The Transformation of Bada: From the Occultation till the School of Baghdad

Sayyid Jamaal al-Din Musawi1

Click here for the original Persian article.

*Translations are my own, I shorten for brevity. The bottom, opinions of Saduq, Mufid, Murtada, and Tusi are greatly summarized due to their similarity.


Hudooth (حدوث): Coming into being, contingency.

Badaa (بَداء): Changing one’s decision.


The concept of badaa existed within the greater Muslim society, but over time it became isolated to Imamism. Until the end of the presence of the Imams (a), there was no ikhtilaaf about its meaning within the Imamite mutakalims. However, a period of stagnation occurred within Imamite kalaam, whenceforth, a group of Mutazilite-to-Imamite converts and Rationalistic Imamites invented a new definition which rendered it equal to abrogation. At first, only a few ascribed to this new definition, inchmeal, by the fifth century, it became the standard belief. This new definition was championed by Mufid, spread further by his students.


When studying kalaam, we find that some matters have evolved greatly over time. A methodological and historical mindset will allow us to better analyze such transformations.

An undeveloped concept of badaa existed within the Muslim community. In support of this, there are a few hadiths in explanation of badaa all of which lack questioning by the transmitter. However, there are an abundance of narrations that can be interpreted as badaa, like the increase in one’s lifespan via giving charity and maintaining family-ties (silat al-raḥim).

Within the Kufan muhadiths and mutakalims, there was no ikhtilaaf. They all believed “there is change in God’s will. Sometimes, God wills to perform an action, but due to the coming into existence of badaa (hudooth), God then refrains from performing that action” (Ash’ari, 1400 l, 39). Scholars of the fourth century labeled this “badaa of information” (Ibid, 206).

However, starting in the third century, a few Imamite mutakalims innovated by equating badaa with abrogation. Later, Baghdadi scholars like Sheikh Mufid (338-413 AH) and his students continued the [Mutazilite-influenced] definition. Generally, the Baghdadi mutakalims adhered to Shi’ite kalaami and epistemological principles, nevertheless, regarding their explanations, they were influenced by the rationalistic Mutazilites, thanks to their prevalence. Sheikh Mufid and Sheikh Tusi accepted the hadiths of badaa, however, they strayed in its explanation by asserting that God’s previous knowledge does not contradict [His current knowledge]. Sharif Murtada rejected the hadiths of badaa, differing even more with the [original] Kufans. The opinion of Sheikh Saduq, a Qumi, was similar to the Baghdadis.

The purpose of this article is to analyze the evolution of the doctrine of badaa to see why, how, and where this transformation occurred.

Opening Point

There is abundant evidence to demonstrate this disagreement between the mutakalims of Kufa versus Baghdad. In the report of Khayaat̩ Mu’tazili, he attributes the doctrine of badaa to all Shias with the meaning that “God informs that He will do something, however, He obtains badaa, so He does not do it” (1993, 6).2

Ash’ari agrees, he attributes badaa to all Shiites. He adds, “Some of them say that God wills to do something, but later, as a consequence of badaa, He does not do it. This is not the same as abrogation” (1400 l, 492).

These two mutakalims lived around 300 AH. It demonstrates the doctrinal dispute between the Kufan and Baghdadi Imamites.

The oldest report we have about this transition of Imamism accepting the Mutazilite view is from Ibn Raawandi’s (d. ~250 AH) al-Intis̩aar, recorded in a refutation by Khayaat̩ (Khayaat̩, 1993, 127). From this report, we gain two points. First, in his era (end of the third century), this Mu’tazilite belief was rare within the Imamite community. The opposing Kufan view was standard into the fourth century.

