Did Ash’ari and Maturidi follow Imam Abu Hanifa and Imam Shafii?

The Details of the Question

- What is the evidence showing that Imam Ash’ari and Imam Maturidi followed Imam Shafii and Imam Abu Hanifa in Aqidah (creed) and Fiqh?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

1. Abu Hanifa’s kalam and fiqh thought was transferred to the Transoxiana region through his students. The teacher line of Maturidi, who received knowledge from scholars belonging to Hanafi madhhab, reaches Abu Hanifa through Imam Muhammad.

It is stated by Abul-Muin an-Nasafi that Maturidi, who is characterized as the person who knows the views of Abu Hanifa best among Hanafi scholars, contributed greatly to the spread of Hanafi madhhab, especially in the field of creed.

In addition, it is shown as a distinctive feature that the scholars in the region are Hanafi in both fiqh and creed. Non-Hanafi scholars such as Tajuddin as-Subki also describe Maturidi as a member of Abu Hanifa’s madhhab.

While classifying the Islamic madhhabs, the basic principles of each madhhab were taken as basis. Differences in opinions other than those basic principles do not constitute an obstacle to belonging to that madhhab.

Abu Hanifa’s distinctive feature regarding the issue is that he describes belief as the confirmation by the heart and makes the distinction between deeds and belief clear. According to him, the faith of a believing believer does not increase or decrease as his deeds increase or decrease.

Although especially Hanafi fiqh scholars consider expressing belief with the tongue necessary as a pillar of belief, the fact that Imam Maturidi complied with Abu Hanifa in this regard, and that he regarded only confirmation by the heart as a pillar of belief shows that he fully followed Abu Hanifa’s creed. The fact that he mentions Abu Hanifa’s work “al-Alim wal-Mutaallim” also shows that he benefited from it.

It is also known that he read Mabsut written by Imam Muhammad ash-Shaybani on fiqh issues.

When his views in Maturidi tafsir are examined, it is seen that he benefited from the views of Abu Hanifa and his close students.

Therefore, Alauddin as-Samarqandi, who annotated Maturidi’s work called “Tawilatul-Quran”, stated that this work was on the way of Abu Hanifa and his students in terms of fiqh methodology and practice.

2. Imam Shafii attended the lessons of Malik b. Anas and was his student until his death. After leaving Madinah, Imam Shafii lived in Baghdad for a while, and during this period, he attended the lessons of Muhammad ash-Shaybani, one of Abu Hanifa’s students, read and debated his works. He supported the views of the Companions of Hadith against Ahl ar-Ray in particular and contributed to their strengthening.

Imam Shafii, who started to form his original thought after going to Egypt, avoided imitating completely the views of his teacher, Imam Malik, to whom he held fast before.

In Imam Shafi’s thought, devotion to divine revelation was accepted as the basic principle. He regards the Sunnah as an inseparable part of revelation along with the verses of the Quran; he argues the necessity of knowing the Arabic language with its subtleties in order to draw conclusions from them. Methodologically, he did not stand close to the science of kalam.

He devoted his life to the science of fiqh; it is reported that he was not pleased to be mentioned with the science of kalam. He criticized Mutazilah, which dealt with and supported the science of kalam in his period.

Contrary to Abu Hanifa, he argued that belief would increase and decrease regarding the issue of “increase and decrease in belief”, which was also an important discussion topic of the period. If belief had a structure that would not increase or decrease, there would be no difference among people in terms of virtue.

The branch of Ahl as-Sunnah kalam extending to Ash’aris emerged after him.

Imam Ash’ari became close to Hanbali madhhab after leaving Mutazilites but he adopted the kalam method of scholars such as Abdullah b. Kullab and Harith al-Muhasibi and provided the development of Ahl as-Sunnah kalam through that intellectual structure. After him, as powerful scholars such as Baqillani, Ibn Furak, and Abu Ishaq al-Isfarayini followed his madhhab, it was transformed into a systematic structure called Ash’ariyya and became widespread.

It does not seem possible to talk about Shafii’s contribution to Ash’ari’s kalam system because, as we have briefly explained, Imam Shafii took a stance against the method of kalam.

The fact that the scholars of Shafii madhhab in amal (deeds) adopted Ash’ariyya as the method of kalam related to fiqh caused the mentioning of those two madhhabs together.

Belonging to Ash’ariyya was not limited to Shafii madhhab; it developed in an eclectic structure, including Maliki and Hanbali scholars too.

In conclusion:

- Abu Hanifa was influential on Imam Maturidi and the scholars who were members of Maturidiyya madhhab both in terms of creed and fiqh practice.

- Imam Shafii’s relationship with Ash’ariyya is limited to the belonging of the scholars of Shafii madhhab in fiqh practice.

References:

- Abul-Muin an-Nasafi, Tabsiratul-Adilla, Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı, Ankara 2003.
- Ahmet Ak, Matüridiliğin Hanefilikle İlişkisi, Milel-Nihal Dergisi, Vol. 7, May-August 2010.
-Yusuf Şevki Yavuz, Eşariyye, DİA, XI, 447-455, İstanbul 1995.

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