<<The Ash’aris to this day remain too coward to express their beliefs, lest they are frowned upon by the audience. How many times I asked you to answer a simple question: Who said Alif-Laam-Meem? Why is it so difficult for you to utter in public – your belief – that Alif-Laam-Meem is in fact created and that Allah never said these letters? Because you do not – yet – want to shock the Muslim Ummah, who unanimously believe that Allah spoke those letters. This is why you explicitly state in works that this discussion should be confined within a classroom setting, lest you are exposed. Try to gain some courage and be like your Ash’arite predecessor, Abu al-Futuh. You know who Abul-Futuh is? He is the Ash’arite who would leave his mosque, wearing thick armoury, mounting his horse, and then proclaiming in public: “This Quran is not Allah’s Speech! This is just paper and ink!” while the Muslim population of Baghdad would stone him and throw filth at him. This was your past, and this still remains your present. But you simply do not have the courage of Abul-Futuh.>>
Let us say that Obama made a speech today at a White House press conference. Then the reporters wrote down what was said and published it in the Washington Post under the title “Obama’s Speech.” Now, if someone came and said, “This is not Obama’s Speech! This is just paper and ink!” Would you consider this person sensible? Of course you would not. Why? Let us first look at the concept of speech and the meanings of the word “speech” in this example.
If we were to imagine the events surrounding the press conference, we can imagine that before even saying anything, Obama had something on his heart that he wanted to say. These unexpressed meanings that he wanted to say is the speech that he wants to make. This is called a speech, as we just did when we said “the speech that he wants to make,” but it is not letters or sounds. Rather it is a collection of meanings that words can be used to express. Words, after all, are just collections of sounds that refer to meanings that we want to express. Yet, we refer to collections of words put together in sentences by someone as “his speech,” even if it translated to another language that this someone does not even know. So if Obama’s speech was translate to Arabic we would still call it “Obama’s Speech.” This is because they refer to the meanings he originally expressed based on the meanings he wanted to convey, which is his inner speech.
The word “speech” then, has at least two meanings. The first is the speech inside of us, which is the meanings inside of us that we want to express. The second is the expression of this inner speech in words and letters, or even body language. The reason why the expression is simply called “his speech” or “her speech” is because the expressed form of it is an expression of what the person wanted to say, which is his inner speech.
I do not know who this Abu-l-Futuh is, but he is not Ashˆariyy. The Ashˆariyys do not say that the Qur’aan is not Allaah’s Speech. They say it is Allaah’s Speech, meaning that the word Qur’aan refers to the eternal speech of Allaah, which is not letters and not sounds. The word “Qur’aan” then, has two meanings. The first is the eternal speech of Allaah which is an eternal attribute of His that is not letters, sounds or language, and is not sequential. The second is the book in the mushaf, which is the expression in Arabic of what Allaah said eternally. This book is called Allaah’s Speech, because it refers to what Allaah said eternally, and one cannot say that it is not Allaah’s speech, because that entails denying Allaah’s eternal speech.
Not to draw a resemblance, but for the purpose of explanation: Consider a case where you said “it is not Obama’s speech,” about the Obama speech published in the Washington Post in the example mentioned above. What you are understood as saying is that Obama did not express the meanings published, and that they are falsely attribute to him. Moreover, if you added, “This is just paper and ink!” you will be labeled as a complete ass, because no one means the paper or ink if they refered to the published speech as “Obama’s speech.” Rather, they are referring to the meanings expressed in the words and letters.
Likewise, when Muslims hold the mushaf up and say, “this is Allaah’s Speech,” they mean the meanings that Allaah said eternally, not the paper or ink. That is why if someone translated an aayah of the Qur’aan to English and stated before it “Allaah said….” people will not object and say, “Allaah did not say that,” unless he disagreed with the translation. Alternatively, they mean the Arabic expression of Allaah’s eternal speech in particular, which can be considered the second meaning of the word “Qur’aan,” which the scholars refer to as an-naţħm, or “the structure.”
As for when some of the later asħˆariyys spoke of the permissibility of saying “the Qur’aan is created,” they were referring to the Arabic expression, not Aļļaah’s Speech. They said that this statement may be used in a classroom setting. The reason is because over time the word Qur’aan is mainly understood as referring to the expression of Aļļaah’s eternal Speech in Arabic words and letters. They were afraid that some people would understand from the expression, “the Qur’aan is not created,” that the Arabic expression is not created, which is far more dangerous than saying “the Qur’aan is created,” if one means the Arabic expression (not Aļļaah’s eternal attribute of Speech). After all, the latter meaning is sound, because Arabic expressions have a beginning and cannot be eternal, and if they are not eternal, then they must have been specified and brought into existence by Aļļaah. In other words, they must have been created. The only bad side of this would be that this expression is a bidˆah in religion, so they restricted it to a classroom purposes, because this is where the setting of religious necessity applies. That is, the necessity of preventing the kufr belief that Aļļaah speaks in letters and sounds, which is far more important than avoiding a dubious innovation.
It is obvious that the letter Alif is created. The reason is that this letter is an alphabetic symbol referring to the sound “LLL…” All alphabetic letters are written symbols that refer to sounds that we make with our voices. It is impossible that the eternal speech of Allaah should be letters, because His speech is not sound. His speech is not sound because it is eternal, and therefore does not have a beginning. Wakiiˆ said : “The one that says the Qur’aan is created has said it is emergent, and the one that says it is emergent has blasphemed (Al-Bayhaqiyy, Al-Asmaa’ Wa-ş-Şifaat, 1/608-609).”
Clearly then, since the Qur’aan is not emergent, unlike what the wahabi’s claim, it must be eternal. This necessarily implies that it is not sounds or letters. The reason is that sounds of letters that form words must begin and end. So if we said with our voices, “bismillaah”, then we start by uttering b, then end b, then begin i, then end i, etc., which means that speech consisting of letters and sound has a beginning, i.e. is emergent. This again means that it must be created, because anything with a beginning must be specified in terms of what it is and when it is to be, and brought into existence, which is the Arabic meaning of “create.” That is why the wahabis in their ignorance, by saying that Allaah’s speech is letters and sounds, have also said that it is created, even if they do not know it. Moreover, by claiming that Allaah’s Speech is words and letters, they have likened His speech to creation’s speech, and the Qur’aan states that Aļļaah does not resemble anything. Furthermore, speech in words and letters, i.e. by voice and sound, are actually vibrations of the vocal cords, and the body of air around us. This wahabi belief then, is just a branch of their belief that Aļļaah is a body. Finally, by claiming that Aļļaah’s speech is letters and words, they have said that Allaah’s Speech has delays. The reason is that information in words and letters come from sequences of meanings, which means that one piece of information will have been delayed by those preceding it, and will be delaying those that follow. This is an imperfection, and Aļļaah’s attributes are attributes of perfection.
Accordingly, we say that Allaah said Alif laam miim eternally, without His Speech being letters or sounds.
For a more complete coverage of this topic, see also (in chronological order):