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The Involvement of the Pious Salaf in Kalam

Abu Hanīfa's Works in Kalām

Among the works of the Imām in kalām:[1]

* * Al-Fiqh al-Akbar ("The Supreme Wisdom"), authentically narrated from the Imām by his son Hammād. The Ash'arī Shaykh Ab al-Muzaffar al-Isfarāyīnī [2] said in his book al-Tabsīr fīl-Dīn: "Al-Fiqh al-Akbar was narrated to us by the trustworthy through a reliable way and a sound chain of transmission from Nasīr ibn Yahyā [up to] Abu Hanīfa."[3] In it the Imām said: "Allāh is 'something' unlike any other thing, and the meaning of 'something' here is: neither a body (jism), nor an indivisible substance (jawhar), nor an accident ('arad.); and He has no limit (hadd)." He also said: "Whatever Allāh I mentioned in the Qur'ān about the 'Face,' Hand,' and 'Essence,' these are His Attributes without asking how. Let it not be said that His Hand is [but] His Power (qudra) or Bounty (ni'ma) because doing so is a nullification of the Attribute and is the position of the Qadarīs and Mu'tazilīs. His Hand is an Attribute without asking how!" Mullā 'Alī al-Qārī comments in Sharh al-Fiqh al-Akbar: "That is, without knowledge of any modality, exactly as we are incapable of having knowledge of the true nature (kunh) of the rest of His Attributes, not to mention the true nature of His Essence." Imam Abu Hanīfa's caveat does not contradict the Māturīdī position that the Attributes of corporeality are not corporeal (as in al-Tahāwī's 'Aqīda) but are among the Mutashābihāt (as in al-Pazdawī's Usul and its Sharh. by al-Bukhārī). These guidelines - avoidance of figurative interpretation, avoidance of corporeal explanation, and affirmation that Yad etc. are among the Mutashābihāt - are also within the Ash'arīs' method. The latter allow the option of interpretation if it coincides with the bases of the Arabic language and the general purport of
'Aqīda, as does Imām al-Māturīdī in Kitāb al-Tawhīd. The reconciliation with Imām Abu Hanīfa's statement is to understand it to mean: "It should not be categorically affirmed that His hand is His power and nothing else." And Allāh knows best. This work received no less than fifteen commentaries, among them those of al-Qārī, al-Maghīsāwī, and al-Bayādī, all three of them in print.

* * Al-Wasiyya ("The Testament"), a brief epistle dictated by Abu Hanīfa on his death-bed according to the Sunna,[4] in which he states: "The meeting (liqā') of Allāh Most High with the dwellers of Paradise is by visual sight without modality, nor simile, nor direction" and "We affirm that Allāh established Himself on the Throne without his having need for it and without settlement on it as He is the Preserver of the Throne and other than the Throne. If He stood in need for it, He would have been unable to bring the world into being or dispose of it, just like created beings [are unable]. And if He became in need of sitting down and settling, then, before creating the Throne, where was Allāh I Rather, He is greatly and immensely transcendent beyond all such notions."

* * Risālat Abī Hanīfa ilā 'Uthmān al-Battī, a brief epistle to the Mujtahid of Basra Abu 'Amr 'Uthmān ibn Muslim al-Battī (d. 143) also narrated through Nasīr ibn Yahyā - from Abu 'Abd Allāh Muhammad ibn Samā'a al-Tamīmī, from Abu Yusuf, from Abu Hanīfa, in which the Imām explains the principle of his School whereby īmān has two, not three pillars, namely: conviction in the heart and affirmation by the tongue, in refutation of those who imputed him with the label of Murji'.

