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A Turkish Theologian: Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī

Islamic Theology (Kalām or ‘Ilm al-Kalām) was emerged in the Arabian Peninsula and from there the theological issues and ideas began to spread out to other regions of the Islamic World. Islamic conquests represented not only military and political expansion, but also intellectual expansion. And with the conquest of Turkic lands, the Turks began to embrace Islam in great numbers. Then, naturally, they were involved with these theological studies. Today, as our historical resources tell us, the Turks had an important role in the history of Islamic Theology with their theological studies and their ideological contributions to the discipline. In this article, we are going to review Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī -who was and still is one of the most important figures of Turkish Māturīdīte theologians and also in the history of Kalām- in terms of his life and his works, his contributions and his ideas on ‘Ilm al-Kalām. We will briefly mention about his life and his educational life. We will review his studies on ‘Ilm al-Kalām in accordance with his works, and we will try to introduce his contributions to ‘Ilm al-Kalām and its effects. And finally, we will give a brief literature review on his works, and the works that was written on him.

Key Words: Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī, Turkish Theologian.

  1. Introduction

Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī (d. 508/1115) was born in 438 (1047) in Nasaf, a city which is found within the boundaries of today’s Uzbekistan, a Turkish region. His full name was Abū al-Mu’īn Maymūn b. Muḥammad b. Muḥammad b. Mu’tamid al-Nasafī.[1] But another source mentions his full name as; Abū al-Mu’īn Maymūn b. Muḥammad b. Sa’īd b. Muḥammad b. Makhūl b. Abī al-Faḍl al-Makhūlī b. Mu’tamid al-Nasafī.[2] He was a member of a family from which many famous Islamic scholars were raised. Unfortunately, today we have quite limited information about his educational life. As far as our sources tell us, he should have received his education from the Ḥanafite scholars, especially from the ones who are carrying the ratio (nisbah) of Nasafī, who were in Samarqand and Bukhārā.[3] It is known that he himself took education in the fileds of Islamic Jurisprudence (Fiqh), Islamic Exegesis (Tafsīr) and especially Islamic Theology (Kalām). He became such an authority in Islamic Theology so that his certain ideas on this Islamic science took place among the principles of creed of the sect (madhab) Māturīdīyyah, which was founded/established by Imām Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī. Therefore we can assert that Abū al-Mu’īn was the most important Turkish Theologian following Imām Abū Manṣūr. Other than Islamic Theology, Abū al-Mu’īn was also a significant scholar in the fields of Islamic Jurisprudence and Islamic Exegesis. As for his students, we can mention some important names such as Najm al-Dīn ‘Umar al-Nasafī (d. 537/1142), ‘Alā al-Dīn al-Samaqandī (d. 539/1144), Aḥmad al-Pazdawī (d. ?/?), Ismā’īl b. ‘Adī al-Talaqānī (d. ?/?), Aḥmad b. Farah al-Sughdī (d. ?/?), Abū al-Ḥasan al-Balkhī (d. ?/?).[4] ‘Alā al-Dīn al-Samaqandī introduces Abū al-Mu’īn as a scholar who made contributions to Ahl al-Sunnah in the field of Islamic Theology and to Ḥanafiyyah madhab in the field of Fiqh. According to narration of Najm al-Dīn al-Nasafī, Abū al-Mu’īn died at 25th Dhū al-Ḥijjah 508 (22nd May 1115).


  1. His Works on Islamic Theology (Kalām)

Since we are dealing with Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī within the scope of Islamic Theology, we will focus on his works related only to Islamic Theology (Kalām). We will try to give brief informations about his works in this context, and then we will try to make a more detailed introducing of Abū al-Mu’īn’s most important book which he entitled Tabṣirat al-Adilla (Insight of the Evidence). Abū al-Mu’īn’s works related to Islamic Theology can be examined as follows:

