Abū l-Yusr al-Bazdawī  رَحِمَهُ ٱللَّٰهُ‎ on Allah’s Attributes (sifaat)

Abū l-Yusr al-Bazdawī رَحِمَهُ ٱللَّٰهُ‎ on Allah’s Attributes (sifaat)

Sheridan Polinsky

At the core of Muslim discourse on the divine attributes lies a fundamental disagreement over the very meaning of “attribute” as represented by the Arabic ṣifa. The word, in fact, does not occur in the Quran; it was borrowed from the grammarians, who understood it to include mainly two types of adjectives, the active and passive participles (ism al-fā‘il and ism al-maf‘ūl), but other types as well, such as those in the forms of fa‘l, fa‘il, and fa‘īl, or the superlative af‘al, which were treated as words that resemble participles (al-mushabbaha bi-asmā’ al-fā‘il wa-l-maf‘ūl).114 The Mu‘tazilites maintained precisely this meaning of ṣifa established by the grammarians when applied to God 115 and distinguished between His “attributes of essence” (ṣifāt al-dhāt) and “attributes of act” (ṣifāt al-fi‘l).116 Under the first category, most of them included such adjectives as knowing (‘ālim or ‘alīm), powerful (qādir or qadīr), and living (ḥayy), and under the second one they included adjectives such as creator (khāliq), provider (rāziq), and actor (fā‘il).117 A key difference between the two types of attributes, according to the Mu‘tazilites, is that those of essence, being one with God, are eternal, while those of act only become applicable to Him when He performs their corresponding actions. In other words, God is eternally knowing, powerful, and living via His essence, but only becomes a creator when He creates something or a provider when He provides something.118

Despite this distinction, in the opinion of the Mu‘tazilites, God’s attributes, whether of essence or act, are nothing more than words that describe His being or action.119 This point as concerns the attributes of essence was strongly disputed by Sunnite theologians. In their view, these attributes are not identical with God’s essence but rather eternal entities subsisting in His essence that make it possible for one to apply the corresponding adjectives to Him. Thus, God is knowing, powerful, and living via substantive attributes of knowledge, power, and life subsisting in His essence. As for the attributes of act, the Ash‘arites sided with the Mu‘tazilites, while the Ḥanafites and Māturīdites extended to them the formula for the attributes of essence that they shared with the Ash‘arites, so that God is, for instance, creating, providing, and acting via eternal, substantive attributes of creation, provision, and action subsisting in His essence.120 Therefore, as Abū l-Yusr aptly puts it, for his party the two types of attributes are really just the same.121

Abū l-Yusr’s outline of the Mu‘tazilite position highlights the philosophical basis on which they established it.122 This is the argument that, if God has substantive attributes,123 they must be either eternal or temporally originated. If they are eternal, then multiple eternal beings exist; if they are temporally originated, then God is a substrate for the inherence of temporal beings. Both of these conclusions are untenable; therefore, God cannot be said to have substantive attributes. As Abū l-Yusr explains, it is precisely because of this view that the Mu‘tazilites call themselves “the people of unity” (ahl al-tawḥīd) and believe that positing the existence of eternal, substantive divine attributes constitutes polytheism (shirk).

The accusation of polytheism is very strong, for it implies the exclusion of the Sunnites from the Muslim community. But of course, the Sunnites had their own arguments, both in defence of their opinion and against that of the Mu‘tazilites. In this chapter, we will examine some of these arguments as set forth by Abū l-Yusr as well as his refutation of the negative theology of the early Mu‘tazilite Ḍirār b. ‘Amr (d. 200/815).

Substantive Attributes ≠ Multiplicity

The first argument that Abū l-Yusr sets forth on this topic seeks to expose the baselessness of the Mu‘tazilite belief that positing substantive attributes for God is equivalent to positing the existence of multiple eternal beings.124 He points out that two distinct beings (al-ghayrayn) are two separate existents (mawjūdān), of which it is possible to imagine one existing without the other. Two proofs are provided for this assertion. The first is a verse of the first chapter of the Quran: “The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favour, those other (ghayr) than those who have evoked [Your] anger or those who have gone astray,” (1:7). According to Abū l-Yusr, here God refers to infidels as being “other” than believers, which means that it is possible for Muslims to exist and infidels not to. The second proof is based on reason: the world is different from God; at one point, God existed and the world did not.

