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Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī’s Use of Reason in ʿIlm al-Kalām and Uṣūl al-Fiqh

Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa
PhD Candidate
Institute of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
University of Edinburgh

e-mail: makya@aucegypt.edu
Al-Shajarah Journal of The International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization
Volume 16.1 (2011): 1-46

November 2010

Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 2
This study examines and compares Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī’s use of reason in ʿilm al-kalām and
uṣūl al-fiqh. Very few details are known about the life of Abū al-Ḥusayn Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b.
al-Ṭayyib al-Baṣrī (d. 436/1044). This is clear in the extremely brief entries about him in the
medieval biographies of Muslim scholars and intellectuals that include an entry on him: in most
cases his entry does not exceed few lines.1 However, we know that Abū al-Ḥusayn is an
influential Ḥanafī-Muʿtazilī jurist and theologian.2 He is a member of the Bahshamiyyah sub-

* This paper is a modified version of my masters dissertation submitted to the Institute of Islamic and Middle
Eastern Studies of the University of Edinburgh in July 2009. I would like to thank Dr. Andrew Marsham, Dr.
Christian Lange, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier versions of this article.
1
For example, see Abū ʿAbd Allah Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Dhahabī (d. 748/1348 or 753/1352-3), Siyar Aʿlām alNubalā’, ed. Shuʿayb al-Arnā’ūt and Muḥammad al-ʿIrqisūsī (Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Risālah, 1413 A.H.), 17:587, in
CD-ROM al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr li-Kutub al-Turāth al-ʿArabī wa-l-Islāmī, 4th ed. (Amman: Markaz al-Turāth li-lBarmajiyyāt, 2007-8). Hereafter I refer to this database as CD-ROM al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr; Shams al-Dīn Aḥmad b.
Khallikān (d. 681/1282), Wafayāt al-Aʿyān wa-Anbā’ Abnā’ al-Zamān, 7vols., ed. Iḥsān ʿAbbās (Lebanon: Dār alThaqāfah, n.d.), in CD-ROM al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr; Shams al-Dīn Muḥammad b. Aḥmad al-Dhahabī, Mizān al-ʿItidāl fī
Naqd al-Rijāl, 8 vols., ed. ‘Alī ‘Awaḍ and ‘Ādil ʿAbd al-Mawjūd (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyyah, 1995), 6:266,
in CD-ROM al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr; ʿAbd al-Qādir b. Abī al-Wafā’ al-Qurashī (d. 775/1374), al-Jawāhir al-Muḍiyyah fī
Ṭabaqāt al-Ḥanafiyya, 2 vols. (Karachi: Mir Muḥammad Kutub Khānah, n.d.), 2:93-4, in CD-ROM al-Jāmiʿ alKabīr; Abū al-Saʿd al-Muḥsin b. Karāmah al-Jushamī (d. 484/1101), Sharḥ al-ʿUyūn, in Fu’ād Sayyid, ed. Faḍl alIʿtizāl wa-Ṭabaqāt al-Muʿtazilah (Tunis: al-Dār al-Tūnisiyyah li-l-Nashr, 1974), 387; ʿAbd al-Jabbār b. Aḥmad (d.
415/1025)/ Aḥmad b. Yaḥyā b. al-Murtaḍā (d. 840/1437), Firaq wa-Ṭabaqāt al-Muʿtazilah , ed. ‘Alī Sāmī alNashshār and ʿIṣām al-Dīn ʿAlī (Alexandria: Dār al-Maṭbūʿāt al-Jāmiʿiyyah, 1972), 125-6. This last book is
composed of 12 ṭabaqāt of Muʿtazilī scholars. As the editors note in their introduction, ʿAbd al-Jabbār is the author
of the first ten ṭabaqāt, whereas the last two ṭabaqah were later added by Ibn al-Murtaḍā, Abū al-Ḥusayn is
mentioned in the twelfth ṭabaqah added by Ibn al-Murtaḍā.
2
Modern scholars disagree whether Abū al-Ḥusayn is a Ḥanafī or a Shāfiʿī. M. Bernand, C. Brockelmann, and F.
Sezgin believe that he is a Shāfiʿī. See, Marie Bernand, L’accord Unanime de la Communauté comme Fondement
des Statuts Légaux de l’Islam (Paris: J. Vrin, 1970), 136; Carl Brockelmann, Geschichte der Arabishcen Litteratur
Esrter Supplementband (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1937), 1B:669; Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums
(Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1975), 1:627. Also see, Muṣṭafā b. ʿAbd Allah al-Qusṭanṭīnī (Ḥajjī Khalīfa), Kashf al-Ẓunūn ‘an
Asāmī al-Kutub wa-l-Funūn (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1992), 2:1732, in CD ROM al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr. On
the other hand, M. Hamidullah, W. Madelung, W. Hallaq, and C. Melchert hold that he is a Ḥanafī. See, Muhammad
Hamidullah, introduction to Abū al-Ḥusayn Muḥammad b. ʿAlī b. al-Ṭayyib al-Baṣrī, Kitāb al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl alFiqh, ed. Muhammad Hamidullah and others (Damascus: al-Maʿhad al-ʿIlmī al-Faransī li-l-Dirāsāt al-ʿArabiyyah,
1965), 24-5; Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2 nd edition, s.v. “Abū l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī” Hereafter I refer to the 2nd edition of
the Encyclopaedia of Islam as EI2 and the third edition as EI3; Wael Hallaq, “A Tenth-Eleventh Century Treatise on
Juridical Dialectic,” Muslim World 77 (1987), 1; Christopher Melchert, The Formation of the Sunni Schools of Law
(Leiden: Brill, 1997), 85. Also, see Ibn Abī al-Wafā’ al-Qurashī, al-Jawāhir al-Muḍiyyah, 2:93-4. There is
compelling evidence proving that Abū al-Ḥusayn is a Ḥanafī. For example, Abū al-Ḥusayn defends the Ḥanafī
definition and use of istiḥsān in reaching fiqhī conclusions. This supports the conclusion that he is a Ḥanafī
especially that this legal method is usually criticized in Shāfiʿī uṣūl al-fiqh literature whereas it is usually defended
in Ḥanafī ones. For Abū al-Ḥusayn’s defense of istiḥsān, see his al-Muʿtamad , 838-41. For Shāfiʿī criticisms of
istiḥsān, see for example Abū Isḥāq Ibrāhīm b. ʿAlī b. Yūsuf al-Firūzabādī al-Shīrāzī (d. 476/1083), Sharḥ alLuma‘, ed. ʿAbd al-Majīd Turkī (Beirut: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1988),969-74; Abū Muẓaffar Manṣūr b.
Muḥammad b. ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Sam‘ānī (d. 489/1096), Qawāṭi‘ al-Adillah fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh, 5 vols, ed. Muḥammad
Ḥasan Ismāʿīl al-Shāfiʿī (Beirut: Dār Iḥyā’ al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1997), 4:514-22. For Ḥanafī justifications of

Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 3
school which is part of the Basran branch of the Muʿtazilah before he forms his own Muʿtazilī
sub-school that is named al-Ḥusayniyyah.3 The Muʿtazilī biographer al-Ḥākim al-Jushamī (d.
484/1101) describes Abū al-Ḥusayn as the leading Muʿtazilī of his age.4 Ibn Khallikān (d.
681/1282), Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī (d. 748/1348 or 753/1352-3), and Ibn Khaldūn (d.
808/1406) all praise Abū al-Ḥusayn’s works in uṣūl al-fiqh.5 Among the modern scholars, Wael
Hallaq describes Abū al-Ḥusayn’s al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh as a milestone in the
development of legal theory.6 Wilferd Madelung says that al-Muʿtamad became widely
influential outside the Ḥanafī-Muʿtazilī tradition.7 Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology is not less
significant. Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1209) notes that in his time all surviving Muʿtazilah
belonged either to the Bahshamiyyah or al-Ḥusayniyyah Muʿtazilī sub-schools.8 In addition,
Madelung’s and S. Schmidtke’s recent studies show that Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theological thought
has a considerable impact on Imāmī, Zaydī, and Qarrā’ī (Karaite) Jewish theology.9

istiḥsān, see Abū Zayd ʿUbayd Allah b. ʿĪsā al-Dabūsī (d. 430/138-9), Taqwīm al-Adillah fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh, ed. Khālid
al-Mīs (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2007), 404-6; Abū Bakr Aḥmad b. Abī Sahl al-Sarakhsī (d. 490/1097),
Uṣūl al-Sarakhsī, 2 vols. ed. Abū al-Wafā al-Afghānī (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyyah, 1414/1993), 2:199-208.
For more arguments establishing Abū al-Ḥusayn’s Ḥanafī orientation, see Hamidullah’s introduction to Abū alḤusayn’s al-Muʿtamad p. 24-5.
3
Fakhr al-Dīn Muḥammad b. ʿUmar al-Rāzī (d. 606/1209), ʿItiqādāt Firaq al-Muslimīn wa-l-Mushrikīn (Cairo:
Maktabat al-Kuliyyāt al-Azhariyyah, 1978), 42. For more information on the Basran and the Baghdadi Muʿtazilah ,
see Rashīd al-Khayyūn, Muʿtazilat al-Baṣrah wa-Baghdād (London: Dār al-Ḥikmah, 1997). For more details on the
Bahshamiyyah, see Margaretha T. Heemskerk, Suffering in Mu‘tazilite Theology (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 14-35.
4
Al-Jushamī, Sharḥ al-ʿUyūn, 387; ʿAbd al-Jabbār/Ibn al-Murtaḍā, Firaq wa-Ṭabaqāt al-Muʿtazilah , 125; Ibn
Khalikān, Wafayāt al-Aʿyān, 4:271; Al-Dhahabī, Mizān al-Iʿtidāl, 6:266.
5
Al-Dhahabī, Siyār Aʿlām al-Nubalā’, 17:588; Ibn Khallikān, Wafayāt al-Aʿyān, 4:271; ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b.
Muḥammad b. Khaldūn (d. 808/1406), Muqaddimat Ibn Khaldūn, 5 th ed. (Beirut: Dār al-Qalam, 1984), 455, in CD
ROM al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr.
6
Hallaq, “A Tenth-Eleventh Century Treatise,” 197.
7
EI3, s.v. “Abū l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī.”
8
Al-Rāzī, Iʿtiqādāt Firaq al-Muslimīn, 42.
9
For more information on the influence of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology on Imāmī and Zaydī thought, see Wilferd
Madelung, “Imāmism and Muʿtazilite Theology,” in Religious Schools and Sects in Medieval Islam, ed. Wilferd
Madelung (London: Variorum, 1985), VII, 27. For more details on his influence on Qarrā’ī Jewish theology, see
Wilferd Madelung and Sabina Schmidtke, Rational Theology in Interfaith Communication (Leiden: Brill, 2006);
idem, “Yūsuf al-Baṣīr’s First Refutation (Naqd) of Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī’s Theology,” in A Common Rationality:
Muʿtazilism in Islam and Judaism, ed. Camilla Adang, Sabine Schmidtke, and David Sklare (Würzburg: Ergon
Verlag in Kommission, 2007): 229-96; Sabina Schmidtke, “The Karaites Encounter with the Thought of Abu lḤusayn al-Baṣrī (d. 436/1044): A Survey of the Relevant Materials in the Firkovitch-Collection, St. Petersburg,”

Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 4
Despite the importance of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s legal and theological heritage, his thought
received little attention from modern scholars. Among the few who studied his legal heritage is
Marie Bernand who examined his concept of consensus (ijmāʿ) and C. S. el-Tobgui who studied
aspects of his concept of legal reasoning (qiyās).10 W. Hallaq translated Abū al-Ḥusayn’s Kitāb
al-Qiyās al-Sharʿī.11 However, his translation does not include an analysis of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s
perception of legal reasoning.12 Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology received relatively more attention
than his legal heritage. W. Madelung, E. Giannakis, M. McDermott, and S. Schmidtke are the
only scholars, I am aware of, who wrote articles focusing on aspects of his theology and/or
philosophy.13 None of the previous studies attempted to particularly study the relation between

