Do you believe in the possibility of the occurrence of falsehood in a speech from the Speech of the Master (Great and Glorious is His Transcendence). If not, what then is your opinion?
We and our elders (Allah Most High have mercy on them) declare and are convinced that all speech that issued from the Creator (Great and Glorious is He) or will issue from Him is absolutely truthful, and it is certain that it concurs with reality. Undoubtedly, there is no trace of falsehood in any part of His (Exalted is He) Speech, nor any doubt about [the absence of] contravening reality [in His Speech]. Whoever believes contrary to this or conceives of a lie in any part of His Speech, is a disbeliever, apostate and heretic, and does not have even a trace of faith.
Have you ascribed the view of “imkan al-kadhib” (the possibility of lying) to some of the Ash’aris? If so, what is meant by this? And do you have a proof-text for this view from the reliable scholars? Explain the matter to us as it is.
This began as a dispute between us and the Indian logicians and innovators about the capacity of the Maker (Transcendent is He) to act contrary to what He promised, informed, intended, etc. They said that acting contrary to these things is absent from Allah’s Ancient Power (qudrah qadimah), hypothetically impossible (mustahil aqlan), impossible to exist within His capacity, and it is necessary for Him [to act] in accordance with His promise, report, intent and knowledge. We said: such things are certainly capacitated, but their occurrence (wuqu’) is not possible, according to the Ahl al-Sunna wa l-Jama’a from the Ash’aris and Maturidis, textually and logically according to the Maturidis, and only textually according to the Ash’aris.
They objected that if the capacity of these things were possible, it would entail the possibility of falsehood and this is certainly not in His capacity and is intrinsically impossible (mustahil dhatan). We responded using a variety of answers from the kalam-scholars, of which was: even if the concomitance of the possibility of falsehood in acting contrary to the promise, reports etc. in His capacity is accepted, it too is not intrinsically impossible, rather, like oppression and impudence, it is intrinsically capacitated, but it is textually and logically impossible, or just textually, as more than one of the Imams have espoused.
When they saw these responses they caused corruption in the land and attributed to us [the position of] allowing imperfections (naqs) in relation to His Holiness (Blessed and Exalted is He), and they spread this accusation amongst the foolish and the ignorant to create enmity in the common people and to seek enjoyment and popularity amongst men. They reached the roads of the heavens in fabrication when they forged an image from themselves [expressing] the actuality (fi’liyyah) of falsehood without fearing the Knowing King. When Indians became aware of their scheming, they [i.e. the innovators] sought help from the noble ‘ulama of the two Sanctuaries because they know they are ignorant of their evil and the reality of the views of our ‘ulama.
Their likeness is but the likeness of the Mu’tazilah as compared with the Ahl al-Sunna wa l-Jama’a, since they [i.e. the Mu’tazilah] excluded rewarding the sinner (ithabat al-’asi) and punishing the obedient (‘iqab al-muti’) from the Ancient Power and made justice (‘adl) necessary for Allah’s essence. They called themselves “the advocates of justice and transcendence” and they attributed injustice, unconscientiousness and ugliness to the ‘ulama of Ahl al-Sunna wa l-Jama’a. So just as the predecessors of Ahl al-Sunna wa l-Jama’a did not mind their ignorance and did not permit incapacity in relation to Him (Transcendent and Exalted is He!) in the aforementioned injustice, and broadened the Ancient Power while also removing imperfections from His Noble Absolute Self, and perfecting the transcendence and sanctity of His Lofty Holiness, saying that, “Your understanding of the possibility of the capacity to punish the obedient and reward the sinner as an imperfection, is but the consequence of [following] despicable philosophers”; in the same way, we say to them, “Your understanding of the ability to act contrary to the promise, report and truth and the likes of them, as an imperfection, although their issuance (sudur) from Him (Exalted is He) is impossible, only textually, or rationally and textually, is but the misfortune of philosophy and logic and your adverse ignorance.”
They do what they do because of the absolute transcendence [of Allah], but they are unable to perfect the Power and broaden it. As for our predecessors, the Ahl al-Sunna wa l-Jama’a, they combined between the two matters, of widening the Power and perfecting transcendence for the Necessary (Transcendent and Exalted is He).
