EBN AL-EḴŠĪD, ABŪ BAKR AḤMAD b. ʿAlī b. Beḡčor (270-326/884-938), Muʿtazilite theologian. According to Ḵaṭīb Baḡdādī (IV, p. 309), he was of Turkish descent, which appears to be confirmed by the “name” (in fact a title) of his grandfather, if read as such. His surname, Ebn al-Eḵšīd (also read Eḵšīḏ, Eḵšād, or Eḵšāḏ) probably indicates that he was descended from a princely family of Sogdia or Farḡāna (see also EḴŠĪD). According to Ebn Ḥazm (IV, p. 203), his father “was one of the chiefs (qowwād) of the farāḡena and had been governor of the frontier areas (wālī al-ṯoḡūr) in the caliphates of al-Moʿtażed and al-Moktafī.” Ebn al-Nadīm added that he lived in Baghdad on a street called Darb-al-Eḵšād, which suggests that his family had been established there for several generations, and that he had a country estate (żayʿa) managed by a steward (ed. Tajaddod, p. 220). He, therefore, belonged to the class of notables. It appears that he lived most of the time in the ʿAbbasid capital; in particular, he was on hand for the debate between Abū Saʿīd Sīrāfī and Mattā b. Yūnos organized by the vizier Ebn al-Forāt (Abū Ḥayyān Tawḥīdī, I, p. 108, where the date should be read 320, rather than 326, cf. Yāqūt, Odabāʾ III, p. 106). However, he also lived for a while in Egypt (Yāqūt, Odabāʾ VI, p. 73).

Ebn al-Eḵšīd studied kalām with Moḥammad b. ʿOmar Ṣaymarī (d. 315/927), himself a follower of Abū ʿAlī Jobbāʾī, after having first followed Abu’l-Ḥosayn Ḵayyāṭ and Abu’l-Qāsem Balḵī of the “Baghdad school” (ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, 1974, pp. 308-09; Ebn al-Nadīm, ed. Tajaddod, p. 219). Like Ṣaymarī, he violently opposed the ideas of Jobbāʾī’s son Abū Hāšem, to the point of becoming the head of what amounted to an Eḵšīdīya “school” rivaling the Bahšamīya “school.” Among his disciples were Abū ʿEmrān Mūsā b. Rabāḥ, Abū Ḥafṣ Meṣrī (himself the master of Abū ʿAbd-Allāh Ḥabašī and Abu’l-ʿAlāʾ Māzenī), and the celebrated lexicographer and theologian ʿAlī b. ʿĪsā Rommānī, also called Eḵšīdī (Yāqūt, Odabāʾ V, p. 280).

Apparently none of Ebn al-Eḵšīd’s writings has survived. His principal work on theology seems to have been the Ketāb al-maʿūna fi’l-oṣūl (Ebn al-Nadīm, ed. Tajaddod, p. 221), on which Rommānī provided a commentary (Sezgin, GAS VIII, p. 113); it included, among other material, a refutation of Christian views (ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, 1966, pp. 148, 198). It seems that he also wrote (perhaps as part of the same work) a history of the Muʿtazilite school (cf. Ebn al-Nadīm, ed. Tajaddod, pp. 113, 201, 214; Yāqūt, Odabāʾ VI, p. 57; Ebn al-Mortażā, p. 70). Although his name does not figure in the Ṭabaqāt al-mofasserīn of Dāwūdī and although Ebn al-Nadīm attributed to him only the Ketāb naẓm (or naql) al-Qorʾān (ed. Tajaddod, pp. 41, 221), Ebn al-Eḵšīd must also have written a commentary on the Koran, for he was cited more than forty times in the Tebyān of Abū Jaʿfar Moḥammad Ṭūsī, including several instances involving extremely precise points of interpretation. He is said also to have written a digest of Ṭabarī’s Tafsīr (Ebn al-Nadīm, ed. Tajaddod, pp. 221, 292).

