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Ash’arism and Atheism: A Glimpse Into Two Parallel Schools of Thought

 

Author: Ali Boriqee

Source: Multaqa Ahlul-Hadeeth

Compiled by: al-Mustaqeem Publications

Available in PDF format at the end of the page

 

الحمد لله رب العالمين، وصلى الله وسلم وبارك على نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه أجمعين
وبعد
السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركات

 

I initiate this discussion to enrich the understanding of the Muslims and to solidify what some of them can somewhat already perceive, but only in a general fashion. It may be funny, but it has a great element of tragedy in that those who follow the Ash’ari school of thought, who claim to be the followers of rationalism, simply do not see the rationale and conclusive ramifications of what their school of thought leads to.

Whenever the theological topics concerning “limit” and or “place” for Allah comes up, the two heated sides are usually the salafis who are labeled as the anthropomorphists versus the Ash’aris (and we can add the Maturidis) and who are labelled the “Jahmis”.

However, what many from Ahlu-Sunnah among the salafis/ahlul-hadeeth have been slightly unaware of, is that the polemic is much graver than simply the kalaam arguments for “limit”, “jism”, and “place” respectively. Little will they realize that discussion on each one of these topics are actually connected to the topic of ilhaad (atheism) and that the formulated doctrines of the later day Ash’aris is nothing less than an institutionalized form of atheism. We will, in this endeavor, highlight Athari Imaams who have either explicitly stated this fact or who have implied this fact. I implore the reader that when I say “implied” i don;t mean that it is a stretch of the imagination, rather the texts are very apparent towards its implication and is not something far fetched.

So what we will do is to first explain the concept of place and limit for Allah followed by the Ash’ari erroneous concoctions on the subject along with its repudiation based upon orthodox Islam. Then after which we will bring forth Athari Imaams who pinpointed the ummah as to the atheism of the proponents of kalaam theology inshaa’Allah.

 

 

The Test of Imaam Ahmad on Allah’s Existentiality towards the Jahmiyyah

Issue: When Allah Created the Creation, Did He Do So Within Himself or Outside of Himself
i.e. does He dwell within the creation or is He separate from it.

This argument actually stems from Imaam Ahmad in his Radd alal-Jahmiyyah. However, before I present the testimony of Imaam Ahmad, I will reveal it in answer to an inquiry I received on the topic.
The following was a reply to a brother who was trying to understand this very issue better. The reason why I quote the following is because it is integral to the topic at hand

It was asked

As-salamu alaikum.

May Allah reward you all for your patience and generosity.

You say that Allah has “Infinite grandness in His Attributes (not in His being)” – why do you say this about His Attributes but not His Being?

I would be interested to see evidence from the Quran, the Sunnah or the Righteous Salaf to justify your opinion.

So my reply is the following

I’ll divide this in two, the first is the rationale argument while the second is the scholastic proof inshallah

1. The claim that He is infinite in His Attributes and NOT in His Being.

This means that His attributes are endless, they do not have a limit, His Mercy is infinite, His Benevolence is Infinite, His Power is infinite, His Might is Infinite, His Sovereignty, His Bounty infinite etc etc, are infinite. In short, every one of Allah’s qualities knows no bounds.

This also means that His actual being (dhaat) is limited. WHY? If Allah is unlimited in His being, then this necessitates that His very Being consumes all that exists as this means that His actual being is unlimited consuming everything, including the creation and other than the creation and this is the very belief that was being promulgated among the jahmiyyah. The modern lexical term for this belief is “Omnipresence”

2. The proofs

Imaam Ahmad recorded in his Radd ‘alal-Jahmiyyah in the chapter on the exposition regarding the denial of the jahmiyyah that Allah is not on His Throne, he mentioned that when he told Jahm about where is Allah, their reply was

He is under the seven earths as He is on the throne; He is in heaven, on earth and in every place; there is no place where he is not, nor is He in one place to the exclusion of any other. And they quoted the verse: And He is God in the Heavens and on the Earth.

Imaam Ahmad says in His radd

We said: The Muslims know of many places where there is no trace whatsoever of the might of the Lord. They (jahm) said: And where is that? We replied: Your bodies, your insides and pigs’ insides, in privies and unclean places, and in all of which there is no trace of the Lord’s might.

Allah told us that He is in Heaven, saying:

What are ye sure that He who is in Heaven will not cleave the Earth beneath you?..

Or are you sure that He who is in Heaven will not send against you a stone-charged whirl-wind? 67-16,17
And again:

…The good word riseth up to Him. 35-2

And again:

…O Jesus! Verily I will cause thee to die, and will take thee up to myself. 3-48
And again:
…But Allah took him up to Himself. 4-156
And again:
All beings in Heaven and in Earth are His, and they who are in His presence… 21-19
And again:
They fear their Lord who is above them… 16-52
And again:
…The Master of those ascents 70-3
And again:
…He is the High, the Great. 2-256

This then tells us that He is in Heaven.

