The Taymiyyan Effect on Theological Corrections In The Hanbali Madhab

The article is reproduced from a translative effort of a friend of mine, Br Numan Attique, who is a very thorough student of knowledge. Those interested can contact him using his FB profile. May Allah bless the brother for his hard work on the very important field of Islamic theology. The author of the original arabic article is shaikh Ahmed Gharib al hanbali hafidhullah

Did Ibn Taymiyya forever change the Hanbali theological landscape that was centralized by the Farâí school (the theological school founded by Sheikh Abu Ya’la)?

Did This expansionary influence grow to envelop central theological doctrines? Such as the issue of “sífât al-ikhtiyâriyyah bì dhät Al-Rabb” Allah being described with real-ontological choice-based actions, emanating from Him (His Essence and nothing else), which is also known as “Hulūl al Hawadith”  (intrinsic change or Divine Immutability) in the discipline of Kalām?

Was this Taymiyyan paradigm, that claimed to champion and uphold the creed of Imam Ahmad, actually accredited and upheld by the scholars of the Madhab?

These are the questions that I hope to address in this essay, while being cognizant of the subject striking an aptly tuned chord within the erudite Hanbali creedal discourse. This is why for the purposes of drawing in on the topic and not tangenting off, we will be using, as a case study, the ontological relationship of Divine Speech with Divine Will and Choice to display the desired applications. It should go without saying, that a scholar who affirms Divine Speech in the theological manner that will be outlined in this essay, cannot in any way, as a priori, affirm a principle view other than ontological actions that continue to emanate from God’s Essence. We will be proceeding with this modus operandi while acknowledging the presence of contradictory statements of some of the scholars that will be quoted in this essay; they might appear to oppose their own explicit statements that are brought forth here, in respect to Divine Speech with statements that object to the overall paradigm. This issue may be resolved by understanding; firstly, that this (possible) objection will not become an obstacle to our study, The Taymiyyan Effect seen in the vernacular and theological conceptualizations of the Hanabìlah. Secondly, any extensive research within the field (of aqidah) will lead to finding apparent contradictions and disproponderence in the writings of later Hanbali scholars, this is not a hidden fact that has not been highlighted or explained.

What is Ibn Taymiyya’s position on Divine Speech?

Ibn Taymiyya states that “God speaks with words and a voice, His speech consists of the very words and its meanings. His Speech is ontologically-real and choice-based, for He has pre-eternally Spoken, whenever He Willed.” This is from the most famous quotes of Ibn Taymiyya that preface most of his major and minor works on the topic.

I will not be starting this journey with the star disciples of Sheikh Al-Islam, who famously championed his theological stances, though they will be mentioned where necessary. This is simply due to their positions and works being well known and not requiring further elaboration. This study strives to collect statements of various scholars spanning the 5 centuries after the death of Sheikh al-Islam, May Allah have mercy on him. The scholars that will be quoted are not footnotes in the history of the Hanbali School, rather they are heavyweights in Fiqh and Usūl, as such, their contributions to the Hanbali Madhhabare significant.

The first scholar on this journey is Sheikh Abu al-Mudhafar Yusuf al-Sarmari(1), the student of Sheikh Abdul-Mùmin bin Abdul-Haqq al-Hanbali (2)  (who authored Qawaíd al-Usūl wa Mä’aqid al-Fusōl and is a student of Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyya).

Sarmari wrote an ode titled  “A Valorous Championing of Ibn Taymiyya’s Madhab”; in it he rebukes Taqi al-Din al-Subki’s vilification of Ibn Taymiyya.

He starts it off with:

“All praise is for Allah, a praise by which I seek His aid …in every matter I set out to attain

Particularly in being just towards my grudgeful brother …. who transgressed against us and made his bias clear to all”

Sarmari relates Subki’s claim leveled at Ibn Taymiyya:

“He sees temporal events (hawadith) that have no origin… in God, glorified is He from such assumptions”

He rebukes Subki in several lines, beginning from:

“If you say He was and had no knowledge …no speech and no omnipotence then as a priori you have disbelieved in Him”

Till where he says:

Or if you claimed that choice-based actions are impossible for Him … you have akined yourself to a man who takes his share of deviance

He has always been attributed with His actions … and with His Divine Speech while being far in His (physical) closeness      

Glory to He, who has always  acted on what He wills.. In all of time there has been none who may question Him

The species of His speech and actions are pre-eternal.. Not their particulars which are sequential events”(3)

The point of evidence is him affirming the pre-eternality of the species of speech and not its particulars, which is what Ibn Taymiyyah establishes.

Let us now move on to Ibn Rajab al Hanbali, where he says, “..from amongst The Attributes of Allah that we have faith in, and that the salaf read over them (in context of understanding them) in the manner they were revealed, is God’s saying, {and your Lord will come, and the angels as well, lined up in rows,} and other such verses that prove His arrival or coming on The Day of Judgement. Ahmad and Ishâq (major imams from the salaf) explicitly state that these are choice-based actions of Allah and are acted upon by His Divine Will and Choice(4). This quote clearly demonstrates Ibn Rajab upholding real-ontological choice-based actions and attributes their emanation from Allah alone; he further establishes this as the position of Imam Ahamd and Ishâq, as it is the opinion of other imams of the religion as well.

