Refuting the Accusation that Asharis Consider it Rationally Possible for Allah to Lie

July 15, 2008

Deviant accusation: the Asharis say that it is rationally possible (jaa’iz `aqlan) for Allah to lie, but contingently impossible (mustaheel `araadi), because He has told us that He tells the truth.

To say that it rationally possible that Allah can lie, but does not, is to say that He can have a flaw. This is obvious to even the most simple minded Muslim. A believer will feel ill for even hearing such words. Tell me, if this is not kufr, then what is? How would you like to account for your deeds on the Day of Judgment having believed, or said, that it is not absolutely impossible that Allah could lie? Did they not hear Allah’s saying:

“وَتَقُولُونَ بِأَفْوَاهِكُمْ مَا لَيْسَ لَكُمْ بِهِ عِلْمٌ وَتَحْسَبُونَهُ هَيِّنًا وَهُوَ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ عَظِيمٌ “

Meaning: “And you say by your mouths what you have no certain knowledge of, and you think it is a simple matter, while it is in Allah’s judgment gruesome.” (An-Nuur ,15)

Similarly, it was narrated by Ahmad, Al-Tirmidhi and others that the Prophet said:

“إن الرَّجُلَ لَيَتَكَلَّمُ بِالْكَلِمَةِ لاَ يَرَى بها بَأْساً يهوي بها سَبْعِينَ خَرِيفاً في النَّارِ”

“Verily a man may speak a word he thinks is not bad, but due to it he falls a fall that lasts seventy autumns <i.e. years> into the Hellfire.”

This hadith was judged as good (hasan) by Al-`Asqalani. Al-Munaawi said about the expression “seventy autumns into the Hellfire” in his book Al-Taysir bi Sharh-al-Jaami-al-Saghir: “It means that he will be forever rising and falling.” That is, the person became a non-Muslim for saying this, because only non-Muslims go there forever.

In another aayah Allah said:

وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

Meaning: “Allah is the one that has the most beautiful namings, so call Him by them, and leave those who deviate with respect to His namings. They will pay for what they have done.” (Al-‘A`raaf, 180)

There is no taqlid in such an issue, and finding a quote in some book will not help one on the Day of Judgment in something like this. Imagine yourself saying, “but I found this on page 256, volume 4 of book so and so, that it is rationally possible that it is not impossible in the minds eye that you could lie!” Even if you found supporting quotes in one hundred books, by famous authors, this is not an excuse.

Every sound minded person can understand that saying that it is not absolutely impossible that Allah could lie is an ugly thing to say about Allah. Actually, even the Christians and the Jews would consider this ugly. The one who denies that this saying is kufr, let alone blames those who say it is kufr, is himself a kaafir. The reason is that this person is saying that one can attribute an obvious flaw to the creator, and still be a Muslim. When one says something about Allah that is not of the most beautiful names, then one has either sinned or fallen in kufr. This is according to the aayahs and hadith mentioned above. Now, as the hadith says, if one might say something that one thinks nothing of, and fall out of Islam, then what about saying something that just about any human being, even a kaafir, would consider an ugly thing to say about Allah? I mean, the christians do not have a problem saying that Allah has a son, but they would have a problem with this. This is because the word son does not strike them as ugly, but the latter does. I think it is clear enough then, that saying “believing that lying is rationally possible for Allah, as long as one does not believe that He does, does not make one a non-Muslim,” is kufr in itself.

Having said that, Allah’s kalaam (speech that is not letters, sounds, language, words, or sequences of expressions) pertains to His knowledge. It is a eternal attribute of Allah that He must be attributed with, and it is neither an act, nor specified by a will. As-Sanusi said about the attribute of kalaam:

والكلام الذى ليس بحرف ولا صوت ويتعلق بما يتعلق به العلم من المتعلقات

{Speech (Al-Kalaam/الكلام), without letter or sound, which pertains to whatever His Knowledge pertains to.} That is, an attribute by which He informs without delay the unlimited information that He knows, be it orders, prohibitions, promises, threats, or other information.

To say that Allah could lie is to say that His knowledge is flawed, this is because to lie is to say something that is not true. Since Allah’s attribute of Speech/Kalaam is an eternal attribute pertaining to what His knowledge pertains to, then saying that He says something untrue is to say that there is a mistake in His knowledge. This is kufr of the highest degree.

Note that Allah’s kalaam is an attribute that Allah must be attributed with, not a possibility or an impossibility. So if you say that it is possible that Allah lies, then you are also saying that His kalaam is a possibility, and that is also impossible, because it cannot be both a must and a possibility. This is because a lie needs specification, and what needs specification is a possibility. In other words, telling a lie cannot be without a beginning or end, because it needs specification. A speech telling a lie then is a creation, and Allah’s speech is not created. So the person who says it is possible that Allah lies is saying that Allah’s kalaam is created, which is another kufr. See also this. Alternatively, such a person is saying that Allah tells infinitely many lies, need I say more?