The following verses show us that all beneath Him are villainous: Verily the hypocrites shall be in the lowest abyss of the fire…4-144 And again: And they who believe not shall say, O our Lord! Show us those of the jinn and men who led us astray: both of them will we put under our feet that they be of the humbled. 41-29

We added: Do you not know that iblis has his place and the devils have theirs? Allah and Iblis can not be both in one place. The meaning of Allah’s word:

‘He is God in heaven and upon earth’ is that to him belong those in Heaven and those in earth; that He is on the throne and that His knowledge embracess all that lies beneath the throne; and that there is no place not embraced by His knowledge. “[1]

Logically speaking, to claim the belief that Allah is unlimited in His being, then this by default entails that He is infused with, or envelopes or consumes the creation with His being and to have an opinion different than the opinion that I have claimed above is kufr of apostasy because this is not merely likening Allah to His creation, rather this is the saying of some of the esoteric sects of the sufis who follow the school of Ibn ‘Arabi who stated that Allah is everywhere which provided the basis of the doctrine of wahdatul-wujood and itihaad which originated from al-Hallaaj.

However, if this is not enough, then allow me to quote an irrefutable excerpt that Imam Ahmad superbly made an acid test for those who have doubt about this matter of Allah being limited in His being. Check this out

The title of this chapter from his radd is

Bab: If you wish to know that the Jahmi lies against Allah, in saying that Allah is in every place and is not in one place to the exclusion of any other

So that is the title

So he begins by saying

Say: Was there not Allah when there was nothing else? “

In this line, he is telling the people of the sunnah to ask these people infect by theosophical dialectic the above question. So Ahmad says

He will assent

Meaning he (the one being asked) will agree. So Ahmad continues

Then say: When He made a thing, did He do so inside or outside of Him?

Then he addresses the Sunni by saying

Three possibilities follow

meaning, there can only be three different views, no more and no less, and two of them is apostasy and only one is correct. He says

“If he asserts that Allah created all things within Himself, including jinn, men and devils, he denies the faith.”

Thus one who holds this belief cannot be a Muslim. Next he says

“If he says that He created them outside of Himself and then entered into them, including all the wild, squalid and vile places –this too is infidelity”.

Again, a belief such as this invalidates the faith and the testimony of faith.

“And if he says He created them outside of Himself and then did not enter into them, he has abandoned his position for that of ahl-Sunna.

i.e. if the one who agrees with us that Allah has created the creation outside of Himself and remains outside and thus separate and distinct from His creation, then such an individual has abandoned the view that Allah is unlimited in His Being and has agreed with us (ahlu-sunnah) that He is limited in His being because believing that He is unlimited in His being equals the belief that He coexist with His creation or that He is “omnipresent”. So if it is agreed by any individual that Allah created the creation outside of Himself and remained so has just conceded to our view that Allah is limited in His being

For those who wish to see further evidence for Imaam Ahmad’s position on the application of the term “hadd” or ‘limit” for Allah, then read below

  

The Issue of Affirmation of al-Hadd (limit) for Allah

There is a saying of Abdullahi ibnul-Mubaarak, the Imaam, on affirmation of al-Hadd.

It is reported in the Tabaqaat al-Hanaabilah (1/267) the following

“I said to Ahmad bin Hanbal ‘It is narrated about Ibnul-Mubaarak that it was said to him , ‘How do we know our Lord?’, and he replied, ‘Above (fee) the seventh heaven, Upon His Throne, with a limit (bi-haddin),”
so Ahmad said
“This is how it is with us

Ibn Taymiyyah makes the following comment on this point
“For (al-hadd) is that by which a thing is distinguished from others in terms of its description (sifa) and extent (qadr), as is well know regarding ‘al-hadd’ for those things which brings about separation (non-contact) between things. So it is said, ‘The hadd (end, limit) of so and so’ or ‘to such and such extent (hadd)’, and this is from the attributes that demarcate something from others“[2]

 

On The Concept of “Place”: The Ash’ari Contention With Ahlu-Sunnah

Modern day proponents to the Ash’ari school place great emphasis on the sunni doctrine of Allah’s whereabouts because they have taken the Aristotelian concept of “place” and what it necessitates in Aristotelian philosophical theory.
So then it was asked

You have affirmed “place” inside creation and “place” outside creation, and this affirmation entails that the “place” inside creation should be created and the “place” outside creation should be uncreated,

Therefore, you have asserted an uncreated “place” for Allah (quote: “These two covers up everything that exists”) – I wonder what the Righteous Salaf would have made of such an assertion.