  1. Al-Ifsād li Huda’i Ahl al-Ilhād (The Refutation for the People of Infidels): Even though the title suggests that the work is about infidels, as far as the author’s explanation in Tabṣirat is considered, this work actually is a refutation which explains and criticises the methods (Ḥiyal) that were used by Bāṭiniyyah (Esotericism) -which is a sect in Islam- in order to impress their collocutors.[5]
  2. Baḥr al-Kalām fī ‘Aqāidi Ahl al-Islām (The Ocean of Discussion on the Creed of the Muslims): This work is different from the other 2 works of the author which are related with Islamic Theology in terms of the organization of subjects and the way the subjects examined. Besides, this work has a smaller volume than the other 2 books. It was published in Cairo (1911) and in Konya (1911) as middle-sized volume within fifty-eigth pages.[6] In addition to these, in the historical sources it was noted that a commentary (sharḥ) was written on this book by Ḥasan b. Abū Bakr al-Maqdisī (d. 836/1432) which is entitled Ghāyat al-Marām fī Sharhi Baḥr al-Kalām (The Aim of the Objective on the Ocean of Islamic Theology).[7]
  3. Al-Tamhīd (The Prolegomena): This work of Abū al-Mu’īn has different titles in different transcripts, which begin with the same word (al-Tamhīd) and continue with different words that carry more or less the same meaning. These different titles were used up until today for the publications of the work. The work is published by Ḥabībullah Ḥasan Aḥmad in Cairo with the title Kitāb al-Tamhīd li Qawā’id al-Tawḥīd (The Book of Prolegomena for Rules of the Oneness), and it was published by ‘Abd al-Ḥayy Kābīl in Cairo with the title al-Tamhīd fī Uūl al-Dīn (The Prolegomena on the Principles of the Religion). This work was written by Abū al-Mu’īn in accordance with the writting plan of Tabṣirat, and it can be considered as a summary of Tabṣirat.[8] Also the famous Ḥanafite canonist/jurist (faqīh) Husām al-Dīn Ḥusayn b. ‘Alī b. Ḥajjāj al-Bukhārī al-Sighnāqī wrote a commentary book which is entitled al-Tasdīd Sharh al-Tamhīd li Qawā’id al-Tawḥīd (The Sight of the Commentary of Prolegomena for Rules of the Oneness).[9]
  4. Tabṣirat al-Adilla fī Uūl al-Dīn (Insight of the Evidence on the Principles of the Religion): The title of this work is mentioned with diffent names in the sources because the author did not mention its name clearly. But from the attributions which were made to this work, and from the narration of Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī from Nūr al-Dīn al-Ṣābūnī, it is understood that the name of the work is Tabṣirat al-Adilla.[10] This book is the most voluminous work of al-Nasafī in the field Islamic Theology, and it examines the subjects related with the theory of knowledge (ta’rīf al-‘ilm), the contingency of the World (ḥudūth al-‘ālam), the existence of God and His attributes (wujūd Allāh wa ṣifātuhū), prophethood (al-nubuwwah wa al-risālah) and transmissions (al-sam’iyyāt). The work served as a fundamental source which exhibits the views of the Māturīdīyyah sect while the only copy of Kitāb al-Tawhīd of Imām Māturīdī was still unavailable.[11] From this perspective, the contribution of Abū al-Mu’īn which he made to the Māturīdīyyah sect is comparable to the contribution of al-Bāqillānī which he made to the Ash‘ariyyah sect.[12] The author used the semantic method[13] in this work when he was dealing with the theological subjects, but this method was not able to be followed by other scholars in later eras.[14] From his references in the book, it is seen that Abū al-Mu’īn was benefited from Kitāb al-‘Ālim wa al-Muta’allim and from al-Fiqh al-Akbar which are the works of Abū Ḥanīfah. The examples given while the subjects are being discussed, the wording, the method and the way of explanation of the work resemble to Kitāb al-Tawhīd of Imām Māturīdī in a great extent. The work consists of ninety-three sub-headings which are gathered under six chapters (bāb/abwāb) after a short introduction (muqaddimah). In order to have a more concrete idea about this work, it would be appropriate to take a general look at the contents structure of it. The structure of the work can be presented as follows:

The Structure of the Tabṣirat al-Adilla fī Uūl al-Dīn[15]







The Word of Praise to God (Kalimatun Shukrun).



Prolegomena/Preface (Tamhīd).



Verification of the Verse (Taḥqīq al-Naṣṣ).






Opening of the Book (Fātiḥat al-Kitāb).



The Speech On Definition of the Knowledge (al-Kalām fī Taḥdīd al-‘Ilm).



The Speech On the Proof of Truths and Sciences (al-Kalām fī Ithbāt al-aqāiq wa al-‘Ulūm).



The Speech On the Sources of the Knowledge (al-Kalām fī Asbāb al-Ma‘ārif).





The Speech On the Invalidity of the Claim That  Occurrences of Things’ Beauty To the Heart, Inspiration and  Imitation As  Determining Factors of A True religion (al-Kalām fī Ibāl Kawn mā Yaq‘i fī al-Qalb Ḥasanah wa al-Ilhām wa al-Taqlīd min Asbābi  Ma’rifat iḥḥat al-Adyān).



The Speech On the Belief of Imitator (al-Kalām fī Īmān al-Muqallid).






The Speech On the Contingency of the World (al-Kalām fī Ḥudūth al-‘Ālam).



Chapter On the Demonstration of the Contingency of the World With Its All Particulars: Contingency of the Accidents (Faṣl fī Ithbāti Ḥudūth al-‘Ālam bi Jamī’ Ajzāihī: Ḥudūth al-A’rā).



Chapter On the Demonstration of Contingency of the Substances (Faṣl fī Ithbāti Ḥudūth al-Jawāhir).



Chapter On the Negation of the Eternity of Any Thing In the World (Faṣl fī Ibṭāl Qidamu Ayyu Shay’in min Ajzāi al-‘Ālam).



The Speech On That the World Has A Creator (al-Kalām fī anna al-‘Ālam Lahū Muḥdithun).



The Speech On the Unity of the Creator (al-Kalām fī Tawḥīd al-Ṣāni’).



The Speech On the Negation of the Claims of the Magi  (al-Kalām fī Ibṭāli Qawl al-Majūs).



The Speech On the Negation of the Claims of Dualism (al-Kalām fī Ibṭāli Qawl al-Thanawiyyah).



The Speech On That the Creator is Pre-Eternal (al-Kalām fī anna  al-Bārī ‘Azza wa Jalla Qadīmun).



The Speech On the Denial That the Creator is Accident (al-Kalām fī Nafī Kūna al-Bārī ‘Araan).



The Speech On the Negation of the Claims of the Ones who Claim that the Creator Is Substance (al-Kalām fī Ibṭāl Qawl man Yaqūl anna al-Bārī ‘Azza wa Jalla Jawharun).



The Speech On the Negation of the Claims of Anthropomorphism  (al-Kalām fī Ibṭāli Qawl al-Mujassimah).



Chapter On the Negation of the Claims of Anthropomorphism Who Are Against Us On the Subject of Name and Meaning (Faṣlfī Ibṭāli Qawl al-Mujassimati al-Mukhālifīna lanā fī al-Ism wa al-Ma’nā).



Chapter On the Negation of the Claims of Anthropomorphism Who Are Against Us On the Subject of Name (Faṣl fī Ibṭāli Qawl al-Mujassimati al-Mukhālifīna Lanā fī al-Ism).