The purpose of these remarks is to contrast the distinct existence of two separate beings with the relationship between God and His attributes. God’s attributes, Abū l-Yusr explains, are of the kind that is neither distinct from nor identical with Him. He adduces the movement of a mobile being (mutaḥarrik) as an example of this relationship; its movement is neither different from nor identical with it. Similarly, the number ten consists of several numbers, yet they are all neither different from nor identical with the number ten itself. This principle, he argues, equally holds for God’s attributes. They are neither identical with nor different from His essence; it is impossible to conceive of His essence without His attributes and, furthermore, any of His attributes without the others. For instance, one cannot imagine His essence without His knowledge and power; His knowledge without His essence; His knowledge without His power; His power without His life; and so on for the rest of His attributes. Therefore, positing substantive attributes for God does not involve assertion of otherness within Him and consequently the existence of multiple eternal beings, but rather only one eternal being.

Abū l-Yusr also points out that, in maintaining their view, the Mu‘tazilites contradict their belief that non-existents (ma‘dūmāt) are things (ashyā’).125 They based this doctrine on the nature of the divine act of creation as described in two verses of the Quran (16:40 and 36:82): when God wants a thing (shay’) to be, he simply says “Be!” to it and it is. In their view, that “thing”, although still a non-existent, must somehow be present before God creates it in order for Him to be able to say “Be!” to it.126 Therefore, they allowed that “things” are eternal. Abū l-Yusr thus simply asks what prevents them from admitting that God’s attributes are entities that are eternal along with Him, even if this means positing the eternity of things, since they do not believe that violates God’s unity (ishrāk).

Quranic Proofs for God’s Substantive Attributes

Having thus shown that the Mu‘tazilites’ objection to the Sunnite view is rationally indefensible and inconsistent with their own theology, Abū l-Yusr proceeds to show that the Quran is in full support of the Sunnite position.127 He does this wisely, citing five verses that mention verbal nouns (maṣādir; s. maṣdar) as divine attributes rather than adjectives. The Mu‘tazilite opponent is thus faced with explaining what precisely the nouns in those verses refer to if not substantive divine attributes. Abū l-Yusr’s systematic presentation of these verse-proofs, this opponent’s objections to them, and his responses to these objections lends itself to the following schematic layout of these exchanges.

Quranic Proof #1

Verse: “Verily, God is the Provider, the Possessor of Strength (dhū l-quwwa), the Firm,” (51:58).

Objection: God is the “Possessor of Strength” in that He is the creator and master (mālik) of the strength that He created for His servants. This is in the same way that it is said that a man is a “possessor of wealth” (dhū māl) in the sense that he is its owner (ṣāhib) and master.

Rebuttal: This objection is valid with respect to bodies, but not attributes. When it is said that one is the possessor of (dhū) a certain attribute, such as knowledge or strength, that attribute subsists in him. The same applies to God and His attributes.

Quranic Proof #2

Verse: “He is greater than them in strength (quwwatan),” (41:15).

Objection: This verse signifies that God is stronger than them. Indeed, God is truly the Strong (i.e., via His essence).

Rebuttal: In ordinary speech, saying that so-and-so is greater in strength than so-and-so amounts to an ascription of strength to the former person.

Quranic Proof #3

Verse: “To God and His messenger belongs might (‘izza),” (63:8).

Objection: This means that God is the Fortifier. Fortification (i‘zāz) belongs to and originates from Him.

Rebuttal: In this verse, God assigns the attribute of might to Himself. Fortification is indeed also one of God’s attributes, but it is not identical with His might: fortification is an attribute of act, while might is an attribute of essence.

Quranic Proof #4

Verse: “They do not encompass anything of His knowledge (‘ilmihi),” (2:255).

Objection: His knowledge here refers to the objects of His knowledge (ma‘lūmuhu) because it is these which may be encompassed, not His knowledge.

Rebuttal: First, God’s knowledge may be encompassed in the sense of being known about (yu‘lam), because His attributes, like His essence, are known about. Second, when the term “knowledge” is used, it obviously refers to knowledge as an attribute. This particular verse, however, does clearly refer to what God knows and not His knowledge, for God says, “They do not encompass anything (bi-shay’) of His knowledge,” and that which is known can be conceived of as a “thing” (shay’), while knowledge cannot.

Quranic Proof #5

Verse: “He sent it [the Quran] down with His knowledge (‘ilmihi),” (4:166).

