Ibn Qudamah and Ibn Toymiyyah’s opinions. on prohibiting of kalam and defining orthodox

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Two scholars of later period of Islam deserve our attention for their rigorous defence of traditionalism. They are Muwaffaq al-Din ibn Qudamah (d.620/1223) and Taqi al-Din Taymiyyah (d.728/1328).each approached the topic of kalam and the Attributes of God from a common Hanbalite backround.

Nine points of prohibitions of kalam, by Ibn Qudamah
In his famous refutation of kalam, Tahrim al-nazar fi kutub ahl al-kalam (translated as the Censure of Speculative Theology),Ibn Qudamah lists nine points why kalam must be avoided. (Ibn Qudamah (1962):20-3) Firstly, he starts with the seventh verse of the third surah and states that God links the followers of allegorical interpretation (ta’wil) with those who seek trouble and go astray. Thus God has made such interpretations unlawful. Ibn Qudamah takes this to be a prohibition against kalam, for he relates kalam to ta’wil. His second point continues in this line of prohibition by stating that if allegorical interpretation were allowable, then the Prophet would have prescribed it. But it is well known that the Prophet never engaged in it, and if it were of benefit to the Muslims he would mentioned it. The prohibition continues in this third point in which ibn Qudamah states that the pious predecessors of the Muslims ummah regarded these Qur’anic verses without allegorical interpretation and without divesting God of His Attributes. This refers to the fact that, if ta’wil were of any benefit, the Companions of the Prophet would have surely spoken of it. Skipping to his fifth point, which fits in with the general prohibitions, we must mention that Ibn Qudamah states that kalam is an innovation (bid’ah) and is opposed to the Sunnah of the Prophet. Here he quotes some well- known hadith about remaining faithful to the Prophet’s Sunnah. In the remaining points, Ibn Qudamah attempts to give reasons for this prohibition based on other verses of the Qur’an and examples from the Sunnah.

Interpretation in kalam as attributing to God, out of ignorance
Ibn Qudamah’s fourth point states that kalam is tantamount to passing judgment on God in matter that the interpreter does not know the mutakallimun cannot possibly known what God intends by these verses. Even if the language of one meaning, it does not necessarily limit it to meaning alone. Thus the interpreter might choose a meaning with God does not intend and would thus be speaking of God out of ignorance, which has forbidden in surah 7:33. His sixth point is that allegorical interpretation is mere foolishness and meddlesomeness that has no practical results. According to him, a Muslim has no need to know the true meaning of God’s Attributes for no course of action or rule of law is dependent on them. God has enjoined belief in His angels, His books and His prophets, but the details of these matters are not known. Thus we simply believe in what has been revealed (2:136) and not be immoderate meddlesome (38:86). Ibn Qudamah seventh point is similar in that he says it is mere arrogance to permit oneself to speak falsely of God. He explains that if allegorical interpretation were obligatory, it would be so for every Muslim even if one does not understand the proofs for it. Thus people would have to speak out of ignorance on the topic of God’s Attributes, which we know if forbidden. By insisting on the use of kalam, the mutakallimun would have people speaking out of ignorance.

Analysing of kalam, equals to Ijtihad (prihate opinion)
His eighth point is that kalam is the use of ijtihad (private opinion) concerning the unknown matters in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and this is not allowable even if one happens to be correct. Ibn Qudamah states that Abu Bakr even refused to comment on the term abba (herbage) in surah 80:31 because he did not want to say something about the Book of God which he did not know. And finally in his ninth point, Ibn Qudamah states that the mutakallimun are guilty of attributing to God what He has not attributing to Himself and denying Him what He has attributed to Himself. This they do when they say that one arguments actually means something else. For example, they say that istawa does not mean “raised above” (the Throne) but that it means istawla (“gained mastery over”).

R. Ibn Qudamah and Ibn Toymiyyah’s method for prohibiting of kalam
In this review of Ibn Qudamah’s arguments against kalam, we see a fairly well developed summary of the traditionalist opposition to the mutakallimun his arguments can be classified as a negative arguments because it focuses on the outright prohibition against kalam without speaking directly about the Attributes of God. In case of Ibn Taymiayyah, we shall see shall how he approaches the discussion of God’s Attributes in a positive argument. He explains how they are properly understood within the boundaries of the Arabic language and within the guidelines of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

