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Religion Compass 6/1 (2012): 4150, 10.1111/j.1749-8171.2011.00273.

The Mutazila in Islamic History and Thought

Massimo Campanini*
University of Trento


The Mutazila was a current of thought that ourished in Iraq in the third ninth century, but whose creative inuences continued at least into the twelfth century. It had a fundamental role in Islamic history and thought, particularly in the early period when it became the state theology under the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun. The Mutazila developed a type of rationalism, partly inuenced by Greek philosophy, based around three fundamental principles: the oneness and justice of God, human freedom of action and the creation of the Quran. During the history of Islamic thought, these ideas were challenged and then abandoned in the name of an orthodoxy that found expression particularly in Asharism. Despite this crisis, the Mutazila survived in Islamic thought, most importantly in relation to Shiite theology. In modern times it has seen a revival, at a moment when the evolution of Islamic history has been obliged to confront the modern world. Many contemporary Islamic thinkers have looked to the rationalism of the Mutazila and its principles in an attempt to give new life to Islamic thought, seeking to equip it to face the challenges of history.

The Mutazila was a current of thought that ourished above all in Iraq in the third ninth century, reaching a peak of development between the fourth tenth and fth eleventh centuries. Its centre was Baghdad and, most importantly, Basra, where prominent theologians (Abul-Hudhayl al-Allaf, Ibrahim al-Nazzam, Bishr al-Mutamir, al-Jubbai, Abu Hashim Ibn al-Jubbai and many others) sharing certain crucial views gathered around them groups of disciples and admirers. Although useful, it is precisely because Mutazilite thought never had a unifying centre or a single founder or leader that it is not entirely appropriate to describe it as a school. It is better described as a collection of inspirational tendencies held in common, sharing both a vocabulary and political and cultural views. It is clear, in fact, that the ideas of Mutazilite thinkers varied considerably in matters both of detail and of more central importance. A signicant problem for the study of the early Mutazila, in particular, is the fact that almost none of the works of its chief and earliest exponents have come down to us. We are familiar with its doctrines either through the compendiums made by scholars such as the qadi (jurist) Abd al-Jabbar (died 1025), through its critics, including al-Ashari (died 935), or through the writings of historians of philosophy and religious sects such as al-Baghdadi (died 1038) and al-Shahrastani (died 1154). The material available to us is, nevertheless, plentiful and any scientic study of the Mutazila must involve a comparative analysis of the sources. A systematic examination of the origin of the name and the school can be useful in reaching an understanding of the historical context and a general characterisation of Mutazilite thought. The well-known story, recounted by al-Shahrastani amongst others, ` (died 748), withdrew (itazala) relates how one of the rst Mutazilites, Wasil Ibn Ata from his master Hasan al-Basri when he found he was no longer able to share al-Basris views on the religious status of the sinner (whether a sinner could still be considered a Muslim or not and hence whether or not he should be embraced by or expelled from
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the Community) (al-Shahrastani 1977, p. 50). This story is probably just a legend and, in any case, this explanation of the word mutazilism has lost much of its credibility. Van ` withdrew from Hasan Ess (1979, p. 63), for example, has argued that Wasil Ibn Ata al-Basri and Amr Ibn Ubayd more because of disagreements about terminology and method than about the status of sinners. An authoritative view can be found in the famous article Sullorigine del nome di Mutazilites (Nallino 1940) by the Italian Arabist Carlo Nallino. Nallino argues that the name originally referred to those who, at the time of the schism between Ali, the Prophet Muhammads son-in-law and the fourth Rightly Guided caliph, and Muawiya Ibn Abi Sufyan, governor of Damascus and relative of caliph Uthman, assassinated in 656, chose a separate middle path between the orthodox (those who, as followers of Muawiya and the dynasty founded by him of the Umayyads caliphs (661750), were to become the Sunnis) and the Kharijites, radical opponents of both sides. Starting out with a political meaning, the term Mutazilite seems to have been extended to refer to a particular school of dogma. Nallinos interpretation was dealt with at length in Montgomery Watts The Formative Period of Islamic Thought (Watt 1973). Watt too sees political motivation as the dominant impetus leading