* * Al-'Àlim wal-Muta'allim ("The Teacher and the Apprentice"), placed by Abu al-Muzaffar al-Isfarāyīnī "among the overwhelming proofs against atheists and innovators,"[5] narrated through two chains, both of them through Abu Hanīfa's student Abu Muqātil Hafs ibn Salm al-Fazārī al-Samarqandī but actually attributed by some to Abu Muqātil, who is - in either case - mostly discarded.[6]

* * Al-Fiqh al-Absat. ("The Greatest Wisdom"), the same work as the Fiqh al-Akbar but in catechetic form narrated from the Imām exclusively by Abu Mutī' al-Hakam ibn 'Abd Allāh ibn Muslim al-Balkhī al-Khurāsānī through Abu 'Abd Allāh al-Husayn ibn 'Alī al-Alma'ī al-Kāshgharī (d. >484), both of them discarded as narrators. In this version the Imām is related to state:

[1] "Whoever says, 'I do not know whether my Lord is in the heaven or on earth' commits disbelief (qad kafar), as does whoever says, 'He is on the Throne and I do not know whether the Throne is in the heaven or on earth.'" Imām Ab al-Layth al-Samarqandī (d. 373) in his Sharh. al-Fiqh al-Akbar (misattributed to al-Māturīdī) and his commentary on the Fiqh al-Absat., and Imām al-Bayādī in Ishārāt al-Marām all said: "He is a disbeliever because he attributes a place to Allāh Most High."[7]

[2] "(The Hand of Allāh is above their hands) (48:10), not like the hand of creatures, and it is not a limb (laysat bi-jārih.a)."

[3] "If someone says, 'Where is Allāh' The answer for him is that Allāh existed when there was no 'where,' no creation, nothing! And He is the Creator of everything!" This is confirmed as the true position of the Imām by al-Tahāwī's article in his "Exposition of the Doctrine of Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamā'a" that "This is the religion of the Muslims. Anyone that does not guard himself against negation [of the Divine Attributes] or likening [Allāh to something else], has gone astray and missed transcendence. For our Lord - Glorified and Exalted! - is only described in terms of oneness and absolute singularity. No creation is in any way whatsoever like Him. He is beyond having limits placed on Him, or having boundaries, or having parts, limbs, or organs! Nor is He contained by the six directions as all created things are."

Certain versions of the Fiqh al-Absat. have undergone identifiable interpolations such as that narrated by the anthropomorphist al-Harawī al-Ansārī in his book al-Fāruq fīl-Sifāt as pointed out by al-Kawtharī.[8]

The above documentation shows that the pious Salaf did not wholly condemn involvement in kalām as a blameworthy activity but only, as Imām Ab Zahra pointed out, its specific use by the innovators - particularly their main sect, the Mu'tazila - who diverged from the doctrines of Ahl al-Sunna.[9] Those whom the Salaf meant in their condemnations of kalām were the likes of Dāwud al-Jawāribī,[10] Ibn Karrām,[11] and other leaders of sects such as those described in heresiographies such al-Ash'arī's Maqālāt al-Islāmiyyīn, al-Baghdādī's al-Farq bayn al-Firaq, Ibn Hazm's al-Fisal fīl-Milal, and al-Shahrastānī's al-Milal wal-Nihal.

The Aim of those who Deny the Existence of Sunni Kalām

As for those who, today, insist on claiming that the Salaf rejected all of kalām in unqualified terms, their aim in such a misrepresentation is threefold:[12]

* * First, to empower themselves to cast the label of bid'a against those who do not agree with their anthropomorphist leanings, in calculated ignorance of the strong proofs adduced by the Ash'arī and Māturīdī Scholars of kalām against the heresies of the Hashwiyya and Mujassima.

* * Second, to instill obscurantism into the hearts of uneducated Muslims and degree-bearing Muslims uneducated in the Religious sciences, as well as fear of learning the foundations of belief from the mouth of the great Scholars who elucidated the texts of the Qur'ān and Sunna, on the specious grounds that "all that people need is the Qur'ān and Sunna."

* * Third, to promote the idea that all the Sunni Imāms of the Khalaf - whose majority are Ash'arīs - are in fact Jahmī-like innovators except two or three controversial figures that happened to revive anthropomorphist doctrines.

