The Story of the First Mihna [Year 218 Hijrah] [Trial of the Scholars on the Statement That the Qur'ân was Created]

Sunday 01-Sep-2019, 6:39AM / 436

Translation: Aboo Aamir Ishaaq b. AbdirRaheem 

As narrated by Ibn Katheer in al-Bidaayah Wa An-Nihaayah

In year 218 Hijrah, Al-Ma'mûn (the Caliph then) wrote to his deputy in Baghdad, Ishâq bn Ibrâhîm bn Mus'ab, ordering him to test the judges and the scholars of hadith with respect to the statement that the Qur'ân was created, and that he should send a number of them to him. He wrote a very extensive message to that deputy inducing him on the act; there were other people that he wrote. Ibn Jarîr had mentioned all the messages (in his work). 

But what the messages contained was that Qur'ân was an invention, not something that had been from time immemorial; and that every invention must be regarded as a created thing. This proposition is a very faulty one such that even most of the theologians (Muslim philosophers) will not agree to let alone the People of Hadith (the people of narrations). 

Those who even say that Allâh the Mighty makes some deeds happen with choice will not say that Allâh's deed – may He be exalted – that has always been with His Sacred Essence – even after it has not come to pass – is created. What they will rather say is: It is an invention yet it is not created; but Allâh's Speech that had been with His Sacred Essence; that whatever is with Allâh's Essence – may He be exalted – cannot be regarded as a creation. Allâh the Most High has said:

"Comes not unto them an admonition (a chapter of the Qur'ân) from their Lord as a recent Revelation…" [Al-Anbiyâ: 2].

He also said:

"And surely, we created you (your father Adam) and Then gave you shape (the noble shape of a human being), then we told the angels, "Prostrate to Adam"…" [Al-Arâf: 11].

The Command to prostrate came from Him – the Most High – after Adam was created. Thus, His Speech was part of His Essence therefore not created. This has another area of discussion.

Al-Bukhârî has a book in respect to the above topic which he entitled: Khalq Af'âl Al-Ibâd ('Creation of the Slaves' Deeds').

The point is that when the message of Al-Ma'mûn got to Baghdad, it was read to the people. Al-Ma'mûn had specifically mentioned some scholars of hadith that should be brought to him; they were: Muhammad bn Sa'd, a writer for Al-Wâqidî; Abu Muslim Al-Mustamlî; Yazîd bn Hârun; Yahyâ bn Ma'în; Abu Khaythamah Zuhayr bn Har'b; Ismâ'îl bn Abî Mas'ûd; Ahmad bn Ad-Darûqî and other many people beside them.

When all those scholars entered upon Abu Is'hâq, he read the message of Al-Ma'mûn to them. When they had all understood it, he said to Bishr bn Al-Walîd: 'What do you (now) say about the Qur'ân?' 

He replied: 'It is Allâh's Speech.' 

Abu Ishâq said: 'That is not what I ask you; I only ask you if it was created or not.' 

He replied: 'It is not a creator.' 

He said: 'It is also not that that I ask you.' 

He then said: 'I cannot say what is better than that.' And he remained on that. 

He then said: 'Do you bear the testimony that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allâh Who is Alone Who has nothing before and after Him, and Whom nothing is like Him from among His creation in any of the meanings nor any of the perspectives?' 

He replied: 'Yes.' 

Abu Ishâq then said to the writer: 'Write down what he has said.' 

Then the writer wrote it down.

That was how Abu Ishâq tested the scholars one after the other while most of them refused to affirm the statement that the Qur'ân was created. And it was such that whenever any of them refused to make the statement, he would be tested with the position which Bishr bn Al-Walîd Al-Kindî had agreed with earlier on that He – the Most High – could be compared with any of His creation in any of the meanings nor in any of the perspectives. Then each of them would reply in affirmative as Bishr said.

When it was the turn of Ahmad bn Hanbal (may Allâh bestow mercy on him), he said to him: 'Do you say the Qur'ân is created?' 

He replied: 'Qur'ân is the Speech of Allâh; I will not add to that.' 

Then he said to him: 'What do you say with respect to what is this patch (which Bishr and others agreed to)?' 