Do you have any evidence from the Righteous Salaf that they ever asserted an uncreated “place” for Allah?

The Sunni/Athari response is as follows
The salaf would not have mentioned nothing. WHY? Because when the prophet inquired to the slave women “aiynallah” i.e. where is Allah, the term aiyn already implies the meaning of place and since it is the prophet Muhammad who asked this question, then this makes Muhammad a mushabih (anthropomorphist) in the view of those who claim that place does not apply to Allah from their concocted formula “Allah does not have place” theory.

Secondly, regarding this point, the salaf did not view the idea of “place” in the manner that you have viewed it under the implication of your words. Place, as viewed under the kalaam premise, is an area that is confined to spatial direction and surrounded by the six directions. We say this applies to the creation. But if Allah is above the Throne as He said He was, and then at the same time someone accused this claim made by Allah as ascribing place to Him in a manner that is meant by the philosophers as expounded by the ash’aris, then we reject the notion that Allah is surrounded by the six directions and confined to a place just as our Athari Imaam Abu J’afar at-Tahaawee commented in his Aqeedah[3]. That is because when place is attributed to other than Allah, then it requires the properties mentioned by the philosophers, which is confinement and in spatial direction. But when we are speaking of Allah, then the properties, attributes, and laws applicable to creation is inapplicable to Allah. So when we say Allah is in the direction of highness and in the place which is above the throne, then all the properties that have been applied upon the definitions of space or place are inapplicable if the one who “place” is being attributed to is Allah.

Failing to make this distinction between Allah and His creation is the true nature of tashbeeh. In other words, if we say that above has the meaning of being in a direction and therefore limited, and therefore claiming that if we affirm Allah’s highness then we are affirming a direction for Allah, then you are really likening Allah into how you view the creation, and this is exactly the tashbeeh that the early orthodox community warned from of which the Ash’aris are guilty of.

And this is exactly where the acclaimed “rationalist” mindset of the ash’aris has been abandoned them because these formulas they have made for Allah are illogical and does not make sense and is incoherent and ultimately it does not match the beliefs of the salaf.

 

The Proponents of Kalaam and Their Silent Agreement With Atheists

What are the Belief of Atheists

The following is a general extraction of certain slants of atheism

Theoretical atheism
Further information: Existence of God, Evolutionary origin of religions, and Evolutionary psychology of religion
Theoretical, or contemplative, atheism explicitly posits arguments against the existence of gods, responding to common theistic arguments such as the argument from design or Pascal’s Wager. The theoretical reasons for rejecting gods assume various psychological, sociological, metaphysical, and epistemological forms.

Epistemological arguments
Further information: Agnostic atheism, Theological noncognitivism
Epistemological atheism argues that people cannot know God or determine the existence of God. The foundation of epistemological atheism is agnosticism, which takes a variety of forms. In the philosophy of immanence, divinity is inseparable from the world itself, including a person’s mind, and each person’s consciousness is locked in the subject. According to this form of agnosticism, this limitation in perspective prevents any objective inference from belief in a god to assertions of its existence. The rationalistic agnosticism of Kant and the Enlightenment only accepts knowledge deduced with human rationality; this form of atheism holds that gods are not discernible as a matter of principle, and therefore cannot be known to exist. Skepticism, based on the ideas of Hume, asserts that certainty about anything is impossible, so one can never know the existence of God. The allocation of agnosticism to atheism is disputed; it can also be regarded as an independent, basic world-view.

Other forms of atheistic argumentation that may qualify as epistemological, including logical positivism and ignosticism, assert the meaninglessness or unintelligibility of basic terms such as “God” and statements such as “God is all-powerful”. Theological noncognitivism holds that the statement “God exists” does not express a proposition, but is nonsensical or cognitively meaningless. It has been argued both ways as to whether such individuals classify into some form of atheism or agnosticism. Philosophers A. J. Ayer and Theodore M. Drange reject both categories, stating that both camps accept “God exists” as a proposition; they instead place noncognitivism in its own category

Metaphysical arguments
Further information: Monism, Physicalism
Metaphysical atheism is based on metaphysical monism—the view that reality is homogeneous and indivisible. Absolute metaphysical atheists subscribe to some form of physicalism, hence they explicitly deny the existence of non-physical beings. Relative metaphysical atheists maintain an implicit denial of a particular concept of God based on the incongruity between their individual philosophies and attributes commonly applied to God, such as transcendence, a personal aspect, or unity. Examples of relative metaphysical atheism include pantheism, panentheism, and deism.

The source of this was extracted from Wikipedia as I merely wished to gloss over the general concept on the forms of atheism rather than trying to pinpoint the total accuracy of what they mean as many academics do not prefer Wikipedia as a source for reference. At any rate, our main concern is the metaphysical argument here, which as the bottom line proves that what gives the argument of atheist a leg to stand upon is the fact that there was never some physical form of contact between the created and the Creator, at least as they see it.

