A Brief Overview of Ilm al-Kalaam
What is referred to as "ilm al-kalaam" is in reality speech about divinity based upon the conceptual tools and terminology of the philosophy of Aristotle (see here). This conceptual baggage of classifying what is in the universe as ajsaam (bodies) and a'raad (accidents, incidental attributes) was the platform upon which debates took place in the second centjury hijrah and a whole theology was built upon this language. This was initiated by the Jahmiyyah, but developed and codified by the Mu'tazilah in the second century. Other groups appeared who were simply offshoots of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah and they are the Kullaabiyyah, Karraamiyyah, the Ash'aris, the Maturidis and the Rafidi Shi'ah who adopted the school of the Mu'tazilah. This conceptual baggage had affected previous nations, the Jews, the Christians and the Sabeans who had deviated in the field of Allaah's attributes and likewise the divine decree and it was through them that this foreign conceptual baggage came to the Muslims via al-Ja'd bin Dirham, al-Jahm bin Safwan and the Mu'tazilah, and then later to the Kullaabiyyah, Ash'ariyyah and Maturidiyyah.
A consequence of this baggage was that in order to remain consistent with the rational proof devised to prove the universe is originated (using that language of ajsaam and a'raad), known as huduth al-ajsaam (the origination of bodies), Allaah's names, attributes and actions had to be denied. Otherwise the rational proof could not be validated and sustained. From here, how much denial took place was the subject of dispute between the various factions (Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah, Karraamiyyah, Kullaabiyyah, Ash'ariyyah, Maturidiyyah). The Jahmiyyah denied all names, attributes and actions, the Mu'tazilah denied all attributes and actions and pretended to affirm names, the Kullaabiyyah affirmed names and most attributes but denied Allaah's actions and choice (ikhtiyaa, mashee'ah), and the Ash'arites affirmed the names and seven or so attributes and denied what remained, and the Maturidiyyah were similar.
Some of the major symbols of Islamic belief to be undermined through this ilm al-kalaam were:
- Belief in Allaah's names, attributes and actions in general
- Denial that Allaah is above His creation, above His Throne
- Denial that Allaah speaks with actual speech and that the Arabic Qur'an is His uncreated speech
- Denial that Allaah will be seen in the Hereafter
- Denial that Allaah acts out of His will and choice and for wisdoms
These were the people scorned and condemned by the Imaams of the Salaf in the second century and beyond, and all of the four Imaams were free and innocent of this ilm al-kalaam, their condemnation of it and its people can be found in abundance in the narrations that are preserved from them and this also establishes that the roots of the Ash'aris and Maturidis are not the Salaf of the second and third centuries, but the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah.
Influence of Ilm al-Kalaam upon the Followers of the Four Madhhabs
Many of the later followers of the four Imaams (Abu Haneefah, Malik, al-Shafi'ee and Ahmad) were influenced by this ilm al-kalaam to varying degrees until all the Hanafis became Maturidiyyah and most of the Shafi'ees became Ash'aris and many of the Malikees likewise. However, this did not really take place until the 5th/6th century onwards (after 400H/500H) because prior to that the people of kalaam in general and the Ash'aris in particular were scorned and despised - a matter firmly recorded in history. But due to factors outside the scope of this article, within a few centuries, by the time of Shaykh al-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah, the Ahl al-Kalaam gained prominence, and they essentially cut off the Ummah from the Salaf (since their scholarship only really begins from 400H onwards). This influence was much more pronounced in the Hanafis, Malikis and Shafi'is, and whilst the Hanbalis were not saved from it, it was found to a much lesser degree in them compared to the other madhaahib.
From the numerous Hanbalis who were affected by this ilm al-kalaam include: Abu Abdullah bin Hamid (d. 403H), Abu al-Hasan al-Tamimi, Abu al-Fadl al-Tamimi (d. 410H), Rizqullah al-Tamimi (d.448H), al-Qadi Abu Ya'laa (d. 453H) and his son, Ibn Abi Ya'laa, Ibn Aqeel (d. 513H), Abu al-Hasan Ibn al-Zaghuni (d. 527H) and Ibn al-Jawzee (d.597H). All of these had something of departure, in large, small, or negligible amounts, from the way of Imaam Ahmad, and they attributed (directly or indirectly) to the creed of Imaam Ahmad that which was not from the creed of Imaam Ahmad.
This leads us to our main point in this section which is that Allaamah al-Safaareenee (d. 1112H) was one of these such later Hanbalis (he is much more later than those mentioned earlier). He was another kalaam-influenced Hanbali and in his works on creed many of the influences of kalaam are readily apparent, especially when he discusses the speech (kalaam) of Allaah and the Qur'an and likewise the topics of Allaah's actions and qadar and other areas.
As a result, whilst there is much good in his works, they are sprinkled with mistakes here and there. For this reason, some of the contemporary Salafi scholars made effort to make explanations of his work so as to clarify those errors to protect others from being influenced by them, from them Shaykh Ibn al-Uthaymeen and Shaykh al-Fawzaan. One of the areas in which al-Safaareenee (rahimahullaah) made mistakes is the topic related to Allaah's actions which also penetrates into the arena of al-Qadar.
So in the next installment we are going to elaborate upon this in some further detail to make sure all the foundations are in place before we come to see the ignorance of al-Hajuri and his followers inshaa'Allaah.