Schools of Islamic theology
- See Islamic schools and branches for different schools of thought; see aqidah for the concept of the different "creeds" in Islam; see Kalam for the concept of theological discourse.
Still, differences in aqidah occur as divisions orthogonal to the main divisions in Islam along political or fiqh lines, such that a Muʿtazili might, for example, belong to Ja'fari, Zaidi or even Hanafi school of jurisprudence.
Divinity schools in Islam
Any religious belief system, or creed, can be considered an example of aqidah.
However this term has taken a significant technical usage in Muslim history and theology, denoting those matters over which Muslims hold conviction.
The term is usually translated as "theology".
Such traditions are divisions orthogonal to sectarian divisions of Islam, and a Mu'tazili may for example, belong to Jafari, Zaidi or even Hanafi school of jurisprudence.
One of the earliest systematic theological school to develop, in the mid 8th-century, was Mu'tazila.
It emphasized reason and rational thought, positing that the injunctions of God are accessible to rational thought and inquiry and that the Qur'an, albeit the word of God, was created rather than uncreated, which would develop into one of the most contentious questions in Islamic theology.
In the 10th century, the Ash'ari school developed as a response to Mu'tazila, leading to the latter's decline.
Ash'ari still taught the use of reason in understanding the Qur'an, but denied the possibility to deduce moral truths by reasoning.
This was opposed by the school of Maturidi, which taught that certain moral truths may be found by the use of reason without the aid of revelation.
Such schools of theology are summarized under Ilm al-Kalam, or "science of discourse", as opposed to mystical schools who deny that any theological truth may be discovered by means of discourse or reason.
Sunni schools of theology
Main article: Sunni Islam
Therefore, the term "Sunni" refers to those who follow or maintain the sunnah of the prophet Muhammad.
The Sunnis believe that Muhammad did not appoint a successor to lead the Muslim ummah (community) before his death, and after an initial period of confusion, a group of his most prominent companions gathered and elected Abu Bakr, Muhammad's close friend and a father-in-law, as the first caliph of Islam.
After the Rashidun, the position turned into a hereditary right and the caliph's role was limited to being a political symbol of Muslim strength and unity.
Main article: Traditionalist Theology (Islam)
The name is derived from the Arabic word athar, literally meaning "remnant" and also referring to a "narrative".
Their disciples are called the Athariyya, or Atharis.
For followers of the Athari movement, the "clear" meaning of the Qur'an, and especially the prophetic traditions, has sole authority in matters of belief, and to engage in rational disputation (kalam), even if one arrives at the truth, is absolutely forbidden.
Atharis engage in an amodal reading of the Qur'an, as opposed to one engaged in Ta'wil (metaphorical interpretation).
They do not attempt to conceptualize the meanings of the Qur'an rationally, and believe that the "real" meaning should be consigned to God alone (tafwid).
In essence, the meaning has been accepted without asking "how" or "Bi-la kaifa".
On the other hand, the famous Hanbali scholar Ibn al-Jawzi states, in Kitab Akhbar as-Sifat, that Ahmad ibn Hanbal would have been opposed to anthropomorphic interpretations of Qur'anic texts such as those of al-Qadi Abu Ya'la, Ibn Hamid and Ibn az-Zaghuni.
Based on Abu'l-Faraj ibn al-Jawzi's criticism of Athari-Hanbalis, Muhammad Abu Zahra, a Professor of Islamic law at Cairo University deduced that Salafi aqidah is located somewhere between ta'tili and anthropopathy (Absolute Ẓāhirīsm in understanding the tashbih in Qur'an) in Islam.
Main article: Ilm al-Kalam
ʿIlm al-Kalām (Arabic: علم الكلام, literally "science of discourse"), usually foreshortened to kalam and sometimes called "Islamic scholastic theology", is a rational undertaking born out of the need to establish and defend the tenets of Islamic faith against doubters and detractors.
A scholar of kalam is referred to as a mutakallim (plural mutakallimūn) as distinguished from philosophers, jurists, and scientists.
There are many possible interpretations as to why this discipline was originally called "kalam"; one is that the widest controversy in this discipline has been about whether the Word of God, as revealed in the Qur'an, can be considered part of God's essence and therefore not created, or whether it was made into words in the normal sense of speech, and is therefore created.
Main article: Al-Ash`ari
The Ash'ari school took the opposite position of the Mu'tazila and insisted that truth cannot be known through reason alone.
The Ash'ari school further claimed that truth can only be known through revelation.
The Ash'ari claim that without revelation, the unaided human mind would not be able to know if something is good or evil.
Today, the Ash'ari school is considered one of the Orthodox schools of theology.
