Prominent theologian of the late Muʿtazilite school (10th century).


ʿABD-AL-JABBĀR B. AḤMAD B. ʿABD-AL-JABBĀR B. AḤMAD B. ḴALĪL B. ʿABDALLĀH AL-HAMADĀNĪ AL-ASADĀBĀDĪ, ʿEMĀD-AL-DĪN ABU’L-ḤASAN, qāżī al-qożāt (chief judge) of Ray and the most prominent theologian of the late Muʿtazilite school. He was born in Asadābād, southwest of Hamadān, probably between 320/932 and 325/937. His father was, according to Tawḥīdī, a peasant (fallāḥ; variant: ḥallāǰ, “cotton carder”). He heard Hadith in his home town from Zobayr b. ʿAbd-al-Vāḥed Asadābāḏī (d. 347/958-59), a renowned traditionist, and in Qazvīn from ʿAlī b. Ebrāhīm b. Salama al-Qaṭṭān (d. 345/956-57). With the latter he may also have studied Shafiʿite feqh, in which, in any case he received a solid training. According to his own statements, he performed the pilgrimage to Mecca in 339/951 and in 340/951-52, heard Hadith in Hamadān and probably in Isfahan, where he also received traditions in 345/956-57 and 346/957-58. Later in 346 he went to Baṣra and heard Hadith from Abū Bakr Anbārī. His studies took a new direction as he joined the circle of the Muʿtazilite theologian Abū Esḥāq b. ʿAyyāš, whom he may have met previously in ʿAskar Mokram. He stayed some time at that center of Muʿtazilite learning, either shortly before or after coming to Baṣra, and he attended the lectures of the Muʿtazilite scholar Abū Aḥmad b. Salama but disapproved of his strong bias against the school of Abū Hāšem Jobbāʾī, to which Ebn ʿAyyāš belonged. Statements in the sources that he previously had adhered to the Asḥʿarite school must be viewed with reserve. More likely he was brought up on a traditionalist Shafiʿite creed. At an unknown date he moved to Baghdad to continue his studies with Abū ʿAbdallāh Baṣrī, the most famous Muʿtazilite scholar of the time. He was closely associated with Baṣrī for a long time and later began to teach on his own and composed several works on theology and principles of jurisprudence (oṣūl al-feqh). In 360/970 he was in Rāmhormoz, another stronghold of Muʿtazilism which he may have visited before, and began to dictate his monumental sum of theology, al-Moḡnī, in the mosque of ʿAbdallāh b. ʿAbbās Rāmhormozī (a Muʿtazilite magnate there). He mentions staying for some time in the rebāṭ built by Rāmhormozī, where he engaged in discussions with Muʿtazilite colleagues. From Rāmhormoz he apparently went to Isfahan in order to join Ṣāḥeb b. ʿAbbād, then counselor of the Buyid Moʾayyed-al-dawla. Ebn ʿAbbād, himself an active champion of Muʿtazilite doctrine, became a great admirer of ʿAbd-al-Jabbār. Shortly after Ebn ʿAbbād succeeded to the vizierate of Moʾayyed-al-dawla, he appointed ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, in Moḥarram, 667/August-September, 977, chief-judge of Ray with jurisdiction over northern Jebāl. Later his authority was extended over other provinces, including Gorgān, Ṭabarestān, and Hamadān. After the death of Ebn ʿAbbād in Ṣafar, 385/March, 995, ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, like most other protégés of the former vizier, was dismissed and his property confiscated. Hostile sources attribute his dismissal to his refusal to pray for Ebn ʿAbbād, as the latter had failed to display repentance before his death. ʿAbd-al-Jabbār remained in Ray and devoted the rest of his life fully to teaching. In 389/999 he passed through Baghdad on a pilgrimage to Mecca and was given a splendid reception by dignitaries and scholars. On his return he taught for some time in Baghdad and transmitted Hadith. In 409/1018-19 he taught in Qazvīn. He died in 415/1024-25 in Ray.