It is also incredible stupidity to say that it is only contingently impossible (mustaheel `aradi) for Allah to lie, for if it was not absolutely impossible that Allah should lie, then how would one know it is mustaheel `aradi??? Mustaheel `arađiyy is when something is possible, like the existence of any created thing, but Allah tells us that it will not be, such as a mukallaf kaafir entering Paradise. That is, it is rationally possible that a kaafir could go to Paradise, but contingently impossible, because Allah has told us that this will never happen, as this is His decree. So if it was not absolutely impossible that Allah should lie, then how would they know that this information about Him not lying was correct? This is nothing less than zandaqah, extremem kufr, it is to put doubt in the religion as a whole, let alone contradicting that Allah’s kalaam is not created.

As-Sanusi also says:

وأما الرسل عليهم الصلاة والسلام فيجب فى حقهم الصدق والأمانة وتبليغ ما أمروا بتبليغه للخلق ويستحيل فى حقهم عليهم الصلاة والسلام أضداد هذه الصفات

{All messengers must possess truthfulness, trustworthiness, and must have delivered their messages entirely. It is impossible that they should be attributed with the opposites of the above attributes.}

So if it is not absolutely impossible that Allah lies, then there is no way to say that the Prophet only tells the truth either, and this is yet another kufr.

So the claim that it is true that Allah could lie, but He does not do so, is a kufr that is kufr in itself since it is to insult Allah, and a kufr that leads to accepting several other kufr beliefs, such as that Allah’s Speech is created, or that He tells infinitely many lies, or that He has a flaw in His Speech, or that He has a flaw in His knowledge, and that the prophets could be telling something that is not true about the religion. Allahu akbar.

Without even getting into any of the above, we can simply say that lying, which is to say something that isn’t true, is an obvious flaw, and Allah is only attributed with complete perfection. It is also an attribute of creation, and Allah does not resemble His creation. The one who allows it rationally has made it rationally possible for Allah to have a flaw and resemble His creation, so he is himself a kaafir.

One more thing. The purpose of `Ilm Al-Kalaam is to defend the religion and support it with proofs. When engaging in kalaam leads to conclusions that are destructive of the religion, then one can be sure that one has gone wrong. The difference between Sunni kalaam and that of the philosophers is that the Sunnis knew their conclusions from the Prophet’s teachings before they looked for proofs, whereas the others simply followed their opinion, wherever it took them.

In light of this, let me say that the conclusion that we must reach is that it is impossible that Aļļaah should lie, otherwise the entire religion becomes a 50-50 proposition, and one would have said something outrageous about Allah’s attributes that no sound minded individual would accept. If one could not find an argument to get to this conclusion, then one should keep looking, being sure that any argument indicating otherwise must be wrong. This is the general rule one should hold on to. If one does not, then I can tell you that reading books of kalaam will get you into a great deal of trouble, especially the larger works. This is why Al-Ghazali wrote about the importance of restricting kalaam science to only a few very capable individuals of great piety.

Do you not see that piety would have prevented anyone from daring to say that it is not rationally impossible for Allah to lie? Instead they decided to rely on their minds, and ended up falling out of the religion, along with those who said that they are not blasphemers. Beware that I am not making takfir for any particular individual, because we cannot make takfiir for people based on articles attributed to them on the internet. What I am saying is that if someone says that Allah lying is not mustaheel `aqli, but mustaheel `aradi, and he understands these terms, then he is a kaafir, along with the one who says he is not. I remind you of the aayah above:

وَلِلَّهِ الْأَسْمَاءُ الْحُسْنَى فَادْعُوهُ بِهَا وَذَرُوا الَّذِينَ يُلْحِدُونَ فِي أَسْمَائِهِ سَيُجْزَوْنَ مَا كَانُوا يَعْمَلُونَ

Meaning: “Allah is the one that has the most beautiful namings, so call Him by them, and leave those who deviate with respect to His namings. They will be pay for what they have done.” (Al-‘A`raaf, 180)

Note that this whole issue came up with the Mu`tazilah, because a common debating technique in kalaam is to show the opponent that what he claims to be true leads to saying something ridiculuous that all agree is kufr. The Mu`tazailah wanted to show that you can only say that it is impossible that Allah lies if you accept their ideas about qabaa’ih, namely that it is impossible that Allah does what they consider qabaa’ih, or “ugly acts.” The answer of Sunnis was that lying is impossible, because Allah’s kalaam is not created, it is not an act, but an attribute that Allah must be attributed with and pertains only to what Allah’s knowledge pertains to; it is not a created attribute. The same was their technique on the concept of doing injust acts, as I mentioned earlier when I narrated the debate between Al-Isfaraini and Qadi Abdul Jabbaar. The Sunni answer was as you see there, that it is absolutely impossible that Allah’s actions be injust, because He does not have a judge.

