Those who claim that Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah and his student Al-Imam Ibn Al-Qayyim (may Allah’s mercy be upon them both) were the first to apply the label of Ahlul-Bid’ah upon the Ash’aris are either deceived, ignorant or misguided. These great scholars did not speak except that which the Salaf had already affirmed. Furthermore, the early scholars of Ahlus-Sunnah wal-Jamā’ah warned against Ahlul-Kalām (the people of theological rhetoric) and cautioned people from exposing their beliefs to debate and argumentation. We’ll mention just a few examples to prove the point:
Ibn Abdul-Barr Al-Māliki (rahimahullāh, d. 390H) quoted the saying of Imām Mālik: “It is not permitted to accept the witness of Ahlul-Bid’ah and Ahlul-Ahwā.” Then he explained:
“The people of desires according to Mālik and all of our companions are Ahlul-Kalām (the people of theological rhetoric). So every mutakallim (one who resorts to theological rhetoric) is from the people of desires and Bid’ah whether he is an Ash’ari or other than an Ash’ari. His witness is never accepted in Islam. He is to be abandoned and disciplined for his innovation. And if he continues upon innovation, his repentance is sought [by those in authority].” (Jāmi’ Bayān Al-‘Ilm wa Fadlihi, 2/96)
Al-Imām Al-Harawi stated in his book, Dhamm Al-Kalām (the Dispraise of Theological Rhetoric): I heard Ahmad Ibn Nasr Al-Mālīni (d. 412H) saying: “I entered the ‘Amr Ibn Al-‘Ās Congregational Mosque in Egypt with a group of my companions. Once we had sat down, a shaikh came along and said: ‘You are from the people of Khurasān and you are Ahlus-Sunnah and this is the place of the Ash’ariyyah so get up [and leave from here].'” So this shaikh advised them to leave this place that is known for the innovations of the Ash’ariyyah.
Imam Adh-Dhahabi stated in his work, Siyar A’lām An-Nubalā, that Ibn Fawrak who was an imām of the Ash’ariyyah entered upon the ruler Mahmūd Ibn Sabkatkīn (d. 421H) and said to him: “It is not allowed to describe Allah as being above (fawqiyyah) because that would necessitate describing Him [also] with being below…” So the ruler said: “It is not me who described Allah [with being above] such that I am necessitated [by your assertion]. Rather, it is He (Allah) who has described Himself [with being above].” So, Ibn Fawrak was dumbfounded, unable to respond. And when he left the ruler, he died. It was said that his gall-bladder split apart. (17/487)
Elsewhere, Ibn Abdul-Barr stated in At-Tamheed (7/129): “In this is a proof that Allah (the Mighty and Majestic) is above the sky, over the Throne, above the Seven Heavens as the Jamā’ah has stated. And this is their proof against the Mu’tazilah and the Jahmiyyah who say: ‘Indeed Allah is everywhere! And He is not over the Throne.’ The evidence for the correctness of what is stated by Ahlul-Haqq (the people of Truth) is the saying of Allah: ‘The Most Merciful ascended over the Throne.’ (Tāhā: 5) and His saying: ‘Then He ascended over the Throne. You have no protector besides Him nor any intercessor.’ (As-Sajdah: 4)“
So, it is Ahlul-Kalām, the Mu’tazilah, the Ash’ariyyah and other than them, those who deny the Highness of Allah above the Seven Heavens, over His Throne by engaging in theological rhetoric, Greek logic, argumentation and philosophical reasoning. They expose the Muslims to these innovated and heretical sciences that cause doubts regarding the ‘Aqeedah, the Names and Attributes, and the Highness of Allah above His creation.
Ibn Abī Zamanīn Muhammad Ibn Abdillāh Al-Māliki (d. 399H) stated in his book, Usūl As-Sunnah: “From the sayings of Ahlus-Sunnah is that Allāh (the Mighty and Majestic) created the Throne, and He distinguished it with highness, and elevation, above everything that He created. Then He ascended over it however He willed.”
