This article was published in: Yearbook of the Russian State University for Humanities. N.4, part II. Moscow: RSUH Press, 2000, pp.52-86

Russian version



Al-Fiqh al-Akbar and Early Islamic Philosophy: Mutual Influences


It was almost 70 years ago that A.Wensinck published his book ‘The Muslim Creed,’ in which he studied what he called Fiqh Akbar 1 and Fiqh Akbar 1I, ascribed to Abu Hanifa, as well as other texts relevant for the study of the early Islamic doctrine. Since then al-Fiqh al-Akbar cannot be said to have received much attention in non-Islamic scholarship, while the Sunni authors were doing their best to prove that the text was beyond doubt created by Abu Hanifa himself.

In this translation and commentary of Fiqh Akbar 1I (the longer version of the two texts known as al-Fiqh al-Akbar) I intended to accomplish what evidently escaped Wensinck’s attention. My purpose was to study the relation of this text to Mu‘tazilite doctrines of action, their notions of human ‘capacity’ (istita‘a) and autonomy of person’s will accompanying the action, as well as the problem of human responsibility for autonomous actions with its implications for rational ethics. I have shown numerous parallels between Fiqh Akbar 1I and early Mu‘tazilite doctrines, as we know them mainly from Maqalat al-Islamiyyin by al-Ash‘ari, as well as between Fiqh Akbar 1I and later Ash‘arite refutations of those doctrines.

Two conclusions follow. First, the Fiqh Akbar 1I is evidently a multi-layer text in which Mu‘tazilte, or at least Mu‘tazilite-inspired, passages come next to what could have been written by an Ash‘arite opponent. Second, a very close relation, though not necessarily a friendly one, existed between early Muslim philosophical reasoning and what is generally called Islamic doctrine (‘aqida), which elaborated its theses in opposition to free rational philosophizing, of which Mu‘tazilites were the first proponents in the Islamic world.