Ibn Asaakir's al-Tabyin, al-Ash'ari's al-Ibaanah and the Intellectual Frauds of Nuh Keller
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Tuesday, November, 09 2010 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Al-Tabyin Al-Ibanah Nuh Keller

The Great Scandal of Keller in Falsifying History

Keller was asked the following question:

The Salafis claim that Abul Hasan Ash'ari formulated the Ash'ari tenets of Islamic faith ('aqida) while he was between the Mu'tazila and Ahl al-Sunna, and that he later refuted his formulations and joined Ahl al-Sunna in the Hanbali madhhab before he died. Is there any truth in this? They say his last book, al-Ibana, contains the refutations. If not, how can I prove it to these people?

And in his response he stated:

In answer to your question, the claims that Imam Abul Hasan Ash'ari (d. 324/936) repudiated his own positions are not new, but have been circulated by these Hanbalis for a long time, a fact that compelled the hadith master (hafiz) Ibn 'Asakir to carefully investigate this question, and the sanads (chains of narrators) for the attribution of these repudiations to Ash'ari. The results of his research furnished probably the best intellectual biography of Ash'ari ever done, a book that rebuts these claims thoroughly and uniquivocally, called Tabyin kadhib al-muftari fi ma nusiba ila al-Imam al-Ash'ari [On showing the untruth of the liars, concerning what has been ascribed to Imam Ash'ari], that proves that there are liars in all the sanads that impute this to Imam Ash'ari. The book is in print, and whoever would like the details should read it.

Analazying Keller's Falsification of History

This one paragraph from Keller is absolutely amazing! It proves that the average Ash'ari continues to be hoodwinked, defrauded and taken for a ride by the likes of these people, whilst none the wiser. The only thing that keeps them stuck to the likes of Keller is either their own blindness or bigotry or partisanship, certainly not historical facts or religious truths. We can break this scandal down with the following.

Firstly: The book by Ibn Asakir (d. 571H) called Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari was written in response to Abu Ali al-Ahwazi (d.446H) who wrote a book Mathaalib al-Ash'ari , compiling criticisms and disparagements upon Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (d. 324H). And al-Ahwazi was from the sect known as the Saalimiyyah, and they followed Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Salim (d. 297H) who had taken on the principles of Ibn Kullab. From the views of the Salimiyyah was that the Qur'an in both meaning and wording, letter and Voice is eternally present with Allaah, and this was in contrast to the view of the Kullaabiyyah Ash'ariyyah that Allah's kalam is only a meaning in the self, and the Qur'an is from that singular indivisible meaning, and as for the Arabic Qur'an it is created. The Salimiyyah and Ash'ariyyah, both following Ibn Kullaab, denied Allaah speaks as and when He wills, in order to avoid ascribing what they call hawaadith (events, occurrences) to Allaah. However, amongst the Salimiyyah were those who had the belief of Hulool and they said that just as Allaah is above His Throne, He is also in every place, and they also had tasawwuf witih them. So Abu Ali al-Ahwazi was from the Saalimiyyah, and he wrote an attack upon al-Ash'ari, motivated in that by his creed and orientation, and he used the fabrications of the Mu'tazilah against al-Ash'ari in order to revile al-Ash'ari.

It is for this reason that Ibn Asakir wrote the actual book, to defend the honour and integrity of al-Ash'ari, and to establish and affirm that the contents of al-Ibanah comprise the actual belief of al-Ash'ari and that al-Ash'ari was in agreement with Imaam Ahmad!!

Secondly: In Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari, Ibn Asaakir quotes the opening passage of al-Ibaanah between pages 152-163 (you can download this section right here in PDF) in which al-Ash'ari affirms Allaah's uluww and His sifat khabariyyah (face, hands, eyes) and al-istiwaa and al-nuzul, al-majee and so on. Then after quoting it Ibn Asaakir says (on page. 163, see the PDF file attached):

فتأملوا رحمكم الله هذا الاعتقاد ما أوضحه وأبينه واعترفوا بفضل هذا الإمام العالم الذي شرحه وبينه وانظروا سهولة لفظه فما أفصحه وأحسنه وكونوا مما قال الله فيهم الذين يستمعون القول فيتبعون أحسنه وتبينوا فضل أبي الحسن وأعرفوا أنصافه واسمعوا وصفه لأحمد بالفضل واعترافه لتعلموا أنهما كانا في الاعتقاد متفقين وفي أصول الدين ومذهب السنة غير مفترقين

So reflect, may Allāh have mercy upon you, this belief (iʿtiqād), how clear and apparent it is, and acknowledge the virtue of this Imām and Scholar who explained it and clarified it, and look at the ease in his wording, how eloquent and excellent it is, and be amongst those about whom Allāh said, "Those who listen to the speech and follow the best part of it" (39:18), and clarify the virtue of Abū al-Ḥasan, and know his justice, and listen to his description of [Imām] Aḥmad with virtue, and his acknowledgement, that you may come to know that they were both in agreement upon belief and in the foundations of the religion and the madhhab of the Sunnah undivided

Ibn Asakir actually affirms the book al-Ibaanah for al-Ash'ari and he also invalidates the evidences brought by al-Ahwazi to cast doubt upon the motives for writing al-Ibanah. With the above two points established, we can now make some conclusions:

ONE: What Keller has written is both laughable and scandalous at the same time, and you wonder how do these clowns get away with such blatant lies. The answer is simple. These clowns know that the average person is not going to dig out those books, start reading them, and see what is really going on, and this is because they blindly trust figures like Keller, and also because a Western audience is largely devoid of knowledge of Arabic to be scrutinizing these clowns by checking the original sources in the first place.