Arabica 53 (2006):108-42. Some parts of this article are translated in Arabic and were published earlier in Sabina
Shmidtke, “Mūwājahāt al-Qarrā’īn maʿa Fikr Abī al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī,” al-Tasāmuḥ (2005): 224-36.
10
M. Bernand translated Abū al-Ḥusayn’s chapter on consensus from his al-Muʿtamad (p. 459-540). She concludes
her translation with a chapter analyzing Abū al-Ḥusayn’s perception of consensus and comes to the result that his
concept of consensus is similar to the Sunni one. See, Marie Bernand, L’accord Unanime. Bernand also wrote two
articles on the concept of consensus of the Mu‘tazilī scholar ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Hamadhānī (d. 415/1024) who is Abū
al-Ḥusayn’s most famous teacher. In her studies she includes detailed information on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s consensus.
See, Marie Bernand, “L’Iğmāʿ chez ʿAbd al-Ğabbār et l’objection d’ An-Naẓẓām,” Studia Islamica 30 (1969): 2738; idem, “Nouvelles Remarques ser l’Iğmāʿ ches le Qāḍī ʿAbd al-Ğabbār,” Arabica 19 (1972): 78-85. C. ElTobgui compares Abū al-Ḥusayn’s acceptance of the probative value of qiyās to the rejection of Ibn Ḥazm al-Ẓāhirī
(d. 456/1064) of this legal tool. He concludes that their disagreements over the authority of qiyās are a result of their
epistemological and theological disagreements. See, Carl Sharif El-Tobgui, “The Epistemology of Qiyās and Taʿlīl
between the Muʿtazilite Abu ‘l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī and Ibn Ḥazm al-Ẓāhirī,” UCLA Journal of Islamic and Near
Eastern Law 2, no. 2 (2003): 281-354.
11
Hallaq, “A Tenth-Eleventh Century,” 197-228. Kitāb al-Qiyās al-Sharʿī is a short treatise on legal reasoning
published with Abū al-Ḥusayn’s al-Muʿtamad , see Abū al-Ḥusayn, al-Muʿtamad , 1029-50.
12
Translating qiyās as legal analogy is more common. However this translation is problematic due to the fact that –
as noted by W. Hallaq- there are other non-analogical arguments that are subsumed under qiyās e.g. syllogistic,
inductive, deductive, and linguistic arguments. Therefore, I prefer legal reasoning as a translation for qiyās. For
more details see, Wael Hallaq, “Non-Analogical Arguments in Sunni Juridical Qiyās,” Arabica 36.3 (1989): 286306.
13
Wilferd Madelung. “Abū al-Ḥusayn Al-Baṣrī’s Proof for the Existence of God,” in Arabic Theology, Arabic
Philosophy from the Many to the One, ed. James Montgomery (Leuven: Peeters Publishers, 2006): 273-8; E.
Giannikis, “The Structure of Abu l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī’s Copy of Aristotle’s Physics,” ZGAIW 8 (1993): 252–8; Martin
J. McDermott, “Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī on God’s Volition,” in Culture and Memory in Medieval Islam: Essays in
Honor of Wilferd Madelung (London: Taurisian Association with the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2003): 86-93;
Sabine Schmidtke, “Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī and his transmission of biblical materials from Kitāb al-Dīn wa-l-dawla
by Ibn Rabbān al-Ṭabarī: The evidence from Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s Mafātīḥ al-ghayb,” Islam and Christian-Muslim
Relations 20 ii (2009): 105-118; idem, “Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī on the Torah and its Abrogation,” Mélanges de
l’Université Saint Joseph 61 (2008): 559-80. For more information on Schmidtke’s research on Abū al-Ḥusayn, see
footnote number 8.

. I divide my study into two sections. I do so by analyzing how he supports his kalāmī conclusions and explain what type of evidence he accepts as eligible in kalām. One must note that analyzing the relation between reason and revelation in Islam is far beyond the scope of this research. This approach appears to undermine the role of revelation in certain kalām topics. In this section I argue that Abū al-Ḥusayn holds that reason. is the only eligible source of knowledge for the kalām issues that are relevant to proving the veracity of revelation. el-Tobgui in his “The Epistemology of Qiyās” touched upon this question but did not analyze it on the same scale I plan to do here. this research will use Abū al-Ḥusayn’s conclusions as a case study to challenge a dominant trend among modern historians that usually divide Muslim scholars and schools of law and theology into scripturalist and rationalist schools. However. The first section examines Abū al-Ḥusayn’s methods in using rational arguments to form his kalāmī positions.14 Moreover. In this study I conduct this comparison and underline the differences and similarities in the role he awards to reason in uṣūl al-fiqh and kalām. none attempted to particularly investigate and compare Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of rational methods in uṣūl al-fiqh to his use of rational methods in kalām. To analyze the role of reason in Abū al-Ḥusayn’s thought I ask the following questions: how far does Abū al-Ḥusayn use reason to reach his fiqhī and kalāmī conclusions? How different is the role of reason in each discipline? What are the factors that determine the role reason plays in kalām and uṣūl al-fiqh? Is it possible to categorize him as either a rationalist or a scripturalist? To answer these questions.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 5 reason and revelation in Abū al-Ḥusayn’s thought. rather than revelation. more on this below. S. Nonetheless. I note that Abū al-Ḥusayn’s dependence on reason as a source of information on the kalām issues that are relevant for establishing the authority of revelation is motivated by dialectical reasons and not a result of an inherent position that elevates reason over 14 C. This research rather particularly focuses on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s contributions to this question.

My analysis reveals that he awards revelation relatively more authority in uṣūl al-fiqh than in kalām. rather he is both. For him. He depends more on revelation in the uṣūl al-fiqh matters that reason is incapable of addressing. Moreover. as will be shown. He acknowledges the role of reason and revelation. a rejection of reason. In my comparison . This section evaluates how far he depends on rational methods in comparison to scriptural ones in uṣūl al-fiqh. In my conclusion I show that attempting to categorize Abū al-Ḥusayn as a rationalist or a scripturalist is misleading. An attempt to categorize Abū al-Ḥusayn. Abū alḤusayn’s dependence on revelation in uṣūl al-fiqh does not mean.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 6 revelation. I have mentioned that in this article I intend to use Abū al-Ḥusayn’s ideas on reason and revelation to challenge a broader tendency among modern historians of Islam. I show that revelation and reason fulfill different tasks in his kalām and uṣūl al-fiqh and that he does not attempt to favor one over the other. Also the dialectical considerations that necessitate his dependence on reason in some aspects of kalām are not as present in uṣūl al-fiqh. both mediate the same truth and there is no inherent contradiction between them. However. but each has a different role to play that is dictated by dialectical considerations. Such an analysis is shallow and fails to understand the complexities of Muslim theology and law. The second section investigates Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of reason and rational methods in uṣūl al-fiqh as a means to reach fiqhī conclusions. as a rationalist or a scripturalist is misleading. already established the veracity of revelation. the rational investigation of the Divine attributes. therefore humans should trust revelation as a source of guidance. as will be mentioned in section one. and probably most medieval Muslim jurists and theologians. This allows him to relatively award revelation more authority in uṣūl al-fiqh. he does not consider revelation the anti-thesis of reason. In addition.

“The Sunnī Revival. E. Makdisi speaks about a Sunnī traditionalist revival in the fifth/eleventh century in which “the forces of Traditionalism fought against the forces of Rationalism of all shades. 244.”16 More recently.” Studia Islamica 59 (1984): 5-47. scripturalist dichotomy that for long dominated the modern study of Islamic thought. there raged fierce controversy between those who would found their jurisprudence exclusively on the hadith. Makdisi’s writings. 1973). 18 Aḥmad Amīn. H. Modern Islamicists frequently tend to categorize Muslim scholars and schools of law and theology as either rationalists or scripturalists. 1932). 1. 1971). “Asha‘rism and the Asha‘rites in Islamic Religious History I” Studia Islamica 17 (1962). 16 George Makdisi. Richards (Oxford: Bruni Cassirer. von Grunebaum 2nd Giorgio Levi Della Vida Biennial Conference 9-10 May 1969 UCLA (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. 157. and those who reserved a leading place for common sense. aṣḥāb al-ra’y. Fajr al-Islām. Using terms like “orthodox” in an Islamic context is problematic. 75. idem. 234-45. D. although with less effect.18 Naṣr Ḥāmid Abū Zayd uses violent terminology such as battle (maʿraka) and conflict (ṣirāʿ) to describe the relationship between ahl 15 Arent Jan Wensinck. 83. They often imagine an ongoing battle between a scripturalist Islam and a rationalist one. The Muslim Creed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. however I am here using Wensick’s terminology. Wensinck spoke of a war between rationalism and “orthodoxy” in which the spricturalist “orthodox” branch came out victorious. 86. among some Middle Eastern scholars of Islam. . 17 Melchert. In his famous book Fajr al-Islām. This idea often appears in G. For example. The Formation of the Sunni Schools.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 7 of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of reason in kalām and uṣūl al-fiqh I try to avoid the rationalist vs. 2nd ed. idem.”17 This polarizing dichotomy is also present. (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-ʿArabī. ed.” in Islamic Civilization 950-1150. aṣḥāb al-ḥadīth traditionialists. Melchert states that from “the later eighth century to the beginning of the tenth.” in Theology and Law in Islam. for example see his “Law and Traditionalism in the Institutions of Learning of Medieval Islam. G. A. For the whole section on both tendencies. C. 1969). “The Juridical Theology of Shāfiʿī: Origins and Significance of Uṣūl al-Fiqh. Aḥmad Amīn speaks about a vehement dispute in early Islamic law between those who depend more on reason (ahl al-ra’y) and those who depend more on Prophetic traditions (ahl al-ḥadīth) in reaching their legal conclusions (kān al-nizāʿ bayn al-madrasatayn shadīdan). 37-80.15 G. ed. see p.

2nd ed. 21 Anver Emon. 2010). K.”20 Moreover.19 The above. 1995). For example A. a school of law. Before Revelation: The Boundaries of Muslim Moral Thought (Albany: Sate University of New York Press. He argues that this debate is not between rationalists and traditionalists. modern scholars of Islam often analyze the history of Islamic law and theology through this dichotomy enforcing upon themselves a misleading typology that would deem a scholar. more recent ones have noticed the deceitfulness of this naïve dichotomy. Emon suggests that the majority of pre-modern Muslim scholars. 20 A. regardless of their theological and legal disagreements. He pictures their “battle” as one between rationalism and scripturalism. in his Before Revelation. or neutral. and many other. Unlike the previous scholars. Anver Emon recently wrote Islamic Natural Law Theories in which he examines the role of reason in pre-modern Muslim law. Reinhart’s and Emon’s studies show that it is misleading to imagine that Muslim jurists and theologians are trenched in two warring ditches. 19 Naṣr Ḥāmid Abū Zayd. whether actions are proscribed.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 8 al-ra’y and ahl al-ḥadīth. studied how Muslim jurists assess human actions before the advent of revelation. al-Imām al-Shāfiʿī wa-Ta’sīs al-Idīlūjiyyah al-Wasaṭiyyah. Kevin Reinhart. passim. 39. one rationalist and the other scripturalist. or theology as either rationalist or scripturalist. Reinhart. Makdisi and P. Islamic Natural Law Theories (Oxford: Oxford University Press. (Cairo: Maktabat Madbūlī. argues that it is rather “between an optimistic view of Providence and pessimistic one. Reinhart. convincingly. prescribed. His earlier article “Natural Law and Natural Rights in Islamic Law. 1996). acknowledge the role reason plays in the law making process. and between an archaic position and an innovative one.21 In this book he argues against scholars such as G. . Crone who hold that Islamic law is only based on Divine discretion and does not have a concept of natural law and reason.” Journal of Law and Religion 20 (2004 -2005): 351-395 includes a brief account of some of the major arguments of his book.

Here I argue that Abū al-Ḥusayn. He is both a Muʿtazilī and a Ḥanafī. whereas the Muʿtazilah are imaged as the proponents of rationalist theology. However. both are complementary and authoritative. In my examination of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s methods in uṣūl al-fiqh I mainly draw upon his magnum opus al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh which was written during the lifetime of his teacher ʿAbd al-Jabbār b. Once again. It was Heemskerk who drew my attention to this note. see Heemskerk. Although it is not a book on kalām. this research mainly sheds light on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s contribution to this debate and tests modern perceptions of this debate against his conclusions. Kitāb Ziyādāt al-Muʿtamad and Kitāb al-Qiyās al-Sharʿī respectively. For him. al-Muʿtamad. 44. Abū al-Ḥusayn presents a perfect case study to question the dominance of this dichotomy. al-Muʿtamad.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 9 The current study builds on their arguments and suggests that modern scholars of Islam should escape the trap of this dichotomy that dictates general and simplistic conclusions. neither reason nor revelation has unconditional authority and neither is neglected for the sake of the other. but he awards each a different role to play depending on the dialectical context of his uṣūl al-fiqh or kalām argument.22 In the same publication the editors also published two treatises in uṣūl al-fiqh written by Abū al-Ḥusayn namely Kitāb Ziyādāt al-Muʿtamad and Kitāb al-Qiyās al-Sharʿī all published in a two volumes book under the title of Kitāb al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh. 23 Abū al-Ḥusayn. probably like most medieval Muslim jurists and theologians. The Ḥanafiyyah are usually imaged as the rationalist school within the Sunnī legal system. Abū al-Ḥusayn briefly and sporadically mentions in it his positions on the evidence eligible for deducing kalām 22 See footnote number 4 in Abū al-Ḥusayn. Aḥmad al-Hamadhānī (320-5/932-7 . accepts the authority of both reason and revelation. Suffering in Muʿtazilite Theology. 991-1028. . 23. this research does not attempt to tackle the issue of reason and revelation in Islam in general.23 To study Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of reason in kalām I also referred to his al-Muʿtamad.415/1025). 1029-50.

