Maturidiyya on Rewards and Punishments


Asalam Alaikum,

What reasoning do our Muslim brothers of the Maturidi Aqeedah give for saying that Allah punishing the good and rewarding the bad if He so wishes would be absurd?


Alaykum Salam,

Maturidis and Ash`aris agreed on the *legal* impossibility (ghayr ja’iz shar`an) of the punishment of the righteous but they disagreed over its *rational* possibility. Ash`aris said yes and Maturidis said no. In illustration of the latter position Bayadi Zadah said in Isharat al-Maram (Mustafa Babi ed. p. 54):

ويستحيل عقلاً اتصافه تعالى بالجَور وما لا ينبغي فلا يجوز تعذيب المطيع ولا
العفو عن الكفر عقلاً لمنافاته للحكمة فيجزم العقل بعدم جوازه كما في

It is rationally inconceivable for Allah Most High to be attributable with tyranny and reprehensibility; therefore, the punishment of the obedient is impossible as is amnesty for unbelief, rationally, because that would contradict wisdom. Accordingly, reason categorically affirms its impossibility as in the matters in which Allah is declared to be
exalted beyond imperfections.

Ash`aris of course disagreed with the above reasoning as shown in many works (some of which were gathered together and edited by Bassam al-Jabi at Dar Ibn Hazm under the title al-Masa’il al-Khilafiyya bayn al-Asha`ira wal-Maturidiyya (2003)), such as Abu `Adhba’s al-Rawdat al-Bahiyya (1322/1904 ed. pp. 32-34=Dar Ibn Hazm ed. pp. 115-117) and al-Qushayri’s Rasa’il, Shikayat Ahl al-Sunna (Pir Muhammad Hasan ed. pp. 28-38).

Imam Taj al-Din Ibn al-Subki said in his Qasida Nuniyya in his Tabaqat al-Shafi`iyya al-Kubra (3:386=Masa’il, Dar Ibn Hazm ed. pp. 70-71):

(لله تَعْذِيب الْمُطِيع وَلَو جرى … مَا كَانَ من ظلم وَلَا عدوان)
(متصرف فى ملكه فَلهُ الذى … يخْتَار لَكِن جاد بِالْإِحْسَانِ)
(فنفى الْعقَاب وَقَالَ سَوف أثيبهم … فَلهُ بِذَاكَ عَلَيْهِم فضلان)
(هَذَا مقَال الأشعرى إمامنا … وسواه مأثور عَن النُّعْمَان)

الْمسَائِل المعنوية وهى سِتّ مسَائِل

أَولهَا أَن الرب تَعَالَى لَهُ عندنَا أَن يعذب الطائعين ويثيب العاصين. كل نعْمَة مِنْهُ
فضل وكل نقمة مِنْهُ عدل. لَا حَجْرَ عَلَيْهِ فى مُلْكه، وَلَا داعيَ لَهُ إِلَى فعله. وَعِنْدهم:
يجب تَعْذِيب العاصى وإثابة الْمُطِيع وَيمْتَنع الْعَكْس

“Allah may, if He wishes, punish the obedient; and if it were to occur /
it would nowise be unjust nor enmity.
“He has complete control over His dominion, so it is for Him / to
choose; however, He lavishes goodness.
“So He cancelled punishment and said: ‘I shall recompense them.’ / For
this doing of His they are doubly obliged to Him!
“This is the position of al-Ash`ari, our Imam / while something else is
related from al-Nu`man [Abu Hanifa].

“The intellective issues: they are six.

“The first is that the Lord — exalted is He! — according to us may, if He wishes, punish the obedient and reward the disobedient. Every blessing from Him is kindness and every revenge is justice. There is no restriction over him in His dominion and no exigency for Him to do anything. According to them, it is obligatory to punish the disobedient
and to reward the obedient, and the contrary is precluded.”

A late Maturidi authority, Shaykhi Zadah Damad Shaykh al-Islam (=`Abd al-Rahman b. Muhammad b. Sulayman of Gallipoli, d. 1078/1667) addressed the issue in the 20th Farida of his book Nazm al-Fara’id wa-Jam` al-Fawa’id on the differences between Maturidis and Ash`aris where he gave many Maturidi references and their paraphrases of the Ash`ari position.

(Note of benefit.) This book was first printed in Cairo in 1317/1899 and misattributed to Shaykh Zadah Hajji Celepi (=`Abd al-Rahim b. `Ali b. al-Mu’ayyad, d. 990/1537). This blunder was reduplicated by Bassam al-Jabi in his aforementioned 2003 volume, where he writes that he used the 1317 edition but couldn’t understand how the text was referring to
people who were born after the death of its purported author, such as Mulla `Ali al-Qari and Ibrahim al-Laqani! He only needed to check Zirikli’s al-A`lam (3:332) to realize it was a different Shaykh Zadah, and there were dozens of them among Ottoman scholars.

Shaykhi Zadah in his Nazm al-Fara’id rebutted the Ash`ari position that “He has complete control over His dominion” thus (1317 ed. p. 30=Dar Ibn Hazm ed. pp. 213-215):

الجواب أن له تعالى تصرّفا لكن على وجه الحكمة، وذلك على خلاف مقتضى الحكمة،
وهو على الله تعالى مُحالٌ

“The answer is, He — exalted is He! — does indeed have complete
control, *but in the way of wisdom*; and the above contravenes the
dictates of wisdom, and this is impossible for Allah.”

So it is finally back to Bayadi Zadah’s rationale, “because that would contradict wisdom” which is a reason-based argument with obvious limitations (since its veracity hinges on our ability to assess divine wisdom!), to which Shaykhi Zadah seems to allude by concluding the section with the words,

والخلاف مبني على الخلاف في أنَّ الحُسْنَ والقُبْحَ هل يَثْبُتان عقلاً أم لا؟

“The divergence is based on another divergence, which is whether what is fair and what is foul is determined rationally or not?”

To which of course Ash`aris answer no, it is determined by revelation.

And Allah knows best.

Hajj Gibril Haddad

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