The Retiring Sect, A Forgotten Islamic Philosophy

Islamic civilization was once the greatest civilization all over the world especially at the Umayyad and Abbasid era where Islamic state reached it's peak with over 5 million square miles of land and spreading between India to the east and Spain to the west. 


The great Islamic empire military force was overwhelmed by many philosophical thinking trials lead by great thinkers and scientists who also had a great rule in pushing humanity forward with their philosophies in addition to their scientific achievements.


Islamic scientists were not just acquired by a single type of science or specialty, they were intimidated by excessive reading and writing in almost all kinds of science and philosophy. They would write and publish in chemistry, biology, poetry, architecture, algebra, and of course philosophy.


Among these philosophical trials was the retiring sect that is not well known to regular modern days Arabs rather than westerners although this sect had great impact in Islamic history due to tightened reasoning and over use of plane mind to overcome any philosophical or religious obstacles. They were the enemies of strict following of ancestors and suggested new thoughts about life, god, sins, justice, and after life. Their new ways of interpretation of old texts were a matter of clamor and brought them a great opposition by both religious and political orthodox official state holders. 


The retiring sect started as a small movement among the elite scientists in the middle of Abbasi era (around year 700 to 800 AD). The classical story tells that one day there was a great religious scientists called  (Al Hasan Al Basry) who had a debate with one of his brilliant students (Wassel Ibn Ata'a), Al Basry had a religious opinion about sinners that they might be forgiven by Allah and dwell heaven in the after life. Ibn Ata'a disagreed that how would a sinner dell heavens and stated that sinners if not repent and give up on their sins before they die they would not go to heaven, they would instead inhabit a midway between heaven or hell but never go to heaven.


Next day, Ibn Ata'a retired Al Basri's teaching circle and started to teach his own teachings in his own circle to students who agreed upon his thoughts. Al Basri felt sad and said his famous quote (Wassel has retired from us). Wassel Ibn Ata'a was very brilliant and started to teach his new statements and interpretations of Islam, he was joined by other scientists who began a new movement of thoughts that opposed the current orthodox interpretations of their era and hence started the retiring sect who was named after the famous quote by Al Basri.


The retiring sect invented a new science in which they had the leadership, that new science was called the science of speech (Elm Al Kalam). That science was more about reasoning and arguing with anyone to convince them of their thoughts and so the majority of people would think that this new way was about how to speak and convince others but it was really named after the speech and messages of Allah (The Holy Quoran, muslim's holy book). They figured out new interpretations and new philosophies regarding Islamic belief and also they mastered the art of reasoning and arguments with anyone despite the educational level, they had reasons and arguments with ignorant people and also great scientists in which they won the argument in most of cases.


The retiring sect reached their peak at (Al Mamoon) era - 813 AD, Al Mamoon was the son of the great Islamic Sultan (Haron Al Rachid) who took over the leadership as a successor of his father and started to spread the Retiring believes. It was a golden chance for the forsaken sect to start spreading and applying their believes on land and among the people. Due to the big difference between thinking and real application of these thoughts and due to deepness and high level of their thoughts, the Retiring sect failed to spread and instead of bringing justice they always asked for, they started slaughtering their opponents who they considered as sinners who shall not be forgiven. The Mamoon died shortly after (833 AD) and so died with him the political support for the Retiring sect who was faced then by massive revolts and bloody revenge against the sect leader which lead to vanishing of the sect and most of their writings which were burnt down by angry people. The lesson that the Retiring sect got too late was that some thoughts should stay in books and that not all the common are ready to accept elite philosophies, they lacked proper application of their ideas and lacked communication with non educated levels of community which has slaughtered them later on. 


The Main ideas that identified the Retiring sect are based on 5 pillars which made them different from main stream religious believes are:


1- Monotheism:

The Retiring sect had a different interpretation of monotheism, they stated that god is all almighty with unlimited knowledge by his own self and not due to acquired external characters. God knows in himself and capable of himself as he is.


2- Justice:

They thought of justice as god is just and he wouldn't create evil of his own creatures. Instead, evil creatures create their own evil and god would do nothing unjust or evil, his creatures only do evil due to their free well and temptations of Satan.


3- The state in between states:

Meaning that sinners if die with their sins without repentance they shall not go to heaven even if they do other good acts, even Muslim men when they die upon their sins they would be placed in a state between two states, not to heaven or hell but another in between state.


4- The Pledge and Threat:

Meaning that all these sinners who ignored the teachings of Allah and his messages would suffer his threats no matter how many intercessions they get from the righteous or even the great prophet of Islam (Mohamed, peace be upon him).


5- Instruct the good and inhibit the evil:

Every capable one should instruct the good and inhibit the evil himself, either with words, acts, or even with force. This goes especially for the unjust leaders and religion men. They differ from the mainstream religious teachings of obeying the ruler even if he was unjust, in other ways they preached revolution upon unjust rulers, religion men, and judges. The official authority didn't like these thoughts for sure and so they were faced with great opposition from official circles of their time.


6- The creation of Quoran:

The Quoran - holy book of Islam - is considered by main stream Islamic circles as an immortal act of god. The Retiring sect had other thoughts, they stated that the Holy Quoran is just another act of god with no immortality as a separate entity from god, in other words they said that Quoran would vanish at the end of days. This exact idea was opposed by the commoners and the official circles at the same level as it opposed the main belief of common Muslims that Quoran is immortal. That particular last point was the one that caused them to lose support and sympathy of common people of lower education as they failed to understand the idea and also the Retiring sect failed to explain it to them.


The retiring sect ruled for a very small period of time but had a great influence on Islamic philosophical movement which later on lead to more detailed studies of Islamic believes on new levels of philosophy and ideology. Many lessons we can get from reading the history of this small short timed era of Islamic state but the most important one is that some thoughts aren't meant to success on land and that you need to teach people and raise their educational level if you want them to explore new horizons of thinking and understanding their own believes.

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