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O Journal of Islamic Studies 8:1 (1997) pp.





American University of Beirut

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Arabic sources associate the etymology of the word 'MurjiV with two
distinct meanings, derived from two distinct roots: (1) hope, derived
from the root rjw,1 and (2) postponement or deferment, derived from
the root rj'.2 The derivation more relevant to the origins of the doctrine
comes from the root rj',3 and it is directly related to irja', denoting
deferring to the day of reckoning the judgement on the 'Uthman-'Atl
episode, around which the notion of irja' evolved. The usage in the
earliest Murji'ite texts attests to this conclusion.4 The association with
the root rjw must be linked to a later development in the doctrine.
Al-NIshi* al-Akbar, 'Masa'il al-'imamah' of Usiil al-nihal in Friihe Mu'tazilitische
Haresiographie—Zwei Werke des Noli' al-Akbar, 9—70, ed. Josef Van Ess (Beiruter
Texte und Studien, Band 11), Beirut, Orient-Institut der Deutschen Morgenltndischen
Gesellschaft, 1971, 19; al-Nawbakhu, al-Hasan b. MQsa, Kitab firaq al-Shta, ed. M.S.
Bahr al-'Ulum, Najaf, 1959, 27; al-Shahrastanl, Muhammad b. 'Abd al-Kanm Abu
1-Fath, al-Milal wa-l-nihal, ed. Ahmad Fahml Muhammad, Cairo, Maktabat al-Husayn
al-Tijariyya, 1st ed., 1948,1:222; Ibn 'Asakir, 'AH b. al-Hasan, Tarikh madtnat Dimashq,
Vol. "Uthman b. 'Affan', ed. Sukaynah al-Shahabl, Damascus, 1984, 505.
Nashi', 19; ShahrastanI, 1:222; Ibn 'Asakir, 504. In so far as the distinction aims to
establish a connection between the name of the sect, on the one hand, and its basic
tenet and historical origins, on the other, it is useful. Extended morphological discussions,
in old sources and modern works, are, however, redundant for the purpose (cf. Givony,
Joseph, 'wa 'aharuna urgawna li'amri allahi: an enquiry into...', Die Welt des Orients,
12 (1981), 73-80; Athamina, Khalil, 'The Early Murji'a: some notes', journal of Semitic
Studies, 35:1 (1990), 109-30, especially 110-13), and they reflect a degree of theological
sophistication which is not likely to have existed in the earlier period.
Ibn Man?ur, Muhammad b. Makram, Lisan al-'Arab, Beirut, Dar §adir, n.d., rj',
1:83—4, rjw, XTV:309-ll.
Kitab al-lrja', 23, para. 5, lines 6 and 7, para. 6, lines 2 and 4, and the context of
both paragraphs, in: Van Ess, Josef, 'Das Kitab al-Irgd' des Hasan b. Muhammad b.
al-Hanafiyya', Arabica, 21:1 (1974), 20-52; also Thabit Qutnah's poem, verses 5, 12-15,
in: al-Isfahanl, Abu 1-Faraj, Kitab al-aghatu, Beirut, Dar al-Thaqafa, 1959, XTV: 254f.;
sec the writer's rendering of this poem into English, Appendix I below. The usage is

The emergence of the Murji'a was dated to different times around

the first civil war (AH 35-41/AD 655-61)5 and after the second civil
war (AH 65-73/AD 684-93).' Modern scholars are no closer to an
agreement.7 A. J. Wensinck even suggests that the sectarianization of
the Murji'a—i.e. viewing it as a sect proper—may have materialized
only in post-Ash'arite times.8 In speaking of the roots of this religio-
political phenomenon, two distinctions must be made. The first distinc-
tion is formative, and it is drawn between: (1) a political or ideological
movement which, from inception, exhibits organized regimentation and
continuity, and (2) an attitude, a trend in the public sentiment, which
evolves in the course of history into an organized movement.

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To illustrate this first distinction, formative dissimilarities may be
sought between the Murji'a and the two other early Muslim sects, i.e.
the proto-ShT'ite groups9 and the Khawarij, to which irja' is sometimes
said to have been a reaction. The former two unambiguously emerged
as distinctive groups who, in well-known historical circumstances, ral-
lied, respectively, around a specific person or around his cause and
around a specific issue. They both took specific action and, henceforth,
enjoyed visible and continuous organized political existence. Right from
the beginning, each of these two sects had a cause, expressed a political
existence on the theatre of historical events, reflected self-awareness,
and captured the awareness of others, all of which are necessary for a
historical phenomenon to be considered a movement. Can the same be
said of the Murji'a? And, if so, starting when?
The second distinction is evolutionary: it is about the modes of

also attested in an anti-Murji'ite text: STrat Salim, p. 160, para. 1, line 3, and the context,
in: Cook, Michael, Early Muslim Dogma—a source-critical study, Cambridge,
Cambridge University Press, 1981, 160-3.
The beginnings are placed immediately after the murder of 'Uthman (Ibn 'Asakir,
504), in the wake of Siffin (Nashi', 19), and after the murder of 'All (NawbakhtT, 27).
' Those who ascribe the beginnings of the sect to al-Hasan b. Muhammad Ibn
al-Hanafiyya place it, in effect, after the second civil war (Ibn Sa'd, al-Tabaqat al-kubra,
Beirut, Dar Beirut—Dar Sldir, 1957, V328; ShahrastanT, 1:228; see below).
Of the modern scholars, Ahmad AmTn and Ignaz Goldziher, among others, are
inclined to the first period; Wilferd Madelung places the movement after the second
civil war (Amln, Ahmad, Fa/r al-lslam, Beirut, Dar al-Kitab al-'Arabl, 11th ed., 1975,
279-80; Goldziher, Ignaz, Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law, tr. Andras and
Ruth Hamori, Princeton, NJ, 1981, 74-5; Madelung, Wilferd, 'The Early Murii'a in
Khurasan and Transoxania and the Spread of Hanafism', Der Islam, 59 (1982), 32-9,
see p. 32).
* Wensinck, A.J., The Muslim Creed, its genesis and historical development,
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1932, 106.
' e.g. the so-called 'Saba'iyya', also the 'Tawwabun', the 'Kaysaniyya' varieties, and
the little-understood independent 'Hashimiyya' (cf. Agha, Saleh Said, 'The Agents and
Forces that Toppled the Umayyad Caliphate', Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto, 1993).

interaction between ideologies and history, and it is drawn between:

(1) dogmatism, which tries to impose an unbending ideology on events,
and (2) pragmatism, which responds to events by bending its ideology
to necessities, and which can easily be mistaken for opportunism, but
which can also, as easily, deteriorate into real opportunism.
To illustrate this second distinction, evolutionary dissimilarities also
may be sought between ShTism and Kharijism on the one hand, and
Murji'ism on the other. The Khawarij could not respond favourably
even to 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'AzTz, and they continued their attempts to
bend the course of history. Shakes never accepted the deaths of their
imams, and, to deal with this natural phenomenon, they resorted to the

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doctrines of ghayba and raj'a. How, on the other hand, was Murji'ism
utilized, and how did the Murji'a evolve through the Umayyad period?
The burden of this paper is to show: (1) that irja', at its inception,
was merely a noncommittal political attitude; (2) that it did not evolve
into an organized movement until the last third of the Umayyad era;
and (3) that, in its very non-partisan character, there was inherently
latent an element of pragmatism which made it expedient for an array
of personages and interest groups, through the era, to embrace irja'
and develop it in response to their needs and changing circumstances.
Historicity, and the notion of evolution of ideas, are almost alien to
the Muslim heresiographers. They, and some historians too, carelessly
speak of a Murji'a movement, or sect, emerging during, or immediately
after the first civil war. But we do not have to be solely dependent on
the heresiographers. More interesting and reliable is the portrait which
emerges from an integrated approach to the study of the heresiographers
and of three other categories of source material: (1) first-hand early
texts, both Murji'ite and anti-Murji'ite, in prose and in poetry;10 (2)
The texts under consideration are, in chronological order:
(a) Kitab al-Irja', attributed to al-Hasan b. Muhammad Ibn aJ-Hanafiyya, pp. 20-5
in Van Ess, Arabica. Van Ess argues for the authenticity of the text and dates it to
shortly after AH 73 as Madelung had suggested: see Van Ess, Josef, 'The Beginnings of
Islamic Theology', in: The Cultural Context of Medieval Learning, ed. Murdoch, J.E.
and Sylla, E.D (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 26), Dordrecht and
Boston, D. Rcidel Publishing Co., 1975, 96.
(b) The portion of STrat Salim b. Dhakwan al-lbadt, published by Cook in Early
Muslim Dogma, 160-3. Cook dates the text, if authentic, to the early AH 70s (93).
Madelung argues that it more likely belongs to AH 82, during the revolt of Ibn al-Ash'ath
(see Madelung, 'Early Murji'a', 32-3 n. la; and idem, reviewing M. Cook's Early
Muslim Dogma, journal of Theological Studies, 33 (1982), 628-33, especially 629).
(c) Three verses attributed to 'Awn b. 'Abd Allah, cited in: Ibn Qutayba, 'Abd Allah
b. Muslim, Kitab al-ma'arif, cd. Tharwat 'Ukasha, Cairo, Dar al-Ma'arif, 1969, 250 f.;
al-Jahij, 'Amr b. Bahr AbQ 'Uthman, al-Bayan wa-l-tabyTn, cd. 'Abd al-Salam Harun,
Cairo, 1960, I: 327 f. The general context in al-Jahiz suggests a time link between the
verses and 'Awn's renouncement of irja' upon his defection from the defeated ranks of

names of individuals described as Murji'ites, or who were involved

in Murji'ite undertakings;11 and (3) reports of organized Murji'ite
involvement in historical events.12
The evolution of Murji'ism during the Umayyad period unfolded in
two major phases, within which five marked stages may be discerned.13
The two phases are separated by the transformation of irja' from an
attitude to an organized movement. The organizational transformation
was a result of the increasingly pivotal role Khurasan and Transoxania
started playing since Qutayba's conquests (c. AH 87-96/AD 706-15).
The accompanying demographic upheavals called for 'unemployed'
champions to champion a championless cause, and the cause called for

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theoretical improvisation, and it thus ushered in the Murji'ite trans-
formation from an attitude and a doctrine to a movement, and from
simplicity to sophistication, from al-Murji'a al-Uld to the latter Murji'a,
from the simplistic mulling over the eschatological destinies of 'All and
'Uthman to the more complex discussion of the nature of Tman (belief),
and from straightforward rhetorical pronouncements to the theologiza-
tions of Abu Hanlfa (d. AH 150/AD 767) and Jahm b. Safwan (d. AH
128/AD 745). '

Ibn al-Ash'ath. This would date the verses to c. AH 82 or 83. Goldziher also links them
to the time of Ibn al-Ash'ath's revolt, but to its commencement, i.e. to c. AH 81 (cf.
Goldziher, Ignaz, Muslim Studies, ed. S.M. Stern, London, 1967, 91).
(d) Thabit Qutnah's poem, AghanT, XIV: 254 f. This poem must have been composed
before (the poet's death in) AH 110, probably during his involvement in Abu al-Sayda"s
movement, earlier in the same year, or, even earlier, during his association with the
Murji'ites of Khurasan (ibid. XIV: 253; and below). Nallino's contention, that the poem
belongs to the second half of the first century, is unlikely (cf. Nallino, C , Tartkh al-adab
al-'Arabiyya, ed. Nallino, M., Cairo, 1970, 254). Athamina (126 n. 87) dates the poem
to the years before Ibn al-Ash'ath's revolt; this is even more unlikely. The gloom of the
opening of the poem suggests it was much closer to the poet's last years, i.e. before
AH 110.
(e) Relevant selected verses from Muharib b. Dithar's poem, cited in: WakT*,
Muhammad b. Khalaf, Akhbar al-qudat, Beirut, 'Alam al-Kutub, n.d., Ill: 29f.; Aghatu,
VII: 242. Muharib died in AH 116 and was associated with al-Murji'a al-Vla (Ibn Sa'd,
VI: 307). The verses naturally belong to the period before AH 116, probably between
AH 82 and 95 (below).
(f) Nasr b. Sayyar's poem criticizing the Murji'a associated with al-Harith b. Surayj
in AH 117, cited in: al-Tabari, Muhammad b. JarTr Abu Ja'far, Tartkh al-rusul wa-l-
muluk, ed. M.J. de Goeje et al., Leiden, 1879-1901, II: 1575 f. For my translation of
the poetry texts listed here (c,d,e,and f), see Appendix I below.
For the names of individuals associated with irja', see Appendix II below.
The Murji'a were reportedly involved in the following revolts: Ibn al-Ash'ath's (c.
AH 81-3), Ibn al-Muhallab's (c. AH 101-2), and al-Harith b. Surayj's (c. AH 116-28).
They were also associated with the movement, c. AH 110, of Abu al-Sayda' in favour
of the mawdtt (below).
See Appendix III below.

