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Abdel-Haleem, Muhammad (1995) 'Early kalam.' In: Leaman, Oliver and Nasr, Hossein Nasr, (eds.), The Routledge History of Islamic Philosophy. London: Routledge, pp. 71-88. (Routledge history of world philosophies, 1)

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Kalām, or ‘ilm al-kalām (the science of kalām), is a title of that branch of knowledge in Islam that is usually translated as “speculative theology”. Literally, kalām means “speech”, “talk” or “words”; yatakallam fī means to talk about or discuss a matter or topic. In an early usage of the word kalām in this sense, the Prophet is reported to have come out and found a group of Muslims yatakallamūna fi’l-qadar i.e. talking about, or discussing, predestination. The opposite of takallama fī is sakata ‘an — to keep silent about — such a matter or topic. The word occurred in other traditions and continued to be used in the same sense even when discussions on theological matters had become more extensive and specialized. A statement by Mālik (d. 179/795) explains the connection between such discussions and the word kalām in its lexical meaning. He said: “Beware of innovations …; those who talk about [yatakallamūn fī] the names and attributes of God, His Word, His Knowledge and Power, and do not keep silent [yaskutūn] about things about which the Companions of the Prophet and their followers have kept silence.” As a jurist, he also stated: “I do not like kalām except in what involves ‘amal (action), but as for kalām about God, silence is better than it.”

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Languages and Cultures > Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East
ISBN: 9781138134522
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 07 May 2009 13:49

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