Main article: Maturidi
The Maturidi school takes the middle position between the Ash'ari and Mu'tazili schools on the questions of knowing truth and free will.
The Maturidis say that the unaided human mind is able to find out that some of the more major sins such as alcohol or murder are evil without the help of revelation, but still maintain that revelation is the ultimate source of knowledge.
Additionally, the Maturidi believe that God created and can control all of His creation, but that he allows humans to make individual decisions and choices for themselves.
The first group to pursue this undertaking were the Mu'tazila, who asserted that all truth could be known through reason alone.
The Mu'tazila asserted that everything in revelation could be found through rational means alone.
The political backlash the Mu'tazila faced, as well as the challenged brought forth by new schools of theology caused this group to atrophy and decline into irrelevancy.
They are no longer considered an Orthodox school of theology by Sunni Muslims.
Main article: Bishriyya
Main article: Bahshamiyya
Bâh’ Sham’iyyah was a school of Mu'tazili thought, rivaling the school of Qadi Abd al-Jabbar, based primarily on the earlier teaching of Abu Hashim al-Jubba'i, the son of Abu 'Ali Muhammad al-Jubba'i.
Further information: Abu'l Husayn al-Basri
Main article: Jahmites
He was an exponent of extreme determinism according to which a man acts only metaphorically in the same way in which the sun acts or does something when it sets.
This is the position adopted by the Ash'ari school, which holds that God's omnipotence is absolute and perfect over all creation.
Main article: Qadariyyah
Qadariyyah is an originally derogatory term designating early Islamic theologians who asserted human beings are ontologically free and have a perfect free will, whose exercise justifies divine punishment and absolving God of responsibility for evil in the world.
The tension between free will and God's omnipotence was later reconciled by the Maturidi school of theology, which asserted that God grants human beings their agency, but can remove or otherwise alter it at any time.
Main article: Muhakkima
Main article: Khawarij
The Kharijites considered the caliphate of Abu Bakr and Umar to be rightly guided but believed that Uthman ibn Affan had deviated from the path of justice and truth in the last days of his caliphate, and hence was liable to be killed or displaced.
In the Battle of Siffin, Ali acceded to Muawiyah's suggestion to stop the fighting and resort to negotiation.
A large portion of Ali's troops (who later became the first Kharijites) refused to concede to that agreement, and they considered that Ali had breached a Qur'anic verse which states that The decision is only for Allah (Qur'an 6:57), which the Kharijites interpreted to mean that the outcome of a conflict can only be decided in battle (by God) and not in negotiations (by human beings).
The Kharijites thus deemed the arbitrators (Abu Musa al-Ashʿari and Amr Ibn Al-As), the leaders who appointed these arbitrators (Ali and Muʿāwiyah) and all those who agreed on the arbitration (all companions of Ali and Muʿāwiyah) as Kuffār (disbelievers), having breached the rules of the Qur'an.
Kharijites reject the doctrine of infallibility for the leader of the Muslim community, in contrast to Shi'a but in agreement with Sunnis.
Modern-day Islamic scholar Abul Ala Maududi wrote an analysis of Kharijite beliefs, marking a number of differences between Kharijism and Sunni Islam.
With this argument, they denounced all the above-mentioned Ṣaḥābah and even cursed and used abusive language against them.
Ordinary Muslims were also declared disbelievers because first, they were not free of sin; secondly they regarded the above-mentioned Ṣaḥābah as believers and considered them as religious leaders, even inferring Islamic jurisprudence from the Hadeeth narrated by them.
Any pious Muslim nominated by other Muslims could be an eligible caliph.
Additionally, Kharijites believed that obedience to the caliph is binding as long as he is managing the affairs with justice and consultation, but if he deviates, then it becomes obligatory to confront him, demote him and even kill him.
Main article: Ibadi
Main article: Murji'ah
The Murji'ah emerged as a theological school in response to the Kharijites on the early question about the relationship between sin and apostasy (rida).
Therefore, they advocated the idea of "delayed judgement," (irjaa).
The Murji'ah maintain that anyone who proclaims the bare minimum of faith must be considered a Muslim, and sin alone cannot cause someone to become a disbeliever (kafir).
The later schools of Sunni theology adopted their stance while form more developed theological schools and concepts.
Shia schools of theology
There are a few issues between both schools, most notably the Zaydi doctrine of the Imamate, which is rejected by the Mu'tazilites.
Amongst the Shi'a, Zaydis are most similar to Sunnis since Zaydism shares similar doctrines and jurisprudential opinions with Sunni scholars.