to the birth of Mutazilism. However, referring explicitly to the heresiograph al-Nawbakhti, author of a book on the Divisions within Shiism, Watt argues that the Mutazilite position of neutrality between Ali and Muawiya does not correspond to an opposition between orthodox and Kharijite, but more precisely between the orthodox, which is to say Sunnis, and the Alids, progenitors of the Shiites. On this basis the view may be put forward with some condence that the name of Mutazila was originally applied to those who were neutral with regard to Ali and that it was applied to them by proto-Shiites (Watt 1973, p. 216). The question of the relationship of Mutazilism to Shiism is, as we shall see, a delicate one. Watts insistence on the originally political character of the Mutazila naturally leads him to refute the hypothesis going back to Goldziher (1925, pp. 94 and 326, n. 63), but reiterated by Van Ess (1978, pp. 188189, 192 passim) of a movement that was essentially ethical and mystical. Watt puts forward two arguments that would seem conclusive: (a) that the standpoint of Goldziher Van Ess does not take account of the historical circumstances and the circles from which Mutazilism emerged; (b) that there is no mystical element in the ve principles that form the basis of the Mutazilite credo and which will be examined below (furthermore, al-Shahrastani too never speaks of a mystical element among Mutazilites, unless we include in that category the asceticism of someone like al-Murdar, an interesting theologian but not a major gure in the school). An interesting thesis is advanced by H.S. Nyberg in his entry on Mutazila in the rst edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam (Nyberg 1938). He argues that the Mutazilites constituted the theological superstructure of the political structure of the Abbasid regime which in 749750 succeeded the Umayyad caliphate, itself victorious over the Alids. Indirect evidence supporting this thesis comes, on one hand, from the fact that the Abbasids (caliphs in Baghdad between 750 and 1258) took advantage of the hostility of the Alids towards the Umayyads and, on the other, from the fact that many Mutazilites were sympathetic to Alid views although they could not be said to have been Shiites. Ibrahim al-Nazzam (d. ca 840), for example, one of the most important theoreticians of the Mutazila, borrowed a number of arguments from Shiite propaganda, formulating many criticisms of the Rightly Guided caliphs, particularly the second, Umar (634 644).
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Despite these points of convergence, it should be remembered that many of the early Mutazilites were clearly anti-Shiite, or at least opposed to the fundamental Shiite doctrine of the imamate, according to which Ali and, after him, his descendants should have succeeded Muhammad as imam or guide of the early Community. Thus Abu Bakr al-Asamm, for example, seems to say that the imamate can only be established through the unanimous consensus of the entire Community. The intention was to challenge the attribution of the imamate to Ali, since his investiture had occurred not in a period of peace but at a moment of discord among the Companions of the Prophet (Al-Baghdadi 1985, p. 120). Holding even more marked anti-Shiite views is Amr Ibn Ubayd, who, `, was one of the very rst Mutazilites to take a strong line against the like Wasil Ibn Ata Radites, which is to say the imamite Shiites. From the doctrinal point of view too, the adoption of Mutazilite dialectic theology (kalam) by some imamites occurred quite late on no earlier than the third-fourth ninthtenth century. In the second eighth century, their views differed with regard both to the imamate and to Gods attributes and human actions (Madelung 1979a,b). Links between Shiism and Mutazilism become more evident later, after the Mutazilite doctrine had become elaborated and consolidated, as was shown many years ago by Henri Laoust in his essay on al-Baghdadis Farq (Laoust 1983b, p. 159). Today it is generally accepted that early Shiism borrowed much from Mutazilite theology. Dominique Sourdel goes so far as to say that there is an undoubted link between Shiism and Mutazilism, the latter being one and the same as Zaydism, a form of moderate Shiism made popular by the pro-Shiite sympathies of the early Abbasids, and most notably of al-Mamun (813833) (Sourdel 1962). It is clear that, although not explicitly, this brings us back to Nybergs thesis that sees Mutazilism as the Abbasids state ideology. Claude Cahen, on the other had, warns against making too close a link between Mutazilism and the rise of Abbasid power. In his view, the Abbasid movement gained the upper hand mainly because it was able to demonstrate to Muslim public opinion that the overthrow of a dynasty did not imply the overthrow of religious orthodoxy, something that might have happened if their defeat of the Umayyad regime