The Debates of al-Jahm bin Safwan (Summary Execution 128H) With the Indian Materialist Philosophers And the Origins of Ta'teel Within the Ummah|
Posted by Abu.Iyaad on Wednesday, August, 12 2009 and filed under Articles
Key topics: Jahm Bin Safwan Ta'teel Sumaniyyah Jahm Bin Safwan Ta'teel Sumaniyyah
All praise is due to Allah and may the prayers and salutations be upon His Messenger to proceed:
The content below was part of a previous longer article, we have reproduced it here on its own as this particular issue is very significant and important in relation to understanding the deviation of the Jahmiyyah, Mu'tazilah and the Ash'ariyyah (and the Maturidiyyah). By grasping what occurred between al-Jahm bin Safwaan in his debates with the Indian Materialist Philosophers, and between al-Ja'd bin Dirham and the Sabean Harranian Philosophers the entire issue of ta'teel (negation of Allaah's Names and Attributes) should become clear inshaa'Allaah.
For more details you can read the longer article on this subject here.
The Chief, Imaam, Flagbearer and Champion of all of the Factions in ta'teel is al-Jahm bin Safwaan
It is mentioned by the likes of Imaam Ahmad (in the book "ar-Radd alal Jahmiyyah waz-zanaadiqah") and al-Bukhaaree (in the book "Khalq Af'aal il-Ibaad wa-Radd alal-Jahmiyyah wa As.haab it-Ta'teel") and others that Jahm bin Safwaan used to debate with the Sumaniyyah and was overwhelmed by them, that he was led to doubt his Lord, and to overcome this doubt he devised what became the Jahmite religion (of negation of Allaah's Attributes amongst other things).
Imaam Bukaaree said in "Khalq Af'aal il-Ibaad" (p.9):
Damurah said: From Ibn Shawdhab: al-Jahm abandoned the prayer for forty days due to doubt. He argued with some of the Sumaniyyah, became doubtful and spent forty days without praying.
And there occurs "Buhooth Fil-Milal wan-Nihal" (3/437), indicates that debates with these Indian Philosophers, the Sumaniyyah, was something that the Mu'tazilah were upon also, he says, speaking about the Mu'tazilah:
...And then the period of ar-Rasheed came (170H-193H) and history narrates about their vigour during his time, to such an extent that there were none who argued with the Sumaniyyah besides them...
So we see that these types of debates with the Philosophers and the mulhids (atheists) were what led to the evolution of this approach. Those who pioneered this approach (in laying down this rational proof) were the Jahmites and the Mu'tazilites in the second century after hijrah, and when the Ash'aris came they simply adopted the same foundations - and especially the Later Ash'aris, after al-Juwaynee who took the Ash'aris much more down the Jahmite path.
Jahm Debating the Sumaniyyah: Part 1
So from what has reached us of the affair of al-Jahm, the enemy of Allaah, is that he was from the people of Khurasaan, from the people of Tirmidh, and he was a person of much disputation and theological rhetoric (Kalaam), and most of his theological rhetoric was regarding Allaah... So he met a people amongst the disbelievers called the Sumaniyyah. So they came to know Jahm and they said to him: "We will argue with you and if our proof overcomes you, you will enter our religion, and if your proof overcomes us, we will enter your religion".
So they overwhelmed Jahm and argued against him by saying that this proves your ilaah (deity) is non-existent, because he cannot be perceived by the five senses. So Jahm went and thought, and tried to find a way to overcome them.
Imaam Ahmad continues:
Then he redressed [this defeat by devising] a proof similar to the heretics of the Christians. The heretics of the Christians claim that the spirit that is within Eesaa (Jesus) is the spirit (rooh) of Allaah, from Allaah's Essence. So when He (Allaah) wants to bring about something, He enters into some of His creation and speaks upon the tongue of that (created person), and thus He commands with whatever He wills and forbids with whatever He wills. But is a spirit that is absent from (the people's) vision.
Then Imaam Ahmad says that he found three verses in the Qur'aan, "There is nothing like unto Him..." (42:11), and "He is Allaah in the Heavens and in the Earth..." (6:3) and "No vision can grasp Him, but His Grasp is over all vision..." (6:103).
And Imaam Ahmad continues later:
Thus, he instituted the religion of the Jahmites. And when people asked them about the verse, "There is nothing like unto Him..." (42:11), what is its explanation (tafseer)? They would say:
So we see that all of this is negation (salb) - these are all sifaat salbiyyah (attributes of negation) - Jahm described Allaah with negatives. And all of this came about due to his debates with the Sumaniyyah. And he was also the student of al-Ja'd bin Dirham. And this is what al-Ja'd bin Dirham took from the Harranian "pseudo"-Sabian Philosophers, who were the remnants of the Chaldeans who described Allaah only with sifaat salbiyyah (attributes of negation) - see this article for more on al-Ja'd.