Objection: Descent does not occur with knowledge, but rather with power. This verse thus means that God sent the Quran down and is knowing about it; it is His known thing.

Rebuttal: The verse provides clear proof that He has knowledge. Its meaning is that God sent the Quran down and His knowledge of it is complete (muḥīṭ). Additionally, just as “wondrous acts” (af‘āl ‘ajība) in this world indicate the existence of a knowing actor and the actor’s knowledge, God’s wondrous acts indicate that He is knowing and has knowledge.128

Clearly, in Abū l-Yusr’s mind, his Mu‘tazilite opponent can do nothing but offer figurative interpretations of the verses to avoid lending any support to the Sunnite position. Hence the opponent argues that God “has” strength in the sense that He created it and allotted it to His creatures, while His might is in fact His fortification and His knowledge is merely His known thing. Abū l-Yusr considers literal interpretation of the sacred text to be justified and more powerful, and thus in the last three rebuttals, draws his opponent’s attention to the letter of the text. In the first two rebuttals, he analogizes between ordinary and divine language. Conversely, as we will see in Chapter 5, that same strategy is crucial to support his own non-literal readings of anthropomorphic expressions in the Quran and a hadith. It appears then that Abū l-Yusr’s religio-textual hermeneutic is just as fuelled by rational considerations as that of his Mu‘tazilite opponent; it is just that the wording of the verses he chooses here happens to accord with his views.

Inferring the Unseen from the Seen

For the Mu‘tazilites, a key principle of reasoning was the “analogy of the unseen to the seen” (qiyās al-ghā’ib ‘alā l-shāhid): what can be said of the creature can, in some cases, also be said of God.129 The principle also became important for Sunnites,130 including al-Māturīdī, who devoted a special chapter of his K. al-Tawḥīd to laying down the rules for its application, in contrast to his Ḥanafite predecessors who merely claimed that it could be used to infer the existence of the Creator but did not comment on its scope.131 Although Abū l-Yusr, like these earlier Ḥanafites, does not specify when it should be used, he is clearly aware of its potential to support both the Sunnite and Mu‘tazilite positions. This is evinced by its employment in the fifth rebuttal above as well as in several arguments designed to uphold one or the other of the two positions and which take knowledge as an example for the rest of the attributes.132

In reply to a claim that a knower in this world can be knowing without knowledge and thus, it is implied, God can be knowing simply through His essence and not an attribute of knowledge,133 Abū l-Yusr explains that people who are less or more knowledgeable, or even ignorant, are so because of differences in the state of their attribute (ma‘nā)134 of knowledge, just like things that are less or more white, black, in motion, in rest, and so on, are so because of differences in the states of the corresponding attributes; accordingly, one is not knowing in some instances and ignorant in others because his essence has changed or because the attribute of knowledge does not exist. Therefore, since a knower in this world always possesses an attribute of knowledge, so it must be with God.

Naturally, one would expect that this claim to which Abū l-Yusr responded was made by a Mu‘tazilite. This is not the case, however, because while the Mu‘tazilites shared the Sunnite conception of ṣifāt as entities when applied to created beings, they refused to extend that conception to God.135 A second argument136 that Abū l-Yusr must address seems to offer us at least one reason why they refused to do so. This argument affirms Abū l-Yusr’s assertion that a being in this world is knowing through an attribute of knowledge since one may be knowing in some instances and ignorant in others. But it contends that the same cannot be true for God because He is knowing at all times and thus must be knowing via His essence.

Abū l-Yusr admits, of course, that God is knowing at all times, noting that ignorance is impossible for Him. However, he maintains that, like one in this world, He is knowing in each instance through knowledge, not His essence. Indeed, if God were knowing via His essence, His essence would be knowledge. This, however, is not the case, because when something is qualified by a thing, that thing is its attribute; for instance, a mobile being is qualified by movement, and thus movement is its attribute. Therefore, God is not knowing via His essence. Furthermore, the idea of a knower without knowledge is equivalent to the idea of a rational being without reason, a mobile being without movement, and something white without whiteness; it is therefore false, and to accept it is in fact to deny that God is even knowing.137

Certainly, then, Abū l-Yusr’s frequent use of the principle of reasoning about God on the basis of matters in this world in defence of the Sunnite doctrine, here and, as we shall see, in other chapters on the attributes, vindicates al-Māturīdī’s efforts to ensure its proper employment by future scholars.

