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The issue of kalam is extensive and encompasses many subject matters. Accordingly, the orthodox reaction to kalam is complex and varied. In order to focus on the heart of the orthodox reaction, its methodology and goals, we need to focus on some of the major theological controversies in Islam.
Subjects of Controvercy
In general, these revolve around the nature of God and His Attributes. This topic includes concepts such as God’s Speech, which relates to the belief in the uncreatedness of the Qur’an, and God’s Will, which relates to the belief in the createdness of the world. An intricate part of these controversies is the methodology used to explain the natures of God’s. The mutakallimun believe that the verses of the Qur’an related to God’s Attributes need to be interpreted through argument based on logical proofs. This view takes the form of upholding the denial of a reality for the Attributes, as in the case of the Mu’tazilah, or of defending a restricted meaning of them, as in the case of the Ash’ariyyah. The traditionalists, on the other hand, attempt to discredit the use of kalam and to refute many of the conclusions of Mu’tazilah and the Ash’ariyyah. In this writing se shall trace some of controversies between Sunni scholars and Mutakallimun in order to understand some of the various issues concerning the opposition to kalam in certain schools of orthodox Islamic thought.
The Clarity of the Qur’an in Sunni
The orthodox scholars of Islam, starting with the Companions of the Prophet, have maintained a belied in the clarity of the Qur’an based on the seventh verse of the third surah. This verse States that the Qur’an contains clear verses of legislation, which the believers follow, and obscure or allegorical verses, which the believers accept without questioning. The verse further states that only those who have deviation in their hearts and desire controversy attempt to interpret these allegorical verses. When we look at the statements of the earliest orthodox scholars, we see that all information in the Qur’an and in the authentic hadith referring to the Attributes of God fall under the category of obscure of allegorical verses. This belief concerning the Attributes of God was clarified by a statement of Imam Malik ibn Anas (d. 179/795) when he responded to a question concerning how God rises above the Throne. He said that God’s rising above the Throne is well known but how it occurs is not understandable, and the belief in it is obligatory, and asking questions about it is innovation .( Ahmad Hijazi al- Saqa, in his introduction to Ibn Taymiyyah Sihhah usul madhhab ahl al-madinah (Cairo,1988)) Although Imam Malik was talking about God being above the Throne, his statement is valid for all of God’s Attributes such as Speech, Knowledge, Mercy, Love, Seeing, Hearing or any others mentioned in the Qur’an and Hadith.
Pioneers of theological controversies
Some of the earliest theological controversies in Islam, which from a basis for the development of kalam, revolve around the interpretations of God’s Attributes. The Muslim sources trace these controversies back to Ja’d ibn Dirham and his student, Jahm ibn safwan (d.127/745), and to Wasil ibn Ata (d.130/748). In the orthodox literature, it is Jahm ibn safwan who is seen as the actual founder of kalam, and the vague term Jahmiyyah is used to refer to all groups which use kalam. These early arguments included diverse issues such as God’s speaking to Moses and the status of Ali, Mu’tazilah, and their followers after the arbitration at the battle of Siffin. Eventually, these arguments developed into theological controversies concerning the meaning of tawhid (the oneness of God) and the nature of His Attributes, as well as the meaning of iman(faith) and the definition of a believer. Although the reasons are not perfectly clear, the terms kalam and mutakallimun came to refer to those who engaged in any form of speculation concerning the Attributes of God.
A major impetus for the use of kalam came as the influence of Greek philosophy and logic made its way into Muslim thinking. As the use of kalam gained momentum during the reign of the Abbasid Caliph al- Ma’mun (d.220/ 833), who openly supported the Mu’tazilah, a strong reaction arose amongst the traditional scholars against both the methods of kalam and many of the conclusions reached by the mutakallimun
Disagreement between Hadith scholars and Mutakallimun
In the forefront of this reaction to the interpretation of these allegorical verses, which the orthodox scholars view as a denial of God’s Attributes, were the Hadith scholars or traditionalists such as Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d.245/855) and Muhammad ibn Isma’il al- Bukhari (d. 256/870). Ibn Hanbal led the attack against the claim of the Mu’tazilah, that the Qur’an was created and not the eternal Attributes, of God. Ibn Hanbal relied on the belief that God has an eternal Attributes of Speech and that the Qur’an was a part of this. His evidence is the verses in the Qur’an which state that God spoke to Moses. His particular argument was that the words of the Qur’an which people utter or write are not eternal but that Qur’an is part of God’s eternal Attributes of Speech. This traditionalist attack against the mutakallimun was continued by Imam Ahmad student, al-Bukhari, who put together who came to be regarded as the most authentic collection of Hadith in Islam.
In his commentary on the final book of al- Bukhari’s collection, known as Kitab al- tawhid, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani (d.851/1456) tells us that one of the main purposes of the books is to refute the claims of the Mu’tazilah by collecting the authentic statements of the Prophet Concerning the Attributes of God Thus using verse of the Qur’an and authentic Hadith, the traditional scholars maintained the reality of God’s Names an Attributes without questioning how they exist in him. In this way, a complete picture of the nature of God was formulated. For example, it is confirmed that God has an Essence (Dhat) and a Self (Nafs), that He has ninety- nine beautiful Names, that He interacts with His creation through actions and words, that He known all things and wills all things into existence, and the He is beyond comprehension and is only known by the descriptions He has revealed. For the traditionalists, this was accepted based on the prohibition of asking how God’s Attributes exist. However, the mutakallimun And the Muslim philosophers continued to speculate about the nature of God’s Attributes. To varying degrees, Muslim scholars rose up to defend orthodoxy, and in the process many borrowed arguments from kalam and philosophy to uphold the reality of the Divine Attributes.
History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:105to 107
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