Ibn Qudama’s Censure of the Ash’aris

Posted on October 1, 2006. Filed under: 202 - Advanced Asma wa Sifaat |

The great Hanbali Imam Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi (d. 620AH) describds his debate with the Ash’aris of his time, over the issue of Quran being the literal word of Allah.

The following are some of the quotes from Ibn Qudama’s rebuttal:

“Some of our [Hanbali] companions often ask us about the debate that took place between me and some of the heretics (i.e. Ash’aris)”

  • Ash’aris claim that the Speech of Allah – the Quran – is one whole entity which is indivisible, for anything eternal must be indivisible, as they claim. Ibn Qudamah responds to this saying, that their belief implies, that the Torah, the Bible and the Quran are all the same, and the one who memorises a verse has memorised the whole Quran, and that Allah’s prohibitions are the same as what he permits, etc.
    Ash’aris say that if Allah speaks with sound and letters, it implies that Allah has a tongue, a throat and lungs, since this is the only way one may speak. Ibn Qudamah says, the stones and trees of Makkah would say Salam to the Prophet – SallAllahu ‘alaihi wasallam without any of that, and likewise ones hands will bear witness against him on the day of judgement, without the need of any tongue or throat etc.
  • Moreover, by the same token, they should also deny that Allah is all hearing and seeing, as one cannot hear except through air waves hitting the air-drums, nor can one see except through lights hitting the retina.
  • Ibn Qudamah says that Ash’aris belief implies that for one to recite the Quran in his Salah, in fact renders his Salah null and void, because the Quran is actually the speech of Jibril, as they claim.
  • He says: “There is no dispute amongst all the Muslims that anyone who rejects a verse from the Quran, or a word, which is agreed upon, or even a letter which is agreed upon, is a Kafir… Whereas al-Ash’ari rejects the entire Quran and says: none of that is the Quran, rather it is the speech of Jibril”
  • He says: “What is amazing is that they are not bold enough to manifest their belief in public, nor do they explicitly state it except when they are alone. Even if they were the rulers, or governors of countries, and you were to attribute this belief to them, they would detest it and condemn it, and become obstinate. They would only pretend to honour the Quran respect the Mushaf, and stand up upon seeing it, whereas when they are alone they say: There is nothing in it but paper and ink, what else is there in it? And this is from the actions of Zanadiqah!
  • One of them said to Ibn Qudamah: I affirm that this Mushaf is actually the Quran, but it is not the eternal Quran, to which Ibn Qudamah replied: “So, do we have two Qurans?!” Some of our [Hanbali] companions said: “You (the Ash’aris) are the rulers and the governors over Islamic countries, so what prevents you from making your belief manifest to the common folk?”
  • He said:”We do not know of a sect from the heretics who hide their beliefs, and who are not bold enough to manifest them, except the Zanadiqah and the Ash’aris.”
  • He said: “His belief (i.e. al-Ash’ari’s) is similar to that of the Mu’tazilah without doubt, except that al-Ash’ari wants to deceive. So he states his belief which appears to be agreeing with the beliefs of the people of truth. He then gives an explanation to his belief with a Mu’tazili twist.”
  • He says: “The reality of the Ash’ari doctrine is that there is no God in the heavens, nor is there a Quran on this earth, and nor is Muhammad a messenger of God’. Ibn Fuwarrak was killed by the great ruler Ibn Subuktakin for claiming that the Prophet SallAllahu alaihi wa-sallam was only a messenger when he was alive, and he isn’t a messenger anymore after his death.”
  • He says:”What is amazing is that their leader (i.e. Abul-Hasan al-Ash’ari) who established their beliefs was a man not known for his religion or piety, nor was he known for any of the Sacred sciences. In fact, he belongs to no science except the science of blameworthy Kalam. All the while they acknowledge that he spent 40 years adhering to Mu’tazili doctrine, and then pretended to have retracted from it, however, nothing could be seen from him after his repentance except this Bid’ah.’

These highlights from this great Hanbali Imam prove that the Sunnis have been traditionally in opposition to the Ash’aris and regarded them to be heretics; as it also proves that Imam Ibn Qudamah, the great Hanbali scholar was a staunch enemy of the Ash’aris.

This also refutes the claim of some pseudo-Hanbalis who claim that Ibn Qudamah was lenient or accommodating towards the Ash’aris, since he used to share Aqidah books with Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi apparently.

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