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In Islam, one of two early religious groups. The term applies primarily to members of a theological school that flourished in Al-Basrah and Baghdad in the 8th–10th century. These Mu'tazilah were the first Muslims to employ systematically the categories and methods of Hellenistic philosophy to derive their dogma. The tenets of their faith included belief in the oneness of God (tawhid), advocation of human free will (the ability to choose between good and evil), and the fundamental belief in God's fairness (i.e., God will punish only those deserving of punishment). Their doctrine of a created Qur'an (the eternal nature of which was advocated by their opponents) held sway in the caliphal court briefly in the early 9th century and was the first instance in the Muslim world in which political authorities attempted to enforce any form of doctrinal rigour; the Mu'tazilah theological program soon lost political sway, however, and had faded by the 13th century. Though it was ultimately abandoned by Sunnite Muslims (the group's methods came to be accepted by some Shi'ite groups), its true importance lay in the fact that it forced other theological groups to embrace a more rigorous dialectical method (seekalam).
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Mu'tazilah, visit Britannica.com.
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