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The Relation of the Shi‘a with the Mu‘tazilah

Question:

For what reason have the principles of religion been divided into five principles? Has the link of the Shi‘a with the Mu‘tazilah played any role in that?

Answer:

The Shi‘a have conducted discussions and debates about Islamic issues with all sects, as mentioned in books of kalam (theology) and polemics. However, they have not influenced it with regard to any issues of creed. As we have mentioned numerous times, the Shi‘a school of thought is an original Islamic school of thought, though the remaining sects appeared afterwards.
The beliefs of the Shi‘a are not limited to these five principles, but rather comprise many other issues as well. Of course, in one exposition, the Islamic beliefs can be summarized into tawhid (Divine unity), nubuwwah (prophecy), and ma`ad (resurrection), or in tawhid and nubuwwah, since the remaining beliefs, such as Imamah (vicegerency) and resurrection are a part of the issues which the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) preached and informed about. And according to the narrations, faith in the prophecy consists of faith in all that the Prophet conveyed.

الإِيمَانُ بِالنُّبُوَّةِ إِيمَانٌ بِكُلِّ مَا أَنْبَأَ عَنْهُ النَّبيُّ.

Faith in the prophecy consists of faith in all that the Prophet conveyed.

On this basis, these five principles – Divine unity, Divine justice, prophecy, Imamah, and the resurrection – are among the principles in which all Muslims must believe. Reason and revelation also affirm them. Summarizing the beliefs in these five principles is because the Shi‘a regard the issue of Divine justice and the Imamah as important as the remaining principles of belief, but Ahl al-Sunnat – the Ash`ari sect – do not believe in them.

The Shi‘a have taken the Islamic beliefs directly from the Holy Qur’an and the traditions of the Prophet and Imams (peace be upon them) and have not been influenced by the Mu‘tazilah with respect to any of their beliefs, since the Mu‘tazilah sect came into being afterwards.

If we see that the Mu‘tazilah share the Shi‘a view in some issues, what is proper is that we say that they have taken these views from the Shi‘a Imams either directly or indirectly. The well-known proverb, “Belief in coercion and anthropomorphism is Umayyad and belief in Justice and unity is an Alawi doctrine,”

الجَبْرُ وَالتَّشبِيهُ أَمَوِيَّان وَالْعَدْلُ وَالتَّوحِيدُ عَلَوِيَّان

confirms this claim.

In spite of this, some writers who are ignorant of the Shi‘a school of thought and have researched the Mu‘tazili and Ash‘ari sects have assumed the Shi‘a scholars, among them Sayyid Murta¤a, were Mu‘tazili since they found them opposed to some Ash‘ari beliefs.

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