Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari: On the Creed of Ibn Kullaab al-Qattaan al-Basri (the True Author of the Creed of the Early Ash'aris) on Allaah Being Above His Creation, Above His Throne
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Thursday, September, 10 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Ibn Kullaab Ibn Kullaab

Who is Ibn Kullaab?

He is Abu Muhammad Abdullah bin Sa'eed bin Muhammad bin Kullaab al-Qattan al-Basri. He was one of the Mutakallimoon (speculative theologians) during the time of al-Ma'moon, and he had debates and works against the Mu'tazilah, and the "Kullaabiyyah" are ascribed to him. He has a number of works that are documented such as "Kitaab as-Sifaat", "Khalq Af'aal" and "ar-Radd 'ala al-Mu'tazilah". These books are lost, however remnants of them can be found in other works such as al-Maqaalaat of Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari, and also in the works of Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn al-Qayyim, and he is also quoted by the early Ash'ari Scholars such as Ibn Fawrak (d. 406H), and some of them, such as "Kitaab us-Sifaat" are mentioned by Ibn an-Nadim (d. 385H) in his "Fihrist" (Catalogue), who referred to him as a "From amongst the Hashawiyyah", and Ibn Hajr al-Asqalani explained this statement in "Lisaan ul-Meezaan" to mean that he (Ibn Kullaab) was upon the way of the Salaf in leaving the ta'weelaat (figurative explanations) of the verses and hadeeths related to the Attributes (which Ibn Hajar wrongly identifies as tafweed, rather the way of the Salaf is ithbaat of the ma'naa and consigning knowledge of the reality to Allaah, and negating any likeness). Ibn Kullaab died around or after 240H.

Ibn Kullaab and the Ash'ariyyah

Ibn Kullab is the true and real author of what became known as the creed of the earlier Ash'aris, and Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari adopted the creed of Ibn Kullab as Ibn Kullaab had much in the way of refutation of the Mu'tazilah - whom al-Ash'ari had abandoned. Ibn Kullaab tended towards the Hadeeth and the Sunnah and had good positions, however he tried to tread a middle ground between the Mu'tazilah and the people of the Sunnah and this explains elements of his creed such as adopting the sifaat dhaatiyyah (attributes of the essence) for Allaah but negating the Sifaat Fi'liyyah (attributes of action), and inventing the idea of "Kalaam Nafsee" (the eternal speech in the self of Allaah) in order to flee from the saying that the speech of Allaah is created - amongst many other views, and this is a subject on its own so it can be left for another article inshaa'Allaah.

The point here is that al-Ash'ari adopted the creed of Ibn Kullaab and likewise al-Ash'ari took the Sunnah viewpoints from Zakariyyaa as-Saajee (d. 307H), and Ibn Kullaab and as-Saajee were both from Basrah. The Kullaabi influence is what led to what became broadly recognized as the Ash'ari creed which is essentially a blend of Mu'tazili foundational principles (forming the trunk) but with the branches trying to reach out towards the Sunnah but not quite getting there. The influences of Zakariyyaa as-Saajee led al-Ash'ari to become close to the truth on many issues - which he adopted at the end of his life.

Ibn Kullaab was held in high esteem by the early Ash'arites, and we will see inshaa'Allaah in a later article speech from Ibn Fawrak demonstrating the lofty status of Ibn Kullaab as it relates to what Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari acquired from him of affairs of the religion - and for this reason, Ibn Kullaab was rightly labelled as "the Imaam of the Mutakallimoon that Affirm the Attributes", which means the Ash'ariyyah. In reality, the early Ash'arite creed was essentially, the creed of Ibn Kullaab and his followers.

In this article we want to document the creed of Ibn Kullaab in general, inclusive of his view regarding Allaah being above the Throne, from al-Ash'ari's book "Maqaalaat al-Islaamiyyeen".

