Qadar From Religio Political Group Qadarite

1. For 'the general religious movement' and similar matters see Formative Period, 63-81.

2. Ignaz Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien, vol.2, Halle 1890 [translated as Muslim Studies, vol.2, London 1971). Joseph Schacht, The Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, Oxford 1950; summarized in An Introduction to Islamic Law, Oxford 1964. Fuat Sezgin, Geschichte des arabischen Schrifttums, vol.i, Leiden 1967, 5 3-84, 'Einführung' to the section on Hadlth, summarizing a longer work in Turkish. Further developments are seen in Josef van Ess, Zwischen Hadit und Theologie, Berlin 197s, which partly accepts Sezgin's views.

3. Formative Period, 265-71.

4. J. van Ess, 'Das Kitäb al-irgä' des Hasan b. Muliammad b. al-Hanafiyya', Arabica xxi (1974), 20-52. This appeared after Formative Period, 119-43, where there is a general account of the 'Murji'ites', but does not necessitate much change in the latter. Early Muslim dogma, a source-critical study by Michael Cook (Cambridge 1981), making use of an Ibädite source, is severely critical of van Ess, pointing out weaknesses in his arguments, but presents no convincing positive view, so that the authenticity of Kitäb al-irjä' may be provisionally accepted.

5. Formative Period, 125 ,• cf. Cook, Early Muslim dogma, 33.


About the time when Muslim thinkers were showing interest in the idea of 'postponement' the question of God's determination or predetermination of events was also attracting attention. Where opponents gave the nickname of Murji'a to the upholders of 'postponement', we have the curious situation that in the debate about predetermination both sides nicknamed the other Qadariyya, anglicized as Qadarites. Since God's qadai is his determination of events, those who believed in it would most naturally be called Qadarites,- but in point of fact the opposite has happened. Almost all later Sunnite writers in speaking of Qadarites mean those who disbelieved in God's absolute qadai and asserted the freedom of the human will; and this has become normal usage with Western students of Islam, and will be followed here.1

In the discussion of God's qadai both the main parties found support for their views in the Qur'an; but the Quran has many passages which seem akin to the outlook of pre-Islamic Arab 'fatalism', and it is logical to begin with a brief description of this. Information about it comes from the numerous poems by pre-Islamic Arabs which are still extant and also from a few Qur'anic statements about their beliefs. These Arabs believed that their lives were controlled by Time (dahi, zamdn). It is Time which brings men their successes and above all their misfortunes. Though Time is said to shoot arrows which never miss the mark, it is primarily conceived as an impersonal force, something like 'the course of events'. It would be natural to identify this force with 'fate' or 'destiny', but what brings misfortunes is sometimes called 'the days' and even 'the nights', and this shows that the aspect of 'time' was uppermost. Time is not something which is worshipped, however, but is rather, like gravitation, a natural phenomenon which one must accept.

The control of human life by Time is limited. It does not determine every act of the individual, but, whatever he decides to do, it fixes the final outcome. In particular his 'term' (ajal) or date of death is fixed; whether he decides to take part in a battle or to keep away from it, he will die if his 'term' has come. His good fortune or evil fortune, as the case may be, is also predetermined, and likewise, it would seem, his 'provision' or 'sustenance' (rizq)—an important matter in lands where food was often scarce (though also mentioned in the Christian prayer for 'daily bread'). Fatalism of this kind was appropriate to the life of the nomads in the deserts and steppes of Arabia. The regularities of nature found in most other regions of the world are there often replaced by irregularities. To take precautions against all the possible chances of disaster is impossible, and to attempt to do so would make a man a nervous wreck, incapable of sustaining life in the desert. To cultivate the attitude of accepting with equanimity what 'the days' bring was probably the best hope of making a success of one's life in the harsh conditions of the desert.

The monotheistic religious message of the Quran is largely expressed in terms of the thought-world of the Arabs of the period. The control of human life, of course, is regarded as being in the hands of God, not of Time. Thus when some idolaters deny the life to come and say that 'Time alone destroys us', Muhammad is told to retort, 'It is God who makes you live, then makes you die, then gathers you for a day of resurrection' (45.24, 26). God takes the place of Time as the source of misfortune: 'no misfortune has happened in respect either of the land or of yourselves but it was in a book before we (God) brought it about' (57.22). The idea of some event 'being in a book' or 'being written' before it happens is frequent. The effect of a fatalistic attitude in calming anxiety is even greater, one imagines, when Time is replaced by God—'nothing will befall us except what God has written for us' (9.51). Prominent among the things that are written is man's term-of-life. In a notable verse (3.154) Muhammad is told to say to those who criticized his decision to fight at Uhud (where the Muslims had the worse of the battle), 'if you had been in your houses, those for whom killing was written down would have sallied out to the places of their falling'. The predestinarían relevance of the idea of 'provision' or 'sustenance' is not so obvious, yet at least sometimes it is regarded as being predetermined by God, as in 30.40, where God's 'making provision' seems to follow immediately his creating a human being. (This point about the predetermination of rizq is made more explicitly in some Hadith.)

