Question 095: What is the Shia view of the Mutazila and Wasil ibn Ata?
Answer 095: Mutazila were an intellectual group interested in mental issues. They have been trying to collect between religion and intellect. They have stipulated some principles by which everyone who acts based on these doctrines is counted as Mutazilah. As a result, every member of this group has believed in such principles.
The basic and salient points of their school of thoughts are as follows:
– Tawhid, (absence of plurality and attributes).
– ‘adl (Justice), (God is just and that He does not oppress His creatures).
– Divine retribution (al-wa’d wa al-wa’id), (God has determined a reward for the obedient and a punishment for the disobedient).
– Manzilah bayna al-manzilatayn (a position between the two positions). This means that a fasiq (i.e. one who commits one of the “greater sins,” such as a wine imbiber, adulterer, or a liar etc.) is neither a believer (mu’min) nor an infidel (kafir); fisq is an intermediary state between both belief and infidelity.
– al-‘amr bil ma’ruf wa al-nahy ‘an al-munkar (bid to do what is right and forbid what is wrong).
The opinion of the Mu’tazilah about this Islamic duty is firstly, that the Shari’ah is not the exclusive means of identifying the ma’ruf and the munkar; human reason can, at least partially, independently identify the various kinds of ma’ruf and munkar.
Since they follow their intellectual arguments, they have had different opinions with each other. The differentiating between their beliefs caused establishing some different groups that two important divisions of them are as follows:
- The Basrah school of thought: Basra is a place where the Mutazilah had been established since the second Hejira century. We can also call the establisher of this school as the establisher of the Mutazilah. The foremost among the Mu’tazilah, who established Mu’tazilism (al-‘i’tizal) as a school of thought is Wasil ibn ‘Ata’.
- The Baqdad school of thought: The school of Baqdad had been established near the end of second Hejira century. This school was established by Boshr ibn Motamed. He had been taught al-I’tizal byhis two teachers, Boshr ibn Saeed and Abu Usman Zafarani.
Generally, it is said that those Mutazilah, who belong to the school of Baqdad, were mostly inclined to Shia than the Basrah School, however most of both groups were Sunni.
Some Baqdadian scholars like Jafar bin Harb, Jafar bing Mobsher and Eskafi have struggled to change the belief of Mutazilah as their own belief. They have believed in such belief that Ali (a.s) was superior to the Caliphs but Talha and Zobair were not so.
They have also had faith that Ali (a.s) was the most virtuous person and superior to the Caliphs after the Holy Prophet (pbuh), however Abul-Hudhayl was one of the Basrah Mutazilah who believed in equality between Ali (a.s) and Abu Bakir.
The Doctrine of Divine Justice in which Shia and Mutazilah have different opinions with each other:
It is evident that none of the Islamic sects denied justice as one of the Divine Attributes. No one has ever claimed that God is not just. The difference between the Mu’tazilah and their opponents is about the interpretation of Justice. The Asha’irah interpret it in such away that it is equivalent, in the view of the Mu’tazilah, to a denial of the Attribute of Justice. Otherwise, the Asha’irah are not at all willing to be considered the opponents of justice.
The Mu’tazilah believe that some acts are essentially ‘just’ and some intrinsically ‘unjust.’ For instance, rewarding the obedient and punishing the sinners is justice; and that God is Just. E.g., He rewards the obedient and punishes the sinners, and it is impossible for Him to act otherwise. Rewarding the sinners and punishing the obedient is essentially and intrinsically unjust, and it is impossible for God to do such a thing.
Similarly, compelling His creatures to commit sin, or creating them without any power of free will, then creating the sinful acts at their hands, and then punishing them on account of those sins. This is injustice, an ugly thing for God to do. It is unjustifiable and ungodly. The Asha’irah believe that no act is intrinsically or essentially just or unjust.
Justice is essentially whatever God does. If supposedly, God were to punish the obedient and reward the sinners, it would be as just. Similarly, if God creates His creatures without any will, power or freedom of action, then if He causes them to commit sins and then punishes them for that – it is not essential injustice.
For the same reason that the Mu’tazilah emphasize justice, they deny al-tawhid al-‘af’ali (It means that all beings, or rather all acts [even human acts] exist by the Will of God, and are in some way willed by His sacred Essence). They say that al-tawhid al-‘af’ali implies that God, not the human beings, is the maker of human deeds.
Also, thereby, the Mu’tazilah believe in human freedom, free will and are its staunch defenders, contrary to the Asha’irah who deny human freedom and free will.
Shia believe that there is no contradiction between the will of human and Tawhid Afali, because, the will of the human is at the length of the will of Allah (SWT) not at the width instead. Human beings are unable to reach his own will without the will of Allah (SWT).
In the Shi’ite faith the principle of Divine Justice is considered one of the five essential doctrines.
Conclusion: Both Shia and Mutazilah Schools of thought, have agreement in many religious tenets. They have different opinions about Justice, Imamat, (some of Mutazilah scholars believe that Imam Ali (a.s) is superior to the Caliphs and appointed by Allah (SWT), the Almighty, but some of them believe Abu Bakir is equal with Him rather superior to Him!) and other opinions that some of them have already been explained.
That’s why we Shia aren’t able to accept all their beliefs, not to reject.
For further information in this regards, please refer to the following answer:
Index: The differences and similarities between Shia and Sunni, answer 187.
 . Farmaniyan, Mahdi, Feraq Tasannun, Pg.311.
 . Fayoumi, Muhammad Ibrahim, al-Mutazilah Takvin al-Aqlal_Arabi, Pg. 338.
 . Ibid, Pg. 135.
 . Al-Mutazilah Takvin al-Aqlal-Arabi, Pg. 350.
 . Ibid, 339.
 . For further information: refer to the Book of Buhuth fi al-Milal wal-Nihal, by Ayatollah Sobhani.