Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi (Contemporary of Abu Hasan al-Ash'ari): Allaah is Above His Throne With His Essence (But Without Contact)
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Sunday, August, 30 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Abu Al-Abbas Al-Qalanisi Al-Qalanisi Al-Uluww Al-Arsh Abu Al-Abbas Al-Qalanisi Al-Qalanisi Al-Uluww Al-Arsh

We have mentioned in numerous articles previously that the early Ash'ari Scholars were different to the later Ash'ari Scholars who took the path of the Jahmites and the Muta'zilites. The earlier Ash'aris were influenced by Abdullah bin Saeed Ibn Kullaab (d. ~240H) and what became known as the Ash'arite creed (in the earlier period) was in fact the creed of Ibn Kullaab who tried to tread a middle path between the Mu'tazilah and the people of Hadeeth, to whom he had an inclination.

And we also covered that the Early Ash'aris, such as al-Ash'ari himself, al-Baqillani, Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari all held Allaah to be above the Throne, with His Essence, and in addition to this affirmation, they would use additional phrases due to their kalaamist influence, such as "without contact" (meaning with the Throne) and "without confinement", "without being a body" and so on.

And the background to this is that when the Jahmites denied that Allaah was above the Throne (because "aboveness" is an incidental attribute that would render Him a body,and thus created) - and this is in light of al-Jahm bin Safwan's debates with the Indian Philosophers - then all the Muslims knew its falsehood, and their Imaams stood to revile and abuse the Jahmites who initiated this saying. However factions amongst those who affirmed Allaah to be above the Throne, and who fell into Tajseem and tashbeeh, such as the Karraamiyyah countered this innovation of the Jahmites in a manner opposed to the sound way adopted by the people of the Sunnah.

So they (the Karraamiyyah Mujassimah) said, "Allah is above the Throne and He is a jism (body)", although they qualified, "...but not like the created bodies". So they countered innovation, with another innovation. And the earlier Ash'arites who were upon the creed of Ibn Kullaab (d. ~240H) and they held that Allaah is above the Throne with His Essence and alongside that, they used additional phrases due to their kalaamist influence, along the lines of what has already preceded.

So in attempting to refute the Karraamiyyah, they countered innovation with another innovation. However, the issue is that the earlier Ash'aris affirmed Allaah to be above the Throne, despite their kalaamist additions on this matter. Therefore we have three groups of people:

  • The people of the Sunnah and the Imaams of the religion who reviled the saying of the Jahmites with the Book and the Sunnah and affirmed that Allaah is above the Throne, with His Essence, as opposed to being in every place according to the Jahmites.
  • Factions such as the Karraamiyyah who held Allaah to be above the Throne with His Essence and a jism (body), but unlike the created bodies - saying this to counter the rejection of the Jahmites.
  • The early Ash'arite Mutakallimoon who held Allaah to be above the Throne with His Essence, and saying, "He is not a jism (body)" and "without contact" and "without confinement" and the likes.

Now this poses a great problem for the later (Jahmite) Ash'aris, such as al-Ghazali (d. 505H), and ar-Razi (d. 606) and all Ash'aris today are upon the Jahmite creed propounded by the Later Ash'aris, in opposition to what the earlier Ash'aris were upon. So either the earliest, leading and founding Imaams of the Ash'arites were closer to the truth and upon guidance and the later Jahmite Ash'aris were upon falsehood, or the later Jahmite Ash'aris were upon truth and the earlier founding Ash'aris were upon falsehood.

That's a judgment that today's average misinformed Ash'ari has to make - and that's if he is even aware of such things, being in the clouds of deception that their leaders keep them in for fear that the true realities of the Ash'arite creed be revealed.

In this article we want to document the view of another prominent figure who was a contemporary of Abu Hasan al-Ash'ari and who is highly regarded by the Ash'ari Scholars and considered to be amongst their ranks.

Who is Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi?

Ibn Asakir in his "Tabyeen Kadhib al-Muftari" writes (p. 97):

He is Abu al-Abbas Ahmad bin Abdur-Rahman bin Khaall al-Qalanisi ar-Razi, from the contemporaries of Abul-Hasan - may Allaah have mercy upon him - but not from his students as has been said by al-Ahwazi. And he is from the group of the firmly-grounded senior scholars, and his creed is in agreement with his creed (i.e. that of Abul-Hasan al-Ash'aris) in affirmation (al-ithbaat).