Ibn Rajab  also does this where he is explaining the hadith of Zayd; “Zayd bin Khalid Al-Jûhanì said: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) led the Fajr prayer at Al-Hudaibiyyah after a rainfall during the night. At the conclusion of prayer, he turned towards the people and said, “Do you know what your Rabb has said?…” till the end of the hadith, where he also narrates in some narrations “Do you know what your Rabb has said?” and an addition in some transmissions of “tonight”, these prove that Allah speaks with His Divine Volition.. As Imam Ahmad would say “Allah has always pre-eternally spoken, when He wills.(5). This is a clear affirmation of God’s speech and its relationship to Divine Volition and voluntary choice; he evidenced this by quoting Al-Radd Ála Al-Jahmiyyah without actually mentioning the book’s name. (6)

The usage of  the hadith of Zayd bin Khalid Al-Jûhanì is not absent from the Taymiyyan discourse, when establishing the issue of real-ontological choice-based actions emanating from His Essence. You can find the application of the text in Majmu’ Al-Fatawa(7), Sharh Al-Asfahaniyyah (8), Minhaj Al-Sunnah(9), etc. You can also find it in the writings of the standard of authentication, the Imam, Ibn Al-Qayyim, the sheikh of Ibn Rajab, such as in Mukhtasar Al-Sawaîq(10).

The above suffices in showing the taymiyyan effect on Ibn Rajab’s theological bearings. It is worth mentioning what he says when writing on Ibn Qudamah’s biography in his Dhäyl âla Tabaqat Al-Hanabilah. He comments on the debate that took place between Ibn Qudamah and the Ashâírah, where they accused him of heterodoxy by distorting his theological position. One of the many critiques made by them was that by establishing the Descent of God one would corollarily affirm the act of displacement, intiqāl.

Ibn Rajab responds to this claim with two rebuttals:

“1- we do not concede this mode or understanding of descent, for His Descent is not like that of creation. This is why a large group of the Imams say “He Descends, and does not vacate  the A’rsh.

2- This issue is axiomatically built upon affirming ontological choice-based actions emanating from God’s essence, there are two positions on the matter with our companions from the later school of Ahl Al-Hadith.”(11) The point of interest is that affirming ontological choice based acts is one of the opinions of Ahl Al-Hadith from the Hanabilah and others.It has already been made clear that this is the position of Ibn Rajab and that he ascribes it to Imam Ahmad, Ishâq, and other imams.(12)

Let us bid farewell to Ibn Rajab with a mention of Sheikh Jamal Al-Din, the great Hanabli Imam, Grandfather of Yusuf bin Abdul-Hadi (Ibn Al-Mibràd). Ibn Rajab and Jamal Al-Din did not agree on certain matters. They would go head to head on the issue of three talaqs, divorce. Ibn Rajab vehemently rebuked anyone who gave fatwawith Ibn Taymiyyah’s view on the issue, while Jamal Al-Din was a strong proponent of it. A part of this back and forth between them is recorded by Ibn Al-Mibràd in his Sîyar Al-Haāth Ila I’lm Al-Talaq Al-Thalath, he narrates from his grandfather  “I have placed upon myself a conditional recompense of a thousand dinars …  this is why I have placed a conditional recompense upon myself regarding the issue of taking a vow of divorce …, the issue of ziyárah (visiting the grave of the prophet ﷺ), and the issue of hawadith (temporal events) …  the amount I have allocated is equivalent to my own worth and status in respect to these esteemed issues and not the worth of the evidence itself, nor those who know and understand them. My influence in the matter is not enough to command everyone; the obstructions in implementing these matters, despite the clear evidence and legal entailment, causes great sorrow in my heart.” (13)

The point of relevance for us from the above is his mentioning of hawadith and swearing a legally binding recompense to any who can establish proof against what Ibn Taymiyyah opined, and that these positions are the entailments of legal text (shari’ and the sunnah).

We have now arrived at Imam Al-Lahham, the usuli, Al-Hanbali. We find him having narrated Imam Ahmed’s words “Our Imam said: Allah has pre-eternally spoken, when He wills”. Al-Allamah Al-Jìrāi’y explains this saying where he says, “The people of knowledge from Ahl Al-Sunnah and Athar are upon the creedal belief that Allah has pre-eternally spoken when He Wills, with comprehensible and audible speech, for speech is from the attributes of The Perfectly-Alive, The Omnipotent, and the opposite of speech is a deficiency, and Allah is exonerated from such.”(14)

He is explicitly stating that speech is intertwined with Divine Will, audible, and comprehendible. It is not just some comprehension of internal (thought) speech or the act of hearing pre-eternal speech. This is a concise and comprehensive representation of the view.

