14. The science of speculative theology.
This is a science that involves arguing with logical proofs in defense of the articles of faith and refuting innovators who deviate in their dogmas from the early Muslims and Muslim orthodoxy.
The real core of the articles of faith is the oneness of God.
Therefore, we shall present here, first, a nice specimen of logical argumentation that will show us the oneness of God in the most direct method and manner. We shall then go back and give a correct description of speculative theology and the (subjects) it studies. We shall also indicate the reason why it developed in Islam and what it was that called for its invention.
We 302 say: It should be known that the things that come into being in the world of existing things, whether they belong to essences or to either human or animal actions, require appropriate causes which are prior to (their coming into being). They introduce the things that come into being into the realm dominated by custom, and effect their coming into being. Each one of these causes, in turn, comes into being and, thus, requires other causes. Causes continue to follow upon causes in an ascending order, until they reach the Causer of causes, Him who brings them into existence and creates them, Praised be He, there is no God but Him.
In the process, the causes multiply and widen in extent vertically and horizontally. The intellect becomes confused in the attempt to perceive and enumerate them. Only a comprehensive knowledge can encompass them all, especially (all) human and animal actions. Among the causes of (action), there evidently belong the various kinds of intention and volition, since no action can materialize except through volition and intention: The various kinds of intention and volition are matters pertaining to the soul. As a rule, they originate from previous consecutive perceptions (tasawwurat). These perceptions cause the intention to act. The causes of such perceptions are, again, other perceptions. Now, the cause of all the perceptions taking place in the soul is unknown, since no one is able to know the beginnings or order of matters pertaining to the soul. They are consecutive notions that God puts into the mind of man, who is unable to understand their beginnings and ends. As a rule, man is able only to comprehend the causes that are natural and obvious and that present themselves to our perception in an orderly and well-arranged manner, because nature is encompassed by the soul and on a lower level than it. The range of perceptions, however, is too large for the soul, because they belong to the intellect, which is on a higher level than the soul. The soul, therefore, can scarcely perceive very many of them, let alone all of them. This shows the wisdom of the Lawgiver (Muhammad) when he forbade (us) to speculate about causes and to stop with them. Such speculation is a field in which the mind becomes lost and gets nowhere, nor gains any real insight.303 "Say: 'God,' and then let them amuse themselves with their idle talk." 304 Man often stops (to speculate about causes) and thereby is prevented from ascending to the next higher stage. His feet slip. He becomes one of those who go astray and perish. We ask God for protection against disappointment and obvious perdition.
One should not think that iman has the power, or can choose at will, to stop or to retrace his steps. No! Talking about causes results in giving the soul a fast coloring. We do not know how (this comes about), for if we knew it, we could be on guard against it. Therefore, one must be on guard against it by completely abandoning any speculation about the (causes).
Furthermore, the way in which the causes exercise their influence upon the majority of the things caused is unknown.305 They are only known through customary (experience) and through conclusions 306 which attest to (the existence of an) apparent (causal) relationship.307 What that influence really is and how it takes place is not known. "And you were given but little knowledge." 308 Therefore, we have been commanded completely to abandon and suppress any speculation about them and to direct ourselves to the Causer of all causes, who made them and brought them into existence, so that the soul will be firmly colored with the oneness of God. So were we taught by the Lawgiver (Muhammad) who knows better (than we do) the things that are to the interest of our religion and the ways that lead us to happiness, because he saw that which is beyond sensual perception. He said: "Whoever dies confessing that there is no God but God, enters Paradise." 309
A man who stops at the causes is frustrated. He is rightly (said to be) an unbeliever. If he ventures to swim in the ocean of speculation and of research into (causes), (seeking) each one of the causes that cause them and the influence they exercise, I can guarantee him that he will return unsuccessful. Therefore, we were forbidden by the Lawgiver (Muhammad) to study causes. We were commanded to recognize the absolute oneness of God. "Say: 'God, He is one. God is the samad. He did not give birth, and He was not born. He has no one like Him.' " 310
Man 311 should not trust the suggestion that his mind makes, that it is able to comprehend all existing things and their causes, and to know all the details of existence. Such a suggestion of the mind should be dismissed as stupid. It should be known that every person with perception has the superficial impression that the (whole of) existence is comprised by his perceptions, and that it does not extend beyond (the realm of his perceptions).312 The matter is different in fact. The truth lies beyond that. One knows that a deaf person feels that the (whole of) existence is comprised in the perceptions of his four senses and his intellect. The whole group of audible things constitutes no part of existence for him. The same applies to a blind person. The whole group of visible things constitutes no part of existence for him. If (people with such defects) were not set right by their adherence to information they receive from their fathers and teachers who are their contemporaries, and from the majority of people in general, they would not admit (the existence of audible things, things visible, etc.). They follow the majority in admitting the existence of these groups (of sensibilia), but (the admission) is not in their natural disposition nor in the nature of their sense perception. If dumb animals were asked and could speak, we would find that they would ignore the whole group of intelligibilia. It would simply not exist for them.