The same technique is used by the Christians also when they say “could Allah have a son?” They want to imply that saying no would lead to saying He is unable. In this case our answer is again that it is rationally impossible for Him to have a son, because if you said it was possible, then you are saying that Allah could lose godhood, which is kufr. We also do not say unable, because that would be insulting Allah, which is also kufr. We say instead that it is impossible; it cannot ever be and therefore has nothing to do with power.

Likewise one does not say that it is not allowed for Allah to lie, because this is to imply that He has obligations. Rather one says that it is impossible that He could lie, as explained above.

More comments and questions on this issue

Question: Someone wrote that if we say that lying is not possible for Allah, it would then imply that humans could do something that Allah cannot do. Is this logic valid?

Answer: No. This is because Allah’s power pertains to the possible category of things. It does not pertain to what cannot ever be, the rationally impossible. It also does not pertain to what must be, such as Allah existing and being one without a parter. Lying is a flaw of speech, so saying that Allah can lie is to say that He can have a flaw. This is kufr, like saying He can have a son or a partner.

Note that it is also kufr to say that Allah is unable to lie, because this is to insult Allah’s attribute of Power. Furthermore, it is kufr to say that Allah is obligated not to lie, because a need to fulfill obligations is a flaw, and attributing a flaw to Allah is blasphemy.

The answer then is that lying is a flaw, and it is impossible for Allah to have a flaw. Allah’s Power is only related to what could possibly exist.

For example, if Allah said that Fir`awn is going to Hell, then it is impossible that Fir`awn never goes there. This is because Allah’s Speech pertains to His Knowledge, that is, He told us of what He knows, namely that Fir`awn will enter Hell. If you say that it pertains to Allah’s Power for Fir`awn not to enter Hell, after knowing that Allah has said otherwise, then you are saying that Allah’s Knowledge is flawed, or that His Will changes, which would again mean flawed knowledge and change. This is all kufr.

Someone asked: Can Allah act against His previous word or command?

Answer: It is not obligatory for Allah to fulfill His promises, because He does not have obligations. That does not make it possible in the mind’s eye, however, quite the contrary. We say that it is not obligatory, but it is impossible that Allah should not fulfill His promises, or threats, because it is impossible that Allah should lie, because lying is a flaw, and Allah is clear of flaws. Accordingly, if someone says, “It is contingently possible for Allah to act against His previous word,” then he has committed kufr, because he is saying that Allah could have a flaw.

Deviant said: “What you need to understand is that to say that it is “impossible” for Allah to lie would necessitate that He has given man the ability to do something that He himself does not have the power to do. This is absurd to suggest.

Comment: This is ignorance. Lying is an attribute of Speech, and Allah’s Speech is a must, an attribute of perfection, it is not something that pertains to Allah’s Power. If you say that it pertains to Allah’s Power, then you are saying that it is created, which is kufr, as stated by the four a’immah.

Deviant said: Furthermore, it is practically an ijma’ that Allah’s speech is known as a result of revelation, not reason, so it makes no sense to say that we only know that Allah has the capacity to communicate to us because of scripture, but it is rationally impossible for Him to lie, when we didn’t even know that He could speak until the revelation came. Hence, the impossibility of lying on Allah is a judgment of scripture, not reason, although reason further emphasizes that lying would be a sign of imperfection….

Answer: This is nonsense. By the agreement of the Ash`aris Allah’s attribute of Speech is a must, not a created attribute. Regardless of whether it can be known by the mind alone or not. Once it is established that Allah’s Speech is not created, but a must, and that not having a speech is a flaw, then you cannot say that Allah’s Speech is also a possibility!

Moreover, you either say that Allah has a Speech or not.

If you say He does not, then lying is impossible, because lying without speech is impossible.

If you say He does, then you either say it is created or not.

If you say that it is created, then you are saying that the “Kalaam Allah” is like saying “Bayt Allah.” This means that Allah does not in reality have a Speech that is an attribute of His Self, so that means in the end that Allah in actual reality does not speak, according to this idea, which means lying would be impossible.

If you say that Allah’s Speech is not created, but a necessary, i.e. eternal, attribute of He Himself, then you are either saying that it changes, e.g. by involving sequential meaning being told one after another, or does not.

If you say it does, like the Wahabis, then you are saying that it is created, because change needs a creator, which would mean again that it is not a necessary attribute, and something cannot be both necessary and not at the same time. So in such a case lying is also impossible, because the attribute proposed is impossible.

