Thursday, May 24, 2012


Abu Mansur Al-Maturidi (d. 368) was a prominent Hanafi figure in Transoxiana. He was instrumental in the development of Hanafi Usul al-Fiqh. He was a defender of the `aqidah of Ahl al-Sunnah and a contemporary of al-Ash`ari. The ideological climate in Transoxiana was different from that of al-Ash`ari’s Iraq. Transoxiana had been spared the brunt of the Mu`tazili mihnah, and was consequently less polarised when it came to the relationship between reason and revelation. The Hanafi fiqh, as well, was already more accepting of taking recourse to reason than was the fiqh of the other three madhhabs.

This produced an approach to Sunni theology that was more rationally inclined and less antagonistic to Mu`tazili thought. This would lead Hanafi scholars from the Arab world, like Ibn al-Humam, to accuse their “brothers from across the river” of agreeing with the Mu`tazilah on more than one occasion.

On the other hand, al-Kawthari sees this as their strength. He says, after mentioning what he considers to be an imbalance in the thought of al-Ash`ari with respect to reason and revelation, “This did not occur with his (al-Ash`ari’s) contemporary, the Imam of guidance, Abu Mansur al-Maturidi, the Shaykh of the Sunnah in Transoxiana, due to the absolute preponderance  of the Sunnah in that region over the different innovative sects, a preponderance which prevented any conflict from surfacing between them. This made it possible for al-Maturidi to take a completely balanced course, giving both revelation and reason their just due.” (Muqaddimah al-Kawthari ala al-Tabyin, 19) Actually, we have seen that both the Ash’aris and Maturidis maintain this balanced course, it is just a minor question of degree.

Where we could say that the Ash’ari creed, after a series of independent scholarly works, came to its culmination with the writings of al-Ghazali (d. 505), the Maturidi literature developed mainly as a series of commentaries on Abu Hanifa’s al-Fiqh al-Akbar – a precedent set by al-Maturidi himself – and occasionally on the Tahawiyyah.

The most significant development in the Maturidi literature came with al-Nasafi (d. 508), a contemporary of al-Ghazali. He wrote many important works in theology including the superb Tabsirah al-Adillah. He also wrote his famous al-Aqidah al-Nasafiyyah, which would henceforth be the focus of most Maturidi scholarly efforts.

It might be said that Maturidi thought came to its culmination with al-Taftazani (753), who wrote his landmark Sharh al-Maqasid, a heavily philosophical work corresponding to al-Mawaqif of al-Iji in the Ash`ari literature. Al-Taftazani also wrote the authoritative commentary on al-`Aqidah al-Nasafiyyah upon which numerous commentaries have been written.

Geographically, Maturidi influence first predominated in Central Asia, gaining favor among the Hanafis of Khorasan as well for reasons previously discussed. The Maturidi creed spread from Central Asia into India. It also traveled with the Turks to Anatolia (Modern Turkey) and Eastern Europe. It is estimated that about two-thirds of the adherents of the Hanafi madhhab are Maturidi. The other third, mainly in the Arab world, are Ash`ari.

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