As for the Ash'ariyyah of today then they are upon a way and path which Abu Hasan al-Ash'aree declared himself free of in front of Allaah, and the scholars consider them to be other than Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah but rather, in the midst of Ahl ul-Bid'ah.
Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah is used for those in opposition to the innovators and the people of the innovated sects, and this is the well known usage. So when they say in the books of criticism of narrators about a man, that he was from Ahl us-Sunnah and the like, then what is meant is that he was not from one of the innovated sects such as the Khawaarij, the Mu'tazilah and the Shee'ah and he was not a person of theological rhetoric (Kalaam) and innovated ideas.
Thus, the Ash'ariyyah do not enter into it at all. Rather they are outside it and Imaam Ahmed and Ibn al-Madeenee have stated textually that whoever involves themselves in any theological rhetoric is not counted amongst the Ahl us-Sunnah, even if by that he arrives at the Sunnah, until he abandons debating and surrenders to the texts. So they do not lay down as a condition that a person merely agrees with the Sunnah, rather that he must take and derive with it (alone). So he who takes from the Sunnah is from its people even if he makes an error, and he who derives from somewhere else is in error even if in conclusion he agrees with it. But the Ash'ariyyah as you will see, take and derive from other than the Sunnah and they do not agree with it in their conclusions, so how can they be from its people [people of the Sunnah].
A summary of the sayings of the scholars regarding the Ash'ariyyah are presented below:
The Haafidh of the west and its outstanding scholar Ibn Abdul Barr reported with his chain of narration from the scholars of the Maalikees in the east, Ibn Khuzaimah, that he said in the book of witnesses (Kitaab us-Shuhudaat) in explanation of the saying of the Maalik that it is not permissible to accept the witness of the people of innovation and innovated sects, and he said: "The people of the innovated sects in the view of Maalik and the rest of our Companions are the people of theological rhetoric (Kalaam). So every person of the theological rhetoric is from the people of the innovated sects and innovation: whether he is an Ash'aree, or other than an Ash'aree, and his witness is not accepted in Islaam ever. Indeed he is to be ostracized, and punished for his innovation and if he persists in it and repentance is to be sought from him"
Also Ibn Abdul Barr himself reports in [Al-Ihtiqaa] from the three scholars: Maalik, Aboo Haneefah and Ash-Shaafi'ee that they forbade theological rhetoric and spoke severely against its people, and that they are innovators and are to be punished. Its like is reported by Ibn ul- Qayyim in [Ijtimaa ul-Juyoosh il-Islaamiyyah] and what are the Ash'ariyyah except people of theological rhetoric?
Imaam Abul-Abbaas ibn Suraij known as 'ash-Shaafi'ee the second' and he was a contemporary of Al-Ash'aree, said: "We do not speak with Ta'weel (interpretation) of the Mu'tazilah, the Ash'arees, the Jahmiyyah, the apostates, the anthropomorphists (Mujassimah and Mushabbihah), the Karraamiyyah and those who declare Allaah to be like His creation (Mukayyifah - those asking about the modality of His attributes). Rather we accept them [the texts about Allaah's attributes] without interpretation (Ta'weel) and we believe in them without declaring any likeness with the creation (Tamtheel)."
Imaam Abul-Hasan al-Kurjee, one of the Shaafi'ee scholars of the fifth century said: "The Shaafi'ee Imaams have not ceased disdaining and detesting that they should be ascribed to al-Ashariyy and they disassociate themselves from that which al-Ash'aree built his madhhab upon, and they forbid their companions and beloved ones from approaching it, as I have heard from a number of the shaikhs and imaams. He then gave an example of the shaikh of the Shaafi'ees of his time Imaam Aboo Hamid al-Isfaareenee who was known as 'ash-Shaafi'ee the third' saying:
"The severity of the Shaikh against the people of theoretical knowledge is well known, to the point that he even made a distinction between the principles of the fiqh of ash-Shaafi'ee and the principles of al-Ash'aree. Notes upon this were added by Aboo Bakr ar-Raadhiqaanee and it is with me. He was followed in this by Shaikh Aboo Ishaaq ash-Sheeraazww in his two books, 'al-Lumaa' and 'at-Tabsirah' to the point that if a point of al-Ash'aree agreed with one saying amongst our companions he made distinction and said: "It is the saying of the Ash'ariyyah" and he did not include them amongst the companions of ash-Shaafi'ee. They disdained and avoided them and their madhhab in the principles of fiqh not to mention with regard to the principles of the Religion."