The five stages of the evolution of Murji'ism coincided with and

responded to the following stages of Umayyad history.


This stage coincided with and responded to the events of the period
from the murder of 'Uthman (AH 35/AD 655) to the end of the second
civil war (AH 73/AD 693).


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This stage covers the post-second civil war period until the outbreak
in AH 81/AD 700 of the rebellion led by 'Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad
b. al-Ash'ath. It is marked by al-Hasan b. Muhammad Ibn
al-Hanafiyya's epistle, Kitab al-lrja\


It includes the Ibn al-Ash'ath rebellion (c. AH 81-3/AD 700-2) and

stretches to the outbreak of Yazld Ibn al-Muhallab's (AH 101/AD
While the first two stages unequivocally belong to the first phase of
Murji'ism, this third stage may be contentious. In view of the uncertain-
ties engulfing the issue, but also in harmony with historical common
sense, it would best be considered as the natural bridge between the
two major phases. The two remaining stages belong to the second
phase, that of the organized Murji'a movement. They are:



The theatre here was Khurasan and Transoxania after the conquests of
Qutayba and the reign of 'Umar b. 'Abd al-'AzIz. The period was
marked by changing fiscal policies towards the Soghdian converts. It
ended with the insurgency of al-Harith b. Surayj (c. AH 116/AD 735).



This period features al-Harith Ibn Surayj's insurgency (c. AH

116-28/AD 735—46), and the outbreak and the final victory in AH
132/AD 750 of the Hashimiyya Revolution—erroneously called the
'Abbasid Revolution.
With this necessary compartmentalization of history behind us, I now
proceed to examine the interaction between events and ideas in a
continuous context closer to the natural flow of history.
What emerged during the early period is well illustrated in an interes-
ting text in Ibn 'Asakir,M which locates the beginning of irja' in Madina
almost immediately after 'Uthman's murder, when some Madinans who
were away on military campaigns came back. Despite its shortcomings,15
the text provides a plausible general portrait of the very first blossoming
of irja'.16 Basic elements of the original irja' attitude, most of which
later became tenets of the doctrine, are implied or explicitly stated in
Ibn 'Asakir's report. They are:

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1. aversion to internal strife and concern for the unity of the commun-
ity, a notion later attested in Kitab al-Irja', Thabit Qutnah's poem,
and elsewhere;
2. scepticism, which presumably bred the abstention from passing a
judgement on a controversy by those who did not witness the
circumstances. In addition to the Murji'ite texts, this notion is also
attested in Strat Salim;
3. complete negative neutrality towards 'All and 'Uthman by refraining
from condemning, testifying in favour of, or dissociating from them;
4. irja', postponement of judgement and deferring it to God, thus
became the only possible attitude, and later it gave its name to the
belated movement.
In his presentation of the Murji'ite doctrine, al-Nashi' al-Akbar,17
like all other heresiographers, lumped together a summary of views
ascribed to, or embraced by Murji'ites at different historical junctures.
He did so without regard to the historical process of the evolution of
the doctrine. Thus, the elements of irja' extracted from al-Nashi1 only
partially overlap with those extracted from Ibn 'Asakir.18 But most
Ibn 'Asakir, 504.
The synoptic nature of the text may detra« from its validity regarding the historicity
of what it relates. The usage of the third person plural, relaying a sense of a collective
stand, is undermined by the anonymity of the speakers.
" The centrepiece of irja' was the 'Uthman-'AlT episode. It is, therefore, more likely
that collective sentiments towards it (for, against, or neutral) should have occurred
immediately after the event ('Uthman's murder), and that the controversy surrounding
it could not have occurred earlier (during the siege) nor much later (after the second
civil war).
Nashi', 19f. In his panoramic view of how, when, and around what issues the
Islamic sects emerged, al-Nashi' places the Murji'a in the era after 'AtTs death, without
specifying when exactly. In chronological order, they come seventh after six earlier seas.
" The second element in Ibn 'Asakir's text is absent from Nashi"s account; in Nashi'
the third and fourth elements are amalgamated and stripped of their historical specificity.
The element of hope in God's forgiveness, which is preserved by Ibn 'Asakir for those
who adhered to the jama'a, is ascribed by Nashi' to the Murji'a.

conspicuous is al-Nashi"s addition of the elements concerning belief

(tmdn). The theological discussion of the nature of Tmdn was a later
development. The Murji'ite contention that all Muslims are mu'minun
despite their disputes and mutual excommunication and blood-letting,
and that their Tmdn is of the same nature as that of the prophets and
the angels, and that, therefore, hope for their deliverance is the order
of the faith, all these are tenets which could not have belonged to the
more primitive and basic irjd'. These were enticers and apologetics
meant to sweeten conversion to Islam, to promise and fight for full
citizenship for the converts, and to rationalize Murji'ite wavering
between complete abstention and full involvement in the mundane

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affairs of the community. They belong partially to the ultra-oppressive
era of al-Hajjaj's tenure—especially after the crushing of Ibn
al-Ash'ath's insurgency, but mainly to the extended Hanafite tradition
which seems to have dedicated itself to responding to the situation in
the East in the first three decades of the second Hijri century.
In their synoptic, but panoramic, rendering of the Islamic heresio-
graphic scene, the Mu'tazilite Nashi', w the ShTite NawbakhtT,20 and
the Sunnite Ibn 'Asakir21 meet, run parallel, and diverge in a confused,
and hence potentially confusing, heresiographic landscape. Working
through the confusion, and allowing for Nawbakhtrs unremitting hos-
tility, Nashi"s misinspired sophistication, and Ibn 'Asakir's excessively
simplifying stance, one may deduce from their accounts that, alongside
the partisan configurations ('Uthmaniyya, proto-Shrites, and Khawarij),
the first major discord in Islam gave birth to two distinct non-partisan
0 M
Nashi', 16ff. Nawbalchtl, 27ff. " Ibn 'Asakir, 504.
Nashi' accounts for a sect he calls Hatlsiyya; its prominent figures are the same
prominent companions of the Prophet whom Ibn 'Asakir describes as being those who
adhered to the jama'a. The difference between this group's attitude and that of irja' is
rather difficult to discern. In Ibn 'Asakir, both attitudes are neutral. But irja' implied
negative neutrality, abstaining from involvement in the dispute, and at the same time
refraining from approving or disapproving of either 'All or 'Uthman. HaJisiyya, in
contrast, implied positive neutrality, abstaining only from involvement but at the same
time approving of both parties to the dispute, testifying to their being mu'minun and
anticipating redemption for them. This last feature of anticipation and confirmation of
Tman is ascribed by Nashi' to the Murji'a. Where the similarity stops between Nashi'
and Ibn 'Asakir, an interesting parallel starts between the former and NawbakhtT. Those
to whom Nashi' refers as HatTsiyya, names from amongst the Prophet's companions,
and designates as ashab al-hadtth, NawbakhtT calls Batriyya, names from amongst the
prominent 'orthodox' fuqaha' and muhaddithTn, and designates as ashab al-hadilh also.
NawbakhtT and Nashi' inconsequentially disagree on some names and designations, but
they are speaking of the same trend—'atba1 al-muluk wa-kull man ghalab', according
to NawbakhtT, and 'ya'tammun ft kull 'asr biman ghalab', according to Nashi'; i.e.
followers of authority, in both cases. But the most important similarity between the two
sources brings home what this part of the discussion is trying to establish. Be it Hatlsiyya

(1) the positive neutrality of the so-called Ha&siyya, or Ahl al-Jama'a,

who abstained from talcing sides, but at the same time approved
of both parties to the dispute, testified to their being mu'minun
(believers), and anticipated redemption for them; and
(2) irja', the negative neutrality of those who later earned the Murji'a
label; these also abstained from taking sides, but they refrained
from approving or disapproving of either cAlT or 'Uthman, and
deferred the matter to God.
The first attitude did not enjoy the independent theological and
political survival which irja' enjoyed.
Rudimentary irja' contained an element of dynamism owing to the

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potential for political opportunism latent in it. Paradoxical as it may
sound, the positive neutrality of the so-called Hatfsiyya could only
produce passive political submission. In as much as they confirmed the
bona fide status of two warring parties, at least one of whom had to
be wrong, they deprived themselves of manoeuvrability and became
politically inert. On the extremes of the political spectrum, the Khawarij
and the Shrites dedicated themselves to partisan dogmatism and, for a
long time in the prevailing circumstances, could politically produce only
martyrdom; the 'Uthmaniyya eventually enjoyed a victorious cause.
Irja' alone could provide unattached manoeuvrability. On the one hand,
when a well-defined stand was dangerous, the scepticism essential to
the original sentiment could provide the cover for a noncommittal
stand. The concern for the unity and welfare of the community, on the
other hand, could provide vindication of submission to the incumbent
authority. Emphasizing the notion of ghiyab (not witnessing the circum-
stances in which a dispute flared) as a necessary condition for non-
involvement, however, could relieve an activist from having to be
noncommittal in a current issue, and justify involvement on either side.
Religious justifications for any and every cause have never been in short
supply. Thus, adherents of irja' could always be back in business, while
the positive HalTsiyya had, once and for all, shut themselves out. More
interestingly, the expediency of the irja' attitude, first, and of the
doctrine, later, lent itself to whoever cared to borrow. The history of
the theological evolution of the doctrine during the era is mainly a
reflection of the development of religious rationales needed by the
politically motivated individuals and groups who availed themselves of

or Batriyya, initiated by the Prophet's companions and carried on by ashab al-hadtth or

simply represented by the latter, this trend dissolves. It is assimilated into a larger
trend: Hashwiyya. It makes little difference for present purposes that Nashi', from
his Mu'tazilite perspective, distinguishes between Hashwiyya and Murji'a, while
NawbakhtT, from his ShTite perspective, uses the two terms synonymously to include
'al-sawad al-a'zatn', the overwhelming majority which adhered to Mu'awiya.

the expediency. Rarely was it a matter of real conviction, or of putting

a rigid existing dogma into political application—not at least till the
end of the Umayyad period. Raising the question of whether the Murji'a
was a quietist or an activist group is, therefore, artificial.23 The question
should be: who utilized irja', when, for what purpose, and how did
that specific historical instance reflect on the theological evolution of
the doctrine? Whether the cause happened to be for or against the
government should be treated as only incidental.
Al-Hasan b. Muhammad Ibn al-Hanaflyya (d. AH 100/AD 718-19),
a grandson of lAlT but not of Fatima, was apparently the first to avail
himself of the political expediency latent in the irja' attitude. The cause