had depended on the Alids. Today commentators are aware of the close interrelationship between antiUmayyad Alid movements and the ascent of the Abbasids. The latter exploited the Alids as a weapon in their struggle against the Umayyads and in order to consolidate their power, only to abandon them to their fate or even to persecute them. Cahens argument is not therefore entirely convincing. It is the case that the Abbasids could lay claim to the cosmopolitan and multi-ethnic aspects of Islam, ready as they were to absorb non-Arab Muslims and particularly Iranians. This was an Islam that was unfettered by considerations of pride in the Arab race and the ambitions of family even though it was, like that of Ali, descended from the Prophet. In the second edition of the Encyclopedie de lIslam, the entry by Gimaret (1993) rejects Nyberg thesis, nding it entirely unacceptable. He inclines instead to the view taken by Nallino. The departure point of Nallinos interpretation is, nevertheless, like Nybergs, a political one. It is clear then that no consensus has been reached on this subject in Oriental scholarship. It would be fruitless to attempt here to nd a denitive answer to the age-old problem of the origins of Mutazilism, thats to say the origins of Islamic theology tout court (the Mutazilites may be considered to be the rst organised theologians of Islam). A number of indisputable key points can be made: the origins of Mutazilism cannot be reduced to a single common denominator and probably cannot be dened as either pro- or anti-Alid. It is undeniable that Mutazilism emerged as a political movement
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(Amin 1936, p. 6). It was certainly for political reasons that there occurred a sort of natural convergence between Mutazilite speculation and Abbasid political interests, whether or not the Mutazilites were the conscious intelligentsia of the new caliphs, or whether the latter found in the Mutazila a doctrine that suited their policies. The Mutazila has ve basic tenets, the principles common to almost all its components. Although the formulation of the so-called Five Principles can be seen as going back as far as Abul-Hudhayl al-Allaf (d. ca 849), the complete and fully set out version dates from considerably later and is attributed to the previously mentioned Abd al-Jabbar, at a time when the Mutazila acquired a systematic or even scholastic form, something that was more or less unknown to the rst exponents of the movement. The outline of the ve principles that follows does not, for reasons of simplicity, take into account the innite variations of detail introduced by the various thinkers of this school. 1. The most important is the denial of the attributes of God, a development of the fundamental Islamic doctrine of Divine Unity or tawhid:
Mutazilites, while radically rejecting the attribute of eternity, say that God is eternal and that eternity is the particular nature of his essence. They afrm that God is knowing through his essence, powerful through his essence, alive through his essence: not through a knowledge, a power or a life that hold good as attributes eternally co-existing with Him. This is because, if the attributes were part of eternity together with God, they would also be part of His divinity (al-Shahrastani 1977, p. 48).

Thus, for the Mutazilites, to assign to God attributes separated from his essence is to commit the sin of polytheism, in that they would be considered as separate gods. The rejection of this type of attribution means proclaiming Divine Unity in the most absolute way possible. The Mutazilites go on to distinguish between attributes of essence and attributes of action. The former are those that form an integral part of Gods essence (life, power, knowledge, will, speech, hearing, sight), attributes without which God would not be God. The latter are attributes that God may or may not activate, examples being creator or judge, in the sense that He can create or not create, according to His will; judge or not judge, according to his will, etc. 2. The second principle is that humans are entirely free in their actions and are able to choose between good and evil. Good and evil are abstract concepts that do not depend on revelation, a view that runs counter to the greater part of classical Islamic theology. Particularly with reference to evil, God cannot be held entirely responsible: justice requires Him always to act for the best. Al-Nazzam was a perceptive upholder of this thesis. Al-Shahrastani writes that
As al-Nazzam see it, if God were able to prevent an evil act taking place, he would be bound to prevent it, since [even] consenting to an evil happening is a vile and blameworthy act. Therefore, [given that in fact God does not prevent the evil] He can only act according to justice (adl) and it is impossible to attribute to Him the ability (qudra) to act unjustly (al-Shahrastani 1977, p. 57).