see Madelung. Ṭaha Ḥusayn and others (Cairo: Wizārat al-Thaqāfah wa-l-Irshād al-Qawmī. in case Abū al-Ḥusayn very briefly states his theological position without much details. there is Abū al-Ḥusayn’s partially extant book Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. When referring to ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s writings a source of information on some aspects of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology. EI3. In such cases.25 However.26 This method is mainly adopted in two cases.in his works. I do not assume that both scholars have the same positions on all kalām topics. Therefore. both books do not include enough details on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s kalām. 25 For more information on the differences between both Muʿtazilī scholars. Second. For example.” 26 ʿAbd al-Jabbār b. . A position that he already mentioned –but only briefly. If ʿAbd al-Jabbār adopts the same position and mentions his own views in more details. I am forced to refer to books by his Muʿtazilī teacher ʿAbd al-Jabbār al-Hamadhānī (known as Qāḍī al-Quḍāh ʿAbd al-Jabbār) in an attempt to uncover some of the contemporary Mu‘tazilī kalām positions and ascertain some of the details relevant to Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology. ed. 2006). in this book he mainly criticizes some of the Muʿtazilī kalām arguments that he rejects and mentions his own positions. in most of the theological doctrines I examine. I refer to ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s writings to obtain 24 Abū al-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī. 20 vols. 1960-).Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 10 conclusions. Abū al-Ḥusayn and ʿAbd al-Jabbār both belong to the Bahshamiyyah sub-school of the Muʿtazilah before Abū al-Ḥusayn established his own Mu‘tazilī sub-school. Ahmad al-Hamadhānī. al-Mughnī fī Abwāb al-Tawḥīd wa-l-ʿAdl. I always present evidence showing that both scholars hold similar if not identical theological positions. Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. see pages 18-21. ed. I refer to his books to know the missing details about Abū al-Ḥusayn’s position. Rational Theology. First. Second.24 Unfortunately. Abū al-Ḥusayn usually expresses his theological position without mentioning his detailed argument in support of it. including reason. “ʿAbd al-Djabbār. 1-12. because we know that this is not the case. s.v. 35-6 of this article. I only refer to ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s books (mainly his master piece al-Mughnī) in the cases where it is clear from his and Abū al-Ḥusayn’s writings that both scholars expressed similar if not identical theological opinions. Wilferd Madelung and Sabine Schmidtke (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

It was Sabine Schmitdke who informed me of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana manuscript in a personal e-mail correspondence on the 20 th of March 2010. I do not refer to ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s writings to determine Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology. 1100 from the Vatican Library and indentified it as Abū al-Ḥusayn’s Sharḥ alʿUmad which is suppose to be a commentary on ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s hitherto undiscovered book al-ʿUmad. al-ʿUmad. 436/1044) [pseudo]. Abū Zunayd admits that identifying the manuscript was not easy especially that the first and last pages are missing leaving the manuscript anonymous. Ṭayyib al-Baṣrī (d. Sharḥ al-ʿUmad. Ibrahim (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. 368. For Abū Zunayd’s argument. . in case I chose ʿAbd al-Jabbār as my case study I would run into a similar problem. MSS. positions that Abū al-Ḥusayn already expressed in his books but only briefly. 1100 is not Sharḥ al-ʿUmad but rather al-Mujzī fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh authored by the Zaydī scholar Abū Ṭālib Yaḥyā b. First. but only to ascertain some of the missing details that Abū al-Ḥusayn left unmentioned in his discovered books.27 My use of ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s writings as an auxiliary source of information on some aspects of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology might open my choice of Abū al-Ḥusayn as the case study here for question. E. 409 preserved in Biblioteca Ambrosiana) that are identical with the manuscript Abū Zunayd erroneously identified as Abū al-Ḥusayn’s Sharḥ al-‘Umad. ed. ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd Abū Zunayd edited and published MSS vat. ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd Abū Zunayd (Medina: Maktabat al-‘Ulūm wa-l-Ḥikam. one must admit here that information on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology inferred from ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s books will inevitably remain somewhat speculative. see his Der Imam al-Qasim b. However. 424/1033). Thus. Madelung argues that vat. ‘Alī b. and Sharḥ al-ʿUmda. for a number of reasons. 1965). None of ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s books on uṣūl alfiqh have been hitherto discovered. 22-5. 178-80. ar. See. introduction to Abū al-Ḥusayn Muḥammad b.28 Volume seventeen of his al-Mughnī addresses some aspects of uṣūl al-fiqh. Nonetheless. For Wilferd Madelung’s argument. 1410/[1990]). ʿAbd al-Jabbār repeatedly all through this volume explicitly states that this volume is not intended as a book on uṣūl al-fiqh but only as a brief account of the uṣūl alfiqh issues that are relevant to theology. 28 Al-Ḥākim al-Jushamī mentions three of ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s books on uṣūl al-fiqh namely al-Nihāya. W.. see ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd Abū Zunayd.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 11 more details on the nature of the arguments that Abū al-Ḥusayn might have used to reach and support his theological positions. al-Jushamī. The evidence against Abū Zunayd’s identification is compelling therefore I do not use vat. ar. al-Ḥusayn al-Nāṭiq bi-l-Ḥaqq (d.g. What conclusively supports Madelung’s opinion is the discovery of further manuscripts of al-Mujzī fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh (e. ar. 1100 as a source of information on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s thought. He also frequently states that in this volume he only 27 There is an uṣūl al-fiqh manuscript that is erroneously attributed to Abū al-Ḥusayn. Ṭabaqāt al-Muʿtazilah . However. 2 vols. Is ʿAbd al-Jabbār a more suitable choice for this research rather than Abū alḤusayn specially that his theology is known in more details than Abū al-Ḥusayn’s? I would negatively answer this question. ar.

338. 17:4-5. 102-3. 325. Third. I preferred to 29 For example see. 245. al-Mughnī. ʿAbd al-Jabbār is a Shāfiʿī scholar whereas Abū al-Ḥusayn adopts the Ḥanafī madhhab. Therefore. Therefore I chose to rather focus on Abū al-Ḥusayn and shed more light on his thought that still remains relatively in the shade. There are numerous studies on ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s legacy.30 To ascertain some of the missing details on ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s uṣūl al-fiqh I will have to refer to his contemporaries’ writings on legal theory such as Abū al-Ḥusayn’s book al-Muʿtamad. 279. al-Mughnī. 327. 116. the Ḥanafī School of law is usually stereotyped as the most rational school among the four Sunnī Schools of law. However the next two reasons make Abū al-Ḥusayn rather than ʿAbd al-Jabbār a better choice for this study. In case I chose ʿAbd al-Jabbār as my case study I will have detailed information on his theology but I will face a shortage of information on his uṣūl al-fiqh and refer to his contemporaries’ books to treat this lacuna. In this case I would be adopting a similar methodology to the one I already adopted in this research to gather some of the missing details on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology.29 This problem is further complicated when we know that volume seventeen of al-Mughnī is only partially extant. 328. 295. 352.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 12 mentions his uṣūl al-fiqh positions briefly. 152. He repeatedly refers the reader to his other books on uṣūl al-fiqh to ascertain more details on his positions. Second. The Shāfi‘ī madhhab does not have this reputation. The editor speculates that one third of the manuscript is missing. The number of studies on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s thought dwarf when compared to the ones conducted on his teacher’s legacy. . 17:3-4. my choice is also motivated by the relative shortage of studies on Abū al-Ḥusayn if compared to the ones on ʿAbd al-Jabbār. In case I chose Abū al-Ḥusayn I will have detailed information on his uṣūl al-fiqh but face a shortage of information on his theology and also refer to his contemporaries’ writing to fill a similar lacuna. al-Mughnī. 30 See the editor’s introduction to ʿAbd al-Jabbār. ʿAbd al-Jabbār. 17:46. 91-2. As previously mentioned. Also see the editor’s comments in his introduction to ʿAbd al-Jabbār.

104-177. Kiṭāb al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Dīn. Iʿtiqādāt. 1999). Abū Manṣūr ʿAbd al-Qāhir b. 471/1078) mentions eighteen sub-schools.both belonged to the same Muʿtazilī sub-school.32 We also know that Mu‘tazilī theology probably existed –even in an embryonic form. Abū alḤusayn’s legal orientation will better serve the questions I am posing in this study. Therefore it would be a 31 I only referred once to Rukn al-Dīn Maḥmūd b. see his al-Tabṣīr fī al-Dīn wa-Tamyīz al-Firqah al-Nājiyyah ʿan Firaq al-Hālikīn (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Azhariyyah l-l-Turāth.since the second/eighth century. . 1989). Also see footnote 73 of this article for my justifications for referring to Ibn al-Malaḥmī’s book in this context in particular. 26-7 of this article. ed. 429/1037) mentions eighteen schools. It is inconceivable that despite the presence of many Mu‘tazilī sub-schools and the different historical contexts in which different Muʿtazilī scholars lived in that they all would adopt only one monolithic theology. Muhammad al-Malaḥmī (d.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 13 study the role of reason and revelation in the thought of a scholar who belongs to a madhhab usually credited with relatively more appreciation of reason than other schools of law. see al-Rāzī. Using the writings of earlier Mu‘tazilī scholars to gather information on a later Muʿtazilī theologian would entail an assumption that the Muʿtazilah are one unified group with only one unanimously accepted and unchanging theology. It will help me show that even a scholar who belongs to supposedly rationalist legal and theological schools accepts the authority of revelation in the same vehement of any other scholar who belongs to the other schools of law and theology. One final point in this regard. 53-82. See p. An assumption that is quite questionable. Martin McDermott and Wilferd Madelung (London: al-Hoda. Abū al-Muẓaffar alIsfarā’īnī (d. see his al-Farq bayn al-Firaq. Muḥammad ʿUthmān al-Khisht (Cairo: Maktabat Ibn Sīnā. I have used the books of ʿAbd al-Jabbār as a source of information on some aspects of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theology because both are contemporaries and –for some time.31 I deliberately avoid using the few available writings of earlier Muʿtazilī theologians as a source of information on Abū alḤusayn’s Muʿtazilī theology. 536/1141). 32 For example Fakhr al-Dīn al-Razī mentions seventeen Muʿtazilī sub-schools. Muḥammad al-Baghdādī (d. ed. Medieval heresiogarphies inform us that there are at least seventeen Muʿtazilī sub-schools. 1991) for information on Abū alḤusayn’s interpretation of a tradition attributed to the Prophet that have theological references. Ṭāhir b. 23-42.

reprint. The Idea of a Social Science and its Relation to Philosophy (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. the conclusions of this paper are limited to Abū al-Ḥusayn’s thought. and many others. Thus it is easier to apply the word revelation to the Qur’ān.Tambiah. Therefore. Tambiah and P. whereas they unanimously accept the Qur’ān as such. ed. It is Tambiah who drew my attention to Winch’s discussion of this problem. However their comments on the difficulties of defining reason and rationality are applicable to the study of the role of reason in any culture and society in the past and the present. 1990). see his Before Revelation. along the same lines. This research is based on the theological writings of ʿAbd al-Jabbār and Abū al-Ḥusayn. “Understanding a Primitive Society. I also use revelation as a translation of the terms sharʿ and samʿ that Abū al-Ḥusayn uses to refer to the Qur’ān and the Prophetic Sunnah. Stanely J. one must say that Tambiah does not agree with Winch on many points (see his critical remarks in p. 34 .34 Winch describes enforcing one cultural definition of rationality on another as a “category mistake. especially 111-39. Muslim scholars do not usually consider the Prophetic Sunnah to be the verbatim word of God. 1974): 78-111. Before going any further it might be useful to start with a definition of the terms revelation and reason.” in Rationality. Peter Winch. 1958). I use reason to translate the Arabic word ‘aql. my reference to the Prophetic Sunnah as revelation proper is only an approximation. Wilson (1970.33 The term reason is more complex. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Peter Winch. Science. The use of the word revelation in reference to Prophetic Sunnah might be problematic.” For him. Magic. therefore claiming that its conclusions apply to the whole Muʿtazilī School would be an unwarranted generalization. The study of medieval Islam is categorically different. However. 121-30). different cultures in 33 Reinhart made a similar comment. Revelation is the term I use in reference to the Qur’ān and the Prophetic Sunnah. 185. Moreover. Religion and the Scope of Rationality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Winch have already noted that there is no one definition of rationality and there is no one yard stick by which scholars can judge the rationality of cultures other than their own. Moreover.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 14 methodological fallacy to refer to earlier Muʿtazilī authors to gain more information on Abū alḤusayn’s theology. Some modern anthropologists such as S. Tambiah’s and Winch’s comments are expressed in relation to anthropological studies of primitive tribes who lived during the two previous centuries. Bryan R.

i. al-Ittijāh al-ʿAqlī fī Mushkilat al-Maʿrifa ʿind al-Muʿtazilah (Cairo: Dār al-Fikr al-ʿArabī. once it occurs in the one who is accountable (al-mukallaf.: Maṭbaʿat al-Rābiṭah. scripturalist dichotomy among modern scholars of Islam show that his criticisms of other anthropologists applies to modern scholars of medieval Islam as well. however the presence of the rationalist vs. in his discovered books. it seems that the Basran Muʿtazilah saw that ʿaql is knowledge.36 On similar terms. Unfortunately. N. such as Abū ʿAlī al-Jubbā’ī (d. Winch’s concerns might be taken for granted. humans who are expected to follow religious injunctions) 35 Abū al-Ḥusayn. To avoid committing this “category mistake” I am here only concerned with the Muʿtazilī definition of rationality and particularly that of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s. Falsafat al-Muʿtazilah : Falāsifat al-Islām al-Asbaqīn. I mainly refer to the Basran Muʿtazilī (especially ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s) definition of the term. 2 vols. 1951). does not leave us a clear definition of reason. 36 .p.e. Abū al-Ḥusayn notes that the Muʿtazilah define ʿaql as the knowledge that God creates in humans. A. 1993). As it is well known among modern scholars of Islam. (n. 321/933) accept this understanding of ʿaql.35 Mahra Abū Saʿda wrote that earlier Muʿtazilī scholars. Abū al-Ḥusayn. Mahra Abū Saʿda. To apply a modern understanding of rationality to a medieval one would be a “category mistake” that will lead to misunderstanding the role and the meaning of reason in an intellectual context of the past. there are different Muslim pre-modern understandings of rationality and there is an extensive modern literature engaging with it. 2:34. Nādir says that the Muʿtazilī scholar Abū al-Hudhayl al-ʿAllāf (died between 226/840-1 and 235/849-50) defines reason as the power to acquire knowledge. 37 Albīr Naṣrī Nādir. Therefore. 303/915-6) and his son Abū Hāshim (d. In general.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 15 different periods of time have different understandings of rationality. Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. 80. 78.37 The famous Muʿtazilī scholar ʿAbd alJabbār al-Hamadhānī defines reason as “an aggregate of knowledge. in a hesitant attempt to ascertain his definition of reason.