Chapter On the Impossiblity of Attributing to God Form, Color, Taste, Odor and So On (Faṣl fī Istiḥālah Waṣafa Allāh Ta’ālā bi al-Ṣūrah wa al-Lawn wa al-Ṭa‘am wa al-Rāiḥah wa Ghayr Dhālik).



The Speech On the Negation of the Similitude (al-Kalām fīIbṭāli al-Tashbīh).



Chapter On the Negation of the Claims of Jahm b. Ṣafwān (Faṣlfī Ibṭāli Qawl Jahm b. afwān).



Chapter On the Otherness of God From His Creatures (Faṣl fī ‘Adamu al-Mumāthilatu bayn Allāh wa bayn Ghayruhu).



Chapter On the Whatness of God (Faṣl fī Māiyyah).



The Speech On the Non-Spatiality of God (al-Kalām fī Istiḥālah Kūna al-Ṣāni’ fī al-Makān).



The Speech On the Demonstration of the Attributes of God the Almighty (al-Kalām fī Ithbāti Ṣifāt Allāh Ta‘ālā).



Chapter On the Attribute of Knowledge (Faṣl fī Ṣifat al-‘Ilm).



Chapter On the Attributes and the Essence of God (Faṣl fī Ṣifāt wa al-Dhāt).



The Speech On the Denial of the Contingency of the Attribute of Speech of God (al-Kalām fī Nafī al-Ḥudūth ‘an Kalām Allāh Ta‘ālā).



Chapter On that the Attribute of Speech Is Not Created (Faṣl fī anna Ṣifat al-Kalām Ghayr Makhlūqun).



Chapter On the Negation of the Words of the Ones Who Say ‘‘The Quran Is the Speech of God, We Do Not Go Further On Explaining This’’ (Faṣl fī Ibṭāli Qawl man Yatawaqqafu fī al-Qur’ān).



Chapter On That Time-Related Phrases Are From the Speech of God. (Faṣl fī al-Ḥikāyah ‘an Kalām Allāh).



Chapter On the Audiblity of Divine Speech (Faṣl fī al-Kalām al-Masmū‘).



The Speech On the Fact that the Creating is not the Created and that It Is Eternal (al-Kalām fī anna al-Takwīn Ghayr al-Mukawwin wa annahū Azaliyyun).



The Speech On That the Will Is an Eternal Attribute of God (al-Kalām fī anna al-Irādah Ṣifat Allāh Ta‘ālā Azaliyyun).



The Speech On the Statement that the Maker of the World is All-Wise (al-Kalām fī Bayān anna Ṣāni’ al-‘Ālam Ḥakīmun).



The Speech On the Demonstration of the Possibility of Beatific Vision of God by Reason and Its Necessity by Transmission (al-Kalām fī Ithbāti Jawāz Ru’yat Allāh Ta‘ālā fī al-‘Aql wa Wujūbihā bi al-Sam’).






The Speech On the Demonstration of Prophethood (al-Kalām fī Ithbāti al-Nubuwwah wa al-Risālah).



Chapter On That the Prophethood Is From the Possibilities (Faṣlfī anna al-Risālah fī Ḥayyiz al-Mumkināt).



Chapter On That Whether the Prophethood Is From the Possibilities or From the Necessities (Faṣl fī anna al-Risālah Hal Hiya min Jumlati al-Mumkināt aw al-Wājibāt).



Chapter On the Miracle Which Proves the Prophethood of the One Who Claims to Be A Prophet (Faṣl fī Mu’jizat allatī Tathbit Nubuwwat Mad‘ī al-Nubuwwah).



Chapter On the Situations Which Are Proving the Prophethood (Faṣl fī Umūr Tathbit al-Risālah).



Chapter On the Miracles Which Are Proving the Prophethood (Faṣl fī al-Mu’jizāt allatī Tathbit al-Risālah).



Chapter On the Demonstration of the Prophethood of Muhammad (Faṣl fī Ithbāti Risālati Muḥammad ‘Alaihi al-Salām).



The Speech On the Demonstration of the Miraculous Deeds of the Saints (al-Kalām fī Ithbāti Karāmāt al-Awliyā)







Chapter, Issues of Whether the Absolute Justice of God Imposes Restriction to His Actions Towards Human Beings or Not (Faṣl, Masāil al-Ta’dīl wa al-Tajwīr).



The Speech On the Ability To Act (al-Kalām fī al-Istiā‘ah).



Chapter On That the Ability To Act Related To Chosing To Do Something (Faṣl fī anna al-Istiā‘ah Taluḥ lil Ḍiddain).



The Speech On the Creation of the Acts of Human Beings (al-Kalām fī Khalq Af‘āl al-‘Ibād).



Chapter On the Demonstration That the Power of Creating Belongs To God Alone (Faṣl fī anna Ithbāta Qudrati al-Takhlīqi li Ghayri Allāh Ta‘ālā Muālun).



Chapter On That For Human Beings There Is Act But There Is No Power of Creating (Faṣl fī anna lil ‘Ibād Fi’lan wa Laysa Lahū Qudra al-Takhlīq).



Chapter On the Permisibility of One Action As An Outcome of Two Agents (Faṣl fī Jawāz Dukhūl Maqdūrun Wāḥidun Taḥta Qudratu Qādirain).



Chapter On the Meaning of the Act, Acquisition and Creating (Faṣl fī Ma’nā al-Fi’l wa al-Kasb wa al-Khalq).



Chapter On the Creating Evil (Faṣl fī Ījād al-Qabīḥ).



Chapter On that to Attribute Action to Human Does Not Necessarily Mean Attributing A Partner to God (Faṣl fī anna Ithbāt al-Fi’l lil ‘Ibād Lā Yalzam Kawnuh Sharīkan Li-llāh).



