Shaykh al-Hind Mawlana Mahmud Hasan Deobandi (1851 – 1920 CE), the great teacher of hadith and mujahid, penned a detailed and in-depth work dealing with the controversial issue of “Imkan al-Kadhib” which Barelwis have made a big issue of late, as it was made a big issue back then. The book in reference is called Juhd al-Muqill fi Tanzih al-Mu‘izz al-Mudhill.
The work spans over hundreds of pages, and is divided into seven introductions and three chapters. The first chapter is devoted to defending the central thesis of the book that kadhib (lying/falsehood) is contained in the power (qudrah) of Allah, although its issuance from Him is impossible, based on the evidence of Qur’an, Sunnah, logic/reason, the statements of the Imams of Kalam and scholars of other disciplines. The second chapter answers objections produced by opponents and the third chapter presents objections and criticisms of the position of the opposition. The first two volumes of the work (i.e. excluding the third chapter) can be found here:
Unfortunately someone writing on the internet, in an attempt to discredit the great service presented in this work, characterised it in very unfair terms. This book is a serious study that tackles the subject with balance and erudition from all possible angles in great depth. Even those who do not understand Urdu can read the extensive and useful Arabic citations to classical Kalam works scattered throughout the work. But it is not a mere hotchpotch of quotations (as we find in some “studies”); rather, a critical, thorough and coherent investigation into the matters in question in light of the statements of the Kalam scholars.
I wish, here, to present a brief and extremely selective synopsis of Shaykh al-Hind’s discussion in Juhd al-Muqill, so one can get an idea of the main themes of this important book.
He starts by putting the controversy in its historical context. He explains that the highest aspirations of the people of innovation and desires (ahl bida‘ wa ahwa) is to spread their innovations and suppress the people of truth who stand to oppose their innovations, that are described in the hadith: “There will always be a group of my ummah upholding the affair of Allah, unharmed by those who forsake them and oppose them, until the command of Allah comes.” One of the great practising scholars of the previous century was Shah Isma‘il Shahid who opposed the religious ills of his community. Even those of his detractors who have some degree of fairness concede his knowledge, piety, sincerity and righteous conduct. Shaykh al-Hind refers to a few issues for which his detractors attacked him: for example, saying that Allah has the power to issue a statement that is contrary to reality (though will not do so); saying that Allah has the power to create an equal (nazeer) to the Prophet, peace be upon him (though will not do so); considering the Prophet with respect to Allah as powerless as the rest of creation; and regarding him as equal to all children of Adam in the characteristic of being a human being. (None of these issues are, in truth, matters in which Shah Isma‘il stepped outside of the clear teachings of the Qur’an, Sunnah, sayings of Sahabah and imams of Ahl al-Sunnah.) Shah Isma‘il wrote Taqwiyat al-Iman as a gesture of his good will (nasihah) towards the Muslim people of India, to correct the rampant errors of a polytheistic nature prevalent in his time. (Juhd al-Muqill, 1:2)
Those who attacked him were two types of people: “First, those people whose efforts were immersed in innovating in religion, and who considered the popularisation of innovation to be the best of worship, like the rationalists of Badayun, the fanatics of whom believed even having Taqwiyat al-Iman in one’s possession is included in matters of disbelief!” (Juhd al-Muqill, 1:3) Second, those with no expertise in the religious sciences, but who spent their lives in the pursuit of logic, philosophy, mathematics etc (like Fadl Haq Khayrabadi).
In terms of where this particular controversy originated, Shah Isma‘il wrote in Taqwiyat al-Iman: “The nature of this King of Kings (i.e. Allah) is such that if He wished, then [merely] with the order ‘Be,’ He can create millions of prophets, saints, jinn and angels equal to Jibra’il and Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam) in one moment, and in one second He can turn the entire creation from the Throne to the earth upside down and put another creation in its place.” In its context, this passage makes complete sense and there is nothing alarming about it or anything contrary to Islamic beliefs.
In response, the logician, Fadl Haqq Khayrabadi wrote Ibtal Imkan Nazeer (Refuting the Possibility of an Equal) in which he tried to prove that it is intrinsically impossible for Allah to create a nazeer of the Prophet; that is, it is rationally inconceivable that a nazeer of the Prophet could exist. Mawlana Isma‘il Shahid wrote a treatise in reply to him. Because Fadl Haqq discussed, as an excursion, the impossibility of lying for Allah, Mawlana Isma‘il replied on this point as follows: “Allah, exalted is His station, has the power in itself of issuing a sentence that is contrary to reality, although based on a wisdom it is impossible for such a thing to occur.” (Juhd al-Muqill, 1:3) Shaykh al-Hind here quotes the entire Persian passage of Shah Isma‘il elaborating on this point (ibid).
