Ha-Mim By the Book that makes things clear,-We have made it a Qur’an in Arabic, that you may be able to understand and learn wisdom. And verily, it is in the Mother of the Book, in Our Presence, high in dignity, full of wisdom. Shall We then take away the Message from you and repel (you), for that you are a people transgressing beyond bounds? (Qur’an 43:1-5)
“Nay! it is a Glorious Qur’an, In a guarded tablet” (Qur’an 85:21-22)
This is an entry that discusses the problematic theological position held by our brothers from the ‘Ahl Sunnah‘. That is the belief that the Qur’an is the eternal uncreated word of Allah.
Now at Prima-Qur’an: Ahl Haqq Wal Istiqama we agree that the Qur’an is 100% a revelation from Allah. This is not in question.
I want to say from the outset that any Muslim who believes the Qur’an is created in my view is still a Muslim. This is a matter of dispute between the scholars.
Too often in history, a group will arise that will seek to disquiet and quell dissenting views or opinions.
It is very challenging for example to get an unbiased view of Gnostic Christianity because the overwhelming majority of the sources available to us today are being given through their opponents.
When the Qur’an says that it is ‘Fee lawhin mahfooth‘ a guarded or a preserved tablet this means is in regard to it being preserved and protected.
It is our view that the Qur’an was created in time. In fact, the Qur’an was revealed in real-time to address the needs of the community of believers in and around the time of the Blessed Messenger (saw)
I will also be examining this doctrine in light of the Qur’an itself, the various justifications and proof text and allow the readers to judge for themselves.
It is truly unfortunate that some of the Muslim intelligentsia and academics would feel so threatened by any discussion on this subject that it would incur a death penalty.
For example in one of the great works that are praised by the Sunni Muslims, the Maliki jurist Qadi Iyad says the following:
He said about someone who said that the Qur’an is created, “He is an unbeliever, so kill him.” He said in the version of Ibn Nafi’, “He should be flogged and painfully beaten and imprisoned until he repents.” In the version of Bishr ibn Bakr at-Tinnisi we find, “He is killed and his repentance is not accepted.” (Qadi ‘Iyad Musa al-Yahsubi, Muhammad Messenger of Allah (Ash-Shifa of Qadi ‘Iyad), translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K. 1991; third reprint, paperback], p. 419)
In all fairness those who hold to the position that the Qur’an is created also persecuted those who held the position that it was uncreated and eternal.
In fact, Muhammad ibn Isma’il Al-Bukhari (of Sahih Bukhari oral collection fame) was persecuted by a group of those from the Hanbali school of jurisprudence for a remark he made.
“Al-Dhuhli was fierce (shadîd) in his adhesion to the Sunna. He confronted Muhammad ibn Isma‘il [al-Bukhari] because the latter had alluded, in his Khalq Af‘al al-‘Ibad, to the fact that the reader’s utterance of the Qur’an was created. Bukhari made it understood without explicitly saying it, but he certainly made it clear. On the other hand, Ahmad ibn Hanbal flatly refused to explore the question, as well as Abu Zur‘a and al-Dhuhli, or indulge in the terminology of dialectic theologians (al-mutakallimûn), and they did well – may Allah reward them excellently. Ibn Isma‘il had to travel from Naysabur undercover, and he was pained by what Muhammad ibn Yahya [al-Dhuhli] had done to him.” (Al-Dhahabi, Siyar (10:207)
Al-Hakim [narrated with his chains]: Muhammad ibn Yahya [al-Dhuhli] said: “This Bukhari has openly subscribed to the doctrine of ‘pronunciationists’ (al-lafziyya), and for me those are worse than the Jahmiyya.” . . . Ahmad ibn Salama visited Bukhari and told him: “O Abu ‘Abd Allah, this is a respected man [i.e. al-Dhuhli] in Khurasan, especially in this town [Naysabur], and he has thundered with this speech until none of us can say anything to him about it, so what do you think we should do?” Bukhari grasped his beard then he said: (I confide my cause unto Allah. Lo! Allah is Seer of His slaves.) (40:44) He continued: “O Allah! You know that I did not want for one moment to settle in Naysabur out of arrogance, nor in quest of leadership, but only because my soul would not let me return to my own country [Bukhara] because of my opponents; and now this man intends harm for me out of jealousy, only because of what Allah gave me and for no other reason.” Then he said to me: “O Ahmad, tomorrow I shall leave and you will be rid of his talk which I caused.” . . . Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub the hadith master said: “When al-Bukhari settled in Naysabur Muslim ibn al-Hajjaj took to visiting him frequently. When the affair of the pronunciation of Qur’an took place between al-Bukhari and [al-Dhuhli] and the latter roused people against him and forbade them to visit him, most people stopped visiting him, but not Muslim. Then al-Dhuhli said: ‘Anyone that subscribes to the pronunciation [being created], it is not permitted for them to attend our gathering.’ Whereupon Muslim placed a cloak on top of his turban, stood up in front of everyone, and sent back to al-Dhuhli what he had written from him carried by a camel-driver, for Muslim openly subscribed to the pronunciation and made no attempt to conceal it.” . . . Ahmad ibn Mansur al-Shirazi also narrated it from Muhammad ibn Ya‘qub, adding: “And Ahmad ibn Salama stood up and followed him.” (See Al-Dhahabi, Siyar (10:314-315). Cf. Bayhaqi’s al-Asma’ wa al-Sifat (al-Hashidi ed. 2:20-21 #591).
This is written for those people who are Muslim who may have come across the position that the Qur’an is uncreated and find it wanting.
So here are some theological problems with the position that the Qur’an is uncreated and eternal.
In relation to Christian theology.
To support the position that the Qur’an is the uncreated and eternal words of Allah would indirectly support the Christian doctrine of the logos (Word made flesh).
” In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
“In a rare instance of classic kalâm reasoning, Imam Malik gave the most succinct[sic] statement of this doctrine: “The Qur’an is the Speech of Allah, the Speech of Allah comes from Him, and nothing created comes from Allah Most High.” Narrated by al-Dhahabi in Siyar A`lam al-Nubala’ (Dar al-Fikr ed. 7:416).
Source: (G.F. Haddad, http://www.sunnah.org/aqida/uncreatedness_quran.htm
Comment: This is a rather strange assertion from Imam Malik (May Allah have mercy on him). Nothing created comes from Allah? What about the universe where does that come from?
“O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and HIS WORD (wakalimatuhu) which He conveyed unto Mary, and A SPIRIT from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only One Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.” (Qur’an 4:171)
“(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah gives you glad tidings of A WORD (bikalimatin) from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah).” (Qur’an 3:45)
“And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: Allah gives you glad tidings of (a son whose name is) John, (who comes) to confirm A WORD (bikalimatin) from Allah lordly, chaste, a prophet of the righteous. (Qur’an 3:39)
Using the reasoning of Imam Malik (r) above:
- Jesus is the Speech/Word, of/from Allah.
- Allah’s Speech/Word, come directly from Allah.
- Nothing created comes from Allah.
- Therefore, Jesus must have always existed!
However, there is a very simple solution to this problem. That solution is to allow the Qur’an to decide matters of our theology by looking at what Allah says in context.
“Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is.” (Qur’an 3:59)
Now, using the reasoning of those who call themselves ‘Ahl Sunnah Wal Jammah” (Athari-Hanbali-Salafi, Ashar’i, Maturidi) the above verse (Qur’an 3:59) could be a reference ONLY to the physical creation of Jesus (meaning in the flesh) and not to Jesus as a word or a ruh. If the ruh and the word that is Jesus is not created then Muslims who hold to the doctrine of an uncreated and eternal Qur’an have a real theological conundrum to deal with.
On what consistent basis is Jesus Allah’s word and his spirit and yet be created when the Qur’an is Allah’s word and is eternal and uncreated? On what consistent basis is the claim made?