And Abu Mansur Abdul-Qahir al-Bagdhadi (d. 429H) who is a prominent Imaam of the Ash'aris and whose works constitute foundational texts (especially "Usool ud-Deen"), refers to Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi as an "Imaam of Ahl us-Sunnah".

Here is the front cover to his book, "Usool ud-Deen" (Istanbul, 1928):

And on pages 309-310 of this book he lists the students of Abdullah bin Sa'eed Ibn Kullab (d. ~240H) - who is the actual and true author of what later became known as the Ash'arite creed - and he lists the prominent Ash'arite Theologians until his time. Here is the text:

In this text al-Bagdhadi mentions that from the students of Abdullah bin Saeed Ibn Kullaab are "al-Junayd, Shaykh of the Sufiyyah". Then after them says, came "Abul-Hasan bin Ali bin Isma'il al-Ash'ari". And then he mentions from the students of al-Ash'ari, "Abul-Hasan al-Bahili" and "Abu Abdullah bin Mujahid".

And then he mentions the leading Imaams of (the Ash'arites) of the time, "Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn at-Teeb [al-Baqillani], the Qadi of the Qadis of Iraq".

He also mentions Abu Bakr Ibn Fawrak, Abu Ishaaq Ibrahim Ibn Muhammad al-Mihrani, Abu al-Hasan Ibn Mahdi at-Tabari and al-Hussain bin Muhammad al-Bazzaazi, and Abu 'Alee ath-Thaqafi.

And then he says:

... And in his time, the Imaam of Ahl us-Sunnah was Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi whose works in al-kalaam (theological speculation) numbered more than 150 books...

So now that we understand who Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi is, through the words of the Ash'arites themselves, we can now proceed to his viewpoint on the issue of al-istiwaa and al-uluww.

Abu al-Abbas al-Qalanisi on Allaah Being Above the Throne With His Essence

Al-Qalanisi's position is quoted by Abdul-Qahir al-Baghdadi in the same book, "Usool ud-Deen". Here are pages 112-113:

In these pages al-Baghdadi brings the heading, "The Fifteenth Issue Regarding This Foundation: On the Meaning al-istiwaa Annexed to Him [Allaah]". Then he mentions the various differences on the issue and he describes the opinions of the factions:

Then he mentions about the differences on the issue amongst themselves (i.e. referring to himself and the Ash'arite theologians):

  • Amongst them are those who say the verse of al-istiwaa is amongst the ambiguous texts (mutashaabihaat) whose interpretation is only known by Allaah. And al-Baghdadi claims that this is the view of Imaam Malik and the jurists of Madinah - and this is an erroneous claim regarding Imaam Malik, for Malik affirmed that "al-Istiwaa ma'qool (Istiwaa is understood)" and in other narrations, "al-Istiwaa ghayr majhool (Istiwaa is not unknown)" and he denied the kaifiyyah by saying "wal kayf majhool (and how is unknown)". And the kaifiyyah of something can only be negated if its meaning is known - as for when something does not have any meaning to begin with, then there is no purpose in negating a kaifiyyah for it. So this is an error in ascribing this to Imaam Maalik.

  • Then al-Baghdadi continues and mentions the view of those that al-istiwaa is an act that Allaah creates within the Throne itself which is referred to as al-istiwaa and it is not actually an action of Allaah - and says that this is the view of Abul-Hasan al-Ash'ari.

Then he mentions the last view, saying:

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".

Then after this al-Bagdhadi details what he believes to be the correct view which is that the Throne (al-Arsh) is a metaphor for Allaah's dominion (mulk) and this is a false and baseless ta'weel in light of the Book and the Sunnah and it is rejected by the likes of al-Bayhaqi - who is considered an Ash'ari - (see here) and it opposes what is held by Ahl us-Sunnah unanimously that the Throne is a true and real created entity.

Notes and Comments on the Above

To follow inshaa'Allaah.