Narrative books of this era prove this. Muhammad b. Husayn b. Abi al-Khat̩t̩aab (d. 262) and Shalmaghaani3 (d. 323) authored books about badaa in agreement with the Kufan understanding. Qum was a continuation of Kufa, Muhammad b. Abi Zaahir (d. <300 AH), H̩umayri (alive by 290 AH) authored books about badaa. Ash’ari heard from the Imamite scholar of this era Muhammad b. Hasan b. Jamhur, “Regarding affairs that God did not inform His servants, badaa occurs. Regarding affairs that God did inform His servants, there is not badaa” (Ash’ari, 1400 l, 492). In his response to Ibn Raawandi, Khayaat̩ mentions that although a few Imamites who used to sit in Mu’tazilite circles adopted the Mutazilite position, all Shias believed in badaa of information, and that this badaa is unrelated to abrogation (Khayaat̩, 1993, 127).

To understand this shift better, we must look at those forward-thinking Imamite intellectuals who lived in the second half of the third half century who adopted the Mutazilite position, contemporaries to Ibn Rawaandi, those who Khayaat̩ mentions in his book, such as Abu Al-Ah̩was̩ Mis̩ri, Abu ‘Isaa Waraaq, Ibn Jabrawiya, Ibn Mamlak Is̩fahaani, Ibn Quba Raazi, Muhammad b. Bashr H̩amaduni Susanjardi, Abu Sahl and Hasan b. Musaa Nawbakhti, and Thabit b. Muhammad ‘Askari (Najaashi, 1365, 157, 236, 372, 375, 380).

According to Najaashi, Abu Al-Ah̩was̩ Mis̩ri was a mutakalim and jurist, both him and his father Asad b. A’far were trustworthy scholars of hadith (Najaashi, 1365, 157). Outwardly, he had hadithic tendencies and cannot be of those who equated badaa and abrogation.

Muhammad b. Haarun Abu ‘Isaa Waraaq (247 AH) is a Baghdadi Mu’tazilite to Imamite convert (Dhahabi, 1413 l, 18:477). It is very likely he effected Ibn Raawandi and he was his teacher (Ibid).

Ibn Jabrawiya had relations with Mutazilites and he discussed with ‘Abaad b. Sulaymaan and his ilk (Najashi, 1365, 236).

Ibn Mamlak Is̩fahaani was a Mutazilite who converted to Imamism at the hand of Ibn Jabrawiya. He engaged in such circles and debated with Abu ‘Ali Jabaayi (Ibid, 381).

Muhammad b. Bashr H̩amaduni Susanjardi was also an Imamite who was close to Mutazilites. He was involved in beef between Ibn Quba and Balkhi.

Abu Sahl and Hasan b. Musa Nawbakhti lived near one another. They were Mutazilite-influenced and debated frequently with them. They were contemporaries to Ibn Raawandi. They are likely part of the “Mutazilite-influenced” Shias that Ibn Raawandi mentioned.

Why the Change in the Meaning of Badaa

Looking at the Rationalistic Imamites of the second half of the third century helps us understand. The two objections mentioned in sources like Muqaalaat al-Islaamiyin and al-Intis̩aar is that:

  1. Although abrogation is accepted by all Muslims, badaa is unacceptable since if God says He will do something, but then does not do it, it would make Him a liar (Ash’ari, 1400 l, 206).
  2. Mentioned in al-Intis̩aar, that would mean that God is ignorant of affairs, since God says He will do something, but once He realizes that it is not a good idea, He does something else. Such a God has shortcomings (Khayaat, 1413, 130).

Thus, the marginalized Rationalist Imamites embraced the Mutazilite position.

The topic of badaa involves two matters, God’s knowledge and His decree. Regarding God’s knowledge, the Kufans divided it into two, essential knowledge and active knowledge. Regarding essential knowledge, He knew of all affairs and all affairs which would involve badaa. Anyone who declares God ignorant is refuted.

God’s active knowledge is tied to the various things subject to change, badaa occurs here. All the problems badaa deniers brought up were related to His essential knowledge.

