Authenticity of "al-Ibaanah" of Abu Hasan al-Ashari
Understanding Islam
Bayaan at-Talbees Ahlul-Takfeer
Ahlu-Sunnah Versus the Ashari/Sufi Movement
The Senior Scholars Warn Against Extremism and Exageration in Religion
Muslim Authorities
Countering Islamaphobia
To Non Muslims
Salafi Conferences With Scholars
The rumors of the "forgery" of al-Ibaanah has been laid to est below and the claim of the mubtadiah uprooted

This issue concerns also the Ibanah 'an Usul al-Diyanah, a book written by Imam Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari as authentically reported and agreed by religious authorities and other than them. There is no doubt that the Ibanah is authored by Imam al-Ash'ari; whoever doubts that is a Jahmi, a muftari - as stated by Sunnites and Ash'arites.

As for what these above Sufis say, as the brother reproduced:

- that the Ibanah has a weak narration,

- that it is wrongly ascribed to al-Ash'ari,

- and that this, i.e. the Ibanah, is the only evidence Salafis have that the Imam changed his creed,

we say:

All three premises are false.

1) Let us begin with the first:

The Ibanah does not have an Isnad, as far as I'm aware. In fact, according to my knowledge only two works ascribed to al-Ash'ari have Isnads: al-Risalah fi'l-Iman and al-Hathth 'ala'l-Bahth, the latter also known under the spurious title of al-Risalah al-Istihsan al-Khawd fi 'Ilm al-Kalam. Abd al-Malik b. Darbas (d.605) says about the issue of Isnad, concerning al-Ash'ari's works, that the only work which has been reported by chain of transmission from him is the Risalah al-Iman. He said:

"And it (i.e. Risalah fi'l-Iman) is with us from the transmission of the Imam and Hafidh Abu Tahir al-Silafi. Nothing has reached us of the writings of Abu'l-Hasan [al-Ash'ari] with a continuous transmission to him, but this one."

He implies by this that the Ibanah has not been transmitted from the Imam by way of Isnad. This conclusion is highly probable, since Ibn Darbas wrote an independant tract in defense of the Ibanah in which he advocated at the utmost for the authenticity of the Ibanah that he rejected any doubts concerning it's ascription. If Ibn Darbas tried to prove its soundness at the utmost, he would definetily mention a Sanad for it. Since he does not, there could not be found any.

This means also, as I suggest now, that the Hafidh Ibn 'Asakir does not know of any Isnad for it. If he does know, why would his student Ibn Darbas neglect mentioning it? Neither does Abu Muhammad, the son of Ibn 'Asakir, know an Isnad for it, for Ibn Darbas may had mention it from the Hafidh through the son. Ibn Darbas was a student of both.

The interesting question that arises is: why does Ibn 'Asakir relies on the Ibanah, even quotes from it abundantly, without evidence of an Isnad?

It seems that the Hafidh did not found an Isnad, but still believed it to be the work of the Imam based on other evidences. These evidences, for example the Isnad-supported narration of Abu 'Uthman al-Sabuni concerning the status of the Ibanah, were strong enough for the Hafidh to confirm it as al-Ash'ari's book. He declared that in the Tabyin al-Kadhib al-Muftari in the following comprehensive answer:

"The book al-Ibanah has always been regarded highly by the People of Religion."

So if the Hafidh Ibn 'Asakir, his son the Hafidh Abu Muhammad, the Qadi Ibn Darbas and others relied on the Ibanah, praised it and quoted from it - all without an Isnad - than who told you that it has a weak narration (i.e. transmission)? These people, I can tell you that for sure, did not consider it to have a weak transmission, for they relied upon it as no other. Their books are proof for this.

Also other scholars relied on the Ibanah, none bothering about the narration or transmission of it, as their predecessors didn't bother either about it. The examples are too many to count. Important is to remember that not a few of these scholars who relied on the Ibanah are themselves major Huffadh, not just Fuqaha or Usuliyyun; their firm knowledge and expertise in 'Ilm al-Riwayah wa'l-Dirayah carries much weight in accepting their conclusions concerning any given word or writing of a former scholar from the Khalaf.

Its also important to realize what Ibn Darbas - and others - imply by neglecting mentioning the Isnad of the Ibanah. Nay, its of the utmost importance to realize Ibn Darbas words,

"Nothing has reached us of the writings of Abu'l-Hasan [al-Ash'ari] with a continuous transmission to him, but this one,"

which means: nothing of the heritage of al-Ash'ari has reached us according to the strictest standards of the Muhaddithun except two works; but these works too have weakness in their transmission! So what should we do with the Madhhab of al-Ash'ari, declare everything of it as having a weak narration?!

The brothers should review what the Hafidh Ibn 'Asakir said about in the Tabyin
here, and what Ibn Darbas mentioned concerning it here. They could also take a look at what others said concerning the problem of narration and transmission of works by Ash'arite authors here.

I think this suffices in refuting the false premis that the Ibanah has a weak narration. If more is needed, then they should refer back to some of the editions of the Ibanah and studies of al-Ash'ari, for example the Mawquf of al-Mahmud. There can be also found some discussion on this on not a few Arabic fora, see
this one for example.