The Speech On the Negation of the Idea of Generation (of Mu’tazila) (al-Kalām fī Ibāli al-Qawlu bi al-Tawallud).



The Speech On the Times of Death (al-Kalām fī al-Ājāl).



The Speech On the Sustenances (al-Kalām fī al-Arzāq).



The Speech On the Free-Will (al-Kalām fī al-Irādah).



The Speech On the Fate and Predestination (al-Kalām fī al-Qadā wa al-Qadar).



The Speech On the Guidance and Leading Astray (al-Kalām fī al-Hudā wa al-Iḍlāl).



The Speech On the God’s Creating Always the Best (al-Kalām fī al-Aṣla).



The Speech On the Fatalism (al-Kalām fī al-Qadariyyah).






The Speech On the Demonstration of the Grave Punishment (al-Kalām fī Ithbāt ‘Adhāb al-Qabr).



The Speech On the Situation of the Grave Sinner and the Promise and the Threat (al-Kalām fī al-Asmā’ wa al-Aḥkām wa al-Wa’d wa al-Wa‘īd).



Chapter On the Demosntration of the Intercession (Faṣl fī Ithbāt al-Shafā‘ah).



The Speech On the Faith (al-Kalām fī al-Īmān).



Chapter On the Negation of the Claim That the Faith Is Mere Uttarance (Faṣl fī Ibāl anna al-Īmān Huwa al-Qawl al-Mujarrad).



Chapter On That the Faith Occurs On the Heart (Faṣl fī anna al-Īmān Yakūn bi al-Qalb).



Chapter On That the Faith Neither Increases Nor Decreases (Faṣlfī anna al-Īmān Lā Yazīd wa Lā Yanqu).



Chapter On the Invalidity of the Statement of  “Iman Is Profession by Tongue Only” (Faṣl fī Ibāl al-Qawl inna al-‘Ibratu fī al-Īmān lil ‘Āqibah).



Chapter On the Conditional Statements In Belief (Faṣl fī al-Istithnā’ fī al-Īmān).



Chapter On That the Faith and the Islam Are the Same Thing (Faṣl fī anna al-Īmān wa al-Islām Shay’un Wāḥidun).






The Speech On the Leadership (al-Kalām fī al-Imāmah).



Chapter On the Necessity of Leader’s Being Present (Not Hidden (Ghāib)) As Rāfiḍīs Suggest (Faṣl fī Wujūb al-Imām al-Ẓāhir).



Chapter On the Inadmissibility of Having Two Concurrent Leaders (Faṣl fī ‘Adamu Ṣiḥḥat Nuṣb al-Imāmain).



Chapter On Who Is the Best For the Leadership (Faṣl fī man Huwa al-Aṣlaḥ lil Imāmah).



Chapter On the Leadership of the One Who Is Less Virtuous (Faṣl fī Imāmat al-Mafūl).



Chapter On That For the Leader There Is No Stipulation of Being Innocent (Faṣl fī anna al-Imām Lā Yashtaraṭ anna Yakūn Ma’ūman).



Chapter On That the Leadership Isn’t Proved With Heredity (Faṣl fī anna al-Imāmah Lā Tathbit bi-l Warāthah).



Chapter On That the Leader Is Determined With Election Not With Narration (Faṣl fī (Faṣl fī anna al-Imāmah Tathbit bi-l Ikhtiyār Lā bi-n Naṣṣ).



Chapter On the Leadership of Abū Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him) (Faṣl fī al-Kalām fī Imāmah Abī Bakr Raī Allāhu ‘Anh).



The Speech On the Legitimacy of Caliphate of ‘Umar al-Fāruq (May Allah be pleased with him) (al-Kalām fī Ṣiḥḥat Khilāfatu Umar al-Fāruq Raī Allāhu ‘Anh).



The Speech On the Leadership of ‘Uthmān bin ‘Affān (May Allah be pleased with him) (al-Kalām fī Imāmah ‘Uthmān bin ‘Affān Raī Allāhu ‘Anh).



The Speech On the Leadership of ‘Alī bin Abī Talib (May Allah be pleased with him) (al-Kalām fī Imāmah ‘Alī bin Abī TalibRaī Allāhu ‘Anh).



Chapter On the Battle Between ‘Alī and the People of the Camel (Faṣl fī al-Qitāl bayna ‘Alī wa Aāb al-Jamal).



Chapter On the Battle of Ṣiffīn (Faṣl fī Mu’arakah Ṣiffīn).



Chapter On the Arbitration Incident (Faṣl fī Amr al-Taḥkīm).



The Speech On Abu Bakr’s Being the Most Virtuous of the Companions (al-Kalām fī anna Abā Bakr Afḍalu al-Aṣāb).



The Speech On Virtues of ‘Umar (May Allah be pleased with him)  (al-Kalām fī Tafīl Umar Raī Allāhu ‘Anh).



The Speech On Virtues of ‘Uthmān (May Allah be pleased with him)

(al-Kalām fī Tafīl ‘Uthmān Raī Allāhu ‘Anh).



The Speech On Virtues of ‘Alī (May Allah be pleased with him) (al-Kalām fī Tafīl ‘Alī Raī Allāhu ‘Anh).






Index of the Quranic Verses (Fahras al-Āyāt al-Qur’āniyyah).



Index of the Hadiths of the Prophet (Fahras al-Aādīth al-Nabawiyyah).



Index of the People (Fahras al-A’lām).



Index of the Sects and Groups (Fahras al-Firaq wa al-Jamā‘āt) 



General Index (Fahras al-‘Ām).