The First Mutakallim is 'Alī ibn Abī T.ālib t

The truth is that all four of the Four Imāms practiced or supported kalām, in one form or another, precisely in order to refute kalām-based innovations. In so doing they actually imitated the major Companions who had debated the Khawārij and defeated them both in disputation and on the field. Imām al-Ghazzālī said: "The first to initiate (sanna) the invitation of innovators back to the fold of truth through disputation is 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib t who sent Ibn 'Abbās *# to the Khawārij to speak to them."[13]

The Involvement of the Mujtahid Imāms in Kalām

The following are authentic examples illustrating the involvement of the
Imāms into kalām after Abu Hanīfa:

* * It is established that Imām al-Shāfi'ī entered kalām disputations with Hafs. al-Fard[14] over the issue of the creation of the Qur'ān until he declared Hafs. a disbeliever, and he used to nickname him "Hafs. the Isolated" (H.afs. al-Munfarid). Hafs. had tried unsuccessfully to make 'Abd Allāh ibn 'Abd al-Hākim and Yusuf ibn 'Amr ibn Yazīd debate him before al-Shāfi'ī accepted - and defeated him.[15] Al-Bayhaqī said: "And how could he [al-Shāfi'ī] possibly consider the kalām of Ahl al-Sunna wal-Jamā'a reprehensible when he himself practiced it, debated whoever he debated in it, and exposed the fallacies of those who had cast doubt into the minds of some of his students" [16] Al-Shāfi'ī also debated the Mu'tazilī Ibrāhīm ibn Ismā'īl ibn 'Ulayya - the student of Abu Bakr al-Asamm - and the Jahmī Bishr al-Marīsī at whose house he once resided when he first came to Baghdād.[17]

* * Imām Mālik compiled a refutation of the Qadariyya for the benefit of his student Ibn Wahb.[18]

* * Imām al-Awzā'ī debated and defeated the Qadarī Ghaylān ibn Muslim al-Dimashqī upon the request of the Caliph Hishām ibn 'Abd al-Malik ibn Marwān, after which Hishām had him executed.[19]

* * Imām Ahmad's disputations with Abu 'īsā Muhammad ibn 'īsā Barghth and his condemnations of the Jahmiyya and Mu'tazila over the issue of the creation of the Qur'ān and the Divine Attributes are recorded in a number in the books of his School, as well as his numerous statements of doctrine - narrated by Ibn Abī Ya'lā in his Tabaqāt al-H.anābila - which are, with Abu Hanīfa's works, among the early manifestos of Sunnī kalām. However, the spurious work entitled al-Radd 'alā al-Zanādiqa and attributed to Imām Ahmad by anti-Ash'arīs today, is a work of the worst sort of kalām whose authenticity is categorically rejected by al-Dhahabī and others.

* * Imām al-Bukhārī compiled a refutation of the Qadariyya and other sects titled Khalq Af'āl al-'Ibād, and was expelled from Naysābr by the Hanbalīs because of what they perceived as an unacceptable stand in kalām.

And Allāh knows best.

[1]The full chains of transmission for all these works are given in
al-Muwaffaq's Manāqib and al-Kawtharī's Ta'nīb al-Khatīb as well as (in
part) his introduction to al-Bayādī's Ishārāt al-Marām (p. 6).

[2]Imām Ab al-Muzaffar Tāhir ibn Muhammad al-Isfarāyīnī al-Shāfi'ī
al-Ash'arī, known as Shahafur (d. 471), author of Tāj al-Tarājim fī Tafsīr
al-Qur'ān lil-A'ājim cf. Hajjī Khalīfa, Kashf al-Z.unn (1:268, 1:442). In
his book al-Tabsīr fīl-Dīn wa-Tamyīz al-Firqat al-Nājiya min Firaq
al-Hālikīn he defines Ahl al-Sunna as the Ash'arīs.

[3]In al-Tabsīr (p. 113) as cited by al-Kawtharī in his introduction to
al-Bayādī's Ishārāt al-Marām (p. 5). The complete chain is: 'Alī ibn Ahmad
al-Fārisī < Nasīr [not Nusayr nor Nasr] ibn Yahyā [al-Balkhī (d. 268)] <
Abu Muqātil < 'Isām ibn Yusuf [ibn Maymun al-Balkhī (d. 210 or 215)] <
Hammād ibn Abī Hanīfa < Abu Hanīfa. (Ibid. p. 6.) Shaykh Wahbī Sulaymān
Ghāwijī said in his edition of al-Qārī's Sharh. al-Fiqh al-Akbar (p. 13)
that he saw in Maktabat Shaykh al-Islām 'Àrif Hikmat in Madīna (Compendium
#226 or #234) a manuscript of the Fiqh al-Akbar with the same chain.

