Some Noted Mu’tazilah Thinkers on the Issue of Free Will

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The theological issues discussed by the Mu’tazilah, such as free will and predestination, the relationship between the Divine Attributes and the Essence of Allah (s.w.t.), were also debated by some Muslim thinkers during the Umayyad period prior to the rise of the Mu’tazilah.  These thinkers can be divided into two groups.  The first group included al-Ja’ad ibn Dirham, al-Mughirah ibn Sa’id al-‘Ajali, and Jahan ibn Swafwan, who rejected the Reality and Eternity of the Divine Attributes and also believed in the createdness of the Qur’an.  al-Ja’ad ibn Dirham was from Damascus.  He was arrested and sent to Iraq by Hisham ibn ‘Abd al-Malik, the Umayyad caliph.  He was beheaded by the Iraqi ruler, Khalid ibn ‘Abdullah al-Kisri, who was the uncle of Hisham in 742 CE.  al-Mughirah ibn Sa’id al-‘Ajali was killed by the ruler of Iraq, Khalid ibn ‘Abdullah al-Kisri, in 737 CE.  Jahan ibn Swafwan was killed in 745 CE.

The second group included ‘Umar al-Maqsus, who was accused by the Umayyads of corrupting the mind of young Mu’awiyah ibn Yazid, his pupil, and executed in 699; Ma’bad al-Jahani, who was crucified by Hajaj ibn Yusuf ats-Tsaqafi in Iraq; and Ghaylan al-Dimashqi, who was crucified on the gate of Damascus on the orders Hisham ibn Abdul Malik.  These thinkers believed in al-Qadariyyah and rejected the doctrine of al-Jabariyyah, predestination, in Islam.  The term “al-Qadariyyah” is used in the converse sense by Muslim thinkers when describing a doctrine of free will or al-ikhtiyar.  “al-Qadar” stands for something quite the opposite of free will in the literal sense.  But at the same time, the term is associated with a cluster of Muslim thinkers advocating a doctrine whose philosophical trend is distinct from the literal meaning of the term.


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