Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari bigraphy, stories - Muslim scholar

Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari : biography

874 - 936

Abū al-Hasan Alī ibn Ismā'īl al-Ash'arī (874 – 936) () was a Muslim Arab theologian and an early follower of the Mu'tazila school

before studying under Abdullah ibn Sa'eed ibn Kullaab whom he was a follower of according to Ibn Taymiyyah. During this period of his life, a number of al-Ash'ari's students went on to propagate this sunni theology. 


Muslims consider him to be the founder of the sunni Ash'ari tradition of Aqeedah with followers such as Abul-Hassan Al-Bahili, Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani, Imam Al-Haramain Abul-Ma’ali Al-Juwaini, Al-Razi, an-Nawawi, ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, as-Suyuti and Al-Ghazali.

Al-Ash'ari was opposed to the views of the Mu'tazili school for its over-emphasis on rationalisation and philosophical ijtihad and reasoning.

The historian, Al-Dhahabi said of al-Ash'ari: "I saw four works of Abu al-Hasan relating to Aqidah theological fundamentals in which he mentioned the principals of the school of thought of the early scholars, the salaf, pertaining to the attributes. He said in each of them, 'We leave them as they are,' and then saying, 'This is my position by which I practice my religion and they are not to be interpreted to other than their apparent meanings.'"al-Dhahabi, Siyar 'Alam Al-Nubala, vol. 15, pg. 86-7, Mu'assasah al-Risalah, Beirut, 11th edition. Al-Dhahabi then quoted Abu al-Hasan, in the latter's book entitled Al-'Amd fi al-Ruyah, listing the books he had authored, saying the following, "... And a book about the attributes, the largest of our books, in which we contradict what we had previously authored in correcting the Mu'tazili school of thought. Other Muslim authors, however, dispute the historicity of this; and believe that his work, al-Ibaanah, was tampered to suit the salafi school of thought.

The Islamic scholar al-Kawthari states that "The Ibana was authored at the first of his return from Mu‘tazilite thought, and was by way of trying to induce [n: the Hanbali literalist] Barbahari (d. 328/940) to embrace the tenets of faith of Ahl al-Sunna. Whoever believes it to be the last of his books believes something that is patently false. Moreover, pen after pen of the anthropomorphists has had free disposal of the text—particularly after the strife (fitna) that took place in Baghdad [n: after A.H. 323, when Hanbalis ("the disciples of Barbahari") gained the upper hand in Baghdad, Muslims of the Shafi‘i madhhab were beaten, and anthropomorphism became the faith (‘aqida) of the day (Ibn Athir: al-Kamal fi al-tarikh, 7.114)]—so that what is in the work that contradicts the explicit positions transmitted from Ash‘ari by his own disciples, and their disciples, cannot be relied upon (al-Sayf al-saqil, 108)."


The Ashari scholar Ibn Furak numbers Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari's works at 300, and the biographer Ibn Khallikan at 55;Beirut, III, p.286, tr. de Slaine, II, p.228 Ibn Asāker gives the titles of 93 of them, but only a handful of these works, in the fields of heresiography and theology, have survived. The three main ones are:

  • Maqālāt al-islāmīyīn, it comprises not only an account of the Islamic sects but also an examination of problems in kalām, or scholastic theology, and the Names and Attributes of Allah; the greater part of this works seems to have been completed before his conversion from the Mutaziltes.
  • Kitāb al-luma
  • Kitāb al-ibāna 'an usūl al-diyāna, an exposition of his developed theological views and arguments against Mutazilite doctrines. However the works is disputed as the last or the first books upon rejecting Mu'tazilite as mentioned by Imam Abu al-Hasan `Ali ibn Ibrahim al-Muqri (Ibn Matar) who died in the year 306: "Imam al-Ash`ari composed it in Baghdad upon his arrival there."


Al-Ash'ari was born in Basra, Iraq, a descendant of the famous companion of Muhammad and arbitrator at Siffin for Ali ibn Abi Talib, Abu Musa al-Ashari. He spent the greater part of his life at Baghdad. Although belonging to an orthodox family, he became a pupil of the great Mutazalite teacher al-Jubba'i (d.915), and himself remained a Mutazalite until his fortieth year. In 912 he left the Mu'tazalites and became one of its most distinguished opponents, using the philosophical methods he had learned. Al-Ash'ari then spent the remaining years of his life engaged in developing his views and in composing polemics and arguments against his former Mutazalite colleagues. He is said to have written over a hundred works, from which only four or five are known to be extant.


A Mujadid appears at the end of every century: The Mujadid of the first century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah, Umar bin Abdul Aziz. The Mujadid of the second century was Imam of Ahlul Sunnah Muhammad Idrees Shaafi. The Mujadid of the third century was the Imam of Ahlul Sunnah, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari. The Mujadid of the fourth century was Abu Abdullah Hakim Nishapuri.Izalat al-Khafa, p. 77, part 7.
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