Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari

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Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari
Personal Details
Title Imam al-Mutakallimin, Imam Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jama'ah
Born AH 260 (873/874)
Died AH 324 (935/936)
Ethnicity Arab
Era Islamic golden age
Religion Islam
Jurisprudence Sunni
Main interest(s) Islamic theology

Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (874–936 A.D.) (Arabic: أبو الحسن الأشعري‎‎) was a Shafi'i scholar and theologian who founded the school of tenets of faith that bears his name (Ash'ari).[1]


Al-Ash'ari was born in Basra,[2] Iraq, and was a descendant of the famous companion of Muhammad, Abu Musa al-Ashari.[1] As a young man he studied under al-Jubba'i, a renowned teacher of Mu'tazilite theology and philosophy.[3] He remained a Mutazalite until his fortieth year when al-Ash'ari saw Muhammad in a dream 3 times in Ramadan. Muhammad told him to support what was related from himself, that is, the traditions (hadiths).[4] After this experience, he left the Mu'tazalites and became one of its most distinguished opponents, using the philosophical methods he had learned.[2] 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 up to three hundred works, from which only four or five are known to be extant.[5]


After leaving the Mu'tazili school, al-Ash'ari formulated the theology of Sunni Islam.[6] He was followed in this by a large number of distinguished scholars, most of whom belonged to the Shafi'i school of law.[7] The most famous of these are Abul-Hassan Al-Bahili, Abu Bakr Al-Baqillani, al-Juwayni, Al-Razi and Al-Ghazali. Thus Al-Ash'ari’s school became, together with the Maturidi, the main schools reflecting the beliefs of the Sunnah.[7]

In line with Sunni tradition, al-Ash'ari held the view that a Muslim should not be considered an unbeliever on account of a sin even if it were an enormity such as drinking wine or theft. This opposed the position held by the Khawarij.[8]

Al-Ash'ari also believed it impermissible to violently oppose a leader even if he were openly disobedient to the commands of the sacred law.[8]

Al-Ash'ari spent much of his works opposing the views of the Mu'tazili school. In particular, he rebutted them for believing that the Qur'an was created and that deeds are done by people of their own accord.[7] He also rebutted the Mu'tazili school for denying that Allah can hear, see and has speech. Al-Ash’ari confirmed all these attributes stating that they differ from the hearing, seeing and speech of creatures, including man.[7]

Qadi Iyad the Maliki said of him: He composed the major works for the Ashari school and established the proofs for Sunni Islam and established the attributes of God that the people of innovation negated. He established the eternality of the speech of God, His will, and His hearing… The people of Sunnah held fast to his books, learned from him, and studied under him. They became intimately familiar with his school of thought and this school grew in number of students so that they could learn this way of defending the Sunnah and adducing these arguments and proofs to give victory to the faith. In doing this, these students took on his name as well as his students’ students so they all became known as Asharis. Originally they were known as the muthbita (those who make firm), a name given to them by the Mu'tazilites since they affirmed from the Sunnah and the Shari'a what the Mu'tazilites negated… Therefore the people of Sunnah from the East and the West use his (al-Ashari) methodology and his arguments and he has been praised by many as well as his school.

Taj al-Din al-Subki said of him: The way of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari is the same way that the esteemed scholars follow and the notable of the four schools of law who know the permissible from the prohibited, who are engaged in giving victory to the religion of Muhammad follow.

Al-Asnawi said of him: He (Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari) was the one who stood to defend the people of Sunnah and who suppressed the Mu'tazilites and others of grave innovation by both his tongue and pen. He is the one who authored great works, and his fame is too great to have to elucidate it here.

Qadi Ibn Farhun al-Maliki said of him: He (Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari) was a follower of the Maliki school of law and he authored works for the people of the Sunnah and he adduced arguments for the establishment of the Sunnah and those things that the people of innovation refuted… He established these clear arguments and proofs from the Qur'an and Prophetic traditions as well as sound rational arguments. He suppressed the arguments of the Mu'tazilites and those apostates after them. He wrote these simple works that God has benefited the Muslims with; he debated the Mu'tazilites and was victorious over them. Abu Hasan al-Qabisi used to praise him and he even authored a treatise regarding him so whomever asks concerning al-Ashari and his school in which he praises him and serves him justice. Abu Muhammad ibn Abi Zayd and others from the leaders of the Muslims also praised him.[9]


  1. Abu Musa al-Ashari
  2. Abi Barda
  3. Bilal (Ruler of Basra)
  4. Musa
  5. Abdullah
  6. Ismail
  7. Salim
  8. Abu Bashr Ishaq
  9. Ismail
  10. Abul Hasan Ashari


Shah Waliullah, an 18th century Sunni Islamic scholar stated:

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.[10]


The Ashari scholar Ibn Furak numbers Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari's works at 300, and the biographer Ibn Khallikan at 55;[11] 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,[12] 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[13]
  • Kitāb al-ibāna 'an usūl al-diyāna,[14] is according to his disciples a forgery[15] attributed to Al-Ashari; a supposed exposition of his developed theological views and arguments against Mutazilite doctrines where he recanted his previous beliefs. But the Salafists generally claim that it marks his late repentance et his return to the bleifs of the "salaf". The book was supposedly written after he repented from his orthodox Ahlus Sunnah beliefs to heterodoxical anthropomorphic beliefs following his encounter with the extreme sectarian outlaw Al-Hasan ibn 'Ali al-Barbahari and was primarily an attempt to call his previous followers back to Islam.[16]

Early Islam scholars


  1. 1.0 1.1 I.M.N. Al-Jubouri, History of Islamic Philosophy: With View of Greek Philosophy and Early History of Islam, p 182. ISBN 0755210115
  2. 2.0 2.1 John L. Esposito, The Islamic World: Abbasid-Historian, p 54. ISBN 0195165209
  3. Marshall Cavendish Reference, Illustrated Dictionary of the Muslim World, p 87. ISBN 0761479295
  4. William Montgomery Watt, Islamic Philosophy and Theology, p 84. ISBN 0202362728
  5. I. M. Al-Jubouri, Islamic Thought: From Mohammed to September 11, 2001, p 177. ISBN 1453595856
  6. John L. Esposito, The Oxford History of Islam, p 280. ISBN 0199880417
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 http://www.arabnews.com/node/211921
  8. 8.0 8.1 Jeffry R. Halverson, Theology and Creed in Sunni Islam: The Muslim Brotherhood, Ash'arism, and Political Sunnism, p 77. ISBN 0230106587
  9. Fatwa No. 8001. Who are the Ash'arites? - Dar al-Ifta' al-Misriyyah
  10. Izalat al-Khafa, p. 77, part 7.
  11. Beirut, III, p.286, tr. de Slaine, II, p.228
  12. ed. H. Ritter, Istanbul, 1929-30
  13. ed. and tr. R.C. McCarthy, Beirut, 1953
  14. tr. W.C. Klein, New Haven, 1940
  15. http://www.darultahqiq.com/problems-with-al-ibana-of-imam-al-ashari-by-shaykh-wahbi-ibn-sulayman-ghawiji/
  16. Richard M. Frank, Early Islamic Theology: The Mu'tazilites and al-Ash'ari, Texts and studies on the development and history of kalām, vol. 2, pg. 172. Farnham: Ashgate Publishing, 2007. ISBN 9780860789789

Further reading

  •  Thatcher, Griffithes Wheeler (1911). [https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikisource.org%2Fwiki%2F1911_Encyclop%C3%A6dia_Britannica%2FAsh%27ar%C4%AB "Ash'arī" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>