2) As for the second claim, i.e. that the Ibanah has been wrongly ascribed to Imam al-Ash'ari, then I answered that already. The above refutes this clearly. Only an Kadhdhab (a liar) can hold this. Let me quote explicitly what the Ash'arite Qadi Ibn Darbas said about some pseudo-Ash'arites concerning this:

"And it (i.e. al-Ibanah) has been read out by some of our colleagues to a great one from the Jahmites, those who lie against Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari, in
Jerusalem. He rejected it and renounced it and said: 'We've heard nothing of it! It is not from his works'. He strived later concerning its transmission to continue the deception by his troublemaking. He said after moving his beard, saying: 'Maybe he authored it when he was a Hashwite?' I can not direct to what I found most amazing [from all this]! Was it his ignorance of the book, with all its fame, and the many who mentioned it in the books of scholars, or his ignorance of the condition of his Shaykh (i.e. al-Ash'ari), the one about whom he lies, with his inclination towards him?!"

Read carefully, Oh pseudo-Ash'arites, and see whether you have the same thoughts about the Ibanah as the 'azim min 'udama al-jahmiyyah, as articulated by the student of Ibn 'Asakir! Its amazing that people are similar just like this Great One from the Jahmiyyah in our time, doing whatever they can do to reject the Ibanah! Even alleging falsely that his Imam may have been a Hashwi for a while?! Subhan Allah al-'Azim.

There's no need to refute this, as its evident what's correct.

3) As for the last false lie:

We don't have just the Ibanah to prove that Imam al-Ash'ari reputed many of the Ash'arite tenets. The Ibanah is one out of many proofs. However, it is the most important proof and the strongest of all.

A proof which is almost as strong as the Ibanah, in favouring the fact that al-Ash'ari changed his creed, is the statement of the Imam in another book of his: the Maqalat al-Islamiyyin. He ended with the following words when mentioning the creed of the Ahl al-Sunnah:

"And with everything we've mentioned from their saying, we say too; and upon it we traverse."

And in this work he seperated the Sunnites' views from that of the Mu'tazilah and the Kullabiyyah.

So the Ibanah is not the only book in favouring the fact that he changed his creed. Rather, the Maqalat is another book which supports this clearly. Scholars after al-Ash'ari mentioned the changes of this scholar - before you may speak about Salafis. To mention one in particular, the Hafidh Ibn Kathir, who said:

"They mentioned for the Shaykh Abu'l-Hasan al-Ash'ari three conditions. The first: his state of Mu'tazilism from which he returned from. The second state: affirming the Seven Attributes of Reason, and they are the Life, the Knowledge, the Power, the Will, the Hearing, the Seeing and the Speech, and interpreting the partial [Attributes] such as the Face, Two Hands, the Foot, the Shin and similarly. The third state: affirming all of it, without how or comparison, according to what has been handed over from the Salaf, and it is the way of the Ibanah, the one which he authored as last, and which al-Baqillani explained, and which Ibn 'Asakir copied."

And other scholars who mentioned him changing over time are to many to count. All of them adopt the view that he changed over time, the most knowledgeable being Ibn Taymiyyah for having reviewed all of al-Ash'ari's known works, that of his students, that of al-Baqillani, Ibn Furak, al-Baghdadi, al-Bayhaqi, al-Juwayni, Ibn 'Asakir and many more.

There is actually also no dire need to refute this, but if someone desires he should read some of the secundary literature on al-Ash'ari and the Ash'arites concerning this. Some of this has been mentioned

wa-Allahu A'lam.

No scholar has ever given an exact date for the composition of the Ibanah by Imam al-Ash’ari.

The claim of Wahbi al-Ghawiji that the Ibanah has been authored according to the testimony of a witness who died in 306 is a lie, a fabrication! None of the sources I've seen has ever mentioned that the person to whom al-Ghawiji referred died in the lifetime of al-Ash'ari. Rather, Wahb has been affected by Wahm: the person he named "Abu'l-Hasan 'Ali b. Ibrahim al-Muqri (Ibn Matar)" is probably a reference to the Imam al-Qurra' Abu 'Ali al-Hasan b. 'Ali b. Ibrahim al-Muqri. For his dates refer to his biography.

The relied upon scholars, in particular those who went before from the Qurra’ (Qur’an-recitors), the Huffadh (Hadith-masters), the Fuqaha’ (Jurists), the Usuliyyun (Jurisprudents & Theologians) and the Mu’arrikhun (Historians), have hinted at an approximate date of its composition. Let us highlight these hints:

The historians (Ibn Furak, Ibn ‘Asakir, Ibn Taymiyyah etc.), agree on the fact that al-Ash’ari was born in Basra in 260, lived most his life in Basra, and repented from Mu’tazilism in Basra. They also agree on the report that he was for 40 years a Mu’tazili. This means his repentance happened somewhere in 300 or later.

The theologian Abu Bakr Ibn Furak, a prominent follower of al-Ash’ari, mentioned the fact that the Imam authored some 70 books between 300 and 320; however, the Ibanah has not been mentioned in this list.

The jurist Abu Sahl al-Su’luki on his travels met al-Ash’ari in Basra; his travels started in the year 322.

The hadith-master Ibn ‘Asakir mentioned also the fact that al-Ash’ari never left Basra for Baghdad, but once in his life; when he arrived, he settled there for the rest of his days.

The recitor Abu ‘Ali al-Ahwazi, author of one of the first writings on al-Ash’ari, said about the Ibanah that he composed it in Baghdad. The historians follow him in this.

These reports, which I’ve collected and arranged in an article, all advocate the fact that the Ibanah has been indeed authored very very late in al-Ash’ari’s career. In fact, according to my research it must have been written in 322, 323 or 324 (the most reliable death-year). The facts do not permit otherwise.