  1. His Ideas Related With Islamic Theology (Kalām).


Covering all views of Abū al-Mu’īn related with Kalām in detail is not included within the scope of this article. For this reason, we will focus only to his important ideas that makes him remarkable in the the Māturīdīyyah sect. While mentioning his ideas, we will follow the structure of Tabṣirat. First we will mention his ideas regarding epistemology, then theology proper, prophethood, predestination and free-will, transmissions and finaly leadership respectively.[16]

In epistemology, he did not leave the way of Māturīdī in terms of the sources of knowledge. In other words, he accepts the healty five sense organs (al-ḥawās al-salīmah), the intellect (al-‘aql) and the transmission (alkhabar) as the ways for the gaining knowledge just like Imām Māturīdī accepted.[17] But Abū al-Mu’īn accepts the senses as the primary source for knowledge as oppose to Imām Māturīdī, who accepted intellect and transmission prior to senses.[18]As for the inspiration (al-ilām), Nasafī does not accept inspiration as a source of knowledge.[19] While he is evaluating the validity of the belief of an imitator (muqallid), Nasafī deals with this issue from two aspects. First he explains it from the aspect of epistemology and then he explains it from the aspect of theology. According to him, the belief of an imitator is invalid from epistemological perspective. He substantiates his claims with certain proofs, and then he starts to demonstrate that the belief of an imitator is valid from the theological perspective.[20]

Regarding the subjects of theology proper (al-ilāhiyyāt), we can say that Abū al-Mu’īn has certain different ideas from the ideas of Imām Māturīdī, especially in terms of ontology. Imām Māturīdī was somehow following a different idea in this context which was introduced by Ḍirār b. ʿAmr.[21] According to Ḍirār, the World is made up of individual components called as accidents (a’rā) alone.[22] And Māturīdī was also accepting that the bodies (ajsām) consist of these accidents. However he was distinguishing himself from Ḍirār’s theory by accepting substance (jawhar). Therefore, it would not be appropriate to consider him as a complete or a blind follower. On the other hand, he was refraining from calling these concepts as jawhar and ‘araḍ. Instead, he prefered to call jawhar as ‘ayn  (plu. a‘yān) and ‘araḍ (plu. a’rāḍ)as sifat.[23] So from this perspective, it can be said that he accepts the classical atomist theory, but he neither approved nor criticised this theory.[24] This might be due to the lack of information he had back then. But we should remember that Imām Māturīdī abstained from dealing with these issues out of his religious sensitiveness.[25] And it is at this point that our theologian, Abū al-Mu’īn, appears on the scene and completes the gaps in Māturīdī’s ideas, and systematizes them. Nasafī, however, does not use the concepts ‘ayn/a‘yān and sifat but he uses known concepts of the classical atomistic theory, i.e. jawhar and araḍ. As we mentioned before, he had some different ideas from the ideas of Māturīdī in terms of ontology, but these differences are more like linguistic differences. Therefore, it is possible to say that there are no essential differences between the ideas of the two. As for the Natures, it has no role in Nasafī’s understanding of physics. He also writes refutations on specific groups who have opposite claims such as Zoroastrians, Dualists, Anthropomorphists and so on.[26] When it comes to ideas related with the attributes of God, and particularly to the attribute of Speech, again he follows the line of Māturīdī (i.e. he has no remarkable idea on these issues). He also criticises Mu’tazila and other sects in his Tabṣirat on the basis of these ideas.     

Prophethood (al-nubuwwah) issue is also evaluated by Abū al-Mu’īn. According to him, the proof of prophethood is miracle (mu’jizah). Even though they did not show sensible (ḥissī) miracles, they should have been approved in terms of other worldly issues and the message they brought.[27] He accepts the prophethood as “possible by reason” and “necessary by the wisdom of God”. He demonstrates the necessity of prophethood from six persepctives. These perspectives can be ennumerated as from the perspective of: the wisdom of God, the reason, the grace of God, the source of the language and sciences, the social order, and finally human nature. So let’s explain them respectively. According to him, the meaning of wisdom (ḥikmah) is “to do something as it should be”. And in each affair of God, there is wisdom. The occurrence of the prophethood is also a requirement of His wisdom. The things that can be known by the way of intellect/reason (al-‘aql) are seperated into three according to Nasafī; necessary (wājib), impossible (mumteni’) and possible (jāiz). Our intellect can comprehend what is necessary and what is impossible with certainity (without having doubt), however, it cannot comprehend what is possible with certainity on its own. Therefore it needs guidance in this context. And prophets provide this guidance through the Divine Revelation (waḥy) and make contribution to intellect. Although the intellect would be enuogh to comprehend whatever the prophets bring, still sending prophets would be a grace from the Almighty God. According to Nasafī, the source of languages is tawqifī. In other words, learning langueages and names of things is provided through prophets (i.e. it depends on Divine Revelation). Also many sciences have the same characteristic according to him. Since these can achievable through prophets, the prophethood is neccassary, says Abū al-Mu’īn. God created human beings and whatever exists in the universe. Noone can know the essence of these things except God and the ones who God informed. Therefore it is necessary to follow the person who has been informed by God, i.e. the prophets. Because if God has not sent His rules (sharī‘ah), people would have conflict regarding to determine the way of their life and so there would not be an order. From Nasafī’s perspective, this demonstrates the necessity of prophethood. And in terms of human nature (fiṭrah), the prophethood is necessary. Because according to Nasafī, the Divine Law (sharī‘ah) should come in order to provide the principle of ordering the good and prohibiting the bad (amr bi’l ma’rūf wa nahy ‘an al-munkar). But this principle must be explained by a person who knows the reality of these things depending on the knowledge revealed by God so that our reason could stay in the right path. And that person is the prophet.[28]

