Answered by Shaykh Faraz A. Khan
Question: It is said that the Mutazilites deny Allah’s affirmative attributes, eg. they believe that Allah doesn’t have the attribute of speech, rather they believe that Allah speaks through His entity, SubhanaHu wa t’ala. I don’t understand the difference between 1. Allah speaking because He has the attribute of speech, and 2. Allah speaking through His entity. Could you help me understand this difference?
Answer: Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,
I pray this finds you in the best of health and faith.
The Mu’tazila Claim
The Mu’tazila do deny Allah’s preeternal attribute of speech, yet they do not maintain that Allah speaks “through His entity.” Rather, they claim that He Most High creates speech that is temporal.
They hold this belief because they limit speech to that which is conveyed by letters and sounds, and of course letters and sounds cannot be preeternal.
The Sunni response is that speech is not necessarily limited to letters and sounds. Even among ourselves, we use expressions like “I said to myself” or “I would like to have a word with you,” based on an internal speech of a person that is without letters or sounds. The essence of speech, then, is that it is an attribute of *indication.*
The Position of Ahl al-Sunna
Sunni theologians explain divine speech as: a preeternal attribute of indication; ascribed to His essence; that is not from the category of letters or sounds; that is not divisible or composed of parts; and that is transcendent above and free from order [such as statements that come before or after other statements], grammatical inflection, silence, or defect. [Bajuri, Tuhfat al-Murid; Sabuni, al-Bidaya fi Usul al-Din]
The difference between the Sunnis and Mu’tazila is that the latter deny a divine attribute, and in doing so imply deficiency to the Divine, as lack of speech entails muteness or the like.
And Allah knows best.
Checked & Approved by Faraz Rabbani