Athari or Hanbali theology (Arabic: الأثرية—al-Aṯharīya) is an Islamic scholarly movement, originating in the late 8th century CE, who reject taking religion from rationalistic Islamic theology (kalam) in favor of strict textualism in interpreting the Quran and hadith. The name derives from "tradition" in its technical sense as a translation of the Arabic word athar. It is also sometimes referred to by several other names.
Adherents of Athari theology believe the zahir (literal) meaning of the Qur'an and the hadith are the sole authorities in matters of belief and law; and that the use of rational disputation is forbidden, even if in verifying the truth. They oppose to one engaged in ‘metaphorical interpretation’ in regards to God’s attributes (ta'wil). They do not attempt to conceptualise the meanings of the Qur'an rationally, and believe that their realities should be consigned to God alone (tafwid). In essence, the text of the Qur'an and Hadith is accepted without a "how" (i.e. "Bi-la kayfa").
Athari theology emerged among hadith scholars who eventually coalesced into a movement called ahl al-hadith under the leadership of Ahmad ibn Hanbal (780–855). In matters of faith, they were pitted against Mu'tazilites and other theological currents, condemning many points of their doctrine as well as the extreme rationalistic methods they used. In the tenth century al-Ash'ari and al-Maturidi found a middle ground between Mu'tazilite rationalism and Hanbalite literalism, using the rationalistic methods championed by Mu'tazilites to defend most tenets of the Athari doctrine. Although the mainly Hanbali scholars who rejected this synthesis were in the minority, their emotive, narrative-based approach to faith remained influential among the urban masses in some areas, particularly in Abbasid Baghdad.
While Ash'arism and Maturidism are often called the Sunni "orthodoxy", Athari theology has thrived alongside it, laying rival claims to be the orthodox Sunni faith. In the modern era it has had a disproportionate impact on Islamic theology, having been appropriated by Wahhabi and other traditionalist Salafi currents and spread well beyond the confines of the Hanbali school of law.
Several terms are used to refer to traditionalist theology. They are used inconsistently and some of them have been subject to criticism.
The term traditionalist theology is derived from the word "tradition" in its technical meaning as translation of the Arabic term hadith. This term is found in a number of reference works. It has been criticized by Marshall Hodgson (who preferred the term Hadith folk) for its potential for confusion between the technical and common meanings of the word "tradition". Oliver Leaman also cautions against misinterpreting the terms "traditionalists" and "rationalists" as implying that the former favored irrationality or that the latter did not use hadith. Some authors reject the use of these terms as labels for groups of scholars and prefer to speak of "traditionalist" and "rationalist" tendencies instead. Racha el Omari has used "traditionalist theology" in a way that includes Ash'arism and Maturidism.
The term traditionism has also been used in the same sense, although Binyamin Abrahamov reserves the term "traditionists" for scholars of hadith, distinguishing it from traditionalism as a theological current.
Since the overwhelming majority of the Hanbali school of jurisprudence has adhered to traditionalist theology, many sources refer to it as Hanbali theology. However, others note that some Shafi'i scholars also belonged to this theological school, while some Hanbalites in law adopted a more rationalist school in theology.
Athari (from the Arabic word athar, meaning "remnant" or "narrative") is another term that has been used for traditionalist theology.
The term ahl al-hadith (people of hadith) theology is used by some authors in the same sense as athari, while others restrict it to the early stages of this movement, or use it in a broader sense to denote particular enthusiasm towards hadith.
Some authors refer to traditionalist theology as classical Salafism or classic Salafiyyah (from salaf, meaning "(pious) ancestors"). Henri Lauzière has argued that, while the majority Hanbali creed was sometimes identified as "salafi" in classical-era sources, using the corresponding nouns in this context is anachronistic.
|"...do not, argue humans with (the text of) Qur'an, instead, argue them with Sunnah.." [sic]|
|Zubayr ibn Awwam advice to his son regarding Qur'an interpretation debate.[a]|
Muslim historians and jurists theorized a Companions of the Prophet named Zubayr ibn al-Awwam were one of the earliest traditionalist, and textualist scholar who influenced later era athari scholars. Furthermore scholarships of jurisprudence history highlighted the Zubair method of proto-textualism, were precedently influenced the scholars of Ahl al-Hadith which characterized by their approach to hold their theory on the text of Quran and Hadith understanding, while largely rejecting Qiyas(analogy) method of Ahl al-Ra'y(scholars of Logic). This az Zubayr strict view on exegete field of Qur'an interpretation were recorded well in his primary biographies that are preserved by contemporary Muslim scholars, such as the saying of az-Zubayr when he advised one of his children to never arguing the text of Qur'an with logic, since the interpretation of Qur'an, according to az-Zubayr, should be binded with tradition of Hadith and Sunnah understanding. such anti-rationalistic, traditionalistic and hadith oriented view were arguably also shared by many influential scholars in history that even reached the rank of Mujtahid (scholars who allowed to open their own Madhhab due to their knowledge vastness) such as Shafiite Ibn Kathir, Hanbalite Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Hazm, Bukhari independent Madhhab, and also scholars from Jariri, and Zahiri Maddhab.