It is not surprising that some of these ideas which were present in the minds of those to whom the Qui'an was addressed were used by the Umayyads and their supporters in defence of the legitimacy of their rule. One of the Umayyad claims was that they had inherited the caliphate from TJthmán, in that Mu'áwiya had undertaken the responsibility of avenger of blood when 'All refused it, and this justified his position according to old Arab ideas. The Umayyads also claimed, however, that the caliphate had been bestowed on them by God, in much the same way as he was said in the Quran (2.30) to have made Adam his khalifa on earth. This is reflected in, among other places, the verses of court-poets like Jarir and al-Farazdaq; for example, 'the earth is God's, he has entrusted it to his khalifa' -, 'God has garlanded you with the caliphate and with guidance; for what God decrees there is no change'. The word 'decrees' here is qada which is frequently used of God's eternal decrees. With such ideas current it was easy to go further and say that to deny that God had given the caliphate to the Umayyads was unbelief and that to disobey them or their agents was sin. This was the intellectual context in which Qadarism appeared.

An important document for the beginnings of Qadarism is the Risala or epistle, said to have been written to the caliph 'Abd-al-Malik by al-Hasan al-Basri about the year 700. The ascription is probably correct, but, even if it is not, the document is still important evidence of early Qadarism.2 Al-Hasan al-Basri (642-728), son of a prisoner from Iraq, was bom in Medina but went to Basra in 657 and spent most of the rest of his life there. Whether he was a Qadarite or not has been hotly debated, more or less since his own lifetime, but the Risala makes it clear that he believed that human beings can choose freely between good and evil. When the predestinarians supported their case by .such Qur'anic verses as 13.22: 'God sends astray whom he will', al-Hasan insisted that this must be interpreted in accordance with other verses like 14.27: 'God sends astray the evildoers'. In other words he held that, when the Qur'an is considered as a whole, the determination of human activity by God follows on some act of human choice and is a recompense for it. It is to be noted, however, that in interpreting 57.22! quoted above) about misfortunes being 'in a book' he asserted that this did not apply to unbelief or disobedience but only to external things like wealth and harvests. Al-Hasan also maintained that God creates only good, and that men's evil acts are from themselves or from Satan,- but he allowed that God's 'guidance' of men contained an element of 'succour' or 'grace' (tawfiq).

From the little we know of the views of Qadarites who were al-Hasan's contemporaries or who belonged to the next generation it is clear that al-Hasan stood close to them. He might be said to represent a moderate form of Qadarism in which the emphasis was on practical piety. Yet in the context of the age even views such as those described had political implications. A story is told of how two Qadarites said to al-Hasan, 'these princes (the Umayyads) shed the blood of the Muslims and seize their goods... and say "Our acts occur only according to God's determination (qadar)"and he replied that 'the enemies of God lie'. That is to say, al-Hasan's teaching that evil acts are from men or from Satan implies a denial of Umayyad claims, so that his undoubted piety did not make him apolitical. He firmly rejected armed revolt, but he strongly maintained that pious men like himself had a duty publicly to voice criticisms of those in authority if they acted contrary to God's law, and he seems on occasion to have done this regardless of consequences.

During the lifetime of al-Hasan Qadarism as such was not felt to be a threat by the Umayyad government, though they disapproved of it and the caliph *Umar 11 (717-20) wrote a letter criticizing it.3 Qadarite views, however, could also be combined with Kharijism, and in some of the later revolts against the Umayyads certain participants are said to have been Kharijites and Qadarites at the same time. In Syria a group of Qadarites, who had at first been quietist, seem to have become interested in political reform towards the end of the reign of the caliph Hisham (724-43). One of the leading men in this group, Ghaylan ad-Dimashqi, who had been on good terms with XJmar 11 and was also a believer in 'postponement', somehow became involved in subversive activity and was executed. The reform movement continued, however, and was supported by a member of the Umayyad family, the caliph Yazid m, who reigned for a few months in 744; but after his death the last Umayyad caliph again persecuted the Qadarites.

