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In the Name of God بسم الله

Twelver Opinion On The Mu'tazila School Of Thought

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(salam)

As you may know, the Mu`tazila were a 'Sunni' school of `aqeeda, and they answered questions of theology through the use of logic (mantiq) and philosophy. Their historical rivals were those who relied solely on the traditions (Qur'an and hadiths). The Mu`tazila briefly dominated the Caliphate during the time of the Abbasids. Eventually, the sect had died out and the majority of Sunnis melted to the Ash`ari traditional school. However, the Mu`tazila debated questions such as "Does Allah have a body?" "Is the Qur'an created or uncreated?" etc. and the general principle was that truths can be ascertained through reason alongside our revelation.

The Mu`tazilah had a profound impact on some of our classical scholars like Mufid and Murtada, and even mid scholars like al-Hilli. They developed a method of seeking knowledge called kalaam, and although kalaam had died out in traditional Sunnism, it survived in Shiism. There were positions of the Mu`tazila that lined up with the Shi`a - we both believe Allah is unseen and bodiless. Some of their discourses therefore were inherited by our sect and survived by it. But Mu`tazili epistemology itself is flawed and the Imams did criticize the use of mantiq when finding answers to religious questions. In short, we follow the nass of the Imams first and foremost. Anything that the Qur'an, the Prophet, or the Imams have verily said is truth; whether or not it can be humanly rationalized. There are some things we will never understand, and other things that the Imams preferred we do not discuss in full detail. For example, we cannot understand Allah because He is unlimited and above our imagination - so to discuss His characteristics in detail is dangerous ground. Nonetheless, many Shi`as did use mantiq as a religious tool and continue to use it. While the Mu`tazila were important to Islam's formative period of scholastic discourse, they were still another theological sect of Islam - we agree with them in some areas, and disagree in others (including their epistemology).

Just one correction, that is the Shia view. The Mutazili view on reason is much broader than that: using reason alone, one can derive religious truths. This is why the Mutazila did not have any problem with striking parts of the Quran that did not make "sense".

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^ Is that last part a reference to belief in tahreef, or 'striking out' exegeses about verses?

Anyhow, in theory - yes - they believed that pure untainted reason would ascertain all religious questions. But they still supported their views with the Qur'an and hadiths - except, I find, their hadiths often revolve around their argument and not vice versa. The revelation, in their view, I suppose was meant to act more as a lamppost and criterion for religious issues. But the interpretation of the revelation was in the hands of logic, so any verse in the Qur'an that literally went against one of their views would be interpreted to be metaphorical instead.

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^ Is that last part a reference to belief in tahreef, or 'striking out' exegeses about verses?

Anyhow, in theory - yes - they believed that pure untainted reason would ascertain all religious questions. But they still supported their views with the Qur'an and hadiths - except, I find, their hadiths often revolve around their argument and not vice versa. The revelation, in their view, I suppose was meant to act more as a lamppost and criterion for religious issues. But the interpretation of the revelation was in the hands of logic, so any verse in the Qur'an that literally went against one of their views would be interpreted to be metaphorical instead.

It was about exegeses, and I totally agree with the rest of your post.

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I for one lament the demise of the Mutazilah school of thought in Sunni Islam. The Asharite victory led to the anti-intellectual tendencies that we see in Sunni Islam today. By closing the door of reasoning, it led to the birth of the extremist movements in Sunnism like the Wahabbis/Salafis. The Mutazilah were closer to the Shia in many aspects of religion and had they prevailed, there would be lesser divide between Sunnis and Shias and Muslims overall would be better off.

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I for one lament the demise of the Mutazilah school of thought in Sunni Islam. The Asharite victory led to the anti-intellectual tendencies that we see in Sunni Islam today. By closing the door of reasoning, it led to the birth of the extremist movements in Sunnism like the Wahabbis/Salafis. The Mutazilah were closer to the Shia in many aspects of religion and had they prevailed, there would be lesser divide between Sunnis and Shias and Muslims overall would be better off.

If they'd at least hung on as one continual, viable school of thought, at least, an option that 10, 15, 20% took influence from, the Muslim world would probably be light years ahead.

Edited by kadhim
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