Imaam adh-Dhahabee (died 748H) mentions in Siyar A’laam an-Nubalaa’, Vol. 15, page 90:
The book that he authored was al-Ibaanah ‘an Usoolid-Diyaanah. It is said that it was his final authorship.
I heard Shaikh Muhammad al-Anjaree and Shaikh Falaah Ismaa’eel explaining the reasons as to why Imaam al-Barbahaaree (rahimahullaah) behaved towards Abul-Hasan al-Ash’aree in this manner, even though by that time he had repented from the paths of the Mu’tazilah and had refuted their heads.
The Shaikhs stated that the students of Imaam Ahmad (rahimahullaah) were stern towards the people of bid’ah – and likewise towards al-Ash’aree due to the fact that they knew he was previously from the most prominent scholars of the Mu’tazilah, causing harm to Ahlus-Sunnah. So when a person repents, he is thanked for his repentance and it is hoped that Allaah accepts it, BUT he is not raised immediately to a high rank amongst the people until and unless it is established that his tawbah was true and correct – and this takes time. A caller to bid’ah who repents is to be watched and monitored in order to establish that he remains steadfast upon the Sunnah. The scholars also state that since al-Ash’aree spent many years upon the ‘aqeedah of the Mu’tazilah, even when he repented, some of the doctrines of Ibn Kullaab (i.e. the Kullaabiyyah) remained with him, and some of that was still evident in his later writings.
What is known is that regardless of what took place between the two in this meeting, Abul-Hasan nevertheless remained steadfast upon his tawbah and retraction from his errors, continually refuting the madhdhab of the Mu’tazilah and its Scholars. He authored books in clarification and refutation of the Jahmiyyah and the Mu’tazilah.
This, my brothers and sisters, is the sincerity of the one who remains steadfast and patient, clarifying the errors that he was previously upon, seeking in that nothing but the Face of Allaah – so may Allaah have mercy upon Imaam Abul-Hasan al-Ash’aree – and we ask Allaah, the Most High, to keep us steadfast like the steadfastness of al-Imaam al-Barbahaaree (rahimahullaah)!
Compare this to the way of many of the people of bid’ah and hizbiyyah today, who refuse to make tawbah, retract, correct and make clear their abandonment of innovations and hizbiyyah out of fear that they may “lose face” in front of the people, or that they may lose status or wealth! They remain obstinate upon their misguidance, sometimes even claiming (falsely): “I want to make tawbah but they will not accept me!” This type of speech shows that the desire of this person is not to please Allaah, but to make a show in front of the masses! May Allaah protect us from the evil of our own souls.
Then compare that to the case of al-Ash’aree (rahimahullaah), who made clear his tawbah, then wrote his clarification and refuted what he was upon previously and made all of that public – seeking in that nothing but the Face of Allaah, and Allaah knows best. People who know they have done wrong and have been upon hizbiyyah and bid’ah should repent. And they need not fear except their Lord, the Most High, and the Day of Resurrection when they will questioned about their misdeeds and their misguided ways! Look at the example of Abul-Hasan al-Ash’aree:
Imaam adh-Dhahabee stated (vol.15/ p.89):
Look, my brothers and sisters, how Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, raised this Imaam in rank due to his retraction, that over a thousand years after his death, the people of Sunnah make mention of this Scholar with good, seeking the Mercy of Allaah for him! And look at the example of the one who was obstinate and haughty and refused to repent and return to the truth: Bishr al-Mareesee the Mu’tazilee. Look how Allaah, the Most High, debased him and over one thousand years later, Ahlus-Sunnah speak ill of him and lower his station, so-much-so that Ahlus-Sunnah see loving him as a clear sign of one’s deviation. Read about Bishr and his humiliation HERE.
Abu Khadeejah Abdul-Waahid