The Start of Devation – Primary Groups of Kalam
The first group is the Kullabiyyah. They were founded by Abdullah ibn Kullaab (d. 241AH). They said 2 things which were in contrast to Ahlus-Sunnah. The first is that the Sifaat of Allah were all eternal, and nothing is fi’liyyah. They denied Attributes linked to the Divine Will. This led them to deny istiwaa (Allah rising over the Throne) and nuzool (Allah’s descent). The second thing they deviated in was regarding the Attribute of Kalam (speech) for Allah. They did not believe Allah could speak when He wanted, as that would make the Attribute fi’liyyah. So they said Allah is always speaking internally. The Quran therefore, according to them, was simply an expression of this speech, and that Allah never spoke the Quran. Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal told his students to boycott ibn Kullab. The Kullabiyyah lived for barely one generation and evolved into the Ash’aris.
They were founded by Abul-Hasan al-Ash’ari (d. 324AH). He went through 3 major time periods in his life, 1) Student of his step-father al-Jubba’i as a Mu’tazilah, 2) follower of ibn Kullab (most of his writings are from this period), and 3) a follower of Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, and this is when he wrote al-Ibaanah.
After he freed himself from the Mu’tazili beliefs, he began expounding on ibn Kullab’s books. At the end of his life he repented from it and wrote al-Ibaanah and said he was upon the beliefs of Ahmad ibn Hanbal. He died shortly after this, and most of his followers took the teachings from the second period of his life.
It should be noted that many Ash’aris claim he did not write al-Ibaanah, but this is disproved by even Ash’ari historians who count it amongst his works. Another group of them tried to say he was forced to write it under duress, but this is a seemingly wild accusation without any basis.
Among the major beliefs of the Ash’aris is that they affirmed only 7 of Allah’s Attributes, namely Life (Hayat), Power (Qudrah), Knowledge (’Ilm), Hearing (Sam’), Seeing (Basr), and Speech (kalam). The kalam they believed in though, was the ‘internal’ kalam.
They were founded by Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (d. 333AH). They came after the Ash’aris and are extremely similar except for a few technical differences and a difference in the belief in Qadr.