Nasafī accepts that the power (qudrah) of God and the power of human are both efficient on the acts of human (af‘āl ‘ibād). He says that creation of acts belongs to God alone[29], but humans do these acts with a power given to them. According to him, humans want to actualize an act with their free-will. This ‘wanting’ of human is his/her acquistion (kasb). In this regard, he explains the situation with the theory of acquisition (kasb). According to this theory, a human being cannot create an act, but he/she can only have the power over an act which is created by God. This “having power” is not a creating, but rather it is an effect over a created thing, which is called “acquisition” (kasb).[30] According to Nasafī, the ability to act (istiā‘ah) which refers to the power of realization of an act is seperated into two. First one is suitability of the conditions and place in order to actualize an act. And the second one is an accident (‘ara), which is created by God on living beings by which they actualize their voluntary acts (al-af‘āl al-irādī). This one is the real power which make the act occur and it is with the act according to Abū al-Mu’īn.[31] This understanding led him to accept the idea of one action as an outcome of two agents.[32]

Accodring to Nasafī, the punishment in grave (‘adhāb al-qabr) is a reality. But the “howness/quality” (kayfiyyah)of the dead one’s feeling of punishment or reward is unknown (majhūlun). However, even though the soul is not given back to the body; the dead should have a life which is enough to feel the pain and the grace.[33] According to him, a believer (mu’min) who is being a mutineer against God, and who commits a grave sin is cannot be called as unbeliever (kāfir). But instead, he/she should be called as sinner (fāsiq). For the Quran also call those people as believer.[34] Nasafī argues that the belief/faith (al-īmān) is not something which is only professioned by tongue, but it also occurs in the heart. And it is not a thing that increases or decreases.[35] And like Abū Ḥanīfah, he accepts that the belief (al-īmān) and Islam are the same things.[36]

There are a few things worth to mention about the ideas of Abū al-Mu’īn related with the topic of leadership (al-Imāmah). On this issue, he does not leave the line of Ahl al-Sunna theologians, and he shares more or less the same opinions with them. According to him, the existence of a leader who will undertake the administration of Muslim community is necessary (wājibun).[37] From Nasafī’s perspective, two persons cannot be the leader of the community at the same time. This is neither necessary nor true in the eyes of our theologian.[38] He ennumerates the qualities of the leader (al-imām) as follows:

  1. He has to be from Quraish tribe by blood relationship (nasab).
  2. He has to have knowledge on the level of Distingusihed Jurists (mujtahid) which is enough to know all Islamic rulings and to make interpretation and deduction.
  3. He has to know what is lawful (alāl) and what is prohibited (arām).
  4. He has to be memorized the Quran (āfiẓ al-Qur’ān).
  5. He has to have justice which at least will be enough for him to be counted as witness.
  6. He has to have enough political and military capacity to be able to manage state affairs.

A leader should be present and visible according to Nasafī. By saying this, he criticises the understanding of unseen leader (al-imām al-ghāib) of Shi‘ites and particularly Rāfiḍīs. Besides, he criticises them on those bases by saying that a leader cannot know the future, a leader cannot be innocent/infallible (ma’ūm) and he should have appointed by election (ikhtiyār), not by narration (naṣṣ). At the same time, he is against the idea that the most virtuous one should be the leader.[39]

  1. A Brief Literature Review

One of the interesting facts about Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī is that he was discovered before Imām Māturīdī was discoveredby Orientalist scholars. His work Tabṣirat al-Adilla was in the field, while Imām Māturīdī’s Kitāb al-Tawhīd was still undiscovered. His book al-Tamhīd was translated to Turkish depending on the original scripture for the first time by Mustafa Sait Yazıcıoğlu as an undergraduate thesis in Ankara Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakületesi (Ankara, 1971). And then it was published in Cairo with different titles in 1986 and in 1987. And again, in Turkey, the same work was translated to Turkish by Hülya Alper with an additional introduction (İstanbul, 2007). When it comes to his other work, Baḥr al-Kalām, it was translated far earlier than al-Tamhīd. As we said earlier, it was published in Cairo and in Konya in 1329/1911, and translated to Turkish in 1613. And more than three centuries later, the work published in Turkish again (Konya, 1977). As for Tabṣirat al-Adilla, the work was published for the first time by Muhammad al-Anwar in Egypt (Jāmi’at al-Azhar, Kulliyyat Uṣul al-Din, Cairo 1977). More than a decade later, the work was edited and published by Claude Salamé in 2 volumes (Damascus, I-II, 1990-93). In Turkey, first volume of the work published by Hüseyin Atay (Ankara 1993) and after 10 years, he published the second volume with Şaban Ali Düzgün (Ankara 2003). After all those studies, Abū al-Mu’īn and his works became subject to many academical studies.

In Turkey, M. Sait Özervarlı wrote a postgraduate thesis which he entitled as ‘‘Ebu’l Muîn en-Nesefi’ye ait Tebşiratu’l Edille’nin Kaynakları’’ (The Sources of Tabṣirat al-Adilla Which Belongs to Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī) (İstanbul, 1988) and H. Sabri Erdem wrote a PhD dissertation called ‘Tebsira’ya Semantik Yaklaşım’ (Semantical Approach to Tabṣirat) (Ankara 1988). Other than these, there are around thirty-seven theses and twenty-five articles written by diffent Turkish academicians.[40] In Western literature, Nasafī either became a particular subject (like in Daniel Gimaret’s work Théories de l’acte humain en Théologie Musulmane (Paris 1980); in Wilfred Madelung’s work Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī and Ash’ari Theology (Leiden 2000); in Jan Wensinck’s al-Nasafī article in Encyclopedia of Islam; and in Luis Massignon’s Essai sur les Origines de Lexique Technique de la Mystique Musulmane (Paris, 1922)) or his ideas were mentioned in relation to a subject (like in Ulrich Rudolph’s work Al-Māturīdī and the Development of Sunnī Theology in Samarqand (Brill 1996); in Jan Wensinck’s work The Muslim Creed: Its Genesis and Development (Routledge 2008) and in Carl Brockelmann’s work Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur (Leipzig 1909).