Now, it might be assumed that there exists another kind of perception different from ours, since our sense perceptions are created and brought into existence. God's creation extends beyond the creation of man. Complete knowledge does not exist (in man). The world of existence is too vast for him. "God has comprehension beyond theirs." 313 Therefore, everyone should be suspicious of the comprehensiveness of his perceptions and the results of his perception, and should follow what the Lawgiver (Muhammad) commanded him to believe and to do.. He is more desirous of his happiness (than man himself) and he knows better what is good for him. His level (of perception) is higher than that of human perception. The territory he covers (in his mind) is wider than that of human intelligence. This does not speak against the intellect and intellectual perceptions. The intellect, indeed, is a correct scale. Its indications are completely certain and in no way wrong. However, the intellect should not be used to weigh such matters as the oneness of God, the other world, the truth of prophecy, the real character of the divine attributes, or anything else that lies beyond the level of the intellect. That would mean to desire the impossible. One might compare it with a man who sees a scale in which gold is being weighed, and wants to weigh mountains in it. The (fact that this is impossible) does not prove that the indications of the scale are not true (when it is used for its proper purpose). However, there is a limit at which the intellect must stop. It cannot go beyond its own level. Thus, it cannot comprehend God and His attributes. It is but one of the atoms of the world of existence which results from (God). This shows that those who give the intellect preference over (traditional) information in such matters are wrong, deficient in understanding, and faulty in reasoning. This, then, explains the true situation in this respect.
If this is clear, it is possible that the ascending sequence of causes reaches the point where it transcends the realm of human perception and existence and thus ceases to be perceivable. The intellect would here become lost, confused, and cut off in the wilderness of conjectures. Thus, (recognition of the) oneness of God is identical with inability to perceive the causes and the ways in which they exercise their influence, and with reliance in this respect upon the Creator of the causes who comprises them. There is no maker but Him. All (causes) lead up to Him and go back to His power. We know about Him only in as much as we have issued from Him. This is the meaning of the statement transmitted on the authority of a certain truthful (person): "The inability to perceive is perception." 314
Such (declaration of the) oneness of God does not merely refer to faith, which is affirmation based upon judgment. It belongs to the talk of the soul.315 Its perfection lies in its acquisition in a form that becomes an attribute of the soul. In the same way, the object of (all human) actions and divine worship is acquisition of the habit of obedience and submissiveness and the freeing of the heart from all preoccupations save the worshiped Master, until the novice on the path to God becomes a holy person.
The difference between "state" 316 and knowledge in questions of dogma is the same as that between talking (about attributes) and having them. This may be explained as follows: Many people know that mercy to the orphans and the poor brings (a human being) close to God and is recommendable. They say so and acknowledge the fact.