This is a somewhat daring conclusion, since it implies a potential negation of Gods omnipotence. The fact that God does not desire evil does not have to mean, as the majority of Mutazilites would assert, that He is incapable of doing evil. A erce opponent of the Mutazila, the great al-Ghazali (10581111) sought to demonstrate the logical contradictions into which the Mutazilites would fall in asserting that God is bound to do what is best for His creatures.

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3. The third principle is that God has promised the good a suitable recompense, while the evil will receive a corresponding punishment (al-wad wal-waid), according to the principles of justice. He cannot derogate from this duty. Here too, it seems that Gods omnipotence is to some extent limited. Al-Ghazali responded to this view by saying that God, if he so wishes, is free to punish someone good and reward a sinner. He does not do this in practice, but He must be able to do it if he wishes. 4. The fourth principle is that dened as the intermediate position (manzila bayna al-mazilatayn), whereby sinners are described as standing halfway between faith and impiety, since they cannot be considered either entirely believers or un-believers. By accepting this principle, Mutazilites were basically suspending justice on who was wrong between Ali and Muawiya and thus assuming a similar position in its effects to that of the Murjites who left such matters to be decided by God in the world to come. This potentially quietist position compromised neither the legitimacy of the Umayyads succession to the caliphate after the Rightly Guided, nor the claims of the Alids. 5. The fth principle is that the true believer must defend the faith even at the risk of his own life and must strive to prevent the doing of evil. This is the famous principle, agreed on by all Muslims, but enshrined in Shiite law as command the good and forbid vice (al-amr bil-maruf wa al-nahy an al-munkar), a clear echo of the Quran (Q. 3:104 and 110). As already observed, individual Mutazilite thinkers elaborated and claried these general formulations, creating a true scholastic topic, rich in subtle and sometimes sophistic disquisitions. One of the most important consequences of the negation of attributes is the denial of the eternity of the Quran. Although it is the direct word of God, according to Mutazilites the Quran is created. To admit its eternity, as was sanctioned by classic Asharite theology, would be as if to admit the existence of another eternal attribute distinct from the divine essence. The central importance for Mutazilites of this dogma of the creation of the Quran is demonstrated by the fact that when, in 827, the caliph al-Mamun declared the Mutazila to be the ofcial theology of the empire, the determinant of orthodoxy consisted specically in the acceptance or rejection of the notion of the word of God as being co-eternal with Him. In order to impose the doctrine of the created Quran, the caliph with the assistance of the Mutazilite judge from Baghdad Ibn Abi Duad, organised an inquisitorial tribunal (the mihna) which persecuted theologians and jurists with opposing views, one of them being the famous traditionalist Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (d. 855). This was no mere theological hair-splitting. If the Quran is indeed created, it can be subjected to interpretation and modication by the interpreter, particularly the caliph. By imposing Mutazilite theology through the doctrine of the created Quran, al-Mamun sought to impose his own authority not only at the political level but also at the religious level, claiming for himself a function reserved for the ulema. The mihna was not, however, opposed only by traditionalist and conservative jurists, for the people too rejected it. The caliphs theological and political plan was destined to fail, opening the way to the triumph of Sunnism (Watt 1980). The mihna episode clearly shows the unsustainability of the romantic interpretation of the Mutazilites as defenders of free thought, as erudite libertines battling against the obscurantism of orthodoxy. In reality, the Mutazilites were rigid theologians, quite intolerant enough, once in power, to have no hesitation in persecuting their more dangerous opponents. They were also rigorous Muslims, seeking to uphold the basic theoretical tenets of theology and philosophy with Quranic commentaries and reference to the