Imam al-Mardawi is a major stop on this journey. We find an exposition of approximately a hundred pages in his book Al-Tahbír ( the printed portion of it) on Allah’s, The Exalted, attribute of speech. He says at the end of the chapter “I have written in great detail on this matter and have narrated the words of many authoritative scholars so that it may be understood … for most people in this era say ‘whoever says that Allah speaks with a voice has done kufr’ and here we find the Imam (Ahmad), May Allah have mercy on him and be pleased with him, unequivocally stating in numerous narrations that Allah speaks with a voice, by His Omnipotence and Divine Will, when He wills, however He Wills. We see he would disavow, hereticate, and distance himself from anyone who said “He does not speak with a voice…”

The big question then is, did Mardawi relate from Ibn Taymiyyah on the issue of Divine Speech, which is intrinsically related to matters Such as “hulūl al hawadith/sífât al-ikhtiyâriyyah”and the issue of Divine Attributes being  qadim/pre-eternal (infinite sequential series of events) in genus, temporal (specific) in manifestation.

Yes, he indeed did so. We find him quoting Ibn Taymiyyah “And from them (Hanabilah) are those who understood that Allah uttered the Quran in Arabic…  He called Musa with a voice, He addressed His slaves with a voice, and that The Quran is the real speech of God, it’s very letters and their meanings. Yet, with all of this prior knowledge, they (i.e the claimants of this orientation) insist on assuming the Quran to be qadim (a sequence with no beginning), while believing at the same time, Allah speaks with His Divine Volition.

In the pursuit of consistency, they maintain the corollary of this theology. They say that the very words and sounds of the Quran are in themselves qadim, they have always been and will always be. The elaboration offered is that the letter baä (in Bismillah) did not sequentially ever exist before the letter seën, and seën was never said before meëm. With this, they insist that all the letters of the Quran have co-eternally existed, pre-eternally. They are sequential, to them, in their extramental and mental presence but not in the true essence of their (ontological) existence. Many of them still maintain it is but a single thing and other such entailments, which the majority of intellectuals know by necessity to be false… and there are those among them who say it is qadim and do not have an inkling of what qadim means.”(15).  Mardawi goes on to narrate the other opinion on the matter from Ibn Taymiyyah; which is that Allah speaks by His Divine will and power added to His speech not being created. This is the vast majority’s position from the imams of sunnah, hadith, and insight, as well as the position of the laity.

Mardawi then quotes an important passage that is found, either fully or partially, within the Hanbali creedal and Usooli works. This quote is from Ibn Taymiyyah where he says “The imams and the salaf said: verily Allah speaks with His Will and Power while it  (His speech) is qadim in genus. This means He has always spoken when He wills, for the attribute of speech is an attribute of perfection, and whoever speaks is greater than one who cannot. Whoever can speak with independent volition is greater than one without volition, it then stands to reason that whoever has eternally spoken with their own volition is greater than someone who acquired the ability, after the relegated impossibility of it, or had the potentiality but did not. What if it was impossible for this to occur, since it is impossible for The Creator to have become capable after not having been so, and for speech and action to have become possible after having been impossible?!”(16).

He recounts Ibn Taymiyyah expositing the eight positions on the attribute of speech, he then relates the ninth position from him as “to say: God has pre-eternally spoken, if and when He willed, however He willed, with speech that continues to emanate from Him, and He speaks in a voice that is heard. The genus of His speech is qadim even if His specific manifested voice is not qadim, and this is the opinion related from the imams of sunnah and hadith”, Mardawi then says “these are the positions in a summarized manner”(17).

Mardawi comments on this passage, “Among the greatest who upheld this last position is Imam Ahmad, where he said “Allah has always spoken, however He wills, without specifying a modality” and in another wording “when He willed”(18). If one were to say that Mardawi narrates Ibn Taymiyyah’s words only to establish letters and a voice in general and not the details of his theology, this flimsy objection can be responded to by saying; Mardawi relates nine opinions from Ibn Taymiyya and specifically chooses the ninth, where he then stops to assert the position to be of the salaf and at their forefront Imam Ahmad. He also mentions the fourth position being “they are letters and voices, co-eternal in their pre-eternality, and a group from the people of kalam and hadith have mentioned this opinion, Al-Ash’ari mentions and ascribes the position to the salimiyyah and their like”.

If Mardawi only wanted to generally affirm letters and a voice from Ibn Taymiyyah’s passage then why did he not opt for the fourth position which explicates the pre-eternality of the letters and voice? Which is opined by the hanabilah who followed Al-Qadhi’s method, in agreement with Ibn Kullab’s foundational theological principle of negating ontological choice-based actions from God, which Ibn Taymiyyah sees as an opinion of certain people of kalam and hadith.

Why did he then select the ninth and ascribe it to the salaf?, even though it clearly expounds on the theology of speech related to Divine Will, with an infinite series of events as the genus, and specific temporal manifestations as singular events?

It becomes clear that Mardawi wanted to affirm a lot more than a mere abstract voice and letters. He intended to fully endorse the position. This was honestly an unnecessary clarification as Mardawi speaks for himself, yet some have actually raised this objection.