After the death of Abū ʿAbdallāh Baṣrī in 369/979, ʿAbd-al-Jabbār became the undisputed head of the Moʿtazela. A prolific author and devoted teacher, he could count as his students virtually all the prominent Muʿtazilite scholars of the following generation: Abū Rašīd Naysābūrī, Abu’l-Ḥosayn Baṣrī, Ebn Mattavayh, Abū Yūsof Qazvīnī, the Imamite šarīfs Rażī and Mortażā, and the Caspian Zaydī imams Moʾayyad Boṭḥānī and Mahdī Ḥoqaynī. In the history of the Muʿtazilite school he appears to be less an innovator than an elaborator of previous doctrine. Although he is considered a representative of the school of Abū Hāšem Jobbāʾī, his teaching generally appears to be a compromise between the doctrine of Abū Hāšem and that of his father, Abū ʿAlī Jobbāʾī. In his doctrine on the imamite he came to adopt, no doubt under Ebn ʿAbbād’s influence, progressively more pro-ʿAlid views. While he had originally left the question of superior excellence undecided between Abū Bakr and ʿAlī, he later unconditionally affirmed the superiority of ʿAlī. In al-Moḡnī he upheld the Muʿtazilite requirements for the imamite against Shiʿite doctrine and defended the imamite of the four rāšedūn caliphs and the Omayyads ʿOmar b. ʿAbd-al-ʿAzīz and Yazīd b. al-Valīd, traditionally recognized by Muʿtazilite doctrine. But he also argued for the validity of the imamite of the ʿAlids Ḥasan, Ḥosayn, Zayd b. ʿAlī, Moḥammad al-Nafs al-Zakīya, and his brother Ebrāhīm, all recognized as imams by the Zaydīs.

The following of his works have been published: 1. Motašābeh al-Qorʾān, an exegetical work on the ambiguous (motašābeh) passages of the Koran from the Muʿtazilite point of view, composed between 360/970 and 380/990 (2 vols., ed. ʿAdnān Moḥammad Zarzūr, Cairo, 1969). 2. Al-Moḡnī fī abwāb al-tawḥīd wa’l-ʿadl, a comprehensive exposition of Muʿtazilite kalām begun in 360/970-71 and completed in 379-80. Of its twenty parts, fourteen have been recovered and edited (under the supervision of Ṭāhā Ḥosayn, Cairo, 1960-65). 3. Al-Moḵtaṣar fī oṣūl al-dīn, written before 385/995 on the suggestion of Ṣāḥeb b. ʿAbbād as an introduction to kalām for an unnamed šarīf. It deals summarily with the same subjects as the K. al-Moḡnī and is similarly arranged (ed. Moḥammad ʿEmāra, Rasāʾel al-ʿadl wa’l-tawḥīd, Cairo, 1971, I, pp. 161-253). 4. Tanzīh al-Qorʾān ʿan al-maṭāʿen, written after 380/990. In subject matter it is broader that his Motašābeh al-Qorʾān; it deals with all aspects of language, grammar, composition, and meaning in the Koran which are subject to misunderstanding and detraction by critics (ed. Cairo, 1329/1911, and Beirut, 1967). 5. Taṯbīt dalāʾel nobūwa nabīyenā Moḥammad, written in 385/995. The book deals with the miraculous proofs of the prophethood of Moḥammad, especially his true prophecies, and contains polemical refutations of the claims of non-Muslim religion, Greek and Muslim philosophy, and Ismaʿili and Imamite Shiʿism (ed. ʿAbd-al-Karīm ʿOṯmān, Beirut, 1966). 6. Fażl al-eʿtezāl wa ṭabaqāt al-moʿtazela, composed at the request of Ḵᵛārazmšāh Maʾmūn (390-407/100-1017). The first part is a short apology for Muʿtazilism and a refutation of its critics. The second part contains a history of Muʿtazilite scholars in ten classes that formed the main source of the “Classes of the Moʿtazela” of Ḥakīm Jošamī (d. 494/1101) and ultimately of those of Ebn al-Mortażā (d. 840/1437) (ed. Foʾād Sayyed, Tunis, 1393/1974).