The Bāṭen’iyyah ʿAqīdah, was originally introduced by Abu’l-Khāttāb Muhammad ibn Abu Zaynab al-Asadī, and later developed by Maymūn al-Qaddāh and his son ʿAbd Allāh ibn Maymūn for the esoteric interpretation of the Qur'an.
The Ismailis believe that whether Imam Ismail did or did not die before Imam Ja'far, he had passed on the mantle of the imāmate to his son Muḥammad ibn Ismā'īl al-Maktum as the next imam.
Batini-Twelver ʿAqīdah schools
Main article: Batiniyyah
They are significant in East-Central Turkey.
They are sometimes considered a Sufi sect, and have an untraditional form of religious leadership that is not scholarship oriented like other Sunni and Shia groups.
Alevi Islamic school of divinity
In Turkey, Shia Muslim people belong to the Ja'fari jurisprudence Madhhab, which tracks back to the sixth Shia Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (also known as Imam Jafar-i Sadiq), are called as the Ja'faris, who belong to Twelver Shia.
- "The Alevi-Turks" has a unique and perplex conviction tracing back to Kaysanites Shia and Khurramites which are considered as Ghulat Shia. According to Turkish scholar Abdülbaki Gölpinarli, the Qizilbash ("Red-Heads") of the 16th century – a religious and political movement in Azerbaijan that helped to establish the Safavid dynasty – were "spiritual descendants of the Khurramites".
- Among the members of the "Qizilbash-Tariqah" who are considered as a sub-sect of the Alevis, two figures firstly Abu Muslim Khorasani who assisted Abbasid Caliphate to beat Umayyad Caliphate, but later eliminated and murdered by Caliph Al-Mansur, and secondly Babak Khorramdin who incited a rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate and consequently was killed by Caliph al-Mu'tasim are highly respected. This belief provides strong clues about their Kaysanites Shia and Khurramites origins. In addition, the "Safaviyya Tariqah" leader Ismail I is a highly regarded individual in the belief of "Alevi-Qizilbash-Tariqah" associating them with the Imamah (Shia Twelver doctrine) conviction of the "Twelver Shi'a Islam".
- Their aqidah (theological conviction) is based upon a syncretic fiqh system called as "Batiniyya-Sufism" which incorporates some Qarmatian sentiments, originally introduced by "Abu’l-Khāttāb Muhammad ibn Abu Zaynab al-Asadī", and later developed by "Maymun al-Qāddāh" and his son "ʿAbd Allāh ibn Maymun", and "Mu'tazila" with a strong belief in The Twelve Imams.
- Not all of the members believe that the fasting in Ramadan is obligatory although some Alevi-Turks performs their fasting duties partially in Ramadan.
- Some beliefs of Shamanism still are common amongst the Qizilbash Alevi-Turkish people in villages.
- On the other hand, the members of Bektashi Order have a conviction of "Batiniyya Isma'ilism" and "Hurufism" with a strong belief in The Twelve Imams.
- In conclusion, Qizilbash-Alevis are not a part of Ja'fari jurisprudence fiqh, even though they can be considered as members of different Tariqa of Shia Islam all looks like sub-classes of Twelver. Their conviction includes "Batiniyya-Hurufism" and "Sevener-Qarmatians-Ismailism" sentiments.
- They all may be considered as special groups not following the Ja'fari jurisprudence, like Alawites who are in the class of Ghulat Twelver Shia Islam, but a special Batiniyya belief somewhat similar to Isma'ilism in their conviction.
- In conclusion, Twelver branch of Shia Islam Muslim population of Turkey is composed of Mu'tazila aqidah of Ja'fari jurisprudence madhhab, Batiniyya-Sufism aqidah of Maymūn’al-Qāddāhī fiqh of the Alevīs, and Cillī aqidah of Maymūn ibn Abu’l-Qāsim Sulaiman ibn Ahmad ibn at-Tabarānī fiqh of the Alawites, who altogether constitutes nearly one third of the whole population of the country. (An estimate for the Turkish Alevi population varies between Seven and Eleven Million. Over 85% of the population, on the other hand, overwhelmingly constitute Maturidi aqidah of the Hanafi fiqh and Ash'ari aqidah of the Shafi'i fiqh of the Sunni followers.)
ʿAqīdah of Alevi-Islam Dīn Services
- Some of the differences that mark Alevis from Shi'a Islam are the non-observance of the five daily prayers and prostrations (they only bow twice in the presence of their spiritual leader), Ramadan, and the Hajj (they consider the pilgrimage to Mecca an external pretense, the real pilgrimage being internal in one's heart); and non-attendance of mosques.