Mardawi relates the farfetched interpretation offered by Al-Qadhí on the saying of Imam Ahmad, pertaining to willful speech. Al-Qadhí says “If he willed us to hear”(19), he then brings Ahmad’s quote “Allah has always ordained and commanded what he wills”. He follows up what Al-Qadhí said with a quote of Ibn Taymiyyah again, “Sheikh Taqì Al-Dìn also said ‘There is nothing in the words of Imam Ahmad or the imams to affirm that the voice in which it was spoken (i.e the Quran) is qadim’, rather they would say that Allah has always spoken when and how He willed, as Imam Ahmad, Ibn Al-Mubarak, and others have said.”(20)

In summary:

You find Mardawi establishing his opinion by citing Ibn Taymiyyah on the matter of relating Divine Will to Speech, and that whoever believes that specific letters are qadim/pre-eternal or  co-eternal and non-sequential (like baä not preceding seën and it not preceding meēm in order) is blatantly incorrect, by accounts of most people of rationale and by necessary logic. He then narrates from Ibn Taymiyyah on the qidam (infinite series of events that are not sequential/causally related) of speech as a genus and not the specific manifested voice (temporal manifestations/particulars). Mardawi then says that the greatest champion of this ninth position (which is Ibn Taymiyyah’s) is Imam Ahmad, he shows this by quoting the imam where he is in agreement with Ibn Taymiyyah’s position. Mardawi then provides a weak interpretation by Al-Qadhi, which he evidently does not believe in, since it goes against the position he narrated from Ibn Taymiyyah which is posed upon the words of Ahmad, all of which Mardawi concurs with. He then relates from Ibn Taymiyyah what he also understands to be valid criticism of Al-Qadhi’s incoherent interpretation. This holistic picture can only be seen in light of a thorough examination and total induction of what Mardawi details from Ibn Taymiyyah.

While setting sail from this monumental pillar of the madhab, it is fitting to quote Ibn Hajar where he is recounting the positions on the matter of speech “The fifth orientation: the speech of God is uncreated, and He has always spoken when He willed, Imam Ahmad advocates this opinion in Al-Radd a’la Al-Jahmiyyah. His companions have split on the matter into two camps; those who claim that speech is a requisite of His essence/self, hence, the voice and letters are all simultaneously co-existent and non-sequential, His speech may be heard by one He willed to hear. The majority (of Ahmad’s school) say He speaks whatever He wants, when He wants and that (as an example) He called onto Musa at the very instance He spoke to him and not before then.”(21)

It is clear as day from the words of Al-Hâfidh, who passed away in the mid-ninth century AH, that the predominant orientation of the people of Ahmad was the the understanding of Sheikh Al-Islam and Mardawi. This clarifies that the other opinion of Al-Qadhi and those who followed him was the minority position, irrespective of whether Ibn Hajar intended to speak of the Hanabilah in general or the later school of his time, the objective of appealing to his quote is achieved in any of these cases.

Our next stop is Ibn Al-Mibràd, Rahimahu Allah. He quotes both qadhis, the major and minor, where they interpret Imam Ahmad’s saying “He has always spoken when He willed” as the will to allow others to hear His voice.

Ibn Al-Mibràd then says “The matter, in my view, is different from how Al-Qadhi sees it. The issue has two possible foundational understandings; first: the Quran is God’s qadeem speech, this opinion cannot be substantiated from the works or sayings of Ahmad, second: the speech of Allah by which He expressed the Quran and spoke it is qadeem, and that Allah has pre-eternally spoken. We do not believe that speech is an acquired attribute that is causally linked to anything else, for He has infinitely spoken in general, without needing to specify any further reality. Ahmad saying “whenever He willed” means whenever He willed to speak something, He did, while His speech being unlike and contrary to the speech of one who has not spoken pre-eternally. If He willed, He spoke, and if He willed not to, He would not. His speech is not perpetually attached to Him (in a sequential series of causal events), rather He would willed to speak and He would, while being described to have infinitely spoken (in an infinite series of events). When He willed, He would speak a specific speech, and something else when He desired. As for the opinion of God necessarily speaking infinitely at every point in time and His speech being an infinite regress is something rejected and opposed by revelation and rationale. This is further exemplified by the saying of The Prophet (ﷺ) “When Allah speaks revelation; the denizens of the heavens hear the heavens ring, as if a chain was to be dragged across a rock”, this proves that there are times where He is not speaking and that He does not speak unless He wills, even if He is attributed speech pre-eternally, their theology (Al-Qadhi’s et al) would corollarily entail that if He ever uttered speech then He would in continuum be saying it. This is not the case, instead He speaks something which ends and He says something else(23)

He then continues to say “Sheikh Abdul’Qadir narrates that Ahmad said ‘The speech of Allah is continuous with no silence or lull(24), and it was said to Ahmad ;is it correct to say that Allah speaks and it is possible for him to remain silent? He replied saying ‘we say on the whole that Allah, The Exaltant, has Always spoken, and if we find a text that informs us of His silence then we will believe so, we believe as a principle that he He speaks how He wills, without ascribing a modality or anthropomorphism”(25), Ibn Al-Mibrad then says “what is apparent from the second (quote) is my stance, and that Ahmad does not negate the possibility of silence if a text was narrated. I firmly believe that the apparent of the text (revelation) is that He goes quiet in certain situations ”(26).

