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We need to provide the context and setting first.
So recall that the bid'ah of ta'teel (divestment of Allah's Names, attributes and actions) entered the Ummah when al-Ja'd bin Dirham brought the necessities of the proof used by the Sabean star and idol worshipping pagan disbelievers, the proof of huduth al-ajsaam (argument for origination of bodies through the presence of attributes and actions in them). As a result of this he denied Allaah spoke to Moses and took Ibraaheem as a friend and denied Allaahs sifaat dhaatiyyah, sifat khabariyyah and Sifat Fi'liyyah. And this was taken from him by Jahm and so the Jahmiyyah denied every description for Allaah, Names, attributes and actions, the whole lot, and they said "We are the true Monotheists." And the Mu'tazilah took this bid'ah from the Jahmiyyah and they were essentially on the same view except that fearing the scorn of the people, they pretended to affirm the Names of Allaah outwardly, whilst denying them in reality, and so they said, "We are the true Monotheists." So Tawhid to them tended towards the abstract notions of theism that were found in the language and writings of the Greek and Sabean Philosophers. Thus, the language of Tawhid changed from affirming for Allaah what He and His Messenger affirmed for Him into the language of negation (negative theology), which is "He is not a jism, nor a jawhar, nor an 'arad, nor in jihah, nor in makan, nor above, nor below, nor within the universe, nor outside the universe" and so on.
Then came Ibn Kullab who tried to debate the Mu'tazilah using Kalaam and so they grilled his brain to a certain degree [remember the Imaams of the Salaf said that whoever entered into Kalaam never came out unscathed, and he came out losing his intellect], and so here is the story:
The Mu'tazilah argued with him regarding Allaah's speech and the Qur'an, saying the Qur'an, and likewise speech in general, has a beginning and an end, and it has succession, sequence, composition and so on, and so whatever is like this is not permitted to be from the essence of Allaah. So with this argument, they confused him, because he was debating with them upon the platform of ilm al-Kalaam and he was not able to answer them with the Book and the Sunnah. So he found a way to answer it by innovating the doctrine of Kalaam nafsee, so he said that Allaah's speech (Kalaam) is only a single, indivisible meaning present with Allaah, and hence your objections (i.e. of the Mu'tazilah) are invalid. Allaah's Kalaam therefore does not have divisibility, sequence, composition, rather is a single eternal meaning. And as for the Qur'an we have, that is only a quotation (hikaayah) of that singular, eternal speech which is the Kalaam nafsee. He had to agree with them that the Qur'an we have is makhluq, Muhdath (created, originated) because it consists of letters, words - so he agreed with the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah against Ahl al-Sunnah in this matter, and this was the very matter that was raging for over a hundred years previously between the Jahmites and Ahl al-Sunnah.
Now the point we are making here is related to the issue of Allaah's attribute of kalaam, so remember that to counterargue against the Mu'tazilah the Ash'arites adopted the doctrine of Ibn Kullaab, that of Kalaam Nafsee.
You should also recall that to the Mu'tazilah, to affirm any other meaning or sense in addition to Allaah's essence, and to ascribe it to the essence, necessitates shirk, because it means divisibility, composition, parts, in Allaah's essence, and multiple eternal entities. And so they argued against the Ash'arites from this angle. However, in sustaining this argument the Mu'tazilah had to deal with those texts that clearly affirm attributes for Allaah. So they had two ways. The first was to say the attribute is synonymous with Allaah's essence, so that knowledge (ilm), wish (iraadah), power (qudrah) and so on are all just synonymous with Allaah's essence. The second was to say that the attribute is what is external to Allah's essence but can be said to belong to Him, just like we say, "Allah's Messenger", "Allah's house", "Allaah's wealth", "Allaah's she-camel" and so on, and this was the view they took regarding the attribute of Kalaam (speech) as a result of which they said the Qur'aan is Allaah's speech, but His speech is what He creates in others besides Him and it can be said to be His speech but it is created. So you get the general idea now, and this now sets the scene for the battle.
Now this is where it gets exciting and interesting, its the showdown, [its the Thrilla in Manila], so when the Mu'tazilah saw this doctrine of the Ash'arites regarding Allaah's Kalaam, the doctrine of Kalaam Nafsee, which they innovated to counter the argument of the Mu'tazilah and that the Ash'arites were saying that Kalaam is a single indivisible eternal meaning, it is not two meanings, or five or ten or a thousand a million, but just one single indivisible eternal meaning, and it only becomes multiple meanings when it takes form as a created expression external to the self of Allaah, but as it exists with Allaah it is one singular indivisible meaning - when they saw this, the Mu'tazilah tutted, put on those gloves and put them on tight, and when the bell rang they raced over and laced the Ash'arites good and proper, and so here it is, and we will play it for you - in all its glory - in slow motion:
Now listen up, what you call kalam (a meaning in the self) is nothing but Allaah's knowledge (ilm) [as it relates to whatever is a khabar (information) in the Qur'an] and wish (iraadah) [as it relates to whatever is a request (talab) in the Qur'an, meaning a command or prohibition] [see here where al-Buti makes it clear] and we consider these attributes synonymous with the essence, they are nothing but Allaah's essence itself, and since you tried to flee from affirming multiplicity for Allaah by claiming Kalaam (as you see it, the Kalaam nafsee) is just a singular indivisible meaning in the essence [which in reality is just ilm and iraadah to us, which we consider synonymous with the essence], then why don't you just say that all the seven attributes you affirm are likewise just a single meaning, synonymous with the essence in order to avoid affirming multiplicity in Allaah's essence. Because if you have done it for Allaah's Kalaam (speech), in the sense you want to avoid affirming multiple instances or categorizations of speech in Allaah's essence which have different meanings and claim to hold that it is unified speech (ittihaad al-kalaam), then do it likewise for multiple attributes in His essence that have different meanings (like hearing, seeing, knowledge, wish, power, and life) and just say that they are either all synonymous with the essence (and not independent attributes of the essence) or they are all just one unified attribute and that this attribute is synonymous with Allaah's essence and not additional to the essence.
