What the Salaf Said Regarding Theological Rhetoric (ilm al Kalaam)

Text from Usool as Sunnah (Foundations of Sunnah)

19.For indeed, (indulging in) theological rhetoric (kalaam) in [22] the matter of Qadar, the Ru’yah, the Qur’aan and other such issues are among the ways that are detested and which are forbidden.

20. The one Who does so, even if he reaches the truth with his words, is not from Ahlus-Sunnah, until he abandons (using) this mode of argumentation, [and until he] submits and believes in the aathaar (the Prophetic Narrations and those of the Companions [23]


[22] Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee (d. 204H) said,

“My ruling regarding the people of theological rhetoric is that they should be beaten with palm leaves and shoes and be paraded amongst the kinsfolk and the tribes with it being announced, ‘This is the reward of the one who abandons the Book and the Sunnah and turns to theological rhetoric (kalaam).”

Sharh ‘AqeedatitTahaawiyyah of lbn Abil-’Izz, p. 75.

Ibn ‘Abdul-Barr said,

“The people of Fiqh and Aathaar in all the various towns and cities are agreed unanimously that the Ahlul-Kalaam (People of Theological Rhetoric) are (but) Ahlul-Bida’ waz-Zaigh (the People of Innovations and Deviation). And they are not considered, by all of the above, to be amongst the ranks of the Scholars (in truth).”

Reported by Ibn Qudaamah in his Burhaan fee Bayaanil-Qur’aan.

Imaam ash-Shaafi’ee (d. 204H) said,

“That a person is put to trial with everything that Allaah has forbidden, besides Shirk, is better than that he looks at Kalaam (theological rhetoric).” He also said, “If people knew what (misleading and destructive) desires are contained within theological rhetoric they would certainly flee from it as they would from a lion,”

he also said,

“Whoever showed boldness in approaching theological rhetoric will never prosper.”

Reported by Ibn Qudaamah in his Burhaan fee Bayaanil-Qur’aan.

One of the Scholars of ash-Shaash said:

“Every knowledge save that of the Qur’aan is a pre-occupation
Except for the Hadeeth and Fiqh (understanding) of the Deen
Knowledge is only that about which it is said,
‘Haddathanaa …‘ (So and so narrated to us)
And what is besides that
Are but whisperings of the Shayaateen (devils)”

Aboo Yoosuf, the companion of Aboo Haneefah said,

“Whoever sought knowledge by kalaam (theological rhetoric) will turn a heretical apostate,” and Ahmad ibn Hanbal (d. 241H) said, “The person of theological rhetoric will never prosper. And never do you see anyone looking into theological rhetoric except that in his heart is a desire for creating mischief.”

Both narrations are reported by Ibn Qudaamah in his Burhaan fee Bayaanil-Qur’aan.

[23] Muhammad Ibn Seereen (d. 110H) said,

“They (i.e., the Companions and the Taabi’een) used to consider themselves upon the path (of truth) so long as they held onto the narrations.”

Reported by al-Laalikaa’ee in his Sharh Usolil It’iqaad, no. 110.

Shaadh ibn Yahyaa said,

“There is no path which is more straight and direct (in leading) to Paradise than the path of the one who travels upon the aathaar (narrations).”

Reported by al-Laalikaa’ee in his Sharh UsoolilIt’qaad no. 112.

‘Abdullah ibn alMubaarak (d. 181H) said,

“I found that the affair was Ittibaa’ (following and imitation, i.e., following and submission to the narrations).”

Reported by al-Laalikaa’ee in his Sharh Usoolil-l’tiqaad, no. 113

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