  1. Conclusion

Historically speaking, we cannot evaluate Abū al-Mu’īn under Māturīdiyyah sect depending on his own statements. Nasafī himself did not consider Imām Māturīdī as a founder of a particular school, but instead he considered Imām Māturīdī as a great thinker.[41] But centuries later, thanks to the field studies regarding this issue, it is understood that Imām Māturīdī was more than just a thinker. Today, we can assert that Imām Māturīdī was the founder of a second school as a second branch under the Ahl al-Sunna thought. Although he does not mention Māturīdī as a founder of a particular school, Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī was one of the greatest followers of him regarding his theological ideas. He has not only narrated Imām Māturīdī’s ideas on Islamic Theology, but he also has interpreted them in such a manner that we can call him as ‘‘the most knowledgeable person on the views of Imām Māturīdī’’ just as he called Māturīdī ‘‘the most knowledgeable person on the views of Abū Ḥanīfah’’.[42] His contributions to Islamic Theology and particularly to the Māturīdiyyah sect are undeniable in this context.

Nasafī’s certain ideas on Islamic Theology have taken the place of Imām Māturīdī’s own ideas in his own sect. He was such influential that even ‘Umar al-Nasafī’s Creed (‘Aqāid al-Nasafī), which is acknowledged as one of the reference guide for Māturīdites, is a kind of summary of Abū al-Mu’īn’s work Tabṣirat al-Adilla. He was a unique scholar in the Māturīdiyyah sect from this respect. He also provided a safe ground for the ideas of Imām Māturīdī with the works he wrote. And in this article, we tried to cover his ideas in a general way and to show his important ideas on Islamic Theology after briefly mentioning about his life and his works. We tried to give the structure of his most comprehensive work i.e. Tabṣirat al-Adilla, so that the reader could have more concrete opinions about his ideas and about the subjects he covered. And then we tried to show a brief literature review for the ones who are interested in him or who wants to learn more about him. But we have to say that this article does not have the claim of being a complete work about Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī, but rather it is an article which tries to give a general framework about him in the context of Turkish Theologians. As a conclusion, we can say that Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī was and still is one of the brightest representatives of both Ahl al-Sunna Theology and Māturīdite Theology, and his place is unique among both the Turkish Theologians and Ahl Al-Sunna Theologians.


[1] Yusuf Şevki Yavuz, “NESEFÎ, Ebü’l-Mu’în”, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi, 2006, Volume: XXXII, Page: 568.

[2] Metin Yurdagür, “Kurucusundan Sonra Maturidyye Mezhebinin En Önemli Kelamcısı Ebu’l Mu’in en-Nesefi’nin Hayatı ve Eserleri”, Diyanet İlmi Dergi [Diyanet Dergisi], 1984, Volume: XXI, Issue: 4, Page: 31. 

[3] Yusuf Şevki Yavuz, “NESEFÎ, Ebü’l-Mu’în”, Page: 568.

[4] Ibid, Page: 569.

[5] Metin Yurdagür, Ünlü Türk Kelamcıları, İstanul: İFAV Yayınları, 2017, Page: 80. (Also see: Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī, Tabṣirat al-Adilla (pub. Claude Salame’)).     

[6] Ibid, Page: 80. (Also see: Yusuf Şevki Yavuz, “Bahrü’l-Kelam”, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi, 1991, Volume: IV, Page: 516.)

[7] Ibid, Page: 79.

[8] Ibid, Page: 77-78.

[9] Rahmi Yaran, “Siğnâkî”, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi, 2009, Volume: XXXVII, Page: 165.

[10] Muhammed Aruçi, “Tebsıratü’l-Edille”, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi, 2011, Volume: XL, Page: 225.

[11] Metin Yurdagür, Ünlü Türk Kelamcıları, Page: 76. (Also see: Muhammed Aruçi, “Tebsıratü’l-Edille”, Page: 225.)

[12] Muhammed Aruçi, “Tebsıratü’l-Edille”, Page: 225.

[13] Semantics (from Ancient Greek: σημαντικόςsēmantikos, “significant”) is primarily the linguistic, and also philosophical, study of meaning in language, programming languages, formal logics, and semiotics. It focuses on the relationship between signifiers like words, phrases, signs, and symbols and what they stand for, their denotation. For more inf. pls. see: https://www.britannica.com/science/semantics.

[14] Muhammed Aruçi, “Tebsıratü’l-Edille”, Page: 225.

[15] The edition of Claude Salamé was used during drawing out the structure of the work.  

[16] If he has no remarkable ideas on any of these mentioned subjects, we won’t mention or we will mention superficially about them.

[17] Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī, al-Tamhīd li Qawā’id al-Tawḥīd (Hülya Alper’s edition), Page: 23; Tabṣirat al-Adilla fī Uūl al-Dīn (Claude Salamé’s edition), Volume: I, Page: 15-21.

[18] Ulrich Rudolph, Al-Māturīdī and the Development of Sunnī Theology in Samarqand (transl. Rodrigo Adem), Leiden & Boston: Brill Publications, 2014, Page: 232.

[19] Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī, Tabṣirat al-Adilla fī Uūl al-Dīn (Claude Salamé’s edition), Volume: I, Page: 22-24. 

[20] Veysi Ünverdi, “Ebu’l Muîn en-Nesefi ve Kadı Abdülcebbar’a Göre İmanda Taklidin Geçerliliği”, Kelam Araştırmaları Dergisi, 12:1 (2014), Page: 213.