- Some of their members (or sub-groups) claim that God takes abode in the bodies of the human-beings (ḥulūl), believe in metempsychosis (tanāsukh), and consider Islamic law to be not obligatory (ibāḥa), similar to antinomianism.
- Some of the Alevis criticizes the course of Islam as it is being practiced overwhelmingly by more than 99% of Sunni and Shia population.
- They believe that major additions had been implemented during the time of Ummayads, and easily refuse some basic principles on the grounds that they believe it contradicts with the holy book of Islam, namely the Qur'an.
- Regular daily salat and fasting in the holy month of Ramadan are officially not accepted by some members of Alevism.
- Some of their sub-groups like Ishikists and Bektashis, who portrayed themselves as Alevis, neither comprehend the essence of the regular daily salat (prayers) and fasting in the holy month of Ramadan that is frequently accentuated at many times in Quran, nor admits that these principles constitute the ineluctable foundations of the Dīn of Islam as they had been laid down by Allah and they had been practised in an uninterruptible manner during the period of Prophet Muhammad.
- Furthermore, during the period of Ottoman Empire, Alevis were forbidden to proselytise, and Alevism regenerated itself internally by paternal descent. To prevent penetration by hostile outsiders, the Alevis insisted on strict endogamy which eventually made them into a quasi-ethnic group. Alevi taboos limited interaction with the dominant Sunni political-religious centre. Excommunication was the ultimate punishment threatening those who married outsiders, cooperated with outsiders economically, or ate with outsiders. It was also forbidden to use the state (Sunni) courts.
Main article: Bektashism
Baktāshi Islamic School of Divinity
The Bektashiyyah is a Shia Sufi order founded in the 13th century by Haji Bektash Veli, a dervish who escaped Central Asia and found refuge with the Seljuks in Anatolia at the time of the Mongol invasions (1219–23).
This order gained a great following in rural areas and it later developed in two branches: the Çelebi clan, who claimed to be physical descendants of Haji Bektash Veli, were called "Bel evladları" (children of the loins), and became the hereditary spiritual leaders of the rural Alevis; and the Babağan, those faithful to the path "Yol evladları" (children of the way), who dominated the official Bektashi Sufi order with its elected leadership.
Bektashi do not consider this a form of trinity.
There are many other practices and ceremonies that share similarity with other faiths, such as a ritual meal (muhabbet) and yearly confession of sins to a baba (magfirat-i zunub مغفرة الذنوب).
They have no written doctrine specific to them, thus rules and rituals may differ depending on under whose influence one has been taught.
The Baktāshi ʿaqīdah
The Bektashi Order is a Sufi order and shares much in common with other Islamic mystical movements, such as the need for an experienced spiritual guide — called a baba in Bektashi parlance — as well as the doctrine of "the four gates that must be traversed": the "Sharia" (religious law), "Tariqah" (the spiritual path), "Haqiqah" (truth), and "Marifa" (true knowledge).
First level members are called aşıks عاشق.
They are those who, while not having taken initiation into the order, are nevertheless drawn to it.
Following initiation (called nasip) one becomes a mühip محب.
After some time as a mühip, one can take further vows and become a dervish.
The next level above dervish is that of baba.
The baba (lit.
father) is considered to be the head of a tekke and qualified to give spiritual guidance (irshad إرشاد).
Traditionally there were twelve of these, the most senior being the dedebaba (great-grandfather).
The dedebaba was considered to be the highest ranking authority in the Bektashi Order.
Twelvers believe in twelve Imams.
The Shia hadiths include the sayings of the Imams.
Many Muslims criticise the Shia for certain beliefs and practices, including practices such as the Mourning of Muharram (Mätam).
They are the largest Shia school of thought (93%), predominant in Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain and have a significant population in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan Kuwait and the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia.
The Usuli form the overwhelming majority within the Twelver Shia denomination.
They are concentrated in Iran, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, India, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Further information: Usulism
Concentrated in Bahrain.
Further information: Akhbarism
It began from a combination of Sufi and Shia and Akhbari doctrines.
Further information: Shaykhism
Alawites are also called Nusayris, Nusairis, Namiriya or Ansariyya.
One million three hundred and fifty thousand of them lived in Syria and Lebanon in 1970.
It is estimated they are 10–12% of the population of Syria of 23 million in 2013.
‘Alawite Islamic School of Divinity
Alawites consider themselves to be Muslims, although some Sunnis dispute that they are.
Their theology is based on a divine triad, or trinity, which is the core of Alawite belief.
The triad comprises three emanations of the one God: the supreme aspect or entity called the "Essence" or the "Meaning" (both being translations of ma'na), together with two lesser emanations known as his "Name" (ism), or "Veil" (hijab), and his "Gate" (bab).