Works based on works of ʿAbd-al-Jabbār are: 1. Šarḥ al-oṣūl al-ḵamsa by Aḥmad b. Abū Hāšem Ḥosaynī Qazvīnī, known as Mānakdīm (d. 425/1034), a Zaydī disciple of ʿAbd-al-Jabbār. The book is a commentary on a lost work of the same title which the qāżī al-qożāt had composed between 360/970 and 380/990. ʿAbd-al-Jabbār’s book was in turn a commentary on a brief explanation of the five principles of the Moʿtazela entitled al-oṣūl al-ḵamsa which is extant in manuscript (Vatican 989). Mānakdīm quotes ʿAbd-al-Jabbār’s šarḥ directly at times and generally appears to follow his text closely, though occasionally he criticizes him. In the section on the imamite he supports the Zaydī view against the Muʿtazilite doctrine. The book has wrongly been published as ʿAbd-al-Jabbār’s work (ed. ʿAbd-al-Karīm ʿOṯmān, Cairo, 1384/1965). 2. Al-Maǰmūʿ fi’l-moḥīṭ be’l-taklīf by Ḥasan b. Aḥmad b. Mattavayh (d. 469/1076), a student of ʿAbd-al-Jabbār. It is a commentary on the latter’s al-Moḥīṭ be’l-taklīf, a comprehensive sum of Muʿtazilite theology composed after al-Moḡnī which appears to be lost. Ebn Mattavayh restates, discusses, and occasionally criticizes the argument of his teacher. The first part of the work has been edited (ed. J. J. Houben, Beirut, 1965; better text ed. ʿOmar al-Sayyed ʿAzmī, Cairo, 1965).

For other works of ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, see Sezgin, GAS I, pp. 624-26, and ʿAbd-al-Karīm ʿOṯmān, Qāżī al-qożāt ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, Beirut, 1967, pp. 58-72.



Abu’l-Ḥayyān Tawḥīdī, al-Emtāʿ wa’l-moʾānasa, ed. Aḥmad Amīn and Aḥmad Zayn, Cairo, 1939-44, I, pp. 141-42.

Ṣāḥeb b. ʿAbbād, Rasāʾel, ed. ʿAbd-al-Vahhāb ʿAzzām and Šawqī Żayf, Cairo, 1366/1947, pp. 34-39, 42-46.

Taʾrīḵ Baḡdād XI, pp. 113-15.

Helāl Ṣābī, Taʾrīḵ, in H. F. Amedroz, The Eclipse of the ʿAbbasid Caliphate, Oxford, 1920-21, III, p. 338.

Ḥākem Jošamī, Šarḥ ʿoyūn al-masāʾel, and Rāfeʿī, al-Tadwīn fī ḏekr ahl al-ʿelm be-Qazvīn, in Fażl al-eʿtezāl, ed. Foʾād Sayyed, pp. 122-26, 365-71.

Yāqūt, Odabāʾ I, pp. 70ff.; II, pp. 312, 314, 335.

Ebn al-Aṯīr, VIII, pp. 510ff.; IX, pp. 71ff., 235; X, p. 95.

Sobkī, Ṭabaqāt 2 V, pp. 97ff.

Ebn al-Mortażā, Ṭabaqāt al-moʿtazela, ed. S. Diwald-Wilzer, Wiesbaden, 1961, pp. 112ff.

Lesān al-mīzān III, pp. 386-87.

Ḵᵛānsārī, Rawżat al-ǰannāt, ed. Asadallāh Esmāʿīlīān, Qom, 1390-93/1970-72, V, pp. 17-19.

ʿAbd-al-Karīm ʿOṯmān, Naẓarīyat al-taklīf: ārāʾ al-qāżī ʿAbd-al-Jabbār al-kalāmīya, Beirut, 1391/1971.

ʿA. Badawī, Histoire de la philosophie en Islam, Paris, 1972, I, pp. 199-261.

J. R. T. M. Peters, God’s Created Speech: a Study in the Speculative Theology of the Muʿtazilî Qâdî ʿl-qudât Abûl-Hasan ʿAbd al-Jabbâr Ebn al-Nadīm Ahmad al-Hamadânî, Leiden, 1976.

(W. Madelung)

Originally Published: December 15, 1982

Last Updated: July 14, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. I, Fasc. 2, pp. 116-117

W. Madelung, “'Abd-Al-Jabbar B. Ahmad,” Encyclopædia Iranica, I/2, pp. 116-117; an updated version is available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/abd-al-jabbar-b-ahmad (accessed on 15 January 2014).