Ibn Al-Mibrad has gone about understanding  this saying under the assumption that Ahmad has two riwayahs (positions) on the matter. He does so assuming the first saying that was reported to be the words of Ahmad when they are in fact of Ibn Khuzaimah. What comes after is from Ahmad, which he used to support his own position. This goes to show that Ahmad had no problem propelling this position if there was a text to back it, and that he did not see affirming such a thing to violate the exoneration and perfection of God. Ibn Al-Mibrad then says that the apparent of the revelation proves that Allah, The Exaltant, goes silent in certain scenarios.

 A quick mention of a vital point relating to our case, drawn from Ibn Al-Mibrad, is where he mentions the attribute of descent and narrates upon Ibn Hamid that descent is displacement, Ìntiqāl, he then comments “and this is the majority position of the latter school, in general”. 

We are now arriving upon Sheikh Abdl-Bâqi, the author of Al-Aÿn wal Athàr. He sets the third chapter of his book on Divine Speech and relates Imam Ahmad’s quote. While briefly defining his belief in speech, he says; “Allah has always spoken how He wills, when He wills, without defining a modality, He ordains and legislates what He wills. This is the madhab of Imam Ahmad, his companions, the madhab of the muhadithēn, without a doubt, Muhammad Bin Ismai’l Al-Bukhari, and the majority of the scholarship. Ibn Muflih and Ibn Qadhi Al-Jabal corroborate this.”(28)

He then begins to explain every word from his concise definition of speech, until he says “‘and Allah has always spoken how He wills, when He wills, without defining a modality, He ordains and legislates what He wills.’ the imams explain this by saying Allah, glorified and transcendent is He, speaks with His Omnipotence and Divine Will, this means He has always spoken when He willed, for speech is an attribute of perfection, and whoever can speak is better (more whole and perfect) than he who cannot. Additionally, one who speaks through their own will and personal ability is more exemplary than one who has been made to possibly speak.”(29)

The sheikh begins to then report other invalid opinions on the topic, from the ones he mentions is “and from them are those who believe the very letters and voice are qadeem, they have always been and will always be, the letter baä (in Bismillah) did not sequentially ever exist before the letter seën, and seën was never said before meëm. With this, they insist that all the letters of the Quran have co-eternally existed, pre-eternally. They are sequential, to them, in their extramental and mental presence but not in the true essence of their existence. Many of them still maintain it to be but a single thing and other such entailments, which the majority of intellectuals know, by necessity, to be false.”

We have come across this exposition previously as Ibn Taymmiyyah’s words. Here Sheikh Abdul-Baqí repeats them without citing them as his, instead he holds it as his own opinion. He lays verdicts to all of these other positions as undeniably false by necessary logic, as Sheikh Al-Islam did before him.

There are some loose ends that need to be tied before we embark on the last leg of this journey. Abdl-Bâqi cites Ibn Muflih and Ibn Qadhi Al-Jabàl on his understanding of the position of the salaf and Imam Ahmad. We have already relayed Qadhi Al-Jabàl’s rebuke of Abu Ya’la’s misinterpretation of Divinely WIlling to speak as Willing to be heard. As for Ibn Muflih, he states “God has always decreed and ordained what He wills”, He also says “Allah has always spoken when He wills, Al-Qadhi says ‘when He wills for us to hear it’”(31). This wording is something constantly found in the works of the  Hanabilah, as we have touched upon earlier. There is an additional quote of Ibn Muflih that is pertinent to the topic. While ascertaining the definition of a shar’i hukum  (Divine legal ruling), he relates an objection to it “His address is pre-eternal, since it is attributed to Him, and the ruling itself is temporal”, he then says in counter to it “counter argument: this is not a necessary corollary of one who believes that He speaks when He wills. Furthermore, temporal events are relations, a ruling is related to the action of a slave and not to his attribute (of being a slave), such as speaking to something non-existent, so actions define rulings, like the cosmos define The Creator, and this is why it is called ‘ālam (encompassing of knowledge)”(32).

Ibn Muflih presents the first rebuttal in response to the claim that upholding the creed of “He speaks when He wills” necessarily entails believing in an eternal address with temporal rulings. This allows us to see how Ibn Muflih understood Imam Ahmad’s words, which is the exact same as how his sheikh, Ibn Taymiyyah, understood them. This is a clear response to those who believe Divine will (in terms of speech) relates to allowing/willing creation to hear, as is the position of Qadhi Abu Ya’la.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ba’lì, the author of Rawdh Al-Nàdì, is the last station on this journey. He writes in his book Al-Dhakhr Al-Harir Bi Sharh Mukhatsar Al-Tahrir, while expanding on the topic of the Quran and the attribute of speech, “The Salaf and the imams say ‘Verily Allah speaks with (through) His Divine Will and Omnipotence, [while the genus is qadeem],i.e. He has eternally spoken, when He willed. Speech is a “great-making property”,so someone who can speak is greater than one who cannot. Whoever has always been able to speak when he wills, via their personal will and potency, is greater than one who came to possess the property after it having been impossible for him, supposing it is possible for one to attain a property themself.”(33)

Al-Ba’lì takes a page out of Ibn Taymiyyah’s words and summarizes them here, affirming the genus to be qadeem and the particular manifestations as temporal. He does so without going into the matter of letters and sounds. His goal is to prove that Allah speaks with His Divine will and Power, which is the issue of establishing sífât al-ikhtiyâriyyah bì dhät Al-Rabb.