Ahmad said: I say:

"…there is nothing like unto Him, and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer." [Shûrah: 11]

Then one of the Mutazilites (present) said: 'He is saying (referring to Ahmad) He hears with ears and sees with eyes.' 

Then Ishâq said to him: 'What do you intend by your statement 'He is the All-Hearer and All-Seer'?' 

He replied: 'It is what Allâh has intended in it that I intend; He is as He has described Himself; I shall not add to that.'

All the responses of the scholars were written one after the other and sent to Al-Ma'mûn.

A Break

The viceroy Ishâq bn Ibrâhîm ordered the writer to write the response of each of the scholars and send them to Al-Ma'mûn. 

Then came a feedback praising the Viceroy for his excellent job; and a rejoinder was written for each of the scholar – what was written in the message sent by the viceroy (with respect to the scholars' position) was refuted and he was still ordered to put them to trial; that whoever among them would do as expected would be popularized to the people and whoever would not among the scholars say that Qur'ân was created would be sent to the camp of the leader-of-the-believers in chains, and would be guarded until he would arrive in the presence of the leader-of-the-believers who would then do as he might feel; and he was of the view that he would cut the neck of whoever would not say that the Qur'ân was created.

Thus, the viceroy held another sitting in Baghdad and brought those scholars again. Among those brought (this time around) was Ibrâhîm bn Al-Mahdî who was a comrade of Bishr bn Al-Walîd Al-Kindî. There was a statement from Al-Ma'mûn that both of them should be put to death if they did not quickly concede to the opinion that the Qur'ân was created.

But when Is'hâq put them to a trial, all of them conceded with duress and making an interpretation of the Statement of Allâh:

"…except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with faith…" [An-Nahl: 106].

All the scholars conceded except four of them; they were: Ahmad bn Hanbal, Muhammad bn Nûh, Al-Hasan bn Hammâd Sajjâdah and Ubaydullah bn Umar Al-Qawârîrî. They were all put in chains and detained with a plan of moving them to where Al-Ma'mûn was.

These four scholars were still brought the second day for another trial; they were tested and Sajjaadah conceded to the statement that Qur'ân was created and he was left alone. Still on the third day they were put on trial; there, Al-Qawârîrî conceded to the statement and he was released.

Ahmad bn Hanbal and Muhammad bn Nûh Al-Jandaysabûrî were still detained because they both refused to concede to the statement that the Qur'ân was created. Their chains were made severer upon them and they were both put in a steel and sent to the Caliph who was in Tartûs. A letter was accompanied with them that they were being sent to the Caliph.

The duo moved on while they were in chains and packed in a shell balanced on the back of a camel. As they were going, Al-Imâm Ahmad was making supplication to Allâh – the Mighty and Most Great – that He should not make him meet with Al-Ma'mûn; that both of them should not see him nor that he should see them.

Then came a message from Al-Ma'mûn to his deputy that he received an information that the other scholars who conceded only did so giving an interpretation to this Statement of Allâh:

"…except him who is forced thereto and whose heart is at rest with faith…" [An-Nahl: 106].

And that those scholars were seriously mistaking in the interpretation they gave to the Verse.; that all of them should be sent to the leader-of-the-believers. Is'hâq then summoned all of them and ordered them to move to Tartûs and there they all went. 

But when they were on the way, a message came that Al-Ma'mûn had died thus all the people were returned to Ar-Raqqah and later they were allowed to return to Baghdad.

Ahmad and Ibn Nûh had gone before the other scholars but yet they had not met with Al-Ma'mûn rather Allâh caused his end before they could arrive in his presence. Allâh indeed granted the supplication of his slave and friend, Al-Imâm Ahmad bn Hanbal (may Allâh bestow mercy on him). The two did not see Al-Ma'mûn nor did he see them rather they were returned to Baghdad.

The rest of what occurred to them with regard to this horrendous happening shall come in the mention of the first reign of Al-Mu'tasim bn Ar-Rashîd; and the rest will come under the biography of Al-Imâm Ahmad bn Hanbal when mentioning his death in year 241. With Allâh rests all support.