Beginning of the Mu'tazilah

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The Mu’tazilah school emerged as the result of the ethical and political turmoil of its own time and then ventured into the realm of speculative theology.  After the assassination of ‘Utsman ibn ’Affan (r.a.) in 656 CE, Muslims divided into various political groups which mutually fought each other.  This political division continued during the period of the Umayyads and the Abbasids.

Muslims debated whether it was Allah’s (s.w.t.) Will, or human beings responsible for this bloodshed.  If people were responsible for such corruption, what would their punishment be - as Muslims or apostates?  The traditionalist relied on the literal interpretation of the Qur’an, the Khwarij maintained that the committer of a grave sin was not a believer, and another group, the Murjiyyah, claimed that the case should be left to Allah (s.w.t.) to Decide.

It is reported that one day, in the second century of Hijrah, in the city of Basra, a person came to the mosque of Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) and requested his views on this issue.  Shaykh al-Baswri (q.s.) began to think about a proper answer, but before he could give his opinion, either Waswil ibn ’Atha or ’Amr ibn ’Ubayad, both students of the shaykh, broke out with the answer, saying, “The committer of the grave sin is neither a believer nor a non-believer, but is in the state between the states of belief and unbelief.”

Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) did not like the presumption of his student and asked him to leave.  Waswil ibn ’Atha and ’Amr ibn ’Ubayad left the circle of Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri (q.s.) and began to teach their own views on different theological problems; they were called “Mu’tazilah”.  The student who withdrew from Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri’s (q.s.) school is often assumed to be ’Amr ibn ‘Ubayd rather than Waswil ibn ’Atha, but some sources say that ‘Amr ibn ‘Ubayd was a student of Imam Qatadah (r. a.), Shaykh Hasan al-Baswri’s (q.s.) successor.

And thus, we can see that an entire school of deviant teachings began with a lack of adab.  And just as Waswil ibn ’Atha and ’Amr ibn ’Ubayad did not have adab before their teachers, their followers did not adab before Allah (s.w.t.) and His Rasul (s.a.w.).


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