Monday, 12 January 2015

Rise of Sunnis and Decline of Mutazilites

For several decades in the early ninth century, the Mutazila enjoyed tremendous favour at the Abbasid court in Baghdad, but their power was no always so humorously exercised. Ibn Hanbal was tortured and imprisioned, and other Sunni scholars were killed for refusing to embrace Mutazila beliefs. In 848, this changed. The new Abbasid Caliph, Mutawakkil, embraced Sunni beliefs. He brought the leading Sunni scholars out of prison and sent them to the great Cathedral mosques of Baghdad. There they narrated Hadiths to crowds, reciting their full isnads back in time through chains of great scholars to the Messenger of God. Their Hadiths stressed the immediacy and closeness of God, including such prophetic sayings as the promise that believing Muslims would behold their Lord directly on the Day of Judgement. The ascendancy of the 'People of the Sunna' brought with it the steep decline of the Mutazila fortunes. By the eleventh century they were few in number and limited to scholarly circles along the Silk Road in Baghdad, Iran, the mountains of Yemen and the oases of Central Asia.

The triumph of what would become the majority school of thought and sect in Islam was the most remarkable development in the ninth through the eleventh centuries. The phrase that this network of scholars used to refer to itself, 'The People of the Sunna and the Collective,' referred to their belief that they alone followed the true Sunna of the Prophet and the united path of the Companions.  'Misquoting Muhammad', Jonathan A.C Brown, Kindle p46-47

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