One should note that al-Ash'ari wrote a series of books towards the end of his life which progressively got better and more closer to the Sunnah has he became more acquainted with the creed of Ahl us-Sunnah. However, in the process of writing some of these books, his knowledge of the Sunnah was not detailed, only general, whilst his knowledge of Kalaam was detailed, and thus, in these books, which includes "Maqaalaat ul-Islaamiyyeen", there are things that are found that are not in accordance with the creed of Ahl us-Sunnah, and he represents certain views as being those of Ahl us-Sunnah which are in fact not, and which he himself in his later book "al-Ibaanah" no longer affirmed or spoke with. So this is something to be aware of regarding the books of al-Ash'ari, the best of which is his last authorship, "al-Ibaanah 'an Usool id-Diyaanah".

Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari on the Creed of Ibn Kullaab

Here is the cover to the book, this is the first edition of a 1950 Egyptian (Cairo) print.:

And here is one section dealing with the creed of Ibn Kullaab and his associates (1/325):

And the translation of which is:

A Mention of the Saying of the Companions of Abdullaah bin Sa'eed [Ibn Kullaab] al-Qattaan

As for the companions of Abdullaah bin Sa'eed al-Qattaan, then they speak with most of what we have mentioned from Ahl us-Sunnah, and they affirm that the Creator, the Exalted, has never ceased to be aalim (knowning), qaadir (able), samee' (hearing), baseer (seeing), azeez (all-powerful, might), adheem (mighty), jaleel (lofty, majestic), kabeer (great), kareem (generous, kind), mureed (willing), mutakallim (speaking), jawaad (generous).

And they affirm ilm (knowledge), qudrah (power), hayaat (life), sam' (hearing), basr (seeing), adhmah (might, grandeur), jalaal (majesty), kibriyaa (pride), iraadah (will), Kalaam (speech) as attributes for Allaah, the Sublime.

And they say: It is not said about the Names of Allaah - the Sublime - and His Attributes that they are other than Him. And it is not said, "His knowledge is other than Him" as is said by the Jahmiyyah. And it is not said, "His knowledge is Him" as is said by some of the Mu'tazilah. And likewise is their saying for all of their attributes, they do not say: knowledge (ilm) is power (qudrah), and they do not say: Other than power (qudrah).

And they claim that the Attributes are established with Allaah, and that Allaah has never ceased to be pleased with one whom He knows will die as a believer, and [never ceased being] angry upon the one whom He knows will die as a disbeliever, and similarly is his saying, regarding al-walaayah (allegiance), and al-adaawah (enmity, disownment), and al-mahabbah (love).

And he [Ibn Kullaab) used to claim that the Qur'aan is the speech of Allaah, not created, and his saying on al-Qadar is as we have quoted from Ahl us-Sunnah wal-Hadeeth, and likewise his saying on the [outcome] of the people of major sin, and likewise his saying on the ru'yah (seeing) of Allaah - the Sublime - with the vision (of the eyes).

And he [Ibn Kullaab] used to claim that the Creator never ceased to exist, whilst there was no place and time before the creation, and that He is (now) what He has never ceased to be upon, and that He is ascended above His Throne, as He said, and that He is above everything.

A number points here from what al-Ash'ari has quoted regarding Ibn Kullaab and his companions:

Regarding the Names

Ibn Kullaab affirms the Names (in opposition to the Jahmites) and he affirms that the Names comprise attributes (in opposition to the Mu'tazilah who affirmed the Names on the surface only but not in reality).

Regarding the Attributes

And Ibn Kullaab and his followers avoided the methods used by the Jahmites and Mu'tazilah to deny attributes from Allaah by saying that the Attributes are Him (i.e. synonymous with the Essence) or other than Him (meaning something separate from Him, created, from within the creation, meaning His Attributes are merely a reference to created entities and not actually His attributes) - and these were methods used to deny that Allaah is described with Attributes.

Regarding Allaah's Pleasure and Anger

This is where we need to be a bit sharp. Ibn Kullaab and his followers affirmed the sifaat dhaatiyyah (attributes of the Essence) but they did not affirm the Sifaat Fi'liyyah (actions tied to Allaah's will) because in their view it necessitate Allaah was subject to occurrences (hawaadith) and change (taghayyur) - and the Ash'ari creed is an extension of the creed of Ibn Kullaab and thus, they hold the same. And all of this is due to what they made to be the foundation of their religion, the rational proof for the demonstration of the createdness of the universe, through the presence of incidental attributes (a'raad) and occurrences (haawaadith) in bodies (ajsaam). Thus, they had to deny the Sifaat Fi'liyyah, otherwise it would falsify their proof, or looked at another way, their proof would necessitate that Allaah is created because He is described with Sifaat Fi'liyyah.