Ibn Taymiayyah starts with the basic points established by Ibn Qudamah but views them as complete and sufficient to explain the nature of God’s Attributes. That is, understands the Qur’an and Sunnah to contain all that one needs to know about God and explain His Attributes plainly and clearly without resorting and type of philosophical argument. He does not view the issue of the Attributes of God as a separate theological problem but rather includes it in his overall approach to understanding the Qur’an. Thus he deals with this issue in a treatise entitled Muqaddimat al-tafair (“Introduction to Qur’anic Explanation”) as problem of applying the proper methodology of understanding the Qur’an ( Ibn Taymiayyah (1966):329-76.) The basis of Ibn Taymiayyah’s approach to the tafsir (explanation) of any verse in the Qur’an is to refer to other verses and to authentic hadith. Using surah 16:44, in which God states that the Prophet was sent to explain clearly (tubayyin) what was revealed to people, Ibn Taymiayyah’s asserts that the Prophet explained the meanings of the Qur’an and its terms. That is order to fulfill his mission as prophet and messenger; the Prophet had to clarify all the proper and allowable meanings of the Qur’an and not had hold back any information. Thus there is no secret or hidden knowledge for an elite group such as the philosophers. In order to explain God’s Attributes, one has to turn to the Qur’an and understand its language.

Applying names of God to his Essence and attributes
According to Ibn Toymiyyah, the first thing one should know is that God makes use of synonyms to explain one thing by applying various names to it. This I how one must understand the beautiful Names of God mentioned in the Qur’an. Just as there are various names for the Prophet and for the Qur’an, there are various Names for God. Ibn Toymiyyah states that if one supplicates by use of one God’s Names this is not in opposition to a supplication through another of His Names. As proof he quotes surah 17:110 which states: “Say! Invoke God or invoke the Most –Merciful [al-Rahman], whichever you invoke, it is He who has the most beautiful names”. From this Ibn Toymiyyah concludes that each Name for God indicate one the same Essence. That is, whichever names God in the Qur’an refers to Him. Then he states that each Name indicates an Attributes included in that Name. Thus, for example, the Name All-Knowing refers to Essence and Knowledge, All Powerful refers to Essence and Power, and All- Merciful refers to Essence and Mercy. In this way Ibn Toymiyyah links all of God’s Name and their respective Attributes to one and same essence. As a counter argument he points out the inherent contradiction of those who deny that His Names are an indication of His Attributes. He quotes as an example those who say that God is not living and He is not without life. Now resorting to logic, Ibn Toymiyyah states that they are negating both terms of a contradiction. Thus, he claims, it is a matter of necessity that each name refers to God’s Essence and to one His Attributes.

To prove this point, Ibn Toymiyyah uses other examples to show that one essence can various names and attributes. The first example is based on surah 20: 123 “whoever turns away from My remembrance [man a’rad an dhikri]”. He states that remembrance (dhikr) could refer either to what God has revealed or to what a worshipper does by way of prayer and supplication. Taken in the context of the whole verse, dhikr becomes a synonym for God’s guidance and revelation. Thus the essence is all that God revealed and the names and attributes are remembrance and guidance. In other words, the Essence of what God has revealed can be referred to as God’s remembrance, His guidance, His book or His word, each term referring to one and the same Essence.

Y. God’s attributes according to Ibn Toymiyyah
Returning to the immediate issue of God’s Attributes, Ibn Toymiyyah states that whoever is questioning a particular Attributes in a Names should realize that it corresponds to a denotation of the specifically named thing, that is, Names of God such as Holy One, Peace and the Upholder of Faith, are synonyms for God. They are Names referring to God’s one Essence and to Attributes of the Essence. As for probing into meaning of the nature of a particular Attributes, Ibn Toymiyyah relies on the methods of the traditionalists. Referring to the Companions of the Prophet and the earlier generations of Muslims, he states that none of them explained an Attribute by indicting the Essence of it, even if is an Attribute unlike any other. Thus the Holy One is the Forgiving One and the Merciful One, i.e. they are one and the same thing.

In his discussion of God’s Attributes, Ibn Toymiyyah attempts to give greater depth of explanation to the traditionalist view of the nature of God. His main tool for this the Arabic language. He sees Arabic as the unique vehicle of revelation, and thus all of its nuances must be understand properly and clearly. In addition to the Arabic language itself, one must read and understand the verses of the Qur’an within their natural setting, i.e. the Qur’an must be interpreted by the Qur’an. The examples, parables and linguistic usages of the Qur’an must be analysed for their and principles, which in turn must be applied in a consistent and uniform manner, In this way, Ibn Toymiyyah does not reject the faculties of the mind (aql).but uses them in submission to revelation in order to explain revelation.


History of Islamic philosophy – seyyed Hossein Nasr- pages:113to117


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