Quranic createdness

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Createdness refers to the doctrinal position that the Qur’an was created, rather than having always existed and thus being "uncreated". The dispute over which was true became a significant point of contention in early Islam. The Islamic rationalist philosophical school known as the Mu'tazila held that if the Quran is God's word, logically God "must have preceded his own speech".[1] The Qur'an, of course, expresses God's eternal will, but the work itself must have been created by Him at some point in time.[2]

Traditionists, on the other hand, held that numerous hadith support the contention that the Qur’an is an attribute of God and is, therefore, uncreated.[3] In the Muslim world, the doctrine that the Quran is uncreated has been unchallenged among the Sunni Muslims for many centuries, while Shia Twelvers and Zaydi, and the Kharijites believe the Quran is created.[4] Sufi philosophers view the question as artificial or wrongly framed.[5][need quotation to verify]

The controversy over the doctrine among Sunnis came to a head during the reign of Abassid Caliph Abd Allah al-Ma’mun. In 827 CE, al-Ma’mun publicly adopted the doctrine of createdness, and six year later instituting an inquisition known as the mihna (test) to “ensure acquiescence in this doctrine”.[6] According to Sunni tradition, when "tested", traditionist Ahmad ibn Hanbal refused to accept the doctrine of createdness despite two years imprisonment and being scourged until unconscious. Eventually, due to Ahmad ibn Hanbal's determination,[7] Caliph Al-Mutawakkil ʿAlā ’llāh, brought the mihna to an end and the Mu'tazila doctrine was silenced for a time.

In the years thereafter, it was the minority of Muslims who believed in Quranic createdness who were on the receiving end of the sword or lash.[8] 12th century Almoravid jurist Qadi Ayyad, citing the work of Malik ibn Anas, wrote that:

He said about someone who said that the Qur'an is created, "He is an unbeliever, so kill him." He said in the version of Ibn Nafi', "He should be flogged and painfully beaten and imprisoned until he repents." In the version of Bishr ibn Bakr at-Tinnisi we find, "He is killed and his repentance is not accepted." [9]

The significance of hadith[edit]

That the question of the createdness of the Qur’an is, among other things, a hermeneutical issue is reflected in the variety of arguments and issues that associate with it – whether the Qur’an or the traditions assert the Qur’an’s createdness, what “created” means, and whether and how this affects the standing of these texts as authoritative and as a consequence, the status of those who study them. Where the Qur’an is understood as the word of God, and the words and example of the Prophet transmitted through hadith also attain to divine significance, if the Qur’an cannot be taken to assert its own createdness, for the doctrine of createdness to be true the traditions would have to support it. Indeed, to admit the insufficiency of the hadith corpus to adjudicate what with the institution of the mihna becomes such a visible dispute would necessarily marginalize the authority of traditions. Thus it is not by accident that al-Ma’mun decides to administer the test on religious scholars.[citation needed]

Arguements and implications[edit]


At least one argument of (some of) the Mutazilah was based on the idea of naskh or abrogation of verses (a concept accepted by the four schools of Sunni fiqh)[10] and Q.2:106:

Any revelation We cause to be superseded or forgotten, We replace with something better or similar. Do you [Prophet] not know that God has power over everything? (tr. Abdel Haleem)[11]

— Qur'an 2:106, [12]

The Mutazilah argued that if the Qur'an could be subjected to abrogation, with a new verse abrogating an earlier one, it could not be eternal.[13]


Malise Ruthven argues that believers in an uncreated Quran, and thus eternal and unchanging, also argued for predestination of the afterlife of mortals. The two ideas are associated with each other (according to Rwekaza Sympho Mukandala) because if there is predestination than God "in His omnipotence and omniscience must have willed and known about" events related in the Quran.[14]

Believers in a created Quran emphasize free will given to mortals who would be rewarded or punished according to what they chose in life on judgement day. Advocates of the "created" Quran emphasized the references to an `Arabic` Quran which occur in the divine text; noting that if the Quran was uncreated it was -- like God -- an eternal being. This gave it (they argued) a status similar to God, constituting a form of bi-theism and thus shirk.[15]

Remi Brague argues that while a created Quran may be interpreted "in the juridical sense of the word", an uncreated Quran can only be applied -- the application being "susceptible only "to gramatical explication (tasfir) and mystical elucidation (ta'wil)".[16]

Ahmad ibn Hanbal and the Mihna (ordeal)[edit]

Ahmad ibn Hanbal[edit]

