The Mu’tazalite theologian, Ali ibn Eisa ar-Rummani
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On 11th of the Islamic month of Jamadi al-Awwal in 382 AH, the Mu’tazalite theologian, Ali ibn Eisa ar-Rummani, passed away. Among his most important compilations, mention can be made of the book: “E’jaz al-Quran” on the Living Miracle that the holy Qur’an is. Here it would not be out of context to mention his encounter with the famous Shi’ite Muslim scholar, Shaikh Mohammad bin Nu’man and the reason he conferred upon him the title “Shaikh al-Mufid” (Most Beneficial Scholar).
The Shaikh’s tutor sent him to attend the theology lessons of Rummani, along with a letter of introduction. The Shaikh says: I entered his class, and was impressed by the great number of students. I sat at the end of the crowd, managing to creep forward as some members of the assembly left. Then I saw a person enter, saying: "(O Master), there is someone at the door from Basra who insists on being admitted to your presence." On permission the man from Basra entered and after a long conversation, asked Rummani: "How do you view the event of al-Ghadeer (the day the Prophet, on God’s commandment, proclaimed Imam Ali [AS] as his vicegerent on 18th Zilhijja, 10 AH while returning from the Farewell Hajj pilgrimage) and the report of al-Ghar (the incident of the cave in which Abu Bakr accompanied the Prophet on the night of Hijrah)?"
Ar-Rummani replied that "the report of al-Ghar was a recognised event, while al-Ghadeer was just a narration; and a narration is not as mandatory as a recognised event." The man from Basra then left without making any reply. The Shaikh says: Then I came forward and said: "I have a question." Ar-Rummani said: "Ask." I said: "What do you say about the one who fights a Just Imam?" He said: "Such a person would be an infidel." Then, after a pause, he rectified himself and said: "He would be a transgressor." I asked: "What do you say about the Commander of the Faithful, Ali bin Abi Taleb (AS)? He said: "I believe he was an Imam."
So I asked: "Then what do you say about the Day of Jamal and Talha and Zubair?" Ar-Rummani retorted that both of them had repented. I said: "The Battle of Jamal is a recognised event, while their repentance is a mere narration." Upon this, he said: "Were you present when the man from Basra put his question?"
I said "yes." Then he asked: "What is your name and who is your tutor?" I said: "I am known as Ibn al-Mu’allem, and my tutor is Abu-Abdallah al-Jual." He said: "Stay where you are." Then he entered his room and came out with a letter, instructing me to hand over to my tutor. When I gave the letter to my tutor, he read it and then laughed. "What transpired between you in his class? He has asked me to confer upon you the title of “al-Mufid” (the Most Beneficial)."