With that being said, this entire subject should stem from, and MUST ONLY stem from the issue of the relationship between the Creator and the Created. It should NOT be construed that the Creator and that which is ascribed to the Creator, in any way, shape, or form, is dependent upon the creation.

  

The Ash’ari View of Where is Allah (Himself) and the Notion of Atheism

I will quote Ibnul-Jawzee as it seems to be the best argument for the ash’aris (such an irony, that it took a hanbali to present their heresy in a manageable fashion)

Haafidh Ibnul-Jawzee states the following absurd logic in reply to Ibn Zaghuni, a Hanbali jurisprudent, who he is trying to refute

Furthermore, from another point of view, it can be pointed out that He is neither in this world nor outside it because entering and exiting are inseparable attributes of things which occupy space. Entering and exiting are just like movement and stillness and all other accidents which apply to bodies only.

Notice that Ibn al-Zaghūnī claims above [Ibn al-Jawzī had quoted from one of his books] that He did not create things in His Essence (dhāt); therefore, he presumes it is established that they are separate from Him. (In refutation of this claim) we declare that the Essence of the Transcendent God (dhātuhū al-muqaddasah) is
beyond having things created in it, or that things should occur in it.
Now, material separation in relation to Him requires of Him what it requires of substances [namely, that He be defined by finite limits]. Indeed, the definition of location is that what occupies it prevents a similar thing from being found there; [whereas, nothing is similar to God in any way].

It is apparent that what [these anthropomorphists] presume is based on sensory analogy.
Their inability to conceive of a reality beyond material experience led them into bewilderment, and to liken the attributes of the Transcendent God to the attributes of originated things [that is, to commit tashbīh].

  

A Breakdown of Ibnul-Jawzi’s Erroneous Deduction

How is this?

Firstly: Islam did not come with anything that is irrational (contradicts intellect\reason\’aql)
Rather, Islam came with

محارات العقول
maharat al ‘uqool (i.e. what bewilders\puzzles the mind)

but did NOT come with

محالات العقول
mahalat al ‘uqool (i.e. what is impossible in the mind [unfeasible])

In regards to the belief of the later Ashari’s that Allah is neither in His creation nor outside of it, and neither in contact/attached to His creation nor separate from it (The first Muslim scholar whom I’ve seen mentioning such a belief is al Ghazali rahimahu Allah), it is from mahalat al uqool (impossibilities in the mind).

Before Allah created creation, there was only Allah, then Allah created creation, all agree that Allah did not create it inside of Him, there is only one other choice that is possible in the mind, which is outside of Him.

The creation being neither inside nor outside of Allah would only be possible if Allah was non-existent and Allah exists with no doubt, subhanahu wa Ta’ala.

This belief is not something that puzzles the mind, it is something that the mind finds impossible completely.

It is like saying that a person is not alive or dead, this would only be possible if your speaking about a non-existent person.

As for his statement on “entering and exiting”

Then we say, Firstly, and for mostly, there is nothing in the legal texts nor in the statements of those erroneously deemed as “anthropomoprhists” by which all of them say that He enters and exits. And the statement “the creation exists outside of Him” or the term “He is separate and distinct (ba’in)” from creation does not equal in any reasonable and formal logic as “the object which enters and exits”. In other words, the attribute of entering and exiting has no relation at all to a reality that a thing may exist outside or separate of another thing.

This is the first flaw which makes the mode of his deduction inapplicable to the sunni argument to begin with

Secondly, If entering and exiting are inseparable attributes of things that occupy space, then this would form a line of argument that dictates denial that Allah can “come” as He says

هَلْ يَنْظُرُونَ إِلَّا أَنْ يَأْتِيَهُمُ اللَّهُ فِي ظُلَلٍ مِنَ الْغَمَامِ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ

Do they then wait for anything other than that Allah should cometo them in the shadows of the clouds and the angels?

Then the obvious conclusion of this line of logic is that this Aristotelian “rule” can only be applied to the creational objects within the creational realm. Thus the rule does not and could not be applied for anything outside of the creational reality, of which the only One who is Above this creation is Allah.
Alas, the anthropomorphists thinking of the Aristotelians continues in full force.

As for his statement that

Entering and exiting are just like movement and stillness and all other accidents which apply to bodies only.\

Yes, ONLY within this creational dimension which does not apply to Allah because we apply the rule “laysa kamithlihi shay” i.e. “there is no likeness nor similarity to Him”.