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sayings of the Prophet. More realistic is the interpretation of the Mutazilites as accomplished rationalists of notable intellectual honesty and integrity. Mutazilite rationalism owes something to classical Greek thought, insofar as it was generally faithful to the rules of demonstrative reasoning, reworking for its own uses a number of concepts taken from the Greeks. This did not mean, however, departing irreparably from religious belief. Mutazilite rationalism, according to which the dogmas of faith are evident to reason before the granting of revelation, implies the convinced acceptance of rationally based conclusions, but ones that must not contradict the dictates of revelation. The inuence of Greek thought should not be overstated, however, since the Mutazilites had very little direct knowledge of pre-Socratic, atomist or Stoic philosophy, their sources being mainly Aristotle and the Neoplatonists. Although they tackled philosophical problems, the Mutazilites were not philosophers in the true sense. They used classical knowledge, fashioning it to suit their essentially theological interests. From the theoretical point of view, the most interesting principle of Mutazilite thought and one meriting a detailed look is the absolute ontological heterogeneity between the Creator and living beings, a principle derived from the doctrine of Divine Unity or tawhid. God has neither quality nor quantity and his Unity is the reection of this ontological simplicity. This leads to such an abstract sublimation of the idea of God that al-Ashari was to accuse the Mutazilites of tatil, of having entirely divested the Supreme Being of real attributes. It is, nevertheless, in this abstract God that essence coincides with existence: God is eternal since He exists eternally. It is the necessity of his being that distinguishes Him from his creatures. As Shahrastani puts it, for almost all Mutazilites God has no attributes except that of existence. God has no other xed attributes than his existing being. This means that God is existent at the highest level in a transcendence that entirely distances Him from any contact with or similarity to the material world. In relation to matter and the corporeal, God is a non-being. Yet, while He is the negation of and alternative to that which is material and corporeal, He is pure and total existence. Lastly, God, inasmuch as He is totality of being, is He who causes to be: Accordingly they do not ascribe to Gods power any effect in the bringing into being of the attributes except that of existence (al-Shahrastani 1977, p. 82). In order to reconcile the absolute purity of the idea of being with anthropomorphic qualications attributed to God in the Scriptures, including power, wisdom, sight, hearing, hands or sitting on the Throne, some Mutazilites managed to perform miraculous conceptual balancing acts. Abu Hashim Ibn al-Jubbai (d. 933), for example, said that: The knowing of the Knowing One is a mode [of the essence] which is an attribute over and above his being an essence (al-Shahrastani 1977, p. 80). Hal means a condition or state by which a being is as it is. For Abu Hashim such states are absolutely real and not mere words or concepts. The relationship between mode and essence in Abu Hashim can perhaps be compared with an Aristotelian idea where mode corresponds to humanity, a characteristic common to all human beings, and essence corresponds to the individual in his or her unique individuality. Thus those anthropomorphic qualities that, to an extent, make God more comprehensible, particularly to the limited understanding of the common people, and which are found in the Scriptures, can, on account of this idea of modes, be applied to God. At the same time, on account of the idea of essence, it is possible to emphasise the ontological abyss separating Him, the Necessary Being, from creatures which are contingent beings. The predominance of Mutazilite ideas was short-lived, declining in tandem with the crisis of Abbasid power. As early as the period of al-Mutasim (833842), who surrounded himself with Turkish mercenaries, the rst signs emerged of how corrupt forces