Refutation of Negative Theology

There existed amongst the Mu‘tazilites different views about how their unanimous rejection of substantive divine attributes and ideas about the existence and/or nature of certain attributes should be formulated. Some of these views are countered by Abū l-Yusr in Uṣūl al-dīn, the first of which he ascribes to Abū Isḥāq al-Naẓẓām (d. 220-30/835-45).138 Al-Naẓẓām was born and educated in Basra, mostly within the scholarly circle of his uncle, the important Mu‘tazilite Abū l-Hudhayl al-‘Allāf (d. 227/842). He later moved to Baghdad where he was active in the court of the caliph al-Ma’mūn (r. 198-218/813–33; d. 218/833). His theology, unlike his poetry, was not popular since it was founded on complex philosophical speculation. In his heresiography, the Ash‘arite Abū Manṣūr al-Baghdādī (d. 429/1037) reports that all rationalist and traditionist groups (jamī‘ firaq al-umma min farīqay al-ra’y wa-l-ḥadīth) as well as the Khārijites, Shī‘ites, Najjārites, and most Mu‘tazilites considered al-Naẓẓām an infidel, and that al-Ash‘arī wrote three books refuting his ideas.139

In spite of the contempt in which he appears to have been held by most theologians, al-Naẓẓām made an important contribution to the development of basic Mu‘tazilite doctrine on the divine attributes. He reformulated Abū l-Hudhayl’s phrase, “God is knowing via knowledge that is identical with Him (huwa ‘ālim bi-‘ilm huwa huwa),”140 as “God is always knowing, living, powerful, hearing, seeing, [and] eternal via Himself (bi-nafsihi), not via knowledge, life, power, hearing, vision, [and] eternity.”141 His version was subsequently adopted by the majority of  Mu‘tazilites in Basra and Baghdad.142 Most important for us, however, is his comment that in affirming the attributes mentioned in his formula, he was both affirming God’s essence and denying Him ignorance, death, weakness, deafness, and blindness,143 and that this method of affirmation and denial applied to all essential attributes.144 In other words, he saw God’s attributes as both positive statements about Him and negations of their opposites.145

Given al-Naẓẓām’s stance on the divine attributes, it is a surprise to find Abū l-Yusr credit him with a different view. Abū l-Yusr phrases it thus: “‘We do not say that He is truly knowing. Rather, we mean [by saying that He is knowing] that He is not ignorant. Hence, if He is not truly knowing, it is not necessary that He has knowledge’.” As we just saw, while al-Naẓẓām did indeed deny that God is ignorant and has an attribute of knowledge, he affirmed that He is truly knowing. The view related by Abū l-Yusr instead seems to have belonged to al-Naẓẓām’s senior contemporary, Ḍirār b. ‘Amr. He believed that to say that God is knowing means that He is not ignorant, that He is powerful means that He is not weak, and that He is living means that He is not dead.146 He appears to have extended this principle to all divine names in the Quran, thereby arriving at a strictly apophatic theology. He was driven by a concern about making analogies between such names and their significations in human language147 as well as his belief that while God’s existence (anniyya) is known, His quiddity (māhiyya) is not fully known, just as one’s human nature is not fully known by others.148 Abū l-Yusr in fact states in Uṣūl al-dīn that Ḍirār considered only God to know His quiddity,149 but evidently he was not aware of the negative theology that in part followed from this view.150

Abū l-Yusr’s response to Ḍirār’s doctrine consists of three brief proofs. These are not directed against the ultimate conclusion of the argument he ascribes to al-Naẓẓām that God does not have an attribute of knowledge; rather, they simply demonstrate that God is truly knowing. First, he again offers literal readings of descriptions of God in the Quran, which this time merely involve adjectives: God calls Himself the Knowing (‘alīm) and the Aware (khabīr) in several verses. Second, he reminds us that wondrous actions only originate from a knower. And third, he alludes to the self-defeating effect of Ḍirār’s claim: every essence that is not knowing is ignorant, while every essence that is not ignorant is knowing.