al-Mughnī. reason or ʿaql are the innate knowledge that differentiate between a sane and an insane person.39 He argues that the knowledge(s) that comprise reason is the one(s) necessary for performing religious duties and without which the acquisition of further knowledge is impossible. 41 ʿAbd al-Jabbār. al-Mughnī. 11:375. 11:375.42 In sum. 11:386. 43 ʿAbd al-Jabbār. 42 ʿAbd al-Jabbār. for the moment. 11:371-2. He only objects saying that the knowledge that composes reason is not always innate but is partially innate and partially acquired. and that thanking the benefactor is a duty.40 It is also the knowledge indispensable for a basic understanding of the ontological realities of the world. justice is good. "‫ ﻣﺘﻰ ﺣﺼﻠﺖ ﻓﻲ اﻟﻤﻜﻠ ﱠﻒ ﺻﺢ ﻣﻨﮫ اﻟﻨﻈﺮ واﻻﺳﺘﺪﻻل واﻟﻘﯿﺎم ﺑﺄداء ﻣﺎ ﻛﻠﻒ‬،‫"اﻟﻌﻘﻞ ھﻮ ﺟﻤﻠﺔ ﻣﻦ اﻟﻌﻠﻮم اﻟﻤﺨﺼﻮﺻﺔ‬ 39 ʿAbd al-Jabbār. 78.44 If he rejects the idea that reason is an aggregate of 38 ʿAbd al-Jabbār. al-Mughnī. 40 ʿAbd al-Jabbār.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 16 his rational speculation and inferences become sound and he becomes capable of performing his religious duties. Furthermore. Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. His hitherto discovered works do not offer a concrete definition for reason. 11:387. As mentioned above Abū al-Ḥusayn says that the Muʿtazilah define reason as knowledge created by God in humans. He attributes this definition to the Muʿtazilah without categorically rejecting it. Reason is also the foundational knowledge that is necessary for gaining further knowledge.43 One must note that we have been mainly considering the Basran Muʿtazilī definition of reason. we can not be sure whether or not Abū al-Ḥusayn agrees with this definition. Unfortunately. . al-Mughnī. Reason is the knowledge that makes humans aware of their ethical and deontological obligations and thus allows them to conform to the social values of their social contexts. al-Mughnī. 11:379.”38 ʿAbd al-Jabbār sees that this knowledge is mainly innate created by God in humans. it is the necessary knowledge (al-ʿulūm al-ḍarūriyyah)41 required for a basic understanding of ethical and deontological norms such as knowing that injustice is evil. al-Mughnī. 44 Abū al-Ḥusayn.

as a Basran Muʿtazilī.45 The use of this reason unaided by revelation to acquire fiqhī and kalāmī knowledge is the subject of this research. 107-8. it might be safe to assume that. Given this. Aḥmad Maḥmūd Ṣubḥī. see p. however a common one is theology. 1949). This translation is only an approximation and I plan to use the Arabic term and its approximate English translation interchangeably. Sharḥ al-Maqāṣid min ʿIlm al-Kalām. ʿIlm al-kalām also has a polemical and an apologetic function. 2 vols. and cosmological questions. 2nd ed. Ibn Khaldūn. 793/1390). A specialist in ʿilm al-kalām (sg. 339/950). Abū al-Ḥusayn believes that any proper rational investigation must inevitably lead to the Mu‘tazilī understanding of Divine unity and justice. It is also a discipline concerned with metaphysical. a mutakallim is often engaged in polemical debates against non-Muslims and Muslims belonging to other sects in defense of his/her understanding of Islam. Abū al-Ḥusayn adopts the Basran Muʿtazilī definition of reason mentioned above. In the next section I particularly focus on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of reason to reach and support kalāmī conclusions. and in this sense reason becomes the same as those two theological concepts. Muqaddimat ibn Khaldūn. Saʿd al-Dīn Masʿūd b. 1401/1981).46 45 In the second section. mutakallim/ pl.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 17 knowledge he would have mentioned this objection as well. ABŪ AL-ḤUSAYN’S USE OF REASON IN KALĀM : THE LIMITS ON REVELATION ʿIlm al-kalām is a discipline that investigates theological issues related to the nature of God. 46 For more details on the definition of ʿilm al-kalām. It is difficult to find an accurate translation for ʿilm al-kalām. 1:18. mutakallimūn) usually expresses him/her self in the language and terminology common among the ancient Hellenistic philosophers. 458-60.. I explain another definition of reason that Abū al-Ḥusayn and other Muʿtazilah hold. see Abū Naṣr Muḥammad al-Farābī (d. His relation with humans. ʿUthmān Amīn (Egypt: Maṭbaʿat al-I‘timād. Divine unity and justice becomes part of the “knowledges” that comprise reason. 23-4 of this study. Fī ʿIlm al-Kalām: al- . (Pakistan: Dār al-Maʿārif al-Nuʿmāniyyah. ed. and political authority (imāmah). but is also a contradiction with “correct reason. As will be mentioned in more details. Iḥṣā’ alʿUlūm. ʿUmar alTaftazānī (d. Any contradiction with both principles is not only a contradiction with the Muʿtazilī creed.” In this sense. ontological.

36. 1405/1985). “ʿIlm al-Kalām. ʿAbd al-Jabbār. 49 Abū al-Ḥusayn. it does not make sense to refer to God’s Words to prove His good and just attributes. H. Wofson. al-Muʿtamad. 887. al-Muʿtamad. 15-8. s. A. Thus before knowing those Divine attributes (and related kalām issues) revelation has no authority.49 His position Muʿtazilah (Beirut: Dār al-Nahḍa al-ʿArabiyyah. just. Mutashābih al-Qur’ān. Aḥmad al-Hamadhānī. Furthermore. Therefore he concludes that the Divine attributes are among the primary evidence necessary to establish the authority of revelation. from a dialectical perspective. . 1976). 16:395. For that reason.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 18 The attributes of God (al-ṣifāt) are an integral part of ʿilm al-kalām.47 Abū al-Ḥusayn’s position is very similar: he says that humans will not be certain that revelation is trustworthy and infallible until they first know that God Himself is infallible. 1969). Abū alḤusayn argues that humans are left only with unaided reason to investigate the nature of God and His attributes. EI2. instead of revelation. 910.” 47 ʿAbd al-Jabbār b. 48 Abū al-Ḥusayn. al-Mughnī. it does not make sense to refer to revelation to discover the Divine attributes and then later use the Divine attributes to establish the authority of revelation. ‘Adnān Zarzūr (Cairo: Dār al-Turāth. referring to revelation to ascertain the attributes of God would rest the authority of revelation on a petitio principii. ʿAbd al-Jabbār often argues that humans cannot prove and appreciate the authority and veracity of revelation until they first know the attributes of the God who sent this revelation. 12:166. The Philosophy of the Kalam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. reason. 886-7. 393. Abū al-Ḥusayn suggests that in order to avoid this logical fallacy. Both Abū al-Ḥusayn and ʿAbd al-Jabbār argue that reason should play the primary role in investigating this aspect of ʿilm al-kalām. 17: 93. and does not need to commit evil. ed. 1-42. 315. should be used to investigate any kalām issue that is necessary to establish the authority and veracity of revelation.48 He adds that since the Divine attributes are important evidence to establish the authority of revelation.v. Therefore.

in Muḥammad ʿAmārah. Aḥmad al-Hamadhānī. “Knowledge and Taqlīd: The Foundations of Religious Belief in Classical Ash‘arism. For Gimaret’s argument. ed. They argue that without precluding evil and injustice from revelation it is impossible to establish its usefulness and probative value. For the Muʿtazilah.” Annales Islamologiques 15 (1979): 47-96. Sharḥ al-Uṣūl al-Khamsah. A History of Islamic Philosophy. Richard Frank. 3rd ed. I explain their arguments linking Divine unity and justice to proving the probative value of revelation. ‘Uthmān wrongly identified the edited manuscript as ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s Sharḥ al-Uṣūl al-Khamsah. Gimaret wrote an article arguing that the edited manuscript is rather Mānkdīm’s commentary on and paraphrastic reproduction of ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s original book Sharḥ al-Uṣūl al-Khamsah. Both scholars argue that Divine unity and justice are necessary to prove that God’s revelation includes neither evil nor injustice. (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 57-64. see D. 48. After reading the book it became clear to me that the manuscript ʿUthmān edited includes the words of two authors and not only one. 184-90. 2003). 2nd ed. see ʿAbd alJabbār b. Gimaret. In relation to Sharḥ al-Uṣūl al-Khamsah. Aḥmad al-Hamadhānī [Mānkdīm Shashdīw d. I only refer to Sharḥ al-Uṣūl al-Khamsah to understand the contemporary Muʿtazilī positions from certain theological questions and not to investigate ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s thought in particular. . 51 W. 53 For example. 425/1034]. Divine unity is more than an assertion of monotheism. Sharḥ.53 50 ʿAbd al-Jabbār. For more on ʿUthmān’s argument that the manuscript is ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s. 149-298. 1971). see ʿAbd al-Jabbār b. 1988). al-Mughnī. it is now widely accepted that A. In the following pages. ed. al-Mukhtaṣar fī Uṣūl al-Dīn.50 Among the Divine attributes that Abū al-Ḥusayn and ʿAbd al-Jabbār believe to be crucial for establishing the authority of revelation are Divine unity and justice (al-tawḥīd wa-l-ʿadl).e. 14:151-2. “Les Uṣūl al-Hamsa du Qāḍī ʿAbd alJabbār et leurs Commentaires. Montgomery Watt. 17:93. 2004). D.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 19 on this point is common among other Muslim theologians including ʿAbd al-Jabbār who expresses identical views on this issue. In all cases. Rasā’il al-ʿAdl wa-l-Tawḥīd (Cairo: Dār al-Hilāl. (New York: Columbia University Press.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 109 (1989): 37-62. Majid Fakhry.52 Their rejection of corporeality (i.51 Their understanding of Divine unity leads to other theological consequences such as the rejection of corporeality (tajsīm) and an assertion of the createdness of the Qur’ān. Islamic Philosophy and Theology. 25-8. introduction to ʿAbd al-Jabbār. which makes Gimaret’s identification more plausible. ʿAbd al-Karīm ʿUthmān (Cairo: Maktabat Wahbah. see ʿAbd al-Karīm ʿUthmān. God does not have a material body) led them to reject any anthropomorphic description of God because they consider anthropomorphism as tantamount to corporeality. 52 For a detailed explanation of the Muʿtazilī concept of Divine unity and its theological consequences.

He argues that the main evidence proving that God does not commit evil is that He is totally self sufficient (ghanī) and is never in need (ḥājah) and thus He has no need or motivation to commit evil.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 20 ʿAbd al-Jabbār sees that disproving corporeality is vital for establishing the authority of revelation.54 Through this argument ʿAbd al-Jabbār makes the authority and veracity of revelation contingent on upholding the non-corporeality of God. A revelation from such a being cannot then by default be trusted because there is a possibility that this corporeal being might commit injustice or evil in its revelations. He then links self sufficiency with non-corporeality and makes the authority of revelation contingent on both concepts. In none of his discovered works does Abū al-Ḥusayn explicitly connect non-corporeality with self-sufficiency. However. . evil and injustice can not be categorically precluded from the revelations of such a being. ʿAbd al-Jabbār concludes that revelations only from a totally self-sufficient being who will never need to commit evil to survive can be taken for granted as trustworthy and free from evil. ʿAbd al-Jabbār states that revelations from a corporeal being can not be taken for granted as good and just. 4:19-33. it can be inferred from his writings that he would agree with ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s statements mentioned in the previous paragraph. al-Mughnī. Revelations from such a being do not warrant the complete trust of the human mind. He argues that any corporeal body is insufficient (muḥtāj) and thus might commit evil to satisfy its needs. Therefore. Abū alḤusayn says that among the conditions to accept the performance of the religious duties (takālīf) mediated by revelation is to know that this revelation originates from a self-sufficient Being who 54 ʿAbd al-Jabbār. 6:177-80. In al-Muʿtamad. ʿAbd al-Jabbār adds that an insufficient being might then commit evil and injustice to satisfy the needs of its corporeal body and maintain its existence.