This is what we mentioned in Al-Barahin in summary-form, and here are some of the proof-texts in support of it from the relied upon books of the madhhab:
(1) It says in Sharh al-Mawaqif:
“All the Mu’tazilites and Kharijites make punishing the one who incurs a major sin necessary when he dies without repentance and they do not allow Allah to pardon him for two reasons:
“First, He (Exalted is He) made it a promise to punish major sins and informed [us] of this i.e. punishment because of it, so if He does not punish for a major sin and pardons, it would entail reneging on His threat and falsehood in His speech, which are impossible. The answer is, the conclusion of this [argument] is that punishment will [actually] occur, so where is the [intrinsic] necessity of punishment, on which is our discussion, since there is no doubt that non-necessity [of punishment] along with [its] occurrence does not entail reneging and falsehood? It cannot be said that it entails their possibility which is also impossible, because we say: its impossibility is prohibited. How so, when they are from the possibilities included in His (Exalted is He) Power?” End [quote from Sharh al-Mawaqif]
(2) In Sharh al-Maqasid by ‘Allamah al-Taftazani (Allah Most High have mercy on him) at the end of the discussion on Power, [he says]:
“The deniers of the inclusiveness of His Power are many groups; of them are Al-Nazzam and his [Mu’tazilite] followers who say that He does not have power over ignorance, falsehood and oppression and all ugly acts (qaba’ih), for if their creation were in His capacity, their issuance (sudur) from Him would be possible, and this concomitant (lazim) is false because it results in impudence (safah) if He knows the ugliness of this and its dispensability, and in ignorance if He is not knowing. The response is: we do not concede the ugliness of a thing in relation to Him, how [can we accept this] when He is in complete control of His kingdom? And if it [i.e. ugliness in relation to Him] is conceded, Power over it does not negate the impossibility of its issuance from Him, by consideration of the presence of disposal and the absence of need, even if it is possible (mumkinan).” End [quote from Sharh al-Maqasid], in summary-form.
(3) It says in al-Musayarah and its commentary Al-Musamarah by ‘Allamah al-Muhaqqiq Kamal ibn al-Humam al-Hanafi and his student Ibn Abi l-Sharif al-Maqdisi al-Shafi’i (Allah Most High have mercy on them), the text of which is:
“Then he i.e. the author of Al-’Umdah said, ‘Allah (Exalted is He) is not described with Power over oppression, impudence and falsehood because the impossible is not included in [His] Power, i.e. it is improper for it to pertain to them. According to the Mu’tazilah, He (Exalted is He) is Able over all that but does not do [them].’ End quote from Al-’Umda.
“It appears as though he altered that which he transmitted from the Mu’tazilah, since there is no doubt that the absence of power over what was mentioned, is the madhhab of the Mu’tazilah. As for its presence, i.e. power over what was mentioned, and then abstention from pertaining to them by choice, to the madhhab, i.e. it is to the madhhab of the Ash’aris, more fitting than it is to the madhhab of the Mu’tazilah. It is obvious that this more fitting [position] is also included in transcendence, since there is no doubt that abstention therefrom i.e. from those things mentioned of oppression, impudence and falsehood, is from the matter of transcendence, from that which does not befit the majesty of His Holiness (Exalted is He).
“Hence, it should be understood by the foregone premise, i.e. the intellect understands, which of the two views are more excessive in transcendence from indecencies: is it power over it, i.e. what was mentioned from the three matters, along with impossibility, i.e. His abstention from it by choosing that abstention; or its impossibility from Him because of the absence of power over it? It is incumbent to rely on the more inclusive of the two statements in transcendence, which is the statement more fitting to the madhhab of the Ash’aris.” End [quote from al-Musamarah].
(4) In Hawashi al-Kalnabwi ‘ala Sharh al-’Aqa’id al-Adudiyyah by Al-Muhaqqiq al-Dawwani (Allah Most High have mercy on them) [it is mentioned], the text of which is:
“In sum, lying being ugly in the uttered-speech (al-kalam al-lafzi), in the sense that it is an attribute of deficiency, is prohibited according to the Ash’aris. That is why Al-Sharif al-Muhaqqiq (al-Jurjani) said it is from the totality of the possibilities (mumkinat), and acquiring decisive knowledge of its non-occurrence in His speech by consensus of the scholars and the Prophets (upon them be peace) does not negate its intrinsic possibility like all decisive knowledge of normal occurrences (al-’ulum al-’adiya) and it does not negate what Imam al-Razi said,” to the end.