114 Michel Allard, Le problème des attributs divins dans la doctrine d’al-Aš‘arī et de ses premiers grands disciples (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1965), 2-3; Daniel Gimaret, La doctrine d’al-Ash‘arī (Paris: Les éditions du cerf, 1990), 235.
115 Gimaret, 235 and 237.
116 On this distinction, see Otto Pretzl, Die frühe islamische Attributenlehre: Ihre weltanschaulichen Grundlagen und Wirkungen (Munich: Verlag der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1940), 9; van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, vol. 4, 443; Josef van Ess, Theology and Society in the Second and Third Centuries of the Hijra: A History of Religious Thought in Early Islam, vol. 4, tr. Gwendolin Goldbloom (Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2019), 496-7.
117 Abū l-Ḥasan ʻAlī b. Ismāʻīl al-Ashʻarī, Kitāb Maqālāt al-Islāmīyīn wa-ikhtilāf al-muṣallīn, ed. Hellmut Ritter (Vīsbādin: Dār al-Nashr Frānz Shtāynir, 1963), 164-5 and 179-80.
118 Although the Mu‘tazilites were the most well-known proponents of this doctrine, it was not exclusively held by the them. Al-Ash‘arī reports that it was also espoused by the majority of Khārijites, many Murji’ites, and some Zaydites. See his Kitāb Maqālāt, 164-5. Jahm b. Ṣafwān (d. 128/746) is also said to have denied that God has substantive attributes but was more rigorous than most Mu‘tazilites in limiting the extent to which God can be qualified. He argued that it is unacceptable to describe God with an adjective that can be applied to anything other than Him, for doing so would involve likening God to His creation (tashbīh). Hence, God is neither a thing, living, knowing, nor willing; however, He is powerful, acting, creating, enlivening (muḥyī), and deadening (mumīt). See Abū Manṣūr ‘Abd al-Qāhir b. Ṭāhir b. Muḥammad al-Baghdādī, al-Farq bayna l-firaq wa-bayān al-firqa al-nājiya min-hum:ʻaqāʼid al-firaq al-Islāmiyya wa-ārāʼ kibār aʻlāmihā, ed. Muḥammad ‘Uthmān Khisht (Cairo: Maktabat Ibn Sīnā, n.d.), 186; Abū l-Fatḥ Muḥammad b. ‘Abd al-Karīm al-Shahrastānī, al-Milal wa-l-niḥal, vol. 1, ed. Aḥmad Fahmī Muḥammad (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1992), 73. According to van Ess, however, this doctrine was likely developed amongst his followers, the Jahmites, rather than espoused by Jahm himself. See Theologie und Gesellschaft, vol. 3, 501; Theology and Society, vol. 2, 564. Lastly, the Muslim philosophers likewise rejected that God has substantive divine attributes, a view that Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) made the target of one of his attacks in his famous treatise against their doctrines and for which he accused them of contradicting the entire Muslim community except the Mu‘tazilites. See his The Incoherence of the Philosophers = Tahāfut al-falāsifah: A parallel English-Arabic text, tr. Michael E. Marmura (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2000), 96. See also EI², s.v. “Falāsifa.”
119 EI², s.v. “Ṣifa.”
120 For these Sunnite views, see Gimaret, La doctrine, 237; EI², s.v. “Allāh,”; EI², s.v. “Ṣifa,”; Rudolph, al-Māturīdī und die sunnitische Theologie, 312-3; Rudolph, al-Māturīdī and the Development, 281-2. The notion of substantive divine attributes was also not only postulated by Ash‘arites and Māturīdites. It was held much earlier by two Shī‘ite theologians, Hishām b. al-Ḥakam (d. 179/795-6) and Sulaymān b. Jarīr (fl. second half of second/eighth century), as well as Ibn Kullāb (d. ca. 241/855), who synthesized the ideas surrounding it into a coherent system that two generations later was taken up by al-Ash‘arī and his contemporary Aḥmad b. ‘Abd al-Raḥmān al-Qalānisī. See Gimaret, La doctrine, 237; van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, vol. 4, 443-4; van Ess, Theology and Society, vol. 4, 497-8; EI², s.v. “Ibn Kullāb.” According to Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī (d. 911/1505) as well as his student and Shādhilī Sufi Ibn Mughayzil (d. 894/1488-9), many Sufis held the view of the Ḥanafites and Māturīdītes about the attributes of act. See Jalāl al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Raḥmān b. Abī Bakr al-Suyūṭī, Ta’yīd al-ḥaqīqa al-‘aliyya wa tashdīd al-ṭarīqa al-Shādhiliyya (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-‘Ilmiyya, 1971), 42; ‘Abd al-Qādir b. al-Ḥusayn b. Mughayzil, al-Kawākib al-zāhira fī ijtimā‘ al-awliyā’ yaqẓatan bi-Sayyid al-Dunyā wa-l-Ākhira, ed. ‘Āṣim Ibrāhīm al-Kayyālī (Beirut: Kitāb Nāshirūn, 2013), 330.
121 al-Bazdawī, Uṣūl, 55-6.
122 al-Bazdawī, 46.
123 While for the sake of precision I often write “substantive attributes” here, Sunnites like Abū l-Yusr customarily spoke of mere “attributes” when describing both their position and the Mu‘tazilite one. Hence, they could accuse the Mu‘tazilites of “denying the attributes” and portray themselves as “those who affirm the attributes” or the “adepts of the attributes”, despite the fact that the Mu‘tazilites also extensively discussed God’s attributes as they understood them. On this, see EI², s.v. “Ṣifa.”

