We begin citing the libel against Ibn Taymiyyah advocated by the factions of kalam and some groups of sufis and the shi’a. The claim is that ibn Taymiyyah affirms something eternal besides Allah which is eternal in its existence with Allah, and that ibn Taymiyyah agrees with the sayings of the philosophers in that matter is eternal and has no beginning. This belief was known in the realm of theology as “qidamul-‘alam” i.e. The eternality of existence.
So Ash’aris and the various factions of anti-sunni haters have taken a paradoxal position. Most of them, being bandwagon Ash’aris, argue this stance from ignorance and addressing them is of no concern in this bayan. Then you have a small minute number of Ash’aris who argue not from a bandwagon position, but actually believe in their obfuscation of reality. They conflate an arguement ibn Taymiyya posited against ar-Razi of tasalsalul-hawadith and conflate it with qidamul-‘alam. They then proceed to indoctrinate the greater bandwagon constituency of Ash’aris that this obfuscation of reality is in fact the case. This bayan aims to completely vanquish this myth.
Thee text in question, the one that these particular Ash’ari ideologues use to manipulate the facts is the following text from Ibn Taymiyyah’s Dar at-Ta’arrud al-Aql wan-Naql. Before we present the matter from the horses mouth, allow me to post an image of how heterodox cults tend to present their charge of what ibn Taymiyyah allegedly said
Now, look at the monumental difference in the presentation of it from cult extremists varying from the shia, asharis, sufis, and the like with the following presentation of what ibn Taymiyyah actually said. We will address shaykh al-albani’s absurd blunder in his lack of understanding later on.
The citation of Ibn Taymiyyah:
الناس في مسألة أفعال الله تعالى ثلاثة أقسام الجهمية المحضة من المعتزلة ومن وافقهم يجعلون هذا كله مخلوقا منفصلا عن الله تعالى والكلابية ومن وافقهم يثبتون ما يثبتون من ذلك : إما قديما بعينه لازما لذات الله وإما مخلوقا منفصلا عنه وجمهور أهل الحديث وطوائف من أهل الكلام يقولون : بل هنا قسم ثالث قائم بذات الله متعلق بمشيئته وقدرته كما دلت عليه النصوص الكثيرة ثم بعض هؤلاء قد يجعلون نوع ذلك حادثا كما تقوله الكرامية وأما أكثر أهل الحديث ومن وافقهم فإنهم لا يجعلون النوع حادثا بل قديما ويفرقون بين حدوث النوع وحدوث الفرد من أفراده كما يفرق جمهور العقلاء بين دوام النوع ودوام الواحد من أعيانه فإن نعيم أهل الجنة يدوم نوعه ولا يدوم كل واحد واحد من الأعيان الفانية ومن الأعيان الحادثة ما لا يفنى بعد حدوثه كأرواح الآدميين فإنها مبدعة كانت بعد أن لم تكن ومع هذا فهي باقية دائمة
We will offer the translation since these ideologues always make the claim (via conflation) but never cite thoroughly or provide the translated meaning to their constituency as the truth will be made quite apparent by simply reading his direct speech. It says
“People in regards to the Actions of Allah are of three groups:
1) The pure Jahmis from among the Mu’tazillah and those who agreed with them, who make all this (i.e. the Actions of Allah) Created, separate and distinct from Allah the Exalted.
2) The kullabiya (the pre-Ash’ari sect that served the basis for the school of abul-hasan al-Ash’ari رحمه الله) and those who agreed with them, affirm what they affirm from among it: Either as Eternal necessary for the Essence of Allah, or Created and Distinct from Him.