58 Abū al-Ḥusayn makes these statements while attempting to prove the probative value and usefulness of revelation. 96.57 and therefore are worthy of being followed.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 21 has no need to commit evil. 57 Abū al-Ḥusayn. Therefore. and thus.55 He also says that proving the authority of revelation depends on first establishing the self-sufficiency of God. given this dialectical context. It is obvious that Abū al-Ḥusayn’s statements here are very similar to ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s statements in which he makes the rejection of corporeality vital to establish the trustworthiness of revelation. 887. 908. 80-2. . He believes that self-sufficiency guarantees that nothing can either benefit or cause harm to God. 58 Abū al-Ḥusayn. al-Muʿtamad.56 Abū al-Ḥusayn adds that self-sufficiency ensures the usefulness of revelation. ‫ وﺑﺄﻧﮫ ﻋﺎﻟﻢ ﻏﻨﻲ ﻋﻦ ﻓﻌﻞ اﻟﻘﺒﯿﺢ وﻋﻦ‬،‫ وﺑﻮﺟﻮب اﻟﻮاﺟﺐ‬،‫ ھﻲ ﻛﻮﻧﮫ ﻋﺎﻟﻤﺎ ﺑﻘﺒﺢ اﻟﻘﺒﯿﺢ‬،‫"اﻋﻠﻢ أن ﺻﻔﺔ اﻟﻤﻜ ﱢﻠﻒ اﻟﺘﻲ ﻣﻌﮭﺎ ﯾﻤﻜﻦ اﻻﺳﺘﺪﻻل ﻋﻠﻰ اﻷﺣﻜﺎم‬ "‫اﻹﺧﻼل ﺑﺎﻟﻮاﺟﺐ‬ 56 Abū al-Ḥusayn. al-Muʿtamad. therefore God’s orders and prohibitions mentioned in His revelation are not for His own benefit but for the benefit of His creatures including humans. It necessitates other theological 55 Abū al-Ḥusayn. It is clear here that for Abū al-Ḥusayn the authority of revelation is contingent on first establishing that it comes from a self-sufficient Being. revelation should not be used to investigate Divine unity. Therefore. Also. reason is the only tool that is logically capable of addressing issues related to Divine unity. Abū al-Ḥusayn states that self-sufficiency is among the crucial conditions to know that God will not commit evil. A similar argument is made to show that Divine justice is crucial for establishing the authority of revelation. in his Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. Again the Muʿtazilī perception of Divine justice is not just a simple assertion of God’s adherence to objective criteria of justice. it seems that both scholars believe that Divine unity (specially the rejection of corporeality) is necessary to prove the veracity of revelation. al-Muʿtamad. because Divine unity will be later used as evidence for the authority of revelation. Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. in order to avoid a circular argument.

63 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 80-2. in his published books. depending on revelation to prove Divine justice and its theological consequences would rest the authority of revelation on a circular argument.59 Divine benevolence (luṭf). Sharḥ. idem. Such an argument would not stand any logical scrutiny. For that reason. Abū al-Ḥusayn does not mention the rational arguments by which he reached his belief in Divine unity and justice. According to this Mu‘tazilī concept. the concept of God’s adherence to the optimum benefit of humans (al-ṣalāḥ wa-l-aṣlaḥ).60 ʿAbd al-Jabbār states that Divine justice (and its theological consequences) is indispensable to preclude the possibility that revelation will contain evil or injustice. al-Muʿtamad. see ʿAbd al-Jabbār. Abū al-Ḥusayn argues that reason rather than revelation is the only suitable tool to investigate issues related to Divine justice and wisdom. Referring to revelation to establish those theological tenants would be referring to God’s words to establish His wisdom and justice. For a detailed description of the Muʿtazilī understanding of Divine benevolence see volume thirteen of ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s al-Mughnī.63 Divine justice is thus necessary to establish the authority and usefulness of revelation. through revelation. God will always create and put humans in the best situation (al-aṣlaḥ) and will always guide them. 180-1. To avoid such a dialectic fall. 60 For a detailed explanation of the Mu‘tazilī concept of Divine justice and its theological consequences. 518-28. see ʿAbd al-Jabbār. 112. . For more details. as can be inferred from his al-Muʿtamad and Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. 33. Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. However.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 22 consequences such as free will (qadar). al-Muʿtamad. Unfortunately.61 Abū al-Ḥusayn holds the same position. Therefore. He says that Divine wisdom (one of the theological consequences of Divine justice) is important to prove the usefulness of revelation. the belief that God’s revelation is free from futile orders and pointless prohibitions is contingent on first establishing that God is wise and just. Sharḥ. Mutashābih. al-Mughnī. 551. 62 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 371. Divine wisdom (ḥikmah). 9. Abū al-Ḥusayn is very explicit in his 59 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 299-528.62 God’s wisdom is necessary to rule out the possibility that He will do futile or evil acts. to their best interest (ṣalāḥ). 405. 14:7-180. 61 ʿAbd al-Jabbār.

77. consider Divine unity and justice (and their theological consequences) fundamental to establishing the veracity of revelation. In their works when Abū al-Ḥusayn and ʿAbd al-Jabbār speak about compatibility with reason (ʿaql).64 His dependence on reason in such theological 64 For example. predestination and anthropomorphism are not only incompatible with the Muʿtazilī creed. Since he believes that only reason can prove Divine unity and justice and their theological consequences. This shows that among the “knowledges” that comprise reason Abū al-Ḥusayn and ʿAbd al-Jabbār would include knowledge and belief in the Muʿtazilī perceptions of Divine unity and justice. Any rational effort leading to different theological conclusions would be corrupt. they are in fact referring to compatibility with their perceptions of Divine unity and justice and their theological consequences. and since he believes in those two theological principles. For Abū al-Ḥusayn. then it follows that he believes that the Muʿtazilī perception of Divine unity and justice is compatible with objective reason. al-Muʿtamad. Abū al-Ḥusayn. and the Muʿtazilah in general. Therefore. any “correct” rational investigation of the nature of God will only lead to the Muʿtazilī understanding of Divine unity and justice. see Abū al-Ḥusayn. This brings up another Muʿtazilī definition of reason. He refers to revelation to establish any other kalām position that he considers not to be relevant to proving the authority of revelation.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 23 belief in Divine unity and justice and their theological consequences. Abū al-Ḥusayn does not reject revelation because it is inherently incapable of establishing these theological positions. Taṣaffuḥ Al-Adillah. but are a challenge to the veracity of revelation and in discrepancy with “correct reason”. and many other Muʿtazilah. for them (and probably other Muʿtazilah as well). and not to compatibility with an objective rational criteria that is free from doctrinal presumptions. . 888. idem. therefore for dialectical reasons revelation is not a valid source of information on them.

ʿĪsā al-Tirmidhī (d. it is useful to give some brief definitions of the terms important for understanding his arguments. Aḥmad Shākir and others (Beirut: Dār Iḥyā’ alTurāth al-ʿArabī. Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Bāqī (Beirut: Dār Iḥyā’ alTurāth al.65 Abū al-Ḥusayn has to explain the existence of such texts without compromising his Muʿtazilī creed. 279/892). n. ed. see for example 2:115. Before going into his justifications. 5:366. 20:39. see for example Muslim b. al-Ḥajjāj (d. CD-ROM al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr. In terms of authenticity there are two types of textual evidence. For the Qur’ānic verses that might be used to support predestination. ed.ʿArabī. HARMONIZING REVELATION WITH REASON Abū al-Ḥusayn’s dependence on reason does not mean that he totally neglects revelation.d. 13:22.).d. For traditions that might be used to support predestination. in CD-ROM al-Jāmiʿ al-Kabīr. Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim. For traditions attributed to the Prophet that might be used to support anthropomorphism. see for example 9:51. see for instance Muḥammad b. those are the textual evidence that Muslim scholars believe to be beyond any doubt authentic. such as the Qur’ānic verses and traditions attributed to the Prophet that describe God in anthropomorphic terms or the ones that seem to uphold predestination. .261/875). The mutawātir Prophetic traditions are ones narrated by a large number of unrelated people whose “unrelatedness” would 65 For the Qur’ānic verses that might be used to support anthropomorphism.). 38:75. He has to come up with theories to show that his rationally acquired Muʿtazilī creed is in harmony with revelation. 57:22. Sunan al-Tirmidhī. First the conclusively authentic texts (qaṭʿī al-thubūt). This problem is particularly pressing because there are some aspects of revelation that appear to be in contradiction with the Muʿtazilī perception of Divine unity and justice.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 24 topics is motivated by his desire to avoid any logical fallacies and maintain the soundness of a rational argumentation for the authority of revelation. The only two types of conclusively authentic textual evidence are the Qur’ān and the mutawātir Prophetic traditions. 2037-42. n.

see Ṣubḥī al-Ṣāliḥ. ed. reason includes a belief in the rationally acquired Muʿtazilī principles of Divine unity and justice and their theological consequences.v.69 In several occasions in al-Muʿtamad. . ed. s. al-Muʿtamad. 565-6. and ḍaʿīf traditions according to the reliability of their narrations.70 As mentioned above. 68 For more details. EI2. there is the inconclusively authentic textual evidence (ẓannī al-thubūt). 454.” Āḥād traditions are also further divided into ṣaḥīḥ. 549-50.” 67 Abū ʿAmr b. it can be easily inferred that what Abū al-Ḥusayn means by reason is not objective reason that is free from any theological presumptions. 39. they are usually called āḥād traditions. al-Muʿtamad.v. 1959). 643/1245). 70 Abū al-Ḥusayn. see Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī. Nuzhat al-Naẓar fī Sharḥ Nukhbat al-Fikr fī Muṣṭalaḥ Ahl al-Athar. Abu al-Ḥusayn. The ones that do not fulfill these authentication criteria are discarded as fake (mawḍūʿ). ʿAlī b.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 25 make it impossible for them to collude to forge a tradition. However.67 Specialists in the discipline of ḥadīth have established criteria to evaluate the authenticity of the āḥād traditions. al-Ṣalaḥ (d. “Khabar al-wāḥid. For him. 69 This approach is best demonstrated in Abū al-Ḥusayn. Abū al-Ḥusayn also says that any āḥād tradition attributed to the Prophet that is in contradiction with “reason” must be inauthentic. he explicitly states that any āḥād tradition attributed to the Prophet that supports anthropomorphism or predestination must definitely either be a result of a later fabrication or an error in transmission. Nuzhat al-Naẓar. because the Prophet would never utter words that are in contradiction with “reason”. 552-3. 25-30. al-Muʿtamad. 641-2. ḥasan. 570-3. 2000). 549-50.66 Second. “Tawātur. On those last categories and further classifications. 66 For more details on mutawātir traditions. 1028. see Aḥmad b. 141-67. s. ʿUlūm al-Ḥadīth wa-Muṣṭalaḥuh (Damascus: Maṭbaʿat Jāmiʿat Dimashq. most traditions attributed to the Prophet are of this type. Ḥamdī al-Dimirdāsh (Mecca: Maktabat Niẓār Muṣṭafā alBāz. ʿĀ’ishah ʿAbd alRaḥman (Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif. 561. 1990). Muqaddimat ibn al-Ṣalaḥ wa-Maḥāsin al-Iṣṭilāḥ.68 Abū al-Ḥusayn is aware that there are a number of inconclusively authentic textual evidence (mainly āḥād traditions attributed to the Prophet) that are in contradiction with the Muʿtazilī perceptions of Divine unity and justice. 852/1449). 547-8. 558. āḥād traditions that fulfill the authentication criteria are considered to be only most probably and not conclusively authentic. EI2. Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d.

4 vols. Ta’wīl is used by some medieval scholars to refer to allegorical interpretations that do not remain faithful to the exoteric meanings of the verse. al-Malaḥmī (d. 770. Abū al-Ḥusayn does not always rush to declare an alleged Prophetic tradition as inauthentic. 5). Ibn al-Malaḥmī’s al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Dīn seems to be a relatively reliable source of information on Abū al-Ḥusayn in this specific context. al-Muʿtamad. 570-3. Only after this process of ta’wīl fails to harmonize the alleged tradition with “reason. see ʿAbd al-Jabbār. Ibn al-Malaḥmī. There are two versions of the Prophet’s reply. Rukn al-Dīn b. 641-2. Kitāb al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Dīn. I saw [it]”. “Light. Interestingly. 1028. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Ṣafā. whereas the second is. the first is. 549-50. ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s Muʿtazilī student Mānakdīm Shashdīw mentions an identical method to deal with such āḥād traditions. and when he did he made it clear to the reader (p.71 It is worth noting that in this context the Arabic term that Abū al-Ḥusayn uses for the word interpretation is ta’wīl and not the more commonly used term tafsīr. . “Light! How can I see it?” According to Ibn alMalaḥmī. 911/1505). whereas tafsīr is usually limited to an exoteric interpretation of a Qur’ānic verse. Al-Itqān fī ʿUlūm al-Qur’ān. Therefore. In their introduction to al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Dīn. 72 For more details on the different definitions of the terms ta’wīl and tafsīr. 536/1141) records Abū al-Ḥusayn’s ta’wīl of an alleged Prophetic tradition that is used to support the beatific vision of God on Judgment Day.” should the tradition in question be declared inauthentic. because it is in harmony with the Muʿtazilī 71 Abū al-Ḥusayn. Abū al-Ḥusayn prefers the second version. see Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūtī (d. Sharḥ. 4:138-40. he says that before the tradition is disallowed. vi). 73 In his al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Dīn.72 I found only one example in which Abū al-Ḥusayn is reported to have performed ta’wīl of an āḥād tradition attributed to the Prophet. a scholar should try to see if the tradition in question could be allegorically interpreted (tu’awwal) in a way that would make it compatible with “reason”.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 26 However. the editors state that Ibn al-Malaḥmī is the 6th/12th century main representative of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s Mu‘tazilī subschool (p. Ibn al-Malaḥmī adds that he rarely disagreed with Abū al-Ḥusayn’s theological teachings. See. 2006).73 In this tradition it is reported that the Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī (d. 32/652-3) asked the Prophet if he saw God. Ibn al-Malaḥmī says that the first part of his book is an abridgement of Abū alḤusayn’s Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah.