The above suffices in establishing the objective of this essay. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Mohammad, those who pledge allegiance to him, and his companions.


1: Ibn Nasìr al-Dīn Al-Dìmashqi gives a thorough biography of Sarmari, wherein he quotes him saying “I have heard, first hand, from a number of erudite and noble scholars, who delved deeply into the works of kalam, that they found nothing at the end of their roads but perplexing and long winded arguments that put on display the level of deviance and confusion the usuliyeen found themselves in. They feared for their salvation. They feared misguidance for themselves at the very least and acquiring doubts or negating God’s attributes at worst. These scholars told me they remained in this state until Allah, The All-Mighty, blessed them with reading and studying the theologically and textually rooted works of this great imam, Ibn Taymiyyah. It was not until they drank from his sea that his words rang true to the mind and divine text, only then did the waves of these intricate arguments of the usuliyeen wash over them to leave them with clarity and firm conviction. Whoever wishes to test the validity of what I say should read, with an eye, naked of jealousy and predisposed deviance(biases), the concise works of Ibn Taymiyyah such as Sharh al-Asbahaniÿah and it’s like, if one wishes, they can proceed to his advanced works like Talkhïs al-Talbees mìn Tàsês al-Taqdês, Muwafaqah Bayn al-Aql Wa al-Naql, and Minhâj al-Istiqamah wa al-’Itidâl. Verily, by Allah, his works give victory and expound on the truth with the clearest of proofs; this allows his words to then be weighed on the most accurate of scales.” (al-Wâfir 131-132)

2: The sheikh, the usuli, Abdul’Mu’min bin Abdul’Haqqabridged Ibn Taymiyyah’s Minhaj al-Sunnah al-Nabawiyyah. He writes in his introduction to the book “The Imam of fortune Sheikh al-Islam Taqí al-Dïn Ibn Taymiyyah excelled in refuting this accursed book and its loathful author (Ibn al-Mutàhhìr) in a book where he went to great lengths in explaining, objecting, and responding to his claims. He did so, to such a degree, that it becomes cumbersome to thoroughly go through and understand it’s chapters and content, you find yourself growing tired out of the sheer length of the work. I have written in this book what I believe to suffice on the topic from the book”. Minhaj al-Sunnah is from the most important works of Ibn Taymiyyah where he elaborates on Hulūl al Hawadithand Hawadith with no origination.

3: al-Hamiyyah al-Islamiyyah fi al-Intisar by Ibn Taymiyyah (75- 64)

4: Fath al-Bârí by Ibn Rajab (236/7)

5: Fath al-Bârí by Ibn Rajab (9/ 259)

6: The author of Taqrerat al-Hanbaliyyah sayson page 161 “many of our companions have utilized the quote of Imam Ahmad “Allah continues to eternally speak, when He wills” to refute the zanadiqah and jahmiÿah on the issue of Allah speaking with His volition (will and power) and that the Quran is not qadeem!”. He then proceeds to say “This may be responded to in three ways. The first is to question the reports authenticity, it cannot be affirmed as the words of the imam, may peace and blessings be upon him. This is due to it being narrated in the book al-radd ‘ala al-Jahmiÿah”, after which he states that the book is narrated from Khìdr bìn al-Muthannah, who Ibn Rajab has declared as being obscure and singularly narrating manakîr from Abdullah. It should be noted that the context of Ibn Rajab’s statement is in addressing an entirely separate jurisdictional issue. He is not speaking of the authenticity of al-radd ‘ala al-Jahmiÿah in this quote. We have already established that the very same Ibn Rajab, that is being cited here, upholds ontological choice-based actions that emanate from the essence of The Lord, he also believes that Allah speaks with volition, he in fact does so using the very same quote of the imam that the author of taqreerat is trying to weaken to refute this theology by citing Ibn Rajab so vigorously.

7: (6/233), this is the passage in which Ibn Taymiyyah dives into affirming choice-based actions for Allah, The Exalted. John Hoover relies on this very passage in writing his paper on Ibn Taymiyyah’s position on the matter, which has been published in the book “Ibn Taymiyyah and his times” (75-97). Hoover claims in this paper that Ibn Taymiyyah does not present an inductive case for all possible problems his theology faces. He goes on to state that Ibn Taymiyyah did not respond, at all, to the most important arguments of the negators of Hulūl al Hawadith. This claim as an absolute is false, the sheikh responds to such claims at (6/231-232). In argumento, say we accept this claim, the sheikh has still presented a holistic case across all of his works where he deals with this issue and responds to the detractors and their problematizations. The sheikh himself says within this very epistle (Majmo’ al-Fatawa, 6/221), after mentioning arguments of the negators of choice-based acts “we have expanded on most of what they say on this matter and have made the contradictions and falsehood of their claims clearer than day, beyond there is no shadow of a doubt, for one who has truly understood this topic”. It is not becoming of an academic researcher to suffice with a single, and concise, epistle of Sheikh al-Islam to formulate a complete conception such a central doctrine of his, as well as his arguments and defense against his opposition.

