The "Ash'ari theology" (Arabic الأشاعرة "al-asha`irah") is a school of early Muslim speculative theology founded by the theologian Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 324 AH / 936 AD). The disciples of the school are known as Ash'arites, and the school is also referred to as Ash'arite school.

It was instrumental in drastically changing the direction of Islamic theology, separating its development radically from that of theology in the Christian world.


In contrast to the Mutazilite school of theologians, the Asharite view was that comprehension of unique nature and characteristics of God were beyond human capability. And that, while man had free will, he had no power to create anything. It was a Taqlid-based view which did not assume that human reason could discern morality. A critical spirit of inquiry was far from absent in the Asharite school. Rather, what they lacked, was a trust in reason itself, separate from a moral code, to decide what experiments or what knowledge to pursue.

Factors affecting the spread of the school of thought include a drastic shift in historical initiative, foreshadowing the later loss of Muslim Spain and Columbus' landing in the Western Hemisphere - both in 1492. But the decisive influence was most likely that of the new Ottoman Empire, which found the Asharite views politically useful, and were to a degree taking the advantages of Islamic technologies, sciences, and openness for granted. Which, for some centuries after as the Ottomans pushed forth into Europe, they were able to do - losing those advantages gradually up until The Enlightenment when European innovation finally surpassed and eventually overwhelmed that of the Muslims.

Promoting figures


Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari was noted for his teachings on atomism, among the earliest Islamic philosophies, and for al-Ash'ari this was the basis for propagating a deterministic view that Allah created every moment in time and every particle of matter. Thus cause and effect was an illusion. He nonetheless believed in free will, elaborating the thoughts of Dirar ibn Amr' and Abu Hanifa into a "dual agent" or "acquisition" ("iktisab") account of free will. [Watt, Montgomery. Free-Will and Predestination in Early Islam. Luzac & Co.: London 1948.]

While al-Ash'ari was opposed to the views of the Mu'tazili school for its over-emphasis on reason, he was also opposed to the views of certain orthodox schools such as the Zahiri (literalist), Mujassimite (anthropomorphist) and Muhaddithin (traditionalist) schools for their over-emphasis on taqlid (imitation) in his "Istihsan al‑Khaud": [M. Abdul Hye, Ph.D, [ Ash’arism] , "Philosophia Islamica".]


Despite being named for Ash'ari, the most influential work of this school's thought was "The Incoherence of the Philosophers", by the Persian polymath al-Ghazali (d. 1111). He laid the groundwork to "shut the door of ijtihad" in the subsequent centuries in all Sunni Muslim statesFact|date=February 2008. It is one of the most influential works ever producedFact|date=February 2008. Ibn Rushd (Averroes), a philosopher, famously responded that "to say that philosophers are incoherent is itself to make an incoherent statement." Ibn Rushd's book, "The Incoherence of the Incoherence", attempted to refute Al-Ghazali's views, though the work was not well received in the Muslim communityFact|date=February 2008.

His book "The Revival of the Religious Sciences in Islam" was the cornerstone of the school's thinkingFact|date=February 2008, and combined theology, skepticism, mysticism, Islam and other conceptions, discussed in depth in the article on Islamic philosophy.

Other figures

*Ibn al-Haytham (Alhacen) (d. 1039) was an Iraqi Arab polymath who was a pioneer of the scientific method, modern optics, experimental physics, experimental psychology, psychophysics, phenomenology, scientific skepticism, and visual perception. He was also a critic of Aristotelian physics, Ptolemaic astronomy and the emission theory. His "Book of Optics" is considered one of the most influential books in physics.
*Al-Biruni (d. 1048) was a Persian polymath who was a pioneer of anthropology, geodesy, Indology, experimental astronomy, and experimental mechanics. He was also a critic of Aristotelian physics, the Aristotelian theory of gravity and Ptolemaic astronomy.
*Fakhr al-Din Razi (d. 1209) was a Persian mathematician, physicist, physician, philosopher, and a master of kalam. He wrote an encyclopedia of science, which was influential, and a later referent for such modern efforts as the Islamization of knowledge, which have similar intention. He was also a critic of Aristotelian logic and a pioneer of inductive logic.
*Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) was a North African-born Arab Muslim polymath, historian, pedagogue and philosopher who was the pioneer of demography, cultural history, historiography, the philosophy of history, sociology, and the social sciences in general. His "Muqadimmah" is still referenced today in these fields.

Other works of universal history from al-Tabari, al-Masudi, Ibn al-Athir, and Ibn Khaldun himself, were quite influential in what we now call archaeology and ethnology. They worked in a relatively modern style that historians of the present would recognize.

Influence and modern assessment

The influence of the Asharites is still hotly debated today.

