Attributes of Allah & Kalam

 Ishaq Zahid


In order to affirm and clarify the position of Ahl-us-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah regarding the attributes of Allah Tala and refute the statements of the deviant groups using Kalam, the paper is divided into the following sections: 

1. Source of Knowledge is Allah T’ala

2. Religion: Divine or Man-Made but not Both

3. Knowledge of God is from no one except from God

4. Sound and Complete Theories

5. Aristotelian Metaphysics is the basis of Kalam Theology

6. Empirical gods

7. Sayings of the Salaf

1. Source of Knowledge is Allah T’ala

Source of all knowledge is no one but Allah T’ala. At the time of the creation of Adam (peace be on him), in a conversation with the angels, Allah T’ala asked them about names of things and they all proclaimed that the only knowledge they have is what He has taught them. These were the names which Allah Tala had taught Adam (peace be on him) (The Quran. 2:31-32). 

People’s worship of objects other than Allah Tala is not based on knowledge, regardless of texts, sayings of people or their making false knowledge-based claims (The Quran. 22:71). From the beginning of mankind till the end of time, Islam is the only religion from Allah Tala based on the knowledge given to us by Him and Him alone through His messengers (peace and blessings be on them). All other religions are either totally man-made or mixed by pollution of human ignorance.

We are commanded by Allah T’ala to not use or abuse our God-given faculties of hearing, sight and heart without knowledge. If we initiate, pursue, infer or deduce anything especially about religion for which we have no knowledge, we will be indulging in falsehood, as knowledge cannot be derived without knowledge (The Quran. 17:36).


2. Religion: Divine or Man-Made but Not Both

Religion is either Divine or man-made, but cannot be both. Any mixing in religion, regardless of how small the mix may appear, will no longer keep the religion Divine and will be termed man-made. Islam is based on the Quran and the Sunnah, given to us by Allah Tala using various forms of revelations from Him to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him). Any attempt to add or subtract or alter these founding texts, lowers their status. Making inferences without them will cause the resulting religion to become another theology but it will no longer be considered Islam. It would suffice to mention just one Hadith from Riyadus Saliheen, which also appears in the Forty Hadith of Imam An-Nawawi:

'Aishah (May Allah be pleased with her) reported: Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, "If anyone introduces in our matter something which does not belong to it, will be rejected". [Al-Bukhari and Muslim]. The narration in Muslim says: "If anybody introduces a practice which is not authenticated by me, it is to be rejected". (Nawawi, Imam. n.d. “Riyad-us-Saleheen.” Book 1. Hadeeth 169)

The foundations of the Islamic Sharia are based on the Quran and Hadith. Anything else like Qiyas, ‘Aql, R’ay or Logic must remain bound to and totally dependent on these two primary texts. If not, they will cause making of another theology other than Islam.

3. Knowledge of God is from no one except from God

First and foremost, knowledge of a Divine religion must begin with knowing God, purpose of life and our relationship with God. Since the source of all knowledge is God, He is the only One Who can tell about Himself and about us - His creation. Any attempt to add, subtract or alter from that knowledge about God, given by God Himself, will lead to making of one’s own image of god and will be a description of a man-made god but not of the God, the One and Only.


4. Sound and Complete Theories

For the sake of an illustration, it is known that in Mathematical sciences, theories are based on a set of axioms, which are then used to infer theorems and corollaries using accepted inference methods like induction and deduction. A theory is said to be sound if any inference derived from the base axioms is also valid. A theory is complete if the base axioms suffice to infer all results needed for that theory. Islam is a sound and complete ideology based on its well-defined Divine axioms. 

If we change the base axioms of a theory by any alteration, addition or subtraction, it will not be named the same theory and it may even change the resulting inferences. A simple example will suffice.

A Simple Example:

Suppose we pick a number, say 20. If we ask what the next number is, the most likely answer will simply be 21. This answer is correct. However, it may also be considered wrong. It all depends on the base axioms. If we are talking about Integers, the answer is correct. However, if we change the base set of axioms to Rational Numbers, the answer is wrong. In fact, there is no next rational number to any number. When we take any two rational numbers, there are an infinitely many rational numbers in between! So, there is no next rational number to any number.

Adding Kalam to the base axioms of Islam will be no longer Islam, it will be no longer divine and will be considered a man-made religion. If all of mankind came together and put their intellect and faculties together to come up with a theology, it will not be Islam regardless of having some common Islamic axioms and it will be a weak, incomplete and false ideology. Allah Tala speaks about the limits and weakness of the human intellect in the Quran in different ways including the verse:

Vision perceives Him not, but He perceives [all] vision; and He is the Subtle, the Acquainted. (6:103).