Ibnul-Jawzi furthermore, with great sadness to us, performs a mighty fallacy if the words below fully or accurately depict his logic from the original Arabic source. He says

Notice that Ibn al-Zaghūnī claims above [Ibn al-Jawzī had quoted from one of his books]that He did not create things in His Essence (dhāt); therefore, he [meaning the one who Ibnul-Jawzi is refuting, namely ibnul-Zaghuni] presumes it is established that they are separate from Him. (In refutation of this claim) we declare [that is, Ibn al-Jawzī] that the Essence of the Transcendent God (dhātuhū al-muqaddasah) is
beyond having things created in it, or that things should occur in it.

Hence Ibnul-Jawzi conforms to Ibnul-Zaghuni. What just happened here is that Ibnul-Jawzi is pointing out to the reader that the argument of Ibnu-Zaghuni was that Allah did not create anything within His Essence. The problem here is one of atheism, which is that when Ibnu-Jawzi declared Allah to be transcendent beyond having things created within Him or beyond Him, the premise for this reasoning is based on the idea divested by Aristotelian advocates that the reason for this is because Allah is a mere conceptual reality, with no actual existence. Thus, they liken the actual Being of Allah into a concept like love or hate, which happen to exist but only in a theoretical or conceptual state of mind, they do not have actual existential realities. Thus, the basis for Ibnul-Jawzi’s refutation to Ibnu-Zaghuni here is because in the view of Ibnul-Jawzi, Allah is a mere figment of the imagination with no actual existence. Now, it must be clear, we do not harm our predecessors in faith from among the likes of Ibnul-Jawzi if we compare his vast amount of benefit and dedication to Islam and his outright opposition ot the heretics including the Ash’aris, however, we wished to comment on a dangerous doctrinal statement advocated by him, and being applied to doctrine by the Ash’ari school.
However, these criticisms were directed at the defunct logic used above.

Now, I will dissect this argument from the implicated ramifications of this argument stated by Ibnul-Jawzee above.

1. Inside or outside the World.
In logic, reason, and plain simple reality there can only be three states regarding this subject
A. within creation
B. beyond (outside of) creation
C. merely conceptual (concepts that are not real, but merely concepts and therefore non existential)

The Jahmi Belief is that Allah was in creation which has been dealt with above and the test of Imaam Ahmad is a burhan in this subject.

The Normal Sunni Belief is that Allah is beyond (outside) and ABOVE the creation

The Ash’ari belief is that Allah does not exist as He is not within this world, NOR OUTSIDE OF IT.

We say, that such a belief accords to the beliefs of the atheists, because while you do not aspire to reach the same goal as the atheists, you have treaded upon the path of atheism using different tools than the atheists.

If Allah is not within His creation, and likewise Allah is not outside of it, then that only leads to one more possibility, which is that He (Allah) is merely a conceptual figment of our imagination and not an entity that actually exist, and hence this belief requires what is most obvious, Allah’s NON-existentiality

This topic as well touches the topic of “bi dhaatih” and “jism” because as Ibnul-Jawzee suggest, Allah is transcendent of having form and “LIMIT” thereby contradicting the aqeedah of Imaam Ahmad because Imaam Ahmad argued against the Jahmiyyah on this very point. Allah IN HIS BEING has a limit which is why Imaam Ahmad affirmed that Allah has a “had” i.e. “limit”, but not for His Attributes. His Mercy is infinite, His Power is infinite, but His being is not and therefore limited. WHY? Because the logical outcome of such a belief entails that if He is not limited in His being, then that means He is physically encompassing everything (both what is in the creation and whatever is outside of it) which is why the Jahmiyyah came to the kufr conclusion that Allah is fi kulli makaan.

However, for the heretical pseudo ash’aris, for a group who could be concluded in the realm of theists, they came out with an A-theist conclusion in spite of their theism. ALL theist (this includes everyone who is not an atheist) asserts in one form or another that Allah is simply somewhere, whether some of them say that He is everywhere or somewhere, ALL of them concede to the idea that Allah actually exists. These are the two conclusionary outlooks of every single theist that exist on planet Earth. However, there is one school of thought that posited a different outlook, which is that Allah does not exist at all. This is the outlook of the atheist.

As for the ash’aris, they are the only group in existence who mended the two views together. They affirmed that He exists, and denied His existentiality by asserting that He is neither within this world nor outside of it.

at any rate, Ibnul-Jawzee here states that if Allah is indeed separate, then that entails that He has form and limit which he negates for Allah.

