ASH'ARIYAH. The theological doctrine of the Ash'ariyah, the followers of al-Ash'ari, is commonly regarded as the most important single school of systematic theology in orthodox Islam. The school and its members are commonly referred to in Arabic as alash'ariyah and its members often as al-asha'irah (the "Ash'aris"). Ash'ari masters during the tenth and eleventh centuries CE most commonly refer to themselves and the school as ahl al-haqq ("those who teach the true doctrine") or ahl al-sunnah wa-al-jama ah ("the adherents of the sunnah and the consensus [of the Muslim community]") and sometimes as ahl al-tahqiq ("those whose doctrine is conceptually clear and verified"). It should be noted, however, that other groups, including some opponents of the Ash'ariyah, use the same expressions, and the first two in particular, to describe themselves. Ash'ariyah is not, as such, identified with any single juridical tradition (madhhab); most Ash'ari theologians were Shafi'i, and some were famous as teachers of Shafi'i law, but a large number of them were Malik!, the most famous being the Maliki qadi ("judge") al-Baqillani.
The history of the school can be divided into two clearly distinguishable periods, the division falling about the beginning of the twelfth century CE. The first period, often referred to as that of classical Ash'ari theology, is characterized by the formal language, analysis, and argumentation of the Basran kalam employed by alAsh'ari himself, while the second is characterized by the language, concepts, and formal logic of philosophy (falsafah), that is, of the Islamic continuation of Greek philosophy. [See Falsafah.] The school received strong official support under the Seljuk vizier Nizam al-Mulk (d. 1092), with many of its masters appointed to chairs of the Shafi'i law in the colleges (madrasahs) that he founded. Many scholars identify the acme of the school with the great Ash'ari masters of this period. Many, most notably Georges C. Anawati and Louis Gardet, have seen the introduction and adaptation of Aristotelian logic and concepts as analogous to the via nova of Western Scholastic theology and accordingly hold that the Ash'ari thinking of the later period is more sophisticated and more truly theological than that of the earlier period.
Principal Figures. We have very few concrete data concerning the teaching of al-Ash'ari's immediate disciples. Abu Bakr al-Qaffal al-Shashi, Abu al-Hasan alBahili, and Abu Sahl al-Saluki are regularly cited in the theological writings of later Ash'ari thinkers, but the only theological work by one of his direct disciples that is known to have survived is the Ta'wil al-ayat almushkilah (The Interpretation of Difficult Verses) of Abu al-Hasan al-Tabari. In formulation and conception this work appears to follow the teaching of al-Ash'ari rigidly: the proof for the contingency of the world and the existence of God, for example, is not the one universally employed by the Ash'ariyah of succeeding generations, but depends directly on al-Ash'ari's Al-luma' (The Concise Remarks). The most important of al-Ash'ari's immediate disciples, however, was certainly al-Bahili; although al-Qaffal's student al-Halimi (d. 1012) is cited with some frequency by later authorities, it is three students of al-Bahili who dominate Ash'ari thinking in the next two generations. These are the qadi Abu Bakr alBaqillani (d. 1013), Abu Bakr ibn Furak (d. 1015), and Abu Ishaq al-Isfara'ini (d. 1027).
Several of al-Baqillani's theological writings have survived and are published: two compendia of moderate length, Al-tamhid (The Introduction) and Al-insaf (The Equitable View), and a major work on the miraculous character of the Qur'an, I'jaz al-Qur'an (The Inimitability of the Qur'an). Of his longest and most important work, Hidayat al-mustarshidin (The Guidance of Those Who Seek to Be Guided Aright), however, only a part, yet unpublished, of the section on prophecy is presently known. A number of important works that are commonly cited appear not to have survived at all, among them a tract on the ontology of attributes and predicates entitled Ma yu'allal wa-ma la yu'allal (What Is Founded in an 'Illah and What is Not) and Al-naqd al-kabir (The Major Critique), which is perhaps a longer recension of his Naqd Al-naqd (The Critique of The Critique), a work written in response to the Naqd Al-luma' (The Critique of [al-Ash'ari's] Al-luma') composed by the great Mu'tazili master 'Abd al-Jabbar (d. 1024). Ibn Furak's Bayan ta'wil mushkil al-hadith (The Clear Interpretation of Difficult Traditions) was very popular in later times and survives in many copies, but among his dogmatic writings only a few short works, none of them published, are known to have survived. (The lengthy Usul al-din [Basic Doctrines] contained in the Ayasofya collection of Istanbul and attributed to him in several European handbooks is by his grandson.) Of al-Isfara'ini's writings, only one short compendium ('aqidah), yet unpublished, is known to have survived, although a large number of theological works are cited by later Ash'ari writers, among them Al-jami' (The Summa), Almukhtasar (The Abridged Compendium), Al-wasf wa-alsifah (Predications and Attributes), and Al-asma' wa-al-sifat (The Names and Attributes [of God]).
Among the Ash'ariyah of succeeding generations, the principal figures some of whose theological works are available and in part published are 'Abd al-Qahir alBaghdadi (d. 1037), who studied with al-Isfara'ini; Abu Bakr al-Bayhaqi (d. 1056), best known as a traditionist and jurisconsult; Abu al-Qasim al-Qushayri (d. 1072), a student of both Ibn Furak and al-Isfara'ini, renowned as a teacher and writer on Sufism; his student Abu Sa'd al-Mutawalli (d. 1086), best known as a jurisconsult, and Abu Bakr al-Furaki (d. 1094), a grandson of Ibn Furak and son-in-law of al-Qushayri. We have none of the theological writings of Abu al-Qasim al-Isfara'ini (d. 1060), though his commentary on the Mukhtasar of Abu Ishaq al-Isfara'ini is often cited along with others of his works. His disciple Abu al-Ma'ali al-Juwayni (d. 1085), known as Imam al-Haramayn (Imam of the Holy Cities, that is, Mecca and Medina, to which he was forced to flee for a time), was not only one of the foremost Muslim theologians of any period but also the leading Shafi'i legist of his age.
A number of al-Juwayni's dogmatic works have survived and are published, most important his Irshad (Guidance), the Risalah al-nizamiyah (The Short Tract for Nizam [al-Mulk], twice published under the title Al'aqidah al-nizamiyah), and Al-shamil fi- usul al-din (The Complete Compendium of the Basic Doctrines), which is a very extensive exposition (tahrir) of al-Baqillani's commentary on al-Ash'ari's Al-luma'. A significant portion of Al-shamil is preserved, and the substance of the remainder survives in an abridgement of some two hundred folios by an unknown author, entitled Al-kamil fi ikhtisar Al-shamil