The Ash`aris: The Qadariyya and Mu`tazila
Dr. Gabriel F. Haddad

Al-Suyuti succintly defined Qadari doctrine as "the claim that evil is created by human beings."[8] Ibn Abi Ya`la relates the following description of the Qadariyya: "They are those who claim that they possess in full the capacity to act (al-istita`a), free will (al-mashEE'a), and effective power (al-qudra). They consider that they hold in their grasp the ability to do good and evil, avoid harm and obtain benefit, obey and disobey, and be guided or misguided. They claim that human beings retain full initiative, without any priority in Allah's will for their acts, nor even in His knowledge of them. Their doctrine is similar to that of Zoroastrians and Christians. That is the very root of heresy."[9]

The Qadariyya or "Libertarians" are little different from the rationalists known as the Mu`tazila or "Isolationists" and both are traced back to the same founder, `Amr ibn `Ubayd Abu `Uthman al-Basri (d. ~144), who walked out of the teaching circle of al-Hasan al-Basri and "isolated" himself. Al-Dhahabi introduces him as "the ascetic (al-zahid), the devout (al-`abid), the Qadari, the elder of the Mu`tazila and the first of them."[10] He returned onto the Ahl al-Sunna the label of Qadariyya --in the opposite sense of those who over-emphasize Allah's Decree --in a book entitled al-Radd `ala al-Qadariyya.

The status of Qadaris in the eyes of Ahl al-Sunna varied. Al-Subki spoke of "a difference of opinion concerning the apostasy (takfEEr) of the Qadariyya."[11] Ibn Abi Hatim in the introduction to his al-Jarh wa al-Ta`dil (1:373) relates that Ibn al-Mubarak stopped narrating from `Amr ibn `Ubayd because "he used to propagate the doctrine of absolute free will." Al-Dhahabi refuses to call `Amr a disbeliever,[12] although some early sources such as Ibn Abi `Asim's (d. 287) al-Sunna, al-Ajurri's (d. 360) al-Shari`a and Ibn Batta's (d. 387) al-Ibana relate that the Qadariyya were held so by Ibn `Abbas, Mujahid, `Umar ibn `Abd al-`Aziz, Malik ibn Anas, Ibn al-Mubarak, Sufyan al-Thawri, and Ahmad ibn Hanbal among others.

The fact is that Sufyan al-Thawri, Ibn al-Mubarak, and Ahmad all narrated from Qadaris, such as Thawr ibn Yazid, Dawud ibn al-Husayn, Zakariyya ibn Ishaq, Dawud al-Dastuwa'i and others, all of which are also among Bukhari and Muslim's narrators as shown by Suyuti's list of Qadaris in the two books of Sahih in his Tadrib (1:389). These narrators could never have been retained if the imams had considered them disbelievers. However, the verdict of apostasy is true from Imam Malik who did not narrate from a single Qadari in his Muwatta'. Malik held that they should be killed unless they repented, and the narrations reporting his position of takfEEr of the Qadariyya are sound.[13]

Imam al-Nawawi gave the following explanations of the belief in Allah's Decree in his "Commentary on the Forty Hadiths":

The way of the People of Truth is to firmly believe in Allah's Decree. The meaning of this is that Allah has decreed matters from pre-eternity and that He knows that they shall take place at times known to Him and at places known to Him; and they do occur exactly according to what He has decreed.

Know that there are four kinds of decrees:

(a) The Decree in the Divine Foreknowledge. It is said concerning it: Care (`inaya) before friendship (wilaya), pleasure before childbirth, and continual harvest from first-fruits. Allah the Exalted said: "He is made to turn away from it who has been made to turn away" (51:9). In other words, one is turned away from hearing the Qur'an and from believing in this life who was driven from them in pre-eternity. Allah's Messenger said: "Allah does not destroy except one who is already destroyed."[14]

(b) The Decree in the Preserved Tablet. Such Decree may be changed. Allah said: "Allah erases what He will, and He consolidates what He will, and with Him is the Mother of the Book" (13:39). We know that Ibn `Umar used to say in his supplications: "O Allah, if You have foreordained hardship for me, erase it and write felicity for me."

(c) The Decree in the womb concerning which the angel is ordered to foreordain one's sustenance, term of life, and whether he shall be unfortunate or prosperous.

(d) The Decree which consists in joining specific forewritten matters to the appointed times in which they are to befall, for Allah the Exalted has created both good and evil and has ordained that they should befall His servant at times appointed by Him.