3) And the majority of Ahl Alhdeeth and (some) groups from among Ahl Al-Kalaam say: rather there is a third category/classification as Qaem (establised) in the Essence of Allah related to His Will and Ability, as the multiple texts have indicated. A few from among them then make that type/kind as hadath (emergent, non-eternal) as is the view of the Karamiya. However the majority of Ahl al-Hadeeth and those who concur with them DO NOT VIEW the type/genus (i.e. of the Attribute of Action of Allah) to be non-eternal, rather [they say and affirm that it is] Eternal. They distinguish between the emergence of the type (i.e. Allah Exalted is He, developing new Attributes He did not have before) and the emergence of a particular from among it (i.e. such as Speaking whenever He Wills with whatever He Wills, while affirming that the Attribute of Speech is Eternal, while the particular speech is Hadith)”
In any case, it should be clear to anyone that this specific text from Ibn Taymiyyah is dealing with the Attributes of Action for Allah, and whoever brought it trying to support “Qidaamul ‘alaam” or that “entities” or “species has no beginning” is not being very honest in his presentation, or is translating it from someone who is not, may Allah forgive us and them.
The Causal Link Between Root Doctrines and the Resultant Concocted Theories Developed by Ash’aris
Ibn Taymiyyah CLEARLY demonstrates above the dichotomy between the Sifa (Characteristic) as being the fa’il (فاعل) and the act (فعل) itself, versus the end result of the act (maf’ul). Example. Allah’s Eternal Atrribute of Speech (kalam) has no beginning or end and was always One endowed with this Attribute. Yet Allah decided to Speak to Prophet Musa at Mount Tur at that specific place and time. This, in the language of the discussion is called hadath/muhdath (emergent).
The reason why actual Ash’ari mutakalimin raised such a ruckus and caused so much haywire is because as usual, the development of their make-believe theology they are graciously known for caused them to jump through loops, leaps, and bounds. Lets go deeper into the kalam rabbit hole in order to better grasp why Ash’arism and kalam based ideologies in general took outrageously absurd positions that no nation or civilization adopted about a Divine Lord.
The Arabs and their language, along with the Prophetic guidance from which it is based, is developed from the construct, and we will use فعل (f’ala) as it is the base form used to teach Arabic grammar and from this we gain insight into the depth of meaning and realization of Divine guidance of the Messengers عليهموا صلاة سلام. There is the construct “فاعل، فعل، و مفعول”. That is, there is the Actor, the action (of the actor), and that which was enacted.
The particular factions of ilmul-kalam movements among the kullabiya, the Ash’aris, and the Maturidiya have dismantled this fact because it ran contrary to the fundamental purpose of huduth al-ajsam theories that they had developed. For these kalamist factions, there was a conflict of interest with the فعل part. The reason is because they’ve said something outrageous which was delinated from these theories of huduth wal-ajsam (the emergence of matter/bodies/entities). They said that “الفعل هو المفعول”. That the act is synonymous with the result of the act. This would thus entail that, for example, “الخلق هو المخلوق”, i.e. The act of creating is but the creation itself”.
This absurd ideology is what gave rise to the Ash’ari kalam nafsi theory. The intent here is to remove the “action” element from “the doer, the action, that which is done“, so all we have now, with action removed, is “the doer,
the action, that which is done” and no action in between that gave rise to the end-result (that which was done) and which is ascribed to the acting agent because the action is “equal” to that which was acted upon i.e. a Hadath which entails a creature. Imam al-Bukhari refutes this saying that there is no tongue (language) that omits this integral stage from the normal formula of existence and we will quote this further below. Essentially, when the muta’akhirin among ahlul-kalam negated “the act” (فعل) from the equation, the theological ramification (لازم), was the removal of a Divine Lord that Interacts with His Creation under His Ability as He says “فعال لما يريد” i.e. He DOES whatever He wishes”. This is why kalamists have posited that everything Allah did was done in the ether some time in pre-eternity preceeding existence. All that He would say has already have been said. All that He did was done in some form of Divine limbo and that when the creatures needed what it needed from the Divine Lord, it was then revealed in instances. That is because to them, muhdathat (newly occuring incidences) detract from the Sublime nature of the Divine Lord as He is “outside of space (spatial directions) and time”. Obviously this is a corruption of what was the Prophetic guidance on what was meant in the Book and the Sunnah about Allah not being bound by time.