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were beginning to exert a strong inuence on the caliphs decisions, holding the sovereigns hostage. When al-Mutawakkil came to power in 847, he set about breaking the Turkish stranglehold. In an attempt to reinforce this policy, he decided to side with the orthodox ulema and the civil population. In exchange, he had to impose a u-turn in the caliphates religious policies. He abolished the mihna and persecuted the Mutazilites and Alids in the name of a stricter alignment with the Quran and the Sunna. Mutazilite theology had been the state doctrine, supported from above and without close involvement with the greater part of the faithful. It was easy for it to retreat behind the doors of the schools, turning its back on political ambition and dedicating itself to pure speculation. During the ensuing long period of consolidation of Sunnism, the Mutazila continued to survive. If this happened very obviously among Shiite theologians (both imamites like al-Mud, who died in 1022 and supported divine justice and human free will, and Zaydites like those in Yemen), it should not be forgotten that there were also Sunni Mutazilite theologians, particularly associated with the Hanate school of law. Nevertheless, the lack of ofcial support or a large audience prevented a nal late owering of Mutazilite doctrines, although, at least until the arrival of the Seljuks (midfth eleventh century), many scholars further developed or claried the speculative achievements of the early Mutazilites. A kind of swan song marking the end of the truly creative period of the Mutazila is the important Quranic commentary written by al-Zamakhshari (died 1144), its main inspirations being the idea of human free will and the negation of attributes. Zamakhshari was not the only Quranic commentator with Mutazilite views: others include al-Tabarsi (died 1155). After these late exponents, the Mutazila slowly died out, partly absorbed into Shiism, partly reappearing in Jewish thought (for example, in the ideas of Saadia Gaon, a Jewish Egyptian who died in 942, and the ninth century Yusuf al-Basir), and partly unable any longer to counter the ideas of the so-called orthodoxy of the Asharites and Hanbalites. It has instead been in recent times that a renewed and broad interest in Mutazilism has emerged, particularly among intellectuals and philosophers. There has been a desire to rediscover and revive elements of rationalism in classical Islamic thought (sometimes at the price of distorting the original sense of the text or source) and doctrinal arguments that might arm Islam with new and more sophisticated weapons with which to confront the challenges of modernity. The revival of Mutazilism has come about within the context of the broad debate on the modernisation of Islam or the Islamization of modernity. Of these, the rst relates to the need for a profound rethinking of the elements making up Islamic ideology in order to make them congruent with the modern world. The second relates to the claim by the more open-minded Islamic thinkers that Islamic ideology is capable of controlling modernity by drawing on the intrinsically rational characteristics of Islamic thought (cfr. Campanini 2003). Neo-Mutazilism has become an essential point of reference for both these tendencies. We shall look rst at the ideas of Ahmad Amin (18861954). Although coming from a deeply religious family, he completed his studies at the National University of Cairo rather than at the al-Azhar Islamic University. In 1926, the famous writer Taha Husayn proposed his name for the task of writing the essay on the development of ideas for a large collaborative work on the history of Islamic civilisation. The result was a succinct and original picture of the evolution of different tendencies in intellectual life through the history of Islam with reference to classical sources and the contribution of European orientalism and including, amongst other things, a re-evaluation of the role of the theological school of the Mutazila (Amin 1936). Amin went so far as to assert that the crisis and abandonment of Mutazilite ideas inicted a serious blow to the development of