Most agree that the Asharites put an end to philosophy as such in the Muslim world, but permitted these methods to continue to be applied to science and technologyFact|date=February 2008. The 12th-to-14th century marked the peak of innovation in Muslim civilization. During this period many remarkable achievements of engineering and social organization were made, and the ulema began to generate a fiqh based on taqlid ("imitation based on authority") rather than on the old ijtihad. Eventually, however, modern historians think that lack of improvements in basic processes and confusion with theology and law degraded methods. The rigorous means by which the Asharites had reached their conclusions were largely forgotten by Muslims before The Renaissance, due in large part to the success of their effort to subordinate inquiry to a prior ethics - and assume ignorance was the norm for humankind.

Modern commentators blame or laud Asharites for curtailing much of the Islamic world's innovation in sciences and technology, then (12th century to 14th century) leading the world. This innovation was not in general revived in the West until The Renaissance, and emergence of scientific method - which was based on traditional Islamic methods of ijtihad and isnad (backing or scientific citation). The Asharites did not reject these, amongst the ulema or learned, but they stifled these in the mosque and discouraged their application by the lay public.

The Asharites may have succeeded in laying the groundwork for a stable empire, and for subordinating philosophy as a process to fixed notions of ethics derived directly from Islam - perhaps this even improved the quality of life of average citizens. But it seems the historical impact was to yield the initiative of Western civilization to Christians in Europe.

Some argue, however, that the Asharites not only did not reject scientific methods, but indeed promoted them. Ziauddin Sardar points out that some of the greatest Muslim scientists, such as Ibn al-Haytham and Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, who were pioneers of the scientific method, were themselves followers of the orthodox Ash'ari school of Islamic theology. [Ziauddin Sardar, [ Science in Islamic philosophy] ]

ee also

*Early Islamic philosophy
*Islamic philosophy
*Islamization of knowledge


External links

* [ The Ash'aris: In the Scales of Ahl us-Sunnah]
* W. Kayani, [ The Political Factors that brought the Asharite School to a majority] , May 2005.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Ash'ari — Abou Hassan Al Ash ari Sa Jeunesse , ses études Abou Hassan Al Ash ari passa son enfance à Bassorah avant de partir poursuivre ses études à Bagdad. Il y étudia notamment le droit auprès d Abou Ishâq Al Marwazi et le hadith auprès de Zakariyyâ Ibn …   Wikipédia en Français

  • ASH‘ARI (AL-) — ASH‘AR 壟 AB 樓 L ネASAN ‘AL 壟 BEN ISM ‘ 壟L AL (874 env. 935) Fondateur de l’école de théologie musulmane à laquelle se sont ralliés la majorité des sunnites. Né à Ba ルra, mort à Baghd d, al Ash‘ar 稜, d’abord disciple d’al Djubb ’ 稜, quitte le… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Ashʿarī, Abū al-Ḥasan al- — ▪ Muslim theologian born 873/874, Basra, Iraq died c. 935, /936, Baghdad       Muslim Arab theologian noted for having integrated the rationalist methodology of the speculative theologians into the framework of orthodox Islām. In his Maqālāt al… …   Universalium

  • Ash{ʽ}arī, Abū al-Ḥasan al- — born 873/874, Basra, Iraq died 935/936, Baghdad Muslim Arab theologian. He probably belonged to the family of Abū Mūsā al Ashʽarī, one of the Companions of the Prophet. He joined the Mutazilah school and compiled scholarly opinions in his Maqālāt …   Universalium

  • Al-Ash‘ari — Ash ari Abou Hassan Al Ash ari Sa Jeunesse , ses études Abou Hassan Al Ash ari passa son enfance à Bassorah avant de partir poursuivre ses études à Bagdad. Il y étudia notamment le droit auprès d Abou Ishâq Al Marwazi et le hadith auprès de… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari — Infobox Muslim scholars | notability = Muslim scholar| era = Islamic golden age| color = #cef2e0 | | image caption = | | name = Abu al Hasan Ali ibn Ismaˤel al Ashˤari| title= al Ash ari| birth = AH|260|874 [Al Albaani, Mukhtasar Al Uluww] |… …   Wikipedia

  • Abou Hassan Al Ash'ari — Abou al Hassan Alī ibn Ismā īl al Ash arī (874–936) (arabe : ابو الحسن علي ابن إسماعيل اﻷشعري) était un théologien musulman arabe et le fondateur de l école théologique acharite au sein de la philosophie islamique et du… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari — (874, Basora 936, Bagdad) fue un teólogo musulmán iraquí. Presumiblemente perteneció a la familia de Abu Musa al Asha ari, uno de los Sahaba. Se integró a la escuela teológica Mu tazili y recopiló varias opiniones intelectuales en su obra Maqālāt …   Wikipedia Español

  • al-Ash'ari — /al ash euh ree /, n. Abu l Hasan /ah booh al ha san /, A.D. c873 936, the formulator of the classical synthesis in Islamic philosophical theology known as Ash arism. * * * …   Universalium

  • al-Ash'ari — al Ash• a•ri [[t]ˌæl æʃ əˈri[/t]] n. ear A•bu l Ha•san [[t]ˈɑ bu æl hæˈsæn[/t]] a.d. c873–936, the formulator of the classical synthesis in Islamic philosophical theology known as Ash‘arism …   From formal English to slang

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”