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of his house had been shattered by the military defeat of the revolt
launched, in his father's name, by al-Mukhtar (AH 66-7/AD 685-7).
Six years later (in AH 73/AD 693) 'Abd al-Malik b. Marwan's victory
was complete, ending the nine-year second civil war. Prosperts of further
'Alld risings must have looked, even to the revolutionary al-Hasan, dim,
if not completely obliterated, and he must have sensed the futility of
continued dissent. Al-Hasan was a prudent man;24 it is, therefore, very
likely for a man thus disposed to follow in his father's footsteps and
'acknowledge the political farts'.25 Other factors of allurement and
intimidation might have also been brought by cAbd al-Malik to bear
on al-Hasan in order to persuade him, or make it expedient for him,
to reconcile himself with Umayyad supremacy.2*
But, for al-Hasan to 'make his peace with the Umayyad regime', to
borrow Madelung's words,27 he had to relinquish his cause. More
humiliating was the fact that such relinquishment could imply a
A number of modern scholars addressed the question; e.g. Goldziher branded irja'
as a 'completely loyal trend' (Muslim Studies, 90 ff.); Watt acknowledges that their
'political attitudes... are not altogether clear', and that they 'were not always out-and-
out supporters of the Umayyads' (Watt, William Montgomery, The Formative Period of
Islamic Thought, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 1973, 125); Wensinck says that
they 'went far in complying with the government' {Creed, 38); Cook argues, 'against
the prevailing view, that it was activist' ('Activism and Quietism in Islam: The case of
the early Murji'a', in: Islam and Power, ed. Cudsi, A.S. and Dessouki, E.H., London,
Croom Helm, 1981, repr. 1982, 15—23, especially 15; and Dogma, esp. 33—44); Athamina
(129 and passim) sees the Murji'a as 'not a homogeneous group but [that they] were
rather composed of two separate streams': the quietists and the activists.
Al-Hasan was described as one of the witty and sober Hashimites (zurafd' barit
Hashim wa-ahl al-'aql minbum); he was even preferred to his celebrated brother, Abu
Hashim, in merit and in demeanour (ftl-fadl wa-l-hay'a) (Ibn Sa'd, V: 328).
Van Ess, 'Beginnings', 96.
Van Ess convincingly explains the situation as being the product of a possible mix
of political pressure, financial need, and 'suggested gratitude' to a generous 'Abd al-Malik
(ibid. 95-6).
Ibid. 95 and n. 38.

condemnation of his own grandfather, 'Ah". It is true that simple quiet-

ism, as had been practised by other 'Atlds,28 implied no sustained
adherence to the political claims of the family, but this specific 'AlTd
was an ex-activist who had upheld the claim. Now, a rationale was
badly needed to cover the humiliation of giving in. That old sentiment,
which can allow a de facto situation to go on unchallenged, without
mandating a pronouncement on an episode which unfolded at a time
when one was not present, came in handy. Resorting to irja', al-Hasan
could blast the most recent fittia (discord) and defend the Umayyads,
without having to extend the condemnation to the parties of the first
discord. To appease the Umayyads, therefore, and at the same time

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vindicate himself, al-Hasan, sometime shortly after AH 73/AD 693,
wrote his epistle, Kitab al-Irjd',29 and ordered it to be recited across the
land to quell any lingering unrest among his family's supporters.30
It is true that Kitdb al-lrjd' is the earliest text we know of which
expounds irja', but al-Hasan did not invent the term; nor did he initiate
the attitude. That had happened in earlier times and in simpler forms.
In Ibn Sa'd's statement, that al-Hasan was 'awwal man takallam ft
l-irjd"il the verb takallam has to be understood in its specialized sense,
i.e. denoting theological discussion of, not merely talking about, irja'.32
Ibn Sa'd's sentence thus means that al-Hasan was the first to theologize
irja', to elevate the discussion of a term already in common currency
to the level of theological discourse.33 What al-Hasan did in his text
Ibid. 95.
Of the authenticity and the dating of the text, Madelung and Van Ess have spoken
quite convincingly; they concur on dating the text to shortly after AH 73, six years after
al-Mukhtar's revolt had been put down. Madelung, in Der Imam al-Qasim b. Ibrahim,
argued for the authenticity of the fragments of Kitab al-lrja' known at the time of
publication of his book (1965). Cf. Van Ess, 'Beginnings', 93-7, esp. nn. 29, 38, and 41.
Ibid. 95-8. Al-Hasan was reported to have regretted writing the epistle (Ibn Sa'd,
V: 328). That could well have been the case, especially that he lived long enough to sec
the 'invincible' Umayyad hegemony challenged once again by other revolutionary
Ibn Sa'd, V: 328.
For the specialized usage of 'takallam' and 'Kalam', see Van Ess, 'Beginnings', 89f.
Challenging the attribution of the 'doctrine of irja" to al-Hasan, Athamina appar-
ently confuses the 'doctrine' with Kitab al-lrja' itself. He questions the authenticity of
the text while trying to refute the attribution of the 'doctrine' to the author of the text
(Athamina, 114-15). Athamina also appears to attribute (another?) Kitab al-lrja' to the
Kufan tradirionist 'Asim b. Damra. Athamina says 'some of the views included in the
Kitab al-lrja', by a Kufan tradirionist named 'Asim b. Damra, were known before the
emergence of al-Hasan, as has been noted by Van Ess' (Athamina, 115). In the Van Ess
text referred to by Athamina (Van Ess, Arabica, 43), I could not find what warrants the
above-quoted sentence. Van Ess appears to be simply referring to the fact that al-Hasan
was not completely alone amongst the 'Alawites in his stand; the reference to 'Asim b.
Damra is in the context of a conversation with Hasan b. 'AH about 'AJTs raj'a (coming

was precisely that. He explained the term, defined the necessary and
sufficient conditions for its application, argued for it, sought scriptural
support for his argument, and interpreted the Qur'anic verses he thus
quoted. Furthermore, he tried to put the term in the context of the all-
encompassing Islam by parading the history of the faith until he got to
the term's enduring religious value and its current political relevance.
Compared to the rudiments of irja' as outlined from Ibn 'Asakir's
passage, al-Hasan's epistle rests on the first, second, and fourth elements
and transforms them to become the corner-stones of the early Murji'ite
doctrine.34 Al-Hasan, not surprisingly, avoided the third element, the
express negative neutrality between 'Uthman and his own grandfather,

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'All, and only referred to them in a lightning fashion, as ahl al-furqa
al-uld, and deferred them to God. His task did not force him to dwell
on historical specificities, and, therefore, he quickly put this episode
behind him and concentrated on the rationalization of irja', which, to
serve his purpose, had to have precedence in the Qur'an. By extending
the first element of irja', al-Hasan introduced the express unconditional
approval of Abu Bakr and 'Umar, a basic element of MurjiMte doctrine.
Al-Hasan's simple but theologized formulation of the rudiments of
irja' into a doctrine did not usher in any form of organized Murji'ism;
nor—in most probability—could it have done so. A man withdrawing
his family's claim to political rights is a man withdrawing from politics.
It does not sound logical to assume that this man, who so strongly
criticized the supporters of his previous cause, would seek, or accept,
the support of new followers rallying around a non-cause. Irja' in its
basic doctrinalized form as expounded in this text, at least politically,
is a non-cause. It was incapable of attracting partisans to join forces
around non-partisanship. The formation of a movement still had to
wait for different times, and different people who would need a differ-
ently developed concept of irja' to be forged around a suitable cause.
Such a cause would go hand in hand with the developing concept,
deriving legitimacy from it, and injecting relevance into its theoretical
The post-second civil war period, till the end of the first Hijrl century,
back). Could Athamina have misread raj'a as a form of irja', and mistaken Hasan b.
'All for his nephew Hasan b. Muhammad? Two distinctions must be made here. First,
accepting the authenticity of al-Hasan's authorship of Kitdb al-lrja", and the epistle's
being the earliest extant text on irja', are not necessarily the same as attributing the
'doctrine' of irja' to al-Hasan. Secondly, even attributing the 'doctrine' to him is not
necessarily the same as saying that he was the first to speak of irja'. In one sentence,
the text is one thing, the doctrine is another, and the rudiments of the doctrine are a third.
The references by number to elements and tenets of irja' and the Murji'ite doctrine
refer to their arrangement in the outline extracted from Ibn 'Asakir, above, and Appendix
III below.

was the age of al-Hajjaj b. Yusuf par excellence. His thick shadow
continued to set the pace of major events even after his death (AH
95/AD 714). Between his death and the accession of 'Umar b. 'Abd
al-cAziz (AH 99/AD 717-18), the interval may best be defined by the
absence of al-Hajjaj and the subsequent reversion of his policies. Within
this period (AH 73—99), four intervals may be discerned: (1) the pre-
Ibn al-Ash'ath insurgency interval; (2) the short victory which Ibn
al-Ashlath enjoyed (c. AH 81-3/AD 700-2), and which expired at the
battle of Dayr al-Jamajim; (3) the post-Jamajim interval; and (4) the
post-Hajjaj pre-'Umar II interval.
The pre-Ibn al-Ash'ath interval belongs to the second stage of

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Murji'ism, characterized by the doctrinal influence of al-Hasan b.
Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyya. During this interval, relative calm pre-
vailed in Iraq. Numerous Kharijite revolts did take place, but the general
rhythm of the times, as far as irja' is concerned, was rather peaceful.
Nothing much can be inferred about the development of the doctrine
during this time. Biographical sources, especially Ibn Sa'd, label as
Murji'ites a number of religious scholars who lived, and can be expected
to have been productive, during this time.3* Under the reign of terror
of al-Hajjaj, al-Hasan's brand of irja' may have been ideal for some
docile religious scholars from all convictions to take shelter in. It is not
unreasonable to assume that some of the more docile elements of the
doctrine were mulled over in the circles of these scholars. The question
of the nature of belief, Tman, and its relation to the eschatological status
of the Muslims (only as far as it bears relevance to 'All and 'Uthman,
and thus reflects on the status of the current rulers, not the ordinary
unpoliticized Muslims) may have been introduced at this stage, to
disengage the question of the conduct of rulers from the duty of obedi-
ence to them under the mandate of preserving the jama'a.
The verses by 'Awn b. 'Abd Allah36 (d. AH 20/AD 737) bear witness
to this. Although these verses belong to the period immediately after
Ibn al-Ash'ath's defeat at Jamajim, the historical inference from them
is twofold. 'Awn's criticism of the Murji'ites points to the contradiction
between the conduct of those scholars with Murji'ite leanings who
joined Ibn al-Ash'ath, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the
previously existing tenets of irja' which forbid the blood-letting of the
mu'minTn and which mandate abstention from passing judgement on
them. In keeping with his own irja', and in appeasement of his Umayyad
princely patron, he approves of the tenets, but he renounces the conduct,
See A p p e n d i x II below.
See section (c) in note 10 above. I have rendered the verses into English in Appendix
I below. Goldziher (Muslim Studies, 91) followed Ibn Qutayba's arrangement of the
verses (Ibn Qutayba, 250-1); I follow al-Jahiz's arrangement (al-Jahiz, I: 328-9).

and criticizes the contradiction.37 It may also be inferred from the verses
that the question of Tntan and its relation to the rulers' conduct was
only superficially discussed at this stage, for the single purpose of
disengaging the two issues in the interest of the rulers. The Murji'ites,
according to 'Awn, reversed some coins during the revolution; for, while
still maintaining the mu'min status of the rulers, they reversed two of
their own tenets by pronouncing a judgement on them, and licensing
the blood-letting of these same mu'minln.
A less consequential, and probably marginal tenet of irjd' may also
have found its way to the circles of Murji'ite scholars during this
interval of benign rumination. Muharib b. Dithar (d. AH 116/AD 734)

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expressly uses irja' in the context of grading the first four Caliphs. He
places both 'All and 'Uthman in a rank after Abu Bakr and 'Umar. He
does that in concordance with condoning the earlier two uncondition-
ally, and postponing judgement on the latter two.38 Further evidence
that the question of 'AlTs and 'Uthman's ranks was very much alive
during this period can be found in the preoccupation with it in several
non-Murji'ite, and even anti-Murji'ite scholarly circles, e.g. Ibrahim
al-NakhaTs (d. AH 96/AD 714-15).39 This Murji'ite view, however,
does not necessarily mean that the Murji'ites were anti-'AlId.'10 The real
relation between irja' and the organized Murji'a, on the one hand, and
the different ShTite groups, on the other, was probably too complex to
hinge only on 'AlTs rank according to a marginal Murji'ite tenet. Not
that the issue is less than mortally decisive to the ShTa, but certain

