Mu‘tazilah, the first Rationalist School of Thought in Islamic History: Critical Study of its Ideology and Approach
Mu‘tazilah was the first rationalist movement in the early history of Islam. While the holy Qur’an was the primary source of knowledge for Muslims to think of oneness of God, His attributes, Heaven, Hell and other metaphorical issues, Mu‘tazilites tried to interpret such dogma in the light of human reason and contradicted the mainstream Muslim dogmas. The Mu‘tazilites enjoyed a golden period under the patronage of alMa’mun, the Abbasid caliph. However, after withdrawal of the patronage, their doctrine lost ground in the society and gradually disappeared. Nevertheless, their approach of critical thinking still has an impact on modern Muslim thinkers. Rejection of God’s attributes, creation of holy Qur’an, status of grave sinner and creation of human action were significant ideological issues of Mu‘tazilah. Their ideology of freedom and free thought were based on rejection of fate and destiny. This paper attempts to critically analyse the major ideological issues of Mu‘tazilah, in terms of their origin, development and dispute with scholars of AÍl al- Sunnah wa’lJama‘ah. It also discusses contributions of Mu’tazilites and impact of their ideology on intellectuals of later period.