Thus, they invented explanations to make the texts fit with their intellectual proof. And from those affairs was that they said that Allaah's Pleasure with a believer about whom He knows will die as a believer, existed eternally with His Self. In other words, Allaah does not become pleased after not having been pleased, and Allaah does not become angry after not having been angry - meaning Allaah cannot be subject to occurrences, meaning something existing after not having existed - because this to them is Hudooth (something newly arising, not existing before). So their explanation is that Allaah's Pleasure and anger and so on existed with Him eternally.

So when we read what has been said by al-Ash'ari regarding Ibn Kullaab and his views, we need to be careful as to what is actually being said, because it may seem as if Ibn Kullaab is affirming these attributes, whereas in reality, he is interpreting these attributes in a manner that renders them non-existent.

And this view is a repugnant vile view, because it means that a person who remained most of his life as a believer, and then died as a disbeliever, then during the time that he was a believer, Allaah never ceased being angry with him from eternity, even though he worshipped Allaah alone whilst he was a believer. And vice versa, when a person remained a disbeliever most of his life, and then became a believer, Allaah never ceased to be pleased with him eternally, even whilst he was upon disbelief, worshiping idols or worshiping the cross. So we need to be careful and understand what we are reading here.

When al-Ash'ari quotes the saying of the Kullaabiyyah:

And they claim that the Attributes are established with Allaah, and that Allaah has never ceased to be pleased with one whom He knows will die as a believer, and [never ceased being] angry upon the one whom He knows will die as a disbeliever, and similarly is his saying, regarding al-walaayah (allegiance), and al-adaawah (enmity, disownment), and al-mahabbah (love).

Then we need to pay attention to this matter and not be deceived. And this saying is vile corrupt saying, we should realize that on account of trying to maintain the sanctity of their rational proof for demonstrating the createdness of the universe and therefore a creator - [and it is a false, corrupt proof which actually demonstrates the non-existence of a creator] - the Mutakallimoon (the speculative Theologians, the Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah, Kullaabiyyah, Ash'ariyyah, Maturidiyyah) were forced to devise certain views in many areas of creed to avoid falsifying their proof - and this is one particular example - and in trying to do so they propounded some vile, evil, corrupt sayings.

Regarding the Qur'aan

What we have said above regarding the Sifaat Fi'liyyah can be said also about the issue of Allaah's speech and the Qur'aan. Because al-Ash'ari did not know the Sunnah in detail he was not aware of the reality of the sayings that opposed it, and thus he thought that Ibn Kullaab says the Qur'aan is not created, like the saying of Ahl us-Sunnah. Ibn Kullaab was the one who spoke with the "Kalaam Nafsee", and this means that the speech of Allaah resides eternally with the Self Allaah, inclusive of the Qur'aan and this is what is meant by the Ash'arites when they say the Qur'aan is not created. However, as for the Qur'aan that Jibreel recited to Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) then that is created, and it is merely a created expression of the meaning that resides with the Self of Allaah (the Kalaam nafsee).

Regarding al-uluww and al-Istiwaa

At the end al-Ash'ari mentions the creed of Ibn Kullaab regarding Allaah above His creation, ascended above the Throne, without Him being confined by space. And this view was acquired by al-Ash'ari and the earlier Ash'aris adopted this view which is that Allaah is above the Throne, with His Essence, without that necessitating that He is a jism (body) or confined by space.


As we have mentioned, Ibn Kullaab represents a school of thought trying to tread a middle ground between the Mu'tazilah and Ahl us-Sunnah, and thus we see he affirmed the attributes in opposition to the Jahmiyyah and Mu'tazilah and he is in reality the leading Imaam of those Mutakallimoon who affirmed the Attributes (the most well-known of whom are the Ash'arites) since his madhhab was adopted by al-Ash'ari and then those following al-Ash'ari thereafter. And within his creed there are grey areas where he attempts to flee from the saying of Mu'tazilah but never really being able to separate himself from it in essence, and this is also something that the Ash'arites fell into by natural extension.