Ebn al-Eḵšīd was also an eminent jurist and, according to Ebn al-Nadīm (ed. Tajaddod, p. 220), the author of several treatises on feqh. It is doubtful, however, that he had been a Shafiʿite, as Ebn Ḥajar erroneously reported (I, p. 231) after Ebn Ḥazm, for Sobkī did not cite him at all.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to know exactly what Ebn al-Eḵšīd’s positions on kalām were, apart from his fierce opposition to the views of Abū Hāšem. On the one hand, it seems that, like Ṣaymarī, he wished to remain faithful on certain points to the ideas of Abū ʿAlī Jobbāʾī, including even those that Jobbāʾī eventually abandoned under the influence of his son (cf. Ebn Mattawayh, 1975, pp. 76, 231); according to ʿAbd-al-Jabbār (1974, p. 331; corrected by Jošamī), Abū ʿAlī was cited abundantly in the Ketāb al-maʿūna. On the other hand, many positions that were attributed to him, particularly in Ṭūsī’s Tebyān, were in contradiction to those of Jobbāʾī and in agreement with those of Abu’l-Qāsem Balḵī. Examples include the argument that man has “two terms” (ajalān; see Ṭūsī on Koran 3:145, 7:34), interpretation of the divine hedāya (see Ṭūsī on Koran 2:213, 2:272), explanation of miraculous events as the announcement (erhāṣ) of future prophecy (see Ṭūsī on Koran 3:42, 3:46, 19:30), and the distinction between ḥekāya and maḥkī in connection with the word of God (Ebn Mattawayh, 1975, p. 417). The idea that God may accept the prayer of an unbeliever if some utility (maṣlaḥa) to mankind is likely to result (see Ṭūsī on Koran 2:186, 7:14-15, 10:89, 15:38) seems also to conform to “Baghdadī” views. Perhaps the Muʿtazilism of Ebn al-Eḵšīd represented a sort of highly eclectic synthesis between a particular “Basran” tradition and the diverse positions characteristic of the so-called “school of Baghdad.”


Bibliography: (For cited works not given in full, see “Short References.”)

Qāżī ʿAbd-al-Jabbār, Taṯbīt dalāʾel al-nobūwa, ed. ʿA.-K. ʿOṯmān, Beirut, 1966.

Idem, Fażl al-eʿtezāl, ed. F. Sayyed, Tunis, 1974.

Abū Ḥayyān Tawḥīdī, al-Emtāʿ wa’l moʾānasa, eds. A. Amīn and A. Zayn, 3 vols., Cairo, 1939-44, III, p. 196.

Abū Manṣūr Baḡdādī, al-Farq bayn al-feraq, ed. M. ʿAbd-al-Ḥamīd, Cairo, n.d., p. 193.

Abū Rašīd Nīsābūrī, Masāʾel, Beirut, 1979, pp. 88, 215.

Ebn Ḥajar ʿAsqalānī, Lesān al-mīzān, 6 vols., Hyderabad, 1329-31/1911-1913.

Ebn Ḥazm, Ketāb al-feṣal fi’l-melal wa’l-ahwāʾ wa’l-neḥal, 5 vols., Cairo, 1317-21/1899-1903.

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Ebn al-Mortażā, Ṭabaqāt al-Moʿtazela, ed. S. Diwald-Wilzer, Beirut, 1961.

Faḵr-al-Dīn Rāzī, Eʿteqādāt feraq al-moslemīn, ed. ʿA.-S. Naššār, Cairo, 1938, p. 44.

Shaikh Mofīd, Awāʾel al-maqālāt, Najaf, 1973, pp. 82-83.

Abū Jaʿfar Moḥammad Ṭūsī, al-Tebyān fī tafsīr al-Qorʾān,10 vols., Najaf, 1376/1957.

J. C. Vadet, “Ibn al-Ikhshīd” in EI ² III, p. 807.

ʿA.-A. Żīāʾī, “Ebn-e Eḵšīd” in DMBE II, pp. 713-14.

(Daniel Gimaret)

Originally Published: December 15, 1997

Last Updated: December 6, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 1, pp. 15-16