Towards the end of the third century, at the peak of Mutazilism and wane of Kufan Shi’ism, the coterie of Baghdadi Mutazilite-influenced scholars noticed the two problems and innovated against their former opinion, equated badaa with abrogation. They explained it in such a manner in order to strip Him of any possible ignorance. This explanation was a defense mechanism against the attacks of the Mutazilites. According to the Imams, they (a) emphasized that God was always aware of all affairs before and after creation. Ignorance is not a requirement for badaa to occur (Kulayni, 1407, 1:148).

Information about the discussion of God’s decree is limited and scattered. They include the aforementioned phrases “There is change in God’s decree. Sometimes God wills to perform an action, but due to the coming into existence of badaa (hudooth), God then refrains from performing that action” (Ash’ari, 1400 l, 39).

To decree, according to the Mutazilites, was an active attribute and He decreed His actions (Qaad̩i ‘Abd al-Jabbaar, 1962, 6:5). The Imamite Baghdadi mutakalims negated the Kufan understanding, such that Mufid considers Him as a decreer only via His hearing which cannot be explained intellectually (Mufid, 1413 l, alif, 53). Although most controversies about badaa are surrounding His knowledge, His decree is also a part of it.

Shaykh Saduq

A muhadith and mutakalim of the fourth century, he lived a century before the transition. The intellectual arena of Ray was no exception to controversy, and so he must have been a witness to Mutazilites.

Although technically a Qumi, he lived in the cross-sectional era following the Nawbakhtis and conversion of Mutazilites to Shiism and before the rise of Mufid. His view of badaa and its closeness to Mufid must be analyzed.

Qaad̩i ‘Abd al-Jabbaar Hamadaani, the Mutazilite superstar, was invited to Ray in 367 AH to become the head qaadi (Ibn Kathir, 1407 l, 1:291). Many followed him and thus a strong Rayan Mutazilite hawza formed. This was when Saduq was at his prime.

Sheikh Mufid in his Tas̩-h̩ih̩ al-I’tiqaad, unlike many other matters, does not criticize Saquq for his view of badaa (1413, baa, 65).

Sheikh Mufid

Sheikh Mufid is often said to be the founder of the Baghdadi kalaami school. This does not mean that before him Rationalism was absent within Imamism. The roots of Imamite Rationalism stem from the Nawbakhtis and other Rationalists [Mutazilite-to-Imamite converts] from the last half of the third century. In truth, Mufid was a middle-ground between Kufan textualism and Baghdadi rationalism, the reason he differs from some of his students like Murtada and Tusi.

The doctrine of badaa is the best example of this. He considers the term “badaa” correct and only via God’s hearing, as taught by the Imams (a) in the hadiths (Ibid). Whereas his student Murtada negates badaa (Murtada, 1405 l, 1:116).

Mufid considers badaa equal to abrogation, and anyone who is against badaa is against abrogation (Mufid, 1413, qaaf alif, 80). God has been eternally all-knowledgeable. Ibn Raawand mentioned that only a few Imamite mutakalims were of this belief, but due to Sheikh Mufid’s loftiness, this opinion became common in his era. He was a Kufan/Baghdadi middle-ground, but the Kufan view was indefensible so he equated it to abrogation.

Sharif Murtada

Sharif Murtada agreed with his teacher, Mufid. He disagreed with the Kufans by claiming that badaa equals abrogation. He states, “There are hadiths about badaa, but they are all aah̩aad. They do not imply God’s knowledge changes as the Imamite scholars understand bidaa to equal abrogation” (the apparent meaning of badaa is unacceptable) (Murtada, 1405, 1:116).

Sharif Murtada distanced himself even more from the Kufans, he wholeheartedly accepted the Mutazilite position by discrediting the narrations about badaa. Whereas Sheikh Mufid was closer to the Kufans by accepting the narrations, but differing with the explanation.