TWO: Keller, following al-Kawthari, claims that Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari wrote the book al-Ibaanaah after leaving the Mu'tazilah and that it was from his very first books and he wrote it in order to entice the Hanbalis of Bagdhad! Amazingly, this is the very thing that Ibn Asakir is refuting in his book al-Tabyin, which is the issue of al-Ash'ari's motives in writing al-Ibanah. Al-Ahwazi used a report that al-Ash'ari came to Baghdad, to Imam al-Barbahari (d. 329H) and told him that he had refuted the Mu'tazilah and other factions, and that al-Barbahari said that we do not know what you are saying, all we know is the saying of Imam Ahmad, and that al-Ash'ari then wrote al-Ibanah for those Hanbalis, but they did not accept it from him.

Now check out this deception and fraud here. Ibn Asakir himself falsifies this report, he says (on p. 391):

وحكاية الأهوازي عن البربهاري مما يقع في صحته التماري وأدل دليل على بطلانه قوله إنه لم يظهر ببغداد إلى أن خرج منها وهو بعد إذ صار إليها لم يفارقها ولا رحل عنها فإن بها كانت منيته وفيها قبره وتربته ولا يدعي إنه لم يظهر بها إلا مثل هذا المختزي وقد تقدم ذكر جلوسه في حلقة أبي اسحق المرزوي وإنه كان يحضرها في أيام الجمع بالجانب الغربي في جامع المنصور

And the citation of al-Ahwāzī from al-Barbahārī is from that in whose authenticity there is contention and the greatest evidence for its futility is his saying that "he [al-Ashʿarī] did not become prominent in Bagdhād and thereafter left it". Whereas when he went to Bagdhād, he did notleave it and nor did he travel to anywhere from it, for in [Baghdād] was his desire (to remain) and therein is his grave and his burial ground, and no one claims that he did not become prominent therein except the likes of this disgraced one. And mentioned has already preceded of his sitting in the circle of Abū Isḥāq al-Marwazī [d. 340H] in the days of gathering at the western side in the grand mosque of al-Manṣūr.

Further, it is established that al-Ash'ari never left for Baghdad except at the end of his life, and that once he entered it he never left it and died there, and this is what Ibn Asaakir says above. This is just one of many points that establish al-Ibaanah was written at the end of his life.

But in relation to this report, isn't it amazing that Keller (following al-Kawthari) can commit such a brazen fraud against his audience by using what is a false report according to Ibn Asaakir, to try and maintain the fallacy that al-Ash'ari wrote the book al-Ibaanah soon after he left the Mu'tazilah in order to entice the Hanbalis. Hold on a minute! Isn't that the very thing for which Ibn Asakir is actually refuting al-Ahwazi for and one of the major reasons behind his writing this refutation (Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari) in the first place which is casting doubt about the actual motive and intent of al-Ash'ari in writing al-Ibanah!

THREE: If the book al-Ibaanah was one of his very first books after leaving the Mu'tazilah (and not his last book, which is the truth), and we see in there that al-Ash'ari affirms al-uluww and al-istiwaa and powerfully rebuts the Mu'tazilah in making ta'wil of al-istiwaa, just as he powerfully rebuts their ta'wils of hand (yad) to favour and power (ni'mah, qudrah), just as he refutes them for denying Allah's attribute of face, and eyes as attributes of the essence - so given this and given the saying of Keller where he denies al-Ash'ari repudiated any of his beliefs:

In answer to your question, the claims that Imam Abul Hasan Ash'ari (d. 324/936) repudiated his own positions are not new...

So if al-Ash'ari wrote al-Ibaanah as his first book, it means he did not repudiate any of his beliefs that he outlined within it, then these beliefs in this book stand without doubt. But we see in fact the later Ash'arites abandon what is in this book for they rejected Allah's uluww and they rejected the sifat khabariyyah and they made ta'wil of al-istiwaa, following the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah. So you see that trying to play out these frauds and deceptions causes even more problems and awkward implications for liars like Nuh Keller and al-Kawthari. It is for this reason, in order to sustain this fraud, they have resorted to claims such as the Hanbalis have tampered with al-Ibanah (see this series of articles)!! Yet, we find that what al-Ash'ari affirms in al-Ibaanah is alo documented and preserved in the writings of Ibn Kullab, al-Qalanisi, al-Muhasibi (who are al-Ash'aris forerunners), Ibn Mahid al-Tabari, al-Baqillani, al-Bayhaqi as it relates to al-uluww, al-istiwaa and the sifat khabariyyah (face, hand, eye) and the Later Ash'aris like al-Juwaynee and al-Aamidee affirm and acknowledge that this is what the Early Ash'aris were upon (see this article)

While there is much more that can be said on this issue, if you reflect upon just the facts presented here and the quotations from al-Tabyin of Ibn Asakir, you will see that Nuh Keller only adds further disgrace to his other disgraces (such as this despicable one).