The Mu‘tazilites are an Islamic sect that appeared in the beginning of the second century, towards the end of the Umayyad era, and flourished during the Abbasid era. They relied solely on the intellect in understanding the Islamic creed because of the influence that some imported philosophies had on them. This led to their deviation from the belief held by Ahl-us-Sunnah wa al-Jamā‘ah. They call themselves “People of Justice and Monotheism”, and the probable reason for calling them Mu‘tazilah was that their leader Wāsil ibn ‘Atā’ withdrew from (I‘tazala) the study circle of Al-Hasan al-Basri, after Wāsil said that a person who commits a major sin is in a position in the middle between two positions, i.e. he is neither a believer nor a disbeliever, and that he will dwell eternally in Hellfire if he does not repent before death.
They are also called “Qadarism” due to their agreement with those who denied “Qadar” (divine decree) and attributed the actions of people to their own ability.
Among their names are “Dualists” and “Magians”. This is because they approve the idea that good is from Allah and evil is from people. This agrees with the doctrine held by the Dualists and Magians, who hold that there exist two gods: one for good and one for evil.
They were also named “Wa‘īdiyyah” (from the word “Wa‘īd”, which means threat of punishment) due to their famous principle that Allah’s promise of reward and threat of punishment is irreversible. Thus, according to them, a sinner must receive punishment inevitably, unless he repents before death.
They are also named “Mu‘attilah”. This name was given to Jahmism as well, and was then used for the Mu‘tazilites. They were called as such because they agree with Jahmism in negating the attributes of Allah. They both resort to figurative interpretation when there are texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah that do not agree with their doctrine.
Their five principles are:
1. Monotheism: they intend by this principle to deny the attributes of Allah Almighty, arguing that affirming such attributes necessitates the multiplicity of eternal entities which would be polytheism in their opinion, because affirming Allah’s attributes may suggest that every attribute is a god. So, the only way to escape this is to deny these attributes and ascribe them to the essence of the Creator, thus saying that Allah is Knowledgeable by His essence, Omnipotent by His Essence, etc. In that way, the meaning of monotheism is fulfilled in their sight.
2. Justice: they intend by this word to deny the divine decree, which is related to the actions of Allah Almighty. They say that Allah’s actions are always good and devoid of evil; thus, they deny that people’s evil actions are from Allah Almighty in terms of predetermination or creation, because believing otherwise entails the attribution of evil actions to Allah Almighty while He is far exalted above that.
3. Promise of reward and threat of punishment: they intend by this to affirm the idea that sinners will abide eternally in Hellfire. For them, the promise of reward means that it is incumbent upon Allah to fulfill His promise and must reward the servant for the acts of obedience which He enjoined upon him. A servant then, has a right upon Allah in return for His promise to reward him if he observes the religious assignments which Allah has chosen to impose upon His servants. On the other hand, the threat of punishment in their sight is that Allah must carry out His threat against the sinners from among the believers, if they die before repenting. They believe that Allah must do this since it is impossible for Him to fail in His promise or lie.
4. A position between two positions: they mean by this that a Muslim sinner is neither a believer nor a disbeliever, but has a third independent ruling. He lies in a position between two positions, as he abandoned faith but did not adopt disbelief. He will be punished in Hellfire for eternity. His name and the ruling on him in this life differ, so he deserves to be placed in a position between two positions (belief and disbelief).
5. Enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil: this is considered a collective duty, according to the Mu‘tazilites; if adequately carried out by some, the rest are no longer required to do it. However, there is disagreement between Ahl-us-Sunnah and the Mu‘tazilites on the following:
1. The manner of changing evil.
2. They declared it obligatory to disobey the unjust ruler.
3. They allowed carrying weapons against those who oppose them, whether they are disbelievers or sinful Muslims.
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