Ilm al-Kalam is a science that relates to reasoned speculative theology arising from the Muslim world's historic encounter with Greek philosophy. It seeks to understand what cannot be known via sense perception and science using speculative reasoning and skepticism. As such it has been and remains highly controversial amongst Muslim thinkers.
In the organization of questions addressed by this subject, the summaries and compendia generally follow the same basic scheme.
Imam al-Tibbi wrote 700 years ago in a similar context:
. والمنازعة في ذلك كمن يأتيهم كتاب من سلطان يأمرهم فيه وينهاهم، وهم يتشاجرون في أن الكتاب: كيف خطه، وكيف عبارته، وأي شيء فيه من صنعة الفصاحة والبلاغة؟ ويذهلون عن صرف الهمم إلى الانتداب لما ندبوا إليه".
"Quarreling about these issues is like the example of a people to whom their king sent a letter in which he commanded them to do certain things and forbade them from doing certain things.
What they did instead is: they quarrelled among themselves about the letter itself:
How did he write it?
How did he phrase it?
What kind of eloquence and rhetoric does it contain?
And their astonishment at these issues distracted them from the actual mandate which they were assigned to do."
فالسبيل الأمثل والطريق الأعدل- أيها الإخوان من الطائفتين- أن تتركا المنازعة والخوض فيما لم يشرع فيه أصحاب النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم. فاعملوا في تلاوة كتاب الله وتدبره والعمل بما فيه
"O my brothers from both of these opposing camps: The best and fair way forward is to abstain from disputing and delving into issues altogether which the companions of the Prophet did not indulge in.
Act on what you recite from the Book of God, reflect on it and simply perform what is mentioned in it." (Futuh al-Ghayb 1/629)
Ilm al-Kalam has its roots in the early debates and discussions among Muslim scholars about the nature of God, the Qur'an, and the prophethood of Muhammad. These debates were often focused on defending and explaining the basic beliefs of Islam against the arguments of non-Muslim philosophers and theologians.
Methodology: Ilm al-Kalam is based on the principles of logic and argumentation, and relies on the use of reason and evidence to defend and explain Islamic beliefs and practices. It involves the use of a variety of techniques and methods, including the use of analogies, comparisons, and rhetorical devices.
Controversies: Ilm al-Kalam has been a source of controversy and debate within the Muslim community, with some scholars arguing that it is a useful and necessary tool for defending and explaining Islamic beliefs and practices, while others argue that it is unnecessary or even harmful.
Role of the ulama: The ulama (Islamic scholars) have played a central role in the development and practice of ilm al-Kalam. They have been responsible for interpreting and explaining Islamic beliefs and practices, and for debating and resolving controversies within the Muslim community.
Theology of attributes: One of the central debates in ilm al-Kalam has been the theology of attributes, which deals with the nature of God's attributes and how they relate to His essence. Some scholars have argued that God's attributes are identical to His essence, while others have argued that they are distinct and separate.
Theology of action: Another important area of discussion in ilm al-Kalam has been the theology of action, which deals with the relationship between God's will and human action. Some scholars have argued that God is the sole cause of all events, while others have argued that human beings have some degree of free will and responsibility for their actions.
Theology of tawhid: Tawhid, or the belief in the unity of God, is a central belief in Islam, and ilm al-Kalam has played a significant role in defending and explaining this belief. Scholars have debated issues such as the nature of God's unity and how it relates to His attributes and actions.
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