The tenets are expressed in the second hemistiches of verses 2 and 3, and they
belong to the time before Ibn al-Ash'ath; the conduct is expressed in the first hemistiches
of the same verses 2 and 3, and it belongs to the revolutionary euphoria of Ibn
al-Ash'ath's time. The verses should be read: they did x whereas their doctrine had
mandated y. 'Awn did not renounce irja' as such: he only dissociated himself from the
contradiction. Goldziher confused the whole episode of 'Awn. He understood his defec-
tion to be from the ranks of the 'loyal Murji'ites' (Goldziher, Muslim Studies, 91),
while, in fact, 'Awn allegedly convened to ShTism (al-Jahiz, 1:328), or to a moderate
brand of irja' as his relation with the Umayyad prince Marwan b. Muhammad and his
position at 'Uraar H's court would suggest (cf. al-Jahiz, 1:328; Ibn Qutayba, 251). He is
even reported to have debated with 'Umar D, advocating irja', when the latter became
Caliph (Ibn Sa'd, VI: 313).
For our rendering of Dithar's verses, see Appendix I below.
" Ibn Sa'd, VI: 275.
Athamina dedicated an unduly substantial part of his research to proving the
hostility of the Murji'a towards the Shrites. Actually his evidence overwhelmingly points
to a Shrite hostility towards the Murji'a (Athamina, 116, 119-21), which was probably
not as intensely reciprocated. It is noteworthy here that, if NawbakhtTs representation
is any reflection of how the ShTitcs viewed the Muslim sectarian map, it shows that
they tended to brand as Murji'ites all those who were neither of their own number nor
Kharijites (NawbakhtT, 27 ff.).

wings in the two movements concluded an alliance of sorts during the

Hashimiyya Revolution which toppled the Umayyads.41
The remainder of the era we called the age of al-Hajjaj provided the
conditions in which organized irja' was bred. Whether the era witnessed
a fully fledged organized Murji'a movement is, however, a matter of
The revolt of Ibn al-Ash'ath (c. AH 81-3/AD 700-2) created in Iraq
a euphoria of revolutionary fervour. It was of such magnitude that it
probably deluded the majority of people. The 'army of the peacocks'
turned against its dispatcher; and it was formidable. At the beginning
it was victorious; and for a while it was the authority in Kufa and in

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Basra. It attracted the overwhelming majority of the Iraqis—the sincere
revolutionaries, and the opportunists. There are reports that certain
individuals, with reported Murji'ite leanings, joined the insurgency. But
then, the reports are unanimous that the overwhelming majority of
Iraqi religious scholars (qurra') joined this revolt in the name of the
general and too ambiguous cause of fighting injustice.42 This does not
single out the Murji'ites; nor, on such evidence, can it be said, with
any degree of certainty, that the participation of these individuals is an
indication of the existence of a distinct and organized group. A promin-
ent name associated with this revolt is Sa'Td b. Jubayr's. But the only
source which labels him a Murji'ite is Shahrastanl. Of the others in his
category, none seems to have been disposed to lead an organized
The previously discussed verses of 'Awn b. 'Abd Allah do not, by
themselves, amount to conclusive evidence in favour of the existence of
Cf. Agha, Saleh Said, 'The Agents and Forces', 306-8.
TabarT, II: 1071, 1072, 1076, 1086, 1087, 1122.
Dharr b. 'Abd Allah, a scholar-narrator, beaten, then appeased by Ibn al-Ash'ath
(cf. TabarT, n : iO55; Ibn Sa'd, VI:293). 'Awn b. 'Abd Allah, defector from the defeated
revolutionary ranks to the courts of the Umayyads (cf. al-Jahiz, 1:329). Muhammad b.
al-Sa'ib, politically too insignificant, and, as perceived, too much of a liar to be envisioned
as a religio-political leader (cf. Ibn Sa'd, 1:258 f.; al-RazT, 'Abd al-Rahman b. AbT Hatim,
al-Jarh wa-l-ta'dit (reprint in Beirut of the 1st ed.), Haydarabad, 1952, VII:270 f.; TabarT,
11:1096). Talq b. HabTb is probably the worthiest amongst this group. Ibn Qutayba's
description of him (p. 468) as one of the 'heads' of the Murji'ites (mitt ru'us al-Murji'a)
does lend credence to the perception that they were already organized by this time.
However, this is an isolated description; it could simply indicate his prominence. He
was the only confirmed Murji'ite amongst the five scholars mentioned by TabarT (11:1262)
as having been rounded up by Makka's governor to dispatch to al-Hajjaj in AH 94 for
punishment for their involvement with Ibn al-Ash'ath. Talq was a Basran, while a
Murji'ite organization would be expected to have grown in Kufa. However, none of
these refutations is conclusive; and, above all, I do not completely rule out the existence,
at the time, of organized irja'; I am merely arguing that it is not likely. See also Appendix
II below.
organized irja' by and during the time of Ibn al-Ash'ath's revolt. But
they do illustrate how the Murji'ite doctrine served to justify quietism
in the relatively peaceful times before Ibn al-Ash'ath and to legitimize
the internal blood-spilling during the temporarily successful insurgency.
Strat Salim b. Dhakwdn al-lbadf5 evidently polemicized against an
already existing organized Murji'ite movement. Its editor, M. Cook,
dates it to the early AH 70s;4* more reasonably, Madelung argues for
a later date, c. AH 82/AD 701-2, during Ibn al-Ash'ath's insurgency.47
After considering some significant internal and circumstantial evid-
ence,48 I remain inclined to a much later dating, probably during, or
'Awn's second hemistich of verse 1, 'what the Murji'ites say' (ma yaqul ul-mur-

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ji'una), could, as much, simply refer to some beliefs shared by a number of scholars
who share a label given to them by others, but who do not necessarily belong to an
organized political group.
See section (b) of note 10 above. ** Cook, Dogma, 93.
Madelung, 'Book Review', 629.
Consider the following circumstantial and internal evidence:
(a) Madelung's argument (see the previous note) in favour of the c. AH 82 date, that
Salim's polemic must have come on the heels of a violent uprising in which the Murji'a
were involved, is quite strong. However, this argument may be used as strongly in
favour of a yet later date. There is no shortage of violent uprisings in which the Murji'a
were involved during the last three decades of Umayyad rule, e.g. Yazld b. al-Muhallab's
and al-Harith b. Surayj's, as will be seen.
(b) The elaborate dialectical style of the text, based on the hypothetical 'if they say,
we say' formula, is comparable only to stylistic formulae of later dialectics. Van Ess
argues in favour of the authenticity of some similarly structured texts, and concludes
that this style 'was not unknown to scholars of the first century' (Van Ess, 'Beginnings',
90 ff.). Actually, much more is still required to prove conclusively that the simpler prose
of the first century did develop such complex stylistic features.
(c) In at least two instances, Salim polemicizes against an irja' more developed than
that of the first century AH:
(i) In the first instance Salim's discussion (paragraphs 13—15) of the Murji'ite inter-
pretation of the two Qur'anic verses 20:51 and 52 bears directly on paragraph 6 of
al-Hasan b. Muhammad Ibn al-Hanafiyya's Kitdb al-lrjd'. Al-Hasan uses these very
same verses, in which God speaks of 'ahl al-quriin al-ula", to support his contention
that irja' is old—not an innovation—and that it has roots in the revelation. In paragraph
5 al-Hasan had established that irja' strictly concerns 'ahl al-furqa al-ula1 (parties to the
first split), i.e. 'All and 'Uthman; and he had explained that its relevance hangs on the
fact that 'people' (al-rijal) had criticized them, but that he—and his contemporaries—
did not witness them. For irja' to be applied, therefore, two conditions are necessary
and sufficient: controversy, and the absence of the murji' from the event. Salim attacks
the latent equalizing of the subjects of controversy in the two cases. For him the analogy
is not valid: on the one hand, 'ahl al-furqa al-ula' were only ordinary people; on the
other, 'ahl al-qurun al-iila' were prophets, together with their followers and their
adversaries. Salim's refutation is bluntly directed at al-Hasan's articulation of the inter-
pretation of these two Qur'anic verses. But Salim goes further: he integrates in his
refutations a rejection of a Murji'ite interpretation of yet another Qur'anic verse (2:134)
which al-Hasan did not use: 'That is a nation that has passed away; there awaits them
that they have earned, and there awaits you that you have earned, you shall not be
after, the extended insurgency of al-Harith b. Surayj (AH 116-28/AD
The Murji'ite contradiction encapsulated by 'Awn's poetic precision
is argued against, at relative length, in Strat Salim.49 If, despite my
reservations, it does belong to this period, or to its immediate aftermath,
this text would indicate, not only that the Murji'a were already a
movement, but that they were also theologically split over the question
of the status of the sinner rulers. In Salim's representation of them,
some say that sinful rulers are unbelievers (kuffar); some say that they
are misguided believers (mu'miniin dulldl) whose Tman does not immun-
ize them from straying, and whose straying does not warrant their
excommunication from belief;50 a third group contend that these rulers

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are 'Muslim believers, [but that] God has permitted dissociation from
them, and forbidden affiliation to them and prayer for forgiveness for
them'.51 This characterization by Salim stops only very short of accusing
the Murji'a of advocating outright rebellion and active militancy sug-
gested by 'Awn's criticism. It, however, dedicates the two contradictory
questioned concerning the things they did.' (Arberry) The fact that the verse was
interpreted by the Murji'ites to buttress further their argument, but that it was not used
by al-Hasan, clearly indicates that Salim was addressing a body of Murji'ite interpretation
based on al-Hasan's, but further developed. STrat Salim is undoubtedly a later, if not a
much later, text than Kitab al-Irja'.
(ii) The second instance must be associated with yet later times. Salim's renouncement,
'wa-ma nahnu bihamd Allah murji*t rusul Allah...', is translated by Cook (Dogma, 26)
as: 'now we do not, thank God, suspend judgement on God's apostles'. Although the
translation is basically correct, it does leave out an extremely important syntactical
connotation. The diction of the Arabic construct phrase 'murji'T rusul', chosen over the
possible and more usual verbal phrase 'nurji' rusul...', injects into the sentence a nuance
which is completely lost in the English translation. This is a common Arabic 'adjectival'
usage of the construct, where the first element is not only qualified but also essentially
defined and identified by its relation to the second. As it is, Salim is renouncing a certain
defined known sect that held a defined doctrine regarding the apostles; they are the
Murji'a and, in this specific regard, they are identified by their stand on a specific matter,
i.e. the apostles. They are not simply those who 'postpone the apostles'; rather, they
are the 'POSTPONERS', spoken of in this instance, with reference to their stand on the
question of the nature of the Tman of the apostles. Salim attests that, contrary to what
the 'POSTPONERS' hold, the apostles are 'the people of rank'. This is a renouncement
of the late Murji'ite doctrine which is ascribed to Abu HanTfa in the posthumous, and
probably apocryphal work, al-'Alim wa-l-muta'allim, where it is unequivocally stated
that the nature of human belief is of the same quality as that of the angels and the
apostles (Abu Hanlfa, al-Nu'man b. Thabit, al-'Alim wa-l-Muta' allim, ed. M.R. Qal'ahjT
and A.H. al-NadawT, Aleppo, 1972, 57-8).
"* Sirat Salim, paras. VHI-EX; also step 9 in the Chan 'Evolution of the Murji'ite
Doctrine', Appendix HI.
Strat Salim, p a r a s . X a n d IX respectively; also A p p e n d i x III, step lO.b a n d a.
STrat Salim, p a r a . VIII, in C o o k ' s t r a n s l a t i o n , Dogma, 24—5; also A p p e n d i x HI,
step lO.c.