Another companion of the prophet who are known to held this textualism stance were Abdullah ibn Umar, particularly shown when he asked by group of his Tabi'in disciples regarding Qadariyah view, which replied by Ibn Umar with takfir (excommunication from Islam) on Qadariyah group for their reasoning to reject qadar. Ibn Umar further condemn those Qadariyah and warn his disciples from their analogical method which, which according to contemporary scholars, the reason of Ibn Umar to condemn the Qadari were because they are in essence were similar with Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism due to their dualism philosophy, which are in line with Hadith that saying "Qadariyah were Magi of this Ummah".
Athari materialized as formal distinct school of though toward the end of the 8th century CE among scholars of hadith who held the Quran and authentic hadith to be the only acceptable sources of law and creed. At first these scholars formed minorities within existing religious study circles, but by the early ninth century they coalesced into a separate traditionalist movement (commonly called ahl al-hadith) under the leadership of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. In legal matters, these traditionalists criticized the use of personal opinion (ra'y) common among the Hanafi jurists of Iraq as well as the reliance on living local traditions by Malikite jurists of Medina. They also rejected methods of jurisprudence not based on literal reading of scripture. In matters of faith, traditionalists were pitted against Mu'tazilites and other theological currents, condemning many points of their doctrines as well as the rationalistic methods they used in defending them.
Traditionalists were also characterized by their avoidance of all state patronage and by their social activism. They attempted to follow the injunction of "commanding good and forbidding evil" by preaching asceticism and launching vigilante attacks to break wine bottles, musical instruments and chessboards. In 833 the caliph al-Ma'mun tried to impose Mu'tazilite theology on all religious scholars and instituted an inquisition (mihna) which required them to accept the Mu'tazilite doctrine that the Qur'an was a created object, which implicitly made it subject to interpretation by caliphs and scholars. Ibn Hanbal led traditionalist resistance to this policy, affirming under torture that the Quran was uncreated and hence coeternal with God. Although Mu'tazilism remained state doctrine until 851, the efforts to impose it only served to politicize and harden the theological controversy.
The next two centuries saw an emergence of broad compromises in both law and creed within Sunni Islam. In jurisprudence, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali madhhabs all gradually came to accept both the traditionalist reliance on the Quran and hadith and the use of controlled reasoning in the form of qiyas. In theology, Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (874-936) found a middle ground between Mu'tazilite rationalism and Hanbalite literalism, using the rationalistic methods championed by Mu'tazilites to defend most tenets of the traditionalist doctrine. A rival compromise between rationalism and traditionalism emerged from the work of al-Maturidi (d. c. 944), and one of these two schools of theology was accepted by members of all Sunni madhhabs, with the exception of most Hanbalite and some Shafi'i scholars, who ostensibly persisted in their rejection of kalam, although they often resorted to rationalistic arguments themselves, even while claiming to rely on the literal text of scripture.
Although the scholars who rejected the Ash'ari/Maturidi synthesis were in the minority, their emotive, narrative-based approach to faith remained influential among the urban masses in some areas, particularly in Baghdad. Its popularity manifested itself repeatedly from late ninth to eleventh centuries, when crowds shouted down preachers who publicly expounded rationalistic theology. After caliph al-Mutawakkil suspended the rationalist inquisition, Abbasid caliphs came to rely on an alliance with traditionalists to buttress popular support. In the early 11th century the caliph al-Qadir made a series of proclamations that sought to prevent public preaching of rationalistic theology. In turn, the Seljuq vizier Nizam al-Mulk in the late 11th century encouraged Ash'ari theologians in order to counterbalance caliphal traditionalism, inviting a number of them to preach in Baghdad over the years. One such occasion led to five months of rioting in the city in 1077.
While Ash'arism and Maturidism are often called the Sunni "orthodoxy", traditionalist theology has thrived alongside it, laying rival claims to be the orthodox Sunni faith. In the modern era it has had a disproportionate impact on Islamic theology, having been appropriated by Wahhabi and other traditionalist Salafi currents and spread well beyond the confines of the Hanbali school of law.
Atharism is based on four foundational principles:
- adherence to Qurʾān, Sunna, and Ijma (consensus)
- religious theology derived from the three sources mentioned is homogeneous. Stability in ideas was regarded a sign of certain belief and truth.
