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Ibn Kullaab (d. 240H), Real Author of the Ash'ari Creed: Allaah is Above the Throne, With His Essence, Without That Necessitating Jismiyyah And His Refutation of Jahm bin Safwan's Rejection of the Question 'Where is Allaah?'
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Topics: Ibn Kullaab Al-Uluww Ibn Kullaab Al-Uluww

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Who is Ibn Kullaab?

He is Abu Muhammad Abdullah bin Sa'eed bin Muhammad bin Kullaab al-Qattan al-Basri. He was one of the Mutakallimoon (speculative theologians) during the time of al-Ma'moon, and he had debates and works against the Mu'tazilah, and the "Kullaabiyyah" are ascribed to him. He has a number of works that are documented such as "Kitaab as-Sifaat", "Khalq Af'aal" and "ar-Radd 'ala al-Mu'tazilah". These books are lost, however remnants of them can be found in other works such as al-Maqaalaat of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, and also in the works of Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim, and he is also quoted by the early Ash'ari Scholars such as Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H), and some of them, such as "Kitaab us-Sifaat" are mentioned by Ibn an-Nadim (d. 385H) in his "Fihrist" (Catalogue), who referred to him as a "From amongst the Hashawiyyah", and Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani explained this statement in "Lisaan ul-Meezaan" to mean that he (Ibn Kullaab) was upon the way of the Salaf in leaving the ta'weelaat (figurative explanations) of the verses and hadeeths related to the Attributes (which Ibn Hajar wrongly identifies as tafweed, rather the way of the Salaf is ithbaat of the ma'naa and consigning knowledge of the reality to Allaah, and negating any likeness). Ibn Kullaab died around or after 240H.

Ibn Kullaab and the Ash'ariyyah

Ibn Kullab is the true and real author of what became known as the creed of the earlier Ash'aris, and Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari adopted the creed of Ibn Kullab as Ibn Kullaab had much in the way of refutation of the Mu'tazilah - whom al-Ash'ari had abandoned. Ibn Kullaab tended towards the Hadeeth and the Sunnah and had good positions, however he tried to tread a middle ground between the Mu'tazilah and the people of the Sunnah and this explains elements of his creed such as adopting the sifaat dhaatiyyah (attributes of the essence) for Allaah but negating the Sifaat Fi'liyyah (attributes of action), and inventing the idea of "Kalaam Nafsee" (the eternal speech in the self of Allaah) in order to flee from the saying that the speech of Allaah is created - amongst many other views, and this is a subject on its own so it can be left for another article inshaa'Allaah.

The point here is that al-Ash'ari adopted the creed of Ibn Kullaab and likewise al-Ash'ari took the Sunnah viewpoints from Zakariyyaa as-Saajee (d. 307H), and Ibn Kullaab and as-Saajee were both from Basrah. The Kullaabi influence is what led to what became broadly recognized as the Ash'ari creed which is essentially a blend of Mu'tazili foundational principles (forming the trunk) but with the branches trying to reach out towards the Sunnah but not quite getting there. The influences of Zakariyyaa as-Saajee led al-Ash'ari to become close to the truth on many issues - which he adopted at the end of his life.

Thus, it is necessary to document, for the record, the views of Ibn Kullaab on the matter of al-uluww (Allaah's aboveness).

Abu Mansur al-Bagdhadi al-Ash'ari (d. 429H) on Ibn Kullaab and al-uluww and al-istiwaa

In a previous article we document from Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi, a prominent Ash'arite theologian, the view of Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi that Allaah is above the Throne with His Essence, and Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi also mentioned it as the saying of Ibn Kullaab, referencing it to his book "Kitaab as-Sifaat" which is no longer extant, and remnants of which are quoted through those who quote from the likes of Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H). You can refer to that article for the scan of Abu Mansur al-Baghdadi's book and the full arabic text. Here we will just reproduce the translation of the relevant text which appears on p. 113 of "Usool ud-Deen":

And amongst them are those who say that His istiwaa (ascending) over the Throne is His being above the Throne without contact (mumaassah), and this is the saying of al-Qalanisi, and Abdullah bin Sa'eed [Ibn Kullaab], he mentioned it in "Kitaab us-Sifaat".