124 al-Bazdawī, Uṣūl, 46-7.

125 al-Bazdawī, Uṣūl, 47.
126 Other theologians, in contrast, insisted that only what exists can be said to be a “thing”. On their respective views, see Robert Wisnovsky, Avicenna’s Metaphysics in Context (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2003), 148-9.
127 al-Bazdawī, Uṣūl, 47-8.

128 The interpretations of these five passages of the Mu‘tazilite exegete al-Zamakhsharī largely parallel those made in the objections. See his Tafsīr al-Kashshāf ‘an ḥaqā’iq al-tanzīl wa-‘uyūn al-aqāwīl fī wujūh al-ta’wīl, ed. Khalīl Ma’mūn Thīmā (Beirut: Dār al-Ma‘rifa, 2009), 1055, 967, 1110, 145 and 272-3, respectively.
129 EI², s.v. “Mu‘tazila.”
130 EI², s.v. “Mu‘tazila.”
131 al-Māturīdī, Kitāb al-Tawḥīd, 92-4; Rudolph, al-Māturīdī und die sunnitische Theologie, 295-8; Rudolph, al-Māturīdī and the Development, 266-8.

132 al-Bazdawī, Uṣūl, 48-50.
133 al-Bazdawī, 49.
134 Sunnites used ma‘nā and ṣifa synonymously. See Gimaret, La doctrine, 237.
135 Gimaret, 237.
136 al-Bazdawī, Uṣūl, 49-50.

137 al-Bazdawī, 49-50.
138 al-Bazdawī, 50. On him, see EI², s.v. “al-Naẓẓām.”
139 al-Baghdādī, al-Farq, 120-1. Of course, one should bear in mind that al-Baghdādī’s tone is strongly polemical throughout his heresiography. He also writes, for instance, that the types of errors propagated by the Karrāmites in his day were “more than thousands and thousands”. See al-Baghdādī, 189.
140 al-Ash‘arī, Kitāb Maqālāt, 165.
141 al-Ash‘arī, 486-7.

142 van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, vol. 3, 399; van Ess, Theology and Society, vol. 3, 433. Shortly after their emergence, the Mu‘tazilites split into the Basran and Baghdad schools. Over time, both spread well beyond their original homes and came to include distinct early and later periods of thought. See EI², s.v. “Mu‘tazila.”
143 And temporality, presumably.
144 al-Ash‘arī, Kitāb Maqālāt, 166-7 and 486-7.
145 van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, vol. 3, 399; van Ess, Theology and Society, vol. 3, 433.
146 al-Ash‘arī, Kitāb Maqālāt, 166; al-Shahrastānī, al-Milal, vol. 1, 77.
147 van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, vol. 3, 37-8; van Ess, Theology and Society, vol. 3, 40-1.
148 EI², s.v. “Ḍirār b. ‘Amr.”
149 al-Bazdawī, Uṣūl, 257
150 It thus appears that at least one Mu‘tazilite did not conceive of the attributes of essence as adjectives truly descriptive of God’s being. This may or may not be the case since Ḍirār’s identity as a Mu‘tazilite has been disputed by several Mu‘tazilites and non-Mu‘tazilites alike. Josef van Ess, however, who has extensively studied Ḍirār’s theology, considers him a Mu‘tazilite. See van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, vol. 3, 35-6; van Ess, Theology and Society, vol. 3, 37-8. The ambivalence over categorizing him happens to be reflected in Uṣūl al-dīn. Abū l-Yusr first associates him with the Mu‘tazilites, but later identifies the Ḍirāriyya as a Qadarite branch who agree with the Mu‘tazilites on all but a few issues. See Uṣūl, 24, 249, and 257.


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