486-7. As mentioned above Abū al-Ḥusayn believes that the Prophet would never utter words that are in contradiction with Divine unity and justice. therefore they reject it. Abū alḤusayn does not rush to declare the first reply as fake. 4:140. See. 74 A number of Muʿtazilī scholars argue that accepting the beatific vision will lead to accepting that God has a corporeal body.75 In this example. al-Muʿtamad fī Uṣūl al-Dīn. However. He rather prefers to abandon its literal meaning and came up with another interpretation that makes the alleged tradition compatible with the Mu‘tazilī perception of Divine unity. neither in al-Muʿtamad nor in Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah does Abū al-Ḥusayn inform his readers how he explains the existence of Qur’ānic verses that appear to be in contradiction with the Muʿtazilī understanding of Divine unity and justice. However. for example ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s argument in his al-Mughnī. It is relatively easy to declare an inconclusively authentic tradition fake. Abū al-Ḥusayn does not mention how he intends to resolve this dilemma. there are several Qur’ānic verses that seem in contradiction with both Mu‘tazilī principles. Unfortunately. as mentioned earlier. 75 Ibn al-Malaḥmī. instead Abū al-Ḥusayn is reported to have stated that if the Prophet actually uttered the first reply. ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s words might offer some insights on the methods Abū al-Ḥusayn might have adopted to deal with such verses. . however this method is not possible when dealing with conclusively authentic textual evidence that are in contradiction with Divine unity and justice.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 27 rejection of the beatific vision. then this must be a reference to seeing the Angel Gabriel or that the Prophet saw “light” but did not see God Himself. It is then reasonable to assume that Abū al-Ḥusayn also believes that the Qur’rān would never bring information that are in contradiction with Divine unity and justice as well. Ibn al-Malaḥmī says that Abū al-Ḥusayn does not reject the authenticity of the first version.74 However.

all Qur’ānic verses would be interpreted in harmony with Divine unity and justice. The first is usually used to refer to unequivocal Qur’ānic verses. However. Muḥkam and Mutashābih are two exegetical terms. Given Abū al-Ḥusayn’s advise to allegorically interpret āḥād traditions that seem in contradiction with “Muʿtazilī reason” before declaring them fake. whereas the other is usually used to refer to equivocal Qur’ānic verses or ones that their connotations are unclear. 112:4. 1968). the Muʿtazilah differ on the details pertaining to these broad theological doctrines. 7. such verses he considers to be mutashābih. At the same time. 77 ʿAbd al-Jabbār.76 and concludes that all mutashābih verses must be interpreted in harmony with the muḥkam ones regardless of the literal meaning of the mutashābih verses. among them is Divine unity and justice. Mabāḥith fī ʿUlūm al-Qur’ān. 5 th ed. And other Qur’ānic verses that might be interpreted in a manner that rejects anthropomorphism. By this exegetical method. (Beirut: Dār al-ʿIlm li-l-Malayīn. .Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 28 ʿAbd al-Jabbār explicitly states that some Qur’ānic verses might appear to be in contradiction with the rationally acquired Muʿtazilī main theological principles. 18:29. The five theological principles are the theological beliefs that the Muʿtazilah unanimously accept. Unfortunately. including those with an apparent literal meaning in contradiction with both principles. It is also not explicitly stated why reason is entitled to determine the authentic parts of revelation. for more details. Abū al-Ḥusayn’s writings do not explicitly reveal why revelation should be interpreted according to the dictates of “correct reason” and not vice versa. the intermediate position. whereas he considers the verses that are explicitly in harmony with the Muʿtazilī five principles to be muḥkam. see Ṣubḥī al-Ṣāliḥ. it seems safe to assume that Abū al-Ḥusayn would have accepted ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s method in dealing with the Qur’ānic verses that seem in contradiction with Divine unity and justice. 74:382. Mutashābih. for example 42:11. Abū al-Ḥusayn makes it very clear that humans’ trust in revelation is based on the 76 There are a number of Qur’ānic verses that might be interpreted in a manner that supports freewill. The remaining three are the promise and the threat. for example 2:286. and not revelation that would distinguish between correct and corrupt rational endeavors. and commanding the good and forbidding the evil.77 This means that even the Qur’ānic verses that their literal meaning would appear to be in contradiction with Muʿtazilī theology will be allegorically interpreted to harmonize them with the Muʿtazilī creed. 281-6. This is an oversimplified explanation.

it makes sense to find Abū al-Ḥusayn always keen to interpret revelation in harmony with Divine unity and justice. 284.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 29 rationally acquired Muʿtazilī understanding of Divine unity and justice. 908. and futile acts. Since Divine unity and justice is the main evidence establishing the authority of 78 Abū al-Ḥusayn.78 If those principles are undermined then the authority of revelation will be undermined as well. If revelation contradicts those rationally acquired principles it would undermine the evidence that supports its own authority. injustice. This guarantees that His revelation is free from evil and error. just. Therefore. 179-81. Therefore he argues that it is inconceivable that revelation would contradict those rationally acquired principles because they are the main evidence proving the veracity of revelation. He states that the authority of revelation is based on the rational arguments that support the Muʿtazilī understanding of the Divine attributes (i. 931. . Humans trust revelation because God is wise. 419. it would not make sense to find revelation bringing information that would undermine its own authority and veracity. the Qur’ān and the Prophetic Sunnah must always be in harmony with Muʿtazilī reason. 371. Divine unity and justice). 886-8. Moreover. 551. Thus. It would not make sense to interpret the Qur’ān and the Prophetic Sunnah in contradiction with “reason” because contradiction with “reason” would undermine their own authority. this assures that God’s proscriptions and prescriptions are not futile or harmful rather they are beneficial and aim at avoiding harm. Furthermore. and self sufficient. These Divine attributes (that are established by rational arguments) ensure that God will not commit evil. 405. al-Muʿtamad. it is impossible that the Qur’ān and the Prophetic Sunnah would include information that undermines their own authority. From his point of view.e. ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s statements are even more explicit.

al-Mughnī. 12:166. al-Mughnī. 17:93. ʿAbd alJabbār and Abū al-Ḥusayn (and probably other Muʿtazilah) are in agreement. 393. Thus. Abū al-Ḥusayn has to avoid depending on revelation to establish the Divine attributes. . ʿAbd al-Jabbār. 17:315. He rather adopts this epistemic hierarchy of evidence in kalām for dialectical reasons. ABŪ AL-ḤUSAYN’S USE OF REASON IN UṢŪL AL-FIQH 79 80 ʿAbd al-Jabbār.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 30 revelation.e.80 Therefore the correct interpretation of revelation is always the one that will keep revelation in harmony with reason. 16:395. The Divine attributes themselves will be later used to establish the authority of revelation. Nonetheless. This epistemic hierarchy of evidence is adopted to avoid grounding the authority of revelation on a circular argument and not because he holds that reason is superior to revelation. This theory places reason on top of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s epistemic hierarchy of evidence in kalām. Divine unity and justice) that proved its own veracity. To maintain a sound rational argument for the authority of revelation. The next section examines Abū al-Ḥusayn’s epistemic hierarchy of evidence in uṣūl al-fiqh and compares it to his hierarchy of evidence in kalām. it is important to note that Abū al-Ḥusayn does not believe that reason is superior to revelation. On this point.79 therefore revelation cannot be used as evidence to disprove the same evidence (i. “reason” determines the authentic parts of revelation and determines the correct interpretation of revelation as well. In uṣūl al-fiqh Abū al-Ḥusayn adopts a slightly different epistemic hierarchy of evidence. Reason becomes the decisive factor in identifying the authentic Prophetic traditions and determining the correct interpretation of revelation. on kalām issues that are relevant to Divine unity and justice.

For more details on the definition of uṣūl al-fiqh.p. 1413/1992). his uṣūl al-fiqh appreciates reason and revelation. I argue that revelation has more authority in his uṣūl alfiqh than in his kalām.: Maktabat al-Daʿwah al-Islāmiyyah. a rejection of reason. ʿAbd al-Wahhāb Khallāf.”81 On the mircro level. However. Ḥamza b. al-Tijāriyyah. al-Kubrā. see Abū al-Ḥusayn. However. (n. vii. Uṣūl alFiqh. 10-1. 2 vols. Muḥammad al-Khuḍarī. his dependence on revelation in uṣūl al-fiqh does not mean. In this section. 78-9. He depends more on revelation in the uṣūl al-fiqh matters that reason is incapable of addressing. Sharḥ alLumaʿ. especially the Divine attributes. but each has a different role to play. Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad b. ed. are not present in uṣūl al-fiqh and this allowed him to award revelation more powers in it. 505/1111). Muḥammad al-Ghazālī (d. 1:5. and for him both are indispensable. ʿIlm Uṣūl al-Fiqh. The definition I adopt here indicates that the function of uṣūl al-fiqh is to both construct new laws and justify current ones. al-Muʿtamad . 157-63. I conduct this investigation by analyzing a number of uṣūl al-fiqh questions. On the macro level uṣūl al-fiqh (usually translated as legal theory and I plan to use the Arabic term and its English translation interchangeably) are the “theoretical and philosophical foundation[s] of Islamic law. as will be shown. 1997). some recent historians 82 . (Cairo: al-Maktabah. uṣūl al-fiqh are the methods jurists use to read and interpret the Qur’ān and the Prophetic Sunnah to reach and support their fiqhī conclusions.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 31 To conduct this comparison. 1418 H). In addition to the Qur’ān and the Prophetic Sunnah. However. 8 th ed. ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm alDīb (Mansoura: al-Wafā’. ed. 12-5. al-Shīrāzī. 14-20. I argue that attempting to categorize Abū al-Ḥusayn’s uṣūl al-fiqh as rationalist or scripturalist is misleading. 1389/1969). A History of Islamic Legal Theories (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.p.82 Fiqh is the positive laws that uṣūl al-fiqh 81 Wael Hallaq. Uṣūl al-fiqh are the tools through which fiqh is formed and through which the Qur’ān and Prophetic Sunnah produce positive laws that Muslims can apply in their daily lives. Abū al-Maʿālī al-Juwaynī (d. alMustaṣfā min ʿIlm al-Uṣūl. n. consensus and legal reasoning also serve as uṣūl al-fiqh methods to form fiqhī regulations. 478/1085). Zuhayr Ḥāfiẓ (Medina. al-Burhān fī Uṣūl al-Fiqh. I mainly investigate Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of reason in relation to revelation in reaching fiqhī conclusions. Rather. Also the dialectical reasons that necessitate his dependence on reason in some aspects of kalām.). 6 th ed.

evil. 2002): 177-201. This concept. . “Moral Epistemology.83 His trust in revelation is based on his rationally established theology. al-Muʿtamad. of statements or beliefs. 80-1.” For more details see his article in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. 86 Abū al-Ḥusayn. al-Muʿtamad. Abū al-Ḥusayn concludes that all revelational stipulations. argue that legal theory is not a tool that creates new laws but one that only justifies current laws.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 104.” 84 Abū al-Ḥusayn. To understand the evidence and the process through which Abū al-Ḥusayn reaches his fiqhī conclusions I start by examining his moral epistemology. “The Epistemology of Qiyās. 80. s. sees that there is a “symbiotic” relationship between revelation and maṣlaḥah.88 Therefore humans can safely depend on it to mediate moral assessments of human actions. 87 El-Tobgui. 85 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 88 Abū al-Ḥusayn.86 Abū al-Ḥusayn. common to both ethics and epistemology.” Also. For an argument that supports my definition. necessitates that God will always refrain from issuing purposeless.v. Abū al-Ḥusayn argues. 78. 713.84 Therefore. “Moral Epistemology. 83 Marcus Singer defines moral epistemology as “the discipline. in questions of justification and justifiability in epistemology. the rationally acquired Muʿtazilī concept of al-aṣlaḥ is based on the idea that God’s wisdom and justice makes Him act in the best benefit of His creatures. s. see The Online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 32 produce. As mentioned in the previous section. and in ethics of actions as well of judgments of actions and also general principles of judgments. 988.v. that studies the epistemic status and relations of moral judgments and principles.” 318.4 (1984): 679-689. 573-4. as Carl El-Tobgui notes. must lead to benefit (maṣlaḥah)85 and fend off harm (fasād). because what revelation condones is by default good and beneficial and whatever it condemns is always repugnant and harmful. al-Muʿtamad. 180. ed.87 Abū al-Ḥusayn explicitly says that God’s orders are for the wellbeing of humanity. It has developed out of an interest. Uṣūl al-fiqh are abstract regulations whereas fiqh is the body of exact rules and regulations deduced from revelation (via uṣūl al-fiqh) that Muslims are expected to follow. by default and based on his rational theology. at the intersections of ethics and epistemology. see Wael Hallaq. al-Muʿtamad. Bernard Weiss (Leiden: Brill.” in Studies in Islamic Legal Theory. “Considerations on the Function and Character of Sunni Legal Theory. for example see Sherman Jackson’s argument in his “Function and Formalism: Toward a Functional Analysis of Usul al-fiqh. or harmful orders. 908.