8: (p. 263,502)

9: (5/422)

10: (p. 502)

11: Dhaÿl Tabaqát al-Hanabilah

12: There seems to be an apparently problematic passage that sheikh Tariq ‘Iwadhullah mentions at the end of his authentication of Fath al-Bârí by Ibn Rajab, which he has taken from a manuscript collection from the University of King Saud, Riyadh, (9/4646). This passage from Fath outlines the positions of the scholarship on the issue of descent (nuzül). The text, from the sheikhs work is as follows; “al-Hafidh Ibn Rajab states when discussing the matter of descent: ‘the Ahl al-Hadith are of three groups on the matter of descent; a group that places descent in the category of choice based actions that Allah does with His Will and Power, this is what is narrated from Ibn al-Mubarak, Nu’aim bin Hammad, Ishâq bin Rahuyah, and Uthmán al-Darìmi.This is also a position held by a group of our (Hanbali) companions, in fact, many of them explicitly affirm the corollaries of this position like movement..’”, he expands on this group and then mentions the second, which is not of concern to us here. Ibn Rajab then writes of the third group “the third group: states descent (nuzül) as per revelation, but does not venture any further, while negating any specific modality from this descent and  affirming that The Lord’s Descent is not like His creations. This is the stance of the imams from the salaf, like Ahmad, and Hammad bin Zaid, who was asked about the descent, to which he responded “He, The Exalted, remains in His position while coming close to His creation, however He wills..”. The problem that presents itself here is why did al-Hafidh distinguish between the first and third category? Why place Ishâq and Ibn al-Mubarak in the first and al-Imam Ahmad in the second, even though in the earlier passage we quoted in this essay he equates the two imams, Ahmad and Ishâq, in establishing choice-based acts? What has become apparent to me, after pondering the matter, is Ibn Rajab did not intend to differentiate between them in terms of affirming choice-based acts. Rather, he may have intended to separate between al-Imam and those who establish corollaries of descent, such as affirming movement. Ibn Rajab does not see the word movement (harakah) having been authentically narrated from al-Imam, despite others from the hanabilah having authenticated it, likewise he does not affirm the word the word displacement (intìqâl). What we do see is Ibn Rajab ubiquitously praise al-Imam, Ishâq, and Ibn al-Mubarak on their methodology in treating matters of Divine Attributes, as is seen in his work Bayân Fadhl Ilm al-Salaf ‘Ala al-Khalaf (p. 49) “to walk the path is to follow the imams of Islam, the likes of Ibn al-Mubarak, Malik, al-Thawrì, al-Awza’i, al-Shafì’i, Ahmad, Ishâq, and Abu ‘Ubayd…”. With this it should become evident that this passage has no evidentiary weight on our search to affirm choice-based actions, and Allah knows best.

13: Sìyar al-Haath Ila Ilm al-Talaq al-Thalath by Ibn Abdul-Hadi (158-159), it should be noted that I corrected manursciptive errors that are found in this printed edition, Dr. Safwat ‘Adil Abdul-Hadi’s edition.

14: Sharh Mukhtasar Usül al-Fiqh by Jìra’i (1/512-513)

15: Tahbīr Sharh al-Tahrīr (3/1268)

16: Tahbīr Sharh al-Tahrīr (3/1269), the original text can be found in Majmo’ al-Fatawa, (12/342)

17: Tahbīr Sharh al-Tahrīr (3/1269), the original text is in Minhāj al-Sunnah (2/63), it is the sixth position in the order Ibn Taymiyyah has listed, according to the published edition as we have it.

18: Previous reference

19: Ibn Qadhi al-Jabal refutes Qadhi Abu Ya’la in his epistle (remains in manustiptive form) where he responds to those who refuted his sheikh, Ibn Taymiyyah, on the issue of Hawadith with no beginning (p. 14), “ al-Qadhi Abu Ya’la interprets will in his (Ahmad) words ‘when He wills’ as willing one to hear, he premises this on Divine Speech being an essential attribute that does not pertain to volition but rather is an essential trait like life and knowledge. This has been falsified in three ways: The first; is that interpreting “when He wills” as the will to allow someone to listen is a misinterpretation that departs from the apparent without valid grounds. The second way is that this would necessitate pre-eternal ability to hear since the words “always having” (làm yazàl) is an all encompassing statement. The third is that Imam Ahmad says in his refutation of the Jahmiÿah on the exegesis of the verse ‘Certainly, We have made it an Arabic Quran’ that the meaning of made here is to induce (sáÿyarnahu) as f’ala from af’ālan.” It seems Ibn Qadhi al-Jabal is referring to al-radd ‘ala al-Jahmiÿah page 219 “He did so as an action from the actions of Allah, and not intending creating.”

