Courtesy of Muzzammil Husayn
In the following translated passage from Ibn al-Humam’s al-Tahrir fi ‘Ilm al-Usul and Ibn Amir al-Hajj’s commentary, they ascribe to the Ash’aris the view that apparently reprehensible acts (qaba’ih) like lying are included in Allah’s power but impossible due to His eternal choice. Regardless of whether this ascription is accurate or not, Ibn al-Humam continues to say that this view is acceptable and does not differ in outcome from the other view, and it is not permissible to repudiate it. The section from al-Tahrir with the commentary can be found here: http://feqh.al-islam.com/Page.aspx?pageid=278&TOCID=102&BookID=87&PID=219
Furthermore, there is agreement [between the Maturidis, Mu‘tazilah and Ash‘aris] on the independence of the intellect to grasp them i.e. goodness and badness, in the sense of an attribute of perfection (kamal) and imperfection (naqs) like knowledge [is an attribute of perfection hence good] and ignorance [is an attribute of imperfection hence bad] according to what has preceded*, so by immediate necessity that in which an imperfection is perceived is impossible for Him i.e. Allah (Most High). And since that in which an imperfection is perceived is impossible for Him, the certainty of the impossibility of giving Him i.e. Allah (Most High) the quality of lying and its like, Exalted is He from that, is manifest.
Furthermore, if it was not impossible for His action to have the quality of badness (qubh), trust in the integrity of His promise and the integrity of His report besides it i.e. promises from Him (Most High) will be lifted, as well as the integrity of prophecy; i.e. there can be no certainty of His integrity at all, neither rationally, because it is supposed there is no judgement in favour of it [i.e. His integrity], nor legally, because it is from that which cannot be affirmed by transmission because transmission being a proof, rather its establishment, is a corollary of His (Most High) integrity; since if lying were possible for Him, His confirmation of the Prophet by producing a miracle by his hands would not be [effective] because He is in effect saying “he is truthful in his claim” indicating his integrity, but when transmission is dependent on His integrity, this will not be established thereby. This also entails that the integrity of the claimant of prophethood cannot in essence be held with certainty due to the possibility of a miracle appearing on the hands of a liar so the door of prophethood will close and trust in his speech will be lifted, and this consequence is unacceptable so the cause is likewise [unacceptable]…
According to the Ash‘aris, there is certainty of not attributing Him (Most High) with anything bad but not rational impossibility, like all knowledge in which it is certain that the reality is one of two opposites despite the possibility of the other if it were supposed that it is the reality; just like the certainty of Makkah and Baghdad, i.e. their existence since their non-existence is not rationally impossible. Therefore, i.e. since the matter is such, trust [in His integrity] being lifted is not necessary because the possibility of something rationally does not entail not having certainty of its absence.
The disagreement occurring in the rational impossibility and possibility of this occurs in every deficiency: Is His (Most High) power absent or is it i.e. the deficiency contained within it i.e. His power, while it is certain that He will not do [it] i.e. while the situation is that it is certain that He will not act on that deficiency? The Hanafis and Mu‘tazila are [agreed] on the first i.e. that His power over it is absent due to the impossibility of His power being associated with impossibilities; and based on this they derive the impossibility of burdening [a soul] what cannot be borne and the impossibility of punishing the obedient.
His [i.e. Ibn al-Humam’s] words in al-Musayarah are: “Know that the Hanafis, since they made it impossible for Him to burden [a soul] that which cannot be borne, they prohibit more strongly that He will punish the good-doer who spent his life in obedience opposing the passions of his soul to please his Master, in the sense that He is exalted beyond that, for it is from the issue of transcendence, since making the good-doer and the sinner equal is unfitting in the dispositions of all intellects, and indeed Allah stated clearly its reprehensibility where He said: ‘What! Do those who seek after evil ways think that We shall hold them equal with those who believe and do righteous deeds,- that equal will be their life and their death? Ill is the judgment that they make.’ (Qur’an 45:21) Hence He considered it evil. This is regarding the possibility and impossibility for Him. As for occurrence (wuqu‘), it is certain of its absence, although according to the Ash‘aris it is because of the promise contrary to it, and according to the Hanafis and others, because of that and because of the reprehensibility of its opposite.”
We mentioned in al-Musayarah that the second [opinion], i.e. that He is able but He will definitely not do [it], is most inclusive [of the two opinions] in transcendence. That which is in al-Musayarah is: “The author of al-‘Umdah from our [Maturidi] scholars said: ‘He (Most High) is not described with power over oppression, foolishness and lying because the impossible is not included in the power and according to the Mu‘tazila, He has the power but will not do [them].’ There is no doubt that excluding power from what was mentioned, it is the position of the Mu‘tazila, and as for its establishment and then the impossibility from associating with them, it is more suitable to the position of the Ash‘aris. There is no doubt abstention from them is from the issue of transcendence, so the mind understands which of the two opinions is further in transcendence from ugliness: Is it power over them and then abstention from them by choice or abstention due to the absence of power, and the view of the most inclusive of the two opinions in transcendence is incumbent.”
This [being said], had Allah willed, a speaker would have said: It i.e. the dispute between the three groups is semantic; for the opinion of the Ash‘aris is that the intellect does not find it impossible for one who has the quality of divinity and sovereignty over everything to be described with oppression (jawr) and all that is not fitting since its outcome would be that he is an oppressive king and the intellect does not find it impossible for a king to be so i.e. oppressive; and it is not permissible for the Hanafis and Mu‘tazila to repudiate this [view].
This passage is sufficient to dismiss the claim that the view that lying is included in the divine power but contingently impossible is heretical or even disbelief. According to Ibn al-Humam it only differs semantically from the other view as its outcome is the same, and he states clearly that it is not permissible to repudiate it.
*Ibn al-Humam is referring to his following statement:
And there is no [disagreement] on them [i.e. on describing an action with goodness and badness] in the sense of praise and dispraise i.e. there is also no disagreement on the intellect grasping goodness in that which is unconditionally termed good of that which is associated with praise in the practices of norms and customs and [the intellect grasping] badness in that which is unconditionally termed bad of that which is associated with dispraise in the practices of norms and customs.
Rather, the disagreement is on the intellect grasping goodness and badness regarding them i.e. good and bad, i.e. on that which they are unconditionally used in the sense of deserving His (Most High) praise and His reward for the doer of that action as is sometimes meant by “good” and their opposite i.e. in the sense of deserving His (Most High) dispraise and His punishment for the doer of that action as is sometimes meant by “bad.”