principles that have been used, and that will continue to be used, by
the Murji'ites, or by groups utilizing the expediency, to legitimize and
rationalize either rebellion or caving in, as the circumstances might
A principle inversely implied in the second element of irja\ which
assumes absence from an event to be a precondition for the postpone-
ment of judgement, is now expressly stated in STrat Salim. The Murji'ites
are reported to say: 'we are prepared to testify with regard to what we
have seen and been present at of the most recent schism.'52 The activa-
tion of this principle, already latent in the doctrine, is only a natural
prelude to, or justification of, the renouncement of negative neutrality

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which is mandatory only with regard to the first dispute {al-furqa al-iila)
but which can easily be shaken off when the circumstances call for
current involvement.
Profound current involvement was now only a question of fermenta-
tion reaching the point of full ripeness. A melodramatic account in
TabarT provides a suitable, if only symbolic, bridge to the next, radically
different era of Murji'ism. Al-Hajjaj's officials wrote to him complaining
that kbaraj was in deficit, because ahl al-dhimma converted to Islam
and relocated to the garrison cities (amsar). Now al-Hajjaj forced the
repatriation of all the mawatt who had origins in the villages. This
caused a lot of misery; the mawatt camped outside Basra, crying and
invoking the name of the Prophet for help. The qurra' of Basra wit-
nessed and grew resilient to join Ibn al-Ash'ath in his fight against
al-Hajjaj.53 The continuing episode of the mawalt (the non-Arab
Muslims who found a tribal home, and, thus, a place in the
Establishment), and, more consequentially, that of the more recent
converts, plus the fiscal consequences of their conversion, along with
the authentic and pretentious sympathies lavished on their cause by
influential mawalt of their own number, and by ambitious, or otherwise
motivated Arabs, will shape the next chapter of the history of
Murji'ism,54 and, more gravely, it will be the single most important
faaor that will bring down the entire Umayyad edifice.55 Now the cause
is there, the champions are seasoned, and the convenient ideological
base is as ready (as fertile, as exploitable, and as well and ill defined)
as it could get. The germ which started as the epitome of enlightened
non-partisanship is now ready to evolve into a highly politicized and
partisan movement.
During the twenty years separating Ibn al-Muhallab's insurgency

STrat Salim, para. VIII, in Cook's translation, Dogma, 23; also Appendix III, step 11.
53 M
TabarT, II: 1122 f. Cf. Madelung, 'Early MurjiV, 33.
Cf. Agha, Saleh Said, 'The Agents and Forces', passim.

(AH 101/AD 719-20) from that of Ibn al-Ash'ath, no organized

Murji'ite activity, by any of those who might have been active, is
known. In the interim, al-Hajjaj continued, until his death in AH 95/AD
713-14, his campaign of terror against all those who had joined Ibn
al-Ash'ath. Extreme oppression drives thinking and expression under-
ground; and if there is a cause, a suitable ideology and a cunning leader,
it is normally a matter of time before an organized movement comes
into existence. Such movements may strike roots and show first blos-
soms in the territories remotest from the centre of oppression, while
their spiritual, or even their organizing leaders live right in that centre.
Thezhistory of organized Murji'ism will unfold in Khurasan and

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Transoxania; and although the movement did not suffer from any
shortage in local political leadership, the beginnings of organized irja',
which went hand in hand with theological improvisation, may be best
sought in Kufa in the scholarly circle of Hammad b. Abl Sulayman (d.
AH 120/AD 737-8) and his disciple Abu HanTfa (d. AH 150/AD 767).
Both, reportedly, were Murji'ites; both were likely candidates for a
leading role; Hammad was accused of 'committing' irja', and Abu
Hanifa's connections with eastern Murji'ism are almost conclusively
established.56 It is tempting, but on the strength of the data available
Abu HanTfa is reported to have been closely attached to Hammad Ibn Abl Sulayman
until the latter's death in AH 120 (cf. al-Saymarl, Husayn b. 'AIT Abu 'Abd Allah,
Akhbdr AbT HanTfa wa-ashabih, Beirut, 'Alain al-Kutub, 2nd ed., 1985, 20-1; Abu
Zahrah, Muhammad, Abu HanTfa: baya tub wa-'asrub, ara'uh wa-fiqhub, Cairo, Dar
al-Fikr al-'Arabl, 2nd ed., 1947, 24—6). Abu Hanlfa can easily be perceived as a likely
candidate for both roles: the role of a founder leader, or that of a leader who may have
taken over from the founder and succeeded in spreading the doctrine. Hammad b. AbT
Sulayman, Abu HanTfa's professor, was a Murji'ite (Ibn Sa'd, VI: 332 f.; Ibn Qutayba,
474, 625; Shahrastanl, I: 234; RazI, I: 137 and III: 146). Hammad, although trustworthy,
was not strong in memorizing hadTth, but he was good when it came to improvising,
i.e. giving a ra'y; though pious, he knew nothing about precepts (fara'id) (Ibn Sa'd, VI:
332 f.; RazI, I: 137, ID: 146). Of his earlier political activity, we know that he ran an
errand for Mu'awiya during the arbitration at Dumah (Ibn Sa'd, VI:332 f.; Ibn Qutayba,
474,625). An interesting, and probably most indicative, account of all is the one reporting
that when he inherited the circle of Ibrahim al-Nakha'I (d. AH 96), some students stayed
regulars of the circle until Hammad 'committed (innovated?) what he committed..., i.e.
irja' ('hatta abdatha ma ahdath...ya'nT al-irja') (RazI, III: 146). What did Hammad
actually commit, or start, or innovate? Was it merely that he was converted to a
theological doctrine, or did he betray, now that al-Hajjaj was no more, a more serious
involvement with a secret organization that had just started surfacing from the under-
ground? Like his mentor, Abu Hanlfa was himself a mawld who attained prominence.
He also was labelled a Murji'ite. The later connection between his Hanafite tradition
and eastern Murji'ism, and between his person and the Murji'ites of Khurasan is not
subject to doubt. Works by Wensinck and by Madelung have conclusively established
the connection (Wensinck, Creed; Madelung, 'Early Murji'a'; Madelung, 'The Murji'a
and Sunnite Traditionalism', in: Religious Trends in Early Islamic Iran, ed. Ehsan
Yarshater, Bibliotheca Persica: Columbia Lectures on Iran, Studies 4, New York, Persian

to me, it is also prohibitively conjectural, to contend that organized

irja' originated in that specific Kufan scholarly circle.
Be that as it may, the period this paper deems to be the beginning
of overt activity by organized Murji'ism is the same period Madelung
terms 'the second stage in the history of the Murji'a, their activity in
eastern Khurasan and Transoxania'.57 During Yazld b. al-Muhallab's
insurgency, a certain Abu Ru'bah al-Murji' is said to have joined battle
in the rebellious ranks as chief of a Murji'ite contingent ('ala ra's ta'ifa
min al-Murji'a).58 This is the first indisputable appearance of an organ-
ized group of Murji'ites, and it took place in Iraq. But the Khurasanite
connection is manifest in YazTd's status as an ex-governor of the prov-

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ince who, as a tribal chief also, enjoyed considerable following there.
The Khurasanite Murji'ites were also represented, at least symbolically,
by the prominent presence of the essential Murji'ite figure, the
poet-warrior Thabit Qutnah.59
More relevant to our understanding of the Murji'ite continuum in
Khurasan is the appearance, one or two years earlier (in AH 100/AD
718-19), of an interesting delegate to the caliphal court. A certain Abu
1-Sayda' Salih b. Turayf, himself a mawla, came from Khurasan to
'Umar IPs court to plead the case of the mawatt and the new converts
who were not being accorded the same status as their Muslim Arab
brethren.60 The brevity of 'Umar's reign aborted reformation; the ensu-
ing fluctuations in the administration's fiscal policy towards the new
converts in Khurasan aggravated the situation once again in AH 110/AD
729—30. And once again Abu 1-Sayda' appeared, this time as a preacher
commissioned by the governor, Ashras al-Sulaml, to convert the
Soghdians of Transoxania. Obviously, Ashras recruited Abu 1-Sayda'
from the ranks of an already active group of converters sympathetic to
the cause of the converts. When Ashras reneged on his promises of
exempting the converts from jizya, Abu 1-Sayda', leading a group
of pious men, one of whom was none other than Thabit Qutnah,
sided with the angry converts and they were poised to resort to 'civil
disobedience', if not to a more militant measure.61

Heritage Foundation, 1988, 13-25). It is his possible relation to the movement before
AH 100 that is being speculated about. Did this shrewd, secretive, business-like, independ-
ent-minded, man-of-the-world put his excellent qualities and capabilities right from the
beginning, as he did his clout and theological sophistication later, at the service of the
cause of the mawdtt, and the new converts who, like himself, were non-Arabs, but,
unlike him, were mere novices in the conquering religion?
57 n
Madelung, 'Early Murji'a', 33. Tabari, D: 1400.
Agharit, XIV: 262. " Tabari, II: 1353 f.
" Ibid. 1507-10. For the comrades of Abu 1-Sayda', see Appendix II, and Madelung,
'Early Murji'a', 33. For the fluctuating Umayyad fiscal policies and their relevant impact,
cf. Agha, Saleh Said, 'The Agents and Forces', Part Two, Chapter 1, csp. 280-3.

It may be safe to presume that, in his first appearance, Abu 1-Sayda*

had actually been acting as a spokesman for this same organized group.
After the authorities arrested him along with his comrade Thabit
Qutnah, their comrades tried to reorganize under the leadership of one
of their number, Abu Fatima al-AzdT. Some of these men will also
feature in the next Murji'ite participation in an uprising, namely that
of al-Harith b. Surayj.
To this fourth stage of the history of Murji'ism belongs Thabit
Qutnah's poem on irja'.62 It is a standard document of the Murji'ite
doctrine as it stood at the time, and it does sound like a manifesto of
an organized group. In addition to reiterating some of the previously

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established Murji'ite tenets, the poem provides the earliest first-hand
textual expression of the Murji'ite concept of hope (verses 7 and 9).
More relevant, though closely related, is Thabit's formulation (in verse
7) of a principle more developed than the simple disengagement between
committing sins and the status of Ttnan, but which falls short of the
complete exclusion of works from Tmdn, which will be developed later.
The democratization of the principle is introduced by making it applic-
able to all people (not only rulers), and by completely turning it around
to deprive the sinning rulers of the privilege of practising their most
important sin: jawr. As long as anyone upholds the oneness of God, he
says, no sin can bring him close to polytheism; and while irjd' applies
to obscure situations, it does not apply when those who practise oppres-
sion exercise their sin. The poem still bears the features of the simple
original irjd' in so far as the believers are still accountable to God for
their works. This limited development of the principle of disengagement
is still too short of realizing its full potential. However, over the period,
especially from AH 116/AD 734-5 till near the end of the Umayyad
period, the principle will have reached its full maturity, and the
Murji'ites will have played their most eventful role in the conversion
of Persian and Soghdian masses to Islam.
The tenet originally dealt with the question of whether it was right
to pray behind an imam who sins. But embedded in the question was
the realization that the sinner imam did pray, i.e. he was a practising
Muslim who happened to sin. It was a simple question, taking for
granted what Tmdn is and what ma'siya (sin) is; and it was answered
simply and expediently. Now, some time after AH 100/AD 718-19, the
tenet was taken completely out of its original simple context, put into
° For Thabit's biography and poem, see Agbam, XIV: 247-65. The poem is rendered
into English by the writer, see Appendix I; for the doctrine as reflected in this poem,
see Appendix III. The general tenor of the poem, holding the sinner accountable but
confessing to ignorance as to his fate, is in agreement with the Hanafite position as
reflected in an. 14. of al-Fiqh al-akbar, in: Wensinck, Creed, 192-3.

a new more complex context, and reversely and liberally construed.

