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Shiah Contribution to the Science of Scholastic Theology [ilm al-kalām]

Ghulam-Husayn Muharrami

The science of scholastic theology [ilm al-kalām] is the science about the totality of doctrines that every Muslim must believe. In other words, it is the science that deals with the discussion and study of the principles of religion [uṣūl ad-dīn]. The first difference in the principles of religion over the issue of Imamate [imāmah] emerged immediately after the demise of the Holy Prophet

#7779;). Shahristānī says, The most significant difference in Islam is the difference over the Imamate, and over none of the other principles of religion was swords unsheathed. Nawbakhtī also says:
The Messenger of Allah

#7779;) passed away in Rabī al-Awwal ten years after the migration [hijrah] at the age of 63 and with 23 years of apostolic mission At the time, the ummah of Islam was divided into three groups: A group was called Shīah which was composed of the followers [shīah] of Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (a) from which all the Shīah subgroups separated. The second group claiming leadership and rule were the Anṣār and the third group was inclined toward Abū Bakr ibn Abī Quḥāfah, saying: The Holy Holy Prophet (S)did not specified a certain person as the successor, and left the decision for it to the ummah.
As such, there have always been discussions and debates between the Shīah and other Muslims over the issue of Imamate.
Yet, the difference on other principles and fundamentals of the religion emerged during the latter part of the first century and early second century AH. As Shahristānī says, Difference on the principles emerged during the last days of the ṣaḥābah such as Mabad Jahannī, Ghīlān Damishqī and Yūnus Aswārī regarding predestination [qadr], the relationship of good [khayr] and evil [sharr] to predestination. Wāṣil ibn Aṭā, a student of Ḥasan al-Baṣrī and Amrū ibn Ubayd, had added things to the questions of predestination.
Among the scholastic [kalāmī] sects during those periods were the Waīdiyyah, Khawārij, Murjiah, and Jabariyyah.
Of course, the scholastic discussion had reached its optimal point when Wāṣil ibn Aṭā separated from the assembly of Ḥasan al-Baṣri and founded the Mutazilah sect. In this manner, the Mutazilah school, based mainly on rational deductions, was against the Ahl al-Ḥadīth which was called Ḥashawiyyah. It was so until such time that at the end of the third century AH, Abūl-Ḥasan al-Asharī separated from the Mutazilah school and engaged in defending the Ahl al-Ḥadīth school of thought within rational frameworks, and his school became known later as the Asharī school. After that, the Mutazilah made no progress, and kept on withdrawing in face of the Ahl al-Ḥadīth so much so that now, the official scholastic theology of the Ahl as-Sunnah is the Asharī scholasticism.
The Shīah scholastic theology is the oldest of all Muslim scholastic shools. Alī (a), the first infallible Imām acknowledged by the Shīah has discussed the questions on beliefs such as monotheism [tawḥīd], predestination and freewill, and Attributes of God, and this kind of discussions has been recorded in Nahj al-Balāghah in the language of the Imām himself.
The scholastic discussions about Imamate among the Shīah, however, commenced immediately after the demise of the Holy Holy Prophet (S)in defending the right of the Commander of the Faithful (a) (over the issue of Imamate and caliphate). As narrated by Shaykh aṣ-Ṣadūq, the first to defend the right of Alī (a) vis--vis the architects of Saqīfah were twelve persons from among the great companions of the Prophet

#7779;). Few days after the event of Saqīfah, they debated with Abū Bakr at the Mosque of the Holy Prophet (S)and cornered him. After them, a person such as Abū Dharr al-Ghiffārī had also not remained silent vis--vis the usurpers of the right of the Commander of the Faithful (a) to such an extent that Uthmān ibn al-Affān was finally convinced to banish him to Shām and Rabdhah.
Abd Allāh ibn al-Abbās, the Prophets (a) cousin, a student of Alī (a), exegete [mufassir] of the Quran, scholar, and an outstanding Hāshimite statesman, was one of the defenders of the Shīah school and always championing the rightfulness of Alī (a) to such an extent that Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb found fault with him for always saying, Our right has been usurped. Ibn al-Abbās became blind in his old age and one day he heard some people in a certain place uttering abusive language against the Commander of the Faithful (a). He said to his son Alī: Hold my hand and take me there. When he was near them, he addressed them, saying: Which of you was abusing God?! They replied, None. He asked, Which is you was abusing the Prophet? None, they answered. He inquired, Which of you was abusing Alī? This time they responded, All of us. He said, Bear witness that I heard the Messenger of Allah