According to Qaadi ‘Abd al-Jabbaar, “Sharif Murtada considered the belief of Hishaam b. H̩akam and the majority of Imamites about badaa as equal to abrogation. The difference being that Hishaam and the Kufans possessed traditions about badaa, so they used the term, however, the meaning of badaa is abrogation. Since there is ikhtilaaf in the terminology, they are unacceptable” (1410 l, 1:87). This is more evidence that Murtada negated the hadiths of badaa.

In criticizing Sharif Murtada’s words, it must be mentioned that he said this against opponents like Qaadi ‘Abd al-Jabbaar who accused Hishaam and Ibn Raawandi of jabr, anthropomorphism, God’s ever-created knowledge, and badaa. The accusations of jabr and anthropomorphism can be answered, but Murtada’s denial of Hisham believing in badaa is wrong. As previously mentioned, the Kufan mutakalims, including Hishaam b. Hakam, believed in literal badaa of God, the basis being God’s active knowledge. In support of this are many reports.

Balkhi in his Tafseer quotes men who “believe in the abrogation of the Quran by the Imams (a) and abrogation via badaa. This statement excommunicates them” (Tusi, 1:14). Thus, it is impossible that the Kufans believed that abrogation equals badaa.

Sheikh Tusi

Sheikh Tusi, like his teacher Murtada, denied badaa and equaled it to abrogation. The hadiths of badaa are acceptable, though not in a manner which means that God’s knowledge increases, but as abrogation, though not in report of the universe (khabar az kaayenaat). The literal definition of badaa is unacceptable.

Abu al-Fath̩ Karaajeki

Karaajeki (d. 449) was a highlighted scholar of his era. He agreed exactly with the Baghdadi Rationalists. He believed in badaa in a manner wherein God’s knowledge does not increase, thus with this understanding, the term badaa and hadiths associated with it become unproblematic.

Regarding the hadiths about badaa, he was like Mufid and Tusi. In addition, he claims that the quotes of badaa to the Imamite companions are unsubstantiated (Karaajeki, 227).

If we understand the term “companions” as his colleagues, than that means by the fifth century, all Imamite mutakalims accepted the newer Baghdadi understanding and negated the original Kufan understanding. Whereas the non-mutakalims, the Hadithists, disagreed with the Baghdadi understanding. The change in the definition of badaa occurred in the middle of the third century by a minuscule amount of Baghdadi Rationalistic Imamites, but, according to this understanding, by the middle of the fifth century, all Imamite mutakalims understood it the novel way.

However, if we understand the term “companion” to mean contemporary as well as preceding Imamite mutakalims, that Imamite mutakalims since the beginning denied badaa and that only Hadithists believed in it, than such an understanding is erroneous. Highlighted mutakalims, including Hishaam b. H̩akam, Hishaam b. Saalem, and many other leading Imamite mutakalims championed the literal, original, Kufan definition.

In any case, the first understanding tells us the pervasiveness of the novel definition by the fifth century.

Difference between badaa and abrogation is not mentioned.


The original Imamite mutakalims surrounding the Imams (a) championed badaa and had no ikhtilaaf about it. It was only towards the end of the third century that a tiny fringe group of Rationalists and Mutazilite-to-Imamite converts innovated a [Mutazilite-influenced] definition for badaa, contradicting the standard Imamite mutakalims.

At first, the new definition was refuted [by the hawza]. However, future generations, such as Mufid and some of his students, accepted the doctrine and hadiths of badaa in a way that was rational, crucial in that zeitgeist [by equating badaa to abrogation].

Sharif Murtada was closer to the Mutazilites by descrediting the hadiths of badaa. Sheikh Tusi agreed with Sheikh Mufid in accepting the narrations [but not the meaning].


  1. A researcher at the Institute of Quran and Hadith (college of Kalaam of the Ahlulbayt).
  2. For more evidence, see Ash’ari, 1400 l, 39, 221.
  3. By looking at his books, not all were narrative. In addition, he was a mutakalim. It cannot be said with certainty that he was in total agreement with the Kufan view.

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