Ibn al-Qayyim, Through Ibn Fawrak, on Ibn Kullaab and al-uluww and al-istiwaa and his Refutation of Jahm bin Safwan and Followers

And Ibn al-Qayyim quotes, through Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H), the saying of Ibn Kullaab in his book "as-Sifaat", in refutation of the Jahmites, the following (in as-Sawaa'iq al-Mursalah, tahqeeq. Alee bin Muhammad ad-Dakheelullaah, p. 1238-1241):

... as Abu Muhammad Abdullah bin Sa'eed bin Kullaab, the Imaam of al-Ash'ari and his associates, said in "Kitaab us-Sifaat", from that which Ibn Fawrak quoted from him. So he (Ibn Kullaab) said in the aforementioned book in the chapter, "The saying regarding al-Istiwaa", and this is its (exact) wording:

And the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), and He was the chosen one of Allaah from amongst His creation, and His best (one) from amongst His creation, and the most-knowledgeable of them all regarding Him, and he permitted the question with "Where (al-ayn", and (permitted) speaking with it, and he deemed correct the saying of the one who said, "He is above the heaven", and testified to faith for that (person) alongside (that answer).

But Jahm bin Safwan and his associates do not permit the question with "Where (al-ayn)" - they claimed - and they avoid speaking with it. Yet if it had been an error, the Messenger (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) had more right to reject it, and it was befitting for him to say to her, "Do not say that, for there are two types (of answer): That He is confined in one place as opposed to another (or) that you should rather say: He is in every place, because the truth is other than what you have said."

Never! The Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) permitted the (question) alongside his knowledge of what it implies, and (his knowledge) that it is the most correct of sayings, and (that it) is the affair which is obligatory to have faith in for the one who speaks it, and on account of it did he testify to (her) faith when she said it, and how can the truth be in anything other than that? And the Book [of Allaah] speaks with it and testifies to it.

Here it is clear that it was Jahm bin Safwan and his followers who had a problem with the question "Where" as it relates to Allaah. And this is because the Jahmiyyah had two strains of thought - those who claimed he was everywhere - the Hulooli Jahmites - and those who spoke about Allaah with what amounted to non-existence, such as "He is not within the universe nor outside of it" - and they are the Mu'attil Jahmites.

And both these views arise from the answer that Jahm bin Safwan devised against the Indian Materialist Philosophers who confused him about Allaah's existence (see this article), and the essence of that was that Allaah is everywhere in everything, but cannot be perceived with the senses and nor be described with anything that created things are described with. And thus we see the emergence of these ideas, that Allaah is everywhere and not in one place exclusive to another, and that Allaah is not within the universe, nor outside of it, and He is not in any particular direction as this would limit Him to one place exclusive to all others and so on - and it is from this Kalaam - that the Mu'tazilah and the Ash'ariyyah and the Maturidiyyah took their saying of prohibiting the question of "Where is Allaah" and their saying that affirming Allaah is above the heaven, above the Throne, necessitate that He is a body and confined in place and so on.

Ibn al-Qayyim continues in the quote from Ibn Kullaab, through Ibn Fawrak:

... And there was nothing to testify to the correctness of the madhhab of the Jamaa'ah in this topic specifically, except what we have already mentioned of these affairs, there would have been therein what is sufficient.[And] how can that not be when Allaah has implanted in the fitrah (innate disposition) and the realizations of men from that [of Allaah being above the creation] for which there is nothing more clear nor more certain than it.

No, rather, you do not ask anyone amongst the people about it, whether Arab or non-Arab, nor a believer or disbeliever, such that you say to him, "Where is your lord?", except that he will say, "Above the heaven", if he is able to express, or he may signal with his hand and would point with his limb if he is not able to verbally express, and he would not point to other than that of earth or ground or mountain. And we have not seen anyone supplicating except whilst raising his hands to the sky, and we have not found anyone except the Jahmiyyah asking (questions) about his Lord, so he says, "In every place", as they say. And they claim they are the best of creation, all of them, and so the intellects became perplexed and the narrations were dropped and Jahm sought to guide [himself], alongside fifty men with him, and we seek refuge with Allaah from [being] forsaken, and [from] the bewildering tribulations.