When he made this simple proposition, there was a huge uproar from the people of innovation, that led them to declaring him a disbeliever or a heretic. Righteous ‘ulama’ like Mawlana Haydar ‘Ali responded to the critics of Shah Isma‘il. Shaykh al-Hind goes on to discuss other books written by both sides on the issue.
In proving Shah Isma‘il’s original thesis, Shaykh al-Hind presents a few premises before he writes in detail on the matter. I will only make reference to a few things he discussed which I feel are worth highlighting.
Proofs from Kalam Texts
Shaykh al-Hind attempts to demonstrate that the way of the Ahl al-Sunnah in many a controversial issue has been to widen the Power of Allah (to extend it to include all possibilities), yet absolve of Him of any reprehensible act (qabih).
With respect to the issue in question, there are many quotes from the works of Kalam which prove the proposition in question. For example, it says in Sharh al-Maqasid:
“If it is said: Adhering to the Book and Sunnah depends on knowledge of the truth of the speech of Allah (exalted is He) and the Messenger (upon him peace) and the evidence of miracles, and this will not be realised if it is opined that He is Creator of everything even evils and ugly things, and that deception, trickery, lying and producing a miracle at the hand of a liar and the like of them of that which affects the necessity of the integrity of His speech and the establishment of prophethood and the evidence of miracle are not ugly for Him;
“We say: Knowledge of the negation of those affecting things, although possible in themselves, is from the ‘adiyyat which are annexed to the necessary things.” (Sharh al-Maqasid, 4:238; quoted in Juhd al-Muqill, 1:85)
Shaykh al-Hind Mawlana Mahmudul Hasan comments in Juhd al-Muqill: “Possessors of fairness should notice how explicitly this quoted passage indicates towards lying etc. being [intrinsically] possible and contained in [Allah’s] power.” (ibid)
He quotes other passages from Kalam works that state the same thing. After quoting a passage from Sharh al-Mawaqif, Shaykh al-Hind says:
“This passage also explicitly confirms that the kadhib that has been discussed, although it is possible according to the intellect, but due to other factors impossibility has become incidental upon it. In sum, the issue for the Ahl al-Sunnah is so well-established and explicit, and found in most books of ‘Ilm al-Kalam and Usul, that fair people can never deny it…” (Juhd al-Muqill, 1:86)
Answering an Objection
The above passage also addresses a common objection made against this opinion, that it would mean we cannot put trust in the word of Allah if we were to concede He had the power to issue a statement against reality. The answer to this is that although this is possible in itself (mumkin fi nafsihi), in that it is in His power, intrinsic impossibility is not the only means of the absolute absence of the occurrence of something. The absence of something is also established by Allah’s choice to not do it. Shaykh al-Hind illustrates this using the verse, “And Allah does not intend to oppress the slaves.” (40:31) He writes: “This clearly indicates that the impossibility of the occurrence of injustice, in the sense of putting something in other than its [rightful] place (e.g. punishing an obedient person), is only because the intention of the truly powerful one did not connect to its realisation, not that injustice in the aforementioned [sense] is in itself impossible and outside of the ancient Power.” (Juhd al-Muqill, 1:57) Note: This is when zulm is used in the particular sense described here; Shaykh al-Hind also explains that zulm has another meaning which is intrinsically impossible for Allah (discussed briefly below).
Furthermore, it is not only through reason that one determines the impossibility of something. There is another class of evidence known as‘adiyyat. ‘Adiyyat are those things that are known through repeated experience and observation; so for example based on the knowledge of‘adiyyat, it is known that it is impossible for a bird to give birth to a monkey, although this is not impossible in itself (fi nafsihi) or intrinsically impossible. In the same way it is known based on ‘adiyyat that a mu‘jizah does not occur on the hand of a liar, and is therefore impossible based on this class of knowledge; although it is fi nafsihi possible. A mu‘jizah is a miraculous thing which appears on the hands of a man making a claim of prophethood with a challenge that the miracle cannot be replicated or annulled by others.
Difference between Imperfections and Ugly Acts
He also explains at length that naqa’is (deficiencies, imperfections) are different from qaba’ih (reprehensible acts). The first is like not knowing, not owning, not having power – these are all intrinsically impossible for Allah and not contained in His power, as they are inconceivable with respect to the notion of divinity. The second is like doing something against wisdom or for no reason (safah/’abath), giving false information (kadhib), tricking, deceiving – these are not intrinsically impossible, but extrinsically impossible; that is, Allah retains power over them as His power is inclusive of all possible things, but their issuance is impossible for Him.