Allah Tala has also said about Himself:

[He is] Creator of the heavens and the earth. He has made for you from yourselves, mates, and among the cattle, mates; He multiplies you thereby. There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing. (42:11)


5. Aristotelian Metaphysics is the Basis of Kalam Theology

According to (Abu Iyaad, 2014, Part 1, p. 3), Kalam Theology, which is used by deviant groups is based on Aristotelian Metaphysics. Jewish, Christian and Sabean scholars were influenced by Aristotle’s writings and used his concepts and terms to explain their own doctrines. The primary concept of the “First Cause” by Aristotle appears to be the formative concept of the whole misguidance which crept into the Ummah regarding the denial and manipulation of some attributes of Allah T’ala. The First Cause is defined as an un-divisible, matter-less unmoved mover, who does not occupy place and is changeless under events (Abu Iyaad, 2014, Part 1, p. 3). The concepts of Jawhar and A’rad were used to describe any object other than the Unmoved Mover. The scholars of deviant groups, including Ash’aris carried on these concepts to assert that Allah should be described the same way as done by scholars of other religions. This is obviously a modification into the fundamental axioms of Islam and an attempt to place Kalam Theology above or at level with the Quran and Sunnah. In fact, if the concept of First Cause is part of any theory, it is not Islamic Theology anymore as the axioms of Islamic Theology are sound and complete.



6. Empirical gods

Without revelation from God, human beings are deeply influenced in thought and acts by observation and empirical data. When the First Pledge (The Quran. 7:172) and Fitra get blocked, a person is left with nothing but sensory perceptions. With such an oppressed innate state, any human concept which is not based on revelation is thus empirically influenced concept and so is Aristotle’s Metaphysics. Entities or objects, which are given supernatural attributes, are thus nothing but empirical concepts including such concepts of gods or divine objects. Such concepts are limited as are human capacities in intellect. It is out of forever Mercy of Allah T’ala that He did not leave mankind wandering in dark and sent prophets and messengers to teach us Who God is. He has also put limits on our approach to know about Him as well as what we should and should not do, as stated in verse (The Quran. 17:36), alluded earlier. The verse makes it clear that attempts to find answers to ‘HOW’ question about God’s attributes is forbidden. It is again a Mercy of Allah T’ala to put our inner self at ease and take us out of fruitless and dangerous thought valleys leading to destruction. It is to take us out of man-made false empirical gods and return us back to the True God.


7. Sayings of the Salaf

We can find great many statements against Kalam Theology starting with the Salaf as-Saleh. Imam Malik calls seekers of religion through Kalam as Zindiq and cursed them. Imam al-Shafi’i cursed the partisans of Kalam with strong words and described them as those who have deserted the Book and the Sunnah by taking up Kalam (Abu Abdullah. 2008, pp. 5,8).

Imam Ahmad said: “Do not sit with the people of Kalâm, even if they are defending the Sunnah.” (Abu Abdullah. 2008. P. 9). Imam Abu Hanifah also told his son to not engage himself with the people of Kalam. Muhammad b. Dawud said:

“Nothing has been preserved in al-Shafi’i's age at all that he spoke in anything with respect to Ahwâ’ nor has [anything] been ascribed to him or known from him, with the fact of his hatred to the Ahl al-Kalâm wa’l-Bida’.” (Abu Abdullah. 2008. P. 11).

A very general statement reported by many from the Salaf was to accept the Attributes of Allah Tala as they have been stated without asking the How question. Imam Ahmad also affirmed it and said to do so without seeking ‘How’ it is or its meanings (Al‐Uthaymeen, n.d., p.32). 

In refutation to the statements of misguided sects, Aboo Jaʹfar al‐Hamdaanee said, “…. No one with knowledge has ever called, saying, ʹOh Allaah!ʹ except that he finds in his heart a natural sense of seeking from One high above. He does not turn to the right or left. So how do we repel this natural sense in our hearts? ʺ (Al‐Uthaymeen, n.d., p.39).



Allah T’ala is the source of all knowledge. For a religion to be God-given, all of its axiomatic knowledge, and not some of it, must come from God through revelation to His chosen messengers. Any mixing of base axioms with man-made axioms will make the religion man-made. The foremost knowledge is about who God Himself is and it must be taken as is. This certainly forbids the HOW question if not already given by God. Islam is a sound and complete theology. Adding Aristotle’s First Cause or Kalam at axiomatic level introduces a new theology regardless of its common axioms with Islamic theology. Any human description introduces a man-made empirical god and not the real One and only One God, Allah T’ala.




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