So now are some of the words of Allah created and others not?
Here is another interesting text from the Qur’an to consider.
“In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: “Who then has the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every – one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He creates what He pleases. For Allah hath power over all things.” (Qur’an 5:17)
We can see from this that Allah (swt) if he so willed could destroy Christ the son of Mary. I would go further and say that this means utterly and absolutely. So not just the flesh but Christ Jesus even as the word of Allah!
Notice the following by Shaykh Yasir Al Qadhi (May Allah continue to benefit us by him)
“Therefore the Speech of Allah, by the Will of Allah, is the cause of the creation, so it cannot be created, for if it were created, it would mean that a created characteristic has itself created another object, and this is not possible! In other words, a created object does not have the ability to create another object; only the Creator has this ability.”
Source: (An introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an page 34)
Created objects create other objects all the time. Certainly not ex-nihilo (out of nothing).
Maybe Shaykh Yasir Al Qadhi did not give serious consideration to the following:
“And make him a messenger to the Children of Israel, who will say, ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay that which is like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah. And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. (Qur’an 3:49)
“The Day when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, remember My favor upon you and upon your mother when I supported you with the Pure Spirit and you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; and remember when I taught you writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and when you designed from clay what was like the form of a bird with My permission, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird with My permission; and you healed the blind and the leper with My permission; and when you brought forth the dead with My permission; and when I restrained the Children of Israel from [killing] you when you came to them with clear proofs and those who disbelieved among them said, “This is not but obvious magic.” (Qur’an 5:110)
Interestingly the English word used is ‘design‘ as opposed to create or make.
IMAM AHMED AN INNOVATOR ACCORDING TO IBN TAYMIYYAH?
Think about this dear respected Muslim sisters and brothers. The fact that our great scholars actually mused over this is really sad.
“Then, among them are those who say that the ink is apparent in the mushaf but not incarnating, and some say that it is incarnating. In the sayings of some of them is what implies that for the form-the form of the letter and figure – but not for its material substance which is its ink. This opinion is also invalid. Just as the saying, that anything from the voices of human beings is eternal, is an invalid opinion. It is an opinion put forward by a group from among the followers of Malik, Shafi’i, and Ahmad, the majority of whom reject it. The saying of Ahmad and the majority if of his followers rejecting his opinion is well-known. There is no doubt that whoever says that the voices of the servants are eternal, he is an innovator and inventor. In the same way as whoever says that this Qur’an is not the word of Allah, he is an innovator and an inventor”
Source: (Fatawa Ibn Taymiyyah (Matabi al-Riyad, 1st edition, 12:83-873,83-85)
To support the position that the Qur’an is the uncreated and eternal words of Allah as understood by Imam Ahmad would abosolutely annihilate a key tenet of Sunni creed.
What position is this you may ask?
Answer: It would destroy Tawhid as well as the position that Allah (swt) created all things.
For example, look at this verse of the Qur’an and think of the theological implications.
“Nay! it is a Glorious Qur’an, In a guarded tablet” (‘Fee lawhin mahfooth‘)” (Qur’an 85:21-22)
A key tenet of Sunni creed is that Allah created all things.
Since they believe the Qur’an is the eternal and uncreated speech of Allah (swt) it would imply that the material tablet also existed eternally.
Thus in turn it would also imply that matter and space are not created. In order for there to exist an eternal tablet in heaven, it must have to occupy space/time and thus would also imply that Allah (swt) is not the only entity that exists eternally.
How could the ‘Ahl Sunnah‘ claim with any consistency that the Qur’an is eternal and uncreated and yet claim that Allah (swt) alone is eternal and uncreated?
The problem with bila kaif (we do not ask how)
Where did the eternal and uncreated ‘lawhin mahfooth‘ come from? If the answer is ‘bila kiaif or ‘without asking how‘ then it has to be asked.