These emanations have manifested themselves in different human forms over several cycles in history, the last cycle of which was as Ali (the Essence/Meaning), Muhammad (the Name) and Salman the Persian (the Gate).
Alawite belief is summarised in the formula: "I turn to the Gate; I bow before the Name; I adore the Meaning".
The claim that Alawites believe Ali is a deity has been contested by some scholars as a misrepresentation on the basis that Ali is, in fact, considered an "essence or form", not a human being, by which believers can "grasp God".
Alawites also hold that they were originally stars or divine lights that were cast out of heaven through disobedience and must undergo repeated reincarnation (or metempsychosis) before returning to heaven.
They can be reincarnated as Christians or others through sin and as animals if they become infidels.
Alawite beliefs have never been confirmed by their modern religious authorities.
Alawites tend to conceal their beliefs (taqiyya) due to historical persecution.
Some tenets of the faith are secret, known only to a select few; therefore, they have been described as a mystical sect.
Their most-important feast is Eid al-Ghadeer.
The ‘Alawite ʿaqīdah
Alawites have always described themselves as being Twelver Shi'ite Muslims and have been recognized as such by the prominent Lebanese Shi'ite cleric Musa al-Sadr.
Barry Rubin has suggested that Syrian leader Hafiz al-Assad and his son and successor Bashar al-Assad pressed their fellow Alawites "to behave like regular Muslims, shedding (or at least concealing) their distinctive aspects".
During the early 1970s a booklet, al-`Alawiyyun Shi'atu Ahl al-Bait ("The Alawites are Followers of the Household of the Prophet") was published, which was "signed by numerous 'Alawi' men of religion", described the doctrines of the Imami Shia as Alawite.
Additionally, there has been a recent movement to unite Alawism and the other branches of Twelver Islam through educational exchange programs in Syria and Qom.
Some sources have discussed the "Sunnification" of Alawites under the al-Assad regime.
Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies, writes that Hafiz al-Assad "tried to turn Alawites into 'good' (read Sunnified) Muslims in exchange for preserving a modicum of secularism and tolerance in society".
On the other hand, Al-Assad "declared the Alawites to be nothing but Twelver Shiites".
In a paper, "Islamic Education in Syria", Landis wrote that "no mention" is made in Syrian textbooks (controlled by the Al-Assad regime) of Alawites, Druze, Ismailis or Shia Islam; Islam was presented as a monolithic religion.
Ali Sulayman al-Ahmad, chief judge of the Baathist Syrian state, has said:
The Qizilbash ʿaqīdah
Isolated from both the Sunni Ottomans and the Twelver Shi`a Safavids, Qizilbash and Bektashi developed traditions, practices, and doctrines by the early 17th century which marked them as a closed autonomous religious community.
Main article: Karramiyya
Ibn Karram considered that God was a substance and that He had a body (jism) finite in certain directions when He comes into contact with the Throne.
Further information: Anthropomorphism
Anthropopathy in the history of Ghulāt Shia
The belief of Incarnation was first emerged in Sabaʾiyya, and later some personalities like Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyyah, Abu Muslim, Sunpadh, Ishaq al-Turk, Al-Muqanna, Babak Khorramdin, Maziar and Ismail I had become the subject of God incarnates.
Likewise, Ahmadis accept the Qur'an as their holy text, face the Kaaba during prayer, accept the authority of Hadiths (reported sayings of and stories about Muhammad) and practice the Sunnah (traditions) of Muhammad.
Ahmadi teachings state that the founders of all the major world religions had divine origins.
God was working towards the establishment of Islam as the final religion, because it was the most complete and included all the previous teachings of other religion (but they believe that all other religions have gone astray in their present form).
The completion and consummation of the development of religion came about with the coming of Muhammad; and that the perfection of the ‘manifestation’ of Muhammad's prophethood and of the conveyance of his message was destined to occur with the coming of the Mahdi.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community regard Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who claimed to be the promised Messiah ("Second Coming of Christ") the Mahdi awaited by the Muslims and a 'subordinate' prophet to Muhammad whose job was to restore the Sharia given to Muhammad by guiding or rallying disenchanted Ummah back to Islam and thwart attacks on Islam by its opponents, as the "Promised One" of all religions fulfilling eschatological prophecies found in the scriptures of the Abrahamic religions, as well as Zoroastrianism, the Indian religions, Native American traditions and others.
Ahmadi Muslims believe that Ahmad was divinely commissioned as a true reflection of Muhammad's prophethood to establish the unity of God and to remind mankind of their duties towards God and God's creation.
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Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schools of Islamic theology.