- the embracing of scholars who are responsible for deriving from these sources.
- Fierce opposition to Bid'ah (innovations)
The traditionalists' attitudes towards religious principles led them to differentiate between two similar terms: Taqlid and Ittiba. Taqlid which was the practice of blindly following scholars and their opinions (ra'y) without Scriptural proofs would be harshly condemned. On the other hand, Atharis understood Ittiba as following the Prophetic teachings by using the Scriptural evidences supplied by the scholars. Many traditionalists like Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241/855) would not only use Scriptural proofs from Qur'an and Sunnah, but in some cases also rational proofs.
While they promoted strict adherence to Qur'an, Sunna and consensus; Atharis did not neglect the use of reason. However, contrary to the rationalists who based doctrines on reason; reason occupies a secondary place in the Athari tradition, after the three basic sources of knowledge. According to traditionalists, rational arguments serves as proof of Revelation. If these arguments were the basis of Religion, then the Revelation and Prophets would become redundant. Athari theology emphasizes that Qurʾān contains rational proofs of God’s Existence, Tawhid, prophecy, and the world to come. Athari theologians like . ʿAbd Allah b. al-ʿArabī (d. 543/1148) asserts that the Qurʾān introduces the principles of rational arguments in concise manner and in allusions, and that the function of a scholar is to extend and explain these arguments in detail. Various rational devices employed by traditionalists include istinbat, linguistic considerations, etc. Inspite of the traditionalist criticism of the rationalists; reason plays an important role in traditionalist theology, both as a device for demonstrating their beliefs and as a tool in their debates.
According to classical theologian Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728 A.H/1328 C.E), since reason is an unstable device, it leads people to different and even contradictory approaches. Thus, straying away from Tradition and adopting rationalist approaches creates disputes among the Muslims. Hence, Ibn Taymiyya advocated the doctrine of early Athari theologians on the homogeneity of traditionalism, which emphasizes the stableness of the Tradition. Summing up the traditionalist attitude toward rational argumentation, Ibn Taymiyya writes:
"The preference of rational arguments over traditional ones is impossible and unsound. As for the preference of the traditional proofs, it is possible and sound… that is on account of the fact that being known through reason or not is not an inherent attribute (ṣifa lāzima) of a thing but rather a relative one (min al-umūr al-nisbiyya al-iḍāfiyya), for Zayd may know through his reason what Bakr does not know, and a man may know at a certain time through his reason what he will not know at another time."
On the Qur'anEdit
The Atharis believe that every part of the Qur'an is uncreated (ghair makhluq). It is reported that Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.855) said, "The Qur'an is God's Speech, which He expressed; it is uncreated. He who claims the opposite is a Jahmite, an infidel. And he who says, 'The Qur'an is God's Speech,' and stops there without adding 'uncreated,' speaks even more abominably than the former".
For Atharis, the validity of human reason is limited, and rational proofs cannot be trusted nor relied upon in matters of belief, thus making kalam a blameworthy innovation. Rational proofs, unless they are Qur'anic in origin, are considered nonexistent and wholly invalid. However, this was not always the case as a number of Atharis delved into kalam, whether or not they described it as such.
Examples of Atharis who wrote books against the use of kalam and human reason include the Hanbali Sufi Khwaja Abdullah Ansari, and the Hanbali jurist Ibn Qudama. Ibn Qudama harshly rebuked kalam as one of the worst of all heresies. He characterized its partisans, its theologians, as innovators and heretics who had betrayed and deviated from the simple and pious faith of the early Muslims. He writes: "The theologians are intensely hated in this world, and they will be tortured in the next. None among them will prosper, nor will he succeed in following the right direction...".
On the Attributes of GodEdit
The Atharis staunchly affirm the existence of the attributes of God and consider all of them to be equally eternal. They accept the relevant verses of the Qur'an and hadith as they are, without subjecting them to rational analysis or elaboration. According to Atharis, the real meanings of the attributes of God should be consigned to God alone (tafwid). According to this method, one should adhere to the sacred text of the Qur'an and believe that it is the truth, without trying to explain it through a figurative explanation.
Ahmed Ibn Hanbal reportedly stated, "His Attributes proceed from Him and are His own, we do not go beyond the Qur'an and the traditions of the Prophet and his Companions; nor do we know the how of these, save by the acknowledgment of the Apostle and the confirmation of the Qur'an".
Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi stated: "For we have no need to know the meaning which Allah intended by His attributes; no course of action is intended by them, nor is there any obligation attached to them. It is possible to believe in them without the knowledge of their intended sense".