813.92 For example. 92 Abū al-Ḥusayn.91 However. He states that all religious rituals are Divinely ordained for the benefit of Humanity. the benefit that they bring. al-Muʿtamad. Abū al-Ḥusayn says that pure reason does not prohibit these acts and does not consider them harmful.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 33 Abū al-Ḥusayn’s trust in revelation is clear in his argument for the goodness (ḥusn) of and benefit behind religious rituals (ʿibādāt) ordained by revelation. see his al-Muʿtamad. Therefore. al-Muʿtamad. al-Muʿtamad. 90 .94 However. 888-9. Elsewhere Abū al-Ḥusayn explicitly says that unaided reason would have considered the five daily prayers as futile. 403-5. This is also true about other religious proscriptions such as the prohibition of consuming intoxicants and blood. 94 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 89 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 888. al-Muʿtamad. and prevent Him from issuing harmful orders. it is taken for granted that the performance of religious rituals is good and beneficial. 80-1.89 In his al-Muʿtamad. 725-6. 710. Abū al-Ḥusayn states that unaided reason is incapable of discovering the good nature in and benefit behind rituals such as the five daily prayers and fasting during Ramaḍān. 301. 178-80. 93 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 405. and the harm caused by omitting them can only be known by revelation and not through any rational effort. 888-9. since revelation proscribes them. 574. He also adds that reason can not ascertain the details necessary for performing the five daily prayers such as the number of prostrations required for each prayer.93 Such ritualistic details. Instead he argues that God’s wisdom necessitates that He will not burden humans with obligations without a reward. 724. they must be harmful. Only revelation is capable of discovering the benefits behind such a ritual. see his al-Muʿtamad. 682. Abū al-Ḥusayn. 91 Abū al-Ḥusayn. he does not attempt to rationally prove that the religious rituals ordained by revelation are good and beneficial.90 He adds that God’s wisdom necessitates that all of His prescriptions are for the benefit of humans including the religious rituals. unaided reason cannot inform humans of the reasons why it is obligatory [and thus beneficial] to fast on the first day of Ramaḍān whereas it is not blameworthy [thus not harmful] not to fast one day before Ramaḍān. only revelation can do this task. al-Muʿtamad. al-Muʿtamad. will not issue futile orders.

this process is called qiyās. 2005). .97 This might suggest that for Abū al-Ḥusayn certain acts are not essentially beneficial or good and they only acquire their aspect (wajh) of goodness or repugnancy after the advent of revelation. George Hourani translates this term as ‘ground’ or ‘aspect’. For his definition of aṣl.95 he argues that an ʿillah sharʿiyyah (i. knowing the ʿillah behind a fiqhī judgment (ḥukm) in order to perform qiyās). and therefore there is no maṣlaḥah in this act before the advent of revelation. Here. I adopt the term ‘aspect’ as a translation of the technical term wajh. “A Tenth-Eleventh Century Treatise. yet the wajh was only tenuously a part of the act’s existence.” 197-206. 1971). see Abū al-Ḥusayn. ed. 126. idem.” in Philosophy. Beings and their Attributes: The Teaching of the Basrian School of the Muʿtazila in the Classical Period (Albany: State University of New York Press. “Reason and Revealed Law: A Sample of Parallels and Divergences in Kalām and Falsafa. The ʿillah is used to extend the same judgment mentioned in the text to another similar case not covered by the text. 704-5. Dimitri Gutas (Aldershot: Ashgate. A. al-Muʿtamad. and Mysticism in Medieval Islam. Theology. al-Muʿtamad. 62-89. ʿillah known or inferred from revelation) might be the wajh96 of benefit (maṣlaḥah) behind performing certain acts.e. 121-2. For Abū al-Ḥusayn’s definitions of ʿillah. see Hallaq. Reinhart notes that the Basran Muʿtazilah believe that the wajh of an act is “part of the ontological composite that constituted the nature of a thing or act. 714-5.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 34 This symbiotic relationship between revelation. 104-8. Richard Frank. esp. 97 Abū al-Ḥusayn. The case covered by the text is called aṣl while the case to which the judgment is transferred is called farʿ. In his discussion of taʿlīl (i.e. 701-3. The word wajh is of importance here and deserves some attention. see Abū al-Ḥusayn.” See.’ see his Before Revelation. VII 125. see his Islamic Rationalism The Ethics of ʿAbd al-Jabbār (Oxford: Clarendon Press. for his discussion of the term. 96 R.” Reinhart adds that the Basran Muʿtazilah came up with this idea to correct the rigid moral theory of the Baghdadi Muʿtazilah who wish 95 ʿIllah is the reason behind the fiqhī judgment as mentioned or inferred from a text (naṣṣ). 146. Frank translates the term wajh as “the manner of the act’s occurrence. on the one hand. This problem is complicated by Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of the terms ʿillah and wajh (defined below). 1978). For more details on these terms and their use in qiyās. 131-5. al-Muʿtamad. Reinhart translates wajh as ‘aspect. and benefit and goodness on the other should not mislead us to conclude that Abū al-Ḥusayn believes that actions become good or repugnant just because of a revelatory stipulation.

consequently. 99 . al-Muʿtamad. 146. 126. to make the moral quality part of what made it what it was. 1003. “Reason and Revealed Law.e.99 and both heavily depend on books authored by ʿAbd alJabbār. Before Revelation. 102 Abū al-Ḥusayn. Islamic Rationalism. for this might entail the inability of the mind to perceive its qualities. idem. Yet the Basrans were unwilling to divorce the acts’ being entirely. 98 Instead the Basrans come up with the concept of wajh to mitigate the Baghdadi position and be able to contextualize each act. Nonetheless. Here Reinhart bases his discussion of the term wajh mainly on Richard Frank’s discussion of it. al-Muʿtamad .” VII 125. similar acts could not differ in value though they differed in context. 14:22-3. Abū al-Ḥusayn’s teacher ʿAbd al-Jabbār is more explicit on this point. 89-92. such a theory entailed too rigid a view of the act’s moral qualities – since. see Abū al-Ḥusayn. 100 For example. Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah. Abū al-Ḥusayn does not discuss the term wajh in any of his published books. al-Mughnī. Also see Hourani. Abū al-Ḥusayn says that “for an order (amr. 101 ʿAbd al-Jabbār. 33-4. his definition and discussion of goodness (ḥusn) and repugnance (qubḥ) in al-Muʿtamad and Taṣaffuḥ al-Adillah makes it clear that he thought that the wajh of an act is the factor that causes an act to be either good or repugnant.100 What is not clear from Abū alḤusayn’s definitions is whether revelation awards this wajh to the act or it only discovers it in the act. 177. a religious prescription) to be good. then revelation only discovers an aspect (wajh) already in the act that unaided reason was only incapable of noticing. mainly al-Mughnī. Beings and their Attributes. If revelation only discovers it. For the Basrans.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 35 to lodge…[the acts’] moral quality within its very being. i. it must add another good character (ṣifah) to a [already] good action. idem. If it awards it to the act then revelation is the only source of goodness or repugnancy of an act not the act’s essential being. This suggests that he 98 Reinhart.101 There are three passages indicating that Abū al-Ḥusayn agrees with his teacher. Frank. He holds that revelation only discovers the wajh of goodness or repugnancy of an act and does not award it to the act.”102 Here Abū al-Ḥusayn is saying that revelation will add another good character to what is already a good action. 131-5.

Nonetheless. Abū al-Ḥusayn adopted an “intermediate position” between the rational and revelational moral assessments of human acts. God) will not issue an order unless there is a benefit that will be accumulated from this order. Nonetheless.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 36 does not believe that revelation randomly awards the wajh of goodness or repugnancy to an act. in such cases revelation is the ultimate guide. al-Muʿtamad.e. probably like most Muʿtazilah. this indicates that he believes that any Divine proscription prohibits an act that is already evil and the act does not become evil simply because of the Divine proscription. Abū al-Ḥusayn says that the Wise (i. Since Muslims trust revelation. al-Muʿtamad. unaided human reason is. 104 . does not believe that acts become good and evil just because a Divine decree.104 He also adds that Sharīʿah is prescribed either to ensure a benefit or fend off a harm. it is not accurate to describe Abū al-Ḥusayn’s moral assessment scheme as either rationalist or scripturalist. and know that revelation is always in harmony with reason. therefore they should 103 Abū al-Ḥusayn. Unlike the stereotypical view of the Muʿtazilah. incapable of discovering the good and repugnant nature of certain actions. Revelation will condone what is condoned by reason and will condemn what is condemned by it. As mentioned in the previous section. Abū al-Ḥusayn. the prohibited act must be evil. 586. 182.105 Both statements indicate that he believes that God issues an order or a prohibition to maintain a certain benefit or avoid a harm and not because of a random fiat. in some cases. These statements indicate that Abū al-Ḥusayn. Finally. 105 Abū al-Ḥusayn. Revelation rather confirms the goodness of and adds another good aspect to an already good act.103 Again. he says that for a prohibition to be good. 405. God issues orders and prohibitions in response to the good (and useful) or evil (and harmful) nature of these acts. al-Muʿtamad. Human’s trust in revelation is supported by rational theological arguments. Second. thus the authority of revelation is based on reason.

al-Muʿtamad. 107 . and the harmful.107 His position is again based on the rationally acquired theological concept of al-aṣlaḥ according to which God will always act in the best interest of humans. REASON AND REVELATION IN INTERACTION The role Abū al-Ḥusayn awards to reason and revelation in uṣūl al-fiqh reveals the interdependent relationship between them in his thought. God would have left humans unguided. and for Abū al-Ḥusayn the concept of al-aṣlaḥ necessitates that God will never leave humans unguided. revelation needs reason as evidence for its authority. In fiqh and uṣūl al-fiqh. Abū al-Ḥusayn. the Sharʿī judgment (ḥukm Sharʿī) of actions before the advent of revelation. are they permitted. 108 Abū al-Ḥusayn. Abū al-Ḥusayn argues that God will constantly provide humans either with rational or revelatory evidence to warn them against harmful acts. or neutral?106 Abū alḤusayn sees that. This interdependence will be further demonstrated by discussing four uṣūl al-fiqh issues. acts. First. he assumes that reason has the ability to reach the right judgment on this issue. Therefore. K. Otherwise. thus permitted. al-Muʿtamad. and reason needs revelation to ascertain the ethical and deontological value of actions that reason is incapable of ascertaining. proscribed. 869. 868-79.108 Therefore.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 37 follow it knowing that it will lead to good and beneficial acts. thus proscribed. 106 For more on this question. if revelation is silent on an issue. Reinhart’s Before Revelation. see A. in the absence (or silence) of revelation. reason has the ability to distinguish between the useful. Abū al-Ḥusayn’s moral epistemology uncovers the interdependence of reason and revelation in his uṣūl al-fiqh.

Abū al-Ḥusayn says that there is no rational proof for the infallibility of the consensus (ijmāʿ) of the Muslim ummah. 336. they must be harmful. At the same time. 579. beneficial. On these issues Abū al-Ḥusayn awards reason a free hand. al-Muʿtamad.112 He also adds that there is no rational basis for the prohibition of consuming intoxicants113 and blood. he does not believe that revelation arbitrarily imposes obligations on humans. al-Muʿtamad. 111 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 1015. al-Muʿtamad. 114 Abū al-Ḥusayn. he makes it clear that rational judgments are valid until altered by revelation. reason has established the veracity of revelation. therefore humans already know that revelation is trustworthy. 301. any rational judgment (ḥukm ʿaqlī) is just as valid as a revelatory one (ḥukm Sharʿī). 424. Therefore. reason can offer fiqhī assessments in the silence of revelation and not in contradiction to it. However. and not arbitrary. and in case of contradiction revelation will alter the rational judgment. 888. 11.110 In other words. all Divine orders are good. 110 . Thus he allows revelation to alter reason without stripping reason of its authority in fiqh. Abū al-Ḥusayn. As previously mentioned. Similar statements are produced on p. in the absence of revelation. 113 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 112 Abū al-Ḥusayn. reason has established Divine wisdom and justice. Reason does not distinguish it’s consensus from that of other nations. al-Muʿtamad. he declares that. unless revelation interferes. according to Abū al-Ḥusayn. 715 "‫"اﻟﻌﻘﻞ ﯾﻘﺘﻀﻲ اﻟﺤﻜﻢ ﻣﺎ ﻟﻢ ﯾﻨﻘﻠﻨﺎ ﻋﻨﮫ دﻟﯿﻞ ﺷﺮﻋﻲ‬. His presumptive position is that reason could issue valid judgments.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 38 Abū al-Ḥusayn goes one step further. Therefore.109 Revelation is silent on many issues and numerous novel cases always appear that are not addressed by revelation. but 109 Abū al-Ḥusayn.111 For example. 399. that their consensus is unique and infallible. 875 "‫"اﺑﺎﺣﺔ ذﻟﻚ ﻓﻲ اﻟﻌﻘﻞ ﺗﺠﺮي ﻣﺠﺮى اذن ﺳﻤﻌﻲ‬. Revelation has enough authority to alter reason not because it can arbitrarily do so. Moreover. 908-9. revelation informs Muslims. al-Muʿtamad. Nonetheless. al-Muʿtamad. 583 "‫"ﻣﺎ وﺟﺐ ﻓﻲ اﻟﻌﻘﻞ ﻓﮭﻮ ﻣﻦ اﻟﺪﯾﻦ‬. as Abū alḤusayn argues.114 nonetheless revelation proscribed both.

therefore God will never issue such obligations.116 He mentions the example of intolerable religious obligations (taklīf mā lā yuṭāq). If God were to be proven unwise. because we know that a wise God will never issue unwise obligations.115 Because Divine wisdom and justice are among the indispensable evidence that proves the authority of revelation. Therefore. This is done by allowing reason to particularize (takhṣīṣ) revelation.118 Abū al-Ḥusayn considers their exclusion to be necessary to maintain the veracity and authority of revelation. 272. . This is also valid in fiqh. A History of Islamic Legal Theories. al-Muʿtamad. Hallaq defines takhṣīṣ as “the exclusion from the general of a part that was subsumed under that general. therefore they are relived from religious duties until they gain the mental abilities necessary to understand revelation. al-Muʿtamad.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 39 because rational theological arguments have already established the veracity and goodness of revelation. Abū al-Ḥusayn states that we already know that God is wise. 116 Abū al-Ḥusayn. Requiring children and the insane to follow revelation is unwise. reason is allowed to particularize general 115 W. any literal interpretation of revelation that would undermine Divine wisdom must be erroneous. For dialectical reasons. then His revelation will be deprived of its authority. 117 Abū al-Ḥusayn. al-Muʿtamad. Revelation places general obligations on all Muslims. Since imposing intolerable obligations is unwise. 118 Abū al-Ḥusayn. The only case in which reason is allowed to alter a fiqhī stipulation dictated by revelation is when this stipulation contradicts Divine justice which for Abū al-Ḥusayn is among the rational basis on which the authority of revelation rests. Young children and the insane cannot understand revelation.” See Hallaq. 405. 45-6.117 and God will never issue unwise and harmful obligations. 284. However. children and the insane should be excluded (through particularization) from these general obligations. any fiqhī obligation ordained by revelation that will undermine God’s wisdom must be particularized.