They quote the sources for it from the religious law. But if they were to see an orphan or a poor person of the destitute classes,317 they would run away from him and disdain to touch him, let alone show mercy to him or any of the higher "stations" 318 of sympathy, affection, and charity. Their mercy for the orphan was the result of having reached the station of knowledge. It was not the result of the station of "state" nor of an attribute of theirs. Now, there are people who, in addition to the station of knowledge and the realization of the fact that mercy to the poor brings (a human being) close to God, have attained another, higher "station": they have attained the attribute and habit of mercy. When they see an orphan or a poor person, they approach him and show him (mercy). They wish to receive the (heavenly) reward for the compassion they show him. They are hardly able to refrain from (showing compassion), even if they are repulsed. They give as charity whatever they have available from their own property.
The relationship of man's knowledge of the oneness of God to his possession of it as an attribute, is of the same character. Knowledge results by necessity from possession of an attribute. It is a kind of knowledge that exists on a more solid basis than knowledge attained previous to the possession of the attribute. An attribute (on the other hand) is not obtained from knowledge alone. There must be an action, and it must be repeated innumerable times. (Only) this results in a firmly rooted habit, in the acquisition of the attribute and real (knowledge). Another kind of knowledge thus makes its appearance. It is the kind that is useful in the other world. The original knowledge which was devoid of being an attribute is of little advantage or use. It is the (kind of) knowledge that the majority of thinkers (possesses). But the (real) object is knowledge as a "state," and it originates from divine worship.
It should be known that, in the opinion of the Lawgiver (Muhammad), perfection with regard to any of the obligations he has imposed (upon Muslims) requires this (distinction). Perfection in matters of belief depends on the other knowledge, that which results from the possession of (these matters) as an attribute. Perfection in matters of divine worship depends on acquisition of (these matters) as an attribute, on real (knowledge) of them.
Divine worship and its continuous practice leads to this noble result. Muhammad says concerning the principal act of divine worship: "My consolation lies in prayer." 319 Prayer, for Muhammad, was an attribute and "state" in which he found his ultimate pleasure and consolation. How different is the prayer of the people! Who could bring them to pray in that way! "Woe unto those who pray, who are careless with regard to their prayer." 320 O God, give us success. "And guide us on the straight path, the path of those to whom you have shown kindness, not of those with whom you are angry, and not of those who go astray." 321 Amen.
It 322 is clear from all the statements we have made that the object of all (religious) obligations is the acquisition of a habit firmly rooted in the soul, from which a necessary knowledge results for the soul. It is the (recognition of the) oneness of God, which is the (principal) article of faith and the thing through which happiness is attained. There is no difference whether the obligations of the heart or those of the body are concerned in this respect.
This shows that faith, which is the basis and source of all the (religious) obligations, is of that type and has several degrees. The first degree is the affirmation by the heart of what the tongue says. The highest degree is the acquisition, from the belief of the heart and the resulting actions, of a quality that has complete control over the heart. It commands the actions of the limbs. Every activity takes place in submissiveness to it. Thus, all actions, eventually, become subservient to this affirmation by faith, and this is the highest degree of faith. It is perfect faith. The believer who has it will commit neither a great nor a small sin. The acquisition of the firmly rooted habit (of faith) prevents even the briefest deviation from its ways. Thus, Muhammad says: "An adulterer does not commit adultery, if he commits adultery while he is a believer." 323
Then, there is the tradition of Heraclius, who asked Abu Sufyan b. Harb about the Prophet and his position. He asked whether any of the men around Muhammad would become an apostate, out of displeasure with his religion, after he had become a Muslim.324 The reply was: "No." (Heraclius) remarked: "The same applies to faith when its cheerfulness has penetrated the hearts." 325 This means that it is as difficult for the soul to oppose the habit of faith, once it has been firmly established, as is the case with all other habits, once they have become firmly established. For they become a kind of natural disposition. This is the highest degree of faith. It comes second after infallibility, because infallibility is a primary necessity of prophets, while this (degree of faith) comes to the believers secondarily, as a result of their actions and of their affirmation.
The (varying) firmness of this habit causes differences in faith, as is known from the statements of the early Muslims. Much of it can be found in the chapter headings of alBukhari's chapter on faith. For instance: "Faith consists of words and actions"; "it may be more or less"; "prayer and fasting are part of faith"; "supererogatory (prayer) in Ramadan is part of faith"; and "bashfulness is part of the faith." 326 All these statements envisage perfect faith. We have referred to it and to how the habit of it can be attained. Perfect faith is something connected with action.