Anthropomorphism was commonly alleged against Athari scholars by their critics, including the Hanbalite scholar and theologian Ibn al-Jawzi. In some cases, Athari scholars espoused extreme anthropomorphic views, but they do not generally represent the Athari movement as a whole.
On Iman (faith)Edit
The Atharis hold that Iman (faith) increases and decreases in correlation with the performance of prescribed rituals and duties, such as the five daily prayers. They believe that Iman resides in the heart, in the utterance of the tongue and in the action of the limbs.
On division of tawhidEdit
Scholars of the Athari school of divinity supported the division of tawhid into three categories; tawhid al-rububiyyah ("the oneness of lordship", referring to belief in God as the creator and sustainer of the world) and tawhid al-uluhiyyah ("the oneness of divinity", referring to worshipping God as the only deity) and tawhid al-asma wa-l-sifat ("the oneness of names and attributes", which asserts that God has only one set of attributes and they do not contradict each other). Ibn Taymiyyah seems to have been the first to introduce this distinction.
- az-Zubayr was saying:"....Laa tujadilinnasi bil Qur'an, wa laykin alaika bis Sunnah..." [sic] which according to Fahamsyah translate as "...do not, argue humans regarding (the text of)Qur'an, instead, argue them with Sunnah..". Fahamsyah gave commentary that according to az-Zubayr, the matter of Quran tafsir(exegesis) should not be relying solely on logic, since human knowledges were limited. Fahamsyah said that the contemporary orthodox scholarships of Islam, using this words of az-Zubayr to dismiss the opinions of Ahl al-Ra'y such as Muʿtazila rationalist school of though, which emerg during the Islamic Golden Age era.
- Abrahamov (2014)
- Halverson (2010, p. 36). "The Atharis can thus be described as a school or movement led by a contingent of scholars (ulama), typically Hanbalite or even Shafi'ite, which retained influence, or at the very least a shared sentiment and conception of piety, well beyond the limited range of Hanbalite communities. This body of scholars continued to reject theology in favor of strict textualism well after Ash'arism had infiltrated the Sunni schools of law. It is for these reasons that we must delineate the existence of a distinct traditionalist, anti-theological movement, which defies strict identification with any particular madhhab, and therefore cannot be described as Hanbalite."
- Halverson (2010, p. 36).
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- on YouTubeFadlan Fahamsyah (Aug 13, 2018). Zubair bin Awwam [Shirah Shahabat] [Zubayr ibn Awwam – History of companion] (in Indonesian and Arabic). Event occurs at 47m48s.
....Laa tujadilinnasi bil Qur'an, wa laykin alaika bis Sunnah...
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HR. Abu Daud no. 4691. Hadits ini dinilai hasan oleh Al-Albani (As-Shahihah no 2748, dan lihat juga penjelasan As-Safaarini di Lawami an-Anwaar 1/304-306).
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Dari Ibnu Umar radhiallahu’anhuma dari Nabi sallahu’alaihi wa sallam bersabda: “Al-Qadariyah adalah majusi umat ini, kalau mereka sakit jangan dikunjungi. Kalau mereka meninggal dunia, jangan disaksikan (jenazahnya). HR. Hakim, 286. Baihaqi, 21391. Tabrani di ‘Al-Ausath, 2494. Al-Bagowi di Syakh As-Sunnah, 1/78. Ibnu Asakir di ‘Tarikh Dimisqi, 19/62. Ibnu Abi ‘Asyim di ‘As-Sunnah, 268 dan lainnya. Dari hadits Ibnu Umar radhiallahu’anhuma dishohehkan oleh AL-Qotton di kitab ‘Bayanil Wahmi Wal Iham, 5/446. Dihasankan oleh Syekh AL-Albany di Shoheh Abi Dawud dan lainnya. As-Safarini berkata di kitab ‘Lawaikhul Anwar, ‘Minimal ia adalah hasan. Permulaan hadits telah diriwayatkan dari berbagai jalan lain. Ibnu Qoyyim rahimahullah berkata, ‘Makna ini telah diriwayatkan dari Nabi sallallahu’alaihi wa sallam dari hadits Ibnu Umar, Hudzaifah, Ibnu Abbas, Jabir bin Abdullah, Abu Hurairah, Abdullah bin Amr bin Ash dan Rafi’ bin Khudaij.’ Selesai dari kitab ‘Tahzib Sunan Abu Dawud, 2/347. عَنْ ابْنِ عُمَرَ رضِي الله عنْهُما عَنْ النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ قَالَ : ( الْقَدَرِيَّةُ مَجُوسُ هَذِهِ الْأُمَّةِ ، إِنْ مَرِضُوا فَلا تَعُودُوهُمْ وَإِنْ مَاتُوا فَلا تَشْهَدُوهُمْ )
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