The Scholars of Islam: Al-Baqillani

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Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn al-Tayyip al-Baqillani is the most outstanding representative of the second generation of the Ashari school, who created a harmonious doctrine from the teachings of al-Ashari, formalized it in the form of scientific works and contributed to its approval and dissemination in the territory of the Caliphate.

Abu Bakr al-Baqillani was born in Basra, Iraq, 4 years after the death in Baghdad of the founder of the school of Asharism, Imam al-Ashari. By that time, over twenty years from the beginning of its dissemination through the efforts of al-Ashari and his disciples, the teachings of the Asharites had become widespread in Iraq. The dispute about the creation of the Quran – a key dispute in the polemics of the Mutazillites (predecessors of al-Ashari in the philosophy of Islamic Kalam) and the Asharites – was increasingly resolved in favour of the Asharites, who argued that the divine anthropomorphic attributes of Allah (Speech, Sight, Hearing, etc.) are eternal and not created, which means that the Quran was not created as a manifestation of these attributes.

Al-Baqillani studied in Basra with the favourite disciples of al-Ashari Ibn Mujahid al-Tai and Abul Hasan al-Bahili. He studied fiqh with famous theologians of the Maliki madhhab. Soon, his philosophical works became known outside Basra. At that time, the power in the Caliphate was seized by emirs from the Persian Shiite Buyid dynasty. In 970, al-Baqillani was invited to the Buid emir in Baghdad. There he took part in many discussions and won the trust and respect of the Emir Adud ad-Dawla, who increasingly began to lean towards Asharism (although the Shiites are normally inclined towards Mutazillism and have much in common with it) and admired al-Baqillani’s ability to give an instant answer to any question, his firmness in the dispute and unprecedented eloquence. In 982, al-Baqillani was sent to Constantinople as a member of the emir’s embassy. He stayed there until 983, until the death of the emir, after which the embassy returned to Baghdad. In Constantinople, al-Baqillani often conversed with the emperor and impressed him with his learning. As a sign of special respect, the emperor allowed al-Baqillani not to take off his turban in his presence.

Imam al-Baqillani possessed a rare eloquence. He could convince anyone of anything. For his eloquence and depth of knowledge, he received the nicknames “Sheikh al-Sunnah” (Expert in the Prophet’s Covenants) “Lisan al-Umma” (Mouth of the Umma) “Imad ad-Din” (Pillar of Faith) “Nasir al-Islam” (Keeper of Islam) and “Seif al-Sunna” (Sword of the Prophet’s Covenants).

Al-Baqillani spent the rest of his life in Baghdad. He received the post of the supreme qadi (judge and Muslim leader) of Baghdad, taught the Asharite Kalam and Maliki madhhab, and participated in public events and theological discussions.

Abu Bakr al-Baqillani died in 1031, leaving behind a legacy of 52 books, of which only 6 have survived (the main one is the “Introduction” (Kita bat-Tamhid). His main convictions include the uncreatedness of the Quran, the possibility to change fate through prayer, proof of prophecy in the form of miracles, the possibility of seeing Allah. Ibn Taymiyyah said that of all the Asharite scholars al-Baqillani was the most significant, so that no one can compare with him either before or after him.