lman (thus far serving also as a membership tag) was emptied of all of
its vitally functional pillars {arkan), except for the confession of the
belief that God is one who has no partner. This was unprecedented;
even the most ungodly of the Umayyads did not seek to be approved
of on such a basis. Thabit's poem is an articulate expression of a
profound moral and ethnic revolution in early medieval Islam. It breaks
the monopoly on the right to sin. A complete reversal of the mainstream
ethics of the age was being ushered in. Along with polytheism, only the
most aristocratic of sins, injustice (jawr), is unacceptable; all other sins
(read: all popular sins) are forgivable. Now, Thabit Qutnah democrat-

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ized Murji'ism. This cataclysmic upheaval paved the way for the exten-
sion of accommodated sins to include the non-performance of the
religious precepts.63 The underlying logic could only have been as
follows: (1) if a Muslim leader could sin and still be considered a
mu'min, then (2) an ordinary Muslim, notably a new convert who is
not acquainted with the new religion, should be capable of joining
Islam by confessing, sin by not practising, and still be considered a
mu'min eligible to enjoy the legal privileges of the mu'minm. These
two formulations are certainly not alike, since the concept of Tman is
no more the same. But then each formulation served a specific purpose
under specific circumstances. It required a new need and a sophisticated
theological ability to derive the new formulation from the simpler and
older one.
Madelung contends that the 'effort on behalf of the new converts
was based on the Murji'ite thesis that the status of faith depended on
the mere confession of belief in Islam to the exclusion of works'.64
Actually, the dynamics of interaction between Murji'ite doctrine and
practice are viewed in this paper in a diametrically opposite manner.
The very act of formulating this Murji'ite thesis was the result of
profound discussions of the nature of Tman in a primarily politicized
milieu—it was a theological product of the process of responding to
mundane needs through the manipulations of an accommodating and
exploitable doctrine. This Murji'ite thesis did not precede the cause of
the new converts; rather, it was improvised to serve that cause. It is
from now on that the discussion of the nature of Tman will become a
preoccupation of the Murji'ite theologians, producing all kinds of
confusing and hair-splitting definitions that infest the works of the
Although this is not reflected in Thabit's poem, it is attested in the context of the
struggle: some of the new converts did not circumcise, some did not know a single sura
of the Qur'an (see Tabarl, II: 1354, 1508); Nasr b. Sayyar accuses the Murji'a of not
performing the prayers (Nasr's poem in Appendix I, verse 10).
" Madelung, 'Early Murji'a', 33.

heresiographers.*5 This said, it can be added that Madelung is right

when he says: 'The Murji'ite exclusion of works from faith took on a
new practical significance. Later it has always been considered the most
essential element of irjd'.'66 In all cases, Madelung does recognize the
relevance of the Murji'ites' doctrine and of their efforts in the cause of
the 'mass converts in Central Asia' in that 'they could not be denied
the full status by the government on the pretext that they continued to
ignore many of their duties as Muslims'.67
Compared to the foregoing stages, the prolonged insurgency of al-
Harith b. Surayj (AH 116-28/AD 735—46) was of a completely different
character, not only in its extreme militancy, but also in many other

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respects. Although the Murji'a organization in Khurasan was very much
involved with al-Harith, his revolt was not, as Madelung contends, 'the
great revolt of the Murji'a under**8 him, nor was his cause theirs. These
were two parallel revolts, bound together by a host of shared interests,
tactical exchange of strengths, and a common enemy. He borrowed
their cause and their slogans, and they borrowed his military might and
personal charisma. Indeed, Tabarl says that al-Harith 'was of the same
views as the Murji'a (yara ra'y al-Murji'a)'; Nasr b. Sayyar, in his
poem attacking al-Harith's following,69 speaks of them as Murji'a and
accuses them of being allied to the polytheists, but makes no mention
of al- Harith by name.70 When the alliance was drained of its usefulness,
and the movement fell into the tribal quagmire it was destined to fall
into, due to al-Harith's political manoeuvres between Nasr and
al-Kirmanl, the Murji'ites, or at least the 'meaningful' Murji'ites, aban-
doned him. Those were the standard bearers from Abu 1-Sayda"s

Shahrastanl (I: 222-34) accounts for five subdivisions of what he calls the pure
Murji'a; al-Baghdadl accounts also for five subdivisions, four of which overlap with
four of Shahrastanfs (al-Baghdadl, 'Abd al-Q3hir b. Tahir, al-Farq bayna al-firaq
wa-bayan al-firqa al-najiya mmbum, Beirut, Dar aJ-Afaq al-JadTda, 1973, 190-5);
al-Ash'arT classified them in accordance with their views on twenty issues: on the
definition of Tman they branch into twelve different subdivisions, on the definition of
kufr into seven different subdivisions (al-Ash'arT, 'All b. Isma'Tl Abu 1-Hasan, Maqdlat
al-hlamiyym wa-ikhtilaf al-musalttn, ed. 'Abd al-Hamid, Muhammad MuhyT 1-DTn,
Cairo, Maktabat al-Nahda al-Misriyya, 1950, I: 197-215); Ibn Hazm simplifies the maze
and classifies them into three subdivisions (Ibn Hazm, 'All b. Ahmad b. Sa'Id Abu
Muhammad, al-Fisal ft l-milal wa-l-ahwa' wa-l-nihal, Cairo, Maktabat wa-Matba'at
Muhammad 'All Subayh, 1964, II: 106-7, III: 137-8). The major criteria of distinction
are minute differences in their definition of Tman and kufr, but they all agree, according
to all the heresiographers, on the exclusion of works from the definition of Tman. Most
of this hairsplitting belongs to a period outside the time frame of our discussion and
bears little relevance to the politically motivated evolution of the doctrine.
" Madelung, 'Early Murji'a', 33. Ibid. *• Ibid.
" Relevant selections from the poem have been rendered into English in Appendix I.
Tabari, n : 1575-6.

movement who joined al-Harith and went to exile with him—ahl

al-basa'ir. After fourteen years they discovered the futility of their
alliance with the infidels and with an ambitious opportunist. They
resorted to their own brand of theological opportunism, dissociating
themselves from al-Harith, rationalizing the initial alliance, and
justifying its ultimate disintegration.71
It is of considerable symbolic value, and ironic too, in a way, that
Thabit Qutnah, the sincere warrior of the faith, should make his last
heroic stand, in AH 110/AD 730, in a battle against the infidel Turks,
when al-Harith makes his first appearance in the annals of TabarT, in
the same battle and on the same side.72 An era in the history of

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Murji'ism has ended, and a new radically different era has started.
Thabit's irja' did not shake his loyalty to his community. al-Harith's
personal ambition and political opportunism brought him into an alli-
ance with the theological opportunism of the Murji'ites, and soon
dragged them all into an unholy alliance with the enemy of their
community, the same enemy which Thabit had died fighting in the
same ranks as al-Harith.73
At the beginning of his crusade in AH 116/AD 735, al-Harith had
called for observance of the Qur'an and the Sunna,74 a slogan used by
almost everybody to the extent that it became almost always the slogan
of all adversaries in Islamic history. More important is his call for
paying allegiance to 'someone acceptable' (al-bay'a lil-rida).7S He
showed the black banners and claimed that 'no banner of his can be
repelled',76 implying that he himself was the expected mahdt and the
'acceptable someone' (al-rida) to whom allegiance is due. Buttressing
his claim, he called for shura and ordered his propagandist, the theolo-
gian Jahm b. Safwan, to read his biography everywhere.77 And settling
for nothing less than his coveted goal, he turned down offer after offer
from Nasr b. Sayyar, the governer, who tried to appease him by money,
position,78 the appointment of his men, and even by accepting to form
a joint committee of religious scholars, with equal representation, to
recommend measures of policy in accordance with the Qur'an.79 Even
arbitration was accepted by Nasr. But when the two arbitrators, Jahm
Ibid. II: 1930-4; for the term 'ahl al-basa'ir1, ibid. II: 1585, 1932.
Ibid. II: 1512-14.
As early as his first battle with the Umayyad troops in AH 116, al-H5rith had in
his ranks the dihqans of Transoxania; the king of Khuttal was his ally in AH 117;
thereafter he spent his time in exile in the 'land of the infidels (ard al-shirk.)' until his
return to Marw in AH 126. It is also reported that he had stayed there for twelve years,
which, if true, means that he had left the land of Islam in AH 114, before he managed
to rally enough supporters to launch military operations (ibid. II: 1569, 1583, 1868).
74 7t
Ibid. D: 1567. " Ibid. Ibid. II: 1570, 1572, 1919.
77 n n
Ibid, fl: 1919. Ibid. II: 1889. Ibid. II: 1918-19.

and Muqatil b. Hayyan, recommended that Nasr relinquish his

governorship, the latter refused.80
It is important in this context to note that Nasr, early in his tenure,
had effected far-reaching reforms, including exempting from jizya all
Muslims who were still being made to pay it81—i.e. primarily recent
converts. Already in effect for years, these reforms ought to have pleased
any sterling Murji'ite of the Abu 1-Sayda' strain. But irja' was a fluid
state of politico-theological expediency. It may be naive to expect the
Murji'ites to react favourably to Nasr's overtures while they were still
in exile. But, after they were pardoned in AH 126/AD 744, Nasr's
reforms, combined with all the other concessions which he kept offering

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up to AH 128/AD 746, ought to have brought the negotiations to a
successful conclusion. But they did not. It was not the cause of the
converts which the leadership of the revolt sought to serve. The supreme
goal was personal. The less militant Murji'ites were lured away from
al-Harith by Nasr's gestures;82 the more militant had to wait a little
longer until the alliance disintegrated, when al-Harith lost the tribal
military balance to al-Kirmanl.83 It is true, there were moderate
Murji'ites and militant Murji'ites, but al-Harith belonged to neither.
He was a party all by himself.
Abu HanTfa's theology must have continued to respond to the situ-
ation in Khurasan.84 His relation to the Murji'ites there is attested,
above all, by the spread of his students and his theology in the province.
But his direct organizational connections to the movement are under-
lined by the fact that the two emissaries whom al-Harith sent, in AH
126/AD 744, to Damascus, to secure the caliphal pardon, got their letter
of introduction from Abu HanTfa.85 More suggestive is the account that
reports Abu Hanlfa trying to cool down the hot-headedness of Ibrahim
b. Maymun al-Sa'igh,86 lecturing him on the fundamentals of organized
action, and warning him against the perils of individual action.87
The most important theological development, bearing direct relevance
to the most significant political events, belongs to al-Harith's camp,
and it is attributed to his propagandist theologian, Jahm b. Safwan.
Whereas for Abu HanTfa's brand of irja' it was sufficient to restrict the

" Ibid. II: 1919.