#7779;) saying: He who abuses Alī abuses me, and he who abuses me abuses God, and he who abuses God shall be thrown in an inverted position by God to the hellfire. He then returned and while walking, he asked his son, How do you see them? His son recited this poem:

They are looking at you with a reddish look like the gaze of the animal to be slaughtered to the lancet of the slaughterer.
Ibn al-Abbās said, You continue. His son said:

They were humiliated and disgraced; they are looking at you like that of the subject to his master.
Ibn al-Abbās said, You continue! His son answered, I can say nothing more. Ibn al-Abbās himself recited this poem:

Their living ones are the source of abjectness for their dead ones while their dead ones were the source of disgrace for their ancestors.
Among the companions of the Commander of the Faithful (a), prominent figures such as Ṣaṣaah ibn Ṣawḥān, Maytham at-Tammār, Kumayl ibn Ziyād, Awīs Qarnī, Salīm ibn Qays, Ḥārith Ḥamdānī, and Aṣbagh ibn Nabātah also engaged in defending the right of Alī (a), debating with the enemies of the Imām in this regard.
Meanwhile, concerning the first person among the Shīah to have written a book about scholastic theology, Ibn Nadīm and Ibn Shahr Āshūb regard Ismāīl ibn Maytham at-Tammār to be the first author on Shīah scholastic theology as he has written the books Al-Imāmah and Al-Istiḥqāq on this subject. The late Sayyid Ḥasan Ṣadr, however, considers Īsā ibn Rawḍah as the first Shīah writer on scholastic theology. Of course, the oldest existing book on Shīah kalām is the book Al-Ayḍāḥ of Faḍl ibn Shādhān an-Nayshābūrī (died 260 AH) who was among the companions of Imām al-Hādī and Imām al-Askarī (a).
During the period of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (a), this science, like other sciences, also flourished tremendously and a number of his students such as Hishām ibn Ḥakam, Hisham ibn Sālim, Mumin Ṭāq, Faḍāl ibn Ḥasan, and Jābir ibn Yazīd Jufī, among others, excelled in this field writing many books and treatises in this regard. They had discussions and debates with the scholars of other schools.
Faḍl ibn Shādhān an-Nayshābūrī has been among the most outstanding Shīah scholastic theologians [mutakallimūn]. He met Imām ar-Riḍā, Imām al-Jawād and Imām al-Hādī (a), and has written many book on the subjects of kalām, beliefs and deviant schools of thought.
Ḥasan ibn Nawbakhtī (died 310 AH) was one of the Shīah mutakallimūn and among his books is Firq ash-Shīah.

Scholastic theology [kalām] deals with the discussion about the principles of religion [uṣūl ad-dīn]. The first difference in religion was over the question of Imamate [imāmah] which emerged immediately after the demise of the Holy Prophet (S)and the event of Saqīfah. But the difference on other principles and fundamentals is related to the end of the first century AH.
Scholastic [kalāmī] discussions reached their optimal point after the founding of the Mutazilah school of thought.
The Shīah kalām is the oldest Muslim scholastic school because the scholastic discussions about the Imamate started immediately after the demise of the Holy Prophet (S)on account of defending the rightfulness of Alī (a).
The first book on kalām among the Shīah was written by Īsā ibn Rawḍah while the oldest existing book on kalām is Al-Ayḍāḥ of Faḍl ibn Shādhān.
The Shīah kalām flourished much during the period of Imām aṣ-Ṣādiq (a) and some of his companions excelled in it.

1. The first difference among the Muslim has been over which principle?
2. When did the scholastic discussions among the Shīah commence?
3. The first Shīah book on kalām has been written by whom?

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