And the explanation of the above is since the Sumaniyyah only believed in what was perceivable by the senses, Jahm indicated to them - [using the argument he derived from what the Christians hold regarding Eesaa (alayhis salaam)] that Allaah is everywhere and in everything - just like souls occupy their bodies (i.e. the Sumaniyyah believing their souls are in their bodies) and just like they cannot see, feel, touch, and hear or perceive their souls - even though souls occupy them, then similarly Allaah is everywhere but cannot be seen, felt, touched, and He is not described with anything with what things are described with. And thus he managed to repair the damage that the Sumaniyyah had done to him which had bewildered and confused him. And in this manner, he tried to impress upon those Indian Philosophers.
And this was the origin of the saying of the Jahmiyyah that Allaah is in every place, and it was on the basis of this saying that they negated that Allaah is above the Throne - why because they argued "Allaah is not in one place exclusive to others" on the basis of this belief that al-Jahm invented.
Jahm Debating the Sumaniyyah: Part 2
We can take upon another element of Jahm's debates with the Sumaniyyah, and remember the Sumaniyyah were Naturalists, part of their belief was that everything exists due to natural causes and can be explained by way of them. So there is no creator - everything has always been there and natural causes explain everything.
So we'll take up this matter from the words of Shaykh Salih Aal us-Shaykh in his explanation of al-Hamawiyyah:
... and al-Jahm bin Safwaan ... was a faqeeh, he had something of knowledge of fiqh, and he made some ijtihaad in debating this faction of Naturalists, those who spoke with the transmigration of souls and this is the faction (called) the Sumaniyyah, a faction from the factions of Khurasaan and India. He argued with them regarding the existence of Allaah, the Mighty and Majestic, and they confused him, until they said about him, "He is perplexed", and so he spent forty days not praying on account of the severity of his bewilderment.
So the above is clear and self-explanatory. So Jahm in his debates with the Sumaniyyah had to reject all of the Attributes in order to keep his intellectual proof intact. And this is why Jahm began to deny what he denied.
Now we can relate to why Jahm negated what he negated and why he spoke with the bid'ahs that he spoke with. And now the origins of ta'teel and of Jahmeespeak should start to become more and more clear - and now we can see why these people were forced to take the positions they took. All because they made the demonstration of the created nature of the universe with the use of substance and accident and Atomism to be the foundation of their religion.
And then they made all of this to be Tawheed, so Tawheed became stripping Allaah of His Names and Attributes until He became but a notion of oneness that exists only in the mind - devoid of Names and Attributes or any form of description (to the Jahmites) and negation of the Attributes (to the Mu'tazilah) and negation of the Sifaat Fi'liyyah and sifaat Khabariyyah (to the Ash'arite Kullaabites) and so on. So this is what they made Tawheed into - to strip Allaah of His Attributes which He affirmed for Himself. Why? Because of their rational argument of "hudooth ul-ajsaam", through Atomism and substance (al-jawhar) and accident (al-'arad).
And when they took this approach - they were forced to dispute with each other on subsidiary issues - and so we see the Ash'arites disputing with the Mu'tazilites, and these two disputing with the Jahmites - but the asl of them all is the same - they only dispute in subsidiary issues in relation to what can and cannot be denied (to keep the rational proof intact) and what methods can and cannot be used to achieve this rejection.
And we see some Ash'aris who hold ta'weel is the way (to negate Allaah's attributes in order to keep the intellectual proof intact) refuting other Ash'arites who hold tafweed is the way - and vice versa. And we see the Ash'arites refuting some of the Mu'tazilites for claiming that the smallest particle is in fact divisible infinitely - but they both hold onto the notion of al-Jawhar al-Fard - the basic principle and they argue only on subsidiary details. So do not be deceived by their philosophical Jahmeespeak.
And every Muslim in whom there is sound fitrah knows the falsity of this and that this is not the deen of the Messengers, and this is why the smart amongst the Ash'arites, they say to their common folk, "You just need to know the very basics of your creed, don't go too deep..." due to their knowledge and realization that the inherent fitrah of a person will reject what the Mu'attilah have made to be the usool of their religion.
We can now see more clearly the realities, the origins of Jahmeespeak, and the evolution of ta'weel and tafweed as a means of accommodating what has come in the Book and the Sunnah under the umbrella of what they acquired from the philosophies of the Greeks and from the "pseudo"-Sabean Harranian Philosophers and what they fabricated in order to win debates with the Indian Philosophers and Naturalists.