(5) In Tahrir al-Usul by the author of Fath al-Qadir, Imam ibn al-Humam, and its commentary by Ibn Amir al-Hajj (Allah Most High have mercy on them) [they say], the text of which is:
“Therefore – i.e. since whatever is conceived as a deficiency is impossible for Him – the decisiveness of the impossibility of attributing Him – i.e. Allah (Exalted is He) – with lying and the like of it (Transcendent is He beyond that) becomes apparent. Also, if His act being attributed with ugliness was possible, confidence in the integrity of His promise, the integrity of His speech besides it – i.e. [besides] His (Exalted is He) promise – and the integrity of His Prophets would disappear – i.e. in principle, His integrity would be uncertain.
“According to the Ash’aris, He (Exalted is He) is certainly not attributed with ugly acts, but they are not rationally impossible, like all of creation. [This is] just like all the sciences in which one of two opposites being the reality is certain, but the other is not impossible, if it were assumed that it is the reality; just like the certainty of Mecca and Baghdad – i.e. their existence – since their non-existence is not rationally impossible. Therefore – i.e. when the matter is such – confidence [in the integrity of His word] disappearing is not necessitated because the possibility of something rationally does not necessitate not having firm resolve of its non-existence.
“The running dispute regarding the rational impossibility and possibility of this applies to all deficiencies – is Allah’s power over it absent or is it, i.e. the deficiency, contained in it, i.e. His Power? He will certainly not do it, i.e. the absolutely decisive condition is the deficiency will not be performed,” to the end.
Similar [statements] to what we quoted from the madhhab of the Ash’aris were mentioned by Al-Qadi al-’Adud in Sharh Mukhtasar al-Usul and the commentators on it. Similar [statements] to it are found in Sharh al-Mawaqif and the marginalia to Al-Mawaqif by Al-Chalabi, and others. Similarly, ‘Allamah al-Qushji in Sharh al-Tajrid, Al-Qunawi and others explicated this. We avoided quoting their texts fearing prolixity and tedium. Allah has charge of right guidance and right direction.
Al-Muhannad ‘ala l-Mufannad ya’ni ‘Aqa’id ‘Ulama Ahl al-Sunnah Deoband, pp. 70-84
In a treatise endorsing the contents of Al-Muhannad, Shaykh Sayyid Ahmad ibn Isma’il al-Barzanji (d. 1337 H/1919 CE), Mufti of the Shafi’is in Madinah, wrote:
“After reading this satisfactory explanation and your comprehension of it with a sound and adequate understanding, you will know that that which the learned scholar Shaykh Khalil Ahmad mentioned in answers 23, 24 and 25 [of Al-Muhannad ‘ala l-Mufannad], is a well-known opinion in many of the reliable widely-circulating books of the late kalam-scholars, like Al-Mawaqif, al-Maqasid, Shuruh al-Tajrid, Al-Musayarah etc. The upshot of the answers which Shaykh Khalil Ahmad mentioned in accordance with the said kalam-scholars, of Allah’s capacity to contradict [His] promise, warning and truthful statement in the uttered-speech (al-kalam al-lafzi), necessitates, according to them, an intrinsic possibility (al-imkan al-dhati) [of falsehood] while [having] resolve and certainty of its non-occurrence. This much does not necessitate kufr, obstinacy, or bid’ah in the religion, or corruption. How [can it necessitate these], when you are aware that the kalam-scholars we mentioned agree with it, as you have seen in the speech of al-Mawaqif and its commentary which we just quoted? Thus, Shaykh Khalil Ahmad does not come out of the domain of their speech.” (Quoted in al-Muhannad ‘ala l-Mufannad, pp. 119-20)
Shaykh Ahmad ibn Muhammad Kharyr al-Shinqiti al-Maliki al-Madani wrote in his endorsement:
“In regards to the issue of [Allah’s] speech in section 25, I say: disagreement regarding this question is well-known. Discussion about such an issue should not be had with the innovators. As for the Ustadh (Shaykh Khalil Ahmad), he has undoubtedly quoted from the speech of the Ahl al-Sunnah, and whenever someone quotes from the speech of the Ahl al-Sunnah in whatever matter, he is on right guidance.” (Quoted in Al-Muhannad ‘ala l-Mufannad, p. 127)