The ultimate reason for this denial and removal of action from Allah’s Attributes is because in kalam theology, it is treated as Godsent revelation that all that is muhdath (emergent) is makhluq (creation). For such kalamists and their sympathizers, the action itself entails its the creature as well. This was the driving ideology as to what allowed the ashaa’irah to agree with the M’utazilah (the words of Ibnul-Juwayni رحمه الله himself, not mine) that the Qur’an is in fact created.
Anyways, Imam al-Bukhari beautifully repels the absurdities of kalam ideologues on this very point in his Khalq Af’al al-‘Ibad.
“As for [distinguishing] the fiʿl (action) from the mafʿūl (that which is done, the result of an act), then the fiʿl is to bring about something (iḥdāth al-shay’), and the mafʿūl is the thing brought about (al-ḥadath), due to His saying (خَلَقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضَ) “He created (khalaqa) the heavens and the earth” (6:73). The heavens and the earth are mafʿūlah (the results of action), and every thing besides Allāh that is through His ordainment (qaḍā’) then it is mafʿūl. Thus the creation of the heavens is His act because it is not possible for the heaven to be established by itself without the action of a doer. And the heaven is ascribed to Him (as His creation) due to His action… Similarly, all languages of the creation provide the same understanding without any difference between them. Indeed there is the fāʿil (actor), the fiʿl (the action) and the mafʿūl (that which is enacted, the result), and the fiʿl is the attritube [of the fāʿil] and the mafʿūl is (something) other than him(the fāʿil). And the explanation of that is in His, Most High’s saying (مَا أَشْهَدتُّهُمْ خَلْقَ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَلَا خَلْقَ أَنفُسِهِمْ) I (Allāh) made them not to witness (nor took their help in) the creation of the heavens and the earth and not (even) their own creation. (18:51). He did not intend here by “the creation of the heavens”, the heavens themselves for He has distinguished between the action (of creating) the heavens from the (actual) heavens, and thus did He (faʿala) [meaning create] the whole of the creation. And (likewise) in His saying, “and not (even) their own creation”, He has distinguished between the fiʿl (action) and the [created] soul(s), and His action did not become the creation itself…And the Jahmiyyah said: The fiʿl and mafʿūl are one and same thing…And the people of knowledge said: Creating is the action of Allāh. And our actions are created, due to His, the Most High’s saying: And whether you keep your talk secret or disclose it, verily, He is the all-Knower of what is in the breasts (of men). Should not He Who has created know? (67:13-14). Meaning, [what He created] of secret or open speech. Thus, the fiʿl (action) of Allāh is His attribute, and that which is mafʿūl is what is besides Him from the creation.
[Khalq Afʿāl al-ʿIbād (Mu’assasah al-Risālah, Beirut, 1990) pp. 111-112.]