Zulm and Jahl
Sometimes the same words can be placed in both the first and second category as they share two different meanings, which is a cause for confusion. For example, jahl and zulm both have two meanings. Jahl has two meanings: one is the opposite of ‘ilm i.e. ignorance, which is intrinsically impossible for Allah. And the second is the opposite of hilm (forbearance) i.e. rashness, impatience, which is intrinsically possible and extrinsically impossible (Juhd al-Muqill, 1:71-72). Similarly zulm can mean to meddle in another’s ownership which is intrinsically impossible for Allah as nothing is outside of His ownership; or it can mean to put something outside its due place which is extrinsically impossible and intrinsically possible.
Kalam Nafsi and Kalam Lafzi
In the fourth premise in his introduction, Shaykh al-Hind discusses in what aspect of the “Kalam” of Allah the discussion is concerning.
“According to the Ahl al-Sunnah, the ‘Kalam’ (speech) of the Creator is used for two meanings by way of being a linguistic or verbal homonym or by way of literal and metaphorical meanings:
“First the real attribute, single, simple, subsisting in the essence of the Creator, not separate from the essence, which is called “Kalam Nafsi” (self speech). Second, the speech revealed on the Messenger (upon him and his progeny peace and salutations), that is miraculous, used to challenge [the disbelievers], composed of letters, which is called “Kalam Lafzi” (uttered speech).” (Juhd al-Muqill, 1:26)
The Arabs used to use Kalam for both these meanings, as one of the verses of poetry said: “Speech resides in the heart, and the tongue was only made as a pointer to the heart.” Hence, such Kalam Nafsi and Lafzi is understood by the common mind as it applies to all humans.
Shaykh al-Hind explains that truth and falsehood cannot apply to the concept of Kalam Nafsi:
“And since “Kalam” in the first meaning is in itself one and simple, this is why there is no room of truth and falsehood in it, because in itself it is neither a statement to initiate something (insha) nor a statement of reporting something (khabar)…” (ibid)
After citing a number of passages from Kalam authorities, he says:
“It is realised from the statements of the luminaries that Kalam Nafsi in itself is neither a report, nor an enactment. And since it is not a report, there can be no situation for the possibility of truthfulness and falsehood. But after the establishment of specific connections that were mentioned, when the function of report arrives, at that time there is scope for the possibility of truthfulness and falsehood. And on this matter, the whole of Ahl al-Sunnah is in agreement.” (Juhd al-Muqill 1:29)
He therefore explains that when “sidq” (truthfulness) is used with respect to Kalam Nafsi it means “ghayr mutasawwar al-kadhib” (falsehood is inconceivable in it), not that it is literally a “true” statement.
Difference between Two Types of Speech
He also clarifies that the Kalam Nafsi is eternal and subsists in the essence while the Kalam Lafzi is temporal (hadith) and therefore created. After presenting numerous quotes, he says:
“In sum, the authoritative statements testify and announce that the Ash‘aris and Maturdis and the group of Ahl al-Sunnah of the predecessors and successors opine that the alfaz (utterances, words) are temporal (hadith), and they are agreed on this. Readers of Tafsir Kabir know full well that Hazrat Imam stated clearly that the Kalam Lafzi – uttered speech – is haadith, a few statements of which this lowly one quoted…” (Juhd al-Muqill 2:69)
It is only a group of the Hanbalis and Karramis that say the alfaz, aswat and huruf are eternal, and reside/subsist in the essence of Allah, which is an absurd claim. Some went as far as to say the cover and the mushaf themselves are eternal and reside in Allah’s essence!
