What The Salaf Said Regarding Theological Rhetoric (Kalaam)

Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee (d.204) said, “My ruling regarding the people of Kalaam (theological rhetoric) is that they should be beaten with palm leaves and shoes and be paraded amongst the kinsfolk and the tribes with it being announced, ‘This is the reward of the one who abandons the Book and the sunnah and turns to theological rhetoric (kalaam).

[Sharh ‘Aqeedatut-Tahaawiyyah og Ibn ‘Abdil-‘Izz, p. 75]

Ibn ‘Abdil-Barr said, “The people of Fiqh and Aathaar in all the various towns and cities are agreed unanimously that the Ahlul-Kalaam (People of theological rhetoric) are but Ahlul-Bida’ waz-Zaigh (the People of Innovations and Deviation). And they are not considered, by all of the above, to be amongst the ranks of the Scholars (in truth).

[Reported by Ibn Qudaamah in his Burhaan Fee Bayaanil-Qur’aan]

Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee said, “That a person is pout to trail with everything that Allaah has forbidden, besides Shirk, is better than that he looks at Kalaam (theological rhetoric).

Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee also said, “If people knew what (misleading and destructive) desires are contained within theological rhetoric they would certainly flee from it as they would from a lion.

Imaam Ash-Shaafi’ee also said, “Whoever showed boldness in approaching theological rhetoric will never prosper.

[Reported by Ibn Qudaamah in his Burhaan Fee Bayaanil-Qur’aan]

One of the Scholars of Ash-Shaash said:

“Every knowledge except that of the Qur’aan is a pre-occupation
Except for the Hadeeth and Fiqh (understanding) of the deen
Knowledge is only that about which it is said,
‘Haddathanaa…” (So and so narrated to us (a hadeeth))
And what is besides that
Are but whisperings of the Shaytaan (Devils)”

Aboo Yoosuf, the companion of Aboo Haneefah, said, “Whoever sought knowledge by Kalaam (theological rhetoric) will turn a heretical apostate.

Imaam Ahmad (d. 241) said, “The person of theological rhetoric will never prosper. And never do you see anyone looking into theological rhetoric except that in his heart is a desire for creating mischief.

[Both the above narrations are reported Ibn Qudaamah in his Burhaan Fee Bayaanil-Qur’aan]

[Taken from “Foundations Of The Sunnah” Pp. 16-17]


9 Responses to “What The Salaf Said Regarding Theological Rhetoric (Kalaam)”

  1. What is kalaam / theological rhetoric? What am i supposed to be abstaining from? Can u give an example plz?

    • Assalaamu ‘alaykum,

      Islamically speaking kalaam is delving deeply into matters using the mind in places where the mind should not (and can not) be used. Mainly in matters of the unseen…

      A few examples of theological rhetoric are:

      1) As we know, Allaah has two Hands, a Shin, a Face, etc… Now ahlul-kalaam (the people of theological rhetoric), say that anything which is made up of components (parts) becomes deficient when these parts are taken away from it. Therefor this ‘thing’ which is made up of parts, is, in and of itself, a defective and deficient ‘thing’. And thus is not perfect (as it relies upon its other parts to make it perfect). Based on this, they say that Allaah cannot have a Hand, Shin, Face etc. As this means that Allaah has parts, and everything which has parts is deficient in some way. So by using their mind (in matters of the unseen) and by trying to free Allaah from deficiencies, they have in fact denied what Allaah has confirmed for himself (namely, that He has a Face, Shin, 2 Hands, etc).

      Another example:

      2) Allaah will be seen in the Hereafter. There is no doubt about this. However the people of theological rhetoric say that every object that can bee seen is at a distance from the eye from which it is being seen. And we know that Allaah is not within the creation. Therefore, for Allaah to be seen in the Hereafter, it means that He will be at a distance from the eye, and therefore He will be limited within the scopes of creation (i.e, distance). So again, by using their minds in matters of the unseen and by trying to free Allaah from all defects/deficiencies, they have in actual fact denied that Allaah will be seen in the Hereafter.

      Can’t think of another example just yet…

      I hope this has answered your question…

      Tho remember, the way of the Salaf (companions, Tabioon & taba tabi’een) is to accept whatever has come to them from the Messenger of Allaah. And the Hereafter is beyond our imagination. Likewise things that we have not seen are also beyond our imagination to comprehend.

      Don't worry about this too much if it doesn't make sense to you…

      Just accept everything the Messenger of Allaah told you, and your fine…

      Wassalaamu 'alaykum,


  2. I remember posting a article on about how Allah will be seen in the hereafter on a forum (without naming which one)… A few replies i got were as follows:

    1) How can you see something if there is between you and the thing you are seeing no physical distance?

    2) Allaah is not contained by place, true? Then how can He be in a place/direction (i.e. in front of us)? If He is in a place, will He be with in Jannah/Paradise in order for us to see Him, or above us and we look upwards to see Him? Na^uthubillaah, where is the diference between you and the christians/jews? You all have the same belief.

    3) How can you see something with your EYES if there is not physical location?

    There were more illogical arguments used… Tho these three are examples of theological rhetoric…

  3. I understand it. Jazakalah! Can i see that post please? About Allaah being seen in the next life?

  4. Under example 1 you said that something which depends on other parts/components is defective in and of itself…. y is that?

    • Assalaamu ‘alaykum,

      You said the answer in your question… lol

      Something which is made up of parts is defective in and of itself because it depends on its parts to make it perfect. Without these parts, it is deficient…

      Example; a car…. A car is made up of many parts (wheel, brake fluid, engine, steering wheel, windows etc)… So if all these parts are taken away, the car is deficient right? So everything which is made up of parts depends on other things (the parts which make it up) for it to be perfect/complete…

      So this is their line of argument…

      However this is refuted via a number of ways:

      1) In Islaam we believe everything the Messenger of Allaah told us, whether our intellect clicks in or not.

      2) The above rule is especially true in matters of ‘Aqeedah and the unseen.

      3) The way of the Salaf was to accept these narrations without delving into the ‘how-ness’ of them.

      4) (With regards to this “parts” issue and hence denying Allaah has 2 Hands, a Face etc) we reply by saying that there is nothing like Allaah. Meaning; Allah is UNLIKE his creation. By using this line of argument (which they use) they are, in fact, whether they intend it or not, comparing Allaah to the creation. But Allaah says “laisa kamithlihi shay (there is nothing like Him)” and also “Wa lum ya kulla hu kufuwan ahad (And there is none like unto Him)” [Soorah Ikhlaas].

      5) The Salaf never spoke about these isues in these ways, so by doing so, one is deviating away form the Manhaj (and then the ‘Aqeedah – by coming up with these alien conclusion) of the Salaf. How Beautiful were the words of hudayfah (ra) who said “Stop where they (the Companions) stopped (in terms of speaking about issues).”

      So mainly, there is nothing like Allaah, so by using these lines of thought (theological rhetoric) they are assuming that Allaah is like the creation. The rule of ‘something being deficient in and of itself if this thing is made up of parts’ is only applicable to the creation. And Allaah is not like His creation…

      I hope this has answered your question…

      Wassalaamu ‘alaykum,


  5. Assalamu Alaikum

    Why did you delete my comment? Are you afraid of anything?


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