Affirmation, the first degree of perfect faith, admits of no differences (in intensity). Those who consider the first (meanings) of terms and thus think of (faith) as affirmation cannot show any differences (in the intensity of their affirmation), as the leading speculative theologians have stated. But those who consider the final (meanings) of terms and thus think of (faith) as the habit that is perfect faith, do show differences (in the intensity of their faith). This does not speak against the unity of the primary reality of (perfect faith), which is affirmation, since affirmation exists in all degrees of (faith). It is the lowest degree for which the term "faith" may be used. It absolves (the person who has it) from the responsibility of unbelief and is the distinguishing element between unbeliever and believer. Anything less would not be sufficient. Thus, by definition, it is a reality that is uniform and admits of no differences. Differences appear only in the "state" that is the result of action, as we have stated. This should be understood.
It should be known that the Lawgiver (Muhammad) described to us this first degree of faith which is affirmation. He specified particular matters he charged us to affirm with our hearts and to believe in our souls, while at the same time acknowledging them with our tongues. They are the established articles of the Muslim faith. When Muhammad was asked about faith, he said: "(Faith is) the belief in God, His angels, His Scriptures, His messengers, the Last Day, and the belief in predestination, be it good or bad." 327
These are articles of faith as established in the science of speculative theology. Let us describe them in summary fashion, so that the real character of speculative theology and the way in which it originated may become clear. We say:
It should be known that the Lawgiver (Muhammad) commanded us to believe in the Creator whom he considered as the sole source of all actions,328 as we have mentioned before. He informed us that this belief means our salvation, if we have it when we die. However, he did not inform us about the real being of this worshiped Creator, because it is something too difficult for our perception and above our level. He made it our first obligation to believe that He in His essence cannot be compared with created beings. Otherwise, it would not be correct that He was their creator, since in this way there would be no distinction (between Him and them).
Then, he (made it our obligation to believe that) He cannot be described in any way as deficient. Otherwise, He would be similar to created beings. Then, he (made it our obligation to believe in) His oneness as divine being.329 Otherwise, the creation (of the world) could not have materialized, on account of mutual antagonism.330 Then, there are the following articles of faith:
God is knowing and powerful. In this way, (all) actions materialize as witness(es), by syllogism,331 to the perfection of the act of creation.
He has volition. Otherwise, no created thing would be differentiated from the other.
He determines the fate of each created thing. Otherwise, volition would be something that comes into being.
He causes our resurrection 332 after death. This constitutes the final touch to His concern with the first 333 creation. If (created things) were destined to disappear completely,334 their creation would have been frivolous. They are destined for eternal existence after death.335
Further articles of faith are: God sent (His) messengers in order to save (us) from trouble on the (Day of) Resurrection, because (that Day) may mean either trouble or happiness (for us), and we would not know about it. He wanted to complete His kindness toward us by informing us about this situation and explaining to us the two possibilities and that Paradise means bliss and Hell punishment.
These main articles of faith are proven by the logical evidence that exists for them. Evidence for them from Qur'an and Sunnah (also) is ample. The early Muslims derived them from that evidence. The scholars showed the way to them and the religious leaders verified them. However, later on, there occurred differences of opinion concerning details of these articles of faith. Most of the differences concerned ambiguous 336 verses. This led to hostility and disputation. Logical argumentation was used in addition to the traditional (material). In this way, the science of speculative theology originated.
We shall now explain the (preceding) summary statement in detail. In many verses of the Qur'an, the worshiped Master is described as being absolutely devoid (of human attributes) in obvious terms requiring no interpretation. All those verses are negative (in their statements). They are clear on the subject. It is necessary to believe them. Statements of the Lawgiver (Muhammad) and the men around him and the men of the second generation have explained them in accordance with their plain meaning.
