Understanding the Splinter Groups of the Kullaabiyyah: The Ash'ariyyah and the Saalimiyyah
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Monday, January, 03 2011 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Saalimiyyah Abu Ali Al-Ahwazi Ibn Kullaab Kullaabiyyah

In this article we want to demonstrate that both the Ash'ariyyah and the Saalimiyyah (between whom there was enmity) are splinter groups of the Kullaabiyyah.

The Doctrine of Kalam Nafsee

Recall that the Jahmiyyah were operating upon ilm al-Kalaam that came from the Hellenized Jews, Christians and Sabeans (see this series), as a result of which they denied Allaah's attributes and actions, from which is speech. This ilm al-Kalaam was taken up by the Mu'tazilah after them. The Jahmiyyah said Allaah does not speak at all, that He has no attribute of speech. The Mu'tazilah said Allaah does have the attribute of speech, but it is what He creates in others, which means the attributes established in others can be said to be attributes of Allaah. Hence, the Qur'an is Allaah's speech, but created (i.e. what He creates in others).

It is here that Ibn Kullaab came along and under the influence of poetry from a Trinitarian Christian, claimed Kalaam is only the meaning, not the wording, and that the wording is only a daleel (pointer, indicator) to the actual speech, which is only the meaning in the self. He innovated this doctrine for two reasons. Firstly, the saying of the Mu'tazilah is plainly false, you can't ascribe attributes which exist in one entity to a totally different entity. That is falsehood. So you can't claim Allaah has "speech" but what you really mean is the speech He creates in others. Secondly, to avoid affirming "hawaadith" (events) for Allaah, as this was the basis upon which the Mu'tazilah and Jahmiyyah were arguing against the affirmation of speech (Kalaam) for Allaah, in that it necessitates hawaadith (events) in Allah's essence (which according to the proof of huduth al-ajsaam would render Him a body). So he engineered a position whereby he could affirm speech, but also counter the argument of the Mu'tazilah and Jahmiyyah. Hence, he removed Allaah's speech from being connected to His will and power. Al-Shahrastani (the sixth-century Ash'ari) wrote in his book Nihaayat al-Iqdaam that al-Ash'ari broke the ijmaa' by innovating this view, however, it was not al-Ash'ari who innovated this view, it was Ibn Kullaab. Read his statement in this article.

The Ash'ariyyah

As we said, this is the creed that al-Ash'ari took from the Kullaabis, however, al-Ash'ari (and those who followed him in this) had a number of differences with Ibn Kullaab's treatment in this matter. They are:

  • The eternality of the command and prohibition. A question arose which is whether Allaah's speech (Kalaam) can be said to be command (amr) and prohibition (nahee) eternally or is it only command and prohibition in the presence of those who are addressed with these requests, meaning the Jinn and men. Al-Ash'ari said the command and prohibition is eternal, and Ibn Kullaab said the Kalaam of Allaah only takes on the descriptions of being command and prohibition in the presence of those addressed by it.

  • A single type of multiple types? This eternal meaning, is it just one attribute, or five attributes? The first is the saying of al-Ash'ari (one, uncategorizable meaning). Ibn Kullaab held it was five, meaning amr (command), nahi (prohibition), khabar (report), nidaa (calling out), istikhbaar (enquiring). Incidentally, see how the Mu'tazilah pulverized the Ash'arites on this particular matter in this article.

  • Quotation or expression? Ibn Kullaab said the Qur'an is a hikaayah (quotation) of the meaning and al-Ash'ari said it is an ibaarah (expression) of the meaning.

What we see here are subsidiary differences between them after they found a way to reconcile between affirmation of Kalaam for Allaah as an attribute of the essence (differing with the Mu'tazilah) through "kalaam nafsee" and between avoiding affirmation of what they deem as "hawaadith" for Allaah, which means denying Allaah speaking according to His will and power.

The Saalimiyyah

They are the followers of Abu al-Hasan Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Saalim al-Basree (d. 356H). The Saalimiyyah are a splinter group of the Kullaabiyyah, they are a Kalaam group, just like the Ash'aris and they were also operating upon the usool of the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah pertaining to negation of hawaadith (events) within the wider context of the proof of huduth al-ajsaam. However, they knew that the claim that speech (Kalaam) is only a meaning is false, and that this is in opposition to the language of the Arabs, let alone the language of all nations, and they knew the ijmaa' cannot be opposed that speech is meaning and wording. However, like their brethren in 'ilm al-kalaam, the Ash'arites, and their parent-group, the Kullaabiyyah, they affirmed the Jahmee principle "Whatever is not devoid of hawaadith is itself haadith (originated)" so they also removed the element of choice from Allaah's speech. However, they tried to tread a middle ground between their parent-group the Kullaabiyyah and the Sunnah, just like the Kullaabiyyah tried to tread a middle ground between the Mu'tazilah and the Sunnah. So they said the meaning, wording, letter and Voice is all eternal. This then brought enmity and much fighting between the Saalimiyyah and the Ash'ariyyah, the two splinter groups of the Kullaabiyyah.

Abu Ali al-Ahwazi (d. 446H)

Abu Ali al-Ahwazi was from this sect of the Saalimiyyah and he wrote a book containing criticisms of al-As'hari, however he most related the fabrications of the Mu'tazilah who were tarnishing al-Ash'ari because he had wrote in refutation of them. One of his claims was that al-Ash'ari did not write the book al-Ibaanah actually believing in its contents, but only in order to please the Hanbalis of Baghdad. And the reason for this claim is because there is in al-Ibaanah what contradicts the Kullaabi principle. So al-Ahwazi tried to ascribe deception and dissimulation to al-Ash'ari and claimed he did not sincerely write al-Ibaanah, actually believing in it.

It was in refutation of al-Ahwazi that Ibn Asaakir (d. 571H) wrote Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftaree and he refuted al-Ahwazi's claims and affirmed that al-Ash'ari wrote al-Ibaanah wholeheartedly believing in its contents and that al-Ash'ari is united with Imaam Ahmad on a single creed.

Closing Notes

The Saalimiyyah were a rival Kullaabi splinter group who opposed the Ash'arites and enmity and fighting broke out between them. They were both operating upon the Kullaabi principle of negating Allaah's chosen actions, but the Ash'arites claimed that the Kalaam that is with Allaah as an eternal attribute is just the meaning, single, indivisible, and the Saalimiyyah said that the Kalaam that is with Allaah as an eternal attribute is letter and Voice. Both of them are united that Allaah cannot speak as and when He wills, as it would entail "hawaadith" for Allaah upon the Kalaam theology that has its origins in the Hellenized Jews, Christians and Sabeans, which all the Kalaam groups were operating upon (see this series).