672. Finally. 122 Abū al-Ḥusayn. the scholar should see if both traditions mention optional regulations. 844-5. in his opinion. al-Muʿtamad. al-Muʿtamad. 679-84. it makes more sense that the Prophet would only teach humans what they cannot know by their independent reason.120 Tarjīḥ is used by jurists to resolve the problem of the existence of conflicting textual evidence by adopting one and forsaking the other. He also says that in such a case. Reason is again utilized to maintain the authority and veracity of revelation. al-Muʿtamad. Here I examine Abū alḤusayn’s methods of tarjīḥ between conflicting traditions attributed to the Prophet. a scholar should prefer the particular (khāṣṣ) to the general (‘āmm) tradition. This is the only case in uṣūl al-fiqh in which reason has more authority than revelation. because. 121 Abū al-Ḥusayn. 120 . a scholar should prefer the tradition with the more reliable chain of narration (isnād). Abū al-Ḥusayn. If both have equally reliable chains of narration. The second uṣūl al-fiqh issue I study is the concept of preponderance (tarjīḥ). If this fails then the jurist should investigate whether one tradition has abrogated (nasakh) the other. Abū al-Ḥusayn suggests following the tradition that is in contradiction to the judgment of reason.121 When all those attempts fail to identify the epistemically stronger tradition. He advises the reader not to assume that the tradition in harmony with reason is more worthy of being followed.122 Only when this final attempt 119 Here I borrow Hallaq’s translation of the term tarjīḥ that he used in his A History of Islamic Legal Theories. He says that where a jurist faces two contradicting traditions ascribed to the Prophet the jurist is required to give preponderance to one over the other as authentic or more relevant to the case in question.119 Abū al-Ḥusayn defines tarjīḥ as declaring one inconclusive (and/or equivocal) evidence (amārah) as stronger than another.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 40 revelatory obligations that will undermine the authority of revelation. if this does not help.

124 and therefore he.125 In addition. 430. 123 Abū al-Ḥusayn. Abū al-Ḥusayn. āḥād Prophetic traditions are not allowed to abrogate mutawātir ones for the same reason. 125 Abū al-Ḥusayn. It seems that Abū al-Ḥusayn has two epistemic hierarchies.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 41 fails to distinguish the tradition worthy of being followed should the jurist follow the one in harmony with reason. al-Muʿtamad. in which he seems to award textual evidence relatively more authority than rational ones. 549-50. 124 . al-Muʿtamad. whereas āḥād traditions are inconclusively authentic. one for kalām and another for uṣūl al-fiqh. the only kind of evidence that is inferior to āḥād Prophetic traditions is the rationally acquired evidence. āḥād Prophetic traditions are at the bottom of his epistemic hierarchy. Abū al-Ḥusayn. In theology he awards reason relatively more authority than revelation. like others.e. In his uṣūl al-fiqh reason and rationally oriented evidence (such as qiyās) are always ranked below textual evidence. he says that āḥād Prophetic traditions are not allowed to abrogate any Qur’ānic verse. what types of evidence produce more reliable knowledge. like many other jurists. 648. al-Muʿtamad. However. This is not exactly the case in uṣūl al-fiqh. i. For example. states that āḥād traditions only yield suppositional (ẓannī) knowledge. they are kept at the bottom of his epistemic hierarchy of evidence used to reach fiqhī conclusions.123 A third way to analyze Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of reason in uṣūl al-fiqh is by examining his epistemic hierarchy of evidence through which fiqhī conclusions may be reached. In fact. This hierarchy is obvious in the relation between rational evidence and āḥād Prophetic traditions. because the Qur’ān is conclusively authentic. all other evidence is preferred to them. 672. puts them in an inferior position to conclusive (qaṭʿī) evidence such as the Qur’ān and mutawātir Prophetic traditions.

128 Again. 717. it includes a considerable amount of rational speculation. This shows that rational evidence occupy a low status in his hierarchy of evidence.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 42 According to Abū al-Ḥusayn. first ‘illah manṣūṣah which is an ʿillah that is explicitly mentioned in the aṣl and the jurist does not have to use his reason to ascertain it. He explicitly states that in case of a contradiction between qiyās and any textual evidence (khabar) a scholar is advised to follow the textual evidence. and they can neither abrogate the Qur’ān nor the mutawātir Prophetic traditions. like many other legal theorists.127 Moreover. Abū al-Ḥusayn.126 Āḥād traditions have only suppositional (ẓannī) epistemic value and occupy a low status in Abū al-Ḥusayn’s epistemic ladder. 443-4. here I borrow the term Hallaq uses in his A History of Islamic Legal Theories to refer to Muslim jurists specialized in uṣūl al-fiqh. in a position below all textual evidence. again. 127 . an ʿillah mustanbaṭah which is an ʿillah that is not explicitly mentioned in the aṣl. 446-7. His discussion of the types of ʿīlāl reveals. Although qiyās in fiqh has to be based on textual evidence. his preference for textual evidence in uṣūl al-fiqh to evidence that includes a wider margin of rational effort. A similar hierarchy is noticed when analyzing Abū al-Ḥusayn’s views on the relationship between qiyās and textual evidence. and a jurist has to rationally infer 126 Abū al-Ḥusayn. His discussion of the relation between qiyās and āḥād traditions show that he considers qiyās to have less epistemic value than āḥād Prophetic traditions. al-Muʿtamad. Nonetheless. al-Muʿtamad. Secondly. Therefore rational evidence seems to be at the very bottom of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s epistemic hierarchy of evidence used in fiqh. Abū al-Ḥusayn speaks about two kinds of ʿilāl. even lower than āḥād traditions.128 Abū al-Ḥusayn discusses the different types of ʿilal on which a qiyās judgment can be based. the only kind of evidence that āḥād Prophetic traditions can overrule are rational ones. they can abrogate rational evidence.

In sum. to me.130 CONCLUSION The comparison of Abū al-Ḥusayn’s use of reason in kalām and uṣūl al-fiqh shows that he has two different methods in using reason one for uṣūl al-fiqh and another for kalām. 130 . and concludes that textual evidence enjoy more authority than rational ones in Abu al-Ḥusayn’s fiqh. Both types of ʿilal can be used to reach a judgment through qiyās. reason enjoys more authority than revelation. he believes that both reason and revelation produce the same “truth. however Abū al-Ḥusayn prefers the ʿillah manṣūṣah to the mustanbaṭah. This. shows that in his uṣūl al-fiqh rationally oriented evidence has an inferior status to the textual ones. he has to depend on reason rather than revelation in his investigation of the kalām issues that are relevant for establishing the authority of revelation. See “The Epistemology of Qiyās. 847. To avoid this logical fallacy and maintain a sound rational argumentation for the authority of revelation. his dependence on reason is not a rejection of revelation.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 43 it from the aṣl. Furthermore. al-Muʿtamad. However. are necessary to establish the veracity of revelation. it seems that he always prefers to rely on textual evidence rather than rationally oriented ones to reach fiqhī judgments. In kalām. Using revelation to establish the kalām issues that will later be used to prove the authority of revelation grounds the authority of revelation on a circular argument. El-Tobgui also discusses Abū al-Ḥusayn’s epistemic hierarchy of evidence used in fiqh. and says that the manṣūṣah is more reliable than the mustanbaṭah.129 This shows his preference to a judgment reached through a qiyās that includes less rational speculation. nor does he hold the superiority of reason over revelation in kalām.” 319. especially the Divine attributes.” and that there is no inherent contradiction 129 Abū al-Ḥusayn. He sees that many kalām issues.

in his uṣūl al-fiqh revelation enjoys relatively more authority than reason. humanity’s trust in revelation is not a fideistic belief in its authority. However. All proscriptions and prescriptions communicated by revelation are for the benefit of humanity. This trust in the authority of revelation does not mean that revelation can arbitrarily condone and condemn actions. Therefore. After all he assumes that all rational fiqhī judgments are valid as long as they do not contradict revelation. Any apparent contradiction between reason and revelation is a result of misinterpreting revelation or a text wrongly considered to be part of it. kalām rational arguments are the main support for the authority of revelation in uṣūl al-fiqh and fiqh. This does not mean that Abū al-Ḥusayn rejects the use of rational evidence in to reach fiqhī conclusions. therefore he argues that it does not make sense that revelation would contradict the rational evidence that proves its authority. Abū al-Ḥusayn is aware that some of the revelatory stipulations. Mainly because rational evidence is the main proof for the authority of revelation. For Abū al-Ḥusayn. and in this sense revelation is indebted to reason. Since the authority of revelation has already been rationally established. he holds that revelation must be interpreted in harmony with reason and not the opposite. rather this shows the incapability of the unaided human mind to understand the . are contrary to what reason will consider necessary and beneficial. Whereas in uṣūl al-fiqh the dialectical motives that encourage Abū al-Ḥusayn to depend more on reason is not as present as they are in theology.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 44 between them. after all humans did not trust revelation until reason proved that it deserves their trust. At the same time. this does not prove that revelation issues irrational stipulations. For him. then it follows that humans can safely follow revelation even if sometimes they fail to rationally ascertain the grounds of the revelatory stipulations. Also. such as the religious rituals and dietary regulations.

This does not mean that reason is the ultimate guide on all religious matters. reason has the upper hand. In other theological issues revelation plays an equally important role. Unlike kalām. He believes that reason is sometimes incapable of ascertaining the rationale behind some of the religious stipulations. firstly. In uṣūl al-fiqh matters that are not relevant for such a task. infallible. and free from evil. reason and revelation are in need of each other and each play an indispensable role in his thought. In the uṣūl al-fiqh matters that are relevant to establishing the authority of revelation. as mentioned above the authority of revelation has already been established by kalām rational arguments that established the justice and wisdom of God. Furthermore. Thus. The role of reason in each discipline is mainly determined by the dialectical context of the question being addressed. Divine unity and justice guarantee that revelation is good. For him. Again this symbiotic relationship between goodness and revelation in fiqh and uṣūl al-fiqh is supported by the Divine attributes of unity and justice. revelation has the upper hand. Therefore. in most fiqh and uṣūl al-fiqh matters there are no dialectical reasons that force certain rational conclusions on revelation. This is because. Moreover. All religious stipulations that are not relevant to establishing the authority of revelation are to be decided by revelation.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 45 rationale behind those revelatory provisions. This is also true about uṣūl al-fiqh matters. the authority of revelation is indebted to the rational investigation of the Divine attributes. and not the opposite. then there is no need to put revelation to further rational investigations. Abū al- . in fiqh and uṣūl al-fiqh reason is interpreted in harmony with revelation. Secondly. Reason plays a primary role in investigating the theological issues that are relevant for establishing the authority of revelation. he does not have one fixed method in using reason in both kalām and uṣūl al-fiqh. it is inaccurate to describe Abū al-Ḥusayn’s kalām and uṣūl al-fiqh as either scripturalist or rationalist. two concepts reached by rational speculation.

The Muʿtazilah in kalām and the Ḥanafiyyah in fiqh have been always considered the proponents of rationalism. To study Abū al-Ḥusayn’s thought through the prism of this dichotomy pre-determines an either or conclusion. It is rather about how to use reason and revelation to reach religious conclusions. how to maintain a rational argument for the authority of revelation. Labeling medieval Muslim scholars and schools of thought (both legal and theological) as rationalist or scripturalist will not help in understanding medieval Muslim theology and law. He does not have one categorical position from reason or revelation that is applicable to all uṣūl al-fiqh and kalām topics. whereas the Ashaʿriyyah in kalām and the Ḥanābilah in fiqh have been considered the representatives of . This study focuses primarily on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s contributions to the debate around the role of reason and revelation in law and theology. this might be also true about many other medieval Muslim jurists and theologians. scripturalist paradigm that is dominant within modern scholarship of Islam. Such an approach will rather pre-determine misleading conclusions. Such an attempt would require a much more extensive and broader study. and a debate around which kalām and uṣūl al-fiqh issues are relevant for this argument. Such polarizing conclusions are simplistic and fail to understand the complexities of the legal and theological debates current among medieval Muslim scholars. Abū al-Ḥusayn’s ideas explained above show that it is erroneous to use rationalism and scripturalism as absolute typologies to classify him and analyze his thought. The main aim here is to shed more light on Abū al-Ḥusayn’s contributions to this debate and test his conclusions against the rationalist vs. His position from the role of reason is rather determined by the dialectical framework of each argument.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 46 Ḥusayn is both a scripturalist and a rationalist. The debate is not about the authority of reason or revelation. It does not attempt to address this debate in the different Muslim legal and theological systems in general.

Modern scholars of Islam should free themselves from this polarizing typology.Mohamed Ahmed Abdelrahman Eissa 47 scripturalism. Adhering to this naïve typology will prevent them from focusing on and appreciating the real questions and debates that are current among the medieval Muslim jurists and theologians. .