Then, there are a few other verses in the Qur'an suggesting anthropomorphism, with reference to either the essence or the attributes (of God). The early Muslims gave preference to the evidence for God's freedom (from human attributes), because it was ample and clear. They knew that anthropomorphism is absurd. They decided that (those) verses were the word of God, and, therefore, believed in them and did not try to investigate or interpret their meaning. This is what is meant by the statement made by most early Muslims: "Let them pass on as they have come." 337 That is, believe that they are from God, and do not try to interpret or change them; they may be a temptation. It is, thus, necessary to stop 338 and submit to (God).
But there were a few innovators in their time who occupied themselves with the ambiguous verses and 339 delved into anthropomorphism. One group operated with the plain meaning of the relevant verses. They assumed anthropomorphism for God's essence, in that they believed that He has hands, feet, and a face. Thus, they adopted a clear anthropomorphism and were in opposition to the verses stating that God is devoid (of human attributes).
The idea of body entails deficiency and imperfection. It is more proper to give preference to the negative verses indicating that God is absolutely devoid (of human attributes), which are very numerous and clear, than to cling to the plain meaning of the (anthropomorphic) verses with which we can dispense, and to try to combine the two indications with the help of interpretation of (the anthropomorphic verses). The (people who gave consideration to the anthropomorphic verses) then tried to escape from the anthropomorphic abomination by stating that (God has) "a body unlike (ordinary human) bodies." This is no defense for them, because it is a statement contradictory in itself and a combination of negation and assertion, if both (negation and assertion) are used here for one and the same concept of body. But if the two differ among themselves 340 and (thus) disavow the commonly accepted concept of body, those (people) rather agree with us that God is devoid (of human attributes). They consider the word "body" to be merely one of His names (used in a peculiar sense in connection with Him). Things like that depend on permission. 341
Another group turned to anthropomorphism with regard to the attributes of God. They assumed direction, sitting,342 descending, voice, letter (sound), and similar things (for God). Their stated opinions imply anthropomorphism. Like the former group, they took refuge in statements such as: "A voice unlike voices"; "a direction unlike directions"; "descending unlike descending." By that, they meant: "(not as those things are used) in connection with (human) bodies." The refutation here is the same as in the former case.
The only thing that remains to be done with the plain (seemingly anthropomorphic) statements is (to follow) the beliefs and theories expressed by the early Muslims. One must believe in the (statements) as they stand, so that it cannot happen that by disavowing their meaning, one disavows them as such, although they are a sound and established part of the Qur'an.
That is what is behind the statements found in the creed of the Risalah of Ibn Abi Zayd 343 and in his Mukhtasar and in the books of the hadith expert Ibn 'Abd-al-Barr,344 and others. They try to convey the idea mentioned. One should not close one's eyes to the propositions in their discussion that prove it.
Later on, the sciences and crafts increased. People were eager to write systematic works and to do research in all fields. The speculative theologians wrote on God's freedom (from human attributes). At that juncture, the Mu'tazilah innovation came into being. The Mu'tazilah extended the subject to the negative verses and decided to deny (God's possession of) the ideal attributes 345 of knowledge, power, volition, and life, in addition to (denying) their consequences. Their use (in connection with God) would imply, in (Mu'tazilah) opinion, a manifoldness of things primeval. 346 This (assumption) is refuted by the (assumption) that the attributes are neither identical with the (divine) essence nor different from it.
The 347 Mu'tazilah further decided to deny (God's possession) of the attribute of volition. This forced them to deny predestination, because predestination requires the existence of volition prior to the created things.
They also decided to deny God hearing and vision, because both hearing and vision are corporeal accidents. This (assumption) is refuted by the (assumption) that the meaning of the words (hearing and vision) does not require (the existence of) corporeal shape, but merely the perception of audible or visible things.348
They further decided to deny God speech for reasons similar to those (they used) in connection with hearing and vision. They did not understand the attribute of speech as an essential function.