[4]Printed together with al-Nasāfi's Matn al-Manār fī Us.l al-Fiqh
(Cairo: al-Matba'at al-Mahmudiyya, 1326).

[5]In al-Tabsīr (p. 113) as cited by al-Kawtharī in his introduction to
al-Bayādī's Ishārāt (p. 5).

[6]Cf. al-H.ākim, al-Madkhal ilā al-S.ah.īh. (p. 130 #42), al-Dhahabī,
Mīzān ('Ilmiyya 2:219), Ibn H.ajar, Lisān (2:322-323), Ibn al-Jawzī,
al-D.u'afā' wal-Matrkīn (1:221), and al-Khalīlī, Irshād (3:975).

[7]Cf. Ghāwjī, Ab H.anīfa (p. 260).

[8]In his introduction to al-Bayād.ī's Ishārāt al-Marām (p. 6 n. 1) as
well as his edition of the Fiqh al-Absat. together with al-'Àlim
wal-Muta'allim and other doctrinal texts of the Imām.

[9]"Whenever you hear Abu Yusuf or Muhammad or al-Shāfi'ī or Ibn Hanbal
and others [among the early Imāms] revile the science of kalām and those who
take knowledge by following the methods of the mutakallimun, know that
they only meant the Mu'tazila by their criticism, and their methods." Abu
Zahra, Abu Hanīfa (p. 133).

[10]"He described the God that he worshipped as possessing all the human
organs except the pudenda and the beard." Al-Shahrastānī, al-Milal
wal-Nihal (1:105, 1:187).

[11]He used to say: "Allāh is firmly seated on the Throne and He is in
person (dhātan) on the upper side of it." Al-Shahrastānī, al-Milal
wal-Nihal (1:108).

[12]Cf. Hasan al-Saqqāf, Sahīh Sharh. al-'Aqīda al-Tahāwiyya (p.

[13]Al-Ghazzālī, Ih.yā' 'Ulm al-Dīn (1:96).

[14]Ab 'Amr al-Bas.rī Hafs. al-Fard, also known as Abu Yahyā, he came to Basra as a Mu'tazilī then turned against them and joined the Jabriyya as stated by Ibn al-Nadīm in al-Fihrist (p. 255).

[15]Ibn 'Asākir, Tabyīn Kadhib al-Muftarī (1404 ed. p. 338-340) and
al-Bayhaqī, Manāqib al-Shāfi'ī (1:455). See also al-Lālikā'ī, Us.l Ahl
al-Sunna (2:252-253).

[16]Al-Bayhaqī, Manāqib al-Shāfi'ī (1:454-455).

[17]Cf. al-Bayhaqī, Manāqib al-Shāfi'ī (1:229, 1:407, 1:464), Ibn
Taymiyya, Muqaddima fīl-Tafsīr (Risāla ed. p. 69), and al-Lacknawī,
al-Fawā'id al-Bahiyya (p. 94).

[18]Narrated by al-Qādī 'Iyād. in Tartīb al-Madārik (1:204). Al-Dhahabī declared its chain of transmission sound (sahīh.) in Siyar A'lām
al-Nubalā' (Arna't. ed. 8:88).

[19]Cited by Shīth ibn Ibrāhīm (d. 598) in H.azz al-Ghalāsim (p. 112)
cf. al-Rāzī, I'tiqādāt Firaq al-Muslimīn (1:40), al-Yāfi'ī, Marham al-'Ilal
(1992 ed. p. 133) and Ibn Taymiyya, Bayān Talbīs al-Jahmiyya (1:275=
al-Ta'sīs fī Radd Asās al-Taqdīs).

"In any case, what Westerners call civilization, the others would call barbarity, because it is precisely lacking in the essential, that is to say, a principle of a higher order."
René Guénon, East And West, 1924

صلّى الله على سيّدنا محمّد و على آله و صحبه و سلّم

The blessings and peace of Allah on the Prophet, his Family, and his Companions, ( sallAllahu `aleihi wa sallam ) .

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