On what consistent basis are Trinitarian Christians asked ‘How can be one be three‘? Don’t they have the right to answer: ‘bila kaif‘ ?
Which for those from the Salafi view they can no longer say that the Trinity doctrine is irrational; because that is pure kalam! All they can do is say we base our objection on the text, “and say not “Three” – Cease! (it is) better for you!”
However, the problem with ‘bila kaif‘ is that no one ultimately has to give justification for any theological position that they hold.
DOES ALLAH SPEAK WITH AUDIBLE SOUNDS?
Next, we will be looking at objections from skeptics/atheists/agnostics.
This is a big problem for ‘Ahl Sunnah‘.
So Shaykh Yasir Qadhi says:
“These Attributes are understood literally (in the case of the Attributes of kalam, that Allah, Speaks, whenever He wishes, with a sound, in different languages, and this Speech is composed of words and letters and is not created), but the actuality and ‘how-ness’ of these Attributes are not delved into, and any negative similarity be-tween these Attributes and the attributes of the creation are negated (in the case of this Attribute, that the speech of the creation is created, but the Speech of Allah is not.) Understanding these Attributes ‘literally’ does not mean understanding them in the manner that they are found in the creation, or comparing them with the attributes of the creation; rather, it means affirming the linguistic meaning of that Attribute in a manner that befits the Creator, and will never completely be understood by mankind.” Source: (An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an pg 52)
We are told that the ‘how-ness‘ is not delved into and yet this whole paragraph does exactly that! When you negate comparison you are comparing and contrasting ‘how‘ something is unlike something else.
When speaking of prophet Ibrahim (a.s) and the story of the idols Shaykh Yasir Qadhi says:
“In these verses, Ibrahim showed his people that their idols were not worthy of worship, primarily because they could not speak. After they themselves acknowledged this, Ibrahim rebuked them, and asked them, “Have you no sense?!” meaning, “How can an object that cannot even speak be worthy of worship?” Notice that Ibrahim was referring to a speech that could be heard, for Ibrahim’s people did not answer Ibrahim with the belief of the Ash’arees, “Our god speaks, but a speech that is not heard-an internal speech of the mind!” for they understood what Ibrahim meant!! This is why they turned to themselves, and realized the foolishness of their actions, and could only reply with the feeble response that everyone knew that their idols could not speak!” Source: (An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an pg 46)
Shaykh Yasir Qadhi thinks that he has the goods on the Ash’ari Sunnis latter making a quote that in effect turns the Ash’ari Sunnis into idol worshipers.
Yet, look at the quotation above where he says:
“‘literally’ does not mean understanding them in the manner that they are found in the creation.”
Rather than help Islam, Yasir Qadhi his Salafist-Athari creed and those who think like him have handed over to skeptics of their position a devastating argument.
So like Ibrahim (a.s) demands above the atheist has the right to demand from him speech from his Creator.
They have the right to demand “a speech that could be heard”
This point should always be brought up again and again and again when dealing with our brothers from ‘Ahl Sunnah‘ who hold these types of views.
Yet Shaykh Yasir Qadhi is not done with the Ash’ari.
Sheikh Yasir Qadhi thinks he has the goods on the Ash’ari when he says,
“1) If the kalam of Allah is without sound, then what did Musa hear when Allah spoke to Him? If they respond that Allah created a sound, and caused Musa to hear that created sound, then this means that this created object stated,
“O Musa, verily, I am your Lord…Verily, I am Allah, there is no God save Me, so worship Me… [ Qur’an 20:12-14]
Therefore, if they state this, it implies that this created object claimed to be Allah, and asked Musa to worship it! However, if they stated that it was the actual kalam of Allah, then it must be asked, “How then did Musa hear it if you claim that Allah’s kalam is without sound? ” The scholars of the Ash’arees have not been able to provide a satisfactory response for this.” Source: (An introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’an pg 44)
So Shaykh Yasir Qadhi thinks that it was the object cried out ‘I am Allah, there is no God save Me, so worship Me’. Yet, obviously, we know that Moses (a.s) did not perform any act of worship towards the direction of the voice. Or at least no act of worship is recorded.