The evidence that Allah Almighty created both good and evil is His saying: "The guilty are in error and madness. On the day they are dragged to the fire on their faces, they will be told: 'Taste the touch of hell.' Lo! We created every thing with proportion and measure (qadar)" (54:47-49). That verse was revealed concerning the proponents of absolute free will or Qadariyya who were thus told: "That belief of yours is in hellfire."

As further evidence of what has been decreed the Exalted said: "Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the Cleaving from the evil of what He has created" (113:1). The reading of that oath at the time something good befalls Allah's servant will repel (foreordained) evil before it reaches him. There is also in the hadith that good deeds and upholding family ties repel a bad death and eventually turn it into a good one.[15] Also, "Supplication (al-du`a) and affliction (al-bala') are suspended between heaven and earth, vying, and supplication repels affliction before the latter is able to come down."[16]

The Mu`tazila claimed that Allah the Exalted has not foreordained matters, that His knowledge does not precede them, that they begin to exist only when they occur and that He knows them only at that time. They lied concerning Allah. Exalted is He above their falsehoods, and higher yet. They went into oblivion.

Now the latter-day Qadariyya say that the good is from Allah while the bad is from other than Him. Allah is also Exalted high above such a statement. In a sound hadith the Prophet said: "The Qadariyya are the Zoroastrians of this Community."[17] He named them Zoroastrians because their school of thought resembles that of Zoroastrian dualism. The Dualists claim that good is effected by light and evil by darkness, and thus earned their name. Similarly the proponents of free will ascribe the good to Allah and the bad to other than Him, whereas He is the creator of both good and evil.

The Imam of the Two Sanctuaries said in his Kitab al-Irshad that some of the Qadariyya said: "It is not we but you (Ahl al-Sunna) who are the Qadariyya because of your belief in the so-called Decree." Al-Juwayni answered these ignoramuses that they had ascribed the power of decree to themselves, and whoever claimed, for example, the power of evil and ascribed it to himself, he has earned its label, rather than one who ascribes it to other than himself and denies any authorship of it.[18]


[8] In Tadrib al-Rawi (1:389).
[9] In Tabaqat al-Hanabila (1:32) in the entry of Ahmad ibn Ja`far al-Istakhri.
[10] Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' (6:330 #858).
[11] Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (2:277).
[12] In Mizan al-I`tidal (3:280).
[13] See Ibn Abi `Asim, al-Sunna (p. 87-88 #197-199) and al-Dhahabi, Siyar (7:415).
[14] Narrated from Ibn `Abbas and Abu Hurayra by Bukhari and Muslim: "None perishes with Allah except he who is bound for destruction." Ibn Hajar said in Fath al-Bari (book of Riqaq, Chapter 31 #6491): "That is, he who is adamant in clinging to evil in his resolve, his speech, and his deed, and avoids good by design, speech, and deed."
[15] The following hadiths are related from the Prophet: "In truth, charity (al-sadaqa) certainly extinguishes the Lord's anger and repels a bad death." Narrated from Anas with a weak chain by Tirmidhi, who said it is a single-narrated (gharEEb) hadith as he related it. Also: "Verily, because of charity and keeping uterine family ties Allah increases life, repels a bad death, and repels all kinds of evils." Narrated from by Abu Ya`la al-Musili in his Musnad. Also: "Keeping family ties and good manners builds up one's house and increases life." Narrated from `A'isha by Ahmad in his Musnad.
[16] Something similar is authentically related from the Prophet by the following: Ibn Majah in the introduction to his Sunan (Muqaddima #10, hadith on qadar from Thawban) and the book of Fitan (#66); Tirmidhi in his Sunan (Witr #21, Qadar #6); Ahmad, with three chains in the Musnad; and Ibn Hibban in his Sahih.
[17] A nearly-mass-narrated (mashhur) hadith narrated from eight Companions by Abu Dawud, Tabarani, al-Hakim in al-Mustadrak (1:85), Ahmad in the Musnad, Bayhaqi, al-Bazzar, Bukhari in his Tarikh, al-Lalika'i, Ibn `Asakir, and others. Also established as authentic is the longer version narrated from Ibn `Umar whereby the Prophet said: "Every Community has its Zoroastrians, and the Zoroastrians of my Community are those who say there is no Decree (qadar). If they fall sick do not visit them, and if they die do not pray over them." Al-Qari cited five others hadiths against them in his commentary of Abu Hanifa's Musnad.
[18] See al-Juwayni's al-Irshad ila Qawati` al-Adilla fi Usul al-I`tiqad ("The Guidance to the Definitive Proofs Concerning the Foundations of Belief"), chapter entitled "The Blame of the Qadariyya" (p. 224-225).

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