The affirmation of Al-‘Uluww (Highness) for Allah is rejected by the Ashā’irah, the Mu’tazilah, the Jahmiyyah, and Ahlul-Kalām in general. So it can never be said that Ahlul-Kalām (the people of theological rhetoric) such as the Ash’aris or the Māturīdis are from Ahlus-Sunnah. That is because they have opposed the belief of Ahlus-Sunnah and the principles and methodology of Ahlus-Sunnah in establishing the Belief (‘Aqeedah). They resort to and depend upon the intellect (and its interpretations) over the Revelation and in opposition to the understanding of the Salaf. So they judge the Revelation by their innovated rules of logic, reason, and rhetoric that are alien to Islam. They misinterpret, distort or even reject the verses of the Quran and the Hadeeth to fit these innovated rules and principles.
One ignorant modern-day innovator who uses debate and philosophical reasoning to establish his creed stated that his master’s degree in Islamic studies is “just to facilitate my politically philosophical arguments.” Meaning that the religion of Islam is just a means of proving his philosophical arguments. This is the way of Ahlul-Kalām who use Religion (by misinterpreting the texts) only to support their pre-conceived and innovated principles of reason, logic, and philosophy.
So, even when these sects of innovation agree with Ahlus-Sunnah in some matters of Creed, they are still misguided innovators because the basis of their agreement with the truth is not due to their submission to the texts of the Qur’ān and Sunnah and the Creed (and Methodology) of the Salaf. Rather, it is because, in these instances, the Book and Sunnah happen to coincide with their conclusions. And whenever they find the textual proofs opposing their innovated principles of logic and reason, they are compelled to distort or even reject the texts in favor of their innovated principles and they shroud that distortion with debate and argumentation.
Imām Ash-Shāfi’i (d. 204H) stated: “My judgment upon the people of rhetoric (Ahlul-Kalām) is that they should be beaten with palm branches, placed on the back of a camel and paraded among the people and it be announced: ‘This is the punishment for the one who abandons the Book and Sunnah and takes to Kalām (theological rhetoric).” (Al-Baghawi reported it in Sharhus-Sunnah, 1/218)
‘Umar Ibn Abdul-‘Azīz (d. 101H) stated: “Whoever makes his religion a target for debating will change his religion often.” (Ad-Dārimi no. 310, Ash-Sharī’ah of Al-Ājurri 116,117) And we see in our time many young people opening up their religion for public debate and saying: “I will follow the path of whoever wins.” So the measure becomes eloquence in argumentation, “reason” and logic. It is not surprising that when this becomes the measure of truth and falsehood, young people exit the fold of Islam into atheism on the basis of one overpowering another in an argument. Imām Mālik Ibn Anas (d. 179H) stated: “Every time a man comes to us who is stronger in debating than another man, he wants from us [due to that] to reject what Jibrīl brought to the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him)?!” (Dhamm Al-Kalām, 869, 870, 871) The debating of Ahlul-Kalām and the philosophers opposes the the belief of Ahlus-Sunnah and they expose the Muslims to false beliefs that are alien to Islam and what was revealed to the Messenger (sallallāhu ‘alaihi wasallam). But, because many young people have been “taught” on social media (and especially YouTube) to expose their faith to debate, argumentation and “the best debater wins” methodology of accepting religious beliefs, they end up rejecting the Revelation without even realizing. That is why Al-Harawi (no. 1084) narrated from Khālid Ibn Al-Hārith Al-Hajīmi that he said: “Be warned from the people of debate and argumentation for indeed they are the evilest of the people of Qiblah.“ They are people who snatch away the faith of the unsuspecting Muslims through frivolity in debate and disputation as is common in the age of video and social media.
So be warned from Ahlul-Kalām and Ahlul-Bid’ah in general, just as Ibn Abdul-Barr stated: “The people of desires according to Mālik (d. 179H) and all of our companions are Ahlul-Kalām (the people of theological rhetoric). So every person of theological rhetoric (mutakallim) is from the people of desires and innovation regardless of whether he is an Ash’ari or other than an Ash’ari. His witness is never accepted in Islam. He is to be abandoned (boycotted) and disciplined for his innovation.” And Yahyā Ibn Abī Kathīr (rahimahullāh) said: “If you meet a person of bid’ah on the path, take another path.” (Ash-Sharī’ah of Al-Ājurri, 64). So save your religion from the people who throw doubts at you.
And all praise is for Allah, Lord of all creation. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon His Messenger, his family, his Companions and all who follow him precisely.