Finally, if you say that it is necessary and does not change, then we have arrived at what we want, namely that Allah has an attribute by which He informs. You either say that it pertains to what He knows or not. Since Allah’s knowledge is infinite, it pertains to all that must be, as well as what cannot be and what could be. What could be includes what has been, what is now, and what will be in the future, as well as what could have been in the past, now and in the future.

If you say that Allah’s speech pertains to lying then you are saying that if A is going to be at point in time B, then Allah says both that A is going to be at point B and that it is not going to be at point B. This is a contradiction and therefore impossible. Note that this is not impossible in the case of our speech, because it is a sequential action, i.e. something created, whereas Allah’s Speech is not an action and does not change.

There is no question then, that it is rationally impossible that Allah should lie.

Deviant said: Perhaps if you looked at the fact that a “square-circle” is not actually something that can exist while “lying” is, it would help you in your confusion. We know that lying does exist, while we know that it is not compulsorily existent (wajib). It is possibly existent (ja’iz). If it is ja’iz al-wujud, it falls within the realm of Allah’s qudrah, which are the ja’izat (possible things) and is exactly what His power pertains to. His power does not pertain to a “square-circle” because of square-circle just cannot possibly exist. As for “kadhib” (lying), it not only possibly exists. It “actually” exists.

Answer: This is ignorance. Lying does exist, yes, but as an attribute of creation! Does possible attributes of creation necessitate that Allah also has them? This is one of the ugliest examples of tashbih I have seen in my life.

Deviant said: Allah’s qudra pertains to lying just as it pertains to truth (sidq). Hence, lying is something that He can possibly do “actually” and “rationally” speaking. The only thing is that He has chosen not to lie and He does not have to lie, because He has nothing to fear from telling the truth, since He has power over all things and cannot be subdued or controlled by anyone.

Answer: This is pure i`tizaal. He is saying that Allah’s speech is created and is something that pertains to His Power. If not, then what is lying except something pertaining to speech?

Deviant said: He also does not lie because He has made it His way not to do so as He indicated to us in scripture…

Answer: This is stupidity. If Allah telling lies was a possibility, as he claims, then there is no way to tell whether the indication in the scripture is true!

Someone said: Allah has the power to lie or speak truth. His power encompasses both possibilities. Nothing limits his choice and will. If you can show how what I say is flawed, I’m more than open to see how. However, the flaw is really in exactly what I have explained. Your view necessitates that Allah’s qudra is limited and that He has the power to give the power to lie to man but He doesn’t have the power to do it His self.

Answer: His statement “Allah has the power to lie or speak truth” is pure i`tizaal, it is a plain statement saying that Allah’s Speech is created.

Someone said: Faqid al-shay la yu’ti (one who lacks something cannot give it to another). This would then place man’s power more expansive than the Creator’s own. This is why your logic is flawed and why I say that you have misunderstood the text…

Answer: This man does not have mind. He is a kafir and an ignorant fool. According to this, if someone rides on a mosquito, as Ibn Taymiyyah’s followers say, then it is possible that Allah should ride a mosquito…. Need I say more?

Authored by Sheikh Abu Adam

Q & A: What about Alif Laam Meem?

June 30, 2008

Someone asked: In terms of our belief about the speech of Allah not being composed of sounds, letters and the other attributes of created things, but rather His Speech is the meanings that the letters and the sounds convey. What is the response of the `ulama to the one who objects by asking, “What about ‘Alif Lam Mim’?”

Answer: One cannot say that Allah’s kalam is meanings. Allah’s kalam pertains to meanings, but His kalam is one, this is the sound expression. As for Alif-lam-miim, it has a meaning, but the scholars differed regarding it.

Note that it would be imperfection for the Creator not to have an attribute by which He tells, orders, promises and threatens.

On the other hand, it is imperfection to be attributed with the attribute of expressing what one knows serially (i.e. consecutively, one piece of information after another). This is because speech that consists of serial expressions must have a beginning and because there will be a delay in informing all that one knows.

Remembering that what Allah knows is unlimited, we must admit that His attribute of kalam, by which He informs without delay the unlimited information that He knows, cannot be like our limited created kalam that is made up of sounds, letters and words.

Note also that Allah can enable any of his creation to hear his kalam, although it’s not a kind of sound. Beware that this does not mean that a creation can know all that Allah’s speech pertains to, because that would mean that a creation could know everything, and this is impossible. Rather, Allah can make each of them understand from it what He wants him/her/it to understand, so each of them might end up understanding something different at the same time.  This is another reason why we cannot say that His kalam is like the kalam of created beings.

Author: Shaykh Abu Adam al Naruiji