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Khalq Af’aal al-‘Ibaad: The Islamic Discussion of The Theologians on Acquisition (Kasb)

This was a minor topic of debate amongst the Muslim theologians of various creedal affiliations. I bring the following material to shed some light into the subject. The issue is regarding the concept of acquisition (kasb) which is being responsible for actions and are actions of created beings created by themselves. This topic is an interesting study particularly since it is rarely discussed even in major knowledge based Islamic forums.

Imam al-Laqani states the following,

“وعندنا للعبد كسب كلفـا …. و لم يكن مؤثرا فلتعرفا

فليس مجبورا ولا اختيارا …. وليـس كـلا يفعـل اختيـارا

فإن يثبنا فبمحض الفضل …. وإن يعـذب فبمحـص العـدل

i.e. “We hold that the slave has acquisition and has been made responsible but he does not effect. He is thus neither compelled without choice nor does he create his actions.”

While Imaam al-Laqaani, the Maliki scholar is Ash’ari in his creedal affiliation, he has agreed with the classical hanbalis and has somewhat opposed Imam Abu Hasan al-Ash’ari on this issue.

I will continue to bring authoritative Sunni Theologians on this very point.

In order for a more accurate picture, one has to know the origination of views. In fact, the basis of this discussion is based on the two things I just mentioned
1. the role of how the groups have viewed atomism
2. knowing the origination of views and for what purpose they were formulated.

Ibn Taymiyyah, being the master of articulation within the subjects discussed concerning theology and the various views of individuals and groups and being knowledgable of the intricate aspects of their origin I believe is most suitable to bring forth in this matter. Listen to the following kalaam where he says the following (I wish I can type it all up but its two long) in his book Kitaabul-Emaan (Book of Faith)

“The point behind the present discussion has been to raise the issue of Allah’s divine decree. It has been established in Sahih Muslim on the authority of Abdullah bin Amr that the prophet salallahu alaihi wa sallam said
‘With His Throne over the waters, Allah foreordained the fates of His creatures 50 thousand years before He created the heavens and the earth’
and we read in sahih al-Bukharee on the authority of Imran Bin Husayn that the prophet salallahu alaihi wa sallam said
‘He is and nothign existed before Him. His Throne is upon the waters, and He records everything in the Reminder (Qur’an). Then He created the heavens and the earth’
And we have several accounts in the two books (Saheehayn) on the authority of the prophet alaihi salatu salam according to which Allah knew from the beginning who would enter Paradise and who would enter Hell, and what human beings would do before they had done it.

We also read in the saheehayn on the authority of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud that after Allah creates someone’s body and before breathing life into it, He send forth an Angel who records the time when the person is destined to die, the type of livelihood we will enjoy, and the actions he will perform, as well as whether he will be blessed or damned. Other hadeeth such as these will be discussed in the proper place inshallah. This notion of predestination (Qadr) has been decried by the qadarite sect which arose during the later days of the companions of the Prophet. It has been related that the first person to innovate this sects teachings in Iraq was a man from Basrah by the name of Sibawayh, originally a zoroastrian. His teachings were then passed on to a man named Ma’baad al-Juhani. It is also said that one of the first events [to inspire this teaching] took place in the Hijaaz, namely the burning of the kaaba. After it occurred, one man said that it burned down by Allah’s decree, to which someone else replied that no, Allah decreed no such thing! However during the days of the rightly guided Caliphs, no one ever dared question the notion of Divine Predestination (al-qadr). So when those of the qadarite sect first began denying this notion, they were condemned for it by the surviving companions of the Prophet, among them Abdulah ibn Umar, Abdullah Ibn Abbass, and Waathilah ibn Aswa. Most supporters of the new teachings were to be found in Basrah and Syria, while a few of them resided in the Hijaaz. The salaf had a great deal to say in criticism of the qadarite sect.

According to Waki ibnul-Jarrah (Imaam Maalik’s teacher) followers of the qadarite sect holds that the result of Allah’s commands will only become manifest in the future. And that Allah did not foreordain what people had written or what they had done.
The Murji’s however hold that one’s words may be separated from what one does, whereas according to the Jahmis, knowledge may be separated from both one’s words and actions. Concerning all such views, Waki said
‘This, all of this, is kufr (disbelief)” it was narrated by Ibn…
[in the manuscripts the name has been erased through time and therefore blank]

However, when writings on Divine Predestination spread and became more well known with participation of numerous speculative thinkers and others, the majority of those who had embraced the qadarites teachings began to accept the notion of divine foreknowledge, although they still denied the Absolute Will and Creation. We have two different accounts on the authority of Amr ibnul-Ubayd (the Mutazili) concerning the denial of the existence of a pre-existing book [i.e. the Qur’an]. This view was denounced by Maalik (Imam Maalik), Shafi’ee, Ahmad [bin Hanbal], and others who declared them [the qadarites] to be kaafirs (disbelievers) on account of it. There are many scholars and others who have written in favor of the notion of Divine Foreknowledge and whose views have been passed down by al-Bukhaaree and Muslim. However, they do not set forth the views of those who advocated this notion. This was the doctrine taught by the Hadeeth scholars (ahlul-hadeeth) who were also Islamic jurists, such as Ahmad [Bin Hanbal] and others, namely, that whoever was advocating a heretical teaching deserves to be punished in order that other people may be protected from any harm which he might bring upon them. The lightest punishment he might receive is ostracism, so that he would no longer enjoy any status within Islam, his testimony would no longer be accepted, nor would he be consulted or allowed to teach or to be appointed as a judge. The teaching of Maalik (Imaam Maalik) is similar to this, hence, compilers of prophetic traditions did not record the views of individuals who were propagating any sort of heretical doctrine. However, they, and other scholars did record the views of many who secretly agreed with the teachigns of the qadarites, Murjites, Kharijites, and Shi’ites, and others.