When we say “the Qur’an is the speech of Allah, uncreated,” it refers to the self speech (Kalam Nafsi) or the meanings residing/subsisting in the essence of Allah. It does not refer to the words, letters, sounds, writing, sent down on the Prophet, which are hadith and created. Sa‘d al-Din al-Taftazani and others said, the scholars have said that one should say, “Qur’an is the speech of Allah, uncreated,” (in the sense just mentioned); but one should not say: “the Qur’an is uncreated” because people might begin to think the sounds and letters are eternal and uncreated as some Hanbalis believe which is incorrect. (Juhd al-Muqill, 2:87)
There was a contention produced by the opposition (and is produced even today by the Barelwis) that the great Ash‘ari muhaqqiq, Qadi ‘Aduddin, and his supporters, argued that the speech that subsists in Allah’s essence is the spoken word, and if this is not accepted there are a number of corrupt consequences like not believing what is between the two covers is the word of Allah. However, later Ash‘aris like ‘Allamah Qushji verified the matter and opined that the Qadi erred in this matter:
“The corrupt consequences which he (Qadi ‘Aduddin) mentioned that they will be necessitated based on what the companions understood from the speech of Shaykh [al-Ash‘ari] is what we mentioned…
“Whoever denies that which is between the two covers is the Kalam of Allah will only disbelieve if he believes that it is not the speech of Allah in the sense that it is from the inventions of human beings. But if he believes that it is not the Kalam of Allah in the sense that it is not an attribute that resides in His essence, but it points to that which is a real attribute and it is from the inventions of Allah and His innovations, in that He made it appear on the tongue of an angel or prophet or He brought into existence markings that point to it in the Lawh Mahfiz, it is not kufr at all but it is the madhhab of most Ash‘aris, so one should not presume that it is kufr.” (Quoted in Arabic on pages 110-1 of vol 2 Juhd al-Muqill)
However, others like Dawwani and Mawlana Bahrul ‘Uloom attempted to reconcile between the majority Ash‘ari position and what Qadi ‘Aduddin said, which one may read in Juhd al-Muqill.
Answering an Objection
From p 154 of the second volume onwards, he discusses a common argument mentioned by the opposition: that the Kalam Lafzi is not the mere created words of Allah but those that point to the Kalam Nafsi in which lying is intrinsically impossible; therefore due to pointing to it, lying in the Kalam Lafzi is also intrinsically impossible
Shaykh al-Hind discusses this matter at length. In this argument presented by the opposition, “Kalam Nafsi” here could mean one of two things: the eternal self speech; but here kadhib and sidq is not even mutasawwar (conceivable) so there is no question of indication and accordance in this respect. Hence this is not a proof of lying being impossible in the Kalam Lafzi (Juhd al-Muqill, 2:156) Or if by “Kalam Nafsi” is meant what the Lafz points to (madlulat) there is no proof that lying is impossible therein.
He also discusses another angle to this question: It is not necessary, conceptually, for Kalam Lafzi to agree with, point to, or accord with the Kalam Nafsi. (Juhd al-Muqill, 2:160) This is because it is possible for someone to produce a verbalised speech that is not in accordance with self-speech; that is, the case when someone expresses another person’s thoughts, even if it is opposed to one’s own “internal speech”/thoughts.
Shaykh al-Hind quotes from Sharh al-‘Aqa’id, Sharh Fiqh Akbar etc.
“The conclusion is that the ‘Kalam of Allah’ is [a phrase] common for [two meanings]: Kalam Nafsi which is eternal and the meaning of the genitive is its being His attribute [i.e. ‘Kalam of Allah’ here means ‘a speech that is the attribute of Allah’]; and Kalam Lafzi that is temporal and composed of chapters and verses, and the meaning of the genitive is that it is the creation of Allah, and not from the composition of creatures [i.e. ‘Kalam of Allah’ here means ‘a speech that is the direct creation of Allah’].”
And in Sharh Maqasid it says:
(Quoted in Juhd al-Muqill, 2:161)
This shows that for a speech to be considered Kalam Lafzi, it is premised on it being created directly by Allah without the intervention of another creature. A proof of this is if someone expressed another’s thoughts, it would be the kalam lafzi of the one speaking, not the one who had the thought. Hence the main component of kalam lafzi is that it is composed and initiated by someone.
In sum, it is not an intrinsic element of Kalam Lafzi that it indicates the meanings/ideas found in the Kalam Nafsi. (Juhd al-Muqill, 2:162) Instead, this is a secondary or incidental property of the Kalam Lafzi in question i.e. the Qur’an. Hence, lying therein is secondarily or extrinsically impossible not intrinsically. Moreover, Shaykh al-Hind explains that when the Qur’an is described as a Kalam Lafzi that points to the Kalam Nafsi, the qualification of “pointing to” is an additional or conditional qualification that excludes any Kalam that does not point to it; it is not a qualification that is inherent in the concept of Kalam Lafzi.
This is of course a very rushed presentation of an extremely delicate and detailed matter, but it is hoped that from the above the main themes of the book Juhd al-Muqill can be gauged; that it is understood that the position of Shah Isma‘il of the inclusion in Allah’s power of issuing a statement contrary to reality (though it will not occur), that has been defended by the Deobandi scholars, is a position well-grounded in the Kalam works, and completely explicable in light of rational evidence; and finally one can appreciate the depth of the knowledge and analysis of the great scholar and mujahid, Shaykh al-Hind, who has in this remarkable work (written over a hundred years ago) addressed all the issues that are raised as objections even today to the view in question (which has already been established and well-documented in the Kalam works).