Shaykh Yasir Qadhi and those who agree with his position have to wonder the following:
What did Rasul Allah (saw) think when Angel Gabriel (a.s)
said. ” Indeed this, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so worship Me.” (Qur’an 21:92)
What? Did the Blessed Messenger (saw) fall down and worship Gabriel? Obviously not!
Gabriel(a.s) was used as a medium in the same way the burning bush was.
As regards if Musa (a.s) heard sounds from the burning bush you ask yourself, did the companions hear the Qur’an when it was being revealed to the Blessed Messenger (saw)?
“And [We sent] messengers about whom We have related [their stories] to you before and messengers about whom We have not related to you. And Allah spoke to Moses with [direct] speech.” (Qur’an 4:164)
“When he saw a fire and said to his family, “Stay here; indeed, I have perceived a fire; perhaps I can bring you a torch or find at the fire some guidance.” And when he came to it, he was called, “O Moses, Indeed, I am your Lord, so remove your sandals. Indeed, you are in the sacred valley of Tuwa. And I have chosen you, so listen to what is revealed [to you] Indeed, I am Allah. There is no deity except Me, so worship Me and establish prayer for My remembrance.” (Quran 20:10-14)
“And when Moses had completed the term and was traveling with his family, he perceived from the direction of the mount a fire. He said to his family, “Stay here; indeed, I have perceived a fire. Perhaps I will bring you from there [some] information or burning wood from the fire that you may warm yourselves.” But when he came to it, he was called from the right side of the valley in a blessed spot – from the tree, “O Moses, indeed I am Allah, Lord of the worlds.” (Qur’an 28:29-30)
“Has there reached you the story of Moses? When his Lord called to him in the sacred valley of Tuwa” (Qur’an 79:15-16)
Likewise, since the Qur’an acts as a guardian of the previous scriptures let us see what is claimed to be the Torah has to say as well.
“There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight–why the bush does not burn up.” When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:2-5)
Allah (swt) created a sound and caused Moses (a.s) to hear that created sound. In fact, if you go on further the whole context shows how Allah (swt) is the creator of perception. Moses (a.s) was made to perceive a burning fire, it did not indicate if anyone saw it or not. He (a.s) was made to perceive his hand becoming white. He (a.s) was made to perceive a voice from a tree. He (a.s) was made to perceive his staff move like a snake.
“And it is not for any human being that Allah should speak to him except by revelation or from behind a partition or that He sends a messenger to reveal, by His permission, what He wills. Indeed, He is Most High and Wise.” (Qur’an 42:51)
Unless our respected Shaykh Yasir Qadhi wants to say that the Qur’an contains a flat contradiction he will need to understand ‘Allah spoke to Moses with direct speech‘ in light of the above verses.
Allah-willing in the third section of this three-part series we will be getting into the proof text.
I would have left this matter alone if it were not for the fact that there are Muslim groups out there whom will literally tell you that you are ‘astray‘ and you are ‘not on the right path‘ and that your ‘theology is corrupt’ because you do not hold to their tenets. They may even claim you to be outside of Islam.
As we saw from one book revered by many Sunni Muslims above orders were given to torture, imprison, and execute people who dissented theologically.
I hope that we can have intellectual exchanges that enrich people who are seeking the truth on matters that weigh upon human consciousness.
There are theological problems in relation to believing the Qur’an is eternal with regards to our Christian brothers.
There are internal theological that that those in the Sunni denomination face in relation to believing Allah (swt) created all things.
There are problems launched by skeptics and doubters. They have the right to ask as Ibrahim (a.s) did to his people, ‘a speech that could be heard‘. Or a person today could ask for ‘a speech that could be heard with the mind.’
“Behold, you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things of which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of Allah.” (Qur’an 24:15)