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Ibn Hajr, an-Nawawi and al-Qurtubi Refute the Kalam Theology of the Ash'arite Theologians And Their Claim Regarding the First Obligation
Posted by Abu.Iyaad, in Articles
Topics: Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani An-Nawawi Al-Qurtubi An-nadhr Al-istidlaal Ibn Hajr Al-Asqalani An-Nawawi Al-Qurtubi An-nadhr Al-istidlaal

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We have covered in some previous articles the position of the later Ash'arite Theologians regarding an-nadhar (observation) and al-istidlaal (inference), and their making it binding upon each person, to know how to intellectually prove the foundations of faith, that being (to them) the created nature of the universe and what follows on from that regarding, the existence of a creator, the possibility of prophethood and the possibility of resurrection. And what they mean by evidence is their rational evidence which is called "hudooth ul-ajsaam" and which is based upon substance (jawhar) and accident ('arad) and the indivisible particle (al-Jawhar al-Fard).

And regarding this, we see that Ibn Hajr, an-Nawawi and al-Qurtubi - who had Ash'arite influences in their ta'weel of the Attributes - all spoke against this foundation (an-nadhar wal-istidlaal based upon Kalaam theology and its rational proofs).

It is important to understand that many prominent scholars were influenced in making ta'weel of the Attributes due to the preponderance of the Ash'arite creed in their time. However, they were not "Ash'arites" and nor "Mutakallimoon" (those who indulged in Kalaam) in the traditional sense, and nor were they upon the underlying usool (foundations) that the Ash'arite madhhab is built upon. So it is important to take note of this, and not be deceived by the arguments we hear that attempt to validate the Ash'arite usool (foundations) and creed merely because a body of scholars fell into ta'weel, to greater or lesser degrees, of the Attributes, being in agreement with the Ash'arites in that. So we may say about them that they were "Ash'ari" in certain areas of creed, but as for them arguing for and promulgating the underlying usool, then they certainly were not upon that.

The Extreme Views Held by Some of the Ash'arite Theologians

First lets see what Imaam al-Juwaynee says in "ash-Shaamil Fee Usool id-Deen" (p. 115):

Observation (an-nadhar) and inference (al-istidlaal) that lead to acquaintance of Allaah, the Sublime, are two obligations...

And further on (p. 122):

... And if time passed by - from the time that religious obligations applied to him - in which he had the capacity for an-nadhar (observation and deduction of proof, rationally) leading to knowledge, and he did not inspect, despite there being no preventive barriers and he passed away after the time in which this was possible for him - then he is put alongside the disbelievers...

Al-Juwaynee here says regarding the one who did not make observation and inference, despite having the capacity to do so before he died, is considered a disbeliever. And this is one of the more extreme views amongst them, whereas the others simply emphasize that knowledge can only be perfected through an-nadhar and al-istidlaal and that the first obligation is to observe, or have the intent to observe (in order infer from it the fundamentals of faith, such as a Creator and so on) and they differ regarding the one who abandons it, with al-Juwaynee's view being the most extreme of the views.

Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani's Refutation of the Ash'aris on This Issue

Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani documented this view of the Ash'aris and refuted it with just a single verse and hadeeth. You can see that here. And Abu Ja'far as-Simnaanee, a prominent Ash'ari, turned away from the above view of the Ash'arites as Ibn Hajr explains, and he held on to this verse and hadeeth as proof to show that the ma'rifah (innate knowledge) of Allaah is in the fitrah already, and thus a person with intact sound fitrah does not need the rational demonstration that the Mu'tazilites and Ash'arites concocted. Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani quotes (Fath ul-Baree 13/97) the saying of as-Samnaanee that this position of the Ash'arites was: of the issues of the Mu'tazilah that remained in the (Ash'ari) madhhab...

In other words, this issue was taken by the Ash'arites directly from the Mu'tazilah. And as we will continue to show inshaa'Allaah, the Ash'arites have taken most of their usool and their influence from the Mu'tazilah. Any disagreements are merely in subsidiary issues after their agreement the foundational principles.

Imaam an-Nawawee's Refutation of the Asha'rite Theologians on This Issue

Commenting on the hadeeth, "I have been ordered to fight the people until they testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah (alone) and until they believe in me and what I have brought..." (Saheeh Muslim), an-Nawawee says in his Sharh of Saheeh Muslim (1/210-211):

In (the hadeeth) is a clear evidence for the madhhab of the muhaqqiqeen (those verifying what is correct) and the majority amongst the Salaf and the Khalaf that when a person believes in the religion of Islaam with a firm and resolute belief devoid of any doubt, that this is sufficient for him, and he is a believer amongst the Muhawahhideen. [And that] it is not obligatory upon him to learn the evidences of the Theologians and knowing Allaah, the Exalted, through them. [This being] in opposition to the one who made it obligatory and made it a condition of a person being from the the people of the qiblah [and who] claimed that he does not have the ruling [applicable to] the Muslims except through this. And this madhhab is the saying of many of the Mu'tazilah and some of our associates, the Theologians (Mutakallimoon), and it is a manifest error...

Imaam al-Qurtubi Repudiating the Ash'arite Theological Foundation

Ibn Hajr makes mention of the positions of Ibn Fawrak and his followers, and also that of Abu Bakr al-Baqillani and Abu Ishaq al-Isfaraa'eenee (all Ash'aris - being students of Abul-Hasan al-Bahili, the student of Abu Hasan al-Ash'ari) on this subject.

In this quote al-Qurtubi is repudiating the likes of the mutakallimeen (Theologians) and their sophistry and much of what they delved into. In the course of this, al-Qurtubi says:

And sufficient in deterring (anyone) from delving into the path of the mutakallimeen (the philosophical theologians) is what has been established from the preceding Imaams, such as Umar bin Abdul-Azeez, Maalik bin Anas and ash-Shaafi'ee. And some of the leading scholars have categorically stated that the Companions never delved into al-jawhar and al-'arad [substance and accident, (taken from the Greek Philosophers by the Mu'tazilah and then the Ash'ariyyah)] and whatever is related to that in the investigative studies of the mutakallimeen (Theologians). And anyone who desires a path besides theirs, then suffice it as misguidance for him...

And he (al-Qurtubi) continues:

And al-kalaam (theological rhetoric) led to many of its people to doubt, and some of them to deviation (al-ilhaad) and some of them to be neglectful in the tasks of worship. The reason for that was their turning away from the texts of the legislator (i.e. Allaah) and their seeking (knowledge of) the realities of affairs from other than them. There is not in the strength of the intellect, what allows it to grasp what is in the texts of the legislator of the ruling that He has kept in the knowledge with Himself. And many of their leading scholars turned back from their path, until it has come from Imaam ul-Haramayn (al-Juwaynee) that he said, "I have traversed the greatest ocean and in seeking the truth and fleeing from taqleed I plunged myself into everything that the people of knowledge forbade. And now, I have returned (recanted) and believed the madhhab of the Salaf", this is his speech or it's meaning. And also from him (al-Juwaynee) that he said, "O our companions, do not get occupied with al-kalaam, for if you knew it led me to what it led me, you would not become occupied with it"...

So we see from these quotes that Ibn Hajr quotes al-Qurtubi in the context of the opinions of the Ash'arite Theologians on the subject of the first obligation upon the servants - being influenced in that by the Mu'tazilah - and al-Qurtubi repudiates those delving into the al-jawhar (substance) and al-'arad (accident) - which is all of the Ash'arite Theologians, for all of their books contain this, and he makes mention of one of the earlier leading figureheads, Imaam ul-Haramayn al-Juwaynee, repenting from that misguided path at the end of his life.

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