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Islamic thought that frequently thereafter lost sight of its rationalist vocation. Amins views are, of course, not entirely neutral. Amin assesses Mutazilism from a historical point of view over a long period of evolution of Islamic thought. A more theoretical point of view is found in the writings of the founder of the salayya movement, shaykh Muhammad Abduh (18491905). In his work on dogmatic theology, The Theology of Unity (Abduh 1978), openly takes the side of the two main and most controversial elements of Mutazilite doctrine: human freedom of action and the created Quran. While his views on Gods attributes stay within the orbit of Avicennian ideas, on the matters of free will and the Quran he looks to Mutazilite sources, without, however, openly admitting it. His defence of the principle of the created Quran must have been most unwelcome to the more conservative ulema so much so that, in the later editions of the treatise, Abduh was obliged to omit this section. He continued to assert the freedom of human will, however, within the broader context of the defence of natural causality: God gives the universe its laws for functioning; he reveals the rules of ethical and moral behaviour to humankind, but then the universe functions independently of Gods intervention, while humans forge their own destinies. Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid (19432010) was the author of a Mutazilite commentary on the Quran. In his view, the Holy Book is a text dating from a specic time in history and which needs to be analysed with appropriate tools that take account of linguistics, history and anthropology. Far from representing a denial of the sacred nature of the text, the effect of this hermeneutic and historical approach helps to multiply the meanings and potential interpretations of the Quran, making it more able to respond to the needs of the present day. Later, however, Abu Zaids views have undergone a change and he wrote that, even if the Quran is considered purely as a text, interpretation of it may still become over-rigid since, if the Quran were only a text, it would convey an unambiguous message and not a plural intention. For this reason, it is necessary to consider the Quran as a collection of discourses, in order to be able to re-evaluate the dialogical and dialectical rather than dogmatic aspect of its message. In this conceptual context, it is clear that Abu Zayd enthusiastically embraced the Mutazilite doctrine of the created Quran. Just as the Mutazilites of the classical period did, he divided the attributes of God into those of essence and those of action. Abu Zaid asserted that the Quran is an attribute of the action by which it was created (Abu Zaid 2002, pp. 3941). This lays it open to an analysis that is modern and up-to-date, unfettered by the chains of literalism. With the same intention in mind, Abu Zaid had also reconsidered the symbolic character of the Quranic text and studied the role of metaphor in the Quran from a Mutazilite viewpoint (Abu Zaid 1982). More generally, the renewed interest in the Mutazila in modern times seeks to emphasise the role of reason and rationalism in the construction of Islamic ideology. This is not true only for Arab thinkers such as those mentioned above, but also for people like the Indonesian Harun Nasution (born 1919). In this case, reference to an ancient theological school has, in addition, a political purpose:
Nasutionshare[s] the opinion that the rationalization of Islamic theology is an essential component of a larger program of modernization in Muslim societies. [] Nasutions goal is the development of an Islamic modernity capable of competing with Western modernities on an equal footing, but retaining the deeply pious attitudes characteristic of traditional Islam. His strategy for realizing this goal has included the reformulation and rationalization of Islamic thought, the development of Islamic higher education and the diminution of agitation for an explicitly Islamic state (Martin et al. 1997, p. 159).
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The task of attaining these goals would, according to Nasution, be made very much easier by a revival of Mutazilism in that it is a rationalising tendency in Islamic theology. Other philosophers and thinkers like the Pakistani Fazlur Rahman (19191988), the French-Algerian Muhammad Arkoun (19282010) and the Egyptian Hasan Hana (born 1935), while not considered fully neo-Mutazilite and who have been critical of certain aspects of classic Mutazilite ideas, have nevertheless discussed it and, overall, judged it positively as an expression of a creative and open Islam. What is very important for the future of Islamic culture is that the debate on Mutazilism should not remain limited to narrow intellectual circles. It must become the critical conscience of Muslim public opinion, an objective that at present seems only realisable at some point in the future. Short Biography Massimo Campanini has degrees in philosophy (1977) and Arabic (1984). From early on in his