As is known the author of at-Tahaawiyyah and its explainer were both Hanafees, and at-Tahaawee was a contemporary of al-Ash'aree. He wrote his Aqeedah to explain the Aqeedah of Imaam Abu Haneefah and his companions, and it is very like what is found in Fiqh al-Akbar from him. They report from the Imaam that he clearly states the Kufr (disbelief) of one who says that Allaah - the Most Perfect and Exalted - is not upon the Arsh (throne) or remains silent about it.
Also his student Aboo Yoosuf declares Bishr al-Maareesee to be a Kaafir, and as is well known the Ash'ariyyah deny Allaah's ascension and deny that He the Most High is above the Arsh (Throne) and it is also well known that their principles were taken from Bishr al-Maareesee!!
The position of the Hanbalees with regard to the Ash'ariyyah is more famous than to need mention. So since Imaam Ahmad declared 'Ibn Kullaab' to be an innovator and ordered to be ostracized, and he was the true founder of the Ash'aree madhhab. The Hanbalees have not ceased to be involved in a long battle with them. Even to the time of the state of Nizaam ul-Mulk in which they behaved presumptuously, and after it the Hanbalees ejected every speaker who mixed anything from the madhhab of the Ash'ariyyah into his speeches. Ibn ul-Qushairi was one of those who experienced this, and because their madhhab had become so widespread, and due to the agreement of the scholars of the state, especially the Hanbalees that he should be opposed, so the Khaleefah al-Qaadir sent out al-I'tiqaad al-Qaadiree which clarified the aqeedah which was binding upon the Ummah in the year 433H.
And Shaikhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah quotes that when Abdul-Qaadir al-Jeelaanee was asked: "Has there ever been one who was a Walee of Allaah who was upon other than the aqeedah of Ahmad bin Hanbal?" He replied: "That has not occurred and will never occurr."
1. Shaikh Ibn al-Uthaimeen - may Allaah protect him - said: "So - for example - the Ash'arees and the Maatooreedees are not considered from Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah in this particular matter (i.e. concerning the Names and Attributes of Allaah). Rather, they oppose what the Prophe (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) and his Companions were upon with regards to accepting the Attributes of Allaah - the Most Perfect - upon their haqeeqah (real meaning). This is why, whoever says that Ahl us-Sunnah are three groups: the Salafees, the Ash'arees and the Maatooreedees - then such a person is indeed mistaken. Rather we say: How can all three be considered Ahl us-Sunnah and they differ with each other? What is there after Truth, except misguidance. How can they all be Ahl us-Sunnah, whilst each one of them refutes the other - this is not possible - except if it is possible to reconcile the opposites. There is no doubt however, that one of them is truly Ahl us-Sunnah - but which one? Is it the Ash'arees, the Maatooreedees or the Salafees? Whichever of them agrees with the Sunnah is considered to be Ahl us-Sunnah, whilst whichever of them opposes it is not. So we say: The Salaf are Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah, and this description cannot be true for anyone else other than them. So how can those who oppose the Sunnah be called Ahl us-Sunnah - this is not possible. How is it possible to say Ahl us-Sunnah are of three differing groups, but we say that they are in agreement? So where is the agreement and concensus? Rather, Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Jamaa'ah are those who hold on to what the Prophet (sallallaahu alaihi wasallam) and his Companions were upon, and to the aqeedah of the Salaf - until the Day of Judgement - and they are the Salafees." Sharh Aqeedatil-Waasitiyyah (1/123)
2. Jaami Bayaan il-Ilmi wa Fadlihi (2/117)
3. See Ijtimaa ul-Juyoosh il-Islaamiyyah (p.62) for the belief of Ibn Suraij
4. At-Tis'eeniyyah (p. 238-239) and see 'Sharhul-Asfahaaniyyah' (5:31) from the Fataawaa al-Kubraa itself. See also Ijtimaa ul-Juyoosh il-Islaamiyyah and Mukhtasirul Uloom for his belief and also Tabaqaatush-Shaafiyyah for his biography.
5. See what is mentioned in Siyar A'laamin-Nubulaa in the Biography of Bishr (10/200-201) and al-Hamawiyyah (p.14-15)
6. See al-Muntazam of Ibnul-Jawzee, events of the year 433, 469 &475 - (vols 8 & 9)
7. Al-Istiqaamah (pp.85-86)