So with that the Mu'tazilah socked them good and proper, and down they fell, flat on their noses. Meanwhile al-Aamidee (d. 631H) is looking on, and he can't take it anymore, that's it, he's had enough and he is throwing in the towel! So here it is, here is his white towel, and it is found in his book Abkaar al-Afkaar (tahqiq, Ahmad Muhammad al-Mahdi, Dar al-Kutub wal-Wathaa'iq al-Qawmiyyah, 2004, 2nd edition, 1/400):
And the truth is that this dubiosity that they brought against the saying of "the unison of speech" (ittihaad ul-kalaam, meaning "Kalaam" is a singular indivisible meaning), and returning (i.e. explaining) the variation [pertaining to this "Kalaam" in its "expression"] to those things (ta'alluqaat, muta'allaqaat) [that are external to the self of Allaah], then it is difficult, and perhaps it's solution might be with someone besides me.
To help you grasp this, in the two pages earlier he mentions this argument of the Mu'tazilah against them which is:
That the Kalaam (speech of Allaah), you admit it is of types, from it is that which is pure information (khabar), and from it is that which is command (amr) and from it is that which is prohibition (nahi), so straight away, Kalaam cannot be a singular meaning, by its very essence, it is of types. The Ash'arites said: No, this divisibility is not in the essence of [Allah's speech, Kalaam nafsee], rather it only applies in relation to those things it is connected and related to (ta'alluqaat, muta'allaqaat) that are external to the self of Allaah, and it only takes on these categorizations of being information, command and prohibition in the presence of those being addressed by it (the creation). So the Mu'tazilah said: Why do you not say the same with respect to the attributes of Allaah you affirm, iraadah (wish), qudrah (power), knowledge (ilm), hearing (samee'), seeing (baseer) and so on, that these are all singular meaning, a singular attribute, synonymous with the essence, and they only take on their individual meanings in the presence of those to whom they relate to, the creation, (as abstract ta'alluqaat, muta'allaqaat). So al-Aamidee mentions the response of the Ash'arites and he knows it is a weak response, it does not really have any substance and he knows it is not sustainable. This is why on the last paragraph on page 399, he says "wa feehi nadhar" (there is a problem with it), then he explains the flaw in it, and then we have the speech we quoted above where he is throwing the towel in, and saying that he can't answer this objection.
Now since that time, the Ash'arites have been on high dosages of paracetamol, codeine and steroids, and they've not recovered since. Their polemics in order to hide this flaw are just window dressings and a mere mirage, and they do not have any answer of substance to this rationality, which indeed is the truth and shows the flaw in their contradictory position between fleeing from divisibility in Allaah's essence by negating divisibility in meaning in the attribute of Kalaam, but then affirming multiplicity in meaning through their affirmation of multiple attributes in Allaah's essence. And this is why it used to be said by Yahyaa bin Ammaar:
The Jahmite Mu'tazilees were masculine (males) and the Jahmite Ash'aris were feminine (females).
There could not have been a truer and more accurate characterization.
It is also for this reason that the As'harites at the beginning of the affair they discourage from "delving too deep" into aqidah, because they know from the outset a person of sound mind, and clear intelligence is not going to buy their nonsense. They have to first shallow fry his brain (through that condemned ilm al-kalaam), and once that has been completed, then the discouragement for "delving too deep into aqidah" is lifted, and in comes the deep-fry with the Jawharahs, the Umm al-Baraaheens, the Sharh al-Maqaasids and the likes, and now that brain goes from medium rare to charcoal - and its what the Salaf said about this Kalaam, that whoever entered into it, lost his aql.
It is important to re-iterate again that the Mu'tazilah are more astray than the Ash'arites however, they were more rational and coherent in their falsehood than the Ash'arites were in what they presumed to be the truth. And the Ash'arites did combat the Mu'tazilah in the field of al-Qadar and the sifaat, but they did so using weak and flawed tools (ilm al-Kalaam), and therefore did not do a proper and thorough job. And when you look into the writings and refutations of the people of Hadith, Sunnah and Aathar, you see such powerful refutations based upon a thorough and deep understanding of the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah, and powerful types of deduction of evidence that the opposers had no choice but to either reject the Qur'an outright or submit to it wholeheartedly. As for ilm al-Kalaam then its just a bunch of people bickering and fighting all night around a camp-fire until either the fire dies or dawn breaks and they've achieved nothing except being cold, worn and tired. And they will start bickering again the next night, because each one is trying to outwit the other with his reason (aql) as the foundation.
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