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Islamic Studies

Imam Ahmad [may Allah have mercy upon him] and [speculative theology].

“Is it true that Imam Ahmad made ta’wil [engaged in speculative theology] of the following verses of Qur’an?

”or your Lord should come” 7/158

“And thy Lord shall come ” 89/22

The claim that Imam Ahmad [may Allah be pleased with him] made ta’wil [engaged in speculative theology] of these verses is a claim that demands scrutiny for the following reasons:

1. The enormity of reports, which have reached us through chains that are mutawatirah , that clearly illustrate his absolute rejection of ta’wil regarding the Divine [May He be exalted]. For that reason Imam al-Zaquni and others stated that the mashur and acted upon opinion, according to the Hanbalis, is rejection of ta’wil [speculative theology] .

2. His [may Allah have mercy upon him] position of rejecting ta’wil is not only found in the reports of his students, but in his own writings. [see for example al-Rad ’ala al-Zanadiq wa al-Jamhiyah fema shakat min mutashabihat al-Quran wa ta’walihi ’ala ghayr ta’wilihi].

3. This is a single narration whose source is traced back to one person: Hanbal who narrated it in his book discussing the trial of Imam Ahmad. However, the scholars of the school found this narration suspect as it went against what was mentioned above and:

1. Other companions of Ahmad [may Allah have mercy upon him], such as Salhi and ‘Abdullah, who were present at the ‘trial’ did not narrate this. In fact, what they narrated shows Ahmad’s objection of ta’wil in relation to the Divine.

2. Since he was the only one to narrate this Hanbal was chastised by the scholars of the school for this narration. It was known that, on more than on occasion, he was mistaken in his narrations. Abu Ishaq states, “This [this narration] is one of Hanbal’s errors. There is know doubt about it.”

What About The Narration of Imam Malik?

The narration that Imam Malik [may Allah have mercy upon him] contradicted his well known position, of slience in the face of such issues, and made t’awil of the hadith of nuzol demands further examination. This narration was mentioned by the Hafidh of al-Maghrib the Muhaqiq and Maliki Ibn Abdul Barr in his monumental work al-Tamhid. However, research shows this narration to suffer from the following:

1. It was narrated by Habib who is considered a liar by the consensus of the scholars

2. There is another narration which expresses the same contention, however, its chain is unknown and cannot be used for proof. Especially in the light of the narrations of Malik that clearly rejected speculative theology regarding the Divine.

The Way Forward:

Hujjat al-Islam Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali [may Allah have mercy upon him] stated, “The way of the salaf [the Companions, their students and their students as defined by al-Ghazzali] is they way of truth, in our estimation, and whoever opposes it is an innovator” and, regarding such issues, “One should not ask about them nor delve deep into them…….he should know that asking about them is innovation.”

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About the author

Suhaib Webb

Suhaib Webb is a contemporary American-Muslim educator, activist, and lecturer. His work bridges classical and contemporary Islamic thought, addressing issues of cultural, social and political relevance to Muslims in the West. After converting to Islam in 1992, Webb left his career in the music industry to pursue his passion in education. He earned a Bachelor’s in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma and received intensive private training in the Islamic Sciences under a renowned Muslim Scholar of Senegalese descent. Webb was hired as the Imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma City, where he gave khutbas (sermons), taught religious classes, and provided counselling to families and young people; he also served as an Imam and resident scholar in communities across the U.S.

From 2004-2010, Suhaib Webb studied at the world’s preeminent Islamic institution of learning, Al-Azhar University, in the College of Shari`ah. During this time, after several years of studying the Arabic Language and the Islamic legal tradition, he also served as the head of the English Translation Department at Dar al-Ifta al-Misriyyah.

Outside of his studies at Al-Azhar, Suhaib Webb completed the memorization of the Quran in the city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia. He has been granted numerous traditional teaching licenses (ijazat), adhering to centuries-old Islamic scholarly practice of ensuring the highest standards of scholarship.

Webb was named one of the 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center in 2010 and his website, www.SuhaibWebb.com, was voted the best “Blog of the Year” by the 2009 Brass Crescent awards.

Suhaib Webb has lectured extensively around the world including in the Middle East, East Asia, Europe, North Africa and North America. Upon returning from his studies in Egypt, Webb lived in the Bay Area, California, where he worked with the Muslim American Society from Fall 2010 to Winter 2011. He currently serves as the Imam of the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cultural Center (ISBCC).

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  • It would be helpful if some of these quotes could be more precisely referenced to published texts. That way, interested readers can verify those texts themselves.

  • assalamu alaykum brother Logan I pray you are well.

    Insha Allah after completing my mid term examinations I would be happy to take on the task of expounding the sunnah of our Messenger alayhe afdalu assalaati wattasleem with respect to his beliefs.

    fee amaanillah

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