Here, Ibn Kullab mentions the proof through the innate disposition of all the creation which is their instinctive knowledge that Allah is above the creation. And the Later Ash'aris - who took the path of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah - acknowledge that if they were to invite the people to their Ash'arite creed through their own terminology, such as

Allaah is not a jism (body), nor a jawhar (substance), nor an 'arad (incidental attribute), nor is He in makaan (place), or in jihah (direction), or occupying space (mutahayyiz) and He is not within the universe, nor outside of it ...

Then the majority would be led to Atheism, and for this reason, the likes of al-Ghazali (d. 505H) and ar-Razi (d. 606H) amongst other later Ash'arites advocate what really amounts to deception - which is that the common folk should be called to Allaah with what they innately believe already which is Allaah being above the heaven, above the Throne, and that they should be introduced to belief in Allaah through this route and the other words (meaning their own words and phrases) should be gently introduced to them - and this is so that they are not led to Atheism from the outset. And this is not being made up, its in their own words, textually and explicitly - go and read:

And the proof through the innate disposition is mentioned by many of the Scholars, including the early Ash'ari Scholars such as al-Ashari himself (d. 324H) (see here) and Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari (d. 380H) (see here) and so on.

Then Ibn al-Qayyim mentions another argument of Ibn Kullaab against the Jahmites, which is that he made it binding upon the Jahmites (on account of their view regarding where is Allaah) that they and the Materialist Atheists are in the same position. So he says, continuing the quote of Ibn Kullaab, through Ibn Fawrak:

It is said to the Jahmites: Are not the materialist atheists (dahriyyah, those believing nothing exists except time) disbelievers, heretics in their saying:

Time (ad-dahr) is waahid (one, a single entity), except that it does not split off from the universe and the universe does not split off from it, and it does not part from the universe, nor does the universe part from it, and it does not touch the universe (through contact), nor does the universe touch it, and it does not enter anything from the universe, nor does the universe enter into it, because it (time) is waahid (one, a single entity) and the universe is not separate from it.

So if they say: Yes.

It is said to them: You have [spoken] the truth. So why then have you affirmed a deity with the (same) meaning as [that of] time, yet [at the same time] you have declared to be disbelievers those who spoke with the likes of your speech (meaning the materialist atheists).

Do you find between yourselves and that (the saying of the Materialist Atheists regarding time) any difference greater than (the mere fact) that you have called it something other than what they have called it? And you have already said: He (Allaah) is not separate from the universe, and the universe is not separate from Him, and He is not within the universe, and the universe is not within Him, and He is not touching the universe and the universe does not touch Him?

And why have you returned upon those who oppose you (on the issue of where is Allaah) with takfeer and you claim that they disbelieved because they said, "Waahid (one), unique with a where ('ayn)?" [meaning that Allaah exists, He is one, unique and His existence is signified through the question "Where?"]

So why are you not more worthy of disbelief and making resemblance (between Allaah and the creation) than them (the materialist atheists), since you have claimed the likes of the claim of the heretical atheists (regarding time), and you said the likes of the saying of the strayers, and you departed from the Tawheed of the Lord of the Worlds?

Here Ibn Kullaab is explaining that the saying of the Jahmites is parallel to the saying of the Dahriyyah (materialist atheists who believe only time exists) - in that the Jahmiyyah describe the Lord with what amounts to non-existence, in the similar manner that the materialist atheists claim the only thing that exists is time (and therefore, there is no Creator).

And that if the Jahmites make takfeer of the Dahriyyah on account of their belief necessitating non-existence of Allaah, then why do not the Jahmites charge themselves with kufr (disbelief), instead of charging those who believe Allaah exists and who permit the question of "Where?" regarding Him, a question that signifies His existence, outside of and separate to the creation (i.e. a real existence, in reality). So why, if they charge the materialist atheists with kufr, do they not charge themselves with kufr by believing the Lord has an existence which is only one in the mind and not in reality.

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