We, the Ahlu-Sunnah say, that He has a form that befits His Majesty and Nature which is also affirmed in the Hadeeth narrations. This is because after careful study, then the statement “He does not have form” entails some major implications like
1. If He has no form and is unlimited, then that entails either the belief that Allah is everywhere OR
2. That He has no form, which is basically non-existentialism or atheism

 

The Issue of Bi Dhaatih and Imaam adh-Dhahabee’s Commentary on the Apparent Atheism of This Ash’ari Equation for Allah

As I said before, this issue actually touches the topics of jism and “bi dhaatih” and now Im adding Istiwaa because the logical conclusion to the issue of Istiwaa of Allah is “Where is Allah” which is the essence of this very thread and here is one such example where adh-Dhahabee comments on their strange and awkward form of atheism

I will highlight the relevant portion in bold. I have quoted this passage several times before and each time I quoted it, it was of benefit to each topic. SO this following passage has many benefits that touches spans over several subjects, but the issue I wish to highlight in this thread is concerning the topic of Allah’s actual whereness

here is where haafidh adh-Dhahabee brought forth the inquistition of the salaf in this regard. He quotes Qurtubee who said in ‘al-Asnaa’,

“Many of the past and contemporary philosophers said, ‘When it is necessary to purify the Creator (al-Baaree) – whose Magnificence is great – from having direction (jihah) and demarcation (tamayyuz), then from the requirements and necessary consequences of this, in the view of most of the past scholars and their leading contemporaries, is to purify the Creator (al-Baaree) from having direction (jihah). In their view, direction does not have the aspect of ‘above’ to it. This is because to them, when Allaah is designated with direction, this would necessitate that He is restricted to a place (makaan) and a confine (hayyiz). (Subsequently), a place and a confine necessitate (for Him) (such) movement and stillness that is related to distinction (tamayyuz), transformation (taghayyur) and new occurrences (hudooth) . This is the saying of the philosophers.

I (adh-Dhahabee) say, “Yes, this is what the deniers of the ‘uluww (highness) of the Lord, Mighty and Majestic, have depended upon. And they turned away from the requirement of the Book, the Sunnah, the sayings of the Salaf and the innate dispositions of the whole of creation. What they claim to be necessitated (from affirming Allaah’s highness) is only applicable to created bodies. Yet there is nothing like Allaah and the necessities arising from the clear and evident texts (of the Book and the Sunnah) are also true. However, we do not make use of any explanation except one that comes through a narration. In addition to this we say, ‘We do not accept that the Creator’s being upon His Throne and above the heavens, necessitates that He is confined and in spatial direction, since whatever is below the Throne is said to be confined and in spatial direction. However, what is above the Throne is not like that. And Allaah is above the Throne as the very first generation are unanimously agreed upon and as the imaams after them have quoted from them. They said this in refutation of the Jahmiyyah, those who said that He is in every place seeking as a proof His saying, ‘And He is with you…’. So these two sayings were the very two sayings which were present in the time of the Taabi’een and their successors who came after them. And they are the two sayings that can be understood in this statement (i.e. of the philosophers). As for the third saying which came around after this which is that’ Allaah the Most High is not in any place, nor is His Holy Essence (Dhaat) confined, nor is He separate and distinct from His creation, nor is he in any spatial direction, nor is outside of any spatial directions, and nor this and nor that…’ then this is something that cannot be comprehended nor understood , along with the fact that within it is opposition to the verses (of the Book) and the narrations (from the Salaf). Therefore flee with your religion and beware of the opinions of the philosophers. Believe in Allaah and what has come from Him upon the desired intent of Allaah, then submit your affair to Him and there is no power nor movement except by Allaah.”
The book is completed and all praise is to Allaah alone…” Mukhtasir al-Uloow

Indeed in this passage I highlighted in underlined above, means that this can only come about through the idea of “concepts” which is the basis for non existentialism. In other words, the mind that comes across this statement and in which the subject is concerning Allah, then it can only be non existentialism that is understood and nothing more.

 

Inspection into the Statements of the Athari/Sunni Imaams Commenting on Ash’ari Atheism

 

Athari Imaam #1: Imaam Ahlu-Sunnah Shaykhul-Islam Ahmad bin Hanbal ash-Shaybaani said in his Radd ‘alal-Jahmiyyah

When asked to explain the text (asked to Jahm), 

Nothing is like him (Qur’an)

they (his followers) reply: Among this, nothing is like Him; He is under the seven earths as He is on His throne; there is no place where He is not, and He is not in one place to the exclusion of any other; He has never spoken and does not speak; no one can see Him in this world or the next; He is not qualifiable, neither is He known by any attribute or act; He has no limit or end; mind can not comprehend Him; He is all face, all light, all power, without being two directions and no sides, no right and no left; He is neither heavy nor light; no light has He nor body; nor is He passible, ma’mul. Whenever you think that He is something you know, He is other than that.

We (ahlu-sunnah) say: He (Allah) is a thing.

They (the jahmiyyah) said: He is a thing unlike things. 

To which we replied that every thinking person knew that a thing unlike things was nothing at all. It thus became evident to everyone that they believed nothing at all, but made open profession to ward of revilement. 

