Shi’i Doctrine, Mu’tazili Theology


Shi’i Doctrine, Mu’tazili Theology


al-Sharif al-Murtada and Imami Discourse

Author: Hussein Ali Abdulsater

Publisher: Edinburgh University Press (June 30, 2017)

Examines the critical turn that shaped Imami Shi’ism in the 10th and 11th centuries

God is not free to act; He is bound by human ethics. To be just, He must create an individual of perfect intellect and infallible morality. People are obligated to submit to this person; otherwise eternal damnation awaits them.

While these claims may be interpreted as an affront to God’s power, an insult to human judgment and a justification for despotism, Shi?i Muslims in the eleventh century eagerly adopted them in their attempts to forge a ‘rational’ religious discourse. They utilized everything from literary studies and political theory to natural philosophy and metaphysical speculation in support of this project. This book presents the contribution of al-Shar?f al-Murta??  (d. 1044) of Baghdad, the thinker most responsible for this irreversible change, which remains central to Imami identity. It analyzes his intellectual project and establishes the dynamic context which prompted him to pour the old wine of Shi?i doctrine into the new wineskin of systematic Mu’tazili theology.

Hussein Ali Abdulsater is Assistant Professor of Arabic Culture and Islamic Studies at Department of Classics, University of Notre Dame.

Key Features

  • Comprehensive coverage of al-Murta??’s enormous oeuvre (running to several thousand pages) and diversity (spanning virtually all contemporary fields of knowledge)
  • A meticulous engagement with long and dense theoretical texts that are either in manuscript form or poorly edited
  • An orderly presentation that equips readers with an overall understanding of Shi’i theology in its main phases while preserving the profundity of analysis
  • The study of a little-known author whose views, nonetheless, are still a major influence for Shi’i Muslims


1. Life and Works

2. God and the World

3. Moral Theory and Divine Justice

4. Humans and the Origins of Religious Experience

5. The Imama and the Need for Moral Leadership

6. Prophethood and the Value of Divine Guidance

Source: Edinburgh University Press

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