Now, as for the issue of tasalsalul-hawadith, which in its linguistic meaning is “endless chain of events” in the past and commonly translated in its technical usage as “infinite regress”, the great scholar Abdur-Rahman al-Barrak has elaborated on the subject and his words are relevant to the discussion. He says
“The dispute about whether the world – by which we mean created existence and not the planet on which we live – could have existed eternally in the past is a dispute that came about purely due to some “rational” and “logical” arguments. The most important of these is the philosophical “proof” of the impossibility of an eternal succession of causes. We should, from the outset, clarify that scholars of the Sunnah take their beliefs from the Qur’ân and Sunnah, and not from the speculations of scholastic theology and the theories of philosophers and logicians. The issue of whether a succession of created causes (or created things) could have existed eternally in the past and, likewise, that they will continue to exist eternally in the future, is relevant to a Muslim’s belief in Allah and His attributes, and therefore it behooves a Muslim to understand the issue and distinguish truth from falsehood regarding it.The idea that a succession of created things might have existed for eternity in the past means simply that for every created thing, there may have existed an earlier created thing that predated it. People have disagreed about the possibility of this. Their opinions can be divided into three groups:1. There are those who claim it is impossible for a series of causes to have existed perpetually in the past and likewise for a series of causes to go on perpetually into the future. Because these people hold this view about the future as well as the past, they say that even Heaven and Hell must come to an end.2. There are those who claim it is impossible for a series of causes to have existed perpetually in the past but that a series of causes can certainly go on perpetually into the future. This is the view held by the mutakalimin.3. There are those who claim IT IS POSSIBLE for a series of causes to have existed perpetually in the past and that it is also possible that a series of causes can go on perpetually into the future. This is the correct position, since it conforms with our belief that Allah is capable of all things. Allah’s omnipotence is eternal. It knows no boundary of past or future. Allah says: “Do you not know that Allah is capable of all things?” [2/106] Allah did not become omnipotent after not being so. In other words, He did not acquire the power to create after not having the ability to do so.Since Allah is eternally capable of creating, it follows He is capable of creating causes and objects at any time. Whatever created thing we can conceive of, we must accept that it is possible for Allah to have created something else in some time that preceded it, and likewise to create something that preceded in time that thing as well, and so forth, without limit. Since Allah is eternally capable of creating, it is possible for Him to create things to exist in succession over an eternal stretch of time, whether past or future. Those scholastic theologians who deny that this is possible for Allah are either ignorant or confused by their arguments and “proofs”. The reason they so vociferously deny the possibility of an eternal succession of causes in the past is because they believe that this would mean the universe as we know it must have existed forever in the past without having need of a Creator! This is not the case at all. Their argument would only be true if those causes came from one another directly, not by way of Allah creating them. If we understand that it is always possible for Allah to create a thing to precede another created thing in time, then all of those things – throughout eternity – are created things. Each created thing or cause originated only by way of Allah specifically creating it. Before Allah created it, it did not exist, regardless of where Allah willed to place it in the sequence of time. Therefore, nothing in Creation is eternal or independent, even if Creation as a whole has been sustained by Allah for an eternity in the past. Only Allah is eternal and independent, whose existence is not created. He is as His Messenger (peace be upon him) described him: “You are the First, nothing preceded You.” [Musnad Ahmad (8879)] Those theologians who believe it is impossible for created things to have existed in succession for an eternity in the past – they are in fact limiting Allah’s power. Their belief implies that for a certain created thing in the very distant past, Allah is incapable of creating something else to precede it in time. If they deny this is what they mean and admit that Allah is eternally capable of creating, then they are contradicting themselves by saying that it is impossible for things to have existed in succession for an eternity in the past. As for the continuation of created things for an eternity in the future, this is attested to by what Allah says about Paradise: “Underneath it rivers flow; its food is everlasting, and (likewise) its shade.” [Sûrah al-Ra`d: 35] And: “Most surely this is Our sustenance; it shall never come to an end.” [Sûrah Sâd: 54] It should be clear from what preceded that the question of whether it is possible for created things to have preceded each other for eternity in the past – and likewise forever into the future – is intrinsically connected in our Islamic beliefs regarding Allah’s Lordship and our asserting His eternal ability to create whatever He wills whenever He wills it to be.”
So shaykh Abdur-Rahman clearly clarifies why tasalsalul-hawadith actually goes in tandem with the correct pure creed of a Muslim and that the impossibilities marked by the mutakalimin are limitations man has developed in their own rationality towards the One whose beyond the bounds of human rationality as is easily demonstrable in His Qadr, Qudra, Sifat, and Abilities.