Ahmad’s affirmation of atheism in their madhaab is clearly delineated in the bold and in particular, the underlined portion of the text. Imam Ahmad basically asserted that “everyone knew” meaning it is a necessary result of simple logic and thinking that the construct “a thing unlike things” is nothing at all. From that juncture onwards, he continued by asserting that everyone in the field of debate who witnessed this event ipso facto understood that the belief of jahmism is nothing less than atheism hence his words “that they believed nothing at all”. Interestingly he then concludes with the comical reality that they openly affirm Divinity to something they don’t believe in only to ward off the revilement that comes from the sane and normal people. Otherwise, without their being any repercussion towards denying His existence, the Jahmis are essentially the first atheists to have entered into the Islamic realm of disputes.

However, it becomes essential to highlight that these Jahmis, while their atheism became apparent to the people as noted by Ahmad bin Hanbal, that they are the opposite of the Ash’aris with regards to where He is. The two absurd madhaabs of atheism, both the jahmis and ash’aris, landed on two opposite sides while remaining in the same courtyard of atheism. The jahmis claimed that Allah is everywhere and that “He was not in any one place to the exclusion of another” thereby asserting that Allah was everyhere, which gave rise to the concept of pantheism and omnipresence as adopted by later day sufis. As for the Ash’aris, they did not go the extremism that Allah is everywhere, rather they went on the extreme polar opposite of the issue and claimed virtually that Allah is “nowhere”. Therefore, proving atheism to be an intrinsic part of Ash’ari dogma is much more easier and much more connected.

At this juncture we will look into other Athari Imaams who highlighted on this atheism of theirs inshaa’Allah.

 

Athari Imaam #2: Shamsu-Deen Haafidh adh-Dhahabee said in his book “al Uluw” :

ومقال متأخري المتكلمين أن الله تعالى ليس في السماء ولا على العرش ولا على السموات ولا في الأرض ولا داخل العالم ولا خارج العالم ولا هو بائن عن خلقه ولا متصل بهم
وقالوا جميع هذه الأشياء صفات الأجسام والله تعالى منزه عن الجسم
قال لهم أهل السنة والأثر نحن لا نخوض في ذلك ونقول ما ذكرناه إتباعا للنصوص وإن زعمتم ولا نقول بقولكم فإن هذه السلوب نعوت المعدوم تعالى الله جل جلاله عن العدم بل هو موجود متميز عن خلقه موصوف بما وصف به نفسه من أنه فوق العرش بلا كيف

And the saying of the later mutakalimeen [people of kalam] is that Allah Ta’ala is not fis-sama [in elevation], nor upon the Throne, nor above the heavens, nor on earth, nor inside the world, nor outside of the world, nor is He separate from creation, nor is He connected to it.
And they said that all of these are attributes of bodies, and Allah Ta’ala is munazah [my best translation for “munazah” is “transcendent”] from being a body.

Ahli-Sunnah and Athar said to them: we don’t delve into this, we say what we have mentioned following the texts, even if you claimed, and we don’t say what you say for it the description of a nonexistent, Exalted be Allah Jalla Jalaluh from being a 3adam [nonexistense], He is existent, separate and distinct from His creation, attributed with what He attributed Himself with, that He is above the Throne without how [bila kayf].

 

Athari Imaam #3: Shaykhul-Islam Ibn-Taymiyyah says Bayaan Talbis al-Jahmiyyah (1/443)

And when the Jahmiyyah speak with such words whose meanings comprise the sense that the Creator is not distinguished (separate) from the creation, then they deny and oppose His Attributes by which He is distinguished, and they deny His Power (qadar) such that when the M’utazilah come to know that He is al-Hayy (The Living), al-’Aleem (All-Knowing), al-Qadeer (All-Powerful), they say, ‘We already know His reality and His (true) nature,’ and they say, ‘He is not seperate and distinguished (Ba’in) from those besides Him.’
In fact, either they should describe Him with the Attribute of non-existence(Atheism) so that they say, ‘He is neither inside the world, not outside it and nor this and nor that,’ or they should make Him merged with the created things or the existence of the created things.”

[end quote]

My comments

There is a mountain of realities that we can pull from this single excerpt from Ibn Taymiyyah alone, but for the sake of brevity, I will only comment on that which relates to our situation in this specific topic regarding their apparent Atheism

The Jahmiyya were at odds with the Mutazilah in spite of the same pedestal from which they operated and understood the religion i.e. kalaamist philosophy.

The jahmis, on the one hand, through their denial of everything about Allah, came to the conclusion that Allah is simply unlimited, and by default of that aqidah, came to the most logical conclusion of this premise, which is that He is everywhere.

