Introductions to Islamic Theology ('Ilm al-Kalam)
Author : Dr. Hassan Abu_Arqoub
Date Added : 08-05-2024

First: Definition of Islamic Theology:


Imam 'Adud Al-Din Al-Iji defined it in his book [Al-Mawaqif] as: "A science by which one can establish religious beliefs through the presentation of arguments and the refutation of doubts." [1]

Imam Mohammad Ali Al-Thanawi summarized the explanation of the previous definition as follows: "The gist of the definition is that it is a science of matters (with which one gains) meaning that with this knowledge there is a permanent and ordinary acquisition of complete ability to (prove religious beliefs) to others and oblige them to them (by presenting arguments and refuting doubts about them). Thus, presenting arguments is an indication of the motive, and refuting doubts is an indication of the absence of the obstruction." [2].

Second: The Purpose and Fruit of Knowledge:

1- Belief in Allah, The Almighty and all other Islamic beliefs with clarity, conviction, and certainty.

2- Strengthening faith and conviction in the beliefs of the religion.

3- Refuting doubts about Islamic beliefs.

4- Acquiring the ability to accomplish the above.4

5- Achieving happiness in both this world and the hereafter.5

6- Controlling human behavior, for whoever believes that they will be held accountable by an All-Knowing Lord (Almighty, The Most Allah Allah) to whom nothing is hidden will strive to control their behavior or at least strive for it.

Third: Methodology of Research in Islamic Theology:

Research in Islamic theology combines revelation (Al-naql) and reason (Al-'aql). This is because reason is the basis for accountability, and there is no accountability without reason. Similarly, there is no judgment before the law (Sharia), so rulings are derived from the law (divine revelation) and understood and comprehended through reason.

Sayyid Sharif Al-Jurjani: Sayyid Sharif Al-Jurjani, a renowned Islamic scholar, stated: "Its proofs (referring to Islamic theology) are certain, and reason alone judges their soundness, the truth of the images presented to them, without any doubt or illusion. These proofs have been confirmed by revelation. This testimony of reason to their soundness, along with their confirmation by revelation, is the ultimate in certainty; for there remains no doubt about the soundness of the proof in which reason and revelation agree definitively." [3]

While the text is of great importance, reason is a universal language through which we can address every human being who does not have the ability to understand the text. Even for native Arabic speakers, Allah the Almighty addressed their minds and taught them how to use them to reach the desired results. For example, He Says (What means): "And he made an example for us and forgot his creation. He Said: "Who will revive the bones when they are dust?" Say: "The One who created them at first will revive them; He is knowledgeable of all creation." Who made for you fire from the green wood, and then you kindle from it? Is not He who created the heavens and the earth capable of creating their like? Yes, He is The Creator, The Knowing." [Yasin, 78-81].

Imam Al-Razi said: "His saying, "Say, He will revive it," is an indication of the perfection of power, and His Saying: "He is knowledgeable of all creation," is an indication of the perfection of knowledge."[4] And one who combines perfect knowledge and perfect power is not incapable of anything."

Fourth: It's Status:

Islamic theology is considered one of the most important and noble sciences. This is because it leads to salvation in both this world and the hereafter. It is also the science where reason and revelation are combined. Imam Al-Ghazali, a renowned Islamic scholar, stated: "The most noble of sciences is the one in which reason and hearing are paired, and in which opinion and law (Sharia) accompany each other."[5] He also asserted that the judge of reason is the ruler who cannot be dismissed or replaced, and that the witness of revelation is the purified and rectified witness. [6]

Fifth: Its Subject Matter:

This science investigates Divine Theology (Ilâhiyyât), Prophethood (Nubuwwât), and the Unseen (Sam'iyyât). In Divine Theology, the research is focused on proving the existence of Allah the Most High, then in the attributes that are rationally necessary for Him, those permissible for Him, and those impossible in relation to Him. In Prophethood, the research pertains to what is obligatory for the prophets, peace be upon them, what is permissible for them, and what is impossible for them. Finally, in the Unseen, which is established through hearing i.e., through textual evidence, there is no way to know it except through this means. This is because it pertains to the unseen, and the intellect alone cannot reach it. Examples include the bliss and torment of the grave, the questioning by the angels, the Sirat Bridge, the Balance, and others.

Sixth: Its Relation to other Religious Sciences:

The science of theology (Ilm Al-Kalam) is the chief among the Islamic religious sciences, as it forms the basis for all other religious sciences. For instance, the foundation of Quranic sciences is based on the belief that this book is from Allah the Almighty and that it is the word of Allah. The task of proving this falls on the shoulders of the science of theology. Likewise, the sciences of Hadith are built upon the belief that our Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, is truly and honestly the Messenger of Allah. Proving this reality is done through the science of theology. It begins with proving the existence and Oneness of Allah, then establishes that He sent messengers and made miracles a proof of their truthfulness, and that He sent books with them that must be believed in and followed accordingly.

Seventh: Its Names:

The science of theology has various names, and the abundance of names often indicates the honor of the named subject. Imam Abu Hanifa, (may Allah be pleased with him), called it "Al-Fiqh Al-Akbar" (The Greater Jurisprudence). It is also known as "Ilm Al-Kalam" (The Science of Discourse), "Ilm Usul Al-Din" (The Science of Principles of Religion), "Ilm al-Aqaid" (The Science of Beliefs), "Ilm Al-Tawhid" (The Science of Monotheism), and "Ilm Al-Nathr Wa Al-Istidlal" (The Science of Observation and Reasoning).

Eighth: Rulings Regarding Engaging in It:

Scholars agree that engaging in the science of theology (Ilm Al-Kalam) is a collective obligation (Fard Kifayah). It is necessary to have individuals within the community who can clarify beliefs and refute doubts; otherwise, the entire community may be considered sinful.

As for individuals, it is an obligatory personal duty (Fard Ayn) for them to know the principles of beliefs based on their general evidence, in order to move beyond blind imitation in matters of belief. Otherwise, they would be sinful if they have the capability but fail to act upon it. This is the stance adopted by the scholars of Ahl Al-Sunnah Wal Jama'ah.

Regarding the reports from some scholars warning against delving into the science of theology and considering it sometimes permissible and sometimes impermissible, to the extent that Al-Harawi authored a book titled [Censure of Speculative Theology], it could be interpreted in several ways:

1- It may refer to the discourse of innovators that deviates from the principles of Islam, meaning their prohibition of the beliefs of deviant groups who mix their opinions with philosophy that contradicts Islamic evidence.

2- Either it may also be directed towards their practice of excommunication (Takfir) among themselves within the realm of speculative theology.

3- Or it could be due to their constant engagement in disputes and arguments, which was not a practice of the Companions (Righteous Companions) of the Prophet or our righteous predecessors (Companions of the Companions). Such disputes can lead to division and fragmentation within the Muslim commu1.  "Sharh Al-Mawaqif" (vol.1/pp.31)  

                  2. "Kashaf Istilahat Al-Funun" (vol.1/pp.29)2   

                  3. "Sharh Al-Mawaqif" (vol.1/pp.42)

               4. "Tafsir Al-Razi" (vol.17/pp.201)

5. "Al-Mustasfa" (pp. 4)

6. "Al-Mustasfa" (pp. 3)




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Summarized Fatawaa

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All perfect praise be to Allah the Lord of The Worlds. May His blessings and peace be upon our Prophet Mohammad and upon all his family and companions.
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