What we should highlight from the shaykh’s words to continue forth the discussion here is his statement
“Their argument would only be true if those causes came from one another directly, not by way of Allah creating them”
Now we must clarify the types of tasalsal that exist in the theological sphere and they are divided into four types:
1. (التسلسل في المؤثرين أو الفاعلين) – Endless Chain of Dependent Causative Agents. This means for example, that one creator, needed a creator, and that creator needed a creator too and so on ad-infinitum. This is impossible and false, and it is what is referred to in the hadeeth about a person asking “Who created this?” and “Who created that?” until Satan comes to him and whispers, “Who created Allah?”
2. (التسلسل في العلل الفاعلة) – Endless Chain of Dependent Causes. This means that an act (cause) of creation has an act (cause) behind it which it depends upon, and that too has an act behind it which it depends upon and so on ad-infinitum. But this means that no act would ever take place, and this is impossible.
3. (التسلسل في الأفعال) – Endless Chain of Actions. This means that there is an endless amount of actions which take place successively (as opposed to occurring once, in some form of pre-eternity that Ash’aris have alleged), and which are not interdependent such that one cannot occur without a previous one causing it. With respect to Allah’s actions, this is what the Book, the Sunnah and sound reason indicates. And it is obligatory (waajib) that Allah was never other than this, meaning, He was never one who does not speak and act as and when He wills, such that He later become one who speaks and acts as and when He wills (as was asserted by the early Hanafi Karamiya), on the contrary, He was Eternally One who Speaks and Acts as and when He wills, never being unlike this, and the foundation of this is that His actions arise through His Will and Power and He has choice, and since He is Eternal, there is no beginning or end to the genus of His Speech and Action.
4. (التسلسل في الآثار) – Endless Chain of Events, Effects. And this means that there was no event (Haadith) or entity that was brought into existence, except that IT IS PERMISSIBLE for there to have been one before it, or one to be after it (going back in the past ad-infinitum, or in the future ad-infinitum). This is of course tied to the endless chain in actions (af’aal), and this is permissible (jaa’iz), possible (mumkin).
So what shaykh Abdur-Rahman al-Barrak was harping on about was with regards to “التسلسل في الأفعال” noted as the third type as being from the realm of possibility and not what is understood in the second category.
So some Ahl al-Sunnah deny the first two and affirm the second two, and the second two are denied by the Mutakallimun because by affirming them, they (according to their false presumption) would not be able to prove the universe is originated, since they rely upon the impossibility (imtinaa’) of an endless chain of events in the past, for their proof to be valid, in addition to denying chosen actions being established with Allah’s essence. To be fair as well, some of ahlu-sunnah are divided over affirming the 3rd and 4th categories on the grounds that these assertions are not clearly spoke of in the revelatory sources and thus silence and a lack of affirmation is better than to affirm this for Allah.
This Sunni belief is predicated on Possibility (إمكان)
Ahlu-Sunnah are not unanimously convinced of accepting tasalsalul-hawadith. Ahlu-Sunnah and ahlul-kalam are divided on this. However, we will get to the dispute and address the selective citations of the asha’irah on this topic as their central focus is always on the demonization of ibn Taymiyyah solely.
Anyways, know that the position of those who accept tasalsalul-hawadith (again, of the third and forth categories mentioned above from the types of tasalsal, NOT the first two), is that they predicate their argument and stance as “IT IS POSSIBLE”. They say it is mumkin (plausible/possible), and they dont say that this is exactly the case. Only few from those who accept it said it is obligatory in accepting and believing in it. Much to the dismay of ibn Taymiyyah demonizers, he was not of the obligatory crowd no matter how the Athari affirmers of this concept would like to stress IT’s alleged mandate to believe in this concept. He simply opined on the possibility and he did so refuting ar-Razi and the mutakalimin who completely denied that Allah could and has the power to have been prepetually creating things in the past (infinite regress) continuously ad-infinitum.