[Check this out]
Ahmad [ibn Hanbal] once said that ‘if we failed to relate the teachings of the qadarites, we would be leaving out the views of most of the inhabitants of Basrah. This was because the question of whether the actions of the human beings are “created”, and concerning the wills of “creatures” is a problematic one’
And just as those Mutazilites who held qadarite views erred in their thinking, so also did many of those who sought to refute their teachings. For in their attempts to refute their views, they followed in the footsteps of Jahm ibn Safwan and his followers, denying the wisdom of Allah and His acts of creating and commanding, in His Mercy towards His servants, as well as the causes for Creation and Commands. In fact, they so thoroughly repudiated existing realities evident in Allah’s creatures and laws that they alienated most prudent thinkers who had understood their claims concerning what they believed to be orthodox Islam. That is, they were making the claim that the views of orthodox muslims on predestination were the same as those introduced by Jahm”

Now, Haafidh Ibnul-Qayyim has complexity of statements where he dissects this issue in a detailed manner and elaborating upon it within the confines of the Salafi methodology regarding the Islamic creed.

in his book ash-Shifa (the entire title is “Shif’aa al-‘Aleel f īma ‘il al-qada wal-qadar wal-hikma wa-ta’līl “)

Regarding predestination, the correct Sunnī belief was neither determinism nor belief in free will. It was a compromise between these two extremes, a true middle road ( al-madhhab al-wasat ). This belief acknowledges God’s omnipotence and the predestination of man’s acts, but at the same time considers man as a responsible actor. Man exercises his choice ( ikhtiyar ) and will ( iraada ), and then carries out ( fa’ala ) his actions. The book ash-Shifaa ‘ is devoted to explaining how it is possible to combine these two apparently contradictory views.

In essence, the quote of Imaam Laqaani above, surprisingly yet not, is a regurgitation of Ibnul-Qayyim’s doctrine in simplified format which is why I have stated that he has agreed with the hanbalis on this very point

Which means, what is the position of the Ash’aris

The Ash’arite position on predestination is that God creates the actions of the servant directly without the servant himself causing that act, and that the servant then ‘acquires’ the reward or punishment of that deed. Hence, there is only an illusion of free-will, for in the end all actions are a direct result of God’s will and action. This theory, propounded by al-Ash’arī himself, is known as the theory of ‘acquisition’, or kasb. It is, of course, based directly on Ash’arite belief of God re-creating accidents within atoms at each and every second. Man, being merely the agency upon which these accidents are created, cannot actually be the cause of any of his own ‘actions’. Hence, atomism was the key factor that led Ash’arites to deny both natural causality and human free-will.

Between al-Ghazaali, Ibn Sina, and the Hanbalis

Issue: One of the main issues of theological debate was the relationship between God’s power and human acts. The Mu‘tazilites, admitting the continuation of an accident (arad) of human power, asserted that human acts were decided and produced (or even created) by people themselves; thus they justified human responsibility for acts and maintained divine justice.
In contrast, assuming that all the events in the world and human acts are caused by God’s knowledge, will and power, al-Ghazali admits two powers in human acts, God’s power and human power. Human power and act are both created by God, and so human action is God’s creation (khalq), but it is also human acquisition (kasb) of God’s action, which is reflected in human volition. Thus al-Ghazali tries to harmonize God’s omnipotence and our own responsibility for our actions.

Thus, from what I know, the hanbalis all agreed to this, including Ibn Taymiyyah. And this is the exact doctrine professed in Ibnul-Qayyim’s Shifaa al-‘Aleel. there could be some slight variations, possibly differences in semantics, however, I think for the most part, hanbalis and ash’aris were in someways in unison on this point against the mutazilah (qadaris) and the philosophers wallahul-alim

Ibn Taymiyyah explains the relaionship between our will and responsibility to answer for our actions and the fact that God is the Creator of our actions due to the Islamic fundamental creedal principle of “Khalq Af’aal al-‘Ibaad” (the actions of the servants are created)

Ibn Taimiyyah goes to the issue of two terms that people of his time differed on:

Khalq bi or FIIAL bi= Creation by or action by or through.

Khalq aaind or Fiaal aaind= Creation of action at.

The first is a relationship of causation and the other is a relationship of association. Something that scientists of these days deal with whenever they see two phenomena happening at the same time or shortly following each other.

Ibn Taimiyyah would go with the first rather than the second, unless an action is done directly and specifically by God, as in the creation of Adam and other things. So, the actions of man are man’s direct responsibilities and they were indirectly created by Allah. Man’s free will is responsible. God created in man the ability to do right and wrong, and either action would be indirectly created by God but the responsibility of man.

In essence, Ibn Taymiyyah has classified qadr (Divine Pre-destination and decree) into two categories

1. Qadr al-Qawni
2. Qadr ash-Shar’i

and these two can be extensively elaborated in more detail, however what is commonly accepted from these two aspects of qadr was that qadr al-qawni was a matter completely obsolete from the human experience (meaning we have no choice or say in that regard) whereas His qadr ash-Shar’i is what was part of the human experience by enacting their decision and becoming the recipients of the outcomes of those decisions, and rightfully so (meaning they would not be oppressed because they are answerable for their own actions)