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Imam Abu Hanifah - Was He a Theologically Inclined Proto-Maturidi? - Dr. Ulrich Rudolph's Assessment

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  • Imam Abu Hanifah - Was He a Theologically Inclined Proto-Maturidi? - Dr. Ulrich Rudolph's Assessment

    Dr. Ulrich Rudolph in his book “Al-Maturidi and the development of Sunni theology in Samarqand” does an excellent job talking about the development of the Maturidi school and it's connection to Abu Hanifah.

    Some key highlights from the book:

    - He dismisses the notion that Imam Abu Hanifah authored al-Wasiya and al-Fiqh al-Akbar, for they were authored much later (page 28).

    - There are two letters to Uthman al-Batti which are attributed to Abu Hanifah. Dr. Rudolph authenticates the ascription of the first letter to Abu Hanifah. As for the second letter, Dr. Rudolph said that we can't be sure that Abu Hanifah himself authored it, however we may be confident that it reflects his views. (page 40).

    - As for al ‘Aalim wal-Muta’allim, it is clearly the authorship of Abu Hanifah’s student Abi Muqatil al-Samarqandi and not Abu Hanifah himself (page 42). Similarly for al-Fiqh al-Absat authored by Abu Muti' al-Balkhi (page 53). They are portrayed as mere transmitters of these books, while the reality is that they had an influence on the composition of the text itself as well (page 55). Modifications to the text of al-Fiqh al-Absat likely happened later on (page 58). For example, the idea that Allah is not in a place and so on appear to be clear latter Maturidi modifications to the text, for they clearly contradict what is attributed to Abu Hanifah in al-Fiqh al-Absat just a few passages earlier where he says that Allah is above the heavens. (page 61)

    - What could be said to be part of al-Fiqh al-Absat are the following sections (except for the red) when it discusses descriptive attributes of Allah:

    Disbeliever: Whoever claims not to know whether God is in heaven or on earth, or whoever declares that God is on the throne, but that one cannot specify whether the throne is in heaven or earth, since God ought to be described with the high and not the low. (page 68)


    God is not described with attributes of the creation. Anger (ghadab) and approbation (rida) are two of His attributes.

    Which are to be understood "without how"., This is teaching of ahlus sunnah wal Jamaa'ah. [said to be latter interpolation]

    God is angry and content without one being able to say that His anger is His punishment and His approbation is His reward. We describe God just as He has described Himself: Citation of Qur'anic statements, amongst which are Q 112 and 2:255 (page 70)

    God has a hand which is nonetheless not a body part (jariha) and is not like the hand of His creation, but rather is above (fawqa) it, since He is the creator of hands. The same is true for the face and the self (nafs). God is also not in a location, Before, there was no "where," no creation and no thing (shay'). [said to be latter interpolation]

    If one is asked what the One who is Willing wills by, the answer is: With the attribute (= the will). He is also powerful through power, and knows through knowledge.

    Is He also powerful through the will and does He will with knowledge? Yes. [said to be latter interpolation] (page 71)

    - What would be deemed to be "anthropomorphic views" by the latter Maturidis (i.e. the 'Uluww of Allah) is actuallly the view transmitted to be Abu Hanifa's in al-Fiqh al-Absat (page 79), for Abu Hanifa did not share these views of al-Maturidi and others (page 105), and there is good reason to believe that the 'Uluww of Allah as expressed in al-Fiqh al-Absat was representative of Hanafi theology at the time (and Abu Hanifa's view accordingly) and there is no evidence to suggest that anyone held any counter view (pages 288-289) and it was only later that Ibn Karram came and developed this theological notion further in his own manner and provoked the eastern Hanafis to react in response. However, the latter Maturidis eventually also turned against the theology of the early Hanafis as well (pages 290 & 294). Also, Imam Abu Hanifa is attributed in al-Fiqh al-Absat with the view of not making ta'weel of Allah's anger and pleasure, which once again differs with the theology of Maturidis to come (page 280).

    - Dr. Rudolph in his concluding remarks says on page 317...

    Given the complexity of his thought, the description of al-Maturidi in numerous sources as a mere interpreter of Abu Hanifa's thought is clearly a misleading simplification. This characterization not only makes an unreliable shift in emphasis, but also disregards al-Maturidis' own achievements, consciously playing down those new elements that he introduced to Transoxanian theology.

    That is not to say that there is no internal relationship between him and Abu Hanifa. Quite the contrary, our entire study demonstrates how much the scholars of Samarqand in general were dedicated to cultivating the legacy of the Kufan master. This was also true of al-Maturidi, who surely would have confirmed that he was merely concerned with perpetuating Abu Hanifa's ideas. Yet the texts themselves tell another story, not simply displaying a pledge to continuity, but also showing how far developments had progressed from their origins. Demonstrating this is as simple as comparing the correspondence to Uthman al-Batti with the K. al-Tawhid.

    The qualification must be added, however, that later Maturidites made an effort to accord Abu Hanifa a different stature in his capacity as author and theologian. They not only attributed to him the early correspondence with Uthman al-Batti; they also alleged that he wrote the K. al-'Alim, the Fiqh absat, as well as the much later Fiqh akbar II, and other various inauthentic "testaments." In such texts, the creed was naturally much more elaborate, such that many parallels could be seen between them and the work of al-Maturidi. But even these texts are far from the K. al-Tawhid. And what is more, they do not demonstrate that al-Maturidi and Abu Hanifa thought similarly, but only that both of their images had shifted and been reinterpreted, thus creating the impression of proximity.

    In a nutshell, a respected orientalist such as Dr. Rudolph who has no "Salafi axe to grind" demonstrated that the theology of the Maturidis departed greatly from the simple textually based theology of Abu Hanifah.

  • #2
    Any link available for the softcopy? I tried Libgen already.


    • #3
      I'm not aware that there is a free soft copy available, sorry.