Thus, the Mu'tazilah decided that the Qur'an was created. This was an innovation. The early Muslims had openly expressed the contrary view. The damage done by this innovation was great. Certain leading Mu'tazilah indoctrinated certain caliphs with it, and the people were forced to adopt it. The Muslim religious leaders opposed them. Because of their opposition, it was considered permissible to flog 349 and kill many of them. This caused orthodox people to rise in defense of the articles of faith with logical evidence and to push back the innovations.
The leader of the speculative theologians, Abul-Hasan al-Ash'ari,350 took care of that. He mediated between the different approaches. He disavowed anthropomorphism and recognized the ideal attributes. He restricted God's freedom (from human attributes) to the extent to which it had been restricted by the early Muslims, and which had been recognized by the proofs stating the general applicability (of the principle) to special cases. He recognized the four ideal attributes, as well as hearing, vision, and speech as an essential function, (and proved his position) with the help of logical and traditional methods. He refuted the innovators in all these respects. He discussed with them (their) stated opinions with regard to (God's concern for human) welfare and with what is best (for man), and their definition of good and evil, which they had invented as the basis for their innovation.351
He perfected the dogmas concerning the rising of the dead, the circumstances of the Resurrection, Paradise, and Hell, and reward and punishment. He added a discussion of the imamate, because the Imamiyah (Shi'ah) at that time suggested the novel idea that the imamate was one of the articles of faith and that it was the duty of the Prophet as well as the Muslim nation 352 to fix (the succession to) the (imamate) and free the person who would become the imam from any responsibility in this respect. (However, in fact,) the imamate is at best a matter of public interest and social organization. It is not an article of faith. (But, because of the Shi'ah attitude, the question of the imamate) was added to the problems of this discipline.
The whole was called "the science of speculative theology." The reason why this name (which, literally, means "science of speech," or "talk") was chosen, may have been that it included the disputation of innovations. That is merely talk and implies no action. Or, the reason may have been that the discipline was invented and cultivated as a consequence of dissension concerning the existence of essential speech.353
The followers of Abul-Hasan al-Ash'ari became numerous. His approach was later on followed by his pupils, such as Ibn Mujahid 354 and others. Judge Abu Bakr alBaqillani 355 learned from them. He attacked the problem of the imamate in accordance with the way they had approached it, and improved on it. He laid down the logical premises on which arguments and speculation on the subject depend. He affirmed, for instance, the existence of the atom (al jawhar al fard) and of the vacuum. He made statements such as "An accident cannot sustain another accident," and "An accident does not persist two moments." 356 There are similar (premises) on which the arguments of (the Ash'arites) depend. He considered the basic premises as secondary only to the articles of faith, as far as the necessity of believing in them was concerned. The arguments depend on them, and if the arguments are wrong, it is possible to conclude that the thing proven (by them) is also wrong.357
Thus, (al-Ash'ari's) approach was perfected and became one of the best speculative disciplines and religious sciences. However, the forms of its arguments are, at times, not technically perfect), because the scholars (of al-Ash'ari's time) were simple and the science of logic which probes arguments and examines syllogisms had not yet made its appearance in Islam. Even if some of it had existed, the theologians would not have used it, because it was so closely related to the philosophical sciences, which are altogether different from the beliefs of the religious law and were, therefore, avoided by them.
The Ash'arite leader, Judge Abu Bakr (al-Baqillani), was followed by the Imam al-Haramayn Abul-Ma'ali.358 He dictated a comprehensive work on the Ash'arite approach. He was very explicit in it. He then abridged the work in the Kitab al-Irshad. People use the (Irshad) as their guide in matters of (dogmatic) belief.
After that, the science of logic spread in Islam. People studied it. They made a distinction between it and the philosophical sciences, in that (they stated that) logic was merely a norm and yardstick for arguments and served to probe the arguments of the (philosophical sciences) as well as (those of) all other (disciplines).