Ibid. II: 1689; cf. Agha, Saleh Said, 'The Agents and Forces', 285-90.
a D
TabarT, II: 1918, 1919, 1928. Ibid. II: 1931, 1934.
See Appendix ID. " TabarT, II: 1867; cf. Madelung, 'Early Murji'a', 34.
Ibrahim b. Maymun al-Sa'igh is a central figure in the history of late Ummayyad
Murji'ism and its ill-fated alliance with the soon-to-become victorious Hashimiyya under
Abu Muslim (cf. Agha, Saleh Said, 'The Agents and Forces', 306—8).
Ibn Abl 1-Waf5, 'Abd al-Qadir Abu Muhammad, al-Jawahir al-mudiyya ft tabaqat
al-Hanafiyya, Haydarabad, AH 1332, I: 49-50.

definition of Tman to the knowledge of God coupled with the verbal

profession of this knowledge,88 this definition was one ingredient too
many for Jahm, who contended that Tman is only the knowledge of
God in one's heart; profession is, like works, excluded from Tman.89
The difference is only natural, since the two definitions were serving
two different causes and two different constituencies. Abu HanTfa's
constituency comprised converts who were presumed to be sincere—
or at least potentially so; they could be won over, the assumption was,
if the requirements of faith were not too stringent for them. If they
were ready to convert and profess, they should be awarded the same
legal status enjoyed by all other mu'minm. If they do not know Arabic,

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have never heard of Makka, and never had trouble eating pork, their
knowledge of the revelation in a general non-specific fashion should be
adequate to redeem them, even though an ignorant mu'min of their
number might think the Ka'ba of the Qur'an is a Ka'ba located else-
where.90 On the other hand, al-Harith's constituency, for whose benefit
Jahm was theologizing, comprised recruits and political allies from the
infidels who had no pretensions to Islam—not even by insincere verbal
profession. A theological cover was needed to justify collaboration with
adherents of a non-Muslim confession, and to provide for equality in
status in the ranks of the religiously heterogeneous allies.91
Of course, there is behind this application of theology to political
expediency profound and intricate theological thinking that surpasses
it.92 But it was the political needs of constituencies and political leaders
that set the pace and determined the course of the evolution of Murji'ite
theology in the Umayyad era.
" Ibn Hazm, II: 106; Ash'arT, I: 202 f.
" Ibn Hazm, II: 106, III: 137; Ash'ari, I: 205, 213.
Ash'arT, I: 203 f.
This might sound like a misunderstanding of Jahm's theologizing, but it is not.
I do not seek to trivialize either Abu HanTfa or Jahm. Their ability to draw lines
between the shades, and shades between the lines, is not suspected. Jahm's assertion
that iqrar (affirmation with the tongue) is a redundant attribute of Tman is in line with
his assertion that Tman is exclusively a matter of the heart (cf. Ash'arT, I: 197-8).
Profound and consistent as this proposition is, one cannot overlook the fact that it
suited the political objectives of its politically active proponent. I am merely contending
that Jahm did not put his politics at the service of his theology, but that he improvised
a theological doctrine in defence of his political position.


The following is my translation of the poetry referred to in the paper.


1. Oh Hind, I believe my life has been exhausted,
and matters are miserable and slipping away
2. I am a hostage to a day which I shall never outdistance;
if it is not today, it is very close

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3. I made to my God a pledge, fulfilling which
I shall become neighbour to the honourable martyrs of 'Uhud
4. Oh Hind, listen to me: Our code of conduct
is to worship God, never associating with Him a partner
5. We postpone matters when matters are obscure,
but we speak up unequivocally against whoever is unjust or deviant
6. All Muslims are adherents of Islam
[while] polytheists (mushrikun) scattered their [own] religion to
7. I do not deem any sin brings anybody close
to polytheism as long as people uphold the oneness of the Lord
8. We do not spill blood unless we are targeted
by blood-spilling. This is our single and straight path
9. To him who fears God in this world is
the reward of the God-fearing in the day of reckoning
10. Whatever God preordained can never be revoked
and whatever God preordains is right
11. All Kharijites are wrong in what they say
no matter if they say it by way of worship and endeavour
12. As for 'All and 'Uthman, they both were servants of God,
since they worshipped Him, they never associated with Him a
13. Between them broke discord, and they did witness
the breakup of consensus. What they witnessed is in the eye of
God beheld

Agharu, XTV: 254 f.

14. 'AH and 'Uthman will be requited according to their endeavours,

but I truly do not know which [heaven or hell] they have been
assigned to
15. God knows what they will be met with in His Presence;
for every man shall meet God all alone


1. The first thing we undoubtedly abandon
is what the Murji'un say
2. They said a believer [may be] unjust,

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but the believers are never unjust
3. And they said [of ] a believer [that] his blood [may be] lawfully
but the bloods of the believers are sanctioned


5. Some people shamelessly criticize me
for my postponement of 'At
6. But it is proper for me to place him behind
the two 'Umars [Abu Bakr and 'Umar I], be he pious or villain
7. and also [to place behind the two 'Umars] 'Uthman,96 over whom
people disagreed
some made an obscene pronouncement [concerning him]

8. others said: [he was] a just imam,

innocent and wronged was he killed
9. Adopting irja' spares me harm
and ambiguity, and I do not have to worry about a thing
Jahiz, I: 328 f.; d. Ibn Qutayba, 250 f.; Goldzihcr, Muslim Studies, 91.
WakT*, ID: 29 f. Where an alternative reading to WakT's was chosen, the variation
is from Agham, VII:242.
" Grammatically, 'Uthman (in verse 7) can be read as a second direct object to the
verbal noun irja' (in verse 6); thus ' Uthman and 'All would be subjected to the same
act of irja', putting them both in a rank after Abu Bakr and 'Umar. However, it is
equally correct to read 'Uthman as being governed by the preposition "an' (in the second
hemistich of verse 6); thus 'Uthman would join the two 'Umars in occupying a rank
higher than 'AtTs. But this is clearly not the case. The poet is exercising no preference
between 'AH and 'Uthman. Both come after Abu Bakr and 'Umar. Moreover, the poet
stubbornly adheres to classical Murji'ite scepticism and negative neutrality regarding
their fate.

13. How would I know what [certain] men did,

who had preceded me, and with respect to whom I am in darkness?
17. Praised did 'Umar and his companion pass away,
indeed they have attained grace through their reigns
18. When [God] honoured them,97 [controversial] things came to pass
with which I need not struggle
19. People after them split into [different] ranks
thoroughly battling one another
20. If I sided with one [of them], the other would say:

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indeed you have misbehaved, and you are a wicked liar
21. And if I feared God and reserved my piety,
I am called an animal
22. [just] because I say: I do not know about Fulan
and what his fate beyond the grave will be,
23. will he abide for ever in paradise, or will he
be fuel for hell when it blazes!
24. Many a soul am I ignorant of what it will meet:
will it linger in thirst, or will its thirst be quenched!
15. Ibn 'Affan was not an apostle,
nor was his counterpart ['All] a prophet
26. They are [merely] two servants [of God]: if they are damned for
a sin,
I am redeemed, thanks to my innocence of what they have
27. And if they are redeemed, I too am, in view of my fair [non]
and that I did not attribute to them an unjust saying
3. Be constantly and actively fearful of God in secret;
the best of piety is verily that which is concealed
4. And know that you are dependent on [your own] works;
about that you must, therefore, be worried and concerned
10. Wage your holy war against those who do not anticipate the
and be an enemy of those who do not [perform] the prayers
" That is by taking them to His side; after they died. * Tabari, II: 1575 f.

11. Kill those in our ranks who support them and who adhere to
them, deem them infidels and condemn them
12. Those who criticize our religion while they,
when thoroughly tested, [prove] to be adherents of the worst
13. They say: God's cause is our objective.
How far is what they practise from what they say!
14. Kill them for the protection of God['s cause], seeking assistance
from Him, taking revenge on them, and leave the sceptic deluded

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15. Your irja' hitched you together with polytheism in [one] bond,
you are, therefore, polytheists as well as Murji'ites
16. May God thrust deep in graves none but you,
for your religion is with polytheism associated


My research yielded a pool of around eighty individual 'Murji'ites'.

From this pool the following list includes the names of only those who
belong to the Umayyad era. The list is divided into two main sections:
(I) names of those reported to have been involved in political and/or
theological activities, and (II) names of those who were labelled
Murji'ites but were not specifically associated with any of these activit-
ies. Within the first group, names are classified in accordance with the
first activity the individual features in. Names of the second group are
listed in accordance with dates of death.


* In any of the columns: a blank means 'unknown'; a '?' means

* In the column entitled 'ethnic origin': A = Arab; M = mawla
* In the column entitled 'other involvement': the small Roman numeral
and the Latin letter, where used, refer to the corresponding internal
subheading in the 'List' itself.




i. Pre-lbn al-Ash'ath
Sr. Nimc Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other
No Origin Involvement
al-Hasan b. 100/718-19 Madina •AUd,

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Muhammad b. ex-revolutionary
'All b. Abl Jalib
Ibn al-Hanafiyya"

ii. Murji'ites in the ranks of Ibn al-Ash'ath (c. AH 81-3/AD 700-2)

Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other
No Origin Involvement

2 Dharr b. cAbd 82/701-2 Kufa Scholar-Narrator Killed by

Allah b. Zurara al-Hajjaj
al- Hamdanl"30
3 IbrihTm b. YazTd 92/710-11 Kufa Scholar A Died in
al-Tayml101 al-Hajjaj's
4 Sa'Td b. Jubayr102 94/712-13 Kufa Scholar A Killed by
J Talq b. HabTb103 94/712-13 Basra Scholar A Jailed by
6 'Awn b. "Abd 120/737-8 Kufa Scholar A Umayyad
Allah protege
7 Muhammad b. 146/763-4 Kufa Genealogist A
al-Si'ib al-Kalbl"*1

" Above.
Ibn Sa'd, VI: 293; Ibn Qutayba, 625; ShahrastlnT, I: 233; RazI, ID: 453-4; Watt,
ch.5, pp. 342-3 n.21.
Ibn Qutayba, 625; RazI, II: 145; Ibn Sa"d, VI: 2&S; Watt, op.cit.
ShahrastanT, 1:233; Ibn Sa'd, VI: 256-67; Ibn Qutayba, 445-6; RazT, IV: 9-10;
Watt, op.cit.
Ibn Sa'd, VI: 227; Ibn Qutayba, 468, 625; ShahrastanT, I: 233; RazT, IV: 490-1;
Watt, op.cit.
Ibn Sa'd, VI: 313; Ibn Qutayba, 250-1; Jahiz, I: 328-9; RazT, VI: 384-5; above.
Ibn Qutayba, 625; Ibn Sa'd, VI: 358-9; RazT, VII: 270-1.
A V I E W P O I N T OF T H E M U R J I A IN T H E U M A Y Y A D P E R I O D 31

iii. The 'Murji'ite' (?) delegation to 'Umar H's court (c. AH 100/AD
Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other
No Origin Involvement

8 Abu 1-Saydi' Sauh Khurasan Preacher-converter M also (v)

b. Turayf*
9 Sa'Td al-NahwT?107 Khurasan M

iv. Murji'ites in the ranks of Yaztd b. al-Muhallab when he rebelled

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(c. AH 101/AD 719-20)
Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other
No Origin Involvement

10 ThSbit (Qufnah) 110/729-30 Khurasan Poet-warrior ? also(v)

b. Ka'b101
11 Abu Ru'bah Warrior
al-Mur)i" B

v. Murji'ites with Abu l-Sayda' siding with disfranchised Soghdian

converts (c. AH 110/AD 729-30)
Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other
No Origin Involvement

12 Bishr b. Jurmuz 128/745-6 Khurasan Warrior? also

al-Pabbl110 (vi:a + ...)
13 Abu Fapma al- 117/735-6 Khurasan Warrior? also (vi:
Azdl" 1 a + ...)
14 Khibd b. 'Abd 128P/745-6 Khurasan Scholar M turned
Allah al-Nahwl" 2 loyalist in
15 'Amir b. Qushayr Khurasan
(Bashlr?) al-
Jukhandl "
16 Bay an Khurasan Poet

107 10
"* Above. TabarT, II: 1353. * Above.
109 110
TabaxI, II: 1400. Ibid. II: 1508, 1566, 1568, 1583, 1890, 1932, 1934.
111 m
Ibid. II: 1508, 1568, 1583, 1585. Ibid. II: 1509; RazI, III: 363.
1U 114
Tabari, II: 1509. Ibid.