However, on the other hand, the mutazilah, like the ash’aris today, had a more contradictory aqida, because at least the jahmis were blatantly clear. The mutazilah affirmed the same thing as the jahmiyyah did (well some of them) while at the same time forming a creedal principle that “He is neither inside the world, nor outside, nor to the left, nor to the right, or the front, or the back, nor below the creation, nor above it”. This is essentially atheism in all but name because the only people on this planet who could concede to the same logic of this concept, and I use “logic” very loosely here, are the atheists. No one who has a mind would say what these Ash’aris have conjured up.

 

Athari Imaam #4: Imaam Alee bin al-Murtadaa al-Yamaanee, more commonly known as the celebrated Imaam Ibn Wazeer said

The second matter is accusing the religion of deficiency by rejecting the texts and dhawaahir (literal meanings of the Attributes), and removing them from their real and literal meanings to metaphorical meanings without a clear and unequivocal proof which would indicate the establishment for the necessity of ta’weel, having only the blind following of some of the Ahl al-Kalaam in principles that they have not agreed upon. And the most vile of these is the madhhab of the Qaraamita, the Baatiniyyah, in their ta’weel of the Beautiful Names of Allaah, and their negation of them by way of absolving Allaah of anthropomorphism and hence actualising tawheed (in their eyes), and their claim that applying them (to Allaah) is tashbeeh, to the extent that they went to say that He is not present/existing and neither is He absent/non-existing[4]

The are three mountains of the Sunni School of Doctrine who commented on Ash’ari atheism in their respective times, so this claim is not something new espoused by me, rather there is precedent in this argument ages ago.

 

Conclusive Remarks

Thus as it appears, some of these groups from ahlul-kalaam adopted preposterous ideas, in this case they said that Allah is neither existent (atheism) or non-existent (theism).

the only conclusion one could arrive at in trying to reconcile this contradictory claim with some type of reasoning before entering the doorstep of insanity is to assume of Allah as you assume of conceptual realities, which is that they perceive of Allah that He is merely a thought, a figment of the imagination with no actual reality, for such a view is the ONLY view that could entertain the idea that

Allah is neither existent or non-existent” or my favorite quote of theirs “He is without place

with some plausibility.

Outside of this, one is dealing with insanity. And indeed this was the case when I went to a shi’a mutazili forum requested by our some people. When I went to the shi’a forum and asked them if “God exists” the response of one of them was
“does love exists”

in simple speak, He reduced Allah’s reality to the reality of “love”. Why. Because love has no actual reality YET we know it exists, it is a feeling, a sensation, an experience with no actual reality. Moreover what defines how crooked their corrupt doctrine is, is that love is an attribute and not a “shayun” i.e. a stand alone entity. It can only have a reality based on an existential thing “shay’un”. Thus like love, this shi’a implied by his answer that Allah is like that, having no actual reality

 

The Defense of Ash’aris: Lack of Atheistic methodology In Their Approach

This following defense was actually brought by one of supporters so Im merely quoting them to demolish the points raised

The defense provided to prove their “non” atheism is the following defense

I can think of three other choices that do not necissitate non-existence:

1) There is the side itself,

2) There is being both inside and outside,

3) There is being neither inside nor outside through transcending.

Our Athari/Sunni reply

As for the first
1. That does not make sense and it entails a foundation that opposes one of the fundamentals of ash’arism.
A. being on the side cannot take place if there is no such thing as being within our outside of that thing. In other words, in order to be on the side of something, it either has to be within that thing, or outside of it. Something cannot be on the side of a thing while not being within the thing nor outside of it and such a reasoning defies base logic.
B. However, even for the sake of argument that existence can be proven by not being within the creation or outside of it, and still proving being on the side, then it entails that Allah has a physical connection since being on the side of something physically entails contact of some form or sort, which such a premise rudimentarily defies Ash’ari doctrine as well.

As for the second
2. Being both inside and outside. Well that equals Allah fi kulli makan (Allah is everwhere) or “omnipresence” because this is exactly what the jahmiyyah argued for.

as for the third
3. Transcending, then the question is transcending to what? Allah only revealed a universal fact which is, Himself and Other Than Himself. There is no third state in the physical realm. There is one other state, but it is a metaphysical (i.e. non-existential) realm where things within this state (like numbers) are merely concepts within the figment of our imaginations and nothing more.

 

[1] Radd ‘Alal-Jahmiyyah lil-Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal

 

[2] Majmu’a al-Fatawa

[3] This was stated by at-Tahaawee in his work on creed titled by the scholars as “Tahawiyyah” in point number 38.

[4] [‘Eethaar al-Haqq alaa al-Khalq’ (pp. 219+) of al-Yamaanee with summary, as quoted in ‘Sharh Kitaab at-Tawheed min Saheeh al-Bukhaaree’ (1/86+) of Shaykh Adullaah al-Ghunaymaan.]

 

E-book Publication: Asharism and Atheism- A Glimpse Into Two Parallel Ideologies