academic career he became interested in the philosophical aspects of the Quran, in mediaeval theological Islamic thought and in tendencies in modern Islam, particularly with regard to contemporary philosophy and the development of radical movements. He has written two books on the Quran, a general introduction (The Quran. The basics) and a book on Muslim Quranic exegesis in the twentieth century (published in 2008). He has translated works by many mediaeval philosophers and thinkers including al-Ghazali, al-Farabi and Averroes from Arabic into Italian. He has concentrated recently on Islamic political ideas, both mediaeval and modern, and has written two books on the subject, the rst (published in 1999) an introduction to the relationship between Islam and politics, the second (published in 2008) addressing the problem of the Islamic state and utopianism in Islamic political thought. He has taught at the universities of Urbino and Milan ` Orientale in Naples. and currently teaches at the Universita Note
* Correspondence address: Massimo Campanini, Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, 12 Naples 80134, Italy. E-mail:

Works Cited
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50 Massimo Campanini
Nallino, C. (1940). Sullorigine del nome di Mutaziliti, in Scritti editi ed inediti, vol. VI, pp. 146169. Roma: Istituto per lOriente. Nyberg, H. S. (1938). Entry Mutazila, in Encyclopedie de lIslam. I edition, vol. III, pp. 841847. Leiden: Brill. al-Shahrastani, Abd al-Karim (1977). Kitab al-milal wa al-nihal (Book on Religions and Sects). Cairo: Maktaba al-Anglu al.Misriyya. Sourdel, D. (1962). La politique religieuse du caliphe Abbasid al-Mamun, Revue des Etudes Islamiques, 30, pp. 27 48. ` rebours de lhistoire du Mutazilisme, Revue des Etudes Islamiques, Part One, 46, Van Ess, J. (1978). Une lecture a pp. 163240. ` rebours de lhistoire du Mutazilisme, Revue des Etudes Islamiques, Part Two, 47, . (1979). Une lecture a pp. 1969. Watt, W. M. (1973). The Formative Period of Islamic Thought. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (1980). Islamic Political Thought. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Further Reading
Abd al-Jabbar, Asadabadi (19601965). Mughni abwab al-tawhid wa al-adl (Summa on the Matters of Unity and Justice). Cairo: Dar al-Misriyya lil-Talif wal-Tarjama. Abd al-Jabbar Manakdim. (1965). Abd al-Karim Uthman. (ed.), Sharh al-usul al-khamsa (Commentary on the Five Fundamentals). Cairo: Maktabat Wahba. Adang, C., Schmidtke, S. & Sklare, D. (eds) (2007). A Common Rationality: Mutazilism in Islam and Judaism. Wurzburg: Ergon Verlag. Al-Ashari, Abul-Hasan. (1969). In: M. Abd al-Hamid (ed.), Maqalat al-islamiyyin wa ikhtilaf al-musalliyyin (The Sayings of the Muslims). Cairo: Maktabat al-Nahda al-Misriyya. 2 vols. `me de la liberte humaine dans la pense e musulmane La solution Mutazilite. Paris: Vrin. Bouamrane, Ch. (1978). Le proble langes de lInstitut Domenicain dEtudes Orientales, 4, pp. 141 Caspar, R. (1957). Le renouveau du Mutazilisme, Me 202. Frank, R. M. (1978). Beings and their Attributes. The Teaching of the Basrian School of the Mutazila in the Classical Period. Albany: State University of New York Press. Hildebrandt, T. (2007). Neo-Mutazilismus? Intention und Kontext im moderne arabischen Umgang mit dem rationalistischen Erbe des Islam. Leiden: Brill. ` wa al-nihal (The Separators Concerning Religions, Heresies, Ibn Hazm, Ali Ibn Ahmad. (s.d.). Fisal l-milal wal-ahwa and Sects). Baghdad: Maktabat al-Muthanna. 2 vols. al-Khayyat, Abd al-Rahim Ibn Muhammad. (1957). Kitab al-intisar (Book of the Triumph). A. Nader (trans.). Beirut: Institut des Lettres Orientales. `me philosophique de la Mutazila, premiers penseurs de lIslam. Beirut: Institut des Lettres Nader, A. (1956). Le Syste Orientales. Sourdel, D. (1972). LImamisme vue par le cheikh al-Mud, Revue des Etudes Islamiques, 40, pp. 21296. sen Van Ess, J. (19911997). Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2 und 3 Jahrhundert Hidschra. Eine Geschichte des religio hen Islam. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter. 6 vols. Denkens im fru ologie musulmane. Paris: Albin Michel. . (2002). Premices de la the Vasalou, S. (2008). Moral Agents and their Deserts: The Character of Mutazilite Ethics. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

2012 The Author Religion Compass 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Religion Compass 6/1 (2012): 4150, 10.1111/j.1749-8171.2011.00273.x