17 Biibr b. Zunbur Khurasan

al- Aztf"
18 Ismi'il b. Khurasin
•Uqbah 1 "
19 al-Qarim Khurasan also (vi:
al-Shaybanl117 a + ...)
20 Rabr b. 'Imrin Khurasan also (vi:

vi. Murji'ites involved in al-Harith b. Surayj's prolonged insurgency

(AH 116-281AD 735^6).
a. In AH 116-17/AD 734-6
Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other

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No Origin Involvement
21 al-Harith b. 128/745-6 Khurasan Warrior also (vi:
Surayj'" b + ...)
22 Bishr b. Uruyf Khurasan also (vi:
al-Hanjati" 0 b + ...) p
later joined
23 Da wild al-A'sar Khurisan also (vi:
al-Khwirizml" 1
24 'Afi' al-Dabbusim Khurasan Warrior
25 Hammid b. 'Amir Khurasan Warrior turned
b. Mihlc against
al-Himmani123 al-Hanth
in AH 128
26 Khalid b. 'Ubayd Khurasan Warrior also (vi:
Allah b. Habib b + ...)
27. Muhammad b. Khurasan Warrior Scholar? turned
Muslim pro-
al-'Anbari1" government
28 Muhammad b. KhurSsSn Warrior turned
al-Muthann2 against
al-Azdl"4 al-Harith
with both
forces and
later with

1U 1U 117
Ibid. Ibid. Ibid. II: 1508, 1584-5, 1868, 1923, 1932.
i a
" ' Ibid. II: 1507-8, 1932. Above. " " Taban, II: 1569, 1589-90, 1970.
m m
Ibid. II: 1569, 1584, 1589-90. Ibid. II: 1569, 1572; cf. 1442, 1550.
Ibid. II: 1569-70, 1917-18, 1922. Ibid. II: 1572, 1582, 1928.
Ibid. U: 1570,1581. "* Ibid. U: 1569-70,1608, 1695, 1862, 1925, 1928,1971,1985.
A V I E W P O I N T OF T H E M U R J I A IN T H E U M A Y Y A D P E R I O D 33

b. In AH 118/AD 736-7

Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other

No Origin Involvement

29 Jarlr b. Maymun Khurasan Judge chief of

al-Qadl" 7 450 men

c. Delegates in AH 126/AD 743-4, to Yazid III

to obtain caliphal pardon for al-Hanth

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Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other
No Origin Involvement
30 Khalid b. 'Amr1" Khurasan M
31 Khalid b. Ziyad Khurasan M

d. After al-Harith was repatriated

Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other

No Origin involvement
32 'Abd Allah b. Khurasan pardoned
Sinin 130 and
in AH 126
33 Mudarris b. Khurasan Judge -ditto -
'Imran ul
34 Mu'Sdh b. Khurasan representative
Jabala 02 of
in the joint
upon with
35 al-Mughlra b. Khurasan - ditto -
Shu'ba al-
Jahdaml 03
36 Jahm b. Safwin" 4 128/745-6 Khurasan Theologian M

127 m
Ibid. II: 1589-90. Ibid. II: 1867. Ibid.
"° Ibid. H: 1868. Ibid. Ibid. II: 1918.
Ibid. 0: 1918; cf. 1847, 1860-1

vii. Murji'ites in conflict with the triumphant Abu Muslim al-KhurasanT

Sr. Nime Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other
No Origin Involvement

37 Ibrihlm b. 131/748-9 Khurasan Scholar M Killed by

Maymfin Aba
al-Si'igh 1 " Muslim
38. Yazld b. AbT Sa'Id 131/748-9 Khurasan Scholar M -ditto-,
al-Nahwi" 4 Government
39. Muqlnl b. 150767-8 Khurasan Scholar Government
Sulaymin loyalist,
al-Balkhl"7 resisted

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fled, and
40. Muqatil b. 150/767-8 Khurasan General M -ditto-
41. Mutawakkil b. Khurasan Scholar -ditto-
42. Ibn al-Rammah 1 " Khurasan Scholar -ditto-


Sr. Name Died Abode Occupation Ethnic Other
No Origin Involvement

43 Muhinb b. Dithar 116/734-5 Kufa Scholar. Judge A

44 'Amr b. Muxrah 117/735-6 Kufa Scholar A
al-Muracfi 10
45 'Amr b. Qays 120/737-8 Kufa Scholar M

Ibn Sa'd, VII: 370; Ibn AbT al-Wafa, I: 49-50; Razi, II: 134-5; Tabari, II: 1919;
Madelung, 'Early MurjiV, 35; cf. Agha, Salch Said, 'The Agents and Forces', 306-8.
"* Ibn Sa'd, VII: 3*8; Razi, IX: 270; Jabari, II: 1860, 1861, 1928; cf. 1353; Madelung,
'Early MurjiV, 35; cf. Agha, Saleh Said, 'The Agents and Forces', 306-8.
Ibn Hazm, II: 107; Ibn Sa'd, VII:373; ShahrastanI, I: 228; Razi, VIII: 354-5; Tabari,
II: 1918, 1931, 1933; Madelung, 'The Murji'a and Sunnite Traditionalism', 20.
"* Madelung, op.cit.: TabarT, see index; Ibn Sa'd, VII: 374: Razi, VIII: 353-4.
131 I<0
Madelung, op.cit. Madelung, op.cit.
Above; also: Ibn Sa'd, VI: 307; Ibn Qutayba, 490; ShahrastanI, I: 233; Razi, VIII:
416-17; Watt, ch. V, pp. 342-3 n. 21.
Ibn Qutayba, 625; ShahrastanI, I: 233; Razi, I: 148, VI: 257-8; Ibn Sa'd, VI: 315;
Watt, op.cit.
Ibn Sa'd, VI: 339; Ibn Qutayba, 625; Watt, op.cit.
A V I E W P O I N T OF T H E M U R J i ' A IN T H E U M A Y Y A D P E R I O D 35

46 Hammad b. Abl 120/737-8 Kufa Scholar M

47 Kharijah 120/737-8 Khurasan Scholar A
b. Mus'ab
48 MQsi b. AbT 120/737-8 Damascus Scholar A
Kathir al-AniJrl44*
49 Ghaylln b. 125/742-3 Damascus Theologian M
50 AbO Hanlfa 150/767-8 Kufa Theologian-Jurist M
al-Nu'min b.
51 Mis'ar b. 152/769-70 Kufa Scholar A
52 'Umar b. Dh»rr b. 153/770 Kufa Scholar A

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'Abd Allah" 0
53 'Abd al-Anz b. 159/775-6 Makka Scholar M
Abl Dawfld
(Rawwid?)" 1



The components of this appendix are the following:

*Key to the Chart of the Evolution of Murji'ite Doctrine, and
*Chart of the Evolution of Murji'ite Doctrine
The purpose of this appendix is to put in visual perspective the historical
evolution of the doctrine and the concordance between its tenets and
the historical stages in which they were improvised.

Above; Ibn Sa'd, VI: 332-3; Ibn Qutayba, 474, 625; ShahrastanT, I: 233-4; RazI,
I: 147, III: 148-9; Watt, op.cit.
Ibn Qutayba, 625, 468; Ibn Sa'd, VII: 371; RazI, III: 375-6; Watt, op.cit.
Ibn Sa'd, VI: 339; Watt, op.cit.
Nashi', 62; ShahrastanT, I: 227-8, 230.
Above; Nashi\ 62; Ibn Qutayba, 625.
Ibn Sa'd, VI: 364-5; Ibn Qutayba, 625; Ibn AbT 1-Wafa, II: 167; RazT, I: 154,
VIII: 368-9.
Ibn Sa'd, VI: 362; ShahrastanT, I: 233-4; RazT, VI: 107; Ibn Qutayba, 500.
Ibn Sa'd, V: 493; Ibn Qutayba, 625.




The historical phases and stages depicted in these two columns are the
ones discussed on page 5 of the article.


The numerals appearing in this column refer to the following tenets of

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the Murji'ite Doctrine:
1. Concern for unity, aversion to internal strife and blood-letting.
2. Absence from a divisive event mandates scepticism.
3. Negative neutrality: 'All and 'Uthman neither condemned nor
approved of, hence:
4. Irja' means: postponement of judgement and deferring to God.
5. Unconditional and absolute approval of Abu Bakr and 'Umar.
6. Doctrinalization of no. 4: irja' is old and has roots in the Qur'an.
7. Disengagement between the issues of Tman and the rulers' conduct.
8. Irja' in the sense of rank demotion: 'All and 'Uthman rank after
Abu Bakr and 'Umar.
9. Condemning injustice:
(a) verbally,
(b) by righting against it; but in both cases without condemning
the oppressor with kufr.
10. Split over the status of sinning rulers: (a) sinners but still mu'minun
who must not be excommunicated, (b) sinners and therefore
kuffar, (c) Muslim believers whose excommunication is
11. Licensing involvement in current strife by clearly invoking the
positive potential inherent in no. 2.
12. Comparability between prophets and ordinary people (a vague
reference to the later tenet, which equalizes prophets, angels, and
ordinary people in respect of the nature of Tman).
13. Democratization of no. 7: all Muslims enjoy the disengagement
between Tman and conduct.
14. Iman is worshipping God without associating a partner with Him.
Kufr is only polytheism. Short of polytheism nothing is kufr.
15. Predestination, known earlier (al-Hasan), but stated for the first
time in the later texts.
16. Hope in God's forgiveness, though not to the exclusion of

17. Attesting to the status of 'All and 'Uthman as mu'mimn, while

stubbornly adhering to nos. 4 and 2; the negative edge is taken
away from no. 3.
18. Iman is the knowledge of God in one's heart, the knowledge of
revelation in its generality and the verbal profession of this know-
ledge. Neither is enough by itself.
19. Iman is indivisible, does not increase or decrease.
20. Works, though not part of iman, are the canons and precepts
of belief.
21. Performance of the precepts, apparently, not essential. Complete
exclusion of all works and pronouncements from iman which is

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only the knowledge of God in one's heart.
22. Kufr is only ignorance of God in one's heart.

COLUMNS 4 - 12

These columns bear references to first- and to second-hand texts

attesting to verbatim formulations of the corresponding tenets. The
first-hand texts (depicted in columns 5—10) are discussed in footnote 10
above, and through the article. References to texts in poetry (columns
6, 7, 9, and 10) refer to verse: hemistich numbers as depicted in
Appendix I.
Of the second-hand texts, Ibn 'Asakir's (column 4) is discussed on
page 6 above. Tenets ascribed to Abu HanTfa (column 11) or to Jahm
b. Safwan (column 12) are gleaned from texts indicated in these two
columns in the following abbreviated forms:
'AM' = Abu Hanifa, al-'Alim wa-l-muta'allim
'Ash' = al-Ash'ari
'F' = Abu Hanifa, al-Fiqh al-akbar
IH = Ibn Hazm
W = Abu HanTfa, Wasiyyat AbT Hanifa
Teneti References to Textual Attestation
Hbtorical of Rm Hind Texti
the Ibn Kllab Vena by. Slrat Venetbr tUrafltc Jshmite
MutjTlte •AokJr al-bjS' Mubinbb *Awnb. SJIlim Thfcil Nl^rb. Tradition Tradition
Phuei Stiffa Doctrine Dbhlr 'AbdABh Outitth S*YY*r
1 2 3 [ i 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 n
1 1 • V2-4 19 3.2 XV:4 6.8 AM.43
Rudimentvy bja' 3 V.8 13 1-2-3; Xn.l 5.13 AMJ3-8
Rut (c. 35 A R/656A.D. - •/ passim AM^3-8
73 A R/693 A.D.) 4 V1 V-6,8 22-28 2.2 1:2-3 5,13-15 AM,36-8^3-8; F. ut
Phue 5 VJ-8 6.17 VD:1
R Doctrimliration
(c.n t73/693-81/701) 6 V:2-5 AM .93-8
7 2-3 vrrti F. l i t 13 f
mFennentition 8 5-7 m
(c 81/701-101/720) 9 a 5-2 X
9 b 2.1.3 1 vmi
10 a 1X1 61
10 b X.1

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Second 10 c) xnti
1 M 5 n
Agena 12 XIV^-7 AM.57-8
Phue of 13 6-7 AMJ6 x
ConToiion 14 4,7,12.2 AM. 67.76
15 10
16 7,9.12-15 AM.69.79;F,irt.M;
(c. 101/720-1167735) 17 12.5:1.13-15
18 l:202-4^,irt.l8; 137;W,iitl
19 Aih,I-204,F.utl8;
20 AM.47-50
i! 21 10 Aih.L97.205;
Rswrfutionwy brfi' 111,11.106
(c. 116/735-131/749) 22 Ath.I:205



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