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Are the Letters of the Alphabet (And Therefore Language) Created?
Posted by Abu.Iyaad, Editor in Jahmiyyah

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Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) said in Majmu' al-Fatawa (12/41):

When Allaah has spoken with the Qur'an and the Tawrat and other books besides (them), in both their meanings and words composed through their letters, none of that is created, rather it is speech of the Lord of the Worlds. And it was said to Imaam Ahmad bin Hanbal, "So and so says that when Allaah created the letters, they all prostrated except the Alif, which said, 'I shall not prostrate until I am commanded'." He replied, "This is disbelief." So he showed rejection against the one who said letters are created, because if the genus of letters are created it is necessary that the Arabic Qur'an and the Hebrew Tawraat and other than them are created, and this is false, in opposition to the saying of the Salaf and the Imaams, in opposition to rational and revealed evidences...

And he said in Majmu' al-Fatawa (12/85):

And Ahmad rejected the saying of one who said, "When Allaah created the letters..." it is related from him (Ahmad) that he said, "Whoever said a letter from the letters of the alphabet is created then he is a Jahmite because he has traversed a path towards innovation, and whoever said that (the letter) is created then he has said that the Qur'an is created." And Ahmad as well as others from the Imaams have explicitly stated that Allaah has never ceased speaking when He wills and He made it clear that Allaah speaks with His will...

Notes

Speech and language (and letters) are all tied together and cannot really be separated and hence the discussion of them all is the same. The position of the Salaf on this matter of whether letters (and by implication, language) is created or not is that it is neither said "created" nor is it said "uncreated." Just like it is not said "Are attributes created?" when it is known that both the uncreated (Allaah) and the created have attributes, then likewise it is not said, "Is speech created?", because here when we speak of "attributes" and "speech" we are speaking of universal meanings (in the mind) stripped of any specificity and ascription to any entity. However, when they are ascribed to an entity, then its ruling follows on from the ruling of that entity itself. The same would apply to language, such as Hebrew and Arabic and so on. If Allaah speaks with Arabic, His speech is not created and nor is the language of the speech and nor its letters. If anyone else speaks Arabic initiating his speech from himself (i.e. not quoting the Qur'an for example), his speech is created, taking the ruling of his essence. The question is not "Is Arabic created?" or "Is language created?", these are invalid questions because speech is common between the uncreated and created, just as asking "Are attributes created?" is invalid. We know that Allaah is eternally one who speaks whenever He wills, with whatever He wills (pay attention to what has been underlined), and from what we know that He has spoken with is the Arabic Qur'an and the Hebrew Tawrah. And since Allaah's attribute of kalaam (speech) is eternal (in its genus), and through His kalaam He communicates with those whom He creates, and this communication is in a language understood by those communicated with, and all of that is in the prior knowledge of Allaah, that He will speak to His creation through a language amongst languages, then "language" in this sense (as in Allaah speaking) cannot be created from this perspective. Rather, language is only said to be created when attributed to humankind, in what they speak and express. Further, Allaah, the Exalted, taught Aadam (alayhis salaam) the names of all things and Allah, the Sublime taught Aadam in a language that Aadam knew not but which Allaah knew (so language was inspired and taught). So the answer to this question is similar to when one says "Is my recitation of the Qur'an created or not?" we neither affirm or deny because this opens the path to a saying desired by the people of deviation and misguidance. Likewise, are letters created? Or is language created? This has the same result of potentially opening a door for the one who may intend misguidance. Allaah knows best.


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Imam al-Dhahabi's Biography for Ibn Taymiyyah in the unpublished volume of Siyar A'laam al-Nubulaa


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