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The Beginnings of Islamic Theology

  • Josef van Ess
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 26)

Abstract

Theology is not as central a phenomenon for Islam as it is for Christianity. The educational system of the Islamic Middle Ages concentrated on law and adīth, the tradition of the Prophet; madrasas and mosques offered chairs in jurisprudence, but not in theology. Even the famous Nimiyya, the waqf-endowed “university” founded by the wazīr Nimalmulk some decades before the first crusade, although for a long time credited in European research with a shift towards the opposite, a “victory” of Ash’arite theology, did not in fact contribute much to change the situation.1 And when Islam today tries to adjust to the demands of the modern world it does so not so much through experimenting with new theological and philosophical notions, but through providing fresh interpretations for the old juridical problems of a religion-oriented society. Nevertheless, Western orientalists usually keep to their own value systems, and understand Muslim “Geistesgeschichte” mainly as a history of theology and philosophy, not as a history of law.

Keywords

Intellectual Life Islamic Culture Dialectical Structure Islamic Study Theological Discussion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    Albert N. Nader, Le Système philosophique des Mu’tazila (Premiers penseurs de l’Islam), (Beirut, 1956 ).Google Scholar
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    Cf. Jāhiz, al-Bayān wa’l-tabyīn, ed. ’Abdassalām Muhammad Hārūn, (Cairo, 1380/1960), 125, 6; Ibn al-Murtadā, Tabaqāt al-Mu’azila, ed. S. Diwald-Wilzer (Wiesbaden-Beirut, 1961), 32, 4 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Cf. H. Ritter, ‘Studien zur islamischen Frömmigkeit I: Hasan al-Basrī’, Der Islam 21 (1933) 1–83; J. Obermann, ‘Political theology in early Islam: al-Hasan al-Basri’s treatise on qadar’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 55 (1935), 138–162; M. Schwarz, ‘The Letter of al-IJasan al-Basrī’, Orlens 20 (1967) 15–30; J. van Ess, Anfänge muslimischer Theologie (Beirut, 1975 ).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 8.
    Cf. J. van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre des ’Adudaddīn al-Icī (Wiesbaden, 1966), 56 ff.; id., ‘The Logical Structure of Islamic Theology’, in Logic in Classical Islamic Culture, ed. G. E. von Grunebaum (Wiesbaden, 1970), p. 23 f.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Ahmad ibn Sa’īd al-Shammākhī, K. as-Siyar (Lith., Cairo, n.d.), 81, 2 f.; biographical material concerning Suhār al-’Abdī cf. my Anfänge muslimischer Theologie (note 7).Google Scholar
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    Cf. J. van Ess, Das Kitāb an-Nakt des Nazzām und seine Rezeption im Kitāb al-Futyā des Gāhiz (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften Göttingen, Phil.-Hist. Kl., 3. Folge, Nr. 79: Göttingen, 1972), pp. 114 ff.Google Scholar
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    Cf. ’Abdalqāhir al-Baghdādī, Usūl al-dīn (Istanbul, 1346/1928), p. 237, -4 f.; Der Islam 43 (1967), 279 and my article in Festschrift A. Abel, p. 124ff.Google Scholar
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    The so-called “Qadarite Murji’tes” like Ghaylān al-Dimashqī are only a seeming exception. They owe their classification among the Murji’ites only to the endeavor of Mu’tazilite heresiographers to distinguish their own school from these “forerunners” (cf. W. Madelung, Der Imām al-Qāsim ibn Ibrāhīm und die Glaubenslehre der Zaiditen (Berlin, 1965), p. 239).Google Scholar
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    Cf. my edition and commentary of the text in Arabica 21 (1974), 20 if. especially section 5 if; for Muhammad’s affair with the wife of his adopted son cf. Sura 33/37 and W. M. Watt, Muhammad at Medina (Oxford, 1956) 329 if.Google Scholar
  13. 39.
    Cf. my article in Arabica 21 (1974), 34. Abū Hāshim is said to have collected hadīth in support of the“Saba’iyya” (cf. his biography in the Ta’rikh Dimashq by Ibn ‘Asākir, MS Damad Ibrahim Pasa 877, fol. 17b-19b).Google Scholar
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    Cf. Dhahabï, Ta’rikh al-Islām III 359, 12 f. and Mas’ūdī, Murüj al-dhahab, ed. C. Barbier de Meynard et Pavet de Courteille (Paris, 1861 ff.), V 176 f.Google Scholar
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    Cf. Tabari, Tafsir, ed. Mahmūd Muhammad Shākir and Ahmad Muhammad Shākir (Cairo,’ca. 1960 ff.) XIII 548 ff., especially 550 f., nr. 16102 f.Google Scholar
  16. 47.
    Cf. W. M. Watt, eGod’s Caliph, Qur’änic Interpretations and Umayyad claims’, Iran and Islam, Minorsky Memorial Volume (Edinburgh, 1971) 565–574, especially p. 568 ff.; my Zwischen Hadit und Theologie (note 4).Google Scholar
  17. 48.
    Cf. J. van Ess, ‘Les Qadarites et la Gailânïya de Yazïd III’, Studia Islamica 31 (1970), 269–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Cf. Ibn Batta, Ibāna, ed. H. Laoust (La profession de foi d’Ibn Batta; Damascus, 1958) 32, 4 f.Google Scholar
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    R. Blachère, ’Regards sur la littérature narrative en arabe au Ier siècle de l’Hégire (VIIe s. J.C.), Semitica 6 (1956), 75–86. For Wahb ibn Munabbih cf. also R. G. Khoury, Wahb b. Munabbih, 1–2 (Wiesbaden, 1972 ).Google Scholar
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    Cf. R. Rubinacci in Annali deïïîstituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli 4 (1952), 104 ff. and Ennami in Journal of Semitic Studies 15 (1970), 65.Google Scholar
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    Cf. A. Vööbus, History of the School of Nisibis (Louvain, 1965 ).Google Scholar
  22. 62.
    Cf. A. S. Tritton, The Caliphs and their Non-Muslim Subjects, 2nd ed., (London, 1970), pp. 6, 18 f., 43, 167. Also A.-T. Khoury, Les théologiens byzantins et TIslam (Louvain, 1969), p. 30 ff.Google Scholar
  23. 63.
    Cf. his article in Revue de Vhistoire des Religions 166 (1964), 51–58.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Holland 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josef van Ess
    • 1
  1. 1.Universität TübingenGermany

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