The replacement of the Umayyad dynasty by the 'Abbasid in 750 altered the political implications of Qadarite doctrine. 'Abbasid legitimacy was based on a form of Shi'ite ideas and not on the claim that all they did was determined by God; and indeed for much of the first half of the ninth century influential positions at the caliphal court were held by several of the Mu'tazilite theologians who had taken over the Qadarite belief in free will. It was also now possible to oppose Qadarism without appearing to support unjust rulers. The precise timing of the various changes is somewhat conjectural, but certain general trends are clear. Those upholding a definite doctrine of human free will, apart from a few who were Kharijites, came to be merged into the Mu'tazilite sect (to be described later). There were thus no Qadarites, properly speaking, after the eighth century, but certain later writers use the term as a nickname for those who are normally called Mu'tazilites. Those followers of al-Hasan and other members of the general religious movement whose concern was to insist that human beings are capable of avoiding sins may have tended towards a moderate anti-Qadarite position. In particular many predestinarian Hadith began to have a wide circulation. In al-Hasan's time these may have been known to some scholars, but they do not seem to have had much currency since he does not feel any need to discuss them in his Risala. The arguments, too, of XJmar 11 in his letter are mainly from the Qur'an. In the early 'Abbasid period, however, many pre-

destinarían Hadíth came to be well known. In one such Muhammad decribed how God instructs the angel in charge of the child in the womb and determines four things: whether it is to be male or female, whether it is to be fortunate or unfortunate, what is to be its 'provision' and what is to be its 'term'. Most Hadíth dealing with this question are predestinarían, but there are a few exceptions.

There are two possible forms of predestinarían or anti-Qadarite views, hi the moderate form what happens to a person is determined by God, but the person's reaction to these happenings is not necessarily determined. This form is compatible with an article in a creed attributed to Abü-Hanífa and probably representing his views: 'what reaches you (of evil) could not possibly have missed you, and what misses you could not possibly have reached you'. The more extreme form of the belief is that the person's reactions to external happenings are also determined. In another Hadíth Muhammad speaks of a primordial Pen created by God which writes everything that is to happen until the Day of Judgement. Yet other Hadíth assert that an individual's place in heaven or hell is predetermined. The main stream of Islamic thought finally rejected Qadarism, even in a moderate version, and accepted one or other of these forms of predestinarían belief, though responsible theologians always found a place in their theories for moral effort. To this extent Qadarism, unlike the belief in 'postponement', made little contribution to the final position of Sunnite Islam.

The nickname applied by opponents to believers in some form of predestination was Mujbira or, less frequently, Jabriyya—anglicized as Mujbirites and Jabrites. Many of these persons were the forerunners of the main body of later Sunnites and in no sense heretics. The Ash'arites later developed the theory that their special view on the matter (expressed by the term kasb, 'acquisition') was a mean between 'compulsion' [jabí, ijbái) and the free will of the Qadarites, and some writers on sects found Jabriyya a useful term to designate those holding views at the opposite pole from Qadarism,- but it is doubtful if any actual persons ever held the more extreme Jabrite views described.

Many Western scholars have regarded Qadarism as due to Christian influences on Islam.4 In other areas of Islamic thought scholars have found the influence of Neoplatonism and other forms of Hellenistic philosophy. In general it may be agreed that such influences are present, even if the details are not always clear. Syria and Iraq were permeated by Christian conceptions, and some Jewish and Christian ideas had even penetrated into Arabia. The Qadarite Ghaylán ad-Dimashqi was of Coptic descent, and it may be surmised that many of the other early Muslim thinkers came from a Christian background. The real problem, however, is to understand the precise nature of this

Christian or Hellenistic influence. The persons 'influenced' were not academics isolated in an ivory tower but were actively involved in the life of a dynamic community. This involvement was both religious and political, but may for convenience be called simply 'political' provided it is remembered that politics is not a compartmentalized segment of the life of the community. Most of the Qadarites and other members of the general religious movement accepted that part of Kharijite views which insisted that the activity of the state should be based on Islamic principles. It was when Umayyad policies went against Islamic principles that men in the general movement questioned the Umayyad claim that their acts were 'determined' by God. Qadarism was indeed thought by its adherents to be true, but in adopting it they were more impressed by its usefulness as an argument against what they saw as false Umayyad claims. Similarly the idea of 'postponement' or 'suspension of judgement' may well have come from Hellenistic sources, but it was adopted because it fitted in well with the situation of a community which was being torn apart by the hostility between supporters of 'All and supporters of TJthman.

One of the main differences between Christianity and Islam is that for three centuries the Christian Church was a purely religious community without political power, whereas from the time of the Hijra in 622 Islam was identified with a political community. Until about the tenth century all the Islamic sects are religio-political. Even when arguments appear to be hair-splitting theological subtleties, such as whether the Qur'an is the created or the uncreated Speech of God, there are political implications. This means that, while it is interesting to find foreign or extraneous sources for Islamic theological ideas, the source does little to explain the place of the idea in Islamic thought, just as the 'sources' of Shakespeare's plots fail to explain the greatness of the plays. The main explanation comes from understanding the import of the idea within the Islamic religio-political context. In so far as emphasis on sources is suggesting that Islam is nothing but a revision of Christian or Jewish or Hellenistic ideas, this is misleading and a belittling of the uniqueness and originality of Islam.

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