20: Tahbīr Sharh al-Tahrīr (3/133)

21: Tahbīr Sharh al-Tahrīr (3/1308), the source text is in Fath al-Bârí by Ibn Hajar (13/493) and Ibn al-Najjar quotes the passage in his SHarh al-Kawkab al-Munìr (2/104).

22: The author of Taqrērât al-Hanabilah (p. 163) quotes Ibn al-Mibrad on the interpretation of Qadhi Abu Ya’la of Imam Ahmad’s saying but does not proceed to quote the rest of his words where he refutes Abu Ya’la misinterpretation. 

23:  Tuhfatul Wusōl Ila ‘Ilm al-Usool ‘Ala Madhab Ahl al-Sunnah Wal Jamā’h  by Ibn al-Mibrad (106-107)

24: Ibn al-Mibrad mistakes this saying as Imam Ahmad’s when it is actually the words of  Imam Ibn Khuzaÿmah from Kitâb al-Tawhēd (1/349).

The passage is as follows “Chapter: The Attribute of God Almighty having uttered the revelation and clarification that the words of our Lord, the Mighty and Sublime, do not resemble the words of created beings, for God’s words are a continuous speech, with no lulls, gaps, or silence between them, unlike the words of human beings that have between their words periods of silences or gaps, due to lack of breath, memory, or awareness. God is exonerated and sanctified above all of that, the Blessed and Exalted.” Sheikh Abd al-Qadir transmitted a portion of this tabulation on the authority of Ibn Khuzaymah, which Ibn al-Mibrad attributed, mistakenly, to Imam Ahmad. Sheikh Abd al-Qadir said in Ghuniyat al-Talibin (1/299): “Ibn Khuzaymah, may God have mercy on him, said: The word of God Almighty is continuous, with no lulls or gaps between them.” A grave error is made by the researcher, may Allah forgive him, who authenticated the edition published by Kutub al-Ilmiyya, at (1/131): ‘The speech of God Almighty is continuous, with no silence or sound’.

25: Tuhfat al-Wusul (p. 107), and the words of Sheikh Abd al-Qadir in al-Ghunya (1/299) as in the previous footnote. It should be noted here that the authenticator of al-Ghunya’s book commented in the margin when quoting al-Jilani on the authority of Ibn Khuzaymah, and said: (This is also planted on Sheikh al-Jilani, There is no doubt about that, and Ibn Khuzaymah – may God have mercy on him – was the head of the anthropomorphism and then repented), and this authenticator did not transmit evidence that someone had planted this quote into the works of al-Jilani, nor that Imam Ibn Khuzaymah repented of the alleged anthropomorphism. What makes this allegation all the more confusing is where Sheikh Al-Jilani says before that: (Contrary to what the Ash’ari’s said that the word of God is a meaning that exists within himself, and every misguided innovator is accountable to God),  the investigator commented on this by saying: (It is clear that this is added by the anthropomorphic Hanbaliah, with visceral, to trample and throw the majority of the nation into deviance and heresy” See al-Ghunya (1/298-) 299). I  genuinely do not find anything academic to discuss here in the case of trampling on Sheikh Al-Jilani, and this is what prejudice and prior biases make odf an research. As for the claim itself, it is an old and renewed claim against which none of its creators have ever presented a proof or pseudo-evidence.

26: Tuhfat al-Wusul (p. 107)

27:Tuhfat al-Wusul (p. 73)

28: Al-Aÿn wal Athàr Fi ‘Aqaìd Ahl al-Nadhar (p. 65-66)

29:  Al-Aÿn wal Athàr Fi ‘Aqaìd Ahl al-Nadhar (p. 68)

30: Al-Aÿn wal Athàr Fi ‘Aqaìd Ahl al-Nadhar (p. 69), the author of Tahrērát al-Hanbaliyyah in his work (p. 168-169) desires to distort the meaning of the words of Sheikh Abd al-Baqi and others that “God’s speech by His will and power”  is intended, by the Hanbalis, in this is to deny God’s being unable to speak and to deny that He can be  coerced. This is an ugly distortion of the words of the scholars, and as usual, he did not discuss what would be an argument against him by his detractors. Sheikh Abdul Baqi has transmitted in his speech what indicates that believing  the very letters and sounds are pre-eternal is one of the rejected opinions, and known  to be corrupted by the necessity of reason, this alone suffices to refute his distortion of speech being attached to the will as denial of coercion. This is furthered by Sheikh Abdul Baqi having followed the example of those imams that came before him, in this sheikh is of the same orientation of  Ibn Taymiyyah, who’s words have been transmitted by  Al-Mardawi in Al-Tahbir. Through this the ugliness and the rashness of this distortion becomes clear, which is just one of many examples of what is manufactured this way.

31: Usul al-Fiqh by Ibn Muflih (1/296)

32: Usul al-Fiqh by Ibn Muflih (1/181)

33: al-Thakhr al-Harír Bi Sharh Mukhtasar al-Tahrīr (p. 268-269)      

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