Ahlul-Kalam Are Divided Themselves Onto Whether Tasalsalul-Hawadith is Possible
The irony of this entire polemic is the utter demonization of ibn Taymiyyah on a distorted depiction of his actual position, who always conflate tasalsalul-hawadith fil-af’al or al-athar as synonymous with the Philosophers theological stance on matter itself being eternal (qidamul-‘alam), yet ash’ari mutakalimin have accepted the very position ibn Taymiyyah cites.
The Ash’ari Imam al-Asnawi says
“The infinite regress (endless chain) which is impossible is the endless chain of contingent effects and causes (meaning each and every effect and cause is dependent on a prior one for its own existence). As for an endless chain in aathaar (effects, events) then we do not submit that it is impossible, and this endless chain is in relation to the aathaar (effects, events).
[al-Baydawi in his حاشيته على شرح الإمام الإسنوي لمنهاج الوصول إلى علم الأصول للإمام البيضاوي]
Now, Imam Al-Asfahani al-Ash’ari disagrees with Asnawi and said in Sharh al-Mahsul,
“And this (what is said by al-Asnawi) has an observation against it because binding from it is the permissibility of events which have no beginning, and this is false in our view.”
I, nor does any salafi/athari need to demonstrate how intellectually inept al-Asfahani’s reasoning was in his reply to al-Asnawi. We will let Imam Bakhit al-Muti’i al-Ash’ari refute his Ash’ari comrade al-Asfahani for us.
Bakhit al-Muti’i says
“Just because it is batil (false) in his view [al-Asfahani’s] does not mean that it is batil (false) in reality and in the matter itself. Because right until now, there has not been any evidence established for the impossibility of an endless chain (infinite regress) of aathaar (effects, events) present in external (reality), even if (the view) that an endless chain in this regard is impossible is widespread. And that the view of an endless chain of events (hawaadith) is binding from [this view] does not harm the aqidah unless when we say, “There is no beginning to them (meaning, each and every one of the events does not have a beginning)”
Several points are apparently deduced from this
1. Bakhit confirms that the view of rejecting tasalsalul-hawadith fil athar (infinite regress of chain of events) is the widespread view. I wanted to first express this. I am not contending that there is an equal divide among Ash’aris. My point here was to demonstrate that there have been several Ash’ari authorities who have diverged from the mainstream Ash’ari view and agreeing with ibn Taymiyya. If ibn Taymiyyah’s alleged view was “kufr” as bandwagon Ash’ari bigots tend to vociferously fight tooth and nail to bash salafis with, why is the same takfir bandwagon not ridden for Ash’aris who also opined with ibn Taymiyyah?
2. Bakhit sanctifies this belief under the pretext that it is not tied in with the idea that “there is no beginning to each of these creations” for that would in fact entail the philosophers creed in qidamul-‘alam. THUS, the Ash’ari mutakalim al-Muti’i is honest enough to distinguish the concept of tasalsalul-fi Athar from the position of ascribing eternality to hawadith themselves as this would entail the very concept of qidamul-‘alam of the philosophers. This is where bandwagon Ash’aris conflate the two diverging notions thinking they are one in the same.
3. Bakhit disassembles his Ash’ari comrades by driving home the irrefutable and inescapable fact that there exist no evidence on the alleged impossibility of an endless chain of events in the past (infinite regress).
So what we see here is that the acceptance of tasalsalul-hawadith is not a dispute between ahlu-sunnah and ahlu-kalam, rather it is simply a dispute between ahlul-ilm from the mutakalimin regardless of them being Ash’ari, Maturidi, or Athari. Thus the Ash’ari narrative of this being a “salafi concoction of ibn Taymiyya” is obviously disengenious to say the least. Why attack ibn Taymiyyah with full impunity and remain silent on Ash’ari proponents of tasalsalul-hawadith that has preceded him. Obviously the double standard is typical of cult-like mentality.
For more additional information directly linked to this topic, one can refer to this publication here On the Difference Between Muhdath and Makhluq: Intermediate Readings Between Sunnism and Asharism