In standing up for orthodoxy, Muslim scholar and muhaddith ibn Hanbal refused to engage in kalam during his interrogation. He was willing to “argue” only on the basis of the Qur’an or the traditions and their “literal” meaning.[17] While this distinction itself is difficult to make in practice, its value is in part rhetorical, for the assertion marks his orthodox identity as one who stands by the absolute authority of the sacred texts over-above those who make use of reason. The role of Ahmad ibn Hanbal in the mihna ordeal garnered significant attention in the later historiography of Islam. Walter Patton (in Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal and the Miḥna) presents him as a stalwart of orthodoxy, claimed that he did more than any other to strengthen the position of orthodoxy.[7]

The Mihna[edit]

Scholars do not agree on why caliph al-Ma’mun acted as he did. Walter Patton for instance, claims that while partisans might have made political capital out of the public adoption of the doctrine, al-Ma’mun’s intention was “primarily to effect a religious reform.” [18] Nawas on the other hand, argues that the doctrine of createdness was a “pseudo-issue,” insisting that its promulgation was unlikely an end in itself since the primary sources attached so little significance to its declaration.[19]

The test of the mihna was applied neither universally nor arbitrarily. In fact, the letter that Al-Ma’mun sent to his lieutenant in Baghdad instituting the mihna stipulated that the test be administered to qadis and traditionists (muhaddithin). Both of these groups regard hadith as central to Qur’anic interpretation and to matters of Islamic jurisprudence. In particular, the rhetorical force of muhaddithin acceptance of the doctrine is then to concede that either or both of the Qur’an and the hadith corpus attest to the doctrine, simultaneously validating the caliph’s theological position and legitimizing his claim to hermeneutical authority with regard to the sacred texts.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


Patton, Walter Melville (1897). Aḥmad Ibn Ḥanbal and the Miḥna: A Biography of the Imâm including an Account of the Moḥammadan Inquisition Called the Miḥna: 218-234 A.H. Leiden: E.J. Brill.

  1. ^ Kadri, Sadakat (2012). Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia ... macmillan. p. 77. ISBN 9780099523277.
  2. ^ "Qur'an". Oxford Islamic Studies Online. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  3. ^ Saalih al-Munajjid, Muhammad (20 July 2015). "The Qur'an is the word of Allah, may He be exalted, and is not created. 227441". Islam Question and Answer. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  4. ^ Glassé, Cyril; Smith, Huston (2002). The New Encyclopedia of Islam (revised, reprinted ed.). Rowman Altamira. p. 268. ISBN 9780759101906. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  5. ^ Henry Corbin, History of Islamic Philosophy (London: Kegan Paul International, 1993): 10.
  6. ^ John A. Nawas, “A Reexamination of Three Current Explanations for al-Ma’mun’s Introduction of the Mihna.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 26.4 (Nov. 1994): 615.
  7. ^ a b Patton, Ibn Ḥanbal and the Miḥna, 1897: p.2
  8. ^ Kadri, Sadakat (2012). Heaven on Earth: A Journey Through Shari'a Law from the Deserts of Ancient Arabia ... macmillan. p. 80. ISBN 9780099523277.
  9. ^ (Qadi 'Iyad Musa al-Yahsubi, Muhammad Messenger of Allah (Ash-Shifa of Qadi 'Iyad), translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K. 1991; third reprint, paperback], p. 419)
  10. ^ Fatoohi, Louay (2013). Abrogation in the Qurʼan and Islamic Law: A Critical Study of the Concept of "Naskh" and its impact. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 9780415631983. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  11. ^ "al-Baqarah 2:106". islamawakened.com.
  12. ^ Wael B. Hallaq (2009), Sharī'a: Theory, Practice, Transformations, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521861472, pp. 96-97
  13. ^ Hasan, Ahmad (June 1965). "The Theory of Naskh". Islamic Studies. 4 (2): 184. JSTOR 20832797.
  14. ^ Mukandala, Rwekaza Sympho (2006). Justice, Rights and Worship: Religion and Politics in Tanzania. E & D Limited. p. 172. ISBN 9789987411313. Retrieved 2 March 2019.
  15. ^ Ruthven, Malise (1984). Islam in the World. Oxford University Press. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-19-530503-6. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  16. ^ Brague, Rémi (2008). The Law of God: The Philosophical History of an Idea. University of Chicago Press. p. 152. ISBN 9780226070780. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  17. ^ Patton, Ibn Ḥanbal and the Miḥna, 1897: p.106
  18. ^ Patton, Ibn Ḥanbal and the Miḥna, 1897: p.54
  19. ^ Nawas, 1994: 623-624.