[21] Ulrich Rudolph, Al-Māturīdī and the Development of Sunnī Theology in Samarqand, Page: 253.

[22] Ibid, Page: 243.

[23] Ibid, Page: 245-46.

[24] Ibid, Page: 245.

[25] Ibid, Page: 252.

[26] Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī, Tabṣirat al-Adilla fī Uūl al-Dīn (Claude Salamé’s edition), Volume: I, Pages: 93-108, 119-120, 156-57 and etc.

[27] Ibid, Volume: I, Page: 475-480.  

[28] Adile Tahirova, “K. Abdülcebbâr ve en-Nesefî’ye Göre Nübüvvetin Gerekliliği”, BDÜİFİM, Vol.: II, Issue: 2 (2005), Page: 133-38. 

[29] He brings some Quranic verses as a proof which are showing that the acts are created by God. These verses are: Surah al-Mulk 67/13-14; Surah al- Ṣaffāt 37/96; Surah al-Ra’d 13/16.

[30] Hamdi Gündoğar, “Ebu’l Mu’în en-Nesefî’nin İnsan Fiilleri Probleminde Mu’tezile’ye Yönelttiği Bazı Eleştiriler”, Kelam Araştırmaları Dergisi,  9:1 (2011), Page: 200-201. 

[31] Ibid, Page: 203. 

[32] Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī, Tabṣirat al-Adilla fī Uūl al-Dīn (Claude Salamé’s edition), Volume: II, Page: 643-653.

[33] Yusuf Şevki Yavuz, “NESEFÎ, Ebü’l-Mu’în”, Page: 569.

[34] Ibid., Page: 569.

[35] Abū al-Mu’īn al-Nasafī, Tabṣirat al-Adilla fī Uūl al-Dīn (Claude Salamé’s edition), Volume: II, Page: 808-814.

[36] Ibid, Page: 817-822.

[37] Selim Özarslan, “Ebu’l Mu’în en-Nesefî’nin İmamet/Devlet Başkanlığı Anlayışı”, İslâmî Araştırmalar Dergisi, Volume: XIV, Issues: 3-4 (2001), Page: 424.

[38] Ibid, Page: 425.

[39] Ibid, Page: 426-27.

[40] http://ktp.isam.org.tr/?url=makale/findrecords.php

[41] Ulrich Rudolph, Al-Māturīdī and the Development of Sunnī Theology in Samarqand, Page: 4.

[42] Ibid, Page: 5.





GÜNDOĞAR, Hamdi, “Ebu’l Mu’în en-Nesefî’nin İnsan Fiilleri Probleminde Mu’tezile’ye Yönelttiği Bazı Eleştiriler”, Kelam Araştırmaları Dergisi, 9:1 (2011), 199-214.

ÖZARSLAN, Selim, “Ebu’l Mu’în en-Nesefî’nin İmamet/Devlet Başkanlığı Anlayışı”, İslâmî Araştırmalar Dergisi,Volume: XIV, Issues: 3-4 (2001), 423-437. 

TAHİROVA, Adile, “Kâdî Abdülcebbâr ve Ebü’l-Muîn en-Nesefî’ye Göre Nübüvvetin Gerekliliği, Bakü Devlet Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesinin İlmî Mecmuası, 4:4 (2005), 117-155.

ÜNVERDİ, Veysi, “Ebu’l Muîn en-Nesefi ve Kadı Abdülcebbar’a Göre İmanda Taklidin Geçerliliği”, Kelam Araştırmaları Dergisi, 2014.

YURDAGÜR, Metin, “Kurucusundan Sonra Maturidyye Mezhebinin En Önemli Kelamcısı Ebu’l Mu’in en-Nesefi’nin Hayatı ve Eserleri”, Diyanet İlmi Dergi [Diyanet Dergisi], XXI/4 (1985), 27-43.



AL-NASAFĪ, Abū al-Mu’īn, al-Tamhīd li Qawā’id al-Tawḥīd (Çev. Hülya Alper), İstanbul: İz Yayıncılık, 2007.


AL-NASAFĪ, Abū al-Mu’īn, Tabṣirat al-Adilla fī Uūl al-Dīn, Edited by Claude Salamé. 2 vols. Damascus, 1990–93.

RUDOLPH, Ulrich, Al-Māturīdī and the Development of Sunnī Theology in Samarqand, (Transl. Rodrigo Adem), ), Leiden & Boston: Brill Publications, 2014.

YURDAGÜR, Metin, Maverâünnehir’den Osmanlı Coğrafyasına Ünlü Türk Kelamcıları, İstanbul: İFAV Yayınları, 2017.

Encyclopedia Articles

ARUÇİ, Muhammed, “Tebsıratü’l Edille”, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi (Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi), İstanbul: Diyanet Yayınları, 2011, Volume: XL, 225-226.

YARAN, Rahmi, “Siğnâkî”, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi (Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi), İstanbul: Diyanet Yayınları, 2009, Volume: XXXVII, 164-166.

YAVUZ, Yusuf Şevki, “Ebu’l Mu’în en-Nesefî”, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi (Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi), İstanbul: Diyanet Yayınları, 2006. Volume: XXXII, 568-570.

YAVUZ, Yusuf Şevki, “Bahrü’l Kelâm”, Diyanet İşleri Ansiklopedisi (Türkiye Diyanet Vakfı İslam Ansiklopedisi), İstanbul: Diyanet Yayınları, 1991, Volume: 4, 516.

Web Sources


 – http://ktp.isam.org.tr/?url=makaleilh/findrecords.php.

 – https://www.britannica.com/science/semantics.

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