed by Sunni in Africa and taughtAl-Waqidi (748–822) wrote history books like Kitab al-Tarikh wa al-Maghazi, student of Malik ibn AnasAbu Muhammad Abdullah ibn Abdul Hakam (died 829) wrote biographies and history books, student of Malik ibn Anas
Abu Yusuf (729–798) wrote Usul al-fiqhMuhammad al-Shaybani (749–805)Al-Shafi‘i (767–820) wrote Al-Risala, jurisprudence followed by Sunni and taughtIsmail ibn IbrahimAli ibn al-Madini (778–849) wrote The Book of Knowledge of the CompanionsIbn Hisham (died 833) wrote early history and As-Sirah an-Nabawiyyah, Muhammad's biography
Isma'il ibn Ja'far (719–775)Musa al-Kadhim (745–799)Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780–855) wrote Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal jurisprudence followed by Sunni and hadith booksMuhammad al-Bukhari (810–870) wrote Sahih al-Bukhari hadith booksMuslim ibn al-Hajjaj (815–875) wrote Sahih Muslim hadith booksMuhammad ibn Isa at-Tirmidhi (824–892) wrote Jami` at-Tirmidhi hadith booksAl-Baladhuri (died 892) wrote early history Futuh al-Buldan, Genealogies of the Nobles
Ibn Majah (824–887) wrote Sunan ibn Majah hadith bookAbu Dawood (817–889) wrote Sunan Abu Dawood Hadith Book
Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni (864- 941) wrote Kitab al-Kafi hadith book followed by Twelver ShiaMuhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari (838–923) wrote History of the Prophets and Kings, Tafsir al-TabariAbu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (874–936) wrote Maqālāt al-islāmīyīn, Kitāb al-luma, Kitāb al-ibāna 'an usūl al-diyāna
Ibn Babawayh (923–991) wrote Man la yahduruhu al-Faqih jurisprudence followed by Twelver ShiaSharif Razi (930–977) wrote Nahj al-Balagha followed by Twelver ShiaNasir al-Din al-Tusi (1201–1274) wrote jurisprudence books followed by Ismaili and Twelver ShiaAl-Ghazali (1058–1111) wrote The Niche for Lights, The Incoherence of the Philosophers, The Alchemy of Happiness on SufismRumi (1207–1273) wrote Masnavi, Diwan-e Shams-e Tabrizi on Sufism
Key: Some of Muhammad's CompanionsKey: Taught in MedinaKey: Taught in IraqKey: Worked in SyriaKey: Travelled extensively collecting the sayings of Muhammad and compiled books of hadithKey: Worked in Iran


  1. ^ Anvari, Mohammad Javad and Koushki, Matthew Melvin, “al-Ashʿarī”, in: Encyclopaedia Islamica, Editors-in-Chief: Wilferd Madelung and, Farhad Daftary.
  2. ^ M. Abdul Hye,Ash’arism, Philosophia Islamica.
  3. ^ Muqaltu Islamiyyah.ISBN 9953-34-220-2
  4. ^ a b John L. Esposito, The Islamic World: Abbasid-Historian, p 54. ISBN 0195165209
  5. ^ I.M.N. Al-Jubouri, History of Islamic Philosophy: With View of Greek Philosophy and Early History of Islam, p 182. ISBN 0755210115
  6. ^ Marshall Cavendish Reference, Illustrated Dictionary of the Muslim World, p 87. ISBN 0761479295
  7. ^ Allard, Michel. "Abū al-Ḥasan al-Ashʿarī, Muslim theologian". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 2020-10-29. Retrieved 2021-04-01.
  8. ^ William Montgomery Watt, Islamic Philosophy and Theology, p 84. ISBN 0202362728
  9. ^ a b c Shaykh Rami Al Rifai (11 September 2015). "Significance of the Ash'ari Aqeedah".
  10. ^ a b c Ibn ‘Asakir. Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari fima Nusiba ila al-Imam Abu'l Hasan al- Ash'ari. pp. 51–52.
  11. ^ I. M. Al-Jubouri, Islamic Thought: From Mohammed to September 11, 2001, p 177. ISBN 1453595856
  12. ^ Anjum, Ovamir (2012). Politics, Law, and Community in Islamic Thought. Cambrdige University Press. p. 108. ISBN 9781107014060. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  13. ^ John L. Esposito, The Oxford History of Islam, p 280. ISBN 0199880417
  14. ^ a b c d "Scholar of renown: Abul-Hassan Al-Ash'ari". 21 May 2001.
  15. ^ a b Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood, Ash'arism, and Political Sunnism, p 77. ISBN 0230106587
  16. ^ Ash'ari - A History of Muslim Philosophy
  17. ^ "Imam Ash'ari Repudiating Asha'rism? |". 20 January 2014. Retrieved 2020-04-06.
  18. ^ Izalat al-Khafa, p. 77, part 7.
  19. ^ Fatwa No. 8001. Who are the Ash'arites? - Dar al-Ifta' al-Misriyyah
  20. ^ Brown, Jonathan A.C. (2009). Hadith: Muhammad's Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World. Oneworld Publications (Kindle edition). p. 180.
  21. ^ Brown, Jonathan (2007). The Canonization of al‐Bukhārī and Muslim: The Formation and Function of the Sunnī Ḥadīth Canon. Leiden and Boston: Brill. p. 137. ISBN 9789004158399.
  22. ^ Beirut, III, p.286, tr. de Slaine, II, p.228
  23. ^ ed. H. Ritter, Istanbul, 1929-30
  24. ^ ed. and tr. R.C. McCarthy, Beirut, 1953
  25. ^ tr. W.C. Klein, New Haven, 1940
  26. ^ McCarthy, Richard J. (1953). The Theology of Al-Ashari. Imprimerie Catholique. p. 232.
  27. ^ Makdisi, George. 1962. Ash’ari and the Asharites and Islamic history I. Studia Islamica 17: 37–80
  28. ^ Ignaz Goldziher, Vorlesungen uber den Islam, 2nd ed. Franz Babinger (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1925), 121;
  29. ^ Richard M. Frank, Early Islamic Theology: The Mu'tazilites and al-Ash'ari, Texts and studies on the development and history of kalām, vol. 2, pg. 172. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2007. ISBN 9780860789789
  30. ^ Jackson, Sherman A. “Ibn Taymiyyah on Trial in Damascus.” Journal of Semitic Studies 39 (Spring 1994): 41–85.

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