|Biographical detail : ||An Arab philosopher who reconciled the Mutazilah and the ahl al-hadith.
Abu al-Hasan al-Ashari was an important figure in the process of bringing the various legists, the Mutazilah and the ahl al-hadith, in drawing together. The Mutazilah had been so fearful of anthropomorphic notions of Allah that they denied that the divine had any ‘human’ attributes at all. They say, how could Allah ‘spoke’ or ‘sat on the throne’, as the Qura’an averred? The ahl al-hadith retorted that this wariness drained the experience of Allah of all content, and reduced the divine to a philosophical abstraction with no religious significance.
Al-Ashari agreed, but appeased the Mutazilites by saying that Allah’s attributes were not like human qualities. The Qura’an was Allah’s uncreated speech, but the human words, which expressed it and the ink and paper of the book itself, were created. There was no point in searching for a mysterious essence underlying reality. The world was ordered at every moment by a direct intervention of Allah. There was no free will – men and women could not think unless the divine was thinking in and through them. Thus fire burned not because it was its nature to do so, but because Allah willed it.
Asharism became the predominant philosophy, not a rationalist creed, but more of a mystical and contemplative discipline. It encouraged Muslims to see the divine presence everywhere, to look through external reality to the transcendent reality immanent within it, in the way that the Qura’an instructed.
Al-Ashari turned to traditional Islamic orthodoxy after he reached forty and authored many works, the most noted being Makalat al Islamiyin in which he examined the various sects and preached for the orthodox creed. He believed in the principle of Bila Qiyafa (without regard to the how).
Abu al-Hasan al-Ashari was born in Basra but spent most of his life in Baghdad.