(Scholars,) then, studied the basic premises the earlier theologians had established. They refuted most of them with the help of arguments leading them to (a different opinion). Many of these (arguments) were derived from philosophical discussions of physics and metaphysics. When they probed them with the yardstick of logic, it showed that they were applicable (only) to those (other disciplines and not to theology, but) they did not believe that if the arguments were wrong, the thing proven (by the arguments) was also wrong, as had been the opinion of the Judge (al-Baqillani). This approach differed in its technical terminology from the older one. It was called "the school of recent scholars." Their approach often included refutation of the philosophers where the (opinions of the) latter differed from the articles of faith. They considered the (philosophers) enemies of the articles of faith, because, in most respects, there is a relationship between the opinions of the innovators and the opinions of the philosophers.
The first (scholar) to write in accordance with the (new) theological approach was al-Ghazzali. He was followed by the imam Ibn al-Khatib.359 A large number of scholars followed in their steps and adhered to their tradition.
The later scholars were very intent upon meddling with philosophical works. The subjects of the two disciplines (theology and philosophy) were thus confused by them. They thought that there was one and the same (subject) in both disciplines, because the problems of each discipline were similar.360
It should be known that the theologians most often deduced the existence and attributes of the Creator from the existing things and their conditions. As a rule, this was their line of argument. The physical bodies form part of the existing things, and they are the subject of the philosophical study of physics. However, the philosophical study of them differs from the theological. The philosophers study bodies in so far as they move or are stationary. The theologians, on the other hand, study them in so far as they serve as an argument for the Maker. In the same way, the philosophical study of metaphysics studies existence as such and what it requires for its essence. The theological study (of metaphysics), on the other hand, is concerned with the existentia, in so far as they serve as argument for Him who causes existence. In general, to the theologians, the subject of theology is (to find out) how the articles of faith which the religious law has laid down as correct, can be proven with the help of logical arguments, so that innovations may be repulsed and doubts and misgivings concerning the articles of faith be removed.
If one considers how this discipline originated and how scholarly discussion was incorporated within it step by step,361 and how, during that process, scholars always assumed the correctness of the articles of faith and paraded proofs "and arguments (in their defense), one will realize that the character of the subject of this discipline is as we have established it, and one will realize that (the discipline) cannot go beyond it. However, the two approaches have been mixed up by recent scholars. The problems of theology have been confused with those of philosophy. This has gone so far that the one discipline is no longer distinguishable from the other. The student (of theology) cannot learn (theology) from the books of (the recent scholars, and the same situation also confronts the student of philosophy). Such (mixing of theology and philosophy) was done by al-Baydawi, in the Tawali`, and by later, non-Arab scholars, in all their works. However, some students have occupied themselves with the (mixed) approach (in spite of its uselessness for the study of theology), in order to learn the different school opinions and to become versed in the knowledge of argumentation, which is amply represented in (the works which follow the mixed approach).
The approach of the early Muslims can be reconciled with the beliefs of the science of speculative theology only if one follows the old approach of the theologians (and not the mixed approach of recent scholars). The basic work here is the Kitab al-Irshad, as well as works that follow its example. Those who want to inject a refutation of the philosophers into their dogmatic beliefs must use the books of al-Ghazzali and the imam 362 Ibn al-Khatib. They do show some divergence from the old technique, but do not make such a confusion of problems and subjects as is found in the approach of the recent scholars who have come after them.
In general, it must be known that this science - the science of speculative theology -is not something that is necessary to the contemporary student. Heretics and innovators have been destroyed. The orthodox religious leaders have given us protection against heretics and innovators in their systematic works and treatments. Logical arguments were needed only when they 363 defended and supported (their own views with them). Now, all that remains of them 364 is a certain amount of discussion, from most of whose ambiguities and inferences the Creator can be considered to be free. 365
Al-Junayd 366 was once passing a group of theologians discussing the (problem of the freedom of the Creator from human attributes). He asked who they were. He was told that they were people who, by the aid of arguments, were trying to free God from the attributes of createdness and from the qualities that indicate deficiency. Whereupon alJunayd said: "The denial of a fault where (the existence of) a fault is impossible is (in itself) a fault." 367
However, the usefulness of (speculative theology) for certain individuals and students is considerable. Orthodox Muslims should not be ignorant of speculative argumentation in defense of the articles of orthodox faith. "God is the friend of the believers." 368