Controversy surrounding the great scholar al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī‘s رحمه الله (d. 463 AH/1071 CE) ʿAqīdah exists due to the spreading of false reports & even some “scholars of Islām” who I won’t give the right to mention here, calling him an “Ashʿarī“, which is far from the truth & will be made evident ʾIn shāʾ Allāh.
al-Ashāʿirah is a devious group of rhetorical thinkers who interpret Islām & it’s texts based upon using only their intellect, logic, & sometimes even Greek philosophy. They affirm the Names & some Attributes of Allāh, but also negate some attributes, which ultimately doesn’t make sense.
Now after having have briefly elucidated the creed of the Ashāʿirah, it should be clear on why ascribing someone like al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī to such a group is such a perplex issue. So the question arises, did al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī really follow the Ashāʿirah or hold their beliefs? — Answer is no, as stated by al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī himself, which will be touched up on in the following citation.
In the book Mukhtaṣar al-ʿUlū of Imām adh-Dhahabī رحمه الله (d. 748 AH/1348 CE), al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī is quoted regarding his creed & his stance concerning the Attributes of Allāh. Mukhtaṣar al-ʿUlū is a book of ʿAqīdah primarily focused on affirming Allāh’s Attribute of being above, which Ahl as-Sunnah wa al-Jamāʾah believe in & affirm without asking how or likening it to anyone or anything.
al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī رحمه الله said: “As for the Ṣifāt (attributes of Allāh), the Madhhab of the Salaf and according to that which has been narrated in the authentic narrations, is to affirm them and take them upon their apparent meanings whilst rejecting delving into their modality and likening them to the attributes of creation. There are some people who have negated them, thus they invalidate that which Allāh has affirmed. In contrast, there are some people who have affirmed them, but they delved into their modality and likening. The correct manner is to tread the middle path between these two approaches. The religion of Allāh is between those who are extreme and those who show laxity.
The foundational rule of this matter is that speaking regarding the Ṣifāt is part of speaking about the essence of Allāh; therefore, the same methodology should be followed. That being said, if it is known that affirming Allāh, the Rabb of the worlds is to affirm His existence and not Kayfīyyah (modality), then it follows that affirming His Ṣifāt means affirming that they exist & not affirming that they are Taḥdīd (restricted) or Takyīf ([affirming] a modality).
If we were to say: Allāh has a hand, is hearing, and seeing, then these are attributes that Allāh has confirmed for Himself. It would be wrong for one to say that the meaning of hand is power, likewise it would be wrong to say that the meaning of hearing & seeing is having knowlege. We do not say that they are limbs; and we do not liken these mentioned attributes to (our) hands, hearing, and seeing which are limbs and tools or means to performing an act. (Rather), we say that it is Wājib (obligatory) to affirm them because they are established by religion without further information. Likewise, it is Wājib that we do not give them likeness, about which Allāh states:
لَيۡسَ كَمِثۡلِهِۦ شَيۡءٞۖ
There is nothing like unto Him
– Sūrah ash-Shūrā, ʾĀyah 11
وَلَمۡ يَكُن لَّهُۥ كُفُوًا أَحَدُۢ
Nor is there to Him any equivalent.
– Sūrah al-Ikhlāṣ, ʾĀyah 4
Imām adh-Dhahabī رحمه الله said in relation to al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī’s statement: “A similar statement to this was made by one of the notables before al-Khaṭīb & this is what I know from the Madhhab of the Salaf. And what is intended upon by ‘upon their apparent meanings’ is that there is no hidden meaning to the words of the Book (of Allāh) & the Sunnah other than the meanings designated from them (by custom), as has been stated by (Imām) Mālik and others, ‘al-Istiwā is known.’ And the saying regarding (attributes such as) hearing, seeing, knowledge, speech, will, face, etc, is the same. These things are known and so we do not need any further clarification and explanation. However, the true reality in all of them is not known to us, and Allāh knows best.“
Therefore; ʾIn shāʾ Allāh, it has been made clear that al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī is in fact not an Ashʿarī nor is he upon their Madhhab, but rather he is an Atharī & upon the Madhhab of the Salaf. Any false claim or slander upon al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī’s creed is undeniably refuted by the statement cited from al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī himself.
May Allāh continue to raise the rank of al-Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī & guide those who wish to demean him of his dignity, & I also ask Allāh to keep us firm upon al-Qurʾān & Sunnah, protect us from the evil within ourselves, & speaking without knowledge.
All praise is due to Allāh, may His peace & blessings be upon our final Prophet Muḥammad, his family, his companions, & all those who follow him in guidance.
Mukhtaṣar al-ʿUlū (مختصر العلو) by Imām adh-Dhahabī | Page 273
Ṣafīullāh Labīb ibn Salīm ʿAbd al-Malik
3rd of Muḥarram 1444